Lead generation secrets you need to know

It all starts with lead generation. And, according to marketing automation provider Nurture, 60% of marketers say that lead gen is one of their top three priorities, of which 26% claim it’s the highest. However, this cornerstone of B2B marketing can be the trickiest to master. At times, lead generation is more of an art than a science, making it hard for businesses to define concrete and actionable lead generation strategies. It’s a craft that needs to be honed if you want to practice it successfully. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some lesser-known, but highly effective, tips to boost your lead generation skills. Read on for Fifty Five and Five’s lead generation secrets you need to know.  

1. Understand lead magnets 

It’s not easy to stand out in the crowded, competitive B2B marketplace. It’s loud, crammed to the rafters, and you can easily get elbowed out of the way by other brands vying for attention. In these circumstances, first impressions really countthe first impression may be the only chance you get to create a long and fruitful relationship. 

Here’s where lead magnets come in. They’re the incentive you dangle in front of prospects in order to attract them to your business. Sounds a little cynical? Not at all. What you’re offering is something valuable: the solution to a business problem they face. It might come in the form of a piece of content, free consultation, or something else that helps them. And, if it’s good enough, it will earn you their business.  

2. Master the micro survey 

We’re living in a fast-paced, time-poor, low-attention world. More so than ever before. You can’t expect your audience to willingly answer 15-question feedback form. They’ll balk at being asked to take ‘just 10 minutes to answer our quick survey’. If that happens, you’ve just lost their attention – and their valuable input. The next of our lead generation secrets addresses this.  

Mastering the micro survey allows you to gain this vital feedback without subjecting your prospects or existing customers to lengthy, time-consuming questionnaires. If you can ask the right questions, with enough brevity, to deliver the data you need, then you’ll be able to create more effective campaigns, enhance your lead generation strategies and convert more of those leads into customers. The bottom line is that micro surveys will allow you to get insights faster and more often.  

3. Learn to mix it up a little 

As with all things in life, lead generation campaigns don’t last forever - no matter which combination of classic lead generation strategies you use. You may earn and convert dozens of leads over a short period, but eventually this will peter out. Every campaign has a shelf life. 

 Variety is the spice of life, and mixing it up, testing new approaches and staying flexible leaves you room to constantly transform. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to abandon the things that work, however. If one of your tactics is converting leads at a higher rate, maybe there are some tweaks you could make to keep it fresh or tap into a different audience. Try to always be evolving to meet the current needs and challenges of the market.  

4. Consider influencer marketing 

The consumer world has already enthusiastically adopted this trend, and 2020 looks to see the growth of B2B influencer marketing. Buyers trust other buyers more than they trust businesses or brands – that’s why the retail sector has seen an explosion of reviews on sites like Amazon. If you can harness this kind of credibility, it can do wonders for your business.   

Influencer and word of mouth marketing might even be more important for B2B than B2C. After all, B2C decisions are often thought to be more carefully considered and with greater consequences than consumer purchases. When you spend company money, you need to be able to properly justify any purchases you make. The realisation of this is causing more and more businesses to implement this strategy to boost their lead generation success.  

5. Don’t underestimate the landing page 

Imagine you bought a car online that promised a spectacular drive, guaranteed to blow your socks off. You get to the showroom and it looks like it’s gone ten rounds at the demolition derby. Even if it’s just cosmetic damage, you still wouldn’t want to get inside  no matter how well it drove. 

The same goes for a badly written, badly designed or dated landing page. A prospect will arrive full of good expectations, attracted by all the good work you’ve done with your lead generation strategies. This will all be immediately undone if they arrive on your unprofessional landing page expecting a Rolls Royce product but get a 1978 Fiat with no doors. Unless you make your landing page as effective as possible, can kiss that lead goodbye. 

Discovering and developing your own lead generation secrets 

We hope this blog has helped you develop your strategies for lead generation success by providing some useful areas to focus on. As time goes by, you – or your marketing agency – will discover and refine the tactics that work best for your business, brand or products.  

With time and experience, you may even develop your own set of tried-and-tested lead generation secrets. If you’ve got any top lead gen tips that you think are missing from our list, or you’d like a hand getting to grips with any of the existing, we’d love to hear from you. 

