What Really Works for B2B Lead Generation and What is a Waste of Time?

Author
Dmitry Chervonyi
Published
Oct 15, 2021
Reading duration
11m
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If you’re a marketer or a sales rep who has B2B lead generation as part of your job responsibilities, you must be familiar with major lead sources that end with ‘marketing’ - Email marketing, search marketing, content marketing, telemarketing, and so on. Do you use all the lead sources B2B marketing can offer you? Or do you have a couple of preferred lead generation channels? Are the lead sources you use enough to fill your sales pipeline?

The mystery of B2B lead generation lies in the fact that often the cumulative effect of all your prospecting efforts is responsible for a steady flow of B2B leads. If you generate all your B2B leads mostly from one lead source (e.g., referrals or onsite lead forms) and are totally happy with the conversion rate, your lead generation strategy is working for you, and you have no need to waste your time tinkering with it.

However, if your lead generation strategy isn’t working for your sales goals, it’s time to increase the sales team’s effectiveness and scale your business. Then the existing channels, strategies, and practices of lead generation must be reviewed and reconsidered.

Let’s first highlight some of the ways that businesses sometimes overlook in their prospecting endeavors, and then we’ll examine essential lead sources and how to make them work.

The reasons why you have leads but they are a bad fit

Before you even get to specific lead generation activities, certain efforts should go into the preparation. It is quite a waste of resources to post on social media, run advertising campaigns, and optimize the company’s website for conversions if you have little idea of who your ideal customer is. In turn, your target audience has zero awareness of who you are.

Here are some of the potentially problematic areas that you can solve and see your leads getting more qualified almost immediately.

Reason 1. Your ICP and buyer personas are incomplete

All B2B marketers and salespeople know how important it is to create an Ideal Customer Profile and a Buyer Persona. However, many people do not seem to often use these tools in their work. Developing ICPs and BPs is not a fool’s errand. 

Quite the contrary, not only marketing and sales make use of knowing their target audience. This information is useful at each stage of the sales cycle. Growth hackers put up lead lists with the best-fit B2B leads. SDRs who nurture leads know when and with what words to reach out. Product teams have solid data on what features and add-ons to include.

Let’s quickly brush up on the difference between ICPs and BPs. An ideal customer profile is some basic data of the type of business you want to deal with. Normally, it contains information on company size, job titles, and other important metrics. The buyer persona is about individual traits of decision-makers and may include appearance, pain points, means of communication, needs, demographic data, etc. Overall, when working on these tools, marketers, and salespeople usually start with an ICP and then elaborate on buyer personas in greater detail.

Why should you use ICPs and BPs? A great-fit ideal customer profile and buyer personas (1) tailor content to the audience’s needs and pain points; (2) shorten the sales cycle; (3) increase the chances of success; (4) help SDRs stop chasing poor-fit leads.

What should you do?

Most probably, you rely on the past deals, which is a source of insights but may not be enough. You need solid research to support your understanding of who is going to buy from you the most.

Live customer interviews will bring you fresh and truthful feedback on whether your current B2B lead gen strategies are working or not.

The best way to approach the development of ICPs and BPs is to interview all kinds of clients – those who left you and those who have never worked with you yet as much as those who have been your loyal clients for many years. 

In addition to the typical demographic data, make sure you ask the interviewees about their personality (chatty, friendly, melancholic, etc.), habits (where do they go for news), decision-making (how they address their pain points), and communication habits (where and when they check their inbox, what technology they use, what social media they are on, etc.)

When deciding which questions to ask, don’t go into too much detail about customers’ habits. You don’t need to know what brand of cookies your potential customers nibble on with their coffee (unless that’s what you sell). The point is to find out the best way and time to approach your leads and show that you understand what they need.

Then the information about customers and their decision-making process is used to create detailed persona descriptions and quick-reference buyer persona cards to be used by any department.

Conducting live interviews is not a piece of cake. You need to recruit customers and help them get something out of it, too. Offer a gift card or a free service upgrade as a sign of gratitude. Some would prefer to assign live customer interviews to a third party. 

