So you own or work in a startup company, and let me guess…. you’re a team of 1 and have limited time and a small budget for spend. There are too many different ways you could invest your 8 hours a day (subtract meeting time) and you just can’t decide where to invest your energy because you don’t know what is going to get you the best results for the least amount of effort and money. Well, you’re talking to someone who’s been there many times!
In my 12 year marketing career I have worked in 5 different startup business in a marketing capacity, and in all I experienced the pain point I mentioned above. I’ve also been a Founder of a business (my current role), where I started with even less budget than those previous jobs, because I had to make money first before investing money in growth. This isn’t easy, so congrats for taking on this challenge. Luckily, I know all too well what it’s like to be responsible for all the strategy and all the execution of the strategy 😅. Let me share with you some of the strategies I’ve used that resulted in successful lead generation and new customers in the B2B startups I’ve worked in.
1. Automate Your Cold Outreach
This strategy works better for some companies than others, but it’s well worth a try. Appointment setting is service I provide to my clients in my marketing agency, and I’m going to tell you exactly how to do it so you can see results like a $400,000 increase in sales pipeline within 3 months (as we did for one of our clients).
The theory behind this approach is that you need to get in front of your target audience at the right time. This is an age old marketing challenge… how do you know when the right time is? Well, the answer is you don’t, and it’s often impossible to find out. If you have other indicators for helping to determine this, that’s great, use those in your target criteria.
So, working under the assumption that you don’t know when the right time is for the leads you are targeting, it comes down to a numbers game. Does this mean spamming thousands of leads? No, it doesn’t. However, it does mean outreach to thousands of leads, because this is the key to getting in front of qualified leads at the right time. If you don’t get in front of them, they won’t know you exist. Makes sense, right?
Let me start by clarifying the difference between spamming and genuine outreach. Spamming is annoying and intrusive to the receiver. To be genuine, it doesn’t take much, but it is an art that most marketers haven’t mastered. I will talk about how to master this a little later.
Step 1. Define your ICP
You need to know exactly who you’re targeting. The criteria you should look at is:
- Geographical location
- Number of employees
These are the basics, and the broader the better. With some outreach strategies, narrowing down is often best, but for this strategy you need bigger numbers or you will quickly run out of leads to reach out to. This strategy is how I got my business off the ground and landed my initial customer base that allowed me to then re-invest in other channels such as SEO, social media, content, and PR.
Step 2. Messaging is Key
As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t take much to be genuine, but it’s also easy to be spammy if you don’t have the right mindset while creating your messaging. First, you need to get clear in your mind about what you want from the lead. Let’s play the “Why” game.
Do you want a meeting? Sure, but ask yourself this… why do you want a meeting?
Is it because you want an opportunity to sell your product? Yes, of course, but… why do you want this opportunity?
Is it because you want to make money? Maybe so, but why else?
Is it because you want to help them solve a problem? Yes, now we’re getting there.. Let’s keep going…
Why do you want to help them solve this problem? This is the answer that is important. For my business, it’s to help startups with growth solutions that won’t break the bank. I genuinely want to help businesses grow and partake in their growth story. Watching my client’s become successful is what brings me satisfaction. This is what gives me meaning and purpose in my job.
Now let’s talk about some tips to help you with your template:
- Don’t ever ask for a meeting until you get a positive response
- Don’t make you’re email longer than 4 sentences
- Don’t make “too good to be true” claims about increasing their ROI by 300% (even if it is true!)
- Do use a soft CTA, such as “Any interest in learning more?” – This shows respect for their time and judgement
- Do write a short email that is to the point.
- Do clearly state what you do, and who you do it for.
- Do let them know it’s up to them if they’d like to chat more
This is the difference between being spammy and being genuine. Spammy emails often are very presumptuous and come off as desperate. They ask for a 15 minute meeting tomorrow in someone’s very busy schedule without even considering if this person has a real need for the product or service. It’s no wonder that people get highly irritated by these messages, they’re disrespectful.
3. Setup your Automation
There are many different tools you can use for setting up your automation, but the one I like to use is MeetAlfred because it automates both email and Linkedin. I would recommend a sequence that looks like this for both Linkedin and Email:
- Day 1: Initial outreach
- Day 7: Follow-up
- Day 30: Follow-up
Stop outreach for 2 months. The reason for this is because the timing probably wasn’t right, and that’s the likely reason you didn’t get a response. 2 months allows time for priorities to shift, in which case you can begin outreach again. I call this the zigzag approach.
4. Day 90: Follow-up with a reminder of product/service
5. Day 97: Follow-up
6. Day 137: Follow-up
Stop follow up and repeat steps 4-6 in another 1-2 months.
Tips and Tricks:
- On Linkedin you can automate other actions, such as “viewing profile”, “liking most recent post”. I would recommend adding some of these into your sequence.
- For both email and Linkedin, I would recommend trying a “weekend” campaign. You would be surprised at how many people check their email over the weekend, and usually, they have a bit more time to respond.
- Try to use some personalization. It’s more difficult with automated outreach, but you can still use first name, company name, title.
Give this strategy a try and see how it works for you. At the very least it can spark interesting conversations and you never know where they may lead.
