Marketing

5 Demand Generation Plays to Use for your Business in 2021

Andrei Klimovich
March 2, 2021

B2B lead generation plays to try in 2021, in our opinion, are

  • Hyper Relevance
  • Image personalization
  • Hyper-Personalization
  • Conditional templates
  • Targeted social media engagement

Using any of those plays will improve your top funnel performance and help to win businesses in 2021!


During COVID times, almost all field marketing and sales activities became digital.

Field demand generation teams with little or no digital experience flooded the internet using "battle-proven" templates and sending us "must be seen" webinars to generate revenues and qualified sales opportunities and attract our interest.

Consequently, it became much more challenging for businesses to stand out from the crowd in the digital world.

B2B sales rep activities and previously successful B2B demand generation methods like email marketing campaigns or cold calls faced a steep decrease in their effectiveness during work-from-home new normal.

The same goes for B2B inbound marketing tactics, where huge budgets were allocated in the past for field events and moved to digital with a workforce with no in-depth experience in digital marketing automation tools to bring leads, sales meetings, and positive results.

With the constant evolution of demand generation marketing programs and strategies, it is a high barrier for businesses to generate qualified leads!

From the latest HubSpot and Topo studies, B2B cold and inbound marketing email blasts have a stable decline in open, click-through, and conversion rates compared to 2019. Today, we see only 24% of emails are opened from email marketing tools based on recent Topo research.

Not being said that average potential buyers committee increased from a few to almost 10 people to make a final buying decision! This trend continues to increase average sales cycle for new highs.

These facts, with overall stress, pushed many salespeople and marketing professionals to networks like LinkedIn to find new ideas and potential clients. Growing over 40% during 2020, today, it is a place with over 740 million members and several million businesses.

So Social Media platform like Linkedin becomes a robust demand generation channel and social media marketing tool to look at in 2021.

At the same time, with the rise of social selling, based on recent researches from Forbes and LinkedIn, this network creates clear wins as a source of leads and business opportunities!

  • Two out of five people are closing from one to five deals directly thanks to social media.
  • More than half of net new revenue generated is coming from social in dozens of common industries, including computer software, Healthcare, and marketing and advertising.
  • More than 35 percent of marketers and sales see a boost in win rates and deal size using socials in their closing process.

And the rules to succeed on this platform is similar to any other direct communication channel for B2B sales. You need to have a few parameters in your messaging -

  • Relevance
  • Timing
  • Personalization

Here are five trends and hacks for lead and demand generation strategies and campaigns we see (and you can apply) emerging strongly in 2021 for any direct channel and boost LinkedIn respose rates in particular.

Hyper Relevance as one of the demand generation strategies

Effective inbound and outbound sales development depends a lot on Relevance. We want to understand our B2B buyers and define their buying intent to be relevant. As a result, each team deliver different demand generation marketing strategy for each customer journey.

Each quarter sales team gets revenue goals to achieve. The common path to success is to generate enough sales opportunities through outbound and inbound marketing activities.

Nowadays, demand generation marketers also have a goal to revenue generation, but they are not responsible for closing deals. So, when the success of effective demand generation lies in their ability to generate a qualified pipeline, high-quality, highly-qualified leads became almost the number one priority.

Using only content marketing strategy has low chances to generate enough sales qualified meetings and from an ideal set of Job Titles from target B2B companies. Not enough high quality prospects with the lower average sales cycle, decrease average deal size, and creates pressure on real demand for products you sell.

There was a massive debate between Becc Holland (Flip The Script) and Justin Michael (JMC) methods proposed to the community in 2020.

On one side, Becc Holland was working as SDR team lead in companies like Chorus, G2 implementing scalable, great performing outreach sequences.

The main idea of the tactic was to spend a few minutes for prospective clients, save relevant personal data points in the system, and re-use them in online channels (cold emails, calls, social posts).

On the other side, Justin's approach he reached in his startup - OutboundWorks was to deeply segment, slice all the data (they even bought the company Hexa.ai for data collection and processing). Based on the final results, his team creates fully automated sequences passing the Turing test generating tons of potential leads and opportunities!

In both cases, the goal was to be relevant to the final receivers and be personal enough to remove negative thoughts about cold outreach for potential customers.

So what they have in common to be hyper-relevant, and what can you use today?

Role of Prospect Buying Intent for Demand Generation Teams

Market leaders in this sector like Bombora, spend a lot of time to educate the market about intent data definition -

"Intent data shows which leads are actively conducting research for your product online."

