I just read the State of B2B Lead Generation report from Buyer Zone and I have to say that my heart sunk a bit. That nearly 50% are sending inquiries directly to sales as "leads" was disheartening enough. But when asked where they'd spend budget if they had money to burn, the answer from 31% of B2B marketers was to buy more leads. The majority of marketers said that increasing lead quantity was the key to their success.
If you haven't guessed - the remainder of this post is a bit of a rant. Fair warning.
Have we learned nothing? Do marketers walk around with blinders on? Or is it wishful thinking that force feeding our funnels can solve all of our problems?
Somehow this notion makes me feel kind of slimy. Like marketers are pandering to a B2B Lead Slave Trade where buyers are bought and forced to endure marketing and sales hell until they can break free of the shackles of this inhumane treatment.
Okay, so I'm being a bit dramatic. But, do you like it when you end up on the receiving end of emails from companies you've never heard of or given permission to hear from about stuff you have no interest in?
Do you enjoy downloading a paper and getting called from a clueless salesperson to "follow up with a demo" when you were simply interested in the topic of a white paper?
I thought not. So why is it we still feel like this is the way to go? It's kind of one of those "do unto others" things. But, for some strange reason we act like it doesn't apply to marketing.
I'm going to start by blaming the CMO, CSO and executive team. Until marketing performance is graded on quality, rather than quantity, you're driving the B2B Lead Slave Trade.
What the Buyer Zone report found is that B2B marketers are actually getting pretty good at generating their own leads but feel that they've exhausted their internal skills to amplify the volume, so they resort to buying them. You're selling yourselves short; taking the easy way out.
I'd argue that if the leads generated were really leads, marketers wouldn't have this problem. Although marketers in mid to large companies say they're tracking qualification and close rates, it appears they're doing this more as bystanders than as active participants with accountability. (See the immediate turnover of leads to sales above)
So now it's time to assign blame to marketers perpetuating the crime. It's not okay to abdicate yourself from your participation in the B2B Lead Slave Trade by taking a hand's off approach as you toss leads over the wall and rely on sales to sentence them to hard labor as they seek to reach the number. Your hands are still dirty.
Set Your Slaves Free
Buying leads is lazy. It's all about you and nothing about them. The hard part about marketing in this noisy world is that attracting attention and then sustaining it isn't for the faint of heart. It takes hard work, dedication and a buyer-first mindset. But it's worth it.
When you create and share ideas that your target audiences need and want, they will opt in willingly to get more. They'll be interested in dialogue to learn more about the expertise your company brings to help them achieve elusive objectives. A lead isn't created in one touch - not usually. Just like you don't become best friends when you meet someone the first time.
In the report, the company website barely eked by lead generation services as the number one source of leads. I guarantee you that you have not exhausted the potential of that property to generate leads. You're probably not even close. The same is likely true for email, social media, SEO and word of mouth - ranked 3 - 6.
Instead of buying your way to lead quantity, it's time to focus on improving your skillsets and market approaches for gaining attention and sustaining engagement to improve lead quality. Roll up your sleeves and get to know your buyers. The buy and toss method doesn't help you do this.
There May Be a Bit of an Upside...
B2B marketers were asked, "Looking ahead, what will be the key game changer for the future of lead generation success?
First response by 21.1% was increasing the quality of leads. Lead nurturing came in second with 12.8%.
Kudos to one fifth of marketers for at least knowing they're not hitting the high notes. The remaining 79% may be in serious trouble as buyers continue to fight for their freedom.