What’s the most common situation in startups and small businesses? They have a gorgeous product or service and want to sell like mad, but they are unpleasantly surprised to find out that only paid ads, or a website, or whatever source of sales development they opt for, can’t generate enough prospective clients to grow revenues and expand their B2B sales opportunities.
Let’s briefly model a few widespread scenarios of how small- and medium-sized businesses handle lead generation.
|Scenario 1. You have just started your business and have expected to attract potential customers by driving traffic to your website. Now you realize that it is not enough, but you don’t have a sales team yet.|
|Scenario 2. You buy bulk lead lists to provide your closers with new B2B leads, but they spend too much time on data enrichment as outsourced lead lists are often incomplete and outdated.|
|Scenario 3. You have a solid sales team that has taken the company’s B2B lead generation under full control, but only with one or two channels and so far their resources are not enough to scale and grow conversion rates, using more lead generation activities.|
The problem is that in order to set up the unstoppable B2B lead generation process in your company, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of how it works in general and what methods and B2B lead generation tactics you should have up your sleeve and juggle them around when the time comes.
Download B2B lead generation guide
To examine in greater detail how to create a steady stream of B2B leads, Belkins experts developed an ultimate B2B lead generation guide on How to Find B2B Leads for Small and Medium Businesses. The guide discusses the key elements and methods of the ideal top-of-the-funnel marketing with the best practices and tips from our experts and guests on the Belkins Growth podcast.
For this article, we cherry-picked 4 ways to approach generating B2B leads just to suggest a few quick fixes to your lead nurturing and appointment setting issues, such as:
- Doing lead research
- Doing content marketing
- Improving deliverability
- Using LinkedIn to the fullest capacity
Should you implement all pieces of advice or just one? This largely depends on the specifics of your product, niche, and market. But we firmly believe that B2B leads are better generated when campaigns include multiple touchpoints from multiple channels. So, we highly advise you to put up a solid marketing and sales strategy and use as many B2B lead generation tactics as humanly possible.
Doing lead research
Many companies see generating lead data as part of the sales reps’ role. Reps can be in charge of the entire B2B sales cycle, from lead research to appointment setting. Also known as growth-hacker and demand generators, reps who are in charge of lead research and data enrichment prepare lists of contacts with names, job titles, email addresses, and company names.
If a company has an in-house team of growth hackers or buys lead lists from third-party vendors, sales reps start nurturing warm, qualified leads right away without scouring the Internet for prospects.
Professional growth hackers and demand generators must have their own tricks of the trade, but if you want to ensure your sales reps do their best generating lead data, here are a handful of recommendations to use.
- Draw on the past deals data. That’s the most basic tactic any company can pull off. Gather information from a billing or CRM database on recent customers. This will give you criteria for the Ideal Customer Profile, if you haven’t developed it yet. The data you get – industry, company size, deal size, etc. – can be applied to search options on social media and lead generation tools.
- Mine LinkedIn for insights. When using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can use advanced search options and look for best-fit demographics, location, industry, and so on. Track the B2B leads with ‘sales triggers’ and reach out the very moment your service or product becomes the most relevant to them. Also, use social media to learn more about the lead and find insights to make your outreach more personal and useful.
- Leverage automation software. Nowadays, reps can alleviate the bulk of their daily tedious routines to smart tools and software. For example, Echobot Target can inform you of such ‘sales trigger’ events in the leads’ life as relocation, job change, website’s redesign (an important event for B2B software-selling companies), planned investment, etc. Salestack enables you to track prospects and suggest relevant personal touches. LeedFeeder tracks website visitors and makes smart predictions about their purchasing behavior.
If you opt for third-party lead lists, your major task is to ensure that the vendor is reliable and the list is fresh and updated because incomplete and outdated lead data is the largest problem with purchased lists. Here’s how to make sure you are doing the right thing:
- Don’t buy before checking. It’s common practice to check a list before buying. Dial a few numbers or email a few contacts and see what kind of response you’ll get. If you get too many bounced back cold emails and voicemails, the odds are the list is outdated and not worth your investment.
