B2B Lead Generation: Then & Now
The B2B lead generation landscape has been evolving at a rapid pace over the last eight years. We are witnessing a dynamic change in purchaser’s behaviors and expectations. Marketers have had to be proactive and innovative in their quest to find the right “formula” to generate quality leads.
What remains a constant thread is the priority organizations place on developing closer collaboration and cooperation between marketing, sales, and operations. If we take a look back over the last decade, we can clearly see the pivotal shifts that have shaped our current B2B marketing strategies.
Back to the Future
In 2004, Brian Carroll concluded that increasing lead generation spending wouldn’t increase revenue, as 80% of leads were being ignored or discarded in the “Bermuda Triangle” of sales, marketing and IT.
Companies were urged to increase their bottom line by ensuring that their sales and marketing teams were able to work effectively together. Organizations rushed out thinking that new CRM systems would be the answer. These invariably failed if collaboration between sales and marketing was not in existence before the implementation of the new technology.
The focus then shifted to developing a culture of collaboration. Around this time the understanding that ROI measurement was more than just numbers came to the fore (and remains the priority in 2016).
In 2005 lead generation trends included marketers citing brand awareness as their primary marketing goal with lead generation coming in second to customer retention in third place. This was at loggerheads with CEO’s who claimed their number one marketing priority was ROI measurement.
It appeared that B2B marketers were copying their B2C colleagues and obviously not getting the same results. Marketers were encouraged to generate leads and brand awareness simultaneously. Advertising campaigns were then designed to move away from brand awareness and rather incorporate a powerful call to action to generate leads.
Always Changing, Always Broken
By 2008, Craig Rosenberg, author of The Funnelholic, spoke of his passion for B2B marketing saying: “it is strategic, always changing, and always broken”. We started to see the focus being on the top of the sales funnel- outbound marketing, lead development, lead generation and inside sales.
There was a drive to ensure a lead qualification process along with a marketing automation program. With regard to following metrics, an early focus on impression-to-registration conversion rates was essential. The case was made for ROI to be measured over a longer period of time.
Organizations were encouraged to constantly work on their campaigns, making them better as they progressed. It was essential — as it is now — to continually test and optimize campaigns. A lot of emphasis was placed on “Pull” (white paper syndication, paid search, your website) and “Push” (people who you target with your outbound marketing campaigns) lead generation options but also not to ignore hand-raisers. Advice was given to not apply too many filters on your internet activities to increase your pool of potential buyers.
The biggest stumbling block to lead management was not having the internal infrastructure to process and qualify leads. Marketing automation was acknowledged as an efficient way to understand your campaign’s lead generation while leveraging drip marketing.
Top promotion channels were cited as blogging, targeted emails, white paper syndication, webinars, podcasts, paid search and SEO.
The alignment between sales and marketing on lead quality was critical for growth. Putting lead quality over lead quantity was a major trend. Those lead generation marketers that were using profitability metrics and marketing ROI reported having more effective lead generation compared to companies using traditional marketing metrics. Ultimately companies that displayed effective lead generation were outgrowing their competitors.
When to use which option?
Lead management automation was profiled as companies asked how to make their lead generation activities more effective.
Technology solutions included: Web analytics, database services, marketing automation and “Pure Play”. Added into the mix were solution providers offering email services, lead generation tools, search engine marketing service providers and online portals. The question arose around when do you use which option (or a combination?) The industry recognized that online marketing should be the primary way to engage buyers.
Joe Chernov and Dayna Rothman, two highly respected B2B marketers, introduced the term “plays’ to replace the words campaigns or nurtures – where selling would be a team sport. The idea of marketers as football coaches or quarterbacks designing the “plays” or deciding on which plays to call, came into being.
2016 -What has changed?
Right now we are able to utilize a wide choice of business intelligence tools and platforms to gather data and interpret it almost instantaneously. Big Data has given a new dimension to lead generation and intent signaling data reduces guesswork creating an exciting, smarter “now”.
Getting to know you
In 2016, we can distinguish the motives of individual buyers. We can really become familiar with the client before even making the first call. We know about their geographical and location-based behaviors as well as the enhanced demographic traits of the buyer.
We have seen the rise of account based marketing (ABM) becoming integral for B2B marketers – from mass marketing messaging to targeted, personalized engagement. Marketo co-founder, Jon Miller, describes ABM as “fishing with spears,” versus traditional demand generation, which casts wide nets. B2B marketers can now deliver personalized content to prospects acting upon their target audiences’ signals in near real time. This ability to connect with the buyer at the ideal moment boosts overall results. You are engaging with your target customers at every step of the sales funnel.
B2B marketers’ offers that are trackable, easy to customize, high touch and translate into sales conversations are finding traction in ABM strategies. These new shifts encourage marketing to be more integrated with sales. We see a definite move from brand-focused messaging to buyer-focused messaging. The time of batch and blast offers to a broad database is over.
The Dawn of Intent Signals®
Automation technology provides innovative solutions that break down data silos so that you can get a better overall view of your audience. There is an ocean of data available but making that data usable has been a key issue to activating it successfully. Several solutions have come to the forefront. Predictive solutions utilize a company’s existing database, along with intent signaling data to create a “look-alike” model customer to identify new prospects.
A newer solution, “fact-based” account marketing works in near real- time, and outside the existing CRM, providing intelligence for B2B marketers to ensure key content is reaching the people most interested in receiving it. With scalable intent signaling data you can have real time activation of customer intent signals boosting engagement with customers throughout the sales funnel.
There is no need to ever waste your marketing budget on spray-and-pray tactics. The era of guesswork, gut feelings and hunches is over.
The age of data-fueled behavioral intelligence has arrived. 90 percent of all of the data about our businesses and customers have been generated only in the last two years, according to ScienceDaily.
Improving the Quality of the Lead
We look to solutions to interpret data to inform our B2B lead generation strategies. Its critical to understand where prospective leads are on their buyer’s journey to be able to deliver the correct offer at the right time. Intent signaling data allows you to know exactly when a prospect is close to a sale.
Lead generation trends
- An increase in hiring talented professionals
- Larger marketing budgets
- Increase in hiring creative, marketing strategists, email marketing specialists for the creation of compelling content
To Infinity and Beyond
A combination of big data, ABM, strategic thinking, a great plan, identifying ideal buyers, selecting optimal accounts, excellent listening skills, persuasive communication and detail orientation remain the hallmarks of converting leads to sales.