I had coffee with a potential partner, and our conversation ebbed to us talking about business philosophy, marketing, and lead generation. I talked about freely sharing ideas and helping people. He replied something like, “I think companies [like yours] give away too many of their trade secrets on their website and blogs. They provide too much information freely. If I wanted to compete or copy you… all I would need to do is read your site or blog. The purpose of a website is to convert, to get people to respond, and generate leads.”
This year, more than ever, has been humbling for me.
People look to me as an expert at lead generation because I wrote a book and speak about it. But it seems the more I learn, the less I think I know.
I probably am more acutely aware of this because I work for MECLABS, an organization that is laser-focused on learning and teaching others – including many global organizations – about how to continuously improve marketing.
Consequently, I’m constantly learning and constantly discovering how much more I have to learn. Read on for three important lessons instilled in me this year.
Use your knowledge resources
I have to confess: I began 2013 feeling behind. I’m charged with helping MECLABS attain Research Partnerships. This is more complex than standard lead generation – we’re not trying to sell. Instead, we’re trying to identify organizations that can fit our specific research model. We end up turning away prospects far more than we accept.
Frankly, back in January, I wanted to have more momentum in this process, but I felt like I had far too much to accomplish and far too little time to accomplish it. So, in that situation, who has time to review case studies and reports?
Who has time to strategize?
Reflecting on it 12 months later, I realize that smart, effective people do, because that’s when they discover the solutions to help them accomplish their goals.
Practice what you preach
I finally allowed myself the time to examine our organization’s vast knowledge of online testing to determine how this knowledge could be applied to conversations over the phone.
You see, much of our process for accepting Research Partner applications transpires via the phone channel. In this process, our first goal is to make sure our prospects are delighted that we contacted them; our second is to identify a potential Research Partner.
Of course, the steps to test online cannot be simply layered over the phone conversations. The human touch is different than the virtual one.
However, we successfully applied the patented Conversion Heuristic, created by MarketingExperiments, a division of MECLABS, that has typically been used as a systematic framework to analyze a conversion process.
Learn more about our experience with that here: “Lead Generation: How using science increased teleprospecting sales handoffs 304%.”
Through these efforts, we are now doing significantly more teleprospecting in less time. Here’s just one example: We wanted to learn how to structure a voicemail to attract the highest rate of callbacks.
We discovered that immediately mentioning a free Benchmark Report, as opposed to waiting until the next sentence, increased call backs by 182% – that’s nearly double! Consider the increased productivity: those are 182% fewer people our analysts have to call back.
If I had practiced what MECLABS preached earlier in the year, I could have been up to speed much more quickly in achieving my goals.
Simplicity is the true sign of expertise
As I continually learn new methods to improve my own lead generation, I understand the process better. In fact, a few years ago, I wrote this e-book: Eight Critical Success Factors for Lead Generation. If I wrote this book today, I would boil it down to just three:
- Engaging the right people in the right companies
- With the right message
- And nurturing that conversation until the right time
A true measure of expertise, I realize, is the ability to make the seemingly complex so simple that anyone can understand it.
Einstein was right when he proclaimed that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know it well enough. Once again, I now realize how much I didn’t know a year ago, how much I know today, and how much more – really, so much more – I still need to learn.
What lead gen and life lessons did you learn in 2013? I’d love to hear about them. Let me know in the comments below.
On the way home from the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Summit, I caught up with one of our clinic coaches, Craig Mullenbach. A Program Manager for MECLABS, Craig used his decade-plus years of experience in lead-generation and content strategy to help attendees at the event. But he often felt like his hands were tied.
He voiced his frustration to me: “Nearly everyone I talked to said that they knew all of the best practices but can’t execute them because they don’t have executive support – and the budgets that come with it.”
I feel his pain. Unfortunately, as much as I wish I could write a blog titled “The Three Easy Steps to Convince Your CEO to Say ‘Yes,’” it’s just not that simple. After all, no organization has the same politics and culture.
