B2B Lead Generation: Definitions, Strategies, Tactics, Examples, and More.

b2b lead generation

Lead generation is the oxygen that keeps B2B businesses alive.

It’s crucial for sales professionals and business owners to continually bring in marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) so that they eventually become paying customers. 

Without a strategy in place, a business is almost certain to experience “feast or famine” months or potentially fail. 

Keep reading to find out exactly what B2B lead generation is all about, which methods are most effective, and how you can start building your strategy today. 

What exactly is B2B lead generation?

At its core, B2B lead generation is the process of identifying potential customers for your business's products or services. 

Seems simple enough, right? 

Although B2B lead generation only works when a business has a clear understanding of its target audience or in other words, the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). It’s very easy to waste time and resources on ineffective sales efforts without this clarity. 

In most instances, B2B lead generation involves speaking with potential customers that don’t know who you are. So it’s critical to start by identifying your ICP, creating targeted prospecting campaigns, and nurturing leads through the sales process.

Remember, the goal of B2B lead generation is to book a meeting with a lead so that you can qualify and eventually close them into a paying customer. 

Keep in mind this isn’t an effective method for products or services under $2,000. Whilst this is my arbitrary figure it seems reasonable to me. There is a lot of work involved and the strategy works best with high-ticket items such as recurring consulting, enterprise software, or even hardware. 

B2B lead generation methods

Outbound lead generation

Outbound lead generation can be the fastest and most reliable way to generate leads. It involves identifying and connecting with prospects that don’t know who you are and might not have an immediate need for your product or service, but still see the value in it. The sales cycle is generally longer for these types of leads.

Cold calling: Whilst some people gasp at the idea of picking up a phone and calling a stranger, this strategy is still alive and performing very well today. It can be effective for businesses in B2B sectors where target customers are easily identifiable and reachable. A good, clean, and targeted list of prospects is a requirement for seeing a return on investment with this strategy. 

Cold email outreach: Cold email outreach is my favorite method of outbound lead generation. I’ve built cold email systems for my consulting businesses and some of my clients. The good news is that you can automate this system once you have a list of prospects to contact. You simply load the data into a cold email tool such as Lemlist, create the email sequences, and let it run. 

Networking events: This is a crucial strategy for industries where face-to-face interaction is important, like real estate, or sectors with regular trade shows and conferences. It will involve speaking with various people and potentially even buying a stall to promote your product or service. 

Inbound lead generation

For the introverted business owner, this is going to be your best shot at successfully generating leads. And in some instances, it can be the most reliable and predictable. There’s nothing I love more than receiving inbound referrals and leads without putting in the direct input to receive the output. The main difference between inbound and outbound lead generation is that leverage is built into the inbound strategy. 

Social media content: Despite social media being dominated by B2C content, it is still an incredible way of generating leads for B2B companies. It could be through Youtube videos, Instagram content, or even Twitter threads that give your target customer enough value that they will consider reaching out for help to solve their problem. 

Referrals: This can be through existing or previous customers or a formal partnership program. Either way, this is the best form of lead generation since the cost of acquisition is so low. It costs you no upfront time or money and hinges on your past performance. In my experience, the best agencies I’ve worked with rely purely on referral leads. They often have to turn away customers because they’re at capacity. 

Search Engine Optimization: SEO is another strategy that uses leverage to bring in leads. The idea is to create and rank for content that meets the intent of your ideal customer. For example, if I want to generate leads for email marketing consulting, I would create a page called “Email Marketing Consultant” and do my best to get it to rank on the first page of Google. Users that land on this page are clearly in the market for an email marketing consultant. From here I can simply include forms and email signup boxes to drive users to give me their details. 

How do you build a B2B lead generation system from scratch?

Building a B2B lead generation system from scratch requires some upfront work and research. Since there are many ways to approach this, it will largely depend on your specific business context, industry, target audience, business goals, and resources. Here’s how I would approach this from scratch. 

1. Create SMART business goals

The first step in this process is to figure out what your business goals are. 

Maybe you need to increase revenue by 20% MoM.

Or maybe you need to sign an additional 3 clients per month.

Regardless of the goal you need to work this out early.

My go-to strategy for goal setting is the SMART method. This allows me to make sure I’m setting appropriate goals and that the strategy has a solid foundation.

  • Specific: Make sure your goal is not loosely defined and is clear.
  • Measurable: Ensure you can measure the performance, there need to be figures attached.
  • Attainable: Is the goal realistic? Growing revenue by 3,000% a month is not realistic.
  • Relevant: Is this relevant to your business's success and growth plans?
  • Time-based: What time period does the goal need to be achieved?

Once your SMART goals are defined it makes the rest of this process much easier to execute. 

2. Research your industry, competitors, and target audience

In this step you should spend the time researching your target audience, the places they hang out, the problems they face, and all the ways they’ve tried to solve them in the past. This will give you some hints for the typical methods they’ve tried such as a Google Search, asking for a referral, going to a trade show, etc. 

My approach to this is twofold. Firstly, I conduct customer interviews with my existing clients to work out all of their problems and how they’ve tried to solve their issues in the past. On top of this, I closely analyze my competitors and determine what their lead-generation methods might be. A simple LinkedIn search, a browse of their website, and a friendly call should give you some accurate information.

