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April 2008

Target Account Profiling & Pre-Qualification: Why Don’t We Just Ask The Questions?

Some weeks come and go without major, or even minor revelations, and some weeks have the those exhilarating and sometimes humbling "A-Ha!" moments in them. Those moments that expose a simple truth & basic solution to a problem that we have created complex, and often times expensive, solutions for. (Picture the expensive and complex wine opener, can opener,  or bottle opener in your kitchen that does not work as well as the basic opener you have had for 20 years  and cost 1/10th the price of the “fancy” new one)

This week for me, offered one such A-Ha!. This may be an A-Ha you realized long ago, but none the less it is a basic solution that has been ducked, dodged, and avoided by almost everyone at the front end of lead life-cycle management for the past decade (since about the time much more complex, and often costly, solutions have become en vogue)

The "A-Ha!":
If we want to know if a targeted account and contact is a fit for our products & services we should call them and ask!

B2B sales and/or marketing organizations like to spend little time and less money these days calling (yes actually speaking with) targeted accounts to validate and profile the companies and contacts they are targeting.  Worse yet, many of us fool ourselves into thinking someone else, "a 3rd party expert," has figured out the secret to validating & profiling our potential users, influencers, and decision makers for us without actually speaking with them. Assured these 3rd party experts have it figured out we spend 10's of thousands of dollars for the data generated by "3rd party expert's" and their highly sophisticated profiling systems.

Hope is not a Strategy

We essentially "hope" ourselves into believing someone else has come up with the answer. An accurate and targeted master database and set of algorithms which filters on our company's specific user, influencer, and decision maker contacts. Stealing from the title of a book I recently read, "Hope is not a strategy."

My intent here is not dismiss or de-value the services provided by database and list service providers. Their services are a critical component in the lead lifecycle management  process and all of our jobs would suffer without their services. My "A-Ha" is a rip on those of us, myself included, who have relied on database and list services to deliver results they are not intended to, or capable of, delivering. Specifically, the list and database service providers cannot deliver Contact Validation, Target profiling, and Pre-qualification.  Unfortunately we fall into the trap of believing that if a Contact has the title we are targeting, works for the "right" organization, within our targeted industry, and has an annual spend of $X on services we provide that the contact is pre-qualified, is the decision maker, and Sales just needs to call them and start the sales process!

The result is almost always the same when we fall into this trap. Sales, and especially the good sales people, will rarely call a "target account and contact" generated from a list or service provider. In Sales defense, why would they? If they are worth their income they have a strong pipeline, referral network, and incremental revenue opportunities within their existing accounts.

Marketing Opportunities Have to be Better 

Don't get me wrong, sales people are more than open to engaging in new opportunities delivered from marketing. However, marketing delivered opportunities need to be at least as good, or better, in quality than the opportunities sales can, and do, create for themselves. At a bare minimum this means marketing needs to deliver a validated current contact which has been profiled and has been pre-qualified by parameters outlined and defined by the sales organization. I have not found a list or database service that can meet this standard, but we as marketer's continue to send contacts from these lists and database service providers directly to our sales teams.

Why? We won't make a simple phone call and ask some simple questions because we have sophisticated segmentation, profiling, analytics, and algorithms to do this simple work for us!

Marketing Budget Vs. Sales Expense

To be fair, another reason we purchase lists and database services as a replacement for phone based contact validation, profiling, and pre-qualification is the perceived cost delta and ill conceived budget constraints. What do I mean by ill conceived budget constraints? While a list service may cost $5,000 up front for very good database information on 2500 contacts it may cost $25,000 up-front to speak live with the 2500 contacts to perform validation, profiling, and pre-qualification. The $20,000 delta is a big hit to most campaign marketing budgets and they opt for the less expensive option. Unfortunately, the $20,000 saved in the marketing budget is spent twice over, not including opportunity costs, by the Company's sales force as they now must perform, in a non-process driven fashion, the same steps of contact validation, profiling, and pre-qualification. That is, if the sales team calls them at all after finding out the first (5) calls lead to dead ends.

