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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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Posted by: David Regler @ 7:38 am |   | Links to this post  

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