Jun 302011
 
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My friends over at Focus asked me if I wouldn’t mind sharing an infographic they recently published on marketing automation. The infographic has some interesting metrics and data points from leading research and analyst firms covering the MA and CRM space. For anyone wanting a quick intro or an updated “lay of the land” in this category, it’s a good read.

[Attention all Federal Trade Commission hallway monitors: no money was exchanged and no other quid pro quo took place here, ok? Sheesh….]

Now, since this is a blog, I feel obliged to add some perspective on this topic. So, on top of the ones in the infographic, here’s two more metrics for you to consider. The good news: assuming you have some basic tracking tools like Google Analytics and/or a CRM system  you can pretty easily apply these metrics to your business.

Metric #1: Your fresh leads who don’t buy. This is the basic “lead nurturing” scenario, and the subject of many marketing automation discussions. Let’s say you generate 100 leads per month and 8 of them end up buying your product. There’s up to 92 more leads that still need attention in some form. Sure they may have bought from your competitors. Or they may have shelved the project. Or they may have just been kicking tires in the first place. Marketing automation can help you stay connected to these 92 leads per month – that’s a run rate of 1104 leads per year for anyone who is counting —  in a way that is cost-effective, scalable, and branded.

Metric #2: Your web site visitors who don’t become fresh leads. A lot of people don’t realize how  marketing automation can help improve lead conversion. Here’s just one way: let’s assume those 100 leads per month above are derived from 15,000 unique visitors to your web site each month. Marketing automation can help you track and score those 15K “uniques” from the moment they reach your web site, which may occur well before the lucky 100 become known to your sales team. The benefits of this are two-fold:

a)      Sales-effectiveness. Your sales people can better understand the prospect’s motivations and interests, as shown by the keywords used, and the pages/content viewed by that person before contacting your sales rep. This allows your sales team to use precious “talk time” more efficiently, presenting the benefits of your product or business that matter most to the prospect. And with the help of lead scoring (a point system that reflects the expected commercial value of a web visitor or lead), your sales team can further optimize talk time by calling out first to the highest scoring (hottest) leads.

b)      Marketing effectiveness. Your marketing expert(s) can easily optimize landing pages, phone trees, email templates and other assets by analyzing the rich website and CRM data that are “married” to your leads and orders. And as powerful as Google Analytics is, most companies either don’t or can’t use it to answer important profit-related questions about your sales process. Questions like, “how do we attract, convert, and close more law firms with between 5 and 50 employees in major cities?” A smart implementation of a marketing automation process can answer questions like this.

Enjoy the infographic! (and click it to enlarge)

Marketing Automation Infographic

If you find the original post of this infographic on Focus.com, there’s some good banter in the comments section about marketing automation products being over-hyped and ultimately too hard to deploy (i.e., “shelfware.”). For the record, here’s my take:

Over-hyped = YES

Shelfware = NO, at least not with my clients.

Note: I’m hereby adopting a new policy on this blog. There will be a minimum of one self-promotional plug required in each post. There’s a limit to this all-you-need-is-love marketing, you know.  Just ask the evil geniuses at Coca-Cola, who with one brilliant TV ad released about 40 years ago, heralded both the death of 60’s idealism and the birth of Gen-X cynicism.

But I non-sequitorize, or, something….

Anyway, most of the deployment issues with marketing automation occur when companies realize (typically, and unfortunately, post-purchase) that they lack the commitment required to do it right. There are other issues too. The products still need to mature, and the talent pool of implementors still needs to grow. There will be a shakeout in the marketplace for sure, and perhaps soon. But the basic building blocks of marketing automation are here to stay.

Oct 202010
 
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I’m pleased to share with TLOTL readers the Focus Experts’ Guide: Sales and Marketing Pipeline and Funnel Models. This collection of 14 one-page funnel visualizations was created by sales and marketing leaders who are active on the Focus network. If you spend any time following thought leaders in this space, you’ll recognize most if not all of the other contributors. I’m truly honored to be sharing pixel space with this distinguished group!

You can download the guide here (PDF).

