Friday, February 27, 2009

Marketo Taking Wraps Off 3.0 Release

By John Gaffney, Senior Analyst

Marketo is introducing a new version of its marketing automation/lead management solution this week. It will actually deliver a lot more excitement than its name, which is Marketo Lead Management 3.0. We spoke with Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez last week and aside from some good natured ribbing about the title of the release, he had some provocative things to say about the state of demand gen, as well as his company’s place in it. Some highlights:

It wasn’t an inaugural address, but Marketo and Fernandez certainly have some inspired positioning. How’s “The Last Frontier of Productivity” for ambition? Fernandez is serious about lead gen’s promise in that context. He believes that supply chains have advanced to the point where appreciable financial gains from them are tough to find. But in demand generation, sales and marketing can work together to find real productivity.

Speaking strictly of the new release, the largest since Marketo’s initial lead management launch one year ago, 3.0 support’s Marketo’s brand stake of a ‘conversational’ approach to marketing automation, including new functionality such as targeting enhancements, real-time alerts, and progressive profiling. What’s progressive profiling? Fernandez says it’s enables companies to continually update prospect information based on web site traffic and then present different offers based on those interactions. “It shows that you know the customer and can have a good conversation,” he says.

Other features include deeper integration with Salesforce CRM. All in, 3.0 has more than 200 new features. “One of the great things about SaaS is you can deliver a lot of candy,” he says.

Cocktail conversations: Fernandez is no fan of scripted conversations from a call-center agent, or a sales rep. He wants 3.0 to give human beings enough automated information to be well, human. “We’re trying to give people information to conduct a conversation, not a script,” he says. “You can’t map out a flow chart with a buyer. That’s like going to a cocktail party and having a script for the entire evening. We think companies have to listen and respond. Listen and respond with nuance.”

Still Stressing Simplicity: “What if Facebook took two months for you to set up? If it did, you wouldn’t have millions of users you’d have thousands. Same with lead management solutions. You can’t tell a customer they will be up in two months and expect them to be happy.”

Milestone: Marekto signed its 150th customer last week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When BANT Becomes AINT: The New Realities Of Buying Requires Scoring Refresh

By Andrew Gaffney, Editor

The very first item that must be checked off before a prospect is considered “sales ready” is whether or not the company has a stated budget for the solution offered. If the prospect answers “no” or even unsure to that first Budget question, it typically doesn’t matter how they qualify on the Authority, Need and Timing components of a BANT scoring system.
However, in the current business climate, many executives I’ve talked with indicate that very few projects have been given the final budget stamp this year. Instead, investments have been labeled “pending” or “postponed.”

The unfortunate reality with the way most BtoB demand generation systems are structured, a CIO with a strong business case for a new software solution will be moved into the same lead nurturing bucket as a department head that will never have the juice to green light a major project.

As buying cycles are delayed, BtoB organizations need to consider adjusting their traditional BANT criteria to one that focuses on AINT—Authority, Interest, Need and Timing. Considering ready-buyers are harder to come to by in this market, the real competitive advantage will be realized by those organizations that help their prospects justify spending budgets now.

Lead scoring should still be a vital part of every organization’s demand generation strategy. However, the luxury of limiting sales activity to ready buyers will leave a lot of companies out in the cold. In a world where many sectors are basing their sales forecasts on the outcome of the government stimulus package, factors like Budget and Timing will likely be fluid for at least the remainder of 2009.

In his Digital Body Language blog, Eloqua founder Steven Woods recently defined this category of the upper crust of pre-budget prospects as “future likelies.” He suggests the art of progressing these “future likelies” will be in differentiating between a ‘good prospect’ and a
‘good prospect who's interested.’ “This comes down to looking at inbound interest level and web activity to determine whether it appears that they are the right executive in a buying cycle, or just the right executive,” Woods wrote.

As leading BtoB organizations become more sophisticated with lead scoring and lead nurturing tactics, the strategies of the future will likely call for multi-level nurturing. In this model, “future likelies” who are the right executive at the right company with interest in your solution, will be put on an accelerated track with the goal of helping them secure the Budget and Timing components of the BANT equation.

The content needs for these executives will be unique and the delivery of the offers may need to be tailored to their preferences, but in the end it will likely be what separates the companies who are closing deals in a tight economies from those who ain’t.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Rules Of Engagement For Operating Within The Customer Insight Economy

By Larry Mosiman, Worldwide Product Marketing Manager, SAS’ Customer Intelligence Solutions

Almost every article you read today talks about, in one way or another, the down economy. You have to cut costs, layoff staff, renegotiate suppliers contracts – all kinds of dramatic things to survive this down economy. From my perspective, the sense of urgency has been intensified by the economy, but the reality is that this is the same economy as it was one, ten and twenty years ago in many respects. The current economy is a customer insight economy. Whether the economy is a boom or a bust, customers want to be treated fairly and receive value for their money, and companies must have a process in place to ensure that this happens.

