Archive for Demand Generation

Can influence marketing increase adoption?

As the challenging economy continues, more firms that I come into contact with are asking about how to improve their adoption rates. By this, I understand them to mean that they want to know how to get the customers they already have to increase their usage of the products or services they have already bought so that the relationship is more valuable to the firm, and presumably the customer too. It’s a close-cousin to cross-sell, where firms try to get the customers they already have to buy some additional products, so that the relationship increases in value. In the interest of time/space, this post is only going to try to tackle adoption, not cross-sell. It is also only going to focus on influence marketing as a solution, and will not address the myriad other possible solutions that might be invoked in these situations.

Adoption challenges can take at least the following two forms, and each requires different influence strategies.

Adoption challenge #1
The supplier has sold a product into an entire enterprise, but the employees of that enterprise are not embracing it in sufficient numbers to meet the supplier’s objectives. The influence strategy that is most likely to work in this situation is to speak to the non-adopters through the adopters.

For example, say a supplier sold the firm a pet insurance policy for its pet-owning employees, but only a few of the company’s pet-owning employees signed up. What influence strategies would be most appropriate to address this situation?

  • Engage those employees who did adopt the pet insurance to provide live testimonials at the firm’s employee benefits day, during open enrollment meetings, and at brown bag lunches arranged specifically for this purpose. Encourage those giving testimonials to detail how having pet insurance provided them with peace of mind, and helped them to avoid a financial catastrophe when their pet recently required costly surgery.
  • Digitally record testimonials from employees who did sign up for pet insurance, and (with permission of course) make the videos available to the company for use on their intranet, corporate website, and video monitors located at employee sites.
  • Extract quotations from the recorded testimonials and publish the quotations (with permission of course) in brochures about the pet insurance product, and in handouts used for new employee orientation.
  • Adoption Challenge #2
    The supplier has sold a product into one department of a firm, and the appropriate number of people in that department have embraced that product, but in order to meet its objectives, the supplier needs to convince leadership in another department that their workers should adopt that product as well. The influence strategy that is most likely to work in this situation is to explicitly refer non-adopters to the adoptors, rather than having the adopters initiate the dialogue with the non-adopters, as above.

    For example, say a supplier sold marketing services into one of three marketing departments within a large firm, and needs to sell marketing services into the other two departments to meet its objectives. What influence strategies would be most appropriate to address this situation?

  • Leverage your relationship with the department that did buy your services to learn about any important differences between the three marketing departments, to ask for guidance about how best to stimulate a response from the other two departments, and to prepare the key contacts in the client department to answer questions that might be posed by the other departments.
  • Employing what you learned from the client department, reach out to the other two departments directly with information about your services, an offer that will pique their interest, and a specific reference to your relationship with the department that did buy your services. More often than not, that will at least spark an inquiry by the non-adopter department to the adopter department.
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    Lead scoring on steroids not for everyone

    I have known about the importance of lead scoring for a long time. For those who don’t understand why lead scoring is important, it largely has to do with the irregular flow of leads. Many sales leads result from marketing campaigns that tend to produce a surge in lead flow right around the time of the campaign. If that surge of leads is passed through to sales without any scoring, sales won’t be able to quickly and easily determine which leads are their highest priority, and they will likely waste a lot of time calling leads that aren’t yet ready to buy, and while they do so, the leads that were ready to buy might be going cold because the sales follow-up was slower than they wanted. So, we score leads as they come in to help sales know which are most likely to buy, and marketing know which need further nurturing before they should be passed to sales. In an ideal world, where there are always enough resources to follow up on every lead timely, I suppose this wouldn’t be necessary, but none of us are living in that ideal world these days, so it really is necessary.

    I read a Marketo white paper the other day that took lead scoring to a whole new level. The white paper is called Are They Hot or Not? A Step-by-Step Guide to Aligning Sales and Marketing by Implementing Lead Scoring, and is available here. Marketo’s suggestion is that we should not only be scoring our leads, but also scoring the prospect company, by aggregating scores for all leads across the company, and scoring each product we hope to sell them, by aggregating scores for all leads across the company by product. These are both very logical extensions of the concept, and so I can see why Marketo would be advocating for them. If these two additional scores could be implemented cheaply and easily, as Marketo says they can, I suppose they might help some highly skillful sales reps or marketing campaign managers to further refine their action plans.

    I’m not convinced that all companies could realize that value, however. For instance, how valuable would those additional scores be to companies that sell only a few products? Or to companies that sell to small businesses where there is really only one buyer? Or to companies where lead flow is more limited, and so you might not get many leads from the same company or about the same product in a given period? My intuition tells me that Marketo’s solution might not be valuable for these companies at all. But nobody should trust my intuition, I don’t. Before considering a solution like this, all companies should put together a business case for the solution that drives to the question, how many more sales would we get, at what cost, if we had this solution in place? If there are sufficient incremental sales or cost savings to justify the investment, then go for it. I’m sure we would all enjoy hearing about your successes.

