How do I get high-quality B2B leads?
In the 10 years I’ve worked in B2B, I’ve been asked this again. And again. By enterprise businesses. Tiny start-ups. And everyone in between.
And they’re not alone in wondering. According to this BrightTALK report, 53% of marketers claimed that half their budget went straight to lead gen.
But here’s the thing. When it comes to lead gen, the more you know, the more skeptical you tend to be about “cutting edge” techniques. Just think of all the annoying pop-ups jumping at you from the corner of every page… Do you actually click on them? Or do you get so irritated, you bounce off?
And what about all the “valuable lead magnets”? The information they present is rarely insightful enough. To be honest, in most cases the “bribe” in question isn’t worth parting with your email and subscribing to yet another, samey-sounding boring newsletter.
I remember the days when literally e-v-e-r-y company was launching blogs. Or webinars. Back then, I was working at SEMrush and we jumped on the bandwagon too.
Our first few webinars were a success.
We got over a thousand people in the room.
But once we started to scale and run these webinars regularly, things changed dramatically.
We ended up with less than a hundred people per webinar. And that was on the good days. To make it worse, the folks showing up to these webinars weren’t interested in our product. Not even a little. The conversion rate to a paid subscription for webinar attendees was so insignificant, it was borderline embarrassing.
So why was this happening?
We were doing all the right things.
We were following the marketing “gospel.”
So what went wrong?
The truth is, everyone uses more or less the same lead gen channels but not everyone uses them right.
(And we weren’t using them right… yet.)
That’s when I realized: to get ahead, you need to ask yourself two things:
1. Which channels are bringing in the best leads?
2. How well are your leads converting to paying clients?
When you know the answer to these two little qs, lead gen gets a lot easier. So… let’s dig in.
Optimizing Lead Gen: Where do I start!?
Getting leads is great… BUT. It’s only great if those leads are going to eventually become paying clients.
Yet…that’s not what really happens most of the time.
According to Invespcro, 80% of generated leads are useless because they don’t become clients. So, how do we fix that?
The first step is to uncover the lead sources responsible for bringing dead weight leads instead of high-quality, ready-to-buy leads. To get to the answer, you need to ask yourself some questions.
1. Are your lead generation channels bringing revenue?
Start with the basics: look at each of your lead generation channels. Do they bring an ROI you’re happy with?
Paid channels are easy to analyze using this approach. And that’s exactly what Jack Ford from SaleCycle did. SaleCycle used Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a few 3rd party publishers to generate leads. After spending on promotion for each channel, the team evaluated the ROI using key parameters. They evaluated each post, on each channel, on:
- the number of views
- the conversion rate
- the quality of leads and
- cost per lead
This simple analysis revealed which channels brought in the highest ROI.
Ready to analyze your own paid campaigns? Use these formulas from Gaetano DiNardi to figure out the ROI of your ad spend.
1. Cost per click
Formula: cost per click = campaign budget / # of clicks from ads
To calculate your CPC (cost per click), divide your campaign budget by the number of clicks you get from the ads. If your budget is $1000 and the campaign generated 250 clicks, then your CPC is $4.
2. Number of leads
Formula: # of leads = (% conversion of clicks to lead) * (# of clicks from ads)
To calculate the number of leads, multiply the number of clicks by the % of those who converted from click to lead. For instance, if 6% of your 250 clicks turned to leads, that means you’ve got 15 leads.
3. Cost per lead
Formula: cost per lead = campaign budget / # of leads
To calculate your CPL (cost per lead) divide your campaign budget by the number of leads. If the budget is $1000 and the number of leads is 15, your cost per lead is $66.70
By following these exact same steps, you can evaluate other lead generation channels such as trade shows or content marketing. Content marketing activities may be a bit trickier though: you need to calculate how much it costs you to create and promote the content piece too. (Check out the table below for an example on how to do that math.)
|Calculating the ROI of your content marketing efforts|
If you paid a content writer $1000, got your content manager to spend 3 hours editing, setting up the piece and writing a promo email to your list (another $250) and invested $200 in content promotion then got 300 click-throughs on your lead magnet, your CPC is:
(1000 + 250 + 200) / 300 = $4.83.
If 50 out of those 300 clicks turned into leads, your CPL is:
(1000 + 250 + 200) / 50 = $29.
Things get trickier when you create content in-house. Your marketing team juggles many responsibilities so it’s not always easy to estimate the costs of writing a single content piece. (If you’re determined to get to the bottom of it, you can use a time-tracking solution like Toggl.)
2. How qualified are your leads?
To answer this question, you need to determine your unqualified vs. qualified leads ratio. Lucky for us, this number is in fact really easy to calculate.
If you pay close attention to the quality of leads that you’re getting from each channel, you’ll have two vital numbers at hand:
- the number of qualified leads — these are the folks who’re the perfect fit for your biz
- the number of unqualified leads — the folks who are a poor fit and have no interest in buying what you’re selling
Ideally, this information should be kept in your CRM system. However, if you don’t have one or handle your records in a spreadsheet, I highly recommend that you start using an appropriate solution, like, yesterday. And don’t try to sneak out of it on the pretext of a limited budget! These days, you can easily find a free CRM solution, especially if you don’t need to manage a substantial client base.
