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Water, Water Everywhere… But Only Some of It Is Wet: Why Your Leads Leave You Thirsty

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Logo: The Science of B2B with Kerry Cunningham

Editor’s Note: Kerry Cunningham, 6sense’s Head of Research and Thought Leadership and former Forrester and SiriusDecisions analyst, rarely accepts things in the world as they are. With interests ranging from business to evolutionary psychology and paleoanthropology (and far beyond!), Kerry helps make sense of B2B by finding unconventional yet compelling parallels between B2B practices and the rest of our world.


Here’s one of those conundrums — like a Taoist koan — that seems super philosophical and abstract, but actually teaches a very practical lesson. It’s about the wetness of water. Or, put in the form of a question: 

How is it that the four ounces of water they serve me in a cup on an airplane could drench my pants and ruin my computer, but a single molecule of water is not even wet

It sounds impossible, but it’s true. You’d never notice a single molecule of H2O, and it’s so tiny, it couldn’t make you feel wet. In fact, it would take some strange number that ends with “illions” to finally make you feel wet. 

‘Life’ Requires a Convergence of Properties

In science, wetness is called an emergent property. The property of “wetness” only emerges when there is a critical mass of water molecules. When water is puddled together, its properties of adhesion (sticking to you) and cohesion (sticking together) produce the “wetness” effect (notably, though, they don’t stick together inside that cup at 30,000 feet).

Life itself is an emergent property of the activity that occurs within living cells. None of the many thousands of constituent parts of a cell are alive by themselves, but when they are enclosed in a semipermeable lipid bilayer (I just love saying that), you get life. 

Now, let’s tie this to B2B marketing and lead generation.

B2B ‘Life’ Requires Similar Clusters of Activity

One visitor to your website cannot produce the sensation of “hot prospect.” For most marketers, even having two visitors from the same organization can’t produce the thrilling sensation of being in the presence of a real buyer.

When buying teams are comprised of 15 to 20 individuals (see our report on this here), the property we think of as “prospect hotness” may not emerge until you have six or eight visitors from the same account puttering around on your website. 

In B2B, we’ve been out searching for large signs of “wetness” with instruments that can only detect individual molecules of H2O. The instrumentation most B2B organizations still rely on (i.e. marketing automation) cannot tell whether there’s a single molecule of interest from an account or a Mississippi River’s worth of it. 

In other words, your marketing automation platform (MAP) can only detect individuals that are engaging with your content. These are miniscule molecules of prospect hotness. Your MAP can’t tell if that individual is part of an active buying team or if they’re just killing time, clicking around on your site, while on a boring Zoom call. 

Rethink the Definition of ‘Life’ for Your Leads

Your marketing budget is constantly producing both molecules and rivers of water. But your instruments are sending you chasing after molecules and turning a blind eye to rivers. 

To really get a return on your marketing investment, you have to be able to distinguish the solo molecules from the bigger drops, streams, and rivulets.


Discover more of Kerry Cunningham’s musings and analysis from 6sense Research.

The 6sense Research Team

6sense Research applies objective statistical analyses to primary research that delivers data-driven insights to B2B revenue teams. We empower revenue teams to more effectively plan, execute, and measure their go-to-market strategies, informed by the latest insights about what works, what doesn’t, and why.

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