Foolproof Ways to Generate Your Own B2B InBound Leads

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At our agency, we like to joke about how we can make our lives more difficult. We work in industries with long sales cycles, have complex products, and are expensive and often unromantic. We also work with lots of hyper-local competition. Perhaps this week we’ll make life interesting by only typing with our left hands. 

We’re a California based agency specializing in lead generation for the renewables and environmentally-focused industries. We primarily work with residential and commercial solar companies. However, we also work in high-ticket B2B ag tech, software, and environmental verticals. 

As such, we’ve acquired a lot of data on what kind of B2B lead generation channels work for these industries and which don’t. B2B lead generation strategies and tactics all rely on the same principles. They’re also highly applicable for any B2B lead generation product or service.

We follow a simple program:

  • Develop personas/choose niche
  • Develop collateral
  • Build out lead channels
  • Set up lead follow up systems

Wait, You Don’t Buy Leads?

No. In fact, we recommend our clients stop buying commercial leads. Our argument is that as a B2B firm, you need to invest in lead generation systems using your brand’s assets. In the end, this builds brand equity and you control every interaction with your customer. 

Here are our three steps:

Step One: Choose a Niche, Segment and Define Our Personas

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Who have you had fantastic results with? What kind of businesses? Is there a pattern? 

Choosing your niche is as simple as having one stellar client example you can showcase to other business owners just like them. It’s as easy as creating a simple testimonial video (using your phone is fine) of you speaking with a happy customer. Have them detail their experience and results in working with you. If they’re remote, send them a gift card or gift in exchange for them shooting a video with their phone even “selfie-style”.

Then, we can use channels like Facebook Ads, SEO, cold email, etc. to show off our testimonials.

Persona Development

Developing a persona is a critical exercise often overlooked or rushed through by other agencies. This exercise later helps us develop highly targeted messaging and offers that better resonate with our audiences. It may even stimulate repositioning ideas to focus on a specific market: 

“We are the West Coast’s #1 Solar Energy Provider for Churches”.

Defining who to target and internalizing their experiences, education and backgrounds is highly beneficial. It forces us to visualize and understand the emotional toll business owners experience when trying to solve problems.

For example, consider a church administrator who needs to reduce high electricity bills from operational costs. We can craft a case study a church administrator or pastor would see value in. We could also use a video testimonial of a pastor speaking, or a case study showing average payback times.

The more specific we get, the more accurate our personas. The more accurate our personas, the better our message will resonate with our prospects.

Your sales team is also acutely aware of common pain points and objections. Document these on paper and develop ideas that address each point. Take an executive out to lunch. Find out exactly what adversity these industries face, why some are perhaps more restricted to capital than others, and how you can help. Most of all, this step helps us understand what they value and what they don’t. This is the basis for a value ladder for the customer.

Step Two: Developing Marketing Collateral for Our Personas

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As you may have noticed, these steps build on each other. Now that we’ve established buyer personas and have a basic value ladder, we can visualize each of their customer journeys. We can also build marketing collateral that provides value at each stage of their journey.

Let’s say we’ve come up with our municipality/government persona example. This space is already crowded. So, chances are the solar industry’s top commercial firms have already done most of the leg work on who to target. Now, let’s look at all the marketing collateral and industry-specific pages already developed to target local municipalities.

For example, start with a “solar for water districts” type of search.

We returned with a blog post from provider Sunpower titled “Solar Power for Water Districts” at position one. It talks specifically about the advantages and applicability of solar for water districts and how it saves taxpayers money. (The core benefit water district’s focus on is saving their taxpayers money.)

This blog post has multiple internal links to their government solar page:

  • Two video case studies –one for a county, another for a water district
  • Three government-related case studies
  • Three PDFs – one for their roof mount product, one for their ground mount product, and one sales flyer for government community solutions

This is just a glance at their assets for government commercial solar. We haven’t even delved into their 10 other segmentations for commercial. 

Now, is a lead gen provider going to match this much marketing investment with your brand and clients? No. Is this a lot of work? Yes and no. Is the investment worth it? Absolutely. However, we can save considerable time by analyzing what our competitors do. We can then improve upon it with our own editorial production system and a clear path for their placement and distribution.

Multi-Purposing Content for Greater ROI

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So, we now have personas and some ideas about collateral and the value ladder. The fact is these industry pages, videos, PDFs, and case studies can be multi-purposed for increased traffic and leads. 

Robust topical pages help our SEO (Google loves sites with page depth). These same assets can be repurposed for retargeting ads, lead magnets, display ads, and guest posts for link building. The key is having a process in place for developing similar content unique to your firm. You also want a clear path forward for ranking and distributing this content to attract leads. 

Content Types

There are generally two types of content we focus our client’s resources on:

  • content that addresses and captures search terms for different stages of the buyers’ journey
  • topical content that gives our website more relevancy

Great content and links go hand in hand. With stellar pieces of content to pitch as a guest post, our link outreach becomes much easier. Google rewards sites producing consistent, new content. Consistent links built every month equals impenetrable rankings. Although you’ll need an active outreach strategy to build links with this content, the process is simple. 

