Thursday, July 30, 2009

Medical Symptoms and B2B Marketing Processes

The medical world is very used to the fact that symptoms such as pain, headaches, and nausea are often the body's way of indicating that something has gone wrong. When a treatment is applied to the symptoms alone, it can mask an underlying problem. For example, regular unsupervised use of antacids for heartburn or reflux disease might mask the symptoms of more serious things such as barrett's esophagus, a stomach ulcer, or stomach cancer.

I was reminded of a similar challenge when a lively discussion ensued on LinkedIn about whether marketing should allow sales to “cherry pick” leads. I had written a post talking about the challenge to the overall flow of the funnel when sales is allowed to cherry pick leads. The natural flow of scoring leads, qualifying them, and then handing them off to sales is disrupted when a sales team is allowed to grab the best leads from the funnel regardless of where the scoring system has placed them.

The group discussing the issue agreed, in general, that the disruption of having a salesperson cherry pick leads was not ideal, however, it had the critical benefit of pointing out flaws in the scoring process. A salesperson cherry picking leads that the lead scoring algorithm has not deemed ready for sales may be an indicator of a deeper underlying issue. Perhaps the scoring algorithm misses certain key activities as criteria, perhaps there are opportunities in verticals outside of where the lead scoring algorithm focuses.

In the same way as medical symptoms are uncomfortable for a reason, to get your attention to a problem, the disruption of the smooth flow of leads caused by sales cherry picking can be seen as a symptom of an underlying problem. Whereas I still feel that sales cherry picking is an undesirable outcome, I do believe that if analyzed as a symptom, it can provide interesting and crucial insights into where a lead scoring process is missing the mark.

Sometimes, allowing a few "breaks" in a marketing automation process is a great way to identify opportunities to improve the overall process. When looking at your marketing team's interaction with sales, look for where you see breaks in the process, and look for processes that would completely prevent or totally mask breaks in the process. Removing a symptom of a broken process, much like removing a medical symptom, may only be hiding a deeper underlying problem.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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