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 Neil Edwards, a chartered marketer and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He has worked on a number of well-known brands in the UK and the U.S. during a varied career with The Royal Bank of Scotland Group and now with his own business, The Marketing Eye.
Neil offers a pragmatic, entrepreneurial, and intelligent approach to marketing, and I'm sure you’ll learn a lot from his responses to our questions. Enjoy.
1.) What strategy have you seen work the best for connecting sales and marketing teams?
Sales and marketing teams need to communicate often and earn mutual respect. By engaging with sales and drawing on its knowledge of what customers want and respond to, marketing can develop buyer-centric campaigns that sales will want to support. Similarly, sales can learn to accept the strategic direction set by marketing in terms of key messages and target markets.
In sales-led organisations, I have always focused on developing a rigid process that gives sales a set period of notice before a campaign goes out. The objectives of the campaign, the key messages and the creative are all communicated, the prospects that are being contacted are circulated, and the database carved up and allocated for follow-up. Once the campaign has landed, the sales function identifies a day to dedicate itself to making 1:1 contact with the prospects that have been targeted. Results are collated afterwards and success is celebrated together.
Sales and marketing need to combine to form a powerful business development unit that works as one to nurture a prospect from target name through to customer.
2.) What metrics have you seen work best for tracking and measuring the ROI of lead-management programs?
Ultimately, the only true measure of success is sales conversions, but ROI, as measured by sales income, is too blunt a measure of success in the short term. We have to recognise that in B2B, it is rare to convert a business from prospect to customer in one hit: There are several steps along the way, and it is necessary to set goals for the degrees of engagement. In the first instance, these goals can be: opening rates on email campaigns, click-throughs on links and downloads of product information. Further along the line it is the results of targeted follow-up of the names that have shown the first signs of interest—perhaps agreement to a meeting or a product demonstration.
Lead-scoring and lead-nurturing mechanisms are in their early days, but it is exciting to see businesses like Silverpop and The Annuitas Group working toward systems that work.
3.) If you were going to do only one thing, what part of a B2B lead-management program would you implement (demand generation, lead scoring, lead nurturing or ROI measurement)?
Lead nurturing, without a doubt. While we are nowhere without the initial demand, in the scheme of things, generating a contact is relatively easy. The challenge is turning the contact into a client. We have to have systems and methodologies that enable sales and marketing to constantly and appropriately increase the level of engagement to the point where the sale is made.
4.) Which business practices are working best in B2B lead generation today, and which would you like to disappear?
The practices and hence the campaigns that work best are the ones that have buyer relevance at their core. This means identifying the issues that are important to the prospect and owning the conversation that surrounds them. Whether it is with email campaigns, press releases, blog posts or advertising, the organisations that understand and incorporate buyer relevance into their communications will be the ones that win.
My perpetual hope is that one day we will see an end to the sniping between sales and marketing. Too many organisations operate with a blame culture: Marketing blaming sales for not backing its campaigns and sales seeing marketing as disconnected from the real world, generating no leads or leads it can’t do anything with. Come on guys, we’re all in this together—let’s have a coffee!
5.) What's your advice to marketers working with executives who view marketing as a discretionary budget item during a recession?
Marketers need to present requests for budgets in ways that are aligned to the strategic goals of the business. Unfortunately there are still too many people in marketing with insufficient commercial acumen. A proposal for an advertising campaign or trade show in isolation can look like a flight of fancy and will be deservedly knocked back. However, presented as part of an integrated strategy that shows the activity as an integral part of moving prospects through a planned engagement process, it will make sense to even the most parsimonious CEO or CFO.
These are tough times for many organisations, and marketing can’t spend what doesn’t exist. More intelligent targeting, for example, by identifying niches or top-slicing prospect pools; better use of lower cost methodologies, such as e-mail campaigns and social media; and, most importantly of all, avoiding the waste that is inherent in generating leads that aren’t effectively nurtured and converted, are all ways of adapting a plan to a reduced budget and maximising the ROI.