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Where Are All The Great Leads Coming From? [VIDEO]

What's a top priority among B2B demand generation marketers?

Cost per lead. That's one of the findings in the B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey , a recent Software Advice research report conducted in partnership with Eloqua.

While this fact may not surprise you, consider this: The top three most popular channels in terms of cost per lead were social media (not ads), email marketing to a house list and SEO but these do not marry with the top three channels in terms of lead quality. Are marketers focused on maximizing budget vs. generating great leads?

Our own Elle Woulfe, Director of Marketing Programs, recently did an interview on these trends and other findings in the report. Check it out.


Ashley Verrill: Hello everyone an thank you so much for joining us for today's discussion. We're going to be talking about The B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey. I have here today with me Elle Woulfe, she is the Director of Marketing Programs for Eloqua, a marketing automation vendor.

Basically, we just asked some questions about demand generation channel utilization and also priorities and cost per lead per channel. We had about 155 replies from mostly c-level and director level marketers. Also, we had primarily smaller businesses with marketing budgets of $250,000 less, although we also did have some representation in the upper tiers on up to $100 million in marketing spend and higher. 

To start here, I wanted to talk a little bit about channel popularity. Of all the channels that we listed in the survey, what percent of the marketers that responded use each channel. So the first thing I found was that email marketing to a house list, SEO, social media (not ads) and trade shows topped the list for the most used channels, and that was with about 98%, 94, 88% and 87% of the sample all using those channels. 

So Elle, I wanted to know from you, are you surprised but that at all by that? Is that something you would expect? And do you see these channels changing in popularity and why?

Elle Woulfe: So, it's not super surprising to me. With the rise in what everyone's kind of talking about inbound marketing, I think that's where you're seeing the SEO and social media. So lower cost investments to bring in traffic to your front door. And it's interesting, we sort of see a range of quality from some of these sources depending on what they are. 

You would think the quality would be higher since someone has proactively sought you out. The outlier obviously would be trade shows. They are higher cost. I do think however, depending on, especially since given the sample is smaller business, a lot of these companies are just trying to establish themselves, generate awareness, make sure people know they are players. And so, that makes sense to me. I do think also companies are getting more strategic about that trade show spend and figuring out how to make those onsite conversations really meaningful and also figuring out how to follow up with the demand that they generate.

So you asked me if I see that changing, I mean it's always going to change right? Like I think the inbound marketing piece of it, the social media piece of it, it's really hot right now. It's been sorta big. What companies need to figure out now is bringing back the quality and the right people. 

I just did a ton of analysis on our paid Twitter programs, really all of our programs, and it's really surprising. You know, you look at a program that performs great from a cost perspective and a volume perspective. You get really higher conversions. But then you start to dig down little deeper - and we do this by scoring contacts - but you start to look at a program that looks so great on the surface and then you realize it's not bringing back the right people. Also, just because everything else looks great, suddenly you have a whole bunch of people sitting in your database that probably will never buy from you. And think that's where it may shift and change. 

I think SEO will always be super important. That's all about being found. Social media could be one of those ones that people start to realize maybe they're not in the conversations they thought they were in. I think the verdict is still out.

Ashley Verrill: So one of the charts I wanted to talk about also was the quantity chart. I noticed that third-party publishers and search engine advertising they received the largest percentage of votes for being a high quantity of leads channels. Why don't you think they scored better on the popularity scale if people felt like these are really good channels for producing a lot of leads?

Elle Woulfe: You probably are getting a lot of pretty active demand from paid search, which should - even if it's pretty expensive - be pretty productive for you down the funnel. But I don't know why it would be something that is both very productive from a top of funnel perspective and less popular. It seems a little incongruous. And I just wonder if that's more associated to cost more than really looking at metrics that are important for growth in the business.

Ashley Verrill: Are there other channels other than those we just mentioned that you would view as the staple high-quantity channel?

Elle Woulfe: No, the two that mentioned, the third-party stuff, and that could include things like sponsored email, sponsored webinars, content syndication might fall in that bucket as well. But again it's very interesting, we see very high volumes and low cost from things like content syndication, but the quality of leads we see from each channel by vendor is dramatically different. So again, I have programs look great on the surface and you're like "Wow I wish every program could be like this." Pretty inexpensive, generating a lot of both new names and volume of conversions. We're touching a lot of people.

But then you start to peel back the onion and realize those people tend to be kind of one and done, they wanted that piece of content or whatever, and they're not engaging further down the funnel. And they're maybe not the right people or they are not ever becoming a sales opportunity.

Ashley Verrill: I wanted to look now at the lead quality by channel chart. It was about 40% of the respondents agreed, followed by SEO, which got about 36% were saying it gets high quality leads channel. 

Elle Woulfe: Sure, and that makes perfect sense to me because again, what that's saying is I ran some kind of marketing program, I put some effort in the top of the funnel, I got people to raise their hand and say they were interested in something. It may not be the product you sell, but it could be some content you were offering to help them get smarter about your space, or whatever. SO both SEO and emailing to a house list, what you are doing is taking the fruits of those labors and then cultivating them further. With SEO, you are getting someone that proactively clicked on a link because they found you and came to you to consume something that you offered. 

