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Posts Tagged ‘sales cycle’

Lead Nurturing: How much content is enough?

November 17th, 2011 1 comment

Optimizing the entire funnel is a B2B marketing goal and challenge – lead capture starts the process, and handing (hopefully) qualified leads off to Sales completes it.

When the sale is very complex, the middle portion of nurturing and scoring leads can be lengthy, and a big part of those efforts is having a sound content marketing strategy.

We’ve written about content marketing quite a bit in our case studies and articles, offering tactical advice. And just a few weeks ago on the MarketingSherpa Blog, MarketingSherpa Director of Editorial Content Daniel Burstein published a post explaining why the value of your content is more important than the length of any one content piece.

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Is one whitepaper and a few articles enough?

Daniel provided a great set of guidelines for creating solid content, but how about total volume? How much content do you need for a sound lead nurturing marketing strategy?

I spoke with Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for the Leads Group at MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), to get his reaction to some follow-up questions from a webinar he hosted on lead nurturing.

One question covered content marketing: “How do you know when you have enough educational content? Is one whitepaper and a few articles sufficient in most cases?”

Brandon’s response was immediate, “I would say no. One whitepaper and a few articles is not enough.”

He says you ideally want to create enough content to fill a “content calendar” aligned with your buyer’s persona and walks that individual through the stages of the buying process.

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B2B Marketing: Combating a shrinking deal size

November 10th, 2011 No comments

Every time I look through the new 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, I find something interesting or useful from this research based on 1,745 surveyed marketers.

 

A B2B marketing challenge

Yesterday, I actually came across a chart I find disturbing:

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Hopefully your deals aren’t moving to the left side of this chart. As you can see, compared to last year, the average B2B deal is declining. Deals under $10,000 have increased (with deals under $1,000 up 100%), and all deals over $10,001 are down.

Similar to the data point that the smallest deals are increasing the most, the largest deals – over $250,000 – are down by the largest percentage.

Yikes.

Part of this is likely attributed to the ongoing economic difficulties. Some larger B2B purchases are perhaps being put off until the financial outlook is better. Although, our research found one reason for this decline:  the economy is causing B2B companies to feel pressure to accelerate their current pipeline and get deals closed.

The problem with this strategic response is that now B2B companies are competing on price instead of value and are offering promotions that result in overall smaller deal sizes as well as including fewer products and services in the deal so it’s a simpler sale.

Another data point from the report also supports this research – compared to 2010, the average length of sales cycles in 2011 was much shorter.

Comparing 2011 to 2010, cycles of:

  • Less than one month, up 15%
  • One to three months, up 4%
  • Four to six months, down 2%
  • Seven to 12 months, down 7%
  • Over one year, even

One common reason for a shortened sales cycle is the deal becomes less complex. For example, Sales might work harder to close multiple one-year licenses to meet their quota instead of taking the time to nail down the all-you-can-eat enterprise license agreement. Read more…

Consumer Marketing: Implementing marketing automation at a B2C company

August 4th, 2011 4 comments

When you think of marketing automation software, you likely think about B2B companies with those long sales cycles, and extensive lead nurturing and scoring to help move prospects through the pipeline. Because at B2C companies the distance from prospective customer to paying customer can be so short, realistically, marketing automation isn’t a necessary tool for many consumer marketers.

And just because marketing automation isn’t a great fit for many B2Cs, it certainly deserves more attention at any company with a longer sales process. Read more…

B2B Challenges: Marketing to a long sales cycle

We just launched the registration landing pages for our upcoming MarketingSherpa B2B Summits — the first will be held September 26-27 in Boston, and the second October 24-25 in San Francisco — and looking toward those events got me thinking about all the learnings I’ve taken away from these last months of digging deeply into the complex world of B2B marketing.

Since I began covering the MarketingSherpa B2B beat toward the end of last year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many marketers, industry experts, and our internal researchers and thought leaders here at MECLABS (MarketingSherpa’s parent company). One area that really separates B2B from B2C marketing has come up many times — the complexity of the B2B sale and the length of the B2B sales cycle.

