Insights Into the World of Content Marketing

Last week, Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs released their annual B2B Content Marketing Study that dives into the practices and habits of B2B content marketers in North America.
Content marketing is a key component of any customer experience strategy and while the overwhelming majority of B2B organizations are producing content, the study shows that successful execution may still be elusive.
In looking at this year’s study there are some thoughts and musings I have listed below.

Content Marketing Continues Upward... But Is It Successful?

According to this year’s study, 91% of organizations are using content marketing (an increase of 2% compared with last year’s study) and 38% of respondents expect that their spending on content marketing will increase next year. While there is no doubt that content marketing is a necessary and useful discipline to drive customer engagement, the majority of B2B organizations do not truly understand the impact it is having within their company or their audience.
According to the study, respondents stated the following in regards to the measurement of their content marketing performance:
Only 19% are “excellent” or “very good” at aligning their metrics and content marketing goals only 35% of organizations consistently measure the ROI of their content marketing
Given that so much time, effort and money is being spent on content marketing, it is incumbent upon marketers that they begin to measure the impact content marketing is having on corporate performance. Regardless of “no formal justification being required “, as 38% stated. If content marketers are going to know if they are successful, then they must measure the outcomes of their work and be able to show the impact they are making.

Questioning Commitment

When asked how committed their organizations were to content marketing, 63% of organizations stated they were either extremely committed or very committed to content marketing. However, this “commitment” does not seem to be producing success, as only 24% of respondents stated they are “extremely successful or very successful” with their organization’s approach to content marketing.
So what are organizations committed to when it comes to content marketing? The definition of content marketing within the study is as follows:
“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately to drive profitable customer action.”
Using that as the definition combined with the lack of success or lack of understanding if they are successful, are these organizations truly committed to “profitable actions?”
Simply creating content is not commitment. Being able to demonstrate the profitable actions that customer acre taking in response to content is what will demonstrate commitment.

Talk Is Not A Strategy

When asked if they have a content marketing strategy, 37% stated that they do indeed have a strategy and it is documented. Another 38% of respondents stated they have a strategy but it is not documented.
Any strategy that is not documented and known by key stakeholders in the organization is no strategy at all.  Strategies are documented and not merely spoken.  B2B content marketing professionals need to stop fooling themselves into thinking that having a discussion about their approach to content marketing is akin to a strategy.
For organizations to see success in their content marketing performance they need to document their strategy and re-visit on a regular basis. This allows them to see what adjustments may need to be made and how they are following this strategy, simply talking about it is not strategic in any way.

Time To Re-Think The Approach To Content

Content marketing is a must for any organization looking to connect with their customers; however simply generating content for content’s sake is not a viable approach. This year’s study, as in years past, shows that content marketers are still struggling to make an impact. I believe it may be time to slow down the content factory and be more customer-centric and purposeful in the approach to content marketing.

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Getting sales enablement right to increase results

sales_enablement

Sales enablement is intended to help raise performance, but a lot of efforts have backfired due to departmental silos. And now there’s growing gap between what salespeople need and what they’re getting to improve performance.

For example, Corporate Visions recently surveyed 500 B2B marketers and sales professionals that 20% of organization content creators “just do what they think is best” with no overarching structure at all. And just 27% of organizations are content that focuses squarely on customers and rather than their own story.

And all the tools and technologies meant to help boost sales productivity are now are slowing things down.

What’s the bottom line?

Salespeople are getting overwhelmed and slowed down with increased complexity just like the customers they’re selling too.

That’s why I interviewed Dave Brock (@davidabrock), author of the Sales Manager Survival Guide, also CEO of Partners in EXCELLENCE. Dave’s brilliance is his focus on practical simplification. And I’m excited to bring his thinking on sales enablement and what can be done to raise sales team performance.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Dave: Brian, thanks so much. I really appreciate the chance to continue the conversation we started in Washington, and appreciate you inviting me to this.

By background, I actually started out as a physicist in my career, and ended up going to the dark side of selling, and sold mainframe computers for IBM a number of years. Went up the food chain to more senior management roles, then left to become EVP of sales for a technology company as part of a turnaround, later held VP of Sales or CEO roles in several technology companies.

And now run the consulting company – we help our clients actually solve some of the most challenging problems in sales and marketing, and dealing with the new buyers that there are. We have a highly collaborative approach in helping really outstanding people, solve really, really difficult problems.

What is the biggest trend you see affecting your work and sellers today?

Well, clearly, it’s the convergence of some things that we see in the marketplace. It’s the new buyer. Everybody’s changing the way they buy, and learning how we engage these new buyers, both through marketing, sales, and customer experience is critical.

At the same time, we see tremendous transformations in business and business models, whether it’s the digital transformation that virtually every company is undertaking, or just older business models being displaced with new business models.

We have some of the classics of Airbnb, turning the hotel and lodging market upside down or Uber turning the taxi and limo business upside down. We see that the new business models occurring are driving real stress on customers.

And then the final thing is just overwhelming complexity, just between the rate of change, the amount of information we’re deluged with every day. Most of the people I’m meeting are really struggling with at least one of those three things. I see it impacting virtually everybody.

Brian: I can relate to those challenges. I think just in talking about complexity for sellers and marketers, I was having a conversation with someone earlier and it’s just an overwhelming number of tools an average salesperson uses, or a marketer uses. It also creates challenges around collaboration, that internal collaboration.

How do you get internal collaboration to improve sales performance?

Dave: The easy answer is to break down the silos and start talking to each other. It’s easier said than done. The thing that we see is a lot of the issues we face, regarding internal complexity and internal collaboration, is just people being well-intended doing their jobs, but somehow their jobs aren’t aligned with each other, or there are things about their jobs that cause them to conflict with other people. Simple things like aligning roles and responsibilities, aligning metrics, some classic value stream types of analysis.

I just had a conversation earlier today with a marketing executive and his top management team. We were talking about what’s the value proposition they create for sales, and sales is the downstream customer of theirs.

I think, again, we have to rethink our working relationship, rethink the classic business process re-engineering of our workflows, our roles, and responsibilities. And really get some alignment in metrics, so that we realize we’re all on the same team, with the same end goal.

Brian: That’s helpful. And something that’s really come to age recently is sales enablement.

What’s the role of sales enablement to help achieve this?

sales_enablement-silosI think I’m on the wrong side of some debates on this. I look at sales enablement as more a set of processes in a set of activities than a separate function within the organization.

If you look at what sales enablement processes are supposed to do, they’re meant to be able to help maximize the salesperson’s ability to perform. And so, you look at that and say they are a whole collection of things that we can do to do that.

The first is the frontline sales manager and their role in coaching and developing everybody on their team to perform at maximum capability. But then these frontline sales managers need a lot of support in a lot of areas, whether it’s tools and technology, whether it’s new programs, whether it’s people selection and performance management, whether it’s training, whether it’s content and so on.

So, you start looking at seeing all these things contribute to enabling the salesperson to perform at the highest level as possible.

Now, who does that stuff? It could be all over the place. It could be marketing that’s doing some of this stuff. It could be HR that’s working on a lot of the talent management types of things. It could be sales operations, or it could be people in the sales function.

So, I think the discussion around sales enablement is more powerful when we look at: what are the things that we need to do, and then, look at who in the organization can do those most effectively and most efficiently.

Brian: I like how you talk about it because I often think when I speak of enablement, I often am looking at marketing and sales. But, as you’re talking, it’s bringing in the finance team, the human resources team, so it’s a collective effort, not just one single group or department. That’s the whole point you were saying earlier, about bringing down the silos. Do I understand that correctly?

Bringing down the silos that get in the way sales enablement

Exactly. I got engaged in debate not long ago about how sales enablement earns a spot at the CEO’s table. To me, that was one of the most ridiculous discussions I’ve ever seen.

We now have sales enablement executives that not only want to have a spot at the Chief Sales Officer’s table but now they believe they should have a place at the CEO’s table. The CEO’s table’s getting pretty crowded.

I think it goes away from the point of what we’re trying to do. And, I believe that it actually starts building more barriers to collaboration and working. We’re building to the degree that we are creating another silo and another set of functions competing for attention and corporate resources.

Again, I tend to like to look at these as more processes and workflows, and what are the things that need to be done. And then we look at who can do those most effectively. And if it a sales enablement organization, well that’s really powerful, but we shouldn’t overlook the other parts of the organization.

Brian: We spent time talking about sales enablement. Marketing does have a significant role in helping raise the level of performance for the sales team. As you and I were in D.C., we talked about how often marketing is looked to as the “leads people.” We need to think beyond that, regarding how they can impact efficiency and effectiveness of each individual sales rep.

How do you think marketing can help raise the level of performance of sales?

I believe that we must change our mindset from marketing being the “awareness people,” the “create interest people,” the “leads people,” the “demand gen people,” and so on and so forth, and look at the entire customer buying journey. Look at what that is and who can contribute to that.

We have the traditional feeling that marketing does demand gen, and lead gen, and tosses those over the wall to sales. And sales immediately reject all of them as being bad and tosses them back. But we separate these processes.

