B2B Lead Generation: The Basics

B2B Lead Generation is measurable, revenue focused marketing

B2B lead generation is the process of using marketing technology and tactics to identify and qualify new sales opportunities.

In a world where almost everything is quantifiable but not everything is worth tracking, B2B lead generation is a strictly outcomes focused discipline that should focus on three distinct metrics:

  1. Leads generated
  2. Opportunities derived from generated leads
  3. ROI from these efforts

To call everything else a vanity metric would be lazy but the above 3 stats are critical for B2B lead gen.  Other metrics like social media engagement or domain authority are more useful when describing a trend as opposed to labeling an effort good or bad, like ROI, which is the point of lead generation.

B2B Lead Generation The Basics

B2B Lead Generation is a marketing function, not a sales function

My career started in sales carrying a bag and has gradually morphed into a marketing and strategic business development role with some sales management along the way.  I mention that to provide the context that I do not want my SDRs, BDRs, or Sales Executives at any time, for any reason doing “lead gen.”  These sales personnel should be focused on opportunity generation if they aren’t currently working to close business.  I think this distinction goes beyond semantics and speaks to the core responsibilities of a sales role.  With that distinction clear, we’ll move on to the actual generation of a B2B lead.

How to generate B2B leads

Since we’re treating B2B lead generation as a marketing activity we can set aside lead sources like cold calls and client referrals.  Your organization should be leveraging these lead sources but, through our marketing-centric lens, there are 3 primary sources of B2B leads:

  • Your Website: the implication for a website that is generating leads is that time and budget are being invested into search engine optimization (SEO) activities.  Organic inbound leads are very high quality and will show a strong win rate in your funnel reporting.  The only downside to SEO / website leads is that you can’t just pour money into it and expect more leads.  Results from SEO efforts take time.
  • PPC / Search Engine Marketing:  Google Ads is the primary mechanism here but Bing Ads can also work.  There’s obviously layers to this involving landing pages, your ad copy and media, audience, etc and all of these areas provide an avenue to optimization.  The upside of PPC campaigning is that the more you spend the more leads you get.  But, even with excellent PPC fundamentals, these leads just won’t be as strong as your website leads.  You can show great ROI with your PPC work but expect that your SDRs will have to (get to?!) work through some low quality leads.
  • Email:  Email as a B2B lead source is interesting.  The tools available to B2B marketers give you the ability to send the classic “marketing email” with a hero, heading, copy, and button(s.)  You can also send emails that look like a 1:1 message from a human being at scale.  Each of these formats have their place.  The 1:1-esque emails will generate more new leads/opportunities than the “marketing” emails will.  The “marketing” emails are better used to support your other lead sources.

Clearly, there are other lead generating activities to participate in like trade shows and social media advertising but the fundamentals (website/PPC/email) are the ones that demand the most attention.  Unless you have data that says otherwise, everything else is secondary.

How to handle B2B leads

While it is gratifying to get the “new lead alert” email, that doesn’t mean you, the B2B lead generator, are necessarily off the hook.

The next step in the life cycle of a lead is notifying the right members of your team that their action is required.  I’m a big believer in speed to value (AKA getting what you want as soon as possible) and in the case of B2B leads, the value chain between the new prospect and your sales team is 100% aligned if the new prospect is contacted immediately or within the hour of “raising their hand.”

You’ve gotta have the right technology and lead routing to regularly contact your new leads quickly without getting lucky, though.  The easy way to do this is to use a CRM, like Salesforce, to handle this all for you.

With real-time notifications on new leads automatically served up to the sales team, you can avoid the very unfortunate scenario of being “average” where it takes you 17 hours to respond to a web lead.  Managing this process exclusively out of a website CMS or your inbox is unacceptable for obvious reasons.

Closing thoughts on B2B lead generation basics

Executing really well on the fundamentals of lead generation (web, paid search, email) and then executing on high-value ancillary lead sources like trade shows, paid social, and webinars is a sure path to success.  Not all B2B is the same so you may need to modulate your efforts based on your data or niche. For instance, you may get such great results from paid social it should be grouped in with your paid search efforts.  If that’s the case that’s great, good for you.

Next, you’ve got to be making data driven decisions.  If all of your leads are going into your CRM and you’re also tracking your costs you have everything you need to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing spend.  Do more of what works and change what isn’t.  You can read more about this topic in my piece on How to Analyze CRM Opportunity Data

Finally, be a great partner for your sales team.  When sales and marketing are aligned on creating excellent revenue outcomes it’s a thing of a beauty.  There is only one way to reach this sales and marketing utopia, though, and its by communicating.  Set up a cadence call to review the previous month’s leads.  Look at conversion rates by lead source.  Share campaign stats and campaigns that are in development.  By establishing two-way communication with sales you’re guaranteeing feedback that will allow you to generate even higher quality B2B leads.

Written by Erik Sunset

Written by Erik Sunset

Erik is the owner and operator of Sunset Marketing Works. Click to learn more about the author.

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