7 big growth hacks for lead generation success in 2017

The worst thing you could do going into 2017 is to create a budget based on the way you do things today. Oh sure, you’re looking at conversion rates and reallocating what you are spending on the least successful channels to the most successful, but what about the things you haven’t yet tried?

Here are 7 growth hacks to try in 2017 that can have a big impact on your lead generation.

Growth Hack #1: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

If you are like many companies, you’ve seen paid search get more expensive while volume and quality is decreasing. Don’t give up on paid search yet, just think about it differently. Take a look at who owns the top organic spot for your highest quality terms. Chances are it is a third party site like a product listing/review site or a publication or educational site. Reach out to these sites and see if there is a way to be listed on the page that is ranking, either as a banner ad or an in-text link. You might even find that some of those sites have paid search programs of their own (which I like to call paid search inception). Bottom line, you can get more clicks by paying for a listing on the top ranked organic site.

Growth Hack #2: Get personal – Website

Most likely, you have multiple people in your organization brainstorming how to improve your customer experience. If you’ve got the tools and time, I highly recommend providing a personalized experience on your website. Basically, this is providing a “personalized” experience to a returning website visitor based on what page(s) they visited the last time they were on your site. B2C has been using it for a while to get people to make purchases they’ve been considering. B2B can use it to get the right content in front of a researching prospective buyer so that they raise their hand to become a lead in your system.

Growth Hack #3: Get personal – Lead generation

Creating a personalized journey once a prospective buyer has become a lead is basically smart lead nurturing. Here you can have an email triggered to be sent to an individual that takes an action or combination of actions. Many marketing automation tools now have this capability. For example, someone who watched a webinar on a particular product/feature, then visited your pricing page gets sent an email talking about why your product/feature is differentiated and providing a relevant asset. Effort in this area will increase your lead conversion rates; which proves you don’t always need to spend more to get more leads.

Growth Hack #4: Get personal – ABM

ABM (Account Based Marketing) campaigns are a hot topic for marketers, and there’s a good reason behind that. Marketers and salespeople see that the outcomes from sales prospecting has decreased significantly over the past few years. If sales is responsible for bringing a significant percentage of SQLs into the pipeline, they are going to need your help. Work with sales to brainstorm ways to get the attention of a targeted list of accounts. First, generate the list in conjunction with sales. The list can be of their assigned target accounts or a subset of cold leads or a new list fitting your buyer profile. Then think of a deliverable that you can personalize at scale that would be of benefit to these targets. It could be a business assessment, an offer of training or even a personalized video to get their attention. Help create a “cookie cutter” so that sales can then execute the campaign one target at a time. The effort will be well worth it as you’ll see many more SQLs than what is coming out of cold prospecting today.

Growth Hack #5: Invest in customers

I guarantee that someone in your organization is work on improving “the customer journey”. There is a lot of buzz in the industry about being more strategic and thoughtful in our communications with customer across every stage of their interaction with us and interaction across departments/roles. Customer delight is a powerful thing, but did you know that a key part of this effort is also to leverage customers for lead generation?  B2B companies are finding big success by leveraging referral programs to harness customers to provide personal introductions from people in their network who are a fit for your product or service.  Referral programs don’t work for every company, take this quick quiz (no lead form) to see if referrals are a fit for your business. If they are, I definitely recommend you put some focus here in 2017.

Growth Hack #6:  Don’t forget about partners

If you are like most demand generation marketers, partner marketers are people you are vaguely aware exist, but never really work with. You should definitely change that! All of the opportunity you have to run a customer referral program also applies to partners. In fact, partner referral programs are the highest producing referral programs. Have lunch with a partner marketer and see what they are doing to get lead flow from partners. If they tell you they are struggling with ad hoc productivity or with underperforming reseller arrangements, it just makes sense to work with them to automate partner relationships for a consistent flow of high-quality leads. You can learn more about automating partner lead gen here.

Growth Hack #7:  Zero attribution = zero spend

No matter which activities you tackle in 2017, make sure you are focused on how many closed deals you are getting from each channel. I think most marketers have gotten past volume of leads as a measure of success, but now we need to push much further to validate spending. Go past MQLs and SQLs, soar past Opps and get direct measurement/attribution of Closed Won. Ultimately, nothing else matters so make sure you focus on activities that give you that direct link to impact on revenue. Otherwise, you could be wasting money on generating leads/opportunities that never make a purchase.

