If you ask any marketers—not only B2B SaaS marketer— one of the most prevalent problems is usually how to generate more leads.
Especially for B2B businesses, however, lead generation is not about a secret, holy grail tactic that can magically generate more and more prospects. Rather, lead generation is more about consistency: build a long-lasting, consistent strategy across many different channels, and combining all these tactics to achieve results.
So, in this guide, we will discuss all the effective lead generation channels, the best practices for each, and in the end, how to combine them together.
Let us begin with the first channel.
PPC Lead Generation for B2B SaaS Companies
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) lead generation campaigns refer to any paid online advertising platforms. Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and Google Display Network are just some of the popular examples. There are, however, other campaigns that can be considered as PPC, such as:
- Media display advertising
- B2B directories and review sites, depending on your niche
- Social media advertising, including Facebook Ads mentioned above, LinkedIn ads, and Twitter Ads among other platforms
- Affiliate marketing, relatively uncommon for SaaS industry, but can be effective
Adwords is obviously the most popular choice here, and can be a benchmark when we are discussing conversion rate. The general average of Adwords’ conversion rate is 2.7%, and 0.89% for Display Network. These numbers will vary by industry, but the average for the B2B industry is 2.58% (AdWords) and 0.96% (Display).
If you are planning to start a PPC campaign, you can ask the PPC vendor for the average conversion rate of the B2B SaaS niche.
When implementing PPC campaigns as your lead generation strategy, here are some important principles to consider:
- Audience research is everything, since the key to a successful PPC campaign is managing cost. The more specific your targeting is, the more cost-efficient it will be. Consider the fact that in a B2B industry, there can be several different people comprising of various roles that can be involved in the purchase decision. You will need to understand all of them.
- B2B directories and review sites can be very effective as a channel. Here, an audience who read your review can directly sign-up for a free trial or even be directed to your purchase page. Studies suggested that this method can generate up to 24% of conversion rate.
- The better you understand your audience, the better you can target the right keywords, another important thing when considering PPC campaign. You might want to check out our previous guide on researching and optimizing keywords here. (link)
- The content and design of the ad is another important factor. Make sure it is engaging and interesting, and follow the latest trends.
- Your content and design will determine click-through rate (how many people are actually clicking your ad), but it’s your landing page that will determine conversions. You might want to check out this guide by WordStream on optimizing landing pages for conversion.
Social Media Marketing
In this world that is increasingly social, social media marketing is no longer a thing exclusively for B2C businesses, but is now an integral part of B2B marketing.
However, we should understand that social media marketing for B2B is vastly different compared to its B2C counterparts. For instance, while the organic reach of most major social media profiles is in decline, it is even more prevalent in the B2C environment.
So, social media marketing for B2C, and especially for the SaaS industry is mostly about paid advertising. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore organic social media efforts like promoting your content or offering free downloadable content in exchange of their email address (more on email marketing further below).
What about paid social media channels? What is the expected conversion rate? According to a Marketo study, the average conversion rate for social media marketing is 1.95%. For the B2B SaaS, Facebook Ads and various Linkedin paid options (advertising, InMail, etc.) are the most effective platforms.
Social media marketing is more suited for top-of-the-funnel efforts, like creating brand awareness. You can combine social media marketing with inbound marketing and email newsletter to create the best results. (more on them below).
Here are some key principles in using social media marketing for lead generation:
- As with PPC advertising, audience targeting is a very important factor in deciding your social media marketing success, especially for paid social media. The better you understand your audience: their needs, problems, and behaviors; the better you can maximize your ROI
- What you offer is also the key to success, offer something valuable for your audience for free. The most common form here is offering in-depth, informational content in exchange of their email address, where you can follow-up with an email newsletter.
- Privacy is a very relevant issue nowadays, so only ask for information you absolutely need, which in most cases, the user’s email address. Other information can be gathered later with other campaigns, and by making things simple, you can guarantee better conversions.
