The Ultimate Guide to B2B Lead Generation
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The Ultimate Guide to B2B Lead Generation

Changing buyer behavior, industry trends, and your product/service category greatly influence your lead generation strategy.
Sneh Ratna Choudhary
Updated on
March 12, 2024
Published on
March 31, 2023
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Ask 100 marketers what a “lead” and “lead generation” means and you’ll get a 100 different takes.

Some marketers strongly recommend “stepping off the MQL (marketing qualified leads) hamster wheel” and focusing only on SQLs (sales qualified leads). Others suggest abandoning traditional lead generation in favor of demand gen activities and ABM (account based marketing).

In spite of the lack of general consensus, the truth is (like most things in marketing) that there isn’t a set answer. The answer to what a good lead and b2b lead generation process looks like is: “it depends.”

Changing buyer behavior, industry trends, and your product/service category greatly influence your lead generation strategy. We’ll recommend tools, tech and share real-life examples so you can re-evaluate your approach to generating B2B leads.

What is B2B lead generation? The sales and marketing divide.

B2B lead generation is the process of identifying and attracting prospects for your product or service with the end goal of turning them into a customer.  

That is the standard definition but in practice, defining a lead is a nightmare.

For marketers, someone who downloads an eBook or subscribes to the blog may be a lead. But that isn’t true for sales teams. These “leads” have only expressed vague interest.

For instance, a person reading your content could just be a writer looking for data and examples to cite.

Is it wise to pass them onto your sales team?
No. Sales teams already struggle with chasing prospects and then nurturing them through the notoriously long sales cycles. So there’s no point in delegating b2b lead generation to them.

But should you stop generating those leads? Also no. Those “leads” are still important for your brand awareness and may be considered warm leads until they’re ready to buy in the near future.

For example, the writer checking out your amazing content may recommend your product or service to their client in the future.

There is a middle-ground—marketing shouldn’t forward “leads” to sales until they clearly match the ICP. Use lead scoring software like HubSpot, LeadSquared or Salesforce and route the leads to the seller with the necessary experience to close the deal.

Another important (and perhaps obvious) step is to make sure sales and marketing are aligned on not only how they define a lead but also focus on building a qualified pipeline as the ultimate goal of lead gen.

This alignment is common in revenue-driven teams where sales and marketing teams join hands to attract high-quality prospects and nurture them. The primary success metric is revenue which helps marketers and sellers focus on delivering an excellent customer experience instead of collecting leads.

You don’t have to transition to revenue-driven marketing overnight but it’s the smarter thing to do, especially given the changing landscape of buyer behavior and platform limitations, which we’ll get to later in the article.

Why is B2B lead generation so important?

Without attracting potential customers, growth is impossible. Lead generation builds a predictable pipeline, meaning sales teams close deals at a much higher rate.

But there’s more to it. With lead generation, you can:

  • Build brand awareness

B2B lead generation activities like content marketing, posting open roles on job portals, Tweetstorms, and running ads can help with brand awareness. Even if your ideal customer isn’t looking to make a purchase, you’ll be a familiar face when they are ready to buy.

  • Eliminate cold calls

It’s safe to say buyers hate cold calls. Lead generation helps with inbound interest. Your sales teams can then focus on hot leads who are actively buying instead of chasing prospects who attended a webinar once.

  • Expand into new markets

You may have started off with certain industries in mind. But is that the only sector you should target? When you start B2B lead generation, you’ll attract interest from non-ideal customers as well. If there’s a healthy demand, you can expand your ICP and target new markets.

  • Build a community

While community building is a full-time job, one of the many benefits of lead generation is that you inevitably round up a group of promoters who believe in your product and what you’re building. They may not be your customers but will often help spread the word on dark social.

  • Find co-marketing opportunities

Your B2B lead generation activities also result in non-competing brands reaching out to you to host a webinar or an event. This partnership helps you gain access to their audience so you can educate and create a strategy to nurture them.

