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]

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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 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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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]

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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 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]

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Customer Relationship Management: Bring finance into the CRM world [More from the blogs]

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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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B2B Marketing: How accounts payable company’s new process increased Marketing’s contribution to revenue 1,300% [MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing case study]

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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]

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David Kirkpatrick

Lead Gen Tactics from 4 MarketingSherpa Case Studies

August 25th, 2014

Our sister publication, MarketingSherpa, publishes three weekly newsletter case studies, and in the B2B beat in particular, those weekly articles routinely feature a story covering marketers tackling lead generation for the complex sale.

For this B2B Lead Roundtable Blog post, I want to offer four of those case studies published over the last couple of years addressing that very topic.

If you only have a few minutes, this post provides highlights from each case study. But, if you have more time, or if one really strikes you, click on the link for the entire article and supporting creative samples.

Case Study #1 – Local B2B Marketing: 150% boost in lead generation

This case study covers how a commercial cleaning and janitorial services franchise created an Internet-based direct response marketing machine. Before this program was created, the company had a rudimentary Web presence – essentially no Internet marketing and no digital marketing strategy in place.

To create the program, the team began with the website and from there, added paid search and SEO to the digital marketing initiative. Another major piece was ongoing testing and optimization on all the new online marketing channels.

This effort led to lead generation through website form registration, and even phone calls from prospects who initially found the company through the digital marketing.

What were the results?

  • 3.37% average conversion to sale across all Internet traffic sources
  • 150% increase in lead generation from 2010 to 2011
  • 1,500% ROI on SEO in 2011
  • 200% ROI on PPC in 2011

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

Technology is a major factor in effective lead scoring and nurturing once that lead has been generated.

A provider of management services for technology assets serving the mid- to large-enterprise market found that its technology setup had a problem – the automation solution and CRM system were operating in tech silos and, most importantly, not sharing data.

To meet this challenge, the team audited the current situation, and ended up replacing both existing marketing automation and CRM solutions, and found new technologies that were more integrated.

With the integrated technology in place, a lead scoring process was created, the contact list was built out, leads that Sales couldn’t close were nurtured, and the enterprise even found a higher level of Sales and Marketing alignment. Also, after the first year, lead generation improved 75%.

Case Study #3 – Lead Generation: Targeted event marketing effort leads to 300% ROI, generates 140 qualified leads

Technology and automation are vital and valuable pieces of marketing today, but the personal touch still has its place.

A provider of OEM equipment for printing companies created a campaign that combined event marketing with direct mail, email and teleprospecting both before and after a trade show to create brand awareness and new opportunities.

In this campaign, the company segmented its prospects for targeted marketing, came up with different incentives – such as trips to the company headquarters, or admission to a major league baseball game – for each stage of the campaign, utilized PURLs to track response to the campaign, and used telemarketing to highly qualify prospects.

This particular campaign resulted in a 300% ROI.

Case Study #4 – B2B Lead Generation: 300% ROI from email and teleprospecting combo to house list

This final case study is about how a drug information provider for health IT companies leveraged the knowledge that its conversion rate was much higher with already engaged prospects, so the goal was to increase ROI by focusing on what the team called “known” contacts.

The effort began with segmenting the list to uncover those known contacts. From there, the segmented group received an email with the goal of priming the recipients for follow-up calls instead of seeking a direct response to the email send. The first call was made within several hours of the email send.

Four days after contacting via telephone, a second email was sent. This email’s messaging featured a personal touch and referenced the earlier email and phone call. The second email was also followed up with a call.

The campaign resulted in a 13.4% average conversion rate, with a conversion being a scheduled meeting, and 15.9% of prospects scheduling meetings becoming customers. All of this amounted to a 300% ROI on the campaign.

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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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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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Customer-centric Marketing: 7 triggers to engage customers and build loyalty [More from the blogs]

Creating Customer-centric Messaging for Optimal Lead Generation [Webinar replay]

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John Tackett

Lead Generation: It’s all about building relationships

August 4th, 2014

“I think at its core, lead generation is really about relationships,” said Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Revenue Optimization, MECLABS.

In a recent interview, Brian sat down with Steve Gershik of to talk a little shop about the fundamentals of lead generation, what’s new (and unchanged) in the world of the complex sale, and how empathy marketing is the way forward.

