Posts Tagged ‘lead nurturing’

B2B Tactics: Maximizing marketing efforts in a tough economy

August 11th, 2011

The current global economy has been a tough place for quite some time, and this week’s events on Wall Street aren’t providing any reassurance that things will pick up any time soon. Throw in a bleak forecast from the federal government, and it’s enough to make a marketer wonder which way to turn.

Jen Doyle, Senior Research Manager, MarketingSherpa, and I had a recent chat on this very subject. She offered some advice to help focus marketing efforts, even when resources are tight.

It all begins with the lead …

Tight resources include time, staffing and budgets, and Jen says, “Because of this, the quick fix is sought after. The truth is, in order to get results and convert modern buyers in a struggling economy, we have to address the full spectrum of the funnel.”

She offered six big picture tactics to help uncover and convert new prospects: Read more…

B2B Marketing: 3 tips for getting past the telephone gatekeeper when nurturing leads

July 28th, 2011

Lead nurturing is an important part of the longer B2B buying cycle. Not every lead generated is completely ready to become a customer.

Having a process in place that keeps that person in the buying cycle allows you stay visible and provides regular touch points for the nurtured lead. Most lead nurturing programs are very content-heavy and include phone calls and emails sent to the lead offering industry or company information they might find useful.

Lead nurturing by telephone is the more time-intensive effort. Phone calls also offer the opportunity to create a strong connection with the lead. It’s relatively easy to set up an automatic email send with a link to an interesting industry article, or with a white paper attached as a PDF. A phone call provides a great opportunity to discover more information about your lead’s buying cycle and what content they find most valuable.

When calling that lead, you may run into the same problem faced by any teleprospector conducting anything from cold call sales all the way to reaching out to customers — the gatekeeper.

That’s the person somewhere along the trail of that phone call takes that simply says, “No, you cannot speak with that person.”

So if you have a teleprospecting team making these nurturing calls for you, you must make sure that they have more than a great script. They must also have a successful process in place to actually get a hold of the decision maker or influencer.

Three tips to get past the gatekeeper

Facing that roadblock can be frustrating, but Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for the Leads Group, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), has three tips to help you reach the person you want to speak with. As part of our Leads Group, he has plenty of experience picking up the phone and reaching out to prospects and leads. Read more…

B2B Lead Generation: 4 ways to use teleprospecting in your next pilot (and 2 ways to measure it)

July 7th, 2011

While digital marketing and social media are all the rage (and rightly so), there are a number of reasons for B2B marketers to use teleprospecting as a foundational element of their lead generation strategy.  In fact, for those marketers who don’t own the teleprospecting function, here are nine reasons you should.

If you are trying to reach prospects who won’t spend more than $10k to $15k per year for your products or services, then using the phone for lead generation will probably not prove economically viable. You need to use lead scoring and route those leads to an inside sales team or your indirect channel.

If you have higher value deals, teleprospecting can be a valuable tool.

It is especially useful for pilots. Consider these four ways you can use teleprospecting in a pilot scenario:

  1. Conduct end-to-end lead generation. Teleprospecting can function as an end-to-end lead generation capability. That is, you can generate demand and then qualify and nurture leads all within the teleprospecting function. That means there are fewer moving parts. For those marketers that need to demonstrate the potential of lead generation, fewer moving parts simplifies measurement and coordination issues.
  2. Leverage small sample sizes. The conversion rates are usually much higher with teleprospecting than with other forms of contact so the sample size can be much smaller. This factor is especially helpful if you want to focus on large accounts where the deal sizes are often large and the number of accounts to call is low.
  3. Gain valuable market feedback rapidly. You can get on-going quantitative and qualitative market feedback. If you have digital recording technology, you can even hear exactly what customers are saying. I love statistics. But sometimes, to more deeply understand market behaviors and attitudes, you must hear how potential customers respond to your value proposition. In fact, even if you can’t conduct a statistically valid test, you can use teleprospecting to get directional indicators and then leverage more scalable media.
  4. Experiment. Because of this depth of feedback, you can experiment extensively with targeting, messaging, cadence, and integration with other channels and then make rapid course corrections.   For example, you can test leaving voice mails or not, the timing of calls and emails for both lead follow up and for lead generation, the interplay between phone and email, and much much more. This is a factor that is inexplicably under leveraged by B2B marketers.

