The Truth About B2B Lead Generation In 2020
by Mike Khorev
Generating leads is often the biggest challenge in B2B marketing, and on the other hand, no marketing efforts will bring any results if we have no qualified leads.
On the other hand, the resource to learn about this is—not quite limited—, but confusing. Do a quick Google search about “B2B lead generation”, and you’ll get various content discussing different points that often contradict each other. Many of these articles are pure misinformation, that will further confuse an already-stressed B2B marketer.
The Main Lead Source for B2B Is More Complex Than You Thing
Let us address the elephant in the room: there is not one single most effective channel to generate B2B leads.
Let us take a look at this chart, published by Hubspot a while back.
What is the most effective source of leads according to the chart? We see popular channels like SEO, which as expected is among the most effective, social media, email marketing, and so on.
However, the highest on the chart happens to be “Other”. Meaning, we don’t even know where the leads actually come from.
We might get lead while attending a conference, “oh, I saw your blog posts before!”. We might get a lead when a business partner recommends us to their peers, and so on. The fact remains, however, that having a consistent marketing effort and proper presence are still essential to allow these “other” things to happen.
So, think of lead generation as a culmination of an integrated digital marketing strategy. We have to make all the different channels, even unquantifiable efforts, to work together for one purpose: generating leads.
1. Content Marketing, SEO, and Consistency
Content marketing, together with SEO—the concept we call “inbound marketing” — is a very effective lead generation tool if we do it right.
First, let us discuss how we can generate leads through content marketing:
The Lead Magnet Method.
A very common (and very effective practice) which typically involves two “stages” of different content. The first stage is a valuable, informative content for your audience to capture their interest.
Then, we offer the second stage, which is a more informative, more interesting piece of content that they can get in exchange for their contact information.
These lead magnets can come in the form of:
- Ebook, white papers, research reports. These can be very valuable for professionals, especially if you can publish unique data and information not available anywhere else (i.e. reports from your own research). This type of content can also help establish your position as an expert in your niche—building your credibility.
- Webinars. Another effective and relatively cost-efficient way to capture leads is to offer a free webinar. Remember that your webinar’s purpose is not to promote your product/service (you can still do it, but avoid hard-selling), but rather to provide information related to the original (first stage) content.
Remember, however, that before you can offer these lead magnets, you have to first capture your audience’s attention with your content.
This, can be easier than done, but here are some important principles to follow:
Define and Understand your Target Audience
Great content marketing begins with a proper understanding of your audience.
So, do your market research and develop your buyer’s persona.
Remember that in B2B, there can be different stakeholders in a single company that will be involved in the purchase process for your product, each with different roles. You have to develop a buyer persona for each of these roles.
Based on your target audience, find the target keywords with three main principles:
- The keyword(s) but be valuable and relevant for your brand, product, or service.
- The keyword(s) must be relevant for your target audience, indicated with a high monthly search volume.
- The competition for the keyword must be manageable depending on your budget and time frame.
Develop Your Content
Do a quick Google search for your target keywords (or you can use various keyword research tools for this), check out the top ranking content for these keywords (at least the top 3 results).
Your job? Is to create significantly better content than these. Consider the fact that there are millions of content being published every single day. If you aren’t much better than most, it simply won’t cut it.
Alternatively, you can aim to be different and cover the topic from a unique angle.
Simply put, give people a reason to consume your content.
Promoting Your Content
Content marketing doesn’t stop in the content development process, but how you promote your content is just as—if not more— important.
Promote your content via various available channels with two purposes: getting traffic to your content, and in relation to SEO, getting more backlinks in the process.
Backlinks are the most important asset in B2B SEO. Think of backlinks as votes. When a website links to yours, Google will view your site as more relevant, even more so when the ‘vote’ comes from a high-quality site.
Contrary to popular belief, the quality of your backlinks is more important than quantity. In fact, getting too many backlinks at one time can get you penalized.
Aim to get just 2 or 3 high-quality backlinks every month for all your content pages, and you are good to go.
Consistency is Key
The most important thing to keep in mind is the fact that B2B content marketing and SEO are both long-term strategies. It will take months if not years before you can rely on them as lead generation devices, but the results will be worth it as you’ll get a sustainable source of leads.
Thus, the key here is consistency: keep publishing high-quality and relevant content.
2. Social Media Marketing
One of the most common myths surrounding B2B social media marketing is the statement: “I’m in a boring industry, social media won’t work in this niche”.
Here’s the deal, there are over 3.2 billion people that are active on various social media platforms daily, almost 45% of the global population. Do you seriously believe none of those 3 billion people are interested in your brand?
Even if there’s only 0.00001% of those 3 billion people that are interested in your brand, it’s still a huge potential revenue, and it’s worth pursuing.
So, your job as a B2B social media marketer is to find them.
There are, however, two key facts we must consider in implementing social media marketing for B2B:
- Social media marketing is not only about good—even excellent— social media presence. It’s much more than that, and we’ll discuss more about this below.
- No, we’ve moved past the misconception that social media is the ultimate source of leads, ever. However, it’s still an effective lead generation channel where—as mentioned—billions of people are active in. Don’t underestimate social media as a lead source, but don’t overestimate it either.
How To Use Social Media as a Lead Generation Device
Social media is still a very effective lead generation medium, the thing is, it’s still fairly underutilized in the B2B environment.
