Lead generation is a crucial piece of any successful B2B business strategy. In fact, according to a recent Content Marketing Institute study, 85% of B2B companies state that lead generation is one of their most important marketing goals. However, with the constantly evolving digital landscape, it has become much harder to generate leads through traditional methods where you direct traffic (prospects) from your digital campaigns to a website form (for prospects) to fill in their contact information.
In recent years we have seen massive changes in data privacy regulations, a decline in the effectiveness of cookies, and changes in customer behavior. This means that B2B companies must adapt their approaches to keep up with all the new developments. In this article, we will take a deep dive into some of the changes that have affected lead generation and provide insights on how to tackle these challenges.
The Shifting Digital Landscape
For B2B marketers, lead generation is one of the most important goals as it directly correlates with how much sales pipeline can be attributed to marketing activities. Moreover, lead generation through digital channels is essential to a comprehensive marketing strategy. It helps businesses build relationships with potential customers and expand their reach in the online world at a relatively moderate cost compared to some offline channels.
9/10 B2B buyers state online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions. -CMO Council
In recent years, however, the digital landscape has changed significantly, affecting lead generation. Companies need to adapt to these changes to continue generating leads effectively.
While lead generation is a critical component of B2B marketing, it can also be challenging. Some of the biggest challenges B2B marketers are facing when it comes to lead generation are:
How to reach the right audience: With the complexity involved in the B2B buying processes and the numerous decision-makers involved, it can be challenging to identify and target the right individuals interested in your products or services.
Competition: The B2B market is often highly competitive, with many companies vying for the attention of the same prospects with different products and solutions. This can make it difficult to stand out from the crowd and generate leads effectively.
Focus on the short term: The temptation often is to invest most of the available lead generation budget in short-term tactics such as generating leads from a cold prospect audience. While this tactic might work for a while, it quickly dries up the pipeline when you are not building enough awareness and reach.
Building Trust: This is directly related to focusing too much on short-term activities. B2B decision-makers are often cautious and require high trust before purchasing. It can be challenging for B2B marketers to build trust with their prospects and establish their brand as a credible solution provider.
Lead Quality: Generating leads is just the first step in the B2B marketing process. Marketers must develop effective lead qualification processes to determine which leads are most likely to result in a sale. It is also essential to ensure that the leads generated are high quality and likely to convert into paying customers.
Data Privacy Regulations: With the increasing focus on data privacy and security, it has become more challenging for B2B marketers to access and use customer data for lead generation. Marketers must ensure that they comply with data privacy regulations, such as the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and that they have the necessary permissions and consents to use customer data.
How can B2B marketers overcome these challenges and generate high-quality leads that drive results for their business? As with every solid business initiative, the answer is to develop a clear strategy, use data-driven insights to inform their efforts, and continuously test and refine their approach. Next, let us tackle each challenge and investigate ways businesses can optimize their lead-generation strategies.
How to reach the right audience and stand out from the crowd?
Various methods can help B2B marketers reach their target audience and understand what their competitors are doing online. These methods can also help enrich buyer personas and reveal novel campaign targeting strategies. The more you know about your audience, competition, and marketplace, the more you can differentiate yourself and drive demand.
Tools such as SimilarWeb and SparkToro provide insights into both competitors and prospects. With SimilarWeb, you can identify what channels your competitors get their traffic from, compare your online market share with theirs, and see how their organic and paid keyword strategies work, what kind of ads they run, and much more. When you layer this data with what SparkToro offers, you can gain better insights into where your competitors and your target audience spend their time online and what content resonates with them. These insights can help build the optimal targeting setups in digital channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Ads.
On top of the above, it makes sense to research your competitors' social media presence to understand their overall social strategy and what kind of paid social campaigns they are running. For example, LinkedIn (on desktop) and Facebook (Ad Library) offer great tools natively for this purpose, as you can discover what kind of creative, messaging, calls-to-action, offers, and landing pages your competitors are using to attract new customers.
Furthermore, when you throw first-party data in the mix and use your CRM data to feed seed audiences into digital advertising platforms or leverage tactics such as account-based marketing you can improve your targeting in paid digital channels and reach quality prospects.
“Discover how we helped a pharmaceutical company with 1B€+ annual revenue to increase the visibility of their respiratory inhaler in 10 countries across Europe through a deep-dive study in their target group and online channels.”
Invest in the long term and build trust
In B2B marketing, the golden rule is that only 5% of B2B buyers are in-market to buy right now, which means 95% are not. That is a huge portion of the market and exactly why B2B marketers should not only focus on short-term lead generation but also invest in making every buyer remember their brand the next time they need its product. In other words, companies need to build trust among their target audience.
