Taylor Scher Blog

How to Generate Leads That Convert for a B2B SaaS

Table of Contents

No matter what stage you are in as a SaaS (early stage, mid-sized, or even enterprise), finding ways to generate quality leads that fill up your pipeline is obvious.

But how do you generate leads that every business is vying for?

Should you invest in your sales and marketing teams to find and qualify new leads?

Or, do you invest in your product to provide a better user experience that generates leads through word-of-mouth and recommendations from brand advocates, like in Hubspot’s Flywheel Model

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Spoiler: you don’t have to choose just one.

While investing in all of these departments is vital to building a robust business and marketing strategy, the most effective method of generating leads will depend on your company type and size.

A startup might see more value in PPC and cold outreach, while an enterprise SaaS solution could see more value in SEO and email marketing.

While it’s impossible to make a blanket statement about the best marketing strategies for businesses, I’ll list out the different lead generation tactics that work well at each company stage, so you know what you should be focusing on. 

Let’s jump in.

What is SaaS Lead Generation?

SaaS lead generation is the process of identifying potential customers for a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, nurturing them, converting them into paying customers, and retaining them for the long term.

The main idea of SaaS lead generation includes:

  • Performing audience research to identify your ICP and buyer personas
  • Finding relevant leads through targeted marketing efforts
  • Qualifying and nurturing those leads through personalized communication and valuable content
  • Converting qualified leads into paying customers through effective sales strategies

Your marketing team will play a crucial role in identifying and targeting relevant leads through inbound and outbound channels like PPC, email marketing, SEO, and social media.

A Complete Guide To B2B SaaS Lead Generation

Source: 93X

Sales teams then take over to qualify and nurture these leads when they become sales-qualified leads. 

However, sales can also be involved in their own version of outreach:

  • Reaching out to prospects by cold calling and emailing
  • Using ABM tactics to grow relationships with identified prospects
  • Using LinkedIn InMail to message prospects directly

Lead generation is a team effort – one that results in two different types of leads.

Knowing the Different Categories of SaaS Lead Generation

So, if we’re talking about generating leads, what exactly would a lead be to you?

Is it a person joining your newsletter? Or is it someone requesting a free trial or scheduling a demo? 

If you’re reading this article, chances are the only leads that you care about are the ones that bring recurring revenue.

So, before you get started, you should know the difference between the two “qualified lead” types and which ones you should focus on. 

Spoiler alert: it’s going to be sales-qualified leads.

SQL vs. MQL: What They Are and How They Differ

Source: HubSpot

Marketing Qualified Lead

MQLs are leads from your target audience that aren’t quite in the decision stage yet.

They’ll typically be leads that could have an interest in your SaaS product, but they will likely need additional nurturing to get them closer to the point of purchase.

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While MQLs can be useful, most SaaS marketers give them way too much attention, especially when they have a relatively low success rate. 

The average MQL to SQL conversion rate is 13%, and while 13% might sound great, think about all the work involved to get them to that SQL point as an MQL. 

They’ll have to download your ebook > be nurtured through email > nurtured through targeted ads > nurtured through direct mail > nurtured through webinars/podcasts > SQL. 

This is an extremely expensive process for only a 13% success rate. 

If your ICP is signing up for a webinar or downloading an ebook from gated content, it doesn’t always mean they’re interested in your solution. They may like your brand and what you have to say, but these actions don’t always imply intent either.

Now, MQLs can still be useful. Say your ebook is on “managing projects better in 2024,” and you’re a “project management software,” chances are you’ll have leads that are slightly more qualified to be marketed to. 

But again, even though that lead is “qualified” and relevant, it doesn’t mean they’re interested in your SaaS solution or ready to make a purchase.

So, for the sake of actual “lead generation” for revenue, they’re kind of useless in the short term. But, in a larger-scale marketing campaign, they do have their place.

I recommend that you don’t make MQLs your main KPI for lead generation. 

They are way too easy to get, and they likely won’t actually move the needle, not in the way you think they will.

If anything, you should monitor “engaged MQLs,” which are engaged users who are downloading your ebooks, attending your webinar, and checking out areas of your pricing and solution pages. 

That’s a qualified lead – not someone who just happened to download an ebook. 

