The big, wide world of B2B marketing comes down to one goal: lead generation. There are so many channels, tactics and strategies we use for it, but they all follow the same process.
Understanding how the B2B lead generation process works is crucial to your success as a marketer, and to your ability to deliver qualified leads to your sales team.
So let’s take a look at it.
The B2B Lead Generation Process Explained
Step 1 – Understanding Your Audience
Before you start in on your marketing, it’s critical that you understand who you should be marketing to. None of the following steps will work at all if you’re aiming at the wrong people.
The best way to understand who your target audience should be is to consider who would get the most benefit from your product or service.
Build buyer personas around those people and use those to build your core messaging and content.
Another very useful strategy is to look at your existing customers. Who actually made a purchase and is getting the most value from it? Those are the type of buyers that you want – the ones who not only spend money but are satisfied and continue to use you.
If you identify commonalities among your best customers, you can use those to build buyer personas too, and you know these ones accurately represent your ideal target audience.
Step 2 – Reaching Your Audience
Once you have your audience dialed in, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to marketing. You know just who you need to hit with your marketing mallet. How do you reach them?
This is where everything opens up. There are a lot of ways you could get your message out there. We’re going to focus on the digital methods, and exclude things like billboards, TV and radio ads, and so on. Even so, you’re spoiled for choice.
If you’re a small business looking to scale up, chances are your marketing budget isn’t astronomical. That’s okay – that just means you need to be smart about making the most of it.
A certain amount of experimentation is inevitable – you’re not likely to nail your ideal marketing channels right off the bat. You’ll have to dip your toes into a bunch of different pools to find out which ones get the best results for the least spend.
You’ll want to start with cost-effective channels to bring leads into your funnel. Here are our recommendations for where to aim your budget (in no particular order):
- Social media advertising
- PPC (Google Ads)
- Email lead generation
Social media advertising can be very effective for B2B marketing. It might seem like more of a B2C space at first, but it actually makes sense: your target audience are business professionals, sure, but they’re also humans who most likely spend a good chunk of time scrolling their feeds.
All you need is a bit of budget, some very basic photoshop skills (or GIMP if you’re looking for a free alternative), and a solid landing page.
PPC is super scalable and can start generating leads for you instantly. You can put as little or as much budget towards it as you want, making it ideal for testing the waters. You don’t even need graphics – search ads are text-based.
The legwork comes in when you set up your keywords and campaigns – it can seem a bit daunting at first, but don’t worry. We’ve got a great Google Ads strategy you can borrow.
Email lead generation can be a major game-changer. It’s a way for you to reach your target audience rapidly and in great numbers, without much time investment. By sending B2B email marketing campaigns to cold contacts, you can dramatically scale up the number of leads coming into your funnel.
You can generate more leads at less cost per lead than many other channels, and that makes it ideal to really build momentum for your company.
It’s also worth investing time into content marketing. It doesn’t actually require budget investment, but it does require somewhat hefty time investment, as a consistent output of high-quality content is crucial to making it effective.
That means time spent regularly researching, writing and publishing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a core part of modern B2B lead generation.
Step 3 – Nurturing Leads Down the Funnel
When leads come into your funnel, you need to warm them up until they’re ready to make a purchase. That’s called nurturing your leads, and it’s just as important as generating them in the first place.
This is where your content marketing really comes into play. It’s good for lead generation, but it’s great for nurturing. When someone subscribes to (and engages with) your blog, for example, that means that they’re getting a steady stream of value in the form of your expert wisdom.
It also means they’re getting regular reminders that you exist and you’re an authority in your industry, and that keeps you top-of-mind when they go looking for the sort of solution you offer.
You can take a more active role, too. Try reaching out to your leads and asking them what their key pain points are. Then you can tailor your content to help alleviate those pain points, building goodwill and a positive relationship.
When someone engages with you, capitalize on it. That means that, for example, if you have a case study and someone converts on it, don’t just send them an email with the download link.
Send them a cadence of follow-up emails with other, related content that they might also find helpful. If they liked that case study, and you hit them with an email four days later that has another article that’s relevant to them, that’s another small step down the funnel.
As you build a relationship and rapport with each lead, and your position as a thought leader and authority in your industry becomes solidified for them, they will draw closer to your goal – generally, being able to pass them on to sales.
Step 4 – Further Nurturing
In some cases, leads that get pushed into the sales pipeline will end up back in your court for further nurturing. This generally happens when a lead isn’t ready to make a purchase yet, but may in the future.
Continuing to nurture these leads is valuable because they remain warmed up, and when they’re ready to have another conversation with your sales team, there will be little to no friction in getting them there.
Understanding the lead generation process means you’ll be able to market your offering effectively, and get impactful results.