Thursday, August 12, 2010

Customer Roadshow 2.0 – Top 13 BtoB Content Marketing Tips

By Owen McDonald, VP of Client Strategy, Demand Creation Specialists
owenhs-resize

Having just attended the very first stop in the multi-city Customer 2.0 Roadshow – held right in the heart of Manhattan’s Theater District – I couldn’t help but think, “If they can make it here, they can make it anywhere.” And make it they did.

The event, co-sponsored by sales intelligence firm InsideView, marketing automation provider Marketo, and hosted by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, was three hours of fairly solid ideas and a decent buffet. My thanks to InsideView, Marketo, Scott Albro, Bob Perkins, and all of the speakers. In the spirit of everything I heard there, I offer the following Top 13 nuggets about communicating with BtoB prospects of today:
  1. Make lists (like this one….people love lists…Top 10…Best Five…whatever)
  2. Vendors have not adapted well to a customer-driven marketplace
  3. Vendors had better adapt to #2 (so said Sales 2.0 CEO, Nigel Edelshain)
  4. Stop thinking in terms of the “Sales Cycle.” Now we’re in the “Buyer’s Cycle.”
  5. 3 Phases of the Buyer’s Cycle are 1) Awareness; 2) Consideration; 3) Purchase
  6. There is a battle raging between sellers and buyers over information. For many decades sellers were in charge; now buyers are in charge. Deal with it.
  7. Over 50% of Buyers think Peers are the best source of information. Conversely, sellers are the least trusted information source. How can vendors deal with this?
  8. Always Be Helping (I loved Glengarry Glen Ross, but “always be closing” died).
  9. Always be helping with relevant, contextual information.
  10. Create value with remarkable content
  11. Reach customers with long-term nurturing campaigns.
  12. The biggest challenge today is attention scarcity. What can you do? (see 8 – 11).
    Sales and marketing need to help each other.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is Confusion Blocking Sales Progression For Cloud Computing?

By Scott Gillum, SVP GyroHSR

The Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines a cloud as a “visible mass of particles of condensed vapor.”  According to CIOs interviewed for an article in the June edition of the Harvard Business Review magazine, cloud computing might as well be defined as “vaporware.”

The article includes research by Gartner Group VP, Mark McDonald, who found that CIOs interest in the cloud has grown from 5% in 2009 to 37% earlier this year.  However, three out of four respondents who said they were interested, reported little interest in the three key technologies it entails: server virtualization, service-oriented architecture and SaaS (software as a service).

These figures may entice you to conclude that this is a great opportunity for a salesforce to provide value in explaining the Cloud and define a company’s solution; a rare situation where the salesforce can be “solution sellers”. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case, according to Forrester’s Technology Buyer Insight Study: Are Salespeople Prepared for Executive Conservations?

Of the IT executives interviewed for the April 2010 study, only 15% of executives believe that their meetings with salespeople are valuable and live up to their expectations.
Reasons given according to the report:
  • Business leaders (24%) don’t believe salespeople are knowledgeable about their specific business.
  • Only 34% of buying executives said salespeople understand their roles and responsibilities.
  • And across the board, only 38% feel that reps are prepared to answer their questions.

Could this be a case of the blind leading the blind?  Confusion around cloud computing even occurs at the highest levels of leading Information technology conglomerates. One story accounts for the CEO of a large information technology firm asking his senior executives to explain cloud computing to him. When no one could convey a clear answer, the CEO fired back that if they can’t sell it to him, then their company cannot sell it to customers.

There is no doubt that the Cloud is making as much noise as any good thunderstorm. Companies are reallocating resources and investments to the Cloud.  Countless marketing dollars are being spent to get companies in the consideration set.  As with any good technology trend the hype exceeds the reality.

The real challenge seems not to be marketing the Cloud, but rather selling it.   Those companies who best enable their sales people to break through the noise will reap the greatest benefit.

As the head of the Washington, DC office and leader of channel marketing practice, Scott focuses on using proprietary knowledge and experience with complex BtoB and BtoC business models to help clients improve sales and marketing performance. Scott has been named Top 50 B2B Blogger by several groups  and his project work on building integrated sales and marketing pipelines at Avaya was made into a Harvard Business School case study. Scott was also named "Innovator of the Year" while at MarketBridge.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Strategies For Staying Relevant During The Sales & Marketing Revolution

By Lisa Arthur, CMO, Aprimo
The sales and marketing disciplines are both in the midst of extraordinary change. So, as marketers, we now face a major dilemma:  drive change or become irrelevant. Old practices and processes just aren’t enough anymore.

Pressure to generate more qualified leads, deliver ROI and, at the same time, integrate our departments, our data and our channels — all in the face of shrinking budgets and a lagging economy — are forcing sales and marketing to reinvent the way we do our jobs. And the way we work together.

For example, sales and marketing departments today are forced to do more with less, necessitating better partnerships with each other to ensure joint goals are met. Sales and marketing both sign up for a revenue goal and both are tasked with generating demand — lead generation isn’t just a responsibility for marketing and revenue isn’t just a responsibility for sales. As our teams become more integrated, we are each taking on greater responsibility and challenging traditional ways of thinking. We need to innovate together. We need to be accountable to the bottom line. And, as always, we need to raise awareness, communicate with the buyer and generate leads as well.

New approaches to generating leads and driving business growth make us directly responsible for the success of our companies, and marketing today is about more than supporting the sales effort, just as sales is about more than  selling a product or service. Our roles are to facilitate the buying process and influence buying decisions, and in today’s multi-channel environment that means we must equip our buyers and consumers with information and empower them to take control of the brand. It’s about engaging the consumer in two-way conversational campaigns.  And, it’s about whether sales and marketing departments are engaging via these new channels or watching from the sidelines.

Even the way we undertake our most fundamental objectives has expanded.  For example, go to market can no longer be about mass targeting and one size fits all.  We need to segment markets — something both marketing and sales have traditionally resisted. We need to leverage segmentation to create an integrated marketing and sales approach that aligns relevant messages and value props and creates offers and sales follow-ups accordingly. Relevance is in. Siloed demand generation is out.

In addition to improving integration and facilitating the customer experience, sales and marketing must also be more accountable. We can no longer afford to waste money, people and time pouring over spreadsheets and disparate data in an attempt to prove ROI. Yet, we can’t ignore ROI, either. In today’s business climate, proving ROI is essential, and to do so, we have to automate the science of proving marketing ROI and integrating measurements across all channels, not just the easy ones. Times have changed, and marketers no longer need to run from crunching numbers, just as sales teams aren’t meeting every customer by traveling door-to-door. Today’s heads of sales and marketing often have seats in the boardroom and are just as responsible for results as the CEO and the CFO.

At Aprimo, we’re embracing all that’s changing in marketing and sales. And what’s more, we’re working with CMOs and marketers around the globe to actually drive the change.  Last summer, we worked with a market research firm to survey hundreds of marketers about what is important to them in the field of marketing.  We then continued this work at a customer event we hosted earlier this year in Texas, where we gathered together some truly revolutionary marketing leaders to discuss what’s happening in the field today. Over the course of this research, two things became clear: First, we realized that the marketing function must change or risk becoming irrelevant. And second, we realized that in order for marketers to evolve towards that new function, certain guiding principles are vital.

From these discussions, our customers helped us identify “The Imperatives of the Marketing Revolution,” 10 bold steps to help marketers navigate the changing role of marketing while providing a holistic view of best practices from the marketers themselves who are leading this revolution.

The first Imperative, “Marketing Must Be Accountable,” discusses how marketers can lead the revolution within their own organizations. It is our responsibility to take control of our brands to modernize, simplify, integrate and engage.  In this first Imperative, industry leaders, including Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch and others at leading BtoC and BtoB brands, offer their advice on how to foster better marketing practices within your organization.

Future topics will cover a variety of today’s hot-button topics, such as the impact of the CMO, consumers’ ability to take control of brands, customer engagement and balancing and managing multichannel approaches to marketing.

