Brian Carroll

How the Halo Effect Drives Lead Generation

December 22nd, 2014

Building upon my post from last week, I was reminded of an important lesson I learned on influence that’s served me my whole life.

My dad taught me many lessons growing up, and one that stands out as relevant to lead generation went something like this: He said, “Choose your friends carefully because we become like the people we spend most of our time with, and [like it or not] we’re judged by the company we keep.”

He didn’t know it the time, but he explained how the halo effect works. In this post I’m going to explain how it applies to lead generation.

The halo effect works like this: By helping thought leaders and subject matter experts build their platform and influence, you will also build your influence and platform.

This MarketingSherpa case study, “How to Impress Conservative Fortune 100 Business Prospects by Allying With Academia,” demonstrates the practical application of the halo effect. It explains how Steelwedge, “a previously little-known software company became a trusted and admired brand in a couple of short years” and got the attention of Fortune 100 companies.

How? They built alliances with nuts-and-bolts professors in America’s heartland.

How do you get on the radar of thought leaders and industry experts? The following images shows how conversations, and in turn alliances, progress.

You’ll notice it’s a series of touches over time:

Example

 

This idea is already in the lead generation playbooks for most large consulting firms. We see the halo effect demonstrated in places like the Harvard Business Review, where it’s quite common to see business executives collaborate on papers with a professor or sponsor research projects.

These experts can become a source of speakers and webinar presenters. You may want to co-market an event and share the attendees list. There are also opportunities to post articles and materials by these experts on your website or as links in an e-newsletter. The ultimate objective is to have some of their credibility to rub off on you.

One way to start relationships with professors is to find those that have their own consulting practices. Think about how you help build their practice, and they may be more inclined to help you.

You can start putting the halo effect work by leveraging the four steps to I previously wrote a post on: “Lead Generation via Influencers and Experts in 4 Steps.” This post gives specific suggestions to help you get started.

 

You might also like

MarketingSherpa: How to Impress Conservative Fortune 100 Business Prospects by Allying With Academia [MarketingSherpa case study]

Inbound Marketing: Tech brand increases online sales 271% with original content and influencer outreach [MarketingSherpa case study]

Essential Guide to PR 2.0: Social Media Dos, Don’ts [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Generation via Influencers and Experts in 4 Steps

December 15th, 2014

Proactively building relationships with influencers and industry experts is a powerful way to generate leads and positive word of mouth (WOM). Most of us know this as influencer marketing, aka influence development.

Influence development is a practice of building relationships with key individuals who have influence over your buyers’ decisions. There are multiple opportunities with influencer development, which include:

  • Getting more opportunities with people and companies you may have not otherwise engaged with
  • Increasing your close rate and reducing sales cycle time by earning an influencer’s “seal of approval,” thus leveraging their credibility
  • Increasing your influence via the “halo effect” by helping thought leaders build their platform, which will also help build your influence
  • Testing and refining your messaging and value proposition. Influencers feel the pulse in the marketplace, and you can learn how you’re perceived and what messaging works in the market by talking to people who live and breathe within each space.

Here are four steps to engage and develop leads via influencers:

Four Step Engagement

 

Step 1: Target — Map out the key players, experts and opinion molders in your industry

Look at speakers at industry events, authors, bylines of contributed articles in trade journals and blogs authors. Also be sure to interview your sales team and your potential buyers. This will give  you a pretty good map of the people you need to know.

 

Step 2: Focus — Research them, their companies and their clients or customers

Do they work with companies that fit your ideal customer profile? To determine whether or not your customer bases are similar, you can search for relevant keywords. You can also use tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Alerts.

Create your short list, and prioritize who you think will make the biggest impact. Remember, less is more. Build personas for your influencers. Clarify your value proposition from an influencer point of view by answering the following:

  • Why should I pay attention?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • What’s in it for the people I influence? (i.e. my customers, audience)

 

Step 3: Execute — Engage them and be relevant

The following chart shows how influencer engagement might look. The point is to see it as building a relationship and a conversation over time.

Also, Kevin Cain’s post on Convince&Convert has some great suggestions on how to engage influencers and what to say:

Conversation Over Time

 

Step 4: Measure your results and make adjustments

Developing an influencer program takes time, but as you measure you can make adjustments.

Here are some questions to ask as your measure:

  • Can we see the impact our influencer program is having on targets?
  • What testing can we do to determine if we’re targeting the right influencers?
  • What can we do to improve?

Influence Marketing Program Q1 Report

 

Bonus material on influencer development:

Many influencers and experts will give you permission to post their articles and resources on your website or newsletter. The “about the author” section will give them more exposure as well as position you as an expert because their credibility rubs off on you. This means you benefit positively from the halo effect.

As you build your lead generation program, your experts may be interested in codeveloping white papers, special research reports, articles and even events with you.

