B2B Lead Generation
B2B businesses thrive on leads. If you’re not able to generate fresh leads, nurture them and turn them into sales, you’ll struggle to achieve any real growth.
It’s crucial, therefore, to have a clear lead generation strategy that encompasses everything from the basics of this concept to the various methods and tools available to help you measure and optimise performance.
Grow your business with lead generation
It’s always worth thinking about your B2B lead generation tactics and what you can do to make sure they’re working and benefiting your business. If it becomes clear that you’re not getting a satisfactory return on your investment in this space, the best course of action could be to go back to basics and rethink your strategy from scratch.
What is lead generation?
There’s a lot that can be gained from going right back to the fundamentals and refreshing your knowledge of the core components of your marketing.
At an essential level, lead generation is the process of using marketing techniques, assets and tools to connect with your target audience and encourage them to share their contact details with you. Anyone who shows an interest in your product or service – regardless of whether they’ve reached the point of being fully ready to buy – can be counted as a lead.
All leads are potential customers, but careful nurturing and qualification are required to turn initial leads into viable sales prospects – meaning they’ve been confirmed as a good fit for your business and a worthwhile target for more intensive marketing and sales efforts.
Lead generation activities can take various guises, but the process often relies on driving targeted, relevant traffic to your website with the eventual aim of capturing visitor data. Different components of your marketing mix will need to come together to achieve this aim, from email newsletters and paid search advertising to social media campaigns.
As we’ll see later, there are many technologies that can offer broader support for your efforts to generate and qualify leads, including software that helps you embed contact forms on your website and get results from often overlooked tools such as pop-ups.
The evolution of lead generation
Lead generation methods have undergone a lot of change in recent years, largely as a result of the ongoing, rapid evolution of the digital environment and trends such as the growth of inbound marketing.
Internet users are surrounded by so much noise and activity that they automatically filter out information that isn’t immediately relevant to them, and have little patience for marketing that doesn’t deliver any value.
In many cases, customers with a particular need will seek out content and solutions that are best suited to their requirements. From a lead generation perspective, this means you need to be prepared with marketing assets that can be easily found by your customers and demonstrate what you have to offer as a vendor. The quality of your content is also critical if you want to give people a compelling reason to share their contact details with you.
Your marketing and sales funnel
The marketing and sales funnel that your business uses is a crucial element of your lead generation activities. It provides a visual and easily understandable representation of the journey a customer takes, all the way from initially sharing their information with you to eventually making a purchase.
Your funnel has a key role to play in your efforts to nurture and qualify leads. Many people who give you their contact details will still be a long way off feeling ready to buy, and your funnel outlines the structured, methodical approach you need to take to convert them from a lead into a customer.
One important consideration is the type of marketing content you want to target at particular leads, based on their location in the funnel.
The top of the funnel is where you’ll find the broadest audience, and at this point your priorities should be to build awareness and provide relevant, interesting content that answers people’s questions and suggests solutions to their problems. This is likely to include:
As potential customers continue to interact with your business and start to show a clearer interest in committing to a purchase, you can target them with bottom-of-funnel content such as:
- Case studies
- Product demonstrations
Why is lead generation important?
Lead generation matters to businesses because it provides the fuel required to achieve consistent growth. Keeping your existing customers happy is vital if you want to maintain a steady revenue stream and achieve goals such as brand loyalty and advocacy, but to expand and evolve your company, you need to bring in new business.
This is a particularly important goal in the B2B sector, where sales cycles are longer than in the B2C segment and, to succeed, you need to:
- Make a long-term commitment to understanding and connecting with your audience
- Nurture relationships gradually over time, with a focus on developing trust
- Ensure you’re not wasting valuable time and energy on weak leads
Many B2C businesses are able to rely on a certain amount of casual business and one-off purchases to keep the revenue flowing in. B2B firms, on the other hand, usually need to work harder to build engagement with potential customers and to earn the trust required for a buyer to go ahead with a big purchase.
