23 August 2010

Becoming Dolly Parton to Thwart Insane Telemarketers

Fun fact#1 -  I can mimic a variety of accents and phone personalities.  Now you may wonder, why the heck does that matter?

Well recently, I've had a couple of persistent telemarketers routinely call my office every other day in the hope to get connected to me or to one of my colleagues (both in Boston and Paris).

Fun fact #2 - I routinely use those accents and personalities against telemarketers - just for fun (I would say that I am trying to teach them a lesson - but they obviously don't learn).

Telemarketing is defined as "the act of selling, soliciting or promoting a product or service over the telephone." Now, let me be crystal clear - when done correctly, to the right audience, with the right tactic and message - telemarketing can be highly effective.

So what makes these gnat-like telemarketers so bad that I pull out my Dolly Parton accent?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again
 and expecting different results.  - Albert Einstein 

Without naming names, I'll explain a bit about why these folks are destined to fail (and remain insane):
  • They never explain up-front what they are offering.
  • They never clearly explain who they are.
  • They lie and say that the person that they want to speak with has spoken with them (trust me, they haven't!).
  • They refuse to give proper contact details for actual call-backs.
  • They ignore requests to be taken off of their call list.

At least in ambulance chasing lead generation, which I recently blogged about, they at least try to form a suitable reason as to why they are calling,

What these insane folks don't understand is that people like me know all the tricks - I check caller ID, I run a google search on you when you have me on the phone, I look you up on LinkedIn to see if you are SOMEHOW connected to me, and when you violate my request to be taken off their call list, I will submit a complaint to the FTC.

By the way, here are the links that you may want to identify do-not-call violators:
So what could they do differently?

Learn my business needs - if you read my company's website, it is pretty clear that we are not a classic business - and probably don't have a classic B2B business need.  How does your business service actually apply to my business model?  Show me that you understand me (and my company).

Stress your value up-front to whomever answers the phone.  You may think that you have reached an assistant - but you could be speaking to a director, vp, or to an assistant.  And if you don't understand that each has power in their own right within a company, then you need to grow a brain.  Most assistants run their offices, most junior people have friends that are mid-level people, and word travels fast amongst departments when the encounter idiots.  Plus, when you make rude comments to said "assistant" when you can't get past the initial gatekeeper, those comments WILL be relayed to the the person you are targeting.  NOTE: I don't like being called a liar by a sleazy British biz dev guy who doesn't realize that he is actually speaking to his mark.

Identify yourself clearly.  This one snarky telemarketer chooses to identify him by the initials of his company versus the full name of his company.  In the era of Google, that will not stop me from knowing who you are.  

Analyze why you haven't succeeded thus far with your telemarketing.  If I am just a "task" in your Salesforce.com calendar - and between appointments, they have not thought of why they still haven't connected with their prospect (me), shame on them.  Especially when you have tried at least 20 times to reach me.  Just a clue: there may be a problem to your approach.  Just sayin'.

If the telemarketing community decides to not follow these "hints", get ready for some more Dolly Parton.

22 July 2010

Crawl, walk, run - otherwise, prepare to trip

I've always loved to understand how things work - "this lever pushes this and this turns"...that sort of thing. Systems and logic and a healthy dose of OCD make me very happy.

But time and time again, I see marketers tripping in their delivery of campaigns/emails/phone calls/data management simply because they tried to run before they walked. Or worse yet, they are trying to run when they have not mastered crawling yet.

I think that everyone should aim high, dream big, wish for world domination. But one does not get there (and more importantly stay there), without a solid foundation of tested steps, logical sequences, and flawless delivery.

If you want to build a strong lead generation model, you must do a thorough due diligence of what you are trying to achieve, what your current tools are (and perhaps what you are lacking), and what goals do you want now (not five years down the road).

Once that is vetted, then you can start on the process.

If you do lead capture through a web form, make it the best damn web form it can possibly be. Worry about the traffic later. Worry about the annual renewal email later. Focus on the now. Once the web form is rockin' - then you have a couple of options: what happens after the form is filled out or how to get them to fill out the form.

My personal choice is sort of a hybrid:

  • You figure out enough of an infrastructure once they have filled out the form (straight into SFDC, start them in a drip campaign, do a phone call) that your prospect does not feel like a web form one-night stand. The follow-up does not have to be 1,000 steps (or dates) long - but at least cuddle with them for awhile.
  • Once that is in place, you can turn your attention to how to get the traffic you need to fill out the form: do you run banner ads or PPC, buy paid placements in 3rd party channels like newsletters, optimize your SEO, leverage social media channels, send mailers, buy a TV spot.....the list is endless.

