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Marketing Watchdog Journal   October 2007, Issue 44

Featured Article
A Seismic Shift in Demand Generation: Putting Your Leads at the Center of Your Lead Marketing
(Part 1 of 2)

By Tim Wilson, Director of Business Process Analytics, Bulldog Solutions

According to IDC, on a daily basis, roughly 26 trillion e-mails are sent. Almost 11 trillion of those e-mails are spam, 4.5 trillion are automated e-mail alerts, and 10.5 trillion are person-to-person communications.¹ As your prospects face an increasing volume of e-mail, the time they have to digest your message is increasingly short (and anti-spam tools that err on the side of over-filtering can prevent your e-mail from reaching their inboxes in the first place). In this article I'll focus on what BtoB marketers can do to make an impact on their lead marketing program when their communications are but a drop in a vast uncharted sea.

Provide Real Value to Your Prospects—and They Will Listen
The explosion of the Web as an information resource has resulted in your prospects feeling empowered to shape their own experience. They subscribe to RSS feeds for blogs and podcasts. They connect directly with their peers and thought leaders through social networking sites and discussion forums. They are increasingly unwilling to sift through a sea of lengthy e-mails or a poorly designed Web site to find the information they are looking for. When Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, penned an imaginary letter from a BtoB prospect to the companies that are marketing to her, she deplores e-mails that simply push out nakedly self-serving "trash talk," which she (and your prospects) immediately see for what they are—and promptly delete. What her BtoB prospect really wants to know is, "Do you have any good information or fresh insights about the challenges my company is facing? How about how other companies are addressing these issues? If so, I'm interested in that."²

Lead Lifecycle Management: An Ongoing Conversation
To be truly effective at building and optimizing a demand generation program, companies must evolve from a campaign-centric view of their leads to a lead-centric view of their leads. This evolution requires a fundamental shift—from pushing communications out to prospects when the company has something to say, to providing relevant content to prospects when they are ready to, able to, and interested in listening. This includes empowering your prospects to "pull" content through the channel(s) they most prefer. At Bulldog Solutions, we refer to this lead-centric approach to lead marketing optimization as Lead Lifecycle Management (LLM).

Brian Carroll, CEO InTouch, Inc., articulates the rationale behind LLM as follows: "To be successful at generating leads for a complex sale, you can't rely on one specific tactic, but rather you need to leverage a portfolio of tactics. It begins with a mindset that sees lead generation as an ongoing conversation—with human beings—that's both multimodal and iterative. Not just a campaign."³

Effective LLM requires an increased level of clarity regarding how you segment and manage your leads from initial discovery, to and through the handoff to Sales, and on an ongoing basis. LLM also requires granular tracking of your leads' activities and then reacting and communicating in a timely and relevant manner based on their behavior.

Your Leads Don't Care about Your Sales Cycle
In Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, the Eisenberg brothers point out that, "While you are busy 'selling,' customers are engaged in the related, but by no means identical, process of 'buying.' Customers need to resolve their own concerns so they can build the confidence to buy from you. Ideally, they'll build that confidence with information you provide. But if you don't provide it, they'll track it down by going to other sources."

An effective LLM strategy demands that the customer's buying cycle be at the core of the program. A lead-centric strategy recognizes that your marketing and sales activities influence, but cannot entirely control, a prospect's purchase timeline and purchase decision.

The stages of the buying cycle, and what type of content is most relevant to a prospect at each stage, are as follows:
  • Early Stage: Educational content that explains concepts, strategies and tactics, and helps the prospect determine whether doing something is a better option than maintaining the status quo
  • Middle Stage: Solutions-oriented content that explains different approaches for addressing and solving issues—case studies and customer solutions are common solutions-oriented content
  • Late Stage: Vendor-oriented content that describes specific products/services or compares products and services across different companies
By identifying which type of content a prospect gravitates to, and by providing easy access to content that is at or just beyond the prospect's stage in the buying cycle, an LLM program can increase the timeliness and relevance of the information being delivered to the prospect.

At the same time, and on an ongoing basis, an LLM program evaluates prospects' responsiveness to different content, in order to assess:
  • Where in the buying cycle that prospect appears to be—passing a lead to Sales only when the prospect has self-identified himself as being in the middle or late stages of the buying cycle
  • How actively engaged the prospect is with the content that is provided (and, therefore, with the company)
  • What products or services the prospect appears to be most interested in
This ongoing evaluation of the prospect's behavior creates a feedback loop that delivers more relevant content to the prospect, while also strengthening your credibility and brand.

In the next issue of Marketing Watchdog Journal, I'll continue these musings on LLM with a look into the next generation of lead qualification, lead nurturing strategies, and the importance of a lead management program, as opposed to a good old-fashioned lead-generation program.

¹ Mark Levitt, program vice president for collaborative computing and the enterprise workplace, IDC

² from "The One Piece of Advice You Can't Generate Leads Without: From 10 Experts on B2B Lead Generation," RainToday.com.

³ from an interview with Brian Carroll: http://www.whitepapersource.com/marketing/brian-carroll-interview.html

Tim Wilson is director of Business Process Analytics at Bulldog Solutions, the lead-generation optimization and management company. Visit www.bulldogsolutions.com to learn more.

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Marketing Watchdog Journal is a monthly newsletter from Bulldog Solutions, a lead optimization and lead management company dedicated to helping our clients generate more, better leads and turn them into revenue. We welcome your feedback on this newsletter's content and design, and encourage you to share your ideas for topics you would like us to cover in future issues. Please send your comments or questions about Bulldog Solutions to Amy Bills, senior manager of Field Marketing.
 

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