Why We're Changing Our Approach to Serving Clients

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 19, 2017 12:27:02 PM

Why We're Changing Our Approach to Serving ClientsFor years I’ve come to this blog to write how customers and the world of sales and marketing are changing at rates never before seen. Today I'm excited to share some changes that we're making at Imagine in how we are working with clients.

I've been advising business owners on growth my entire adult life. Figuring out how to grow businesses isn't just my vocation, it's my avocation.

For the first nine years of running Imagine Business Development, friends and associates would tell me that I needed to find a hobby...something that would allow me to break away from the intensity of what I do on a daily basis. I took up brewing beer, coaching baseball, reading fiction books and bird watching (okay the last one is a lie, I never took up bird watching). Finally, I realized that this is my hobby.

I'm lucky. I've had a front-row seat - as a student, practitioner and advisor - to the most dynamic period in business in the past 100+ years. I've worked firsthand with more than 2,000 companies and I can say conclusively that growing a business today is more complicated and challenging than at any time I've seen or studied. On the one hand, organizations have access to more talent, technology and opportunity than ever before. It is these assets and strengths that are also making things as challenging as they are. As Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot, shared in his keynote at Inbound17, "It's never been so easy to start a business...and so hard to scale one."

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, B2B Sales Strategy, Demand Generation

[VIDEO] The 5 Levels of Demand Generation

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 11, 2017 11:00:00 AM

[VIDEO] The 5 Levels of Demand GenerationIt’s an amazing time to be a salesperson or marketer. I was talking with a friend and fellow salesperson the other day, sharing with him some of the things we’re doing with clients. Almost drooling I said, “Steve, man, can you just imagine what we would have been able to do with just a quarter of what’s available today? I’d probably still be selling. We could have easily done 5x the volume we did back then in half the time!” Steve agreed with me and we spent a few more minutes reliving the “good old days.”

Yet despite our envy for today’s demand generation resources, reality seems to be painting a different picture. Sales reps are not producing five times the volume in half the time. Profits are not skyrocketing, and while business revenues are certainly up from the time I was a frontline salesperson, that has more to do with inflation than effectiveness.

Make no mistake, there are clearly businesses that are taking advantage of the world we live in. On one hand, it’s easier than ever to grow a billion dollar business; and on the other, it’s more difficult than ever to run a $50 million business maintaining 20-30% growth rates. As the Chinese curse goes, “May you live in interesting times.” While there’s more opportunity than ever before, it’s also more complex and challenging than ever.

As Inbound Marketing, Sales Development and modern sales strategies have increased in popularity and investment (together, it's what we call Demand Generation) we decided to see how companies were progressing. So we spent much of the last year digging deep to see what we could learn about success, the journey to get there and the potholes that prevent companies from thriving. The result is shared in this video The 5 Levels of Demand Generation.

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Topics: Demand Generation

What Inbound17 Means for the Future of Sales and Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 9, 2017 10:00:00 AM


This post also appeared on LinkedIn

What a week! I think I'm still recovering from, yet another, magnificent Inbound festival (I have got to call it something more than a conference). A week filled with catching up with old friends, making new ones, learning from peers and seeing and hearing what the future will bring was as exciting as always.

This year's conference had a different feel to it. Once again there were no significant product announcements. (While HubSpot did announce their new Customer Success Hub, it is not released yet, and I have not seen it.)

However, unlike last year (where the focus was on important, internal product improvements) this conference had much more of a meta-trend feel to it. You had to pay attention to notice the key takeaways, but they were there, and their impact will most likely be big.

The following are my three key takeaways, and why I think they’re important and meaningful for any growth-focused executive:

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Trends

Dashboards:  Is Real-Time Reporting The Answer?

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Sep 21, 2017 3:00:00 PM

real-time-reporting.jpgI’m a data fanatic.  Everyone on my team knows that the first question I ask when someone brings up an idea, points out a problem or suggests we change paths is, “What data do you have that brings you to that conclusion?”

I’m also rather OCD when it comes to reporting (as my friend and Databox’s CEO, Pete Caputa can attest).  I want a report for just about everything (I think the only thing I like better than reports is a good deck), and I’m maniacal about what’s being reported and how it’s reported.

