There’s a well worn belief in sales and marketing in B2B technology brands that, the more leads you put into the top of the funnel, the more likely you are to drive revenue at the bottom. Quite simply, lead generation is largely regarded as a numbers game – if 500 leads results in one sale, then all you need is 5000 leads to get 10 sales, 50,000 leads to get 100 sales and so on. This approach may well work on a volume basis for broad demand generation prospecting but is it the right way to go about driving leads from your key and named accounts? But if the volume approach isn’t the right way to prospect into those accounts, what is the alternative and how should you judge success? What outcome, apart from a pure revenue metric, matters when you are talking about engaging those accounts that are most valuable to you? Finally, how do you define a lead?
The answer lies in a considered, curated approach to driving engagement which may well result in many fewer leads compared to a traditional demand generation program, but which will drive higher quality, convertible opportunities that also enhance long term relationships. Let’s explore three key ways to drive better outcomes…
Firstly, when looking at demand generation into key accounts, we have to ask a fundamental question; what is your strategic objective in targeting your key and named accounts, typically via your Account Based Marketing (ABM) program? This matters because if we can understand the desired outcome early on in the planning stage, then we can create the right approach for the demand generation campaign. To explain; if we decide we want to target certain accounts in manufacturing, is our objective really to get, say, 35,000 leads in that sector or is it rather to drive a revenue number or the start of a conversation where one did not exist before? We see most success when we work with brands who challenge us by saying ‘these accounts are most likely to drive the most revenue for us, so here’s an account list and here’s a feel for the sort of job title that matters to us’ as opposed to ‘can you get me 35,000 leads?’
Now, you could argue that if you drive 35,000 leads you’ll end up achieving the revenue number and starting conversations anyway. But, think about it for a second: generating 35,000 leads (if we even assume the addressable market is large enough!) takes a lot of time and effort to make sure that a) those leads come in b) start to qualify them and c) try to close them. How much of that effort could be saved by looking at the desired outcome and then, before embarking on the campaign, conducting proper audience sizing to define the audience and then working out what the criteria is for leads at each given stage of the buying journey? Taking this insight driven approach will quickly whittle down the required leads for success because you’ll be creating a program where lead conversion suddenly improves because of the critical work done at the beginning of the campaign. Lower quantity, but definitely better quality.
Secondly, when embarking on demand generation within an ABM program, we have to get internal alignment around what actually constitutes a ‘lead’ and when a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) becomes a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). Why does this matter? Well, if you define a lead as someone who has merely filled out a form, and then pass that from marketing to sales, you’ll need an awful lot of form fills to generate sales momentum, because a form-fill in itself is obviously only a relatively weak expression of interest. And because of the weak conversion rate, sales will understandably want a high volume of leads from marketing. Instead, when driving demand alongside ABM programs, we might define a lead as someone who has interacted 5 or 6 times with the website, or perhaps has downloaded a number of assets or even called to ask a question. By knowing that the quality of the lead is likely to be higher as a result of more touchpoints along the buyer journey, the confidence to pass to sales and for conversion to be more likely, is that much higher.
The last critical factor to drive higher quality outcomes when engaged in ABM aligned demand generation is to have a clear idea of how the lead flow process needs to work. I’m frequently astonished in briefing calls with brands when I ask the simple question, ‘OK, once we have an expression of interest, what are you planning to do next?’ All too often the answer from the marketer on the call is ‘I’m only measured on the volume of leads’. Given such an incentive model, it’s no surprise therefore that volume becomes the driving factor in measuring success and the progression of the lead to some form of revenue outcome gets less attention. This is crazy, although I’m aware that there is a significant amount of money being made by agencies selling ‘leads’ by volume to brands! Instead, we’ll work with our client contact to plot out a clear lead journey lifecycle, aligned to the audience we’re targeting and which is sensitive to the agreed strategic outcome of the campaign overall. While this approach takes more time, and is more complex, the objective, again, is about driving quality lead progression as opposed to pure lead quantity.
While volume lead generation programs do have their place in the marketing armoury, when tackling lead generation into select key accounts through ABM campaigns, you need a subtler and more strategic approach. So, think ‘quality not quantity’ as your maxim when determining your strategy and you will be on the path to success, particularly if you take into account the three factors I’ve described above.