In business, leads are entities that have some interest in a company’s product or service. Hence, lead generation is the process of taking leads from the moment of getting attracted to a product/service to the point of closing a deal. Lead generation has several stages and a rich vocabulary of terms and conceptions. Although the overall lead generating activities are similar in B2B and B2C marketing, there are core differences in strategies, drivers, and priorities.
The B2B lead generation process is aimed at courting B2B leads not only into a single purchase but also into personal and loyal relationships with customers. Even though the configuration of the B2B sales funnel implies that prospects make a beeline for a purchase, B2B leads typically have a non-linear customer journey that continues in upsells and cross-sells.
Technology is evolving, and ways of nurturing and qualifying new B2B leads are getting more advanced. The article examines the major components and aspects of B2B lead generation in 2021.
Why do businesses need B2B lead generation?
There is no business without lead generation. Competition is high; the workforce is expensive; business-to-business potential customers are well-informed and knowledgeable about their needs. B2B prospects and leads most likely won’t respond to a pushy strategy and aggressive selling tactics. Therefore, looking for new clients cannot be left to chance.
B2B lead generation is essential because it requires all kinds of research. Using audience research and data analysis, top-quality B2B lead generation is based on identifying ideal customers and targeting all digital messages to match their tastes. After seeing leads’ responses, B2B marketers and sales reps – who are in charge of trouble-free leads supply – tweak and adjust the wording in email sequences, improve visuals in social media posts, fix call-to-action on landing pages, or do whatever feels right for the lead generation channel they are testing right now. Such endless interplay between B2B leads and lead generators is needed to fill the sales funnel with qualified prospects.
The more warm leads the B2B lead generation strategy brings, the shorter the sales cycle becomes and the higher your business’s revenues can get.
Who is responsible for B2B lead generation?
Nowadays, both sales and marketing departments join their forces to generate leads. To conduct B2B lead generation with better KPIs, marketing and sales experts need to practice a collaborative approach:
- Agree on the goals.
- Share responsibility.
- Have equal access to updated data in CRM.
- Establish a closed-loop reporting system between the teams.
Although each individual company can divide lead gen responsibilities differently, the general principle is that marketers generate large volumes of prospects and leads based on data while sales nurture and qualify them.
In marketing teams, demand generation marketers start by creating interest in a product or service in a company’s potential target audiences by posting relevant and engaging content online, suggesting educated solutions to their probable pains, and establishing the company as an authority in the field. According to the sales funnel, demand generation marketers operate at the Awareness Stage. They can be assisted by the job of growth hackers who collect and analyze large amounts of data and provide the foundation for taking action. As a hybrid of marketer and coder, a growth hacker ensures targeting the right audiences and driving the decision-making through endless testing and digging.
Some businesses have a team of appointment setters who select, qualify, and nurture prospects and leads before handing them over to the sales team. Other companies simply divide their sales teams into those who source, research, and nurture leads, referring to them as sales development representatives, and those who deal with objections and close deals, referring to them as business development managers.
Once the roles are established, a B2B lead generation pipeline is easy to manage. Marketing and sales professionals know their responsibilities and can focus on figures and KPIs rather than on tedious tasks that take away from their performance.
What are B2B leads?
Following the difference in responsibilities between marketing and sales, the leads they generate also differ. Marketing leads, also known as marketing-qualified leads or MQLs, are people who expressed some interest in a company’s products, services, and solutions and have a promise of turning into paying customers. Marketers recognize marketing leads by their behavior when they submit a lead form or create an account on the website, subscribe to a newsletter, download free ebooks and checklists, attend the company’s website, webinars, and events repeatedly, and so on.
Sales leads, also known as sales-qualified leads or SQLs, are essentially marketing leads who keep moving down the B2B sales funnel and clearly express their desire to get engaged with a company’s product or service. Sales leads can be hesitant about buying the product right now, but they welcome an opportunity to discuss options with a sales team, ask questions on social media or in a live chat, request additional data on product quality and features, and run a demo or a free trial.
