Lead generation is considered one of the greatest challenges in B2B marketing and B2B sales within organizations. Many organizations struggle with creating and executing strategies that really target their ideal customers. The result is a sales funnel full of leads that don’t convert into customers.
We’ll take a closer look at how B2B lead generation works and give you 9 unbeatable methods on how to generate high-quality leads that will pass both marketing and sales qualification. The result is paying customers that love doing business with you.
What Is a B2B Lead?
The term "lead" refers to new contacts generated by any type of marketing activity. In the context of B2B, a lead doesn't refer to a private individual, but is someone acting on behalf of a company. The contact data that makes up a B2B lead depends on the company's own definition. B2B leads can be a name, a business email address, the company name and/or a phone number. In addition to this data, a high-quality lead must have the potential to become a new customer. The best indicator to be a promising lead is when someone at a company shows interest in your content and product. When a visitor downloads a whitepaper from your website or asks for prices you can assume their company has a demand or a pain, which the person interacting with you wants to solve with your product.
What are MQL and SQL?
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead who has shown interest in your offer as a result of your marketing campaigns or has a high likelihood of becoming a customer for other reasons. A good example for a MQL is that lead who downloaded a whitepaper on your website. An MQL is usually a very promising lead. These kinds of leads are more likely to be ready for a sales call than a lead who has not willingly given you their data by downloading something. With this type of lead you can be pretty sure they're interested in what you have to offer. By submitting data, the MQL has taken the first step towards becoming a customer. However, there is not yet a clear purchase intention behind it. Before MQLs are handed over to sales, they must first become an SQL-a Sales Qualified Lead. An SQL is a lead that is ready to be contacted by a sales rep. The lead becomes an SQL either through lead nurturing or a direct purchase intent (e.g. by requesting a demo). With Sales Qualified Leads, you save your sales team valuable time because an SQL is considered a truly relevant lead.
What Makes B2B Lead Generation Efficient?
Efficiency is the top priority in B2B sales. Especially complex, high-priced offers that require explanation are associated with a great deal of effort for your sales department. Generating qualified B2B leads therefore is the basis for subsequent sales activities – and it’s the most effective way to reduce effort, minimize churn and keep the sales cost ratio low.
Usually, gathering the most comprehensive company information possible on potential customers is not a task for your sales team. It's usually the responsibility of your marketing department. Although in many B2B companies there are also opportunities for sales staff to collect leads (e.g. at trade shows), digital lead generation is primarily a marketing task as part of a company’s strategy.
“B2B lead generation processes are vital as they promote strong alignment between marketing and sales. As a marketing team, we want an effective lead gen process to allow sales to focus fully on acquiring the companies most likely to convert. What you get are higher quality leads, higher sales productivity, and better overall company performance.”
Pascal Blot, Senior Director, Growth Marketing @ Dealfront
How Does B2B Lead Generation Work?
Now that you know what a B2B lead is and that lead generation is essential for efficient sales, we can move on to what exactly B2B lead generation is and how it works.
B2B lead generation is the process of acquiring prospects for a product or service. B2B leads are usually acquired through various marketing measures. Marketing measures include, for example, content marketing or advertising. You can include checklists and test versions in your free content, so that leads are generated directly before readers even click on your product page. Your readers don't get these "extras" for free. If they want to download the checklist or test your product, they have to fill out a lead form before receiving anything. This lead form is your key to unlocking gated content that is essential for a B2B lead. When creating a lead form, you have to be careful not to ask too much of your potential lead! There's a lot of debate as to whether it's better to gate or ungate your content, but that's for you to decide. When setting up your form, you should always ask yourself the following questions:
Which data do you absolutely need?
Which data can you enrich with external data later?
How much data is a person usually willing to give in return for a whitepaper or a test account?
Usually, the less data you ask for in your lead form, the higher the conversion. The person only gets access to your "extras" when they've willingly given their data via the form. Then, you've generated a B2B lead with this data.
There are many ways in which you can generate B2B leads, so let's talk about it.
Methods for a Successful B2B Lead Generation
Efficient sales goes hand-in-hand with a great tool stack. And there are helpful tools for all phases of the sales cycle. They can help you get your work done faster and deliver results that would have been difficult to attain without them.
Today, tools are also part of lead generation. They help you to make the most of market potential. One of these tools is Dealfront, the largest GDPR compliant B2B database for current sales opportunities in Europe.
One of the many features of the tool allows you a targeted query for relevant companies. You can filter according to target audience-specific company characteristics, and business signals. Selected trigger events, such as upcoming expansions, location or management changes can indicate a specific need of your target customer.