Brian SteelBrian Steel –  Performark’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Brian Steel is responsible for driving Performark’s overall sales of lead life-cycle management solutions encompassing database services, inquiry management, lead generation, lead nurturing and program performance measurement. Leveraging his 14 years of experience and his days as a pioneer in the area core business process outsourcing sales and marketing, working for industry leaders Kodak and Xerox, Brian is focused on sales growth through new client acquisition, evangelizing the value of process driven lead lifecycle management, and leading the company into new target markets.


Book Giveaway - May 2008

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Each month Racom Communications, or other publishers or authors, will give away two copies of a recently published marketing or sales book to two SLMA members.  Winners will be drawn at random.   You must be an SLMA member to win. 

This month's selection is "How to Write Great Advertisingby Randall Hines and Robert Lauterborn.

Print matters still. In fact, it matters more than ever, even – maybe especially – in a world of continuous rapid-fire media innovations because it provides the standard – the acid test – for relevance and communication power.

Why print? Because it’s the purest form of advertising – an idea given power visually and crafted to move people with words. If you don’t have an idea, it shows. If you can’t write, people know. You can’t hide emptiness behind a mesmerizing glare of glitzy TV production or trade on the familiar voice of a spokesperson to make a connection for you. It’s just you and the reader. So print is the acid test for advertising as well as advertising people.

Unlike electronic media, print requires our attention. If you lose your concentration when you’re reading and your mind wanders, what do you do? Why, you read the sentence or paragraph or page over again – too often more than once. A woman named Evelyn Wood built a speed-reading franchise on this simple truth. Her instructors don’t teach you to read faster; they teach you to concentrate better so you don’t have to reread. That’s why Evelyn Wood graduates not only seem to read faster, they also remember better.

People process print differently, too. An Israeli researcher demonstrated this with an often-cited experiment. He exposed a group of young people to a simple story, half of them in a video mode, the other half in print. Tested at similar intervals – two days, two weeks, two months or whatever – the subjects revealed fascinating differences not so much in their ability to recall the basic story, but in the connections they had made with the material. Their relative ability to repeat the plot line differed only slightly, but when asked questions such as, “What do you suppose Rachel’s life was like before this story began?” and “What do you think is going to happen next?” the TV kids went “Huh?” The print kids, however, had developed entire scenarios that combined material already in their heads with the story they had read. “I think Rachel grew up in the city, in a house near the harbor,” said one. “Rachel and Ben are going to get married and have three children, two boys and a girl,” said another. IN short, Print—as a discipline and as a medium—matters to advertisers more than ever. This book shows how to harness its principles for greater profit.

Order "How to Write Great Advertising" Now.

About the Authors

RANDY HINES is a professor in the Communications Department at Susquehanna University. He has received three professor of the year awards during his 25-year teaching career. His doctorate is from Texas A&M in public relations, a profession in which he has obtained universal accreditation (APR). He has a B.A. and an M.A. in journalism from Kent State University. He also earned an M.Div. at Bethel Theological Seminary.

Prior to joining Susquehanna in 2002, he taught in the University of North Carolina system, where he served as chair of the Mass Communications Department at UNC-Pembroke. He has also taught at East Tennessee State University and Kent State University. He has been active in the American Advertising Federation, starting a chapter at ETSU where he also served in the local AAF professional chapter, holding several positions, including first vice-president.

His consulting work has included such clients as: American Water Heater Company, Creative Energy, Doe River Gorge Conference Center, Duke University, Eastman Chemical, Georgia Press Association, Hotel Günther, Johnson City Medical Center, Mid-Atlantic Newspaper Advertising Marketing Executives, New England Newspaper Association, Nuclear Fuel Services, Siemens, Sire Advertising, Tennessee Press Association and Wyoming Press Association.

