According to a recent Aberdeen study, economic pressures are prompting companies everywhere to reassess their marketing budgets. Companies want to compare results against spend, and CEOs are more interested in how shrinking marketing dollars are being spent.
Responsible organizations are careful about how marketing funds are invested—in good times and bad. But when sales are down, the clients' buying power is reduced, and all the indicators are depressing, its time for marketing to be creative.
Creativity is simply defined as making order out of chaos. For marketing execs, this entails taking inventory, examining their demand generation infrastructures, and making the necessary adjustments. Marketing still has their biggest customer—the sales team—to satisfy, and that means more qualified leads. Someone will be buying your product; your job is finding them and getting them predisposed to said product, so when they are ready to buy you are front of mind.
Smart marketers can make changes that enable them to continue feeding qualified leads to the channel, and at the same time making changes that will help them absorb the required reductions in marketing spend. When the economy returns to more active levels, infrastructure changes position them to leverage the upturn.
In small- to mid-size companies, where there is typically a small staff, reducing the marketing budget isn't as easy as a 10 percent layoff. It requires a close look at every program. To spend or not to spend…that is the question.
Knowing the ROI for all programs simplifies the task of prioritizing spend. And since it's not likely to get more staff during these times, the in-place staff has to be more productive. In other words, they need more available hours to spend their time doing important stuff, not writing reports or making lists. Infrastructure changes that increase staff productivity is a good thing
An important infrastructure change, for good times and bad, involves streamlining the lead conversion process in a way that aligns marketing to sales. Making any change that doesn't directly impact the revenue mission of marketing can't be a priority at any time.
Back in the day, acquiring new customers simply meant more: more events, more postcards, more advertising, etc. Contemporary thinking suggests that while "more" has its place, it's not always better.
Intellitactics is a provider of enterprise security management software. We evaluated solutions to automate demand generation because we wanted better alignment to sales, wanted to do more of what was working, and stop doing the stuff that was inflating our spend.
We wanted to make the small staff effective and efficient. The one "more" we needed as an outcome was more qualified leads, nurtured through the early stages of the pipeline and ready for the buy cycle when they hit the channel.
The change in the economy came after we had made the move to automated demand generation, but the change positioned us to keep the lead machine churning when new spending restrictions were eminent.
According to Aberdeen, the recession is having a profound impact on how companies generate demand for their products and/or services and how they interact and transact with customers across all stages of the customer lifecycle. We couldn't agree more with this observation, and Intellitactics is no exception. The surprise for us was that the results exceeded our expectations.
If you're still not convinced, there are several reasons you should be adopting a demand generation product, especially in a recession:
1. Show and tell. In a very volatile business climate, companies are being asked to quantify the results of projects, especially within marketing departments where budgets are being tightened. Companies need a solution that will illustrate a clear, solid ROI from their marketing investment reported as improved lead conversions and increased sales.
Bottom line: Implementing a demand generation tool turns more leads into sales, returning value to shareholders.
2. It's now easier than ever. Today's demand generation solutions offer a range of capabilities—all designed to help companies increase sales. Demand generation solutions offer cutting-edge features such as lead nurturing, lead scoring, and campaign reporting capabilities, to name a few.
Bottom line: Yesterday's demand gen solutions required a staff commitment and months of implementation time. Today you can buy, implement, and start using a solution in less than 30 days.
3. Sales will love the results of your new secret weapon. Chances are, you are missing valuable opportunities to turn leads into customers. Any benchmark you look at validates that more leads are ignored than are converted. From the first time a suspect raises their hand until they are ready to get to product selection, weeks or months cam elapse, depending on your product's buy cycle.
Nurturing the suspect along to ensure they are predisposed to your product is more and more a responsibility of marketing. During a recession there are by nature fewer leads; getting sales involved at the right time every time is something they value.
Through a nurturing program, marketing teams can create multi-touch marketing programs to continuously engage leads, nurture them through the pipeline, and ensure a constant flow of qualified leads to sales. Sales can participate in defining scoring values and are more willing and able to engage the lead, converting them to pipeline faster.
Bottom line: Not more leads, rather more qualified leads that sales can trust will be ready to buy.
Intellitactics wanted a demand generation solution that would be affordable and easy to use and could be implemented in record time. We looked at several solutions before selecting Manticore Technology.
Since we began the implementation, we have realized a breakeven ROI on our Manticore investment in a little more than two months, and we've seen a 171 percent increase in the number of qualified leads, while also seeing a 30 percent decrease in the length of our sales cycle.
Some of the credit goes to the sales team. Aligning sales and marketing on this important activity was a very positive byproduct of the investment. We've learned a lot along the way; the reports gave us data to make other decisions that are improving our programs overall.
The economy is going to cause every organization to look at all their expenses. An investment in automating the marketing infrastructure will have immediate impact, but delivers long-term value as businesses come out of the downturn. Marketing departments making the investment will be in a better position to take advantage of the market energy and dollars coming from the recovery.
Pam Casale is chief marketing officer for Intellitactics.