By Kendra Lee
B2B lead generation is the foundation of business growth. Yet here we are in the middle of a pandemic, half in and half out, somewhat open, but not open. Businesses are attempting to adjust, developing new offerings and selling remotely to the best of their ability. They’re struggling to build relationships with prospects remotely and retain the relationships they’ve established with clients. They’re losing clients through no fault of their own because their clients’ businesses are floundering.
The Lead Generation Situation
Referrals have always been the lifeblood of their company. But in today’s environment, people aren’t gathering. Referrals have dropped off. You ask for referrals, but because your happy clients aren’t attending events, they have fewer to offer.
You know that if your business is going to grow:
1. You need to grow your sales funnel.
All salespeople know they should maintain three times their target in their sales funnel if they want to hit their quota. As a business owner, you want that same amount in your company forecast at all times. This means consistently feeding the sales funnel with new opportunities. Not every opportunity will close. The more you have in the sales pipeline, the less risk when client attrition strikes.
2. You can’t rely on referrals as your sole B2B lead generation strategy.
Referrals will always be your best leads, but they can’t be your only lead source. To outperform your competition and grow to the level you envision for your business, you must employ multiple lead generation strategies. If one lead source isn’t performing, another lead generation strategy can pick up the slack.
3. You can’t do it all yourself.
Successful B2B lead generation is a complex system with many moving parts. You know you can’t do it all yourself. You may have worked with lead generation companies in the past who made promises to provide leads but did not produce. Past failures can’t limit you. You need expert resources who can help you develop your system, then work with you to generate leads through closing the sale.
What is B2B Lead Generation?
Lead generation isn’t something you do a little of, fill the sales funnel, pause, then start again when the pipeline is thin. It also isn’t something you try for three months, measure, see no leads, then try something else. That’s a recipe for failure every time.
B2B Lead generation is a system. It’s a business process just like the fulfillment side of your business. As such, you have to treat it like a business process. It’s continuous. You’re going to commit to it, feed it, and watch it produce over time. Use this system to drive consistent leads now, during pandemic-times and even after, because it is a system, not a point in time, one-off activity.
There are three stages in the lead generation process:
Starting a lead generation system consists of a deep reflection of your business. This is something you do every six months to re-evaluate your direction and fine tune it based on the lead generation results you’re getting.
It’s the shortest but most important stage.
This stage is relatively short in the grand scheme of your system, but it’s critical. This is where you define your target market, personas, messaging, competitive positioning and more. If you move too quickly, your lead generation strategies will be off, and your disappointing results will reflect it.
It takes brainpower and honest reflection.
You’re working in your business every day but may rarely have the time to step back and analyze it from a sales perspective. In the evaluation stage, you must be able to objectively examine your business, opportunities, and challenges. From there, you can develop a lead generation system that fits all aspects of your company and targets the right markets.
2. Develop and Do
This is the stage where you’ll spend the majority of your time. It’s the daily implementation of your lead generation strategy.
This is the longest stage of your system.
Your lead generation system includes multiple campaigns using different types of lead generation approaches, each with their own timelines and activities. Campaigns take anywhere from six weeks to three months depending on the complexity, desired goal, and target market response. While individual campaigns end, you are always running lead generation strategies to build your brand awareness and identify new active buyers.
The Develop and Do stage is ongoing and can be complex. You will have multiple campaigns running simultaneously, possibly to multiple target markets. There are actions and events during this stage that intertwine, are sequenced, and automated with the purpose of nurturing a prospect to a sale. Lead generation companies who do this for you must be skilled in content development, implementation, and critical analysis as well as project management, marketing strategy, and sales process.
3. Deliver and Adjust
The last stage of your lead generation system includes lead passing and analyzing the results. The metrics and analysis become an important input when you step back and conduct your six month evaluation. See how it’s a circular process?
Pass marketing qualified leads (MQL) to the sales team.
During every campaign marketing qualified leads are generated. In this stage, you ensure you are formally passing MQLs to yourself or the sales team for follow up and conversion to sales qualified leads (SQLs). Even if lead passing is an automated process, you hold the reps accountable for skilled sales follow-up, not just a cursory email.
Analyze campaign results.
Analyzing the results is necessary to assess return on investment and effectiveness of each stage in the lead generation system. This leads to improvements for the next campaign and your overall lead generation strategies. If you’re frustrated by the results, it only means something needs to be adjusted. You don’t give up. Lead generation is a system and it does work. Return to the evaluation step and keep tweaking until you get the results you deserve.
When you first create your B2B lead generation system, it’s not unusual to spend 6 weeks in the evaluation stage. Give it the time it deserves so you are confident in the lead generation strategies you plan. After you’ve implemented campaigns and analyzed the results, you’ll evaluate your lead generation system again, adjusting it.
The evaluation stage has two steps.
