Leads are like gold for today’s B2B marketers. They signal to sales teams that buyer intent exists (or, at least, that there’s a general interest in product offerings), helping salespeople focus their efforts and driving more profitable sales engagements.
Lead generation is a priority for many marketing departments. 36% of marketers said it was a top goal for 2022, according to a survey from Semrush. However, many sales and marketing professionals still struggle to identify, target and generate leads, meaning they could be missing out on key business opportunities.
By prioritizing B2B lead generation and fine-tuning campaigns, sales and marketing departments put themselves in a much better position to connect with the right prospects and drive better operational performance. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamentals of B2B lead gen to help set your teams up for success.
What is B2B lead generation and why does your organization need it?
B2B lead generation is the process of attracting individual prospects who are the most likely to be interested in your product or service offerings, giving sales teams the opportunity to engage with potential customers who have the highest chances of successful conversion.
Today’s lead generation strategies employ a complex set of sophisticated techniques to identify those prospects, build engagement and familiarity, and ultimately funnel them to sales team members who are ideally equipped to move the conversation forward.
The benefits of B2B lead generation include:
- Boosting brand awareness: A dynamic B2B lead generation strategy is about more than simply targeting customers — it also includes building brand awareness and establishing brand authority. A combination of thought leadership, event participation and an active, insightful blog all reinforce the value of your brand in your customers’ minds.
- Refocusing teams on more creative work: Marketing automation is one of the hallmarks of a great B2B lead generation strategy. Not only do the right marketing technology tools help you streamline your processes, they also free your teams up to focus on other responsibilities that put their creative capabilities to work more actively.
- Accelerating sales cycles: B2B lead generation streamlines the entire sales cycle because sales teams are able to reach prospects who are already warm. They understand what their challenges are and might even know how your solutions can help, setting your sales teams up for success.
- Increasing revenue: Effective B2B lead generation strategies help you connect with the prospects who are most likely to be interested in your products, making it easier for sales teams to close deals and convert prospects to paying customers. This helps you drive greater revenue with fewer resources spent.
Lead generation aims to eliminate the guesswork that comes with traditional marketing and sales approaches. By deploying data, advanced technology and proven techniques, marketers are able to connect conversion-ready B2B buyers with relevant solutions, creating value for both sides of the relationship.
The foundations of a great B2B lead generation strategy
Building a great B2B lead generation strategy starts by mastering the basics. Consider these foundational principles when putting your lead gen strategy into place:
- Know your audience: Before doing anything, you need to know who you’re trying to target. This will help you focus your lead gen efforts and ensure you’re devoting your marketing dollars to the places with the highest return potential. Hold interviews with existing customers to build appropriate buyer personas, and conduct competitive analysis to learn what types of customers are buying from other companies in the space.
- Understand the marketing/sales pipeline: Everyone is at a different stage of the buyer journey, and different types of content will be more effective depending on the status of each individual customer. Informational blogs, for example, are better for B2B buyers at the awareness stage (those who aren’t actively shopping but might eventually), while case studies are better for those at the evaluation phase (those who are close to making a purchasing decision).
- Use the right technology: Marketing technology — or martech — is a set of tools, solutions and software that enables marketing professionals to streamline, automate and optimize various aspects of their operations. It includes data analytics tools, email marketing software and content management systems, all of which make it easier for marketers to carry out routine tasks, driving better performance and freeing them to focus on other responsibilities.
- Track your performance: You can’t build the most impactful possible lead generation strategies unless you understand how your campaigns are performing. Identify a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) at the very beginning and ensure you have methods in place to track them. This will not only help you quantify the ROI of each of your campaigns, it will also give you feedback that will help optimize future campaigns for better performance.
Once you have the fundamentals down, you’re in a better position to test different strategies and customize your campaigns. The resulting campaigns can better reflect your specific requirements and more effectively meet your performance goals.
12 proven B2B lead generation strategies
The following marketing strategies are among the most tested (and proven) methods for generating B2B leads for your business:
1. A/B testing
A/B testing enables marketers to evaluate specific elements of their campaigns to optimize them for the best possible performance. The information you gather from A/B testing helps you better understand your B2B customers’ preferences, which you can incorporate into other campaigns to replicate your results.
