Tactics for Generating B2B Sales Leads

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MarkeTech’s New Interpretation of B2B Survey Data

How other B2Bs are generating qualified leads was surveyed by eMarketer over a year ago. While the data are a bit long in the tooth, the results deserve a revisit. One reason is that useful data on the topic for B2Bs is hard to find in today’s B2C-focused research landscape. I also want to look through a different lens at this survey’s interpretation of how B2Bs perform lead gen.

Here are the survey results:

eMarketer TABLE 2

MT Tactics TABLE notes

The chart reveals methods and tactics employed by surveyed B2B sales professionals to generate qualified sales leads. The issue is whether or not the outcomes cited reflect the maximum sales leads each tactic can deliver. I have taken the original survey chart and supplemented it with three variables: Frequency, Cost, and if the tactic was Outsourced or not.

  • Frequency is repetition of the tactic. For social networking sites as an example, the “Low” frequency rating indicates that posting to and monitoring a social media site didn’t happen often enough. Therefore, the 42% survey result is below its potential for achieving maximum sales leads.
  • The Cost column interprets the survey scores by money and time invested. The “Medium” expenditures can also contribute to the underperformance score of social networking sites.
  • In the Outsourced column, the values shown are to be interpreted as who implements the tactic. “No” indicates the company performed the tactic in house, while “Yes” identifies an outside source. As to the example of social networking sites, the interpretation is that the company likely performed the work in house. Results would be better if it had been outsourced.

Therefore, social networking sites’ low performance was likely because it was done in house. Further, the effort was only moderately funded, and not performed frequently enough to generate every available sales lead.

MT Survey ImageComplete the survey form before 30 September 2011!
Our 2nd Annual “Online Presence” Survey focuses exclusively on the B2B wireless industry.

An overview of the chart indicates a transition from top to bottom depicting decreasing performance attributable to frequency, cost factors, and/or incorrect use of in-house or outside resources.

Outbound Prospecting
It’s no surprise that tried-and-true outbound prospecting tops the preferred-methods list. It’s an in-house activity that requires virtually no outsourcing (no outsourcing’s $$ overhead can skew cost-per-lead). The high frequency (number of times outbound prospecting is performed) should also be considered in my interpretive view). In the hands of a capable sales professional, outbound prospecting results in unparalleled lead-gen.

Website
The company website as a lead-gen source, as I interpret its functionality, is essentially the usual online form (RFI, or even RFQ). It’s a semi-passive resource that, except for the costs (time and $$ to update the site), reliably pulls site visitors into becoming prospects. Please don’t slam my seemingly shallow interpretation here of the typical B2B website…the emphasis is on its passive and low maintenance aspects. The frequency here is medium, based on content updates. Cost is rated as medium, but that can vary based on whether the site updates are done in house or outsourced (either/or options are both shown).

Inbound Calls
Inbound calls come in third place which, again, is no surprise. Sales personnel are expected to turn every incoming call into a lead or conversion. I know the drill, and I have sold my family members my firm’s products and services…I just can’t seem to turn phone selling off! More to the point, as with outbound prospecting and the company website, the cost-per-lead is negligible and no outsourcing is required. The frequency here is variable, but we’ll consider it moderately repeated daily.

As the survey chart continues its lead-gen categories, the implications of outsourcing instead of in house, as well as cost and frequency, take on real meaning to me. My B2B business development firm specializes in the marketing and PR lead-gen methods and tactics of the bottom five on the list.

Email Campaigns
When it comes to email campaigns, my hypothesis starts to take on more meaning. The interpretation of what an email campaign is can range from using email blasts, to leveraging highly-personalized bulk emails sent to a well defined audience. Since the type of email program is unknowable from the survey, I’ll leave the interpretation to you. While email campaigns can be and are performed in house, as often as not they are outsourced and medium costs are incurred. Frequency: not very often may be the most realistic answer, but let’s say low, at once a month for argument’s sake, especially if the activity is outsourced.

Events and Tradeshows
Events and tradeshows are certainly well understood as to not only their low frequency, but also to their affordability. Generating a qualified lead from a tradeshow is pricey. In my interpretation, most all of the activities involved in event participation are outsourced.

