The first thing we’ll say on this topic is: PICK YOUR AUDIENCE.
Understand them really, really, really well.
Major Lead Generation Strategy Mistakes
B2B marketers often make some common mistakes that can cost a fortune. Here are the two big mistakes we come across in the accounts we take over.
Casting too wide a net
The #1 B2B lead generation mistake we see is casting too wide, delusions of grandeur and going for mass appeal to everyone.
The ego takes over; you can see your company logo on next year’s Superbowl ad, you’re the next Steve Jobs, you can get 10x growth with no venture capital this year etc…
In line with this, take a good look at your marketing/sales collateral.
It needs to fit the target audience you have carefully thought out and chosen.
If you haven’t read it, read this book by Chet Holmes – the go-to guy for Berkshire Hathaway when it comes to sales.
With extreme niche targeting and a multi-channel approach, we have run campaigns with 90% contact rate and ultimate 27% conversion rates – that’s conversion rate to client win, not lead. And that requires a lot less work and resource than getting 0.0001% conversion on reaching 1m people.
Talking About Self, Not About Customers
We often see lead generation ads and hooks talking about how great their product/service is, but not about how exactly they can solve the problem of the prospective customer.
Tip #2 – no stranger gives a damn about you or your business, your hooks need to be 100% about them, not you.
Statistics On The Best B2B Lead Generation Channels
The most up to date data we could find is from 2017:
For the purpose of this article, we are dismissing “the most successful lead gen channel”, email – if you have a tonne of email addresses, you have already nailed your lead gen!
Marketing automation and professional CRM are taken as a given. For the same reason, “referrals” are a given – if you’re any good you will get referrals organically.
With incredible bias, this list is primarily based on our own experience and the results we see day-in, day-out for our clients.
So What Are The Best 8 Lead Gen Strategies?
The 8 best B2B lead generation strategies are:
- LinkedIn Ads
- Search PPC (in combo with reverse-IP lookups)
- Content Marketing/SEO
- Online Outreach
- Integrated Telemarketing
- Facebook PPC
- Google Display Network
- YouTube Video PPC
- And what about Twitter?
These strategies use different B2B lead generation channels from LinkedIn to YouTube. Among social media channels, although LinkedIn gives the best lead generation results for most businesses, Facebook and Twitter also work well for some B2B businesses. It requires a bit of testing different channels before you go all out with a B2B lead gen strategy.
1. LinkedIn Ads
Make LinkedIn part of your Lead Generation Strategy. It is an immediate and easy source of B2B leads if you have even a vaguely interesting message.
We wrote a detailed piece on LinkedIn and indeed all display channels in this article.
In 2017, the LinkedIn advertising platform was crap. Borderline unusable.
In 2019, it is pretty good.
Here are the options and approximate click cost:
But what actually works and how much can you pick up high quality leads for?
- Sponsored Content Ads work best
- You should acquire opted-in leads at £10-50 per optin
Obviously that varies by who you are targeting, and how strong your collateral is
- Those opted in leads join your marketing automation
Make sure it’s a good sequence!
- And you will have enough opt-in data to identify them
For In-mailing, calling, direct mailing etc…
If you just get an optin and aren’t prepared to do the rest, you are wasting your time.
The best campaigns we have run start with compelling industry data – compelling to the JOB TITLE and the INDUSTRY you are targeting (minimum ‘niche’ requirements).
Getting it to work
When you think to yourself “this is niche”, go 3x more niche than that. You need a very, very tight target audience defined, and LinkedIn makes it very, very easy to target just them.
You then need to hit that niche’s primary pain or need. If it’s not a pain, it’s not interesting enough to opt in to.
When you get optins, you absolutely must follow up with one or all of; In-mail, telemarketing, direct mail. Conversation starters, not “will you buy my stuff”. And if they are decision-makers, you need to be extra careful!
You WILL get B2B leads if you set this up as described, it is just a matter of how much per lead and whether that maths backs out for you.
