Necessary Skills to Address the Marketing Gap

Necessary Skills to Address the Marketing GapLauren Carlson of Software Advice recently published an article entitled New Skills Needed to Address Marketing Gap. Lauren, and others, made some interesting statements and we thought we’d share them with our readers. The statements describe necessary skills to address the marketing gap and underscore the growing importance of marketing’s role as the B2B buying landscape evolves. Below is a compilation of our favorite comments from her post. Feel free to read Lauren’s article for more insight on this subject.

“Marketing automation is more than a tool. It is a strategy.” – Lauren Carlson, Software Advice

“B2B organizations are losing upwards of 10 percent of revenue per year due to their inability to properly align sales and marketing around the right processes and technologies, according to IDC. To put that in perspective, that would be a $10 million loss for a $100 million company.” – Lauren Carlson, Software Advice

– Carlos Hidalgo, Executive Director of the Marketing Automation Institute

Marketers who define their job as filling the top of the funnel will not be successful with marketing automation software. Lead management has to be built on a strategy that focuses on managing the entire pipeline, not just one end of it. – Lauren Carlson, Software Advice

Learn how Lead Liaison can help you develop the necessary skills to keep pace with the changing B2B environment. Contact us today!

What’s your opinion on the necessary skills required to address the marketing gap?

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Lead Nurturing to Keep Your Customers

Lead Nurturing to Keep Your CustomersLead nurturing is an excellent tool for new prospects; especially those who aren’t quite ready to buy yet. Lead nurturing helps sales people build relationships with prospects while ensuring prospects keep the vendors solutions top-of-mind. All of this is great for prospects; but, what about the benefits to existing customers? Businesses rarely think of lead nurturing as a tool to help their customers. Let’s explore one way you can use lead nurturing to keep your customers.

Simply put, lead nurturing will help keep your customer’s business. Let’s suppose you’re running a subscription-based business. Every year, or every contract period, customers need to renew. Discussing renewals with customers you’ve rarely communicated with over the current contract period can be uncomfortable at times. It’s natural to think – “if ain’t broke don’t fix it” – so why wake the sleeping dog. But, is that the best way to practice business? Nurturing your customers during their contract period will keep the relationship warm and invite your customer to provide you with feedback. But remember, it is imperative you send lead nurturing content from a person, such as an Account Manager, rather than a company. Company-to-individual communications are much more impersonal than one-to-one communications.

Even if your company is not selling subscriptions then they’re probably selling perpetual licenses – unless they’re in the business of providing services only. Most perpetual licenses have a Maintenance and Support fee associated with them. Consider the opportunity to use lead nurturing to secure customer’s Maintenance and Support payments as well.

Start using lead nurturing to keep your customers payments coming and you’ll find your renewals, as well as relationships, much easier to manage!

Learn how Lead Liaison’s nurturing solutions can help you secure revenue with your existing customers! Contact us today!

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2011 B2B Marketing Budgets

B2B Marketing BudgetsA recent study by Marketing Sherpa showed a breakdown of B2B marketing budgets in 2011. Frankly, I’m shocked to see how businesses are allocating their marketing dollars. I propose B2B marketing companies re-prioritize their budgets by re-allocating dollars from one marketing investment to another to produce a higher ROI and generate more revenue. Specifically, marketing investments in website design and trade shows should be decreased while marketing investments in social media, marketing automation and lead nurturing should be increased.

Increasing B2B Marketing Budgets

Marketers must recognize it’s a buyer’s world. More and more buyers conduct research online before ever contacting a vendor. The internet-era changed the landscape of sales and marketing. Data sheets, white papers, webinars, blogs, forums, public profiles, employees, competitors and more can be researched without ever picking up the phone. It’s the same concept as in the B2C world when consumers buy a car. Case in point, Polk and conducted a survey of 4,005 U.S. consumers and found 71% of those surveyed conducted research online before buying their car.

