For companies that sell to other businesses (B2B), effective lead generation is the fundamental activity that you must be consistent in.

When I meet with prospective clients, more often than not, they reveal within our meeting that they are using a “shotgun” approach to generating new leads.

This means that they are sending as much outbound marketing as they can afford without really having a plan in place. 

Strategic lead generation is done with a “rifle.” It follows a plan, stays consistent, and is highly targeted.

In this post I’m going to suggest four components of a properly designed strategic lead generation plan for companies that sell to businesses.

You Have a Defined Market

B2B Lead Generation Benefits

A distinct advantage enjoyed by B2B companies is that it’s easy to define their market. That is, you can create or purchase a list of the potential companies you can offer your product or service to.

This fact simplifies the lead generation process and increases the return on your advertising investment because you are marketing directly to a potential customer rather than marketing to generate leads.

While this makes the lead generation challenge easier, it is still mandatory that a proper plan be put into place.

Since we started working with local businesses in 2003, I’ve seen the same mistakes being made on an ongoing basis while trying to manage their marketing.

Some of these include:

  • Not having a strategy, just “shotgunning” multiple channels.
  • Failure to clearly identify a specific target customer. (I call this the “everybody needs what I offer syndrome.)
  • Inconsistent marketing from month to month. AKA ‘start and stop’ marketing.

If any of these symptoms describe your business marketing, what’s the solution? 

1. Optimize and Maximize LinkedIn

LinkedIn for B2B Lead Generation
Before you can follow this step you must properly optimize your own profile. This takes a little time and thought. Remember, your profile is not your resume! It’s an opportunity for you to share the value proposition of your company and why working with you would make sense for your target audience.

There are other places on the profile page for your job history, areas of expertise, interests you have, etc. Invest the time to fully build out your page. 

You can also build a page for your business and should do this. Why both? Someone who is considering your company will frequently want to know who they might be doing business with and will review your personal page as well as the business.

Since you know your target market it is relatively easy to reach out and connect with those business owners. This allows you to start a conversation with them. When I say conversation I mean just that, a dialogue that will help you both get to know each other a little. 

A change that I’ve noticed in LinkedIn communications the last couple of years is the rush to sell. What I mean by that is I accept a connection request from someone and in an hour or less they are offering to sell me something.

Other than accepting their request I haven’t really taken the time to review their profile or what their company does. 

Don’t do this! Offer something for free to your new contacts…an industry report or some case studies. Focus on relationship building in the initial communications with a new connection.

Next, join relevant groups and participate in the conversation. Interact with other people’s posts while also sharing your own content.

I know this seems like a lot of time, but you can manage this in no more than two hours a week.

Schedule a couple of one hour time blocks during your week and just focus on LinkedIn during those times.

Also consider LinkedIn ads. Compared to Facebook they seem to be expensive, and they are more costly than other social media platforms. Here is why I think you should consider them:

  • They offer accurate and easy targeting. 
  • Diversify the creative assets you are pushing.
  • They offer easier conversion through Lead Gen Forms. 
  • Offers upgrade options (for example Sales Navigator) improving automated communication

2. Create/Curate Intent-Driven Content

Content Marketing for B2B Lead Generation

We all know how important content is to optimize our marketing funnels. To do this properly takes time and often a financial investment to hire writers or an agency to create content for you.

Whether you’re giving away content for free or gating it behind a form, you must position your expertise with consistent messaging. 

It is also critical to follow a cadence of publishing content consistently and speaking to the pain points that your target audience is dealing with. From there, provide valuable advice that is also actionable. 

I’m a big fan of alliteration. I think this simple writing hack helps your audience remember your content longer than they normally would.

One of the best descriptions of a content formula that I’ve seen is from Cooler Insights. Their suggested funnel design incorporates “Five E’s”:

  • Entertain: create brand awareness with creative content and ads
  • Educate: engaging and educational content to build brand trust and likability
  • Enchant: offer a great lead magnet; free book, trial, tool, etc.
  • Enroll: provide an attractive offer to generate purchases and sign-ups
  • Enlist: build loyalty and advocacy through a great customer experience

One more important point to remember: content is a long-term game. While you will realize some short-term wins, you must look at this as a marathon and not a sprint. Said another way, this is relationship building and not just a transaction.