Our research, based on interviews with 935 B2B marketers in the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, found marketing to a lengthening sales cycle as a growing concern, and the third-most-pressing challenge for B2B marketers today (trailing only quality and quantity of lead generation):

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That same report shows that more than one-third of B2B sales cycles from first inquiry to closed deal last seven months, or longer:

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During my B2B beat reporting I’ve learned quite a bit about three very interrelated marketing areas that address this challenge — the strategy of lead nurturing, the tactic of drip marketing campaigns and the use of marketing automation software tools.

Growing the lead into a sales-ready prospect

A lead generated is very rarely a lead ready to hand off to Sales, and when your sales cycle is measured in months, or even longer than a year, you want to have a lead nurturing program to keep in touch with that potential customer and turn them into a sales-ready lead.

Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Applied Research, MECLABS, explained to me that most lead nurturing programs don’t have an impact on conversion before at least five meaningful touches, and that the important thing is to continue nurturing leads whether it takes five touches or 25 touches to get them to the sales-ready point.

He says, “If you have a nine-month sales cycle, you should nurture a lead in those nine months, and that’s at a minimum level. So that means nine nurturing patterns during the course of that lead.”

Here’s a table from the 2011 B2B Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook outlining some lead nurturing basics:

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If you notice, content is a major aspect of that table. That’s because content marketing is a key element in lead nurturing. New information about your product is a good reason to reach out to the nurtured lead. So is a vendor-agnostic article from an industry thought leader that provides usable information or advice on your business area.

Other touches might include an invitation to an event, such as a webinar, or maybe an executive summary and key takeaway list from an event along with links to video or audio excerpts from the presentation.

Content marketing is not the only piece in a lead nurturing campaign, but it should be an area of high priority focus.

Keeping those touches coming

If lead nurturing is an overall strategy to meet the challenge of a long sales cycle, drip marketing is a specific tactic to execute that strategy. Drip marketing involves automatically sending marketing messages to your list via email or other methods. The messages are “dripped” in a series based on the specific behavior or status of the recipient.

Here’s Jeanne Jennings from a SherpaBlog post on drip marketing:

Drip campaigns take their name from drip irrigation, which saves resources by allowing water and fertilizer to be consistently delivered directly to the roots of plants. There’s less waste than with sprinklers and topical fertilizer application; drip irrigation also provides a consistent level of moisture to the soil, rather than the “soak and dry” experience that sprinklers provide.

Drip marketing campaigns are most commonly delivered via the email channel because of its short turn-around, quick delivery time and cost-effective nature. A drip campaign involves a series of messages that are sent or “dripped” in a predefined order at a predefined interval. Each message in the campaign stands on its own but also builds on the missives that have come before it. A drip campaign is a response to a specific behavior or status of the recipient – and it encourages a specific action.

… and then SkyNet took over

Actually April 19th has passed and I’m pretty certain no terminator robots are heading back in time as I write this post, but lead nurturing does have a powerful tool that makes the entire process much easier to manage — marketing automation software.

Marketing automation offers many benefits for marketers:

  • It provides a trackable database and measurable analytic results for marketing efforts
  • It, well, automates many marketing tasks that previously had to be handled manually
  • For a long sales cycle, multi-touch lead nurturing campaign, it allows marketers to focus on determining the creative elements of the effort — email copy, content with each touch, etc. — and setting the timing and triggers for each touch, and the software handles the actual execution of the campaign

A small business with a handful of leads to nurture can most likely run the campaign manually. A large corporation with hundreds, thousands, or even many more leads will require marketing automation to run an effective lead nurturing program.

Related Resources

Members library – B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

Members library – How-To Increase Relevance: Integrating drip marketing into an email campaign

No Budget and Less Time? Lead Nurturing in Five Simple Steps

Lead Marketing: Cost-per-lead and lead nurturing ROI

B2B Marketing: Calls-to-action and the business buying cycle

Members libarary — How and When to Use Content in the B2B Sales Process