19 Oct 2016

The story continues at www.B2BTechMark.com

Since becoming a freelance B2B tech marketing consultant a couple of years ago, I've had "Build a website" on my to-do list. Too busy writing content, it didn't happen until recently (with limited time available, I was curious if it was possible to build a simple website in one day. It is).

Now I'm retiring my separate B2BTechMark and ITSMsavvy blogs in favour of articles on my new website:

www.B2BTechMark.com

Articles on enterprise IT and B2B technology marketing will continue there.

9 Jul 2012

Social Demand Generation - Cast a social net to catch a social fish


In days of old, the researching of B2B purchases online meant people visiting your website, where their behaviour could be tracked.  Now, buyers have access to a much greater volume of information about your company and its products/services via the social web - much of which you can neither control nor track.  Thus it is now entirely possible for a prospect to research a B2B purchase without ever visiting your website.  The risk is that leads will slip through the traditional website-centric net.  B2B marketers must cast a much wider net across relevant social media platforms, depending on where the 'fish' hang out.

Social media gives marketers a new way to engage with prospects.  Developing brand awareness is the easy part - simply by throwing good content around the web via social media (a little targeting always helps).  The challenge is in identifying and nurturing leads and driving business in a measurable way.  This involves strategy and tools.  Social Media Monitoring (SMM) tools can help you find opportunities amongst a flood of social media 'noise'.  Finding opportunities is one thing, nurturing them is another - and new platforms need new nurturing strategies.  Each buying signal will require different treatment depending on the social media platform, as each platform has its own culture and etiquette.

A good 'social nose' is essential for catching fish in the torrent of social media

So what do buying signals look like on social media platforms?  On your website, the buying signals are well-known e.g. submitting an enquiry form or accessing a product demo.  In the world of social media, the buying signals are different and less well understood.  For example, a question posted on a technical forum asking existing customers for opinions of your products/services indicates that the prospect is in the evaluation phase.  If you cannot find and influence the conversation (e.g. by asking a happy customer to provide a recommendation), then you may find yourself pushed out of a vendor shortlist without ever having known about the opportunity.

This is just one example of a social media buying signal and how to respond.  Marketing organizations need to analyse the complete set of behaviours that ready-to-buy leads are displaying online, and devise intelligent strategies to handle them.  Sometimes, the only way to land the fish is with a rod and line, not a net.  What sort of bait are you using?  Stories work best, especially stories told by your customers.


1 May 2012

Lead scoring for B2B tech companies (Part 2) - The Definition of a Lead


Many organisations struggle to integrate marketing and sales, as both groups face different pressures and challenges.  The first step to sales and marketing integration is creating a common understanding of the overarching business objectives to ensure that both departments are pulling in the same direction.  It is critical to remember that sales and marketing are two parts of the same machine.  In the long run, what is good for one is good for the other.

Integrating sales and marketing for the benefit of the company isn’t easy, because the process requires organisational change and thus the ability to overcome resistance to change.  Fundamentally, it’s about increasing the level of understanding between marketing and sales – objectives, terminology, processes and the systems that support them.  This post is about establishing common terminology and the most common cause for misunderstanding – the question “what is a Lead?”

Picture the scenario:  The marketing department runs a campaign and hands over a list of names to sales.  Sales comes straight back to marketing:  “We can’t use these!  You people are just wasting money!  There’s one here whose name is ‘Mickey Mouse’!”  Marketing has handed over leads as they define them – a list of contacts generated by a campaign.  To the sales team, these are not leads.

SO, WHAT IS A LEAD?

It seems a simple question, but ask five people and you’ll get five different answers (or no answer at all).  This is one of the most common symptoms of sales and marketing misalignment.  Few organisations take the time to define what they mean by the term.  Often operational pressures get in the way and nobody has time to investigate the problem beneath the symptoms.

As ever, nothing is as simple as it seems.  Effectively, there is no such thing as a ‘lead’ in a generic sense.  Lead is an abstract term; you have to be more specific to describe a lead in terms of its location in the pipeline.  In reality, a lead will fall into one of a number of subcategories, depending on where it is in the sales cycle.  In order to communicate effectively and work together, marketing and sales must clearly understand the terminology involved.

