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.