It goes without saying that attracting new leads is critical to any business, whatever sector you’re in, whatever the size of your company. Starting out as strangers, leads can go on to become customers, and possibly even brand ambassadors if you have the right strategies in place.
This whitepaper will take through the basics of lead generation, including the key elements of setting up an effective B2B lead generation strategy, the importance of lead nurturing, and the main dos and don’ts.
Download the B2B Lead Generation Whitepaper
What is Lead Generation?
First of all, let’s define what we mean by ‘lead’. A lead is someone who shows interest in your company’s product or service, typically by providing their name and contact details, e.g. by completing a contact form, providing their details to download a document, taking advantage of a special offer or signing up for a free trial.
Lead generation is the process of attracting those leads with the goal of eventually converting them into customers.
Before we dive into lead generation, we need to talk about the synergy between sales and marketing.
Sales and marketing alignment
Misalignment between sales and marketing teams is unfortunately a common occurrence across companies, where the two roles have traditionally been separated. However, the figures tell a story that should encourage any company to at least rethink how these two areas interact: according to HubSpot, misalignment between marketing and sales technologies and processes costs B2B companies 10% of revenue or more per year, while companies with good ‘smarketing’ practices generate over 200 % more revenue from their marketing efforts.
Too often, we see a sales team giving up because it appears that there are not enough leads; but at the same time, the marketing team can show that there are plenty of leads that no-one is following up on. If sales and marketing teams continue to operate in silos, with no or minimal alignment, companies miss out on the opportunity to benefit from a shared view, with shared efforts and common goals.
With one lead generation process that includes the sales and marketing department as a whole, we create one pipeline where all opportunities can be exploited. Companies need to place the buyer firmly at the centre of their universe and build and nurture well-aligned teams that can serve and delight customers at every stage of the buyer journey.
Why is it so Important to Establish a Solid Lead Generation Process?
As well as the obvious benefit of finding new leads that will hopefully go on to become customers, having a clear and solid process in place also has the following advantages:
- Better view on the quality of leads: Not all leads are equally valuable. Having a process in place lets you analyse the quality of the leads you generate, and understand how your strategy contributes (or doesn’t contribute) to that.
- Shorter sales cycle: With a more focused attention on the different stages of the marketing funnel, you accompany potential customers at each stage of their journey, providing a much more personalised experience, and guiding them through the decision process.
- Better win rates: By focusing on quality rather than quantity of leads, your marketing team only passes on the best leads to your sales team, thereby improving your win rates
- Easier to measure overall performance: With concrete goals in place, you’ll be better places to understand if your lead generation tactics are actually working or whether you need to refocus your efforts.
What Are the Best Ways to Generate Leads?
While in the past, lead generation often relied on outbound marketing techniques like cold calling and direct mail, these days, only 18% of marketers say outbound practices provide the highest quality leads for sales.
This is because the buying process has dramatically changed, and with an abundance of information at our fingertips, we typically prefer to research and compare products and services ourselves, making our own informed decisions about which is the right solution for us. Therefore, companies now need to focus on inbound marketing techniques to attract potential customers, build relationships and be in a position to influence the buying process.
The key inbound channels to use are:
- Your own website: Making sure your site provides the information a visitor needs to know, and offers a smooth user experience.
- Search Engine Optimisation: Ensuring your site ranks well in search engines so it appears near the top of the search results, and that the meta title and description invite users to click through to your site.
- Content marketing: Creating valuable content that is relevant for the different stages of the marketing funnel (i.e. awareness stage, consideration stage, decision stage) helps you build a strong and trust-based relationship with your potential customers.
- Social media: Sharing your content and increasing brand awareness, as well as engaging in discussions and providing useful advice and assistance on the social media channels your potential leads use.
- Chatbots: Reinforcing your lead generation efforts, without directly impacting how your teams work and ensuring round the clock cover. For example, you might have a chat window pop up after a visitor has browsed for a certain amount of time, or offer a highly visible chat button on the screen.
Email can also be considered an inbound tool, when you’re sending emails to people who have already expressed an interest in your product or service.
With this organic way of generating interest in your business, the transition from stranger to customer is much more natural, and the quality of leads is also typically higher. For example, someone who finds your website and downloads a document is probably a much more valuable lead than someone you cold call!
Do outbound lead generation techniques still work?
While inbound lead generation is ideal for building broad awareness, certain outbound techniques like direct mail or email remain especially relevant in the B2B world where companies often need to connect with prospects on a one-to-one basis.
In addition, two lead generation strategies that have stood the test of time are:
- Networking: If you choose the right networking events, and formulate the right plan, this is still a great way to generate leads.However, instead of focusing on industry events where your competitors are likely to be present, target events where you are more likely to find your target audience.Also, have a plan in mind, and be ready to steer conversations to your chosen topic or angle.
- Referral programmes: Word-of-mouth leads are highly valuable, as there is often already an element of trust established. While it’s not easy to orchestrate leads like these – all you can do is consistently provide an outstanding product or service – setting up a referral programme can be a systematic way of getting people to refer others to your business. A referral programme can offer some kind of commission to only the party who refers a new customer, or maybe even to both parties.
