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Lead Gen, Marketing, Nurturing And Other Musings

by David Brock on September 29th, 2014

The other day, I wrote, Just Because I Downloaded Your eBook.  I was surprised by some of the discussions from sales and marketing professionals.  So I thought I’d continue the discussion.

There were a lot of people who are offended by being asked for name, email, and other contact information for the eBooks and white papers.  I’m empathetic.  I always think before providing those, at least 50% of the time decide I’ll forgo the materials, out of fear of being inundated with mailings.

There are too many–and too many that should know far better–that define “nurturing” as a daily pummeling of emails (some of the marketing automation and email marketing companies are the worst offenders).  I can think of no “algorithm” that indicates that just because I have asked for a single white paper, that I want you to “touch me” every day or several times a week.

But too many marketers and marketing companies think I need to be informed of every announcement, every white paper, every webinar, every blog post they put out.  So I get “nurtured” on a daily basis.  What is it about your scoring systems that say I want to know everything, every day?  What makes you think I want to even hear from you once a week–unless I signed up to a weekly newsletter?

Some marketers will say, “But you are opening all our emails.”  This is technology run amuck, yes they are using cookies and other things embedded in emails, which  indicate it was delivered, it was “opened.”  There are other indicators.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of false positives–those unwelcome mails that find their way into my email box and are opened–the moment I read the first sentence, I delete them–but the cookie shows I’ve opened it (not necessarily what I’ve done with it).  I make extensive use of rules, so Outlook automatically takes many emails, marking them as read (to the joy of the marketing people), and files them–even though I’ve never seen them.

There are those that are difficult for me to manage using rules.  I do want to receive personal, specific emails from some of these organizations, I just don’t want to know, on a daily basis, all the things they want me to read.

Ironically, the original eBooks, that open the floodgates to this daily pummeling are entitled something like, “Leverage Marketing Automation To Send Targeted, Relevant Communications To Your Prospects,” or “Best Practices In Engaging Your Prospects On eMail.”  One wonders if they are practicing what the preach.

There were some other reactions, perhaps not surprising, about the outbound calls to follow up the eBook downloads.  One person said (paraphrased), “We should make all the content freely available, if the customer is interested enough, they will call.”  Clearly, a guy that doesn’t like to prospect.  I only hope he gets enough inbound calls to make his numbers.

There are some that believe this is an inbound world.  Do the right job with content marketing, and you should generate all the calls you need.  I suppose in some cases that may be true.  However, I’ve worked with some of the most sophisticated direct and web based marketing experts, and I think it is the exception.

Not long ago, I had lunch with the CEO of an organization that had one of the most sophisticated web-based marketing programs I had seen.  They were driving 10’s of millions of business through web base marketing and inbound requests.  However, while the volume of inbound requests continued to grow, they weren’t growing at a rate to meet their growth plans.

The CEO said, “We have to do something different.  If we rely only on inbound, the cost and time it would take to build the inbound demand is unacceptable.”  And he had forgotten more about inbound marketing than I will ever know.

I always worry about relying solely on inbound programs (even if you could generate the right volume of leads).  Are we intercepting and engaging the prospect at the right time?  We all know the statistics that say customers are doing online research and are 56-70% through their buying process before they engage a vendor sales person.  Is it possible for the customer to frame their needs well enough through online research to engage sales people late in their buying process.  For a lot of things, of course, for things they buy frequently, yes.  But what about very complex problems and solutions?  Do they know the right things to look for, the right questions to ask?  Can they translate the generic content, regardless how good it is, to their specific requirements?  Can they deal with the “last mile” questions?

What about those customer who don’t recognize the need to change?  Those who don’t realize they are missing opportunities, they are doing things as efficiently as possible.  Those who aren’t searching, researching, even reading on the web.  Our content isn’t reaching them.  We aren’t able to nurture them to get them to call in.

I would love a world that could exist on inbound.  It makes all our lives as business and sales people so much easier.  We will always know we will have enough demand, that if properly managed would allow us to make our numbers.  We’d never have to prospect again.

But I don’t think it’s a realistic expectation.  Outbound is critical.  Reaching out, whether through marketing programs, prospecting (Yes doing unexpected, yet not unresearched calls.).  We will be intrusive at times, we will not always be welcomed.  I think we can minimize that leveraging great analytics, and research, but outbound is still a critical element of every marketing and sales strategy.

