Thursday, 13 May 2010

Demand Generation - the theory and practise. #1 Gaining acceptance

Over the last few months, we have been immersing ourselves in the concept and application of B2B demand generation.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Demand Generation is a marketing process that nurtures and engages prospects appropriately at each stage of the buying cycle.

We have a number of client projects in progress at this time and are closely monitoring the challenges and successes that we encounter. This is in the interests of continuous improvement, practical insight and, of course, great results for our clients.

The principle of demand generation is the application of multi-touch marketing communications that respect, and are tailored to, where the prospect is in the buying process. In simple terms, it is holding back from trying to close the sale on first contact - because the attempt will fail unless the buyer is ready to buy.

As ever, matching the theory to the practice is the hardest part and the first obstacle normally occurs at the acceptance stage.

The theory says that we must stop the salesperson going in too soon. Instead, we must align the nature of the conversation with where the prospect is in the buying cycle.

When implementing a programme of this nature, early challenges arise when you have a sales-force that needs feeding. A proposal to slow the flow of leads in the interests of a higher rate of sales conversion further down the line is rarely popular with a team that likes to show it is active, if not always successful.

This is closely related to persuading telemarketers not to go straight for the appointment when all of the instincts and training are directed towards this end.

The demand generation process requires nothing short of a wholesale change in the sales process and sales culture, which is a big ask of any organisation. We, therefore, address this with a three-tier approach to gaining the support and engagement of Sales.

Firstly, we enter into open and shared communication with the sales teams to explain the approach.

Secondly, we run a dual system in which we work the new approach on a specific set of data and allow traditional methods to run on the remainder. This retains the continuity of supply and keeps the sales team on board during the transition.

Thirdly, we persuade senior management to adjust incentives relating to the demand generation exercise to reflect nurturing, not just closures.

Demand Generation requires discipline and a whole-hearted commitment to the methodology by us and the client. A breakdown in any area of the process undermines the programme - and, more importantly, the results.

In future posts, we will take a look at some of the specific 'in-life' challenges that we encounter, such as generating relevant content and managing and monitoring the process without a sophisticated CRM system.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Time to decide

So, after what seems like months of campaigning it is now decision time.

The Conservatives have the clearest and most favourable policies for business and if my vote was to be cast on that alone, it would be an easy choice.

But, of course, it's not. A few pounds off the tax bill and perhaps a little less red-tape pales into insignificance when placed alongside the broader impact of a possible return to recession.

The central issue is how to deal with the structural debt. Labour says we must continue to invest to ensure a return to growth. The Conservatives say we need to put the breaks on and take the pain now. If your business was in a similar position, what would you do? The answer should guide your vote.

Throughout the campaign, Brown has been the strongest performer when it comes to the numbers. Close your eyes and listen to the content and it is evident that Gordon Brown wins hands down on substance. He knows that some of the promises made by the other parties won't work and has been straight when saying that NI must go up to allow spending to be slowly, not rapidly, constrained.

Cameron, a polished performer backed by a successful and well funded marketing campaign, promises the change that many feel is overdue. The PR machine has worked well and he has campaigned tirelessly.

The promised change though is a risk. Cameron conceded in the Marr interview on Sunday that only 20% of the necessary expenditure cuts have been highlighted, blaming the Government for not detailing its spending plans. Are we being softened up for broken election pledges already? - it feels like it.

The argument that the Tories don't know what they might inherit is ridiculous. The Institute of Fiscal studies has been able to produce a detailed analysis of the economy for all to see.

I worry too why Cameron won't be drawn on who he intends to appoint as Chancellor - no doubt fearing a backlash against Osborne. Surely, as his potential employer, we have a right to know what the team will be.

We then come to The Lib Dems who's star has risen too early. Their policies are ill-prepared and weren't written with Government in mind. Their time will come though. This election has shown that Clegg and his team are the party of the generation that is now under 30. They will have to be taken more seriously next time and are still likely to have a significant influence on this outcome.

So, where does that leave us. The Lib Dem balloon will be pricked if not popped and they will secure around 25% of the vote. The electorate will give Labour a bloody nose in the marginals leading to the loss of many key seats.

If all this happens, we will be looking at a narrow Tory victory and I suspect Cameron will try to lead a minority Government.

I find myself, like many others, torn between the Tory promise of a new impetus and Labour's dour pragmatism on a measured return to growth.

When I enter the ballot box tomorrow, my pencil will hover between red and blue. A hung parliament might have attractions for those that genuinely can't decide, but it would be a recipe for stalled policy making at a time when we need action.

Time is running out and it is now our duty to decide. I'm veering towards playing it safe.