What’s Missing in Lead Nurture Campaigns: Decision Makers

Posted on September 16, 2016

It’s a challenge virtually every marketer will admit privately but no one wants to talk about. If we take a hard look at the job “Title” field in most B2B CRM systems we find a small percentage of them containing VP or C-level executives. What’s worse, for the few executives found in the CRM database only a handful have opted into email lead nurture tracks.

Access to Executive Decision Makers

Why does it matter? Because in most B2B organizations Managers have no budget or authority for purchases and a Director-level is usually capped to perhaps $100,000 before they need a VP-level approval. So if you are selling hosting/data center services, networking equipment, SaaS software, enterprise consulting, etc. then you are likely seeking an average order size larger than $100K — and thus you have a problem.

Actually, you have a 2-part problem:

  1. Confusing Information Gatherers for Decision Makers: Marketing is engaging and nurturing lower-level “information gatherers” via webinars, events, email and social media and lead scoring them into MQLs that are pushed to Sales. However, for Sales to actually sell anything they need to talk to decision makers (typically VP-level).
  2. Confusing Education for Purchase Intent: Marketing is scoring the act of consuming content (web pages, downloads, webinars) as purchase intent and thus progressing Leads through their demand waterfall. However, this is one of the fatal flaws of lead scoring: scoring the wrong behavioral indicators of purchase intent (consuming content is not an indicator of someone being “in market” to buy). By way of example, I often read gated content from thought leaders only to disappoint their outbound sales reps who email or call me within hours of download hoping that I’m a prospect with a need that they can fill (sell to).

Now I hear some of you saying “but wait a minute, sources like Forrester Research and SiriusDecisions confirm there are 5+ people involved in the buying committee, so don’t we need to nurture them?” Yes, but developing leads for Sales doesn’t end with automated email tracks to lower-level targets and standing back and watching your Marketo numbers swell so you can generate nice pipeline reports.

Beyond Digital: Bucket List Experiences

The cold reality is that if Marketers want to pass “real leads” to Sales, they are going to have to go beyond digital touch points and actually connect Sales to busy decision makers. The challenge with securing “face time” with high value, executive decision makers is the typical tactics used to get in front of them (meals, golf outings, sports tickets) are no longer effective because every vendor uses them — and frankly, an executive making $300K+ doesn’t struggle to eat, golf, or attend sporting events when/where they want. Often times, these executives simply hand over the dinner invitations or sports tickets to someone lower in their organization and so the “executive connection” never gets made.

To combat this, I believe Marketers are going to have to become far more intentional about taking a two-pronged approach to lead generation: (i) nurture decision influencers, (ii) court decision makers. Engaging (executive) decision makers means identifying them and constructing “bucket list” experiences to lure them out of the office and into a neutral setting where relationship building with Sales can take place. Sure, this is challenging but here’s the reality of SiriusDecisions’ demand waterfall conversion metrics: it takes 351 Leads to result in one closed deal (.28% funnel conversion rate). Even best-in-class companies require nearly 80 Leads to convert a single sale.

Event Marketing Across the Demand Waterfall

Too many marketers have reduced event marketing to trade show and conference marketing (only two types of events) and are missing the most impactful: experiential marketing.

Filling the front of the demand funnel/waterfall with more low-level trade show attendees is not the path to short-term revenue impact. Instead, Marketing should be monetizing the leads they have already passed to Sales for which they’ve already invested hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in CPL in Adwords clicks, content downloads, webinars, etc. Event marketing budgets should be allocated across the demand waterfall to convert Leads into an Opportunities and then closed sales.

What if for every Lead you passed to Sales you were also passing the name(s) of the executive decision makers and a playbook of experiences that you could activate to connect Sales to those decision makers? While this is difficult to scale for all inbound leads, it could be part of every named account/ABM effort as the goal is to focus on quality (not quantity) of accounts.

I was fortunate to be able to design and activate several VIP experiences as part of my contract CMO role with Aston Martin Racing North America. I witnessed millions of dollars of business developed and closed over a single weekend. If you are not thinking “outside the nurture track” to engage executive decision makers to accelerate Leads into Opportunities and Opportunities to Closed/Won (using CRM terminology) — perhaps you should.

Happy hunting.

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