As boards, shareholders and executive teams seek predictable revenue, they apply pressure on sales and marketing leaders to drive sustainable growth. Today with buyers in control and sales organizations increasingly blind to the first two-thirds of the buying process, demand generation teams have moved front and center as the key driver of this growth. And most have a ways to go in putting a demand generation machine in place to predictably drive growth requirements.
This is a seven-step revenue growth marketing approach to provide a measured, well-paced and action-oriented blueprint for the demand gen turnaround that so many businesses are demanding today.
1. Agree to Lead Definitions
Maribeth Ross covers the key revenue stages in this article; the Marketing Qualified Lead definition is absolutely vital. By establishing a joint MQL definition with Sales, marketers create a quality metric for leads and establish a clear handoff point to the sales team, which in turns helps sales perform better with the MQLs that marketing generates.
I find that most struggling demand gen teams have a lack of clarity around this definition which therefore means there are wild fluctuations historically in lead quality that make results difficult to measure, and also make sales’ job more difficult in following up the leads they receive. The MQL definition provides a building block foundation from which to grow.
The second crucial definition that is a consistent Opportunity definition, which will enable you to use the MQL-to-Opportunity conversion rate to identify top quality lead sources.
2. Get Quick Wins On Board – Here’s Five to Get You Started
While most of these steps work sequentially, this one should occur in parallel to the rest. As a Demand Generation leader, you want to make short term impact to support the sales organization and demonstrate that you are able to simultaneously consider short term lead and revenue objectives while building long-term marketing strength.
These are five “quick-wins” that can bridge the gap while demand generation fundamentals are being developed
Quick Win #1 – Late Stage Content
In a Demand Gen turnaround you can’t do everything all at once. So I first prioritize late stage content to help identify and move prospects entering a buying process closer to sales. Look to reface or repackage late stage content, feature it on your website as a means to capture MQLs and drive these assets through syndication programs to bring in later stage prospects. Late stage content include vendor comparisons, evaluation guides and product webinars both live and on-demand.
Quick Win #2 – Website Conversions
Your website is your last step in converting leads for sales, so any improvements you can drive there will have immediate impact. Look at forms and user paths to eliminate friction and improve conversion rates. Ensure forms driving MQLs to sales don’t have any extraneous fields or unnecessary distractions.
Quick Win #3 – Invest in a Paid Search Agency
If you have been running your paid search account in-house, chances are you would benefit from bringing in an agency expert to help you improve performance. I find some marketers are reluctant to pay the 13-15% management fee, however with the ever growing complexity of paid search and varied opportunities within it, don’t be short sighted and rather challenge an agency to double your paid search performance for the 15% investment you make with them.
Quick Win #4 – Align Webinar and Content Topics to the Problems You Solve
Lead Gen webinar topics need to walk a fine line. It’s well understood today that lead gen (earlier stage) webinars can’t be about you and your products… they need to center around compelling topics of interest to your prospects. However I find some marketers swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, whereby the webinar topic will fail to connect it to the problems their company/product solves so therefore it’s ineffective in driving leads for sales. Adjusting webinar topics (as well as other content including PR) to speak to broad topics and connect these topics to the problems you solve should increase yield from these programs by a multiple.
Quick Win #5 – Nurture New MQIs
If you don’t have a lead nurturing program in place to nurture new MQIs, put one in place. Start simple – it can be a series of emails driving to a single landing page or microsite, as having that initial nurture program in place is essential to establish a baseline from which you can grow. You will need lead nurturing in place to extract full value out of your lead gen programs.
3. Benchmark Performance by Channel
Benchmark your historical performance to create the picture of how demand is being generated today and what metrics need to move and by how much to drive the required business growth. Benchmarks should include:
- MQL to opportunity conversion rate
- Opportunity to win rate
- Website traffic by channel (organic, referral, direct) and conversion rate
- Size of active marketing database and conversion rate
- Paid Search account performance, split out by branded & non-branded search, retargeting and display network ads
4. Build a Revenue Growth Calculator
Using the benchmarks you’ve established, build a revenue growth calculator which shows how these numbers need to move in order to meet the revenue growth plan for the business. To do this you will also need to know the required future bookings (based on average sales cycle), the average order value and the % of business you are looking to drive from net new vs. existing customer.
Take the current baseline, and create an outward plan showing to where the metrics need to move. Ideally you can do this such that you set metrics that exceed your MQL requirements by 10-20%. This becomes a plan which sales and marketing can partner on with clear ownership and accountability.
5. Closed Loop Tracking of Lead Stages & Programs
To manage the metrics you set out in #4, you will need a closed loop marketing system to track the effectiveness of programs and lead progression in general. I discussed the ‘how’ around this in a previous article Six essentials to setting up a closed loop marketing system.
6. Help the Sales Team “Beyond Just Leads”
This is a parallel set of activities which will help in establishing demand generation as “more than just leads” and driving impact on demand at all stages of the buying process. The types of programs are crucial as they can help the sales organization overcome a near term lead shortfall, and as leads grow ensure that are best converting leads into opportunities and wins.
Areas to consider helping sales include:
- LinkedIn Coaching – Encourage sales to connect with all customers on LinkedIn so as customers switch jobs the reps are the first to know; this also grows their network so they can best leverage LinkedIn as a prospecting tool; encourage the rep to set up their profile from a consultative, customer-centric standpoint so when prospects view their profile, the rep leaves a strong impression.
- Personalized Landing Pages for the rep to use with prospects and customers – Build a personalized landing page such as this one which puts the Rep front and center and wraps useful content around the rep. This is a page a rep can use and apply at various stages of the buying process including their own prospecting activities.
- Coaching on Asking for Referrals – Remind the Reps that they, via the products and services the company provides, add immense value to customers, so asking for a referral is helping and not selling, and part of the sales process should include a follow up process to ask for referrals.
- Help Sales Improve MQL to Opportunity Rate – Ensure system handoff on MQLs is clean, ensure reps are armed with questions to ask to establish pain and value, and consider automated nurturing programs for free trial evaluations.
- Help Sales Improve Win Rate – Inventory and improve the content sales uses during the opportunity phase; look at interactive content such as assessment tools to take this to the next level, and also consider web-based tools that sales can use to share content and best support their buyer champion during the opportunity phase.
7. Drive Towards the Revenue Growth Plan
With the plan via the Growth Calculator established in #4, the tracking of programs in #5 and the holistic view of helping the reps in #6, now monitor and measure performance towards these goals. Identify high and low performing activities through your closed loop tracking – slice and dice including program types, lead sources, calls to action, and segments by vertical, size, geography, job function or buyer characteristics.
As you identify top performers, assess the possibility of shifting investments in time or resources into these top performers. And as you identify low performers, make decisions to either invest in improving these low performers, or drop them.
The metrics based approach and visibility should ensure you get buy-in and support for the steps needed along the way and keep you well aligned with sales as you build the demand generation required to best drive the business.