Again, start by crawling. Leverage the channels most closely aligned to your buying market and max the heck out of them. Then start to walk by radiating outward to other channels that are similar. Run by fine-tuning timing/messages/tracking to really make things hum.

Building a rock solid lead generation plan encompasses the need to prioritize, organize, and optimize. If you aren't doing all three, you'll just waste resources, time, money, and sales cycles - and it becomes a "spray and pray" game.

The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker. ~Helen Keller

20 July 2010

Double Rainbow

If anyone is in doubt of the power of hashtags, social media, or YouTube - check out the term "Double Rainbow" in any of those locations.

You'll find celebrities tweeting, Wikipedia entries, and a whole gaggle of folks who mark their updates with #DR references.

27 June 2010

Ambulance Chasing Lead Generation

Recently at Nuxeo, we had the pleasure to announce that our investors funded an additional $3.3M in our company to continue the expansion of our North American business.

What I had forgotten about is that the "Ambulance Chasers" in lead generation would start calling once the press release hit the wire.

Typically, the term "Ambulance Chaser" is reserved for lawyers that solicit business from the victims - at the scene of the crime.

However, in lead generation/sales, there are a group of bottom-feeders that troll for business based on such business announcements. Keep in mind, 99% of these folks have never done nor asked for our business before - nor do they understand our business pains. They are simply trying to get a slice of that money.

It is one of my biggest pet peeves.

They have no understanding of my business issues, they don't care why we got this funding (or how we plan to use it) - and worse, they set themselves up for me (as the consumer) to never want to use their services. It's not just that they annoy me temporarily - it actually makes me turn to other vendors if I do want that type of service.

You may ask "why" it annoys me so much - especially in light of the fact that I'm a staunch supporter of creative ways to find the next hot lead.

It is my pet peeve due to the fact that it is the equivalent to "spray and pray" lead generation - aka SPAM, mass mailings, cold calling centers that have NO background about your specific business.

In the era of Google, one can find out a wealth of information. Both about the company itself - and its principles - but also the management (including their Facebook pages, Twitter streams etc).

Why in the world would anyone elect to give business to someone a) who doesn't have a freakin' clue about their goals, b) who can't articulate how specifically their service can help with those business goals, and c) puts a classic "sales cycle theater" pressure on them to make a decision ASAP (thanks to Cheryl McKinnon for teaching us about sales cycle theater) before the end of their fiscal quarter?

If any of them think that they are going to be successful with me, you're not. Good luck finishing out your fiscal quarter bottom-feeders.

15 June 2010

The shelf-life of contact data

Have you ever had bad milk in your fridge? Or rotten veggies? They stink - and you have no way of using them (despite how much you may want to).

Same goes for lead data - I've advocated in previous posts, a routine cleaning of leads - but what is the real shelf-life of a lead? When does a lead start to smell like rotten milk?

In the era of downsizing, restructuring, and acquisition amalgamation, how realistic is it that someone will be at the same email address in six months? By leveraging drip marketing campaigns, you can relieve the burden off of your insides sales team to maintain this data point - instead, you can let your automated system do the work for you in contact communications and the ultimate smelling of bad milk (hypothetically).

Think about it - let's say you have 10000 new leads per month - if you enact a drip campaign based on interest, you have 10000 follow-ups that don't have to be handled by hand.

As for marketing automation, I had a recent discussion with a peer about the fact that he routinely receives emails from "bots" (as in email robots). His commentary was that he hated bot communications - and that he could spot them a mile away.

I partially agreed - how many times have you received a routine email that contains some sort of variable data field that is inaccurate - and therefore, when received, you roll your eyes?? But isn't the reason that you roll your eyes is because of bad data - not the fact they came from an email robot?

In light of how vast the universe is - and the fact that everyone is trying to do more with less (i.e. be more efficient), why not have an email robot handle the smelling of the milk?

By looking at the data that I've had access to, the true shelf-life (on average) of a lead is six months - within six months, something has changed....the lead has changed companies, the company has been acquired, the sales rep has left your company. This is why you must automate this type of follow-up - so that you are not dependent on people. After awhile, people/leads start to smell like bad milk.

An automated system never minds smelling bad milk! :)

03 June 2010

Having nothing to say...or so you think

In the constant stream of 24x7 communications - as my Tweetdeck keeps chirping at me - it seems inconceivable that a marketer would be at a loss for something to say. Everyone is talking, texting, tweeting, emailing.