MS Inspire hero image

Your Virtual Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips

  • This year's Inspire conference is entirely virtual
  • We share the best Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips 

Around this time every year, we share our tips for attending Microsoft Inspire. Usually, our advice is based on attending the conference in person. Whether it’s making new business connections, socialising, or absorbing the sights and sounds of Las Vegas, taking part can be a pretty amazing experience. However, the current pandemic has changed our summer plans. As a result, Microsoft Inspire 2020 is going to be a virtual conference. 

While this presents challenges, thanks to the cloud and today’s communication software, we’ve all got the means to make Inspire 2020 just as successful as any other year. 

In this blog, we’re going to give you some advice about taking your networking remote. 

7 Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips 

We’ve been to Inspire five years in a row, and those experiences have taught us some valuable lessons on what to expect and how to prepare. Here are our top 7 Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips, adapted for a virtual experience: 

 1. Plan for new connections  

Inspire is an ideal time to make new connections, but it requires preparation if you’re wish to make the right ones. It’s useful to take a good look at the attendee demographic of past shows. Microsoft provide detailed data on the subject, including: 

  •  Attendee figures 
  • Sector and industry breakdown 
  • Job role breakdown 
  • Areas of interest breakdown 

As a digital marketing agency whose client base includes Microsoft partners, everyone at Inspire has the potential to be a customer, lead, or useful connection for us. But even so, it’s important that we take time to study exactly who will be attending. Doing your research ahead of the event pays huge dividends. Just because you're not in the room, this year, doesn’t mean you can’t make a valuable new connection – online networking events will be taking place across the week this year so it’s important to create a list of businesses and people you’d like to speak to and seek them out.  

2. Flaunt your assets  

Every year, we produce an annual review celebrating the marketing efforts of Microsoft partners: The Fifty Five and Five Digital Marketing Excellence Report. Usually we launch each new edition from our stand at the conference, giving away hard copies to attendees. 

This year instead of handing out physical reports we will release a fully digitally version instead. While we can’t create the same kind of face-to-face interactions at the event, we’ll be making sure to reach out to all our friends in the Microsoft partner world with access to our content – and, of course, congratulating those who ranked in our report. This is an exciting evolution to the “Microsoft Top 50”, and we are very excited to share it!  

Whilst it is always worth taking a proactive role in your value adding activities, it’s particularly important now. Try to stand out in your leads’ memories by going the extra mile – perhaps consider sending a free “how-to” guide or invite them to a specialist session that they simply can’t refuse.  

3. Who do you want to talk to? 

Despite not attending Inspire in person this year, you should still have a client ‘target list’ with information such as:  

  • People that you really want to connect with 
  • Companies that you also want to connect with. 
  • Exhibiting companies you want to check in with. 
  • Past or existing clients that are attending virtually that you should say hello to.
  • Relevant Microsoft employees that you want to virtually meet at the show. 

This list will help you to prioritise your time and make meaningful, valuable connections.  

4. Make the workshops work for you 

Every year Inspire hosts hundreds of workshops from some of the industry’s leading organisations and figures. We’re expecting that this year will be no different, except that these workshops will be hosted online.  

It’s important to maximise your ROI for your tickets, so create a list of the workshops you want to attend. Assign your team to different workshops and ask them to create summaries that you can share throughout your business. This can also be leveraged as content for during and after Inspire, why not turn your experiences and the advice you receive into blogs? There’s more onus on making sure you network and communicate – albeit virtually – this year, so don’t be afraid to share content that’ll get your business noticed.  

5. Follow up with leads 

When following up with your leads and new contacts from the conference, be sure to keep track of the following: 

  • Who was contacted? 
  • When were they contacted? 
  • Who in your business should contact them? 
  • When should you follow up again? 

You can use a good CRM system to automate this process. But a simple spreadsheet can sometimes be just as effective. We recommend that you take notes when talking to leads during the event so that you can remind them of the conversation when you follow up later.  

6. Get social  

To make the most of attending Microsoft Inspire, we invest time in writing blogs and sharing collateral from the show. We stay very active on Twitter during and after the conference and share videos and pictures during the week. Maintaining a vocal online presence will be crucial this year – show the leads you want, who you are!  

7. Calculate your ROI 

Ultimately, any company attending Inspire is doing so to grow their business. Understanding your ROI from the conference requires revisiting your experience of the event soon after its conclusion. 

