Definitive Guide To B2B Demand Generation

Summary

Introduction

Lead generation is an array of tactics to fill your pipeline with leads. For most marketers, and CEOs, it is the primary objective. Some even consider it the only goal of marketing.

A core component of any marketing strategy, lead generation needs to be planned to bring about the best results. This INFUSEmedia guide will show you how to distribute content, when to pass on leads to the sales team, and ultimately how to create a lead generation strategy that works.

account based marketing

How to Create a Lead Generation Strategy from Scratch

Creating a lead generation strategy from scratch is hard, especially in B2B marketing. This is because common lead gen strategies, such as social media and search ads in B2C, work differently with B2B audiences.

For starters, most B2B buyers use corporate email which in most cases is separate from their Facebook or Instagram accounts. And search ads will be effective only when the prospect is online during work time. This is because after-hours potential leads are likely to be using their personal accounts.

This does not mean, however, that B2B lead generation through these channels is impossible. What it does mean is that businesses need different methods to those considered “best practices” in a B2C marketplace.

Here are five steps to help you create a B2B lead generation strategy that works:

b2b demand generation

1. Market Research

The only way to create a successful lead generation strategy is to research your market. In this step your marketing team should evaluate:

Buyer personas, including demographics, firmographics, technographics, and psychographics.
The goals, challenges, and pain points of buyer personas.
The media channels target audiences’ access, including email, social media, blogs, and offline media.
Preferred content formats, including eBooks, podcasts, infographics, multimedia, and videos.

Once the data on your target market has been compiled, begin looking at what type of content is needed to really engage people.

2. Create Content and Ads

To generate leads, businesses must first grab their attention. But remember, now firmly into the 21st century, gone are the days of bombarding prospects with ads to buy products.

In the B2B marketplace, businesses will be engaging with leads that are usually:

Knowledgeable of their market and can spot a scam from a mile away.
College graduates who are themselves digital natives.
Already researching your brand on review websites, together with those of your competitors. They will also likely discuss things with a buying committee before sealing a deal.

In this way, businesses will only generate leads if they scrap the noise and create relevant content that genuinely engages. This is where it is time for businesses to walk the talk and put ideas into practice.

2.1. How to Create Relevant Content

To nail this step, marketers need to align themselves with the objectives of step one, particularly the “goals and challenges” of buyer personas.

Relevant content is what helps prospective clients meet their responsibilities. And as mentioned, B2B audiences are highly educated so generic content will likely be irrelevant.

To identify relevancy, analyze common searches and trends. Reading competitors’ content can help identify pitfalls and common mistakes and make your content better.

Businesses can discover what prospects are searching for - their challenges - and with the help of rival content, what types of businesses they are turning to for solutions. These insights can help companies identify a niche in the market which is ripe for content marketing.

Another option is competitor displacement, in which businesses create content for the clients of competitors to win them over. The trick here is not to employ a “fast food duel” campaign, but rather to showcase how well your company can solve their challenges.

Content Creation

INFUSEmedia’s team of creatives and content specialists craft content for some of the world’s biggest businesses.

Our team will analyze your strategic needs and develop content marketing assets that deliver results for your demand generation campaigns. There is no limit to the formats and asset types that we can create, including articles, whitepapers, e-books, video, and infographics.

Work with us to create your perfect content

2.2. What Channels and Formats to Use

Market research will identify the media preferences of your target audience. Armed with this data, ensure content is relevant by catering to these preferences. Failure to do so will result in content being ignored.

Investing in a podcast, regardless of whether it is a popular medium, will not matter if your audience happens to hate them. The same goes for eBooks; if your audience isn’t a fan, don’t try to engage it through this channel.

Curate content in the right formats and promote it on the preferred platform. A prospective lead might be a heavy Instagram user, but if they use it to unwind at home then they probably won’t appreciate being contacted through it for work.

2.3. What About Ads?

Ads promote relevant content on a larger scale than is possible organically. Having already spent the time and effort to create relevant content, why not spend some ad money to ensure it gets seen?

Content works better than the same old, generic “buy now” ads our eyes have become accustomed to glossing over. So, focus on generating leads with ads that promote relevant assets.

