In the B2B industry, conversions are used on a daily basis to define campaign goals and to ultimately lead to improved marketing ROI and sales, whether that comes from new customers, improved existing customer retention, or helping to move customers up the value chain with other products and services.

As an ABM solution company, here at Cup of Data, we are constantly innovating to improve our services and to provide the best solutions to assist in lead generation for our client’s conversion goals.

We’ve interviewed some of the most prominent experts in the B2B sales and marketing space to share use cases and techniques and, most importantly, insights on how they are utilizing machine learning and AI to improve their conversions.

We asked experts what the biggest mistake is that marketing and sales professionals are making in 2018 is and we found three common threads in their advice.

Not Zoning In On Your Potential Leads

When it comes to finding your potential leads, the marketing and sales teams are vital in finding their ideal demographic and then narrowing in on their leads. According to Zontee Hou, Founder of Media Volery and professor at Columbia University, “there’s more information out there than ever before. That means that your audience is more savvy and educated than in the past—but it also means that you’re fighting for their attention now more than ever. We have to understand how people engage with technology and information in new and unique ways and be thoughtful about how we can get our message in front of them in the right places at the right times.”

Lindsey Nelson, the former Vice President at Careerbuilder.com advises that “the sales and marketing teams have to identify their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).” This sentiment is also shared by the President of FLETCH, Keith Fletcher, who states that “not having identified a crystal-clear understanding of their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) [can be a huge mistake].” Not utilizing the ICP can prevent this idea of procuring potential leads and new consumers. To piggyback off of this, Lindsey Nelson continues by saying the ICP can assist “the key decision makers and the relevant role and industry challenges facing the companies they are targeting today.”

When asked where sales and marketing are falling short, John Donlon, Senior Research Director of SiriusDecisions says, “the biggest mistake is thinking of lead generation as a volume play… The popularity of ABM highlights the value of focus, and there’s, even more, to be explored beyond that; the advent of the Demand Unit allows organizations to consider not just the highest propensity accounts, but the buying groups within those accounts that have the greatest need for your services. The focus is key, and that focus is driven by great data.” Eugen Gassmann, VP of Sales and Marketing at PantaConsult, claims that, “Marketing is about ‘how can I get the attention of the people that are really interested and how can I build a preference for my product/service so sales can provide a quality buying experience for the few that truly want to buy from you?” Gassmann and Donlon are both tying together the notion that quality is better than quantity when it comes to marketing to people.

To elaborate on that, Nelson states that the sales and marketing teams “think that everyone is a potential customer instead of doing the TAM, SAM, SOM.” A sizable mistake that companies can make is when they “don’t plan who to target,” in which Nelson goes on to say that companies “will target everyone and that results in expensive, wasted energy with little return.” Instead of doing mass amounts of research to find your ICP, Gassmann argues that “casting the net too wide, intruding and interrupting people unnecessarily,” can be damaging. “Guardrails are real and welcomed in the science of sales to keep the artists in their lanes,” these “guardrails” can assist those in sales, rather than just going in multiple different directions (Nelson).

According to Erica Pearson, Marketing and Sales Data Analyst of MessageGears, “the number one mistake is buying lists, as someone who has done sales in the past, this wastes more time than it saves,” she goes on to suggest that, “The best thing to do is choose targeted accounts and put in the research to find the best personas to reach out to. If you truly understand your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), it makes more sense to create a targeted list of companies rather than a random list of people. Even in the start-up space, it might be a challenge to get started but I have seen the results pay off.”

When it comes to identifying your leads, Gassmann says, “Not taking the role and process of sales into account is another big mistake. But the No.1 mistake when it comes to lead generation and marketing strategies? Substituting quality for quantity. Marketing is about ‘how can I get the attention of the people that are really interested and how can I build a preference for my product/ service’ so sales can provide a quality buying experience for the few that truly want to buy from you?” To add onto this, Gassmann gives an example, “When you offer a product that relates to ‘moving’ and check the statistics you initially find a number between 10-25% of people moving in any given year in the US… It boils down like this: out of 1000 people (TAM) only 100 people move (opportunities) of which 10 would actually want your product (prospects) and about 3 would finally buy it (customers). So the job description for marketers should read: can you truly understand the situation and motives of our target customers and use this insight to influence perception and behavior.”

