An Interview with Andrew Gaffney – Editor-in-Chief of Demand Gen Report

We are pleased that we were able to catch-up with Andrew Gaffney, Editor-In-Chief of DemandGen Report, an on-line publication that covers B2B marketing and the marketing automation space.  In this role, Andrew is continually speaking with vendors, analysts and end-users.  We wanted to get his take on all things B2B marketing and what the future holds for this space.

The Annuitas Group:
As the Editor-In-Chief of Demand Gen Report you are continually speaking with marketing executives.  What are the top challenges facing B2B marketing departments today?

A. Gaffney:
I think there has been a fundamental shift—from start-ups to large companies—where marketing is now expected to have an active role in the revenue generation process. A few years ago that simply meant generating some leads and some new names for the sales team to pursue, but we are now seeing marketing teams play an active role on engaging prospects at each stage of the buying cycle. This requires new discipline in lead management, which many B2B marketers are still getting their arms around.

The Annuitas Group:
Based on the stats that are being pushed to the market, most companies are still struggling with lead generation.  Most of data comes from the marketing side.  What part do you see sales playing in improving lead generation results?

A. Gaffney:
At companies where there is still a lack of alignment between sales and marketing one of the most common breakdowns is a lack of targeting and segmentation. Sales can really help this process at the front end of the demand generation process by identifying the characteristics of their top targets. For example, ‘we have a much greater opportunity to close business if we can get the finance department involved,’ or ‘companies that also use this kind of solution are great leads for us.’ By providing the marketing department insights into the types of in-profile leads they believe they are likely to close, sales can really accelerate the process and improve lead gen effectiveness.

The Annuitas Group:
So with both sides (marketing and sales) bearing some responsibility, is this really a case of companies needing to change from a lead generation mind-set to lead management?

A. Gaffney:
Absolutely. Rather than taking the shotgun approach of batch and blast and let’s see who responds and then sales will go out and try to close them, smarter companies are much more focused on creating qualified leads and building their campaigns to match the characteristics of recent customer wins.

The Annuitas Group:
Some analyst firms have stated that less than 25% of marketing automation owners are getting the most from their automation solution.  Are you finding similar things in your discussions with end users and vendors alike?

A. Gaffney:
What we find is a wide gap between power users who have been using the systems for a while and really understand that lead management must be integrated across sales and marketing, and then the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the majority is still trying to figure out how to build and manage a contact database and evolve from simple email marketing tactics to basic drip marketing and lead nurturing.

The Annuitas Group:
With the automation industry still being very young and with such low success rates mentioned above, is the industry in peril?  Will executives continue to invest in automation if they think the investment will not return the value expected?

A. Gaffney:
I am still very bullish on the future of automation. It’s impossible to ignore that the B2B buying process has changed, so companies have to get better at building a digital dialogue with prospects and they’ll need automation tools to create and track that engagement.  The reality is companies have learned that transforming their sales and marketing processes is not easy, but when you consider the results many companies have realized, it is a competitive necessity for all B2B companies to automate their marketing.

The Annuitas Group:
What key things do you think organizations can do to ensure the success of their automation investment?

A. Gaffney:
Start by breaking down the buying cycle for their clients in today’s climate and then model lead gen and lead management processes around that cycle. For example, if you determine companies have more line-of-business people influencing buying decisions, you first have to make sure your marketing messages address that audience and that your contact database is reaching those new influencers. Then you’ll need to build lead management processes that allow you to track the behavior of those contacts so that sales can respond at the right time with the right message.

The Annuitas Group:
As we enter the last quarter of 2010, looking back over the past year, has there been anything in the B2B space that has surprised you?

A. Gaffney:
I’m a little surprised this wasn’t more of a breakout year for the marketing automation category. Given the economic climate, I anticipated more companies would be ready to transform their sales and marketing to realize greater efficiencies and connect with the Web 2.0 buyer. I think there has been more of a fear factor than I expected. Executives are still clearly risk averse this year, so they make think it is better to stick with the tools and tactics they’ve been using.

The Annuitas Group:
What do you think is in store for 2011?

A. Gaffney:
I’m not sure if it will really take shape in 2011 or maybe in 2012, but I think we’ll start to see some more integration between tools like CRM, marketing automation and even digital databases either through mergers & acquisitions or partnerships. Despite all of the cool tools and apps available, it is still not easy to get the kind of pipeline reporting or database insights most companies would like. I expect we’ll see some significant strides in that area over the next 18 months.