B2B Lead Generation: Getting on the same page

A lead is a lead. Or is it?

I always recommend to my sale lead consulting clients that they create a glossary of terms related to their B2B lead generation programs. Why? To reduce misunderstandings.

Here's a first draft of a glossary I gave one of my clients to help them get started writing theirs. Perhaps it can be a starting place for yours too.


A person at company or contact name on a database


A company, division, department or facility that has purchased from our company.


A listing of contacts at specific companies and facilities which is available for ongoing use. Also often called the Sales & Marketing Database or Customer & Prospect Database.

Decision Maker:

A contact who makes or approves the final decision to buy.


A contact who recommends or influences the buying decision. Also called Recommender.


A contact who has responded to our company’s marketing (Website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Responder or Prospect.


A response to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Response.


A broad term used to describe everything from lists to inquiries to tradeshow leads to sales ready opportunities. To avoid confusion, this term shouldn’t be used.


A list of contacts at specific companies and facilities, as in a rented list. Also called "Database" if available for ongoing use.

Marketing Qualified Lead:

An inquirer, responder or prospect at a particular company and facility who has been "qualified" as meeting the minimum definition of what represents a sales-ready opportunity.


A contact who has responded to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.) or has been contacted and determined to have some potentional, but has not yet been qualified as being sales-ready. Also called Inquirer or Responder.


A contact who recommends or influences the buying decision. Also called Influencer.


A contact who has responded to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Inquirer or prospect.


A response to our company’s marketing (website, direct marketing, exhibits, advertising, etc.). Also called Inquiry.

Sales Accepted Lead:

A Marketing Qualified Lead that has been accepted by sales.


The contact who specifies our company’s products or services.


A contact who appears to be similar to our company’s Prospects, Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Accepted Leads and Customers, but who has not specifically expressed interest or determined to be a Prospect.

Do you have terms and definitions to add to a BtoB sales lead glossary?

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How to Improve Your Marketing Automation ROI

Effective B2B marketing processes plus automation yield outsized returns

Calculating the return on marketing automationA recent research study by Sirius Decisions (sponsored by Marketo), Calculating the Return on Marketing Automation, shares a framework for establishing a return on marketing automation, and discusses why the purchase of a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) alone - without the proper processes and skills wrapped around it - will likely produce disappointing results.

According to the study results, Marketing Automation technology paired with appropriate, systemic processes can yield four to five times the number of closed deals when compared to deployed technology alone. The magic lies in realizing higher conversion rates throughout the Sales cycle. It’s not about generating more leads; it’s about identifying the right leads.

Companies using technology alone to solve their demand creation issues experience lower returns than companies who have no marketing automation AND no processes. The report breaks companies into three segments:

  1. No Marketing Automation with no processes
  2. Marketing Automation with no/weak processes
  3. Marketing Automation with average processes.

No MAP / No Processes

This group features organizations that exhibit a complete set of legacy demand creation tendencies. They have a funnel with an extremely wide top that quickly narrows to a trickle by its end. With no shared processes in place between Sales and Marketing (e.g. target market definitions, lead handoff criteria, service-level agreements), lead generators have little choice but to flood the funnel with any prospect who shows the slightest interest. Email is the most typical tool, yielding a response rate of roughly two percent.

Almost all responses are passed on to a qualification function (usually inside sales). Conversion rates from response to ‘lead’ can range as high as 85 percent. The lack of qualification at the top results in abysmal conversion rates at the middle and bottom. An average of only five percent will be qualified as true leads by telemarketing. “Sales fatigue” sets in over time in terms of leads that come from Marketing. Telemarketing finds out these leads are of low quality, so reps turn to cold calling, preferring to control the quality of their lead destiny themselves. Field reps will likely ignore Marketing’s output even more. Given a starting marketing database of 50,000, this scenario yields roughly one closed deal (or average additional revenue of $100,000) per marketing program.

MAP Plus No / Weak Processes

This group is made up of organizations that purchase a MAP, but don’t spend the time building all (or any) of the processes that drive true MAP performance. By itself, a MAP can help marketers refine their targeting and the assignment of specific content to prospects; together these drive greater response rates. This yields a response rate of three percent. Improved data quality within the MAP means that Marketing will reject more inquiries, dropping the conversion rate at the first juncture to 75 percent. This rate is still too high, overflowing the telemarketing function with even more unqualified leads. The middle and bottom conversion rates are unchanged from the first scenario. The close rate remains the same, but costs increase.

According to the study, a typical software-as-a-service-based MAP runs roughly $100,000 in the first year - when one includes the platform, implementation, integration, training and support. In this "MAC plus NO or Weak Processes" scenario, an organization with a database of 50,000 will see revenues increase only about $100,000 in the first year. In addition, if Marketing has raised expectations that lead quality will increase due to this MAP purchase, greater friction between Sales and Marketing results.