Ok. Mini-rant over.
To get started, head over to your CRM system and run a report showing how many leads were disqualified during the lead qualification process.
Basically, you need to compare two numbers: the number of leads your marketing activities brought in and the number of qualified leads, that is, the ones that are interested in moving through the funnel.
^^ In Salesforce, one of the most famous CRM solutions on the market, you can see all the lead generation stats on the dashboard.
If you find a significant number of disqualified leads (you can find some benchmarks in this post), figure out why they were turned down. Chances are, something went wrong during the qualification process and those leads can still be converted.
To improve the quality of your future leads and avoid any qualification hiccups, you need to build an account-based marketing framework. The main issue with this framework is that it requires a solid time investment. But that might be solved by refining your sales process and investing time in educating the people on your team responsible for this.
3. Are you getting the best price per lead?
Not sure if your lead generation machine is as efficient as it could be? Comparative data can help. Getting it might require a little effort, but you’ll get a much clearer picture in the end.
Let’s say you created an ebook for $5000 and received 100 qualified leads. Using the formula I mentioned earlier, you’ll get a CPL of $50. But how do you know if this is a good number?
Look at the average cost-per-lead in your industry.
Based on Hubspot data, in the IT & services sector the average CPL is $370 while in marketing agencies it’s around $170. As a rule of thumb, leads for more expensive products and services tend to cost more than leads for cheap products and services.
Additionally, there is a maximum price that your business is willing to pay for a lead. That’s where some businesses hit a wall. But wait! You could also determine the minimum price for a good quality lead. This shows you where you fall on the spectrum. Not sure what that number should be? Ask other people in your field.
Now that you know:
- the cost per lead
- the qualified : unqualified leads ratio and
- the desired price per lead
It’s time to dramatically improve lead quality by spending as little time and money on acquiring them as possible.
Get leads to <3 you by doing this
One of my clients was struggling with the quality of leads coming in from their webinars and blog posts…
…But when they started sending those leads to a custom sales funnel, they increased their conversions by 30%!
Yup. 30%. Just think what that can do for you.
Instead of letting people guess what the product was all about, my client dug into the specific features of their SaaS product. This was completely in sync with the content that their audience usually consumes. Simply warming up the leads from their content marketing channels with additional materials brought outstanding results.
That’s cool ‘n all Alex…. But how do I warm up my leads?
The recipe for success in any industry contains two ingredients: entertainment and value.
The B2B niche (and almost every other niche…) is oversaturated with flat copy and boring campaigns. If you want to stand out, your marketing needs to break the mold in format, style and approach.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to keep those leads engaged.
1. Create interactive content
Creating interactive content doesn’t mean jumping in over your head with technological blows and whistles….
SEMrush regularly posts quizzes on how well their readers know SEO, content marketing and other relevant topics. It was quite popular among marketers as, apart from actually checking their knowledge, they could have a laugh recognizing their day-to-day struggles between the lines.
(If you like the idea, here’s an in-depth post that shares how to set up your quiz and make it truly engaging.)
Speaking of another one of my most favorite topics, horses, I’m astonished (and delighted!) by the series of calculators on good-horse.com. A calculator has one of the easiest mechanics, yet it’s also one of the most engaging interactive formats because everybody loves numbers. (Well… as long as they’re fun numbers. And horse numbers are definitely fun numbers.)
If you like the idea of building a calculator, there are many ready-to-go solutions on the market, for example this one.
2. Building laser-targeted landing pages
A landing page is where your leads get unique, valuable, captivating information about your products and services. Never underestimate the importance of a landing page in a sales funnel.
Building separate landing pages for each of your products (or features) helps you attract highly qualified traffic consisting of users who are already looking for the solution you offer.
For example, here’s an awesome landing page built by Tidio for their chatbots plan designed for people interested in making a chatbot for their websites.
Image source: https://www.tidio.com/chatbots/
At the same time, your landing pages shouldn’t be too promotional. Show how your product or service can help your leads achieve their goals.
It can also be a good idea to place lead magnets on your landing page. They help you understand whether a user simply visited your page or got interested in what you have to offer (e.g. downloaded or shared something). There are tons of lead magnet ideas, from white papers to courses, consultations, or discounts. (If you’re curious about what to add to your next page, check out this post.)
3. Run a webinar with a well-known expert
By delivering webinars together with well-known experts you kill two birds with one stone. (It’s something the team at GetUplift has used again and again –> it’s rumored to be one of Talia’s favorite things!)
Experts bring value to your audience and increase their trust in your brand. Plus, they signal that your company is an industry leader because top experts want to partner with you.
You can even ask experts to deliver a webinar about YOUR solution (if they’re a power user!). When I was at SEMrush, that’s exactly what we did.