But for marketers who have a niche market, or who have been in the industry more than a few years, I bet you find yourself cringing as you think you "have I already said this before?". Or worse, grapple to find something to say at all - the ultimate death knoll for a marketer.

Before you start worrying that your career as a marketer is over, stop for a moment - and think as a consumer.

How many newsletters, emails or online catalogs do you receive in a given week, month?

You may have the time to read their message when they first arrive - but I'll bet that you often delete it, or lose it in your inbox and basically wait for the company's next message to you to arrive to actually read it.

Consumers want their information when they want it - not when marketers send it. It is almost impossible to align the two tangents on the same consumer curve.

Instead, as a marketer, when you think that you are out of things to say - say those things again. Work to rotate messages, delivery schedules, subject lines, plain text versus HTML.....say it funnier, enhance it with research, write it in another language - something to break up the monotony.

Someone, somewhere, is reading/listening.

26 March 2010

Being Snarky and Not Having An Original Idea

Over the past few months, I have had many moments of contemplation on certain marketing tactics that some organizations have elected to use to entice/entertain/gain audience views and demand generation. Some have been through social media outlets, some through website design/language/tactics, and some have been in classic email blasts. Often, I've been left with a nasty taste in mouth upon viewing.....

At the same time, I've been working with my colleagues to continue on the momentum that we've started - and I've decided to "pledge" that my efforts will not fall into these camps of demand gen that I've seen way too often recently:

  • Being snarky, petty, underhanded in tactics (buying competitors terms in AdWords come to mind).
  • Having not one bloomin' original idea.
  • Not willing to try and fail - and stopping there.
I will pledge to be:
  • Cheeky
  • Provocative
  • Fun and Funny (hopefully)
  • Smart
  • A listener, not just a talker
For the KISS Question, what do you pledge to do as a marketer?

19 March 2010

Showing Your True Colors - Demand Gen Style

In sales and marketing, we often struggle with trying to communicate a unified voice to our audience - namely, we call the same things the same names, we try to use the corporate fonts, and in the case of events, you'll see the waves of blue-shirted soldiers lined up in corporate booths waiting to all sound alike to you (as a consumer). There is power in having a brand identity that is easily recognizable - think of the Apple artwork of the reverse silhouettes from their iPod campaigns, or Pepsi's use of the classic royal blue in its logo and packaging.

However, there should be a limit to this in person-to-person interactions.

How many times have you received an email from person X and the same email from person Y at some later date? If you are speaking with different people from the same company at an event, can they explain the concepts and technology differently - or does it all sound scripted?

As a former manager of a business development team, I matched personalities and behaviors with territories that they covered....because at days end, people like to buy from people like themselves. My fast talking, to-the-point (but very nice) rep covered the northeast corridor - because if you try to send anyone else in to sell to a New Yorker, you let me know how that goes. I paired my best listener and somewhat reserved personality with the South territory since she could get any harried IT Director to speak to her for an hour just because she listened and did not come across as brassy to a Texan.

Organizations should be concerned about their brand (case in point the Nestle Twitter debacle of this week) but never lose sight of the individuality that exists and what collectively makes the company's humanity factor greater and often more powerful to their buying audience. If you have "standard" emails, encourage a level of personalization that your reps can add their own stamp to - a phrase that they will most likely echo on a phone conversation will make that email "click" with that prospect. If you run webinars, inject personality and difference amongst your speakers, emcees, and panelists.

In tradeshows, go with the corporate shirts if you must - but allow funky jewelry, different options in some part of the attire, or heck, let them show a tattoo on their forearm! I had a memorable experience at a show a few years ago when a prospect that I had been trying to speak with the entire conference saw me start to break down my booth (it was the end of the show and he was wandering around) and he came over. Since the show floor had supposedly closed, I had run to the ladies room and changed out of my "tradeshow uniform" and as a result, some of my tats were showing.

He recognized me - and was interested in learning about what one of my tats translated to (they are in Gaelic). Slightly flustered, dusty and holding a banner stand case, we started talking. And kept talking. Out of all the leads from that show, he was the knockout. Now - maybe he was busy the whole show and didn't have time to speak to the other 10 people during three days.

But just maybe, he chose to speak with me because I was no longer a faceless, voiceless member of that company...instead, I was a real person who could still discuss the "company brand" but do so while not encased in a corporate shell.

So to quote my girl Cyndi Lauper:

I see your true colors
and that's why I love you
so don't be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow

The KISS Question is "how have you let your true colors show in demand generation?"

