Strategy Separates Lead Generation Leaders from the Pack
After a year of relying more heavily on lead generation than in the past, leading B2B marketers are now separating themselves from the rest of the pack by formulating and executing strategies that deliver both quality and volume.
The London Research/Demand Exchange State of B2B Lead Generation 2021 report shows that marketers getting the most from the channel have refined their strategies to find the right target on the right channel, with the best content. The pandemic has prompted more than four in five B2B marketers (82%) to rely more heavily on online lead generation in the absence of face-to-face events.
The research has found that two-thirds of B2B marketers (66%) are investing more this year in online lead generation than previously. As they do so, they are chasing quality leads at scale, raising two questions. How should strategies be managed to provide both quality leads and volume? At a time of fiscal prudence, will budgets be large enough to achieve this new goal?
Quality at Scale, and Budget Issues, Dominate
To see where marketers are steering their strategies, it is worth looking at where they see their major challenges. As the report findings show, the new approaches to the channel are not so much a reinvention of lead generation, but more of a renewed focus on quality leads, through engaging content as part of campaigns that can have their ROI measured.
This all needs to happen at scale because marketers reveal they are more worried about volume of leads than in the past.
What are the top challenges your business faces around lead generation?
Source: London Research / Demand Exchange
The elephant in the room is concern over budgets. Scaling up online lead generation efforts to drive quality leads through high-quality content is not cheap. Yet, just as premium partnerships are called for in creating, planning, executing and measuring campaigns, budgets have been limited by the pandemic.
At a recent roundtable discussing the State of B2B Lead Generation report, one attendee pointed out his company had been experiencing problems getting budget back from events that had been cancelled or postponed. While, in some cases, the company had been given sponsored webinar opportunities to make up for an event not being staged, he pointed out that there were still some events that were not returning money.
This appeared to be because some events planned for last year were possibly going to take place this year instead. However, given the unlikelihood that large industry conferences will take place in 2021, it means substantial budget is locked away and unable to be released so it can be invested to boost ongoing online lead generation. The roundtable conversation suggested this was not an isolated issue, and that releasing budget for extra investment in online lead generation is leading to tough discussions within businesses.
Winning Strategies Match Messages with Channels
So, a key strategy for B2B marketers is sharpening their focus to attract better-quality leads at scale. Now, after a year of B2B marketers relying more heavily on online lead generation than in the past, one of the key findings from the new research is how defining and pursuing an agreed strategy separated leaders in the channel from mainstream participants.
Proportion of respondents agreeing with statements relating to their lead generation activities
Source: London Research / Demand Exchange
As the left-hand side of the chart shows, leaders (those who have achieved measurable success through the channel) are far more likely to have agreed a lead generation strategy, with individual campaigns fitting into an overall framework.
They are also producing content aimed at different stages of the purchase funnel, while mixing and matching the most appropriate channel with each type of content. Being able to efficiently capture the data these campaigns produce is another area where leaders stand out.
This new focus of tailoring quality content to a specific part of the buying process, and utilising a variety of channels, has been good news for LinkedIn. It is the route to market where B2B executives are most likely to be increasing their budgets. With two-thirds (66%) spending more on the business networking social media site, it is just ahead of SEO and email for the top three channels marketers are prioritising for new spending.
The real loser here is print. Nearly half are reducing spend on print, making it far and away the channel more marketers are leaving behind.
Lead Gen’s Focus Trumps Expensive PPC
In the middle ground, this new strategy is a mixed bag for paid search with nearly half putting more into PPC, but the other half keeping spending where it is or reducing it. This was mentioned during the roundtable with attendees saying the channel had become expensive and was not working as well for them as it had done in the past.
The push towards lead generation was explained by the benefit of being able to target professionals with tailored content for which they are willing to supply their name and contact details. While a paid search advert can appear to anyone, lead generation campaigns run through premium partners can ensure only those people in the right industry, at the right level of seniority, are identified as leads.
This strategy - finding the best channel for the most engaging content to reach a target audience at scale - is already seeing leaders pull away from the mainstream pack. The year ahead will see a refining in approach, no doubt, and it will also see B2B marketers looking for budget to be released at a time when some businesses may be tightening purse strings and still owed money from events that have not happened.
Leaders in lead generation will be best placed to navigate these choppy waters because they will have the data and ROI figures required to show that the channel is a powerhouse for finding new business prospects. By having a set of KPIs to measure success against, leaders will carry on staying ahead of the pack because they can turn budgetary worries around by showing it is riskier to underinvest in the channel and fall behind rivals who are pulling ahead.
Download the London Research/Demand Exchange State of B2B Lead Generation 2021 report to read up on more of the findings.