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Thursday, September 30, 2010

According to TACK's Buyers Survey 2010, "Email now dominates as an acceptable channel for salespeople to make contact to arrange a first appointment with 84% saying email is acceptable, followed by a telephone call and then by letter."

The 2010 survey reports on the views of buyers from FTSE 100 companies to SMEs within manufacturing, retail, B2B, financial services and business services sectors across Europe, Asia and the US.

Remember that this survey looks at buyer's "preferences", which doesn't necessarily mean "effectiveness" of the channel to generate appointments.

This seems to run counter-intuitive to B2B marketing's perception of email for new business prospecting. With the increase in SPAM you'd expect email to be declining as a channel.

Again, let's not confuse effectiveness with buyer's preference.

It may well be that buyers prefer an approach via email since it's easier to reject or ignore than having something breathing down the phone at you.

Also, we shouldn't confuse a hand-crafted email specific to a person with bulk B2B email.

The latter is certainly viewed as SPAM and has increasing low pull rates for new customer acquisition. The former, we find, can be very effective at securing appointments without ever speaking with the prospect.

From a trend perspective it looks like, as well as email, telephone is marginally up on previous surveys, as is snail mail (we are seeing a lot of prospects requesting info by post, and generally direct mail is having a resurgence in B2B circles).

Fax is down (shock news!) and amazingly face-to-face cold calling is up.

Finally, LinkedIn has made an appearance as a preferred channel. Let's see how long it takes before that gets wrecked.

Judging but the amount of consultants selling "Sales 2.0: get sales leads through LinkedIn" as the new magic bullet, I'd say not long.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's a great image, and one that I snatched from Velocity's excellent B2B Marketing Manifesto.

In this they assert that whilst on the "old days" the sales department saw themselves as the engine room, today's B2B marketer needs to realise that they are in fact the engine that drives sales and that sales are the tires, the "rubber hitting the road".

Their thoughts on the role of "marcom" managers equally made me smile:

"Marcom people provide a valuable service to their companies. Because that’s exactly what they provide: service & support for the sales team. When sales needs a new data sheet or case study: you’re the dude. You handle the trade show stands and e-newsletters. You own the brochures and the website. That’s a valuable function. But it’s not marketing. Not any more."

That makes me smile because, originally coming from sales not marketing, I've always believed it.

B2B marketing should be about one thing - generating qualified sales leads.

The reason that things have changed is that today's digital media now engages prospects much earlier in the sales cycle and in a way that if completely different to the old days.

Think of it like this, you don't have to go too far back to remember when B2B marketing was all about exhibitions, adverts in the trade press and postcards send by direct mail. These all generated sales leads but significantly, the leads usually went straight to the sales team and marketing were told the numbers afterwards (if they were lucky).

Roll forward to today and not only has search and social media brought more people into the funnel earlier in their decision making process (during the research phase when they were previously sat back reading an article in the trade press or wandering the halls of the NEC picking up brochures) but today it's all much more measurable and the first contact point is often now the marketing team.

And this latter point is a key one. Most of these leads are not yet-sales ready.

In the old days these "leads" would be junked by sales.

Someone wanders onto a stand, asks a few questions and the salesperson realises that they're a just a tire-kicker... do you think they filled out their little blue slip for them? Yeah, right!

If you look what's hot in the B2B marketing media it's all about lead nurturing and lead scoring.

Demand generation has basically created a new headache for marketing because it's now having to deal with "leads" which they previously never saw, either because the information was given out without collecting details (think of an article in a magazine rather than a downloaded whitepaper) or the leads never made the cut through the natural selection process of the sales team.

The reality is (which is something a lot in marketing seldom admit) that lead generation is a wasteful process. Almost regardless of the metrics you choose, the number of leads that actually convert to real sales is always a low percentage.

If you run a direct mail campaign and get a 2% pull, you're not able to see the number who opened the mail but didn't read, or maybe put the letter to one side and got distracted by more pressing issues. Obviously, you can throw in a PURL today and track response online, but you're still only able to see so much of what happens.

As soon as you start to get deeper analytics someone's got to manage them. Someone's got to tweak them, measure them and report on them.

