Teach a Man to Fish (for Leads): A Team-oriented Approach to Demand Generation

Since the advent of the Web browser, sales and marketing principles have grown increasingly complicated particularly with the expanded focus on digital media and the various marketing channels business now branches out into (i.e. Social Media, Organic Search, Paid Search, Email, etc.). As we race to push our tactics to the innovation edge, it sometimes seems we also push ourselves to the brink of incompetence as sales and marketing because it’s all so new and we can no longer see each other clearly in the silos we create from all the new activities. The changes we’ve seen in the sales and marketing landscape over the past 15 years have primarily come through the exponential increase in power of the global network through technology advancement and innovation; including the flood of new opportunities emerging from the increased globalization of markets, and an explosion in Software as a Service (SaaS) providers coming into the value chain, making it increasingly more flexible to configure new business models driven by a convergence of these new digital marketing channels. Incompetence comes when we go so far out on the innovation limb (which by the way is relative to the experience of each team), that something eventually breaks; usually communication and team work. As our ability to optimize this new marketing paradigm increases, so does our ability to compartmentalize all the activities into execution silos, so much so, that in-house analytics teams are constantly struggling to catch up with all the new tracking and analysis requirements that are created by the evolving media mix.

Back when things were simple, the traditional Integrated Marketing model we lived was the analog of what was to come. Technology added a new dimension to what we do as sales and marketing people, which has redefined relationships. Now, the common language interface between teams that work efficiently are the shared Key Performance Indicators that we agree to measure success or failure by. The problem comes when we fail to see the marketing ecosystem from the broad perspective; a problem that is super common in larger companies with teams comprised of narrowly specialized professionals that are so new to the workforce that they know no better. As competition grows fiercer, the strong adapt and the weak hide in their silos and reinforce their silos with sandbags of inefficiency; they close themselves off. If this were a war movie, right about now we’d be hunkering down with artillery fire buzzing over our heads, afraid to stick our heads out.

But, this is not a war story, it’s a fishing story. It’s time that sales and marketing veterans start passing on the lessons learned before all the marketing war drama started between disparate sales and marketing channels. It’s time we recalibrate sales and marketing practices to align better with Real Company Shit (#RCS as Wil Reynolds at Seer Interactive calls it) tactics based on time tested principles of working together. Before things became so scary, sales and marketing worked together like a tight fishing crew. They caught, cleaned, cooked, and ate fish together. No one was allowed to go overboard or left out at sea. Today’s sales and marketing ecosystem has in effect evolved into the perfect storm. It’s time to grab onto your team mates and enjoy the thrill of the catch together. Your alternative is to cower in the corner by yourself, fearing for your existence and wondering how much longer you can hang onto the boat, all the while not contributing the value that you could.

Catching Fish

You don’t need to like fish or know a thing about fishing to appreciate the fact that you can’t yank something out of the vast ocean of opportunity that you can’t attract to you, let alone see.

Some processes you have to strip down to very calculated steps, and how well you execute on those steps is as important as where you get those best practices from.

Yes, there’s more than one way to catch a fish, or skin a cat, whatever. So the question remains, what’s your formula?

Are you following a proven process, or trying to reinvent the sport?

Are you getting out there prepared, or are you finding yourself going overboard frequently to reach your goals, or just as bad, going home empty handed?

When I work with clients, I’m either providing the entire blueprint, or parts of it, depending on their operational needs and business objectives. Yet, it’s always within the context of an integrated well thought out approach. I don’t just dive into the water and come up with the fish in my mouth. Before you’re ever going to eat any fish, you’re going to first have to find the fish, bait the hook, cast the line, reel them in, clean the fish, then cook the fish.

I’m happy to help you at any of those phases. So, now let’s talk about that process of Finding The Fish aka Strategic Marketing Analysis.

Technology has come so far that you’ve now got a vast number of ways to measure the pulse on any given market, even a market that you’re trying to create.

Prospecting for customers has never been easier, which is one of the reasons there’s such a deluge of methods and tools out there to help you look at sales and marketing intelligence. This is where the sport comes in. If you’re in some backwater part of the country, you might see someone blasting a shotgun into the water or tossing sticks of dynamite to get the fish to float up. Those approaches aren’t scalable, so you want to be the guy out there with the fish radar equipment, nets, or whatever repertoire of techniques to go in and get what you need without getting yourself getting kicked out of the whole ecosystem for doing something foolish.

Before you run out and get your boat, you need to first know what you’re going after, then get outfitted and staffed accordingly. Know who your competition is and what the size of your market opportunity is. The last thing you want are sharks ripping your little inflatable boat apart because you steered your crew into wrong waters. Once you’ve set your sights on your demographic target, segment your audience so you can further refine your sales and marketing approach towards each type of customer. Remember, not all fish will take the same kind of bait. You might occasionally catching something here and there by stringing up bologne on your hook, but at the end of the day when you look at your acqusition costs and lost opportunity, you might as well be using the shotgun or dynamite because your fishing days won’t last long anyway.

