Lead generation for B2B is not about chasing a “secret method” that results in a ton of leads. Instead, building the best lead generation strategy for your business is more about understanding tried-and-tested channels, and finding the most effective combination of tactics for your unique goals.
A disciplined B2B marketer should understand the different dynamics, budgets, and expectations typical of each lead generation channel.
This article will help you gain insights into each major channel for B2B lead generation, including social media, PPC, blogging, and email. Best of all, we'll show you effective strategies and impressive real-world examples for each.
Social Media Marketing Strategies
Social media is now a critical component of B2B marketing. It often doesn’t cost much for paid ads compared to traditional advertising costs, but offers broad mileage. However, unlike B2C where social media is among the most effective digital marketing channels, it’s more complicated in the B2B market.
What is the conversion rate of social media?
While there’s no single answer for B2B social media conversion rates, there are some calculated assumptions you can use to gauge efficacy. A Marketo study pegged social media conversion at 1.95%, vs. inbound at 3.82%, after studying more than 4,000 user account's data.
Anecdotal stories, like the case of SaleCycle, suggest social media falls short in conversion rates compared to other B2B digital channels, despite its wide reach.
Quantity over quality seems to be the norm when it comes to B2B social media lead generation. This makes it an ideal channel for top-of-the-funnel awareness -- for instance, you might promote a downloadable ebook to capture quality leads with an initial offer.
There are two main channels you should focus on:
- LinkedIn Ads
- Facebook Lead Ad
Let's dive into each of these primary B2B social media channels now.
It’s no surprise that LinkedIn, the go-to B2B social network, has above-the-board figures when it comes to B2B social media conversion. LinkedIn is the top social media platform for B2B marketers, so it’s a viable channel to pursue.
Source: 2016 Content Marketing Institute.
However, investing your energy in a channel with high engagement rates doesn't automatically guarantee success. The tactics you use on LinkedIn need to:
- Audience targeting based on buyer persona
- Lending to the ad a newsworthy, topical angle
- Continuously testing CTAs, images and copy
You can learn more about the nitty-gritty of LinkedIn Ad strategies from this LinkedIn-HubSpot 2-week free course.
Facebook Lead Ads
You should also integrate Facebook Lead Ads into your social media strategy. A 2017 survey by research firm BCG showed 60% of B2B buyers used mobile in their recent purchases. Additionally, online business queries have been shifting rapidly towards mobile for the past few years.
Since Facebook Lead Ads are designed for lead generation inside the world’s largest social media channel, they're especially potent. Facebook launched this service in 2015, after their analytics showed users found it difficult to signal to businesses their intent on Facebook mobile. Facebook Lead Ad solves this problem because it allows B2B users to sign up for your offer in just two taps, without leaving the social network. It’s both targeted to your audience and highly customizable.
Facebook Lead Ad isn’t designed to replace your landing pages. AdEspresso found their Landing Pages and Lead Ads had nearly identical cost-per-lead at around $0.94. While Facebook Lead Ad helps you capture leads inside Facebook, your landing pages are still necessary for capturing leads from organic search and PPC.
For more details, check out this step-by-step procedure on how to create Facebook Lead Ads.
Facebook Lead Ad lets your prospects sign up for your offer inside the social media mobile interface.
Examples of Great B2B Social Media Lead Generation Campaigns
Case #1: Use of scarcity and exclusivity
EntreLeadership used scarcity (a limited-time offer) to increase the value of their offer. Their slogan -- “Sharing Dave Ramsey’s business wisdom” -- rings exclusivity. It's a chance to gain rarefied insight. Their visual is also engaging, with the use of light colors against a dark background, while the key messages and CTAs are clearly highlighted.
Case #2: Asking for only the data you need
FreeAgent understands asking only for an email address during the first encounter greatly reduces opt-in friction at the early stage. More customer data can be gathered later in the campaign as leads are qualified with more product-specific offers. In the beginning, the email address-only approach guarantees a wider initial lead base.
