What are the best B2B lead generation strategies for 2019 and beyond? It’s not a trick question. At Swyft we’ve found that it comes down to this: It’s whatever works the best for your company when it comes to reaching and persuading your target audience to take action.
Yes, that was an intentionally vague answer, but not a dodge. The simple fact is every B2B tech business is different, and so are their buyer personas. It stands to reason that your ways to generate leads from your target audience should vary as well.
Below we’ve created a list of what we think are the 10 best B2B lead generation strategies for 2019 to help you drive revenue for your company:
Inbound marketing anchors lead generation
The impact of inbound marketing on lead generation and its ability to drive revenue is often underappreciated by B2B tech companies. Yet without a strong inbound marketing strategy that provides the content for buyer personas at every stage of the buyer’s journey, then the ability to fill the pipeline and drive revenue would stall.
Inbound marketing comes in many forms but it all comes down to creating compelling content that helps turn leads into prospects, and prospects into customers, and customers into repeat customers.
Nobody really covers the topic of inbound marketing as a B2B marketing strategy better than HubSpot, which pretty much invented the discipline and popularized the methodology. This webpage from HubSpot does a great job of explaining inbound marketing and how it works. [Full confession, Swyft is a certified HubSpot partner. But that doesn’t take away from the company’s deep expertise and copious writings on the topic of marketing automation for B2B tech, so at least keep tabs on their blog as it is one of the best out there.]
Embrace B2B marketing automation technology
Deploying the best-fitting marketing automation software for B2B tech companies can help in a number of ways including:
- Customized workflows to design and execute multi-touch marketing and email campaigns that drive leads deeper into the sales funnel and meet their content needs throughout the buyer’s journey.
- Advanced lead scoring and lead tracking to know when it’s time for marketing to turn over a lead to sales for a more personalized approach (MQL -> SQL).
- Integration with CRM solutions like Salesforce, allowing you to sync a lead’s historic engagement with digital marketing assets to sales data for improved pipeline management.
- Email marketing segmentation and advanced A/B testing to maximize click-throughs.
Whatever your solution of choice, it should not only support B2B lead generation strategies but also use automated emails to help with ongoing communications with leads in order to deepen the relationship throughout the buyer’s journey.
Snail mail is back
Honestly, it never really left. But it is fitting that we follow up a point about B2B marketing automation technology with something old school and seemingly passé as direct mail. To be a good B2B tech marketer is to be an opportunist when it comes to standing out from the crowd. These days, using direct mail is a great way to get new leads and continue nurturing them throughout the customer journey, if only because many B2B companies have dismissed the value of direct mail.
Rather than go into the details on how to design and execute a direct mail strategy, a post in the PR over Coffee blog does a pretty good job of breaking it down. Suffice it to say, direct mail if done well is a terrific complement to your ongoing digital marketing lead generation activities. Consider that the average B2B professional gets well over 100 emails daily, and no small number of email offers for anything from janitorial services to new cloud-based solutions. But how many direct mail pieces do they receive in the office on a daily basis? Far less, to be sure.
What’s even better, the chance of the piece getting opened is far greater if it’s addressed to the person. But don’t take my word for it. Between 80% to 90% of direct mail gets opened compared to 20% to 30% for email. Response rates for direct mail are higher too, coming in at 3% compared to 1% for email and 1% for social media. (Statistics pulled from the Small Business Trends blog.)
Account-based marketing (ABM) has surged in popularity in recent years, especially among B2B tech companies offering big-ticket items. ABM emphasizes pursuing a smaller number of key accounts through a highly personalized marketing campaign.
Frequently, ABM requires close collaboration between sales and marketing to ensure that any promotions get a highly-tailored message to suit the needs of a small number of individuals within a given organization. One example of an ABM campaign could be to plan, arrange and invite high-potential individuals within a given company or industry to join your company at a VIP dinner during an annual trade show.
Trade shows still work
Trade shows continue to make up a large portion of the marketing budget for many B2B tech companies. It’s no surprise that they are still among the most effective B2B lead generation strategies. Annual trade shows and conferences are where industry professionals congregate to learn the latest trends affecting their industry, network with their peers, obtain information about new vendor offerings, and even socialize. That makes trade shows a must for a successful B2B lead generation strategy.
The downside to going the trade show route is the cost. With the average per square foot cost to purchase a display at $100-150, the price for a 20×20 display can climb fast. And that doesn’t include the cost of travel to and from the trade show, client entertainment, marketing collateral, and more. In short, trade shows are an expensive way to generate leads.
A company should do the math before committing to a trade show. What will be the cost per lead and cost of acquisition for each new client given the overall trade show costs? How about the customer lifetime value (revenue an average customer will generate over the expected duration of the relationship)? If the path to ROI is evident, then it makes sense to proceed. If it’s in doubt, then skip the trade show and concentrate your efforts elsewhere.