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    Outsourcing demand generation & lead qualification

    I recently read an IDC study from earlier this year that said that 70% of firms surveyed are experiencing longer sales cycles, and 50% of them are experiencing lower lead conversion rates. Taken together, this data drove IDC to the conclusion that firms will need to invest more in lead generation in 2009, to close the sales gap created by the longer sales cycles and lower lead conversion rates. IDC added “in many cases, outsourcing demand generation and lead qualification is the best path to success,” because “most organizations today do not practice this kind of rigor across internal groups and therefore may well find outsourcing a path to delivering higher-quality results.”

    I’m intrigued by these conclusions, having never worked for a company that outsourced either demand generation or lead qualification. I was always under the impression that my employers kept those functions in-house in order to ensure higher-quality results. But the IDC study seems to imply that results would have been better had we outsourced. I’m not sure if anyone is following this blog whose firm has outsourced its demand generation/lead qualification functions, but if so, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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    Sales isn’t following up on marketing leads for a reason

    Most people who have studied marketing can tell you that marketing lead generation is about both quantity and quality. However, it seems that in many B-to-B organizations, quality has been forgotten in the quest for quantity. As a result, marketing leads have lost credibility with sales, and are often relegated to the bottom of the pipeline in terms of which leads sales will follow up with first.

    It’s axiomatic in the B-to-B marketing space that sales teams just don’t follow up on marketing leads. I went to a Business Marketing Association seminar the other day where the audience burst out laughing when the speaker suggested that this might be a problem in some firms. That meeting was about a different topic, but I heard a number of people from the marketing function speculate as to why sales teams don’t follow up on marketing leads, and they all seemed to focus on perceived deficiencies with sales. I’m not going to defend the world’s sales organizations, but I will suggest that we marketers could use to take a look in the mirror the next time this issue surfaces. At a minimum, it’s a shared problem, and it’s possible the problem lies firmly at marketing’s doorstep.

    How do I know this? Well…the sales people at every company I have ever worked for were results-driven. They pursued whatever lead was in their pipeline that was most likely to close a sale. If your sales partners aren’t following up on your marketing leads, that’s likely because they have had experiences that tell them that the marketing leads aren’t as ready to buy as other leads in their pipeline. That means that marketing will need to either nurture leads further before sending them to sales, or provide sales with the tools necessary to convert the current marketing leads into closed sales. Oh, and by the way, if your sales tools require more work than shifting focus to other leads in the pipeline, then you really only have one choice….start nurturing those leads until you have improved lead quality to the point that it is attractive for sales to follow up on your leads.

    If you are wondering how to do this, the internet is full of advice about how marketing should go about nurturing leads, often from vendors of software packages that make it easy to manage nurturing campaigns across the spectrum of client and prospect leads. One recent example is Marketo’s The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing, which you can get here. In this report, as in all the others like it, you can take the advice with or without the system that they recommend. My only hope is that B-to-B marketers will embrace the key concepts behind lead nurturing, and going forward will accept responsibility for producing leads that are at least as ready to buy as others in the sales pipeline. Once that happens, we’ll stop hearing that sales isn’t following up on our leads, and start hearing a greater demand for leads from marketing.

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    Lifecycle marketing for technology firms - another resource

    I recently wrote a blog post about the need for better lifecycle marketing in technology firms, thinking that technology firms could learn a bit about the topic from financial services firms. After that post, I received a great comment from Georgina Thomas who indicated that the pressures to learn about lifecycle marketing are increasing within technology firms in the current economy.

    The other day I found an additional resource that might help technology firms figure out what steps to take to improve their lifecycle marketing, and so thought I would post again about this topic. Last month, Aberdeen Group wrote a research report called Lead Lifecycle Management: Building a Pipeline that Never Leaks. It’s posted on the Aberdeen Group website, and numerous other places on the web, but you’ll need to provide all of them with some information about you to get it.

    Key takeaways from the report were as follows, that Best-in Class companies are better than the rest of the companies in the study at Lead Nurturing, Lead Scoring and Segmentation and Targeting. Marketing, sales and service leadership at Best-in-Class companies are aligned around the goal of maximizing the number of sales-ready opportunities, and therefore work collaboratively to:

      Document the buying cycle so that employees in marketing, sales and service all have the same understanding of what it takes for the company to get a sale

      Assign responsibility for every stage in the buying cycle between marketing, sales and service

      Assign back-up responsibility, for revisiting an opportunity, if it should fall out of the buying cycle at any stage. For example, maybe sales couldn’t close a particular sale, but the client didn’t buy a competing product either. That opportunity might at some point be reassigned to marketing for further nurturing until they are ready to make a purchase decision.

      Leverage lead management technology, and integrate it with their CRM

      Develop a methodology for ranking opportunities by propensity to purchase

      Display the propensity to purchase ranking in their CRM

      Train their marketing, sales and service employees how to use the propensity to purchase rankings to prioritize their work

      Perform rigorous quantitative analysis on the relationship between their propensity to purchase rankings and actual sales outcomes

      Meet regularly to review successes and failures in their approach to lead lifecycle management

      Feed learnings from sales results back into their propensity to purchase ranking methodology, functional assignments, and understanding of the buying cycle

    Lastly, the authors of this report note that Best-in-Class firms apply these techniques to both client opportunities and prospect opportunities. That seemed obvious to me, and certainly has been true wherever I have worked, but perhaps it’s not so obvious somewhere, so I’ve included it here.

    I would love to hear your stories about lead lifecycle marketing at your firms.

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