11 March 2010

Using Fear (Badly)

Tonight, I saw a familiar company use blatant fear to instill more fear in the mind of their clients - for the sole purpose of selling more software. I remember the days of early Sox compliance that had "everyone going to jail and paying astronomical fines" - did some go to jail? Sure. But so did Little Wayne (recently). Does that make a compelling reason to spend a lot of money - without seeing the upfront ROI? Umm, no.

You may sell some seats because of fear. You may not. Those are the two options.

But you will sell long-standing relationship if you can be a partner to your client and help them achieve their business goals.

Business is Personal. Ask American Express business card users - they've been sold on the fact that AMEX will be there for them, no matter what. AMEX does not care if they are purchasing plane tickets, office supplies, or customer dinners. The mandate is that they will be there for that business user.

So instead of creating slick videos that cause more fear, how about picking up the phone and talking to your clients - and figuring out what they actually need?

Today's KISS question is: which company have you received the best customer/sales interactions from?

16 February 2010

One Way Personal Post - and Social Media's Impact

This is going to be somewhat short - plus a whole lot more personal than even I imagined when I started this blog. This past weekend, a wonderful lady lost her battle to ovarian cancer. She fought valiantly for 18 months - and while she was battling this horrific disease, she still kept teaching and providing a wonderful example for a group of young women that are part of my HS Alma mater.

Vicki impacted a plethora of school peers and chums - and in the hours leading up to her death, our tight community of grads and current students rallied on Facebook to share support, prayers, and memories.

It was a way that as a community, unbounded by geography, gathered together, felt comfort, and ultimately, grieved in her passing. Then the most amazing use of social media (outside of business) occurred: a young woman started a Facebook page for us to post our memories of her.

Keep in mind, that - on average - a typical graduating class from our high school is less than 30 people. In a matter of hours of its page creation and the following days, there were 360 "fans" for that page plus even more contributors. There were pictures, videos, and postings so numerous that I lost count. In essence, this page became a way for us to connect and share our loss.

The next step (that just started) is that we are trying to remember Vicki by sponsoring the lacrosse field to be officially named on behalf of her. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there for the wake or funeral - but because of the idea of a "social marketplace" due to social marketing, I get to contribute to making the lacrosse field the "Oakley Pitch" while miles away. The Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter chatter has been prolific about making this a reality - and I hope that we achieve our goal in making this field named in her honor.

If you'd like to know more, please visit the following links:
The Facebook page that we've been contributing content to: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=299860902150&ref=ts
The Social Network that we've joined to support Ovarian Cancer: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2229317294&ref=mf
To make the "Oakley Pitch" a reality by donating, please donate here: please use PayPal here: PayPal on www.ashmi.org.

12 February 2010

Knowing and Explaining Your Value

Today, I'm going to take a moment to write a bit more personal post than most of the professional demand gen topics I cover - but the two areas cross together.

In early December'09, I was laid off from my last company.
This week (Feb '10), I joined my new company.
I was officially unemployed for 69 days.

Most HR and Employment analysts believe that it takes 3-6 months for a professional/manager level person to gain new employment - however, with the soft economy, some predict that it could easily be 6-12 months now. This post is not meant as a "pat on the back" to myself for doing it faster than the industry standards.

In successful demand generation techniques, one must truly understand their solution/service/item's value - and explain it to prospects in a manner that makes sense and addresses their needs. In this case, I was selling myself.

Professionally, I have been successful at selling/marketing whatever my company sold; personally, I was raised as a good Irish Catholic girl that does not boast (heck, even plays down) her strengths. But to fight a sea of other demand gen folks also in the job market, I had to shout my value from the rooftops.

In the course of those 69 days, I learned to refine the ways that I described my previous experience, started to use certain terms that appealed to those I was speaking with, solidified gold references who could vouch for me, and made sure that I was as visible and relevant to employers. I never sent out a generic cover letter or resume - every time, I tried to show my value to an employer in their terms. I got to know their business, their lingo, their culture.

In professional demand generation, the same principles apply. Like the HR manager who sifts through hundreds of "qualified" applicants, companies routinely evaluate numerous vendors for a single purchase. As a vendor, if you cannot articulate your value proposition in the client's perspective, you won't make it past the audition with Simon (just a little American Idol reference). Go home and try again.

A good litmus test for checking your value proposition is to reach out to a friend in a different industry and ask them to read your email/call script/webinar slides - and see if they can explain back to you how your company can help them. I'll bet you'll be surprised at the result.

