No Robots for Marketing Automation – People Power Please

In the field of Marketing, especially in a relatively new area like Marketing Automation, how can you tell the difference between the real pro and the wannabe? I suggest using a Hype Meter. The higher the level of excitement and hyperbole used the lower the level of experience and professionalism.

The real pros — the ones with the battle scars — are a confident bunch, but they speak and write with wisdom.

For example, I recently read an excellent post by Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD  and  Software Advice  Advisory Board member. His article, The 4th Ingredient to Marketing Automation — People, exhibits level-headed professionalism even though he has a dog or two in the hunt.

Justin made a clear and compelling case for why people power provide the tipping point for marketing automation success. People are responsible for the following critical aspects of marketing automation; technology is not.

  1. Vision
  2. Content Creation
  3. Targeting
  4. Definition
  5. Initiative
  6. Results

If you are looking to implement marketing automation, be sure you have the  necessary people power.


Not Aligned? CEO’s Should Look in the Mirror.

This post is for all the business owners, CEOs and Boards out there who are beginning to see that Sales and Marketing need to be on equal footing in the organization and fully aligned.

Two articles suggest that the CEO’s commitment to alignment and attitude about the role of Marketing are deciding factors in how effectively a company aligns Sales and Marketing and boosts revenue performance as a result.

One article appeared in Forbes in 2011. The other article is by your humble blogger appearing here in 2010.


Lead Management vs. Demand Generation. A White Board Runs Through It.

With all the marketing and sales jargon floating around, it is not surprising that some confusion exists around what certain terms mean. Carlos Hidalgo, CEO of Annuitas Group, noticed that many of the clients he worked with were confused about what demand generation and lead management were, and how the two worked together. So, he did a whiteboard series with Marketing Automation Software Guide, an online resource that provides reviews of marketing automation solutions. Carlos explains the difference between the two, as well as how marketing automation is a powerful tool for supporting the strategy you build around demand gen and lead management.

Most of what he says is pretty spot-on. My only modification would be to point out that individuals who leak from the funnel should be recycled by marketing with a special program until they are ready to progress again. This can be done with your marketing automation system.

Check out Carlos’ great whiteboard session and be sure to leave your comments below.

How Long is Your Revenue Runway?

Many business managers I speak with don’t have an accurate view of how long their revenue runway is; or to put the metaphor aside for a moment, they are unclear about how much time is required for the marketing and sales team to create enough customers to achieve a revenue target. Almost without exception the estimated time to revenue is perceived as being much shorter than it is in reality. The misperception is dangerous. It leads to wildly inaccurate forecasts, wasted budgets, and unnecessary management turnover.

Ask any pilot and they’ll tell you with a high degree of accuracy the length of runway their plane needs for takeoff depending on weight of the aircraft and environmental factors. They can also tell you at what ground speed their plane achieves the necessary lift for takeoff. If their plane is a G5 it needs 5, 150 feet of runway to take off. If it is a 777-200 there better be at least 8, 300 feet of black top in front of it.

If knowing when a given level of revenue can be achieved is so critical, why do companies get it so wrong? It’s because they are only looking at the late stages of their funnel and ignoring the time necessary to find and nurture prospective buyers (the mid and early stages) to the point where Sales should engage. They’ve been trapped in the “Sales Cycle” mentality rather than adopt the “Buying Cycle” perspective.

Recently while creating an integrated Sales and Marketing plan for a client, I asked the management team to tell me the length of their sales cycle. They estimated it was 8-12 weeks. They had historical data to show that once a prospect was talking with them about the problem they hoped to solve it took 8-12 weeks to advance to a point where a purchase decision was made.

Unfortunately, if they had built their business plan and cash flow projection based on that information they would have crashed and burned just like a G5 with only 2,000 feet of runway.

What hadn’t been taken into consideration was the amount of time Marketing required to attract and nurture buyers. In the case of my client, once all the stages of the buyer’s journey were identified, they estimated that the early and middle stages of the funnel took 38 weeks. So the time it will take to find, nurture, and close a prospect actually will be 50 weeks–nearly one year–not 8-12 weeks.

This knowledge enabled us to build a realistic demand generation plan to support short term and long term revenue objectives.

The other factor impacting time to revenue is internal bureaucracy. For some companies the amount of time it takes for Marketing to plan and implement a program or campaign is ridiculous. Companies who want to be more nimble and aggressive must take a critical look at the approval processes for marketing budgets and content. Does an email campaign really need five managers to sign off on it? Why make Marketing jump through another set of hoops to get approval for a specific program budget if it has an approved budget for the quarter? Worse yet, why is that the president or the Board have to sign off on a $10,000 program? Tight fiscal restraints can choke the life out of Marketing momentum and extend the time to revenue. It’s far better to hire good managers, approve budgets well in advance, and let them manage to the budget.

Don’t let expectations be set that your revenue cycle is shorter (or longer) than it really is. Marketing and Sales have to collaborate in the planning process in order to create the right model for the company.

Where are You in the Evolution from Mad Men to Marketing Geeks?

