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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

 

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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]

Marketing Strategy , , ,

Brian Carroll

Building Your Strategic Lead Generation Portfolio

October 13th, 2014

To be successful at lead generation, marketers can’t rely on one specific tactic. Rather, they must leverage a portfolio of channels.

The best marketers approach their work like a portfolio manager would run a mutual fund. Portfolio managers are constantly thinking about, and testing, the optimal investment strategy. They analyze the financial marketplace and make choices that balance high risk and high reward with tried-and-true methods to achieve the highest return from their investment portfolio.

A while ago, I created a mind map of lead generation channels for my book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. I’ve updated it to include more content marketing and social media channels. I hope you find it helpful. You click the map image to expand it or download it as a PDF:

Lead Generation Channels

Download the Lead Generation Channel Map as a PDF

How do you determine which channels are the best for generating leads and finding future customers? One approach is testing several different lead generation channels — and measuring the results. If you’re still not sure where to start, here’s a list of the most widely used lead generation tactics.

Here’s a few other ways you can use this map:

 

Choose more channels to test

As you look over the lead generation channel map, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Which of these channels are we using?
  • Which are our competitors using?
  • Do you know how your tactics are performing?

Now think of what you know about your customers’ buying process. Are they working together in a complementary way to connect each step in the customer’s buying process?

Use your answers from the previous questions to identify the gaps.

 

Build your lead generation calendar

Try to detail a lead generation calendar for the year that maps out anticipated programs and tactics by month and quarter. At minimum, map out your activities for each month and then really follow it.

Don’t just make irrelevant pitches more often. Create a plan to add value every time you touch your future customers with relevant ideas, content and resources.

Also, build an effective closed-looped feedback system to capture feedback from your sales force that can be converted to actionable ideas to optimize your channels.

 

Optimize your current channels

Review your channels in terms of what’s working and what’s not, and make adjustments. If you can’t measure your marketing channels in terms of return on investment to the organization — leads generated, opportunities in the funnel and business closed — why should your company “invest in your fund?”

When was the last time you looked at your channels and asked, “How can I make this channel perform better?”

What else would you add to this mind map? Let me know in the comments below.

 

You also might like:

Multichannel Marketing: 6 challenges for planning complex campaigns [More from the blogs]

31 Tips for Improving Sales and Marketing Lead Generation Alignment[More from the blogs]

Lead Gen Tactics from 4 MarketingSherpa Case Studies [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation: Customers are looking for a solution to their problems [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation , , , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

31 Tips for Improving Sales and Marketing Lead Generation Alignment

October 6th, 2014

More often than not, there seems to be a disconnect between Marketing and Sales. Not having these two teams aligned can be a vital — and costly — mistake.

How does your sales team perceive the leads Marketing produces? Be honest.

  • They love them — couldn’t be happier!
  • They complain about lead quality.
  • They complain about lead volume.
  • The say leads, what leads? Marketing gives us leads?

If you chose answer No. 1, the first thing I would say is, well done. The second thing I would ask is, when was the last time you talked with your sales team?

Lead generation is an iterative process that requires consistent closed-loop feedback. Closing the loop on a regular basis allows you to constantly learn from each interaction.

Sales and Marketing often believe they are working together, but I’ve found collaboration takes more than annual, quarterly or monthly meetings. That’s why I think we can learn a lot from the football team huddle.Huddle

Each huddle allows the team to adjust, get feedback and focus on their next play together. Consider having short huddles daily and weekly between the marketing and sales team members.

In addition to implementing Sales and Marketing huddles, here are 31 ideas you can use to improve alignment and collaboration:

