Keeping the sales funnel topped up is a common struggle for B2B organisations – according to HubSpot, 61% find lead generation to be their biggest marketing challenge. Throw in the loss of physical networking events and it suddenly becomes a lot harder.
To help you navigate the challenges of 2021 and beyond, this article covers B2B lead generation tips and trends that will help your business continue to generate quality B2B leads online.
What is B2B lead generation?
Let’s start with the basics. B2B lead generation is all about introducing prospects to your sales pipeline. It’s about capturing their details and qualifying them as a potential customer.
Often confused with lead generation and a term used interchangeably is demand generation – another process used to drum up awareness and demand for your product or service. This involves finding out where your audience is present and making them aware of your business.
Lead generation is a different – here you are positioning your product or service as a way to solve their problems, and convincing them to give up their details. Both processes are equally important in creating a sustainable sales pipeline.
Navigating the challenges
However, things have become a little trickier in 2021. This year presents challenges and potential strategy shifts for many of us B2B marketeers. We’ve lost one of our main lead gen sources – physical events and tradeshows.
We all have that list of shows where we know our target audience will be present, and that the quality of those leads will be good. Most of us can confidently forecast that a large percentage of leads are going to come in from a particular show.
However, all is not lost. There are now more opportunities than ever to reach your audience online. A forced pivot to digital might be just what was needed for B2B businesses to level up their lead generation strategies.
Quality vs quantity
It might seem overwhelming at first to pinpoint where your audience are present online, and you may be tempted to take a blanket approach to lead generation. This may result in some good leads, but more often than not many of these leads will turn out to be junk.
However, a targeted strategy using a combination of online tactics can help you bring in consistent, high-quality leads – freeing up your sales team to close valuable deals. Another recent HubSpot report states that 56% of organisations are exceeding their revenue goals because of effective lead generation efforts.
So how do we get more quality leads into the funnel, now that many of us are operating solely online? How can we do something different – and not get left behind. Let’s take a look at our top B2B lead generation strategies and tactics for 2021 and beyond.
If you’re not personalising your marketing communications you’re missing out on an opportunity to convert higher quality leads. According to Smart Insights, 60% of marketers say personalisation is a key strategy for improving the quality of leads being generated.
And it’s not just about making sure emails are addressed personally to the end recipient – you need to consider tailoring your content and messaging to users’ interests and actions, helping to guide them down the sales funnel. Which brings us onto our next trend, automation.
The automation of marketing tasks is especially powerful when it comes to lead generation and nurturing. According to Content Marketing Institute, 95% of B2B marketers use social media as a distribution channel. It is followed by blogs and email at 89% and 81%, respectively.
Being able to automate and personalise these channels can help to boost their success. For email, in particular, effective automation that uses interaction and demographics data means that you can ensure your products or services are suitable for an individual and address any potential pain points and barriers to conversion.
3. Gamified content
Branded content has always been a driving force in lead generation, and it’s becoming ever more difficult to cut through the noise. Now is the time to experiment with new and engaging formats to capture your audience’s attention. One of these is interactive content, something that 53% of content marketers are using in regards to lead generation.
One thing that kept us all connected through 2020 and into 2021 is gaming. Innovative B2B businesses are already reaping the benefits of branded games, leading the way in leveraging this content format to support lead generation.
People love to compete and they love to win – gaming appeals to this basic human instinct. Games, when used in a business context are effective because they engage the player whilst subtly encouraging them to take desired marketing interactions.
This could be lead capture via submitting their score to a leaderboard or directing traffic to a particular landing page or downloadable piece of content. Games can also be used at events and tradeshows as a way to draw in delegates and spark conversations.
4. Virtual trade shows
Ah, 2020, the year of Zoom calls and virtual events. But what have we learnt from the experience, and is virtual really an effective way of networking? Yes, there are challenges when it comes to engaging with distracted delegates, but there’s also the opportunity to generate valuable leads.
If you’re an exhibitor, using a branded game on your virtual stand can help entice attendees – offering a leaderboard prize draw incentivises them to submit their details.
Being authentic and sparking up genuine conversations with delegates can also help boost your leads – it’s very easy to spot the same copy and pasted message – delegates are much more likely to reply to personalised outreach.
5. Intent focusing
You may already be using tools that give you data on prospects who have visited your site. For example, you may see that one company has visited your site three or four times during the last week, viewing case studies and pricing. This would indicate a high purchase intent, and your sales team can tailor their messaging accordingly to drive conversions.
Analysis doesn’t have to be this granular – take a look at your on-site analytics and assess the behaviour and actions taken. You can also use heat mapping software to see where users are clicking and scrolling, offering deeper insight into on-page behaviour. How many people are reaching pages that show high purchase intent? If they’re not, take a look at why not and make improvements to the user journey.
6. User experience (UX)
A business with a poor on-site user experience will ultimately get left behind when it comes to lead generation. People need to have a positive experience in order to give up their details.
Use your on-site analytics data to identify any potential problems – are users getting stuck at certain points of the user journey, are they reaching high purchase intent pages and not converting, are they bouncing after landing, not reaching important information on certain pages? These are all questions you need to ask to create a seamless user journey that guides prospects towards the point of sale.
You should also consider things such as page speed, site navigation, page layout link visibility and text legibility – these are all things that can potentially be detrimental to the user experience.
7. Sales and marketing alignment
The prevalence of home working makes sales and marketing alignment more important than ever. Making sure both teams communicate effectively is key to successful lead generation – and both teams should be aligned on what amounts to a marketing qualified lead (MQL).
This ensures the creation of an appropriate lead scoring strategy so that the focus is on providing the right quality, rather than just quantity of leads to the sales team.
There’s also lots to be learnt from the effective collaboration of sales and marketing teams – the sharing of data and knowledge can help to identify gaps in the sales process and user journey. New content and campaigns can be devised to address common prospect pain points and to remove any potential conversion roadblocks within the buyer journey.
8. Conversational marketing (chatbots)
Most B2B businesses have a common list of frequently asked questions. Potential clients get in touch, and you can almost guarantee they will ask at least one of your common queries.
Consider automating these FAQs through the use of a chatbot hosted on your website, which will help to free up time for your sales team to focus on closing sales. Not all questions will have an automated answer available – another benefit of conversational marketing tools is that your sales team can also reply via the chatbot to answer these enquiries in real-time.
9. Do more of what works for you
Just because something is a trend doesn’t mean it will work for you. It’s all about looking at your data and finding out tactics have previously and consistently driven results. Make sure to scratch under the surface – closely analyse the quality of the leads generated by each channel, not just the quantity. A high number of leads doesn’t always indicate success.
But don’t just stick to what you know. Now, more than ever, it’s important to allocate budget towards trying new things. You can use this data to iteratively improve your lead generation process, bringing in new tactics to support what’s already working for your business, increasing the number of high-value prospects in the pipeline.
The future of B2B lead generation
2021 is all about trying new tools and tactics. We’re all looking at new ways to engage our audiences – the issue is that we’re all now looking in the same place – the digital space. Whilst in-person events will return, we can’t say for sure when we’ll be back on the trade show floor.
Now is the time to experiment. Test and learn, find a combination of tactics that work for your business. Start by exploring online communities and platforms where you know you’ll be able to find high-quality leads, then use your content to drum up demand and generate leads – and always be lead by data.