How do I generate leads for my start-up?

Guest blog post by  Lydia Vogtner

Lydia Vogtner is an independent B2B marketing and communications consultant specializing in marketing, messaging and content strategy.

We’re a small B2B startup company: How do we generate leads?

When leads pour in, business is booming – unless you can’t close a sale. The hardest part about Sales however, isn’t usually closing a deal; it’s finding interested buyers. Regardless of the quality of products and solutions, B2B salespeople often struggle for one simple reason: they don’t know how to find businesses interested in buying. If you’re in this situation, this post may help.

Important Step: Develop a solid foundation and strategize before brainstorming ideas

One of the most common mistakes leaders make when selling B2B is diving into brainstorming on how to generate leads before setting up a foundation for success. Before throwing thousands of dollars towards ideas, make sure you have a strategic framework to guide your marketing, content and sales approach. Instead of searching Google for the top 50 B2B marketing ideas and then paying a marketing professional to perform each task on the list, be certain they are actually useful for your business.

Your answers to these questions will help establish the foundation for long-term lead generation success.

1. Who is our target market and what do we know about them? – A target market must be clearly defined before you can determine the best marketing strategies to implement. For example:

“We are targeting (business type) that are (small/medium/large), reside in (state/country/international/etc.), with a revenue range of (estimated dollars)”. In addition, within each business type the person our message is intended for is (CEO, CTO, VP Sales).”

Decide who your core target audience is and come up with as much profile and persona data as you can to make sure that going forward, all your ideas about how to talk to them come from this.

In addition, you may be targeting various industries and/or company roles where the mindset/pain point/decision-making ability is slightly different. So capture, organize and discuss those insights ahead of time. You can start with a baseline because over time, data will come in that will help you refine what’s ‘real’.

2. What is our brand all about? – If you want to generate quality leads, you need to decide your baseline Brand Strategy so that everyone in your organization is on the same page. Properly branding your company and value proposition is crucial if you want to generate good leads. It sets the foundation for how you will look, sound, act and be (both internally and externally).

At a minimum, decide how you want your brand perceived by buyers (as well as influencers) and decide a baseline that will guide you, like this:

“Our solution solves (problem/pain). We are unique/different because we (are the only company that provides X and Y). CFOs can trust us because (reason) and we want them to say/feel (this) about us”.

 3. What is the messaging and content approach that will guide our team as well as our campaigns, website, advertising and SEO efforts? – Ask yourself: What is the messaging that will resonate with our target(s) the most and what type of content are they most likely to consume? For example:

“Our research indicates our buyers care about (these problems) and are likely to want (how-to videos, case studies and/or eBooks with interesting data and insights that relate to their business) and will benefit from blog posts and webinars on (these topics).”

Don’t start talking about content ideas until you’ve confirmed what your audience cares about and would benefit from.

4. How can we find businesses that need what we have to sell and can afford to buy it – Now comes the fun part. You need to develop content, campaigns, infrastructure and sales ideas that map to the strategy you’ve established so that you can attract qualified buyers. Stay focused on a few that you know will have impact, fit your budget and that can be executed successfully.  And consider your audience and their likely process for making decisions about buying a product or service like yours.

“We are going to find businesses to sell to by (hiring rainmakers and the best salespeople, and supporting them with data, events and rich content) because we know our buyers (research/engage with products like ours online, yet need help and consultation through the buying process)”.

Key pillars for finding, engaging and selling in B2B are: a) content, b) tactical ideas, c) sales support and d) infrastructure.

Content foundation:
Content is usually at the core of lead generation strategies whether it be for websites, videos, speaking engagements, media/PR, sales scripts or e-newsletters. A heavy and thoughtful investment in content is usually required if you want to stand out from the competition and break through the noise. Leads will increase significantly if the content for your website, blog, social media and sales communications is exceptional and accomplishes the following:

  • Creates a certain perception about your business and products and services
  • Shows the value in doing business with your company
  • Clears up any confusion the prospect may have about your products and services

Tactical ideas:
As it relates to tactics and ideas, according to a 2013 report by InsideSales.com published through MarketingProfs, the most effective methods for generating B2B sales leads are:

  • Outbound marketing (telemarketing, virtual/remote sales)
  • Event marketing (tradeshows, webinars, and seminars)
  • Online marketing (email newsletters, websites, search, and blogs)

Based on your strategy, you will need to decide the best mix of tactics.

 “We will market our business via (telemarketing/tradeshows/online marketing/etc.) because this fits our budget and our target market is likely to respond well to (this/these) form(s) of activities”.

Another idea is to choose an outstanding strategic content concept that will strike a chord and get attention among buyers as well as influencers. Build a single, hard-hitting campaign around it so that you build relationships, get share-of-voice in your space, get new leads and further engage existing ones with a single strong push. Think in terms of a superb video, Slideshare, eBook, etc.

Considerations:

  •  Think through cost, time and return on investment. For example, Telemarketing and Tradeshows are often expensive and time-consuming and take many resources to execute.
  • Give the Sales team the support they need to generate their own leads. Train them on ‘Social Selling’ and give them the tools, dedicated support and data infrastructure they need to be successful.

5. How will we qualify, track and nurture leads once we get them? – Don’t just think in terms of “How can we get leads that are ready to buy today, right now”. You need a plan of action to continue working a lead until you finally get a definite “yes” answer. You also need to track the success of each tactic to determine what is and what isn’t generating leads.

If you are a B2B company the sales cycle can be long, so think in terms of:

  •  How can I get quality leads and then make sure I’m set up to effectively qualify and nurture those leads in case they aren’t ready to buy right now and/or in case the lead isn’t the decision maker?
  • What do we need to do to get our CRM and analytics infrastructure in a good place so that we use data to drive decisions?

“We will contact each unclosed lead (number) times per week via (email/phone/in-person). We will also invest in a (CRM system/data automation system/etc.) to understand and qualify our leads and move them through the funnel”.

The point is…
Regardless of how large your marketing budget is, simply spending money doesn’t guarantee sales. You need to create a solid plan prior to even thinking about how you’re going to market your products and solutions. If your marketing and sales efforts are sound and integrated, and you effectively build positive brand awareness through strong content, the leads will come.

Visit Lydia’s Marketing Blog for more valuable B2B marketing tips.