Baiting The Hook, aka Marketing Communications, is all about getting your company and product messages positioned just right to attract the type of audience you’re looking to respond to your campaigns. Those well positioned marketing messages get delivered (line casting mostion) visa vis a well executed content and design strategy across all your sales and marketing channels. If you’ve ever seen a skilled fisherman bait a hook, you’ve noticed how carefully they’ve attached the bait so their efforts aren’t squandered by bait that tends to fall off the hook. Their techniques are designed to withstand the environment they’re in. Similarly, your messaging, content, and design has to withstand the turbulence of all that noise out there in the marketplace, as well as the deluge of opportunities your audience is already considering. Sometimes you get the scenario where your ideal target audience doesn’t even know your bait is there, and you’ll find them snacking on substandard solutions to their business needs. You want them to choose your bait. You need to let them know you’re there.

You’ve now entered the Demand Generation phase.

Depending on what you’ve set out to catch, you now need your campaign plan that details everything from what aparati will be used, to what the lure will be. Each aparatus you employ will play a significant role in your integrated marketing plan. How you tie everything in from Public Relations, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media needs to be managed cohesively. This is where your marketing reporting and analysis, and marketing automations sytems come into play. Fine, so maybe you’re on a budget and can’t afford the slick fish detection radar. Take a close inventory of what resources you do have and innovate.

Now that you’ve got the right type of bait secured to your hook, and you’re positioned over the right school of fish, it’s now time to cast the line and start reeling’em in. Just be warned, they don’t always come in without putting up a good fight, so don’t expect for them to just jump into your boat. You need to have your salesforce well prepared for the fishing campaign. With a little bit of effort you’re guaranteed to carry home your payload, but it’s going to take a team effort. Marketing and Sales need to work hand in hand, or your efforts are sure to be squandered. Remember, each campaign has a limited time to be executed within, so you need to have your sales projections and quotas clearly defined to measure your team success by. While Sales might be the ones actually doing the reeling in, their success will greatly depend on how well Marketing has set them up to succeed. There’s no such thing as a “hand off” of responsibility. Marketing’s job isn’t over when the trigger gets pulled on a campaign. You’re in the boat together until you reach the docks at the end of your trip with your full payload. Marketing doesn’t get to boast about a successful campaign, while Sales is drowning in mismanaged leads. When you really think about it, Sales should also not be the only ones who get incentivized for sales wins, though that’s the most common practice.

Salesforce Enablement is the phase in the overall process where you have to roll up your sleeves to sort out the results. You don’t get to haul your boatload of fish home on the first sweep, unless of course you’re that good or lucky! Count on this fishing campaign being an iterative improvement cycle during the campaign period. While you’re examining what you’re pulling into the boat, you need to simultaneously be measuring and scoring what you’re catching, taking note of which fish are ready to be cleaned, and which require further nurturing. Lead Scoring and Sales Funnel Analysis is managed more easily if your process is supported by the proper tools, such as a CRM database (i.e. Salesforce.com) that integrates with your Marketing Automation system (i.e. Marketo, Eloqua). Analyzing the results of your approach will give you the insight you’ll need to make improvements in your process. You might find that your process works super, but certain types of fish that you’re reeling in are way too cantankerous to get into or keep in the boat, and thus lengthening your sales cycle causing wasted efforts and missed opportunities elsewhere. It is the job of Marketing and Sales to work together to predict the types of tools that will be needed throughout the process, and to develop those tools. Immediately after that cantankerous fish gets reeled into the boat, you need your team standing there ready with the right tools to secure the catch.

Just as a fishing expedition has a limited time period, so does a campaign. So, was your marketing expedition profitable? While marketing campaigns are sometimes designed to not end, you need to manage them with a specific Return on Investment (ROI) in mind. If you’re to be cooking any fish, you’d better know how much you need to bring home. Proper campaign reporting and analysis is crucial in keeping acquisition costs under control. Serious fishing expeditions are usually tied to a budget, which should be in turn held accountable for producing some form of quantifiable result. You’re campaign analytics should not only tell you the obvious, such as whether leads or sales are coming in, but also whether they are of the right type. Some things you catch you’ll need to throw back right away, while others in the “nurture pool” to a point where they can be useful. You’ll find that much of the same effort and tools that go into managing your nurture pool will also serve useful in your Retention Marketing efforts. If you want to keep hot leads and clients fresh, you need to nurture them, too.

Evodio Walle, Mar 31, 2015