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Lead Generation for a New Era


Lead Gen PipelineI received an interesting email the other day from Bizable CEO Aaron Bird, asking, "Why are companies still using the term 'lead generation,' which focuses only on the top of the funnel?" He goes on to say that by focusing on the top of the funnel, marketers tend to optimize for "leads" rather than focusing their efforts on those activities that would have the most potential to drive new revenue.


It's a legitimate question, and a good one. Most marketers I know have been caught in this same predicament. P&L owners hungry for results often miss the forest for the trees, and marketers, eager to placate them, feed them generous helpings of "top-of-funnel" metrics, designed to hold them at bay.


For Bird, "pipeline marketing" takes traditional lead generation initiatives to the next level, by connecting sales and marketing data to enable better decision-making, based on revenue. It’s basically a blend of quantity and quality. While marketing has traditionally focused on generating new contacts or "leads," the focus of the sales team has been on generating revenue. And when these two disciplines are not in alignment, you've got a problem. And while data and analytics can help to identify and — to a certain extent, qualify — prospective buyers, you still have to understand what it is they're looking for, and develop both a robust mechanism for addressing their needs and, more importantly, timely, relevant content that will answer their questions, keep them engaged, and help to nurture them along to the next stage in the decision-making process.


Research firm Forrester uses the term Lead-to-Revenue Management, or L2RM, as shorthand for the need to calibrate your marketing spend with the end goal of revenue production. Why? The traditional lead gen "funnel" has simply proven to be inadequate. Most leads never become customers. That's just a fact of life. In fact, Forrester says that as many as 90% of leads never pan-out. And largely as a result, marketing has come to be seen as a cost center, since marketing reports tend to focus on the number of leads instead of focusing on revenue. The job of the marketer, then, is to find a better way to align their demand gen initiatives with the revenue needs of the sales team.


Savvy marketers are re-engineering their lead gen process to transform their marketing, from merely being the supplier of leads for the sales team to becoming the facilitator of customer engagement across the entire customer life cycle. And to be successful at this requires a different set of skills than what many organizations already have on board. Some examples include:

  • Business Analysts who can translate “we need it to work like this” into an actual, usable business workflow
  • Data Analysts who can track web-based behavioral data and interpret their findings into something actionable
  • Email Operations Experts who understand email deliverability, CAN-SPAM regulations, and opt-in/opt-out issues
  • Tech-Savvy Designers with better-than-average knowledge of HTML and CSS, to take fullest advantage of technical advances in design and presentation, particularly as they relate to mobile devices

Marketing initiatives and sales activities can no longer afford to be considered as separate processes, in which the hand-off of a qualified lead is their only point of intersection. Forrester’s research suggests that today’s B2B buyer begins the discovery process with a web search… but they don’t actually engage with a vendor until they’re well on their way to making a purchase decision. What this means is that as marketers, we need to a) identify prospective leads earlier, b) nurture them over time, and c) provide them with an easy way to engage with us when they're actually ready to.


In order to do this, we need to understand excatly what it is they're looking to accomplish with the purchase of the product or service they're researching. This can be boiled-down to a few basic questions we need to answer:

  • What are they trying to accomplish? What pain point are they looking to resolve? This tells you what value they're looking for. And remember, a nifty product feature is worthless unless it provides a meaningful benefit to the prospective user.
  • Who is actually in the decision mix? For big-ticket items or services, buyers tend to work in teams. A line manager, looking to make their team more productive, might kick-off the buying process with a recommendation, but a P&L person will want much greater insight into the ROI of a given purchase. Additionally, end users may — or may not — be part of the evaluation process. Each will have their own needs, issues, and hot buttons, and you need to identify and understand them, then craft positioning and messaging that addresses each.
  • What's the timeline? This is important, because buyers will have different needs at different stages within their buying process. You need to understand the context and identify the questions that they need to have answered at each point in the process. You also need to understand what might trigger a buyer to move from one stage to the next, as well as identifying any potential obstacles that might interfere with the process.
  • How can you address their questions? What types of information or content can you provide that will address their questions? A marketer in the "discovery" phase might prefer an infographic, while a P&L owner might want to see some case studies, while the CIO or CTO might want a technical white paper. Be prepared with the appropriate material for each.
  • Where else are they looking for answers? Where are your prospective buyers looking for information? Aside from basic web search, are there LinkedIn groups that focus on the challenges met by offerings similar to yours? Are there industry publications or blogs that cover the same territory? What about analyst firms, influencers or consultants? And don't forget your own salespeople and channel partners. Make sure they are armed with and well-versed in all your supporting materials.

Answers to most of these questions can be most easily obtained by asking your prospects directly. Also, don't overlook your sales team... they're on the front lines, and have undoubtedly bee subjected to the wants and objections of your prospective buyers, on multiple occasions.

So while you're thinking about that funnel, remember that what goes into the top is only the first step in a complex process. What happens in the middle of that funnel will ultimately determine whether or not those leads become customers! Learn how to engage your prospects at every step in the decision-making process, and you'll be well on your way to filing your pipeline with well-qualified revenue opportunities, instead of just leads!


Questions or comments? contact Dave Orban or call (609) 586-4286.

About O&Y — We're a B2B marketing consultancy serving small- and medium-sized businesses, with emphasis on start-ups and emerging tech companies. We provide a range of cost-effective marketing services, designed to increase awareness and drive revenue, including: Market Research and Analysis; Go-to-Market Planing; Product Marketing; Corporate ID; Branding, Positioning and Messaging; Collateral Development; Website Development; Demand Creation Strategies; PR and Media Relations, and Analyst Relations. For more info, visit us at

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