A Few (Completely Subjective) Demand Generation Learnings

2014_learningsRather than add to the annual deluge of upcoming-year predictions, I thought it’d be more helpful, if only slightly, to go through a couple things I’ve learned this year while engaging with demand gen customers, marketing tech vendors and influencers. Hopefully, these learnings will help inform your own 2015 marketing predictions – or better yet, spark ideas for how to progress your marketing efforts in the coming year.

1. Organizational siloes represent hurdles as large as literal siloes

SilosI’ve been on numerous calls with prospective customer companies where we (my colleagues and I) must introduce several people from the same company to one another – and they’re all in the general marketing function (demand generation, advertising, media, ops, etc.). Now, those of you who work at enterprises are probably thinking: “So what? That’s common.” Sadly, yes it is. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to know everyone’s name, but these calls all too often develop into a conversation where individuals from the same company are explaining to one another what they do. Discussions of “breaking down siloes” permeate the marketing universe, but clearly, we still have a long way to go – if demand generation roles don’t understand media/advertising team processes, the customer acquisition funnel will never operate optimally.

An example of why this matters: I had a call with a demand gen practitioner to evaluate major pain points so we could identify whether there was any business value alignment between his needs and our marketing platform. His challenge was one that I hadn’t yet encountered but made much sense – due to the siloes between teams, the process of contracting with lead-generating media partners usually required between five and six weeks. That meant nearly half a quarter would pass between campaign initiation and time of first delivered lead. The company’s lead generation campaigns worked on a quarterly basis, and such a delay drastically hindered the demand marketing team’s ability to optimize campaign tactics to improve performance. The lack of time to analyze and compare partner performance locked him in using one partner and allowed little leverage to optimize lead prices and lead parameters. He said they felt locked in and had to take what they could get from the selected partner – and this is a huge enterprise tech company.

In this sense, breaking down siloes to increase communication and decision-making speed would provide significant benefits: greater pool of partners to choose from, greater leverage regarding lead prices, more time to optimize tactics, greater conversions rates, more customers, increased revenue, etc. Companies are riddled with such siloes, and this is just one. Imagine how monumental this problem becomes when you add the negative effects of all the siloes that exist.

2. Closed-loop marketing became a reality

closed-loop-marketing-1A lot of talk actually became a productive practice. I’m not going to define or discuss closed-loop marketing to any great extent here, because it has been done to death already (by myself included). Yet I think it’s valuable to note that 2014 was the year that the loop really came into its own. A couple years ago, this seemed like a far-off goal, but if you watch this webcast by DocuSign, you’ll see that it’s being performed quite effectively.

Of course, closing the loop helped uncover other issues…

3. Improvement persists but complacency is king 

complacency_is_kingI’m hoping this isn’t a “no shit” statement, but the fact that I’m already questioning it probably means it is; so allow me to provide some specificity. We’ve all observed the drastic improvements technology has effected in marketing in the last few years – marketing automation platforms have been key, but even more so has been the overwhelming shift to a scientific mindset (what the buzzword-philes call “data-driven marketing”…ad nauseum).

Fortunately, this newer ethos (which led to closed-loop marketing becoming a reality) has cast far more light on the quality of the data that’s informing our decisions; unfortunately, we’re finding that this data is overwhelmingly garbage. Some research I’ve been conducting shows that, on average, nearly 40% of leads marketers gain from third-party sources are unfit to be injected into nurturing tracks or sent on to sales without some level of cleansing, formatting and general governance. This is confirmed by SiriusDecions, which found that 25% of the average B2B marketer’s database is inaccurate and 60% of companies have an overall data health of “unreliable.” And it explains why a recent Annuitas report found that “Quality of Leads” was the No. 1 goal of demand gen programs (77.4% of respondents) and a recent Ascend2 survey found that “Improving the quality of leads generated” was the No. 1 priority among its survey respondents (62%).

What’s worse, however, is the seemingly universal approach marketers are taking to solve this issue: that is, continually testing new sources until they eventually give up and just stick with the few media partners/lead sources that provide leads that are at least better than the rest. After which they continue to manually scrub and standardize lead files until they’re good enough to import into their marketing automation platforms. I’ve often asked daily-dealers of this problem whether they think it’s somewhat counterintuitive to bottleneck the customer acquisition funnel with manual processes immediately before the marketing automation stages. I’m usually met with the old, “That’s just the way we do it.” The confounding lack of urgency can’t be described as anything other than complacent. 

Hopefully these learnings will incite some thought. Those of you who don’t suffer from these issues: rest assured you’re ahead of the pack. Those of you who view siloes, lack of performance attribution and bad lead quality as “just the way it is”: you need to catch up.

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