$300 billion dollars a year. That’s what the 3,000 largest B2B companies in the world spend annually on lead generation, resulting in billions of leads. Yet despite this massive expense, I have yet to find a sales executive who is happy with the number and quality of marketing generated leads.
Why the disconnect? The old model where marketing generates a lead and sends it over to sales doesn’t work anymore. Mass marketing, big tradeshows, and buying lists don’t work in a world where buyers use the web, search, and social media to take control of their buying process. Companies today meet prospective customers earlier in the buying cycle, and those customers want to engage with sales later than ever. This dynamic complexity also makes it harder than ever for marketing to identify which programs really impact revenue and pipeline.
To close these gaps, B2B marketing professionals need better lead management capabilities, such as:
- Lead scoring: Qualify leads and improve sales effectiveness by passing only hot leads to sales
- Lead nurturing: Develop raw inquiries into sales-ready leads via relevant and personalized nurturing campaigns
- Lead tracking: Arm the sales team with detailed information about prospect interests and activities
- CRM integration: Track sales follow-up and recycle leads if necessary
- Marketing ROI Analytics: Learn which programs really impact the pipeline
Pain and Expense
These capabilities have been offered by marketing automation vendors for a few years now, but traditionally marketing software has been too complex, too hard to use, and not intuitive enough for most marketers. These solutions were designed for statisticians and programmers more than for marketers, and required help from IT and significant training.
Worse, marketing software has never been easy enough for marketers to buy. It’s been too expensive, and large technology investments don’t match the way marketing budgets work. Software as a Service (SaaS) alone is not a solution. Most of the on-demand players in the marketing automation space still use an expensive direct sales channel and require long implementations and significant IT support and training.
Seven Ways to Liberate Marketing
So, what are the key elements of a modern B2B marketing software solution? Although I work for a marketing software vendor, the following list comes from my years of experience working with technology enabled marketing solutions.
- Intuitive interface: Most marketers didn’t start their careers as programmers or project managers. Complex tools with Visio-like user interfaces and pseudo-code programming environments may be powerful, but they’re hard to learn and end up requiring dedicated resources and/or significant professional services. Marketers need an intuitive system they can learn quickly – think of how many marketers know how to use PowerPoint.
- Great design: Let’s face it – marketers are visual people, and how software looks and acts and feels matters. Just take a look at the iPhone.
- No upfront costs: Marketing departments typically have significant monthly or quarterly program budgets, but large one time payments can be hard – especially if it isn’t planned for months in advance. The same marketer that can commit to a $25,000 agency contract (paid monthly) without batting an eye needs CxO approval to justify a technology investment of similar size.
- Free trial: Seth Godin says that most businesses aren’t price sensitive; they are value and risk sensitive. They need to justify to the people they work with that they didn’t get ripped off, and they don’t want to have to apologize to their boss for buying the wrong thing. A trial is a great way to get comfortable that the solution really works and meets your needs. If a vendor can’t offer a free trial to serious prospects, it’s probably because their software takes too long to install or is too hard to learn without significant training.
- On-demand: Software as a Service is a godsend to IT-starved marketing departments. It means you don’t have to buy any hardware or install anything, the system maintains itself, and new upgrades are delivered automatically.
- Great support: A great solution is much more than just the software you get. To be successful, marketers need easy ways to get started, access to tips and best practices, and responsive customer support. Of course, success shouldn’t come with a price tag, so you shouldn’t have to pay extra for these services.
- Powerful and complete: Sophisticated problems require sophisticated solutions, and B2B marketers shouldn’t have to compromise functionality to get great design, usability, and fast implementations.
In your experience, what else is required from a successful B2B marketing automation solution?