Attaining executive buy-in and the support that comes with it too often requires intense financial, organizational and behavioral analysis. But I do have some at-a-glance, high-level advice that will point you in the direction to get to that “yes.”
#1. Identify executive priorities – I realize not every marketer can hold court with the CEO, but, at minimum, you need to understand and speak the CEO’s language. They could care less about clicks or responses. They want:
- More leads
- More revenue
- Shorter time to revenue
- Improved marketing-to-sales expense
Show how your ideas can definitively improve the CEO’s top and bottom lines. Identify what’s in it for them, and keenly focus on that.
#2. Analyze your sales organization – Find out how much time the sales team spends on prospecting. A survey for one of our clients revealed that the sales force spent more than 40% of their time trying to generate leads instead of working on closing deals.
How much would 40% of your company’s sales payroll add up to? That would probably more than pay for a generation campaign. Read more about how sales productivity can be turned into a bigger marketing budget:
- How to get funding to improve your lead gen
- Four Steps to Convince CEOs that Lead Generation Should be a Marketing, Not a Sales, Function
#3. Show what others have done – Find case studies that illustrate the success of other companies like yours. They should outline the steps that were taken and financial results. Excellent sources of case studies include:
- MarketingExperiment’s Research Directory
- MarketingSherpa Blog
- MarketingExperiments Blog
- MarketingSherpa’s Newsletters and Handbooks.
#4. Huddle with your sales team – During a huddle, a team looks at their last play – what worked and what didn’t – then uses that information to decide their next move. Do the same with your sales team so you know what you’re doing right and what you can do better, and how your efforts are directly leading to closed deals (or not). In the process, you’ll enhance communication and ultimately, build a broader base of support.
Learn more about the value of huddling in this blog: Closed Loop Feedback: The Missing Lead Generation Huddle, then watch this video where Michelle Mogelson Levy, Associate VP of Marketing Programs for ECI Telecom, explains how huddles transformed her marketing organization.
#5. Develop a pilot – In this blog, Lead Generation: 4 critical success factors to designing a pilot, Dave Green, MECLABS Director of Best Practices, advises to clarify your objective, then build a pilot around low-hanging fruit to achieve it.
Your goal is to get the economic space you need to experiment, test, course-correct, test again, and repeat the best-performing process. For a practical, step-by-step outline on designing a pilot, read this blog: Landing Page Optimization: How to start optimization testing and get executive support. I think its precepts could apply to virtually any marketing project.
What have you done that convinced the C-suite to give you the support to move forward? What are your success stories and lessons learned? Do you have any additional recommendations? Tell me about them in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you have to say about this very challenging topic.
First, I have tremendous respect for the people who have joined me on this list; I’m in great company. Learn more about them here: Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012.
Second, OpenView Labs takes a scientific approach to selecting its top influencers. OpenView Labs leverages the Klout True Reach metric to calculate social media influence. They also examined blog activity, and other more traditional content. You can read more about their selection process toward the end of this post here: Marketing Channel Research: How to Design a Prioritization Scheme.
I can’t stress this enough: when it comes to marketing, if we’re not constantly learning, we’re going to find ourselves left behind faster than ever.
Some people say I’m an expert in B2B lead generation because I wrote a book on it, but you know what? I am astonished by what I didn’t know then compared to what I know today. This past year has been especially illuminating thanks to the brilliance of smart marketers who are expanding and perfecting the lead-generation concepts I wrote about years ago.
In February, Paul Teshima, SVP of Product Management at Eloqua, set the tone for the webinar year. He defined the tenets of the new world of marketing in Revenue Performance Management. “We’ve seen a problem now where, even though marketing is doing a great job of generating leads, sales still cannot handle the volume and they slip away,” explains Paul. “Some of the leading companies today are really focusing on this idea of managing and bringing marketing sales together, in a more effective way, now that they’ve solved some of the tactical problems.”
Paul explains how here: The Future of Marketing: The Evolution from Demand Generation to Revenue Performance Management
In March, Michelle Mogelson Levy, Associate Vice President of Global Marketing at ECI Telecom, detailed how she executed an ultra-successful content strategy campaign and how that transformed their entire marketing strategy.