Experts and influencers pride themselves on their professional integrity, so they will likely refer business to you and a competitor (assuming you have them) at the same time. You will still have an edge by investing in the relationship. They are more likely to favor someone who has shown an interest in them and given them value.

Why does this work? You begin by being genuinely interested in their business. Secondly, experts stay experts by continually updating their knowledge of industry trends, information, key players, tools and ideas.

Experts need to be “in the know.” Consider this as you engage them. They will continually seek out other relevant resources that could possibly help their clients. If you can be a good resource for their clients, they need you.

Finally, when experts are doing their consulting, writing and speaking, they are not completely focused on new business development. The result of this is many experts and influencers go through phases of feast and famine. You and your company could be sales lead referral source for them as well.

 

You may also like

Influence the Influencers: 5 Tactics to Generate Demand [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Amplify Your Content Strategy with Influencer Marketing [Via Convince and Convert]

Lead Generation: It’s all about building relationships [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing in 6 Simple Steps

December 8th, 2014

What’s the quickest, cheapest way to implement lead nurturing?

I get that question frequently when I talk to marketers about lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is pretty easy to understand, but hard to execute when you have little time or budget.

I thought I’d share my barest-bones lead nurturing strategy. I’ll do my best to resist the urge to elaborate. Volumes could be written about each bullet point. In fact, they have been.

 

Step #1. Set up your nurturing database

Include all of the people you could potentially sell to, such as people you’ve met at trade shows, who have spoken with your sales team and who have responded to your website.

 

Step #2. Review your database

What do you know about the people in it? What industry are they in? What are their titles? Where did you get their names?

B2B Personas

 

Step #3. Segment your database into personas

Not everyone is the same. Make sure you understand what each persona looks like, their needs and goals, what information they’re looking for and how they prefer to receive their information.

Persona Example

 

Step #4. Decide what information would be most relevant to them 

Begin by asking your sales team, “What questions do our customers ask most often? What do they care about? What issues are they facing?”

Find content – articles, blogs, white papers and the like – that addresses these issues. Pass this content by your sales team. Ask them whether their customers would value it.  As much as you can, repurpose content. For instance, white papers can be transformed to articles and articles to blog posts.

 

Step #5. Email prospects this relevant content, but whatever you do, don’t pitch

These should be simple emails that are written as if you are speaking to them directly. Be genuinely helpful.

Provide your sales team with email templates so that they can follow up and engage in their own conversations.

 

Step #6. Follow up with a human touch

Make a personal connection and follow up emails with phone calls to directly gauge prospects’ interest. Never rely on email alone.

Lead nurturing can be executed without expensive marketing automation tools; there are plenty of simple, low-cost platforms to start off with.

You can create databases in Excel and run mail merges from Microsoft Outlook.

 

Here’s some extra lead nurturing material for a deeper dive into the topic

I hope this is helpful as you implement lead nurturing for your organization. I’d love to hear your tips on what you found helpful to get started with lead nurturing? What else have you learned to implement lead nurturing programs in your company?

If you want to dig deeper here’s some lead nurturing bonus material:

 

Checklist of lead nurturing questions

When you’re designing a lead nurturing program, ask yourself the following:

  • Exactly who do I want to nurture?
  • What problems does the prospect need to overcome each day?
  • What is the prospect’s top priority right now?
  • Do I know what the prospect worries about?
  • What messaging do I want to communicate?
  • What is the best way to deliver the message?
  • What action do I want the prospect to take?
  • Will I need to demonstrate my product or service?
  • How often should I strive to be in contact?
  • Which tools require direct sales involvement?

 

Thoughts on lead nurturing channels and timing

Lead nurturing is not a single marketing campaign. Instead, it’s better to think of it as a conversation.

Lead nurturing takes on the form of a series of steps and communication tactics with defined objectives and strategies that are tailored to developing and building a relationship with the potential customer – out of which will come conversations that convert to sales.

The channels you’ll use and the frequency of touches will depend on the product or service being sold and the buying cycle of the prospect. A general rule is to bring sales people into the process about six months before the targeted purchase time.

A simple lead nurturing path might look like this for your personas:

B2B Lead Gen

 

The mix and selection of lead nurturing channels and content should be based on what is being sold and how the specific market and prospect have been shown to prefer acquiring information.

I just covered using the phone and email, but you can use several channels, as evidenced by this mindmap of lead nurturing channels and content:

B2B Mindmap

 

You might also like

Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing [More from the blogs]

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex B2B sale [More from the blogs]

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified [MarketingSherpa how-to]

Marketing Research Chart: The ROI of lead nurturing [MarketingSherpa chart]

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David Kirkpatrick

Marketing Automation: Lessons from 4 case studies

December 1st, 2014

Marketing automation technology has become an indispensable tool in the complex sale marketer’s arsenal. Lead generation, lead nurturing and determining the time for the handoff to Sales would be extremely difficult without that technology. Add lead scoring and tracking through that final conversion to sale and the task is flat out impossible without automation.

