Lead generation is one of the most important marketing aspects for a B2B business. The number of new customer acquisitions can either make or break your business, and without getting new leads -or prospects-, you won’t get anyone to convert.
So, in this guide, we will discuss some of the best lead generation strategies B2B businesses can use. With these strategies, you will have the right foundation to further plan the rest of lead generation, and marketing strategy in general.
Let us begin with the first one.
What Actually Is a “Lead”?
A lead is, in essence, a person who is already interested to purchase your product or service, but has not realized that purchase intention. We also often refer to leads as “prospects”.
A website visitor, for example, might be a lead although not always. If this specific person came to your site when they are searching for information related to your niche—or even better, your product or service—, this person is a lead. However, this is not the case if they stumbled upon your content accidentally.
Now, why is it so important to differentiate our leads from our regular visitors? Let’s assume we are a prospect—lead— taking an interest to Tesla cars. Let’s say Tesla learnt about this fact when you took an online survey, and then they took action by sending you an email. Since you are already interested in Tesla cars, you are more likely to open the email and probably click on the given CTA button.
However, if you received an email from, say, BMW and you are not interested in BMW car, you might not open the email instead. Here we can see that leads—and even more so, qualified leads— are more likely to engage your marketing efforts, and hence more likely to convert.
So, What Is “Lead Generation”?
Lead generation, as the name suggests, is the effort of converting people into prospects or leads—-how you attract people to your business—. Lead generation is not a single marketing effort, but rather, there are at least two core aspects:
- Building brand awareness, so people can be aware of your brand, product and/or service.This can be done through traditional marketing means (advertising, paid search, etc.) or creating content to pull our prospects inwards (inbound marketing)
- Engaging prospects and starting that important first conversation, mainly by capturing their contact information and sending them an email
So, in a nutshell, lead generation is about finding more and more ways to attract people—relevant people—to your business. However, lead generation doesn’t stop there, but we will also need to find ways to connect to these people who have shown interest. This way, we can strengthen that interest and convert them into actual, paying customers.
Lead Generation VS Buying Leads
Of course, there’s always the option to buy leads from third-party suppliers and even, your competitors. For example, buying email lists is a common practice in many businesses.
Purchasing leads—compared to organically generating leads—, will obviously save time and require significantly less effort. However, there are two main issues with purchasing your leads:
- First, it can be expensive. While organic lead generation process might not be cheap either, generally it’s more cost-effective than purchasing your leads
- The purchased leads might not be a good fit for your business, and they might not be interested in your business. So, the conversion rate might be much lower, further adding to the cost-efficiency issue.
So, in most, if not all cases, organic lead generation is always better than buying leads: you are attracting people that are actually interested in your business, and so it will be more cost-efficient.
That’s not saying, however, that purchasing your leads is always a bad idea. When done right (and when you are lucky and get the right fit), this can be effective. Yet, in general you will need to invest on many different purchased lead databases and experiment with them before you see significant results.
Lead Generation : The Basic Concept
Above, we have discussed the two key aspects of lead generation: building awareness and starting the conversation. Yet, how can we translate those into an actionable strategy?
To answer this, let us first discuss how a typical prospect converts into a customer through a process we call the buyer’s journey, which is typically happens this way:
- Someone is realizing that they are having a problem and is searching for a solution. Or, someone is interested in a product/service that will bring an additional value to their lives. This is the attraction or awareness stage.
- This person researches for various available solutions for their problem, and in this stage they might stumble upon your business through your promotions or content. this is the consideration stage, and typically here this person converts from random person into a website visitor (or store visitor, social media visitor, etc. )
- Through forms, landing pages, and CTAs, you capture this person’s information, converting this visitor into a lead. This is the conversion stage
After these three stages, however, there are two additional things that might happen: the lead converts into an actual customer, and then a customer might convert into an advocate. However, since our focus is on lead generation, we won’t discuss these two on this guide.
So, based on the three stages above, here are the common occurrences in the modern lead generation process:
- A person becomes aware of your business. This can happen through one of your various marketing channels from your advertising, social media post, blog post, and so on.
- This visitor then clicks on your CTA (call to action), and then is redirected to a landing page.
- The core of a landing page is the lead magnet, which is essentially an offer you give in exchange of the visitor’s contact information (email address, so you can follow-up with email marketing)
With that being said, we can understand that there are three key aspects of a successful lead generation campaign:
- Building awareness: you can’t generate leads organically unless your audience is aware of your product/service
- Your lead magnet offer: the more (and relevant) value you can offer to your audience, the more you can convert. So, a thorough understanding of your audience is the key.
- Lead capture form: your prospect fill up a form to get your offer, and once they are done, you have successfully capture a new lead
Throughout this guide, we will discuss these three key aspects a bit deeper, starting with the first one: building awareness through marketing.
Lead Generation: Building Awareness
The first step of any lead generation strategy is utilizing various marketing channels to build awareness. Your main goal here is to drive more and more traffic to your landing page(s) where you can capture new leads.
Here, we will discuss some of the most common (and the most effective) channels you can use to generate leads:
Most of us nowadays learn about new products or services not from promotional messages but from content pieces: a review article or video from an influencer, an inbound content from a brand, and so on.
So, there’s no doubt that content marketing is one of, if not the most effective channels to drive more people to your landing page.
Remember that the secret in lead generation is offering value, and there are two ways you can offer value through your content:
- Offering actionable tips, valuable information, and solutions to your audience’s problems to get their attention.
- Establishing credibility. People only buy products/services from brands they can trust. Content marketing is the most effective way to establish your position as the expert of your niche.
