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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Needles’

A few weeks ago, I published a series of blog posts that ask the question, “Why don’t marketing leaders manage ‘demand’ as an operational process.”  I noted the core challenge for many B2B marketing leaders is we simply do not build, manage or optimize demand “… as an operational, repeatable and sustainable process.”  Sure we have marketing processes, but mostly they are periodic, ‘activity-based’ (and over-complicated) processes, focused on the planning and production of things such as content and events.

What we fail to conceptualize is the more holistic, perpetual process of continuously moving buyers from their earliest lead state to a revenue close – i.e., a true, central ‘outcome-based’ process.  Moreover, we never really take a step back and consider that all of our other marketing and sales processes should be rationalized, optimized and simplified against this central process.  In fact, when we take this point of view, it explains much of the disconnect that exists between marketing and sales.  For decades, B2B marketers have produced campaigns, and B2B sales team members have produced revenue.  The two could not be more diametrically opposed.

The perspective fortunately is changing.  With 72% of marketing automation ‘top performers’ reporting their number-one goal today is to increase revenue, according to Gleanster, the r-word increasingly is top of the agenda for B2B marketers.  And an increasing number of B2B companies large and small are measuring marketing performance via – or at least asking initial questions that drive toward – a revenue basis.  Marketing campaigns and content increasingly are being built with the buyer’s content needs during the buying process in mind.  And as I mentioned in my previous blog post, thanks to marketing automation technology, we are no longer challenged when it comes to the technology to track our buyer’s interactions with our content and programs.

So you would think we would have all the right ingredients to succeed with perpetual B2B demand generation – to build, manage and optimize literal lead-to-revenue factories.  But no.

Our drive towards a managed demand process continues to fall apart at execution.

As it turns out, getting our stream of inbound and outbound buyer education working in tandem with our lead qualification efforts, automating everything and getting everyone on the marketing and sales team partnering and operating on a continuous basis around this process … well that’s where we still struggle.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

The key to a managed demand process and to operating perpetual B2B demand generation is adopting a new approach – a new mindset, if you will.  It is one that I call “demand process stewardship.”

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My latest column on DemandGen Report, “Why Demand Generation Shouldn’t Be Focused on Marketing Qualified Leads,” appeared today.

It opens:

We’re at a crossroads in modern B2B demand generation.

Fifty-eight percent of marketing automation adopters cite “generate more leads” as a key motivator, according to Gleanster.  Similarly, 78% of B2B marketers report “generating high quality leads” as their greatest B2B marketing challenge in MarketingSherpa’s “2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report.”

Yet a 2011 joint study by Vorsight and The Bridge Group noted, “On average, Sales Reps report that only 31% of all leads generated fit their Ideal Customer Profile.  Said another way, Sales Reps believe roughly 70% of the leads they receive have a low probability to purchase.”  And data from a recent IDC Technology Marketing Barometer Study indicates that year-over-year, between 2011 and 2012, our marketing and sales alignment around demand generation has actually gotten worse.

What’s going on?

The column looks at our challenge as B2B marketers aligning with sales and maintaining a strategic focus on revenue, and it examines how this relates to our frequent over-focus on marketing qualified leads (or MQLs, a term coined by SiriusDecisions) in our demand generation programs.

Click here to read the entire column.

As always, I appreciate your feedback on the piece.

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B2B commerce in the U.S. is a big deal.

  • The most-recent U.S. Census Bureau survey on the topic reported in 2008 that B2B commerce accounted for 52% of total commercial activity, and B2B e-commerce accounted for 92% of total e-commerce.

B2B marketing in the U.S. (also) is a big deal.

In fact, you might even make a credible argument that much of the innovation at a people, process, content and technology level in the overall marketing discipline, today, is primarily taking place in the B2B marketing and sales segment.  Definitely more than in the consumer marketing arena.

Source: B2BCamp

Yet it seems more difficult than ever for B2B marketing and sales leaders to get the education and peer insight they need to stay ahead of their game.  And, whereas the consumer world seems to have a real ‘esprit de corps,’ the idea of ‘community’ in the B2B marketing and sales world is a rare thing.

