August 29, 2008

Pushing Prospects through the Pipeline

A recent Marketing Sherpa report addresses lead nurturing best practices, and is a helpful update on how to best reach prospects once they've engaged with your content, but not independently returned to your site. By applying the practices outlined in Lead Nurturing Best Practices: New Data, Charts, Tips to Put More Punch in Your Cultivation Tactics, you can align your lead nurturing program with what's shown to be working industry-wide. In compiling this report, Marketing Sherpa partnered with Eloqua (a lead management & demand generation powerhouse) and On24 (a leader in the virtual event and webinar space), to survey over 1000 marketing professionals to learn about their lead nurturing methods.


According to the report, lead generation isn't what's difficult - with the general thinking being that most lead generating companies already have plenty of leads, they just don't have plenty of sales ready leads. In order to deliver high-quality, sales-ready prospects to your sales team, you need to put your energies into nurturing your existing leads over the long term, and expect that it will take up to 24 months for some of your leads to turn into sales. To effectively nurture leads over the long term, your lead nurturing programs need to be elevated within your organization, and given the same kind of time and energy that's put into generating leads.

The Marketing Sherpa report touches on a few key concepts that I've examined and explained in further detail below:

Best Practice #1. Use multi-media touches to nurture leads

In order to effectively reach your prospects, you need to use more than email newsletters or triggered email messages to move leads through your sales pipeline. While email marketing is a tried-and-true method of nurturing leads, you need to do more. According to the report, a combination of email messages, direct mail, and telemarketing efforts works best when trying to segment your leads.

If you really want to reach people where it counts, you can look to telemarketing as a tool to help increase your brand awareness, determine where in the buying cycle prospects are, and offer educational materials to help further their awareness of your company, products and services. Direct mail is a great way to invite people to virtual and face-to-face events, and remind users of new content or marketing materials they might want to check out on your site. Email marketing is a good tool for drip-nurturing, and can be employed when you have a group of prospects that are actively involved in researching solutions, and want to nudged along with new content or new information related to your offerings.

Best Practice #2. Quick response to Web leads can maximize conversions

With our always-on world, it's no longer good enough to wait 24-hours before making contact with a new prospect. With so many competitors vying for the same sets of eyes, it's crucial that you cement your relationship with new leads inside of an hour (!). And according to the Marketing Sherpa data, "calls placed within five minutes of receiving a Web lead have the highest likelihood of making contact."

To achieve this kind of real-time responsiveness, you need to move toward automating your lead generation and reporting processes, so that leads land in your CRM system as soon as they're generated. And while moving from weekly lead reports to automated reporting processes might require an overhaul of your entire lead management practices, doing so may also significantly improve your overall sales.

Best Practice #3. Use a lead scoring system

Lead scoring is a great way to segment your leads and determine how best each prospect should be nurtured through the pipeline. By rating leads based on a series of filters, such as their location, their time frame for implementing a solution, or their role in the IT decision making process, you can place your leads in separate silos, and nurture each group according to their specific needs.

Scoring is also an effective way to separate the "wheat from the chaff," and figure out how long any given lead should require nurturing before they reach sales readiness. While some leads may enter your sales pipeline with low scores, you can develop strategies for nurturing those prospects and keep your pipeline full as each group of leads receives your messages and moves through the buying process.

By scoring leads, automating reporting so that leads are contacted immediately upon entering your CRM system, and nurturing your scored and segmented prospects with a variety of tools, you should be able to accelerate your sales as you continuously move leads through the pipeline.

You can learn more about Lead Nurturing by listening to this podcast from The Innovative Marketer, What is lead nurturing and why should you care?

July 17, 2008

Saying Hello Sets the Stage

welcome_revised.jpgEmail marketers are constantly working to attract new subscribers, but maintaining lists, developing relationships with new members, and retaining users is equally, if not more important when it comes to creating high-value, sales-ready leads. To determine how companies welcome new members, Return Path, an email services company, signed up for 61 email programs and examined how they were treated once they expressed interest in a company's offerings by handing over their personal information.

In their recently published research study, Creating Great Subscriber Experiences: Are Marketers Relationship Worthy?, Return Path analyzed their email subscription experiences, and concluded that most email marketers don't appreciate the timeliness and value of welcoming new members to their sites.

While best practices suggest that marketers should send a welcome email to new subscribers (preferably within 24-hours of attaining the new member), Return Path found that 60% of the companies they tested failed to send a welcome message, and 30% failed to send new members any messages within the first 30 days of the subscriber's registration.

By ignoring these new members, companies lose the opportunity to engage prospects early in their buying process, and immediately after expressing interest in the company. The fact that someone has taken the time to register for an email program is indicative of a high level of interest, and suggests that they would be receptive to starting a dialog or relationship. Ideally, you want to strike while the iron is hot and send a confirmation/welcome message to new subscribers within the first 24-hours of receiving their data.

Sending welcome messages so quickly benefits both parties too. New members will know that their information was properly submitted and received, will have their subscription data (or a link to their subscription data) for future reference, and will know that their interest in your company has not gone unnoticed. At the same time, email marketers benefit by confirming that their new users have entered deliverable email addresses, by increasing their brand awareness with a branded email message, and by giving the new member an opportunity to immediately engage with additional marketing materials.

According to the Return Path study however, it took an average of 9 days for companies to send their first messages after obtaining new subscribers. Once a new member has hit the "submit" button on your site, you have basically been invited to send them a message and welcome them to your site. When you overlook this crucial step, you lose out on quickly segmenting, qualifying and engaging some of the most interested prospects on your email lists. You also fall behind in keeping your brand first-and-foremost in front of these already-engaged eyes, and could lose the lead altogether if they're more effectively courted by your competition.

So the time is now to put in place an automated email message welcoming all new members to your site.
To learn more about crafting effective email marketing welcome messages, check out this compilation of articles and best practice guides from Email Marketing Reports. While implementing a process to welcome new members may seem simple, remember that the first message most of your users receive may be the only one they ever read.

July 09, 2008

Nurture Leads by Segmenting your Subscribers

email_nurture_revised.jpgA recent MediaPost Email Insider article, Elongated Sales Cycles Require Stronger Segmentation by Stephanie Miller talks about the ever-lengthening sales cycle and suggests that the way to handle this is by segmenting users and marketing targeted messages to small groups. In the article, Miller states the need to pay attention to subscriber behaviors, and direct messages to small groups as they reach different points in the buying process.

To develop a segmentation strategy for your organization, first consider how often users are visiting your site. Miller suggests sending segmented messages to first-time visitors, active prospects and lapsed members, but you can break up your member groups in any way that works for your sales cycle. With IT marketing, you may want to segment according to the number of, or the kinds of engagements members have had with your content. If a group of users downloads two related pieces of content - regardless of the products being offered - you might develop specific category-based marketing messages that provide education on specific technologies.

