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B2B Lead generation in Germany: what works

I’ve been communicating with IT companies from the USA a lot lately. Those companies wish to take or strengthen their positions in Europe. Their strategies are oftentimes the same: they branch off in Great Britain or Ireland and try to find clients across Europe from there. Their approaches are identical: aggressive marketing and sales managers’ fearless actions. Time goes by and they realise that all European countries have their particular features. Then they establish their office in countries that they’re interested in, translate their web pages and start adjusting the global marketing strategy to the local market. Since Germany is one of the most profitable and strong markets in Europe, all IT companies are trying to get their share in it above all other EU countries. 

I’m talking about IT companies because all their process of the customer journey is recorded and calculated. They know and use all major mechanisms of the client’s transition from one stage to another. IT companies, which I’ve met, know how to generate leads, but they don’t know what mechanisms are successful in Germany.

But let’s firstly have a look at the difference of views on the functions and roles of the sales and marketing department between German and US companies.

Sales

What makes a B2B sales manager successful in Germany? His contacts and ability to keep them. The idea of a personal selling approach is widespread in B2B sector in Germany. It’s generally believed that only someone, who has many contacts in a particular industry, will be able to sell in it.

Companies from the USA are following another strategy. They are looking for a specific type of person, who just knows how to sell. He shouldn’t care what to sell (a vacuum cleaner or IT products); what matters for him is to know how to do it and not to have complexes or fear. They find it more important for him to be able to make cold calls, knock on clients’ doors, handle objections, and close the deal fast.

Marketing

The role and contribution of marketing are assessed differently. I’ve rarely seen companies in Germany, which would measure the outcome by pipeline contribution. Lead generation in Germany oftentimes is called «blah blah marketing». Marketing itself is perceived as internal design agency. It’s understandable since B2B marketing in Germany works for the reputation and strengthening of relationships with existing clients. Therefore or as a result sales managers are looking for leads themselves by widening their range of contacts.

This main difference is what causes a misunderstanding internally when people from a US head office ask about the email response rate and the local marketers talk about loyalty and reputation. 

Regardless of who will be in charge of lead generation, let’s consider what methods of lead generation are allowed, possible, and effective in Germany.  

Lead Generation in Germany

Content marketing

This is the longest but also the most reliable way of getting leads and it works in Germany. Aggressive advertising does not work in Germany. A principle of content marketing is to spread useful (for your target group) information, which leads them to your website. You start offering various materials on your site and in a best-case scenario, you get their contact details. This approach replaces a well-known formula AIDA for the modern ACCD (attract, convert, close, delight).

The goal of marketing is to attract potential clients to the website by using content and to transform them into high-quality leads. There are many methods and each one of them is a filter or possibility to transfer the lead from one stage to another. For instance, a person, who has subscribed to a website mailing list, is less interested in products/services than the one, who has downloaded the research results. The latter is less interested than the one, who has visited a webinar. Content marketing works for the future (in Germany as well). Someday clients will really call and ask about services and products themselves. Nevertheless, up to that moment, you need to generate a lot of content (in German on top of that). What to do if the company doesn’t want to wait passively?

Targeted advertising combined with mailing

Targeted advertising in Germany doesn’t work as well as many companies expect. It takes people to the website, but they rarely leave their contact details. You really need to work hard and offer visitors a one-of-a-kind content (white paper, scientific studies). No one will leave contact details just for the book or general information. People don’t give away personal data in Germany. 

I can’t judge the work of banner advertising, because I’ve never used it in 15 years of working. 

Direct Marketing

The situation with mailing is very difficult in Germany. All US companies are obsessed with e-mailing campaigns and aggressively use calls for subscription on their web pages (e.g. darkening text until it’s unrecognizable etc.). In Germany, such actions are annoying and cause a cautious attitude toward the company.

If you recently entered the market of Germany or if you’re trying to enter it, then you need addresses and content for regular mailing. As stated above, it’s difficult to get addresses. Writing without permission or buying addresses will result in serious legal problems. It’s also unreasonable to regularly generate content for a small number of followers.

SMS-texting is not so common and that’s why it’s effective. But it suit more B2C as B2B sector, then again, marketing specialists need to put in some effort to get contact details. Telegram channels aren’t popular at all because people receive all information from social media. 

Speaking of brochures, I’ve also written that they’re still welcomed in Germany. Physical mailing is very popular as well. Direct marketing (via post) is still allowed and for some companies, it’s the only method to get clients’ attention. It also makes cold calls easier for many sales managers (if they were forced to make them).

Telemarketing in Germany is widespread since sales managers are reluctant to make cold calls. However, you should be careful with telemarketing centers to the utmost. I’ve heard so many stories of things not working out with them! Perhaps no one shares positive stories though. Text me if you’ll make it. 

Cold calling

They have very little effect. Why? Firstly, searching for needed people’s phone numbers takes tons of time (they definitely aren’t published on the internet). I’ve seen examples of given phone numbers of heads and sales managers. Nevertheless, you don’t need them. In many cases, you need numbers of project managers, procurement departments, or technical departments.

You won’t be able to get them on the phone. The assistant and junior manager will get in your way. I don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to get to the target person. That is exactly why professional social networks are the best solution.

Professional social networks

The biggest source of leads in Germany is professional social networks. There are two main platforms in Germany: XING and LinkedIn.

Both of them are designed for the users (for personal branding, job search, substitute for a phone book), and the companies (an increase of a client base, communication with clients, search for the leads). Their premium packages are very similar. 

So what’s the difference? LinkedIn is an international platform and XING is focused only on German-language countries. Those companies, who are extending to an international level, use LinkedIn. Those, who are focussing only on Germany or Austria, can be found on Xing.

What kind of people you can find on these platforms? You have a chance to find those, who you’re interested in. You may search by a position, company, or industry. Then you can write a message to the contact person (e.g. InMail in LinkedIn). You can also set direct marketing campaign to a narrow target group (also via InMail). This will replace a regular mailing for you.

 

В2В platforms 

They’re actually working, so you can choose one of local platforms and insert your company in the list of the providers. Each of the platforms has its own packages for promotion and lead generation, that really might be interesting to use. Just getting in the list of companies e.g. on Europages won’t bring you anything.

The difference between this platform and professional social networks is that visiting the platform itself is a filter. No one visits them for no reason. People check LinkedIn or XING every day to see if the competitors’ positions have changed or to read news from their industry sector. 

Let’s summarize. Whichever marketing and sales model you choose, there are two effective ways of finding leads in Germany.

  1. Content Marketing 
  2. Professional social networks. 

Wright me your thoughts or experiences with finding leads in Germany. 

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