January 9, 2023

7 B2B lead generation tactics you can start using today

We know that B2B lead generation can be a tough nut to crack - but it doesn't have to be! Here are seven B2B lead generation tactics that you can start using today.

B2B lead generation has undergone huge changes in the past decade.

This is not only true for B2B startups and SMEs, but also for corporates.

I was recently reading a case study of a $10 billion tech company that changed their traditional B2B playbook to a new one. In this new playbook they stated to have adopted digital tactics. And even though it was a very insightful article, I couldn’t help but think: what exactly are these tactics?

However, they never mentioned how they managed to successfully transform their B2B lead generation playbook.

So, I dug into our archives and decided to share proven B2B lead generation tactics with you.

As a digital growth studio, we’ve ran over hundreds of growth experiments in the past 18 months for B2B startups and SMEs. From those experiments we distilled 7 easy-to-implement B2B lead generation tactics.

Think of this article as an overview of leadgen tactics that you can always come back to. So, if you liked reading the article, make sure to bookmark it and share it with people who could benefit from these tactics as well.

Now, before we get into the tactics, we first have to take a look at the basics.

What is B2B Lead Generation?

B2B lead generation is the process of attracting your ideal customer to your website to qualify them as a sales opportunity for your B2B product or service.

When most people think of B2B lead generation, they might think this is a job for (digital) marketers and sales people. Rightfully so, because it has been this way for quite some time.

Traditionally, marketers would use big-budget campaigns to get their message across to their target audience. Sales people would spend 80% of their time on the road. Their main job? Convincing decision makers to buy their product or service during in-person sales calls.

Now, growth teams are taking a different approach. They test multiple variations from their campaigns at the lowest possible production cost. They look at data to see which variation converts more. Once they’ve identified the winning variation, they scale their operations which gets the business more conversions at a lower cost.

Needless to say, this is a huge benefit for those companies: data are being tracked, tech stacks give insight into the customer journey, and the lead generation process is being automated as much as possible. It allows businesses to improve their lead generation process in a more effective way and at a lower cost.

B2B professionals during a sales meeting

Another benefit is that growth teams work across company department borders. Unlike traditional sales and marketing teams, who are known to bicker about leads. Growth teams look at the whole process.

One of the advantages of looking across those borders is that growth teams look at the whole sales funnel. This makes them able to pin-point where in said funnel there are untapped opportunities. Afterwards, they experiment with new ways to improve conversion rates in that particular part of the funnel.

Safe to say, the rules of B2B lead generation have changed in the past decade! Especially with the further digitalisation of businesses. That is not even talking about the opportunities for businesses to implement artificial intelligence and machine learning. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

A common misconception about B2B lead generation is that it’s often portrayed as boring, time-intensive, and yielding a low ROI. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are a lot of B2B lead generation tactics that bring value to your target audience and also yields a high ROI for your business.

Now we are all on the same page about B2B lead gen, let’s take a look at our seven B2B lead generation tactics. They are easy to implement into your business in order to ramp up your revenue.

7 B2B Lead generation tactics you can start using today

1. Run ads on digital platforms

This might be an obvious one, but a lot of growth teams see ads as a money pit. However, when done well, ads are one of the quickest ways to start running growth experiments. It allows you to quickly generate user data to validate assumptions and test new ideas.

Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google are the best for B2B lead generation experiments. Though it doesnt mean you can’t experiment with other platforms as well.

A great tip is to spend 80% of your ad budget on the main platforms, things that you know will work. The other 20% you can split: 15% on experimenting on other platforms and 5% on very out of left field.

So, which metrics should you keep track of?

Only focus on metrics like percentages and rates. Why? Fixed metrics like the number of impressions and likes are metrics that can only grow over time. These are vanity metrics: although they stroke your ego, they don’t actually give information about your ads’ performance.

Relative metrics like click-through-rate, conversion rate, or number of users acquired over a certain amount of time give you much more information. They tell you exactly which ads or channels are performing best and on which you should put your money (quite literally!).