Focus Expert Guide

Below I’ve included some additional links and context:

  • The list of other contributors to the Experts’ Guide

Ardath Albee, CEO and B2B Marketing Strategist at Marketing Interactions
Michael Brenner, Director of Online/Social Media at SAP North America
Michael Damphousse, CEO/CMO of Green Leads LLC
Christopher Doran, VP of Marketing at Manticore Technology
Barbra Gago, Social Media Manager of Cloud9 Analytics
Steve Gershik, CEO of 28Marketing
Sue Hay, CEO of BeWhys Marketing Inc.
Matt Heinz, Principal at Heinz Marketing LLC
Carlos Hidalgo, President of The Annuitas Group
Jon Miller, Vice President of Marketing at Marketo
Adam Needles, VP of Demand Generation Strategy at Left Brain Marketing
Matt West, Director of Marketing at Genius.com
Steve Woods, Chief Technology Officer of Eloqua

  • Craig Rosenberg, the leader of the Focus Expert Network, is currently running a guest post series with each of the contributors on his blog, The Funnelholic.
  • And lastly — for anyone who may still be reading  — here’s the back story on my entry:

I sent my picture to Focus at the end of August, right around the time my daughter attended her first few days of kindergarten. At the time, it occurred to me that I was participating in a kind of show-and-tell for grownups. Just like the objects that kids describe to their classmates, each funnel concept in this guide tells us a story. And the story isn’t just about the funnel as a business process. It’s also about how the storyteller thinks and solves problems.

Prior to submitting my picture, I had white-boarded it twice before for two different prospects. The first prospect said she really appreciated my (impromptu) illustration, as it helped her think differently about her problem.  We haven’t done a deal yet, but had we not had that meeting, I probably wouldn’t have drawn my picture.

The second time I drew it was in a meeting with a prospect who – a few weeks prior — had asked me to send him a “brief, high level write-up on how we’d work together.” I wrote out my proposal in text form, and, per his request, kept it really brief – barely over 1 page in length. But as brief as my proposal was, when I met with my prospect, I could see that I had made excessive use of that obscure, incomprehensible, buzzword-laden dialect: consultantese. Even in sanitized form, I’m embarrassed to share that original proposal verbatim. But I ran it through a word cloud generator (thank you Wordle) to show what I mean.

Scearce Market Development proposal wordcloud

Consultantese

Pretty messy isn’t it? The proposal wasn’t much easier to follow.

Once I drew a simple picture on my prospect’s whiteboard, our conversation became simpler, and we ultimately started working together.

No matter how long I work in this business, I still forget sometimes that consultantese has no place in my sales process. Plain English is better. And a simple picture is even better still, especially if it’s something my kindergartner might understand.

Oct 112010
 
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A CFO with whom I once worked shared with me the qualities he believed essential in a VP of Sales. As he worked up the list from bottom to top, I was certain that some variation of “consistently achieving revenue and gross margin quota” was going to occupy the #1 slot. But instead, he treated me to this nugget of wisdom that has stayed with me over the years:

The thing I care about most is predictability. Of course I want the VP of Sales to make his number. But actually, I really need him to make the number that he has been forecasting to the executive team, as close to the mark as possible, regardless of where that number is in relation to quota.  To put a finer point on it, if he over-performs against quota by 30%, but he told us that he was going to beat quota by 10%, I’m happy for the business that month, but that VP of Sales has lost a measure of credibility with me. And by the same token, even if he comes up short, I want him to tell me how much he’s going to miss the number ahead of time, and then deliver that result exactly. Because that shows me he’s in command of his business. And when he’s in command of his business, I can manage mine more accurately.

I was reminded of this conversation recently when the sales director for one of my clients happily announced the latest new customer win. I relayed my congratulations and then asked “how is the forecast that we discussed last week coming along?” I know, I know. Shame on me for not letting the sales director enjoy a few more moments in the winner’s circle. But this exchange, and that CFO’s words, point to an important truth about modern sales management:

It’s not enough to be a rainmaker. You also need to be a meteorologist.

It’s not enough to simply beat a sales goal. Management expects that. To be an “A player” in sales, you must be able to accurately predict AND deliver a specific sales outcome.

To the casual observer, this may seem like a ridiculously tall order to fill. But it should be noted that these kinds of sales acrobatics used to be easier to pull off than they are today. Sellers had more direct leverage in the sales process, buyers had less information, and there were fewer regulations on corporate accounting practices such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. These and other factors gave Sales VPs more hands-on control of the revenue factory.

Today, sellers have less leverage, buyers have more information, and compliance regimes have significantly reduced or eliminated sandbagging. But somehow the sales VP is still expected to accurately predict when it’s going to rain (hour-by-hour), how many inches will fall, and what the temperature, windspeed and direction, and barometric pressure will be. Oh and s/he needs to do this job while managing the people (sales reps, overlay resources, clients, channel partners, and executives) whose interactions will determine the final “weather report.” If you’re a Sales VP and this is your reality, here are a few ideas for how to pull this off….

