B2B Lead Generation Methods: The 2021-2022 Guide

This guide lists the most popular B2B lead generation methods used by small-to-midsize companies between 2016 and 2021. We’ve segmented our dataset, compiled from companies that worked with our agency, by cost, difficulty, time until results, and ROI. We’ve also highlighted the B2B industries that had the most success with each lead generation method.

The table below shows the results of our findings, which creates a reliable picture of the best lead generation methods to invest in in 2021-2022.

B2B Lead Generation Methods, Compared

Method Cost (Monthly) Execution Difficulty* Time Until Results Average ROI Most Successful Industries
Thought Leadership SEO $10,000 – $15,000  

Hard

4-6 months 748%
PPC/SEM $3,000 – $30,000  

Medium

Immediate 36%
LinkedIn Organic $2,500  

Easy

6-8 months 229%
LinkedIn Advertising $5,000 – $20,000  

Medium

3-4 months 192%
PR $15,000  

Easy

4-6 months 62%
Trade Shows $10,000 – $250,000 (one-time fee)  

Hard

8 months 16%
Direct Mail $1,500 – $10,000
(per mailing)
 

Easy

6-8 months 77%
Webinars $7,500 per webinar  

Hard

2-4 months 430%

*Execution Difficulty is a proprietary scale we created comprised of complexity of staffing requirements, learning curve, and ability to outsource.

B2B Lead Generation Methods: A Breakdown

In this section, we elaborate on each lead generation method in the table above, describing how it can fit into your overall marketing strategy.

As Difficulty of Execution is the primary roadblock to implementing any marketing strategy, we also explain the features of each lead generation method that produced its difficulty score, which suggests how to overcome it.

Thought Leadership SEO

The foundation of Thought Leadership SEO is the regular publishing of thought leadership content written by subject matter experts, combined with an in-depth understanding of search intent. Done well, it speaks directly to your prospective customers’ pain points and improves the quality of your leads across the board. Excellence is required to achieve these results, however, as average content will struggle to rank or convert visitors.

Difficulty: Based on the medium-to-high cost, the learning curve to understand the nuance of keywords and the complexity of thought leadership writing, and the creative staffing requirements, Thought Leadership SEO is difficult to execute. For international businesses, getting the most out of localized content adds another layer of complexity.

PPC/SEM

Whether you call it PPC or SEM, this method is best for short-term goals or when you need immediate impact. Because its costs scale linearly with its results—you pay Google for every lead PPC generates—it’s best used in combination with other methods. In particular, it’s especially useful when paired with inbound channels that require a longer ramp up period.

Difficulty: While Google tries to make it as easy as possible to buy PPC ads, getting the most from your spend requires regular testing, keyword targeting, and familiarity with search intent.

LinkedIn Organic

LinkedIn is the only social media platform that B2B businesses should use as a lead generation channel. This is because it’s frequented by people who are already interested in doing business. Plus, it combines nicely with other content marketing and you can use content from one platform, modify it and use it on LinkedIn.

Difficulty: Assuming your business is already engaging in content marketing, reworking your content for LinkedIn is an easy value-add. If you don’t have other content, however, the difficulty and cost both increase, as, in an increasingly saturated content landscape, quality is everything.

LinkedIn Advertising

Much like using LinkedIn as an organic lead generation channel, the built-in audience ready to engage in business makes LinkedIn advertising a good choice for B2B businesses. Where it really shines is in your ability to target ads based on company and job title.

Difficulty: With LinkedIn’s precise ad targeting ability comes a need to make productive use of this tool. Your team must understand the exact audience you’re trying to reach in order to get a positive ROI from your LinkedIn spend.

PR

While its ROI sits on the lower end of the scale, a well-placed media story carries with it extreme credibility that can be marketed effectively. It can be difficult to justify the spend, however, as its main effects are hard to measure.

Difficulty: Pitching news channels, TV, radio, blogs and more takes a lot of staff and financial resources, which is why companies rarely handle PR in-house. However, understanding the difference between agencies is challenging, particularly in such a creative, relationship-driven industry where monthly fees vary, sometimes arbitrarily.

Trade Shows

The right trade shows and conferences will present opportunities that are rich with warm leads and let your team do some real-time market research. However, they are very expensive. While your physical exhibit may be a one-time expense, there are setup and tear down expenses, as well as travel, lodging and other costs related to sending staff out-of-town.

Difficulty: The learning curve for those manning the booths at trade shows can be steep, as they are competing directly for attendees’ attention. Succeeding requires a combination of an overtly interesting product, good communication & interpersonal skills, and industry knowledge.

Direct Mail

There’s not much good to say about direct mail, the classic postcard or paper-in-envelope approach to lead generation: it can be expensive, mailing lists next-to-worthless, and the amount of time potential customers give to unsolicited mail is minimal.

Difficulty: Say what you will about direct mail, it ranks as easy because just about anyone can write a postcard and with the help of a mail house, you can control your cost by limiting printing and distribution.

Webinars

Business leaders seek out educational opportunities for themselves and their staff, so hosting webinars is an excellent way to move potential customers through the conversion funnel. The key is to create content that is both interesting and more educational than marketing, as a transparent sales pitch will quickly fall flat.

Difficulty: What tilts webinars towards the harder end of the B2B lead generation scale is the difficulty of (a) garnering attendees and (b) producing a high-quality webinar. The best ones offer genuinely creative takes on topics, requiring a high degree of production and public speaking skill. It’s also hard to provide the information concisely enough to engage your busy target audience.

Getting Help with Your Lead Generation

It has taken years of work to help us define — and execute on — the B2B lead generation methods above. Having specialized in the highest-ROI of these methods, we now offer our services to businesses. Our primary focus is using thought leadership for lead generation, but we also help businesses manage Google AdWords and LinkedIn advertising.

If you are interested in discussing a partnership, you can reach us here.

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