  1. Train your sales people on how to optimize your lead generation investment and how to give you feedback.
  2. Regularly get the marketing team out into the field with the sales team and channel.
  3. Centralize the lead qualification process.
  4. Get a closed loop feedback from the sales team on leads, and carefully examine the conversion process with regular face-to-face meetings or conference calls.
  5. Understand where the sales team is with their priorities, and help them nurture. Do not force-feed leads at a time when their focus might be on closing important sales efforts.
  6. Develop a strategic lead generation plan, with focus on standardizing and documenting the sales process for purposes of tracking and measuring.
  7. Conduct frequent, regular meetings to stay updated on developments.
  8. Share best-practice lead generation information.
  9. Assign revenue goals to joint Sales and Marketing plans.
  10. Document the lead hand-off process and accountabilities at each stage.
  11. Be flexible.
  12. Promote lead generation from the top down and the bottom up.
  13. Develop a universal lead definition.
  14. Arrange compensation to reflect shared accountability via lead generation.
  15. Close the loop on each sales lead generated.
  16. Focus on how to increase effective selling time of the sales team.
  17. Integrate Sales and Marketing into the same database.
  18. Define and map responsibilities shared by Sales and Marketing.
  19. Share nurturing content. Learn what content is most helpful to progress customers.
  20. Continually reinforce lead generation program strategies.
  21. Share new insights gained from customer feedback.
  22. Jointly develop a message map and value proposition.
  23. Examine and apply what has been learned.
  24. Implement parameters from successful campaigns.
  25. React to and develop solutions for the prospect’s concerns. Better yet, talk to future customers along with your sales team.
  26. Conform messaging to target audiences.
  27. Analyze and use competitive strategies as warranted.
  28. Improve sales tools and marketing materials.
  29. Map out your customers’ buying process and key questions customers ask at each step.
  30. Determine the life cycle of a lead.
  31. Develop a strategy for lead nurturing.

What am I missing? I’d love to hear other tips or ways you’ve leveraged lead generation to improve the Sales and Marketing alignment.

 

Photo Attribution: Jonathan Skalnes

 

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

B2B Marketing: The first step a systems integrator took to achieve Sales-Marketing alignment [More from the blogs]

Sales-Marketing Alignment: How consistent messaging helped ADP engage customers at a faster pace [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation Checklist — Part 2: Sales and Marketing — One Team [More from the blogs]

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

Lead Generation , , , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

6 Ideas to Create More Relevant Lead Nurturing Emails

September 29th, 2014

I’m writing this post while attending the ExactTarget Connections 2014 event. I’ve learned a lot from listening to the sessions and speakers here.

As I listened to attendees and speakers, I frequently heard the same keywords, such as:

  • Personalizationexacttarget
  • Segmentation
  • Customer focus
  • Data
  • Connection
  • Authenticity

But something I wanted to hear more about was relevance.

People aren’t trying to open and click your emails. They’re looking for reasons to delete them.

A recent MarketingSherpa survey of email recipients found that 58% of those who stop reading, disengage or unsubscribe later cite “lack of relevance” as a key factor. This is hugely important because most marketers rely on email as their No. 1 lead-nurturing tactic.

For example, I receive emails often from companies that claim to “know” me — in some cases I’m their customer — but their emails certainly don’t show it. Their creative and graphics-laden emails don’t speak to my concerns or motivations at all, and each non-relevant message I receive is basically programming me to ignore or delete future messages from them. I’m sure that’s not their intent, but these companies are missing the key idea of relevance.

So, how do we better align align our email and nurturing messages with what is relevant to our audience?

 

Idea #1: Build relevant messages based on problems that matter to your customer

It is critical to know what customers want in order to serve them better. Do you know what motivates and matters to your customers? If not, ask them. We can spend more time guessing wrong, or we can just ask our future customers what matters to them. You can do this in person, via phone, events and more.

Read more on how to put your customers first in lead generation.

 

Idea #2: Understand where your prospect is in the buying cycle

Be sure to provide different kinds of information to your prospect based on what point they are in the buying process.

If you have a complex sale, the best way I know how to do this is by combining a human touch with your sales pitch to build relationships with your lead-nurturing message. Also, you can tell a lot based on the content people are engaging. If they are at an early stage lead and they are just starting to get familiar with the business issues you solve, don’t send them the same copy that you would send someone who is on the verge of making a decision.

Read more on Email Marketing: 3 lead nurture paths you should automate.

 

Idea #3: Create message based on industry vertical or company size (Hint: Segmentation)

Industry information will most likely tell what pains your prospects are experiencing. At the same time, company size will give you a hint as to the resources they have available to tackle these challenges. Be sure to add this information to your marketing data often so that you can easily define your target segments based on these indicators.

 

Idea #4: Map content and message based on role or job function personas

Effective lead nurturing starts with listening to customers to truly understand them, and then it requires identifying the personas of your audience.

What’s their job function? What part to they play in the buying process (influencer, decision maker, information gather)?

For example, based on my experience, a decision maker is heavily involved at the very start and the very end of the B2B buying process but leaves the middle of the process up to the influencers.

You’ll need to investigate who gets involved at which point in the buying process so that you can segment your messaging. What content do they need? What are the problems their facing?

Read more about effective content marketing here: Content Marketing: 4 stages to mapping your content strategy.

