How Do You Gauge the Success of Your B2B Lead Generation Events?

I always ask this question of prospects and customers, knowing in the back of my mind that the answer is nebulous and difficult to answer. By nebulous and difficult I mean: the key performance metrics of their answer is strife with holes regarding economic value. I was in a meeting today and asked a Fortune 100 customer this very question regarding a series of B2B lead generation events they were producing. Here is the response I received:

1) Deviation of attendance level from previous year
2) Decrease or increase of registered attendees versus attended
3) Lead volumes of exhibiting sponsors
4) Exit surveys gauging value of session topics and overall event performance.

Now, imagine if you have P&L responsibility for the investment and faced with budget restrictions due to economic times. You are looking for the largest return on investment and this response, even if positive doesn’t raise a high level of confidence regarding “bang for your buck”.

There are articles everywhere bashing events as a marketing investment and I believe the main reason why is the failure to articulate revenue contribution. (The 10 Dumbest Things Businesses Buy) I also believe marketers are not receiving credit for their revenue contribution and companies devalue these investments.

What should you do?

Read the Entire Post on Experient’s new Event Industry Blog! []

Fishing for Qualified Leads: Which Strategies Yield the Biggest Catch

What do you fish with at tradeshows: a pole or a net?

I often speak with exhibitors and event marketers who deploy one of these two lead capture strategies. Let’s review:

“Fishing Pole” strategy – I only scan leads that have expressed legitimate interest in our products and services. If they want a trinket, or have no authority, I don’t waste my time or my sales team’s time by scanning. When I bring home leads they are already qualified because I only scan the good ones. Counts are low but that is what we want. High quality, low quantity.

“Fishing Net” strategy – I know there are 8,000 people at this show, I want 8,000 leads. I bought 8,000 squishy balls and want everyone here to have one. All they have to do is let us scan them. High quantity, variable quality.

Which strategy is better? The answer depends upon your lead management foundation…

Read the Entire Post on Experient’s new Event Industry Blog! []

How Skimming leads can benefit Marketing Automation

I am very fortunate to be able to communicate with smart B2B marketers every day and I learn a bunch from all of them.  One concept that came to me through a couple of customers is the idea of skimming leads from campaigns as a means to make their marketing automation deployments more effective.

We have several customers that have successfully deployed Marketing Automation as a means to score leads based upon capturing implicit and explicit data.  The benefits of Marketing Automation to these companies are tremendous and worth every penny.  But there are inefficiencies that can be captured by skimming leads, especially at face to face events or blast campaigns that these companies recognized.  Let me explain how and why these customers skim their leads.

Large Tradeshow campaign

I was working with a large customer at a tradeshow and while in a discussion with a sales leader for that company I learned their disdain for Marketing Automation.  The comment that resonated most was this: “Are these leads going into Eloqua?  If so, I’ll never see them.  Just give me my damn leads now! ”

His complaint surprised me and validated to a certain degree why I was at that event.  This company is one the smartest B2B marketing organizations I have had the pleasure to work with and they were in the process of skimming at this event for the first time.

What is skimming?   Skimming is, identifying where buyers are in their lifecycle by asking when in dialog, and taking those that are “sales ready” off of the top, bypassing Marketing Automation and going direct to Sales.  These customers also skimmed trinket seekers by enabling each lead to control how they were treated post event.

Prior to this, all leads were captured by a simple scan, and then processed and scored by their incubation tool.  When incubating leads it may take 6 to 8 weeks to find out which leads are “sales ready” versus “trinket seekers” simply because Marketing Automation bases its score on implicit and explicit activity.  It may take 4 to 6 touches in order to capture that person’s attention again and that takes time.

At this event, they captured over 3,000 leads and of those 30% were distributed direct to sales based upon their lead score which was captured at scan by augmenting their scan with qualifiers.  They skimmed and Sales were served leads that were qualified to their specifications.

Treating Marketing Automation (Eloqua) as a Salesperson

This customer manages a large global tradeshow program and they spend a lot of money annually driving traffic to their global sales team.  Demand Generation is key and quick lead follow up required.  I am particularly impressed at how they deployed a skimming strategy for Event Lead Capture with their Marketing Automation technology.  Essentially, their Tradeshow leads are profiled and scored in real-time on 5 different levels based upon product interest and propensity to buy.  At show end, all leads are automatically import into their CRM environment and immediately assigned to a sales distribution list.  What’s cool about this deployment is that they consider their Lead Incubation engine as a Sales representative within their CRM environment.  All sales ready leads go direct to a Sales person, and incubation leads go direct to their Incubation Sales queue.

Marketing Automation image

Why do this?

Above is a snap shot of actual profile and categorized data from a large tradeshow campaign.  If these leads were not categorized and skimmed, companies are forced to treat all as if they are sales ready which can be costly, especially when you are paying a fully burdened wage to chase the “C” and “D” leads.  By skimming, this company immediately treated those 80 “Sales Ready” leads with a professional human touch, and the Marketing Automation Sales Rep immediately began incubating those that are in need of incubation.  Why pay someone to chase a buyer that isn’t ready?  There are great incubation engines that do this much more effectively and with a tremendous cost benefit.

