Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Test, Trend, Tweak: Don't Leave Your Campaigns on Auto-Pilot

By Sally Lowery, Director of Demand Generation, Bronto Software

In my mind, here’s the difference between lead generation and demand generation. Lead generation stops at the hand being raised by a prospect showing interest, while demand generation continues the conversation and cultivates that relationship with timely and relevant content. What causes most demand generation programs to miss the boat is not necessarily the timeliness but the relevance of the campaigns that they create.

Why? Marketers, often in a vacuum, run demand generation campaigns with very little influence by the sales organization. In addition, once a program is begun, little testing is done to optimize the program. If you want to have a dynamic demand generation program, you must start an open dialogue with your sales organization and you must incorporate testing. Here are a few ways that you can optimize your demand generation program and maximize your ROI.

  • Create conversations with sales. What is working? What isn’t working? No one knows better than your sales team the indicators of a prospect’s sales readiness. If you are excluding sales from the conversation, then you should rethink your strategy. I learned quickly that downloading a whitepaper, while exciting for me as a marketer, meant very little to our sales organization. Why? Because downloading educational material was less of an indicator of sales readiness in comparison to reviewing case studies. This ongoing conversation prompted me to rethink my scoring around whitepapers as well as whether or not that was a true “milestone” in the prospect’s engagement with us. Consider your current lead scoring, milestones, and campaigns when you sit down with your sales team. Ask the questions, and don’t be afraid of the answers. It will lead you on a path to a more successful demand generation program.
  • Test. Testing can seem very scary as a marketer, because we want to invest the time and energy into what we “know” will work. The reality is that we are missing out on great opportunities by playing it safe. The benefit of testing with your demand generation program is that you can create conversations you may have not experienced. So consider your campaigns and determine areas that you can test communications with your prospects.
    • Scoring. What scoring is the trigger point indicating that a lead is more sales ready? Perhaps you have been steadily funneling any lead with a score over 50 points, but want to consider whether or not you can improve the opportunity conversion rate on a higher or lower lead score. Consider testing diffeent scoring levels for 3-4 weeks and learn what impact it can have on your conversion rate.
    • Milestones. Test what milestones constitute a marked event in the sales process. As I alluded to previously, sales readiness may not be indicated by the behaviors that you assumed.
    • Message. Is your content stale? Are you creating relevant experiences based on your prospect’s behavior? There’s no easier way to uplift your campaign than to make easy edits to your content and offering.
    • Rules. Perhaps you have campaigns that trigger one day after an action. Consider testing same day or several days later and see which yields the better response.

These are just a few small ways that you can have a huge impact on your demand generation program.

  • Trend. Don’t just rely on your gut; review your metrics. You would be surprised at how many marketer’s can easily tout metrics on their email marketing, search engine marketing, and online advertising without even blinking, but fall short when it comes to the demand generation programs. Just ask them if adjusting their lead scoring impacted their average days until an opportunity or if their opportunity conversion rate increased or decreased based on their program and you may be met with blank stares. Know what key performance indicators are important for your organization and see what impact your testing has on those metrics.
  • Tweak. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t give up. Not every test is going to be a win, but being willing to take time to optimize your program and drive more relevant experiences is going to pay off for you.

Test, trend and tweak your demand generation program and reap the benefits. Oh, and don’t forget to loop your sales team into the conversation. You won’t regret it.

Sally Lowery is the Director of Demand Generation at email service provider Bronto Software. In her role, she manages tactical and strategic lead acquisition, multi-channel marketing, marketing automation and the integration of marketing concepts. Sally has over 11 years of extensive experience in traditional and online marketing in both the BtoB and BtoC space.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oceanos Unveils New Insight Tool for List Building & Maintenance

One of the key goals for any organization’s marketing team is to build and upkeep a relevant list of potential buyers. Ideally by maintaining a fresh and relevant database, marketers are able to tap into the most engaged and interested prospects to optimize their sales and marketing investments.

A new tool from Oceanos offers an independent analysis designed to harvest external data and information to build and maintain relationships. The Oceanos List Intelligence Portal is designed to deliver customized educational content, including campaign information, such as list research proposals and post campaign metric reports. Marketers access the List Optimizer tool, which is designed to provide a systematic approach for third party data. The tool is designed to offer a more effective way to scrub personal and competitor domains, among other outlets to optimize data usage.

DemandGen Report recently caught up with Oceanos President Brian Hession for more details on the portal’s contents and what list building resources marketers should tap in 2010.

DemandGen Report: What is the overall objective of the List Intelligence Portal?

Brian Hession: The number one objective of the List Intelligence Portal is to deliver customized educational content to demand generation marketers. We have both prospect and client portals.

We have two “prospect” portals. The largest portal includes over 5,500 marketers and is focused on educating and building Oceanos brand awareness. The second prospect portal is focused on nurturing and includes folks that have engaged with Oceanos but have not converted to clients.

The client portals include campaign information (list research proposals, creative assets, and post campaign metric reports). Because we don’t own or manage any data, we work with our clients to design the list strategy and help them understand what is working and what is not. Oceanos sees a great opportunity to firmly establish itself as the market leader with this positioning.

