37 B2B Lead Generation Strategies that Work
The era of social distancing is also making lead generation more challenging. With less in-person interaction between B2B sales teams and their prospects, teams are conducting more work online than ever before. Further, 50% of B2B organizations have reduced their budgets in response to COVID-19.
In this guide, we’ll discuss both free and paid ways to generate more leads in 2021 and beyond. But first, a definition is in order.
What is B2B Lead Generation?
B2B lead generation is the process of acquiring potential leads’ contact information, names, job titles, and other data that enables you to create content and communications that address your leads’ needs and drive sales.
Any company that wants to ensure steady, sustainable growth needs lead generation, so it’s one of the most important skills for sales and marketing teams to master.
Before delving into tactics and strategies for lead generation in 2020, a distinction should be made: how lead generation differs from demand generation.
What is B2B Demand Generation and How is it Different from Lead Generation?
Demand generation is the process of increasing people’s overall awareness of your company so they become interested in your products or services. Lead generation is all about converting those people into leads and, ultimately, clients. In other words: Lead generation is a more specific version of demand generation.
For instance, demand generation involves free and open content like blogs, social media posts, podcasts, videos, etc. And while lead generation campaigns consist of similar content, it goes further to include lead capture forms. This way, those reading, watching, or listening to your content are less likely to leave without giving you their name and email address.
Which B2B Lead Generation Method Works Best?
Other than how it differs from demand generation, the next obvious question about B2B lead generation is which B2B lead gen tactics actually work? Well, the answer is complicated. According to Hubspot, while many B2B companies get inbound leads from sources like direct mail and blogs, more than 20 percent of inbound leads come from the nebulous “other” category.
Because of that, it’s difficult to say with certainty which B2B lead generation tactics are the most effective. Still, that doesn’t mean we know nothing—look at all of that other data in the above chart. There are still some channels and approaches that generate traction, and it’s likely that a combination of tactics are what will give you the results you seek.
Here are some of the most effective B2B lead generation strategies:
1. Social Media
Social media isn’t just for B2C. If you’re not using it for B2B lead-generation, you’re making things easy for competitors.
While each social platform has advantages, for B2B lead gen, LinkedIn is top-rated. In fact, LinkedIn has been shown to drive the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate of 2.74 percent. (Twitter and Facebook stand at .69 percent and .77 percent, respectively.) It’s also been shown to generate 80 percent of B2B leads online.
Facebook is also beneficial for lead generation, especially due to its excellent targeting capabilities and Lead Ads. And even though Twitter user numbers have declined as of late, it can still be useful for effective lead generation efforts.
Marketing and sales teams are discovering new lead-generation best practices all the time on social media, so do your homework and find what works best for your organization.
2. Follow Emails with Direct Mail
After sending a cold email, it’s commonplace to send follow-up emails, and for good reason. Email campaigns with four to seven emails in a sequence receive a 27 percent response rate, while campaigns with fewer follow-up emails only received a nine percent response rate.
However, it’s also important to stand out from your competition by disrupting the predictable cycle of emails. Sending your prospects direct, physical mail after email outreach provides a memorable experience. Consider that direct mail has been found to earn higher response rates (4.4 percent vs. 0.12 percent for email).
Delight your corporate audience by sending them gift cards, treats, or personalized office items. Such surprises, when coupled with notes of introduction or invites for a video chat, become powerful impressions that help you gain leads.
PPC has been a lead-generation staple for well over a decade. Today, this tactic has grown beyond Google Ads and has expanded into LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads, Facebook ThruPlay and others.
Why should you keep using PPC to generate B2B leads? Because it’s highly targeted, so you can reach a very specific B2B audience.
PPC is also refreshingly fast. Teams can implement it almost instantly, and realize results quickly, too. A/B testing is also a prime benefit, letting you quickly determine what’s working and what isn’t.
There are right ways of doing PPC—like automating certain PPC processes and creating responsive search ads —and some not-so-right ways. Be careful not to make mistakes that drain more money than your campaigns are worth.
Cold emailing is different from the email marketing you’re already doing. This tactic enables you to generate high-quality leads by contacting people who haven’t opted into your email marketing. Considering that eight prospects out of 10 prefer using email to communicate with sales reps, this is a method you shouldn’t ignore.
Since cold emailing involves prospecting to audiences you’ve never contacted before, it’s a harder skill to master than typical opt-in email marketing. You want to motivate your cold-email recipients to do more than just click something. You want them to actually reply. Cold emails, therefore, need to be persuasive, short, and relevant.
