Until 2005, marketing’s job was branding and positioning with a goal of providing “air cover” for sales people—but it was never very measurable and therefore always a target for layoff when the economy (or the company) took a nose dive.
Branding and positioning is still important—you want to know what business you’re in and how to communicate those messages to the target audience. However, today’s B2B marketing maven must be generating qualified leads for sales—but this is actually great news!
Hunting down leads was used to be a top performing salesperson’s priority, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult every day for them control the entire sales process. It’s because we don’t need to talk to salespeople anymore to get the information we need to make a decision. We, as buyers, will talk to a sales rep when we’re good and ready, and not before.
Therefore, the activities (and the opportunities) for sales people are being broken down into specialized pieces.
- Marketing now acts as the primary lead generator
- Business development/inside sales acts as the nurturer, first-level qualifier and appointment setter.
- Commissioned sales people use their specialized consultative skills for closing and give you the best opportunity to win the deal. Because the number of touches has gone way up, you don’t want your closers doing all the hunting anyway—they’re going to give up way too quickly and you’ll still miss opportunities. (Here's how it should be structured.)
No one ever gets rid of their top producing salespeople, and most top producers got there because of their hunting skills. But now because that is shifting to marketing and demand generation, marketing owns this opportunity for job security!
All of today’s marketing initiatives can be measured using predictable metrics. For example, one percent of our database of 10K clicked through into the most recent blog post. From the business development follow up, we got two conversations (Sales Accepted Leads) and one of those moved to an opportunity for proposal (Sales Qualified Lead). So it’s safe to assume that if I can double my database of ideal prospect profiles, we should be able to double the number of conversations and opportunities.
No more “well, I know we’re having impact because so-and-so said they saw our ad.”
Further, by using your average selling price, cycle time, and closing metrics, marketing professionals should be able to calculate how much each and every lead is worth to company in dollars and cents. In other words, if we invest $1 in marketing we make $4.
Now, we can see exactly how many marketing qualified leads we generated on a monthly basis, and how many of those turned into appointments for sales conversations. When executed properly, it becomes as predictable as cold calling used to be, and it’s easy to determine where to invest.
Now that we’re on the same page in terms of what marketing’s role should be, a word of caution: you are probably not currently employing the needed skill sets to pull off a lead generation program. In other words, the person responsible for trade show planning is probably not going to have the skills needed to manage a database and design HTML responsive email and landing pages, write copy, and manage the digital programs.
Because the necessary skill sets are different, the challenge most companies face today is where they can dial down their marketing spend on current staff and branding and awareness initiatives and shift some (if not all) of that focus to lead generation. (This is the #2 reason it falls apart)
I know that many marketers are starting to feel the pressure to generate qualified leads. Many are even started to be compensated based on performance. Assuming that the follow-up process is solid (may be a big assumption for many) this now translates into a big opportunity for marketing professionals because of the potential upside and the ability to demonstrate actual return on investment.