- Don’t buy stale leads. Easier said than done. How can you make sure contacts on the list are relevant and recent? Buy a subscription. Subscription-based services update their lead databases regularly, and their clients always have access to fresh B2B leads.
- Don’t expect lead lists to solve all your lead generation issues. It is not enough to purchase a list of contacts and expect business-to-business lead generation sorted for a long time. Approached without the preliminary warm-up and groundwork, email blasts may return little or no response and damage your email deliverability rates. These issues need to be addressed regardless of how you procure lead data.
Doing content marketing
Content marketing is one of the pillars of inbound B2B lead generation strategies. Putting up informative blog posts and how-to guides is a great way to build authority in the field and start a community of experts. In terms of content, any form of textual, visual, or video materials can generate leads.
The most important thing is for content to be searchable (so that potential clients could find you), actionable (so that potential clients could apply the knowledge to their real-life issues), and relevant to the stages of the buyer’s journey.
Mapping your content to the buyer’s journey
The terms ‘sales funnel’ and ‘buyer’s journey’ denote the way a prospect goes from an interest to buy to an actual purchase seen through the eyes of salespeople and customers. The idea is to show the stages prospects take from Awareness to Consideration to Decision and assign relevant content that will help prospects move between stages by getting new information and answers to their questions.
Content managers fill up the company’s website with the content corresponding to different stages of the buyer’s journey, contextualizing their pain points and showing ways of dealing with them.
At the Awareness Stage, or at the top of the sales funnel, prospects don’t know yet that this product or company has a solution to their problem, so this idea is distributed through:
- blog posts, articles, and landing pages;
- webinars and presentations;
At the Consideration Stage, or in the middle of the funnel, B2B leads get interested in the product or service, yet they are not sales-ready and need nurturing through:
- eBooks and reports;
- training videos and how-to guides;
- product brochures and checklists.
At the Decision Stage, or at the bottom of the funnel, B2B leads need a little nudge to trigger a B2B sales deal through:
- case study and references;
- testimonials and success stories;
- white papers and product documentation.
From time to time, content managers analyze what they have on the website and how it aligns with the buyer’s journey to optimize the company's content.
By regularly posting useful materials, the website can generate enough traffic with paid ads and organic search so that sales reps would have a steady flow of B2B leads to nurture and convert. The content is to be optimized for organic search.
SEO optimization of your website
Each company should include search marketing into the list of B2B lead generation strategies. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy used to help websites increase their visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, AOL, Yahoo, and others.
- Organic search marketing includes SEO (search engine optimization) that improves the companies’ ranking if they structure their websites, earn backlinks, use keywords and meta tags, and create top-quality content.
- Paid search includes SEA (search engine advertising), also known as Pay-Per-Click, a type of advertising, which is shown to users only when they search for certain keywords above organic search results.
How to improve the visibility of your website for Google? Here are some recommendations authorized by Google:
- Get the knack of keyword search. Don’t overuse the same keywords. Discover new keywords and phrases for landing pages and websites. Use keywords not only throughout the text but also in titles and subheadings.
- Organize your website properly. If you want new customers to find your content, let Google find your website first by providing a sitemap and using a clear structure with unique titles.
- Provide proper descriptions and meta tags. Google requires websites not only to have relevant snippets and meta tags added but also to have unique and accurate descriptions corresponding to the content of the page. Add descriptions to images as well.
- Make a mobile version of the website. Starting from 2016, Google has been ranking websites based on their mobile version. If you’re only planning the transition, speed up.
Improving email deliverability
Email marketing is one of the most popular lead generation tools in your marketing tool belt. However, email deliverability issues can be so disruptive that SMBs often prefer to outsource their email outreach campaign to a reputable B2B lead generation agency.
