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!