Media companies embracing lead generation
By Marie Griffin
The stars are aligning for lead generation. Business media companies now have the technology and people in place to help marketers through the multistep process of capturing marketing-qualified and sales-accepted leads—and b-to-b marketers need that help more than ever.
As their roles have evolved, marketers are becoming accountable for contributing to the sales pipeline and, ultimately, revenue growth, but economic pressures are mounting just as these greater expectations are kicking in.
This situation was sharply illustrated in last month's edition of the semiannual “CMO Survey,” sponsored by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association and based on 468 responses from top b-to-b and b-to-c marketers. In comparison to their firms' actual performance over the past 12 months, respondents were looking to increase key metrics by two-thirds or more.
Marketers reported that their companies are asking for 7.0% sales increases over the next 12 months after only 4.2% growth was achieved over the prior 12-month period. Profit growth is expected to double, from 3.3% to 6.6%. New-customer acquisition rates are earmarked for a 76% increase, from 3.3% to 5.8%. Finally—and in the marketers' wheelhouse—goals for marketing's return on investment (ROI) are up 67%, from 3.3% to 5.5%.
AUTOMATION CHANGES THE GAME
In providing metrics that make marketers more accountable, marketing automation is a big game-changer for lead generation. Although estimates vary widely on how many companies are deploying marketing automation, ranging from 13% to 45%, adoption is growing. More than half of the 366 b-to-b marketer respondents to a recent survey conducted by BtoB for “Outlook 2013: Marketing Priorities & Plans”said they plan to allocate portions of their budgets to marketing automation and sales enablement technologies this year.
Most marketers don't have the bandwidth in personnel or expertise to maximize their use of marketing automation—presenting opportunities for b-to-b media companies to step in with marketing services.
Among more than 800 b-to-b tech marketers who responded to a recent survey released by Holger Schulze, group owner of the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn, 70% are using marketing automation, but only 41% of those were using the software for lead nurturing and even fewer, 31%, were using it for lead scoring. The same survey found that marketers' biggest barrier to b-to-b lead generation success is “lack of resources in staffing, budgeting or time.”
“Nurtured leads and scored leads are the two big buzzwords,” said Rob Keenan, VP-online media at Edgell Communications, “but we've only recently had more customers waking up and asking for them.”
In early 2011, Edgell debuted a new lead-gen platform that offered its b-to-b marketing customers many of the functions they would get from other marketing automation software providers, including individualized lead portals, customized reporting and filtering, as well as email capabilities. “We were a little bit ahead of our market,” Keenan said. “Two years ago, all we heard was, "How can I get more leads and quicker?' Finally, in 2013, they want to find out what else we can do for them on the lead-generation front.”
Even companies that are fully deploying marketing automation look to b-to-b media companies for assets they don't have—trusted brands, editorial content, deep industry expertise, and relationships that attract and retain an engaged audience of business decision-makers.
At IDG Enterprise, for example, customers with their own marketing automation are also using IDG's proprietary LeadAccel system. “We know what content the audience engaged with, not only what they downloaded but also the editorial content and newsletters they read,” said Brian Glynn, senior VP-digital sales at IDG Enterprise. “We know where they are in the buying cycle, and we can use that data to more effectively arm the [client's] salesperson. We also can take some of the effort off the salesperson's plate by nurturing the lead along.”
Hugh Byrne, senior VP at GreenBiz Group, recently completed the deployment of marketing automation software for his company. While its main purpose is to drive revenue, the system also enabled GreenBiz to launch a new resource center for lead-gen content. “Because all our systems are linked together, we can now provide a score that indicates when there's an active prospect in addition to delivering registration information,” he said.
In early 2011, UBM Tech reorganized its former marketing services unit into a new marketing-as-a-service (MaaS) division headed by Scott Vaughan, CMO. Because MaaS is designed to be an ongoing relationship with the marketer, it is continually evolving. “Our focus is now much deeper into planning and strategy,” Vaughan said. “We're helping marketers work on the messaging, personas and content. We're working on technology, methodology and best practices.”
As the practice of b-to-b marketing evolves, “media companies will have to develop a much broader set of services to stay relevant,” Vaughan added. “But, the opportunity is big because the level of pain for the marketer is so big.”