BtoB Lead Generation is Wrong

August 22nd, 2013 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

What we call “lead generation” today is really short-hand for multiple processes, none of which is “lead generation” and all of which is causing major headaches for BtoB companies today. This short-hand is actually the root cause of the declines BtoB technology companies are seeing in “traditional lead generation” channels. In reality, leads are the outcome of a several step process. With the changes in buyer behavior over the last couple of years, digital has really split our “pipeline” into 2 separate distinct staged funnels.

First is the awareness marketing funnel which is pretty simply the goal is to get prospective buyers aware of our solution and hopefully our brand of solution. Almost all lead generation activities fall into this pipeline – anything with a campaign (email, search, direct), PR, shows, etc. The goal is to now get them to come to our website for education and conversion. In short, we use our websites now to qualify on interest.

Second funnel is the sales funnel which then becomes a a qualification on ability to purchase, configuration, differentiation, negotiation, business case, etc. The hope is that our sales team is better positioned that their sales team and we can guide the buyer(s) towards our version of solution. Traditional funnel activities ensue, but a lot gets lost to misinformation, poor fit, lack of access to the buyers and influencers, formalized RFPs, and lack of clarity from the buyers as to their exact needs. Throw in strong competitors, budgeting battles, etc and you get a lot of “non-decisions” or lengthy sales cycles from hell that are far longer that the cost of your solution should require.

But, this 2 stage process is also causing considerable havoc on both out ability to generate the “lead” at the website (unqaulified) and the close “in the funnel for sales (conversion). Why?

1. Almost all awareness marketing is directed at “solution awareness”, so you are generating awareness of self-aware, educated buyers. 80% of buyers are NOT self-aware, technical experts. Consider your last committee sale. Did everyone around the table understand the differences and nuances? Probably not. Probably the decision maker was an executive who was not interested in the technical nuances, but rather what would they get, how much, did the technical team do their homework, risks, resources, etc.

2. What problem is the buyer(s) trying to solve? If they buy with a different process, have different requirements, have different pain symptoms, different decision makers; are they trying to solve the same problem? Do you find disagreement on the same teams as to symptoms / underlying problems? Of course you do. If you market awareness generically focusing on the similarities to other competitors in the same space, how does that align to all that investment that you made in developing your unique IP? If your larger competitors bundle a bunch of stuff, but you are a specialist and expert in an area, why would you focus on the generic larger category and not on your unqiue strengths. Are their problems that you solve better than anyone else?

3. The difference between potential and likely cannot be understated. Potential is demographically the buyer(s) should be our target. Role, industry, size, etc. BUT, since timing is a huge part of qualification, you don’t know if the no response to your awareness marketing is non-interest, no need, annoyed, or confused. If I buy a category once every 5-7 years, that means a vast majority of buyers are NOT in my market today. Won’t be for years. How much “awareness” will they tolerate before becoming immune to the messaging, perceive all of the competitors as commodities and interchangeable, or actually become hostile to a brand. With the average tenure of 18 months for CMOs, let’s just hope that you are early in the product lifecycle with a lot of upside rather than the CMO coming at the end of a 5-7 year cycle.

4. Buyers have changed. Most organizations are now forcing business case justification to seek to solve a problem rather than waiting to find a cool product and justify after-the-fact. Hence, they do their research ahead of engaging with vendors, they define the requirements before engaging, and they are starting with very focused RFPs. If your sales organization is complaining about being late to the dance, too many RFPs, or you are winining if you can get a clean  proof-of-concept; you are probably right, you are too late. Your awareness marketing is focused on Potential Buyers, not likely buyers. Likely buyers are motivated buyers who are experiencing symptomatic business pain, looking for the underlying strategic cause, and are building consensus on the problem before engaging with the vendors.

5. Vendors who engage on the symptomatic pain and the underlying problem diagnosis are the ones who are invited in early to become trusted advisors on the problem. This starts with a clear understanding of what problems you solve, how you solve problems better, recognizing differences in underlying problems, and focusing on helping the buyer committee get consensus as to their business problem rather than educating them on the Feature/Functionality/Benefits of your differentiated solution. Problem trumps solution.

The short-hand “lead generation” is not bad necessarily, but realize it is short-hand. If you have strong IP, but aren’t getting market differentiation, it is probably related to your marketing awareness aproach. If you are dialoguing with likely buyers but still getting stuck in the sales process, it probably is that your website isn’t helping the buyers through the decisioning process to get agreement to the problem and to map that to the decisions that they need to make around the solution selection process.

In short, you either aren’t helping to ID the problem, to problem to solution process, or you aren’t clear as to what problems that you actually solve and how to engage differently to solve different problems. That your IP isn’t very differentiated and you really have an IP problem. But, rarely have I seen it as a lead generation mechanics problem. Most professionals know how to fix product marketing and messaging. The specialists know how to run campaigns. Usually it is an upstream targeting and sourcing problem, not a downstream “lead generation” one. We call this problem the short-hand “buyer adotion”. Different problem, better results.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at www.socialgastronomy.com/blog. For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/rosenhaft or contact him directly at mrosenhaft@socialgastronomy.com.