“We had to put ourselves in line with our buyers’ journey so we knew how to engage them at the right level,” she points out. “We had to provide value to our prospects, who have never heard of us before, and position ourselves as a company that understands their marketplace and their business issues – a partner as well as an expert.” Learn more here: How ECI Developed an Entire Content Marketing Program from Concept to Completion and the Surprising Results
In April, John Johnston, eBusiness Marketing Manager for Volvo North America, outlined how he streamlined, integrated and automated lead generation for a marketing program for 20 different heavy construction segments for dealers in 125 countries.
“We took online marketing activities, leveraged their analytics and optimized – measure, take action and repeat. It’s a continuous loop that makes the database and the lead-generation process better and better.”
Watch the webinar to find out how John’s efforts are providing customers and prospects the precise information they need to make a smart purchasing decision, and dealers a much more detailed, useful picture of who they’re selling to. And much of this is happening in real time. Learn more here: How CRM Revolutionized Marketing and Lead Generation at Volvo North America
In May, Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for MECLABS Leads Group, and I expounded on the powerful combination of excellent data and the human touch to make the best use of sales time and resources.
According to MarketingSherpa, 80% of marketing leads are lost or discarded because even though someone may have provided basic contact information, they may not be ready to talk to a salesperson. Teleprospecting bridges the gap.
Make sure you’re setting a strong foundation for your campaigns with an accurate list. Brandon revealed the outcomes of a breakthrough experiment that tested how higher cost/high quality lead data affected the cost per lead. The results were astounding – the difference between the best- and worst-performing lists was $581 per lead. Learn more here: Teleprospecting that Drives Sales-Ready Leads and How One Company Slashed Their Cost Per Lead by More than Half
In June, Sergio Balegno, Director of Research, MarketingSherpa/MECLABS Primary Research Group, shared why inbound marketing – a strategy where the prospects find you as opposed to you finding them – is critical, and how integrating social media and SEO drives it.
“Companies with integrated social media and SEO achieve 60% better conversion rates…Search rankings are driven by relevance, relevance enhances an organization’s credibility, and this credibility helps to drive conversion rates,” says Sergio. “It’s an essential ingredient to a B2B marketing program.”
To prove it, Sergio shared five steps that helped an email marketer pull in 70% more leads and doubled revenue in one year. Learn more here: How to Integrate Social Media and SEO to Drive More Leads and Increase Marketing ROI
In July, Dave Elkington, Chairman and CEO of InsideSales.com, revealed how companies are leaking significant revenue in their sales and marketing funnels – knowledge gained through analyzing two billion communications with 80 million customer profiles. He outlined astonishing facts like 43% of companies don’t even respond to inbound leads! But for those that know how to respond, the opportunities to make the sale grow exponentially – 78% of sales goes to companies that respond first, not to the company with the best or cheapest product.
It’s no wonder that Dave points out that venture capital firms want companies in their portfolios to have inside sales departments. “They’ll recruit, train and transplant inside sales teams into their portfolio companies,” he says. For more data that will show you how to speed leads into your sales pipeline, go here: Research from Harvard, MIT Pinpoints Hard Lead Conversion Lessons with Easy Solutions
Find out how:
- Clarifying value proposition helped one company decrease cost-per-acquisition by 66% and multiplied monthly profit four times over
- Re-engaging clients helped one company attain grow its business by 64%
- To quickly and easily choose the best lists
- To time lead-generation activities to attain the highest possible return on investment of resources
- Closed-loop feedback makes sales professionals worship their marketing department
It all came full circle in October, when Jen Doyle, MarketingSherpa Senior Research Manager and Lead Author of the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, discussed what more than 1,745 marketing organizations had to say about their lead generation efforts in 2011.
“It’s increasingly challenging for marketers to achieve success, and challenges are growing in pertinence year after year,” she explains. “Perceived effectiveness of tactics is declining severely. It’s getting more difficult to achieve the same results from the same marketing activities.”