This will increase opt-ins and your lead generation quota. Also, leads that download content tend to be more qualified than those generated via other channels.

3. Distribute Content to a Wider Audience

Depending solely on ads is expensive and ineffective. In the digital marketing era, there are various methods to distribute content, and some are even free. Offline mediums can be effective too depending on your audience.

Ways to distribute content include:

  • Content Syndication

Here businesses provide content to third-party publishers, sharing a target audience and increasing reach. Some blogs allow guest posts, which means affiliates can write an article, pitch it, and get it published in return for reams of user data, precious backlinks and increased brand awareness.

IT Curated is a network of more than 30 publishers in an array of industries including tech, media, healthcare, manufacturing, finance, and others. Companies that do business with IT Curated can get their content seen by more than 138 million B2B decision-makers across the world.

And content syndication is not just for articles. Businesses can syndicate podcasts, videos, and webinars, or even use posts as teasers for whitepapers or case studies.

READ THE CMO GUIDE TO MODERN CONTENT SYNDICATION

  • LinkedIn Lead Generation

Among social media platforms, LinkedIn is the second most popular channel for B2B marketing, behind Facebook.

There are several ways to generate brand awareness and leads on this platform:

LinkedIn Ads

Create text, video, and carousel ads, and send sponsored messages to prospect inboxes. Pinpoint your audience with criteria such as job title, age, skills, company size, and industry.

The LinkedIn ad platform allows businesses to determine objectives like lead generation, traffic, engagement, or video views. For those reading this guide, lead generation and website traffic should be key goals.

LinkedIn Groups

Like other social media, LinkedIn has several interest groups providing an opportunity to join in conversations and post content. Search for a keyword that is relevant to your target audience, such as SaaS, and discover available groups.

Join the popular ones and interact with members. When the time is right, start posting content to generate leads.

Staff Posts

Leveraging your staff as niche “thought leaders” can help create brand awareness and generate leads. Each employee has a network and if they share content then company reach will grow tremendously.

This is a free tactic that can be followed by simply asking staff to share posts. Consider the staff member’s position too; a developer should share more tech-oriented content while a Sales Development Representative (SDR) should share more marketing content.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

The LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a premium feature that facilitates personalized searches for leads in groups, locations, or even individually, for example with those people who have recently changed jobs.

Paired with an automation tool such as Phantombuster, these tools allow businesses to peruse profiles, export searches, and send direct messages to members.

The cost of the Sales Navigator for a single professional is $79 pm as of the time of this publication, but enterprise plans are also available at a negotiable rate. Despite the cost, this is a useful tool that can help SDRs generate qualified leads.

David Verwey, our EMEA vice president, details his strategy for generating LinkedIn leads in the webinar below:

Lookalike Targeting

With this method, businesses can tap into a similar but wider audience than their current one. Many platforms such as LinkedIn and Google allow clients to launch ads to look-a-like audiences.

Each platform has its own filters and algorithms for look-a-like audiences, and some perform better than others. Audiences are generated from demographic and behavioral data, incorporating metrics such as job title, age, means of engagement, interests, and so on.

Another option is to hire a demand generation partner with a look-a-like service that will generate an audience and target them on multiple channels for you, like the one provided by INFUSEmedia.

4. Create a Free Tool

Free tools are used by thousands of people all over the world daily. And while most of those people will not transition over to becoming paying users, a certain percentage is guaranteed to buy exclusive features in the long run.

Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest, Hootsuite’s Social Media Glossary, and INFUSEmedia’s Lead Quality Grader are all good examples of free tools that generate brand awareness and leads for their users.

Of course, creating a free tool requires a lot of effort. Hiring web developers, designers, and project architects while at the same time running a day-to-day business is tricky. But for those brands that can pull it off, a free tool is an evergreen lead magnet.

But tools do not necessarily need to be software. Like Hootsuite’s glossary, a comprehensive guide or even a book can be a valuable resource for a fellow professional.

5. Retargeting

Retargeting prospects is a lead generation strategy in and of itself that, if performed correctly, will scoop up leads that might not otherwise have been considering your brand.

However, businesses should avoid the trap of remarketing right after a prospect visits their website. A lot of people consider this creepy.

