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B2B marketers: Please don’t believe everything you read.

One of my favorite marketing magazines, BtoB, featured an article in its November 8, 2010 edition which posed some questions to Brian Halligan, CEO of marketing software company HubSpot.

One of the questions was "How can b2b marketers improve their lead-nurturing efforts?"

Brian’s answer was, "B2b companies are way too obsessed with the middle of their funnels—[i.e.,] what do I do once I get a lead?—and not nearly interested enough in how the heck do I get more leads in the first place. They spend 90% of their time [in the middle of the funnel], then squeeze the value from their lists. What they should do is flip that and spend 90% of their time really opening the top of their funnel and getting more leads into the funnel."

In my opinion Brian couldn’t be more wrong.

What he is suggesting as a strategy is what B-to-B marketers used to use in the last century. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.

Yes, generating interested prospects is important. But building sales-winning relationships with prospects as they move from inquiry to consideration to purchase by nurturing those leads generates up to 300% more qualified, sales-ready leads and proportionately more sales as a result.

In other words, shifting some of your marketing investments from lead generation to lead nurturing generates a higher ROI for B-to-B marketers every time.

Care to weight in on the subject?

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Hi there.

Thanks for your thoughtful article. You caught my attention!! Smile.

I’m actually a big fan of the middle of the funnel stuff you are espousing and KNOW it works. In fact, we have invested millions of dollars here at HubSpot into lead nurturing tools for our customers and I see the results they get when they do it.

All I am saying is that for a lot of our B2B customers with say 5000 leads spend a ton of time on MOFU and are able to double their lead to customer conversion rate. This is very very exciting. For a lot of them, I think if they spent a few of those MOFU (middle of the funnel calories) on the top of the funnel, they could grow their leads from 5,000 to 50,000 — then their MOFU activities have a lot more leverage.

My sense is that the internet provides huge opportunites to improve in both TOFU (top of funnel) and MOFU, but that there is more leverage today in TOFU than ever. You used to have to spend tons of money on PR and advertising to get found and now you can pull people into the top of your funnel (leads) by creating remarkable content, optimizing it for search engines, and spreading in the social mediasphere.

I see this stuff through my customers’ eyes. They get value in both the top and the middle, but for a lot of them I think they can just get a lot more leverage out of the top!

Thanks for sparking the discussion!


Brian, thanks for weighing in.

What you said here is a lot different from what you said in the BtoB article. Thanks for clarifying.

In the 90’s many B2B marketers spent 95 percent of their time, money and resources on lead generation and only 5 percent on lead nurturing or cultivation. That didn’t work.

Today’s smart B2B marketer has evolved towards investing half their budget, time and resources towards lead nurturing and are finding many more qualified sales opportunties as a result.

I believe that the ideal situation balances lead generation and lead nurturing about 50/50. This assures plenty of new inquiries and maximizes the conversion of those inquiries into qualified, sales-ready leads.

– Mac


This is my kind of discussion. I’m with Mac on this one. I still think Brian, you are too focused on quantity over quality. I think pundits and consultants like us are obsessed with the MOFU. I rarely see that with my B2B clients.

Promoting more leads at the top only exasperates the problem for most B2B marketers. If they have not focused time and energy on how to convert those new leads into qualified opportunities, they only wasting more marketing program dollars, but worse they are wasting valuable sales dollars. All that does is infuriate the sales team and bring the wrong type of attention onto Marketing leadership from senior management.

3 out of every 4 leads are NOT sales ready, but the focus on quantity drives marketing to pass those along to sales to keep from being a bottleneck. Dave Green at MECLABS recently reported that 8 out of 10 B2b marketers are still sending raw leads to sales. I think that is what happens when the focus is on quantity at the top vs quality in the MOFU.



Interesting discussion. I can tell you that if I owned an inbound marketing platform company like Hubspot I would be espousing TOFU till the cows come home too! Disclaimer: we are a very happy Hubspot customer and it has done wonderful things for our business.

But, having said that, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. TOFU only counts if the leads fit the buyer profile and many of them don’t. MOFU matters because here is where you have an opportunity to convert those that do fit your buyer profile into active opportunities through nurturing programs combined with the human touch.

The problem is that we all want one strategy to fit all businesses because we like things nice and tidy. The reality is that the list of variables you need to consider to design your lead acquisition and conversion strategy is signifcant and not to be ignored. It does make life interesting though doesn’t it?


You do need to be obsessed with the whole demand generation funnel and periodically review how you are performing at each stage of the funnel. There is definitely a point of diminishing returns at the top of the funnel. Casting a wider and wider net will eventually bring in a lot of fish you can’t eat. The key is understanding the metrics for your lead funnel and focusing on the stages where you fall below best practices benchmarks.


My eyebrows jumped off my face when I read Brian’s comment in B2B. His clarification (above) helps, but indicates that we are viewing the “funnel” the wrong way.

Traditional funnel diagrams show sloping sides until the funnel narrows near the bottom. In marketing, the sides at the top of funnel actually are vertical … meaning the names we gather populate the top of the funnel, but are undistinguished from each other.

Only when we begin contacting/nurturing/developing the names can they become leads. That’s when the funnel sides change from vertical to sloping.

So using Brian’s 5000 – 50,000 names example, we merely stuff the top, which does more harm than good. 50/50 dollar split sounds a lot more reasonable.


The more I think about it, I have to say [you need to find] find the right balance between them both for a long term strategy.

If all you care about is now, go with TOFU. In today’s economic climate some businesses need to focus on today to get through it.

Those that have stabilized or are doing well should keep the balance and maybe work the nurture more as the businesses trying to survive might not be around and those customers will need someone to help them.


Interesting conversation. When I think about my clients they would love to be able to focus on MOFU but many of my clients are good at generating leads at all and are interested in only TOFU.

So, I guess I agree with Rene, it depends. With my clients that funnel isn’t really a funnel yet, it looks more like a tube and it’s my job to help the tube look more like a funnel.

In todays economy, all of my clients are focused on TOFU and are working hard to close them into sales.


Hi Mac and all fellows reading this comment. Well I totally disagree on 50/50 strategy, personally. Because, today’s B2B market doesnt have many sales worth converting. Many leads are dropped, in the starting phase itself. Therefore, one should focus on getting more leads also.
However, this is my personal belief. We will try to gather results while working on Qalixa marketing, keeping focus on both the strategies (50/50 as well as 70/30), and will thus be able to provide you statistical data as well.
— Isabella from Qalixa Announcement Team.


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