Types of B2B leads

We’ve already thrown around some terms like MQL, SQL, and warm leads but there are other ways to categorize them.

One lead can fit multiple categories so we’ll share some examples so you can better understand the different types of B2B leads.

  • Cold lead

These leads have not engaged or expressed interest in your product or service. They are unaware they’ll be contacted by you.

For instance, a bank (not your regular one) calls you to offer a loan based on your credit score. You are a cold lead for them.

In B2B context, this might equal an SDR cold calling or emailing a prospect because they seem to fit the ICP.

  • Warm lead

A warm lead is someone who has shown interest and taken some kind of action. They’ve attended your conference or watched your on-demand webinar.

  • Information Qualified Lead (IQL)

An IQL is the lowest hanging fruit and usually appears at the top of the sales funnel. These are people who know little about your business and don’t know how you can help them.

Someone who shares their contact information (like email, phone number) in exchange for some useful information like reports, whitepapers or cheat sheets is deemed an IQL.

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

MQLs show interest beyond sharing their phone number or email. They move onto the next stage of the funnel and are interested in your company and what you have to offer.

They may sign up for a free course or download an eBook about how your product helps them achieve their goals.

  • Product Qualified Lead (PQL)

For product-led companies, PQLs are more important than generating MQLs.

These leads have experienced “meaningful value” from your product through the free trial or freemium model.

Since getting to the product’s Aha! moment looks different for everyone, the definition of PQL is always evolving.

For instance, Slack deems an account a PQL when it reaches the 2,000 message limit. And for Drift, a PQL is someone who has had 100 conversations on their site.

  • Sales Ready Lead (SRL)

At the bottom of the sales funnel, you have SRLs who have either asked to speak to a sales rep or have shown interest in doing so.

  • Sales Qualifed Lead (SQL)

These leads have likely had a conversation with the sales team and are nearing the decision to make a purchase.

The sales and marketing team vets and researches them thoroughly before “qualifying” them as an SQL.

  • Inbound lead

Someone who initiates contact with your business either directly or through a referral channel is an inbound lead.

For instance, someone reads your LinkedIn post and gets in touch wanting to know more.

  • Outbound lead

These are cold leads you develop by reaching out to them through cold emails, calls or DMs on LinkedIn. They haven’t opted in to hear from you, making it harder to reach them.

What does a typical B2B Lead Gen process Look Like?

We’ve established that there is no right way to generate B2B leads. And sales and marketing teams may work together or focus on acquiring different kind of leads.

But no matter the channel or strategy, every lead must go through these phases of the sales funnel:

  • Awareness
  • Attraction
  • Outreach
  • Conversion
  • Close
 Lead Gen flow chart

In each stage, B2B lead generation activities for sales and marketing look different.

To increase awareness, marketing may choose to run ads and sellers may attend conferences where they can directly interact with potential leads.

So while there is no defined process, here’s a quick guide of what sales and marketing teams can do to identify and generate leads:

Step 1: Define an ideal lead and how you’re going to measure success

Sales and marketing must align on how they define a lead and the metrics they’ll use to measure success at each stage.

For instance, someone who downloads a generic eBook is not an MQL but someone who downloads 3-4 solution-focused eBooks can be deemed an MQL.

Step 2: Create a B2B lead gen strategy

Now that you know who you’re going to target, define the “how.” Are you going to use thought leadership to create a differentiated point of view or pour money on ads to increase brand awareness?

We’ll dive into this in more detail in the next section.

Step 3: Identify the tech stack

Your lead generation tech stack should support your strategy. You’ll need tools that help you efficiently identify and generate leads as well as test different tactics and measure the success.

We’re offering some examples here so you quickly build your tech stack.

Note: These are not our recommendations but are based on popularity among general users.

Step 4: Run lead gen activities

Here’s a sample B2B lead generation activity for marketing and sales:


Use content marketing, SEO, social media, ads, or email to reach potential customers. Direct them to a landing page or an eBook with a lucrative offer and get their contact information. Or have them read your blog posts and get them to sign up for your mailing list.

