Building a Customer Engine Part 1: Overview

Effective demand generation is about far more than lead capture and conversion; building a real revenue machine ultimately requires an end-to-end understanding and optimization of the entire Marketing environment. The customer engines that I have built have a common set of basic building blocks. This post provides an overview of the set, and subsequent posts will drill into each of them and get to practical advice.

Of course, I’m talking here about B2B Marketing only, rather than consumer-facing. This model also tends to work best when your ASP is high enough to support a direct Sales team (although it has worked for high-volume, low-dollar transactions as well).
The sequencing isn’t that critical, since you will eventually get into a continuous improvement mode on all of the major components. That said, I always start with the pipeline. I will explain why in a moment.

There are five major components that need to be in place and optimized in order to drive growth and revenue:

  1. The Teflon Pipeline. Making sure that the processes from first Marketing touch to closed-won deal are frictionless and effective. If they are not, then revenue is being left on the table.
  2. The inbound Engine. The best leads are always the inbound hand-raisers, so how do we make it easy for prospects to engage with our content and talk themselves into becoming customers (or are least, talking to Sales)?
  3. Outbound Campaigns. The traditional Marketing campaign engine used to deepen the relationship with prospects and customers, and lead them toward purchase.
  4. Visibility and building an army of advocates. Visibility and reputation drive traffic to our inbound engine, so we need to activate customers, supporters and influencers to articulate our story on our behalf.
  5. Great Storytelling. The payload that every demand generation program delivers to prospects and customers that will make them want use our products in support of their own goals.

There is a sixth component that is equally important but cannot be implemented until the first five are at least somewhat working – Measure and Tune. That essentially closes the loop and informs future planning.

Note that these components are presented in reverse of the usual order; the first round of messaging and storytelling must obviously happen first, or you don’t know what your targets look like. When I’m asked to optimize a client’s demand generation activites I always start from the pipeline end, for two main reasons:
First, optimizing the handling of existing leads and opportunities will almost always deliver increased revenue faster than any other tactic. In essence, the potential business has already been generated. The second, and much more important, reason is that optimizing lead handling and Sales processes makes it possible to measure the impact of other changes in Marketing activity. In other words, if the pipe is blocked then great Marketing looks the same as bad Marketing at the other end. As it does to the CEO and CFO who control your budget…

With an optimized pipeline in place, it becomes possible to measure and tune Marketing plans based on pipeline impact and revenue data.
The overall optimization activity should be tackled iteratively, beginning with an overview of the current state of the entire system. Once that initial analysis is complete, I like to identify short-term opportunities for improvement that will drive increased revenue, as well as the larger, more strategic items that must be in place to complete the scalable growth engine.

So that’s the big picture view of the Customer Engine. Each of the individual components is worth multiple blog posts, so stay tuned as we dive into each one!

Peter TaitBuilding a Customer Engine Part 1: Overview
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