Page elements commonly subject to A/B testing include:
- Calls to action (CTAs)
- Color palettes
- Content structure
- Site navigation
Let’s look at an example to illustrate the point: Say your data is telling you that your website receives a high level of traffic and a healthy degree of engagement, but substandard conversion rates (the percentage of site visitors who complete a specified action). You know that people are visiting (and staying on) your pages, but you need to figure out why they don’t take action once there.
The problem could be your CTAs. Maybe they aren’t compelling enough. Maybe they lack clarity. Whatever the issue is, you can write a few CTA variations and insert them into different versions of your landing page (while also playing with different placements on the page) and see which ones perform best. Once you know what types of CTAs generate the most conversions, you can repurpose that information on other pages for maximum results.
2. Content marketing
Content is still king. At least that’s what the data says. Content marketing now comprises some 26% of B2B marketing spend, according to HubSpot. A great content marketing strategy demonstrates to your potential customers that you are willing and able to provide value even when they aren’t in the market for a product.
Content marketing is about more than simply pumping out blog posts and waiting for the results to roll in. You have to create something your audience actually wants to read. Some of the methods you can employ to learn about the types of information your customers find most engaging include:
- Speaking directly to your customers to learn about their problems, challenges and goals, and building content that addresses those.
- Assessing your first-party data to learn which of the content you’ve already produced is generating the most traffic, and using that insight to inform future content creation.
- Purchasing third-party data from external companies and using that information to understand which competitor content consumers find most engaging.
The ultimate purpose of content marketing is to build trust between you and your customers so that when they are getting ready to make a purchase, your brand is the one they think of first.
3. Search engine optimization
Creating great content is the first step. Getting a potential lead to see it is the next. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of updating various elements of your website and webpages to signal to Google and other search engines that your content is valuable, maximizing the chances of it landing on the first page of search results.
For the best results, focus on optimizing elements like:
- Page speed
- Mobile compatibility
- Content structure
When creating SEO-driven content, you should aim to target a single keyword and build content around that keyword. Carefully selecting keywords that you can compete for and that are actually relevant to your customers increases the potential of experiencing higher traffic and, ultimately, higher conversion rates.
Keyword selection is a critical part of a good SEO strategy. You should aim for a balance of top-of-funnel keywords (focusing on general industry topics like “top content marketing strategies”) mixed with high-intent, bottom-of-funnel keywords (like “best content management systems for my business”).
4. Social proof
Understandably, many B2B customers are leery-eyed when consuming marketing materials that are heavy on product features and benefits. More than anything, potential customers want to hear from existing customers who have already experienced success using your products. In fact, 79% of customers trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from family and friends, according to research from BrightLocal.
Place the names and logos of brands a potential customer will recognize prominently on your website to demonstrate that the brands they trust, trust you. You can also sprinkle testimonials from existing customers gushing over the positive experiences they had with your company.
If you have the time and the resources, you might also consider creating customer success case studies that provide detailed information about a single customer experience, including the problems they faced, the solutions you provided and the results you generated. Case studies are a great way for potential customers to understand the value you can bring to their business, which could encourage them to make a purchase.
5. Lead magnets
A lead magnet is a piece of valuable content you offer consumers in exchange for their personal information (including their name, business info and email address). A lead magnet is among the most effective ways to generate leads because it enables you to build rapport with your potential customers over the information they are most likely to find useful.
Some examples of effective lead magnets:
- Buyers’ guides
Once you have potential customers’ email information, you can segment them according to buyer persona and place them in appropriate email marketing campaigns. Periodically send them personalized emails and other branded content they might find interesting based on their past content consumption behavior and current place in the buyer journey.
Gated content should be tailored to the preferences and interests of your prospects to maximize engagement and ensure you’re reaching the right audiences with the highest chances of converting.
6. Video marketing
Generally speaking, people are visual learners, and that’s what makes video so effective. Video marketing is one of the best ways to transmit information, and data shows that customers are more likely to engage with content if some form of video is embedded in it. According to data from Wyzowl, 86% of marketers have found lead gen success using videos. Take the time to create impactful video content and strategically place it across your site and other online collateral.
