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We're at an inflection point in B2B marketing, and marketers should celebrate the opportunity to show their true contribution to revenue and not fall back on squishy metrics like 'attention'.

Last week the esteemed Top Sales World blog published a piece entitled, “Attention (not leads) should be B2B marketing’s primary measure”.

I couldn’t disagree more. And, since the post doesn’t include a way to comment, I couldn’t disagree on the page itself, so I’ll do it here.

First, it starts with a very weak definition of a lead:

But leads alone don’t tell the whole story.  So you generated a ‘lead’. So what? They downloaded your white paper. Who cares?

I agree: who cares> Because a form complete or a white paper download or a person watching a webinar does not a lead make. That’s a contact.

A 'lead' is what sales and marketing have jointly agreed is a lead. And that includes creating a lead scoring system and qualifying the people who fill out forms by company (size, industry) and title, behavior on the website, etc.

A lead needs to be called and confirmed verbally to be truly qualified. (My favorite story in this regard comes from the head of demand generation at a mid-market tech company who told me about a download form that was completed by a VP who had budget and authority and wanted to move quickly, but when they called she turned out to be a 12-year-old girl.)

The piece goes on to say:

Let’s say that same prospect, who has never filled out one of your forms, reads your blog 2-3 times a week. They follow and periodically read your CEO’s Twitter feed. That attention has value. It means you’ve already accelerated the awareness and mindshare game.

It may have value, someday, or may not. (Ask the CEO if she cares.) I’ve witnessed contacts coming back to read a company’s blog week after week for years. They value the insights, but they have no need for the product or service. Maybe some year they will, but that’s far from certain, and even farther from being an opportunity.

As one start-up CEO said to me, “I’ve spent a million dollars building our brand. Now I’d like to see some leads.”

To argue the opposite is close to the position of early web entrepreneurs who claimed that aggregating 'eyeballs' was sufficient. Those businesses are now out of business. It’s only the businesses that found a way to monetize that attention, to convert those contacts into customers, that survived.

As the post goes on, it does qualify that absolutist headline, for example, by acknowledging the importance of lead scoring.

But what the post fundamentally misses is that we are at an inflection point in marketing. The old adage -- “I know that half of my marketing is ineffective, I just don’t know which half” – is no longer acceptable.

Marketing is being held to a higher standard and, increasingly is being measured by its contribution to sales and revenue. 'Opportunities generated' is a common B2B metric now.

And marketers should embrace that enthusiastically. In the past, marketing was in a 'last hired, first fired' position whenever there was a downturn or money at the company was tight.

Marketing will only be truly valued to the degree that it’s able to quantify its contribution to revenue in a way that the C-suite acknowledges.

So building the brand, and “attention”, does have value. And a sophisticated attribution model can measure it. But in 2014, leads and opportunities are the primary measure for B2B marketing.

Louis Gudema

Published 17 February, 2014 by Louis Gudema

Louis Gudema is the president of revenue + associates and a contributor to Econsultancy. Louis blogs here and can be reached via TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn.

12 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Duncan Wright

I agree - up to a point. However, I think that religiously focusing on the A leads to B leads to C leads to a sale sales funnel can be a very blinkered view.

Absolutely leads (and ultimately securing profitable business) are vital, but in my experience, focusing purely on leads generated by a campaign is a little short sighted.

Take the CEO in cited in the article. In the real world of SME marketing (my field) you will probably not know who he/she is, so when they call up 6 months later with an enquiry you will probable struggle to attribute the lead directly to the campaigns that have grabbed her attention, but without those campaigns, she would probably not have called!

Marketing needs to be strategic and broad based, and whilst details measurement of individual campaigns against agreed goals is vital (and yes the on-line world makes this possible). these need to be viewed in the context of the wider marketing mix, and yes leads and ultimately sales are a vital element of this mix, but so is attention.

over 2 years ago

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Rachel Cornish

Yes, in B2B marketing leads and opportunities should usually be the primary B2B marketing measure, not 'attention'.

But you can attribute a weighting to each and then measure which campaigns or marketing activities are most useful.

And the relative importance of phone calls, email addresses and phone numbers also varies for different B2B companies. So does the reason for giving an email address - some (e.g. whitepapers) might produce better qualified leads than other (newsletter signup).

over 2 years ago

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Michelle | Miromedia.co.uk

I agree to a certain extent but I don't feel it can be purely down to marketing to generate all the sales leads, there still has to be a sales strategy that can be supported by marketing and vice versa.

There are so many factors to a generating a lead that are sometimes out of the hands of marketers, products and price for example.

You need to get someone's 'attention' before you have any chance of converting them to a lead, that's where I believe marketing plays its role.

over 2 years ago

Anthony Leaton

Anthony Leaton, Freelance at Emarketing Manager

I believe that an either or argument is seriously blinkered. The answer I would have expected is, "has the activity as an individual or an aided goal achieved its KPI"?

If your goal is to look leverage lets say industry experts then attention is the meat on the bones.

You are right about the notion of what is a lead.

about 2 years ago

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