Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Test, Trend, Tweak: Don't Leave Your Campaigns on Auto-Pilot

By Sally Lowery, Director of Demand Generation, Bronto Software

In my mind, here’s the difference between lead generation and demand generation. Lead generation stops at the hand being raised by a prospect showing interest, while demand generation continues the conversation and cultivates that relationship with timely and relevant content. What causes most demand generation programs to miss the boat is not necessarily the timeliness but the relevance of the campaigns that they create.

Why? Marketers, often in a vacuum, run demand generation campaigns with very little influence by the sales organization. In addition, once a program is begun, little testing is done to optimize the program. If you want to have a dynamic demand generation program, you must start an open dialogue with your sales organization and you must incorporate testing. Here are a few ways that you can optimize your demand generation program and maximize your ROI.

  • Create conversations with sales. What is working? What isn’t working? No one knows better than your sales team the indicators of a prospect’s sales readiness. If you are excluding sales from the conversation, then you should rethink your strategy. I learned quickly that downloading a whitepaper, while exciting for me as a marketer, meant very little to our sales organization. Why? Because downloading educational material was less of an indicator of sales readiness in comparison to reviewing case studies. This ongoing conversation prompted me to rethink my scoring around whitepapers as well as whether or not that was a true “milestone” in the prospect’s engagement with us. Consider your current lead scoring, milestones, and campaigns when you sit down with your sales team. Ask the questions, and don’t be afraid of the answers. It will lead you on a path to a more successful demand generation program.
  • Test. Testing can seem very scary as a marketer, because we want to invest the time and energy into what we “know” will work. The reality is that we are missing out on great opportunities by playing it safe. The benefit of testing with your demand generation program is that you can create conversations you may have not experienced. So consider your campaigns and determine areas that you can test communications with your prospects.
    • Scoring. What scoring is the trigger point indicating that a lead is more sales ready? Perhaps you have been steadily funneling any lead with a score over 50 points, but want to consider whether or not you can improve the opportunity conversion rate on a higher or lower lead score. Consider testing diffeent scoring levels for 3-4 weeks and learn what impact it can have on your conversion rate.
    • Milestones. Test what milestones constitute a marked event in the sales process. As I alluded to previously, sales readiness may not be indicated by the behaviors that you assumed.
    • Message. Is your content stale? Are you creating relevant experiences based on your prospect’s behavior? There’s no easier way to uplift your campaign than to make easy edits to your content and offering.
    • Rules. Perhaps you have campaigns that trigger one day after an action. Consider testing same day or several days later and see which yields the better response.

These are just a few small ways that you can have a huge impact on your demand generation program.

  • Trend. Don’t just rely on your gut; review your metrics. You would be surprised at how many marketer’s can easily tout metrics on their email marketing, search engine marketing, and online advertising without even blinking, but fall short when it comes to the demand generation programs. Just ask them if adjusting their lead scoring impacted their average days until an opportunity or if their opportunity conversion rate increased or decreased based on their program and you may be met with blank stares. Know what key performance indicators are important for your organization and see what impact your testing has on those metrics.
  • Tweak. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t give up. Not every test is going to be a win, but being willing to take time to optimize your program and drive more relevant experiences is going to pay off for you.

Test, trend and tweak your demand generation program and reap the benefits. Oh, and don’t forget to loop your sales team into the conversation. You won’t regret it.

Sally Lowery is the Director of Demand Generation at email service provider Bronto Software. In her role, she manages tactical and strategic lead acquisition, multi-channel marketing, marketing automation and the integration of marketing concepts. Sally has over 11 years of extensive experience in traditional and online marketing in both the BtoB and BtoC space.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oceanos Unveils New Insight Tool for List Building & Maintenance

One of the key goals for any organization’s marketing team is to build and upkeep a relevant list of potential buyers. Ideally by maintaining a fresh and relevant database, marketers are able to tap into the most engaged and interested prospects to optimize their sales and marketing investments.

A new tool from Oceanos offers an independent analysis designed to harvest external data and information to build and maintain relationships. The Oceanos List Intelligence Portal is designed to deliver customized educational content, including campaign information, such as list research proposals and post campaign metric reports. Marketers access the List Optimizer tool, which is designed to provide a systematic approach for third party data. The tool is designed to offer a more effective way to scrub personal and competitor domains, among other outlets to optimize data usage.

DemandGen Report recently caught up with Oceanos President Brian Hession for more details on the portal’s contents and what list building resources marketers should tap in 2010.

DemandGen Report: What is the overall objective of the List Intelligence Portal?

Brian Hession: The number one objective of the List Intelligence Portal is to deliver customized educational content to demand generation marketers. We have both prospect and client portals.

We have two “prospect” portals. The largest portal includes over 5,500 marketers and is focused on educating and building Oceanos brand awareness. The second prospect portal is focused on nurturing and includes folks that have engaged with Oceanos but have not converted to clients.

The client portals include campaign information (list research proposals, creative assets, and post campaign metric reports). Because we don’t own or manage any data, we work with our clients to design the list strategy and help them understand what is working and what is not. Oceanos sees a great opportunity to firmly establish itself as the market leader with this positioning.

DGR: Can you describe the overall significance of the portal's contents? How they relate to nurturing key business objectives?

Hession: The client portals help us build and solidify relationships. The portals were launched in August 2009, so we are viewing the client portals as a long-term demand creation strategy. For some of our clients, we’ll have 30-40 projects summarized within their portal. We are confident that our clients will find value in these archived campaigns.

The portals push case studies, white papers, our published articles and our quarterly List Intelligence Report, providing a continuing flow of list intelligence.

DGR: How are the offerings tailored for marketers' specific needs? Are there any additional resources portal users can request?

Hession: The client portals provide us an opportunity to push customized content to specific clients. For example, this could be a new list to the market or special media opportunities that would be of interest to the client.

DGR: Moving into 2010, what are some of the key tactics you are recommending to your clients centered on list building?

Hession: It starts with the identification of the target accounts and then implementing a systematic approach for leveraging the data sources that contain the appropriate decision makers and influencers. We are in the final development stages of the List Optimizer. We have an automation specialist and a small team of application developers building a proprietary piece of software that will enable Oceanos to build a list with greater precision from across multiple data feeds. It’s a sea-change approach to list building and it has been a couple years in the making.

DGR: Where should marketers increase investment in list building resources?

Hession: They should increase “time” investment in identifying target accounts. We see very few marketing groups that can collect intelligence from their sales group that we can then leverage within the list strategy. In 2010, we are going to focus more on educating our clients on how this information could be utilized to optimize demand creation.

Marketers can sign up for the List Intelligence Report here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Author Jonathan Kantor Offers Tips To Optimize White Paper Programs

With white papers emerging as the go-to tool for many demand generation campaigns, Principal & Founder of The Appum Group Jonathan Kantor released a new book dedicated to providing marketers with best in class tactics for white paper composition. The new book, “Crafting White Paper 2.0,” offers marketers insights into best practices around visual elements as well as utilizing case studies to optimize readership and response.

“If business writers and marketers wish to elevate their skills on part with a craft, they will have to incorporate more visually engaging elements beyond simply placing words on a blank sheet of paper,” advises Kantor. DemandGen Report had the chance to catch up with Kantor to spotlight some of the key takeaways of his new book, including how to avoid common composition mistakes, as well as the best ways to optimize white paper promotion through social media.

FrontCoverWebDemandGen Report: The book’s title “Crafting White Paper 2.0” stresses the importance of incorporating elements (other than words) to thrive in today’s competitive business environment. What are some of the other key elements for white papers that you stress in the book?

