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 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.