Today, we have a few providers, like G2, 6sense, Bombora, Crunchbase (collaboration with Bombora), that show sales teams accounts in search of similar products and expertise B2B sellers provide and apply these demand generation campaigns.

From different angles, this source of leads is powerful but might not be working in a straight-forward way -

"I saw you were searching {{Competitor_1}}, let me show how we are different" - sounds creepy and not value-based. So the results from such an approach are low.

Messaging structured around search knowledge itself, which pushes increased priority and better targets these accounts, creates results.

You start marketing and selling to the people browsing your category and expertise. Without direct push how you find them it it feels like you read their mind!

For any startup in the crowded category with clear product differentiation, we highly suggest trying this play. Consider Crunchbase with Data boost ($720 every year) to test and not break a bank to find companies making relevant buying decisions.

If you have a brand new idea with no high-volume search intent on particular keywords but solving real problems, sales teams should avoid investing in search intent and consider other triggers and plays we mention in this article.

Customers Outreach Strategy for Changes in Leadership

New marketing director or sales leader? High probability of change coming with them! This B2B lead generation play as a brand new source of leads can be for you!

It can be anything and everything -

  • New technology
  • New vendors
  • New hirings
  • New team functions
  • New strategic initiatives

Whatever is going to happen, the main idea that the previous status quo will break with higher chances, and changes with new open opportunities are coming!

Where can you find such data? Crunchbase, LinkedIn Sales Navigator are the right places to start.

Sales Teams using Company headcount growth to generate B2B leads

The growing company has growing needs in tech and services to solve new challenges. It can be the first marketing operations automation setup or improvements in sales funnel, process steps, new ABM initiatives, or simply more HR and accounting tasks with tasks like payroll or company culture.

Where can you find such data for B2B lead generation? The easiest way is LinkedIn Sales Navigator, where you can see this data in the insights tab -

Key piece of company summary on example of ideal prospects like Google

Track Website Visitors to generate High-Quality Leads.

Another way to define intent for B2B lead generation is to know who visits your website.

The only way to understand it was to convert website visitors into leads receiving email addresses via webform during an extended period. We see many plays around these tactics during last years - multiple pop-ups, "Sign-up for our newsletter," browser notifications, free and freemium versions of products. All is done to identify you and connect.

The game started to change back in 2015 when companies like Albacross, Leadfeeder, 6sense entered the market to provide B2B buyers with a new source of sales leads.

They pushed an idea to reveal the identity of your visitors without presenting valuable leads forms and sign-up letters. Matching IP addresses with business websites provides an easy-to-use interface to see what companies visit your website and run account-based marketing campaigns among the best suitable types of leads.

6sense even recently published a book on this topic - "No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls", where they explicitly show how they see a future for marketing leads.

We suggest you try to connect any of these solutions to your website and see if B2B buyers you reveal have value for you to focus on communication!

Hirings History as an Insight and Awareness Trigger

Current and recent hirings are a great signal at what stage the company is, what challenges they are solving right now, and what questions are on executive agenda.

This data quickly goes in the bracket - "Easy to use, hard to master."

There are no high barriers to try to connect for few accounts on this topic in target markets. You can find several companies searching for Sales Teams, CRM Consultants, and Software Engineers in few clicks. In general, it is not such a big challenge.

However, figure out what SDR going to do (inbound or outbound), what sales and marketing tools the company wants you to know, like the type of CRM, or in what language you as a Software Engineer should know in each company starts to add a challenge to the problem.

Finally, doing this repeatedly.

  • Have a daily-weekly process to connect with such companies
  • Re-engage with the existing network in a relevant manner from your CRM (customer relationship management system)

creates significant challenges for sales and marketing teams which ends up mostly in these three categories -

  • Give up such tactic due to the high barrier of manual work and analytics required.
  • Run "simple" low performing plays - "Hey, I saw you start hiring Software Engineer, do you need help in PHP?" (potential prospects product is built-in Python, and it never hired for PHP skills in particular)
  • Have a team of 3+ Data Researchers on freelance/Philippines to do the heavy lifting with ongoing management overheads

What works in 2021 from our experience is deeper connection and relevance from hiring data. You can mention where you find that post. Then show any sign that you read it, for example, say a particular tech stack company searching for, job location, and remote type. And finally, connect using sector and persona-based messaging. It creates magic!

