Thought Leadership Interview #6: Miller Time: Marketo’s Jon Miller on Lead Generation and Management in 2009

Jon Miller is one of the better bloggers on demand generation, lead management and online marketing.  He is the vice president of marketing and co-founder of Marketo Inc. , probably the fastest growing lead-management vendor.  If you want a great blog, check out Miller’s Modern B2B Marketing site or follow him on Twitter at @jonmiller2.

This is a great interview. I definitely could not have created this content myself, so I won’t add any more value with my own writing. Instead, please enjoy Miller’s takes below:

1.    What are the three trends you see emerging in 2009?

  • Increased focus on the “middle” of the funnel. Marketers have historically focused their time and energy on the front end of the revenue cycle, i.e., generating new prospects and contacts. This has resulted in a steep funnel with a very large front end that quickly narrows to relatively few new customers. However, new contacts typically cost money, so as marketers try to do more with less in 2009 they will focus more attention on improving conversion in the middle part of the funnel , i.e., the percentage of in-profile prospects that become sales-ready opportunities. By making the funnel wider in the middle, companies will be able to generate the same, or more, customers for the same marketing investment.
  • More collaboration between marketing and sales at every step of the funnel. At many companies, marketing generates leads and then hands them off to enter a sales cycle. All too often, marketing is actually forbidden to interact with leads once they have been given to sales. Now, companies are beginning to realize that this disconnected approach creates inefficiency and waste, and is no longer acceptable. In 2009, the old model of a linear hand off from marketing to sales will start to give way to an intertwined revenue-cycle model where both organizations jointly own lead relationships and collaborate appropriately.
  • Greater use of social media as part of building relationships with customers and leads. Social media is about building relationships, and lead nurturing is about building relationships. Typically, these two methods of relationship building have been disconnected in the marketing process, but in 2009 social media will start playing a bigger role in the lead-nurturing process. For example, instead of using just emails, Webinars and phone calls to nurture leads, the best marketing and sales teams will find ways to complement those techniques by using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to develop relationships even more directly.

2.    What are the biggest challenges for 2009?

In tough economic times, the tendency is to go with what you know and have done in the past.  When marketers are fearful, they tend not to innovate or try new things. However, continuing the same historical, inefficient programs and processes with a smaller budget is not a recipe for growth.  Real success in 2009 will come from implementing the latest best practices like lead nurturing and lead scoring. The challenge for marketers will be to go out of their comfort zones and implement these game-changing techniques even if it means spending less money on traditional (and less effective) programs.

3.    What are three metrics that B2B marketers should care about and why?

  • Conversion of qualified prospects more than one month old into sales opportunities. To measure this, calculate the size of your total database of qualified prospects at the beginning of each month or quarter.  (You may only want to calculate the number that has been active, e.g., visited your Web site or opened an email in the last six months or so.) Then, track how many of those prospects become sales ready during the next month or quarter. If you’re nurturing your leads effectively, this should be about 5 percent or more a month.  If it’s below 2 or 3 percent, you probably need to work harder on the middle of your funnel.
  • Marketing forecasted opportunities. Each month or quarter, the sales team makes forecasts about the revenue it’ll generate. These forecasts make sales accountable — and respected. Marketing should forecast its impact on revenue — often the number of value of new opportunities created — as well. By working to forecast their revenue impact, and then measuring performance against forecasts, marketers will not only improve their performance but will also build their respect in the organization.
  • Branded search awareness. Another metric I like to track is the number of searches for my brand names — and my competitors’ brands. I can do this since I’m buying those keywords on Google AdWords and can therefore see the number of impressions. This is a great, low-cost way to measure brand awareness and track growth over time.

4.    What are the top oversights marketers are making regarding lead generation?

It’s a mistake to take the responses to any campaign and call them leads. Downloading your paper, watching your demo or signing up for your Webinar doesn’t make someone a lead. Usually, these respondents are in the prebuying cycle and are just looking for information or researching. Without lead scoring to find the true leads, and lead nurturing to develop relationships with the rest, marketers are doomed to inefficient lead generation.

