The Secret to Overcoming Lead Gen Backlash in B2B? Balance.



At SMWNYC, panelists from LinkedIn, SAP, and gyro came together to discuss data, finding a balance between quantity and quality, and the role of emotion in B2B marketing.


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B2B marketing is all about striking the right balances. Which metrics matter most, and how should you prioritize? What’s the right combination of automation and brand storytelling? Finally, how much data is too much data?

These were the overarching questions addressed in at SMWNYC in a panel featuring Jillian Ryan, Senior B2B Analyst at eMarketer, Mike Romoff, Head of Global Agency and Channel Sales at LinkedIn, Madhur Aggarwal SVP of Digital at SAP, and Mark Witthoefft, Head of Planning at gyro.

Here are a few key takeaways from the Q&A:

Vanity Metrics: Quantity vs. Quality

The discussion kicked off with a friendly debate on the subject of quality vs. quantity when it comes to content marketing. Panelists agreed that clicks, impressions, and indeed, leads, also known as “vanity metrics,” are fundamental data points. However, despite being predictive, measurable, and in some cases, inexpensive (i.e. the “cheap lead”), they might not have an obvious link to strategic objectives in a way that fuels long-term growth.

“I think there is a lot of opportunity not just to think about how you’re collecting information, engaging with people on a one-time basis, but really connecting how that conversation drives that strategic value that marketers bring for a company,” said Mike Romoff, Head of Global Agency and Channel Sales at LinkedIn.

Mark Witthoefft, Head of Strategy and Planning at gyro, added, “It’s about balancing feeling and precision, and leveraging all of the technologies at our disposal to do so.” In this same vein, he reiterated that a deep understanding of the customer is key to finding this balance and dictating the most effective mix of marketing tactics.

Madhur Aggarwal, SVP of Digital at SAP, offered a slightly different perspective from the vantage point of a brand, describing that the balance boils down to the ultimate outcome an agency or marketer envisions. “What you get is what you measure, what you set the tone for, what you tell your team to do, and the culture you build,” he said.

Tactics: Human vs. Machine

Another important tension under the B2B umbrella: human versus the machine. How should marketers employ technologies while creating authentic, human connections between their brand and their customers?

Witthoefft explained that gyro has worked with partners on both sides of this spectrum. On the side of automation, the company has worked with technologies that optimize at the bottom of the funnel, looking to build the “perfect lead gen machine.” On the other hand, he noted that there are those partners that have decided to focus their time and effort to the top of the funnel, that is, on brand story-building.

The right way to do it, per Witthoefft, is to create a balance that mixes both approaches. “You need very pragmatic, effective, precisely targeted communications at the bottom of the funnel but you also need these brand moments,” he articulated. B2B is about being practical as well as creative, delivering unique, irreplicable user experiences, he said.

“It’s also a tension between brand [measurement] and direct response,” Romoff said. Measuring the strength of a brand can be more elusive than measuring direct response objectives. This creates a trap where budget inevitably gets shifted from away from the upper funnel in favor of the lower funnel, which then contributes to a lack of emotional reassurance around significant business decisions that are being made. Aggarwal reinforced this point calling upon a Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study that found the larger the size of a transaction, the more the more substantial the role of emotion.

Data: Too Much vs. Not Enough

“There’s too much data; it’s not necessarily the right data,” Romoff said. Using a LinkedIn client as an example, he explained that the real opportunity lies in aiming for a more sophisticated application of metrics and other account-based marketing (ABM) tools to connect lead gen the real objectives of the business. Per Romoff, this involves taking the customer through the full buyer journey.

Panelists agreed that the real opportunity posed by reliable data sources is to more effectively tie the front-end activities of things like media buying and audience data with customer data with real business information—and then to make that data actionable for the business.

The big theme, then, is how B2B marketers can align the various customer-facing teams such as sellers, customer success, and the like and making sure they’re focused in an audience-centric way where there is a common view of objectives and determinants of a qualified lead.

“Metrics along the journey do exist. They’re all there and what’s really key and crucial is identifying how you bring them together,” Witthoefft said.

gyro is the first full-service, global creative b-to-b powerhouse. We are 700 minds in 17 offices acting as one.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with more than 546 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.


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