B2B LEAD GENERATION: STRATEGIES AND TOOLS FOR SUCCESS
B2B lead generation is fundamental to your business model if you sell goods and services to other enterprises. This is how you find and procure customers to invest in your product, allowing you to grow your business.
While B2B lead generation is relatively straightforward, getting right or doing well is not simple. Done poorly, it can damage your company’s reputation as you become known in the industry as a “spammer.”
B2B lead generation can help optimize your profits. It allows you to target your resources at the most likely customers, minimizing your spend on sales and marketing per successful conversion if correctly done.
Read on for our complete B2B lead generation guide. This article will dissect some of the basic concepts about B2B lead generation to highlight what a successful B2B strategy looks like. We will also share some of the best tools for automating and optimizing where possible.
What is B2B Lead Generation?
B2B stands for “business to business” and is a term used to specifically discuss enterprises that sell products and services to other companies, such as “software as a service” (SaaS) companies or headhunting and recruitment organizations. This differentiates enterprises that sell directly to a broad individual customer pool.
This is an important distinction. Selling to the end consumer usually means casting a wide net to reach and appeal to as many people as possible. Successful B2B sales are based on identifying businesses that could benefit from your product or service, making contact, and engaging key decision-makers. It is about focussed and targeted interactions as opposed to casting the wide net.
So, B2B lead generation involves identifying the most likely potential customers, providing them with an awareness of your product, showing them exactly how it can meet a need they have, and then converting them from a potential customer to a paying customer.
B2B Lead Generation Strategies: Essential Elements
So, the critical question then becomes, how to do B2B lead generation? The process can be divided into three key steps: research, marketing, and sales. The three components must work together seamlessly for B2B lead generation strategies to be effective.
Research is the process of defining your potential customer pool, narrowing down who needs to be engaged with in the next phase of the process.
Much like regular market research, this will begin defining who is most likely to use your product or service. For example, provide financial software. It may be all businesses of a specific size, or if you offer specialist features, those that function within industries that require these financial service features. There may also be a geographic limit to your pool, as different countries use different trading regulations.
This helps you narrow down your potential client pool to several specific companies in the form of business opportunity lead generation.
The next step is to identify and procure contact data for relevant decision-makers in that company. For example, you don’t want to be talking to the head of marketing or the head of innovation—for financial services, you need to engage with the head of administration of finance.
Gaining contact details can be one of the biggest challenges, as companies often don’t openly provide names and contact details of individual staff members.
This is where conferences and events targeted at these groups can be a valuable source of information, as can LinkedIn, the professional social media network. More on LinkedIn below.
The research process should provide you with a general pool of leads, which will describe the types of people the business should be engaging and appropriate platforms for engaging with them (conferences, LinkedIn groups, etc.) and a list of specific, individual leads.
B2B lead generation marketing can also be described as demand generation, and it is targeted at both general and specific leads.
This is the part of the process where you raise awareness of your product among relevant leads and help them understand why your particular product or service is the best solution for solving a problem.
One of the key activities at this stage is content marketing, which involves publishing valuable content relevant to your content (directly or indirectly) in forums where potential leads may engage with it. This is core to a B2B online lead generation strategy.
Another critical element is network building, which can involve being active in relevant social media groups, attending conferences, and so forth.
Marketing will often include B2B lead generation projects called “growth hacking,” which develops sharp “flash in the pan” strategies for generating attention and engagement. Some B2B lead generation examples like this include incentives and contests or developing free tools that act as gateways to your core product.
A variety of other activities will also fall under this umbrella. The details depend very much on the business and how it functions.
Potential leads engaged during this part of the lead generation funnel are usually referred to as marketing-qualified Leads (MQLs). They have been identified as appropriate for active marketing engagement.
The sales process often kicks in when you are ready to start making personal contact with leads with the express purpose of closing a deal. It involves contacting potential leads and following up to develop their interest and potentially convert them into customers.
Initial contact can be made in various ways, from cold calling to outbound emailing, to private messaging on platforms such as LinkedIn. Most sales processes will use these contact forms, done at different times and in a cadence designed to promote engagement.
This initial contact and booking meetings is usually the responsibility of one sub-team within the sales team. Larger companies often have a separate team responsible for giving demos of the product and closing the deal. These team members may also continue to contact after-sale to ensure renewals and upsell as appropriate and leverage contacts to generate further leads.
When leads are in this part of the B2B generation funnel, they are usually referred to as Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs), as they are deemed primed for that harder push and final conversion.
B2B Lead Generation ToolsOne of the keys to getting B2B lead generation right is using the appropriate tools to manage every stage of the process in an integrated way. Click To Tweet
For this reason, the essential tool required by a B2B sales and marketing team is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
Customer Relationship Management System
The CRM forms the backbone of the entire process.
It is in the CRM that you will record and update contact details. In addition to ensuring that you are getting through to your leads, this can alert your leads to change their situation, opening up other opportunities.
