B2B Lead generation is a different animal from general advertising or marketing communications. The biggest difference is that lead generation relies on direct marketing, also known as direct-response marketing communications. Direct marketing comprises a set of marketing tools, approaches, and activities that are targeted, measurable, and driven by return-on-investment (ROI) considerations. But the key difference is that direct marketing’s goal is to motivate an action. The action can be anything from a click, to a phone call, to a store visit—whatever the goal of the B2B marketer is.
Based on prospect information captured and maintained in a database and using a variety of analytical and communications techniques, direct marketing provides the underpinnings of some of today’s most effective marketing approaches. These approaches include e-commerce, data mining, customer relationship management (CRM), and integrated marketing communications. But the major contribution that direct marketing makes to the business marketing equation is generating leads for a sales force, whether a field sales team, inside sales, or an outside sales resource like a distribution channel partner or representative.
The Direct Marketing Association publishes some interesting statistics on the size and value of direct marketing in business markets. Consider these from The DMA 2010 Statistical Fact Book:
- B2B direct marketing spending in all media channels in 2010 was $74.6 billion.
- Spending growth rate (CAGR) between 2009 and 2014 is expected to be 4.9 percent for B-to-B, compared to only 4 percent for the consumer direct marketing spend.
- B2B sales driven by direct marketing in 2010 represented $786 billion.
- Sales growth CAGR in 2009 to 2014 is estimated at 5.4 percent, compared to 4.9 percent in consumer.
- An estimated 3.9 million people were employed in B2B direct marketing in the U.S. in 2009. This is big business, in every sense of the word.
Sales people are an expensive resource for a company. The job of lead generation is to make them more productive. So, it’s not about a wide reach and a lot of volume. In fact, fewer, better leads trump more, lower quality leads every time.