Marketing Game Changers for 2013

It’s the season for wrapping up the old year and prepping for the next. I hope you are as excited about the potential of the coming year as I am, particularly as it pertains to how you can transform your marketing organization. Here are six ideas to get you started:

1.  Understand your sales lead requirements. This one is crucial, because if you don’t understand how many sales leads you need, you can’t properly support the sales organization and your company’s revenue objectives.  If you want to learn how to do this, read our article, How Many Sales Leads Do You Need.

2.  Tune or replace your sales model. There is no better time than right now to give your sales model careful scrutiny, especially if your results are faltering or you have a gnawing feeling that you are doing things out of habit instead of based on how effective the activity actually is. Even if you are relatively satisfied with your go-to-market model, there are probably ways that you can tweak it for better results. The objective of the sales model is to produce the maximum amount of new customers and revenue at the lowest cost. If you are in direct sales mode, perhaps you should consider incorporating a channel program. Likewise, channel-focused companies can sometimes benefit from adding a direct sales component. Also ask whether telephone sales can replace in-person, or the web can replace either method. If possible, test the new model on a small scale before rolling it out to the entire organization.

3.  Craft a service level agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing.  A SLA is a written (yes, written) specification of the relationship between marketing and sales, and what each group is expected contribute to the overall revenue objectives. At a minimum, your SLA will include these details:

  • Number of sales leads required and when
  • What constitutes a sales-ready lead
  • How leads are distributed to the field
  • How sales reps disposition leads
  • How marketing’s contribution is measured through a closed-loop system

4.  Transform your marketing initiatives into a “marketing machine.”  Almost every company does marketing. But relatively few do it on a consistent, relentless and reliable basis. We call this the “coin operated approach.” You put some marketing time and money in at one end of the process and you get a predictable amount of revenue at the other end. When you can do this, you are seen by the CEO, CFO and CSO as an investment, not an expense. This, my friend, is a very good thing for your company and your own job security.

5.  Join the Pull Marketing revolution. I’ve been talking about this for some time now for one primary reason: pull marketing works. It’s not a miracle cure for what ails you, and it takes time and a great deal of sweat equity. But if you start today, you will begin reaping benefits by the end of 2013. To read more about this important subject, read the blog post How to Accelerate Your Success with Pull Marketing.

6.  Resolve to be BOLD.  It’s a new year so why not make it a great year, instead of just another business-as-usual period of slight incremental progress?  If you set BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) and you don’t quite reach them, you will usually find yourself farther ahead than if you never reached high in the first place. Here are a couple of BHAG ideas:

  • Differentiate your company with a compelling and differentiated value proposition.
  • Double your website traffic.
  • Increase your inbound sales leads by 80%.
  • Align your marketing and sales organizations and processes for maximum effectiveness.
  • Shorten your sales cycles by 25%.

Any one of these six ideas can be a game changer for you and your organization.  Implement a couple of the strategies and you will start creating an unstoppable marketing machine.

Happy New Year!

Chris

How to Recognize and Reward a Great Marketing VP

I recently wrote a blog post titled, Top Three Signs Your Marketing VP Might Be in Trouble. To recap, the warning signs are:

  • They Focus on Campaign Creation, Not Lead Generation
  • They Don’t Create Compelling Content
  • They Fail in Active Engagement

But how about the good or great marketing VPs – How do you recognize and reward these individuals, and most important, keep them on your team?  At Fusion Marketing Partners, we work with several outstanding marketing VPs and I have known dozens over my 25 year marketing career.  The best-of-the-best display the following traits:

