21 May 2024

The 5 fundamentals of effective B2B lead generation

Chris Starkey
Written by Chris Starkey

Chris joined The Marketing Centre in October 2022 as Managing Director, bringing 25 years of leadership experience in both product and service industries, including roles at Bayer, Accenture, Vistage, and THG Ingenuity. With a focus on client excellence, he emphasises a people-centric approach to team growth and performance.

Lead generation is a priority for just about every business leader that we speak to. But, as we’ve written about before, getting more leads isn’t always as simple as ‘doing more lead gen’. 

In fact, how you approach lead generation is much more important than how many emails you send or ads you run. Or even which channels you decide to use.

We caught up with two of our Marketing Directors, Huw Johns and Iain Mallon, to discuss the marketing fundamentals that underpin effective lead generation.

Why marketing fundamentals always trump tactics

“I used to advise business owners on marketing on behalf of the Welsh government,” Huw says. “And the conversation would often be along the lines of: ‘Just tell me what I need to do for more leads’. But it’s more complex than that.”

There’s rarely one channel or tactical fix that’s going to change everything. It’s more likely to be a case of getting the fundamentals in place and then testing and learning as you go.

These fundamentals will be familiar to most business owners and all marketers. But in the rush to generate more leads, they’re often overlooked in favour of ‘getting things live’. 

Here are five fundamentals that will unlock vastly improved lead generation performance for your business.

Start with strategy

“Before thinking about lead generation, there are a few steps that are absolutely critical,” Iain says. “If you don’t get these right, what you do next won't be as effective as it could be.”

Effective marketing always starts with your customer. Who are you selling to and what are their needs? And just as important, how are you going to reach those people? 

Once you’re clear on your target audience, you also need to consider your messaging. What’s your value proposition and how does it relate to your target audience’s goals and pain points? 

“What you’re looking for at the end of this process is a crystal clear view of your targeting and three to five core messages, along with some strong differentiators that everyone agrees on.” 

Without this, your lead generation efforts will lack the impact and cut through they need to get attention and drive action.

Set clear targets upfront

While it can be tempting to think that ‘the more leads the better’, you’re much better off setting hard and fast targets rather than trying to get as many leads as you can. 

“It’s absolutely critical to set KPIs at the outset,” Iain says. “You want clear targets that have been agreed to by senior management so that you can use those targets to keep the team focused and hold them to account.”

Make sure you set targets for lead quality as well as lead quantity. It’s easy to generate a lot of low-quality leads. Unless you KPI your team to make sure that a fixed percentage of their leads qualify and ideally close, you could end up incentivising your team to focus on volume rather than sales potential.

Unsure about how many leads you need? This article will help.

Balance lead gen with awareness

Not everything that matters is easy to measure. Despite being harder to measure, brand awareness has been proven time and time again to increase the effectiveness of lead generation campaigns. For the simple reason that people are more likely to buy from companies they’ve heard of before. 

If you want maximum ROI from your lead generation activity, allocate a portion of your marketing budget to long-term brand-building activity alongside short-term lead generation. 

“Obviously, you need to be measuring short-term indicators like open rates, clickthrough rates and all the rest,” Huw says. “But don’t forget about the long-term. Most businesses are happy to invest in lead generation but if you’re really looking to grow, you need to invest in brand awareness as well. Well-known brands ultimately do much better.”

Choose the right combination of channels

Effective marketing is almost always multi-channel. No one channel is going to do everything for you and different channels will play different roles throughout the customer journey.

“Posting regularly on LinkedIn is usually better for building awareness at the top of the funnel,” Huw says. “Case studies are more likely to build trust and move opportunities forward at the middle of the funnel. You want to make sure that you have a combination of channels that cover the entire customer journey. From first hearing about you, to speaking to sales, to becoming a repeat customer.”

The next factor to consider when picking channels is the volume of leads you need. If you need a high volume of deals per month, your approach will need to be much broader and less targeted than a company that only needs five closed deals per year. 

“What is the cost per unit sale?” Iain asks. “Do you need a handful of leads or hundreds? Certain approaches, such as account-based marketing, will work much better for lower volumes than broader channels like SEO.”

Invest in experience and expertise

One of the overarching themes of our conversation was the fact that if you want good results from lead generation, you need to do things right. That usually involves slowing down and answering hard questions:

  • Who’s our target audience and what are their priorities?
  • What’s our message and value proposition?
  • What are our lead quantity and quality targets 
  • Which channels are we focusing on and why?

But even with these questions answered there’s a key component missing: experience and expertise with the channels themselves. 

“It’s really worth remembering that it’s not just about which channels, it’s down to the way you use them,” Huw says. “If you’re doing email, you’ll need to know how to do split testing to find your best subject lines. If you’re doing social ads, you’ll need to know how to retarget people.

“There are so many routes to market now and so many things to know about individual channels. You’re really unlikely to get it right first time if you’ve not done it before.”

Good marketing that drives real business results isn’t easy - and requires input from someone with years of hands-on experience and expertise. If this is something your business currently lacks, we can help

Slow down and do lead generation right

Effective lead generation is often about slowing down and doing things right. Rushing into sending emails and making content is tempting, but if you’re not clear on your message, your targets, your channel mix and how to use your chosen channels, you’ll likely end up disappointed by the results.

By taking the time to answer the hard strategic questions, you’ll find that you’ll be able to get better results from fewer campaigns.


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