Jonathan Kantor: There are four categories of “visual” elements that engage today’s time-constrained business readers:

  1. Page Design creates important first impressions that generate incentives for the business reader to open the white paper and read the first page.
  2. Executive and Concluding Summaries provide bottom line solution messages that allow the reader to determine if the primary content will solve their critical business problems and be worth the investment of their valuable and limited reading time.
  3. Text Enhancements provide visual links to larger portions of related white paper content on the same page. Sidebar callouts, shaded text boxes, and bullets quickly engage readers with important bottom-line messages that lead them to expanded page content.
  4. Graphic Enhancements such as concept graphics, business charts, and workflow diagrams translate complex text information into simple pictures that quickly deliver bottom-line solution messages. Industry-specific illustrations build reader affinity.

DGR: Chapter 6 explores “Why the Traditional White Paper Won’t Work.” One of the reasons you give is that the responsibility of reading large white papers often gets pushed down into lower levels of the organizational chart, making the ability for the marketer to influence the key decision makers more difficult. What are some ways to ensure that a white paper gets in front of the most appropriate person?

Kantor: If the target reader is a C-level, executive-level decision maker, white paper marketers must include elements that accommodates their limited amount of time and attention. Here are the most common methods of attracting top-level decision makers to your white paper:

  • A professional design that allows the white paper to stand out among a crowded field of ‘me-too’, all-text documents that is seen all too often.
  • An executive summary that specifically addresses the executive’s concerns while providing clear solutions to solve those problems, from their perspective.
  • A detailed concluding summary that provides first time ‘skim readers’ with essential ‘take away’ messages and reinforces measurable ‘call-to-action’ information (such as a web site, phone number or email address) for subsequent lead capture.
  • Concept graphics that translates complex solution/benefit text-based information into simple, clear illustrations so that bottom line advantages to be quickly assimilated and understood. This is precisely what busy executives are seeking from white papers, but few marketers are providing.

DGR: The book offers many tips to make white paper content compelling, including using a title and hyperlinks, and referencing through social media. What are the most important aspects of social media to leverage when promoting and white paper and why?

Kantor: Some of the basic social media best practices include:

- Use the tag “White Paper: Title” to notify your followers that the enclosed URL link is a white paper.

- Always add a shortened URL link to each tweet or post to maximize the limited number of characters devoted to your white paper title and description.

- Your URL should either directly download the white paper or reference one landing page where the user can download it.

- Don’t force your social media follower to surf through several landing pages before they can download the white paper. After two landing pages, you will lose their attention and significantly decrease the likelihood that they will download your paper.

- When you post additional updates to promote your white paper, use different descriptions to break up repetition and minimize the impression of overt selling.

DGR: The book emphasizes the significance of case study examples in white papers, to “attract reader attention by increasing ready affinity and ‘connectivity.’” What are some of the ‘must have’ elements to include in a white paper case study?

Kantor: White paper marketers must view the case study as a condensed version of the white paper that is focused on a customer experience rather than the featured solution. In other words, assume the reader knows nothing and walk the reader through a step-by-step approach in telling their testimonial story. This includes:

- Background information on the company and their industry

- Their business problem or challenge they experienced prior to implementing the identified solution

- Why they choose the featured solution.

- The results the company gained after implementation in clear, simple terms that any reader can understand (such as productivity, profitability, lower costs, return on investments, etc.)

Jonathan Kantor is the principal and founder of The Appum Group, "The White Paper Company," an organization that specializes in the creation of professional business and technical white papers for enterprise-class businesses and the SMB (Small to Medium Business) marketplace. Click here to purchase "Crafting White Paper 2.0."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leveraging Social Media for Sales Lead Generation

By Dan McDade, President, PointClear

In our era of communications overload, it can often take up to a dozen “touches” to effectively reach prospects and qualify them as sales-ready.

Marketers have learned that the most effective way to cut through the clutter and develop leads is to touch each prospect over time with a combination of media, including quality outbound calls, voicemail messages, email and direct mail.

This process can now be greatly enhanced by adding social media to the mix. While most people think of social media as a non-business arena, many savvy marketers are making strides in leveraging social media to gather intelligence about prospects and to establish a rapport online, long before a meeting takes place.

This article takes a look at social media and how to use it, including how to integrate it into marketing programs as a way to touch prospects online.

Social Media as a Source of Intelligence

With the rise of the Internet, we gained access to a tremendous amount of instant information about the companies with which we want to do business – through Web sites, online press releases and online articles. While of tremendous value, that information is highly orchestrated, generated primarily by companies telling us what they want us to know. Social media can provide another layer of useful information that adds depth and dimension.

For example, one way to identify prospects is to look for trigger events, such as the hiring of a new CEO. Such movement at the top can mean that a company is ready to accelerate in a way that creates opportunity for you. To leverage social media in uncovering trigger events, visit Twitter and search for “new CEO” (include the quotation marks so you get the exact phrase, not just tweets that include both words). Some of the returns you’ll get may include tweets from insiders with clues as to where the new CEO is taking things.

Then, to find out more about the new CEO, hop over to LinkedIn. Search for the CEO by name; if he or she is a LinkedIn member, you can uncover information to better inform your initial contact – such as where the CEO was educated, previous positions, hobbies and interests, etc. Next, and you should do this even if the prospect isn’t using the service, search LinkedIn for the company name, which will produce a list of that company’s employees that have LinkedIn accounts. Any of those employees who are in your network will be flagged, giving you the opportunity to contact them for additional information about the new CEO and even to request an introduction. If you see any familiar names who are not in your network, by all means add them to it – the larger your personal LinkedIn network, the greater the possibility that you’ll be two or three degrees from a prized prospect.

Social Media as a Pathway for Communication with Prospects

While social media can be useful for gathering information about a prospect, you’ll get maximum advantage by using it to “touch” prospects and establish two-way dialogs. For example:

  • Rather than simply trolling Twitter for trigger events, open an account and begin micro-blogging interesting points about your product or service. Others who are searching for keywords you’ve included will gravitate to your tweets, and highly interested parties may also tweet you back, creating a lead. When appropriate, be sure to include links to your company’s Web site in your tweets, to drive traffic to your site and to improve its ranking in search engines.
  • Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your product or service. Many of the largest, most well established LinkedIn groups include both buyers and sellers with an interest in that group’s focus. Once you’ve joined a group, don’t simply lurk; post useful category information, such as white papers. As with Twitter, remember to include links to your company’s Web site when appropriate. If you discover a need for a new LinkedIn group, start it yourself, and invite others with interest in the category to join.
  • Start your own blog, which can be the most powerful social medium of all for lead generation. The primary purpose of your blog should be to expand your reach. Choose a title and issue posts that are topical and search-heavy, and include liberal links back to your Web site. It can take time to garner followers, but if it’s done right those followers will come, and will often post comments that can reveal interest in your product or service. To take it a step further, visit other relevant blogs and post comments on them.

Social media is so new that we’re all learning how to best leverage it for our business purposes, and the examples here are just a few ways in which social media can be beneficial in lead generation. There are additional social media techniques that may be even more appropriate to your particular company and its product or service. The important thing is to get started – just as those companies that embraced the Internet early got a head start on their competitors, so it will be with those who get a head start on leveraging social media to generate leads, engage prospects and strengthen customer bonds.

Dan McDade is Founder and President of PointClear, the prospect development company. Before McDade founded PointClear, he served as Vice President of Marketing for the direct mail firm, Jackson & Perkins, and as President of UST: The Business Marketing Group. To learn more about PointClear, go to www.pointclear.com, or to read and post comments on the PointClear blog, visit http://blog.pointclear.com/.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Leads CEO Shapes Strategies To Help CMOs Net Results In Recession

By Bob Good , Founder & CEO of Good Leads


The knee-jerk response for many companies during the recent economic downturn was to cut discretionary spending. Unfortunately, these line item cuts often had an adverse effect on business development and lead generation. To help their clients and prospects work around this budget squeeze, Salem, NH-based Good Leads developed several new programs including a “stimulus plan” and a “vertical validation,” offer for its clients.