While many cold-email templates are available, cold emailing is best perfected with practice and testing. Shortcuts rarely work.
5. Encourage Sharing on Social Media
Sure, your social teams share your content on your brand’s official accounts. And asking readers to share your content is much easier than getting them to actually share. Empowering employees to promote your company online, on the other hand, can skyrocket your B2B lead generation.
Encouraging your employees to share your social content, also known as employee advocacy, helps you reach far more leads than what your company’s social media accounts could possibly achieve on their own. Consider that employee social media sharing can lead to a 30 percent increase in online engagement with your leads.
Employee advocacy is a win-win. Your business reaches a greater number of leads, and your employees earn thought-leadership credibility within their industry. Employee advocacy also humanizes your brand, which is a welcome distinction in B2B industries.
6. Live Chat
Decision makers want answers now, especially in complex industries. Live chat fulfills this need for instant gratification. And for companies that execute it well, lead increases of 25 percent aren’t unheard of.
Done well, live chat also provides you with a competitive edge. It allows a potential lead to ask questions and get replies without having to dig any deeper or visit your competitors’ websites for further research.
Further, live chat enables you to better understand your audience’s needs by observing the questions they ask and the interest they show in your products and services. The better you know your target, the faster you can convert them into leads who eventually buy from you.
7. Live Video Streaming
While the era of social distancing has dealt incalculable damage to the seminar and trade-show industry. But many are switching to virtual events, which enables you to keep your seminar plans rolling without a hitch. Some even predict a rise in hybrid events to accommodate those who wish to attend in person or from the comfort (and distance) of their homes.
The bottom line is that even if employees work remotely, they’re still able to attract new B2B leads through video-based webinars, Q&A sessions, new product demos, and more. The key is to get creative and think of new and unique ways to grab the attention of potential leads.
8. Personalized Videos
Grabbing your audience’s interest is almost 100 percent of the lead-generation battle. Attention spans are declining, and competition is increasing.
As B2B prospects float in a sea of irrelevant white noise, you have to speak to them by name. This ultra-customization is what personalized videos achieve.
Tools like Vidyard and Idomoo can connect to your CRM to populate several personalized fields within your video messages. Even if you send thousands of emails in a campaign, they can contain videos that are tailored to each prospect, all in a way that’s automated.
With 80 percent of respondents saying they’re more likely to purchase from a company offering a personalized experience, you should be making efforts to customize videos seriously.
9. Free Incentives
Sometimes it’s more important to solve than to sell. To earn more leads, solve a problem for them before they even become a client. This can be done with an effective lead magnet—a free incentive that a prospect receives in exchange for their contact information.
Make sure your incentives are truly valuable. It could be an in-depth ebook that helps prospects reduce industry pain points. Or your incentive could be a proprietary tool they can start using today to solve a nagging business problem.
If it’s a tool, it should exceed your prospects’ expectations. If it’s information like an ebook, webinar, or video, make sure your prospects can’t find similar information elsewhere online. Value is the key.
10. CTA Copy That Highlights Your Value
Lead magnets, email newsletters, free trials, and other incentives are usually offered on landing pages. But too many B2B landing pages use weak call-to-action copy.
Effective CTA copy leans into people’s tendency to experience FOMO (fear of missing out). Make your potential leads feel the FOMO unless they receive your offer.
Establish your company as the authority on the tools or information you’re offering, and show your audience why you’re the only organization who can offer this incentive.
Also, adding a sense of urgency by providing your incentive “for a limited time” boosts the FOMO factor. And finally, follow CTA best practices like keeping copy short and direct.
11. A/B Testing Your CTAs
Even if your team has created CTA copy that’s getting results, it’s always possible to perfect it further for even better results. A/B testing is the best way to fine-tune a CTA. In fact, 60 percent of businesses run A/B testing on their landing pages and 77 percent A/B-test their websites.
Once you’ve found CTA copy that works, A/B test it using a tool like HubSpot’s A/B Testing Kit, Crazy Egg, or AB Tasty. Then, when your testing has revealed a better option, A/B test that CTA version as well! In short, never stop testing.
12. Optimizing Your Lead Generation Forms
Your website’s forms are one of your most important secret weapons. Case in point: Almost 50 percent of marketers report that their web forms are their most effective lead generation tool.
The key to effective forms is to hit a “sweet spot” of providing ease for your prospects while also gathering enough information for sufficient lead qualifying. It’s all about keeping the most necessary fields for data collection while shaving away the fields that merely add weight and discourage prospects from filling out your form.
