In the last 3 years, we have worked with tens of technology companies across Europe and participated in running over 100 digital campaigns in over 20 countries across the world.
In many cases, we have been responsible for end-to-end campaign execution and more often we have been involved with just one or two of elements of the Digital Sales Engine. In all cases, we are very passionate about customer success and often are ready to walk the extra mile to deliver great results.
Unfortunately, we also have seen campaigns fail from time to time.
Lead generation campaign should be approached as a system.
The system means that in order for the campaign to work, each element of the campaign need to be on the necessary level of quality or quantity. A a problem with any element would drag down the performance of the full campaign.
So the most important challenge that companies need to solve to be successful with lead generation is to build a system.
The more compromises are made, the less is the probability of success.
Same as with a car.
You can have the best engine, class-leading suspension and best available racing-grade fuel, however, if your gearbox is broken you will not get too far too quickly.
Over time we have updated our Digital Sales Engine concept and it consists of 5 distinctive elements based on GTM strategy and execution parts of it. These elements are:
How the results of lead generation campaign are impacted if any of these elements are performed at substandard quality or quantity?
Sometimes some of our customers urge us to not spend time and money on strategy but get right to execution.
It’s the results that matter, they say, and we want results fast.
Goals and objective?
Ehhh… just make it work! We are too busy. And want a lot of leads fast.
If GTM strategy is not well defined, there is a poor return on marketing investment or in other words – it is more than likely that money is going to be wasted.
Salespeople become unhappy with the low quality of leads they get.
Because (we assume) other elements perform (automation and analytics), management can clearly see that there is something wrong with the general direction of marketing.
Marketing team (internal or external) does not have a clarity of purpose and objectives.
The team loses motivation and specialists focus on their own areas that they feel they can influence.
Money is spent, some results hopefully are generated, but nobody is happy.
The company gets good results with the top of the funnel; however, it is difficult to guide prospects further down the funnel. If contacted, prospects refuse to talk with you.
After getting a two-page brochure instead of the whitepaper they signed-up for, many of them distrust the company and feel that your promise of quality content was just a click-bait to squeeze out their contact information and enable you to make cold calls.
Because content is poor, the company fails to establish authority and prospects look down on it with suspicion.
Even more – the company may be used by prospects as an alternative to their preferred choice, just to illustrate to management how poor the other alternative is.
So, you are in fact making your competition look good.
Nobody wants that.
Perhaps it would have been better not to publish that poor-quality content at all.
One recommendation here – even if you are not producing any content apart from your website, make sure anything you publish (including website copy) is proofread by a native editor.
Or else, as one of our customer loves to put it, you risk sounding like Borat.
Do you remember Borat?
Do not be like Borat.
Well, let’s start with the reason why do you need marketing automation in the first place.
To close the deal, you need to involve hundreds or thousands of prospects. They all need to learn about your offering. Unless you automate these efforts, you will get stuck with massive manual work and a mess.
As a result, the marketing team spend lots of time to send e-mails and compiling the lists of customer segments.
If you don’t have marketing automation, analytics is limited to the top of the funnel data and CRM data from sales.
As a result, the company has no idea what is happening with middle and bottom of their marketing funnel, how much a lead costs in which channel and what is the forecast of qualified leads to hand over to sales the next month.
Not good again. Lack of automation is likely to be the biggest bottleneck in lead generation. I do not think it is possible for a tech company to scale its business without marketing automation at all.
Well, then you have a serious challenge. However, you are not alone (I hope it helps to know that!).
Our experience shows that most B2B companies have an issue with marketing analytics.
The challenge here is to bring together data from various sources in a meaningful way.
You want your data from Facebook to be on the same dashboard with data from LinkedIn ads and on the same page with your current marketing funnel and cost per lead. Facebook, however, might not be willing for its customers to access its data outside its interface, so it may be limiting the data that can be extracted.
We have solved this solution and most of our customers have access to near real-time dashboards about the campaign performance.
It is not an easy challenge to solve and we are yet to find a solution that we find good enough. Meanwhile, we continue researching this area, including prototyping Power BI and Google Data Studio based solutions.
One of the biggest mistakes we made when we started our business is not planning enough time and resources for campaign optimization.
In fact, experience shows that campaign performance management over the 6-month period often takes more resources and costs than strategy, content and marketing technology implementation together.
You cannot just launch and forget.
Optimization deals with investigating and studying analytics and finetuning campaign: messaging, audiences, visuals, automation flows, landing pages and other changes that can impact conversion rates and quality of leads.
Unless this is performed, companies have a low number of leads and excessive spend on advertising.
We have seen that skilful use of multiple versions of audiences, channels, ad messaging and creative can reduce cost per lead by as much as 10 times.
If you reduce cost per lead 10 times, you get 10 times more sales with the same advertising budget.
We have seen that experimenting with just 3 different visuals for a Facebook campaign the best performing visual is producing 9 times better results than the worst-performing.
Without that experiment, we wouldn’t have known that.
Unless you do disciplined experiments, you cannot decrease the cost per lead acquisition and ultimately – decrease the cost of customer acquisition.
Optimization is critical to maximizing return on marketing spend. The best practice is to have a weekly review and adjustments once, twice per month.
Lead management is the last and perhaps most important mile to success.
Even if your marketing team has a perfect system for lead generation, but nobody follows-up on warm leads, marketing will fail to demonstrate success.
It is extremely important, therefore to make sure sales is involved in the early planning of the campaign and they are managing incoming leads and providing feedback about the quality. It is best for marketing and sales to have a formalized mutual SLA (Service Level Agreement) in place to manage lead quality and handover process.
Sadly, in most organizations, marketing and sales are worlds apart. On several occasions, we have had to step up and get involved in helping our customers do early-stage sales pipeline management.
As we have seen earlier, each component of the lead generation system should be sufficiently good for the system to perform well.
You cannot make compromises with its elements and still expect the system to work well.
You also cannot just ignore some elements of the system (such as sales management).
The first step for any project is to establish clear goals, such as a number of leads generated, lead quality criteria and timeline. Ideally, each campaign should have a customer-generated campaign brief.
Second, it is best to be very clear from the start what you expect your consultant to do in terms of campaign elements.
Our recommendation is to have a small and dedicated team working on the system that must involve salespeople.
The smaller the team the better as there are less relationship and communications complexity involved. Each team member must have a clear responsibility, authority, decision making and reason to participate in the meetings.
From another hand, when multiple stakeholders from customer side are involved (particularly if they tend to second guess each other), the more difficult is to move ahead and the more expensive and inefficient the project becomes at the end.
In fact, our experience shows that the more control we as consultants have over the whole system, the better results and the faster we can execute.
Some of the best performing campaigns have been the ones where we have controlled it all up to running pipeline management calls with sales.
So if you want strong lead generation results above all (as opposed to giving a learning opportunity to your team which is a worthwhile goal on its own), it may be a good idea to let your consultants run the show end-to-end.
The post is written by Rolands Ozolins.
Rolands is a technology marketing strategist and co-founder of IBD Consulting.
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