Your Guide to B2B Lead Generation in France in 2023

As one of the biggest players in EMEA and one of the best opportunities for an additional revenue stream for tech business, France is an attractive opportunity and a top source for tech talent. This makes it a shrewd choice of country for scaling your existing tech business into the European market.

Let’s look at France, why it’s ideal for tech businesses right now and how best to go there, targeting that market with a good B2B lead generation strategy. Get started on your journey with our guide to B2B lead generation in France in 2023, learning from our 20 years generating leads there. Très bien!

France eats up tech (and snails)

For more than five years, French president Emanuel Macron has consistently paved the way for the country to lead in innovation and technology. Over this time, he has helped startups in particular, with projects such as work visas for the tech industry and financing quantum tech with a five-year €1.8 billion plan.

Each year, 120 French startups are chosen for the Tech Next40/120 program, which offers support and potential to become leaders in global tech.

The world’s largest startup campus is in Paris. Station F is now in its sixth year and has helped more than 5,000 startups launch and grow. With 600-plus events and workshops held annually and a huge investor community, Station F has also created an impressive more than 47,000 new jobs in the tech sector.

Over the years, we’ve also been privileged to work with Cap Digital, Europe’s first tech cluster, boasting more than 100 open innovation projects and more than a thousand members.

And these are just a few of the many programs that are actively promoting innovation and technology in France and beyond. Some more highlights from 2022, which saw a year of key milestones for French tech. Some of those include:

  • A total of 25 unicorns (companies valued at over a billion) reached.
  • Overtook Germany in terms of fundraising for startups.
  • Jean-Noël Barrot was appointed as the new French digital minister — he has vowed to see 19 French unicorn IPOs by 2025.

If you are a tech scale-up, you’d be remiss to not target your B2B lead generation in France this year and beyond.

Unique points of B2B lead generation in France

James Smith, our SDR account director here at Sales Force Europe who has specifically worked with SaaS-based solutions for over a decade, clarifies the unique points of B2B lead generation in France. Besides the obvious fact that France is a large country, a big player and a great opportunity, James says there are enormous differences and definitive nuances in marketing in France compared to other countries such as the U.K. or Germany. Here are his key B2B lead generation and marketing takeaways:

  • Marketing has to be specific to each country, beyond the obvious cultural differences such as language and culture.
  • GDPR plays a big factor in how you approach and market to customers in France. You need a valid reason to contact someone. France should be a spam-free zone.
  • There are far more touchpoints and a deeper nurturing associated with marketing to your key persona in France.
  • Content-led marketing campaigns are far more in-depth than in other countries.
  • You need to really educate your potential customer on every aspect of your product or solution — and why it fits to their needs — so it’s vital that your B2B lead generation team is fully brand-aware before potential buyers are approached.
  • Customers will want to really see how the brand or concept works before any commitment is given — they need to see how it benefits them specifically. Trials are a necessity and sales engineers are valued in France.
  • Customers in the U.K., James says, are more likely to “take a punt” — not so much in France where they are much more cautious and take a lot longer to sign off on a deal.
  • Even late on in the sales cycle, the French tend to adopt a lot of decision makers. Each they will all need to know and see exactly how your product or solution will bring a real added value to their business and you will need to convince each of those final decision makers. You need an SDR who really knows how to verify who the true decision makers are earlier on in order to reach out to them.

Most notably, unlike perhaps the Nordics or Benelux regions, language is essential. This is a country that requires their English-fluent president speak in French no matter where in the world. Why would they expect less of you? You need native French SDRs calling into France, nurturing leads with content professionally translated into French.

What type of tech does well in France?

Trends come and go, but as far as France is concerned, James has noticed a steady and consistent interest in any technology business that has a sustainable edge. So if your offering is environmentally aware and in the GreenTech sector, then France is an obvious choice for a real trend in an emerging market. One of the objectives of the French Tech ecosystem is to have 25 green unicorns by 2030.

Of course, as James wisely points out, the current economic landscape means that clients are a lot more choosy — almost picky — about where they spend their money these days, so your B2B lead generation in France needs to be game-changing for your business and for the market.

You need to be prepared to drive really effective content — always in French — and be able to demonstrate your unique selling point. Brand awareness and education are necessary. An account-based marketing strategy (ABM) approach, and social selling rather than an ad hoc method of calling a whole list of people on the off-chance of making a deal.

Using the services of an outsourced sales agency ensures that you have a ready-made team that is expert in that strategy and approach, and can hit the ground running in the local language and culture. It could potentially take months to source and employ in-house and then there are the pitfalls of French labor laws and compliance — it’s not easy to pivot and change employees with traditionally rigid French contracts.

Criteria for scaling to France

Next let’s consult our French country manager Yves de Beauregard who has spent 35 years scaling tech businesses to France. He points out some other important criteria before you scale to France:

  • You should be a leader of your particular tech in your own country. Don’t look abroad until you have nailed your use case and customer base at home.
  • Good references are valuable, for instance if you have worked with a French company in your home country or a brand that has a presence in France.
  • You must be able to localize your services, in French but also with a message that appeals to French businesses.
  • Sufficient funds should be in place — it takes an investment in time and money to scale abroad.
  • Network and use your French contacts even if they’re not in your exact vertical. Don’t have any? Partner with an outsourcing partner who has those contacts.
  • Culture and language are very important and you must get this right when marketing, as mistakes are easily made and costly.
  • You will need to have time to pull together the right team, SDRs, inside sales, marketing and B2B lead generation in France, and time is a valuable commodity. Hit the ground running with the right partners already present in France.

What’s the future of B2B lead generation in France?

It’s impossible to accurately predict the future, but companies are constantly looking for ways to save money and any emerging technology that can do that will stand a better chance of doing well, especially with quality marketing and a well-put-together local B2B lead generation team.

We talked about GreenTech as a hot trend and any tech associated with sustainability but we should mention cybersecurity too. With the amount of highly publicized cyberattacks in the news on any given day and a 3.4 million cybersecurity job gap, any security automation tooling or zero-trust technology will sell in spades in France and beyond in 2023. Our France-based client Cyber Guru is more and more demand as it helps fill this gap by empowering everyone in your organization with cybersecurity awareness and upskilling, while our lead generation has enabled the privacy management solution TrustArc, the AI cybersecurity platform Deep Instinct and the open ecosystem platform Konsentus become household names in security in France.

Whatever your offering, using an outsourced team and our guide to B2B lead generation in France should give you the pointers to reach out with confidence.

The last word goes to James, who points out that emerging tech can only ever be good and appealing in the country of Fashion Week — cutting edge tech isn’t likely to go out of fashion anytime soon.

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