Friday, April 29, 2011


Six customer-centric selling reminders

Whether you hear it or not, your prospective customers are giving you feedback every day. Here are six lessons they're teaching us (and worth the reminder every once in a while to keep ourselves honest).

Your prospects are extremely busy.

They don’t return your phone calls not because they don’t need what you’re selling. They don’t buy right away not because you can’t help them. Their curtness isn’t because they don’t respect you. Just remember how busy your prospects are. You’re an addition to their schedule, not yet a part of it. Respect that position until you’re able to earn a more active seat at the table.

Anything that appears to take focus away from their current work is a distraction.
Even if they see value, you represent something new. Something they’ll need to learn. Something that will be harder, even just initially, than what they already had planned. If you represent change, they know not everyone’s going to like that. Folding you into their life, their processes, their plans, is harder than we (as sellers) give credit to. If you build enough value, you convert distraction into priority.

You are “expensive” until you prove that you’re not.
Even if you don’t require up-front fees, even if you don’t require actual dollars, even if you’re offering a risk-free trial to get started, you take time. Time to learn how it works, time to figure out where it fits, time to get others on board to make a buying decision and see the results. All that work is expensive, especially if the buyer is already under the gun to perform and achieve results based on an existing plan that does not include what you’re selling. On the flip side, if the buyer sees that time and/or cost translating into accelerated revenue, long-term time saved or similar value translations, you’re no longer expensive. You’re necessary.

Your prospects don’t know how to translate what you do into what they do.
The buyer has a certain set of current priorities. If you take the time to understand what those are, you might end up changing how you describe your product or service (and it’s intended benefit/outcome) so that it more directly relates to what your prospect already values. If they see you as a square peg and all they have are round holes, you lose. Even if you know all of your pegs are actually round, until your prospect hears and understands that, you aren’t going to make the sale.

You’re not speaking the company’s language.
This isn’t just value translation. This means specific words. Learn the prospect and buying company’s language. Figure out how they talk about the problem or priority into which you’re selling. Your own language, and that of your own company, is not important if it doesn’t help your prospect contextualize and communicate your value inside the organization, to others who speak the same language.

Put yourself in their shoes – what’s really important?
Close your eyes. You are now the buyer. You’re driving into work. What are you worried about? What makes you anxious? What meetings are you dreading? What priorities are on your mind all day, and likely even when you go home at night? The answer to these questions is probably not what you’re selling (at least not directly). The answer to these questions is bigger than that. But if what you have helps solve one of those problems, you’ve got a chance. Just know what that is, how to describe it, and how to help your buyer understand the explicit path and outcome of moving forward. Help them sleep at night.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


How to drive more sales from your next event or trade show

Join the Puget Sound Business Journal and Heinz Marketing for an interactive webinar on trade show marketing and management best practices on Thursday, May 26, 2011.

Events and trade shows represent the channel sales & marketing people everywhere love to hate. High costs, LOTS of time (before and during the event), typically followed by less-than-exciting leads and few converted sales. But when executed well, events do have their place in delivering solid, profitable revenue. You just have to get a few things right.

In this Webinar, you’ll learn specific best practices for increasing awareness, new leads and closed business from your next event – with proven ideas to put to work before, during and after the show. You will learn how to:
Free webinar registration is available here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Five inside sales compensation plans & three real-life examples

The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) Seattle Chapter held a great Webinar earlier this week focused on inside sales compensation & incentives best practices. Two local members in particular - James Gallagher and Joyce Juntunen - shared specific plans and real-life examples from their sales management experience.

Notes from their presentations are in the deck below, as are some broader industry trends and statistics related to inside sales roles, skill sets and compensation.


The six elements of a perfect sales meeting

Do you dread the weekly sales team meeting? Feel like it's wasting your time? If so, somebody's not doing it right.