Sales Qualified Lead

SQLs are the leads that’ll actually matter for your SaaS. These are red-hot leads that are already brand and solution-aware, and now they’re taking an additional step to really consider whether your SaaS solution is right for them.

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Source: Constant Contact

At this point, your sales or product demo teams usually get involved. 

It’s a crucial transitional step to move your lead down the pipeline toward their final purchasing decision.

♫”You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity only comes once in a lifetime.”♫

Okay, so not actually. You’re not Eminem in 8 Mile, so there isn’t that much pressure.


But your leads are at the point of purchase – they just need that last additional nudge to bring them over the finish line.

So, when we’re talking about generating “qualified leads” for a B2B SaaS, what we really care about is sales-qualified leads.

The leads that will turn into recurring revenue. 

Proven Strategies That Work For B2B SaaS Lead Generation

You might already be successful with generating leads, or you might not be; these tips will show you what you need to do to bring in quality leads for your SaaS.

1. Cold Email Outreach

At the top of our list, we have cold email outreach. Cold email is a strategy used to reach out to potential clients or partners who don’t even know who you are. 

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Source: Outplay

Sounds stupid, right? Actually, it can probably be one of your most effective channels if you do it right. In fact, the average cold email response rate is 7% with the average open rate being 36%.

The key to a successful cold email outreach campaign comes from understanding your target audience and who you need to target.

This means researching the specific people or companies that are most likely to benefit from your SaaS solution.

Be very specific with your research. This involves creating your ideal customer profile (ICP), which should include the following:

  • Demographics: Age, gender, income, education, job position, and location
  • Psychographics: Interests, motivations, and interaction history
  • Behavioral: Pain points, buying patterns, and firmographic attributes
  • Other: Socio-economic factors, industry, and employee headcount

After you’ve spent time researching your audience, and I mean really diving deep into your audience, the next step is to build an email list.

This involves collecting the email addresses of your identified prospects and organizing them into a segmented list based on how you’re targeting them. 

You can use marketing tools like ZoomInfo or Hunter.io to find these emails.

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It’s not as simple as just grabbing their email, writing down a vague message, and awaiting a reply, though. 

Think about how much junk mail you receive every day. You don’t want to be added to the pile, so you have to make your emails stand out by making them interesting and personalized.

At the very least, create unique subjects for each of your emails so that you can engage your lead enough to earn a click. 

Email subjects stand out above every other element of your email, so making it attention-grabbing without coming across as spam is essential for achieving high open rates. Around 64% of your recipients will open emails based on their subject line.

You should also put the same effort into your message if you want to truly engage them once they’ve become interested enough to earn a click. 

Don’t make them too automated; otherwise, your recipient might ignore them or mark your email as spam. 

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Your initial email should be unique, but if you’re trying to salvage unsuccessful emails with a follow-up message, I would recommend setting up follow-up automation so you can increase the likelihood of them responding. In fact, a first follow-up email can result in a 220% surge in reply rates. 

You may also increase the likelihood of getting blocked forever, so don’t be too aggressive with your follow-ups. I’d recommend maybe 3-4 total spread out over a few weeks. 

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Source: Lemlist

It’s also been found that email replies decrease by 20% after three total emails, so anything after that is just asking to be permanently blocked.

2. Using LinkedIn to Build A Community

Don’t get me wrong: LinkedIn can be an absolute cesspool sometimes (if you want some humor check out r/LinkedInLunatics). 

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But I would be lying if I said it didn’t have some solid lead potential, especially for B2B brands.

It can be a great way to build relationships and engage with potential customers.

For B2B SaaS companies, using platforms like LinkedIn offers numerous benefits. It enables you to:

  • Establish thought leadership
  • Showcase your expertise
  • Provide valuable insights to your market
  • Highlight specific software features and updates
  • Post reports, data, or trends

Additionally, LinkedIn allows you to directly engage with your prospects and build a relationship with them.

Now, an important thing to consider: personal profiles will almost always outperform company profiles, so to achieve a wider reach with your content, you should have your key employees act as brand advocates.

If you’re a startup, it will likely have to be the founder posting (you can also outsource LinkedIn posting too).

