Though an argument could be made that they are subsets of the same species, B2B marketing and B2C marketing are completely different animals. If B2C is the lion coming at you with full roar, B2B is more of the house cat, coming around frequently and worming its way into your heart.
With B2C, the louder you roar, the more people will hear you. The hope is that eventually someone will bite—and the more the better. With B2B, there just aren’t quite as many people ready to purchase at any given time. So if you roar, you roar within a much smaller space where the noise is not likely to be appreciated. What is appreciated is steady relationship building and good, quality content that educates, informs and quietly helps to bring the prospect down the buying path. As a result, the best B2B marketers have learned to tread softly, but persistently and spend more time targeting and generating real leads than with coming up with snappy jingles, incessant Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter posts and splashy ads.
Lead Generation VS Traditional Marketing
In short, the best B2B marketers have learned the difference between lead generation and traditional marketing. Lead generation puts qualified leads in the hands of the sales team. Traditional marketing lets people know you are out there. Lead generation is about quality over quantity; traditional marketing, about saturating the market. Lead generation is about measuring conversions; traditional marketing, about tossing it out there and hoping your message sticks. That is not to say that traditional marketing does not have its place in the B2B marketing mix. It absolutely does. In fact, it helps set the stage for a good lead generation campaign, but it is lead generation, not the traditional methods that ultimately drives conversions.
Lead Gen Basics
What is lead generation? At its very basic it is a form of response-based marketing designed to put leads into the hands of the sales team and improve their productivity. As Ruth P. Stevens wrote in, Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide, “lead generation involves identifying prospective customers and qualifying their likelihood to buy in advance of making a sales call. In short, its about motivating prospects to raise their hands.”1
In a typical lead generation campaign, leads are generated through a variety of methods, email marketing, SEO, Paid Search, Direct Mail and inbound Content Strategy, being some of the more popular.
Not nearly as glamorous as glossy magazine spreads and full color corporate brochures, these humble tools are no less effective. And when it comes to measurable results and actual sales conversions, they are much more so. As the results of the 2012 Marketing Sherpa B2B Benchmark Survey indicate, this fact is clearly recognized by most marketing leaders. Seventy-four percent of respondents indicated that “Generating High Quality Leads” is their most critical challenge.2
Some Basic Vocab
In lead generation you will hear terms like, “lead,” “qualified lead,” “qualification,” “nurturing,” “conversion,” and more – all of which are important to understand before you get started, but none more so than the word lead itself. Different organizations have different definitions of a lead, which is fine as long as everyone in the organization knows what that definition is and works accordingly – not so fine if different divisions (think marketing and sales) have different definitions and end up acting at cross-purposes.
At NuGrowth and with many CRM systems, for example, term lead is used to describe the wild west of unknown prospects that needs to be contacted or qualified. Many marketers that aren’t as in tune with sales and CRM terminology, however, reserve the word lead for a person who has demonstrated some interest in their organization. As indicated above, neither definition is “right” or “wrong” so long as it is consistent across your entire organization and everyone knows what it is you are trying to generate. You are not trying to generate names to pass on to the sales team, you are trying to generate qualified names.
A qualified lead is one with known attributes that are a fit for the product/service being sold. One with a known buying cycle or, from a marketing standpoint, one who has demonstrated enough interest and active intent to buy to pass along to the sales team. When talking about lead generation, what we are really talking about is the process of generating qualified leads. Qualification is the process with which a lead becomes a qualified lead. Nurturing is a marketing term used to describe what you do with those that demonstrate interest, but aren’t quite ready to buy.
Conversion is a bit trickier. Many marketers will define conversion as when a lead becomes a sale. In sales/ CRM speak, however, conversion is the term used to describe the process of moving a lead from one stage of the pipeline to the next, for example from unknown to account, contact or opportunity. As with the definition of a lead, this distinction is important to recognize so that when the marketing and sales teams talk across the aisle, everyone understands what is being said – and what is being measured.
Building Business Intelligence
As alluded to above, the beauty of a lead generation campaign that encompasses direct response methods such as email marketing, SEO, Paid Search or Direct Mail is that it is all completely trackable. Using email marketing as an example, you cannot only see who opened a message, you can see all actions taken (online) from that point on. Smart marketers take this one step further and incorporate marketing automation software tools that track all web activity, score leads and integrate with their CRM, giving their sales team access to complete online activity profile of each prospect.
Metrics to Watch
Metrics to watch can include everything from impressions, clicks and cost per click in paid search; opens, clicks, responses and downloads in email marketing and page interaction and form completions on a website to broader reaching things like revenue per interaction, lead to sales conversion rate and more. The important thing is to determine what you want to track, track it religiously, measure results and adjust your strategy based on what you have learned.
If you need any more proof as to the benefit of tracking, monitoring and measuring your campaigns, consider the following statement from the Lenskold Group’s 2012 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study: “Evidence continues to mount on how smart marketing executives are building capabilities to transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue center. The ultimate result? Marketing organizations that adopt ROI and revenue as key measures are helping their organizations outgrow their competition.”3
There is a lot more to lead generation than can be effectively covered in one paper, but for now, here are a few tips for getting started:
- Understand your goals and objectives. What, specifically, do you want to get out of the campaign?
- Understand your buyer. As Stevens so succinctly put it, “Start your analysis by cribbing the “W” page from a reporter’s notebook. Ask: Who is the buyer – one person or a committee. What information do the buyers need to make their decision? When do they buy, and how long is their buying cycle? Where do they buy? Knowing the answers is essential to every element of your campaigning process…”4
- Target, refine and revisit your lists – Your “wide open west” has to start somewhere. So start by narrowing your list parameters down as much as possible based on key attributes of your best customers.
- Create content strategy – Use your understanding of your buyer to determine the content that will resonate most strongly with the targets on your list.
For all intents and purposes, lead generation is more a science than an art. It’s about strategy, content creation, measurement, analysis and getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time. The team at NuGrowth Solutions understands this better than most for the simple fact that NuGrowth’s roots are in business development. Our marketing team is comprised of successful sales professionals who know, first hand, the value of a good lead. And, with expertise in writing benefits-oriented content, and implementing quality lead generation campaigns, they also know how to get them.
If you have the operational expertise to run your business, but are constrained by current sales efforts, NuGrowth Solutions can help. If you are interested leveraging our expert sales and lead gen marketing teams to increase revenue for your business, please give us a call. 1-800-966-3051
1. Stevens, Ruth P. Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers. Indianapolis: Pearson Education, Inc., 2012.
2. Doyle, Jen P. “2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, Excerpt.” Marketing Sherpa.
3. Lenskold Group. “2012 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study.”