As with everything else in lead generation, testing is important for creating forms that work. Well-established tools are also available to help you create effective lead generation forms, such as Typeform and JotForm.
13. Good UX
How many conversion barriers exist on your website? How many broken links and 404 pages are left unattended? What about load time? Any of these UX (user experience) factors can cause potential leads to abandon your site and turn to a competitor’s.
If you’re unsure about your website’s UX, it’s time to dig in and evaluate it. On the design side, there are many best practices to consider, like making sure your website isn’t plagued with excessive buttons, disorganized links, or complex jargon. And from the technical side, in addition to the aforementioned load time, link functionality, etc. you also need to ensure your site works across all devices. Seventy-one percent of website users have stated that they’re more likely to return to a website when it’s mobile-friendly.
14. Strategically Advertise Exclusivity and Limited Offers
Nothing piques the interest of potential B2B leads like offering content or tools that can’t be found anywhere else. (Netflix’s success, for example, is due to their exclusive content.)
Armed with truly exclusive offerings, you can attract significant interest from prospects. You could build hype with a waiting list that your prospects have to sign up for via a landing page. Or, establish deadlines to register for your exclusive webinar. Limiting the quantities of your ebooks or the attendance of your online events can also be effective.
But honesty is key here. Resist the temptation to offer extensions on quantities or time limits once you’ve advertised the rules. Ignoring your own rules will damage the trust your potential leads have in you.
15. Creating an Email Signup for “Out of Stock” Items
B2B companies that sell products online should do more than display an “out of stock” notification next to sold-out items. When an item is temporarily unavailable, it’s smart to let buyers submit their email address to receive a notification when the item is available again.
This added email field kills two birds with one stone. On one hand, it keeps existing customers happier than if they saw a mere “not available” message. But, more importantly, it lets you capture email addresses of those who haven’t done business with you before. This clear purchase intent is a strong indicator of a lead.
16. Automating Lead Generation Tasks
As critical as lead generation is to a business, it can be rife with tedious-yet-necessary tasks. Freeing up your team’s time by automating these tasks is the gift that keeps on giving: 80 percent of marketers who use automation software see an increase in leads, and 77 percent are able to turn more of those leads into customers.
Tools like Pardot and Pipedrive take time-consuming steps like follow-up emails and lead segmentation off the hands of your team, giving them more time to think creatively, find leads, and convert those leads. But look around at what’s on the market to figure out what sort of automation platform works best for your team.
17. Researching Customer Needs on Forums
Did you know that 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies have reported that online communities provide insight into customer needs? Again, the better you know the needs of your target, the faster you can convert them into leads and buyers.
When you join industry groups and forums on LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, Quora, and industry publications, you’re able to observe conversations taking place in your field. Those observations can help you tailor content to the exact needs and pain points of potential customers.
Further, actively engaging in forums lets you gain leads by answering questions and providing insight that establishes your business as an indispensable authority within your industry. Just be careful not to come off as spammy or overly promotional when engaging in forums. Remember: Solve, don’t sell.
18. Content Marketing
Content has become the gold standard for lead generation and marketing.
Unsurprisingly, 70 percent of marketers report that they’re actively investing in content marketing. An effective content strategy drives B2B lead generation by magnifying awareness of your brand and boosting credibility.
Content marketing is changing dramatically in the 2020s. Pay close attention to content trends like ultra-targeted content. Natural language and voice search are also becoming content-marketing necessities. Further, consider adding infographics and Instagram carousel posts to your content strategy. Yes, Instagram is an excellent platform for B2B companies in the 2020s!
19. Don’t Make All of Your Content Long-form
It’s tempting to imagine that long-form content is what will win you leads. After all, who doesn’t love a deep dive on a topic that’s bubbling up in their industry? But think about most decision makers and C-suites who hold the purse strings. They’re not grappling with those issues in their day-to-day; they have their fingers in all sorts of pies across the business. As such, they generally don’t have time to spend with long-form content. Instead, shorter content and listicles are the way to capture their attention.
20. Increase Link Building via Guest Posts
Historically, link building has always been a favored method of garnering organic traffic and thus, of building brand awareness. And marketers seem to agree that that won’t change any time soon: 92 percent of marketers believe that link building will still be a top sear ranking factor in the near future.
A great way to help boost the number of links that point back to your content is to commission guest posts on your blog. In fact, 51 percent of marketers use this tactic to help increase backlinks.
