B2B Marketing and Lead Gen Lessons from a 25 Year Industry Vet

Posted by Ben Kniffen in Uncategorized

LinkedSelling is excited to announce a new series featuring B2B's top marketing leaders.
Bob Cranston
First up, Bob Cranston, director of Marketing & Business Development with IPNETVoice, a cutting-edge Unified Communications Solution provider. Bob has over 25 years of marketing experience in both agency and captive capacities and is a fantastic resource on effective B2B lead generation strategies.
To learn more about Bob, head over to his LinkedIn profile.

For those of our readers who aren’t acquainted with the work of IPNetVoice, please tell us a bit more about yourself and your role within the company.

I bring over 25 years of marketing experience to the table.  This ranges from general marketing services in an agency environment to contract client-specific Lead Generation programs specializing in high-tech industries.  Currently, I am the Marketing and Business Development Manager with IPNetVoice, a provider of Hosted and Managed Unified Communications Solutions. FYI, we are a B2B company.  Marketing in this environment is different than in a B2C arena.  Saying this, the value of relationship-building is priceless, and is our best asset.

How has lead generation/telemarketing changed over the years, especially with the advent of the internet and the increased popularity of social media?

Wow! A lot has changed with the advent of the “broadband age!” Communication channels are different now.  Even as little as 10 years ago, the telephone was still the primary means of communication, now, with “new media,” the playground has different boundaries.  When I say “communication,” I refer to interaction.  This is where the biggest change has occurred.  “Interaction” has been subverted to the exchange of digital files, and the human element has become, shall I say   “less important.”   Business has become less personal.

So then, how would you redefine lead generation for the digital age?

The premise of “lead generation” has not changed… This is what I actually find humorous about a discussion like this.  Tactics, processes, procedures, plans… all of the above have changed;  but the goal remains the same-  target market sectors, and by doing so, increase product awareness and as a result, sales.

There is no way to “redefine lead generation in a digital age:”  the goal does not change.

Lead Gen is like a bullet! Target marketing.  Is the message discharged from a circa 1700 musket or a 21st century drone?  The intent is the same:  Hit the target!  Communicate a message, and accomplish the task using the tools available.  The shotgun approach has never been the most effective means of target marketing: marketing must be precise. (Just don’t wound them, slay them!)

What are the main elements of a good lead generation strategy?

hmmmm.  I would say “focus, focus, and perhaps intuition”

That might be a bit flippant, but…  As a marketer, it is important to understand the needs of a prospect and their product, which means you must focus on their pain:  “How to offer the prospect a solution to a “pain” or any unforeseen issue!”   That is easy to say, I know.

A good lead gen program is driven by an identified audience, a compelling message and good content.  No different from any other marketing communication.  What is the solution you are offering the prospect, and why is it the only solution they should consider?

What role should a lead generation program play in an organizations overall marketing strategy?

Any company that is in the B2B market needs to have a lead gen program.  The reality of “building a better mousetrap, and they will beat a path to your door” is no longer as easy to recreate today.  Proactive contact and seeking prospects is the mantra now.   The role of a lead gen program should be at the pointed end of the marketing spear.

What is the key to growing a strong database?

Research, creativity and unfortunately, budget.  We now live in a “data-rich” environment, but unfortunately, many incubator-class companies cannot afford to purchase a “Ferrari-class” list of leads like Hoovers.  This isn’t to say that a compiled list cannot bear fruit.  CRM programs (off the shelf) offer strong options in the sales arena….. but in lead gen, you want to capture information.  Customize your program in order to capture this information.

Data rules.  No more, no less.  Call back in 3 months?  9 months? 18 months?  What is the buying cycle?  The funding cycle?


But more importantly, establish a relationship with the decision maker, and CAPTURE that information for later communications: seldom is a capital purchase made on first blush.

What impact is big data having on lead generation?

By big data, I am assuming that you are referring to the fact that we are living in the digital age, where every action or transaction is recorded in some manner… and that data is captured, packaged, used, transmitted or resold to “somebody.”  Kind of scary!

