A guide to B2B lead generation

Earlier this year, RTP hosted a panel discussion with top sales leaders who shared their experiences of B2B go-to-market strategies with our portfolio of early-stage founders. 

In this series of blogs, we bring you those insights. We cover everything from navigating enterprise sales, building a sales team and retaining your top talent. 

But, of course, we can’t talk about B2B go-to-market without tackling lead generation. Especially given that it was something many of founders were keen to learn more about.

Lead generation is the process of attracting prospects and generating interest for a product or service with the goal of turning that interest into a sale.

So, in the first blog of this series, our panel of sales leaders cover the best practices in lead generation and pipeline building strategies. What works? What doesn’t? And how can you create harmony between sales and marketing teams?

Let’s dive in. 

Q: What is the best lead generation strategy that you have implemented and still use today?

Brian O’Reilly, VP of Sales, Customer Success and Operations at Melio: I wish there was a magic single answer. The reality, though, is all about finding arbitrage within your channels at a point in time. What I mean by arbitrage is finding some channels that you can acquire leads, for as cheap of a cost as possible.

Take the founder of dating website Plenty of Fish. He grew the business to $10 million in net profit without employing anybody. How? By finding arbitrage through hacking organic search.

At my previous start-up, direct mail for B2B was just emerging as a category and we found it to be very effective. But within about a two year period, it became much less effective because everybody was doing it. So, look at your channels and try to be as creative and resourceful as possible. Finding those spots of arbitrage are the best lead generation approaches to take… but unfortunately, it changes over time.

Brogan Taylor, VP of Enterprise and Strategic Sales at Freshworks: We run what we call a double funnel, where we have our marketing teams apply a mass market approach, including upmarket where they’re just trying to nurture and build some brand awareness.

Then, we try to look for that active buyer intent, using data. That’s where we go super focused with our BDR team and adopt ABM style approaches. That way, we aren’t wasting our time treading water where we might have little to no awareness.

David Mackay, former Global VP, Enterprise Sales at Hootsuite & Senior Sales Director at Adobe: We also use technology and intent data to optimize at every step of the process. Some really tactical examples are that we use something called ‘pace-pace lead’ in our opening emails – two truths and a question. 

For example, “I know you’re really busy, you’ve never heard of us. Here’s my question.” And we know that that’s going to get us an X percent improvement in our open rate. Similarly, we know that “Talk soon” is X percent better than “Regards” or “Best”. So every little aspect of that process we’re continually trying to optimize.

Q: And what are the things that don’t work?

O’Reilly: Personally, I’ve had bad experiences with very expensive brand campaigns. Often, there’s very weak linkage between the money that you’re spending and the leads being driven. 

Rewind five or six years ago, and brand marketing kind of sat on its own. It wasn’t measured. I think that’s a mistake. Where possible, you should really try to drive measurement across all of marketing, especially brand marketing campaigns.

Mackay: Spray and pray, mass, and non-personalized emails are a total waste of time. All those emails just get deleted. 

Another pet peeve is a false confidence around your ability to manipulate the customer. I’ll give you an example. I was contacted by a CEO – a connection of a connection – who explained that his company had launched a new product. He’d love to get my take on it. I said, sure I’ll offer my two cents. When I joined the call, a BDR rep informed me that the CEO couldn’t make it but he could walk me through a demo instead. It was so transparent. I’ve seen this a few times now and it really erodes customer trust.

Q: What role does content play in your lead generation strategies?

O’Reilly: Content is critical and it impacts your organic search as well. The more relevant content you create, the higher you’re going to feature on organic search. For brands that are less well known, having good quality content is key. Sending a professional-looking PDF shows that you know what you’re doing and it has an impact on the buying decisions. 

Content can also really help when selling to specific verticals too. Having the right PDFs, the right presentations, the right collateral and the right type of website branding is critical; it shows you know the space. I don’t think content as a key pillar will go away anytime soon.

Q: Let’s discuss collaboration between marketing and sales. What have you done to optimize that collaboration and avoid marketing teams creating over 1000 MQLs that are useless to sales teams?

O’Reilly: The first thing is alignment of goals. Having the same North Star metric across sales and marketing is key. That could be revenue or bookings, but having that shared goal is where I would start. 

Secondly, marketing should have a full review of your funnel. It shouldn’t just look at the top and it should see how things are converting from MQLs to SQLs down the funnel. 

I bring marketing into all of our pipeline meetings, all of our forecasting meetings, and there’s been several instances where members of my marketing team have executed initiatives that are more mid-funnel to drive traction, drive velocity further down the funnel, closer to actually closing the deal.

Taylor: We actually have gotten much better at bringing in marketing at the later stages, especially as we go upmarket and work with bigger companies. If we want to do some kind of a cross-sell motion or an awareness campaign to a particular persona, we partner really closely with marketing to try to get to a cross platform play. 

Mackay: We often think about marketing as just ‘one-to-many’, but there’s ‘one-to-one’ too. One of the best pieces of marketing spend I saw, at a previous company, was when one of our customers was on the edge of leaving. We were aware that they were trying to have a corporate planning event but didn’t have the budget to do it. So we paid for their entire event and it totally turned around. It was a complete ‘one to one’ investment on that account.

Q: What is your advice for selling to vertical segments?

O’Reilly: As well as having the right content, look at very targeted events. Be that hosting private dinners or hosting community events with speakers that will be helpful for them. Or attending conferences where you know your customers will be. Things like organic search or paid search are not a good investment when you’re dealing with just a small number of customers in your market.

Mackay: Everything is custom in that sort of space, when the pool of customers is smaller or more niche. So the ‘one-to-few’ or ‘one-to-one’ marketing tactics work best here. I would also look for potential partners that are already entrenched in the vertical.

This is the first blog in our B2B Go-To-Market series. Our next article addresses selling to the enterprise and you can visit RTP’s News and Views to read all the articles in the series.