Archive for September, 2007

Should we score or grade? Why not do both?

Friday, September 28th, 2007

We can score leads and we can grade leads. Why not do both? Confused yet? Good. Allow me to explain.

Lead Generation for the Complex Sale author Brian Carroll’s latest blog post points out that lead scoring and automation is only part of the lead qualification process.

I couldn’t agree more. At least a modicum of human involvement is very necessary to get the most out of any lead qualification system, even one using marketing automation software. An automated solution is perfect for scoring based on implicit prospect behavior such as web site visits, chats, direct mail response, or other trackable activities. Though extremely valuable, implicit buying signals provide only part of the picture. Scores don’t help your sales teams prioritize a list of leads if you don’t also know how well they fit your idea customer profile. Suppose you sell enterprise software to large corporations and you have 10 leads that have a score of 300. Five of them are directors at Fortune 500 companies and the other five are marketing coordinators at small agencies. This is obviously an extreme example, but without an explicit means of grading prospects in addition to scoring them based on activity, sorting through your active leads may prove difficult.

A marketer must also measure explicit qualities before passing leads onto sales or entering them into nurturing tracks. Typical explicit parameters include company size, industry, job title department, and other factors that shed light on a prospect’s profile. You may give a baseline grade of a C and adjust this up or down based on whether explicit factors match or do not match those of your target customer. In the example above your Prospects may all have the same score of 300, but their grades would be different. Perhaps the five Fortune 500 leads would have a grade of A while the other Five might all be marked as Ds. You can then use the activity scores to sort within the explicit tiers.

A simple way to think about it is that implicit scoring is based on activity and explicit grading is based on how well a prospect fits your ideal customer profile. Let’s make sure we do both.

No Lead Left Behind

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

A lot of marketers talk about automated lead nurturing but very few actually put it into practice. It may be because implementing a program is perceived as a lot of work. It may be that the early technology in this space was cumbersome and unreliable. It may be because marketers are simply unaware that this is possible. Whatever the reason, in spite of this being a hot topic at conferences, very little is actually being implemented by B2B marketers.

Aaron Ross brings up several great points about lost leads in his latest blog entry: Build A Sales Machine: “Never Waste A Lead - Part 1″

He correctly points out that lost or ignored sales leads is one of the most common bottlenecks to growth in a B2B organization. This is probably why the average tenure of a CMO at such a company is only about a year long.

It is often said that 80% of leads passed on to sales never have a meaningful conversation with a rep. Sales reps often attempt to make contact several times but ultimately put the lead aside if they are unable get in touch or the prospect is not immediately ready to buy. Although the lead may eventually show interest by visiting the website again or clicking on links in an email newsletter, there is no way for the sales rep to be notified and the prospect that is “raising her hand” goes unnoticed.

New technologies, including marketing automation solutions, allow you to place your non-sales ready leads into nurturing tracks. You can then ensure that your marketing efforts periodically “touch” leads via automated, one-to-one advertising such as email or direct mail. All links and calls to action in your marketing collateral are tracked individually to prospects and your sales reps will be notified as soon as a lead responds. By automating the lead nurturing process you are not only further qualifying your leads, but also freeing up sales or marketing personnel who formerly did this task manually.

Whatever the reason for not implementing a nurturing program, one thing is clear: if you are not using automated solutions to keep your leads engaged, you are leaving revenue on the table.

Landing Pages — Knowing when to say when.

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Seth Godin just wrote an excellent post on designing effective landing or destination pages entitled “Seven tips to build for meaning.”

I would like to add one more item to the list:
Do not inundate your visitors with required (or even optional) fields.

Nothing frustrates me more as a visitor than arriving at a landing page, seeing a massive form and having most or all of the fields marked with the asterisk of death (denoting a required field). Companies who ask for more than a handful of fields in the first interaction are just encouraging drop off.

B2B sales by their very nature are often multi-touch and complex (read: not instantaneous). You, as a marketer, have a lot of time to flesh out your prospect’s profile and each touch point provides you with an opportunity to collect more data. Why rush to get everything up front?

The technological solution to this is using conditional fields. This technology allows you to progressively ask for just one or two data points during each interaction with a prospect, depending on the information he or she has already given.

Sally Smith hits your landing page and is asked for her name, email address, and company in exchange for a white paper. She is then asked for her job title before viewing your flash demo 20 minutes later. Three weeks later she is asked for her department in exchange for another white paper. Finally she is asked about her buying stage when requesting a live demonstration.

You set up the same form for all of your white papers, flash demos, and live demo requests, but you set them up to intelligently display only the fields that you are missing for a given prospect. Your marketing automation software identifies your prospects and remembers what information they have already given you.

Isn’t that a better experience for all parties?

Meet “the Other Half” of Your Marketing Spend

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Why is it that in the marketing world, business to consumer (B2C) advertising should get the lion’s share of the glory? Why should most marketing tools be designed for B2C application? Why should B2C companies pick up new interactive trends (Web 2.0 anyone?) faster than business to business (B2B) companies?

The short answer is that B2C marketing shouldn’t be any sexier or more fun than B2B marketing. Sure B2C has the Super Bowl ads and other such fluff, but B2B marketing gives us cold, hard numbers to play with and prove our worth to the CEO. We can actually peg a hard ROI to everything we do… assuming we know what we’re doing.

John Wannamaker, owner of the first major department store once said, I know that half of all my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” In this day and age, there is no reason why we can’t save the other half as well. We have the best practices. We have the technology. Let’s put them together.

I started my marketing career on the B2C side doing a mix of branding and direct response for brands such as BMW, Verizon Wireless, Holiday Inn, and more, and eventually found myself transitioning to B2B. Proving a hard return on investment (ROI) in spite of a complex sales cycle has been a wonderful challenge. My goal with this blog is to share what I have picked up along the way and foster a dialog in the B2B marketing space. You can expect a couple of posts a week covering the following:

  • Marketing best practices
  • B2B technologies
  • Industry news

On a side note, to my surprise, I recently discovered that I am somewhat of a “gray hair” at my current company when the following episode took place. A few of my summer interns were discussing this year’s rout of Ohio State by Florida in college basketball. Hoping to show how hip I was, I pointed out that the 2002 NCAA finals was one of the worst games I had ever seen, as Maryland destroyed a hopelessly out-gunned Indiana. The interns each sported a confused look and one of them cautiously explained, “Dude, in 2002, I was still in junior high.” So much for hipness.