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Through these special blog postings, our goal is to offer advice and insights from top B2B marketers. It is my pleasure to introduce you to David Raab, a consultant specializing in marketing technology and analysis. His clients have included major firms in financial services, retail, communications, and other industries. Raab offers a fresh, pragmatic and intelligent approach to marketing, and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from his responses to our questions. Enjoy.
1.) In today's more buyer-centric marketing and selling environment, how have the roles of sales and marketing changed?
Marketing now plays a larger role in nurturing leads because buyers can do so much research on the Web without contacting the company directly. But let's not get carried away with this change. In the eyes of both marketers and salespeople, the primary job of marketing remains the generation of qualified leads. So, in addition to lead nurturing, marketers must learn the "new tricks" of inbound marketing to attract leads in the first place. This is now harder than ever because there are so many places for buyers to start their purchase process.
2.) What role should marketing automation play in a buyer-centric marketing and selling environment?
Marketing automation should, um, automate the different marketing practices that need to be executed continuously, so that marketers can focus on new projects and refine their existing ones. Without marketing automation, marketers will spend all their time on routine tasks such as monthly email blasts, which are important but are far from sufficient for a successful marketing program.
3.) Which business practices are working best in B2B lead generation today, and which would you like to see disappear?
We still see search, email and Webinars as the main sources of leads, with social media an intriguing but still-minor factor. I guess trade shows are the most likely to disappear, although that's not something I'd particularly like to see—-it's good to meet people in reality on occasion.
4.) What metrics do you think are most important for tracking and measuring the ROI of lead-management programs?
If you accept that sales and marketing are increasingly interdependent, then the most important metric has to be combined sales and marketing cost per sale, or (better still) sales and marketing cost per sales dollar. But, as I mentioned previously, the practical focus of most marketers is still on lead generation, so you still need to consider marketing cost per qualified lead or cost per sales-accepted lead. The trick here is to capture the differences that small program changes make in those measures, which can be difficult because the impact of any one program can get lost before the final sale is closed or lead is accepted. This is why you also need intermediate measures to capture the immediate effect of a program on continuation through the purchase funnel, even if you can't tie that continuation directly to the ultimate result.
5.) Dialogues with prospects are increasingly important. How critical is it for companies to have a "conversational marketing" person, and what are the key responsibilities of such a position?
I haven't seen that term before. It might mean someone who designs conversation marketing programs, but I'll guess you have in mind someone who actually engages in conversations through social media. It's important because so much communication happens in the social channels that not being there is conceding the field to your competitors, who will be able to shape the public conversation in ways that best suit them, not you. But it can also be a major time commitment, and a liability if not handled correctly. So you need a combination of automated tools (to make the work more efficient) and knowledgeable, skilled staff (to be sure you provide appropriate answers).
6.) What business books would you recommend to B2B professionals?
Probably the best is to read one of the good books on selling—both to understand your counterparts in sales and because it’s increasingly important for marketing programs to act as salespeople for the company. I'm also extremely fond of Kaplan and Norton's book The Balanced Scorecard, which frankly tells you pretty much everything you need to understand about relating measurement systems to business strategies. Plus of course there's my own Marketing Performance Measurement Toolkit (from www.racombooks.com), which is a much more practical guide to measurement systems.