1. Content Marketing
According to ecommerce-platforms.com, 93% of B2B buying processes start with an online search. This places content marketing at the center of digital lead generation strategy. Producing target audience-specific content and distributing it via suitable communication channels has proven to be the most effective and most popular source of leads in recent years.
In content marketing, a company's own website is particularly important. Individual pages, or landing pages, provide visitors with valuable content and give them the desired information about a company and its product. That's why you should pay special attention to the optimization of your landing pages.
Ideally, landing pages must meet the highest usability standards and be SEO optimized. If potential customers need a solution for their problem and your article or landing page can help them, you'll want to optimize it so it has the best chance to rank high on the search engine results page (SERP).
What exactly does that mean for you? When your optimized landing page ranks high on a SERP, it's easier to find, increasing the probability of reaching your target customer.
Some formats have proven particularly successful in content marketing:
Source: Statista 2019
All formats have basic characteristics in common. They offer comprehensive, subject-specific information that provides consumers with recognizable benefits and added value.
2. Whitepapers & Case Studies
In B2B, spontaneous purchasing decisions are rare. Usually, interested parties first gather comprehensive information before even taking a product into consideration.
That's why whitepapers and case studies are a proven method for generating B2B leads. With whitepapers, you can support the research process and establish your business as thought leaders in your field. Provide your target customer with relevant information which justifies getting a business email address in return.
You should include some sort of reference to your product in your offered content as this marks the first and basic step of lead qualification: An interested reader will automatically be curious about your product even though it's not the focus of your whitepaper.
In B2B, prospects are usually more in need of advice on your offerings than in B2C. Before purchasing something, prospects like to compare several providers and products. They want to get a feel for whether they are investing in the right tool or not.
When your business uses webinars to generate leads, you can show your product to several people at the same time, highlight benefits and areas of application, and answer questions. This is your chance to shine a light on the best sides of your product and all the benefits that customers have with it! Don’t waste that chance.
Attending a webinar usually does not take that much effort and people register more easily for it than for an online demo. You can expect higher conversion rates here! Lead generation takes place with the registration of a prospect, who in return can participate in the webinar for free.
“Webinars are a great way to gather not only new leads, but also increase the lead-pool with existing customers who might be interested for a ln upsell or cross-sell opportunity.”
Natasha Toshevska, Product Marketing Lead @ Dealfront
A blog is an excellent way to generate B2B leads. Try not to focus on marketing your product or service too much, but help your target audience with relevant content. Position yourself as an expert in your niche and build trust with potential customers. When it comes to a purchase decision, they will already know your product and be more willing to buy it.
Understand the content that your target audience is looking for when they use a search engine and provide them with it. To do that, you'll need to optimize your content with relevant keywords or common search queries so people can find the content. Don't let your competitors get ahead of you here!
When you improve your rank on SERPs, you'll achieve more visibility within your target audience, get more views and you guessed it, more leads.
In the articles themselves, you can offer checklists, infographics or anything else as a download and generate B2B leads via these so-called lead magnets.
5. Web Visitor Identification
If you have the contact details of an account who has shown a demand for your product or services, they are considered a B2B lead.
Companies come to your website daily. But not every one of them downloads your whitepaper, asks for prices or books a demo. This company who visits your website is still of interest to you though! They've already shown interest in your product, but they just haven't engaged yet. The question is, how do you know who is visiting your website? The solution is called visitor identification! There are tools that reveal the IP address of your website visits and can tell you which companies have a demand for your product. This gives you B2B leads that you might otherwise have missed. Also, these tools often display other relevant company data, such as employees and contact details. IP identification and visitor tracking tells you exactly which one of your pages was visited and how often. This allows you to easily prioritize the next steps and sales approach with each visitor.
6. Social Selling
A social networking platform like LinkedIn is an absolute B2B must-have. You won't only find a lot of useful content, but can set up your profile to find and make connections relevant to your business. You can also publish relevant content to begin a dialog with your target audience. With some work and strategy, you can position yourself as an expert in your niche. The goal is that interested parties will approach you or someone will recommend you because they've seen you several times in relation to a certain topic. You could also post about company-relevant topics such as webinars or other exciting insights on your blog. This way, the awareness of your company increases and will help you gather more leads!
Social media is becoming more and more relevant for B2B lead generation campaigns and strategies, so be sure to jump on that trend.
7. Advertising and Traffic Generation
Effective lead generation with the help of content marketing follows a clear 2-step process:
Attract the attention of your target customers. A detailed and carefully planned analysis of your target audience provides you with the necessary information.
