Demand Generation, Tactics and Strategy, and Business Intelligence

Tuesday evening at Dreamforce, I got into an interesting Twitter conversation with Left Brain Marketing’s Adam Needles (@abneedles on Twitter) discussing marketing’s relationship with sales.

In Adam’s mind, he felt that the presenters of the Sales/Marketing alignment session were pushing marketing back into a sales support role, one that he felt didn’t align with the purpose of today’s Sales 2.0 demand generation strategies.

I’ve never met Adam in person, but having read some of his writing at Silverpop, Left Brain Marketing, and on his own personal blog Propelling Brands, he has always produced insightful, thought-provoking content related to B2B demand generation. Thus, I was intrigued by his conviction that marketing and demand gen were not “sales support,” but a holistic, integrated set of processes that speed and maximize business development.

In stark contrast to Adam’s ideas is an article I read several weeks ago from BNet’s “Sales Machine” blog. In it author Geoffrey James forcibly decries what he sees as one of the biggest failures of marketing departments — that they “turned from service functions into a ‘strategic leadership’ role.”

James goes on, “Marketing geeks started showing up in product design meetings, pretending that they understood the customer . . . The problem isn’t that two co-equal groups [sales and marketing] need to work together. The problem is that marketing got uppity and forgot its place.”

Hmm, so which is it? Marketing and demand gen as a strategic, holistic business practice? Or a subservient lackey to the sales team’s needs and imperatives?

As Adam stated in one of his tweets, “In a Web 2.0 world, #B2B marketing must become the leader of a holistic demand gen process — not just tactical lead gen.” Ideally marketing is about producing “closable” leads, but it’s also about branding, educating potential buyers, creating valuable content, and generating “thought leadership” in the market — all of which ultimately produces better quality leads in the future.

That said, having straddled the sales and marketing “Great Divide” for nearly six years now, Geoffrey James’ words carried some weight with me. Too often marketers get away with living in a “measurement vacuum,” and the C-level doesn’t hold them to the same level of hard metrics as sales. Marketers want to be “creatives,” with all of the associated “freedom,” without being tied down to “mundane” lead qualification rates and cost-per-acquisition.

Yet Adam’s vision of what could be ultimately seems to be the best long-term strategy. If marketing and sales need to align, it’s precisely because of Geoffrey’s point. Sales reps can no longer chase after marketing-generated “rainbow sunshine”; they have to maximize every lead they get, every minute of time they have. If marketing isn’t producing quality leads, sales reps don’t have the luxury of throwing good effort after bad, especially now. And a good demand gen strategy, based on quality sales intelligence, analytics, and processes, will absolutely provide more and better opportunities.

More than anything, the question boils down to, Who has the final say in what marketing should be doing? The CMO, or the VP of Sales?

“Subservient” might be too strong of a word, but I do think that ultimately if marketing isn’t producing quality leads for the sales team, it’s sales’ job to get the course corrected. When it’s all said and done, the buck stops in sales, not marketing.

Author: Ken Krogue |
Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes articles

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