From time to time, we’d ask famous digital marketing experts to run webinars about their toolkit. For instance, the webinar about the Traffic Analytics tool was hosted by Craig Campbell and Roy Hinkis.
These webinars are not only full of insights and hands-on tricks, but also humor, fun plus a dash of the hosts’ charisma.
On top of that, webinars give you multiple points of contact with your audience. Invitation emails, follow-ups, alert messages, reminders — by captivating their interest at each step, you make people eager to know what comes next.
Raul Galera from ReferralCandy, a customer referral program software, explains how to organize an effective email communication system around a webinar. Unlike SEMrush webinars, ReferralCandy uses theirs at the top of the funnel, subtly enticing viewers into signing up for a 30-day free trial. To make sure their leads stay engaged for a 25-minute episode with their brand ambassador, they set up the following chain of emails:
- A user receives a confirmation email when they sign up for the webinar.
- At the end of the webinar, they are offered two options: to sign up for the software straight away or email the organizer personally in case they have additional questions.
- If they do neither, in 24 hours after the webinar they receive the first follow-up email:
If they still don’t take any actions, in 48 hours they receive the second follow-up.
This funnel turned out to be extremely effective with the following stats to back it up:
- 46% of the registration page viewers entered their email address and signed up to watch the webinar;
- 88% of them entered the webinar room;
- 31% of users watched the whole webinar (which was 25 minutes long);
- 22% of webinar registrants ended up creating an account and trying out the software.
4. Set up engaging email marketing funnels
In 2020, email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing channels out there. Unfortunately, when it comes to B2B, the writing in those funnels is… flat. Even though what those businesses are doing is pretty exciting. That’s why most people unsubscribe from brand newsletters after a couple of hits…
However – if you think of a way to make your email marketing funnel more engaging, you will get a chance to outrun your competition.
I’m not the kind of marketer who settles for lullaby-like B2B materials. So, apart from refining the copy of my emails, I always make sure to include an extra something:
- I share a personal story, include photos from my real life and sometimes, I even throw in the odd GIFs.
- I avoid any kind of B2B cliches including banners and buttons. This is what sets us apart from other B2B newsletters.
- I support what I say with a strong value proposition.
^^ Very few things in life aren’t improved by a good Castiel GIF.
Another example of great email marketing communication is GetUpLift’s email marketing course. Written in Talia’s signature casual-yet-super-valuable style, it’s a must-have for everyone who wants to master email marketing. And the best part is that it’s completely FREE! How cool is that?
Pay less per acquired lead
“Free” lead sources like webinars and content creation are deceptive…
Have you ever calculated how many hours it takes to build a solid webinar? If you want quality, you need to put in the work. And don’t forget that you’ll also need to plan and execute the webinar’s promotional plan!
The time and money you spend drives your cost per lead up and to the right.
But don’t get discouraged.
There are some things that will help you pay less for each acquired lead without having to settle for lower quality.
Repurpose like a pro
Sure… You can create tons of specific content solely for lead generation.
Or… you can repurpose existing content.
For instance, you could create blog posts and webinars based on your lead magnets. In fact, from just one webinar you could create a post, a slideshow presentation that can be used as a lead magnet, a video for your YouTube channel, infographics, and tons of other things. This way, you spend less resources on content creation.
Additionally, you can collect info on your site visitors that have yet to join your leads list. Obviously, not all users that come to your site turn into leads. The good news is that you can change that.
There are some tools out there to track prospects that haven’t yet interacted with your site’s forms (e.g. have not subscribed to your newsletter). For example, when the user signs up for a trial version of your SaaS tool, but doesn’t really use it.
Some marketing automation tools like Hubspot have such functionality in their toolset. However, if a pricey solution like Hubspot is not within your budget, there’s a workaround. You can use tools like Albacross that solely focus on solving this particular problem (this helps them stay affordable).
Lead your way to success with lead generation
Successful lead generation isn’t easy.
It’s a process that has to be fine-tuned and optimized depending on your target audience and goals.
But ask yourself: what’s the best way to captivate potential clients and get them excited about your product?
This should be your first step in getting leads into your sales funnel. Next, think of how to keep them warm and engaged with your brand. And finally, what steps should your sales process include so that those warm leads turn into clients and bring you a steady revenue stream.
Putting all these pieces together is what ensures a great lead generation strategy. Now, lead your own way to success.
About the author:
Alexandra is a frequent speaker and founder of the digital marketing conference, Digital Olympus. She also helps clients with digital PR, content marketing, and link building. Besides that, she regularly contributes to leading digital marketing blogs, including Moz, SEJ, Salesforce, SMExaminer, and many others.
Wow! Great article! Thanks for this!
Now I go to my marketing funnels and try to do them better!)
Awesome tips Alexandra! Also, I think that it’s important to make the follow-up actions in a really personalized way. I often see how salesmen hit my mailbox with generic, copy-paste like messages and I must say it’s the main reason I lose the whole interest I might have for their proposal.
The best article I read about b2b leads, thanks a lot. The strategy and tactics of lead generation are the result of continuous analytics of the results obtained.