Many companies want to know how they can start or improve their B2B outbound lead generation. In this guide, we’ll cover the key topics to help you improve your outbound lead generation process for 2023.
What is outbound lead generation?
Outbound lead generation refers to the process of actively seeking out and identifying potential customers or leads for a business. This typically involves using a variety of marketing techniques, sales techniques, and leveraging marketing and sales tools to reach out to potential customers and persuade them to engage with the business. Engaging with the business could be as simple as driving traffic to the website or getting a meeting booked on the calendar with an SDR or Account Executive.
Outbound lead generation can include activities such as cold calling, cold emailing, email marketing, direct mail campaigns, gifting, and social media outreach. The goal of outbound lead generation is to generate interest in the business and its products or services, and to ultimately convert those leads into paying customers. Outbound lead generation is a foundational revenue generating tactic for many businesses.
Outbound lead generation strategies
One of the most common outbound lead generation strategies is cold calling. Salespeople or the marketing team will buy business leads or build a cold call list based on B2B data. They’ll then hammer the phones making cold calls with the goal of booking a meeting. The goal of cold calling is to first start a conversation and then book a meeting with a qualified prospect. The hardest part of implementing a cold calling outbound lead generation strategy is that many prospects do not answer. That’s why you should consider using human verified leads to have more conversations per hour and ultimately help you with your appointment setting goals.
Cold emailing is sending emails to prospects who are not expecting your email These should be targeted emails to potential customers with the goal of generating a positive reply, more specifically to book a meeting. There are many sales tools for prospecting that include cold email tools like Salesloft, Outreach, and others. Cold emailing is effective because it allows you to target exactly who you want with a tailored message. The cost of B2B data is low and the tools that enable you to send a large amount of cold emails fit most budgets. The proliferation of cold emailing tools has made cold emailing less effective.
Direct Mail Campaigns
Sending physical mail, such as handwritten notes or personalized gift, to potential customers to grab their attention using tools like Alyce, Sendoso, and Reachdesk can be a way to cut through the noise. Gifting via direct mail campaigns can be an effective outbound lead generation strategy. The drawback is that it can be costly to implement and acquiring home addresses of prospects may not always be easy.
Using social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with potential customers and book meetings can be an effective outbound lead generation strategy. Some people may take a cold outreach approach on these platforms and send direct messages to prospects. There are LinkedIn automation tools that can be useful. Depending on your offer, this may be the right approach as far as outbound lead generation strategies go. Usually you’re selling a commodity which means success is purely based on numbers. For others, going direct on social media platforms is not the best approach. Social selling at a basic level means posting regularly about your expertise to attract prospective customers. Regular LinkedIn posts demonstrating your expertise on a topic can be an effective lead generation tactic. But not everyone can create content which is why it might be worth considering hiring a LinkedIn ghostwriter.
Networking Events and Conferences
Attending industry events and networking with prospects is another old school outbound lead generation strategy that can work. Of course, not all events and conferences are created equally. But good events are special because you’re able to connect face to face with your prospect. It helps sellers build trust more quickly when compared to a typical Zoom meeting or phone call. The drawback of this outbound lead generation strategy is that it can be expensive. Not only from a monetary standpoint but also from a time perspective. Traveling to an event that is a bust can put a hole in your lead generation goals.
Using paid advertising channels, such as Google AdWords, or LinkedIn ads, to reach potential customers is a tried and true outbound lead generation strategy. You meet your prospect where they already are. By capturing their attention you’re able to meet them when they want to be contacted. They see your ad and decide if they’ll engage with your company. The major drawback to running paid ad campaigns is that it can be expensive to figure out what works. Almost nobody can throw up a couple ads and see positive results. It takes time and skill to figure out what works. For a lot of B2B companies, ads can be more expensive than B2C ads given the competition and deal sizes. This outbound lead generation strategy also plateaus with time. If it works well, it’s inevitable that a competitor will copy you given the number of tools that allow competitors to essentially spy on advertising strategies used to generate outbound leads.
Partnering With Other Businesses
Working with complimentary businesses is an outbound lead generation strategy that can be quite effective. Finding a company that shares the same customer base but offers a different or complementary solution allows you to generate leads that you may not have been able to access before. Some companies will make introductions or run partner programs. Others will host joint events or webinars. Generating outbound leads this way is usually a fit for more mature companies that have already used previously mentioned outbound lead generation strategies.
Creating and sharing valuable content that your prospect will value is technically more of an inbound lead generation strategy but if you leverage the content with your outbound lead generation strategies it can be effective. Content such as blog posts or videos are high value assets that meet the buyer where they are and help to educate them on your offering.
One of the most overlooked outbound lead generation strategies, and arguably the most effective, is leveraging referrals. Encouraging current customers to refer prospects in their network will help you generate leads you might otherwise not have been able to get. Usually companies will focus more on what they know which is cold email, cold calls, and advertising. For some reason, companies overlook referrals but people will convert at a much higher rate via referral than from any other outbound lead generation strategy.