It’s important to remember that, for businesses, big buying decisions could spell the difference between a profit and a loss, and possibly even the success or failure of the whole organisation. So if your focus is on B2B lead generation, there’s a lot of work involved in establishing strong relationships and showing potential buyers that you can deliver the value they’re looking for.
What are the benefits of lead generation?
One of the clearest benefits of lead generation is that, when it’s done effectively, it means the marketing department can pass on promising leads for the sales department to convert into customers. This offers a crucial efficiency advantage for members of the sales team, who don’t want to waste any time focusing on leads that are unlikely to convert.
Again, this is crucial in the B2B sector, which is notorious for its long sales cycles and the amount of work and investment that’s required to nurture leads into prospects and eventually turn them into customers.
If your marketing department is able to channel qualified leads into the sales funnel on a regular basis, your overall conversion rate will improve and your business will thrive on a steady flow of new revenue.
Lead generation strategies and best practices
Once you have a solid understanding of lead generation, what it involves and the results it can generate for your business, you can start to plan strategies to optimise your efforts in this space.
There’s certainly a lot to think about, from buyer personas and blogging to SEO and social media. Evaluating all the different avenues open to you can be daunting, so you might want to break things down and take a gradual, step-by-step approach.
Understand your audience
One thing you certainly need to have on your side to take your lead generation to a new level is a deep understanding of your audience. A clear picture of your typical customer and their various interests, requirements and pain points will help you design content that is relevant to them and suggests viable solutions to their problems.
You can create this picture using your buyer personas, which bring together a range of data to create a detailed profile of the sorts of customers you would like to attract. Basic information that you should put at the core of your personas includes:
- Job title
Some of these details – such as job titles and the industry your target customers work in – are particularly important from a B2B lead generation perspective. They will help you develop a better understanding of your buyers’ professional goals and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
As you go deeper into your customer research and learn what really makes your audience tick, you can incorporate more nuanced data such as:
- Their most important aims and how they relate to your product or service
- The key challenges and problems they’re looking to solve
- Their objections to buying your product
There are various ways to go about collecting the information you need to create your buyer personas. These include conducting surveys on social media and using your existing customer service, marketing and sales channels to collect feedback and insights from your audience.
Refine your content strategy
Content marketing has a vital role to play in your B2B lead generation efforts. One of the reasons high-quality, relevant content is so important is because it helps you build and maintain trust, which is crucial if you want to turn visitors into leads and convert leads into customers.
There are many approaches you can take with your content. One is to create lead magnets: high-quality assets specifically designed to encourage users to share their contact details in exchange for the value contained within.
Companies that are keen to learn more about this subject will consider submitting their contact details to access the content, and if they’re impressed by what they see and hear, they will start to trust the provider and give more serious thought to purchasing from them.
Another important consideration is the types of content you want to use at different points in the lead generation and nurturing journeys. At early stages, when you want to raise awareness and provide interesting, educational material for your audience, your focus is likely to be on activities like blog posting and building social media engagement.
Further down the line, however, when leads are starting to think more seriously about buying, you could shift to more targeted, sales-themed content such as customer testimonials and product demonstration videos.
Step up your SEO
Search engine optimisation is a fundamental goal of content marketing for many businesses, and it has an important part to play in lead generation. The simple reason for this is that attracting more visitors to your website through SEO naturally increases the number of leads you can generate and move through your funnel.
You can dedicate a lot of time, effort and investment to creating high-quality content and developing tools that will aid your lead generation, but if you’re falling short on basic goals such as ranking well in search engines, you’re unlikely to see results.
It’s important, therefore, to ensure you’re sticking to good habits as far as SEO is concerned. Your strategy in this area should encompass everything from the most basic and essential practices to more nuanced, technical tactics that will help you maintain good visibility in search engine results pages.