  1. Relentless focus on results.  The bottom line for every marketing professional is the ability to generate the awareness and leads necessary to achieve the revenue goals of the company. All the creativity and cleverness in the world won’t save a marketing VP who can’t feed the sales funnel. Most often, the sales department needs a steady supply of qualified sales leads to make their numbers. Marketing VPs who deliver leads consistently are worth their weight in gold.
  2. A forward-looking approach to the business. Great Marketing VPs are strong tacticians but they are also highly strategic in their approach to the business. They strive to ensure that the company’s message is relevant not only today but for years to come.  They are considered to be company leaders as well as departmental leaders.
  3. An ability to work well with their sales counterparts. The majority of companies split the functions of sales and marketing because they realize that these two disciplines, while complementary, are very disparate. Good marketers create service level agreements (SLAs) with sales to define qualified sales leads as well as the quantities that will be delivered on a monthly or quarterly basis. They hold up their end of the end-to-end marketing and sales process and they expect their sales colleagues to do the same.
  4. An understanding of pull marketing. 90 percent of B2B marketing companies can benefit from pull marketing (also known as inbound marketing).  Pull marketing is attraction-based and relies on low-cost techniques (including PR, SEO and social media) that get customers to come to you when they need what you are offering. Great Marketing VPs are using pull marketing to generate sales leads and revenue for companies ranging from Fortune 500 to single-person.

These are just four of the traits of excellent Marketing VPs.  You can probably add others. I hope you have such an individual guiding your marketing efforts. And if you happen to be a great Marketing VP, I hope your company recognizes and rewards you accordingly.

B2B Lead Management – 6 Best Practices

Some companies are good at generating B2B sales leads, others are good at qualifying and closing those leads, but the top performing companies, are those that leverage B2B lead management techniques and can do both.  Here are six strategies you can implement to create your own unstoppable marketing and sales machine:

  1. Follow up every inbound inquiry within 48 hours – preferably 24 hours.  Leads have a short shelf and the person who was enthusiastic about your offer yesterday, may not remember who you are tomorrow.  This is such an important topic that I wrote a blog post about it titled: Sales Lead Management: Are You a Victim of FTFU (Failure to Follow-Up)?
  2. Capture every lead in a single system (CRM or marketing database), along with all relevant marketing and sales data. I’ve talked to companies who have three or more opt-in inquiry databases, making it very difficult to implement drip marketing programs.
  3. Set strict criteria for scoring leads.  To make a lead management system work you need to use consistent and reliable metrics at every step of the process. In other words, the definition of what constitutes an A or B lead should not change based on who qualified the lead.
  4. If possible, make the qualification portion of B2B lead management a marketing task, not a sales task.  Sales people are good at taking leads from qualification to closure, not at initial lead scoring.  I know this is a generalization, and there are exceptions, but you will usually get more efficiency when you let marketing take the lead in managing leads.
  5. Set-up a service level agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales.  This should not just be an informal “what are you going to do for me?” conversation, but rather a well thought out written plan covering exactly what the marketing department is going to deliver to sales in terms of inquiries and qualified leads.  Sales should reciprocate by setting goals for turning qualified leads into opportunities, and opportunities into sales.  It’s a beautiful thing when both departments accomplish their individual objectives and contribute to corporate success.
  6. Don’t forget that lead nurturing is as valuable as lead generation.   My Fusion Marketing Partners clients, as well as my two decades of experience in high tech marketing, have proven that you can get just as many sales from the segment of leads that aren’t ready to buy now, as from those who are  immediately qualified.

Speaking of lead nurturing, David Meerman Scott wrote a very interesting blog post titled B2B Sales Leads are Too Important for Sales People at www.webinknow.com.   I really liked this sentence in his post: “How about warming up potential customers by giving them gifts of valuable content well before the salesperson bugs them by trying to sell something?”  Sounds like a good plan to me.

Where to Find B2B Sales Leads – Part 3

I hope you have found my two previous posts on where to find sales leads to be helpful.  This week, I will share some ideas on how to fill your sales funnel with leads from events and content marketing. This is a sample of the possibilities but it should give you a good start.

