Book Review – Digital Body Language by Steven Woods (or How to Generate the Glengarry Leads)

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As shown in this clip showcasing my favourite speech from one of my favourite films, Glengarry Glen Ross (from the genius, David Mamet*), there has always been a traditional and very simple model of interaction between marketing and sales. The former generate the leads, the latter close them (“Always Be Closing”!). But, another nice point made by this film is the different types of leads that marketing can generate. The salesmen all complain about the poor leads they’re being given, that nobody could close. But Alec Baldwin’s character then dangles the “gold” leads, the “Glengarry leads” in front of them as a way of motivating them to do better with the leads they’re given.

Digital Body Language, by Steven Woods is a book that’s been around for four years or so now, (so this is hardly a new book review), but as the film highlights, the issues it addresses are at least 20 years old and of course, much older than that. Fundamentally, how can you know when a lead is a Glengarry lead or not?

Historically, particularly in large B2B enterprise selling, a sales person does a lot of this. He or she can sit in a room with a number of prospects and read their body language to figure out how the deal is going. And I’ve seen great salespeople do this. I’ve watched them monitor 7 or 8 people in a room all with different roles, different levels of seniority/sign-off, different biases for and against a product, and orchestrate that room towards a deal for the company that would never have happened in the absence of that individual.

But Steven Wood’s proposition is that the buying process for many customers has completely changed. Now customers want to buy at their own pace, finding information when and how they want and not being “helped along” by a sales rep. Therefore instead of reading the customers’ body language in the boardroom, we as marketers have to read their digital body language through the interactions they have with us. Do they click on that email you sent them about new functionality? How have they interacted with your website? Recently? And so on.

By reading these interactions with your various marketing assets, you can build up a profile and work out when a lead (or “Inquiry” as they call the most basic level of interest shown by someone) becomes good enough to pass on to a sales person – when they become a “Marketing Qualified Lead”. This is someone that it’s worth your sales people spending time on, checking to see whether it should become a “Sales Accepted Lead”, then a “Sales Qualified Lead” before it hopefully turns in to a purchase!

There’s an awful lot of content in the book and this is what I like about it. Unlike most marketing books, this one is a real “How-to” guide for the things you need to do to get setup with what is, basically, marketing automation. Including:

  1. The Awareness, Discovery, Validation, Retention model that I described in my last post
  2. The need to look after leads who aren’t ready for sales people, by nurturing those leads using data-driven, intelligent collateral
  3. Managing feeds in to and exits from the sales funnel, as well as clawbacks – the process whereby leads rejected by sales are clawed back by marketing for further nurturing (rather than just throwing them away)
  4. The data problems you’ll hit – more on this below
  5. Tips for how to generate buy-in for the changes needed…
  6. ..and some indication of the significant nature of the changes – really it’s an enormous change in the way marketing works
  7. The different dimensions that you need to use to categorise customers:
    1. The Buyer Role
    2. Their level of Interest
    3. The Buyer Stage
    4. Communications Preferences

And much much more. Essentially, if you wanted to implement something like this, the book really is a recipe book for what you need to do and how.

So this is something I certainly like about the book – it’s very practical.

Steven Woods is a co-founder at Eloqua, a company which provides marketing automation software. This isn’t surprising of course (and he mentions it early in the book) – if anything it would be a very frustrating read if everything described was completely un-implementable! In fact, what’s really interesting about this book is that it is, of course, a fantastic piece of marketing collateral aimed at the top of the funnel – Awareness of a problem or opportunity. Other than the introduction, Steven never mentions Eloqua once in the whole book. The text is a description of the problems marketers face in this area and how to solve those problems. Because it barely mentions Eloqua, it’s not trying to help you Discover them as a provider or differentiate them against competitors (though of course, the fact that such a great book is written by somebody from company X obviously helps their cause – it would be one of the first places I looked for marketing automation software).

But this does raise one of the first issues, and one of the things that has slowed progress in this area for where I work and I suspect other place – data and modelling problems.

The book describes a lot of very low level analysis of interactions – measuring what customers are doing all the time on all sorts of dimensions. This feels somewhat daunting when you read it and this is of course why you need marketing automation suites (i.e. some tech) to help with these problems.

But I think there’s more to it than this – in my experience trying to implement this sort of thing, there are two stages of problems (the first of which Steven mentions, but the second he doesn’t go in to as much detail about):

  1. Data messiness. Never underestimate the horrors involved in transforming your current data mess in to something useful, let alone filling the gaping holes in the knowledge you have of your customers and visitors
  2. Even when you have half-decent data, the modelling required to work out what’s important in the mountains of information you’ve generated is also non-trivial

Particularly on the second of these – if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to struggle enormously to make any headway on what it all means. Steven discusses “creating a scoring algorithm” but that’s like asking someone to “Do some maths” to work out the answers!

Nevertheless, if you can get over these significant hurdles, I really believe the results will be worthwhile. What’s most interesting for me, is the shifts it suggests in marketing roles. Essentially what it’s saying in the last few chapters is that a new type of marketer is needed – skills around the 4 ‘P’s and creative talents become secondary to data analytical skills and an ability to understand the bigger picture of how sales and marketing work together to generate revenue. This will be controversial to some, but as I’ve pointed out before, the idea of taking a more scientific approach to marketing (rather than the cliched “I know that half my marketing works, I just don’t know which half”) is very attractive indeed. In fact in his final chapters he outlines how these processes can finally help find the holy grail that is measuring marketing ROI properly. May be one day!

The other question that crossed my mind as well was how relevant this approach was in the current SaaS/cloud services world where it’s likely that a prospect will be able to try your software at a much earlier stage – i.e. that they can start validating much earlier rather than having to be nurtured by you up to that point.

But I don’t think this is too much of an issue. Firstly, if you were going to implement a significant SaaS product (say the monthly subscription for Salesforce), then there would still be a very significant lead time before you would even consider getting started – i.e. a standard sales cycle. You can’t decide today “Let’s try Salesforce!” then be using the trial in full tomorrow (at least not with real data).

Also the book does talk a little about the last part of the funnel – Retention. I.e. how to nurture and look after customers after they have signed-up to make sure they stay with you, again reading their digital body language (are they still using the tool? How much? How else are they interacting with you? Etc).

Anyway, a great book – I’ve started on the follow up (Revenue Engine), which as far as I can see, builds on ideas presented here – I’ll post something when done.

* Another David Mamet film that I love is The Spanish Prisoner, mainly because its main character has the job I’ve always wanted!

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