Luckily, for B2B marketers there is a wide range of marketing automation options out there from relatively simple solutions that help streamline email marketing to full-blown packages that seem like they do everything but automate the lights and thermostat at the office.

To help illustrate how some of your peers are utilizing marketing automation, in this B2B Lead Roundtable Blog post, I’m sharing four MarketingSherpa case studies that cover everything from how automation improved lead gen to how that tech directly impacted the bottom line.

Case Study #1 – Marketing Automation: 200% increase in lead volume for software company after implementation

SmartBear Software, a B2B cloud mobile software company, was rapidly growing and decided to implement CRM software and marketing automation software as a single process to ensure the two technology pieces would be easily integrated.

When choosing the automation vendor, Keith Lincoln, Vice President of Marketing, SmartBear, said three main criteria were considered:

  • Ease of use
  • Scalability
  • Integration with the new CRM system

Once an automation vendor was chosen, the team decided to bring in an outside consultant to expedite the implementation. Keith said this consultant helped speed up the learning curve through training and was able to get the automation solution up and running within a five-day workweek.

Automation in place, the team started slow with a few email campaigns, faced some internal challenges, but then quickly began to implement lead nurturing to handle a high volume of leads in different product groups. Lincoln said the automation solution was even integrated with SmartBear’s webinar platform.

Results? Lead volume grew 200%, 80% of global leads were generated with automated trial downloads, and 85% of SmartBear’s revenue was generated by the trial download leads.

 

Case Study #2 – Lead Generation: Revamped marketing automation and CRM technology drives 75% more leads

In this case study, Managed Maintenance Inc. (MMI), a provider of management services for technology assets, faced a different problem than SmartBear from the case study above.

Where SmartBear implemented automation and a CRM solution together to ensure those pieces were integrated, MMI had marketing automation and a CRM in place, but the two were siloed and weren’t synched – Marketing’s and Sales’ activities and data were completely separate.

The solution was to audit the current technology setup, and it was determined that MMI needed to replace both the automation and CRM tools together and, similar to SmartBear, implement the new software pieces together to ensure they would be integrated.

Once that occurred, Marketing at MMI was able to begin lead scoring and lead nurturing, and maybe even more importantly in terms of company culture, Sales and Marketing became more aligned because the new technology implementation allowed visibility from lead gen to conversion to sale for everyone involved in the whole pipeline.

After completely revamping marketing automation and CRM technology at MMI, lead generation was up 75% over the previous year.

 

Case Study #3 – Marketing Automation: Implementation drives $550,000 in net new revenue at Crain’s

Crain’s Business Insurance is a trade publication that faced the challenge all publications are undergoing right now with declining advertising revenue, but at the same time, its industry customers began buying up-front research and content.

Because the company has reporters with more than 300 years of combined writing and editorial experience, it was positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

In order to do so, Crain’s implemented marketing automation, revamped and integrated its databases. The company had three databases: print subscribers, online registrants and the newly created marketing automation database – and integrated its content creation process into the marketing automation system.

Integrating content creation into the automation solution meant creating content categories and segmenting the database into those different groups to align content creation with certain reader segments.

From there, Crain’s implemented lead scoring, and even utilized analytics coming from marketing automation to influence the ongoing marketing strategy.

This campaign led to:

  • Nearly $550,000 in brand-new advertising revenue for demand generation services
  • A 43% increase in registered online newsletter subscribers
  • A 2% increase in paid print subscribers
  • Conversion rate of 2.6% from anonymous website visitors

 

Case Study #4 – Marketing Automation: IT company boosts leads 59%, generates $1.5 million with system implementation

This case study combines a dramatic lift in lead gen along with an impressive impact on the bottom line after CentricsIT, at data center solutions provider, implemented marketing automation.

Mandy Hauck, Manager of Marketing Communications, CentricsIT, was the company’s first marketing employee, and walked into what could be called a fairly unsophisticated marketing strategy largely consisting of email blasts.

Her background was email marketing, but early on she reached out to marketing automation vendor based on a coworker’s connection with that vendor’s CEO.

After a call with the vendor’s sales rep, Mandy knew she wanted to implement automation at CentricsIT and conducted internal marketing to get both Sales and company leadership buy-in.

Part of this process included attending a conference on the automation solution in place and learning ways to get Sales involved in planning how automation would be used at CentricsIT.

Before automation, the company didn’t have a refined method of tracking its leads or nurturing them. Leads were thrown into Mandy’s inbox for her to manually forward to Sales. After implementation, leads were automatically directed from landing pages to sales reps. In the first year of marketing automation at CentricsIT, lead gen increased 59% and $1.5 million in revenue was directly attributed to the new technology

 

For even more value

Hopefully you have found something of interest that might help your marketing automation implementation, optimization or pain points.

The title of each of these summaries links to the full MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter article with detailed steps and creative samples, so if any of the case studies shared in this post grabbed you, do click through so you can get the full value of the information and campaigns your marketing peers shared with us.

