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In the quest to increase results from marketing, companies tend to focus on tactics. They worry about creating a better brochure, upgrading the website, or running a new ad campaign. However, often the greatest leaps in marketing effectiveness come from focusing on how it all ties together. Here are three steps for business leaders to improve their marketing effectiveness by fine-tuning their marketing processes.
1. Know what you need.
Marketing’s main job is to feed the sales force with nice, warm leads. Step one towards better marketing is to understand how much and what kind of food they need.
The “how much” is easily answered using basic math. Start with your sales goals and work backward. You’ll need to answer the following questions:
- What is our annual new business revenue goal?
- How many new customers does this represent?
- What percentage of qualified opportunities do we actually close?
- What percentage of leads actually become qualified opportunities?
Using this information, you can determine how many new inquiries your marketing must generate in order for the sales team to meet their goals. For example, let’s say your annual new business revenue goal is $10M; your average deal size is $100,000; your sales people generally close 50% of the qualified opportunities presented to them; and 5% of your inquiries become qualified opportunities. A quick run around the calculator tells us that your marketing efforts need to generate 4000 leads for the sales team.
With this information in hand, marketing planning becomes much more focused. Every activity in the plan should in some way contribute to generating inquiries and developing leads. If you can’t trace a program or activity to this result, don’t spend the money.
2. Match your marketing process to the buying process.
Unless you are selling an impulse item, the decision to purchase your product or service is based on a series of small decisions. Marketing helps to facilitate, and hopefully accelerate, the decision process by making the right information available to the prospect at the right time and from the right source.
It is critical to understand the entire process your customers go through while deciding to buy your product or service. Typically companies have a good understanding of what goes on after an opportunity has been identified, but few spend the time to understand the front end of the process.
A typical buying process could go something like this. The prospect:
a) Becomes aware that he or she has a need
b) Identifies options – often a list of vendors that offer a solution
c) Researches the various solutions
d) Creates a “long list” and issues an RFP
e) Creates a “shortlist”
f) Invites vendors for demos
g) Checks references
Information needs are different at each point in the process. A successful marketing program matches these needs. It allows the company to create awareness among the target prospects by engaging them in a flow of communication that helps navigate their way through the buying process. A marketing program that fails to meet the buyer’s needs at each step of the process won’t deliver as many qualified leads.
3. Get your sales and marketing people on the same page
It is truly astonishing how many companies suffer from a fundamental disconnection between sales and marketing. Here’s a sure sign that your company has that problem. Ask the question “which marketing programs result in revenue?” You’ll likely hear marketing people complain that the sales team doesn’t follow up on leads and won’t track them. And, you’ll hear sales people say that marketing’s leads are worthless. You can’t get an answer because no one knows.
Disconnected sales and marketing efforts result in burned leads, wasted efforts, lengthy sales cycles, and low revenue. It is well worth the effort to develop a cross-functional team.
One of the easiest and most effective places to start with is to develop a common definition of the word “lead”. If you gathered your sales and marketing teams together and ask everyone for their definition, you’ll likely find the sales team has a very different view than your marketing team. (Don’t be surprised if you get different answers within the sales and marketing staffs as well.) Now work together to establish a common definition. Use this definition to guide marketing in developing leads before handing them off to sales.
These steps are a good start toward making your marketing initiatives more effective. Of course, there is much more you can do to tighten the process so that your efforts produce greater results; but by taking these three steps you’ll be well on your way.