Reviewing a pipeline report may not be your idea of fun, but effective sales meetings are well-planned, well-executed, and full of information highly relevant to making reps better and both extracting & sharing information that can help the entire organization accelerate sales, customer and revenue growth.

Here are the six elements that, combined, make for a powerful regular sales team meeting.

1. Metrics
This is where you start. An empirical, objective, numbers-based look at current performance and what's left to achieve. This is cause for celebration and alarm (often with the same dashboard), and will set the tone for the rest of the meeting. There shouldn't be any surprises here, but it can drive urgency and focus in both the hour and days ahead.

2. Recognition
Take the time to recognize great performances across the team. It can be something as big as a huge new enterprise deal, or a small as the new guy's first successful appointment. No matter how difficult your market or month is, there's always something to celebrate.

3. Voice of the Customer
We're not selling in a vacuum. At each meeting, the customer should be heard. This can be an overview of new research, feedback from a recent customer briefing, review of new market trends or analyst data, or even a quick presentation or interview (live or recorded) with an actual customer. No matter how you present it, ensure the customer has a place at the sales meeting table on a regular basis.

4. Training
Constantly make your team better. Bring in outsiders to teach a skill or customer insight. Review the latest product features. Practice objection-handling or consultative selling skills. Do role-playing. Review & discuss a new perspective, blog post or article you found. Training and learning is an everyday thing for the best salespeople in the world. Institutionalize this in your organization more frequently than you do it today.

5. Deal Drill-Down
Choose someone on the team to walk through a current or recent deal. This can either be a recently-closed deal and how it happened, or it can be a deal that's stalled (and how/why it got there). The former allows an opportunity for your team to learn best practices from others in context, and the latter allows the team to help each other break through roadblocks and move deals forward.

6. Motivation
End each meeting on a positive note. This is different and separate from individual recognition. This is about firing up your team to burst out of the conference room and back on the phones or into the field. How great sales managers do this is personal (a video clip, a joke, a motivational quote, etc.), but we know sales is an emotional job. Play to that and send your troops back out to victory.

What have I missed in this list? What are essential elements you have used or experienced in great sales meetings?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


10 ways to improve your Klout score

Who can you trust online? When it comes to Twitter, that question can be answered with Klout, an independent service that takes into account a number of account factors to determine which Twitter users are most authentic, most influential and most worth following.

The specific algorithms used to determine Klout aren't explicitly known. The impact of a higher Klout score is still being developed as well, but I expect these scores will increasingly be used by a variety of search and sort tools (including Google) to increase visibility of tweets from users with high Klout scores.

Therefore, the higher your score, the wider reach and influence you have beyond your direct followers.

You can learn your current Klout score via their site or third-party tools such as HootSuite. To improve your Klout score, I recommend the following 10 tips.

Create content worth sharing
This may sound obvious, but it's all too easy to focus on content that you alone care about. Who are your followers, what are they interested in, and what are they likely to read, engage with and share with their own networks?

Start discussions and ask questions
All social networks thrive on conversations. Start some. Ask questions to not just learn yourself, but to find out what a group of like-minded people think. Ask about things in the news, for feedback on a particular product or service. Ask questions that you know others need answers to as well, which will spark the discussion and generate retweets.

Respond and participate
Go out of your way to help others on Twitter. Help those who ask questions, offer unsolicited advice to those who are struggling with something. If you're ambitious, do a search for keywords you're particularly knowledgeable about and respond to new people you don't yet know. Great way to get new followers and increase the measured reach and influence you have across the network.

Register with Klout (and connect Facebook)
No cost, takes three minutes. Make sure Klout knows who you are. They'll even give you direct, personalized stats and recommendations for how to improve your score. If you're active on Facebook, connect your account so that Klout gives you credit for influence on other networks as well.

Host a Twitter chat
Pick a topic, a time and a hashtag. Get friends, colleagues or like-minded followers to go online at a specified time and start talking. By initiating the chat, your account will be that the center of dozens if not hundreds of tweets. You'll also meet and be exposed to a bunch of new people.