Here’s a transcript of that discussion:

Steve Gershik: My guest today is Brian Carroll. Brian is an old friend of mine, CEO of In Touch, which is a MECLABS company and an author of the industry defining book, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, which I think you started writing probably 10 years ago, is that right Brian?
Brian Carroll: Yeah, we are coming up on 10 years.
Steve: That’s crazy! So much time has passed!
I want to ask you about the book. It was certainly a book that changed the way that I think about demand generation in so many ways and you were, really as I started a blog on demand generation, I look to your writing as an example for the right thing to do and you are still bogging and podcasting today a decade later.
Brian: It’s hard to believe. Steve I always enjoyed your work as well and I am really glad to be with you.
Steve: So 10 years ago, you published Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. When you wrote it 10 years ago it was published short time after that. What’s changed since then?
Brian: I think a number of things have changed.
What I think is the way people are buying has really amassed. If you look at statistics like 60% of adults have smart phones for example, which is changed. I remember 10 years ago, people just had BlackBerries and now everybody has something it seems. And so our personal life, or business life, have become enmeshed. And what I have observed is B2B buyers are buying a lot like consumers because our lives are enmeshed.
So that’s changed as well as social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter; [back then] those things really hadn’t taken off to the degree they [now] have so that’s changed a lot as well, just in terms of always on, connected. There are still a number of things that stayed the same but those are the biggest change is that I have seen.
Steve: Now as you reflect back on the book, what are the types of things that you think the ideas in there that are enduring? So somebody can go back and read Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and it is still as applicable today as it was back then?
Brian: I think at its core, lead generation is really about relationships and to the key idea is around being able to identify the right people and the right companies and having a way of initiating memorable conversations and then being able to nurture that dialogue that you started regardless if they are starting to buy with these people – instead of leads, thinking of them like future customers.
So I think most of the fundamental ideas, when I go and right now I’m going to be doing revised edition of my book; 75% of it probably is going to remain unchanged mainly because these were bedrock principles and I am relying on 185 sources that I share in my book, not just my own resources but from many people.
What we found is, knowing who your customers are, getting alignment between sales, marketing and what a lead means. Then being able to articulate your value proposition; not just understand your sales process but to really understand your customers buying process. Ideas like that are enduring and there are very few things that I invented.
What was different about my book is that I took a holistic view; brought many other people’s ideas together in a way to codify that idea to try to take the mystery out of this thing called the complex sale and how we generate leads for it.
Steve: So I’ll put you on the spot and ask you to grade the industry overall.
So you put together the instruction manual for really how to do buyer centric, human-based, B2B marketing and let’s say the industries had plenty of time to receive your message and absorb it; how are people doing? How is B2B market doing in your assessment?
Brian: Well, when I wrote my book I would say industry in my opinion was at a D. I think that we are now approaching C+ level and that is definitely progress.
A year ago MarketingSherpa, our sister company, did research and found still over 72% of the marketers we surveyed send leads directly to sales without qualifying them. So that was one of the things we looked at and one of the biggest reasons why 80% of leads are being lost or being, ignored or discarded when Marketing hands them to Sales or they call themselves so-called qualified marketing leads.
They really don’t match the sales team’s expectations. So I would say from an industry perspective, we have quite a long ways to go. I do want to give a lot of credit to the market automation companies who have been part of influencing the industry.
I know that you’ve worked with Eloqua at the time and a lot of things have happened with many of the companies and consolidation is taking place but what we realized is tools aren’t going to drive transformation – they support it. They support collaboration, but we still need to have some fundamental ideas about why we are doing what we are doing and then have people understand the “why” and then we can decide the “what” and the “how.”
So those are three things I still think are gaps and we’ll continue to beat our drum to effect that change.
Steve: I was excited to hear that you were working on a brand-new book in addition to updating your classic book.
Brian: Yeah.
Steve: Talk about what this new book is about and what made you decide to write it now.
Brian: Well, I don’t even have a working title for the book but what it’s really coming down to this idea empathetic marketing or servant marketing.
This is something that has been near and dear to me which is the main gap I see is that often times us as marketers, sellers or companies; think in a sociopathic behavior in terms of, “How do I get what I want?” And what was driving me is that I have been seeing that if we look at serving our customers and instead of that, given this is something we talk about, but really isn’t practiced.
We aren’t necessarily practicing what we preach, which is putting our customers first.
What I see happening is that we operate out of a place of company-logic instead of customer-logic and so what I have been seeing is that at its core, marketing has a huge opportunity and responsibility to drive transformation inside their companies. And what I am looking to do is have the marketers inside of the organizations, they can have a longer-term view than Sales that is typically focused on the short-term one or two quarters.