Measure the ROI

Let me add a final word about measurement in a pilot.  From an executive standpoint, there are two ways to measure the financial benefit of teleprospecting:

1. As a tool for qualifying and nurturing leads. The issue is whether the added cost is worth it.  The simple equation would be this:

ROI = (cost of generating inquiries + cost of teleprospecting + sales costs)/revenue from the qualified leads.

That will give you an expense-to-revenue ratio that your CFO will appreciate. The reason to include sales costs is because the quality of leads can either increase or decrease sales productivity.

2. As a demand-generation channel. In this case, you are looking at teleprospecting as one of many ways to generate demand and so you’re trying to see where it works best so that you can allocate sufficient budget to it relative to other choices.  The simple equation would be this:

ROI = (cost of teleprospecting + sales cost)/revenue from the qualified leads

If you were integrating outbound teleprospecting into other forms of outbound contact (e.g., following up a direct mail package with a phone call), then you would need to include the costs of all of the integrated demand generation channels.

You may need to estimate sales costs.  One way to do that is to set up a control group that gets leads and one that does not.  You can then get sales budget numbers for each group.   

Make sure the lead volume uses as much of the sales capacity of the test group as possible.  Then you can simply measure the revenue difference between the two groups.

The good news is, it’s not uncommon for teleprospecting to yield at least 20 dollars of revenue for every dollar of investment. So the ROI is often outstanding.

Related Resources

Lead Generation: 4 critical success factors to designing a pilot

Lead Generation: How to get funding to improve your lead gen

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

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

  1. As a tool for qualifying and nurturing leads. The issue is whether the added cost is worth it.  The simple equation would be this:

ROI = (cost of generating inquiries + cost of teleprospecting + sales costs)/revenue from the qualified leads.

That will give you an expense-to-revenue ratio that your CFO will appreciate. The reason to include sales costs is because the quality of leads can either increase or decrease sales productivity.

Lead Generation: 4 critical success factors to designing a pilot

June 30th, 2011

In my last blog post, I talked about getting funding by framing a strategic lead generation initiative properly for the sponsoring executive. Let’s talk about the first step on the road to an improved lead generation capability –  configuration of a pilot.

While there is an infinite number of ways to develop a pilot, a well-designed pilot depends on:

  • The current gaps in your lead generation machinery
  • Perceptions of lead generation in the C-Suite,
  • The risk appetite of the company
  • And your own credibility.

These four guiding principles, however, can help you scope a pilot in a way that leads to long term-success:

1. Start where the economics are most forgiving.

There are two big economic factors to keep in mind when designing a lead generation pilot.

The first is the deal size (or annual recurring revenue or lifetime value). The smaller the deal size, the lower your lead costs must be. Getting to a low cost per sales-ready lead takes a great deal of efficiency and scale. So why target a market where you must be highly efficient to have success?

The second economic consideration is probability of purchase. Customers, for example, are typically more likely to buy something else from you than non-customers are. There may be vertical markets or other segments where your products or services have a better success rate. Responders are more likely to buy than non-resonders. The higher the probability of purchase, the higher your conversion is going to be and the lower, therefore, your average deal size can be.

Combining a high potential average order size with a high probability of purchase gives marketers the most room for mistakes and course correction.  So play it safe.

Action item: Start with the most probable segment where you can sell big ticket items so that you have lots of room to experiment and course-correct and then test and iterate your way to the margins of your market.

2. Keep it simple

Lead generation has gotten very complex. You are not going to be able to optimize everything at once. So don’t try. Instead, tackle things in stages and look for ways to narrow the scope: fewer sales people receiving leads, a single solution area and/or market segment, and so on.

Action item: Once you determine where the low-hanging fruit is, figure out how to narrow the scope of what you’re doing so that it manageable by clarifying the objective and using that objective to simplify the pilot.

