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4 Rules to Succeed With Conversational Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 16, 2018 1:00:00 PM

conversational-marketingI often caution peers of mine to be careful about the echo chamber in which we often find ourselves. When they ask for examples, conversational marketing is the first thing that comes to mind.

About 1/3rd of the regular readers of this blog probably think of conversational marketing as the hottest trend in sales and marketing. Another 1/3rd have likely never heard of it and the middle third have some familiarity with it but aren’t entirely sure what it is or how it applies to them.

Regardless of which third you are, you must recognize that the changes in buyer behavior that accelerated more than a decade ago continue to evolve. Sellers who don’t adjust their tactics to stay ahead of (or at least aligned with) buyers will see decaying results.

There are a few definitions for conversational marketing. I’ve found that the most useful definition comes from combining two of the most popular (according to Google search) definitions. Conversational marketing or conversation marketing is a feedback-oriented, one-to-one approach to marketing that companies use to generate engagement, learn about their customers, and shorten their sales cycle by creating a more human engagement/buying experience. While the growth of live chat and chatbot tools has fueled the increased popularity of conversational tactics, conversational marketing is much more than chat and bots.

The goal of this post is not to teach you the specific tactics or approaches. There are already three great resources for this (and I recommend all of them). Drift has built their Conversational Marketing University, HubSpot has added a strong program on conversational marketing to their academy, and my friend and fellow agency owner Remington Begg provides the most comprehensive set of tutorials, training videos, and tactics on the real-world implementation of conversational marketing that I’ve seen.

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Topics: Demand Generation

The Lie That Digital & Inbound Marketing Keeps Telling

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 11, 2018 8:00:00 PM

b2b-sales-myths-vs-factsI remember the datapoint that made me take notice of (at the time) this new thing called “inbound marketing.” Inbound Marketing generates 54% more lead volume at 61% lower cost than outbound marketing. When presented that data, who could argue that shifting your resources from outbound to inbound was the right thing to do?

While I am a (HUGE) proponent of inbound, there are two key fallacies lies with this data.

  1. The first and less damaging lie is based on how a lead is defined.(and it's contained in the very context of the claim that got my attention). An inbound lead is anyone who registers or fills out a form on a website, with no attention paid to the quality or propensity to buy associated with a lead. The definition of an outbound lead (though it varies depends on who you talk to) has a much higher threshold.

    This type of apples to tables comparison is akin to someone making the claim that they can generate a higher volume of leads at a lower cost than someone else can generate sales qualified leads. It's a meaningless claim.

  2. The bigger and more damaging lie (that is still commonly perpetrated by technology and service providers) is caused by treating the lead-to-revenue cycle as a linear equation (generate more leads and you’ll generate more sales in equal proportion) rather than as the more complicated equation that it is.

The rationale further infers that if you generate more leads from inbound methodologies, you’ll lower your cost of customer acquisition even as your growth rate increases and you hit scale. Anyone who has successfully executed high-growth inbound marketing at scale has the financial statements that will illustrate just how big a lie this is.

Let me explain, using one of the most common tools that inbound marketing agencies and advisors use to demonstrate the ROI of working with them.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Demand Generation

5 Rules to Effective Breakup Emails

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Sep 27, 2018 1:00:00 PM

breakup-emailsIf you’re in sales, there are two things you can count on:

  • You’re going to rely on email as a core communication tool
  • Prospects are going to go dark on you

It’s a particularly frustrating experience when prospects seemingly disappear. Part of the reason for this is that there’s a bit of a time warp from the perspective of a sales rep vs. a prospect/buyer. I advise people to realize that to a sales rep, every day feels like a week, but to a buyer, every week feels like a day.

Take a situation where a prospect who has promised to respond has “gone dark” for two weeks. To the rep, this feels like they’ve disappeared for almost ten weeks. To the buyer, they feel like they’ve missed their promised date by two days.

While that time warp certainly varies and there’s no science behind it, it illustrates the ambiguity that exists. If a salesperson acts too aggressively or desperately, they could create the very problem they’re worried about avoiding. Wait too long, and the prospect could easily forget about things or have their attention diverted to some new issue. (Time kills all deals.)

I sell as only a part of my overall responsibilities here at Imagine, and I deal with at least one of these situations every week. Full-time sales reps may deal with this every day.