They are looking at, “How do we generate revenue now and meet the immediate needs?” But I think Marketing has a huge opportunity to be thinking about the future and how do we serve our customers better? Whether there are needs and wants. And instead of me trying to look at it’s just from my point of view, I need to understand how the customer thinks through the process.
So what I am doing is just writing in terms of bringing this culture of marketing, this idea of transforming marketing inside companies and so it’s going to be less of a tactical book but it’s more about idea and transformative book to help those who want to lead and drive this change and in effect, restore honor to marketing which I think in a lot of ways.
I would like to ask you a question that someone asked you what you did, I don’t know what you would say but sometimes I would say, “Well, I am in marketing.” And people aren’t excited by that. They think I am manipulating people or they may judge that I am in advertising or all those things that’s about not having relevance, not connecting with needs and in the effect trying to pitch people or make people do something they wouldn’t otherwise do, either [through] trickery are other things.
You and I both know Steve that’s not what we’re looking to do but that in effect sometimes our companies, in the interest to drive profits and drive revenue, are forcing us where we are looking at what can we get now in the short-term and then abusing tired and weak strategies that no longer work, which our customers ultimately ignore and we miss that opportunity to really connect and add value.
So if I were to sum it all up, it would be two things – instead of trying to be interesting, be interested in your customer and that really starts by listening.
Steve: You said that a lot of marketing is sociopathic. Now, that’s got a really negative connotation. Talk about how you know if your marketing is sociopathic?
Brian: Well I think it is the definition of sociopathic really is being focused on getting what you want at the expense of someone else. There isn’t a fair value exchange taking place. And so what I have learned in terms of working at MECLABS and we spent a lot of time here studying and trying to ask answer one question which is, “Why do customers ultimately say ‘yes’?”
And what I found is, if you think of the popular movie that came out, “Wolf on Wall Street,” that exemplifies sociopathic behavior.
Steve: Yeah, that’s a great example!
Brian: At the highest!
So that is taken to the extreme, but it is that type of behavior why I think many businesses are struggling. So I think we need to embrace empathy on every level because customers are more sophisticated and they have access to more information. They really are looking at understanding what it is, how do they get what they want, we need to know what that is and give it to them and that requires us thinking like our customer, putting ourselves in their place. Instead of just trying to optimize our marketing, we need to understand is how our customers are really thinking and feeling.
Steve: Now that sounds great! But there are wolves in our own companies and many places. Sometimes those wolves are dressed as salespeople, sometimes they are dressed as finance people, and sometimes they are dressed as our marketing colleagues.
How do you resist the pressure to perform these shortcuts to get people stuffed into your sales funnel as opposed to doing what you are talking about? I guess the question is about to the organization; how do you get consensus in your organization that you are going to change the way that you interact with your customers?
Brian: Well I think that the biggest piece, and this is part of the reason why I am writing my book and I wanted to share a quick story with you. I am actually looking to find other stories and proof points and this is something where.
What we are working on ultimately and what I am working on is collecting the evidence to show companies and marketers that putting their customers first actually has some financial benefits. I want to give you a quick example; this is a company that is a collections agency and I am working actually on lining up an interview with their CEO. And you wouldn’t think of a collections agency practicing empathy …
Steve: Not at all!
Brian: … or putting their customers first.
Steve: Sure!
Brian: Two things that struck me about this company; number one, they received endorsements from Mother Teresa.
Secondly, the president of the company was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. So I wanted to figure out who this company was and why these things are happening and here is what it was – they just started with understanding at the core, their customer didn’t pay their bills and they went to collections for a reason.
It wasn’t necessarily because they had bad debt and when I first started my company, I couldn’t get a line of credit because I had made bad decisions in college and I got a called by collection agents and so I could relate to what was going on and I didn’t have the means at that time to pay.
So I got hounded and anyway, what they said is, “Why is it that people don’t pay?” They started studying the research and they started, instead of hiring collections people, they hired people who actually have customer service background. And instead of calling customers to do things like collect a bill, what they did is they actually incentivized their customer service reps to call customers to find out what it is and the incentivized them based on how many free services they gave away.
Some may not pay their bill because they need a job or the name needed childcare or they had a spouse or a parent that had long-term health issues; all these things.
And here is the bottom line, they gave away free services and customers didn’t trust them. They are like, “Why do you want to help me?” And so this is where we need to answer these questions inside our companies.
They could say this, and this is the truth — when we help you do better financially, we make more money. And what’s interesting about this company is that their average collections 200% above the industry average per customer. And so my point is, they didn’t start with, “How do we get more collections?” They started with, “How do we serve our customer?” And understanding why it is they don’t pay their bills and then actually help solve that.
They are not in the collections business, they are actually in the business of helping transform people’s financial lives. It’s a very different thing.
Steve: That’s a fascinating story.
Of course you hear these stories about obviously Zappos, was hugely popular company, how they created a culture that was focused around their customers and you hear stories about their retail chain, Nordstrom and how they go above and beyond for their customers.