1)      Look at your past ratios and trends. Get a report of your past sales results, by month, going back 1-2 years. Then on the same timeline plot all of the contributing factors inputs to those results you can think of. How many sales reps were on staff during each month? How many selling days were there during each month? If you can identify a metric that is more highly correlated than others to variations in sales, you can try forecasting the next few periods using that ratio. It’s a low-tech and brute force forecasting method, but it may nonetheless make your crystal ball a little less cloudy.

2)      Look at the sources of leads that convert into sales. Which lead sources have the highest conversion rates and deal values? Which ones have the most consistent conversion rates and deal values? You may need to optimize your lead generation portfolio for the same reason you may need to occasionally re-balance your investment portfolio – to get predictable returns.

3)     Find out what your champions eat for breakfast. This is really just another take on the lead sources recommendation. If you had a widget factory with 20 assembly lines, and 4 of them consistently shipped defect-free widgets, on time, and in the quantities specified on the work order, you would figure out what goodness is happening on those assembly lines and make sure the other 16 know it too.

4)      Look at marketing automation software and or services. Although much more of a “commitment to the process” than the first three suggestions, marketing automation can provide, along with many other benefits to your organization, more predictable revenue and profit over time.

Whatever you do, don’t try to pull this off alone or as a project managed solely within the sales organization. Making it rain is an art form, and it’s what you’re really good at. Meteorology is a science. So partner up with the scientists in marketing, operations, and finance people who “get” sales  the most (but could never do your job) and ask for their help.

Aug 052010
 
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A slight detour for today’s post.  Let’s pay a brief visit to the land of B2C retail fitness, to see if any insights apply to B2B sales and marketing.

One regular “client” of my consulting practice is the Pilates and personal training business my wife Heather and I have owned for the past 3.5 years. I have no formal training in Pilates or personal training, and to be honest, until this year, my physique more closely resembled the guy in the classic “BEFORE” photo than the slimmer “AFTER” version.  For this reason and others, I’ve typically worked more behind the scenes in that business, handling finance, operations, and marketing, supporting our staff and Heather as they support their clients.

Heather wears several hats too, including the very important Head of Sales hat. This is a challenging and rewarding job for her. She helps people make and manage investments in their health. According to HealthyPeople.gov, a service of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, only about 23 percent of adults in the United States report regular physical activity for 20 minutes or longer 3 or more days per week. Heather’s trying to engage the subset of that population who:

  • live close enough to our studio in Seattle to make regular ongoing visits with their trainer
  • are able to invest in private instruction (we don’t offer group classes)
  • are willing to pay for an elective health service not covered or subsidized by insurance
  • are physically able to exercise
  • have the time, or are able to make the time, to attend training sessions
  • aren’t already working with a trainer at another facility
  • value our services, people, facilities, and the way we do business

So yes, Heather has a challenging and rewarding job.  Her business is highly relationship-driven. I know,  I  know, everyone’s business is relationship-driven, but hers really is. She’s learned, and taught me, a ton about how these relationships get started and grow. And as good as she has become at listening to prospects, educating them, and building their trust, the old adage is as true for her as it is for any sales person: you can’t win ‘em all. For any number of reasons, some within and some beyond her control, not everyone she meets will become a client.  But every potential client, whether she meets them or not, will ultimately make some kind of decision, conscious or otherwise.  That decision may be about whether to become a client, or it may be about whether to visit the website, pick up the phone, or ask a current or past client about their experience.  And this brings us back to the theme of this post: every lead converts.

To explore what I mean by this, let’s apply the sentence in the broadest sense possible.

For simplicity, let’s define “every lead” as every person that engages Heather’s business. Not just the people who call her to ask about studio services or rates, or come in for an introductory session, or consider a membership package, but everyone.  Any person who ever:

  • walks by the studio and takes a flyer from the box outside
  • drives by and notices nothing more than the window graphics or other branding elements
  • visits the studio’s web site
  • visits a third party review site (e.g. Yelp)
  • observes or engages in a social media conversation about the business
  • meets a current or previous client at a business function, or a kids’ soccer game
  • meets a current or previous prospect at a [insert business or social event here]

Simplified Conversion Model

And now let’s define “convert” just as broadly. Not just the conversion of qualified prospects into clients, or of leads into qualified prospects, or even of traffic (foot, phone, or web) into leads. Let’s define conversion as any change in a person’s opinion of her business — no matter how strong or subtle, how temporary or permanent, or how grounded in fact or fiction — based on currently available information available.

And now, let’s go one step further and give a B2B-sounding name to this entire cycle of people gathering information and developing their opinions. Let’s call it: the considered purchase process.

