For any tech B2B company – startup, challenger, or market leader – ongoing lead generation is essential. But, in many cases, trusted methods for engaging prospects which worked a few years ago are no longer so effective. In fact, those who haven’t adapted their strategies will likely have noticed a sharp decline in new leads.
This is in part due to disruptive technology-enabled change, such as the emergence of social selling and marketing automation platforms. But it also stems from a shift in buyer habits. This trend has compounded in the last year as key selling channels – trade shows, in-person meets, and face-to-face demonstrations – became impossible
To ensure your business continues to effectively produce leads, it is necessary to keep pace with these changes and adapt. While the best strategy will invariably depend on your industry, size, and existing resources, there are some universal rules that can help drive lead generation in a way that’s designed to address the needs of buyers today.
Outbound or inbound?
This is one of the first questions when discussing any lead generation strategy. Simply put, we can categorise them as follows:
Inbound lead generation – where a prospective buyer initiates interaction with the seller. This is broadly achieved through delivering content or campaigns that attract new visitors to your website or landing pages. For example, visitors who provide their information via a webform to access a lead magnet asset, prospects who discover your site through a web search or a referral.
Outbound lead generation – where the seller initiates interaction with potential buyers. This often takes the form of direct outreach or paid-for visibility in terms of advertising. Social selling and ABM have gained credibility in recent years as effective outbound techniques for lead generation. Almost all instances require some kind of spend.
It’s also worth noting some of these tactics, such as PPC ads, straddle both inbound and outbound lead generation.
Which is right for my business?
The main factors to consider when deciding which approach is right for you are effectiveness (which can be expressed as cost per lead), and speed. Outbound lead generation will often come at greater cost than inbound, but also typically gets faster results.
As an example, driving lead generation through paid social spend and Google ads can be an expensive process, but can deliver a list of prospective leads in weeks with the right strategy, though less-aggressive timeframes are more common and realistic.
B2B inbound marketing on the other hand can take longer to see results – but the results compound and so are worth the wait. While the cost of creating engaging, lead generating content assets may be far lower than spend on outbound tactics, they take time to gain traction. Often, the benefit of inbound comes over time as content stacks up, increasing search rankings and boosting organic traffic. Another key advantage of inbound over outbound lead gen is that leads are pre-qualified and therefore are much easier to convert.
It is important to remember this isn’t a binary choice. Businesses often use a mix of both techniques, and this will be the right choice for many. Creating a strong and credible online presence to support inbound lead generation can form a drumbeat of activity over which more aggressive and short-term outbound lead gen can be layered.
How have lead generation strategies changed?
Having established which types of strategies are most appropriate for your business, you should consider how changing buyer habits and technologies have affected them. The main trend in recent years is that potential buyers do a significant amount of research and vendor selection before they make contact with the seller. In fact, B2B buyers spend more than two-thirds of the purchase cycle engaging with content before they reach out to sales people.
How does this affect your inbound lead strategies? A richer pool of assets will encourage inbound leads to engage – especially if these assets provide value and enable them to move through the purchase cycle autonomously.
They will also improve your organic search ranking, making your business more easily discoverable to those with a current need and leading to a virtuous cycle of findability and lead gen. To make your content easy to discover, resource centres, for example, are extremely effective at presenting value-added content to prospects.
How can your outbound lead generation strategies adapt? Engagement via social media platforms is one method. For B2B businesses, LinkedIn has proved to be a valuable tool for engagement, promotion, and lead gen. Integrating social selling with ABM can be highly effective in keeping the sales pipeline populated.
At a time where prospective customers are more hesitant in their decision making, lead generation is particularly challenging. But businesses can overcome this by observing these trends and adapting their strategies to match. Whether it’s prioritising inbound or increasing spend on outbound, businesses cannot afford to be stagnant and must focus on how they target their goals successfully.
For help refining your lead generation strategies, drop us a line: [email protected].