3 Marketing Ideas from a great marketing company - Kinaxis


B2B Demand Generation | Learning from the best

What can you learn from the savviest marketing companies on Earth?

Kinaxis is a supply chain software company in Ottawa, Canada that competes against much larger rivals with very deep pockets.  With that kind of challenge, how are they faring?

Quite well. Thank you.

I spoke with Kirsten Watson, now VP of Marketing at Kinaxis. (Congrats on your promotion, Kristen.) Insights from her interview became the inspiration for this blog article - good stuff you can use.

In processing Kirsten’s interview, I was struck by the utter simplicity of their approach. It can be boiled down to 3 key points that you can use in your business:

  1. Attract prospective buyers with Humor and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    Lots of funny videos like SuiteMates, (below) Married to the Job, and Late, Late Supply Chain Show. (modeled after David Letterman’s show.) And they relentlessly focus on high rankings in search engines for their keywords.Here’s a sample:
  2. Keep prospective buyers with thought leadership
    Thought Leadership
    A robust blog, third-party experts (with smiling photos and short bios of real people), featured content, content published in third-party publications.Once they visit, they stay.
  3. Think Like a Publisher
    A good example of publishing is what they do when they create a white paper. Ardath Albee talks about the Rule of 5 on content - instead of one piece of content, turn it into five.
    Here’s the process Kinaxis uses:
  • Produce a white paper (1)
  • Video interview of the author, asking her about the white paper. (YouTube) (2)
  • Then they strip out the audio for a podcast. (iTunes). (3)
  • Finally, they produce a transcript, which is used in 3-4 blog articles. (Blog) (4,5, and 6)

Results

One year after starting the process of moving from 1. to 2., Kinaxis measured these results.

  • 2,700% increase in website visitors
  • 3,200% increase in conversions (leads)
  • 5,300% increase in traffic to the blog

It’s not complicated, is it? Attract ‘em with humor and SEO, keep them with though leadership content and use publishing approach to create lots of content - which feed both SEO and thought leadership.

Are you thinking “It’s too hard and we don’t have the people or the budget for this?” Sorry, but the marketing department at Kinaxis is only four people and their marketing spend is in line with industry averages.

Is B2B marketing really that complicated? Or can we take ideas from companies like Kinaxis to make a big difference?

What do you think? We love comments and people who share.

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is the President of the B2B lead generation consultancy Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the way they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

Aligning Sales and Marketing - Why It’s Not Working and What to Do About It


B2B Demand Generation | Aligning Sales and Marketing - the Importance of Elephants

Each day I hear the drumbeat…Align sales and marketing for revenue results. One problem: The message is wrong and is not working. Marketing and Sales are as far apart as ever in most firms. At one of Find New Customers clients the marketing team complained about the lack of cooperation from sales.

In the book at left, Chip and Dan Heath share insights on how to effect change when change is hard - like aligning two very different groups in your company.

They feel the tension between emotions and rational thought is illustrated by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt in the book The Happiness Hypothesis where he introduces the analogy of a Rider on an elephant. It looks like the Rider is in charge, tugging on the reins, but when the massive elephant choose his own agenda, there is nothing the Rider can do. The six-ton elephant always gets his way.

In this analogy, the Rider is your conscious effort - willpower, rational thought. The elephant is your emotional and instinctive side.

Your elephant has overpowered your Rider anytime you slept in, over-ate, skipped the gym, said something you regretted, refused to speak up in a meeting, or hit the “snooze” button repeatedly. The elephant thinks short-term - looking for instant gratification. But the elephant is also emotion - love, compassion, sympathy and loyalty. Ironically, the elephant is the one that gets big things done.

To make change happen, you must appeal to both the Rider AND the elephant.  The Rider provides planning and direction, while the elephant provides energy. If you reach Riders only, the listeners have understanding but not motivation. If they reach elephants, but not Riders, they have passion without direction. What most blame on people is a process problem.

Align Sales and Marketing is a message that is squarely directed at Riders. It makes sense. But there is no emotion in it. And it is not specific. It does not give instructions. This is why the drumbeat of “Align Sales and Marketing” accomplishes nothing.

