Friday, July 17, 2009
Take 5: Q&A With Jim Higgins, President, By Appointment Only
Few companies have been as close to the pipeline building strategies of leading BtoB organizations over the past decade as By Appointment Only (BAO). The company has provided demand generation services for more hundreds of high tech clients and has secured more than 150,000 executive level meetings since its start in 1997.
DemandGen Report recently caught up with BAO’s President Jim Higgins to learn how the company has broadened its services offering to help industry leaders deal with the realities of the economic downturn. In addition to putting more emphasis on the mid-market and new verticals, Higgins pointed out that sophisticated companies are spending more time and energy qualifying their inbound leads and segmenting their outbound lead generation programs to produce more targeted results. Here are the highlights of the conversation with Higgins:
DemandGen Report: How has this economic downturn changed the prospecting process for your clients? Has there been a shift in pipeline priorities for larger BtoB organizations?
Jim Higgins: The economy has certainly had an enormous effect on our clients and their strategic decisions related to marketing. With all of the shifting—large and small—we essentially saw the technology industry break into two groups: Those on offense, and those on defense.
Those on offense increased their focus on targeting the right prospects by identifying who had the greatest proclivity to purchase their solutions. Now, that may sound obvious, but it was actually a big game changer. Clients had to quickly shift from the traditional logic that the money was coming from the Fortune 1000. That well was dry. We’ve encouraged clients to place more emphasis on the mid-market, as well as heavily focus on industries such as Healthcare and Government if their solutions align there, and to be very specific in their messages. But even in that scenario, knowing the buying needs at Mass General Hospital compared to Mt. Sinai is critical. Clients on the offense have had great success—and increased closed business—from making those changes quickly.
DGR: Your website talks about Advanced Demand Generation, can you help define that next generation approach and what it takes for companies to reach that point?
Higgins: In a nutshell, ADG is about precision. It provides the visibility and access to all active buying cycles in your prospect audience. It is a three-step process:
* Identify: Qualify your audience (this can only be done effectively via live telephone interviews)
* Segment: Define “micromarkets” based on individual prospects’ needs (vs. demographic criteria)
* Attack: Execute the right marketing strategies into the defined segments (match dollars and resources to proclivity to buy)
The biggest chasm to cross to reach that point? Reaching a corporate sales & marketing philosophy that believes that prospect qualification is THE critical success factor that dictates the results of all other activities; understanding that this is not just part of demand generation, but that it is the nucleus of it.
DGR: BAO has been a big proponent of marketing segmentation and using marketing intelligence to identify likely buyers. Can you provide some real world examples on how that approach has paid dividends for your clients?
Higgins: As an example, a major Anti-Virus software company was able to pinpoint prospects who had competitors’ contracts expiring in the next year. They were able to segment that market by competitor, and the prospect’s satisfaction with that vendor. They then pushed more budget to the prospects with low satisfaction, and were able to displace key accounts from their competitors systematically.
One of the largest technology companies in the world was able to determine the upcoming IT initiatives of over 3,000 companies, and then target those companies with a customized message based on those upcoming initiatives. By using this approach, they increased the conversion rate of initial meetings turning into pipeline from 55% to 81%.
In both of these cases, and many more, it was about pinpointing the low-hanging fruit instead of hoping it would land on your lap when it fell.
DGR: Based on your name and experience in the space, a lot of people identify the BAO team only with appointment setting services. Can you talk a little bit about how your business and services have evolved in recent years?
Higgins: While performance-based appointment setting is still our biggest service line, we have responded to the needs of our clients in developing several other key services. In addition to outbound prospect qualification, used in the advanced demand generation product as well as stand-alone, we offer inbound lead qualification, to qualify and triage leads created by marketing quickly and efficiently. We also support strategic event registration, as well as contact validation and discovery. All of our services are performance-based in keeping with our philosophy.
DGR: BAO was also a pioneer in the field of establishing pay-for-performance demand generation programs. Has that model evolved over time or is that still a critical value proposition for your clients?
Higgins: It’s absolutely critical. In fact, we have adapted our newer services to be performance-based as well. We still believe that when choosing a vendor for high-value marketing services, having a vendor fundamentally invested in the success of the program is paramount.
DGR: BAO supports hundreds of companies’ demand generation efforts. Based on your purview of their collective strategies, what are you seeing as the most effective strategies as we head into are your top three recommendations for Demand Generation going into the second half of ‘09?
Higgins: We see three common traits/strategies among our most successful clients, we apply those to our own business and recommend them to our new clients:
1. Get on the offense- deals are happening every day, plain and simple—don’t miss them.
2. Break the mold that drives your territory map- Think about going full boar into different markets- instead of Financial Services, consider the Hospitals. Better yet, invest in visibility and build your territories based on who is going to buy this year.
3. Have some fun! It’s been a tough nine months, but its time to remember why we all do this: Sales is a rush and it will always be a people business. I built BAO because there is nothing better than being surrounded by 200 charismatic sales people every day!