3. Utilize Email Drip Campaigns and Behavioral Workflows

Email Marketing for B2B Lead Generation

I frequently read comments that are almost a eulogy to email marketing.

Some would have you believe that this channel is dead … Nothing could be further from the truth!

While our inboxes are overloaded with a lot of poorly designed messages from people you have never heard of, a well-executed drip campaign will nurture prospects into becoming customers.

The concept of ‘behavioral workflows’ may be unfamiliar. Here’s how I define both:

  • Drip campaigns: these are typically a one-way move. You have a set number of emails that are being sent and continue to send them until someone takes some sort of action or the drip itself ends.
  • Behavioral workflows: these are based on lead scoring criteria and actions that prospects already have taken or do take. Based on these, prospects are nurtured differently, and it is much more personalized with a higher chance of driving closed-won opportunities.

To do this properly you’ll need an automation tool.

A Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) that allows you to segment your prospect lists and move prospects through your funnels based on their responses to your emails. It is beyond the scope of this post to analyze the myriad of CRM tools available. But let me describe the process that is the basic function of all of them.

As an example, let’s say that someone attends a webinar that you host. You follow up by sending them an email that offers a report with more details on the subject you shared in the webinar.

At this point one of two things will happen. 1) Either the prospect opens the email and downloads your report, or 2) they do not engage with the email at all. In the first case you will send a follow up email three or four days later with another piece of nurturing content.

Here again, they might engage and even ask for an appointment, or ignore this second contact attempt. Depending on their reaction you continue to nurture the relationship via emails until they choose to take the next step or ask you to stop.

What about the person who ignored your first email? They too receive a follow up in three or four days. Depending on their reaction they will either be moved forward towards engagement or drop into a long-term nurture campaign.

One of the values of this “behavioral workflow” system is that you can design and automate the entire system using the tools.

As long as you are offering valuable content you can keep your brand in front of prospects in a “non-salesy” way. 

We never know when someone is going to be ready to take the next step in their journey with our product or service.

Email based lead generation, when properly executed and incorporating automation tools, can be your most cost-effective channel.

4. Focus on Conversions, Not Vanity Metrics

Focus For B2B Lead Generation

“How can we get more Likes on our Facebook page?” “We need more social media followers!” 

I’ve heard these cries of anguish so many times. What’s difficult to explain to business owners is that these “vanity metrics” are just there for aesthetics. They have zero bearing on how much revenue you’ll be able to generate let alone qualified leads. No 1:1 here.

The biggest focus when it comes to an effective B2B lead gen strategy is to ensure that the tactics you are pushing will drive results. In other words, if I know that the $500 I spend will drive 2-3 real sales opportunities, I’d take that over using the $500 to get new followers on social media. 

Sure, one could argue that the more followers you have, the bigger you get, the more awareness you build and therefore you’ll get more leads.

My point isn’t about the grey lines here. It’s about being as efficient and effective as possible with your lead gen implementations.

Therefore, the biggest bang for your buck is to be clear on ‘where’ your target customer is online and then leveraging direct advertising/media buying tactics to nurture them towards engaging with your product or service. 

Bonus Tip: Outsource to Subject Matter Experts

Sounds self-serving given that I run a marketing company, right?

Well, the truth is that you may be the expert within your industry, but you can’t be an expert in everything.

When you stop and think about how much time you have available to keep up with 40+ marketing channels and the consistent changes in the search engines…well, I’ll say it again: you can’t do everything!

Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Same goes with outsourcing what your specific needs are.

This is how you can centralize your efforts towards collective goals. This is about being effective and efficient while ensuring that your marketing dollars don’t go wasted.

Here’s The Bottom Line:

If you are selling business to business you have the distinct advantage of a defined market.

This lets you more easily, and cost efficiently refine, and make improvements to your outbound marketing.

While this fact somewhat simplifies the challenge, it is still imperative that you are testing your messages, foot in the door offers, tools, and positioning as compared to your competitors.

Finally, know your KPIs, define what success looks like, and funnel everything back to the overall business objectives which specifically are centered around building awareness, driving quality traffic to your website, generating qualified leads, and then driving sales.

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