Sales Productivity Solutions

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

The Trouble With Demand Generation

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Demand Generation as defined by Wikipedia is:  “Demand Generation is a holistic approach to marketing and sales cohesiveness within the company”. So, in order to  implement a Demand Generation process within an organization, the organization must have the marketing and sales teams work together for two primary purposes: (1) to increase awareness of the organization [product or service] within the marketplace, and (2) to nurture both leads and customers to maximize revenue opportunities.  So far, so good?  Now, let’s peel the onion a bit more.

Effective nurturing of prospective or existing clients requires tools and skills - specifically, the core of a Demand Generation process is a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) that is used to manage multiple messages (email or direct mail), web traffic, landing pages, web-forms, work flow and lead scoring models.  And, since most of the MA platforms control multiple tracks of communications across a variety of campaigns, the content for all the messages, landing pages and the like must be developed in advance of launching the first campaign.  This is where most companies fall short.  The time and energy required to implement nurturing process is significant and can be expensive.  As defined, one of the core attributes of an effective demand generation process is the alignment of sales and marketing resources.  This is necessary for marketing to understand and incorporate part of the sales process and lead scoring criteria into the campaigns and for sales to embrace a more active role by marketing in the day-to-day sales communications.  This is typically another trouble spot as most sales professionals do not want to hand off any direct communications.  Therefore, a commitment from the top is necessary along with a recognition that the model of expecting sales to manage all communications is outdated and, in today’s marketplace, less productive.  And, at the risk of offending a few, investments in CRM programs as a means to improve sales productivity will only go so far, and could actually be counter-productive.

Improving your business development processes is critical.  Demand Generation does offer significant improvements in this regard and can greatly increase the revenue opportunities of a company.  But, for the reasons stated above, and the fact it is not fully understood, it can be difficult to implement.  That’s why we are seen new companies offering new services focused on the various components of the process - the most notable of which is content.   What is your experience?  How are opportunities managed in your organization?  Just like the web, new processes like Demand Generation are not going away.  The longer an organization uses the traditional sales-person only approach, the more the organization will spend in lost opportunity.

Build It and They Will Come - Maybe!

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I’ve had recent conversations with business owners that expressed some frustration that they’ve invested a lot of time and money into creating content for their sales reps, but, that the data is not being used consistently, if at all.  This reminded me of the famous line: “Build It and They Will Come“  in the movie Field of Dreams.  There are many businesses that built content libraries to train the sales force.  In fact, my wife is in a business that has a ton of information on their site, but, the expectation is that she will have time to go find what she’s looking for.  I think there’s a better way to utilize content - by delivering it directly to the person in an organized manner rather than expecting the person to “go get it”.  This same issue exists for websites.  People will have to find you first before any of the content has value.

Using marketing automation tools, companies can be more proactive and control the delivery and consistency of their messages.  I have one client that is in the MLM business and they experience a lot of turnover.  I believe this high turnover can be reduced if they changed their process for training.  Specifically, by bringing the new reps up to speed by delivering training information incrementally and to include tests in the process.  Then, the company will now specifically, who is responding and who isn’t and can take a more proactive approach to their reps success.  I feel that business development processes are moving in this direction and that it is no longer adequate to simply create the information and expect people to seek it out.  Much opportunity will be lost.  What are your thoughts?

Content Marketing

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The subject of Content Marketing is getting a lot of discussion - and for good reason.  The messages companies send out to the marketplace take a lot of time and expense and few are realizing acceptable returns.  A recent study shows that most marketing messages are void of relevant content.  Many messages still have content about products and services the company offers rather than having content that helps their prospects or customers make informed decisions.  The problem of poor messaging will only get worse as we all get busier and as marketing channels allow the recipient to “self-select” what they are interested in. It’s more critical than ever to create relevant content that is appropriate at various stages of either the customers buying cycle or their life-cycle.  Scott Maxwell, Senior Director or OpenView Venture Partners recently was quoted by B2B magazine:  “I think it is the single most important thing as a marketer that you can do - develop relevant, valuable content for your target segment(s).”