For example,

"Hey Scot, recently Acma Corp start hiring for Python, AWS skills on Glassdoor. I see you guys also are breaking into the Machine Learning space. For the last 12 years, we've been working with companies from the financial sector like you and create a few high-level ML algorithms. Hiring senior ML talent in Toronto might be challenging nowadays. Since you are open to remote work, do you see an opportunity to connect and discuss how we decrease the time-to-market of your initiative?"

To try, we suggest you check our data enrichment product Rocks & Gold that updates in real-time on new hiring triggers and provide all custom data inputs to structure the messaging!

Image personalization in B2B Lead Generation

Showing that you invest your time and effort in making more personal connections has a clear advantage in B2B demand generation channels compared to lazy One-To-All messaging.

Image personalization is one of such tactics. It is a way to show the receiver a unique personal image based on the data we have about him.

The play was tested and implemented widely in companies like HubSpot and Segment.com. It showed pretty good results! They created eye-catching visuals by using custom-made images in their inbound marketing efforts and sales campaigns.

For example, HubSpot was making his playbook for sales leads with general videos personalizing them with desks where {{first_name}} was written -

Sales Decks from HubSpot on Key prospects to convert leads into buyers

In general, there was not anything personal except {{first_name}} on image, but it stands out of the crowd for sure!

Segment was working on custom images showing prospects how potential buyers can connect website marketing automation solutions with other tools. So they attached "custom-made" images of tech logos related to the SaaS products targeted leads were using.

It started as only a manual approach (you would need to buy a desk, marker, and create custom videos) and showed good conversion and overall fruitful time spent to ROI ratio. Startups start entering this space. Their solutions allow you to reach your target customers uniquely, helping you stand out from the everyday cold outreach and generic inbound marketing collateral they see regularly.

We suggest you have a look at products such as

Great tool for cold email campaigns with email deliverability hacks, domain warm-ups, and personalized video and image support.

Personalized image and video creation solution with more focus on video personalization

Personalize your images and website and integrate them with your sales and marketing automation solutions!

Based on recent research from campaignmonitor.com on their customers, personalized email marketing funnel generates a median ROI of 122%, where simple cases of personalized subject lines generate 26% higher open rates.

Also, a recent study by Accenture revealed that 75% of prospective customers are more likely to purchase from an organization that offers personalized services based on their individual preferences.

On the other hand, as of 2017, only 6% of organizations have achieved complete personalization in their direct-to-consumer marketing programms.

Hyper Personalization at scale has always been the future of automated sales development.

What used to take a sales development rep 20 minutes of research per email now happens instantly in bulk, and the quality is much higher.

What can be considered by hyper-personalization in the B2B world? If we combine recent trends in B2B marketing efforts and account-based sales movement, we can derive with such list -

Content curated to the specific buyer journey and audience to bring great customer Experience

Do you remember the buyer journey famous funnel - Awareness, Consideration, Decision? Most innovative B2B companies in the space calculate your score based on data they collect to show you curated ads and valuable content precisely for your buying stage!

6sense is an excellent example of such company. Being a provider of an account-based solution, they manage to create a buying process with deeply curated content, e-books, white papers that educates buyers based on their current stage in the sales cycle! Also, they are great advocates against gated content! So you always save to check their recent articles.

You just started getting familiar with intent data? Awareness stage for 6sense, so they give you a book about what intent data is about and how companies are using it!

Start browsing more about competitors and check pricing pages. You are in Decision. You will start to see ROI reports and customers' success stories/testimonials they chose for your Persona.

Combine it with personalised sales decks for each buyer and you are ahead of the crowd! However, the recent study from Gong presented that following your first set of meetings with sales decks increasing speaking time of sales rep and decrease overall engagement from a buyer.

5 min summary nuggets for Marketing Automation Softwares

Spending a few minutes to find and save a few custom personal information was a big trend in 2020. The approach is to check a person's LinkedIn profile, Twitter, Instagram, recent articles, likes, posts to increase the overall data quality of leads saved to the CRM system.

Having just a few minutes, you need to save in a pre-defined custom field in your CRM or Sales Engagement platform to use them in outreach messaging.

For example, summary nuggets like

  • big lover of wine
  • an active participant in the SaaS community, like "Name of the Group"
  • having a great passing in building a sales process
  • the primary motivator of 10 people SDR team

Sales teams can use it in multiple templates started with "You are" phase with intros like "I saw," Just checked that," "Since you are" etc.

Knowing your current messaging, templates, you can create a deep level of personalization across multiple channels! Usage of this data over and over across buying cycle and re-engagement practices makes all even better.