 

You might also like

B2B Marketing: 7 tactics for implementing marketing automation from a fellow brand-side marketer [More from the blogs]

B2B Marketing: 5 privacy factors to consider when using marketing automation [MarketingSherpa how-to]

B2B Email Marketing: How a publishing company used marketing automation to increase CTR 1,112% [MarketingSherpa case study]

Marketing Automation: 25% more engagement, 0% unsubscribe in 4-email series [MarketingSherpa case study]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: What it is, and what it is not

November 24th, 2014

Building on my post last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a marketer who was meeting with her new boss to explain the need for a new lead nurturing strategy.

The problem was that her boss felt their current integrated marketing campaigns qualified as lead nurturing. We discussed the challenges of communicating what is and isn’t lead nurturing.fortune-cookie

A lot of marketers say they are “nurturing” their prospects, when in reality, all they are doing is sending out nice brochures, landing page links or marketing copy focused on product releases or company announcements.

Starting to get my point?

Pretty, well-designed fluff is not going to “feed” your prospects. Creating a nice layout and clarifying your value statement isn’t going to contribute to the development of your client or your relationship with them.

Let me break it down even further by giving a few examples of what is and what isn’t lead nurturing.

 

Examples of what is NOT lead nurturing:

1. Sending out an e-newsletter on a monthly basis

2. Blasting your entire database with a new case study that’s unlikely to be relevant to many list members

3. Sending all early stage leads the same series of emails, regardless of their behaviors

4. Randomly calling leads every four weeks to see if they are ready to buy

5 Salespeople calling early stage leads every month just to “touch base”

6. Offering content that promotes your company’s products and services and does not take into account your prospects’ interests or needs at their stage of buying

 

Examples of what IS lead nurturing:

1. Sharing content that’s relevant and valuable, even if they never buy from you

2. Sending a targeted email that includes content based on:

  • Recipient’s industry and/or role in the company
  • Stage in buying process or interest
  • Previous conversations or content engaged that’s likely to be relevant

3. Helping to answer a question or offering more information

4. Sending information that is relevant to the recipient’s problem

5. Making calls based on touch point data that adds value to the interaction – being a “plus” to their day

6. Giving them useful information that sticks with them and/or helps them grow as an individual or company

 

It’s all about building trusted relationships with people. That’s what we really need to do instead of expecting to drive conversion from a single event or email. You do this by consistently offering relevant content in the context of lead nurturing and delivering value.

 

Image Attribution: The Vacant-Green Camera

 

You might also like

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust [More from the blogs]

Lead Nurturing: Pilot campaign increases conversion 32.6% with automated emails [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing: 3-part funnel campaign creates 70% increase in inbound calls to sales reps [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing: How intent data lifted a B2B email campaign’s CTR 248% and forwarding rate more than 400% [MarketingSherpa case study]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust

November 17th, 2014

I recently had coffee to catch up with my friend Jill Konrath and we were talking about new opportunities, ideas for the improvement of lead nurturing and I’m currently pondering my next book.

If you’re not familiar with Jill, she’s the best-selling author, sales guru and is a featured keynote speaker at companies like LinkedIn, HubSpot and many others.

Both of us attended Dreamforce 2014 (Jill was a featured speaker) and we stopped by number of trade show booths to see the different vendors and learn what’s new in their companies.trade-show

As you might guess, we both experienced lead nurturing follow-up after those visits. It was fast. They all used marketing automation to rapidly follow up with me via email.

But two things were missing: relevancy and trust.

For example, Jill was a guest speaker for one company at Dreamforce, but the marketing messages and phone calls she received after the event didn’t acknowledge they knew her, or that she was featured on their website.

Rather than pitch demos (that were irrelevant or unnecessary) I would have started by addressing what motivated us to stop by their booth. How could they help me right now? What might interest me in their offer?

 

Don’t sell – be relevant

Today’s prospects have a general lack of trust and they simply don’t want to be sold. People are weary of pitches, hype, pushy sales people and irrelevant marketing messages. They are time constrained and too busy to think. So what do they do with most of our sales and marketing messages? They simply ignore them.

There’s an incubation period that needs to happen before sales professionals can even think about taking the relationship to the next level. You don’t ask someone to get married on the first date – the relationship you’re looking to start with customers is built over time with trust.

 

You can’t automate trust 

Marketing automation can help you manage lead follow-up and lead nurturing, but you can’t automate trust.

Building that trust takes time.

Trust is earned by being helpful, relevant and honest with your prospects. Relevance is the foundation of lead nurturing, which is, at its core, a series of conversations.

Like real-time conversations, we can’t bore the recipients of our emails by talking about ourselves all the time – we have to discuss what they care about:

  • If all we do is focus on winning the sale, they’re going to tune out or opt out.
  • If we focus on how we can help them, we’re going to build trust, and when they trust you, they’ll stick around and likely buy whatever it is you’re selling.