Some great examples of video marketing content include:
- A short explainer video embedded in a blog article that describes a complicated concept detailed in the article in simpler, more digestible terms.
- A company ‘about us’ video that showcases your organization’s mission, vision and objectives, while also talking a little about what makes you unique.
- A product demo that details the core features, benefits and value propositions of one (or more) of your products or services.
While there are numerous different ways to create marketing videos, you should aim to keep them short and sweet to maximize the amount of engagement you generate and prevent viewer churn.
7. Guest posts
Backlinks refer to the traffic that comes to your website from hyperlinks on other sites. A good backlink strategy is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site, as backlinks help signal to search engines that your content is reliable and trustworthy, potentially raising your rankings in search engine results pages.
But how do you build that referral traffic? One way is to write guest posts. Partner with an external organization to write hard-hitting content for its blog or produce other content that can populate the third party’s site, emails and social media channels. Not only will this expose your brand to an entirely new audience, it might help you drive new traffic to a number of different pages on your site.
Return the favor by sponsoring recognized industry leaders to write and post content on your site. While this won’t help you generate backlink referrals, it will align your brand with other trusted personalities in the space, helping you elevate your own credibility.
8. Unique research
One of the tried-and-true characteristics of a great piece of content is uniqueness. Content that is highly original and exclusive to your brand is the most likely to generate traffic from the audiences you want to engage with. It can also help you generate referral traffic from other sources in your industry, which will further cement your status as an authority.
When developing original content, focus on telling a story only you can tell. Think of the challenges, experiences and opportunities that have defined you or your customers’ journeys and focus on putting those into a well-structured piece of content. You might also consider partnering with a research agency to produce highly valuable, unique research that generates a wealth of groundbreaking industry data that others can use to inform their own thinking.
The key here is originality: To truly position your brand as a thought leader and industry authority, you need to provide something valuable that potential customers and practitioners can’t find anywhere else. That demonstrates your brand sits at the cutting edge of industry developments, which will make potential customers more likely to want to do business with you.
9. Live events
Live events are powerhouses when it comes to engagement and building brand authority. By bringing recognized industry experts and leaders under your banner to discuss a compelling topic, you’re positioning yourself alongside those heavy hitters and implicitly attaching your name to their expertise.
Beyond thought leadership, live events also create huge value for audience members. In addition to the information they gather from the event, these attendees have ample opportunity to meet leaders and connect with peers, helping them extend their professional networks.
The marketing value generated by live events doesn’t end when the event does. Build a cottage industry of content around your live events, generating assets that summarize key talking points, delve even deeper into a topic or demonstrate how your products or services solve the challenges raised by event speakers.
10. Paid advertising
While SEO is great for generating organic traffic on a budget, you can also invest a larger portion of your marketing dollars in paid advertising channels to maximize engagement and generate more qualified B2B leads.
Marketers can leverage paid channels like Google Ads to bid for a target keyword and earn premium real estate at the top of search results pages, paying the publisher only when their ads get clicks. Paid advertising is a great way to bypass the often-long slog of generating organic traffic, while putting you in closer touch with the customers most likely to convert.
Paid ads also deliver more precise ROI reporting, so marketers can easily assess the performance of their ad campaigns and make more exact decisions about where and how to optimize them for better results.
11. Multimedia content
The best-performing lead generation strategies are often those that employ multimedia approaches to content to create a dynamic experience for users. Written content (like blogs, white papers and e-books) should be paired with videos (mentioned above) and graphic design elements like infographics, interactive maps, illustrations, animations and other forms of visual content.
This will draw a greater number of users to your content (bringing in both those who prefer the written word and those who like images and graphs), while also helping to keep users engaged for longer periods of time by offering more varied forms of value.
Keeping users on your pages longer not only helps with your SEO efforts (engagement is one of the factors Google uses to rank search results), it also increases the chances of users reaching your CTA and taking the action you want them to.
