13 Event Marketing Tips

 

As founder of the Integrated Marketing Summit and Demandcon, I have produced over 30 educational marketing events all over the United States including one event in London since 2009. I have had the great pleasure of working with hundreds of thought leaders, speakers, and sponsors over the years.

Many of our sponsors did very well at our events, collecting tons of leads, while others made an awful mess out of their participation because they weren’t prepared. That’s why I have created this top thirteen list of tips for event marketers (with a bonus speaker tip at the end). These tips are all designed to help you avoid some of the biggest mistakes I have witnessed over the years as well as offer suggestions on how to get the most out of your participation or investment when sponsoring an event.

So let’s get started.

Tip One— Marketing and Sales Alignment

You can’t just toss sponsorship money at the event producer and expect to leave the event with a boatload of leads. You have to integrate your event marketing efforts with your field marketing and sales efforts. I can’t tell you how many times a sponsor has failed to mention to field sales they are sponsoring an event taking place in their territory. What a giant waste of an opportunity. Field sales and/or inside sales teams should not only know about the events you’re sponsoring, but they should play an active role in making sure you have the right prospects and clients at those events. That’s right, I said clients. Events are not just a place to find new leads, but also a great place to build tighter relationships with existing clients.

Tip Two— Bargain for Additional Event Passes

When negotiating your sponsorship package, event producers are more likely to give you additional free passes to the event than give you a deeper discount to sponsor the event. Giving one price to one sponsor and another price to another sponsor causes ethical issues so it’s easier for event producers to simply give more passes to the event, which is a win-win for all parties.

Set up meetings with your field sales and inside sales teams as soon as you sponsor the event to make sure they give away these free passes. Don’t waste this opportunity to give away your free passes! I can’t tell you how many times a sponsor has failed to give away all of their free passes. I’m sure their sales reps would have loved to have invited a client or prospect to an event for free, just for the opportunity to spend some quality time with them and strengthen their relationship.

Start by inviting your prospects to the event, and if you have any passes left, invite your clients. If you tell the event producer how you plan to give away your free passes and how you plan to market your participation at the event, they will be much more likely to provide you with extra perks and passes.

I had one sponsor who had his inside sales team call all of their prospects in the area of each regional event I held. They would give away all of their passes in two weeks. I would then give them extra passes at cost so that they could keep inviting prospects to the event. However, keep in mind that when you give something away for free only about 50% of the people who say “yes” to the invitation will actually show up.

Tip Three— If You Are Going to Sponsor an Event, Sponsor Early

If you are going to sponsor an event, go all in and sign up as early as possible. Event producers often feature their sponsor’s logos in their marketing efforts, website or even on their direct mail campaigns. The sooner you sponsor the event, the sooner your logo will appear on the promotional materials, increasing your overall brand impression, which never hurts.

Example: when promoting our events, we like to include the sponsors’ logos on our email campaigns. If your event producer has a large database of contacts like we do, this can lead to millions of brand impressions.

Tip Four— Pick the Right Time of Day to Speak

If you get a speaking slot with your sponsorship, try to get a morning speaking slot. I don’t care what type of event you sponsor or speak, attendance drops off in the afternoon. Not to mention, most attendees are suffering from information overload, attention spans are dwindling or just want to knock off early (while the cat’s away, the mice will play). So try to book a morning presentation if you can.

Tip Five— Practice Your Presentation

If you do get a speaking slot as a sponsor or a speaker, make sure you run through your presentation over and over and over again, in front of an audience. I don’t care if it’s just a one person audience or a room full of people, you need to practice in front of an audience. Don’t wait until the morning of the event to practice your presentation. You’d be surprised how many smart people are awful presenters. A bad presentation is a wasted opportunity to create a positive brand experience and establish credibility.

If you’re not sure about your speaker, test them out on one event before committing them to multiple speaking opportunities. During their test event, monitor whether they’re engaging the audience. Pay attention to the crowd and see if the speaker is keeping everyone’s attention. It’s easy to tell if you lost the audience’s attention; just look around the room and if everyone is on their cell phone or laptop, your speaker lost them. As an event producer, I often test new speakers by putting them on a panel of speakers before committing them to a single presentation on the main agenda.

And as for the presentation itself, if you’re not sure about the audience’s ability to grasp your content and are wavering between delivering remedial or advanced content, go for advanced. It’s always better to appear smart and a lose a few people than risk delivering weak content that makes you and your company look remedial.