Not Defining Your Strategy

As far as pinpointing potential leads, having a defined strategy is the best way to identify your ICP and attain a larger and lasting consumer base. Zontee Hou has noticed that “a lot of business-people chase after the latest buzzword or the newest platform, but I always ask them to slow down and ask themselves, ‘To what end?’ While there are some use cases for a financial institution to be on Snapchat or a sports brand to be on LinkedIn, you have to make sure there is a clear fit between the execution and your business goals,” to which Hou emphasizes, “Make sure you’re grounded in the objectives of your business and the needs of your customers.”

Rebecca Croucher, VP Sales, Marketing and Data Science Solutions of Bombora, states, “For lead generation, the biggest issue I see is that companies don’t have a strategy to consistently feed the funnel daily. They try something then stop, or do something for a month and then end it. A great lead generation strategy is to have multiple segments and tests going on at all times with consistency so that you constantly have fresh leads coming thru the funnel.” Gaining leads and obtaining lasting customers is not just staying consistent, but also utilizing other techniques. According to Nelson, “there is an abundance of information at any ‘buyers’ fingertips at the click of a button, a simple Google search or push marketing campaign, that doesn’t mean the buyer is educated, they are just over-informed.” Nelson continues that businesses “need to rise through the noise with relevant messaging that speaks to that buyer in their current buyer’s journey to earn the right to connect. Once that happens people still and will always buy from people they believe and trust. Technology and data can help cut through the noise quickly when it’s the first thought on strategic targeting, not an afterthought.”

“From a strategy perspective, the issue tends to be that most companies don’t really have a defined strategy or a roadmap of how they are going to drive revenue. They often have a lack of measurement. There is so much opportunity for companies to drive revenue thru marketing but most have not figured it out,” Croucher states, “There is so much opportunity for companies to drive revenue thru marketing but most have not figured it out.”

Not Enough Data Collection

Data collection is the summation of zoning in on potential leads and gathering a defined strategy. In order to obtain data, “Alignment between sales and marketing teams” is essential (Kevin Matsushita, Director Global Alliances and Account Management of Inside View Technologies, Inc.). However, this collaboration can face its challenges. As per Matsushita, data collection “is not new, but more specifically, what is a growing challenge is having the best target market data. Having sufficient and accurate data on target accounts and prospects is challenging.” Though “aligning the data between sales and marketing teams is an even bigger challenge,” according to Matsushita, “companies that exceed their revenue goals are 2.3x more likely to report high levels of alignment,” as stated by Josh Frank.

Josh Frank, Founder & Head of Optimization of Test Triggers, argues that “unfounded assumptions” contributes to a lack of data collections. He goes on to say, “When I am working with organizations I hear things like this all the time: ‘95% of our prospects want X.’ WHAT?! 95% of people don’t agree on anything. Only 57% of people prefer warm weather over cold, and you’re supposed to have me believe that 95% of your prospects fall into one opinion? Any time that I hear this in an organization I immediately stop the conversation to investigate.” To tie together Kevin Matsushita and Josh Frank’s arguments, when the business utilizes “actual customer research” and encourages “alignment between sales and marketing teams,” companies are able to have high sales and higher revenue.

However, obtaining too much data can pose as an issue as well. When there is an overload of data, picking and choosing which sources and information to use is vital. According to Nelson, “The biggest challenge for me is having access to a massive amount of data and information, and making sure we use it intelligently and efficiently.”

Matsushita explains these successes of high sales and revenue by giving an example from his own company, “In surveying sales and marketing leaders, InsideView has found that these leaders are recognizing this as a growing problem. In just the last two years, this challenge has rocketed from the bottom half of the survey to the top in terms of what these leaders view as blockers to success. The reason this topic should be top of minds is better alignment leads to some remarkable results – 38% higher sales win rates, 36% higher customer retention, 10% more reps hitting quota.” With more data collection, companies are able to acquire a quality customer rather than a quantity base.

When it comes down to it, in order to be a winning and successful company, “be intentional, look at the data, apply your ‘wins’ to what looks like your wins and scale your success for faster larger wins, and learn where and how to pivot. Too many companies do a Win/Loss analysis too late when the losses immediately surface ‘bad fit’ which could have been avoided in effort from the beginning” (Nelson). When a company can “Funnel optimism,” as stated by Gassmann, they are able to obtain these achievements and collect the necessary data to do so.

While the marketing and sales fields are constantly evolving, it’s best to make sure that you better focus your lead funnels, come up with and commit to a sales strategy and that you collect and use your customer data to complement the other two. And not to sound self-serving but that’s what we do at Cup of Data! It’s what we’re best at.

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