The Gist

  • Two schools of thought. There are two schools of thought when it comes to whether leads should exist within Salesforce: keeping the lead model and switching to a contact and opportunity model.
  • The way they work. The contact and opportunity model works well for a very defined or small target market, while the lead model may be more transactional or have a lot of legacy reporting.
  • Trending for 2023. Intent data will be a big trend going into 2023, with a focus on the role of intent data and the privacy issues surrounding it.

The true story of the Oakland A's baseball team's data-driven approach to scouting and player recruitment, as portrayed in the popular book and movie "Moneyball," has become a classic example of how data analytics can revolutionize traditional methods. This principle also applies to B2B marketers who can use data to inform their decisions about whether to use leads or contacts and opportunities in Salesforce.

In a recent column titled “Are the Days of Salesforce Marketing Qualified Leads Over?” Jon Russo, founder and CEO of B2B Fusion, Russo delved into the ongoing debate about which approach works best for Salesforce and the respective pros and cons of each. Russo shared his extensive knowledge and insights on the topic, emphasizing the importance of tracking the right data in Salesforce to make informed decisions.

We caught up with Jon recently to discuss the topic.

Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Dom Nicastro: Hey everybody, Dom Nicastro Managing Editor CMSWire with our latest CMSWire contributor interview today, it's Jon Russo of B2B Fusion. How're you doing, Jon?

Jon Russo: Dom, I'm doing great. Thanks for having me today.

Nicastro: It's great to have you, Jon, you know, you've been a contributor since last year. And I've worked with you as a reporter, given me all the ins and outs of the account based marketing space, B2B marketing, CMOS. So I've had a great time connecting with you on that level. And now we're working in an editor-writer role. So your latest article today is a great one to give us a context on contacts and opportunities, approach versus marketing qualified leads, and we're talking to using Salesforce data. But before we get into it, I'd love to hear a little bit more about you, Jon, because this is the first time we've had you on a video. So tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.

Russo: Sure, and I appreciate the opportunity. B2B Fusion was founded really 10 years ago on the frustration of reporting, reporting around sales and marketing. And since that time, we've really evolved quite a bit toward an account based approach. We've had over 100 experiences with account based reporting with lead generation reporting. So this particular article where we kind of questioned should leads even exist in Salesforce is kind of near and dear to our heart and what we see in the industry and with clients, a number of our clients have won awards very recently, in fact, one Digital Transformation Award, one of five companies, one of our clients had one that we're very excited for what the rest of 2022 rolls.

Nicastro: Yeah, that's like someone won Best Actor and you are the director, you kind of have a little bit of a say in that, you know, that's a piece of that cut.

Russo: My mom is real proud.

Pros and Cons: Choosing Between Leads or Contacts/Opportunity Models in Salesforce

Nicastro: He's the best digital transformation guy out there. So Jon, you know, at the end of the day, you know, this is a choice. A lot of folks out there seeing the desire to go to the contacts versus opportunities model versus the marketing qualified leads. So why don't you help our listeners just put it into context? Like, what's one? And what's the other?

Russo: Yeah, sure. So that the ultimate question is should leads exist within Salesforce and for marketers, or for even your sales or your SDR teams. And there's really two schools of thought, one school is you kind of keep your lead model, especially if you're moving toward an account based model, you try to do both. Another school of thought, which you've probably heard a lot of best practice firms talking about is switching the model over all to a contact and opportunity model. And there's pros and cons on each depending on who you ask. It is really situational. So those are the two models. And you know, I can get into the pros and cons if you'd like.

Related Article: 3 Ways Marketers Can Ease Account-Based Transition for Sales

Should Leads Exist in Salesforce? Two Schools of Thought and What Works Best for Your Business

Nicastro: Yeah, I wanted to give us a couple. I mean, your article lays it out so nicely, but kind of like the real big top level pro for each of those approaches.

