Demand Generation Best Practices: Thought Leadership with The LeadSloth

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by: Jon Miller

One of the great things about blogging is the opportunity to build relationships with thought leaders I would not otherwise meet. That’s why I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet Jep Castelein, author of LeadSloth on Demand Generation: Smart Tools for Lazy Marketers. Here is his interview, part of the B2B Marketing thought leader interview series. You can also follow Jep on Twitter (@jepc). Enjoy!

1. Tell us a little bit about how you got into demand generation, and what you like most about it.

What I like most about Demand Generation is that it makes the customer’s buying process so much more efficient. The seller that best understands this buying process and adjusts its demand generation process accordingly has the biggest chance of commercial success. This is an organizational, cultural and technical change, and I enjoy working with all these aspects.

I started my career in a traditional software company. Prospects didn’t get any information unless they went via the sales person; it was very Sales 1.0. Marketing did the trade shows and maintained the website, with a big gap between marketing and sales. I gently pushed to align marketing with sales, but the old model was too ingrained in the organization. Later in my career I had the opportunity to introduce modern demand generation practices in the sales and marketing process. I really enjoyed doing that, and the results were amazing.

Last year I started my weblog: "LeadSloth on Demand Generation". I got in touch with many demand generation practitioners and experts, and got dragged in deeper into the demand generation space. I enjoy it so much that I will start my own demand generation practice this summer, working together with companies like Marketo.

2. What do you think are the biggest opportunities companies have for more effective demand generation?

These are some of the opportunities that I see to leverage demand generation:

  1. Capture more and better leads on your website with optimized landing pages and forms
  2. Avoid letting opportunities slip through the cracks, by effectively nurturing leads via email
  3. Make your senior sales reps more effective by sending them only sales-ready leads, based on automatic lead scoring and a lead qualification process by inside sales
  4. Minimize the time spent on technology, such as hosting, data management, integration and reporting: demand generation systems can easily automate this.

3. What factors do you think are most important for someone looking at demand generation software?

In my opinion, the first step is to look at the vendor’s marketing expertise. Are they practicing what they preach, and do they share their knowledge about demand generation via a blog, wiki or help-system? It’s not primarily about the features of the software, but how you use it to improve your demand generation process; a vendor should be able to help with this.

At this moment the Demand Generation space has lots of vendors, and it is just a matter of time before some kind of consolidation will take place. I would check the stability and growth rate of the vendor before making a final choice.

One of the key benefits of demand generation software is that marketing teams can use it without involvement of IT. Therefore it should be easy to use, so that all members of the marketing can operate the system. What is easy to use? I’d say: try the system out yourself. If you grasp it instantly you should be fine. If you feel you need a PhD to understand it, don’t go with that vendor.

And finally, take a look whether all required features are supported. Avoid the pitfall of listing all features that you would possibly need in the next 5 years. All vendors are still rapidly developing new features. Just make sure that you are in the vendor’s target customer segment: for example, as a 1-person marketing team it does not make sense to buy a solution optimized for marketing teams of 20+ people.

4. What can marketers do to improve their lead management most significantly?

My first recommendation would be to create content that is of value to prospects. It allows you to touch prospects frequently without them getting annoyed. Also, it helps you position yourself as a thought leader, which will convince prospects that you can help them solve their business problems. However, don’t forget to insert call-to-actions, to encourage prospects to take a next step in the evaluation process: for example, requesting a meeting with a sales person or registering for a trial version.

Also, collaboration with partners can be useful: if you have complementary products you can develop a joint webinar of whitepaper. Each company promotes it with its own prospects and you touch twice as many people, for free. It’s one of the cheapest ways to add new leads to your database.

5. What three pieces of advice do you have for companies to improve sales and marketing collaboration?

My first suggestion would be to define the prospect’s buying process, and identify the various stages, from initial contact to closed opportunity. Then meet at least every week with all marketing and sales people to go over the funnel. I’ve also found it useful to sit closely together in the office, assuming that all are in the same office.

Marketing should focus on passing only sales-ready leads to sales. The definition of ‘sales-ready’ should be shared by both marketing and sales. Gradually, sales will be more confident that marketing-generated leads are actually pretty useful, and marketing can be sure that the sales team properly follows up on all leads.

6. What are the most important metrics you look at to measure marketing ROI?

Initially, when you are setting up the demand generation process, I would look at the ratios from raw leads to qualified leads, to sales-ready leads, to opportunities, and finally to deals. This will give you a better insight into how many raw leads you need for a specific amount of revenue.

Once those ratios are clear, you’ll have a better idea of how much marketing spend is justified to generate a specific amount of business.

7. Bonus question: What would you like to answer?

How are Inbound Marketing and Demand Generation related? The boundaries between these categories are ill-defined: the way I see it, demand generation systems are primarily focused on managing leads that are already in the database. They help capturing more leads on the website with effective landing pages or microsites. You can import leads from trade shows or any other source. Then the demand generation system helps to turn as many leads as possible into sales-ready leads.

However, demand generation systems do not actually help drive more traffic to the website. This is where Inbound Marketing comes in. Inbound marketing is about social media like blogging, Twittering and Facebook to connect to more potential prospects. It’s about creating thought leadership with webinars and online TV-broadcasts. And about search engine optimization to make sure the right people can find your site.

Demand Generation and Inbound Marketing are very complementary, and both are part of an effective marketing process. So don’t forget about Inbound Marketing if you plan to spend significant time and money on Demand Generation.

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