B2B Marketers – Your Lead Generation Targeting Strategy is Missing Key Influencers

 In Demand Generation

As a B2B marketer, one of the primary goals for your department is to run lead generation initiatives to fill your pipeline with revenue driving opportunities. Most marketing campaigns offer the ability to target specific personas by search behavior, geographic region, professional attributes such as job level, etc… From there, your organization’s CRM is predictably built around MLA and SLA requirements that identify what criteria a prospect must meet in order to be accepted as a workable lead, yes? At least, that’s how we operate over in the NetLine Marketing Department and that’s exactly where marketers are running into trouble.

Lead Generation Targeting

Whether the directive came from your CMO or CEO, my guess is that you like most B2B marketers are aiming to reach senior leadership and C-suite at top organizations. They’re the crème de la crème! These professionals are the most likely to translate into immediate revenue for your company and you need more prospects just like them. Am I right? I can see your targeting requirements now, ‘I will only accept Manager level professionals and above.’

Sadly that’s not foreign to most marketers. In fact, 53% of marketers that ran content syndication lead generation campaigns with NetLine in the past 12 months did exactly that. But what you have failed to realize is that the most active segment of professionals consuming long-form business content are outside those parameters, exactly 30%. Have you ever analyzed the pool of non-senior level prospects who filled out a form to download your content? I know the answer, those people are as a good as dead to you. Garbage in; garbage out. But maybe, just maybe, you should consider that these prospect ghosts are more of the giving type?

Research the Marketplace

Let me explain. Marketers are producing an exorbitant amount of content, with plans to do even more this year. But it seems that many may be operating blindly without an understanding of the personas consuming content—who’s engaged, who’s not. To better understand the marketplace of content consumption and first answer the question ‘who is downloading all this marketing content?’ NetLine conducted a research study. The research examined more than 8 million leads generated by content downloads to extract insights on who the active audience is, where they work, etc….NetLine found that the most active job level segments are mid-level professionals, including: Individual Contributors, Senior Employees, Consultants and Contractors.

Insights

NetLine Corporation Research Lead Generation_Job-Level-Graph
The highest volume of content consumption was reported by Individual Contributors, who produced 20% of total activity. This is an increase of 26% over the prior 12 months. In a comparison of Individual Contributor and Senior Employee activity over senior-level activity, senior-level professionals consumed 35% less content. Additionally, professionals outside the traditional organizational structure, such as Consultants, reported the highest growth. Consultants downloaded 49% more content over the prior 12 months. This is likely an effect of more organizations utilizing Consultants to help grow their business.NetLine Corporation Research Lead Generation_targeting-graph

Next, the research included a deep dive look into the targeting parameters utilized by hundreds of lead generation campaigns (marketers) run by the world’s largest organizations to startups to better understand the ‘in-demand audience.’ Not only is it valuable to know what the active audience looks like, it is super important to understand your competition. How many other marketers are ‘bidding’ on the same audience you are? The idea of bidding is a common thought process when it comes to paid advertising campaigns, but in a sense it’s just as relevant in content syndication lead generation. However, the most interesting stat we found in this analysis was that while the majority of marketers are seeking the same senior-level professionals; the majority of marketers are ignoring a significant percentage of the available audience. When you add up the numbers, here is the glaring conclusion:

53% of campaigns excluded 30% of the active audience, due to job level filters excluding Individual Contributors, Senior Employees, and Consultants.

That’s a huge a miss don’t you think? The most active segment of professionals reading long-form business content are mid-level professionals. These professionals are being ignored by more than half of marketer’s lead generation campaigns over the past year.

Attack the Influencers

With the majority of marketers neglecting mid-level professionals (Individual Contributors, Senior Employees, and Consultants) it had me thinking, why? These professionals are actually major influencers within an organization. This is a glaring opportunity most marketers have not considered because they have blindly focused their lead generation initiatives on the big C-level fish. Do not continue to make this mistake. Senior-level professionals will remain an important target for lead generation campaigns; however, marketers must realize they do not drive the same level of content consumption activity nor do they make their purchasing decisions in silos.

Pivot focus to the influencers, the diverse profile of professionals within the buying committee, including Managers, Senior Employees, and Individual Contributors—as well as Contractors and Consultants. Build deeper influence within the organization by expanding your target range outside senior leadership and target the professionals that advise them. Deeper influence within the organization will directly build greater credibility, an often underestimated attribute associate to the vendor selection process.

Here’s an advanced targeting tip: when it comes to content syndication lead generation, pivot the target persona for each of your content assets within an initiative to specifically reach professionals known to be aligned with in-market and intent-driven positions. Doing so will allow marketers to translate anonymous personas into further down the funnel prospects. If this isn’t easily supported, that means that your content lacks the specificity to attract more niche personas. Think about repositioning your existing asset(s) to speak to these unique audiences in a voice/tone that they will recognize.

Make the Change

The overall demand for long-form business content is increasing, +36% in the past year. Additionally, 51% of professionals requested more than one piece of content and 20% requested more than five. Marketers need to answer the demand while understanding the realities of the marketplace. I hope you will consider my perspective and more importantly the real data-based research study, 2017 State of Content Consumption and Demand Report for B2B Marketers, with analysis of real behaviors you need to be aware.

NetLine’s CEO, Robert Alvin shared his perspective of the research in this post, Optimizing Your Demand Generation Strategy with New Content Research, covering the research from all angles: content, targeting, and lead nurture. I encourage you to check it out. In a prior Marketing Insider Group post, I shared new insight into the Content Consumption Gap with the world. If you have never stopped to think about the complexities of lead follow-up on long-form content, read this article: B2B Marketers: Wrong Way to Make the Right Impression on Your Prospects.

In summary, our research—of real behavior—shows that mid-level professionals are highly engaged with long-form content. B2B marketers have the potential to reach a greater volume of quality professionals that can be highly influential to the future decision making process. This is a massive lead generation opportunity and one where you can beat your competition (clearly!) Pivot your targeting strategy today.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Chris
    Reply

    @David: I have no idea what SLA and MLA means in the context of your article, can you please clarify this?

    • Michael Brenner
      Reply

      Hi Chris, I know SLA is service level agreement. I know this because I have used these many times in both marketing and sales to define the process, especially in led management, between marketing and sales. So for example, it might look something like this:
      1. Marketing agrees to provide 1,000 qualified leads per year (this might be the MLA, Marketing Level Agreement)
      2. Sales agrees to contact these leads within 2 weeks
      3. Sales agrees to update the CRM with lead status
      4. Marketing agrees to report on the leads

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