B2B SaaS Lead Generation: The Timeless and the Timely
The mission: Generate sales leads. The conundrum: So many choices.
This guide to B2B SaaS Lead Generation ranks the best overall channels for 2023, as well as creative new methods that are gaining momentum in marketing circles.
The factors we consider most important when looking at lead generation channels are:
- Monthly cost
- Execution difficulty
- Time until results
This guide integrates these factors into two simple charts based on our 12 years of experience in B2B SaaS lead generation. The first ranks the most popular lead generation channels for B2B SaaS companies. The second lists, in no particular order, the most creative new lead generation channels for 2023. Below each one, we elaborate on the pros and cons of each channel listed. We’ve also included an overall rating for each channel based on our observation of which channels end up being chosen by B2B SaaS companies after much careful consideration.
The Top B2B SaaS Lead Generation Channels of 2023, Ranked
Today’s B2B SaaS lead generation landscape is rich with options, some old-school (and even offline) and some new. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular channels for 2023, ranked from overall best to worst.
|Channel||Monthly Cost||Execution Difficulty*||Time Until Results||ROI**||Overall|
|Thought Leadership SEO||$12,000 – $15,000||Medium||4-6 months||748%||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|LinkedIn Organic||$2,500 – $4,000||Easy||6-8 months||229%||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|PPC||$3,000 – $30,000+||Medium||Immediate||36%||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Industry Speaking Events||$25,000 – $40,000||Hard||Immediate||430%||⭐⭐⭐|
|Trade Shows||$10,000 – $250,000 per show||Hard||8 months||16%||⭐⭐|
|Direct Mail||$1,500 – $10,000 per mailing||Easy||6-8 months||77%||⭐|
*Our difficulty rating combines (1) complexity of execution, (2) staffing requirements, (3) learning curve, and (4) ease of outsourcing.
** We calculate ROI as a 3-year average of the difference between the gross return and campaign cost, divided by the campaign cost.
The Top B2B SaaS Lead Generation Channels, Explained
In this section, we break down each of the channels listed in the chart above, discussing their benefits and drawbacks in more detail.
Thought Leadership SEO
Thought Leadership SEO combines regularly publishing authoritative content with an understanding of search intent to organically attract and convert visitors. It relies on writing and publishing the best pieces of content on the internet for each transactional keyword, ideally as part of a Hub & Spoke strategy. The content your produce can also be shared in multiple ways to extend its reach, and reduce the cost of other campaigns.
Though we consider it the overall best lead generation method due to its high ROI, it’s not without downsides. You’ll need some patience as the majority of your return won’t start until years 2 and 3, and consistently publishing excellent content is easier said than done.
As a business-oriented social media platform, LinkedIn provides a tailored-made audience for both sales lead generation and employment recruiting. The rewards don’t happen overnight, but the content is easily repurposed from other platforms and you’re guaranteed a receptive audience. The competition is stiff as you compete with lots of impressive content on LinkedIn, but the cost is very low.
The most popular lead generation for SaaS companies, PPC is a traditional, well-understood paid channel for B2B SaaS lead generation. Cost varies widely and results generally happen quickly. Marketers and the C-Suite like the measurability of this channel.
There can be difficulties, however, in setting up the campaign, testing keywords and more. Your best chance of longer-term success is using PPC in combination with another option, such as an organic SEO campaign. PPC can bring in immediate needs while you wait for SEO to bear fruit.
Industry Speaking Events
No other channel can replicate the authority ascribed to the keynote speaker at an industry conference. With the audience’s attention, a keynote speaker has a rare opportunity to be perceived as a leader and generate warm marketing leads. And the authority given to the speaker easily translates to name recognition, followers, subscribers, and web traffic.
What places this channel in the middle of our chart is that these speaking roles are both difficult to obtain and require a skilled speaker on your team. Industry conferences demand speakers with already-established audiences, and trade shows often charge $10,000+ in sponsorship fees for a speaking slot.
PR is a complicated channel to try to handle in-house. There are lots of moving parts: reputation management, media relations, and event planning, not to mention having the prerequisite contacts. This is why almost every company will choose to outsource PR, and there are many well-respected agencies available to hire. The exact return is difficult to measure, however, and outsourcing is expensive.
