dessert with lead generation sign

B2B lead generation: what works (and what doesn’t) – Part 1

You have good reason to be confused about digital marketing; it’s a world that keeps adding acronyms, tools, and technologies at a frenetic pace. We interview some of the top boutique digital marketing agencies to highlight their specialties and share their insights to help you grow! Today, we interview Mac McIntosh, CEO & Founder of Acquire B2B.

NXT: What does Acquire B2B do, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors?

AcquireB2B, is a full-service demand generation agency. We specialize in helping our clients use B2B marketing to drive more leads and sales.

A lot of demand generation agencies out there may only do telemarketing or email marketing, but we do strategy, tactics, media, content, and anything under the sun that will help our clients generate leads.

We’re an inch wide and a mile deep in lead generation!

NXT: So what works best for B2B customer acquisition: cold calling vs cold emailing vs content marketing / SEO vs paid ads (FB vs Adwords vs YouTube) vs attending conferences, or something else?

​Usually a combination of these works best.  1+1=3.  However, if I was on a desert island, I would do email to a well-targeted database first.

I would prioritize my initiatives and budget allocation as follows:

  1. Database-driven marketing (email, phone)
  2. Website (speed, design)
  3. Blog (regular content, at least a couple of times a week)
  4. Ad-retargeting (so website visitors start seeing our ads more often)
  5. Content syndication (consider LinkedIn, Reddit and Medium for non-paid, Outbrain and Taboola for paid, and RSS feeds)

Then everything else: tradeshows, webinars, seminars, videos, other paid advertising.

NXT: How do you go about finding clients?

It’s a blend of both inbound and outbound marketing. We practice what we preach so we’re always experimenting with different ways to market ourselves.

We use ourselves as sort of the guinea pig to stay on the cutting edge and test different approaches on ourselves first. Only then, if we have success with something, we roll it out to our clients and it becomes another option in the toolbox.

NXT: What sort of clients can you help the most, where you can have a real impact?

We work with North American companies ranging from small to global enterprises. They typically face longer sales-cycles that involve multiple decision makers and senior management approval.

Because we specialize in B2B marketing, the products or services are usually more complex as they are “designed-in” by engineers, designers, and architects. Typical categories include software used in engineering, business, and IT, as well as healthcare, medical, and lab equipment to name a few.

We are really good at taking complex ideas and simplifying them into digestible pieces to generate sales.

NXT: Who do you work with directly?

With smaller companies it’s usually the owners, Presidents, CEOs then it’ll trickle down to the marketing managers once the financial side approves. With bigger companies we generally work with marketing directors, but I like to meet everybody so that they don’t go “Who the heck is this Mac guy?!”

NXT: Relationship-building is a recurring theme for successful B2B sales… how do you build these relationships within a company, how do you network with them and stay top of mind?  Any tips you can share?

Companies don’t buy, people buy! So build relationships with people by nurturing them with relevant and useful information, staying in-sight and in-mind with “drip” campaigns until they are ready to buy.

You may not see immediate conversions from your drip campaigns but it’s important to stay the course and stay top of mind because you never know when a buying decision will come up.

NXT: How do you WIN new business when you’re pitted against other agencies?

When a client is just starting out with us, they’ll give us and another agency identical tasks so they can compare results and decide who to partner with. We’ve never lost to a competitor!

In one case, 78% of the leads that we generated were passed successfully onto sales whereas the competing agency only had 0.5% of their leads passed forward!

NXT: And who’s the team behind all this magic?

We have 13 key, “been-there, done-that” marketing-communication experts, with 12 senior telemarketers on the phones, and 24 virtual specialists that we call upon for their specific expertise!

NXT: It sounds like there’s a lot of weight placed on telemarketing – is that for cold calling?  What are some performance metrics around that?

Cold calling is the most expensive way to generate leads.  I only recommend it when there is a very targeted list (top 100 companies, etc.) and they have immediate needs or problems you can address.  Otherwise, I recommend using it as a follow-up and nurturing tactic.​

NXT: Could you share a mini case study of the impact you had on a client?

We helped a financial accounting software company increase their customer retention from 9% to 23% by devising a more strategic way of approaching their customers.

This client would send a renewal offer only when it was time for their customers to renew the software. We thought they needed to be more proactive, so we built a campaign to get customers to sign up for an automatic renewal in exchange for cost savings.

The messaging was “Hey, if you sign up for this automatic renewal, you would be saving $X instead of having to manually renew it every time”, and we built specific follow-up email marketing tactics according to their response.

We then queued up telemarketing campaigns to those that didn’t respond, so we could either re-educate them or find out why they weren’t using the software. Overall, our method worked a lot better and helped them retain expensive customers.

NXT: What do you think are common mistakes that companies tend to make?

