Mar 302012
 
Mar 212012
 
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The team down at Austin-based Marketing Automation Software guide Falconry Group Marketing Automation Blog Postasked for my commentary on one of their blog posts. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic anyway. So I’m happy to oblige.

Before I start, bear with me on a couple of points:

1) I’m going to make one or two contextual jumps from marketing automation to the general (mis)use of automation in our culture.

2) I may get a little “aggro” about this stuff. Now, I rarely launch into angry screeds on this blog. I’m more of a blue-sky, happy-talk, it-will-all-work-out-in-the-end marketer. So if I offend anyone, please give me a get-out-of-jail-free pass this one time. Or give me hell in the comments section. :)

Ok. End of preamble.

Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD, posted this gem last week: Marketing Automation ROI: Myths and Facts

Gray nicely summarizes the soaring hopes and earthbound realities companies experience when deploying marketing automation (MA) software. And he outlines several smart strategies marketers can adopt to increase their odds of success.

Gray’s straight talk is refreshing. Because much of the chatter in the MA space is influenced by MA software vendors. In the past, I have been critical of these vendors’ marketing and sales practices. I also believe that (some of) these vendors are (partly) responsible for the unrealistic expectations Gray notes in his piece.

But responsibility and blame are two different things. As Bono once sang, “If you need someone to blame // Throw a rock in the air you’ll hit someone guilty.”

The MA software vendors operate in a highly competitive, fast-growing space. In reality, they are only doing what they feel is required to grow revenues and create shareholder value. So I’m simultaneously aware (I’m a Gemini – it’s what I do) that these criticisms (a) are pointless, and (b) ignore a much larger reality in our culture.

Folks, we have got to put down the automation crack-pipe. It is killing us.

No, this is not yet another Quixotic lament about the quickening pace of technological change. I love everything that technology does to benefit humanity. But I H-A-T-E to see it used to de-humanize human relationships.

A poorly designed sales process is far from the worst offender. There are many others, like political robocalling, commercial robotexting, robo-foreclosures, and [insert your example here].

And now here’s THIS ridiculous news story, which befouled my laptop screen yesterday morning.

“Employers ask job seekers for Facebook passwords”

Yes, I realize the story isn’t about a failure of automation. But if “give us your login” becomes a mainstream hiring practice, you know there’d be an app for that!

The request to inspect an applicant’s Facebook account is a symptom of the same disease that we (wrongly) treat with marketing automation software. That disease is the belief that we can insulate our corporate and personal assets from the unpredictable nature of human relationships.

The truth is this: recruiting — like marketing, sales, management, or anything else in business — is like life itself. It involves uncertainty and risk. And, natural disasters aside, most of that randomness involves other people.

People – dang them! – don’t always do what we want them to do. So we build and operate systems to help us understand their behavior. But no machine can out-human a human in anticipating, and tending to, another human’s changing needs. That day may come. But even then, it won’t come cheap. This is why we attract, hire, and retain great recruiters, marketers, salespeople, and managers. And we outfit them, when necessary, with labor-saving software.

This topic relates closely to the name of our business: The Falconry Group.

The falcon and falconer in our logo are like any two people in the business world. We each have different talents (or talons) and abilities. We all have our own stuff going on. And we’d all like to believe that we don’t really need each other to survive.

On some days, in some ways, we’re right about that. And if a poorly designed business process pushes us together against our will, a broken wing or a clawed-out eye can be the result!

But sometimes, like the trend line in our logo, we choose to work together. And when we commit the time and resources to do it right, the results are, predictably, amazing.

Jan 142012
 
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“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

This wonderfully compact nugget of wisdom – commonly attributed to Voltaire, the French Enlightenment figure – is a fixture in the vernacular of modern business.

My undergraduate French degree doesn’t qualify me to challenge Voltaire’s intellect. But hey, Voltaire hasn’t done a lick of work in over 330 years. So I’m going to weigh in on his War of Good and Perfect, to see if I can pick a winner.

Here are 5 ways Good beats the crap out of Perfect:

1. Good is quick out of the gate. Perfect debates whether this gate, or that one over there, is the best gate from which to proceed.

2. You probably can’t afford Perfect. But with a savvy mixture of your cash on hand, some pocket lint, and your own creativity (or your talent for inspiring it in others), Good is within reach.