For years I’ve pieced together my version of KPI dashboards to keep track of just about everything that mattered (and my Director of Operations, Jess, would probably add that I followed things that didn’t matter so much).  

In addition to the reporting and analysis we do for Imagine, it’s a primary part of our value proposition to our clients.  I probably don’t have to tell you that Monday’s were pretty hectic as we filled in multiple spreadsheets to track our weekly KPIs, and the beginning of the month was an insane rush of taking screenshots, copying and pasting items into powerpoint decks for monthly reports.  

Frankly, by the time our monthly reports were ready, they weren’t particularly valuable because we were already 1/3rd of the way into the next month.  To call the process frustrating would be an understatement.

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Deliverability:  Conquering The Email Marketing Problem

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Sep 14, 2017 2:00:00 PM

email-marketing.pngFrom the days when Google announced their “email killer” Wave, I’ve heard marketers and consultants say things like, “Email is dead.” My response to those who say that to me is always: “Really? What do you use instead?”  

I usually don’t get an answer, or someone starts rambling on about social media, private communication networks like Slack, or they claim organic (or paid) search is the only viable strategy. They say if people want what you do then they’ll find you, and a marketer’s (or salesperson’s) job is to ensure that the right people can find you.

While there is certainly truth to the statement that people will find you (and no one can question the growing importance of social media, search and the challenge that communication networks like Slack represent) the fact is that email is still the number one tool in the toolbox for managing and developing business relationships. Consider (sources: Content Marketing Institute & Optinmonster):

  • 77% of B2B marketers use email in the marketing mix  
  • 91% rate email as a key piece of content marketing success
  • 2.7 billion people use email
  • 91% of users use email at least daily
  • You're 7x more likely to originate a customer via email than other channels
  • 58% of users cite it as the first channel they go to every day

The problem is that email is a “push” communication tactic, in a “pull” world. Additionally, when you’re sending an email to someone, you are competing for attention in what is probably the noisiest and toughest place to compete - the inbox. This means that your email strategy must rise to a higher standard. Good email marketing simply isn’t good enough.

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Topics: Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Lead Nurturing

The 10 Worst Vanity Metrics Every Marketer Uses

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Aug 31, 2017 5:00:00 PM

The 10 Worst Vanity Metrics Every Marketer UsesWhat you measure gets be very careful about what you measure.

The story of Moneyball is a powerful one. Despite its popularity, its central thesis is often overlooked. While many people point to the new analytics that Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane identified that others ignored, the real power (and advantage) was in their ability to determine the metrics that everyone else valued that, in reality, did not lead to success.

The time has come (more accurately the time is long past due) for Moneyball to come to marketing and sales.  

Twenty-first-century marketing, led by the movement to inbound marketing, made a compelling promise: greater insights, fast & better decisions and the ability to separate the “signal from the noise.” Businesses of all shapes, sizes and industries would finally be able to stop debating opinions and feelings and would be able to rely on facts and data.

While it has fully delivered on the promise of more metrics (I would argue too many metrics), it has not delivered on the promise of insights and smarter decisions, backed by facts and data.

The reason? People measure the wrong things. The vast majority of metrics used by marketers and executives are what I call “vanity metrics”. What is a vanity metric? It’s a metric that can make you feel good but is not an indicator of success or advancement.  

If they’re ineffective, you may ask, why are vanity metrics so attractive? For two reasons:

  • They’re easy to measure.
  • They’re easier to control (and therefore they make bosses and clients feel better).

Identifying, tracking and utilizing metrics that actually contribute to success are hard to detect and uncover. I recently shared an example of a set of metrics we regularly use in guiding our business and advising our clients.

I love metrics, but it’s important to note that it’s better to have no metrics than to focus on the wrong metrics. Today I share 10 of the most popular metrics that are used by the vast majority of practitioners but do little or no good.  

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Topics: Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Performance

The 5 Factors that Must be Considered Before Strategy/Tactics are Determined

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Aug 29, 2017 2:12:30 PM

The 5 Factors that Must be Considered Before Strategy/Tactics are DeterminedIt’s a dangerous time in the world of sales and marketing. There’s so much useful information, insights and data available to growth-oriented executives looking to find the elusive formula for consistent and fast growth.

