Thursday, January 28, 2010

“Seed Nurturing” and The Future of Lead Nurturing

By Jon Miller, VP Marketing, Marketo

BtoB marketing has dramatically evolved over the past few years. Early on, the primary focus was on “closing the deal,” investing dollars on mass marketing, advertising, and branding regardless of measurable ROI, and encouraging the sales team to reach out to every prospect regardless of level of interest or qualification.

With CRM and marketing automation, marketers used lead management to better identify and prioritize leads, and realized tremendous revenue growth through lead nurturing — building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready.

Today, BtoB buyers are using social media to educate themselves much earlier in the buying process, obtaining information in non-traditional, yet highly influential ways, and engaging with sales on their own terms and timelines. Considering the impact of social media, what is the future of lead nurturing?

Going forward, the most successful marketing organizations will be those that extend lead nurturing beyond the traditional marketing and sales cycle, and consider it part of a fluid “revenue cycle.” The revenue cycle starts before prospects visit your Web site and are even identified to after they become customers. Throughout the revenue cycle, marketers can use social media to turbo charge lead nurturing by:

  • Listening to what unidentified prospects are saying through social media, where valuable relationships evolve through blogs, Twitter, and other nontraditional marketing channels.
  • Engaging prospects with greater relevancy by using what they say on social media sites to enrich profiles, trigger more targeted nurturing flows, and provide deeper insight into their conversations with sales.
  • Continuing to build profitable relationships with new customers through more informed retention marketing and cross- and up-sell activities.

The “Seed Nurturing” of Social Media
Nurturing campaigns usually take place after prospects visit your Web site and identify themselves. Once you have compiled a wealth of data on prospects (e.g. contact information; budget, authority, need, and timeline (BANT) attributes; demographic data), you can use it to create extremely relevant nurturing and trigger-based campaigns.

However, what happens when prospects express interest in your company, products, or services through social media sites where you don’t necessarily reveal their contact details? This is where “seed nurturing” comes into play, a vital part of the sales process that consists of investing in and building relationships with prospects regardless of whether or not you know who they are. For example, a prospect might read a vendor's blog or follow its Twitter conversations for months before engaging that vendor. If you forego the opportunity to monitor and respond to social media cues, more agile competitors will surely dominate the mindshare and ultimately wallet share of these savvy prospects.

Qualified prospects are educating themselves long before you are able to identify them — by anonymously surfing your corporate Web site and vetting your products and services through third-party resources, word-of-mouth recommendations, and social media conversations. To keep pace, you must nurture them just as you would the known contacts in your database by:

  • Making valuable content freely available on social media sites.
    By eliminating the need for registration in order to gain access to your whitepapers, eBooks, and other valuable content, you remove the initial barriers to building relationships with prospects. In doing so, you will strengthen your rapport, and these anonymous leads will likely surface as inbound leads once their interest level increases.

  • Using social media to build a rock-solid reputation of trust and credibility.

The feeling of risk consumes BtoB buyers, causing them to behave irrationally during the decision-making process. Social media reduces this risk by serving as a forum for you to build your reputation as a thought leader. For example, use Twitter to express your views on the latest industry trends or showcase your knack for solving specific business pains by becoming an “Expert” on LinkedIn.

Social Media Deepens Insight and Adds Relevancy for Nurturing Identifiable Leads

To drive lead nurturing with individuals that you have already identified in your database, use social media conversations as you would online activity on your own Web site — to improve the relevancy and segmentation of your marketing and sales efforts. Here’s how:

  • Listen to what prospects say on social sites to learn more about their interest and buying intent.

Social media cues are key indicators of interest level and buyer intent. After you carefully listen, use what you learn to engage prospects with greater relevancy. For example, after identifying a prospect’s Twitter username, follow his or her Twitter conversations that include relevant keywords, and track this data in your marketing automation system.

  • Segment and trigger your campaigns based on social media cues.

Start using social media interactions for segmentation and trigger-based campaigns. Instead of launching an e-mail campaign when prospects exhibit a specific behavior on your Web site, apply this same lead scoring rule to their social media interactions. Have they specifically tweeted about your product more than three times in the past week? Use this insight to trigger an e-mail response from the appropriate sales reps.

Strengthen the “Lead Lifecycle” and Advance Sales and Marketing Collaboration with Social Media

Social media can streamline your internal marketing and sales operations, promoting greater collaboration by refining the lead handoff process and bolstering the “lead lifecycle” — the path that your leads take once they enter your lead management system. Here are practical ways that you can infuse social media to advance marketing and sales collaboration:

  • Use social conversations to enhance lead scoring and trigger lead handoff to sales.
    In addition to demographic, BANT and behavioral data, you should incorporate social interactions in your lead scoring methodology. Then, tailor your automated business rules for lead handoff to include social media cues. For example, if a prospect tweets “Evaluating products from and ,” use this activity to trigger an alert indicating sales readiness.

  • Notify sales reps when prospects and customers show increased activity or make interesting comments.
    Hot leads demonstrate “interesting moments” or behaviors that indicate their sales readiness, such as increased Web activity, e-mail click-throughs, and increased activity on social media sites. By immediately notifying the sales team, you will dramatically increase the relevancy and timing of their conversations with these prospects.

  • Incorporate social media activities in lead recycling campaigns.
    Lead recycling campaigns reassign, track, and re-engage leads with sales as necessary to ensure that no lead grows stagnant. This campaign type also benefits from social media interactions. For example, marketing and sales can develop a set of business rules based on social media activity, in which an increase in social media behavior triggers a lead score change that then re-engages the lead with sales.