Personally, I was very lucky to have a strong network of friends and colleagues - and even one "Brigid-evangelist" - in my corner during my job hunt. Without that support, I think that more days would have come off the calendar in my job search. Professionally, I am very lucky to join the fantastic team at Nuxeo - it is exciting to be a part of the industry leader in Open Source ECM software!

01 February 2010

Demand Generation via Lady Gaga

In a recent WSJ.com article, staff reporter John Jurgensen wrote an interesting article on "The Lessons of Lady Gaga" in which he discussed the marketing or demand generation tactics that this young chanteuse has employed to sky-rocket herself (and her brand) into everyone's lexicon is less than 18 months from virtual obscurity. In fact, he thinks that her business model is a new way for success.

As I watched the Grammys last night, Lady Gaga opened the show with Sir Elton John - showcasing a melodic, slow-tempo'd, haunting song - that was brand new to the general public. She won two Grammys - neither of which was televised (they were for the Dance/Electronica categories) and she wore some crazy outfits. So was the night a success for her business model?

Well, in the past 24 hours, there have been over 27,000 news stories that include Lady Gaga and the Grammy performance. According to Amazon.com, she is number #2 for both MP3 album and song downloads (just behind Beyonce and the Black Eyed Peas).

This from a performer that just a year ago was brand new to the general music scene.

As a fellow graduate of the Sacred Heart life, I do have an affinity for Lady Gaga - I admit it. :)

She had crossed the crazy boundary of trying to know your digital audience...she spent months cultivating relationships with celebrity bloggers like Perez Hilton (who gave her mad press) who spread her name/fame/bio to his fans for over a year, and she always wants to be accessible to her fans (she calls them her "little monsters"). At days end, she is accessible. Heck, she's even re-tweeted me on Twitter. Is it actually her? Don't know - but it gives the audience a good feeling.

She keeps praising and reminding where her inspiration comes from (Madonna) - and that is what most vendors don't do.....they like to claim that they are the first ones doing something....but don't you think that you'd be more credible (as a vendor) if you THANK your predecessor (client/vendor/etc) and how you got to today?

She's not afraid of using backing (from her record company) to get her word out - and she is willing to pay for it. As a vendor, we're always trying to get something for nothing - but sometimes you just have to pay! If you have a partner that can get you new market for your product, are you being a bad partner by not acknowledging your partner?

Basically, Lady Gaga believed that a vendor (whether songstress, software vendor, etc), has to believe in its audience - they are not better than their audience - and they wouldn't be part of the "party" if it were not for their audience.

A very interesting concept that most vendors do not - nor have any idea how to - adapt to.....

An interesting link to a similar topic of achieving value: http://blogs.nuxeo.com/cmckinnon/

No KISS Question for today - just a request: are you trying to portray yourself better than your audience?

26 January 2010

Assessment before Action - Otherwise Failure Ahead

With short deadlines, tight budgets, and a limited number of leads out there, there is often a desire to "get'r done" mentality in demand generation - basically, hit the ground running, do corrective actions real-time, and 80% done is better than 100% planned.

I'm not disputing that as a reality - especially when sales managers and upper management want to see high volume lead flow NOW. However, for the smart demand generation folks, there should be a component of assessment taken before you start spending dollars, time, and resources.

A thorough assessment can include a variety of areas: amount and quality of content, delivery channels, barriers to market or successful delivery, competitive landscape, buyer personas, and previous ROI/tactics taken and results netted.

There have been some monumental demand generation failures in history - the arrival of New Coke, Chevy Tahoe "viral video" debacle, Windows98 failing at its debut - but there are other ways to fail: rogue email campaigns, bad URLs (or poor choice in URLs), 1-800# choices that lead you to "adult" telephone numbers, etc. In other words, once you've alienated your customers once, they see you in a not so flattering light - and it is that much harder to overcome their skepticism.

It is imperative to understand what the benchmarks are for success with sales management and the timeframe in which you are to achieve these goals....and every demand generation person should speak up if the goal is not realistic. Sure, a company can increase their lead funnel overnight from 100-10,000 - but the quality of the funnel will mathematically be reduced.

