Lack of Lead Gen is a Symptom, Not a Disease

You're interviewing for a VP Marketing gig, and you're asked the question "Do You Do Lead Gen"?  And you begin to suspect that 1)this job is more low-level than it sounds and 2)yikes!this company does not value branding or marketing strategy.Content Messaging 
The suspicion may well be false.  Because in the overall scheme of marketing life, lack of lead gen is just a headache.  It's not a disease, it's a symptom of something much bigger.

The roundabout route that many Lead Gen discussions take is that there are little/no marketing programs in place, the sales team isn't armed and there's no way to measure the marketing to sales cycle.  Which can also mean: No clear, compelling value proposition, and no educational (vs. promotional) content. 

So there's no need to run when the lead gen question comes up.  It's part of a much bigger story and a much meatier assignment. 

And if Lead Gen is not part of your repertoire, you may miss the strategic conversation all together.

Small Company Marketing = Self-Reliance

Running Marketing for a large company couldn't be more different than marketing at a start-up (a.k.a a small company with big ambitions).  I've done both, but I must admit that start-up marketing is more energizing and rewarding. 

Why?  Is it the long hours, frantic page, lack of funds and fast-disappearing runway? 

Mktg bag2 

I'd like to think that it's the feel for the road.  Marketing for a start-up forces you to act less like a general contractor and more like a can-do tradesperson.  By doing almost every job in marketing, you may not get to flex your muscles, but you get to build them.  

As a result, you've got more marketing tools in your bag, so you can choose whether to delegate well or Do-It-Yourself as the need arises.  With the average CMO tenure at less than 18 months, self-reliance is more valuable than ever.  More valuable than a windowed office with a scenic view. The only thing I miss is a huge whiteboard...

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.