Fundamental SEO priorities include:
- Ensuring your webpages are accessible to web crawlers, so your content can be discovered and indexed by search engines
- A range of high-quality, regularly updated content that reflects what your target audience is searching for
- Keyword research
- Content optimisation
Once you’ve done the groundwork and got the basics of your SEO strategy in place, you can start to think about more technical tasks such as optimising your page URLs and getting your content to appear in featured snippets.
Focus on landing pages
Landing pages are one of the most important and valuable lead generation marketing tools at your disposal.
They serve as central hubs for your various marketing campaigns and provide a focal point for your efforts to engage users and generate quality leads.
You can use landing pages in various formats, one of the most important and valuable of which is the lead capture page. These are often used as a gateway to high-value, in-depth content that satisfies a common customer need or answers their questions.
Users who are interested in this content will be invited to share their contact information and consent to marketing communications in order to access it.
Knowing how to produce and optimise powerful landing pages can make a big difference to your lead generation efforts. Good practices to maintain include:
- Writing concise and attention-grabbing headlines
- Using a call to action (CTA) with clear, active language
- Featuring visual elements and design that add to a positive user experience
- Making your lead capture form as short and user-friendly as possible
- Following up lead capture with a ‘Thank you’ page that also directs users to a related offer or other relevant content
Use the power of social media
Social media is a massively powerful tool that should be front and centre in pretty much all of your content marketing activities, including your efforts to generate quality leads.
There’s a lot you can do on your favoured social channels to drive lead generation. Facebook and Instagram, for example, provide the option of using dedicated lead ads, which feature an instant form that makes it quick and easy for interested users to share contact information including their name, email address and phone number.
On Twitter, marketers can use lead generation cards to collect potential customer data directly within a tweet, meaning people can choose to share their information with you without navigating away from the site.
If you’re a B2B marketer, LinkedIn is likely to be one of your first ports of call when you’re focusing on lead generation. The professional network offers tools including forms that auto-populate with a user’s profile details when they click a CTA.
Social media also has a vital role to play in your efforts to build your brand and send more organic traffic to your website, which will naturally feed into both B2C and B2B lead generation.
Establish goals and metrics
Like any other element of your marketing strategy, inbound lead generation needs clear goals, key performance indicators and metrics in order to be truly successful. After all, if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’ll have no way of knowing if your investments are delivering worthwhile returns.
The goals you set and the metrics you use to measure progress towards them will be unique to your business, depending on key factors such as whether you market to consumers or other businesses and the nature of the product or service you provide.
However, some general lead generation metrics you’ll want to measure include:
- CTA click-through rates
- Cost per click
- Cost per lead
- Time on page
- Lead generation rate by marketing channel
Setting clear goals and knowing what metrics to track is essential if you want to demonstrate tangible results from your lead generation activities. This will help you prove the positive impact the marketing team is having on the business as a whole, which will put you in a stronger position to secure executive level buy-in and budget for future campaigns.
Provide a positive user experience
Delivering a positive user experience should be a fundamental goal for all of your content marketing efforts, but it can be particularly important when you’re focused on lead generation.
You might be investing a lot of time and budget in creating high-quality, search-optimised content, building your social media presence and engaging with your audience via email, but this could all come to nothing if people are disappointed with the experience they receive when they come to your website.
Make sure you’re avoiding the most common pitfalls that will put people off your brand and drastically reduce the likelihood of website visitors becoming leads. If your pages are hindered by slow loading speeds or aren’t optimised for mobile, for example, users are much more likely to hit the ‘back’ button than give you their contact details.
The best lead generation tools
Like any challenging task – whether it’s in business or life in general – online lead generation becomes significantly easier when you’re equipped with the right tools.
Businesses today are in the privileged position of being able to choose from an enormous range of software and technologies that can support various aspects of your lead generation strategy, from learning more about your social media followers to deploying pop-ups.
Knowing what’s out there, and which options are best-suited to the unique needs of your business, will make a big difference to your efforts in this area.
HubSpot is one of the best-known and most successful marketing software providers. It’s more of a ‘jack of all trades’ than a lead generation specialist, offering a range of services that can help you gain qualified leads by supporting various elements of your marketing.