So in lead generation, we have an interesting set of paradoxes.  We want to engage and nurture our prospects, we want to be relevant, appropriate and informative.  We need sometimes to move at a faster rate than customers want.  We have to have outbound and some unexpected outreach.

I don’t know the answers, I think we have to accept these paradoxes, experiment and develop strategies–some will work, some won’t.  But the demand thoughtfulness.  I suppose that’s what bothers me, so much of what I see is done blindly.

What do you think?

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  1. Dave,

    I find it oxymoronic that content marketing experts write daily about “the conversation” yet the inbound marketing campaigns you described, which represent the majority of campaigns, sound no different than the old one-way, billboard-esque marketing tactics – marketing with open mouths and closed ears.

    With all of the fabulous free articles on how to have “the conversation” in both sales and marketing, I am constantly befuddled by the enormous quantity of sales and marketing people who do not listen to their audience, prospect and clients. IMO, and without humility, I believe this is the reason buyers avoid salespeople and go to the Internet anonymously. That’s why I do.

    Nothing pleases me more than marketing and sales who engage me in personalized, intelligent two-way conversations that deliver value and insights. And sales and marketing professionals who do that are the top performers and always will be.

  2. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    An interesting piece Dave, thanks!

    There are likely to be an awful lot of people in the sales & marketing world who see this whole thing as a numbers game, because the evidence supports this hypothesis quite well – “if I reach out to more people, I’ll get more responses, and convert more prospects in absolute terms, if not in percentage terms.”

    And they’ll never make the link with the rising costs / falling returns of this approach, not even the day after they go out of business. Why? Because they’ll be blaming their failure on the economy, or ‘the price was too high’, or some other p!ss-poor excuse.

    But even if all this ‘noise’ wasn’t confronting us as potential clients, aren’t we behoven on some moral level to communicate to clients in a way that is at least considerate of them and what they are interested in?

    I get about 150 emails and calls per week from sales & marketing training companies, trying to relieve me of chunks of my budget by spending it with them on their ‘world class’ system for ‘growing my revenue’ etc etc etc blah blah blah – and they are doing a terrible job of selling/marketing…

    And I see the same phenomenon with all the other spam I get (I do read some, just in case there’s a little nugget of gold in there…) – but the whole approach just reeks to me of ‘them’, not ‘me’, and of an ultimately poor, even embarrassing experience…

    Our need to move faster than customers would like… isn’t that part of it too? Isn’t that really about unthinking sales managers, senior execs etc pandering to the BS coming out of Wall St and urging sales forces on to make a revenue forecast that should never have been given to the ‘Street’. That said, I’m fortunate to work for a pretty enlightened CEO and bunch of execs (which doesn’t mean it’s a pressure-free zone!), but I see this ‘downside’ all around… and in this economy, with people afraid for their jobs, too many perhaps are not willing to stand up to the BS that is around (the ‘shit head thinking’ that Steve Jobs often referred to)…

    • Martin writes: “The sales & marketing world who see this whole thing as a numbers game, because the evidence supports this hypothesis quite well – “if I reach out to more people, I’ll get more responses, and convert more prospects in absolute terms, if not in percentage terms.”

      This is importantly wrong, as any fisherman could tell you.

      Many fishing spots are completely empty.

      But, when you find one with & the fish are hitting, you stay.

      Leads are not normally distributed, they occur in bunches.

      It can be hard to understand these types of distributions at an intuitive level.

      • Great comment Michael, you and Martin are saying similar things. Sales is a numbers game–only if you look at the right numbers, developing the strategies that maximize performance. Clearly you fish where the fish are–and maximize your performance there, rather than looking at the whole ocean.

        Despite the thousands of articles, best practices, and learned opinions that talk about sweet spots, understanding your buyers, how they buy, what creates value through the buying experience, and how to create value. It seems through lack of attention, thoughtfulness, or through plain laziness, too many sink to the lowest common denominator—quantity over quality.

        What’s most disconcerting, is the rate at which this seems to be growing and the desperation I see in too many programs from people and organizations that should know better.

        As always, your comments really challenge and bring out so much more. Thanks Michael!

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