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Thursday, October 17, 2013

The "Last Mile of Engagement" is Critical to Getting the Business



The last mile of engagement can be compared to the last reach before sliding into home base in a baseball game. So much effort is made by the batter to get to 1st, 2nd, 3rd. The player strategically steals 2nd, timed his sprint to 3rd perfectly, and seemed sure to make it to home base. But imagine if during that stretch from 3rd to home, the player decided to jog, or stop and wave to his family in the stands, or worse yet at the last 5 feet decided to walk to get his breath. You can be sure it would make all the prior effort worthless.

That is what often happens with lead generation programs. Marketing invests millions of dollars to generate leads that gets the team to each base. Each move is strategic and designed to develop a prospect; content is mapped to their interest stage, communication is carefully timed to send the right thing at the right time, whitepapers are researched and written, webinars are conducted, lists are built. So much effort goes into having a prospect say "we have a need, I want to know more."


Many marketing teams today are managed by results. They have very specific KPI's they are working towards and are under tremendous pressure to deliver on lead generation. So this is why marketers need to make sure the programs they run are executable for sales through processes, feedback, communication, and education. It is also a vendor responsibility to design workflow that supports the sales teams and have a feedback loop to monitor the success. Many of the companies we work with have longer sales cycles with big ticket enterprise solutions, so the relationships with prospects start months before the deal closes--there is a lot of white space in there that needs to be managed at each stage. When we build workflow we do it with both the sales teams need to engage with opportunities, and the marketing teams need for metrics and data.


A few things that make the last mile critical:


1. Lead generation is not a transactional effort, or at least it shouldn't be. Lead generation is the first step in a relationship with your client/prospect that progresses in stages. Some sales teams are eager to engage with later stage leads but where there isn't immediate gratification those leads get neglected. Calling those leads back the following quarter often ends up a discovery they bought from someone else that was engaged. To maximize the investment companies need to put systems in place to keep the dialog going in a progressive and meaningful way.


2. Acknowledge and define the administrative component to managing lead generation. Prospect intelligence needs to be aggregated, captured, and then managed throughout the lifecycle of the relationship. Sales is designed to close deals, Marketing is able to administer and understand behavior of a prospect on a website or build a nurturing activity that is mapped to the stage of that prospects journey of their purchase. It is important for each group to work together to get to "home base."


3. Each interaction with a prospect needs to be documented. Many times a lead is handed off to sales to drive the relationship, but then execs can look in their CRM instance and see notes like "sent email", or "had a call" with no context. It's marketing and sales teams' role to create a a protocol to capture info from sales so they know what to do on each subsequent call. If the "Last Mile" activity and process management rests only with Sales without involvement from Marketing, a lot of the lead management aspects of it will be against their DNA.


Marketing and Sales execs need to cooperate to ensure they are participating in their programs proactively, put systems in place at all stages of sales cycles, and they are actively involved with the program to make sure it's implemented for long-term success. It is extremely important there is a well planned launch and introduction to programs and leads are delivered with context. One thing that can happen is a company will run programs that are discussed with sales management but not launched to reps, then reps get leads they don't know the source of and they put a light effort into reaching them and then they fall off their radar. The management of the lead data is broken on both sides. This needs to be a top-down effort to get everyone working together and not to foster the sales and marketing divide but get both focused on the task at hand which is to create revenue.


Companies that implement their programs well, work with vendors that understand the "Last Mile," and enable their teams to be successful experience tremendous growth and success with their lead generation activity.