One of the obvious KPIs is to look at the work you have won since returning. It’s very likely you need to take a long-term view that incorporates the length of your typical sales cycle or longer, as leads from a trade show will typically take longer to result in billable work or sales. Understanding how many leads you get from Inspire and what becomes of those leads is important for understanding the value of the event and if you should change your strategy when attending next year.   

Making the most of the circumstances 

Everything feels up in the air for a lot of businesses and their people right now. But one thing we can rely on is that we will all find ways to connect with each other, whether it’s for business or pleasure. We think of Inspire 2020 as an opportunity to generate new leads and make new connections, and also as a chance to feel solidarity with other businesses. And we can’t wait to hear about the great things that come out of Inspire 2020.  

Top 5 tips for cybersecurity during COVID-19

In March 2020, the British Government, like many others worldwide, made the transition into a period of ‘lockdown’ designed to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Following the lead of other nations, people in Britain were told to minimise non-essential travel, stay at home, and work from there if possible. As Fifty Five and Five completed our own transition to all-remote working, we witnessed businesses and employees all over London making their own arrangements. Our head office is located in the heart of the UK’s capital, and on that busy evening we saw countless city workers on their way home with the familiar laptop bags but also monitors, keyboards, and many folders of documents. Practically overnight, the home office became the office. In their scramble to set up a coronavirus lockdown home office, workers are keen to make sure they can reach all the vital business data they need. However, are they neglecting security in this rush for access? With that in mind, take a look at our top 5 tips for cybersecurity during COVID-19.

1. Stick to password best practices and do testing

The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it is to guess or crack. When you create a new password or change an existing one, password managers such as LastPass (our favourite) or Google Password Manager will generate a lengthy random password containing a combination of different letters (capitalised and lowercase) as well as numbers and special characters.

What’s more, these password managers will even audit the security of all your passwords for you. They’ll investigate and notify you of any low-complexity bad apples in the barrel and whether you’ve duplicated the same password across multiple accounts. Just make sure that you have a strong password for the password manager itself – it’s the key to your entire kingdom, after all.

2. Set up two-factor authentication

Also known as 2FA, two-factor authentication means having an extra step of security. So, as well as entering their password, a user will have to authenticate their identity in another way – for instance entering a code they’ve received or clicking on a link in their emails. It’s a powerful, fundamental tool in enabling secure remote working.

You and your users have probably already encountered 2FA during password recovery or when signing up for a service. It’s common to receive a PIN number via text message to enter for second-step authentication, as it’s less likely an intruder will have knowledge of your password and access to your mobile device. Implement two-step authentication wherever you can and encourage your personnel to set it up and use it, too.

3. Guard against shadow IT

‘What is shadow IT?’, you may be asking. Simply put, it’s software or hardware that’s being used within your organisation for business but hasn’t been authorised by system administrators. They may not even know about it. It’s just lurking in the shadows, posing a risk from security flaws, malware and simply being outside your scope of control.

Administrators can help to ensure that authorised software is installed or accessible for your users, and that running or installing unauthorised software is blocked. Restrictions can be applied even if it exists in the cloud, where much of today’s software-as-a-service lives. If you allow employees to use their personal laptops or other devices for work, consider making this conditional on whether they agree to use company-sanctioned solutions. At the end of the day, secure remote working comes first.

4. Ensure devices are protected with antivirus

This may seem obvious – who doesn’t use antivirus in 2020? – but it’s still important to remember to use your antivirus solution effectively. For instance, all personnel should be using the same solution, whether that’s Kaspersky, AVG or trusty old Windows Defender. Just like any other kind of process, when security processes are standardised, they’re easier to manage – an old universal truth of system administration. As explained earlier, this is no time for shadow IT.

Make sure your antivirus software and its virus definitions database are kept up to date. If you can, ensure that they can only be switched off by an administrator. And if, for whatever reason, your staff need to switch off the antivirus software temporarily, or set an exception, they should consult IT staff. Protocols and security standards like these should be kept high at all times, not just for cybersecurity during COVID-19.

5. Keep apps and operating systems up to date

As well as keeping your antivirus solution up to date, it’s important to keep all your other software updated, too. Out-of-date software can hide a multitude of unpatched security holes and bugs. That goes for your operating system as well as the applications that run on it.

If your IT staff aren’t already doing so, they should consider auditing how up to date your software is, to get an idea of what and where the weak spots are. Depending on your systems, they may even be able to roll out updates remotely across all your business devices. Just like there’s no such thing as being ‘too secure’, there’s no such thing as ‘too up to date’.