 

Idea #5: Leverage trigger events to your advantage

Do you know why favorable trigger events matter? Trigger events are a great way to change the physics of the buying process and yet another way that we marketers can go beyond the lead.

Trigger events matter for two key reasons. First, they may indicate that the status quo in an organization is changing, and secondly, they can contribute to the development of timely and relevant sales and marketing messaging.

Read more on The Physics of Trigger Events for Lead Generation to get a look at a trigger event mind map. It will show you some of the possible trigger events you can track.

 

Idea #6: Test your messaging

This is the hardest part to get right.

Each audience responds differently to different styles. That’s why you should test, test, test.

Try different subject lines (this is my favorite relevancy booster — I find that the less marketing hype used, the better). Try different message copy and calls to action.

The response to your A/B tests will help you understand which style is most relevant and effective with your audience. Try different mediums (don’t only rely on email nurturing).

Developing lead-nurturing tracks is extremely useful because you can leverage what you’ve learned to reuse that content again and again.

Read how to create more effective content marketing that your audience will actually be interested in reading here: Content Marketing: Consulting firm nets 388% more leads with 4-step strategy.

 

Photo Attribution: Exact Target Blog

 

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

Digital Marketing: Be relevant, data-driven and precise [More from the blogs]

New Chart: Top tactics organizations use to improve email relevancy [MarketingSherpa chart]

Email Relevance: 8 tactics for leveraging timing, segmentation and content [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Lead Nurturing , , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

5 Ways to Deal with Change for Successful Marketing

September 22nd, 2014

As marketers, we deal with a lot of change. The B2B marketing world is exploding with touch points, channels and marketing technology, just to name a few blasts of change.

We need to navigate toward creating more content, generating more leads and achieving more results. Even our customer buying process has changed. Our customers are moving deeper into their buying process before they need to directly engage with us or our sales team. But consumers aren’t the only ones who have changed; companies have changed too.

According to Adobe’s Digital Road­block report, published earlier this year, “64% of marketers expect their role to change over the next year, and over 81% expect changes over the next three years.” Also, marketers cite a lack of training in new marketing skills and an inability for their organizations to adapt as key roadblocks to becoming the marketers they aspire to be.

A new study from Econsultancy finds that the majority senior marketers believe the most important soft skill to develop is the “ability to embrace change.”

I get to talk to lots of marketers in my role at MECLABS, and it’s clear to me that most of the leaders and marketers I speak with want to embrace change and adapt. But how do we do it?

Remember that attitude is everything

Change management starts with you. If you change how you think, you will change how you feel and what actions you take. Consider this statement from Charles Swindoll: “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” Be the change you want to make in your company.

Develop a clear vision with a shared purpose

There’s an old proverb that says, “Without vision, my people perish.” Your company needs you and your marketing leadership more than ever. Work to define a picture of yourself, your team and your organization. How will you serve customers? Focus on what you can do to navigate changes. What are the new roles that you’ll need to play to help your organization adapt?

Here’s a helpful post from HBR.com on how to develop a shared purpose.

Build your blueprint and plan to change

I’ve watched too many companies make half-hearted plans. I’ve then watched these same companies make so many knee-jerk shifts in their plans that they accomplish little and their people become cynical and emotionally disengaged.

You can prevent “change fatigue.” If you’re going to plan, dig in and make it count. This means that you’ll need to invest more time in upfront planning for what’s coming and getting your team ready, but it will be worth it.

For example, if you’re going to invest in technology, you need to clearly map the processes within that technology.

What are the essential processes that the marketing organization handles today? What should change in order make the marketing team more efficient and drive higher performance?

Set clear and realistic milestones

How will you know you are heading in the right direction, and how will you prove that to the rest of the team?

Change management almost always take longer than we think. When you’re managing change, be realistic about how much time it will take and what you’ll accomplish.

I’ve talked to leaders in companies who’ve made changes they thought would take six months, only to find they’ve invested two years, and they’re still not done. How long it will take depends on what you’re doing — changing a company culture takes longer than implementing CRM or marketing automation software.

It’s the leaders who set realistic milestones that get their teams commitment and buy-in to what’s required to drive the results.

Invest in yourself, and invest in training and educating your team

Training can be a catalyst for transformation. What have you done to improve your skills and grow? Think about the training and education your team will need to develop the skills and manage the changes you need to make.

Many companies don’t invest in training their team, and if they do, they’re not investing enough in the development of their team’s skills. Start now, and make training and educating yourself and your team a priority.

