Finding new business leads and turning them into lifelong, paying customers is the holy-grail for B2B sales and marketing. How successful you ultimately are in achieving that aim, will always boil down to one thing - the effectiveness of your sales funnel and the lead generation processes you have in place.
Our own software, Lead Forensics, was born out of frustration with traditional lead generation techniques. It uses IP tracking to reveal which companies have visited a website, helping B2Bs grab every potential lead, and is just one of many new opportunities that have been created, thanks to advances in technology (something we’ve talked a lot about on this blog).
When it comes to making the most of these opportunities, older and more established companies will often have considerable resources available to invest. But what if you’re a start-up, one-man-band or SME, operating on a tight budget?
Here, we’re going to take a closer look at all the options and outline key steps you can take to generate leads, no matter how small the budget is you’re working with.
Set up a strategy - and stick to it
When money is an issue, you’ve got to be super clever about how you set things up and how you use your time.
It can be tempting, especially when you’re a smaller team, to simply skim over the need for a strategy. You may instead jump on whatever interesting idea you happen to come across when browsing the web, or that pops up in your news feed.
But this is a mistake and can end up costing you a lot of time and money in the long run. Having a strategy is vital.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
Understand your target market
Be very clear about who you are going to market your product to. Just be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that the bigger your target market is, the more you will sell, as that’s not necessarily true.
Your overall market size may be large, but when you actually go to sell, you need to think more strategically and find the niches that will work best. For more ideas, check out: How to define what a good sales lead will look like
Once you are clear about your overall target market/s – as there may be several, in which case don’t worry about them all at once, just focus on one and then add the next, and so on – spend time learning more about them and focus in on getting the results you need.
Put together some buyer personas. That means thinking in detail about who it is you are targeting and how you might be able to reach and influence them. You will be far more successful if you can define exactly who it is you want to reach, rather than simply aiming at those with a certain job title.
Start with no more than two buyer personas. In fact, if you’re really pressed for money then producing material for two personas may even prove too much. If you can only stretch to one, then don’t worry. Get it spot on and you’ll start seeing results.
Once you have your personas together, there are many ways you can then look to take your efforts up a gear. For more ideas, see: 6 Persona-Driven Steps To An Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Define the journey that a buyer will go on when they buy from you, so you fully understand it and can capitalize on all opportunities.
For example, think about:
- How and when do they end up making a purchase?
- What research do they do?
- What do they want to know before they buy?
- How long do they take to make a decision?
- How many people are generally involved in the decision-making process?
Answering these questions will help you create a sales funnel that produces leads. When you have a limited budget, your time will be best spent working out a strong sales funnel.
Think what the small steps are that you can offer in the beginning, which will lead to bigger steps down the road. Pushing your entire offer at the beginning of the process is unlikely to work, so break it down into smaller chunks and gradually increase it.
Figure out how and where you can reach potential buyers at all the different stages of your buyer journey. Aim to be offering the right piece of content, at the right time to provide the information a buyer will be looking for.
There are some more ideas here. Go through it and do as much as your budget allows: How to build a strong online sales funnel for B2B organizations
Once you know who you want to target, it’s time to figure out where you can find and interact with them, in order to begin a relationship. Various channels are open to you when promoting your products and content.
If you’re on a tight budget, don’t risk spreading yourself too thinly. You don’t have to do everything! Be selective.
For example, if you know most of your clientele uses LinkedIn regularly, then become a pro on that platform. Here’s a good starting point: How to use LinkedIn to generate sales leads.
If you do have budget for some advertising, then again think strategically about where it would be best spent. Consider using just one channel but learn to use that channel really well. For general lead generation, Facebook can be a great platform as it can be amazingly targeted. That means it can work effectively for B2B businesses too: Facebook isn't the place for B2B marketing, or is it?
The Google Ad Network may also be a good shout, depending on the nature of what you are advertising. The most important thing, as we’ve already mentioned, is that you avoid spreading yourself too thinly. Online advertising comes with a steep learning curve and is nearly impossible to do it well on your own, without spending time (and money) learning how to use it effectively.
But it’s not all about online. Don’t forget there are ways to promote your business and generate leads offline too: How to effectively combine online and offline lead generation
Your 9 step action plan for B2B lead generation on little or no budget
1. Get people to talk about you
The old adage ‘the best marketing is word of mouth’ is as true today as it ever was. Word of mouth captures the one thing that is very difficult to achieve with online marketing alone, but which is vital for a sale – and that’s trust.
You need to build trust with your audience. Without it, you won’t sell.
So how can you get people to talk about you?
- Be the best. Have an outstanding product/service backed up by amazing customer service - no marketing will ever be as powerful as this
- Know what makes people tick. You need to understand the basics of how people work and what they respond to. This includes everything from manners and punctuality, to friendliness, smiling and being helpful. No-one will recommend you if you’re grumpy and unfriendly, no matter how good your product is. Dale Carnegie’s classic book “How to win friends and influence people” will never go out of fashion
- Make it easy for people to recommend you. Add sharing buttons to your website and social media profiles, and make sure your contact information is easily obtainable. Hand out business cards, promotional flyers and other items that can be passed on.
- Use testimonials. Our top tip here is to write them yourself, from what you know about the client and how you’ve helped them. Then seek approval to use the draft you have prepared. This will save the client time and effort, meaning they are more likely to just say go for it.
