Every business wants to generate leads. But lead generation is hard. And it’s especially hard to do consistently.
I spoke recently with a salesperson from a technology service who has been struggling with reduced lead flow. A couple of years ago, he said, he was getting four or five leads each week from organic traffic to his website. He thought his business had things figured out. Then, over the past two years, things slowly declined.
His company lost a few SEO rankings. More competitors entered the market. The leads started to dry up. Now, he’s happy to get a couple each month.
Again, consistent lead generation is hard.
It’s not impossible, though. In fact, with the right systems in place, you can create a steady stream of leads in nearly any industry, for nearly any type of business, month-in and month-out.
In this post, I’ll show you how. We’ll walk through the three lead generation methods that we’ve found to be the most impactful in our work as a B2B marketing agency.
These three B2B lead generation strategies are:
- Account-based marketing (ABM)
- Inbound marketing
- Outbound marketing
Each of these strategies can drive B2B leads, but one or two will probably be more effective in your context. In our many years as a B2B marketing agency we’ve discovered that the key is to select the right ones and then to implement them effectively.
With that in mind, let’s dive in.
1. Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
If you’re serving a niche audience with an offering at a high price point, then the best way to make consistent lead generation happen is to run an account-based marketing campaign.
A quick benchmark: What’s the total number of companies in the world that would be a good fit for your offering? If it’s around 5,000 or less, then you will never generate consistent leads from traditional inbound marketing. Inbound marketing relies on people finding you; the problem in niche B2B industries is that there just aren’t enough people looking.
ABM gets rid of that problem by flipping things around: Your marketing is targeted to find your ideal clients – and it’s tailored specifically to each account. It works because it:
Hits a pre-qualified audience. You identify the traits of accounts that make for great clients; you’re not wasting time on misaligned prospects.
Allows for your message to be personalized. Because they’re so targeted, ABM campaigns can include personalization (first name, company name, location, etc.) in messaging components like emails, landing pages, and even videos.
Incorporates multiple touch points. Once you’ve selected your ideal accounts, you can engage them with consistent marketing to drive conversions.
This is the equivalent of fishing in a stocked pond with only the types and sizes of fish you are interested in catching.
So, how should you run an ABM campaign to generate consistent leads?
Our B2B marketing agency has outlined ABM campaigns in more detail before, but here’s a quick overview:
Build the Campaign Plan
The tools you’ll use in ABM are the ones you’re probably already familiar with – email, paid, social media, website pages, etc.
It’s the way these tactics are used that changes. For example, you might use social media as part of your ABM campaign – but you won’t just create general LinkedIn posts on your page. Instead, you might upload a list of target companies to show very targeted ads to.
- Put together a plan to determine how you will reach this audience. What channels will you use? How personalized can you get? How frequent are the touch points? What pain points will you focus on for different segments?
- It’s important to note that ABM is not something that exists strictly in the marketing arena. It is tightly integrated with sales. Because of this, include things like personal emails and follow-up calls to the contacts that seem to be hot leads.
You may already have a list of ideal accounts with all the information you need to reach them with effective marketing. If so, great! Pat yourself on the back.
Often, though, this isn’t the case. Maybe the contacts you have are very old and their info is outdated. Maybe you don’t have a list at all.
If you don’t have an ideal list, you have two options:
- Append your list. If you just have the name and address from a mailer you send out every year, but you don’t have your contacts’ emails, you can use a list appending service to connect those physical addresses with emails, phone number, etc. This is very inexpensive.
- Buy a list. This topic is an article in itself, but if you don’t have any list at all, you can purchase one, either as a one-off buy or via a database subscription. At New North, for example, our B2B marketing agency partners with ZoomInfo.
Regardless of how you acquire your list, it’s critical that it matches your target market. The tighter the filtering you can do on these contacts, the better your results will be. Get started off on the right foot with a solid list of verified contacts or you’re setting yourself up for failure.
As a final note, it’s likely that you’ll want to include multiple contacts at each account. Sure, you may think you know the person who’s making the buying decision – but one of the unique aspects of B2B selling is that the buying is done by groups. Targeting the CTO, the CIO, and the office manager gives you more opportunity to connect.
Now that you have an understanding of who you are reaching, have a list of these contacts, and have a plan for how to go about reaching out to them, it’s time to pull back your spear-throwing-arm and let her fly.
Remember, though: Even the best-laid plans of mice and men can go awry when you have poor execution. Pay attention to the details. The first impression goes a long way, and if you start out with an off-the-mark pain point, a shoddily designed email, or a landing page that doesn’t work on mobile, you are shooting yourself in the foot. This is something to pull the whole team together for.
- Have your personalization tactics been tested?
- Have you talked to current clients about their pain points and why they work with you?
React to the Numbers
Back in the day, marketing was a shot in the dark – you’d send a postcard out and cross your fingers or spend money on radio ads and just hope people were listening. Those days are gone.
Today, at our B2B marketing agency everything we do has a number. Conversion rates, open rates, time on page, bounce rates – metrics are your friends. Use the information that comes in to make your campaign better.
- Having great success on LinkedIn but can’t get anything from your display ads? Shift the budget.
- Does your landing page have a high bounce rate? Look at your heatmapping and site analytics and shift accordingly.
- Do your emails not have a good click-through-rate? Tweak the design or content and do some A/B testing.
If you pay attention to the data, you’ll be able to continually optimize your campaign – and you’ll be on your way to consistent B2B lead generation.
2. Inbound Marketing
If you’re serving a broader audience of more than 5,000 potential clients, you almost certainly should be investing in inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing, according to HubSpot, is “a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.”
