All You Need To Know About B2B Lead Generation

Christy Walters


August 26, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

crumpled piece of white computer paper with the typed words marketing strategy on it sits on a light wooden table with an iron sitting on the top left corner of the page a plant on the top right corner of the page and office supplies scattered around the desk

Before you can make a sale or start a partnership with a client, you have to attract a lead. Leads are the potential clients or customers that need your products or services and want to learn more about what your company can do for them. B2B lead generation is the process of finding these people and connecting with them to increase brand revenue, boost your market share, and build a reputation in your industry. Today, we’re looking at everything you need to know about B2B lead generation to increase the number of people interested in working with your company:

What Are the Types of B2B Leads?

There are multiple types of B2B leads your company may encounter. They include:

Cold and Warm Leads

Warm and cold leads refer to the type of interaction a lead has with your brand before you engage with them about your products or services. Cold leads have no or very little prior engagement with your brand before you contact them. Often, your brand contacts them unexpectedly on their part. Most cold lead contact comes from emails or phone calls.

Warm leads are those that have already shown some internet in your business. They may follow your company on social media, have attended an event you held, or signed up for your email newsletter. Unlike cold leads, they’ve likely given you their contact information. They’re probably not surprised that you’ve contacted them to engage further, even if they’re not ready to buy or partner with your organization yet.

Inbound and Outbound Leads

Inbound and outbound leads refer to how your company gets in contact with the lead. With inbound leads, the prospect contacts your company first. They can do this directly, such as by calling your customer service line, or by interacting with one of your referral channels. In contrast, outbound leads are those that you develop by reaching out to potential customers or clients. Most inbound leads are warm leads, and most outbound leads are cold leads.

Information Qualified Leads (IQLs)

IQLs are one of the weakest types of leads your company may attract. They know little about your business. Because they’re not knowledgeable about your products or services, they might be unlikely to take further action. You often capture IQLs near the top of the sales funnel. Luckily, with content marketing and lead nurturing, you can guide IQLs further down the sales funnel and become more serious about working with your brand.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

MQLs are more likely to turn into client partners or paying customers than IQLs. These types of leads often reach out to your brand and express their interest in working with your company or learning more about your services. You may be able to tell an MQL from another type of lead by their engagement with your content or digital marketing. MQLs may complete actions like:

  • Visiting your website regularly
  • Filling out online forms
  • Download resources and tools
  • Registering to attend company events like conferences or webinars

The criteria of what makes a brand or individual an MQL are different for every organization.

Sales Ready Leads (SRLs)

SRLs are the next step down in the marketing funnel from MQLs. They’ve taken steps beyond engaging with your brand through content marketing or free tools and resources to contacting a brand representative. They’re ready to discuss their brand or company needs with your team and decide if working with your B2B organization is a good fit.

Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs)

SQLs are those at the bottom of the sales funnel. They’ve engaged with your sales team and shown interest and intent in purchasing products or services. It’s now time for them to decide if they can afford to work with your brand or if it’s the right match for their needs. Often, you may do your most negotiating with SQLs before they commit to a partnership or a purchase.

Member Service Request Leads (MSRLs)

MSRLs are leads your company gets from other sources, such as lead subscription lists or customer recommendations. Rather than attracting leads yourself or enticing people with your marketing, you can pick from a list of prospects that you think are most likely to be excellent leads for your brand.

Why Is B2B Lead Generation Important?

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Image via Unsplash by @campaign_creators

B2B lead generation is important in both sales and marketing departments for different reasons. In sales, B2B lead generation helps you discover your target market and find the right contact information to get in touch with potential clients. The B2B lead process also helps increase conversion rates by finding the people or groups most likely to partner with your organization. Finally, B2B lead generation creates a strong, predictable sales pipeline, which may lead to a higher percentage of closed deals.

On the marketing side of lead generation, this process helps you learn more about your customers and where they spend their time online. When you understand where and how your leads find your brand, you can create content that appeals to them on the right channels. The more targeted content you create helps build your brand awareness and attracts even more leads in a beneficial cycle. Similar to building a sales pipeline, B2B lead generation helps you create predictable marketing systems that allow you to measure marketing campaign activity so that you never lose an opportunity to reach your leads.

How Does B2B Lead Generation Work?

If your team groans at the idea of putting in the work to do lead generation, you’re not alone. Convincing people they need something isn’t the hardest part of sales and marketing. That title belongs to convincing people they need something enough to contact or engage with your company and close the deal. The process becomes even trickier with B2B lead generation because, in most cases, you have to convince entire teams to buy into your brand, product, or service. Lead generation can be time-consuming and frustrating when dealing with the human element, but the concept itself is simple.

Sales prospecting is one of the first steps in lead generation. During this phase, you explore your target audience and find out which clients or customers you want to pursue based on the value your company provides. Looking at demographics like company size, geographic location, and industry helps narrow down the ideal client pool. From there, you can build lists of prospects of all lead types and map out which companies to contact or respond to their inquiries.

After you’ve pinned down the target audience, your sales department performs lead nurturing. This process involves contacting prospective clients to get more information about their pain points and needs. The sales team may engage with both cold and warm prospects through methods like calling, emailing, or direct messaging leads. They may also respond to inbound inquiries that are most likely to bring new business. Through lead nurturing, the sales team schedules appointments and provides sales pitches to secure new customers. The more you nurture prospects, the more sales and partnership opportunities you can generate.