If you’re an enterprise, I highly recommend encouraging your executive team to get involved with posting. It’s even better if it’s the CEO, as Influential Executive’s social media report shows that CEOs and executives outperformed lower-level employee posts on LinkedIn by 320%.

Pro tips when it comes to LinkedIn posting:

  • Don’t go for direct pitches in the beginning; only focus on posting helpful and educational info
  • Education is key. Don’t be afraid to give away 99% of what you know (general knowledge, not business secrets).
  • Connect with your ideal prospects at least once a day. Again, don’t go for the pitch; just focus on building your community. Aim for 1-2 connections per day.
  • Be consistent. It’s really the only thing that matters, honestly. Be ready to post every day for 3 months straight without seeing any results. It’s like SEO; it takes a bit to kick in, but once it works, it works.
  • I hate this answer, but it really is true with LinkedIn, especially if you want to grow. You absolutely need to engage with other creators. Don’t go as far as to join an engagement hub, but find similar creators in your niche and engage with their posts. Not only will you get visibility from their audience, but larger accounts liking your posts will give them more reach and visibility. You’ll know an engagement hub when you see them.

3. Content Marketing and SEO

SEO and content marketing can be powerful tools for generating quality leads for B2B SaaS companies.

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With organic search, there’s no ad spend you have to factor in.

The only cost to consider is the operational cost of SEO, which includes how much it costs to create the content and get it to rank. 

If you’ve been following this article so far, the first main step before you start with marketing is to understand your audience like the back of your hand.

After you have your target audience identified, you want to find keywords that are aligned with your SaaS solution and are along your audience’s buyer’s journey.

If our main goal is to generate SQLs, then we want to focus our SEO and content initiatives on the bottom of the funnel – leads that are at the point of purchase. 

For SaaS websites, it will usually be these topics that work best:

  • [your competitor] alternatives
  • [your competitor] vs you
  • Best [your software solution category]
  • Pain points users have with their existing SaaS solution

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These all are along your audience’s buyers’ journey and will position your SaaS product as a possible solution.

Pro tips:

  • Create targeted content that highlights the specific challenges of your potential clients.
  • Use a strong call-to-action in your content. Get them to take some kind of desired action, whether that’s signing up for a demo or downloading a whitepaper.
  • Your blog content doesn’t have to be just for SEO. Reuse your content for other marketing channels like email, social, or even YouTube. And if you go this route, actually redistribute it. Don’t just throw it in there and say,” job well done.” Make it engaging for the audience and the medium they’re using.
  • Move to target the middle of the funnel when you are done building out content for the bottom of the funnel. This will give your audience additional ammunition to consider your product and will put your SaaS in a nice position to generate leads when they move to the BoFu stage. 

4. Paid Advertising

Paid advertising for B2B SaaS lead generation can be an effective channel, especially when you use the right platforms.

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For B2B SaaS brands, you’ll see the most value with:

  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Google Search Ads
  • Google Display Ads
  • Retargeting Ads
  • YouTube Ads
  • Social Media Ads

I personally don’t see any reason to move to other social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok for B2B advertising.

Those channels are more for entertainment, while the ones listed above are more for educational purposes.

So, when picking the right paid advertising channels, you’ll need to consider a few things:

  • Your target audience’s behavior and preferences
  • The budget available
  • The specific goals of the advertising campaign
  • How long you expect to run paid ads for

So, if your goal is to reach VPs of Marketing, your best bet is to use LinkedIn.

Just know that paid advertising will be the best channel for generating leads, but (and this is a big but) these leads will come at a much higher acquisition cost. The average customer acquisition cost for B2B LinkedIn Ads is $982.

You can generate as many leads as you want – as long as you have the budget for it.

Obviously, most startups won’t be able to live this high-priced dream. But, if you want to make a splash, I recommend being as aggressive as possible with PPC without going bankrupt. 

As a startup, you’re on limited funds, so you need some early users for your solution to bankroll your growth. 

Plus, if you’re a new brand, you’re probably starting with a new website as well that will require you to create the groundwork of your SEO and social media marketing strategies, which takes time to establish. 

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Source: Aborg

In the short term, that leaves paid advertising as the primary method of generating short-term leads while those channels are firing up.