DemandGen Report recently caught up with Bob Good, Founder and CEO of the business development services firm, to learn more about the impact Good Leads’ programs have had on their clients’ pipelines during the fourth quarter.

DemandGen Report: Good Leads has been running a Q4 stimulus plan – offering a 15% service premium and no long-term commitment. Hopefully, your results were a little better than the government’s stimulus package. Can you share some of the results from that package and any other creative programs you are putting together to help your clients and prospects overcome the challenging economic climate?

Bob Good: We first ran the package in Q1 recognizing the CFO’s had cut off their CMO’s and put many “discretionary” costs on hold relative to phone-based, outsourced business development. To be honest, there were few takers but we knew we needed to be creative as the smart firms were not going to let the sales funnel shrink. We have re-offered it now in the later part of the year, as we see that the “fear factor” of the recession is gone and firms are now coming off the sidelines to active campaigns running again which we anticipate will flow into 2010 continued appropriations.

What we did learn was that those CMOs that weren’t completely cut off had reduced spend objectives and thus we created more of a “Lite” version of our Prospect Builder Program. Not optimum for either party, but with limited outbound dials, we were able to keep a steady, but reduced flow of qualified leads into the customer’s funnel.

DGR: Another unique way you have answered the budget squeeze for your clients is by providing a “lead quantity guarantee” with your Prospect Builder campaigns. Tell us a little more about how that program works and if that was put together as a direct response to the current business environment?

Good: Good Lead’s “lead quantity guarantee” is actually not a response to today’s economic environment but has always been one of the key features of our Prospect Builder Program since we began the firm in 2002. We contractually stipulate to a fixed minimum number of leads that will be delivered to our customers over the remaining term of their campaign after a brief pilot period. We fix this quantity after running the program for 60 days to see the acceptance of our customers offering by the market and the actual run rate of opportunities we have developed per the customer’s own lead definition. With this experiential data, both parties agree upon what that lead quantity guarantee should be based on facts and not what goals have been given to the CMO to achieve. This feature is core to our success in contrast to vendors that guarantee a fix number of leads before even knowing what the potential customer sells.

Not surprisingly in this economic environment, CMOs with limited budgets need to see net results; thus the final product of our Prospect Builder Program are leads/opportunities that are covered by our unique “lead quality warranty” which is covered contractually in writing. As a key program feature, we warrantee all of our workmanship if our customers feel it is not what we purported it to be. Our core mission statement is to be a trusted source.

DGR: You get exposure to the pipeline activity of a lot of different companies. What is your sense of the business climate? Do you think things are opening up as we head into 2010?

Good: The second half of our year has been significantly busier. We are hiring again. As I said before, the shear fear factor is gone and CFOs are slowly coming off the highest “alert” levels. If not because their economic indicators are better but because the top line sales revenues have been challenged due to earlier constrained demand gen budgets. We have had customers come back and those that postponed Q1/2 activities are now getting going so that the rest of our year is building relationships with prospects but really hopeful of hitting the market hard in January.

DGR: The Market Landscape Briefing and Vertical Validation services Good Leads offers are designed to help clients offer new markets with better intelligence and confidence of their positioning. What kind of discoveries do you typically uncover for your clients in the process of researching a vertical or new category?

Good: For the Market Landscape Briefing (MLB) and Vertical Validation (VV) services,

typical discoveries include:

A market opportunity that seems like it should be a really great investment is actually not.

For one client, we had completed a program risk profile and competitive and partner snapshot as part of the MLB. Based on our research, we recommended to the client that they walk away from an investment that looked as if it should have massive returns. The company agreed and ultimately saved $5 million by not entering what is now a flat market that is over-saturated with players.

The investment in the MLB and VV delivers returns that extend into other aspects of the business.

Demand generation and building of the sales funnel, outbound marketing including sales collateral, white papers and Web sites, and the "elevator pitch" and the longer term product strategy all flow seamlessly from the groundwork completed. The MLB and VV make work with internal teams and outside resources such as ad and branding agencies more cost effective and quicker to execution.

The MLB and VV frameworks drive strategic and crucial discussions — and decisions — not just marketing choices.

The framework and facilitation allows executive teams and staff to have discussions that challenge individual assumptions or instinct in a constructive, action-oriented way. As an example, we frequently have client team members pull us aside and say that what was discussed is something that needed to be discussed, but there just had not been a way to get the topic the attention it needed. Having these crucial discussions out in the open almost always lead to more team commitment and a better decision for the business.

DGR: Good Leads was recently selected by the University of New Brunswick to work with grad students and 10 startups on their marketing strategies. How did that program go? What experience were you able to share with the grad students and what did you personally learn from that exercise?

Good: The program with the International Business & Entrepreneurial Centre of UNB is currently underway with the program timeline endpoint being in April 2010 when the startups arrive in New England to meet with business prospects where we have aligned them based upon the joint marketing and export plans between the UNB graduate students and the firms. The teams are actively meeting and we will be reviewing their progress in a mid program visit to Portland, Maine in January. All of the students are wide-eyed and full of energy and always want to know “why not”. The entrepreneurs are full of optimism with their 3-5 year plan projecting “millions.” My seasoned staff team members will try to harness the enthusiasm and create the right expectations for their first sets of conversations with business suspects with they visit the U.S.

Bob Good , Founder & CEO of Good Leads, leverages his 25 years of hands-on executive experience in sales, marketing, operations and management to provide clients in high technology, financial services, telecom, pharmaceuticals and the BtoB sector business development best practices and telesales techniques. His sales teams also boast proficiency with the most advanced customer relationship management tools that promote sales, including those that facilitate Web collaboration and sales force automation tools.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Always On Lead Gen Enabled Via Virtual Event Environments

By Bob Bahramipour, CMO, InXpo

Until recently BtoB marketers have had limited online tools for demand generation. While consumer marketers have long had a variety of online tools available to them, such as Yahoo!, YouTube, FaceBook, Hulu, BtoB marketers,on the other hand, have been forced to rely mainly on search engine marketing, direct response email and some display advertising to get in front of potential prospects.

Each of these online tools do have value, but they also have very significant limitations in generating leads, qualifying leads, and closing leads. Search engine marketing and email are effective at driving traffic and clicks, but do very little in turning that traffic into an engaged lead. Banner and online display advertising in the BtoB space are very limited in scale and while these methods can drive general awareness, they do little to meaningfully drive leads.

The rise in virtual events in the past year has finally given BtoB marketers an immersive, interactive, live, content-rich tool through which large-scale lead generation and lead qualification is possible. Furthermore, virtual events offer a powerful combination for both lead generation and brand building.

Virtual events constitute a powerful and cost-effective BtoB marketing platform. Using this platform, marketers can transform raw traffic generated by search engine marketing and other online advertising methods into qualified leads. Virtual booths can be used to distribute product information and connect prospects to live sales and product people. Virtual auditoriums can be used to talk to large audiences about business solutions and also serve as a congregation point for customers to freely chat and ask questions. Virtual networking tools can be used to introduce prospects to partners and other customers who can give positive testimonials. And within a virtual event no action is lost into the ether – every click, every visit, every download, every email is tracked in the virtual event’s comprehensive data mart for future review. Furthermore this data can be directly connected into the marketers’ CRM systems – ensuring that every lead is actionable.

