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Don’t fall into the MORE LEADS trap

The focus on “more leads” can be a trap that many B2B businesses fall into. The smaller budgets and business demands often create a culture of short-term priorities that over time degrade brand reputation. The primary focus on just acquiring more leads—which I find are often just thought of as email addresses—creates unattainable goals for marketing, feeds tension between marketing and sales, and sometimes incentivizes the wrong strategies.

What I repeatedly see are unattainable MQL goals set for marketers without any historic performance data or the market to support the supply. To meet these goals, the marketing team ends up identifying unqualified leads as MQLs, and the sales team loses trust in the marketing team. This manifests as meetings filled with tension between marketing and sales and dissatisfaction on both sides. In reality, everyone is on the same team, working towards more sales.

This pressure often prioritizes quantity over quality, which doesn’t support anything in the long run.

It also completely overlooks and devalues the work that needs to be done to build a brand’s reputation. The world of digital-marketing and “Inbound” has fed a focus on conversions, leads, and MQLs and in some cases has deprioritized the important work that needs to be done to create trust with customers and prospects before you can ask for a name, an email, or a leads’ precious time. And IMO, the term “growth-hacking” has totally dehumanized the buyer and made the buying process seem transactional. Instead, the foundation of a healthy buying process is reputation and relationships.

Brand reputation isn’t always measured in conversions—its a collection of micro-interactions that buyers have with your brand that sometimes can be measured and sometimes it can’t. These interactions are just as important as converting leads, because they have to happen before anyone raises their hand and says, “Hey! Call me. I’d like to buy your product.”

The conscious or (sometimes unconscious) expectation that the prospect path is transactional and linear simplifies a complex relationship-building reality. B2B buyers are more knowledgeable, self-directed, and have access to more information than ever before. Eighty percent of a consumer’s decision to buy your product is often already made before you know that they exist. Before a buyer is known, they’ve read reviews, talked to their peers, visited your site, and researched your competitors.

Buyers want contextual interactions with both human and digital resources across a consistent but non-linear journey. And, by in large, they want their experiences with salespeople to be high-value or frictionless.

The consideration process is fluid and it involves marketing, sales, customer support, and leadership. It also happens on and off your site and outside of your knowledge.

Once a buyer is known, they aren’t looking to be “sold to.” People want to be educated and advised by someone they can trust. They are information-gathering and the consideration stage usually looks something like this.

Demand Base Illustration

Do you see that?

86 touchpoints
22 contacts
24 campaigns
11 channels
_____________
1 sale

When a prospective buyer first becomes known, they may or may not be ready to buy, but the number of micro-interactions they’ve had with your brand will either increase or decrease their likelihood to take a call with your company.

Demanding “more campaigns!” “send an email!” is fruitless. One-off email campaigns aren’t going to get you anywhere and the strategies marketers have been focused on are becoming less effective.

The average landing page conversion rate is 2.35 percent and the average email open rate is 24.8 percent. If you’re expecting marketing to drive leads, and you’re waiting for the linear path to deliver, you’re going to be waiting for a long time.

Even if you get 10,000 visitors to your site every month (which is a lot for a small to mid-size B2B company) you’re still only likely to get 236 leads. Of those leads, only a small percentage will be marketing qualified and meet your criteria for the kinds of leads you want to sell to. If we assume 25 percent of leads are MQLs, which is what I often find, that leaves you with 59 MQLs. But, wait, those MQLs still have to be responsive, and with an average email open rate of 24.8 percent, that leaves you with 15 responsive MQLs.

All of this is to illustrate that the standard path of a site visit, to form completion, to email is unsustainable. The approach needs to broaden and the whole team needs to be involved.

Strategies like link-building through publishers and directories, paid and display advertising, remarketing, live chat, and outbound outreach using LinkedIn and video are all strategies that your business should be invested in.

As I said, the buying process is made up of a series of micro-interactions. Investments in consistent and quality content, brand awareness and education, and personal outreach, will bear fruit, but you have to give it time and you have to operate as a team. Work with one another toward a sales goal and try not to draw a line in the sand between who is responsible for lead-acquisition and who is responsible for sales. Just as the buying process is fluid, so is marketing and sales’ role in the sales process.

Andrea Steffes-Tuttle