How to Generate Leads in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Does it seem that B2B lead generation has suddenly tanked these days? Are you struggling with how to generate leads, especially for B2B?
Well, what can I say? This is a pretty scary time for all of us, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic being a once-in-a-lifetime black swan event. Many businesses are cutting back on headcount and spending.
However, this is not the time to cease lead generation or nurture. Doing so will place you at a competitive disadvantage as many similar companies in your industry will be doubling down on B2B lead generation. Your leads may not be ready to buy now, but will be once things calm down. Your company will be in a much stronger position when the economy recovers — and it will.
This article shows how to generate leads in these times–and do it correctly. Because what might have worked before may not work now.
Table of Contents
Don’t Scare Prospects Away With These 3 Lead Generation Mistakes
Are you making these common lead generation faux pas? Read on and stop leaking leads like a sieve. We show you the three most common mistakes you can make when generating leads so as to not cost you future business.
1. Lack of focus
When a visitor enters your website or resources page, he will make a snap judgement if it contains the answer to his question. If it doesn’t, he will bounce within 10 seconds. So you have to make sure he finds something interesting within that time frame or else he is gone for good.
The first thing your visitor sees should grab his attention, so any headline completely unrelated to the problem the visitor is having is useless. Precious website real estate near the top of the page should be reserved for headlines that immediately grab your readers’ attention by accurately mirroring what they are trying to accomplish. This requires clever writing and a solid understanding of your prospects’ needs.
2. Failing to follow up with your prospects even when they don’t reply
Let’s say you made the intelligent decision to invest in a Resources page with quality content of a high educational value and as a result, search engines like Google and Bing ranked you higher for the keywords your readers use to find the content. The person searching for a new logistics provider will see your website among the top results. He clicks the link, reads the content, and even leaves his email address in exchange for a white paper. So far, so good. You’ve gotten his attention.
Here is the kicker, though. Many businesses completely fail to follow through.
Instead of following up with a friendly and helpful email campaign with links to other relevant content in the resource center, they sit on their hands. The prospect is obviously interested since he signed up and spent his valuable time reading that content. But if you don’t follow up with an email campaign to offer your product, he may find a competitor while continuing his research and someone else will close the sale with him.
It’s not enough to create awareness and give out free information. You have to actively offer your solution to the client. The best way to approach this is to continue adding relevant information to the resources page, and offer solutions to the prospect through email.
3. Not showing empathy towards your prospect’s needs
This is especially true in these times during the pandemic. Acting like nothing is happening in your B2B lead generation campaigns will only make you sound tone deaf at best (or obnoxious at worst). You’d be surprised at how many people lack empathy in their marketing campaigns. Fortunately, that makes it crystal clear on whom you should do business with and whom you should avoid like the plague (pun intended).
Now, the specifics. Your website or resources page should read like you’ve solved this problem for so many other businesses, and that you perfectly understand the situation your prospect is in. It should cover all sides of the issue and gently guide your prospect to buy the solution from you. How do you know what the prospect’s problems are and how can you gain an understanding of all sides of their issues?
By asking them! If you create a resources page without talking to your target prospects first, you’re highly unlikely to hit the mark with the most valuable lead magnets. In that case, your prospect may believe you don’t really understand them and will likely take his business elsewhere. There are too many pitfalls to discuss them all in detail. Here’s a shortlist:
- Using jargon the prospect is not familiar with, or generally unclear language.
- Having a structure that makes it hard to find the right information at the right time.
- Using a design that lacks aesthetic awareness reflects poorly on your brand.
- Not providing answers to the most common objections, concerns and desires.
The last bullet deserves some further discussion. For instance, in a sales call, you would address any objections and concerns that may come up in conversation. A website may be a different medium, but you are still selling and you still have to address potential objections that might be holding your prospect back from taking the leap. Your resources center is the perfect place to create informational content that discusses any objections your prospect may have.
Create Lead Magnets that Help Prospects Earn Quick Wins
How a lead magnet boosts sales revenue
A lead magnet is a white paper, eBook, or any piece of educational content that your readers can access by entering their email address. When done right, the resource provides value to them and becomes the start of a solid client-customer relationship. You get their contact information, so that you can offer your product or service to leads that are happy to hear from you.
The term “lead magnet” was introduced to build email lists by giving away free content. In reality, this only works if there is a strong connection between the content of the lead magnet and the subsequent campaign. Both should match with what the prospect is searching for.
Sending out generic newsletters was never a winning strategy. But nowadays it is even less effective because there is an ever-increasing horde of marketers fighting for your prospects’ attention. Their skepticism and impatience with sloppy email marketing increased as the signal-to-noise ratio decreased. We have an article about how to do email campaigns without annoying your subscribers.
One thing has remained the same, however:
People looking to solve a specific problem gravitate to you when you help them by adding to their knowledge or presenting possible solutions. A helpful lead magnet does exactly that, moving you to the top of your prospect’s shortlist for when they need further assistance with their problem.