I think modern sales and modern marketing is very different. I like to look at modern marketing and sales as kind of like a basketball team. On a basketball team, every person has their defined roles. You have a couple of guards, you have a couple of forwards, you have a center, and you practice plays, and everybody tries and plays those roles. You get really expert at that. But then in the game, you’re very agile and nimble and adapt to what’s happening with competition and what’s going on with the game.

I think we need to look at marketing and sales more like a basketball team. What are our roles? What are our responsibilities? What are the plays that we execute? Who executes those?

Working as an agile team

But I think we have to be very agile in working with each other in saying, “Who’s the person that should be taking the shot right now? Who should be bringing the ball down the court?”

I look at marketing and sales, not as the sequential process where marketing gets the leads and gives them to sales, and sales takes care of everything throughout, but we work together in the demand gen process, and we cooperate in the buying process.

There’s a huge amount that marketing can bring to the party with qualified opportunities. Whether it’s case studies, whether it’s tools, whether it’s content relevant to where the person is towards the end of the buying journey, and those kinds of things. We really need to look at it as an interrelated, and integrated set of processes.

Brian: It makes a lot of sense, what you’re talking about. I think the challenge is that marketing and sales often are doing the same things. They might have different words for it.

For example, marketing may call it lead gen, lead generation, or inbound sales might call it prospecting, social selling, etc. They’re doing the same things. As I’ve talked to salespeople, they often are feeling they’re succeeding despite marketing, not because of it. I was talking to someone trying to build his own pipeline. He was getting leads from marketing, they weren’t helping. He was prospecting, trying to figure out how to cold-call, etc.

Do you think salespeople are getting it wrong with how they prospect? 

I do think we’re getting a lot wrong about prospecting. One is I don’t think enough salespeople are prospecting.

Most everybody I talk to is opportunity-starved, but we have a lot of these kinds of mindsets and mentalities that say, “Well, it’s marketing’s job to get those leads. And if they aren’t getting the leads, then you know, there’s nothing I can do. Or it’s the SDR’s role to take those leads and qualify them or do something with them. And then my job is just to take those great leads that the SDR gives to me.”

I think the first thing we do is we must change salespeople’s mentality and say, you know, marketing is going to do everything they can to get you the right kind of leads, and the right kinds of opportunities. SDR’s are going to do everything they can. But if the volume isn’t sufficient, you have to go out and start finding business yourself. You have to prospect. You have to generate new business.

You might go to marketing and ask them for help in doing that, maybe giving you a particular program that you can execute as well. The other thing too is I sometimes think we get our prospecting models, and particularly the SDR-driven type models a little bit backward.

What’s not working with the current sales development rep (SDR) model

I think we do a disservice to SDRs. Most organizations, the SDR is kind of an entry-level job to selling. They do something that most salespeople would refuse to do, which is to call people they’ve never spoken to before and prospect them. It’s a really tough job.

But one of the disconnects we have is these poor SDRs often calling on C-level people.

I get SDRs calling me every day. I feel really sorry for them because they’ll call me and say, “We believe we can help you improve your business.” And I say, “Cool. What am I doing wrong? How should I be developing my business?” and they’re floored. They don’t know how to carry on that conversation. They shouldn’t be expected to. If they’re brand new to selling, why are they calling me, a C-level executive, albeit of a small company, but a C-level executive? We’re matching the wrong people up with the target audience.

As a result, we’re creating terrible first impressions. If somebody calls me and they can’t have a powerful, engaging first conversation, I’m going to have a negative opinion both of that individual and of their company.

I think we’re missing huge amounts of opportunities by not having the right people. I wrote an article about a year ago saying, “Maybe we need to get some of our most talented senior-level salespeople being SDRs.” If they’re creating that first impression, and if our target persona is this C-level person, then those are the people that have the best capability of setting up a very, very positive first impression, and opening up far more opportunities than a brand new SDR without that experience base.

Brian: I love that suggestion. It reminds me before it was called an SDR, that’s what I started as at 23. I was on the phone. I was calling C-level people, 23 years old. There was very little training advice, coaching. It was on the job. Later, I started a company helping people do that. I worked for a company that, myself, I was CEO. I made calls with the team who was on the phone, and the whole point was to learn, to see what they were experiencing, to understand.

This is really a great transition into talking about this idea of empathy. That’s the hard part: how can somebody who doesn’t have experience connect with someone else and understand their perspective and feeling?

How can sellers be more empathy-based with their approach to customers?

Dave: I think there are some things. First of all, empathy is about caring. You’ve got to care about your customers, whoever those customers are. If you’re only in business to say, “How can I get an order?” then you’re never going to be successful at all.

You’ve got to care about your customers. You’ve got to care about their success in achieving their goals. If you’re driven by that, it changes your whole orientation and your process for engaging the customer in the conversations you have.

That shouldn’t be a do-good or Pollyanna-ish kind of mentality.  The only people I’m going to engage are people who I know have the problems that I can solve. I’m not wasting my time calling on people, and engaging them, and caring about them and their success if they don’t have the problems that I can help them solve. It is very focused on calling the right people that we can do some things with. And then it’s understanding who they are. It’s kind of sitting behind their desk or being able to walk in their shoes.

There are a whole number of ways you can do that. I used to sell to the large money center banks in New York City. To learn about banking, you hang out where the bankers hang out, and they hung out at Harry’s at Hanover Square. I’d learn a lot by just talking to them over a beer about what their businesses were, what their dreams were, where their problems were, which enabled me to connect much more effectively with those people in the business.

We’ve got to start hanging out where our customers hang out, whether it’s discussion groups, whether it’s trade shows. It’s really learning about where they live, and what they worry about every day. It’s asking questions, it’s getting engaged in those conversations. I think along with caring, is curiosity. If you have those two attributes, you’re going to figure out what the customer’s about. You’re going to know how to engage the customers. You’re going to understand how your products and solutions might serve the client and help them. Two fundamental attributes: caring and curiosity.

Our empathy is our marketing/selling intuition

Brian: That is terrific. I really liked how you brought it together, regarding meeting those elements, then immersing yourself in the world of your customer, going where they are.

It’s interesting, as I

was listening to you, I don’t know that the marketers who are reaching out, or making that initial impression, have actually been able to get in the world of the people they’re hoping to influence and help to drive change, to work with them through their journey. I would say that what you shared, what you did, as a salesperson, we need to do that in marketing too: get in the world of the customer and observe. From that, we’re going to have the empathy, or to put it another way, we’ll have the intuition.

Our empathy is our marketing and sales intuition; to know how to best move forward in what some of those opportunities are.

Dave: It’s really funny how some of these cycles go, but I remember maybe 10, 15 years ago, when there were a lot of initiatives around understanding the voice of the customer. When you looked at the way a lot of those initiatives were implemented, some of them literally would live for several weeks with the customers and sit and observe them in their jobs, etc.

Getting marketers out and treating the customers less as an intellectual exercise, or an analytic exercise, but actually visiting the customers. Spending a few days of watching them work, talking to them not about what we sell and whether they like these things that we sell, but talking to them about what they do, and what they feel, and how they think.  And then bringing that back in and say, “Now we know the customer, and we’ve seen where they live. How do we take that information and best leverage it to engage them where they’re at?”

Brian: Fantastic.

What other actionable advice do you have for those who want to help improve sales enablement? 

Dave: I think it’s a little bit counterintuitive. It may sound simplistic, but we don’t do it. So many of our initiatives, so much of our thinking is driven inward-out, rather than outward-in.

We have our products, and we have our services. We think about what we want to do, and how we want to bring those to market, and so we develop all our launch programs, all our marketing programs, all our sales programs, from an internally-based orientation, about what’s most effective and what’s most efficient for us.

Usually, when we execute those, we find we’ve missed one thing: we’ve forgotten about the customer. What we do that may be most effective and efficient for us, but may not be effective or efficient for the customer.

So generally, I find the fastest way to the best and most effective solution is always to work your way back in from the customer.

Who are they?
Where are they?
How do they work?
What drives them?
What do they care about?
What are their dreams?
How do they buy?
How do they self-educate?
How do they learn about things?

Trace those things back into the design the process that meets them where they’re at, rather than trying to force them to find us and meet us where we’re at.

You may also like:

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The Biggest Contributor to B2B Revenue

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Why customer advocacy should be at the heart of your marketing

Are you connecting with and empowering your customer advocates? If not, you should. Here’s why.

Customer advocacy marketing programs help you increase revenue by improving customer acquisition and retention (and they’re your bes source of leads).

How? Because you’re helping to encourage and motivate happy customers to speak about you positively to others. And delighted customers are your most powerful hidden sales force.

For example, in 2016, IDC research found that only 10% B2B companies surveyed had a customer advocacy program in place. This year, “The Role of Marketing in Customer Advocacy” report found that has increased to 67% which is a 570% increase.

That’s why I interviewed Mark Organ (@markorgan). Mark is the Founder and CEO of Influitive and he’s been a thought leader in the space of sales and marketing technology; a real innovator. I’m excited to bring his thinking to you on customer advocacy.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start Influitive?

