As a B2B marketer, lead generation is probably your most important consideration: Your sales and marketing funnels grow or shrink with your ability to generate leads.
When you consider that your prospects spend as little as 17% of their time speaking with your sales people, it’s essential you formulate a coherent B2B lead generation strategy that communicates your brand’s value at every step of your prospect’s buyer journey.
Strategy, conversions, and traffic form three pillars of an effective B2B lead generation strategy. In this article, we’ll discuss the lead generation process, how to formulate a coherent lead generation strategy, and the technologies, channels, and metrics you’ll need to achieve a successful outcome.
1. What’s a B2B Lead?
A B2B lead is an individual who’s shown an interest in your product or service, such that:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) areleads who’ve engaged with your marketing — for example filling out a form to download a white paper — but aren’t ready to buy.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are leads who’ve taken an action showing they’re interested in becoming users of your product; for example, asking questions around specific features.
2. What’s B2B Lead Generation?
B2B lead generation describes the tactics employed to generate business-to-business leads. These include outbound marketing activities (such as cold calling) and inbound digital marketing activities. An effective B2B lead generation strategy combines both for maximum effectiveness.
As your prospects progress through your funnels, they go through the following three stages:
Attraction: Initially, your prospects are attracted to your website and other properties through SEO, content marketing, social media, pay-per-click ads, and similar channels.
Engagement: In the second stage, your prospects engage with your blogs, social media, and other channels and are receptive to your messages.
Conversion: Lastly, your prospects are accustomed to — and trust — your marketing messages and are ready to become users of your technology.
3. How to Build a B2B Lead Generation Strategy
A B2B lead generation strategy is essential to the success of your marketing campaigns. It serves as a roadmap to your marketing team, enabling them to make the best use of the time and resources available.
The SMART model is a popular framework for goal setting, stating that objectives should be:
Specific: Making goals clear enough for everyone to understand.
Measurable: Outlining key performance indicators which keep everyone focused and able to meet deadlines.
Attainable: Ensuring goals are realistic enough to be met.
Relevant:Ensuring goals fit the organisation’s overarching objectives.
Time Bound: Setting time frames that prevent your lead generation campaigns from getting sidetracked by day-to-day demands.
3.1 Define your ideal customer
Before you start your lead generation campaign, it’s good practice to form a comprehensive picture of your ideal customer — also called your customer avatar or buyer persona. You can achieve this through research, surveys, and feedback from your existing customers.
There are many ways to outline your audience characteristics, including geography, industry vertical, job role, and demographics. Gather as much information as you can so you can effectively address their needs. You may even create more than one buyer persona if, for example, you offer different products or if your product addresses the needs of more than one buyer persona.
3.2 Find out where your ideal customer is
When you position yourself where your ideal customers are, you increase your chances of success.
LinkedIn groups are a great place to start. Most industries have a presence on LinkedIn, and your positive contribution to the discussion will be noticed.
You’ll also find many opportunities to engage with your prospects on other social media platforms, forums, professional associations, blogs, newspapers, and third party publications.
3.3 Build a content marketing plan
Content marketing forms an indispensable part of your B2B lead generation strategy. You attract qualified leads as you create content across your funnels, eventually converting them into earnest users of your product.
4. B2B Customer Acquisition Channels
There are a variety of customer acquisition channels available to B2B marketers. You should test them according to your requirements, increasing your investments in the channels delivering the highest returns. B2B customer acquisition channels include:
4.1 Content marketing
B2B companies are using content marketing to grow their brand, attract visitors, and generate leads. Unlike advertising, content marketing’s ROI increases over time. Once you’ve published your content, it’s indexed by the search engines and remains available for several years thereafter. You should also repurpose your content for distribution to multiple channels, including your blog and social media.
Specific types of content for B2B customer acquisition include blogs, articles, white papers, case studies, podcasts, videos and newsletters.
4.2 Email marketing
Automated (drip) email campaigns are vital to the growth of your brand. Emails provide a unique way to deliver personalised messages; you can also segment your subscribers in a variety of ways, including demographics (age, sex, income…) and psychographics (opening and clicking emails, looking at pricing pages etc…)
A B2B drip campaign contains an introduction, a value proposition, an offer, and follow up messages. Your campaigns may last from a few days to a few weeks. Following is an example of an email drip campaign:
Email every day in the first week.
Email every other day in the second week.
