Let me start out by saying that I’m on a streak of great thought leadership interviews. I may put these interviews into an e-book and distribute it. The content in the Thought Leadership interview series has gone well beyond my expectations with rich, thoughtful responses that I have learned a lot from.
My latest interview is with Will Schnabel, Vice President of International for Silverpop and co-author of Silverpop’s new e-book, “Lead Management Workbook: Advice and Worksheets to Develop a Strategic, Results-Driven B2B Marketing Program.” Before his current position, Schnabel was responsible for overall operations and product direction at Silverpop’s Engage B2B (formerly Vtrenz).
I think you’ll enjoy this one — I did.
1. What are the three trends you see emerging in 2009?
- Engagement marketing moves front and center: The rise of Web 2.0 has ushered in a new age of marketing that respects the power of the informed customer and catapults marketing to a whole new level of effectiveness and influence. Marketing has always been about relevance and relationships, but engagement marketing takes this one giant step further into a world where customers assert more control over the brand and fully expect companies to participate in dialogues with them. As such, the tipping point from traditional marketing to engagement marketing seems to be close at hand. Though traditional, interruptive-based advertising will still be with us for a long time to come — and can be a critical first element in the complex relationships marketers forge with their prospects — it will no longer enjoy its privileged position as the primary influencer of consumer and business preferences and buying decisions.
- Sales and marketing are now talking: I continue to be encouraged by the dialog and effort by B2B marketers to define and implement integrated lead-to-sale processes. Agreements on information flow, business process, organizational structures and measurements are being hammered out by sales and marketing organizations around the world, with a growing understanding of the tremendous benefit that can be gained in terms of increased opportunities and business revenue. This has now allowed integrated lead management to move from a nice-to-have to a must-have for many B2B sales and marketing organizations.
- B2B marketing practices become standard marketing practices: There seems to be a growing realization of the different approaches used by B2B and consumer marketers. With this realization, various organizations, industry analysts, technology vendors and a growing set of key influencers are emerging to develop and push new B2B marketing concepts forward. It is exciting to see this industry rapidly develop, spawned by the use of social networking and Internet-based marketing approaches.
2. What are the biggest challenges for B2B marketers in 2009?
I believe one of the most difficult challenges for B2B marketers in the current economic climate is to be asked to do more with less. Time and time again, I speak with organizations that are reducing their headcounts and consolidating their marketing efforts, yet they still have the desire to undertake new strategies, such as integrated lead management. Diverting funds from traditional marketing approaches to online lead management will continue to gain acceptance, but having the right people, with the right knowledge, to manage this internal change will become increasingly difficult.
3. What are three metrics that B2B marketers should care about and why?
- Percentage of sales pipeline generated by marketing: This metric helps track the percentage of the sales pipeline, or opportunities, that marketing is generating based on lead generation/lead management activities. As marketers accept greater ownership for delivering sales-ready leads, it is important to show the sales teams that they too will sign-up for, and be measured on, delivering the company’s revenue targets.
- Cost per opportunity: This is, in many ways, the opposite of Cost per Lead, or CPL. By looking at the costs required to generate a sales opportunity, rather than just a new inbound inquiry, different marketing approaches and advertising mediums can be evaluated appropriately. This is the core metric that allows marketers to focus on lead quality over lead quantity.
- Average TTR (Time to Revenue): This is a measure of the average time it takes from spending marketing dollars on a new inquiry to booking revenue after a new sales win. While the TTR will vary greatly by industry, I believe marketing should understand the velocity by which a lead moves through the funnel. If generating sales-ready leads requires a lengthier lead-to-sales process, then the cost to achieve that revenue will inherently rise. A secondary metric would be to take campaign ROI and divide it by the average TTR. This would be another good indicator (and surrogate NPV calculation) of which marketing efforts provide faster ROI than others, which is of even greater importance in this difficult economy.
4. What are the top oversights marketers are making regarding lead generation?
The first and largest mistake is to ignore the lead-management aspect of lead generation. By that I refer to the processes, as have been highlighted by many in The Funnelholic, of lead nurturing, lead scoring and lead routing, happening before they are passed to sales.
However, a key requirement of lead management is to provide clear visibility to sales regarding these efforts. If marketing isn’t 100 percent transparent in their lead-management efforts, sales will inherently be concerned that they are being denied access to possible revenue opportunities. Conversely, sales information and activities must be visible to marketing to allow them to monitor the process of the opportunities, fine-tune the scoring approaches, and recycle old leads as necessary. Overall, this transparency is key to building a collaborative and trusting working relationship between sales and marketing.
5. What will you prescribe to marketers to carry out effective lead generation?
Given its importance, and with the risk of being repetitive, I encourage us all to be transparent with sales and management. Focus on providing key metrics on leads generated, opportunities created and revenues delivered. When asked by management, “What have you delivered?,” stay away from soft responses such as the number of conference and trade shows attended, ads placed or white papers authored. Report your successes, and failures, with the same level of analytical rigor as other departments.
6. What three web 2.0 applications, cutting-edge technologies or lead generation sources do marketers HAVE to consider to be successful?
There are a number of great new applications, such as TweetDeck, for staying involved in the growing social landscape. But, not to be too old fashioned, I think there are three core applications that all B2B marketers must master.
- SFA (Sales Force Automation) or CRM: This is core to understanding the outcomes of our marketing efforts, and evaluating our sales cycles against our competitors. The information provided by our sales organizations is a gold mine for understanding the outcomes of our marketing efforts.
- Marketing automation/lead management: I’ll admit this is a bit self promotional, but having a fully integrated platform that manages your lead database, nurturing efforts, email campaigns,and scoring rules, and provides real-time access to your lead-to-sales metrics, is critical to managing the stream of lead opportunities efficiently and effectively. This is especially true in this economy, as marketers must automate manual processes, and easily and rapidly share information with sales.
- Google analytics: Last but not least, Google continues to move the needle by offering new features that dramatically help marketers understand online behaviors and optimize Web marketing performance.
7. What do you hope for in B2B sales and marketing in the new year?
I hope that, rather than just speaking to (or shouting at) our customers, we all focus on listening to their needs. It would be risky, in this era of user-generated content, to simply focus on traditional approaches to marketing which are based mainly on message reach and frequency.
In this spirit, I hope that new lead-generation approaches not only improve internal efficiencies and collaboration between sales and marketing, but help us enter into meaningful and relevant dialogues with prospects and customers, thereby improving our brands and driving greater revenue opportunities for our organizations.