Effective B2B Lead Generation Strategy in 2021
by Mike Khorev
In 2021 as the start of the new decade, it is a great time for us to re-evaluate our marketing and lead generation strategies we’ve used in the past decade. As we all know, the market has rapidly changed especially in the past three years or so. Thus, it’s necessary to adapt our strategy to meet the new demands of the market.
In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about B2B lead generation in 2021. Let us begin by discussing the most important factors to consider when planning a B2B lead generation strategy.
Key Factors of B2B Lead Generation Strategy
B2B lead generation can be a very complex beast since there are a lot of available tactics, channels, and campaigns we can utilize in achieving our lead generation objectives. On the other hand, implementing the right lead generation strategy is essential so we can achieve the best possible results.
Here are the four most important factors to consider in planning a B2B lead generation strategy in 2021.
1. Your Product or Service
It’s very important to note that people don’t actually purchase your product or service, but instead, they purchase the benefit tied to the product/service. With that being said, the primary of your business—and in this case, B2B business—, is either to solve a problem or provide additional value for your target customer’s business performance.
Ultimately, the better you can communicate this benefit offered by your product or service, the better we can interest more people and generate leads. Your marketing content should revolve around the benefit (or solution) your product offers.
If, for instance, you are a B2B company that helps other businesses to analyze their marketing performance, then you should talk about marketing analytics. There might be other topics that are interesting, but if they are not relevant to your product/service, they won’t be effective in generating leads for your B2B company.
2. Your Target Audience
A very important aspect not only for lead generation but the overall B2B marketing strategy, in general, is a thorough understanding of your audience. In practice, this will mean properly doing your buyer persona research.
Buyer persona in the B2B setting, however, is rather unique since we are targeting companies. There can be several different stakeholders in a target company that might be involved in the purchase decision process. So, we will need to create different buyer personas for these different stakeholders.
Know your potential customers: their needs, pain points, behaviors, and how they are currently positioned in the sales funnel.
3. Revenue Model
The revenue model—-or business model— of your business can have a massive impact on which B2B lead generation channels and tactics you should choose. If, for example, you are using scaled pricing to target different buyer personas, then you’d need to vary your lead generation devices and channels to reach these different personas. On the other hand, if you are adopting a subscription-based recurring revenue model, then you’d need to focus all your B2B lead generation efforts on sign-ups.
4. Where Your Customers Are
One of the most important considerations in lead generation for B2B is about knowing the acquisition channels where your audience is most likely to engage with your product or service. If your ideal audiences are active on LinkedIn, this is where you should put your effort. Are they more likely to consume videos, podcasts, or would they have the time to consume an in-depth ebook?
Again, the key here is understanding your buyer personas and their behaviors and then map the channels that are going to be effective in reaching them.
The above four are the most important factors to consider before you can plan your B2B lead generation strategy. Below, we are going to translate these four factors into a series of key questions you can answer in order to plan your lead generation.
Key Questions To Ask When Planning a B2B Lead Generation Strategy
As we’ve established above, understanding your audience and also understanding your business’s capabilities to cater to your audience’s needs will be the key to achieving lead generation successes.
Asking the what, who, where, when, and why of your sales and marketing processes can help you in gathering these valuable insights into your audience’s needs, and here are the key questions to ask:
1. Who Is Your Ideal Audience?
We have addressed this above, and this is the first and most important question to answer. Again, in the B2B setting, there are two layers to this question: your ideal target organization/company, and your ideal decision-maker(s) within the target company. Research and develop your buyer persona, analyze your current customer base, do your proper competitive analysis, and so on.
This is a very important question to answer, that can make or break your B2B lead generation success. Invest your time and resources to refine the answer.
2. What do these target customers want and need?
Now that you’ve known your targets, here we are going to find out their behaviors, needs, and pain points. In a B2B setting, this will mainly translate to what is the target organization’s objective and pain point(s).
The main purpose of answering this question is to gain insights into what kinds of value you must deliver. Also, this can tell you how to properly communicate your marketing and B2B lead generation messages when engaging with these target companies and stakeholders.
3. What value can your business deliver?
This is about developing a USP (unique selling proposition) for your business to cater to your target audience’s pain points.
Your value proposition should be able to communicate why your target audience should consider your brand/business as their solution, and also what differentiates your B2B business from your competitors.
The USP message should be communicated as soon as you engage with your target audience, at the very start of their buyer’s journey.
4. Who actually are your leads/prospects?
Different businesses might have very different definitions of “leads”. Make sure you know yours and make sure your sales and marketing teams—as well as other teams involved in the lead generation process—.
