Generating leads for a business could be one of the single most important B2B marketing efforts for any seafood supplier or service provider’s success. Gathering potential client interest in your products and services helps companies progress those potential customers through the buyer’s journey – and in turn, raise the organization’s bottom line.
This article covers the following:
- What is B2B Lead Generation?
- What is a B2B Lead?
- Types of B2B Leads
- How to Generate B2B Leads
- Engaging B2B Leads
- How to Qualify Leads
What is B2B Lead Generation?
B2B lead generation is the process of attracting other businesses or organizations to your B2B company with the intent of selling your products and services to them, often on a recurring or contractual basis, and developing or building mutually-satisfying business relationships.
However, generating B2B leads is just one important part of the B2B marketing agenda.
Hubspot released their 2021 State of Marketing Report and found that one of the top deliverables for businesses across the globe is to render more leads that will convert to active consumers.
What is a B2B Lead?
A B2B lead is a company, organization, or representative of one (with decision-making power) that is interested in learning more about your company, products, and services. They may have engaged with your digital content, left their contact information with you at a trade show, or have requested to connect with you on a social or business networking platform.
A lead may be in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey – meaning that they are just learning that your company may have the answers to the problems they’ve been struggling with and how your products and services could alleviate those issues.
Gathering these leads allows B2B companies to nurture these prospects through the remaining buyer’s journey stages until either they become a paying client or they realize that your offerings don’t quite align with their needs and preferences.
It’s important not to waste your advertising dollars convincing leads that they need your products or services – when they’ve already decided that they don’t. It’s best to use that funding and effort for those who are actively searching for what you provide.
Types of B2B Leads
There are three categories of initial B2B leads: cold, warm, and hot leads. Once a lead is converted into a warm or hot lead, they can be categorized more based on how much (and what type) of your content they have consumed.
These types of leads have never heard of you, don’t know what you offer, and may not be at all interested in hearing what you have to say. Most relate cold leads to telemarketing where a salesperson contacts a business out of the blue to introduce themselves. This unsolicited contact could take them by surprise, catch them at a bad time, or result in unwarranted anger.
They may have a little interest but are not sold on your company or products/services quite yet. They need nurturing and much more information to make their final decision on whether or not to contract with your supply or service provider company.
Hot leads are ready to secure what you have to offer. They may have been referred from an existing satisfied client, have consumed enough of your content to know they want to do business with you, or have used your products/services in the past and were confident in the result.
Once they are warm or hot, there are four subcategories of B2B leads produced through marketing outreach efforts and are identified based on where they currently lie on the buyer’s journey.
Information Qualified Leads (IQL)
Information qualified leads have seen a little bit of information about your business, products, and services and may be interested in more. They may have consumed just enough to bring them from a cold lead to a warm one.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
Marketing qualified leads have engaged with your online content, ads, or marketing team but may not be quite ready to speak with a sales team member about contracting with you. They may have opted-in with their contact information to one of your online forms to receive more information or subscribe to your email list.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
Sales qualified leads are those who have indicated they may be ready to make a purchase. For instance, they could have contacted your team through the company website to inquire about your offering prices or delivery schedule.
Product Qualified Leads (PQL)
Product qualified leads may have sampled or used your product in the past and are ready to become recurring or contracted customers. They could have inspected a sample of your product at your warehouse, or a tradeshow, and liked what your sales team had to say – in addition to your product selection.
Service Qualified Leads (SQL)
Service qualified leads have signaled that they are ready to enter that decision stage of the buyer’s journey and want to contract with you for the services you provide. For example, they have used your services in the past and are ready to upgrade.
How to Generate B2B Leads
Prospects can be led to your business through many different marketing avenues including online content, trade shows, blogs posts, articles, and even digital coupons. The most effecti
ve lead generation strategies are authentic and work to naturally grow interested in the company – they do not include trickery or cold persuasion tactics.
Organic Lead Generation
Organic marketing strategies are often the result of having a B2B content marketing strategy that involves distributing digital or physical marketing material and informative content. This can be blog posts on your own B2B website, sharing resources on business networking platforms like LinkedIn, creating downloadable company-sponsored content, or through professional article submissions on industry websites.
When potential customers search online and arrive at your article or post, they can learn more about your company and its products. They learn what your company’s mission, vision, and values entail and they can decide to partner with you, choose to learn more or know that your company does not meet their specific needs.
Paid Lead Generation
Paying to attend trade shows to showcase your B2B products or services, launching targeted B2B digital marketing campaigns, and offering trials or samples of your offerings at your own expense are just a few examples of paid lead generation.
It is not recommended to purchase lead lists. These are commonly lists of email addresses or other contact information you can reach out to advertise your products and services. Those contacts do not have an existing interest in your offerings and most likely, will not convert to paying customers. They have not opted-in to your content and it could give those contacts a feeling of intrusiveness. To make matters worst, running an email campaign could get your company’s email addresses put on a black list or marked as spam.
