Top 4 Signs you MUST Clean Up Your Marketing Database Now!

Marketing databases are one of those things that every business has and frankly, few truly understand.  In my work as a consultant, I work with many businesses over time and one of the first orders of business is to analyze the existing database.  The incoming CMO must make an assessment of the value of that database and determine if what is there is sufficient to meet your lead generation goals.

Marketing Database

After many iterations of this, I have a set of observations about the process.  In general, my going-in assumption is that “something is useable here” That’s a good assumption to start with but as they say, “your mileage may vary.”   Here are 4 clear signs that you should be thinking about a database refresh and clean up:

  1. No one knows where the database came from.  This is the first sign of a dead database.  If there’s no documentation and you truly do not know how the database was built over its life, you are headed for disappointment when you actually use the database.  It’s even worse when you get more than one story about what is contained in the database.
  2. Most records are just name and email.  It seems to be human nature to overestimate the completeness and quality of our data.  Having just an email address is not a marketing database, it’s an email list.  A database has enough data such that you can begin to tell what is what and start to segment the data.  No one would intentionally build an email-only database and expect segmentation from it would they?
  3. Each mailing brings spam notices.  Many of the vendors that we use to send out email (including Marketo and Eloqua) will ding you whenever some level of bad emails are sent out from your account and ultimately will reduce your ability to execute.  If you do not clean it up, it will be more difficult over time to send out emails and the vendor may shut you off altogether until you clean up your act.  Use an email verification service and only mail verified emails addresses.  It’s not cheap and takes some effort, but it is worth the hassle. It will keep you out of hot water.
  4. The percentage that have opened an email in the past year is tiny.  In general, if you email someone and over some extended time they do not open your emails, they are not likely to all of a sudden begin opening your emails and acting upon them.  Consider reducing the database to just those records that have opened or clicked on an email in the past year.  While this feels like a radical action, the non-openers are very unlikely to ever respond, so you will not miss them in your database.  You may also pay less to your Marketing Automation vendor for housing a smaller database.

The joy of having a clean database is a marketers’ dream.  Once you have one it’s real hard to go back.  A clean and maintained database will become a source of new leads with minimal hassle.  A database filled with unclean data will yield nothing but frustration.  Bite the bullet and clean up your database now!  You’ll be glad you did!

What issues do you have with your marketing data?  Have you taken steps to clean up your database?


You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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Are You a Victim of Sales Lead Leakage? Here are 4 Ways to Tell.

Everyone who takes a new position or gets hired on as a consultant looks for the “low hanging fruit” in order to make some quick wins.  In my experience as the head of marketing, the quick win is often finding leaks in the sales process and fixing them.  It always seems a bit crazy to me to increase lead flow through the expenditure of money if 10%-20% of the leads we have are just plain getting lost.

leaky bucket

What then, are the signs that your company has sales leakage? Here are 4 important things to look at in order to find and stop the leakage of your hard-earned leads.

  1. The handoff between sales and marketing is not clear.  This is often the first place to look.  The rules of lead qualification need to be clear and well-understood by both sides to be effective.  If you find that some of the sales team feel empowered to not follow up on leads without first working issues with the marketing team, you have a problem.  If the marketing team is unresponsive to valid issues raised by sales, you have a worse problem.
  2. Poor lead flow visibility.  There are some really great CRM and pipeline management tools available that allow both sales and marketing to see exactly where every lead is, cradle to grave.  However, in my experience, these systems are often poorly implemented, the staff poorly trained and the result not nearly being up to the full extent of the capabilities.  In one situation on my watch, we acquired and merged with three firms within a year.  During negotiations and due diligence, it was thought a positive that everyone used as their CRM.  However, none of the other three firms had anywhere near the quality and sophistication of our implementation and in fact, generally were not really using the system as intended.  Disaster was ultimately averted, but with much pain and cost.
  3. Some salespeople use their own tracking system.  A major red flag here.  If you scratch beneath the surface and find that any salesperson or sales region “has their own spreadsheet” to track the pipeline, you can bet there are issues.  The tools and conventions of tracking the pipeline need to be provided by sales management and salespeople need to get on board or frankly, get out.
  4. Perform a quick audit and get the real story.  If you think there are issues, there probably are. Pick up the phone and call upon some dormant leads and ask them what contact they have had. Gauge where they should be placed in the sales funnel based on that conversation.  Many times the results will be illuminating. Sometimes shocking.

