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B2B LEAD GENERATION
Marketers are well along in their adoption of lead-generation practices, according to a new study by BtoB. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they are at least moderate participants in some form of lead generation, while 47% are “very” or “fully” involved.
However, the study, “2013 Lead Generation: Optimum Techniques for Managing Lead Generation Campaigns,” also found that not all lead-gen practices are working as smoothly as they could be. Fifty-five percent of b2b marketers responding said the effectiveness of their lead-gen efforts was just average. And the means by which marketers gauge success remains relatively unsophisticated—76% of marketers said their prime definition of a lead is a prospect request to be contacted.
This indication of serious interest was much more appreciated as a hot lead than a request for a white paper (43%), attendance at a webinar (35%) or visits to a company's website (30%), according to BtoB's study, which was based on an online poll conducted in June and July of 282 b2b marketing professionals. Overall, marketers placed the least value on being followed or “liked” on social media.
“A lead for me is somebody who has done their research,” said Nikos Karavitis, senior marketing manager at Motorola Solutions. “I'm like that myself; as a consumer I'll do my research product by product before buying.”
For b2b marketers, this means having strong databases, marketing automation to nurture prospects and lead scoring to identify sales-ready leads, Karavitis said. “Marketing now has the tools and resources to get a little smart about this and to go beyond segmentation,” he said.
Respondents reported a variety of obstacles, both internal and external, to better deployment of lead-gen activities. Lack of resources ranked highest on the list, cited by 63% of survey respondents. That was down from 67% in last year's study.
However, while pressure on resources has lessened somewhat, the depth and accuracy of customer databases was a greater concern among marketers this year, cited by 44% of respondents, compared with 40% last year.
“Everyone says content marketing is so important, but if you don't have your data intact and know who you're going after—by persona or job function—your content marketing effort will be worthless,” Karavitis said.
Other obstacles included poor communication and process (27%), lack of adequate technology (25%), inability to respond to buyer changes (22%), ineffective management (19%) and lack of understanding of customer needs (15%).
When marketers were asked about factors that contribute the most to lead-gen success, revenue production was most strongly favored, cited by 38% of respondents. Return on investment was cited by 19%, followed by identification of marketing-qualified leads (13%), improved closing rates (12%), better sales-accepted leads (10%) and a fuller pipeline (8%).
Marketers were generally optimistic about their sales growth over the next 12 months and significantly more optimistic than in last year's study. Fifty-nine percent said sales would be “more” or “significantly more,” up from 51%.
Content marketing continues to be a strong lead generator, with a particular emphasis on customer pain points. Sixty percent of respondents said they provide content that educates buyers on how their issues can be solved with the marketer's solutions. Other types of content include materials that highlight product features, business benefits and outcomes (55%), and stories, case studies and anecdotes (46%).
“The use of content marketing is a recognition that prospects are becoming more demanding and expect a more personalized, targeted experience,” said Pam Ansley Evans, until this summer an IBM marketing executive and now a consultant. “But for lead generation, the area I don't feel content has been used effectively is in pipeline acceleration.
“Marketing usually does a good job of messaging and presenting the value proposition; but there's less activity in providing sales with content to share during the final phases of the customer purchase decision. Marketing and sales have to come together here.”
Even while content is used extensively by marketers to generate leads, it's not marketers' favorite lead-gen tactic, according to BtoB's study. No. 1 was product demonstrations, cited by 47% of respondents as “very” or “extremely” effective. Also gaining strong ratings as lead generators were educational webinars (43%), product trials (37%) and offers and incentives (36%). Less favored were the use of interactive tools, such as apps, calculators and widgets (25%) and e-newsletters (21%).
“A lot of times people do things that are not thoroughly thought-through,” said Ginger Shimp, marketing director at SAP America. “For example, you might have a weekly e-newsletter cadence to keep up and send it out every week, but then wonder why it's not producing.”
Shimp said email is “air cover for me, a good opener leading to a phone call follow-up.” She said web-inars have not performed well when their focus is on how-tos or even customer stories. By contrast, when webinars are devised as thought-leadership events, perhaps detailing how to grow attendees' business, “I've had a crazy number of people attend,” she said.
Lead attribution remains a hit-and-miss proposition. Thirty-six percent of survey respondents said they don't track leads to any specific marketing or sales touch point; 23% use only last-touch attribution to measure lead generation, ignoring the various other influences that may have warmed up the prospect toward conversion. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they evenly weigh the lead across all the touch points prior to the sale.