Every business should be actively working on acquiring new customers and pushing new leads into the pipeline at any given point in time. This ensures that your business grows instead of becoming stagnant (which ultimately just leads you into decline).
B2B lead generation, of course, has several unique challenges that can make it difficult. Because of this, having a strong lead generation strategy in place (and the right tools to help!) can make a huge impact on your overall success and growth rates.
B2B lead generation is what we’re all about, so in this post, we’re going to walk you through some of our most reliable, versatile, and high-performing lead generation strategies for B2B brands and show you how you can both acquire more leads and convert them.
Understanding the Challenges of B2B Lead Generation
B2B lead generation, as we mentioned above, has a few challenges that are important to address to create stronger campaigns that drive high-quality leads and conversions.
These include the following:
- The B2B customer journey is long. It’s often filled with much more research, and that’s partially because so much money is on the line. An ad agency might cost a business 5k a month or more; that’s not something they’ll want to “try out” and “see how it goes” without substantial research.
Buyers are more cautious and it may be harder to win their trust. Trust-building through social proof, transparency, and quality content will be key.
- You may have multiple people to convince. Your target audience may have just one person signing off on business decisions, but I know that even with my small writing business, it’s common to need anywhere from 2-5 people to sign off on working with me before we can sign that first contract.
The more people you need to convince, the harder it may become.
- Your decision-maker may not be the same as the end-user. This, to me, is the most difficult challenge to overcome, particularly if you’re working with larger brands that have longer ladders to the top. It’s not the marketing manager necessarily choosing the social media marketing software; it’s the CMO, or even sometimes the business owner themselves. This means that they may have different pain points from your end-user, and you need to appeal to that successfully.
Understanding Different Types of Leads
One more thing before we start: There are different types of leads, and they’re not all created equal.
This is true on several levels.
High-Value Audience Segments
First, you’re going to have different high-level segments of your target audience. You know that companies of 100,000 employees typically spend 3x more and retain 2x longer in your business, perhaps, than one with 50,000 employees or less. The latter audience segment isn’t irrelevant, but it makes sense to put the most effort possible into targeting the former.
Keep in mind that there are different metrics that matter here. You may have some audience segments that are big spenders, going straight for your premium products or plans.
You may have others that stick to base or mid-level products, but they retain longer or refer more users your way who later convert.
Our lead scoring models can help you get a better idea of who converts more and why, but we’ll take a look at that a little later on.
MQLs vs. SQLs vs. PQLs
There are also a few phrases we want to define:
- Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are leads that came through targeted marketing campaigns that are then sent along to the sales team.
- Sales qualified leads (SQLs) are leads that your sales team has identified as high value and is actively working on converting.
- Product qualified leads (PQLs) are users who have engaged with your product themselves in some capacity— often a freemium option or a free trial— who have “qualified” themselves and shown interest.
Each of the above is giving you access to users who likely belong to one of your target audience segments, but as you go down the list, they become more qualified and are both further in the pipeline and more likely to convert.
Now that we’ve taken a look at lead quality, let’s jump right into our B2B lead generation plan.
B2B Lead Generation Step 1: The Research
The first thing you need to do is determine what types of users you want to reach and who your audience segments are. Without this, you’ll just be pushing generic, unoriginal messaging out that won’t really appeal to anyone.
There are a few things you should do here:
- Consider what use cases your product offers and who that benefits. Think outside the box. You may have employee time-tracking software that’s designed to help employers monitor employee time… but what if freelancers could use it to accurately track billable hours for their clients? You’ve immediately found a new segment of your target audience and a lot more potential profit.
- Think about who your decision-maker will be. This is likely to be different for individual audience segments. With the example above, you’re going to be looking at managers or high-level business owners who are choosing employee tracking software; individual freelancers, however, will likely be choosing the software for themselves.
- Talk to your existing clients. If you’ve already got some sort of an audience or customers, ask them. Ask questions to determine who they are, what their business does, what their pain points are, and why they chose you in the first place. This is, perhaps, one of the most valuable things you can do at this stage.
- Look at your competition. What sort of users is your competition attracting? If they don’t have testimonials on their site, you can look at reviews on Google. You can also take a look at their messaging and even their blog posts to get an idea. You may want to use this information to target a different segment, or to target those high-value segments with messaging that’s different from what’s already out there.
B2B Lead Generation Step 2: Reaching New Users
After you’ve put some thought into who your target audience should be, it’s time to start connecting with those audience segments. These are some of the best B2B lead generation strategies available.
Run Ad Campaigns
This is the easiest and fastest way to generate more traffic— though it comes with a literal financial cost attached.
Try advertising on LinkedIn Ads and Google Ads to start, as these are two of the most high-performing platforms for B2B brands. Focus on introducing your product to users by explaining what it has to offer and what makes it different.
Have Referral & Affiliate Programs Running
Referral and affiliate programs allow other people to do some of the hard work for you, and they receive a commission in exchange (but only when users actually convert).
Referral programs for existing customers have some of the highest retention rates and average order per value rates of all referral traffic.
Affiliate programs let other people put their time and energy into actively marketing your product, which can expand your reach significantly. If you want to grow aggressively and get your name out there, this is a good option to look at.
Consider Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing is the practice of marketing to individual potential leads that you’ve identified as high value.
