80% of B2B customer sales activities will be digital by 2025, according to Gartner market research. Customers do their own research online and always make personal contact with sales staff later. How can companies identify leads and influence their buying decisions as early as possible? We present the most important elements for successful B2B lead generation on the web.
Lead generation, or lead gen for short, is the first step in the digital sales process. The goal is to first obtain (contact) data from potential customers. If companies have generated leads via marketing measures, lead qualification follows. Here, the data is enriched and then transferred to the sales team. This attempts to convert the highest possible percentage of prospects into customers with compelling sales pitches .
B2B lead generation differs from B2C lead generation as it is aimed exclusively at business customers. Products are not sold to private individuals, but to companies.
A lead refers to the record of all information about a potential customer. An email address from a website visitor is just as much a lead as a record containing first and last name, postal address, and phone number.
Typical data that companies capture in lead generation includes name and business email address, but phone number, position and department can also be of interest. How does lead generation work? Business leads can be acquired particularly cost-effectively via digital sales. This is because employees actively search the web for solutions to their problems, and digital tools make it easy to target these users via content or ads.
Efficient and successful sales with digital sales strategies
Anyone who wants to learn to sell digitally must understand the logic of the sales funnel. Lead generation is only the first step in successfully acquiring customers on the web. To turn business leads into satisfied customers, companies need to enrich prospect data sets through various marketing and sales activities. This second step is called lead qualification. The first data set is often created in marketing (marketing lead). Only when the prospect signals a concrete interest in buying does it become a lead that is passed on to sales.
How to qualify B2B leads with a system
The sales team takes the third step in the digital sales funnel: It contacts the qualified leads and presents suitable products in sales pitches. The better the leads have been pre-qualified by marketing, the easier the path to closing the sale.
The DNA of successful sales pitches - practical tips!
In the past, B2B companies acquired a large proportion of their customers at trade fairs, via cold calls or personal recommendations. Although all of these measures are still relevant, digital lead generation is now one of the most efficient ways to acquire customers. Companies use digital marketing measures to reach their target group without major wastage.
When B2B customers see a Google ad that matches their search query, chances are they will click and go to the company website for more information. Through content marketing, providers can place themselves in organic search results, putting themselves on the radar of their target audience. In order for digital B2B lead generation to be crowned with success, however, a number of prerequisites must be met.
Trial and error is also a must in digital sales. To determine how successful the various lead generation measures are, you define key performance indicators in advance to help you measure your success. For example, define that you want to increase leads generated per month by 40% over the next six months. You should also define targets for individual measures, such as the conversion rate on landing pages, a cost-per-click rate for ads, or the cost per lead.
Familiarize yourself with your target audience. Develop a proxy buyer persona, an ideal customer, to address in detail the problems and needs of the people for whom you are creating a solution with your offering.
How does your target group talk about their problems? What does she want from a solution? Ideally, your answers will come from direct customer contact. Commission market research, conduct an online survey, or compile the experiences of your sales staff. Knowing your target audience precisely is the basis for making exciting offers that attract the right leads.
To ensure that your lead generation addresses the right topics and uses the right channels, you need to know the customer journey of your target group. The Customer Journey describes all the stages that your potential customers travel until they make a purchase – from initial awareness of the problem (Problem Aware), through awareness of which solutions exist for the problem (Solution Aware), to weighing up different providers and making a purchase decision (Decision).
In order for your target audience to be willing to give you data, you need to deliver relevant content as a lead magnet. Combine the insights about your target group with the customer journey: Depending on the phase of the purchase decision, potential customers are interested in different content. Whereas in the awareness phase, technical articles with an overview character are more interesting for users, product comparisons and application reports can make a difference in the decision phase. Use appropriate download content to automate lead generation at every stage of the sales funnel.
Not every lead is equally valuable: a B2B lead who downloaded a free whitepaper designed for the awareness phase is far from a buying decision. A lead who has signed up for a free consultation call, on the other hand, is much more promising. Your sales resources are limited. Focus on the leads you don’t need to “warm up” for much longer.
However, the truth is that only very few B2B leads are directly ready to buy. Thoughtful lead nurturing is therefore essential. Consider how you can lead leads from an early stage of the customer journey to the purchase decision in a structured way.
Example: If a prospect has viewed a free webinar, transfer their contact to your email marketing (with consent) and provide them with further information at regular intervals or invite them to a free 1:1 online consultation.
In recent years, capital was cheap and digital ads boomed. Not least because of retargeting options that enabled impressive success rates. In the meantime, the economic situation has changed. Marketing and sales budgets have become tighter and a change in privacy awareness or the end of 3rd party cookies limits the effectiveness of ads.
For lead generation in B2B, companies must increasingly rely on a mix of measures in the future and focus on organic traffic and direct data acquisition.
Companies can implement numerous measures on the web to attract leads. Basically, they can be divided into two areas: passive and active lead generation.
Passive lead generation is also known as inbound marketing. Companies create advertisements or informational articles to directly or indirectly draw attention to their products. When prospects find the content and they are convinced, they contact it themselves.