Show appreciation and thank people publicly
If someone retweets your stuff, thank them. Individually. It will mean a lot that you did it, and Klout likes etiquette.

Make time for Twitter
You don't have to be on Twitter all day. But set a few pockets of 5-10 minutes each day to go on, be active, and engage. Even that short amount of focused time can go a long way.

Be careful who you follow
Don't automatically follow anybody who follows you. Make sure those you follow are relevant and interesting to you. Set the bar wherever you want based on that definition, just avoid spammers.

Keep it short
Leave plenty of room for retweets. I try to leave at least 25 characters at the end of a tweet.

Use hashtags (sometimes, and only when relevant)
Klout likes tweets that don't have a bunch of hashtags. If you include 3-4 hashtags in each post, it looks like you're trying to bait people into finding your stuff. If you're at a conference or event with a hashtag, by all means join the community. But be careful about using hashtags too often, or tagging generic words throughout your tweets just to get them noticed.

If you're already using Klout actively, what else have you found that's working? And are there tactics you've tried that have actually reduced your Klout score?

Monday, April 25, 2011


Inside sales compensation & incentive best practices

Are you curious what other sales leaders are doing to compensate and motivate their inside sales teams? Tomorrow morning, the Seattle chapter of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) is hosting an interactive online discussion to help you learn, share and walk away with specific new ideas to improve inside sales performance, compensation and incentive programs.

The session will begin with specific case studies & best practices from inside sales organizations, followed by an open discussion in which all ideas, opinions and recommendations are welcome. All attendees will also receive a summary of presented case studies and a transcript of the discussion including a full inventory of best practices from all attendees.

Registration is available for free here.

Update: Thanks for a great event! Slides and notes are available below:

Saturday, April 23, 2011


How to pick the right social channels for you

The volume of social media channels available to engage with is exhausting. And they keep coming.

As an individual or a business, there's no way you can keep up with them all. And the good news is, you don't have to.

Take a step back, and answer these two questions:
  1. Where are my customers?
  2. Where am I most comfortable?
The first question is, by far, the most important. If your customers aren't on Twitter, for example, don't worry about it. But if your customers are on Twitter, you'd better figure it out.

Your social media ROI will increase significantly if your social behavior mirrors those you're trying to influence, engage and sell to.

But it's also important to engage in channels you're comfortable with, at least after an initial getting-to-know-each-other period. If the channel doesn't feel like a good fit, if it's not something you'll commit to sticking with over the long term, if it's not something you'll be disciplined enough to engage on a regular basis, then think again before you get started, create noise, then abandon the channel (which would be worse than not starting in the first place).

Don't overthink this second question. Answer the customer question first. Let that guide you, let it filter out those you no longer need to think about.

Of the rest, pick one or two that are the least intimidating. Or the most comfortable to you.

You don't need to do everything right away. What's important is to get started, get active, build momentum & community.

Start there.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Why aren't you asking prospects for referrals?

Referrals are awesome. They're the best kind of lead, the warmest possible sales opportunity. Someone who likes you has told someone else they should like you too.

It's instant credibility by association. We all covet it (and more of it).

Most companies, however, put together referral programs specifically for their customers. But your customers aren't the only people who could generate referrals for you.

I know for a fact that you have some raving fans who have never bought anything from you.

They love what you do but haven't been able to convince their company to purchase the solution. Or they're totally on board but are working through the bureaucracy and procurement process to get started.

Or they're not even a relevant, qualified prospect but they know what you do (somehow) and how well you do it (somehow) and they have friends who are qualified prospects.

I'm not sure why we limit our referral offers and campaigns to customers. It assumes that those who haven't bought have no opinion about you, or are incapable of making a credible recommendation.

Can you think of companies or brands or products or services that you haven't used, but understand well enough by association or reputation or peers to make a recommendation if it came up in context?