5. How can you engage these leads?
Here, our job is to figure out the most effective tactics, channels, and campaigns you can use to reach out to your target audience. You can set up surveys, monitor social media, conduct interviews with existing customers, conduct A/B testing on your website to gather more information about this.
Once you’ve figured out the answer, you can use various tactics like content marketing, email marketing, advertising, influencer marketing, and others to target your prospects.
6. When in the sales/marketing process will you generate leads?
Technically, at every stage of the marketing process, we can generate leads. But, the quality might be (significantly different). This is why we should use different approaches at each different touchpoints.
Analyze the common buyer’s journey of your existing customers, and figure out the best time to generate B2B leads. The idea here is to understand your sales and marketing funnel and maximize your conversion rate by avoiding potential bottlenecks.
Four Top Channels For B2B Lead Generation
1. Content Marketing SEO
So, how can we generate leads with content? In general, here is the main flow of the process that is used by SEO consultants:
- We publish relevant, valuable content that is designed to cater to the specific audience’s needs or to solve a specific problem.
- People that are looking for the specific information or solution included in our content will visit our site to consume the content (i.e. via organic search)
- We capture this visitor’s contact information, mainly by a method we call “lead magnet”, which we will discuss below. After we captured their contact information, we effectively converted them into leads/prospects.
The lead magnet method is, essentially, offering something valuable for those who consumed our content for free, in exchange for their contact information.
The key to this method’s success is obviously the value of your offer, and here are some of the effective examples:
- Gated content: a more in-depth content that is usually related to the original content like an ebook, white paper, original research report, and so on. This can be very effective if you can publish unique information and actionable tips. Effective in establishing your position as a thought leader in your niche.
- Freebies: limited-time discount or free stuff. It can include an exclusive free-trial and other similar offers.
- Webinar: offer a free webinar to capture leads. The webinar’s role here is not to promote your product (hard-selling) but to provide information that is usually related to your initial content.
Remember, however, that your lead magnet will only be effective if you can effectively capture your audience’s attention with your content, and this can be easier said than done.
Below we will discuss some of the important principles in implementing effective content marketing.
Content Marketing Best Practices
- Define Your Target Audience
The most important factor affecting your content marketing is how well you can create the right content that can cater to your specific audience.
Unique to B2B marketing is the fact that you are targetting companies and organizations (and not individuals). And, there can be several different stakeholders and decision-makers in one target company that can have different roles. Ideally, you should develop an individual buyer’s persona for each of these roles.
Understand their needs and pain points. Your job is to develop content to provide solutions to their problems.
- Keyword Research
Based on your target audience we have discussed above, define your target keywords according to these principles:
- The keyword must be relevant and valuable for your target audience, signified by the high monthly search volume.
- The target keyword must be relevant to your business.
- The competition for the keyword must be manageable according to your available resources and timeline.
- Content Development
While there are various approaches we can try here, the easiest approach is to do a quick Google search for your target keywords(s) and check the top-ranking pages. Check at least the top-3 pages, but if possible check all pages on the first page of Google SERP.
Your main objective in content marketing is to beat these competing pages. Check the structures of these pages and how they approach their content strategy. You can either develop significantly better content or take a different angle and cover the topic in a unique way.
- Content Promotion and Link Building
How you promote your content is just as, if not even more important than the content development process. No matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value unless your target audience actually consumes the content.
With that being said, B2B SEO services remain the most effective way to generate leads and revenue, and on the other hand, backlinks remain the most important factor in any B2B SEO strategy. Think of backlinks as votes of confidence, and when you get a vote from a high-quality site, it’s going to significantly boost your ranking.
So, promote your content via all the available promotion channels with two purposes: getting traffic to your content, and get more backlinks in the process. Fortunately, the quality of backlinks is more important than quantity, and getting too many low-quality links at one can time actually get your site penalized by Google.
Aim to get just two to three high-quality backlinks every month, and you are good to go.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that content marketing is a long-term game, and so consistency is the key to success here. Monitor your content marketing progress, assign KPIs, and re-optimize your strategy whenever necessary.
2. PPC Advertising
Previously, we have mentioned that content marketing is a long-term campaign and we should generally expect to invest 6-12 months or more before we can see results. Yet, obviously not all B2B businesses have that luxury of time.
The answer to this issue is PPC advertising (or any online advertising in general). They can generally guarantee short-term, instant results, but the issue here is cost: they can be very expensive and you might end up losing money if you are not careful.
