Lead Generation Strategies & Marketing Competencies

Lead Generation Strategies – It’s Just Marketing, Part 4

11 Marketing Competencies Every Organization Must Have

(Or Have Access To)

So who is going to actually do all this stuff? How is marketing going to deliver? What competencies, what solutions, and what technologies does marketing need to have at their disposal? This is an incredibly confusing landscape and every vendor seems to have their own secret-special language (gibberish) they use to talk about what they do.

I’ve broken the landscape into eleven competency elements to help decode this.

1. Content Production

This is the most important element, hands down. For my mind it is the toughest piece to get consistently right. As such, it represents the lowest common denominator. Marketing must have access to resources capable of producing content. Consistent, interesting, and relevant content is the fuel that powers the entire marketing engine these days, and without it all you have to talk about is yourself. As I’ve said earlier, the days of marketing being the bullhorn for us to talk about ourselves are over. Nobody wants to hear you talk about you and your product. They want to choose to receive content that is relevant and interesting to them.

To drive this point home, I’ve got a quick anecdote to share. I was working with the head of marketing for a client recently and we were trying to come up with a new ‘offer’ for one of their opt-in landing pages (an ‘offer’ meaning something used to incentivize a visitor to provide their email). This individual came back to me and said they were thinking of using a Free Quote as the offer. I really didn’t know how to respond because the thought of a quote as something valuable to a prospect was ludicrous. Personally, I believe that because this company has a very technical product and lots of smart people working there, they need get some of these very smart folks (some with multiple PhD’s) to sit down and write about something related to best practices and leading edge techniques in their field of expertise, not about how to use their product but about something interesting that will draw people in.

2. Content Management

This is both technology and a resource discipline. Organizations need some sort of technology to manage the content they produce (typically referred to as a Content Management System, or CMS). More importantly, they need to understand how to deploy an object-oriented approach to content development and organization so that it can be reused and repurposed.

3. Email Management

Companies need both technology and expertise to manage the very stringent and specific opt-in compliance laws that exist today. I see a lot of companies that don’t understand how all this works, and they are making a lot of guesses as to who they can email, how often, with what content, and also how to manage those opt-ins, which, in some cases, are not managed at all. They are still mass emailing out of their CRM and don’t understand how badly this might go for them. From an email management perspective, you need resources that understand how to manage your lists and maintain your database integrity, as well as keep it synchronized with your CRM.

4. CRM Integration

Organizations need some expertise related to integrating all of their marketing automation tools, email management tools, and content management tools with their CRM so that they continually acquire richer knowledge about their customers. Ultimately, when all of this powerful marketing technology is brought to bear and that fancy lead-scoring system says the customer is ready for a call, you need to ensure that prospect gets routed to the right sales resource and that the sales resource takes the appropriate steps.

5. Copy Writing and Landing Page Development

Content development is very different from writing copy and producing effective landing pages that convert visitors to subscribers. I’ve found several organizations that produce phenomenal content, but whose landing pages and copy are terrible. Not surprisingly, their conversion rates end up very low.

6. Analytics and Database Mining

One of the phenomenal aspects of all of this new technology is that you can acquire incredible amounts data with high granularity about what people are doing, what they are looking at, etc. However, if you don’t really understand how to analyze data, you are not going to get very far. I’ve seen organizations spend all sorts of money on fancy marketing automation tools (Marketo, Eloqua, etc.) and then tear out their hair because they can’t get any real benefits from lead scoring. Why? Nobody in that organization actually understands how to build and analyze prospect behavior, turn that into a lead scoring framework, and then manage against that.

7. Graphic Design

This is simply the art of making things pretty and is a competency all its own. I am strong PowerPoint user, I can make nice slides, and I can crunch those into a PDF file. That said, as creative as I think I am, my results pale when compared to finding someone with an art degree and experience with graphic arts who knows how to take information and turn it into a highly engaging and user-friendly format.

8. Event Marketing Expertise

As cool as technology is, in-person marketing will never go away. Whether it’s trade shows or other event marketing, knowing how to run a professional event that captures new prospects represents a competency that will continue to give organizations a competitive advantage.

9. Social Media and Reputation Management

Who manages and coordinates efforts across your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile, and your Twitter page? Who is trolling the web to monitor whether disgruntled customers (or competitors posing as such) are saying nasty things about you? When I hear a company say, ‘we don’t need a Facebook page’, I laugh because it’s similar to companies who said ‘we don’t need email’ ten years ago. I understand you haven’t figured out how the ROI will work yet but if you haven’t even put up a Facebook page, a Google + page, etc., you are missing the point. All these nodes drive search engine optimization, and I know you’ve heard about that. Ultimately, you will need someone who understands how each of these ‘properties’ works at a deep level. This will not likely be the same person who sets up your trade show booth and buys the logo t-shirts.

10. Marketing Automation

You need expertise related to whatever marketing automation platform you settle on. Be it Eloqua, Pardot, Marketo, Hubspot, or whatever tool you choose to manage and provide the data and analytics around your landing pages, your conversions, your lead scoring, and your automated workflows. If that world is a total blind spot to you, now is the time to download some eBooks and start educating yourself.