B2B marketers should focus on transparency and authenticity in their messaging to build trust with prospects. Providing useful information, case studies, webinars, and customer testimonials showcase their expertise and demonstrates their commitment to customer success and building stronger relationships with their prospects.
On a tactical level, this can be laid in a simplified always-on digital ads funnel structure. Here, top-of-funnel content aims to frame a problem your target audience might have and provides educational information on how to solve that problem and how your brand can help. The middle of the funnel aims to educate how your brand’s products or solutions help solve the problem. Finally, the bottom of the funnel focuses on content showing your product is the best solution for the problem.
“Read how we blew up the industry benchmarks with end-to-end digital marketing and helped Outokumpu generate 7,385 MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads), 3,388 SQLs (sales qualified leads), and increase sales pipeline volume by 231% YoY.”
Once you have all the necessary bits and pieces together, you can create unique and valuable content. This will enable you to build thought leadership, leverage social media and other digital channels to reach your audience effectively, and stay top-of-mind for them throughout their buyer's journey.
Produce high-quality leads
The aim for every organization should be to improve the quality of leads generated for sales, shorten the sales cycle, and make better use of data to improve customer journeys. This might seem daunting, but it does not have to be. To ensure high-quality leads, B2B marketers can use lead scoring and nurturing to identify the most promising prospects and provide them with the information and support they need to make a purchase decision.
Lead management programs have the capability to:
- Automate the process of pushing the leads to the CRM system with detailed information on the lead origin, campaign data, and description.
- Qualify leads, for example, with a three-level qualification ladder: hot, warm, and cold.
- Assess lead warmth from criteria such as lead scoring, webinar engagement, and even a single form fill.
"Read how we are revolutionizing SSAB's entire lead management process gaining thousands of new leads and doubling the conversion rates"
Results 6 months after the new programs started: Leads 6,485 (+56.8%) / Conversions 1,363 (+101.6%)
How to stay compliant and still engage with your audience
While the changes in data privacy and shifts in customer behavior and preferences online have made digital marketing more challenging, all hope is not lost. On a general level, to comply with data privacy regulations, B2B marketers need to ensure that they have the necessary permissions and consent from their prospects and customers to use their data. If you transparently state how you aim to use their data in your marketing, store it in a dedicated database with limited access, and ask for opt-in consent, you are good to go.
Another powerful tool to respond to changed customer online behavior and preferences is zero-click content. It has become much harder to get your audience to click any call-to-action on your ads. Social platform algorithms also tend to favor content that keeps the audience on their platform instead of directing the traffic to external resources such as websites.
Fortunately, there is a way to ride the trend and start producing zero-click content. How, might you ask? Most companies have abundant content on their websites, content hubs, and other marketing material databases that can be repurposed to do the job. Here are some examples for each phase of the funnel using LinkedIn as a channel:
Top-of-funnel: Consider repurposing and posting your highest-performing thought-leadership blog articles and videos directly to LinkedIn and drive ad traffic to this content while keeping your audience on the platform. You can also create bite-sized content pieces of the same material as posts and ads.
Middle-of-funnel: Repurpose your white papers and eBooks as LinkedIn documents and post them on your Company Page, using the same assets in document ads to connect your audience with relevant and useful content.
Bottom-of-funnel: Take advantage of the lead generation campaign type with built-in lead gen forms and aim to convert prospects within the platform using valuable offers such as free demos, eBooks, quizzes, and calculators. When you integrate these forms directly into your CRM, you can push the new leads through a nurture program to eventually drive them into sales-qualified leads.
As you can see, getting prospects to visit your website to convert into leads is not as critical as it once was. You can provide helpful content to your prospects and warm them up conveniently on the platforms. This also enables you to build audiences inside any given social platform using content or social profile engagements and avoid the limitations of cookie-based tracking.
While the B2B lead generation landscape has changed, there are still ways companies can adapt and stay ahead of the curve. To reach the right audience and stand out from the competition in B2B marketing, you need to clearly understand your target audience, competition, and marketplace.
B2B marketers should also aim to build long-term trust with prospects and incorporate lead management programs that automate lead collection, qualify leads, and improve the nurturing process. Considering changes in data privacy and online customer behavior, B2B marketers need to get permission and consent from prospects and customers to use their data and shift focus to zero-click content to engage with their audience on social platforms.
With the right approach and a commitment to continuous improvement, you can still generate leads, build relationships, and grow your business in the modern digital landscape.
Need help overcoming challenges in lead generation? Drop us a line and let us see what we can do – you lose nothing by asking.