She points out, however, that may be due to the fact that marketers still aren’t optimizing their funnels:
- 68% haven’t identified their sales or marketing funnels.
- 61% send leads directly to sales.
- 79% haven’t established lead scoring.
- 65% haven’t nurtured leads.
Learn how to make 2012 a better year here: 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report: How Marketers are Transforming Mounting Pressures, Challenges into Revenues.
We are in the process of planning our 2012 webinar year. What would you like to know more about? What information would help you generate more leads? How can we help you stay on top of lead-generation innovations? Leave a comment below.
I always look forward to the announcement of the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Award winners; they’re a great source of inspiration. In fact, just couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the B2B Best in Show Winner’s unexpected email approach grew its subscriber base by millions.
But honestly, I think B2B marketers might be more disillusioned with the power of email, if the feedback from 1,745 marketing organizations in the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report is any indication. Email marketing remains one of the top three lead-generation tactics, just below websites and SEO. Yet they claim its effectiveness dropped from 40 to 26 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Maybe this year’s Email Marketing Awards can point to one of the reasons why this is happening. If you look at the list of winners, you will note no one won the top award for innovation.
I asked Adam Sutton about it. He’s a senior reporter for MarketingSherpa. He edits and writes for their email and inbound marketing newsletters, has easily interviewed hundreds of marketers about their email marketing initiatives, and he’s one of the event judges.
“We don’t give out an award unless a company deserves it and an entry really ‘wows’ us,” he confesses.
But he also concedes that impressing the judges is getting tougher every year. “Email is a mature tactic as far as digital marketing goes; the low-hanging fruit is gone and you have to be more creative to reach the fruit that’s higher on the tree,” explains Adam. “But there’s still plenty there – especially when it comes to reaching people through newer technologies like smart phones and tablets. Of course, you want to make sure it’s worth targeting that segment of the marketplace, and you want to make sure you can measure the results. But I think there’s opportunity that companies aren’t taking advantage of.”
But what if your audiences aren’t avid users of iPads or smart phones?
“I think it’s a running joke here at MarketingSherpa: I’m sold on triggered emails, like confirmation emails and thank you emails,” says Adam. “Triggered emails are marketing for you all of the time. When you’re on vacation, when you’re sleeping, when you’re working on another project, they’re still out there driving business without you having to add any resources.
“I would look for every opportunity to create a triggered-email campaign. Frankly, I’m surprised that I’m not seeing more of these.”
While it may be more challenging to innovate within the larger email industry, Adam thinks the B2B space is wide open if you’re willing to learn from your B2C counterparts.
“Analyze how B2C marketers nurture leads with triggered email, follow-up email, or cross-selling opportunities. Think about how to use those ideas to reach your audience,” he advises. “I’ve learned in my years of writing newsletters that there are very few case studies that aren’t universally applicable. If you think your email efforts are stale, we have hundreds of case studies to give you some fresh ideas.”
Adam points out a number of case study resources:
- Download the free MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2012 Special Report.
- Subscribe to MarketingSherpa’s free inbound and email-marketing newsletters.
- Have a fresh email campaign that you think is worthy of a case study? Email him at email@example.com.
“Tell us what you’re doing, and think about entering the Awards next year,” advises Adam. “Whatever you do, I encourage you to set aside time to contemplate your email program. If it’s not something you’re impressed with, if you consider it more of an expense and a hassle than a performance-driver, strategize a fresh approach and consider getting professional support.”
In my post earlier this week, I outlined the challenge presented by SiriusDecisions’ Demand Waterfall taxonomy, specifically with the phrase “Marketing-Qualified Leads” (MQLs). Another problematic phrase is “sales-accepted leads.”
Often, funnels leak the most during the handoff between sales and marketing. Invariably, marketing blames sales and sales blames marketing. A lack of clarity around the term “sales-accepted lead” is the real culprit.
Marketing doesn’t need sales to “accept” the leads. Marketing needs sales to confirm whether the lead met the Universal Lead Definition that was agreed to between sales and marketing. This is a yes/no answer. Sales people should be able to tell on the first sales call, whether by phone or in person, if the lead met the criteria they set with marketing. If the lead didn’t meet the criteria, then marketing needs to know why. There are usually just a handful of reasons.
