B2B-Lead Generation: Finding Customers With Industry Reports

Lena M.
15 min read
08.11.2023 14:14:00

Many companies are constantly faced with a major challenge: lead generation. Every B2B company - whether an agency, software, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) company - all want leads. The more the better.

However, prospecting and lead nurturing are complex and expensive, especially in the B2B sector. And it is often not even effective. 

The typical problems that occur again and again include wrong timing, no relevance, and a lack of trust. In addition, many people are simply not interested in what you have to offer. 

However, there is a reliable solution to identify the 1 - 3 % right leads with buying intent: just ask them!

This has been proven by our Industry Report for direct data collection of zero-party data and relevant marketing signals.

As mentioned in previous podcasts, it's also difficult to get the timing right. Only 1 to 3% of B2B leads are ready to buy, the other 97 to 99% don't want to buy anything right now - no matter how good your sales email is, they can't be convinced.


How do you get your contacts to reveal what and when they want to buy? The solution is simple and has worked reliably for us?

You ask your contacts directly in industry surveys. This gives you zero-party data. Your contacts tell you what they want and when they are willing to spend money on it.

The majority of these are false intent signals or no signals at all regarding intent / willingness to buy for companies in the B2B midmarket. Because the providers have hardly any reliable data on mid-market companies, as is the case for enterprise companies, with Albacross, Lead Forensics, SalesViewer, Clearbit, G2, Capterra, ZoomInfo or Cognism. These providers tell you when your target group might be ready to make a purchase.

Furthermore, the wrong dimensions are usually positioned with the customer. When you receive the comparison table with a request for proposal (RFP), it contains the wrong criteria. Dimensions that are not relevant for the segment in which you are positioned. The category leader has already positioned itself and set the criteria.

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Industry surveys, on the other hand, tell you what your contacts want and when they are willing to spend money on it.

This is different from first-party data, where you monitor when they visit your website or submit forms. There is also what is known as third-party data, which is other companies that your leads have registered with. These are the infamous third-party cookies, which are being used less and less these days. 

3 Problems With Lead Generation

We collect data by creating industry reports. We show you what this process looks like for a report.

As publishers of the Marketing Automation Report, we worked together with the ZHAW to find the right B2B midmarket contacts. With research partners and sponsors, we were even able to increase the reach.

Why is it so difficult to find leads who want to buy, Marc?

1. Wrong Timing ☠️

You said it right, finding the right timing is a big problem. Everyone wants leads. Generating leads is the top goal of B2B companies, but they usually forget that the timing has to be right. It is much more important that you firstly know the willingness to buy and/or secondly always remain “top-of-mind”

Identifying the Willingness to Buy

You need clear signals to identify the willingness to buy. You want to know which marketing signals occur along your customer journey. In order to measure this and evaluate the data, you need comprehensive attribution models and, if necessary, expensive customer data platforms.

For example, when a lead visits your website, they slowly move from the informative content to the prices and product specifications until they book a product demo.

If they don't take the latter step and don't book a demo, then you need lead scoring to identify who has progressed how far.

As a Company “Top-of-Mind” With Your Customers

If you are “top-of-mind” as a company, it would be ideal if the customer contacts you. Because they are looking for a solution at the right moment, have a problem, and want to talk to you.

However, this requires a well-thought-out lead nurturing and content strategy, perseverance, and consistent messaging. Your product positioning also needs to be clear. You can't keep asking “Would you like to buy now”, but you have to play out your relevant content and it simply has to be top-notch.

So that the recipient doesn't get annoyed. That brings us to the next problem. 

2. Non-Relevant Contet ☠️

Content that is not relevant. This is annoying, especially with complex purchasing processes and long sales cycles. Even with a lot of competition for keywords. Your emails are quickly identified as spam or your website comes across as poorly written product advertising - without in-depth content or personality!

Superficial Content

So fewer and fewer insights, no in-depth research, and boring data that has already been published 100 times. Nobody writes good content anymore! No new data is collected and no daring, “edgy” results are produced - which, on the other hand, an entrepreneur with a lot of experience could convey as an expert

Lack of Personality

In most cases, there is also a lack of personality. It sounds copied and the sentences generated by the AI do not provide this “unique content”. The result is just a copy-and-paste ChatGPT whitepaper that no one is interested in. Neither Google nor your target group.

