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B2B lead generation ideas for small businesses

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Key takeaways

  • Conduct lead research to find opportunities to connect with high-quality leads
  • Use lead generation tools like a CRM and email marketing software to track qualified leads and nurture them toward a sale
  • Expand your web presence with B2B marketing using social media and online business platforms

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing calls for a completely different approach to lead generation than business-to-customer (B2C) marketing. Instead of marketing your services or product to a broad base of potential customers, you may need to focus your lead generation efforts on a small set of decision-makers at a handful of organizations.

Depending on the size of your business and industry, B2B lead generation can require more time and energy to get it right. But despite having a longer sales process, the size and scope of B2B sales can lead to a larger payoff.

Learn how to generate leads for B2B sales and how to use lead generation tools to nurture B2B buyers and grow your sales pipeline.

What is B2B lead generation?

B2B lead generation is the process of attracting potential customers to your B2B company and nudging them toward a purchase decision. It includes identifying potential leads, gathering their contact information, and building relationships with them over time, often with the help of customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Unlike B2C companies that can reach their target audience with online advertising and word-of-mouth marketing, B2B companies may need to take a more strategic approach to identifying B2B sales leads. This is because they need to target individual buyers at companies that might be interested in their product or service.

Startups and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies rely heavily on B2B marketing, but small businesses that sell directly to other businesses can benefit from B2B lead generation too. Some businesses may operate in both areas at once, with one sales team focused on B2C customers and another on B2B leads.

What are effective B2B lead generation strategies?

Many B2B lead generation strategies overlap with B2C strategies, but there are some key differences. The best way to generate B2B leads will depend on your industry and target market. Here’s a closer look at some common (and effective) B2B lead generation ideas.

Content marketing

Content marketing refers to creating and distributing content that appeals to your ideal customer. This includes case studies, ebooks, infographics, whitepapers, and other useful materials in any format that show off your industry expertise.

You can then turn that material into a lead magnet, which is a piece of valuable content you give away for free in return for an email address or phone number. You could also host an online webinar, tutorial, or product demo in order to find B2B leads and collect their contact info.

For example, Reedsy offers free online courses like “How to Write a Business Book” in order to capture leads for premium services like book formatting and editing.

Social media marketing

B2B business leads use social media platforms just like everyone else. Sharing content on social media—or hiring an influencer to do it for you—can be an effective lead generation strategy that helps you build brand awareness and find new leads.

While B2C businesses may find an audience on TikTok or Instagram, B2B companies may get more traction on industry-focused platforms like LinkedIn. Maintaining an online presence on Q&A sites like Quora and business platforms like Yelp can also be a good way to reach B2B customers searching for solutions to specific pain points or service providers for upcoming projects.

Referral marketing

Referral marketing is a B2B marketing strategy that leverages the power of your existing network to build trust with new customers. Existing customers can get a discount, free gift, or another incentive for every qualifying lead they refer to your company.

As with B2C referral marketing campaigns, a B2B referral campaign can generate buzz for your business and drive up demand generation.

Launch Workplaces, a coworking space with several locations in the U.S., offers up to $500 in membership credit for existing customers who refer a new member.

Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a type of inbound lead generation strategy that involves optimizing your website so potential customers can find it. This means using keywords that people are searching for on the internet (such as “overnight security ideas for small businesses”) on your web pages and in blog posts.

You can also create unique landing pages tailored to specific locations or search terms to provide a more personalized experience. Include a call-to-action (CTA) to encourage website visitors to sign up for a free trial or subscribe to your email list.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing, or outbound lead gen, is a B2B lead generation campaign in which you initiate contact with potential customers yourself. This outreach could take the form of a cold email, cold calling, or even visiting another business’s location in person.

The challenge with outbound marketing is that unsolicited emails and LinkedIn messages can end up in a lead’s spam folder or trash bin. By conducting lead research, you can focus on contacting high-quality leads and increase your conversion rate.

Majority Agency, a small ad agency in Atlanta, won a major ad campaign with by sending a cold DM to the company’s director of brand strategy—but only after doing thorough lead research.