Once you've got the agreed up goal, you can then assess how to get there - and that does require one to be constructively critical about one's own organizational shortcomings. Mixing a couple of metaphors - you may point out that the baby is ugly, but you are not proposing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • For instance, is there limited product marketing resources? If so, then hiring outside consultants to assist in preparing enough content for a rich demand generation campaign may be needed.
  • Are your business development folks not asking the right questions? You may have to invest in some new enablement to have them be up to-task.
  • Are your target email lists on the wimpy side? Invest in sponsorship packages with vendor-agnostic content sites that your buyers frequent.
  • Do you even know why someone chose your solution (and therefore a good buyer persona)? How about asking them after their purchase - and quantifying that data set?
Without that assessment step in your demand generation plan, you can pour your money, time, and resources down the drain - just like consumers did to New Coke.

The KISS Question is "what have you done to assess your company's threats to successful demand generation?"

22 January 2010

Don't be a drip when doing drip marketing...

The other day, I received an email from a real estate group that I had dealt with over two years ago. This got me thinking about drip marketing - and how to use it effectively.

You see, at the time, I had looked into renting one of their properties but elected not to - but they (Company A) captured and kept my email address from that point forward. During the same time, I was in talks with another real estate company (Company B) as well - and they too captured my email address.

Both companies were told of my deadline to move - let's call that decision time. Company A sent me an email 2x per week leading up to the decision time - and then when that date came and went - moved me into a longer cycle of communication. For the first month, I received an email from them once per week, the second month after decision time, an email came to my inbox twice per month.

I'd look at the emails briefly before deleting them - more out of curiosity since I had selected a rental and was unpacking boxes. During this time of settling into my new place, they placed me into an even longer cycle of communications - somewhere in the twice per year category.

On the flip side, Company B took a different approach to their drip marketing....the shotgun approach (or spray and pray as some people like to call it). Leading up to my decision time, a new email was in my inbox every day. On my decision day, I actually got two emails from them. And then - nothing.

Since that decision day passed, I have not received a single communication from Company B. In fact, I'm hard pressed to remember the name of that company today. With their spray and pray mentality, they elected to come at me (the lead) hard - but then forget about me since I didn't take the bait with their first shot.

Company A chose to take a more methodical, strategic approach - they knew that the lead may not be ready then but it may in the future. So by setting up a systematic drip marketing campaign, I have never lost sight of their company, their offerings, and at virtually no cost to them.

Especially in light of a softer economy, a company has to keep its customers happy - but also keep the lines of communication open to its prospects (leads). To lose that communication path to your leads takes the bar to entry that much higher for vendors to cross and engage.

As I am once again packing up a place - and looking for somewhere new to live - who do you think I'm going to call now?

The KISS Question is "what is your approach to drip marketing campaigns?"

18 January 2010

When a lead goes cold....

So a lead that seemed so hot goes cold - what do you do?

It depends - in what way did the lead go cold? Did the person stop taking your calls? Or did the project get put "on-hold"?

Two very different scenarios - a project on-hold is not the end of the lead. First, try to determine if there is a tangible timeframe to the delay - and the reason behind the delay. A vendor can often help the client - both by not pressuring them and losing a trusted advisor position - but also, the project may be on-hold for a reason that the vendor has experience with in removing.

For example, let's say the project is on-hold due to budget. The client may be new to the idea of financing and could offer up partner vendors who specialize in financing. Or, the project is delayed due to the client wanting to do more due diligence on ROI feasibility - and you as the vendor, may have ROI benchmarks from other clients that could help steer your current lead to move the project from on-hold to "red-hot".

The other example of a lead going cold is that someone stops taking your calls - basically, stops engaging with the vendor. Is the lead totally dead?


In today's uncertain economy and staff reductions, there is a possibility that your contact has been laid off. As someone who has gone through corporate restructuring, I can attest to the fact that calling your vendors about your layoff is not top of mind. For the vendors, have you been courting just one person at a specific company? That can spell disaster. It pays to engage as many people (and sometime from different departments) from a single company to form a comprehensive lead.

Another possibility is that they have decided upon a vendor of choice - and you are not it. Not the most polite way of letting you know - but depending on how far the lead got (did it go to RFP?, just RFI?, were they still kicking tires?), a vendor may be out of the running and not returning your call is their way of letting you know.

The most hopeful reason behind someone not taking your call is a simple matter of too many things, not enough time. As someone who has dealt with vendors and been a vendor in different times of my career, sometimes you are just swamped and conversely, you can continue to reach out to someone without leaving voicemail #100. For vendors, they should seriously consider the idea of "drip marketing" to those leads that have gone cold. I'll touch base on drip marketing in a future post - but in short, it is a great (hopefully automated) way for your demand generation folks to keep the line of communication open to the leads while not spending precious cycles on direct telemarketing.