Invite industry experts with a unique perspective to write a post on a trending or hotly-debated topic. That sort of thought leadership is just the sort of content your leads crave.
21. Put Together SEO-based Content
Backlinking can boost your organic traffic, but it’s nothing compared to what a proper SEO strategy can do. Incorporated into your content marketing efforts correctly, SEO-based content can be some of your most effective content. Indeed, 70 percent of marketers see SEO as a more effective marketing tactic than PPC.
There’s a lot that goes into good SEO, but to start, determine what sorts of needs and pain points your users have with smart keyword research. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush are robust and can give you all sorts of insights into the search terms your target audience, and even your competitors, are using.
Then create content that addresses those needs, and be sure to address both on- and off-page optimization for those pieces of content.
22. Use SEO to Find Competitors’ Keywords
You might have perked up when you read above that some tools can help you find out what sorts of keywords competitors are going after. That knowledge can be helpful for a couple of reasons. First, if your competitors are spending money targeting specific keywords, those keywords likely bring in some decent leads. So it makes sense to go after them, too, if you aren’t already.
But knowing which keywords your competition is targeting also reveals the ones they aren’t. Sometimes, there’s a good reason for that, like if the keyword isn’t relevant. But sometimes, there are golden opportunities in those gaps. It takes a little legwork to figure out if it’s worth creating content or spending money on PPC ads to fill those gaps, but the payoff can be significant.
23. Develop Negative Keyword Lists
Just as important as knowing which keywords to target is knowing which keywords to avoid. If you’re spending money on PPC ads, you want to make sure you’re spending only on search terms that will get you the highest-quality clicks. Creating negative keyword lists is the best way to make sure you don’t waste your ad dollars.
Use the Search Terms report in Google Ads to get a good sense of what people are typing in to trigger one of your ads. Keep an eye out for terms that you know aren’t relevant to your product or services, don’t have a high buy intent, or that have a high cost-per-click that could easily burn through your budget.
24. Create Remarketing Campaigns
New visitors to your website almost never make purchases upon their initial visit. They come and leave in almost an instant as they scan websites for information—both yours and your competitors’.
Creating effective remarketing campaigns enables you to turn these visitors into leads by tagging them and reengaging them with your content to bring many of them back to your website.
Because of Google’s vast reach, setting up a Google remarketing campaign is an excellent start. You can engage your first-time visitors on YouTube, Gmail, apps they use, and the Google Display Network with over two million websites.
25. Publish Original Research
Publishing original research that gets your industry buzzing is a powerhouse B2B lead-generation tactic that not every company can achieve. Since B2B decision makers need insightful information to make good buying decisions, they’re always seeking new and relevant research.
Are there any glaring gaps in your industry’s current knowledge base? Fill them. Identify the need, conduct the research, analyze the data, and create a thorough report. Finally, create content around the report to gain interest and generate leads.
The process is a marathon rather than a sprint, so assemble a talented team that understands how to pull it all together.
26. Personalize All Touchpoints
You’ve personalized your email campaigns with segmented lists and offers. But what about the interactions prospects have with your brand on social media, your website, and blog? Every touchpoint prospects have with your business should be personalized based on the segments you’re targeting.
One option is to create posts for each persona you’re targeting so your blog acts as a resource for everyone. For example, top-of-the-funnel pieces designed for marketers, salespeople, and founders would all look a bit different since they have unique pain points.
27. Build a Community On Social Channels
Social media is more than a channel to promote your latest content. It’s also an excellent tool for building thought leadership and a community around your values and mission.
People today have around seven social media profiles they frequent daily. Being active on the networks you choose is critical to building visibility and followers. Focus on starting discussions and contributing to conversations to achieve this goal.
Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are popularly used by brands to create groups. On LinkedIn, you can create a group, send invites to those in your network, and moderate it. You’ll find all sorts of groups here, including those designed specifically for networking, sharing insights and tips, or discussing industry trends and news. It’s the ideal platform for B2B companies looking to grow visibility. It even allows you to send weekly digest emails to members to keep them engaged.
Make sure your website is clearly visible for potential leads.
28. Track and Analyze Website Visitors' Actions
There’s a lot you can learn about your target audience by recording and analyzing the behaviors of website visitors. You can learn things like why they’re not converting, filling out forms, or visiting certain web pages.