Russo: Yeah, well, if you look at kind of the recent dialogue, it's mostly around the contacts and opportunities model. So I'll start there. And that kind of model is great if you've got a very defined or small target market. So for example, US Healthcare, which has 300 systems, or manufacturing, some manufacturers really focus on a very tight set of accounts, the all contact and opportunity model works really, really well there. Where on the other side, on the lead side, might be a little bit more transactional, or there might be a lot of legacy in terms of reporting. And that's the key that I'm always looking at as a former CMO, I'm always keeping an eye toward how do I report the business impact? What am I doing? So a lot of these companies the pro and keeping the leads model working, and not changing over is the fact that your board, your CEO, others are conditioned to a lead based model. And some of those leads actually are valuable, which we can get into a little bit later on. But the net of it is having that same consistent model is just easy to digest internally.

Related Article: Why Awareness, Nurturing and Trust Are Indispensable Components of Marketing

Learning Opportunities

Tracking the Right Data in Salesforce Is Key to Successful Marketing Strategy

Nicastro: Yeah, and you know, pretty much at the end of the day, and you make this point kind of in your in your closing in the article, it comes down to just tracking the right data in Salesforce. I mean, what doesn't come down to data these days, Jon, and making sure you have the right grasp on that.

Russo: Yeah, and that's, that's really the right way to look at it is starting with the end in mind. First, it's what data do you have? And what data do you want to report on? And if you really think that through, and you think through a blind spot that a lot of marketers have, which is how sales works in these systems. If you can think through all of those that should inform you what model you go choose. And I think I lay out in the article, some questions to kind of think through to have that conversation internally before you make that decision to go one way or the other.

Catchy Headline or Just Another Marketing Cliche?

Nicastro: Yeah. And Jon, you and I were talking about the headline of the story before it published. And now that it's out there: "Are the Days of Salesforce Marketing Qualified Leads Over?" What do you think is going to be the reaction for someone just, you know, a true and true marketer. They've been doing it for 20 years, and they see that headline, you know, what emotions is that going to spark?

Russo: Yeah, I think it's going to spark one of two emotions. It's certainly a catchy thing to say, just like “email is dead.” And email has been dead for the last, you know, 15 years. But in reality, a lot of marketers today have that lead model. It's working, it's been perfected. And there's not a lot of incentive to move off of that. If you can augment that with ABM, there's, there's some value. So I think, kind of, you'll get two emotions there. That second emotion may be, hey, if I can keep what I have, and do ABM, that would be great. And we've seen that in practice. But you'll also get kind of the cliche, hey, it's popular now to say the lead model is dead. I don't think it's completely dead. I think it's totally situational. 

Prediction: Intent Data Will Be a Major Trend for Marketers in 2023

Nicastro: Okay, good. Well, we're hoping we spark a lot of reaction there and say, No way, no way. When they see the headline, or maybe the other way around, like, yes, it is. I totally don't do that anymore. But we'll see. Jon, I want to ask you one more thing. You know, going forward for more CMSWire columns, I know, it's tough to predict what you'll write about. Because I think a lot of these situations where you get inspiration, you're with a client, something happens like this is a big deal. And then you kind of put some context around it, you write about it, so I won't put you on the spot, because that's something that probably will happen in the future for you. But what kind of trends are you watching? And maybe our readers can expect from you down the road?

Russo: Yeah, great question. And one that we see quite a bit is the role that intent data plays first party versus third party, and kind of the privacy issues that are looming ahead here for 2023. And also a lot of clients using multiple different types of intent data, maybe not as thoughtfully or strategic as they could or should, they're kind of falling into it, because they're just buying technology and now they're realizing, oh, I've got this, I've got that. But I think intent data is going to be a pretty big deal going into 2023.

Nicastro: Excellent. Well, Jon, I hope I see you out there at some point, at this point of the interview, I do have a conference that I'm going to. I'm actually going to be with human beings next week, and I'm looking forward to that. Maybe we'll see each other. We did connect once at a casino of all places in Everett, Mass. I think it was that B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange Conference. So maybe we'll see you out there somewhere in the world.

Russo: Yeah, I'm actually planning to speak there in August, so if you are there, I'll see you there and buy you a drink. If you're not there, then the next event I'm sure I'll catch you at some point.

Nicastro: It's right down the road that's, Jon, where I go into the these casinos saying I'm not a gambler. I just like the ambiance and then I sit at the slot machine and I see the money go but I'm not a gambler and now I get hooked fast. But hey, thanks again. Jon Russo. B2B Fusion. Great article. Looking forward to many more. 

Russo: Thanks again, Dom. 

Nicstro: Have a good one.