Demand generation experts often ask how can B2B marketers generate anything but Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLS). The reason is that best-in-class marketers follow a managed, repeatable process to intelligently create demand for their sales teams and building a prospect database is step one.
Addressable Market, Served Market, Target Market
Sales and marketing must collaborate to identify the addressable market. Because companies typically do not want to exclude or miss any opportunity, the default market segment is defined as the Global 2000. However, this is a huge mistake. In fact, this macro error will cause so much wasted time, effort and dollars it is mind-boggling.
Think about the industries that are included in the G2000 (appliance and tool, agriculture, coal, construction, containers, mining, real estate, railroads, recreation and waste management). Now think about the unique differentiation of the offering and the specific use case that it best solves. In that context, is the G2000 really the target or is more qualifying criteria required to laser in on the industries and companies within those industries that have a high propensity to purchase your solution? If the qualification process does not happen upfront in the marketing process then it happens downstream in the sales process– and that requires more resources and time to disqualify.
Effective market penetration requires tighter served and target market definition than the Global 2000 segment. Specifically, it requires B2B sales and marketing teams to drill-down to the company name level based on mutually-agreed upon criteria by the sales and marketing teams. Geography, industry and other quantitative demographic data should be maintained in a qualification matrix to assure alignment with sales objectives.
Functions, Roles and Titles
Once the individual target companies are documented, then the various functions (IT, Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, Support, etc.) involved in the B2B buying process must be identified. Usually in SaaS B2B technology purchases a Line of Business (LOB) will initiate a purchase. However, because IT may also lead (or be pulled into the buying process), they should be targeted as well. For each company, review organizational charts to identify from the top down, the individuals most likely to be interested in the solution (based on the qualification matrix). Search these companies to identify the titles and roles (keywords for each) that fall within the function. Then rent, buy or build lists containing exact matches for: company, function, role and title. If this is executed well then every response from an outbound campaign to this database will, by definition, be an MQL.
Lead scoring is typically used to segment MQLs (best practice) and to separate MQLs from non-MQLs (inefficient and ineffective marketing).
In the first scenario, it is appropriate to segment MQLs when the flow is so great that each MQL can’t be followed up within 24 hours (minutes is ideal). If this scenario exists, the demand creation and field marketing teams need to review the demand waterfall and the marketing calendar. MQLs should be generated within the context of the capacity of the demand management team. If the demand management team can only effectively respond to 10 MQLs per day, then it is counterintuitive to generate 100. The same rationale needs to be applied to each week, month and quarter. The best in-class demand management and field marketing teams will also slow the flow in the quarter ending month since closing opportunities at that point is the priority.
In the second scenario, there is a serious disconnect in the demand creation process if a filter has to be added to the leds collected to find those that are relevant. If this scenario exists, the most probable culprit is the prospect database. Rather than clean the database to ensure that it accurately reflects the target or served market, B2B marketers simply send an email blast to the entire database. In doing so, the problem is then pushed down the revenue chain to lead scoring, demand management and/or sales, depending on lead routing rules. This is a fundamental issue that best-in-class marketers overcome by starting at step one in the demand creation planning process. Unfortunately, naive marketers create more problems by forcing non-MQLs to squeak through to Sales Development Reps or Field Sales Reps. In addition, this can result in valuable resources being applied to append info to non-MQLs.
Inbound inquiries represent the only avenue capable of producing a non-MQL. While it is possible for marketing teams to gate all digital assets (check email addresses, verify company name, etc.), most do not incorporate that level of rigor. The result is that when individuals from companies not in the served or target markets complete web forms, automated or manual processes are required to weed them out.
While incoming phone inquiries and live chat pose a similar challenge, these channels allow a much quicker remedy as there is immediate human interaction.
Syndication of digital assets can produce non-MQLs if strict qualification criteria are not provided. The argument against imposing MQL criteria is that to screen or qualify downloads of syndicated assets is too expensive. This is a weak argument usually centered on staying in budget and creating a larger number of leads. Marketers that think cost per lead (CPL) is a guiding marketing principle and do not understand customer acquisition cost (CAC) – i.e. they typically fall into the trap of quantity over quality.
PPC is another route that can produce more problems than not. Unless individuals are qualified (self or automated), the basic premise is to drag a net through the sea to catch a specific type of fish. Again, this approach is more opportunistic than strategic and not the best route to align with a B2B direct sales force.
How and why do B2B marketers continue to generate anything but MQLs? Usually, it’s a fundamental issue that starts with flaws in the demand creation planning process. If sales and marketing have not collaborated to identify the target market (and the corresponding companies and contacts), then that is problem number one. And, if the B2B marketing team is not aligned with organizational goals to drive revenue (rather than generate leads) that is problem number two.
Once the time and effort to build a prospect database (one that contains only the titles of individuals in the buying process at the targeted companies) then, by definition, responses to outbound marketing campaigns will only create MQLs.