See which media is suitable for a particular target audience. Which channels do certain groups like most? Touchpoints include things like social media and/or search engines. If you know which touchpoints are particularly important to your prospects, you can place appropriate ads and direct traffic accordingly.
As an addition to general search engine optimization of your own content, the strategic use of Google Ads has proven its worth. If your target customers are searching for certain topics or solutions to their problems, they will automatically find ads for your content, generating leads. When doing search engine marketing, always include a link leading to the appropriate landing page.
This page will provide them with their sought after insights and can include a form for them to fill out so they can access gated content. We talked about gated content before and as we mentioned, it can be things like whitepapers, checklists or give them access to your price lists. In most cases a business email address is enough for a lead form. Of course, it is always helpful to have as much information as possible from a lead. But be careful, you don’t want your lead to be deterred when you ask them to fill in too much.
LinkedIn is an especially relevant B2B marketing channel, especially in the context of lead generation. Facebook and Instagram might also be relevant but more common if you’re in B2C. You can direct your target customer to an external landing page via a link on social media. However, these platforms save you time and money and thus significantly increases the efficiency of your marketing measures.
The most important thing is you go to where your target customers are. Don't waste your energy on social media platforms that they don't frequent.
LinkedIn offers Lead Gen Forms where you can run ads, sponsored content or InMails with a call-to-action (CTA). With one click, the user's profile data, name, contact information, company, position, job title and location are transferred to a form and a linked e-book, for example, can now be downloaded.
The most important piece of information for lead qualification is the company’s name. Regardless of the person filling out the registration form, knowing the company is the basis for further research. The data collected via Lead Gen Forms can be downloaded directly from your LinkedIn account and transferred directly into your preferred CRM system.
8. Native Advertising
In recent years, B2B advertising has been seen in a negative light. Even the largest advertising budgets no longer achieve the response that advertisers were used to. Quite a few experts even predict the end of classic advertising. At the same time, trust in independent content is growing. Information on companies, products and services given the editorial treatment is receiving the attention that advertising is now often denied. Native advertising, for example, the service offered by the U.S. company Taboola, combines the goals of advertising with the basic principles and possibilities of editorial reporting.
These days, native ads can be found on blogs, in newsletters, on news sites, and on social media. Of course, they’ve also been adapted visually and stylistically to editorial formats. As teasers, they consist only of excerpts and link to landing pages of the companies. You can create trust with these kinds of ads, which can then be leveraged on the landing page through clever design. If advertorials are attractively designed, they attract attention and help you to generate new leads.
9. B2B Lookalikes: Generating Leads from Existing Customers
Have you ever thought about what it would be like if you no longer had to wait for leads? If you could simply approach companies that are similar to your existing customers? No problem! With the help of artificial intelligence, you can upload a customer list and the AI will hand a list of similar companies back to you. These companies are also called B2B lookalikes. Lookalikes the same or specific characteristics as the companies that you added to your customer list as a template.
You can use B2B lookalikes for cold calling or even for advertising. Often you already have directly suitable sales stories or use cases that make it easy for you to convince a prospect of your product.
You can find more information, advantages and best practices of B2B lookalikes in our article "Find Similar Companies: How to Generate Relevant Leads with Lookalikes”.
5 Actionable Tips for Lead Generation
What do you consider a lead? What data do you need from the beginning and can you further enrich that data? Define your B2B lead and only ask for data that’s absolutely necessary.
Put yourself in your target audiences’ shoes and provide them with relevant content that offers value. Empathizing with them will ensure your content's success.
A lead isn't just a lead. Your sales team's time is precious, so check whether you can use lead nurturing to further qualify whitepaper leads, for example.
You can use lead scoring to assess the maturity of your lead. Hand over leads to your sales department only once it has achieved a certain score.
Time is money in marketing and sales. Use tools that simplify and automate your processes. That way you and your sales department can concentrate on the really important tasks!
This is How You Excel in B2B Lead Gen
Leads are the basis of any business success in B2B. Without reliable information on potential customers, you are literally stumbling around in the dark and leaving success to chance. With strategic planning, it will be possible to gather information on potential prospects and generate leads. Define your target audience, analyze their customer journey, and determine touch points. You need to understand how to get a prospect’s attention and convert them into leads with clever advertising and strategic content marketing. Your aim should be to use existing tools in such a way that your lead generation efforts delivers optimum results in terms of quality and quantity. In addition to the continuous generation of new leads, you should also include lead enrichment and qualification in your lead process.