Sure, this can be about optimising campaigns to get better results but it can also be about creating extra work that doesn't really impact sales (although, maybe it justifies the marketing spend to get more budget to do more work?)

I'll give you an example.

I was reading a blog recently that went into the intricacies of a particular B2B marketing campaign. When is came to the metrics and ROI it was all about increased traffic for keywords, numbers of downloads, back links, etc over a given period of time (in this case 6 months). Finally, we got down to where the rubber meets the road.

After all this, and a £30,000 budget, they expected to deliver 2 new prospect meetings. 2 meetings for £30,000!

Now I'm not saying that there isn't any value in the other metrics and arguably downloads are just longer term prospects that will convert with a little lead nurturing. But, equally, they could just be more tire-kickers who are draining your resources when you should be concentrating on leads that are going to convert this quarter.

Perhaps, what will eventually happen is that B2B marketers will start to think like sales people.

What started as the dream of measuring every interaction with early-stage suspects has quickly moved on to information overload.

The response? Marketing automation; score everything and automate the lead nurturing process with lots of drip messages so that the cream rises to the top.

In other words, only real sales-ready leads are passed on to sales.

Sounds a lot like my old Sales Director when he handed me my first batch on fresh hot leads: "Now your job is to make most of these go away"

Welcome to the new world of B2B marketing.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

I've always been a fan of John Doerr's articles and recently came across Top 10 Lead Generation Mistakes Made By Professional Services Firms.

Apart from the fact I love any article that starts with a quote from Glengarry Glenn Ross, John's top 10 lead generation mistakes had me nodding all the way through.

Many of them echo my thoughts in my article 7 Critical Success Factors for New Business Development, and are equally valid for firms across the broad business services landscape.

"Relying on one tactic only" and "Not integrating various marketing tactics well" are both key ones for me; integrated lead generation across multiple channels is essential for today's B2B marketing.

Also, "Dropping leads and failing to nurture leads" is right up there for me too. It's what we call pipeline management and is key to maximising ROI for lead generation.

For me, multi-touch marketing is exactly what lead generation is all about for professional and business services firms. It enables you to build a relationship and trust with prospective clients before there's an opportunity.

Think about it, if the first time you contact a prospect is when they are looking "right now" then you're probably (at best) an also-ran for any significant piece of work.

Most clients typically only go out to firms that they already, know which means you had better already be on their radar beforehand.

We have a number of strategies to help our clients open doors and engage prospective clients in a way that clearly positions their firm.

When this is built into a lead nurturing process it becomes a powerful way to develop new business opportunities within potentially major accounts.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

That's not me, that's according to Tom Rodenhauser of Kennedy Information, a firm that monitors consultancies, in this Economist article "Why expensive consultancy firms are giving away more research".

Mr Rodenhauser reckons that thought leadership costs consultancies up to 5% of gross revenues but considers some of it merely "academic masturbation".

Even more astonishing is the idea that most consultancies couldn't answer the question of whether thought leadership is worth the investment.

ROI, it seems, isn't a key consideration.

From a new business perspective, developing engaging content can be an excellent way to open doors with prospective clients.

And our view is that it should always be developed with that in mind, not just to satisfy the academic curiosity of the consultancy.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

CHA have recently published their "Winning Work" survey of board-level buyers of business and management consultancy services.

It's an excellent, informative report which offers some real insight into the decision-making criteria of large corporate buyers when selecting consultants.

One of the things that resonates with me is the fact that "46 per cent say that if consultancies have made no effort to engage them before the tender process then they are at a disadvantage."

As a company focused on directly engaging senior decision makers this comes as no surprise.

All of our clients offer "consulting" services, whether they're a pure management consultancy or a marketing services agency, and they know that in today's overcrowded and competitive markets you need to build relationships before there's an opportunity.

And this is where there's a lot of interesting content in this survey.

You see, if you're reaching out to senior executives you need to bring value with you. It's no use simply calling up and asking if they're in the market for your services. Sure, it can work, sometimes... but you'll be throwing away most of your prospects and for many clients that's just not an option.

The better approach is to create something of value, which could be a round-table event, an executive briefing, or a peer-level survey. This gives you an edge which you can leverage to start a dialogue.

To reach senior buyers in large corporates it's always worth the extra effort.


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