Generating leads is a big deal. Acquiring new accounts and customers an even bigger deal. Getting both of these right is a very good deal. Getting them wrong – well – can be a very bad deal.
Recently, I reviewed the interesting findings from the CSO Insights Lead Optimization Study. The study’s primary focus was to see how marketing is attempting to generate more demand and how well it supports the efforts of sales to generate revenue. Over 600 firms participated in a web-based survey. If I were to pick one word to sum it up, I would pick: struggle.
The Never-Ending Struggle
What it boils down to is marketing continues to struggle with having accurate data on targets, prospects, and customers. In fact, the study points to this issue getting worse. When it came to prospect data having less than 50% accuracy, the number of respondents in this category increased by 8% year-over-year. Oftentimes, data alone is insufficient.
The study points to how nearly 70% of the firms surveyed are resorting to the use of sales intelligence services to help them with this issue. The results are mixed. With nearly 50% of the firms not likely to recommend or refer these services.
Lack Of Buyer Insights
This portion of the study speaks volumes. It is speaking loudly about data and sales intelligence being inadequate and inaccurate. We love to be a data-crunching business society. What it is proving is it does not get you all the way there. The “there” being higher volumes of leads and more newly acquired accounts and customers.
The never-ending struggle, as the study points out, is identifying the right prospect. It will be never-ending unless companies today realize the importance of buyer insights. Conducting buyer insight research gets you past data and sales intelligence; and closer to the promise of “there”. Where organizations get stuck is not moving past segmentation oriented data and intelligence crunching. Missing out on acquiring deep buyer insights, which helps in understanding both team and individual buying behaviors.
Companies today are confusing segmentation data-crunching and sales intelligence with buyer insights. This is not to say neither is important. Consider them components, which include buyer insight as an individual component. I often see this confusion in buyer personas as well. Where segmentation data and sales intelligence are recast as buyer insights – when, in fact, they are not. Buyer personas, when they are buyer insights and research-based, can help in communicating who is the right prospect.
Saying The Right Things
The study provides further evidence of the one word we are dealing with: struggle. Which is, getting the right message to the right prospect. It is a domino effect. If you do not have an idea of who is the right prospect, then messaging is shooting darts in the dark. Somebody is liable to get hurt.
The study does paint the picture of reality today. The concept of a single B2B buyer is just about finished. Firms responding to the survey indicate the average number of individuals involved in the final buying decision is 4.5. Yet, most B2B marketing and sales messaging is oriented towards the single buyer. This is like sitting at a dinner table of six and deciding you are only going to speak to the person to the right of you. You will not be making many friends doing so.
Marketing and sales messaging is more challenging today than ever. The number of stakeholders in buying decisions is increasing. Technology is enabling flatter organizations and more participants. Buyer insight research can help in identifying the distinct goals of each stakeholder as well as developing the right message for each. The study indicates Big Data is helping in this area. It can. But, it will not get you all the way there.
The study indicates continuing struggles with lead nurturing and sales engagement. This, from my perspective, is a matter of understanding time. Without the deeper buyer insights, beyond segmentation data-crunching and sales intelligence, your timing with prospects will be off. What I have seen with lead nurturing is not knowing about time can lead to too much nurturing or too little nurturing. Leading prospects and buyers to believe your efforts are just a tad too pushy or you frankly are not interested.
Sales, without the sense of time, can be made to look clueless. Lacking the insights, tools, and alignment with marketing activity information, sales can feel compelled to start at the beginning. When in fact the buyer is well along on their path-to-purchase. This becomes, however, not only a poor reflection on sales, but also a poor reflection on the entire organization.
Right Prospect, Right Message, At The Right Time
In order to improve customer acquisition effectiveness, through lead optimization, companies will need to focus on building buyer insight research into the equation. This is the path to enabling knowing who the right prospects are, crafting the right messages to multiple stakeholders, and being more efficient in knowing when is the best time to nurture and engage.
As we look ahead, companies are starving for expansion and growth. Getting off on the wrong foot in lead optimization designed to support growth can be a serious set back. Igniting the domino effect of the wrong prospect, the wrong message, and the wrong time. It pays to know the right level of buyer insights, which gets you right with buyers.
(Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you gain more insight into how to identify the right prospects. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on the issue of lead optimization today. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying to find the right prospect.)