Thursday, April 21, 2011


Accelerating sales without a marketing budget

Thanks to the Puget Sound Business Journal for the opportunity to present at their BizDev Seminar Series earlier this week. My topic was "Accelerating Sales Without a Marketing Budget", something I'm very passionate about for small business owners and enterprise marketers alike.

My primary takeaways:
Slides are below.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Your product isn't enough (how a new restaurant can survive & succeed)

It's entirely possible, if not likely, that your product will be great but your business will still fail.

This won't come as a surprise to most. The variables involved in helping to make a business work long term are many, including several that are well out of your control.

But what surprises most entrepreneurs and new business owners is the fact that the product you sell isn't enough. How you deliver it, how you service it, and what your customers think of it - rational or irrational - will make or break you.

I thought about this over the weekend, as I took my family for an early Sunday lunch at a relatively new restaurant in town. I've been there three times now, and although the food is excellent, I don't think they're going to make it.

I'm sure the restaurant owners believe they'll succeed based on a great menu and kitchen. And they do make great food. But the rest of the experience leaves much to be desired.

In fact, in the 45 minutes we were there, I saw at least 12-15 people walk in the door and, eventually, walk out. The restaurant was only half full, so that's a lot of revenue walking away.

If I were the restaurant owner or manager, there are several things I'd do to make sure the business survived the difficult early days and succeeded long-term. Ironically, none of these have to do with the product. It's all about service and experience.

Here's what I'd do:

Put as much staff as possible near the front door
When people walk in for the first time, they're unsure what to expect. They're also likely not yet committed. The sooner someone greets them, the more likely they'll stay. If the host or hostess is busy, and there's no one else to greet them, it's easy to leave. Make sure that doesn't happen.

Put a sign out front with specials, today's fresh sheet, maybe even a testimonial or two
New diners might not be sure what they're in for. Those who are just walking by (whether or not they're looking for something to eat) have even less of a reason to come in. I'm not a fan of having someone standing outside the door with a menu (that comes across as desperate), but a well-placed and well-written stand-up sign can reinforce that you know what you're doing, and can provide the food and service experience new diners will want.

Greet each guest quickly, make eye contact, smile & engage
Whether it's the host, hostess, manager or wait staff with a few extra minutes, make sure the new guests feel welcome. Draw them in, give them a menu, explain the specials. This isn't that different than how to work a trade show booth - engage visitors, make eye contact, break their gait and get their attention to take the next step. For a restaurant, this is an important way to confirm the prospect's decision to walk in the door, and get them to a table.

Seat them quickly
If you're busy, that's usually enough validation to new guests to stick around (especially if you greet them quickly and get them on the waiting list). If there are tables available, there's no excuse to make them wait. Greet them quickly, validate their decision to come, and get them to table.

Management should visit every table
Especially in the early days of a new restaurant, managers and owners should be extremely hands on. No managing from the bar with a beer in hand. No power trips. Dig in, help service during the rush, and visit tables asking about the experience. If you don't know first-hand how the restaurant is doing, you have no reason being surprised when first-time diners don't come back.

Collect evaluation forms from every table
I'm surprised how many new restaurants don't ask for feedback. Make it easy to give that feedback, immediately after the service, before they leave. Perhaps go so far as to offer a free dessert or appetizer on their next visit if they complete the evaluation form before they leave.

Rewards staff for completed evaluations as well as service evaluation results
Make it exceedingly clear to your staff (the entire staff, not just the wait staff) that you're taking those early evaluations seriously. That means collecting as many evaluation as possible, writing the form to collect honest feedback, and acting on the feedback quickly. I'd also put something on the evaluation form to get the diner's permission for a manager to follow up with them on anything that didn't meet their complete satisfaction. I'd then require that managers spend a portion of their day (even if it takes doing so before or after regular hours) engaging with previous diners and their feedback cards. I guarantee this will help make the experience better for future diners, and impress those who've been with you before (even if they had a bad experience) to not only come back but also tell their friends about you.

