B2B (business-to-business) lead generation is the process of identifying and attracting potential buyers of a product or a service.
It involves an interaction between a business that markets its products/services and another business that is interested in buying them. It is different from B2C lead generation which attracts consumers and sells products/services directly to them.
An effective B2B lead generation strategy creates a consistent sales pipeline of high-value prospects that eventually convert into customers.
The strategy must cover the awareness, consideration and decision stages of the prospect’s buyer journey, addressing their needs at each specific stage.
For example, having a website copy that talks about their pain points and offers solutions, blog articles that showcase in-depth expertise that can help them and whitepapers/eBooks that differentiate you from your competitors will likely nudge them towards conversion.
4 Essential Stages In B2B Lead Generation
Before delving deeper into improving your sales pipeline and attracting the most valuable prospects, let's first discuss the four essential stages every B2B lead generation process must undergo.
Step #1: Defining And Finding A Buyer Persona
B2B lead generation is essentially a marketing activity that results in acquiring contact information and building a list of potential customers.
Sales and marketing teams source this information:
In-house: Through meticulous target audience research and acquiring contact information via direct engagement on social media, targeting and retargeting campaigns, capturing website traffic’s information, past client referrals, etc.
Through an outsourced third-party lead-gen company: These lead generation companies can connect you, your products and services with businesses or individuals who are most likely to be qualified prospects. DesignRush is an example of a third-party lead gen company that connects brands with agencies.
By purchasing from a lead database: Websites and tools like UpLead, Salesfully and Leadrop allow you to purchase a list of potential customers to help you increase the number of prospects you can nurture. These are very useful when your sales pipeline is empty and you need to get your business running quickly or you’re launching a new marketing campaign.
Step #2: Reaching Out To Prospects
Sales and marketing reps reach out to the list of leads through email marketing’s cold outreach, targeted PPC and social media campaigns, or replying to inquiries.
Step #3: Interacting With High-Value B2B Leads
Your sales and marketing reps interact with leads and evaluate their buyer journey stage to measure how likely they are to buy from you.
Research and awareness stage: The prospect is aware of a problem they face and the solution they need and begin researching both. At this stage, they consume relevant blog articles and case studies, among others.
Consideration stage: The prospect turns into a lead as they know what product/service they exactly need to solve their pain point. They begin researching specific products/services and usually consider several vendors.
Decision stage: After filtering through multiple vendors and holding meetings with them, the lead eventually decides to complete a purchase with one of them.
Your sales, marketing, content and other relevant teams should consider these stages in order to move the lead towards the purchase decision.
Step #4: Closing And Onboarding Leads
At this point, congratulations are in order! However, the journey doesn’t end here. Once the lead decides they should pick you over your competitors, they are transferred to the sales or customer success team for onboarding.
Now that you know the basics in generating leads, let’s look into the specific strategies you should apply to effectively capture and nurture qualified B2B leads.
7 B2B Lead Generation Strategies To Attract And Nurture Your Ideal Customers
That’s why it is crucial to get the lead generation tactics right from the beginning because you might end up incurring costs for nothing.
1. Optimize Your Funnel And Avoid The “Leaky Bucket” Effect
Before attracting more prospects and leads to your website and other marketing platforms, you should look for any “leaks” in your marketing funnel “bucket” and, if they exist, fix them.
Driving traffic to a non-optimized funnel that loses prospects results in inflated acquisition costs and poor lead generation results.
The two most common funnel elements that leak leads are landing pages and lead generation forms (we will address the landing page optimization soon in this article.).
Forms separate your leads from your prospects. They contribute massively to your overall lead generation results and conversion rates.
Using tools like Typeform or Leadformly can help ensure you’re not losing leads during the form procedures. You can also optimize your lead generation forms yourself by making sure they are simple as possible, with only one or a couple of required fields at most.
Other common causes of leaking leads that you should check and improve on include:
Not targeting the right users with PPC campaigns and SEO
Your messaging is confusing or not relevant to your target audience
There is a signup process friction
Leads are getting lost during handoff between internal teams
Onboarding is too difficult
Once you’re certain that there are no more opportunities to optimize your marketing funnel, it’s time to capture and retain leads.
2. Create High-Quality Content To Attract And Educate Leads
Publishing industry-relevant content valuable to your prospects helps build your credibility as an expert and authority in your field.
Well-researched and well-optimized content increases your reach and brand exposure. It also earns the audience’s trust: capturing leads and converting them is easier when you have their trust.
The content you create should use simple language to articulate your offerings and expertise. It is vital that it addresses your prospects’ pain points and offers specific solutions for them.