2011 B2B Marketing BudgetsThe same process applies to the B2B world. More than 80% of B2B buyers research the internet for answers about products and services before calling a sales rep. With the proliferation of mobile phones and tablets this percentage will surely rise. B2B marketers have got to be in the right place at the right time (social media), monitor/listen to buyer’s behavior (marketing automation) and engage prospective buyers (lead nurturing). As the volume of online and/or digital activity increases, so does the opportunity to interact and engage with potential buyers. Lead nurturing helps B2B marketers create meaningful dialogue with prospects based on their research and interests. The net result of lead nurturing is stronger relationships and shorter sales cycles as prospects will keep you top of mind through consistent and on-target communications. For these reasons B2B marketing budgets should include social media, lead nurturing and marketing automation as a high priority.

But, what if there’s no more money in the budget for these items? That’s an easy problem to solve. Reduce investments in website design and trade shows and re-appropriate the funds.

Decreasing B2B Marketing Budgets

Trade shows are generally a thing of the past and put pressure on B2B marketing budgets. We’re not implying you completely do away with trade shows; however, reduced investment should be considered. Trade shows are expensive and usually cost about $10,000 minimum just to get in the door. Do yourself a favor and analyze ROI from past trade shows. The easiest way to do this is to look at past sales wins and identify if the lead came from a trade show. If you can’t tie revenue to your trade show investments they’re not worth it. Although, attending a trade show might help prospects recognize your brand/image; sometimes you’ve just got to show up. My advice is to pick a few select trade shows that you must attend and get an exhibitor pass for the others.

As for website design, I encourage B2B companies consider moving their website into a content management system (CMS) such as Drupal or WordPress. These tools have very professional off-the-shelf themes and several plug-ins for search engine optimization, blog authoring and more. You might spend a little more up front to change your site but its well worth it over time. Many of the processes which you rely on 3rd parties for can be automated and you’ll have more control over your content and of course, reduce costs.

Take your money saved from trade shows and website development and invest in social media, lead nurturing and marketing automation.

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The Marketing Automation Mistake

The Marketing Automation MistakeThere’s a big marketing automation mistake. The marketing automation industry is growing fast. At least $200M was spent acquiring marketing automation software over the past year. That’s a staggering figure considering the “marketing automation mistake”. If some very fundamental misnomers were avoided in the infancy stages then the market would not just grow, but grow rapidly.

Misnomer #1 – Marketing automation is a horrible name. Think about it. If I were a marketer and heard about marketing automation for the first time would I want to automate my job? If I did, I might not have a job. That’s like hiring your replacement. No one would volunteer for that. What these solutions do is automate very mundane or historically expensive tasks such as building web forms, landing pages or email marketing campaigns. Marketers no longer have to rely on creating html or 3rd party IT resources to get the job done. Now, they can do it on their coffee break. Marketers can visually build web forms and landing pages to easily wrap lead capture around any marketing campaign or event. These solutions also automate the process of following up with leads and building relationships with prospects over time via personalized and relevant communications- also known as “lead nurturing”.

Misnomer #2 – Lead scoring is a really poor term and misconstrues the real benefit of this feature. What lead scoring does is help sales and marketers automatically qualify prospects and/or customers. Why wouldn’t vendors call it “lead qualification” then? By using the term “lead scoring” it’s caused several other vendors in the space to follow suit and *only* score a lead. In reality, lead qualification is much more than just associating a number to a person. It’s about listening to what a prospect/customer wants and monitoring their overall engagement with your company. It’s much more meaningful to measure overall activity as well as key buy signals to properly qualify a lead.

Educators in the marketing automation space preach – “think like the buyer, not the seller”. I wish initial vendors in the space did just that. If they did, we wouldn’t be talking about “marketing automation” or “lead scoring”. Instead, we’d be talking about revenue generation and lead qualification – what matters to the buyer.

Weeding through the varying vernacular and various misnomers could lead to a serious headache. We side with advice from one of the industry’s top analysts, David Raab. If you’re looking for a solution from a vendor in this space do as David suggests:

…there’s just one right way to select software, and that’s to have vendors walk through scenarios based on how you plan to use it. – David Raab, Raab Associates Inc.

What mistakes have you seen in this space? What do you disagree with in this article? We’d love to hear from you.

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Marketing Automation for Small Companies

Marketing Automation for Small CompaniesIf you’re thinking marketing automation is only for big businesses, think again. Marketing automation for small companies is available now. Historically, micro, small and medium sized businesses (typically <= $5M in sales) couldn’t afford marketing automation systems. It used to be a requirement to spend six figures on a professional program. With the introduction of scalable features and pricing in software packages such as Lead Liaison’s, small companies can benefit from marketing automation.