For example, if you notice people are bouncing away after clicking on a specific link, you may find that link is broken or irrelevant for the audience landing on that page. You could fix the link and/or content, so it resonates with your target audience. Use the data you gather to create A/B tests to see what works.
29. Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews
People today trust the word of their peers and use their stories and referrals to determine their own buying decisions. So rather than relying on PPC search and social ads, you should ask customers to leave reviews. These can be collected on your Google My Business page, which will be visible to others who search for your brand or product.
30. Use Video Marketing to Build Visibility
Building thought leadership for your brand is critical when you’re a B2B marketer. One way you can do this is to use video marketing. Today’s internet users are consuming many hours of online video content each week. And who can blame them? It’s a convenient way to learn. By creating videos, you can increase visibility by sharing it on your website and social media channels.
Consider turning each blog post into a video so people can choose how they want to consume your content.
31. Use Interactive Content
Engaging your audience is a challenge for B2B marketers. But it’s key to driving qualified leads to your business. The longer you can make prospects stay on your site, the higher the chances of getting them to convert. Interactive content helps with this by giving your visitors something to do when they arrive. For example, you can have a calculator, quiz, or survey for them to engage with. Then if you can require their emails to use it, then you’ll also have a solid way of growing your email list.
32. Use AI Chatbots to Engage Visitors
When a prospect lands on your website, they have two options: Explore your website or leave. To improve the odds of them sticking around, you can use AI chatbots to engage them. What makes chatbots an ingenious B2B marketing lead generation strategy is that it automates business transactions. For instance, visitors can use it to ask questions, schedule calls, or even make purchases. It also reduces operational costs.
33. Partner with Micro-Influencers
Influencer marketing isn’t only beneficial to B2C businesses. You have influencers all throughout LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter that cater to B2B audiences. The key is partnering with micro-influencers who speak on topics relevant to your industry. Or those who are experts that work or own businesses in your industry (but aren’t direct competitors).
Micro-influencers are ideal because their audiences are more authentic. Celebrity influencers don’t yield the same results because many view them as living paid ads instead of people with genuine recommendations.
34. Analyze All of Your Data
If you’re committed to making your B2B marketing campaigns work, then you need to monitor and track all data collected from and about your prospects. With this information, you can learn more about who your ideal customers are, where they’re coming from, and what converts them.
You’ll need a tool to assist with gathering and analyzing it all, so you don’t waste precious time and money doing it manually. Just be sure you’re looking at metrics that matter — not vanity numbers that don’t directly relate to macro conversions.
35. Create Profiles of Your Target Audience
Do you know who your ideal customer is? How many different customers are you targeting? If you’re casting out a net, far and wide, hoping to catch a few big fish, then you’re setting yourself up for inconsistent campaigns. Each B2B marketing campaign you start should have a clear focus on who you’re targeting.
By creating a target customer profile, you’ll know exactly who you’re talking to, so the messaging speaks directly to them. There are software tools (like customer data platforms) that help identify ideal customers based on historical data. It models your ideal customer profile after your best accounts.
36. Promote Sales Enablement Across Departments
Does your organization have siloed departments? If your sales, marketing, and customer support teams aren’t working together, then you’re missing out on opportunities to enhance the customer experience. This is why you’ll find more B2B marketers using customer data platforms to unite everyone. It makes customer data accessible to all who need it.
This includes customer information, interactions with the company, and behavioral data. By sharing intel with one another, all teams can work together to drive more qualified leads and improve sales. For example, marketing can take the data gathered from sales to improve CTAs and ad campaigns. And then use information from customer support to target questions customers have that aren’t touched on in content campaigns.
37. Launch a Referral Program
In B2B industries, it’s all about networking. So it’s common for businesses to refer others to service and product providers they’ve had success with in the past. Why not incentivize this behavior to get more referrals coming in? Creating a referral program formalizes this by offering a “commission” to customers who refer prospects that turn into paying customers.
You can offer incentives, such as a 50% discount on their next purchase or a free month on their subscription.
Take Your B2B Lead Generation to the Next Level
Clearly, there’s no shortage of tactics to help boost your B2B lead generation efforts, but knowing which ones to employ can take some time to determine. As we mentioned before, there’s no panacea to your lead gen woes. What works for you will likely have to be a multifaceted approach.
But don’t discount the power of direct mail marketing to help you and your team earn high-quality leads. Teams that utilize direct mail marketing services, like those offered by Sendoso, can see results like an 84 percent response rate. Request a demo to learn more about how your team can leverage the power of direct mail marketing in your B2B lead generation campaigns.