- Everyone loves exclusive things, so create a sense of urgency by using limited-time offers, exclusive promotions, and other similar tactics. A well-made, interesting design will also help in this process.
Even with all the new platforms and modern technologies, email is still one of the most effective channel not only for lead generation purposes, but also in other stages of the marketing funnel.
In fact, in the B2B Saas environment, email opt-in is probably the most important channel to use, simply because it is often used as the bridge between your marketing automation efforts and your CRM, which are used by most digital marketers nowadays.
Most lead generation process began with capturing your audience’s email address, and email newsletter as well as drip marketing (link) are the core of the lead nurturing stage.
So, what is the conversion rate of email marketing nowadays? According to Marketing Insider Group, the average open rate is 23.4% and the average CTR is 17.8%, far higher than any other channel, and the average ROI is 4,400%, an amazing number.
There are also newer technologies like lead scoring automation, drip marketing tools, A.I.-driven algorithms, and behavioral analytics among others that can assist email marketing, especially for more personalization that can drive better results.
So, how can you maximize the effectiveness of email marketing for lead generation purposes? Here are the important factors:
- What you offer: you must offer something valuable to attract email sign-ups. As mentioned above, this usually comes in the form of a valuable content. However, you can also offer special discounts, freebies, and limited-time offers. The key here is understanding your audience’s needs.
- Subject line: personalized subject line by using the first name is the common practice nowadays, and there are many email marketing tools that can help you with this. Your subject line is the one that will determine open rate, and generally you would want a subject line that is short, to-the-point, and interesting. You can mention the benefit for the audience when opening this specific email.
- Landing page: if your subject line is determining open rate, your landing page will determine conversion rate. Optimizing a landing page can be an art on its own (link conversion rate optimization), but generally you would want optimized CTA positioning with clear offer, as well as appealing designs.
- Personalization and segmentation: the secret to a successful email marketing is essentially delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time. Email automation tools can help with this, but the key here is to split your email list into several sublists to have a better targeting
- Monitoring your progress: experiment with different email lists (including purchased ones), and run analytics to monitor their performances. Update your lists regularly to optimize your email marketing efforts, and maximize ROI.
Inbound Marketing for B2B SaaS Lead Generation
Inbound marketing (link) is a very important aspect of any SaaS marketing strategy, and is not only effective for lead generation, but also to nurture leads and encourage conversions.
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is regularly publishing content, and promote the content for visibility through various channels and especially SEO.
Inbound marketing, as mentioned, is an integral part for the SaaS business, and arguably your content is just as important as your product itself. Why? Let us discuss several key advantages of content marketing in the B2B SaaS industry:
- Driving traffic to your site mainly through B2B SEO services. When your content is targeting the relevant keywords, and is optimized to rank (at least) on the first page of search results, you can get a continuous stream of organic traffic. You can then use email opt-in tactic to convert this traffic into actual leads.
- An optimized and well-positioned CTA in the middle of your content can drive prospects to your landing page, encouraging conversions or for capturing leads.
- For existing customers, content marketing in combination with other channels like email marketing and social media can encourage repeat purchases and maximize retention. Managing customer retention is also a very important part of a SaaS business’s growth.
How about the performance of inbound marketing as a lead generation device? Let us take a look at some key statistics:
- According to Aberdeen, businesses that implement content marketing can have 6 times more conversion rates
- 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, according to CMI, which shows the importance and effectiveness of inbound marketing
- 82% of marketers who implemented inbound marketing see positive ROI.
- Content marketing is 62% more cost-efficient than outbound marketing, and generates 3 times as many leads, according to DemandMetric
Those are just some of the positive statistics shared by many different reports and studies. There’s no question about the effectiveness of inbound marketing in the SaaS space, but the question is, how to implement it properly? Let us first discuss the types of content pieces that will be effective for lead generation:
- Topics that show yourself as the expert/thought leader of the niche will be the most effective. However, building your credibility will require consistency and time.
- Original research and reports will always be valuable. You can also offer this type of content as downloadable one to capture leads.
