Intelligent Metrix

Data to Metrics to Insight to Intelligent Decisions

B2B Lead Nurturing is Not Linear

Lead Nurturing Lead PassIt is much easier and cheaper to work with people that know you than it is to build a new realm.  That is what many marketers and companies are realizing as they shift marketing investment.  Lead nurturing is now more important than ever.  Yet, if you analyze your database, what does lead nurturing look like?  When is a lead qualified to truly enter into the sales cycle?

Demand and lead generation steps have typically progressed from response to lead pass without adequate filtering or analysis that a lead is ready to engage in the sales process.  This has hurt marketing’s credibility in generating real value to the pipeline.  It has put the work on sales to ‘clean’ the database and have them focus energy on leads that aren’t interested or ready for personal connection and may be of lower value than cold calling.  Additionally, some companies try to alleviate this by adding a telemarketing stage prior to a lead pass to personally assess and qualify a lead for the pass.  This can be a costly investment for marketing if again, it is putting leads into this step of the process before leads are fully baked.  Yet, that doesn’t have to be the case.  Properly analyzing and defining leads or groups of leads by their activity within an account can offer sales insight that puts them closer to the opportunity.  This is where lead nurturing can be a strategic effort rather than a tactical process.

Traditional lead tracking reports show a linear funnel from response to disposition within a campaign or program which mimics the linear aspect of the lead process.  In reality, leads have most likely been associated across campaigns, social media marketing interactions, organic web visitations, and even events or interactions with sales and other organizations.  How leads interact, where they go, the frequency, and topic concentration tells you a lot about how ready they are to enter a sales engagement process.  Additionally, compared and correlated to other leads within the same organization, you get a good picture of account readiness and opportunity.

This analysis in many cases is conducted to create target segments as launch pads for new campaigns.  Leveraged within a lead nurturing process, it can be the used as the decision point for when it is best to pass a lead to sales.  It becomes what qualifies the lead to move on vs. relying solely on a single response point on its own or in a linear context.  In fact, analyzed properly, reports and dashboards can be provided to sales that provide a picture of high opportunity areas within their accounts that they may not have seen.  For instance, an up-tic in white paper readership and participating or scanning of social media marketing content on products within an account might provide account managers early warnings that companies are assessing new solutions.  By having a report that provides context on the customer relationship provides sales a greater ability to pick up on the lead nurturing process without having to wait for marketing to pass the lead themselves.

Today, leads are classified as meeting minimum requirements of responding to a campaign and having check boxes of information filled out.  Lead nurturing is really about understanding interactions with your customers and how those interactions are indicators for next steps in the relationship.  Analyzing and recognizing patterns within your contact and account databases is more than identifying segments for targeting new messages and offers.  Used strategically it can be a transition point in your lead pass process improving your ability to generate business and reduce resources and budget through better focus.

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B2B CRM: The Right Contact Mix for Your Customer Relationship

You’ve spent years gathering contacts into your databases.  You’ve implemented a data quality practice that is now starting to give you a solid picture of your universe.  It is now time to classify your contacts.

Invariably, your database is more than just purchasing/decision maker contacts.  All departments have gathered people’s information depending on the purpose.  It offers a window into your business dealings.  It also offers a window on your ability to market and sell.  Just as you consider vehicles, content, and message to deliver to your database, you also think about who you are reaching and who can be converted.

SOA and MDM initiatives are great because they bring together a full picture of interactions with the customer as well as who is part of those interactions.  But, not all contacts are created equal.  Just as not all customers or companies are created equal.  It is the first thing that is considered when determining targeting strategies.  The size of a database is typically determined based on the silo it is intended to help.  Marketing wants decision makers, finance wants accounts payable, customer support wants end users, investor relations wants analysts and media.  By themselves, these data silos serve a purpose.  Together, they can show a picture of where your awareness, message and brand really are.

A good  test once consolidation of data bases is done, or even within your CRM system alone if it receives lists and feeds from other internal sources, is to classify contacts based on their primary interaction with your company.  Everyone in your database has had a reason to connect.  Bringing these reasons into a standardized category will help determine the value they bring to a marketing program, customer relationship, or evangelist role.  Monitoring the ratios of these groups within a cusotmer relationship and firmographic data can give insight into the ability to grow a relationship, if it is at risk, or there is no relationship and the company serves another purpose.

While as marketers we typically look at the entire size of our database to determine if we have enough contacts to convert to leads, if those leads are weighted towards a low number of companies, or they are not the right contacts, then our efforts can be wasted.  With the cost to acquire customers and contacts expensive, having a mechanism to determine when to purchase lists and how much to purchase will refine the amount of resources and budget needed.  In addition, messaging and engagement strategies can be modified to align to the type of relationship outcome you intend.

So, rather than thinking about personas when you need to target, think about them strategically and as an indicator of the strength of relationship with your customer.

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Translating Awareness to Consideration Set in B2B

Want to improve lead quality?  Focus on knowing when a customer includes you in their consideration set.marketing timing

It is one thing to get someone to notice you, it is quite another to get them to think of you when getting ready to make a purchase.  B2B marketing works to tie these aspects of a customer purchase cycle together through a strong call to action.  In the end, the holy grail when targeting the campaign is reaching the customers that are truly at the beginning of the purchase cycle.  The relevancy of a campaign isn’t just that you provide valuable content to someone that is the subject matter expert (SME) in their company, it is that it is relevant when the SME is ready to become engaged.

Right message, right person, RIGHT TIME.  Timing is everything.

Judging when a customer is ready to engage is not as allusive as you might think.  The key is to recognize behavioral aspects within you customer and contact base.  Opportunity segmentation has typically focused on financial transactions due to its availability and consistency.  It is effective when determining customer value and staying on top of purchase cycles.  Although, this fails to account for the “who” that acts with in high opportunity customers as key influencers and decision makers.  In addition, it fails to account for prospects you’ve brought in and engaged.

The other piece of opportunity identification through behavior analysis is recognizing how contacts are interacting with content on your website, responding to campaigns, support inquiries, and, if available, social media venues.  There are a several ways to leverage this type of information from the simple to more sophisticated predictive analysis.  It will depend on your level of ability to identify behavioral aspects of contacts and linking behavior information across various marketing venues.

  1. RFE Analysis (Recency, Frequency, Engagement) – A modified version of RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) which focused orders, replace M with E (Engagement), you can begin to identify behavioral aspects for simple segment selection.  E is the point when sales recognizes the opportunity and includes in a pipeline and confirmation that the customer includes you in the consideration set.  E can also be another type of event that the outcome is a face-to-face meeting, for example trade show attendence or in-person seminar.
  2. Reference/Word-of-Mouth – There are two aspects of this.  The first is that the contact will be a reference or unrequested acts on your behalf to influence others.  However, the other side is that they are actively seeking out other customer perspectives by reading other’s opinions and asking for opions.  Tying together campaign interactions with a transition to reference/word-of-mouth activity can provide insight that they are ready to engage.
  3. Predictive Analysis – The previous two approaches can be easily done through simple segmentation techniques.  Taking them a step further, you can apply predictive analytics to solidify benchmarks and KPIs.  Indexing of contacts’ behavior and mapping that to scorecards identifies pre-engagement contacts and customers.  The values can be dynamically set so that as contacts and customer reach thresholds they move into campaigns that are targeted to move them into sales engagements and support the sales engagement.

Are you tracking the transition from awareness to consideration?  What do you look at?

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