As a B2B marketer, generating leads is the name of the game.

Are you generating enough high-quality leads for your business?

Are you closing those leads?

B2B leads versus prospects

A lead is more than a name of someone or some business that might buy your product. A lead, a qualified lead, is someone or some business that has these 4 characteristics:

  1. Need — they have a problem your product solves
  2. Money — they can afford your solution
  3. Authority — the individual has authority to make purchases or influences those who make purchases like the products you sell
  4. Desire — they’re motivated to solve their problem and spend the money necessary to reach a satisfactory solution

Missing any one of these factors eliminates a prospect from becoming a lead.

So, how do you go about generating leads for your B2B firm?

Here are some solutions based on a study of demand generation in B2B firms by Software Advice based on a survey of 200 B2B marketing professionals.

Generating leads for B2B firms

Generating leads for B2B firms is tricky business, especially if you use the criteria listed above for a qualified lead. And, it just doesn’t make sense to generate leads that aren’t qualified because it’s very inefficient and costly — so poor lead generation not only impacts your bottom line by decreasing profits, but by increasing expenses.

When I worked for a direct marketing agency, the sales manager, an ex IBMer, used to warn salespeople against wasting time with prospects who weren’t qualified. For instance, cold calling on lists or using SIC (now NAICS). I realize a good sales person thinks they can close everyone, but wasting time on folks who aren’t qualified leads just doesn’t pan out.

Social media marketing in generating leads

In the graphic below, you see that firms find social media marketing a cost-effective means for generating leads. That explains why a third plan to increase their spend on social media. Most of the remaining businesses plan to keep their spending on social media marketing at the same level, which for the enterprise businesses making up much of the survey, is a substantial spend.

Some B2B firms seem to think social media marketing is only valuable for B2C firms. Not so. Social media marketing can help generating leads for B2B firms in several ways:

  1. Build awareness of your brand. Purchasing agents and others in the buying center might not intentionally use social media to find purchase options, but they’re using social media as individuals. Sharing valuable content on social platforms creates awareness through such personal usage.
  2. Targeted social ads effectively reach members of the buying center, especially when you use your existing email and customer lists to create a Custom Audience or target similar Facebook users — called a LookAlike Audience.
  3. Social media marketing is particularly effective in reaching small businesses whose owners use social platforms both as individuals and businesses.

generating leads for B2B firms

Generating leads with digital marketing

When you include digital marketing (ads, content marketing, SEO, SEM, and email marketing) to your social media marketing, you vastly increase the effectiveness of your lead generation campaigns. Notice on the graph below the effectiveness of digital marketing in generating leads for B2B firms. While trade shows generated more leads, the effectiveness of digital marketing tactics in generating high quality and high quantity leads was high.

Cost per lead

While social media and digital marketing, in general, didn’t win the award for generating the most quantity of leads or quality of leads (except for email marketing), social and digital are generating leads that cost less than other channels. So, while trade shows were deemed the best for generating leads for B2B firms, the cost per lead is also very high. Similarly, print and broadcast media generated high quality leads at a very high cost per lead.

What are some trends in generating leads for B2B firms?

Michele Linn, content marketing director at CMI (content marketing institute), cites firms placing more emphasis on lead generation strategy than ever before:

People realize now that having a demand generation strategy is so critical. They need to plan content along the entire customer lifecycle. And it can be very time-intensive and resource-intensive. So, from that perspective, it’s not surprising that people are increasing spend at all. It’s an engine that constantly needs to be fed.

I really like the notion of lead generation as an animal that needs constant feeding. Too many firms fail to implement effective strategies for generating leads for B2B firms for fear of the costs. That’s because they don’t see the opportunity costs involved in fewer or lower quality leads generated through other means. The costs of digital marketing show up on the income statement and reduce the firm’s bottom line. So, firms try to keep digital marketing costs low by using ineffective strategies with a low chance of generating leads. Some examples of ineffective strategies include:

customers by post frequency

  1. Posting infrequently. Studies by Buffer, Hubspot (see graph on the left) and others show that firms posting between 1 and 5 times per week achieve the highest results. Sure, you save money by posting less frequently (or not having a blog), but pay for it with fewer leads generated.
  2. Posting infrequently to social platforms is also cheaper, but poor at generating leads for B2B firms. You should plan to share at least 5 times on Twitter, 2 on Facebook and Google+, and once on LinkedIn every work day.
  3. Hiring a cheap agency. Look at the results the agency gets for other clients. As a first step, look at how they do for themselves. If they have a poor Alexa rank, few connections on social platforms, and poor performance on search, RUN. You’ll pay for those cheap results with poor lead generation.

Generating leads from your website

Your website should be the best tool for generating leads for B2B firms. Take a look at the infographic below from Onmicore that shows the variety of ways to generate leads on your website. One caveat, however. Don’t use ALL these strategies as you’ll provide a poor user experience and Google will downgrade your site in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

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