Illustrating the power of the Elephant with Work Gloves

The power of this approach was illustrated by a worker named Jon at a large manufacturing company. Jon believed his company was wasting vast sums of money due to poor purchasing practices. So what did Jon do? Did he create a PowerPoint presentation for his management? No. He knew they would not believe him. He needed a way to illustrate the problem.

With the help of an intern, he collected the work gloves purchased worldwide by his firm. The company used many suppliers and prices were all over the map. He collected these gloves and carefully cataloged them with prices and vendors.

Jon piled all the gloves on a conference room table and called in his management team. He explained that all these gloves were purchased by the firm, but there was no consistency. Here’s how he recalled the scene:

“What they saw was a large expensive table, normally clean or with a few papers, now stacked high with gloves. Each of our executives stared at this display for a minute. Then each said something like “We really buy all these different gloves?” Well, as a matter of fact, we do. “Really?” Yes, really. Then they walked around the table…They could see the prices. They looked at two gloves that looked exactly alike, yet one was marked $3.22 and the other $10.55. It’s a rare event when these people have nothing to say. But that day, they just stood with their mouths gaping.”

The gloves exhibit soon became a traveling road show, visiting dozens of plants. Soon Jon had the mandate he needed. The company changed its purchasing policies and saved millions of dollars.

In this story, Jon appealed not to just the Rider - with cold, hard facts. Instead, he appealed to the elephant - shocking them with the visual display of purchasing inefficiencies.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with the Sales/Marketing Alignment problem. It appeals only to the Rider. There is no emotional appeal whatsoever.

Another key idea from the book is the idea of specificity. Eat healthy is vague.

  • Do I stop eating meat?
  • What about in a restaurant?
  • Is three meals a day best or do I eat more frequently?

But in the book they illustrate this problem by discussing the massive amount of fat consumed from milk. Skim or 1% milk would greatly reduce the fat consumed, but people use whatever they find in their refrigerator. So we really have a purchasing problem. We need the shopper to reach for skim or 1% milk when she shops.

Changing how people purchase milk using the Elephant

The emotional elephant was addressed by the graphic display of a clear tube filled with fat. It was explained that this was the excess fat in a half-gallon of whole milk.

For two weeks, the researchers ran spots on local media in Virginia. The campaign was punchy and specific. Looking at 8 stores, they found that the marketing share of low-fat milk jumped from 18% to 41%, eventually settling at 35%.

A key point here is specificity. If you want people to change, don’t say “act healthier.” Instead say “Next time you’re in the dairy aisle, reach for a jug of 1% milk rather than whole milk.” Tell them exactly what they need to do.

(Please note that “Align Sales and Marketing” sounds just like “Eat Healthier.”)

The authors share a basic three part framework for change:

  1. Direct the rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Make your directions explicit and clear. “Align sales and marketing” is not explicit and clear.
  2. Motivate the elephant. What looks like laziness of often exhaustion. The rider cannot get his way by force (will-power) for long. You must engage people’s emotional side.
  3. Shape the path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. Shaping the path is addressing the overall process. Maybe sales and marketing seem to be at odds, but if you can design processes to help them, engage you are shaping the path.

What do you think? How do you think we can add an emotional (elephant) appeal to the Marketing/Sales Alignment problem? How can we be specific (and direct the Rider?)

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is the President of the B2B lead generation consultancy Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the way they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

16 Marketing Terms to Ban Today


B2B Demand Generation | 16 Marketing Terms to Dump Now + Bonus

A good friend, Paul Dunay, who writes the popular blog Buzz Marketing for TechnologyWrong Indeed once told me that B2B marketers are in an “Arms Race around Content.” This means that companies are one-upping each other on content.

One of the keys to great b2b lead generation content is to make it engaging for your reader. This means to use terms readers use - not terms your industry uses. But what words are the worst?

The great book, Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman, had a superb list of words used in BtoB marketing that need to go away. The use of these words is egregious in technology. They drive me nuts!

I share this list below, as well as a bonus list of common mistakes.

