B2B Lead Generation Services for Small Businesses

By
Max Freedman
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business.com Contributing Writer
| Updated
Jan 08, 2021
Image Credit: Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images
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Lead generation services help businesses identify new potential customers and get them into the sales funnel. But how can you be sure a lead generation service is reliable or effective for your business? This buyer's guide explains the basics of lead generation services and what to look for when choosing a lead generation service for your business.

Benefits of generating leads online

Sales are vital for every business. Whether you run a startup or an established company, sometimes you need a little help finding prospective customers or clients for your sales team to contact. In these cases, a lead generation company can help you identify contacts. The best services have tools that can gauge interest and score leads, noting which contacts are most likely to become customers.

In addition to helping your business identify potential new customers, many of these companies can assist you in reaching out to your leads and existing customers through multiple channels, such as email, social media, direct mail and telephone. This service can be particularly helpful if you need to get the word out about a new product or service, a special sale, or an event.

Many lead companies can also help you polish your online presence to make it easier for potential customers to find your business. They can perform SEO services, enhance your website's design, and even create content for your website, such as press releases, newsletters, blogs and whitepapers, driving traffic to your website and helping you to establish your company as a thought leader in your industry.

The best sales lead generation services can help your business grow by providing you with comprehensive sales and marketing support, helping you to identify, contact and market to potential customers. (If you're just looking for a company to help you with a specific marketing channel, check out our guides on the best internet marketingemail marketing or direct mail marketing services for pointers on how to choose the best services for your business.)

Techniques involved in generating leads online

Generating leads online usually involves several approaches that are beneficial on their own but even more powerful together.

Optimizing your website

An optimized website is user-friendly and primed to appear high up in internet search results. If your website is difficult to navigate or appears uninteresting, outdated, or boring, you might struggle to convert website visitors to leads. It's much easier to guide your audience to your website and nurture leads if your online lead generation campaign includes search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

Targeting customers with paid advertising

It's one thing to turn to traditional ad sources – billboards, newspapers, radio spots – for outbound lead generation. It's another to put money toward reaching your target audience. That's why targeting customers with paid advertising is a tried-and-true way to generate leads online.

Creating meaningful content

Compelling, relevant content is key to any inbound marketing strategy. It's also why meaningful content marketing is an important part of lead generation. Creating content that attracts the customers you want to reach is the first step in an inbound lead generation approach that identifies the people with the highest potential interest in your products or services.

Growing your social media presence

Cultivating a strong social media presence is among the most reliable ways to generate leads online. A trustworthy lead generation software program will work with you to improve your social media pages so they appeal more strongly to consumers. When shopping for lead generation services, consider social media marketing – not just social media refinement – as a feature yours should include.

Streamlining your email marketing

Whether you're emailing customers you've lost or reaching out to potential new customers, email marketing can be crucial in lead nurturing. That's partly because you can easily see which recipients opened the email or clicked the links within it when you generate leads via email marketing. These people should be among the first you contact when the time comes, and they may be especially easy to remain in contact with at every step of the sales funnel.

Generating local leads

If you're a small business that only services a specific region, then local lead generation should be part of your campaign. Through this digital marketing approach, your lead generation service will target consumers in your area rather than tackling a larger, possibly irrelevant audience. As such, the customers in your region likeliest to need your products or services will comprise a larger portion of the leads.

Managing customer relationships

Occasionally, lead generation services include their own customer relationship management (CRM) tools. In these cases, you can count on your lead generation company to do most of the work to not only generate leads but convert them into repeat customers. If your lead generation service doesn't have built-in CRM tools, it might still integrate seamlessly with your CRM platform.

Contacting leads

You shouldn't expect your leads to simply come to you with no effort on your part. An effective lead generation approach involves actually contacting the people you have identified as interested in your products and services. If you aren't certain how to do this yourself, rest easy – many lead generation services handle this task for you too.

Generating B2B leads

It's one thing to seek everyday customers for your company. It's another to target other businesses that might benefit from your products or services. B2B marketers can help with this goal. Certain lead generation companies may be more proficient at B2B outreach than others, so if you have B2B needs, ask any companies that you contact about their capacity for these services.

Any of the above approaches can generate numerous leads on their own. In tandem, these approaches maximize your sales potential by attracting consumers to content about your company, educating them on the problems your products solve and tying these products to their everyday lives. The more that relevant consumers know about your company, the more likely they are to transform from leads into customers – and lead generation companies employ diverse tactics to achieve this goal.

 

How to generate sales leads with lead generation campaigns

When evaluating lead generation companies, you need to decide whether you want to hire a service that can help you generate leads organically (using your website and social media channels) or one that has a database of contacts you can access.