This is a topic that always makes for interesting findings in all but the most sophisticated situations.  Almost every company can improve upon the way things are handled.  Be sure to take a look at it and find any areas that need attention.

Lastly, I want to note that I didn’t think up the phrase “sales leakage” nor can I claim credit for shining a light on it.  That goes to my friend Jim Obermayer, who founded the Sales Lead Management Association.  You can visit the association’s website here:

Do you have “sales leakage” in your sales process? Does your company have cradle-to-grave lead metrics?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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The Trouble With “Appointment Setting” Firms

Recently, I revisited a contract with an appointment setting firm as a lead generation activity.  Not that I had ever had resounding success with these type of programs in the past, but it is kind of a pure lead-gen activity and sometimes that is called for.  It’s also seductively turnkey. Without much real work you can get one of these firms up and running and starting to produce leads in a couple weeks.  At least that’s the promise.

Appointment Setting

But is that seduction justified? Is it really that easy?  Sign up with one of these firms and leads and appointments magically appear.  Let’s take a look at the potential shortfalls of these programs.

  • Who provides the list?  The calling campaigns these firms do need a list to fuel them.  These firms tend to get very basic (read “cheap”) lists and call around for the titles they seek.  Since they focus on calling efficiently, they bridge the gap themselves.  But this approach makes for lousy targeting and gives the client little in the way of real targeting tools.  The real problem here is that by the time you realize the list is bad, you’ve  already called into it for weeks.
  • Goals not 100% aligned.  The client wants leads that go down the funnel quickly and turn into sales.  The appointment setting firms wants to set up appointments with the correct type of person from the target accounts.  These are not the same goals and it’s actually hard at the end of the day to make them the same.   Despite great attempts to avoid it, leads that are off-target will come in and will erode the program’s effectiveness.
  • Focus is on the appointment, not the interest.  As these campaigns roll out, sometimes they get behind. After management catches on, additional pressure (always) and resources (sometimes) are added to the game.  That pressure forces the phone reps to push even harder for the appointment, leading to less-than qualified or uninterested prospects,
  • Some firms use incentives  Some appointment setting firms offer a fairly large incentive for the prospect to get on the phone.  It seems logical that a prospect that is getting an iPad mini for taking the appointment is almost analogous to the folks that sit through long vacation time-share presentations for a questionable quality gift afterwards. These folks will take the call and sit politely through the pitch and may even admit to the caller “I just wanted the Big Bertha they offered for taking this call.  Sorry.”
  • A certain type of person responds.  Obviously, someone who answers their phone.  Not everybody does.  Already it’s a biased group.  If they answer their phone they may get a number of sales calls and not differentiate yours from others.  Who agrees to an appointment if they don’t want the product?  Many folks who likely didn’t understand what they were getting into or are easily persuaded.

It’s also a fact that many firms find great value in these lead generation programs and some clients work into 7 figures with appointment setting firms.  These are the ones that worked out the bugs, improved the process until it worked.  That takes a while.  Those firms persevered through the start-up issues and eventually developed what they needed at a good-enough price.   Moral of the story; it’s harder than it looks to do it right.

Have you used outside appointment setting firms for lead generation?  What has worked or not for you?


You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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Is It The Beginning of the End for Google Adwords?

This may be hard to believe, but Google Adwords is coming up on its 14th birthday, having started in October of 2000.  At the time, it was a revolutionary design, affording advertisers that their ads would be placed just where those who wanted and searched for your product would see your ad first and click accordingly.  Best part for the advertiser, you only pay when someone actually clicks on the ad.  How great is that!

This concept fueled Google’s incredible growth, as they took over the search world.  A whole cottage industry of search optimization consultants emerged to help companies move up the rankings.  Life was good.  It was Google’s world and we all were just living in it.