Mark: Yeah, thanks. I’m really excited to be here, Brian. I think this is an amazing podcast and I’m excited to share my story. I’ve lived a number of lives already. One of them, before I started Eloqua in 2000, was as a research scientist. I was actually a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Northwestern University in Chicago. I was really fascinated by how the brain works and what were the biological bases of behavior. It was fascinating for me. Although research, while fascinating, has some challenges concerning it, especially getting paid well. I also wanted to spend more time with my wife, so I left the research world to get in the business world and joined a Bain & Company as a management consultant; from there I started Eloqua.

The other big thread in my life other than being a scientist was being an entrepreneur. I started companies even as a teenager, as far back as age 13. I’ve always been really fascinated with working for myself and satisfying customers. Really, I think now I’m bringing both of those together in my company where I still feel like I’m a scientist. I still feel like I’m trying to discover what makes human beings really work and tick, but also being an entrepreneur, building software for marketers and leveraging the understanding of people and what drives them.

Regarding what motivated me to start Influitive – we’re an advocate marketing software company. So we believe that the future belongs to companies who, as opposed to marketing directly, they do a better job of discovering and nurturing and mobilizing their customers to do the marketing for them. We think the future is for companies to get their customers to do the sales and marketing for them. We built some software for discovering, nurturing and mobilizing advocates.

I got the idea while I was at Eloqua. It was 2005, and great VC convinced me to spend a couple of weeks out in the field to understand how and why people bought my software. What I learned was when we sold software efficiently it was because there was tons of this advocacy involved. There were multiple referrals on the way in. There were lots of case studies that were relevant on the website, the best references and those prospects went very quickly.

At the time, Eloqua was a bootstrap startup, so selling our software quickly was super important. I got really excited about this idea of advocacy, but it turns it was way harder than I thought to generate consistent advocacy. That’s because we didn’t actually understand what motivated the advocates.

I really wanted to understand better what motivated the advocates. Through some interviews and lots of other things like that, I began to figure out what drove advocacy and unfortunately, I couldn’t work on that at the time I was at Eloqua, but when I had a chance to transition out I had an opportunity to work on it at Influitive.

What are some of the lesson’s you’ve learned about building a company with the customer at the heart of your business?

Brian: That’s really cool just hearing how you brought together the two worlds as the scientist to understand what motivates people and then putting in a way that you’re able to help people. I’d love to hear some of the lessons you’ve learned about building a company where from the beginning the customer is at the heart of your business model.

Mark: I’ve learned a lot just of how to build a company. Regarding putting customers at the heart of your business model, one of the things I learned the hard way, coming from Eloqua, was how important the employee experience is. I think one of the big differences between the two companies is that while I was at Eloqua I was very obsessed with what we called our True North, which was measurable value to the customer, and that’s a pretty good thing to obsess about. If you are making your customer money every day, you’re likely to have some success, but one big change that I made at Influitive was really treating my employees as my primary customer, making sure that I was providing the best possible experience for them.

There is so much money that’s available for companies if you can generate the growth and if you can generate an efficient business model. The people who create that efficient business model and that growth are our people. Talent is a scarce resource today. That’s a big fundamental shift for me, and honestly, I think it mirrors a significant shift even in the marketplace. I think that if companies today don’t treat their employees as their primary customer, the future is not going to look too bright for them. That’s one key thing that I learned regarding building a company.

The way we built our software came from the knowledge that I gained from interviewing hundreds of super advocates. Literally, understanding people who might generate several referrals a quarter and be available for references on demand and love to speak on stage for you…all those active advocates that all of us really depend on. None of us can build a successful business without having our customers who are doing that sales and marketing for us. Our lifetime value of the customer and the cost of customer acquisition would be entirely out of whack if we didn’t have that working in our favor. There were some things that I’ve learned about that.

Three important things about customer advocacy

customer conversationOn the macro level, there are three things that I’ve learned that are really important.

The first was that people advocate more when they feel like their part of an exclusive tribe, like when they belong to something that’s bigger than themselves then that’s when you see a lot more advocacy. For example, you can see that at a sporting event. When you go to your local stadium, you’ll find people whose faces are painted in the colors of the team. Why do they do that? Well, they do that because they want to belong to something that’s bigger. They want to be part of an exclusive tribe. That’s what we found. When companies do advocacy programs, if they can give it the right name and the right feel and the right brand and really make people feel like they are special and exclusive you get a lot more advocacy. That’s the first thing.

Second, we learned is that people want to be able to experience the impact that they made on a company. I learned this firsthand. As part of foundational learning for starting my company, one of the things that I was excited to do was learn Mandarin Chinese. I thought it would be a cool thing to do. I learned to speak enough Chinese with this amazing product that, after six months, I was able to have a meeting in China without an interpreter. It was a pretty amazing experience. I used this product called ChinesePod.com and what I found was that (you can see now, I’m still advocating for it) my advocacy really waned over time and it was because I wasn’t really feeling the impact I was making on the company. I didn’t know what the results were of the referrals that I made as an example.

We’ve learned that if you give advocates feedback, they respond better. If you let people know the impact of those referrals that they’ve made if you let people know if they’ve written a guest blog post or they’ve been on a podcast, just like this, how many hits did that podcast get? Did they get a thumbs up? Those sorts of things generate a lot more advocacy because people are getting that feedback.

The third is social capital. If people are experiencing benefits in their life, their career, as a result of the advocacy they are making, they are going to do a lot more of that.

Those are three sorts of social/psychological things that I learned were really important in generating a lot of advocacy. Then, there are the micro-levelists – making it easy, making it fun, making it more rewarding. For example, a lot of games do that. They build things to make it more addictive, all work. We’ve bottled all that and we’ve put that into our product so that you’ve got that exclusive tribe, the people are getting feedback, they’re getting social capital and they make it “game-ified” and fun, so that people want to come back in again and again. It really works. We’ve now come to the point where I think that we’re building something that is going to become a new standard for how companies go to market by putting their customers at the heart of the way they go to market.

Brian: That’s really cool.

How important are customer advocates and why should we create or be involved in their community?

Mark: Here’s one of the things that I’ve seen, especially lately, maybe it’s because I’m running a company that’s all about advocacy, but the industry leaders in almost every sector are also the advocacy leaders. Like for example, Tesla in cars. Tesla’s market cap is equivalent to, I think, nearly all the other car companies combined at this point or very close to it. I’m thinking, why is that? They are also an advocacy leader. They don’t have any commissioned salespeople. They don’t do traditional marketing. All their marketing is done really through their own customers. The impact of that is just incredible because you’ve got this massive unpaid sales force that’s way more efficient than any sales force that you hired could be.

Brian: Right.

Mark: The other thing that we’ve learned is that advocacy is kind of like a beneficial virus. For example, a company that’s built with advocacy, that has a lot of advocacy, those customers that become a new customer because an advocate recommended them, they, themselves, are much more likely to advocate. Essentially, there is a culture of advocacy around these companies. These companies rocket up to being industry leaders. They are so much more efficient regarding their sales and marketing, and they’ve got the culture that keeps this sort of positive feedback group happening, which I think is really exciting. We see that with a lot of our customers, they’re industry leaders. So many of our startup customers have gone public (i.e., MuleSoft) or there’s so many of them that have gone public, or they’re industry leaders like Oracle or SalesForce, IBM. I think why they do well is because of this financial power of having a large unpaid army of advocates.

It feels amazing to work for companies that have a lot of customer advocacy. It gives you that sense of purpose, like, I know why I’m here. We’re adding real value. Look at all these customers we’re delighting, but they are helping us grow. It’s such an empowering, exciting thing to be a part of. I think the most important thing entrepreneurs can do is to build advocates and mobilize them. Now, also having a fantastic product and terrific service but we don’t actually get involved in that area. We actually only work with companies that have a great product, and that’s because we’ve learned the hard way that our product works really well for companies that are already delighting customers.

Early in our history, we had a couple of customers who, frankly, were not doing a great job, but they might have had a handful of happy customers. And they wanted us to help give them a megaphone to mostly make it look like they had that kind of advocacy even if they didn’t. Honestly, we’ve learned that’s not a good business skill. We tend to work with companies that already do an excellent job delighting customers and we make sure they win. It feels like we are really doing good for the world because we’re helping the good guys win.

Brian: I appreciate you saying that. This is going to segue us into talking a little bit about empathy. Often in marketing and sales, it had been outside-in, and what I’m hearing from you is, no, it’s from the inside out. It needs to be authentic. You connect with your employees.

As you know, I’ve been doing some work in empathy-based marketing and selling and how it can help us connect with our customers and create better results.

How can empathy and advocacy based-marketing connect and help empower companies?

Mark: I love this work you are doing on empathy. As an entrepreneur, with every year that goes by I realize more that it’s the number one skill, I think, that business leaders need to develop to win. Often it’s thought of in an employee context for sure. For example, I’ve worked with a coach for the last three or four years namely working on developing my skills as a leader, which includes being more empathetic. Meaning truly and deeply understanding my employees and in particular, feeling what they are feeling, but it extends way beyond employees.

That is why I love the work you are doing about being empathetic for companies and understanding their experience. In fact, this whole business that I’m doing came from a place of empathy in the beginning, because it was all about understanding what the most desirable buying process for someone to go through.