Next up, once you’ve found the right channel to advertise on, you can start experimenting with your ad. That means creating multiple variations of ad variables.

A best practice is to only test one variable at a time. This will allow you to pin-point which variable can increase conversions on your ad. There are five main ad variables you can experiment with:

  • Audience: if you’re unsure you’re reaching the right target audience, define multiple test audiences and see which one performs best. This also a great way to identify new audiences in addition to your current target audience.
  • Ad creative: ideally, you want your ad to stand out from other posts in the feed. That’s why you should test with multiple creatives to define which ones are real scroll-stoppers and which ones aren’t.
  • Copy: how you talk to you audience has a huge impact on your ad performance. Be sure to create multiple variations of your ad copy to see which one resonates most.
  • Call-to-action: there are different levels of calls-to-action. Some are without obligation (e.g. ‘learn more’) and others are committal (e.g. ‘contact us’). Change up your CTAs and measure your results to see which one has the highest click-through-rate.
  • Offer: sometimes there’s a disconnect between the target audience and your offer. Try to package your offer into different ways and set up an experiment to see which one converts more.

Disclaimer: if you work on a tiny market, running all these experiments might not give you significant results in a short amount of time. Follow best practices, copy your competitors just a little, and don’t be afraid to follow your gut.

2: Set up cold email campaigns

Let me share an unpopular opinion: email marketing is NOT dead.

Most digital marketing guru’s and pundits will claim the opposite, but in reality email is still a very potent B2B lead generation tactic. According to Litmus, every $1 spent on email generates $36 in revenue. In other words, email marketing drives an average return on investment (ROI) of a whopping 3500%.

If this sounds too good to be true for you, let me tell about an experiment we ran for a B2B SaaS client a few years back.

cold emailing as a B2B lead generation tactic for startups and SMEs

The setup was simple: we used LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify our target audience. Afterwards we looked up their email addresses and ran them through a cold email campaign in Reply.io for the next two weeks.

Before sending out the campaign, there were a lot of elements we needed to get right:

  • Emails were sent out from a personal email address (e.g. tanguy@companyname.com) and not from a general company email address (e.g. info@companyname.com)
  • Emails were sent in smaller batches in order to not trigger any server or spam warnings
  • Apart from the first email, all other email subjects started with “RE:” in order to keep the conversation ongoing
  • We used variables like {firstname} and {companyname} to imitate a personalised approach
  • We made sure that our cold emails were GDPR compliant

In total we e-mailed 643 people, of which 383 people opened at least one of our emails (59,4% open rate).

From those people a whopping 220 people actually replied to our team (34,2% reply rate).

I have to be honest, not all replies were positive. Which makes sense, because you are coming in ice cold with these prospects. With this tactic, you’re playing a numbers game. So, keep this in mind when you’re setting up your own cold email campaign.

However, the campaign turned out to be very profitable. It played a big part in doubling their monthly recurring revenue (MRR) in the quarter that followed.

3: Create gated content

Gated content requires you to share your contact details through a submission form, has boomed since 2021.

A lot of companies created ebooks, white papers, and webinars to reach their audience and gather their data. Unfortunately, not many companies offered actual valuable information for their target audience. Most just served as hidden sales pitches to sell their own products or services.

However, this doesn’t mean that gated content has lost its value.

ebooks as a B2B lead generation tactic for startups and SMEs

The 2021 Demand Gen Report researched which engagement tactics and content formats successfully generated the most qualified leads. Their results showed more than half (53%) of respondents pointed to webinars, while 28% said white papers were a great lead generation tactic.