Want to discover the impact referral marketing software can have on your company? Use the ROI calculator to uncover the revenue you could generate from referral marketing.


Originally published on Salesforce

Brand advocacy vs. referral marketing: What’s the difference?

Customer advocacy initiatives have increased in adoption significantly in the past year with analysts from SiriusDecisions emphasizing the impact of referral marketing and brand advocacy in their 2016 conference. But when researching advocacy and referral marketing initiatives, you might notice that there is confusion about the differences between general brand advocacy vs. referral marketing. So here it is:

Brand advocacy uses a few customers, employees or fans who are extremely passionate about a brand to advocate for them to groups of people, typically through social channels. Brand advocacy includes actions like testimonials reviews, sharing content and social posts. This type of initiative is often used interchangeably with word-of-mouth marketing.


Referral marketing incentivizes customers (and partners) to advocate for a business or product through a personalized 1-1 connection between advocates and their personal and professional networks. These interactions, referrals, are a way to create a scalable channel for lead generation.

Or in other words, brand advocacy uses a few extremely loyal customers to try and influence on a group scale while referral marketing uses many galvanized customers and partners to influence individual peers on a personalized level.

The different roles brand advocacy and referral marketing play in an organization

Even after defining brand advocacy and referral marketing, the finer details that separate them can be blurry. As brand advocacy and referral marketing initiatives differ in result and execution, so do the roles that drive them in an organization.

Brand advocacy

Within an organization, brand advocacy can be very similar to storytelling. Brand advocacy often starts within an organization through the use of employees. This type of general initiative is encouraged or required by all departments by spreading the brand’s story and message through social media and content sharing.

When a dedicated brand advocacy program is undertaken, it often falls under PR, Communications or Social Media marketing with customer success providing significant support. The high involvement of customer success is due to the nature of brand advocacy. Since brand advocacy programs lean away from using incentives, but instead rely on a few highly dedicated customers to preach their story, it means that customer success needs have a strong nurture campaign in place in order to increase the number of brand advocates.

For marketing, brand advocacy acts as an awareness program for an organization.  These responsibilities include:

  • Recruiting customers to become advocates.
  • Keeping track of the analytics.
  • Developing materials and content that can be shared by advocates.
  • Promoting the brand advocacy program to customers.
  • Creating materials for customer success.

When undertaking this type of brand advocacy initiative there are some challenges:

  1. Brand advocates have a specific amount of reach that “dries up” over time.
  2. It is difficult to scale brand advocacy activity beyond a small percentage of customers.
  3. It is easy to “burn out” an advocate by asking for too much from them.

But don’t get me wrong, brand advocacy has a meaningful place in an organization if you can keep your customers passionate about your brand and actively advocating.

Referral Marketing

Unlike brand advocacy, referral marketing’s main purpose is lead generation with the benefit of building awareness. Since lead generation is the focus, marketing and sales takes on the majority of the responsibility within an organization.

For marketing, a referral marketing program creates an always-on channel for organic lead generation at scale. This has been shown to generate an increased number of high-quality MQLs and increase the chance of buying by 400% (Nielsen).

As with a brand advocacy program the management, content creation, analytic, and promotion are the responsibility of marketing. But as this acts as a lead generation program there is more to it than brand advocacy. Since incentives are used to galvanize advocates (customer and partner) updating incentives and creating special rewarding structures also fall under marketing’s responsibility.

Marketing’s responsibilities for running a referral program include:

  • Recruiting customers (or partners) to become advocates and make referrals.
  • Keeping track of the analytics.
  • Developing materials and content that can be shared by advocates.
  • Managing incentives and their fulfillment.
  • Enabling sales to help drive referral success.

When undertaking a referral program there are some challenges:

  1. Ensuring referrals can be tracked from social media, email or a verbal referral to a salesperson all the way to a closed won opportunity.
  2. Fulfilling on incentives and tracking for tax compliance.
  3. Making sure referral functionality is in the CRM so sales can leverage.

