Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Marketing Blueprints in Action: How to Build an Awareness/Thought Leadership Blueprint

By Mike Gospe, Principal & Co-Founder, KickStart Alliance

One of the most common types of marketing programs is the "awareness & thought leadership" program. This specific program has the objective of focusing the company on the business and solutions topics target audiences cares about. Instead of immediately diving down to the feature-rich technical jargon, this program positions the vendor as a business partner, and thus allows for a consultative approach in dialoguing with customers and prospects.

Consider that 90% of the prospect’s buying process happens without engaging any sales rep! Customers and prospects are in control of how and when they engage with any vendor. With that in mind, marketers need to make sure that their company and solutions are “findable.” I don’t just mean that prospects can Google a company name – that assumes the prospect knows who you are and what you do. I mean that when a prospect searches for solutions for their business problems, that they find some relevant content offered by your company. This connection is the first step in a meaningful dialog.

The following awareness/thought leadership program blueprint is just one example using the blueprint technique I describe in my book: Marketing Campaign Development. Like branding, this type of program is best viewed as an ongoing investment in creating and maintaining marketing efforts that will frame specific product launches and promotions.

Reading from left to right, notice that the intended target audience is identified in the left column. (Personas for CIOs and IT Directors would have been developed in detail prior to designing this blueprint.) Across the top, the customer's buying behavior has been listed -- in this case moving from "awareness" to "interest".

Each box in the blueprint references a "theme" and the "marketing methods" (i.e. articles, Web, executive presentations) used to communicate the theme. We cast the net wide by starting with business topics that should appeal to both the CIO and IT director. Popular themes can be thought of as the "what" themes: -- What trends will influence the industry? or What impact can we expect the current economy to have on consumer behavior? or What are the three primary investment priorities for CIOs in 2010? For best results, a company may have one or two business themes that will be explored and further defined all year. It's best to be focused.

Next, we move on to solutions-based themes. Think of these topics as the "how" themes -- How will companies balance containing costs while protecting the network? or How are companies maximizing the ROI of their outsourced functions and programs? These topics tend to get more specific in prescribing a criterion for success. For best results, a company may entertain two or three solutions topics that support each business theme, per quarter. This allows additional solutions topics to unfold over time, thereby providing flexibility to leverage new product launches and current events that may impact buyer behavior.

Notice that in neither the business topics nor the solutions topics have we put our product in the headline. This is important. The value that a company brings is in sponsoring these topics and providing business and solutions savviness. Via its sponsorship, a company can connect its products and solutions directly to the business problems customers care about. Like chapters in a book, these discussion topics will nurture your prospects. Your company’s thought-leadership approach will build and evolve each quarter, providing rich content for prospects to review and respond to.

But a company’s marketing programs are only just beginning. Ultimately, the best qualified leads are the ones who seek us out. How do we best nurture prospects? The best approach is to whet their appetites with relevant business and solutions topics, and then give them an opportunity to raise their hands to request more information. And, your marketing team will be on the lookout for prospects who exhibit certain behavior based on the topics they find of interest and the information they share with you along the way. This is where demand generation programs kick in, where you have an opportunity to actively introduce them to specific solutions, key features, and unique differentiators.

Now that you’ve built an effective awareness program, the next step is to generate some well-qualified leads. For more information on awareness and lead generation programs, please visit my blog: Marketing Campaign Development or follow me on Twitter.

Mike Gospe leads KickStart Alliance’s marketing operations practice where he conducts team-based “practical application working sessions” to improve the effectiveness of lead generation campaigns and product launches. His fun, practical approach and roll-up-his-sleeves attitude energizes teams, helping them to get “real work done” while guiding them to the next level of excellence. Mike is the author of the book, Marketing Campaign Development, and his methodology is being used by San Francisco State University’s College of Extended Learning course: “Essentials of Integrated Marketing.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SiriusDecisions Summit Points To Growing Need For ‘Demand Center’ Services Concept

At a time when most marketing and sales executives are searching for ways to accelerate the speed of their pipelines, the SiriusDecisions Summit once again helped to provide some direction on how best-in-class BtoB organizations are still driving demand and closing deals.

The Summit, held last week in Scottsdale, AZ, drew a packed house of leading executives from both sales and marketing teams, and helped to introduce several new concepts and terminology which will help to shape the priorities around sales and marketing alignment.

