How to Double Your Inbound Sales Leads in a Single Year

5 Strategies That Helped Dun & Bradstreet Increase Leads by 95%

Demand generation is one of the most important elements of a modern marketing strategy. No matter how skilled your sales team may be, in order to significantly grow the business, you – the fearless marketer – are responsible for delivering a robust pipeline of qualified leads for sales to convert to customers. Just one caveat; you’re often fearful that you don’t have enough pipeline to give sales. As it turns out, those fears are justified as a majority of CEO’s believe it’s marketing’s sole responsibility to drive revenue. No pressure.

To help us meet our goals, our lead generation strategy combined a mix of art and science with a dash of data. A whole lot of data, actually.

You’re more than familiar with the challenges that come along with lead generation in today’s business environment. And you’ve probably seen some tips to overcome these obstacles. They’ve been covered at length in many great publications and a key topic at hundreds of industry conferences. What hasn’t gotten as much attention is how brands in the trenches are overcoming these obstacles and achieving their growth objectives. That’s why I want to give you a peak behind the curtain and share some of the techniques we are employing to successfully create more demand.



To help us meet our goals, our lead generation strategy combined a mix of art and science with a dash of data. A whole lot of data, actually. We started by introducing a new charter for my organization:

Improve customer experience

Then we went to work. Here are five guiding principles that we embraced along our journey. Feel free to borrow them for your own teams.

1. Use Customer Experience to Guide Marketing Strategies

One of the first things we did when rethinking our lead generation strategy was to focus on the customer and stop thinking of them as just another “lead”. It wasn’t so much about getting another potential prospect through the funnel, instead we thought about their needs first and foremost. It was important for D&B to be the best answer to their question and serve their needs by delivering a seamless user experience. After all, 95 percent of dissatisfied customers tell others about their bad experience, according to research. So, we stopped thinking about what we wanted to say and focused on what our customers wanted to hear.

It’s subtle, but blatantly focusing on the customer first encourages your team to really dissect the customer journey. We quickly realized we had not focused nearly enough at the top-of-the-funnel, which led us to quickly reconsider our KPIs and marketing mix.  As a result, we standardized our customer journey stages, implemented them across our MarTech stack and then created KPIs for every stage and progression across a more customer-centric journey.

Customer Journey

This had a significant impact on the way we approached content strategy, editorial planning and how we measured success. Not every piece of content or customer engagement is intended to create a lead, but every piece should absolutely have a purpose and be measured against that purpose.

2. Shoot for the Stars with an Aggressive Sales Strategy

Seems easy enough, right?  Not always. It’s important to not fall into the trap of complacency, no matter how many more leads you see start populating within your CRM.

It would have been easy, expected even, to set a modest annual goal. Instead, we set our goal far higher than anyone expected. There was far more benefit in us potentially underachieving an aggressive goal than overachieving a conservative goal.

Clearly setting and communicating an aggressive goal creates excitement, allows team members to think about their roles differently and creates an environment where massive performance increases suddenly seem possible – even expected.  After all, we’re all fearless marketers, right?

On the flip side, it can be overwhelming for a team to see such a big target. Knowing that, we broke down the overall goal into manageable pieces where we saw the biggest opportunities.

Performanced Based Organizations with new KPIs

While each goal by itself is still aggressive, breaking it into individual targets made each one, and ultimately, the overarching goal, attainable.

3. Organize Around Your Sales Goals

Organizational strategy is one of the most important levers you can pull to drive scalable results. Unfortunately, many companies fail to execute their strategies because their teams don’t fully understand their role within the organization. We wanted to avoid that by explicitly sharing our plan and explain how each function will help drive results across the board.

We started with our charter and new KPIs and then architected the organization around them. This approach led us to a performance-based organization with teams aligned to specific KPIs partnering with enablement teams that have responsibility across the entire customer journey.  The result is one organization of over 100 individuals working in concert across demand gen (inbound and outbound), website strategy, content, creative, marketing technology, marketing operations and lead management. I cannot stress the importance of breaking down these silos. It not only helps create a more productive culture, it produces better work.

Performanced Based Organizations with new KPIs

While it may be typical to see many of these functions together in today’s modern marketing organizations, this approach also led us to make decisions that are not so common. For example, content is now part of the demand gen organization.

By establishing a structured content supply chain that functions as part of the demand gen org, we were able to be more thoughtful when planning and producing content and maximizing the overall effectiveness of that piece of content. Sure, on the surface the purpose of content seems obvious – to create conversational messaging that helps drive engagement. But businesses cannot discard the importance of creating direct, revenue-producing activities; that’s why content must be an all-hands on deck program managed through the same lens as other ROI-focused initiatives. Content no longer plays a supporting role in marketing; it enables everything marketing does. This simple change has created much tighter alignment across editorial calendars, demand gen planning, site strategy and SEO.

4. Use Data-Driven Demand Generation Strategies

Admittedly, we have a bit of an advantage here. Being data-inspired is one of Dun & Bradstreet’s core values and we have full access to an entire suite of data-driven sales and marketing solutions. It didn’t take long to see the advantages of leveraging the world’s largest commercial database. That said, there are many principles everyone focused on generating demand can leverage. Here are a few areas you should employ in your journey:

  • Segmentation, targeting and positioning – it’s Marketing 101, but I’m always surprised when I talk to someone that assumes whatever inputs they are using are fully optimized. My experience says they typically are not. Invest time upfront to ensure you have the right data to strategically profile and target your ideal buyer. We found it will increase the yield of your marketing investments.
  • Testing and optimization – we’ve made this a critical part of everything we do. After some early success with simple A/B testing on, we quickly expanded to our demand gen activities, lead management processes and messaging. To help embed this methodology across marketing we created a “testathon” which is an internal competition of cross-functional teams developing hypotheses and test plans across all marketing activities.
  • Marketing Technology - modern MarTech stacks (ours is anchored on Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle) are incredibly powerful, but many companies are still only getting partial benefits. We spent the time to ensure we connected our systems with data and focused on really driving adoption. Doing so opened new use cases we couldn’t do before. For example:
    • Triggering automation campaigns based on sales team interactions with customers and not just marketing interactions.
    • Identifying previously anonymous accounts visiting our sites, combining that data with our propensity scores and then triggering either marketing or outbound sales activities.
    • Scaling ABM by automating personalized engagements across touchpoints for high priority accounts.

5. Success in Marketing Requires Risk

I’ve never experienced successful transformational change without taking some real risks. It’s important to develop a culture that embraces taking risks, learning from mistakes and ultimately failing forward. I often joke with my team that we are not brain surgeons; some errors here and there are not life and death. To be world-class in our roles we need to be continuously experimenting and learning from our mistakes.

By taking away the fear of failure you empower individuals, communicate and learn from mistakes and shorten the timeline to achieve success. We certainly had our share of failures along the way, but they also led to some of our biggest improvement gains that enabled our 95 percent growth.

I’m confident that if you take some of these strategies to heart, you’ll find similar success. I’m happy to share these because it’s not just about driving more leads, it’s about making better customer experiences for all of us.