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Can You Predict Your Ideal Scenarios For Lead Nurturing?

"Sales Checking For Leads" © All Rights Reserved Kenny Madden

Depending on which reports you may read when it comes to lead nurturing, approximately 60% or more of B2B businesses do not have a formalized lead nurturing program.  Yet, depending on these same reports from the several research organizations benchmarking such effort, companies who perform effective lead nurturing enjoy a better than 25% higher return on their efforts than those who do not.  Which begs the question: why are companies slow to adopt to lead nurturing?

Reasons

I suspect one reason may be that the pressure for instant results from lead generation efforts is a primary driver.  Especially from firms heavily rooted in measuring results monthly and quarterly to a fanatical nature.  Which makes you think:  how much potential revenue is being left on the roadside in the speedy monthly pursuit to instantly convert leads generated into month-end results?  If organizations who find themselves in this predicament were to evaluate their efforts against what has been bypass in their pursuit, I believe they would find a sizeable amount of opportunities.

Another important reason why adoption may be either slow or unproductive is that there is a “once size fits all” mentality to lead generation and lead nurturing.  While efforts are made to develop the usual litany of content such as white papers and other mediums, they are focused on a generic understanding of challenges and issues.  While mapping content to the buying stages or journey has come into vogue, a review of forty qualitative research programs I have been involved in indicates that today’s buyers do not think or behave in such linear fashion.  Their information needs do not necessarily align or map one-to-one to a linear view of buying stages.

Buyer Scenario Modeling

While modeling the ideal buyer is of extreme importance, in the form of buyer personas, it is only one model of multiple to understanding buyers today.  In terms of lead nurturing; perhaps one of the most significant efforts an organization can make today is in the area of buyer scenario modeling.  Here is buyer scenario modeling defined:

Buyer Scenario Modeling is the process of analyzing research-based modeling of possible events, buying scenarios, buyer behaviors, buying decisions, and alternative future outcomes.”

Lead generation, lead nurturing, and content marketing can each be enhanced dramatically as well as integrate together on a more effective level with buyer scenario modeling.  This is more so than any mapping to buying stages or journey.  Buyers today do not think today nor are they forced to think in a linear fashion as they may have in the past.  Buyers are thinking in terms of the situation they find themselves in and the world swirling around them; pulling from their ecosystems and networks to meet objectives.

Changing B2B with Predictive Buyer Modeling

I recently introduced the idea of how predictive buyer modeling will change B2B as we know it.  One of the underpinnings of this idea is the use of buyer scenario modeling.  What companies can do more effectively through this process is begin to segment their lead generation and lead nurturing programs according to predictive scenarios, buyer behaviors, and buying outcomes.  Gaining knowledge and insight into how buyer scenarios develop, what challenges occur to trigger buying considerations, how buyers interact with others, and why decisions are being made.

One such Fortune 100 company who helped to co-create this concept with me recently segmented their lead nurturing efforts by modeled scenarios of the time buyers were investing in researching, evaluating, and decision-making once a challenge, problem, or issue arose.  Not happy with their lead generation results, they reorganized programs around four identifiable and predictable buying scenarios to achieve a much higher return on their efforts.  Content was developed to support the buying scenarios buyers found themselves in and not according to previously mapped generic buying stages.

This type of effort turns out to be good for all parties involved.  Marketing no longer is wasting effort and content on non-applicable situations.  Selling teams are nurturing leads at the right level and more importantly – timing.  Buyers are getting their information needs met at the right time, the right place, and the right situation of challenges they are dealing with.  To a greater degree, companies will be better able to identify and predict the ideal scenarios that give them the best shot at winning and being a long-term alternative to buyers.

Why

Buyer scenario modeling is needed in today’s connected buyer world due to the multiple types of scenarios buyers find themselves in today.  If companies are not in synch with understanding possible scenarios and outcomes, then they will be left out of the picture so to speak.  It is time for companies today to make giant leaps in their lead nurturing efforts.  Buyer scenario modeling may be just the springboard they need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are Your Lead Generation Tactics Targeting The Wrong Buyer? 4 Steps You Can Take.

Target
Target (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a big baseball fan and a one-time want to be pitcher.  Hitting the target within the strike zone with a variety of different pitches is what separates Cy Young award winners from ordinary pitchers.  Their ability to target different parts of home plate with predictable ball movement is an amazing skill and if you have it – you can earn millions playing the game.

Lead generation today is becoming the art and science of targeting.  A problem facing organizations today is getting a handle on who to target and where to target.  Making the issue even more problematic is the changing behaviors of the buyer.  Quantitatively, we are seeing through various studies and reports that buyers are engaged in the buying process differently.  Depending on which study, buyers are performing different kinds of activities for nearly 70% of the buying process before sales intervention.  And, they are making numerous choices along the way.

A recent report by the Aberdeen Group on sales performance shows there is a fair degree of dissatisfaction among sales leaders with 56% saying they were not seeing sufficient growth in top line revenue.  Nearly 30% expressed dissatisfaction with lead conversion to sales.  A recent CSO Insights report indicated that only 20% of organizations understood their buyer’s buying process.  These two perspectives combined point to one of the key issues – targeting the wrong buyer.