When segmenting your subscribers, it's essential that you understand user behavior throughout the buying process. By knowing, for example, that users are more likely to purchase a product if they've checked out a trial download, you can respond to user behaviors with the right kind of messaging. For basic insight into B2B marketing guidelines, industry reports such as Marketing Sherpa's Business Technology Marketing Benchmark provide a host of insight into user behavior during the B2B sales cycle.

Once you've determined what your users' behaviors mean in relation to their place in the sales cycle, you can develop lead scoring that examines engagements and assigns a score to each lead. Once your users have been assigned scores, you can start marketing to small groups that have shared scores. In using this kind of approach, you are able to automate the process of segmenting users according to their online behaviors, and create messages that meet their targeted needs.

By sending highly targeted messages to small groups of users, it may seem as if you're wasting your time (clicks = revenue), but you actually increase your changes of catching users when they're in need of technical data, a compelling case study or an interactive presentation. Buyers want their buying processes to run according to their own schedules. By paying attention to where your leads are in their buying processes, you come across as being responsive and mindful of your buyers' needs. This kind of responsiveness is highly valued, and users will trust those sending the emails when they feel they aren't being bombarded with ill-timed and inappropriate messages.

Once you've gained the trust of the user, you can continue to nurture them through the buying process, and hopefully turn your prospect into an actual buyer.

May 12, 2008

Presidential Campaigns and the B2B Buying Process

The Presidential candidates seem to have adopted the same marketing techniques used by online marketers, specifically B2B marketers. As strange as it sounds, it's possible to compare the Presidential electoral cycle to the complex sales cycle.

While the Presidential election is a high-stakes race for control of this country's government, candidates still have to rely on marketing techniques to get their voices heard and their faces in front of the masses. The Presidential campaigns are lengthy - lasting from 6-18 months - are education-intensive, and involve long-term nurturing of their target audience (voters). With so many people tuning into the race this year, B2B marketers may want to pay attention to how candidates have attracted, retained and nurtured their supporters, and how they plan on keeping them engaged from now until November.

To be a viable Presidential candidate, contenders have to create recognizable brands that appeal to potential supporters all over the country. In building their brands, candidates have a limited period of time to introduce themselves, educate the public on their policies, and prove that they can be trusted. By reaching out to voters with consistent messaging (signs, literature, buttons, commercials), providing a steady stream of high-quality educational materials (issue statements, press releases, online content, literature), and repeating their campaign's key themes at every opportunity(Change You Can Believe In; Straight Talk Express, Making History Together), the candidates have effectively created recognizable brands that seem to appeal to voters.

Building recognizable brands is also an essential component to running a successful B2B marketing campaign. When sending out marketing materials, B2B marketers work to establish themselves as trusted advisers that can be relied upon and turned to over the course of the buying cycle. To do this, marketers reach out to prospects with educational materials that are meant to facilitate the research phase of the buying cycle. By sending these kinds of materials early in the buying process, marketers build brand awareness, provide valuable research materials and hopefully establish themselves as trusted advisers.

Research & Education
With so much riding on the outcome of the Presidential Election, voters are increasingly educating themselves on the policies, backgrounds and beliefs of the Presidential candidates. To help voters learn about their issues, candidates have developed content that outlines their policies, highlights their voting records, and explains how they plan to proceed if elected. Voters can download issue statements, read press releases, watch videos and study the text of speeches on candidate websites. Campaigns also send out eNewsletters and text message updates to blast their supporters with information about the candidates.

With lengthy sales cycles involving expensive, and often highly technical products, B2B marketers have to provide a stream of educational materials to their prospects that will answer their questions as they progress through the buying process. And because different prospects have different requirements (the technical decision maker vs. the financial decision maker, for example), marketers need to develop content that will reach each kind of buyer at the appropriate point in their buying process. To do this, B2B marketers create white papers, case studies, webinars, product demos and podcasts that users can acces with ease when they're ready.

With an election cycle that started in early 2007 and will end in November of this year, Presidential campaigns have to nurture voters throughout the entire process. By reaching out to users with eNewsletters, text messages, events, and editorial content, Presidential candidates continuously strive to connect with and engage voters. Adding to this difficulty is the need for candidates to raise money from their supporters and motivate their base to volunteer their time, organize events and make phone calls on their behalf. So while candidates nurture voters through the process, they also have to engage people with Calls to Action.

Research on lead nurturing shows us that prospects are most likely to respond to your marketing message after you've engaged them with multiple touches (email messages, phone calls, eNewsletters, etc), and that 95% of initial leads are "green bananas" that need to be nurtured and ripened over time (with thanks to Brian Carroll). Because of this B2B marketers engage in "drip marketing" techniques that allow them to engage and re-engage prospects by reaching out to them over time and building their brand and their image as a trusted adviser. B2B marketers continuously reach out to prospects with eNewsletters, email marketing messages, engaging content and Calls to Action - though these Calls to Action generally invite users to participate in events, download trial versions of their products or watch multimedia content.

Both Presidential campaigns and B2B marketing campaigns lean heavily on the use of content to get their views across- specifically audio, video and informational articles. There seems to be an overall recognition that eNewsletters and email marketing messages are effective tools for getting a message across to large numbers of people at once. And while B2B marketers are still somewhat lagging in their use of social media, Presidential campaigns seem to understand that the way to engage users is to let them participate in the process, and have widely implemented blogs, social communities, and user-generated content.

By comparing Presidential campaigns and B2B marketing campaigns, we can see how large, well-funded organizations are using the same tools to achieve very different goals. In looking at the similarities of the processes required to attain their goals however, it's clear that we can all learn from each other, and consider how some of the candidates' tactics could work in the B2B arena.

April 30, 2008

Educating People to Take Action

obama_revised.jpgSenator Barack Obama is considered to be the most plugged-in of the candidates when it comes to using the internet as a campaign tool. In the Rolling Stone article, The Machinery of Hope, the author discusses how Obama followed in Governor Howard Dean's footsteps when it came to using the Internet, and how initially, that was considered a risky thing to do (given Dean's political spin out in the 2000 Presidential election). With that said, Obama was wise to stick with his online strategy, and his wisdom has paid off in the guise of a robust website that's packed with social media tools.

Obama's homepage grabs the users and asks them to take action right away. Site visitors are greeted with a dynamic window that flashes new content every few seconds; each window asks visitors to take a different action - from downloading his "Plan for America," to donating money after looking at the map of committed delegates. This kind of instant engagement is good for getting people involved as soon as they land on his site, and offers the kind of education voters seek when looking to elect a leader.

