The notion of lead generation in B2B is as old as time, or almost. As early as 1898, the Aida method, the predecessor of the sales funnel, was invented by St Elmo Lewis [image from a presentation by Andrew Davis]. Indeed, it is for this reason that alternative, more modern methods have cropped up recently. One of them is called ABM and is aimed at hard-to-sell products or services (also known as complex sales.)
B2B lead generation
What is a lead? A Lead is a mere indication. It is not quite a prospective customer, let alone a client. Lead generation is not an end in itself, but it’s a means to an end. The ultimate goal is to sell to more clients.
Lead generation; don’t mention the war between marketing and sales
Marketing provides leads to salespeople who, more often than not, find these leads too weak. Conversely, marketers sometimes find that salespeople are lazy and don’t follow through.
To prevent this useless war, leads must be scored according to a method validated by both marketing and sales
Ideally, this lead scoring capability is integrated within your Customer relationship management (CRM) platform. We can classify leads according to their suitability for the product/service and interest in the offer.
In case your product market fit is still a bit weak, sales people should continue to nurture the leads until they are fully mature. Conversely, if they feel that there is a significant market fit, they should engage with the leads immediately.
There are three main leads categories:
- IQL (Information Qualified Leads): these are what we call cold leads. They may have downloaded a case study and/or participated in a free webinar. You regularly feed them with additional content proposals, but there are no signs that they are ready to buy.
- MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads): MQLs are IQLs are leads who have decided to find out a little more about how you could help them solve their pain points. For example, they have downloaded some documentation about one of your products. Subsequently, you gradually lead them to the “decision” phase by offering them a demo, a trial of your offer, or sending them one or more quotes. These are known as hot leads.
- SQL (Sales Qualified Leads): the SQL are MQLs who have decided to engage with your company. However, they still need to be reassured. Eventually, final negotiations will take place. To close the sale, the responsiveness of your sales department will be critical. The more responsive your salespeople are, the more the lead will feel heard. This should be sufficient to convince them and reassure them that your offer is the right one for them.
The limitations of theoretical approaches
One of the first limitation regarding the lead generation theory is linked to the sales funnel principle.
The sales funnel is an oversimplified view of the sales process, especially in B2B
In B2B, there is often more than one decision maker. Instead, it is often a group of professionals. Besides B2B purchase decisions are often the outcome of a long winded or complex purchasing process rather than the result of a single visit to a website.
Trends and innovations in lead generation
Marketing automation comes first among the current trends. Marketing automation allows you to systematise and automate a certain number of marketing actions (e-mailing campaigns, SMS, lead nurturing, etc.) based on the behaviour of Internet users.
When it comes to complex sales, it is recommended you resort to the ABM method (read our definition on ABM). Marketing automation based lead generation is in no way relevant for this type of sales as no one will ever buy a €100,000 or more product or service via a simple form.
Tools and methods for lead generation
For lead generation, one often resorts to what is called “gated content.”
One calls “gated content“, content like white papers, ebooks, webinars, use cases, etc. that can only be read or downloaded after you have provided your email address via a form.
In that particular case, landing pages are used to collect information related to the lead (their email address, their name, company, job title, etc.)
These landing pages are optimised which allow the lead to read a short description of the content to be downloaded or viewed and fill out a form. Once the form has been completed, the lead is redirected to a URL that allows them to access the desired content (or via e-mail).