3. Make the pilot long enough for course corrections

Too often, marketers do not give themselves the room to learn and improve. New teleprospecting reps, for example, need 30 to 60 days to get reasonably good at what they do, and that’s assuming you have the right playbook and training to give them.

You may need time to see what competitors are doing, analyze online traffic patterns, refine your service level agreement with Sales for the pilot, or any other of a number things. But most importantly, pilots should be experiments in optimization so give yourself long enough to:

  • a) course correct
  • b) sample properly
  • c) gather sufficient results.

And the longer the buying cycle, the longer it will take to get more definitive feedback on the outcome of the leads. And the lower the traffic, the longer the test must continue to gain sufficiency to project the results with the necessary confidence level.

If possible, make the pilot last for an entire fiscal year with the understanding that you’ll come back to management sooner if possible with a plan for scaling the initiative. That way, you won’t have to go “dark” while management decides on the speed of scaling your lead generation initiative and you’ll have plenty of room for testing and optimizing and tracking results.

Action item: Develop a conservative timeline that shows key milestones at particular stages. Make part of the deliverables of a milestone or two the new knowledge the company will have about optimized lead generation processes.

4. Base the measurement of the pilot on what you can control .

While you ultimately want to drive revenue, you can only control the quality of the leads you give to sales people…not what they do with those leads. So only promise the executive stakeholder(s) that by the end of the pilot, you will give salespeople what they ask for at least 75 percent of the time (90 percent or higher is possible).

You can and should refine your customer profile and lead definition and perhaps even the follow up and reporting processes. That’s what the pilot is for, in part. With enough experimentation, you’ll get to a definition that works for sales and that marketing can deliver consistently and scale.

Action item: Collaborate with sales on an ideal customer profile, a lead definiton, and the follow up and reporting requirements you will need in exchange.

Lead generation is a set of capabilities, processes and practices that you can always improve. So it’s a never-ending journey. And these four design principles will give you the best opportunity for that kind of long-term success.

Related Resources

Lead Generation: How to get funding to improve your lead gen

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

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

Lead Generation: How to get funding to improve your lead gen

June 24th, 2011

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.

Related Resources

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

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

B2B Lead Generation: Increasing leads 296% by analyzing Web traffic – Case Study

B2B Marketing: Combining sales and marketing knowledge to improve lead qualification

June 10th, 2011

Few issues create more conflict between sales and marketing than lead qualification criteria. In the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Benchmark Report, 72 percent of marketers listed generating higher-quality leads as their single biggest challenge, up from 69 percent the prior year. In most cases, Sales and Marketing each see lead qualification from very different perspectives, both of which have value.

In sales, management spends considerable time, including extensive one-on-one coaching, teaching sales people about lead qualification criteria, often dissecting specific sales calls, contacts, opportunities, and accounts. Good sales people soon learn that qualifying prospects takes significant skill and judgment.  Invariably, the best sales people are superb at this skill.

In contrast, the best marketers look at a sophisticated combination of techniques for delivering more qualified prospects to sales:

  • Targeting. By soliciting the right audience, fewer out-of-market prospects inquire.
  • Messaging and calls-to-action. The right message and supporting content will attract the most qualified buyers.
  • Explicit user-supplied information. Registration forms enable marketers to ask qualifying questions, questions that can evolve as the prospect moves deeper into the buying cycle.  Unfortunately, prospects are unwilling to fill-out a lot of information on a registration form so this tactic must be used with great restraint. MECLABS has one case study, for example, that shows a 189 percent increase in registration largely by decreasing the amount of information on a registration form.
  • Implicit data. Increasingly, marketers are drawing inferences about not just an area of interest, but the likely depth of interest, the role of the responder in the buying process, and similar qualifying information, all based not on what a prospect says but on what he or she does, primarily via his or her clickstream behavior but also via other media and transactional information.
  • Data Hygiene, enhancement, and consolidation. The cloud is creating very scalable and cost-effective tools for cleaning up inquiries, appending additional or better business card or firmagraphic information to each record, and consolidating duplicate accounts, contacts or areas of interest. The right processes will typically identify 14 to 21 percent of the lead pool as either duplicate or not usable (e.g., the visitor enters “Mickey Mouse” for a name).
  • Lead Scoring. Lead scoring uses any and all of the implicit, user-supplied information along with explicit and appended information to identify and prioritize records worthy of human follow up.