In general, marketing may resort to content marketing, performance marketing, ABM or growth hacking to generate leads.


Reach out to your ICP through cold emailing or calls after you’ve identified they’re a good fit for the business. According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales report, buyers expect a warm researched call or email. Once they express interest, set up a call with the Account Executive (AE) and conduct a personalized demo.  

Bookmark: Lead Generation Using Intent-Based Audiences

For sales, apart from cold calls/emails, social selling is a huge opportunity to get in front of the right prospects.

Here’s a visual from Cognism on how these activities can be divided between marketing and sales:

Benefits of B2B lead generation for sales and marketing.

Step 4: Analyze outcomes and fine-tune the approach

Monitor your success metrics every quarter and identify opportunities that can improve your outcomes. Perhaps a new channel like TikTok might be useful? Or, maybe buyers don’t resonate with your current messaging and that needs refinement.

You can set up triggers so you know instantly if your lead gen activities aren’t leading to desired results. This is also a good time to automate recurring tasks that take up too much of your time.

5 B2B Lead Generation Strategies & Tactics to Drive Growth (+ examples)

Drop the pretense in the cold email

What’s worse than a cold email? A rep trying to shove their product in a buyer’s face.

Josh Braun, Founder of Braun Training and Former Head of Sales at Basecamp, recommends coming from a place of “not knowing.”

Here’s an example of what your sales email could look like:

“Josh, It looks like you have a few courses. Was wondering, are you using internal resources or an outsourced team to recover failed credit card payments?”

Braun suggests using this language instead of chest thumping about how good the product is because prospects are typically skeptical of salespeople. They know reps will cherry-pick data to prove their point.


Build a targeted audience list

Targeting precision is often a sore point for marketers and sellers. Ad platforms offer some filters to help you pinpoint your audience. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so with the new privacy laws and Apple’s ATT update that regulate data collection and prevent unfettered access to consumer data..

Primer lets you access 12 data sources in one platform so you can build a hyper-focused  audience. You can expect up to 90% match rates with Primer and a 50% decrease in CPL.

Read how a martech company using Primer nearly doubled their outbound revenue.

Personalize the website experience

Use reverse IP lookup tools to de-anonymize visitors that land on your site. Once you know that a visitor who falls in your list of target accounts is browsing your site, you can use personalization tools like Mutiny or Optimizely to change your headings and content.

You can even trigger a chat to highlight case studies from your target account’s industry so you have a better chance at starting a conversation.

Lean into search intent

Don’t fly blind when you create content. Understand what the audience wants and what they already know when you target a certain keyword.

For instance, we know the audience for this article is likely B2B marketers and growth professionals. But they’re aware of what lead generation looks like so it would be unwise to dive into the basics without offering anything new.

Use video marketing

YouTube and now TikTok aren’t just video platforms—they’re search engines too. If you’re not using these channels to showcase your products and what you can do, you’re missing out.

Videos are also a great way to showcase your brand values—something 72% of B2B buyers care about. When two products with near equal features are compared, buyers will pick the company that are more socially responsible.

Get the playbook: Lead Generation through Paid Ads

B2B lead generation is a constantly moving goalpost (but we can help)

Buying journeys are not linear. Decisions take months because most buying committees have at least 11 people. And marketing attribution is already a broken process.

All of that makes it hard to define a lead, track them, and nurture them until they become a paying customer.

Here’s how we can help:

At Primer, we cleanse and combine B2B data from 12 high-quality data sources like Apollo, ZoomInfo and People Data Labs. You can then pinpoint your ideal audience, find more decision makers like them and reach out to them across all channels like outbound, paid social and direct mail.

We help you increase revenue and align sales and marketing efforts through ICP analysis, audience targeting, lead enrichment and qualification, and prospect personalization.

Primer’s customers see 90% match rates on Facebook, 55% increase in ad efficiency, and a 34% improvement in lead generation. Start now.

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