My research shows that executive buyers choose the salesperson who has been a resource and developed a trusted relationship with them regardless of their timing to buy. These people are called trusted advisors.

The foundation of nurturing is relevance, which is knowledge of your potential customer and their world:

  • Know the likely problems they’re facing.
  • Know what makes their lives easier or harder.
  • Know how your value proposition helps them.

For this reason, I think it’s critical to contact and have initial conversations with future customers that are devoid of sales pitches. When we begin a conversation with those prospects, their attitudes and beliefs are being shaped and primed by the information they have already soaked up through various sources.

I think a perfect way to do this is through lead nurturing. A key aspect of lead nurturing is the ability to provide relevant, valuable content and information to prospects.

 

Build trust with lead nurturing

Look up the definition of “nurture.”

Here’s what a quick search of the Web will tell you: foster, help develop or help grow; the act of nourishing or nursing; tender care; education; training; that which nourishes; food; diet; sustenance; the environmental influences that contribute to the development of an individual.

Lead nurturing is all about having consistent and meaningful dialog with viable prospects regardless of their timing to buy. It’s about building trusted relationships with the right people. In the end, it’s the act of maintaining mind share and building solid relationships with economic buyers. It’s not about having a salesperson calling up every few months to find out if a prospect is ready to buy yet.

I’ll be sharing more on building trust and what is – and isn’t – lead nurturing in my post next week.

 

You might also like

Marketing Research Chart: Messaging tactics for effective lead nurturing [MarketingSherpa chart]

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex B2B sale [More from the blogs]

Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content [More from the blogs]

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified [MarketingSherpa how-to]

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David Kirkpatrick

Marketing Automation and SMBs – an Overview

November 10th, 2014

Before my current role as manager of editorial content, I was the senior reporter for MarketingSherpa. As such, I interviewed hundreds of great marketers and industry thought leaders for case studies and how-to articles. I’m still writing some case studies, but not nearly at the pace I did for over four years.

Because of that past, it is fun to have the tables turned on me, and a few weeks ago I agreed to be interviewed on the topic of marketing automation and small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The interview covered a range of ideas within that topic area and I wanted to share some of my extended answers with the B2B Lead Roundtable Blog audience.

 

Why marketing automation software is relevant to SMBs

A major factor is how marketing automation can help optimize the SMB marketers time. The marketing department at an SMB is typically small just based on the size of the business, but at the same time the customer base – the database – can still be very large and automation software can help with activities such as lead nurturing.

If you think about an enterprise-level company, automation is almost a requirement to augment the CRM software. There’s just too many records in the database to handle this world of highly segmented and personalized marketing any other way.

For the SMB marketer, let’s say you have a one-person staff. I’ve spoken with many marketers doing great stuff with only one person. Maybe you have one, two, three people on your staff. You want to maximize their activities.

They are doing creative things instead of some of the grunt-work associated with handling email campaigns and the like. Automation does a lot of things under the hood that you just physically can’t do even if you wanted to.

 

How the disconnect between Sales and Marketing can be alleviated with technology

For this section, I’m going to reprint part of my original answer during the interview:

I think I’ll provide an interesting answer for you. The first part is Sales and Marketing alignment is a challenge. I’m hearing more success stories which is awesome. The technology is bringing people together because, if nothing else, Sales instead of getting more leads, they’re getting more qualified leads. Technology helps out on that end.

I think Sales and Marketing should be in alignment anywhere. Every time they’re in a silo, it never helps the company for those two pieces to be adversarial or siloed at all. If they’re working together, it’s always going to be better.

The change is, if anybody’s been reading a lot of industry stuff is the CMO is taking over the CIO and CTO, in the C-suite. Very interesting.

If you think back six or seven years ago, if you told the CMO they were actually going to have a seat at the table and not be the voodoo doll at the end of the table that it was a black hole for the budget and no one paid attention to, they would laugh at you.

Now, because of all the technology and different pieces, and the fact that they’re buying this technology and they’re handling this technology, and the data that’s coming in — now marketing activities are no longer a black hole. Now they’re trackable. Now there’s ROI that can be attached to it. Now all of the sudden, CMOs are surpassing and taking over the role of the CIO because they’re buying the technology and telling the CIO, now you make this work for me.

I think the actual alignment issue now is between marketing and the IT department. I would like to Marketing and Sales as a team become aligned with the IT department, but given where we are, and just the direction things are going, if you look at various pieces of research of some of the bigger research firms, that’s the direction that things are going.

I read articles every single day about the CMO and the CIO need to get together. They’re not getting together because of this.

I think the bigger challenge now is for Marketing and IT to be in alignment, and obviously technology is that piece there. I think technology helps get Marketing and Sales in alignment, but technology is the reason that marketing and IT have to get into alignment. If they don’t, it just makes things a lot harder for everybody.

 

Creating a culture that allows for marketing automation implementation at an SMB

This goes back to some of that Marketing-IT alignment.