Events

Online Events – Having spoken at and/or conducted many web seminars, I am a fan of this medium and have used it to generate tens of thousands of leads.  While there are a lot of moving parts to online events, there are two critical requirements. First, plenty of people to market to, and second, a good topic and speaker.

Live Events – Live events include trade shows, conferences and public seminars.  The growth of online events has led to a reduction in expenditures for live events but they can still be a valuable part of the marketing mix.  In some cases, this may be the only way you can make contact with a senior audience. The costs of live events tend to be quite high so they work better for selling big ticket products and services.

Videocast and Podcast – Videocasts and podcasts are very inexpensive to produce and can be extremely effective lead generation tools.  A podcast is sound only, while a videocast includes images (e.g. video stream or PowerPoint slides).  The idea is to give prospects a small taste of your offering; 3-5 minutes is ideal but I have seen successful examples of as long as 10 minutes.  We usually advise our clients to require registration to view the videocast or listen to the podcast.

Content Marketing

Content syndication – There are many websites that are consolidators of content focused on a particular industry or subject area.  An example of this is Capterra.com which helps visitors find information on software products.  Capterra offers both free and paid listings and operates much like Google or AdCenter. The difference is that you bid on a category (e.g. accounting software or CRM software) instead of specific search terms.

Information offers – People are always interested in finding new ways to make their companies more effective, as well as make their own positions more fulfilling and productive. Information offers (whitepapers, executive briefs, videocasts, etc.) are consistent lead producers.   The objective is to create something of sufficient value that prospects are willing to give you their contact information to obtain the premium.

Article marketing – Unlike the information offers mentioned above, articles are not usually valuable enough to prospects to get them to opt-in.  However, you can create links to other offers within the article text and you can also use articles to drive prospects to your website, where you can entice them with other great offers.

eBook – Consider writing an eBook related to the products and services you offer.  What you are reading now is a good example of eBook marketing.  We created this and other eBooks as an information premium to drive awareness and generate leads.  Your eBook can be as short at 15-20 pages although a longer book will usually generate more interest.  Always, always, always require the prospect to register in order to receive the eBook.

I hope you find these ideas helpful.  Lead generation is a key skill of the B2B marketer and the better you are able to perform in this area, the more value you and the marketing department will have to your organization.

 

Where to Find B2B Sales Leads

The need for fresh sales leads gives a recurring headache to B2B companies and the competition for prospects is only going to get fiercer. The key to success is to constantly supplement your existing lead generation efforts with new sources. A well-crafted lead plan will allow you to get the bulk of your leads from old reliable programs while you set aside 5-10 percent of the budget to test new sources. Over the next three weeks I’ll give you a couple of dozen lead generation sources to consider. Let’s start with direct marketing methods.

Email Marketing – Email works well, assuming you have a qualified list of opt-in subscribers. This can either be a house list or lists that you rent or purchase from an external source.

Direct Mail – We don’t do a lot of direct mail for our Fusion Marketing Partners clients because it is slow and fairly expensive. However, there are instances where you don’t have email addresses — only physical addresses. In this case, definitely give direct mail a try.

Telemarketing – Phone numbers are hard to come by for the B2B audience, but telephone lead generation can be effective, particularly if you combine it with email, direct mail or event marketing.  There are outsource providers who are effective at lead generation, either on an hourly or results basis (e.g. pay-per-lead or pay-per-appointment).

Referral – This is an often-overlooked lead source. There are many ways to get referral leads but the most important principle is that you have to ask. You can ask your customers, partners and prospects.

Partner Marketing – Partner marketing can be a very good, cost-effective source of leads. The subject is important enough that we have devoted a separate chapter to partner marketing in this book.

List Swaps – There are usually complementary companies in your space that need new sources of leads as much as you do. You can work a deal with these companies to swap a certain number of prospect names and contact information. Even better is to have each company send a promotion to its own list on behalf of the other company.