At the same time because virtual events are real time, live and experiential in nature, marketers also have an opportunity to bring their products and brands to life. Virtual events not only offer the opportunity for brand advertising throughout the virtual space but also allow marketers to bring their product experts, customers, partners, R&D gurus together to do product demos, solve problems, and engage deeply with the brand.

For example, Cisco Live is Cisco’s premier customer conference providing education and training event for IT, networking professionals. As a low or no cost option for customers and partners in 2009, Cisco added a virtual companion powered by InXpo’s platform that would continue to be accessible after the physical event concluded.

The virtual event drew in over 6,600 unique attendees during the live dates. These attendees logged 3,956 booth content views for 11 external sponsor and Cisco Business Unit Booths and over 7,000 webcast session views for the original 40 webcasts available during the live event (Cisco Virtual Worlds Blog, August 21, 2009). Furthermore, Cisco Live Virtual proved to be a path for building loyalty, driving sales and increasing familiarity with products and services by customers and partners (Cisco Virtual Worlds Blog, September 13, 2009):

  • 34% of the virtual attendees indicated they were extremely/very likely to attend the in person event next year in Las Vegas.
  • · For virtual attendees, the increase for familiarity with Cisco products and services before the event and after the event was near as strong as for the in person event

A virtual environment, like one created for Cisco, enables B2B marketers to create an experience that drives lead generation year round, while driving brand awareness. These results are achieved through:

  • promotion tools to bring prospects and customers to the environment
  • immersive rich media environment to bring them through the door
  • content targeting to get them interested
  • real-time interaction with product experts to peak their interest
  • real time person-to-person interaction to drive organic promotion of brand / product
  • powerful reporting, CRM integration, backend tools to make the information actionable

For the first time, there is an interactive, live and collaborative environment that enables prospects, customers and partners to touch, feel and evaluate products on a level they couldn’t previously.

Bob Bahramipour is Chief Marketing Officer with InXpo, the leading provider of virtual events and virtual business environments that deliver real business results. For more information about InXpo, email pr@inxpo.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , follow on Twitter @InXpo, or visit www.InXpo.com.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tips to Ready Marketing Content for Step Backs

By Ardath Albee, Marketing Strategist and Author of the Marketing Interactions Blog

As BtoB marketers of complex sales gain traction in developing content across buying stages, they've got to remember that answering objections and correcting reversals is not just a sales activity. With sales conversations pushed farther back in the buying process, you can lose prospects before they ever speak with your sales reps if you don't remove any doubts that arise for them along the way.

Step Backs cause stalls to pipeline momentum. They tend to happen when your prospects have determined your company has a viable solution to their problem, but something pops up that causes hesitation. This can be a competitor's claim, a new ripple effect your prospect has uncovered that the solution will impact or something they've heard from a colleague or peer. There are a ton of things that can happen to cause hesitation.

Obviously, you can only address Step Backs if you learn what causes them to happen.

Some ways to do this include:

  • Win/loss reviews with your sales force
  • Customer interviews
  • Past customer surveys
  • Listening to and monitoring social networks

I've seen a number of questions asked on social networks lately about solutions. Someone posts a question asking for recommendations for a type of solution or what they should know about a specific solution before they choose to buy it or even why one solution might be better than another.

The amount of information being shared is extensive—some factual, but much that's based on opinion more than fact. Nevertheless, what's being said about your solutions on social networks needs to be listened to and, sometimes, responded to.

What marketers may struggle with is even admitting there are concerns about buying a type of product. They seem to have trouble talking about anything that's not evangelizing their products. Even though we all know that complex purchases are evaluated based on risk assessment as well as benefits. That's a part of the process. So, meet it head-on and be authentic while you're doing it.

I'm not talking about writing a piece about why buyers have chosen not to buy your solution. I'm talking about addressing concerns directly. For example: if your sales reps are reporting that you're losing deals because a certain type of influencer isn't buying in, find out why and develop content to address that concern to help eliminate that obstacle.

One of the best ways to identify Step Backs is with marketing automation. Here's one scenario made possible by the technology:

A prospect has been engaged by all your nurturing touches for the past five months and suddenly ceases to click through. Take a look at the prospect's individual profile and see if they've returned to some previously viewed content. If so, perhaps something in that content hasn't fully answered their needs and they've gone back to look for reassurance that their assumptions are correct. This is the perfect time to reach out to them personally and ask if they're looking for specific information you can provide.

Most marketing automation solutions have a rules or work flow process that allows you to automatically send a message if your prospects do or don't do something. If you uncover certain patterns of behavior, you can develop content and distribution processes to address Step Backs as they occur, keeping prospects moving forward.

Or it could be that their priorities changed. You won't know until you ask. There's never a cut-and-dried rule for prospect behavior, but there are ways to try to address it helpfully.

Addressing Step Backs with content is a proactive way to show the depth of your understanding about your buyers' needs. By engaging with them about concerns that cause hesitation, you gain the ability to get them moving forward again, rather than losing them to a competitor or even to a decision to do nothing.

Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc, helps BtoB companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing customer-focused e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. Her clients experience results like an increased 375% of sales-ready leads in just 8 months, which translates into millions of dollars added to their sales pipelines. But, marketing isn't just about generating new demand. Ardath helps clients re-engage customers and build loyalty that adds longevity to customer lifecycles. Visit Ardath’s website: www.marketinginteractions.com and find fresh marketing insights on her blog at http://marketinginteractions.typepad.com.

Ardath's new book, "eMarketing Strateies for the Complex Sale" was recently released from McGraw-Hill. Visit the book's Web site www.emarketingstrategiesbook.com for more information.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Managing Lead ROI With Predictive Modeling

By Jeff Liebl, VP Marketing & Product Sales, eBureau

The biggest challenge with buying sales leads from third-party affiliates and aggregators today is the difficulty in measuring lead quality and predicting return-on-investment. In some product/service categories, it may take weeks or even months before a buyer can clearly assess the quality of a given lead based on whether or not it converted. Moreover, quality can be volatile month to month, even from the same lead source. If you can’t reliably measure quality, how do you know if you’re paying the right price for leads?

Leave it to the online education sector to teach us new techniques. For-profit, higher-ed giants like the University of Phoenix, Corinthian Colleges, Kaplan University and many other schools spend about $1 billion combined each year buying leads from third-party aggregators and affiliates. And they are leading a quiet revolution that will change the dynamics of lead pricing in every product and service category. These companies are not only insisting on lead ROI, they want it to be quantified before they buy leads. Sophisticated predictive lead-scoring technology—much the same as that used for many years by offline direct marketers and financial institutions (think FICO credit score)—makes this possible by running leads through predictive models that leverage huge databases containing consumer-specific demographic and other data.

Here’s how it works. Before they actually purchase any leads, some online educators use third-party service providers to score the leads. Say a company is testing a lead supplier based on an initial 500 leads. The lead scores indicate they are a mixture of high and low quality. In general, there are more high quality leads in the mix, so the overall average price is set at, let’s say, $47. Then the company creates three pricing tiers: good quality leads priced at $55, average quality priced at $38, and the worst 8% of the leads at $5 apiece. The campaign begins to run at 100 leads per day, but the lead score indicates that the campaign’s quality is deteriorating. Fortunately, the pricing tier automatically reduces the average cost per lead to $37. The lead seller also sees the drop in quality within the first couple of days. Since the lead score reports the quality of every lead in real-time, the lead seller uses this feedback loop to trace the source of the bad quality back to a couple of its new affiliates. Those affiliates are shut down and the average price per lead climbs back to $47.

