The top 6 (and 2 worst) B2B marketing strategies for generating sales leads

Over the last two weeks we’ve been looking at the top 6 (and 2 worst) B2B marketing strategies for generating sales leads. We’ve now covered all 8, so today we’re going to do a countdown and reveal our number 1 B2B strategy for generating quality leads. 

Before you start rolling your eyes, it may come as a surprise to you that although we’re focused on email marketing as a company, that’s not what’s at the top of our list. 

Our chart is based on our experience helping clients like Nasdaq, IBM, Hyatt Hotels and Intrado engage with small, mid and large enterprise organisations. Over the years, we’ve gotten an unparalleled grasp on how to get executive lead generation done. 

We’ve allowed our clients to get into companies like Apple, Disney, Gap, eBay, Deloitte, Ford, Google, Kraft, Fedex, Nike, Loreal and countless other big names.

To be clear, we’re just looking at how quickly you can turn the leads into a sale, we’re not taking into account other factors like scalability. We’ll save that for another blog post. 

Here’s our list…

  1. General content marketing

Content marketing comes dead last in because it’s so often misused in the B2B space. Done right, it can work, but it has to be targeted much more precisely than with B2C. Cast your net too wide and it can turn into a money pit.

Let’s run with the fishing analogy. Fishermen rarely look to catch different types of fish at the same time. Before they cast their line they decide if they’re going for carp, marlin, bass or whatever. Based on that they decide what bait to use, what tackle to use and where to cast their line.

A fisherman wouldn’t expect to catch a marlin in a freshwater lake, for that they’d look in the sea. That’s what’s so crazy about the B2B marketing space. Marketers expect to catch c-suite executives checking out on Facebook or their websites. They’re casting into the wrong body water altogether.  When’s the last time you made a business decision from reading a blog, or attending a webinar? Probably never.

If it’s done right, content marketing can be really efficient. The right content in front of the right market can always add value, but you’ll need someone who really knows how to place it. 

If you want to reel in c-suite execs, and for making the big deals you really should, email is where you should be casting your line. Check out our blog post on how much time execs spend on email compared to other platforms.

  1. Cold Calling

What’s the difference between a salad and a sales call? Answer – the first one is best served cold, the other tastes pretty nasty if it’s not warmed up first. 

Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than a cold call. If you’ve tried using outbound cold calling you’ll know that it can yield results, but the number of calls that turn into leads is a tiny fraction. That fraction’s getting smaller as well. Research shows people are less and less likely to answer calls from numbers they don’t recognise. That means telemarketing is becoming more difficult and more expensive to scale. 

If you’re on the receiving end of a cold call, it’s no fun either. No senior executive I know has a penchant for cold calling. It’s disrespectful to their time and how they interact with the world. It can even put people off working with irritating organizations that use them. Do you really want that to be a prospect’s first experience of your brand? 

The fact is, like you, C-suite people don’t want the hard sell. Fielding calls from telemarketers is nowhere near the top of their priority lists, just like it’s nowhere near the top of yours. 

That’s why we’re placing as second to last for lead gen in the B2B space. Warm up the lead first and then hit the phones. 

  1. Webinars

With our two strategies to avoid out of the way, the next six entries in our list can have a real impact on B2B marketing campaigns when they’re done right.  

With the global situation as it is, webinars are a hotter topic than they’ve ever been. Like events and conferences, they get important people together in one place, at least virtually. They’re easy to put together and you can run them from anywhere – social distancing or no social distancing. 

Crucially, they’re educational and education is exactly what you should be focusing on when you’re looking to attract c-suite leads in the B2B space, just one of the ways it differs from B2C. Check out our article on the difference between B2B and B2C lead generation. 

The problem is, actually getting people to attend webinars is incredibly tough, especially execs. C-suite people are busy a-type personalities. Unless the subject of your webinar is highly relevant or timely to them, they’re not going to attend. Even then, it’s going to be low on their list of priorities and if something else crops up, they’ll bail. 

That’s why webinars are incredibly hard to scale. To offset that, you’ll need a way to engage execs first and gradually push them towards webinars. Email marketing can be a great way to drip content through to prospects and get that done, so why not have a look at our blog post on the subject. 

  1. Marketing events and conferences

Marketing events can be one of the best ways to get in front of c-suite executives and get your message across – that’s if those execs are in attendance. Speaking on stage at an event is even better (check out or blog on the subject). Even if you have a sponsored booth in a less than premium location at an event, you’ll have a group of your target audience in one place, with alloted time to listen to you. 

They’re in a buying mentality and if your message resonates the chances of getting a next step towards a sale are really high. You can often get meetings booked in there and then or grab a business card and follow up with them later. 

The problem with events? Under the current global crisis, pretty much every event has been cancelled. Even as lockdowns start to ease, it seems social distancing is going to be around for a long time to come.

Aside from that, when they do happen they’re also crazy expensive and can turn into black holes for your marketing budget. If you want a big stand you’re going to be paying premium money and they’re expensive from man power, travel and logistical perspectives as well. 

When you’re all said and done you’re looking at $40,000 – $100,000 per event. If you’re collecting business cards from people who may or may not lead to a sale, your cost of acquisition for a less than warm lead can run to $1000 a shot. 