Education seems to be a key to the Obama campaign, and the first tab in the site's navigation is "Learn." From this link, users can find all kinds of information about the Senator from Illinois, and even check facts to find out if what they're hearing in the news (or from other candidates) is true. In his "Issues" section, Obama even offers his 64-page "Blueprint for Change," a document that outlines his plan for the country if elected President.

Obama's campaign seems to rely on getting people involved in the process - not unlike Clinton's strategy. From the "People" link where Obama addresses Americans of all different races, ethnicities and backgrounds, to the "Action Center" where he reaches out to voters and asks them to donate money, organize events and volunteer their time, people are at the heart of this campaign. Voters can also sign up for an account on MyBarackObama.com, a personalized online community of Obama supporters, and create their own groups in support of the candidate.

The Obama campaign also has a blog, offers eNewsletter updates, mobile/text updates, ring tones and wallpaper for cell phones and a variety of interactive tools that let voters see how many voters are needed to secure the nomination, and when primary elections are scheduled around the country. Voters can also download all kinds of Obama imagery, and the image above was downloaded right from his site and dropped into this post with little editing.

Overall it seems that the Obama campaign has really stressed the importance of educating voters by providing a tremendous amount of content (multimedia and text) that they can turn to throughout the electoral process. Once voters are educated as to the facts, the website is set up to allow people to form their own alliances in support of Obama and to participate at their own pace.

April 29, 2008

Building a Brand with Social Media

Senator John McCain may be slightly older than his competition, his campaign strategy includes plenty of social media tools that are meant to attract younger voters and reach out to tech-savvy supporters of all ages.

Voters have all kinds of options for getting involved with the McCain campaign when they visit his website, and his site navigation promotes participation. The second tab on his homepage is the "Get Involved" tab, and from that link, voters can engage with the campaign in a variety of ways.

The staff of the McCain campaign clearly understand the need to brand their candidate, and they provide free downloads of McCain web banners, Google icons, cell phone wallpaper, Facebook photos and buddy icons for instant message clients. By giving voters easy access to McCain's image, they are asking supporters to assist in their branding of the candidate and show the world that they support McCain. Consider this - I grabbed the URL for the image above right off of the McCain website and didn't have to resize it or edit it at all to work on my blog!

Senator McCain has also embraced the value of offering a range of multimedia content that can be downloaded and saved for future reference. Voters can find McCain videos, speeches, advertisements, and policy statements on his website, and his Multimedia page has a YouTube logo and videos prominently placed at the top of the page. McCain also gives voice to his supporters and his website has a space for videos created by average Americans in support of his campaign.

Like the other candidates, McCain has communities on Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube, but he's also created "McCain Space," where voters can create an account and be a part of his campaign's community. McCain's campaign blog is written by campaign staffers, includes embedded video, and has some posts that have drawn over 1000 comments - not bad! And unlike the other candidates, McCain seems to use RSS Feeds effectively and has "top feeds" set up on his blog homepage that are easy to access.

McCain's use of social media on his site appears to really promote his brand and engage users to get involved in the campaign. By offering photographs and videos that really show McCain in action on the campaign trail, McCain reinforces his image and builds brand awareness. His site is less focused on user-generated content than those of Clinton or Obama, but in his case, branding may be the best way to attract voters right now.

April 28, 2008

Engage and Nurture with Social Media

clinton_revised.jpgMuch like Senator Obama and McCain's campaigns, Hillary Clinton's campaign has embraced social media as a tool for reaching out to voters and encouraging them to get involved in the political process. Clinton's campaign seems to understand the importance of getting voters involved in the process, and her website includes many areas where voters can get involved and become a part of history.

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
When visiting the Hillary Clinton website, you're greeted with a dynamic selection of comments that people have posted to BlogHillary, the campaign's official blog. Written by members of the Hillary Clinton for President (the campaign's official name) staff, prominent Clinton supporters and citizen-bloggers, BlogHillary addresses the issues, chronicles campaign events, and invites Clinton supporters to get involved by organizing events, signing petitions and adding their comments to the blog.

Clinton encourages voters to get involved by joining one of the Clinton communities on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, by following the candidate's Tweets, or by watching Hillary videos on YouTube. Voters are also invited to start their own Hillary-related blogs, sign up for campaign updates via text messages or subscribe to HillaryHub (a site that tracks Clinton-related news) RSS feeds. From the website supporters can also donate money, volunteer their time, or sign up to host their own events.

The Clinton campaign appears to understand the need to engage and nurture voters over the course of the lengthy election cycle, and provides ample content to achieve this goal. From speeches and press releases to videos, photos, articles and issue statements, voters can find a comprehensive array of information on Hillary's beliefs, voting history, background, and policy initiatives. As this information is always available (and constantly expanded), voters can research the candidate on their own schedule, and with a range of educational tools.

In examining the Hillary Clinton for President website, it looks as if the campaign understands the importance of generating leads (i.e. voters), and nurturing those leads through a lengthy decision making process. Much like the B2B buying process - which involves long-term lead generation and nurturing - the electoral cycle requires candidates to attract voters early on (before their state primaries), and retain them through the national election. During this time (from 6 to 18 months), candidates rely on voters to participate in their campaigns by donating money, organizing events and volunteering their time.

March 18, 2008

Engage and Re-Engage Users via Behavioral Targeting


Behavioral targeting has a bad reputation - there is a common perception that once marketers have your personal information, they know everything there is to know about you, and will use it to intrude upon your privacy. For reputable online marketers however, the use of personal data for marketing purposes is much more focused, and, when applied correctly, actually respects user privacy by only sending messages targeted to their needs.

By signing up for or subscribing to an eNewsletter or website, users "opt-in" to receive marketing materials and thereby give marketers permission to send communications directly to their inboxes. When marketers take this data a step further, and analyze their users' engagement with their content, they are looking at information to which they already have access. Once user behaviors have been analyzed, marketers are able to send targeted messages to those users who have expressed an interest in very specific topics, instead of marketing the same materials to their entire subscriber lists.

When marketers have the capability to track how, and how often, their users are engaging with their content, they can use that data to segment, and further segment their users into niche groups. This kind of data - how often a user has downloaded a white paper, whether they've participated in an online forum, or the fact that they only watch the first 20 minutes of webinars - is useless when taken out of context. But by examining this kind of data to anticipate their users' needs, it becomes a powerful tool in determining which materials will help users move through their buying processes quickly.

According to Phil Leggiere's post, BT and Lead Generation, in the MediaPost's Behavioral Insider blog, this kind of targeting can bring real value to users. He cites the Amazon and Netflix implementation of behavior targeting as examples of behavioral targeting done well. When looked at from this perspective, it seems logical to think that when marketers start paying attention to their users' movements online, they are better able to respond to their users' needs in real-time and give their users what they want.

