As another year commences, many a B2B marketer have pulled together EOY funnel actuals vs. goals, and are refining 2016 assumptions and projections accordingly. Likewise, they are digging in on the performance of various lead sources -- for volume, quality, value, velocity -- to ensure the right mix to achieve 2016's goals.
If you are tracking leads, then presumably you also have clear lead definitions along each stage of the buyer journey, e.g., Inquiry, MQL, SQL. Not all leads are created equal, right? Right.
And if you are tracking leads by source, then you presumably also have a set of classifications to indicate from where the lead originated, e.g., event, email campaign, press article, outbound call, because not all lead sources are created equal, right? Wrong.
Well, technically, all lead sources are not created equal; there are online sources, offline sources, and sources vary by volume and value. However, for purposes of classifying leads by one source or another, all sources are equals; they are peers.
Yet, some B2B marketers are confusing lead generation RESOURCES for lead SOURCES, classifying contacts (names) as leads, and as such, inflating their contribution to the funnel. I have heard this rationalized as:
- "All of our campaign and prospecting activity is based on contacts sourced by marketing. Our database is the our top of funnel."
- "These names were paid for by the marketing budget, so we should get credit for them at the top of the funnel."
- "These contacts were provided to sales reps who were able to generate pipeline opportunities from them, so marketing should get credit."
In the end, marketers who practice lead management in this way are doing themselves a disservice, focusing on quantity over quality and, ultimately, reducing lead conversion rates.
Contact discovery and validation are necessary enablers for many B2B account-based marketing, lead development and sales teams. Lots of resources out there for this, e.g., NetProspex, Salesify, ZoomInfo, DiscoverOrg, LeadGenius, RingLead. Use them to fuel your marketing campaigns, leveraging email, direct mail, and digital and social advertising. Use them to support prospecting activities.
Any resource - whether via in-house staff or third-party tool - that facilitates contact discovery and validation is part of your overall customer acquisition cost. But until that contact raises his or her hand, e.g., downloads that piece of content, registers for that webcast, agrees to a demo/meeting, etc., the contact is just a name, not a lead.