Lead Generation

Where Lead Gen and Marketing Programs Miss the Mark

I'm still surprised to see Lead Gen and Marketing Programs completely disconnected from sales -- but I shouldn't be.    Marketers are increasingly focused on metrics, but most often the spreadsheets stop with the marketing department, and never translate into sales.   

The relatively recent discipline of Supply Chain Management tracks a product's journey from raw material to manufacturing to distribution to consumer.   Why not apply the same principle to lead generation?   Leads are only as good as the sales they generate.   And with today's CRM systems, there's no reason not to track them all the way through.    But to do so, Miss_markmarketers need to master both the process of tracking leads and creating an active dialogue with the sales team.    In a March 2007 article for Marketing Profs, Lies, Damn Lies and Dashboards, Part 2: How Marketing Can Plug Into Changing Sales Models, I outlined the following steps to thwart Marketing-Sales disconnect.

How do you make sure your metrics are matched to the sales model?

  • Be part of the sales planning process—even if your schedule is tight.
  • Get advance notice—watch every step of the sales cycle.
  • Stay in sync with the sales reps—sit in on customer calls.
  • Know sales skills and motivations—decode the comp plan.
  • Watch the revenue stream—start tracking average sale value and lifetime value of the customer.

Despite marketing's best efforts, there will always be CEOs who keep tabs on multi-year sales cycles by hitting "refresh" on their CRM dashboard every 30 seconds.   In this situation, I've employed the "stock ticker" analogy: as long as leads are considered "leading indicators" and not the end game, long sales cycles can be managed like a long term investment.  After all, lead-generation IS a diversified investment portfolio, with short, mid-term and long-term returns, not a recurring expense for staying in the game.

What Marketers and Triatheletes Have In Common: Mastering Multiple Disciplines

Last weekend I was in New Hampshire, cheering on friends at the Mooseman Triathalon.    Despite the common "0% body fat" triathelete image, the range of competitors of all ages and body types was truly inspiring. 

Moosemanweb2Perhaps Triathalons are intimidating to the rest of us because of the range of comptency -- mastering one sport seems doable, but three? 

Zero body fat may be limited to models and athletes, but mastery across multiple disciplines is not.   Good marketers must master multiple disciplines between sales and product development:  public relations, demand generation, market research, product marketing, field marketing, market strategy.   Yet since marketing is such a broad science, it's tempting to specialize and stay in one's silo.   

Why bother to master more than one discipline?  They're all linked to each other.    Why are lead conversion rates falling off?   is it the media?  the message? the market?   If demand generation is the only set of tools in your toolbox, there's no way to know (and no way to fix the problem on the spot).   Why is the sales team discounting every deal?   If you don't have a sense of the competitive environment, you won't know whether to lower prices or to provide your salespeople with a stronger value proposition.   

Mastering new skills can prove risky, but being a one-trick-pony in a changing environment could prove even riskier. 

In Praise of Quitting...for the Right Reasons

Has your marketing plan ever been scrutinized by "been there once, done that once" club?

A a couple of examples: 

"Tradeshows don't work.   We didn't get any leads from the one we did last year".

"This publication has terrible response rates.    We tried advertising in it once".

Trying anything once in marketing is a bad idea -- especially if the audience/product/company is new and has yet to build awareness in the market.

The_dip_3 Seth Godin's new book, The Dip, is a concise guide on when to quit (when you're about to hit the law of diminishing returns) and when to persist (with an eye on long-term returns).   It's refreshing to find a change management book that one may actually have time to read in the midst of a transition.

It's also heartening to get permission to quit, in the midst of "grit-your-teeth for glory" business tomes.

Although you might be pursuing the wrong market, don't quit it for the wrong reasons.  An extra data point or two to test the waters may give you the answer -- all you need are the guts to follow through.   

Making CRM Live Up to its Promise: Tips for Marketers

Despite CRM's vision of "Knowing Thy Customer", CRM for most companies has not evolved beyond Sales Force Automation.  As a Marketing VP, I've been on the hook for customer experience, outreach and acquistion, and had little more than stone-age CRM tools to work with.  To help other Marketers avoid the same tool-related injuries, I've been writing a series of articles Lies, Damn Lies and Dashboards for Marketing Profs both to share cautionary tales and to provide action plans for making CRM projects work.

Here are my tips for Marketers to take control of the CRM lead machine:

1.      Get Marketing on the CRM Steering Committee – if it’s not already.  Most CRM deployment projects are driven by the sales team.  Marketers need to be involved up-front to define the systems, project plan and measurement criteria.

2.      Become a CRM Expert – Get Your Hands Dirty!  When your programs are under scrutiny, the last thing you need is another action item -- but understanding how your CRM system works is critical to your success as a marketer.  Take advantage of online training and webcasts.  Make your administrator your IM buddy (I did, and all I had to do was ask).  Focus specifically on the data fields and reports in the campaign management function of the system so you can quickly get your hands on the data you need.  Or deputize an ambitious, tech-savvy member of your team to do the digging for you and keep the whole group informed.

3.      Don’t Expect a Solution Out of the Box -- Allocate Budget for Marketing Automation Tools Most CRM systems are not designed for campaign management (despite what they claim).  To track lead to revenue (which this is about, after all), to consolidate leads from all sources (web leads, search engines, outbound campaigns), and to nurture leads over time, you will need Marketing Automation tools to supplement your CRM system.   I know a few marketing departments that assign a person to import leads from other systems and export data to Excel™ to create custom reports – but it’s not anyone’s favorite job. 

4.      Don’t Stop Learning – Keep Evaluating and Tuning the System. No one gets it right out of the gate.  Be prepared to evaluate your progress monthly – not just when you have a reporting deadline.    Challenge yourself and your team to find new ways to measure your progress – and to find holes in the process that could hinder you moving forward.  Have a working lunch with the sales team (and offer to buy the pizza) to test your reporting metrics and question your assumptions.

5.       Be Proactive -- Set Realistic Expectations for Upper Management. Just because you can access reports instantly, doesn’t mean you’ll instantly impact the revenue line.   If you have a six-month sales cycle, a real-time dashboard won’t close the deals any faster. Expect to proactively walk through the lead nurturing process and the lead-to-sale process with your management team.