… which is why I’m so excited about the first-ever B2BCamp (Twitter: @b2bcamp, #b2bcamp #atl) in Atlanta this coming Saturday, March 10.

Billed as an ‘unconference,’ the event is squarely targeted at delivering the type of education, peer insights and community that too often seem to elude B2B marketing and sales leaders.

I’m also excited to be keynoting the event – giving a talk that is based on my book, Balancing the Demand Equation, and that frames up the day by talking about the larger set of challenges and opportunities facing B2B demand generation today.

An UnConference

So what is B2BCamp?  The organizers explain:

B2BCamp is a user organized gathering focused on B2B Marketing topics. B2BCamp is one of many “unconferences” held  throughout the world. Although similar to traditional industry conferences, at B2BCamp there are no “attendees” because everyone participates in some manner. Some participants will present while others will lead a roundtable discussion. Some will contribute simply by sharing their experiences and others by helping with logistics, securing sponsorships, setting up Wi-Fi, etc. B2BCamp is a self-organizing collaborative event that is rewarding, fun and a totally cool  experience!

And if it’s not 100% apparent, B2BCamp – despite a focus on the topic of B2B commerce – is in fact not a commercial event.  I.e., all of the organizers are volunteers, and sponsorships are set at a low level … just enough to help cover costs.

Vote for Your Favorite Session … and It May Make It on the Agenda

A key feature of B2BCamp is that the agenda is developed by the attendees via two rounds of voting – before the event to narrow the presentations and on-site to finalize the agenda.

In fact, you can review the proposed sessions and vote online here.

BTW:  At the time I’m typing this blog post the top session is “Welcome to the Buyer-centric Movement” – a topic I love because it’s literally one of the two guiding concepts in my book.

Find Out Who Will Be There

Not only is this unconference transparent about selecting the sessions, it’s also transparent about who’s attending.

To find who’s attending, click here.

Worth a Full Saturday

As I mentioned above, the event is this Saturday, March 10, near the Perimeter Mall in the Atlanta area.

The event organizers tell me there are 175+ B2B marketing and sales leaders already registered, and so it’s likely to be a sell-out.

See you there.

Should be a good first step towards building a (much-needed) B2B marketing and sales community … in the Atlanta-area, and then around the country as B2BCamp hits the road! TBD.

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This week I’m publishing a two-part blog series.  This series takes a look at the challenge marketing leaders face in managing demand as an operational process.  The first post presented an introduction to the topic and examined the issue of tracking B2B buyer behavior.  The second post, today, looks at the fundamental issue of B2B marketing leaders’ ‘lack of an operations mindset.’ ~ABN

Problem Two:  Our Lack of an Operations Mindset

Given we have a rapidly expanding set of technological capabilities – through marketing automation and similar platforms – to ‘track the buyer,’ what is remaining for us to effectively manage demand as an end-to-end, optimize-able process?  I noted in the previous post in this series, “Clearly there is something else – something bigger – that is holding us back … .”

That bigger issue is B2B marketing leaders’ lack of an operations mindset.

This is the issue that B2B marketing leaders – especially CMOs – often can’t put their finger on, but that is at the core of much of our modern challenges.  They talk about not being able to demonstrate the revenue impact of marketing; they talk about not having ‘hard numbers’; or they speak to not having a dashboard to really visualize marketing results.  Obviously none of these ‘wants’ represent an operations mindset, per se, but they do represent the result of successfully managing demand as a process.

So how do B2B marketing leaders typically remedy this situation?  They invest in technology, but when it comes to their marketing programs, they continue to do ‘more of the same.’

Therein lies the disconnect, as I note in Balancing the Demand Equation:

The disconnect:  If as B2B marketers we are applying legacy mass-marketing, top-of-funnel techniques to the effort of customer acquisition and nurturing in an era of Buyer 2.0, there is a high likelihood that we will have a single, ineffective touchpoint with our buyer and then subsequently lose his/her engagement as (s)he goes through the buying process.  Most of our demand generation programs thus remain highly inefficient, largely focused on awareness, and so we consistently lose track of warm leads that literally ‘leak’ out of our sale funnel, as Forrester has noted in its research.  This is particularly problematic because Buyer 2.0 is moving forward in the buyer education process and will make a purchase, but if our B2B demand generation program loses touch with that buyer, the chance of him/her purchasing from us is greatly decreased.