Throughout the month, the lead seller tries different approaches to improving lead quality and identifies some new sources that bring its average up to $50 per lead. These are better-quality leads and worth the extra $3 each. With the increase in volume, the buyer’s call center is now getting 250 leads more per day. The lead scores help to prioritize follow-up efforts. The highest-scoring leads are quickly routed directly to the company’s best call center agents and the $5 leads simply receive an email follow-up. Despite the spike in volume, the lead conversion rate goes up by double-digits because the focus is being placed on the right leads.

Class dismissed!

Jeff Liebl is VP, Marketing & Product Sales, at eBureau, leading the marketing, product management and product sales organizations. His experience includes management roles in marketing, product management and business development with Silicon Valley-based Fortune 500 and venture capital-funded startups. In his previous role as Vice President of Global Marketing & Product Management for Ubiquity Software, Jeff built a 20-person global team, branded the company and launched several new products. Ubiquity successfully IPO'd in March 2005

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Selling to the C-Suite Author Stephen Bistritz Shares Exec Viewpoint

Reaching key decision makers is top of mind for salespeople, but the lack of access the C-Level can incur missed sales opportunities. Focused on providing key tactics to reach the C-Level decision makers responsible for approving top-dollar deals, new book “Selling to the C-Suite” compiled responses from CXO-level executives about their professional relationships with salespeople.

Co-Author Stephen Bistritz, Ed. D. shared some of the key findings with DemandGen Report, including how salespeople can gain credibility among their target prospects and the nature of the executive buying process.

Picture_2DemandGen Report: What are some of the ultimate takeaways from “Selling to the C-Suite,” and how is the book different from other literature on selling?

Stephen Bistritz:
Most – if not all – of the books on the market today were written by salespeople from an anecdotal perspective. The content is mainly about how the salesperson was able to sell effectively in a particular environment. To our knowledge, none of the books currently available on this topic were developed mainly from the executive’s perspective. This book is based on a number of research projects, conducted by the authors over an extended period of time, where CXO-level executives were asked about their relationships with salespeople. One of the research projects was in the US, while the other was in Asia Pacific.

DGR: The book is a result of extensive research on the behavior of executives. What were some of the questions you asked CXO-level executives in your research?

Bistritz: Some of the specific questions posed to those executives include:

  • When and why do senior executives get involved in the decision-making process for major purchases?
  • What is the most effective method for salespeople to use to gain
    access to executives?
  • How do executives screen or test salespeople?
  • What has to happen in meetings with salespeople for the executive to feel it was effective?
  • How do salespeople establish trust and credibility with executives, thereby gaining return access?

What were some of the key findings from those questions and what surprised you the most about the responses?

Bistritz: First, executives said they were not opposed to receiving sales pitches or presentations, as long as salespeople listened and understood their major concerns and business issues before proposing a solution. From the executive's perspective, salespeople often came to their office with a solution looking for a problem and that was a significant turn-off for the executives.

Second, that executives said they wanted a single point of contact to help them resolve problems that arose during the implementation of a solution. Executives understand that complex solutions may often involve multiple business partners, but executives wanted a single point of contact and accountability.

Third, it was interesting how executives still value responsiveness and value that characteristic.

Fourth, their description of when they get involved in the buying process for major purchases was interesting and insightful. It also indicated to us that they want to meet with salespeople at specific times in the buying process and may also avoid meetings with salespeople at other times in that process.

DGR: From an anecdotal perspective, what response did you receive about some of those issues that most impressed you?

Bistritz: When we did the initial interviews with CXO-level executives, we practiced our interviewing techniques using executives from one of our sponsors (Hewlett Packard). We were sitting in the CIO’s conference room after the interview and I asked him: Why would an executive at your level ever agree to meet with a professional salesperson. And I’ll never forget his answer! He said to me: “Steve, I like to meet with professional salespeople because often they can offer me solutions to my problems that even people within my own organization can’t solve. And that’s because they have encountered and solved those problems in other organizations – and I want the benefit of their experience.” That clearly showed me the value of being a professional salesperson!

DGR: What are some of the critical factors in the book that salespeople would be most interested in?

Bistritz: The book provides many insights about selling to executives—primarily from the executive’s perspective. For example, as indicated earlier, we learned that there are specific times in the customer’s buying process for major purchases when senior-level executives get involved and engaged. At other times in the buying cycle, senior executives tend to delegate responsibilities down to lower-level executives or managers in their organization. Understanding when to engage with senior-level executives during the buying process is a key point.

In addition, salespeople will learn what executives feel has to happen in meetings for the executive to sense that the meeting was effective. Further, salespeople will find out how to become perceived as a trusted advisor by executives, thereby getting return access to them.

DGR: What are some of the key factors for salespeople to employ to establish credibility?

Bistritz: Salespeople must demonstrate both capability (by solving business problems) and integrity (by being reliable and consistent) over the long term in order to be deemed as credible by senior client executives.

When salespeople demonstrate both capability and integrity over the long term they start to operate in what has been described as the Client Value Zone - and it is here that the salesperson can become perceived as the trusted advisor by the executive. In addition, when salespeople operate in the Client Value Zone (and become the trusted advisor to the executive) the relationship begins to become collaborative.

DGR: Can you speak to the nature of the C-Level buying process? How can salespeople nurture this?

Bistritz: When we asked CXO-level executives when and why they got involved in the buying process for major purchases, we received some interesting responses. Those executives told us that they got involved early in the buying process to:(1) establish the objectives for the project and (2) set the strategy for the project.

They also told us that they got involved at the end of the buying process to (1) review the implementation plans and (2) measure the results.

They said that they tend to delegate to others (in their organization) the aspects of the buying process associated with exploring solution options and vendor selection.

Therefore, salespeople need to get involved at the beginning of the buying process to help establish the objectives for the project and also at the end of the buying process to make certain they communicate the results of their solution - in terms of the business value delivered - because executives want to understand the value that their investment (in the vendor's solution) delivered to the organization. Obviously, enhancing relationships with senior client executives when not involved in a buying process helps ensure access to those same executives at any time during the next buying process!

DGR: The book mentions the term “relevant executive.” What are the facets of this term and how does it relate to the salesperson?

Bistritz: In the book, we talk about the need to get access to the relevant executive for the sales opportunity. This executive is often overlooked—even by the most experienced salespeople.

We make the point in the book that you may not always need to get to the CEO of the client organization to sell your solutions. In fact, in many cases, salespeople are better served by not getting to that level to try to close deals involving their solutions. You need to find the executive with the highest rank and greatest influence for the specific sales opportunity. We identify that executive as the relevant executive—we also point out that the relevant executive could also be defined as the executive who stands to gain the most or lose the most as a result of the application or project associated with the sales opportunity. If you can align with that executive you will find that s/he will be able to exert an element of informal power as it relates to the buying decision.

Dr. Steve Bistritz has more than 40 years of high-tech sales, sales management and training management experience. He is a published author and lecturer in the field of sales, sales management and selling to executives. Steve spent more than 27 years with IBM in sales and training-related positions. He then worked for a sales training company where he led the development of sales training programs which were delivered to tens of thousands of salespeople worldwide.Visit his website at www.sellxl.com.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When was the last time you stole a customer?

By Prugh Roeser, Founder, The Devereux Group, Inc

The BtoB marketing fight is for prospects, not customers, and winning the fight for prospects has become as important as sending the right leads to sales. This article explores how prospect retention impacts every aspect of lead nurturing:

  • Prospect Experiences
  • Techniques for Lead Nurturing
  • Lead Nurturing Objectives
  • The Right Kind of Lead Nurturing for Your Organization
  • Where Do Lead Scoring Capabilities Fit in?

