Content marketing, online registrations and webinars are some of the fastest-growing lead generation channels among B2B marketers this year, details Chief Marketer in its annual B2B Lead Generation Survey. Email remains the most popular lead generation channel, though, with 87% of survey respondents planning its use this year. It’s also among the most highly rated when it comes to sources of qualified leads.
From a list of 15 lead generation tactics, survey respondents were asked to choose the 3 that yield the largest number of qualified leads. Referrals (50%) topped the list, followed closely by email (48%) and live sales visits (46%). There was a steep drop-off after those 3 leaders, with direct marketing (25%), search marketing (19%) and telemarketing (17%) heading the next tier.
It’s notable to see email continue to be a highly-rated channel despite some apparent limits to its effectiveness. For example, a recent Yesmail Interactive study found very few B2B email subscribers to be active. And in a study released earlier this year by Bizo, 45% of marketers believed that less than 5% of their known email contacts ultimately convert into marketing qualified leads. At the same time, email has been consistently given high ratings for its ROI. For those Chief Marketer survey respondents using email, the most common top-3 reasons for doing so are its relatively low cost (70%), ability to track responses (58%) and ability to personalize offers and content (48%).
Although few survey respondents chose social networks as yielding the largest number of qualified leads, there seems to be an uptick in the use of social networks for lead generation. This year, 68% of respondents plan to use social for this purpose, up from 59% last year. By far the most common way of using social for lead generation is by building relationships and awareness, with fewer looking to drive website traffic.
Social’s growing stature as a lead generation channel doesn’t come without challenges. Asked to identify the biggest obstacles to generating new leads via social, respondents pointed to content requirements (47%), prospects wary of social marketing (35%), social leads not being relevant to the core audience (34%), and inability to effectively measure ROI (34%).
Nevertheless, social’s growth means that it is now trails only email and online registration/opt-in (70%, up from 58%) as a lead generation channel. (As for incentivizing those opt-ins, respondents reported being most likely to offer product discounts/samples, enhanced services and contest/sweeps entry.) Other lead generation channels that are growing in popularity this year include content marketing (67%, up from 53%), webinars (44%, up from 29%), and retargeted ads (32%, up from 19%).
In other results from the study:
- Lead generation is measured more commonly by cost per acquisition (65%) than by cost per lead (22%) or cost per contact (13%);
- Some 43% believe their company is above-average in handling leads and moving them through the sales funnel;
- Almost two-thirds attribute leads to multiple channels;
- Roughly half believe that multiple touches are what make a lead sales-ready as opposed to marketing-ready; and
- The direct response tactics that are primed for more aggressive use this year are: new creative content/offers; more cross-platform integration; and more retargeting.
About the Data: The Chief Marketer 2014 Lead Generation Survey was conducted online in February 2014. 699 marketers responded; of those marketers, 399 identified themselves as business-to-business marketers. 32% of B2B respondents identified themselves as holding C-level positions; 14% identified as senior vice presidents or vice presidents; 24% as directors; 21% as managers and 9% as “other.” B2B respondents were from a variety of business categories — 31% were from marketing, sales or promotion agencies; 16% were from manufacturers; 7% were from banking, insurance or financial firms; and 8% were from retailers or catalogers. The remaining respondents were from other sectors, including the list business, healthcare, publishing, nonprofits or entertainment/travel.
In May 2014, Bizo surveyed 505 B2B marketing professionals about their lead nurturing processes and strategies. Companies of all sizes were represented in the survey. Of the respondents, 47% are in marketing director or manager functions; 24% are marketing associates; nearly 6% are CMOs or marketing VPs; and 2% are CEOs. Marketing agency functions were also represented, with 17% of respondents in agency roles.
Respondents from a variety of industries were represented: Consumer service-based companies comprised nearly 25% of all respondents, with software companies contributing to over 16% of the total, and business services and manufacturing companies each contributing more than 7%.