Ultimately, the goal of “The Imperatives of the Marketing Revolution” series is to provide advice and commentary from marketers, to marketers. In order to ensure that Aprimo is addressing every aspect of the marketing landscape and making sure that real-world marketers’ voices are heard, I invite marketers from every industry, at every level and from every marketing medium to share their opinions and take part in the conversation.

I want to hear your thoughts on how the sales and marketing industries are changing. What do you think marketers must do to adapt and succeed? To join the discussion and help lead the marketing revolution, please visit: www.aprimo.com/revolution.

As Aprimo’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lisa Arthur drives global market and brand strategy, demand generation and customer-centric initiatives. Arthur has served as CMO for Internet leader Akamai Technologies and B2B2C application provider Mindjet. Arthur spent nearly 7 years at Oracle where she managed the market entry and growth for Oracle CRM. Most recently, as the founder for Cinterim, Arthur applied her market-centric processes and insight to provide strategic counsel for Silicon Valley start-ups and Fortune 50 technology companies. Arthur is a seasoned keynote speaker addressing diverse topics at Web 2.0, Office 2.0, American Marketing Association (AMA) Strategy Confer­ence, Stanford University and MIT Sloan CMO Summit.
 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

“SNAP Selling” Author Talks New Rules of Selling to Crazy-Busy Prospects

The time-starved buyer needs to be particularly nurtured, and the rules are getting “snappy” for marketers to message quickly and efficiently.

Recently we interviewed sales strategist Jill Konrath about her new number Amazon sales book, “SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales & Win More Business with Today's Frazzled Customers.” Konrath’s first book, “Selling to Big Companies,” was selected a "must read" by Fortune magazine. We caught up with Konrath for more details how customers think and the “Buyer’s Matrix.”


DemandGen Report: SNAP Selling offers 4 SNAP rules to effectively improve business, which have been drawn from your years of selling experience. Can you briefly describe them for the DemandGen Report audience?

Jill Konrath: Today's crazy-busy prospects evaluate every single interaction with salespeople by asking these four questions: Is this relevant? How urgent is it? Does this person provide value? And, will it take lots of effort?

If the seller adequately addresses these concerns, the conversation continues and the sale advances. If not, they get deleted and opportunities get derailed. That's why it's imperative to always follow these new SNAP rules of selling.

Rule 1: Keep It Simple
Complexity grinds busy people to a screeching halt, so ensure maximum simplicity in everything you do. When you keep it simple, you make it easier for them to buy from you.

Rule 2: Be iNvaluable
People want to work with sellers who “know their stuff” and bring them fresh ideas on a regular basis. Today it's essential to turn yourself into the competitive differentiator.

Rule 3: Always Align
This is all about relevance and risk. When you're aligned with their critical business objectives and core beliefs, clients want to work with you.

Rule 4: Raise Priorities
With your prospects constantly changing priorities, you need to be alert to what's going on in your prospect's organization and shift your approach to keep top of mind.

DGR: In “SNAP Selling,” you emphasize that “sales is an outcome, not a goal,” and that sellers must take the proper steps to finalize a deal. In today's economy, how important is it for the seller to abide by this statement to avoid rushing a prospective buyer?

Konrath: Prospects can smell self-serving salespeople a mile away. They're the ones who don't understand much about their business, spend a lot of time talking about their products/services, and push to get an order as quickly as possible.
Funny thing is, these salespeople don't even realize that they're doing anything differently from their more successful colleagues. Yet they have a much more difficult time setting up meetings and an even tougher time getting a second meeting.
Here's the deal. When sellers rush to closure, prospect's feel like their decision-making process has been violated. They need ideas and insights on how other companies address the same challenges the face. They need to assess the value of changing from the status quo. They need to determine if it's worth the effort to get buy-in from their colleagues, disrupt the workflow, and handle the obstacles they're sure to run into. They need guidance on how to get this to happen fast and minimize disruption along the way.
Sellers who take time to do this create personal value. They become integral to the decision. People want to work with them. And, as a result, they get the business.

DGR: “SNAP Selling” emphasizes the importance of “getting inside your customer's head" and that having product, service or solution knowledge is no longer sufficient to get the sale. Could you break down the “Buyer's Matrix” and the steps to effectively get inside customers minds?

Konrath: First of all, let me state unequivocally that very few companies have any sustainable competitive advantage. They may think they do, but prospects don't believe it. They can easily find numerous "comparable" offerings with a simple Google search.
What this essentially boils down to then is that the seller him/herself has become the key differentiator. Their ability to communicate their expertise, ideas and insights ultimately becomes a primary decision factor.


The Buyer's Matrix is a tool I developed to ensure that salespeople knew the "essential" prospect knowledge required to do their jobs well. It covers their prospect's roles and responsibilities, objectives, strategic initiatives, obstacles and challenges, the status quo relevant to their offering, and reasons for change.

Once a seller understands this, they have a better concept of their true value proposition, the messaging they can use, the questions they should ask and more.
But to extend this even further, they can do what I call a "mind meld,” which essentially enables them to actually see and hear their own approaches, presentations and more from their customer's point of view. This enables them to see any flaws or glitches in their strategy before they meet with customer — and make adjustments to increase their effectiveness.

DGR: In chapter 8, “Getting in the Game,” you provide the reader with email and voicemail samples of “less-than-perfect” messages that all marketers are likely guilty of leaving customers or potential clients. How can marketers impress a client/customer with an effective email/voicemail while straying from self-promoting lingo?


Konrath: The first thing they need to get rid of is all "marketing" speak. By this, I mean self-promoting puffery (leading, unique, innovating, premier); technical trip (next-gen, robust, world class); and creative crap (outside the box, dramatic, strategic). These words cause messages to get deleted.
Then, they need to stop sounding like a gracious, consultative rep who would love to meet with them to learn how the company is handling their needs and share a bit about their offering.
To impress today's prospects, each message must convey three things:

1. Establish credibility: by referencing a referral or showing that you've invested time understanding their business or industry.
2. Pique curiosity: by sharing a strong value proposition, ideas to improve their business, information that would be of value.
3. Collegial status: by sounding as if you're a busy person, with lots to offer and your time is valuable too.

When sellers change their messaging, they can transform their ability to get their foot in the door. But it requires a radical rethinking of what they're doing.

DGR: In chapter 20, “Invaluable: Become the Expert They Can't Live Without,” you emphasize that it's really not about the product but about the person selling the product. Besides demonstrating extensive knowledge of the subject, how can marketers stand out to clients and customers?

Konrath: Being an invaluable resource is definitely a recurring theme in “SNAP Selling.” The reality of it is that there are so many ways a person can become the go-to resource. Here are just a few:
•      Focus all your attention on helping your customers achieve their desired objectives;
•      Challenge your prospect's thinking; expand their ideas of what's possible;
•      Share with them how other similar businesses are addressing the same challenges they face;
•      Bring them synthesized information on relevant industry trends;
•      Help them understand the impact of continuing with the status quo.

Also, I believe that everyone has unique talents and interests that they bring to their client relationships. Some people are great at building alliances. Others really get into processes, while still others are incredibly creative.

The ultimate goal is to become invaluable in a way that leverages your personal strengths.

For more of Jill’s thoughts on “SNAP Selling,” register for the upcoming webinar, “Using Content To Establish Sales Credibilty,” brought to you by Demand Creation Specialists. You’ll hear more from Konrath on how successful sales executives can be “invaluable” by using relevant content and thought leadership to sell value and “become the expert clients can’t live without.”

August 12, 2010 1:00- 2:00 p.m EDT - Register Here

 
To download two free chapters of “SNAP Selling,” visit www.snapselling.com. DemandGen Report readers can obtain a free copy of the Buyer's Matrix by signing up at www.snapselling.com.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Metrics That Matter

My section in The Quintessential Marketing Automation Guidebook, has been posted this week. The chapter, Focus on the Marketing Metrics that Matter, gives marketers insights to 3 areas that are often overlooked due to the traditional focus on volume of leads and sales handoffs. These three areas are designed to provide a foundation for the longer-term marketing view that companies must adopt as buyers take more control over their buying process.