Having said that, big data has made a tremendous amount of information available; not all is quality though. Compiled lists are still compiled lists, and come with all the pitfalls they always had, just there are more of them now.  It is still a function of Quality versus Price, with an added twist: application in “New Media”.  I’m not getting into that here, that’s a conversation for another time!

How do you recommend B2B marketers measure the success of a lead generation program?

Measurement is an inexact science.  What are you measuring?  I approach lead gen from a truly marketing perspective, while many limit it to sales margins.  Marketing is both the dissemination and CAPTURE of information, and lead gen is but one element in the marketing plan/mix.  Market research can be a useful byproduct of an effective lead gen program, or that data can be tossed out with the trash.  That trash can be expensive though.  Insight into competitor’s penetration into a regional market for example: this in turn could lead to increased advertising in a specific market, or, abandonment of that same market.  If the data is not captured and looked at intelligently, decisions will be made with both eyes shut, and one arm tied behind your back.

OK…back to the original question:  Measurement of success stems from a set of predefined measurable and realistic goals and expectations of any program made prior to execution of that marketing program.

What are the top mistakes when creating and implementing an outbound telemarketing campaign?
  1. A lack of focus or goals in the program: Define it. Design it. Deliver it.
  2. Inflated expectations.  Lead Gen is often perceived to be a route to quick sales.  Catching the “low-hanging fruit” is a bonus… cultivation of a prospect should be the goal. This refers back to using lead gen as a Marketing tool, not specifically a sales tool.
  3. Lack of follow-up.
What is the most undervalued lead gen tactic that B2B organizations keep missing out on?

Quality of follow-up. This statement ties back to earlier discussions in that a strong lead gen program is the dissemination of information, relationship building and the capture of information.  If you dangle a carrot, and the prospect is interested, you need to be able to provide a whole bushel of carrots over the cultivation period, one or two carrots at a time until they are converted.  The queue needs to be relatively full.

This is nothing new.  With all of the changes in delivery methods, prospects are assaulted 24/7 with a hailstorm of noise.  In the rush to be the newest, most innovative, most cutting-edge messenger, the message is being lost.  Get back to basics, what is your value-added proposition? Communicate!

How do you think B2B lead generation will evolve in the next five years? How should people be transforming themselves?

By people, do you mean prospects or those involved in lead gen?  I will talk about the marketing side first.

I think as marketers, especially in lead gen, we will more and more be faced with self-selection barriers.  Big Data… the proliferation of information on the web as well as other sources will shape opinions (both real and imagined) of a given product or service.  The premise of the challenge is the same though:  cut through the chaff.  Ad hoc marketing & advertising is a toss of the dice.

  A quality marketing program will use all APPROPRIATE available channels of communication, which is by no means all of them! 

Marketing managers need to familiarize themselves with new media, as well as “old media”, and apply the appropriate methodology for communicating their message.  Lead Gen is no longer limited to telemarketing, direct mail, trade shows, it is no longer…….you get my point.  It is a top-down process of planning and understanding of your customers and where they live in the wild-west of opportunities-  Missouri? Montana?  Mulholland Drive?  Understanding your audience is still the brass ring at the carrousel.  Evolution? Not really.  More planning and understanding of information pipelines, YES.

.. oh, as promised, regarding the prospects?  They have to smarten up and not believe everything they see on the web is true!

What excites you most about your job?

I am presently working with a young company, wearing many hats in the marketing & lead gen arenas. What excites me the most is applying what we have talked about today, both in theory, and in practice, but even more, is the opportunity to use what I have learned through the years, and applying it to a dynamic market, as well as to share this insight.  I also look forward to writing about our success in Forbes….

So, does telemarketing still work?

By all means, but it is more complicated now.  New telephone systems, more savvy gatekeepers, information overload.

But the reality is, companies need “stuff”… If you have GOOD “stuff”, you need to get the message out.  Telemarketing is a means of opening the door, especially when used intelligently in concert with multiple means of communication, and as long as you listen to all of the people you talk to.

Information is still the gold standard.