In the analysis step you are looking back at who you’ve sold to, what you’ve sold, and why companies bought from you to determine what your future lead generation approach should include. It’s a deep dive into your sales successes and your failures. Here are the things you want to examine:
Before you begin any lead generation, you must know what types of companies you want as new clients. Examine who you have sold to in the past, which of your current clients are most profitable, and what types of companies you’d like to sell to now.
▪Target market personas
Identifying your potential buyer is crucial in understanding their needs, fears, challenges, communication style, and goals to craft compelling messages. Both Marketing and Sales use this information in their roles. Once you know who your target market is, define your key decision maker and recommender contacts. These are the target personas for your lead generation strategies.
The prospects you want to get in front of have problems and challenges that will lead them to need your solutions and consider making a change. You have to be able to articulate those problems and trigger events to offer them relevant solutions. Many of the triggers haven’t changed during the pandemic. Past problems and challenges may not be issues right now.
▪What you sell first.
Whatever you sell first should be the focus of your lead generation strategies. If you are targeting prospects, consider which solution they buy first. If you’re targeting existing clients, consider what they buy after the first sale. The target market triggers you identified must directly align with these solutions. If they don’t, the leads you uncover won’t convert to sales opportunities and you’ll be frustrated.
Your competition is intense and getting smarter every day so you need to analyze in detail their strengths and how they might be doing better than you. Evaluate their SEO, Google Ads, social media, solutions, target markets, and everything you know from selling against them. There is significant data available that with the right analysis can help you create a B2B lead generation system and sales process that positions you above the rest.
What truly sets you apart is what will help you attract prospects who will consider buying from you. Examine why your clients bought from you in the first place and what they love about your solutions and working with you. Consider where you outshine your competitors. These are key points you want to highlight throughout all your lead generation strategies.
Create your lead generation strategy.
Your lead generation strategy includes all the campaign activities, messages and timelines. It’s the plan you and your lead generation company follow on a daily basis.
▪ B2B Lead Gen Activities.
You want a mix of lead generation activities to minimize your risk if one is not performing well, such as referrals in our current pandemic environment. You also want a mix because prospects don’t monitor only one medium. They read blogs, attend webinars, and read social media. If you only post to social media, they may miss you and read your competitors’ blog. That won’t help your revenue growth. In my book The Sales Magnet, I describe the Attraction Trifecta of lead generation activities. You want a big mix of these lead generation strategies:
Those activities where the prospect feels like you’ve reached out to make a personal connection, even though you may be using the same content. It feels like a one-to-one approach. Some examples:
▪ Direct mail
Those activities that use the internet to reach your prospect. Unlike personal attraction strategies, you often can’t control who will see your content. You’re reaching a whole new audience of potential buyers. Some examples:
Those activities where you engage with others to capture prospects’ interests. These are strategies that typically you wouldn’t do alone because of the amount of work involved in executing them. Some examples:
▪ Local Events
▪ Alliance Partnering
The lead generation activities you use will get you closer to potential buyers, but it’s the message that puts you in front of them. Your message is based on the target market, triggers, and personas you identify in your evaluation stage. There are different types of messages, such as nurturing, lead generating, and sales. You’ll incorporate a mix in your lead generation strategy.
◦ Company message.
This is the overall message about how you help clients and the value of your solutions to their businesses. Your company message is always the same although you may say it differently depending on the situation. For example, our company message is: We help you get more customers because you shouldn’t have to worry about where your next client will come from and when. Sometimes we use the whole company message. Sometimes we abbreviate it. Your company message is the overarching message in your B2B system.
◦ Campaign message.
Each lead generation campaign will have its own message and link to the company message. It will focus on the problems and challenges you believe your target markets and personas are grappling with today. As you create the strategy in your B2B lead generation system, you will also create each campaign message. They will include:
▪ How you can help
▪ A call to action
Before you develop content, you want to identify the keywords you should use. You might be using industry terms you are familiar with while your prospects might be using terms in a more plain, simple, and broad perspective. Like the messaging, keywords are a strategic element in your lead generation strategy and used across your campaigns.
The final step in creating the strategy for your B2B lead generation system is planning the timeline. Remember that lead generation is a system comprised of campaign activities. There is no end. Establish timelines for each campaign. Outline when you’ll implement each campaign then work backwards to create your project plan and action steps. Take into consideration:
◦ Your prospects’ and clients’ buy cycle
◦ Market fluctuations
◦ Your time
◦ Your lead generation company’s process
Develop And Do
You’re in the heart of your B2B lead generation system. With your timeline in place, it’s time to develop the content and implement. The three primary elements in this stage are:
Regardless of the activity you’re using, you will be creating content. The form of a Google Ad looks different than an email campaign, but each are based on content.
