Lead Generation

A Straightforward Guide To Effective B2B Lead Generation

A Straightforward Guide To Effective B2B Lead Generation
Image credit: Shutterstock
Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360.
Flash Sale—save up to $200 on registration. Ends Thursday. Secure Your Seat »

Nothing makes your business strategy seem out of alignment quite like a disconnect between your B2B marketing and sales. And you can usually tell when it is becoming a problem.

Related: How to Optimize Your Site for Lead Generation

Typically, your marketing team will spend valuable time and resources generating a flurry of unqualified leads and flipping them over to sales representatives, who themselves waste additional resources going after revenue that was never likely to materialize. All of this is doubly frustrating because you believe so strongly in the quality of your product and your value proposition. And this makes you wonder why you are having so much trouble finding the right companies to pursue.

Having your marketing experts throw leads at the wall to try to see what sticks -- then asking your sales team to convert those leads -- is not a sound way to set up your team for success. Sure, your talented sales professionals should already be confidently communicating your value proposition to customers, but there are always going to be some leads that just aren't  a good fit for your product.

How can you minimize wasted resources? The answer: using proven methods for identifying these unqualified leads beforehand, and focusing your energy on potential customers with an inherent high likelihood of conversion. Here are four of them:

1. Develop a complete customer profile.

It can be painful to pass on a lucrative lead, especially for startups looking to build steady growth. If someone could potentially buy your product, why not do everything to make that happen? The answer is that every sale requires an upfront investment, and pursuing too many dead ends will leave you mired in quicksand.

There is some danger on the other end of the spectrum, as well. Spending excessive amounts of time vetting leads before nurturing them will likely leave your sales team feeling stagnant. The correct balance lies in creating an ideal customer profile, which your staff can use to evaluate potential customers and make confident recommendations.

At the early stages, you should be spending more time developing your qualified-customer profile than on any other aspect of your lead-generation strategy. The most successful customer profiles are as detailed as possible and allow your marketers to make quick decisions about a lead’s potential viability without your wasting time.

This can be achieved by asking the right qualification questions about your customer, which should ideally go beyond the traditional BANT (budget, authority, needs, time line) concerns. You should also be considering factors such as organizational structure, end-customer demographics, cash flow strength and growth projections.

Related: 10 Ways to Quickly Generate Leads

2. Understand the full extent of the sales funnel.

Once you understand who your customers are, you need to build thorough models that explain how, when, where and why they end up buying your product. A typical B2B customer’s sales funnel is complex and intricate. What makes the process even more fraught is that sales funnels are unpredictable, and they are liable to change, based on a variety of factors surrounding the customer’s operations.

But it is still important for lead-generation experts to understand each step of their journey throughout the buying process, to ensure that leads are identified and nurtured with the appropriate level of engagement at each stage.

Placing too much emphasis on traffic-generating activities, such as blog posts and brand engagement, leaves potential leads at the top of the funnel without a clear road map for what action to take next. Similarly, if you engage them with hard calls to action from the very beginning of the process, you probably haven’t spent the time developing a compelling enough story for why they should heed your CTA.

3. Hit the content sweet spot.

Sometimes, it seems like the proliferation of content has made things infinitely easier and, concurrently, infinitely more difficult. Content-generation resources are widely available now, and owned media is seen as a necessity for almost every marketing strategy. Yet so many small businesses still get it wrong.

If there is one rule to memorize about content generation, it is that everything you publish needs to be of a high quality. If your content isn’t providing value for your customers, it isn’t providing value for you, and therefore it has no business being posted anywhere. No amount of regularity and multi-channel efforts will disguise low-quality drivel.

Following the quality question, when and how you deliver the content to your leads is the next important concern. Even content that is reasonably engaging can turn into noise if it isn’t handled properly.

4. Find useful metrics.

Perhaps the most egregious waste of resources committed by many business owners is the expenditure of money to create lead-generation infrastructure and the failure to develop a framework by which the effort can be tracked and measured. While website traffic and social media-engagement measurements do provide important insights into your overall strategy, they aren’t nearly specific enough to suffice.

Related: How to Turn Your Leads Into Profitable Relationships

Lead generation ROI is a valuable and traceable metric that will tell you exactly how much bang you’re getting for your buck. Thanks to advanced tools such as lead trajectory and predictive lead scoring, savvy entrepreneurs have more weapons at their disposal than ever before in the quest for higher-quality lead generation.