3. Perfect is an egotist. Good is a collaborator. Perfect is an old school, round-world, command-and-controller. Good is a progressive, flat-world, plays-well-with-others hipster. [thank you Thomas Friedman]

4. Good is motion. Perfect is an obsession. Good feels like a hike or a trip to the gym. It’s got a beginning and an end. It makes you sweat. And when you’re done with Good, you feel it (Good). Perfect is like a Scottish poet, locked in a seaside cabin, curtains drawn, brooding for weeks over the next couplet.

5. Good finishes on schedule, or early, and doesn’t expect kudos. Perfect always takes extra time, without asking for it. And if you object, Perfect will lecture you, gazing into the distance, with trite zingers like “time takes time,” or “you can’t rush (me),” or this little gem, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

[No, it wasn’t built in a day. It took 1200 years of militaristic expansion, artistic and cultural thievery, slavery, torture, taxation without representation, corruption, massive debt, and general debauchery, until it collapsed, ushering in the Dark Ages. Thanks a lot, Rome!]

Ok, ok. The Rome comparison is probably the right place to throw down a big fat caveat. Because the Romans clearly did some great work. And caveat is a Latin word.

If you consistently reject even the pursuit of Perfect, Good will eventually let you down. Maybe in a big way.

Perfect, for all its faults, wants to get it right. Perfect has been there and done that, and will also listen to others – like Been There and Done That – who have relevant experience. Perfect is willing to consider all the angles. Perfect doesn’t trust quick fixes. Perfect is all about adding value over the long-term. Perfect has calculated the cost (to the penny!) of what happens when Good ends up being Not Good, because Good phoned it in, half-assed it, or took a short-cut. “The Donner Party tried to take a short cut,” Perfect says, annoyingly but with conviction. “And THAT didn’t work out so well, DID IT?!”

[Perfect tends to overindulge in hyperbole.]

So what’s our endgame in the war between Perfect and Good?

Maybe it’s this: Perfect and Good may be enemies. But Too Expensive, Too Late, Half-Assed, and Eaten-For-Breakfast-By-Your-Friends are our enemies.

So let Good and Perfect battle it out a bit. Just be sure to impose a cease-fire before Good Enough and Nearly Perfect end up K.I.A..

Your turn now.  Do you have any more fun personifications to compare — or comparisons to personify — Good and Perfect?

Aug 172011
 
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Part one of this series described the importance of minimizing friction and maximizing trust as you attract and manage leads.

Part two describes how these low-friction, high-trust* leads help you feed your beast.

* These adjectives are TLOTL equivalents of free-range, grass-fed, gluten-free, and no high fructose corn syrup.

Why Leads Matter, Reason #2: Leads have unique and valuable insights into how you can get more new business.

If you have an established business, you have customers, employees, vendors, shareholders, and tax authorities who need your attention. Every member of those groups has a commercial relationship with you. Those relationships come with obligations and expectations. Your reward for maintaining those relationships is… …you get to keep running your business. And truth be told, if you’re doing an AMAZING JOB of managing those relationships, you probably don’t need to worry too much about leads. They will seek you out and buy from you. And if they have to crawl through five miles of gravel just to join your exclusive club of happy customers, they will thank you for the privilege.

If you’ve reached this state of business bliss, leads are, understandably, an afterthought. If you’re a generous CEO, you might consider a kind gesture towards them. Perhaps free first aid kits.

But 99.9% percent of businesses don’t have these high-class problems. For those companies, existing commercial relationships consume nearly all their resources. Some growth occurs organically. But customers churn, prices flatten out, fixed costs stay fixed, while shareholders demand predictable, profitable growth.

This reality is why I’ve titled this series of posts, “Why Leads Matter.” If I ask a CEO how to define a lead, many will give a straight-forward answer like, “it’s the people who talk to Sales about buying our product.” That’s a good start, but it’s incomplete.

Like any living beast, your business must eat. You may have great hunters on your sales team. But they hunt leads. Leads feed your beast.

By definition, leads haven’t bought your product, yet. But they’re considering a purchase right now. And that makes them unique.

Your customers and past customers have already drunk your Kool-Aid. Focus group attendees will accept your $250 in exchange for two hours away from home and their opinion of your Kool-Aid in a simulated “I’m thirsty” scenario.

But your leads, right now, are accumulating a ton of information that is valuable to you.