MAP Plus Average Processes

Process plus marketing automation equals higher ROIThe third group consists of organizations that purchase a MAP and drive alignment between Sales and Marketing around target market definitions, lead handoff criteria and service-level agreements. When this occurs, marketers are able to take advantage of broader MAP functionality including lead scoring, portfolio marketing and lead routing. The value of this functionality shows in performance. Improved focus on the best targets raises the response rate to roughly four percent. A significantly lower conversion rate of only four (compared to 85 and 75 above) percent ultimately yields much better results, because these are true Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).

With a handoff process in place, Sales now accepts and processes more than 58 percent of MQLs. The higher quality of these leads in turn yields an increased close rate of a bit more than 23 percent. An organization can expect to close roughly five deals per program based on a 50,000-name database. That’s a revenue increase of about $400,000.

Lessons Learned

Processes should always precede technology. Deploying technology without Sales and Marketing processes in place will only highlight the problems you always had. The key is to rethink your approach and use technology to leverage your processes, not the other way around.

How does this align with your experience?

Please join the discussion by clicking on the word “Comments” in the line below the Share button.

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B2B telemarketing: An interview with Michael Brown

Ask before telling and learn before selling

Michael A BrownMichael Brown is our “Business to Business By Phone Expert”. When it comes to using the phone to generate, nurture and qualify leads, there’s nobody better than Michael.

With all the developments lately in B2B marketing, telemarketing still has a prominent position and I want to highlight that. So I sat down with Michael and asked him what’s new in telemarketing.

Mac: Michael – tell me what you’ve been up to. What’s the latest and greatest in the world of B2B telemarketing?

Michael: Well Mac, there’s a debate inside Sales and Marketing circles about cold calling versus “smart” calling. Cold callers call to pitch. Smart callers call to learn what the prospect’s organization is trying to accomplish, and to see if the caller’s product or service would be helpful. The cold caller uses a generic (same script for everybody) approach. The smart caller has a unique approach for each call… one based on significant research and pre-call preparation.

Okay, Michael. I hear where you’re going with this. What other differences are there between cold calls and smart calls?

Make smart calls from behavioral and affinity lists, not demographic or segment lists. Behavioral lists are based on verbs in addition to SIC codes (for example – “grew by 15% or more”, “merged”, “moved”, etc). Affinity lists are based on recent purchases of related products or services. These lists cost more, but end up giving higher ROI because their performance is so much better.

Smart calls begin with a quick visit to the prospect’s website to find out what their business does and how they position themselves. Focused homework beats “tell me a little about your business” every time. Lose the elevator pitches, hype, and feature dumps. Ask before telling and learn before selling.

Smart calls are exploratory calls based on an organization’s relevant news – an event or occurrence that changes them into a better-than-average prospect for your company. Something that you can build a logical, valuable conversation around.

Tell me what you think about integrating telemarketing with some of the more recent tools?

We all need to get really good at multi-media marketing. I define that as: phone + e-mail + social + SEO/SEM + online content. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Getting all the pieces working together creates real synergies and greatly improved results.

Speaking of “working together”… strongly encourage coordination between Sales and Marketing. The more closely the two collaborate; the better off everybody is… including your customers.

I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said, but especially that last statement regarding Sales and Marketing alliance. Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Michael. Any closing remarks?

Yes. Provide for time. Market and sell with vigor and enthusiasm tempered with humility and patience.

Well put. Thanks again.

If any of you readers have anything to add about Smart Calling, or the integration of marketing tools across media, please weigh in below.

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Writing effective email copy from an expert in B2B marketing, lead generation and lead nurturing

This is the latest in our ongoing series of tips from some of the experts who provide our sales lead management consulting and training services and our marketing automation and lead-generation agency services.

Meryl Evans

Meet Meryl Evans, one of our email copywriting experts.

Meryl is a professional writer and editor who specializes in online B2B lead generation and lead nurturing. She helps our clients build and maintain relationships with their prospects and customers through email, newsletters, landing pages, blogs and more.

Here are Meryl’s top email copywriting tips:

  • Write emails with the prospect or customer in mind, not the company. Remember that even in B2B, people make the buying decisions.
  • Use paragraph breaks every three or four sentences. Many emails still have long paragraphs, which are hard to read. Faced with a long block of text, many people are daunted and move on.
  • Use multiple sub-headings, and numbered and bulleted lists (like this one) whenever possible. People skim and scan when reading online.
  • Limit calls to action to one or (at the most) two items. Any more than that and people get confused about what you want them to do. Confused people do nothing.
  • Add a response link to the beginning of each email for those ready to take action before reading the rest of the message. Don’t make people who are ready to respond search for your link. Repeat the link further down for those who take longer to decide.

