Monthly Archives: April 2016

5 Steps to the Purposeful Integration of Sales and Marketingtest

Often it seems as if sales and marketing work for different companies, and often, they wish they did. However grim this may seem, truly effective b2b prospecting can’t be achieved without cooperation.

Our experience is that sales usually follows-up only to 30% to 34% of marketing leads. The stated reason is no confidence.

“Why should I follow-up stuff from Marketing when I have real opportunities to work?”

Here’s our 5-step process for integrating sales and marketing, based on demonstrated trust, and have found it can generate a 100% or more increase in lead follow-up, to an average of 60% – 85%.

Step 1: Define the playground

We need a team to make this happen. Empowered representatives of each department are a leaner, more agile team. Not incidentally, this means fewer personalities to contend with.

This team is tasked with developing ideas, trying them, and defining success.

Step 2: Build good fences

The team must hammer out a Service Level Agreement (SLA), defining the new cooperative relationship between sales and marketing. Some suggestions:

  • There are interim measures and resulting measures. Interim measures, such as open rate or contacts may be specific to marketing or sales. Resulting measures, such as lead quality and sales, must be shared.
  • The SLA specifies the criteria that defines a lead that is worth sales’ time. Sales gets 2 votes, marketing gets maybe one. Criteria may include:
  • Source: where did the lead come from (e.g., referral)
  • Need: how important is the product or service to the prospect
  • Timing: where are they in the consideration process
  • Budget: has one been established
  • What are the checkpoints for analysis and dialog?

Step 3: Focus

This isn’t going to work unless we share a clear understanding of the prospect, on two levels:

  1. Decisions are made by the buying center, which consists of several functions. Who is in it and what is the contribution of each executive?
  1. These executives are not just functional titles, but people, with often contradictory business and personal drivers.

Create prospect personas for executives important to the buying center. Each is an archetype, with substance, form, and personality. This will unify our vision and understanding of these prospects.

Prospect personas must be based on new external research with current prospects and customers, or we will perpetuate the mythology that divides us. Proprietary research among marketing professionals shows that 77% of effective personas were based on new external research and 72% of ineffective personas were created from existing information.

The research will also generate what we call the Key Prospect Insight (KPI), which provides competitively superior insight into these real people regarding their needs, information behavior, attitudes, and motivations.

Step 4: Walk a mile in their shoes

The consideration path to a b2b purchase recommendation is a conundrum, and may vary by persona. The process maps the journey to help you:

  1. Identify the most powerful touch points.
  2. Understand how to maximize value and engagement.
  3. Align company sales and marketing.

If this map isn’t based on new research with current customers and prospects, we’re kidding ourselves.

Step 5: Go big

It’s time to take this hard work down off the lift and get out on the road. Let’s see where this working relationship is strong and where the components need to be fine-tuned.

Publicize the results, concentrating efforts initially on higher management. Cooperation, where it didn’t exist before, constitutes cultural change, and that does not happen from the bottom up. People will only get on the bus if management is driving.

Then engage the rank and file, and show them three things:

  1. This was developed based on trust
  2. It requires continuous improvement
  3. It generates more leads and more sales.

Interestingly, sales and marketing integration is not hypothetical but is a pain-point for many organizations. What works (or doesn’t) for you?

Content Must Connect – Three Essential Insights for B2B Content Marketingtest

We recently conducted Prospect Persona research with C-Suite executives worldwide. An inescapable observation is that in b2b content marketing, we speak before we listen, that most content is based on assumption of need rather than firsthand knowledge of what facilitates and adds value to the purchase process.

Of course, these senior executives want an expert, unbiased voice that speak directly to the specific, immediate need. Easy to say, hard to do.

From this research, and our Prospect Persona experiences, emerge three essential insights to help us create content that connects with the executive, their need, and the decision making process:

  1. No one in a corporation makes a decision by themselves.

Corporations rely on the buying center. Titles with subject matter expertise and/or skin in the game have responsibilities to the buying center. The buying center is virtual and expands or contracts based on the product or service being considered.

Here’s what I mean, in the words of one senior executive,

You marketing guys are all alike. You think you have to send everything to me, but that’s not the way decisions are made around here. Moreover, while you are a respected resource, I resent having to go through all of the information you send and dole it out to who really needs it.

We have many smart, talented people, each with specific responsibilities to gather information and assess what you have to offer. You must be sensitive to their needs and respond with the required information.

You would do well to learn who they are, what they do and what they need.

  1. There’s a sphere of influence

It is likely that there are unseen and previously unknown influencers to the buying center – folks who do not sit at the table, but contribute greatly to shaping information and opinion.

For example, during these interviews many CEOs revealed the importance of their assistant. We may imagine them with appointments and emails buzzing around their head, but many times they are entrusted with conducting primary research on matter of immediate interest. Many CIOs tune into what ideas bubble up from their engineers.

These assistants and engineers punch above their weight, having outsized influence because they are conducting, and thus curating, the content research.

You would also do well to learn whose these people are.

  1. The nuances of messaging can blow up your goals

A technology client had built a very successful SMB business and was now looking to move to the enterprise. For years their message spoke to their prospects about backing up your data to the cloud.

Prospect Persona research came to two conclusions:

  • One, back-up, by itself, is not valued by the corporation. It’s a cost center. The corporation only values data recovery.
  • Two, about a third of the enterprise technology decision makers had an “almost religious aversion to the cloud”.

So, by changing the way they said hello, from backup to recovery, from the cloud to reliability, the content could be of value to a significantly wider audience.

In summation, John Eng, CMO of TradeShift, adds his hard-won experience,

“Our content and sales teams work to empower the buying center, to empower each participant to recommend us. We work hard to build the personas to integrate our efforts and focus on what’s really important to them.

“We must connect with these executives on a personal level to really be effective. It’s the only way to prove our competitive superiority. Otherwise, we’re just making noise.”