What is B2B lead generation?

by Adarsh Raj Bhatt in July 22nd, 2021
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Key Takeaways

  • B2B lead generation refers to the activities of a B2B startup’s sales and/or marketing team reaches out to potential buyers in an effort to convert them into loyal, paying customers. An example includes creating content that presents your startup's product or service as a solution to potential customer's problem or need.
  • The reason why lead generation carries so much weight for achieving your sales and digital marketing goals is that it brings revenue to the startup.
  • Lead generation can be increased by improving your Call-to-Action, the landing page, your offering, and your lead-nurturing email campaign.
  • A website can be designed for lead generation by adding your contact number, including forms on all pages, including testimonials as social proof, and featuring trust seals.
  • The quality of lead generation can be improved by implementing lead nurturing and lead scoring, using marketing automation software, and getting sales and marketing to agree on a common definition of “sales-qualified lead.”
  • If you’re looking to track lead generation, establish a tracking system based on (the right) metrics

What is B2B lead generation?

Before understanding what B2B lead generation is, it is necessary to know what B2B startups are. A B2B startup is a startup that sells its products and/or services to other startups and businesses, which, in turn, might have individual consumers or/and businesses as their customers.  

B2B lead generation refers to the activities of a B2B startup’s sales and/or marketing team where the team reaches out to appropriate businesses and converts them into potential customers by persuading them. 

Picture a CRM startup that contacts other businesses in an attempt to acquire leads for its SaaS offering. Since this startup can only offer CRM software to business entities that have actual customers and not to individual consumers who will never need a CRM tool, it is an example of a B2B company.

Another example of a B2B company is an operations outsourcing company like AbstractOps that reaches out to startups to help them understand how they might benefit from outsourcing their day-to-day operations. In the process, the outsourcing company might successfully identify a few ideal customers (or “leads”) and then move on to convincing these ideal customers to do business with it by becoming paying customers. 

B2B leads refer to businesses that you’ve identified as your ideal customers. There are two kinds of B2B leads:

  • Marketing-Qualified Leads. Leads that have a high chance of converting to a paying customer. This likelihood of conversion is evaluated after taking into consideration how the business (or lead) has engaged with your marketing-oriented initiatives.
  • Sales-Qualified Leads. Marketing-qualified leads that have moved downward through the funnel (which is a direction of movement that signifies progress in a sales funnel) in a way that implies that they are ready to be engaged in the sales process.

What is lead generation in digital marketing?

In the world of digital marketing, lead generation is the process of creating content that holds value for your target audience so that they can enter your funnel and eventually convert to paying customers.

The quality of a lead can either be good or poor. A lead is deemed good if it’s someone who experiences positive engagement with your brand and has a good chance of converting. A poor lead, on the other hand, is someone who has little to no interest in your products and/or services.

Here’s the deal.

Even the best-quality leads are sometimes not overtly enthusiastic about conversion during initial interactions. This is because before making a purchase, these leads must first recognize that they desire what you offer, and also that out of all the players in the market, you are the ideal startup that is best-positioned to deliver that (product or service) offering.

In general, good leads have a few common traits:

  • Pre-qualified: A lead is pre-qualified if it explicitly makes the choice to know more after receiving an offer from you. If the lead indicates their genuine interest in learning more, you should reach out to them through the most appropriate channel (e.g., email, Zoom call, etc.) and feed them the details that you know will attract them further. Try to help the lead understand you, have faith in you, and like you. Once they believe that they have a need for your startup's product or service, they have a good chance of converting.
  • Prompt to purchase: If a lead becomes a paying customer after only a limited number of interactions, then this promptness marks them as a good lead.
  • Readily measurable: A lead is considered readily measurable if, post-conversion, you have the capabilities to track the lead and learn more about their needs and/or interests. For example, consider a lead that has previously been a repeat customer of one of your products/services (in the case of a SaaS startup, this could be one of the software tools you offer) and has recently liked or reacted to your social media post concerning that particular SaaS tool. If you’re able to accurately measure this data, then this might be a great opportunity to reach out to your lead and feed them exclusive offers (or whatever alternative marketing idea seems suitable to you). If done well, this could help urge the lead to return as a customer.

Why lead generation is important

Lead generation is indispensable to the continued existence of your startup. Indeed, the survival of many startups is determined by their capacity for generating a sufficient influx of leads at a steady rate. 

