Most companies don’t get value out of marketing automation. One way to win, though, is to get started on the best foot possible. This is the first in a short series on Winning with Demand Generation – the art and science of creating lead flow for sales – and Marketing Automation – the technology supporting demand generation.
What’s The Definition Of Victory?
Either you have a marketing automation system already or you’re getting one soon. Either way, you need to be successful. The Big Objective of marketing automation is to create and qualify valuable lead flow to your sales team or to your channel partners. If you’re very good at producing lead flow, or demand generation, you can direct your company’s sales team to the target markets you choose, to those customers your company was designed to serve – those who see the highest value at the lowest cost to you.
Of course, the more immediate goal is to be seen as successful so you can keep your job, or perhaps get a new one doing demand generation at a better company (we’ll never tell). And, if you do not yet have a marketing automation platform, don’t buy it just yet. Do some field work first so you are better prepared to show results once the technology arrives. Because, once your marketing automation platform is installed, the pressure is on for you to perform. The clock starts ticking.
Winning At Marketing Automation
You can win with your marketing automation system if you can show your company, and particularly your executive team, that your marketing efforts lead to revenue. Of course, your sales team and channel partners close the business, but your role as a demand generation marketer is to create the leads that turn into revenue, and to make the value of your sales leads visible to all.
Who’s going to help you? Get salespeople to work with you, and you will succeed. Without the sales team, you cannot possibly win as a marketer. So, you have to earn their trust.
Go on sales calls, listen and take notes. There will be a quiz! Learn from your salespeople. Find the ones who will help. Delve into your CRM system (salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM, Oracle/Siebel, whatever you have) and learn how the salespeople use it. Learn their numbers: how many deals they close; how big those deals are; how salespeople record those deals in the CRM. Spend time going through the past 10, 20 or 50 closed-and-won deals, look at the entire CRM record for those deals, and you’ll be able to have a valuable and informed conversation with your salespeople.
Ask your salespeople what a good lead is to them, and how they know a good lead when they see one. Listen for needs all salespeople have during their selling process. Some of these, you can help with using marketing automation.
Get simple sales tools. One tool nearly all salespeople need is an SGML tool. SGML, for us, means Sounds Good, Maybe Later. A prospect tells you, “Call me back in 6 months when I start my budgeting cycle.” A good salesperson will make a note to call back, but usually has nothing to offer that prospect during those 6 months.
If you build a simple 6-touch nurturing campaign to your salesperson’s specifications, and make it easy for your salesperson to launch, you’ll have saved hours of sales nuisance time and probably helped create downstream revenue and a sales commission. Do this a couple of times, and you’ll have buy-in when you need it.
Build A Customer Network
Your value, as a marketer, is to know exactly what your customers want, so you can give it to them exactly when they need it. Your sales team already thinks they know everything about prospects, but they don’t. They know how to sell to prospects once they engage. They know less about how buyers behave before salespeople get involved. That’s your job.
Make friends with customers. You’ll likely get pushback from salespeople and others when you start doing this, but keep at it. You want to know your customers, know how they act and talk, how they think and, most importantly, know how and why they bought your company’s stuff. So, visit them and take them out to dinner. (Find the budget.) Ask exactly how they got the idea that led to their purchase. Find out who got involved in evaluations, who said, “yes,” and who had to sign off on the purchase. Learn how their purchase process works from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, this is very time-consuming. But, yes, this is, perhaps, the most important part of a marketer’s job and will give you ongoing insight into your buyers. If you, as a marketer, can be seen as the Keeper of the Customer Voice within your company, you will be lauded and valued. Sales will pay attention. Your marketing programs will work and will generate leads that turn into revenue. You will be golden.
Customer Journey & Content
While all this socializing can be fun, you are meeting with customers to find out what process they all go through to buy from you — who gets involved and what they’re looking for during each step of that process.
The little diagram below is simple, but it lays out general buying steps for each of the three people who mattered when making this particular purchase. The steps vary and so do the players, but a simple framework like this lets you learn from your customers and communicate your findings internally.
At each step, note what each of these buyers is asking and creating a map for marketing to your prospects at every step of the way. Match all these buyer needs with your own content, and your campaigns begin to take shape. Finally, it’s ok if you don’t have it completely laid out at first. Start somewhere, learn, and expand your knowledge using tools that let you test and communicate your Customer Voice.
Think about your own, ugh, process. You’re likely to run programs, inbound and outbound, PPC, SEO, social, email, Web-based, direct, live and more that will generate raw leads. Will there be an inside sales or tele-qualification team to process raw leads? What will salespeople want to accept as a new lead from marketing? How do they characterize early-stage leads in their CRM now? What do they do with the ones which never mature? Your new Marketing Lead Management process should dovetail nicely with the existing Sales Lead Management process. How might that work at first?
You’re just getting started, so you don’t have to answer all these sticky process questions just yet. But, you should begin thinking and talking about it now. If your company has a long sales cycle, more than 6 months, you’ll need to nurture recycled leads that salespeople may have spoken with but cannot close quickly enough. What do you want to do with early-stage prospects who are just beginning to educate themselves?
Key Marketing Programs
You’ll probably need a marketing campaign for trade show or conference audiences. You’ll likely want a program for SGML leads salespeople have talked with but rejected (for now). You’ll need an introductory campaign. You want to start the discussions on what leads salespeople want you to show them first, and what they want to see last (or not at all).
Answer these questions before you buy your marketing automation tool, and you have your To Do list already organized. Know where you want to start before you bring in new software. It gives you time you’ll need to ramp up.
Who will do the work? You’ll need people to think up and develop campaigns, landing pages, emails, content, run webinars, monitor LinkedIn and other social media, and work your website. Someone has to load campaigns into the marketing automation platform, run them and get the reporting right. Remember that you’re now in the database marketing business, so clean data (data hygiene in some circles) becomes supremely important. Who’s keeping an eye on that, besides you? Someone better be.
Here’s where getting outside help can keep you from losing your mind. A good agency which has done the kind of B2B direct marketing you want to do can help, but most agencies don’t have this skill. You may have to hire it or find it in a contractor or consultant.
Running your automation platform and managing data also require special skills combining communications and technology. This can be outsourced or hired. As you get bigger, you will likely want a DBA (DataBase Analyst) on board, but not today. Go with the marketing geek and a small creative team to get started. Seek advice from successful demand generation marketers. But don’t start without the resources to create a constant flow of new campaigns. Deal flow becomes the game once you start up a demand generation group.
This short piece suggests ways to get oriented, talk to customers and salespeople and to start the discussions you’ll need to succeed at demand generation and marketing automation. With our next visit, we’ll build out our processes, install technology and take the first steps.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.