Brian: Yes.

Mark: If you think about the last amazing buying experience you’ve had for something that wasn’t just a commodity, but something you had to think about really. The chances are that process you went through had some trusted people whether those were other customers you trusted or that salesperson you worked with did such a good job that you truly and deeply trusted that person. You trusted this individual had your best interest in their heart. The chances are that trust and that transparency was just completely interwoven in that buying process you had.

That’s what I learned when I was at Eloqua and trying to figure what was going on that some of these prospects who bought in four days instead of four months?

That experience had tons of advocacy all over it. People talk about customer experience all the time, right? I’m not sure some people even know what it means. To me, customer experience is all about feelings. It’s all about the way people feel at different parts of their journey with you and so if we want to make people feel great, if we want to make people feel like there’s trust then you’ve got to infuse that buying process with the power of authenticity, authentic other customers. There’s an intersection right there.

If you care about your buyer, if you care about their experience, and you want them to feel great when they are working with you then, you should probably talk less as a salesperson and as a marketer. And have more of their trusted, relevant peers do the talking for you, not because it’s more effective, but because they like it. That’s the experience that they really want more than anything. I think there is a massive overlap between the ideas of empathy and advocacy.

Brian: I love that and I agree with this as I’ve done research in understanding this perspective and thinking of customers and how are they feeling. They want to know, how you’ve helped people like me? What has worked for others in my field and how can I get better doing what I’m doing? Because there is that authentic someone who’s been in my space or experience.

I just wanted to talk about some actual tips you might have for our listeners today who feel inspired. They realize they have advocates right now, they may not have even used that term. I love the word advocate and what it means.

How can marketers start identifying and better supporting their customer advocates?  

Mark: That’s a great question. We’ve produced an interesting piece of software to help mobilize advocates at scale, but it doesn’t mean you have to do that. Really, every company in the world should be doing advocate marketing and it may be as simple as just having a meal a couple of times a year with some of your best customers. There’s really no agenda there other than to get people together and to ask how to improve and maybe share a little bit about where you’re going as a company. That alone can cost very little.

We have these dinners all the time, and they cost $1,000 to get eight people together at nice restaurant and have a small boutique meal and wow, it just makes a big impact. Because those people are your best customers, they want to affect your company, right? They want to help shape your company. In some cases, they may already feel like they are more a part of your business than their company because they believe so passionately in your idea. By giving them an exclusive tribe and saying hey, this dinner is not just for any one of our customers. It’s for our most special customers. Not because you buy a lot from us either, by the way. It’s not about purchasing. It’s because you get it. It’s because you believe and we think that your ideas are leading edge and are going to be ones that everyone else is going to subscribe to, so we want to spend more time listening to you. We want to take care of you. That message will always be well received. It’s very inexpensive, and it’s got a very high ROI. Just beginning there is a great place to start.

I know a lot of companies are already doing that before we start talking to them and they have people believe in advocacy and it appeals to them. The next step is to centralize your advocacy with a single person doing the talking. A lot of the companies that we work with before we started working with them, had four or five different people in their organization who are all doing little bits and pieces of advocacy in their own way. You might have one person in charge of referrals, another person in charge of talking to customers. The problem there is you’re really missing out on a lot of potential advocacy. That same person that can be a reference for you is also willing to speak on stage. If you have a point person who is in charge of advocacy for your company, you’ll get a lot more, three or four times as much, without spending any more money. In fact, you could actually end up saving a lot of time, money and frustration because you centralize that process.

Again, that’s actually a very empathetic thing, right? Because what you’re saying is: you know what I care about more than the types of things that advocates do? We care about the advocates themselves. We actually care about people. We care about their experience. We want their experience to be great.

By having a single person in your company in charge of that, I think that is showing a lot of respect and appreciation for these very important people. If you just do those two things alone without buying any fancy software, you’ll get a lot more of this very valuable advocacy for your company and it could be quite transformational. Then, maybe you’ll be ready to have a really scaled up advocacy program, and that’s what we do at Influitive.

We create communities where there are some virtual places on the internet and on mobile where you can invite your advocates in, make them feel like a million bucks, let them know how they can help you and get them to interact with each other. We have about 300 great companies that are doing that. They are enjoying the experience, but there again, you don’t have to do anything fancy. Just get people together and show some appreciation. You’ll get a lot of value out of it.

Brian: That’s terrific Mark and thank you for the action points. I was going to ask you one last question before we close. What’s the question you wished I asked but haven’t yet?

Mark: Maybe something about the future? Often a good one is to bring out the crystal ball and see what we see in the future of marketing and that sort of thing.

Brian: That would be great.

What do you see in the future for B2B marketing or selling macro trends?

Mark: Something which I’ve sort of alluded to in this conversation was around the “whys” of customer experience and the role that marketing is going to have play in customer experience. One of the things that you’ll notice, some of the best companies that we have, particularly in the west, are ones that are obsessed with customer experience.

I think as you have more buyers that are inundated with emails and websites and all sorts of stuff like that. Marketers are going to need to have some control over the customer experience in the future because that is going to be the main source of where their best leads are going to come from and their ability to convert those leads.

We see with our customers, which tend to be on the leading edge of the curve, where marketing and customer success are starting to merge a little bit. It’s very analogous to how sales and marketing began to come together in my Eloqua days, under the idea of the standard definition of a lead.

Brian: Yes.

Mark: I have done sales and marketing stuff together, and you’ve done a lot of writing on that. I’ve learned much from you over the years on that. There is a similar thing that is happening now. The customer success and marketing and product are coming together to define what the optimal customer experience is and that is a big, big move. Marketers who can get on that and understand this new language of customer experience and be able to drive it are going to do very well over the next few years. I think that’s one big trend.

I do think that this idea of marketing by proxy is tremendous. It’s a huge thing and these are skills that most marketers do not have today. Marketers now are good at running these cross-functional, multimodal, nurturing-style campaigns to drive leads and this sort of thing. The ability to do that has been really dominant over the last 10 years.

That’s changing as buyers are becoming kind of inundated with that stuff, yet, the ability to get others to do the marketing for you and learning those skills are going to be pretty significant. Because there is such little knowledge in this area, we actually have quite an education effort out there.

You can go to Influitive.com and check out our resources page, and there are lots of educational materials, as we are trying to train this next generation of marketers in how to think this way. Instead of thinking about, how do I bombard people to get my way? It’s how to find the right individuals who are relevant and trusted and how do I get them to carry our message for me? I think that’s going to be a big deal.

https://youtu.be/sK_FWihgnKk

And thirdly, everyone is talking about machine learning and all that these days and I think it’s probably going to create just as big an impact. I think AI machine learning is probably at the very top of the high curve right now.

Brian: Right.

Mark: Three years from now everyone is going to say well, I don’t know what that was all about, I guess that was all hyped up, but then in ten years from now people go wow, that really was a huge change.

So I think it’s definitely worth tracking what’s going on in that technology and we’re certainly spending quite a bit of time playing around with it here. Some of the things I see for marketers, (and actually, there are a lot of sales professionals who listen to your podcast) I think empathy is just as important if not more so for sellers and so is advocacy, so is mobilizing your proxies if you are in the sales profession as well. I think there are a lot of parallels.

You May Also Like:

Advocate marketing blog: What the heck is advocacy marketing?

Lead Nurturing: 4 Steps to walking the buying path with your customers

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

How customer-hero stories help you connect better

The post Why customer advocacy should be at the heart of your marketing appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

How to Attract B2B Buyers with Killer Content

Content marketing is booming. According to the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Trends, 39% of companies are increasing investment in content marketing. And yet most companies are not creating effective content.  Want proof? Two of the leaders in B2B funnel benchmarking, SiriusDecisions and Forrester, will tell you that inquiry-to-closed-won conversion ratios are often below two percent […]

The post How to Attract B2B Buyers with Killer Content appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

How customer-hero stories help you connect better

customer-hero storiesDespite all the time, money, resources spent on improving sales productivity, just 13% of sales people produce 87% of revenue in a typical organization according to the Sales Benchmark Index.

So, what do the 13% high achievers have that others don’t? They connect emotionally with their buyers.

That’s why interviewed Mike Bosworth. If you don’t know Mike Bosworth already, he is a thought leader in the sales space. And he’s had a profound influence on how we sell and market, especially those who are in B2B.

In this interview, we’re going to focus on the power of customer-hero stories to connect emotionally with buyers to facilitate their buying journey.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Mike: Well, it’s interesting because, I think today, it’s incredible how cloud technology is forcing companies to be more empathic in their sales and marketing. It’s forcing them to. Because with the cloud, the conversation has to shift from the old “our-solution” marketing: our solution will do this, and our solution will do that.

So, making that shift from that to how-the-customer-uses-our-stuff marketing: customer usage marketing or what we in Story Seekers call customer hero marketing. I want marketing to think about what are we really doing marketing for– I’m hoping we’re trying to create customers and sales is also trying to create customers.

If we’re going to sell empathically then, ideally, we won’t even be “selling”. We’ll be facilitating the buying journey of our customer and facilitating their customer experience because human beings love to buy, and they hate to feel sold.