Instead, savvy companies should wait before retargeting a prospect, or configure ads to appear when the prospect visits contextually relevant websites, instead of at random, such as featuring an SDR eBook on sales blogs. This will improve the reception of your retargeting campaigns.

When to Pass on Leads to Sales?

In short, lead generation consists of identifying your audience and generating opt-ins from relevant content.

But generating leads is not the end of the story. Once won, a lead is not guaranteed to make a purchase, even if they do fill out a form. A lead only demonstrates interest in your content, the challenge then is to qualify them as sales-ready.

Lead nurturing and scoring are two methods businesses should combine to determine when to pass on leads to sales. Buyer intent data can signal when a lead is willing to invest in a product or service and is an added layer of certainty in the qualification process.

SHARE
On Your Site
What makes a lead sales-ready?
Engaged with two or more pieces of content
Has a high lead score in your CRM software
Demonstrates buyer intent

Lead Nurturing

The idea of nurture brings us images of caring for a child or a plant as it grows and develops. In some respects, the nurturing of leads can be imagined in much the same way: companies provide the resources that leads need to grow, until one day they are ready to buy.

Content cadence can support a lead by helping them to better understand their challenges and goals. Content should be shared at various stages throughout the sales cycle and leads should be primed to buy only when the time is right.

Brands that push for a sale too soon can alienate their audience and lose prospective clients. Consider that companies that successfully leverage lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads.

To implement a lead nurturing strategy:

  • Create content cadence that addresses key challenges: Send emails with content, such as whitepapers, that educate leads on the challenges they face. Emails can be automated to save effort and maintain consistency, with the idea being to slowly develop a sense of trust.
  • Consider your lead’s buying committee: For some, this is the key difference between regular and account-based marketing when it comes to lead nurture. Businesses should consider how the lead’s buying group decides a purchase and what content will be more convincing. For many buying groups, a comparison chart, a listicle, or even a case study with a media kit can be beneficial.
  • Track results and optimize campaigns: Every asset sent should be tracked. If the open rate of an email is low, then run A/B or multivariate tests to figure out what is going wrong. If a campaign is proving particularly effective, evolve working best practices across your platform.
  • Lead scoring: As leads interact with content, score them to know which are more sales-ready than others.

Lead Scoring

Designate point thresholds for progressing leads through the sales funnel and, as such, for the different content to be sent their way.

Leads increase their score when they interact with content or perform certain actions with your brand, such as visiting the pricing page or filling out a form. With Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, marketing teams can personalize the criteria for lead scoring, including what score designates a lead as “sales-ready”.

To implement a lead scoring strategy:

  • Define point thresholds: The easiest way to implement thresholds is by splitting them across the stages of the sales funnel. Most companies adopt a 3-stage funnel design incorporating top, middle, and bottom of funnel (TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU). This would allow, for instance, to designate 30 as the score for advancing to MOFU and 60 for TOFU.
  • Define how leads are scored: Your marketing and sales teams should agree on what qualifies a lead. Some actions will award more points than others according to the level of engagement required. Opening an email should award fewer points than watching a webinar, for example.
  • Fill in content blanks: When implementing a lead scoring system, businesses might notice, for example, that they are missing content specifically for BOFU leads. This means more content will need to be created to cater to those touchpoints.
  • Define how leads are passed to sales: Once a lead has been classified as sales-ready then it is time to define the pitch based on their buyer persona. This can be a personal email by a sales rep, booking a meeting, or even a discount. No matter the format, it must be streamlined across the company.

Buyer Intent Data

Buyer intent data allows businesses to analyze those interactions that demonstrate intent to buy a product or service.

Bear in mind that buyer intent does not necessarily mean your brand. A lead searching for software to address a challenge is looking for any software that will meet their requirements, and at the right price.

Even so, buyer intent data is one of the most valuable metrics since it signals the lead is primed for buying. It is at this point sales teams should be prepared to push soft-sell or even hard-sell content their way.

Soft-sell content includes things like whitepapers, reports, webinars, and case studies. Hard-sell content is a far more direct approach and includes product demos, product comparisons, features, and pricing pages, often with CTAs.