Reason 2. Your value proposition is conflicting or unclear

Again, a company’s value proposition, or unique selling proposition (USP), is one of the most fundamental elements of a successful sales process. It is possible that you have it memorialized somewhere among your company’s business papers. But are all the members of the team familiar with it? 

If B2B marketers and sales reps don’t keep their value proposition in mind when they launch content marketing campaigns and craft email sequences, they will miss an opportunity to reveal the value potential customers will get by buying the product or service from your company.

It’s not prospects who ask you about the value they will receive by doing business with you. It’s you who creates a compelling message that resonates with leads. And you should create a message that goes unadulterated through all the campaigns and sequences your company puts out. Don’t leave your leads confused as to your USP and message you manifest into the world.

Why should you use your company’s USP in your outreach? Also known as value-based selling, a well-defined value proposition (1) helps you see the clients’ needs faster; (2) helps potential clients see your value and make a purchasing decision faster; (3) increases conversion rates; (4) is instrumental in raising your prices and charging more.

What should you do?

Reinforcing your USP is twofold. First, make sure your top three (or more) value propositions are identified. Just figure out what brings potential clients to your product and what makes the product stand out from other products on the market.

For example, Belkins has three USPs:

  1. Drive measurable revenue growth;
  2. Boost the productivity of the sales team;
  3. Make it easier for sales to close.

Then elaborate each USP into features and benefits. For example, how do you “drive measurable revenue growth?” By generating qualified leads, creating personalized email sequences, and ensuring 99% email deliverability. How do your clients benefit from it?

By handing over best-fit leads for sales reps and not letting them waste time in lead research; by having a water-tight sales funnel; by having a high rate of scheduled appointments.

Second, now when your value propositions are clearly articulated and developed, make sure everyone on the team understands them and uses them properly. When website copy, social media posts, and email drip campaigns are written with the product’s USPs in mind, potential customers will recognize it splashed across all your B2B content marketing efforts.

It is important to remark, however, that in conversations with prospects, sales reps need to listen rather than talk. If you put the needs of the lead first, you should establish the most painful component of their work experience. After that, you can guide them to the best decision and only then to a purchasing decision.

Beware not to pretend someone you are not for the lead to buy from you. Now, when you know who you are (or what your product does), you can focus on listening to leads and their needs and help them find the best solutions.

Reason 3. Leads don’t know who you are

In the B2B context, it is much harder to sell if prospects have no idea who you are and what your product does. If you think that a good product sells itself, your ideas about selling are somewhat outdated. In other words, today, you need to increase your business’s brand awareness.

The entire barrage of lead generation tactics has brand awareness among its goals. From trade shows to digital marketing, everything should be conceptualized to create positive associations with your brand, make an impact, and connect with leads on an emotional level. 

Why should you increase your company’s brand awareness? When your company’s brand awareness is high, it is easier to sell because (1) leads respond more positively and interact with your product more eagerly; (2) your lead lists grow faster; (3) you share your company’s vision; (4) you extend your reach wider.

What should you do?

The best way to raise brand awareness is to launch a campaign across multiple B2B lead generation channels.

For example, run paid ads on the web to tell your potential customers that you exist; start a storytelling narrative on social media revealing your brand’s values and authenticity message; distribute the campaign’s message through digital channels.

Using emotions in creating marketing content is a good idea. It’s a mistake to think that B2B content marketing is purely rational. B2B leads are susceptible to emotional messages and proven B2C tactics like using video in digital marketing campaigns. Demonstrating your company’s values, principles, and transparency is essential for brand awareness. There are many good products out there, but customers often make their choice using extra criteria like emotional connection and authenticity. 

What do you need to generate lots of B2B leads?

Many companies underestimate the importance of content marketing for B2B lead generation. Content marketing is an umbrella term that refers to any piece of written, graphic or video content distributed through a company’s website, landing pages, social media platforms, and email outreach. Approaching content creation with the right preparation groundwork is a winning strategy. As we discussed earlier, buyer personas, ICPs, USPs, and relevant messages are ground zero for any B2B lead gen steps.

