I was talking with a business owner the other day at a networking event and when the subject came up about the importance of having a marketing plan to follow, he said, “well isn’t marketing just sales?”
I don’t mean to poke fun at this individual because I strongly believe he is not alone. I can’t count how many calls I have received that have asked for a marketing person when in reality, they were looking for a sales person. This distinction between marketing and sales is important to make, particularly in Business-to-Business (B2B) sales, where the buying cycle can be complex and take much longer, particularly on bigger ticket products and services.
Marketing’s objective is multi-faceted: to raise awareness of the company, product or service; to educate the public on the product’s use or value; and to generate qualified leads. Once the lead information has been captured, regardless of how that took place, it is then handed to sales to negotiate and close the deal, resulting in the transfer of money. But is this the way it really works?
As we all know, this overly simplified scenario above is not exactly reality, because it doesn’t take into account the quality of the lead. As the buying cycle of many products and services lengthens, a prospective buyer at a moment in time can be at any number of stages in their process of making a purchase. Marketing may have captured their lead information, but do they really know at what stage of the buying process the lead is?
Now we move to what I call the disconnect in this process. So many times, when it is determined by sales that the lead is not ready to purchase now, it is simply discarded as a poor quality lead. Depending on how the lead information was collected, if the prospect made the effort to provide information, then it could probably be considered a valid lead and therefore should not be discarded. What should take place in this process is a method for sales, after having discovered the lead is not ready to purchase now, to be able to return the lead to marketing for what we call “nurturing.”
Nurturing a lead through their buying cycle involves a unique set of communications messages. Hopefully sales was able to determine at what stage the prospect was at: awareness, interest, intent, consideration or comparison. Based upon this information, a schedule of specific messages can be established to stay in front of the lead and remain in the forefront of their mind, helping them through their buying decision process. Once marketing can determine that the lead is ready to buy, it can then be shifted back to sales to close, and the circle is completed.
In order for this process to not become too onerous, it is imperative to have in place the proper technology to automate this function to help maintain consistency and to improve tracking and measurement.
I thought the following chart from MarketingSherpa was interesting in how it relates to this topic of lead quality and the challenges all marketers face.
New Chart: Today’s Most Significant Challenges for B2B Marketers to Overcome
I would love to know your thoughts on this.