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B2B Wins #5: What is the state of your B2B Demand Gen?
Surprisingly good. No, really.
As the year comes to an end, all the consultancies are dusting off their crystal balls. Activate recently published a State of Demand Gen report for 2022. Like many, Activate seeks to help us understand the state of our business in a very changeable time.
Activate's State of Demand Gen 2022 summary paints a relatively rosy picture of the world of demand gen.
Two thirds of us are meeting or exceeding our KPIs
Budgets for the coming year are resilient
Digital events, after explosive Covid growth, are just becoming another part of the mix
Three quarters of us continue to believe content is king. Discerning browsers from buyers remains difficult.
This both feels comforting and disconcerting. The economy seems fraught with peril. So how can things be rosy? At the same time, pipeline seems okay so maybe rosy is the way to go. The data can't lie, right?
Marketers are telling us that Demand Gen has proven its value — and that they continue to adapt and optimize their efforts in pursuit of revenue.
I do worry that hitting KPIs and proving our value don't always line up. Yes our metrics should align with business value and such but often those metrics are very focused on marketing activity and not business activity. For example, campaign performance metrics are a good measure of marketing campaign effectiveness. But is there a tie to actual business value?
ZoomInfo has an opinion on marketing metrics that matter. ZoomInfo may be playing to their audience, mostly sales types, with these metrics but I do like that they mostly focus on whether market is helping get early stage leads further down into the funnel. ZoomInfo's recommended metrics are:
Lead-To-Close Conversion Rate
Initial Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
Marketing Percentage of CAC
Marketing Originated Customers (attribution is going to be knife-fight)
Marketing Influenced Customers (more knife fighting)
You may disagree on one or two of these measures but if you want to prove your value some version of these metrics will be required.
ABM remains popular. No, really.
Account-based Marketing remains the top program priority (46% of respondents) for the next 12 months.
The continued high popularity of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) surprises me. I'm not surprised because I doubt the importance of an effective ABM operation. It surprises me because of what I hear from the field.
When I talk to marketing executives there's always a fair amount of eye-rolling at ABM programs and tech. I think a common challenge is that many companies treat ABM as a data and technology program. At its core, ABM is a business integration challenge. Sales and marketing don't just have to play well together, they have to integrate. That's hard for two functions that are sometimes warring tribes.
ABM is a business strategy in which the business concentrates sales and marketing resources on a set of target accounts within a market. It not only requires agreement on the right accounts but requires the coordination of sales and marketing processes so that leads generated in target accounts are efficiently progressed and converted.
According to Gartner, the number one thing to focus on for progressing and converting ABM prospects is highly relevant content delivered in a personalized experience. If you've done your ABM right you know the prospects and where they're coming from. Both you and the sales team can be ready for them. This may seem like an obvious tip but it's hard to do and a key anxiety moment for marketing and sales execs.
Qualify. Qualify. Qualify.
43% of companies who did not hit their KPIs send lead straight to sales. High performing companies screen and qualify.
There's a bit of a holy war right now about where BDRs and lead qualifiers belong. I know that a lot of organizations have the role in marketing (or the CRO's team). I've heard from several sales execs saying that they're wrestling those resources into their sales teams. I'm not sure how I feel about this.
It's clear from the Activate data that high performing organizations only send to sales leads that have been screened. Some of that screening can happen online in a form or within an app. But in high consideration B2B sales that's mostly done by people. So how can sales focus on the high value prospects if they have to do the legwork to qualify them? This will continue to be an area of contention but regardless rigorous screening of leads is a best practice.
Speaking of sales, there's only one way to have a great relationship with your sales teams. You have to meet with them and sync up in a regular cadence. You'll never appreciate they're point of view if you rely upon emails and Slack messages. Also, send them great leads. That’s even better than a meeting.
In-Market and Deep Funnel
Resources are more aligned with capturing demand than nurturing and converting demand
While the rosy survey results don't sync up with what my gut is telling me about the future it's not the first time that my gut was wrong.
One thing is certain. Whether the economy grows, shrinks, or goes sideways expectations are that you're going to have to do your part to grow the business. Like many of your peers, you're already doing a solid job at creating top-of-funnel demand. Where you're likely underinvested is in nurturing and progressing the leads identified so that business eventually closes.
Key to mid-to-late progression is:
Having the analytics to identify visitors at that stage and evaluate their actions/signals
Intent data, often spurious early in the process, can be meaningful identifying late stage actors
Make sure you have the content needed at this point, content that shows your solution in the context of their problem, webinars, customer stories, and comparison sheets will be critical to getting to a sales hand-off
Sales should be picking up all the knowledge you've gained about the client to date so that first contact is meaningful to the client
If you want to contribute to business metrics, mid-to-late funnel progression is the entire game.
I don't know what the coming months are going to deliver from a macro economic perspective. Like most folks there are mixed signals all around us. Unemployment low. Inflation high. Interest rates at an all time high. Housing prices high. If you look at any economic indicator its not behaving in a way we'd historically expect. So, despite all the uncertainty the future may indeed be rosy. I'd also make a Plan B.