Your sales cycle starts with a lead. More leads mean more sales. More sales mean more profits. And more profits means a more successful business. Of course, there are subtleties in between, but without lead generation, it’s hard for a B2B business to survive.
If you are a B2B marketer or own a B2B business, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about how to get more leads. But if you’re looking for a formula or a simple answer, you’re out of luck. The internet is constantly evolving, and something which worked a year ago may not work now. Plus, a strategy that worked for someone else may not work for you. This is why understanding the fundamentals of lead generation is key.
In this article, we dive into the stages of lead generation, its types, and the best methods to generate high-quality leads.
The 5 Stages of Your Lead Generation Process
It’s essential to know the stage where your prospect is in the buyer’s journey. It helps to segregate your lead generation campaigns and decide your next steps. Here are five stages of a lead generation process:
Awareness is the stage when potential leads don’t know who you are or what you do. They need to be educated and made aware of your brand. So, your goal here is to be helpful. Help them learn interesting things. Help them solve a problem, even if they don’t use your product or service.
This is when your target customers are considering you as a potential solution. They are aware of their problem, know who you are, and they’re considering if you can help.
Once you have attracted the attention of a potential customer, there needs to be a way of qualifying them. This is the process of finding out whether they are simply browsing for information or are prepared to buy from you. It is a crucial information-gathering stage, as it will shape all your future communication. You can use lead scoring or pre-defined conditions to qualify your leads.
After you understand your potential customer’s intent, you can work to convert them. You may help them make a purchasing decision if they are ready to buy, or you can guide them into a nurture stream if they are not. Lead nurturing is a way of developing a relationship with a cold or lukewarm customer, which usually involves providing them with more value.
The conversion stage of the funnel helps to establish whether you are dealing with browsers or buyers. Armed with this information, you can determine how to develop the relationship. It is an ongoing process of adding value, selling products of greater value, and developing a lifelong trusted relationship.
Types of Leads
Marketers categorize leads based on their stage in a sales cycle. Leads at the top of the sales funnel need more time and nurturing to convert than leads at the bottom. Segmenting leads into different types allows personalized targeting.
- Marketing captured lead (MCL): Cold leads acquired from a purchased list or compiled by your team
- Marketing engaged lead (MEL): Leads which have some soft engagement with you such as visiting your landing page, downloading a lead magnet, or attending a webinar
- Marketing qualified lead (MQL): Leads that have responded to a “high-bar” offer such as a demo, consultation, or price quote
- Sales accepted lead (SAL): Leads that have been handed to your sales team and are accepted
- Sales qualified lead (SQL): Leads that engage with sales reps
- Sales qualified opportunity (SQO): Leads that are candidates for buying your products within a reasonable time frame
The 3 Cores of Your Lead Generation Strategy
Many lead generation professionals start a campaign without robust lead generation tactics and marketing strategies. It’s a big mistake. Before starting a lead generation campaign, it’s crucial to find out who you’re targeting, what you’re offering, and why your prospects should buy from you.
There are dozens of ways to define your target audience. The strategy you choose depends on your specific circumstances, but here are some ways to define your ideal client profile (ICP):
Industry: In B2B marketing, it is common to divide customers based on their industry, because in this case, your “customer” is actually an entire business.
Behavior: You divide customers based on certain behaviors such as how much money they spend or how much time they spend on your website.
Demographics: This is segmenting based on demographic information like gender, location, and age.
Once you’ve identified your target market, you need to create buyer personas. A persona represents your target buyer. To do this, you take your chosen vertical, identify who at that company is likely to buy your product, and create a person to represent them.
Now that you know who you’re targeting, you need to define your value proposition for your lead generation strategy. Your value proposition isn’t an ad or a piece of marketing collateral. It’s an internal tool to help you and your team have better clarity about what you bring to the table for your target audience.
Your unique selling proposition sets you apart from both the competition in your category and from the next-best alternative. It should be a combination of your product’s critical features, the benefit that the customer gets, and how that relates to the pain you solve.
Messaging is how you tell the world about your product. It answers the question, “Why should I buy this?”
If you have a tightly defined audience and a clear value proposition, you’re in a good place to develop an effective message. Great messaging:
- Tells your target audience what you do and why they should buy from you.
- Uses the language your target audience uses.
- Surfaces the problem your audience has and drives action to solve it.
Your product has dozens of features. You need to list them and select the ones your audience cares about. It’s essential to link the features to your benefits. People don’t buy features or advantages — they buy the value or benefit that they get from your product. If you can communicate the value of your product clearly — and do it in the language of your target audience — you’re way ahead of most marketing teams.
Best Lead Generation Strategies
Email, content, and event marketing are the most commonly used sources of B2B lead generation, as shown by Diamond Metric. However, a lot depends on your target audience and your product or service. Here are the top-performing B2B lead generation channels for digital marketing agencies and SaaS companies:
Cold emailing is a practice where you send unsolicited emails to prospects with no prior connection. The point is to start a conversation about their company’s pain points and how your product or service can help them. An effective cold email campaign includes setting up your email address, building an email list, and writing an email with a relevant subject line and actionable CTAs. You can use automation tools like QuickMail to personalize your emails and add automated follow-ups.
Cold calling is similar to cold emailing, except you use phone calls instead of emails to reach out to potential customers. Over the years, cold calling has become less effective, but it still works for some industry verticals. Unlike cold emailing, there is not much room for automation in cold calling.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network and is specifically made for business and professional networking. You can leverage LinkedIn organically by filtering and connecting with your target audience using Sales Navigator. After connecting, start a message sequence similar to a cold email sequence. Alternatively, you can take the inbound route and post consistent and relevant content on your LinkedIn profile to attract potential customers.
Social Media Marketing
There are countless ways to use social media platforms to generate leads. Organic social media marketing tactics aim at creating a large follower base by posting regular content and engaging with the followers. This strategy is time-consuming, but it’s cost-effective and offers excellent rewards in the long-run.
On the other hand, social media ads provide one of the best return-on-investments for ads across all channels. Non-organic social media marketing takes little time to start generating new leads but the benefits stop when you stop spending money.
Email marketing is the practice of sending educational, informative, and promotional emails to your subscribers and customers. It aims to convert subscribers into customers and turn customers into recurring buyers. You can use email marketing automation tools such as Hubspot and Pardot to automate your email marketing campaigns.
Content Marketing and SEO
Content marketing is an inbound marketing strategy that uses blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, white papers, case studies, webinars, and other forms of content to attract potential customers. Sharing useful content not only makes potential customers interested in your product or service but also brings them emotionally closer to your brand.
Content marketing and Search Engine Optimization go hand in hand. When you post consistent high-value content and optimize them for the search engines, you climb higher up the search engine rankings for the respective keywords.
Find what your target audience likes, make a bundle and share the giveaway everywhere you can. This should give you a good source of qualified leads.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is a form of paid advertisement where you pay search engines like Google and Bing to feature your product or service on the search results when the users type a particular keyword.
To target a keyword, you need to bid on it. More valuable keywords are more expensive, so it’s essential to research keywords and bid for the ones that promise better ROI. Pay-per-click (PPC) ads usually cost more than social media ads but also offer higher conversion rates.
Diversify Your Lead Generation Efforts
In this new demand-driven world, options have exploded. Consumer needs have become more specific, and they do a ton of research, especially in the early buying stage. It means that B2B marketers and lead gen experts need to adapt.
Due to these changes, you can no longer rely exclusively on one lead generation channel. Including a mix of inbound and outbound lead generation strategies not only ensures consistency and predictability of leads in your sales pipeline. It also allows you to reach new customer bases that you’re probably unaware of.