If you’re not a newbie in selling, you have a website, email sequence templates, and social media presence by now. However, B2B lead generation is such a vast subject that it is possible for any company to let some processes slide. So now let’s review several essential B2B lead generation channels and see if you do everything right.

Social media platforms

B2B marketers can have opposing views on using social media for business-to-business lead generation. Obviously, a lot depends on the product you sell. Some companies have a strong online presence and tremendous social selling. Others use social media for brand awareness rather than a source of lead generation per se. 

The most important thing you need to know about generating leads through social platforms is that, regardless of your business niche, social media is not a silver bullet for your B2B lead generation process. It is reasonable to use it, but don’t bet on it as the only source of all your leads.

What social platform to use? If you’re still asking this question, does it mean that your business has no account on social media? Or you just don’t know where to funnel your marketing resources? Anyways, regardless of what other Internet sources tell you, LinkedIn remains so far the most effective social media for professionals. If your in-house teams are spread thin, focus your attention on being active on LinkedIn. You can experiment with other social networks, too, but in general, lead generation practices on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are popular but ineffective.

How to use social media? When we say that social media is the least effective of all lead generation channels, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be used at all. We imply that the odds are you will generate very few leads directly through social media. However, LinkedIn is a great B2B lead generation platform if you know how to approach it correctly. So, what can you do to capture leads on LinkedIn?

  • Build lead lists. There are many tools to help marketers and reps find well-fitting leads. (1) You can use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and its advanced filtering options to search for leads with firmographics and demographics you need; (2) You can use scraping tools to scrape contact data of leads on your list or extract email addresses of all the likes and comment on the post (Expandi, Phantombuster, AeroLeads, etc.).
  • Use LinkedIn promotion campaigns to direct leads to your website. Whoever gets interested in your posts or promotions on LinkedIn, they are not leads yet. Your task is to guide them to your website or landing pages where they can get deeper into the content. Make sure it is easy to do by engaging leads with free eBooks, offers, newsletters, etc. Remember to add clear call-to-actions and links to the website.
  • Use signup forms wherever it is possible. Leave newsletter signup in the LinkedIn page description and on your Facebook page. LinkedIn Lead Forms are also helpful. However, they are part of LinkedIn paid ads.    
  • Use LinkedIn tools. Many people see social media as free-of-charge platforms. They are free indeed but to make content marketing work on LinkedIn, it is important for B2B marketers to know about more effective paid options. Open an advertising account with LinkedIn and have access to leads of better quality.
  • Increase brand awareness by having an active LinkedIn account. Another important aspect of successful social media marketing many companies forget about is having an active LinkedIn account. If you use the platform as a lead source, be active. Being active on LinkedIn means regular posting and commenting, getting engaged with LinkedIn communities and groups, connecting to other industry professionals and influencers. Make sure the company’s profile description is updated, and new posts are error-free, frequent, and relevant.

Content marketing strategies

Those who use content as one of their marketing strategies for B2B companies know that (1) posts and articles should be tailored to target audiences’ needs and pain points; (2) website copy should be optimized for search engines using relevant keywords and headings; (3) posts and articles should be created to cater to different stages of buyer’s journey.

However, content for your website and blog is something more than posts and articles. Let’s take a look at what else you can use to generate qualified leads through content marketing.

  • Webinars. Hosting a webinar is a great prospecting strategy! Rarely can you sell your product right at the webinar, though. Usually, companies explore their target audiences’ pain points and problems by hosting a webinar on the topic. By giving relevant information to your target audiences, you establish yourself as an authority in the field. By pinpointing their problems, you show that you know who they are and what they need. By gaining a wide audience, you increase your company’s brand awareness. By running webinars regularly, you can guide warm leads to a purchase.
  • Reports and case studies. Research reports and case studies are usually used in the middle of the sales funnel as one of the lead nurturing methods. Those who are already aware of and interested in your product can get more warmed up if they find useful tidbits of information about the problem your product solves and get to understand their own problems better and find solutions.    
  • Videos. You can have a limited number of videos, but if they are of high quality and informative, you can use them over and over again for new leads. It is easier and more impactful to show how to use a product or service in a video than in an article. It is more engaging to add videos not only to your social media pages but also to your email outreach.  
  • Podcasts. Doing podcasts is an incredible lead-generating source. People are now over-stimulated with texts and images. Sometimes, the only time when they can sit quietly and listen to something useful is when they drive. That is why even an hour-long podcast can be efficient in getting your message across. Invite guests who are known in the industry, and your podcast will increase your brand awareness and attract new leads.