Confident of your cybersecurity during COVID-19?

We hope our tips for secure remote working in the coronavirus crisis have been useful. When you’re confident that you’ve done everything you can to secure your systems and protect your data, that’s one less thing to worry about. Perhaps that’s one of the most important benefits of staying secure right now.

Want to make security a selling-point?

If you’re confident your security makes your business look good to prospective customers, Fifty Five and Five can help you tell that story.

Get in touch now


The Fifty Five and Five guide to remote working

Not too long ago, we published a blog about how we go about overcoming the challenges of remote working as a company. As a cloud native business, and having had several remote employees, we considered ourselves something of an authority on the subject. But today, the circumstances when that blog was written feel like another world entirely. Little did we know exactly how important those skills would turn out to be.

As I write this blog, we now reach the end of the fourth week in which the whole company, and much of the world, has been confined to bedrooms, lounges and makeshift offices. And it doesn’t look likely to change any time soon. We’ve discovered that running an entire company remotely for a sustained period is a slightly different kettle of fish. Here are some of the key things we’ve noticed and how we’re dealing with them.

Processes and structures

In our previous blog, we spoke about some of the ways we ensure smooth remote working in our company. Much of it centres around technology. We’re cloud native; we’ve been on Office 365 as long as we’ve existed, and Microsoft Teams is integral to how we work. All our files are saved into the cloud automatically, available from anywhere, and having remote employees really got us into the habit of sharing and recording information as standard.

In terms of the practical mechanics of working remotely, our processes are virtually unchanged. Meetings run smoothly since we’ve all had years of practice communicating with global clients and employees via Teams. We simply picked up our monitors and laptops one Monday afternoon, and logged on via Teams for our daily morning catch up the next day.

Perhaps the best visual description of this in action is this graph that shows how the volume of private messaging via Teams changes over time across the company. The eagle-eyed among you will see that the change in the last two weeks has been virtually non-existent. For most of us, the only technological difficulty has been battling with our partners, relatives and housemates for internet bandwidth.

remote working

The challenge of remote working

But a company isn’t just about processes, documents and meetings. One of the trickiest things to replace are those small visual cues you get from being in the office together. When you’re all in the same room, it’s easy to see if someone is on their lunch break, has signed off for the day, is in a meeting, or is simply trying to get some focused work done in one of the quieter corners of the office. These are a lot harder to replicate remotely, because they’re too subtle to have technology and processes built around them.

Personally, I’m finding that using statuses and ‘do not disturb’ buttons on Teams are helping me go for a lunch break or daily run without worrying about missing an urgent message. At times like this, communication is key.

Staying in the rhythm

The disruption to the company in terms of meetings, structures and processes has been probably more minimal than any of us would have anticipated. With a positive attitude, and taking that extra step to update and communicate, remote working is surprisingly sustainable for us. But on an individual level, and I’m sure many people around the world are discovering this, the shift is pretty big. We’re all accustomed to our working days being governed by certain structures and routines: getting up at a certain time, getting dressed and commuting. Without thus structure, it’s easy to fall into bad habits.

To stay productive and sane during this period, it’s important to work that extra bit harder to maintain your rhythm. That means getting up at a regular time, getting dressed, putting your makeup on and generally maintaining your morning routine even if there’s no direct need to. For us, having our daily morning catch up is really great for this, because it gives us that structure each day; a deadline by which we should be up, fed, showered and camera ready.

A space of one’s own

One of the great benefits of having an office is it creates a workspace; a place where we can go to feel productive, surrounded by the people and things you associate with doing work. Maintaining that rhythm in a place where you’re used to lying about, drinking wine and binge-watching Netflix is more of a challenge. But it’s really important to go to that extra effort to recreate that work environment that’s separate from the rest of your living space.

For me, that means working from the kitchen rather than the lounge and working with the same two-screen setup I’m used to in the office. It also helps that I sit at the same desk where most of my university studying was done–heroically still standing after some four house moves. If you’re looking for some inspiration here, the message is search around your flat for a place you can build positive, productive associations.

Hint: It’s probably not your bed or your sofa.