You’ve found them through extensive research, believe they’d be a great fit for your product, and use specific marketing methods to reach out to them directly through email, highly-specialized ad campaigns, or other means.
If you want to reach high-level accounts and know that certain businesses could be great clients, this is a solid strategy to use that leverages your marketing and sales team together from the very beginning.
Use Content to Generate Traffic
I know I’m biased, but content marketing is one of the best ways out there to push people into the funnel… especially when you’re building up to it over time.
It can help with your B2B SEO, it allows you to offer your product as ideal solutions to users searching for high-intent keywords, and it’s a powerful trust-building tool. People can see that you really know what you’re talking about and that you’re putting a consistent effort into your brand.
If you’re not sure where to start, blog posts, online videos, and a “guides” section of your post are great options.
B2B Lead Generation Step 3: Capturing Lead Information
People have been introduced to your brand, and your brand name awareness is definitely there. So now it’s time to leverage that early traction with users who are already in the pipeline and to snag their lead information.
There are plenty of great options for this, but these are our favorites that work across industries and no matter who your target audience is.
Use Lead Ads
Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and LinkedIn Ads each have lead ads available through their platform. These are mobile-friendly forms that open up in-app and auto-fill when possible, making it as easy as possible for users to send their information your way.
Lead ads should always be combined with an offer of a free call to learn more, a lead magnet, or something else of value.
Offer Lead Magnets
Lead magnets are often content-based and may include webinars, downloadable checklists, ebooks, whitepapers, templates, or industry reports.
Whatever it is that you choose, it should be free, it should have its own landing page, and you should be promoting it on its own.
Push Users to Free Trials & Demos
Do you have free trials, demos, or free intro calls?
Promote them everywhere and make sure that they’re visible everywhere you go.
Include CTAs at the end of your blog post to get users to get in touch for a demo or a free trial. (Check the bottom of this post to see what that looks like!)
Have these offering readily available and easy-to-see on your website, giving it its own tab or clickable CTA button.
Mention it on social media, encouraging users to sign-up and see what you have to offer.
Offer Free Tools
We’re a huge fan of the free tool offering here at Breadcrumbs. We do this ourselves here at our site with our free email verifier, and Massimo (one of our co-founders) does it on his site as well. HubSpot has also long since used this approach.
The idea is to offer easy-to-create but still-valuable tools. Our email verifier was easy for us to build, but offers real value to people: They can check to see if the emails they’ve gotten from leads are likely to amount to anything else.
This is another trust-building opportunity, and they just need to add their email to access it. Once they do, they’ve gotten value from us and we have their email.
B2B Lead Generation Step 4: Nurturing Leads & Closing the Deal
You’ve got the contact’s info, and it’s now time to nurture leads to close to deal. Here’s how to do that.
Make Onboarding Easy (If Relevant)
This is largely going to be specifically for SaaS brands, but your onboarding process for free trial users should be exceptionally easy. Set up should be simple, and they should be given an automated guided tour automatically to walk them through how to use it and where key features are.
If you lose users at this stage because they don’t know how to get started, it’s nothing more than an enormous waste.
Follow Up to Showcase Value
Have email series pre-programmed to get in touch with users frequently after they’ve shared their contact information or signed up for a free trial.
Ask if they need help. Showcase different high-value features of the tool to make sure they know about it.
Be readily available, and have your sales team reach out directly and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. This can make the difference between earning or losing a sale, and can give you an idea about custom deals that may be needed to swing the lead into the direction of becoming a customer.
Utilizing Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is the best thing you can do at this stage. We really did save the best for last.
Here at Breadcrumbs, lead scoring is everything we do, and it’s because we’ve seen time and time again how it can help B2B brands accelerate their revenue like almost nothing else.
Lead scoring is the process of looking at fit (demographic) qualities and behavior to determine which leads are high quality and likely to convert. You’ll get a specific score between 1-100, making it easy for your sales team to identify quality leads that they should pursue.
Breadcrumbs uses a co-dynamic model that takes both fit and behavior into account, along with recency and frequency of actions.
Some tools out there will tell you that someone who signed up for a free trial six months ago and opened three emails at the time is more relevant than someone who started the free trial yesterday and opened one email… but we all know that’s just not true.
When you sign up, you import your customer data from different sources, including popular CRMs or through our API. We’ll ask a few questions about your business and then offer suggested models accordingly. Once you see them in action, you can customize these different models, and even split test different versions.
You’ll immediately be able to see which leads your sales team should be chasing, and which they shouldn’t sweat over, ensuring that their time is optimized… and their results will be, too.
B2B lead generation is going to be an ongoing, intentional, and often labor-intensive process. If you want the leads to keep coming in and converting, you’ll need to keep that wheel turning.
With the right strategies and tools in place, however, everything gets much easier and much more effective. Strategies to target the right users, capture their information early and then use lead scoring to identify high-value leads and know how to convert them.
And as a plus… lead scoring doesn’t end once the lead converts. Breadcrumbs goes beyond lead scoring into contact scoring, so you can use our customized models to find opportunities for re-engagement, upselling, cross-selling, and so much more. You can not only convert more leads but generate more profit and retain users longer once you do, squeezing every penny possible out of your initial acquisition costs.
Ready to revolutionize your B2B lead generation funnel with lead scoring and contact scoring? Book your free demo of Breadcrumbs now.