Back here in the B2B world, we are trained to be efficient, mechanical, and sometimes even a bit mercenary about demand generation. And the military-industrial language we use to describe our trade – e.g., driving conversion, filling the pipeline, growing revenue (exponentially), launching multi-channel integrated campaigns, etc. – reflects the intense expectations of management that we take the beach deliver results.

But as we focus our energy on the relative few who ultimately decide to buy, it’s helpful to remember that every person’s opinion of our company changes as they interact with us. We may be leaving money or value on the table when we ignore those who don’t take our prescribed next step.  Or worse, we may be creating headwinds for future sales efforts by handling these people in a careless way. Every lead converts, in either a good way or a not-good way. And unless you’re selling to a market of infinite size where no one ever bothers to share their impressions of your business, each one of those conversions matters.

Doing the things that get more leads to favorably convert, more of the time, helps us build healthier pipelines and more predictable revenue growth.

Jul 282010
 
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[Post #1 in the “Other Voices” series, featuring Bruce Lee of Have Bruce Write It.]

This week I’ve been doing, with a little help from my friends, a mini-makeover on the TLOTL blog. A few of the changes:

  • Installed a new WordPress theme. Thank you to Sayontan Sinha for giving us the elegant and simple “Suffusion.” I gladly made a small PayPal donation in support of your excellent work on this theme.
  • Replaced the mugshot that was taken when I was 38 pounds heavier. Thank you to my wife Heather, to Concept2 Rowing (makers of my Concept2E Indoor Rower), and to my personal trainers at Conscious Body Pilates for supporting my renewed commitment to improved health.
  • Incorporated the “Tall Poppy” color element from the Scearce Market Development brand palette. Thank you to Penny Laine for your work on the original SMD palette and logo. And thanks to Chirag Mehta for publishing your helpful “Name That Color” lookup tool. The HEX# for that color, C04027, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

I’m throwing shout-outs to these people and companies, some of whom I’ve never met in person, to underscore how much the creative process — in marketing, selling, or anything — is a team game. Which brings me to the fourth change I made to the blog this week: a new tagline.

“Tips, tools, and inspiration from marketing and sales masters.”

I’ve always thought the “Lord of the Leads” concept was about mastery of a process; specifically the process of generating and managing “the leads.” But successful practictioners of the marketing and sales arts understand that real mastery depends on integrating an incredibly diverse range of expertise — strategy, financial, product, creative, technical, analytical, operational — into a compelling buying experience for customers. A marketing leader, in particular, must be highly skilled at eliciting and synthesizing high-value contributions from experts in all of these areas.

So, starting with today’s guest post, I’m turning up the volume (to eleven) on the voices of other experts in the marketing and sales workflow.

First up to bat: Bruce Lee. Bruce and I are members of a consultants’ roundtablegroup here in Seattle. Two other similarities: it turns out we live about 1/2 mile apart (98112 baby!), and we both previously worked for companies that were acquired by Best Buy. We are also both self-styled word warriors, though there the differences quickly begin to emerge. Because, quite honestly, I’m Don Quixote to Bruce’s Sun Tzu.

Bruce is contributing “10 simple techniques to improve your advertising and web site copy.”

1.Have someone outside your department read what you’ve written, and ask them if they understand it thoroughly. Chances are you’re using some term that makes sense to you, but not to your intended reader. Someone from outside your fishbowl will catch that.

2.Don’t use acronyms. If it’s important enough to mention, it’s important enough to spell it out.

3.Don’t get cute.Never use any derivation of the Got Milk campaign (for example, “Got Trash?” or “Got Pho?”). Never make any allusion that “size does matter.” Leave humor to the experts.

4. Don’t lie. Exaggeration and hyperbole are lies. Omitting important details, or burying them in the fine print, is a form of lying. Someday soon, credit card companies will pay for this transgression.

5. Proofread it out loud. Then have someone else proofread it out loud while you listen.

6. Say it correctly. “Happens only once a year” is better than “Only happens once a year.” (Only Jack kissed Mary. Jack only kissed Mary. Jack kissed only Mary.) Misuse “it’s/its” or “your/you’re” only if you want the reader to think you’re incompetent.

7. Resist the urge to use an exclamation point. Resist!

8. Unless you’re simply listing a commodity and a price (1 gal. 2% milk, $3) include at least one product benefit. (Chocolate Milk. Builds strong bones and kids love it. 1 gal. $3)

9. Try to find a way to work the word “you” into the headline.

10. Know when to bend the rules. You’re trying to communicate with people using only symbols. But when a person reads, they hear a voice talking in their head. It’s sometimes okay for that voice to start a sentence with a preposition.