Newsletter – Associations and trade groups often publish a monthly newsletter, offering a “piggyback” opportunity that you can access either by buying an ad in the newsletter or sending a separate email to the newsletter subscription list.

Print and Broadcast Media – This category includes print advertising, radio advertising and television advertising. Although they are effective at building awareness, these media are often expensive when it comes to B2B lead generation.  Be very careful not to spend too much of your budget on print or broadcast media until you have proven and repeatable results.

I’ll cover more lead sources in the next couple of posts.

How to Become a B2B Lead Generation Master

Want to Achieve Your Revenue Goals? Learn These 7 Things

Most B2B companies are successful only to the degree they are able to generate qualified sales leads. So why is lead generation such a mysterious subject to so many?  Considering the stakes, it behooves you to take lead generation seriously and become a master.  At Fusion Marketing Partners, we see a full range of marketing practitioners ranging from novices (grasshoppers) to masters. 

So what does a master know, and what actions do they take, that separate them from the amateurs?  Here are a few of the more important factors:   

  1. They understand their target audience.  I mean really understand them, in terms of:  
    • Who they are:  titles, industries, gender, education level, etc.
    • What they care about: motivations, business drivers, etc.
    • What they read and listen to: where they go to find useful business information
    • Why they choose to do business with one company and not another
  2. Based on this in-depth knowledge of the target audience, they create offers that are:
    • Compelling
    • Timely
    • Relevant
    • Easy to respond to
  3. They operate on metrics that are aggressive, yet realistic and obtainable. As such, they have a good handle on how much it costs to generate an inquiry, a lead, an opportunity and a new customer acquisition. Most often, lead generation masters are tightly aligned with sales and have a service level agreement in place.
  4. They know how to communicate to their prospects and motivate them to action in language that is clear, compelling and targeted. 
  5. There is a strong call to action in all their outbound communications. Even social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs can generate sales leads if there is a call to action. 
  6. They stay up to date on most/all of the relevant lead generation media and techniques, and are always looking for the next way to boost effectiveness. Whenever possible, pull marketing is replacing push marketing as a strategy.   
  7. Masters understand that lead qualification and lead nurturing are as important as lead generation. They are committed to building an opt-in database of potential future purchasers and reap the benefits of low-cost, highly-qualified B2B leads.

As with everything else in life, mastery in lead generation does not come easy. Lead generation is both an art and a skill, and there is always something new to learn. (Just consider the overwhelming number of new online and social media.)  The good news is that all your efforts in learning and applying these seven principles will be well rewarded. Lead generation masters are seldom out of a job, and smart companies will reward them handsomely.  In fact, becoming a lead generation master is a great path to the chief marketing officer (CMO) position, or even the CEO chair.  We talk about this subject quite often at our Great B2B Marketing website. Come join the discussion.

Leverage Partnerships to Find New B2B Sales Leads

Partner marketing programs can be one of your best sources for new sales leads, for the following reasons:

  1. Partners open up access to totally new markets.
  2. Partner recommendations can give you a leg-up in credibility, especially if you are dealing with their existing customers (quality of exposure)
  3. Depending on how well known the partner is, such programs can give you much broader outreach to the marketplace (quantity of exposure).
  4. Partner marketing programs can lead to an acquisition cost of ½ or less of do-it-yourself marketing campaigns.

To be successful at leveraging partners you need to play the game right.  Remember that partners will want to cooperate with you (and supply you with fresh leads) only to the degree that they perceive it to be in their best interest. Ensure that you have an understanding of what the partner wants from the relationship before approaching them with a co-marketing program.  Three of the biggest benefits you can offer a partner are:

  • Reciprocal access to your customers.  The challenge here is that one partner usually has a much larger number of customers than the other.
  • Payment of a referral fee based on the number of leads or revenue generated from the campaign. 
  • Opportunity to sell more business as a result of working with you than if they had approached the marketplace individually.

