Lead-gen is mainstream, but some do it better than others

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Lead generation is the goal of any direct-marketing campaign. Personalization, offers, calls to action—all are pathways to conversion, qualified leads and ultimately sales. BtoB recently conducted a survey on lead-generation practices entitled “Lead Generation: A Fundamental Flourishes in the Digital Age.” It sheds some light on how b-to-b marketers are using lead-gen practices, how the most effective direct marketers differ from low-achieving and average lead-gen marketers, and those obstacles that block effective lead-gen practices. Respondents were well along in their adoption of lead-gen practices: 74% are at least moderate participants in some form of lead-generation efforts, while 48% were “very” or “fully” involved. Further, 67% of marketers overall were working relatively closely with sales in the lead-gen process. Only 33% of marketers were, on average, not closely aligned or working together with sales. Jessica Bryant, director-marketing at hardware company NCR Corp.'s hospitality division, said NCR this year rolled out a marketing automation process with Eloqua that is having a significant impact on marketing and sales alignment. Bryant, a respondent to BtoB's survey, said the sales input was critical to understanding how specific lines of business, industries, prospect job titles and successful content can influence the marketing automation process. “It's taken a little bit of time for sales to realize what's going on and how powerful these leads now are, versus just calling on unqualified people or those who are just in research mode,” Bryant said. Eighty percent of marketers responding to BtoB's poll who described their own lead-gen efforts as “highly effective” said they work closely with sales in the lead-gen process, compared with 66% on average. By contrast, among the marketers who described themselves as “least-effective,” only 57% coordinated with sales. While lead-generation efforts have been adopted widely, only 49% of respondents to BtoB's survey said they have a lead-nurturing process in place to support lead-gen. Among highly effective lead-gen marketers, 74% use lead nurturing, compared with just 26% of the least-effective marketers. “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. “It runs the entire spectrum, from batch-and-blast emails to full nurturing campaigns.” Smith, also a study respondent, said one challenge to full-on nurturing efforts is developing appropriate content for a large number of products, as well as content appropriate to different stages of the buying cycle. Marketers are generally optimistic about their sales growth over the next 12 months, with 51% of marketers saying that sales would be “more” or “significantly more” next year compared with this year. However, in the context of lead generation, this level of confidence in the future shows some variability. Sixty-eight percent of highly effective lead-gen marketers said sales would be up in the next year, while just 40% of the least-effective lead-gen marketers expressed confidence in rising sales. Respondents to BtoB's survey indicated a number of obstacles, both internal and external, to better deployment of lead-gen activities. Lack of resources (67%) ranked highest on the list of barriers. Others included poor database accuracy (40%), lack of adequate technology (27%), poor communication and process (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%). BtoB's study is based on an online poll conducted in August and September that drew responses from 605 b-to-b marketing professionals. Further details and how to obtain the complete study will be available in BtoB's Nov. 5 issue.
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