Prospect Experiences

According to the “Rule of 45,” 45% of inquiries buy within 12 months – from somebody. Another 30% still plan to buy at the end of that same 12 months. That’s 75% of inquiries– that you’ve already paid for – that can become sales for you and not someone else. When you hold onto more inquiries, you reduce opportunities for competitors and increase return on lead gen at the same time.

Maximizing prospect retention may seem new, but you already have tools for achieving it. Just like optimizing customer experiences, you can optimize prospect experiences so they stay interested, and don’t defect to a competitor. Lead nurturing’s role is to embody the experiences you want prospects to have.

Techniques for Lead Nurturing

Prospect experiences utilize one of several contact techniques, but they all roll up into 2 basic approaches to lead nurturing:

  • Reactive
  • Proactive

With the Reactive approach, each time a lead acts, nurturing is delivered according to what occurred, primarily using:

  • Auto-responders
  • Trigger-based marketing

With the Proactive approach, contacts follow preset intervals and pre-defined purchase processes. Lead behavior can change content and delivery schedules, but nurturing continues unless there’s an opt-out or request to stop. Primary techniques are:

  • Drip marketing
  • Keep-in-touch marketing (i.e., newsletters)
  • Proactive lead nurturing

Lead Nurturing Objectives

Reactive and Proactive techniques work best for lead nurturing objectives that leverage their respective strengths. When objectives are set, preparing leads for sales is usually number one; but that omits many ways organizations utilize lead nurturing:

  1. Improve scores and qualification levels of leads not ready for sales
  2. Promote the organization and its products to leads not ready for sales
  3. Gather contact information and sales intelligence
  4. Reduce prospect attrition
  5. Follow up with anyone showing interest
  6. Shorten sales cycles
  7. Minimize time wasted on poor leads
  8. Automate lead ranking
  9. Evaluate lead sources, content and offers

10. Reduce cost per lead

11. Improve marketing ROI

The major impact of each objective falls into 1 of these categories:

  • Sales-readiness
  • Prospect retention
  • Sales productivity
  • Marketing productivity

The Right Kind of Lead Nurturing for Your Organization

This matrix identifies the most productive techniques for each category of lead nurturing objectives:

Categories of Objectives

Reactive techniques

Proactive techniques




Prospect retention



Sales productivity



Marketing productivity



If sales-readiness is the primary focus, both reactive and proactive techniques work. Reactive nurturing techniques don’t work as well for the other categories, however, because they need to be triggered by lead activity.

Proactive lead nurturing techniques work better for prospect retention and productivity-oriented objectives because they don’t wait for leads to act. Leads aren’t ignored, and don’t have a chance to just slip away.

Where Do Lead Scoring Capabilities Fit in?

The value of lead scoring depends on lead nurturing objectives and where scoring occurs during the process. When Sales-readiness is the primary emphasis, scoring has a natural role assessing lead progress towards being qualified enough for Sales to contact.

Lead scoring is less important when the primary nurturing focus is not Sales-readiness. In a prospect retention or marketing productivity context, scoring quantifies and standardizes how you evaluate nurturing effectiveness, define lead segments, and measure the performance of lead sources, offers and content.

Determining which kind of lead nurturing is right isn’t as simple as comparing the products of competing solution providers. You need to establish the mission of lead nurturing in your organization. Our focus here has been to create a framework for deciding that mission by defining objectives and requirements.

Regardless of how an organization decides to put lead nurturing to work, this evaluation framework can bring objectivity to that decision-making process.

Prugh Roeser founded The Devereux Group in 1986 as a BtoB marketing company that delivers integrated Bottom-Line Marketing programs. Primary services include strategic marketing consulting, direct response, email marketing, and LeadMaker, a proprietary lead management, nurturing and qualification process that features multi-touch buyer-cycle contacts to turn raw leads into real opportunities. Prugh can be reached at roeser@devereuxgroup.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or 781-631-9213.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

7 Tips to Get Biggest Bang Out Of Sales, Marketing Databases

By Jim Meyer, Vice President, eTrigue Corp.


Now more than ever it is important to tend to the database to get the most from marketing initiatives. Accurate prospect information – proper name and title, what and when content was viewed on your Web site – provides valuable clues as to how best to move prospects to the next phase of the buying process. Whether that is reaching out with a targeted email from marketing or having a salesperson call, it is important to make sure the right team is focused on the right audience, at the right time. This all depends on having accurate information readily available in the tools that help sales and marketing get their jobs done.

Looking after the database often gets shoved under the rug in the sales and marketing process. Whether a company is using an automated marketing platform and CRM system, or has customer, tradeshow and individual sales rep lists strewn across the organization, it is worth paying closer attention to database management going forward. Here are seven simple data management tips to help improve the effectiveness of sales and marketing programs.

1. Consolidate Prospects, Leads & Customers
There is a difference between Prospects, Leads and Customers, and they should be treated differently.

Keeping a complete “digital biography” of every email sent, opened, and every Web page viewed keeps sales and marketing communications on time and on target.

With assigned distinctions like “prospect,” “lead” or “customer,” marketing and sales efforts can be appropriately targeted based on status and how far along they are in the sales process. By keeping a master list, which is a superset of the CRM and other lists, an organization can effectively market, measure and optimize ALL communications efforts, leading to stronger relationships and a more effective sales process. And, don’t forget those valued customers when it comes to marketing. Cross-selling and up-selling opportunities are often missed when a company is not tracking what its current customers are viewing on its Web site.

2. Clean up the CRM Clutter that Clogs
Keeping the CRM system clean will help the automated processes. If effectively targeting the Served Available Market (SAM), it is likely a company has acquired considerably more prospects in its database than the sales team could ever begin to address. And, more importantly, where should the sales team start? Non sales-ready prospects should be nurtured by marketing with an effective, ongoing automated demand generation program until they are ready for sales interaction, and only then should they be transferred to a company’s CRM system.

Once a prospect is in the CRM system, data critical to the sales process should be automatically synchronized with the marketing automation system. With a complete prospect profile including detailed tracking information, cold calls are a thing of the past. Sales can focus on the warm leads that have digitally raised their hand by engaging with a company’s Website. Avoid clutter and keep the CRM system and the sales team focused on driving sales – and let the marketing platform automate the rest.

3. Normalize
Keeping database content consistent is an ongoing challenge – especially when working with a variety of data sources. Insertion, update, and deletion anomalies add uncertainty to marketing efforts. Whether segmenting prospects for a particular campaign or using a specific piece of data to trigger an automated email, bad data can yield inaccurate and embarrassing results.

Normalizing data on an automatic basis goes a long way to keeping a tidy database. Having a system that replaces all “VP”, “V.P.”, and “Vice Pres.” with “Vice President,” for example, makes communications more professional and assures that database searches yield accurate results.

4. Only Ask for What You Really Need
New relationships are delicate and sometimes the enthusiasm to capture information from prospects hinders the marketing and sales process. When engaging with prospects via the Website, only request the information needed to effectively market to each prospect. If a database includes a lot of bad physical addresses – but traditional direct-mail campaigns aren’t being run – this information is not needed until further along in the relationship.

Acquiring information one piece at a time is less invasive and helps improve the quality of the information a prospect ultimately provides. Registration for premium content – including white papers, webinars, etc. – can be an effective way to start tracking visitors to a Website, but don’t forget that asking for too much information too early can turn good prospects away, prompt them to enter inaccurate information just to complete a form, or opt out of your communications all together.

5. Polish Your Data
Prospect information is more fluid than ever. Nearly 10% of all businesses relocate every year. In addition, changing positions, phone numbers and e-mail accounts means up to 70% of a company’s records will have some type of change on a yearly basis. Keeping information up-to-date is key to making a good impression. The goal is to communicate with, not insult, a prospective customer. Sending multiple copies of an email to a single prospect – or addressing them with a three-year-old title – is not professional.

