You’d like to take your lead generation function to a new level. But how? The cost of all you want to do is far more than you suspect you can get budget for. Plus, you’ve seen others try new things that didn’t work. They lost credibility and any chance for getting funding in the future.
In this economy, that’s the last thing you need.
Let me share a blueprint that’s worked for me. I first used this blueprint ten years ago to help Denny Head, who worked at Avaya, get the funding that resulted in a billion-dollar sales lead pipeline in 20 months.
When framing your lead generation pilot for your CMO, keep these four critical success factors in mind:
1. Sell a vision.
Lead generation scales sales organizations. That’s a big deal. Sales channels are the least scalable part of the go-to-market machinery.
And yet, a recent survey I conducted with an American multinational conglomerate corporation (the name has to stay confidential for competitive reasons, found that sales reps were spending more than 40 percent of their time looking for sales opportunities (i.e., generating their own leads). Even worse, new reps spent more than half of their time just identifying opportunities.
That use of time has a material cost. It also robs sales of revenue production. If sales reps are spinning their wheels generating their own leads, they’re wasting time that could be better spent closing deals.
So, a very large expense is at stake, far bigger than the cost of funding your most ambitious lead generation plans. More importantly, the potential for increasing the revenue capacity of your sales team can pay for incremental investment many times over.
In addition to the financial benefit, a lead generation model that delivers insight and predictability about revenue production is a great benefit to the C-Suite.
Action Item: Survey your sales organization to find out how much time they spend looking for leads. They may not realize how pervasive the problem is. In the survey I mentioned above, even sales managers underestimated how much time was being lost. On average, they underestimated the amount of time their reps were devoting to lead identification by 27 percent.
Then use the information from that survey to estimate the cost of this time to the company and to reveal how much money the company is already spending on “lead generation.” Then collaborate with sales leaders to determine what kind of revenue production that additional sales capacity might represent.
2. Tie the vision to corporate objectives. Often, marketers are so focused on tactical considerations they fail to see the big financial picture. Each year, the CEO develops a list of strategic objectives. Every smart department head should look at those objectives and position any initiative in that light.
For example, if the objective is higher profitability, then show how lead generation can take cost out of the business. If the objective is revenue growth, then show how lead generation can contribute to revenue growth.
Action item: Find out what the strategic objectives are for sales and then figure out how to tie lead generation to one or more sales, marketing, and/or corporate objectives. Focus on what truly matters to your business leaders. What are their KPIs? If you can move the needle even a little in a metric that matters, your lead generation initiative will be a success.
3. Under-promise and over-deliver.
Too often, marketers think they need to promise a miracle in order to get funding. That’s crazy. By painting a big enough picture of the end-state, you can soft-sell the pilot phase.
Collaborate with the executive stakeholder(s) about their priorities and success metrics. As best you can, moderate expectations. Remind everyone of the impact of the buying cycle on revenue production. The buying cycle will elongate the payback.
And make sure everyone understands the need to test and iterate during the pilot. In fact, I always stress the importance of continuous improvement through a repeatable process and scientific experimentation. It works in manufacturing. Why can’t it work in marketing?
Action item: Find relevant examples of counter-intuitive marketing experiments that produced big results. (Hint: Our sister company, MarketingExperiments, is a great resource).
4. Provide a roadmap.
A vision is great, but you need to have a practical plan on how to get from wherever you are today to where you’d like you’re company to be. Maybe you need to improve the marketing database. Maybe your content strategy needs re-engineering. Perhaps you need to do lead nurturing and lead scoring in a new, shiny marketing automation system.
And maybe you need to tie social media into the mix and convert more visitors into leads via paid search. And, well, the list is endless and growing all the time with cool possibilities.
There are “go-fast” scenarios and “stick-your-toe-in-the-water” scenarios. Which one is right for you depends on the risk appetite of the sponsoring executive, your personal track record, and the perceptions of lead generation in the company.
Action item: Collaborate with the sponsoring executive on a road map. Explain that there are many ways to get to lead generation Nirvana and it all depends on the tradeoff between the level of proof required and desire for speed and scale.
While there are many important considerations, I’ve found that these four factors are essential to get executive buy-in and to the long-term success of your lead generation initiative.