So, your content shouldn’t focus on selling your products or services, but rather providing information that is relevant to your niche. For example, if you are a SaaS company selling an e-commerce platform software, you can provide content on effective e-commerce strategies.
Still the most effective channel to offer promotional messages with 4,000+% ROI, even amidst the newer channels and technologies.
Email marketing is especially effective for those who are already aware of your brand, product, or service, and is also effective in nurturing leads until they are ready to convert into actual customers.
While email marketing is a pretty complicated subject on its own, in modern email marketing tactic there are several main considerations:
- Most people receive a lot of promotional emails in a single day. So, personalization (using first name, etc.) and an interesting subject line is essential to improve open rate.
- Engaging copy and proper CTAs are the keys to optimize conversion. Keep your email content short and to-the-point, and effectively communicate your value proposition
- You can use various media forms from images, infographics, to videos within your content to enhance your email messages.
Even with all the trends surrounding inbound marketing (link to inbound marketing), outbound (traditional) marketing activities like advertising are still effective, mainly because they can generate short-term results, a thing that is a rarity for content marketing and other inbound activities.
So, the issue about advertising (when done properly) is not about effectiveness but rather about cost efficiency, and here are how you can improve your advertising campaigns’ ROI:
- Targeting is everything: the more specific the audience you are targeting, the better you can save costs. The more effective your keywords targeting, the better you can also save costs and maximize ROI.
- Make sure to have an optimized landing page to support the ad, and make sure your landing page delivers the promise offered in the ad.
- Utilize remarketing/retargeting (link retargeting), remarketing is essentially showing your ads to those who have visited your site (or have triggered certain actions). So, your ads are shown to those who are already interested to your brand, hence you have better conversion rates
Using advertising for lead generation is an art of its own, and you might want to check out this guide by KickoffLabs for a further discussion on the topic.
4. Social Media Marketing
In this world dominated by social media, obviously social media marketing is a very effective way to build awareness.
Generally, we would want to focus on the five major social media platforms to generate leads: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and depending on your niche, Reddit.
Here are some key principles in choosing the right social media platforms for your lead generation purposes:
- Again, the key is understanding your audience, especially which platforms do they frequent
- Figure out how your audience are using these channels (their behavior). For example, most of people in LinkedIn are using the platform to improve their career or business. You can capitalize on this behavior by taking appropriate actions.
- Some specific platforms will fit your product/service better over the others. For example, LinkedIn is generally a better fit for B2B products or services, while Instagram is generally better for consumer products (although not always).
- It is no secret that social media marketing nowadays is about paid ads, as organic reach continues to decline in recent years. Different platforms will offer different advertising costs (also depending on other factors), so this might be a major consideration factor depending on your budget.
So, how can we use social media for lead generation purposes? There are various different approaches you can take, but here are some of the most effective ones:
- You can actually generate leads without starting a specific social media campaign through social monitoring, by listening to social media conversations about your niche or even your brand. Various social media monitoring tools are available to help you with this. You can then engage those that indicated interest individually.
- The key of social media marketing is finding the right balance between organic and paid efforts to maximize cost-efficiency. Organic social media marketing is still alive and kicking, although admittedly you will need to invest more time to see results.
- You can promote gated content through your social media posts to capture more leads. Again, the key here is to have an optimized landing page to support the social media post.
- Promoting your specific products/services can work, but you have to do it carefully. Aim to build credibility instead of hard-selling.
- Using social media influencers is obviously an effective way to get your voice heard. You might want to check out this guide on more about influencer marketing on social media.
- For paid social media promotions, the key to success is targeting: the more specific and relevant your target audience is, the better you can maximize ROI.
- Free Trial
For certain industries especially SaaS, offering free product trials are an essential aspect of lead generation.
The idea behind offering trials is that by letting your leads try your product/service for free, you can encourage conversions. When done right (and especially when your free-trial product is valuable), this approach can be really effective not only for lead generation, but also for lead nurturing and purchase conversion.
Here are some key principles to follow when offering a free-trial campaign:
- Obviously this approach won’t work with all kinds of products. In general, digital and especially cloud-based product (SaaS) will work better with this approach.
- There are two main approaches in offering a free-trial: offering a limited (lesser) version of your product for free, or offering a full version of your product for a limited time-frame. Generally, the latter is the better approach for conversion purposes.
- Use the free-trial period to push email marketing. Offer valuable information and keep an outstanding customer service for the free-trial participants. This is your chance to maximize conversion.
- Develop a sense of urgency, for example, by offering a limited-time special discount if they purchase the product during the free-trial period.
The main idea behind offering a free-trial campaign is to build interest, so make the free-trial product, your email marketing campaign throughout the period, and your overall campaign should be as engaging as possible.
5. Referral/Affiliate Marketing
Arguably, the best way to generate leads is when your existing customers recommend your brand to other prospects (friends, peers, colleagues, etc.). When this happens, you can get more people to know your brand without spending any money.
However, achieving this is easier said than done, and this is where referral marketing—or affiliate marketing— comes in. The idea behind referral marketing is to artificially create this “advocacy” effect: when regular people—your affiliate marketers—recommend your product/service to their colleagues, there will be less resistance than when they are receiving direct promotion from your brand.
The key behind a successful affiliate marketing is incentive: give too little and you might not get any referral marketers, give too much and you might sacrifice quality. You will need to find the right balance according to your niche/industry, as well as your product.
Many businesses think that lead generation is the hardest aspect of their businesses, but also the most important aspect in driving revenue. If you can master the art of lead generation, you can effectively increase growth and become a more profitable business.
Lead generation, however, is a continuous progress. So, regularly monitor your progress, track the relevant metrics, and re-optimize your strategy when required.