This classification of B2B leads belongs to lead-based marketing aimed at large leads volumes and, some may say, vanity metrics. Many businesses came to realize that targeting accounts instead of individual leads is a better investment of human and financial resources. Account-based marketing is based on building relationships, so it uses finely-tuned hyper-personalized messages. To compare, it is like mass industry versus a boutique shop. A need to tailor your messages to each client (account) highlights the advantages of outsourcing lead generation to a professional B2B lead generation company.
How are B2B leads generated and nurtured?
Basically, the methods of B2B lead generation can be similar to the ones of demand generation, growth hacking, content marketing, and account-based marketing. All different types of marketers and sales reps select the most relevant activity for a task at hand from the set of lead gen techniques.
- Content. Content marketers provide information to be posted online, often with a call to action (CTA), such as sign ups, like-share-comment CTAs, etc. Tailored content wets the audience’s appetite for more and takes prospects to lead magnets and landing pages.
- Cold email / cold calling. Sales reps reach out to B2B leads that leave their personal information in lead forms on the website or social media platforms and explain the benefits of their product or service. Cold email or cold calling is usually conducted through automated software.
- Ads. Ads are another way to catch your leads’ attention and encourage them to click on a landing page and take action.
- Social selling. Whereas a content marketing approach entertains and educates audiences, leaving it up to them to take action, social selling happens when marketing or sales reps slide into B2B leads’ DMs (direct messages) and strike a conversation about their product or service. To be effective, conversations need to be personalized and tailored to each particular lead using the data.
- Sales cadence. Using a variety of methods, sales reps create a sequence of touchpoints with a prospect courting them into the deal closing stage.
- Product trials and demonstrations. Although some sales and marketing teams may offer it at the early stages of lead generation in the absence of better enticing strategies, trial and demo requests usually show their readiness to buy.
Data-driven B2B lead generation
Without correctly analyzed data, all marketing and sales efforts bring bad-fit prospects and leads and poor, unsatisfactory outcomes. Today’s technology disables a “spray-and-pray” approach and enables professional sales and marketing teams to make only laser-focus strikes. Marketing software pinpoints audiences while automated tools bring highly personalized content specifically to targeted prospects and leads. Marketers and reps only need to use data at each stage of lead generation. First, data shapes ideal customer profiles; then, data-driven marketing identifies the audiences’ needs and pain points correctly; finally, data underpins content creation. From A/B testing to CTR, open, and conversion rates, data should guide and support all B2B lead gen activities and the decision-making process.
Tech stack for B2B lead generation
Similarly to data, technology is also part and parcel of a successful and effective B2B marketing and sales strategy. Using a metaphor of the human body, data is blood, and technology is the heart of lead generation strategies. These days, lacking marketing software and automation tools hampers down any correctly envisioned actions and activities.
Here’s what should be included in an average tech stack.
First and foremost, Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) are to put sales and marketing teams on the same page and create a shared pool of information on customers, lead generation efforts, and past sales.
Then, sales and marketing teams need automation tools for their corresponding activities. For example, email automation, bulk emailing, auto-responders, landing page builders, email address scraping, etc. Each marketing and sales activity has a stand-alone or integrated tool. Sales are managed through tools that oversee workflows and pipelines, analyze past deals and sales performance data, predict larger sales trends and extract data.
Next, there are tools for boosting motivation in sales reps through sales gamification.
Finally, business intelligence software provides smart insights and predictive analytics for data-driven decision-making.
Estimating your needs
If you work in the B2B realm, you must have realized by now that attracting new clients can’t be anything but a deliberate process. Approaching B2B lead generation strategically, a business of any scale and ambition will improve its performance and increase its revenue. In times when marketing, sales, and engineering have rather blurred lines, it is especially important to arrange your B2B lead generation in a smart way.
Consult professionals at Belkins and give a boost to your lead generation activities.