What makes an effective outbound lead generation strategy?
An effective outbound lead generation strategy is one that produces a positive return on investment. More specifically, the money spent on generating leads has to result in more money to the business. This takes into account things such as employee cost (salary, commissions) and any other spend like B2B sales tools, B2B data, advertising costs, etc. Generating MQLs or SQLS is not enough. These leads need to be moved through the sales funnel and convert into paying customers. These paying customers need to demonstrate a high enough lifetime value to justify the cost of the outbound lead generation strategy.
Outbound B2B lead generations services
Outbound B2B lead generation service aligns with the strategies mentioned above. The most popular outbound lead generation services are SDR outsourcing agencies aka outbound sales lead generation services, that help companies fill the top of their funnel. Most often these companies focus on cold outbound prospecting which includes cold emailing and cold calling. Depending on your needs, these can be fractional SDRs up to large lead generation service providers with hundreds of SDRs.
The risk with outbound B2B sales lead generation services is that almost anyone can start one. The quality varies and often skews more towards being poor. In order to find an outbound B2B lead generation service that does well with cold email and cold calling you need to understand their team, track record, and industry experience.
Other outbound B2B lead generation services include advertising agencies, social selling agencies, people who help with ghostwriting LinkedIn posts, and other lead generation service providers.
The Outbound lead generation process
The outbound lead generation starts and ends with the customer. From identifying the right ICP and buyer persona to converting that prospect into a paying customer. Once you have that customer profile down, you can begin executing on your lead generation process. What goes into a strong outbound lead generation process?
There are several factors that can contribute to a successful outbound lead generation process:
A clear understanding of the target audience: As mentioned above, It’s critical to have a clear understanding of the characteristics and needs of the target audience you’re reaching out to, in order to effectively generate leads from an outbound process.
A well-defined lead generation strategy: Having a well-defined strategy in place can help to ensure that the lead generation process is focused and effective. If you’re all over the place with your strategy, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t. This can include identifying the specific tactics and channels to be used, as well as setting clear goals and metrics for success.
High quality contact data: Without accurate B2B data on a prospect, your strategy will be wasted. You need to ensure that the data you purchase has the right contact information so when you send cold emails or make cold calls, you are on target.
High-quality lead: It’s important to focus on generating high-quality leads, rather than just a high volume of leads. Often, marketing teams and sales development managers will focus on vanity metrics which look nice in the short term but cause pain in the long term. This means targeting potential customers who are most likely to be interested in the business and its products or services that have the highest chance of converting.
Follow-up and nurturing: It’s important to have a system in place for following up with and nurturing leads in order to convert them into paying customers. Most of your prospects will not be ready to take a meeting. They also receive a lot of emails from other companies trying their hand at outbound lead generation so it’s important to be persistent and to keep following up. Some prospects may not be ready to buy so nurturing them with tools like HubSpot or ActiveCampaign can generate leads that are ready to buy in the future.
Continuous optimization: Your outbound lead generation process should be continually reviewed and optimized in order to identify areas for improvement and increase the overall effectiveness of the process. There’s no chance the first crack at outbound lead generation will be your best. It takes time and data. Testing different tactics and channels, and analyzing the results to identify what works best is key to success with your B2B outbound lead generation.
Outbound lead generation best practices
When it comes to outbound lead generation best practices, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
- Understanding Your Prospects
If you don’t truly know what problems and pains your prospects have, you’ll struggle with outbound lead generation. Being able to create a buyer persona of your prospects is key to generating leads because everything else flows form this. When you know who to target you can acquire the right B2B data. When you know why you’re targeting them, you’re able to more effectively create marketing campaigns and cold outreach campaigns that resonate. You can better understand your prospects via customer research. This can be done via structured conversations and surveys. By better understanding your prospects, you’l start off on the right foot when it comes to outbound lead generation best practices.
- Researching Your Prospects
It’s not enough to understand them. That helps with your initial targeting. You’ll be able to head in the right direction. But as far as outbound lead generation best practices are concerned, that’s just the start. You need to do research on the prospects by reviewing their LinkedIn profiles, seeing what they say in various communities, checking company news and industry trends. Researching doesn’t stop there. Looking at what they’re hiring for can provide a trigger event to reach out via cold email or call calls. Recent company funding via Crunchabse or job changes are also pieces of information that you can leverage that will help you with your B2B outbound lead generation. Researching is a best practice for outbound lead generation because it enables you to craft messaging that is relevant to your prospect. Remember, they receive a ton of cold emails and cold calls. An effective way to cut through the noise is to create messaging that demonstrates you’ve done your homework.
- Omni-Channel Approach
Relying on one channel to generate outbound leads is a risky approach. Instead, you should be following an outbound lead generation best practice of using multiple channels. This can include email, phone calls, social media, ads, in-person events, and more. By doing this, you’ll put yourself in a position to connect with more prospects. Some prospects may only use one of the aforementioned channels. If you try to generate leads an only focus on say cold email, you’ll miss prospects who hate cold emails but are open to social selling techniques.
