B2B Lead: definition, differences with the contact/prospect and 4 winning techniques

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Lead generation, or LeadGen, is punctuated by jargon that is sometimes misunderstood (or misrepresented) by marketers themselves! Hot lead, lukewarm lead, cold lead, MQL, SQL, prospect, contact… English rubs shoulders with French, and abbreviations complicate the whole thing a bit. Yet, the LeadGen is the beginning of the buying journey. Without leads, there is no salvation, especially in B2B where sales cycles are very long and products are particularly complex.

In this practical guide, the Twilead editorial team takes you through a lexical disambiguation sequence to understand the various LeadGen terms, and then follows up with four winning techniques for generating leads en masse. Let’s go !

What is a B2B lead?

A lead is simply a potential customer who has shown a more or less explicit interest in the company in the broadest sense of the term, whether it be a product, a service, a range, etc. In a B2B context, the lead is therefore an organization (company, community) or a professional (buyer in particular) who has shown an interest in your value proposition.

Typically, “interest” is expressed by completing a contact form in exchange for added value such as a white paper, ebook, product demonstration, webinar registration… but not only. Depending on the capabilities of the company’s technology stack, this could be a prospect who has visited your website more than 5 times, all visitors who view your pricing page, a mobile user who has downloaded and then used your mobile application, etc.

Depending on the company’s marketing strategy, each lead generated results in an entry in a database and/or a record in the CRM. The company generally has a set of information on this lead, with at least his first and last name, the company name, his email and his phone number. Leads that come from a contact form usually leave more information, including their position within the company, industry, employee size, etc.

Contact vs. Lead vs. Prospect: what’s the difference?

While there is a difference between a lead and a prospect, in practice, some companies tend to use the terms “lead” and “prospect” interchangeably, while others take liberties with both concepts and define them according to their marketing strategy, workflows and culture.

In absolute terms, there is a difference in maturity between the lead and the prospect. If the lead has shown a more or less explicit interest in the company, the prospect has shown an intention to buy.

The prospect has reached the end of the funnel, notably in the evaluation or decision phase, while the lead has just entered it (discovery phase). The lead is usually more or less aware that he has a problem to solve, but he is not yet sufficiently aware of the importance of solving this problem.

On his side, the prospect knows that he has a problem to solve in a more or less urgent way, but he is not yet sure that your company is able to solve it (or to solve it in the best conditions compared to the competition). In general, the lead is handled by marketing, which is responsible for advancing it to the status of a prospect with lead nurturing actions, for example. The prospect can be “worked” by marketing and sales. To further complicate matters, some marketers talk about “hot leads”, which is a gradation in lead maturity. This concept comes close to the prospect.

Finally, the contact is an individual who works at a target company and whose contact information is in your database. The term “contact” is much more vague, as it can refer to an acquaintance who works for a target company, a lead, a prospect or even an employee of a client company.

Hot, warm, cold, MQL, SQL… focus on the different types of leads

Cold Lead

This is simply a lead that is at the very beginning of the B2B marketing funnel. With the right tactics, they will progress through their journey to become a warm lead, a hot lead, a prospect, a customer, a loyal customer and eventually an ambassador for your brand. Cold leads don’t know (or know well) your company and your offering. They require nurturing efforts, with ToFu(Top of the Funnel) content like:

  • Blog articles, with an educational angle;
  • Infographics ;
  • Explanatory videos;
  • Posts on social networks;
  • News flashes…

Warm Lead

Let’s dare to use an analogy: the lukewarm lead is a bit like the passer-by who stops in front of a shop window to take a closer look at a product that has caught his eye. He won’t necessarily go into the store to buy the product, but chances are he will in the near future. In a B2B context, the lukewarm lead may decide to become a hot lead, or even a customer, after a week, a month or a year. To qualify as “lukewarm”, the lead will have to perform an action that shows purchase intent such as:

  • Fill out a form to access exclusive content (webinar for example);
  • Request information about a product or service;
  • Interact regularly with your social media posts;
  • Subscribe to your newsletter;
  • Contact you following a recommendation from a peer, etc.

