What are the different categories of B2B lead generation?

One of the primary emphases of B2B marketing is generating leads but not all leads are created equal. In this blog post, we will be reviewing some of the main types of leads, and the best strategies for nurturing them through the sales funnel.

What are the different categories of B2B lead generation

Lead Generation is One of the Main KPIs in B2B Marketing

In B2B marketing, one of the primary goals is lead generation. At first blush, that seems like a fairly simple mission, but the reality is something considerably more complex. B2B marketing strategies include several different kinds of lead generation, and it’s crucial to focus on the ones that offer the most promise.

It’s not enough for your B2B marketing to focus on the number of leads. It’s just as important to consider the quality of those leads. Of course, that raises an obvious question:

What are the different categories of B2B lead generation, and how should marketers distinguish between them?

B2B Lead Generation: An Overview

In this post, we’re going to take a look at different kinds of B2B leads, one at a time.

B2B Lead Generation Lead Funnel
B2b Lead Generation & Lead Types

Information Qualified Leads (IQLs)

The first kind of lead for B2B marketers to know about is the information qualified lead, or an IQL. And those are when lead first converts, it’s usually because they offer up their name and contact information in exchange for a downloadable offer, such as an e-book or a newsletter, or any other desired action on your website.

These top-of-the-funnel offers are extremely valuable for bringing in new B2B leads, though it’s important to remember that these leads are usually just starting their research process. They may have little or no real information about your brand, and they may not be close to making a purchasing decision.

These are IQLs, and the best thing for B2B marketing professionals to do is simply stay in touch, continue offering information, and guide the lead in learning more about the brand in question. This can be done with automated email follow-ups and thank you pages, which position the brand as a solution to the problem that the lead is trying to solve.

Marketing Accepted Leads

Next, let’s consider the marketing accepted lead or MALs. These are the leads who have been inspected accepted by your marketing team. In other words, they have qualified leads that have the potential of becoming a customer but are not yet “ripe” enough to close a sale. These leads must be further nurtured until they are ready to be passed to your sales team.

What is Lead Nurturing?

Maybe this is a good place to stop and define what we mean when we talk about lead nurturing, especially in the context of B2B marketing strategies. Lead nurturing is all about building relationships with your leads. It’s about earning the trust and goodwill of your leads and guiding them to the point where they feel confident about doing business with you.

To state all of this a little bit differently, remember that, at any given moment, about half the leads in your CRM system probably aren’t ready to buy. They’ve shown a willingness to provide you with some basic information, but they’re not yet ready to give you any of their money. Expecting them to buy from you right off the bat is foolish and may even cause some of those leads to turn away.

That’s why it’s important not to overdo it, but rather to provide consistent, targeted content that helps educate your leaders and prepare them for making a final purchase.

Marketing Qualified Leads

Through lead nurturing efforts, you’re ultimately trying to persuade your leads that you can offer them a meaningful solution to their problem. So what happens when you’re successful in doing so, and your IQL/MAL becomes interested in the solutions you can offer?

Well, if they decide to download or request additional information about the company, products, or services, that means you’ve developed a marketing qualified lead or MQL. In other words, you’ve turned your cool lead into a warm one.

Hopefully, this triggers some additional steps in your automated B2B lead nurturing processes. For instance, if your lead contacts you to get additional information about a product or service, they’ll hopefully receive an automated email thanking them for their interest and inviting them to reach out with further questions.

This is the stage of the B2B lead nurturing process where it really pays off to sweeten the deal in some way, such as offering a discount or promotion code; or, to offer some consumer assurances, such as a free trial, demo, or warranty.

With any luck, your MQL will be ready to move forward into our fourth and final category.

Sales Qualified Lead

Once you have someone who’s ready to make a purchase, that makes them a sales qualified lead or SQL. Your response should be pretty straightforward: Pass them along to the sales team! Truly, this is the point where you can consider your lead to be hot.

You’ll want to act as quickly as possible, as studies have long confirmed that following up with an SQL as promptly as possible helps lead to higher closing rates. Basically, a quick and targeted follow-up sends the message that you really want to earn their business and that you have the customer service response capacity to really meet their needs.

Sales Opportunities

After qualifying leaders as SALs, the sales team must act quickly to make those to an opportunity. This means a call or an appointment with the decision-makers and\or stakeholders to pitch the product or services.

Opportunity is usually the end of work for a marketing team, and whether the deal goes through or not, it indicates success for a marketing campaing, in most cases.

Sales Opportunities

After qualifying leaders as SALs, the sales team must act quickly to make those to an opportunity. A SAL is either a call or an appointment with the prospect to pitch the product or services. Opportunity is usually the end of work for a marketing team in an enterprise environment. Whether the lead becomes a customer or not, and Opportunity is generally indicative of success for a marketing campaing, in most cases.

Implications for B2B Lead Generation

So what does all of this mean for you as you work on generating B2B sales leads?

First and foremost, it’s important for sales and marketing team members to have a clear understanding of these different categories, and to prioritize their efforts accordingly.

And second, it’s always valuable to have automated B2B marketing workflows in place, ensuring you’re doing everything possible to guide leads through your sales funnel and ultimately to convert them into paying customers.

One way you can make progress in this direction is to work with a B2B lead generation agency. We have a lot of experience working with mid-sized, and large enterprises to help them design and execute B2B marketing strategies, and to ensure the right lead generation mechanisms are in place.

Author: Al Sefati

Al Sefati is an enterprise SEO and search marketing expert and the founder of Sefati & Company. Al works with marketing agencies and enterprise level clients and he is in charge of forming and monitoring their SEO and SEM strategies. Al blogs often about latest SEO, SEM and digital marketing trends and tactics.