- Following Up
There will be times where you generate leads on the first attempt. However, as an outbound lead generation best practice, this might be the top one. It even has a saying, “the follow up is where the money is made.” It’s important to remember that prospects receive a lot of attention from sellers. This means that you cannot give up after the first attempt. Generating outbound B2B leads takes multiple touchpoints, across multiple channels. Being persistent means you’ll be more likely to have success.
- Track and Analyze Results
Being data driven is imperative as a B2B outbound lead generation best practice. For example, understanding what cold email content generates positive replies allows you to iterate on your cold email copy. Over time, you’ll be able to craft a message that has a higher positive reply rate by following the data. A/B testing cold calling scripts is another way to track and analyze results for this outbound lead generation best practice. Seeing what works and what doesn’t by looking at the data will make you more effective over time. Additionally, you’ll want to track customer acquisition costs. It’s possible you find an outbound lead generation tactic that works well but is too costly to justify. Knowing the numbers work is table stakes for generating outbound leads at scale.
Outbound calls and lead generation Pros and Cons
Less competition – when it comes to B2B outbound lead generation, most companies use cold email. The reason for this is that it’s the most cost effective, easiest to implement, can be outsourced (sometimes), and has the most data. Whereas outbound calls or cold calls, are less popular for the opposite reasons. This has provided an advantage to outbound calls as a lead generation tactic because fewer companies do this. Execs at popular companies may receive 50 cold emails to 1 outbound call.
Have a conversation – unlike with email, outbound calls connect you directly with a prospect who may be open to talking and learning more about your solution. This outbound lead generation tactic is more dynamic. It’s much easier to ignore an email and objections are rarely voiced via a response to a cold email. An outbound call may elicit an objection that an SDR or outsourced SDR can overcome.
Targeting – with outbound calls you can target exactly who you want. Advertising has targeting capabilities but it’s rare to be able to pick the exact person you want to get in touch with via the popular ad platforms. With an outbound call this can be a highly targeted way to generate leads. Sometimes cold calling is your best channel to connect with a prospect. Often reaching out via an outbound call to an SMB business owner will be your best bet.
Time consuming – Outbound calls take time. There are sales tools for prospecting like Kixie, Connect and Sell, Orum, and others that are power dialers or parallel dialers that can dramatically increase the calls made per hour if you’ve created a high quality cold call list. However, the challenge with outbound calls and lead generation is that you often have a low connect rate. This can be solved by using human verified leads.
Rejection is more real – Outbound calls as a lead generation tactic is the most in your face rejection you can receive as an outbound salesperson. Prospects can be rude and downright offensive. This rejection creates call hesitancy. Many salespeople would rather take the rejection over email instead of hearing it on the phone.
Low response rate – This is related to the time consuming aspect of outbound calls and lead generation. On a good day, you might make 80 outbound calls and generate one or two quality leads. That’s a lot of work for one lead. On bad days, you can make 100 outbound calls and generate zero leads.
Outbound lead generation emails
When it comes to crafting outbound lead generation emails that get a positive response there are a few factors to keep in mind.
- Keep it short. The sweet spot for outbound lead generation emails is 25-50 words. Most people struggle with length and feel the longer the email, the more information they’ll be able to share with their prospect. This is wrong. Shorter is better.
- Subject lines. Too often, people write outbound lead generation emails with marketing like subject lines. Keep the subject line short, two or three words is enough. The goal is to get an open.
- Relevancy. Do a little research on your prospect before writing the outbound email. You’ll be able to show the prospect that you’ve done your homework and this isn’t a mass outbound lead generation email
- Mobile Friendly. Keep your outbound lead generation emails to one screen. Before sending your email, send it to yourself and open it on your phone. Most people read their email on their phone. You want to format it so it’s mobile friendly and easy to read.
- Soft Calls to Action. When ending your outbound email, do not ask for time. Ask if people are, “Interested in learning more?” or “Open to learning more?” These soft CTAs tend to perform better.
- `Follow Up.` One outbound email lead generation email is not going to be enough. As mentioned above, the follow up is key. You’ll likely book more meetings with your second and third email than your first.
If you’re unsure how to create quality outreach, you may need a sales enablement manager, fractional sales manager, or a B2B sales consultant to help you sort out your strategy. SDR outsourcing is also an option.
Outbound Lead Generation Tips
When it comes to outbound lead generation tips, there are many. Below we’ve outline some of the best tips to improve your outbound lead generation process.
- Define your target
- Understand the problems and pains of your prospect
- Use multiple channels for outbound lead generation
- What works for one prospect, may not work for another
- Create relevant messaging
- Follow up and be persistent
- Keep your emails short
- Know your customer acquisition cost for outbound lead generation
- Quality B2B data is key
- Craft mobile friendly messages
- Take a data driven approach
- Track your results
- Test and iterate based on what the data is telling you
- Not all outbound lead generation services are created equally
- Sometimes cold calling is better than outbound emailing
- Every outbound lead generation channel can work