The reason why lead generation carries so much weight for achieving your sales and digital marketing goals is that it brings revenue to the startup. While you might currently have a loyal set of paying customers, you will always need high-quality new prospects you can convert to keep the sales (and revenue) momentum going. That’s exactly what lead generation aims to do. Thus, for any startup looking to continue making sales, lead generation is a must. 

There are a few factors that contributed to the lead generation funnel increasing in value in the domain of digital marketing, particularly for startups. These factors are:

  • While the cost of running a lead generation campaign might seem a little prohibitive to some founders, it is still quite affordable when compared to other forms of advertising like billboards, print, and TV. Bonus: the results of digital lead generation campaigns are much easier to track.
  • Digital lead generation campaigns enable founders to target their audience based on criteria such as age, gender, location, profession, pain points, interests, online behavior, etc.
  • Such lead generation campaigns offer a high return on investment.

An interesting bit of information about the lead generation process is that it not only offers powerful benefits to the startup as a whole, but that these benefits are different for sales teams and different for marketing teams. 

Here’s an infographic illustrating this concept:

Source

How to increase lead generation

#1: Make your Calls-to-Action better

Calls-to-Action (e.g., those on your landing page) can be made better by: 

  • Positioning the CTA “above the fold." It should be clearly visible to the visitor without them needing to scroll down. This is because any content of the webpage that is “below the fold” or can be viewed only after scrolling down, will be viewed by about half the number of visitors to the page.
  • Being clear, concise, and specific about how exactly the user will benefit if they accept the offer in your CTA. Whether you’re offering a free guide for download or a free webinar that folks can register for, it’s important to state the offer (and its associated benefits) very clearly.
  • Presenting the CTA with an image instead of with text in order to make the CTA stand out, grab more attention, and impress the lead. 

#2: Make your landing page(s) better

Landing pages can be made better by: 

  • Maintaining consistency in the messaging on the page’s link, headline, and CTA. 
  • Articulating what you are offering as clearly as possible in the headline.
  • Positioning the form (that leads will fill out) above the fold. 

#3: Make what you are offering better

What you are offering can be made better by:

  • Making the offer compelling -- presenting it as a promise of valuable information (useful to leads) instead of simple self-promotion. 
  • Leaving links to your website in whatever informational item you are offering as part of your CTA (e.g., ebooks, webinars, or whitepapers). This encourages leads to easily revisit you.
  • Providing appropriate and enticing offers at each stage of the purchase cycle.

#4: Make your lead-nurturing campaigns (delivered on email) better

Lead nurturing campaigns can be made better by:

  • Presenting what you’re offering in an easy-to-understand way so that potential customers instantly grasp what’s in it for them.
  • Ensuring that the subject line grabs the reader’s attention (by being benefit-oriented) and urges them to open the email.
  • Using minimum images in the email to avoid being automatically categorized as spam and also to deliver a personal touch of being written especially for the reader.

How to make a lead generation website

The quality of your website plays an important role in determining the quality of the leads that you are able to generate. When designing a landing page that’s geared for lead generation, there are a few things you can do that will give boost your conversion rate:

#1: Add your contact number

This might seem like strange (or outdated) advice to tech startups selling SaaS products. But when you include a contact number on your website, it is easier for site visitors to trust you and view your offer as genuine. This is even true for those visitors who don’t actually call using the number (which might be most of them). Merely the fact that a genuine phone number is there might be reassuring for many people.

#2: Include forms on all pages

Including the lead generation form on each page offers site visitors ready access to the form which, in turn, gives a boost to the number of qualified leads you are able to generate. Your forms should ask for minimum information (at least on Step #1) and should be positioned above the fold.

#3: Include testimonials as social proof 

Testimonials can be quite effective by themselves -- but including photos, audio, or video to the mix can greatly complement the power of testimonials. When executed thoughtfully, testimonials can infuse credibility into what you are offering and, by extension, to your branding as a whole.

#4: Include trust seals

Including a trust seal on your site can certainly give a boost to your conversion rates. But we would advise founders to go beyond providing the typical visual sign of safety when choosing which trust seal to incorporate. 

To be sure, trust seals give off a visual signal of security but the best seals are additionally supported by a guarantee to consumers. Ask the trust seal provider if they back their seal up with any such guarantee. This might come in the form of identity theft protection, purchase guarantee, delivery guarantee, lowest price guarantee, etc. 

How to improve the quality of lead generation

Leads are generally the bread and butter of B2B sales, which is why it is often observed that most B2B startups focus on continuously increasing the number of leads that they are able to generate. But unless those leads are strong and good-quality, you’ll only end up with a lot of leads in your hands but very few conversions (or sales). This obviously does not help you.

