Challenge: As Pipeline Demands Increase Year over Year, How Does Marketing Keep Up?
For early stage startups, building demand generation functions often takes a common path. The first marketing employees purchase and deploy CRM and marketing automation systems while they build out inbound programs such as events, webinars, roadshows, paid search, nurture programs and dashboards to track progress and ensure optimization. The early years are typically a success as marketing supports sales with an increasing pipeline by selecting the easiest and highest yielding programs. However, over the next few years, pipeline demands increase at a faster rate than budget or headcount allows, putting pressure on marketing for more pipeline with fewer resources. At some point, these (mostly) inbound programs experience diminishing marginal returns – with lower conversion rates or higher costs. Suddenly the marketing team goes from ‘heroes’ to ‘zeroes’.
I have been on this journey more than a few times. How does the demand generation manager/leader continue to deliver over time with increasingly difficult targets? Generally, I have seen marketing groups enrich pipeline in two major waves. The first wave is to expand marketing programs to include customer advocacy, upsell/cross-sell, new market segments/applications/use-cases, etc. Each of these can be very effective and support more pipeline creation within cost targets. But with the ongoing march to profitability, marketing departments need even more pipeline growth at even lower cost.
The second wave of additional marketing programs involve going back to a time when there was little or no marketing and just a few reps using the phone and personal email to drive opportunities. But what’s different at this point is doing this at scale to support the business with orchestrated and targeted outbound efforts. Marketing can create a continuous account based marketing program acquiring ideal customer profile Accounts and Contacts and placing them into scripted sales plays to drive sales outbound efforts efficiently. Each week select number of accounts per rep that fit the ideal account profile and have target personas added to outbound cadences with optimized content and offers supporting the customer journey. Sales is likely already running email/phone programs anyway – why not make their efforts part of a defined and continuously optimized marketing-driven process to drive net new opportunities.
Because marketing is creating a structured process, the messaging and team activity can be measured and optimized. These programs can test and optimize messaging, CTA, # contacts, types of outreach, etc… This requires marketing to take a leadership role in ongoing ABM review and to communicate these results across both sales and marketing teams. Creating standard processes, funnel definitions, SLA’s and more will enable simple dashboards to provide transparency and insight into ABM program productivity. The team can also evaluate the vendors and tools used in the program – in some cases testing these as well.
Is your sales team still doing individual outreach? Are you leaving outbound programs up to your reps using their own emails or call guides? This does not scale and certainly is difficult to optimize. With a standardized process, then the management team can review and improve performance. Most importantly, as inbound programs that meet target ROI criteria become harder to find, this structured and coordinated outbound program can help fill the gap and support overall revenue targets. This ongoing dialogue between marketing and sales also makes the increasing targets a joint challenge to solve. (OK so we might not all be holding hands and singing kumbaya quite yet…).
Lesson: When looking to cost-effectively increase your pipeline, ensure marketing and sales are collaborating closely on inbound and outbound efforts to optimize content, flows and success.
NOTE – special thanks to Chris Newton for term Continuous Pipeline.