Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Impatient Executive’s Guide To Building A Demand Generation Culture & Drive Growth In 2009

By Andrew Gaffney, Editor

This is no time to be patient about anything in business. It’s no time to waste time. So when I saw a few reports recently that prove demand gen, lead gen and marketing measurement is still stuck in some Dick Cheney-like undisclosed location for many companies, I sensed an impatience. This is a good impatience, not a “stuck in the grocery line impatience.” I think companies need to be more urgent about developing and tracking their most valuable customers and prospects for 2009.

For the record, two of the reports were from the Conference Board and the CMO Council. The Conference Board found “most companies experience cultural resistance when moving to marketing ROI. Lack of resources, linked to performance objectives, and lack of focus were some of the primary sources of individual or cultural resistance. Major barriers to implementing marketing ROI programs, largely related to issues of business infrastructure, include problems with data availability or integrity (47 percent), technology/infrastructure (41 percent), resource dedication (39 percent), and methodology/know how (22 percent).

The CMO Council study says that less than 47% of marketers around the world have “good insights into retention rates, customer profitability and lifetime value.” If I was running a company that was in the 53 percent of “don’t know” it would be completely unacceptable.

So let’s take what The Conference Board says is the most important driver of marketing ROI: Leadership Commitment (63%). And let’s skip the cultural advice. Corporate culture for me has always been best defined as “the way things get done around here.” Focusing on the fine points of corporate culture is a luxury. For demand gen, I think executives need to get back to some basics. First, assume that everything you know about your current and prospective customers has changed since June of this year. After that little mental leap, I would follow five steps to reinvigorating growth:

  1. Convene an executive level demand generation committee. Here I would ask some very basic questions and expect some answers. The questions: What does our most valuable customer look like? Who are some of our top targets and how are we communicating our core strengths to them. Around the answers to these questions, I would have the executive team build a profile of the ideal account and some personas around target prospects.

  2. Gather a larger meeting with top sales performers. We’re not talking about the Club Getaways or rah-rah sales meeting here. During these difficult times, it is critical to be dialed-in to the folks who are closest to the revenue and have some meaningful dialog with them about your existing business and the realities of the pipeline. The top sales people will be able to provide feedback from your top customers and pass along ideas on how we can we grow them? Maybe the customer or prospect has just reduced its workforce by 20% and will not be able to pay its license fees for Q1. Or maybe the cutbacks will make your solution even more important for them in 2009. This meeting should produce an honest look at the top level of the client base and the prospects for growing it and help define the year ahead.

  3. Create a demand gen task force: This team needs to involve sales, marketing, and operations. It should have 30 days to define the customers and prospects that the company needs to get, keep, and grow. It should also evaluate the market, competitors and realities that need to be addressed in order to achieve your revenue goals.

  4. Build a demand gen culture from top to bottom: Key executives need to make sure that the 2009 demand gen effort has buy-in from the team and communicate that the current system is still open for communication and new opportunities. It is important that the customer service agents are aware that their interactions could impact whether a company expands its contract with your company. Equally, the IT department needs to be dialed in to the impact that landing pages and web upgrades have to converting browsers into customers.

  5. Automate or upgrade automation: The majority of companies now have some kind of CRM of SFA system in place, but many are admittedly not using the systems efficiently and may need to evaluate an upgrade. For those companies that have their sales system automated, but have not yet taken the same steps for their marketing and prospect data bases, 2009 represents a great opportunity to benefit from the consistency, transparency and prioritization these systems provide.

These five steps are most important in an economy where the unfortunate reality is that most current customers are likely to lose some value. Therefore, customer acquisition and customer marketing to protect and up-sell the company’s best accounts will be a vital part of growth going forward. Steps like these tell a company that cultural barriers are history and that all departments put the customer and prospective customers first.

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