Statistically, one of the most effective B2B paid or organic marketing strategies is through referrals. Potential customers who know and trust other organizations that also use your products and services may be more apt to become paying clients. Consider offering your customers a discount for successful referrals or even a shipment of a new product getting ready to launch – in exchange for any recommendation leading to a new customer sale or contract.
Engaging B2B Leads
Once leads are generated, B2B supply and service providers nurture them through the buyer’s journey with the end goal of transforming them into active clients. There is a multitude of methods used to nurture leads including email campaigns, high-value content, and personalized phone calls or meetings. No matter your preferred method, each should include information gathering, a call to action, and the means to over-deliver.
Capturing Lead Details
If personal contact information is not gathered during the lead generation process, be sure to collect their name, email address, purchasing timeline, barriers to their decision, budget, etc. Assemble any information that may be helpful to the sales team once the lead moves on to the consideration or decision stages of the buyer’s journey.
Calls To Action
Each method of attracting new prospects must include a CTA (call to action). Direct those potential clients to visit your website, download your educational guide, use your coupon, or connect with your digital platform in some way. This CTA often leads to an opt-in form where you can capture their contact information and has the potential to automatically enter that data into your email autoresponder to begin receiving promotional and informational content through their inbox.
Be sure to personalize those CTAs which can identify which stage of the buyer’s journey that possible client may be in and guide them in the preferred direction. They may be a first-time visitor or an existing customer. Using Smart CTAs drastically increases the likelihood of converting them to paying customers.
Two primary method categories tend to be effective with B2B businesses: organic and paid lead generation. Many supply and service providers use both marketing methods to attract prospects to their offerings.
No matter which method of lead generation (that includes a call to action) best aligns with your goals and budget, it’s important to always over-deliver and keep your word. For example, a potential client saw an ad on LinkedIn that was specifically created to target retail seafood establishments within a 500 km radius and it resonated with those business owners.
They clicked on the ad and downloaded an educational guide on how to properly store the products they purchase from you – to ensure freshness and quality. This guide must over-deliver. It must be of extremely high value. When those potential clients realize what you provide for free, they will be excited to see what you provide when they convert to contracted customers.
How to Qualify Leads
Qualifying leads is an analytical process that helps to determine whether a lead is ready to become an active customer. Using this qualifying process allows you to focus your efforts on leads that are more likely to convert and become paying customers.
Qualifying IQLs and MQLs (Information and Marketing Qualified Leads)
When planning to qualify marketing leads, the content and advertisements can be targeted to potential clients and require meeting certain criteria based on your organization’s specifications. Criteria such as the geographical location of your service area, the company size based on whether you’re looking to help “the little guy” or large retail chains, and the possible client’s role – to ensure that the content is reaching someone with decision-making-authority and organization buying power.
Once decided that they meet preset criteria, these leads are often passed onto the sales team for further nurturing.
Qualifying SQLs, PQLs, and SQLs (Sales, Product, and Service Qualified Leads)
Once the sales team has already determined leads as being in the consideration or decision stages of the buyer’s journey, they could be ready to progress through the sales process.
There are countless ways to qualify leads but these three condensed methods are tried and true based on market research and B2B strategies.
Research – Find out what these potential clients do, their mission, value, and vision statements, where they might be having trouble that you could help with, what their needs, tastes, and preferences are, their budget, purchasing timeline, contact information for those with the company credit card, and any other factors that could influence their decision to purchase.
Data Gathering – Use an automated mechanism to capture contact information and any other data that may help determine their level of interest or buying habits. Many B2B suppliers and service providers use a questionnaire, opt-in form, or sales funnel. Also analyze how your leads are engaging with your articles, guides, posts, and ads to determine the current success of your marketing strategies related to information capture.
Give them a Score – Lead scoring is giving each lead a numerical score based on their interest and ability/willingness to purchase. Base this score on the answers to some critical questions such as:
- Budget – What is it and does it align with your products/services?
- Authority – Does the lead have the authority to make buying decisions?
- Goals – What are the organization’s goals?
- Plans – How are they planning to achieve these goals?
- Challenges – What challenges are they facing when trying to accomplish their goals?
- Timeline – What kind of timeline are they up against to solve their concerns?
- Negative Consequences and Positive Implications– What could happen if they meet/don’t meet the objectives?
Assign certain numerical values to their actions (example: 2 points if they opted-in to receive emails or connected on social media) and their responses (example: 5 points for a qualified lead who has large company goals on a short timeline). The higher the score, the more apt they are to purchase your products and services.
From deciding on an increased buyer awareness path to generating leads… qualifying those leads and making sales, the marketing process (when done well with proven strategies and great analytics) can help any B2B supplier or service provider from “making do” to thriving.