Leaving aside tele-qualification as a marketing function, the key difference between the approach of sales and marketing is this: marketing uses largely quantifiable techniques, primarily driven by highly scalable business rules and automation while sales uses qualitative techniques that are extremely nuanced and very subjective and invariably much more exacting for a given account.

In other words:

  • Marketing improves the probability of success across a pool of responders.
  • Sales identifies the probability of success for a particular responder.

Customers and prospects hedge, withhold information intentionally, change their minds, and/or misunderstand and even fabricate information.  Sales people use, not just the words of a customer, but a range of information, including someone’s tone, body language (in the case of on-site sales calls), the perspective of others within the account, external sources, and many other tools to evaluate the probability of purchase. While lead scoring is improving every day, it obviously has a long way to go before replicating the qualification techniques of sales people.

The truth is these two approaches are highly complementary

The more sales understands the tools and limitations marketing uses, the more insightful their suggestions can be; likewise, the more marketing understands the criteria and methods the best sales people use, the more marketers can improve their own upstream practices.

Related resources

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 – in San Francisco and Boston

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

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

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Review: B2B Marketing Best Practices – MarketingSherpa 2011 Handbook by Lee Odden at TopRank online marketing blog

B2B Challenges: Marketing to a long sales cycle

May 13th, 2011

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):

Click to make larger

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

Click to make larger

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:

Click to make larger

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

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

May 6th, 2011

Over the last two weeks I’ve covered a number of angles on lead nurturing. Last week’s Sherpa B2B newsletter took a look at five lead nurturing tactics, and yesterday’s blog post was on why you should consider nurturing leads lost to competitors along with tips on how to do just that.

Today, MECLABS’ Executive Director of Applied Research (Full disclosure: MECLABS is the parent company of MarketingSherpa), Brian Carroll provides insight on how to look at both cost-per-lead generated in terms of lead nurturing and measuring the success of a lead nurturing program through return-on-investment (ROI).

Cost-per-lead is the wrong metric

Although many marketers are interested in the cost-per-lead number, Carroll says this is the wrong metric to focus on. He explains by saying if a lead is generated at a low cost, but never contributes to the sales pipeline, it is a wasted expense. Great cost-per-lead number, but terrible (non) contributor to the bottom line.

Carroll believes two metrics that are better measures across the entire process are cost-per-opportunity and cost-per-pipeline revenue. Cost-per-opportunity helps you understand how Sales accepts and pursues leads, and in the long run that metric shows if those leads are actually helping Sales, and if Marketing is contributing to the pipeline.

He says to take a look at your entire marketing expense-to-revenue, and then contrast that number to expense-to-revenue after implementing lead nurturing.  He adds lead-to-sale conversion rate is the most important metric in the entire process.

Carroll states, “We have examples of nurturing programs returning a ten-times return for every dollar spent, and we had other examples of nurturing programs where it is a fifty-times return for every dollar spent, meaning for every dollar that we put towards an existing lead, we are generating $50 of top line revenue.”

Here is a list of metrics and indicators from one of Carroll’s blog posts:

These are real-world metrics that every marketer should track in their lead generation program:

  • Number of inquiries? (people who raised their hands)
  • Number of leads? (qualified as “sales-ready”)
  • Number of opportunities? (leads that move to pipeline)
  • Number of closed sales? (generated from marketing leads)

If marketers know those metrics they can start to track the following key performance indicators:

  • Inquiry to lead ratio (cost-per-lead)
  • Lead to opportunity ratio (cost-per-opportunity)
  • Lead to pipeline revenue ratio (cost-per-pipeline revenue)
  • Lead to sale (win) ratio (cost-per-closed sale)

A value-driven mindset requires leaders and marketers to plan and budget for the long term and to take a more holistic view that goes beyond cost-per-lead budgets.