Hot Lead, or Hot Lead

This is a lead that arrived at the very end of the marketing funnel. You’ll need to feed it with bottom-of-the-funnel, or BoFu, content like product demos, customer testimonials, case studies, etc. He has qualified his need, he has understood (even partially) your value proposition and he is ready to be contacted by a sales representative. Here are the different signals that indicate that the lead has matured:

  • It both the budget, authority, need and some urgency to buy your product (BANT method) ;
  • You have agreed with him on a precise schedule for the commercial meeting and eventually the signature;
  • It is very well documented on its need and your value proposition.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

As the name suggests, this is a lead that has been qualified by your marketing team according to specific criteria: type of web pages viewed on your website, type of content downloaded, engagement with your social media posts, repeated opening of emails as part of email campaigns, etc. The MQL will be passed on to the sales people who will qualify it (or not) as a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)… which brings us to the next type.

The Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

The Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a lead that your sales team has validated. So she decided to follow this lead in an attempt to convert the prospect. As a rule, the MQL becomes SQL after a contact is made, especially by a Business Development Representative (BDR).

How to generate leads in B2B?

According to a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 85% of B2B marketers consider lead generation to be their top priority, behind sales (84%) and lead nurturing (78%). This is also a major challenge, as 44% of them report that their lead generation actions are not very effective. So how do you generate leads in B2B? Here are four winning strategies to inspire you!

#1 Content Marketing… because content is (still) king!

According to a DemandGen study, 47% of B2B buyers consume between three and five pieces of content during their journey before contacting a supplier. Gartner also explains that 65% of B2B purchasing decisions are now made before the buyer even contacts the intended supplier. The B2B buyer has become autonomous. He strings together articles, videos, infographics and online reviews to make up his mind.

That’s why you need to occupy the field and offer high-value content along the entire marketing funnel. Of course, creating great content is not enough… it has to be seen. This is where SEO, SEA, Community Management, etc. come in.

Here are 4 golden rules for producing content that engages your Buyer Persona:

  • Use the power of data to identify the themes that interest your target. Examples of indicators: the most typed queries on search engines, the best performing blog articles and posts on social networks (including those of your competitors), Google Trends data, the most dynamic hashtags on LinkedIn, the most frequently asked questions by your prospects and/or customers, etc.
  • Include your sales and customer success managers in editorial meetings. Because they are in direct contact with prospects and customers, they can feed the marketing team with topics that are regularly addressed by your target.
  • Get inspired by the content produced by leaders in your industry. These companies have undoubtedly invested heavily in identifying the right themes.
  • Snacking, for example, by breaking down large content (ebooks, white papers, etc.) into several small “digestible” pieces of content such as posts on social networks, small video capsules, etc.

#2 LinkedIn, a real lead magnet

According to a study by Oktopost, over 80% of B2B leads are now generated by LinkedIn, far ahead of Twitter (12.73%) and Facebook (6.73%). Not doing lead generation on LinkedIn is shooting yourself in the foot!

Unlike other lead generation levers, LinkedIn provides privileged access to top management decision makers… the ones with the authority to select a supplier and sign a contract. As Zuza Witulska of software company Netguru explains, a simple ad on LinkedIn generated 240 high-quality contacts after two weeks, with an acquisition cost 78% lower than other lead generation campaigns.

#3 Conversational Marketing via Live Chat

After having profoundly changed the communication habits of individuals, WhatsApp and other instant messaging applications have imposed themselves in the exchanges between B2C consumers and companies, before finding their place with B2B decision makers.

By integrating a Live Chat module on your website and, more broadly, messaging solutions in your various web media (website, pages on social networks, CTA of advertising campaigns), you put buyers in their comfort zone and promote instantaneous, fluid and particularly promising exchanges.

In B2B, the buying process is particularly long, sometimes lasting several months or even years, and for good reason: the products marketed are complex and expensive, and the decision is generally made by several people (6 to 10 according to Gartner). By opening the instant messaging gateway, you encourage your website visitors to express their needs early in their journey. This will help you speed up the cycle and, most importantly, give your salespeople back the ability to influence the decision.

#4 Automation, to industrialize your LeadGen!

The secret to stratospheric lead generation on LinkedIn? Automation! In fact, you will be able to “industrialize” your efforts to feed your pipeline regularly with high-quality leads. Twilead, the only all-in-one Sales, Marketing and CRM platform, gives you the tools to put your generation in orbit! On the menu:

  • Automation campaigns tailored to your needs, from basic scenarios to the most advanced workflows;
  • More than 40 predefined actions and templates to save time;
  • Forms, surveys, sales funnels, landing pages and websites;
  • Management and tracking of leads and progress of opportunities;
  • Centralization of all lead acquisition sources, etc.

Ready to generate hyper-qualified leads en masse? Book your demo now!