What inspired you to talk about integrating with marketing and sales?

Well, for my whole career as a sales productivity consultant and sales trainer, my stated mission was to help my client lift the bottom 80% of their sales force. The top 20%, the ones who bring in 80% of the revenue, they’ve been doing well for years and continue to. I figured I want to help my customers bump up at least the next 50% because if you could get a 10% increase in productivity from that next 50%. Do the math on that for most companies: it’s a lot of money.

Brian:      It is. As you’ve been working with companies and clients, there’s something that’s existed longer than probably both of us have been doing our work.

Tell us the things most important for marketing and sales to agree on?

In most companies I deal with, they’re really two different silos and they’re pointing fingers at each other.  Marketing thinks they’re sending these great leads to sales, and sales, they go into a black hole and then there’s no follow-up. Sales thinks that the leads from marketing are coming from the janitorial staff of the company that they’re selling to.

Quite a while ago, it occurred to me that if we can find the touch point in integrating sales and marketing, we could really help things out and so Tim Riester and I, we dove into it, and we’ve made the touchpoint, the definition of a lead.

If both the chief sales officer and the chief marketing officer can specifically agree on the definition of a qualified lead then the “integration” really starts getting a lot easier.

That word integration is messing people up in this day and age, and, if you think about it, it gets most people thinking about IT issues. APIs, and what plugs into this and what feeds into that, and that’s disabling true integration. A couple of weeks ago, I just swapped out the word integration for agreement. Golly, does it seem to simplify things.

If sales and marketing can agree on a finite number of things, great things can happen.

Brian:  I really love the word agreement and I think that’s the challenge. Without an agreement, we don’t have common ground. I’d love to hear from you and I think a lot of people have lead definitions. I wrote about the universal lead definition in my book.

What’s the definition of a qualified lead that sales and marketing should agree upon?

Well, there’s a prerequisite to that, and the prerequisite for even defining the qualified lead is sales and marketing first must agree on:

What buyer personas are we selling to?
Who do we envision our best customers to be?
Where we can help them be a hero?
Where we can help them achieve a goal or solve a problem?

Back in my Xerox days, we were selling manufacturing productivity improvement software so we were selling to buyer personas. One buyer persona would be a VP manufacturing who’s missing his shipment schedule. Another one would be a materials manager had shortages and another one would be a CSO who’s missing his sales forecast.

Once you have those buyer personas targeted, now, we go in and think what psychological buying process would they go through in their organization, and when would they start bringing in other people and how would they share information and all that stuff. Ideally, if we can help our customer buy, they never feel any pressure from us.

Facilitating the buying journey

My philosophy has always been: we’re trying to facilitate the buying.  A study by Sales Benchmark Index of 1,100 of B2B sales forces came back in 2008 and they found in their case study base that 13% of the salespeople brought in 87% of that revenue.

I felt like I’ve been kicked in the stomach because my whole mission was to help the bottom 80% get better and it had gotten worse and that caused me to go into a breakdown of a bit.

Building emotional connection and trust

I started studying the problem, and in most cases, 80% of the people in sales aren’t very good at building an emotional connection and building trust with a stranger in a short amount of time. They’re just not very good at it.

They end up diving into their solution or their technology or their knowledge or their discovery questions before the buyer trusts them enough to allow themselves to be questioned.

Over the years, the number one complaint I have from solution selling and customer centric selling clients of mine would be the VP of sales would say, hey said “Mike, the top 20% love solution selling, but the bottom 80% quit using it within two weeks of the workshop.”

If you think about why they quit using it (and my intellectual arrogance caused me to not really study it as well as I should have) it’s that inability to intuitively connect and know when you’ve built enough trust and connection that you can get out your listed discovery questions, and with solution selling, the bottom 80% lack the intuition.

They went to their discovery questions too soon, prematurely, and the buyer said, “You don’t know me well enough to ask me all these questions” and pushed them away, and so if you’re pushed away for two weeks, you quit using it.

Brian: As we’re talking about the definition, I wanted to go back.

Recap the best definition of a lead for sales/marketing to agree upon

Mike: I went off on a tangent because it was the prerequisite of a qualified lead.

Brian: We have to know it. I agree.

Mike: A named targeted buyer persona  (John Doe at the ABC company) is curious how we helped a peer job title, another whatever, chief accounting manager at another company, achieve a goal or solve a problem. We have somebody curious how we’ve helped their peer.

Brian: In and of itself, for those that are listening that are in marketing, I was just talking with a salesperson today, who was struggling trying to build his own pipeline and he talked about his experience of a lead. Mike, I tested your definition with him and he said, “Yes. I would love that.”

He reiterated his experience of getting a “lead” of someone who didn’t actually want to talk with them. They weren’t curious. They were someone who had agreed to a meeting, but they didn’t know why.

Mike: Agreeing to a meeting. They might have been curious that we didn’t capture that curiosity.

Brian: Earlier you talked a bit about the problem with product marketing and you brought up customer hero marketing. Why should we in marketing start focusing on making our customer the hero, instead of what we’re doing right now which is focusing on the product or what we do or what we sell?

What are customer-hero stories and why should we focus on them now?

Mike: First of all, it is going to be the mission of the company to do customer hero selling and customer hero marketing? It really has to come from the top. It’s really a paradigm. Years ago, Gerhard Gschwandtner, the publisher of Selling Power magazine, said that the CEO’s definition of selling is the DNA of the customer’s experience.

If you really believe in your heart that people love to buy and hate to be sold, then why wouldn’t we make it our mission as a company to facilitate, to architect, our customer’s experience? To really think about how they would go through a natural buying process and feel comfortable and then let us facilitate that buying, using storytelling and story tending.

Thus, making story the foundation because stories allow people with problems to visualize seeing themselves solve that problem.  What happens is we create a little story in their brain. And the story involves seeing themselves responding to that once a month problem they have differently, if they just had somebody’s help or technology or capability.

The customer is a hero by using the product and so let’s not market the product as the hero. Let’s market our past customers as the hero and we’re looking to help new prospects become heroes via customer hero selling. If we really agreed on the definition of a qualified lead, now customer hero marketing feeds right into the customer hero selling.

Brian: I love the definition and distinction because, I know from the customer’s side, they’re curious about someone like me who’s had a problem like me and I think that is the challenge that we have, bridging that gap of trust.

What can marketers and sellers do to apply empathy and better connect with customers?

Mike: It’s such a paradigm shift.  What we’re trying to do is teach salespeople to create a big juicy buying vision, a customer hero vision where this guy sees himself as a hero in his own company. Saving money, making money, solving a problem, achieving a goal, that he hasn’t been able to do before.

We teach people how to do connective-listening. Once the buyer starts talking freely. We teach the salespeople how to tend the buyer story and then send that buyer a written version of his customer hero story.

Brian: As I’m listening to you, it sounds like you’re building a relationship by helping someone else relate to the story, see themselves in it, and then also starting to bridge the trust gap because you’re connecting with something that they can identify with and how they’re likely feeling.

Mike: It’s the product usage. That’s why the customer hero stories bridge the cloud gap now too, or the cloud is forcing all these technology companies that have all this high-powered product marketing talent and most of the product collateral ends up being “it” based or “our solution” based. It will do this, it will do that, or our solution will do this or our solution will do that.

That’s making the product the hero. It’s disabling the buying process because now the buyer is going to feel the pressure of somebody wanting to sell them some piece of technology.

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The post How customer-hero stories help you connect better appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

Stuck on words: how can marketing connect with customers better?

customer connectionHow can marketers better connect with people we hope will become our customers?

Over the past year, I’ve been researching why there’s such a disconnect between marketing and customers so I can understand how to bridge that gap.

Why? Because right now, the trust gap between marketers and customers has never been wider.

For example, this recent Gallup Poll shows that confidence in the honesty and ethics of marketers and sellers isn’t much higher than Members of Congress.

And this survey by Hubspot showed that only 3 percent of people surveyed consider marketers and salespeople trustworthy.

The self-inflicted problem we all face in sales and marketing

So, I’ve been stewing on this for a while, and I could use your help. I’m trying to pull two things together and could use your input on this because I keep pulling on this thread and it doesn’t end.

You see, I’ve worked in the world of complex sales, B2B marketing, and lead generation for two decades. And lately, I’ve been doing self-reflection as I’m working on a new company which you’ll hear more about soon.

First, let me start by saying, I initially started feeling cynical but now a bit hopeful.

Let me explain:

I think we marketers can be cynical and even snarky at times. We know good marketing. We know when something is legit. And we have well-tuned B.S. meters. It’s harder for me is to detect my own B.S., so I depend on others to give me feedback. And at times, I’m told I’m full of it.

It’s about the words we use

So, I’ve been stuck using certain words to describe what I do. By that, I mean the words we use in sales and marketing.

Back when I wrote the book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale which succeeded beyond my hopes. Back then, I felt marketing and sales are about relationships. And I still do.

Yet I think we have a major problem in marketing and sales. And I’d venture to say a big part of the problem is self-inflicted.

