Chances are, you market or sell products or services on behalf of a company. They are innovative, packed with cutting edge technology or human expertise, and designed to solve a specific problem or to improve a process. Cool stuff. But having a great offering is not enough to generate new business leads.

In business-to-business (B2B) transactions, connecting a solution to a challenge is first and foremost a matter of connecting your company to your target market. Crafting messaging that captures attention and delivers value-add content to companies that fit your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and their decision-making units. When key decision-makers express interest in what your business does and how you can help solve their challenges, they become a “lead” and progress further into your sales funnel.

B2B lead generation often comes with more challenges than B2C: since it is company money being spent the sales process is more complicated, with longer sales cycles and more stakeholders involved. If you consider also the difficulty in tracking, reaching and engaging with prospective B2B customers, you’ll realise that today, more than ever, businesses need to cut through a lot of noise. Yet, we often end up making more of it.

So, how do you start meaningful sales conversations and win more customers? This blog post explores what lead generation is, the different types of leads and lead generation strategies, and the benefits of using an external lead generation partner to grow your pipeline.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the process of creating demand for your products or services to capture interest from prospective customers. It is not as simple as collecting email addresses; a prospect should indicate that they are interested in learning more about your offering or a specific product/service in order to generate a new business lead.

The first wins your business must achieve in the market are in the battle for attention. The aim is to gain and secure the interest of prospects that can turn into customers or clients. You can drive interest and engagement to generate leads via several types of B2B sales and marketing activities, such as outbound email, social selling, content marketing and email marketing.

What works for one company may not work for yours, so it’s important to align your marketing activity to the company’s marketing strategy and resources.

Converting marketing leads to sales leads

There are two types of leads; a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL):

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) are generated through engagement an individual or organisation has with your marketing content or website. For example, they may have downloaded materials from your website, tagged a colleague in one of your business’s social media posts, or submitted an enquiry about your products or services. Each company has varying parameters of what qualifies a marketing lead.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) are MQLs that have progressed further down the lead generation funnel. An SQL has communicated a defined need for your product or service, and has already expressed intent to purchase with the sales team.

b2b lead generation funnel

B2B Lead Generation Funnel

For many companies, only a small percentage of marketing leads converts to pipeline. The key method to improve those numbers is lead qualification. We want to spend our sales resources nurturing and converting highly-qualified opportunities. Fight the battles we can win.

For this reason, improving MQL to SQL conversion rates should form an integral part of your sales process. Your sales team needs to understand who is most likely to make an actual purchase: is the prospect facing challenges you can solve? Are they ready to buy? What is their budget and who else is involved in the decision-making process? How will this affect the sales cycle?

Inbound lead generation vs. outbound lead generation 

The difference in the types of lead generation strategy is connected to another idea: do you hunt or bait? In other words: does your lead generation strategy focus on inbound, outbound, or both?

Inbound lead generation attracts potential customers, educating them on your offering and building affinity to your brand until they are ready to enquire about your products or services. This is often driven by marketing teams, as to make this happen, you will have to create content they will find valuable. Content marketing is a great strategy for inbound lead gen: you produce and publish relevant content with the intent of attracting your target audience, while showcasing your expertise and earning authority in your field.

In outbound lead generation, you are actively scanning the market to identify prospects within your Ideal Customer Persona (ICP). Be it through the phone, social media or direct email cadences, you are examining the most relevant personas within target market segments to ignite a business conversation. Like with the scientific method, you start with a hypothesis, then test the ground and refine your ideal customer persona, your understanding of the type of challenges they might have, what they want, how they operate and what is their budget. This activity can be driven by both marketing and sales teams, often working in tandem to maximise impact.

Both approaches have pros and cons, and understanding what would work best for your business is up to you. However, it is always best to keep in mind that they both have the same goal, which is to generate leads that can be converted to qualified business opportunities, and that finding the best combination of both might be the way to go.

Lead generation strategies 

There is an abundance of strategies that a business can implement to generate B2B leads. Below are just a few key activities that can be conducted with inbound and outbound lead generation:

  • Inbound strategies such as content marketing, social media marketing (paid and organic), SEO and landing page optimisation, and paid search (PPC) are all ways to deliver value to your target market, so that when they are ready to buy, they come knocking on your door.
  • Outbound strategies such as intelligent prospecting (warm and cold calling), email marketing with a clear call to action, and creative social selling are all activities that can generate outbound leads. These strategies require huge amounts of personalisation in order to be successful, but often have shorter sales cycles since you have engaged the prospect when they are already in the buying cycle.

Outsourced lead generation 

Great chefs don’t go fishing, hunting or digging for truffles every day. One can be a terrific cook, but not the best at fishing, and rather than spreading their energy thin on learning different skills that take years to master, they focus on developing their craft.

Even if you have expert marketing and sales teams, outsourcing lead generation can save them time on prospecting, qualifying and nurturing leads, and setting up meetings. Giving them the bandwidth to do what they do best – creating great content and closing deals.

Your expert sales team might be the best at closing deals, but do they have the time to validate and nurture hundreds of MQLs being fed by marketing? Probably not.

Do you want to test another market? Place your services in a new geographical area? Partnering with an outsourced team that has proven knowledge and expertise of lead generation in your markets, multilingual capability and the right tools to identify and select the best prospects can help accelerate reaching your growth goals.

Lead generation takes resources, effort, and skill. An outsourced B2B lead generation team will be able to provide the cross-section of experience, knowledge and talent to deliver an effective and consistent process. Providing the link that connects your existing marketing and sales efforts, growing your pipeline and filling it with qualified opportunities. Outsourcing lead generation is an option worth considering.

For additional support and information on how to grow pipeline with B2B lead generation, get in touch with our B2B growth experts.

Let’s talk

We’re always open to hearing from ambitious organisations that are looking to scale but are unsure how. Get in touch to see how we can help overcome your sales challenges.