Lead generation has long served as the lifeblood of B2B marketing. But many common strategies are no longer effective in today’s evolving buyer journey.
In this post, we’ll explore the top three problems in many B2B companies’ lead generation strategies so you can spot where you may be erring — and know it’s time to pivot.
Lead Gen Problem #1: You’re Waiting for the Form Fill
If you’re waiting for the form fill, you’re showing up too late in the buyer’s journey to influence the shape of the sale. 6Sense data shows that at least 70% of today’s B2B buyer’s journey occurs in an anonymous research phase, where prospects aren’t ready for (and don’t want) direct sales engagement. Additionally, 78% of buyers have already established capability and budget requirements by the time you receive that form fill. This gives your sales team little wiggle room to offer additional solutions or even qualify the lead or account.
This also means that the majority of prospects coming through a form aren’t top-of-funnel (TOFU) awareness leads. The problem with this? The typical lead gen strategy of hammering the lead with overview content and impersonal, high-frequency sales nurture emails falls flat with these TOFU leads. They already know who you are. They’ve already been on your site, doing their own research. It’s a waste of their time and yours.
“Prospects don’t want TOFU content if they’re already making a decision,” said Jason Moulder, the B2B director of strategy and planning at Goodway Group. “The beauty of the new B2B buyer journey is that your prospects come to you when they’re ready, but you need the brand awareness to be found and valuable content to contribute to their research.”
“Think about your own buying journey, the research you do, and how often, or better yet, when in the process you submit a form fill — usually at the very end after you’ve done all your research and narrowed it down to one or two companies,” said Katie Hilton, a director of business strategy and development at Goodway.
Instead, treat form fills like middle- to bottom-of-funnel prospects who need additional consideration materials — think case studies, customer testimonial videos, ROI calculators and competitive comparison sheets.
“Your content for buyers in these stages should be ungated,” Savannah Quental, an associate director of B2B strategy at Goodway, said. “Also, make sure to incorporate high-value content that they can easily find so they can share it with their internal buying committee to move the decision forward.”
“The best thing marketers can do is make your content widely available and easily accessible, so prospects are learning from you (and not your competitors),” Katie added. “When it comes time for these potential customers to raise their hand, it’s your product or service that’s top of mind.”
Lead Gen Problem #2: The Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL) Distracts You from the Buying Committee
So, you’ve received another MQL. Hooray! But in celebrating your feat and passing the lead to sales, you’ve forgotten all about the buying committee. Our industry is called business-to-business, not business-to-lead, and the most important distinction is that B2B marketing requires an account-level approach. Single leads don’t decide to buy your product, service or solution. Buying committees do.
The average B2B buying committee consists of six to 10 people, but can go up to nearly 20. So, the thought of focusing solely on qualifying an MQL doesn’t make a lot of sense because there are so many others involved in the decision-making process within that account. This is likely why the MQL process fails to convert leads into closed-won opportunities nearly 95% of the time. You can’t be successful at lead conversion without identifying your MQL’s active buying committee.
Moreover, only focusing on MQLs, not taking into account — well, accounts — and pinning all of your calculations and hopes in MQLs is a shortsighted strategy. MQLs only measure so much. And sometimes the lead scoring strategies that make up an MQL don’t make sense anymore in today’s buying cycle, where many activities aren’t even trackable because of privacy legislation and cookie deprecation and fall into what 6sense calls the “Dark Funnel.”
“It’s key that marketing and sales workflows, automations and triggers are anchored on the account lens,” said Lindy Jones, the vice president of revenue operations at Goodway. “When focusing exclusively on MQLs, the understanding of the customer journey can be distorted. This can create a duplication of efforts, or even can result in confusing or conflicting messages for the buying committee. While individual MQL data is valuable, if you focus only on individual behavior, then you likely miss the forest for the tree(s).”
Job Titles Don’t Tell the Full Story of B2B Leads
Additionally, if you practice ABM, you have your list of decision-making job titles, but how does your organization handle MQLs from job titles outside that pre-determined buying committee? Sometimes this process is automated in your CRM, causing you to miss out on potential opportunities.
One common example is receiving an MQL from someone with the title “executive assistant.” This person was probably not in your buying committee, but they likely have direct access to someone in the buying committee.
“So many B2B companies don’t realize that job titles like ‘executive assistant’ could be conducting research on the buying committee’s behalf,” Jason explained. “If you disqualify those leads, you’re missing out on valuable information. That’s why platforms like 6Sense and Demandbase are so awesome because they show when multiple buying committee members at one company are searching for you at the same time. That’s really where everyone is trying to evolve to in the B2B space.”
“It’s also important to note (and measure!) which job titles are engaging with which types of content,” Savannah added. “A vice president may see a display ad, but most likely isn’t interacting with bottom-of-funnel content. It is more likely a key voice on their buying committee is — perhaps a marketing manager or operations director — and will surface and share differentiation and proof points with stakeholders.”
Lead Gen Problem #3: Your Forms Are Collecting Inaccurate Data
If you’re like many B2B companies, you still use gated content to generate leads. Your ads across platforms like LinkedIn, Meta and Google drive your audience to these forms, where you wait patiently for leads to come through. But unfortunately, your forms aren’t designed to collect legitimate, relevant lead data.
What’s more, your audience may not be ready to give you their contact information, anyway. This is also part of 6Sense’s Dark Funnel, where prospects put in fake information or avoid your company altogether while conducting their own research behind the scenes.
“Decide when it’s appropriate to gate content,” said Megan DeSousa, an associate director of B2B strategy at Goodway Group. “Someone may submit their information because the content resonated or was interesting to them, but they are not in market for your product. I recommend un-gating content to retarget and incorporate that asset into a holistic user journey.”
If you can’t part with gated content, make sure you’re collecting accurate, valuable information. Otherwise, let your audience learn on their own and then come through the funnel themself. Also, if you’re using enrichment tools like 6Sense or Demandbase, you’re already receiving information about who is visiting your website and what they’re interested in.
“With ABM platforms, you can leverage a contact/company enrichment API so as to minimize the amount of information needed, enhancing conversion rates on form fills,” Savannah explained.
Un-gating content and shifting your focus away from the MQL can also build trust between sales and marketing. Collecting false information for your sales team to follow up on isn’t an effective use of their time — or yours.
Our Approach to Form Fills
Here’s how we’ve approached form fills here at Goodway Group.
“We have adopted a form-free process to make it easy for future customers to access our content,” said Natalie Canavati, the senior vice president of business strategy and development at Goodway. “We’ve found that forms are mostly unnecessary if you’re armed with the right technology (outside of registrations for webinars or direct requests from prospects for our team to reach out).
“Through cross-collaboration with business development, marketing and revenue operations, we leverage technology that enables us to identify who visits our site, matches them to our target accounts, and arms our teams with buyer intent data. The end result is a beautifully orchestrated process that connects our prospects and new business teams,” she concluded.
Is Your Lead Gen Missing the Mark? Take a Fresh Look
If your lead gen is falling short, it may be time to shake things up. Move past MQLs to map buying committees, consider un-gating content when it makes sense, and make sure your content for leads that come in from form fills is more middle- or bottom-of-funnel depending on the account and lead status instead of top-of-funnel.
Want more resources to power your B2B marketing strategy?
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Anna Garrison is a marketing manager at Goodway Group who leads account-based marketing strategy, design and execution. Her career experience pulls from multiple realms, including leading marketing teams for a B2B agency, account directing and implementing winning digital advertising initiatives for clients. She is passionate about helping brands build demand and awareness within their target audience to create long-term business growth.