There are many ways to collect buyer intent data and marketing teams should combine sources to track leads more efficiently.

Options include:

  • Product/service review pages: Reviews are deemed more trustworthy than content as opinions are less likely to be biased. If a lead accesses a review site like G2, for example, it means they are considering a purchase.
  • Webinar attendance: Leads that watch a webinar, especially a product-focused one, signal buyer intent. Target these leads with soft-sell content.
  • Website visits: Leads that visit specific web pages, such as pricing or case studies, signal buyer intent. Other metrics including time spent on page, number of pages viewed, and spikes in interest, derived from searching for a keyword on the blog for example, also signal intent.
  • Third-party analytics: Companies specialized in crunching the numbers on your behalf can provide detailed buyer intent data from multiple sources beyond the scope of your website or social media channels. Learn more about INFUSEmedia’s intent-driven marketing here.
Managing Buyer Intent Data

Once buyer intent data has been collected, businesses will need to analyze and act upon it correctly.

To better manage buyer intent data:

  • One signal is never enough: Just because a lead manifests a signal of intent, such as by visiting the pricing page, it does not mean you should contact them for a sales meeting. Continue lead nurturing as usual and wait for more signals that suggest legitimate interest.
  • Not all signs are equal: There is low and high buyer intent; reading a case study is higher intent than scrolling through a blog post for five minutes. In other words, address this intent accordingly, serving “soft-sell” content to low intent and “hard-sell” to high intent.
  • Sales-ready leads show two or more signs of buyer intent: Nowhere is this rule set in stone, but at INFUSEmedia we notice that leads which are ready to buy normally show two or more signals of intent.

Read Buyer Intent Data for B2B Marketing

Important Things to Know

Having covered the lead generation cycle from opt-in to sales, let’s now look at B2B lead generation software, services, outbound marketing, and more.

Is Lead Generation Software Required?

If businesses are serious about optimizing campaigns and tracking results, then yes. In the B2B market, data is key to improving the bottom line. In fact, businesses will find it difficult to prove ROI to the c-suite otherwise.

With lead generation software, and a CRM, companies can measure the engagement of content, perform A/B or multivariate tests, and segment lead nurturing tracks for each buyer persona.

For those businesses unable or unwilling to invest in lead generation software, just hire a lead generation partner instead.

What Are Lead Generation Services?

These can vary. Some companies operate as full-service marketing agencies while others focus on lead and demand generation.

With lead generation software, businesses still need to launch a content marketing campaign, create landing pages, send emails, and launch ads. What the software provides is a hub to manage content across the channels of engagement and measure the results of campaigns.

With a lead generation service, the company generates leads for you by promoting your content across many channels, and in some cases even creates content for you.

More specialized solutions are available, such as appending lead pipelines to fix errors or analyze buyer intent data.

Does Outbound B2B Demand Generation Work?

To recap, “outbound” is when a brand contacts a prospective client rather than the other way round. When a potential lead finds your content on a search engine like Google, this is inbound. A display ad detailing the services your company offers, that’s outbound.

Before the internet all marketing was outbound, such as direct mail or sending a salesperson to a company HQ for a pitch. With the rise of the internet, inbound marketing has become an important marketing industry component and is now touted as the method to generate leads.

However, the truth is that most B2B companies combine both inbound and outbound marketing in their campaigns. Building inbound marketing from the ground up can take time to start raking in leads. Even when launched with an SEO strategy, it will likely take weeks for new content to really make an impact.

The nature of the contact provided by outbound marketing virtually guarantees movement of some kind. If SDRs connect with prospects on LinkedIn via direct messages, the likelihood is that some will respond.

Other methods of outbound lead generation include:

  • Social selling: This is when SDRs share content and connect with prospects on social media. In B2B, LinkedIn is among the top channels.
  • Cold calling: An SDR calls the prospect to talk about their brand. Cold calling has a bad reputation, but it does not need to be invasive. Calls that offer information and contact, rather than push for sales, are better received.
  • Email: Sending emails to prospects that did not fill in forms is outbound marketing. It is best to use an SDR and send a personalized message, instead of going directly to a sale. Be careful with privacy laws, however, unsolicited emails can be fined.
  • Ads: Display ads, search ads, and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are all forms of outbound marketing. Companies can advertise content in these types of ads, such as whitepapers and eBooks.

