[Posted by Kristin Hambelton
Vice President Marketing, Neolane, Inc.]
Lead generation is the most important initiative in the B2B marketer’s list of responsibilities. The opportunity to improve and refine the volume and quality of leads is a never ending battle. That said, even as marketing technology, digital platforms, and customer behavior evolve, maintaining a firm grip on the fundamentals will remain critical.
To get a better understanding of the basics in lead generation that still need mastering, the team at Neolane asked several B2B marketing experts for their opinions on this question. Here are their excellent responses:
Two Basic Elements of Lead Generation
I think the most basic element of lead generation that is still questionable for B2B marketers is the definition of a lead:
- A lead is not someone who fills out your form to download a white paper when this is the first contact he has had with your company.
- A lead is not someone who registers for your webinar.
- A lead is not someone who comments on your blog—unless they ask a question that makes that activity a reasonable interpretation.
A “lead” is someone who could become your customer at some point in the future, someone who has demonstrated a sense of heightened engagement with your products/product information, thought leadership content, and/or someone who has engaged in a dialogue with your company.
This doesn’t mean they have to be the decision maker, but that they could be a champion or influencer in the deal and work for a company that could actually choose to purchase and gain benefit from solving the problem your solution addresses.
The second thing I’d recommend for marketers to consider is the perceived value of the content offers that they choose to “gate” with the intention of generating a “lead.” This means they need to make sure that the value of the content is commensurate to the value the person places on their contact information.
A 3-minute video is not worthy of a form completion, for example, nor is a case study. I’ve seen both recently and have to admit the logic escapes me. Buyer expectations are changing and marketers really need to gain understanding about what the content prospects engage with can tell them about interest levels and intentions.
If marketers would just address those two basic elements of lead generation, I think they’d find a world of difference in the quality of the “leads” they are generating.
About Ardath Albee
Ardath Albee, CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc, is a B2B Marketing Strategist. She applies 25 years of business management and marketing experience to help companies with complex sales use eMarketing strategies to generate more and better sales opportunities. Ardath was also recently selected as one of the 2011 Top 20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management by the SLMA and one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales and Lead Management.
Behavioral Data: The Missing Link for Successful Lead Scoring
Companies tap so many different tools and strategies to optimize their demand generation efforts, but many of them are still falling short when it comes to seeing ROI.
Here’s a key reason why: There’s a significant difference in the lead generation performance between companies that do behavioral lead scoring and those that don’t. Top-performing marketers, according to recent research by Vantive Media, were nearly four times as likely to use behavioral scoring as self-described laggard firms. Top performers also used an average of 22 percent more scoring criteria than laggards—and, as these data points suggest, that latter group is more likely to rely heavily on demographic scoring.
Leaders, the study also reported, “tie every lead, customer and revenue dollar back to the marketing program that created them” 50 percent of the time, versus 19 percent for laggard firms.
These are interesting indicators that marketers are going beyond traditional firmographics to target their messaging and to plan follow-up activities. That’s not a surprise, since behavioral scoring provides much deeper insights into a prospect’s behavior. Because firmographic data changes (and degrades) so quickly in fast-paced business environments, it becomes difficult to maximize the value of these initiatives.
So what does that mean for marketing and sales teams? It’s not just about alignment—it’s about working together to define the appropriate triggers and behavioral indicators that enable persona and profile development. In today’s buyer-empowered market, a progressive lead scoring approach therefore hinges on three critical objectives:
- Understanding the characteristics of your ideal customer
- Developing a blueprint for key purchase likelihood indicators, and
- Implementing cohesive follow-up action items for both marketing and sales to more systemically close deals.
Achieve these goals, and your B2B marketing team will be well on its way to a successful lead scoring strategy—and all of the benefits that accompany it.
About Amanda F. Batista
Amanda F. Batista is the Managing Editor of DemandGen Report and Associate Editor at G3 Communications, Inc., a Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. firm specializing in digital media and custom content. Follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaF_Batista
Moving Beyond the “Hows” and the “Whats” to Uncover the “Why?”
Somewhere back in 2002–2003, I was in a meeting with a CEO, VP of Sales & VP of Marketing at a local software company. The Marketing VP mentioned developing “thought leadership content”—the first time I’d ever heard the phrase. To be honest, the attendees, myself included, had a good laugh at the notion. It seemed such a contrived and awkward concept.
Fast forward 10 years and, my, how the world has changed. Somewhere along the way, however, an important piece of the puzzle was lost. A key cornerstone for “thought leadership” stills needs mastering:
Start with “Why?”
So much lead generation content focuses on answering “How?” and “What?” (e.g. “10 Sure Fire Ways to Here or There” or “The Latest & Greatest Guide on Thus & So”).
We are making the assumption that our buyers are already on our bus. And that now they care about the “Hows” and “Whats” of our categories, our approaches, and our solutions.
While this is often the case, it isn’t always. My favorite example is the iPod. Thinking back to 2001, I didn’t know I wanted 1K songs in my pocket until Steve Jobs told me I could have it.
So here’s my advice: Show your prospects why the way they’re doing things today should be improved. Tell your bigger story.
This isn’t just about generating demand from the already convinced and ushering them down the funnel.
