Is your lead generation stuck on neutral, or worse, while your scale-up planning is in high gear?
After a couple of years of the initial product-market-fit phase, you’ve probably made some gains but you’re now left wondering how to deliver those early encouraging results at scale.
You may have even decided to bring in new sales and marketing executives to help you achieve your goals.
But it still feels like a shot in the dark. Lead generation efforts are not delivering desired results and you feel the momentum slipping from beneath your feet.
Let’s run through a few practical to-dos to get things moving along.
1. Sales-marketing alignment: the revenue team
Is your marketing engine plugged in to deliver on your sales goals? Does the sales team follow up on the leads delivered by marketing? Do the sales and marketing executives work together to deliver on sales targets?
If all you see is finger-pointing, it’s time to get the teams to align on revenue goals, or make changes until the sales and marketing factions see themselves as the part of the ‘revenue team’.
Set up a process around these key areas:
- Lead Scoring:
Sales and marketing should collaborate on the scoring mechanism that dictates where customers are in their purchase journey.
A lead that downloads a comparison report is closer to a purchase decision and should be scored higher than one who has only subscribed to the marketing blog.
Lower scored leads remain with the marketing team for nurture. In-market leads that score higher should be passed on to sales.
There should be an agreement between the two teams on the sales-readiness of leads based on purchase intent. The teams should also be in sync on the lead score that pushes a lead from an MQL (Marketing Qualified lead) to an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) consideration or SAL (Sales Accepted Lead).
- Funnel position accountability:
The sales and marketing team should also define what each should be doing on either side of the marketing and sales ‘revenue funnel’.
How long before an SQL is followed up on? What happens to an SQL that is returned to marketing for further nurturing? Discussions around these and other similar topics help the teams better align on processes and expectations.
Understand the sales team metrics around lead follow-ups, activity targets, and timelines. The sales and marketing executives should be in agreement that these metrics are conducive to closing deals.
- Automation and technology:
With current marketing technologies, the sales team can have unobstructed visibility on lead sources, marketing messages, page views, and lead scoring details.
Similarly, activity notes on the sales side provide the marketing team with visibility on how MQLs progress through opportunities towards ‘closed wins’.
Marketing could also embed themselves deeper into the sales funnel activities by, say, setting up the initial automated response on an SQL lead. The automated message would be sent from the assigned sales agent along with a link to book a sales meeting with the agent. Any lead activity performed on the email could add to the lead score in the marketing automation system.
Working this closely with the sales team helps with alignment on the revenue funnel. Of course, marketings sales enablement activities should also extend to sales collateral that is required to close the deal.
The chance of a scaling up successfully is high when the sales and marketing machine is well aligned with business goals.
2. Double-down on main lead acquisition channels
Often, the reason sales and marketing don’t get along is because the sales team is often unhappy with the volume and quality of leads, while marketing feels that the sales team is ignoring leads coming from marketing.
Marketing may have to take the first steps to earn the trust of the sales team. At 20% sales conversion rates, the sales team is dealing with rejection 80% of the time. It is the responsibility of the marketing team to provide better leads so this rejection rate does not get any worse if not better.
The first thing marketing has to do is double down on what works. If your organic traffic is what is bringing in the best leads, put more effort into SEO. If it is PPC that keeps the kitchen fire on, that’s the channel you have to optimize or scale up.
3. Monitor and improve conversion rates
If you are assiduously tracking conversion rates through the funnel, from MQL to Closed Won, you must dig into the data to make:
- Channel-wise improvements:
Can you optimize any of your marketing channels? Use recent trends as a baseline and move the needle up. In the case of PPC, eliminate the low performing single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) while reallocating budget to the better yield players based on metrics like conversions, time on page, and bounce rates. Identify keywords with lower quality scores to improve on them.
For SEO (Search Engine Optimization), identify keywords which have the highest potential to bring you in-market traffic based on traffic volume. Can you increase the number of these keywords? Scale up onsite and offsite SEO tactics to increase the topic clusters, content, and incoming links around these topics.
TIP: Pass some of these keywords on to the PPC campaigns while you work on improving your organic ranking.
- Sub-channel improvements:
Drill down your marketing channels e.g.: To device levels in your PPC campaigns. Is mobile traffic performing better? Increase the bids on this traffic.
In the case of SEO, look for recent high performing keywords in your SEO tool or the Google Search Console. Even if they bring you lower conversion rates, can the volumes justify improving your SEO around these?
TIP: Perhaps your PPC re-marketing campaigns can work on this high volume traffic to improve those conversion rates.
- Drill down to closed wins:
Marketing should not just stop with MQLs and SQLs. They should constantly be identifying cohorts like the optimal lead channels by time to close, deal size, geography, CaC, and even churn.
Digging down deep can yield important insights that can help with the optimization across one or more channels. It will also provide the marketing team with increased clarity on the customers that are important to the business, and how these customers travel through the marketing and sales funnel.
4. Uncover new lead acquisition channels
The focus and increase in lead quality and volume from the previous steps should give you enough room to initiate experiments on other lead acquisition channels.
While most of the above marketing efforts improve your in-market customer targeting and optimize lead acquisition, you also need to think about lead channel diversification. This will ensure that you are never at the mercy of the idiosyncratic vagaries of a Google or Facebook algorithm update.
Ideally, the new channel efforts will have some overlap with your existing channels to improve conversions on those channels. For example, the new traffic from your new influencer marketing campaign could be retargeted by a uniquely tracked PPC campaign.
5. Develop scalable processes through standardization
As you proceed through the above steps, establish processes that are easy to follow and are sustainable at scale.
If your content marketing team regularly builds their content calendar based on client outreach for case studies and blog articles, create templates that will standardize the process. Create a template not only for the case studies but also for the email series that solicit collaboration, question sets for interviews, research process suggestions, etc.
These templates will offer a rough blueprint on the processes to be followed. These ‘suggestions’ will also make onboarding new talent much easier as you scale the team.
Speaking about templates, download the popular one-page digital marketing plan template.
Of course, it goes without saying that all of the above steps should be nested under the branding umbrella. The brand vision, mission, and values should inform the creative DNA of your marketing efforts. These should resonate not only with the personas you target, but also be soundly entrenched in the company culture.
Seldom can you build a strong brand without a culture to support it.
After all, the long-term goal should be to build brand awareness, credibility, and recall that lifts up conversion rates as you scale existing and experimental lead acquisition channels.
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