How so? Well, they’re:

  • researching the overall market (analyst reports, research briefs, etc)
  • listening to consultants, resellers, and others knowledgeable in your category
  • talking to salespeople **
  • looking at web sites, advertisements, and promotional offers **
  • receiving email and direct mail, attending webinars, viewing infographics **
  • participating in social media conversations**

** yours and your competitors’

The wisdom of this crowd can’t be overestimated. You could easily pay someone $100K per year to know your market as well as your leads. Maybe you already do. If so, ask them to show you how your leads are being heard in your product, marketing, sales, and operations plans. Remember, these are people who have given you (some of) their attention. They deserve (some of) yours.

Yes, this is my dog (The Mighty Quinn) when he was a puppy. No, I didn’t stage this pic. Please don’t report me to PETA.

One more nice thing about leads: you’ve already paid for them. Whether you’ve spent $100 or $100 million to bring leads to your door, they’re here now.

Short-term revenue is an ideal way to exchange value with your leads. But it’s far from the only way.

Listen to your leads.

Then feed them to your beast.

Aug 102011
 
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b2b marketing leads

I think leads are important.

[I know. Shocking.]

In fact I think the topic of leads is important enough to warrant at least 10-15 uninterrupted minutes of a CEO’s time each week.

As the owner of two small businesses, I know that’s expensive time. Leads are worth it.

In each of my next three posts, I offer a new reason why.

Why Leads Matter, Reason #1: Leads mark the key moment in time when previously invisible and anonymous people trust your brand enough to voluntarily “de-cloak.”

Why do they de-cloak? Do they do it because they’re ready to buy?

Sometimes they are. But at this point, probably not. They may buy later, if they still trust your brand and value your products. Right now, they just want information you have that (they believe) will be useful to them. So they volunteer information they have that (you believe) will be useful to you. And they would like this exchange to be frictionless.

What does “frictionless” mean to your leads in this context? It means that when they “buy” your product information with their contact information, they get what they pay for. Nothing less, and nothing more. If you promise people who fill out your registration form a free buyer’s comparison guide, give them a good one, and promptly. But don’t follow that up with an encore of three promotional emails per week until death-or-the-unsubscribe-link-do-you-part. And don’t tell your sales team to call blitz that group of people. Doing that may yield a few sales (that you might’ve won anyway), but it will leave a poor impression on the 90%-plus of your leads who don’t return your sales reps’ calls.

let's put an end to keyboard rage...

This kind of silent damage to your brand usually goes unreported. Your leads are too busy and polite to complain about it. But it only takes one disgruntled ex-lead to, in a fit of keyboard rage, flame your brand to 5000 Twitter followers, and their 5000 followers, and so on…. The choices only get worse from there, e.g., cease-and-desist letters, public mea culpas that distract your staff, etc…

Let’s not use the lead management process to mass produce disgruntled ex-leads. A poorly designed process won’t mass-produce revenue. In fact it might mass-reduce revenue. Instead, let’s help buyers get information with minimal friction, and then optimize the process to book more new customers.

When we remove friction we make room for trust. Trust, as you may have noticed, is a bit of a scarce resource these days. But real trust, which can only be earned and never bought, is a powerful thing. Trust attracts new visitors to your web site. Trust converts visitors to leads and leads to customers. And over time, trust makes customers into loyal fans who refer their peers and help you attract more visitors to your web site, and so on….

Image credit: Graur Razvan Ionut

Jan 042011
 
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Happy New Year TLOTL readers. Even though this is the week when most of us are heading back to work, I’m kicking off 2011 with a post that is perhaps 80% frivolous, 20% serious.

After a holiday break that included a healthy amount of feasting, family time, and general decompression, I decided to finally join the ranks of individuals who feel compelled to remove most of their winter clothing and hurl themselves into near-freezing water on New Year’s Day. And even though I reside in Seattle — which,  at 47 degrees and 37 minutes of latitude, is closer to the North Pole than it is to the equator — I figured that jumping into the chilly waters of Puget Sound wasn’t silly enough to suit my purposes.

No, clearly it was necessary to travel 144 miles north to Vancouver, where a throng of nearly 2000 like-minded, half-nekked individuals huddled on the shores of English Bay for the annual Polar Bear Swim. Here we waited for the (warmly-dressed, hot cocoa-sipping, and smirking) event organizers to inform us that it was finally “ok” to dive into Pacific Ocean waters measuring a very uncomfortable 6 degrees Celsius.