To help, I’ve written about things like: remember that leads are people. Be human. Be authentic. Use empathy. But, I need your help discussing something more foundational: the words we choose in marketing and sales to describe what we do and the people we’re doing it for.

Why? Because our words affect how we think. It’s something that linguists call the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which shows that the words and the language we choose influences our thinking.

Our words can actually change our brains (and others)

In my experience, words reflect our intention and values. And our customers feel it. This is why customer empathy is essential. But surprisingly, our words actually influence our brain function i.e. how we think.

Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman the authors of Words Can Change Your Brain confirm this through their extensive research.

According to Newberg and Waldman, “We communicate in so many different ways and in so many situations, but if we don’t bring self-reflective consciousness into the equation by reflecting on what we say before we say it, we’ll fail to reach the depths of intimacy and cooperation that we are capable of.“

You can read more of their Newberg and Waldman’s research about how words influence our brain here.

For example, the minute I call someone a “lead” or “prospect,” I turn them into an object in my mind. And when I see someone as an object, I treat my marketing as something I DO to people rather than something I do FOR them.

Nobody wants to be treated an object.

Instead, we need to address others as thinking and feeling people with individual needs and relate to their humanity.

Also, I think marketing is a spiritual thing. It’s the intention behind what we say and what we do. And I believe marketing and sales can and should be a force for good by being genuinely helpful. We have this incredible capacity to influence people positively or negatively.

Help influence and change the words we use 

This starts with us (you and me) and the words we use which ultimately affects how we think and act towards others.

There’s so much else that I’d like to say, but I want to ask you two questions.

  1. How can we change the way we talk about people (customers and future customers) we want to help and positively influence? 
  2. How can we do to change the way we talk about what we do inside (an outside) our companies?

The language we use to objectify customers includes leads, prospects, suspects, conversions, opportunities, pipeline, MQLs, SQLs and more.  We also use phrases like, “crush your quota,” “lead magnets, “wins,” ”closes,” “deals,” and more.

We need to find congruency in the words we use and what I believe the ultimate purpose of marketing which is to help attract, build and grow customer relationships.

When I put myself in my customers’ shoes and use empathy, I can start to see how we talk in a way that dehumanizes. And I know what it feels like when I’m treated I’m an object to convert not a person who needs help.

It’s no wonder the perception of marketers and sellers is negative, and we have a trust gap. And we’re due for a change.

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The post Stuck on words: how can marketing connect with customers better? appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

Who should own lead generation for a complex sale?

So, who should own B2B lead generation: sales, marketing or both?

You might be thinking, “isn’t the answer obvious?”

It’s not. Let me explain.

I hear the same problem over and over. Sales and marketing aren’t doing a great job of executing lead generation because they both believe it’s the others job.

And you know what? They’re both right.  Here’s what I mean.

Companies don’t typically call what salespeople do “lead generation” or “demand generation.” Instead, they use terms like prospecting, business development, pipeline development or social selling.

Even with the increase of content marketing and inbound marketing, I find salespeople get stuck carrying the load of prospecting for their leads. And they waste time struggling to get their foot in the door to find people who want talk to them.

Why salespeople still cold call, send cold emails and prospect

So, why do salespeople still cold call, cold email or prospect? One simple reason: they have no choice.

Marketing rarely generates a sufficient volume of qualified leads. It’s not because marketing can’t or won’t. It’s because marketing typically doesn’t get the funding necessary. So salespeople have to pick up the slack.

B2B marketing is going through a modernization to align better with how people buy. Now it’s time for sales. According to Jill Rowley, “…we’re long overdue for transformation, a modernization of the way we sell…” For more read my interview with Jill Rowley on better social selling.

I’ve found great salespeople don’t spend much of their time prospecting. They network. They get referrals. And they leverage their social network via LinkedIn and Twitter, and monitor news feeds about key accounts. They practice social selling. When done intentionally, these activities are very practical and do not take up a lot of productive selling time. The rest of their pipeline will come from sales-ready leads from marketing.

Sales needs marketing involved through the journey

A well-crafted, researched, intentional lead generation strategy can’t come from sales. Why? Because their focus is on the immediate and near-term revenue and quotas to fill. Lead generation done right requires an ongoing commitment that marketing can best fill.

Here’s why.

The job of marketing is to develop leads that match the buyer’s expectation to buy and the seller’s expectations to sell.  Otherwise, you’ll have a serious disconnect. This why account based marketing is getting so much attention.

Salespeople should not feel stuck with the old, worn-out tactic of cold-call prospecting. They need to do what they do best: sell to potential customers that have qualified as sales-ready. This is where inside sales and sales development reps are filling the gap.  For more on this read, The Biggest Contributor to B2B Revenue.

In tech companies, much of lead generation has been taken over completely by marketing which generates marketing qualified leads that are routed to inside sales reps, or SDRs, for qualification and nurturing. This allows sales to focus solely on developing relationships and closing new business. But outside of high tech, lead generation is still mostly done by salespeople.

To get a broader perspective, I asked the 19,734 members of my B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group about this topic, and I got some great input from other marketing and sales leaders.

Who should own lead generation?

According to Shawn Bezzant, “I think most organizations would agree that both sales and marketing are responsible for lead generation… There are two primary responsibilities any professional salesperson has: building business and closing business. If he fails to focus on both, he will fail as a salesman. In this case, marketing is a support organization that carries a unique responsibility to assist the sales team in building a business. I have never worked in an organization where a salesperson can hand off all responsibility for lead generation to the marketing team, and I have great doubt that model would work over extended periods of time.”

Jessica Sprinkel, wrote, “I think the biggest thing is not finding the magical ‘owner’ but just getting on the same page with sales and agreeing on what’s right for you. Get them involved in the planning process, work back from revenue and calculate lead/opportunity targets for both marketing and sales. Then marketing can focus on running campaigns to hit their respective targets.”

Jonathan Hyde stated, “Lead gen is part of both roles; it’s simply accomplished differently. Our marketing team is responsible for web lead gen, marketing campaigns, email blasts, etc., while inside sales is responsible for cold calling. Both use social selling to increase the number of leads for our outside sales reps.”

Steve Wells wrote, “I think Marketing should own lead generation. In almost any company, the sales group drops focus on all tasks that do not result in a PO by the end of the quarter… Marketing generally does not feel this pressure to change their game plan. Effective lead-gen requires continuity, and losing focus and continuity for up to 33% of the time is not going to help anyone.”

Scott Raeihle stated, “Marketing should ‘own’ lead gen. Sales should ‘own’ converting those leads to customers. And, we should be working together to achieve both. Both departments are revenue generators; why not be aligned? Sales know the ideal customer profile…that information needs to be communicated to marketing so that marketers can do what they do best… so that sales can close more business…”

What’s worked for you to get better sales and marketing collaboration?

According Jene’ Brown, “I work with Marketing and Sales teams on teleprospecting lead generation campaigns, and see best success when Sales is an active participant in the process: defining SQL criteria, input on targeting/messaging, providing feedback to refine lead quality, and kicking back PQLs that don’t result in wins to be nurtured. A sense of ownership from both teams is ideal!”

Liz Fulham wrote, “I always leave it to Marketing or hire a lead generation specialist who reports to sales if there is no marketing team. I found if you leave it to sales, it reduces the time they spend on selling…The only problem is that Sales will blame marketing for bad leads. It is important Sales buy into defining the perfect customer profile and any vendors that supply the leads.”

According to Ahuvah Berger-Burcat, “Marketing owns lead gen/demand gen. But an MQL is not an SQL…and there must be an agreement between marketing and sales when the lead moves from a marketing lead [MQL] to a sales qualified lead [SQL]. Sales and marketing have very distinct roles with a bit of an overlap when it comes to qualifying and nurturing leads.”

According to JC Niederberger, “Marketing has the tactical and functional responsibility for lead generation…but the people who get fired because of leads that don’t close and generate revenue are sales. So, it must flow through sales at the top level. There is always disagreement between sales and marketing on what the characteristics of a “best” lead are. From a sales side, I would think it would be urgency, relevancy, revenue potential, etc.; from a marketing side, I would expect qualification, lead quality, data, open and engagement rates, etc., would be most important. At the end of the day, revenue wins.”

Conclusion

Lead generation is a part of both sales and marketing job to generate revenue. But how exactly they accomplish it is different. It comes down to collaboration. Both need to work together on topics ranging from revenue goals backward to opportunities and qualified leads. Additionally, they need to get alignment on messaging, ideal customer profile, universal lead definition, qualification criteria, and lead routing. In sum, seeing lead generation as a shared part of generating revenue and understanding who is doing what, and collaborating you’ll achieve more.

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Share your thoughts on who should own lead generation and/or what’s worked for you to get better sales/marketing alignment on lead generation?

The post Who should own lead generation for a complex sale? appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

New B2B Persona Research From Salesforce and LinkedIn Study

When was the last time you looked at the accuracy of your B2B persona and contact data?

Getting the right content to the right people continues to be a challenge in B2B marketing.

Starting in the fall of 2014, Salesforce started to analyze more than 15 million data points, spanning a four-year period, from two of the largest B2B databases: Data.com and LinkedIn.

