The story typically starts like this. We’re projecting fourth quarter revenue to be down by 35%, which could very well spill over and negatively impact profit in the first quarter of next year. The solution? “We need more leads!”
It’s a common phrase often heard among teams looking to increase sales in an effort to grow or gain profitability. The sales team then looks toward the marketing team, which makes lead generation their issue to solve.
Diving in head-first, marketing rolls up their sleeves and develops a master strategy to increase lead generation and save, what could be, a bad start to the New Year. Any number of tactics are included, from email marketing, paid-search and digital advertising, to social ads and re-targeting. The plan is put into motion and launched out into the ether. Fast-forward a couple of months: Q1 sales are flat and the finger-pointing begins.
Sales vs. marketing
The short answer is both. For any organization that thinks like the one outlined above, I’m sorry to say, but both parties are to blame. In finger-pointing, marketing shows presentations and spreadsheets loaded down with key performance indicators that show how successful the campaigns are at lead generation. Sales fires back and blames marketing for not generating the “right leads,” and marketing punts back and blames sales for not following through in order to hit their numbers. Sound familiar?
Leading the horse to water
Nothing rings more true in this situation than the old adage: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Like most companies, the drive toward hitting performance metrics and sales numbers is pivotal for growth. Many times, focusing so much time and effort on performance marketing like this will place blinders on an organization, leaving a group feeling hamstrung by the tactics they deployed. Just recently, the footwear giant Adidas admitted it had over-invested in its marketing channels that focused on driving efficiency (of sales revenue) rather than effectiveness. In the end, this type of approach diluted the brand, ultimately leaving little for customers to desire.
Check your stack
We live in a digital society and really should have a line in the water wherever the fish are; however, even the best digital marketing strategy is going to become questionable and come under fire if you cannot back up the results. Now is the time to check your martech stack and the information that’s supplied to your marketing and sales teams, including proper attribution of campaigns that are feeding information into your customer relationship management (CRM) software, system, platform or process.
Check your process and people
Gaining buy-in across all of your teams — not just the sales and marketing staff — is critical for team success. Silos happen in companies of all sizes, and as cliché as it sounds, breaking those down can be one of the most difficult, yet most beneficial, things that can happen.
Ensure everyone is on the same page and understands their role — I don’t mean in the organization, I mean in the campaign, too. If your company is making a push into a new market or looking to grow, make sure everyone understands their role in that pivot. Marketing and sales teams should be integrated, working closely with one another and collaborating on solving common problems. Talk with your front-line workers answering the phones and the engineers developing new products that solve problems; everyone should have a voice. The more information you are able to gather, the better your leads will become and the higher your close rate.
Take a moment to give yourself a reality check. Perhaps what you are selling or have to offer is not that compelling. Pay attention to other signs and signals that can indicate what the success might be of you entering a market or even acquiring new customers. Often when asked who your competitors are, the online results of competing companies will be vastly different. There have been countless digital strategies developed to go after an audience, all while competing with others who deliver a better experience, better customer service, or a more compelling story that the person can identify with. The point is, put your company through a reality check before entering the performance marketing realm of lead generation as you might discover other elements that require tuning. You must face hard realities here to improve.
Review metrics for marketing and sales, but respect the channel partners. This means you must understand that not all channels are created equal, especially in digital marketing. Paid-search and display ads (Google Ads) are vastly different from one another and should be measured differently. The same can be said for paid-social ads or email marketing efforts. Understand that nearly all of the digital marketing platforms in-market are driven by machine learning. Often, the machine takes time to get ramped up for tuning of campaigns to begin. Don’t get frustrated if you’re not seeing immediate results after a couple of days. Stay the course, gather data and tune for performance. Resist the urge to make changes immediately. This will not help.
In the end, spending money on performance marketing to generate leads is not worth a dime if organizationally a brand is unable to address its flaws. Spending the time to look inward at your own processes and current customer base can offer a wealth of insight for marketing teams. Understand the weaknesses of your organization and double-down on the strengths. Rolling the red carpet out for every prospect might not feel like the optimal thing to do, unless you realize not everyone is doing that, and this hyper-personalization might be just what it takes to gain a new customer. Move the internal conversations away from the common negative tone; “yeah, it’s just a small deal,” toward “let’s find out how we can help that customer improve and win more.”
This sounds less like a sales and marketing issue and more like a customer service and success plan to me.