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.

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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.

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:

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.

The Lead Generation Benchmark Report is available to buy (and free to B2B Marketing Members) here.

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