What is a Lead Generation Strategy? The Best Tactics For Growing Your B2B Sales [Plus 4 Tips to Get You Started]
Lead generation is the root of all business growth. It’s what nourishes your company’s revenue and what grounds your brand in the marketplace.
But everyone has their own opinion about what lead generation strategies entail and what works best in our current climate. While there are proven methodologies in place that influential sales leaders swear by, it doesn’t mean that you should stick to just one way of generating leads.
Here, we will take you through the various lead generation strategies used to acqure new customers and build sustainable revenue so you can create a diverse pipeline that keeps your business thriving in any environment.
What is a Lead Generation Strategy?
A lead generation strategy is the tactics used to attract and nurture leads with the purpose of convert prospective clients into customers. There are various strategies businesses put into place to fill their pipeline that we will discuss later on, but some of the most common methods include email marketing, blogs, webinars, lead magnets, and free trials. Lead generation can be done through your own means or generated by a third-party lead gen service provider.
Why Is Lead Generation Important for B2B Companies?
1. Find More Potential Customers
Leads are people who show such interest in your product or service that haven’t made the purchase yet.
Perhaps the most obvious reason why lead generation is important is that it helps flush out potential customers no matter how well-established your brand is in the market. Lead generation begins as soon as you launch your business — if not earlier — and remains a daily task indefinitely. So, it’s important to continually refine your strategy and optimize your results to ensure growth in revenue and market share.
The way you find potential customers will change as your company grows. In the beginning, you may rely on free trials, referrals, and email marketing to bring in new clients, then add paid advertising as your marketing budget grows. Agility is critical when deploying lead generation tactics. You have to be ready to adjust your approach when you notice a decrease in activity or a change in the marketing environment to keep potential customers funneling into your pipeline.
2. Discover What Matters to Your Target Audience
Lead generation is a constant cycle of trial and error, but it’s not all for naught. You will learn valuable insight as you test out different ways to attract and engage leads. By taking steps to optimize your lead generation strategies, you’ll be able to refine your marketing materials into magnetic messages that pull your prospects in.
You see, it’s not uncommon to discover that while your solution solves your prospects’ problems, their definition of the problem itself doesn’t always match your own. You must seek out what matters most to your prospects and build your content around those conversations. In doing so, you’ll display empathy and authority while you work to win leads and influence prospects.
3. Build a Pipeline of Future Prospects
Lead generation is not just about engaging in a few quick conversions now, it’s about creating a pool of future prospects. Just because a lead finds its way into your pipeline doesn’t mean they are ready to purchase. Think about all the times you have signed up for a free download or webinar without the intent to buy yet.
You have the responsibility to follow up on their curiosity continually. Otherwise, you’re leaving your prospects in suspense and money on the table. You don’t have to be pushy or spammy; you can be informative and helpful. Even if the prospect lacks the budget or goes with a competitor today, that doesn’t mean you have to close the door on the conversation for good. Leads are not likely to let you know when a situation changes, so make it a point to follow up in three to six month intervals so you don’t miss your window of opportunity in the future.
What Are the Different Types of Lead Generation Marketing Tactics
Inbound Lead Generation
Inbound marketing entails strategies and tactics used to generate leads that come to your business for information. Inbound lead generation can be done using both online and offline channels. Inbound marketing is effective because once you create inbound systems and workflows, leads will start coming in automatically.
Some examples of inbound lead generation strategies are:
- blog posts
- vlogs or video content
- lead magnets
- newsletters/drip campaigns
- search engine optimization (SEO)
- pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
The only downside to inbound lead generation tactics is that they take more time to develop. You have to be prepared to spend months without results. But once you have dialed in your strategy, you’ll be able to spend more time on product development and customer success which will create a revolving wheel of referrals and return customers.
Outbound Lead Generation
As the yang to the inbound yin, outbound lead generation involves proactively connecting with leads that match your ideal client profile to drive brand awareness and interest. Outbound marketing can be used as a stand-alone lead generation effort or as an amplifier for your inbound strategies by targeting specific opportunities.
Examples of outbound lead generation include:
- cold email outreach
- cold calling campaigns
- LinkedIn messaging
- social media ads
- display ads
- direct mail
To run outbound lead generation campaigns effectively, it’s essential to have an experienced team of sales development representatives (SDRs), as the process can get expensive without the right tools and techniques. Despite the cost, outbound marketing is vital to business growth. 82% of decision-makers jumping on sales calls with reps that reach out proactively, so outbound outreach should not be overlooked when build out your strategy.