In-app / in-product / website engagement data for strong Sales Process

With the rise of analytical tools, chatbots, native browser notifications, and IP reveal, many engagement plays have become more accessible for B2B companies of any size and budget.

What does it bring to us?

  • We can receive and send curated marketing content based on our research patterns on a vendor website to have higher CTR and final conversions.
  • We can be forwarded to a real person when we stacked in the product to avoid losing us as potential customers or making an upsell.
  • We can run smart retargeting campaigns based on website data and product usage to highlight particular pain points.
  • We can curate experience based on firmographic, technographic data combined with a Persona profile. So Chief Marketing Officer from Fortune100 company will receive a different set of ads, support, and circle backs compared to the Marketing specialist of SME with 30 people total.

All that created a unique experience for all ideal customers in B2B space. A combination of real engagement data from salespeople, like cold calls, meeting records, and custom notes, opens doors for even deeper hyper-personalization!

Conditional templates for improving processes and experiences

Liquid language was developed by Shopify co-founder - Tobias Lütke. Currently, it is available for anyone on the web in the form of an open-source project. As a template language, it allows us to access variables from our data file in the right context with the power of HTML! Syntax is simple to use and powerful to apply in your daily work! (shopify.com)

Using liquid templates in outbound sales automation creates a unique opportunity and competitive advantage in time savings to generate sales pipeline.

Imagine you have 3 Buyer persona profiles -

  1. Tech
  2. Marketing
  3. Leadership

Also, you sell for three different industries - Computer Software, Finance, Healthcare.

As a result, it creates nine unique combinations of messaging just for one single step in your outreach!

Conditional templates with liquid syntax usage help overcome this burden by dynamically changing text based on each profile's data input.

As a result, CMO from Financial sector receives completely different pain points description and call-to-actions compared to IT leader from Healthcare. All in one template!

You can check and test the power of Liquid language in most email outreach tools, like Outreach.io, Reply.io, Apollo.io, Customer.io, GetVero.com, and many more!

Targeted social media engagement for any channel (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram)

Content consumption is at an all-time high in 2020-2021 due to our work-from-home policy. At the same time, content generation received similar uplift during these times, and the demand for attention and target audience is overwhelming!

Based on HubSpot studies, content plays a huge role in customer loyalty, trust, and improvements in conversion rates.

  • Content marketing efforts brings in three times more leads than traditional marketing and costs 60% less.
  • Use of any content marketing brings you more leads and accelerates business growth compared to companies that don't.
  • 61% of online purchases were directly impacted by any valuable piece of content from blog posts (Leads into Customers conversion was reading it before purchase).

So you can see that relevant content brings value for B2B lead generation and marketers. On the other hand, the payback period is much larger and requires constant investments before starting to see the first results.

Is there any other way to catch some traffic generated from our competitors to get value today? Is there any option to capture the audience built on our rival content? It appears that yes!

First strategy you can try is to collect an engaged audience from LinkedIn posts that match your interest. There are many tools on the market to manage the data like PhantomBaster, Expandi, LinkedIn Helper. All of them that the option to copy-paste post link and start data collection -

Let's take one of the posts of Though Leader whose audience we want to target, and copy link to relevant contact on Linkedin -

Blog post from Aaron Evans about Percent of Buyers who provide sales readiness training

Then we put the linked in data collection software (in my case, I use LinkedIn Helper) -

Social Media Posts Commentators collection as piece of demand capture

Using features in Collect Tab, like "Post likers," "Post commentators," I can collect relevant to me, engaged audience created from content produced not by me and warmed up by though leader in his category! However, keep in mind that the quality of the audiences you collect in most cases wins quantity!

Another strategy for B2B marketers is to catch the audience and play around with traffic retargeting is creating ads for particular pages.

Yes, you can create a set of ads to launch when any visitors of your competitor pricing page!

The quality and Relevance of traffic is high approach is simple. In your custom audience to market, you choose a segment of visitors of particular URLs. Choosing pricing pages of your competitors will start to show the set of ads you created for this specific play!

Making a summary, B2B lead generation plays to try in 2021, in our opinion, are

  • Hyper Relevance
  • Image personalization
  • Hyper-Personalization
  • Conditional templates
  • Targeted social media engagement

Using any of those plays will improve your top funnel performance and help to win businesses in 2021!

If you want to know more about Hyper Relevance play and how real-time hirings triggers can help you in 2021, have a look at our platform - Rocks & Gold.

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