A complete guide to B2B lead generation


50% of marketers consider lead generation a top priority in their marketing campaigns.

97% of people ignore cold calls which means lead generation is an essential part of any sales process. If you want to get people’s attention, you need to use other methods than just cold calling to generate leads like content marketing and social media. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Not to worry, because we’ve put together a complete guide to B2B lead generation. Have a read, and you’ll see that the prospect of lead generation isn’t too daunting after all. You just need to break it down into manageable steps.

Let’s start with the basics…

What is a lead?

Put simply, a lead – sometimes referred to as a sales lead, or a business lead – is a brand or company that is interested in purchasing your products or using your services. Securing a lead is the first step in the purchase funnel, and is crucial to generating revenue for your company. 

Qualifying leads through lead scoring will also inform you of which leads to nurture, and which leads to stop pursuing. 

What is B2B lead generation?

B2B lead generation describes the generation of prospects for future business, via inbound or outbound marketing. Overall, B2B lead generation can be split into two parts: Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), and Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

An SQL is someone that has been researched with profit in mind. This lead has been individually assessed as someone that will qualify for the next round of the process: the lead nurturing. 

This is where buying intent comes in. These leads have been vetted, normally as a result of your lead scoring technique, and are considered in a position to continue the buying process, right now, as opposed to in the future. This is the difference between an SQL, and an MQL.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

An MQL is a lead that has been assessed as a lead which may have value in the future, but at the moment is not in a position to continue down the purchase funnel. The best way to consider an MQL is as one of your future clients, so they are important to keep around. 

The role of data and modelling

Data plays a pretty big role in lead generation. To generate leads in a consistent way, you’ll need to create and undertake at least some of the following:

  • Ideal customer profile
  • Buyer personas
  • Market research
  • Competitor research

You should also map your total addressable market. This is pretty much every potential prospect that could fit your ideal customer profile. Even without extensive research, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of your ideal customer profile from your returning and existing clients.

The sum data collected should include multiple features, with some examples including:

  • Business type
  • Business size
  • Demographic
  • Budgets

All of this research should give you a much better understanding of who you are targeting, how to reach them, and your competition in reaching these people and companies. 

Once you know who you are going after, how do you get to them? And who is going to do this?

Who drives B2B leads?

B2B leads can be created by both sales and marketing, usually by the following roles:


  • Sales Development Reps (SDRs)
  • Business Development Reps (BDRs)
  • Referral programmes


  • Community managers
  • Content marketers
  • Event marketing
  • PPC
  • SEO
  • And pretty much everyone else in marketing!

In short, there are a wide range of team members that can drive your B2B leads. Widely, your marketing team will be responsible for this. Everyone has a role to play in marketing when it comes to generating leads, as the heart of marketing is promoting and attracting potential clients to your business.

Secondly, your sales team are responsible. Your sales and business development representatives have a key role to play here. These roles are both focused on developing leads and sales for your company – so lead generation is pretty much the foundation of their job role. 

The difference between these roles and the marketing ones is SDRs/BDRs will tend to generate business via outbound methods, while marketing often focuses more efforts on inbound.

B2B Lead Generation Activities

There are a few approaches and activities you can engage in to promote leads and start generating potential business.

Sales focused tactics

From a sales perspective, strategies are mainly outbound and include:

  • Cold-calling
  • Prospecting
  • Social selling
  • Referral programs

Carefully assess the differences in these strategies before choosing one, though. We all know how annoying cold-calling can be, and this isn’t the most effective tactic. Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment, so it’s best to channel your energy and resources into other lead generation channels.

Marketing focused tactics

From the marketing perspective, there are a huge number of strategies. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) techniques embrace the importance of search engines in the research phase.

Content marketing, social media and email marketing focus on providing value to your audience. Affiliates and partnerships leverage networks, recognising word-of-mouth as one of the most effective lead generation techniques. And broadcast and out of home advertising attempt to increase brand awareness and recall.

Here’s a quick breakdown of two of the main strategies used… 

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation is the process of identifying keywords that are often searched, and attempting to rank in the top search results for that page. A key aspect of SEO is keyword research: finding relevant keywords with good search volume that can be used to build a strategy.

SEO involves writing content optimised for search engines, building your backlink profile (the number of sites that link back to yours), and ensuring your website is crawlable, accessible, and fast.

There are many tools to help with SEO, with some of the most popular including:

SEO traffic is often called organic, as you don’t’ have to pay search engines for your listings. However, it can be highly competitive, take time to realise results, and does not guarantee success.

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a form of search engine marketing where a brand pays for every click that they recieve on a link. Businesses choose the keywords they want to appear for, and enter an auction with other businesses.

PPC can be a more targeted approach than SEO. While it is undoubtedly great that your ad appears at the top of the search results, the real advantage is in choosing when your adverts appear. You can target based on characteristics of the audience, including people who have visited your site before, geographical location, device, time of day, and so on.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is focused on producing educational, rather than promotional, content. It is a classic example of inbound marketing. 

Content marketing involves creating and distributing valuable, educational, and relevant content. This is one example of why the lead generation starts with customer research – you need to know who your audience is in order to provide them with content that is relevant and useful to them.

Produce this great, educational content, and prospects will continue to return. The long term goal is to drive customer action, but in the short term, the content may not directly attempt to drive leads.

Social Media

Social media can be used to amplify content, and can drive leads in that sense. In its own right, social media and lead generation are combined into social selling. This can either use social media as a research tool, or as a direct attempt to sell. 

It should be noted that selling on social media is tough, as most people are in a different frame of mind, scrolling away. Interrupting that can be tough. But social can be a great way to research prospects further, and then target them through different channels.

Email Marketing

8 in 10 prospects prefer talking to reps over email, which shows us – people prefer to be contacted via email than on the phone. Email marketing can be an effective way to engage potential leads. The secret to a good email marketing campaign is in the data. You need a great database to get started. This is where Outbase can help. Outbase gives you access to over 230 million B2B contacts. 

Find out more.


Events whether in real life or online can be a great way to reach out to prospects in a hands on way. It’s important to make your brand known in your market and going to events, even if it’s just to network, can get your name out there. It can also lead to referrals!

Why not buy leads?

You may think, why can’t I just buy these? Wouldn’t this save a lot of time and hassle?

The world would be an easier place for sales and marketing personnel if we could just simply buy leads but unfortunately, we have to put the work in. 

We can see why it’s tempting for you to want to buy leads, we really can. But, and we can’t stress enough, that is a really bad idea. Here’s why. 

Firstly, from a data point of view – buying leads will lead to pretty low quality stuff. 

Securing quality leads requires a lot of work, nurturing and strategy to master. 

Not to mention, who even are these leads that you’re buying? Using bought lists means that you won’t be doing any vetting of your potential business partners. Not only does this mean that these leads may not fit your ideal buyer persona, but your company’s progress and reputation will be affected as a result of this slap dash approach.

Plus, the lists you’ve bought may not even be in date. 

Contacting leads that aren’t relevant to you doesn’t really paint your company in a very good light. Do you know what this leads to? Blacklisting. Blacklisting refers to the process of a company categorizing you as someone that you do not want further contact with. Therefore, cutting all potential future business opportunities. 

But there are “cheats” out there to getting good data for your business without crawling through thousands of contacts by hand. Outbase gives you access to 230 million B2B contacts which you can then filter through to find the most ideal customers for your business. 

With our easy-to-implement personalization tools, every email you send will feel like it’s 121 outreach. 

Sign up today.

Written by:
Lily Ruaah Content Writer