There are a few things that you can do to improve the quality of lead generation at your startup:

#1: Arrive at a consensus concerning what a “Sales-Qualified Lead” really means

When marketing and sales arrive at a consensus regarding how to define a sales-qualified lead, then only those leads that fulfill the agreed-upon criteria are passed along to the sales team. Such a definition of a sales-qualified lead (that is agreed upon by all team members) does not exist at all startups, despite the fact that its absence takes away from the efficiency of the sales team and the overall quality of lead generation campaigns.

#2: Lead Scoring

B2B startups that implement lead scoring increase their deal close rates, the revenue per deal, and the overall revenue of the startup.

When you score your leads, you rank their level of interest and their fit for sales in accordance with a methodology that your sales and marketing teams have jointly decided. Startups can score leads by ranking them from “cold” to “warm” to “hot” or alphabetically from “C” to “B” to “A.” Or they could use numbers for ranking. 

However you choose to go about it, the basic principle should be to incorporate parameters such as how good a fit the lead is, how interested it is, how ready it is for a purchase, etc. If the fit/readiness of a lead is high but the interest is low, then marketing might do well to thoughtfully nurture the lead. If both fit and interest are high, then the sales team ought to get in touch with the lead and aim for a conversion.

#3: Lead Nurturing

When you nurture leads, your marketing team implements a strategic system of developing relationships with qualified leads. The goal is for the prospect to have your startup's product or service first in mind so when they finally decide to move on from researching to purchasing, they come straight to you and not to a competitor. Lead nurturing helps give a boost to leads that are “warm” or “cold” (which represent generally most of a startup’s leads since “hot” leads that are instantly ready to buy are rare).

Bottom line?

Startups that prioritize the nurturing of leads experience a dramatic increase in the number of sales-ready leads that they generate and a drop in the cost per lead. 

#4: Marketing Automation Software

A marketing automation platform can make a significant difference in improving the quality of your lead generation efforts through what can be understood as smart work instead of hard work.

When you automate your lead scoring and lead nurturing efforts, you are able to scale your sales up as you progress from a few leads to many. It can be incredibly complex to make your sales grow without automation as you will have to devote copious amounts of time, concentration, and overall headspace towards properly looking into every single interaction you have with leads. This includes not just responding to them, but also tracking, measuring, and analyzing them.

With marketing automation software, on the other hand, you can seamlessly tap into detailed measurement and analytics which can improve the quality of leads. Furthermore, the platform would give you an essential overview of the behavior of each lead in the context of the broader sales funnel. The platform would also give you insights into the results that your marketing campaigns have on lead generation, sales, and revenue. 

Lastly, it is advisable to integrate this automation platform with your CRM software.  

How to track lead generation 

If marketing never hears about the leads that it passes along to sales, then it signals a breakdown of communication between sales and marketing (which could end up being particularly dangerous for B2B startups that often have prolonged and complicated sales processes). In other words, it signals the formation of silos with respect to these two teams. If marketing waits for the sale to be completed before evaluating the lead’s quality, then the data will be too outdated to be of any use in managing real-time lead generation. This is why it is recommended to set up a (closed) marketing-sales feedback loop for improved tracking.

When such a closed feedback loop exists, then marketers can pass along more data to sales, and sales can send over sales activity reports (and other feedback) to the marketers. Integrating marketing automation software with CRM helps implement closed-loop analytics, enabling marketing to attribute revenue to lead generation and track its overall ROI.

If you’re looking to track lead generation, establish a tracking system based on metrics. After this, all team members should offer feedback to each other through the CRM software. But what KPI metrics to use? And how to measure them?

You can use the aforementioned integrated setup to measure and analyze metrics that are important to your lead generation (and broader marketing) strategy. Then you can make use of the insights gained from these metrics to track leads, review current marketing efforts, and optimize future lead generation campaigns. 

These metrics can include:

  • Source of leads
  • Quantity of both qualified and unqualified leads generated from each channel
  • Quantity of qualified leads and whether they are sales- qualified or marketing-qualified) 
  • Opportunity. A qualified lead becomes an opportunity when they show signs of having a relevant pain point, an interest in solving this problem, and being a good fit for your startup's particular product/service.
  • Cost per lead
  • CTR or Click-through-Rate
  • Conversion Rate
  • Potential Sales Volume
  • Revenue
  • Return on Investment

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