One other thing
Bing has released a beta version of LinkedIn targeting being available on the Bing platform… powerful, we are in testing mode with it at the time of writing.
2. Search PPC (with reverse-IP lookups)
Reverse-IP lookups – if you’re in B2B you probably have them, but are you making good use of reverse-IP lookup data? Most people do not.
We have tested a lot of services, and our long term conclusion is: use this tool (€79/month at the time of writing).
Now search PPC alone is not some holy grail for B2B leads – in some industries, it’s expensive, competitive and bloody hard work.
When combined with reverse-IP lookups, where 25% of clicks reveal which business is interested in your precise service, the game changes. That’s when you can start generating targeted high-quality leads.
Any contact and optins become a (very nice) bonus – and you should absolutely work towards a self-sustaining site with a direct ROI.
Depending on where you are in the cycle of online lead generation, though, that might be a way out.
The good news: it doesn’t matter. Even the crappiest sites can get an immediate ROI using the reverse-IP lookups combined with Search PPC.
Why only Search PPC? Because you get the search term data. You don’t get that (any more) with organic searches.
You get to know what this business, in this City, did on your site:
And the search term that brought them to your site in the first place:
Of course, the missing link is who at that company was it, and I refer you back here for more details on handling these lookups.
What is important is that you as a B2B marketer know:
- This business is interested in my service
- I know exactly what they are interested in
- I know exactly what they looked at on my website
- If my sales team can’t get conversations out of that, I have the wrong sales team!
Again, you have the option of following up with direct mail pieces, industry reports and, en-mass, even LinkedIn company lists.
You just need to be sure to filter out the crap and not get overexcited – focus most energy on the high-intent search terms and areas of your site.
3. Content Marketing/Search Engine Optimisation
Rule #1 – don’t just write any old crap!
Sure, a blog post about Donald Trump’s golf handicap might get you some clicks, but that alone is just vanity – the conversion rate of those visitors to leads/wins will be zero, unless you get lottery-level lucky.
I am only writing this article because our SEO team provide content ideas to our editorial calendar on a monthly basis, based on deep research, with an understanding of ‘difficulty’ (likelihood to rank) and volume (if we do rank, how many clicks to expect), that helps us to appeal to our readers with evergreen content irrespective of where they are in the sales funnel.
Ultimately, content is king, and if this article is crap versus the competition, it won’t rank well (or if it does, it won’t for long). So, make sure to research and decide on the right topic cluster for your content strategy, and to link them to each other. This is more likely for your website to attract potential clients and achieve your lead generation goals.
If you are guided by data-driven content suggestions, from all the right tools, then you can generate strong leads month-after-month-after-month at no additional cost, ever.
You need to leverage the traffic you do generate – for example, if you engage with this article strongly enough, you will start seeing our re-targeting ads across multiple channels from this moment onwards.
And it will go in my calendar to create a “content upsell” on the topic of this article – to capture your email details so you can enter one of our education sequences.
If you do, you will become better at lead generation for it 😉
I’ll probably set the trigger for that content upsell as this very sentence…
And this organic traffic and the resulting engagement with your content is a gateway to inbound marketing, too – like providing a checklist or a pdf guide in exchange for their email address through lead magnets.
Sure, just being there and being useful to the world can be fulfilling – and infrequently, that may be appreciated enough to generate a lead. But for maximum effect you need to ASK.
How to do that
In Google Analytics use the ‘all pages’ report in to discover your 5 most visited pages. Now create an audience for that page in Google Analytics and all your pixels (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) so you can retarget them with ads. Also, use a tool like OptinMonster to do page-specific content upsells.
You need to make the most of the traffic you invest time into getting.
Pro Tip: Do not use just the email field in your opt-in forms. And do not ask for too many details either. For a B2B marketer, form fields for email, name, job title and company name is more than enough to take the conversation further. However, with clever tracking, Linkedin data mining, etc, collecting just the email and company name should also suffice. And multistep popup forms are always better than throwing all the form fields at once.