This is even more critical in the context of lead management and customer nurturing programs, which are becoming more sought after as viable methods to increase the productivity of customer acquisition and retention.  The message sequences within these programs must model the customers buying cycle and reflect content that is appropriate at each stage.  This is not easy, but, it is critical - and there’s help.   I recently came upon the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).  It is a relatively new resource that is designed to help companies develop compelling, relevant content.  If you have not yet visited this site, you’ll find it quite interesting. As a company that focuses on Demand Generation processes, we know first hand the difficulty our customers have with developing good marketing messages.  Fortunately, there are resources coming to market that offer help.  CMI is just one.  I’d be very interested in other resources that are available.

Relevant Content Applies to Sales

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

There’s a lot of emphasis placed on the fact that effective marketing in today’s crowded marketplace requires that your messages, website, blog, etc. all have relevant content.  Well, recently, I had a shopping experience that I want to share that shows how relevant content is important in a sales scenario.

I was shopping for a new lawn trimmer.  I went to a couple of retail stores and found quite a selection.  Now, it’s been a long time sine I last purchased a trimmer, so, as you would expect, things have changed.  Now, they offer both 2 and 4 cycle engines.  For those that may not know the difference, 2-cycle engines require the oil and gas to be mixed - 4 cycle engines, like your car, have the oil and gas separated.  So, the sales people were pushing 4 cycle claiming they last longer and had more power.  Important features, sure.  But, after shopping at the big box retailers, I went to an independent store.  When I asked the salesperson his opinion about 2 or 4 cycle, he quickly said that most people turn their trimmers on their side for edging and other uses.  Well, in a 4 cycle engine, this will be a problem because if the trimmer is turned over, oil will not get in the engine and you’ll burn the engine.  Wow, what a piece of knowledge.  For me it was an instant no-brainer.  I’ve always turned or rotated my trimmer.  So, that  information was exceptionally critical for me to make the right decision (actually, I should have realized this on my own as I know engines!).

This experience illustrates the importance for relevant information in a sales discussion.  It also is instructive for anyone selling a service or product - you should answer the question: “what does someone need to know in order to make a good buying decision?”.  If you really embrace this, it will help you discover relevant content you can use for your marketing material.

Marketing Demands Listening

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

As I watch and listen to the debate over health care, I find it interesting, and somewhat frustrating,  that there are so many complaints by each party that the other party is ignoring ideas they feel strong about.  I believe the general public sincerely recognizes that reform must occur, but, in a responsible way.  Yet, now that the Obama administration has to basically start over, I do not hear anything fundamentally different.  This tells me one of two things: 1) the goal of getting any reform is better than no reform, or, 2) someone is not listening.  And so the debate, the Tea parties et al go on.

Thinking about this in marketing terms is easy.  It’s like a company that shouts louder to get you to pay attention rather than changing what they are saying.  I’m curious how the debate would unfold if politics were removed.  My guess is that the best ideas that are heard would prevail.  Now, when I think about listening in my world, I reflect on the customers I work with and companies I worked for.  Same situation.  Of all the companies I’ve worked with as a Marketing Consultant, none of them actually ever asked their customers for their opinion.  Some did quality surveys, but, none actually did surveys to understand why customers do business with them, why they chose them in the first place, what was their criteria, what problems did they help solve or what they could do going forward to offer more value.  Seems amazing to me so few seek customers input.  Yet, I’m asked all the time “how can I get my message to resonate?”, “where should I invest my marketing dollars?” The answer is in your customers head.  So, if you’re frustrated with new business revenue, I suggest you ask your customers several thoughtful questions to gain the insight you need to understand why they do business with you and how better serve them.  Otherwise, you’re guessing and speculating - very expensive.

I’m curious what others think.  How do you listen to your marketplace?  How do you know where to invest?  You’re comments and thoughts are welcome!

A Lesson from Page Titles

Monday, December 28th, 2009

At a recent Interactive Marketing Summit conference held in St. Louis, I attended a session on SEO.  Of the many topics discussed, one of the basics is the Page Title of any web page.  The presenters stressed the importance of having unique Page Titles for each page on the site and that the title contain key words - not the company name - although the company name could be included at the end of the Page Title.  This is important because search engine robots read and index, at least in part, web pages starting with the Page Title and they look for key words or relevant terms.  Company names are not generally searched by people.  So, if the Page Title begins with the company name, it will not index well.  Again, this is basic but, it triggered a thought.

