Quality lead generation continues to be one of the major challenges for businesses today. But besides live sales visits, direct marketing, telemarketing and other offline tactics, there are some Internet-based channels that are popular among B2B marketers for their effectiveness.
According to Chief Marketer's Annual B2B Lead Generation Survey (https://www.chiefmarketer.com/special-reports/chief-marketers-annual-b2b-lead-gen-survey/), referrals, email-marketing, and search marketing (or SEO) were some of the most effective lead generation tactics as observed by the businesses surveyed for the report. Other significant sources of B2B leads are whitepapers, webinars, blogs and online display ads.
The following list of the top Internet channels for B2B lead generation can help business of all sizes obtain high quality leads, when utilized in the right way.
While employee, customer and peer referrals are particularly effective, social media is a good source of referrals. Even though social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and others together are quite effective in terms of lead generation and conversion, LinkedIn has proven to be very particularly effective on its own (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/social-media-versus-personal-b2b-referral-colm-hannon) in raising B2B opportunity-to-deal conversion rates.
This social network drives 80 percent of all B2B social media leads, according to Kissmetrics (https://blog.kissmetrics.com/linkedin-strategies-b2b-marketing/). Marketing companies like HubSpot utilize LinkedIn to republish their blog posts and get more people reading their content. Bill Gates publishes as an Influencer for Microsoft and GE draws readers into interesting discussions on its LinkedIn page. As a Forbes writer points out (https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2015/05/10/4-steps-to-lead-generation-through-linkedin/) - you can't succeed in content marketing (crucial for lead generation) if you don't speak to the right people. LinkedIn provides the network to help you market content and build a sizable referral network as well.
Hank Barnes, Research Director at Gartner, blogged early in 2014 that referrals would play a big role in B2B lead generation (https://blogs.gartner.com/hank-barnes/2014/01/28/will-2014-be-the-year-of-advocacy-marketing/). According to a Gartner survey, B2B buyers were more likely to turn to similarly-sized peers in their industry (60 percent), professional communities (36 percent), and similar-sized peers in the region (25 percent) for lead referrals. Company websites and sales reps trail far behind these routes. LinkedIn can help you build your referral network at very little cost, and supplement your other referral network activity, while also offering content marketing advantages.
Email marketing is one of the most popular - and highly effective - B2B lead generation tactics. The Chief Marketer survey found that respondents found e-mail marketing to be only second in effectiveness to referrals, even though Yesmail Interactive research (https://www.yesmail.com/resources/email-benchmarks/yesmails-email-marketing-compass-year-review-best-practices-holiday-season) found that only a small number of B2B email subscribers are actually active. Yet e-mail marketing continues to be popular among businesses.
The attraction of email marketing seems to be that it is a low-cost marketing channel, it allows the tracking of responses and it gives businesses the advantage of personalizing content and offers. In addition, e-mail has consistently beaten social media marketing and content marketing on the retention front. According to a survey by Econsultancy (https://econsultancy.com/reports/email-census) email is a leading channel for delivering ROI.
Based on this 2014 Marketing Charts survey of B2B marketers, white paper downloads was selected by 20 percent respondents as being very effective for lead generation. Another DemandGen Report (https://www.demandgenreport.com/industry-topics/content-strategies/2746-b2b-content-preferences-survey-buyers-want-short-visual-mobile-optimized-content.html) points reveals that visual content, e-books, infographics, case studies, blog posts and video are important content types that the majority of B2B buyers refer to in making business decisions.
Tying in such high quality and free downloads with your email opt-in form can actually help you to grow your email list significantly, as Kissmetrics recommends (https://blog.kissmetrics.com/5-digit-email-lists/). Whitepapers are especially useful in B2B marketing, since they help to solve specific problems that B2B buyers have. You can choose to send in your whitepaper in installments over a few days for greater engagement or send it at a go to provide value when it is most needed.
Among the popular forms of visual content found in the B2B Buyers' Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey, podcasts and webinars also rank high. This ties in with the growing popularity of these content channels as seen in other reports linked to above. Webinars are simply seminars that are run online, and are meant to be educational, not sales pitches. It may be a PowerPoint-style presentation with one or several speakers voicing over the presentation. If you can get influential peers in your industry to participate in the webinar, you score extra credibility points among your B2B customers.
Podcasts are simply a series of audio files that your followers can subscribe to. They can be downloaded over the internet, and like webinars, they should add value and provide solutions to problems instead of being sales pitches.
You can also use YouTube (https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/32765/How-B2B-Marketers-Can-Succeed-on-the-6-Big-Social-Networks.aspx), one of the largest video sharing platforms to market to their B2B buyers. Again, your video clips must add value and prove educational. The additional advantage of using YouTube is that it is a Google platform, and helps with creating visibility for search engine optimization as well.
B2B search engine marketing (SEM) continues to be one of the top online lead generation tactics that businesses use. Even though it may not have easily measurable results, SEM is an indispensable element of marketing online. SEM involves promoting your business website, blog, social media channels and other online content and increasing its visibility for your business by improving ranking on search engine result pages (SERPS).
While the most successful strategy to B2B marketing success is being able to engage with your buyers at a more personalized level and help with problem-solving, SEO (search engine optimization) continues to be important for putting your name out there in the first place. Learn from businesses that have done B2B search marketing well (https://searchengineland.com/3-b2b-companies-integrate-seo-online-marketing-strategy-183837) and develop your own strategy.
These are the top B2B lead generating channels that businesses have been using since 2014 and into 2015. Content marketing continues to be big, and your high quality blog, website and even the guest posts on sites with hundreds of thousands of readers can help to increase your visibility on search engines. But unless you are engaging with customers and others in your industry directly, and staying at the tops of their minds, you can't create more business opportunities through online channels. Choose your arsenal of online marketing wisely and find greater success in B2B lead generation.