Tip Six— Master Slides

Make sure to include the event hashtag on all of the slides in your presentation, along with the speakers Twitter handle or LinkedIn URL. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent a connection request to someone on LinkedIn or started following someone on twitter during their presentation. This simple step can gain you some really important and easily earned contacts.

I would also make sure to provide the event producer with a copy of the slides to pass out to all of the attendees after the event or have a call to action during the presentation directing people to a landing page to get a copy of the material presented.

Tip Seven— The Pitch

Don’t start your presentation off with a pitch. I had an event in Dallas once where our main sponsor started their presentation with a pitch. He started off with eight slides about who they were and how great they were, including a long list of important clients they worked with. I have never have seen an audience shut down so fast in my life.

Put your pitch or company info at the end of the presentation, not the beginning. Offer value first and establish credibility to gain the audience’s trust, or risk having them turned off of your company before you even get started.

Tip Eight— Don’t Send Your Entire Sales Team to the Event

Just because you have ten free passes to the event (because you failed to give them away to prospects and clients – see tip two), don’t send your entire sales team to an event, especially if the event is small. You will look like a bunch of vultures feeding on a small audience, and you’ll scare people off.

Tip Nine— Have a Plan

Are you sponsoring the event to recruit new staff, uncover new leads, pick up some training, recruit sponsors to your event, or just meet influencers in your industry? Whatever your goal, have a plan for achieving that goal and how you will measure success.

If you can get a list of attendees prior to the event, or if there is a mobile app for the event, make sure to reach out to those people that will help you achieve your goals and ask for a quick meeting. I look up the people I most want to meet with on LinkedIn and send them an invitation to connect. If I can’t find the people on LinkedIn, I go to Data.com to find their contact information and send them a personal email before the event. By reaching out ahead of time, you can more easily connect with the people that will help you achieve your goals for the event.

Tip Ten— Big Events Aren’t Always the Best Events

Big doesn’t always mean better. big events are expensive and often do little to help the sales reps stuck in smaller/tier two territories. Sometimes, the little events in tier two cities have the best ROI and are actually more beneficial to your reps.

For example, did you know Kansas City is home to Black & Veatch, Sprint, Hallmark, Garmin, AMC Theater, America Century, HR Block, Cerner, Russell Stovers Candies, Burns & McDonnell, and Seaboard Corporation, just to name a few?

There are tons of events happening in tier two cities across the U.S. that are full of quality leads. When planning your event strategy, make sure to check out local associations where the event is going to occur. Since I hosted marketing events I would check out organizations like the AMA, DMA, BMA, and Ad Clubs in those cities. I also recommend checking out Wikipedia for companies based in the city where your considering sponsorship to an event. Use your free passes and invite ideal prospects as your quest. There’s gold in them their hills if you are willing to dig a little:)

Tip Eleven— After-Hours Events

If given the opportunity, sponsor a private after-hours party, dinner or event. I Try to take as many prospects as I can to either a ball game, a concert or a private dinner after each event. The real relationships are often made outside of the event itself, and these after-hour events are the perfect way to make those lasting bonds with clients that will keep you in business.

Most event producers will help you market an after-hour party as well, especially if you are willing to pay them a little extra. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Tip Twelve— Drop the Leads Into Your Marketing Automation Platform

Event marketing is consistently listed as a top five strategy for lead generation in most major studies. However, these leads are also the most expensive leads you will ever generate. You have to include sponsorship fees, T&E for staff, shipping, time out of the office, and many other things to calculate the true cost of these leads.

So after the event, make sure to import your list of leads captured into your CRM or other marketing automation platform for further nurturing. Picking up a lead at an event doesn’t mean they will convert in year one. Studies show that 75% of the leads you generate from these types of events will not make a purchase decision until year two or three. If you are not nurturing the leads you get after the event, you are wasting 75% of your marketing budget. So be sure you have a system in place to keep these leads in the loop long term.

Also, make sure to flag the lead source with the name of the event for ROI reporting which will help you with next years event planning.

Tip Thirteen— Flag Existing Leads

Some of the leads you get from the event might already be in your CRM or marketing automation platform. You need to flag those leads as having stopped by your booth at the event. This is called a “marketing touch.”  By tracking these interactions, you can gain a better understanding of the number of touches it takes to convert a lead (both online and offline) to a sale.

