I recently attended a SiriusDecisions forum covering demand generation best practices, and a clear sub-theme emerged: frantic 2017 planning.

You blink, and before you know it, summer is a mere blur, the days are tumbling past quicker than the leaves are falling, and it’s that time of the year again – when marketing teams must commit to goals for the next 12 months.

But where to start? First, we set the goals.  

Typically we’ll be told the revenue target for the organisation and agree at an executive level on the percentage marketing is responsible for sourcing. All appears to be well, and then your finance director comes over and says, “Here’s your budget.”

You set about doing some math, and bam, it hits you that it doesn’t add up.

And here’s why:

You take your average sales price and divide the amount of revenue you have agreed marketing is responsible for, and this gives you the total number of closed won deals you need to garner. Then you look at your marketing funnel, paying close attention to the conversion ratios between late stage and early stage, and you find out that at the top, you’re going to need to drive a ridiculous amount of inquiries.

Multiply this large inquiry number by your cost per inquiry, and it’s clear the amount of marketing budget your finance director handed you is just not going to cut it. The available budget will not fund the inquiry volume required at current conversion rates.

But don’t panic, there are tweaks to the program mix that can help.

So how do model accurately, so that you’re prepared to improve conversion rates at different points in the customer lifecycle?

Use alternative forms of communication
Analyze the viability and ROI of using varied forms of communication for lead nurturing programs, which may include any or all of the following:

  • Dynamic email
  • Websites that use rule-based capabilities
  • Dimensional mailers
  • Phone calls as part of the program flow
  • Online advertising, including retargeting

Support a complete nurture program
Base your planning and execution efforts on the four pillars of a nurture program, which include entry, treatment, transition and disposition. Here are the main functions of each pillar:

  • Entry refers to triggers and channels that move prospects into specific nurture flows.
  • Treatment includes content, offers and messages to drive incremental activity with prospects in nurture flows.
  • Transition focuses on signals that prospects are ready to be moved back into an active demand state.
  • Disposition covers the location and manner in which prospects are pushed to receiving functions.

Also keep in mind that different types of nurturing take place within each pillar, including things such as pre-MQL (marketing qualified lead) nurturing, active recycled nurturing, passive recycled nurturing, and reconstituted nurturing. Here are some defining characteristics of each nurturing activity, according to SiriusDecisions:

  • Pre-MQL nurture flows are needs-based, multi-touch efforts around a theme relevant to the target audience. Through the use of content, messages and offers, marketers seek to gather both explicit and implicit information about prospects through web forms and by driving high-value activities.
  • Prospects enter active recycled nurture flows based on clear rejection or disqualifcation reasons. For example, the disqualifcation “no budget” could cause prospects to enter a flow focused on keeping them informed and building awareness over a longer period of time.
  • Passive nurture flows are triggered by prospect inactivity for a period of time – things like lack of outreach by a rep, lack of responsiveness by the prospect, or sitting in an early sales stage for too long. 
  • Reconstituted nurturing involves periodic outreach to verify whether dormant leads have the potential to be re-engaged, or if they should be wiped from the database.    

Implement pipeline acceleration programs
In addition to nurture, SiriusDecisions suggests implementing pipeline acceleration programs to help sales reps usher prospects past common obstacles in the sales cycle. First, let's go over a few basic things these programs typically aim to do: 

  • Support new reps or teams that don’t currently have a strong pipeline by rapidly identifying high-propensity (i.e. pre-qualified) leads that enter the pipeline faster.
  • Re-engage dormant prospects and restart stalled deals by creating highly targeted offers and assets that reach decision-makers, and overcome their objections about moving forward.
  • Convert prospects that have stalled or gone dark deep in the cycle by engaging them with assets that demonstrate ROI and value, and increase the priority of the deal.   

If you want to implement any or all of the pipeline acceleration programs noted above, here are a few quick tips to get started.  

  • Identify where acceleration efforts will be applied.
  • Detail the process that sales and marketing teams will use for the acceleration efforts.
  • Establish functional roles that will be used in the acceleration efforts.
  • Create a list of options for sales-driven and marketing-driven acceleration efforts.

Improve Lead Scoring
Your organization probably has a lead scoring program in place. However, it may not be firing on all cylinders. To exploit potential and improve results, optimize lead scoring by:

  • Involving both marketing and sales teams; lead scoring should not be viewed in isolation.
  • Deconstructing closed deals to identify a data-based lead scoring approach.
  • Implementing suitable monitoring and governance processes.  

Establish lead generation standards
Ensure that lead generation SLAs are effective and in-scope by:

  • Getting all sales reps across all business units and locations – and not just executives at headquarters – to appreciate the benefits of a transparent management process.
  • Explaining the function, advantages and necessity of SLAs to new hires during onboarding through webinars, explanation sheets, etc.  
  • Ensuring that all qualified leads in the pipeline get attention, and not just those that reps think will convert (if this happens too often, revisiting the lead quality definitions may be necessary).
  • Building trust in the SLA through ongoing discussions with employees, so they don’t feel that the process is fundamentally flawed or being manipulated by certain teams or departments.
  • Using an on-target dashboard to help sales see where the process is working, and encouraging all team members to learn from those successes.
  • Ensuring that leaders are empowered and authorized to monitor, govern and enforce SLA compliance.  

Will 2017 be Your Best Year Ever?

Before you know it, 2017 will be in full swing and your organization’s comprehensive demand generation program will be put to the test. By taking some of the simple steps above to prepare yourself, you can look forward to more reliably meeting expectations and targets – and making the year ahead your best yet.

Last update: February 22, 2017
The remedy to frantic 2017 demand generation planning.

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