Whether you’re one of five or 50,000 in your organization, some challenges are universal. For those in the marketing world, often at the top of the list is the relationship with the sales team.
Particularly when it comes to direct marketing, the sales-marketing dynamic is crucial to success; marketing value is realized at the end of the sales cycle, as respondents turn into customers. But marketing and sales often have differing priorities—marketing worries first about quantity (how many prospects are exposed to our message), while sales cares first about quality (how many will convert to revenue). And both marketing and sales would prefer to have the best of both worlds.
Getting the results you want is possible—all you need are smart campaigns and carefully sourced data. The trick to keeping your vice president of sales from steaming is simply avoiding these five common marketing mistakes:
1. Spend a lot of money, but don’t pass any leads.
If your sales team measures marketing success by the number of leads generated, a lack of leads is a sure way to cause friction. We often hear this concern from marketers as a reason they avoid rental lists: “I just can’t get enough people to respond.”
But it is crucial to feed your database with new contacts, and third party data can be an effective channel to do this. So how do you get more bang for your buck, and up the responses you get from outbound campaigns? First, optimize your list and then, optimize your campaigns. Not all lists are equal—quality can vary widely due to a list’s source, age, and collection method. Make sure you’re using a list that has a history of high response rates and proven performance. Then, offer something that has either business or personal value to your customers—say, an analyst report or a great gadget. Make it easy for them to respond, and balance the amount of information you ask from them with the value of what you’re giving them. Think of it as a trade, and your responses will increase in kind.
2. Market your product like you’re selling cars—used cars.
Just as important as offering something of value is actually delivering something of value. To your prospect. This means laying off on a hard product pitch for your first outreach to a third party database. Product information is valuable to contacts who know they want to make a purchase. But your campaigns are reaching many more potential customers who are at earlier stages in the buying cycle—they’re not looking for product information.
Think about an initial campaign that appeals to the widest possible pool of prospects in order to get the highest possible pool of respondents. Establish your company as a trusted thought leader by offering educational content related to business processes, critical challenges, and key topics. And this means more than just renaming your product brochure and calling it a white paper. You promised your prospect something of value—don’t break their trust.
3. Dump respondents over the wall—and run.
So you’ve gotten a higher response rate, and the volume of leads sales wanted! So you send those leads over to inside sales to call, right? Actually, that’s a sure way to end up with irritated contacts that don’t want to stick around for a second conversation—and an irritated sales team sick of rejection.
Remember that a respondent isn’t always a “lead.” You need to help your respondent evolve into a lead by building a marketing relationship. After the initial response, work them towards a sales conversation by offering a progressively more in depth timeline of content. Get them familiar with your brand, you expertise, your strengths. And then pass them to sales to start a conversation.
4. Make your sales team guess which leads are qualified.
So just imagine you pass hundreds, maybe thousands of respondents over to your sales team. Are they happy now? Not if most of those respondents aren’t ready to buy, or even worse, are students, vendors, or competitors. Eventually, sales will stop calling your list—and when sales stops calling your list, you’ve stopped adding value. To prevent this, start your qualification BEFORE you send out your campaign. Choose a list that offers segmentation opportunities, and make sure those segments are accurate. If you know who your ideal prospects are, by name, work with a provider who can segment by account. Exercise your suppression opportunities – suppress competitors and partners as well as do not contacts.
Also, keep in mind that some respondents are more suited for marketing outreach but not sales outreach. End users, influencers, cross-functional contacts at existing accounts…all of these contacts could benefit from positive association with your brand. But if they’re not buyers, you probably want to keep them in the marketing loop and out of the sales list.
5. Treat your customers like you don’t know them.
Also decide whether or not you want to suppress your customers. Think about the content of your campaign—is it appropriate to existing clients? Making customers feel like you don’t know them is a sure way to build negative brand association. Alternatively, use your marketing outreach to feed a relationship with existing customers by crafting campaigns just for them.
Now you’re ready— build your marketing database and the sales funnel.
At the heart of understanding the relationship between marketing and sales—and the balance between respondent quantity and lead quality—is a deeper understanding of the sales funnel.
In the standard vision of a sales funnel, the top of the funnel represents a large number of potential prospects, and the bottom of the funnel represents a smaller number of contacts who are closest to a purchase decision. By following these tips and techniques, you can create a marketing campaign strategy that leads potential customers all the way through the funnel, resulting in both increased marketing awareness and sales opportunities.
Brian P. Hession (email@example.com) is president and founder of Oceanos.