A company with 18 Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) would be investing in outbound sales through cold calls and cold emails, whereas a business that has 300 blog posts on its website and a content production team would be heavily investing in inbound sales through SEO. 

On the flip side, if the business doesn’t seem to have any of these roles, but is still growing they might be receiving a lot of referral leads. 

It is your responsibility to do as much research in this step as possible. 

But remember not all businesses are the same so you should only adopt things that make the most sense for your specific business context.

3. Determine the resources you have available

Once you decide on your goals and have a deeper understanding of how your competitors operate it’s time to assign resources.

Remember that not all strategies are created equal.

SEO for instance requires months of investment into content without knowing if it’s even working, let alone if the leads you capture are qualified. 

If you compare this to cold email outreach you could start sending emails and within a couple of weeks see a positive return on your time. Not to mention it’s insanely cheaper. 

So be clear on how much money and time you want to invest into this exercise, along with the estimated return on investment you can expect. 

4. Clearly define your offer

A great offer will make or break your lead generation efforts.

Without a compelling offer, businesses don’t have a strong reason to listen to you. So it’s critical you nail this early. The components of a good offer include:

  • A clear, relevant, and enticing promise
  • A unique value proposition that helps their business make or save money 
  • Delivery in a reasonable timeframe
  • Risk reversals or risk reductions such as guarantees
  • Social Proof and Testimonials
  • Call to action 

Your offer is likely to evolve over time with more information and data you capture from the market. However, if you get stuck consider referencing Alex Hormozi’s seven-question framework:

  1. What is the problem your customer faces?
  2. What is the dream outcome for your customer?
  3. What is the perceived risk for your customer?
  4. What is the time delay for your customer to get this outcome?
  5. What is the effort required from the customer?
  6. What can be stacked onto this offer to make it more valuable?
  7. What are the 1-10 bonuses aka “The Sizzle” of the offer?

5. Choose an appropriate strategy and stick with it until you have enough data

As mentioned above there are numerous ways to generate leads, although, not all of them are going to be effective for your business. And some could take months before they show signs of success. 

Different industries have different norms and expectations. For example, if you're in the tech industry, content marketing through blogs and white papers might be a good starting point. If you're in an industry where networking is normal, then attending industry events might be more important.

So in this step, you just need to commit to the strategy you want to execute and ensure you have a long enough time horizon to accurately assess the results. 

6. Build and go live with your strategy

This is where you put your money where your mouth is and start building the strategy. 

Maybe you need to signup for Lemlist and Appollo to find prospects and send emails.

You could register for a trade show.

Or maybe you hire an SEO agency to start producing bottom-of-the-funnel content.

Either way, this step requires you to take action and start executing. 

7. Test and iterate

As with every single strategy, it is an experiment until it is proven to work. You must test this to see how it works and make adjustments where necessary. 

But whatever you do, don’t give up unless you’ve genuinely tested and iterated. My first guess at what will work usually doesn’t work in the end. It requires fine-tuning based on feedback. 

Real B2B lead generation examples

How To Get B2B LEADS (That Come to YOU)

Cold email outreach for Ticker Nerd

Ticker Nerd is an investing newsletter I co-founded in 2021 with my close pal Sam. We’ve been around for almost three years and we’re growing each month. However, we divided to fuel the growth we should work with other bloggers and YouTubers. To execute this strategy we decided to run cold email outreach campaigns. 

Below is an example of a cold email we sent that resulted in a fruitful relationship. You’ll notice the offer is also very compelling. 

cold email success

SEO leads via my personal website 

When I’m not working on Ticker Nerd, I offer email marketing and copywriting consulting to various companies. Most of the leads I receive are from my high-intent pages also known as “bottom of the funnel” content. Here are three pages that generate leads on autopilot:

The profitable guide to email copywriting. 

8 Email Copywriting Services That Will Increase Your Revenue.

The 7 Best Email Newsletter Platforms For 2023 – Expert Reviews.

Referral leads via my network 

This is the least predictable lead generation method for me. However, I still receive emails or WhatsApp messages from friends or colleagues that have referred me. 

referral business

Frequently asked question

Which tools are best for B2B lead gen?

This will depend on the method of lead generation you target. If you plan on conducting outbound lead generation I recommend tools like Appollo, Lemlist, Hubspot, and LinkedIn. If you plan on conducting inbound lead generation then tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, Social Pilot, and Hootsuite could work well. 

What is the difference between an MQL and an SQL?

An MQL is a Marketing Qualified Lead and is someone that has expressed interest in your product or service but has not yet been qualified to purchase. An SQL is a Sales Qualified Lead and they have been qualified as a potential customer ready to purchase your product or service. 

How long does it take for B2B lead generation strategies to be profitable?

This depends entirely on your lead generation strategy, industry, and sales cycle. In my experience, the fastest approach to landing customers is through cold emails. I’ve had success with cold emails in many different business ventures and it still works great today. Otherwise, strategies like SEO and Social Media can take months, if not years. 

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I help B2B software and service companies nail marketing and growth. In other words, I fill your bucket with water and plug all of the leaks.

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