Pro tips:

  • Paid advertising can be great for startups, but my recommendation is to leverage all data available to you. You don’t have the funds to be running ads on every search, so be precise with your ads. Add negative keywords, only show your ads at certain times and days (when they perform the best), target your specific ICP, and only run an ad if you know it will generate a lead for you.
  • There’s more flexibility in running ads for mid-sized to larger enterprise SaaS companies. You likely have other income sources that can help supplement them while you run it. Since you have this flexibility, you should run ads on your competitors, specifically when users are considering their company. If they’re researching pricing information for that competitor, run an ad on that. They could even be looking for alternatives to that competitor, so this would also be something you would want to run an ad on.

5. Webinars

Webinars can be a powerful tool for lead generation, but for them to be worth it, you need to know how to host them right.

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While this article is lead generation-focused, we’re including marketing qualified leads. But we all know that MQLs aren’t always qualified. 

You care about actual leads. You want to earn more recurring revenue from your leads, not just capture their contact information. 

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So, while yes your webinars will generate MQLs, don’t focus on that.

Focus on the after-product of getting those active webinar users to sign up for your product.

I’m assuming you’ve attended a webinar once or twice. Do you know what we all hate after a webinar? A salesperson immediately following up, asking if we are interested in the product.

If anything, this will cause negative associations with your brand and probably turn them off from your SaaS, even if they were planning on signing up for it.

So, how do you effectively generate real leads from your webinar? Focus on capturing them while your leads are warm. 

Your “MQLs” are actively right in front of you. This is the audience you want signing up for your product.

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Don’t be afraid to highlight your product during the webinar. Now, a big thing to note: your webinar shouldn’t just be a sales pitch about your product (this isn’t a timeshare presentation).  Focus on delivering on the value of your webinar – what they signed up for.

Your audience took time out of their day to attend, so really deliver on the educational value they came for, and once that value has been delivered, mention some kind of call to action that will help make MQLs an SQL. All of the following could work:

  • Poll your audience. Ask them if they would like to speak with a sales rep.
  • Have your sales team attend and find the more engaged participants
  • Highlight your free trials
  • Offer 1-2 months free (especially if your free trial is only 14 days)
  • Use your webinar to talk about a success story (show, not tell. Show the value; don’t tell them about the value).

Now, not only do you have a warm lead, but you’re able to pitch a pretty enticing deal to this warm lead rather than having to follow up and pitch the hard way after the webinar is over.

And just to reiterate: the lead will go almost immediately cold once the webinar is over. They’re back to their own little world, so the time to pitch them is when you have them directly in front of you.

6. Case Studies

Case studies will be a powerful tool for B2B SaaS lead generation. While it won’t be a tool used directly to generate new leads, people who are already along their buyer’s journey will be considering your product.

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So, even if you nurture them and get them close to converting as a lead with SEO or paid advertising, your case studies can act as that final nudge to get them to convert as an SQL.

The reason why is that you need to establish social proof with your product, both internally and externally.

When users are in that consideration stage, they’ll be considering products that they believe will be the best solution for them.

When you use case studies, it’s almost a way to show your audience what your tool has done for others and what it can likely do for them, too.

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If your users are having any hesitation about your SaaS solution, then you can have your case studies act as reaffirming proof for your audience.

In most cases, every SaaS website should have a section on their website dedicated to social proof, including case studies, brands you’ve worked with, and testimonials.

Pro Tips:

  • When creating your case studies, use the problem-solution format. That’s exactly the reason why your audience is reading this case study in the first place (and considering your SaaS). They’ve identified they have an existing problem and are now looking for software solutions to fix that problem. When you use a problem-solution format with your case studies, you’ll be hitting closer to home with your ICP. Maybe that’s the exact problem they’re experiencing, and now this case study is acting as further reinforcement that your product is the best fit for them.
  • Make your case studies short and to the point. You don’t want people to read 1/5th of it and bounce.
  • Use media in your case studies, too. Let’s be honest: your audience isn’t going to read every single word of your content (although I hope you do with mine), so make the content more scannable for them. Show media highlighting results, whether that’s an infographic, video, or image.
  • Don’t overly sell your SaaS in a case study, either. Just focus on highlighting the specifics of the results you were able to achieve. Again, show how you were able to achieve those results and be as specific as possible. Vague benefit lingo like “modernizing __ teams” or something like “we provided business solutions that helped this company” are useless statements that may sound good in your head but don’t provide any real value. Tell them exactly what business solutions you provided and how it helped this company specifically to really drive home the point. 