This is where the breakup email comes in.

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Topics: Sales Development, Sales Enablement, Demand Generation

The Critical Role of Intent in Demand Generation, Sales and Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jul 12, 2018 1:30:00 PM

intent-video-splash-screenWe've been doing a lot of research over the last year into a critical part of the buying process that seems to get very little attention in the design and execution of demand generation: sales and marketing efforts. Anyone who has ever been involved in attracting or acquiring new customers knows that buyer intent is an important ingredient in the customer acquisition recipe.

Intent varies by person, by market and/or by what you're selling. There are any number of factors that are going to impact when and where intent occurs, but somewhere along the buyer’s journey, buyer intent hits a critical point. Intent, initially, does not necessarily relate directly to buying from any particular vendor. Buyer intent refers to the decision that some level of action needs to take place. If you think about the last major purchase or even decision that you made, you can quickly and easily identify that point that separates pre-intent actions from post-intent ones.

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Topics: Sales, Marketing, Demand Generation, Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Performance, Sales Enablement

What it Means to be Data-Driven, How It’s Different from Metrics & How to Apply it

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jun 29, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Data-Imagine-ImageMy daughter is entering her senior year in high school. I have to admit that there are times where I stop and think how I wish I were in high school today. Now, I don’t have this wish for the common reasons you may be thinking.

You see, when I was in high school it wasn’t cool to obsess about things like data. But today, data is about the coolest thing in the world (well, except for maybe AI). Everyone is talking about data. Big data. Little data. Metadata.

Today, it seems, marketing and sales advisors pronounce their coolness by claiming to be data-driven. Everywhere I look, I see people claiming to be data-driven, but when I look at how they manage process and make decisions, it’s no different than how they did things a decade ago.

Sure, they may throw some numbers or vanity metrics at you, but the way they do it reminds me of how I used to describe statistics. Today, data is like a lamp post to a drunk - it’s used more for support than illumination.

Make no mistake. If you want to successfully grow a business today, you’d better be data-driven. I’m fond of Netscape founder Jim Barksdale’s philosophy: If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.

So, the first step to be data-driven is to understand what being data-driven means.

The first confusion is that there’s a difference between being goals- or metric-driven and being data-driven. There is probably no clearer illustration of the difference than using my favorite example: baseball.

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Topics: Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Sales Development, B2B Sales Strategy, Demand Generation, Performance, Data

New Research from SiriusDecisions is Bad News for Sales Teams - Here’s What to Do About it

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jun 26, 2018 2:00:00 PM

bad-news-for-sales-teamsA new research report from SiriusDecisions presents a pretty damning view on the state of sales today. The 2018 Global Chief Sales Officer Study surveyed the heads of sales from 250 companies covering a broad array of business, from small business through large multinational businesses.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Fewer than 50% of sales reps are hitting quota
  • At 70% of companies, fewer than 70% of sales reps are hitting quota
  • Marketing is contributing less than (a paltry) 25% to revenue
  • Sales cycles are getting longer for 64% of companies, with 27% seeing an increase of more than 30% in just the last year.
  • For the typical company, sales reps spend just 27% of their time on direct activities involved in selling to customer or prospects. Higher-growth companies reported their reps spent 53% more time selling (though I'd point out that’s still only? 41% of their time spent actually selling).

I’ve got to tell you, I had to read the report twice before I believed what I was seeing. The last five years have seen greater investments in customer acquisition and sales than ever before, yet these numbers indicate that nothing has improved.

Of course, I really shouldn’t have been surprised to see these numbers as I’ve got front row seats to this whole thing. While I caution people to be wary in reading too much in surveys, this report is another piece in a growing plethora of evidence that shows that selling organizations have still not made the necessary adjustments in their approaches to sustain and succeed.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Performance, Demand Generation, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Development, Lead Generation

Has the Time Come to Ungate Your Best Content?

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Feb 15, 2018 2:00:00 PM

GateorUngateLPAs the the great marketing strategist, William Shakespeare, said, “To gate or ungate your best content; that is the question?”

Over the last three years, there's been a growing roar questioning the wisdom behind one of today’s central practices for lead generation. An ever-increasing group of marketing and lead generation leaders are recommending that companies stop putting valuable content behind registration gates.

