As a tech marketer I’ve always believed that lead generation should be my number one priority. To feed business success, it’s essential to deliver a steady stream of actionable sales leads to the sales force. But it’s not an easy task – especially in recessionary (or even post -recessionary) times.
Luckily, we’re living smack dab in the middle of a web 2.0 revolution, full of cool new tools and techniques that make it possible to generate the leads we need.
Why Offline Tactics no Longer Work
If you’re generating leads using offline tactics like direct mail and cold calling, you’re likely to need around 7-10 suspects to create one prospect, about 7-10 prospects to create one qualified opportunity and approximately 7-10 qualified opportunities to create one closed deal. Do the math and you’ll see that generating any volume of offline opportunities means you’ll need to maintain contact with a huge number of raw suspects.
The problem with offline marketing is that you might as well be working blindfold. You have to reach out to a huge number of people via multiple, sustained and costly outbound sales and marketing programs just to identify the few that might be interested in what you have to sell. Post qualification you’re left with only a handful of people who might want to buy what you have. Even fewer will be in the position to do anything about it.
There’s simply too much clutter out there for these tried-and-tested techniques to effectively break through the noise anymore. 99% of cold calls go to voice mail and messages are rarely, if ever, returned. Meanwhile, email and direct mail response levels are plummeting.
Despite these bleak numbers, many B2B companies still pound away at ineffectual outbound marketing programs and sanity-sucking cold calling campaigns.
Say Hello to Inbound Marketing
Thankfully the online world is providing an increasing number of new and more fruitful avenues for savvy tech marketers to achieve their lead generation goals.
Success comes in the shape of ‘inbound’ marketing. And for that you need a strong online presence. Your goal is to attract visitors to your website and convert them to known prospects for follow-up by your sales team.
A recent Marketing Sherpa report shows that 87% of all B2B product purchasing cycles start with an internet search. According to my own site stats, well over 80% of these searchers start with Google. That’s why every serious B2B marketer must operate a well-managed pay-per-click (PPC) program, supported by compelling landing pages and a well-optimized, well-articulated and engaging website that’s focused on visitor conversion.
The Search Ends at Your Website
As an inbound marketer, you’re no longer searching for a needle in a haystack. Instead, you have the opportunity to tap into a stream of people who are already looking for a solution to a problem or pain they’re experiencing. They are already motivated enough to type their search into Google. Your job is to ensure their search leads them directly to your products and services, using online content that rapidly and clearly informs them that you have the solution to their problem.
You can say goodbye to your offline metrics too. By attracting site visitors that are already somewhere in the buying cycle, the conversion ratios from identified prospect to closed deal improve dramatically. My own experience confirms this, because over the last few months 15% of all my inbound, web-generated leads have found their way into my opportunity pipeline. That beats every offline program I’ve ever run.
Is Offline Marketing Officially Dead?
During the recent recession, I’ve seen quite a few marketing bloggers state that their organizations are increasing their focus on lower-cost, online marketing activities, including pay per click campaigns, permission-based email, webinars and lead nurturing. At the same time, they’re toning down budget-sucking activities like trade shows, interruption-based direct mail and third-party tele-prospecting projects.
Will this increased online marketing focus finally change the way technology marketers approach the job of demand generation? The opportunities that exist to build powerful in-bound programs are so rich, and the metrics are so compelling that I have to believe that this recessionary tactic may finally toll the death knell for many of our old offline approaches.
Sean O’Donovan is the owner of FunnelBuilders, an internet marketing consultancy that helps technology organizations develop and implement smart post-click marketing strategies that generate actionable in-bound sales leads.