Channel Marketer Report

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Channel Trenches: Demand Generation Goals And Strategies for 2012 (Q&A with Louis Foong)

While analysts point to the growing need for an intimate, more personalized approach to lead and demand generation, OEMs and VARs alike are struggling to crack the communication code.

Whether it’s social media, content collateral or “teleprospecting,” developing a clear, concise strategy that addresses buyer pain points is key. During a recent Q&A, Louis Foong, President and CEO of The ALEA Group, Inc., shared a selection of his top demand generation resolutions for 2012. Foong also discusses why so many channel marketers are missing the mark on demand generation tools and tactics, and how they can make a quick turnaround.

CMR: Overall, what are the top challenges for channel marketers in planning and rolling out demand generation programs?

Foong: I think the biggest challenge we see channel marketers struggling with in their demand generation efforts is the absence of a defined strategy. Organizations tend to get so caught up in tactical plays and what I call “spike marketing,” that their demand generation lacks discipline and consistency. This leads to inconsistent output and a lead funnel that is neither predictable nor sustainable. There is no defined process and therefore, no way to monitor and measure success.

A few other key challenges channel marketers face in planning and rolling out demand generation programs are:

  • Lack of Focus. Business owners and senior management see themselves as marketing experts, and are always changing the course and directions of their activities. This kills any momentum their team may have built and decreases the opportunities they may have gathered if they stayed the course on a series of activities. 
  • Siloed Skills. There is a huge gap in terms of domain expertise from channel partner to channel partner. It ranges from having a dedicated person in charge of marketing to assigning the marketing tasks to someone within the company as part of their responsibilities. To make matters worse, Sales and Marketing departments work in silos with little or no cross-trading; leads are bound to fall through the cracks and be lost.
  • Dependency on tools and technology. There is a lack of organizational history when it comes to building their prospect database; the heavy reliance on technology solutions has a lot to do with this situation. How many times have we heard CEOs say that they will get better control once they install our automation tools? The sad reality is they believe this and the ensuing results are well below expectations.
  • Lists, or lack thereof. I am often asked to advise on the best list to buy and my answer is always the same — use your list. The issue here is that most channel marketers are very weak at maintaining their own prospect database. They do not have the foresight or the ability to slice and dice information from their internal database when they need it for segmentation purposes.
  • Attrition rates. A constant refrain we hear. Companies invest big money in the latest CRM systems, software, automation tools and expensive lists. But they don’t usually listen enough and listen well to sounds from the trenches. A high turnover of sales people is a huge problem and unless channel marketers learn to look after their teams, buyers will not have the confidence to commit or engage with them.

CMR: What are some basic tips and best practices in terms of lead generation? What are the proper steps to determining clear objectives and go-to-market strategies?

Foong: If there is ever a time when the “KISS” (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle should be applied to lead generation, this is certainly it.

Here is a quick list of things to remember:

  • Keep your objective simple; if you need a whiteboard to explain to people what you are trying to do, don’t bother.
  • Stay away from convoluted and complicated lead scoring models. The only people it helps are the high priced consultants; it won’t do much for your bottom line.
  • Great demand generation is like a marathon, not a sprint. It can be long and arduous, so you need to prepare for it.
  • Be patient — but most of all, be consistent.
  • Be realistic and do not fall prey to the temptation of “quantity vs. quality.”
  • Know the true definition of a lead. A quality lead must fulfill 5 important criteria: right company / demographic, right person, real pain point, realistic decision timeline and a willingness to engage.  

 CMR: In the competitive channel landscape, how can channel marketers compel prospects to interact with their brand? Furthermore, how can they ensure inbound marketing materials are consistent and compelling?

Foong: The number-one thing that buyers look for is value. Channel marketers can try every trick in the book to attract prospects, and add every possible tactic to increase brand visibility, but if potential customers don’t see real value, they will not engage with a brand to the point of conversion. The most important actions channel marketers need to take are:

  • Educate
  • Encourage
  • Build interest
  • Understand buyers’ needs
  • Think like the buyer
  • Offer practical solutions for the identified pain point
  • Be consistent and compelling in brand communications

All of these will add up to help show value and drive customer conversion.

CMR: How can channel marketers make sure their inbound marketing is consistent and compelling?

Foong: Channel marketers must ensure that their go-to-market strategy is a collaborative effort where Sales and Marketing are aligned and integrated under one umbrella. Both parties, as well as individuals, must be diligent about customer profiling and account mapping.

Some other important items include:

  • Leverage socially-facilitated selling; both online and offline. Customize your messaging to suit the nature of the platform on which you are interacting with potential buyers.
  • Beware of analysis paralysis! Metrics and reporting is important, no doubt, but use automation to derive key empirical data that can give focus and direction to your demand generation plays.
  • Last, but not the least, have a clear idea of what your brand should stand for. What is the brand promise you want to convey? Communicate it well and give prospects the confidence that you can deliver on that promise because it is realistic, practical and aims to solve a real problem in a quick, efficient, affordable and cost-effective manner.      

CMR: What top rules of engagement should channel marketers keep an eye out for during 2012? What strategies will help ensure demand generation success?

Foong: A key thing for channel marketers to remember is practice active listening. Be proactive and take positive action based on what you hear and see in your social media conversations with your prospects and customers. Marketers also must be consistent with inbound marketing; whether it’s social media, “teleprospecting,” it is important to create a compelling “pull” factor that increases awareness, brand penetration and enhances customer loyalty. Overall, it is vital to keep in mind that your technology/solution is only an enabler; people are a marketing organization’s greatest assets. Ensure that you have knowledgeable, skilled and enthusiastic sales people aided by the right technology to generate leads and enhance conversion.

Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of the ALEA Group Inc, one of North America’s most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. As a thought leader with more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis guides his team and ALEA’s clients through the dynamic, evolving lead generation landscape.

His clients include companies in the technology, telecommunications, software, healthcare and professional services industries.

Prior to starting the ALEA Group, Louis Foong has held various senior executive positions within corporate America. Foong is a published blogger and among the top authors on CustomerThink, a global online community of business leaders.



About Alicia Fiorletta

Alicia Fiorletta is Senior Editor for Channel Marketer Report. Working closely with industry analysts and experts, Alicia reports on the latest news, technologies, case studies and trends coming to forefront in the channel marketing world. With a focus on emerging marketing strategies, including social, mobile and content for demand, Alicia hones in on new ways for organizations to market to and through their partner networks. Through her work with G3 Communications, Alicia also acts as Associate Editor for Retail TouchPoints, a digital publishing network focused on the customer-facing area of the retail industry.

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