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Lead generation: you're doing it wrong (Part 2)

July 20, 2021

In the first part of this blog series, we spoke about how lead generation needs to change if B2B companies want to see better results.

We identified 4 areas that can drive this transformation:

  1. Change the way you define a lead - focus your sales and marketing power only on high-intent leads.
  2. Only measure revenue - ditch metrics based on volume and instead focus on conversion rate and MRR.
  3. Stop asking your SDRs to qualify leads - don’t let your least experienced salespeople qualify in or out.
  4. Send high-intent leads straight to your AEs - stop putting your highest-quality leads through the qualification process.

There is another side to this lead generation puzzle. It’s called inbound lead generation and it involves using content to spark conversations with prospects.

In this blog, Cognism CMO Alice de Courcy is going to delve into content-led lead generation and answer some frequently asked questions about it.

Scroll 👇 or skip to a question.

Gated content: yes or no? | Reps and content: how best to educate them? | Measuring success: what are the metrics to track? | Key challenges: what are they and how are they best resolved? | Inbound demand: how to deal with this? | The benefits of inbound lead generation: what are they? | The wrap-up: which lead generation method is best?

Gated content: yes or no?

Before you gate a content piece, you first need to think about two things:

  1. The intent of that content.
  2. The value that the content can deliver to your reader.

If you can get these two right, then there’s still value in having some gated content running in your B2B marketing funnel.

The idea of value is crucial here.

It’s unlikely that someone will fill in a form to download your eBook or watch your webinar if they can’t see the value in it.

Therefore, you have to showcase the value of your gated content. It’s only through delivering value that a lead will part with their details and complete a form.

What this requires is a rethink. Sometimes, as marketers, we become so wrapped up in the creation of a content piece that we miss the most important element: what does it mean for the reader?

The number one question to ask yourself is: how will this content make them better at their jobs and practically help them today?

If you can answer that question, then you’ve identified the value.

Here’s a real use case from my marketing team:

At Cognism, some of our best performing gated content assets are what we call “content upgrades.” These are templates and resources that people can download and use in their jobs today.

The value is that they enable people to become better at their jobs.

Their intent is also very clearly aligned with Cognism’s value proposition.

What’s the result of this?

It makes the calls our reps have with those that consume this content so much easier - leading to better conversations and improved conversion rates.

Reps and content: how best to educate them?

Even the most closely aligned sales and marketing teams can fall down in this area.

Your sales reps are the ones actually engaging in dialogue with your leads. They have their own quotas to fill and targets to hit. The best of them will be making upwards of 100 cold calls a day.

It’s unrealistic to think that they’ll have the time to read, watch and absorb every content piece you produce.

But - their knowledge of your content is crucial to their success.

So what can you do?

You need to make it as easy as possible for your SDRs. Recently at Cognism, we’ve introduced a content directory for our SDR team. It’s a spreadsheet that lists our gated content, summarises the themes and how they relate to our audience and business.

How does this help an SDR?

It gives them a good idea of what to open their calls with and how to tie the content back to Cognism - making them sound like experts. This obviously goes a long way to building trust and rapport, increasing the odds of having a successful call.

You can download Cognism’s content directory template here 👇

Get the template

There are other things you can do:

  • Use a lead routing tool such as LeanData.
  • Get your content writers to create cadences for your SDRs - at Cognism, we have a copywriting team that specialises in this.
  • Schedule weekly meetings between sales and marketing, with the purpose of reviewing each new content piece and how to pitch based on it.

Lastly, get feedback from your SDRs on which content pieces are performing best. What content is driving the right conversations with your leads? What content is leading to the most meetings booked per week?

These insights will help to steer your content marketing strategy in the right direction. If a certain type of content is generating a high number of meetings booked - perhaps you need to make more of them!

Measuring success: what are the metrics to track?

There are a few things that should be tracked here. I recommend the following:

The number of ‘actionable leads’ that the content is producing for your SDRs. How many leads are they rejecting and why?

The number of MBs and the conversion rate from lead:MB. We aim for a conversion rate of 13% from lead:MB and our reps are incentivised to achieve this. It holds both the reps and marketing accountable for quality.

The number of MAs. Are people showing up? If not, you need to adjust your cadence pre-demo. Tactics you can use here include:

  • Send the lead a video introducing the AE who’ll be conducting the demo.
  • Create a “WOW” moments video showcasing the best quotes from your customer testimonials - this can give the lead a serious dose of FOMO!