Jul 152010
 
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Regular readers of this blog, and people who have worked with me, know that I’m a proponent of a process-oriented, metrics-based, and technology-enabled approach to demand generation. And I typically encourage B2B vendors to take the long view in developing their demand generation funnel, treating it like a high-value business operating inside their business. I believe that a well-designed demand generation system shamelessly imitates the features of other “mission critical” processes at work in our daily lives, such as air travel, energy production, or the food supply chain. All of these processes generally work as advertised, and generally without interruption. And these processes deliver incredible value to all their stakeholders. It’s hard to imagine modern life without flight, fuel, and food.

It took time to build these modern marvels and it takes time — though thankfully not nearly as much — to build a predictable revenue engine. But time is not a luxury that every company has, or believes it has.

Some companies just want leads.

And they want the leads now and they want them to be qualified to speak to a salesperson. And they would only like to pay for those leads that are qualified.

Having worked on both the client- and agency-sides of the demand gen industry, I can appreciate both why this request is made, and why it’s rarely, if ever, fulfilled exactly according to the client’s wishes.  Someday I may bang out a post explaining this disconnect in greater detail, and what might be done to address it.  But for now, I offer you instead:

TLOTL’s Quick-n-Dirty Resource Guide for B2B Firms That Just Want Leads (version 1.0)

The following is a starter list of resources that B2B firms can engage if they want to partially or fully outsource lead generation.

1)      Appointment Setting Firms  – These companies typically have their own databases, telemarketing staff, automation tools, and methodologies for delivering clients the specific outcome of an appointment for their sales person. Usually they will guarantee the result of “a person who matches your target buyer profile, who works at a firm that is in your target list / segment, and who is willing to take a call and/or have a visit from your sales person (usually it’s a phone call).”

  • Pros: Huge convenience factor for the vendor in avoiding all of the complexity and risk involved in delivering that critical outcome of the initial sales appointment. And the ramp-up time for a vendor like this should be lower due to the quality of the talent setting the appointments (typically seasoned, successful sales reps).
  • Cons: This can be fairly expensive on a per-appointment basis (though at a certain close rate, who cares?), and the expectations of the sales team still need to be managed somewhat.  And it may simply not be possible to “qualify” the lead further than the prospect’s willingness to take the initial call/meeting with your sales rep.
  • Cost per lead range: the “high hundreds” of dollars per guaranteed appointment. I could be more precise but I have friends in several of these firms and I prefer to let them quote their prices.

2)      Traditional Telemarketing Firms – most of us have gone this route at least once in our careers. Many telemarketing firms will also offer appointments as an outcome, but there is usually a greater investment on the part of the vendor to train the telemarketing firm’s reps on how to effectively position the offering.

  • Pros: The vendor is able to manage the prospecting message fairly tightly because they train the reps making the calls. Most vendors can also provide interesting metrics on their calling programs, which are useful to a marketer even if the program itself isn’t successful.
  • Cons: Higher risk in terms of the time and effort involved in ramping up the telemarketing agency. Heavy reliance on the firm’s ability to attract and retain talent for a job that is often a stepping stone or a dead end. If you give them your list to call against, and they struggle to achieve results, they will often blame the outcome on your list.
  • Cost per lead range: Very few of these firms will sell to you on a per-lead basis. But however the pricing is packaged, you’re ultimately paying for the number of people making calls for you, plus whatever markup the telemarketing firm can negotiate to cover the overhead and generate a profit. There is a lot of competition in this space, so those firms that can keep their costs low can compete more aggressively on price. You’ll generally find that the most competitively priced telemarketing firms have call centers based in secondary or tertiary markets (lower cost of living and commercial square footage) versus major metro areas.

3)      Business Media Firms – these companies typically own targeted web properties that contain content (e.g., whitepapers, webinars, analyst briefs, user-generated articles, etc) related to specific business topic areas such as CRM, Financial Services, Telecom or other markets. The content attracts potential buyers/influencers and entices them to register (e.g., complete a web form) for access to that content. The media firm then sells these leads to several B2B vendors, typically on a per-lead basis.

  • Pros: Some of these companies have the ability to phone-verify and lightly qualify the registrations they collect on their web sites, resulting in a higher quality lead than a stand-alone web form registration. A few of these vendors offer ongoing lead nurturing and scoring as a value-added service, helping the purchasers of those leads segment and prioritize the leads for sales or marketing follow-up.
  • Cons: Some of these companies lack sufficient quality controls on the leads they pass to clients. Others provide decent leads, but they sell them to too many vendors (10 or more in some cases). The resulting feeding frenzy of sales calls turns off the buyers/influencers who originally registered for the content, making it hard for any vendor – even those with the most aggressive salespeople – to convert the leads.
  • Cost per lead range: From $10-$15 per lead, for horizontal, transactional business products like certain office equipment, to several hundreds of dollars per lead, for highly considered B2B purchases in hyper-targeted markets, e.g. ERP system buyers in Fortune 1000 companies.

