8 Smart B2B SaaS Lead Generation Strategies for 2021

B2B SaaS lead generation in 2021 is highly competitive. Here are 8 strategies you can use to draw in more leads, grow your business, and thrive in 2021.

I’ll take 1,000 right fit leads per month over 50 demo requests. There, I said it.

When it comes to lead generation, most B2B SaaS brands are focused on the wrong things. They are trying to “rethink” the funnel, create more content, and win people over with tasty lead magnets.

The reality is that leag generation, as we’ve known it in the past, is dead. Buyers don’t want to play games to get the information they want. They want value NOW, transparency in pricing, and a brand that understands what they are really looking for.

In this guide, we are covering smart B2B lead generation strategies that put your potential buyers first and work to generate real, tangible demand for your offer. 

Rethinking B2B SaaS Lead Generation

Most lead generation strategies leave marketing teams struggling to solve all the wrong problems. They’re focused on tactics when what’s really required is a complete mindset shift toward putting the customer first. 

It’s only then that you can attract right fit leads that are itching to buy from you. This means turning “leads” into actual revenue for your business – the ultimate goal of all of your marketing.

Let's be clear:

1. Your sales team should not be calling *leads*.

2. Your focus should not be just on generating leads.

If your marketing cannot turn right fit leads into revenue by creating clear intent to buy, you have a friction problem. This typically involves inconsistencies between your marketing messaging and the types of buyers your brand is really trying to reach. There can also be friction along nearly every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Therefore, effective lead generation is about reducing friction across your entire marketing and sales funnel. Fix the friction and your revenue will skyrocket.

Leads vs Revenue – What Do You Want More?

In 2010, the “standard” was for marketing teams to collect phone numbers and email addresses in order to provide “leads” to their sales teams. 

And this strategy has worked… mostly. But, over the years, B2B marketing teams have consistently struggled to shift from leads to revenue. 

Let’s break down the two models we see most regularly:

  1. Lead-Based B2B Marketing

Here’s what most B2B companies do breaking down a $50k ACV:

$75/lead * 0.2% lead-to-win = $37,500 Advertising CAC (not including Sales expenses; Sales wins 1 of every 500 leads)

So, to make $50k in ACV, you have to spend $37,500. We encourage you to do the math yourself for “lead” based win rate - the results will shock you.

  1. Revenue-Focused B2B Marketing

In revenue-focused marketing models, here’s a scenario for $50k ACV.

$750/lead * 5% lead-to-win = $15,000 Advertising CAC (not including Sales expenses; Sales wins 1 of every 20 leads)

The revenue-focused model has a substantially better advertising CAC and revenue results.  For $50k in ACV, we only had to spend $15,000 in CAC.

Both models have flaws. 

They don’t scale very well. In an attempt to get more and more revenue sourced demos and trials, your advertising CAC quickly increases and your win rate decreases.

  1. BEST: Buyer-Led Growth B2B Marketing

The key to connecting lead gen to revenue is adopting a third option – the Buyer-Led Growth model – and fixing friction across the buyer’s journey. 

If low lead-to-win rate is your current pain, your issue is not transitioning from lead-based to demand generation, it’s identifying friction in your brand to improve the lead-to-win rate. Most of this is not related to “better emails” or “pain points”. 

Combining both models, your marketing team had to spend $42,500 in advertising CAC to generate $100k in ACV.

We’ll do the same ACV model as before $50k and break down what should be happening. There is one big difference - leads should not be worked or called upon until a lead requests a demo or trial. 

This shift causes your marketing to change when running

When we work on identifying why leads are not taking action and improving that break in the buyer’s journey here’s what happens:

  • $75/lead * and you generate 500 leads for $37,500. You re-orient your marketing engine to work on friction and get leads to request sales interaction. 
  • 10% of the leads request sales interaction over time with a 25% lead-to-win rate. Your advertising CAC dropped down to $3,125.

The result? Your same ad spend as before has now generated $600k in ACV!

Smart Lead Generation Strategies for B2B Brands

By now it should be clear that the “traditional” B2B lead generation strategies are outdated and don’t work effectively in terms of connecting lead gen with real revenue growth. 

If you’d rather have money in your bank account than simply email addresses in your inbox, then here are the strategies you should use to really grow your B2B SaaS brand.

1. Adopt a Buyer Led Growth Model

Buyer-Led Growth is all about understanding your target buyer and aligning your marketing, sales, and growth strategies with the progression of their buyer’s journey. 

A Buyer-Led Growth mindset will shift your marketing from focusing on “awareness” to showing your buyer why they should care about solving their problems in the first place.

In other words, creating new demand requires your marketing to help buyers recognize they have even have a pain worth solving. So, forget “tactics” and focus instead on understanding your target buyer from the inside out. 

2. Remove Friction Across Buyer’s Journey

If you’ve been putting your pricing behind a sales wall or creating gated ebooks to “generate leads”, you’re doing it wrong. These types of lead generation strategies just add friction to the buyer’s experience, making them LESS likely to interact with and buy from you.