Blogging is especially effective in capturing leads for B2B service businesses:
B2B businesses that post blog articles generate 67% more leads than those that don’t
53% of B2B buyers read three to five articles or other pieces of content before contacting a salesperson
67% of B2B buyers rely on content for research before making purchasing decisions
96% of B2B buyers want to see well-researched blog posts, written from a standpoint of authority
While the quality of your blog articles is the most critical consideration, the frequency of posting is also important. Businesses that publish at least 16 blog posts per month generate 4.5 times more leads than those who publish only 0-4 posts per month.
A well-balanced mix of evergreen and current topics in your niche is the preferred blogging strategy.
Evergreen content is shareable, helpful and informative for clients in any stage of their user journey, while articles that address the topics your audience is searching for right now help you stay relevant and possibly go viral.
Here are the two main benefits of B2B content marketing, especially blogging:
It works at any stage of the conversion funnel - although it is advisable to focus on the top and middle of the funnel for generating leads.
At the top of the funnel, it captures the attention and interest of your ideal customers by addressing their needs or pain points.
At the middle of the funnel, it turns your prospects into leads by offering specific solutions to the said needs with the thought leadership lead magnets: in-depth articles, downloadables, case studies, eBooks, exclusive gated content, trials, etc.
At the bottom of the funnel, blog posts help your leads that consider buying make an informed purchase decision by positioning your products or services as the best solution to their problems.
It is very flexible and customizable to your business specifics: By using different forms of content you can adjust your lead generation strategy according to your core strengths and the unique needs of your audience.
3. Gate Your Content Strategically
To take your content marketing strategy to the next level and fully exploit its lead generation potential, identify and create exclusive bits of content that you will present to your prospects in exchange for their info.
For example, you can tease the audience with an exclusive eBook on a niche topic with just a few paragraphs before requesting them to download the full version in exchange for their email addresses.
Putting your most valuable content behind the subscription form’s “gate” is one of the most effective ways of attracting and identifying leads who really are interested in what you have to offer.
Gated content increases leads and conversions significantly: finance website Trading Strategy Guides gained almost 11,000 targeted email subscribers in just one month using this method.
However, when using gated content, do so strategically. Locking too much content behind forms may repulse some of your prospects. Offering plenty of valuable content for free, without requesting the readers’ contact info, should be the norm.
Only make your most exclusive and most valuable content gated if you’ve already created an impressive library of content your audience enjoys for free.
4. Optimize Your Landing Pages And CTAs
To optimize your product or service landing pages means to
Implement SEO best practices like meta title, meta descriptions, H1s and H2s, images’ alt tags, etc.
Adjust your signup buying forms for easy conversion
Add user testimonials to boost credibility and trust
Focus the content on the benefits you are offering
Your landing pages should focus on a single offer and a single goal. Having multiple offers on one landing page may overwhelm and confuse visitors and this can decrease conversion rates up to 266%.
When you define the goal you want your landing page visitors to reach, make it clear and noticeable with your CTA’s messaging.
Distinctive call-to-action button design and text should be enticing and convincing, as your primary goal on a landing page is to convert your prospects into leads (or leads into customers).
Other ways in which you can optimize your landing page(s) for better lead generation include:
Adding videos, which can boost landing pages’ conversion rates by up to 86%
Designing specific landing pages to address different audience groups by using their language and pinpointing their specific pain points
Using a clean layout, without any elements that would distract the visitor from converting
Offering something of value to a visitor, like access to exclusive content, a free eBook or a special discount
Writing clear, concise, to-the-point copy that focuses on the benefits for the user
5. Use Email Marketing & Cold Outreach
Email marketing can generate an average ROI of 4,200%, making it one of the favorite and most efficient marketing channels for B2B ventures.
It is also the most popular lead generation tool, as 77% of B2B marketers use email campaigns to send personalized cold outreach emails to drive qualified leads.
Strangely – considering these perks – email marketing is also quite underused. 59% of B2B companies do not use any type of email marketing.
Two major benefits of using email marketing to generate B2B leads include:
Personalization capabilities: You can easily create highly customized email content and a personalized message for each segment of your audience and even individual recipients thanks to automation and targeted email sequences.
Global use: In 2021, there were 4.1 billion email users in the world. It is more than likely that your target audience, no matter how small or niche, is accessible via email. This makes cold outreach one of the most universal lead generation tools.
To boost the lead-gen effectiveness of your emails:
Deliver a direct, easy-to-understand message through your copy
Use a minimalistic layout with lots of white space to remove visual distractions
Optimize your emails for smartphones as users open 61% of emails on mobile devices
If you need some more convincing that email is capable of generating big amounts of leads, consider these stats:
Email marketing affects the buying intent of over 50% of B2B customers
Two main purposes of email marketing are lead generation (85%) and lead nurturing (78%)
Email converts 40x more efficiently than social networks like Facebook
6. Encourage Online Reviews To Manage Your Reputation & Earn Trust
As stated before, B2B companies make financially larger investments than B2C brands. For them, an unbiased review is invaluable during their buyer’s journey.