12. Lead scoring
Leading scoring helps you quantify and rank your prospects based on a number of qualifying factors, including their role, company and level (and type) of engagement with your brand. Consider the following questions when quantifying prospect activity and behavior.
- Are prospects engaging with bottom-of-funnel content like case studies, buyers’ guides and product demos? Or are they spending more time engaging with top-of-funnel pieces?
- Do prospects fit any one of your defined buyer personas?
- Are prospects in a position to make a purchasing decision (i.e., are they C-suite with decision-making power or further down the hierarchy)?
Marketing should collaborate with the sales team to determine the relative importance of each of the above factors and decide which ones point to buyer intent.
Lead scoring also helps you prioritize your prospects so you know where to focus your marketing budget. Prospects with high lead scores warrant more attention and a more focused remarketing strategy, whereas those with lower scores might not be worth as much effort.
Enhancing your B2B lead generation strategy
Lead generation is an ongoing process that requires constant reassessment and reoptimization. Consider these methods to improve the quality of your B2B lead generation strategies and ensure they continue delivering value for your business:
Conversion rate optimization
Your conversion rate refers to the share of site visitors that take some specified action, whether it’s filling out a form, downloading an asset or contacting your sales team. If your landing pages aren’t delivering the B2B leads you want them to (Semrush notes that a bounce rate above 70% should be a cause for concern), it might be time to conduct a conversion rate optimization (CRO) audit.
A CRO audit is a complete assessment of your landing pages to determine what elements are preventing goal conversion. Maybe your user experience is clunky and outdated, or your calls to action are unclear and muddled. Whatever it is, a CRO audit helps to uncover those issues so you can revamp your pages and drive the results you’re looking for.
Develop your buyer personas
Buyer personas are generic customer profiles that help you classify the basic characteristics, challenges, interests and needs of each of your different customer types, giving you the information you need to build appropriate marketing strategies.
It’s important to take the time to develop accurate and relevant buyer personas. Marketers should collaborate with sales to understand the general buyer personas based on their experiences, then conduct detailed interviews with both internal team members and actual customers to give depth and life to that information.
Buyer personas make it easier for stakeholders to know the exact types of customers they should be targeting, so they can better focus their efforts for the best results.
Stay at the cutting edge of your industry
The data is in: Content that is unique is the content that tends to perform best. One study from Moz found that 70% of the top-three search results for given topics featured original research. What does that mean? The value you provide should be entirely exclusive to your brand — don’t just pick a generic topic and regurgitate what other brands are saying about it.
Instead, stay informed by steeping yourself in the literature of your industry, building an understanding of the key trends and developments. While exploring the nuances of your industry, make sure to keep an open and curious mind — seek to push your collective knowledge forward by asking the right questions and building new understandings.
When you’ve stumbled upon a compelling question you can’t find an answer to, that’s when you know you’ve found an opportunity to set yourself apart.
Putting intent data at the center of your B2B lead generation strategies
Your B2B lead generation strategies are only as good as the quality of your data. If you don’t have the right data on hand, you might target the wrong customers or miss entire market segments completely, causing you to squander key business opportunities.
When you collect intent data, you’re better able to understand what types of customers are in the market for your products, which can help you learn the challenges and problems they’re trying to solve. Armed with that information, you can build hard-hitting lead generation strategies that put you in front of the right prospects and maximize the chances of building successful customer relationships.
The three main types of intent data are:
- First-party data: This is information you collect from your own sources, including your website, content, email, social media and other online collateral. It’s data you own that tells you information about the people engaging directly with your brand.
- Second-party data: Basically first-party data you purchase from other companies. Although second-party data will only provide insights into the owner’s customer base, if your customers overlap, this can be a resource-efficient way to gather customer information.
- Third-party data: This is data that you purchase from content syndicators or data aggregators, who gather information from a variety of different online sources. While this data can be unspecific, it’s usually the most in depth and comprehensive form of intent data.
At CONTENTgine, we manage the world’s largest repository of B2B content, generating billions of intent signals that give B2B marketers the data they need to create impactful lead generation strategies that drive real results.
Reach out to our team today to get started.