Thought Leadership Interview #20: Helping Marketers Find a “New Lane” to Success: Kristin Hambelton from Neolane

This blog is fast becoming a lead nurturing/marketing automation blog. Today, we have Kristin Hambelton from Neolane, a player in the marketing automation space.  She  is senior director of marketing at has been around the block with 18 years of marketing experience with high technology products and services companies.

Good job Kristin!

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

The economy is still a factor shaping B2B marketing trends today. However, we see many of our customers and prospects taking advantage of the down market to revisit their marketing strategies and identify processes that can be streamlined and made more efficient. In many cases, this means investing in technology that can help automate critical lead nurturing and measurement processes.

B2B marketers also seem to be more willing to experiment with tactics such as cross-selling/up-selling and trigger event marketing, which are more traditionally utilized in the B2C space. Being able to personalize these efforts can be very effective for B2B marketers, especially as customer retention and improving the customer experience remain important goals that impact the bottom line.

Another trend is a more concentrated effort to expand B2B marketing campaigns to incorporate multiple channels.  Many BtoB marketers still rely on traditional print and email channels to communicate with customers, but other channels such as the Web, events, mobile communications and social media are equally important elements of a comprehensive and coordinated cross-channel strategy.

2. What are the biggest challenges for 2009?

From our perspective, one of the biggest challenges for B2B marketers comes down to improving campaign measurement and ROI, which in turn allows them to protect their budgets. Everyone talks about measurement and ROI, but despite available technologies, it is still incredibly difficult to do, especially with B2B campaigns that tend to be long and have multiple touch points.

Based on industry discussions and research, we’ve concluded that while a majority of marketers believe there is a direct link between marketing and the bottom line, few can actually prove it. This can be attributed to heavy reliance on multiple, antiquated spreadsheets to get the data they need to draw relevant conclusions.  And even if they can get the data, the conclusions are often questionable and open to interpretation. Manual Excel-based processes make defending budgets to the C-suite a Herculean task.

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

In our experience, the three metrics that BtoB marketers should care about most are:  Number of leads generated (quantity measurement); qualified leads as a percentage of leads generated (quality measurement); and cost per lead (effectiveness measurement).  It’s important to note, however, that these metrics are not mutually exclusive and should absolutely be used in conjunction to accurately assess campaign effectiveness.

Before starting any campaign, marketers must work with their sales team to agree on how to define qualified leads. As experienced marketers know, number of leads alone is not enough.  Qualified leads are a quality measurement for campaigns that can be used early on, in conjunction with the quantity metric (number of leads).  These two metrics together help to project the impact that the marketing campaign(s) will have on company revenue. Determining criteria for lead qualification helps organizations better understand which leads should move through the qualification process (and eventually into the sales pipeline), helping to determine early cost-per-qualified lead calculations.

As marketers track that predetermined set of metrics, if something doesn’t look right, they need to address it right away.  For example, if there is a high number of click-throughs on an email campaign but no conversions, maybe the landing page isn’t set up correctly to pass the information to the sales force automation or CRM system.

Ultimately, conversions to the pipeline is the end goal.  However, if you can’t deliver conversions in a cost-effective manner, the marketing budget will quickly be depleted.  That means marketers will be prevented  from not only generating additional leads into the pipeline from those “known high quality lead sources,” but they will also be prohibited from testing out new marketing channels that might provide that “secret” lair of high quality/low-cost leads we all dream about.  And because the channel that worked six months ago might not work now, smart marketers need to continue to focus on this cost per lead number in order to gain the budget flexibility to try new strategies.

Additionally, marketers who can’t provide a cost per lead metric that is in-line with industry standards and/or can’t demonstrate a decrease in this number over time will lose credibility in the eyes of the C-Suite.  Now more than ever, marketers are beholden to generating defensible ROI in order to secure budget for future programs.  Without proper accountability and trackability of the cost per lead metric, marketers put themselves at risk for losing budget and having even less to work with to drive leads into the funnel.

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

First, for many organizations, the lead management process is often oversimplified, consisting of basic, repetitive lead generation practices that are linear in focus and only cover email and Web channels.  Second, marketers can’t afford to run multiple campaigns expecting to fill their pipeline with large volumes of leads, assuming that a certain percentage will naturally convert. That strategy no longer works.  Marketers must run fewer, more targeted and personalized campaigns with the objective of generating high quality leads that have a solid chance of converting to sales.  Marketers absolutely have to make every program count.

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

As marketing organizations turn to more sophisticated means of generating leads, they must nurture them in a consistent and coordinated way across communications channels.  By using technology to help sustain conversations, then capturing interactions with prospects across in-bound and outbound channels including email, direct mail, mobile or Web sites into a single, centralized data mart, marketers can take decisive, personalized action.

We suggest investing in newer lead management solutions that combine demand generation, lead management and measurement, providing the infrastructure marketers need to drive demand, intelligently manage leads and measure results all in one place.  Most importantly, automation can be used to create a single, cross-channel view of the customer in order to generate more effective, ROI-driven campaigns.

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

Social media applications – especially those like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – allow marketers to better monitor how their brand is perceived by partners, customers and prospects.  It also enables them to revert to a more grass-roots oriented approach to community building.  By creating/nurturing distinct communities of people that are interested in the company’s products or services, social media applications provide opportunities to engage in timely, interactive dialogue with customers that other, more “one way” mediums simply cannot.

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

We still see a lot of work that needs to be done to better align sales and marketing in order to improve lead management effectiveness.  We’re talking about everything from synchronizing siloed databases and applications to simply agreeing on how to define “qualified” leads, and how those leads should advance through the pipeline.  Ultimately, the two groups need to work together to generate higher quality leads using better lead capture, nurture and scoring.

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

  • John Kucera

    I strongly disagree with #3. The most important metric for marketing should be pipeline generated. If marketing stops counting at leads, it’s easy for marketing and sales to be misaligned.

    However, as sales typically creates the opportunities, measuring pipeline forces alignment between sales & marketing and ensures the right discussions are taking place.

    A good marketing automation tool needs to be able to track pipeline, not just leads.