Study: Trade shows No. 1 channel for B2B demand generation

With all the talk of the rising influence of digital marketing, one would expect it to be the most effective channel for lead generation. However, more traditional channels like trade shows, email and search are the most effective B2B marketing channels, according to Software Advice's latest benchmark report.

"Naturally, some tactics that worked in 2004 (display ads) are no longer driving results ten years later. But others (email marketing, B2B print ads) still are, despite what all the 150-word blog posts might say to the contrary," said Jay Ivey, CRM market researcher at Software Advice. "Some big trends, such as social marketing, still have a lot to prove when it comes to delivering tangible ROI. But others, such as referral marketing, have already demonstrated that they should be core pillars of most marketers' strategy."

The report, "B2B Demand Generation Benchmark," which polled 200 B2B marketers in the U.S., found that trade shows and events are the No. 1 channel for generating not only the most leads but also the most high-quality leads. Seventy-seven percent of marketers said trade shows generated a "somewhat" or "very high" quantity of leads, while 82 percent said they generated leads of "good" or "excellent" quality.

"[Trade shows] are always the tactic that marketers rate as the most effective," Michele Linn, content development director at the Content Marketing Institute, told Software Advice. "In the digital age, where so much stuff is online, there's something exceptionally powerful about doing in-person events—if done well."

Other channels the respondents said generated a "very high" volume of leads included search engine advertising (22 percent), in-house email marketing (21 percent), and B2B print, radio or TV advertisements (20 percent).

"The latter finding is surprising, particularly since last year's demand generation report emphasized how digital channels have largely surpassed traditional media," the report said. "However, print magazines are still one of the most important sources used by decision-makers to research B2B purchasing decisions, according to an exhaustive, 423-page study by ABM (see page 23). As such, this more traditional channel is still an effective one for demand generation campaigns."

However, digital marketing is still incredibly influential, according to the report. The most commonly used content for B2B demand generation is video, which is used by 92 percent of B2B marketers. Next in line were surveys (88 percent), white papers (88 percent) and case studies (87 percent).

Respondents said surveys generate the most leads (63 percent rated it as "very high" or "somewhat high"). Video was a close second (62 percent). Case studies were on the bottom of the list.

"People gate a lot of the stuff early in the sales cycle to get leads into the funnel, and obviously, they want to nurture leads throughout," Linn told Software Advice. "But to me, it doesn't make a lot of sense to gate case studies at all, [because they're mostly just used to establish trust]. So it doesn't surprise me that those wouldn't generate a high quantity of leads."

In terms of effectiveness, live demos with sales reps were also the offering most cited as generating "excellent" (45 percent) or "good" (42 percent) quality leads.

To help B2B marketers figure out which channels will work best for them, Software Advice created a B2B Channel Effectiveness Quadrant worth checking out (below).

"It illustrates the relationships between the quantity, quality and cost of leads generated by channel, making it easy to see at-a-glance which ones marketers used successfully in 2014," the report said. "The B2B Channel Effectiveness Quadrant may be used as a first step for marketers looking to understand how to best prioritize their efforts. However, the actual effectiveness of these channels will depend on how they align with the particular business goals of any given organization."

For more:
-See the Software Advice report

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