According to the annual B2B Demand Generation Benchmark report from SoftwareAdvice, to understand which channels, offers, content types and technologies used and most effective for demand generation programs, trade shows were most commonly cited as generating both the most and the best: 77% of marketers said they generated a “somewhat” or “very high” quantity of leads, and 82% said they generated leads of “good” or “excellent” quality.
Marketers found trade shows, referral marketing and in-house email marketing to be the best channels for generating large numbers of high-quality leads:
According to Michele Linn, content development director at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) “… Trade shows are always the tactic that marketers rate as the most effective… there’s something exceptionally powerful about doing in-person events… if done well…”
Other channels selected as producing a “very high” volume of leads included:
And, print magazines are still one of the most important sources used by decision-makers to research B2B purchasing decisions, according to an exhaustive study by ABM, notes the report. As such, this more traditional channel is still an effective one for demand generation campaigns.
When evaluating the quality of leads by channel, 78% of marketers singled out referral marketing (or “advocate marketing”) as producing “good” or “excellent” leads. This is in line with Gartner Research claim that B2B buyers are increasingly turning to peers, professional communities and B2B review sites to inform buying decisions, says the report.
Display advertising, such as banner ads, came in last on both the lead quantity and lead quality charts, although retargeting ads performed better in terms of quality. This finding corroborates the claims of inbound marketers that traditional display ads should be used situationally, if at all, for B2B demand generation, due to extremely low engagement rates.
When asked to evaluate the cost-per-lead of these channels, many (34%) singled out social media marketing (social media campaigns and programs outside of ads) as having a “very low cost.” A combined 66% also cited in-house email marketing as having a “somewhat low” or “very low” cost-per-lead.
Cost-Per-Lead by Channel (U.S.B2B Marketers; October 2014)
Relative Cost Perception; % of Respondents
Very Low Cost
Very High Cost
Email marketing-house list
Social media, unpaid
Email marketing-rent or purchase list
Social media advertising
Search engine advertising
Third party webinars
Thirty party lead originators/publishers
Print, radio, TV advertising
Trade shows and events
Source: Software Advice, October 2014
While many marketers said trade shows produced a high volume of excellent leads, this was also the channel most frequently described as having a “somewhat high” or “very high” cost-per-lead (83%). No surprise, says the report, given the cost of travel, registration fees and mountains of swag typically used to lure prospects into presentations.
Marketers reported that they used all 15 of the demand generation channels listed, with each being used by at least 85% of respondents. In-house email marketing was the most popular choice, with a 97% adoption rate.
When asked to rank the demand- and lead-generation effectiveness of various types of content, offers and calls-to-action, video was the one most commonly leveraged for demand generation programs, used by 92% of B2B marketers. That’s above surveys (88%), white papers (88%) and case studies (87%), notes the report.
In contrast to the findings of CMI’s recent B2B Content Marketing report which found case studies to be more commonly used than videos, perhaps because the study includes a significantly higher percentage of marketers representing large businesses, which are eight times more likely than small businesses to use video content. Many marketers also reported that surveys and research content produced a “very high” (23%) or “somewhat high” (45%) number of leads.
Marketers most commonly cited B2B videos as generating a “very high” quantity of leads (23%). Surprising, says the report, noting that videos have long been thought of primarily as indirect content used to build interest and trust, rather than to actually drive leads. However, the fact that videos are directly generating leads suggests that marketers are creating more actionable videos.
In addition to generating the highest number of leads, live demos with sales reps were also the offer or CTA most cited as generating "excellent" (45%) or "good" (42%) quality leads.
As with the in-person experiences offered by trade shows, live demos offer a more personalized context in which to interact with customers. And because they are scheduled events with a real person on the other end, B2B buyers enter with the expectation that they will need to provide detailed contact and in-depth information, resulting in higher quality leads.
While 97% of the respondents used email marketing software, customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation suites were the next most commonly used technologies, at 97 and 96%, respectively. This reflects their status as foundational systems for B2B marketing.
These results, says the report, reflect the increasing importance and sophistication level of technology to B2B marketing departments, corroborating Gartner’s claim that by 2017, chief marketing officers (CMOs) will spend more on information technology than on chief information officers. CRM was most commonly cited as "extremely important" (36%) or "very important" (35%) to the success of demand generation programs.
When asked how they planned to adjust spending on demand generation programs next year, 41% of marketers said they would increase their spend, 43% said they’d spend the same amount and 17% said they would decrease spend.
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