2018 Lead Generation Trends
What B2B marketers want is leads. Lots of leads. Lots of high quality, highly engaged leads.
With this in mind, here’s a deep-dive exploration into the top lead generation trends and practices to help you crush your lead generation goals in the coming year.
In The B2B Marketing Playbook For 2017, Forrester states, “The next wave of competitive advantage for business-to-business companies will come from deepening customer knowledge and taking action based on an obsessive desire to deliver what their customers want before their competitors do.”
As access to information increases, and as buyer expectations rise, and as competition intensifies, it’s critical for B2B marketers to become obsessed with delivering a superior experience to customers. From mapping the customer journey to defining personas and then to delivering impactful experiences throughout the journey, it’s now all about the customer.
According to the customer intelligence firm Walker Information, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020. This differentiation translates into real revenue for companies, as evidenced through a great deal of recent Forrester research.
Those organizations that are most customer obsessed will win. Those that are internally focused will not.
According to Chief Marketer’s 2018 B2B Lead Gen Outlook report, email marketing dominates when it comes to the channel producing the largest volume of leads as well as the highest ROI leads. This is further corroborated by DemandWave’s 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing report, in which email was listed as the top channel for lead generation.
The ROI of email marketing is one of its most attractive features for B2B marketers. According to Campaign Monitor, for every $1 spent, email marketing generates a remarkable $38 in ROI. Want to improve upon this? Add A/B testing to your email marketing and you can improve conversions by 49%.
Email marketing may not be the sexiest tool in the B2B marketing toolbox. It may not generate headlines in Mashable or TechCrunch. However, it packs a very powerful punch.
According to Google, 71% of B2B workers start their research with a generic search. The demand is clearly there, and successful B2B marketers recognize the opportunity.
According to the Chief Marketer 2018 B2B Lead Gen Outlook report, SEO ranks second when it comes to the channel producing the largest volume of leads, and ties with live events as the second in producing the highest ROI leads. This is further corroborated by DemandWave’s 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing report, in which SEO was listed as the second most effective channel for B2B lead generation.
Live events are pure gold for B2B marketers, even in this new age of social media. According to Chief Marketer’s 2018 B2B Lead Gen Outlook report, live events tied with SEO as the second most effective channel for producing the highest ROI leads. Speaking of ROI, 44% of marketers experience a 3:1 ROI from event marketing, according to Statista.
Bizzabo’s Event Marketing 2018 Benchmarks and Trends report confirms that 80% of the C-Suite (among 400 surveyed) see live events as critical to their company’s success.
With B2B, you’re often talking about high value purchases. This increases the importance of in-person brand touchpoints and interactions, and live events will continue to successfully fill this B2B lead generation need into the future.
Account-based marketing (ABM) has been a hot buzzword in B2B circles, and it’s going to continue to deliver value moving forward. ABM is a strategy for growth by focusing on best-fit prospects and customers. With ABM, it’s about quality, not quantity. It’s about targeting, not inbound. It’s about identifying your best prospects and customizing a program specifically for each account. According to SiriusDecisions, more than 70% of B2B companies have staff that are fully or partially dedicated to ABM programs.
When it comes to results, as well, ABM delivers. More than 90% of B2B marketers acknowledge account-based marketing as either important or very important (SiriusDecisions). In a survey by Alterra Group, ABM had higher ROI than other marketing activities. For those willing to focus on ABM and invest sufficiently, ABM = ROI.
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Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ 2018 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report uncovered that 91% of B2B marketers are already employing content marketing in their mix, and among those yet to take the dive, 54% plan to do so in the coming year.
As for the most effective form of content marketing, the Content Marketing Institute’s and MarketingProfs’ report pointed to whitepapers. This mirrors the findings of the DemandWave 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing report. Similarly, the Chief Marketer 2018 B2B Lead Gen Outlook report identified whitepapers as the most effective form of content marketing for moving prospects through the funnel.
Blogs are also going to continue to be a core vehicle for audience connection and lead generation. According to HubSpot, B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
Moving forward, look for B2B content marketing to become more visual as well. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. The Pictorial Superiority Effect (PSE) means that the more visual the input, the greater the recognition and recall by the human brain. People remember only about 10% of the text they read 72 hours later, while the percentage jumps to 65% when visuals are added.
To that end, expect more video to be produced by B2B marketers than ever before. In Understanding the Expanding Benefits of Marketing with Video, Aberdeen Group writes that video marketers get 66% more qualified leads per year than those not using video. Wyzowl’s 2017 State of Video Marketing survey shows that 83% of businesses believe that video delivers a solid ROI.
Going All In on MarTech
According to the Salesforce 2017 State of Marketing report, top performing marketers are 14X more likely to be heavy technology adopters versus under-performing teams.
The Chief Marketing Technologist Blog documents the evolution of the marketing technology landscape each year. The landscape grew by roughly 40% in the past year, to a total of 5,381 solutions (from 4,891 unique companies). This is growth from 150 such technology solutions identified just five years ago, marking nothing less than explosive growth. Ashu Garg, General Partner at the venture capital firm Foundation Capital, has predicted a 10X rate of growth of marketing technology in the coming decade, reaching $120 billion in size.
Agile marketing is a process in which small, cross-functional teams focus on high priority initiatives in sprints, making deliveries in each sprint, with the aim of continuously and incrementally improving results over time. After each sprint, the teams measure the impact and identify ways to remove obstacles and improve results.
The methodology is based on rapid iterations as opposed to large-scale, waterfall style delivery, where projects are under cover for long periods of time and then released in a “big bang” type of launch. Agile encourages collaboration among team members rather than working in silos, and it relies heavily on rapid, data-based feedback with continuous small bets for constant improvement.
Just as agile development is now the norm for software development, expect an increasing number of marketing organizations to adopt agile in order to deliver campaigns, initiatives, and results in a more rapid-fire manner.
A website visitor who’s been retargeted with a display ad is 70% more likely to convert according to Wishpond, while retargeted customers are 3X more likely to click an ad than those who have never interacted with the brand in question according to Invesp. Retargeting works, and is still largely underutilized by B2B players. As businesses look to engage with prospects throughout the purchase cycle, expect to see more B2B marketers capitalize on retargeting based on onsite behavior to deliver value throughout the funnel.