Case #3: Giving before you get
Digital Marketer doesn’t sell -- it gives something valuable away for free. That’s a compelling deal. Their image amplifies the message and the CTA is clear but subtle. Instead of selling anything, Digital Marketer simply hooks leads through the law of reciprocity, which makes users feel they should return the favor during a later engagement.
PPC Lead Generation Strategies
Pay-per-click (PPC) lead generation campaigns focus on a wide range of paid advertising platforms -- the most popular being Google AdWords and Display Network. However, you’ll find a wide range of PPC lead generation options outside of Google, including:
- B2B review directories or comparison sites
- Trade media display ads
- Social media advertising
- Affiliate marketing
What is the conversion rate in PPC lead generation?
The general consensus for Adwords conversion rate is 2.70%, and Display conversion is averaged at 0.89%. But the rates vary depending on your industry. It’s important to know your industry benchmarks. A good starting point is to ask the PPC vendor of their average conversion ratio across the board. This lets you evaluate your campaign results better.
Should PPC replace organic marketing? No -- they complement each other. For instance, many high-value keyword searches have only PPC ads above the fold like this:
In other words, even if you have good organic ranking, it may be buried under PPC ads. Google researchers ran statistical models on their SERPs to find out if paid search eats up organic traffic. The result showed 89% of traffic generated by paid ads isn’t replaced by organic.
An Example of an Efficient PPC Lead Generation Channel
Among the PPC platforms mentioned above, B2B review directories and comparison sites can provide a uniquely fresh lead source. In a crowded industry, other PPC channels are most likely already saturated by big players in your space, the ones with deep pockets.
For instance, in SaaS, a highly competitive industry across verticals, AdWords bidding is highly competitive, so you need to target a lot of relevant keywords. Sometimes competitors even bid for keywords against your own brand -- like this example, where Netsuite ranks higher for "Intuit Accounting".
For many SaaS startups and SMBs, having another lead source like B2B review sites provides the option to meet and even surpass monthly lead quotas. Let’s take a closer look at which popular marketing tools are used for lead generation by such sites. For example, here’s what FinancesOnline, one of the top software review platforms, offers:
- 1. Lead generation campaigns: The review site can link directly to a vendor’s sign-up landing page, encouraging people who read your review to try out your free-trial next. These campaigns can generate as much as 24% conversion rate.
- 2. Premium placement: In an increasingly commodified SaaS category, like a CRM where features are more standardized than unique, being included in a premium placement can make or break your sales opportunity. You have a much higher chance of attracting new leads if you’re listed among the most popular solutions, as prospects will usually only try out a few products. Make sure you get on such a list, because your competitors are probably already there.
- 3. Industry awards: When buyers are comparing your product to your closest competitors’, having your product stand out thanks to a featured quality award can have a critical impact on your sale. FinancesOnline, like many other review platforms, can give your product an edge with such awards.
Here’s how premium positioning on FinancesOnline looks like
It’s important you look for a third-party online marketplace in your industry, and get in touch with these middle-men to ensure your product is listed.
Blogging Lead Generation Strategies
Blogging is at the core of content marketing, which is a strategy that focuses on creating content that is interesting or valuable to your defined audience with the goal of attracting and sustaining online engagement for leads down the road.
A lot has been said about the benefits of business blogging. Let’s reiterate the major advantages that apply to the B2B market:
- Drive traffic to your website. With the right SEO planning and editorial calendar, your blog gives you search presence, linking you to keywords being searched for by your prospects. Every blog post you write is one additional indexed page to get your content on Google.
- Convert traffic to leads. A well-placed CTA in a compelling blog post can direct prospects to your landing page for leads.
- Repeat business. A blog can delight existing customers with fresh content for repeat business or referrals.
How efficient is blogging for B2B?
As part of content marketing, blogging has its advantages. Here are three essential ones you should know:
- Content marketing generates 3x more leads vs. traditional marketing (DemandMetric).