DGR: Can you describe the overall significance of the portal's contents? How they relate to nurturing key business objectives?

Hession: The client portals help us build and solidify relationships. The portals were launched in August 2009, so we are viewing the client portals as a long-term demand creation strategy. For some of our clients, we’ll have 30-40 projects summarized within their portal. We are confident that our clients will find value in these archived campaigns.

The portals push case studies, white papers, our published articles and our quarterly List Intelligence Report, providing a continuing flow of list intelligence.

DGR: How are the offerings tailored for marketers' specific needs? Are there any additional resources portal users can request?

Hession: The client portals provide us an opportunity to push customized content to specific clients. For example, this could be a new list to the market or special media opportunities that would be of interest to the client.

DGR: Moving into 2010, what are some of the key tactics you are recommending to your clients centered on list building?

Hession: It starts with the identification of the target accounts and then implementing a systematic approach for leveraging the data sources that contain the appropriate decision makers and influencers. We are in the final development stages of the List Optimizer. We have an automation specialist and a small team of application developers building a proprietary piece of software that will enable Oceanos to build a list with greater precision from across multiple data feeds. It’s a sea-change approach to list building and it has been a couple years in the making.

DGR: Where should marketers increase investment in list building resources?

Hession: They should increase “time” investment in identifying target accounts. We see very few marketing groups that can collect intelligence from their sales group that we can then leverage within the list strategy. In 2010, we are going to focus more on educating our clients on how this information could be utilized to optimize demand creation.

Marketers can sign up for the List Intelligence Report here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Author Jonathan Kantor Offers Tips To Optimize White Paper Programs

With white papers emerging as the go-to tool for many demand generation campaigns, Principal & Founder of The Appum Group Jonathan Kantor released a new book dedicated to providing marketers with best in class tactics for white paper composition. The new book, “Crafting White Paper 2.0,” offers marketers insights into best practices around visual elements as well as utilizing case studies to optimize readership and response.

“If business writers and marketers wish to elevate their skills on part with a craft, they will have to incorporate more visually engaging elements beyond simply placing words on a blank sheet of paper,” advises Kantor. DemandGen Report had the chance to catch up with Kantor to spotlight some of the key takeaways of his new book, including how to avoid common composition mistakes, as well as the best ways to optimize white paper promotion through social media.

FrontCoverWebDemandGen Report: The book’s title “Crafting White Paper 2.0” stresses the importance of incorporating elements (other than words) to thrive in today’s competitive business environment. What are some of the other key elements for white papers that you stress in the book?

Jonathan Kantor: There are four categories of “visual” elements that engage today’s time-constrained business readers:

  1. Page Design creates important first impressions that generate incentives for the business reader to open the white paper and read the first page.
  2. Executive and Concluding Summaries provide bottom line solution messages that allow the reader to determine if the primary content will solve their critical business problems and be worth the investment of their valuable and limited reading time.
  3. Text Enhancements provide visual links to larger portions of related white paper content on the same page. Sidebar callouts, shaded text boxes, and bullets quickly engage readers with important bottom-line messages that lead them to expanded page content.
  4. Graphic Enhancements such as concept graphics, business charts, and workflow diagrams translate complex text information into simple pictures that quickly deliver bottom-line solution messages. Industry-specific illustrations build reader affinity.

DGR: Chapter 6 explores “Why the Traditional White Paper Won’t Work.” One of the reasons you give is that the responsibility of reading large white papers often gets pushed down into lower levels of the organizational chart, making the ability for the marketer to influence the key decision makers more difficult. What are some ways to ensure that a white paper gets in front of the most appropriate person?

Kantor: If the target reader is a C-level, executive-level decision maker, white paper marketers must include elements that accommodates their limited amount of time and attention. Here are the most common methods of attracting top-level decision makers to your white paper:

  • A professional design that allows the white paper to stand out among a crowded field of ‘me-too’, all-text documents that is seen all too often.
  • An executive summary that specifically addresses the executive’s concerns while providing clear solutions to solve those problems, from their perspective.
  • A detailed concluding summary that provides first time ‘skim readers’ with essential ‘take away’ messages and reinforces measurable ‘call-to-action’ information (such as a web site, phone number or email address) for subsequent lead capture.
  • Concept graphics that translates complex solution/benefit text-based information into simple, clear illustrations so that bottom line advantages to be quickly assimilated and understood. This is precisely what busy executives are seeking from white papers, but few marketers are providing.

DGR: The book offers many tips to make white paper content compelling, including using a title and hyperlinks, and referencing through social media. What are the most important aspects of social media to leverage when promoting and white paper and why?

Kantor: Some of the basic social media best practices include:

- Use the tag “White Paper: Title” to notify your followers that the enclosed URL link is a white paper.

- Always add a shortened URL link to each tweet or post to maximize the limited number of characters devoted to your white paper title and description.

- Your URL should either directly download the white paper or reference one landing page where the user can download it.

- Don’t force your social media follower to surf through several landing pages before they can download the white paper. After two landing pages, you will lose their attention and significantly decrease the likelihood that they will download your paper.