Within marketing, the case for implementing automation should be fairly obvious – “This is going to make our world easier. We’re going to have to learn how to use it. We’ve got an initial training going on, but in the long term, it’s going to make our lives easier.”

Automation is going to allow the team to track its activities, and hopefully begin handing Sales a higher quality of lead, rather than a higher quantity of leads. The internal sales job to Sales should be just as easy with the quality of leads argument in place.

When getting buy-in from the company C-suite or leadership, the IT department can be your worst enemy or your best friend. By fostering an aligned relationship with them, they can advocate the that internal sell.

You want them to be part of this process, one, because they’ve written those contracts. They’re going to see the pitfalls before the marketer does. They know this is a really nice SLA on this contract. The agreement looks good, but IT will see a loophole that might not be obvious to a marketer. IT will know if the new tech piece will actually integrate with the current set of systems already in place.

I think having IT on board with an automation implementation gives a lot of credibility across the board when creating a culture from leadership down to the sales team.

 

You might also like

Industry Insights with David Kirkpatrick [Original interview from the SalesFusion blog]

Marketing Automation: 200% increase in lead volume [MarketingSherpa webinar replay]

Lead Generation: Revamped marketing automation and CRM technology drives 75% more leads [MarketingSherpa case study]

B2B Marketing: 7 tactics for implementing marketing automation from a fellow brand-side marketer [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

Introduction to Lead Management

November 3rd, 2014

If Sales and Marketing were a manufacturing operation starting with raw materials — leads — and ending up with 5% to 20% in deliverable product — won sales — it would soon be shut down to determine what is wrong. However, companies continue to spend untold dollars on lead generation efforts ultimately doomed to fail.

 

Lack of lead management impacts lead conversion and ROI

I think the major cause for poor lead conversion and ROI is the lack of lead management, also known as passing unqualified leads, or marketing qualified leads (MQLs), directly to sales reps.

MarketingSherpa captured some of the key lead management issues in the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. Of the 1,745 marketers surveyed, the research showed the following:

  • Inverted Funnel68% of study participants have not identified their Sales and Marketing funnel
  • 61% send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified
  • 79% have not established lead scoring
  • 65% have not established lead nurturing

In my own experience working with companies, I’ve found the top issues include:

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs aka inquiries) have been sent to sales people without qualifying them first or sending leads to Sales based on lead scoring alone.

A lead nurturing program has not been implemented.

Sales has not been given the means to hand leads back to marketing to reengage for further work or nurturing on their behalf.

 

Lead management defined

Lead management is a multi-stage process that manages the conversion of sales leads to customers. It’s the process of managing and tracking customer interactions from first contact to close.

The above illustration shows map of lead management. You’ll notice the funnel is inverted because people are not falling into the funnel; they are falling out.

The idea is that the buyer’s pipeline requires a series of “micro-yes(s)” before getting to that “macro-yes” in the form of the final conversion-to-sale.

Here are the 5 major stages of an effective lead management process:

  1. Lead capture (Generating inquiries)
  2. Lead qualification and scoring (Are they engaged? Are they a fit? Are they sales ready?)
  3. Lead nurturing (Progressing early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent)
  4. Lead distribution (Handing off only “sales-ready leads” that meet the universal lead definition, aka ULD to sales)
  5. Lead tracking and reporting (Closing the loop between sales and marketing)

Do you have your process for each of these steps documented and understood by key stakeholders? If not, start now.

 

Marketing automation alone doesn’t equal lead management 

Many marketers hope that buying technology and tools will help  marketing automation and drive better lead management processes.

Marketing automation can’t spontaneously generate collaboration between Sales and Marketing. It also cannot  create processes nor will it generate sales-ready leads on its own. Marketing automation tools just enable lead management, but they’re only part of the solution. There are more fundamental aspects of lead management that often get overlooked.

Lead management requires the following elements:

 

People

  • Dedicated resources (i.e. sales development reps, inside sales team) directly connecting and qualifying leads
  • People focused on getting the highest conversion rates on leads and the most efficient cost per opportunity

 

Processes

  • Centralized lead qualification process prior to sending leads to the sales team to filter raw inquiries and disqualify those that don’t fit your ideal customer profile (ICP)
  • Clear and universal lead definitions created with the sales team determining what exactly is a qualified lead
  • Provide qualification information for each lead while making it clear who owns the lead
  • Lead nurturing content marketing to help progress early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent
  • Rapid engagement of inquiries to qualify interest and fit
  • Clear service level agreements (SLAs) between Sales and Marketing on what Sales will do once they are passed a “sales-ready” lead.  Then, require a time-limit on a turnaround once leads are distributed, and track the lead throughout the process

 

Technology

  • Marketing automation tools to enable lead scoring to prioritize the human touch rather than replace it
  • CRM tools to manage inquiries and track sales lead interactions from first contact to close
  • Effective data management to cleanse bad data and append missing data on leads
  • Clear metrics to manage the process of inquiries: MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, closed vs. won business, etc.
  • Established training for sales reps on how to engage and convert qualified leads in the CRM

Companies that adopt effective lead management processes generate more revenue from their lead generation investment and have overall higher close rates on marketing generated leads than those that do not.