Using ROI to measure lead nurturing success

Carroll began this conversation by describing lead nurturing investment. He gives an example that if you plan on spending $100,000 on a new lead program, $25,000 of that investment should be allocated to lead nurturing. Lead nurturing should command about 25 percent of a lead campaign’s budget.

When looking at ROI goals for lead nurturing, he believes you first look at the objective of the lead generation program — ten times, 20 times  return or whatever goal you set — and use that goal as a starting point for the lead nurturing goal.

He adds what companies generate from a lead nurturing program is going to be affected by a number of factors:

  • The product sold
  • The brand
  • The value proposition
  • The offer
  • The ability of Sales to convert leads into revenue

It’s also important to remember nurturing programs take longer to provide a return because a typical lead nurturing program involves multiple touches over a period of time, but marketers can point to building momentum toward final conversion as a positive result of nurturing.

Carroll says, “I documented a case study of someone seeing a four million dollar lead nurturing pipeline impact in year one, and that same company, the following year, with the same budget from that same lead nurturing program saw a fourteen million dollar pipeline impact because returns on nurturing over time grew to be exponential.”

A lead nurturing analogy

To complete all this talk about lead nurturing, here’s an analogy from Carroll:

I worked on a farm growing up and the farmer said, “You don’t pick your corn to check if it is growing. You have to nurture it. It needs sun, it needs water, it needs good soil to provide a yield.” And the same is true in these relationships that we are building as well.

Related Resources

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

Are Marketers Measuring Their Success or Someone Else’s?

Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges

(Members library) Lead Gen Overhaul: 4 Strategies to Boost Response Rates, Reduce Cost-per-Lead

Prospect Marketing: Nurturing leads lost to competitors

May 5th, 2011

Every company is going to define its process, but the basic lead lifecycle consists of three parts: lead generation, lead nurturing and hand-off to Sales. Lead nurturing, particularly in B2B companies, is key because that stage turns the face in the crowd with the raised hand asking for more information into a sales-ready prospective customer.

Adam Blitzer, Co-founder and COO of Pardot, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketing automation platform geared toward small- to mid-sized businesses, recently shared an interesting lead nurturing idea he has — nurturing leads lost to competitors.

Often once a prospect makes a purchase decision, and that choice is with a different company, the lead completely leaves the pipeline. Blitzer says there are good reasons to keep that now future prospect in a nurturing program, and discusses how Pardot continues to nurture lost leads.

You have something of a counterintuitive idea — actually nurturing leads lost to a competitor. Is this idea based on research or other metrics?

Adam Blitzer: It really started more as an experiment internally. Since the nurturing is automated, with no real work required on the part of the sales rep, there’s no reason not to try out an idea like this. We saw a fair amount of prospects come our way because they were unhappy with their current vendor, so it made sense to us that someday these leads lost might also be unhappy with their choice and be looking for a new solution.

We started nurturing lost deals back in 2007 and noticed that within a year, we started to win back a reasonable percentage of them.

Explain the reasoning behind nurturing lost leads.

AB: If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense to keep in touch with those lost leads – if your product was on their short list, they saw something the liked in what you are offering. Your sales rep has already invested a good amount of time building a relationship with the decision maker.

Putting them on a nurturing track allows you to keep them informed of new features and updates that you’ve pushed out over the course of their current vendor contract. In a fast-growing, SaaS industry like our own, the scope of a product can change greatly over the course of a year. It’s possible that the feature that cost you a deal might be now be implemented or that you’ve added something new and innovative that puts you leaps and bounds ahead of the vendor that your prospect chose.

It’s really just a way to keep your company top-of-mind in case they are looking to make a change. It isn’t unusual for a company to shop around when their current contract is approaching renewal.

There is also the simple matter of making the most of your marketing dollars, which is the goal of any nurturing program. You spend a lot of money generating leads and even more to generate sales opportunities. If they convert, it is likely a very low touch sale (this time around). You have already spent the funds to try to convert the prospect in the previous year and do not have to re-spend it when winning back the client.

How can a marketer begin reaching out to these lost prospects with a track specific to the vendor who won the deal?