Bonus Tip for Speakers

If you are trying to get a speaking slot at an event, don’t just submit an abstract showing years of speaking experience but rather present a marketing plan that clearly demonstrates how you will support the event. Let the event producer know how many contacts you have in your database and agree to send an email campaign out to help promote the event. Let the event producer know how many people follow you on Twitter, LinkedIn or subscribe to your blog and agree to promote the event on your social channels. Show the event producer you are serious about supporting their event and they’re going to be much more likely to give you the speaking slot over another speaker. There are only so many speaking slots on an agenda so you need to keep in mind you’re competing against other speakers and sponsors for that same opportunity.

I hope this list helps you get the most out of your event marketing efforts.

Need help marketing your event or an event you are sponsoring?

Set up a call with Shawn Elledge here.

Shawn has access to millions of B2B contact records to support your email marketing efforts and offers a managed LinkedIn program designed to attract sponsors, speakers, and attendees.

Timing is everything in event marketing. Knowing when to start promotions and how is critical to your success. We can help!

This content was originally posted on the Integrated Marketing Association website here but has been updated.

Why Companies Need Sales Automation

Shawn Elledge, CEO of Sales Lead Automation and founder of DemandCon describes some of the challenges facing B2B sales and marketing professionals while providing some strategies and technologies you can adapt to get you back on track with your B2B lead generation goals.

SALES AUTOMATION WEBINAR OVERVIEW

Its reported that there are over 7000 marketing and sales technologies on the market today. However, with so many choices available, picking the right solution isn’t always easy.

In the early 2000’s email marketing was all the rage and continues to be the best performing marketing channel. In fact, email is still the main function of today’s sales and marketing automation platforms.

2008 marketing automation platforms became all the rage. Companies quickly realized these automation tools could do more with less staff and budget. Automating demand generation and lead generation activities while also tracking, scoring and nurturing leads became the norm for B2B companies. These marketing automation platforms (MAP) were especially attractive to those companies who sold considered purchases with extended sales cycles.

However, the sheer volume of email going out on a daily basis grew exponentially between 2000 and 2010 putting a strain on the internet services providers (ISP’S) resources causing them to scrutinize their email delivery practices. Corporate IT professionals in charge of blocking spam and mitigating risks from unknown email senders also started to adopt stricter email policies and advanced spam filtering software that would often block permission-based emails that their staff actually requested.

Fast forward to 2018 and you have the perfect storm. Companies can no longer send large volumes of unsolicited email. Email delivery has never been more difficult and the inbox competition, if you do get your email delivered, has never been more challenging.

Meanwhile, marketers are struggling to generate leads and move them through the sales funnel so their salespeople are begging for leads.

Check out the webinar above for insight into why companies need to adopt both sales and marketing automation as well as how to use each solution in building a complete b2b lead generation strategy.

Email Marketing—The Cornerstone of Your Lead Generation Program

If you’re looking for B2B leads, it’s time to start writing, since publishing a white paper is considered one of the best ways to get leads for business. In fact, one survey found that about 60 percent of respondents said white papers are a valuable way to generate new leads. That’s because a high-quality white paper has the ability to grab the attention of your audience, gain their trust, build credibility, and gradually move leads through the funnel. If you’re interested in these benefits of white papers, check out how to get started writing and promoting them to get leads.

Choose a Topic That Will Appeal to Your Target Audience

The point of the white paper is to provide a solution to a problem your audience has. This means you’ll need to do some research, starting with who your target audience is. If you want to generate leads with the white paper, make sure you write about a topic of interest to the people you hope will eventually become your customers.

For example, if you sell printers, your best leads will be people who are in the market to buy one or more printers in the near future. Think about the concerns they might have as they get ready to buy a printer. They might be wondering how to choose the best product, which features they need in a printer, or when the right time to buy is. Give them the information they want and you’ll have a chance of them coming back to you when it’s time to buy.

Keep the Content Informative, Not Sales-Focused

This is not the time to try to sell readers on your services. You’re positioning your brand as a trusted resource and a thought leader in your industry, which will, in turn, create a relationship with your target audience. More specifically, you want to appeal to people who are in the early to middle stages of the customer journey, as they’re gathering information before making a purchase. So at this point, your goal is to provide a valuable resource through a white paper that is full of information your readers can use.