Such feedback need not wait until the lead is converted to an opportunity weeks or maybe months later. Instead, marketing can take immediate actions to improve lead-qualification practices. And sales leadership can identify sales people who do not understand the agreed-upon criteria, which can lead to an improvement in the Universal Lead Definition.
That’s why I like the phrase “sales-validated leads.” That’s what sales should be doing: validating whether the lead is really a lead, per the definition agreed to by sales and marketing. For most marketing organizations, this small change in funnel focus can make a huge difference in plugging funnel leaks.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments. At MECLABS, we don’t want to “own” the funnel taxonomy. We want to create a new, universal language that is useful for everyone and share our knowledge freely. That objective is best accomplished through a community effort via social media. So please, share this post with other funnel mavens and share your opinion. Together, we can create a new, more useful set of funnel definitions.
SiriusDecisions made a brilliant contribution to B2B marketing several years ago when they created their Demand Waterfall. That “waterfall” is a metaphor for key funnel stages. It seems like everyone I talk to who works in the technology industry, which is an early adopter of marketing innovations, uses the Demand Waterfall framework. The concept is useful for any B2B industry with complex sales.
Part of the beauty of the demand waterfall vernacular is that it added descriptive language to the word “lead.” All too often, sales and marketing have very different definitions of what a “lead” is. With its Demand Waterfall, SiriusDecisions created a common language between sales and marketing by labeling key funnel stages. By benchmarking industry funnel conversion rates, SiriusDecisions provided B2B marketers with a powerful framework for evaluating their own conversion rates from one funnel stage to the next, identifying funnel leakage and best practices, and forecasting results.
The problem with the SiriusDecisions model is one of language.
What Does “Marketing-Qualified Lead” Mean to You?
To apply benchmarks to funnel stages, you need an apples-to-apples comparison. The problem is that “marketing-qualified leads” has two distinct meanings. For some marketers, “marketing-qualified” includes telequalification. For others, it doesn’t. In fact, the same marketer might very well route some leads to a telequalification function and other smaller, transactional leads directly to sales. This problem is further compounded because, as revealed in the 2012 B2B Benchmark Report, sometimes sales owns the teleprospecting function and sometimes marketing does.
Obviously, filtering leads through a telequalification process greatly reduces the number of marketing-qualified leads and improves the downstream conversion rates. So what are you really benchmarking?
That’s why I break “marketing-qualified leads” into two funnel stages: “phone-ready leads” and “sales-ready leads.”
- Phone-Ready Lead: Marketing has done whatever it can to suppress duplicates and enhance, score and nurture the lead until the lead is ready for a phone call – that call may come from an inside sales rep or a telequalification professional.
- Sales-Ready Lead: The lead has been qualified via a phone conversation. In such cases, the teleprospecting rep has typically confirmed that the person participates in the decision process, has a relevant pain, and wants to talk to a sales person. In short, the lead is ready for sales engagement.
Lack of clarity around funnel stages will lead to misunderstanding, muddled benchmarks, funnel leakage, and the adoption of sub-optimal practices. Do you think the terms “phone-ready” and “sales-ready lead” are an improvement? Do you have a suggestion for more precise language? I welcome your feedback and will share additional thoughts in future posts on a new funnel paradigm for the complex sale.
I just got back from this year’s round of MarketingSherpa B2B Summits in Boston and San Francisco, where I provided one-on-one coaching to attendees, marketers from Fortune 500 organizations, leading private companies, and emerging businesses. (You can read more about who attended here.)
Frankly, I don’t know who walks away more enlightened – the marketers I was coaching or me. Every year, I receive a personal introduction to the struggles they’re facing every day. And even though the latest MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Report essentially reported that it’s tougher than ever to be a marketer, you really can’t grasp how challenging it is until you’re working one-on-one with someone who is essentially a lone ranger for marketing within a large, complex organization.