- Businesses using content marketing experience 6x higher conversion rates vs. non-adopters (Aberdeen).
- Custom content influences 61% of consumers (Dragon Search Marketing).
Blogging also establishes niche authority and places prospects within your sphere of influence. We don’t need to go far -- just search “inbound marketing” or its derivatives and you’ll come across HubSpot consistently.
How effective is blogging in the long run? At HubSpot, about 90% of the leads their marketing team generates each month come from blog posts that were published in many months or sometimes years ago.
Which content types drive lead generation?
The content types listed below are most effective when they align with your marketing goals. In short, the hard work is still on you -- you have to develop topics that are lead magnets to your audience.
- Authoritative posts: Topics you’re an expert in.
- Solid opinion pieces: Insights backed by data.
- Original research: Commissioned for industry consumption.
- How-tos: Tips, tutorials that address prospects’ problems.
- Trending content: Piggybacks on popular topics relevant to your business.
- Infographics: Information turned into digestible visual bits for easy consumption.
- Videos: Did you know 72% of prospects prefer to watch a video than read to learn about a product? (State of Video Marketing Survey, Wyzowl 2017).
Examples of Great B2B Blogging Campaigns
Case #1: Running your blog like a media pro
HubSpot is influential when it comes to inbound marketing. But it didn’t happen by accident -- HubSpot's marketing team works hard to run their blog as a media site with a full editorial calendar and a team of writers and editors manning the front.
HubSpot’s blog publishes tips, listicles, ideas, inspiration, insights, reports, ebooks, white papers, videos, etc. all relating to inbound across its niche segments in marketing, sales and service. The blog even outperforms entrenched business media like Forbes and CNN Money in SERPs about inbound marketing.
Case #2: Know who you’re talking to
FreshBooks is clear about its target audience. In fact, the first step to having great content is to know your audience (your "Ideal Customer" personas). For FreshBooks, this means delivering “actionable insights into all aspects of running a small business.”
Case #3: Banner your thought leader
Have a resident thought leader and put his or her insights and opinions about your business and industry into your blog posts. Your thought leader should be writing regular posts to leverage SEO and brand association, both of which can result in more leads down the road. Even Seth Godin needs to write daily.
Email Marketing Lead Generation Strategies
In a world of posts, likes, and shares, email doesn’t look sexy, but it is as relevant today as it was years ago. In fact, email is often the bridge between marketing automation and CRM, two cloud solutions most widely used by marketers today. The email opt-in is still the starting point of lead generation and email marketing is the core of lead nurturing.
How does email marketing hold up today? Actually, it was the best B2B digital marketing channel in 2014, according to a Chief Marketer study. Two years later, in 2016, DemandWave released its State of B2B Digital Marketing Report, which showed email marketing is right at the top of digital channels driving leads and revenues for U.S. B2B marketers.
The advent of automated lead scoring, predictive analytics and AI algorithms only reinforce email marketing with laser-focused, personalized touches and real-time delivery. In short, email marketing is still one of your best tools to engage intent signals, distribute content and deliver pitches.
What is the conversion rate of email marketing?
You’re looking at two variables when it comes to email marketing:
- Open rate
- Click-through rate (CTR)
A GetResponse study puts the overall email open rate average at 82.20% and CTR at 21.69%. The report further divided the figures by location, with North America at 21.01% (open rate) and 3.50% (CTR). By industry, internet marketing has 18.05% open rate and 3.16% CTR.
Meanwhile, Marketing Insider Group puts email marketing conversion into another perspective: you earn $44 for every dollar spent on email marketing. The general consensus is, yes, email marketing has one of the highest conversion rates, corroborating the DemandWave findings above.
Which factors influence email marketing conversion?
It takes creativity to brainstorm your content or offer, but with that aside, email marketing is more like a science. You can measure it, analyze it, and improve it. Here are the key factors that affect your email marketing conversion rates:
- Value offer: You must have a lead magnet to attract email sign-ups, whether it’s value content, freebies, deals, or anything that is interesting to your audience.