Most B2B marketing organizations thus do not have a top-of-funnel problem.  What they really have is a ‘middle-of-the-funnel’ problem.

This is why our B2B demand generation efforts cannot be haphazard or intermittent; instead, they need to be consistent and continuous processes.  …

Yet it is exactly this type of a consistent and continuous B2B demand process – one that perpetually operates to move a buyer through multiple education and qualification stages (adjusting to the pace of the buying cycle), that combines both automated and live touch points and that only turns a lead over to sales after sufficient processing – that B2B marketing leaders are challenged to build.

We want a lead factory – a construct that requires understanding and enabling the multiple processing stages required to take in raw inputs and to churn out a finished product – but instead we deliver a series of ‘stage shows.’

What is at the core of this issue?  It has nothing to do with good intentions; rather, it is the product of biases that are deep-rooted and fundamentally engrained in B2B marketers.

  • First, right-brain/creative types are often drawn to marketing, not left-brainers.
  • Second, marketing training at the vocational and academic level is focused on channels and tactics and on building consumer brands, but rarely speaks to the orchestration and coordination of multiple channels and tactics in a sequence to drive buyer dialogue.
  • Third, on the off-chance a B2B marketer has some operations-analysis experience, it was probably garnered either in an MBA class or in an industrial setting, and it was probably applied to some sort of manufacturing process – meaning it never ‘clicked’ that this could also be applied to marketing.
  • Fourth, the opportunities and challenges around such a complex, iterative and information empowered Buyer 2.0 are relatively recent; meaning, it truly is a changed world of marketing today from five years ago or ten years ago, when more ‘one-and-done’ tactics in more limited channels might have actually been a successful route.

It’s time for our training, bias and ultimate mindset as B2B marketers to catch up with our operational reality.  So where do we need to focus our time and attention to drive change?

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This week I’m publishing a two-part blog series.  This series takes a look at the challenge marketing leaders face in managing demand as an operational process.  The first post, today, presents an introduction to the topic and examines the issue of tracking B2B buyer behavior. ~ABN

I open Balancing the Demand Equation by commenting, “Modern B2B demand generation is failing.  Seriously.”  What’s going on?  Amid an information power shift from sellers to buyers, an explosion of Web 2.0 communication channels and raised expectations from sales colleagues and executive management, B2B marketers are finding it tougher than ever to credibly and efficiently add value in the “lead-to-revenue” process, as Forrester terms it.  I hear this challenge regularly from senior marketers and CMOs, who often are hard-pressed to show the real impact of their efforts on their companies’ bottom lines.

Where’s the gap?

There are many challenges, but perhaps one of the greatest is our frequent inability as B2B marketing leaders to conceptualize and manage ‘demand’ – used here in the classical economics sense of the word – as an operational, repeatable and sustainable process.  Stated in another way, we do not treat B2B buyer demand as something that is built via a series of optimize-able steps, through which we turn initial buyer interest into a lifetime of customer revenue.

What goes into such an end-to-end demand process?  The core organizing thread is the logic around the dialogue we plan to drive with the buyer, based on his/her buying process.  This aligns with a virtual ‘layer’ of content marketing efforts that should extend across channels, addressing various stages of the buying process.  This dialogue also should be aligned with a layer of lead qualification activities, which extend throughout all phases of the buying process.  These parallel layers of content marketing and lead qualification should align with various marketing and sales roles, spanning both automated nurturing and also live interaction at various stages of the buying process.  And the entire process should be supported by data and systems that enable the end-to-end orchestration of marketing and sales efforts to move the buyer forward.

Active demand process management thus is critical to successful, modern B2B marketing and demand generation, and yet B2B marketing leaders are only beginning to scratch the surface of doing so.