To that end, make sure the paper contains clear, detailed explanations supported by facts, including charts, diagrams, graphs, and links to credible sources. Consider using case studies from your company as examples, as this type of source not only backs up your points but also shows what your business can do. Not surprisingly, your white paper shouldn’t be too short if you expect to fit everything in, so strive for about eight pages for this piece of long-form content.

Promote Your White Paper Through Multiple Channels

Now that you have an informative white paper, it’s time to let people know about it. Use every channel you have access to in order to promote your paper and generate leads, such as the following:

Email. White papers are most often used as assets for lead generation campaigns. Build your campaign around the topic the white paper addresses and distribute it to your opt-in email list. Provide some intriguing details, such as a shocking statistic or graph, followed by a link where they can download the paper in the email. 

Your website. Your white paper should live on your website, complete with its own landing page. Your above-mentioned email campaign can drive traffic to that landing page, which is where you want to provide them with a quick summary of what information the white paper will deliver and make it easy to download, with only a few required form fills. If you’re smart, you’ll use a product like ReachForce (which we love), which allows you to keep required form fills super simple and ultimately leads to more conversions. Data shows that the fewer required fields your forms offer up, the greater your conversion rate.

Social media. After email, one of the best promotional tools for your white paper is social media channels. Of course, you have to have devoted time and effort to building a following in the social media space for this to really pay off. Provided you’ve done that, share that link to the landing page where the white paper “lives” on your various social media channels. Do it more than once or twice, because that’s not nearly enough to capture attention given the amount of noise in social media streams. For greater attention and effectiveness, you can pin your posts featuring the white paper to the top of your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages. You can also put a budget behind your white paper campaign and actually pay for exposure to highly targeted audiences on those social media platforms. The more results you want, the more money you should plan on spending to make that happen. Be sure to include a related image (or even a video) with the link so you be sure to grab as much attention as possible. Data shows that posts with images on Facebook have at least 37 percent more engagement than those without.

Blog posts. You should always write a blog post on the topic covered in your white paper and publish it on your corporate blog, as well as on your LinkedIn profile. The purpose of this post is marketing, plain and simple: It should pique the interest of your readers, and entice them to want to learn more. In fact, the copy used in your blog post or any other vehicle you’re using to promote and market the white paper is equally as important, and sometimes even harder to write, than the white paper resource itself.

Video. You can’t go wrong with video these days, as 79 percent of respondents in one study said they would rather watch a video than read. So make a video based on some of the information in your white paper, and then upload it to your corporate YouTube channel, feature it on your website, and embed it in the aforementioned blog post.

Other websites: You don’t have to limit your white paper promotions to your own website, social pages, and email list. You can do some homework and explore whether the content is a fit for other websites that might allow you to submit a guest post on the topic of the white paper with an included CTA for download. You can also write a press release about your newly published white paper and use PR distribution services to give it some extra reach.

Ads: Another way to get more eyes on your white paper is to structure an AdWords campaign around the topic of the white paper. Put a budget behind the campaign and see if you can get some traction (and some downloads) as a result.

Far too often companies large and small invest in the development of white papers and other valuable assets that nobody ever sees. They forget that creating the asset is the easy part. Getting anyone to read it? That’s the tough part. That takes commitment, creativity, great writing, planning, sometimes a paid budget, and a great deal of attention. If you’re willing to do the things mentioned above, chances are good your white paper will deliver the results you seek.

What about you? Have you published any white papers for lead generation? If so, do you have any interesting ways to promote this type of content that we’ve not discussed? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

This article was first published on Integrated Marketing Association.

Sales Automation vs. Marketing Automation

 

Email marketing has been the number one sales and marketing channel for many years and with good reason—it works. In fact, I’ve seen email studies reporting the return on investment in email marketing from anywhere between $14 to $44 dollars for every dollar spent. More importantly, for our clients, email works. But that doesn’t mean that email marketing isn’t challenging. And it’s getting more challenging every day. 

Why is Email More Challenging Today?

Why is email more challenging today? Email deliverability has become increasingly difficult. The competition for eyeballs has never been greater, and the “rules” of email marketing are changing all the time. Most Email Service Providers (ESPs) will no longer allow the sending of non-opt-in emails, so if your organization doesn’t have a robust (and constantly growing) opt-in email list, you are in trouble.

