The Biggest Missed Opportunity in B2B Lead Generation

Lead Generation Opportunity: All Other Sources Are More Important for Lead GenerationWhen the success of your business is less important than the success of your marketing, something is seriously wrong.

Yet this is exactly how most B2B marketers approach lead generation today! You don’t care about the number of leads your sales team has. Instead you care about the number of marketing sourced leads.

We all know B2B marketing measurement is imperfect, yet we momentarily suspend all reservations in order to judge our effectiveness based on results attributed to our efforts instead of the results for our business!

This is crazy folks!

In many enterprise B2B organizations, only 25% to 30% of leads are attributed to marketing, and many will say those numbers are high. Of those, more than 50% often come through your website and branded search traffic, not from any specific marketing campaign!

The Lead Generation Opportunity Gap

I call this the opportunity gap. Instead of focusing on how you can increase leads from the sources that represent 85% to 90% of your pipeline, you are desperately trying to drive your overall growth plan by increasing activities behind the 10% to 15%.

Instead, how do you drive an increase in leads across the entire spectrum of your business’s lead sources?

The Dirty B-Word: Brand

Branding has become a dirty word in some B2B circles.

Some people believe it is a money pit with no measurable return. If that is you, I would suggest looking again at your branded search and direct site traffic: they probably represent a significant portion of marketing’s measured contribution, and that doesn’t include the value of increased recognition when sales is calling on potential prospects.

Others think of logos, detailed brand guidelines, and the dreaded brand police when they hear branding. But that is just execution. What really matters is shaping what others think of you before you engage one-to-one through your sales or other marketing efforts.

Branding doesn’t necessarily mean advertising either. PR, analyst relations, content marketing, events, social media, even internal marketing, can play important roles in establishing your brand.

How Branding Bridges the Opportunity Gap

Improving awareness and perception of your product, brand or company increases the leads across all sources. Here are just a few of the ways a strong brand improves your results.

1. More Referrals
When peers recommend your company to a prospect who already knows and is interested in you, the recommendation is more memorable and confirms their view that your company should be considered.

2. Improved Cold Calling
Seriously, no one wants a cold call from your company if they have never heard of you. However, if they already know and respect your company, they are far more likely to give you the courtesy of a couple minutes and information that may be valuable down the road, even if they are not ready to purchase today.

3. Increased Site Traffic
A strong brand increases both branded search and direct traffic to your site. Look at search trends for any relatively new brand to see the impact this can have. Below is the five year search trend for Airbnb, a newer brand that, today, is searched for nearly as Alaska Airlines, a long-standing regional airline.

Airbnb search volume

4. Higher Registration Rates
Visitors are more willing to share their information with a brand they respect and trust than one that is completely unknown. In addition, if you are asking visitors to register for content and they already value your perspective, they are more likely to value the content you are offering as well!

This list goes on. More inbound contacts. Increased booth traffic at trade shows. Higher click rates in search. Better open rates in emails. Larger webcast audiences.

When potential prospects know and respect your company, when more of them want to connect to you, there will be more leads from everything you do.

Your Turn

I’ve said enough. Do you believe B2B marketers will cross the lead generation opportunity gap? Or will many continue to be stuck focusing on the increasing the 10% to 15% of overall leads that come their lead generation activity? The comments are yours!

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  • Aaron Bean

    Excellent post Eric, love your thinking here. Thanks for another thought starter. The biggest issue I see to crossing the gap is most often operational or internal politics within an organization, not the mindset or desire of brand-side marketers to want to focus their efforts differently. So I’d say we’ll likely see a slow and incremental transition from the majority of marketers with the leaders continuing to show others how it can be done. Not to mention that your insights here are derived from studying some analytics and the ability to derive actionable insights from analytics data seems to continue to be a challenge for many marketers, hopefully more of them will see this post of yours and see how even some simple analysis could support the business case for shifting strategy.

    • Thanks Aaron. I agree, brand marketers have no issue with this view, but they also don’t get the budget and support needed to execute it (and many, frankly, don’t work at the firms with the challenges).

      Will be interesting to see how this changes over time. Personally, I believe the pendulum has swung so far that there is a real opportunity for the brave marketing department that embraces it. But time will tell.

  • Geoff Tucker

    Aaron makes a good point that it is operations and internal politics that block these efforts. We get constant pressure from Sales to generate more leads, and we actively to the leads they generate as well. I’ll add that branding is great and a necessary component but it has a long view quality that conflicts with Sales’ short term view that they have a revenue figure to hit each quarter. There is no runway for Marketing to build up the momentum to get the outcomes your post cites. Yes, they will happen I believe, but when the marketing efforts are also switching to inbound marketing for lead generation, you end up with cart before the horse and thus fighting for time to get things working correctly. Meanwhile, Sales points blame at Marketing for not generating what Sales needs. The eternal tug of war soldiers on.

    • Geoff, great addition. Yes, ramp is a big challenge. Notably, it is a big challenge for larger marketers trying to move towards inbound as well, they simply haven’t cultivated audiences like that before.

      Yep the tug of war continues. Until sales sees perception going in as the key challenge, it will continue at many companies.

  • Very good article Eric. You highlight the little dirty secret of lead generation. It takes strong branding to support the best efforts of both marketing and sales. Good sales professionals know the value of brand. Smart ones know when buyers are sending the subtle message of their company’s brand being crap. The mind is a powerful thing. If there is a perception that your company’s brand is crap – then there will be a void in lead generation.

  • Mark A. Evertz

    Solid as always Eric. I was having the same discussion with another demand gen agency pro about brand phobia and the need for B2B marketers to understand that without a strong brand and a deliberate plan to build brand preference their lead gen efforts won’t lead to conversion. Not only that, but in my experience using brand preference building as part of your overall lead gen strategy typically gives you access to bigger budgets. You articulate this quite well, better than I did, in fact. Thanks for the clear thinking and validating that this is the time to start thinking bigger.

    • Thanks Mark. Yes, if there is a separate “brand” budget, agencies can increase budgets that way. More importantly, IMO, if there is a separate budget the chance to look at activity more holistically, including the impact demand gen activity has on perceptions and brand development has on leads, is invaluable.

      Thanks for the addition, I appreciate it!