If you pick up any paper or directory (Yellow Pages) you’ll find that most ads will have the company name in a prominent position at the top of the ad.  In fact, many ads devote 20% to 30% of the space of the ad to the company name.  This is a mistake, just like having the company name dominate the Page Title of a web page.  People searching for anything generally will search based on specific context, such as “interactive marketing” or, “Plumbers” (just for fun, look up “Plumbers” in the Yellow Pages - you’ll see   mean about company name dominating).

The lesson here is whether you’re promoting your business online or offline, or both, begin the ad (or web page) with something relevant to the reader. And, the more relevance to the emotions of the reader, the more likely you’ll grab their attention.  After all, if you don’t grab their attention at the beginning, you’ll likely never get them to read the rest of the ad. This could waste a lot of money.  This concept applies to most all marketing material -not just ads.

Then, once you get their attention, then…well… maybe that’s a subject of another article.

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Life used to be so easy.  But, as they say, change is the one constant.  The marketing world, too,  continues to evolve.  It use to be easy to promote your business.  You basically had radio, TV and print options.  Even the web has changed… Web 2.0 is creating a completely new culture - world wide!  Folks no longer rely on (much less trust) traditional news sources; they are making a major shift to get information of all types on their computers and on their smart phones.  Just as I’m writing on this blog, millions of people are doing the same or engaging in some form of online activity.  I know in my circles (middle-age) many are scratching their heads about social media - they are, I’ll say, intimidated.  Some feel it’s a fad, some are diving in and others are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what develops.  Well, in my opinion, it aint goin’ away - it’s not a fad.  The technology today will, of course, evolve, but, the new culture of how people communicate and the new online communities that are being created will continue to grow and mature.

What’s most interesting tot me is how marketing now has to be interactive.  It can no longer be an “outbound” set of tactics.  It’s now a mix of outbound and inbound marketing tactics.  In fact, I believe inbound marketing is where businesses must focus serious attention.  Hubspot is an excellent source for information and on inbound marketing - in fact, they have an Inbound Marketing University!

If a business does not get “in the path” of the communications, doesn’t participate online, they will be invisible.  Best practices today involve putting information online, driving people to it using traditional (outbound) tactics, attracting  people already online, creating interest and dialogue.  When this occurs, and assuming the information is valuable or interesting, the business will be sought after - creating an inbound flow of traffic.  This is why Google places so much emphasis on the value of  external links - the more referring links a site has, the more implication the site truly is a credible resource.  Once a business gets inbound, then the follow up and ongoing engagement becomes key.  But, this is a subject for another post (and prior posts).  I’ll end this with a question:  what is your inbound marketing strategy?

Demand Generation

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Over the last few years, technology has brought us new tools to use for improving sales & marketing activities.  One in particular is Marketing Automation (MA for short).  MA helps companies implement repeatable processes associated with nurturing leads of prospective and existing customers.   This new technology has given birth to a new process termed  “Demand Generation”.  A recent white paper I read defined Demand Generation as:  ‘The process of creating and nurturing interest (generating demand) in the products and services that your company offers”.  A simple Google search for the term Demand Generation yields over 25 million hits!  I’d say this is getting some press.  What’s intriguing is how radical technology has changed the way people behave.  The online world has nearly removed the sales person from much of the sales cycle - information that was obtained in the past can be found online in excess.  This reality is forcing businesses to relook at their business development processes and the role of their sales people.  Best in Class companies have adapted Demand Generation as a key part of their go-to-market strategy.  The are using interactive websites, content specific landing pages, auto-responders, social media, sophisticated databases and educational content to attract, nurture and stay in front of prospects and customers.  Marketing is no longer an outbound activity (sending stuff out - email, direct mail, advertising, etc.), it is moving to an inbound model (people searching for information and finding resources).  In order to manage interest and the flow of information efficiently, a company will need to have consistent, repeatable processes.  The challenge with implementing demand generation processes is creating the infrastructure, work flow and content.  New tools, skills and resources will be needed.