Referral Lead Generation
Referral lead generation is a process of obtaining quality leads from customers and business partners. Referrals are valuable prospecting sources as these leads are more likely to fit your ideal client profile and be interested in your product. Referral incentive programs offering discounts on future purchases in exchange for leads are often used to drum up new business and can be a cost-effective lead generation strategy.
Affiliate and influencer programs are similar to referral lead generation; however, with affiliate partners and influencers, you are compensating via commission instead. Take into consideration your current customer base and network before deciding whether a referral or affiliate program is best for your lead generation.
Event Lead Generation
Events such as digital marketing conferences and trade shows can help you generate leads on a larger scale. Holding an event or seminar related to your field can appeal directly to potential clients and customers and provides a way to build rapport and authority quickly. It’s important to select the right location to attract your target audience. Would your prospects prefer an online event, an in-person seminar, or the option to choose between the two?
You should also focus on ROI rather than the trade show or event size. Make sure your investment is worth the effort by piloting your event with smaller, more manageable beta tests like webinars or free training sessions. This can help you gauge interest while refining your message for a larger audience. In addition, consider partnering with complementary businesses to increase your reach as well as the depth of your content while distributing the expenses.
While the pandemic halted event lead generation over the past few years, many decision-makers are ready to break out of their homes, offices, and day-to-day routines to mix and mingle with new and familiar faces.
Online Advertising Lead Generation
Although a very broad term, online advertising lead generation can be summed up as paid promotions on search engines, websites, and social. There are two main categories of online advertising:
- Display ads: A low-effort approach that can be used with budget restrictions in mind. Display ads can be easily spotted on websites and social media in the sidebars or between paragraphs of content.
- Native ads: This type of paid promotion is less conspicuous as they are meant to blend in with the platform they appear on. This could be anything from an ad in your Facebook news feed to a link in your Google search query.
Both display and native advertising are viable B2B lead generation strategies that require attention to detail when it comes to time, targeting, and tracking. While display ads are great for driving brand recognition, native ads are best for driving desirable results. Choosing whether to run display ads, native ads, or both can be challenging. You’ll want to take into account your lead generation goals and plan before committing to an advertising budget or strategy.
The Lead Generation Process: A Step-by-Step Guide To Finding Quality Leads
1. Start With the End-Goal In Mind
We’ve established that you need leads, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper.
What kind of leads do you need, and how quickly do you need them? What’s your target, and what are your constraints? You’ll have a better chance of developing a winning strategy by putting your end goal at the forefront. In fact, your goals should be factored into every facet of your lead generation process, including your target audience, special offers, sales channels, and marketing tools.
Some specific metrics you should focus on are:
- number of qualified leads
- response rate
- conversion rate
- sales cycle length
- cost per acquisition
Because generating leads can feel like herding cats, your sales and marketing departments should know the company’s objectives by heart, along with their role to play in meeting the end goals. In doing so, your team will be able to make timely decisions to better the performance of your campaigns without waiting for your next weekly or monthly meeting.
2. Define Your Target Audience
Before launching your first campaign, it is essential to define your target audience. A clear picture of your prospects will improve the quality of your lead generation efforts. The target audience should be based on your customer persona(s). So, take a look at who you are currently serving and find the common threads that bind them to your brand. Demographics and psychographics are just as important as firmographics. Don’t just focus on the company industry, size, and revenue, but also factor in your ideal clients’ hopes, habits, and hobbies so you can build a lead generation strategy that fits the way your target audience makes purchasing decisions.
3. Map Out a Lead Generation Plan
There’s that good old saying… “fail to plan, plan to fail.” You need to have a lead generation plan to be successful. Being prepared gives you an advantage when searching for and reaching out to new prospects.
You already know the foundation for your lead generation plan: the end goals and target audience. But you still have to decide how to get from point “A” to point “B.” This process can be overwhelming; you have so many options to choose from. You can always refer back to the list of lead generation strategies from above, but ultimately, this will hinge on your budget and buyers. For example, if you target CIOs at Fortune 500 companies, you will want to consider where those CIOs go to research problems and socialize with peers. Given this particular buyer persona’s average age and online behaviors, your best bet would be LinkedIn direct messaging, email marketing, and PPC advertising, if the marketing budget allows.
Focusing on building a solid plan is essential; however, don’t let analysis paralysis slow your progress. Once you have a plan in place, take the following steps to implement it.
4. Prepare Your Lead Generation Tool Kit
There are a wide variety of digital lead generation tools available, so it is vital to research which one will be best for your needs. You’ll want to ensure that your digital lead generation tools are compatible with your business’s marketing strategy and goals.
