All, Lead Generation

4 Metrics to Track in a B2B Lead Generation Program

Eric Wittlake is a digital and B2B marketer with a background in analytics and online media. Based in Portland, Oregon, he runs the media group at Babcock & Jenkins. To read his original post on email list guides, click here

B2B marketers face a conundrum. Businesses needs to drive growth and lead generation is a key way the business expects marketing to contribute.

However, sales cycles are long. It can take months, even years, before marketing is able to prove the value of lead generation efforts with revenue. And you can’t afford to wait that long to optimize your investment and show results.

The first article in this series on publisher b2b lead generation programs looked at the cost of lead generation programs. Here we will look at how to measure and optimize your program effectively in the face of long sales cycles.


Measurement isn’t just reporting results. The measurements you use have to support the active management and optimization of your programs as well. Despite the marketing technology stack many marketers have today, measuring publisher lead generation programs effectively continues to be a challenge. These four types of metrics will get you started.

1. Pipeline and Sales
Use a metric you can observe within six months. Depending on your sales cycle and process, that may be the number of sales qualified leads or value of pipeline opportunities.

Of course, measuring all the way through the funnel and reporting on sales is ideal, but if you have a long sales process (and most B2B marketers do) you will need to focus initially on an intermediate step. This will let you see results quickly and give you large enough numbers to optimize effectively, not just report.

2. Nurture Response Rate
You do have a nurture program all new contacts from publishers are automatically enrolled in, right? If not, stop now and put at least something simple in place.

Track the response rate (click rate or content view rate) of contacts from each source. For most marketers, this is the earliest quality metric that is available and can often be used to cull the bottom 10% to 25% of your program without waiting for pipeline metrics.

3. Responder Profile
Every publisher provides slightly different data and chances are you have a mix of filtering criteria along with some completely unfiltered programs. Here is how to compare the contacts you are receiving from each publisher and quickly identify publishers that are delivering too many contacts that are not a good fit for your solutions.

Categorize all contacts from your programs into three groups:

  • Contacts that meet your target company and contact criteria. You may need to broaden your definition slightly for sake of consistent comparison (e.g. if your target title is the Director of IT Operations, based on the available data across sources and normal variations in titles and roles, you might use Director or above in an IT role).
  • Completely worthless contacts. For most B2B marketers, this group would include students, retirees, contacts from industries or regions you can’t service, etc. While it may be worth sending emails to these contacts (people do lie on forms), it is definitely not worth the time of a salesperson.
  • Everyone else. This should now be lower value but potentially useful contacts. They may be more junior contacts or companies that are too small or large to be your best prospects, but they represent a real possibility of current or future business.

For each publisher or program, recalculate your cost per contact using only contacts in the first group and for contacts in the first and last group together. Publishers that are significantly more expensive than average on both measures (and aren’t expected to be) need to improve their promotion or targeting, or occasionally may need to be cut.

4. Contacts Delivered
Contacts are the primary deliverable of most publisher lead generation programs, but occasionally you find a publisher that caters to a surprising number of Disney characters or former Presidents. Take the time to review and remove contacts with clearly erroneous data (and if you are paying on a cost per contact basis, send them back!)

Stay on top of delivery and be ready to reduce your investment with any publisher that continues to fall behind. Don’t be quick to cut publishers purely for underdelivery, many will still perform well at a new lower spend.


What metrics do you use to manage and optimize publisher lead generation programs?