Don't Bother With Mass Lead Generation - It's a Big Waste of Time

In previous companies I've worked in, B2B Marketing was based on a principle that you created leads. And "poured" them into the top of a "sales funnel". Similar to the diagram below.

The more leads the better?

"Leads" are created by buying lists and spraying out emails, PPC (pay-per-click), Facebook Ads, buying your way up Google search.

This you hope, will make an individual in an organisation aware of you. The theory is, if you "touch" a person (currently I think you are supposed to do this 6 times) that this person will be interested in your product. Or of course you will have annoyed them so much you will have switched them totally off your brand.

(Last week I mentioned the sales guy I know whose customer said "Martin, we will buy your product, now just stop calling us.")

An inbound request to a company is often now categorized as a marketing qualified lead (MQL). This is then qualified and if it passes certain criteria is passed to "sales" to undertake discovery at which point they should turn it into a (SQL) Sales Qualified Lead.

If we are using (BANT) Budget, Authority, Need and Timescale as qualification criteria. In the SaaS world, I world expect a SQL to have need and authority. Budget and timescale will come later, as part of the sales; desire creating process. In many cases this comes at the first meeting as often SaaS sales teams will try and close on the first meeting.

This is all great in theory, but ....

According to Forrester only 0.75% of leads become closed revenue.

The problem is not all leads are created equal. Leads fall out as they move through the stages. Leads are also seen as a single person in a company. Which means we are judging a whole companies propensity to buy based on that individual.

What really Happens

An intern is asked to ring 3 companies to get details on their ERP system, for example, that person highly likely won't register on a companies lead scoring system and when your BDR / SDR calls them they won't pass any level of BANT.

The Problem

Marketing is focused on acquiring leads, not accounts. This means that sales and marketing (also a revenue creating team) already start off from the "get go" working at odds with each other.

The traditional sales funnel is designed for a single customer and isn't optimised for multiple decision makers.

If you take the latest CEB research currently there are 6.8 people involved in an Enterprise B2B deal. Can you honestly say that you have contacted all 6.8 of them?

Using our intern example, can we really say that or BDR / SDR interaction with them represents the views, personal wins, opinions of all 6.8 people in a the decision making process?

So if your CEO came to you and said you needed to double revenue, do you think you could double the number of leads you needed to generate?

This endless drive to create more and more leads will increase quantity and reduce quality. More leads isn't the answer.

Most lead generation campaigns assume a linear path, back to CEB research. They say that people now self educate as part of the sales cycle for 57% of the sales process and decide their requirements 37% of the way through the process. If you are focused on filling your funnel with leads that already have need you may find they don't need you but a competitor has already influenced the buying process.

For example if you are a SaaS provider maybe the prospect have defined a requirement for multi-tenant, which you don't supply. If you are "lucky" enough to get on the short list you have to spend all your time "unpicking" those requirements, rather than focusing on your value proposition.

In 2006, Seth Godin wrote about flipping the funnel, that is give your fans a megaphone. With the internet and Social Media, this has made this even more possible, at low cost and at scale. Enter Account Based Marketing (ABM) stage left.

With ABM, you don't spend time effort and budget chasing low quality leads, you focus on that lead and build out from there within an account. (immediately Marketing and Sales are both Account focused and aligned.)

ABM requires you to focus on a set of accounts and expand out from your "bridge head" to include people in different user departments. Better still if you can "land and expand".

To expand and engage contacts in different accounts requires different content. Finance will require different content to IT for example. Also utilities will require different content than, for example the Telco industry. The more personalised the better. We all see ourselves as individuals and not "personas" as many marketers often want to segment into.

What ABM Is Not

I've seen ABM initiatives where engagement was seen as sending a newsletter introducing a new salesperson. What a waste of time and effort.

ABM is where organisations use their digital marketing and Social Selling skills to educate and engage right up the funnel. This engagement will also allow sales and marketing teams to build deep relationships. They will also get to understand an industry's pain points and motivations.

The details of how to run an ABM program is a blog for another day.