See that? That’s a picture of a BANT lead tree. Yes, there is a unicorn sleeping under the tree. That’s because BANT lead trees only grow in the same fictional world where unicorns, elves, and dryads roam.
Every week, clients ask me for hundreds of BANT leads* that will convert at 40 percent, and they want to pay $50 a piece. Look, I get it. Marketers need to show sales they can build pipeline and show their CMO a positive return. But, just like magical trees and unicorns, BANT leads do not roam free in the wild, waiting to be harvested in large quantities.
BANT Leads Do Exist
To be clear, I’m not calling the BANT lead itself a myth — only the notion that companies can cheaply purchase massive amounts of them and close down new business with minimal effort. BANT leads do exist, and you can generate them through a number of different channels. Inbound marketing is a great way to drive highly-qualified, bottom-of-the-funnel leads. SEO, organic search, and review sites are also great ways to target prospects who are researching a specific product. If you do this well, you can start plenty of sales conversations and close leads quickly at a cost per acquisition that is well below average.
The challenge is that many sales teams only want to see these types of leads, and marketers can’t produce enough.
Why can’t marketers produce enough? Because BANT leads don’t grow on trees. At any given moment, only about three percent of businesses are looking to buy a specific type of solution. (Note: this stat is also corroborated by TA’s internal lead stats as well – thanks to Paul Burrin for pointing out the lack of citation originally!) These are the people visiting your product pages or engaging with review sites.
In the B2B world, even these prospects will take time to make a purchase decision and sign a contract. If your company has a $150k average deal size and a 12-month sales cycle, why the hell are you trying to buy leads who have a specific timeframe and budget? If you aren’t already engaged with those leads early in the research process, you will lose them to competitors. Period.
Buy in Bulk, Then Nurture
According to a case study done by Meclabs, 20 percent of customers come from leads that were acquired over a year in the past. Stop trying to generate only BANT leads from top-of-the-funnel programs (like telemarketing and content syndication), and nurture what you already have! Ever hear of marketing automation? Guess what. When those leads have been nurtured and they’re ready to buy, you will be first vendor on their list.
Here’s the good news: top-of-the-funnel programs can yield BANT leads. But if you want to find the needle(s) in a haystack, you have to buy the whole bale. Time for a little math. 1,000 content syndication leads should yield 10-20 BANT opportunities, on average. The rest need to be carefully nurtured, and more will become customers over time. If 1,000 leads cost $40,000, and you only contact the BANT leads, you’re paying $40,000 for 10-20 leads. Break that down further, and you get a $2,000-$4,000 cost per opportunity. Think $2,000-$4,000 per opportunity is high? That’s the going rate for quick ROI.
The Funnel is Smaller at the Bottom
If you only purchase leads that meet BANT criteria and try to show ROI immediately, you will cripple the long-term health of your pipeline. Instead, spend time nurturing your top-of-the-funnel leads, and expect them to convert over time. The marketing funnel is smaller at the bottom for a reason. Stop trying to flip the funnel. No one uses an upside-down funnel for anything, ever.
The best thing you can do, as a marketer, is ask questions to identify pain. Let the nurture process and the sales team create urgency. Over time, more and more of your leads will clarify their intentions and become qualified, even BANT qualified.
What steps is your team taking to maximize ROI for lead gen programs? Looking forward to your comments.
*BANT leads: leads that meet defined criteria for budget, authority, need, and timeline