Education needs to go beyond the marketing team to the executive team and the rest of the company. Help them understand the changes that need to take place and the impact they’ll have on the company.

Get comfortable accepting that change will happen

This requires simply accepting what is. We are deluded if we think that everything is going to be the same tomorrow as it is today — change can happen in a split second.

If you know change is coming, consider it a privilege. Too many people don’t have that luxury. Help your team be prepared that changing is here, it’s coming and it’s inevitable. Accept that if change management were easy, everyone would be doing it.

I’d love to hear what’s worked for you when managing change or some of the ways you’ve supported your company making changes. Post your experiences in the comments section below.

Photo attribution: Francesco Corallo

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The Difference Between Change and Transformation [from CIOInsight.com]

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Marketing Strategy , , ,

Brian Carroll

The Most Important B2B Marketing Metrics for CEOs

September 15th, 2014

CEOs expect their marketing leaders to provide metrics and be accountable in meeting their numbers, just like their expectations for sales leaders. Oftentimes, CEOs’ marketing leaders only have various activity KPIs and some squishy metrics, such as brand recognition.

Marketing Metrics for CEOs

At the same time, most CEOs agree that they aren’t receiving enough activity from Marketing into the sales funnel. Thus, their marketers are constantly reminded that more leads are needed, as fast as possible.

When the revenue doesn’t immediately materialize, CEOs will lament, “Why can’t I see ROI from marketing?”

As marketers, I believe the key is to look at why we are measuring our marketing in the first place.

We need to be able to answer the big picture questions, like the following:

  1. What effect are our marketing investments having on sales productivity? On the pipeline? On revenue?
  2. What can Marketing do to lower the combined expense-to-revenue ratio of sales and marketing activities?
  3. How much am I putting in and what am I getting out? The difference between these two numbers is often expressed as a percentage.
  4. How much revenue can be directly attributed to leads coming from Marketing (i.e., the lead generation program in a specific time period)?
  5. What is the total cost of your lead generation program during a specific time period?
    • Marketing team total compensation
    • Vendors and outsourcers
    • Costs and materials

I’d love to get your input on what you believe are the most important B2B marketing metrics for CEOs. Please leave a comment below to share your insights.

Photo attribution: thinkpanama

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ROI Measurement , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing

September 8th, 2014

Earlier this week, I had a call with a CEO of a small technology company who was wondering how to optimize his lead generation.

He called me after two salespeople quit, and he said, “I’m about to give up on cold calling and start doing inbound marketing. I think cold calling is dead … what do you think I should do?”

I thought to myself, “It’s no wonder his sales team quit.”

There’s an old adage that says 90% of salespeople hate cold calling, and the other 10% are lying. No one really likes the idea of making or receiving cold calls.

If you’re randomly calling, emailing or direct mailing your customers and think it’s just a numbers game, then you need to stop. This type of interruption marketing no longer works.

He then asked, “What can I do instead?”

I gave him the following advice: Stop cold calling and start nurturing.

Cold calls vs. nurturing calls

Look up the definition of “nurture.”

Here’s what a quick search of the Web will tell you:

Nurture: To 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

Your lead-nurturing program is all about having consistent and relevant communication with viable prospects (those that fit with your product or service), regardless of their timing to buy. Think of your phone as an extension of this program. You shouldn’t try to use pressure tactics in the first phone call; it’s about building long, meaningful and trust-filled relationships with the right people.

Be useful and help your prospects

 

Think about it: when’s the last time you received a cold call that you actually benefited from? Your customers feel the same way. Every time you pick up the phone — whether it be the first call or the 50th call — it’s important to create value by providing your prospects useful information in digestible, bite-size chunks.

John Jantsch writes in this post on Ductape Marketing Blog, “You don’t have to be a pest when you call people. In fact, don’t sell. Just be useful. Even useful voice message follow ups will let people know you are human and aren’t going to hard-sell anything. Reaching out via the telephone in a useful manner will help build trust for your other lead generation initiatives.”

Be relevant and uber-informed

When you’re making a call, the worst thing you can do is to contact someone without knowing anything about them. You must have a sound, working knowledge of each potential customer, the company and, most importantly, the issues they face and how your product can help solve them.

This personal interest goes a long way in establishing meaningful dialogue.

Begin by asking your sales team:

  • What questions do your customers ask most often?
  • What do they care about?
  • What issues are they facing?

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

Marketing automation technology can also help you know what content people are engaging with on your website, emails and webinars, and you can leverage this information through lead scoring to help you prioritize when someone might be ready for a call.