6 key steps in the lead generation process

B2B leads generation: marketing professionals having a meeting

Generating leads for B2B sales is a multi-step process. Whether you’re a small business owner learning how to get B2B leads on your own or you have a team of sales reps to help, follow these steps to generate B2B sales leads.

1. Conduct lead research

Conducting research is the first step in B2B sales lead generation—before you can determine where to find B2B leads, you need to identify your ideal customer.

Start by creating buyer personas to describe your ideal customers in detail. What are their pain points? What size is their company? What position do they work in? How do they prefer to be contacted—by phone, email, or on social media?

B2B lead generation requires more detailed research than B2C marketing. Instead of identifying your target audience or finding a niche market, you may need to identify specific companies that have the budget for your products or services.

Once you’ve narrowed in on a company, use online networking sites like LinkedIn to learn about their corporate structure. Who matches your buyer persona and has the authority to sign off on a purchase? These are the ideal B2B leads to reach out to.

2. Choose a lead gen campaign

Next, determine which lead generation strategy will be the best way to get B2B leads for your business. With social media marketing and digital advertising, you can cast a wide net while still targeting specific industries or geographic locations.

For example, when you invest in Yelp Ads, you can target the leads you want to reach by location and keyword. You can also create a custom Call to Action to prompt potential customers to give you a call, request a quote, or perform another desired action.

With account-based marketing (ABM), you take an individualized approach to B2B lead generation. Rather than create a whitepaper or infographic about an entire industry, you do customized research and create content specifically for the individual business you want to appeal to. It’s essentially an advertising campaign for a market of one.

ABM requires more work upfront and there’s no guarantee of a sale, so it’s best for businesses with a large enough marketing team (and budget) to justify the effort.

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3. Capture new leads

At this stage, it’s time to optimize your lead capture strategy. Capturing new leads is a bit of an art. If you ask for too much information too soon, potential customers will be wary. Use a CRM to store basic information like names and email addresses; you can always add more contact details later through the process of lead enrichment.

Create detailed landing pages to build trust and interest in your company before making the ask, and use lead magnets to give potential leads something in exchange for their contact info. It’s also a good idea to use A/B testing to find out which CTA is most effective.

The placement of your lead capture form matters too. You can embed in-page forms directly on your website or use pop-up forms to attract attention more quickly. Some social media sites and business platforms allow you to set up lead capture forms on your profile or business page so leads can fill them out right then and there.

Yelp makes it easy to capture B2B leads for free with its built-in Request a Call and Request a Quote features. New leads can choose how they want to hear from you—by phone or email—and they can answer questions about the type of service they need.

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4. Nurture your leads

Learning how to generate B2B leads is a big step, but not all leads are ready to become a customer. Lead nurturing builds relationships with your leads and gives them the information they need to make a purchase decision.

A drip marketing campaign is one way to nurture leads by providing them with helpful tips, free trial offers, and other information in the form of an email newsletter. Rather than pressuring them to make an immediate purchase, drip campaigns can keep a customer engaged for weeks or months until they’re ready to convert.

Marketing automation platforms like Mailchimp allow you to set up drip campaigns to welcome new leads to your email list. Segment your leads by region or industry, and track metrics like your open rate and click-through rate.

In-person events, online webinars, and Q&A sessions can be an opportunity to learn more about your leads and facilitate B2B lead enrichment.

5. Qualify leads

Marketing teams use the acronyms MQL and SQL to refer to leads at different sales funnel stages. A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is one who has demonstrated interest in your company and is likely to become a buyer eventually, while a sales qualified lead (SQL) is one who is ready to make a purchase right away.

Use your CRM to score leads based on their level of interaction with your brand. A lead who has subscribed to your email list and spoken to a sales rep on the phone is more likely to convert than one who has simply followed you on social media.

Lead scoring is one of the key elements of lead management and your CRM software can handle it automatically based on the criteria you select.

6. Convert leads

Finally, convert leads by making a strong push to nudge them toward a sale. This could take the form of a phone call after a lengthy drip campaign or a meeting with all of the relevant decision-makers at your lead’s company.

After you’ve closed a sale, follow up to maintain the customer relationship, and ask if they’d be interested in providing a testimonial or joining your referral program.

