This article originally appeared in the blog of Life Science Marketing Radio.
I recently ran a casual survey of sales professionals in the life sciences to capture a glimpse of what they wanted from their marketing communications teams. The survey was also a chance for MarCom managers to start a discussion with their sales teams about how they could help them better.
Twenty-four people responded. Not everyone answered every question. Nevertheless, the results might be of interest if you want to see how your company compares to some of its peers.
MarCom has two jobs—get the right leads into the funnel and create tools to help sales close the deal. Without alignment on who the right leads are and which products to promote, you'll be wasting a lot of money and effort. Spending some time to get this right is well worth it and can have a huge ROI.
This is an opportunity for your MarCom team to take a leadership role by pushing hard for alignment on a few goals. Get the sales team together with product marketing and, based on business unit objectives, decide on common goals. There is a good chance, especially in large companies, that the list will be too long to manage effectively. Be sure to get agreement on priorities and then distribute budget accordingly so that realistic expectations can be set and met.
Who are your target customerrs? What does an ideal lead look like? What should you promote to them? The goal conversation should naturally evolve into the development of your marketing personas. A persona is a detailed description of your target customer and will guide content assets you need and what information is presented.
It's not surprising that no one claimed to have plenty of leads. But almost half of respondents said they don't receive nearly enough leads or even none at all. Unless cold calling is your strategy for finding new customers, that's unacceptable.
Fixing it is not as complicated as agreeing on alignment or figuring out how to handle lead intelligence in your marketing automation/CRM system. It takes discipline, but there is nothing difficult about it.
If budget is limited, content marketing offers a relatively inexpensive way to capture and nurture new leads. Building a library of content provides a great foundation for your subequent outbound efforts.
Keep in mind that for some companies, the first goal of content marketing is to show that you can generate content. And I'm sure you can.
If you (or someone you love) are in the "not nearly enough leads" situation, please get help now.
Respondents were unanimous in wanting to know more about their leads before contacting them. Aside from alignment on goals, this is the largest opportunity to improve your marketing results, but also the biggest challenge.
One stumbling block is that some companies have a fixed set of questions on their lead forms, because that is what is "required" by their CRM. Asking the same questions on every lead form is a double whammy. It's a poor experience for the customer and provides no extra value to the sales team.
Gathering more information about prospects would not only help the sales team prepare for their first conversation (and subsequent ones) it can also help you market to them more effectively over the long term.
Marketing automation tools like Eloqua and HubSpot can gather as much info as you want through the course of multiple online interactions. A progressive profiling feature recognizes previous visitors and presents new qualification questions each time they are asked to fill out a form.
MarCom can show its leadership here by making the case to marketing operations or IT for enabling better integration of the automation platform with the CRM. It will take creativity and maybe some negotiation. If you meet with resistance on this, everyone should consider what it would mean if your sales team could close 10% more leads. The value of putting some effort into this should then become clear to everyone.
In the worst case, maybe you keep your marketing database separate from your sales database. There are advantages and disadvantages, as with every decision. Keep the goal of driving revenue in mind and think about how you can best serve the customer and the sales team.
More than one sales team has told me "If we can get in early, we have a great shot at winning." Yet, according to the survey, frequently, a prospect is well into the buying cycle with another vendor before the lead is received by sales. Some of this is likely due to existing vendor preferences.
So how do you identify potential customers when they start thinking about a purchase? Your best chance to break into these accounts is to create early stage (awareness and consideration) content to capture the interest of prospects before they narrow their choices.
Even when they're not thinking about a purchase, most people are interested in doing their job better. To capture awareness, it's important to publish (on a regular basis) content that will either help them with that or challenge their current thinking. It doesn't need to be product related. Are there trends in the industry they should know about? Any regulatory changes that would affect them, eg, new technologies that will change the way they work?
At the consideration stage, helpful content would educate them about alternatives so they can be confident of making a smart purchase. It might be a comparison table. Don't be afraid to list vendors who sell the same thing you do. Prospects are going to discover them anyway. Why shouldn't you be the first to capture their attention and gain the advantage?
What is your experience? Please leave a comment below.
A complete content marketing marketing plan can maximize the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts. It addresses all of these challenges from setting goals to qualifying leads to supporting customers after the sale and can be defined in a couple of days.
See all the data and responses to all 15 questions. Download the survey.
Chris Conner is the Director of Marketing for SAMPS. He has led global marketing communications programs for major life science companies. Chris helps companies simplify content marketing to generate and close more qualified leads with fewer resources and less effort. He is also the host of Life Science Marketing Radio, a podcast where marketing leaders inside and outside the sciences share their knowledge to help you increase your marketing ROI.