3. Lack of Trust☠️

The final problem is a lack of trust. You need reach, but your countless sales emails are being received in the one-size-fits-all category. These emails end up in the minds of the target group, in the built-in spam filter, and are deleted.

Your Target Group Does Not Know Your Sender

You don't have a relationship with these leads yet and you haven't brought any value. So the email with subject lines like “Quick Question”, “Meet for a coffee”, doesn't work.

Zero Value And That Equals Zero Trust

Next, you make a lot of noise about your topic. Offering software for X, an outsourcing solution for Y, 1000 leads that are offered to you, or “do you have capacity for new customer inquiries” - all of this is recognized as much ado about nothing. 

The Solution: Industry Reports

You mention the three biggest problems:

  1.  Timing: when is the right time?
  2. Relevance: How do I make my content not sound “salesy”, boring, and annoying?
  3. Trust: How do I gain the trust of the relevant target group?

The following learnings - using our industry report as an example, we have seen that benchmarks collected from the industry are very helpful. 

1. Data Collection & Timing

When it comes to timing, you need to analyze the intent signals. Why not actually query them?

Intent databases are difficult to find in the B2B midmarket. For companies that are not listed on the stock exchange, it is only possible to obtain data such as new positions that have been filled, completed financing rounds, press releases, or the last LinkedIn post.

That's good, but it's much more important to ask directly about willingness to buy so that you get zero-party data with your industry survey. Directly from your buyer persona. For example, by asking the questions

“How willing do you think you are to implement marketing automation in your company?”


“How likely are you to invest in X in the next 12 months?”.


To remain top-of-mind and practice effective prospecting and lead nurturing, you need continuous material and ongoing great content with which you can deliver 5 to 10 touchpoints throughout the year and still not be annoying and deliver value. So you need a topic to be relevant. 

2. Relationship & Relevance

You build a relationship through regular contact with relevant content. You take a topic that your buyer persona finds important and not you as a company.

It's not the ERP integration you think is so great or the process you offer! It has to be relevant to the person who receives it. What is the priority for this buyer persona? The most important topic of the year. This is your hook in your industry report.

An example would be “AI and customer portals to save you time”, and “E-commerce automation for an end-to-end customer journey”. That's your hero content strategy! It has this topic as a hook. What we also see is that the goals are not set correctly in the company.

An organization that nails employees to targets, such as the number of leads or traffic on your website. That doesn't make sense. It would be more important to measure the relevant target group. Which buyer persona or ideal customer profile (ICP) shows commitment and researches qualitative, relevant content?

This content should then also be distributed continuously and regularity is evaluated rather than the number of leads or traffic. 

3. Value & Trust

Trust is about rewards and authentic messaging. Your target group is already inundated with “sneaky” content. Think like an FBI agent who wants to elicit information from a stranger and then reward them accordingly.

Tell those who are asked to complete your survey what you want from them and what they will get in return.

  • They receive the benchmark when they complete the survey and see the live results of the other companies that took part.
  • As a company, you can also position yourself in the report by submitting a statement or testimonial. They receive a backlink and are published on the website and in the report. This works extremely well and is often requested.
  • You can then offer VIP access and send earlier access to the evaluation to the participants.
  • The target group needs support and you provide the learnings. This is a competitive advantage and your contact can set themselves apart from their peers with better market positioning. 

Ultimately, it helps to build trust through a suitable partner. If your name is not Apple, you need trust from an official body with a scientific character. An educational institute that also fits your target group. But even then you need a solid survey design. 

It must not be too theoretical and it needs the dimensions that help your company to position itself. This way you don't take on the dimensions set by an enterprise company. 

10 Touchpoints For Leads (That Are Not Annoying)

That sounds exciting, which means I'm conducting a survey with a trusted partner who knows the target group. The target group must want to engage with it. In other words, a relevant topic that really interests them.