It’s common practice for lead generation tools to offer trials or money-back guarantees, which lowers the risk of testing out different options before committing. While there are several all-in-one platforms, many of the tools available on the market today have a specific use case. So, again, you’ll have to decide based on your strategy.
There are some basic lead generation tools that sales and marketing teams need to make the most of your strategy:
- lead database
- lead management software
- email marketing platform
- content management system (CMS)
- social media management platform
You and your team may find this part of the lead generation process time-consuming and tedious. Just take it one platform at a time. Not only do these tools need to work with your strategy, but they also need to communicate well together, or else you’ll have a lot of manual tasks on your hand. Make a shortlist of all your favorite platforms and experiment with the tools before making your final decision.
5. Develop Attractive Offers For Your Campaigns
Who doesn’t like a good deal? One brush with a brawl on Black Friday is enough to convince anyone of the power of promotions. Offering deep discounts can help customers to choose your brand over competitors, but there’s more to value than price alone. Perceived value is just as important in creating an attractive offer as the sticker price. For instance, e-commerce companies have found that by offering free shipping and transferring the cost of said shipping to the product price, margins can be increased by 26%.
Similarly, you can create irresistible offers by increasing the perceived value of doing business with your company. What do you provide that your competitors do not? Can you deliver one-on-one training pro bono? Do you have a guarantee? Is there a special time-saving feature built into your product that your competitors haven’t mastered?
Make sure your campaigns are full of relevant and valuable information for your prospects so they can realize the benefits of your offer and take action.
6. Find Sales Leads that Fit Your Ideal Client Profile
Leads. How do you find them? Over the years, capturing leads has mimics a cat-and-mouse game. Fortunately, modern lead gen has evolved. It’s much more about diversifying your pipeline and developing relationships than building a better mouse trap.
To diversify where your leads are coming from contact information can be sourced from a variety of places including in-house lead capture forms, third-party lead gen company, and lead databases. Your sales and marketing teams must experiment to learn new ways of connect with B2B leads as well.
Try a mix of inbound and outbound approaches, keeping in mind that what works today may not work as well tomorrow. We’ve all witnessed how quickly an economic or political shift can turn our current way of living upside down. By implementing multiple ways to find leads, you’ll be prepared for leaks in your pipeline.
7. Reach Out to Leads and Start Building Relationships
Waiting will get you nowhere. Whether connecting with inbound or outbound leads, proactively and consistently reaching out is the best way to nurture relationships on the path to purchasing your product. While you don’t want to pester potential clients, you want to be persistent. We know it’s a fine line between the two, but the tone of your communications will clarify the difference.
Instead of “following up” or “circling back” to your prospect’s inbox which can decrease booked meetings by 5% continue to add value by sharing more information or advice. By showing you’re invested in their personal success, leads will be more likely to respond.
8. Qualify Potential Prospects to Make the Most of Everyone’s Time
Not every prospect that makes its way into your pipeline is a good fit right now. That doesn’t mean that those leads won’t need you further down the road, but for both of your sakes, it’s best to determine who is in a position to purchase and who needs a bit more time.
Qualifying prospects is the process of assessing a lead’s sales readiness based on their stage in the buyer’s journey and how well they fit the ideal client profile.
Here’s a crash course on how sales and marketing might qualify prospects:
The buyer’s journey stages:
- Awareness: The prospect experiences the symptoms of a problem and begins to look for solutions.
- Consideration: The potential buyer defines the problem (not just the symptoms) with industry terminology and makes a list of all potential vendors and alternative solutions.
- Decision: Finally, the shortlist is vetted and a decision is made based on procurement’s purchasing criteria.
The lead types:
- Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs): a potential prospect that has responded to a campaign and expressed interest in learning more.
- Sales-accepted leads (SALs): to be sales-accepted, the lead needs to meet the predefined metrics agreed upon by the marketing and sales departments that determine if the prospect is a good fit for the solution.
- Sales-qualified leads (SQLs): these potential clients have conversed with a sales representative and are ready to engage in more detailed discussions with an account executive.
Implementing a qualification process helps you’ll maximize your conversion rate and make the most of everyone’s time. Sales will be able to prioritize prospects that are ready to make purchasing decisions. In turn, drip campaigns can nurture those who aren’t quite ready to have a sales conversation. It’s a win-win for all involved.