  1. Impactful
    nonsense word. Try influential or powerful instead.
  2. Leverage
    a noun morphed into a verb. Try influence, enhance, rely on or just use.
  3. Learnings
    a word for an idea that somehow became plural. Makes no sense.
  4. Synergy
    A snazzy word that means nothing. Try cooperation, or help, or join.
  5. Revolutionary
    A stairway to the Moon. Overkill. Kill it.
  6. E-mail Blasts
    Are you a spammer? Only spammers blast prospective customers. (Unfortunately, the marketing automation software we use has a menu titled “Email Blasts.” I cringe every time I see it.)
  7. Proactive
    The opposite of reactive. It’s pompous and should not be used. Try active, anticipate, forestall or foresee.
  8. Drill down
    A sin of software firms. Try in-depth or detailed.
  9. 30,000 Feet
    A high level overview. Doesn’t that sound better?
  10. Incenting/incentising
    This smelly one belongs to sales. Try encourage.
  11. Almost any word that ends in -ize
    monetize, socialize, etc. As the book says, it sounds like it comes from a robot.
  12. Solution
    This is the word used when you cannot explain your product.
  13. Users
    Dehumanizing word that strips people of their identity. Why not people, customers, friends?
  14. Any word applied to technology, such as
    ping for follow-up
    bandwidth for capacity
    Offline for not working
    Use words that describe what people do
  15. Overused words
    Granular
    Robust
    Strategic
  16. Mashed together words of any kind
    Buy-in, mission-critical, value-add, face-time, win-win, low-hanging - can you say bore-ring?

Remember, you are talking to human beings, not robots. Write as if you are meeting on old friend for drinks. The way you talk to her is the way you should talk to prospective buyers.

Your Bonus

Here’s a bonus for you English majors. Common writing mistakes from GlobalCopyWrite. Contact Sarah Michell at http://www.globalcopywriting.com

Public Service Announcement
As a service to anyone interested in evading the ire attached to the usage of these words, I’m providing a list. Use them at your peril. The overriding sentiment about non-word usage is it demonstrates lack of intelligence, education or attention to detail. If these words are appearing in your normal business communications and marketing collateral, my advice is to get rid of them and do it quickly.

The Top Offenders
Two words were submitted repeatedly. Obliterate them from your vocabulary.

  • incentivise
  • agreeance

Other non-words peeving the pets
In no particular order:

  • supposably
  • ideation
  • positivity
  • onboarding
  • de-train
  • de-plane
  • onforward
  • verbally facilitate
  • unpacking (as in “unpacking the issues”)
  • disaggregations
  • misunderestimated
  • conversating
  • embiggened
  • learnings
  • irregardless
  • anonymize
  • operationalize
  • Westralia

Errors in Usage
Plenty of people complained about real words being used at the wrong time or in the wrong context.

  • enormousness vs. enormity
  • thankyou vs. thank you
  • round vs. around
  • penultimate vs. ultimate
  • hone vs. home
  • momentary vs. momentarily
  • phenomena vs. phenomenon

The evergreens in this category:

  • lose vs. loose
  • chose vs. choose
  • there vs. they’re vs. their
  • its vs. it’s
    On contractions, just say them out loud. For instance, on it’s, say “it is” Or on they’re, say “they are” Does that fit in your sentence? If not, use the ones without the apostrophe.

What do you think? We love comments and people who share.

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is the President of the B2B lead generation consultancy Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the way they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

Buying software is easy. Fixing Lead Generation is hard.


B2B Lead Generation | Buying stuff is easy - fixing problems is hard.

If you want to make sales quota in 2012, get started today! Right now! Immediately!

SaaS marketing automation products like Marketo, Hubspot, Eloqua and the like are very, very easy to buy. Give them a credit card, they give you a login. Done. The transaction can be completed in minutes.

It’s actually way too easy, I believe.Lose weight fast Too many companies believe purchasing software fixes B2B lead generation. It does not.

Fixing your B2B lead generation challenges is a lot like losing weight. Most everyone wants to do it but promises don’t match reality.

Look at this image. “Scientists discover rare weight loss ‘Wonder Herb.‘” That sounds like the sales pitch of software vendors, promising all that ROI the comes from their software. (That ROI is possible - just like weight loss is possible - if done right.)