Social Networking Sites
In my view, social networking sites as a lead-gen tactic being so far down the list suggests several interpretations:

  • Frequency, as a B2B company’s ability to achieve reliable and consistent repeatability of fresh content, is most likely a key contributor. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, you simply must hammer at it daily. LinkedIn participation is even more important when it comes to being social every day – don’t limit your activities on LinkedIn to just low-cost lead-gen research.
  • Social media is best outsourced – no, I’m not trying to drum up business. Unless your in-house talent is hand-picked for its personnel’s social networking skills, trying DIY to generate qualified leads from your online presence will invariably cause the low scores shown in the eMarketer survey results.
  • Social networking is an investment pit. It’s not just the money…it’s the time. Unlike your passive website that is run through the carwash and hot-waxed now and then, social media requires 24/7 real-time involvement and participation. The costs go from low for research and lead gen, to high for social participation and customer acquisition.

For the record, eMarketer in an adjacent survey identifies “social networking sites” as LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for lead prospecting and research. Blogs also, while not discussed here, should never be an infrequent post.

Note that this blog does not evaluate issues such as which of these social sites were used by survey participants. If they used only YouTube and Twitter, the low-performance results in a chart would be understandable.

Are the commitments to outsourcing and investments to achieve sufficient frequency worth the number (and quality) of leads generated? In my previous blog, eMarketer and HubSpot surveys both show that B2B participation on LinkedIn is not only growing, but that it’s a productivity winner in generating prospects and actual customers.

Direct Mail
Direct mail (or what I call a blast from the past) is seeing resurgence these days. Okay, it’s pricey, and you can’t really validate that anyone opened your mailing piece (as you can with email). But what else can you do when your list’s email addresses bounce? I like direct mail because it creates a nice perception of the sender when done professionally. But, to see the results in this survey that direct mail produces as many qualified leads as online social networking either reinforces how poorly B2Bs are performing social media, or that someone stuffed the ballot box on behalf of direct mail. I suspect it’s not really the ballot box. Direct mail is rated low in frequency because, like email, it works best as an ongoing campaign. The medium cost in the table would then change to high for a campaign.

Webinars
Last on the list are webinars. I flinched when I first saw how miserably the B2B sales professionals rated webinars’ ability to generate qualified prospects. Further analysis, however, leads me to consider that webinar production is complex (i.e., costly). A successful quality webinar requires outsourcing (I’ve seen enough of those in-house DIY webinars to know that they damage a company’s brand). The script, PowerPoint visuals, press release, database building, invitations/RSVPs and an email campaign – to name most of the big items required for a successful webinar – should all be performed by experienced pros (okay, this time I am blatantly plugging MarkeTech).
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This interpretation of the survey’s findings does hopefully add a new dimension to the data. Here are some quick pointers from someone who puts her company’s brand, reputation, and livelihood on the firing line with clients. My team puts its collective fannies on the line every day in creating lead-gen strategies, then executing the very tactics covered in this survey.

Consider the following:

  • The complexity of your product/service correlates with the cost and number of different tactics you’ll want to employ
  • There is no one tactic that will capture all available prospects. Your target audience is scattered (almost willy-nilly) across the Internet. You should shoot for an online presence that causes them to encounter (sometimes stumble upon) you
      • As a subset of a web-diversified audience, is the same multiple-exposure paradigm that applies to advertising. Your pipeline requires repeated exposures. Some schools of thought hold that as many as 20 exposures are needed to close a prospect
  • Every lead-gen tactic in the survey can – and should – interconnect with the others. Over time, a mashup will evolve as a mix of tactical methods that works best for you
      • Your mashup is not limited to the items in this survey. White papers, feature articles, press releases, case studies, etc., aren’t even mentioned but deserve your attention. Good content is king
  • Put particular emphasis on video. Cisco projects that, by 2015, video will account for 66% of all network traffic. Webinars and other video content are the future
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Speaking of surveys, have you completed the survey form for our 2nd Annual “Online Presence” Survey? We’re the first to focus exclusively on the B2B wireless industry.

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