4)      Targeted List Providers – When compared to buying a compiled list from a name-brand business data firm or a direct marketing list broker, working with targeted list providers is generally better value for money. These firms use sophisticated software and database tools to build rich lists of business buyers and influencers, going several layers deeper than the C-suite and line-of-business heads.  Then they layer on additional services that confirm if a particular person on a particular list is (a) still employed by the company in the list record, or (b) is responsible for a certain business process or purchasing function.

  • Pros: Some lists these companies provide can be very accurate and work well if you are planning an aggressive campaign to contact them.
  • Cons: While the contacts on these lists may be the “right person in the right role,” there’s no guarantee that they will give the person who calls them the time of day, or that their firm even has an active purchase process underway.
  • Cost per lead range: there is a wide range of prices for these lists and a lot depends on where in the supply chain your order is placed.

5)      Boutique Demand Gen Agencies – These are often “virtual” agencies where seasoned marketers with client-side experience manage the delivery of demand gen firms such as those described above. This happens to be one of the ways I work with my clients; essentially serving in dual roles as purchaser of lists and/or leads, and pre-sales process manager, ensuring that lead conversion and pipeline growth targets are achieved. An example would be where I work with a business media firm or a targeted list provider to generate a high-quality list of “hand-raisers” or verified contacts and feed them into a telemarketing or appointment-setting firm. I add value by managing the quality of the list generated on the front end, and by holding the lead qualification firms accountable for a given quantity of qualified leads, as per my client’s specifications. Note: Some of these agencies also serve in a marketing/sales operations role generating incremental leads through tighter integration of the the vendor’s web marketing (SEO, SEM, social media) and CRM functions.

  • Pros: Me, and a few others I would trust to do this work the right way. And yes, that is a self-promoting commercial plug. I never said I don’t sell anything on this blog. :)
  • Cons: Everyone else. Ok, not EVERYONE else. But a surprising percentage of people. Truthfully, it’s not easy to deliver high-quality results in B2B lead generation. If it were, you might not be reading this article right now. There are a lot of people with good intentions but still struggle to deliver solid results. And then, to be honest, there are also some snake-oil salesmen and wooden nickel-peddlers. And in that respect, the demand generation business is no different than any other industry or institution that has ever let us down (e.g., all of them at one point or another).
  • Cost guidance (I’m not aware of anyone offering this service on a per lead basis): Most of the people who run boutique demand gen agencies have operated integrated, multi-channel B2B programs at the Director, VP, or CMO level. But unless the scope of your project prevents them from working with other clients — in which case you should probably consider hiring a W-2 employee — you probably can obtain this expertise at some fraction of the full market value.

 

Two notable omissions from the list of resources above:

1)      Traditional advertising agencies – In the context of considered purchases in B2B markets, I’m not aware of a traditional ad agency that wouldn’t ultimately leverage one or more of the above resources to generate qualified leads. To be sure, these firms add a lot of value in the areas of marketing strategy, branding, and positioning. I’m not against the Mad Men set – they are brilliant masters of their craft. But if you’re trying to get sales-ready leads to your sales team, and you buy through an ad agency, you’ll likely be paying a significant markup without commensurate added value.

2)      Internal lead qualification team – For some companies, it makes sense to have internal pre-sales resources putting the final “qualified” stamp on a lead, even with all of the value that these external firms can add to the process. Soon I will be publishing a write up on when internal lead qualification team does and doesn’t makes sense. Stay tuned!

May 192010
 
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Early in my career, I worked in sales at Concur Technologies (now called simply “Concur“) and had the opportunity to learn from some great sales leaders. I specifically remember a 1/2 day training session led by Tim Fitzgerald, who was then VP of North American Sales at Concur.

With all due respect to Miller Heiman, Dale Carnegie, and others of their ilk, I have to say I received more practical, directly applicable knowledge out of those 4 hours with Tim than I learned in any seminar course I ever attended.

Over the span of my career, as I’ve participated in numerous sales presentations from both the buy and sell sides, I’ve often been reminded about how there’s no substitute for the fundamentals. And in sales, like in sports, fundamentals are unfortunately most noticeable when they are not being followed.

