Email remains a top channel for producing leads in B2B marketing, according to a survey data from a report by Chief Marketer titled Top B2B Lead Gen Trends. That’s no surprise perhaps for veteran marketers, but it’s the mix and integration that often matters most and goes missing.
As regular readers know, I often pour over marketing studies on these pages and sometimes produce survey cliff notes stemming from multiple reports. This particular survey was a solid read, merits a standalone post and so here are five findings that stood out to me:
1) The top producing channels for B2B leads.
The channels that produce the most leads for B2B marketers are as follows:
- Email: 62%
- Live events: 59%
- Content marketing: 51%
- SEO: 49%
- PPC/display ads: 20%
Analysis: The low marks for retargeting was surprising. It’s either an attribution problem or perhaps customers are just not rewarding businesses for following them around the web. This is an area worth testing in your shop.
Social media also ranks low, through the survey doesn’t distinguish between paid and organic efforts. Regardless in both cases, B2B organizations are likely to find better results with a rent-to-own strategy, where the goal is to grow your owned audience.
That brings us to content marketing and the adjacent reference to lead generation in this study, which I think can be confusing. Yes, content marketing can produce leads, but it’s an effect of growing an engaged community and subscribers over time. Subscribers are more likely to convert, but if your content is heavy on pitch and light on value, no one is going to subscribe.
SEO and content go hand-in-hand because traffic from organic search – people searching for answers to questions – is the largest source for many businesses. The missing link here is integration with PR, and PR is the best-kept secret in content marketing.
2) The top challenges in generating B2B leads.
Just a couple of top challenges in generating leads stood out. According to the report, the two most significant challenges are as follows:
- Finding leads that convert: 36%
- Getting prospects to engage: 35%
Analysis: These two challenges really go together because most MQLs are suspected prospects, or suspects, that need to be nurtured. Engagement is a prerequisite for conversion, but that engagement probably isn’t going to come in the form of a conversation with sales.
Market research has shown over and over, that buyers usually have engaged many touchpoints and are pretty close to a decision by the time they get on the phone with an account executive. In part, this is why content marketing has become so important.
3) Challenges of B2B lead attribution.
The growth in touchpoints had led to a number of challenges in attribution. What gets credit for a sale? The report identified the following as the top attribution challenges:
- Cost of conversion: 49%
- Time to convert: 47%
- Channel (where they came from): 30%
- Last click: 27%
- First click: 21%
Analysis: None of these metrics help marketing understand the influences in the process. For example, the focus of attribution on the first and last touch misses the entire range of things that happen in-between. This is where most of the magic happens. For example, a prospect that opens an email, clicks-thru a PPC ad, reads the coverage in a trade magazine, hovers over sponsored post, subscribes to a blog, signs up for a webinar and downloads a report. How do you attribute those actions?
It just goes to show that despite the vast arsenal of data and analytics available to marketing today, finding what’s working in marketing still requires a combination of experience, intuition and trial and error. One of the open-ended comments surfaced in the report nails the real challenge:
“Being able to track an influenced channel touch versus just a first or last touch to justify investments across multiple channels.”
It’s worth pointing out I’ve seen a theory put forward in neuromarketing and behavioral economics circles that the growth in customer touchpoints, is really just a means for the buyer to justify an unconscious decision that’s made far earlier in the process. In other words, we buy with emotion and rationalize with logic.
4) The content B2B marketing finds most effective.
What sort of content does B2B marketing find effective? According to the survey, the top five content types are as follows:
- White papers: 52%
- Blog post: 44%
- Product/service comparison: 39%
- Webinars: 32%
- Research: 28%
Analysis: While the question is useful, don’t get hypnotized by the results. Just producing more white papers or blog posts may not be the right answer. What’s missing here is the integration and repurposing of content to extend the investments already made in content. To be clear, repurposing content does not mean regurgitate, you have to add value along the way. For example, webinars might be the good basis for a white paper, which later broken out into blogs. A research report might make for a good webinar, and perhaps a contributed article on the findings.
For example, webinars might be the good basis for a white paper, which later broken out into blogs. A research report might make for a good webinar, and perhaps a contributed article on the findings.
On that point, I was surprised that research ranked so low on the list. It certainly is hardest to produce, but the results are usually exceptional. It’s well worth the investment to produce data-driven insights, and prospects will know, like and trust you for good data.
5) Flip a coin on sales and marketing alignment.
Sales and marketing alignment is a recurring theme across both functions. Keep in mind these results reflect what marketers tend to think: about half of B2B organizations are aligned and the other half either isn’t (or isn’t sure, which is even scarier). The survey results on sales and marketing alignment break out like this:
- Yes, sales and marketing are aligned: 50%
- No, sales and marketing are not aligned: 37%
- We don’t know if sales and marketing are aligned: 13%
Analysis: Alignment is obviously important for shared goals and reaching business objectives. Yet studies like this don’t always explore the less tangible, but equally important cultural effects: When sales and marketing are working as partners, there’s less finger pointing which presents the opportunity to focus on strategic improvement rather than constant fire drills.
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This study was conducted by email in June 2016. The report says 244 of the 270 respondents primarily serve the B2B community. Agencies comprised just about one-fifth of respondents. The sample had decent representation across verticals and by organization size. An infographic on the survey follows below and a full copy in PDF is available with registration through the Chief Marketer publication.
click here or image for higher resolution
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