Providing a look ahead to the changing needs and priorities for sales and marketing over the next five years, SiriusDecisions Managing Director and Co-Founder John Neeson introduced the

SiriusDecisions CEO John Neeson

SiriusDecisions Managing Director and Co-Founder John Neeson

concept of a ‘Demand Center,’ which will bring a more integrated “portfolio approach” to demand creation. As evidence of this trend, Neeson pointed to the following research and trend data:
  • Investment in demand creation has increased every year for the past 8 years, according to SiriusDecisions data, and is expected to continue growing through 2015;
  • With metrics for best-in-class companies showing almost 50% improvement in conversion rates, and significantly decreasing their cost per lead on closed deals, SiriusDecisions projects the penetration of marketing automation systems will expand dramatically over the next five years from less than 10% in 2005 to more than 50% of BtoB marketers by 2015;
  • As the marketing mix continues to shift at BtoB organizations, SiriusDecisions expects web-based marketing initiatives will drive more than 70% of inbound leads by 2015, growing from 55% of leads in 2009.

Neeson predicted that these changing dynamics will force BtoB organizations to migrate from single, “one and done” marketing tactics to an “integrated, multi-dimensional” model. “As companies move to having more of a digital relationship with prospects and customers, new resources and skill sets will be required in order to be successful with a portfolio approach to marketing,” Neeson said.

As an example of the new approach, Neeson pointed to the need to design campaign and “message maps” which match the “demographic triggers” and “buyer journeys” of specific markets.

To respond to this new portfolio approach, Neeson predicted a “leveraged services models,” will evolve, providing a centralized point for BtoB organizations to share “skills, infrastructure and process,” throughout a global BtoB organization. “Ultimately, the demand center model will evolve as a company grows and increases in complexity,” Neeson said.

In a separate presentation titled “The Dynamics Behind the Demand Waterfall,” SiriusDecisons VP of Research Tony Jaros offered insights into accelerating the later stages of the pipeline. Jaros suggested companies avoid turning to financial levers and discounts too quickly and look at “information voids” which may be causing deals to stall. He pointed to tools such as online configurators, gap templates and feature/functionality side-by-side comparisons as stimulus offers which can successfully match the desire of the prospect.

Radically Optimize Lead Generation and Lead Nurturing Efforts

By Jill Konrath, Author, “Selling to Big Companies

It's imperative to begin with a common definition of a lead. Marketing and Sales need to agree on this and sometimes it's a bit of a challenge. Marketing then needs to take charge of the moving the leads through the funnel – from when the seeker initially raises his hand expressing interest until he's a sales-ready prospect.

By radically implementing integrated lead generation & nurturing technologies, Marketing can have a huge and measurable effect on sales. If your website is a thought leadership hub, the impact can be exponential. New marketing automation technology enables your company to track the seekers' online behavior and creates profiles that are updated in real time.

This gives Marketing and Sales visibility into:
• What they're clicking on.
• How long they're on your site.
• When they return.
• The topics are of greatest interest.
• What they're forwarding to others.

But that's just the start. Savvy marketers then leverage this technology to further engage the seeker with relevant digital content (e.g., success stories, articles, archived Webinars, podcasts, white papers). Or they may invite them to upcoming events such as Webinars, teleseminars or trade shows. This closed loop system nurtures prospective customers till they're ready to be handed over to the sales organization or an inside sales team.

Here's where the radical impact starts coming in. First of all, you have more decision makers in the pipeline. Over the months of interacting, you developed a trusted advisor relationship with them. Because they've read all your materials, they're predisposed to your way of thinking and already see your company as a viable solution to their needs.

Your Average Joe and Nate the Newbie have a much better chance of winning the business because of all the nurturing that's taken place. Your sellers can also receive real-time alerts when prospects are exhibiting online behaviors (i.e., downloads, page views) having a high correlation with purchase readiness, enabling them to initiate
contact at a most opportune time.
Finally, prior to meeting with these decision makers, the Average Joe and Nate the Newbie can review their profiles, read all previous communications with your firm and know what's of maximum interest. With that "inside scoop", their sales effectiveness radically increases and as does their productivity.