I was reminded of this topic today when I answered this question on Focus.com: “What are your tips for the optimal sales presentation?”  Here is the answer I gave, which is perhaps 5% drawn from the original Fitzgerald course content, and 100% confirmed by my experiences over the ensuing 13 years.

1. Arrive 20-30 minutes early. Use the time to overcome the inevitable conference room / projector / IT issues. And if none of those issue exist, get a pre-brief from your vendor-side contact on how to best run the meeting. And if you don’t get time with your contact, use the time to mentally prepare / relax / meditate before you enter the ring. In sales, most of your money is made by executing well at key moments, like presentations. Give yourself the opportunity to execute well.

2. Manage the clock. Re-confirm when the meeting starts that you still have the time allotted with all the key people that you thought you did. 5 out of 10 times, a key decision maker / influencer has a “hard stop” 15-30 minutes earlier than you expected. If you can accomplish your objectives in this compressed window of time, you can be more productive in your next meeting (assuming you get another one).

3. Manage your crew. Make sure anyone who may be supporting you in the meeting knows exactly what they are there to do/say and what they should NOT do/say. If anyone on your team is dialing into the meeting, they should:

(a) be in a quiet place

(b) be using a good phone

(c) not be distracted by anything else, and

(d) not have any chat windows or other screen pops come up during the meeting (Web conference scenario only).

I had a hands-down market-leading software vendor selling to my company a couple of years ago. The sales person was unfortunately not adept at managing his resources, and what should have been an easy win for him became a drawn out affair because his demo failed and his team was not prepared for the meeting. When our CEO came into the meeting, the disorganization was obvious, and there was no opportunity for the sales rep to show why his company was the clear market leader. Instead, a lot of doubt was created that I, as the vendor advocate, had to manage through over the next several weeks.

These are just a few of the little things that, if left unmanaged, can completely derail a sales presentation, and detract from the actual business of selling.

Mar 232010
 
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There’s a good conversation going on over at Focus.com about whether the sales concept of BANT — Budget Authority Need Timeframe — is no longer valid in light of how the modern B2B buying process works. The question has been asked: “Is BANT dead?”

I commented on the post, and as part of my continuous effort to drive my own personal “return on contribution” I’ve re-published my answer to the question in this space. But there are lots of great expert opinions from B2B marketing thought leaders in the original post, so hop on over and have a look!

— begin answer —

“BANT is not dead but it is definitely under the weather and needs better care from its primary care physicians (sales and marketing executives).

As a salesperson’s tool for measuring a prospect’s relative readiness to buy, BANT remains valid and useful to the sales process.

However, there are times (too many times, by my observation) that BANT is used as a rigidly applied internal service level agreement between sales and marketing (or between sales and pre-sales lead development). In some environments, BANT is set up such that the sales team literally can’t talk to buyers unless BANT is fully achieved, or until a certain score threshold has been satisfied. This is a good idea when every sales person’s time is fully utilized talking to BANT-qualified prospects. However, most of the time this is not the case. There is always some “excess capacity” in the revenue factory, which can actually be good thing. So to the extent that BANT is ever used to keep a less-than-maxed-out sales person from talking to a buyer who is less-than-fully-BANT-qualified, it’s not a useful metric.

I think BANT is most useful when applied at the level of the individual salesperson, who must prioritize his/her time as if it were money to spent (time is the salesperson’s most valuable currency). As an operational metric, BANT is not flexible enough for practical application, in my opinion.

BTW, marketers have their own version of BANT. It’s called Cost per Lead (CPL). It’s another metric that is useful in a narrow context, but can needlessly limit outcomes if applied too rigidly. For more on the perils of excessive adherence to CPL (and 3 metrics that are better to use), see this post:

http://www.focus.com/ugr/research/marketing/asdf/

— end answer —

Jan 162010
 
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Over the past year, I’ve had the good fortune to speak with 80+ B2B marketers at leading U.S. companies. I’ve taken extensive notes during each of these discussions and have learned some interesting things. Here’s a few highlights:

1) In nearly all of those conversations, the topic of marketing automation and lead nurturing has come up.

2) About 50% of the marketers I’ve spoken with have already purchased a marketing automation solution. (This figure is not a proxy for overall market adoption of these solutions. The population I spoke with is generally in the “early adopter” category.)

3) Most of these marketers are, by their own admission, using only a portion of the robust capabilities available in these solutions. Essentially, these companies are using MA software to automate email blasts to current customers and prospects.