The KISS Question is "how do you qualify a lead as "cold?"

and just for fun, I've included Katy Perry's "Hot and Cold" video link here since demand generation can sometimes be like this!

13 January 2010

Asking "Why?" - Selling the Value, Not the Cost

My niece is almost four years old now - and our favorite question that peppers our conversations is the word "why."

Georgia @ about 15 months old
She asks me the question of "why" to understand something that is new to her, something that she doesn't understand, or just to reinforce something she has learned.

I ask her the question of "why" to learn more about how she thinks at her age, how she processes things, what motivates her, where her logic is.

For a demand generation person, the question of "Why" is critical to ask your prospects so that you can sell the value of your (solution, asset, service) and not the cost of it.

"Need" is different than "Why" - and yet, most folks don't dive deep enough to move from the former to the latter. Let's take the instance of someone who is seeking a DAM solution (Digital Asset Management).

The "Need" may be initially described to the demand generation folks as "I'm looking for a DAM solution to streamline my company's storage and retrieval of digital content."

But by asking "Why" type of questions, you could determine that the company is really trying to handle a growing amount of content while trying to downsize its staff numbers and the Legal department is concerned that the company is keeping digital content that they no longer own the IP rights on.

If, as a vendor, you were to try to craft a value selling statement to the client with just the first statement of "Need", you could very easily fall into the feature functionality trap that many vendors do in explaining their worth or value to the client.

But with the second statement in hand, a comprehensive value statement could be prepared to address an ROI on human capital loss versus gained productivity (using the solution), what other clients have done in similar situations and savings realized, how specifically the solution offers a records management tag/alert system for digital content that is about to expire, etc.

If the value can be sold in a way that the client believes in, then the cost of it just becomes a number on an invoice.

The KISS Question is "when was the last time that you asked why?"

11 January 2010

The "B" in BANT-focused Demand Generation - Budget 101

The best thing in life is free,
but you can give it to the birds an' bees.
I need some money, need some money.
-John Lee Hooker

My favorite Blues singer sang it well - and for demand generation, money (or in this case budget) is a necessary part of any qualified lead. However, most prospects don't like disclosing their budget numbers to vendors early - and often, vendors don't know how to ask the right questions around budget in general.

From the client's perspective, it's a bit like dating - you don't tend to disclose how much you make to someone on date #1, but by the time that you are serious enough, you'll share your W2 information. Same thing is true in the engagement cycle between a client and a vendor. On day 1 of engagement, the client will rarely disclose their actual budget numbers on a project (unless tactically it is done to reveal either a top or bottom line of price sensitivity).

From the vendor's perspective, if the client won't be sharing budget on day 1, then how in the world do you determine budget?
  • Ask circular questions about budget.
  • Do your research in public documents like the company's annual reports for budget trends and planned expenditures in the future fiscal year.
  • Sell the heck out of the value of your solution - not the cost of it.
Circular questions about budget can range from understanding:
  • Which departments are funding the project?
  • Does a board of directors have to sign off on the expenditure?
  • Are the funds only available for a certain timeframe and do they go away/need re-approval past that timeframe?
  • Is the project considered part of a capital project initiative or "everyday" spend of IT dollars?
  • If they are price sensitive (and have let you know it), have they considered using financing* to complete the project?
Researching the company's public records (and heck, twitters/blogs) can generate a wealth of information on the what the company has done in the past and what it plans to tackle in the future. Understanding the scope of what initiatives the company has on its radar can be invaluable - and lead the vendors to structure their value propositions more centrally to the company's plans.

Selling the value of your solution and not the cost of it is a topic I plan to discuss in a future post - but let's leave it as simple as, if the client understands and believes the value you bring to the table, cost can become irrelevant.

The KISS Question is "how many ways do you ask about budget on date 1?"

*Financing can be a terrific way to secure that a lead turns into a sale - a vendor can reap a ton of benefits including:
  • Increase deal size.
  • Close deals faster.
  • Strengthen customer relationships by being a partner - not just a vendor in the process.
  • Get paid up front.
  • Offer more flexibility to the clients.

08 January 2010

Cleaning and Decluttering Leads

So I've been in the process of trying to clean and de-clutter my townhouse - and since this is the place that I've lived in the longest since childhood, there is a TON to go through. We forget what we put into a box or a corner of the basement - but are there true treasures down there?

In demand generation, there are nuggets of gold to be found in those "cobwebby" leads. The challenge though is to figure out a way to re-invigorate them.