Second, marketers sometimes think that they’re doing lead nurturing by sending their contacts a monthly newsletter and an occasional Webinar invite. This is not lead nurturing; successful nurturing needs to be a personalized process for building individual relationships over time by (a) staying in the front of prospects’ minds with relevant, useful information and (b) watching and listening to each prospect and reacting in an appropriate way to accelerate his or her buying cycle with appropriate responses.

Third (and this is a bit self-serving but true nonetheless) it’s a mistake to try to implement modern demand-generation processes without marketing automation. You simply can’t keep track of all the appropriate activities, scores and next steps for each lead without technology to help — and it’s much cheaper to buy software to automate these processes than to hire people to manage it manually.

5.    What will you prescribe to marketers to carry out effective lead generation?

Besides the topics I’ve already discussed, I have two other prescriptions. First, focus on generating sales-ready leads from to your in-house database. You’ve already paid for the contacts in your own database, so it is extremely low-cost to market to them.

Second, recycle your leads. One of the biggest sources of wasted leads happens when marketing gives a lead to sales, but for whatever reason that lead is not yet ready to convert to an opportunity. These leads tend to sit mostly untouched in sales hands. Instead, companies should spend more time building specific lead-management processes designed to recycle leads from sales back to marketing — and back to sales again at the right time.

6.    What three Web 2.0 applications, cutting-edge technologies or lead generation sources do marketers HAVE to consider to be successful?

Not surprisingly, I think every organization needs marketing automaton/lead management technology like Marketo. Just like most executives wouldn’t image trying to run a sales organization without a CRM solution, I don’t see how it’s possible to run a modern marketing department without marketing automation.

I’m also a big fan of maximizing your conversions through landing page optimization. When using online (or offline) lead generation, you typically are paying for the click regardless of whether it converts into a qualified lead in your database. There is much more to be gained from creating and optimizing your landing pages than incremental tweaks to your bids or keywords.

One tool I’ve recently started using to stay on top of Twitter is TweetDeck, a great application that lets you have up to 10 channels of feeds, including custom searches for important keywords and subgroups of all your follows by category.

7.    What do you hope for in B2B sales and marketing for the new year?

The key to closing the gap between marketing and sales is not to slam the two groups into one function, nor to force marketers to behave like salespeople with aggressive quotas and huge variable compensation. Each function works differently, thinks differently and has different usage requirements (check out Sales is from Mars, Marketing is from Venus for more on this).

I hope in 2009 that marketing and sales will find strength in their differences by collaborating appropriately at every stage of the revenue cycle, and as a result will unlock massive revenue growth and productivity gains for their organizations.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Jon, your trends are spot on. We’ve made the same changes over the past couple of months. I’m still not totally sure on social media though: we have a blog, we do Twitter, and we linked a webinar to an industry-specific social network, but haven’t seen clear results. Do you measure the benefits of Marketo’s social media activities?

    Question: we’re planning to hire an tele-prospector (or: appointment setter) in the marketing dept, so we can be sure to deliver sales-ready leads to the sales team and to recycle leads properly. However, in other companies this person is often in the sales team. Do you have a recommendation for this?


  • Jep — I measure Marketo’s social media activities as one of many factors contributing to the growth in awareness about Marketo. I track that rigorously, but do not yet tie it to specific activities yet.

    As for whether the tele-qualification / tele-prospecting team is in marketing or sales, I think that depends alot on the company. At Marketo (and my prior company Epiphany) we had it in sales, since it helps to keep that person connected to the rest of the sales team, but with the right leadership and communication I think it can be in marketing as well.

  • I enjoyed reading this post a lot too. I like to see how marketers are integrating sales, social networks, landing pages and more, while developing metrics to measure the results they produce. Any more examples of companies doing this, Jon?

    I’m also looking forward to documenting these learnings so others can take full advantage.

  • Donnell Woodson

    how do i ask questions