How we can effectively reposition marketing as a profit centre in a B2B organisation
I originally wrote this particular blog as a reply to a question raised by one of my network connections on LinkedIn. He suggested I write an article on this, but I quite like it as a blog first.
The reputation of Marketing within every business relies upon how successful the Sales team are.
If Sales get great quality leads passed to them by Marketing, a lot of indirect pressure is taken off their shoulders - because with quality leads comes growing confidence that they will have a great pipeline with continuity - enabling Sales teams to focus on their A1 prospects rather than worrying in the background that their pipeline is weak.
If senior board decision makers can be educated to change the culture of KPI by 'number of sales leads' and work on the Quality of leads instead - once primary target markets are identified and segmented correctly, then 90%+ of leads passed from Marketing to Sales should promptly convert from 'Suspects' to 'Prospects'.
I help clients resolve the key challenges of quality over quantity. If you get great quality, you don't have to lose sleep about high quantities of targets regularly being met, because there will be less drop-out if leads have been qualified correctly in the first place. Two cases in point: -
A) One client had a sales team where over 75% of the leads passed to them by Marketing were rejected, because the quality of the leads were poor.
This makes a Sales team disenchanted, wondering where the next sales lead is going to come from and can disrupt their overall focus and Sales performance. They want to hit their own Sales targets.
Why waste time working for a company if they are not going to receive a consistent level of good quality leads? It normally means Marketing do not properly understand what the business requires of them.
It turns out that this client had a Marketing Manager and a Telemarketer who were both hired from a B2C background and the Telemarketer was not suited to making pro-active outbound prospecting calls (but was far better suited for an inbound Customer Services role).
B) A future prospect was running an appointment setting campaign with an external agency. Personally, I don't agree with appointment setting campaigns at all - as they are extremely prone to abuse in the massaging of results and if you don't have full 'internal' visibility of such campaigns, abuse could potentially be rampant.
I caught the prospect at the start of a fully committed 12 month contract and was instructed to wait until the campaign had run its course. 12 months on, the Sales Manager was very happy that the target number of appointments had been overachieved.
I had my reservations. For the size of sales territory, the IT solution they were selling in a declining market and the vertical sector they targeted, I knew there was no way that 100 x qualified appointments 'WITH PROJECTS' could be generated inside 12 calendar months.
The end result was that the appointment making agency had literally just made appointments without the companies in question being properly qualified.
Only 10% of the appointments were converted to 'prospects' and so the other 90% were not (I would call) 'qualified suspects', but rather a complete waste of Sales time and related travel and accommodation expenses.
In my view, the cost of wasted Sales resource and expenses alone, could have funded at least two 'quality-focused' 20 x day lead generation campaigns, generating 40+ high quality sales leads that would have had far better probability of conversion into more solid prospects, with greater probability of conversion into new business, with far better margins.
C) A partner business of mine ran a campaign for an HR solutions supplier in the USA. The client bought into a 'no quantity' target campaign after several unsuccessful attempts in the past.
Stringent lead quality measures were agreed with the client. At the end of the campaign, half the number of leads were generated compared to previous 'quantity focused' campaigns however, Sales revenues grew by 41%.
Sales and Marketing must come together as a single department. That may be difficult to begin with, but if you want to increase the chances of the Marketing element becoming a Profit centre, then this needs to be given serious consideration.
It should also help to eliminate Marketing 'fluff' from all collateral and web content and give more clear and punchy messages to primary target markets. Getting the quality of the leads right will bring greater cohesion between the two teams for the team relationships to work. But this has to be led by the Sales Director and Marketing Director working very closely together.
Both will learn a lot from one another and much of this enlightenment should filter down through the ranks. I know of several corporate clients where the Heads of Sales and Marketing have offices on the same floor as each other and NOT based out of different offices.
3) Marketing has undergone quite a revolution over the last 10-20 years, with Marketing Automation and Account Based Marketing strategies being two of the latest platforms that a growing number of enterprises are being drawn to.
My concern is that while it is great to have an increase in the growth of 'inbound activity' to the funnel, this 'activity' should not be called LEADS! They are 'initial enquiries' first and foremost.
I don't fully agree with reports that I see of Marketing Automation agencies delivering 'dramatic increase in clicks and downloads' and people congratulating themselves for a job well done. Because perhaps only 20% of such inbound traffic, once qualified can progress further through 'the funnel'. That's 80% wasted effort that the client is paying for.
Once they have been properly qualified (by either Sales or Marketing depending on the structure of your business), some of these will convert into leads that can move further through the funnel - nurtured and developed to leads that can then be handed across to the Sales team.
Marketing team members can come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. For them to be as effective as possible, not only must they spend at least 1 day each month with a Sales team member, but all Marketing personnel themselves (including Marketing Director), should attend (preferably with the Sales Director and Sales Manager) at least one Sales Training course every 12-18 months (or whenever there may be a change in management).
You will be amazed at what pre-sales techniques and closing skills can then be developed by the Marketing personnel, with a little extra leadership guidance. It is a real eye-opener and something I did myself very early in my career as an IT software sales trainee.
After attending the course, the whole Sales and Marketing team should spend perhaps 1 or 2 days each month all picking up the phone and making either prospecting calls together (on the same day) or qualifying inbound 'enquiries' from the various marketing automation initiatives and then brainstorming all their experiences together; the good, the bad (and the ugly) and collectively what they had all taken away from the experience. This adds value to greater interaction and cohesion between the Sales and Marketing team members, increasing insight into and greater empathy with one another's roles.
1a - Focus on quality leads rather than tough and pressurised volume targets. If you have a monthly target, change it to quarterly. In lead generation, usually 1 month in every quarter is not so good for performance and results, often because school holidays get in the way. Changing from monthly to quarterly will take a lot of pressure off any Telemarketers you may have.
1b - Better qualified leads by Marketing will result in far less leads being rejected by the Sales team and the leads that are carried forward by Sales will ultimately have a higher probability of converting into new business and contribute greatly towards reducing Cost of Sales - a very positive impact on Marketing being seen as a key contributor to Profit.
2 - If you have separate Sales and Marketing teams - they are islands on different tectonic plates. Work on bringing the two together as one. It will take time, but it will be worth it.
3 - Get your Marketing team members into reputable Sales training courses. As little as a single, high-impact evening event will make a difference to your Marketing and Telemarketing personnel and get them asking far more open questions of your respective target audiences and show them the need for quality sales leads that when handed across, should NEVER be rejected by the Sales team.