As we discussed in the piece, it’s important for  marketers to move beyond activity monitoring to behavioral qualification and Progressive Profiling supported by deeper intelligence that enables marketers to prove influence during the buying process. Our section suggests marketers focus on strengthening these three core areas that can help marketers improve accountability:
  1. Database Enrichment
  2. Pipeline Conversions
  3. Revenue Impact
Click here to read the Metrics that Matter section.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BtoB Mobile Marketing: There’s An App For That

By Joan Damico, Marketing Communications Consultant
It’s predicted that nearly 6 billion mobile app downloads will occur in 2010 according to Marketing Charts and ABI Research. Of course the growth in smartphone sales (up 20% in 2009) is driving the development of apps.

So I started thinking about how BtoB marketers could benefit from apps beyond increasing brand engagement. A more powerful use of BtoB apps is to enable greater personal productivity and connectivity. Find out what would make your customers and prospects more productive.

Let’s say you provide a BtoB software application. Is there a dashboard or other view that would simplify a process for your customer?  For example, a busy plant manager spends a lot of time working throughout the plant. Could an app connect that person to his or her desktop and your software application from a mobile phone or device?  Most likely, the answer is yes.

In a similar manufacturing setting, could a mobile app enable more efficient equipment reliability and maintenance?   For example, the use of a mobile application that would allow a machine operator to connect to the equipment manufacturer for troubleshooting.

In regulated industries such as food and pharmaceutical, could a mobile app help streamline regulatory compliance or avoid non-compliance for processes such as commissioning and qualification, hazmat handling, etc.?

Connect your app to location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, where it can enhance productivity by optimizing support resources and improving customer response time. (Ok… that one may seem like a stretch today, but not in the near future.)

Calculators and reference tools are popular BtoB apps, especially for the technical audience. Whether it’s ROI, popular engineering formulae or productivity/efficiency calculations, calculators can be an effective BtoB app for boosting your brand and your customers’ productivity.

How much does a BtoB mobile app cost?
BtoB mobile app development costs vary widely. Apps can range from $10K to $300+K depending on the complexity of the app, number of platforms on which it will operate (iPhone, Android or Blackberry) and interface with other platforms or systems such as a CRM sytem, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Typical rates for developers range from $50 per hour to $100 per hour. Despite the wide range of pricing, the average cost to develop a robust app appears to be around $30K, although I’ve heard of less robust apps coming in at around $5K.

Consider how the app will be used to determine whether it should be free or fee-based. If your BtoB mobile app is designed to help further engage prospects within the buying cycle, then a free app may be justifiable based on the potential return on investment. If the mobile app is an integral part of your product offering or a value-added service, then consider a fee-based mobile app or a free trial period.

When determining the cost of a BtoB mobile app, you should also factor in promotional costs. After your app is developed, you’ll need a marcom plan for promoting the app and driving users to download it.

Should you be “app agnostic?”
With more than 125,000 apps and growing, the Apple iPhone is one of the most popular destinations for apps. However Google’s Android OS is quickly gaining popularity along with Blackberry and other devices. As BtoB marketers, consider what device your customers are primarily using for business connectivity. The Blackberry is a popular device among enterprise users and a likely destination for BtoB apps. You may wish to consider other devices such as iPads and Windows Mobile OS devices as viable alternatives. You’ll have to weigh the development costs of each to determine what is feasible. 

Measure the success of your BtoB mobile app
The number of downloads is one metric, but it only tells part of the story. Consider the category in which your mobile app will reside and seek to be in the top for your category. For example, the “lifestyle” category is one of the most popular. Of course, the more specialized the app, the less crowded the space. When developing your app, consider building in tools to monitor usage such as AppViz, Heartbeat, or Pinch Media.

A BtoB mobile app can be another element in your marcom mix designed to move prospects to the next step in the buying cycle or as an added value to your product.

Joan is a marketing communications (marcom) consultant/copywriter with more than 15 years’ experience in B2B marcom for high tech and industrial companies. She helps them leverage social media and traditional media to build brands, boost leads and drive sales. Joan is the author of Integrated Marcom Minute blog and newsletter and a contributing author to B2B Bloggers. She manages LinkedIn Group, B2B Social Media. Connect with Joan:  www.jdamico.net ; follow @copywriter4u; LinkedIn.com/goodcopywriter4u; Facebook.com/J.Damico.Marketing.Communications.
 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3 Steps to Shorten the Sales Cycle with Persona-Driven Marketing

By Mike Gospe, Co-Founder & Principal, KickStart Alliance
We are victims of our own desire to sell to anyone and everyone. Collectively speaking, in our race to help sales make quarterly numbers, marketing teams fall into the trap of casting as wide a net as possible for fear of leaving out a potential audience segment.

Unfortunately, this approach of broad inclusiveness leads to a mish-mash of messaging and an ineffective marketing campaign that actually extends the sales cycle.  Here are 3 practical steps marketers are taking today to hone their go-to-market strategies and shorten the sales cycle.

Step 1: Focus, focus, focus
The task of market segmentation is like aiming for the bull’s eye.  Where is the sweet spot: those key folks most likely to buy your product?

Traditional market segmentation brings to mind an academic, time-consuming, and costly process.  It doesn’t have to be. I’ve found that key people within any company have knowledge in their head that, if shared, would greatly accelerate any segmentation process.
Template: A simple bull’s eye template is an excellent way to guide a cross-functional team discussion.
bulls_eye
This exercise is all about focus.  Start by asking the team about who you want to target.  Typically, I get an answer like, “We want CIOs of the global 5000.”  To which I respond, “Could you possibly be any broader?”  Frankly, this is much too broad to be of any help.  Do all CIOs think alike?  Industry, cultural, business-size differences color the way CIOs look at the world.  What keeps these folks up at night?  What do they fear?

We need more focus.  While capturing some dimensions of the broadest segmentation description (outer circle), ask the team to add a few more adjectives and distinguishing characteristics about the prospect and their environment.  Do these folks know who we are? This is represented in the middle layer.  But, we’re not yet done.

Still, we need more focus. Are they already aware of solution alternatives, or do they need to be educated?  What are their preferences?  Where are they in their buying process?

Combined, the three layers of the bull’s eye template help marketers hone their messaging to capture the set of prospects most likely to buy now.

Step 2: Paint a picture of your target persona
Market segmentation, however, is not enough.  Buyers are a skeptical bunch that doesn’t like to be sold to.  You need to empathize with your buyer personas.  And you can only do that by knowing what makes these folks tick.  That’s where the persona template comes in.

Template: In general, the marketing team (as a collective) has a lot of knowledge and perspective about the target buyers.  Unfortunately, this information is distributed in pieces and not written down in a format that can be easily referenced and shared.  It’s easy to collect a lot of data, but it’s another matter to boil it down into a single, meaningful slide.
persona_example
Is this exercise really necessary?  You bet.  A case in point: After guiding a cross-functional team through this exercise, they socialized the resulting persona with the VP and regional sales leaders.  Two of the most telling pieces of feedback were:

“Historically, we’ve been selling too low into the organization.  We need to aim higher, and this is the right target for us.”
“I’ve been selling to this group for 5 years and I’ve never seen the persona written down before.  You got it right. This is exactly who I’m meeting with this afternoon”

Talk about a confidence boost to the marketing team.

Step 3: Adopt the 80/20 rule for proactive/reactive marketing spend
There is not enough time, money, or energy to be all things to all people.  Therefore, marketers need to determine where the best ROI can be found.  While we will all gladly accept money from anyone who wants to purchase our products, where is the easiest target segment to capture first?  It is assured that if marketers identify and win a beachhead segment, there will be a halo effect to attract a wider audience.

An example: A company was caught up in the vicious cycle of continuously marketing to everyone, with no distinction between new leads and their prospect database.  They treated all prospects the same.  In search for a more effective approach, they worked cross-functionally to identify and prioritize two target audience personas that represented entry points for engaging the most-likely-to-buy prospects.  Marketing efforts were then split between a new proactive lead generation outreach to these personas with 80% of the marketing budget being applied to developing a meaningful marketing blueprint to engage these folks.  Meanwhile, 20% of the budget was saved to allow for flexibility to address reactive market opportunities.