Step Three: Lead Channels

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So far, we know who our customers are and began developing collateral to support them along their value ladder. Next, we go out and start getting leads!

Facebook Advertising

We love Facebook ads for both B2C and B2B leads. Some niches can be tough to target with Facebook’s cold interest targeting. Really, all it requires is a targeted audience and a wide enough service area so our audience size is big enough. Generally, we need multi-state campaigns aside from big states like California. Additionally, we need to be more strategic about what kinds of industries we’re going to target on Facebook. 

It’s going to be a lot harder to target city officials on Facebook compared to a group like church pastors. So, it’s a combination of a) choosing an industry we can easily target that’ll give us a large audience so Facebook does the heavy lifting, and b) finding which groups will convert into commercial solar inbounds and leads.

The secret sauce is having customer and prospect list data to build custom audiences out of. But that’s another discussion. 

SEO – Search Engine Optimization for B2B

Organic leads can be an invaluable source for long term leads and quite the investment over time. It’s also a channel we focus on intensely for many of our B2B clients. When you rank on the first page for high transaction intent searches like “commercial solar {city}” or “commercial solar {state}”, you get consistent leads over time with the proper website conversion design. 

But, that’s just one part of it. Expand these search terms for longer tail keywords to cover the various stages of the buyer’s journey. These keywords should cover anything from awareness, to research, to transactional intent. In the end, you’re guaranteed a return on investment for this sustained exposure overtime without adspend. 

People make SEO way more complex than it should be. There are basically four stages:

  • Keyword research
  • On-Page optimization
  • Content/pages creation
  • Link building

The keyword research stage is the basis of all of our SEO tactics. It makes our site a robust, long-term lead-generating asset. We can also build and optimize pages that target searches from our specific industries.

Once your marketing team has a basic understanding of the best SEO practices, it’s easy to progress. As you move forward, you’ll know what type of content to build.

Local Search Organic Leads

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If you service customers locally, or a multi-location regional provider, Google Maps is one of the most important channels to invest in. This is because your website’s organic rankings often work alongside your GMB listing. A higher ranking website will rank your GMB listing higher and vice versa. 

For many of our bigger clients, we built out simple city pages to go after large metro areas. It took less than a month for these pages to reach the first page since their backlink profile is so powerful. We then tweaked the page copy for over-optimization and added in other geo communicators like:

  • embedding geographic and keyword titled YouTube videos 
  • outbound links to Chamber of Commerce sites or other geo-oriented sites to help convey geographic relevance

Our city pages now rank in the top three of organic results without having any physical office or local address data.

Email Drip System

An email drip system is simply a series of emails that predicate the voluntary exchange of contact information in exchange for a small bribe, generally a targeted piece of content. These can nurture cold leads into call appointments or form fills by allowing you to communicate relevance and expertise. They also provide solutions to a person’s problems or make them aware of a problem they didn’t know existed.

If you have an existing customer or prospects, email is a powerful, low-cost way to re-engage them.

Email narratives build a relationship immediately as they convey a voice. This system helps us leverage more out all our traffic sources. We then have a sequence ready to fire off to these segmented recipients to continue delivering targeted value with a low-sell call to actions in between.

Cold Email

Build a list of targeted prospects and an automated sequence of emails with your offer, case studies, and testimonials. Understand how to properly set up specific domains used for cold emails.

LinkedIn Outreach

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Business owners hang out on LinkedIn, making LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a powerful tool to develop targeted lists of your personas. 

For example, we can look up executives in the renewables space, save the leads of decision-makers and their emails, and begin a cold outreach campaign. We’re in a great position to pitch our offers, too. We have industry-specific case studies, testimonials and offers ready to fire off from our LinkedIn lists. Often, we can even use the same email drip sequence or slightly modify it to speak to our target personas. 

This channel is pretty saturated by marketers, however. So, it’s best to lead off with a zero-sell message to get the conversation rolling. From there, see if you can coax them to tell you more about their business. 

Summary

There are many different traffic sources for B2B. Of course, traditional networking and cold calling do still work. Though, we like to help firms diversify their inbounds using scalable and trackable digital channels. Every business is different. However, the core principles to communicate trust and expertise are the same. B2B is no different. 

Start with building customer testimonial videos and comprehensive case studies that show information unsure prospects require to trust you. That’ll make your digital marketing efforts drive better returns. 

Founder Doug Swarts has specialized in building lead generation systems for solar companies since 2014. Having worked with some of the top commercial solar providers in the country, Doug saw first hand where marketing budget and resources were best spent to generate high-quality leads at the lowest cost.Passionate about addressing the global threats to our world’s resources and ecosystems, Doug started Simple Tree in an effort to help energy firms who actively work to disrupt current energy systems that impose massive negative externality costs, while instilling a proactive culture of environmental responsibility.