I’m sure you don’t buy that. You know full well that there’s no “Wonder Herb” in dieting. BiggestLoserDieting is hard and arduous. Watch “The Biggest Loser” to see how hard it is.

Unfortunately, there’s no “Wonder Herb” in B2B lead generation and marketing either.

Want to hear what it’s really like to buy marketing automation? Read an actual user story in Marketing automation—lower your expectations.

The author, Liz McCellan writes “Don’t get me wrong. I think marketing automation is a smart tool to invest in, but I want to give some candid advice about setting the right expectations.” She goes to compare marketing automation to becoming a parent - everyone congratulates you, but you are in for hard work. One recommendation: She urges you to set realistic dates - and then add at least 6 more months.

Liz makes a great point in her article. What does your software purchase do toward fixing your company’s problems with generating quality sales leads? Absolutely nothing! (This is not a knock on products from companies such as Marketo, Eloqua, Silverpop, Neolane, Aprimo, and Pardot. They are all fine products from solid companies.)

The only way to REALLY fix your lead generation challenges is to do a LOT of hard work - the diet and exercise, if you will - which we summarize in these 10 steps.

Are you ready to do what it takes? Then complete these ten steps.

  1. Craft deep buyer personas - a deep understanding of prospective buyers and concerns.
  2. Define your keywords - the words buyers use to search for solutions.
  3. Agree on the common definition of a lead and identify key trigger events which drive decisions. (So sales will get fewer, better leads.)
  4. Map content to the buyer personas and buyer variables (using keywords) (So you can take buyers on a journey and you do well in search)
  5. Fill in the gaps with new content (using keywords) (No gaps in the journey.)
  6. Optimize the website, blog and social media based on keywords (so you rank well in search.)
  7. Design lead nurturing campaigns in a Problem to Solution story-telling format using your content. (Earn trust till they are ready to buy.)
  8. Using the agreed lead definition, agree on the behaviors and demographics that indicate buying propensity (lead scoring). (Remember, we need fewer and better leads for sales.)
  9. Create metrics to measure the effectiveness of your programs. (So we can refine it over time.)
  10. Deploy everything in your new marketing automation software.

Notice that the real use for the software you bought first appears in Step 10?

Unless you are ready to invest in those 10 steps using internal and/or resources like Find New Customers, you will never really fix your problem with sales lead quality.

We invite you to check out the Lead Nurturing and Scoring service from Find New Customers.

What do you think? Is buying software a panacea for fixing real problems in most companies? We love your comments and sharing.

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is the President of the B2B lead generation consultancy Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the way they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

Attention B2B Marketers : Embrace the Future (It ain’t Plastics, it’s Mobile)


B2B Demand Generation | The Future is Mobile

In the classic movie, The Graduate, a young man named Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman), fresh out of college The Graduatewas approached by a business man, Mr. McGuire. This dialog took place:

Mr. McGuire: “Benjamin, I want to say one word to you. Just one word.”
Benjamin: “Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: “Are you listening?
Benjamin: “Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: “Plastics.
Benjamin: “Just how do you mean that, sir?

If we were to film a remake of The Graduate today, and we re-shot the same scene, we could replace the word “plastics” with “mobile.” The similarities are striking.

(By the way, our favorite mobile marketing expert is Christina CK Kerley. Follow here on Twitter at @cksays. Visit her at CKB2BMarketing and visit The Mobile Revolution too.)

Just what is happening in mobile? How big is it and how fast is it growing? Find New Customers has the answer.

Marketo just posted an awesome infographic on the growth of mobile, which they generously allowed us to share with you.

Embrace your mobile future, B2B marketers! (and Benjamin.)

Embrace the Mobile Web Infographic by Marketo

Thanks for letting us share your awesome infographic, Marketo.

What do you think? We love comments and people who share.

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is the President of the B2B lead generation consultancy Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the way they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

3 Reasons Qlikview is killing Microstrategy


B2B Demand Generation | Why an upstart is killing the incumbent

I recently met with Microstrategy and their marketing leadership expressed concerns about a new competitor, Qlikview. I thought it might be helpful if I analyzed the justification for their concerns.