The goal?

To do a detailed audience analysis to help marketers understand how they can improve marketing accuracy.

That’s why I interviewed Mathew Sweezey (@msweezey). Mat works with Salesforce and is the Principal of Marketing Insights to talk about the just released report, B2B Personas: Targeting Audiences. I wanted to talk with Mat and bring this vital information to B2B marketers.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Mat, can you tell us more about your background?

Mathew Sweezey: Yeah, thanks Brian for having me; love being on here. My background’s kind of interesting. I think what’s relevant to this conversation is I was one of the really early employees at a small startup back in the day called Pardot, which is a marketing automation platform. From there, we grew that, sold that to Exact Target which was then acquired by Salesforce.com.

Along with that way, I wrote a book called Marketing Automation for Dummies. I write for lots of different publications, and now I head up the forward-looking marketing ideas and theories as Principal of Marketing Insight at Salesforce.com.

What motivated you or inspired you to do this research?

To me, these are fundamental marketing questions, and what bothers me is the fact that no one else was trying to ask these questions, or whether they actually knew they should even be asking these questions in the first place.

Let me explain.

As a marketer, we have metrics. We’re like all right, so we got 10,000 email addresses this year. That would be a metric that we may give to somebody to validate our efforts. But that’s like saying, I’ve got 10. Ten out of how many? That’s the question. It’s not a “what did you get,” it’s a “how effective were you.” So these were effectiveness measures, and without really detailed information into our audiences, and exactly their size, their growth, their churn, we really have no way to answer any of those questions, which should be key fundamental questions that we should be able to answer about our job. That’s what really sparked this.

This idea started a couple of years ago.  I wanted to understand the value of email better, and how do we value our email addresses. When you look at about the average number that it costs a B2B business to obtain an email address, that is about $150.

And when you then look at the typical size of a B2B email database, the average size is 50,000 names. That’s what a marketer has. Not their addressable market, let me be clear on that. So if you multiply those two things together, the marketer has a seven and a half million dollar asset under their control, which is their email database. And to be clear, that is the largest asset that a marketer owns, point blank. Now when you then say, that’s the biggest asset, then you start to ask some fundamental questions on how do we evaluate it, how often does it churn – anything like that. And there is no data that we can give you. The only measure that we have of the health of our email database is, did the email bounce: yes or no? Horrible metric. So that’s what led me down this path.

Brian: Wow, I’m still processing the cost of an email address is $150, and then along with that the size of the data, this is something marketers don’t think about, from my own experience.

What surprised you most as you analyzed the data from this research, and why?

I think the most surprising thing is the fact that people don’t realize the amount of movement inside of an organization. What I mean by movement is that a person goes through both horizontal and vertical changes within a company.

So, if we’re only looking at the measure of, “is this email address any good for us,” and “we’re only looking at the bounce,” all that says is, “does this person still work at that company.” Which, as a marketer, is not enough information for us to know if they are still in our persona or not. Because if the email address is still good, but the person took a horizontal shift, such as they were the manager of business development, and now they are a manager of support – it happens pretty frequently.

Their email address is still valid, yet that person is no longer in your persona, and you should no longer be targeting or talking to that person. But because that email address doesn’t bounce, we still do.

The aspect of the horizontal and vertical movement is pretty compelling. The second thing that I thought was really fascinating was the idea of growth and the concept of churn. One of the things that we often don’t really think about is that our personas are actually a fluid set of people. It’s different day to day.

Some people leave that persona completely. Hence they were in this managerial role, and now they’re in a different department; they have just left our persona. And then some people enter that marketplace altogether. That’s the reverse, such as they were in support, and now they moved over into sales, hence making them a part of our persona.

Look at your persona data growth and churn rates

So when you start looking at these growth and churn rates, what you see are some pretty large numbers, and they’re all double digit. And what I want people to realize is the power of math.

If your database churns at an average rate of 15% per year, that means your database is irrelevant if you don’t continually update it in 4.2 years. That’s the decay rate. That’s how quickly your email addresses become completely invalid. This data helps us determine just how fluid it is. And then gives us a good measure to be able to say, all right, we lost 15% of our database this year, but we gained 30,000 email addresses, which we know is 15% of all the new people that entered the marketplace. So it gives us a much better way to evaluate our efforts, and to actually understand this most valuable asset that we have.

Brian: As I’m listening to you, the first things you were sharing blew my mind from a marketing standpoint, because, you’re right, we generally look at the health of our data based on if emails go through or not. Those of you and our listening audience. How many of you have had your job responsibilities change in the same company you’re working with? Mat, I’m thinking a lot about that just even in my own data, and how I do marketing because that is a whole other dimension. Vertical, horizontal, and then the other thing I’m thinking about is, okay, what do I do? We’ll get to that in a little bit.

So, your report said that B2B marketing as we know it is fundamentally changing. Why is that?

The idea of marketing has been around for a very long time. If you look at media, and the media environment, really media has three fundamental aspects: creation, distribution, and consumption. Now in the limited media era, there was only so much media that could be created, and it was only able to be set up by those who had the capital to do so, which means businesses.

Then there was the distribution of media, which had to go through a preexisting distribution network, which said you had to pay for it. So once again distribution was limited to those with the capital, or, businesses. That then funnels down to how much media exists in the marketplace, because you only had companies which can create it and distribute it, so hence the entire media environment is pretty much a captive market by businesses.

You then take one step to the right, which essentially I prove that in my book when that step happens, and now we live in an infinite media environment, where there is no longer a barrier to the creation or the distribution of content, equaling an unlimited amount of content in the environment.

Companies are no longer the sole creators and distributors of media

So what that means is, all of the ideas that we have of marketing are created with a captive audience in mind. We no longer live in an environment where businesses are the sole creators and distributors of media.

In fact, what we’ve entered is the world where they are the extreme minority, rather than the dominant majority. And because of that, because we have an entirely new media environment.  Just because you write a piece of content does not mean that someone will find it.

Now we have so much content that we’re using algorithms to connect people to content. Consumers are using algorithms to filter their content, and those algorithms are filtering out all of the crap that we used to make because there never was a demand for that content. It’s just what we could produce, and because there was a captive audience with no recourse, it was accepted. But now there is a recourse and better options; the consumers are taking those better options. Hence, that’s the underlying foundational reason why marketing is changing.

If we took away our marketing and our advertising, would our customers miss it?

No, they wouldn’t at all. Customers hate it. Here’s the thing that blows my mind.  Gallup has put out the trust in professions poll, and they’ve done so for decades. Advertising professionals are some of the least trusted. The only professionals that are more distrusted than advertisers are congressmen, lawyers, and insurance salespeople. We are only one percentage point more trusted than insurance salespeople as a profession.

Brian: That’s depressing.

Mathew: So, why do we still do these things?  We have such a long and vested interest in the idea that it works, when,  it really doesn’t work. It just worked because we were shooting fish in a barrel. They [consumers] had no other recourse. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with one of my favorite marketing books, Clue Train Manifesto, which Doc is a coauthor of with a bunch of other brilliant minds.

Brian: I’ve read it, it’s a terrific read.

Mathew: In that book, Doc says that there is no demand for messages. I was chatting with Doc the other day, and he stated that it’s not only that there is no demand, there never was a demand for messages, and he takes it a step further.  There are over 600 million devices with ad blocking. If you think about it this way, that is the largest boycott in human history, and it is boycotting our idea of advertising and marketing. Think about that.

What can marketers do based on this research for their email?

Mathew: A couple of things. This doesn’t really give a lot of tactics as to what you do with email. Rather it puts into question when you should ask for email, or what is the value of email in your organization. So we have to take two steps back and think about telephone numbers.

Any marketer that uses email marketing now asks for an email address before a phone number. So, the progression of communication channels. Now we have other communication channels such as social. So maybe we should hold off on asking for email until a little bit later because we know that email is much more finite than a social handle. Why?

A social handle is usually a personal handle, which gives us personal access to somebody, rather than email, which is another level of communication. So maybe it suggests that we should invest in social as much as if not more, as a communication channel, just because it has a longer shelf life.

The other ideas are really just to help people understand the effectiveness that they have with obtaining email addresses, and then the fact that we need to realize standard best practices.

If you email somebody five times and they don’t respond, stop emailing them. Churn them out of your database. At one time they thought you were relevant, but, apparently, you’ve proven not to be of interest in their lives, so take the hint and stop it.

LinkedIn, now being owned by Microsoft, has a massively powerful database, and to marketers, it is I think one of the most powerful databases for B2B marketers specifically because it gives us employment data.

Brian: Intuitively I’ve sensed this with my own email list for example, and for our listeners, there are third-party providers that can help you append social data to the email addresses you currently have. I personally use one called Full Contact, and that is useful. There are others out there through data.com, etc. But when you have someone’s LinkedIn profile, or their Twitter, as people are mobile and they’re moving around, your data represents your relationships, and it’s very hard to start relationships over and over if people move from company to company. So, what I’m hearing from you, Sweezey, is that we need to think multidimensionally instead of right now.

How can marketers improve either their campaign or their data management? 

