Lead Generators and Lead Generation Services: The Difference

Author
Dmitry Chervonyi
Published
Sep 27, 2021
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8m
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Lead generation remains Problem Number One for the majority of B2B companies unless they outsource it and keep their teams focused on deal closing.

  • What ways to choose to structure your lead generation process?  
  • What components to add to your company’s lead generation strategy?  
  • Inbound vs. outbound approaches: What is best for your business?
  • What lead generators will work best for you?
  • What aspect of lead generation should you outsource to a B2B lead generation agency?    

If you ask yourself these questions, this article is for you. As we march into a massive lead generation discussion, let’s first clear up some of the key definitions.

Lead generation definition

Lead generation is the initial stage of the sales process. Recently marketing became closely associated with creating strategies and developing methods to help sales teams keep their pipelines full with decent leads. Separation of functions – lead generation to marketing and lead nurturing and closing to sales – is incredibly effective in boosting a business’s revenue. Salespeople get busy with closing deals while marketing people do their job of generating interest and building brand awareness.

In its essence, however, B2B sales lead generation occurs at the intersection of marketing and sales. For a lead to be generated, an initial interest in a product or service has to be manifested by leaving a digital footprint on a company’s website or social media. Marketers prepare engaging and useful content to make people interested in the product. Either by contributing to online discussions on LinkedIn or accessing eBooks, webinars, and other informative forms of content, people leave their contact information via an onsite form and, thus, become leads. Now SDRs can start nurturing them into a purchase.

Thus, the sales funnel of most businesses includes lead generation at its Awareness and Consideration stages. Different methods of B2B lead generation introduce products or services to potential clients, explore problems the product solves, and educate leads about relevant information.

What is a lead?

Let’s first define what a lead is, and then we’ll dive into various aspects of lead generation, including types of lead generators in marketing and sales.

Nowadays, in B2B sales, pestering people about products they have no idea about is not as efficient as approaching someone who has indicated an interest in a business’s product in some shape, way, or form. An interested individual is a lead, and the degree of their interest determines whether they are a warm or hot lead.

From the perspective of salespeople, knowing a degree of lead’s interest in the product is useful because they can complement it with relevant information. From the perspective of potential clients, lead generation is helpful because they get personalized content and assistance in making informed choices about products or services.  

The process of understanding what lifecycle stage a lead is in is known as lead qualification. In online marketing, there are the following lead types:

  1. Marketing qualified leads occur at the initial stage of the sales funnel when leads just manifest their interest (leave a comment to a social media post, fill out a landing page form, subscribe to a newsletter, etc.)
  2. Sales qualified leads are more active in their willingness to engage with the product information. SQLs start conversations with chatbots, leave questions on the website, and request a call from an SDR.
  3. Product qualified leads (also service qualified leads when the company distributes services rather than products) are on the last stage before becoming a paying customer. PQLs want to have a free trial or demo before committing to a purchase.

How the B2B lead generation process works

The lead generation process is shaped by many factors. Basically, businesses go where their potential clients are and try to attract them by using different methods of persuasion. Because the major part of sales activities has moved online, it is crucially important for businesses to have a heavy online presence. Here are the two most essential things all businesses must have if they seriously care about their sales.

  • Landing pages. It goes without saying that all vendors have their websites. But a landing page is not part of a company’s website. Having no navigation and ads as a source of traffic, landing pages have a single purpose as they sell only one product or service. If your landing pages are optimized and streamlined to address the major issues and pain points of your target audience, they become a true lead magnet and attract many leads.
  • Content. In marketing, content is a heavy-laden word that basically means any piece of information a business can produce to capture leads. From social media posts and educational videos to how-to articles and eBooks on a business’s website, content helps establish a business’s authority in the field and convince the audience to leave their contact information in exchange for something relevant.

Now, when your website and landing pages are set up and optimized, ready to receive visitors and convert them into leads, you need a variety of promotional channels to generate traffic. Knowing what lead generation channels are available to you and where leads respond better, you can create the best-performing strategy that will keep your pipeline topped off with high-quality leads.