Putting it all together
This heightened focus resulted to crisper, more relevant messaging.  Response levels increased, and the sales team was rewarded with more, higher quality leads in less time.

Deciding to prioritize and focus on a sub-segment is risky.  After all, what if you guess wrong?  However, think about it this way: if you guess correctly, then your marketing ROI is guaranteed to be greatly improved.  If you do guess wrong, then you quickly find out what not to do and you can move on to the next segment with confidence.  Either way, you win by avoiding wasting precious time and money and unnecessarily lengthening the sales cycle.

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 and blog, Marketing Campaign Development, and his methodology is being used by San Francisco State University's College of Extended Learning course: "Essentials of Integrated Marketing."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Neolane President Talks Dynamic Content, Cross Channel Marketing & Integration

Enterprise marketing software provider Neolane has grown rapidly in the last year, and is poised for more growth in the coming year.


DemandGen Report had the chance to catch up with CEO Stephan Dietrich to discuss the key business drivers for marketing automation, what the BtoB space can learn from BtoC tactics and how mobile and social media are shaping up overseas.


DemandGen Report: Neolane has been growing aggressively with revenue increasing 30% in 2009. Do you anticipate a similar growth rate in 2010?


Stephan Dietrich: Neolane has consistently increased revenues over the past five years and our annual compound growth rate is close to 80%. Last year was a tougher year than usual across the industry, so 30% growth was still a great achievement. What is also significant is that 2009 was our fifth consecutive year of profitability, which distinguishes Neolane from most marketing automation vendors. Much of our growth can be attributed to marketing technology investments being made by mid-enterprise organizations, which is our core customer base. While revenue in 2009 increased significantly, we also increased our global headcount by nearly 25% and signed more than 40 new (enterprise-level) deals in North America and across Europe.

In 2010 we anticipate at least a similar projection of 30-50% growth for the year. There is still uncertainty in the market, but we certainly see things improving significantly in the enterprise marketing space. This year many companies are more willing to open up their budgets, but they still require strong ROI and a detailed business case.  Neolane’s pipeline is very strong, particularly in the BtoB marketing automation space.

DemandGen Report: Are there certain verticals or types of companies you are seeing driving the growth and what are some of the key business challenges these companies are looking to address?


Dietrich: BtoB high tech is driving a lot of the growth for our business. There are several challenges that businesses are looking to address. Number one is driving top line revenue, which has been especially pronounced during these last few difficult years. One emerging trend is marketers’ goal to more consistently incorporate inbound interactions with prospects and customers into the overall marketing mix.  In addition to integrating inbound and outbound communications, there is a need for increased efficiency, specifically in the mid-enterprise or enterprise segment. Neolane has built specific enterprise marketing software functionality for organizations that have distributed marketing teams so that they are able to collaborate with a consistent set of messages and materials. We also see a strong need for Marketing Resource Management (MRM). Marketers have evolved from pure, mostly single channel email marketing, to broader cross-channel marketing strategies that require a single, automated platform that can manage campaigns, resources, customer data and analytics to dramatically improve effectiveness and ROI.

DemandGen Report: Neolane recently launched v5.1 of its enterprise marketing software platform. Can you share more about the vision behind the launch?


Dietrich: Neolane’s vision behind version 5.1 was to unify inbound and outbound interactions. This version of our platform takes marketing from a one-way conversation to a dialogue-based marketing strategy. Historically, BtoB, and even BtoC marketers, have employed a push marketing strategy — pushing out marketing materials for webinars and white papers through email blasts and other channels. To be frank, that’s still what a vast majority of marketers are doing. Our version 5 has been integral in facilitating interactions between the prospect, customers and the brand, and unifying inbound and outbound communications. Consumers are evolving how they receive information and interact with brands, so marketers must be able to present consistent, relevant offers to customers and prospects regardless of the channel, inbound and outbound. Neolane v5.1 helps marketers use reporting and analytics to understand what offers are the most effective.

DemandGen Report: There is a lot more discussion in the marketing automation space around dynamic content to help companies present timely, relevant, and personalized offers across channels.  Are you seeing more interest in this area and how are some of your leading companies already applying these processes?


Dietrich: We’ve been talking about this for six years, but the story is very different in the BtoB and BtoC spaces. Neolane’s first implementation of dynamic content was with a French electronics retailer in 2003. Because the retailer carried approximately 35,000 products on its web site, the challenge was to figure out which offers were relevant to customers. To solve the problem, we integrated a recommendation engine into our solution.

BtoB is only just starting to take off now. I think it’s a different animal from the BtoC play because marketers need to be very careful with what they do. Keep in mind that sales cycles involve salespeople.  While a marketing automation platform supports the relationship, salespeople are really the ones driving and building the business relationship. However, moving marketing automation upstream in the sales funnel definitely makes sense in nurturing campaigns and pipeline acceleration (to some extent), but marketers need to be very careful to make sure the message is consistent with what salespeople are driving in terms of offers.


DemandGen Report: Are you seeing a lot of demand to address emerging channels such as social media and mobile in multichannel campaigns? What are some of the ways your customers are optimizing messaging and campaigns across these new channels?


Dietrich: To start, there is an important distinction to be made between multi-channel and cross-channel marketing. Multichannel is really engaging across different channels and very often needs different enabling technologies to do that. It’s done in different silos, sometimes in different pieces for different organizations. Some people manage web, some people drive email marketing, direct mail pieces, and in some cases now an outside agency is driving social media or mobile efforts.

We believe that BtoB marketers should move toward a more effective cross-channel approach where channels are integrated, and communications and experiences are consistent and coordinated — no matter what channel is being used to engage customers and prospects, be it email, web, mobile, direct mail or call center.  In addition to considering strategic uses of mobile and social media, direct mail is a key component that still works very well for a number of organizations, so I wouldn’t discount that. Outbound call center is also a key component. We emphasize that the cross-channel mix clearly requires a platform that integrates all the different channels, and supports the need to deploy consistent, effective — and measurable — strategies across them all.

Mobile is accelerating very quickly in the U.S., but it’s still very far behind in term of its adoption in regions like Europe or Japan. For example, we’ve seen a number of BtoB and BtoC marketers use mobile campaigns (SMS primarily) during conferences to drive traffic to sessions and other events.


No one has found that killer application for social media either. Social is a great engagement channel and everyone is talking about it — it’s rare that we have a meeting with a prospect or customer without talking about it. But has a BtoB marketer cracked the code with social media? I’m not sure. Social media shouldn’t exist in a silo. It must be an integrated component of an organization’s total cross-channel marketing strategy. When a channel emerges, it’s always used in a very experimental way, but it should still be integrated into a mainstream cross-channel strategy.

DemandGen Report: Given the continued pressure for marketers to show ROI, how are your customers using automation to optimize campaign performance in a measureable way?


Dietrich: Companies need an automated solution that can provide insight into the monetization of each marketing activity and channel, so that marketing spend can correlate directly to the revenue generated. In the BtoB space there is a huge difference (from BtoC) because you don’t have one touch point, you have multiple touch points from different marketing channels across long sales cycles. Marketers need to be able to link those touch points to revenues generated. We see continued pressure on ROI, so results need to be defendable. Marketing needs the technology to justify the budgets to their executives and senior management. That’s an ongoing trend that has certainly been driven by the recession, where every dollar spent has to be accounted for — and that’s not going away.

The depth of integration with CRM systems in certain implementations can be challenging, especially with sophisticated response management and campaign match backs. These strategies need to be discussed with senior management and executives to discuss how they want to measure campaign performance. This is not something that marketers can implement as a plug and play strategy.



DemandGen Report: With Demand Generation a top priority for BtoB and BtoC marketers, how are you seeing companies utilize marketing automation to gain a holistic view of prospects/customers across channels?


Dietrich: The progressive rollout of CRM systems has unified the view of the customer database, but marketing and sales is much more than that. Before a lead is sent to a sales rep, there is a lot of insight that can be driven out of behavioral data. It’s fundamental to have a single enterprise platform that can provide a 360-degree marketing view of customers and prospects. Very often marketing organizations only see the top of the sales funnel once they’ve captured the lead and scored it. It’s important to have one central datamart that captures the information from prospects and tracks behavior. There’s still a lot to do here because most organizations complete this process just for email, but that’s only one channel. Marketers need to think outside of the box about other channels, and how to bring all that data together.