What Is a Lead Generation Landing Page?

Prospects need to opt-in to become leads. And that happens on a lead generation landing page.

Each time businesses publish an asset, such as a whitepaper, they can gate it with a landing page form.
To learn more about gating content, watch INFUSEmedia’s To Gate, or Not To Gate webinar in the video below:

The landing page is the last stop once potential leads have clicked through from an ad or link provided elsewhere. It is at this point that businesses need to minimize bounce and capture interest with content.

To get the most out of a landing page:

  • Write a magnetic headline: Demonstrate the quality of your asset with the fewest words possible.
  • Use a short lead form: Long lead forms can make prospects quit. Ask for the name, job title, company, and email only.
  • Provide social proof: Awards, testimonials, and statistics. Prove to the potential lead you know what you’re talking about.
  • Bullet point copy: Like this list, write scannable copy with an overview of the asset.
  • Eye-catching imagery: It can be an eBook cover, a software screenshot, or an illustration. Grab people’s attention and guide them towards the lead form.

Should I Buy Lead Lists?

Many companies provide lead generation lists, and some even send out on-demand lists with hundreds of leads for partners to contact immediately.

Lead lists work if they are generated with credibility. But how can businesses identify a credible lead list when they see one? A credible lead list has identifiable sources with leads that have been verified and meet the criteria for your brand.

For instance, a business that sets out to buy a lead list of marketing managers from the Fortune 500 companies should receive a list with only that information, and which should be easily provable.

If the list seller promises hundreds of leads in a short space of time, say in 24 hours or less, beware. It is probably a scam.

To verify the veracity of your lead lists use INFUSEmedia’s free lead grader here.

Those businesses that decide to work with INFUSEmedia can guarantee that 100% of the data is verified and categorized. Our wholly-owned data verification and validation team, Let’s Verify, fixes leads with missing data, removes duplicates or those that do not meet target criteria.

For those considering lead lists, it is important to source them from a credible lead gen company. But remember that demand gen generates better ROI than lead lists.

Lead Generation Examples

At INFUSEmedia we work with clients around the world, and here we can showcase two concrete examples of how lead generation works:

Example One:
MOI Global

MOI Global is a digital B2B agency that faces the challenge of generating thousands of leads for its clients around the world.

Despite being an award-winning creative agency, MOI Global was struggling to meet the quotas of its clients since its leads needed to meet strict criteria.

To generate the high-quality leads (HQLs) the agency needed, INFUSEmedia launched more than ten lead generation campaigns featuring content syndication, lead nurturing, and webinars.

With campaigns still underway, the number of leads which have so far been generated for MOI Global’s clients is nearly 10,000 and counting.

Read the complete MOI Global case study

Example Two:
Armorblox

Armorblox is a cloud-based email security solution that was failing to secure enough sales meetings for its Business Development Representatives (BDRs).

Their main channel of engagement was by phone, but pick-up rates were less than one percent. And even if meetings were booked with potential leads, several turned out not to be sales-ready. This meant both the lead and the BDR wasted time.

To solve this issue, INFUSEmedia launched a multi-touch lead generation campaign to nurture and score leads. By scoring leads according to engagement with emails, social media, newsletters, and ads, only qualified leads were passed onto BDRs.

And since the campaign was omnichannel, this removed the dependency on the phone and opened other possibilities for booking sales meetings, such as via LinkedIn.

Conclusion

Successful lead generation requires sales and marketing teams to adopt an omnichannel approach fed from rich data sources.

Businesses need content marketing to generate leads with content that addresses the goals and challenges of buyer personas.

And selecting their preferred channels through which to deliver branding is essential to guarantee engagement. Content provided through irrelevant channels will unsurprisingly be ignored.

Once leads have been generated, nurturing and scoring tools qualify them before the handover to sales. Remember that lead generation is only the first step in any potential client’s journey towards a purchase.

Inc. magazine ranked INFUSEmedia #1337 on its annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.
The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses.