While social media is the hottest topic in B2B marketing these days, we should not lose sight of why we are all here: to help our companies sell stuff. In this article I will argue for the importance of and the 5 steps to create marketing ROI through demand generation. Social media is hot mainly because it is new news to lots of folks in marketing and across our organizations that “the customer is indeed in charge”. Customers decide when and how to engage with us in the buying journey. Online lead generation is one of the best ways to identify customers early in the journey and produce a solid and predictable return on investment.
Why is this important?
Marketing needs to be the engine to identify qualified leads for sales. This is a foundational activity. Now I could argue that you need a great product to solve a real customer need: you need some awareness in the marketplace to prove you are “in the game”, you need a website that acts as a viable “store front” for your business, and of course you need great service and support after the sale to keep customers satisfied. Assuming all of those activities are neatly in place, one of the most powerful ways to justify a marketing budget is through paid online lead generation and the ROI that follows. I will say it here: every B2B marketer should know how to do this. The reason for this is that the basic fundamentals of online lead generation prepare you for everything that follows. And one day soon, you will be asked to justify your budget.
What is the problem?
A recent article from eMarketer.com titled: Is the Click Still King? displayed various studies that show that clicks are the preferred method to measure marketing performance. Why? Because it is an easy metric to obtain. Incremental Sales and ROI are the 4th and 5th most important metric according to Chief Marketer’s April 1, 2010 study.
The article also refers to:
The CMO Council’s “State of Marketing” survey did not ask about click-throughs specifically, but found marketers worldwide were most likely to measure their campaigns through page views, registrations, and the volume and origin of site traffic.
Asked about their online marketing performance measurement ability, the plurality of respondents to that survey (44%) were either working on increasing their capabilities or “struggling” to put a value on their interactive spending.
Many of us are guilty of falling into the trap of activity-based reporting: I ran 10 campaigns last year, I sponsored 3 industry events, etc. We are so focused on tactical execution that we lose focus on the results. And so we have to fall back on metrics that are easy to come by: response rates, clicks, impressions, registrations, attendees. And while these can be important metrics when our upfront goal is awareness or engagement or attendance, these are not the metrics that will help to justify the budget.
Debra Murphy, President of Masterful Marketing recently posted an excellent overview and slide deck titled Lead Generation: What Works Today. Debra summarizes at a high-level the need for integrated online programs and also demonstrates how social media can support these tactics. In order to provide a practical guide to generating real results, here are my 5 Steps to achieve Lead Generation ROI:
Step 1: Set your objective. The metrics you chose should be quantifiable and aligned to your sales goals. Think sales, leads, pipeline. Focus on the goal – not the way to get there. Sit down with your Sales VP and ask them what they want. If they want only “Hot Leads” ask how they define that. Create a lead scoring system. Aim to deliver to the right quality and then forecast the quantity. Your objective should be one Sales has identified and bought into.
Step 2: Create your marketing plan. Use past performance to determine what worked. Reverse-engineer previous tactics that have delivered exactly what your sales peers have asked for. This is a quantifiable science. There are plenty of statistical modeling tools that can help you determine which mix of tactics, topics, and partners will deliver a predictable result.
Step 3: Negotiate with top partners. Do not fall for the latest sales rep deal on ad space. Call those vendors that have delivered targeted prospects that have converted in the past and negotiate on a pay-for-performance basis. Your partners need to share the risk of your investment and they will reap the rewards in renewed sales.
Step 4: Identify or create valuable content and offers. This is the trickiest part. If you have content- test which pieces work best. If you need to create content – research the top trending keywords, article titles, and customer pain points. Ask your partners. Ask your current customers. Whatever you do, do not assume that product brochures, customer case studies, or articles written by your boss will resonate.
Step 5: Optimize. This is where the conversation with sales and the relationship with your vendor partners pay off. If your Sales VP is not getting what she wanted, adjust the plan, and work with your vendors to deliver what is really needed.
If you follow these 5 steps, you will produce leads and revenue for your company, build a better relationship with sales, and improve your engagement with your customers. Now go out and become a demand generation rock star and come back to tell us about your success.