Looking back on over 10 years of specific instances of qualitative buyer research and buyer persona development work, I found that in 6 out of every 10 instances of helping an organization– a different buyer was identified than the organization had been targeting!  If you are off-target with the buyer – you will be off-target on your lead generation tactics.

Getting On Target

Marketing and sales leaders today are looking to increase their percentage of being on target when it comes to lead generation.  If they are not of the mindset to get the current rate of being off-target down, they will continue to see the same dissatisfying results.  There are four steps to resolve to targeting issue:

Buyer Research:  It all starts here.  You can no longer assume that the buyers you’ve been targeting are the correct ones.  I have been party to many conversations where a sales leader laments about this lack of understanding who to target yet in the next sentence tells me that their lead generation teams are busy targeting a certain role or profile.  To get to the heart of the issue takes committed buyer research.  Qualitative efforts to understand markets and buyers are what improve the target success rate.

Buyer Modeling:  For both marketing and sales, this is an important step.  You not only want to model who your buyers are but model their buying behaviors.  I am not talking about profiling here – which unfortunately many buyer persona efforts are nothing more than profiling exercises and yet still on the wrong buyer.  I am talking about going beyond buyer personas and using a set of modeled buyergraphics that point to how your buyers behave during the early phases of the buying process.

Buyer Designed LeadGen: Designing your lead generation strategies, systems, and processes should revolve around your buyer research and buyer modeling.  If your lead generation strategies and tactics are designed around the buyer, then conversion rates will rise and productivity amongst marketing and sales personnel involved will rise.  The area of lead generation is where marketing and sales are usually out of alignment.  With the age old battle of sales feeling that they are getting bad leads.  Designing lead generation around buyer research and buyer modeling gets marketing and sales aligned around the same target – the right buyer.

Buyer Training:  Like built-in appliances, organizations have routinely conducted product and sales training.  I do not have statistics to back me up but I am willing to guess that a random survey would prove that the majority of training is product training.  What is needed is to have Buyer Training become a staple of training in both marketing and sales today.  The long ramp-up time it takes for marketing and sales to understand the buyer today is out of synch with the pace of change in buyer behavior.  As the CSO Insights pointed out, barely 20% of organizations understand their buyer’s behaviors and buying processes!  Folks – we are training marketing and sales people to understand and do the wrong things.

Targeting the right buyer is becoming part art and part science today.  For many companies, the first important step in tackling this issue is discovering who their right buyers are and where they are with qualitative buyer research.   Just like a Cy Young pitcher who knows who is up to bat and what the batter’s tendencies are and where to target the baseball over the plate in the strike zone – lead generation today has to get in its own strike zone.

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Are Your Marketing and Sales Systems Broken?

Everything Is Broken

Everything Is Broken (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many in marketing and sales, the march continues towards the attempt to develop tactical plans that will connect them to buyers.  We have seen many variations over the past two as these attempts are made.  Whether they relate to demand generation, content marketing, sales enablement, and more, efforts are being made to make adaptations to changing buying behaviors.

After two or three years, there is still much frustration that some of these new tactics are not working.  Senior executives are scratching their heads and wondering where the ROI is on some of these new tactics.    The problem may lie in the inert marketing and sales systems that are in place.  By systems, I do not refer to technology.  Technology enables systems and processes.  What I am specifically referring to is that companies have built-in systems and processes that have been in existence for years and may not have undergone a serious overhaul in many years.  Simply put – in today’s connected buyer world company marketing and sales systems can be broken and out of alignment with buyers.

Buyer Designed Systems

B2B companies today will need to evaluate whether they have systems and processes that are buyer designed.  If they are not designed with the buyer in mind, then getting good results from whatever systems or processes you have in place will be a difficult mountain to climb.  This especially true for larger organizations where layers upon layers of systems and processes have been designed over the past two decades – and they can be as thick as the United States tax code.

In marketing and sales, various systems and processes have been built around how to market and sell to the customer and prospective buyer.  When we live in a frantic chaotic world, the annual budgeting process unfortunately can become routine and thoroughly evaluating the results of in-placed systems and processes can be overlooked.  Sales systems, which have been put into place several years ago and with considerable investment, may no longer be aligned with the buyers of today.  Marketing systems and processes may be slow in transitioning to be more aligned with new buyer behaviors associated with search and content.

Here’s what happens when strategies and systems as well as processes are out of alignment themselves.  There is a struggle to execute.  When there is a struggle to execute, teams generally will fall back to the way things have always been done.  And, when you go back to the way things have always been done, then they will be out of alignment with buyers.

Based on Knowledge of the Buyer

The key to aligning newer marketing and sales strategies with your systems and processes is buyer knowledge.  Without it, the connection between them will not be evident.  With true buyer research, the glaring holes in systems and processes get shined on with a bright light.  For example, many a frustrated sales rep will personally walk a buyer through systems and processes to close a deal – out of fear that the company’s own systems and processes will cause a deal to go awry.  And many a frustrated buyer has abandoned a buying process and decision with a company out of frustration from too many hurdles to jump before they can get the information they want.