4) None of the marketers I’ve spoken to have implemented the lead scoring functionality available in these solutions. The reasons for this are several. Some have found that they have not identified or hired the right person to drive the lead scoring effort, because a specific skill set is required to do scoring right. Others have cited challenges in obtaining buy-in from the sales team – whose support and collaboration is essential to building an effective lead scoring model. And still others have said “sales is going to call all the leads anyway, so we don’t see a need to score them.”

5) Despite the limited scope of their existing deployments, all the marketers I’ve spoken to are still very committed to the category of marketing automation. They are just in first gear at the moment and planning their ramp-up strategies.

As a result of these conversations, I’ve been working on a visual aide to succinctly explain why I believe it’s critical that marketers and sales leaders commit to the lead scoring process as a part of any marketing automation project. I offer it up here as a contribution to the conversation.

Some explanatory “companion text” follows below the graphic.

 

Why We Nurture Leads

Companion Text:

  • The blue bars represent the universe of leads acquired through any marketing effort. Let’s put the number at 1000 leads. The red/pink shaded area represents the effort the Sales team will make trying to move those leads into the sales funnel.
  • The Y-axis represents a hypothetical lead score range of 1 to 100 (for what it’s worth, it’s not considered best practice to use a 100-point scale in lead scoring, but I’m simplifying here for the benefit of newcomers to marketing automation).
  • In the chart on the left, we look at the Lead Score (sales-readiness) of this 1000-lead universe in the timescale of one month after their lead capture date. In the chart on the right, we look at the Lead Score of the same population 9 months after their lead capture date.
  • According to Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, 70% of buyers you attract to your web site will eventually buy from someone. However, most of them are not ready to engage at the moment they appear in your CRM system (you are using a CRM system, right?). An important premise of Carroll’s argument is that the sales-readiness of these leads will increase, whether or not your company nurtures them. But only by nurturing do we have the opportunity to shape the preference of the buyers in that population of leads. And only by scoring do we have the opportunity to measure the relative levels of sales-readiness of one lead versus another.
  • But what about the argument that “sales calls all the leads, so why should we score them?” In my experience, Sales will always make an effort to call all of the leads. But it sometimes is worth repeating to ourselves that Sales is ultimately hired to one thing: sell. Not calling all of the leads is actually, really, truthfully, at the end of the day, a “venial sin” in the sales department. Not closing business is a “mortal sin.” [Or for those who prefer a more secular interpretation. Not calling all the leads will merely put the sales manager on his/her boss’ “Hurt Me” list. Not closing deals will put him/her on the “Kill Me” list.] So marketers should assume that the Sales team’s follow-up effort will result in a single touch (call, email, or voice mail) against 70% of the leads at best. Because when given a choice between calling a lead of unknown quality, and calling a prospect in the middle or bottom of the sales funnel, any successful sales person is going to do the logical thing and focus on closing business. [It’s also worth mentioning that another habit of successful sales people is to allocate 20% of their time to prospecting / pipeline development. But even the aggregate effect of that time allocation, if it’s happening across the sales team, will typically not be as effective in keeping leads warm, and certainly not as measurable, as a well-executed marketing automation program.]
  • The 1-month timescale (the chart on the left) illustrates the inefficiency of the “call ’em all” approach to lead development. Lots of calls are made and emails sent to prospects who are not yet ready to buy. The non-responsiveness of these pre-mature buyers is a contributing factor to the oft-heard judgement of the sales manager: “these leads are s#!+. We need the good leads!”
  • The 9-month timescale (the chart on the right) illustrates the benefit of a well-integrated lead nurturing program. If marketing and sales work together to define a solid lead scoring model, the effect is that sales will be spending more of their time speaking to more qualified buyers.
  • An ancillary (but very significant) benefit of this approach is that over time, marketing can actually spend less money buying impressions, clicks, and leads. This is because, over time, patterns emerge in the data to show what fish are biting, where they’re swimming, and how you can hook them.
  • Where should all that money go that you save on demand generation? Here’s a few ideas:

Six things you can do with the money you save implementing marketing automation:

  1. Tell your  CFO / CEO to hire more sales people so your company can drive more revenue. [Some marketers may accuse me of heresy for daring to suggest that they offer up any portion of the marketing budget to hire more sales people. I would just reply that the goal is to make money. And good stewardship of the marketing budget means maximizing the efficiency of spend not maximizing spend.]
  2. Spend more money on the lead sources you (now) know are *really* working.
  3. Invest in thought leadership driven content creation (webinars, white papers, social media contributions).
  4. Conduct research on your current, live, in-market prospects to better understand what makes them buy.
  5. Send yourself and/or your team to a MarketingSherpa or SiriusDecisions conference.
  6. Negotiate a raise for yourself (preferably bundled with a promotion).  :)