How to Select the Right Lead Generation Media Mix

Most B-to-B lead generation campaigns involve multiple touches via multiple media channels. But how do you decide which media are optimal, and more to the point, how they work together to generate a qualified lead?

Closing the Funnel: How Marketers Use Data and Attribution to Deliver Better Leads and Enable SalesMost B-to-B lead generation campaigns involve multiple touches via multiple media channels. But how do you decide which media are optimal, and more to the point, how they work together to generate a qualified lead?

It’s an iterative process. The first step is to establish with the sales team their monthly (or weekly, or quarterly) requirements for the number of qualified leads per rep — or by product, or by territory, or whatever is needed. Then, plan carefully the media mix that will feed the machine.

The media mix is a function of several variables, which you need to research:

  • The ROI each medium can deliver, based on your company’s experience and industry benchmarks.
  • The medium’s availability. Some media channels are scheduled intermittently. Consider when the trade shows and conferences in your industry are scheduled throughout the year. Other media may be only intermittently profitable. Content syndication, for example, is priced all over the place. Can you get enough leads from this channel to satisfy your requirements?
  • The campaign’s time horizon. Digital media are faster to produce than direct mail. Business events can take months of planning before a lead emerges.
  • Lead flow requirements. For example, sales may need more leads in the first and fourth quarters.
  • Your business objectives. Are there particular geographies or industry targets you need to reach?
  • Media effectiveness. Media come and go, in terms of their power to attract business buyers. Thank goodness there are new and exciting B-to-B media arriving on the scene regularly.

Enter your research data into a spreadsheet, and play around with it as an iterative planning tool. The table here presents a simple hypothetical example of how this can work.

Calculating Costs Per Lead by MediumYou can expand this spreadsheet to include other key variables, like timing, geographic territory requirements and your ROI hurdle rates.

You are likely to end up with some very inexpensive leads in your mix, and that’s a blessing. The unfortunate thing is that, typically, these leads are unlikely to be enough to meet your revenue targets or support your sales force’s quota. So you’ll need to select several options — ranking them by ROI, availability and your lead flow criteria — to come up with the optimal mix.

Multiple media working together generate better results than single media, with one big proviso: The messages must be consistent across media. An inconsistent message can cause confusion and erode the value of your brand.

Pulling this off is not always easy, especially in larger companies. You have to coordinate functional silos with their own managers, vocabularies, cultures, budgets and objectives. This requires tenacity, a focus on the customer experience, and support from senior management. But the payoff is colossal. All outbound contacts with customers, whether they are customer service messages or even billing-related messages, can potentially be harnessed for the lead effort.

A simple technique is to put the company URL on all messages received by customers. The same principle applies to customer touch points that are less obviously part of marketing communications, like packaging and invoices — any point where the customer comes in contact with the product or service. Be sure you have a gated offer prominently positioned on the home page.

Similarly, some ongoing marketing communications channels can be designed to support lead generation. To stimulate your thinking:

  • Ensure that all brand-awareness advertising includes an offer, a call to action and a response device.
  • Include a white paper offer, with response instructions, such as an 800 number or a web form URL, in your press releases.
  • When executives give speeches, invite your customers and prospects to attend.

Lead generation can harness all kinds of media channels, if you give it some thought and planning.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

How Big Should Your Campaign Budget Be?

How do you set a budget for a multi-touch, multi-target B-to-B digital campaign like the one Michelle was describing? The short answer is: Spend as much as delivers your threshold level of ROI. But, in B-to-B, it’s not so simple. Large enterprise sales cycles are long, as much as 18 to 24 months, so sales results won’t be available until long after she needs to make campaign decisions

At the ClickZ Live conference in New York, Michelle Killebrew presented an interesting case study of an IBM campaign called “Rethink Business.” It got me thinking (or, should I say, rethinking?) about campaign budgeting. My question is: How do you set a budget for a multi-touch, multi-target B-to-B digital campaign like the one Michelle was describing? The short answer is: Spend as much as delivers your threshold level of ROI. In other words, if Michelle’s campaign is generating qualified leads that convert to sales at a return that pays for themselves, covers her overhead, plus leaves a profit for IBM, she can keep the campaign running until the cows come home. Or until the campaign fatigues, and dips below the required ROI hurdle rate.

But, in B-to-B, it’s not so simple. Large enterprise sales cycles are long, as much as 18 to 24 months, so Michelle’s sales results won’t be available until long after she needs to make campaign decisions. And some of those results may never be known, since the leads are likely being worked by third party channel partners, who are often reluctant to share sales information.

Plus, Michelle said she had other objectives in mind for this campaign other than leads. She wanted to create digital experiences for prospect engagement, and she wanted to demonstrate the use of IBM’s proprietary marketing tools.

So in B-to-B, budgets are often set at a higher level than campaign ROI. Here are five methods that B-to-B marketers may be using to set marketing budgets.

  1. Percentage of last year’s budget. Take last year’s budget and subjectively add or cut, to arrive at a figure for this year’s budget. Can be applied by periods other than a year, like the quarter. Not based on much logic, but in common practice.
  2. Percentage of sales. Calculate a percentage of expected sales in the coming year; 4 percent is common in B-to-B for large, mature companies. Avoid using last year’s sales volume as the basis for this calculation. If last year was a bad year for your company, you won’t have a large enough B-to-B marketing budget to meet your growth goals in the coming year.
  3. Percentage of selling cost. A variation of No. 2, where the denominator is sales salaries and commissions, instead of revenue. You might see percentage levels like 20 percent to 30 percent with this method. It neatly reflects B-to-B marketing’s role as an efficient driver of sales productivity.
  4. Match your competition. In a high-growth, fiercely competitive stage in the product life-cycle, keeping up with your competitors may make sense. If you can find out what they are spending, which may require some clever intelligence-gathering activity.
  5. Zero-based budgeting. In this method, you determine your specific marketing goals, tied directly to business objectives. Then, you figure out what you need to achieve your marketing goals. For example, say it costs $350 to generate a qualified SMB lead that will convert to sales at 20 percent conversion rate. To bring in 3,000 SMB customers in the year, we need $5.2 million budget ($350/.2*3000). Clear and accountable.

Zero-based budgeting is the best way to go, in my view. You have a firm grasp of the numbers, and you are delivering against business objectives. With this approach, you can take you plans anywhere in the organization, and explain what you’re doing in a way that is meaningful to everyone.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.