2. Become a networking pro
For a B2B, your success will always come down to the relationships you manage to form with the decision makers at any company you wish to sell to. But not just them. It’s about the other employees there who you are in contact with, key influencers within your audience, your existing clients, etc. In short - everyone you come into contact with is worth building a relationship with, even if they will never buy from you personally.
When you do not have budget to throw at advertising, it’s important you become a master in micromanagement and relationship building. If you find it hard, work on those skills and learn to do them better. There are many techniques that could help you improve – both online and offline: How to network like a pro (both online and offline)
3. Consultative selling
Consultative selling is the name of the game these days. We’ve talked about this approach a lot on our blog - and for good reason. Today’s buyers are more sophisticated than ever before and they have all the information they need at their fingertips.
So, what do they need a sales rep for? It’s to help them make the right decision, to be strategic about their investment and most important of all, to help them tie your solution to achieving their business goals.
Become a master at figuring out how your solution can help a prospect achieve their goals and you’ll see your sales soar: Why consultative selling is essential in a digital world
4. Know your numbers
Figure out which KPIs are going to be most important for you to monitor. As a starting point, we always recommend that our clients look at the conversion rate of their websites. You need to ensure that you’re generating the right kind of leads, in adequate numbers and that they’re being converted.
For example, if you see lots of visitors coming to your website but they aren’t converting, then it’s time to investigate what’s happening. Perhaps your sales funnel is set up wrong, or the offer you have online needs adjusting, or maybe you’ve targeted the wrong people and they aren’t seeing the value of your offer.
One further tip, if you are considering using our software: When you can see you are getting good levels of web traffic and the right people are converting, you know you’re doing something right. By using our software to identify who else is visiting your website, you can maximize your results by grabbing even more leads. (Talk to our team for more info).
5. Everyone is selling
If you are a small team then you need to make sure everyone understands the necessity of getting the word out there, about you and your offer. Show team members how they can best help and support the mission.
If all they do is share your content on their networks, then you’re already winning. It’s about starting to build out your audience. This can start with the small circle of people you know and move to the people they know, and so on. Once you hit the circle of people outside of that area, you know you are starting to get some traction.
6. Content marketing
When you’re on a tight budget, rolling out a full blown content marketing strategy that produces ongoing leads in high numbers, is going to be unrealistic.
Notice we said ‘full blown’ strategy, as in today’s digital marketing world, every B2B should be using content marketing.
The question isn’t whether you should do it, but how much you can invest in making it a success. Here are some ideas for how to do this:
- How to turbocharge online B2B lead generation when you’re a small team
- How to effectively budget for your content marketing
7. Automate and use tools as much as possible
You can’t afford to put relationship building on auto pilot but you should be using tools that help make the job easier and more effective.
Keeping your marketing machine ticking along smoothly is almost impossible without having the right tools in place. They can help you keep your pipeline both alive and healthy.
Before you decide to invest in any tool, always read some reviews and check out your options. Many tools nowadays will offer a freebie level that allows you to use a watered down version of the tool, until you reach a certain threshold. This can be super helpful for sales and marketing teams on a shoestring budget.
One of the best decisions you can make early on is to invest in task management software that helps you get organised. You can throw everything at it and use it to sort through and filter out information, based on its importance and other criteria. This way you won’t have to worry about missing or forgetting about anything.
If you come across something on the web but don’t have time to act on it right now, then share it to your tool (they all have either browser extensions and/or email-to functionality) and review it properly later.
Have lots of ideas and no place to put them? Gather them all in this one tool. Gradually, you can expand your usage and get the broader team involved too. It can be a great way to stop the email madness that can happen within teams and makes team working far more streamlined. Saving time wherever possible is always essential in business.
For a list of useful lead generation tools, see: The ‘must-have’ lead generation tools for small teams
8. Turn into an event marketing ninja
If you think that event marketing is only an option for those with bigger budgets, then think again.
Yes, on a tight budget you can’t throw a massive in-person event for your clients and prospects (maybe not even a small pizza evening). You probably can’t afford to have presence at a trade show either. But there are ways for you to leverage events to your advantage.
From finding a partner to split the cost with, to offering a speaker for other’s events, or hosting something online, there are many ideas you can pursue. Here’s a list to consider: In person B2B event hacks for small budgets
9. Put an online lead generation strategy in place
It’s astonishing how many B2Bs still don’t use their website, even in a small way, to generate leads. The ‘contact us’ page alone is just not good enough.
You need to get clever and put some solid mechanisms in place to make your website work for you. We offer a quick way to do just that here: The ultimate quick start guide for online lead generation
A final tip
When you’re testing out any lead generation ideas for your business, remember you must always be patient. Most tactics will take time to start bearing fruit and if you jump from one to the next too quickly, you may find you never get anywhere – and don’t know why!
For example, think about networking. If you show up to just one meeting, then you’re unlikely to gain much from it. However, if you start showing up every month, people will start to recognize you and you’ll begin forming relationships. Other attendees may also start talking about you, even when you’re not there - which is exactly what you want.
So, never be afraid to try something new. Even when you’re a small team with limited budget you have options. Concentrate on doing just a few things, but do them really well, and you’ll soon see your results grow.