Emphasizing leads vs MQLs

Companies still tend to focus on cost-per-lead, rather than the more appropriate: cost-per-MQL (= Marketing Qualified Lead). This happens because there’s pressure on marketing to prioritize quantity rather than quality, so the cost-per-lead ends up being low but the percentage of qualified leads (people that are actually interested) is even lower.

So sometimes marketing will gives the sales team leads that are not ready to buy yet, and the lead ends up being wasted when it could’ve been nurtured for later on. You’re better off having a higher cost-per-lead but still be able to generate a higher percentage of qualified leads.

Wasting energy on 1:1s early on

Another thing is that companies don’t invest enough in marketing-driven sales, and this can really hurt them in the long run.

When you are growing your business, it’s important to leverage lower cost-per-contact tactics. This means: making sure you’re reaching a lot of people instead of approaching them one-on-one. Save your energy for the one-on-one contacts only after you’ve identified your qualified leads, and focus on nurturing that instead! (More in-depth information can be found in this blog post).

Ignoring longer-term leads

Lastly, companies forget to nurture the longer-term leads and they try to be the hare when they should instead take the mindset of the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race!

Sometimes it’s easy to just generate short-term sales, because that’s how companies compensate their salespeople. Industry experts estimate that only 25% of those who are going to buy do so in the first six months. Yet roughly another 25% will buy within a 7- 12-month period, another 25% buy in a 13 to 18-month period and the last 25% will buy sometime after 18 months.

So, if you only focus on one quarter, you’re making a big mistake! Click here for a blog post on making sure your salespeople are nurturing leads to move them down the funnel.

NXT: What would be a typical fee to work with you?

We have no minimum retainer, because we work on a project basis, as a virtual extension of your team, or as a full-service demand generation agency.

To give you an idea, over the past 12 months, our clients have invested from $2,500 (for a single project) to $300,000 for a turn-key, marketing-driven lead generation, nurturing and qualification program.

Our average client invests between $10,000 and $25,000 per month in their AcquireB2B marketing-driven leads and sales programs.

NXT: For small business owners that don’t have big marketing budgets, what’s the best think they can do?

Building out a database of prospects is extremely important, no matter how big your budget is. If you’re a smaller company, the first thing you can do is a direct marketing campaign to this database.

First, it could be an email campaign with a Whitepaper, or a series of personalized letters, or send a postcard via

When you have more revenue to do more things, you can:

  • invest in pay-per-click advertising,
  • generate organic SEO by building content, and then
  • social media marketing to establish a presence.

The tricky thing about social media marketing is that it has to be an ongoing process, so make sure that you’re not giving it up after a few weeks into the campaign. It will take a long time and effort to show results for your hard work…

That’s why you shouldn’t start out with social media first, especially if you don’t have the manpower and budget to maintain it.

NXT: On the topic of social media, a lot of companies are still doing it nowadays. Do you think it works?

About 10 years ago, when social media was gaining traction and everybody was jumping on board, it didn’t really help generate leads for companies.

Over the years, it’s been having more impact, but it’s still not at the point where it’s generating a substantial amount of leads. It’s more used for thought leadership, engaging with your audience, and a place for questions and support.

You should still do it, because it will help you support your various marketing campaigns, but it should never be the main focus.

NXT: What are some tips on selling without sounding too much like a sales pitch?

You need to be authentic in what you share, so typically I follow a 411 or 911 rule. You should share 4 relevant topics before pitching 1. The 911 rule is a little more intensive, where you share 9 relevant topics before pitching 1. For example, only after you’ve shared 4 different industry articles with your audience, then you can then say “Hey! Buy our product now for a discount…”

Another thing to keep in mind is to help your customers buy, instead of trying to sell.

It’s easy to list off how great your own product/service is, but it can come off like a sales pitch. It’s much more valuable and meaningful if you created a pros/cons list of the different options your customers might have, and share what you think would be the best option depending on customer needs. It’s perfectly okay to disclose your bias (you are trying to sell, after all) but once you become helpful, your clients will notice and keep you top-of-mind anyway!


A huge thanks to Mac McIntosh at AcquireB2B, he is the Founder and CEO of this full-service agency. Aside from AcquireB2B Mac is a well-known marketing maven that has taught graduate and undergraduate-level university and college courses, both in the USA and Europe. He was recently selected as one of the Sales Lead Management Association’s “Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management” and “40 Most Inspirational Leaders in Sales Lead Management” and BtoB magazine’s “Top 100 in B2B Marketing”. Head over to his personal website and company website for more information.

Acquire B2B


Tess is a Business Development Associate at Board Studios Inc, an animation production agency that helps B2B companies simplify and communicate more effectively. She's passionate about B2B business models & marketing, and spends a lot of time working on partnership development, content marketing, and scouring for the best business books for Her blood type is an authentic caffè macchiato.

Add comment