How do you as a marketer inside your company, say you are in a marketing organization, how do you start to change the mindset of your company to start thinking the way that you are talking about? You are not the CEO and you haven’t been recognized by Mother Teresa yet like so many of us, but you know that this is the right thing to do.
How do you actually get started?
Brian: Well the first place I would say is, number one put the customer first and then I would say if you are a marketer, get close to your customers.
So if you have a complex sale and you have salespeople, get close to your sales team and go out with them and actually spend time talking to your customers. And so listen and seek to understand is what Stephen Covey taught us in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
So now do we know why our customers are saying yes? Why are they buying from us? What steps are they taking and read in the backside, what difference have we made? What are the gaps and problems they have?
Because what I find is, is that we as marketing need to be empathetic and intuitive to listen and understand. The only way we can do that is to get to the people who are talking to their customers or talk to our customers directly. I would say come at it not from a marketing point of view but really just being people with people, have a real conversation. So don’t look at how I am going to take this knowledge and put it on another campaign. I really think that we need to think of marketing as a conversation instead of pushing my agenda.
What I want to know is demonstrate first of all a good conversation starts with two people who are interested in hearing what one another has to say and so this is where I would say in some companies it means you need to be interested in the world of your salespersons because they are your customers B2B marketer. And then you also have your outside customer whom they are looking to reach.
You need to influence both. So that is how I would say and there is certainly a lot more that I could add but that’s the place I would start.
Steve: Now a lot of folks are new to marketing, young marketers in their career or marketers looking to advance inside of the career of marketing. What are some of those essential skills that you would recommend that these marketers acquire in order to continue to advance in their careers?
Brian: I think the marketers that are going to grow today and I look around and I see there is a gap right now in leadership and the biggest skill I think marketers need to develop is empathy. That is something that can be learned. Some people are naturally more gifted, but that’s really being really understanding and building influence with people starts with connecting with them.
So I would say that empathy is an essential skill.
The other thing that I would say is from an internal perspective get influence with how your company works and so I would say that marketers really need to have a connection that it’s not about moving a KPI like how many emails you are sending or getting opened or how many new subscribers get your newsletter or how many more completions you get on the form, but get influence.
Influence, in terms of understanding what’s the impact of marketing, so for example, rather than looking at how do we get more leads, I would start answering questions like, what percentage of pipeline is the leadership team looking for marketing to contribute?
So getting influence in the language of your business and the language of your customer [are] two essential skills I think marketers need to have.
I think the third thing is just being more, in their view, more open in terms of collaborating and that’s working with people who are in proximity to your customer. And so really getting close to those who understand your customer whether that’s the sales team, inside sales team, sales engineers, customer service people, building relationships with other groups.
I think those marketers are going to be leaders in companies, they are leaders who can bring down the silos; last side of the information technology. I have seen reports, I don’t know that I necessarily agree.
That’s just the CMOS spend more in technology than the CTO. At least more companies and exposed to I don’t think that’s the case. Only time will tell but I would say that realize that you need to be the glue that’s bringing all the other parts together with that focus on the customer.
Steve: As part of MECLABS, you get a front row seat at really some of the interesting trends that are developing.
Brian: Yeah.
Steve: Research that is coming out. What are some of the interesting things that you are seeing these days?
Brian: Well, there are a lot of things.
The first thing I would say is we have seen that across the board, marketing channels in general are having lower and lower response rates.
We did a study of B2B buyers and what we found is that when we looked at those who influenced the buying decision versus those who are the decision-makers, the influencers felt in the area of 70% of the time, they were the ones who discovered the vendor they ultimately bought from.
And the other side, decision-makers felt 80% of the time they were the ones who discovered the vendor. So to me I found that really interesting when you consider all the billions of dollars spent on marketing, that the customers are the ones feeling they are the ones who found the company they ultimately bought from which I thought was pretty fascinating.
Steve: Well it’s interesting and it helps inform our marketing right? So if we can help them feel like they discovered our companies, then we would have achieved something significant!
Brian: Yes, yeah and Steve, that’s the biggest thing that I have also seen, it’s just there is more and more companies beginning to embrace and that would be the second thing I have seen, testing and optimization is moving from a theory and a concept a few companies employ and in fact bringing science to marketing.
That we’ve seen a huge shift in more marketers embracing, seeing optimization in titles, I am seeing testing being done and testing platforms used.
So more and more marketers aren’t just guessing but they are actually looking to build evidence to understand what their customers are doing and why they are doing it and also figuring out how to be better at marketing and connecting with their customer, too.
Steve: Brian, thanks for joining me here today.
Brian: Thank you!