How is your company adapting to the “new buyer” paradigm?  What changes are you making to ensure you gain the most from your opportunities?  I’ve developed an audit to help companies determine how well they are using their sales & marketing resources.  You can access this audit by following this link.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sales & Marketing - The Great Divide

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Wouldn’t be nice if sales and marketing activities were aligned?  Some may ask, what does “alignment” mean?  Well, it means that both sales people and marketing resources are working together to identify potential customers, set qualification criteria, convert them to customers and then continue to work together to ensure the customer experience is maintained and maximized for the life of the customer.  Their individual incentives may even be the same.  Unfortunately, many organizations still have traditional expectations for these two groups - Marketing is responsible to get the word out, develop brochures, run ads and trade shows, keep the website current and primarily generate leads for salespeople.  Sales people are then expected to take the leads, diligently follow up, convert them to customers and then maintain the relationship, exclusively, for life.  Sound familiar?  If so, then you may have also heard “the leads marketing gives us are no good”, or, “the leads we gave to sales are not being followed up on”. In addition, few companies have formal systems or processes to align sales and marketing activities - less than half according to a 2008 survey by the CMO Council.

Much can be gained by aligning sales and marketing.  A cooperative effort will produce better results.  Best practices today place the burden of generating qualified leads on marketing.  But, for them to be successful, they need input from the sales team as to what constitutes “qualified”.  The reality is that most leads generated by marketing efforts are not qualified - they are in a unknown state and should be nurtured through a qualification process.  Not by a sales person, but, with tools and processes that are enabled by technology.

Now, once a qualified lead is passed to sales, the probability of converting that lead into a customer is much greater.  But, marketing’s role is not complete.  Again, best practices today will have marketing continue to work in support of the sales team by helping maintain direct and consistent communications with the new customer.  Basically, marketing and sales work together throughout the entire life-cycle of the customer.

Diluting sales people with unqualified leads can be very expensive.  And, the time wasted is at the expense of existing customers.  Aligning your resources can offer huge benefits.  There’s a ton of articles, white papers and new technology all built around the concept of sales and marketing alignment.  In summary, here are six tips you can use:

  1. Get buy-in across your teams and from management.
  2. Layout a process that shows where sales and marketing functions align, intersect and support each other.
  3. Establish common definitions for leads to include the criteria that will be used to consider a lead qualified.
  4. Collaborate on strategies and messages that are to be used at various stages of the sales cycle, and beyond.
  5. Build a system that will show the progression of leads and provide insight as to what prospects and customers respond to.
  6. Establish key measurements to gauge success.

The old adage: “together we stand, divided we fall” seems appropriate.  My advice to is examine your current process to see if you can achieve more efficiency and gain more opportunities through better alignment of your business development efforts .  As always, I welcome any comments or thoughts.


Marketing’s Purpose

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I recently came upon an article that was discussing the purpose of marketing.   It stated: “Marketing isn’t about who you think you are and what you think customers need.
Marketing is about who your customers think you are and what they think they need”
.  I think this is extremely accurate and it challenges the existing notions of regarding advertising and brand awareness.  You can validate this yourself.  Take a close look at any publication that has advertising.  Look at the ads.  I would be that 9 out of 10 are about the seller, not the customer.  The ads most likely have the company name most prominent and the copy or content of the ad is talking about whatever the company is trying to sell.  In some instances, such as in a retail business, this is okay.  If you’re trying to get rid of inventory, this is okay.  The fact is that people that respond to product ads are what I consider “now buyers”.  They are in the market, they know what they want and are educated about the various options.  Statistics show that of all leads generated by advertising, less than 5% are “now buyers”.  With these statistics, it seems the real opportunity for new business lies in the other 95 plus percent.

So, how does this relate to marketing’s purpose?  Directly.  In order to attract customers that are not now buyers, you need to stand out above the competition.  This isn’t easy today.  However, successful marketing and advertising is focused on the customer and their specific needs - not yours.  It may seem obvious, but not by looking at current examples.  People have to know you, like you and trust you before they’ll do business with you.  This is why referrals are so dominant for service providers.  Therefore, the purpose of your marketing should focus on the core benefits your product or service offers - the solutions to their problems.  In doing so, you’ll become a resource to the marketplace - not just a seller - you’ll build trust  and attract more opportunities.  Then, once you have new customers, marketing’s purpose is to retain those customers by continually providing helpful service or information that allows the customer to gain the maximum benefit from your product or service.  There are many definitions of marketing.  I think the quote above is one of the best.