Why B2B marketers should know when lead relationships start.

In a recent post on her Marketing Interactions blog — “Lead Generation is NOT IT” — Ardath Albee makes an excellent case that lead generation is strictly a “hello and a handshake” and that the relationship with a prospect is built only through a lead nurturing program. Yet she references a 2010 MarketingProfs and Junta 42 B2B content Marketing Trends report that revealed businesses saw lead nurturing as the least important goal for the use of content in marketing. Brand awareness was first, followed by retention/loyalty, then lead generation and then lead management and nurturing.

I agree with her cogent (as usual) argument that using content for nurturing should be at the top of that list. The question her article sparked in my head, however, is, “When does the relationship with a B2B prospect actually begin?”

Several years ago, a presenter at a marketing seminar I attended made the claim that, once a site visitor moves from a company’s home page onto a second page within the site, the visitor is 15% more likely to ultimately turn into a customer. I don’t know if that statistic is still valid but the concept has stuck with me. It implies that, if a visitor has found enough on the home page to want to know more, they have an interest in learning more about what that B2B company offers.

So the question remains, is that when the relationship actually begins? What about after downloading a white paper or eBook, attending a Webinar, or visiting a booth at a trade show?

The definitive answer, of course, is that it depends.

The reason B2B marketers should address this topic for themselves was expressed well by Dan McDade of PointClear, as reported in my post “How B2B marketers can help prevent lost sales.”

“Automated nurturing campaigns are great, but, without some human interaction, leads that have progressed further in the buying cycle could be missed.”

A lead new to one B2B company could already be engaged with sales at a competitor’s company.

Knowing whether the relationship has begun triggers the point at which it’s smart and effective to make a human connection with that prospect. Here are some guidelines.

Downloaded White Paper, Report, eBook:
If the content downloaded contains top-line industry insight, trends, self-assessments, benchmark comparisons, or third-party educational pieces, it’s probable that no relationship has begun. The response is probably a person seeking interesting, educational materials. If the content delves deeper into a specific type of solution or addresses specific case studies of the B2B marketing company’s product, it’s likely the lead is beginning to consider buying options.

Attended Webinar:
Just like the above, the content of the Webinar determines whether or not a relationship has begun. If it’s top-level stuff, then, no, a relationship has not begun. If the Webinar involves a product demo, a detailed solution comparison or a customer success story, it’s time for a telemarketing follow-up call to the attendees. That holds true for late buying cycle offers such as ROI calculators, solution briefs, or feature lists.

This measure is not flawless. But remember, if a B2B marketer reaches out to a prospect too soon, it costs a little in time and money. If the marketer reaches out too late, it may cost a sale.

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  1. BizSugar.com says:

    Why B2B marketers should know when lead relationships start….

    Knowing when the relationship with a lead has begun, triggers the point at which it’s smart and effective to make a human connection with that prospect….

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