In this week’s Labcast, B2B marketing expert and best-selling author Brian Carroll provides insights into successful lead generation in Part II of his discussion with OpenView.
In Part II of our discussion with Brian Carroll, executive director of Revenue Optimization at MECLABS, Brian shares his tips and recommendations for lead generation, qualification, and nurturing success.
You can listen to Part I of the conversation here.
Kevin: Hello and welcome to this edition of Labcast. I’m Kevin Cain, and this week I’m continuing my conversation with Brian Carroll, the Executive Director of Revenue Optimization at MECLABS. Last week Brian and I began a conversation about B2B marketing success. This week we’re going to pick up where we left off. We had been talking about identifying leads. So my first question Brian is: How do you actually qualify those leads once you’ve got them in place?
Brian: Well, that’s a great question because what our research is showing is between 5% to 15% of marketing generated leads are qualified in fitting the universal lead definition. So you need to be asking yourself, “What am I going to do with that 95% or that 80% to 95% of leads that aren’t qualified?” This is where I think there are huge opportunities around lead nurturing. What that’s about is having an ongoing relevant dialogue with viable potential customers to determine their timing to buy.
Your question is this. Lead nurturing is taking people who are interested, they may be interested in the content you offered. You may have offered an ebook or a white paper or a webinar. Whatever the case may be, that person was interested in the content. It doesn’t mean they’re ready to talk to your sales team yet.
What I think we need to be doing is really looking at understanding how our customers buy. When you talked about personas, personas are really helpful in this process because we need to understand our audience. But from there it’s then developing a messaging strategy with nurturing which is of this focus. Your goal with nurturing is to help progress people from interest to purchase intent.
This also connects with the sales team because the biggest struggle I find with salespeople is they talk to someone. They know that they’re a fit. It’s not a question of if they could buy. It’s more of a question of when. The struggle salespeople face is the same we were talking with lead qualification: “What do I talk about next?”
This is where content, having meaningful touches go out where you’re sharing an email with an article, a blog post. Using content as a valid business reason for the sales team to call and engage someone and share something of value is something so that nurturing just doesn’t happen till you get to a sales ready lead. It happens after that when the sales team needs tools and things to help them nurture that conversation forward too. That’s where I think marketers should put their attention next in terms of lead qualification.
Kevin: Are there certain pitfalls that you see people making or falling into in terms of nurturing programs? There must be too many touch points or who knows what. What are your thoughts there?
Brian: I really love what’s been happening in the space with marketing automation, but I would say this. If you take a mess and you automate it, all you get is an automated mess. With nurturing, what I see happening is the champion of nurturing right now is email. But what’s missing — and I know that OpenView really has been a strong advocate in teaching this — is around looking at nurturing and connecting that with the human touch, and that human touch is often going to happen through business development reps or a qualification team or an inside sales to advance that conversation.
What I would say the pitfall I see marketers do is they’re doing batch and blast emails for nurturing. The other thing I see is they’re sending out numerous irrelevant offers without having any measurement of engagement. This is where lead scoring can help you prioritize where to make the human touch. It won’t replace it. You can’t rely on just lead scoring to say this is going to give you a qualified lead, especially when you have a complex sale. But it can help you prioritize where a human being is going to reach out and interact and using that data to know what’s likely to be relevant to share with people.
I would say that there are three pitfalls. Not measuring what’s happening with the content that’s being shared and people blasting that out. Two is not really looking at is what we’re sharing relevant with our audience, and if you’re not doing that you’re causing, with every touch, your future customers to emotionally unsubscribe. You need to have some way of measuring that. If no one is opening your email or if they aren’t clicking on it and you see this pattern over a few months, they may not be engaged in your content because it’s no longer relevant for them. You need to figure that out.
There are a lot of other things I could say, but I think that most marketers are beginning this idea of nurturing without a vision or a process in mind, and I really think the vision needs to be looking at how do we progress customers and understand how they buy. Your sales team has that information, and they have it in looking at past sales they’ve had, who was involved in the process, the questions they asked, the resources that the customers are going through.
This is again going back to the alignment thing. I would say your whole goal is to help support that person inside their company bringing the idea in and realizing nurturing is doing this. Most of the buying happens when a salesperson isn’t talking to the customer. Your lead nurturing strategy really needs to be guided towards progression, and there’s a whole . . . you and I could spend an hour just talking about content strategy and just be scratching the surface. But these are some of the big things I would say.
Kevin: That’s really helpful, Brian. The last question is the softball of all of them, and that’s just how can our listeners get in touch with you or follow you online?
Brian: Okay. Well, there are several places. I would encourage all your listeners to visit MarketingSherpa.com. We have free newsletters. Also MarketingExperiments.com. We have $15 million of research that we publish for free that they can access and draw from. There’s a newsletter there as well. I would encourage listeners that they can also subscribe to the webinars and web clinics. We have lots of resources there that are freely available online. Finally, MECLABS.com if they want just kind of a big picture view of who we are and the various things that we do.
Kevin: Great, Brian. Thank you so much for joining us. This is really interesting.
Brian Carroll is the executive director of Revenue Optimization at MECLABS. A widely recognized expert in lead generation, he is also the author of the bestselling book, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. You can read more of his writing at the B2B Lead Roundtable Blog and follow him on Twitter at @brianjcarroll.