You know that you need lots of assets to support your demand generation efforts, but now you are facing the challenge of creating those assets with limited time, budget and staff.  This task can seem daunting, but a few basic principals will help you accelerate your production of new assets such as white papers, webinars, videos and case studies to support your lead generation and nurturing plans.

First, viewing the content (i.e., headline, key messages, detail) as separate from the format (e.g., white paper, webinar) will help you create two distinct workstreams that can feed each other.  Subject matter experts are needed to create the content.  But once the content is created and approved, publishing the content in a variety of formats and channels should be under the complete control of the marketing team.  Creative teams, agencies and contractors can be used to manage the formatting and publishing.

Second, one piece of content can and should be published in a variety of formats.  No need to look at one whitepaper or one webinar as its own distinct project.  One piece of content should be the scope of the project, with many assets that come out of that.  Re-purpose that whitepaper into a webinar, podcast, blog postings and newsletter article.

Finally, don’t constrain yourself to a single workstream managed by a single team.  Hire dedicated or contract writers to help create a constant stream of content.  Use your own creative team as well as agencies and contractors to create the assets.  You should have one person or small team managing the strategy for the assets, but many people can be involved in the creation to help you accelerate your results.

After a successful first half of her day and a good break, Janet is ready to tackle the tasks ahead of her.  At 1 pm, Janet reviews the latest campaign metrics.  She notices that one of her campaigns is not getting good response rates.  She calls the campaign manager into her office to brainstorm getting this campaign back on track.  It is determined that the messaging and offers should be tweaked.  The campaign manager goes off to make the changes and they agree to discuss the results in a few days.

Next she takes a look at the lead scoring results.  She notices many leads in “hot” status.  A quick look in the CRM shows that many of these leads have not been followed-up on by the lead qualification team.  She heads over to talk to the lead of that team.  The conversation is easy because the teams are in close alignment on strategy and incentives.  Everyone is working towards the same goals.  She determines that the issue is around having too many leads in hot status, but when the lead qual team follows up, not many are converting.  She discusses with her Marketing Automation administrator some changes she wants to make to the lead scoring criteria.  The changes will be made by the end of the day and they can review the results in a few days again to see if it helps.

At 3 pm, Janet interviews a couple of candidates for her team.  She is looking for a business analyst who can help with reporting and data quality.  This will be a key role to keep her team supplied with the right information and prospect data to be effective in their campaign efforts.  She is looking for someone who can not only crunch the numbers but also analyze the results and bring suggestions to the table.  She also wants someone who is familiar with data best practices that can keep their database clean and complete.

At the end of the day, Janet looks back at her dashboard to find some campaigns that are working well.  She shoots off some meeting invitations to business leaders to discuss how she might be able to replicate these campaigns with their content.  She updates the campaign calendar based on her earlier strategy discussions and shuts down her computer for the night.  She’s now off to watch her son’s soccer game secure in the knowledge that her marketing department is an effective and efficient piece of the company’s revenue engine.

Janet gets to the office around 7 am because she likes to work early to avoid interruptions and be done with work at a reasonable time so she can spend more time with her family.  However, her CFO feels the same way, so this morning she is accosted with questions as soon as she walks in about the effectiveness of her marketing spend.  Fortunately, Janet has this information readily on hand because she has a marketing dashboard that gives her real-time information about closed-loop marketing ROI.  She can tell the CFO exactly how much she has spent and what she has in both closed won and anticipated revenue for the month, quarter and year.

At 9 am, Janet has a meeting scheduled with her CMO to talk about the marketing strategy for the next quarter.  She walks in with information about what has been working for them and what hasn’t.  She also has some ideas about what they could try because she has been quietly testing out new strategies for the past few months and has information about what might work.  The meeting concludes promptly at 9:30 with a clear vision of the strategy for the next quarter and buy-in from the CMO.

At 10 am, Janet chairs a staff meeting where the Revenue Marketing team reports out on the status of current campaign projects.  With simple workflow tools and project dashboards, Janet can clearly see where everything stands and get tasks at risk of slipping back on track.  Everyone on her team has clear roles and understands how they are evaluating campaigns against revenue.

At 11 am, Janet sits down to review the latest content pieces the team has developed.  She has clearly defined personas and buy cycles for her prospects, so she knows what content will be effective in each stage of the decision process for each type of prospect.  That makes her job in editing the content easy.

At noon, she finally gets a break before gearing up for the second half of her day…

There is a big difference between a company’s sales cycle and a customer’s buy cycle.  A sales cycle is looked at from the standpoint of the company.  What steps does a company need to walk a customer through before they purchase.  A customer’s buy cycle usually starts well before this.  It usually starts back at a stage of understanding there is a problem and what the possible solutions to that problem might be.  If you are lucky, you get engaged that early with your prospect, but it’s hard to do that.  You really have to be in the right place at the right time.

Which is where marketing comes in.  Marketing can help influence in a number of ways across both the buy cycle and the sales cycle.  But first they need to make sure they have both mapped out and clearly understand how each marketing activity is influencing a specific stage of one of these cycles.  Activities that are meant for all stages are typically not very helpful to either the buyer or the salesperson trying to make the sale.  Marketing materials and activities need to be much more targeted to drive action.