Obsess about your Yelp ratings
Everything above, including the actual service and product (food/drink) at your restaurant will be reflected on Yelp and other user-submitted review sites. A new restaurant owner should be obsessed with this - reading evaluations, engaging reviewers to thank them for their feedback and make an offer to come back, etc.

What else would you add to this list? If you're the owner or manager of a new restaurant, or a restaurant that has been through those difficult early days, what worked for you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


What if you spent your marketing budget on your customers?

I bet most of your marketing budget goes to media. Or trade shows. Or consultants. Or any of a number of additional channels.

All fine and good. But how much of your budget are you spending on your customers, directly? How actively are you courting, tapping into, motivating or driving activity directly through your existing customers to reach new customers?

This can take a lot of different formats. A customer listening tour. Customer training events. Referral incentives. Product samples for them to distribute to their friends and networks. Unexpected features. Better customer service. Proactive account management.

The right mix depends on your customers, your product, your market, and the relationships your customers may have with your prospects.

But I'd argue that your most lucrative marketing channel, the opportunity with the most untapped potential, isn't at the next trade show or direct mail run.

Do right by your customers, invest more in making them happy, and others will want to join them.

Monday, April 18, 2011


How to blog more (five tips)

I've written about where to find blog post inspiration, but continue to get good questions about how to actually get more blogging done.

Some of this has to do with simply setting aside and being disciplined about the time required to create good content. But there are other tactics you can use to jump-start that time to be more productive and efficient at driving more "shipped" content. Here are a few suggestions.

Write more ideas down
When you have an idea for good content, write it down immediately. Keep paper and pen close by, or use a service like Dial2Do to quickly record an idea that can be translated to text and email for review later. If you're like me, a good idea that sits in your head unrecorded for too long (and when I mean too long, I mean more than 15-20 seconds) gets lost to the next thought. The more you document, the more blog posts you'll have to choose from.

Keep a single, ongoing list of those ideas
I use Outlook Tasks, and have a category called "Pending Blog Posts". When I have time to write something new, I go to this list and find something to get started. Ideas are constantly coming and going from this list. Whether you use Outlook or Evernote or Moleskine, keep them somewhere together.

Ideas, then outlines, then drafts
Don't sit down and intend to write a blog post in one swoop. Start with the core idea, then jot down primary points and themes related to that idea. This blog post, for example, started with nothing more than the title. It eventually became a short bullet list of points I wanted to make. Eventually, I sat down and wrote the context & deeper context behind each of those points. By doing it this way, I produced the final post more quickly and it took far less time in aggregate. Breaking new blog posts down into individual steps makes the whole process more accessible (and more likely to happen).

Write ahead of time
Don't write today with the intention of posting today. That's only going to make you anxious. Work on something today with the intention of posting later. Tomorrow, next week, whatever makes sense. By writing content in advance and setting it up to post later, you can also block time to write several posts at once. Take your ideas and outlines of primary points, and lock yourself in a room for a couple hours to bang out new content while you're focused and on a roll.

Use guest bloggers
You don't have to write everything yourself! Others you work with - peers, colleagues, partners, customers, etc. - can create content that's just as good, just as relevant, and just as magnetic to drive more traffic and interested readers. It takes the full burden off of you, and will drive new people to your content from the original writer's set of channels and networks.

What are your tricks for producing more blog content? What tips do you have to help spark activity?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Your prospects are working on Sunday

A few weeks ago we ran a test with a client’s email campaign. We came up with a strong message and offer, then divided the list into seven parts. Over the subsequent week, we sent to one-seventh of the list every day at the same time. Guess which day gave us the highest open and response rate?


Not entirely surprising, when you think about it. Sunday’s not a traditional workday, but plenty of your customers and prospects are using a portion of today to get caught up and ready for the week ahead. There’s typically far less email volume on a Sunday to begin with, so the higher response rate makes sense.