Keeping the culture alive

Of course, there’s more to a company than simply the work we produce but the way we do it. Our culture at Fifty Five and Five has always been very strong. But it’s difficult to quantify our culture in terms of meetings, technologies and processes – which means there’s a real risk of us losing that magic sauce that makes us so unique. The Fifty Five and Five culture is as much about 11 am coffee chats, long running jokes and the atmosphere you get in a company meeting as it is about blogs and social media.

So, working remotely, we’ve taken a few extra steps to make sure we catch up as a company in these trying times. We’ve implemented a weekly social hour via Microsoft Teams and a Friday quiz, so we can drop in, have a laugh and exchange stories of how our respective partners and relatives are driving us stir crazy. The moral of the story, if there is one, is that the whole company working remotely is hardly an ideal situation. But we’re doing a pretty good job of making the best of it. Perhaps better even than some of us might have anticipated. We’ll even be welcoming a new employee from the hospitality of Microsoft Teams in just a few short weeks and have another who enjoyed precisely one day in the office before we went remote.

That being said, we’re all looking forward to going back to moaning about our commutes over morning coffee as soon as we possibly can.

The Fifty Five and Five offices might be closed, but the company is as open as it ever has been. And if you want to talk about your marketing, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Get in touch with our team today to find out more.

I looked into the face of the internet and this is what I saw

It won’t surprise you to hear that, in my role as a technology writer, I often find myself writing about the internet. In fact, writing about marketing cloud computing software and solutions is almost impossible without at least referring to it. Recently, however, I was surprised to realise that – past surface level knowledge – the internet still remained something of a mystery to me.

Surrounded by the internet

The situation became particularly acute because recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour around a data centre – which I can assure you was far more interesting than it sounds.

Data centres have been a fundamental part of the IT world since the early days of the internet – accommodating the hardware that’s required to connect companies to networks, customers and each other. More recently they’ve powered cloud transformation, which has been a predominant trend in recent years. Cloud transformation involves customers migrating information from their own servers into those stored in large data centres owned by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon.

So, there I was in one such data centre, surrounded by ‘the internet’, which in reality turned out to be a series of servers and cables connecting them. My colleague, with a typical marketer’s skill of summing up a complex concept with a pithy statement, described the situation thus: “Well, it’s a series of tubes, isn’t it?” The upshot is, yes, the internet is a series of tubes, largely old copper telephone wires that still remain from the 19th century. As it turns out, it was the Victorians that built the internet after all – they just didn’t know it.

It all comes back to the customer

So, what exactly does this have to do with the cloud? The thing that struck me in that moment was how different the reality of the internet is to the language we use to communicate about it. And that’s not specific to marketing; terms like ‘upload’, ‘download’, and ‘cloud’ all propagate the idea that the internet exists above us, as a sort of intangible data bubble. All of these terms paint a picture, not of the technology that powers the internet, but of what it allows the consumer to do. It’s almost as if the internet has its own marketing department.

The thing that interested me most is that this is the very thing us marketers try to do when talking about the products and services we’re selling. There’s no point talking about servers and wires when your customer is interested in what this allows them to achieve. I call this the ‘show don’t tell approach’; if you’re talking about how great you are without explaining what that means for the user – you’re missing a trick.

Features vs. benefits: What does this mean for the customer?

The above applies even more when you’re marketing cloud computing solutions than anywhere else. Good marketing moves the focus away from what technology is towards what it does, or more specifically what it allows you to do. That applies whether we’re talking about an ‘as-a-service’ mindset or discussing ‘solutions’ and ‘digital transformations’. Overused as these terms have now become, they all started with a focus on explaining what technology can help businesses achieve, and moving away from describing wires, servers and hardware.

‘Putting the customer first’ is all well and good in the abstract – but how do we turn that into good marketing? It all begins with imagining the customer as a real person, with complex wants and needs, rather than talking to a ‘generic business leader’.

This starts with creating personas, giving your target customer a name, job title, and talking about their everyday tasks, priorities and pain points. The objective here is to find tangible applications of the product in action. Or to put it in the words of one client of ours: “My customers aren’t interested in ‘taking your business to the next level’ – they want to know how to get people to do their time sheets.”

Marketing cloud computing services

As marketers, that’s what we strive to do each day – understand more about who our customers are and what they want, so we can better fulfil their needs. That remains the same whether we’re writing blogs, eBooks or creating paid media adverts. At Fifty Five and Five, this mindset is what powers the marketing that we create for our technology clients: a firm desire to create a bridge from business to business through good marketing.