Microstrategy is a big, established player in business intelligence, but lately a company called Qlikview has been growing much, much faster. Why is this happening?

I believe there are 3 reasons why this is happening:

  1. Qlikview has no internal challenges.
    Microstrategy has an in-house developed CRM, (no compatibility with other applications), no marketing automation and no content marketing. Building B2B demand generation from scratch is tough. Qlikview had none of those obstacles.
  2. Qlikview has savvy, aggressive marketing leadership.Microstrategy does not. While they have new marketing leadership, not much seems to be happening there.Qlikview won the Marketo Revenue Performance Excellence Award for Global Revenue Performance Excellence. They are also expanding globally very quickly.(Here is the definition of Most Successful Global RPM Execution):Honors an organization with successful Marketo implementations across multiple countries or regions, as well as unprecedented results within those deployments, including increased revenue, marketing ROI, global alignment and overall business impact.)
  3. Qlikview is a modern marketing firm
    They are big into B2B demand generation, including social, content marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, etc. Microstrategy is doing none of those to any degree that I can see.

What do you think? Why do you think savvy young companies damage established players so much? We love comments and those who share.

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is the President of the B2B lead generation consultancy Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the way they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

Why “We’re the Leading Provider of” is NOT!


Lead Generation Companies | Why “We’re the leading provider of” is a BIG Mistake

As an experiment, I did a Google search on “Leading Provider of”Look at me

Wow! Lots and lots of hits.

Here’s an example:

Olive Software - the leading provider of digital edition & digital

A click on their website takes me to their “value proposition.” Here’s how they say it.

Olive Software is the leading provider of digital edition and digital archiving solutions for the publishing industry. Our solutions enable newspapers, magazines and other content publishers to cut printing and distribution costs, boost online traffic, and create new markets and revenue streams.

There’s one small problem. It is chest-thumping and prospective buyers hate chest-thumping. It’s a disaster.

Let’s re-write it for them.

Olive Software helps publishers (like newspapers, magazines and other content publishers) to cut printing and distribution costs, boost online traffic, and create new markets and revenue streams using digital technology.

What’s different about my rewrite? It focuses on the prospective buyer and the benefits they get - not what the company sells. Show it to any prospective customer. Betcha they will prefer my version to the company’s version.

Stop chest-thumping and instead focus on the buyer. The operative word is “You.” We want to talk directly to the prospect using simple language and share how they benefit from working with us. (My favorite marketing slogan of all time? “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.” “George Zimmer, Men’s Wearhouse” - It’s about you - how you will look, and not about clothing.)

What do you think? Do you have other examples to share? We love comments and those who share.

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is the President of the B2B lead generation consultancy Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the way they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

Why’s B2B Marketing So Boring?


B2B Lead Generation | Why are you all so boring?

Does everyone sound alike to you too? Name any product or service and then try to explain what makes one different from the other. Good luck.

With the vast majority of companies unable to create quality sales leads for salespeople, it is a real problem. In fact, more than 3 out of 4 companies say that the lack of quality sales leads is their biggest problem. So companies are trying Think Differentto figure out lead generation programs.

http://www.findnewcustomers.com/personality

If you want do business to business lead generation, you need to attract sales leads. Lead generation programs depend on clear differentiation. In fact, when I was the featured guest on HubSpotTV recently, the show closed with my marketing takeaway:

Think Different

In a recently study by MarketingProfs and Junta42, it was found that the biggest challenge faced by marketers with their content in their lead generation programs was making it ENGAGING for prospective buyers. Over 1 out of 3 - 36%, said their single biggest problem was:

a Lack of Engaging Content

BoredIn plain English, that means when they receive your content, their reaction is “Ho hum.” A big yawn.

In my mind, there’s no excuse. Engaging lead generation content comes down to basic human nature.

People enjoy three things:

  1. Things that make them laugh or cry
  2. A great story
  3. A chance to learn the unexpected

Understand your buyers and make it fun. Make them laugh or make them cry, tell them a story or surprise them with insights. They will respond, engage with you and turn into the quality sales leads your salespeople so badly need.