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC)

Whether you pay for PPC or invest the time and money in SEO to build up organic Google rankings, they’re both a really effective inbound method of lead generation. But, how do you get c-suite execs engaged – that’s where you’ll run into problems. 

One way or another, if a prospect’s finding you near the top of Google’s search results, it’s great for brand awareness; it’s easy to measure and very scalable. Best of all, if someone has googled a term relevant to your business, it means they’re already looking for what it is you do. 

That’s a nice warm lead. The prospect’s in a buying mentality and the timing’s right for a sale. 

The problem is, that’s also limiting. It may be that a prospect has no idea what it is you or any of your competitors do and no idea how it could be of value to them. 

You could be an organisation that’s come up with a completely new way to take online payments, for example. Your offering blows credit cards, Paypal and every other method out of the water on speed and cost to online retailers. The fact is you’ll have a nightmare trying to get leads from SEO or PPC for that kind of business, because no one’s going to be looking for it.

If that’s not an issue, you might be paying for clicks that are not the sort you want. It’s like a whale taking a mouthful of sea. There’s a lot of water involved before you get to that juicy plankton, so if you don’t pay for a lot of clicks, your results are going to be limited. 

Then, you’re reliant on your website to do a lot of the sales work for you, so you’d better make sure it looks great and there’s engaging copy. Getting people to visit your website isn’t necessarily a way of attracting buyers, because, if they’re looking for you they’re also researching your competitors. 

  1. Cold Emailing

Cold email marketing may not sound like a go to for B2B marketers, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. Key to success is making sure you’re not feeding prospects spam. What you send should be so far removed from it, there can be no confusion between the two. If you can master that, you’ll be taking clients out for steak dinners and closing deals in no time.

There are lots of advantages to B2B email marketing, but there’s three crucial ones – targeting, scalability and the amount of time c-suite execs spend on email platforms. 

The scattergun approach of SEO, PPC, social media marketing, marketing at conferences and events and especially content marketing, are taken out of the equation. 

With the right data you can identify exactly the people you want to do business with, at the right time. You can customise your message and make it really personal and intimate. If you’re sending a well crafted email from one executive to another, that can be really powerful. 

Email is scalable because data on prospects is virtually unlimited. 

The reality is, 84% of professionals say that email is their preferred method of communicating for business (Hubspot survey). We can’t get through the day without it, even if we could be using it a bit less. C-suite execs are no different. Check out our blog on how much time execs spend on email.

So, what’re the cons? Well, it’s expensive to do it properly. You have to be able to source good data, which isn’t cheap. GDPR is very difficult to navigate, as are other compliance laws around the world. You need to be able to write engaging copy that gets the tone of your pitch just right. In order to dispatch emails at scale you also need the technology and capacity to follow up on the responses. Check out or blog on using sales development reps (SDRs) to learn how to nurture sales leads to meetings. 

Something else you need to watch out for is, especially if you’re outsourcing, is how the company you’re working with defines a lead. Check out our blog on the subject here. 

  1. Speaking on stage at events

Conferences and marketing events are a great way to generate leads and make connections. If you can become a speaker yourself or field a speaker from your organization, it amplifies those benefits many times over. Every company should have someone speak on stage at least a couple of times a year.

For one thing, it can raise your organization’s profile and establish or maintain its position as a thought leader in whatever industry you happen to be in. You’ve got a captive audience in your target market and if they’re paid to attend , they’re probably in a buying mentality. If your message resonates you can easily get a ton of leads. 

Being a speaker at a conference also mitigates one of the major disadvantages of conferences – the cost. Booths and attendance fees are expensive, but being a speaker, you get the VIP treatment and, naturally, no attendance fee.  

If you get to the coveted position of speaker, there’s still catches involved for lead generation though. First and foremost in the short term, with the global situation as it is, speaking at events isn’t even possible. They’re all cancelled.

When things do go back to normal, there are more problems still. The marketing benefits of speaking at events can only be scaled to a certain point. The number of events relevant to your industry over the course of a year is more or less fixed and there’s a lot of competition for getting on that stage. 

  1. Referrals

Our winner has to be referrals. They’re like gold dust when it comes to lead generation. They’re rare, but incredibly valuable. 

As leads go, they’re about as warm as you can get, because the prospect already knows who you are, what you do, plus trust and credibility is already established.  

For the prospect, the risk of working with you is mitigated. They’ve already understood the results you’ve achieved for someone authoritative in their network. I’ve closed deals with referred prospects who’ve been looking at similar companies quoting $25,000 or $40,000 for their services. They go on to spend $140,000 with us, because they liked our story and so much of the risk is mitigated by the referral.

Referrals are much further along the path to a sale than other prospects if you subscribe to the BANT model – budget, authority, need, timing. Leads that need to be educated result in longer sales cycles and are more complex to close. It just doesn’t require as much salesmanship.

The problem is how rare referrals are. It can be incredibly difficult to get referrals if you’re a new business and it can take years to build up enough raving fans to scale referrals, especially if you’re selling high ticket products. About 10% of our business comes through referrals, otherwise it’s mostly email marketing we go to. 


We hope this list has given you some essential insights into what we’ve learned over the years. If you would like to find out more about scaling your B2B lead generation and reaching those c-suite executives, get in touch on the contact page. We’re always happy to hear from you and serve as a resource.