- Content pieces that are addressing specific, real problems of your audience are effective. This type can also be useful in building your credibility.
- Usage of various media like infographics, images, and videos can increase readability. Videos and podcasts are also popular nowadays, and you can combine various forms to drive more leads.
- Keep yourself up-to-date with the latest trends, and develop content pieces that address the relevant topics.
- In-depth content that is backed with data can be really valuable in the SaaS niche.
Here are the key considerations when implementing inbound marketing for lead generation:
- Learn from the best. HubSpot, Marketo, Neil Patel (and KISSMetrics before it was acquired by Neil Patel) all have very strong inbound marketing implementations, and they are all the established leaders in the B2B SaaS industry. Learn how they are approaching their content marketing from various aspects: the keywords they are targeting, the frequency of publication, and so on.
- Know your audience. Even the relatively narrow SaaS industry have a lot of variants in its audience: different business roles, different behaviors, different needs, and so on. Find your ideal audience(s), and develop content pieces that are specifically tailored for them.
- Developing your content is just half the job done, as the promotion process is just as, if not even more important. Use various promotion channels to promote your content, but you should especially focus on SEO to drive more organic traffic.
- Have an editorial calendar covering at least your target keywords, topic ideas, media type, when and where you will publish the content, and how to promote it. A 12-month calendar is ideal, but you can start with a 3 to 6-months worth of calendar.
Combining Different Channels Together: The Best Practices
When combining all these different channels, here are some of the best practices for lead generation purposes:
- Knowing Your Audience
Develop a buyer persona to truly understand your ideal audience. In the B2B space, your ideal audience can comprise of several different roles which are involved in the purchase decision process. Depending on your product, you might not have any ideal audience at all, but several different sub-audiences with different interests, needs, and problems.
- Capturing Only the Essential Information
The less you ask from your audience, the higher the chance they actually convert. Only aim to get the most basic and the most influential customer information in the lead generation stage. In most cases, an email address is sufficient so you can start email marketing as the lead nurturing process.
- Implementing Lead Magnets
Lead magnets are valuable, interesting offers to capture your visitors’ contact information, turning them into actual prospects. Although generally offering valuable, downloadable content is the most effective lead magnet tactic, there are many other tactics to implement depending on your product and/or business model. For example, you can offer special discounts, free-trial, or even free products.
- Consistency is Key
As we have mentioned in the very beginning, consistency is the key to success of B2B lead generation. Publish your content regularly, properly schedule your email marketing efforts, be consistent in your social media messages, and so on. You are aiming to build awareness and credibility.
- Automate Whenever Possible
Nowadays, there are many marketing automation tools to save time and increase your productivity. On the other hand, lead generation can often be a matter of quantity and consistency. So, automating some the process can definitely help a lot in maximizing you ROI. Also, there are many newer technologies like automated lead scoring to A.I.-driven behavioral analysis that can assist your lead generation strategy.
- Combining Organic and Paid Efforts
Organic efforts like SEO, content marketing, and organic social media campaign is guaranteed to be more cost-efficient. The thing is, you will need to invest some time before you can see any significant results from these organic campaign.
On the other hand, paid campaigns like PPC ads and paid social media ads can virtually guarantee short-term results, but can be really expensive if you are not careful. The key here is to find the delicate balance between the two to maximize results. For example, you can use paid search ads to assist your SEO. You might want to check out this guide on how to use both inbound and outbound tactics together.
- Optimize For Mobile
Even in the B2B space, more and more professionals (which are, your target market) are using their mobile devices to surf the internet even during working hours. Make sure your lead generation campaigns are optimized for mobile devices.
For example, avoid using forms with too many fields, make sure your ads are mobile-responsive, and optimize your emails to be easily read on mobile devices.
The four channels we have shared above are the most effective lead generation devices for the B2B Saas Industry. As mentioned, the key here is consistency, as more often than not lead generation in the B2B space is more about quantity than quality.
Regularly monitor your progress, track the relevant metrics, and re-optimize your strategy when required.