Here’s an example of the challenge email marketers face: Say you have 200 email addresses from Microsoft (or any other company) in your database. You send a 60,000 recipient email campaign (including those 200 records from Microsoft), and all of those 200 emails hit the Microsoft servers at the same time. Up goes the spam wall and bam, your email is blocked. Send one email at a time to those same 200 contacts at Microsoft, and they get your email.

Another thing that makes email marketing more challenging today is user behavior. Say you send just twenty emails to the same domain from your database. Out of those twenty emails, only two of them were clicked on because the other eighteen recipients were too busy to get to the bottom of their inboxes or just weren’t interested enough to click and read. That behavior by recipients creates a signal to ESPs as well. So whether it’s multiple emails going to the same domain at the same time or lack of user engagement, the ESP are less likely to deliver your mail.

So your behavior: How you send your email campaigns, combined with how users interact with them, impacts your email deliverability.

What to Do About Those Deliverability Challenges: Change it Up

About a year ago, I started testing a new email strategy where I send out a simple text-based email. No design, no images, just text. Then I set the email engine to send one email every 30-70 seconds, which is different than the example of a bulk email sends of 60k records like the example I gave in the paragraph above. This slight change in tactic changes everything when it comes to getting your emails past the ESP and into the inbox. It looks like one-off email messages because they are one off email messages!

The open rates we’ve experienced while using this email engine have been through the roof (did I mention the 35 percent range?) — but it’s important to know that because of the way it sends emails, we can only send so much volume per day (i.e. 400 emails a day).

As with any platform our team is testing out, we play around with it—a lot. And in doing the math, I realized that if we can send 400 emails a day, multiplied by 22.5 days (the average number of working days in a month), that’s 9,000 email sends a month. We can push this closer to 10k emails a month if we send on Sunday afternoons, which we often do. With a 35 percent open rate on these campaigns, we are looking at 3,500 email opens. How does that relate to some of the other email marketing we’re doing using our marketing automation platform, where our open rate hovers at about six percent? Well, we’d have to send nearly 60,000 emails to get the same number of email opens.

Why This Technology Works

As I said, we’ve tested and explored this a great deal. We believe the reason we get such good open rates is attributable to the fact that ESPs and spam software cannot distinguish a one off outbound/cold email from a transactional or personal email sent from one person to another. A mass email campaign—the same email sent to multiple recipients within an organization—is much easier to identify and block.

How Marketing Automation Led Me to Sales Automation

We focus a lot on delivering turnkey marketing automation solutions to our clients, so we are all in on marketing automation. And we were excited about what adding a sales automation platform to our client campaigns was delivering for us, and for them. In addition to using this technology for our clients, we began using it for our own new business development efforts. After our first two weeks of sending emails at 400 a day, we closed a $10,000 deal. Honestly, I was shocked (and excited) by the results. It was hard to believe you can get results like this with a simple text email versus a nicely branded marketing campaign.

It was then I decided to research sales automation tools and or platforms. So, over a three to four-month period, I reviewed, downloaded and tested over 30 CRM, email, and/or sales automation solutions.

Full transparency, I used to work for Eloqua (Now Oracle), one of the older and more capable marketing automation platforms on the market. I have always been a marketing automation advocate, but these tools had me curious. That said, you would think that I’d prefer marketing automation over sales automation but I don’t. In fact, I think companies today need to deploy both sales and marketing automation platforms. Keep in mind some marketing automation platforms have similar capabilities to a sales automation platform. So before I get into why I think companies need both solutions, let’s talk about the differences in these platforms.

What’s Different About Sales Automation Platforms vs. Marketing Automation Platforms

So, what are the differences between Sales Automation Platforms (SAPs) and Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)? SAPs are usually designed to send a low volume of automated emails on behalf of a salesperson. These platforms are not sending mass emails like a marketing automation platform (MAP) using a generic email address. SAPs piggyback off a salesperson’s existing email client like Gmail, Gsuite, Office365 or in some cases, exchange servers, depending on the sales automation platform you decide to use.

Some MAPs have Outlook or Gmail plugins that allow a salesperson to tap into a marketing library of pre-built and branded content, but most MAPs don’t have this capability.

What do I Need to Know About Sales Automation Platforms?

