Thursday, December 30, 2010

Additional lessons learned (or re-learned) in 2010

Here are a few additional lessons learned from our recent work and conversations with some very smart marketers (see previous post).

1. Nail it before you scale it

This age-old phrase is one of those things that we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Since we have already invested blood, sweat, and our egos in our idea, there is a great temptation to just run with it, especially if we just raised some money. So here are the key questions we should ask very early on:
  • Do we know who will buy our product?
  • Are these people jumping up and down when they hear about it?
  • More importantly, how much will they be willing to pay for it?

The answers have to come from real buyers, not our own “make wish” personas. If the answer to any of the above is unclear, we need to go back to the drawing board before we spend any additional time or money on product development, marketing, or sales.

Elementary, but so hard to do…

For more about it, read Early Stage Marketing.

2. Get sales and marketing on the same page (literally)

Salespeople love to complain about the leads they get from marketing. Just as much, marketing people love to complain that sales don’t follow up on the leads they pass to them. The problem is they are both right.

Panaya is addressing the problem head-on with a written contract between marketing and sales that defines what constitutes a qualified lead. The contract is revisited each quarter to ensure that everybody is still on the same page.

There are three functions that help make it work:

  • Lead qualification criteria and rules that reflect the contract are built into the company’s system
  • Automated lead scoring (using Marketo) is helping everybody focus on the more qualified leads
  • But not everything can be automated. Most important in my mind is the sales development function, which identifies real decision makers and opportunities, then passes them to sales.

See here for more ideas on marketing and sales alignment.

3. Use content to fuel the marketing machine

All the companies we know that are doing a great job generating a consistent stream of sales leads have one thing in common: they all invest in generating quality content.

The content is used to engage potential buyers and keep the conversation with them alive, through both outbound and inbound marketing. It doesn’t have to be related to the solution; but it does have to provide value to the reader.

The concept is simple: offer high-quality, broad-interest content to attract new leads and re-engage existing contacts, then feed these inquiries into the “lead machine” described above (lead scoring + a lead development team) to qualify and convert into sales opportunities.

According to SAManage CEO Doron Gordon, the importance of having lots of content is evident from the path visitors take on the company’s website. Visitors usually start with the blog and can visit as many as ten different pages before they register for a free trial or another offer (SAManage provides SaaS-based IT Service and Asset Management).

Some good content offer examples:

Any lessons you can share? Feel free to comment or send me a note.

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