You should also be maintaining a history of engagement in the CRM. This is essential for monitoring where leads are in the funnels and when they might be ready to graduate from an MQL to a SQL.
This is also essential in ensuring that leads receive the correct information at the right time, that they aren’t missing crucial steps in the process, and that they aren’t being contacted by several different people with the same information (there are few things more frustrating).The CRM should also be the source of the data that you need to analyze and forecast. Click To Tweet
When forecasting income, it is essential to know which leads are likely to come on board during the next financial period and set new goals if there are problems of opportunities.
Matching engagement history with sales success can also help you analyze the most likely to buy and the most effective engagement methods. This allows you to evaluate and tweak your lead generation processes to optimize your activities and ensure tremendous success and return on investment.
As well as the CRM, you will want to invest in various tools to automate specific steps in the process.
For example, you can automate cold calling, outbound email, and even direct messaging on relevant social media networks such as LinkedIn, sending messages based on a calendar or responding to specific actions by the lead.
Content management systems for publishing relevant content on the various engagement platforms that you prioritize are also key. When you push content out can make a significant difference to engagement levels. To learn more, read our guide to developing a content marketing strategy for LinkedIn lead generation in 2021.
LinkedIn is the leading professional social network, with 675+ million users worldwide and 167+ million in the United States alone. Many of the people who use LinkedIn are in decision-making roles within their organization, which means they often have the power to engage with your business on behalf of their organization. It tells that 70% of American LinkedIn users are in the 36-55 age demographic and that 45% earn more than $75,000 per year.
Surveys of B2B marketers using LinkedIn for sales suggest that LinkedIn is the leading platform for generating business leads. It indicates that 92% of B2B marketers prioritize LinkedIn over all other social media platforms, and estimate that 80% of the B2B business leads generated via social media come via LinkedIn.
So, finding and engaging with potential leads on LinkedIn and linking that activity into your CRM is critical. Unfortunately, this is not easy unless you use a premium version of LinkedIn, such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, or a tool like GrowthX.
Growth-X’s innovative LinkedIn tool integrates seamlessly with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which can help you find the people you are looking for on LinkedIn with advanced search options, out-of-network visibility, and even recommendations based on your previous searches.
You can then use Growth-X to automatically send sequenced messages to engage potential new leads in a personalized way and integrate all of that information with your CRM.
What is a B2B Strategy?
A B2B strategy is any marketing, sales, or communications strategy focused on selling to businesses and enterprises instead of individual customers.
When selling direct to the market, strategies often involve casting a wide net to appeal to as many potential customers as possible.
B2B sales strategies tend to involve seeking out organizations that could benefit from the product and then contact decision-makers within the organization to engage them with the product or service. It tends to be a much more focused and targeted approach to sales.
What is a lead generation process?
The B2B lead generation process, on a basic level, involves three steps, which don’t necessarily happen consecutively.
First is the research phase, which involves identifying your target pool both generally (types of professionals and where they are likely to be active) and precisely (individual decision-makers within relevant organizations).
Second is marketing, which means putting valuable information in front of the people in your target pool, designed to educate them about how your product or service can solve a problem.
The third is sales, which is when you contact a lead deemed to have sufficient awareness and interest in the product and are ready to seriously consider investing on behalf of their business.
How do you generate leads for B2B?
One of the essential steps in generating B2B leads is finding the contact details of relevant professionals that allow you to engage them directly. While lists of potential leads can sometimes be purchased from third-party organizations, it is also generated in-house through research.
It often means jumping into relevant professional networks through LinkedIn, professional groups, and relevant conferences to find the people you are looking for.
LinkedIn is one of the most valuable tools for B2B marketers, as many companies do not publish individual contact details when it comes to procuring emails for individuals. Exporting email addresses from LinkedIn to your CRM can be challenging, but you can do it with a tool like Growth-X.
How do you increase lead generation in B2B?
Increasing your number of potential leads generally means casting a wider net. However, you still want it to be highly targeted at decision-makers with a problem that your product or service can solve.
Some B2B lead generation ideas to expand your net include optimizing for long-tail keywords, prioritizing content marketing on platforms such as LinkedIn, or creating free tools that act as a gateway to your core product.
When it comes to B2B sales, it is all about identifying solid leads that are likely to engage with your product and have the power to purchase on behalf of their organization. This allows you to focus your resources on turning genuine leads into satisfied customers rather than wasting resources saturating the market.
This is why B2B lead generation is at the core of all good B2B sales strategies and why B2B sales and marketing teams need the right tools to identify, engage, and ultimately convert leads.
Do you have any experience with B2B lead generation? Share your top tips, tools, and experiences with the community in the comments section below.
Growth-X is the #1 automated LinkedIn engagement service for managing, engaging, and building your network of leads on LinkedIn. Growth-X works on various social media platforms and is the leading social media management tool for B2B sales.
I’m Growth-X’s digital marketing, copywriter, and customer success expert who focuses on growth hacks for B2B companies. When not working, you might catch me doing yoga or planning my next adventure.