A lead generation service that bolsters your website or social media pages can open new routes to your target audience, whereas a database-focused digital marketing strategy may be only temporarily beneficial. That's because many lead generation companies solely rent out their databases, meaning you lose access to those contacts after the rental period, whereas improvements to your website and social media pages don't have an expiration date.

Although a few companies provide the full spectrum of lead generation services, most companies offer a certain mix of services. While most companies can help you optimize your website to improve its search engine rankings and promote your business on social media platforms, fewer provide document and whitepaper creation services.

Lead gen companies also differ in the contact methods they assist you with. Nearly every company can help you with your email marketing and event promotion efforts. However, there is some variance among companies when it comes to direct mail marketing campaigns, marketing automation, telemarketing duties, B2B appointment-setting services and other ways of contacting your target audience.

30 common lead generation services

Lead generation businesses offer dozens of services that can draw consumers to your company. Here are 30 of the most prominent services.

  1. Account-based marketing: Sales and digital marketing teams work together to identify high-priority leads and expose them to customized buying experiences.

  2. Appointment setting: Your lead generation service liaises between your company and its leads to schedule appointments.

  3. Call tracking: The company determines the marketing approaches that result in the most calls to your business. You can use this information to shape your future marketing and lead generation efforts.

  4. Content development and distribution: Your lead generation service creates meaningful content for your company and determines a strategy for exposing it to your audience.

  5. Customer engagement: These actions are based on the principle that the more time consumers spend on your website, social media posts, or other content, the more sense it makes to contact them and focus on nurturing these leads.

  6. Customer relationship management: The service uses CRM software to convert your audience into longtime, frequent customers.

  7. Email list rental: You can borrow an email list – whether of everyday consumers or key B2B contacts – from a lead generation service for a fee. Once the rental period expires, you will no longer have access to this list.

  8. Email marketing: The company helps you start and grow relationships with leads and retain one-time buyers as long-term customers through email campaigns.

  9. Event promotion: The company draws attention to your business's upcoming events, particularly those intended to attract new customers, via marketing channels and direct outreach.

  10. Inbound marketing: The company uses SEO, content, branding and social media to connect consumers with solutions to their problems that your business can offer. (Outbound marketing usually involves content not directly related to a consumer's immediate needs.)

  11. Landing page development and testing: The company can create a compelling landing page for your website and subsequently test the landing page against other possible versions to identify spots that need improvement – and easier routes to conversion.

  12. Lead generation chatbots: It implements an automated live chat tool on your website to answer leads' questions in real time.

  13. Lead nurture and follow-up: The service builds and strengthens your brand's relationships with buyers at every step of the sales funnel. Most lead generation services will follow up with customers contacted at previous stages of the sales funnel once a certain amount of time passes without a response or decision from them.

  14. Lead qualification: The lead gen company determines whether a lead fits the ideal traits of your customers, appears likely to buy from your company, or could become a reliable customer.

  15. Lead scoring: It uses marketing and engagement data to gauge leads' interest in your products or services.

  16. Lead verification: It confirms that a lead's contact information is correct and that the lead is part of your target audience.

  17. Marketing automation: The company can manage several simultaneous marketing campaigns through automated emails, social media posts and other content.

  18. Market research: It gathers data about relevant consumers' spending habits.

  19. Mobile advertising: The service offers advertising tailored to mobile devices instead of desktop.

  20. Native ads: The service can create sponsored content or ads that appear prominently in spaces where someone might not usually look for ads.

  21. Newsletter sponsorship: You can pay for placement of your content or ads in an email newsletter with a dedicated audience of customers relevant to your company.

  22. Paid search: The service can place ads at the top of relevant internet search results to draw consumers to your company and generate new leads.

  23. PR and brand awareness: The company sends out messaging that and informs the public about your company and its products and services.

  24. Reports: The company documents real-time and/or long-term data about its lead generation efforts on your behalf.

  25. Retargeting: It uses digital tools to keep your company present in online ads that a consumer who briefly looked at your website sees elsewhere for days after.

  26. Search engine optimization (SEO): The service improves your website's quality and traffic to increase its rankings in internet search results.

  27. Social media management: You can choose to give the company full oversight and execution of your brand's social media presence.

  28. Social media marketing: The service promotes your product or business through social media pages, posts and sponsored content.

  29. Web development: The service can build and optimize a company website for you.


  30. Whitepaper creation and distribution: Whitepapers are in-depth reports through which a lead generation service educates your business leads on how your product or service solves a problem they're facing.

What to look for in a lead generation service

When you're looking for a sales lead generation company, it's important to consider exactly what services your business needs. Ask yourself which marketing channels you want to focus on, and whether you have in-house staff who could handle the lead generation process. You should also decide which stages of the sales funnel are the best times for your company to contact and nurture leads, or you can take a full-funnel marketing approach that prioritizes all stages equally.