The company’s content creation, social media management and SEO tools, for example, can make it easier for you to improve your online presence and maintain relationships with your target audience.
HubSpot also offers dedicated features to manage your forms and landing pages, which is crucial from a lead generation perspective.
Much like HubSpot, there’s a lot you can do with OptinMonster, although this software does have a tighter focus on on-site tools and lead generation methods, such as pop-ups, slide-in windows and gamified spin-to-win wheels.
There’s a big emphasis on personalisation, with measures including targeting display rules that increase the chances of your engagement efforts connecting with relevant users at the right time in their journey.
OptinMonster claims its technology helps businesses achieve valuable outcomes including reduced cart abandonment rates and increased conversions.
Understanding how visitors behave when navigating your website and the elements of your pages they show the most interest in can be very useful where lead generation is concerned. If you find that a relatively low number of people arriving at landing pages are clicking on lead capture forms, for example, you might want to think about how you can improve the user experience or make your forms more accessible.
Hotjar offers a range of tools to help you track user behavior, including heatmaps that provide a colour-coded view of how people navigate your site. It also provides software for running surveys and collecting feedback from your website visitors.
This could be a particularly useful addition to your lead generation activities if you’re looking to gain more traction on social media.
Discover.ly is a Google Chrome browser extension that makes it easier to collect useful information about your followers and prospects on social platforms. If you were to visit an individual’s profile on LinkedIn, for example, Discover.ly would tell you who that person is connected to within that network, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
It could help you take a lot of the hard work out of studying your audience and finding new leads, because you don’t have to spend time navigating to multiple networks and pages.
As unpopular as they may be among some users, pop-ups can be an effective marketing tool if they’re used in the right way. A message that appears at the appropriate time and helps a visitor to your website achieve a desired goal can add to the user experience while helping you generate leads.
Wisepops provides software specifically designed to help businesses maximise the potential of this technique by creating visually appealing, contextually relevant pop-ups, banners and bars.
Key features of the technology include options to engage with users in different ways, based on actions such as hovering over particular elements on your website or navigating away from pages.
It makes sense to take advantage of all the resources at your disposal to drive lead generation, and that includes your existing customer base.
This is the idea behind ReferralCandy, which helps its users generate leads through the implementation of referral programmes. The basic principle is that your customers receive discounts for referring new business, which can take a lot of the legwork out of generating leads.
The system can be customised for your business and allows you to collect data on the results you’re receiving. It can also be combined with other marketing technologies for purposes such as lead retargeting and email communications.
Lead Forensics provides B2B lead generation software that aims to help users capture and gain greater benefits from the demand they’ve created.
There are various possible applications of the technology, including the use of select criteria to identify website visitors who are most interested in buying and automated processes to facilitate lead nurturing.
It can also be used to improve your personalisation efforts, even for anonymous users, and to collect contact details of companies that have clicked on your ads. If you’re using paid search advertising, you can see what keywords are proving most effective in attracting users to your site.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is another tool that can come in useful for B2B lead generation campaigns in particular. It could help you benefit from the enormous amounts of company information available in the professional network’s databases.
Key features of the technology include a lead and company search function, which is designed to direct users to the most relevant prospects for their business, and customised lead recommendations.
It also provides real-time sales updates and integration with your existing customer relationship management software.
Pipedrive prioritises simplicity and is designed to be as straightforward and simple to use as possible, largely through automation.
One of the key advantages of the software is that it tracks your various interactions with leads and keeps a record of the data. You can then view this information on a single, centralised dashboard, making it easier to monitor your lead generation activities and make an informed decision about what to do next.
Measuring the success of your lead generation efforts
Once you’ve done all the research, planning and hard work required to devise and launch your strategy, you’ll want to have confidence that your investment is delivering worthwhile returns.
