Marketing correspondent Marc Duke writes…
Don’t worry this is as not an article about the once mighty powerhouse of UK football rather some thoughts on one of the most important areas I think there is in marketing – lead generation. The ultimate measure of effective marketing and something that any start up just has to deliver on, if it is to secure the next round of funding, become a take-over target or simply just to survive is leads.
I have tracked with interest the evolution of marketing automation companies like Neolane, Marketo and a swathe of others, I have looked at lead tracking technology providers like Lead Forensic and Lead Lander, this software gives marketing incredible power to scale marketing to thousands and to track, nurture and ultimately convert interested followers into paying customers. But in start-up land the one thing I have found that marketing and sales focus on – is leads. Technology is great, I am a technology marketer but as entrepreneurs we need to get leads in and fast. I worry that lead nurturing technology actually confuses rather than helps the situation. You don’t need a Ferrari to collect your groceries when you can walk around the corner to the grocer shop or order them online for home delivery!
There is always the classic sales/marketing schism which runs like this: sales find the leads they are provided with by marketing are no good, while marketing feel the leads were great but sales can’t close them! Cue the hand wringing and excuses, sales don’t understand marketing and marketing don’t understand sales. Hate to say it but frankly as entrepreneurs we don’t have time for such vexation.
I remember working with a start- up and asked the CEO what is the key goal that the business is focused on? The answer – it needed 12 trial customers by the end of three months. I sat down with the sales director and asked how many leads they had in the pipeline, I also asked what was the sales process. I then asked what key collateral was needed to help them close deals – case studies, fact sheets, press coverage, advocates… just name it and I’ll hand it to you.
So you are thinking I thought you are a marketer not a lackey to the sales director. I am, but in this case if marketing didn’t support sales after 12 weeks neither would exist!
Another tale for you, I worked for an enterprise workflow start-up vendor as its CMO and the CEO asked me to draft the business plan to help secure series B funding. I was delighted to as I knew that the revenue targets that were in it would shape how many leads marketing had to generate which would in turn would flow down to a series of tactics I could roll out and deliver on. The point is, in start-up land it’s not about brand, share of voice, tone of message but it’s about leads. Yup, you need to get the other metrics right but my experience has told me that we are all united about leads or should be. As the great Bruce Springsteen puts it ‘If you don’t stick together you won’t stick around’
Granted once we have the leads we crave we need to work out which ones are really worth pursuing and which ones are timewasters that will stall you especially when we are in search of a PO. As entrepreneurs we can’t confuse interest with commitment, ultimately we are after customers using our technology, service, product etc… and paying for the pleasure rather than just those who wish us well – not that encouragement is not needed. But once you have a lead you need to know what to do with it play or pass. The other point to remember is going for glory, after the one big name account, the time, effort and resource maybe more than it’s worth when lower hanging fruit are easier to close and will generate cash.
To finish I’ll leave you with a question – when is a lead not a lead? Answer when they are a customer or you have not contacted them at all!