SiriusDecisions wrote an insightful article last week about the acquisition by Marketo of Insightera (a Web personalization platform), and included was the following projection:
“By 2015, we expect to see 71 percent of b-to-b organizations’ new inquiries coming via the corporate Web site.”
The point being made by the article’s author, Jill Stanek, was that Marketo’s acquisition enables that company to extend dynamic, personalized marketing conversations from their current domain (email campaigns) all the way to the Website.
Fair enough. What doesn’t sound right to me, however, is that 71% figure. In fact, I’ll make almost the exact opposite prediction:
“By 2015, the percentage of B2B leads that arrive via corporate Websites will shrink dramatically as marketers maintain multiple, distinct online channels that are optimized for demand generation.”
By way of context, I happen to work for a B2B marketing agency that helps clients generate, nurture, and convert sales leads. Want to guess how many of those leads arrive via our clients’ Websites?
Why? Because when we design demand gen campaigns, we drive prospects to custom landing pages and campaign microsites that 1) are hosted separate from the main Website, and 2) are optimized for demand generation (that is, designed specifically to maximize conversion rates and form submissions.)
We almost never direct people to a corporate Website, for the simple reason that most Websites aren’t designed to be demand generation vehicles. For example, the average corporate Web page contains dozens of navigational links and “options” for the reader. This makes sense for the casual, organic visitor in the context of user experience. It’s the exact opposite of what we want for a demand gen campaign, which is to present the reader with exactly one offer, one call to action, and one option: fill out the form.
Other trends that are decreasing the role of Websites in B2B demand generation:
• the growing prevalence of microsites, blogs, information portals, and communities that exist outside the corporate Website but are designed specifically to generate search rankings, Web traffic, subscribers, contributors, and sales leads.
• the increasing importance of mobile marketing, and the pressure to create dedicated mobile landing pages and Web properties that are optimized both for demand gen and the mobile experience. (No matter how mobile-friendly you make your Website, I would argue, it will never convert leads as well as a dedicated mobile landing page.)
• the emergence of companies like Captora, a “Marketing Lead Acceleration” platform that enables B2B marketers to create hundreds of standalone microsites or “campaigns” that optimize in real time to increase search rankings and generate conversions.
• the growth in pay-per-lead (PPL) media channels like content syndication or sponsored content, whereby B2B marketers pay for leads (usually filtered by geography, company size, even job title) who downloaded a specific content asset, typically from a publisher’s Website.
To be clear, I’m not saying that a B2B Website shouldn’t be optimized for demand generation. To the extent that technologies like Marketo/Insightera make the Web experience more personalized and tailored to the individual, Websites can only become more effective at generating leads and moving prospects along the sales cycle. But effective to the point that they generate 71% of all sales leads? I doubt it.
What do you think?
Great article – I think the devil in this question comes in the details of what is considered a “website” for purposes of lead generation.
I agree that we’ll see more specialization, customization and personalization of landing pages, sections of traditional websites and other online properties. However, I think a lot of marketers for better or worse will group all of that together and call them “leads from our website.”
For example, is a mobile page separate from website traffic? Or a subset of it?
Then we can bring in the the question of single- versus multi-attribution of marketing tactics. Is a lead that comes from an ad in a e-newsletter from a media partner that drives a click to a responsive landing page and completed on a smartphone count as a website lead, a mobile lead, or a ad-derived lead? What if the ad was first read on a mobile, but later completed on a desktop?
Lots of interesting questions-I’m sure we’ll see as many discussions building off this Sirius comment, just as we’ve seen many discussion based on their “percentage of sale before first sales touch” or Gartner’s “CMO IT budget.”
Thanks for your comment, Steve – great points. I guess if you classify every brand-affiliated online property (blog, landing page, etc.) as part of your Website, 71% sounds more reasonable. However, when I read “via the corporate Website” I interpret that to mean a company’s main site and nothing more. And it’s on that basis that I think the actual trend is precisely the opposite of what Sirius describes …
Thanks for your reference to my recent post in the SiriusDecisions blog. I wanted to take a moment to clarify a few points..
In my blog post, I stated that SiriusDecisions expects 71 percent of inquiries to come from the Web, not sales leads. There is a big difference.
Also, to both your and Steve’s comment, in this context we are talking about all inquiries that originate via corporate Web properties, as opposed to offline interactions. I think you may have misunderstood my point because our view is that landing pages and microsites are Web properties that are classified within our definition of “Web site.”
That said, however, our experience with B2B organizations indicates that microsites and landing pages are being used less often, and we expect this trend to continue as organizations adopt personalization and other Web site conversion optimization technologies, and as the relative proportion of inbound inquiries continues to increase (vs. responses to outbound campaigns). While landing pages and microsites have traditionally been a workhorse of B2B marketing, and a boon for agencies, we know that truly dynamic, rules-based Web sites have and will continue to reduce the need for the costly development and management of unique landing pages and microsites.
Thanks for much for your thoughtful response. Some comments:
Your point about the distinction between inquiries and sales leads is noted. Even taking that into account, however, I still maintain (based on our experience, anyway) that corporate Websites are decreasing in their importance in the context of demand generation. However, to your next point, if you include ALL corporate Web properties, then yes, that changes the balance entirely (echoing Steve Susina’s earlier comment).
It’s also intriguing to me that your experience that microsites and landing pages “are being used less often (in B2B marketing)” is so dramatically different from our own. Our clients overwhelmingly prefer to build campaign-specific landing pages outside their corporate Website, usually leveraging some kind of marketing automation platform. Not only do these solutions make building, cloning, customizing and hosting landing pages much easier/cheaper/faster, but clients also avoid the inevitable internal politics and approval cycles that go with making additions and changes to the corporate site.
If you run into more B2B companies experiencing “costly development and management of landing pages and microsites”, will you send them our way? I think we can help. 😉
Thanks again for your time and response. Regards,