Why Is B2B Lead Generation So Hard?

10/13/2016

Lead Generation

B2B Marketers, as a group, struggle with lead generation.

A recent study by Act-On Software found that 75 percent of the 244 participants said improving lead quality is one of their most important goals in their marketing and sales strategy.

At first blush, that’s a little surprising. How could something that is so important, and so critical to marketing’s success, continue to cause so much confusion?

There are three key factors complicating the process.

Factor No. 1: A Cast of Thousands

The process of taking an interested prospect and turning them into a sales lead typically involves many different parts of the typical B2B company:

  • The typical prospect comes in through a company’s marketing efforts, doing a search inquiry, or seeing a mention in an online publication or an ad.
  • Information from that customer contact often passes through the company’s website, involving IT.
  • The prospect may need help from your engineering or R&D operations.
  • It is ultimately followed up by your sales organization and entered into your sales automation system (like Salesforce.com). See the blog post on "Bringing Marketing and Sales Together to Improve Lead Generation".
  • If the customer buys, the lead may be touched by accounting, manufacturing, warehousing and shipping.
  • And post-sale, it may involve customer service.

All those functions, then, may be involved at one point or another in the process of converting an interested prospect into a paying customer. So for a B2B lead generation program to be successful, all of them have to agree on the proper way to handle a prospect at various stages of the process.

Factor No. 2: Confusion over Technology

Technology has improved and streamlined the process significantly. But it really hasn’t changed the essentials: While lead scoring and marketing automation have made it easier to manage leads, it was always a good idea to keep communicating with a prospect after they asked for a sales call. And it was NEVER a good idea to send an unqualified lead to sales.

Unfortunately, many B2B marketers confuse these new technologies with the process of lead generation itself. That’s never a good idea. Most of the time, adding technology to a broken lead-gen program really doesn’t fix the original problem. It just costs more.

Factor No. 3: A Crowded Landscape

The new technology has added a host of complications, as new vendors and systems are vying for attention (and business).

While most of the new suppliers have excellent stories to tell, they are often rifle-shot specialists on one aspect or another – like lead nurturing or lead scoring. Check out my recent post on "Key Steps in Producing Quality B2B Leads".

Very few, if any, offer a comprehensive package across the entire enterprise (described above). So their solution may work exceedingly well for one company but not at all for another, especially one that doesn’t have the other infrastructure needed. Lead nurturing, for instance, wouldn’t help a company that didn’t have a system in place to capture and store lead information.

So what is a B2B marketer to do?

How to Get Started with Lead Generation

  1. Start with your prospect or customer. We know that you want a lead. But what do they want?
  2. Consider your buyer’s journey. What do they want to know at various stages of the process? Do they want specs? Or would they be convinced by a case study?
  3. Look at your next steps and offers. Are the next steps clear? Does your offer go right to the heart of the problems your audience is having? If you’re not sure, see point No. 1.
  4. Handle carefully. Make sure you know how you want to handle a lead. Should it be followed up by an internal sales rep? A channel partner? Do you want to qualify or cultivate those leads, to make sure they’re ready for sales? (Hint: The answer should be yes.)
  5. Look for technology last. Make sure your process is mapped out clearly and the infrastructure is in place. Then, and only then, look at ways technology can help.

About the Author

Jim Everhart
Account Planner
Godfrey

It's my job to help B2B brands find out who they really are.

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