First off realize the amount of churn in your database, and be aware that you’re reporting a metric to your bosses that really isn’t accurate. So if you say that I’m basing my performance on a three percent engagement rate with my email address, you really have a much higher engagement rate with your core demographic than you probably think, because most of those people in your email database probably aren’t in that demographic or that persona anymore.

So that’s one way to think about it: by scrubbing out all these people, you actually can show your effectiveness a lot better.

Realize that email is a very particular type of communication, and it’s applicable.  Don’t discount this fact. It is the number one communication method for business, and it is the number one communication method that business is done through.

If you just have people in your audience, and they’re not actively in a sales cycle, email can help you keep up with them, but don’t discount all the other avenues that help you keep up with them.

What’s the question that I missed asking you or that you wished I would have asked?

Here’s one of my favorite, most interesting statistics that came out of this. Check this out. You got kids, Brian?

Brian: Yes.

Mathew Sweezey: Did you ever have hamsters?

Brian: Yes, we did. For a time, my daughters did.

Mathew Sweezey: And gerbils, right? Same thing. A gerbil will live longer than a marketer will stay in their current position. That’s right. A marketer’s tenure on average is 2.4 years. The average life cycle of a gerbil or a hamster or whatever is three years. So if you buy a gerbil and put it on your desk, it will live longer than you will keep your job.

Brian: Crazy.

Mathew Sweezey: And by the way, in comparison, we have the highest churn rate of any profession. Marketers. Salespeople are second. Marketers are first. Think about that.

Brian: Again, we’ve always known that it’s tough. It’s hard. This is why I do what I do.  I want to help marketers do better. And if we’re moving, that we’re moving for positive reasons. It is a challenging job, but also, I love it because we get to learn so much.  But man, just hearing about that churn, I think for all of us out there, we’ve got to get used to dealing with change, and because change will happen to us, including at our jobs, right?

Mathew Sweezey: Yep.

Brian: So what’s the best way for people to stay in touch with you, or to keep up with your research?

Mathew Sweezey: So I am @msweezey on Twitter. And I do a lot on Slide Share. Those are primarily the two places. And then I speak all over, so you’re likely to go to a conference and see me, or read some stuff I’m writing. I started writing for Forbes recently and some other places.

Brian: Fantastic. Well, I always love talking with you, and I learn a lot. I’m sure our listeners and readers have as well, and thanks again for joining us.

Mathew Sweezey: Thanks for having me.

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The post New B2B Persona Research From Salesforce and LinkedIn Study appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

How to Improve Lead Routing for More Sales

lead routringHave you recently looked at your lead routing and assignment process? If not, you could be leaking revenue and marketing ROI.

Case in point.

LeadData’s new report, The State of Lead Management, based on a survey of 527 B2B sellers and marketers found an average 25.5 % of marketing-generated leads get assigned to the wrong account owner.

Did you catch that? Over 25% of marketing-generated leads get assigned to the wrong person.

This means individuals who expressed interest are not getting the attention they deserve.

LeanData also discovered sales and marketing leaders also have different opinions on lead follow-up effectiveness. For example, the chart below shows 30% of marketing leaders believe that sales will always follow-up on marketing-generated leads compared to 61% of sales leaders.

Lead Routing

Source: http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/b2b-marketers-and-salespeople-point-to-problems-with-lead-management-76968/

There’s room for improvement.

In this post, I’m going to share seven tips to help you improve lead routing for more sales.

Tip 1: Set up a service-level agreement on lead routing with sales 

Do you have the following things documented with your sales team?

  • Written criteria for lead routing (territories, vertical focus, product interest, etc.)
  • Sales time-to-follow-up expectations (2 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours,)
  • Management support to help keep sales team accountable?
  • Clear process flow from form completion to sales hand-off?

I helped a client develop a service level agreement to improve lead routing and increased their leads-to-opportunities by over 200%. 

Here’s how.

  1. Developed a universal lead definition which influenced how they score leads. And field sales agreed to engage all marketing-qualified leads within 24 hours.
  2. Qualified all leads with inside sales and distributed within two business hours.
  3. Used a checklist to update territories often to keep up with changes.
  4. Routed leads via automated rules in Salesforce.com. The workflow notifies the salesperson and creates a task with a deadline.
  5. Setup rule if a qualified lead is not opened/edited by the assigned rep within 24 hours, they get a reminder message from their manager. And if a sales lead goes more than 48 hours, they get a call to see if that contact needs to reassigned or if they need help.

It takes some time to plan the process and collaborative work with sales. But it’s worth it. Using this approach, they converted 200% more leads to opportunities.

Tip 2: Qualify that people actually want to talk to a sales rep before routing

Use your potential customer’s and your sales rep’s time well. When someone downloads a single piece of content (like a white paper), are they ready for a sales rep to call? Not likely.

The key to lead routing to match readiness of the lead (i.e., future customer) with expectations of your sales team. If you don’t do this, you’re starting them off with an immediate disconnect.

First, you need to qualify each lead to see they are “sales-ready” which means they want to talk to a salesperson. You can find this ideal point by using lead scoring and lead qualification. There is only so much information that you can get off a Web form or that someone will volunteer in an email.

For more, read: Lead Qualification: Stop generating leads and start generating revenue.

Tip 3: Provide tools your reps can use to follow-up after handoff

Like a relay race, there’s a point when Marketing’s and Sales’ hands are on the baton when you make a handoff.

Here’s what I mean.

You need to be clear when marketing is going to hand the lead off to sales. You need to be clear when marketing is going to hand the lead off to sales. So don’t drop the baton because that hurts the relationship.

Additionally, salespeople often struggle with their follow-up approach.After working with hundreds of sales people and seeing their sales processes first hand, I frequently hear this “stuck point.” They often ask, “How do I advance the lead when there isn’t an immediate need?” And sales people are often stuck wondering, “What else can I talk to them about?”

Without your input, sales people can resort to boring or irrelevant messaging. This is not because they lack creatively, it comes down to their time. Help your salespeople spend their time connecting and selling rather than building content and messaging.

Create a few emails and some talking points to help them connect with the motivation of leads based on their interest. In sum, help your sales team with messaging and content to engage relevantly.

Tip 4: Schedule appointments for the sales team — Help cut “telephone tag.”

Here are three potential ideas you can test to optimize your lead routing for more sales:

Route leads based on sales skill

Use lead grading to rank what level of expertise leads need based on the need. More general inquiries can go to inside sales reps first. Do not frustrate field salespeople with sending them people who don’t want to talk to them. Make sure you sort your leads based on anticipated needs or interest then route them as soon as possible.

Distribute leads based on product or industry vertical know-how

Use your sales team’s industry experience and knowledge. The more you know about your reps, the more you can match with leads they’ll have the most success. This is why round-robin lead distribution can be deadly to conversion. It assumes every salesperson is the same.

Route leads based on location of remote employees

If you have a large distributed field team, you likely route leads via territories or regions. But smaller teams and inside sales teams can also use local lead routing too. You can help your help your sales team make local connections.

For example, if a contact works from home in CA, but their office is located in MN. Who do you route this lead too? Can that person based in CA connect work with someone local? You need to real collaboration with sales to do this.

Tip 6: Develop to track and measure sales follow-up on lead routing

Does your routing support the real-time tracking and reporting of all marketing-generated leads? You can monitor and measure lead routing in the following ways:

  • Stage of the sales pipeline
  • Industry vertical and initial interest
  • Salesperson responsiveness (time-to-open/edit and initial follow-up)
  • Territory performance (benchmark and compare performance)
  • Marketing campaign or lead source
  • Lead scoring and grading
  • Forecasted revenue and time-to-close

For more ideas, read 6 Metrics That Will Get You an Edge and Your CEO Clarity

Tip 7: Use a checklist to make sure no leads get lost or missed

Airline pilots, portfolio managers, surgeons use checklists so why not marketers? By using lists, you can improve your performance and get more consistent results. For more on this, read HBR: Using Checklists to Prevent Failure.

You can use the following list of steps to help you focus where you need to improve lead routing now:

  • Get buy-in from sales team on your “sales ready” lead definition
  • Provide qualification information for each sales lead
  • Centralize the lead qualification process with a clear lead definition
  • Document the lead hand-off process and accountabilities at each stage
  • Qualify and Distribute sales ready leads immediately
  • Communicate lead hand off to salesperson using automated rules and human oversight
  • Measure sales pursuit on leads (If not followed up will leads get pulled or reassigned)
  • Sales management must also audit and track rep follow-up
  • Close the loop on marketing-generated leads -what gets measured gets done
  • Train your salespeople on how to follow-up and give you feedback
  • Get close-loop feedback from the sales team on leads
  • Share best-practice lead generation follow-up across the sales team

Conclusion

In sum, you can get a boost to your lead generation ROI without any extra spending by improving how you route leads. Using the example I started with, if you were to improve lead routing, it’s like getting a 25% lift in leads. Here’s this best part: You can do this without spending anymore more budget. That’s the kind of results we can all get excited about.

It’s your turn. What’s worked for you to optimize lead routing? Share in the comments below.

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Marketing 101: How to get started in lead generation

The post How to Improve Lead Routing for More Sales appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.