2. Get Started on SEO and Content
SEO is going to be one of your top channels, regardless of your hesitations, it works and it works well. However, there are many factors to consider for approaching SEO. Let’s first talk a bit about how SEO helps B2B companies and why it’s one of the most powerful channels you can leverage early on in your business:
- Grow organic, inbound traffic and leads – this is a given
- Grow brand awareness by showing up for more searches and being linked from more websites
- Build thought leadership through educational content
- Increase trust with your audience
- Long term, sustainable growth – SEO is a channel that keeps giving the longer you do it.
- Increase conversion rate on closing deals (inbound deals close faster than outbound)
As you can see, there are are multitude of ways that SEO can benefit your brand.
I recommend this channel as an early investment, because it takes time for results to materialize. I also recommend outsourcing SEO for your B2B startup, because it’s one of those marketing channels that requires multiple different skillsets and for that reason it’s difficult to see a positive ROI from an internal marketing team. It requires deep technical SEO and website knowlege, link building generation which can be very tedious and time consuming, and content. Content is one of the biggest components to SEO and marketing in general, so this skillset is extremely broad. If you narrow down content to just focus on SEO, ideally you want someone to help with the following:
- Optimizing key web pages, such as product, service, and landing pages these pages are what generate bottom of funnel leads.
- Optimizing blog post content – Blog posts support the rankings of your other key pages by including links to those pages and tying in blog content with service page content.
When it comes to SEO optimized content, you don’t need to be a writer. You can optimize a writer’s work for SEO afterwards or provide SEO guidance before it’s written. This is something your agency can help you with, or some agencies, like us, can help you with writing the content as well.
When you outsource SEO, usually content recommendations are part of the package, or at least it is when you work with us. We do this because we know that in-house content teams don’t always have SEO expertise or knowledge, and for you to see results, you need to have optimized content.
With the 3 prongs of SEO (technical, link building, and content), it’s much more cost effective to outsource this to an SEO agency for B2B startups. The benefits:
- Cost effective – Our price for monthly SEO normally ranges between $2200/month to $3500/month. This is approximately the same cost as a minimum wage hire, and for this type of wage you would be looking to hire an intern, or someone with no experience.
- Years of SEO knowledge and expertise for 3 different skillsets needed to succeed at SEO – An experienced SEO agency will know exactly how to put together an effective strategy to help you generate high quality organic traffic.
- Results within 4 months – While this investment takes time, it usually quickly pays off once it gets momentum. Depending on your average deal size, you may only need one inbound customer to see a positive ROI within the first few months.
So now that you’ve decided SEO in an important strategy in your startup, the question is… how do you implement? You now know your pro’s and con’s and if you’d like to dig into your specific business with a free consultation, feel free to reach out to email@example.com. I am personally happy to answer your questions around SEO.
If you’re looking for ways to do SEO with no resources, check out my blog post on how startups can do SEO on a budget. In this post we talk about effective keyword research, tips for optimizing content, low cost SEO tools, and more. If you’re ready to get started with SEO and are looking for the right agency, check out how we can help here.
3. Tap Your Existing Network
You might be wondering how you would go about doing this, but it’s really quite simple. If you’re responsible for marketing a B2B brand, reach out to all of the connections you have that you think might be interested in learning more. Even if some of these connections aren’t your ICP (Ideal customer type), you can ask them for an introduction to the right person. If you have a large network, this is guaranteed to result in at least a few sales calls for your sales team.
If you’re a Founder of a startup, ask all of your employees to think of potential customers in their networks they can reach out to regarding the product. You’re not asking your staff to sell, you’re simply asking them to help by introducing the people they know to your product by telling them about it. Here are some examples of how you can get your employees to participate:
” Hi ____, I’m asking everyone for a favor to help drive growth in our company. If anyone knows someone in their network who might be a good fit for our product, I’d appreciate any outreach that you’re willing to do to help us build awareness around what we’re doing. It doesn’t need to be sales outreach. Here are some examples of the messages you can send:
- Hi ____, I hope you’re well. I wanted to reach out and let you know that I’m working at _____, Our mission is to _____ by providing ____ to [target title]. If you know of anyone who might be interested in learning more, I’d appreciate you keeping us in mind!
- Hi ____, It’s been a while, I see you’re now at [company name], how is it going there? I wanted to reach out and let you know that I’m working at _____. We help businesses to ______. I’d appreciate any support if you are able to follow our social page [link to social page].
I’ll be asking everyone to clear their schedules for this Friday afternoon to dedicate some time to this ask. I appreciate everyone’s contribution to this, and for anyone who does an introduction to our sales team will win a $100 Amazon gift card [or insert a different incentive].”
You can also ask your staff to go through their Linkedin connections and invite everyone in their network to like the company’s social page. This is a simple action that takes just a few clicks from your employee when they use Linkedin’s “invite to like a page” feature.
While there are many other cost-effective, bootstrapping strategies available for startups, these are the top ones I would prioritize. Some outbound strategies combined with inbound is a good balance and mix for generating quick opportunities while still investing in a longer term, sustainable lead growth. And while I could easily suggest other great channels like in-person events, or social media… I’ve learned that it takes ruthless prioritization when you’re a small team and only have so many resources. If you focus on doing too much, you end up not achieving anything and burning out in the process.
If you do have the resources for more strategies, check out my social media post and how to maximize value from this channel as a B2B tech startup.