B2B Marketing Experts have an ideal opportunity during the Holiday Season to do some old fashioned "feel good" marketing and help some folks along the way. Green Leads ran two internal contests that resulted in charitable giving.
Toy drive. We ran a contest last week during a one hour ConnectAndSell session. For each appointment booked during the session, Green Leads bought a toy for our local toy drive run by some friends at the Lawrence Police Department.
Kiva Microloans. A second contest we ran allowed our top performer to pick a recipient of a Kiva Microloan to join the Green Leads portfolio. We've been lending on Kiva for quite some time and allow our team to select the recipients on an ongoing basis. This now makes 15 loans.
View of the Shawsheen River at Rt 133 from Green Leads' parking lot
Those of you living in New England know that the past four days have been brutal, with constant rain, the White Mountains melting and all of it heading downhill towards towns like Andover. The Shawsheen River pours right through Andover into the Merrimack, which backs up with each high tide. Combined, the rains, the melt and the tides have caused flooding all over the area.
In Green Leads' case, the Shawsheen River swelled over its banks into our parking lot, seeping through the sandbags, and you can hear the rush of water in the bottom of the elevator shaft.
Needless to say, late yesterday we raised the disaster plan flag and packed all portable computers, headsets and one of the backup drives out of the building. Thanks to our virtual hybrid model, we were able to get all but one person up and running today. In fact, the appointment setting run rate for the morning was 10% higher than yesterday. A flood of leads!
A similar situation occurred last year with the ice storms and power outages in New Hampshire where one of the other lead gen firms went down completely for three days. In our business, time is money. For our sales rep clients, lost production from their lead gen partners means lost opportunity.
Do you have a disaster recovery plan for your Inside Sales or Lead Gen team?
If your building were to lose power for a week, or the floods poured into the basement, could you keep generating pipeline?
What about a business disaster? Could your demand gen efforts survive negative press events (think of Toyota Prius).
Parting shot ... Green Leads' mascot, Louie, taking a sip out of the parking lot.
Last night I heard a few sound bites in Obama's State of the Union Address that brought to mind what I hear from sales and marketing folks daily. So here are a few interpretations had the president been talking about Demand Gen.
"We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit."
This is about Sales and Marketing Alignment. Without constant attention to this challenge, marketers will continue to struggle. Don't just live with division of goals; create a contract with what both parties expect from one another -- a formal Service Level Agreement (SLA). Tie incentives to it. Measure it.
"For every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from"
Have your lead gen teams wake up and understand that pay-for-performance is what their jobs are about. One hundred fifty years ago in this great country, factory workers were paid for the parts they manufactured. Today, in demand gen, we need to get paid on the leads generated and appointments set. Let's go back to basics and get paid for performance.
"But remember this: I never suggested that change would be easy or that I could do it alone."
Times have changed in the world of outbound marketing. Prospects pick up their phones less. They use email more. They sometimes don't even have a desk phone. As demand gen experts, we have to change. Use the tools available to us. Use the numerous online data sources at your disposal (Jigsaw, Netprospex, Google, LinkedIn, Inbound Lists!). Dial more strategically. Specific times per day are important. Don't just bang the phone like a stamping machine. Work the prime time with tools like autodialers and ConnectAndSell.
"... after two years of recession, the economy is growing again."
I hear "woe is me" time and time again, but if it's any indicator that things are changing, our business tripled in 2009. Since our business is all about growing the top line, the future of companies' bottom lines looks promising. We hear fewer objections that "the economy has us on budget hold." If you get one, turn it around with "I understand, but it really is turning. Most of the prospects I talk with are actually in rebound mode and researching new ideas for when the budgets free up again." Frankly, this is most likely a brushoff anyway. Overcome it.
"We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are."
Don't get fat and happy in the areas you've been successful in. Keep them healthy and growing, but get creative and look for other expansion areas. A client of mine, very successful selling to software developers at the enterprise level, got a surprise order last year from a device manufacturer and realized its tools were just as applicable to an iPhone software developer and a medical device manufacturer as it was to a Salesforce.com developer. The client opened up the market with an aggressive appointment setting campaign and and an inbound lead gen effort of whitepapers, blogs and webinars. Now it is forecasting that 30% of its revenues this year will come from that sector. Listen to the market, and listen to your frontline eyes and ears ... the inside and outside sales team and your outsourced demand gen teams. They hear it all day.
Sales or Marketing, we all have the same goals -- lead gen, pipeline, and revenue. Let's get unified, both inbound and outbound, and close some business.