Working a trade show booth provides an opportunity for warm face-to-face interactions. While it can take a lot of resources (both employee and financial), trade shows allow you to make personal contact with potential customers and employees.
There are two main downsides. First, they’re expensive, both in the cost of the exhibit space and in employee time. The second is that you’ll be vying for attention against every other exhibitor, many of whom would otherwise not normally be your direct competitors.
Direct mail is less popular in SaaS than in other B2B industries, but is sometimes considered by inexperienced marketers. Direct mail can be costly, mailing lists can be next-to-worthless, and the ROI varies widely and is hard to measure. While direct mail can work in more old-time industries, SaaS executives rarely respond well to postcards and letters.
Creative Lead Generation Ideas for B2B SaaS Companies
Now that you’ve learned about some of the tried and true methods, let’s take a look at some of the newer channels that are on savvy marketers’ radar.
|Channel||Monthly Cost||Execution Difficulty||Time Until Results||ROI||Overall|
|Original Reports||$5,000||Medium||9-12 months||215%||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Podcasts||$7,500 and up (per podcast)||Hard||12-18 months||527%||⭐⭐⭐|
|Text Message Marketing||$500 – $10,000||Easy||1-3 months||122%||⭐⭐|
|Industry News Website||$10,000||Hard||24-36 months||370%||⭐⭐|
|Book Authoring or Co-authoring||$20,000 – $100,000 (one-time fee for writing, editing, and publishing)||Hard||15-18 months||76%||⭐|
Creative Lead Generation Ideas for B2B SaaS, Explained
Below, we discuss each of these creative ideas in more detail.
Combine your internal data and expertise to publish original reports and white papers that offer hard to find statistics and benchmarks. You will both further your reputation as an industry leader, and these also serve as additional reasons for visitors to land on your website (and therefore enter your conversion funnel).
You can combine this method with SEO, targeting common customer searches, such as Lead Generation Statistics or Content Marketing Benchmarks. Reports on data that can’t be found anywhere else will attract a higher number of links, increasing your domain authority and raising your rankings across the board.
More people than ever before are getting their news and their business insight from podcasts. Produced professionally and targeted properly, podcasts can be extremely effective for engaging potential customers. You have a captive audience — on the treadmill or on the highways — anxious to be entertained and open to being influenced.
Successfully executing a B2B SaaS podcast requires two things: (1) connections to interesting guests, and (2) high production quality. Without either, your potential customers will have little reason to listen to you. Also important to remember is that podcasts need their own marketing while building their audience.
Text Message Marketing
Everyone has a cell phone and many people are hooked on instant gratification. A texting channel that allows you to send personalized messages to those who sign up — or those who respond to an advertisement — combines the two.
Potential customers who opt in to receive text messages have already shown a commitment, which heightens the quality of the lead. However, allowing for just a few words at a time, you’ll need savvy messaging to move them through the sales funnel. Given the mobile, 24/7 nature of the technology, you’ll also need to consider round-the-clock sales support.
Industry News Website
Starting an industry news website is an uncommon, but high ROI lead generation method — as long as you have time to spare. The first 1-2 years should be spent establishing the website as a trustworthy, editorially independent source of information. Beginning in years 2 and 3, when this site has high name recognition and search rankings, you can begin introducing more advertising for your SaaS company’s products, as well as publishing (clearly marked) sponsored posts. This helps get your brand in front of more visitors than any other method, but takes a long time to pay off.
Author or Co-Author a book
Books impress people and book authors are thought of as automatic experts. So it makes sense that books are growing in popularity as a lead generation method, especially now that publishing has become more democratized. Though not easy to write, edit, design and print, book publishing is more accessible than ever and it’s hard to find a better “leave behind” during a sales call than a book.
This method lives and dies by the quality of the book you write. If no one on your team has the time or experience, you will need to hire an excellent ghostwriter. You may also consider partnering with an established author or expert in the field with a successful track record, but these are both expensive options.
Getting Help with B2B SaaS Lead Generation
A recent survey of B2B SaaS marketers found that only about 1 in 10 described their lead quality as “excellent” and half of them said their lead generation efforts were average or worse. We’ve written the above guide to help change that, but if you’d like more help with your lead generation, schedule a call. We have over a decade of experience working with B2B SaaS companies.
Evan Bailyn is a bestselling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.