State of Vendor Leads: Worthless

Vendor leads often aren't worth the paper they're printed on, according to a new survey of resellers.

The survey was conducted from November through January by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, a professional organization of 3,000 marketing executives worldwide, and sponsored by Blueroads Corp., a provider of partner opportunity-management software. The 500 respondents included resellers in IT, professional audiovisual, telecommunications, physical security and surveillance, office automation, and consumer electronics. IT resellers were the biggest group, at about a third of respondents.

When asked to rate how valued and actionable leads from vendors are, most participants responded negatively. Forty percent rated leads from vendors as either "a little bit" or "not at all" actionable. Only 19 percent rated vendor leads "highly" or "extremely" actionable.

Consequently, according to the survey, partners don't count on vendor leads. In terms of what participants view as their most valued source of business leads and opportunities, vendor leads surfaced only 7 percent of the time, a result ranking about even with both Internet and event-generated leads. Far better sources of leads were customer referrals (54 percent) followed by e-mail and direct marketing (14 percent).

The survey also revealed dissatisfaction over conflict with vendors' sales organizations and marketing campaigns. Forty-six percent of IT resellers reported experiencing either "some" or "a lot" of conflict with their vendors. And a whopping 69 percent of respondents rated vendor campaigns as either "somewhat effective" or "ineffective."

Charles Watson, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Blueroads, a San Mateo, Calif.-based Registered Member, says he sees a pattern of behavior in engagements with Blueroads' prospects that acts to kill the value of vendor leads.

"It starts off as a little innocent thing of marketing sending the leads to sales in the first place. The direct sales team skims through the leads and picks the best stuff. You send the leftovers to the channel. That perpetuates this myth that the channel can't do anything with leads," Watson said. "Then the channel stops looking to the vendor for leads." (For more on Watson's perspective, see his Partner View column, "5 Strategies for Effective Lead Management," in the March 2008 issue of RCP magazine.)

Dave Murray, executive manager of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based CMO Council, views the survey results as a call to action for his profession.

"We feel strongly that marketing has to step up, has to become a champion of better integration with the channel, has to make their marketing programs far more relevant to channel needs and has to do a much, much better job of qualifying and validating business leads that go into the channel," Murray said.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.