7 B2B Demand Gen Red Flags
If you’re experiencing any of these common red flags as a B2B marketer, it may be time to reconsider your data partners

Qualified leads are the lifeblood of any successful performance marketing strategy geared towards driving measurable revenue growth. And as budgets tighten while goals skyrocket, marketers are being asked to meet higher lead targets than ever鈥攐ften with only their existing resources.

Marketers turn to demand generation, and demand generation providers, as a reliable way to feed pipeline with qualified leads that, with proper nurture and follow up, will result in conversion and won business. In fact, 26% of marketing budgets go to content syndication efforts aimed at driving demand, yet only 36% of marketers are able to consistently measure positive ROI from these programs.

  • 26% of marketing budgets go to content syndication programs aimed at generating leads 1
  • Only 36% of marketers can demonstrate positive ROI from these programs 2

We connect with marketers every day, from all around the world, frustrated with underperforming leads and non-existent ROI. As marketing dollars become increasingly precious, marketers can鈥檛 afford programs that don鈥檛 deliver on the promise of real, qualified demand. This guide shares the top 7 red flags for marketers to look out for when receiving leads from a vendor鈥攁nd how to prevent them from derailing your budget.

1 Marketing Insider Group, 2021鈥擧ow Much Budget Do You Need for Content Marketing? 
2 Technology Content Marketing鈥2022 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, Content Marketing Institute

Red Flag #1: You provide your vendor with multiple content offers to generate leads against, but only receive activity against one or two

While we all have certain assets that outperform others, it鈥檚 unlikely to see no activity against multiple offers. Unless, of course, these assets simply aren鈥檛 being circulated. Often, vendors will deceptively accept as much content as you鈥檙e willing to provide, but only leverage one or two in their outreach to prospects. The most nefarious don鈥檛 leverage your content at all, but instead match a couple of accepted offer titles to a list and pass it off as engagement.

This type of deception has real consequences for marketers paying for engaged leads. It鈥檚 important that you know what content your prospects have engaged with to properly nurture and convert them. Additionally, reaching out to decision makers under the impression that they鈥檝e consumed your content when they haven鈥檛 can be incredibly damaging to your brand.

If your content engagement report is leaving you scratching your head, dig into how your vendor is distributing your content and capturing engagement. Ask for them to walk you through their syndication process and show you how they verify engagement.

Red Flag #2: You receive the bulk of your leads in the final days of your program

This is a common red flag that signals your provider is not in control of the leads being generated for you. Most likely, the vendor鈥檚 data is not rich or abundant enough to fulfill on your quota, so they resort to 3rd-party list buying to meet fulfillment in a pinch and sell you these contacts as engaged, first-party leads. 

Not only does this practice put your CRM at risk of ingesting large amounts of questionable data, but this backloaded approach also defeats the purpose of demand generation. Instead of delivering leads as they organically engage in a consistent and timely fashion, bulk lead deliveries overtax the marketing, SDR and sales teams whose responsibility it is to nurture and convert them.

Ask your provider for evenly-paced deliveries at the onset of your campaign to ensure you receive leads as they engage and before they go cold. If your provider can鈥檛 commit to even pacing, ask them why not and if they can explain their methodology in greater detail.

Red Flag #3: Your leads have a recant rate of 20% or higher

Revenue teams cringe when they hear 鈥淚鈥檝e never heard of you鈥 or 鈥淚 don鈥檛 remember downloading that.鈥 And while some prospects will inevitably drop this line to get out of a sales conversation, having leads regularly recant their engagement is cause for alarm. 

Nurturing and calling cold prospects has negative consequences for marketers on both sides of the aisle. From an outsider鈥檚 perspective, it鈥檚 just bad for your brand to treat leads as if they鈥檙e further down your funnel than they truly are. Internally, leads with a high recant rate can drive a wedge between marketing and sales alignment, and cause SDR and sales teams to deprioritize leads they receive from marketing.

To avoid missteps in your nurture process, ask your vendor to provide timestamps of engagement for each lead. Remember, you鈥檙e paying for leads that engaged. A cold list of contacts will simply wreck your ROI.

