In a recent Reachforce interview, Kate Athmer answered a question about common demand generation marketing challenges:

Traditional demand gen campaigns and channels are managed individually, and are almost never integrated with marketing automation or CRM systems. So marketers spend all their time managing media partners, testing lead sources, formatting and scrubbing spreadsheets, arguing over returns and loading leads into their database – without much insight into what’s actually working. Plus, all the manual components make it nearly impossible to scale for gains in marketing-attributed revenue.

In the grand scheme of things, each of the challenges Kate listed seem rather minor, so marketing leaders and the c-suite (and even the demand generation and marketing operations practitioners in the trenches) avoid addressing these inefficient processes.

Take all this inefficiencies in aggregate, however, and you have a major problem that affects revenue and marketing’s impact.

To dig deeper, I conducted a conversational survey of 14 B2B (for a report on the aggregate cost of bad leads that will be published in the coming weeks). The survey showed that the average marketing team spends more than 51.9 hours per month manually processing leads for database upload – that is, scrubbing, deduping and reformatting. That doesn’t even include all the other inefficient time sucks Kate mentioned.

“The average marketing team spends more than 51.9 hours per month manually processing leads for database upload.”

As the expectations of marketing’s contribution to the business increases, it’s crazy we don’t address these inefficiencies – sweat the small stuff. Here are 3 examples of how wasted time and inefficiency affect our B2B marketing and demand effort.

Slow lead velocity diminishes prospect experience

For all the effort spent to govern leads and support database integrity, the inefficiency of typical lead processing drastically slows lead velocity, which doubles back to hurt the prospect experience.

Take event-generated leads for example; according to a recent report by the event lead capture software company, Certain, 73.5% of survey respondents say they can’t follow up with leads as quickly as they’d like to. And the No.1 reason given for delayed follow-up was: “Preparing leads for follow-up takes too long.” (Certain, Closing the Loop: Crunching the Numbers on Event Followup, 2017).

Regarding content syndication, it used to take Iron Mountain at least nine days to follow up with leads after the prospect’s initial engagement with its branded content. And this isn’t uncommon; of surveyed businesses, the average time between lead capture and lead follow-up typically spans well more than a week and often sometimes more than a month. That’s easily enough time for prospect interest to cool or for a competitor to jump in. Of course, this then hinders sales pipeline value and customer and revenue growth, not to mention marketing’s relationship with sales.

Decreased team moral leads to employee turnover

A gradual sinking of enthusiasm and moral is an often-understated consequence that hits marketing especially hard. Demand generation and marketing operations practitioners didn’t spend four years in college (if not more) just so they could spend more than a quarter of their worktime tediously pouring over excel files.

People are a business’ most valuable resource, wasting them on mundane manual tasks is a substantial opportunity cost. Further, it often results in employee turnover, which creates direct costs regarding recruitment and training. Marketing leaders are hamstrung from achieving their marketing attributed pipeline and revenue goals if they’re constantly having to replace members of their team.

No time to optimize programs and implement more impactful initiatives

Opportunity costs are often an afterthought at best. 50 hours a month is a large chunk of time; think of all the other things marketers could be doing with that time: identifying new audiences; setting up new channel partners and revenue sources; fine-tuning measurement for better program optimization; creating new content; researching new marketing technology to scale efforts – the list is not short.

And once again, all this comes back to limit business growth. Plus, your creativity gets squashed.

The first “small” steps toward greater efficiency

Not everyone has a big budget to spend on completely restructuring their marketing org, buying fancy technology, etc. Take a deep breath and start small to win big. Here’s how Kate suggests getting started:

  1. Identify which demand gen challenges are affecting your organization. We created a demand marketing assessment guide to help with this. You can get it here.
  2. Talk to your peers at other organizations to learn how they’re approaching similar problems.
  3. Create a strategy for solving these challenges incrementally.
    • How can you reiterate manual processes to speed them up? For example, creating templates for repetitive efforts.
    • Are there any alternative ways to approach a problem that would be more efficient? Maybe existing tech you have could be repurposed?
  4. Research new martech solutions that could prevent problems or automate manual processes. Even if you can’t afford them now, start to plan 3, 6 or even 12 months down the road – it’ll help in the long run.

Thinking about where you want to be is important. Map out the path to get there and start trading some short-term effort for long-term gains, instead of just putting Band-Aids on it.