DemandGen Report: Since Neolane has a strong presence in both North America as well as Europe, can you share some of the unique trends you are seeing emerge across the different markets around the globe?


Dietrich: I think we can all agree that social media has been a strong trend. There’s a lot of research showing that even in the BtoB space, social media is influencing the sales cycle. We have also seen companies in Europe adopt technology to support distributed marketing teams earlier compared to counterparts in the U.S. market, mainly because of the geography and variety of languages spoken.  All of our implementations in Europe span across countries, where companies have used Neolane to ensure local campaigns are aligned with corporate campaigns.  We also saw one-to-one personalization earlier in Europe because the markets are smaller and you need to cater to those markets. The pressure for greater accountability hasn’t changed, and it’s not going away. That’s what I think will drive marketing in the next decade.
 
Stephan Dietrich is president of enterprise marketing software provider, Neolane, Inc., where he is responsible for driving the company’s strong business growth in North America.  A recognized thought leader with 15 years of enterprise software and marketing expertise, Stephan is regularly interviewed in high-level publications and has spoken at several major US and European marketing events, such as NCDM, the Annual eMarketing Conference and Direct Marketing events. Previously, he was president of Cubicsoft and co-founder of AGDS, a company sold to Peregrine Systems, now HP.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Can Marketing Accelerate the Sales Pipeline?

By Sally Lowery, Director of Demand Generation, Bronto Software

As a demand generation marketer (aka revenue marketer), I’m met with the challenge of not just thinking about the world in number of leads created. Marketing’s role, at our organization, spans all the way through the active sales pipeline…and I don’t just mean trending how many leads convert to sales.

I’m talking an active role in the sales pipeline. Now you may be saying to yourself, “I’m a marketer, my role stops at the top of the funnel”. However, how can a sales and marketing organization truly have a collaborative environment if they have misaligned goals?

Or, you may be asking yourself, “Can marketing really accelerate the sales pipeline”? The answer is yes. A demand generation marketer’s role doesn’t stop at the demand for the lead, but in aiding the sales team with an arsenal of tools to drive urgency and win deals. I will say our own journey has not been an easy one, and we certainly haven’t figured out the perfect sauce, but by having the willingness to share in the responsibility of the sales pipeline, we create a team that is striving towards the same goal.

If you too are considering taking your demand generation beyond the qualified lead, consider these strategic tactics:

  • Marketing automation can play a role. Keep in mind, I said a role.  Deals win by tuning into your prospects needs and business objectives. This cannot happen through marketing automation. This is a relationship that is created and sustained by your sales organization. However, you can craft campaigns that reinforce your brand and engage your prospects based on their stage in the sales cycle. For your organization, a sales opportunity may initially have a “learn” stage that allows you to communicate the content and resources available to reinforce your value proposition. This can happen before a sales call is even made on behalf of the sales person, or perhaps triggers several days after the initial discovery conversation.
  • Consider integrated marketing campaigns. A well executed, collaborative sales and marketing campaign can make a significant impact on your prospects and create a compelling argument for your products or services. It takes some give and take to make this successful. Our marketing department loves making every piece of content creatively engaging. However, if you are a sales person sending a targeted message, simple text is just fine. We love our “marketing speak”. Sales doesn’t find that is an effective strategy. Why? Because it’s a different stage that requires a different conversation. We as marketer’s have to be willing to listen to what works during the sales cycle and use that intelligence to craft a relevant message that the sales organization will have “buy in”. At the end of the day, if you are creating campaigns that aren’t ever going to be used by your sales team, then you are wasting energy and resources. Listen, learn, you will be surprised at the insight you gain. Determine where you can impact the sales pipeline with a strategic campaign executed by the sales team. Perhaps, at 120 days out, you can create a convincing series of touches that drives urgency.
  • Test, trend, track. Just because it’s in the sales pipeline, doesn’t mean that you can’t trend the impact each campaign has, whether integrated or automated. Establish goals, set milestones and don’t be afraid to test. Not every component, just as any marketing campaign, is going to be a winner. As long as you’ve set expectations for the sales organization, that not all will close deals instantly, you will be okay. Really.

At the end of the day, we need to become revenue marketers focused on the sales pipeline. Instead of just calculating ROI (return on investment), why not take an active role in impacting that bottom line? It will create a more cohesive sales and marketing team focused on the same goal, not spending all of their time trying to throw one another under the bus.

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.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tips for Better BtoB Targeting to Foster “Sales-Ready” Opportunities

By Lisa Cramer, President & Co-Founder, LeadLife Solutions

When nurturing leads, your content should be directly related to your target audience with relevant keywords, images and language specific to the prospect’s industry. Learn how segmenting leads can lead to higher conversion rates and greater “sales-ready” opportunities.

We often become so enamored with the new tools and processes available to us that we forget about the basics of segmentation and targeting — the “101” of marketing.  Getting your leads and related information into a database to enable effective segmentation is really critical to the success of your outbound campaigns and ongoing engagement of prospects. The more relevant and targeted your messages, the more interaction you should derive from your nurturing and outbound campaigns.

Lead segmentation can be based on a number of items, including traditional demographics such as industry, title, company size, etc. Your company needs to establish the characteristics and attributes in your prospect profile, which can also include answers to qualifying questions that might not be answered until farther down in the pipeline. As part of this, make sure you also understand buying decisions and buying drivers — in other words, what makes this type of prospect buy. Certainly, you’ll want to come up with your ideal prospect profile and then probably include a few other tiers of prospect types to target.

It’s important to understand how you will use this data before it goes into a marketing database (i.e., your lead management/marketing automation system). This is not a technical issue so much as it is a data schema issue, which means you’ll need to be able to slice the data into the various pieces and parts required to segment effectively based on your profile defined above. This is a discussion not only about the database’s capabilities but also about the organization of the data itself to best suit your efforts. Making sure that you spend the appropriate amount of time on this before slamming your data into a marketing database is critical to successful segmentation and targeting.

With today’s lead management systems, you can build even greater intelligence about your prospect since segmentation can now also include digital behavior. For instance, if your company sells a number of products and services, you can use the lead’s digital behavior (where they went on your web site) to understand their product/service interests and needs. Knowing this can help you to reduce the amount of friction (such as the number of fields on a form you ask a lead to answer in order to receive something) as well as the amount of data you must find out about the lead before having enough for effective segmentation.

Effective segmentation, whether by demographic and/or behavior, provides a method by which you can create messaging that is tailored for a specific group of prospects. By speaking the prospect’s language (via industry-specific text or images, or specific products promoted), you have a better chance of catching their interest and getting them engaged in your campaign or nurturing processes. Additionally, your company will have more credibility with the prospect as you continue to engage with them. Conversely, generic messages get lost in the noise and won’t help your conversion so nurturing effectiveness will be mitigated.

Now that you are segmenting and targeting the leads per outbound touch, you should be able to take advantage of the knowledge you gained (enabled through good segmentation) to provide relevant content for that lead. Think about what your prospect is interested in at that point in the buying cycle. How can you make the content relevant for your targeted list versus something generic for all? With automation, this kind of targeting and relevancy of content becomes easier. Marketing automation systems enable you to include dynamic content that changes based on what’s of interest to that lead. This can include images (office building versus hospital), text within the email (for example, using different text based on recipients’ titles), as well as closing signature lines and addresses (i.e., if the lead is located in London, list your international headquarters versus the one in the United States).

We’ve seen many cases where segmentation and targeting of outbound campaigns have helped convert prospects. In one case, a company was simply sending monthly newsletters to its entire database, although it sold different products and services into different industries. Since it took so much time to manually alter every email based on the industries and the services of interest, it just wasn’t possible with the limited time it had available to customize content. Instead, it was forced to send a “one size fits all” newsletter to everyone.