February 01, 2008

How to Use Telemarketing to Nurture Leads

If one of the goals of your lead nurturing campaign is to become a trusted adviser to prospects as they move along the IT buying process, you might consider using telemarketing to achieve that goal. By introducing telemarketing as a lead nurturing tool, you create a two-way communication channel with your prospects that allows you to learn more about their needs as they learn more about your offers.

telnet.gif In her article, Show 'Em the Love: How You Can Create a Content-Rich Nurturing Strategy, Kathy Rizzo of TelNet Marketing Solutions talks about how telemarketing can be used to reach out to prospects and determine what content they are ready to receive. Rizzo writes that the most effective way to nurture your prospects is by providing them with timely and relevant content that is suited to their purchasing needs, and in order to determine what kind of content best fits their needs, it's important to keep the lines of communication open, which is best achieved through telemarketing.

When calling prospects, you need to ask a series of pointed questions that get to the heart of their buying need and timeline. Once you determine your prospects' needs, you can use telemarketing and email touches to reach out and deliver strategic content that will move them further along the buying process. Instead of simply sending automated content to your entire list of leads, you are now able to break your leads into segmented lists and send specific content that you know will be found useful by your leads.

By incorporating telemarketing into your lead generation and lead nurturing strategies, you recognize the importance of tailoring your efforts to individual buyers and targeting your tactics to fit your users' specific needs. And each time you reach a potential buyer via the phone, you are given the chance to gather data on their purchasing process and refine your marketing efforts to match.


January 18, 2008

Score a Lead, Build a Relationship

Recently I have been stressing the importance of becoming a "trusted partner" to your leads by providing them with a steady stream of informative and educational content that matches their needs according to their place in the IT buying process. If you can reach your users without using sales pitches (especially once they've become a lead), than you can appeal to their needs, on their terms and build your relationships with potential buyers over time.

Relationship building is crucial to cultivating leads, especially those that are relatively "cold." By reaching out to your C and D leads, you start to build brand-recognition and integrate yourself into your leads' research processes. By approaching your A and B leads in a more aggressive manner, you recognize that they are closer to making decisions and may be swayed according to the content you can provide.

There are different ways to nurture leads once they've been scored, and automated lead scoring systems can help you define your parameters and set your lead nurturing strategies in to motion. Perhaps you can program your lead nurturing efforts to automatically deliver new messages to leads that fit certain criteria and have been in your sales pipeline for longer than x months. Or consider that when scoring leads you could design your system to automatically move leads up or down levels according to their age, the number of times they have engaged with your content, and the types of content they have accessed.

Lead scoring does more than let your sales team know which leads are ready to make sales and which leads are cold. By combining a well-developed lead scoring system with an automated and carefully tailored lead nurturing program, you can use technology to help you reach out to your leads and start building relationships. It's crucial that you build and nurture relationships with all of your prospects, and the process of scoring leads before you start building those relationships can help you understand the needs of your leads before you try to satisfy them.


December 11, 2007

Organization is the Key to Campaign Success

As more and more lead practices are automated on the back-end, implementing these new practices into your campaign management can be tricky. With the advent of complex lead scoring systems, email nurturing programs, and long-term lead management, keeping all of the details straight is both difficult and essential to the smooth operation of your campaigns.

With so many details for each campaign, the lead generation team at Web Buyer's Guide determined that the best system for our needs would have to contain information for each campaign (assets used, custom questions and filters, etc), allow us to store, scrub and score all leads, and serve as an archive for past campaigns that could be used to analyze the success of each program.

After reviewing the available lead management tools on the market, we realized that the best way to implement such a system was to build it ourselves. Our outstanding in-house developers and client services team created a robust lead management tool that allows us to manage campaigns from initiation to completion, generate leads according to our client's scoring needs, and analyze the success of campaigns once they've been completed.

By combining campaign specifications, promotional information, reports and lead scoring details in one central place, we can spend more time generating and nurturing leads and less time juggling details and hand-scrubbing reports. At the same time, we have control over our system, and can change it as our needs change.

Juggling campaign details and managing leads can take up all of your time when done manually. By implementing an automated lead management and cultivation system to help you organize your programs, you regain control over the process and free up time to help your clients achieve a maximum return on their investments.


December 03, 2007

Building Trust with Drip Marketing

dripmarketingsmall.jpg Drip Marketing is defined as: a direct marketing strategy that involves sending out a number of promotional pieces over a period of time to a subset of sales leads (from wordspy.com).

One way to cultivate and nurture leads as they move through their buying process is to employ a 'drip marketing' strategy whereby you reach out to prospects with various marketing and promotional materials over a period of time. Each time you engage your leads with new content or offers, you reintroduce your prospects to your offerings, reinforce your brand, and gain credibility as a reliable source of information.

One key way to gain the trust of your prospects is by providing educational information without pitching your offerings outright or pressing your prospects to buy. According to Brian Carroll in Lead Nurturing - Ripening the Right Bananas, multi-touch lead nurturing strategies inspire trust in your prospects and helps build a relationships, and building trusted relationships is one of the most effective ways to turn prospects into buyers.

By setting up a drip marketing strategy where, over a period of time, you send emails that contain increasingly more specialized content (such as webcasts, research reports or podcasts), special offers (such as invitations to events), and links to Landing Pages and Microsites, you continuously (yet gently) nudge your leads until they trust your brand, engage with your content, and eventually respond to your offers.


November 14, 2007

Add a "Refer a Colleague" Link to Generate More Leads

If you can make one change to your eNewsletters and e-mail marketing materials this year, add a button that allows your users to "Refer a Colleague." According to MarketingSherpa's Business Technology Marketing Guide 2007-08, tech buyers are most likely to find out about white papers (and other marketing collateral) from colleagues or through e-mail invitations.

Your eNewsletter subscribers can't all be Decision Makers or C-Level executives with purchasing power (and if they are, congratulations). Rather, your subscribers are made up of professionals who occupy varying roles in the IT buying process. By adding a "refer a colleague" button to your marketing materials, you open up your chances of getting the Evaluators, Recommendors, and Gatekeepers who read your materials to deliver the message for you to Decision Makers and Purchasers.

While it's always possible that your subscribers will pass your marketing materials along without needing a "refer a colleague" button, why take that chance? By making it easy for your users to send their colleagues your materials, you do your best to ensure that any referred users will see your branding, your contact information (including the opportunity to become members), and any other details you include in your "refer a colleague" e-mail messages.

Think of your referral program as another step in lead nurturing - only this time you get the chance to nurture prospects before they become true leads.


