In previous chapters, we’ve been advocates for a new psychological stance for Marketing. Marketing, we’ve said, should think of itself as being the front end of the sales process, instead of the back end of the product-development process. Why? Because we believe that this is a prerequisite for more closely coordinating efforts with Sales.
Marketing is a huge function, and it comprises many activities that are beyond the scope of this resource. So as we look at Marketing’s role in demand creation, let’s explicitly limit our scope. We intend to focus on Marketing’s direct support of salespeople by attempting to create demand for qualified buyers to generate leads and move new opportunities into salespeople’s funnels. We will not look, for example, at Marketing’s efforts to build brand recognition and awareness or its strategic planning for future offerings.
Most Marketing departments allocate a large part of their budget to creating demand for their offerings, in one way or another. In some of those organizations, salespeople are not expected to do much heavy lifting as relates to prospecting or business development. In such cases, they are dependent on leads, a nebulous term that reflects (1) the poorly defined relationship between Sales and Marketing and (2) a lack of understanding about what a good prospect is.
Let’s start with this second issue. Does your company approach demand creation systematically? If so, are you learning enough from your customer base to leverage how they’ve used your offerings to achieve goals, solve problems, or satisfy needs?
Here’s an exercise you might want to try. Figure out, in rough terms, the entire potential of your territory, district, region, or total target market. By potential, we mean the total number of people or entities that could benefit from using your offerings. Once you’ve established that figure, estimate what percentage of the people or organizations in that universe are currently conducting evaluations for offerings comparable to yours.
What do we mean by an evaluation? Here are five important criteria that suggest that a legitimate evaluation is underway:
The buyers have identified a business goal they want to achieve or a problem they want to solve that you believe can be addressed by your offering.
One or more decision makers are involved.
Requirements are documented.
A buying decision will be made within your average sell cycle.
Budget for the project has been earmarked.
As they conduct this exercise, most vendors conclude that only a small percentage of their potential prospects meet these criteria. (Most people find that between 0 and 10 percent of their potential market are currently evaluating.) In other words, there aren’t many legitimate evaluations going on out there.
At the same time, though, they discover something very interesting: The majority of prospects that are not actively evaluating have goals that are similar to those of the prospects who are. This begs the question: Why would a buyer not attempt to improve an important business variable? Our experience suggests that there are three common answers:
The company or buyer is unaware that it is possible to improve the business variable.
The company or buyer failed in previous attempts to achieve the goal, and is reluctant to try again.
So if the vast majority of your targeted marketplace is not looking to change, that’s bad news, right? Yes and no. It’s bad news if your organization knows only how to be reactive. But it may be good news if your organization knows how to be proactive—that is, how to cause buyers to begin considering change. Two advantages come to mind immediately:
There is a huge, untapped pool of prospects out there.
If you help initiate an evaluation, there’s every chance that if the buyer ultimately considers other alternatives, you will be “Column A”—the vendor whose offering is perceived from the outset as the best match with the requirements of the buyer, and therefore is the standard against which other competitors are measured.
Many salespeople believe the best way to build a pipeline is to find and pursue active evaluations. Why? They are qualified in that budget, perceived need, and timeframe have already been established. We suggest that the real marketing challenge is to target potential decision makers (people who can spend or allocate unbudgeted funds) who are not looking to change with your Sales-Ready Messaging. If you disagree, please keep an open mind while reading the next section.