The design of systems today within companies will need to revolve around the buyer.  What’s interesting in this area today relating to strategy, tactics, and systems is that companies struggle to get the right frame of reference.  Most organizations continue to have the frame of reference that even with new strategies in place – the focus is still on marketing or selling to the buyer.  The buyers of today are looking for a connection with them - not seeking a connection to them.

Do you know enough about your buyers to discern the difference between strategies and systems designed to do activities to the buyer versus with the buyer?  Understanding this critical difference today in designing system and processes that allow you to be with the buyer can put you in alignment with buyers – and ahead of competitors.

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Use Buyer-Based Selling To Engage The New SMB Buyer

©All Rights Reserve by PhotoSteve 101

This is part 5 and final article of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer-based modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base.

Prognosticators today abound on the demise of sales.  Not so fast.  While the notion of field sales shrinking for the SMB is a fact, it doesn’t quite mean the end of sales.  We’ve seen tremendous growth in the arena of Inside Sales over the past decades as the expense of dedicating field resources to SMB is no longer affordable as well as seismic shifts in buyer behaviors.  Where are we today?  The roles of sales in general and inside sales functions are struggling to adapt to the new psychology of the buyer and the new rules of engagements.  This is creating a clarion call among the Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 to attain deeper buyer-based marketing and sales capabilities for the SMB markets.

Success in expanding inside sales is highly dependent upon shifting to buyer-based models of selling that redesigns the roles and make up of inside sales departments.  Expanding the number of inside sales reps while not changing models of buyer conversations and engagements will just lead to more frustrated inside sales reps.  Far too often, who the SMB buyer is and understanding how and why they make purchasing decisions gets lost in the shuffle of statistics on number of dials, connections, and product pitches.  In a few of my qualitative research efforts, I’ve sat with frontline inside sales reps for a few hours.  I know and I get it – the grade that counts is meeting the quota numbers for dial and connections let alone revenue.  What the new breed of inside sales reps wants today is more engaging conversations with buyers and less focus on product pitches once they connect.

How To Make This Happen?

 In this series, we’ve focused on buyer-based modeling.  Modeling buyers today is the path towards creating models of buyer conversations that engage the SMB buyer today.  Let’s take a look at the path towards creating buyer-based selling models that transform inside sales to unified communicators engaging the SMB buyer:

Model the SMB Buyer Persona: researching and developing composite archetypes of various SMB business executives and owners can be a powerful tool for inside sales enablement.  Visual representation gets inside people beyond the wall of the computer screen and to thinking about who their buyers really are.

Model Buyergraphics: stopping at buyer personas today is a grave mistake.  Modeling a detailed set of SMB Buyergraphics gives your Inside Sales teams the contextual situations and predictive scenarios they need in order to engage the SMB buyer.  With the savvy SMB buyer adept at researching and making quick decisions, this approach gets Inside Sales teams to the same level.

Model Range of Interactions: the SMB buyer is rapidly changing their range of behaviors depending on the context of their situation.  The model of inside sales has been a simplistic idea that you hope to “catch” the buyer when he or she happens to be sitting by his or her desk phone.  In today’s world, SMB buyers are hurriedly going about running their businesses and not sitting still.  The range of behaviors includes their behavioral attributes associated with social networks, the web, while at customer locations, engaging with employees, and several others.  Accounting for these ranges of behaviors puts your organization in the right place at the right time -the SMB buyer’s time.

Model Unified Communicator: inside sales has lived with the equivalent association to telesales.  If you are still doing this today, this is another grave mistake.  The range of communications and engagement is becoming more expansive than ever.  The phone now is only one of several.  Building a range of available interactions albeit social, mobile, web, and etc. is needed to transform inside sales to a new role.  A new role of Unified Sales is critical to engaging the new SMB buyer who, as mentioned above, is expanding their range of how they behave to get information and meet goals.  Today’s buyer-based Unified Sales reps must have the skills and capacities to meet the SMB buyer where they are – at a critical moment in time.

Model Buyer-Based Selling: remapping processes is going to take some hard work.  Shifting from product-based and phone-based sales processes is in essence a cultural change within organizations.  And anyone who has ever been involved in managing culture change in large organizations knows the mountain that must be climbed.  However with the right gear, product and phone-based selling processes can be transformed to buyer-based conversational models.  Modeling new buyer-based selling processes will lead to incorporating newer technologies that enhance engaging the SMB buyer such as cloud-based technologies and tools.

Engaging today’s SMB buyer will take profound changes in how organizations market to and sell to this important growth segment.  It will take big thinking as opposed to the small thinking that sometimes has been accorded to the SMB markets.  Today’s SMB buyer is more technologically savvy, nimble in making changes, and certainly don’t think of themselves as small.  Meaning, that the Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 has to change their approach – and not let their own largeness get in the way.

(This 5 part series has been compiled into an eBook entitled, No Small Hurdle: Buyer-Based Marketing and Selling to the New SMB Buyer, for easy reading and sharing. Click on the hyperlinked title to receive.)

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