There’s tons of growth hack advice out there for B2B lead generation. Some “gurus” keep telling you to LinkedIn is the place to be, some swear by organic blog content, other’s keep praising email outreach combined with new fancy features that personalise emails. And then there are some people that constantly advocate that video is the new big thing, making the majority of internet traffic very soon.
A lot of these messages and the advice are exciting for sure, but even more so confusing for anyone who is not on top of the game. Being a B2B lead generation marketer means constant change. Changing tactics, test experiments and keeping an open mind for new trends on the horizon.
Let’s not forget the basics of why we are active in digital marketing. In B2B marketing, our job is to attract interest, make offers that convert and build lasting relationships with customers. That’s basically it. It all comes down to tangible metrics like generating leads, conversion rate, lead-to-sales conversion, activation rates, cost per acquisition, lifetime value and so on.
Here is a step-by-step guide for developing a winning B2B lead generation strategy to achieve your business goals faster.
Definition and factors of the North-Start-Metric
I can’t stress enough how important it is to take a step back before you dive into the daily work to hit your goals. Take a look at your marketing and lead generation objectives from a high-level perspective, a 35,000 feet view.
Thereafter, get clear clear on the value proposition your product or service provides to customers. The so-called North-Star-Metric (NSM) is measuring exactly that: The one metric that best describes whether your product/ service is successfully accepted in the market. The idea behind the concept is that you and your team exactly knows what key proposition of your product you need to constantly improve and spend your attention on. It is like a polar star you are navigating towards.
For Airbnb as an example, the NSM is "Nights booked", the best indicator that allows the company to assess whether their business model is successfully growing in the market. If you are a B2B SEO marketing agency, your NSM could be the average traffic growth per client, which is directly representing the effect SEO marketing should have.
Every B2B lead generation strategy should be clear on this key objective. What is it that you want to achieve and was it the value proposition element that matters more than anything else? The one metric that has best represents market success will your key long-term business goal that needs to be improved. Define it as one single metric, your North-Star-Metric and start your lead generation strategy from here.
What does this metric have to do with your B2B lead generation strategy? Well, without a successful product or service delivery, your strategy becomes unsustainable. Pumping more leads into a failing product or service, won't help you, so I would encourage you to start with defining your NSM metric first.
Once you have this metric, you should deduce further long-term business goals and further breaks things down to yearly, monthly or maybe even weekly lead generation goals. These are the operational goals, or micro goals, that need your attention in the course of implementing the lead generation strategy and activities.
Databox online dashboard to track lead generation progress, source: Databox.com
Once you defined your lead generation goals, e.g. in a spreadsheet, I recommend using an online dashboard that provides full transparency over your progress and positive or negative deviation from goals on a daily basis.
There are some great online dashboards like Databox in which you can map add your lead generation goals, e.g. monthly goals, and compare the real success based on your online lead generation data, e.g. by your CRM system. Databox comes with lots of integrations that allow you to add data sources so that you can display your metrics for lead generation and add comparisons with your goals on top.
LeadGen App also provides an analytics dashboard to track your lead generation and form analytics. In there, you can see interesting stats like formviews, lead generation, conversion rate and form completion time. Check out this video to learn more about the LeadGen tracking dashboard.
It is surprising how many B2B companies don’t start with clear goal setting, broken down into operational units, e.g. months or weeks, so make sure you don't skip this first step. I have seen dozens of these examples.
Now it's time to plan the strategy of the marketing channels. Also here, it often happens that companies launch new b2b online lead generation channels and then shortly afterwards stop them again. There are companies that keep spending on Google ads knowing that they are not even breaking even with it, neither short nor long-term over their customer lifetime value.
Others believe social media marketing is the thing to do, but what they really need as a B2B company is just 5-10 high paying clients that don't even look at social media as part of their buying decision.
Some start an SEO marketing campaign for four months and get impatient that things are not moving fast enough. Still others run a blog with exceptional content and forget to monetise their blog with lead magnets, entry offers and simple lead forms. And by the way, I am not an exception and have done mistakes like this as well.
Make sure that you are analysing your marketing channels based on the impact they have for driving you closer to your goal, for finding the right type of audience that can turn into leads and ultimately into happy customers that support the growth of your NSM. You can probably already tell, these days lead quantity is no longer the measure of all things. What is you need is a targeted approach and better lead quality.
To find out the right lead generation channels, you can simply do the following analysis: Create a spreadsheet that features different marketing channels, expected traffic volume, conversion rate to lead, total number of generated leads per month + lead quality score. You will probably come up with more than 10 different choices of marketing channels that you could deploy. Now, rate the different metrics and compare the channels against other. The analysis will give you clarity which of these channels will actually make an impact that is measurable.
There are dozens channels that you can utilise in a B2B lead generation strategy, both online and offline. Take a look at the graphic below that lists lead generation channels, both offline and online.
Overview of B2B lead generation channels based on online and offline mediums
Another key distinction in lead generation is made by comparing outbound vs. inbound marketing channels.
Inbound marketing is a great way to get people interested in products or services by educating them with valuable content resources like case studies, reports, white papers, video marketing, etc.
Outbound marketing works by actively reaching out to your audience, e.g. by cold call, radio ad or pay-per-click marketing. You could say that inbound is like a pull that attracts your audience to find you, outbound is an active push that gets your message out.
In inbound marketing, companies have less real interactions with the lead. Hence, the quality-level of the activity matters a lot, e.g. the quality of content resources. Inbound marketing only works with a clear focus on delivering value, especially in such a crowded & competitive marketplace we are in today.
