We measure a lot of KPIs in marketing, but none are more important than sales revenues directly attributable to marketing. We marketers really haven't accomplished anything until we've delivered a sustained, measurable increase in sales leads that our sales team can easily close and meet their sales targets. The trouble starts when these objectives aren't met. What's the problem? Rather than point the finger at the sales team, let's take a look at some things we could be doing better.
We're really good at communicating who we are, what we do and why people should want to be our customers. Our content machine is cranking out great stuff—blogs, ebooks, videos and webinars. The problem is, we have lots of fans and followers, but they aren't people who are likely to buy from us. They're students and teachers and competitors who want to go to school on our content—for free. Time to go back to square one. Do an in-depth buyer persona analysis. Create content that's specifically geared toward solving their problems and target campaigns at those personas.
The timing is not right (yet). We turn leads off by going for the sale too early in the sales cycle. What does this really mean? If you're reaching the right personas, they should be looking for solutions, and the timing is always right for that, isn't it? Go back and take a hard look at the content you are using to attract qualified leads and move them through the sales funnel. You should be using lead nurturing to encourage but not harass, providing needed information to help your buyers make an informed decision, preferably in your favor. Frame your content marketing as a consultive sale, not as a series of ads.
What do you know about your leads? Are you asking the right questions in each of your lead conversion forms, starting off with the basics and gradually building up their profiles as they download more of your content? Are you getting answers to important questions, such as company size, role, budget, decision-maker status and purchase timeframe? Are they telling you a story by choosing which pages to view and which content to download? Do you have lead intelligence tools in place to analyze this data, score your leads and respond quickly to buyer behaviors?
Have you bothered to ask them—directly by talking with your sales reps, or indirectly by studying their choices and comments from your website, blog, social networks, webinars and form conversions? Have you interviewed your current or past customers to find out what's working and what isn't? How do those things guide you in creating content and campaigns for new customers?
Once you've developed a comprehensive strategy based on buyer personas and messaging that's appropriate for each sales funnel stage, you should be able to create a content map and editorial calendar. You should be able to assess the content you already have and develop a plan for creating the missing pieces of your content map. Now develop campaigns that will entice and nurture buyer personas using your content map. Schedule them to fit your content development plan and any known events that may provide unique opportunities for lead generation.
This is often the root cause of sales conversion #FAIL(URES). The best intentions in the world still don't deliver the goods. If you're going to use content marketing, lead generation and lead nurturing strategies effectively, you have to have digital marketers, copywriters and graphic designers at your fingertips to create the "guts" of your campaigns. You can hire them or outsource them, but, either way, there's no alternative if you want to do this right.
Sales reps can't close the leads being passed to them by Marketing, and Marketing feels like their efforts are being wasted on sales reps who don't "get it." This is classic sales and marketing misalignment, and it needs to be addressed at a high level. Sales and marketing teams need to be on the same page in everything they do, and processes need to be in place to keep them there. Folks on both sides of the "fence" need to be using a common set of marketing automation and CRM tools with mutually agreed upon criteria for lead intelligence, scoring and management. Here are some great suggestions by the sales and marketing wizards at HubSpot.
Timing is everything is sales. Your lead intelligence "machine" needs to be set up to automatically recognize significant buy-stage changes and rapidly notify the right sales reps of the changes. Your process needs to be set up so that someone is always monitoring lead status changes and requests for information, free trials and demonstrations. It's only by quickly responding to these challenges that you have any hope of beating the competition to the punch.
When was the last time you did some data mining in your own lead database to find ripe fruit for sales? Try creating some segmented lists based on criteria that may indicate sales readiness, such as buy cycle stage or volume of interactions with your website. Now create a new campaign just for them based on their apparent interests and interest level. In the case of existing customers, how about reaching out to them to see how things are going or to offer them tips to get the most out of their investment. How about a free refresher course or a preview of coming attractions? If you don't nurture your own customer base, who will?
Well, if you follow suggestions 1-9, you should get better at both, but there can be other reasons for failure. Neither sales nor marketing are easy jobs. They both require special skills and experience. People who are good at one of these disciplines are usually not so good at the other. The simplest solution is to hire great sales people and great marketing people and set up a process that ensures they work together as a team. Easier said than done. Small businesses often don't have the luxury of filling the roles separately, so they seek "hybrids." Hybrids are usually stronger in one discipline than the other and pay only lip service to their weaker half. So this is the toughest challenge of all—the human side of sales and marketing. Everything else flows from great people, so worry about talent first.
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