Archive for the 'Lead Gen' Category

Unsolved Mysteries: The Lead Gen Disappearing Act

A big part of my job is lead generation. Clients turn to me when they need to “stoke the pipeline” and bring in qualified leads to hand over to their sales team. In a perfect world, the sales team contacts leads immediately, makes sales and exceeds the company’s revenue goals. However, despite the intentions, there are times when no sales seem to close and the campaign is automatically deemed a failure in the eyes of management or the board.

Let’s face it; the lead generation process is not rocket science. You embark on a campaign (maybe direct mail, a tradeshow or email marketing); you identify the appropriate media outlets in which to run promotions; you present a compelling offer (perhaps a webcast, free trial or a whitepaper); you capture leads when prospects register for the offer (custom landing page with name, title, email, etc.); and then you send the leads to sales, sit back and watch the magic happen – right? Wrong.

All too often there is some kind of misconnect that happens as soon as marketing hands off the leads to sales – I call this the “disappearing act”. I’ve run programs that have generated 500+ leads, only to learn that the sales department has only received 20 (or worse, none at all). Sometimes it’s because someone has decided a lead isn’t “qualified” – but no research has been conducted or even an exploratory phone call logged to make this determination. Instead, the judgment has been made simply by looking at the company and title. Sure, sales needs to prioritize the list somehow but imagine how many prospects fall through the cracks this way!

While generating high quality leads is the number one priority for B2B marketers (69% compared to “generating PR buzz” at 33%), the biggest challenge has always been getting sales to follow up on leads. A webcast (eMedia: “Lead Generation for the Complex Sales Cycle”) I attended today enforced a great way to help with this very issue. If you haven’t already, develop a “universal lead definition” so sales will know how to prioritize the huge list of leads you’re about to give them. For some clients, we do this based on an upfront qualifying question asked during the registration process. For others, we do web research to see if the company falls within the client’s target zone and rank the leads based on this. Whatever your criteria is, sales will be much more excited with a prioritized list and is more likely to follow up with 100 Tier A leads first, followed by the 200 Tier B leads and 300 Tier C leads, versus if you just hand them a raw list of 600 names.

And, don’t forget about the leads post-campaign. Develop an ongoing lead nurturing program and reach out to them on a regular basis with simple monthly email updates, new product features, etc. You never know when a lead might turn into an opportunity.

Source: eMedia's “Lead Generation for the Complex Sales Cycle” Webcast, Sept. 29, 2009

Source: eMedia's “Lead Generation for the Complex Sales Cycle” Webcast, Sept. 29, 2009

That said, it’s important that management and boards remember that marketing is not the only accountable party when it comes to lead generation. Yes we identify, design and execute the campaigns. But it’s up to sales to follow through on each and every lead to determine whether it is qualified or not, and update their progress in the company’s CRM tool so metrics can be applied and the campaign can factually be deemed a failure or success. And if the leads are qualified but still no sales are occurring? Well, then it’s likely a larger business issue and some market research should be conducted to determine if the product/service is something the audience actually wants and needs.

Whether you’re a marketing or sales person reading this, remember that we’re all on the same side and answering to the same authorities. Good money is being dished out to execute these lead generation campaigns, so let’s help each other be successful and push the leads down the pipeline.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle


Too Much “Me” in Social MEdia?

I tuned in to today’s HubSpot webcast on How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation. I fancy myself a bit of a HubSpot groupie – they do some really cool things (HubSpot TV, cartoons, etc) and manage to keep it “real” and have fun while doing them.

Well, let’s just say that webcasts clearly aren’t their strong-suit. Aside from major audio, video and slide issues, I was hoping for a good example of how a real company has managed the “social media led-gen funnel” from start to finish. Instead, I got 45 minutes of HubSpot commercials and maybe 15 minutes of valuable takeaways. I do want to give the presenter props – you could tell he was nervous and it can’t be easy reading your “critweets” while trying to present.

At any rate, once I got passed tech issues and zoned out the self-promotion, there were a couple good points on why social media can be an integral part of driving traffic to your site. Some points to ponder:

  • In the “old days”, traffic was generated purely by search. Now, social media should be on the same par of search in terms of driving traffic to your site. But the same challenges exist. Sure, social media might drive traffic, but how to you make sure it’s the right kind of traffic?
  • His advice on how to start? Listen (twitter/blog searches), follow the conversation, participate in the conversation, build a network, distribute your content and then hope it gets shared.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Blog, do podcasts, try video, publish photos – you can share all these things on social networks like facebook and twitter to help drive traffic back to your site (and increase search rankings).
  • How do you convert a website visitor to a lead? With a good call to action and an effective landing page. He nailed it when he said, “Don’t write about your products; address the customers’ needs.”
  • When it comes to measuring, don’t just track site traffic/referrals. Track the whole funnel PLUS conversion rates to know if the campaigns are truly successful.