- Landing page: Optimize it by having a clear offer of your lead magnet, compelling CTA, permission and appealing visuals.
- Email subject line: Short, crisp, and compelling with clear benefit to the recipient.
- Segmentation: Split your list into sublists for more targeted messages, which will allow you to increase you open and click-through rates.
- Analytics: Run analytics to do regular clean-up of your lists and update it as necessary based on past recipient actions.
Examples of Great B2B Email Marketing Campaigns
Case #1: Storytelling
At its core, email marketing is about your message, and here’s where your skill in storytelling can weave magic into a bland topic like a business workshop, captivating the prospect’s interest. Perry Marshall, the best-selling author of Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, is a master of storytelling, able to hook seemingly unrelated subjects together, and all leading to his value offer.
Case #2: Use of humor
The visual allusion to the iconic film character used by Grammarly, the Godfather (and the cat!), is witty and helps engage readers for those few critical seconds. he vendor also uses a funny tweet at the bottom to cap the offer with even more humor. Note that the use of humor is tricky and can backfire if executed poorly; but in this case, it’s tightly woven into the offer’s message.
Case #3: Housekeeping
Email marketing isn’t all about the welcome -- some goodbyes are in order, too. Cleaning up your list is one step towards qualifying leads for higher conversions down the funnel. Hire Value makes sure its list is updated by sorting out inactive subscribers.
Top 10 Lead Generation Best Practices
Our brief case studies above didn’t happen by accident, but rather as a result of their marketers’ relentless pursuit of techniques that work efficiently. We’ve highlighted some of these above, but let’s leave you with this checklist on the 10 best practices in lead generation:
- Target the right audience. Know your buyer personas. In B2B, your audience could be different people in different departments. Often, you don’t have an audience, but micro-audiences with varying interests and pain points.
- Create lead magnets. Develop content or offers that pique the interest of your target audience. The best lead magnets use NLP techniques in marketing, such as, clear, tangible benefit, urgency, exclusivity, social proof, authority and immediate gratification.
- Explore new lead channels. Search, social and top media sites are expectedly crowded with high-value sponsorships. You can, however, discover unique PPC channels like the B2B software review site FinancesOnline in our example above, or similar third-party marketplaces for your industry. Because these sites cater to your customers, they tend to have higher conversion rates and dominate high-value general organic search keywords.
- Capture the right information. The rule of thumb is to get only the most basic customer data at the initial stage (e.g. name and email address) and, as you work the lead down the pipeline, ask for a little more data.
- Score, sort, segment leads. Not all leads are valuable and not all have the same value. Based on your metrics, run a lead scoring tool to sort leads into proper segments, which will let you target your micro-audiences with personalized messages and offers. Today’s marketing automation software like HubSpot is very powerful and can automate this important process.
- Blog consistently. Regularly posting content improves your SEO, authority, brand awareness, industry stickiness, and, generally, your web presence.
- Integrate organic and PPC. These two complement each other. When executed together, they can fill in the gaps. For example, you can run paid search for any organic keywords for which you’re not ranking highly.
- Benchmark your conversion rates. Don’t be content with seeing your rates improve month-to-month or year-to-year. Compare them with the competition -- that’s the true picture of your business’ competitiveness.
- Automate. The best marketing automation will put your lead generation in auto-mode, by capturing leads from your campaign, scoring them, nurturing them throughout the lead pipeline and qualifying and handing them over to sales.
- Go mobile. Mobile marketing is the next battlefield for B2B leads. More business buyers are using their smartphones in the purchase journey. Make sure your forms, emails, websites, and ads are optimized for mobile.
Those are some of the best B2B lead generation campaigns and techniques at your fingertips. Apply or reapply these time-tested techniques and share with us how much they improve your lead volume
Originally published Jul 10, 2018 6:00:00 AM, updated March 03 2020