November 12, 2007

Turn Off Filters and Start Scoring Your Leads

Increase your sales opportunities and build your relationship with prospective buyers by changing how you approach leads once they've been generated. If you run lead campaigns and only accept leads once they've been geographically, demographically or otherwise filtered, you may be hurting your chances of catching leads while they can be nurtured and turned into sales.

Instead of limiting which leads you'll accept, try purchasing all of the scrubbed leads generated through your campaign. Once you have these gross leads, you can then apply filters and score the leads accordingly. By grabbing all of the leads generated in a campaign, not only do you get a handful (or more) of sales-ready, fully qualified leads to hand your sales team, but you also have less qualified leads that can be nurtured and moved through the sales pipeline.

Scoring leads from A-D (with A leads being sales-ready and D-leads being "cold") helps you sort out which leads are ready to be telemarketed, which leads require personalized e-mail follow-ups, and which leads can be "drip-marketed" over time. By holding off on filters and fences until you have all a campaign's leads in hand, you expand your marketing reach to leads that would have otherwise been scrubbed out of the process.


November 08, 2007

The Process of Managing Leads

According to Wikipedia, Lead Management is defined as "the methodologies and systems to manage customer prospects and inquiries, generally generated by a variety of marketing techniques. Lead management can be considered the connectivity between advertising and customer relationship management that facilitates the acquisition of customers."

In other words, lead management is the series of steps undertaken from the time lead data is captured, until the lead is passed along to the sales team and moved into the sales funnel. For those engaged in generating leads, lead management is an integral part of our jobs - and involves everything from scrubbing junk leads to scoring leads, to delivering leads for your client or sales team to close.

According to Brian Carroll's B2B Lead Generation post, Lead Management is Far From An Easy Task, lead management should be viewed as a process that includes the following steps:

1. Lead Generation (generating inquiries)
2. Lead Qualification (are they a fit? Are they sales ready?)
3. Lead Nurturing (cultivating early stage leads)
4. Lead Distribution (hand off from marketing to sales)
5. Lead Pursuit (sales process and pipeline)
6. Lead Tracking and reporting (closed the loop between sales and marketing)

Do you have lead management procedures in place at your organization, or does lead management involve minimal lead scrubbing and delivery? While automated lead management software is available to help marketers with this process, successful lead management procedures can be implemented without the purchase of these automated systems. If you want to start managing your leads, start with Brian Carroll's six steps above, and ask yourself what you're doing to address each step.


October 12, 2007

Lead Nurturing Revisited

In creating lead nurturing messages, it's important to gently remind your users of their visit to your site before you start your sales pitch. With more and more tech buyers doing research online, information overload has taken hold - and people are simply too overwhelmed to remember every site they visit and every piece of content they download.

A good strategy in creating lead nurturing messages is to pull your users in by jogging their memories. Use personalization if possible - it's always good to address your users by name, but what's even better is to reference what they read on your site and when they read it. Offering additional, relevant content is also an excellent way to compel users to return to your site and re-engage with your offerings.

While it may be tempting to provide links to product downloads or demos, keep your users' buying process in mind. If this is the first time they've engaged with your content, a better offer might be a case study that highlights your products in the real world, or a research report that compares your offering to the competitors and claims yours as the winner. Downloads and demos are effective, but only after a user has gathered research from a variety of sources first.


May 10, 2007

Lead Nurturing – The Method Matters

Not all lead nurturing techniques are welcome by your prospects, and others [which might be welcomed at some point] are mis-timed.

A recent Web Buyer's Guide member study demonstrated how technology buyers generally value each of the follow-up methods of communication after downloading the vendor's content. Technology buyers found the following methods extremely or very valuable:

The take-away? While in-person and telephone discussions may seem alluring and powerful, they may not be particularly welcome by your prospects and may in fact hinder a sale if used alone. Instead, consider using a multi-touch approach that utilizes a variety of lead nurturing tactics, including the onsite and e-mail techniques that are most highly valued by technology buyers. By doing so, you’ll be adding value, context and meaning to your communications – and they will better set up that important telephone follow-up for appointment-setting purposes.


May 07, 2007

What does Tahiti have to do with IT security?

Beware of contests, premiums, giveaways and other types of "Trojan Horses" that are irrelevant to the business case for your product. Sure, if you offer people the chance to win an expensive all-inclusive trip to a remote location, you will increase the response to your marketing offer, but that will not translate into more highly-qualified sales ready leads. In fact, in my experience the opposite is true. You will, in fact, attract more non-qualified individuals who are interested only in your incentive. These additional responses will frustrate your sales team, reduce the productivity of your sales follow-up programs and otherwise become a burden [not an asset] to your company.

Twenty-five years ago, I ran the marketing for an International travel firm, and at that time, as today, the correct incentive was Tahiti. That incentive would lift the response rates and identify many adventure travelers with lots of disposable income. But, that incentive would not produce the same results for an IT security vendor. For IT security, consider a more relevant incentive -- for example, a free copy of your anti-virus product or free registration to a security event. Such giveaways aren't nearly as sexy as a trip to Tahiti, but they better support your security business case, they are relevant to the buyer's journey and the lift in response rates won't dissapoint your sales team.

Choose your incentives very carefully...

- BH

March 07, 2007

Nurture fast...or your competitors will

Brian Carroll says that 95% of all leads are green bananas. Too many of my clients are digging for the 5% and abandoning the treasure in the remaining 95%. Brian's analogy is particularly powerful as I prepare for a two-week holiday in Costa Rica. But, for those not heading to a banana republic...

Start the nurturing process immediately after you've generated a lead from an online engagement.

The first 7-10 days are critical. Remember, prospects whose purchase decisions are imminent will conduct multi-vendor searches. In other words, they are just as likely to enter your competitor's sales funnel at the same time they enter yours.

Move quickly to develop that relationship...

Consider multiple e-mail messages within the first week, followed by less frequent touches that help to re-invigorate the prospect's interest in their business problem, your solution and your company. The use of early email dialogues will actually improve your telequalification stage. And, introducing the telequalification step is critical. A telequalifying company like Telenet, is committed to nurturing leads through telequalifying and to "eliminating the 'black hole' between marketing and sales." The objective is to preserve the sales resources for selling accounts only when the sale is sufficiently imminent.

Create a long-term strategy to nurture all your leads.


February 25, 2007

What is a Lead Nurturing Cycle?

Lead nurturing can be a fairly simply process of diligent contact and follow up. Here is an example of what might happen in the first 30 days in a lead nurturing cycle...