Other pearls of wisdom (from HubSpot and twitterers):

  • “Social Media – just like going 2 a cocktail party – meet people, balance info you share & want to learn from people, and build trust!”
  • “Write about the needs of the target market not your product. If @zappos tweeted about shoes would we follow? Probably not.”
  • “It’s not possible to succeed in social media without a continuous stream of relevant content.”

HubSpot made some interesting points about using social media as a traffic-generator and how to convert that traffic into leads. And I agree that most companies engaged in social media are putting too much “me” into it. Meaning, just because you have hundreds of followers, not a single one of them is going to care or listen to you unless what you’re saying is relevant to them and not overtly salesy.

Though not without issues, I think today’s webcast was actually a good example of the point HubSpot was trying to make. Certainly people tune into a webcast hoping to learn something (and not be “pitched” a product). That said, the whole idea is to get people talking and paying attention to your brand. The twittersphere may have been complaining and bashing the webcast throughout the entire session (#hubspot), but show me another webcast that’s generated 2500+ live views and so much conversation on twitter (it made it to #5 trending topic)! I bet today’s webcast increased HubSpot’s site traffic at least two-fold, and no doubt some of those will convert to leads, and ultimately sales. Which – after all – is the whole point, isn’t it folks?

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

Latest trends in B2B marketing

MarketingSherpa has just released its 2009-2010 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. You can download the 9-page excerpt for free or purchase the entire 200+ page report for $447.

Though I’m not convinced the full report is worth its hefty price tag, there are a few good tidbits of information:

  • The majority of B2B marketers are optimistic that the economy will recover in the remainder of the year
  • B2B is ahead of B2C when it comes to adopting social media strategies and tools, including social networks and company blogging
  • While B2B marketers plan on increasing investments in programs like webcasts, search, website improvements and social media, they are majorly decreasing spend in other areas, especially tradeshows/face-to-face events and traditional advertising
  • There is still a noticeable breakdown in the marketing-to-sales process – the majority of B2B marketers do not have a process for nurturing leads that aren’t sales-ready, do not have closed-loop tracking from source to conversion, and do not have a process for handing leads back to marketing
  • When it comes to a company’s website, B2B marketers struggle most with clear and compelling messaging, efficient/regular updates and optimizing the site for search

The full report contains more detailed info breakdown of marketing budgets by program, industry and company size; average leads generate by program investment; outsourcing key marketing functions; effectiveness of different email tactics; analysis of PR effectiveness; case studies; and more.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

Is Email a Recession Proof Marketing Tool?

Just got off another interesting Webcast put on by Marketing Sherpa (@marketingsherpa) and Exact Target (@exacttarget), as part of their Email Marketing Intelligence Webinar Series. I’ll briefly share some of the highlights from their Email Benchmark Study…may prove surprising for many B2B marketers out there!

  • Email marketing and social media are the ONLY marketing tactics that are expected to increase in 2009 – online or offline
  • Online ad spend is expected to decrease by 43% this year
  • When it comes to email lists, size does matter – the biggest priority for email marketers in 2009 is growing their lists, but 1 in 5 B2B marketers are finding this harder and harder to do
  • When it comes to optimizing their email lists, only half collect the lead source and use it!
  • Segmentation can increase open rates and click-through rates by as much as 2x
  • It’s predicted that SMS integration/optimization will be the “next big thing” when it comes to email marketing this year

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

Goodbye ROI, and Other Marketing Lessons

I took a rare day off from client work yesterday to attend Tech Target’s Annual Online ROI Summit for technology marketers. Overall the event was a great one, and I thought I’d share the “top lessons” I took away from the various panels and sessions.