In today’s economy, these same customers are holding onto their money tighter, so again, the sense of urgency is higher, but the process is the same. Prerequisite to being successful is to understand your customers by integrating, analyzing, and developing actionable insights from the mounds of customer data that you’ve acquired. In other words, if your customer database wasn’t being used effectively when the economy was good, it’s even more important that it be used effectively now that it’s not.

It starts with the view
Given the state of most enterprise data warehouses, identifying and integrating individual customer data can be difficult. For example, if you are using traditional Web analytics and business intelligence (BI) tools, you probably have lots of information about your business – but little about your prospects and current customers. Your customer support data may be trapped inside the call center. Mission-critical prospect and account data may be trapped in sales. Rarely is individual customer behavior captured and appended to customer profiles to understand channel preferences, communication and information preferences or shopping cart trends. Yet this is the kind of data you need to learn more about each customer, market to them on a one-to-one basis and deliver a differentiated experience across channels.

Contrast this against a scenario where you combine customer and product data from the store, catalog, Web and call center channels along with cross-departmental data from finance, merchandising, investor relations, customer service and operations. Having the data from all of these sources will result in a data warehouse that gives you the ability to see the customer from many different views.

Here’s an example. A large retail company needed a way to centralize its marketing efforts across brands and channels; make communications more relevant to customers; and ultimately increase customer loyalty, purchase frequency and lifetime value. After multiple acquisitions, the company had 14 different brands to manage. Each brand had its own customer and product data scattered across departments managing store, catalog, Web and call center channels. This data fragmentation made it impossible to treat customers as individuals. As a result, marketing efforts were less than effective – the company couldn’t identify its best customers and provide the kind of consistent, differentiated experience needed to retain them.

To turn this around, the company first took care of the basics by integrating all customer data and various external data sources onto a single platform. This allowed them to analyze their customer data, create unique customer insight and use it to increase the relevancy of all communications.

If it’s not actionable, then it isn’t insight
Although companies are looking for every possible way to scale back and cut costs, their customer database (i.e. business intelligence) is not an area that should be on the block. The key to justifying this database is to ensure that they are continually reaping actionable insights from the data. If actionable, the value of the data will go beyond simply understanding their customers to knowing what to do about it. Data should define when and how to communicate with them, knowing what offers to make, knowing when they’re about to leave, and other key indicators. When potential and current customers are under pressure, companies must re-evaluate and re-define what the ‘ideal’ customer is to their organization, because it may have changed. They should look at their most profitable and valuable customers and work to get new ones that look like them, but do it in a timeframe that makes sense. Their best customers today may not be their best customers tomorrow. The bottom line is that no matter how customers are spending their money they can be ranked to determine who among the group are most valuable. But be careful not to have a timeframe that is too big (such as an entire year’s worth of spending) in calculating customer value. Great marketing isn’t just rewarding the customers who love you, it is winning back share from the one’s you’ve ticked off, or the ones that just went into foreclosure and need a hand … and knowing the difference.

Now more than ever …
Since completing the integration work and leveraging the insight gleaned from their customer data, the company discussed above has shown:
  • A 30% increase in the direct-mail response rate.

  • A 15% increase in orders from e-mail campaigns, due to highly targeted customer communications.

  • A 50% increase in repeat purchase rates.

  • E-mail, direct mail and outbound phone campaigns targeting customers that produced a
  • 70% increase in successful reactivation and a 115% increase in win-back campaigns.

  • A 15% increase in the number of “best customers” by targeting programs using customer transaction patterns, as well as a 20% increase in the number of purchase occasions from these customers.
Good and timely BI is essential in allowing marketers to spot the ever changing trends in their customers’ behavior. Knowing when and when not to communicate, what offers to make, what offers not to make, and then executing on this intelligence is what keeps the lights on in the marketing department.

Larry Mosiman has over 20 years of experience leading marketing teams for high tech companies. He is currently the world-wide product marketing manager for SAS’ Customer Intelligence Solutions. Before joining SAS, Mosiman led the marketing organization for the Material Testing Division of MTS Systems Corporation in Eden Prairie, MN, where he developed a successful marketing organization in a business that had been engineering focused.