As platforms for ads, Google offers itself as the largest search engine: When users enter a relevant search term, your company’s ad is played out – depending on the budget used and the existing competition, which also bids for the top ad spots.
Therefore, for highly competitive search terms, an ad on social networks can be more cost effective. At present, LinkedIn is particularly worthy of mention here: In the B2B context, the platform achieves significantly better conversion rates than Facebook and Instagram, which are more interesting for the B2C sector.
Native advertising is not to be forgotten: Here, companies write technical articles with a concrete user value for their target group. Service providers such as Taboola then play out the articles in an online magazine with an editorial look and feel. Unlike classic advertising, the acceptance of editorial advertising copy is much higher. Native advertising posts can either be used to purely increase brand awareness or linked to a landing page to generate leads immediately after reading.
Ads can be used to increase the number of B2B leads in the short term, but the measures come at a price. In order to permanently reduce the costs of lead generation, the establishment of content marketing is a good idea. Here, companies invest in creating high-quality content that attracts traffic to their website and motivates users to enter their contact information.
The B2B Content Marketing Institute regularly surveys marketers to filter out best practices for lead generation. According to this, these were the most successful content formats in 2021:
The most successful marketers use whitepapers, case studies and longer articles more often than average for their B2B lead generation.
No company that wants to gain digital leads in a predictable and continuous way can do without active lead generation. Ads are costly, organic content takes time to work – and visibility isn’t always predictable thanks to Google’s algorithm. In contrast, companies have full control over their own sales activities. How many contacts do I write to? How skilled am I at leading conversations? Mastering the basics and upping the ante will increase leads and sales.
To minimize the effort required to actively generate leads online, successful companies are turning to a variety of digital tools to guide prospects through the sales funnel to close a sale in a short period of time.
The key steps of active lead acquisition and tools we have successfully implemented with our clients:
To shorten the digital sales process and reduce costs, companies need to focus on the right customer segments (prospects) that have a current and pressing bottleneck that can be solved using their product.
If you already have a handful of customers, you can use that data to identify other businesses that would most likely benefit from your products. Tools like Ocean.io only needs 3 to 5 links from companies that fit your target audience to show you many more prospects.
Another strategy to find prospects: Evaluate the traffic on your website. There are tools for this as well, for example Leadfeeder, Leadinfo or Salesviewer. All tools are, according to their own statement, DSGVO compliant.
Our current favorite: Leadinfo. The software works completely cookie-free and can be easily integrated into your own digital sales funnels thanks to more than 20 integrations.
For general market monitoring, Google Alerts are a good choice. Google’s free feature helps keep an ear to the market and get inspired by ideas from the competition. We recommend that companies set up (at least) four alerts that can be hooks for lead generation:
More tools for automatic identification of prospects:
Once you have identified promising companies (prospects), you need to find the right contacts – people who can decide whether or not to buy your product.
Manually clicking through each company website is not the most efficient way to make progress here. Even if you quickly find the right contact, the e-mail addresses provided are often collective mailboxes. Your request goes down, phone numbers redirect to call centers. For a direct personal connection, go to the social networks LinkedIn and Xing.
On LinkedIn, it’s worth investing in Sales Navigator to build lead lists and filter search results by company and role. This way you can find the Sales Manager or Head of Sales and network directly.
You have similar search options at Xing if you choose the Premium plan. However, response rates on Xing have deteriorated in recent years. Depending on the industry and target group, it is still worthwhile to maintain the channel. With Zingler.io , companies can use more detailed search settings and write to relevant contacts automatically. To prevent the recipient from recognizing the messages as spam or bot messages, the tool offers hyper-personalization of the messages. Anyone using Xing for prospecting should check out Zingler.
LinkedIn still has slightly fewer users in Germany than Xing, but it is catching up and is usually more attractive for sales. Not only because of the higher activity on the platform, but also because of the variety of tools specifically designed for prospecting on LinkedIn.
Two tools we regularly recommend to customers: Octopus CRM and LinkedHelper2.
Both offer a similar feature set: users can automatically write to relevant LinkedIn contacts with personalized messages and, if the contact request is accepted, warm them up with further messages. With the help of the tools, they can plan and send various message tunnels (drip campaigns) in advance. Read statistics on the success of your messages on a central dashboard. If necessary, adjust your funnel in just a few minutes.
With minimal effort, you can lead prospects to the first personal contact and into the (further) lead qualification phase.
B2B leads form the basis for business success. In order to continuously acquire new customers, companies must give lead generation a permanent place and sufficient budget in marketing and sales.
Attracting B2B leads is a team effort and requires expertise in different areas. Professional Lead Generation works with Google Ads specialists, email marketers, SEO, content marketers and sales people.
A holistic strategy is needed that views lead generation as part of the sales funnel and starts with understanding the target group. To boost the number of monthly leads and new customers as quickly as possible, ads are the best way. However, for a sustainable cost structure, successful companies also rely on organic content and active lead generation, which is also highly cost-effective with the help of digital tools.
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