Marketing Anonymous Lead (MAL)
An unknown person who has had some sort of contact with your marketing organisation – e.g. visited your website or booth, or had contact with one of your marketing campaigns without reaching a conversion point by which you are able to positively identify the prospect.

Marketing Identified Lead (MIL)
A ‘known lead’.  Somebody who has given their contact information as part of an enquiry or in exchange for a whitepaper, webcast or other resource.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
A lead which meets specific, objective criteria indicating the lead is sales-ready.  Essentially, this is a lead which is deemed by the lead scoring criteria to be ready for sales to develop a personal relationship.  If marketing have done their homework and implemented a lead scoring system in close conjunction with sales, then these leads should be just what the sales team are looking for.

Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)
If the lead is accepted, it will go into a queue of leads to be called by inside-sales/telesales in order to qualify.  If a MQL passed over to sales is not accepted by sales on first sight, or rejected after a qualification call, it should be passed back to marketing (PBM) where it will be re-classified as a Marketing Identified Lead and included in a lead nurturing program to keep it ‘warm’.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
A lead which has been qualified by inside-sales/telesales as a viable new business opportunity (e.g. Budget, Authority, Need and Timing are all there).

Win
Closed business e.g. a deal has been struck and a contract signed by the relevant authority in the customer organisation.


Tips for success:

  • It doesn't matter if you use commonly accepted terminology (like that of the above), as long as you define standard, terminology within your organisation - that is understood and accepted by both marketing and sales.
  • A purchased email address is the lowest quality lead.  Purchased email addresses haven’t ‘raised their hands’ to demonstrate interest in something that you offer, whether that be your products/services or simply content.  Nor do you have any profile information to assess budget, authority, timeline, company size, etc.  It is recommended that you should avoid purchased lists as conversion rates and ROI are very low when cost and effort are taken into account.
  • Even when the organisation has set and communicated lead terminology, there is still an opportunity for confusion.  Marketing automation and CRM tools often enforce their own terminology.  Where possible, implement marketing automation and CRM system which allows you to modify field labels to align terminology with your organisation’s own terminology.

24 Apr 2012

Lead scoring for B2B tech companies (Part 1) - Why Lead Scoring?

Why Lead Scoring? - The Problem

Many organisations struggle to align sales and marketing.  With two distinct sets of objectives and metrics (the primary sales metric is Revenue, the primary marketing ‘currency’ is Leads), sales and marketing are often at logger-heads.  Sound like a familiar problem?  By implementing an agreed lead-scoring system, sales and marketing can effectively set up a clear ‘interface’ between the two departments, where each department knows the expectations and responsibilities of the other.  The important word here is ‘agreed’.  If marketing goes ahead with the implementation of a lead scoring system, it will be quickly rejected by sales – it will fail to meet expectations.

There are three common complaints that come from the sales department:
  •  We don’t have enough leads.
  •  We don’t have enough ‘good’ leads.
  •  We have too many leads.  We can’t see the wood for the trees.
Lead scoring tackles two out of three - the volume of leads is set by the success or failure of your marketing campaigns.  With no leads coming in from campaigns, they can’t be scored.

Sales people are employed to sell.  They are commission-focused, so any activity that is not pushing a prospect towards a signature on a contract (such as qualifying leads out of the list) is frustrating.  They see commission cheques shrinking when they are not selling.  Sales managers see pipeline estimates shrinking and bonuses disappearing, so a lot of pressure is brought to bear on marketing.  As a profit centre, sales is beloved of the CEO and - rightly or wrongly, -the sales director’s opinion will almost always have more weight than that of the marketing director (a cost center in the eyes of the CEO and CFO).  The fact that revenue generation begins with marketing is often lost, especially when the organisation isn’t tracking leads all the way to the point of revenue.

What is Lead Scoring? - The Solution

Lead scoring is assigning points to an individual prospect based on specific explicit and implicit criteria to objectively and unambiguously quantify the value of the prospect to the sales organisation.  Leads are scored across two groups of criteria - Explicit and Implicit - which combine to give an overall lead ranking which defines the objective value of one lead against another.  The explicit lead score is based on how well the prospect's profile matches the sales team's target profile.  The implicit lead score is based on how engaged the prospect is - e.g. does the prospect's behaviour indicate intent to purchase?