Here’s what I learned during my coaching sessions this year: to advance in this economy, the C-suite absolutely must recognize the value of marketers and marketing. As part of that, they must give them the time and resources to set the foundation for best-in-class lead generation efforts. Especially considering that, year after year, attaining the highest quantity and quality of leads consistently remains marketers’ highest priority – just check out the graph at right.
Unfortunately, after too many coaching sessions with marketers who had neither the time nor resources to set strategy, I suspect too many CEOs think that most of what they learned in the marketing 101 course they took decades ago still applies today. The reality is (forgive me for preaching to the choir) is that marketing has been transformed in the past ten, even five, years! In fact, as with most everything these days, change is the only constant and you better keep up, or else. You can thank the cut-throat economy for that.
Revenues are scarce. So smart organizations are scrutinizing how they’re spending every penny of their resources. They want to make sure their highest-compensated sales professionals are spending their time closing the biggest deals they can, not qualifying leads or prospecting. They know that’s marketing must lead the way in ensuring this happens, so they allow their marketing organizations the time and resources to set the foundation to do so effectively and efficiently.
Their CEOs establish the directive for marketing to develop:
• A Universal Lead Definition (ULD) that prioritizes and defines the degree of a lead’s sales readiness, and requires the input and buy-in of both the sales and marketing teams. Learn more about creating ULDs here: Lead Generation Checklist: Universal Lead Definition.
• An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) that uses the unique attributes of prime customers to prescreen potential opportunities. ICPs identify decision makers and key influencers, and ultimately serve as the basis for defining a sales-ready lead. Learn more about developing an ICP here: Lead Generation Checklist: Ideal Customer Profile.
• Accurate, manageable data that details the contact information of prospects who fit the ULD and ICP. Learn how data can make or break your marketing efforts here: Do You Expect Your Inside Sales Team to Practice Alchemy? And here’s a webinar replay that examines the power of data: Teleprospecting that Drives Sales-Ready Leads.
• A defined marketing and sales funnel that spells out specifically when a lead should be passed along to sales, or sent back to marketing for further nurturing until they are ready to move forward in the buying process. Read more about that here: Four Reasons why Funnels are a Marketer’s Best Friend. Or watch our most recent B2B Lead Roundtable webinar: How Marketers are Transforming Mounting Pressures into Revenue.
• A clear, concise value proposition. Read more here: Why a Value Proposition Makes Marketing Good.
Unfortunately, very few marketers I spoke with in Boston or San Francisco had the executive support to set this foundation for marketing success. So it became challenging to provide advice that would lead to sustainable, long-term optimization. Nonetheless, we had plenty of “ah-ha” movements. But those quick wins were often centered on strategy designed to circumvent or overcome a flawed foundation. This felt like the equivalent of telling someone what color to paint the walls on a building with a crumbling infrastructure. After all, you can have the perfect messaging, but if that message is going to a list that’s filled with inaccurate data and contacts, or doesn’t include those who are most likely to buy, you’re wasting time, energy and money.
So what did I tell those marketers?
For the most part, I advised them to do what they could with what they have.
• Even without executive support, marketing can document the state of their current lead management process; and they should do so immediately. Without precisely knowing what’s happening with leads right now , marketers can’t identify the greatest bottlenecks or areas for improvement. But they can’t make any assumptions. This mean they need to meet with their sales and marketing leaders, along with their practitioners. Only then will marketers have a clear understand of the current state of affairs. By the way, getting all of the stakeholders together to agree on the issues and prioritize solutions is the perfect start to a funnel optimization process.
• Even without executive support, marketing usually owns the data. They can make sure it’s up to date and free of duplications. They can quarantine new data before it’s entered into the system to ensure its accuracy and make sure they’re valid leads. They can analyze and clean their lists to ensure that messages are targeted to those who are most likely to buy.
• Even without executive support, they can analyze their existing customers to create an ICP.
• Even without executive support, they can build a content library. They don’t need to be great writers; they just have to understand their value proposition and personas, and then repurpose existing content or identify third-party content that fit both. That’s not as overwhelming as starting from scratch.