I have seen true world class B2B lead Management programs and without exception, all of them are capturing buying cycle demographics when in dialog and skim.  Let me know if you have seen similar strategies!

Measuring Cost per Lead can be costly…very costly!

I have had countless discussions with marketing leaders regarding the KPI’s they use to measure their programs and am continually surprised at the value placed on “Cost per Lead”. I have been approached by marketing services firms as well that promote their ability to drive higher demand at a lower cost than their competitors. What these companies sometimes failed to recognize is that driving your program to this metric can end up costing you much more than you realize. This true story will help you understand what I mean.

Two different businesses are exhibiting at the same show, Exhibitor #1 – sporting a nice 10×10 booth with two personnel and Exhibitor #2 – displaying a 50×50 exhibit with a theater presentation and 19 representatives. Both companies had the same goal: Generating as many sales leads as they possibly could over the three day event. Exhibitor #1 was offering a new iPad as a means to draw traffic, and Exhibitor #2 was giving away a cool t-shirt, an autographed guitar by a famous rock star and they had a bar.

For the duration of the event, Exhibitor # 1 captured 148 leads, Exhibitor #2 captured 1110. While there is a huge disparity in the number of leads at the event between the two, they are proportionate to their expenditure.


Here – Cost per Lead looks good

Exhibitor #1 results: Exhibitor #2 results:

Total Cost = $ 12,250 Total Cost = $91,000

Total Leads = 148 Total Leads = 1110

Cost per Lead = $82.77 Cost per Lead = $81.98

In looking at these metrics it appears that Customer 2 benefited from their increased presence and they had a slightly lower Cost per Lead than Customer 1.

Let’s take a closer look now at their metrics taking Cost per Qualified Lead into account.

Fortunately these were two companies who qualified and categorized their leads at capture by allowing the attendee and lead to control how they wanted to be treated post event. In order to become eligible to win the iPad, autographed guitar or prior to picking up one of the free t-shirts you had to scan your badge and answer a few quick qualifying questions. Attendees were encouraged to be candid in their response and they were offered an opt-out, i.e. thanks for putting me in the drawing and please don’t call me after the show! Here are the results for Exhibitor #1 and Exhibitor#2 taking into account three lead categories, sales ready (fully qualified) lead, incubation lead, trinket seeker lead.

Now look at the real cost

Exhibitor #1 results: Exhibitor #2 results:

Total Cost = $ 12,250 Total Cost = $76,000

Total Sales Ready leads = 31 Total Sales Ready leads = 71

Total Incubation leads = 48 Total Incubation leads = 295

Total Trinket Seekers leads = 69 Total Trinket Seeker leads = 612

Cost per Qualified Lead = $395.16 Cost per Qualified Lead = $1,070.42

Now, imagine the cost if they did not qualify at capture (all leads treated as if there were Sales Ready). Validar has built a model that identifies this figure by taking into account the following metrics in its calculations.

Model Assumptions:

  • Fully Burdened wages of our inside and direct sales reps.
  • Step by step process and time associated with manually processing and distributing all leads to sales versus Validar’s automation.
  • Step by step process of nurturing all 148 leads to 31 Sales Ready leads and 1110 leads to 71, respectively.

Cost without qualifying at capture

Exhibitor #1 results: Exhibitor #2 results:

Campaign Cost = $ 12,250 Campaign Cost = $91,000

Cost to qualify = $2,569 Cost to qualify = $19,271

Total Cost = $14,819 Total Cost = $110,271

Total Leads = 148 Total Leads = 1110

Total Sales Ready leads = 31 Total Sales ready leads = 71

Cost per Sales Ready Lead = $478 Cost per Sales Ready Lead = $1,553

Since both companies categorized their leads at capture, they are now in a position to make strategic decisions and adjustments with regards to their investment next year at this event. Exhibitor# 2 did a great job driving traffic. Was it the right traffic? Will it meet their revenue goal? Now, imagine if they did not categorize at capture and assumed those 1110 leads were legit. They might be able to justify a bigger booth and a car to give away instead of a guitar next year. Very dangerous!

How do you determine if a campaign is successful? Let me know your stories.

Why You Should Not Let Sales Work the Booth at Tradeshows!

Unless they are in sync with your event goals.

 It is kind of hypocritcal that I write this post given my actions as both a direct sales contributor and sales leader working tradeshow exhibits.  I say these things in repent knowing that I was wrong in my actions and ask for forgiveness from my previous co-workers. 

I used to manage a large sales team for a $120 million company in Seattle; we sold a large enterprise application with an average sales price of $125,000.  I had a total of 25 sales reps reporting to me from three regions and was one of four Regional Vice Presidents managing a team.  The culture within our company was very competitive across these regions on a quarterly basis with each of us vying to out-perform the other regions from both a revenue generation and forecasting basis.   Jim and I managed regions that were the primary contributors and we both respected and hated each other.  Essentially my team and I had two competitors we were dealing with on a day to day basis, our cohorts within the company and those external competitors we were competing with for new business. 

