Is email lead nurturing snarling B2B revenue generation?

For lead generation, email has been a very effective tool for B2B marketing operations for many years, but is it really an effective marketing strategy? Perry Simpson of Direct Marketing News explored that question and found some interesting changes afoot. Simpson quoted the survey from Bizo and Oracle that showed even though many B2B operators use marketing automation platforms, the businesses that believe they’ve achieved full implementation of the software for Internet lead generation is only 30 percent more. Companies see the reasoning behind multi-channel prospect nurturing but continue to to go to email as the primary avenue for lead nurturing.

Email reliance is becoming problematic

David Karel, CMO of Bizo, said companies need to branch out from their traditional modes of thinking and planning.

“Relying solely on email for lead nurturing is preventing B2B marketers from getting to the next level of business impact,” noted Karel. “With only five percent of website visitors willingly providing an email address, marketers’ need to find other channels or risk limiting nurturing efforts to a very small portion of their target audience. Multi-channel nurturing represents a massive opportunity to reach prospects beyond the inbox and really boost the return on their marketing spend.”

Marketing is making in-roads to the overall bottom line

In recent years marketing has become a more consistent lead generator in terms of revenue and that is borne out by the Bizo/Oracle survey, which showed that 54 percent of the respondents felt that 40 percent of their cash flow was earned by the marketing department. The Bizo survey also found nearly 20 percent of business executives believed that 60 percent of their revenue was derived through more intensive marketing efforts. Because of this, many budgets are being reconfigured to help marketing departments utilize existing prospect value to gain revenue goals instead of garnering fresh leads. Thirty-six percent of the survey respondents explained that only one-quarter of the budget is geared toward mining new leads, which indicates increasing plans to integrate current clients with the fastest path to more cash flow.

In Simpson’s story on the report, he added that 82 percent of the marketers surveyed plan to increase or at least maintain investment in automation software platforms during the second half of the year. The story added that more multi-channel integration is achieved by more investment.

Shifting strategies

While email marketing performance is good, managers are looking for better performance numbers. Seventy-nine percent said their email open rates are lagging at about 20 percent, Bizo explained. More than 40 percent of the marketers who replied said they feel only 5 percent or less of anonymous website visitors provide an address. Almost 90 percent of those queried said technology that would help attract new customers as well as nurture existing prospects would be beneficial to their operations. Extending the marketing automation systems is also something managers are looking at as a way to beef-up their marketing efforts.

Ensuring automation success is a process that requires management attention. A MarketingProfs report by Kim Ann King said keeping the customer relationship management database free from clutter is very important. The article suggested that companies do whatever it takes to keep the CRM as clean and duplicate-free as possible. Make sure the collected email addresses are valid and run them through a verification service, suggested the article. By doing this, none of the bogus email addresses will be loaded into company contact or lead lists and the bounce rate will be lower. Bounce rates of 10 percent or above could indicate looming problems unless the system is purged.

Get the sales staff up to snuff

Sales processes change with the installation of automation technology and the sales staff should be updated immediately when any changes are made, according to King. How will the automation deployment affect the assignment of leads? What happens to in-bound leads? Does the software platform replace sales outreach? Will the natural rivalry between marketing and sales be able to team-up for drip programs that are made-to-order for each prospective lead? These are just a few questions that need to be researched well before the actual implementation.

Ensuring all the proper resources are available is also a crucial aspect of activating a software platform. Email authentication, tracking codes, prospect lists and content creation are among many others that need to be assembled by all aspects of the team including IT, said MarketingProfs. Continuous staff education is also critical as technology is changing almost daily and not keeping up with the latest can lead to dropped and missed opportunities.

According to Simpson email is still a strong lead generator, but more B2B companies are combining other marketing modalities to strengthen revenue generation, streamline the sales and marketing departments and enhance the bottom line.