Sales automation systems can send anywhere from a few hundred emails a day to a couple of thousand emails a day. And, as with anything, it’s important to lay a good foundation. Most SAPs recommend you send 400 or fewer emails per day, which allows you to avoid any potential blacklisting or damage to your email reputation. When launching a new SAP, they will also urge you to slowly increase the volume of emails from 15-20 a day up to 400 a day by the end of the month. Bottom line, your success depends wholly on how patient you are. You don’t want to jump right out of the gate sending 400 emails a day, but rather slowly increase the volume of sends over the course of two to four weeks.

While the sales automation emails are html in nature, they are text-based and similar to what you would expect to receive from a salesperson sending you an email out of their Outlook or Gmail account. These emails are not a fancy or branded like you would expect to see coming from a marketing department.

SAPs vary greatly in capabilities. In addition to just sending emails, we wanted full drip capabilities, or the ability to drop people into automated sequences based on opens, non opens, and replies.

As founder of the Integrated Marketing Association and a lifelong advocate of the importance of integrated marketing strategies, I felt it was also important to have multi-channel sequences. So instead of relying solely on email, I wanted to prompt our salespeople or our clients’ salespeople to follow leads on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, pick up the phone and call as well as send them a personalize thank you letter via the U.S. Post Office. As an aside, to this day, some of my best clients and relationships were a result of me taking five minutes to hand write a prospect, friend or client a personal letter sent via snail mail.  I’d rather send a personal letter than compete with 145 other emails any day.

So to meet our needs, the sales automation platform had to have the ability to support a salesperson with automated cadences both online and offline, and come with a dashboard of tasks and action items the salesperson needed to complete each day to stay on top of any prospects and leads we generated. After all, if we (or any of our clients) are going to spend our hard-earned, hard fought-for marketing dollars on data and technology, our sales teams better do their part and follow up with the leads we generate. And we definitely don’t want them giving up after two attempts.

Do Your Salespeople Give Up Too Easily?

Chances are good the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” Here’s some information on that front. The stats are scary and prove that companies need processes and technology in place to ensure sales stays on top of the leads marketing generates.

  • com reported in April 2015 that is takes 6-8 touches to generate a viable sales lead.
  • Laurie Beasley posted on the Data & Marketing Association that it takes 7-13 touches to deliver a sales qualified lead (SQL).
  • Jeff Hoffman of Your SalesMBA posted on Hubspot in November 2016 that it takes at least 5 touches, but admits the number of touches depends on the individual and may require less or more touches but that 5 touches was a good starting point or benchmark.
  • InsideSales reported that 85+ percent of organizations don’t make enough calls. Sales industry research from multiple studies consistently shows that the absolute bare minimumnumber of call attempts to at least 50% of your leads should be six.

However, if you look at the average number of calls made by a sales representative it’s between 1.7 and 2.1 attempts before they give up. Well, it’s no wonder they’re not selling as much—they are leaving opportunity on the table, time and time again.

Where to Start – Fix Your Processes

All of this data suggests you have to start with fixing your processes first. If you are selling a considered purchase with an extended sales cycle, chances are your salespeople are not touching prospects or contacting leads enough before giving up. So no matter how great your marketing automation platform is, it’s not going to matter if you send over leads to salespeople with poor lead management processes.

Then, when you evaluate how your sales people spend their time—arguably their most precious commodity—the situation looks even worse.

According to a Hubspot Sales Survey in Q1 of 2017, 66 percent of a salesperson’s time is spent on writing emails, data entry, prospecting and researching leads, training, and reading. Are you kidding me?

66 Percent. That’s a lot of time!

Mark Ellwood at GetMoreDone reports salespeople only spend 22 percent of their day actually selling.

Sales Automation Platforms help automate the process of writing emails, sending emails, supporting your prospecting efforts with a steady flow of outbound emails, and if you add a calendar solution like Calendly, it can help schedule meetings.

Want Greater Success? Focus on Both Marketing Automation and Sales Automation

Don’t get me wrong, championing a sales lead automation strategy is definitely not a knock against marketers—they are busy people. They are developing comprehensive marketing strategies, developing and launching email and social media campaigns, managing PPC campaigns, creating content in various formats to “feed” this beast, distributing that content, optimizing the content for better search rankings (SEO), sponsoring events, hosting webinars, holding annual partner meetings—the list goes on and on. There is only so much time for a marketer to focus on lead generation activities. Not to mention it takes time to nurture, track, and score leads before passing them over to sales.