What makes this time dangerous is the very reason that so much great information exists. More than $10 billion of venture and private equity investments have poured into technologies aimed at supporting growth (source:  VBProfiles). Every one of these companies has a vested interest (literally!) in convincing you that they’ve found the formula... that it’s simple and oh by the way, all you need to do is buy (subscribe?) to our product...and sales growth is yours!

Here is some of what I’m talking about:

  • Drift is telling the world that they should eliminate their forms (here’s my response to that).
  • HubSpot proclaims that no one answers their phones and outbound is dead.
  • SalesLoft teaches that outbound is still the answer.
  • Numerous sales consultants rail against “social selling kool aid purveyors” and remind everybody that cold calling and prospecting is the key to success.

I could go on (and on). It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.*

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Topics: Sales Development, Performance, B2B Sales Strategy

3 Reasons Lead Generation Efforts Fail

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Aug 24, 2017 5:30:00 PM

3 Reasons Lead Generation Efforts FailI’m in the process of writing a book (more news at that soon) and through that process, it’s led me to review much of what I’ve written over the last 13 years. One area that I found fascinating is that as recently as five years ago I was writing about the need to focus on lead generation.  

Today, I find that I don’t have to convince people of the importance of taking a professional approach to lead generation. Even (most of) those that are not practicing it acknowledge it’s the right thing to do.

However, after ten years of Inbound Marketing, sales development and demand generation “strategies,” sales and marketing executives alike cite the need for greater lead generation as a top 3 challenge. I think it’s earned a permanent position as the #1 priority of marketers in HubSpot’s State of Inbound Report.

With so much money and time being spent on lead generation, you’d think the problem would have been solved by now, wouldn’t you? The majority of lead generation efforts are failing and frankly, they’re annoying customers and prospects while increasing costs for companies. Something has to change.

Having reviewed hundreds of lead generation programs, I’ve learned there are three core reasons that so many lead generation efforts fail.

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Topics: Lead Generation

Why Your Business Isn’t Growing Like You Think it Should

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Aug 8, 2017 11:00:00 AM

I see it all of the time. You provide an excellent service, a great product, or who knows; maybe you’ve even created disruptive technology that is going to change the way people behave in a given market.  

west-wing-news.gifDespite your best efforts, growth never becomes easy or predictable. Sure, you experience enough success and your customers 💖 what you do, so you know that with just a little more effort, a bit more ingenuity, and a pinch of luck your growth curve is about to look like the good news signal from The West Wing.  

But alas, the objective always seems just out of reach. What’s more, the very actions you take to drive such growth only reinforces the barriers you’re working so hard to overcome.

No one is immune from this affliction. I see CEOs, sales executives, marketing executives, salespeople, and others, struggle to find the right growth formula. This situation is an outright epidemic in the private equity/venture world as more and more money is thrown at more opportunities, where the only predictable and sustainable result coming from their efforts are higher burn rates and founders losing their equity.

Why? Why are so many smart, hard working people failing to unlock the growth equation? More importantly, what can you do to fix it today?

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Topics: Demand Generation

[Video] Demand Creator Minute: Assess a Sales Opportunity

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Aug 4, 2017 1:00:00 PM

b2b-sales-review.jpgFor me, one of the toughest judgments I have to make as a salesperson, manager or growth executive is determining when a sales opportunity is ready to close.  

Push it too early and the likelihood of a sale is not only significantly lower, but the time you spend after the proposal is multiplied...taking valuable time from other pursuits. Wait too long, and you not only waste time, but you may lose the opportunity altogether.

Over the years, I've developed seven go-to questions that when answered clearly, concisely and confidently indicate the opportunity is ripe. The great thing about sales (for some) is that you’re never dealing with a perfect situation and you never have access to all of the knowledge you need.  

Successful sales is a lot like playing poker. A strong process and keen insights, mixed with experience enables you to find the opportune point to take action on the information you do have to maximize your probability of success. The seven questions I share in this video have helped me shorten the time to sale, while ensuring I spend the right amount of time and energy on the right opportunities. Just as importantly, it’s provided me the indication to know when to fold and walk away from the opportunity.

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Topics: Sales Development, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Training/Coaching