Putting economics aside, let’s discuss why marketing automation for small companies is advantageous. Most small companies share many of the same problems. For example, they

• need more leads
• have limited sales and marketing resources
• need to understand their market and audience better
• have fairly primitive marketing processes

Marketing automation for small companies will help a business appear larger than they actually are by automating marketing processes such as email marketing, drip nurturing, lead response, lead follow up and more. Small companies also benefit from marketing automation through automated lead qualification technology. Marketing automation what leads are interested in by tracking search words, pages viewed and place a score on the lead (lead scoring) to help prioritize hot leads for sales. Systems such as Lead Liaison also include unique “Buy Signals”. Buy Signals are triggered when prospects and/or customers express certain conditions indicative of a potential sale. Here are a few additional reasons why marketing automation for small companies is ideal:

1. Capturing leads via lead capture technology – creates a new source of leads, vital for any small business.
2. Closed loop email marketing – helps an organization raise awareness of their solutions and boosts brand awareness. A “closed loop” alerts sales of leads that are genuinely interested saving precious time with trade show or webinar follow up.
3. Building relationships with customers and prospects via lead nurturing – automates sending of relevant and personalized communication based on your prospect’s interests.
4. Know how leads find your site – connecting search words and page views with a visiting website company via lead tracking.
5. Consolidated activity into a single repository via CRM integration.

If you’re in search of marketing automation for small companies look no further and reach out to Lead Liaison. We’d love to help.

Are you a small company using marketing automation? If yes, how has marketing automation helped you?

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Sales Automation Software

There’s a lot of talk on the web about marketing automation; consequently, sales automation gets left behind. Although, it’s arguably the most important thing! Are you looking to provide automation for your sales team? If yes, you’ve found the right corner of the web. Sales automation software helps organizations improve productivity, relationships and employee satisfaction – all key contributors to revenue generation. Three core technologies make up a sales automation software package. We’ll discuss these three technologies and to help you understand how software simplifies a sales person’s life and can get your company on the fast track to higher revenue.

The Ideal Way

Sales Automation Software

Ideally, every business would fully automate their sales processes if they could. However, that’s not possible especially given the need for most B2B companies to personalize the sale. The “human touch” is often times a requirement, especially for B2B companies with transactional-based businesses. Regardless of your sales process almost every lead goes through the following lead management life-cycle:

Many of the pieces in the lead management life-cycle can be automated using sales automation software. Three key areas that must be automated to achieve an effective sales process are sales prospecting, lead qualification and lead nurturing.

Core Sales Automation Software Technologies

Automating Sales Prospecting

Sales automation software makes prospecting easy by integrating company, people, news, job, competitor, social media profiles and financials together in a single platform. Additionally, sales automation software natively integrates a professional contact database of millions of people making it easy for sales to find prospective buyers who match their target profile in a single click. With a second click, sales can import the contact along with their full contact information into their CRM.

Automating Lead Qualification

Sales automation software automatically qualifies leads by listening to a prospect as they interact with your marketing material. For example, monitoring a lead’s online behavior as they traverse your company’s website. When key buying signals are met and/or the prospect meets your qualification criteria they become a marketing qualified lead (MQL). At that point, the lead is ready for sales. Sales automation software quickly delivers leads to sales by sending a text message and/or email alert. Advanced sales automation software also pushes hot leads into a CRM such as and automatically schedules a task for sales to follow up.

Automating Lead Nurturing

Sales automation software automatically nurtures leads to advance them through the sales pipeline. The majority of all sales people don’t have time to follow up with all their leads especially if the lead is not quite ready to buy just yet. Let’s say a marketing qualified lead is presented to sales via sales automation software, sales has a call with the prospect, but the prospect is in research-mode only. Nine times out of ten the sales person will take some notes, update their CRM and move on to the next hottest lead – the “archived” lead is forgotten. Lead nurturing automates the sales process by sending personalized (looking like it comes from sales and sent from one individual to another) emails over time to help sales build a relationship and connection with the prospect. More importantly, the prospect won’t forget about the sales person (and their solutions) either. When the prospect is ready to buy, sales will know.