6. Sort, Segment and Target
Maximize the value of the information prospects provide or the competition will. Every piece of prospect information should be closely considered, to see if the database can be better segmented based on the metrics that drive potential customers to purchase. Segmentation clearly depends on the specific market and customer base. Everything from job title to the type of content an individual prospect prefers can be used to give a company a competitive advantage.

To provide some perspective, a recent report by KnowledgeStorm claims 82% of technology-buyers prefer information targeted to their industry – 67% say content targeted to their specific job function is more valuable.

7. Review and Optimize
While constantly reviewing and updating marketing campaigns, also review the level of detail and the structure of the database. For example, asking for too much detail can be costly when purchasing lists. Similarly, not asking for enough detail can yield miss-targeted marketing messages. Potential customers’ businesses aren’t static, so databases need to be updated as your strategy changes.

Get the Most from the Data
Keeping a tidy database will help a company get the most out of it. An efficient database provides the ability to efficiently track, nurture and identify interested prospects over time and puts that data in the hands of sales and marketing to close more sales faster.

Jim Meyer ( jim.meyer@etrigue.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is Vice President at eTrigue Corp. He has more than 20 years experience marketing products from wireless silicon to consumer electronics.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Process Audit Needed To Identify Breaks In Lead Management

By Carlos Hidalgo, President, The Annuitas Group

Marketing automation systems are robust and do allow marketers to become more efficient and effective, but they can’t deliver the process-based approach that will ultimately help the marketer meet the demands of today. It’s tempting to believe that that technology will cure all of the marketer’s ills. But it won’t. Companies that adopt marketing automation technology without the planning and development of process will not reach the potential returns they could otherwise achieve.

Understanding the need to develop and implement the right process is one thing. Getting there is another. For most marketers, it’s difficult to determine what processes are broken, or what processes are missing altogether.

The best place to start is with a process audit. An audit is an exercise whereby all parts of the lead management continuum are identified, assessed, and analyzed. Included are all functions that have a role in lead management. This obviously includes sales and marketing, but also may include business development, IT, Web Services, and the current technology structure.

Any organization within the company that has a role, however minor it may be, in the generation, qualifying, routing and disposition of leads should be included in the audit. The audit, plain and simple, is a fact-finding mission. The goal is to find the broken areas, diagnose them, and determine how they can be fixed. It is not an exercise in assigning blame, and there are no “sacred cows”. It’s simply a project to uncover the issues or leaks that exist within a company’s lead management practice. Often, having an objective, “third party” lead management consultant helps to maintain objectivity.

The areas an audit should cover can broken down into six key categories:

1. Data (Sales Data, Marketing Data)

2. Lead Planning (Sales & Marketing Integration Point)

3. Lead Qualification

4. Lead Routing (Marketing to Sales; Sales back to Marketing)

5. Lead Nurturing

6. Measurement & Analysis

Process Development in Process

This framework and approach is one that has been proven over and over with great success. One such company is still reaping the rewards of moving forward with a process-based approach, more than a year after adoption.

Typical of many organizations, this financial services company was sending all “leads” to sales for follow-up. Sales in turn were getting increasingly frustrated because the majority of the leads were not qualified and had little to no interest in buying. As a result of this approach, sales had very low conversion rates, marketing had no true measurement of campaign success, sales grew increasingly frustrated, and the gap between marketing and sales continued to grow.

Understanding their need to change, the organization took on an initiative according to the approach described above. The objective was not just to adopt marketing automation, but to develop and establish a lead management process to get the most out of their technology investment. As part of this approach they determined that marketing and sales would work together to jointly develop the process including:

  • Lead definitions
  • Qualification criteria
  • Scoring models
  • Lead nurturing process
  • Lead routing rules - including SLA’s and Business Rules

Mission Accomplished – Benefits Realized

As a result of taking a process-based approach supported by marketing automation, the company has achieved extraordinary results. Where once sales and marketing were on opposite sides of the divide, it is now a collaborative environment and both groups are aligned (alignment is not the problem, but a symptom of lack of process). This company has achieved the following:

- Sales conversions increase by 22%

- Marketing measurement put in place and ability to use the intelligence from these metrics to define future programs

- Marketing programs increased overall revenue by over 10%

- Over 300% increase in qualified leads sent to sales

This is just one example of an organization has vastly improved its sales and marketing processes and matured as an organization. The processes developed jointly with sales continue to pay off and improve the bottom line.

Carlos Hidalgo is President of The Annuitas Group – www.annuitasgroup.com, the leader in marketing and sales process development, implementation and automation. With over 25 years experience, The Annuitas Group has developed marketing and sales processes and lead management programs for companies of all sizes helping their clients vastly improve the return on their marketing and sales investment.

Since its inception in 2005, The Annuitas Group has helped their clients identify more than $300 million in potential revenue by focusing on Marketing-Sales Integration Strategies, Lead Management, Marketing Automation and Campaign Execution Services.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

B2B Newsletters: Looking Beyond Opens, Clicks For Real Success

By Ardath Albee, BtoB Marketing Strategist, Marketing Interactions

Newsletters delivered via email are a staple for many BtoB companies. These e-newsletters usually contain titles, descriptions and links to several articles, perhaps an executive column, a customer spotlight, an invitation to a webinar or a white paper download and any product or company news at hand.

The problem I see with many company newsletters is that they're instantly forgettable. My brain goes to "blah, blah, blah" when I see them in the preview pane of my inbox.

What may be keeping your newsletters from performing is the lack of strategy applied in their assembly. And that usually occurs because the goal for your newsletter is about your company creating a touch point rather than being focused on providing value and relevance to your subscribers.

How many of you have only one newsletter?

One newsletter may be all you can produce on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean it can't produce results by delivering at least something useful for each subscriber. What that requires is a bit of strategic thinking—and, of course, insight to your subscriber list.

How many of you only care about open and click numbers from your newsletters?

The problem here, is that you're only scratching the surface on an aggregate level. Let's say you achieve a 40% open rate and a 15% click through. In comparison to other email sends, this may seem like a great outcome...but is it? You'll never know if you don't dig deeper.

So let's get back to the strategic assembly part.

Your newsletter needs a goal. If you only have one newsletter, you may need to establish several goals. Start small and set one goal for customers and one for prospects.

Based on the goal(s), plan your content layout to deliver what you want to learn.

[Oh, didn't I say that? You shouldn't ever send a single marketing communication without a goal to learn something. That's just wasting an opportunity.]

Newsletters can be a great opportunity for:

  • Floating new ideas and innovations to gauge interest
  • Enticing prospects to learn more about your customers (ones like them)
  • Building your company's status as a thought leader
  • Problem discovery
  • Revealing up-sell opportunities
  • Discerning depth of reach

In reading this list, you can probably start to see how developing your newsletters to achieve a goal can have a big payoff.

Consider these scenarios using items from the list above:

You include an article about an issue your customers are experiencing and float an idea about how to solve it. But the people who clicked through only spent an average of 22 seconds on the page when it takes a scanner at least 60 seconds to ingest the idea well enough to restate what it is. Probably not the hottest idea...at least not yet.

An article about a new industry issue receives the most clicks of all the content in the newsletter. When you review who read it, you see a nice mix between prospects and customers. And the time spent is high enough to show true interest. This may reveal both an up-sell opportunity and an interest focus for a prospect-nurturing track.

A customer story doesn't evidence a huge readership, but when you look deeper, you see that four people from the same company all viewed it. That's an indication of depth of reach and should signal a follow-up call. Especially when you learn that the customer story was about a company just like theirs. And, hey, you know exactly how to start the conversation, now don't you?

