Sales are essential for any business to succeed, but even the greatest salesperson won’t sell a thing without any leads to sell to. With billions of people online, there seems to be no shortage of leads and, sure enough, there are plenty of companies out there offering to sell you a B2B prospect list with thousands of potential leads.
But is this the best way to fill your sales funnel? What other B2B lead generation strategies should you be trying out? Here at Reply, we help our customers automate every step of their outreach process, including their prospect lead generation. Here are some of the best lead generation techniques for B2B we’ve identified…
Know your leads
The first step for effective lead generation is knowing what your ideal leads look like. Even if you wanted to outsource all your lead generation, you still need to have a clear picture of your leads if you expect to get any kind of result.
And if you’re even thinking for a second that your product/service is for everyone, you’re a) wrong and b) going to make lead generation a million times harder than it should be.
No product/service is for everyone. Even if you’re selling something everyone needs, like water, you’ll see different offerings for different people, from no-frills to luxury branded water.
This follows through to your B2B online lead generation. What does your ideal customer look like? What’s their job title? What industry do they work in? What’s their budget? What’s the biggest challenge they’re facing relating to your service?
Avoid the temptation to create these buyer personas off the top of your head, based off your assumptions and preconceptions of who your ideal customer is. Instead, base these on actual data, from research and interviews with your existing customers. If you don’t have any existing customers, talk to the people who use a product/service similar to yours.
Trust me, this kind of information will make any lead generation much more effective.
Outbound lead generation strategies
When it comes to startups and any other businesses in their early stages, it’s worth focusing on identified outbound lead generation best practices. These are likely to give the best results in the quickest time, compared to inbound strategies.
As we’ve already mentioned, there’s no shortage of sites willing to sell you lists of leads. However, not all lists are equal—some sites will happily sell you information that’s incorrect and/or out of date.
If you choose to buy a list of leads, ask for recommendations from others in your niche. Look for sites that regularly verify their data and guarantee a high delivery rate. When you’ve found a trustworthy site, use the information from your ideal customer profiles to narrow down your search.
Another option is using a lead scraper, to extract contact information for potential leads from websites and social media or, with a little investigation, you can manually build a list yourself. Either way, it’s important to clean up your data and verify it.
An incorrectly formatted CSV file can ruin a perfectly good list while unverified contact details can wreck your sender domain.
Nurturing your outbound leads
In our post on lead generation for b2b startups, we explained the next step after you’ve built your prospect list is to nurture and qualify those leads. When you reach out to them, there’s always going to be a certain amount of resistance, even suspicion:
“Who are you? How did you get my email address? Is this spam?”
To prevent this, it’s your job to nurture those leads so that your outreach comes across as natural and as non-spammy as possible.
This involves getting to know your leads as individuals, beyond the general information in your ideal customer profiles. What’s unique about them? What do you share in common? Is there someone you both know? Have they or their company been in the news recently, or published a piece of content you enjoyed? What were their latest posts on social media?
Use these touch points to personalize your outreach. You can still use sales automation software like Reply with custom variables, so you can have automatic lead generation while still keeping things personal.
Still, no matter how personalized your first email is, don’t go in hard asking for the sale. This will rarely work and may put off your prospects before you have a chance to nurture them. Instead, ask a question (such as ‘how do you deal with X?’) and show sincere interest. Your goal with the first email is to get a reply, not a sale.
Bonus tip: Connecting with your leads on social media will not only give you valuable insight but also means that when you reach out to them they’ve heard of you and you’re not a complete stranger.
Inbound lead generation strategies
While you may want to focus on outbound leads for your B2B startup, that doesn’t mean you should ignore inbound lead generation. Inbound strategies are usually cheaper to implement, and while they may take longer to start working they have the added benefit of leads qualifying themselves.
One of the most popular methods is content marketing. The idea is to provide valuable content that’ll help your ideal customer. Use the information from their profiles, particularly relating to the challenges they’re facing, to come up with original, useful and interesting content.
The content itself can take many forms, including blog posts like this, podcasts and videos. I also recommend creating a lead magnet, in the form of an especially useful piece of content (such as an ebook, tutorial or webinar) that can be downloaded in exchange for the lead’s email address.
Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, but the most important factor is what format your ideal customer prefers content. If you’ve done it correctly, your prospective leads will be lining up to hand their email address over in exchange for more content.
Lead generation is essential for B2B startups, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. By using outbound strategies, nurturing your leads, and complementing this with inbound methods, you’ll have a list of qualified leads ready for your sales team.