But how exactly do you use gated content as a B2B lead generation tactic? We have 5 rules to get the most leads out of your gated content:

  1. Make sure your content is valuable to your target audience: nobody is waiting to download another hidden sales pitch. Focus on helping your target audience solve their problems. This way, you create trust with your audience, which is essential to move them further down the funnel.
  2. Explain the benefits of signing up: share an outline of what your audience can expect from your content. Mention if you have templates, playbooks, or case studies that they get for free when signing up for your gated content.
  3. Experiment with your landing page: most landing pages follow a structure based on best practices. However, that doesn’t mean that this works for your audience as well. Use your analytics to measure the engagement on your landing page.
  4. Automate your follow-up flow: once they’ve signed up, you can keep your target audience engaged with automated email campaigns. If you have a good lead scoring system in place, you can easily identify and follow-up on hot leads.
  5. Create hype around your content: creating gated content requires a lot of effort. That’s why you should focus on a great distribution strategy to maximize awareness for your campaign.

4: Network on LinkedIn

With 310 million monthly active users, LinkedIn is the largest B2B social media platform on the planet. It currently hosts data of 830 million business professionals who are looking to network with like-minded people across the globe.

Here lies the value of LinkedIn as lead generation tool. You get to talk with decision makers in your industry after a simple connection request.

But how many of such connection requests can you send on LinkedIn per day?

Anyone who has a free LinkedIn profile can send connection requests to 100 people per week (i.e. 20 per day). If you’re on a paid account, this number increases to 100 connection requests per day. People with a Sales Navigator account can send connection requests to a whopping 225 people per day.

Those are a lot of prospects you can connect with! However, sending out that many connection requests would take a big chunk of your daily schedule.

Luckily, there are tools like Phantombuster or DuxSoup that enable you to automate your LinkedIn outreach.

The downside of tools like those is that it is easy to use them wrong. Be mindful of sending connection requests to the right people and to personalise messages. If not, it is easy to see right through automation.

My advice is to start out manually with your messaging. This means handwritten messages and on a small scale. Once you’ve established the right type of prospect and the right icebreaker, then you can use automation tools to scale your outreach.

Now whether you’re automating your outreach or not, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when starting to network on LinkedIn.

  1. You’re connecting with other human beings. Make it personal and be approachable. Take a look at their profile and talk about something that you have in common. This way, you show you are a human being who is genuinely interested in them and their profile.
  2. Keep the conversation going. Once they’ve accepted your connection request, send them a direct message. Don’t try to sell them something right away or they will lose interest. Ask them a question to qualify them or give them a freebie without expecting something in return (which you then send to them via email of course).
  3. Don’t forget to engage with their content. Whenever you see an interesting post on LinkedIn, don’t just like the post. Try to formulate your thoughts or thank them for sharing their insights. This way, you stand out from the crowd and they’ll start to remember you.

5: claim thought leadership

I’ve always found it funny when companies don’t want to share their knowledge with their audience. Especially B2B companies. For some reason they want to keep their secret sauce all to themselves.

I do understand why, though. They don’t want competitors to steal their strategies.

I also believe that this mainly an emotional reflex. Let me explain.

There’s this famous Simon Sinek video where he compares company culture at Apple vs. company culture at Microsoft. You can check it out below:

But to summarize: when you are fixated on what your competition is doing, you’re always one step behind your competition. You’ll be trying to catch up. On the other hand, when you’re focused on your purpose, then you will always be one step ahead of your competition.

The same goes for thought leading content. Yes, people will copy your content. But you’ll be already thinking about the next thing whenever  they’re copying your old content. So why bother keeping your thoughts all to yourself?

Podcasting as a B2B lead generation tactic for startups & SMEs

So how do you go about creating thought leading content?

  1. Have a vision. This takes time to perfect, but remember to create content in support of your grand vision as a thought leading company.
  2. Find your niche. Focus on finding the one thing that sets your business apart from the rest. This is especially true for industries that already have a lot of thought leaders.
  3. Be consistent. Once you’ve started creating content, don’t stop. Remember: you’re playing the long game with your thought leadership.
  4. Include others. Invite employees or other thought leaders into your niche to create content for you. This way you get more quality content on your website.
  5. Take your time. Creating quality content takes time. Don’t rush things or take shortcuts during this process.