AB: If a good relationship was established with the prospect during the sales cycle, it can actually be as simple as the sales rep setting up the campaign by saying that they wish them luck with their implementation, they’d love to keep in touch and they’ll send them over any information they run across that might be helpful.

Marketers know their competitors well. They can easily set up a different “lost opportunity” track for each competing solution, with content specific to that vendor.

The challenge is keeping automated content “fresh.” The easiest way to do this is to have fairly static email templates that point to dynamic or constantly updating content.

A great example is to have an automated email (personalized from the sales rep) suggesting the prospect take a look at their newest feature and interesting blog post. In both cases the link would just point to a page that is dynamically updated anytime a new feature or post is produced. That ensures that anytime the email is sent out, it points to something fresh and relevant, all without the marketer ever needing to change the nurturing program or email template.

How does timing come into play in this variant on traditional lead nurturing?

AB: The timing or cadence of the nurturing program will actually depend on the competitor to whom you lost the deal. If you know your competitor typically does annual contracts, you can start the program gradually (perhaps one email in each of the first two quarters) and then pick up steam as the prospect is closer to his renewal date.

One of the nurturing best practices we always try to remind people of is to know when to stop. If at any point a lead responds to a nurturing email — that’s a good time for the sales rep to pick up and engage personally with the prospect. And if you’re going to do this, it’s absolutely key that the person be removed from the campaign at that point, to avoid any conflicting messaging. It can be easy to forget this step, but it is so important.

Should the nurturing messaging be based on the winning vendor? If so, how?

AB: It is ideal to use the winning vendor’s name and any other information if possible. This makes the messages much more personal and less likely to be seen as automated. If you do have specific information about the vendor, it can’t hurt to point out the differences in your products, like where you feel yours excels over the competitor.

Should nurturing lost leads have an informal feel, or should these lost prospects be strongly pursued?

AB: While I do think it can be effective to use vendor-specific information that has a strong message, it’s often best to start out with a softer sell, especially at the beginning of a nurturing program. Since the prospect already has an established relationship with the losing sales rep, a personal, informal tone tends to work well.

These emails might include new features about your own product or perhaps even best practices information that could be helpful to them even as they are using a competing product. This best practices information still acts as a reminder that your company is a thought leader in the space and helps keep your brand top-of-mind.

Related Resources

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

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

(Members library) Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges

Web Clinic Replay: How Lead Nurturing Produced $4.9 Million Pipeline Growth in Eight Months

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

photo by: Phil Roeder

The Data Vs Creativity Debate: Is successful marketing driven by analytics or art?

January 20th, 2011

The answer from one marketing automation vendor might surprise you.

During an interview with Kristin Zhivago, President Zhivago Management Partners, for a Sherpa B2B article, Guided by Buyers: Four tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy (members’ library), she mentioned that marketing has undergone a sea-change in focus from 80% creative and 20% logistics in the past, to today where those numbers are exactly flipped. I recently had the chance to speak with Phil Fernandez, President and CEO Marketo, and a 26-year Silicon Valley vet with a present and past riddled with marketing software companies. I guessed this “80/20 rule” was a topic right up his alley.

We covered a wide range of marketing subjects, and in passing I mentioned the 80/20 rule presented by Zhivago and Phil immediately offered his opinion on the topic. We didn’t want to sidetrack our talk at the time so I told Phil we’d get back together and revisit his thoughts. This quick interview is the result.

A surprise that opens a debate

Phil’s answer was more than a little shocking coming from a marketing automation guy, and not an agency, since he sells data and logistics … or so I thought. Read on to find out what the CEO of Marketo thinks about the art of marketing versus the science of marketing.

His response opens a debate on the state of marketing today — is it more data- or creative-driven? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.

During our conversation a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Kristin Zhivago told me marketing once was 80% creative and 20% logistics and data-driven, and now that number has flipped to where logistics and data make up 80% of a marketer’s world and creative is only 20%. You strongly disagreed. Tell me why.

Phil Fernandez: At Marketo, we obviously evangelize marketing automation and analytics as critical components to drive significantly better marketing performance and ultimately greater revenue growth. I regularly advise corporate management to embrace a more metrics- and data-driven sales and marketing culture – what I like to call “hard marketing.”