7. Affiliate & Referral Program

An affiliate/referral program for SaaS customers will probably be your most effective route for generating leads.

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There’s no additional marketing involved outside of incentivizing the customer after they’ve referred a lead to you. You’re practically outsourcing your marketing.

To make things easy, use an easy-to-understand platform where your current users can sign up and generate unique referral links to share.

Make your program worth it. Offer discounts, free months of service, or even signup commission percentages.

8. Free Trials with Limited Feature Access

A successful free trial offer for a SaaS product will be one of your top performers for driving leads. I mean, it is the lead itself. If a user signs up for a free trial, there’s typically a solid chance they’ll stick around and become a customer. Most SaaS companies see an average free-trial-to-paid conversion rate of 25%.

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To do this, you’ll need to do a few things:

  • Give users enough time to fully experience your product while also putting a moderate time limit
  • Simplify the sign-up process and make it as easy as possible for users to get started
  • Guide your users through onboarding and demonstrate your product’s value to help them understand how your SaaS product can benefit them.
  • Offer them proactive support during the trial period and immediately address any questions or issues that come up.

For your free trial to work, it has to provide real value to the user. They need to have a full understanding of your product’s capabilities and benefits.

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Source: Gartner

You can also use follow-up strategies like reminders to help keep your product top-of-mind for potential customers.

Lastly, decide whether you want your SaaS to require a credit card. I think you’ll have a better chance of securing the lead without a credit card, but you’ll probably have a higher bounce rate this way, too.

Not only this but with a credit card, there’s a very solid chance the audience will just naturally let the free trial turn into a paid one, so there won’t be any roadblocks causing them to reconsider their decision. Interestingly enough, CC-upfront trials convert at about a 50% rate, while non-CC-free trial users only convert at 10%. 

So while you may see more initial leads without requiring them to enter a credit card, you’ll likely see fewer paying subscribers as a result. 

Another thing to consider is that your user already went through the process of entering their credit card information, which is usually the hardest psychological step. If your free trial is ending, there are no additional actions they have to take. They can either let the free trial turn into a paid subscription automatically or just cancel it entirely.

9. Product Demo Requests

Continuing on from the previous point about highlighting free trials, you should also offer product demos.

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Maybe you can even offer product demos for your free trial users. Whatever it is, product demos can and will be another qualified source of leads for your SaaS.

They’re up there with free trials when it comes to achieving results, so I’m always shocked when I see SaaS brands not offering a free trial or product demo (and their product pages are made up of vague lingo), so no one will actually know what your product does.

With product demo requests, you can capture leads who are close to converting but just need a little bit more information to make their final decision.

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Source: MBA Skool

This also isn’t a marketing-qualified lead who downloaded an ebook; this is a qualified lead who’s already aware of your software solution and now wants to demo it before making a purchase.

Offering these will easily be worth your time with the additional leads it can bring in. Instead of just offering a free trial, you’re opening up the doors for an entirely new source of leads to come in.

Not only this, but your demo team can also help with retention by helping new users familiarize themselves with the platform. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a SaaS platform after using a free trial and not knowing what I was doing.

B2B SaaS Lead Generation Mistakes to Avoid

Okay, so now that you know how to generate leads (actual leads), here are a few things you’ll want to avoid entirely. 

Targeting Everyone

Why would you target associates if your main decision maker/ICP is a CFO? Step #1 is to learn your audience. The more you know, the more specific you can get with targeting.

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Not only will you save money from trimming unnecessary fat, but you’ll also have higher success rates by understanding who your ICP is and why you’re reaching out. If you truly understand their pain points, then you’ll have a better chance at connecting with them rather than just being another generic sales pitch.

Only Focusing on MQLs

After reading this article, you probably think I’m strongly against MQLs. I’m not, but I dislike MQLs being lumped in with regular SQLs. 

Anyone can get someone to download an ebook, but just because they downloaded it, regardless of intent, doesn’t mean they’re interested in your solution.