That is why 92% of B2B buyers read online reviews to get information and recommendations to support their purchase decisions.
By adding and managing a review section on your product/service pages and encouraging customers to leave their reviews, you are increasing the level of trust in your services.
This also boosts your business reputation as reviews provide an essential element to your lead generation tactics – social proof.
Besides building customer trust, authentic reviews can also help improve your local search rankings, which may contribute to higher conversion rates.
Managing reviews is also a great way to capitalize on your competitors: only 20% of B2B companies use reviews as part of their lead generation strategy.
Publishing client reviews on your website is a must, but you should also consider submitting your company to business ranking platforms like DesignRush where you can set up a profile, garner reviews to attract valuable leads and gain industry recognition.
Earn your lead's trust by being verified and reviewed by industry experts and clients.
Over 75% of Fortune 500 executives watch video content and two-thirds of that number visit the vendor’s website after that.
Also, as many as 70% of B2B buyers watch product/service videos during the decision-making process. For 90% of them, videos are very helpful when making a buying decision.
Video B2B marketing is extremely beneficial in capturing valuable leads because it:
Makes information retention easy: Video message retention rates (52%) are generally higher than other content types. This makes video marketing very suitable for informing and educating your prospects.
Engages viewers: Video is the best performing digital content type, driving more views, more engagement and more response than any other type of content.
Provides versatility: Video content is highly adaptable: it can be repurposed into a podcast, blog article or almost any other type of content. It also comes in different formats, from round up (“Best Of”) to guide (“How To”) videos.
Beyond 2021, videos will be the preferred way of learning about products or services for 68% of users. Because of this, explainer videos will gain in popularity and become the most sought-after type of video.
In the context of B2B lead generation, explainer and demo videos are very suitable for:
Simplifying the onboarding process for service users
Decreasing the abandonment rate of users after a product’s trial period ends
Attracting leads with simple tutorials
Keeping prospects in the loop of the new products, features and future developments
Furthermore, the demand for live videos will increase drastically. Live streams, webinars, virtual events – especially in Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 era – will become a common type of content that provides value to businesses and generates leads.
3 Things To Consider When Developing A B2B Lead Generation Strategy
In developing and implementing any of these B2B lead generation strategies, consider the following aspects of your business.
1. Business Objectives
Set realistic, measurable, short and long-term goals for each aspect of your day-to-day operations and business growth: sales targets, marketing campaigns and lead generation.
For example, do you currently aim to increase direct sales revenue or the number of subscribers? Are you looking to boost trust with your clients and improve your reputation or do you plan an all-out marketing campaign?
Knowing your specific business goals will give you an idea of which lead generation strategies will help you achieve them.
2. Target Audience & Market
Acquire insight into your industry’s and market’s changing trends. It may help you respond efficiently and promptly to the shifts in your immediate business environment and match or surpass your competitors’ performance.
Defining your target audience and creating buyer personas – representations of your ideal customers – will provide you with a thorough understanding of their pain points, issues, beliefs and behaviors.
Knowing your market and your audience will help you sharpen your lead generation strategies and messaging to target the most valuable prospects, encouraging them to choose you over your competitors.
Sharpen your lead generation strategies by staying up-to-date with industry trends.
The makings of a successful lead generation strategy
Specifying conversion goals and assigning specific values to track the lead gen success will help you determine both.
For example, your conversion goals may be capturing the prospect’s contact info and email address through a form. A specific value for lead generation would be the number of qualified leads gained through a particular strategy (e.g., the number of users that signed up for your product’s free trial).
3 Most Effective B2B Lead Sources
Each lead generation channel or source will work differently for different businesses. Each enterprise has its own challenges, weaknesses, strengths and opportunities which makes it more or less suited for a specific lead gen strategy.
However, according to research by HubSpot, the three most effective sources of leads for B2B companies are:
Email marketing (13%)
Social media (12%)
B2B Lead Generation Tactics Takeaways
The essential stages of each B2B lead generation process are:
Establishing your buyer persona
Reaching out to prospects
Interacting with valuable B2B leads
Specific B2B lead generation strategies you should employ during the prospects’ user journey include:
Fix any “leaks” in your sales funnel
Create high-quality content
Gate content strategically
Optimize landing pages and CTAs
Use email marketing
Encourage and manage online reviews
Engage leads with video marketing
Know the best lead channels straight from this award-winning agency.