4.3 Social media marketing
Social media platforms are a great way to share your content and generate leads. It’s straightforward to include calls-to-action (CTAs) in your social posts that drive traffic to your website. It’s likely your prospects are on social media, therefore you should include social media in your lead generation plan.
4.4 Search engine marketing (SEM/SEO)
Search engine marketing (SEM) involves pay-per-click (PPC) or display advertising in search engines such as Google and Bing.
Search engine optimisation (SEO), on the other hand, describes the inclusion of search terms within your content to help the search engines find your content. Both tactics are equally valid B2B customer acquisition strategies. SEO comprises:
On-Page SEO: This includes elements under your direct control, including keywords, page loading times, and user experience. On-page SEO enables you to include search terms in headings and other page elements while also ensuring your content meets the needs of your audience.
Off-Page SEO: This includes elements you don’t directly control. Off-page SEO involves attracting high-quality inbound links (from authoritative websites to your own). When you create content that people love to consume and share, you naturally increase the number and quality of links referring to your website.
4.5 Product trials
Product trials are particularly effective for tech companies. They’re an important source of leads because your prospects have an opportunity to trial your product at minimal risk. And if they’re tech savvy, they’ll often prefer trialing your software to speaking to sales reps. Also, because trials are self-service, they don’t add significantly to your marketing costs.
It’s also important to ensure your prospects have a positive experience during their trial. It’s worth considering an onboarding process, or extra support, depending on the complexity of your product. You can achieve this with a combination of emails, webinars and calls.
Aim to strike a balance between demonstrating value and giving away too much value. With constant monitoring and optimisation, you can generate a constant stream of highly qualified leads.
4.6 Referral marketing
A well planned referral marketing strategy is a cost effective means to generate leads for your B2B brand. By their nature, referred leads close more quickly and require less effort.
There’s some debate whether you should offer incentives to encourage referrals; keeping in mind that incentivising referrals may lead to less qualified leads and vice versa.
You can launch a referral marketing programme with the help of referral marketing software. In many cases, a simple squeeze page that captures basic details is all you’ll need.
One thing you can do to improve the quality of your referrals is to educate your referrers about what makes a good referral. For example, provide instructions on specific job titles, company sizes, or industry verticals. If you’re offering incentives, make sure to explain what those are, and how they’ll be delivered.
Also, make it as easy as possible for your sales and support reps to ask for referrals. For example, you can draft an email template for their use. Or they can be encouraged to ask for referrals as part of their day-to-day interactions.
4.7 Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing
Pay-per-click marketing remains popular among B2B marketers because it’s scalable. It delivers leads in a short amount of time with predictable results. Ensure you split test your landing pages to achieve maximum return on investment.
Remarketing (also called retargeting) addresses the fact that most of your prospects won’t convert to your offer on their first interaction.
With a remarketing campaign, you can re-engage with visitors who never took an action. Retargeting software installs a cookie (a small text file) on your prospect’s device that enables the display of ads as they browse the internet.
Retargeting gives you the opportunity to re-engage with your hard earned visitors while also building trust and familiarity with your prospective buyers.
Webinar leads are highly qualified because webinars require a significant time commitment from your prospects; In fact, 77% of B2B marketers use webinars as part of their marketing mix. Of these, 63% use them to nurture leads.
Your webinars can be even more powerful if you co-host them with a subject matter expert who’ll expose your product to their audience.
Prospects are attracted to webinars because it gives them the opportunity to learn something they can use straight away. And B2B marketers are attracted to webinars because they give them the opportunity to showcase their products and answer questions.
Aligning the expectations of the marketing and sales teams remains a challenge for B2B marketers. Lead generation represents the common ground between sales and marketing. To increase efficiency, both teams should agree on their lead generation criteria as well as a lead handover process.
6.1 Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic form of marketing which targets key accounts with personalised marketing.
In traditional B2B marketing, marketing strives to generate as many leads as the budget allows; it’s up to the sales team to qualify these leads. This creates a disconnect between sales’ and marketing’s expectations.
Account-based marketing eliminates this disconnect by focusing resources on a key set of accounts. Because messages are highly tailored, there’s a smooth transfer of leads from marketing to sales.
6.2 Agile Marketing
Agile marketing takes its inspiration from agile software development. It aims to improve adaptability in the marketing team and is a great way to make the most of resources available.
Agile marketing teams work in short, intensive bursts known as “sprints;” the idea being to chunk down as much as possible, testing and adapting along the way. This requires a data-based approach relying on a whole team effort.
