Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review: Adam Needles' Balancing the Demand Equation

Business marketers can find plenty of books on broad strategies and plenty of other books on specific tactics.  But a framework for connecting tactics to strategic goals has been missing.  Adam Needles’ new book Balancing the Demand Equation (available here from and  here from Amazon) closes the gap.

Needles is a well-known industry leader who is Chief Strategy Officer at demand generation agency Leftbrain DGA. His book starts with a review of changes in the B2B buying process and the new demands these place on B2B marketers.   While this is an oft-told story, he summarizes it nicely in two requirements: focusing on the buyer relationship, not on the sales process; and, replacing disconnected push campaigns with an operations mindset of continuous processing. 

The discussion then switches to tactics.  These fall under two major headings of content marketing and lead management.  The book provides practical hints for each topic, such as changing who signs your emails as buyers progress through the purchase cycle.  (Spoiler alert: early emails should come from industry peers, later emails from vendor experts.)  Much of this advice is sourced from other industry leaders – which is to say that it’s useful but not new.

Needles saves his own contribution for last.  This is the concept of “Demand Process Integration”, which he calls a framework to connect content management with lead management so they reinforce each other.  Actually, “framework” doesn’t quite do this justice: what Needles presents is really a step-by-step methodology that includes defining buyer personas, planning the dialog for each persona, mapping the dialog steps to lead stages, defining nurture logic (with separate tracks for active buyers, buyers who need follow-up offers, and inactive buyers), creating lead scores for different personas and stages, and rerouting leads who enter in the middle of the process or should be moved to a different track.  The concepts are illustrated diagrams from Needles’ work at Leftbrain.

The design methodology is followed by advice drawn from operations management theory on process execution, monitoring, and optimization.  Key metrics include process capacity, throughput time, and system balance.  Needles tailors these to demand generation by recommending that marketers check for nurture logic integrity, conversion rates by stage, lead scoring accuracy, and routing errors. 

This may start to sound painfully detailed, but marketers wondering how to connect grand strategic visions with practical execution will find it hugely helpful.  If you want something more inspirational, that’s here too: the book closes with a list of big-picture implications including re-conceptualizing the role of B2B marketers, changing the relationship between marketing and sales, and paying marketers based on results.  As Needles himself puts it:

“Let’s be clear; we’re not talking about a minor course correction here.  This is not a book filled with tactical best practices.  We’re talking about a massive overhaul of how we approach B2B demand generation and a significant re-orientation for B2B marketers.  The stakes are pretty high.”

Indeed they are.  Consider this a guidebook for how to play the game and win.

1 comment:

David Morris said...

Nice Review.