9. Close Deals, Rinse and Repeat
Easier said than done; we know. But if you follow the eight previous steps, then closing deals will be the natural progression of a solid lead generation strategy. It’s rare for a lead to go from cold to closed in an instant. Expect to nurture and qualify each prospect that comes to your pipeline.
Keep in mind that it’s not just about making the sale and moving on to the next opportunity. Part of the rinse and repeat process is continuing to nurture the relationship beyond the buyer’s journey. Happy customers love to share their experiences with their network, and as a customer acquisition strategy, word of mouth is five times more effective than advertising.
Best Lead Generation Strategies for Startups: Four Tips to Get You Going
Double Down on Email Marketing
Email engagement is on the rise, according to 77% of marketers surveyed.
While there may be many new and trending lead generation strategies to distract us, email marketing continues to have one of the highest ROIs of all at 42:1. So now is not the time to shift focus, even if your email campaigns have failed in the past. You just have to find what works for you and your prospects.
So why is email marketing so important in a world where people absorb so most of their content through social media platforms and search engines? Unlike Instagram and Google, emails are a direct line between you and your potential customers. Email marketing helps you initiate conversations and follow up with leads without having to outbid or outrank competitors.
If you have left email marketing on the back burner, there are many different ways you can turn up the heat from newsletter subscriptions to cold outreach campaigns. For best results, consider running inbound and outbound campaigns in tandem. In doing so, you can help keep your customer acquisition costs in check.
Optimize Your Landing Pages for Higher Conversions
Landing pages serve the dual purpose of capturing leads and warming up potential customers. The great part about landing pages is that they can be added to nearly any marketing strategy, including ads, social media posts, blogs, emails, etc. However, meeting your conversion goals takes more than distribution; it takes optimization.
Think of a landing page as a mini website. You will constantly change the layout while also looking for ways to improve the content based on the feedback you get from platforms like Google Analytics. The tough part is that you have to base a lot of your updates on inference. For example, a high bounce rate could be anything from slow loading times to product offer confusion. Sometimes, it will take several rounds of trial and error to get your landing page to produce the desired outcome, but once you have it dialed in, your lead generation will feel like it’s on autopilot.
If you are struggling to optimize your landing pages, ask your team these questions:
- Does the landing page focus on ONE call-to-action?
- Can someone unfamiliar with your industry and/or product explain the benefits of your offer?
- Does the content assure you will deliver on the promises made in the ad and headline?
- Is the value of the lead magnet high enough to entice visitors to exchange contact information?
Leverage Your Competitors’ Audience
You don’t have to create an audience from scratch. Your competitors already have the attention of your ideal clients. The trick is leveraging lead generation strategy to tap into their pool of prospects and customers.
You can discover your competitors’ audience through lead databases that offer technographic information, advertising platforms that allow for advanced targeting, or marketing tools that analyze data like social media followers. Using your competitor’s audience to generate leads can improve your marketing efforts and reduce the length of your sales cycle.
When targeting your competitor’s audience, be tactful in your approach. Empathize with the common frustrations of current solutions and explain how and why your company combats those challenges. Make sure you understand the switching costs the resources it takes to jump from one solution to another and be ready to explain why the change is worth it.
Though powerful, targeting competitors’ audiences should be used as a supplemental strategy to other lead generation tactics. There is a lot of fish in the sea and you should never limit yourself to a small pond when you could be fishing in an ocean.
Hone In on High-Value Leads on LinkedIn
Last but not least, we have come to LinkedIn, the ultimate social media platform for B2B lead generation. With four out of five members holding influence over business decisions, LinkedIn is full of high-value leads to pursue.
What we love about LinkedIn is you don’t have to invest in advertising or keep up with a complex social media calendar to open up opportunities. Since LinkedIn was developed as a networking tool for professionals, the best way to open up conversations is to connect with your prospects directly. In doing so, you can send messages to those that match your ideal client profile and discover if your product is a good fit for their company.
Sales Navigator, LinkedIn’s premium lead generation tool, provides additional insight into members so sales representatives can find the decision-makers in a company without doing a bunch of manual research.
We have found that LinkedIn campaigns combined with email marketing and cold calling create an optimal multichannel approach to outbound lead generation that is perfect for B2B companies entering a new market or expanding their market share.
It’s okay if you have struggled with lead generation in the past. Truth be told, most companies have more failures than successes when it comes to attracting new customers, especially in the beginning. All things equal, what separates the champions from the challengers is consistency.
Continually pivot your strategy till you find the lead generation processes that work for your company. As long as you have the right team and the right product for your prospects, you will eventually discover the best way to connect with your ideal clients.