In the early stages of a customer’s buy cycle, educational materials are most appropriate.  These materials rarely talk about products or solutions at all – they are more focused on identifying issues and challenges and educating the audience on what the implications are.  Once a buyer understands the problem, they are usually ready to move onto more specific materials around the products or services you offer and how they might solve their problems.  Once they are convinced they have the right solution, only then are they ready to talk about you as a company and how you stack up to the competition.

From the standpoint of the sales cycle, the sales team needs specific materials to support each stage.  Sometimes this is a case study or competitor matrix to help move the buyer to the next level, but sometimes it is as simple as materials that will keep your company’s name in front of the buyer as they try to negotiate the contract.  The sales team needs you to help demonstrate the kind of value that a buyer might get by becoming one of your customers.

So to summarize, here are your action items to start ensuring you have the right marketing activities and materials to meet the needs of both your targets and your sales team:

  • Map your target’s buy cycle and your salesperson’s sales cycle.
  • Map your activities and content to specific stages.
  • Figure out where the gaps are and fill those in.
  • If you have materials/activities that span more than one or two stages, try adjusting them to focus in better on a specific action.

I pretty much fell into my role as a marketing operations director running a demand generation team at my last job.  I was looking into marketing automation software and trying to get some leverage internally to sell it.  So I went to a recent hire who was brought on to roll out our CRM system (SFDC) globally across the organization.  He said he would help me if I helped him with this little project rolling out the marketing functionality of the CRM system.  I said “sure!” having absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.  Within six months, I was rolling out an entire global marketing infrastructure.  It was trial by fire – fortunately I learn quick and it was the best thing that ever could have happened to my career.

If you are looking to hire a demand gen leader, it’s tough to find the right person in today’s market.  It’s a relatively new field and there just aren’t that many of us skilled in it.  You can either find someone who has done it before, which is a limited pool, or you can bring someone on your existing team up-to-speed by partnering with a consulting agency for initial expertise and learn from them.  In either case, here are a few of the essential skills to look for:

  • Analytical expertise.  Someone who is not only good with numbers, but who can also make sense of and act on those numbers.
  • Operational expertise.  Familiarity with process development and focus on continuous improvement is critical.
  • Change management expertise.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks on this journey is building an entire infrastructure only to find out no one is using it.  Look for a resource that can build consensus and align with the sales team.  Someone who has previous sales experience is ideal.
  • Business expertise.  By this I mean someone who has a good grasp of business goals and the ability to align marketing to meet those goals.  This does not need to be someone that knows the industry or your particular company well, necessarily.  But they should have the ability to understand the industry, your company, your products and your challenges fairly quickly.  Someone who can see the big picture and then align everything underneath with that big picture.
  • Leadership expertise.  Someone who can articulate the vision and value to the organization and get everyone behind it.  Don’t confuse this with a good manager – a good leader will gain followers regardless of their organizational reporting structure and has influence far outside of their own vertical in the org chart.

The right people are key when building a demand gen team – especially when you are building it for a large global firm.  Debbie Qaqish has done a lot of work in this arena around the concept of revenue marketers.  You can read her full whitepaper on it here.

However, if you are just getting started building your global demand gen team, you may not have the luxury of hiring more people until you can prove the value of demand gen to your senior management team and budget committee.  You should still bring in an expert, whether it’s one new hire in-house or a consultancy.  And your team won’t be at peak efficiency until you do have all the right skills in place.  But I can tell you from experience that it is possible to largely build a demand gen team within a traditional global marketing department.  Here are my five tips for doing just that:

  1. Put the right infrastructure in place.  One of the biggest barriers to change management is just having the right tools in place to keep the intended change on track.  You are going to need a single CRM that brings visibility across the organization, as well as a single marketing automation tool.  You may also need a data warehouse and/or a business intelligence tool, especially if you have a lot of other disparate data sources you are trying to bring together.
  2. Build templates across all of your marketing channels and share these out.  This will ensure that some of the demand generation best practices, such as always having a call-to-action, will always find their way into marketing pieces since there will be a placeholder for them.
  3. Create standard metrics that all marketing departments are measuring.  They may all use different strategies and tactics to get there, but make sure the goals are the same.  These are very different goals from your traditional marketing goals, so it will reinforce the vision for where you want them to go.
  4. Create a place to share best practices.  Trust me – everyone will want to share their successes when they can show revenue from a campaign.  This repository will do two things – it will show other non-believers that it really is working and it will serve as campaign templates for others to use so everyone isn’t reinventing the wheel for every campaign.
  5. Finally, educate your teams.  You can insource or outsource this.  What happens when you start educating your team, both on the tools and demand generation best practices, is that the demand gen stars will start rising to the top.  They may not be the heads of the marketing department or your webmasters or anyone you would have expected.  But these are the people that will make your demand gen team shine – get them moved into the right roles and you will really start driving demand gen across your entire organization.