Weekends are great for blogging as well. I consistently see higher impressions for new blog posts that are introduced on Saturday and Sunday.

That doesn’t mean you have to work the weekends if you don’t want to. I, for example, wrote this post four days ago and set it to post Sunday morning.

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the weekend off. Just remember your customers and prospects might not be doing the same. So what are you going to do to take advantage of that?

Friday, April 15, 2011


Should your sales managers still have a quota?

One of the reasons I think hiring a VP of Sales as your first sales hire is a bad idea is because he/she hasn't actively sold in quite awhile.

You're hiring them into a leadership position because they understand sales, and know how to manage sales organizations. But unless they intimately understand your customer - what they need, what their priorities are, what their pain points are - it's hard to truly help the sales team execute and improve their own sales processes and results.

I don't think it's efficient to have a VP-level sales executive have a quota. But sales managers? That might be more realistic. After all, they're on the front lines with your sales reps on a daily basis. While the VP of Sales is helping to lead and manage the organization, your sales managers are primarily responsible for helping their reps hit and exceed quota.

If they're doing it right, they're spending most of their time with the reps - on the floor, brainstorming deal strategy, working through obstacles and expanding/converting pipelines. Sometimes that means joining or leading calls with opportunities to help get them across the finish line.

Directly or indirectly, the best sales managers are already closing business.

So why not give them a direct quota? Doesn't have to be a big one. And it could certainly be related to deals they help their reps close (so you don't have to worry about them getting their own leads or spending too much time building their own pipeline).

There might not be a standard answer to this question for every organization. But sales managers who are responsible for directly closing business, and asked to perform against a quota, are by definition required to be closer to the customer, closer to the sale, and more attentive to real-time market changes that may help accelerate performance of the entire sales floor.

There's a difference between managing and doing. Your sales managers still need to do both.

What do you think? Are your sales managers doing this? Are you a sales manager doing this today?

Thursday, April 14, 2011


5 steps to take before buying a marketing automation solution

Guest post by Brian Hansford, president, Zephyr 47

Marketing automation follows the trends similar to the early stages of other business automation technologies including Customer Relationship Management to Supply Chain Management to the pre-Web 1.0 era of client-server development projects before that. All those technologies were promised to solve problems, make jobs easier, and generate revenue.

But even today, the successful utilization of CRM solutions is low, regardless of current SaaS services and technologies. Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret, Inc., reports 47% of CRM implementations in 2009 are judged as failures. The good news is marketing executives can learn from the mistakes and best practices of predecessor systems in business automation. Marketing is generally the last department in an organization to automate business processes and faces many of the same challenges other departments and functions faced.

However, DemandGen Report quotes Jonathan Block, Sirius Decisions, estimating that the success rate for companies adopting marketing automation is approximately 18%. When used primarily as an email engine, adoption is “probably more than 50% (DemandGen Report, October 5, 2010). There are many reasons for partial utilization or outright failure and system abandonment. Most of the issues come from people – simple as that. Don’t let this be your company!

When executed well, marketing automation platforms enable a well planned demand generation and lead management process and help organizations connect with customers at the right point in buying process. Higher quality leads are sent to sales with sales cycles that are accelerated which drive more revenue. However, implementing workflow and business process tools are difficult. Proper strategic planning and organizational mobilization can greatly enhance the value and revenue driven by a marketing automation platform. Don’t make the mistake of using a marketing automation platform purely as an expensive e-mail marketing system. Here are 5 steps to follow before buying a marketing automation solution.

1. Secure Executive Sponsorship
Any successful business strategy requires executive sponsorship, support, and even enforcement and marketing automation initiatives are no exception. Marketing automation impacts an entire enterprise and these champions are critical because they help mobilize the hearts and minds of people across the organization. To get the CEO and CFO on board, you will need to explain the “why”—the business case for a marketing automation initiative. This is the time for executives and marketing managers to focus strategically on how to directly grow revenue through sophisticated and measurable demand generation. Build the business case that shows how marketing automation drives revenue.

