The Top B2B Customer Acquisition Channels, Compared and Ranked

A successful customer acquisition strategy requires using the appropriate channels to reach your target audience. However, the discussion of channels is more complex than it may appear, as your audience is probably on all the channels but uses them in different ways. Thus, each channel has its own strategic value based on the state of mind your prospect is in, and can be best classified by their stage within the customer acquisition funnel: demand generation, lead generation, lead nurturing, or sales.

To help guide your strategy, we’ve compared and ranked the most effective B2B customer acquisition channels. The table below also contains key metrics and benchmarks for each channel, as well as a brief summary of its strengths and weaknesses. Afterwards, we examine each channel individually, discussing how it fits into customer acquisition strategy at a high level.

The Best B2B Customer Acquisition Channels of 2022, Ranked

Channel Average CAC Average ROI Summary
1 Speaking Engagements at Industry Events $518 856%
  • Requires a talented speaker and legwork to find and work with appropriate events and venues.
  • Produces a high ROI that comes from presenting directly to key decision-makers.
2 Thought Leadership SEO $647 748%
  • Thought leadership is the highest ROI digital marketing strategy; excellent for both creating demand and nurturing leads.
  • Takes 4-6 months for a campaign to gain traction, requires high level of writing ability and subject matter expertise
3 Email $510 312%
  • Effective lead nurturing tool, and low cost when repurposing content
  • High quality mailing lists must be built over time, cold emails see low engagement
4 PPC/SEM $802 36%
5 Account Based Marketing (ABM) $4,664 240%
  • High-risk, high-reward marketing channel targeting high-value individuals
  • Only applicable when targeting a small group of extremely high value prospects.
6 Webinars $603 430%
  • Builds trust and establishes your company as an authority figure.
  • Consistently producing high quality webinars is difficult and time consuming.
7 LinkedIn Organic $658 229%
  • Low CAC channel that puts content in front of a business-oriented audience.
  • Campaigns take time to gain traction.
8 LinkedIn Advertising $983 192%
  • Able to target prospects by demographics such as industry, job titles, company size.
  • High expense, high CAC suggest short term use.
9 Industry Trade Shows $1,390 85%
  • Puts your sales team directly in front of industry prospects.
  • Expensive to arrange and highly competitive.

Speaking Engagements at Industry Events

Speaking engagements at industry events give your company an opportunity to establish its reputation as an industry expert while presenting directly to an interested audience. It’s also one of the few customer acquisition channels that offers a personal connection, which leaves a more lasting impression than a blog post or email.

These engagements boast an excellent LTV to CAC ratio, but that comes at a price. Making the most of speaking engagements requires:

  • Event Outreach: Speaking to your target audience requires researching conventions, reaching out to see if a speaking slot is available, and submitting an application. This is a time consuming process with a low success rate, and the most prestigious events may require sponsorship.
  • Speaking Expertise: The investment in a speaking engagement only pays off if your presentation resonates with the audience and they connect it to your business. Your speaker should be both charismatic and an expert, possessing the ability to quickly answer complicated questions and impress prospects in the audience.

If you have the right assets, speaking engagements can become a core part of your customer acquisition strategy.

Thought Leadership SEO

With the highest ROI of any digital marketing channel, Thought Leadership SEO gives customer acquisition teams a tool that targets potential customers at every stage of the sales funnel. All that is required is excellent content targeting transactional keywords that prospects at that stage would search. Effective thought leadership content is both insightful and effortless-seeming, thereby building trust with your audience and earning Google’s recognition as an authoritative resource.

Thought Leadership SEO is excellent for customer acquisition because it positions your company as an industry leader, provides fodder for nurturing channels such as email and social, and brings in leads via high rankings on Google (provided best practices are followed). It’s not without its downsides, however. The strategy takes time and effort to deliver results: on average, 4-6 months of regularly creating and publishing content produces a steady stream of organic leads. It also requires hiring writers, interviewing subject matter experts, and consulting with SEO strategists–though this work can also be outsourced to a thought leadership marketing firm for the first several years of a campaign.

Email

Email has two main benefits: it’s highly effective at nurturing and reactivating leads, and it requires a much smaller investment than other channels when appropriately repurposing content. This makes it excellent as a supplemental channel in your customer acquisition strategy.

Where it suffers, however, is in two central challenges:

  • Audience Attention: Even those who check their in boxes are not likely to read very long. For that reason, emails need to grab readers attention as early as possible and offer information much more efficiently than with most content-based channels.
  • List Building: Buying a list of clients often means cold-calling new contacts, which results in more challenges and a lower ROI. This is overcome with an original list, however that can take years to build, which slows the overall pace of your campaign.

As a result, email is much less effective as a demand generation method, and shouldn’t take center stage in your strategy.

PPC/SEM

PPC/SEM boasts an extremely fast turnaround time compared with other customer acquisition channels. Google also makes it very easy to see exactly how well your campaign is doing, and as a result it’s become a staple for online lead generation.

Unfortunately, PPC suffers from high CACs, making it an unattractive option for long-term campaigns. There are two reasons for this: (a) you pay for every lead it generates, leading to high costs per lead, and (b) PPC inflation results in that cost increasing over time.

These factors make PPC best when used surgically: either as a short-term infusion of new leads, or as a testing bed for new markets.

Account Based Marketing (ABM)

ABM focuses on targeting a small number of high-value clients for conversion, largely ignoring the majority of your potential customers for the sake of closing fewer, but much higher revenue sales. This approach, then, is particularly high risk, but offers correspondingly high returns. Most importantly, ABM needs to be used in conjunction with detailed customer personas of your specific targets.

Unless your business is in a niche that sees most of its revenue from a very small number of enterprise clients, ABM should always be a supplemental channel.

Webinars

Webinars are one of the most effective lead nurturing channels when done correctly. A capable presenter speaking to an interested audience about an engaging topic is a great way to move leads further down the sales funnel towards an eventual conversion.

That being said. good webinars require:

  • A Talented Presenter: Your audience is not likely to sit through a long presentation with a boring–even if intelligent–presenter. Your speaker should possess the social intelligence to present complicated material while reading the room’s reaction.
  • Specific Content: Quality webinars focus on niche topics that your audience cares about, or specific, relatable pain points that your product/service helps with.
  • Production Value: Smooth transitions, high end graphics, and snappy editing makes a difference. Presenters who take the time to learn a streaming software like OBS or Streamlabs will give their webinars a more professional feel.

Overall, webinars are an excellent customer acquisition channel but they work best with other channels such as SEO, PPC, or LinkedIn that can help promote the webinar and provide other touchpoints with your brand.

LinkedIn Organic

The de-facto social media platform for business, LinkedIn (particularly the organic side) is a proven way to put your content, products, or services in front of an already interested audience. Since most users on LinkedIn are already in a business mindset, all that a company needs to do is effectively repurpose their existing material to meet the needs of the platform.

Like any social media campaign, however, LinkedIn campaigns take a fair amount of time and effort to gain any kind of online traction. In addition, this channel cannot become the centerpiece of your marketing campaign, since to be cost effective it will rely on repurposing already produced content (such as thought leadership). In this sense, LinkedIn organic is an effective but distinctly ancillary channel.

LinkedIn Advertising

LinkedIn advertising offers the same benefits as LinkedIn organic, however the paid version allows you to target your desired prospective customers. The customization tools provided through this platform allows the user to select a number of important variables, such as company, industry, title, and several others.

As a paid channel, LinkedIn advertising inherently involves a greater expense (and thus, higher CAC) than using the organic methods. This means that the best use case for LinkedIn advertising is often short-term mini campaigns..

Industry Trade Shows

Any chance you have to meet with prospects in person is valuable for acquiring new customers. Trade shows are the perfect opportunity for this to happen, as they bring together people who are already interested in services and technologies from your particular industry. Having your customers walking around directly in front of you gives your company the opportunity in turn to put your services directly in front of them, allowing for a more direct and personal experience.

That being said, trade shows come with a few important caveats:

  • Expense: Ranging between $10,000 and $250,000, trade shows are notorious for their exorbitant costs when accounting for convention space, supplies, and travel.
  • Competition: When your company books a table at a trade show, it not only means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your biggest competitors, but also competing for attention with companies in entirely different industries.

B2B Customer Acquisition Channels

Determining the mix of customer acquisition channels that will achieve the highest ROI and lowest CAC for your business is a complex art. Even if you have the resources to run your customer acquisition fully in-house, properly running campaigns on these channels involves the ability to produce quality content and analyze KPIs to evaluate and pivot as necessary. Overall, there is a lot of specialized knowledge required that can challenge even seasoned marketers.

For that reason, many choose to outsource customer acquisition to an experienced party. Our agency specializes in thought leadership content production and SEO, and specializes in working with complex B2B companies. Contact us if you’d like to discuss a future partnership.

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