B2B Lead Generation Best Practices for Companies

When engaging in lead generation for your B2B company, here are a few best practices to remember to make the process go as smoothly and become as successful as possible:

Keep Content Marketing Consistent

Content marketing is a helpful part of lead generation. It doesn’t aim to promote your brand specifically. Instead, it generates interest in your industry, products, or services to provide value to your audience and leads. Developing a content marketing strategy and following it regularly helps increase your brand awareness to bring those IQLs into your sales funnel.

Related: Planning a Blog Strategy for Content Marketing

Provide Helpful Tools and Resources To Collect Contact Information

Giving away free, but gated, virtual tools to potential leads increases the chance of grabbing your leads’ contact information. Tease a sample of your tools on your website. Then, to unlock or download the full version of the gated content, leads submit their information, like email addresses. Remember that the perceived value of the tool must be enough to get people to exchange their contact information for the tool. If you’re providing something they could get for free elsewhere on your website or from a comparable source, why would they give up their email?

Embrace Automation

Marketing automation helps you use software to deliver content to your leads. Marketers program or instruct the software to produce the desired outcome, like emailing a group of audience members at a specific time or location in the sales funnel. Automating your lead generation process helps increase the chances of conversion. Automated programs also track important metrics about your campaigns and audience. That information helps your team target the messages to the right audience groups.

Before jumping into marketing automation, make sure it fits into your budget and integrates with your other resources. Provide training to help your team members learn how to use any new software or tools you add to the marketing stack. Investing in marketing automation may be most beneficial if your team and channels:

  • Already generate leads from your website
  • Receive a high volume of unique web traffic
  • Have high engagement from your social media content
  • Have a lead generation content marketing strategy in place already

Explore Both Online and Offline Lead Generation

B2B lead generation has two primary components: online and offline. Offline lead generation is usually a job for outbound sales and marketing strategies. Your teams find, call, and visit both cold and warm leads in the real world, rather than doing so strictly on the internet. Online lead generation has a greater focus on inbound marketing services that bring the leads to you.

It’s rare for people to buy something after a single contact, so using a combination of online and offline lead generation is beneficial. For example, you may collect lead information with inbound marketing, then follow up with a phone call or mailer.

Plan Your Lead Generation Strategies Thoroughly

Lead generation strategies are the tactics you develop to take leads and turn them into paying clients or customers. Your lead generation channels, content, and actions all influence the strategy. When done right, strategies help your audience understand what your products and services can do for them and how you can solve their problems.

Be sure to plan your strategies thoroughly to take them from ideation to execution. The more prepared you are during the lead capture and generation process, the easier time you’ll have moving leads through the sales funnel.

Related: 13 Lead Generation Strategies You Can Start Using Today

Frequently Asked Questions About B2B Lead Generation

Here are answers to some of your B2B lead generation questions and how they affect your marketing and sales strategies, pipelines, and planning:

Is Data Important for B2B Lead Generation?

Data is extremely important in driving B2B lead generation. Your sales team needs complete contact data for leads to make cold calls and send outbound emails. Demand-generation marketers need accurate data to create content to target potential warm leads. Your team can also collect data about converted leads that help with forecasting your next lead generation strategy.

What Tools Help Prepare for and Execute B2B Lead Generation?

Technology helps automate some forms of sales and lead generation, like sending outbound emails. Blogging and social media teams often rely on content management systems (CMS) to perform scheduling and sharing duties. Both sales and marketing teams use customer relationship management systems (CRMs) to track leads. Your website is likely your most important lead-generation tool. It’s where you can host landing pages to get conversions and provide all the information your leads need to take their next steps.

Related: How To Build a Website for Lead Generation

Does Social Media Play a Role in B2B Lead Generation?

Having a social media account alone isn’t enough to generate leads. Social media is a great place to find leads, but you have to use it strategically to make it worthwhile. Leverage these channels by creating posts that point to your website. Linking to your landing pages allows potential leads to learn more information about your company and share their contact information with you. Other options for using strategic social media posts for collecting leads include promoting newsletter subscriptions or other calls to action that end in conversions.

For most B2B companies, LinkedIn is the most effective social platform for generating leads. In fact, 65% of B2B users say they’ve gained a customer through the network. LinkedIn targets professionals rather than casual users. Most people visit it with business, rather than personal or social, goals in mind. Ways to increase your chances of conversion on LinkedIn include:

  • Filling out your company profile completely
  • Joining conversations in the comments section of articles.
  • Joining groups filled with potential leads
  • Making connections
  • Using LinkedIn’s integrated lead collection tool to pay for leads

Read More: How To Use Social Media for Lead Generation

Can You Outsource Lead Generation?

Yes, you can outsource your B2B lead generation. When you do so, your team hires an expert consultant or team that specializes in lead generation for sales or marketing. They review your current strategies and practices and help you develop new ones with better results. Getting external help saves companies time and resources throughout the lead-generation process. Most lead generation consultants focus on tasks like:

  • Looking for prospective leads
  • Identifying which leads are most qualified
  • Nurturing leads
  • Scheduling lead phone calls, meetings, and appointments

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Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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