outbound-demand-marketing-landscapeLittle-recognized fact: Each year, some of the most forward-thinking, technology-driven marketing organizations spend 10x to 20x more on top-funnel leads – via acquisition tactics and services such as lead generation, content syndication, events, webinars, media, third-party social engagement, etc. – than on their marketing technology stacks.

Yet while budget goes to paid acquisition programs, marketer time and energy remains focused on marketing tech that caters to other initiatives. Paid acquisition marketing processes thus remain highly outdated, manual and disjointed.

What if we invested the same effort and capitalized on the same MarTech revolution to create greater efficiencies and insights regarding paid acquisition initiatives? We’d all quickly become much better marketers.

I get it – it’s cooler to talk about advanced technologies today than to focus on perfecting the processes that actually make it all work. Coolness in B2B marketing, however, rarely equates to more customers and revenue. But perfecting program execution does.

That’s why as MarTech begins to mature, many marketers at brands such as Dell, CA, Kaspersky, TIBCO, Five9 and others are redirecting their efforts to streamline, automate and integrate paid acquisition as a quick and potentially big win. This focus on top-funnel, front-end execution not only returns 20% of budget, but provides the actionable data required to implement advanced marketing solutions (e.g., predictive analytics, account-based marketing, etc.).

Such advanced solutions hold tremendous promise. But continuously discussing predictive modeling without establishing an efficient and effective paid acquisition foundation is almost pointless. It’s like talking about Lamborghinis to a bunch of soccer moms who need to get their eight kids to the big game. In many cases, marketers need less super car and more utility vehicle.

…and we should treat it as such by recognizing the inefficiency, wasted resources, lack of program transparency, compromised data integrity and increased business risk that are consequences of ineffective paid acquisition programs. Acquisition efforts not only represent a huge part of marketing budgets, they’re where much of the heavy lifting is done in executing marketing strategies.

Paid acquisition and lead generation strategies can stoke demand generation substantially, but they require the orchestration of many moving parts: people (internal and external), processes, technology and data. And the greater number of moving parts, the more likely something can go wrong – this is what scares some marketers away from dealing with paid acquisition issues and, consequently, the opportunities to advance this important aspect of B2B marketing.

Difficult doesn’t equal unworthiness

Paid acquisition marketing (especially regarding outbound demand generation) requires effort and expertise – there are a lot more steps involved than simply writing a few blog posts and promoting them on social (i.e., inbound marketing).

But once dialed in with efficient processes and connected with the MarTech stack, marketers see their pipeline scale like never before. So, how do you do this?

To amplify this point on execution, let’s break it down procedurally.

1. Map out your paid acquisition marketing processes

The first step is documenting all the steps required to run your acquisition campaigns. This includes everything from taking inventory of your marketing database and determining pipeline goals, to setting KPIs to identifying media partners, to scrubbing, normalizing and uploading lead files, to measuring results and optimizing programs – and everything in between.

Once you’ve documented all the tasks required, illustrate the entire process in a flow chart. It’s a good idea to highlight which tasks are automated with marketing technology and which remain manual (this will come in handy later when you’re pinpointing solutions and big wins).

Every organization is different, but you shouldn’t be surprised to find your team spending 30+ hours per month processessing lead files and uploading leads into your marketing automation system or waiting 4-6 weeks just to launch your quarterly content marketing campaign with your media partners.

2. Get your prospect data plan in place

You need to know exactly what’s going to happen with your prospect data as soon as you acquire it. Thinking this through means understand not only your funnel (e.g., lead nurturing and scoring activities), but also what happens above the funnel.

For instance, how will you get newly acquired leads into your marketing automation system? Or even before that, what type of data cleansing and/or normalization must occur before this data is ready to enter nurture tracks?

Your data plan must complement your process flowchart, because each process you list in Step 1 will often affect your data – its format, quality, readiness, lead velocity through the funnel, etc. Speaking of velocity, it’s also important to…

3. Time each task in your paid acquisition programs

It’s mind-blowing how much time we spend on paid acquisition processes. And all this inefficiency translates to fading lead quality, reduced conversion rates, wasted budget, stunted sales pipeline, less marketing-attributed revenue and worse. In fact, that’s why many companies often avoid paid acquisition altogether.

Some organizations find it easier to ignore these inefficiencies by passing the manual paid acquisition work on to their agencies, but this is just moving the challenge to another area and hardly the best use of agency time. Agency time is better used generating big ideas to engage more customers and/or using marketing performance data to optimize your investment.

Thus, it’s important to find ways to automate processes that eliminate steps and increase lead/data velocity (e.g., the time it takes for a captured lead to advance through the sales cycle and become an opportunity or customer). If you want control of outbound demand generation and paid acquisition programs, document your progress. You’ll quickly see the big wins that are possible.

This documentation process also creates a baseline from which you can set subsequent benchmarks along the way. Start by adding up the time you spend on all the tasks listed in Step 1; for example:

  • campaign building and content creation
  • media partner research, selection, communication and paperwork/accounting
  • lead validation, scrubbing, normalization and injection into marketing automation systems
  • campaign reporting and analysis

…just to name a few. (Listing them within the flowchart is also helpful).

4. Improve program efficiency and marketing ROI

Solutions come in myriad forms. You may find that one marketing channel simply isn’t generating enough demand to justify the invested budget and resources.

More often, however, you’ll likely find that your team just isn’t providing enough attention to paid acquisition campaigns to create the efficiency they need to provide scalable results.

One of the fastest paths is to have your demand gen and marketing ops teams work together on this initiative. Have them focus on identifying efficient solutions and innovating the front- AND back-end of customer acquisition.

There are also powerful tools emerging to help automate and orchestrate paid acquisition that integrate directly with your marketing tech stack. In this case, with key steps documented and baseline metrics set, you can quickly measure real ROI.

Perfecting the execution of your paid acquisition marketing strategy provides immediate return on investment – scaled pipeline, more customers and greater revenue. Moreover, it makes next-level marketing efforts such as predictive analytics and account-based marketing (ABM) actionable.

I’m in the midst of developing a workbook to guide marketers in more detail regarding the steps outlined above – so stay on the lookout. In the meantime, click the little CTA below if need a tool to help you visualize how your current marketing tech and processes work together.

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