A strong lead magnet radiates competence
Imagine you are looking to buy a new mobile phone for business use and you walk into a large store. There are hundreds of models available and you have no desire to spend your valuable time comparing them all. Fortunately, a salesperson walks over and asks you which features you need and which ones you don’t. Based on your answer, he instantly selects three suitable options that meets all your needs but vary slightly in cost and appearance.
Now imagine that one week later, you are tasked with buying new phones for fifty of your coworkers. Would you go back to that competent salesperson who can save you hours of research? If you are still satisfied with the phone he recommended, of course you would. His previous advice turned you into a returning customer.
An engaging yet informative lead magnet does the same. You save the prospect time by filling gaps in his knowledge and advising him on possible solutions. By demonstrating your willingness to assist him in the research phase of his buyers journey, you build a relationship that may inspire him to become your client when the time is right to make a purchase decision.
Using lead magnets to address objections
According to a Harvard Business School professor, Gerald Zaltman, 95% of our purchase decisions are emotional. Showing competence as well as a willingness to talk about their concerns will sway their buying decisions in your favor. Therefore, you need to address any objections that may hold your prospects back from becoming your customer.
You want to assure them that they won’t experience any of the annoyances they have experienced in the past (while doing business with a competitor, for example). This is very different from turning your lead magnet into a sales pitch. You want to show you are competent by assisting your lead with his research and subtly take away any possible objections to working with you.
What makes a good lead magnet?
There are many kinds:
- Strategy worksheets
- Insightful one-pagers
- Case studies
- White papers
In fact, white papers are among the most effective lead magnets out there. They are better suited for prospects in their research phase near the top of your sales funnel – or beginning of your pipeline, whereas case studies are more targeted towards prospects who are much closer to making a buying decision.
5 Reasons White Papers Are Effective For B2B Lead Generation
White papers discuss a particular problem and the preferred solution. The goal of a white paper to provide an evidence-based source of helpful information to demonstrate competence and professionalism that attracts qualified leads. What makes publishing a white paper such a good method for generating leads?
Here are five reasons why the good old white paper is one of the best B2B lead generation tools in the B2B technology, SaaS, Fintech and blockchain technology fields. Do remember, however, that a white paper is only one piece of a larger resource content plan and lead generation strategy.
1. White papers are great at qualifying leads
Why would anyone spend their time reading a white paper? The sole reason is to collect information regarding a problem they are trying to solve. If you state on your website that the white paper provides a solution to a specific problem, anyone who signs up to download it are those who are struggling with that exact problem. All leads that are collected this way are highly targeted leads who can be nurtured using email campaigns.
2. White papers demonstrate expertise
The two main criteria that a lead uses to select the right provider for him are competence and professionalism. An evidence-based white paper shows that you are competent and know what you are talking about. Preferably, it contains a large quantity of well-chosen references or data points that the reader can verify at the source. You could also include case studies to demonstrate your experience in solving their problems.
3. White papers inspire trust
Publishing a white paper can put you on the radar of someone who is looking for a service provider but is not quite ready to make a decision. Reading a white paper is a low-cost way to do research without any obligations attached. If the white paper is well-written and professional, it inspires trust in your abilities. If a lead likes what you wrote, it will feel like they just found the company they are looking for.
4. White papers improve credibility
From now on, every person that wants more information on this particular problem can be referred to your white paper. Word can spread amongst people with the same problem that your white paper is a valuable resource. If it is a particularly complex problem, it is likely that this document will be used as a reference guide in the industry. And once search engines notice how popular it is, your page may rank much higher, therefore generating more traffic and leads.
5. White papers are more objective than sales letters
A sales pitch is usually insufficient to determine if a provider is actually competent and professional, or if they are pretending to be. When someone is shopping for a product or service, he is first and foremost tasked with distinguishing facts from fiction.
There is nothing wrong with asking for a sale. But if a lead is in the research phase of their buyers journey, they will not be ready for it. You are far better off providing them with something they can use versus trying to sell to a lead who is not yet ready to engage. He will remember this when the time has come to make a decision. By publishing a resource that doesn’t have any marketing fluff, your prospect can evaluate you based on cold hard facts.
Email Campaigns Nurture Leads From Your Resources Page
So your readers are sharing their email addresses with you as to receive your premium content. Congratulations! But how can you convert those email signups into paying customers without wasting a lot of resources?
Email campaigns are just one piece of the larger resource content strategy, where many pieces work in synergy to create a powerful lead generating machine. I’ll share the process of turning a simple signup into a loyal customer with email campaigns. I will also explain why email campaigns have a superior return on investment compared to other methods.
How to quickly transform an email subscriber into a loyal customer
A resource center is a collection of content pieces where you provide in-depth information about the main problem of your clients. This can be in the form of articles or data sheets your audience can read for free, or premium content such as whitepapers or webinars that they access by entering their email address. Your resource center should also contain case studies showcasing your expertise in solving problems for your clients.