What else is needed to help SDRs generate leads faster? 

There are many lead-generating tricks and hacks that marketers and salespeople use with varying degrees of success. Among the most obvious is gaining people’s attention by giving away something for free and achieving your prospecting goals faster by using AI.  

Give away free stuff

SaaS and tech companies can afford to give away free tools. HubSpot’s CRM, Ubersuggest’s SEO analytics, and CrazyEgg’s click data are free. A free tool is an awesome lead generator because (1) you, so to say, give a taste of what leads will get if they start doing business with you; and (2) you encourage them to explicitly consent to getting into your sales pipeline. Free trials work the same way.

However, if you’re not a SaaS company and have no tools to give away, what can you offer? Any informative and valuable piece of content can be used to attract qualified leads. For example, you can give away in exchange for an email address:

  • eBook
  • webinar
  • how-to guide
  • checklist
  • handbook
  • widget
  • template

The list is, frankly speaking, endless and depends on what you do. Some companies will find that giving away royalty-free images for free brings them new leads. Others may find new leads when distributing free fonts or WordPress templates. Tailor your proposition to your target audience’s needs.

Automate your marketing efforts

What marketers and salespeople sometimes misunderstand about marketing automation is that it is not as easy and cheap as we all would like it to be. In most cases, marketing automation is based on AI-powered solutions that feed off data and require its users to have solid lead gen processes in place.

You need to have something serious before you automate it. If, for example, your website traffic is under 2K-4K unique visitors per month, if your lead generation channels have very few leads, if you have only one social media account, you may find an average marketing automation tool too expensive or ineffective for your purposes.

Marketing automation software can not only schedule LinkedIn posts and automate your email drip campaigns (although these are all time-consuming tasks and your workflow will benefit from automation), but the tools also gather analytics and track lead behavior online.

Keep in mind that it is possible to automate and turbocharge each and every stage of the sales process. Lead research, lead nurturing, lead management, lead qualification, lead scoring, data entry, lead generation campaign analysis, appointment scheduling, you name it. Cherry-pick the right tools for your MarTeck, and your SDRs will spend more time closing rather than generating and nurturing leads.

Here’s a basic list of functions you need and marketing automation tools you may find useful.

  • Website tracking. Website tracking and website personalization tools provide contact information on individuals and companies who visited your website (LeadFeeder).
  • Lead generation platforms. There are types of all-in-one software where you can buy access to a sales automation platform and get personalization data and email templates, follow-up and appointment scheduling automation, email finder and lead list building, and other useful features (Hubspot Sales Hub, Prospect.io).
  • Email finders. Working on LinkedIn and across the web, email finders help marketers and salespeople find contact information by simply typing in the lead’s name and/or company (Reply.io, Hunter.io, Voila Norbert, Skrapp, AeroLeads, Datanyze).   
  • Email marketing. Email marketing tools help marketers and salespeople create email drip campaigns and follow-up sequences. Opt for those that are easy to use with an intuitive UX interface and drag-and-drop email builder (MailChimp, SendinBlue, OutreachPlus).

Already know what works for you and what doesn't?

Generating high-quality leads non-stop requires you to use every trick in the bag. Today, B2B buyers need multiple touchpoints across platforms and channels before they make a purchasing decision. From turbocharging your content marketing strategy to leveraging the best marketing automation software, use every available method to funnel qualified leads into your sales pipeline.

Also, outsourcing B2B lead generation services is a viable method of keeping your sales funnel full at all times. See what works best for you, and give us a ring if you think we can help you with counsel and hands-on assistance.

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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