Looking for leads?
Are you looking for better ways to feed your sales teams, so they can bring in more deals over the next year? Are you looking to automate marketing and certain aspects of sales to improve sales outcomes, and accelerate the velocity of new closed business?
If so, a lead generation agency may have the solutions you're looking for, but with so many different methodologies and philosophies out there, how do you find the right one for your b2b?
A high-level overview
There are a lot of different types of lead generation service providers out there, but I think for the most part, they can be put into 5 categories, and I've sorted them based on their organic vs non-organic nature.
- Inbound marketing services (MOST organic)
- Inbound lead services (big difference between this and the previous)
- Appointment setting services
- Lead lists
- Black magic voodoo (The opposite of organic)
There are 2 benefits to organic:
- You own the results, which means they get better over time
- They're less risky (Google won't penalize you, and/or they are less likely to become obsolete at the drop of a dime)
Most of these lead generation strategies have a place with b2b companies - choosing the right one(s) is really about you. What do you have the stomach for, and what kind of growth are you looking to accomplish?
Among the group, inbound marketing is the most different from all of the other lead generation services presented today when it comes to philosophical drivers. It's also the most organic, so it's the least likely to get you into trouble, and you'll be able to build on your learning curve.
The main idea behind the inbound methodology is to pull people to your company rather than push a disruptive agenda.
This means that leads landing in your salespeoples' inboxes through inbound marketing have given permission directly to your company market and sell to them.
There are 4 stages to inbound, and several tactics at each stage:
1 - Attract:
- PPC (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Adwords, etc)
- Social media marketing
2 - Convert:
- Calls-to-Action (what are those?) & links
- Landing pages
- Content offers
3 - Close:
- Live sales alerts
- Email nurturing
- Sales automation
4 - Delight:
- More of everything
- Referral programs
YOU should be hosting all of the software where a program like this would be delivered. This prevents IP disputes, and keeps you in the driver's seat. My favorite b2b lead generation tools include Hubspot (also good for B2C) Marketing AND Sales. The latter has some interesting web tools, and brings it home. My favorite b2b lead generation software? You got it... Hubspot again. In fact, why don't you check out my review on the tool?
Learn more with this guide to getting started with Inbound:
2. Inbound Lead Services / Providers
Many of the "inbound marketing" agencies you're looking at may actually inbound lead providers. Sure, the leads they're generating may know your company and may have even expressed interest in your company and service offerings, but if your company doesn't own the marketing and the IP (how to protect yourself against IP piracy), it's not the same.
One Inbound Lead Service provider I come across is Softwareadvice.com. They're a review site, and when visitors say they're interested in a particular software, a lead is generated, and subsequently sent over to the software company, so they can follow up at their leisure.
Often, you as a business have to pay a subscription fee to get your review put at the top of the list when somebody types in a description of the software they're looking for rather than an actual company name.
They don't all work exactly the way I mentioned above, but if you're not sure, here is a table that compares inbound lead services with inbound marketing services.
|Inbound Marketing Services||Inbound Lead Services|
|Landing pages that host content offers exist on YOUR domain or subdomain||
Landing pages are hosted by the service provider
|IP is owned by your company||
IP is owned by service provider
|Content creation happens with your involvement and approval||
You will probably never see how the sausage is made
|Turning it off will likely result in gradually diminishing benefits over time||
Turning it off will have immediate stoppage in benefits
|Leaving it on will result in gradually improved benefits over time||
Leaving it on without changes will result in the same results
- Results are relatively quick - you're not waiting to earn trust from Google
- It works, and there is plenty of proof of it
- Leads will know enough about your company to take a call more often than with a pure cold lead
- Leads have given you permission to market and sell to them (by way of the service provider)
- Your company doesn't own any of the IP
- There is little to no involvement in the lead generation process
- Deliverable focuses less on financial results and more on milestone objectives
- It may not be enough (read how we boosted sales through influencing a software company's Softwareadvice.com leads by 500% YOY)
3. Appointment setting services
This is where you hire an agency to jump on the phone and cold call lists of leads that they own and manage. It's pretty straight forward.
- Results can vary, but they are relatively quick
- Among the lowest up-front costs when you consider salary you don't need to add to your payroll
- Accountability is often milestone-driven (ie, you're purchasing appointments, not deals)
- Appointment setters don't have a real connection to your business when shared
- Leads typically haven't given anybody permission to call them prior to the first point of contact
- Discontinuing services results in immediate stoppage of benefits
- You do not control the means and delivery of the first point of contact
This might be the laziest approach to sales, but
4. Email lists
This is new terminology for lead lists. Granted, they have come a LONG way from the early days of Hoovers and D&B reports, but they are the coldest leads among the group.
In case you're wondering, I've heard some pretty fantastic things about limeleads.com (no affiliation, nor an endorsement), so they might be worth looking into if this is the route you think is right for your company.
This is a great way to get new clients emails, phone numbers, and other important contact information. B2b marketers tend to shy away from them, however, because they pose some risks.
- Immediate results - You get your purchased database right away
- Some of the more advanced data warehouse lead providers have accurate phone numbers and email addresses a large majority of the time - and are even updated when changes occur
- 90% of your competitors are doing it this way
- Your leads know NOTHING about your company
- Often, contact information is wrong
- There is zero accountability with the provider
- You can get blacklisted by email servers tired of seeing you marked as spam
- You may turn off good opportunities because of your disruptive messaging
5. Black magic voodoo
I wouldn't be doing you any favors if I didn't share some thoughts about the services out there that seem too good to be true... the ones that are bending the rules and blurring the lines of ethics... that do things that are frowned upon by SERPs and social media platforms designed to bring professionals closer together.
There are many of these out there, and will do any of the following:
- Scrape data from social media to create call lists
- Spam people on social media to create connections and set appointments
- Pull user data (including email addresses) from those who visit your website
- Pull user data from visiting other peoples' websites
- Immediate results that are highly relevant (they're visiting your website or in your network)
- You have a complete profile
- There tends to be context
- Easy come, easy go - if you build an entire growth strategy around this, you could be in trouble
- You could lose access to important social media accounts like LinkedIn
- You could get dinged by the SERPs when they figure you out (and they usually do)
Seeing an ad for something you just looked at yesterday is not black magic voodoo, by the way. THAT is Google Adwords Retargeting, and usually part of a thorough inbound marketing program.
I had clients using a service that pulled all contact information into Hubspot out of LinkedIn (here are LinkedIn's rules). I had others that were providing contact information for visitors on their websites. Lately, both have been very difficult to work with, and since much of their growth strategy was built around them, they stalled.
I have also spent many years fixing black hat link farms and other shady website strategies that worked great for a day, then made their online presence completely obsolete in the blink of an eye.
Yes, a lead generation agency could help you grow your business. Whatever route you take, it's important to understand where their accountability ends and yours begins... and, of course, what the risk factors are both short and long term. Hopefully these insights were helpful.
If you want to learn more about inbound lead generation and what it means to work with an inbound lead generation marketing agency, click HERE: