The Ultimate Guide to B2B SaaS Lead Generation

If you’re a B2B marketer, lead generation is probably your most important consideration. Your sales and marketing pipelines live (and die) by it. Whether or not you have a sales team, you still need to generate leads.

There are three pillars to an effective B2B SaaS lead generation strategy.

Strategy — Here you ask yourself high level questions such as “Who is your ideal customer?”, “What problems you can solve for them?” and “How do you decide what’s a lead?”

Conversion Funnel — Here you map out your process for capturing and following up on your leads: What steps they go through, from being unaware of your software to becoming customers and evangelists.

Traffic — Here you decide which promotional channels you’re going to use, and how you’re going to drive people to your website.

SaaS lead generation presents a unique challenge. Since you’re not selling a tangible product, you need to think strategically about how to communicate your software’s value.

And when you consider ‌your prospects spend as little as 17% of their time with your salespeople before they commit to buying, it’s essential that you formulate a coherent B2B SaaS lead generation strategy which engages that will keep delivering prospective buyers long into the future.

1. What’s a Lead?

A SaaS lead is an individual who’s shown an interest in your software. However, you must further qualify their level of interest. You can do this when you first capture their information or later in the interaction. As such, you can separate your leads into:

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): Leads who’ve responded to one of your communications (such as filling out a form) but haven’t taken further action. These leads are primed for nurturing until they’re ready to buy.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): Leads who’ve shown an interest in your software by, for example, asking a question only a paying customer would ask.

Product Qualified Leads (PQLs): Leads who’ve signed up to trialling your software. 

2. What’s B2B SaaS Lead Generation?

Once you’ve formed an idea of what leads should look like, lead generation describes your process for creating these leads consistently.

B2B SaaS lead generation includes both inbound and outbound tactics. A good SaaS lead generation strategy will coordinate inbound and outbound tactics.

Here’s an example of a lead generation process:

Lead Generation Process | Source: HubSpot.com

In B2B SaaS lead generation, leads are captured from your digital properties (website, apps, landing pages…) as an email address, trial subscription, or other format. Since most of your leads won’t be ready to buy, you’ll need to nurture them.

3. The B2B SaaS Lead Generation Process

A good B2B SaaS lead generation strategy will drive qualified prospects from a state of unawareness to fully fledged customers or advocates. SaaS lead generation includes:

Attraction: At this stage, you focus on attracting visitors to your website, apps, and other properties through SEO, content marketing, social media, pay-per-click ads, and other channels.

Engagement: Once you’ve captured a visitor’s attention, it’s important to keep them engaged long enough to capture their details, often an email address. Blogs, articles, white papers, and other educational content are effective means of engaging your audience.

Conversion: Once you’ve engaged your audience, ‌present them with a call-to-action (CTA) that prompts them to take up an offer. You should place these CTAs at strategic locations throughout your content. These CTAs would usually lead your visitors towards a landing page where they can access your offer. A lead magnet that offers useful (and free) information is a tried and tested way of generating leads. 

4. How To Build a B2B SaaS Lead Generation Strategy

Like a harbour master guiding a ship into port, you need a strategy to guide you towards your desired destination. The SMART model is a useful framework which states that objectives should be:

Specific: Clear enough for everyone to understand.

Measurable: Outlining your metrics and key performance indicators.

Realistic: Breaking down large goals into smaller chunks.  

Time Bound: Setting a time frame to avoid losing focus.

Below are some questions you can ask yourself to help you outline your B2B SaaS lead generation metrics:

  • How much website traffic do I need to generate X number of leads?
  • How many leads do I need to generate X number of conversions?
  • How many conversions do I need to generate X amount of monthly recurring revenue (MRR) ? 
  • How many social media followers should I be aiming for?
  • What email open rates should I be achieving?
  • What benchmarks can I use?
  • What milestones should I set?

Define your ideal customer

Before you start your B2B SaaS lead generation campaign, it makes sense to form a picture of who your ideal customer is — Sometimes referred to as your customer avatar or buyer persona. You work this out from your own research and your interactions with your existing customers.

Avoid the temptation to focus on the features of your software when drawing up your ideal customer profile. Focus instead on the benefits your software brings to your customers.

There are many ways to outline your ideal audience’s characteristics, including:

Geography: This is not commonly used in the SaaS industry.

Industry: This approach may be effective if your software addresses a specific industry need.

Job role: This approach may be useful if your software addresses the needs of multiple job roles. 

Demographics: This includes characteristics such as age, gender, and income.

Gather as much information as you can so you can effectively address the needs of your audience. You may even have more than one buyer persona if, for example, you offer different software products or if your software addresses the needs of several buyer personas.

Find out where your ideal customer is

One key to generating quality leads is positioning yourself where your ideal customer is, online or offline. Find out where they are and position yourself there.

LinkedIn groups are a great place to start. Most industries and professions have a presence on LinkedIn, and your positive contribution to the discussion will be noticed.

Your positioning can also include targeted PR campaigns online and offline. Podcasts and guest blogs can form part of your distribution plan.

Build a content marketing plan

As part of a coherent B2B SaaS lead generation strategy, content marketing helps you:

  • Attract qualified leads
  • Convert these leads into paying customers

Because your prospects will be at different stages of their buyer journey, you should calibrate your content (and the promotional channels you choose) to these different stages.

5. Customer Acquisition Channels

Some channels might perform better than others for B2B SaaS lead generation. You should test them, amplifying your efforts on the channels with the highest returns. The following channels are commonly used for B2B SaaS lead generation:

Content marketing

B2B SaaS companies are using content marketing to build their brand, attract visitors, and generate leads. Unlike pay-per-click advertising, content marketing’s ROI increases over time. Once your content’s created, it’s indexed by the search engines so that your prospects can discover it for years to come. You can also repurpose your content for multiple channels, including your blog and social channels.

It’s useful to think of your content as an asset you own, in contrast to advertising, which is an asset you rent. They’re both useful for B2B SaaS lead generation, but they each play different roles.

Specific types of content for B2B SaaS lead generation include blogs, articles, white papers, case studies, podcasts, videos and newsletters.

Email marketing

Automated (drip) email campaigns are vital to the SaaS industry. There’s probably no other industry that relies on them more. Many of your SaaS leads will come from your email campaigns.

Drip campaigns are also a powerful way to segment and target your subscribers. For example, you could target:

  • Subscribers in a specific geography
  • Subscribers who’ve taken a specific action, for example, viewing your pricing page
  • Subscribers who haven’t opened their last X number of emails
  • Subscribers who’ve opened but haven’t clicked

Another benefit of email marketing is the excellent ROI:

Email ROI | Source: SmartInsights.com

A B2B SaaS drip campaign begins with an introduction, followed by a value proposition, an offer, and follow up messages.

Your campaigns can last from a few weeks to a few months. For example, you can email every day in the first week, every other day in the second week, then weekly, then monthly.

An effective drip campaign significantly improves the odds of converting your leads into paying customers.

Social media marketing

Social media platforms are a great way to distribute your content and generate leads. It’s now very easy to include calls-to-action (CTAs) in your social media posts and drive traffic to your landing pages. It’s also a great place to connect and engage with your prospects in a more personal way. Social media is where your prospects are, so it’s a great place to reach out to them.

Search engine marketing (SEM/SEO)

Where content is king, SEO is queen. SEO helps your content get found in search engines like Google and Bing. By aligning your content with the keywords and search intent of your audience, you help the search engines deliver the right content to this audience.

There’s a misconception that SEO is free. There’s a significant time investment required to produce effective content. And if you outsource your content creation, there’s also a financial investment involved.

There are two complementary aspects of SEO that work together for effective B2B SaaS lead generation:

On-Page SEO: This is entirely within your control. You research keywords, include them in titles and headings, and produce content that your audience wants to consume and share. In on-page SEO, you also control a range of factors, such as page load time and user experience to maximise conversions. 

Off-Page SEO: Gone are the days when swapping links was enough to get your site noticed. These days, off-page SEO is about attracting high-quality links from authority sites. This is only possible when you produce content that people actually want to consume and share. Your social profiles play a key role in your off-page SEO as your audience continues to share your content with their followers.

Product demos & trials

Free trials are an important source of leads in B2B SaaS lead generation for the simple fact that they give your prospects an opportunity to trial your software at no risk to themselves. Even if these leads don’t purchase immediately after their trial, you still have the opportunity to nurture them until they’re ready to buy.

Product trials are particularly effective if your prospects are tech savvy. They often prefer trialling the product to speaking to sales reps. And, because trials are typically self-service, they don’t add to your marketing costs.

It’s important to ensure your prospects have a positive experience during their trial. It’s worth considering an onboarding process, or extra support, depending on the complexity of your product. You could do this with a combination of emails, webinars and calls.

Prospects who’ve signed up to your free trial are showing intent. So, they’re product qualified leads, and it’s worth tracking them closely.

Aim to strike a balance between demonstrating value and overwhelming your prospects with too much information. With constant monitoring and optimisation of your product trials, you can generate a constant source of highly qualified leads.

Referral marketing

There is growing evidence that referral marketing, when handled properly, is an effective way to generate leads. Referred leads cost little and close more quickly.

There’s an ongoing debate whether you should encourage referrals by offering incentives.

Some argue that you won’t generate referrals without offering incentives. While others argue that if you do offer incentives, you’ll attract low quality leads. The best advice is to test referral marketing for your own circumstances.

You can launch your own referral program with the help of referral marketing software. In many cases, a simple squeeze page which captures referrals is all you’ll need.

To ensure the quality of your referrals, make sure to educate your referrers about what makes a good referral. It could be a specific job title, company size, or industry. If you’re offering incentives, make sure to explain what those are, and how they’ll be delivered.

Also, make it as easy as possible for your sales and support reps to ask for referrals. For example, you can draft an email template for their use. Or they can be encouraged to ask for referrals in their day-to-day interactions.

Where Do B2B Leads Come From? | Source: SmartInsights.com

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing

Pay-per-click marketing remains popular among B2B marketers because it is scalable. It delivers leads in a short period of time with predictable results and costs.

To maximise conversions, however, you should optimise your copy and creatives. Split test your landing pages to ensure maximum return on investment.

Remarketing

Remarketing (also called retargeting) addresses the fact that most of your prospects won’t convert to your offer on their first interaction.

With a remarketing campaign you can re-engage those visitors that never took an action. Retargeting software installs a cookie (a small text file) on your prospect’s device that enables the display of ads as they browse the internet.

Retargeting gives you the opportunity to re-engage with your hard earned visitors. It gives your SaaS brand another opportunity to build trust and familiarity with your audience.

Webinars

Because attending webinars involves a time commitment, webinar leads are highly qualified; In fact, 77% of B2B marketers use webinars as part of their marketing mix. Of these, 63% use webinars to nurture their leads.

Your webinars can be even more effective if you co-host them with an industry expert, exposing your software to their audience.

Prospects are attracted to webinars because it gives them the opportunity to learn something they can use straight away. B2B marketers are attracted to webinars because they give them the opportunity to demonstrate their products and answer objections. Webinars also provide them with good feedback.

6. Marketing Technology

Successful B2B marketing teams have a system for capturing and storing leads: Some reports have stated that 80% of marketers saw an increase in leads after installing marketing automation software.

However you choose to build your marketing technology stack, your tools should integrate seamlessly across your marketing channels. Key components of a martech stack include:

  • Data cleansing and mining tools
  • Content marketing tools
  • Social media tools
  • Marketing automation software
  • Analytics software
  • Webinar software

Building your martech stack is a lot easier when you know what you’re aiming for.

7. Marketing and Sales Alignment

One of the main challenges in B2B SaaS lead generation is aligning the expectations of the marketing and sales teams. Lead generation is the common ground between sales and marketing.

This is where both teams need to agree on lead generation criteria and agree on a lead handover process. They also need to agree on their roles in nurturing these leads.

However, if you only have a limited number of leads, a formal handover process is not needed.

8. Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic form of marketing where you identify which prospects to target with personalised marketing.

In traditional B2B marketing, marketing generates as many leads as the marketing budget allows, and it’s up to the sales team to qualify these leads. This often creates a disparity between what the sales and marketing teams expect from each other.

Account-based marketing turns that model upside down. Instead of casting your net far and wide, you focus your resources on a set of key accounts.

Account-Based Marketing | Source: NeilPatel.com

In account-based marketing, messages are tailored to each account. Although the time investment is greater than in traditional marketing, the returns are equally greater.  Account-based marketing bridges the gap between sales’ and marketing’s expectations effectively.

9. Agile Marketing

Agile marketing takes its inspiration from agile software development. It aims to improve transparency and adaptability in the marketing team. If you want to get the most out of your limited resources, this might be the approach for you.

Agile marketing teams work in short, intensive bursts known as “sprints” to complete a project. The idea is to chunk processes down as much as possible, testing and adapting along the way. This is very much a data-based approach that relies on the whole team working together.

Once a sprint is completed, the team measures their success by the data they’ve collected. They can then tweak their approach to achieve better results in their next sprint.

A sprint typically lasts from two to six weeks, and team communication is essential. To keep things moving, agile teams meet for short periods of time at regular intervals.

10. B2B SaaS Lead Generation Metrics

Whatever your approach to B2B SaaS lead generation, it’s sensible to track the performance of your activities.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help track the performance of your campaigns. Following are a few KPIs that are effective for B2B SaaS lead generation:

Lifetime Value (LTV)

LTV ($) = Average revenue per customer per (month/year) x number of (months/years)

This tells you how much a customer is worth to your SaaS business on average. You’ll know if you’re spending too much to acquire a customer or if you’re missing opportunities by not spending enough.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Once you know your customer’s lifetime value, you also need to know how much it costs to acquire a new customer.

CAC ($) = Total sales and marketing costs / Number of customers acquired

LTV:CAC Ratio

Many SaaS businesses use the LTV:CAC ratio to track growth. Industry benchmarks place this at 3:1. Too high, and you’re likely missing an opportunity to grow faster and gaining an edge over your competition.

Cost Per Lead (CPL)

This is probably the most important metric to help determine the ROI of your B2B SaaS lead generation campaigns. It’s calculated as:

Cost Per Lead ($) = Total marketing costs / Number of leads

You should track this across individual channels and as a whole. This way you can see which channels are most effective and adjust accordingly.

Website Conversion Rates

The website conversion rate shows the percentage of website visitors that take a desired action on your website such as downloading a white paper, signing up for a free trial, or completing a purchase: In other words, the percentage that converts to leads.

Conversion rate (%) = (Number of leads / Number of website sessions) x 100

Industry averages provide a useful benchmark for your performance. However, it’s more useful to compare your performance over time. 

Average Website Conversion Rates By Industry | Source: Marketing Sherpa

Other performance metrics

Traffic to lead ratio: This tells you what percentage of organic, direct, social, search, referral and paid traffic to your website converts into new leads. Too high a number and you may need to audit your site’s content and usability.

Click through rate (CTR): This indicates the number of people who click on a link on a landing page or email. This differs from the conversion rate because it doesn’t tell you whether someone’s converted to your offer. Again, if you have a high CTR but a low conversion rate, you may have some issues with your content.

Landing page conversion rate: This is the conversion rate for a single page as opposed to the website as a whole.

Average session duration: This is the average time a visitor spends on your website. If this is low, it could mean your content isn’t matching your visitors’ expectations.

Bounce rate: This is the percentage of people who navigate away from your site immediately after viewing a page. Again, a high number indicates your content isn’t matching your visitors’ expectations.

11. Improving B2B SaaS Lead Generation Performance

No matter how well your lead generation campaigns are performing, there’s always room for improvement. A coherent B2B SaaS lead generation strategy will include a process of continuous improvement. Here are some areas you can target to help you do that:

Lead Quality: The first question you’ll probably have is “Are the leads I’m generating any good?” Ultimately, the success of your lead generation campaign is based on how well your leads convert into buying customers.

Ascend2 asked 260 marketing influencers whether improving the quality of their leads impacted their growth objectives. 95% responded that it had.

Primary Strategies For Generating Quality Leads | Source: Ascend2

Lead Scoring: Lead scoring is the process of prioritising the leads in your customer relationship management (CRM) tool. This helps your sales team focus on their most valuable leads. An effective scoring system will tag your leads on a numeric scale according to their level of engagement. However, point-based scoring systems are being phased out by artificial intelligence.

Lead Nurturing: Most of your leads won’t buy on their first interaction with your brand. Lead nurturing describes the process of building relationships with these prospects. This is your opportunity to guide them through their buyer journey, from initial contact through to purchase. This is also an opportunity to showcase your expertise, thereby building trust with your audience.

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO): You should constantly analyse your campaigns, looking for ways to improve click-through and conversion rates at every step of the buyer journey.

A/B and Multivariate Testing: A/B testing involves experimenting with single elements of your digital assets. These include headlines, forms, and buttons. You’ll need to generate a high number of impressions to capture enough data.

Conversely, multivariate testing involves testing several elements of a digital asset at once. This won’t pinpoint which change had the desired effect, but it will allow you to make quicker decisions with less data.

Personalisation: Chances are, you’ll have created several user profiles during product development. You could map these to your buyer personas. Also, marketing automation software will help you personalise your messages. Personalisation is a strategic differentiator in B2B SaaS lead generation.

Product Trials: Since prospects who’ve signed up for your free trial or freemium offer have shown an active interest in your software, ‌treat these leads separately. Prepare messaging that guides them towards a purchase, such as:

  • Educational emails: Teach them to use your software. Keep it focused on a couple of features at a time.
  • Case studies: Share examples of how your software has helped other users.
  • Offers: Once your free trial prospects are used to consuming your content, you should offer them discounts and offers to encourage them to buy.

Qualify Leads: You could also qualify leads better as they enter your funnels. It could be as simple as adding a few extra boxes to your forms, such as job title, budget or company size. The result will be higher quality leads for your company and your sales team. However, avoid asking for too much information, as it may adversely affect your conversion rates. 

Track Lead Source: Using analytics software such as Google Analytics will help you to track the source of your leads. This information will help you focus your SaaS lead generation on the most profitable channels.

Closing Thoughts

Since you’re not selling tangible products, your prospects can only judge you by their experiences with your brand.

B2B SaaS lead generation is about maximising your brand’s exposure to your target audience by cultivating a detailed understanding of their challenges and aspirations while also communicating your brand’s value. Marketing automation software will help coordinate your messaging while analytics tools will help inform your progress.

B2B SaaS Lead Generation

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