Through these special blog postings, our goal is to offer advice and insights from top BtoB marketers. Recently, brothers Jay and Carlos Hidalgo, founders of The Annuitas Group, responded to our questions. You'll learn about the challenges facing today's BtoB marketers and the Hidalgo brother’s insights for moving beyond them.
1. How did you and your brother, Carlos, get started in the lead management industry?
We actually got started in the mid-90s. I was working at a firm, developing lead generation programs for clients. The programs often generated significant numbers of leads, which we would turn over to the clients' sales force. But because our clients didn't have the processes necessary to properly follow up on leads, we became the "scapegoat" for less than desired sales outcomes. "These leads are no good" we often heard. So, we developed lead follow-up processes and services to maximize the value of those leads. Carlos also started down this road about the same time, as he was managing large scale lead generation programs for some of the biggest IT companies in the world. He also noticed that while his company was generating the leads, the companies were not taking the necessary steps to ensure proper follow-up.
2. When did you realize that companies which only generate leads and fail to manage how they're handled in any consistent way were missing the mark?
Almost immediately. Once in a while, we'd have the chance to prove it by measurement. I remember one client who told us that the 300-plus leads we had generated over a 6 week period were no good. We implemented a "post campaign" research project, and identified that more than half of the leads never received any kind of follow up. Of those, 90% ended up buying from our client's competitors within a 90-day period. It's hard to argue with statistics.
3. Why do you think many BtoB marketers fail to understand the impact of comprehensive lead management programs or to incorporate them into their marketing efforts?
Our experience indicates that marketers fall into two categories: Those who refuse to acknowledge the impact of not having lead management processes, and those who just don't understand they have a lead management problem. For the first group, it's difficult to convince them otherwise. Myopic thinking or the fear of getting "exposed" often keeps them from doing anything to improve. For the second group, convincing them on the benefits of a comprehensive lead management happens relatively quickly. But understanding that there's a problem, and knowing how to fix it are two different things. And that's where we see the biggest frustration. Marketers know they have a problem, but don't know where to start to fix it.
4. What kind of impact have you seen the current state of the economy have on BtoB marketers and Sales professionals?
Right now, it's mixed. For some, cutting costs has become the priority, and marketing is looked at as a cost. For others, especially those that understand that marketing is an integral part to growth, the approach has been to figure out ways to be more efficient. In our world, we've seen an increased interest in developing lead management processes, because they lead to greater efficiency.
5. What should BtoB marketers and Sales professionals do to survive a down economy and be well positioned for an upswing?A few things come to mind
• Don't panic.
• Spend time and effort on what you know works. Save the "let's try this" items for when things are a little more stable.
• Assess both marketing and sales processes. Assess where there is inefficiency and waste; fix it and maintain.
6. Why do you think silos exist between marketing and sales, and which team do you think is more amenable to working with the other?
Traditionally, marketing considers their job completed when a lead is generated and passed on to sales. When they hear that sales is complaining about lead quality, they get defensive. Sales, historically, gets frustrated because they spend much wasted time trying to sort through all the leads from marketing so they can find the "good" ones. They begin to resent marketing because this "sorting" reduces their selling time and ultimately commissions. Unfortunately, it's too common a dynamic.
I don't believe either "side" is more amenable than the other. For the most part, both want to be successful. Both want revenue to increase. Both want to close more sales. The key is finding what's important to each role. When both roles come together asking, "What do you need?" instead of saying to the other, "This is what I want," it's amazing how quickly things can come together.
7. What business book have you recently read that you'd recommend?
"Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors" by Pat Lencioni. It's a great "fable" about the barriers that are created in organizations and how to destroy them so that teams work together. This is a helpful read to anyone who needs assistance integrating marketing and sales.
8. What's the best advice you ever received and who or where did it come from?
Dr. David Beighley told me, "Ask yourself 'What's the NEXT right thing to do?' Then go do it."
9. What has been the biggest challenge in your professional career?
Leaving established company's to start The Annuitas Group. There are so many unknowns when you finally take the leap, the biggest being whether or not you'll make it. We've been blessed with great clients, great partners and with the ability to provide a service that solves a problem most companies have. We thank God everyday for what we've been able to do.