At the core of virtually every well-designed B2B marketing strategy is a highly cultivated, and sometimes hotly debated, lead generation program. Whether the focus is outbound using paid databases, CRMs or marketing automation platforms, inbound with engaging content marketing to capture new prospects, or a mixture of both, lead gen plays a critical role in new customer acquisition.
Unfortunately, it can also be a point of contention between sales and marketing. Disagreement over exactly whom you should be trying to reach, which companies, where to find them and what key messages are most effective can put even the most talented teams at odds.
Even with modern automated systems, marketers still don’t truly understand the B2B buyer in a way that allows them to predict the likelihood that the buyer will actually make a purchase. In some cases, they even lack basic, accurate facts such as the prospect’s employer, title, roles and responsibilities. These missing details make it extremely difficult to deliver the right message to the right person. Why?
Lead databases are by nature outdated and inaccurate. The fact is people change jobs so frequently that keeping these static databases up to date is virtually impossible.
Creative or ambiguous job titles make it difficult to determine exactly what the individual’s roles and responsibilities are.
Basic profile data often doesn’t reveal the individual’s skill set, what products or technology they use, nor what influence they may have over the purchase decision.
But, Big Data was supposed to change all of that, right? By giving marketers the ability to tap into gigabytes of information from across the web, Big Data promised to reveal unprecedented new insight into customer behavior and revolutionize lead gen as we know it.
Except, it turns out that more data isn’t necessarily better data. The inaccuracies, ambiguities and missing details are simply multiplied exponentially, giving marketers even more clutter to sift through to find the golden nuggets.
What marketers really need is a way to go beyond the stale, structured world of lead databases—a way to tap into the social sphere and listen in on the conversations that reveal what prospective customers really think, feel and need. Imagine having the ability to “eavesdrop” on your ideal buyers—to listen in on their social network and forum postings, tweets and other open interactions across the social web, to see what they’re talking about, concerned about, what products and software they already use and—most importantly—whether your solution fulfills their needs.
Of course, all of this is entirely possible. The data is there, readily accessible and (for the most part) free to access. However, it’s incredibly scattered across dozens of locations for every lead. Manually investigating these sources would take hours for each prospective lead, and that’s merely the qualification process. Sales cultivation might take additional days or weeks—a cumulative process that is far too slow and inefficient to generate a positive ROI.
To overcome the problem, B2B marketing will evolve toward a new model for lead gen in 2014: the Lead Cloud. This new paradigm provides a glimpse into real-time, live data from across the social web to help marketers understand the individual prospect in a way never before possible, revealing what they need, want and are most likely to buy.
By removing conventional data barriers, cutting through the clutter and allowing marketers to tap into the Lead Cloud, this new approach to predictive lead scoring and prospecting will enable sales teams to focus on the most valuable companies—and the individual leads within them—to more accurately align messages and communication tactics to reach the right people at the right time. Perhaps even more important, the Lead Cloud model can be applied to both previously engaged leads and those who have never heard of your company or solution before, allowing you to improve existing and new leadgen efforts.
Meanwhile, this real-time data can finally put marketing and sales on the same page about who to target, putting an end to guessing games, assumptions and hunches with up-to-date, firsthand data derived directly from the source—the leads themselves.