A Guide to (Effective) B2B Lead Generation
How to Secure B2B Leads
It’s official. The most commonly asked question in my meetings with existing and new clients is:
“What’s the best way to generate more B2B leads?”
And my answer (most of the time)?
Okay, okay. Let me dive a little deeper. In our work with B2B businesses across foodservice, technology, construction, travel and cleaning, we’ve seen success with a range of different lead generation tactics and strategies.
The most successful ones have all had one thing in common – a clear well-researched idea of who you’re selling to, what they specifically want and how you can help them. The best way to generate more sales leads is to tailor your approach to your industry and buyer (and then product).
We’re lucky, as our clients allow us to repeatedly experiment, learn and implement new ways to get B2B leads so their campaigns don’t get stale and they have a steady stream of leads heading to their sales team.
Here’s how we typically do it…
Step 1: Determine the stage of awareness of the majority of your audience.
You’ve probably seen a few different iterations of the marketing ‘funnel’ or stages of awareness pyramid by now. To keep it simple at this step, you want to focus on the early stages – is your prospective customer in the:
- Research phase – where they are aware they are in need of a solution to a problem they are facing and are trying to learn more about it;
- Consideration phase – where they know which service or product they need but are now drilling down into specifics and looking into options / suppliers, or;
- Decision phase – where they are potentially having meetings and discussions with a few suppliers, and making a decision with other stakeholders in their business.
What stage a potential lead is at will determine what language you use, what your offer looks like and how you reach out to them to get their attention.
Step 2: Determine their problem, pain points and needs.
Most companies have a pretty good idea what their buyer persona is (and if you don’t, it’s probably worth having a think about it!). But we like to go a step further before launching any lead generation effort. Buyer personas are not just about demographics and behaviors but about thought processes and desires. This can include:
- What is the main problem your potential customer is facing?
- What are the pain points specifically associated with that problem?
- What does the potential customer need (or think they need)?
It is important here to look at the specific language they are using. There is no point in completing all this research and continuing to use jargon or company-specific language that doesn’t align with your prospect. If your potential customer is describing a product or service in a certain way, it’s best to match that in your marketing so there is no confusion.
Step 3: Avoid the Leaky Bucket effect.
This step is super important and it’s one that so many companies overlook when launching new lead generation campaigns. The Leaky Bucket Effect is when marketers metaphorically continue to pour water (read: traffic and $$$) into leaky buckets (read: marketing infrastructure). Instead of fixing the problem – which could be that people are dropping off an online form or bouncing off your website – they continue to pour more and more traffic into the system to ‘keep the bucket full’. This leads to expensive ad campaigns and below average results.
Before we launch any lead generation campaign, we always check that lead generation forms, landing pages and eDM nurture sequences are working smoothly (and not leaking valuable leads) to improve conversion rates and overall results.
Step 4: Implement the relevant method(s) for qualified lead generation.
Just like consumers, businesses are keen to research any purchase before they commit. They want to arm themselves with as much information as possible – Gartner estimates that more than 65% of purchasing decisions occur before a buyer ever makes contact with a supplier. Not only that, but 33% of all buyers desire a seller-free sales experience.
In the past, B2B marketing has relied solely on advertising. But now, a study by CSO Insights says that 70% of B2B buyers prefer self-education in the early stages of the buying process. This means people want to learn as much as possible from their own research before they decide to do business with you (and commit to a phone call). In other words, you need to make sure you have as much information available about your products so your potential customers can read it themselves.
LinkedIn, unsurprisingly, comes up in most of our initial lead generation conversations with B2B clients and it is a very valuable lead generation tool. Its lead generation ads allow us to work with very specific targeting criteria. One of LinkedIn’s strengths is reaching C-level decision makers from specific companies.
We recommend using LinkedIn’s auto-fill lead generation forms that pull information straight from leads’ profile. This significantly reduces the bounce rate on the form (removing that leaky bucket effect). It’s important to note that we have found Facebook lead generation ads to be significantly cheaper, but LinkedIn Ads do seem to generate higher-intent leads and more qualified leads.
If you’ve ever spoken to me, you’ll know I’m a huge advocate of Facebook’s powerful advertising options. I still think they are the best in the industry, and they should not be overlooked in a B2B campaign. Facebook has played a primary role in most of our online lead generation campaigns, yet it is often dismissed as a ‘consumer only’ platform. But the fact of the matter is, businesspeople don’t stop being businesspeople when they log onto Facebook. The same pain points are still in the back of their minds, so if you’re presenting a solution, it will still resonate even if it is outside of business hours. In fact, a study from marketing platform HubSpot found 74% of consumers use Facebook in professional capacities too.
We tend to split test our lead generation campaigns based on audiences, messaging, offer and creative to determine which is gaining the most attention (from the right people) and scale from there.
Giving away ‘free stuff’ is a strategy that has been around for a long time. To be honest, most people today are now expecting to get something for free. The trick is to ensure the freebie is actually worth something to begin with. You’ve got to give away something of real value – something you may usually charge for – to capture the attention of your potential buyers. Samples is an effective strategy for many businesses because once you have your product in the hand of your lead, it’s a much easier sell for your sales team. But giving away consultations, webinars or reports can work just as effectively, especially if it gives your sales team an ‘excuse’ to call the lead.
Of course, the best campaigns often use a combination of all four of the above tactics, so what is really important is to tailor your approach to your industry and buyers. If you’re looking to increase the number or quality of your B2B leads, we’d be happy to run you through the strategies and tactics that might work best for your business. Get in touch here.
Sarah Park is the Digital Director at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She oversees the development of digital marketing strategies for clients to drive brand awareness, and ultimately sales.