When I googled “how to generate leads” at time of writing, it returned around 560 million search results.
That might sound like a lot, and it actually is. But a quick glance at the first few pages revealed that not much has been written about end-to-end, outbound lead generation strategies that use different channels.
That’s what I wanted to cover in this post. I’m going to share a multi-channel outbound lead generation workflow you can quickly apply, plus go into detail about why and how each component works.
Why Outbound Lead Generation Matters More Than Ever
Here’s a little tidbit of marketing history for you. When inbound marketing first broke into the scene around a decade ago, there was no shortage of websites and blogs predicting the impending death of outbound marketing. But the naysayers at that time had overlooked one crucial detail about where marketing was headed.
B2B Marketers Will Always Need Outbound
Now, 10 years on, outbound channels remain as strong and important as ever in the B2B marketer’s arsenal. In fact, study after study show that email consistently outperforms other lead generation channels in terms of usage and effectiveness.
The irony is that those very same sources that trumpeted outbound marketing’s demise are now advocating using emails, phone, and other outbound tactics alongside inbound channels.
That’s because outbound complements inbound marketing strategies in many ways. Inbound works well at creating broad awareness, while outbound is ideal for activities that need precise touches.
Let’s say a site visitor downloads your latest whitepaper. Without connecting with the hand-raiser via email or phone (to suggest other relevant content and acquire additional prospect info), turning this lead into an opportunity can take longer (or will never take place at all), since you have to passively wait for the prospect’s next move.
What if a competitor reaches out to this prospect before you do? Then, you just lost a potential customer, because 50% of B2B buyers will end up choosing the vendor that responds first. With a solid outbound follow-up plan, you’ll be ready and able to promptly engage every prospect that comes your way.
Ways Outbound Lead Generation Impacts Results
Supporting inbound activities is just one way outbound lead generation drives the marketing process. Today, with buyers taking more control of the sales cycle and with ABM strategies taking center stage, B2B marketers use outbound lead generation in a number of roles to boost marketing results, including:
- Gaining richer prospect profiles and sharper marketing intelligence: Much of the information you’ll need to engage and convert leads later can be acquired and verified in real-time using outbound channels earlier in the funnel.
- Distributing relevant content to the right audience: Outbound marketing helps your content cut through the noise by putting it in front of the right decision makers at the right time. Today’s prospects continue to drown in an ocean of published materials, and traditional distribution channels (online and social media) remain highly saturated.
- Accelerating conversions and streamlining the sales funnel: Nothing beats Targeted, one-on-one touches at starting and completing the lead conversion process, especially now that sales cycles have gotten longer and more complicated.
In the rest of this how-to guide, we’ll focus on the third point above, because lead generation still ranks as one of the biggest challenges that we B2B folks face every day. It also happens to be the top objective behind many of the activities we do.
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What You Need for Successful Outbound Lead Generation
Before we get into the details of the outbound lead generation workflow below, let’s first go over the things you need to have in place to make sure your outbound process achieves the results you’re aiming for.
These six main factors are what set effective outbound campaigns apart from poor-performing lead generation programs:
- Clear customer profiles and buyer personas
- Accurate and up-to-date prospect lists
- Targeted messaging and content
- Seamless experience across different channels
- Data-driven lead nurturing workflow
- Robust tools for carrying out and managing the campaign
Clear customer profiles and buyer personas
One of the biggest reasons why outbound lead generation campaigns fail to deliver the right results is that they’re not being clear and specific enough on who they’re trying to target. This is why effective lead generation strategies start with well-defined customer profiles and buyer personas.
Although we won’t go into detail regarding how to create ideal customer profiles and buyer personas, the key thing to keep in mind is that these two resources should be documented and should help you provide specific answers to:
- What do my most successful customers have in common? (i.e., industry, company size, technology, etc.)
- Why do my best customers do business with us?
- What do our top customers gain from buying our offer?
- Which decision makers do we usually talk to and win over in our top accounts?
- What pain points and triggers do these decision makers respond to?
Accurate and up-to-date prospect lists
They say having the right list is already winning half the battle in outbound lead generation. Emails, phone calls, direct mail, remarketing, live events, and other outbound tactics all require clean and actionable leads lists.
- Implement strict validation rules on lead capture forms
- Double-check your team’s data entry process
- Follow a regular update schedule
- Make sure to handle all types of data errors: duplicates, missing values, invalid entries, etc.
- Plan for every stage of the data life cycle: from data collection to removal
Targeted messaging and content
Try opening a few messages in your spam folder. How do they read? They probably sound like they were meant for someone else. That’s another problem that most outbound strategies face; they follow a one-size-fits-all approach.
Effective outbound lead generation relies on sending out messages that are relevant to what a specific buyer persona expects at a particular point in the purchase journey.
There are typically four types of buyer personas involved in B2B purchases: end users, influencers, technical buyers, and economic buyers. These decision makers have different priorities and pain points that they look for and respond to.
Plus, as these buyers move along the purchase journey, their needs and preferences change—and so should your messaging strategy.
Seamless experience across different channels
Practically all outbound lead generation strategies now follow a multi-channel approach. But if you ask B2B marketers what is multi-channel marketing, you’ll most likely get a ton of different answers.
Multi-channel marketing is more than just using two or more channels to interact with leads. It’s actually about ensuring that prospects and leads have a consistent and continuous experience wherever you reach them.
The key to a consistent multi-channel experience is to make sure that the conversation flows uninterrupted across the different channels in the campaign.
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Data-driven lead nurturing workflow
In one of my articles for The Savvy Marketer blog, I talked about the importance of having a clear lead nurturing cadence or workflow. That’s because with different channels involved (at least three) and multiple touches (between 6 and 13), a lead nurturing workflow serves as a roadmap for engaging prospects.