Build trust with each interaction

“Tell-and-sell” is a thing of the past. Become a trusted advisor by adding value with each interaction and sharing relevant information.

By providing valuable education and information to prospects up front, you become a trusted advisor. Share information that sticks with them. Give them educational content that helps them grow as an individual or a company. Salespeople who become trusted advisors and understand the needs of economic buyers are 69% more likely to come away with a sale.

Here’s a nurturing litmus test: Can prospects benefit from the information you provide, regardless of whether they buy from you?

The goal of lead nurturing is to maintain a relevant and consistent dialog with viable future customers, no matter where they are in the buying pipeline. It’s about relationships. If you follow these ideas, you’ll start thinking about how you and your salespeople can be a relevant resource. When you do that, you don’t have to sell to people. They will come to you first when they are ready.

Photo attribution: Poetic Home

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Competitive Marketing: How do you grab customers’ attention?[More from the blogs]

Cold Calling , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Why Servant Marketing Matters

August 18th, 2014

As I talk to marketing and sales leaders, I hear this reoccurring theme: “I want to do something that really matters; I want to feel what I’m doing is really making a real difference.”

I feel the same way, but I’ve painfully learned that it’s futile to make changes outside before we make changes inside. This requires a different kind of thinking to drive a different way of marketing.

In our rush to obtain leads, drive opportunities and close sales to move the sales needle, it’s too easy to forget that we need to address the needs, wants, hopes and aspirations of our customers.

The problem with today’s customers

Today’s customers are weary of pitches, hype, buzzwords, corporate speak and manipulative messages, and as a result, they ignore them.

This is especially true for companies that have a complex sale where B2B buyers face daunting decisions that involve huge risks, and sellers struggle to articulate their value propositions and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Customers aren’t saying, “We need solutions.” Instead, they’re saying, “We need to solve a problem.”

So what would happen if we focused on helping them do just that?

Serve first and market second

With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on servant leadership for the past year. Robert Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership states this: “Serve first and lead second.”servant-marketing

I believe this idea can also be applied to sales and marketing. Let’s call it servant marketing, which can be defined as “serve first and market second.”

Servant marketing works like this: How we sell and market informs customers of how we’re going to serve them. It’s not what we say; it’s what we actually do that matters.

I’d like your input to help me define this better. I think servant marketing is built on the following ideas:

  • Empathize with your customers and walk in their shoes to understand their problems
  • Think like your customers when they set out to solve a problem and understand each step they take to solve that problem
  • Learn how you can help make your customers lives better
  • Provide your customers what they want
  • Help customers identify and solve problems
  • Give customers content and expertise that helps them gain clarity
  • Empower employees who touch your customers with the resources, training and tools to really help them

Our customers are more sophisticated than ever and have access to more information and more options. There’s no room for game-playing or guessing. We have to know what they want and give that to them. If we can give them what they want, we can create a competitive advantage that will reap higher margins and profits.

I realize this may seem altruistic, but it’s not. It has an economic benefit. One company that I’m hoping to interview for a future blog post practices servant marketing and generates 200% more revenue per customer than their competitors.

I’m looking for more companies that practice servant marketing.

Do you know of any? Let me know in the comments section below. Please feel free share your thoughts on servant marketing.

Image Attribution: Adam Verspaget

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Marketing Research Chart: Question your assumptions for true customer-centric marketing [MarketingSherpa Research Chart of the Week]

Marketing Strategy , , , ,

Brian Carroll

How to Put the Customer First in Lead Generation

August 11th, 2014

Putting customers first in lead generation.

As marketers, we have more ways to observe our customers’ behavior and can leverage tools like marketing automation, Web analytics and CRM systems to help us manage all this complexity.

Complexity found in things like Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), Sales-qualified leads (SQLs), opportunities, lead engagement scores and other KPIs are helpful to see trends and measure what we deem important to us, but something is often missing.empathy

That missing piece is customer empathy.

Unfortunately, empathy is often ignored or lost when we start to become overly clever and complex with lead generation.

We can get so caught up in our systems, tools and investments that we lose sight of empathy.

To build that empathy, I recommend:

Push the acronyms aside and actually talk to your customers

Sadly, I’ve found that marketers don’t talk directly with the very people they are reaching out to with lead generation messages. All too often, customer service agents and sales reps are the only ones talking to customers live and/or in real life.

Here’s some ways to fix that:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Survey customers on your email list
  • Get out in the field with your sales team and meet customers face to face

It is critical to know what customers want in order to serve them better.

Businesses often take understanding the customer for granted when this is one thing that should be always valued. For ideas on the questions to ask your customers, read this post from the B2B Lead Roundable Blog: “8 Questions to Steer Your Marketing Priorities.”

Use those conversations to understand what customers care about

Instead of worrying about being interesting, you need to first be interested in your customer. Your goal is to understand your customer’s motivation (what they want) and make sure that’s aligned with what you can deliver.

It is most effective to actively listen with empathy to consciously try to understand and see the world from the other person’s perspective.

Avoid “hearing” through a filter formed by your own worldview as a marketer, and do not impose your preconceived ideas on what you hear, because doing so will inhibit your efforts to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Use that understanding to anticipate what they want next from your organization

You need to move from company logic to customer logic.

Customers want to work with people and companies that can step in their shoes and understand the results they are trying to achieve. But before you can do this, you must first actively listen to them and understand their situation and concerns.

At its core, lead generation is really about relationships.

I’m wondering what would happen if we stopped treating people as leads (dehumanizing) and instead treated them as human beings or future customers. What would happen if we put ourselves in our future customers’ shoes and looked at our messages from their perspective and trying to feel what they are feeling when they hear from us?

If you want to improve your influence and empathetic connection with people, watch this RSA short:

In this 3-minute animated video, Dr. Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathetic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

Image Attribution: Crystal Coleman

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Lead Generation , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Why Empathetic Marketing Matters and 7 Steps to Achieve It

March 3rd, 2014

I am at the earliest stages of developing a sequel to Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. It’s been a decade since the first draft and I’ve been contemplating how much business has changed since then.

Today’s sales and marketing environment is a paradox: There have never been more opportunities to reach customers; yet reaching them has never been more challenging.

We have more marketing channels than ever. We’ve moved from traditional advertising to social media, content marketing and beyond. But, I can’t help but wonder, as we have more ways to talk to our customers, are they really listening? Or are they shutting us out as we hurl more pitches at them from different angles?

I believe you can’t really answer that question unless you know precisely what your customers want. This requires letting go of our own assumptions of what we think they want and putting ourselves in their place.

This requires empathy, which according to Miriam-Webster, “is the ability to share someone else’s feeling.” To feel what they feel and think what they think.

Unfortunately, too many in corporate America believe sociopathic behavior – being laser-focused on getting what you want at the expense of everyone else – accelerates businesses and careers to success.

That’s so “Wolf of Wall Street.” What worked two decades ago won’t work today. Sociopathic behavior may be why too many businesses are struggling.

I believe to succeed in the new millennium, we must embrace empathy on every level with every customer – both internal and external. Our customers are more sophisticated than ever and have access to more information and more options. There’s no room for game-playing or guessing. We have to know what they want and give that to them.

Here’s an overview of what I believe can help achieve this. I plan on expanding on these points in future B2B Lead Roundtable Blog posts:

1. Put the customer first. Instead of worrying about being interesting, we need to first be interested. Understand the customer’s motivation (what they want) and make sure that’s aligned with what we can deliver.

2. Listen and seek to understand. Do we know why our customers say “yes”? Why are they buying from us? What are the steps they need take to say “yes”? What difference have we made for our customers because they bought our product or service?

3. Stop marketing, start conversing. Focus on developing conversations, not campaigns. Don’t err on the side of pushing our agenda rather than extending an invitation to converse. To the customer, it feels like “somebody wants something from me” rather than “maybe they can help me get what I want.” We need to demonstrate that we’re interested in their world and their motivations. Invite, listen, engage and recommend.

4. Help. The best marketing and sales doesn’t feel like marketing and sales at all. It feels like helping because it is. Our lead nurturing needs to be built on this concept.

5. Give them content they’ll want to share. This organically emerges from the first four points of placing the customer first, understanding them, conversing with them and helping them.

6. Remember that proximity is influence. Empower those closest to our customer – the sales team, inside sales team, sales engineers and customer service people – to be able to achieve the points above.

7. Practice empathy personally to set an example. Our customers are everyone we serve – including our staff and our coworkers. Show them how it’s done by practicing empathy yourself.

This introduces another paradox: We’ve never been more advanced with ways to connect with prospects, but we’re still not communicating effectively with them. A good start to doing that effectively begins with empathy.

What are your thoughts? Do you think empathetic marketing is achievable for your organization, why or why not?

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Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Nurturing, Marketing Strategy, Thought Leadership , , , ,