So, finding the right balance between your content marketing (and other inbound marketing efforts) and PPC advertising is very important to find the middle ground between time and cost.
There are two main ways we can do today to maximize the ROI of the PPC ad: targeting and remarketing.
Targeting is pretty self-explanatory, and the idea is that by sending the right ad message to the right people at the right time, we can maximize the click-through rate and conversion rate of your advertising campaign and thus maximize cost-efficiency and ROI.
Remarketing—or retargeting—, on the other hand, is displaying your ads to people who have visited your website or have triggered certain actions. Remarketing is now a very effective way to improve your ad’s targeting and thus can improve CTR and ROI.
3. Social Media Marketing
Yes, your B2B business should implement social media marketing, even if you are in a boring, very technical industry.
There are now over 3.2 billion people that are active on social media. That is more than 40% of the whole population of the world. There’s definitely a good chance that out of those 3 billion people, some are going to be interested in your business.
So, how can we use social media as a B2B lead generation device? In a B2B setting, there are three main ways:
- Effective CTA: You can include CTAs (mainly links) with your social media posts. Use them naturally and don’t hard-sell.
- Drive them to your site. It’s hard to capture contact information in a social media environment, so it’s best to direct them to your site or landing page. There are various ways you can do this, but the main idea is to give them compelling reasons to visit your site.
- Convert them for e-mail signups. You can encourage people to perform email newsletter signups on your website, for example, when a post is gaining some traction, offer newsletter signup.
B2B Lead Generation with LinkedIn
In a B2B environment, LinkedIn deserves a special mention because it’s where your prospects are. According to the Foundation, 80% of B2B leads from social media come from LinkedIn, and only 20% comes from Facebook and Twitter.
So, putting our effort to generate leads from LinkedIn is fairly obvious, and here are how we can do it:
- Build your presence on LinkedIn. Optimize your profile to include clear and accurate information.
- Be active. Post relevant and valuable content and start to make connections with relevant industry professionals.
- Join relevant groups. Groups are probably LinkedIn’s strongest feature in lead generation sense since there plenty of groups where your ideal audience potentially gathers. You can filter groups based on demographics and behavior data.
- Engage, build relevant relationships, join conversations, ask questions, and provide answers.
- There are various paid options for lead generation offered by LinkedIn. If you can target the right audience, these can be very cost-effective with high ROI.
4. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing used to be a marketing channel more popular in B2C businesses than B2B. However, in recent years, influencer marketing rose in popularity among B2B businesses. Some B2B businesses saw successes in it, but many others fail.
Influencer marketing can be a very effective B2B lead generation channel: an influencer can deliver your message directly to their loyal followers, and so you can reach more audience and make it yours.
Here are several best practices in B2B influencer marketing for lead generation:
- People are getting more resistant to sponsored messages from influencers (and especially celebrities). Instead, you can target nano and micro-influencers. They are more affordable and can offer a more genuine experience for your audience.
- The key to a successful influencer marketing campaign is finding the right influencer that can actually help your business. Arguably, this is even more of a challenge in the B2B environment since there are certain B2B niches with a relatively limited number of influencers. Use various influencer outreach tools to your advantage.
- Since the purpose of influencer marketing here is lead generation, develop a proper scheme to capture contact information. For example, you can ask the influencer to drive their followers to your website or landing page, where you can, in turn, present them with lead capture forms and other means.
- Another important factor in influencer marketing is to build relationships with these influencers before you ask them to promote your brand. Some influencers might not want to work with your brand at first, and this can significantly help in cost-efficiency and maximize ROI.
Also, an important thing to note is that investing in influencer marketing won’t necessarily mean you don’t need to develop your own online presence.
After they learned about your brand from this influencer, you’d still need to present them with a proper website/landing page, content, and social media presence so they can perceive your business as trustworthy—which is arguably even more important in the B2B environment—. Think of influencer marketing as a way to amplify your already-performing online presence.
B2B lead generation can be a very challenging and lengthy process. It’s important to remember that a lead or a prospect is not a random potential client—especially in a B2B setting, not a random potential company to target—. You should focus on the most qualified ones by capturing their attention, provide value, and proof your credibility that your brand, product, and service can solve their issue.
Generating qualified leads is extremely important for any B2B business, and we can consider it as the most important foundation for any B2B marketing. Thus, having a clear B2B lead generation strategy, working with B2B marketing consultants, maintaining consistency, and monitoring your progress are essential if you want to generate growth for your B2B business.
January 15, 2022
September 15, 2021