 

You might also like

Building a Marketing Funnel and More Lead Management Tips [ITSMA article by Chris Koch]

Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop [More from the blogs]

Lead Management: 4 principles to follow [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation: 2 simple tactics to determine cost per lead [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

10 Ways to Optimize Your Lead Conversion Rate

October 27th, 2014

The ultimate goal of B2B marketing and lead generation is to help the sales team sell. Marketers spend a lot of time and effort creating inbound leads but struggle getting those leads to convert into customers after they hand them off to sales.Following Up

As I talk to marketers about their lead generation results, I often hear statements like, “We’re generating lots of leads, but they aren’t converting” or “We need to increase lead quantity” or “We need to generate more qualified leads.” Does this sound like you or someone you know? I’m going to share 10 levers you can use to improve your lead conversion right now:

 

1. Shorten your follow-up time and do it personally.

The velocity of following up matters. When people ask for information, they expect a rapid and personal response. Numerous studies show that swift follow-ups increase conversion. Make sure your email reply has a real person’s name on it. Remember, people buy from people. The more you can humanize your lead follow-up the better.  Use your manners. Read, call or email? That’s the question.

 

2. Go beyond what they expect.

The way you treat your leads tells them about how you’ll serve as customers (from generating interest, through nurturing and into your sales team). Go above and beyond, especially when it comes to those leads that fit your ideal customer profile. It can be things like giving them extra relevant content they didn’t expect or, if they attended a webinar, giving them a follow-up executive summary or an extra white paper that’s relevant. Serve them.

 

3. Qualify leads with teleprospecting to help maximize the sales team’s effective selling time

80% of marketing leads are lost or discarded, according to  a MarketingSherpa presentation delivered at B2b Marketing Summit 2009. The biggest reason? They’re not ready to talk to a salesperson. The prospect may have responded to marketing campaigns and provided basic contact information, but sales professionals need much more than that. They need a valid business reason to talk to them, and you’re not going to get that on a web form. Improve your lead qualification process to increase “sales ready” lead conversion rates. Delivering leads that your sales team really wants based on your universal lead definition.

 

4. Understand buyer motivation to help you share content that helps them convert.

Without being annoying, you need to stay in their radar until they’re ready to talk to you.  It’s critical in lead nurturing to know where a prospect is in their buying cycle so that helpful information relevant to the need at a specific point in time can be delivered. Knowing when to provide a case study versus a technical white paper versus a product demo can make a huge difference in converting a lead to a sale.

 

5. Create content geared toward lead progression, not lead capture.

Invest as much in creating creative and content for lead progression as you do for lead capture. I’ve seen companies spend most of their budget getting people to raise their hands but not enough toward progression. The goal of lead nurturing is to help progress leads from initial interest toward purchase intent. It’s about progression. Sales people often struggle with developing nurturing content without support. If you’re wondering what kinds of content helps progress leads further faster, ask your sales team. Start by asking your sales team questions like, “What’s the content you share with leads that helps them convert?” or “What’s the content you use to help take people to the next level?”

 

6. Focus on increasing relevance with your lead nurturing.

Relevance is critical lead nurturing. Like most marketers, you’ll start with a more general focus, but the key as you begin learning about your prospects’ unique needs lies in tailoring your lead-nurturing content. This is where using marketing automation can help you understand more about your customers based on what content they’re engaging. As you learn more, you can move from more general content toward content you’d share in a one-to-one relationship.

 

7. Leverage and test lead scoring to focus the human touch, not replace it

Most marketers use lead scoring as the only means of lead qualification before they route leads to their sales team. Lead scoring should prioritize the human touch, not replace it. Develop your lead scoring system to be consistent with opportunity potential. Not all leads are equal in value and shouldn’t be treated the same. Leverage your ideal customer profile and build segmentation to look at which leads converted into customers. Then, use this information to begin predicting those that will become future customers. Also, leverage lead scoring to help you track engagement. By focusing more on the best prospects, your conversion rates will rise.

 

8. Improve Sales, marketing systems and process alignment.

Make sure your entire team knows how you generate and qualify leads, where they’re stored, how to follow-up and engage them, what’s expected of them, how to use the CRM and how to convert leads correctly. Let your entire company know you’re past conversion rates and current outcomes. You can make a huge impact by focusing first on creating an Ideal Customer Profile (company-wide, for each product, service or solution). Then, create the Universal Lead Definition of a “sales-ready lead.” Finally, connect the marketing and sales process to the customer’s buying process.

