3 strategies for B2B lead generation
What value is your B2B marketing department bringing to the table? Throughout the industry, marketers are finding it harder to concretize the business impact of long-term brand investment and more often than not, they are measured on quantitative KPIs. The sad truth is that the marketing function is losing legitimacy within the organization and at c-level. Adding to complexity, the process of generating solid leads for new business development is not as straight forward as it used to be. So which strategies should you incorporate to create a consistent flow of qualified leads in your B2B business?
In this post, I will guide you through the following:
Why B2B lead generation has become difficult
3 strategies for B2B lead generation
Ad budget breakdowns
How to activate and nurture leads
Tools for tracking
Why B2B lead generation is important, yet difficult
So why should marketers consider lead generation in the first place? For one, lead generation is something that provides very tangible value here and now.
Historically, marketing departments have struggled when it comes to defining what measurable value they bring to the table. It can, for instance, be hard to isolate the effect of a B2B advertising campaign, as there are numerous factors that come into play when measuring (e.g. market competition, local differences in product perception, seasonal influence on-demand or similar).
So, tactical lead generation represents a very natural opportunity for the marketing function to create quantifiable value in working with and supporting the sales function to create new business.
However, the process can be challenging. Especially in B2B. The following are some of the factors that further complicate the functions work with generating leads:
1. Long purchase journeys
B2B buying is very time-consuming and the decision is not something that happens overnight. The minimum buy-in time is approx 3 months and many work with even longer periods.
2. A fragmented buying process
The process is also a bit more complicated today. It's is in no way linear, which makes it harder to navigate in. The B2B buyer seeks out information themselves, collects different offers, and even though these are great buying signals, the process can be put on hold as quickly as it initiated.
3. There are many decision-makers
This means that marketing must broaden out its focus in order to influence even more stakeholders (e.g. procurement) in the buying process. Gone are the days of single ad thinking, as you must now think more holistically to comprehend different stages of the customer journey.
4. Complex solutions
Finally, B2B companies often require a greater deal of care, because the products and services are so complex. As a provider, you are often affecting parts of the business value chain, which means even more handling.
Due to these developments, marketers and sales personnel alike cannot rely on a slim pipeline. So which strategies should you incorporate to create a consistent flow of qualified leads?
The 3 best lead generation strategies
Before going into depth with each strategy, I want to highlight one aspect they all have in common: They are all gated.
Gated content is content that you must sign-up to receive. Thus, it must create some sort of value based on pains, gains, questions or doubts that the target audience is asking for. And that value should be great enough for them to hand in an email permission. It could be specific industry knowledge that is worth someone's time, a case study that gives inspiration on how to work, or a new offering that will cover a specific customer need. Note that all of these examples can embrace different stages of the customer journey. That’s essential.
Think carefully about both the message and the content you want to create. Specific Niche content has a far greater impact and therefore creates more qualified leads.
Now, let's move into the 3 strategies that work well for B2B lead generation: Insights-driven content, Webinars, and Interactive Content.
Strategy 1: Insight-driven content
First up is the insight-driven content. This approach to lead generation is very much content-marketing driven and with your company's expertise within the field, you share your insights, methodologies or tips. To make it relevant for your target audience, it should be based on the specific issues that the decision-maker is dealing with.
On LinkedIn, this is not only a very popular lead-generator but also something that helps position you (your brand's company page, sales personnel or similar) as a trusted advisor within the network, which will generate even more new business in the long run.
A few examples of insight-driven content, if your B2B offering is knowledge:
If your offering is a product, you might use other tactics such as vouchers, product tests, Early Bird offers, waiting list for new products, free shipping, contests etc.
There’s a lot of noise in the market, which means that the consumer's demand for quality is at an all-time high, so invest enough of your time into it for the content to be value-adding. Make your content short and specific (around 4-6 pages is a great length), and hide away the most sales-like messages, as they scare consumers away. If your content is written, for instance, an eBook, consider just using a simple call-to-action at the back cover.
Strategy 2: Webinar
Webinars are another way to share your knowledge in a specific niche. And with the added benefit of tying your content to an individual (rather than a brand), it automatically becomes more trustworthy, as people trust their peers more than companies. Again, this is something that will position you as a subject matter expert within your field in the long run.
Additionally, webinars are a very effective lead channel, as leads are often cheap to acquire (the commitment barrier is low, as people don't have to be there physically) and easier to engage (80% watch from start to finish).
Think about it. Do you know any other online lead format where you can set the agenda and engage +100 people for an hour? I certainly don't. Just keep it short and simple - more than an hour of webinar will see your audience turn their attention to something else, while you risk that your main message becomes blurry.
The format is also cost-effective in terms of the effort you have to put into it. When you have developed a process for working with webinars (e.g. who to involve, what software to use etc.) you only need to do the preparations, camera set-up, and the execution itself. And this can be done in one or two days of work.
Strategy 3: Interactive Content
Here you set an action as a barrier before you can access content (for example, a calculator or a specific offer). Content can be both gated (so you need permission) or ungated (as content on the website) and is typically linked to one's professionalism and knowledge.
Interactive content is elements that the user can engage with and is often based on the sought after knowledge in the market. Examples of such content solutions include:
The most important aspect of making content interactive is that you involve the consumer in your product or service in a way that makes the transition into sale a lot easier.
Not surprisingly, a proper lead generation campaign needs a proper ad budget. You can do so much organically, but if you want to see results with your lead generation, your content needs spend behind it. Looking at the total budget only 20% should be production, while 80% should be put into distributing that content.
Would be awful to spend 90% of the total budget on developing great content that only a handful will be able to find. If the right people don't read the good content, what is it worth?
It's also advised to spread the ad budget into different formats including leads ads, custom audiences, and remarketing, as well as always testing out different formats and copy, so make sure to spend the budget right.
Lead activation and nurturing
Once you've captured a lead, you must make sure to qualify them, as this effort makes the difference between a lead going cold and them ending up buying something. And it comes as no surprise that your email marketing plays a vital part in this.
Email marketing is the approach that generates the highest ROI (approx. 4400%) compared to for instance affiliate, paid search, or display. This comes down to a focus on the lower funnel and you must work with establishing and nurturing their need by carefully sorting, validating, and preparing your leads for a commercial dialogue.
A discipline such as lead scoring provides an objective lead value to be qualified by sales. It basically comes down to finding out if your lead is interested in the product/service. And you can measure this by metrics such as opening rate, clicks, visits to different URLs (e.g. contact), forwarding, etc.
Additionally, it's advised that your email marketing is largely carried out by automated email flows, which tools such as Active Campaign, Hubspot, and more can provide.
Tools for tracking
As mentioned in the introduction, ROI can be difficult (not to say impossible) to measure accurately. Besides your email marketing, your overall campaign could therefore incorporate both soft and hard performance measurements:
Soft values: Traffic to landing page, organic placement, dwell time, and other analytics
Hard values: Call tracking (how many have called), micro-conversions such as pre-purchase transaction (a sign-up to receive sales material), or direct purchases
A few tools in your marketing set-up that will help you to document this impact could be Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Facebook Business Manager and trailhub.
Needless to say, you should involve the sales department in this process - making sure that it's aligned with your CRM and the people who have their finger on the pulse of sales.