Wondering Out Loud

More leads! More leads! More leads!

I experienced one of those ugly moments when a bad memory comes flooding back to the fore for no discernible reason. This one dates back almost a decade, to my early years in the marketing department of SoftBrands, a one-time enterprise software company that was acquired by Infor, a much larger enterprise software company, a bit more than one year ago.

The pain started when the sales manager stopped by my office to discuss the need to increase qualified sales leads. It seems her team was not busy enough with the 50 we were sending each month (10 m0re than the 40 required to meet quota), so she wanted us to increase the total to 80.

Happy to accommodate her request, I tried to start a discussion about the additional dollars that would be necessary. It is a discussion that went nowhere. Not to be stymied, I brought up the subject of changing the definition of a qualified sales lead. With a few tweaks to the criteria, like purchase time line, my team would be able to achieve the doubled quota. That suggestion was less popular than increasing the budget.

So, there I stood, staring at a sales manager who wanted me to perform the modern-day equivalent of the fishes and loaves. Being a mere mortal, I told here it would be easier if she would ask me to spin straw into gold. I quickly found that was the wrong thing to say.

Sales people are always asking for more leads, but they fail to see that, when lead generation is done correctly, less can actually be more. Let me explain.

Some time later in my tenure at SoftBrands we made the strategic decision to focus our efforts on penetrating a handful of very specific manufacturing micro-verticals that we were really good at: medical device, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food & beverage. At first the sales team was concerned about the inevitable reduction that would result when we choked off the flow of leads. But as we implemented the strategy, they came to realize a few important facts:

  1. The number of leads did drop dramatically
  2. The quality of leads increased in the same way
  3. They were spending less time chasing deals that were unlikely to result in wins
  4. Wins – individual and team – increased considerably

For us, the ultimate road to success was not expanding the criteria and pumping more leads into the pipe. On the contrary, by focusing our resources and tightening the definition of a qualified sales lead, we were able to achieve our sales goals and do away forever with the mantra:

More leads! More leads! More leads!

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Marketing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Traditional + Social: The new media mix

On January 8th I posted an entry, A social media question worth pondering, that touched on the subject of traditional media v. social media. Rather than pitting one against the other, which others have done, I want to explore how the two can work together to achieve your marketing objectives.

A former boss of mine once said, “All advertising works.” I believed it then and I believe it now. When used properly, all advertising will do the job it’s intended to do. Too often, however, marketers get stuck in the rut of seeing every challenge as a nail and, therefore employ their favorite hammer to drive the nail home.

Case in point: a former business partner is so deeply wedded to the tactical trifecta of direct mail-telemarketing-email that they won’t consider doing anything else. Hammer and nail.

But the world has changed and most buyers ignore claims of “world-class”, “industry leading”, “best of breed”, and all the other marketing speak associated with high-priced products and services. Buyers have become more savvy and educated and, believe it or not, want to know they can trust their vendors to deliver what they say they can.

In 10 years of marketing enterprise software to the SME manufacturing space, I’ve seen buyer’s primary concern move from functional (how well does the software fit my needs) to credible (does the vendor understand my needs and my industry). The change was a natural evolution in an industry where the products – ERP for manufacturers – are perceived to have been commoditized. When all products are the same, buyers start differentiating on a different level.

This is where the marriage of traditional and social media happens. Traditional media whether print, direct mail, email, etc. is where you make the claims. Social media gives you a forum for substantiating them.

In the old days, SoftBrands claimed to have expertise in the food and beverage manufacturing space. To substantiate the claim we used customer testimonials and this webcast as proof points (I’m the cute one on the right). If you don’t want to watch both videos – and I don’t know why you wouldn’t – I’ll give you the key points.

The testimonial is pretty standard fare until the COO says the final decision was based on…”The people”. Other software packages could do the job, but the people SoftBrands brought to the table gave the customer more confidence. The webcast is a break from tradition in that we don’t talk features and functionality of the software, rather we spend the time talking about the issues SME food and beverage manufacturers face everyday. By showcasing the subject matter experts within SoftBrands viewers concluded that the products developed by people with deep industry knowledge would fit their needs. The event generated almost 50 qualified sales leads. The video was directly responsible for one new customer who, after seeing what their competitor was doing with the software, eliminated all competition from the sales cycle.

Traditional media, fact sheets, brochures, print ads, whitepapers, and so on are still important – and will continue to be so – but they can only carry you so far in today’s buying environment. More than ever, but not as much as it will be, the most important marketing tools are the voices of your people and your customers. They are the ones who prove your claims of being “world-class”, “industry leading” and “best off breed.” It’s the real people behind your products and services that your prospects need to connect with, so put them out there now and let the connecting begin.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 2 Comments


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