Outbound can be very effective and in many cases necessary to get leads and sales. As an example, generating leads for selling event tickets can become a challenge if you just use content marketing and other inbound tactics. Furthermore, products or services that don’t have much demand need some kind of outbound promotion.
Once you did your analysis, looked at different channels, then it should be much easier to pick the right ones. Depending on your business size, it could be worth focusing on just a very small number of lead generation channels. It is a good idea to maximise 1 or 2 channels first and commit to master them.
Now, what happens if these channels turn out to not work at all? Well, assuming that you spend a good amount of time in analysing your channels and isolated, say, 2 channels as the best ones, then chances of failure are minimised. Give it some time, at least 4-6 months and keep running experiments to step by step align your lead generation channel for best performance.
Follow this rule “Analyse, decide and iterate slowly”
You do your due diligence and compare marketing channels to identify those you want to focus on. Then you experiment and iterate, but most importantly, you stick with them.
Many B2B companies do it the other way around and iterate as soon as they made their decision. I can’t stress the importance of commitment enough, in part because of own mistakes of running online based businesses in which I put a lot of work in, and then didn’t execute on marketing channels.
Does that mean, you won't change channels at all? No, you can run experiments and add new things over time, but from experience things take time and you are usually better off playing the long-term game and becoming great at what you do rather than being tempted to drift strategies and tactics frequently.
Now you know your goals, analysed the channels and committed on mastering the game. What else do you need to make your lead generation work?
As much as you need the right channel to find your audience, now you need to provide a valuable offer. Come up with a product, resource or offer that is so enticing that your targeted users have to get it.
Don’t settle for anything less. In today’s competitive market, especially online, you need to provide incredibly great value and offers that stand out. There is no way around it.
A great offer itself is not enough. It should be something that is specifically addressing the key pain point of your target audience. There is a big difference in making a free offer that is targeting that pain point vs. another one that just focuses on wants and needs.
Your offer needs to tap into that pain so that your audience can realize: This is exactly the solution for the problem they are looking for.
Spend time on developing a great offer. When leads get in touch with you the first time, then present them a Top-of-the-funnel offer (TOFU). When they already have engaged with some content, e.g. your blog, then you can also place a Middle-of-the-funnel offer (MOFU).
Inbound marketing offers to place at different sales funnel stages
All the offers presented here are based on inbound marketing. It’s a good practice to start out with inbound marketing channels at the early stages of your sales funnel. You capture the lead and then to follow up with outbound marketing further down the funnel of the B2B lead generation strategy.
If the sales funnel concept is new to you, is basically just a series of steps that help you turn a stranger into a customer through a set of different actions:
The user journey through a B2B sales funnel via inbound and outbound marketing strategies
Top of the Funnel:
Get in front of your audience for the first contact
Middle of the Funnel:
Capture the lead, collect personal information, either via outbound marketing or via an inbound offer, e.g. a free resource or free consultation
Bottom of the Funnel:
Build trust, show offers related to the product or service and close the sale
The process you see in the image above shows the funnel stages and the user journey from “Stranger” to “Sale”, visualised by arrows. Inbound marketing is used for generating traffic and interest, presenting them an irresistible offer based on their pain point, capturing the lead through a lead form on a landing page and then start a follow-up campaign to generate a B2B sale.
Don’t underestimate the effort it takes to follow up with leads, it’s about 6-10 contacts with a potential buyer. It takes a lot of effort if you don’t have clarity on your follow-up strategy. The good news is that you can automate a lot of your follow-up activity. In LeadGen, you can set-up automated email notifications to your sales team to get in touch to the capture leads quickly.
You can also link your LeadGen form to an email marketing software to trigger an automated email sequence that provides more value to the potential buyer and allows you to build trust with them.
No marketing funnel and B2B lead generation strategy runs perfectly smooth straight away. Even if you have done everything right in your planning, you need to plan with some time for optimising your campaign for achieving positive results.
There are different practices that will help you in improving results and to make use of your strategy in the best way. To start your experimentation, break down all the different variables that your campaign success is dependent on.
This is crucial and helps you identify the key metrics to monitor. Generally, you can break down your B2B lead generation strategy into different layers that will make up your entire lead generation strategy. At first, you need a traffic channel and fill your funnel with people from your relevant target audience. This could be a channel from the overview graphic at the start of the post, such as organic blog marketing, traffic from Google search hitting your website.
Besides your traffic channel, you will need a medium to host an offer, which is typically a website or a landing page. In the example of the blog, you would work with the article that is embedded in your website.
So now, you got two layers for testing already: 1) Organic traffic via Google search; 2) The blog article.
What other factors play a role in converting in the funnel process? Guess what … Your Lead Capture Form.
The form within your content is the key interface that connects your audience to your brand. Without the form, you just wait for a visitor to somehow figure out a way to message or call you.
Commit to serve your audience by providing great offers, relevant to address their pain point and by offering a solution that works. Offer a great user experience that makes it as easy as possible for a person to subscribe to your offer while you can capture the lead.
Now, we got the third layer identified: Your LeadGen form.
Inside LeadGen, you can run AB tests with different form variants and let the tool split the traffic to find out which form perform better and drives more leads.
All of these steps are crucial, especially the planning part of choosing the right channels to begin with. I really cannot emphasise the importance of strategic thinking highly enough.
Don’t forget, make a commitment and start becoming a LeadGeneration Specialist today.
Best success for your B2B Lead generation!
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