If you are marketing to prospects who are not existing customers of your company or your partner’s, the rules change somewhat.  You can combine prospecting databases or jointly fund the acquisition of outside mailing or email lists.  Alternately, one company can do more of the funding and the other can handle the lead follow-up.  Every marketing deal is unique but the point is that both partners must have skin in the game and feel they get some of the benefit.

Don’t limit your imagination because almost every lead generation program you do individually can also be accomplished (at less cost to you) with a partner.  Examples include: email, webinars, content syndication, trade shows, seminars, telemarketing, public relations, pay-per-click marketing, direct mail, print advertising, whitepapers, case studies, and much more.

A couple of thoughts on how to do partner lead generation the right way:

  • If you can, get the partner to launch the outbound communication to their customers or prospects, featuring a strong endorsement of your organization.
  • Don’t create unreasonable expectations that disappoint your partner.  Modest goals that are met are more impressive than grandiose goals that are not achieved.
  • Make sure your partner has a good reputation in the industry.  As the old saying goes, “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.” 

If you follow the above advice, you are more likely to wake up with fresh sales leads instead of fleas.

Steps in the B2B Marketing and Sales Process – by Christopher Ryan

In a typical business-to-business scenario, responses you generate and people you have contact with will flow through the marketing system and at different times during the end-to-end process will fall into the following categories:          

  1. Database Build – Contact names you have added to your database who have not responded to a promotional offer. You collect these names for remarketing purposes because they match the prospect criteria. Your mission is to turn them into raw inquiries.
  2. Raw Inquiry – Any person/company that responds to one of your marketing promotions, from any source, whether qualified or not. Your mission is to turn raw inquires into suspects or qualified leads.
  3. Suspect – An inquiry that has passed your initial screening and is deemed to have some potential to become a customer. Your mission is to turn suspects into qualified leads.
  4. Qualified Lead – A lead that has gone through a more in-depth qualification process, either by filling out a Web lead form or by being asked a series of questions by a sales development rep. At this point, the lead may be classified as a hot prospect (one ready to make a decision), a warm prospect (one with the capacity to become a hot prospect), a suspect, or a dead lead.
  5. Inactive Lead – This is a person who will not buy now, but who you deem to have potential for the future. You should enter these leads into your database system and continue to remarket to them until they become suspects or qualified leads.                          
  6. Dead Lead – This lead has no chance of becoming a customer. But be careful in assigning leads to the dead file. So-called dead leads can often be resurrected and become purchasers. In fact, some companies assign new salespeople to work the dead lead file, often with surprising success. You should also put your competitors in the dead lead file so that you can exclude them from future marketing efforts.
  7. Opportunity – An opportunity is a lead that has been qualified and is being worked in an active sales cycle, with a potential dollar amount assigned. Best practice is to only let sales reps classify a lead as an opportunity.  
  8. Customer – If you have done your job properly, a fair percentage of raw inquiries have been worked through the system and have become customers. Now your job is to get them to buy more products or services.
  9. Repeat Customer – The lifeblood of any business. Most companies devote too few resources to increasing revenues from existing customers, even though the cost to bring in an additional dollar of revenue from an existing client is far less than the cost of generating a dollar from a new customer.

At Fusion Marketing Partners, we get a great deal of satisfaction from helping companies establish an effective marketing and sales process – what we call “creating an unstoppable marketing and sales machine.”  My next blog post will talk about how you can use conversion ratios to maximize performance at each step of the marketing and sales process.

Do You Need a Service Level Agreement Between Marketing and Sales? – by Christopher Ryan

I have written a lot about the gap between marketing and sales in B2B companies and you can download my whitepaper about this subject here.  One of the trickiest aspects of the relationship is establishing the marketing and sales metrics.  Once you do this, you then need to agree on who is responsible for which part of the process. In most scenarios, the marketing VP is responsible for every step through qualified leads, and the sales VP is responsible for creating opportunities and revenue.