Day 1: Prospect downloads white paper through the Web Buyer's Guide.
Day 1: Prospect receives a triggered e-mail with links to other resources offered by the seller.
Day 1: Prospect takes additional steps by downloading case studies and product literature.
Day 1: Prospect goes to company website and learns more about their potential supplier.
Day 3: Prospect receives an e-mail from company with key benefits.
Day 5: Prospect receives a phone call from telequalifier to determine purchase timeframe.
Day 8: Prospect is contacted by sales team.
Day 21: Prospect receives an e-mail about an e-seminar.
Day 24: Prospect receives an e-mail newsletter from the company.
Day 30: Prospect receives a phone call from the company to determine purchase timeframe and requalify.

After 30 days, the nurturing process continues at monthly intervals as the prospect is contacted by e-mail and phone to assess timeframe, budget, requirements and to determine other stakeholders at the prospect's company who might influence the purchase.


February 01, 2007

Lead Nurturing: A Definition

Kathy Rizzo at TeleNet Marketing Solutions recently defined lead nurturing as follows: "In a complex sales cycle, Nurturing is a relationship building approach utilizing multiple media to provide relevant information to prospects and to engage in an ongoing dialog until qualified prospects are 'sales ready'."


January 05, 2007

Online Lead Nurturing: E-mail is the Key

Call me impatient, but I want to launch my lead nurturing strategy while I have a client engaged with my offers. Two excellent ways to execute your online lead nurturing campaigns are through "link maps" and automated and triggered e-mail messages.

A link map provides a helpful navigation tool that directs the user to take additional, logical next steps along the buying process. So, for example, once you've made your business case through the download of a white paper, consider creating a 'link map' to the next logical options. This may include links to your Web site, to case studies, product literature or even a product demonstration.

Triggered e-mail messages are effective and welcome if they are executed directly after a content download. In additon to directing customers to additional content, consider directing them to your sales person for an immediate discussion. Nothing gets your sales staff more excited than clients who e-mail and call in-bound based on your lead generation strategies. Score inbound inquires very high on your lead spectrum.


November 21, 2006

The Enterprise Beachhead

Developing and marketing innovative products is only half the battle. Selling enterprise technology has become an increasingly complex process that requires more than reaching out to a single sales contact. To be successful, you must work through collaborative teams of decision makers, each of whom may have varying levels of involvement and influence in approving purchases. Navigating this task may seem daunting, but if you establish a “beachhead”–an insider who can grant access to a company’s decision makers–it can make the difference between “getting a close” and getting “closed out.”

Decision making teams include an average of 9 people, from project managers to programmers; administrative assistants to C-level decision makers, and they often represent multiple departments such as IT, Sales and Marketing, Customer Service, Finance and Accounting and Human Resources, as well as outside consultants.1 A beachhead connection can be an ambassador from any one of these departments who will open the door to the organization and give you access to the decision makers who hold the company’s ultimate purchasing power.

According to "End User Tactic Strategy of 2005," by SiriusDecisions, the following roles play into the decision making process:

Researchers/Information Gatherers - pile through the data to find relevant information about the technologies being considered. They weed out companies and products before the actual decision making progresses.

Champions/Recommenders - find a technology they think works for the company and sponsor that technology by explaining its benefits to other decision makers.

Influencers - take on advisory roles and are consulted at critical junctions throughout the process. They may or may not work for the company.

CXOs (generic for “chief” in job title) – craft the vision of the company’s purchasing needs and provide input on the final decisions.

Users/Evaluators - work with enterprise technology purchases daily and are most impacted by its implementation.

While you should try to reach as many of these players as possible, in the early stages of the process most of your initial contact will be with Influencers and not ultimate decision makers. Influencers are worthy of your time and effort, but it is important to remember that they do not have final purchasing authority.2 If you want to shorten the sales cycle, you’ll need to use your relationship with Influencers to leverage yourself as a trusted partner and thereby gain access to contacts with purchasing authority.

An additional step in determining which of your beachheads could become qualified decision makers is to examine the lead generation data you already have. While a key decision maker involved in a prior sale might not have the same buying authority in all sales, chances are good that they can point you toward someone who does.

If you research your prospects, build a strong relationship with Influencers and other leads, and use past lead generation information to analyze buying patterns, you will find your way to decision makers who have the purchasing authority that can close your sale.3

1 Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide 2006, MarketingSherpa
2 Getting to the Top Decision Maker, Kyle Dennis
3 Reaching the Decision Makers, Scott Bekker

November 17, 2006

Lead Generation Campaigns vs. Branded Landing Zones

One point of clarification for my followers...

The Lead Generation Showcase Program that I designed will meet the lead generation goals for clients with a limited set of marketing assets [1 or 2], or where the client’s marketing objective can be met by a single engagement with a content asset. We provide targeted online campaigning within WBG, across the ZDE online network and through our network of targeted newsletters to showcase specific assets and meet the required lead generation goal.

The Branded Landing Zone program is designed to meet more complex demand generation objectives – especially where the product marketing objectives are best served by encouraging buyer engagements with multiple educational assets that build a business case. The BLZ helps to structure the seller’s online sales pitch and the IT buyer’s research process. The BLZ program is designed to engage IT buyers at all stages of the buying process and move them to the next logical step to accelerate the sales process and move prospects closer to a purchase.

The Branded Landing Zone Program actually includes all elements of the Lead Generation Showcase [i.e. we provide the same targeted campaigning to showcase key assets and to meet the lead generation goal]. In additional, the BLZs also provide the following unique features:

[1] Structuring to the online sales pitch: through the development of a dedicated microsite

[2] Lead Nurturing: Effective online strategies designed to encourage additional buyer engagements [link maps and triggered e-mail follow-ups]

[3] Additional Behavioral Data: additional intelligence to support any Lead Scoring Model

As always, send me your questions at barry_ harrigan@ziffdavis.com.


October 20, 2006

Branded Landing Zones - Demand Creation Monsters!

Branded Landing Zones [BLZs] are Demand Creation Monsters and can be designed to meet the most complex demand generation objectives – especially where product marketing is best served by encouraging buyer engagements with multiple educational assets that build a business case to accelerate the selling process. The BLZ helps to structure the seller’s online sales pitch and the IT buyer’s research process. The BLZ program is designed to engage IT buyers at all stages of the buying process and move them to the next logical step to accelerate the sales process and move prospects closer to a purchase.

In addition to targeted showcasing of your most compelling content assets, a Branded Landing Zone provides additional unique features that accelerate the sales process:

[1] Structure to the online sales pitch through the development of a dedicated microsite.
[2] Online Lead Nurturing to encourage additional buyer engagements through link maps and triggered e-mail follow-ups.
[3] Collection of additional Behavioral Data - critical intelligence to support any Lead Scoring Model.

If your solution-sell benefits from multiple engagements to prepare your prospects for sale - consider a BLZ program vs. any standard lead generation initiative. Below is graphical representation, but simply e-mail me at Barry_Harrigan@ziffdavis.com and I'll outline the strategy for you in detail.