In fact, this gap was driven home as I was reading a recent pair of research briefs, written by Lori Wizdo and Jeff Ernst (Twitter: @jeffernst), both analysts at Forrester.  The first brief, “Automating Lead-to-revenue Management” by Wizdo, notes that B2B technology marketing organizations’ contribution to lead pipelines, on average, hovers at a surprisingly-low 27%.  The second brief, “The State Of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed” by Ernst, further notes that only one in four B2B marketing organizations “… have defined a lead-to-revenue management process that their marketing and sales teams follow” and that less than 5% of aggregate marketing and sales interaction with B2B buyers rises to the level of what Ernst would consider truly “orchestrated.”

Clearly modern B2B demand generation is failing.  And all of the great messaging and creative, smart tradeshow sponsorships and new technology investments that we throw at the problem cannot help if we are unable make a critical leap.  We must be able to manage demand as an operational process.

So why haven’t we done this yet?

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On September 19, my first book, Balancing the Demand Equation:  The Elements of a Successful, Modern B2B Demand Generation Model, was released on Amazon.

I can honestly say it was a very cool moment in my own personal and professional life, and I am thankful for so many who have helped make this project a reality over the past two-plus years.

So nearly 30 days later, how’s it going?

As background, I wrote the book to help fellow B2B marketers understand and succeed in a challenging modern demand generation environment – a topic I’m obviously passionate about and have been speaking and writing about now for several years. It covers how and why B2B marketing has changed in a Web 2.0 environment, and it provides a framework for building and operationalizing a ‘successful, modern B2B demand generation model.’  (BTW, to download a more-detailed summary of the book and its table of contents, click here.)

Literally, I wrote the book on B2B demand generation that I believed wasn’t out there — but needed to be!

I’m thus happy to report that the book has been well-received by the very B2B marketing community it was written for, with strong early sales and some fantastic initial reviews.

But no book release is without its ups and downs.  I’ve had my fair share of supply-chain issues and I’m sure I have frustrated a few people who have tried to order the book.  (And for that I apologize.)  Yet I can’t complain; that’s what happens when your book becomes a top-five bestseller on Amazon!  (Read:  Selling out can be a good problem to have.)

So given all that’s happened in the last 30 days, I thought I’d do a quick round-up and share some highlights, as well as providing an update on availability of the book.

Initial Reviews

Initial reviews have been fantastic.  In fact, I’m humbled by what a number of colleagues in the B2B marketing / marketing technology / demand generation world have written about my book, and I wanted to share their comments with you below:

Ardath Albee (Twitter: @ardath421), Author, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, wrote on her Marketing Interactions blog:

The simplicity of his approach is admirable. … It’s both strategic enough to help you think through the issues and tactical enough to help you actually do something meaningful to address them.

David Raab (Twitter: @draab), industry analyst and Author, The Marketing Performance Measurement Toolkit, wrote on his Customer Experience Matrix blog:

Adam Needles’ new book Balancing the Demand Equation closes the gap. … Consider this a guidebook for how to play the game and win.

Anand Thaker (Twitter: @AnandThaker), a marketing operations strategist and former colleague of mine at Silverpop, wrote on his Marketing Technology blog:

Balancing the Demand Equation is about the changing B2B environment where relevancy and efficiency matter most, but marketers are currently unable to deliver.

Scott Brinker (Twitter: @chiefmartec), President and CTO of ion interactive, wrote on his Chief Marketing Technologist blog:

I’ve been a fan of Adam’s for many years … he’s a master mechanic of modern marketing engines. … For the mere price of a book, it’s a bargain to tap into Adam’s experienced and inspiring thinking on these topics.

And these write-ups come on the heels of some already strong reviews, highlighted on the back cover of the book, which I shared a few weeks ago.

Again, I’m humbled, and my sincerest thanks to Ardath, David, Anand and Scott for taking the time to read and review my book.

Availability Update

While I’ve had great luck with such fantastic reviews, I can’t say the same about the supply chain side of things.

What can I say — and without getting into the details — is that within a very short time of my book being released, it was sold out and unavailable, and it took about two weeks to get back to a point where the book was consistently available via Amazon. The good news is that we’ve finally got things dialed with the printer, and we’ve been able to consistently keep the book available for the last week or two.

