Outsourced B2B Lead Generation: Benefits, Problems and Best Practices

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What is outsourced lead generation?

Outsourcing your lead generation is an action that could have drastically different results depending on whether you can do it right or not. However, it’s also important to discuss the basics of lead generation as a whole.

As a process, lead generation is all about identifying potential customers, attracting those potential customers to your company or brand, and then finalizing the entire process by converting potential customers into buying customers.

It’s also important to remember three main types of leads that exist:

  • PQL – Product Qualified Lead, a person that has used your product in some way, and thus potentially has an interest in becoming a full-fledged customer. Some of the most common places that PQLs can be applied to are businesses that offer various forms of free trials of their product, or free tools in general.
  • SQL – Sales Qualified Lead, a person that has interacted with your business in a specific way that shows their interest in becoming a customer. This sort of interaction can be anything as simple as positively responding to a prospecting email.
  • MQL – Marketing Qualified Lead, a person that has interacted with any of your marketing material – for example, downloaded a whitepaper. MQLs usually are not yet ready for the sales team to contact them.

The entire idea of outsourcing lead generation is in its name – outsourcing means bringing external parties (contractors) into the process. As such, lead generation outsourcing implies bringing in a lead generation company or consultant like me that can assist you with lead generation efforts in specialized channels: digital marketing, outbound marketing, etc.. It could be either a general marketing agency or a company with a focus on a specific industry. For example, I concentrate on lead generation in technology, enterprise software and SaaS sectors.

Benefits of outsourced B2B lead generation. When to outsource?

The outsourcing lead generation is capable of bringing several different benefits to all kinds of companies – both big and small. Some of the biggest potential benefits are:

  • Quick deployment time. Hiring an external lead generation company is far quicker than building an entire lead generation team in-house from scratch. To generate leads in-house you’ll need to hire professionals, allocate time and financial resources, develop lead generation strategies, execute with recently hired employees, manage risks and so on. Setting up the lead generation process with an outsourced consultant is a faster solution which later can be transferred in-house, if the layover is properly prepared and managed.
  • New channels and risks. In some cases, attempting to outsource lead generation is more about evaluating the outsourcing risk as a whole – testing a channel in question before implementing it in its entirety. Outsourced consultants can perform cost-effective testing and then integrate the positive results into the overall lead generation strategy.
  • More time for selling. In cases where sales reps are also the ones doing prospecting, it’s not uncommon for it to take more than half of their day on average. In these cases, it’s possible to greatly optimize the sales workflow by reducing or removing the need for sales reps to be responsible for lead generation – and that can be achieved via outsourcing as well.
  • Sales growth without expanding the sales department. It’s not uncommon for smaller companies to face the problem of simply not having enough sales resources to expand their marketing capabilities. In these cases, external help allows sales teams to focus more on the actual sales cycle and deal closing for the entire company to keep growing in general.
  • Cutting costs. While this is not exactly guaranteed, and extremely case-by-case, there are still cases when acquisition costs for an external company are lower than hiring and building your own lead generation department in-house.

That being said, it’s also possible to list a number of flags that might tell you the correct choice in regards to the topic of “in-house vs outsource lead generation”. You can focus on developing your own lead generation team when:

  • You can safely afford an entire team dedicated solely to lead generation as their only task;
  • You have enough time to test the channels and experiment with lead generation strategies;
  • You know which channels and methods are going to work in your case.

Alternatively, some of the signs showing you that you need an outsourced B2B lead generation team are:

  • You’re lacking time and/or financial resources to create a dedicated internal marketing team;
  • Your own internal marketing efforts are insufficient and need boosting;
  • You’re planning to launch a new product/service and need a rapid response from the market.

Possible problems of outsourced B2B lead generation

Most of the problems are bound to be extremely case-specific and depend on a lot of different factors. However, it’s possible to figure out some of the most probable ones:

  • Lack of extensive coordination. It’s not uncommon for the in-house marketing team and the outsource lead generation team to target the same potential client, basically ruining each other’s strategies on how to approach prospects.
    For example, you have a dedicated plan for a possibly big lead, you have a multi-channel strategy with everything set up and ready to drive this single prospect into a funnel – and in the middle of it, you see the marketing automation software of your outsourced lead generation team throwing a literal wrench into your plans by sending an off-key message to the same client.
  • Lack of a defined target customer profile. Your lead quality directly depends on your ability to define a perfect customer for yourself – an ideal customer profile (ICP). The agency you’re hiring needs to know as many details as possible about your target audience, or your lead quality would drop drastically. A good alternative to a defined ICP would be a combination of formalized buyer persona and market segmentation, and even then you’d have to go over this information with onboard meetings.
  • Reputational risks. The reputational damage to your brand can be done by an outsourced activity that was pushed forward without your oversight, be it an off-brand design, dodgy messaging, or an outright poor copy of something. Actions like these can also cause domain reputation damage.
  • Compliance risks. The potential of breaching local compliance regulations like GDPR exists for both in-house and outsourced lead generation teams.
  • Relying fully on the contractor. If something will happen with your partner’s business the leads can disappear and your funnel will be empty.

