Q1: What's the single biggest challenge facing companies trying to succeed with lead generation, management and nurturing right now?
A1: The lack of effective targeting. Many companies target too broadly. These companies do not take advantage of segmentation to the degree that they could and should. And, for whatever reason, the same company that will spend $10 on a “lumpy mailer” will balk at spending $1.00 per contact name [for] a decent list. (Well, there is no such thing as a good list [available for purchase] – but you have to build a base list, and then develop it over time on a prioritized basis). Effective targeting is 60 percent of the battle in most marketing programs and most companies do not do a good job of targeting prospects correctly.
Q2: What's the single biggest challenge facing companies trying to sell solutions and services related to lead generation, management and nurturing right now?
A2: MarketingSherpa recently published their 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report and in that report they document that the number-one most pertinent challenge marketing departments face is generating high-quality leads. At the same time, many if not most marketing departments are measured on the number of leads and the cost per lead. The marketers I talk to stress about having to produce more leads each year with reduced budgets. Do you feel that this might be one reason why fewer than 50 percent of sales reps are making their quota this year, according to CSO Insights?
The other challenge marketers face right now is that marketing automation (MA) is being touted as the Holy Grail – put e-mail addresses in one end and out the other end come freshly minted leads. Not even the MA vendors believe this, but it is hard for them to migrate users from a "black box" mentality into a more sophisticated “MA is a tool, not a standalone solution” mentality. The biggest problem facing those of us who sell high-end, quality solutions is that though companies say they want [high-]quality leads, many won’t pay for them and they default to forcing their sales force to do what it least likes to do and does poorly – prospect.
Q3: What's the "next big thing" in lead generation, management and nurturing for which decision makers at user and provider companies should be preparing right now?
A3: “The next big thing” in lead generation, management and nurturing for B2B companies is actually “the same old thing” for sophisticated, B2C [business-to-consumer] direct marketers – it has been around for 30-plus years. That is a data-driven approach to prospecting with a lifetime value approach to measuring ROI. The more companies measure themselves on quarterly results, the more they are mortgaging their future. I recommend that companies stop the carousel on dollars going out without any realistic hope of getting those dollars back in ROI.
Dan is incredibly good at talking about lead generation, management and nurturing in ways that seamlessly tie those critical topics to what should be the larger goals of every business. You know – things like investing in necessary resources wisely, tracking actions, developments and their effects accurately and consistently and balancing short- and long-term goals optimally. Those kinds of larger goals.
I am naively optimistic enough to believe that these and other large, short-term and long-term goals are best achieved by focusing on making every customer successful and happy. This approach, I believe, provides the highest likelihood of sustained success and happiness for everyone else in the customer's value chain. Critical to success with this approach is identifying, engaging, managing, nurturing and converting the highest-quality leads available. Because that's how you maximize the value of every effort and resource you invest in each and every one of those leads.
And how do you maximize the quality of your leads? I recommend that you start by taking an approach to the challenge pretty much aligned with Dan's comments above. (You might also take a look at what Dan's company does and how they do it, as potential partners and as a guide to what to look for in other vendors and solutions you consider.)
It may also help to encourage a view of leads as more than just chunks of data on a list. They're actually people who have needs and goals, same as you and your business. This could help to accelerate progress towards a more holistic, conversational and consultative relationship with each lead and customer, and with the marketplace you're in more generally. Which as I understand it is how much marketing's evolving these days. I'm not necessarily recommending; I'm just sayin'…
By the way, Dan's new book, "The Truth About Leads," should be at or near a purveyor of books near you sometime soon. I also recommend it. Highly. I got to read an advance copy, and felt a lot smarter about the whole lead thing afterwards.