There are mainly three ways to use social media to generate leads:
- Convert social media audience for newsletter signups. This is an effective way to generate leads on social media. For example, you can allow newsletter signups on your Facebook page, or you can encourage people to join your newsletter when a post or content is gaining some traction.
- Drive people to visit your website. Capturing leads is—in essence— getting a visitor’s contact information, mainly email address, so we can follow up with a lead nurturing process. The thing is, it’s harder to do this in a social media environment (i.e., it’s ineffective to include a lead capture form in 140 characters). So, we have to direct them to our website for a more effective capturing process. Give them a reason to visit your website.
- Effectively use Call To Action(CTA). Don’t be afraid to include CTAs in yous social media posts, however, use them sparingly and naturally.
Linkedin as a Lead Generation Channel
Linkedin deserves a special mention in the world of B2B social media marketing. Why? Because it’s simply effective. 80% of B2B social media leads come from Linkedin, compared to 7% from Facebook and 13% from Twitter.
So, it would only make sense to put extra attention on Linkedin as your lead generation channel.
In B2B marketing, your main target audience is professionals in your niche. For example, if you are selling a SaaS digital marketing tool, then your target market is marketing professionals in specific companies.
Linkedin is where these professionals gather, making it an ideal place to get your prospects.
Here are some tips to generate leads from Linkedin:
- Have a strong Linkedin presence. pretty self-explanatory. Make sure you provide clear and specific information on your Linkedin profile so they know what your business is about. Be active, and start to make connections with industry professionals.
- Join relevant groups. There are a lot of groups in Linkedin that you can join right away—probably one of Linkedin’s strongest features—. Find groups where your target audience gathers. Linkedin provides the feature to filter groups based on the audience’s behavior and demographics, so use this to your advantage.
- Engage. Build relationships, join relevant information, ask exciting questions and provide useful answers. Again, be active.
- Use Linkedin’s paid options. Linkedin understood that many businesses like you want to use the platform to generate leads, so they offer paid campaigns for lead generation purposes. This can be cost-effective if you target the right audience.
It’s important to understand that nowadays, social media can be divided into two different aspects:
- Organic: pretty self-explanatory, build your organic presence and grow your followers, then convert your followers into leads.
- Paid: using various paid advertising and campaigns to generate leads. With organic reach in all social media platforms continues to decline, we have to invest in these paid options. The idea is to balance out your paid and organic efforts to maintain cost-efficiency.
3. Influencer Marketing
Influencer was a fairly underutilized marketing channel in B2B environment. In recent years, many B2B businesses tried to follow their B2C counterparts by endorsing influencers and celebrities. Some are quite successful, but many aren’t.
With that being said, influencer marketing is a very effective lead generation device based on a fairly simple idea:
In this saturated digital world, it’s really difficult to get our voices heard amidst all the noises. An influencer can help bypass this situation by promoting our message directly to their loyal followers.
With that being said, here are several important principles in implementing influencer marketing to generate leads:
- In recent years, people are getting more resistant to sponsored messages from big influencers and especially celebrities. Aiming for micro and nano influencers can be more cost-efficient and might result in less resistance
- The most important thing to consider is finding the right influencers for your business. This can be even more difficult in a certain B2B niche when there aren’t many “experts” or “thought leaders” available. Various influencer outreach tools can help you in this aspect.
- Build relationships with these influencers before you inquire them for marketing opportunities. This might help with cost-efficiency and can help in developing the best possible campaign for the influencer. Also, some influencers might not want to work with your brand at first.
- Since your purpose here is lead generation, design a proper way to capture leads through the influencer marketing campaign. For example, ask the influencer to present a link to your landing page where you can display CTAs and lead capture forms.
One last thing to consider is that influencer marketing won’t bypass the need of having your own online presence. Let’s say a website visitor comes to visit your website after being directed by an influencer. If the said visitor finds that your website is not interesting and your content is shallow, they simply won’t convert.
Think of influencer marketing as a way to amplify your business’s online presence and your already-decent digital marketing efforts, not the other way around.
4. Email Marketing
Even with all the new marketing channels and technologies, email marketing—as one of the oldest digital marketing tactics around—remains one of the most effective channels with the highest ROI.
Email marketing is more commonly implemented as a lead nurturing campaign. That is, to nurture leads that have been captured through other channels. However, email marketing can still be effective as a lead generation device.
Although email marketing is one of the oldest marketing channels around, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t changed.
Nowadays, the average people can get hundreds of promotional emails every single day, a lot of them will go straight to spam or to the “promotions” tab in Gmail. Meaning, if your email is not interesting at first glance, it won’t get noticed, ever.
To tackle this issue, we have to send the right message to the right people at the right time, and the answers for this are automation and personalization.
Email personalization is much more than using the receiver’s first name in the subject line. Think carefully to create subject lines that can interest your audience, use interesting images, find the right position for your CTAs, and so on.
You might want to check out this guide by Neil Patel on more about email personalization.
Email marketing automation is more than automating some of the process to lessen your workload, but rather, it’s about timing. A marketing automation tool can give us the ability to send different messages exactly at the right time, a concept we call drip marketing. For example, we can send a personalized offer to website visitors who viewed our product page, increasing the chance of conversion.
B2B lead generation is—admittedly— a long and hard work. As mentioned, not one single lead generation tactic can work for all situations, but rather, it’s about an integrated effort using many different marketing channels to build your online presence and credibility.
Thus, it’s important to continuously evaluate your progress, re-optimize and adjust your tactics, and always pay attention to changes in trends and your customers’ behaviors.
June 6, 2020