B2b marketers are well along in their adoption of lead-gen practices, according to a new BtoB study. Seventy-four percent are at least moderate participants in some form of lead generation, while 48% are “very” or “fully” involved. Further, 67% of marketers overall are working with sales in various degrees in the lead-gen process.
However, according to BtoB's study, “2012 Lead Generation: A Fundamental Flourishes in the Digital Era,” only 49% of marketers overall have a lead-nurturing process in place to support their lead-gen efforts. By contrast, among those who describe themselves as effective lead-gen marketers, 74% use lead nurturing.
“Some of our business units are heavily involved in nurturing and some, not at all,” said Ryan Smith, director of e-marketing at software company Novell Inc. Smith said Novell's nurturing “runs the entire spectrum, from batch-and-blast emails to full nurturing campaigns.”
A challenge to full-on nurturing efforts is developing appropriate content for a variety of products, as well as content appropriate to different stages of the buying process, Smith said.
A distinctive feature of BtoB's study is that it breaks out the practices of marketers who self-describe themselves as “far above” or “below” average in their lead-gen efforts. Thus, best-of-breed, average and poor lead-gen practices provide three sets of performance benchmarks.
Eighty percent of marketers responding to BtoB's poll who described their lead-gen efforts as highly effective said they work closely with sales in the lead-gen process, compared with 67% on average. Just 57% of the least- effective lead-gen practitioners coordinated with sales.
“We are involved closely with the sales team in lead-gen work,” said Paul Phillips, director-marketing at Cox Business and Hospitality Network. Because the Cox division depends on face-to-face sales efforts and relationship building, the marketing-sales alignment is more natural, he said.
“I work closely with sales to define a lead versus just a contact,” Phillips said. “In support, marketing manages events, and online and publication ads to drive additional demand.” Marketing also conducts training sessions for sales reps before live events, he said.
Respondents to BtoB's survey indicated a number of obstacles, internal and external, to better deployment of lead-gen activities. Lack of resources (67%) ranked highest on the list, followed by poor database accuracy (40%), lack of adequate technology (27%), poor communication and processes (26%), ineffective management (25%), inability to respond to buyer changes (21%), unfamiliarity with the lead-gen process (21%) and lack of understanding of customer needs (12%).
Among highly effective lead-gen marketers, depth and accuracy of customer databases rose to the top as the most worrisome barrier to effective lead generation (43%), but those respondents were concerned almost as much about poor communication and processes (40%), lack of adequate technology (39%) and ineffective management (39%).
Retail hardware company NCR Corp. this year rolled out a marketing automation process that is having a significant impact on marketing and sales alignment, said Jessica Bryant, director-marketing for NCR's hospitality division. But the deployment of sophisticated technology is not a solution for all obstacles, she said.
“The biggest advice I have about obstacles is to make sure everyone who uses marketing automation and will benefit from the system has a seat at the table,” Bryant said.
“Sometimes you can come up with a great system and great content, and then just present it to other teams. We learned this the hard way. We went wrong a couple of times with several different sales solutions. And then our solutions weren't used by sales.” Bryant said better alignment also produces better productivity for the marketing team, inspired by overall success.
Nearly three-quarters of marketers surveyed said a prospect's request for a sales contact is the No. 1 indicator of what constitutes a lead, followed by a prospect-initiated call-in (60%), a request for a white paper (48%), attendance at a webinar (41%) and visits to the company's website (29%). Overall, marketers placed the least value on being followed or “liked” on social media.
By contrast, highly effective lead-gen marketers put greater value on those lead-gen vehicles that marketers on average assigned little value to: white paper requests, webinar attendance, telemarketing team assessments and lead-scoring criteria. Social media is valued almost half again as much among highly effective marketers compared with marketers overall.
When respondents were asked about factors that contribute the most to lead-gen success, return on investment was ranked No. 1 by 57% of respondents. Closing rate (45%), qualified lead volume (42%), cost-per-lead (38%) and a variety of other internally important criteria were also noted. Shortening the sales cycle was valued least as an assessment of strong lead-gen practices.
Marketers were generally optimistic about their sales growth over the next 12 months, with 51% saying that sales would be “more” or “significantly more” next year compared with this year.
However, in the context of lead generation, the level of confidence in the future showed quite a bit of variability: 68% of highly effective lead-gen marketers said sales would be up in the next year, while just 40% of respondents who described themselves as ineffective at lead generation expressed confidence in rising sales.
BtoB's study was based on an online poll conducted in August and September of 605 b2b marketing professionals. For information about downloading the full study, visit www.btobonline.com/lead.