Marketing can mitigate these challenges by investing in referral software for tracking, attribution and fulfillment of the referral and rewards. This takes the pressure off marketing and removes the chance of lost data or program breakage. The involvement of incentives also increases the need to offer real-time referral status updates to advocates in order to keep them engaged.

In regards to sales, they can play a significant role in driving advocate recruitment and referral activity if enabled to do so. After a referral becomes an MQL, sales needs the ability to view the data of the referral and advocate within the CRM in order to reach out to the advocate and qualify the referral. Once the referral is qualified sales can then can get a trusted introduction to the referral from the source that referred them. No matter how much passion an advocate feels for a brand, this added amount of nurturing the advocate undertakes requires added compensation which is why offering rewards is an important part of referral marketing.

Additionally, sales should be enabled to “own” advocates within the CRM so that objectives for recruiting new advocates and obtaining referrals can be measured and motivated. With advocate ownership also comes the ability to route leads made by an advocate to the salesperson responsible for the relationship. The outcome of this is a stronger relationship and engagement between customers and the brand.

What analysts are saying about referral marketing and brand advocacy

Referral marketing

“A referral program and referral software are concrete ways a company can actually show what customers have provided in terms of specific leads they’ve generated by being advocates. They help monetize something that’s pretty hard to monetize in specific terms.” – Megan Heuer, Vice President of Research, SiriusDecisions

“Referral deals move faster through the pipeline.” – Bob Peterson, Senior Research Director, SiriusDecisions

ADP found referrals are their top source of new leads. – SiriusDecisions, 2016 Summit

“Customer advocacy solutions can deliver significant business benefits by driving referral business and expanding wallet share among existing customers.” – Forrester Research

“Referral marketing is a channel that offers a high volume of excellent, low-cost leads.” – Gartner

Brand advocacy

“More and more companies acknowledge that if they don’t do a great job of engaging their customers after they buy, they’re not going to be able to keep them.” – Megan Heuer, VP & Group Director, SiriusDecisions

“Improvement in volume and quality of engagement with customers, improvement in retention, and a higher rate of customers who are active advocates.” – Megan Heuer, VP & Group Director, SiriusDecisions

“All opportunities supported by advocacy and other pipeline acceleration strategies benefit from quicker sales cycles.” – Bob Peterson, Senior Research Director, SiriusDecisions

Which initiative should you take on first?

There is no question that there is value in both brand advocacy and referral marketing. In large organizations these are handled by different groups within marketing so if you’ve got the resources, take on both. If resources are tight and you have to choose one, go for the initiative that brings the biggest impact to revenue growth – referral marketing.

With an average 35% conversion rate from referral to purchase (data from Amplifinity platform) it makes sense that referral marketing programs are dramatically increasing in adoption. Now that we’ve examined the differences between referral marketing and brand advocacy, discover why referral marketing program should be on your adoption list by determining your referral program ROI with the ROI calculator. Or if you’re still trying to figure out if referrals are the right next move for your organization try this quick (no form) quiz, Are referrals a fit?


Capture your customer acquisition ‘white whale’ with referral marketing

Herman Melville’s mishaps and how to avoid them with referral marketing

Recently, Christopher Ross, Research Director at Gartner, published a very interesting article entitled, Moby Dick Marketing, on the Gartner blog. As the title suggests, it referenced Melville’s novel Moby Dick, and explained that while this novel is an intelligent piece of writing, it might have benefited from some editing. Ross goes on to advise businesses on how to avoid making the same mistakes when telling their own story. The conclusion of the blog being less is more when you’re trying to get your story heard. I agree with Ross on this. But what about when you’re trying to tell your story through PPC, email, or any other marketing initiative where you’re competing with the overabundance of your competition’s content? You can’t edit all of Google, or delete emails prospects are receiving from other companies. You can only pour more money into these channels to try and get more viewing time with target buyers.

However, even as companies are dumping more money into PPC, they’re getting less and less return (unlike referral marketing). According to a new WordStream benchmark report, the median conversion rate through paid search has decreased by almost 50% in the last four years. The 2012 paid search ads having a median conversion rate of 5.36%, while display ads came in at 4.68%, and by 2016 paid search decreased to 2.70%, with display ads at a shocking .89% median conversion rate.