Not all leads will result in a sale—and that’s okay. Mark the outcome of each sales attempt in your CRM and track your conversion rate to improve your strategy over time.

Best B2B lead gen tools for small businesses

Marketing team collaborating on a laptop during a productive meeting

Using the right lead generation tools is vital for managing B2B leads. Not only will these tools help you figure out how to find B2B leads, but they’ll also help you keep track of new leads and move them onto the next stage of your sales funnel.

Each of these tools has its own features and functionality so you may need more than one tool to cover different stages of the sales journey.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn’s social media platform targets professionals, so it’s a good place to start if you’re wondering where to get B2B leads. You can use it to learn more about potential businesses to market to or about the individual B2B leads who work there.

For example, if you’re pursuing an account-based marketing strategy, you might want to know more about specific buyers. How long has a potential buyer been at the company, and do they have sufficient leverage to drive through a sale?

Relying on LinkedIn’s social media features won’t provide you with all this info, which is why LinkedIn Sales Navigator may be a good resource for B2B lead generation. This paid tool will show you which companies have the most connections to yours, which past customers or colleagues work at a target company, and even the headcount of specific departments so you can estimate sales values.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator integrates with your CRM, so you can use it alongside other B2B lead generation tools for lead nurturing and lead scoring. Pricing starts at $99.99 per user per month, or $79.99 per month if you invest in an annual plan.


Yelp is an online business platform where companies can manage their own free business page to reach potential customers and grow their online presence. Start by adding or claiming your Yelp Business Page and ensuring your basic information is up to date. This will help get more eyes on your page. In fact, businesses with a photo, website, phone number, and business hours averaged 7.6x more page views per month than businesses without that content.

In addition to responding to customer reviews, use your business page for B2B lead generation by engaging with customers via the Request a Call or Request a Quote features. Customers can either request a call from you or submit a request for a quote, and you’ll get a notification when you have a new lead. Yelp handles the lead capture process for you, so you can focus on following up with each potential customer—plus it’s free for both you and them.

Pro tip: Respond promptly when you get a message from potential clients. Businesses that respond to messages and requests within 24 hours get 3x more messages and requests.

If you need to generate B2B leads more quickly, consider investing in Yelp Ads. With an ad budget of as little as $5 per day, your business will show up in more places on the Yelp website and app, such as above or below search results and on competitor’s pages.


Mailchimp is a marketing automation tool that focuses on nurturing leads with email and SMS marketing. You can design your own welcome emails and drip campaigns that introduce potential customers to your business and convert them over time.

Mailchimp offers pre-existing templates to help you get started and advanced market segmentation tools to help you tailor your messaging. For instance, you can segment your email list into B2C customers, business owners, or VIP members.

Mailchimp is free for up to 1,000 email sends per month and ranges from $13–350 per month for up to 150,000 email sends and advanced functionality.


Landbot is a chat-based marketing automation tool that helps you generate new leads by engaging them in human-like conversation. You can design your own AI-powered chatbot to ask questions like “May I have your name?” and “What’s the best email address for you?” to deliver your CTA in a more conversational context.

Instead of relying on lengthy lead capture forms that take time to complete, Landbot engages customers where they’re at, whether it’s on your website or in WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Use it to answer common questions, book sales meetings, or simply gather contact data for your CRM.

Landbot also supports bot-to-human handoff, which means you can bring in a human sales rep if the conversation is too complex for a bot to handle.

It’s free to sign up and try things out, with paid plans ranging from $45–450 per month depending on the number of users.

Learn how to generate leads in B2B sales and boost your bottom line

Focused B2B sales team engaged in a collaborative meeting

B2B marketing requires a more forward-thinking strategy than B2C marketing because you’re dealing with small business owners and corporate buyers rather than individual customers who might be inclined to make an impulse buy. That means spending more time on lead generation, lead nurturing, and lead scoring before making a sale.

Many of the same marketing strategies apply, such as content marketing and social media marketing, but they should be tailored for a B2B audience. Lead management tools like account-based marketing (ABM) and customer relationship management (CRM) software can help you keep track of B2B leads.

Learn more about proven lead management strategies for winning sales and why lead management matters in a crowded market.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.