4. Online Outreach
Very closely linked with content creation and SEO, online outreach can have different purposes:
- to get backlinks (to your content)
- create partnerships
Be very careful with the latter… nothing lacks class quite as much as “do you want to buy my stuff” introductions with a new LinkedIn stranger, especially in B2B industry.
The most successful outreach, to any of the above purposes, is done with care and personalisation – and genuine benefit to the recipient.
The more you give, the more you receive.
Think of it like meeting someone at a bar – you don’t ask them to get married straight away; you buy them a drink, pay some genuine compliments and have a conversation (about them).
Online outreach is not so different.
In terms of channels, email marketing is king, but Social Media can also be a way of reaching out depending on the size of business you are targeting. With large businesses it is no good, you will be getting marked as spam by a Social Media Exec. For small businesses you are more likely hitting a Manager or even Owner of the business, so if you’re interesting enough can strike a conversation.
Email marketing still wins every time though. It’s an art and a science. Much of the science behind email outreach sits with the technical setup and even getting delivered in the first place – this is where most of the “email marketing doesn’t work” camp sit, frustrated.
Done well, technically and creatively, email marketing can be one of the most powerful tools in your armoury. Just don’t send “met too” drivel to a broad audience, please – we all hate those emails.
5. Integrated Telemarketing
Now I’m sure cold calling to mass lists *can* work, but it’s not something we are interested in.
Our telemarketing team, who make calls on behalf of our clients with the goal of appointment setting, will only ever make a call if there is a logical connection.
Doing this well turns B2B leads into buyers. You need to have conversations if you are to win business.
When integrated with marketing, there is an absolute connection; from reverse-IP lookups to active optins and direct mail pieces – always data-driven.
Can social media and telemarketing be integrated?
Where not marketing-led, our data team digs out various connections of clients so there is always a reason for a conversation. Social media plays a big role in finding or establishing such connections.
The more integrated telemarketing is with all of the other lead generation strategies we are covering in this article, the more successful it is.
A combination of integrated telemarketing and integrated outreach makes your lead gen more effective and successful with improved quality of leads – and needs intelligent systems and triggers in place.
6. Facebook PPC
“Facebook isn’t for B2B”, I hear some of you cry.
Some of you are wrong.
We wrote a whole piece on this if you want the gory details.
If you cast wide and try to market to everyone on Facebook, you will fail miserably. That’s not how social media PPC works. Social media channels need to be used very cleverly in your B2B lead generation campaigns to find your potential customers.
If you have defined your audience and designed a compelling funnel, Facebook Ads works.
The very top of that funnel only exists to qualify people IN at all – i.e. have proven an interest in your topic.
What is the most effective way to do that?
Clue: it killed the radio star. (this makes me feel very old).
Yes, VIDEO! Video, video, video
The most efficiently priced pre-qualifier there is on Facebook (and YouTube, which we’ll come on to).
If you’re new to it, don’t worry about making the perfect video to start with – just publish something on your topic, even if it’s crap – you can improve it later.
You see even if it is crap, you are pre-qualifying people who are interested in the TOPIC of whatever you do.
Here’s a real example of a B2B offer (a good one):
The top campaign is the video campaign – for £480, it has built up an audience of 42,867 PRE-QUALIFIED users who have shown interest in the topic, by watching at least 10 seconds of this video.
We actually take it a step further and define who watched 75%+ of the video and also completed it – this was a good video, completers was somewhere in the 30k+ range.
Then the bottom campaign here is the follow-up: to those video viewers & lookalikes (Facebook’s machine learning power) only.
£3.52 per optin for a pretty substantial form is pretty amazing – of course there is the original investment of getting the interested audience too, but that can be sunk and used across multiple campaigns now, for a long time.
There are other tricks in B2B to cut through the noise to the right audience, but this is my personal favourite.
7. Google Display Network (GDN)
I’m struggling with whether to give the info away for free – it is gold…
The Google Display Network is RIDDLED with fraud – click fraud, conversion fraud – especially with mobile app traffic, which Google have recently insisted you must buy and can never exclude. Thanks Google.