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, helps sellers crack into corporate accounts, shorten sales cycles and win big contracts. She's a frequent speaker/trainer at annual sales meetings, professional conferences and industry events. For more information, visit www.SellingtoBigCompanies.com , call 651-429-1922 or email jill@sellingtobigcompanies.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You can also view Jill’s eBook on how Marketing Radically Impacts Sales.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Out-Of-The-Box Demand Gen: Turning Blog Commenters Into Your Next Customers

By Neil Sequeira, Director Client Operations, ReadyContacts

Social media marketing has made its presence felt over the last year or two and has caught the attention of several large companies. Whether it’s publishing a company blog, creating pages on Facebook and LinkedIn or having key executives stay active on Twitter, several well established companies have joined the social media marketing bandwagon to interact with the online world.

As businesses become aware how it can help them put a human touch to their online image, how it can help them interact with customers, engage online audiences, get feedback and leverage word of mouth marketing and awareness, the question “how can some of this translate to direct sales or marketing leads?”comes to mind. The proven method: creating call-to-action in the form of landing pages, online registration forms, subscription forms and similar incentives for inbound traffic and visitors to part with information such as their name, company, title and contact details. Are those the only channels of generating leads online? Time to think out of the box.

The company blog, if active and engaging is one of best sources of search driven and referral web traffic to the company website. Well established blogs can drive regular comments and discussions around their content and considering a certain percentage of those who post comments can also be good prospects, the blog should essentially be a good source of leads. Even if they are not well qualified or sales ready leads, they can be qualified and introduced to the lead nurturing cycle as potential future customers. However, the devil is in the details and the details are what blog comments lack compared to what can be termed as a captured or actionable lead complete with contact details. If comments would capture complete account and contact details like form fills do, everyone would have their blogs connected to their CRM databases.

Thankfully with a little data append effort, a simple blog comment can be transformed into an inbound lead. The name and email address are usually the mandatory fields to be filled in by anyone who wants to post a comment. URL or website being the third field most blog engines capture is one field most commenters do fill up even if it’s just to drive traffic back to their sites. More often than not, the email or website will give you enough clues to determine the company or organization the person belongs to and adding company addresses, telephone numbers and other contact details are just few steps from there before you have a complete actionable lead which can be added straight to the database.

Enriching comment data with all the details needed to turn it into a lead may involve additional effort but looking at turning the companies buzzing blog into a demand generation channel through generating more comments is an exciting challenge. If you are dedicating time on building a strong social marketing program, you might as well draw the most out of it. After all, even a comment on your blog post can be your next customer.

Neil Sequeira is Director of Client Operations at ReadyContacts and a regular blogger on the ReadyContacts B2B Marketing Database Management blog. ReadyContacts delivers comprehensive B2B marketing database management solutions to companies to empower sales and marketing organizations with accurate, current and complete lead databases. The company is passionate believer in rich data as the key to successful campaigns and has several years of experience in delivering custom role based list building and other marketing data solutions in a range of industry verticals and across geographies including North America, EMEA, APAC and Australia.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Achieving Greater Sales Velocity & Deal Size: How a Metrics Driven Approach Can Bridge the Marketing & Sales Gap

By Carlos Vidal, Manager, Lead Generation Practice, SBI

Within the emerging Demand Generation discipline, much has been written about how to better manage leads. Respected industry practitioners have offered metrics for evaluating lead effectiveness which, if implemented, improve Marketing’s ability to generate leads.

In this introductory article and in a series of follow-on articles, we will explore the idea that organizations can gain much more than mere lead generation by instituting a closed loop contact-to-contract lead measurement process and then acting decisively on the data stemming from this new approach.

Marketing Automation software analyzes which leads convert to prospects, when and how they do so, and what means are best to increase this ‘conversion’. Marketing departments, enabled by these solutions, are tempted to claim victory since they can now create a steady stream of “sales ready” leads. This amounts to solving all of half the problem. Getting to the other side of the equation, the Sales side, represents the major untapped source of value from efforts to improve lead generation and management.

A closed loop contact-to-contract measurement process enables Marketing to make decisions on lead development, nurturing, events, design, and campaigns based on whether they ultimately drive more revenue. This process combines Marketing and Sales data on costs, activities and results in a comprehensive view that includes data based on revenue and sales cycle length, lead-specific tracking data and prospect activity.

Ambiguity is removed.

With this information in hand, you can determine metrics such as the ones in the table below.

In the subsequent installments of this article series, we will address each area in detail and provide actionable metrics and suggestions to put this to use in your organization. We will demonstrate how each metric, when optimized, influences the size and shape of the ‘standard’ sales funnel.

Taken together, this new contact-to-contract measurement approach allows Sales and Marketing to collaborate in a way that drives value for both departments.

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.