Speed to lead. How long is it taking your SDRs to have a human touch on these leads? Automated emails don’t count - it has to be real, personal engagement.

Key challenges: what are they and how are they best resolved?

There’s no doubt that inbound lead generation can throw up all sorts of challenges.

These are the most difficult ones I’ve encountered, plus my advice for solving them:

1 - Creating content of a quality worth gating

It goes without saying that not everything you produce should be gated. Only your most valuable resources should be deployed in this way.

But how do you make that call - and ensure that your content is of sufficient quality?

Don’t underestimate the value of testing and optimising. For instance, we published a blog on the B2B sales process. It was a consistent high-performer in terms of page views, so we expanded it into a whitepaper. Use your blog as a testing ground to identify the gated content you’ll create in future.

You also need to put time and resources into your content. Your content writers shouldn’t just be creating content from scratch; they should be looking to others (either inside or outside your company) to bring their expertise to their content. A content piece written by marketing alone is not going to cut the mustard most of the time.

2 - Simplifying the process for your SDRs

For inbound lead generation to work, it demands the removal of all silos and barriers to success.

If an SDR comes to marketing with a problem, you can’t tell them “it’s not my job to solve that”. You have to make the process as seamless and easy for them as possible. Everything must be in place for them or the whole strategy will fall apart.

3 - Aligning around key metrics and SLAs

It’s one thing to put metrics in place; it’s another to get sales and marketing leaders to align on them.

What helps us at Cognism to do this is having a daily automated report from Salesforce. All the leaders across the revenue team have access and we review and discuss it daily. This keeps everyone updated, motivated and aligned on the agreed SLAs and targets.

Other alignment best practices are:

  • Joined up targets - if the destinies of sales and marketing are matched, the rest will follow.
  • Strong reporting infrastructure - have the tools in place to produce clear reports that can be analysed frequently.
  • Hold regular meetings - alignment can only happen if sales and marketing make it a priority to talk with each other.
  • Over-communication - share everything! Keep everyone in the team informed on the strategy and results.

Inbound demand: how to deal with this?

In the last blog post, we discussed routing inbound leads direct to AEs.

There is another side to this debate, and it’s something we do at Cognism.

We have a team of Marketing Development Representatives (MDRs). These are our most senior SDRs, tasked with dealing with direct inbound requests.

What benefits do MDRs bring to the process?

1 - SLA and speed to lead attainment

It’s vital for us that anyone requesting information about Cognism is contacted by a human being within five minutes.

Why is this?

We want to talk to them at the precise moment when we’re at the front of their mind, not when they’ve had a few hours to forget about us or look at competitors. Chances are they’re in research mode, so we want to do everything we can to ensure that Cognism is their last stop and they get a great experience with our business, before anyone else.

2 - Great for SDR career progression

We place senior SDRs into the MDR role because it’s so vital to our business that inbound requests are handled appropriately.

The reason being:

Inbound leads often have high buying intent and consequently they demand a higher level of care and attention. They’re not a good training ground for green reps.

The MDR role is also a natural progression for more experienced reps to go into the AE role, as they get used to having more in-depth conversations.

3 - Frees up time for AEs to close

Our system is not to route inbound leads to AEs.

We look at it this way:

If an AE is on a demo or working on an opp that’s likely to close, then they should always prioritise those activities over an inbound demo request. We want our AEs to focus on their core responsibility: namely, closing.

It all comes back to speed to lead. Even if we can’t catch the lead on the first phone call, we have our MDRs, who are motivated to follow up and ensure we get an outcome from that request.

The benefits of inbound lead generation: what are they?

The main benefit you’ll see from this inbound lead generation approach is simple: meeting and beating targets!

And if that happens, it produces a “feel-good factor” across the business. Reps feel more motivated, marketers feel more valued. It brings the two teams closer and generates a feeling of “we’re all in this together.”

The wrap-up: which lead generation method is best?

Both methods we’ve discussed in Part 1 and 2 of this series have pros and cons.

The first method aims to use buyer intent and structural changes in your sales team to drive success.

The second method uses gated content and closer alignment between sales and marketing to deliver results.

Is there a balance to be found between the two for building the perfect revenue engine?

I would argue - yes, most definitely!

At Cognism, we’re using the best of both worlds. We’ve adopted bits of both models to fit our business and the priorities that matter for us.

The truth is, it isn’t a case of doing lead generation right or wrong - it’s about experimenting, testing, learning and finding out what works best for your company.

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