With lead management systems and processes, segmentation became much easier and targeted messages much more effective to disseminate. We worked with the company, helping it to start by segmenting its leads by industry. The company then created an email template with dynamic content in the first paragraph that automatically altered the language based on the industry. The lead management system dynamically changed a portion of the text before sending the email, based on a rule set up for each industry. After a bit of time, the company then added the criteria of sending specific messages to leads based on what products or services (including complementary products and services for cross-sell opportunities) they had expressed interest in. The company then started a nurturing campaign around the services identified to be of interest. This increased the leads’ interactions with this company, and in the end, helped drive a much higher quality lead to the sales team.

Better segmentation and targeting will have a direct impact on the success of your nurturing programs and outbound campaigns. In particular, the increased success in nurturing will in turn increase the quality of leads that you pass to your sales teams and should therefore directly affect revenue in a positive way. With direct revenue implications, it’s important not to skimp on this first step of effective marketing.


Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of on-demand lead management software that generates, scores, and nurtures leads for BtoB marketers. In 2009, Lisa was recognized as one of the top five “Most Influential People” in sales lead management. For more information on lead management or best practices email info@leadlife.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Monday, June 7, 2010

5 Tips to Improve Conversion Rates

It's not hard to find a list of tips aimed at helping to improve your conversion rates, but it is much harder to synch these suggestions with the tools designed to make them realistic and effective. Here are 5 tips to improve conversion rates:

1. Targeted Lists- Simply put, the best way to increase response to send the message to the only the most relevant audience. In other words, by running multiple, smaller campaigns at a more highly refined list. Define your target profile for each product or value proposition, and focus the campaign on them.

Sometimes it isn’t easy, however. See if this scenario sounds familiar … you contact a list broker or online property about sending an email campaign, hoping to get your message out to the 25,000-person minimum required by the provider. When you put your requirements into the equation (department, title, geography, etc.) the list that comes back to you has 15,000 contacts. What do you do?

It’s hard to walk away, because those 15,000 are a great fit for your message. You will, most likely, backfill. You sacrifice quality for quantity and add another 10,000 names that aren’t really a fit for what you are trying to do. Your response rate will go down because 40% of your list is not in your sweet spot. Lower responses mean lower conversions, because some of those irrelevant contacts are going to click but not convert. Or worse yet, they will convert and you send a lot of unqualified leads to sales, damaging your credibility.

Alternatively, you consider eating the cost of that extra 10,000 names (but that makes your contact cost seem out of whack) or see if you can send those people different content than your original campaign idea (maybe something more relevant to them) … but that is a lot of heavy lifting, without much expected return.

House data is an inadequate back up because it tends to have so many holes in things like department, industry and level of contact (VP, Director, etc), and becomes out of date so quickly.
Another solution is finding a provider with quality contacts, advanced filtering and list building tools, and no minimums or subscription requirements. Your conversion rates will improve based on sending relevant offers to targeted contacts.

2. Targeted Content- Giving people more relevant content and offers is an obvious conversion win. Targeted content can be delivered in two ways:

- Email content or online display advertising tailored to the buyer profile of the target audience.
-  Web site content customized based on what you know about the visitor. Most people have some success with landing pages based on the keyword used in search, but that is limited in reach and does not differentiate customer types. The real opportunity is to segment the way you plan your campaigns, using the unique firmographics of the business (company, industry, corporate revenue, number of employees, location, etc) that is about to visit.

Email content can be customized based on how well targeted your list is, how much time and effort you have spent building out and understanding your buyer profiles, and some effort centered around matching offers to those buyer profiles. However, open rates and click response frequently disappoint.

Customizing web site content for specific companies or industries would be very challenging. You still need a basic understanding of your target buyer profiles at the firmographic level, but customized web content based on details like industry or company size (such as industry-specific case studies) has been proven to increase engagement and conversion. Additionally, you can also show specific message for a visitor that is already a customer or if that business visitor is from an account flagged by sales as important. Without cookies!

3. Shorter Forms- It’s no secret that shorter forms reduce the friction in the conversion process. The less that you ask for from a visitor, the more likely they are to give your offer a try. It’s also no secret that a big problem with making it easier to convert is that more unqualified clicks do convert, again damaging your credibility with sales and falsely inflating your campaign metrics.

The additional argument against shortening forms is getting little or no discernable lead data. Marketing relies on capturing as much information as possible to both route the leads to the appropriate salesperson and qualify them as potential selling opportunities. While shorter forms might generate more conversions, quality goes down.

Marketers need to find that magic balance in their forms that makes them short enough to grease the conversion wheels, but long enough that you can capture enough information about your conversions that you can actually work with them after the fact.

4. Remarket to Unconverted (But Interested) Web Traffic- Many marketers have tools in place to identify the IP addresses of their web visitors. If you could identify the relevant businesses that have visited your website and then cross-reference those businesses with any high-value pages they visited, you would have the beginnings of a very solid, targeted list leveraging intelligence pulled from your analytics package and CRM systems. These are businesses that, although they may not have converted, are actively searching for more information about your products and solutions. And you may very well have contacts from that company in your house list that you can start contacting. Unfortunately, most IP lookups return little usable data. This is largely because the public registries are not set up or maintained as business directories.

5. Use What Works- The word “metrics” is almost a mantra when talking to BtoB marketers about best practices. They can tell you how many impressions there were or emails were sent, opens, clicks and conversions. Standard analytics or CRM packages fall short, however, in understanding the quality of the traffic your campaigns are driving to your website.

Consider this scenario … let’s say that you are spending $5,000 per month running two campaigns in Google PPC. You are burning through your budget well before the month is over, and 85% of your conversions are coming from campaign 1. Campaign 2 isn’t driving nearly as many clicks/conversions, but you are curious to dig deeper because the quality of leads coming from PPC seems to be declining.
Using a tool like Demand Analytics, you could analyze the quality of the traffic clicking through on those ads. You could very well find that 85% of the traffic driven by the campaign consuming 85% of your budget is from outside of your target markets, while the smaller campaign has a 40% hit rate. Using this information you could adjust the spend to make sure the smaller campaign is running all month long, or tweak the messaging of the expensive, click-driving campaign to reduce the clicks from companies outside of your buyer profile.

In conclusion, always keep in mind that a good conversion rate is not always the sign of a successful campaign. The single metric I like to use to measure success — more than impressions or clicks or conversion percentage or opens — is return on marketing (RoM).

RoM is the amount of pipeline generated divided by the cost of the campaign. For example, if I can generate $10,000 or more in pipeline for every $1 that I spent on a campaign I would consider that more important than if my conversion rate was below 2% because the conversions I did score were of a very high quality.

Using a combination of tools to drive targeted campaigns with relevant content to select prospects, grease the wheels of the conversion and then measure the quality of the traffic you drove will naturally improve conversion rates, but should also significantly impact the metrics that are even more important than conversion percentage.

Jason Stewart leads demand generation programs for Demandbase and is a recognized thought leader in the BtoB lead generation and lead management space. He founded and leads the Salesforce.com user group in Salesforce.com’s headquarters location (San Francisco) and was one of the first 500 people to complete the Salesforce.com Certified Administrator process. He has spent 10+ years in BtoB telesales, demand generation, lead management and marketing operations with a variety of businesses including Maxager Technology, MarketLive, and Inference Corporation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Marketing Automation & Lead Management – Taking it Further

By Carlos Hidalgo, President, The Annuitas Group

I read last week’s Demanding Views column – Marketing Automation is not Synonymous with Lead Generation, and while I agree with some of the assertions stated in the article, I believe the article fell short in describing marketing automation and what is needed for it to be successful.

The premise of the article is fundamentally true — organizations will not purchase marketing automation and therefore get lead generation.  However, the article misses by stopping at and mis-defining lead generation.  The article also goes onto make the corporate web site the fulcrum around which marketing automation pivots.  Organizations looking to adopt automation or improve the investment already made in such a solution need to think beyond lead generation and their internal web site and focus on lead management and the buyer.