  • Goodbye ROI. There is a move away from thinking about marketing as it relates to return on investment. Instead, marketing efforts should be measured based on ROMO, or return on marketing objectives. This may mean did the campaign meet lead goals, pipeline goals, conversions of leads to opportunities, etc.
  • The death of the marketing blitz. Gone are the days of big to-do’s around product launches and huge campaigns. Instead, marketers should think of – and measure – campaigns in terms of long-term, long tail approaches. Remember the 20/80 rule: 20% of your response will happen immediately, while the other 80% will happen over the long term.
  • Bloggers are the influencers. More and more, IT buyers are depending on blogs as resources instead of traditional media, and advertising on blogs is now out-performing traditional online advertising.
  • Key phrases, not words. Increasingly, IT buyers are using long phrases in order to narrow down search results and get more specific, relevant results. Effective search strategies will now focus on 3+ word phrases and negatives, instead of key words. Think “server consolation in an all-Linux environment and not Windows” instead of just “server consolidation.” Also, companies should think of paid search as a way to fill in the gap and complement their organic search efforts.
  • Match the sales process. Think about lead generation in terms of different stages of the buying cycle. Your content type and topic should target the buyer at each stage. At the “awareness” stage, your best bet is a whitepaper that addresses a problem and provides an overview of the landscape. At the “interest” stage, editorial content pulls best (with a 2x higher CTR over vendor-produced content), so focus on editorial Webcasts or podcasts. The “decision” stage is the time to introduce trials, demos and specific solution assets. Another interesting tidbit: existing prospects are more likely to be pulled in by a vendor asset, while new leads are likely to be pulled in by editorial content.
  • CIOs are busy. OK, so that’s not a new concept, but what may be somewhat surprising is that they admittedly aren’t doing any of the research themselves when it comes to evaluating new technologies and vendors. They rely on their staff to do the research and present the relevant info and short-list of vendors to them, so make sure you’re marketing to the lower-level IT staff! And, when you are marketing to the CIO, make sure your content is short enough that they can read it or listen to it during their commute.
  • Don’t over market! Clean up your database frequently to remove inactive prospects and distinguish between folks that are further down the pipeline. Don’t be afraid of “do not market” lists and segment your lists so that you’re not over marketing!

I’ll end with my favorite quote of the day: “If you can’t measure it and you can’t repeat it, then it probably shouldn’t have been done in the first place!” My second favorite? “Sales is the consumer of marketing’s leads, so work closely with them!”

2008: B-to-B Marketing Preview

It comes as no surprise that b-to-b marketers plan to increase their spending online and decrease print advertising in 2008. What may surprise folks, however, is that spend on direct mail and events is forecasted to rise in 2008.

We’re finding this to hold true with our own clients, too. I think this is because, in our technology-driven lives, we welcome a chance to re-connect with folks in a tangible, one-to-one way. Whereas maybe three years ago direct mail effectiveness was on the decline, folks are so overwhelmed now with email and online banter that they are starting to glaze over those and once again pay attention to what’s coming in the mail, especially if the creative is eye-catching and the offer relevant. And as great as virtual tradeshows are, you can’t beat the chance to pitch your product or service face-to-face at an event. Besides, we wouldn’t want to put the tchotchkes vendors out of business. 😉

In other forecasting news, the same study found that two-thirds of b-to-b marketers plan on increasing their overall marketing budgets – largely because they also plan on embarking on new campaigns. And, in terms of what online areas marketers will invest in, Website, Webcasts, email, search and video leads the pack. Finally, despite all of 2007’s hype around social media, only 20% of marketers are currently using it as part of their strategy and 69% are not planning to increase spend in this area.

Out: The New In?

Standard beliefs hold that online ads are more effective when they are “in-context”, or placed near relevant content. For example, perhaps you’re more likely to pay attention to an ad for a particular brand of paint if it’s next to an article about home improvement instead of next to an article about fashion. Well, according to new research from Yahoo!, that widely held belief may be false.

Yahoo! and MediaVest studied a group of consumers passionate about a particular topic (in this case, food), and found that ads displayed out-of-context had virtually the same impact as ads shown next to related content.

This data supports proof that targeting the right people may be more important and effective that targeting the right content, and new tools are making this level of targeting easy to achieve. It also supports the idea that advertising in nontraditional outlets may not provide the high quantities of response, but the quality of response and conversion to sales may be higher. So, the next time you want to run an ad promoting your new software, you might look beyond the typical technology trades. I’m not saying it makes sense for software vendors to advertise in Dog Fancy, but perhaps it’s time you look beyond Informationweek and consider that Jane Smith, avid reader of Conde Naste Traveler and CIO of a major Fortune 1000 company, may be your ideal customer.

Read more in this week’s AdWeek.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

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