WordStream Google AdWords Benchmark Study
WordStream Google AdWords Benchmark Study

Why did this happen? Essentially, you’re one page of Melville’s 135 chapter, 600 page book, and your target buyers are reading the cliff notes.

But that’s not the only struggle that modern marketing and readers of Moby Dick face. The difficulty of Melville’s 135 chapter novel stemmed also from its lack of direction. Up until chapter twenty, Melville was writing a comedy, not a drama, but upon reading some of Shakespeare’s great works, switched gears and decided to write a drama. Mainly, he was trying to accomplish too many things in one novel. Marketers face that same dilemma. As marketing departments try to make up for their drop in conversions they are taking on more and more lower performing channels without seeing direct ROI.

But as we compare Melville to marketing, there is a glaring difference that works in Melville’s favor. As many scholars point out, the audience in the 19th century was much more patient than they are today. While Melville’s Moby Dick might go on and on, he was writing for his audience.  If companies are looking to market to their audience it needs to be in a format current target buyers will hear today.

In the same four year span that PPC effectiveness decreased, referral marketing’s average conversion rate shot up to 35% (Amplifinity). Why did that happen? Because that was what the target buyer was listening to.

How referral marketing can help you edit your marketing initiatives

While today’s readers of Moby Dick flock to cliff notes in order to avoid sifting through what many consider the monotonous details of the novel, leads are flocking to their network of peers, friends, and family in order to avoid sifting through the endless marketing noise. Businesses especially are looking for the most conscious way to narrow down companies and products in order to save time and resources. Referrals provide leads with a trusted source to gather information and validate a company’s ability to provide an offering that fulfills their needs.

Referral marketing software helps you take control of this process. Current customers and partners know if certain individuals in their network of peers, family, and friends are in the market for a product or service like yours. Referral marketing programs incentivizes customer and partners to make a trusted introduction between those individuals and your business.

In addition to that, you can empower your customer and partner advocates with both online and offline trackable referral methods and persuasive content that they can provide to your prospects in order to nurture them.

As Barry Nalebuff, Milton Steinback Professor, Yale School of Management, co-author of Why Not? and Co-opetition, and co-founder of Honest Tea, says in his editorial review of the book Content Trap,  “‘Content is king’ may once have been true, but favoring content over connections will only get you dethroned today.”  

Referral marketing programs connect target buyers to your content and offerings through customer and partner advocates. And as Bharat Anand, the author of the book, Content Trap, Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, exclaimed at Dreamforce, “Companies that win on connections really don’t have to market.” This mean that you get a better conversion rate and higher quality leads than channels like PPC for less money and can eliminate marketing channel that no longer meet expectations. And not only that, referral are proven to have:

  • A 4x higher conversion rate than traditional marketing channels (emarketer)
  • Reduce churn by 18% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)
  • Increase LTV by 16% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)

Prove the value of referral marketing with the ROI calculator and discover how referrals can help you edit your marketing plan and avoid turning it into the Moby Dick of marketing.


A CMO’s insight into Dreamforce 2016 – The era of communities commences

The wonderful thing about Dreamforce is that it brings together attendees with roles across the business to discuss real-world problems and ways to address them. At past Dreamforce conferences I’ve attended, I felt that the content was rather siloed. That all changed this year.

As a CMO who also manages product strategy, I attend marketing, sales, product management, customer success, partner and Salesforce product sessions for a holistic Dreamforce experience. This allows me to connect the dots and clearly see what is happening in the market for B2B companies today. What was unique this year was the ubiquitous focus on the customer. Let me rephrase, it isn’t all that unique to have a theme for the conference, but this year there was ubiquity in the approach. Specifically, the culmination of communities.

The buyer has taken over

We all know the buyer has changed. Buyers are overwhelmed and only interested in products/services when they have a specific need identified. It is extremely difficult to break through with your message. This was clear in every sales session I attended where personalized and social selling was emphasized versus email campaigns and cold calling. And from the marketing sessions, it is obvious that demand generation is a real struggle for many companies as they are trying to find a silver bullet to break through the noise. Product management continues to struggle with getting user feedback. Customer success is still working to find operational efficiencies so they can scale the service and support they provide.

So how does this relate to communities? Simply put, they are the answer to solving these dilemmas.