He publishes articles in various consumer, professional and academic publications. Since 1993 he has written monthly columns for 20 state press associations. He is also a regular columnist for the Southern Newspaper Press Association. He is lead co-author of The Writer’s Toolbox: A Comprehensive Guide for PR and Business Communication (Kendall/Hunt, 2005). He also co-authored Feeling at Home in God’s Family in 2006 with Dr. Stewart Brown.

Locally, he provides pro bono services for regional nonprofits and serves as copy editor of Susquehanna Life Magazine.

ROBERT LAUTERBORN is the James L. Knight Professor of Advertising in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, a distinguished chair made possible by a million-dollar grant from the Knight Foundation “to improve the teaching of advertising.” Bob is a co-author of the best-selling book Integrated Marketing Communication: Pulling It Together and Making It Work (NTC, 1993), now translated into 13 languages.

Prior to joining academia, Lauterborn was Director of Marketing Communication & Corporate Advertising for International Paper worldwide. He also spent 16 years with General Electric, principally in creative functions. As creative director of GE’s 400-person house agency, he developed the FOCUS approach to improve creative performance and consistency across the group’s 15 U.S. and overseas offices.

In 2004, he was named “Advertising Educator of the Year” by Advertising Club of the Triangle, which set up two scholarships in his name, and in 2005 he received the Silver Medal Award, the American Advertising Federation’s highest honor. Always active in the industry, he has been vice chairman of the Association of National Advertisers, chairman of the Business Marketing Association International and the Business Advertising Research Council, and a board member of several organizations, including the Advertising Research Foundation.

In 1999, he was presented with the G.D. Crain, Jr. Award (named after the founder of Advertising Age) for “lifetime contributions to the development and improvement of business marketing,” and inducted into the Business Marketing Hall of Fame.

Over the past dozen years, he has consulted or conducted seminars and workshops for more than 50 organizations in 21 countries on five continents, including IBM, General Motors, ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard, Monsanto, AT&T, Bank of America, BASF, Kellogg’s, Eli Lilly and Philips.

Marketing: The Builders of Wealth

"Nothing happens until the sale is made," is most often quoted as a lead-in to praising salespeople. And the speaker is almost right, but we know that deep in our B2B marketing hearts, it all starts sooner than that.

In B2B, nothing happens until the marketer creates demand. Without the marketer most B2B companies would be regional door knockers; they would not be able to go beyond the reach of their salespeople. Marketing in B2B companies creates Wealth. I mean real wealth. Hardcore, measurable, bottom line profitable dollars that drives the growth of our 11,000,000 plus businesses in the US.

On any given day the average marketer knocks on more virtual doors, delivers more messages, and is read by more people, than any sales force could possibly accomplish. Marketers and their surrogates, the agencies (on-line, branding, direct marketing, PR) and telemarketing and trade shows are the hammers by which B2B marketers create wealth.

Company presidents use, as a common measurement, their company’s performance by the amount of revenue per employee or per salesperson. But if they were to measure the revenue per marketer in their company they would be astounded. For every 100 salespeople there is a single marketer, sitting in a cubicle late at night, rewriting the words that will create a response on the part of thousands of potential buyers.

For every 5000 salespeople there is an agency creative director who is wrestling with an idea that will ultimately bring in millions of dollars in wealth to the client he or she represents.

But the credit for these creators of wealth seldom makes its way to their office door or to the meager paychecks they bring home. The reason is that too many of them cannot measure their contributions to the wealth of the company. And no one will do it for them.

Marketers must not only create wealth, they must prove it to management. This can only happen if they have a system to verify and pursue beyond all reasonable doubt, that the demand they create, the millions of potential buyers who knock on every B2B company door each day have bought something from their company.

There is one simple answer to this conundrum. Marketers must have the best Sales Lead Management System money will buy. The paltry cost for an accountability system is the only way the real creators of wealth, the marketers, can take their rightful place in B2B society.

My challenge to you, the midnight toilers, and the creators of wealth is, "When will you decide that enough is enough? When will you measure what you manage?"