That’s why it’s crucial to think about how you can measure the success of your lead generation process. There are likely to be various steps involved in this, from qualifying the leads you’ve generated to using the right combination of metrics to evaluate your results.
Simply generating leads and collecting contact information from as many website visitors as possible isn’t quite enough. You also need to think about the quality of this information, which is where lead qualification comes in.
A qualified lead is one that has been verified as a genuine prospect for your business and is likely to convert into a customer. Depending on the exact approach you want to take, you could divide your qualified leads into various sub-segments, such as:
- Marketing-qualified leads are considered likely to be receptive to further marketing communications, such as email newsletters and in-depth content offers.
- Sales-qualified leads are further along in the purchase decision making process and are ready to start talking to a sales representative.
- Product-qualified leads have demonstrated a clear interest in a particular product, by taking an action such as signing up for a free trial or limited subscription.
So how do you go about qualifying your leads? The first step is to have a clear idea of what your ideal lead looks like. This could involve analysing your existing buyer database and identifying attributes that your most valuable and loyal customers have in common.
It’s beneficial to consider a broad range of qualities and defining characteristics, from basic demographic data to patterns in their online behaviour. If your focus is on B2B lead generation, you’ll want to consider factors such as company size, budget, pain points and the number of decision makers involved in the buying process.
Furthermore, it’s important for the marketing and sales teams to work together to qualify leads. Sales reps will be able to tell marketers what attributes they think leads should have in order to be considered attractive candidates for conversion.
Once you have a clear picture of your ideal lead, you can focus on collecting relevant data to judge your incoming prospects against these benchmarks – commonly known as lead scoring. Some of this information can be gained from data capture forms, but you could also consider doing additional research and using specialist tools to find out as much as you can about your leads.
Lead qualification is an important step in gauging the success of your broader lead generation activities. You should have confidence that your marketing and sales teams aren’t wasting their time chasing prospects that were never likely to convert.
Building up a large database of leads might seem like a marketing win, but it will be of little benefit to your business in the long term if the proportion of those leads who eventually become customers is extremely low.
Find the right combination of metrics
As mentioned briefly above, finding the right metrics is essential if you want to give yourself an accurate, data-based picture of how your lead generation efforts are performing.
One particular goal to focus on is formulating a combination of metrics that gives you a balanced view of various aspects of your strategy.
In addition to those already listed previously, you could consider collecting data on areas of performance such as:
- Organic traffic – An increasing number of people naturally discovering your website through search and other online activities provides a strong foundation for lead generation.
- Traffic to lead ratio – This helps you gain an idea of how many visitors become leads. If the percentage is low, it’s a sign you need to re-examine your customer journeys and the quality of your user experience.
- Bounce rate – Another useful metric for visitor experience, this tells you the proportion of users who only visit one page on your site before navigating away. Working to keep it low aids lead generation by increasing the amount of time potential customers spend exploring your website.
Having a good understanding of these and other metrics relating to your website performance and marketing results is vital if you want to not only generate leads, but support them at every step of their purchasing journey and increase your conversion rates.
Don’t be afraid to change your approach
If your measurements make it clear that your lead generation strategy is falling short of your expectations, don’t waste time persevering with tactics that are clearly failing to deliver results.
Digital marketing is a dynamic, fast-moving industry, and customer expectations are constantly evolving, so you must be ready to evolve if you don’t want to get left behind.
Think about how you can freshen up your marketing to connect with new prospects, demonstrate the value you can offer to your customers and ultimately deliver an engaging, rewarding user experience.
That could involve:
- Connecting with thought leaders – either within your business or in the wider industry – to create insightful, in-depth content that answers your customers’ biggest questions
- Launching a video marketing campaign to capture attention on social media
- Showcasing positive customer reviews and feedback
- Creating content that encourages people to engage with your brand, such as an interactive quiz
There are many approaches you can take to lead generation, so if what you’re currently doing isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something new.
If you’re not sure where to start, an experienced marketing agency partner could help you come up with some ideas that add new life into your lead generation strategy.