Green Leads has recently been doing a team micro-lending project. Our employees can donate on a regular basis, we match dollar for dollar, and then we decide as a team what Kiva borrower to invest in. It's a great cause, and in the current economy, a great way to push from the bottom. One of the best parts of doing this is getting updates from our borrowers. Finding out that the boat someone purchased is now harvesting fish for the fish market. It closes the loop and makes a good thing a human thing.
Kiva has just added video to their site for borrowers to provide updates and enrich their profiles. What a fantastic addition to an already impactful concept.
"Kiva's engineering team has been working on an experiment for the last few weeks to see how we can bring borrowers and lenders closer. In the past, we've seen that photographs have been one of the biggest ways for our lenders to feel connected to our borrowers.
We decided to take that a step farther by experimenting with a new medium: video!"
I have my notebook of ideas for when Linda and I build our green home. It's a few years off, I'm sure, but it's full of sketches, articles, diagrams and some day, this wish book will be our home. I just added the article Eco Principles for Community Living from Treehugger. An excerpt from the article:
"Acclaimed green architect Michelle Kaufmann is now trying to parlay her success with prefab homes into green community living in her new white paper Embracing Thoughtful, Walkable Neighborhoods. Green communities are critical to changing the face of American growth because currently "if everyone in the world lived in a style similar to that of an average American, we would require three Earths to support the demand on our natural resources,” says Kaufmann."
Several readers and fans have asked before, what is with the "Green" in Green Leads? What does b2b lead generation have to do with being green? Other than the obvious connection between green and money, the real inspiration for the name Green Leads was to build a marketing services company that was conscious about our community, the environment, our clients and people, and unlike other marketing services companies, operated in a sustainable model. Employee turnover and client retention is a huge issue in our industry and Linda and I wanted to combat those issues head on. Responsibility and quality was key to this decision, and it all stemmed from our practices of green living.
On the surface, an appointment setting company has little it can do to be green, but if you look under the hood, there are lots of things our company does that are positive decisions, practices, and beliefs that do not negatively impact the environment in ways that traditional companies do. There is a partial list on our website.
This post isn't about Green Leads though, it is about Green Marketing and how markets react to it. We've all seen it, the use of "environmentally conscious" messages to sell, brand, and market numerous products and services. It is obvious with products that have primary impact (cars, computers, energy, food), but there is also the not-so-obvious such as what we do (virtual office, recycled computers, carbon offsets, tap water). The question I raise, and I believe I've seen answered over the past few years, is "does the market react to green marketing in a social way, as a movement, in a way outside their traditional behaviors?"
A couple points from recent experience, which in the most part is b2b:
One of our largest projects last year came to us because the client had a massive investment in their own green initiative and wanted to make choices along the same lines. The directive came directly from their CEO.
A survey we conducted in IT departments asking about green computing initiatives in IT show that 70% of IT executives consider environmental issues important, and 48% have active programs or budget allocations promoting green initiatives.
My green blog posts have higher traffic patterns than my marketing posts.
Most people we talk to that find out about our philosophies want to engage in a conversation about green issues. Is the topic alone enough to cause positive impact on society?
The Green Gap seems to exist between those that have completed higher education and those that have not. Those with higher educations seem to have the interest in green and the economic ability to make green spending decisions. Also, most b2b buyers do have higher education backgrounds.
Green is a topic of conversation. It is trendy to be green. The topic comes up in business during normal conversation, it comes up in social settings. Green is in.
Obama and McCain both brought green issues to the forefront of their campaigns, right behind the economy. And talk about a social movement - Obama followers were acting as a social organism, not just a population sampling.
Beware of Greenwashing. Have a solid plan with proof of your strategies and practices. Create materials that document your green work. Copies of certificates, offset purchases, internal plans and procedures, vendor choices, etc.
Recruiting and employee retention has been impacted by green practices. In our case, we have only lost 1 employee of their own choosing in three years. For the b2b lead gen industry, that is unheard of.
My verdict lies in the fact that we have gained clients due to our green practices and messaging. We have made some impact through the socialization of our messages. Our community of employees, contractors, clients, and vendors have recognized the practices as important to them. The market seems to react in a way not traditional with typical b2b marketing tactics. There is an upswell, a desire, and an interest in green. Clients want to work with companies that are doing the right thing. It is a deeper desire and behavior than a product evaluation or price decision. It breeds loyalty and market growth, and ultimately contributes to the branding, growth, demand creation, and generation of new and repeat business.
A few articles worth reading:
The Environmental Leader, a green briefing for executives, states that more than 70 percent of directors at U.S. publicly-traded companies said they believe sustainability is important to profitability.