Thursday, May 19, 2011

 

Ten marketing lessons from DemandCon

Two packed days of great content, sharing, networking and learning just wrapped up in San Francisco at the first DemandCon. Impressive quality of people and thinking here focused on B2B demand generation, marketing automation and sales funnel improvement. You know a good conference when the word "firehose" is used often.

My notes from the past 48 hours are vast with much left to think about, but here are 10 immediate lessons for marketers worth sharing.

1. Define the process first, invest in tools later
Tools without strategy are a waste of time and money, and at best will represent unfocused shots int he dark. Tools are built with a specific purpose and function, and until you have a sense for your marketing strategy and process, you really don't even know which tools you'll need, and how you'll use them. Draw up the process first, then seek the right mix of tools to help you enable and automate that process as much as possible.

2. The sales process must mirror the buying process
It doesn't matter what sales process worked at your last company. It doesn't matter what you're most comfortable implementing. What matters most is how your buyer wants to buy. The path they take, and how you build a process around that to create a frictionless sale when the prospect is ready to move forward. Anything less than this creates friction, frustration from the buyer, funnel abandonment and lower conversion rates.

3. Lead nurturing does not require expensive tools
There are some fantastic tools available to marketers to automate their lead nurturing, but you don't need them to get started. Again, strategy first, then decide what tools will help you given the time, resources and budget available. If you don't have the ongoing bandwidth to manage marketing automation software, think twice before making that investment.

4. If you're feeling behind on all this, you're not alone
Some amazing companies, experts and consultants shared their marketing automation success stories this week. What they've accomplished and implemented is far beyond what most companies are doing today or have in their near future. But don't let this intimidate you from getting started, mapping out a more buyer-centric sales process, and thinking about the immediate steps you can create to begin generating, nurturing and fulfilling a larger pipeline of business that extends much farther back into the buyer's decision-making process.

5. The funnel concept isn't as relevant as it used to be
The buying process isn't linear. It doesn't go station to station. And it doesn't end after the first sale. Buyers enter and leave the buying process at will, often randomly and without notice. They move two steps forward, and then one back. They stall but refer you to others. Use the concept of a funnel, perhaps, to guide your overall thinking about the sales process, but map your specific customer's actual purchase behavior without a shape, format or linear process in mind.

6. Marketers need to think like salespeople
Your job as a marketer isn't to create collateral. Or build the trade show booth. Or find new lists for the sales team. Your job is to help buyers buy. Educate future buyers. Provide value at every stage of the buying process in a manner that's measured and evaluated based on opportunity creation and closed business. Should marketers be compensated like salespeople? Should they have a quota for new qualified opportunities passed to sales? Maybe. But at minimum, they need to think, act and prioritize their work based on funnel growth, movement and conversion.

7. Marketing stories need to remain consistent through the entire funnel
Great marketers tell stories. They create visceral reactions among prospects, and paint a picture of success that's compelling beyond the bells and whistles of what they're actually buying. Too often, that story ends when a qualified lead heads off to the sales team. It is the marketing team's responsibility to ensure message and story consistency through to the close. Because if the sales team tells a different story, if they wake the prospect up from their "vision of the future" dream, it's like starting the process all over again.

8. Marketing metrics need to tie to revenue, not activity
Email volume is interesting but secondary. Twitter followers is great, but a means to an ends. Marketers need to be better at identifying, tracking and communicating their performance based on revenue-focused metrics. Not every marketing activity directly leads to revenue, but it's contribution, the causality of marketing activity in accelerating the path to sale, needs to be clear.

9. None of this works without great content
Great systems, automation, a well-defined sales process - it all falls apart if you cannot effectively communicate with prospects, with the right message at the right time. This requires great content that's relevant to your audience, segmented as necessary to keep them engaged and attracted to your brand and your story. Most of this content will deliver value, differentiate, build preference, and not explicitly sell.

10. Your ROI from a good conference is you to you, not the conference
It's up to you to meet new people, make connections, find the ties between what you're learning and what you can do back at the office to do your job better. A good conference organizer gives you all the tools to do this - great content, cocktail receptions, relevant vendors. But it's up to you to make eye contact, meet new people, share and receive ideas, and walk away with that firehose of fresh perspective, insight and inspiration.

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