Don’t forget that claiming thought leadership is a high effort tactic. But when it’s done right, it’s a growth tactic that yields a huge ROI.

6: analyze data to understand your prospects & customers

What good are your efforts when you don’t know if they’re working or not?

No matter which lead gen tactic you decide to implement, you should always track your data. Because with data, you see what works for your business and what doesn’t. And more importantly, it helps you to analyze user behavior on your website.

There are quite some tools to analyze your website data. Here are the ones that we use on a daily basis (and that are free to use):

  1. Google Analytics: Google Analytics has been the leading analytics tool for quite some time now. You get insights in your user demographic, engagement on your website, and which channels are generating the most traffic. Pair this with Google’s Tag Manager and you have a very powerful free analytics setup.
  2. Google Search Console: this underrated tool helps you understand which keywords people use to click through to your website. Use this data to optimize your on-page SEO and you’ll be getting tons of organic traffic within no time.
  3. Hotjar is a great way to get qualitative data from your website visitors. It allows you to generate heat-maps, click maps, and screen recordings of how people are actually engaging with your website. Pair this with your Google Analytics setup and you get a very whereas Google Analytics is a great tool to get quantitative data about how people use your website, you can see Hotjar as a way to get qualitative data. With this tool, you get heatmaps, click maps, and screen recordings of how real people interact with your website.
  4. Similarweb: ever wanted to learn about your competitor’s traffic? That’s exactly what Similarweb does. They give you a handy oversight of how many monthly visitors your competitors have, which their main sources of traffic are, and much more.
  5. Google Optimize: if you want to experiment with different landing pages and A/B test your variables, we recommend using Google Optimize. It allows you to split your website visitors in two or more audiences that see different versions of your website. This is a great way to test variables like design, copy, calls-to-action, and much more.

7: automate your lead generation workflow

Nobody likes doing repetitive and meaningless tasks.

That’s why we’re big advocates of automating our client’s B2B lead gen workflows as much as possible. And there are tons of great tools that allow you to do just that.

As a matter of fact, there are almost 10,000 software tools you can use to streamline your workflow. See for yourself:

MartechMap 2022 by Chiefmartec Scott Brinker

I once had the pleasure to talk to the man behind the MartechMaps, Scott Brinker (VP Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot). I’ll embed the full interview down below:

Most software tools have native integration possibilities, which allows you to connect your apps. This way, you can automate:

  • Lead gen processes
  • Outreach campaigns
  • Internal workflows

If this is not the case, you can use integrators like Zapier, Integromat, or Tray.io. These tools  allow you to connect thousands of apps with each other. You can set up triggers and actions for your apps, allowing you to create a fully automated lead generation workflow.

A great byproduct from connecting apps, is that you get a dataflow from start to finish. These dataflows give you the opportunity to analyze prospect and customer behavior. More importantly, you’ll discover the moments in their journey you can improve.

Now, before you go off experimenting with all these tools there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: process trumps technology. Make sure your process is mapped out and then automate. If it’s not, see this as an opportunity to look at what your workflow currently looks like. It’ll save you tons of time during the setup and even more so when it’s all set up.

Yes, it’ll take more time in the beginning. But when you’re set up it can take a lot of work out of your hands and save you hours of repeatable tasks per week.

Conclusion: B2B lead generation can lead to incredible results

If there’s one thing you should takeaway from this article, it’s that B2B lead generation doesn’t need to be boring, time-consuming, or yielding a low ROI. On the contrary: when done right, it can lead to incredible results.

There are tons of B2B companies that are acing their lead generation process. And yours should not be an exception. No matter which tactics you use, there are 4 rules that help to fuel your growth :

  • Have a deep understanding of your customers
  • Track, measure, and analyse their behaviour
  • Think outside of the box
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment

If you keep this in mind, you’ll soon enough see the results from your efforts.


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