Learn How to Maximize Lead Generation

Anyone with a blog can call themselves a thought leader – but how do you find the real deal?

If you’re lucky, you meet Ruth P. Stevens (her incredibly impressive bio is at the end of the article).  And if you’re extra lucky, she agrees to an interview drawn from her new book “Maximizing Lead Generation.”

What are the biggest challenges for marketer to generate the number of leads they need currently? Budget? Technique? Lack of alignment?

Lead Generation Best Practices defined Learn the key framework from Ruth Stevens to create a lead process and generate more qualified B to B leads.


My view is that the biggest challenge is process.  This is not necessarily the most exciting part of lead generation, but it’s where the most leverage lies.  The company that puts a solid process in place, and executes consistently, is the one that wins.  The most important process areas to focus on are lead qualification and lead nurturing, although most marketers focus on inquiry generation.

What are the best performing lead sources currently? (eg Website organic, website PPC, retargeting ads, Iinkedin sponsored posts, etc).

You’re going to kill me, but the truthful answer is: It depends.  There are just too many variables involved.  So marketers should test all of these, as well as traditional media like telephone and postal mail.

But, I would also add to the list your own website (beyond search), which, if done correctly, can be a source of your cheapest and best leads.

What B2B marketers need to do is add an offer, a call to action and a dedicated landing page to the website, to motivate visitors to leave behind their contact information, for ongoing communications.  Plus, add IP address identification software, to “de-anonymize” the visit, and then consider an outbound call to the visiting company, to discuss their needs.

What activities are falsely classified as lead generation and how does this impact marketing?

To me, the big offender is list vendors, who present their products as “lead lists.”  This is ridiculous, and perpetuates the myth that contact names are leads.

How important is awareness to driving ultimate downstream lead generation or supplier preference?

Awareness is very helpful, of course.  The problem with awareness as a marketing goal is that it’s hard to measure.  I prefer to focus on response-oriented communications, where you generate not only awareness, but also action.  As the great copywriter Bob Bly notes, “In B-to-B, all marketing is direct marketing.”

What new lead generation tactics have you heard of that are gaining traction / performing well; and what previously high performing tactics are on the wane?

Direct mail is undervalued today by lead generation marketers. It is still extremely effective, when used properly.  Part of the reason is the abundance of well-targeted prospecting lists.

Another reason is that business people still read their mail, and their physical inboxes are a whole lot less cluttered than their email inboxes.

What’s the easiest way to waste a significant part of your lead generation budget?

Two glaring points:

  1. By not systematically qualifying and nurturing inquiries.
  2. By exhibiting at a trade show without a well-considered data capture and inquiry follow-up plan (and training booth staff to engage with passers-by).

What percentage of B2B companies these days have true alignment between sales and marketing? Is the percentage growing or stagnant?

I don’t have a number.  In my observation, the best alignment potential comes from the top, when the heads of sales and marketing like, trust and respect each other.

What are the most important factors to rapidly move marketing leads to sales ready prospects – and how much elapsed time / marketing touches are needed to get those leads really ready?

There are no shortcuts, really, because you are dependent on what’s happening at the prospect’s end, and you have limited influence there.  But 45% of inquirers eventually buy in the category.  So a company without a process for lead qualification and nurturing is going to lose that sale to the competition.  I know I sound like a broken record by now, but this is where I see companies fall down on the job.  It’s often the basic blocking and tackling that is missing.

You noted that social channels are delivering less than 5% of leads from all social channels. Will any technique or technology push social out of the 5% box?

Social can be put to good use in lead generation, but its best applications are misunderstood today.  Like PR, social cannot be viewed as a scalable, reliable media channel for lead generation.  You can’t build a quota-fulfilling revenue plan on it.

What you can do is:

  • Add an irresistibly titled content offer to social media messages, linked to a dedicated landing page where you capture contact information, and then nurture that relationship until it is ready to hand to a sales rep.
  • Use social media touches as part of your ongoing lead generation and nurturing programs.

If you are just starting to re-build your B2B lead program, what are the first 3 critical steps?

  1. Plan your process, from inquiry-generating campaigns, to lead management, to results analysis and reporting.
  2. Invest in data management and hygiene.
  3. Communicate the value of a lead to everyone in your company. This is a real point of opportunity.   The value of a lead can be explained in two ways:
  • The cost per lead, meaning the investment the company makes in generating a lead.
  • The revenue value of a lead, meaning the average order size of a closed lead.  If everyone in the firm is aware of these numbers, they are more likely to treat the lead with the respect it deserves.

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention and teaches marketing at Columbia Business School. She is a guest blogger for the Harvard Business Review and past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Crain’s BtoB magazine named Ruth one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.

Ruth has generously offered a free chapter from her book, available for download here.



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