What’s the solution? Do both! 

Ideally, a company should launch both a sales lead automation program and a marketing automation program.

You can use your MAP as your demand generation strategy, designed to create demand for your products and services, while establishing your thought leadership in the industry. MAPs are designed to send dynamic, relevant, branded communications in small or large volumes to prospects who opted in to receive your messages while tracking, scoring, and nurturing leads. These campaigns should focus on moving interested prospects through the funnel as quickly as possible.

Think of sales automation platforms as a way to make your sales team more efficient and effective by generating conversations immediately. SA is all about generating a response, any kind of response will do. Keep your emails simple and ask a question or ask for help.

At the end of the day, a salesperson just wants someone to talk to and a chance to see if there is an opportunity, a common connection, or potential referral etc.

If marketers and sales managers don’t find a way to leverage technology to give salespeople an opportunity to have these types of conversations, they will quickly become discouraged. Selling is not easy, and doing everything we can, from a technology and an automation standpoint to enable our sales teams is a win-win for everyone.

So sure, it’s important to making marketing more effective and efficient with the use of technology. But based on our real world experiences, we think it’s more important to start with making your sales process more efficient and effective, giving marketing time to create demand using marketing automation. Start with generating responses good, bad or ugly with sales automation.

Remember your Sandler sales training, getting a no from a prospect is just as good as a yes. Focus on responses.

If you need help crafting a strategy for your sales automation or want a partner to help you make this a success, let me know—we’re here to help.

This article was originally posted on the Integrated Marketing Association website.

Developing Personas

Do you really know WHO your customers are?

The first thing you need to understand is that personas are NOT demographics. Demographics are simply attributes of a population or person (e.g., age, gender, race, education, household income, ethnicity, job title). Demographics shouldn’t be confused with firmographics which are company attributes like company size or the number of employees, annual revenue, locations, industry etc.  Marketers generally start firmographics company data to find companies that match their ideal company profile, then develop a demographic segment of the people within those ideal companies with ideal job titles and roles.

After you have your firmographics and demographic segments in place, you need to start thinking about your buyers as people and look at the world from their perspective in order to be relevant and engaging with your content.

Figuring out who you are talking to is vitally important to your sales and marketing efforts but understanding their job challenges and pain points could be the difference between success and failure.

Start by asking questions like:

  • Who is this person?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What are their responsibilities?
  • Whom do they work with and report to?
  • How much purchase authority do they have?
  • What’s their communication preference?
  • What is their vendor selection role? End User, Decision Maker, Financial Authority etc.
  • Do they have a relationship with your company today?
  • What other competitors or vendors do they work with today?
  • Where do they get their industry news?

An example of an IBM Persona: Len, Chief of Police.

Research suggests there can be as many as six to 17 people involved in any considered purchase. While we believe that you should develop a comprehensive buyer persona for each person —mapped to each stage of the buying process from learn, solve, compare, purchase and loyalty —in most cases this just isn’t feasible or required. However, there are some key personas that are a must like: end user, decision maker and financial authority.

Example: Let’s say your company offers a SaaS based software solution. The end user only cares about how easy it will be to implement, learn or manage, while the decision maker wants to know how much more efficient or effective the end user will be at his job so he makes his end of year bonus, while the financial authority only cares about cost, service level agreements, escalation policies and terms of the contract. These are three completely different perspectives and possible conversations.

By building a persona for each of these three people we will have a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them and how to market to them in a relevant and effective matter.  IBM calls this “conversational marketing.”

After you have your key personas identified you want to start mapping your existing content to each stage of the buying journey below. During the process, you will undoubtedly find content gaps or content that needs to be updated.

The idea is to first imagine each persona’s question at each stage of the buyer journey and create content for each of those questions. It’s sort of a giant FAQ exercise.

Learn – I think I have a problem?
Solve – How do I solve that problem?
Compare – Am I solving the problem the right way?
Purchase – Help me make a purchase decision

And if you are a really smart marketer, you add a loyalty stage to the end of your buyer journey to prove to your customers how much you appreciate them.

After going through the exercise of building out all of the necessary personas and understanding what challenges each might have, you are ready to start marketing. I guarantee you will have a lot more meaningful conversations that lead to revenue.

P.S. This persona exercise also provide you with a powerful sales enablement tool as well.