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.