How to benefit from lead generation tools
What can you do to avoid your messages getting blocked by ESPs and being sent to spam? Here are our best practices:
- Warm up your email domain. First, never send marketing campaigns from the corporate mail. Use a third-party email service provider, like MailChimp, to avoid losing your corporate inbox in case of blocking. Second, start warming up your new email address by sending out messages to recipients who you know and who will open and probably reply to your emails. Thus, you signal the ESP that you’re trustworthy and shouldn’t be blocked. Gradually increase email volume until you reach as many emails per day as you need.
- Authenticate your email address. Enable Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to show that the ID address can be trusted.
- Be cognizant of spam patterns. ESPs block or mark as spam unrecognized addresses based on their behavioral patterns. If you know those patterns and avoid them, the odds are, ESPs will not mark your messages as suspicious. For example, there is a list of spammy words that B2B marketers should avoid using in their email outreach at all costs. The list includes manipulative words (exclusive deal, call now), “cheap” words (everybody wins, get out of debts), far-fetched adjectives (amazing, cash bonus, risk-free), and words IN ALL CAPS.
- Control email cadence. There’s hardly any email drip campaign where you can send messages every day. Usually, messages should have a 2- to 5-day delay. For newsletters, sending one email per week or per month is totally acceptable.
- Craft interesting emails. The first cold email should be short yet engaging. Find a shared interest and personalize your email referring to it. Show the recipient that you have a solution to their problem and stir up their interest.
- Test it rigorously. As is always with marketing, testing is required for all your choices. Run tests on subject lines and the email length. Check out what day and time of sending works better. The trial and error method works in email marketing perfectly well.
As you can see, these lead generation tools can significantly help you enhance your email deliverability.
Using LinkedIn to the fullest capacity
LinkedIn can become a great addition to your B2B lead generation strategy if you know how to handle it. Growth hackers can use LinkedIn for lead list building. B2B marketers can find new audiences for their content on LinkedIn. Salespeople can discover personal touches for their email sequences in discussions on LinkedIn. Thus, LinkedIn can be used for both outbound and inbound approaches.
To make the best use of LinkedIn, harness your lead generation process with automation software.
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator offers advanced search options and customized lead recommendations (based on past deals). Sales Navigator has integration with CRM platforms and log sales activity, enabling reps to track, save, and generate leads.
- LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms helps salespeople gather lead data by asking users simple questions. The option of auto form fill enables users to complete only the missing information.
Unfortunately, native LinkedIn software options don’t have automation features and expect salespeople to do all the tasks manually. With the martech landscape constantly evolving, there are many other LinkedIn activity automation tools, analytics software, and extractors that B2B marketers and reps can use on the platform to enhance their prospecting and lead nurturing activity.
- Want to automate tedious tasks on LinkedIn? Use LinkedHelper 2 and Dux-Soup to personalize automated messages and boost brand visibility on the platform.
- Want to handle outreach for LinkedIn together with other communication channels? Use Expandi to message across multiple platforms and have automated updates to your LinkedIn leads.
- Want unique lead lists with verified email addresses? Use AeroLeads to scrape lead data from LinkedIn and transfer it to your CRM.
- Want to manage your LinkedIn account? Use SocialPilot to automate and schedule your posts/comments.
- Want to scale your outreach on LinkedIn? Use Prospect.io and Octopus CRM to automate more than 1000 cold emails per month and set up ‘sales triggers.’
Go deeper into lead generation
LinkedIn, email outreach, SEO, and lead data are just a few of many more methods used to put B2B leads into the pipeline. Before coming up with the ultimate B2B sales development strategy, set up all the available channels.
Only when you have the channels, technology, and teams ready, you will streamline and optimize the entire lead generation process.
It’s essential to adjust clients to your business operations, so use the proven strategies mentioned above and download Belkins Guide on Lead Generation for Small and Medium Businesses to get a firm grip on the key aspects of sales development.