It works because it helps people searching for solutions like yours to find your solution.
So, how should you run an inbound marketing campaign?
Again, our B2B marketing agency has covered the intricacies of inbound in more detail before, but here’s a recap.
Identify your buyers.
Remember, if you don’t have a big enough market, inbound won’t work. So, the first step is to confirm that there are enough people searching for your offering who you want to sell to and (more importantly) who will buy from you.
There are three main things you’ll need to identify about this cross-section before you can generate leads.
- What does this person want?
This is the most basic question you can ask as you begin to solidify your target market. It’s also the most important. If you can identify what your ideal buyer wants from your offering, you can position your offering to satisfy your buyer’s needs. We use the StoryBrand framework to home in on this; we’ll conduct interviews with customers and sales reps to gather data around buyer pain points and desires, then compile the data to identify major drivers of action.
- What is this person like?
Here, we’re talking demographics and psychographics: Age, education level, job title, ethnicity, interests, dislikes, family life. This data is used to craft a buyer persona, and it’ll be used to shape message construction (what) and message placement (where).
- Where (and how) does this person buy?
This is the final point of clarification as you identify your buyer. If you know where they buy, you can target your marketing toward those places. You won’t run a Pinterest campaign if your buyer is a 55-year-old man, for example. But it gets a bit more complex than that. Your buyer will be more likely to buy on some channels than they will be on others. They may be on Facebook but only use it recreationally, while they make most business purchases via email.
The key to determining all of this buyer identify information is simple: mass-scale cellphone monitoring tied into US public infrastructure systems.
Just kidding. But it does take market research and talking to real people. If you make assumptions, you’ll increase your risk of failure.
Create effective messaging.
Once you know who you’ll be speaking to, you can figure out how to describe your offering. An effective message:
- Speaks to your buyer’s paint points and desires.
- Communicates the stakes.
- Is easy to understand.
- Is consistent.
At a tactical level, you should develop these messaging documents:
- 3-4 of your offering’s unique value propositions
- 3-6 of your buyer’s biggest pain points
- A paragraph outlining the stakes the buyer faces in making the purchase
- Empathy and authority statements positioning your firm as the best solution
- A one-sentence tagline
Spend time on these things, but don’t rely on your opinion to determine what message is best. Adjust your messaging as you see it resonate or fail to resonate in the market.
Get your messaging in front of your buyers.
This is the step that most people think of when they think of inbound lead generation – and it’s the step that many businesses want to skip right to when they start inbound marketing.
As a B2B marketing agency, we often get businesses coming to us asking for lead generation – and when they say that, they’re imagining message promotion. But without an accurate buyer persona and an effective message, message promotion is worthless and lead generation won’t work.
To get leads, your message has to reach enough people.
In digital marketing, this is called traffic generation. We’ve found that, most often, you need to be reaching 1,000 people with your message each month in order to consistently generate leads.
The most straightforward way to measure whether or not you’re doing this: look at users on your website. Were there 1,000 users on your website last month? If not, you likely need to drive more traffic.
This varies depending on your conversion rate, of course, which we’ll talk about shortly. But it’s a good general benchmark to keep in mind. At a 2% conversion rate (which is roughly average), with 1,000 users, you’ll convert 20 contacts each month. Most businesses that have a lead problem simply aren’t getting their message in front of enough people.
You can drive traffic with:
- Social media
- Paid ads (usually social or search ads)
But you have to drive traffic. Without traffic, inbound marketing will not work.
3. Outbound Marketing
Okay, we’ve reached the third and final strategy for B2B lead generation: outbound marketing.
Outbound marketing is most impactful if there is a clearly established community you can serve, but you need to increase awareness of your brand in the market.
It differs from account-based marketing in that you’re not targeting specific accounts; the market is big enough that that client-specific research likely isn’t worth your time (and might come off a little weird). But, like ABM, outbound involves you making the first connection. Think trade show booths, billboard placements, and cold-calling campaigns to big lists.
These things are often time-intensive, but they can be highly impactful in driving leads.
So, how should you run an outbound marketing campaign?
There’s a lot that could be said here, but I want to focus on three primary keys to an effective outbound lead generation campaign.
First, you have to target the right places.
If you’re selling SaaS for IT firms, for example, you might attend trade shows like CES or Cisco Live. You might place an ad in WIRED; you wouldn’t place an ad in Home and Garden.
Effective outbound marketing has to be based on effective client research. Messages only work if they’re seen by the right people at the right times.
Second, sales and marketing must be integrated.
Many outbound campaigns directly involve the sales team. You can’t run a cold-calling campaign without sales – and it won’t be effective if your sales team is speaking a language that’s different from the marketing material you have on your site. When you run an outbound campaign, take the time to carefully coordinate between marketing and sales to ensure consistency and follow-through.
Everything should be tracked.
Outbound activities can be a bit harder to measure than inbound activities – but they can still be tracked. How many leads came through from the trade show? How many cold calls have to be made to generate a proposal? If you can’t measure your marketing, you shouldn’t be doing it.
Ready to start generating B2B leads?
Look, there are always ebbs and flows in lead generation. Things change. But, by employing the correct mix of strategies listed above, intelligently implementing tactics, and optimizing your results over time, you’ll increase your consistency and position your business for growth.
At New North, our B2B marketing agency has been helping businesses generate leads for over a decade. Let’s talk through your lead generation strategies and analyze your funnel to find out how we can improve your stream of new business. Schedule a free consult today.