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Archive for March, 2012

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?

(more…)

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