I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Although we sometimes forget, the business-to-business (B2B) market is very different from the consumer market. For starters, most business purchases are rational rather than emotional, so your appeal needs to be more left-brained than right. Also, most B2B vendors aren’t dealing with a mass market, so it lends itself more to direct marketing than broadcasting – which is more appropriate when targeting consumer segments.
But there’s one thing that B2B and consumer marketers have in common, at least by analogy. Specifically, there’s a point at which they both can declare victory for their marketing programs.
In the case of consumer marketing, the end game is “foot traffic.” For example, if you’re in a brick-and-mortar business, you know your marketing program has succeeded if you can get customers into the store. From there, it’s up to your salespeople to close the deal. So foot traffic is the chief metric by which to measure the success of your marketing program.
In fact, a similar trigger exists if you have an online business. In this case you can measure the success of your marketing program by getting customers to your e-commerce or ordering page. From there it’s up to the product or price to close the deal. So hits to your e-commerce page are the chief metric by which many marketing programs are measured.
Getting Face Time
Not surprisingly in the B2B market, there’s also a point in the sales cycle where marketing’s job is done, and sales takes over. And while there’s sometimes a little bit of overlap (such as who’s responsible for producing sales aids, or who decides whom to target,) the end game for marketing in the B2B market is the initial appointment. From there it’s up to the salesperson to close the deal. But initial appointments are the chief metric by which B2B marketing programs should be measured.
Unless the salespeople do their own cold calling and make their own appointments, it’s up to marketing to make prospects aware that you exist, stimulate interest in your products, and get prospects to want to meet. Anything short of that is marketing failure. And this is a point that many advocates of lead scoring miss, if not deliberately avoid.
We’ll discuss about the case where salespeople make their own appointments in a moment. But the implication of this position is that it sees marketing’s primary role as lead generation – rather than demand stimulation, promotion, or support.
In any event, if you consider the primary role of B2B marketing to be lead generation, it becomes clear that the concept of “lead scoring” misses the point entirely. While a particular lead (i.e. an appointment,) can be hot, warm, cool or cold, in no way does one need 5, 10 or 20 factors – as recommended by many advocates of lead scoring – to rate a lead.
To be sure, many users of lead scoring allege that it provides information to the salesperson that helps them judge whether a lead is worth pursuing. But this is simply a sleight-of-hand re-definition (and demotion) of a “lead” – from an appointment down to a click, an open, an impression, an email address, a Web site visitor, a download, an eyeball, or even an inquiry. But it isn’t a lead in any meaningful sense of the word.
Where this becomes a problem is that it takes the responsibility for converting the lead into an appointment out of the hands of the marketing program, and puts it in the hands of sales – who’s now being asked to convert and close what they consider to be junk.
When this occurs, of course, the cost of conversion must be borne by the marketing program – because they were the ones who decided what marketing programs to implement. And this also holds, not coincidentally, for the case where salespeople have to make their own appointments. Marketing still should be measured on appointments, even if it’s the salespeople who book them.
In any event, when you start scoring leads, if you define a lead as anything other than “an appointment with a decision maker who needs your product or service, and who wants to talk with a salesperson about how they can help,” then you’ve changed the subject. And “lead scoring” is no longer talking about scoring leads, but is now talking about scoring something else entirely.
In other words, a B2B marketing program that doesn’t generate appointments is as pointless as a consumer advertising program that doesn’t drive foot traffic.
Jeff Josephson is the CEO of JV/M, Inc., in Moorestown, NJ. For more information on how you can improve the performance of your marketing and sales programs visit www.LeadGen.com, or you can contact Jeff at 856-638-0399 x101 or by email at JLJ@LeadGen.com.