Maybe the same old thing—that aggressive outbound marketing, informed, however, by today's segmentation analytics and personalized messages, can drive qualified leads to an appreciative and engaged sales force.
"There is no magic bullet, but the fact is, you have to understand your audience," said Christopher Uschan, director of marketing at Omnipress, a developer of educational and meeting materials for events and training. "For us, it's segmenting and personalization."
Omnipress, like many other b-to-b companies, treads a fine line in avoiding "pattern interrupt," where the company comes across as too intrusive. Uschan avails himself of an inside sales force of nine who work the phones, attend trade shows and respond to customer referrals.
The company also deploys email campaigns and nurturing through its marketing automation vendor, Pardot.
"Lead gen today is, for example, making your email blasts personalized and coming from particular sales reps," said Adam Blitzer, COO and co-founder of marketing automation company Pardot. "Email is the core of b-to-b marketing automation. Beyond that is the need for drip marketing, having dynamic content in email, which changes if the recipient has clicked on something, or if his lead-quality score changes. This is essential in the b-to-b world, with its lengthy sales cycles."
Uschan takes the commitment to sales-enablement to heart.
"I would say we're tight with sales/marketing alignment," he said. "I lean on my reps for every email that goes out. And I spend time working with the VP of business development, making sure our message is aligned with the reps."
The need to work closely with sales and to drive revenue is as critical for larger companies as it is for smaller ones like Omnipress. And here as well, outbound marketing is far from obsolete.
"My role is to create a strategy to communicate with customers and prospects, and ultimately to drive higher-quality leads," said Matt Fulk, senior manager-database marketing at business operations software company SAS Institute.
Fulk says his team works to funnel leads into the company's CRM application, a process supported by a team of segmentation analysts. He's also of the opinion that sales leads still are largely generated through aggressive outbound marketing.
"There is a lot of hype on blogs and elsewhere about inbound marketing, lead scoring, nurturing and all those things about how the customer is interacting with you online," Fulk said.
"What gets lost here is the balance; you can't forget outbound," he said. "At larger organizations, that starts with your data. It's still important for b-to-b marketers to reach out."
SAS optimizes its outbound marketing using profiles gleaned from prospects' online behavior, along with predictive analytics tools—looking at the prospects who have responded to messages in the past, and then overlaying that on new prospects.
It's this combination of inbound analytics used to inform outbound marketing that makes for powerful lead generation, according to Fulk.
"The push is as important as inbound analysis," Fulk said. "But today, it depends on analytics applied to data integration."
A new tag line that ties all this together is that marketers must be involved in "revenue generation," driven by technology that allows for the detection of buyer preferences and the subsequent customization of Web content and offers.
"Some of the best practices for helping the teams work better together include common definitions for a qualified lead, a strong lead-management process to manage the handoffs, and the use of marketing automation to power the whole thing," said Maria Pergolino, director of marketing at Marketo Inc.
"The secret to a truly high-performance revenue engine is the effectiveness of a sales development team," Pergolino added. "This role bridges the gap between sales and marketing, allowing for the sales-development representatives to contact and qualify marketing-generated leads and deliver them to sales account executives."