Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust

November 17th, 2014

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

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

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

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

But two things were missing: relevancy and trust.

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

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


Don’t sell – be relevant

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

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


You can’t automate trust 

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

Building that trust takes time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Build trust with lead nurturing

Look up the definition of “nurture.”

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

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

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


You might also like

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

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

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

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

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David Kirkpatrick

Marketing Automation and SMBs – an Overview

November 10th, 2014

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

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

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


Why marketing automation software is relevant to SMBs

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You might also like

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

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

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

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

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Brian Carroll

Introduction to Lead Management

November 3rd, 2014

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


Lack of lead management impacts lead conversion and ROI

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

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

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

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

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

A lead nurturing program has not been implemented.

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


Lead management defined

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

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

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

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

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

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


Marketing automation alone doesn’t equal lead management 

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

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

Lead management requires the following elements:



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



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



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

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


You might also like

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

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

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

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

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Brian Carroll

10 Ways to Optimize Your Lead Conversion Rate

October 27th, 2014

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

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


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

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


2. Go beyond what they expect.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


6. Focus on increasing relevance with your lead nurturing.

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


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

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


8. Improve Sales, marketing systems and process alignment.

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


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

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


10. Engage in lots of testing beyond lead capture.

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

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


Photo Attribution: Jack Rose


You might also like

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

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

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

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Lead Management , ,

Brian Carroll

Where’s the Passion in B2B Marketing?

October 20th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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


Creating engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


You might also like

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

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

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

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

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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]

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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


You might also like

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


You might also like

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]

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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

You might also like

Leading Change: Why transformation efforts fail [from the Harvard Business Review]

The Difference Between Change and Transformation [from]

How a Single Source of Data Truth Can Improve Business Decisions [More from the blogs]

Red Bull Media House’s Advice for Successful Content Marketing [More from the blogs]

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

You might also like

Lead Generation: How using science increased teleprospecting sales handoffs 304% [More from the blogs]

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

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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