So it may come as a surprise, especially from the CEO of a leading technology company that builds products for marketers, that I fundamentally disagree with the premise that marketing has flipped to a world where creative is only 20% of the craft of marketing.

There is no question that the sophisticated marketing automation and analytical solutions available today, such as Marketo’s, are imperative for successful marketing. However, it is incorrect to suggest that the adoption of technology solutions has made creative less important. In fact, I’d argue that the creative side of marketing is more important than ever! Why? Two reasons, one tactical and one strategic.

Tell me more about why the creative side of marketing is more important than ever.

PF: First, we need to look at how marketing automation (“MA”) tools are changing the job of the marketer. In particular, MA solutions help the marketer to implement a key new business process called Lead Nurturing. In Lead Nurturing, it is the job of the marketing professional to engage across channels and develop a relationship over time with each and every prospective buyer for their product or service. They work to educate the buyer, to assist them in their independent research, and to stay top-of-mind for that magical moment when the buyer is ready to make a decision.

And what is the single most important factor in implementing an effective Lead Nurturing program? It’s content. If a marketer is going to stay in touch with prospective buyers over time, helping to educate them and build trust and awareness, the marketer must deliver a stream of compelling, persuasive and brand-reinforcing content. Effective Lead Nurturing initiatives need a continuous stream of new content to stay fresh and relevant, and the most common reason why MA initiatives fail is a company’s inability to create enough content to build a trusted relationship with prospective buyers.

What defines an effective marketing automation system?

PF: The goal of effective MA solutions needs to be to make it fast and easy to do the logistics and data-driven parts of the job and then fade into the background, so that the marketer has the time to focus on the critical process of creative development.

More strategically, the relationship between buyers and sellers has fundamentally changed with the emergence of the Internet, Google, and more recently, the whole world of social media. The buyer has taken control of the process and only “listens” when and where he/she wants. And we all know that the Internet and social media world is a pretty noisy and chaotic place. This shift has greatly elevated the need to break through with creative, compelling content and big ideas – it’s the only way to get buyers to listen.

As a result, the art of marketing (communicating your brand, creating awareness about your unique value proposition and creating marketplace excitement through big ideas) is even more important today than it was a decade ago. If your message and/or content are not resonating with potential buyers, they will purchase from competitors who have done a better job of connecting with them in a relevant, timely and compelling way. That’s why our own marketing team at Marketo spends a lot of time focusing on our brand strategy and developing “magnetic” content via our blogs, webinars, “Definitive Marketing Guidebooks,” videos, events, and yes – advertising.

So both automation tools and the creative side of marketing are important …

PF: Keep in mind, automation and advanced analytics provide marketers speed, precision, and powerful insights into revenue performance. They can even go as far as predicting the amount of revenue a marketing campaign will generate. However, it’s the creative that inspires someone even to consider what you are selling in the first place, and eventually (if you did your job effectively) to buy. Automation and advanced analytics such as we offer at Marketo, give a marketer more productive time to spend on developing compelling creative that will generate the greatest impact. By balancing the “science” of marketing with the essential “art” of the craft, successful marketers are able to accelerate predictable, expanding revenue across the revenue cycle.

Then, what do you think is driving the argument?

PF: As much as anything, it’s probably a factor of today’s technology-driven business environment, where there is an expectation that the right technology can solve pretty much anything. More broadly, since the Industrial Revolution, we have been conditioned to the idea that science and technology replaces the arts and crafts culture that came before it. And in lots of areas, like precision manufacturing, this has been true.

But the world of creating revenue is different. The art of marketing and the art of sales remain very much alive. The good news is that there is a tremendous amount of synergy to be had when companies get this right and the art and creative elements of marketing and sales are combined with hard science and technology that Marketo and others have created. It can seem like the Holy Grail to companies looking to generate more revenue more predictably.

Related Resources

Find Phil’s blog at Revenue Performance

B2B Marketing: What to look for in 2011

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

Inbound Marketing: Invest in content to generate leads

Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges (Members’ library)

photo by Jennifer R.