Worth considering:
Professionally written lead generation and lead nurturing emails get higher open rates, and more responses. Consider putting our email copywriters to work. Click here to learn more.

Readers, what are you top tips regarding B2B email copywriting?
Please add your comments by clicking on the word “Comments” in the line below the Share button.

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B2B lead qualification and scoring

qualified leads

The growth of the Internet has changed B2B buyer activity.

Buyers don’t wait for a sales person to call them anymore. They get most of their education on the web. As B2B buyers increasingly use online channels to do their research, Marketing meets prospects earlier than ever in the buying process – often long before the prospects are ready to engage with Sales. This is one reason that, on average, only 25% of new leads are sales ready.

So you need a way to determine which leads are ready for Sales, and which need to be nurtured.

I was thinking about all the lead qualification criteria I’ve seen used in B2B lead generation programs and decided to list them by category. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Firmographics (industry, company size, location)
  • Demographics (contact’s title, job function)
  • Contactability (phone number, email address)
  • Action taken (attended webinar, downloaded whitepaper, requested pricing, spent time on certain Web pages)
  • Frequency, quality, quantity, recency of actions taken
  • Social media engagement (commenting on blog posts, joining social network discussions, retweeting)
  • Need for your product or service (application or problem needing to be solved)
  • Buying Stage (awareness, consideration, decision)
  • Fit (your products or services meet or exceed their technical, performance, reliability requirements)
  • Competition (what other competitors are involved? can you win against them?)
  • Contact’s role in the purchase decision process (recommender, influencer, decision maker)
  • Timing (purchase decision timing, implementation timing – how soon?)
  • Availability of funding for the purchase (has budget, can get budget)
  • Size of the opportunity (quantity needed, revenue potential).

In a survey conducted by Sirius Decisions, they found that companies who give fewer (better qualified) leads to Sales actually sell more. That means that if Marketing does a better job of qualifying leads, Sales can close more profitable deals, resulting in increased revenues.

Using the criteria I’ve listed above, plus the information in The Definitive Guide to Lead Scoring published by my friends at Marketo, you’ll be able to design a process that ensures Sales only gets sales-ready leads.

Lead scoring seems to be on everybody’s mind. My friends over at SilverPop have also focused on Lead Scoring with this blog post: Five Prospect Behaviors You Should Be Incorporating into Your Lead Scoring Process.

It’s obvious that lead qualification is growing in importance as Sales and Marketing productivity becomes more of an issue.

Do you have anything to add regarding lead qualification or lead scoring?

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Bridging the Content Chasm for B-to-B marketing automation and lead generation

There’s a new marketing term that I’m hearing more and more often - “the Content Chasm”.

bridging the content chasm

It refers to the ascendance of content marketing (especially in B-to-B), and the differential between the current inventory of quality content that most B-to-B companies have, and the amount they need to have to market effectively.

I’m expanding the meaning of the Content Chasm to address two other major trends in B-to-B marketing:

  1. The difference between the ROI of marketing automation fueled by generic content, and what that same technology can accomplish when fueled by segmented and targeted messaging;
  2. The discrepancy between the formats most marketers use (primarily text and PDFs) for their messaging, and the way most prospects want to consume information (multimedia).

Changing buyer behaviors require B2B marketers to communicate with prospects and customers in new ways. 

How?  By delivering content that is personalized to the prospective buyers' roles, where they are in their buying process and their personal preferences for consumption.

Buying marketing automation and then only using it for batch-and-blast emails is a waste of time and money.

Segmented, well-targeted and relevant communications get much better results.

The real benefit of marketing automation is exactly that: the ability to deliver the right message, with the right offer, to the right prospect, in the right format, at the right time.

Content + Automation = True 1 to 1 Marketing

In other words, true one-to-one marketing to many - something that we couldn’t do to any scale before marketing automation came along. This has made marketing automation a mission-critical system for B-to-B marketers, but too many marketing leaders head down the automation path without fully realizing what they’re getting into.

I’ve written before about the need for having processes in place to support and extend the effectiveness of marketing automation. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, so I’ll be revisiting it. The Content Chasm represents another major issue affecting the success of marketing automation, and of B-to-B lead generation and lead nurturing. I’ll also be diving deeper into it (pun intended) in future posts.

So tell me, what are your experiences with, or opinions about, the Content Chasm?

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Need help with B2B lead generation, marketing and sales?
For more information, please call Mac McIntosh at +1-401-294-7730, send him email at or visit www.sales-lead-experts.com