This could well be “metaverse” or “artificial intelligence” - so that I can keep asking questions. I want 5 to 10 touchpoints per year. What are the tricks or what are cool touchpoints so that you don't get on your contact's nerves and they think it's Marc writing again? What are your recommendations that work. What actions have proven successful?

As the publisher of the study, you want a way to approach customers on a regular basis. You provide information in snacks and rewards. This is how you build trust. 

A concrete example of what the process could look like: 

  • 💌The first email you send is a survey, which you send to your best customers. For example: “Your company in the Marketing Automation Report 2023”. This creates a FOMO - a “fear of missing out”, i.e. the effect when you suddenly have the feeling that you could miss something important if you're not there. You also get feedback from your customers. Is it the right contact group? Are the questions relevant? Is the survey participant learning while completing it? Then adapt the survey again.
  • 💌 Then you send your FOMO email to your leads, which are top-researched and manually enriched. You need to reach a clear target group. You ask if they can participate and offer the above-mentioned assets in return.
  • 💌 After a few weeks, you share the first survey results and report back in a follow-up. You show the first learnings through the answers of other participants and emphasize that you really want to have the contact on board. If they fit into the target group, their details are super important.
  • 📊 With these initial results, you also publish a LinkedIn post, a "sneak peek", in which you package and visualize the value of participating in a survey.
  • 🎪 You then invite people to a webinar, in about four weeks' time, in which you and the research institute announce the results. You also publish the information via a LinkedIn event and combine the interim results with the event invitation.
  • 💌 Before the publication of the study, with this event, you approach the participants who have already taken part and reward them with initial information, which they can already view - the first evaluations.
  • 🍿 On the webinar with the date X, you offer a crisp summary and announce further webinars with partners who shed light on a different point of view (POV). In this way, you show other approaches to the topic.
  • 💌 After the webinar comes the next follow-up. You send a summary and the recording to the participants. You also send a follow-up with a summary and the recording, only slightly reworded, to the contacts who did not attend.
  • 📊 Finally, you lead the interested parties to a sexy landing page with your publication, the published statistics, and additional content such as testimonials and further information from the survey.
  • 💬 There is then the possibility of co-creation - you ask for feedback for the next edition of the Marketing Automation Report. Did it help you? Where would you like to expand the topics or reduce them? 

That would already be about 10 touchpoints to reach the leads with value and not annoy them. 

You choose a relevant survey, ask for the right timing for prospecting and find a trustworthy partner.

However, in B2B it is often said: "My industry is special, my customers are completely different. Of course it doesn't work there. We have to do it differently." What is our experience, do you have any examples that we have already implemented or come across that have also worked so well? 

  • I mentioned the Marketing Automation Report with the ZHAW, where we had the buyer persona "Head of Marketing in B2B Midmarket". We were able to build up a huge network and tackle the hidden champions in the DACH region. I was able to pass on value and create an exchange that was very valuable. 
  • Another example is Databox, a dashboard with visualizations. It brings together data from various interfaces. They approach CMOs from agencies and regularly create benchmark reports. They also create a lot of content through mini-surveys. For every article that is published, up to eight people are involved in improving the article and providing real input through these surveys.
  • Startups.ch has issued an award, with a competition, a jury, and press releases and has received an extremely positive response in its market. Above all, this is how they got hold of business plans submitted by founders and thus acquired customers.
  • TrekkSoft has published a "Travel Trend Report" for the owners of tour operator companies, analyzing the market and making them aware that they occupy this topic.
  • Frontify conducted brand management studies with Forrester and thus caught the brand managers in the enterprise segment.
  • Unic, a large agency, publishes a benchmarking of customer portals for health insurance companies and repeats this annually. This has attracted the few but right people from the health insurance companies.
  • Then there is the Commerce Report by DataTrans with the FHNW or the online retailer survey by the ZHAW. 

Das sind alles Beispiele, bei denen sich durchzieht, dass ein relevantes Thema sehr einzigartigen, neuen Content generiert. Deine erhobenen Daten von dieser Zielgruppe fragst du – nicht nur einmal, sondern jährlich oder noch regelmässiger. 

The Effort

That sounds like a huge amount of work. I have to create 20 touchpoints, select the right and relevant topics, implement a study design, then write to all contacts, research, practice lead nurturing, and convince the right partner. Where should I even start?