We are square in the middle of the Buyer 2.0 world with the buyers control increasing and the traditional buying journey dwindling.  This was evidenced most recently in a DemandGen Report study that found that more than 83% of organizations surveyed stated their buying process did not follow a traditional buying path.  Buyers are now involving sales much later in the buying cycle and instead are turning to their peers as sources of information in the early and middle stages of the buying cycle.  The collaboration of buyers with their peers has been further enabled through the prevalence of social media making it very possible that organizations will have developed some kind of short list before engaging 1-1 with a vendor’s sales representative.  This being the case companies that are focused on lead generation i.e. filling the top of the funnel and not lead management i.e. managing the entire buyers journey will not get the full value of their marketing automation investment.

People, Process & Technology (PP&T)
Organizations looking to develop a Lead Management FrameworkTM need to look at people, process then to technology to ensure success. Unfortunately, too many organizations are jumping right to technology and are unable to realize the promises of what automation can deliver if approached in the right manner.

People
The right skill set within an organization is vital to ensure the adherence to process, the execution and delivery of campaigns, and campaign measurement.  Finding the right people can be a challenge as many BtoB marketers have been brought up at the foot of the marketing branding tree. However, organizations that ensure the proper skill and mind-set among their people will excel.  These people have a deep understanding of the new buyers and the importance of a process-based approach to sales and marketing.

Process
The operational approach to Buyer 2.0 is the development of a lead management process in the form of a Lead Management FrameworkTM For this approach to succeed, the involvement of marketing & sales is a must, but other groups like IT, Ops., Finance, Web should be considered.   Any other resource or group that has a part in the demand generation process (inquiry to close) should ideally be part of the lead management journey. 
Beginning with an audit to get a clear assessment of the current gaps, then moving to a development and implementation stage is the way to approach organizational lead management.

Technology
Having the right people managing the proper process is the perfect time to bring in an enabling marketing automation technology.   This ensures there will be business rules that will govern the use of the technology and the right people with the professional skill-set managing the solution.

The article last week was right in that there is still a lot of confusion about marketing automation in BtoB organization’s.  However, focusing solely lead generation and the state of your website as indicators as to when to buy automation focused on the corporation, not the buyer. Focusing on people, lead management process, then enabling marketing automation technology will greatly improve your return on all your marketing and sales activities and your return on your automation investment.

Carlos Hidalgo is President of The Annuitas Group, a 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.

Friday, May 7, 2010

6 Key Questions to Map Out an Effective Marketing Blueprint

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

Editor’s Note: The following article is from a recent post in the Marketing Campaign Development blog.

There is an art to crafting marketing blueprints. Although the concept is simple and intuitive, it takes practice and patience to work the model.  More than that, it takes time to show colleagues in marketing and sales that the model really does work.
Proof will be found in producing better results (i.e. more, better quality leads) while reducing internal frustration and the need to rewrite copy over and over and over again.
What’s needed is a quick win!
A blueprint quick win is an opportunity to apply the blueprint best-practice model to an event, with focus on a limited span of time.  Here’s an example:
Not long ago I worked with a company who had scheduled a webinar that would take place in three weeks; yet because the marketing staff (five people) was so stretched, no pre-marketing for the event had been considered.  Their answer was to outsource the entire production to Ziff Davis, a webinar turnkey solution with a guarantee of 250 registrants.  After interviewing the team, I sketched their initial blueprint, shown below.
Two other facts are important to this story:
  • The sales and marketing teams each had a slightly different definition regarding “raw inquiries”, “qualified inquiries”, and “leads.”
  • Because of trust issues, sales requested that all 250 registrants be immediately turned over to sales.

I suggested that if this plan were executed as outlined above, the only thing I could guarantee would be that each team would be unhappy with the results.
The first thing we did was to sit down with the marketing and sales leadership and hammer out a confirmed understanding of inquiry and lead definitions.  Then, we conducted a 30-minute blueprint exercise designed to answer the following 6 questions:
  1. Who is the target audience (persona)? (Here’s an example.)
  2. How do they want to be communicated with?
  3. What offers do they want/expect from us?
  4. After they respond to the first activity and offer, what happens next? And what happens after that?
  5. What happens if they don’t respond?
  6. How will these activities and offers help qualify these prospects?
As a result we crafted the final blueprint.
The upshot: A focused blueprint with a purpose
Instead of relying solely on Ziff Davis to promote the event, we discovered additional pre-event marketing tactics that could be easily coordinated.
This was a thought-leadership webinar.  The next logical step in our dialog with prospects was to direct them to a product that best addressed the issues raised during the webinar.  We wondered if any attendees were interested in taking the next step with us immediately.  So, we included an immediate call-to-action to stay on the line to see a product demo. Most folks dropped off the line, but more than a few stayed on!

In the days that followed, two separate conversations would unfold: one for prospects who registered and attended; the other for prospects who registered but did not attend.

Our blueprinted program was designed to last 4 weeks.  At which time we would regroup with sales to review the number and status of the inquiries and leads.

The results
Instead of 250 registrants, we generated 1,050. 497 touched our company at least twice during the 4 weeks that followed the webinar.  These were the leads that were passed immediately to sales.  The others remained in an ongoing marketing nurturing program.
How much did it cost to rework the blueprint?  Absolutely nothing except 30 minutes of time to plan.  Literally.
Qualitatively, the marketing and inside sales teams were doing high-fives down the hall.  A whiteboard kept a running tally of our leads for all to see.  The marketing had secured it’s first quick win.  With a renewed sense of partnership, the team moved on to tackle more comprehensive blueprints.
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.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crawl, Walk, Run: Everything B2C Orgs Need For Lead Scoring

Best practices for identifying and converting your best prospects

By Chris McArdle, Executive Director of Interactive Markets, TARGUSinfo

The proliferation of emerging media channels such as mobile and social networks, combined with tight marketing budgets, means that campaign dollars cannot just work harder, they must work smarter as well.

Despite these pressures, fewer than 10% of B2C organizations are using proven techniques to effectively identify and target prospects, according to a recent study from ResearchCorp.

Companies that utilize real-time lead scoring data wisely can pinpoint prospects more effectively and thus dramatically improve conversion rates and lifetime customer values.

“Most organizations try to measure their sales funnel by using spreadsheets,” says Ian Michiels, director of enterprise marketing practice at MarketSphere Consulting. “But that approach has several flaws. For starters, the data is stagnant and the spreadsheets are not intuitive. By contrast, real-time lead scoring systems provide decision-makers with heightened visibility into who their top prospects are and how to tailor marketing campaigns for them.”

It’s critical for people to understand that a lead score in a vacuum is almost meaningless. Understanding what makes up a lead score is far more important than the score itself could ever be.

That begins with gathering and analyzing demographic and psychographic data about customers and prospects, including information about their lifestyle, interests, attitudes and values. It’s only after obtaining this information that companies can develop a complete profile of their ideal customers and then craft personalized, targeted messages for them.

Start by Crawling
One of the biggest misconceptions that neophytes have about lead scoring is that it is too complex to implement in their businesses. In practice, it is not complicated at all.  Think of it as a logical lens that can be used to more closely examine a consumer’s potential.

When done properly, lead scoring is extremely efficient. It does not entail any sales agent training, it requires minimal IT involvement and there is no script writing needed.  The initial stage of lead scoring implementation — the “crawl” phase — includes the prioritization of leads within the call queue and for follow up.  During this stage, companies can also optimize lead sources and media channels.

During these initial phases of lead scoring, it is important for marketers to focus on prioritizing their leads.  Lead scoring enables organizations to identify which leads represent their best opportunities by looking at a prospect’s likelihood to purchase.

One of the key advantages of lead scoring is how it enables organizations to push their best prospects to the front of the call queue. By prioritizing leads, top inbound prospects spend less time in the call queue. That results in lower call abandonment and a better customer experience.

Learning to Walk
Once marketers have mastered the basics of lead scoring — have seen improved results from profits and revenues, and gained organizational buy-in — they are ready to utilize more advanced techniques in the “walk” stage.  This includes the ability to determine which leads should be routed to specific sales agents.  At this stage, practitioners can also customize lead nurturing communications based on a prospect’s potential value.

By having a more comprehensive understanding of a prospect’s attributes and propensities, marketers can match leads to the sales agents with the most appropriate skill level or product knowledge.

In the contact center, it is best to route top prospects to in-house or dedicated sales agents who have the highest conversion rates.  Marketers can then direct lower-ranked leads to an IVR, non-dedicated agents, or outsourced agents.