So, it's less about like a display ad, which might get someone who's passively browsing for something and they see it and then they're interested. They've (through SEO) come to you. And then cultivating that house list. You've already gotten them to raise their hand once. Now it's about how do I build that sort of engagement preference overtime. So that's going to yield great results and that's something that everyone should be focused on or those investments they made at the top of the funnel are never going to pay back.

Ashley Verrill: And what you just said is definitely evident in the results as well. Print advertising, display, was at the very bottom of popularity and also quality and also quantity. So what you said is definitely in line with what people are talking about and reporting. 

Something I was surprised by, social media (not ads) was listed as the third most popular channel, however, everyone said it doesn't product quality leads, it doesn't produce quantity of leads, yet they're going to be spending more on it next year. I was really puzzled. Why do you think this is?

Elle Woulfe: I think it has a lot to do with just where we are in the social media spectrum. I mean it's still fairly early days if you think about it. I think people are still trying to figure out how to make this pay back and it's such a buzzword. It's such a hot button thing that even if you are sitting here as the director of marketing and you know how these programs are performing, you might have a CMO sitting over you going "you need to do more of that because that's what everyone is doing." So it might just be a little bit of disconnect between what actually works and what people are hearing is what's important today.

Ashley Verrill: Something else I wanted to talk a little bit about was the content and offers question. We did ask a lot of questions about webinars and videos and similar questions about do you see this as quality or quantity channels. 

And one of the things we found out was that it didn't really mirror the trend with the channel questions in that people didn't seem to prioritize as much by cost. Cost per lead was a huge driver of preference for channels, but when we started talking about content, videos for example was the second most popular yet it didn't garner really any great marks for quality or quantity of leads. Why do you think - I mean we are making a video right now - companies are still prioritizing videos in that way?

Elle Woulfe: I think it has a lot to do with how people want to consume content. Right? So you kind of have to match, even if it may not be as effective as you want it to you have to match that medium from which a person wants to receive that message. And obviously video is pretty high because people don't' have as much time to read. And I think you know written white papers have become slightly obsolete. Although they can still be effective. It depends on - you know, a lot of this has to do with where you are targeting that content in your funnel.

So, a higher-level video testimonial might do very, very well at a certain place in the funnel and yet if you're using if for top-of-the-funnel demand generation it's not really working as well. So I think people have to be very cognizant of that. 

We produce a lot of content that is sort of pre-funnel. It's related to our space, but it's slightly tangental. It's not like if someone is interested in this piece of content, they are definitely a buyer of marketing automation. It's about getting them educated and developing preference over time. Depending where I measure that piece of content in my funnel, at certain places it's going to look really ineffective. 

So I think it has a lot to do with where people are placing this stuff. A one size fits all approach to content can backfire. And depending on where you are looking at it in the funnel, it can be more or less effective.

Ashley Verrill: Do you see people doing that, having this one size fits all approach?

Elle Woulfe: Definitely. I think content has - again like social media - content marketing has become this sort of everyone needs to do it. But everyone's kind of talking about it in a different way and have different perspectives about what it is and what it means. And so I do think that companies with a more evolved strategy, they do understand that content is a means to an end, but you have to be really smart about where you are using it and how your using it, if you are gating it, what you're releasing it be it on social media, through a nurture, through an email program.

I think it's far more complex than we sometimes give it credit for being, this content strategy and content marketing in general. And I think a lot of companies have just gotten so focused on let's create lots of content and maybe aren't thinking enough about where to place it in the funnel, or how to make it most effective for the goals that they have in mind.

Ashley Verrill: We also did a comparison of marketing automation users versus non marketing automation users. We filtered the results that way as well, just to see if there was any variances in the responses. And one thing that we did find was that about 55% of the people that said they do use a marketing automation system rated their demand generation program as in line with expectations or above or far above expectations. And that's compared to only about 37% of non marketing automation users. Why do you think that is?

Elle Woulfe: Such a big question. It's so many things. Automation gives you the scale and the ability to really optimize those investments. So if you are spending a lot of money at the top of the funnel - if you are are going to trade shows, if you're investing heavily in SEO or paid search - without an automated process for how you are going to cultivate those contacts, score them route them, get them in the right hands, follow up with them, do all of those things, a lot of that investment is going to be some cost because you can't possibly manually get to all of that stuff. 

Marketing automation allows people to have an objective process for how they are ranking the demand that they generate and then cultivating stuff that's not ready. Without a marketing automation solution you would be trying to do that very manually. So you might go to a trade show, come back with a list, maybe you send all of those leads to sales. Ah! That's nothing that they are going to be happy about. Maybe you are following up some of the time.

I mean marketing automation is all about developing the expertise in how you manage that process from start to finish. What happens when someone raises there hand, who do they go to, what do we say and all of that capability happening in an automated fashion just allows you to touch more of it and allows you to be much more effective and it also allows you to respond in real time as you see things working or not working.

It's much easier to tweak an automated process and get that really humming for you then go "OK, what are we going to do next time? We're going to have to have a new approach?" Right? So I think there's  a lot of efficiency and productivity that's gained that way. And I think also people are just smarter about how they are handling the demand that they are generating because they do have a more rigorous process for determining quality and also how to cultivate demand on the back end. 

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