Once a sprint is completed, the team evaluates their progress. This allows them to tweak their approach so they can aim for better results in their next sprint. A sprint typically lasts a few weeks during which team communication is essential.
7. B2B Lead Generation Metrics
Key performance indicators (KPIs) help you track the performance of your B2B lead generation campaigns. Some of the questions you might ask to help you formulate your metrics include:
How much website traffic do I need to generate X number of leads?
How many leads do I need to generate X number of conversions?
How many conversions do I need to generate X amount of revenue?
How many social media followers should I be aiming for?
Many tech businesses use the LTV:CAC ratio to track growth and profitability.If it’s too high, you’re probably being overcautious and missing opportunities. Conversely, if it’s too low, you could be overspending on your customer acquisition.
7.4 Cost Per Lead (CPL)
Your CPL provides a direct measure of the success of your B2B lead generation campaigns. It’s calculated as:
Aim to track your CPL across individual channels and as a whole: This will help you see which channels are the most effective.
7.5 Website Conversion Rates
Website conversion rates show the percentage of website visitors completing a desired action on your website, such as downloading a white paper, signing up for a free trial, or completing a purchase; in other words, the percentage that converts to leads:
Although industry averages provide a useful benchmark, it’s more useful to track your own performance over time.
7.6 Other performance metrics
Other useful performance indicators include:
Traffic to lead ratio: Shows the percentage of organic, direct, social, search, referral and paid traffic on your website converting into new leads. If this number is too high, your content may not be answering your prospects’ questions or you may be targeting the wrong audience.
Click through rate (CTR): Shows the number of times a link was clicked. This differs from the conversion rate because it doesn’t indicate whether someone’s converted to your offer. Again, if the CTR is high but conversions low, there may be issues with your content or your targeting.
Landing page conversion rate: Indicates the conversion rate on a single page as opposed to the website as a whole.
Average session duration: Indicates the average period of time a visitor spends on your website. If it’s low, your content may not be resonating with your audience.
Bounce rate: Shows the percentage of people who navigate away from your site immediately after landing on a page. Again, a high number may mean your content doesn’t resonate, or you are targeting the wrong audience.
8. Improving B2B Lead Generation Performance
Even the most successful B2B lead generation campaigns leave room for improvement. You should monitor the performance of your campaigns and make adjustments where necessary. Possible areas for improvement include:
8.1 Lead Quality
Are your leads converting into paying users of your product, and what percentage of them are doing so? You could improve lead quality by:
Better qualifying leads as they enter your funnels; for example, adding a few extra boxes to your forms, such as role, budget or company size.
Using analytics software such as Google Analytics to help you track the source of your leads.
8.2 Lead Scoring
Lead scoring helps prioritise your leads as they’re registered in your CRM (customer relationship management) tool. This frees your salespeople to focus on the most valuable leads. Although points-based scoring systems have been the norm they’re being phased out by artificial intelligence.
8.3 Lead Nurturing
Because most leads won’t convert on their first interaction with your brand, lead nurturing enables relationship building. It gives you the opportunity to guide your prospects through their buyer journey while showcasing your expertise.
8.4 Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
This involves ways of improving conversion rates at every step of your prospects’ buyer journey.
8.5 A/B and Multivariate Testing
A/B testing allows you to experiment with single elements of web pages, including headlines, forms, and buttons. However, this requires a high number of impressions in order to generate enough data. In multivariate testing, conversely, you can test several elements of a web page at once. This won’t isolate which changes create the desired effect, but it will allow you to make quicker decisions with fewer data points.
Personalisation remains a strategic differentiator in B2B lead generation. Leverage your customer personas — which you might have created during product development — to deliver targeted messages using marketing automation software.
8.7 Product Trials
Product trials present a unique opportunity to convert prospects who’ve shown a real interest in using your product. Prepare messaging focused on:
Educational emails: Teach your prospects to use your product. Focus on a few features at a time.
Case studies: Share examples of how your product has helped other users.
Offers: Once your trial users are comfortable with your product, offer discounts and other offers to encourage conversion.
Qualified B2B leads are essential to the growth of your brand. A well structured strategy will drive a steady flow of qualified leads through your funnels. B2B lead generation enables you to develop a detailed understanding of the challenges and aspirations of your audience while promoting the benefits of your product.
Using marketing automation software, analytics, and personalisation, you can deliver the right messages, to the right prospects, at the right time, and on budget.