B2B Lead Generation Metrics: How to Track What Matters in an Environment That’s Constantly Changing
Tracking B2B lead generation metrics is important for B2B marketing – of course. But so is clarity.
There’s a pillar concept in marketing that proves the value of clarity: Confused people don’t take action. Usually this principle is applied to potential customers in the context of conversion rates. But it applies to B2B marketers’ decision-making, too.
When data is murky, it’s harder to make the right decision. When a marketer isn’t clear on what the next right step is, they will resist taking action. So decisions – and the actions they prompt – get delayed. Progress gets delayed.
Revenue gets delayed.
So clarity about marketing metrics matters. And while most B2B marketers know “more is NOT better” when it comes to data, many of us are still conflicted about which B2B lead generation metrics to track. Every bit of confusion or extraneous information has to go if you want to make the best decisions with the most confidence.
One Lead Generation Metric to Rule Them All
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to solve the problem of too many lead generation metrics.
If you had a magic wand, and you could change one metric in your B2B lead generation metrics – any metric, but only one – which one would it be? What’s the one metric “to rule them all” – the lynchpin that determines the outcome of all the other things you measure?
That’s the metric to focus on.
Any other metrics you track should be metrics that contribute to or influence the metric-to-rule-them-all.
I like to think of this one essential metric and its supporting metrics as if they were streams that flow into a larger river.
Those are the metrics that matter.
Also note that the lead generation metric you choose to make primary should also feed into other aspects of your company’s goals. In fact, this entire “if you could only change one thing” approach has been pulled from a tactic of prioritizing goals for SaaS startups. The owner is asked, “if you could only change one metric in your business, what would it be?” And then all tracking, all projects, and all actions flow from changing that one metric.
So always be clear about what your company’s primary goals are. Then adjust your marketing metrics – your overall marketing metrics – to align with those goals. Marketing metrics, including lead generation metrics, should always be aligned with the highest-value goal for your company.
To give you an idea of which overall marketing metrics to track, here’s what other marketers say are the most important data to track for making better marketing decisions overall. These metrics are not specific to lead generation, but later in this article we’ll come across each of these measurements as they relate to B2B lead generation metrics.
We’ll also draw from three major trends in B2B lead generation as we review which lead generation metrics to track: lead quality, lead qualification, and lead nurturing. They’re all important enough to make your short-list of lead generation metrics.
Focus on Lead Quality Over Lead Quantity
As we’ve cited in this blog from many different studies of B2B marketers, what matters is lead quality, not lead quantity.
Many B2B marketers are now directly compensated based on not just how many leads they generate, but how many MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) or SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) they generate. There’s nothing like directly tying a metric to compensation to help a marketer focus on it.
B2B marketers were asked what the most effective metrics used to measure lead generation quality were, and they listed them accordingly:
So as you look over which B2B lead generation metrics you’re tracking, think about lead quality. All leads are not created equal, and it’s actually quite likely that the 80/20 or “Pareto Principle” is playing out in your leads. I.e., it’s quite possible that 80% of the sales revenue you’re generating is coming from 20% of your leads.
Lead Qualification Metrics
This is a key aspect of creating quality leads, but many marketers are behind when it comes to tracking lead qualification. Only 39% of businesses use any lead qualification criteria in their lead generation process.
Even among those who do qualify leads, most follow up only with an email or a phone call from a salesperson. This is a good start, but more and more B2B buyers now want a live 2-way text option. Also, having a salesperson follow up can usually only happen during business hours, which are limited. That’s a problem because the speed that leads are responded to can significantly affect their conversion rates.
Despite all that, at least marketers are working the problem. Lead qualification strategies are evolving, and every year B2B marketers improve on what’s working and drop what isn’t working. This is why we track in the first place: to be data-driven and more effective over time.
Consider including even one or two lead qualification metrics in your essential B2B lead metrics. For example, you may want to optimize how quickly leads get qualified. So then you’d track time from lead creation to qualification. Or, if you’re testing multiple ways to qualify leads, you may want to track the cost to qualify each lead through the different tactics, and which lead qualification tactic is most likely to result in actual revenue.
As with everything else, track what you want to improve. Focus on the levers in your program that will make the most difference.
Lead Nurturing Metrics
Lead nurturing is a critical part of converting leads. And as with lead qualification, it’s an opportunity to get ahead. Most marketers have not gotten lead nurturing figured out, as the chart below shows. Only 18% say “a lead nurturing program is in place and measurable.”
You may want to actually set up a metric to measure for content performance as it relates to lead nurturing, as it’s considered the most essential (and the most difficult) element of a lead nurturing program.
Tracking Lead Generation Media Channels
At least one of the lead generation metrics you track should be which media channels work best for you. As you know, it’s not a good idea to try to be on every social media platform. It’s not a good use of resources to try to use every lead generation tactic available. Focusing on a few channels that work best for your company and your marketing strategy is more effective.
This is especially true for marketers with limited resources.
The chart below may help to shape what you track, and even which channels you try. Note that for lead generation, influencer marketing came in as the most valuable channel for lead generation. So there’s a whole new lead generation channel for some of you to consider: influencer marketing.
Lead Generation In the Context of the Buyer’s Journey and Other Marketing Functions
As a B2B marketer, you may not be working with a classic lead generation program, which means you probably aren’t going to be tracking with classic lead generation measurements.
As Salesforce explains in their State of Marketing 2020 report:
“Marketers aren’t just tacking on metrics — they are being more strategic about where in the customer journey to scrutinize them. For brand building purposes, for example, marketers are less focused on generating leads and more concerned about showcasing customer satisfaction. Customer acquisition cost analysis is supplementing more traditional lead generation and acquisition metrics, and referrals play an outsized role in retention and advocacy.”
This is as it should be, but it illustrates what B2B marketers are up against: They have to understand the entire customer journey. It’s a bad call to optimize a metric in the “lead generation” phase of the customer journey if it means that optimization is going to destroy the performance of even the next phase of the journey – customer acquisition. This is yet another piece of evidence that lead quality is critical, and why it should be the lens marketers look through when they access their B2B lead generation metrics.
How to Improve Your B2B Lead Generation Metrics
Let’s not just drop you with information on which metrics to track, because your very next question will be how to improve what you’re tracking. Luckily, there’s data on that, too.
Personalization tops the list of ways to improve lead quality. It’s closely followed by “improving content and content engagement,” then by “improving data management tools/platform.”
Improving the tools you use to track your lead generation will definitely help, but you’ll still need to be smart about which metrics you’re tracking. As the old saying goes, “a fool with a tool is still a fool.”
B2B Lead Generation Metrics for 2021 and Beyond
Have you noticed the common trend across all these lead generation metrics? They change. They change from company to company, and from year to year. They change as marketing technology gets more sophisticated, and they change as buyer behavior changes, and they change as B2B marketers become more sophisticated.
From all this uncertainty, one thing is clear: If you’re using the same lead generation metrics as you were in 2019, it’s time to update what you track. And by the same token, we’ll almost certainly be tracking different metrics in 2023 than we are now. Any marketing analytics program or dashboard you use needs to be flexible enough to adapt.