“Quality” is the #1 buzzword in B2B marketing demand generation these days. Every analyst and industry publication is telling B2B marketers that they need to stop pumping out bulk leads and focus their resources on driving engagement with their ideal customer.

But what does “quality” really mean in B2B, where sales cycles can last 12 months or more, and customers go through several cycles of discovery and evaluation before they buy?

Put simply, a “quality” contact is one that converts to the next stage of your revenue pipeline, based on your business’ ICP marketing and sales strategies. An ideal customer can engage with you at any point in the decision-making process – maybe you need to connect with prospects who are interested in your solution in the near future, or maybe you need to find purchase influencers who will advocate for your new product release set for Q3 2024.

Whatever your goal, a “quality” engagement is one that your marketing and sales team can move toward the next step toward booked revenue. Here at Bython, we like to call such engagements “opportunities,” and we think of ourselves as being in the “opportunity generation” business. We introduce you to ideal customers at the precise point where they are ready to talk, and your marketing and sales teams grow the relationship from there.

So, why has “quality: overtaken “quantity” in the marketing demand generation conversation?

Really, it boils down to two factors:

Working low-quality leads is expensive and hurts ROI on your marketing demand generation budget. Despite the efficiencies provided by automation platforms, running campaigns against dead-end leads costs time and money best spent elsewhere. And if you are working with a B2B demand gen partner, you’re still paying for low-quality contacts that sit in your CRM and don’t convert to revenue. That’s just bad business. And don’t get us started about what happens if dead-end leads makes it into Sales.

Measuring conversions and return for digital marketing campaigns has become incredibly precise. Revenue attribution has become an obsession for some CROs. Candidly, it’s gotten a little out of hand in some cases – customer journeys are incredibly complex, and a lot can change between the time an ideal customer downloads a whitepaper and when they decide to buy (or not buy) a solution. But, at the very least, marketers should expect to be held accountable for delivering opportunities that are ready to engage and move ahead to the next step of your revenue strategy.

How to generate quality B2B ‘opportunities’

So, how does your B2B marketing team create “quality” opportunities, instead of bulk leads that go nowhere. There’s a lot of advice out there, but most of it boils down to the basics listed in this primer from analyst firm Gartner.

  1. Create a clear, multi-faceted ideal customer profile (ICP), including company data and technology details
  2. Focus on prospect behavior and content interaction
  3. Monitor which channels are giving you the best response
  4. Score your leads for prioritization in marketing and sale efforts
  5. Maintain constant communication between marketing and sales
  6. Measure, measure, measure

All of this makes perfect sense, of course.

We’d add that for most B2B marketing teams, a critical step is picking the right opportunity generation partner – one that understands your business and has the data and the experience to design and execute ICP marketing campaigns that deliver results.

How to find a quality marketing demand generation partner

How do you select a marketing demand generation partner that can deliver on your need for quality opportunities? There are a lot of factors that go into “quality,” but here are some essential questions to ask as you look for this essential component of your revenue strategy.

Do you own your own data?

The marketing demand generation industry is dominated by brokerages and agencies that act as middlemen between you and the teams that are actually contacting your ideal customers. This can lead to poorly designed efforts that use redundant or aged-out data for audience segmentation and targeting.

To be clear – every data-driven marketing firm uses some third-party data. Here at Bython, we occasionally augment our own database to meet the needs of a specific campaign. It’s standard industry practice.

But, because we own our database, we can observe user behavior and offer responses directly. First-party data is always preferable to third party intent data sources – we can analyze content consumption for each ideal customer, and not have to infer this vital intent intelligence for anonymized sources. And we gather this data across verticals and other segments that you might not have considered in your ICP marketing strategy.

It’s a huge advantage.

How quickly will I be able to act on the opportunities you create?

See the previous point about marketing demand generation brokers. When you work with agencies, it can take a month or more for them to farm out your order to their lead sources and then collect, package and deliver them to your CRM. By that time, your ideal customers may well have made the decision you wanted to talk to them about.

Timing is everything in B2B marketing. You need to work with a marketing demand generation partner who can deliver engaged opportunities to you within days of them expressing interest in having a deeper conversation. Thai means working directly with the teams that own the database and are executing the ICP marketing campaigns.

Do you use ‘look-alike’ profiles to meet bulk lead quotas?

This is a trick question, because the answer you are looking for here is “no, we don’t”

Always remember that your best prospects are the ones that ACT like your ideal customers, not the ones that have the same job title as your current customers.

Again, any B2B marketer will occasionally tweak an ICP to get a few more email addresses lined up for the next drop. That is just part of the business. But a quality opportunity generation partner will rely on first-party intent data and behavioral signals to find new audiences, when necessary.

And – this is essential – you also need to work with a partner who will be candid in their feedback about huge volume lead offers. Nobody has an unlimited count of in-market C-Suite contacts, no matter what they tell you. If they stretch to meet an unrealistic request, they are doing it with misaligned profiles and a lot of redundant or junk data from anywhere they can find it. That’s the opposite of “quality.”

What are your data quality / privacy standards?

This should be tablestales at this point, but be sure to ask any partner how they keep up with ever-changing data quality and privacy standards. Any credible data-driven B2B marketer is using AI and machine learning to check their database for anomalies and gaps. More importantly, their privacy and regulatory standards need to exceed the bare minimum. Governance is always changing and becoming more strict, and your partner needs to be ahead of that curve at all times.

What are your QA practices before delivering contacts?

Depending on the dollar value and volume of your contract, your marketing demand generation provider should be able (and willing) to ensure that all data is complete and correct. And that includes the option for phone calls to update or fill in any gaps or custom questions. Bulk lead providers may not offer that option, which is an indicator that you are signing up for quantity instead of quality.

Quality demand generation drives real engagement

Getting the best return on your marketing demand generation budget means investing in quality campaigns that connect you with ideal customers that convert to the next step in your revenue pipeline. This investment will cost a little more up front, but will result in your team wasting less time and resources on dead-end leads and ultimately closing a higher rate of deals.

Quality is just smart business.

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