Explicit lead score is built up by assigning scores to each of the individual elements of information that can be captured about the prospect.  To use a loose example, a lead's explicit score may be incremented by 100 points if the prospect is a CEO, but only 10 points if the prospect is an IT Manager (as the CEO has greater authority to purchase).

The Implicit lead score is built up by assigning points to specific behaviours e.g. viewing a whitepaper might add 10 points to a lead score, but viewing a product flyer might add 100 points as this is more indicative of a specific interest in the product.

Together, explicit and implicit lead scores form a 2-dimensional lead scoring matrix in which leads can be ranked for easy categorisation.  In order to place leads within this matrix, lead thresholds must be decided and applied to the Explicit leads score (to rank the lead as A, B, C or D) and the Implicit lead score (to rank the lead as 1, 2, 3 or 4).  The combined explicit and implicit rankings give the lead a 2-digit alphanumeric value which places it in the lead scoring matrix.  Using this matrix, both sales and marketing can identify which are the hot leads (and which are cold).

Lead Scoring Matrix

Benefits

The act of defining lead rankings in conjunction with sales has a number of benefits:
  • Reduce noise.  Sales people get the sales-ready leads they want.  They spend less time qualifying out tire kickers, respond more quickly to qualified leads with better results, spend more time selling, and generate more revenue more quickly.  This point stands up on its own.  Case closed.
  • Marketing develops a better understanding of the target customer.  The process of defining leads scores enables marketing to better understand the needs of the sales team.  Through better understanding, marketing can focus activity and spend to source the leads that salespeople want more effectively.
  • No more squabbling over lead quality.  By understanding what the sales teams want, marketing can deliver this, and life is easier for sales.  The complaints evaporate and the marketing and sales leadership are back on speaking terms and pulling in the same direction.
  • Target your marketing spend on campaigns that deliver revenue.  When leads are ranked, it becomes more apparent which campaigns are yielding low or high scoring leads.  Campaigns which yield low quality leads can be dropped in favour of those yielding high ranking leads.  This translates to lower Cost Per Lead (CPL), released marketing budget, higher revenue and higher profit.

"Companies that get lead scoring right have a 192% higher average lead qualification rate than those that do not."  Aberdeen Research.

The benefits of implementing a lead scoring system are undeniable - and have been proven by many leading organisations.  However, implementing such a system is complex and requires fairly sophisticated Marketing Automation software to work, not to mention good understanding of customers and the ability to sell the idea to the organisation.  Marketing and sales need to work closely together to develop a mutual understanding.  Essentially, a lead scoring system captures the expectations of the sales people and applies this as a lead quality filter.  In practice this is not so simple – leads rarely flow through the pipeline in a uniform manner, and a new lead scoring system must be ‘tuned up’ before it reaches optimum performance.

 

Strategy

Lead Scoring is a Sales-Marketing Integration (SMI) project, not a marketing technology project.  Sales and marketing must be jointly involved in the process to ensure success.  However, as salespeople tend to refuse to get involved in anything that distracts from selling, the situation can become a catch-22: sales are so busy qualifying out bad leads that they don't have time to devote to a lead scoring project.  It's the usual story - operational pressures prevent improvement programs.  As salespeople are so naturally resistant to non-selling activity (e.g. work that doesn't directly contribute to commission), there is a natural resistance to change and the project will need buy-in from the CMO and sales director to actively drive success.  Consequently, building a business case aimed at these two stakeholders is critical.

Takeaways

  • Marketing needs to think in terms of quality not quantity.  Forget about “number of leads” as a metric.  One lead that converts to a sale is better than a million that don’t.
  • The sales people need to be able to see the wood for the trees.  Lead scoring allows you to filter out the tire kickers and avoid swamping sales.
  • The sales and marketing teams need to work closely together to get it right.  A one-sided attempt at lead scoring is almost certainly doomed to failure.
  • Don't even think about implementing supporting technology until you have the scoring model agreed with Sales