Larger Image

October 18, 2006

Critical Purchase Influence: Seek Triple Filtered Sales Leads

The secret to quality online lead generation with any media company as your partner is to focus on leveraging your partner's resources with technology buyers who have already verified their critical purchase influence.

The lead generation process used at the Ziff Davis Web Buyer's Guide is essentially triple-filtered - like a fine vodka. And, the critical purchase influence is double verified. Using this methodology the lead impurities are naturally eliminated through the process and the end result won't give you a hangover.

Filter one: The primary campaigning source for the Web Buyer's Guide is against the Ziff Davis Enterprise database [3.1MM records] that has already subscribed to and qualified for one or more of the top enterprise technology magazines in the world, including eWeek, Baseline Magazine or CIOInsight. Each magazine provides an incredible filter system via their controlled circulation process as each subscriber must verify their critical purchase influence.

Filter two: Each lead generation campaign targets that ZDE database to drive clicks to a gated set of marketing assets [white papers, case studies, webcasts, etc.] and the Web Buyer's Guide registration process must be completed, which includes an update of all contact data, demographics and a definition of their individual role in the technology buying process. By this point, critical purchase influence is being double-checked - and regardless of title, that involvement in the purchase process, is above all, the most critical.

Filter three: Only after passing through these first two filters is a contact permitted to access the sponsored content assets and a download of those assets must next be completed to qualify them for the lead generation program.

Are their ways to take short cuts? Yes, other media firms are mastering all kinds of strategies to short circuit this approach to get results, but the quality and commitment of the sales leads generated will suffer accordingly. For example, the triple-filtered method provides considerable advantages over approaches that rely exclusively on database sources without verified purchase influence, Web traffic networks or search marketing techniques. All these techniques will produce some results, but they aren't triple-filtered, critical purchase influence is not double checked and lead scrubbing is essential.

Hint: If you lead generation partner makes 'lead scrubbing' a key service, you may be dealing with a low-quality supplier. If you want to spoil your sales force - convert them to sales lead programs that use the Ziff Davis Web Buyer's Guide.


October 13, 2006

Title is no factor - work your Beachhead contacts

Enterprise IT solutions are sold to companies not to individuals. You'll need to win over many decision makers in the buying process. If you don't, your competition will find the key influencers early in the process and then stack the deck against you. Never get hung up on titles, when you are generating leads - focus on critical purchase influence.

Once you’ve generated a sales lead, consider your strategy to work with your new beachhead contact to navigate the prospect company's buying process. Find the right beachhead—and they will educate key decision makers on the virtues of your product and encourage them to take a close look at your business case. You want to make your beachhead contact into your champion.

Key purchase influence at the early stage will come from information gatherers and researchers with a wide range of titles and responsibilities – their role is to help you get your messages and critical content to key decision makers that help you build your business case. Engage with every contact [regardless of title] online and via e-mail to move them through the buying process.

Your beachhead is not the only person involved in making this technology purchase. IT decisions will germinate from mid-level tech personal to the CIO. And, key business decision makers may have already built a business case with their technical counterparts long before the CEO ever considers the purchase. Every company today will involve multiple people in an IT purchase and hundreds of titles are now critical to the process [you can thank the Internet from this changing landscape]. For example, the COO isn't technical - so he needs to consult his tech management to move on any purchase. A developer doesn't always have buying authority - so needs to get approval from his manager or VP-level staff. The buying chain is very complex and you'll need to make multiple contacts within that process to move your prospects quickly to action.

Early in your new relationship, ask your Beachhead contact where he fits into his company’s buying process and who else he can introduce you to - to help you make the sale. In the past, you may have thought that your product is only purchased by CIOs, but that may now be wrong thinking - when you discover that the sale is already lost if the decision reaches the CIO without any advocacy for your solution from the lower level technical managers.

Don't assume that you know how every company launches their research phase. Expect to be surprised [hint: it rarely is initiated by the CIO [or even VP level] and if you focus on the most senior level technology titles, you will be late to every decision process]. Mid-level technology professionals and senior business executives often make the best beachheads. Key technology staffers often drive the 'short list' and their recommendations are trusted by busy senior technical managers. And, business stakeholders may help you develop an ROI analysis that closes the sale before you competition is even considered. Both technical and business influencers can help you make your business case. So, use both effectively as beachheads into your prospect company's buying process. And, never get hung up on their titles...


October 05, 2006

Branded Landing Zones are White Hot!

Just came back from three weeks of client meetings throughout the U.S. [I'm counting three days at Pebble Beach which was a total boondoggle with a dozen special clients], and the Branded Landing Zones with Lead Nurturing is among the hottest programs in the online Demand Creation market. Here's why.

We are building on our Ziff Davis success by developing thematic microsites and powering them with our Web Buyer's Guide registration system that allows us to gate key content elements and direct navigation that encourages multiple content engagements - throughout the IT buying process. [We use link maps and 1-to-1 event-triggered e-mail efforts to encourage prospects to move from content engagements to the next logical step in the buying process]. The net result is a more engaged set of buyers who are being accelerated through the buying process. For our sponsors, they get all the critical data [firmagraphics, demographics and behavioral] to help them score the sales leads and prepare them for further nurturing or direct follow up by their sales teams.

Left to right: Me; Bob from Xerox; John from Adaptec; and Dan from DLink after a hard day of meetings [solving all the industry's marketing challenges] at the Spanish Bay course. I'm not including their last names since their colleagues may not be aware of how much fun we were having [but you know who you are!].


August 28, 2006

Google - Please Don't Click-to-Call, Click to e-Mail

Google and eBay announced today a new partnership that will power Click-to-Call ads.

The strategy is interesting and is likely to be a boon to drive up the cost-per-click average for many consumer goods products to a $10 'click per call' from an average of $1 cost-per-click today. I like the concept and I expect it will be very effective for consumer technology sales.

I'm much less optimistic about 'click to call's' potential for Enterprise tech sales, since so many IT marketers are realizing that calling is not the best first step in the lead nurturing process. In fact, tech buyers are increasingly interested in an e-mail dialogue at the outset of a relationship and appreciate IT vendors who respect their desires. That said; we have been experimenting for some time with a 'click to e-mail' function that is working nicely. Users of the Ziff Davis Web Buyers Guide, who download a specific sponsored white paper, will trigger an automatic e-mail message that is designed to initiate dialogue and launch the nurturing process. That approach works - and the e-mail may even invite a phone call.

Whichever approach you try first - Click-to-Call or Click to e-Mail - be very considerate of your prospects receptivity level. You have one shot to make a great first impression. And, you must establish and immediate level of trust with your prospects if you want to move them quickly through the buying cycle.