It is a very exciting and challenging time to be a marketer, but it isn’t for the faint of heart or for those who refuse to learn new tricks. Evolution is not kind to the timid. Marketers today have a choice: get buried in the dust, or learn to thrive.

If you’ve been a marketer for more than 10 years you’ve seen a breath-taking amount of change. If you’ve been in the business only since about 2002, you’ve seen a lot of change too.

Consider all the new terms for marketers that have surfaced: Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Revenue Marketer, Marketing Technologist, Engagement Officer, Demand Generation Director, Social Media Specialist, Search Specialist, Digital Marketing Director and Marketing Operations Manager. I believe six of those nine titles didn’t existed 5 years ago. Two titles, Chief Revenue Marketer and Marketing Technologist, have only joined the vernacular in the past 24 months.

To appreciate just how much the marketing profession can change over time, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane. It used to be so simple.

I love the hit TV series, Mad Men. I like seeing what the advertising business was like in the 1950’s. Simple. It was the same model that I stepped into 20 years later as an eager, long-haired grad with an advertising degree. I still think a gray Hart Schaffner Marx suit with white shirt and black wingtip shoes is a great look.

Somewhere in the 1980’s direct marketing concepts started to make inroads in B2B companies. New job titles surfaced, such as, Database Marketing Manager and Direct Marketing Manager. I recall reading a book back then called, Customer Engineering. It revealed to me the modeling, measurement and predictability of direct marketing. It changed the way I viewed marketing and my role as a marketer. I began to create plans and campaigns that drove sales in a measurable way.

At about the same time I read Geoffrey Moore’s, Crossing the Chasm (yes, the book is that old). Moore’s seminal book made me view the customer and customer behavior in an entirely different light.

In the 1990’s I learned to integrate and embrace call centers for pre-qualifying prospects and providing warmer leads to the sales department. This was also the time I built a bridge between my marketing team and the sales department. It wasn’t called sales and marketing alignment back then. It was called, this is how you achieve your bonus and keep your job.

Somewhere in the tech bubble of the late 1990’s and into 2000, marketers lost their way. Looking back I recall being under tremendous pressure from VCs to build brand awareness and get “eyeballs” to the website. It was all about how big and important you could make your company appear leading up to an IPO. Forget about the customer, we were asked to help build a house of cards.

Then throughout 2001 and 2002 the house of cards collapsed. It wasn’t pretty, but coming out of that downturn revenue and the customer regained their rightful focus for investors and business management.

With revenue back on center stage the challenge to marketers was clear, “Prove that what you are doing is driving revenue.” Many marketers panicked. They couldn’t do it. They knew little more than how to build awareness and provide unqualified leads to Sales..

About 2005 marketers began to learn how to use the Web and email for cost effective lead generation and direct sales. This required learning new skills for search marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and how to write compelling email offers. Finally, marketers had some of the tools they needed to impact the purchase decision and generate performance metrics to show to top management.

Fast forward to 2011, or more accurately switch to warp speed, Scotty. What skills are required for marketers to handle their revenue responsibilities today?  A post on Software Advice gets to the heart of the matter. Here are the main areas for skill development from the post, New Skills Needed to Address Marketing Gap

  1. Analytics and metrics: Marketers must now be able to measure campaign performance; track conversions along the sales funnel and make accurate forecasts.
  2. Lead management strategy: Marketers have to work with sales to define the different stages of the buyer’s journey. Then, they must develop a process that will best lead the buyer down that path.
  3. Content marketing: Relevant content is the key to engaging the buyer and getting them interested. Marketers have to be able to build a content strategy around their buyer’s journey
  4. Social media: More buyers are getting social, providing a viable medium for engagement. Being successful with social requires thought, strategy, content and consistent execution.

The first two skills involve data analysis and the ability to identify actionable information in gigabits of data. The marketing department has to have ready access to good data and a data geek.

There is no better source for learning about the buyer’s journey and lead management strategy than MathMarketing’s Funnel Academy (advanced B2B marketing curriculum). The newly formed Marketing Automation Institute is offering training for marketers who want to take their game to the next level. Other great sources of knowledge that I depend on regularly include MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa and Marketing Experiments, to mention a few. Even conferences, such as DemandCon, can play an important role in your professional development plan.

The pace of change for marketers will only accelerate if history is any indication. To thrive in this exciting new world, be very intentional, and schedule serious training for yourself and your team at least twice a year.

International Survey Reveals Why Alignment Drives Growth

A few years ago the respected thought-leaders, MarketingProfs and MathMarketing, collaborated on a major international survey to gain insight about why some companies grow faster than others. Sales and Marketing Alignment Benchmark  focused on identifying what, if anything, high-growth companies did differently in their sales and marketing departments compared to their lower-growth competitors. A summary of the report is available here.

Survey Results: How Aligned Companies Outperform Others

Here are some of the impressive and shocking findings about companies with aligned sales and marketing:

  • Grew 5.4 points more than their competition
  • Closed 38% more proposals
  • Lost 36% fewer customers
  • Marketing contributed at least 24% of the revenue opportunities
  • Marketing was compensated, in part, on the conversion rate of proposals (deals won).