The Traditional Chasm : Good marketing is creating original and compelling content (from my previous blog “The Secret Sauce of Good Marketing – A Marketer’s Perspective!). But good marketing is also ‘filling the funnel’, populating the pipeline and bringing in the closures. It all boils down to this – Is sales able to close more business as a result of all the ‘fancy’ marketing activity. I say fancy because sometime marketers lose the perspective. They get lost in the branding and messaging maze. Not to take away from that because branding is key to building the awareness for your product/service, but sales needs something else – and that is GOOD LEADS.
Good leads are often a point of contention between sales and marketing. It’s like you like tomatoes and I like tomatoes so let’s call the whole thing off. But there is a point of convergence and it happens when the ‘marketing engine’ is able to bring in a sustainable set of leads from all activities consistently and when sales is able to close even 20% of it. Again, easier said than done but there is a science to this. So, let’s decode because there are some key mantras which both sales and marketing needs to buy into.
Foundation #1 A Solid Lead Database
I’ve spent a good part of my life doing marketing, but at every organization, building a good lead database has been THE key to marketing success. Leads accumulate – through various sources, some known and some unknown. Mostly it is through event lead scans and buying databases, and if you’re lucky, injections from the data mining team. And often times, the database does not go through any major clean ups. Result – garbage in, garbage out. The consequences are high rate of unsubscribes, bounces, low open and click rates, less conversion… you know the deal. But there might be some exceptions. So as a marketer, it is very important to run pilot campaigns and track the analytics to see what’s going on as soon as you take charge. And when you know what’s going on – DON’T DELAY THE CLEAN UP. Nothing is more important than sending the right message to the right audience at the right time. It might be a list of 500k or 50k contacts, a marketer cannot get lured in to it.
Foundation #2 A Sound Campaign Plan
A well thought out campaign plan is crucial. In fundamental terms – it is not about what you want to say, it is about what others want to hear. It goes back to the point that Seth Godin makes about ‘telling the story’ to different people, at different times, in different ways. But there are some key components to a campaign plan. First, identify your target market. You don’t want to sell everything to everyone, right? And when you know who your target audience is, you will know how to market the product/service to that segment. It is important to understand their ‘exposed nerves’ in product marketing terms and show them the value of your solution. The message needs to stick in their minds and so some buzzwords do become somewhat important. Second, don’t run several campaigns at the same time. Start with few, identify successful ones and then scale. But always create the supporting infrastructure for every campaign. What I mean by supporting infrastructure is marketing assets that support your campaign message. These could be validations from customers, how to demos, thought leadership articles and blogs. And always ensure proper linkage of these assets in the email campaign to a landing page. This helps to track the analytics and also provides a consistent reference point for the audience. The proof of the pudding often lies in eating and case in points are important for that.
Foundation #3 An Agile Inside Sales Team
I cannot begin to tell you how important this becomes in the larger scheme of things. A good inside sales team that understands the product inside out is absolutely critical. This is the army that you want to use to follow up on every nurturing and lead generation campaign. Good follow-up techniques, detailed notes taking and fluency in language and product are some basic qualifications. This team also needs to be given very clear goals as a measure of success. In the industry, we define this as a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This team also needs to be trained well and it does not happen overnight. But every organization needs to have a commitment to build this supporting engine.
Foundation #4 A Sales Operation Process Down to a Science
Now this is a baby that is often thrown around by Marketing and Sales in each other’s courts. But, the reality is, it has to be jointly owned. Marketing and Sales need to sit together and arrive at a consensus on how the lead flow process works. Automation platforms are making it easy by setting some canned processes in motion, but each organization is different and the needs are different. For example how a product company would like to structure this process might be completely different from a services organization. The qualification criteria, the budgets, the hand off points and the definition of leads, opportunities and accounts – they all differ. So as head of sales and marketing, this needs to be carved out in stone and institutionalized, read and reread – like the bible.
All said and done, we don’t live in a perfect world. And this process might not work like a robotic program. That’s when the key elements of prior experience and patience in running this structure with the expected ebbs and flows come in. On a closing note, analysis of all data is important but it is also very important to not get into the analysis-paralysis syndrome.