A lot of companies struggle to deliver a consistent stream of qualified leads. Regardless of the quality of the product, generating high-quality leads at a satisfactory rate is an elusive goal. This is the primary reason lead generation services exist.
If you’re struggling with the whole lead generation thing, you’re probably considering one of these services. In fact, that’s probably why you’re reading this right now. With so many lead-gen companies peddling their services, separating the genuinely useful from the "used-car salesmen" can be challenging.
In this article, I'll outline the most important questions to ask yourself before hiring a B2B lead generation service. It may not be as fascinating as mumblecore, but you'll learn some important criteria that could save your business some serious cash.
How to Evaluate B2B Lead Generation Services
Before we get started, let's differentiate between warm leads and cold leads:
A warm lead is a person who has indicated interest in your company's product or service. In most cases, they have done so by spending time on your website, responding to a Call-to-Action (CTA) on a landing page or providing you with their contact information in some shape or form. Conversely, a cold lead has never heard of your company before your initial outreach.
Warm leads are especially valuable because they are actively looking for a product or service that meets their needs. As opposed to cold leads, that may or may not be in the market for whatever you're selling.
Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for large companies to spend thousands of dollars on cold email lists that fail to deliver ROI. For example, a $25 lead may look like a good deal on paper. However, if you pay $2,500 for 1,000 leads, and only a couple of them convert, that "good deal" starts to look pretty bad.
While an expertly crafted cold email campaign can sometimes succeed, it's much easier to generate business from people who have already indicated interest. This is where Inbound marketing comes into play: The methodology flips traditional lead generation on its head by introducing the element of choice.
Instead of interrupting someone's afternoon with an obtrusive email that makes them roll their eyes, and consider moving to a desert island far away from your sorry behind, you allow the person to qualify themselves. It's what we do at Lean Labs, and it works.
Keep this in mind when evaluating B2B lead generation services with the following questions:
5 Questions to Ask Yourself:
1. Are They Remarkable?
Before asking anyone to generate leads on your behalf, you should check their ability to do it for themselves. It’s kind of funny how many “marketing” companies have come to us asking us to help them market their own services. I don’t know how many times we’ve asked ourselves, “why aren’t they using their own service?”
The short and sweet version is to check their references. It’s easy for anyone to buy a $60 WordPress template and throw together a Facebook ad promising leads for days. It’s another thing to have a track record of remarkable results.
If they are going to do a great job of generating leads for you, they should do a great job of generating leads for themselves. Examine their buyer journey, their web experience, their ability to communicate value. If you find yourself impressed with the way they turned you into a lead, and then into a customer, there’s a good chance they know what they’re doing.
2. Do They Have A Good Reputation?
Next, evaluate the provider's online reputation. What are their past clients saying about their experience in working with them? Though there are many places worth evaluating — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp — the platform most likely to provide relevant client information is the company's own website.
Reputable B2B lead generation services will proudly display client testimonials, case studies and other supporting collateral on their sites. The best testimonials will contain pictures, job titles, and company names. And the best case studies will delve into strategies employed, metrics achieved, and ROI. Additionally, if the provider has reviews on platforms like Yelp, Google Business or industry-specific review site, those reviews will be overwhelmingly positive.
Lastly, determine the length of their average client relationships. Why? Because longstanding client relationships are indicative of lead generation strategies that are working! In 2012, a whopping 91 percent of Lean Labs' revenue came from existing clients; we anticipate growing 20 percent this year.
3. Are They Invested In Your Success?
Choose a lead generation company that sees itself as an extension of your team. Vendors are nice, but someone personally invested in your success is worth their weight in gold. Make no mistake about it; you will find both types of service providers vying for your attention.
Most often, the ones who want to see you succeed enjoy the work they are doing. For this reason, they don't mind putting in extra hours when needed. Conversely, someone who is simply trying to fatten their bank account won't spend as much time on the small details that can significantly multiply growth.
4. Do They Understand Your Space?
While its possible to successfully accommodate a variety of verticals, top lead generation providers specialize on deeply understanding a select few. At a minimum, partner with someone who understands the unique challenges faced by B2Bs as opposed to B2Cs.
For example, B2Bs products and services tend to be on the expensive side. That means prospects often travel through a longer sales cycle and gather larger quantities of information before making purchasing decisions. These kinds of details should inform the overall structure of your lead generation strategy.
Ultimately, the greater understanding your lead generation specialist has of your buyer persona, the more effective his or her efforts will be. As a reminder, a buyer persona is a fictitious representation of your “ideal customer,” constructed with the purpose of determining how to best market your products and services. Buyer personas include demographics, psychographics and commonly-posed questions that are used to inform lead generation.
5. Do They Analyze The Data?
Finally, how often does the company meet with clients to evaluate campaign results? Even the most accomplished marketing strategists execute campaigns based on some assumptions. What separates amateur lead generators from professional lead generators is the ability to track metrics, analyze data, and pivot accordingly. Tracking KPIs allows marketers to do more of what works and eliminate what doesn't.
For example, a good strategist may discover data indicating that the majority of a company's leads are coming from one particular piece of content. Their recommendation may be to optimize that piece of content further, promote it more heavily, and create similar assets in the future. Your strategist may also learn through research that your favorite content assets actually aren’t converting that well.
Even Fortune-500 companies sometimes release marketing content that falls flat. For example, McDonald’s once launched a campaign featuring its most memorable marketing messages over the decades. The content ranged from birth announcements to “We Remember 9/11” to “Boston Strong." Many patrons objected to the campaign, accusing McDonald’s of seeking to capitalize on tragedy. The company's attempt to "hold deeper conversions" with its customers ultimately backfired.
One Size Doesn't Fit All
The best marketers understand your industry, are invested in your success and have track-records of maintaining long-standing client relationships. They also combine proven lead generation strategies with personalized campaign ideas to deliver measurable results.
Settle for anything less, and you may be setting yourself up for a frustrating experience. With that said, B2B lead generation services are not one-size-fits-all. A particular strategy that works well for one company, may fall flat for another.
Looking for guidance on identifying your ideal lead generation strategy? Check-out our Lean Labs Game Plan.