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By Jeremy Balius
27 October 2021

Lead sources: Where do B2B leads come from?

lead sources

Leads are the lifeblood of any business growth strategy. B2B lead generation strategies are developed and tactics deployed to generate demand and acquire new leads to convert to customers.

But, where do leads come from?

Business leaders look to marketing and sales teams to generate, qualify and nurture leads without necessarily considering how or where to find leads. But these leads don’t just come from anywhere random. The reality is that there are specific lead sources, sometimes called acquisition channels, where leads can come from.

The best lead sources are obviously those that provide targeted opportunities that match a buyer persona to engage with qualified leads and customers to convert more sales for your company. Identifying which lead sources perform best for your company can be challenging though and requires the right marketing tools, data analysis and insight.

It’s important to know which lead source channels perform best for your business so that you can focus your lead generation efforts and budget towards finding and nurturing quality leads with a higher propensity to convert customers for a product or service in a shorter period of time.

Here are 10 most common lead source channels for your business.

Your database

Your existing database may represent a significant lead source for you initially, particularly if you haven’t engaged with your database in some time.

Even if you don’t have a large database of leads, or aren’t actively capturing them at the moment, your company likely still has hundreds of contacts spread across applications or locations, e.g. in email accounts or business cards collected. These people or prospects are still potential customers, so engage with them to identify any potential opportunities.

Tracking and nurturing leads is where a CRM plays a crucial role. With the right CRM software, you’ll be able to manage every lead from initial contact to close. When a database has become a large unsegmented list of contact details over time, investing effort in segmenting and lead tracking will deliver significant returns.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads in your database or CRM include:

  • Database development
  • Email marketing
  • Social media advertising (Paid social)
  • Lead scoring

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • CRM

Your website

Your website represents the most significant marketing asset of your business. It’s where the value proposition and differentiation of your business is articulated.

Your website also represents the key hub of your marketing and demand generation. It is where you funnel most of your prospects and opt of funnel leads to. Many of your other lead source channels will point to your website to give you the opportunity to capture interest or intent from your prospects and leads.

Organic search, or people finding your website by searching topics or researching answers to their questions online, represents a significant source of attracting prospects and leads to your website.

When your website is integrated with your CRM or marketing automation platform, you’ll be able to capture prospect details and track how they interact with your content. With lead scoring in place, you’ll be able to identify Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) for your sales team to engage with.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads from your website include:

  • Content campaigns
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Landing pages
  • Content offers and lead magnets
  • Forms, pop ups and calls to action (CTA)
  • Video marketing
  • Case studies
  • Marketing automation software

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • SEO tools (Ahrefs, SEMrush, Screaming Frog, SurferSEO)
  • Performance tracking for any third party tools (video hosting, pop up forms)

Social media

Social media can represent a great source for generating new leads by providing an opportunity to engage with net new prospects and transition them with content to your website.

While it would be your website and other channels that then converts and qualifies the lead, from an attribution perspective the original source would have been social media.

It’s important to recognise that generating organic leads from social media requires an ongoing investment and has a medium to longer term time to impact. This is because it takes a longer time to reach and build up social audiences.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads from social media include:

  • Social media marketing

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • Social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
  • Social media marketing tools (e.g. Hubspot, SproutSocial, Buffer)
  • Google Analytics

Digital advertising

If reaching net new leads organically takes time, digital advertising represents a lead source that enables you to attract attention and put content in front of prospective leads at scale.

Digital advertising is used here as a catch all to encompass pay-per-click ads on search engines, paid ads or lead gen forms on social media platforms, and placing display ads or sponsoring content with media or trade publishers.

A major benefit of digital advertising is you get all the metrics you need to monitor, optimise campaigns and measure ROI.

It’s important to remember that digital advertising requires an appropriate investment over dedicated periods of time. Short bursts of activity with limited investments may not deliver the results a business is looking for when first starting out. If there is already a history of digital advertising, shorter-term or targeted campaigns can make a more rapid impact.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads with digital advertising include:

  • Digital ads
  • Social media ads (Paid Social)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM, Paid Search)
  • Sponsored content
  • Sponsored EDMs

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • Digital advertising platforms (e.g. programmatic platforms, display ads, Quora for Business, Reddit Ads)
  • Social media advertising platforms (e.g. LinkedIn Campaign Manager, Facebook Business Manager)
  • Search engine advertising platforms (e.g. Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising)
  • Google Analytics

Traditional advertising

Traditional advertising such as outdoor or print advertising can represent a lead source for a B2B business, though is more difficult to track and quantify results.

One tactic that technically falls into traditional advertising or traditional marketing that is important to consider is telemarketing and appointment setting. Phone-based outreach represents a significant opportunity to reach leads fast through cold calling, lead nurture and setting appointments for the sales team to qualify and convert.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads with traditional advertising include:

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • Cloud-based VOIP to measure call outreach (e.g. CallHippo, RingCentral, Aircall and many others)

Referrals

Word-of-mouth referrals from existing or previous customers, as well as from strategic partners, is one of the most ideal lead source channels for your business. This is because the lead has already identified a need or pain point, has discussed this with a contact, and that contact was provided a warm referral or introduction to you business. Organic referrals are the direct result of customer service and product excellence.

Creating scenarios to ask for elicit referrals contributes to this lead source channel.

Partnering with businesses that deliver tangential services or products to the same buyer persona or operate in the same channel ecosystem and don’t directly compete with your business may be a good source of referrals. Developing a referral partner program to formalise and structure these referral relationships adds trust, ensures mutual value and may increase the lead referral volumes as a result.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads with referrals include:

  • Word-of-mouth
  • Referral partner program

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • CRM

Events and sponsorships

Events such as webinars, presentations and ‘lunch ‘n learns’ represent a great source of leads when executed as part of campaigns. They enable you to immediately register some form of interest or intent and provide your sales team with qualified leads to engage and nurture.

If you’re participating in events such as conferences or trade exhibitions where prospects or decision makers in your target market are likely to be, then sponsoring these events can be a great source of new leads. It’s important to remember that there are many other brands sponsoring these as well, so achieving cut-through and gaining attention will require clever planning.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads with events and sponsorships include:

  • Webinar
  • Event or conference sponsorship packages
  • Strategic sponsorships (sports teams, venues, associations, NFPs

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • CRM

Networking

Meeting people is a great way for your business to generate leads. Networking events are perfect for making new contacts, so you can follow up with them later on when they’re in need of your services.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads by networking include:

  • Networking events
  • Social media networking
  • Volunteering (NFP boards, committees)

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • CRM

Prospecting

Prospecting is the process of finding good-fit prospects or target accounts that match a specific set of qualification criteria.

Prospecting involves searching and sourcing these good-fit prospects either manually or by other digital means to target with marketing activities. This is often the first step in an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) program.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads by prospecting include:

  • Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
  • Database development
  • Sales prospecting tools and software (LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Zoominfo, Prospect.io and many others)

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • CRM

Your sales team

Each sales team member you hire will bring their ‘black book’ of contacts with them. These contacts could be some of your best leads. As sales leaders will know, this source of leads is limited and the sales person will need to have impactful prospecting and other forms of sales development activities in their repertoire to hit their sales targets.

Common lead generation tactics for this lead source

Marketing tactics to uncover, qualify and nurture leads from your sales team include:

  • Telesales

Common tools to use for measuring this lead source

Marketing and sales tools to measure lead performance include:

  • CRM

Want to identify which lead sources are performing best for your marketing and sales?

Every company always wants more leads, but you have to consider what kind of leads you’re getting and from which lead sources.

Contact us to identify which lead sources are performing best for your business and how to focus your marketing efforts.

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