It sounds like a lot of effort, but...

  1. The primary effort is to find a research institute that suits you and can carry out the project scientifically with you.
  2. Then build partnerships and a network that have the same target group and benefit from this valuable publication.
  3. You need to approach the survey design with the right dimensions - with the criteria that suit you and your experience.
  4. You distribute it across inbound and outbound.
  5. You need end-to-end tracking, and an attribution model to make sure the right people get an email and those who have already completed the survey don't get annoyed.
  6. Then the evaluation, and analysis.
  7. And finally publication and collecting feedback.
  8. But then you hit the repeat button and you do the same thing again, but much more effectively. 

You build yourself a hero machine, a flywheel that you slowly roll on and become much more effective year after year. You build a brand, position yourself, and create a continuous process.

  • You then know exactly which piece of content you need to produce because you derive and recycle everything from this hero content. You can publish interim results on an ongoing basis.
  • You know the unique intent signals, the willingness of your target group to buy because your contacts respond directly when you ask them what they will invest in X in the next 12 months. You find the leads who want to buy.
  • Through your positioning, you build long-term, sustainable relationships with your partners, the research institute, and above all, your contacts. 

How Do You Start?

Wow, now that's a plan! But you are a book author, Innosuisse expert, co-founded a study program with the ZHAW, were a lecturer at the HWZ and have already written articles in the Handelszeitung etc. and then there's a podcast with me. Of course, that helps to gain a good study partner.

But as a normal entrepreneur who is just starting out, who has only focused on business and worked hard so far, you often lack the financial resources and a strong brand. No big names, such as a top university, want to work with you.

So where do you start? 

Bootstrapping oder Geschwindigkeit kaufen

Either: "Start small, scale up" - for us, it was a master's thesis five years ago, with which we carried out a preliminary study on the Marketing Automation Report. We did this pretty much on our own and without a budget. We invested a lot of time, but it forced us to be innovative and choose a topic that interested us. 

Or: if you want to get there faster - you look for allies. In addition to the educational institute, which quickly costs CHF 20k to 30k for implementation, you bring in scientific partners who cross-subsidize the whole thing. These are sponsors who have the same target group and invest CHF 5k to 10k.

If you have these sponsors on board with the same target group, they can also position themselves and approach their network.

They have solved their content problem and got really good content. They can contribute their point-of-view (PoV) and it helps you to get a lot of reach. Finally, a media partner who is allowed to publish the results exclusively is also an option. 

The Keys to Success

Cool, as always there are two ways:

Option 1 is bootstrapping. The process takes longer, but I need less cash and can implement more myself.

Option 2 is expensive, but faster. I also have to look for investors. So what are the takeaways, the typical stumbling blocks, to ensure that it's a hit and not a flop? 

Building relationships with a long-term goal and finding out when your contacts need your help and you can solve their problem - when the timing is right. 

What are the success factors? You need a response from many survey participants, so a high response rate is essential for you.

  • Your survey must be sexy, i.e. a really crisp and short survey design. Scientific, of course, but also simple! We have had good experiences with a conversation mode, a kind of chat history that can be answered easily and "on the fly" on a mobile device.
  • You need relevant, in-depth data and ask questions that relate to a previous answer.
  • You need an innovative theme, which is not ERP integration - not intended as a business, but really as a recipient.
    It needs to be sent personally and should sound natural. It needs to be at eye level.
  • Then it needs comprehensive lead research with enriched data so that you know how best to address the recipient. Conversion is then correspondingly higher.
  • The survey can also be representative of your segment. If you choose a very specific target group and have the right contacts, then I would ask the desired candidates even more personally and separately: "Would you take part and could I mention that you took part? The data is anonymized, but it would be cool if you could share that you took part."
  • Finally, you need a solid presentation of the results with an informative landing page with crisp and helpful statements where the experts position themselves and show how relevant it is.
  • You only need one hero content piece. You don't have to be the Avengers, with lots of Heroes, you just pick one of those characters - that's your Hero theme exactly. Then you derive all your activities from this theme. That's your content strategy, your product positioning, your messaging - all derived from your hero.