Community Cloud is a melting pot of solutions

Salesforce has clearly focused innovation on the Community Cloud product. But they haven’t done it in a silo. They are bit by bit bringing all the great functionality from their various offerings into Community Cloud. In presentations I saw functionality from Pardot, Marketing Cloud, Wave, PRM, Service Cloud, eCommerce and much more all integrated into their Community Cloud offering.

Communities can be focused on customers, partners or employees. If you approach a community with the concept of creating a win-win for the company and its community members, you can leverage it to solve many of your business problems. Here’s how:

  • Building a community is a unifying project across department silos. It forces your company to work together across departments. And we all know good things come from this type of alignment.
  • With any type of community, if you provide value, you can make asks of your community like content and referrals. Customer and partner communities are ripe for this type of a program. And referrals are as close as marketing can get nowadays to a silver bullet for demand generation as they are proven to be the highest quality lead and fastest to move through the pipe.
  • Building a customer community can allow for product management to harvest point-in-time and real-time product feedback. They can do this with surveys, but more specifically triggers can be setup within a community to serve up certain surveys to certain users at predefined times or trigger. And certainly, setting up Q&A posting can provide a rich interaction and Chatter can allow for real-time discussion.
  • The possibilities for Customer success to scale with a customer community are incredible. Customer success can provide self-serve support as well as provide a fast-track to escalate issues and get real-time help with less overhead. And with the Service Cloud data integrations, everything is tracked.
  • Across departments and across community types, there is a desire to segment and “personalize” the experience. Community Cloud’s integration with Engagement Studio/Journey Builder technology allows administrators to setup unique experiences for community members so that the right information is served up to the right person at the right time. This is the nirvana for engagement and in my opinion is the key to communities being a game-changer for companies.
  • Salesforce has also focused on a Google Analytics integration with Community Cloud so that companies can collect all the relevant data to optimize their user experience as well as to better understand their community members. This means data that every department can use to understand their customers, partners and employees better.

Communities are now easy to launch

The big news from Dreamforce is that thanks to its ISV partners, it is now easier than ever to create a community. Salesforce partners have created community templates, called Lightning Bolts, which allow you to quickly start from a pre-built community that fits your needs (think WordPress themes).

And Salesforce isn’t stopping its innovation in this area anytime soon. The future of the community is to continue bringing the functionality from every cloud into community, continue to enhance the ability to deliver a personalized experience by turning on the capabilities of Einstein’s machine learning (Salesforce’s new AI platform) and much more. And while Salesforce didn’t mention this, I would predict that bringing data from IoT devices into Community Cloud is a logical future enhancement as well.

The benefits of communities are hard to ignore

With the functionality that Salesforce is building into Community Cloud, this is no longer a nice to have. Instead it is a strategic mechanism to building engagement with customers, partners and employees. The potential benefits to the business could be just what is needed to grow revenue. Keep in mind, you must make sure that you are adding value to your community members and that means you need to provide support, content, maybe even entertainment. If you get it right, you can expect the following outcomes from your community:

  • Better marketing content – user generated content (UGC) is the best type of content. It instills trust beyond what a brand can convey directly and is incredibly valuable for brand awareness and driving leads through the pipe.
  • Amazing leads – whether customers, partners or employees, all can generate referrals for you. And any sales person will tell you that referrals are by far the best leads.
  • A better product – the feedback from product users in a community (and partners) can be invaluable to product management to set priorities and focus on meaningful innovation that truly adds value in demonstrable ways.
  • Lower support costs – with all of the functionality to scale customer support and make it self-service, this can be a big cost savings.
  • Faster sales cycle – thanks to great leads from referrals and great user content, new business will move faster through the pipeline and keep the sales team highly productive.
  • Improved satisfaction – don’t just think customers on this one. Partners and employees too will be happier with your company when they are engaged with in a smart way in a community. Make it a win-win and think about their needs and your satisfaction metrics will go up.
  • Increased revenue – when you add up the other benefits, there is the potential for both cost savings and revenue generation. Combined, communities can make a big impact on the bottom line.

If you’re thinking about how to gain extra value through Community Cloud, start thinking about referral software for Salesforce.

Salesforce referral program

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