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What Online Marketing Tactics Generate the Best B2B Leads?
by Rieva Lesonsky
April 29, 2022
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The days of B2B businesses generating leads via sales letters and cold calls are long gone. Today, savvy B2B marketers use online marketing to attract qualified leads. But which digital marketing tactics work the best for this purpose?

Here’s what a recent survey of B2B marketers in the 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing has to say.

Social media, email, and search are the most popular lead generation tactics…

Some digital lead generation tactics are almost universally employed. For example, 95 percent of B2B marketers surveyed use social media to generate leads, 93 percent use email marketing, and 91 percent use organic search.

…but that doesn't mean they’re the most effective

Despite ranking tops in popularity as a lead generation tool, social media falls far lower on the scale in terms of effectiveness. Fifty-five percent of B2B marketers say social media generates leads for their companies—far below the 73 percent who say email generates leads and the 70 percent who say organic search does. Paid search generates leads for 54 percent of survey respondents, while display advertising works for 37 percent. The latter two tactics are often harder for small businesses to execute, which may account for their relatively poor showing.

LinkedIn leads the pack in lead generation

Digging down further into social networks, the survey reports 89 percent of companies use LinkedIn and 86 percent use Twitter. However, LinkedIn is by far the top social network for generating leads, cited by 62 percent of respondents, compared to just 37 percent who say Facebook is effective. Meanwhile, Twitter's effectiveness does not even come close to its popularity: Just 34 percent say Twitter drives leads, while 17 percent say YouTube generates leads.

White papers work

What type of content works best for B2B marketers at generating leads? Although 82 percent of marketers in the survey publish blog posts, making this the single most common type of content used, blogs aren’t the most effective way to drive leads. Good old-fashioned white papers perform best in lead generation effectiveness, cited by 53 percent of respondents. Half of respondents say webinars generate leads, 44 percent say case studies generate leads, 35 percent say videos generate leads, and 31 percent say infographics do.

Lessons for B2B marketers

What lessons can you take away from these survey results?

  1. As your mother used to say, just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean you should do it, too. Some of the most common digital marketing tactics mentioned in the survey get fair-to-middling results. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them; it just means you should assess their effectiveness for your particular product or service and target market instead of blindly following the crowd.
  2. B2B buyers are looking for meaty content. How else to explain the success white papers, webinars, and case studies in generating leads? White papers and webinars are typically gated content, too, so prospects have to give up their contact information to get the content. Case studies offer buyers a chance to see how your product or service helps companies like theirs. While white papers, webinars, and case studies are all fairly complex pieces of content to generate, their effectiveness suggests it’s worth putting some extra time (and more of your marketing budget) into them.
  3. Social media drives awareness, but not necessarily leads. Interacting with customers and prospects on social media or sharing your expert opinions in a blog post can attract attention to your business, raising awareness of your brand. While these activities may not directly generate leads, they are still valuable in putting your business in front of prospective customers for consideration.

Do you need an expert opinion about what type of online marketing will work best for your business? Your SCORE mentor can help. Get matched with a mentor today.

About the author
Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog
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