Can you begin to see the beauty in planning your newsletters to deliver greater insight to your subscriber base? When you start evaluating responses in relation to goals, you've got the ability to gain traction with, and provide higher-value to, your subscribers.

Sure, this takes a bit of work and effort, but the payoff as you tune your newsletter over time can be a beautiful boost to your marketing, loyalty and sales efforts.

Or, your newsletter can just be the beast that eats resources every month because it's something your company thinks it should do...well...to keep your name in front of folks.

Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc, helps B2B companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing customer-focused e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. Her clients experience results like an increased 375% of sales-ready leads in just 8 months which translate into millions of dollars added to their sales pipelines. But, marketing isn't just about generating new demand. Ardath helps clients re-engage customers and build loyalty that adds longevity to customer lifecycles. Visit Ardath’s website: www.marketinginteractions.com and find fresh marketing insights on her blog at http://marketinginteractions.typepad.com.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lead Management Maturity: Has Your Process Come of Age?

By Stephan Dietrich, President, Neolane, Inc.

While BtoB marketers might scoff at the simplicity and brevity generally associated with BtoC sales cycles, there is a lot that can be learned from the land of instant discounts and promotions. BtoC marketers have traditionally been focused on lead acquisition, and they excel at it. Considering contrasting lead generation approaches including long campaign cycles and multiple touch points, many BtoB marketers face a skills gap compared to their BtoC counterparts as they try to leverage prospect and customer data in a similar way to accelerate conversions to the pipeline.

As complex as the BtoB sales cycle can be, BtoB marketers often run very basic campaigns to match basic sales processes, and, therefore, their lead generation and lead nurturing programs are just as simple—often focusing on email and Web channels and using a single integrated CRM system for ROI measurement. Ironically, in order to create a mature lead management program that matches the complexity of its sales cycle, BtoB marketers need to take a page from the BtoC playbook by leveraging rich customer data from multiple marketing channels to identify the right kind of what research firm SiriusDecisions calls “enablement/knowledge” to quickly overcome roadblocks along the pipeline.

As a company matures to address more complex business models, with additional product lines and an expanding global customer base, it can become more difficult to manage customer data consistently and thus more difficult to nurture the right kind of leads in a consistent and coordinated way across communications channels. There are a number of areas where the richness of customer data can be diminished. The value of data can decline when customer information is siloed within a particular marketing channel, or when a company does not use consistent lead management processes from one marketing department to another, or across product lines. This misalignment can result in skewed customer data that can be defined differently and subject to disparate measurement criteria within separate CRM systems.

In order to mature lead management processes and strengthen focus on lead nurturing and pipeline acceleration, organizations should consider the development of a central marketing data mart that contains customer and prospect information gathered from multiple channels and is updated automatically with new transactions and touches. Second generation lead management solutions can leverage this centralized data mart to accelerate the pipeline by connecting inbound and outbound communications across channels. For example, instead of slowing the pipeline by failing to address prospects’ preferences or issues expressed in the call center, at a trade event, or in a survey regarding a whitepaper, marketers can instead send personalized communications through email, direct mail or mobile channels that are based on this data and can offer the fuel for continued conversation with the prospect –if not an actual conversation.

As companies grow to encompass a variety of departments, products and systems, a single up-to-date system of record for lead, prospect and customer data can become the basis for maturing lead management and customer retention accordingly. By doing so, BtoB marketers can secure and manage rich customer data like their BtoC counterparts, while closing the skills gap and developing lead management processes that more effectively address the complexities of their sales cycles.

Stephan Dietrich is president of enterprise marketing software provider, Neolane, Inc., where he is responsible for driving the company’s corporate vision, worldwide marketing strategy and international business development. A recognized thought leader with 15 years of enterprise software and marketing expertise, has spoken at several major US and European marketing events, such as NCDM, the Annual eMarketing Conference, the European E-Commerce show, the Retail and Catalogue show and Direct Marketing events. Previously, he was president of Cubicsoft and co-founder of AGDS, a company sold to Peregrine Systems, now HP. Stephan holds a Master of Science degree from Ecole Centrale de Paris and earned his Master in Business Administration from the College des Ingenieurs. He can be reached at Stephan.dietrich@neolane.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lead Source Effectiveness: Allocate Marketing dollars where they matter most (Part 2 of 4)

By Carlos Vidal, Manager, Lead Generation Practice, SBI

In part 1 of this series, we established the value of installing a closed loop contact-to-contract lead measurement process. We promised to explore in a series of follow-on articles, three metrics that are key to this new process. In this second installment we focus on optimizing Lead Generation Spend.

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Most organizations establish metrics for evaluating lead cost effectiveness. These metrics typically capture a lead’s fully loaded cost, but they do not account for lead development time or lead revenue. By introducing the time and revenue variables into their lead calculations, organizations can determine not only which leads generate a positive ROI, but also which sources produce leads that move most quickly and reliably to closure. Lead sources include Trade Shows, Print, Direct Mail, word of mouth, Paid Search, Web forms, etc..). By gauging the effectiveness of a lead’s source, organizations can better allocate their demand generation marketing spend.

Some Lead Spend Metrics
Three of the most widely used metrics for evaluating lead effectiveness are:

• Cost per Opportunity (CPO)
• Cost per Marketing Qualified Lead (CPMQL)
• Cost per Lead Inquiry (CPLI)

These metrics attempt to measure different aspects of marketing spend related to a specific lead source. By adjusting them to account for revenue and time, you can improve the measure of Lead Source Effectiveness. To illustrate, let’s focus on one as an example of a commonly tracked metric, CPO.

Cost per Opportunity (CPO)

CPO = Cost to produce all leads from a Lead Source
# of Registered Sales Opportunities from those Leads

Drawbacks in ‘Standard’ approach to CPO

1. It does not reflect the cost to close the opportunity (only for the cost of opportunity creation). This is important because some sources provide leads that take more effort to close (i.e. on-site visits, pilots, RFP).
2. It does not reflect the average revenue derived from a source’s leads. This is important because sources differ in the revenue they produce (consider this the Glengary Glen Ross factor).
3. It does not reflect the time it takes to close a lead. This is important because some sources provide leads that take longer to close than others. For example, military contractors usually know what they want to buy for a project from prior experience and just need a firm quote, but their funding request could take months to approve.

A new Way to Measure and Optimize Spend
The three drawbacks can be resolved in an improved formula for Lead Source Effectiveness (LSE) of a specific lead source.

LSE = __Average Revenue per Lead __ x 251 selling days
CPO + Avg. Closure Cost per Lead Avg. Time to close Lead

In this new approach, revenue, closure cost and lead turnover are all addressed.

So what have we gained?

We have transformed an unenlightening demand generation metric into a diagnostic tool to aid in decision-making.

The Payoff
Marketing Executives can use metrics like LSE to re-direct investment dollars to those lead sources that generate the most revenue, the most quickly, with the least amount of sales expense. This insight can also help refine your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). For instance, your ICP might require revision after you determine the true cost of leads for a specific industry segment or buyer type.

The payoff for using LSE (in lieu of CPO) is huge. The only challenge is that it requires cooperation between Marketing and Sales to ‘close the loop’ of demand generation analytics.

Our next article in this series will focus on compressing the buying cycle through correlating content access to the buying cycle.

Carlos is a Principal at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), a strategic advisory firm that helps executives understand how well their sales forces are performing relative to peer group and World-Class levels. SBI is differentiated through the use of empirical data -- a repository of over 11,200 companies, across 19 industries, 11 years of history and over 315 sales metrics. Through SBI’s sales benchmarking services a company can use comparative data to identify improvement opportunities available by leveraging best practices of World-Class companies.