- When you post additional updates to promote your white paper, use different descriptions to break up repetition and minimize the impression of overt selling.

DGR: The book emphasizes the significance of case study examples in white papers, to “attract reader attention by increasing ready affinity and ‘connectivity.’” What are some of the ‘must have’ elements to include in a white paper case study?

Kantor: White paper marketers must view the case study as a condensed version of the white paper that is focused on a customer experience rather than the featured solution. In other words, assume the reader knows nothing and walk the reader through a step-by-step approach in telling their testimonial story. This includes:

- Background information on the company and their industry

- Their business problem or challenge they experienced prior to implementing the identified solution

- Why they choose the featured solution.

- The results the company gained after implementation in clear, simple terms that any reader can understand (such as productivity, profitability, lower costs, return on investments, etc.)

Jonathan Kantor is the principal and founder of The Appum Group, "The White Paper Company," an organization that specializes in the creation of professional business and technical white papers for enterprise-class businesses and the SMB (Small to Medium Business) marketplace. Click here to purchase "Crafting White Paper 2.0."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leveraging Social Media for Sales Lead Generation

By Dan McDade, President, PointClear

In our era of communications overload, it can often take up to a dozen “touches” to effectively reach prospects and qualify them as sales-ready.

Marketers have learned that the most effective way to cut through the clutter and develop leads is to touch each prospect over time with a combination of media, including quality outbound calls, voicemail messages, email and direct mail.

This process can now be greatly enhanced by adding social media to the mix. While most people think of social media as a non-business arena, many savvy marketers are making strides in leveraging social media to gather intelligence about prospects and to establish a rapport online, long before a meeting takes place.

This article takes a look at social media and how to use it, including how to integrate it into marketing programs as a way to touch prospects online.

Social Media as a Source of Intelligence

With the rise of the Internet, we gained access to a tremendous amount of instant information about the companies with which we want to do business – through Web sites, online press releases and online articles. While of tremendous value, that information is highly orchestrated, generated primarily by companies telling us what they want us to know. Social media can provide another layer of useful information that adds depth and dimension.

For example, one way to identify prospects is to look for trigger events, such as the hiring of a new CEO. Such movement at the top can mean that a company is ready to accelerate in a way that creates opportunity for you. To leverage social media in uncovering trigger events, visit Twitter and search for “new CEO” (include the quotation marks so you get the exact phrase, not just tweets that include both words). Some of the returns you’ll get may include tweets from insiders with clues as to where the new CEO is taking things.

Then, to find out more about the new CEO, hop over to LinkedIn. Search for the CEO by name; if he or she is a LinkedIn member, you can uncover information to better inform your initial contact – such as where the CEO was educated, previous positions, hobbies and interests, etc. Next, and you should do this even if the prospect isn’t using the service, search LinkedIn for the company name, which will produce a list of that company’s employees that have LinkedIn accounts. Any of those employees who are in your network will be flagged, giving you the opportunity to contact them for additional information about the new CEO and even to request an introduction. If you see any familiar names who are not in your network, by all means add them to it – the larger your personal LinkedIn network, the greater the possibility that you’ll be two or three degrees from a prized prospect.

Social Media as a Pathway for Communication with Prospects

While social media can be useful for gathering information about a prospect, you’ll get maximum advantage by using it to “touch” prospects and establish two-way dialogs. For example:

  • Rather than simply trolling Twitter for trigger events, open an account and begin micro-blogging interesting points about your product or service. Others who are searching for keywords you’ve included will gravitate to your tweets, and highly interested parties may also tweet you back, creating a lead. When appropriate, be sure to include links to your company’s Web site in your tweets, to drive traffic to your site and to improve its ranking in search engines.
  • Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your product or service. Many of the largest, most well established LinkedIn groups include both buyers and sellers with an interest in that group’s focus. Once you’ve joined a group, don’t simply lurk; post useful category information, such as white papers. As with Twitter, remember to include links to your company’s Web site when appropriate. If you discover a need for a new LinkedIn group, start it yourself, and invite others with interest in the category to join.
  • Start your own blog, which can be the most powerful social medium of all for lead generation. The primary purpose of your blog should be to expand your reach. Choose a title and issue posts that are topical and search-heavy, and include liberal links back to your Web site. It can take time to garner followers, but if it’s done right those followers will come, and will often post comments that can reveal interest in your product or service. To take it a step further, visit other relevant blogs and post comments on them.

Social media is so new that we’re all learning how to best leverage it for our business purposes, and the examples here are just a few ways in which social media can be beneficial in lead generation. There are additional social media techniques that may be even more appropriate to your particular company and its product or service. The important thing is to get started – just as those companies that embraced the Internet early got a head start on their competitors, so it will be with those who get a head start on leveraging social media to generate leads, engage prospects and strengthen customer bonds.

Dan McDade is Founder and President of PointClear, the prospect development company. Before McDade founded PointClear, he served as Vice President of Marketing for the direct mail firm, Jackson & Perkins, and as President of UST: The Business Marketing Group. To learn more about PointClear, go to www.pointclear.com, or to read and post comments on the PointClear blog, visit http://blog.pointclear.com/.