How to choose the right outsourcer for B2B lead generation?

Another layer of complexity that exists when it comes to outsourced B2B lead generation is the matter of choosing the correct outsourcer. This choice depends on a variety of different factors, and getting it right from the get-go is not an easy task. However, it is possible to drastically simplify the entire process by going over the common questions, which we’ll attempt to do below.

There are three general steps that are usually involved in the process of filtering the B2B lead generation outsource market to pick the company that fits your case the most – BP, DE, and LQ.

BP, or Buyer Persona, is something that companies often define as early as possible – it is a basic outline of your target audience, as well as the nature of your product/service, and what problems your business is aiming to solve. Some companies even go a bit further and ask for the ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) to be formed, filled with as many details about your specific target audience as possible.

Attempting to outsource the B2B lead generation process without a buyer persona is very likely to fail from the start since the company in question would have too vague of an idea about your target audience to bring in quality leads.

The second thing is DE – Data Enrichment. At this step, you have an idea of your target audience, as well as the company names and job titles you’re supposed to look for. This is where the evaluation of an outsource company’s methods begins.

Data enrichment services are supposed to offer human-driven web research, software-augmented web research, and data subscriptions. On the other hand, they are not allowed to sell you a pre-made contact list (since the chance of this list fitting your specific target audience is basically nonexistent), and they are not allowed to indulge in web scraping (since it is questionable and falls into a grey area, at best, and downright illegal at its worst).

The last part of this trilogy of actions is LQ – Lead Qualification, a process of determining the quality of the leads you’ve received. Some of the questions involved in the qualification process include, but are not exclusive to:

  • Can they afford to perform a purchase?
  • Do they know what the problem is that your company is solving?
  • Do they have to be informed about the product details?
  • Is the timing good enough for them to conduct a purchase?
  • Do they have a need for your product without them realizing it?

Answering most of these questions is usually up to the decision-makers themselves (or decision influencers). This is where you’ll begin to realize a need for a specific person that begins conversations with potential clients. Most of the time such a person receives a post of an SDR, or Sales Development Representative – despite the fact that there are several other variations, such as market development reps, business development, inside sales, etc.

There are many different channels that SDRs can use to interact with prospects – from emails and offline methods to social media, text messages, videos, weblinks, and so on. And they don’t have to be used separately, either. In fact, history shows that employing multiple communication methods is the best approach to this job.

Some of the skills that SDRs are expected to have are multichannel communication, turning negatives into positives when it comes to responses and general rejection handling capabilities. They also have to have an understanding of writing a follow-up that’ll result in an appointment.

It is a given that any sales development process in a B2B market would need someone to control, monitor, and manage it, especially if it consists of several stages and is generally complex as a whole. It is also a fact that a lot of lead generation companies tend to forget about.

For that reason, it’s also recommended to look for companies that offer additional services in reporting, analysis, and planning. There are two potential benefits that can be acquired from this – pattern-matching across similar industries and target audiences, as well as the ability to have an expert in the field to handle all of the problems that come with managing long and complex sales processes. Since many lead generation companies tend to work with multiple clients at once, their experience in the field is downright invaluable and can help your organization in many different ways.

There are also other matters that you have to keep in mind to make the process of choosing an outsourcer for B2B lead generation, such as:

  1. Make sure the contractor has enough experience in your specific industry – look at the project portfolio.
  2. Check case studies with specific KPIs and make sure the contractor actually delivers real numerical results.
  3. Check publicly available reviews and ask for client references from your potential outsourced contractor.
  4. Don’t “put all the eggs in a single bag” – have separate outsourcers for different channels: paid search, social media, SEO, etc. That way, a simple oversight on one outsourcer’s behalf should not bring the entire process down with it.
  5. Add the responsibility for any reputational losses or legal fines into the agreement with the outsourcer. This is to avoid your company being legally responsible for everything that your outsourcer company says or does on your behalf.

Conclusion

Outsourced B2B lead generation is a feasible option for a lot of companies, but one also has to be aware of all the potential shortcomings that it may bring. If possible, it is recommended to evaluate your own efforts beforehand – to see if you really need a third-party company to do lead generation for you (or with you).

Andrei Iunisov is a lead generation and SEO expert with 15 years of worldwide experience. Since 2006, Andrei has been involved with digital marketing and SEO in the rapidly growing software development company Parallels in Seattle, Washington. In 2009, Andrei founded the first web analysis agency in Russia. The list of Andrei customers includes TOP-100 Russian and international companies from all industries. In 2014, the business was sold to the largest independent online advertising holding company in Russia - iConText Group. Andrei has been offering lead generation, digital marketing and SEO services for various companies from all economic sectors worldwide since 2016. Andrei regularly shares his expertise and case studies in his personal blog.

Clutch recognizes Andrei Iunisov as a digital marketing expert and industry leader.

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Outsourced B2B Lead Generation: Benefits, Problems and Best Practices Outsourcing your lead generation is an action that could have drastically different results depending on whether you can do it right or not. However, it’s also important to discuss the basics of lead generation as a whole. 2021-09-06
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