We asked them both to shed light on demand generation for businesses.
So over to the interview from our founder, James Ker-Reid, with the key questions and answers:
Thanks for coming on the line Lee and Richard, it’s great to connect with you once again to discuss demand generation with the experts and on your 9th birthday too, congratulations!
- So to start with, demand generation and lead generation – are they different, are they interlinked?
Lee: Great question, are they different, yes. Are they interlinked, yes. Put simply, demand generation is the process of getting people interested in what you have to sell, so creating demand. Lead generation is a task of turning that interest into lead for your sales team. There is definitely a gap between the two and more alignment required. In summary, demand generation is an alignment of sales and marketing – SQL (sales qualified leads) and MQL (marketing qualified leads).
Rich: To build on that – they are absolutely intertwined. Demand generation traditionally sits in the marketing space and lead generation sometimes in marketing remit, but sometimes in sales too. Something we are trying to become is the conduit between marketing and sales so taking and creating the MQL and converting it to a SQL.
- Where do tech companies typically go wrong when it comes to demand and lead generation?
Rich: Great question and hard to be too general, but one thing that often happens is a lack of consistency. Creating demand and converting demand into interest takes persistence and consistency. For example, they say it takes 5-12 attempts to get someone’s engagement, and most people stop at 3 or 4 so don’t normally even hit the stats! Being agile, responding and reacting to the market place is really important. Often people get stuck with how they’ve always done it and that mindset. You have to really think about everything you do, continually adapt and change what you’re doing. Check the message you’re putting out is still resonating, even the message you put out last month might have to be changed again.
- Is that where you see a shift away from the typical 90-day marketing campaign to a shorter time frame?
Rich: Yes we have done, we have always tried to bring an agile approach to our demand generation solutions, for the reasons just mentioned. Things are changing all the time, it’s about being relevant and having a solution to solve the right problem which is harder rather than fitting the same to everyone.
- Typically what time scales are you seeing or advising companies to take?
Rich: It’s many different cadences including the mixing of media in terms of how you’re communicating and connecting. Some clients are running 14 day sprints on particular campaigns, others where we are doing 30-60-90 days and some where we are providing a continual service, but within that service perhaps running different campaigns. We always talk about lots of plates spinning at the same time to make sure we are consistent.
- To pick up on your point about consistency, what advice would you give about being consistent but also building long/mid-term nurturing campaigns about prospects?
Rich: I think you’ve got to mix the media up. We track all our campaigns, we’ve digitised our qualification process. As we are creating qualified opportunities we are also tracking how many contact attempts have been put in. For some of our clients, particularly where we are blending marketing and sales, touch points are pretty small to engagement. But others, we are up at 20-30 touch points. One piece of advice is don’t give up. If you’re connecting with someone because you believe there’s a good fit and believe you can add value, why stop. You’ve therefore got to be persistent and keep going. Mixing media – linkedin, social channels, blogs, videos, perhaps even ABM? Have to be relevant, consistent and professional at all times.
Lee: You’ve probably seen on socials we coined the phrase #neverstopselling – as Rich rightly says, there’s a time and place and professionalism that you must keep higher than ever before in the current climate. For the older generation in us who have lived through other disasters, 9/11 or SARS, what we learnt from that experience is post-disasters or similar situations, now more than ever before, there’s more of a reason to engage and speak with people. Most people are much more approachable and willing to listen and learn about what you’ve got to say in terms of your product or service – never stop selling!
- Using a multiple media approach – what advice would you give tech companies to put some of these together?
Rich: An absolute proliferation of tech tools now available to us. We’re looking at one at the moment called VanillaSoft – a tool that allows you to streamline your focus whilst also providing the ability behind the scene to add intelligence to ensure our reps get the best out of their time. We have used HubSpot, Capsule CRM, Pipedrive, Salesforce, we probably use most of the CRM systems out there – ultimately they all do the same thing. You need to have a discipline in place where your sales teams are registering those contact points and connections. You need to blend your marketing and sales team and have them working on a common goal. All too often, particularly in larger companies probably, there is still a massive disconnect between the Marketing and Sales teams – I see that as an opportunity for us for sure. I would say keep it as simple as possible, but of course it is different for every organisation.
