Faster ways to waste direct marketing investments

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A direct marketing highlight this year is the well-documented increase in b-to-b companies closing deals as a result of best-practices outbound lead-generation processes. At the same time, however, we're still seeing companies struggle with average and laggard lead-gen methods that prevent them from reaching revenue targets. With a goal of focusing awareness on critical areas where improvements can and should be made, here is a tongue-in-cheek review of six fast and expensive ways to waste direct marketing dollars:
  1. Reinforce the silos. Wasting dollars is proportional to how siloed marketing and sales operations are. When the two work from different playbook pages, poor results are guaranteed. Encourage marketing and sales to play a game of pointing fingers. Marketing will begin with, “We deliver tons of leads, but sales doesn't do anything with them. We never get any lead feedback, and we never get credit for leads we source.” Sales will counter, “We don't get enough leads; these aren't real leads; and I called three times and didn't hear back.”
  2. Promote creative, unfettered shotgun targeting. Why should marketing and sales be required to agree on a precise definition of the target market when it comes to direct marketing? Instead, let the two groups seek opportunities wherever their hunches take them. Some may think the market is broad; who knows, they may get lucky. Others may see narrowcasting as the right strategy. Leaders should encourage these diverse targeting approaches and say, “Why not? Nothing else seems to be working.”
  3. Keep the definition of a lead fuzzy and self-serving. One critical success factor in wasting dollars faster is ensuring marketing and sales have their own—different—ideas about what a lead is. Incented to deliver volumes of prospects, marketing defines leads as information inquiries or folks scoring high in a marketing automation app. Never mind that no one has called to verify authority or need. Sales defines a lead as a short-term buyer, one a rep can easily contact and quickly move to the win column. Anything else isn't a lead.
  4. Invest and measure based on the wrong metrics. Accelerate budget burn with a focus on reducing the cost-per-lead. For example, lowering lead costs drives up the volume of so-called “leads” and floods sales with hundreds of raw, unfiltered names. Rep time is consumed by following up on unqualified names, and marketing suffers as its credibility drops even further.
  5. Pick one contact medium, reach out a few times, then give up. Consider this sales rep lament: “I got this hot lead and left three voice mail messages. I didn't hear a word back, so I guess they're not interested.” This is a strong tool in the dollar-wasting arsenal. Highly compensated “hunters” often have an expectation that a generated prospect is sitting by the phone waiting for a call that will result in a near-term deal. When they don't get the expected result, they move on.
  6. Focus exclusively on short-term leads. In six months when the CEO calls and says, “Hey, I thought we were engaged with this company. I just saw that we lost them to a competitor,” the rep can sheepishly look at the floor and say, “They weren't going to buy last quarter, so I stopped working with them.”
Don't be dismayed when applying these worst practices. Keep the faith. Implementation will not only guarantee wasted direct marketing dollars, it will ultimately deliver lost deals, missed quotas and declines in revenue. Dan McDade is president-CEO of prospect development company PointClear ( He can be reached at [email protected]
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