Red Flag #4: You receive too many leads that are either already in your database or are existing customers

One of the main reasons to pay for demand generation services is to acquire net new leads to feed into your CRM and nurture streams. You shouldn鈥檛 need a vendor to engage leads that already exist in your CRM or marketing automation data鈥攃hances are you鈥檙e already doing this yourself. 

While some overlap is to be expected, and more for marketers playing in extremely niche markets, a lead delivery loses much of its value if the leads already exist in your own database. Demand gen vendors should be aiming to provide the highest value possible to their clients. If your vendor isn鈥檛 automatically requesting a suppression list of accounts from you, or won鈥檛 honor one, it鈥檚 time to seek value elsewhere.

Red Flag #5: Your leads consistently have a bounce rate of 10% or higher

Bad data is a marketer鈥檚 worst enemy, and can have negative effects that ripple through all of your marketing operations. Attempting to nurture invalid email addresses can destroy your domain reputation, making it impossible to reach valid, in-market buyers when you need to.

A high bounce rate is a red flag that your provider can’t stand by the data they鈥檙e delivering鈥攎ost likely because it鈥檚 not their own. Unfortunately, many vendors resort to list buying and lack the capabilities to validate and verify the data they sell to you. 

To avoid the types of havoc that bad data can wreak, ensure that you are working only with demand gen partners that maintain an ample proprietary data. Ask how they collect and validate their data, how often they refresh their database, and if they can provide proof of digital engagement and timestamps as part of your reporting.

Red Flag #6: The first 100 leads are higher in quality than the other 900 combined

Whether you鈥檙e paying for ten leads or ten thousand, every lead down to the last one should be qualified against rigorous standards to ensure value and opportunity for conversion. However, a common pain point of demand marketers is that the quality of the leads they receive from vendors is inconsistent at best.

It鈥檚 not uncommon for vendors to pull out all the stops and attempt to dazzle their clients with their first few deliveries鈥攂uying themselves trust and their client鈥檚 good graces鈥攁nd then quietly meet the remainder of fulfillment with 3rd-party lists that can be invalid and perform poorly. 

Remain vigilant throughout your program, and establish performance reviews with your vendor as they progress through your fulfillment to ensure they are not delivering on quantity, but on quality at scale.

Red Flag #7: Your vendor鈥檚 demand gen methodology leaves you with more questions than answers

Perhaps the most classic red flag, many vendors are notorious for painting intentionally abstract pictures about how they generate your leads. The reason for this? Simply, many of them can鈥檛 defend their methodology. 

Transparency has been missing from the demand gen process for so long that most marketers don鈥檛 even question their vendor鈥檚 methodology. Instead, they accept a vague and ubiquitous data story that has become adopted and normalized by rogue players in the industry鈥攁ll the way to highest tier. 

Marketers are entitled to knowing exactly how their leads are being generated. This means examining every aspect of your provider鈥檚 process until you understand the journey that your prospects have taken before you can feel confident adding them to your CRM. Ask where leads will be seeing your content, how their engagement will be qualified, and what sorts of data and insights your provider is able to provide to demonstrate proof of legitimate activity. Time and date stamps, source, and compliance measures should all be part of your vendor鈥檚 response. 

Protecting yourself (and your budget) from demand gen arbitrage

Demand gen is a crucial part of any B2B revenue team鈥檚 path to sustainable growth. Unfortunately, deception and foul play run rampant in the demand gen world, and marketers need to be informed of what to look out for to ensure that the budget they put into acquiring leads yields positive ROI through proper nurture and conversion. 

If you鈥檙e experiencing any of the red flags we鈥檝e laid out above, it鈥檚 time to start scrutinizing the vendors you鈥檙e working with so that you can salvage your budget. And if you want to avoid these pitfalls altogether, download our checklist of . This one-pager will not only prepare you with all of the questions you need to ask, but also with the types of answers you should expect from any lead gen vendor that is invested in your success.