When creating an effective lead nurture cadence, you need to make sure it meets all the following:
- Maintains consistency by providing a set of specific and unified procedures for your team to follow
- Keeps everything easy to monitor and measure
- Speeds up conversions by removing potential bottlenecks or leakages
- Allows you to quickly scale things up or refocus in a different direction
As we’ll soon see, the outbound lead generation workflow we’ll dissect below meets all these requirements.
Robust tools for carrying out and managing the campaign
The last piece of the outbound lead generation puzzle is the set of tools that power the campaign. There are literally thousands of marketing tools available for outbound lead generation. The important thing is to understand the technologies that serve as the building blocks of an outbound marketing stack:
- Direct outreach tools: Enable and enhance targeted, one-on-one interactions (email automation tool, call management/tracking, direct mail automation, etc.)
- Customer relationship management (CRM) platform: Serves as the main hub of campaign activities since it’s where prospect data lives
- Marketing automation platform (MAP): Orchestrates outreach activities and allows you to effectively manage the campaign
How to Generate Leads: Emails + Calls + LinkedIn
Although there are dozens of marketing channels to use in your outbound lead generation strategy, you can get decent results with the right combination of just three key channels: emails, phone calls, and LinkedIn.
This outbound strategy is simple yet very effective. That’s why it’s a great starting point for B2B marketers still refining their outbound lead generation process.
In this section, we’ll first go over each channel one by one. We’ll then conclude with an actual outbound lead generation workflow that leverages the three tactics.
For a very long time now, emails continue to be the most widely-used and most effective outbound lead generation channel. Email’s precision, scalability, and versatility make it an ideal tactic for outbound activities such as:
- Initiating contact with cold prospects
- Warming up and nurturing leads from other channels
- Following up and keeping the conversation going
- Distributing content and marketing collaterals
- Responding to prospect queries and requests
- Ensuring that booked sales appointments show up
- Find the best schedule and sending frequency
- Make sure emails stand out with an irresistible subject line
- Balance content and design in the email body
- End the email with a strong closing line
- Build a case for action with a compelling CTA
In addition, outbound email marketing works better when executed with the right email marketing platform and with the help of a reputable email service provider.
Despite what some industry voices will tell you, live phone conversations remain a key component in the lead generation process. Recent research shows that B2B decision makers still prefer to hear from potential vendors over the phone: 57% of C-level executives and nearly 50% of directors/managers respond to sales calls.
But the role of phone calls in lead generation has changed; the old spray-and-pray tactics of long ago no longer work. Instead, phone calls are now most effective in outbound activities such as:
- Continuing and reinforcing contacts made in other channels
- Responding promptly to prospects
- Collecting and verifying information in real-time
- Qualifying and probing prospects for fit and interest
- Understanding pain points and expectations
- Promoting content and collaterals to a targeted audience
To take full advantage of outbound telemarketing’s new role, you first need to follow a few smart calling strategies:
- Make calls a seamless part of a lead nurture path by keeping messaging consistent
- Set the stage for the next step or a follow-up
- Leverage data on past prospect activity to schedule outbound calls
- Consider each call as a chance to provide value
- Track performance with a full set of KPIs and metrics
As effective as emails and phone calls are for outbound lead generation, social media’s reach and impact also make it a crucial addition to a modern outbound strategy.
In B2B lead generation, LinkedIn is our platform of choice. That’s because LinkedIn is the ideal social network for doing outbound activities like:
- Finding and engaging new contacts through LinkedIn connections
- Mapping out target accounts and prospects using LinkedIn profiles and activity
- Expanding pool of relevant prospects by joining and participating in LinkedIn Groups
- Pinpointing specific market segments with LinkedIn’s search function
- Reaching out directly to prospects through InMails, Introductions, and Messages
All these activities require you to beef up your LinkedIn presence and improve your potential for engagement and conversions on the platform. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Start by optimizing your LinkedIn profile to cover the right details, keywords, summary, visuals, and UVP
- Work to constantly grow your network by leveraging LinkedIn connections and profile views
- Stay active in relevant industry groups and make sure to contribute to the community
- Make the most of LinkedIn mutual connections and common interests when exploring potential prospects
Outbound Lead Generation Workflow
Here’s an actual outbound lead generation workflow that makes use of emails, phone calls, and LinkedIn in an integrated way. It’s based on some of the sales cadences we featured in a previous blog entry adapted for a CRM provider:
- Touch 1 – Intro Email or InMail (relay intent to explore ways for exceeding sales KPIs/productivity goals)
- Touch 2 – Follow-up InMail (refresh them about Intro Email/InMail)
- Touch 3 – Email (send an infographic about causes of sales performance slump)
- Touch 4 – Follow-up Email (send a whitepaper about ideal CRM setup)
- Touch 5 – Phone (discovery call)
- Touch 6 – Social Media (share an article and tag the prospect)
- Touch 7 – Video Email (benefits of cloud-based CRM)
- Touch 8 – Social Media (engage prospect on LinkedIn – tag them in a post, answer a question they’ve posted, respond to their comment in a group, etc.)
- Touch 9 – Voice Mail (check in if prospect has questions about resources sent)
- Touch 10 – Email (Have your director send an email – this can improve response rates by 45%)
- Touch 11 – Phone or Email () (book a face-to-face meeting)
This workflow can be modified to suit your requirements (such as the length of your outbound lead generation cycle as well as the content and collaterals you want to send to prospects). The key idea is to combine these three channels to provide a consistent multi-touch, multi-channel experience for your target prospects.
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Email, phone, and LinkedIn touches are the three main channels that make up an effective outbound lead generation workflow. They’re easy to set up yet very effective, and it’s also simple to build other outbound strategies on top of these channels.
How else do you use emails, calls, and LinkedIn in your outbound program?