Marketing still plays second fiddle to sales in B2B organisations.

Past readings of the B2B Barometer survey reveal that up to 60% of B2B marketers agree with this statement and the latest survey published in June 2012 confirms it.

Two fifths (41%) of B2B marketers report that their single highest marketing priority for 2012 is to generate more of the salesperson’s raw material – leads.  Fair enough.  After all, few brands have buyers queuing at their door so ‘hunting’ revenue has to be a key focus.

With this in mind, B2B Marketing Magazine’s latest Benchmark report on lead generation couldn’t have come at a better time.  It’s packed full of useful information, but a few findings in particular leaped out at me.

It seems that lead generation is not cheap.  Around one quarter (28%) of B2B marketers are able to put a figure on how much it costs them to acquire a sales ready lead.  For those selling ‘big ticket’ products or services (worth more than £5,000) the average cost is £903.  For lower value items the average cost falls to £274.  Only one third of these leads (33%) then convert to a sale.

However, it also seems that the investment is worthwhile.  Three fifths (60%) of those surveyed name lead generation as one of their top three priorities.  A further 26% say it’s their very highest priority.

When added to the B2B Barometer’s findings that seems to settle the matter – leads are bloody important.

So how best to generate them?

Well, three channels seem to be particularly effective.

Leading the pack is email marketing – 42% name email as one of their most effective lead generation channels when targeting new customers.

Previous research also reveals that email is not only effective, but by far the most widely used weapon in a B2B marketer’s armoury.  Nine in ten (88%) B2B marketers make use of the technique (for a full analysis of B2B email marketing trends click here).

Close on email’s tail are two ‘traditional’ channels.  One third (35%) place live events in their ‘most effective for lead generation’ pile.  A similar proportion (31%) do so for telemarketing.

But channel is of course only part of the story.  These channels need to enable some kind of value exchange – a situation where the prospect is offered something of value in return for information which causes them to become a lead.  Increasingly the item of value offered is content such as white papers and case studies.

Producing high quality, relevant content is no mean feat though.  It’s resource intensive, it’s time consuming and it requires an intimate understanding of what’s on the prospect’s mind.

Perhaps unsurprising then that when asked the single biggest challenge faced in lead generation, one quarter (24%) of B2B marketers cite content.

The solution?

First, think about what content formats work well in your market.  Our old friend the B2B Barometer reveals that the most effective content types, in the eyes of those producing it at least, are:

  • Case studies (48% name as one of their three most effective content types)
  • Video (25%)
  • Public speaking (23%)
  • White papers (22%)
  • Seminars (21%)

Second, follow the Seven R’s of Thought Leadership – Resonant, Rare, Road Mapped, Robust, Rounded, Rooted and Re-used (for more on the Seven R’s of Thought leadership research click here).

So maybe it’s not all about the lead after all.  Perhaps it’s as much about the content.

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) marcoms and advertising research, and thought leadership and PR research.

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2 thoughts on “It’s all about the lead

  1. Content (and context) is what is going to drive your leads. People need a reason to get involved with your company, even if it’s just for a few minutes while scrolling through an email. Content captures their attention so your sales team can connect.

  2. Meenakshi says:

    Great article Andrew.

    I am amongst those 60% & 42% of those who believe that lead generation is among top three priorities and email as one of their most effective lead generation channels. 48% support for case studies actually surprised me. For I used to think that White Papers & Seminars are the most effective content types.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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