Sure, you can nurture them with email marketing. But let’s be real: what’s your average churn rate on emails from MQLs? It’s probably not great.

So, while they do have their benefit, they shouldn’t be the only metric to go by. SQLs are the holy grail and those are the only things that will have a direct impact on your SaaS. 

Just keep in mind that you’ll want to prioritize the tactics that drive SQLs, not MQLs.

Having a Bad Onboarding Flow

While this isn’t directly tied in with lead generation for SaaS, it can impact if those SQLs actually become a customer.

Generating leads is one thing, but now you have to keep them. In the words of Gucci Mane, “Don’t fumble the bag.”

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If someone becomes an SQL by signing up for a free trial, make sure they have everything they need to get the full value out of that free trial. The ideal option would be to offer them a free product demo so they can become familiar with the platform, even if it’s just for a trial period. 

It’s the same with your actual product demo team. They aren’t your sales team; they’re product demo specialists. So, instead of trying to pitch your leads directly, leverage your demo team’s strengths to make your demos as helpful as possible, allowing you to show leads everything that’s possible using your tool instead of making them find the value themselves.

Source: ProductLed

Even better, ask a few qualifying questions (not too many that you turn away leads) when they request the demo so you can make it more personalized for them. Ask what they’re using the tool and what they hope to get out of it.

At least this way, you’ll know what the “problem” is and what “fix” they expect for that problem. Now, it’s a matter of having your product demo team walk them through that process. 

What to Know Before Setting Up B2B SaaS Lead Generation Strategies

Know Who You’re Targeting

Understanding who you’re targeting is so important for SaaS lead generation. Identify:

  • Who your customer is
  • Where they work
  • What industry they’re in
  • What position they hold
  • What their pain points are
  • What is causing those pain points
  • What route would they likely take to solve those pain points
  • How your solution can ultimately solve that pain point

The more you understand them, the more you’ll be able to connect with them.

Use The Right Lead Generation Tools

As a SaaS, you’ll need to consider using other SaaS tools to help your solution generate more leads.

But you most likely won’t need access to every tool there is to generate leads.

If anything, you’ll only need a few, depending on what your goals are and which channels you want to target.

I’ll try and break down the best lead-generation tools for each channel.

SEO and Content Marketing

  • Ahrefs – Great for keyword research and learning how your audience searches
  • Frase – Great for optimizing your content so it has a better likelihood of getting in front of the right eyes

Cold Outreach

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator – Personally, this one is one of my favorites. It’s great for account-based marketing and cold outreach on LinkedIn. You can use Sales Navigator to segment the leads you’d like to target, including where they work, their interests, and their habits. A cool thing about Sales Navigator is that it will highlight leads who are looking up company profiles – letting you know if your audience has started their buyers’ journey.
  • Hunter.io – This is one of my personal favorites for email outreach and email mining. It’s a great two-in-one tool: you can find company emails at scale and then set up email automation with follow-ups. I’m still split on email automation since it takes away from the personalization you should be doing, but it does save you time if you have a solid template saved.

Social Media

  • Taplio – This one is optional, but Taplio is an entire database of LinkedIn posts showing which ones have been the most successful over time. While I wouldn’t just copy every well-liked post you see, I’d use it to find what resonates with people and add your own twist to it.
  • Kleo – Like Taplio, this Chrome extension can show you top-performing posts from creators in your niche. Even better: this tool is entirely free

Qualify Your Leads Before Spending Time With Them

All of this will be for nothing if you don’t have solid criteria for the goals you wish to achieve. 

While an ebook download or free trial is both marked as a “qualified lead,” your leads won’t have legitimate value until you have criteria in place to qualify them. 

Having qualifying criteria can help your sales team find right-fit customers and avoid spending time on useless leads. 

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Source: Semantic Scholar

Is this user going to end up using your tool, or are they likely to take a free trial and never come back? 

Before you get started, make a list of the criteria that need to be met for that lead to be qualified. Consider:

  • Pain points
  • Their likely budget
  • Location
  • Industry
  • Company size
  • Company position

All of these considerations will help you set up criteria to generate leads that are actually qualified and can boost your average customer lifetime value.

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