For business-to-business marketers, is any lead a good lead? More than a quarter of all B2B firms apparently believe so – 28% have no standards in place for lead qualification, according to a new survey.
A similar percentage of B2B firms don't seem to care. Nearly one quarter of all respondents say their firm sets goals based solely on the total number of leads generated. Another third have goals based on the total number of leads which are qualified, while 22% set their thresholds based on both qualified and unqualified leads.
That last group could reflect legacy thinking within an organization, according to David Cummings, CEO of marketing automation firm Pardot, which underwrote the survey. Historically, Cummings says, marketing departments have been measured by total leads. Looking at qualified leads reflect new technology and progressive thinking.
Or it could mean that firms have faith in their abilities to increase the potential of unqualified leads once they are captured, he adds.
But faith has its limits. The biggest area for improvement among B2B firms may be in lead nurturing among less-qualified prospects. Fewer than two thirds of the respondents indicate they have a formal program in place for attempting to increase marginal leads' viability.
Cummings notes that this could reflect the effectiveness of a firm's ability to generate qualified leads. "Say you generate 100 leads and 20 of them are quality leads," he suggests. "If there is that big a delta between quality and quantity, there could be some more gold in that stream.
"With a bunch of leads, you can see if there is an opportunity to take some of the unqualified leads and nurture them so at some point in the future they become qualified," he adds.
"But if you generate 30 leads and 28 are qualified, you don't necessarily need to squeeze out more."
Sixty percent of firms that do qualify leads use a combination of demographic and firmographic factors such as job title, company size and industry as well as actions take, such as pages and videos viewed. Another 15% rely on firmographics alone, and the rest use observed actions.
One of the survey's more curious findings is that 63% of the respondents attribute a percentage of business they close to a specific marketing campaign. The B2B sales cycle is typically a longer, multiple-touch process than a consumer sales process.
"There are a few different schools of thought," says Cummings. "One is the 'origination of lead' school, which says when first touches can be traced to a specific campaign, That is where the credit goes. Some analysts look at last touch. And some like to attribute sales to multiple touches, giving partial credit throughout the campaign. The lead originated from here, but the lead also touched these five other points, so we are going to weight those equally."
Each system has its use, according to Cummings, who predicts that as technology and methodologies approve, there will be an increase in multi-touch and last touch attribution.
"But right now it is focused around first touch. You will see the field 'lead source' in many different systems," he notes.
Qualified leads generated and total leads generated held the first and second positions among metrics ranked by importance, per survey respondents. These were followed by contributed opportunity value, landing page conversions and email clickthroughs.
Website traffic and page views and email opens held the two lowest positions, according to the survey.
"The nuance in this is that this is the B2B market," Cummings says of the rankings. "The macro-type statistics aren't as valuable. [B2B campaigns'] effectiveness is based on marketing qualified leads, not traffic."
"In business-to-consumer selling, traffic equals dollars. In B2B, macro statistics aren't as relevant," Cummings adds.