Let me share a good Business to Business example of good lead generation programs:

Kinaxis is a software company whose offerings compete with giant software companies SAP and Oracle. So how do they compete? Quite well, thank you.

Check out the very funny episode from Suitemates below.

Suitemates might have been their most ambitious project, but they’ve got a lot more humor - such as

  • Late, Late Supply Chain Show
  • Married to the Job, and
  • Uncle Jay Explains

All light, funny and entertaining. And the 21st Century Supply Chain is their thought leadership blog, so they share surprising insights too. And one of the thinks I really love about Kinaxis is this - check out all the photos of smiling, happy people!

As you see, B2B marketing, even technology, does not have to be boring. If you want to do a great job in B2B lead generation, loosen up! It’s time to, as I like to say “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!

What do you think? We love comments and sharing. We even give you simple buttons for sharing, so please use them.

By the way, Sandhill.com invited us to write a feature article on this for them. It will run early in October.

What do you think? We love comments and people who share.
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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the ways they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or by sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com. Or set a meeting with Jeff by clicking Set a Meeting.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

Performance Planning 2.0: 4 Steps to Turn Around Under-Performers


B2B Demand Generation | How to Turn Around Under-Performers

Did you know that the content from this blog and Find New Customers is taught at two of the top business schools - Stanford and the University of Notre Dame? That demonstrates our superb knowledge of B2B lead generation.

This post was written by Find New Customers for the now-defunct sales blog, the B2B Sales Lounge. Since it’s a great article with valuable information, I want to re-share it here at Fearless Competitor. We thank Anneke Seley and Brent Holloway for this great guest post. Contact info follows the post:

According to CSO Insights data, few reps are achieving quota (2010: just 6 out of 10 made quota), yet quotas, on average, are going up at nearly all companies (95% of companies plan to raise quotas in 2011!). Can you really grow sales by fiat?

(IMHO, Marketing is the key to growing sales, particularly via B2B Lead Generation.

___________

At we enter the last quarter of 2011, many of you may be looking at your headcount and evaluating which members of your existing sales team should be counseled to find a new job.

With so many reps falling short, what should we sales managers do with reps who are not cutting it? This is, of course, a subjective question, and the right answer depends on many factors, but I feel it’s fair to suggest we should all have a methodology and process to follow — not just for a termination process, but also for the time leading up to a possible termination.

Performance improvement plans, or PIPs, are often given to sales reps who are performing below expectations. By integrating Sales 2.0 principles into your PIPs, you can optimize the opportunity to turn around and improve the performance of a rep who may be struggling. Here are four suggested steps for PIPs:

  1. Have a process.
    After X quarters in a row (X will depend on your company), present your PIP. Be clear about how long the rep has to turn around his or her performance. Set a clear expectation about the time-frame.
  2. Know your team’s best practices, and share them early and often.
    Give under-performing reps every chance of success by giving them specific ideas for how to improve.
  3. Include measurable objectives.
    Your PIP should give reps specific and attainable metrics you have identified as necessary for achievement. This could include number of weekly calls and number of demonstrations, as well as goals related to adding new pipeline and booked orders.
  4. Get feedback from your reps.
    You can increase their buy-in if they are included in setting the goals.

Based on feedback from some of my peers across a wide range of companies, general consensus seems to be that, while PIPs are positioned as tools to help an employee succeed, they are often viewed — and used — as tools to justify termination and prevent lawsuits. I believe PIPs can serve both objectives, with an emphasis on giving the employee every reasonable opportunity to succeed — if they are written fairly and presented well.

Presumably your sales reps know what is expected of them based on their compensation plan; the objectives in a PIP, when necessary, are often more tactical. A PIP can also be used as a commitment test, giving a rep a chance to “self-select” and resign before getting fired if he or she is not committed to improving.