The photo to the right links to my Facebook album documenting Vancouver Polar Bear Swim 2011this adventure. The combination of a large crowd — many of whom were feeling the effects of liquid courage, early-stage hypothermia, or both — and the presence of my 5 year old daughter prevented my paparazza (wife) from even approaching the designated plunge area. But there’s a very entertaining, crowd-sourced slideshow of the event on Flickr.

You may be wondering what would possess an otherwise normal person to do such a thing. Of course I can only speak for myself. The answer lies somewhere on the continuum between “I have no freaking idea why” and “because I had to.” One does not typically over-contemplate the decision to join a Polar Bear Swim. It’s a commitment that is almost always made in haste. And I think that’s really my best answer to the “why” question, and also the tie-back to the “20% serious” claim I made at the beginning of this post.

Some who know me may disagree with this assessment, but I think I’m a fairly careful person, or careful enough anyway. I pay my bills on time. My life, health, business and property are all adequately insured. I try to leave a clean wake in my relationships. Before making important business or personal decisions, I have been known to (obsessively?) analyze them through multiple lenses, be they financial, spiritual, social, global, metaphysical, or “other.”

Just after Christmas I ran into a business contact who observed that it’s normal for him to generate 10 good ideas, try to implement 8 of them, and be satisfied if none of them work, as long as he learns something in the process. I genuinely admire that about him. And what I think he admires about me is that I’m exactly the opposite. I love to generate ten good ideas, and then use my analytical skills — and those of my collaborators — to kill or “parking lot” the nine that don’t make sense right now, and use the remaining energy to execute well against the one that I believe will work.

Now, to be clear, I wasn’t trying to rinse off these personality traits in the frigid waters of English Bay. I think they have generally served me well over the years. But in joining the Polar Bear Swim, I very much wanted to celebrate the virtue of “not thinking about stuff too much.” And a great way to celebrate that virtue is to fullly experience the discomfort, and the thrill, that comes with it. And so if I’m going to be not comfortable while I’m not thinking too much, it’s preferable to be not alone.

New Year’s Day is just another day, but it’s a marker of change. Change happens all around us, and within us, all the time. I find that the company I keep, more than anything, is what makes that change manageable, rewarding, and, more often than not: FUN.

Happy New Year!

Apr 142010
 
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In this post, I’ve decided to share my all-time top keywords for traffic that comes to this blog via keyword searches. I’m not including hard numbers (to perpetuate the fanciful notion that I have a massive readership), but the terms are ranked by number of visits.

Observations:

1) My personal brand “lord of the leads” tops the list. This is not ideal, in my opinion (though I’d love to hear from anyone who disagrees). It’s not ideal because those people probably already know me or at least know of me. It’s nice to have a modicum of brand recognition, but it would be even better to have people finding me because their searches map to the actual content of my blog.

2) Many of the other search strings on the list are quite specific and (thank you Google algorithm) are highly relevant to my subject matter. These “long-tail” strings seem to indicate that my content is attracting a well-targeted audience, at least through keyword search. If that audience includes you, I hope you find the content helpful, and I welcome your feedback!

Here’s the list:

lord of the leads
rotting leads
three metrics that are more useful than
lead nurturing effect
b.a.n.t. sales effectiveness
210marketing
what is the three metrics
pipeline generation
sausage production line for sale
acronym tlotls
“metalworking marketing”
right in the middle of a contradiction
lead score
cost per lead+convertion rate+sales+rela
cjablonski @tippit.com
sales efficiency metrics
tom scearce lord of the leads
kathleen malaspina
three metrics example
medical device resource
cost per lead and other metrics
“thoughtmatrix”
marketing cost per person metric
the best place to be is in the middle of
lead score range
e-book conversion companies in usa
contribution to pipeline by marketing
sales effectiveness solutions blog comme
how to analyze the leads into a funnel
sam shepard in the middle of a contradic
cold leads vs warm leads – measuring the
demand generation offer creative target
causes of not lead management metrics
lead scoring ebook
sales dollar per lead
leads prospect efficiency
metrics examples factory
promotion from the lord
axis bank lead generation activity
lead scoring and revenue
2010 year of the lord
bank acquisition funnel metrics
pipeline contribution for lead generatio
scored nurtured leads
“kathleen malaspina”
sales efficiency
examples of lead generation metrics repo