Google Adwords image

Now fast forward to 2014.  Google Adwords is multi-billion dollar enterprise, bringing in the bulk of Googles revenues.  Search marketing is huge!  And it has evolved; this is not the Google Adwords of the last decade.  But has it remained effective?  Recently, I did some consulting work in a very competitive and well-funded space.  With the visibility to the competitive landscape that various sem/ppc tools allow you to do, I had a unique snapshot of the industry.  Here are some of the things I found:

  • Huge dollars chasing very few clicks.  There reaches a point, in a competitive industry, where the cost for the next click is just plain astronomical.  Past the point where one can justify the cost of acquiring a new customer, even if everyone converted.  The key players keeping the price high (and typically there are 3-5 players who do this) are afraid of dropping their bids and letting the competition instantly get the traffic.  In this crowded a space, ads cease to be effective.  The searcher is presented with the maximum number of carefully-worded Adwords ads and over time, they are over-messaged.
  • Google’s quality score keeps new bidders out of the game.  Without a reasonable quality score, your ads may not display often.  However, in a crowded space, it is ulta hard to break in as the new Adwords advertiser.  After being shut out of Adwords, these newcomers will find other places for their advertising dollars.  The question is, do they ever come back to Google?
  • Very few will fill out a form on your landing page.  Once upon a time nearly all Google PPC ads went to a “squeeze page” where respondents had to fill out the form to advance in any way.  Today, few would fill out such a form.  In fact, in the industry I have been studying, one major competitor sends it’s PPC traffic to their home page, even at $50-$70 per click!
  • Searchers use Adwords as the default.  The majority of PPC clickers are not purchasers at all.  They are your current customers, vendors looking for your phone number and other not-so-valuable clickers.  These searchers click on the PPC links because they are visible and available.  The fact it’s costing the vendor money is likely a plus.
  • PPC results are different on Mobile Devices.  Frankly, it’s bit harder to scroll past the paid search results on your phone.  The searcher may be less aware what or organic and what is paid.  The situations in which mobile searches are executed may also change the way a search is executed or read.

I found it very ironic that Google’s Adwords world had fallen apart in the crowded industry I was watching, as that industry brings Google a nice chunk of revenue.  It’s ironic because when Google Adwords is taken to its ultimate conclusion, it doesn’t work well for the advertiser, just for Google.

Is this the start of the end?  Time will tell.  Google has changed in the past and will likely adapt.  Or Google’s ultimate demise has already started.  You decide!

What has been your experience with Google Adwords?  Is it a “fair” distribution of the ads?


You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

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The Ultimate Guide to Webinar Invites

I know what you’re thinking; it’s about time someone wrote the definitive guide to webinar invites.  Well, here it is.  As you can see by the length of the guide, this is not rocket science, as the old saying goes.  Instead the secret sauce here is adherence to a small set of logical guidelines.

Webinar invites

Webinars are an effective marketing tool and often one of the better ways to engage an audience and tell a story or present thought-leadership material.  The first challenge is getting people to attend.  That centers on the invite, the email sent to your audience aimed at getting them to register for the webinar.

  • Sell the event.  Your invites should focus on the webinar and the webinar only.  This is not the place to double down on your  product feature message.  Focus on detailing the event specifics and justify to the reader why they should register and attend, then push them to a call to action, nothing more.  Be very focused on getting registrations.
  • It’s about the topic/subject.  The normal rules of email marketing apply; your first concern should be the subject line and open rate.  That subject is also the topic of the webinar.  Much has been written about subject lines and your best bet is to test multiple times to improve response rates. Choose your subjects carefully with an eye for standing out and getting the email initiation opened.
  • Tease as to what you know.  I teased you into reading this article by calling it “the definitive guide.”  I don’t really have to do much justification of that, yet it sounds like it comes from a high level of expertise.  Once you read this, you can make your own decision.
  • Detail the benefits of registering and attending the webinar.  Everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me” and the people you invite to your webinar will be no different.  Your invite should show what valuable information and insights the reader will find out when they attend your webinar.
  • Tell them how long it will be.  The intended length of the webinar should be featured prominently in the invitation.  It might also be something to test; shorter webinars get more response.  In any event, the reader will be making a trade-off between committing time the webinar versus what they will gain by attending.  Give them all the data you can to make that decision.
  • Personify the speaker.  Webinars allow a nice bridge between the digital and the personal worlds and that bridge is the human that “gives” the webinar.  Making that person more accessible and real (by providing a picture and short bio, for example) increases the response, as readers connect as humans to the speaker.
  • Test. Then test again. Ultimately, all the best practices and how-to suggestions will pale in comparison to the power of continual testing of each stage of your lead generation loop, the email subject, the landing page, the offer.   Remember also that the audience evolves as you market into it and as economic conditions change.  What worked last year may not this year.

Invites are just one part of the whole webinar execution, but since the number of attendees is often the determinant of success, the invite is the perhaps most important part of the process.  A bit of time improving your invite may pay off in a really good return.

What invite experiences have you had?  Have you done A/B testing?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn:

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm