Quality is the Keyword for Lead Generation in 2021
A recent London Research virtual roundtable in partnership with Demand Exchange found B2B marketers agreeing that quality as well as quantity is now the best approach to unlocking prospects from target accounts. Read on to find out the trends and best practices that will be prominent during the year ahead.
Digital marketers have spent the past year finessing strategies on how to generate leads in the absence of industry events. With no face-to-face networking opportunities, brands are relying more heavily that ever before on content marketing to generate leads and the emerging keyword is ‘quality’.
That was the consensus among attendees at the London Research/Demand Exchange roundtable where marketers swapped experiences of the past year under Chatham House rules. They were also given a preview of headline findings from the State of B2B Lead Generation 2021 research which will be launched during a webinar on Tuesday 23 February (now available on-demand).
The figures released show that just over four in five B2B marketers are now more reliant on lead generation than before, and nearly three in four are shifting budgets earmarked for events to content. The top challenges faced, as content marketing is prioritised, include ensuring content is well targeted, and generates high-quality leads whose ROI can be effectively measured.
Quality partnerships for better leads
One of the first responses to the preview of the research was consensus among roundtable attendees that quality has become more important than ever. Attendees noted content marketing has moved on from the days when a huge volume of potential leads was inherently seen as a success, irrespective of their quality.
Strategies are now shifting beyond reaching people who will find content interesting, to unlocking decision-making executives at target accounts who hold budget and are in-market for a product or service.
Hence, several delegates revealed they have made a conscious decision to partner with reputable content marketing partners who can provide access to new high-quality leads. The overriding feeling was that it soon becomes apparent that the budget placed with higher-performance lead generation partners delivers an improved ROI through saving time on processing low-scoring leads and focusing instead on better prospects.
One attendee made the point that this chasing of high-quality executives can mean differing lead times in various markets. While some sectors can expect decision makers to act quickly, there are still many where it can take many months to move a prospect through the funnel. For that reason, he lives by the axiom that ‘content is everything’ and keeps campaigns running even if they cannot immediately be linked to sales in any particular month.
Roundtable delegates agreed an additional successful tactic was to supplement work with a lead generation company by also distributing content and arranging webinars with channel partners and clients. One attendee revealed he had found the tactic particularly useful for opening up verticals that would have been far harder to unlock without tapping into the contacts of a niche partner, supplier or customer.
The rise and rise of ABM
Alongside the push for distributing quality content through top-performing lead generation partners, the tactic marketers kept coming back to on the roundtable was Account-Based Marketing (ABM).
Virtual roundtable attendees agreed the days of being able to hide behind unqualified, random leads are now truly over. Marketers are increasingly being expected to generate high quality leads, at volume, among a specific set of target businesses.
One marketer added that they are also expected to deliver leads from a target list that also fit the BANT criteria of having Budget, Authority, Need and Timing. Another pointed out that the household name they work for is now refocusing ABM efforts around existing clients, using content and webinars and demonstrations to create new cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
The upshot has been that most agree marketing and sales teams are more aligned and working harmoniously than in previous years, something which is borne out by the new research. With a target list of clients in place, both teams can rest assured that focus is being placed on attracting the most valuable prospects from key accounts.
Marketers are also starting to get smarter about how they use automation technology. It has become necessary because although there is consensus the quality route brings in better leads, there are still many to score, categorise and respond to appropriately.
One attendee revealed they are now receiving four times the number of leads they would previously expect to handle. That has meant redesigning the follow-up series of automated emails to determine which message would resonate best with each type of prospect. It can then work out who has dropped out of the process before steering the hottest prospects to a live demonstration.
The need for smarter automation and lead scoring to work alongside human contact was highlighted with several marketers agreeing that the technology can greatly help with the large numbers of prospects at the top of the funnel. However, by the time people have passed the awareness stage and are considering options, typically in the middle of the funnel, it is time to start some form of human interaction. This would typically be aimed at pushing a prospect towards conversion.
As one attendee quipped: “I think everyone’s had enough of endless emails, once someone’s shown some real interest, it really is time for a human being to pick up the phone and call them.”
This need for human contact underlined a constant theme of the roundtable, of marketers being ready to get back to trade shows and events to supplement online presentations. At the same time, however, they agreed the past year has seen huge improvements in content marketing and lead generation. With greater reliance placed on the channel, strategies have had to adapt to double down on quality content, distributed with high-performing partners, delivering clean data which leads to qualified leads from a list of target accounts.
The key findings from the State of B2B Lead Generation 2021 report will be presented and discussed during a webinar at 3pm GMT on 23 February. The webinar is now available on-demand. Watch now.