• Even without executive support, marketing can demonstrate their value to sales through only sending them qualified leads. If marketing delivers a great “product,” sales will want more.
When sales begins noticing that they’re closing more deals faster, they’re going to be eager to collaborate, revenues will grow, and leadership will fully realize the value and power of marketing. After all, businesses that thrive in the new economy will be the ones that give marketing the time and resources to set the strategies upon which successful campaigns are built.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about ways to combine sales and marketing knowledge to improve lead generation. Let me be more specific about one strategy that the best sales organizations do that marketers should replicate in their demand-generation and lead-nurturing campaigns:
Stratify resources as part of a coverage model.
The idea is simple:
- The best sales people call on the most lucrative accounts and handle the largest deals.
- The least-expensive sales people call on the smallest accounts and handle the smallest deals.
This kind of stratification even occurs within large accounts, where an inside sales rep may handle smaller transactions and a field sales person handles the bigger deals.
In other words, sales leaders align resources with the revenue potential.
Revenue is only one of the dimensions of this stratified use of sales resources. Probability of purchase is another. Thus, as products become increasingly commoditized, decisions move down the chain of command. Lower-cost inside sales people can manage such products and services, freeing field sales people to focus on newer high-growth products where the decision processes are longer. In fact, when sales organizations use a division of labor to set up a teleprospecting function to support other sales people, the idea is that prospecting is a lower-probability activity that less-expensive phone resources can handle on behalf of a more-expensive field sales resource. This frees them up to focus on the high-probability sales-ready leads.
Finally, this same concept gets played out at the micro-level, too. That is, each sales person must decide whether a sales opportunity offers enough revenue potential or a high enough probability of success to warrant further investment of time.
Here’s a few ways marketing can apply this same idea:
Lead follow-up. Not all leads have the same likelihood of purchase or the same revenue potential. Divide leads into two or three tiers, ideally driven by automated lead-scoring rules. For the top tier, make more follow-up calls. Call all the buyer personas for the solution. Tele-nurture personas with quarterly calls. Invest in experimentation with the cadence of calls, the integration of email, and even the use of mail. For the lowest tier, make one call within an hour of response and then use email to nurture.
Demand generation. Not all prospects have the same value. Your investment should reflect that reality. Use the same stratification and invest more resources in the top tiers of the market to generate demand.
- Targeting. Hand-build a key account database to improve targeting and personalization. New data-as-a-service providers can build a best record from multiple lists sources. So identify and validate all the buyer personas. This kind of enhanced database can improve the possibilities for personalization and content segmentation.
- Content. For many marketers, a large account represents millions of dollars of revenue, often on an ongoing basis. These economics make it possible for a different way of looking at content investment. Vertical content, executive-level content, and even company-specific messaging become much more viable in this context. My favorite example of this idea was a client years ago who took out one full page ad in the local Cincinnati newspaper to solicit Proctor and Gamble. This company had a new technology for cutting diaper material. But P&G had big investments in its own diaper-cutting technology and so the client’s sales organization had spent years trying to open a door. The $100k ad, which used the headline, “Proctor and Gamble, we want to pamper your bottom-line,” resulted in just eight leads, but one of them turned into a $5 million deal within six months. It is a fabulous example of this idea of stratifying resources to align with revenue potential.
- Contact Strategy. Marketing has three options here:
- Using higher-cost forms of contact, like a teleprospecting call or a more elaborate mailing package
- Using more frequent contact, and / or
- Placing more focus on the most influential buyers (e.g., the executive buyer)
With this approach, marketing can create:
- Account-specific webinars or even on-site events
- Highly personalized communications and landing pages that reference other decision influencers in the account
- Teaser campaigns with very tailored messaging
- Teleprospecting campaigns that results in relationship building with key stakeholders
The possibilities are infinite. Often, marketing can repurpose some of the content and design work for the next tier down.
Finally, in addition to the economic benefits, keep in mind that the best sales people call on these kinds of accounts. Helping these producers make more money can result in a very powerful group of marketing evangelists within the rank and file sales teams and executive team.