A new study seeks to answer that question and provide a playbook for companies that want to aim higher. The study, "What's Working in Lead Generation: The Benchmark Report on How to Spend Your Time, Energy & Money for the Best Marketing ROI in B2B Professional Services," was conducted by RainToday.com, an online content site for marketing professional services. The company surveyed representatives from 731 professional services companies late last year; 95% responded online and 5% via telephone.
Eighty-four percent of the respondents said that in the next two years they plan to significantly or mod-erately increase their lead generation efforts. However, Mike Schultz, publisher of RainToday.com, was skeptical of this high percentage.
"Most of these [companies] say they want to be in better shape for lead generation in two years, but that doesn't mean they're going to get themselves in gear," said Schultz, who is also a principal at Wellesley Hills Group, a consulting and marketing firm. "There's a lack of urgency and a lack of selling value. … The engagement is very tepid."
Schulz added that lead generation can help b-to-b companies grow their business, but senior executives "have to be willing to get their messages heard."
The study found the two biggest obstacles to generating leads are time and having enough people. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that having enough time to generate leads was either "extremely challenging" or "very challenging"; 49% said it was either "extremely challenging" or "very challenging" to have enough people to generate leads.
Only 17% said that gaining support from the C-suite was an obstacle to generating leads—and therein lies a major disconnect, Schultz said. "If [lead generation] is important enough to leadership, you get the time and the right people. … You need real buy-in from the top."
So how can b-to-b marketing executives improve their lead generation efforts? Schultz said a key tactic is cold calling but stressed that it needs to be in the context of providing added value specific to the sector being targeted.
"It's about providing value from the get-go," he said. "You first have to offer something that's worthwhile—benchmark research, case studies, data or trends. If you can do that, three things happen: You get accepted, it puts value in marketing and sets you up as an expert and develops your business."
Paul Dunay, director of global field marketing at management and technology consultancy BearingPoint, who participated in the study, said: "The report pretty well documents that [b-to-b marketers] are still in the early stages of lead generation, and it is no longer acceptable to run with just the good leads and leave all the others on the cutting-room floor."