 

9. Re-engage past leads and get more out your investment.

The year-end push is on, and I know you may be wondering, “What else can I do to drive more revenue with little or no remaining budget?” I’ve found the best way is to focus on the leads you already have. Get your sales team to hand leads back to marketing for re-engagement. Lead reengagement is one of the most powerful ROI tools marketers have available to them. Why? You’re getting more out of the money you’ve already spent by going deeper within the opportunities you already have. It seems like common sense, but the reality is, very few companies think about it because they assume it’s Sales’ job.

 

10. Engage in lots of testing beyond lead capture.

It’s important to think of lead generation as a process that can be continually improved through ongoing testing and refinement. Most marketers stop testing after the first step of lead capture (getting people to raise their hand). However, testing hot to increase conversion after they leads respond can have a huge impact on results. One of the most important things you can test is your messaging.

I look forward to hearing how these ideas work to help you increase lead conversion.

 

Photo Attribution: Jack Rose

 

You might also like

B2B Content Marketing: 100% increase in lead gen for customer service software company [MarkeingSherpa case study]

B2B Email Marketing: How a global information company transformed from batch-and-blast to persona-driven email marketing [MarketingSherpa video replay]

Ecommerce Research Chart: Overall conversion rates [MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week]

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Brian Carroll

Where’s the Passion in B2B Marketing?

October 20th, 2014

I’m writing this post at Dreamforce 2014. It’s been an amazing experience, and I’ve loved meeting leaders in sales and marketing from all over the world and being part of this community.

In one of the keynote sessions with Tony Robbins, Tony talked about the power of engagement, citing a Gallop poll that showed 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. This was 142-country study of 180 million employees called the State of the Global Workplace.Tony Robbins Dreamforce

According to this study, the U.S., which demonstrated the highest level of employee engagement, reported that 29% of employees enjoyed their jobs and their bosses. This means 70% of Americans feel negatively about their jobs.

Tony said that before we can help people get engaged (customers, employees, coworkers, etc.), we need to be engaged ourselves. I completely agree.

When I meet new people, they invariably describe what they do. I can usually figure out in about 30 seconds of listening to someone if they are passionate about their work. Think about your own workplace: You can feel who’s engaged and who’s not. It shows up in their attitude, behavior and words.

 

Creating engagement

How do we create engagement for ourselves, our colleagues and those future customers we hope to reach and influence? I think the answer is passion.

I’ve been thinking about passion and what role it plays in our careers as marketers and leaders. I’ve been wondering about things we marketers don’t often talk about — our hearts.

What drives us? What role does the heart play in our job as marketers? Can you market something without passion and still be successful? If so, why would you want to?

I’ve wondered how we can be passionate advocates to people outside our companies if we don’t have close relationships or trust inside our place of work.

In this age of automation, depersonalization, scoring and measurement, I’m not seeing the human touch and connection in B2B marketing. How can we humanize the process and actually build relationships?

I believe the complex sale presents a set of unique sales and marketing problems that benefit shifting away from the traditional lead generation mindset to a new way of thinking centered on the following principles:

  1. More ROI is reaped from the patient tending of potential customers (relationships) over time. Customers for life.
  2. Lead generation is a conversation, not a series of disjointed campaigns.
  3. Build relationships with the right people and companies, regardless of their timing to buy.
  4. Engage people as early in their buying process as possible (preferably before they start looking), so you can help create and influence their vision.
  5. The first impression matters. So does the second. So does every single touch after that. Consistency and relevancy are key.
  6. Sales and Marketing must work together as one team. See each other as internal customers.
  7. A strategic lead generation portfolio will always outperform marketing tactics that stand alone.
  8. Sales and Marketing should have a unified understanding and consensus in their language on things such as ideal customers and universal lead definition.
  9. If used properly, the phone is the single best way to reach decision makers and to begin a dialogue when you have a complex sale.
  10. Buy-in from Sales, Marketing and executive leadership is critical to the success of any lead generation program.
  11. Be willing and prepared to close the loop with every identified opportunity.
  12. The purpose of marketing is to help the sales team sell.
  13. Trusted advisers win more sales than slick brands.
  14. Companies don’t buy — people do. Don’t ever forget the human touch.

 

Again, I think the complex sale requires the human touch as a central element. It starts with our individual heart and our passion — do I believe in what I’m doing?

We then need to orient ourselves to our company’s collective heart and passion — do I believe in my company and what my company does?

Finally, we carry our heart and passion outside our company — do we believe in what we’re doing?

 

Photo Attribution: Salesforce Facebook — Tony Robbins Day Dreamforce Day Three

 

You might also like

Sales-Marketing Alignment: 8 tactics from a marketer who has worn both hats [MarketingSherpa how-to]

Lead Generation: How ignoring 16,896 companies helped improve Sales-Marketing alignment [MarketingSherpa case study]

Guided by Buyers: 4 tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy [MarketingSherpa how-to]

Lead Nurturing: 9 questions answered on lead qualification, nurturing, and Marketing-Sales alignment [More from the blogs]

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