The one who plays an active role in the lead generation divides the process into inbound and outbound approaches.   

Inbound lead generation

Inbound approaches are customer-centric. Inbound lead generation includes promotional channels where prospects are active and decide where to go and what to look for.

  • Organic search. Companies use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure their content is optimized for the keywords people use to look for what they need. Once a business’s website and landing pages are optimized for Google’s algorithms, organic search will bring them higher traffic.
  • Social media. Social media platforms offer businesses opportunities to use social selling, initiate important conversations, and validate their brand by cooperating with influencers and other third parties. By adding clear call-to-action to their social media content, companies can drive traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to their websites and landing pages. In B2B, using LinkedIn is a must for any business’s lead generation efforts.
  • Blog. Blogging provides endless opportunities to tailor your content to your target audience. Each piece of content can be adjusted to different segments of your target audience and different stages of their transition from a lead to a paying customer.
  • Articles, infographics, slides, webinars, and presentations are the top-of-the-funnel lead generation solutions that attract your audience and demonstrate the company’s competence in the field.
  • How-to guides, checklists, surveys, and reports are the middle-of-the-funnel lead nurturing efforts tailored to leads who are on their way to purchase and want to dive deeper and learn more.
  • White papers, customer success stories, and case studies are the bottom-of-the-funnel activities where leads need a final push and objection handling.
  • Videos + podcasts. Video and audio content can be part of social media marketing as well as blogging. Some businesses launch their YouTube channels; others create educational videos and post them on their websites, leaving short snippets for Instagram/Facebook stories. Video and audio content can also be used in guest blogging as many people prefer watching and listening rather than reading.

As you can see, inbound lead generation isn’t selling per se. Instead, social media activities, podcasts, organic search, and blogging provide information, tailoring it to a business’s target audience according to the Ideal Customer Profile and buyer personas. Virtually, a thoroughly developed sales funnel with top-quality content is able to usher leads from top to bottom right into an appointment or a purchase.    

Outbound lead generation

Outbound lead generation also feeds customers to the company’s pipeline, but the effort is driven by SDRs rather than prospects. Outbound lead generation has always been associated with pushing for sales, but recently, sales teams realized that you need to have a rapport with prospects before you start selling. That is why personalization is now at the core of cold calling and cold email outreach.

Here are the most effective outbound methods for chasing high-quality leads.

  • Cold emails. Email outreach is what used to be cold calls and door-to-door sales. However, email marketing shouldn’t be confused with bulk email blasts, a.k.a. spam. Quite the contrary, SDRs who write email sequences build B2B lead lists and search for leads’ information online to make their outreach personalized. Furthermore, efficient cold emails are no longer associated with long messages cluttered with information. Best-performing SDRs craft very short emails to pique the leads’ interest and seek to solve their pain points. By capturing email addresses, sales teams engage leads in newsletters and email drip sequences and guide them through Awareness to Consideration to Intent.
  • Cold calls. Cold calling, or telemarketing, can be as effective as email outreach for some businesses and some industries if SDRs do their homework and personalize their approach to leads.
  • Paid search & PPC. As part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), paid search is when businesses pay Google and other search engines to show their references before organic results. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is a payment model when advertisers pay search engines for the number of clicks rather than the number of views.
  • Display ads. Also part of SEM, display ads engage leads through video, image or text and drive traffic to a business’s website or landing pages to convert. Display advertising is a great tool of nurturing high-quality leads because analytical data informs businesses of their ICPs so that they use specific keywords, images, and messages to target only those who fit their buyer personas. 
  • Networking. Offline events are great venues to meet potential new clients and establish a connection, discussing their problems and your solutions. By attending an event as a public speaker, brands establish their credibility and trust. In the post-pandemic world, networking can be leveraged online. The same networking principles are transferred to online conferences and trade shows. 

What does a lead generator do?