I have experienced giving a few PIPs, and one recent one resulted in a successful turnaround. This may not be the norm, but I feel it’s worth celebrating and sharing. After two years of consistently missing his quarterly goals (sometimes by a little and sometimes by more than 50%) and being at the bottom of his peer group, an employee was given a formal PIP at the start of Q4 of last year. The plan had clear pipeline-building and revenue objectives, and the rep is now thriving with three straight quarters of excellent results. I can’t give all the turnaround credit to the performance improvement plan, but from eight missed quarters to three good ones in a row, plus good progress so far this quarter, the plan clearly had a role. I think it forced him to focus more, and it was clear that he became more proactive and creative in his selling.

How are other people using PIPs? How do you determine the appropriate time to present one?

Contact info:

Anneke Seley
aseley@phoneworks.com

(415) 986-6300
linkedin.com/annekeseley
twitter.com/annekeseley

Brent Holloway
brent.holloway@verint.com

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the ways they attract and earn the trust of prospective customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

Find New Customers helps companies (with between 150 and 5,000 employees who sell complex products to businesses) to implement world-class lead generation programs. As companies struggle to create quality sales opportunities, they turn to lead generation companies like Find New Customers.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

Medium Sized companies struggle with B2B demand generation too


B2B Lead Generation | Mid Sized Companies

Did you know that the content from this blog and Find New Customers is taught at two top business schools - Stanford and the University of Notre Dame? That proves our superb knowledge of B2B lead generation.

Last week Find New Customers reviewed results of a survey by Act-On Software, which found large companies (500 employees or more) struggling with B2B demand generation. Now we wish to examine mid-sized companies to see if the data differs.

The survey showed that the vast majority of large companies were doing only “Top of Funnel” activities, like email campaigns and events - which drive raw, unqualified leads. Few were doing lead nurturing and almost none were doing lead scoring.

Now I’d like to go down a bit in size - 250 to 500 employees - where Act-On has more data. Would they do better?

Marketing Programs 250 EmployeesWe see our results and the answer is No. Medium sized companies also struggle with B2B lead generation.

The workhorse tactic for most companies is email marketing. (How many times can we really email prospects without them opting out? I get hundreds of emails every day.) Email is easy, cheap and quick, but so is it for all your competitors. Add up all the emails your prospects receive and you quickly exhaust your audience. They read emails with their finger poised over the Delete key.

(If you wish to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing, we invite you to download the free white paper at Find New Customers, Moving from Transactional to Conversational Email Marketing.)

We also have top of funnel activities like trade shows and advertising. The result: More raw, unqualified “leads” passed to Sales.

Bottom line: By not focusing on mid=funnel activities, companies are leaving huge amounts of revenue on the table.

David Applebaum, CMO of Act-On Software told me “Jeff, we’ve been doing these surveys since last December and the data never changes, except more are doing social media. But they’re STILL not doing important mid-funnel activities like lead nurturing and scoring.”

Why does this problem persist - despite the extremely compelling revenue opportunity?

I think you’ll find the answer is in this post “The Problem with Over-Reliance on Junior Marketing Folks.” The failure of companies to invest in senior marketing leadership is hurting them badly.

Young and inexperienced marketing managers can blast out emails and create product brochures. But they lack the sophisticated knowledge and skills to craft Problem to Solution stories (Lead Nurturing) or identify buying behaviors (Lead Scoring).

What happens when you leave out mid-funnel activities?

When companies don’t have the kind of activities that turn raw leads into qualified sales opportunities, like lead nurturing and scoring.The data (from SiriusDecisions) is ugly:

  • Only 16% of raw leads turn out to be sales opportunities
  • Sales only follows up with about 1 out of 5 - because they quickly grow frustrated talking to unqualified opportunities.
  • But 8 of 10 of those they didn’t contact buy within 2 years (from competitors)

The clear take-away here is this:

If more companies embraced lead nurturing and scoring, companies could dramatically improve revenue results.

Want to learn about lead nurturing? Then play the presentation below. And check out the Find New Customers Lead Nurturing and Scoring service.

Read my blog on Kindle

Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the ways they attract, engage and win new customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

Find New Customers helps companies (with between 150 and 5,000 employees who sell complex products to businesses) to implement world-class lead generation programs. As companies struggle to create quality sales opportunities, they turn to lead generation companies like Find New Customers.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.