2. Develop a Demand Generation Strategy and Lead Management Process
Before even beginning to evaluate marketing automation solutions, the marketing and sales managers must develop an initial demand generation strategy and lead management workflow. Every organization will do things differently and the better defined the demand generation strategy with supporting lead management process, the greater the chance of success using the right marketing automation system.

A marketing team won’t flip a switch and magically have a funnel of highly qualified leads instantly flowing into the sales department. The workflow should identify where inquiries come from and how they move through a buying cycle and different treatments. A well planned marketing automation implementation can cultivate or nurture these leads to a point and then hand off to sales for direct follow up. The process should map how campaigns will support the required flow of qualified lead flow which ultimately leads to revenue generation. The strategy provides the direction and vision which will be supported by the rights tools and people.

3. Establish a Collaboration Channel and Service Level Agreement with Sales
Before a marketing team even engages in an automation solution evaluation, the sales management team should be involved along with the support of the executive sponsor. Marketing automation enables new levels of revenue generation by helping develop high-quality leads more efficiently, while preventing funnel leakage. Marketing has the fantastic opportunity to hold themselves and sales accountable for revenue generation. Collaboration and buy-in from sales management is a critical success factor. This step should also include coming to agreement, as much as possible, on what a “marketing qualified lead” is and the expectations, or service level agreement, by which sales will contact those leads and track opportunities or pass back to marketing for nurturing.

4. Test and Evaluate the CRM Integration
Generating high quality leads without a systematic way to hand them off to sales is pointless. Cloud-based CRM systems like and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are prolific and many marketing automation systems provide efficient technology integrations with most of the major CRM players. This is where organizations derive massive value from the advanced heavy lifting of developing a lead management process. To be clear, this step is not as easy as mapping fields. The process must be in place at least 80% of the way for this to work. Sales management and the sales representatives must buy into the process. Sales must follow up on the marketing qualified leads and provide data back to help measure whether the right leads are flowing, or not. Marketing automation integrated with CRM supports the full cycle of developing and managing leads and measuring effectiveness. Marketing executives can directly measure their performance on revenue generation. Both marketing and sales are held accountable with this integration, and that is good! This critical information must be captured within a CRM system.

5. Comprehensive Content Marketing Strategy
Content is often the most overlooked and underestimated ingredient for a successful marketing automation strategy. A well run marketing organization must have an annual campaign strategy and calendar, regardless of whether or not a marketing automation system is employed. Without a strategy and calendar, lead flow will be inconsistent and the content requirements will be unknown. Without content, the campaigns won’t get off the ground and the investment in marketing automation will be wasted. Consider the content required to run campaigns for leads at various stages in the buying cycle. And from there additional content will be required to support nurturing campaigns that help prevent leakage in the marketing funnel. Depending on which industry in B2B marketing, there will be different individuals at a target company that will require content suited to their roles and influence. Develop the right content for the right audience to be delivered at the right time using a marketing automation platform.

Marketing automation platforms and solutions provide a powerful resource for organizations to drive revenue and strengthen customer relationships. The unstructured methods of activity-based marketing behavior are extinct—at least for those marketing executives who want to continue their careers and help organizations grow revenues. Marketing executives and Chief Marketing Officers must show how they will use their people, process, budget and technology to impact revenue cycles. Marketing automation solutions provide the foundation to accomplish this mission. Strong planning, preparation, process development, and creativity will greatly enhance the magnitude of success using marketing automation. The 5 steps here are a great steps before buying the marketing automation solution.

About Brian Hansford: Brian is the president and CMO of Zephyr 47 headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Brian has worked for 20 years in B2B technology marketing with successful tenure at companies like Open Text, Citrix and Captaris. Zephyr 47 is a marketing service provider that helps organizations evaluate, implement and administer marketing automation platforms.

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