A sales lead generator is a wide term applied to entities engaged in lead generation: Individuals, methods, and services. B2B lead generators include:

  • Individuals who do lead generation activities. A lead generator is a specialist who is skilled in attracting, nurturing, and converting prospects and leads. When looking for lead generators, a company’s HRs post job descriptions and require candidates to be able to get prospects by using different lead generation methods, keep an eye on the ROI for all content marketing activities, and improve lead generation strategies to increase conversion rates. Lead generators are marketers and sales reps who know how to use content marketing, email outreach, and paid options to draw in decent B2B leads. Thus, lead generators are to know marketing, sales, business management, and communication.
  • Methods of lead generation. Basically, any lead generation method can be also called a lead generator because it produces prospects and drives them into the sales funnel. Marketers and reps refer to display ads, landing pages, blog articles, podcast episodes, and whatnots as lead generators. A website that attracts visitors that look for relevant information is a sales lead generator, too. After a lead is generated, sales reps pick it up to follow up or close.

  • Services or agencies that do lead generation activities. Companies that sell B2B lead lists or professionally generate leads for other businesses are also called lead generators. First, not all companies generate leads in-house. B2B lead generation outsourcing is a way out for such companies. Second, even if a company has a lead generation team, buying business leads from a lead generation company can be helpful to eliminate the lead research and growth hacking stage. Outsourcing at least some aspects of lead generation (such as lead research, growth hacking, lead scoring, appointment setting, etc.) helps companies have a high ROI (return on investment).

Being knowledgeable about all the ways and possibilities of B2B sales marketing enables companies to bring in the most qualified leads.

Choosing the best lead generation company

Outsourcing lead generation has become a trend for many B2B companies. Buying business leads allows companies to focus their efforts on nurturing and closing deals. As we wrap up our conversation about the basics of lead generation, let’s explore different types of lead generation agencies.

  • Generic agencies run generic marketing campaigns and sell leads to multiple buyers instead of a single client. Having leads from generic campaigns can work for many businesses as they have flexibility, an unlimited amount of leads, and no leads going to waste if left unused. For example, a lead generator runs a marketing campaign under its own name and sells the leads to Company A, Company B, and Company C.
  • Proprietary agencies run a campaign per single client and tailor it tightly to the client’s ICPs. For example, a lead generator runs a marketing campaign under the name of Company A for Company A and under the name of Company B for Company B. Proprietary agencies cannot sell the same list of leads to several clients because campaigns are hyper-tailored and customized.
  • Lead aggregator is something between lead generation agencies and the end B2B user. If lead generators have unused leads, they sell them to aggregators that resell them further.
  • Media agencies can also be considered lead generation companies because advertising marketing is closely associated with lead generation, and agencies can supplement their revenues by selling leads.
  • Publishers began to venture into the territory of advertising agencies in an attempt to boost their revenue. With print advertising dying out, publishers consider lead generation as one sleeve of their diversifying business efforts.  

Why do you need B2B lead generation?

Sales teams have noticed that if potential clients show an organic interest in the product, it is much easier to handle their objections and take them to a dead closing. Having found your own ways of generating leads, you will expand your sales opportunities.

Furthermore, lead generation efforts include lead research, and lead research facilitates personalization. With personalized email outreach, cold calls, and all other methods, sales teams are more successful in account-based marketing. Account-based marketing is the relatively new lead generation direction where a company’s outreach is account-centric rather than lead-centric.

Why is B2B lead generation important?

Somehow, many people see B2B sales as purely deal closing activities, such as appointment setting, objection handling, and purchasing items. However, for sales reps to close a deal, a lead should be qualified and nurtured to the point of requesting a demo or a free trial. Hot leads that are ready to buy are rare. In the B2B realm of expensive products and one-year subscriptions, it takes time for mildly interested individuals to transition up to a strong desire to buy. Business leads want to be confident that their buying decisions are well-grounded in data and knowledge. Lead generation helps the transition.

At the same time, every company has its own marketing strategy adjusted to the market, product, and resources. If you are on the verge of outsourcing your lead generation, turn to a reputable lead generator.

Dmitry Chervonyi

Dmitry Chervonyi

Chief Marketing Officer at Belkins
Since starting his career in sales & marketing 9 years ago, Dmitry never stopped searching for new opportunities that can turn the tables on sales development and the ways that shape B2B relationships. He is always eager to share his findings with the audience.
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