Archive for the 'Sales' 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

Think Different, Market Different

As we end approach the New Year, rather than strike back at the latest writer, blogger, and even fellow marketing professional to rip PR people, agencies, individual practitioners or the profession at large, I’ve taken a proverbial “deep breath” and asked myself one question – -– how are we different?

Nearly five years ago, BluePoint was founded as a marketing services firm (decidedly not as a PR firm – Lord knows there are enough out there to defend a good sized country). We were started on the premise that young technology companies required smart, grounded, proven – and above all, measurable – strategies for establishing marketing infrastructure that would continuously support clients’ sales efforts.

As a former boss drilled into my head years ago, “the only reason to do PR/marketing is to support sales.” Since PR was and still is one of the cornerstones to the marketing and communications foundation, BluePoint focused on this discipline, but not exclusively. We’ve felt that PR should be thought of as a key part of an effective, integrated marketing strategy. However, other critical marketing functions including corporate and product positioning and messaging, awareness and lead generation, sales support, events, marketing strategy and increasingly, social media and Web marketing must be part of the mix. And it really makes no difference, whether these functions are executed in house, through an agency, or as is most often the case, through a collaborative effort between client and external resources. Since we often are serving as our client’s marketing and/or PR team, we’ve eliminated the “us vs. them” and often have to view the execution and the measurement from both sides..

 

It was with this thinking that BluePoint was founded. The reasons were two-fold: 1) Nobody else seemed to be taking this approach; and 2) Even the most ardent industry supporters could not deny that “traditional PR” was – at worst – dying a slow death and at best, undergoing a serious metamorphosis. I’d seen it umpteen times in previous lives. A client would say “Your team has done great work. You have generated all kinds of press coverage, but I cannot quantify benefits to my CEO or CFO. I need to tie all this ink to business goals. I need more Website traffic. I need better customer service. I need to feed the sales machine.”

So where are we now? Whether in boom time or the current recession, it doesn’t matter. It is has always been about results and ROI – from the pressroom to the boardroom. Ink = good, but it is no longer good enough. It won’t pay the bills, keep our clients (and their customers) clients happy, deepen the pipeline or shorten the sales cycle on its own.

Have we kept true to our original strategy? I’d like to think so, and we’ve morphed and tweaked it along the way. Here are few examples where we’ve made a difference for our clients.

  • Thanks to a strong focus on blogger relations and social media, we’re helping Currensee – a new decision-making platform for foreign exchange (Forex) currency trading – build and scale their community, which is due to launch in early 2009.
  • For a stealth voice technology client, we conducted focus groups and launched a Facebook app aimed at testing the concept of anonymous chat (and also help take the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry to a new level!)
  • For a consumer product manufacturer, we launched an aggressive word-of-mouth marketing program which improved customer service and helped to restore customer confidence in the brand.
  • For PermissionTV, an online video platform provider, we’ve executed both social and traditional media programs to help them compete with the proverbial 800-lb gorilla. Our online surveys and resulting data have generated a broad range of media coverage. Last month our social and traditional media relations efforts produced several quality sales leads through agency partners. And, our Webinar program has produced thousands of additional sales leads.
  • Taking blogging to the next level, we just launched a video blog for Proginet, a leading provider of file-transfer solutions. The vlog – part of a complete re-branding initiative and Website redesign – extends the company’s thought-leadership platform (and gives the company’s captivating CEO the voice he deserves!).
  • Another example of BluePoint’s strength in branding is the recent launch of Ignite Media Solutions (formerlyAIS Voice). New positioning, corporate identity, website design content, collateral and a strong PR and AR push culminated in a wildly successful launch party held in Las Vegas.

The above examples are just a few in our arsenal. As we move into the New Year, I know we need do continue to sharpen our focus and elevate our game. Clients are demanding this, as well they should. What’s on my Christmas list? The opportunity to show how we are responding to the new marketing realities and to demonstrate how innovation and creativity can be delivered by an outsourced marketing team cost-effectively and can help clients get the biggest bang for their buck, generate awareness and leads – and most importantly – show results.

— Posted by Tim Hurley

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.

Marketing vs. Sales

I just read a great article from this month’s Multichannel Merchant magazine that I felt was valuable to share called “Getting Sales and Marketing to Play Nice”.

The main gist of the article is that the entire organization suffers when sales and marketing not only don’t get along, but don’t collaborate with each other.

A recent survey of 300 companies found that only 20% of respondents said that their sales and marketing departments were integrated and worked well together, and 95% said that their firm’s revenues would increase in the two departments worked more closely together.

The golden rule here is that marketing’s main priority is to generate leads and revenues for the company in concert with building the brand, increasing the company’s visibility, and harvesting long-term customer relationships.

Marketing is a lead generator for sales. Marketing uses public relations, direct marketing, advertising, Websites and other methods to generate leads for sales. Sales then reaches out to the qualified leads to reinforce the message that marketing has communicated.

An article on About.com sums up the relationship nicely by saying that “marketing is everything that you do to reach and persuade prospects, while the sales process is everything that you do to close the sale.” Likewise, ClickZ says that “once marketing has created opportunities for sales to succeed by defining the product and creating the sales tools, it’s up to sales to drive the success or failure of the company.”

A common practice that we do with our clients when we’re planning marketing efforts for the year is to meet with sales to determine what the revenue objectives are. From that figure, we back out how many sales are needed to close in order to meet the objective, how many leads need to be brought in to close X amount of sales, how many people you need to reach to generate X number of leads, etc.

Look at your options for lead generation programs – whether it is direct mail, email, or a Webinar – and figure out which options will bring in the greatest number of qualified leads for the cost, and use the above formula to see whether those programs will bring you closer to achieving the sales objectives for the year.

The bottom line is that when both sales and marketing are working together, the entire company wins, and each function needs the other if the company as a whole is going to succeed.


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