If you met someone at a tradeshow, got their card, put their info into your CRM - and then bupkus.....how do you re-engage?

  • Verify if their contact information is still correct. (I know, simple - but something totally overlooked by most folks.)
  • Remind them how they met you the first time. (a la the BIG tradeshow)
  • Determine if they had a specific interest at the time of the initial meeting. (were they interested in records management, digital asset management)
  • Dangle something new to them about their interest - even if it is not new to the org. Most companies have a ton of white papers and product sheets that have not been shared with prospects.
  • Offer a chance for participation - a community board, a client only site, voting on some poll - something that will get them engaged. Wouldn't you want to offer your opinion if asked?
  • Personalized follow-up regardless of participation - again, if someone asked your opinion (regardless if you gave it), if someone called you about, would you not take that phone call?
  • One to two months later, re-engage the lead for lead purposes. Since you've already established contact for no other purpose than to "check-in" - folks won't feel they are being "sold".

If you lose sight of your leads in the back of the basement (like my cleaning efforts), perhaps you need a better system to track them. Depending on your comfort level, you need a decent CRM (a la salesforce.com), perhaps a marketing automation system (like Eloqoua.com), an analytics system (like Webtrends or Google), and some business development folks who are willing to make calls that won't necessarily end up in a sale every single time.

The KISS Question is: "What is your mix of follow-up for dormant leads?"

05 January 2010

The Big Bang Lead

I'm a big fan of the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" - and the recent episode had the socially awkward scientist Sheldon asking why his current friends like him and he requested that Penny fill out a 200+ questionnaire.....and Penny asks him:

"Sheldon, honey, did you ever consider making friends by being, I don't know, pleasant?"

In lead development, there are a variety of communication channels: email, websites, phone calls and voicemails, twitters, virtual and real tradeshows, webinars....the list goes on and on.

How friendly are your communications to your leads?

We've all received voicemails and phone calls from demand generation folks that seem heck-bent on following their scripts - but do they exchange pleasantries? Rarely. On webinars, do you inject humor or heaven-forbid, make it seem human to your audiences? At tradeshows, are you more concerned about getting as many business cards or do you actually give quality time to those that you are talking to? Are your emails missing a simple salutation - or worse, the wrong name (bad CRM, bad CRM!!)?

The KISS Question is "have you evaluated how friendly your lead communications are?"

04 January 2010

Lead Generation and Holiday Lights

A place for everything, everything in its place. - Benjamin Franklin

The challenge that most lead generation specialists have is how to assign where to place leads, how to know they are in the right place, and to peek into those places again and again to verify that the places are correct (again).

Let's take holiday decorations (since we just went through the holiday cycles)......unless you are the weird neighbor on the street that never takes his holiday lights down, you follow a pattern of:
  1. Take the lights down.
  2. Store the lights in the appropriate, rarely used section of your house or garage.
  3. 9-10 months later, retrieve the lights from storage and (if smart), checking the bulbs on the light strings to see if any of the bulbs need to be refreshed.
  4. Put the lights back up.
  5. Sing the praises of your overall holiday decorations to your family, friends, and co-workers.
  6. Feel pleasure from a job and decor well done (and compare your decoration style to your neighbors).
  7. Realize it is time to repeat step 1 again.

Leads are no different than holiday lights.

  1. There is a time and place for every lead - even the ones that seem "junky" today.
  2. Know how and when to "store" a lead - does it require a drip marketing campaign to stay active, should it be put into a rotational call cycle since it may be relevant in six weeks?
  3. Verify what data in the lead may have changed - or what may have been missing originally....and work to update the lead.
  4. Share the lead information across multiple departments -perhaps your support team has a piece of data that your demand generation team failed to get. How do you share it? ANSWER: a solid CRM system like salesforce.com.
  5. If the lead is ready, shout it from the rooftop - or in this case, alert your account executives, their managers, and their VPs. With each group, different levels of communication can be shared for relevancy but the goal is to promote your lead so that it can be accepted by the field.
  6. Analyze why similar leads had different outcomes of acceptance by reviewing data points - does one Account Executive routinely take leads a bit under-qualified? Does another reject a lead if it is missing one critical part of data? Knowing your sales team and their preferences are half the battle in lead acceptance.
  7. Re-evaluate your lead practices, sources, and your "places" routinely - typically, your market and your own company is evolving such that you will be behind if you don't adjust or tweak the system every so often.
The KISS Question is "have you checked your bulbs/leads recently?"

Next time, I'll describe how Procurement folks at your client/prospect company are like Eggnog!