I obviously want to apologize to anyone who had a bad experience getting early copies; hopefully, that will not happen again.

So where can you get a copy of Balancing the Demand Equation at this point?

  • Hardcopy:  It is available in hardcopy format on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
  • Electronic version:  It is available in electronic format on Nook.  (And stay tuned as I hope to announce Kindle and iBook versions very soon.)

Amazon Bestseller!!!

Perhaps the most exciting development over the first thirty days is that my book hit Amazon top-five bestseller status in more than one marketing category.

Below is a snapshot of its ranking on October 11 … just a few days ago and probably the best day of sales yet:

So that’s the scoop!

All-in-all, a great first thirty days as an author.

I’m really excited by how the book has been received so far, and I look forward to sharing it with more B2B marketers over the coming weeks and months.  I also look forward to additional feedback as others read the book.  Let me know what you think!

Finally, thanks to so many people for supporting me in this endeavor.  Writing a book is not a solo activity.  I’ve acknowledged a number of people in the front of my book, but I want to once again say thanks to that group and to the broader network that has helped make this a reality.

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I’m excited to share that my new book, Balancing the Demand Equation, is being released on Amazon a week from this Monday on September 19.  (BTW:  You can pre-order your copy on Amazon by clicking here.)

The inspiration for the book is literally the years spent as a B2B marketer saying to myself, “There’s got to be a better way.”  And so I wrote the book as a modern handbook for B2B marketers to navigate the complex, new world of Buyer 2.0, sales/marketing alignment and marketing automation.

The book provides a framework to help B2B marketers transform their demand generation approach – moving from a legacy of batch-and-blast mass marketing and of reactive ‘sales support’ to a new state of building perpetual, buyer-centric programs that contribute to predictable and sustainable revenues for their organizations.

Click here to download a PDF overview of the book and its table of contents.

I’m also excited to share some early reviews of the book by some pretty well-respected names in the marketing and sales arena.

Jim Lenskold (Twitter: @JimLenskold), President of Lenskold Group and Author, Marketing ROI: The Path to Campaign, Customer and Corporate Profitability, wrote:

A must-read book for B2B marketers ready to drive bottom-line results and truly deliver marketing ROI through better management of the complete purchase funnel. Balancing the Demand Equation provides guidance on marketing’s increased role in educating, engaging and nurturing sales-ready leads in today’s world of marketing operations, automation and outcome-based metrics.

Robert L. Jolles (Twitter: @Jolles), President of Jolles Associates, Inc. and Author, Customer Centered Selling, wrote:

Finally! A roadmap to help B2B marketers understand the modern buyer and pioneer successful, customer-centered demand generation programs.

Thomas C. O’Guinn, Ph.D., with the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin–Madison wrote:

This is a very smart book on a very important topic. Anyone who knows much about B2B marketing knows that almost everything written on it is just a round-peg-square-hole ‘fit’ of B2C knowledge, or a worked-over sales management PowerPoint deck. They also are real slogs to read. Not this. Needles’ book is a new paradigm, and one that fits perfectly with the new realities of commerce. This is sophisticated analytics, content creation and REAL customer relationship management. If a company were to seriously adopt this model, they would make a lot more money. No kidding.

Ann Handley (Twitter: @marketingprofs), Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and Co-author, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, wrote:

Dear B2B Marketer: Your world is changing, and here’s the field guide that shows you precisely how to adapt.

Steven Woods (Twitter: @stevewoods), CTO of Eloqua and Author, Revenue Engine, wrote:

In Balancing the Demand Equation, Needles weaves together a well-crafted B2B demand generation framework, at both the strategic and tactical level, that shows executives a clear path to more-predictable and more-sustainable revenue outcomes. Grounded in case studies and detailed research, the book provides specific guidance and critical insights for getting the most out of marketing automation investments, while never losing sight of the strategic change towards buyer-centricity.

Sincerest thanks to these folks for taking the time to review — and in some cases even contribute to — the book.

And I look forward to your own feedback to the book over the coming weeks!

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