Now imagine deploying this culture at a tradeshow where there are no geographical boundaries with regards to ownership of leads and opportunities.  I had three primary goals with regards to my company’s exhibit:

1 )  A percentage of my pipeline was walking the floor; I did not want Jim or his team anywhere near these opportunities.

2)  I also did not want a new temp Marketing just hired or Marketing in general pitching these opportunities. 

3)  I wanted to make sure we got more leads than Jim. 

I can’t believe how shallow I was.  Jim was the same way though.  Bastard. 

By the way, Marketings goals were not in alignment with mine. 

Anyway, when I or my team was working the exhibit we naturally worked it with these three goals in mind.  If an opportunity from New York visited (not my region) we would pass these individuals to someone in Marketing or simply hand them a brochure and covertly send them along their merry way.  We would also inadvertently forget to scan these leads.  Actually I usually did not scan at all.  For my leads, I would grab their business card and slip them into my pocket.  Marketing was scanning everybody they could anyway to win a “Who can drive the most leads” contest.  This contest usually got a little out of hand.  I was often scanned by our own company to increase their counts.         

I was watching the NE region (Jim’s) closely and could care less about the scans Marketing was capturing.  We knew if an opportunity appeared because Marketing was instructed to get one of us in these cases.  Event success was determined based upon the number of business cards we captured versus Jim. 

Man, if our CFO knew this was happening I am quite certain he would have been pissed. 

For you marketing leaders out there, remember you have no boundaries so please make sure your team treats their leads with the company in mind, not themselves.  If you are inviting sales to participate, let them know you are working for everyone on the team and jointly create an event strategy.  Focus on driving leads that are categorized to Sales specifications (Validar eatings its own dogfood).  Get your CEO involved with the planning as a means to set the ground rules.  Don’t bring them in if this investment is coming out of your budget and they are not aligned.  Jim is a prime example of what will happen!  Let me know if you have any stories to share as well.  I know they are out there.

It’s budget time! Was your marketing budget cut?

 As a former sales leader and direct sales contributor, I have been on the receiving end of leads for many years.  Throughout I have seen firsthand the challenge marketing teams have in articulating their value to a CFO.  By value, I mean revenue production.  If your marketing budget was $4 million, what revenue impact did your company receive through this investment?  These are the types of questions that typically come up:  

1)      How many deals did we land through the 40 tradeshows we attended?

2)      How much revenue was driven from our user’s conference? 

3)      How many leads came in and were closed via our website?

4)      What is the revenue figure associated with these marketing assets?  

I can go on and on with these types of questions in which accurate answers can be very difficult to obtain.  This usually leads to a reduction in budget, which forces the marketing department to do twice the work with half the resources.  Sound familiar?

True story:  Larry, Vice President of Marketing, and Victor, Vice President of Sales are in an annual review in preparation for budgets with the CEO and CFO.  Larry, in his annual review presentation proudly stated that lead volume across all touch points (Website, tradeshow, and direct marketing) was up approximately 20%.  He stated that his literature distribution volume was up as well.  He was kicking butt and wanted the boss to know.  Victor piped in and stated that Larry should stop sending him leads.  He didn’t have the bandwidth to work that activity and most weren’t even followed up on.   Argument proceeded and the meeting was over.  Afterword, they put us both in the same office and ended up cutting Larry’s marketing budget by 20%.

 What did we do?  We ended up collaborating on the definition of a “Sales Ready” lead.  We also agreed upon two additional metrics, average sales price and average close rate across three product types.  Marketing agreed to only hand over leads that were categorized “Sales Ready” and Sales agreed to meet or exceed the agreed upon average sales price and close rate metrics. We also adjusted our compensation plan to encourage Sales to update the status of their opportunities within our CRM system.  Essentially, if their territory activity/pipeline was not depicted in CRM and closed orders updated, they did not receive commission. 

Through these efforts, Marketing was able to more accurately depict their projected, pipeline and actual revenue production from a campaign to campaign perspective.  Sales was getting what they wanted as well, qualified leads.


Based upon this experience and many others, I cannot stress enough how important it is that both sales and marketing are in sync with regards to their efforts.  The benefits of effective collaboration are tremendous; increased revenue, reduced lead management costs, improved CPOD (cost per order dollar) improved deployment of CRM and ancillary marketing tools and corporate sanity! 

In our next annual budget meeting, our conversation revolved around adjustments in our “Sale Ready” definition, strategies to improve close rates and adjustments in campaign investments based upon the aforementioned results.  We found some campaigns were driving in 50% fewer leads but 15% more “Sales Ready” leads.   The cost benefit of adjusting was tremendous! 

Let us know if you have any other stories regarding budget challenges and wins.