"The MQL is Eating Marketing": How to Fix Broken B2B Lead Generation

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The alignment problem between sales and marketing is a well-beaten drum. But Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at InsightSquared, pinpoints the root cause when he says “the MQL is eating marketing.”

Joe joined #TrackMavenLive to identify three key alignment challenges that cripple B2B lead generation at most organizations, and explain why he opted to move his team away from an MQL model.

Watch the complete presentation now, or read the key takeaways and case studies below:

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3 limitations of traditional B2B lead generation:

1. Outbound marketing is going over the fiscal cliff of spam.

On the outbound side of marketing – which Joe equates to spam – InsightSquared was seeing decaying results. “With spam, you see worse results over time because you start with the best names possible and, with every day that passes, you get further from your objectives.”

Herein lies the limitations of outbound marketing. A sales-marketing strategy built on outbound alone will quickly hit a ceiling, beyond which it is impossible to scale.

2. Sales and marketing alignment degrades under the MQL model.

Every marketing leader must roll up her sleeves and tackle the sales and marketing alignment dilemma head on. But Chernov notes that most sales and marketing teams have broken infrastructure when you break down the incentives fueling an MQL model.

“Marketing’s metric – the MQL – was intended to be a proxy for leads likely to proceed down funnel. But because there is no universal definition of MQL and executives push for more and more MQLs, marketers end up being measured solely on their ability to generate MQLs at volume.”

“As a result, marketers set the bar as low as possible to make it as easy as possible to achieve the metric. When we’re gaming the system to generate these leads, we’re putting sales in a lousy position and lose their trust.”

Put differently, an MQL model does not make for a happy sales-marketing handoff.

3. Inbound is fundamentally a long-tail strategy.

For all the good of inbound marketing, organizations with an inbound-only strategy see a sharp decay in lead volume because of breakage at each stage of the funnel.

As described earlier, lead volume naturally thins out as inbound leads go through the funnel.

“Inbound works when you are generating tons of content, each resulting in a reasonable number of leads each month. But when you are just starting out, you must supplement it with other programs. And outbound might not be effective enough.”

Hybrid inbound/account-based lead generation programs at InsightSquared

Realizing that a hybrid inbound/account-based marketing (ABM) approach was the best option for InsightSquared, Chernov’s solution was to experiment with programs that focus on making it more likely that target accounts would be receptive when contacted by InsightSquared’s sales team.

Here are case studies of three hybrid campaigns InsightSquared implemented to better align sales and marketing.

Case Study #1: Branded energy drink mailer to open opportunities.
InsightSquared saw tremendous drop-off between stage two and three: those who had already seen a demo and looked like the target buyer.

Using symbols from InsightSquared reports, marketing branded cases of energy drinks and sent them to open opportunities in sales stage two.

Execution of this campaign required alignment between marketing and sales. “It’s very important to emphasize that sales reps had to green light each mailer.”

The results:

  • People shared images of the drinks on social media
  • InsightSquared closed one deal a quarter earlier than anticipated
  • Recipients were 35-40% more likely to buy than those who didn’t receive the campaign

Case Study #2: “Come running back” campaign to advocates/lost deals.
InsightSquared wanted to target people who had used InsightSquared at one company and had subsequently joined another company not using InsightSquared. The premise was that this person could be an advocate and help short-circuit the sales process.

Marketing sent these contacts a postcard showing a Nike ID sneaker and the headline: “Come running back.” The flip side of the postcard displayed a URL to a landing page asking for the contact’s shoe size and address. In return, InsightSquared sent a pair of branded Nike IDs.

The campaign was surprisingly a failure. “My hypothesis as to why this was a dud was because the sales team did not pick the accounts to receive the postcard. Remember: ABM is a sales-run process and marketing is riding shotgun. Without sales’ buy-in, you won’t get a critical channel for connecting with the recipient.”

Of note: InsightSquared reused this same mailer to targeted closed/lost deals it wanted to claw back. With sales buy-in, this is now among the company’s highest performing campaigns.

Case Study #3: Cold feet campaign. 
If someone is in a sales stage longer than average, marketing sends them InsightSquared-branded socks and a post card explaining that the InsightSquared product told the company these folks are stuck in the sales cycle.

“Not only is this an interesting promotion, it provides a tacit demo of the product. The campaign is working but not as well as I’d like because of its lukewarm adoption by sales. No salesperson thinks their deals are stuck so it’s hard to get sales buy-in.”

Are you arming your sales team to spark a conversation? Watch Joe Chernov’s complete presentation to learn how to build content that supports the right approach for your business.

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