History has shown that some leads tend to convert well regardless of which sales agent they talk to.  It doesn’t make sense to route leads to top agents if they are just as likely to convert with a less-experienced agent. To help make those kinds of determinations, marketers can develop lead scoring models that match customers’ preferences, allowing less-experienced agents to handle the leads that will purchase anyway.  This helps generate higher conversion rates, especially within a company’s most profitable customer segments.

It can also result in more cost-effective marketing campaigns. For instance, Liberty University was able to save $150,000 a year on its marketing costs by using less intensive tactics for those prospects less likely to convert.

Tailoring lead nurturing to each lead segment can also increase conversion rates.  For example, marketers may choose to send top prospects a direct mailer with a DVD.  Meanwhile, lower-priority prospects could be contacted by email.

Customizing messaging for an offer based on a lead’s preferences can further boosts results. Custom communications can also help to increase customer lifetime values by having more relevant discussions with prospects as well as improve the customer experience.

Ready to Run
Organizations that have achieved repeat success with lead prioritization and message customization are ready to employ more advanced techniques.  These include customized scripts, product offers, cross-selling/up-selling and pricing all on the fly.

One approach is to use lead scores for screen pops with tailored messages that sales agents can present to prospects based on the offer that is most likely to close the deal.  Prospects who feel they’ve been catered to are also more likely to return as repeat customers; better experience equals better results.

Sophisticated lead scoring professionals have also learned how to take what they know about their best leads and use that information to find more leads just like them.   This includes scoring prospect lists to tailor acquisition strategies around your best prospects, or driving conversion associated with win-back and cross-sell campaigns within your existing customer database.  Lead scoring also allows for targeting your best prospects online.

To help boost lead quality, advanced practitioners use online cookies — accessible via ad agencies and ad networks — to locate prospects that match the profile of their best-scoring leads via display advertising.  Organizations that have reached this level are able to improve the relevancy of online ads by fine-tuning the messages aimed at top prospects based on the known attributes of similar prospects who converted.

Fine-tuned online campaigns tend to result in higher sales due to increased click-throughs and higher conversion rates, particularly in more profitable segments.

There are several levels of maturity when it comes to lead scoring with ever-greater scaling benefits. But like the timeworn proverb, you have to crawl before you can walk…and certainly run.


Chris McArdle is the executive director of Interactive Markets at TARGUSinfo. Follow Chris on Twitter at @CjMcArdle

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010: B2B eCommerce (Finally) Realizes Its Potential

By Godard Abel, Co-Founder & CEO, Big Machines

Over the past decade, BtoC eCommerce has changed the landscape for selling products as leaders like Amazon.com have brought eCommerce to the mainstream — and the numbers are growing.
A 2009 survey of online consumer behavior conducted by Harris Interactive found that 48% of US online adults say that they are now conducting more online transactions than they did in the past. In the UK, the number is even higher as 53% of online adults say they are making more purchases online, with the ability to compare products and prices cited by 74% of these as the main reason.
  • Fact: Consumers now expect products and services to be instantly available, comparable, and configurable to meet their needs online.
  • Fact: Consumers expect fast, intuitive shopping fulfillment.
  • Fact: The web provides consumers instant search results for any products or services along with real-time pricing information across eCommerce sites. Increased product choices and purchasing options are easily available from an expanding global market.
  • Fact: The business world has lagged behind in leveraging the internet for streamlining sales with BtoB eCommerce.
Businesses still rely primarily on inefficient direct and channel sales strategies supported by legacy selling tools and cumbersome enterprise software tools rather than providing their business customers the same intuitive online experience available to consumers.  We expect that over the next decade businesses will bridge this gap and deliver increasingly intuitive eCommerce tools to their business customers.
The History
BtoB eCommerce, by definition, is not a new concept in the business world. Back in 2000, sources like Gartner Research and Forrester Research were predicting explosive growth numbers in the BtoB eCommerce world, upwards of $3.95 trillion by the end of 2003. And the sales industry has been moving more toward this kind of multi-channel selling model, which integrates the Web with more traditional methods.
But, to date, BtoB eCommerce has not seen the adoption across industries that was initially predicted back in 2000. In fact, over the last decade, while many companies have expressed interest in incorporating web technology into their existing sales platforms, very few have actually implemented it. Based on experience with over 250 companies, BigMachines has found that over 90% of companies still rely on clunky spreadsheets and rigid enterprise software systems to price, quote, and sell products. And while we’ve seen great success with the BtoC eCommerce world – everyone from Amazon.com to Dell have become masters in the retail world because of it – BtoB eCommerce requires online systems that can support the complex products, contract, and pricing logic often needed to satisfy BtoB relationships.
CRM vendors have led the pack in delivering sales force automation technology but while they excel at building customer databases and sales management and reporting tools, they have not focused on delivering multi-channel selling tools that support BtoB eCommerce. ERP vendors have continued to focus on providing back-end systems that serve finance and operations, but ERP systems are not intuitive and typically not accessible by sales people, channels, and customers.  Since neither CRM nor ERP have delivered intuitive online selling tools, it has been a struggle for businesses to deploy intuitive online BtoB selling solutions.
Why BtoB in 2010?
It’s clear that the technology industry has been talking about eCommerce for a while but the question is: Why is 2010 going to be the year that it takes off in the BtoB space? The answer is simple. The need is still there, better SaaS technology is now available, and business customers are demanding it. Consider a survey we recently conducted of our customer base where we asked executives if they plan to incorporate BtoB eCommerce into their selling process over the next year. Every single respondent answered Yes. Furthermore, BigMachines has conducted its Breakthrough Opportunity Analysis (BOA) ® with hundreds of companies and has shown that companies can save 50-80% of their quoting and ordering costs and eliminate 100% of order errors by moving to BtoB eCommerce.
New technology is now available that enables businesses to provide their sales people, channel partners, and BtoB customers intuitive online tools that make it just as easy to buy business products and services as consumers shopping online. The BtoB eCommerce platforms also support the complex product filtering, bundling, contract management, and pricing rules that businesses need to conduct online commerce.  By leveraging Web 2.0 technology, BtoB eCommerce platforms now offer a much richer, more real-time business shopping experience.
In addition there has been a generational shift in businesses. As Generation X and Y take over from Baby Boomers, they simply expect to be able to conduct business online in the same way they can in their personal lives. New Gen Y workers entering the workforce have grown up digital and want to do all their product research and purchasing online. They are not inclined to talk to sales people (or anyone for that matter).  As these new generations take over the workforce they will demand online tools from their suppliers and refuse to do business with suppliers relying on antiquated paper, phone and fax driven processes.
Building on an Opportunity
BtoB eCommerce can accelerate sales through a partner channel as well. Think about how business to business transactions are typically conducted. In many cases, businesses utilize partner channels to help sell products and/or fulfill orders. Those partner channels sell from various host companies creating the need for multiple quote and order transactions across the channels. But by utilizing BtoB eCommerce, businesses can automate the channel transactions, share real-time information to collaborate to better serve the end customers, and quickly provide one integrated quote to offer to the end customer.
For example, a niche vendor in the HVAC space is constantly in competition with the large enterprises like Honeywell and Siemens but that company only makes one piece of the product. By using BtoB eCommerce, that company can partner with other companies to provide the whole solution by putting both partner and its own products in one instance within their sales software and create one integrated solution quote for a customer. That company has now grown its business over 20% by offering a competitive bid to the turnkey solution offered by these big time players.
Making it Work
Knowing that BtoB eCommerce will start realizing its potential this year, what can you do as an organization to take advantage?
Do your research and find a platform that suits your needs. Make sure the rules engine is complex enough to handle your products and services and pricing. Understand online self-service and its importance to your customers. In essence, BtoB eCommerce helps you predict what your customers may want to purchase and when you can predict correctly, you have a better chance of winning that sale.
Since its inception in 2000, Godard has led BigMachines on its mission to deliver innovative web software solutions to its customers and to build an enduring company with a great team. Godard earned an MBA from Stanford University and both a BS and MS in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).