Survey Says? Follow These B2B Lead Generation Trends in 2018

It’s time to look back at our top blog posts of the year!
Below is our number 1 post!

Chief Marketer’s just-released 2018 B2B Lead Gen Trend Survey reveals loads of fascinating insights into how B2B marketers are generating leads and converting prospects. But how can you apply the insights to your B2B marketing efforts?

We’ll help you make sense of it all by sharing survey highlights along with “our take” on the what’s been successful for our B2B clients. Let’s jump right to it:

Engagement: B2B Marketers’ Biggest Lead Gen Challenge
Engaging targeted prospects tops the list with 59% of respondents naming it their biggest challenge in generating new leads. This is followed by finding leads that convert (51%), finding qualified names (33%), finite number of qualified prospects (31%), cost of new leads (25%), and other (5%).

These results aren’t surprising when you consider that after all is posted and sent, marketers want conversions—and to make a sale, you need to successfully engage the customer while they’re in your sales funnel. Many B2B purchases don’t happen “at first click,” after all. And to get that first click, you need a qualified lead.

Let’s examine engagement, specifically. Engaging leads in a lengthy sales cycle means connecting with them in a meaningful way through their buying journey. It requires offering something they value, which in the B2B space is often educational or decision-support content; it’s usually not a “sales pitch.”

That’s not to say the sales team isn’t involved in the engagement process—they definitely are. B2B marketers and their sales team have to work together if they want to maximize their lead gen efforts and boost conversions. They can build momentum and keep it going with a custom combination of lead nurturing techniques.

This shared marketing-and-sales approach is reflected in the survey results. Respondents consider these to be the most valuable techniques for most lead nurturing:

  • In-person meetings – 65%
  • Email marketing – 62%
  • Content marketing – 58%
  • Calls from sales people – 43%
  • Webinars – 28%
  • Social media – 23%
  • Other – 5%

Between sales’ in-person and telephone meetings and marketing’s digital efforts, give your potential customers multiple opportunities to engage with your company—in ways that appeal to them along their road to conversion. While discovering which nurture-to-engage methods work best for you, don’t miss The 3 Proven Techniques for a Thriving Lead Nurturing Campaign.

Pick Your Mix: The Most Effective B2B Lead Gen Channels
It’s a multi-channel world out there! In B2B direct response marketing, there are various ways to reach your audience and drive response to your offers. Consider which channels produce the largest sources of leads for Chief Marketer’s survey population:

  • Email – 53%
  • Content marketing – 44%
  • Search (optimization and marketing) – 44%
  • Life events – 40%
  • Social – 20%
  • PPC/Display – 16%
  • Other – 16%
  • Print – 12%
  • Retargeting – 10%

All leads aren’t created equal, of course, and the most valuable leads are the ones who convert to a sale. But take a close look at those top four channels.

Respondents say their highest-ROI leads come from email (58%), search (optimization and marketing) and live events (both 44%), and content marketing (39%).

As direct response marketers, it’s our job to make sure we’re deploying our campaigns effectively, choosing the right channels for our audience and, ultimately, sales goals. The wide spread of “effective” channels shows us that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It takes measuring results and at least a little bit of testing to determine the most effective approach for you—so you can arrive at the ROI you’re looking for.

We’ve found that a multi-channel approach is often your best course of action. Campaigns that include direct mail, email, and social components, for example, can perform better than those using a single channel because the audience is getting a consistent message across a few touch-points.

Learn more in Measuring the Success of an Omnichannel Direct Response Marketing Campaign and The Secret to Direct Response Success Using Social Media.

B2B Led Gen Content That Drives Results
Let’s zero-in on content for a minute. Content marketing shows up multiple times in the Chief Marketer survey because it’s effective for both generating and converting leads. Here are the most effective for moving prospects through the sales funnel:

  • Articles/blog posts – 49%
  • Whitepapers – 37%
  • Video – 36%
  • Research reports – 33%
  • Webinars – 29%
  • Product/service comparisons – 25%
  • Social media posts – 22%
  • Content created with partners – 21%
  • Images – 18%
  • Other – 9%

There’s value in each type of content, but where and when you use it in the sales cycle depends largely on your particular audience’s customer journey. While this discovery process can take some trial and error, it’s so important to understand your customers’ journey through the sales funnel and identify what content are they looking for at which stage. That way you can attract leads with relevant content offers and nurture them with more relevant content through to the sales conversion.

Explore these 3 Types of Marketing Content that Drives B2B Sales Leads.

It Always Comes Down To Metrics and Testing
Throughout this post, we’ve talked about measuring and testing. Your B2B lead generation efforts just aren’t complete without them! The survey reveals that these metrics matter most to B2B marketers in lead attribution:

  • Cost of conversion – 52%
  • Amount of time to convert – 50%
  • First click – 27%
  • Channel – 25%
  • Last click – 22%
  • Other – 6%

The survey report doesn’t linger on the topic of measurement, but the point is made that it can be difficult to track a lead through the lifecycle. That’s likely due to the fact that marketers are increasingly using multi-channel campaigns—and they’re touching would-be customers at multiple times.

The key is figuring out which metrics matter to you and your marketing and sales goals, benchmarking, and consistently testing your campaign components to optimize results. Again, you define what results you’re looking for, and measure and test accordingly. Take a deeper dive in Measure Your Campaign Success With these 7 B2B Direct Marketing Metrics.

So what are the survey respondents testing? They’re testing:

  • Type of content engaged with – 66%
  • Job function/title – 53%
  • Type of organization – 43%
  • Size of business – 39%
  • Channel – 34%
  • Geographic location – 31%
  • Type of product/price point – 30%

Seeing these results, you might ask wonder where you should focus your testing? We already addressed the importance of testing content, but testing demographics and other contact list and targeting factors can uncover huge opportunities. You can test anything and everything—but what’s most relevant to you and your business, customers, and conversion goals? As we like to say, If You’re Not Testing, You’re Not Maximizing Results!

Contact us to learn more. To download the survey, visit 2018 B2B Lead Gen Trend Survey.

Originally posted on April 18, 2017