Finding a great sales automation software package to deliver sales prospecting, lead qualification and lead nurturing is not easy. Fortunately, Lead Liaison has one. If you’re interested in sales automation software and much more let us know!

What part of the sales process not mentioned above would you like to automate?

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Remove Politics for Marketing Automation Success

Remove Politics for Marketing Automation SuccessThis is the final article on our blog series related to marketing automation obstacles. The last obstacle has to do with challenges inside an organization. Unfortunately, dealing with corporate politics is something we all have to go through. Politics are not as “thick” with small companies vs. large companies; however, it still persists to a certain degree. When it comes to having a hyper-efficient sales and marketing process, one political barrier that must be removed is communication between head of sales and head of marketing. It’s important to remove politics for marketing automation success.

Sales and marketing alignment is a vital component of a successful business. Although creating alignment is priority number one, maintaining alignment is equally important. Sales must work with marketing on demand creation activities to help create, qualify and nurture leads. After all, sales is good at selling, but they can’t sell if they have no one to sell too. That’s where marketing steps in. Marketing creates leads and sales closes them. Marketing must be equipped with the right marketing content, lead management technology and lead nurturing solutions to meet the demands of any sales organization. At Lead Liaison, we take sales and marketing alignment seriously; so serious that we’ve created a contract between our sales and marketing teams. The contract, or Service Level Agreement (SLA), gets our teams on common ground – providing them with a framework for common definitions, metrics and responsibilities. Let us know if you’d like a copy of it. As mentioned above, alignment is the first step and maintaining alignment is the second step. Make sure you have periodic meetings to review progress against your desired goals. Also, have a set of common/shared goals that benefit both teams and leverage the core competencies of each respectively. Matt Smith, Executive VP and Co-Founder of 3forward, noted there are four shared metrics for sales and marketing to follow to align their efforts.

1. Mutually define a sales-ready lead
2. Decide how many sales-ready leads must be created each month
3. Set a shared target % for how many sales-ready leads convert to qualified pipeline opportunities
4. Agree on the target % for how many qualified opportunities become new wins

What are the political barriers you face between your sales and marketing teams? How have you been able to remove politics for marketing automation success?

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Good Content Marketing Strategy

Content Marketing StrategyIn July we wrote about “Marketing Automation Challenges – Avoiding Status Quo” and “New Marketing Technology” as two obstacles facing adoption of marketing automation. The third obstacle, which we’ll discuss today, is being “content challenged”. Whether you’re using marketing and sales automation technology to help your business or not, a good content marketing strategy never hurts.

Personally, I’ve worked for several companies with a bad content marketing strategy. All companies had three things in common. First, they knew they had to create content. They did so in a reactive way, they were not proactive about content creation. Second, they had no schedule. They created content on a whim at infrequent periods. Third, their content was misguided. The marketing teams thought like the sellers, not the buyers.

Now that we’ve defined what a bad content marketing strategy is, let’s discuss a good content marketing strategy:

The truth is – we live in a digital content era and the internet completely shifted business to business sales. Buyers conduct the majority of their research online instead of calling the vendor. A good content marketing strategy requires a company to become a “content creation machine” – stretching their marketing footprint far and wide across a multitude of internet outlets; including social media, blogs, corporate websites and partner websites. Content should be re-purposed into emails, whitepapers, webinars and more. See our article on 101 business to business lead generation ideas and tips to light a spark.

Framework for a Good Content Marketing Strategy:

1. Blog at least two times a week
2. Put on monthly webinars
3. Produce quarterly whitepapers and/or eBooks
4. Tweet at least two times per day to promote new content and share relevant material
5. Comment on other blogs and/or forums at least two time a week
6. Produce a useful and/or educational tool for your buyers at least two times per year (ROI analysis, calculators, templates, guides, etc.)

Most importantly, stay committed for the long run. Do not start, stop then start again. It does you no good. Part of a search engine’s ranking formula is content-freshness; i.e. how often content is updated or added. If necessary, hire a marketing assistant to help create and distribute content. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to a good content marketing strategy, one hell of an inbound marketing program (see Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing) and more leads for sales!

We’d love to hear from you, how do you create a good marketing content strategy? What would you add to our framework?

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