Tracking and reporting tools are important to look for in a lead generation company so that you can monitor your leads and campaigns. Finally, you need to think about what kind of customer service you expect from your third-party lead generation program.

 

How to make the most of a lead generation service

To make the most of your lead generation company, you should choose one that offers an array of services, whether your needs are primarily in marketing automation, appointment setting or something else. You should only pursue services you actually need – just because a lead generation approach exists doesn't make it meaningful for your company.

Determining the lead generation services most relevant to your company

It's often wise to choose a company that focuses more on inbound approaches to marketing and lead generation than outbound approaches. If done improperly, outbound marketing can be intrusive, which deters potential customers from pursuing your products and services.

In particular, you can get the most of the service by making sure its inbound online lead generation is part of a broad marketing strategy. It should be able to show you how it will use your social media pages, website, blog posts, Google Ads and email newsletters for a comprehensive digital marketing approach.

Of course, a focus on inbound marketing doesn't mean that your online lead generation process should never include outbound marketing – you just have to be tactful about it. For example, you could limit your outbound ad placements to relatively innocuous social media feeds. That said, if you do prefer a more aggressive lead generation strategy, such as telemarketing, or think that the more upfront approach of paid social media content, mobile ads, native ads, and retargeting is best for your target audience, you should be certain the company you choose excels in these methods.

For example, a company that specializes in traditional advertising for its lead generation campaigns may not be effective for you if you're seeking consistent sales lead contact for every step of the sales funnel. Traditional methods focus mostly on attracting customers, not retaining them.

Whatever approach you want, you should build your lead generation program around not what a certain company provides, but your own marketing needs. Once you identify those, you can find the best service for your goals.

How to tell whether a lead generation service is worth the price

If you've fallen into the trap of prioritizing a certain company even if it's not a perfect fit, it's probably because other options are more expensive. You should rethink this approach – successfully generating leads may be worth spending extra, since converting leads to customers is how you earn revenue in the first place. In fact, especially low prices for lead generation services may be a red flag.

While price quotes vary by company, you will know you're spending your money wisely if your lead generation service pairs you with an account manager, provides regular reports, employs plenty of tracking tools and is easily reachable. Keep in mind that no lead generation service can guarantee results – the ones worth spending on will document their work and show that they've used their resources and connections to your best advantage.

Top lead generation services

Lead generation companies offer a variety of services that can help you find more customers, such as giving you access to contact databases, improving your online presence, and assisting you in your marketing campaigns. The best lead generation tools adapt to your marketing needs or desired lead generation tactics, such as inbound or email marketing. Look for a lead generation company that offers a variety of services, including social media management, paid search marketing, digital PR and other inbound methods of generating leads.

If you prefer to work with a company that focuses on B2B lead generation and appointment setting, look for services that take an integrated approach to marketing your business to other companies. For example, consider a company that uses inbound marketing, social media such as Facebook, telemarketing, lead nurturing and appointment setting in its lead generation efforts. The best lead gen companies also provide integration with leading CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Most services, whether B2B lead generation or more customer-focused companies, also help you manage and contact your leads to move them along the sales funnel. Careful outreach to leads should be part and parcel of your marketing efforts, as should the variety of tracking and reporting tools that lead generation services often provide. The best lead generation services assign you an account manager who gives your small business personalized attention, helping you earn new customers or clients through careful digital marketing.

Jill Bowers contributed to the writing and research in this article.

Local lead generation

Given their focus on the internet – where people separated by thousands of miles can instantly interact – many lead generation companies' marketing efforts can theoretically reach anybody from any corner of the world. These services may lack local tools, but other companies may specialize in local marketing campaigns. If you operate a storefront or any type of business with a local target audience, you may want to add local lead generation to your marketing checklist.

Reporting

The best lead generation services provide real-time reporting tools, usually accessible in a web portal where you can manage your account and leads. Most of these companies either integrate with your existing CRM software or provide a platform that includes both database access and CRM tools. Additionally, most assign you a personal account manager, who gives your account special attention and works with you directly to manage your campaigns and other lead generation efforts.

Tracking

Most lead gen companies offer a selection of tracking services to help you manage your leads. Many verify the leads they collect, ensuring the contact information they provide you is accurate and that the customer or business is part of your target audience. Most companies also use lead scoring to help you gauge a lead's interest in your products or services based on inbound marketing data points. These points include the time that the lead spends on your website and the number of your emails the lead opens.

Lead generation companies can help you categorize, or segment, your leads so that you can decide the best way to follow up with each group. They can then help you make initial contact with the leads by making telephone calls on your behalf, sending direct mail, or reaching out via email or social media. They can also provide you with contact lists or other means to organize your leads.

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