Lee: I think it’s important for startups to know and appreciate that there are people out there, like all of us, that can help in all the key functional areas of any business, whether you’re in startups, scaleups or even enterprise. Finance, operations, marketing, sales, the list goes on. The word outsourcing now is a much more common word and used more than ever before. It’s not just about buying data, it’s about the core services you can acquire, even if it’s just for a certain period of time perhaps before you choose to build and scale a team yourself.
- What are some of those simple things that tech companies really get wrong in demand generation?
Rich: One thing I still find, might be a generalisation, but often tech companies are started by people that understand tech. Very clever, smart tech people that create businesses. That inner core of ‘tech-ness’ shines through loudly – part of the challenge is that they have this ‘best thing ever’ and they go out and tell everyone about it without thinking too much. Work out who you want your customer to be and then put your feet in those shoes. Not necessarily what you offer, but more about what the challenges you solve and if you understand those challenges, then what are the problems that you can be looking out for, or triggers you might be finding in the audience and the target base of your customers. A simple thing like that will have you using the language of your customers, thinking about WHY they should be interested in you. That in itself is a massive differentiator; most organisations still talk primarily about themselves.
Lee: To add to that, it’s also very important for a lot of the people reading this is that if they haven’t already taken on investment, they are probably looking for it very seriously. I would put the VC, PE guys in the same bracket, they are all professionals in their own right as we are. There’s experience, connectivity and capital to tap into that can benefit you, the investment is important but be very clear about what you’re planning on doing with it. VCs/PEs will know very clearly what they want from their money, ultimately a return on their investment in a sustainable way. There’s credibility and experience as well as capital out there, you just need to use it in the right way.
- Given the interesting climate of today, what advice would you give tech companies to do right now and in the next 1-3 months?
Rich: Hold on tight! We have a very difficult business environment right now. We’ve seen some interesting stats – our core activities have actually been higher. We very quickly mobilised to go 100% remote and we’ve seen an amazing performance from our team in terms of making that happen, but then also keeping the creation of opportunity going for our customers. Also our opportunity creation has been really high which is interesting. People are at home, probably more accessible than they’ve ever been – you can get to decision makers quickly. However, from what we are seeing, I think it’s all about sewing seeds for tomorrow really. Advice for companies right now, be very mindful, engage really well with customers. Don’t overtly try and sell things to them, make sure you listen, be very present. You create a void and customers will fill it – what everyone should be doing is keep active, busy, give back and be present in the marketplace.
Lee: Don’t panic. Don’t feel like you’re on your own, whether it’s VCs, PEs, Sales for Startups, Durham Lane, non-exec directors, there’s people that have been there and through this kind of thing before. I agree that it’s quite an unprecedented time, but it is still uncertainty that of which others have been through in different scenarios. I agree with Rich – what a time to connect! The connectivity is there, many people have more time due to lack of commuting to the office. People are more willing to be open and listen than ever before. Keep one eye on the now and the other eye on the future. We will get through this – there will always be casualties, but the more we stick together, the stronger we will be and get through it faster.
- If we look at a shorter time scale, e.g. 7 days, what are the practical steps that people could take to improve the results of their demand generation?
Rich: Broadly, this situation we are in is allowing everyone to be more open than normal, therefore an immediate rapport build opportunity, questioning opportunity. Make sure that your messaging is still resonating. Make sure your activity is high. Make sure you’re asking all those questions and getting into conversations. Get alignment from everything you’re doing online and activity from personal email and calling. Don’t forget to pick up the phone! At this time it’s an amazing opportunity to build that relationship. Be open, personal and professional.
Lee: Just remember this is not a holiday, it’s still business as usual for most people. If what you’re selling or promoting at the moment is generally at the C-level, now has never been a better time to educate people – use the time wisely whilst learning from others that perhaps you normally wouldn’t listen to. Every cloud has a silver lining – if you’re opportunistic, opportunities will come.
- If people want to find out more, where’s the best place to connect with you?
You can visit our website, durhamlane.com, and Twitter, LinkedIn.
Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other successful CS leaders, Tech Founders and even recruitment leaders to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies.
If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website.