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David Kirkpatrick

Now, Go and Do: Create standardized, well-understood metrics for your organization

July 28th, 2014

Last week’s MarketingSherpa Email Newsletter case study – Marketing Analytics: How a drip email campaign transformed National Instruments’ data management – covered an issue that affects many marketers in the digital marketing world: drowning in data that is potentially inaccurate.

National Instruments, a global B2B company with a customer base of 30,000 companies in 91 countries, developed a drip email campaign around its signature product.

The campaign was beta tested in three key markets: United States, United Kingdom and India.

After the test was completed, the program rolled out globally.

The data issue came up when the conversion metrics dropped. The beta test converted at 8%, the rollout at 5%, and when a new analyst came in to parse the same data set without any documentation on how the 5% figure was determined, the conversion rate dropped to 2%.

For this B2B Lead Roundtable Blog post, I wanted to offer what that team shared with MarketingSherpa to meet, or maybe even avoid, a data management problem.

For the case study, I interviewed Ellen Watkins, Manager, Global Database Marketing Programs; Stephanie Logerot, Database Marketing Specialist; and Jordan Hefton, Global Database Marketing Analyst; all of National Instruments at the time. Ellen’s current title is Global Marketing Ops Training Manager, and both Stephanie and Jordan have moved on to other opportunities.

Here is the insight all three provided on what they learned from a marketing challenge created by the advent of big data.

Create a consensus on data management standards

Ellen had some straightforward advice for marketers looking to improve data handling and reporting.

“First, have the hard conversation in advance,” she said. “Identify and define what it is you’re doing. What is the conversion to customer? And when does that start to [happen] and when does that end? And, for us, there was a lot of restarting analysis [on] this date and ending it on this date.”

For documentation, Ellen said it was key to have one version of the truth behind the data, and also to have a single definition of the report to ensure alignment across the enterprise.

Understand the tech tools

Jordan, as an analyst, added it’s important for marketers to understand the limitations of the systems and tools that are in place. Ask questions about what is possible from a reporting standpoint.

It’s possible that as a marketer, you’ll be able to maximize the potential of the technology by requesting particular reporting metrics from your analysts.

Stephanie said to make sure you prepare your stakeholders for the changes that accompany a shift in the way data is parsed.

“The numbers might look a little bit scary,” she said. “Just be ready to explain why they are the way they are, and that you are getting more targeted, more relevant data.”

Communicate with stakeholders

Stephanie explained that it’s important to be able to communicate to those stakeholders who most likely are not familiar with the processes that produced those metrics, and then also to trust the numbers that are provided by the people doing the analysis.

She said just being able to provide internal stakeholders with solid, consistent reporting was a major key to success.

Documentation is paramount, according to Jordan, because it’s “so important to leave a trail of bread crumbs so that you understand it – if you go back a year later, anyone on the team can pick up on the information that you put together and be able to decipher it.”

Ellen said, “My big picture takeaway is the impact of the data. Not only the impact to business, but the impact to the decisions that we’re making. The impact in the trust of our stakeholders. It really is impressive to see the value that it’s bringing.”

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