August 20, 2006

Establish a Beachhead into the Buying Process

Act like a force of U.S. Marines who are establishing a beachhead and then moving inland toward their ultimate objective.

New sales leads - based on a white paper download, case study download or online demo - are simply beachheads into a much larger buying landscape. Use these new sales leads as critical new windows into your prospects current thinking and business requirements. A beachhead – a term I use to designate a sales lead that gives you an initial point of contact into an organization - can be established at many positions in a company and then must be utilized to broaden your understanding of the critical decision makers and the process that will determine the ultimate sale.

It is critical for IT marketers to fully understand the combination of business and technical decision makers that influence the purchasing decisions for their products. Many firms miss the opportunity to establish a 'beachhead' within prospect companies by overlooking the involvement of key business and technical users who are researching their product offerings.

One client recently asked us to qualify prospects exclusively with CFO titles. Why? Because they had determined that the CFO was making the final decision in many cases. With some more in depth study we determined that the CFO had actually played a fairly remote role in the buying process. The real 'decisions' were actually being influenced, vetted and determined by key business stakeholders and reviewed by technical decision makers. The CFO was simply rubberstamping the decision and performing a 'purchasing' function instead of a buying function.

It's critical to sell to buyers not to professional purchasing agents. The enterprise technology purchase is so complex that the purchasing function is relegated to negotiating terms - not choosing vendors. If you wait until the payment plan is being negotiated, you've lost the opportunity to participate in the decision process. In this case, the CFO was not a good beachhead to influence the sale. Beachheads are influencers who are involved early in the buying process when vendor selection is still under consideration.

Instead of qualifying sales leads based on their titles, consider each sales lead with business and technical influencers as a potential beachhead to be nurtured early in the buying process. Then, use that beachhead to dig deeper to determine who within the organization will help to accelerate the decision process.

One crucial step is to research the prospect organization’s structure, past purchases, and their current technological needs. Use this data to find out who has been involved in other IT sales. This strategic information gathering will be very useful when your sales team makes their initial contact.

Don't launch directly into a sales process with your new beachheads- start by asking questions!

The more you can learn from conversations with business stakeholders or email exchanges with technical influencers, the better understanding you will have of the entire buying process. Don’t be afraid to ask who is involved in the buying process. Each company and technology solution can have a different buying process - so get a road map for your product from your new beachheads. You are more likely to find an ally within the organization if you are direct and convey an attitude that suggests that you do not want to waste anyone’s time – regardless of their involvement in the buying process.


August 11, 2006

Lead Nurturing: Get in touch with your feminine side

I'm not kidding!

Marketing - Maternal - Mother
Sales - Paternal - Father

By definition, "nurturing" [Webster's New Collegiate] should foster maternal instincts (to nourish, educate - or even suckle your newborn). Think of your new sales leads as young birds that are new to your nest. Provide them with 'food for thought' and new ways to experience your business proposition at a time when their appetite is whet with interest.

Remember that your sales team is comprised of hunter-gatherers who require an immediate action.

Lead Nurturing is a pre-sales process that requires you to consider strategies that will develop your firm's relationship with new opportunities and requires you to prepare those new opportunities (leads) for the sales team.

Nurturing strategies should be designed to meet the following marketing objectives:

[1] Build awareness
[2] Collect information
[3] Qualify for purchase
[4] Demonstrate your expertise
[5] Build trust

Don't throw the young bird out of your nest pre-maturely. Prepare your sales leads properly and your sales team will love you for it.


August 08, 2006

Don't confuse lead generation with lead scoring

Lead Generation campaigning that imposes filters to limit (and target) results can be useful to consider, but not at the cost of some very profitable sales opportunities.

Last week, an ad agency (new to the Lead Generation game) proposed a campaign for one of my clients. The campaign required qualifying sales leads through a series of white paper efforts for a critical enterprise software technology. The target was exclusively prospects within companies with 5000 or more employees.

Sounds ok, right? Not at all!

I discovered that the software was actually being sold to companies of all sizes and that all of those companies had completely different objectives. The director of sales for the software firm was proud of some recent wins with larger firms (and no doubt had waxed enthusiastically at a meeting) and the agency ran with that tidbit of information.

The client – during a more sober moment – actually had an entirely different objective. In fact, smaller firms represented the largest opportunity to close business during the quarter (think public company needing to report better results this quarter!). Smaller firms were making decisions faster and implementing the software quickly. Therefore, they represented the most lucrative near-term business opportunity and were the highest priority. Once agency, client and I were able to get on the same page, the client reversed the agency’s size filter and focused the campaign on companies with 100 or more employees.

The agency had simply never been introduced to the company’s Lead Scoring approach (they were actually new to the entire concept of prioritizing leads rather than eliminating sales opportunities). In fact, prospects from larger firms, while valuable, were not valued less – just differently – than prospects from smaller firms. Smaller firms represented sales results – now! Larger firms represented bigger results – later!

The agency was confusing Lead Generation with Lead Scoring. Agencies adapt quickly and that particular agency will be savvier for the next campaign. Until then, we continue to guide agencies to serve their clients in a fashion that provides them with the fastest sales results.


August 06, 2006

Buying technology is a process

The sales cycle for Information Technology is getting longer.

From 2005 to 2006, IT sales executives overwhelmingly indicated that their sales cycles were increasing, according to MarketingSherpa's Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide 2006.

That is a very disturbing trend. Setting aside the macro impact on our national and global economies, the micro affect is even more curious to me. When you consider the inherent company benefits that are promised by the implementation of new technologies (i.e. increased productivity, speed and cost efficiencies) - I wonder why we aren't in more of a hurry to make technology purchases which can offer real gains for our companies.

The truth is, we are in a hurry - both as buyers and sellers

As buyers, we want all the benefits of the purchase - but the decision process 'pre-purchase' is getting more complicated, powered by online tools, flowing information and a more collaborative work environment. Companies (both large and small) report more people than ever are involved in the decision process.

As sellers, we are even more impetuous. Rather than recognizing a new dynamic selling environment - we are using our powerful new online tools to drive dated 'targeting' techniques - a wishful strategy that presumes that there is a single purchase influencer, neatly organized by job title, function and size of firm, who will immediately approve an order (so we can play more golf). We are, in effect, guilty of skipping the necessary steps, people and dialogues in today's buying process. And, by leapfrogging the natural order, we are actually slowing down a sales process that is ripe to accelerate.

Doing this blog is labor of love. For more than 25 years I've been a student of the buying process and a self-professed 'speed freak'. I've always used my analysis of the buying process to guide my marketing and sales strategies. And, with this blog, I'll be using that same approach.

I hope that my simple observations and the analysis of our many contributors will help you unlock the buying process for your products and accelerate your sales process.

Let's get started!