David Azulay

The bottom line in any marketing campaign today is return on investment. That makes it imperative to know what matters more in your lead generation efforts, quality or quantity.

“If you put something out there that gets a lot of respondents, those people aren’t necessarily leads,” notes David Azulay, vice president, client services at The Kern Organization.

Much depends on reaching your prospect the right way, at the right time, in their buying cycle. Sometimes, you need quantity, notes Azulay. For example, a startup ISP he worked with only cared about getting names to fill up the sales funnel. They then scored those names and passed them along to sales reps. In contrast, an established software vendor selling a million-dollar solution with a long sales cycle needs to craft a much more careful campaign that nurtures prospects along the way.

What Offer is Right for You?

Whether you want quality or quantity campaigns determines the types of offers you should make to your prospects, says Azulay.

For example, if you’re looking to get a large number of folks to raise their hand and overcome their reluctance to even talk to a salesperson, offers such as gas or Amazon gift cards perform in today’s thrifty environment. (In flusher times, notes Azulay, leases on flashy cars played well.)

“You need to obtain insight into what they want and ease them into the process, and make them more comfortable with you,” he says.

If you’re looking for quality leads, a good place to start would be offers that give prospects more information about their problem that your business might be able to solve. Take a look at your inventory of information, such as testimonials, webinars and white papers.

“What do you have that can communicate value to prospects?” asks Azulay. “Often, companies don’t know what they have and how to hit prospects with offers at different times in the sales cycle.”

“Don’t make it too complicated or vague—offers that are related to what you sell and are relevant work best,” Azulay notes.

Today, B-to-B marketers need to have offers for several different touches before they ask a customer for a meeting. A first or second touch might involve getting a prospect to offer some information in exchange for a small gift such as a USB drive or the chance to enter a sweepstakes. To get a prospect on the phone, marketers may need to combine a hard and soft offer—say, offer a $100 gift card in exchange for a conversation.

Sales and Marketing Need to Get on the Same Page

The lead generation process is strongest, of course, when sales and marketing work together. But sales and marketing aren’t always aligned, points out Azulay.

“Marketing wants to bring in more leads and hand them off, but sales wants more qualified leads,” he says. “Sales doesn’t want to cultivate leads. Sales reps want to schedule the in-person appointment and close the sale.”

Often, many leads sit in a database and get outdated because sales reps don’t have any relationship with them and don’t have the time to cultivate these fresh names. That means the initiative falls on marketing.

“Marketers spend millions and many sales leads are never followed up on because there is no relationship,” Azulay says. “Maybe 50% get followed up on and maybe half of those get qualified. But, if you cultivated those other 50%, you could create a relationship.

“If you’re not ready to do complex lead nurturing, keep it simple,” he suggests. “Keep it automated and get the message out. If you don’t have an automated nurture system, after the data goes out to sales you don’t know what happened to those leads and why prospects didn’t buy.”

It’s important, though, to remember that regardless of who is making the contact—sales, marketing or other departments, possibly about multiple product lines—customers should only be touched with the most relevant information. “You don’t want to risk them opting out of all communications in frustration.”

Lead Gen and Shrinking Budgets—What to Do?

In the current economy, every B-to-B company is facing a smaller marketing budget. However, the demand generation process needs to keep going, says Azulay. You have to put the investment in or you won’t have any sales.

Companies shouldn’t take the economy as a cue to simply shift all their dollars online, though. “If mail worked for you three years ago, why do you think it won’t work now?” he asks. “I don’t think everyone should be starting from scratch.”

Now is the time to test and look at new lead gen tactics you might not have tried before, such as mobile, he says.

“Also, there are many tactics that we’re not measuring as well as we can, such as click-throughs on splash or thank you pages,” Azulay notes. “We need to look at where we’re missing opportunities to track and test. Monitor where people are looking online and do an inventory of your offers. Try putting a different white paper on your website and see what pulls better—sometimes, it’s that simple.”

Get Someone Else to Sell Your Proposition

Don’t just toot your own horn—get someone else to toot it for you. If you’re trying to reach high-level CTOs, get a respected industry resource, such as a publication or consultancy, to evaluate you. Ask your customers what they think, too.

“Gauge your current customers, prospects, and see what they are really looking for, versus what you think they’re looking for,” says Azulay.

Also, remember that more people are typically involved today in the buying cycle from more departments in an organization than ever before. That means that peer opinions of decision makers are getting more consideration, too.