It’s easy to look up lists of the best lead generation companies, since there’s practically no shortage of rankings and reviews websites out there. But just because these agencies top the list doesn’t immediately mean they’re exactly what you’re looking for.
Rankings and ratings can vary from one source to another, and fluctuate from one period to the next. So, rather than making best lead generation companies lists as the be-all and end-all of your search for an outsourced marketing partner, use them as a starting point instead.
To help you with this, we analyzed dozens of top lead generation agencies lists from reputable sources, and identified the most common characteristics of best-performing providers.
But we didn’t stop there. We also dug up client-side surveys and research to find out whether these characteristics are really what customers want in a lead generation provider. Here’s what we learned.
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Data has always been the fuel that drives lead generation campaigns. With the rise of data-intensive marketing activities like ABM and predictive analytics, data’s role has become even more crucial for success.
A survey of more than 250 B2B professionals featured on CMO.com reveals that marketers want lead generation agencies that can deliver both the right quantity and quality of data:
- 89% of respondents believe that data quality determines the outcomes of sales lead generation campaigns.
- Half of the respondents aren’t very confident in the quality of their own organization’s data, suggesting a need for third-party sources to fill the gap.
Industry/Domain Knowledge and Expertise
Another key characteristic that distinguishes the best lead generation companies from the rest is that they tend to have deep domain knowledge in their clients’ products and industry.
When the Agency Management Institute polled CMOs, marketing directors, and business owners about what they want from a partner agency, the results showed that:
- The number-one response was “industry knowledge”.
- The respondents also pointed out that industry expertise included having in-depth understanding of their business model, product specifics, and sales process.
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Agility and Flexibility
Today’s marketing landscape is in a constant state of flux. Things change all the time; opportunities come and go very quickly. That’s why marketers gravitate toward lead generation agencies that can help them keep up.
SoDA and Forrester recently published the 2019 Global Digital Outlook, which surveyed both agency and client-side decision makers regarding the current state of marketing services. Among other things, the study found that:
- 56% of top-performing agencies think that speed of delivery is becoming an important factor in winning new projects.
- 63% of client-side respondents say that producing and deploying marketing assets quickly is a top priority.
According to the 2019 Global Digital Outlook study, more than 50% of marketers partner with at least two agencies. In fact, for the past three years, the survey has found that an average of 70% of B2B organizations work with two or more partner vendors.
One of the main reasons why marketers farm out to multiple providers is to leverage specialized strategies and skill sets from different agencies. Marketers prefer specialists in an activity or area, especially now that lead generation has evolved into a more complex process.
A Forbes survey of North American marketers and agency leaders shows how much clients value a marketing provider’s strategic input:
- More than half of client-side respondents want marketing agencies to offer substantial help with specific business strategy areas.
- 35% of agency-side respondents also plan a bigger involvement in developing and executing business strategy for clients.
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Transparency and Accountability
The same Forbes survey also sheds light on a key factor that lets the best lead generation companies and agencies stand out: transparency and accountability. According to the study, only 30% of agencies think they do a good job of sharing information, while the rest admit there’s still room for improvement.
It’s not surprising that top-performing marketing providers also tend to be very open and transparent since, according to the 2019 Global Digital Outlook survey, these characteristics are among the main things that clients value:
- 66% of client-side respondents are demanding greater detail on how their partner agencies track and report campaign activities and decisions.
- Half of agency-side respondents point out that they’re also starting to notice the increased requirements for transparency from clients.
Robust Project Management and Campaign Tracking Tools
Speaking of accountability, best-in-class lead generation companies also tend to be those agencies which can leverage the right tools for managing projects and monitoring results.
As much as 71% of client-side marketers in a survey from Avidan Strategies complain that agencies still fall short of maintaining accountability, despite the fact that 55% of clients face increased pressure from CEOs and other executives to quantify results.
The 2018 HubSpot Agency Growth Report (which polled over 1,000 marketing agencies worldwide) clearly shows this unmet project management/tracking challenge among average marketing companies:
- 80% of respondents say they use a project management software, but when asked which tool they need to improve services, these same agencies also cite the need to have a better project management tool.
- Respondents also rank analytics/Reporting software as the second most important tool they need to better run their agencies.
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Creative and technical talent
With the growing need to develop compelling content and mapping it to relevant audiences, having the right balance of creative and technical talent will be a critical factor that differentiates the best lead generation companies from the rest.
In the SoDA and Forrester survey, 66% of agency respondents say that competition in their space has intensified, while another 64% claim that the rising cost of talent continues to eat away at profits.
These trends are echoed among client-side marketers, according to the Avidan Strategies study. The report finds that:
- 72% of client-side respondents think that most agencies are inconsistent and need to improve their ability to execute.
- 90% of clients rank the quality of creative ideas and strategies as the number-one factor when evaluating potential marketing partners.
Again, best lead generation companies lists should be the starting point (not the end goal) of your search for a marketing agency. At the end of the day, the right lead generation partner for you will be the provider that has expertise in the services you need, proof of delivering success for past clients, and a high level of operational fit.