Each piece of content you create needs to have a purpose aligned with both the campaign strategy and the overall B2B lead generation system When you know the purpose, you know how to frame what you want to say and how you’ll communicate it. You may want to:
◦ Set up the sales team to make calls
◦ Drive active buyers to your website
◦ Educate active buyers
◦ Build awareness for your brand
◦ Uncover upsell opportunities with clients
◦ Keep prospects warm while they wait for a proposal
With your purpose in mind, you can set performance goals for the campaign and / or the individual pieces of content. This is where many business owners get into trouble. They are so anxious to generate leads and avoid revenue loss that they set unrealistic goals for their content. As you set goals, keep in mind these key influencers on your ability to realize the ROI you desperately want:
◦ How well known your brand is in your market
◦ Consistency of your lead generation
◦ Age of your email list
◦ Investment you are willing to make
◦ Your sales readiness to receive leads
◦ Your sales ability in competitive situations
▪Style, format, length, voice.
This tactical step involves decisions about what you’ll say to prospects and how you’ll say it. Your content should reflect your brand voice and image. If that statement has you wondering what the heck a brand voice is, then you probably aren’t creating content that sounds the same no matter the platform where it appears. Your content should look and sound the same. Prospects should be able to spot it and say, “I remember that company!”
Implementation used to be the easiest part of your lead generation system as long as you had a staff person who knew how to create an email in ConstantContact, add a blog to the website, and post a social comment. As with all technology, implementation has become very complex. If you only focus on those three responsibilities, you will be extremely frustrated with your lead generation results.
List management is critical to target messaging, improve email deliverability, and increase sales rep productivity. Use it frequently, keep it clean and if possible, build your list organically rather than purchase it. Your list is your lead generation silver bullet.
▪B2B lead generation campaigns have a four step structure.
Every campaign has four basic actions that must happen to move a contact from suspect to prospect in your sales process. Most business owners are great at the first action, but then their B2B lead generation system drops off.
1. Offer the prospect something.
This happens as part of the lead generation campaign in an email, on your website, in a Google Ad. In B2B lead generation, it typically is not a discount. It’s something prospects would value like a checklist, webinar, blog or even a call.
2. Identify the marketing qualified leads.
Use automation and system tools to proactively identify who is paying attention to your campaigns. These are the people you want your salesperson to call proactively, even if they didn’t request a call.
3. Follow up, follow up, follow up to set the first appointment.
I’ll say it again, follow up. So many principals and salespeople are handed marketing qualified leads, call once or twice, shoot an email off, then give up. Don’t do that.
4. Convert the opportunity to a sales qualified lead.
Marketing leads are different than referrals. They aren’t as warm, often are considering your competitors, and may not remember your company that well. Use prospecting skills to conduct the first appointment, leave a lasting impression, and get the second appointment.
Simplify your B2B lead generation system by using the right tools. Sure, you can avoid the monthly expense and do a lot manually, but why would you take that hit to your time – and your ROI? This could be one reason why your lead generation isn’t delivering results.
▪Use a marketing automation system.
By using tools like Infusionsoft and MindMatrix, you can streamline many of the lead generation system steps to continuously communicate with contacts and nurture a relationship. Additionally, you can see who is interacting with your content, which content, and then call.
▪Implement lead scoring.
Within your marketing automation system, establish parameters that identify leads based on the actions they take. As you watch responses and actions, you can determine which of your prospects are the most likely to buy. Those are the people you want sales to contact.
▪Use a dashboard for lead management.
When we manage clients’ lead generation, we now set up dashboards to not only monitor campaign results, but to also identify leads quickly and drill down into what actions they have taken.
Deliver And Adjust
This is the celebration stage of your B2B lead generation system. It’s when you pass leads to your sales reps to follow up and convert them to sales opportunities.
Deliver MQL’s to Sales.
Generating leads is exactly what this system is created to do. Establish a smooth process that triggers a lead, passes it to Sales, and moves into a rep’s daily activities. Ideally you want to automate this step so leads pass quickly.
It isn’t the automation of delivering MQLs to Sales that causes this step to fail. The two most common points of failure are:
▪The salesperson doesn’t believe in the value of the lead.
Keep your sales team informed to gain their buy in.
▪The sales rep has a poor follow up process
Train your sales team in prospecting and objection handling skills to build their confidence, create a disciplined lead follow up process, and fully prepare for whatever a prospect throws at them.
Analyze and adjust.
Analysis is key to understanding what target markets, campaigns, activities, and messages were most effective so that future campaigns can build on that data. Track the data and use it to set new goals, change messages, try different activities, adjust target markets, and sometimes, switch up your solutions. Don’t give up when lead generation isn’t performing. Instead, analyze and adjust.
Lead generation is a system. It’s a core process in your business and when implemented consistently, analyzed, adjusted, then evaluated and refined, it will produce.
B2B Lead Generation Company
If creating and implementing your B2B lead generation system feels overwhelming, or you’ve been frustrated that the system you’ve tried to put in place isn’t working, we can help. These are all the things we do because you shouldn’t have to worry about where your next client will come from or when. Contact us and let’s talk about your vision and how we can help. We offer both lead generation services and lead generation training.