Marketing’s New Role: Lead Generation Engine

Today, best-in-class B2B marketing is a demand generation engine for sales.  For most companies this is a massive change from marketing’s traditional role.  As Forrester principal analyst Jeff Ernst puts it in a recent blog post:

“B2B marketing is going through an essential transformation. Historically, our focus has been on events, PR, and collateral. Now, our CEOs and board are demanding that we’re directly driving revenue growth. This requires a whole new set of skills and activities across marketing and sales teams: content marketing, inbound marketing, lead-to-revenue management, revenue-cycle analytics, account-based marketing and selling, to name a few.” 

It’s a big change, but there is plenty of data that validates the importance.  Here are two significant success factors identified by leading market researchers in recent surveys of hundreds of B2B sales and marketing teams.

Best-in-Class create 50% of sales pipelinefrom marketing generated leads

Aberdeen Group

Optimizing the Marketing to Sales Lead Lifecycle, 2011
On average, organizations that nurture their leads experience a 45% lift in lead generation ROI over those organizations that do not

Marketing Sherpa

2012 Lead Generation Benchmark

My Priorities If I Were Your Chief Marketing Officer

I have one singular objective as your head of marketing: creating B2B sales ready leads for the sales team.   That doesn’t mean I don’t care about brand, reputation, image or any of those other ‘marketing’ responsibilities, but leads are where marketing’s rubber meets the road.  If we are not filling the company’s sales funnel none of the rest of that stuff matters.

To get there I have six areas of focus.  This is all I’m concerned with until the CEO, the Chief Sales Officer and I are convinced we are well down the path.

1. Sales Alignment

My team’s first meeting is with our Chief Sales Officer.  We need to hear first hand from her what she needs when it comes to leads.   Our second meeting is with her sales managers and members of the sales team – they are new focus group.   From their we will schedule as many team discussions as it takes to flush out sales’ definition of their ideal prospect and what a qualified leads means to them.   Together we will also decide how to measure our combined efforts for finding, qualifying, and moving leads into the sales pipeline.   No silly slogans, we’ll simply set our goals and start counting our results.

2. Marketing Automation

We will have a marketing automation platform integrated into our website, fully tested and ready to go in 90 days.  This is paramount to our future success as a marketing team.   We won’t make this a science experiment!   We don’t have a year to think about it and build studies.  Our first targeted campaign will launch 90 days from today; the sales team is depending on us!  I’ve told my team that if they need outside help finding the right software and put everything in place, to please get it.   If we create one good lead which sales closes it easily covers the entire first year of this program.

3. Social Media

We don’t need meetings to decide “Should we be on Facebook, do we blog, or are companies like ours really using Twitter?”  We will have a company social media strategy, in-bound lead plan and monitoring program ready to launch in 90 days that engages our executives, subject experts, customer service and sales team.  It won’t be perfect, but we’ll improve on it as we go.

4. Prospect Database

An accurate lead database of our targeted prospects is critical for our marketing automation program’s success.  It’s not “sales’ job” to go find these leads, it’s marketing’s.  However, with sales we are defining our ideal prospect and creating a sweet spot matrix so we all agree who goes into the database.   These leads will also be segmented and ranked based on our target markets and our sales team’s alignment with those verticals and geographies.

5. Content Creation

We have two objectives for our content creation initiative:

  1. Create plenty of strong content that is easy for our prospects to locate, read and share.
  2. Make sure we have the technology and processes in place to score and nurture those leads that engage with our content until they are sales ready.

The content we create will work with our marketing automation platform and new web site (as you’ll hear below,) to engage, educate and qualify our prospects.  We consider this a full time responsibility of marketing, not just something that will happen in between other tasks so we have created the new role of content director and built a formal job description based on the best practices of leading B2B content marketers.

Our blog and web site will be the hub for our content, but it will also be integrated into our social media strategy and of course feed our outbound marketing efforts as we start our nurturing campaigns to our new prospect database (via our new marketing automation platform of course)!

6. Web Site

There is a great blog post from Anneke Seley, the author of Sales 2.0, on the role today’s website has in the selling process.  Here’s what she says, “In the Sales 1.0 era, prospects had to talk to those of us in Sales in order to get information about our products and services. Today, they check out our websites first, quickly forming a first impression.  And, if we’ve done our jobs well, our websites become their “go to” resource throughout the buying cycle and often beyond.

She then provides four reasons why (and how) today’s websites need to be part of a Sales 2.0 strategy.   They are:

  1. Websites can help generate prospects and keep them engaged
  2. Website analytics reveal what prospects are interested in
  3. A 2.0 website can show when and how your prospect is engaged – and how qualified they are to buy
  4. Sales 2.0 website + marketing automation system + CRM integration = increased sales productivity.

We know our website needs a lot of work to become a “go-to resource” and deliver these results.  We will get there based on our efforts with sales on market segmentation, plus the new capabilities from our marketing automation software, along with social media integration, and not least of all the output from our new content initiative.  All of this will come together on our new website launching at the conclusion of this first 90 days.

Which bring us back to where we started; that “Sales and Marketing are in this together!”  Sales is our customer as far as the marketing team is concerned and we will do everything we can to make them successful.   When they win, we win, the company wins!