One of my colleagues in the agency world was recently working with a B2B client who had requested help generating leads using targeted database marketing.
My colleague began to build a proposed outbound B2B marketing program for the client, which included testing various channels, audiences and offers to let the market determine which combination could provide the most cost-effective and qualified responses.
Midway through writing the proposal, the client shared the fact that he was under gun from the C-suite to produce X amount of incremental sales within six months or his marketing budget would be reallocated. That was disappointing to hear but not unexpected.
It’s one of a B2B marketing director’s biggest dilemmas — balancing the best practice of letting the market determine which are the best marketing approaches against demands from sales and C-level execs for instant performance.
Effective B2B direct marketing best practices require A/B split testing to determine which media, which content or other offers, and which approaches are the most effective ways to generate leads. Building a solid marketing database, measuring responses and conversions (or potential conversions) takes time. This avenue does produce leads and, in the long run, delivers the knowledge needed to maximize response rates and lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale.
There’s hardly much time to test a full scope of channels and offers when the bottom-line results need to show up in six months or less. When faced with this dilemma, here are the two options open to a B2B CMO:
- Launch a quick lead generation program following industry best practices. B2B marketers with no track record of launching their own programs into their own market should follow the best practices determined by other marketers until they are able to discover their own metrics. One option is to tap the expertise of an agency or consultant with a long track record of solid lead generation. This lets the B2B company rely on the testing results the agency or consultant has accumulated over the years. The other option is to read the books and blogs of trusted, experienced B2B marketers to learn, then use, the practices they recommend.
- Conduct two programs at the same time. Run a test program in parallel with a lead generation program. That is, run a best practices campaign, then a small test of email, mailing lists and/or lead generation offers.
The problem with the first choice is that this approach provides no learning. If the program is successful, the marketer has no way of knowing which element, or combination of elements, created the success. If the program is a failure the marketer won’t know what to throw out and what to keep in the next campaign.
Despite the pressure from above, B2B marketers should fight strongly to conduct A/B split testing, even in smaller amounts, while trying to generate leads in the short run. It’s the only way to turn the average response rates available now into spectacular ones in the future.