If the handoff from marketing to sales is at the qualified lead stage, then you must gain agreement as to what exactly constitutes a qualified lead. Don’t assume that everyone already understand this important definition. This negotiation is critical for both parties because it will be used as a basis for evaluating future performance. Be careful of overpromising, because it is better to under-promise and over-deliver than vice versa.

 While every company’s definition is a bit different, generally, a qualified lead is defined as a prospect with these characteristics:

  •  An identified requirement or project
  • An established budget for that project
  • A specific time frame for purchase (e.g., one to three months or four to six months)
  • An identified decision-maker

Once the ratios are determined and definitions established for each phase of the process, the result is a service level agreement (SLA) that establishes a covenant between the marketing and sales groups. The marketing executive promises to deliver a certain quantity of raw leads, qualified leads, or whatever it is that the sales department works with, and the sales executive promises to work their part of the process diligently to ensure that the hard work of the marketing department is rewarded with results that really matter—new customers and fresh revenue.

At a minimum, your SLA will include these details: 

  • Number of leads required and when
  • What constitutes a sales ready lead
  • How leads are distributed to the field
  • How sales reps disposition leads
  • How marketing’s contribution is measured through a closed-loop system

Service level agreements are often tough to hammer out but they can save lots of future conflict and grief. Marketers who fulfill the SLA promise are treated as valuable corporate assets.  Those that do not are considered optional expenses.  As a marketer, how would you prefer to be viewed?

 Chris Ryan

Just How Many Leads Do You Need? – by Christopher Ryan

sales leadsYou think this would be a simple question. However, for a lot of B2B executives, the answer is tough to pinpoint When I ask a new Fusion Marketing Partners client or prospect “How many leads do you need?”, I often get one of three types of answers:

“I don’t know.” or “I have no idea.”

“A lot more than I am getting now.”

“X number of new leads a month, but I don’t know why.”

Often, I get different answers from different people in the organization. The marketing VP believes he or she is producing plenty of leads, but the sales VP disagrees. In fact, it is rare to find a sales VP that believes the lead quantity (or quality) is sufficient.  But that’s only part of the problem. The biggest and most important problem to overcome is to get marketing, sales and the C-suite on the same page when it comes to the required number of leads and the budget necessary to get them.

We accomplish this by creating a service level agreement between marketing and sales that specifies exactly what marketing intends to deliver to the sales force each month. I deliberately emphasized the word “intends” because the marketing department must be very serious about meeting this commitment – just as the sales department has its own commitment (number of sales, revenue, etc.).

The actual analysis requires specific knowledge of your company’s revenue goals, but let me offer a simplified scenario that will give you the concept.  To work your monthly lead target, you will need seven pieces of data.  If you don’t have all this data, use what you do have and begin to collect the missing data:  

  1. Monthly revenue target – your monthly sales goal from all revenue sources
  2. Marketing driven revenue – the portion of the total monthly revenue that marketing is responsible for, not counting cross-sales, up-sales and revenue that comes in (regardless of what marketing does)
  3. Average sales price (ASP) – the average revenue contribution from each new sale
  4. Number of marketing-driven deals – this is the marketing-driven revenue divided by the ASP
  5. Opportunity-to-sale ratio – the percentage of pipeline opportunities that you close
  6. Qualified lead-to-opportunity ratio – how many qualified leads it takes to produce one opportunity
  7. Inquiry-to-qualified-lead ratio – how many inquires it takes to produce a qualified lead

There is an article at the FMP website that walks you through the numbers involved in creating your lead plan. The point is that you need to know two very important things.  First, exactly how many leads/inquiries you need to reach your target revenue goals; and second, your acquisition cost per lead/new customer order.  Your ability to quantify these numbers and then deliver them to the sales force will make you a hero in the executive suite.  And most importantly, your marketing budget will be viewed as a critical investment, not as just another expense.

To start calculating your own lead requirements, view the complete article.  Happy Marketing and Good Selling.