Today we have a colleague of mine from the Lead Generation Blogosphere, Andrew Gaffney — the editor of DemandGen Report — The Scorecard for Sales & Marketing Automation. It’s a must-subscribe for anybody in the “game,” and I am really excited to get him to join in on the Thought Leadership fun.
Gaffney also heads up G3 Communications, which specializes in helping B2B organizations develop custom content for thought leadership and lead nurturing campaigns. Translation: Like me, he doesn’t just write about it, he lives it.
Enjoy the interview.
1. What are the three trends you see emerging in 2009?
The first and most prominent would be more emphasis on lead nurturing as companies look to maximize their marketing investments. When the economy was still in a growth mode, it was easy for B2B marketers to keep paying for more new leads to feed the funnel. Now, as efficiency has become the rule of the day, companies realize they can’t afford to let valid contacts waste away in their database.
The second trend I’ve seen is more focus on lead progression and the conversion of leads through the various stages of the marketing and sales funnel, ultimately increasing the number of opportunities the sales team is trying close.
Finally, I would point to the increase of new media and new tactics to engage prospects. Whether it is social media, viral video, e-books, podcasts or other types of content, B2B marketers are realizing they need multiple touch points in order to stand out from the crowd noise.
2. What are the biggest challenges for 2009?
Buyers are clearly pulling back and really looking for reasons not to invest. Companies have to have a fine-tuned demand generation engine in order to connect with contacts at the top of the funnel and then have a compelling ROI and competitive advantage story in order to progress prospects to close the deal and make an investment in this climate.
3. What are three metrics that B2B marketers should care about and why?
As I mentioned earlier, I think conversion rates at each phase of the funnel from inquiry to qualified lead and then handoff to sales will be critical to success. Marketers are going to need to benchmark their progression rates against established best practices and establish goals to improve at each phase. Ultimately that will pay dividends in the revenue and closed deals. There are probably four to five different metrics specific to the funnel I’d suggest looking at, rather than only three.
4. What are the top oversights marketers are making regarding lead generation?
One of the most common mistakes I see is overlooking the importance of the contact database. The old phrase “garbage in, garbage out” is especially true in lead generation. If you don’t have a solid data base of current and accurate contacts who are the right demographics for your solution, you’ll get a lot of email bounce-backs, your telemarketing will cost you a lot more and your results will suffer.
5. What will you prescribe to marketers to carry out effective lead generation?
Micro-manage as much as possible. Focus on data hygiene with your contact database and then look at the progression rates of each phase of the funnel to where your messaging may be missing the mark.
6. What three Web 2.0 applications, cutting-edge technologies, or lead-generation sources do marketers HAVE to consider to be successful?
I think we’ve gotten to the point where a marketing automation system is a must-have. I have seen too many examples where high-growth companies have a significant lead over the pack because they have more intelligence on prospect behavior and they know the optimal path to progress prospects through the funnel.
There are a lot of intelligent database tools I would recommend — such as Demandbase, ZoomInfo and Reachforce — which really enable marketing and sales to have smarter touches with prospects. These tools have proven to really accelerate the engagement process in B2B.
Then I would suggest looking at any ROI tools, such as calculators or assessment tools, which help in the later stages of the funnel.
7. What do you hope for in b2b sales and marketing for the new year?
I’d like to see the maturity and skill sets around demand generation continue to progress. Sophisticated companies are realizing it’s no longer just about getting random contacts to complete registration forms, its aligning sales and marketing processes to accelerate the buying cycle of targeted prospects.
And I’d love to see the economy start to turn so budgets loosen up and we can all start focusing on growth again.