A Crash Course in B2B Lead Generation

Selling is the backbone of every business. It’s how you generate revenue and produce profit. But to sell, you need someone to sell to, and customers are developed from leads. If your business offers product and service solutions for sale to other businesses, you need B2B lead generation. B2B lead gen differs from a business-to-consumer, aka B2C, approach, but many companies make the mistake of deploying a B2C strategy in a B2B space. Understanding the difference is the first step to making B2B lead gen work for your business.

The mechanics of effective lead gen

B2B lead gen starts with a well-defined strategy: the who, what, where, and how questions. Who is your target audience? What are your unique selling propositions? Where is your best chance at visibility? How will you structure your sales funnel? These questions form the foundation of a successful B2B lead gen strategy:

  • Who? Determine your target audience by understanding what type of business benefits from your product or service solution. Group potential prospects into well-defined, specific types to maximize your messaging efforts. Consider critical variables, including company size, industry, and annual revenue.

  • What? Customize your value proposition for each specific customer category. Of the unique benefits your company offers, how do your solutions benefit each group? Drill down to create specific use cases and messaging prompts that relay value directly and succinctly.

  • Where? Leverage the marketing channels most appropriate for your customer prospects and brand messaging. There is no “best” channel, and often, an omnichannel approach is the best way to generate visibility for your product or service. Refine your call to action (CTA) for each channel.

  • How? Structure a sales funnel to capture leads across multiple channels and at each point in the customer journey, from awareness to action. The funnel should move prospects toward a purchase by showcasing value at every stage. Make use of gated content, free consultations and/or demonstrations, and other value-adds to facilitate lead capture.

These are the pillars of effective B2B marketing and lead gen. Take the time to fully establish them to create support for every campaign built atop them. The result isn’t just more leads — it’s better leads at a lower cost.

Lead scoring and qualifying

Not all leads are weighted equally. Use lead scoring to determine the most valuable, high-priority leads. Criteria for determining lead scores can vary from company to company and campaign to campaign. Ultimately, lead scoring assigns more weight to the attributes most important to your salesforce: industry, company size, anticipated spend, and engagement.

Scoring leads allows B2B sales professionals to qualify them. Qualifying leads allows for a more effective approach for converting leads to customers. Lead qualification generally means interacting with prospects to get a sense of their needs, barriers to purchase, concerns, questions, and other information relevant to the sales process.

During qualification, leads fall into three basic categories:

  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs). These leads have expressed interest through inbound channels but have not yet interacted with your sales team.

  • Sales accepted leads (SALs). SALs are leads a salesperson has vetted and deemed acceptable for follow-up because they meet target-based qualifying criteria.

  • Sales qualified leads (SQLs). These leads show strong buying intent. They have interacted with salespeople and meet multiple qualifying criteria.

Lead qualification helps sales teams use their time effectively and allows marketing teams to create more effective messaging based on SAL and SQL feedback.

Capturing, converting, and learning

Lead generation is always evolving. Capturing a lead doesn’t always result in conversion, and conversions aren’t the end of the road. B2B marketers should think about lead gen as a continuum. How well are you reaching your established audience? How do you know? Your answers can be found in the conversions you’ve already made.

Companies should maintain awareness of key performance indicators (KPIs) to help them understand which lead-gen practices are fruitful and effective — and which ones need improvement. KPIs reinforce key performance actions (KPAs), aka what you want your leads to do. For example, if your KPI focuses on generating leads through an on-site form, the KPA is filling out that form. If you’re not getting people to fill out the form, it’s time to rethink and/or retool the path to a successful outcome.

Good KPIs inform relevant KPAs, and effective KPAs turn leads into customers. To make this continuum work, companies need to keep learning, from the leads you capture and those you lose. The path to effective lead generation continues to evolve, and continuous learning is critical to continuous improvement.

Don’t focus on selling; focus on building

Effective B2B lead generation happens in phases, and each phase must align with its objective. Whether you’re identifying audiences for targeted value propositions, or crafting messaging for a particular medium or channel, everything comes back to specific, measurable goals. B2B lead gen isn’t about selling a product. It’s about building a brand.

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