Drift, a martech provider focused on chat applications, and founded by former HubSpot Chief Product Officer David Cancel, was the first to call out the wisdom surrounding forms with the launch of the “No Forms” marketing campaign and positioning. Over the last year, HubSpot itself has questioned the use of forms as they’ve started talking about the use of “pillar content” and the impact it has on reach and search engine optimization (SEO). Over the last several months, more and more companies have “jumped on the bandwagon.”

The debate around forms vs. no forms is reminiscent of the Mac vs. PC debates of a decade ago, whereby otherwise intelligent and reasonable people seem to lose all rationale balance to advocate their position. Over the last six months, the call to eliminate forms continues to move more into the mainstream, and I see more sales & marketing advisors capitulating on the topic with little to no data to back up their conclusions. One prospect summed up where we find ourselves today when he asked me, “Doug, I haven’t even started using gated content and now I feel like I need to change before I start.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an important and valid question; one that should be at the top of the decision tree for any company executing a lead generation, inbound or content marketing program.

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Topics: Demand Generation, Lead Generation

What Aviation Can Teach Any Growth Executive About Acquiring Customers

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Feb 8, 2018 4:30:00 PM

lift-growthGrowing revenue is difficult, complex work. Fraught with uncertainties, lack of information and changing market dynamics means that those who are good at growing businesses are always managing trade-offs in the decisions they make.

Charting your roadmap is difficult as well. There’s no shortage of “thought leaders” making grand claims that “this is the way to do it.” Of course most of these claims are made by someone that has a vested interest in what you do.

Making sense of all of the conflicting information, insights and “best practices” is often the biggest challenge facing growth executives. This is why I’m a fan of science. Science, done properly, is always a pursuit for the truth. When you find a truth, you’ll see that the principles apply to a variety of scenarios - even sales and marketing.

This topic came up recently on a podcast episode where I talked about my recent post on why hiring salespeople is not a smart strategy to stimulate growth. Needles to say, the post is a bit controversial. Anyway, in the podcast I talk about the principle of lift, the physics that make air flight possible and how this lesson applies to growing your business. I thought you would enjoy the excerpt:

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Topics: Performance, Demand Generation, Sales Development, Lead Generation

To Build an Effective Playbook You Must Know What Game You're Playing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Feb 2, 2018 12:30:00 PM

To Build an Effective Playbook You Must Know What Game You're PlayingI admit that I spend far too much time on social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn. I can’t help it. There’s just so much great information and content available!

On the one hand, the access to insights, knowledge and even detailed process is extraordinarily valuable...but it’s also exceptionally dangerous. The reason is that the majority of organizations sharing valuable information have this in common:

  • They’re sharing what works for them.
  • They’ve got an interest in influencing you to see the world the way they do.

Now, neither of these things are bad, but they should put up a caution light to marketers, sales reps and executives committed to improvement and growth (personal and business). A quick review of my just my Twitter stream right now highlights the conflicting approaches being advocated. Here’s some of what I’m seeing:

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Topics: Demand Generation, Sales Development

7 Reasons Hiring Salespeople is the Wrong First Step for Faster Growth

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jan 23, 2018 3:30:00 PM

7 Reasons Hiring Salespeople is the Wrong First Step for Faster GrowthI see it time and time again. A company, seeking to accelerate revenue growth and customer acquisition, makes the obvious decision to hire more salespeople. Every time (for purposes of accuracy, 95% of the time) I have the same reaction (as I bring my hands to my head in dismay):

NOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s a simple acid test that virtually any small or mid-market organization can use to determine if the time has come to hire salespeople. The acid test is “Do we have more high quality, right-fit leads than our existing sales team can manage?”

If the answer isn’t a definitive “YES!!,” then DON’T. HIRE. SALESPEOPLE. (YET).

I realize this advice is counter-intuitive. I understand that your board, your investors, hell, even your CEO (if she’s not the one reading this) are not going to like this take. I get that your VP of Sales quantifies his importance and domain by headcount (if some is good, more must be better). Your peers will look at you like you’re crazy, but I challenge you to think about this:

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Topics: Sales Cycle, Demand Generation, Sales Training/Coaching, Sales Development