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Is Your Marketing an Investment or a Cost?

Written by Roland Bydlon

Imagine you just hired a fisherman to catch fish for you.  He has caught fish before. He is confident.  You bought him the finest boat and equipment.  You hired him a crew.   Then you turn him loose.  Go out in the ocean and catch fish!

Your competitor did the same thing but told the fisherman that many customers wanted to buy swordfish.  He gave the fisherman a map with where swordfish were known to be swimming, what fish they were swimming with, the temperature of the water that they liked, their last known depth and what they were eating at the time.

Which business has the best chance of success?

I was having lunch recently with the VP of Sales and Marketing of a tech firm.  I asked her what her marketing group was doing and how she knew if they were successful.  She told me about their branding initiatives, the number of conferences where they were exhibiting, the number of sponsorships they were supporting, and the launch of their new website.  Her team was busy.

I then asked her to describe her sales challenges.  Sales were lagging behind forecast.  The Sales team claimed they were not getting enough good leads from marketing.  Sales personnel were being forced to qualify leads and many of the leads were not ready to buy.   Some were making cold calls to generate additional leads.  Good leads they were working were taking too long to close.  She did not have confidence the company would be able to meet its sales forecast.  Sales and marketing needed to communicate better.

I asked her again (in a nice way) “How do you know if your marketing team is successful?”  Her team was very busy but from what she told me they were not delivering all the information that sales (her fisherman) needed to bring home the revenue her company was counting on.

In a B2B environment marketing needs to deliver warm (nurtured) leads to sales.   

Stephen Covey made famous the statement “Begin with the end in mind.”  I would like to propose that marketing and sales need to work together.  Marketing has one primary function, to deliver warm leads, ones open to a buying decision, to sales.   I also would add that sales needs to report back to marketing the quality of the leads they are given and if a lead is not ready to buy it is returned to marketing to continue a nurturing process.  This end in mind is paramount.  Everything else supports this goal.

So what is a warm lead?  Warm leads are NOT a goldfish bowl filled with business cards from a recent trade show raffle.  There may be a few good leads in there but you should not be paying sales to go through and separate the good from the chaff.  History has shown it won’t work.  Your representative will get a few cards in and give up.  A nugget will never get discovered or, if it does, probably not in a timely fashion.

What about branding, what about sponsorships, or what about customer outreach?  Isn’t that Marketing?  Isn’t that important?  Yes, Yes and yes!  That said the end in mind is warm leads.  A strong brand, a well delivered customer loyalty program, and an attractive and well designed website are all tools to attract and nurture leads.  What is important is the bigger picture, how are these tools being used to encourage customers to reach out and connect?

Many people would agree that a warm lead is someone that knows about your company, knows about your product, has done some research and is open to a buying discussion.  A recent SiriusDecisions research report stated that a buyers decision is 70% complete by the time they contact a sales person.   Potential customers are making buying decisions about your products and those of your competitors every day.  This nurtured, ready to buy, lead is valuable.  Depending on the industry or product a warm lead may be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.  You should be able to compute the cost per lead, cost per prospect, or cost per sale.

Quality content targeted toward your key customers is key!

Marketing needs to develop a content strategy that will attract and engage key customers.  Questions to ask are the following;

  1. Who are your customers?  Identify them by name and personality.
  2. What type of information is relevant and valuable to each of them?  (general information usually not a sales pitch)  Each part of the sales funnel is different (brand awareness, inquiries, closing)
  3. Where do they normally get this information?  (on line, print, in-person)
  4. What content can you provide each of your customers? (relevant and valuable)
  5. Where / how will you distribute the content?   (your website, other websites, webinars, trade publications)
  6. How will you build awareness of your content (paid, organic search, sponsorships)
  7. How will you build loyalty?  (hotlinks to your site, follow up information, personalization)
  8. How will you measure results (marketing automation)

This process doesn’t just happen. Best of class companies have a strategy for success.

  • How are your branding and messaging, your website, your social media and other marketing tactics building your presence and credibility in the market place and helping you attract and retain key customers/prospects?
  • How successful are you at delivering warm leads to sales?  What tactics do you employ?  How successful is each?  What is your cost/lead?  What changes will you try in the next 30, 60, 90 days to improve?
  • What is the relationship between marketing and sales?  Are they working together as a team?  How do you know?  How can you improve?

Is your marketing an investment to increase sales or just a cost?