B2B Customer Acquisition Strategy: 2023 Guide
B2B businesses have a unique challenge in customer acquisition: they have high value transactions, and multiple stakeholders to impress at their prospect companies in order to get a sale approved. Thus, sales cycles can be long and require a great deal of specialized marketing and sales content.
In this article, we summarize the most effective B2B customer acquisition strategy we’ve seen (and we’ve seen a lot). The components of the strategy are as follows:
- The Customer Acquisition Framework
- Filling The Lead Generation Pipeline
- Passing Qualified Leads To Sales
The Customer Acquisition Framework
Customer acquisition begins with lead generation: attracting new prospects and making them aware of your product. Lead generation is sometimes visualized as the very top of the digital marketing funnel. It takes place online in the Google search results and on LinkedIn; and offline at trade shows, industry events, and business groups.
Once leads are aware of your product, they need to be nurtured. This is where they demonstrate greater engagement with your company, read educational and marketing materials, and begin to develop an interest in speaking with sales. Lead nurturing occurs at every stage of the sales funnel, and takes place primarily through your website or offsite thought leadership channels such as social media, news, and industry-focused websites.
After a lead has made contact with your sales team, they are qualified by your staff and ultimately receive a statement of work or proposal. The strength of your lead generation and lead nurturing programs, from the content to the conversion flow, increases the ability of your sales team to close deals.
An effective B2B customer acquisition strategy will place a great deal of care into each step of the process described rather than over-emphasizing some steps to the detriment of others. For instance, many companies invest heavily in top-of-funnel lead generation but pay little attention to conversion optimization. It’s important to realize that each step is of roughly equal importance.
Filling The Lead Generation Pipeline
Lead generation gets prospects to know about your business. To do so effectively, you need to begin by knowing who those prospects are.
Identifying Prospects by Generating Customer Personas
By knowing exactly who your existing customers are now, you can determine how best to attract prospective future customers. Begin by analyzing your clientele and grouping them by demographics such as:
- Job title
- Company size
Then examine each group to see if there are any clear patterns in those customers’ lifetime values (LTV), churn rate, and if you have the sales history available, the average length of those customers’ sales cycles. This will allow you to prioritize which types of customers to focus your acquisition efforts on, depending on whether your business needs to quickly close many new sales, or increase the average value of each sale.
You can then interview these customers to learn more about how they first learned about your products or services, and why they chose you over your competitors. To add context, also inquire as to their main responsibilities, occupational pain points, company objectives, and what metrics inform their purchasing decisions. Altogether this will inform your decisions as to which marketing channels to invest in, as well as how best to nurture the new leads generated by those channels.
Marketing Channels for Lead Generation
After creating customer personas, the next step is to choose lead generation channels to invest in. The below table outlines the best channels for B2B businesses, as well as the average customer acquisition cost of each channel, their pros, and their cons.
|Thought Leadership SEO||High long-term yield
|Takes time for results||$647|
|Email Marketing||Low cost
Simple implementation when repurposing content
|Better for lead nurturing than lead generation||$510|
|LinkedIn Marketing||Low cost
Difficulty getting traction
Can be highly targeted
|High initial cost
Low long-term results
|Account Based Marketing||Targets highest LTV prospects||Expensive
Requires extensive research into a small number of prospects
The pros and cons of each channel should be considered alongside your understanding of who your ideal customers are, as once you’ve studied your target market, you may wish to generate leads from different channels than you’re currently using.
Your analysis of lead generation channels should include the average LTVs of the prospects you’ll reach on each. For example, despite the expense of ABM, it’s a channel that targets prospects with very high LTVs. Investing in such a campaign would still produce a high overall ROI, justifying the increased acquisition costs.
While some of the marketing channels listed above make excellent centerpieces for your customer acquisition strategy, others are better suited to be supplementary channels. For example, email marketing is an effective lead nurturing tool, but not very good at lead generation, as purchased lists tend to produce very cold leads. In contrast, thought leadership SEO is an excellent centerpiece, as it produces warm leads fairly quickly, and as a bonus produces content that can be repurposed for social media and email.
Nurturing & Converting B2B Leads
While not every lead will result in a closed sale, lead nurturing systems will keep them moving down the funnel. The lynchpin of these systems is content, particularly content that is tailored to your prospects’ intent.
Prospective Customer Intent
Prospective customer intent refers to the purpose with which your prospects visit your website or otherwise engage with your lead nurturing materials. This is the broader application of the concept of search intent—expanded to encompass all of your marketing channels—and is represented by the following spectrum:
Prospects at the research end of the spectrum are much more interested in simply obtaining relevant information on a given subject, and aren’t yet ready to meet your sales team. In contrast, other prospects will come to your teams’ attention ready to buy, and can quickly be moved to your sales team without the need for further nurturing.
Each lead generation channel tends toward a different portion of the spectrum. LinkedIn users tend to be research oriented, looking to learn about new developments in their industry. ABM, by its nature, is targeted to the most serious prospective buyers. Google searchers can fall anywhere along this spectrum, and which keywords your business targets with SEO or PPC will heavily influence the makeup of your visitors.
Creating Lead Nurturing Content
After determining what type of customer intent your leads from each channel arrive with, you’ll next need to create appropriate content for each. We’ve written extensively on how to do so, but it can be boiled down to the following principles:
- Speak to your audience’s needs: Don’t try to sell a product to someone who is trying to learn. Build trust with your audience by providing them with the information they need then and there, leaving them with a positive impression for when they’re ready to consider a sale.
- Use the right content type: Research oriented material should consist largely of blog posts, reports, and white papers designed to provide the reader with knowledge of a given topic or quandary. As audiences move further toward the bottom of the funnel, they should come across more sales-oriented landing pages.
- Include clear CTAs that are appropriate for their funnel stage: Even research-oriented content should provide readers with clear next steps for learning more information, such as subscribing to your blog or mailing list. Likewise, don’t sell past the close—sales-oriented content should have clear instructions on how to make a purchase or reach out to your sales team.
Creating lead nurturing content that abides by these principles will result in a measurable increase in the number of warm leads that reach your sales team. In turn, this will make your salespeople more effective, as those leads will essentially have had the opportunity to sell to themselves. This results in lower overall CACs (even if your costs per lead are higher), and is the key to a sustainable customer acquisition process that can support the long term growth of your B2B business.
Improving Your Customer Acquisition Strategy
Customer acquisition is a complex process, and even the most skilled business development professionals can find themselves in need of additional support. Because of this, many companies instead opt to work with an experienced partner to alleviate the burden on their internal team.
Our agency specializes in B2B lead generation, using ghost-written thought leadership and SEO to fill your sales pipeline with warm leads. If you’re interested in learning more about our services, reach out here.