In this article we’re going to share a strategy framework we use with our clients to execute successful B2B lead generation campaigns.
We call this strategy “channel stacking”. The purpose is to leverage multiple targeted channels to reach decision-makers.
Before we go into the “How” let’s spend some time talking about the “What” and “Why”.
The Problem: Channel Overwhelm
There are so many sales and marketing channels today that nobody can deal with them all. (think phone, email, social media, direct mail, ads, webinars, events, masterminds, e-books, podcasts, etc.)
The decision-makers you need to reach are inundated with information on top of their day-to-day responsibilities.
So what do overwhelmed decision-makers do?
First, they shift communications with the outside world to an assistant (aka gatekeeper) to filter for “the important stuff”. If an assistant isn’t available, the decision-maker just eliminates the communication channels he or she doesn’t want. Phone calls and ads are blocked, email newsletters unsubscribed and everything else marked as spam. Emails from automated follow-up campaigns, cold calls to the company’s main switchboard, retargeting ads — they all go in the junk pile.
Second, decision-makers focus on a few channels where they prefer to communicate. This depends on the industry and personal preferences. For our clients, generally means LinkedIn, business email and direct phone calls (direct business line or mobile). Industry or speaking events are in the mix, but those are infrequent.
One note here: Invading a senior executive’s personal communication channels, like their personal email, Facebook messages or home phone is a bad idea. Unless you’ve gone on a week-long fishing trip in the Bahamas together or saved their family from sure death in an hurricane, stay on the professional side of the line at all times.
Why Multiple Outbound B2B Lead Generation Channels are Required
If only a few communication channels with decision-makers remain open, then naturally these are the channels we should focus on.
These channels are selectively used by your sales prospects. This means they are only “sporadically on”.
Of course that’s the point. Decision-makers want to control when and how they field communications (or not).
Most markets for high end B2B products and services are fairly small. There may only be 500 to 1,000 viable buyers in your market in any given year. So you can’t just “reach out to more people” to solve the problem with big numbers. You must thoroughly penetrate your target market using the communication channels available to you.
The good news is buyers are still interested in buying. So if you DO get through the sales opportunities are still there.
Example: Contacting a CEO
Let’s look at the accessibility of a CEO on a business trip to Washington DC with two windows of time when he’s potentially reachable.
Here’s the picture at 10:00 AM when the CEO is on the train between Philadelphia and Washington DC:
During this one-hour window the likelihood of connecting by phone with this CEO is at best 20%. That assumes you have his mobile number, the battery is charged, he’s not on another call and he’s not sitting in a quiet car.
Nine hours later (7:00 PM) the picture looks very different. The day’s meetings are over and the CEO is in his hotel room catching up on work while vaguely watching a rerun of Terminator 2. His mobile is recharging in the bathroom.
The CEO shifted communication channels significantly during the course of this business day. The probability of reaching him on any single channel at any given time was low.
This illustrates several key points:
There is NO WAY to predict what communication channel(s) are being used by decision-makers at any given time. It’s not possible to know every prospect’s exact schedule or their communication preferences, so predicting which channel they’ll be using (i.e. which one YOU should use) is basically impossible.
If you ONLY called the CEO’s mobile phone you would be unlikely to get through on this day — about 2.5% chance. The CEO’s reachability by mobile was about 1 hour/12 hours x 20% on the train plus 2 hours/12 hours x 5% in his hotel room. his “reachability” by mobile would be 1.7% on the train and 0.8% in his hotel room. Dropping a voicemail might help, but the CEO may not listen to it, or a gatekeeper could delete it.
If you ONLY contacted the CEO by email your odds of reaching him would be just over 7% this day (1 hour/12 hours x 10% on the train plus 2 hours/12 hours x 40% in his hotel room).
If you ONLY contacted the CEO by LinkedIn message your odds of connecting would be 3.3% (2 hours/12 hours x 20% in his hotel room).
The cumulative probability of reaching this CEO on this particular day across all four channels is about 13.3%. You would have to use all four channels to achieve this.
The How: Stacking B2B Lead Generation Channels
If you extrapolate this situation across every business day and every sales prospect, then it becomes clear that the best way to reach more decision-makers is to employ multiple outbound B2B lead generation channels continuously.
It’s less about “calling 15 times until you get through” and more about using ALL channels consistently day in, day out in a unified way.
B2B sales executives already know that outreach volume is essential, even if the stats show that most give up after 3-5 attempts.
Without the right lead generation support in place, sales execs tend to gravitate toward one or two channels then use them sporadically.
We like to visualize the B2B lead generation challenge as a kind of physical “space”. Our job is to fill that space with opportunities for our clients to connect with ideal target customers. The example below shows a typical scenario.
The Sales Exec uses the telephone and LinkedIn for all of her outbound prospecting. Only the phone is used systematically. Outreach on LinkedIn is sporadic and there is little or no content sharing. The sales exec makes a total of only 6 attempts before giving up. The “sales opportunity space” remains poorly penetrated and your sales pipeline suffers.
Compare this to a dedicated B2B lead generation service using channel stacking to target the same prospect . All three channels are employed consistently, with 16 total outreaches, four warm responses and one discovery call scheduled. This penetration of the “sales opportunity space” is only possible with efficient lead generation systems and workflows in place.
Using channel stacking, synchronized but slightly different outreach messages are sent across all channels until a response is received. Sometimes these reference another channel (i.e. “I sent you an email, just wanted to follow up here too.”). Other times they may be unique to that channel, such as emailing an industry report PDF.
If a warm response is received in one channel, multiple channels may be used to “seal the deal”. This reflects the likelihood that prospects will switch channels during the day. Following up on two or more channels increases the likelihood your prospect will see and respond to you. The time to double-message a prospect is after they’ve said “yes” in some form or fashion, the quicker the better.
Another key point: It’s not enough to simply add more communication channels — you need to orchestrate them. B2B lead generation communications must be integrated so they come across naturally. This prevents accidentally selling to somebody who has already said “yes” or “no”, or is so unresponsive that it doesn’t make sense to reach out anymore.
Properly stacking and orchestrating B2B lead generation channels is no small feat at scale. This is one of the reasons sales execs typically rely on only a couple outreach channels. Humans simply can’t manage large volumes of communications and back-and-forth interactions with multiple prospects at once without getting overwhelmed.
In a nutshell, you need to stack multiple channels AND orchestrate them all to maximize B2B lead generation success.