Creating a resources page has two goals. The first is to establish yourself as a sought-after authority in the field, leading to more organic traffic from potential customers. The second is to sell your products or services to these leads without going overboard on your sales pitch.
To start this process you need their contact info. Your best content should be gated so a lead can only open it by providing their email address. If your value proposition is clear and easy to understand, and you provide high quality content, your prospects will be happy to give you their email address.
Why email campaigns are the most profitable lead generation choice
There are several strategies you could employ. One way is to target your readers through social media. However, email is still the most widely used medium for professional communication, and also the most profitable when it comes to making sales. For more details, read how email marketing and social media marketing compare in terms of B2B lead generation.
However, you should use your email list wisely. Some people spam their leads to death, but this is very inefficient and won’t make you popular. You may even get you in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission or find yourself in violation of the GDPR. People have received so much junkmail over the years that anything that remotely resembles spam (even a well-intended newsletter) is readily deleted.
The solution is to develop well-written email campaigns that give your leads the feeling you are purposefully reaching out to them with solutions that are highly valuable to them. The relationship will be strengthened if, and only if, your email truly helps them out.
Determine their buying stage in your sales pipeline
The goal of an email campaign is to sell your product or service to your leads. To do this effectively, you need to know which buying stage a particular lead is currently at. This will determine the content that this lead will receive. If he appears ready to buy, you could also reach out to him directly to finalize the deal. If he needs more time, you can start sending him information to help him make the right decision, while building a relationship at the same time. For example, an old trick is to send your new email signup a message asking him what his biggest struggle is regarding the subject he was researching. His response will shed some light on the buying stage he is in.
You can also send your leads emails with information related to the whitepaper they downloaded. Make sure that the email is written conversationally and delivers real value to the client (not just truisms or general knowledge). This is a great strategy if you are already aware of the questions that prospects usually have because they will feel as if you can read their minds. Based on your tracking of their opens and clicks, if they consume the content you send them, you will have an idea of where they are in their buyer’s journey.
3 Ways to Generate Leads Organically
Cold calling and email campaigns are powerful weapons in the hands of a competent marketer. But there are more efficient–and organic–ways to reach prospects and find leads that are a perfect fit for your business. Here are three new strategies to ensure a steady flow of highly engaged and qualified leads.
Remember, in difficult times like this, think human-to-human instead of B2B or B2C.
1. Follow or connect with others on LinkedIn. Engage!
Even in B2B, we should remember that the person on the other side of the whole deal is also human. Instead of taking the traditional B2B approach, which can also be perceived as “boring-to0-boring”, we should take an approach that resembles something closer to B2C. Better yet, treat the other person as a human being. Empathize, compliment, and engage:
- Like their posts.
- Comment on their articles.
- Follow them.
- Connect with them.
- Chat about mutual interests.
Then, once they get to know you, you can make an offer or add them to your sales sequence.
This can be done on any social media platform like Facebook or Twitter, but for B2B, LinkedIn is the single best platform for this. It is recommended you obtain a Sales Navigator account so you could save your leads to follow up with them later, or at the very least, use a CRM like Hubspot or Salesforce. Here is a list of the top 15 CRMs for your business.
If you need support in engaging more on LinkedIn, or don’t have the time to do so yourself, you may hire a B2B lead generation agency who specializes in LinkedIn (one option is Legendary Leadgen).
2. Join discussions in online forums and social media
If you run a business around solving a particular problem, you can look online for websites where problem-havers congregate. Put yourself on their radar by publicly answering their questions. But where to start?
Social media, of course! There’s a discussion group on Facebook and LinkedIn for every problem imaginable. Subscribe to these groups and follow the discussions to learn more about their cultures and start contributing. If there are no groups on social media, there are often private forums available.
Keep in mind that in most groups active promotion of your product or service is not allowed. However, it is not against the rules to have a clear profile that states what company you represent. If posting about your product or service in a public discussion is not appropriate, you can always send personal messages with an offer. Plus, participating in online discussions will give you plenty of inspiration for content ideas in your B2B Resource Center, an extremely powerful lead-generating machine.
3. Attend virtual networking events
In the past, we would go to conferences, trade shows, and local mixers. And in the future, after the pandemic is over, these will happen again. However, during the pandemic with social distancing measures, there are many virtual conferences you could attend without booking a flight ticket (thus saving you travel and hotel expenses). Commit to speaking publicly at as many as you can.
Prospects do not just want to know if you are competent, but also prefer to do business with someone who is professional and pleasant to be around. Competence and pleasant professionalism are not the same thing. Public speaking and networking are tried-and-true ways to showcase all three qualities at once. Everyone fears public speaking and they will respect you for being brave enough to go on stage. When a decision maker is faced with hiring you or a competitor, your presentation will easily come to mind.
Do not hesitate to hire a coach to help you improve your public speaking. A good coach is worth his weight in gold. If you are presenting for 200 decision makers, a good impression can lead to a huge and drastic increase in sales. The same goes for networking. Depending on your area of expertise, it may be essential to your long-term success. Don’t be afraid to invest in quality advice from your networks.