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What is B2B lead generation?
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Lead generation is a vital aspect of any business that sells a product or service. In marketing terms, B2B lead generation involves the identification of potential customers and conducting marketing or sales activity to encourage their interest. The greater number of leads you bring in, the more revenue you can make.
As a company operating in the B2B sector, you will have a different set of criteria of what is classed as a qualified lead and requires the collaborative and strategic working of the marketing and sales functions within the company.
Historically, sales and marketing have been known to work in silos. As buyer behavior has changed, so has the way sales and marketing departments interact with potential clients. An aligned approach is vital. Marketing strategy is designed to attract potential leads, qualify them as relevant, and push them through the funnel to sales outreach.
Why your business needed B2B lead generation
In times gone by, sales and marketing were more concerned about telling the client about the existence of your product. But the nature of buyer behavior has changed drastically due to the internet. Inbound marketing is designed to bring your leads to you rather than pursuing them.
How to define B2B leads
Technically, any business that could benefit from your product or service could be a lead, but this doesn’t help your sales team effectively target their efforts. Instead, they should be categorized by their level of interest. These are usually defined as either a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
When potential clients engage with your marketing campaigns, they will be identified as an MQL. This engagement could include downloading content, attending a webinar, interacting on social media.
High-quality MQLs are vital in providing the sales team with a solid pipeline of leads. This will also increase your chance of conversion and improve ROI.
The next stage of the marketing funnel involves moving MQLs to SQLs. When a lead is deemed an SQL, then this is the point where your sales team will usually reach out and initiate contact.
The move from MQL to SQL usually involves more signs of real intent. This can include emailing for more information, filling in an online form, or signing up for a free trial.
Who is responsible for B2B lead generation?
B2B lead generation strategies and lead management is usually the joint responsibility of the sales and marketing departments. Whereas it used to be common for sales teams to be solely responsible, that is no longer the case, and the sales and marketing departments must collaborate closely to achieve targets.
Modern sales departments are usually split into separate roles to create efficiencies and focus talent in the right areas. Sales development roles identify possible leads, conduct initial engagement, and set any calls or meetings.
Business development managers are those who work at a more strategic level with leads. They communicate with prospects, give presentations and demos, and close deals.
By running the sales function in this way, you create a very efficient department where everyone’s roles are clearly defined.
Marketers also fall into different categories when it comes to their main roles. Growth marketers are becoming popular in start-ups where revenue is needed fast and with little budget. They tend to alter strategy quickly, trying new ideas and dropping others that aren’t getting quick results. This approach works well at the start-up stage but generally can’t scale effectively, where a more sophisticated marketing setup is needed.
Inbound and demand generation marketers focus on developing strategies to engage potential clients and fill up the marketing funnel.
Depending on the size of your company, you may use one or more agency partners to handle various parts of your B2B lead generation activity.
Larger marketing departments may consist of digital specialists, content marketers, lead generation, and growth hacking.
B2B lead generation activities
Several different B2B lead generation strategies can be conducted to bring in new business. There is still a place for traditional sales cold calling when it is targeted to the right organizations.
Outreach – the traditional approach of calling relevant people and attempting to get them to agree to a meeting, demo, or receive more information.
Email – similar to telephone outreach, this involves emailing potential leads. This can be done via personal email or an email platform.
Social – targeting and developing contacts through social media platforms and LinkedIn.
Alongside traditional sales outreach, the main b2b lead gen strategy is run by the marketing department.
Content marketing – creating and publishing interesting and informative content on a range of channels. Lead capture then pulls leads into the marketing funnel, where they become an MQL. Content can include videos, podcasts, webinars. Ebooks and blogs.
Account marketing – the buyer personas at each company are identified, and campaigns are created to target them specifically.
Technology in B2B lead generation
Modern sales and marketing initiatives run on technology. Aside from the platforms you choose to run your campaigns on. Internal systems allow you to capture the campaign data.
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is vital to tracking and recording potential client data and your interaction with them.
Another invaluable platform is marketing automation. Save time and money by automating your entire inbound marketing strategy rather than manually handling all aspects of the funnel.
B2B lead generation is an important part of any business. Generating these leads needs strong business direction and an aligned sales and marketing department. By deploying a range of strategies across targeted marketing channels, you’re increasing your chances of attracting and converting more leads through your funnel.
Each lead generation strategy will be slightly different, and you’ll be competing with others in your industry for the attention of your target market. By defining your buyer personas and targeting your campaigns precisely, you’ll improve your ROI as wells as your conversion rate.