11. Phone Resources

Last but not least, marketing organizations need people who know how to pick up the phone and perform what might be considered lead qualification work. For most of history, phone work has been strictly the domain of the sales organization. While that is fine from an inside sales standpoint, I’m a firm believer that marketing needs to possess physical resources who know how to pick up the phone and manually intervene within the marketing process to gather information, to confirm information, etc. If marketing relies exclusively on technology, and the web, email automation tools, and marketing automation tools to do all of the work, they risk a disconnect between themselves and the sales team. Ultimately, marketing must take ownership for lead quality. Phone work represents a powerful tool and a final touch point in the nurturing toolkit.

This certainly has been long for a post, and there is a lot of information here; however, I believe that being able to discuss the overall marketing landscape in plain language is incredibly important. Accurately gauging which competencies you have, those you lack, what you need to hire for, as well as what you may need to outsource is important information and requires a shared language and framework. Ultimately, the importance of a common language and framework will only grow as the increasingly complex landscape makes it unlikely that all but the largest companies will have the resources to do everything on their own.

If you would like to read the other three posts in this series, please follow the links below:

Part One: The Changing Role of Marketing in Business

Part Two: The New Marketing Landscape: Four Fundamental Shifts

Part Three: Six Outcomes Marketing Departments Owe To Their Organization

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: AJC1 via photopin cc


  1. great timing on the post TW! I’m especially fond of #11… after holding what may have very well been my 642nd intro meeting from my outbound cold call activities yesterday a little phone time from marketing on the in bound qualification would be welcomed with open arms

  2. Townsend- great thinking here but I’d suggest a couple of really critical functions of the marketing discipline have been omitted. I really think that when core competencies are listed as Event Marketing and Graphic Design, we’re really expecting a lot less of a Marketing department than we should.

    Your blog mentions the frustration that many marketing execs feel at not being invited to the table or having a voice in the overall direction of the company. If that’s happening, either or both of two things have occurred: the company’s executive leadership doesn’t consider marketing to be a mission critical function of the organization (i.e., “…here’s the Marketing Department, they do our brochures and our web stuff…”) or the wrong person is leading the marketing group.

    Marketing will be considered important in the organization when it is serving to first, find and execute on the right voice and relevant messaging for the organization; it’s never, ever been about features or e-mails or trade shows. It’s all about relevance and understanding of the customer, the customer’s opportunities and pain points, and how he/she makes decisions. Then making the conversation relevant.

    Second, it’s Marketing’s primary job to establish and deepen the relationship the organization has with the prospective and existing customer. While it’s true that ‘nothing happens until something is sold’, it’s even more true that nothing happens until the prospect is aware of the company, and believes the company knows my needs and I can trust them to deal with me in an honest and respectful manner. That kind of tone and understanding needs to come from the Marketing group.

    I’ve worked both sides – Marketing and B:B sales- and I’d suggest we demand a lot more of our Marketing group than to have a handle on the email management. Marketing and Sales need to be seen as a single enterprise, rather than one group (Marketing) serving as waterboy for the Sales team.

  3. Very interesting post Townsend. Well done sir.

    I appreciated all your suggestions. Very insightful tips. However, I most appreciated something you mentioned upfront. You wrote:

    “Software as a service is not simply a technology play. It has ushered in a new era of customer expectations that they will be 100% in control of the buying process.”

    Personally, I think this was the single most important sentence of the entire post. Why? Well, because it speaks to a fundamental shift I see occurring between marketing and sales. The introduction of SaaS-based services coupled with the Consumerization of IT movement (business users decide what cell phone or technology to use; not IT), is changing how business people buy, and therefore changing what marketing and sales people “do”.

    As you highlighted, buyers want to be in control of the buying process, from finding the product, researching it, deciding which is best for them and plugging in their credit card. What used to take weeks or months now can be done in the time it takes me to type this comment. Fewer and fewer prospects need – or dare I say want – a call from a sales professional to give them a demo or talk about “understanding your business challenges or needs.”

    Think of your own shopping habits and preferences. Do you prefer to be stalked by a retail sales person as you walk the store ailes or do you prefer to look alone? Speaking from my own personal experience, I’ve researched, evaluated and purchased at least two dozen B2B technologies or services in the last year without ever talking to a single person. (Note: I work for a smaller company today, but I had the same shopping and buying habits when I worked for a Fortune 50 tech company.) Sure, I get the follow-up phone calls and personal emails, but I rarely if ever respond. In fact, the only time I speak with a Sales person is when I get caught off guard and answer my phone. If I do call, it’s typically with a support-type question “after” I’ve purchased, and so I get funneled from Sales to support where my question gets answered.

    Take a company like Zendesk for example. They sell a SaaS-based Customer Service Software for businesses. I can’t confirm, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that they signed up nearly 4K new business customers – large and small – in one year with zero sales staff. Not a single one. Customers found, researched, demo’ed, purchased and upgraded entirely from the company’s website. A “zero touch” sales as they say. It was only after they reached a certain size that someone suggested they hire a head of Sales to build a sales organization. But frankly, I’m not sure they knew why? I’m sure someone offered up the old “account management” argument.

    This isn’t to suggest that we’ve come to the point where we don’t need sales. It is, however, to point out the obvious: The world is changing. Traditionally, sales drove the business while marketing sat in the passenger seat offering directions. Today, the roles appear to be shifting.

    Twenty years ago, I could easily imagine a CEO saying, “We don’t need marketing, just hire some solid sales folks.” Today, I can just as easily imagine a CEO saying, “We don’t need sales, just hire some solid marketing people and let customers buy themselves.” Therefore, the tips you’ve offered are more valuable than ever.

    Keep up the great work!

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