B2B Demand Generation Benchmark – 2017

As with everything else in the marketing field, the world of business-to-business (B2B) marketing is continually evolving. This makes it tough on marketers when they need to decide the best ways to invest their time and money.

Some classic tactics have grown out of date, while others remain evergreen. Similarly, some new tactics seem to be no more than a flash-in-the-pan, while some are already proving to have staying power.

What’s a B2B marketer to do? To help answer this question, we’ve created this B2B Demand Generation Benchmark report.

We surveyed over 150 B2B marketing professionals in order to learn what channels, content types and technologies are best used to fuel their demand generation programs, and which have proven to be the most effective.

Key Findings

  • Marketers found in-house email marketing, traditional media advertising, social media advertising and especially referral/advocate marketing to be the best channels for generating large numbers of high-quality leads.
  • Web page calls-to-action (CTAs), videos and live product demonstrations were most cited as the types of content producing a high volume of quality leads.
  • Software solutions are crucial to demand gen programs, with email marketing, social media management, business intelligence, web analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) software all noted for being either “extremely” or “very” important for B2B lead generation.

Channels: Referral and Advocate Marketing Generates Highest Quantity and Quality of Leads

One of the most in-depth questions in our survey asked B2B marketers to rate the relative quantity and quality of the leads they generated through a variety of channels, from email marketing to trade shows.

Though every channel differed somewhat in terms of the rating of its quantity and quality, channels that did well in one category tended to also do well in the other.

Six channels received a higher than 50 percent rating of “somewhat high” or “very high” in terms of quantity, and “excellent” or “good” in terms of quality:

  • Email marketing (in-house lists)
  • Print/radio/TV advertising
  • Referral/advocate marketing
  • Retargeting advertising
  • Search engine advertising
  • Social media advertising

The channel that received the highest number of positive ratings for both was referral/advocate marketing. It received a 63 percent rating of a “very high” and “somewhat high” quantity of leads and a 68 percent rating of “good” or “excellent quality” of leads.

Quantity of Leads, by Channel
Quality of Leads, by Channel

The high rate of success of referral and advocate marketing is very much in keeping with Gartner Research Director Hank Barnes’ claim that peers, professional communities and B2B review sites are playing an increasingly important role in how B2B buyers inform their purchasing decisions.

These four channels performed the worst in the survey in terms of both quantity and quality:

  • Direct mail
  • Telemarketing/cold calls
  • Third-party lead originators
  • Third-party webinars

Direct mail and telemarketing/cold calls fall into the realm of outreach methods that have been outstripped by technology, with fewer and fewer Americans opening unsolicited mail or answering their phones for unknown numbers.

Third-party lead originators and third-party webinars, on the other hand, both rely upon outside businesses to support B2B demand generation, something that marketers are finding to be much less reliable and effective than simply going after leads on their own.

We also found that in-house email marketing lists received higher ratings for quantity and quality of generated leads than purchased email marketing lists.

Content: Videos, Live Demos & Web Page CTAs Produce Highest Volume of Leads

We asked our respondents to rank the demand- and lead-generation effectiveness of a variety of types of content, offers and CTAs.

Of those we asked about, the most effective content types for obtaining a “somewhat high” or “very high” quantity of leads are as follows:

  • Invitation to get price quotes (60 percent)
  • “Contact us” button (61 percent)
  • Side-by-side product/service comparisons (62 percent)
  • Live demo with a sales representative (64 percent)
  • B2B videos (65 percent)

In terms of quality of leads, the results were roughly the same albeit with slightly different percentages.

Quantity of Leads, by Content Type
Quality of Leads, by Content Type

These effective forms of content once again break down into a few distinct buckets:

  • Videos: As recently as a few years ago, many marketers thought of videos as indirect content, used for building interest and trust, rather than as a method through which to actually drive leads.

    These days, though, marketers are working hard to create more actionable videos, and many have had success asking buyers to fill out lead capture forms in order to access videos. They are also using CTAs to drive further interactions, whether within the video itself or via YouTube comments and annotations.
  • CTAs: Invitations to get price quotes and “contact us” buttons are both clear calls-to-action that move a prospect along the sales funnel or pipeline.

    By providing an easy, low-investment way to to go forward, these CTAs have shown themselves to be effective in capturing high quality leads, since those individuals who follow the CTAs are likely to be the ones most interested in learning more about a product or service.
  • Demonstrations: Though most technologically out-of-date methods were shown to be far less effective than other channels, our survey finds that the highest quality leads come from one of the oldest form of sales and marketing—a live demonstration with a sales representative.

    This, combined with the high effectiveness ranking of side-by-side product and service comparisons, shows that some classic methods of demand- and lead-generation still remain evergreen, despite changes in technology.

Technology: A Majority of Marketers Find At Least Four Types of Software Systems Vital

We were interested in the role that software systems play in today’s B2B demand generation landscape, so we asked our marketers about the importance of 11 different types of software for tracking, managing and executing demand-generation programs.

Four of those eleven—email marketing software, business intelligence software, web analytics software and customer relationship management (CRM) software—were rated as “very important” or “extremely important” by more than 50 percent of respondents.

Software Solutions Rated “Very Important” or “Extremely Important”

The most important thing to note about these results is that for each of the eleven software systems we asked about, at least a third of respondents considered that system to be either “very important” or “extremely important” (similarly, no software solution was considered “not at all important” by more than 10 percent of respondents). Clearly, software has a crucial role to play in B2B demand generation.

Amongst those software solutions, it makes sense that CRM software and email marketing software play an important role, given that both types of systems can be crucial for the “managing” and “executing” of lead generation plans across a wide array of contacts and customers.

Similarly, web analytics software and business intelligence software allow marketers to track, analyze and understand the effectiveness and impact of those campaigns.

It is somewhat surprising that only 45 percent of our respondents found marketing automation software to be either “very” or “extremely important.” However, it’s possible that this reflects a bias in many marketing automation systems towards business-to-customer (B2C) marketing and sales, rather than the B2B demand generation we were polling for.

How to Evolve With The Best of Them

Marketers looking to understand which channels and content types to prioritize should look to our respondents’ answers as a way to contextualize their own efforts, compared with the kinds of successes that other marketers are seeing.

Our research shows that, in terms of both channels of demand generation and types of content, a variety of methods have shown to be effective for marketers.

A mixture of methods taking advantage of both new technology and tried-and-true classics of lead generation will probably prove to be the most impactful.

Finally, our survey results shows that the overwhelming majority of B2B marketers use a highly sophisticated range of technologies in order to execute demand generation programs.

This suggests that, now more than ever, businesses need to be agile and quick-moving when it comes to technology evaluation and adoption of new software systems into their marketing processes.

To explore some new systems that might work well for your business, give our sales advisors a call at (844) 687-6771 and receive a free software consultation.

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