A note on planning: A company would be wise to plan for an upcoming trade show up to nine months from its start and utilize B2B marketing automation best practices to ensure you maximize lead generation and subsequent lead nurturing. Swyft has supported B2B tech companies at trade shows for years and we typically start our support about six months in advance. When we start varies based on the client and trade show, of course. For instance, planning for HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) in Orlando typically begins up to eight months in advance of the start date.
For more information on trade shows, we’ve written several articles including “How to plan for a trade show PR and media campaign,” “5 tips for a successful international trade show media campaign,” and “Trade show booth design: Observations from three continents.”
Yes, PR can drive revenue
Not many think of PR as a way to help drive revenue. Even PR professionals have traditionally scoffed at the idea that media relations can and should play a marketing role and help increase revenue.
Yet what we in the trade call ‘earned media’ (e.g., media coverage that is not paid but freely given) can often have a profound influence on how your company is perceived by customers and prospects.
The challenge is how to measure PR’s impact on driving leads and revenue growth (Swyft wrote about that topic in a previous post). Admittedly, there is a halo effect to media coverage that can be challenging to fit into the typical lead attribution methodology. Ask a given lead how they heard about your product and they may say a colleague referred them or they clicked on a Google Ad, which itself can be measured and tracked. But what they may not realize is that a past article read in the trade media may have been the first time they became aware of your company, or the article may have been what prompted them to take action and click on the Google Ad.
Whatever the case, PR can deliver golden opportunities to impress your brand front and center on the conscious and unconscious minds of your target buyers. As such, PR should now be considered integral to B2B lead generation strategies.
Social media is here to stay
No question there was a ton of hype about how social media would transform, some predicted even replace, many traditional B2B lead generation strategies. While the jury is still out on the later, the former certainly came to pass. Social media has to be a pillar of a modern B2B marketing automation strategy to drive revenue for a company.
How exactly social media can move the lead generation needle for a given B2B tech company varies, but it all boils down to sharing messages on social media platforms where your target buyers frequent. The messages should be a mix of timely takes on industry trends, news about your company, and offers/product announcements you run. The emphasis should be on developing a following of clients, prospects, and influencers as opposed to a large number of followers. In other words, success is measured by the depth of engagement you have with followers, the shares you receive, and clicks to your website.
Social media won’t succeed unless you put a budget behind it. The days of pure organic growth are long gone so a social media strategy for tech companies must include a paid advertising strategy. The challenge, of course, comes down to understanding and mastering the differences between the advertising technology on each social media platform. Only time, experimentation, and careful tracking will lead a company toward the outcome it desires: generating leads that convert on the website and enter the company’s sales pipeline.
CPC anchors B2B marketing automation strategies
Cost per click campaigns, especially using Google AdWords and retargeting, has become the norm for most B2B marketing strategies. While it’s been proven in past research, which we won’t go through here, that organic searches are far more effective at driving clicks and visitors with more buyer intent, CPC is still a great way to ensure your company has brand awareness (being at the top of searches for keywords you purchase) and receives clicks from interested parties.
The art and science of running effective Google AdWords campaigns deserves a post, even a small book, just on its own, but for our purposes suffice it to say that you have to go after those keywords that your target buyers are most likely to use when looking for your products and services.
Then there is the bidding process behind running a CPC campaign to ensure you get the number of clicks you need at a cost per click amount and total monthly budget that won’t break the bank. The good news is that you can continuously experiment with different keywords, budget, and target demographics. And if it’s not helping you drive revenue in a meaningful way, then simply stop and evaluate your options.
Speaking opportunities are stealth
Normally part of a PR service offering, speaking opportunities have been used successfully by B2B tech companies to gain a greater audience for their executives and, ultimately, their products and services. As such, it makes up a small but powerful component of many B2B lead generation strategies.
Finding opportunities to speak vary greatly but usually revolve around industry-specific events like annual conferences, trade shows, and even large brand events run by tech titans like Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft. It’s best to research topics for speaking opportunities and panels that could be of interest on a periodic basis (once quarterly is sufficient). Make sure TO get your applications completely filled out and submitted before the deadline as most events won’t accept late entries.
Organic search still reigns
Organic search merits its own spot since search engine optimization is a core marketing objective. Good SEO literally helps a brand get found and bring new leads to a website or other digital content asset.
SEO feeds the B2B marketing automation engine, completes the inbound marketing equation by sending new leads into the sales funnel, and helps drive revenue for B2B brands over time.
Good SEO strategy complements lead generation strategy in that a B2B tech company will associate itself with keywords that are tightly correlated with its industry and offerings. When a person uses the keyword as part of an overall search, a high ranking on a SERP (search engine results page) will receive more attention than lower-ranked brands, increasing the chance of a click-through and lead conversion.