Adopting Buyer-Led growth begins with removing friction across marketing and sales so every step aligns with how B2B buyers want to buy today. How do we know this works? Our customers see a 2x – 4x increase in demo volume by removing friction alone!

Read: How to Reduce Friction in Your B2B SaaS Marketing

3. Solidify Your Brand Narrative

Creating a solid brand narrative is a key element of adopting the Buyer-Led Growth model for lead generation.

In essence, your brand narrative creates customer awareness of a previously undiscovered need. It does this by focusing on content that speaks to the potential customer’s mindset as it exists today. You’re able to show potential buyers that you understand their current beliefs and habits, and how they operate on a day-to-day basis.

Our Start Here page is a prime example of a strong brand narrative in action. We demonstrate that we understand where buyers are now, uncover a hidden pain they never knew they had, and then present a solution to their newly-discovered woes. 

4. Ungate Your High-Value Content

STOP putting your best content behind a pesky opt-in wall. Instead, you should be leading with your most valuable, informative content so buyers can learn to trust you, gain access to the information they need right now, and made an informed decision on whether you are the best solution to their current struggles.

Ungated content can consist of searchable articles (SEO blog posts), branded content, ebooks, videos, podcasts, and beyond. The key is to build value rather than sneakily dropping your readers into a sales cadence before they ever get a chance to learn what you are about.

So, here’s your sign to ungate your content and lead with your best content so buyers discover who you are, how you can help, and why you’re trustworthy. 

5. Build Urgency and Demand

Once buyers discover their most burning pain point (with your help, of course), they will begin to feel a sense of urgency to have their problem solved ASAP. While they may not be ready to buy right away, you have a small window of time to provide the content they need to ultimately make a decision.

Are you equipping potential buyers with pricing information, comparison guides, case studies, testimonials, and the like to show them you are the real deal? 

Does your marketing content build a sense of urgency by communicating that you understand what they are struggling with right now?

Note that this has far less to do with pushy sales tactics than it does organic content marketing, valuable sales conversations, and building brand trust. You can generate viable leads WITHOUT aggressively funneling leads through your pipeline. 

6. Expand Your Referral Network

Referrals are a significant source of business for many B2B brands. Brand trust, authority, and and thought leadership are powerful drivers in growing your referral pipeline and attracting new leads.

Your focus should not only be on the impression you’re making on customers but also on the impression you make on other big players in your network. Building a web of referral business is a smart strategy for sustainable lead gen.

Here are a few ways to expand your referral network:

  • Post thought-provoking content on LinkedIn to build Connections and grow your network
  • Publish SEO-friendly articles on your blog for organic reach
  • Submit guest articles to outside publications for backlinks and more connections
  • Invest in video marketing to build your authority and grow your traffic

7. Invest in Social Media NOT Social Selling

Social selling involves using social media to generate leads for your business. This DOESN’T mean simply pasting cold message templates into LinkedIn or the like, but using your social channels to generate real demand for your brand.

But here's the reality - to generate real demand don't get on LinkedIn and Facebook to do "social selling". That's instantly going to fail.

What you can do is leverage social media as a content marketing machine to get more effective distribution of your content efforts. You can leverage your expertise and your organizations reach to push the best content to your target audience.

You should NOT be using it so that you can send a DM asking for a meeting or send an email later saying that you liked a post on XYZ topic.

Yes it's really that simple. Identify the social channels your audience is active and hangs out in. Create valuable content that they will find useful and insightful. Post and engage with your target market on their content and wait.

8. Run Paid Acquisition Campaigns

While the traditional B2B marketing model may be broken, we are seeing massive results from paid acquisition campaigns – particularly on LinkedIn.

At Elevate Demand, we consistently run active tests on ad type, copy, creative, and offer to see what works best for our clients. We’ve invested over $25M in ad spend and routinely share our insights to help B2B SaaS companies get the most from their paid marketing efforts.

Over the years, we’ve gained insight into what makes our LinkedIn Ads perform the best. The takeaways are: 

  1. Include stats and relevant social proof in your ads when appropriate.
  2. Add multiple audience call-outs to drive clicks.
  3. Avoid branding in your creative and lean heavily towards stock photos and simple pattern backgrounds.
  4. Remove language that indicates intent or lead capture as the first word – for example, “webinar”, “demo”, or “whitepaper”.
  5. Always be testing your ads to generate the best results possible.

Read: Best LinkedIn Ads Strategies for B2B SaaS Companies

Reduce Friction and Build Real Demand

The bottom line is if your leads are not turning to revenue, the answer is not "lead based doesn't work". Instead, it’s an indication that there is friction in your marketing-to-sales pipeline that’s creating a disconnect between your offer and what buyers really want. 

If you get right fit leads, the question is identifying friction that prevents buyers from taking the necessary actions (i.e. buying from you). In most cases, it's lack of pain or unawareness of pain at the beginning of their buyer’s journey. Your role is to SHIFT their beliefs to create urgency and real demand.

It’s time to say goodbye to mediocre lead generation strategies. Start here.