Starting with “Why?” is about sculpting new demand with the power of your ideas.
About Trish Bertuzzi
Trish Bertuzzi founded The Bridge Group with a mission to help technology companies build highly successful Inside Sales teams. Since 1998, The Bridge Group has helped Sales & Marketing Leaders from 200+ B2B technology companies build, expand and optimize their Inside Sales strategies
Basic Lead-Generation Tactic Most Marketers Ignore Achieves a 45 Percent Higher ROI
After much pestering, an eager young suitor finally convinces his dream girl to give him her number. He gives her a call, makes some small talk then pops the question:
- “Will you marry me?”
- He is answered with a resounding “No” and then a dial tone.
This silly scenario illustrates the importance of probably the most valuable, yet most overlooked, lead-generation tool: Lead nurturing.
Sales professionals are not unlike the hapless suitor when they call prospects to “touch base” to merely lead up to the big question, “Are you ready to buy yet?”
Only 5 percent of prospects are ready to buy immediately; however, those who say “no” represent 80 percent of your future sales.
You can capture these sales by demonstrating your value. So don’t discard them, nurture them.
Lead nurturing regularly provides prospects with information they want and need to know—information that will benefit them even if they never buy from you. This includes content like newsletters, articles, videos, and white papers that they’re eager to read and share. Instead of calling to see if they’re ready to buy yet, sales professionals can have a meaningful, relevant discussion around a white paper, analysis, or article that’s important to the prospect.
These charts from MarketingSherpa’s just-released 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report (free excerpt at that link) demonstrate the potential of lead nurturing:
- 59 percent of organizations with a complex sale do not have any kind of lead nurturing program. Therefore, a lead-nurturing program will launch you your company far ahead most of your competition.
- You’ll end up with a much higher return on your lead-generation investment as well. Organizations with lead nurturing campaigns achieve 45 percent higher ROI.
Clearly, when you take the time to create relationships built on trust, more prospects will say that magic word: “Yes.”
About Brian Carroll
Brian Carroll is Executive Director of Applied Research at MECLABS and CEO of InTouch, part of the MECLABS Group. Brian is a leading expert in lead generation and he’s profiled and regularly quoted in numerous publications.
Mastering Three Lead Generation Basics
Although there are many lead generation basics that still need mastering, here are three that come to mind:
- Funnel—Just when organizations were getting a handle on their funnel, SiriusDecisions went and changed their Demand Waterfall. Change can be good, though, and the new waterfall delineates inbound and outbound inquiries, and more accurately reflects the role of inside sales and sales in the lead management process (e.g. generation, qualification, etc.). It’s a good reminder that effectively managing and optimizing the funnel requires not only good definitions for each stage (and sub-stage) but good processes that account for all possible scenarios while making the best use of each team’s time.
- Content—While we’re on the subject of the funnel, it’s worth emphasizing the need for full-funnel content—that is, an appropriate mix for each phase of the buying cycle. In their unbridled enthusiasm for inbound marketing, many marketers overlook later-stage content that helps prospects overcome the last few hurdles on the path to purchase. At the same time, those who haven’t jumped on the inbound marketing bandwagon—and are still focused on product-oriented content—may not be doing enough to feed the top of the funnel.
- Social Media—It seems like nearly every day, there’s a new social media darling (SlideShare, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.). Although each site offers unique opportunities for educating and engaging audiences, far too many organizations simply push the same content indiscriminately across social media. Marketers need to create a unique value proposition for each digital property, giving prospects a compelling reason to like/follow on multiple sites and thereby strengthening relationships.
About Ed Hadley
Ed Hadley is a marketing and communications professional with a decade of high tech experience. Ambidextrous as a child, Ed pulls equally from both sides of his brain as a marketer, combining creative and analytical thinking to deliver exceptional results.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable: Focusing and Improving on Key Lead-Gen Areas
Even the lead generation basics sometimes need to be remastered. Because the marketplace continues to evolve quickly, marketers cannot afford to think that any one area has been—and will remain—mastered today.
Here are three of the fundamental areas in B2B marketing and lead generation that marketers need to continue focusing on and improving.
- Delivering Valuable Information
Marketers have been blinded by the mandate to create content; however buyers don’t need content, they need information.You need to understand the information your buyers need and deliver it in a way that is easy for them to access and consume throughout the entire relationship with your company.
- Creating Demand
Today, too many marketers are focused on a lead, or a contact record in their database that meets certain criteria.Creating demand requires changing what is in your buyer’s mind, not what is in your database. Until your marketing efforts create a level of demand, you are not setting your sales team up to succeed.
- Long-Term Planning
Buyers needs do not turn on and off like sporadic marketing activity. Your information and solutions need to be available and easily discoverable whenever buyers are in learning or buying modes.
The recent rise of inbound marketing is, in part, reflective of the new buyer that is in control of much of the buying process. Now marketers need to bring this long-term audience-centric mindset to all lead generation activities.
We’ve become far too comfortable with the things we feel we have mastered. Instead of getting comfortable, B2B marketers need to view every aspect of their lead generation programs as an area for potential improvement.
What lead generation basics do you think still need mastering? We would love to read your thoughts and feedback via comments below.