But why not combine the best of both worlds? You can also promote your website and social media channels during your real-like interactions, like at trade shows or networking events.
The Key Elements of an Effective B2B Lead Generation Strategy
While developing an effective lead generation strategy can seem a little overwhelming, the process can be summed up in five simple steps:
- Identify your target audience and set your goals
- Create engaging content for each stage of the lead generation funnel
- Attract the right audience
- Capture our leads’ details
- Qualify your leads
Identifying your target audience and set your goals
Understanding your target decision makers is the foundation of any marketing strategy, and is a key element of attracting the right kind of leads. Use personas to understand your ideal customers’ values, motivations, needs, wishes, frustrations, and dreams. Then define the quantity and quality of leads you want to generate, aligning those goals with your overall business goals.
Creating engaging content for each stage of the lead generation funnel
Provide the right kind of information at the right point in the buyer journey – i.e. to turn a visitor to a lead, a lead to a prospect, and a prospect to a customer – and nurture your leads accordingly.
For example, to turn visitors into leads, build awareness about your brand and the problem you address. To turn leads into prospects who are likely to become customers, educate them about choosing a solution but don’t oversell. To turn the prospects into customers, explain why your solution is the best one.
Attracting the right audience
Make sure your content can be found by optimising it for search engine ranking. A good SEO strategy will be worthwhile to both improve your chances of being found, and also to enhance the user experience and build trust.
For more on these steps, including which type of content works well at each stage of the buyer journey, plus details about capturing information and qualifying leads, get to know how to set up an effective B2B lead generation strategy.
3 Tips for Successful Lead Nurturing
The essence of lead nurturing is developing trust-based relationships with your (potential) customers and providing them with the information or solution they need at their particular stage in the customer journey. With the right attention and care, companies can guide leads through the buying process, and eventually, pass on better quality leads to their sales team.
A comprehensive lead nurturing strategy is a critical component in an overall lead generation strategy, and while it can involve many elements, here are some of the key ones to take into account at all stages of the process:
- Keep the conversation going: Keep your communications with your leads regular and personalised, e.g. via email and social media, sharing content, networking and generally being available to answer their questions.
- Make use of analytics to score your leads: Analyse your leads’ online behaviour on a regular basis to see which ones interact with your brand and how, or which do not show much interest. Based on these numbers, you can ‘score’ your leads, and ensure you only pass on the best ones to your sales team.
- Focus on customer satisfaction: Keep nurturing leads even after they become customers.
If you get this right, you might generate priceless word-of-mouth recommendations.
Is Lead Generation the Same for B2B and B2C?
While many elements of lead generation are very similar for B2B and B2C, there are several differences that are worth keeping in mind when developing your strategy to attract the right kind of leads for your product or service.
Here are two of those elements:
- Content: B2B prospects tend to be experts in their field, which means that if you want to gain their trust, respect and in the end, their business, your content needs to be detailed and accurate. For B2C lead generation on the other hand, you can ‘play’ more with content.
- Pricing: Your product or service should of course offer value for money, but being the cheapest is less important in the B2B world than in B2C. B2B prospects are often working with considerably larger budgets, and will be willing to pay the price needed for the right solution. If you can convince your B2B prospect of the value your product or service will bring them, it’s unlikely that the cost will be a deciding factor.For B2C customers, on the other hand, price is a key element, as these customers will be parting with their own hard-earned money. Also, there are often a greater number of competing providers offering the same, or very similar products or services.
For more on these and other differences between B2B and B2C lead generation, keep on reading about the 5 differences between B2C and B2B lead generation.
Dos and Don’ts of Lead Generation
On this page, we’ve already talked about some of the key elements to keep in mind when planning and executing your lead generation strategy. Below are some of the real dos and don’ts when it comes to planning your strategy, targeting your messages, and content marketing.
Give yourself the best chance for success by developing a solid plan that will help establish where you want to go, and how to get there. By being well organised, you’ll be better able to track your progress and adapt your plan when needed.
- Establish clear goals that are aligned with your overall objectives
- Know the budget you have at your disposal
- Keep up-to-date with best practices and digital marketing tools
- DON’T forget to align your sales and marketing teams
- DON’T get lost in mountains of raw data, pick some relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Customers have come to expect a highly personalised service from the companies they interact with, so make sure to target your content and messaging to your personas and also to their stage in the customer journey.
- Define personas for a more in-depth understanding of your customers
- DON’T use a ‘one-message-fits-all’ approach
- DON’T skip the marketing funnel
2. Content Marketing
Content is a key element of your lead generation and nurturing efforts, as it allows you to inspire, educate and convince your target audience. And since it’s owned media, this is a cost-effective way to generate high-quality leads.
- Attract leads with valuable, relevant content
- Check out the competition’s content marketing strategy
- DON’T focus on what your product or service does, focus on how it can solve your customer’s problems
- DON’T forget about old copy – repurpose and reuse, and keep older content fresh
You can find a more in-depth look at each of these, plus dos and don’ts for landing pages, social media and forms, in our article dos and don’ts of lead generation.