#1 you must protect yourself against this fraud
a) with a script that checks your whole account daily
b) with third party tool like this
c) if you capture form data, you must have Recaptcha (v3 is invisible and great) and MailGun validator for real-time validation of email addresses.
With that out of the way, you can get to the nitty-gritty of GDN.
It’s an overwhelming minefield! You can bid like this, like that, on keywords, on affinity audiences, custom intent audiences, YouTube-only, Gmail campaigns AAAAAAGHHHH I GIVE UP…… is the usual response. Can hardly blame them.
If you paid attention to #1 and actually get that implemented (90% will not, you’ll have a huge advantage), there’s now (since Feb 1st 2019) a really easy way to cut through all the GDN’s complicated crap to success.
I’ll reveal it soon, it’s so new and gives our clients such a leg up on GDN versus everyone that I’m not quite ready to reveal the secret… I’ll replace this sentence in a few months once it’s common knowledge (in the unlikely event that I remember to…).
8. YouTube Video PPC
Technically part of the GDN, but a totally different art.
Not many clients are willing to put up the initial investment into very good, planned out videos. If you do, the volume is there and the competition is lower – not many know how to master YouTube video PPC, so those that do are making hay.
What’s the 2nd largest search engine in the world? That’s right, YouTube.
So what videos do you need?
You need a full funnel of very-useful-to-the-user videos – approximately 5 videos long.
Good quality too, quality matters on Youtube – professional, studio-shot videos of 1 person ‘presenter-style’ can be produced for around £1k.
The very first video needs to clearly state:
- Your perfect audience
- What this video will be about
Example: “are you a small business owner struggling to find quality contractors? In this video, I’m going to give you 3 tips on pre-qualifying contractors before you hire them, and a Google Form you can copy and use – absolutely free, no optin required”.
Because with YouTube’s TRUEVIEW bidding, you only pay when someone actually watches your video – usually anything from £0.05 to £0.50 per view depending on your target.
So you qualify people in with your top-funnel awareness ad – now what?
You exclude those viewers from ever seeing that video again, and now start showing them the next video in your series – you have gone from “aware” and are moving into your shop… now you start offering value in exchange for lead details.
At this stage you must must must EXCLUDE all kids placements – parents give their device to their kids to watch Peppa Pig and shut them up for 30 minutes – if you don’t do this, you will be advertising to their children and not them!
So now you’re in my shop, I need to offer you something – say 10,000 people watched my first video, let’s do a next-step example:
“Are bad contractors making your week stressful? In this video, I am going to offer you a free guide on getting the best contractors and eliminating the bad ones from your life. Before that, here’s THE biggest lesson I learned from hiring 100s of bad contractors in the past…”
Now at the end of this, you need 8-10 seconds of calm and quiet to push your call to action, as well as overlay that call-to-action on your video.
The call to action links to a good landing page with your guide behind an optin form – your lead capture.
The rest of the videos keep going with the same principle – exclude people from seeing the same one, move on to the next and use more hooks and get more sales-driven as you go along.
In our working example, ultimately to “join qualitycontractors.com for our pre-vetted, performance-monitored contractors – only the very best make the grade” etc…
Note that with some targeting options (e.g. In-Market audiences), Google knows people who are already shopping for your product, so you can sometimes go straight to mid-or-bottom funnel.
Hopefully, you see the logic, you just need to think long and hard about what that would look like for your business (often best done by people outside of your business, they have no blinkers on!).
What about Twitter?
Twitter is great for showing off and posting your content and getting long-term followers with long-term benefits.
Like seeing you more often, so more likely to buy from you on your other channels), but it is definitely a less transactional platform when it comes to PPC.
When it comes to Outreach, see #4 in our list – it can certainly work there…
If I’m wrong about PPC please enlighten me any time, I just haven’t cracked it yet aside from growing follower bases with good, relevant users.
Featured image: Alpha Stock Images http://alphastockimages.com/