Social Media Is a Core Strategy in Customer Marketing

New customers are a tremendous source of new and recurring revenue, and should be continuously nurtured at the same cadence as new leads. Here’s how social media can help:

  • Use social media to reaffirm customer purchases after the decision is made.
    The period between when a purchasing decision is made and when the deal is signed is critical. Support buyers with additional information that reaffirms their purchase, and use social media to continue conversations and address apprehension or doubt with reassuring information, including statistics from analyst reports and supportive information from social media sites such as blogs.

  • Create lead nurturing campaigns optimized for new customers that incorporate social media segments and triggers.
    When an opportunity is closed and won, put all the associated contacts into a new drip marketing campaign that’s personalized for customers. Incorporate the social media triggers we discussed earlier to introduce customers to new products and services, and strengthen customer loyalty over time.

  • Listen to the social media conversations of existing customers to monitor new business requirements, levels of satisfaction and the risk of defection.
    If you carefully monitor social media interactions, you’ll be able to spot cross- and up-sell opportunities and to engage and respond to their needs in real time. Moreover, be attentive to the enthusiastic and frustrating social media conversations of existing customers. By proactively monitoring these cues and immediately acting upon them, you reduce the risk of losing customers to a competitor.

Marketers must aim to incorporate social media in their lead nurturing programs at every stage of the revenue cycle, from before prospects on social sites are even identified to after they become customers. By doing so, marketers can better understand and interact with prospects and customers, increase the relevancy of their marketing strategies and customer-facing conversations, and ultimately increase the volume and quality of sales leads, boost conversion rates, and ignite explosive revenue growth.

Jon Miller leads strategy and execution for all aspects of corporate communications, demand generation, brand, and product for Marketo, the revenue-focused marketing automation leader. Jon writes about BtoB marketing best practices and trends on his blog, Modern B2B Marketing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

5 Ways DaaS is Changing The Way Marketers Think About Data

Jim Fowler, Chief Executive Officer, Jigsaw

Data as a Service (DaaS) will do for the data business what Software as a Service (SaaS) has done for software. Ten years ago, every organization with a CRM solution was essentially in the business of procuring and managing software to run it.

The advent of SaaS spared them the expense and the hassle. Today, anyone in the demand gen business is in a similar boat, stuck procuring and managing the records that comprise their database. But just as a wave of innovation around SaaS transformed the software industry, DaaS is poised to transform data in much the same way.

While the role of data has long been important, Tim O’Reilly was the first to postulate, “Data is the next Intel Inside,” that is, that data will in fact become more important than software. The race is already on, with software companies vying to own core areas of data like mapping, identity, and calendaring. Data, O’Reilly wrote, has become the “Sole source component in systems whose software infrastructure is largely open source or otherwise commodified.”

DaaS is the concept that data procurement and management (hygiene) gets bought as a service. Think per seat versus per record. Market leading offerings do two things:

- Allow unlimited access to huge and dynamic databases (goodbye procurement problems)

- Perform daily cloud based cleaning of records (goodbye management problems)

As DaaS continues to gain traction, the way we think about data hygiene will change. Here are the five major changes:

  1. Company and contact records will become commodities and cease being a competitive advantage and more and more data companies will start giving away records for free.
  2. Companies will earn money by managing change in the records rather than selling the raw data
  3. Commoditization of the basic records will mean that more messages get sent to buyers because more people will have access to them.
  4. This transparency will force companies to become better marketers.
  5. Multichannel marketing will become a requirement (not just practiced buy marketing elite)

DaaS will bring on a wave of innovation in the data industry in exactly the same way SaaS fundamentally changed the nature of the software industry. With DaaS, companies will no longer spend time procuring and managing the records that comprise their database, and will have more time to focus on their business.

As Chief Executive Officer, Jim Fowler provides direction and leadership toward the achievement of goals and objectives at Jigsaw. A veteran sales executive, Jim has more than 12 years selling software for marketing and collaboration applications. Before starting Jigsaw, Jim served as VP of Sales at Digital Impact (DIGI), Paramark and TightLink. In these roles, he built sales departments from the ground up focusing on sales strategies and processes. He was able to leverage his experience as an outstanding sales manager at Personify and NetGravity.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Handoff Isn’t The Last Step To Support Sales Effectiveness

By Chris Frank, Director of Marketing, Treehouse Interactive

For a lot of companies and marketing teams there is a natural progression from email blasts and simple lead capture forms to something more sophisticated.

In many cases this includes sitting down with your Sales team, realizing you can’t filter all the garbage leads that come in and that you don’t have an agreed upon definition of what a lead really is. Translated: You’re not doing your part to make Sales effective.

This realization can be very painful and very public, but if you make it through as a company and get beyond the finger pointing (“There’s not enough leads,” “Our leads aren’t followed up on,” etc.), you’re generally left with people and processes that are supported by demand generation technology. What I’m talking about here is and automated way to launch campaigns, capture information, distribute qualified leads to salespeople in their CRM system and nurture the rest in your marketing automation system until they are hopefully ready to talk.

This, in a nutshell, is the beginnings of a demand generation mindset and methodology. If you stop here, however, I think you’re really missing out on the potential. The handoff of a lead isn’t the end of the demand generation process.

First, let me explain why many marketers think it is the end of the process. In that initial painful set of conversations, Marketing and Sales often fix symptoms and not the basic issue. If you boil it down, it’s that Marketing is focused on the wrong goal—leads. To fix the finger pointing, goals have to be aligned. This means Sales and Marketing need to be focused on revenue. Leads are still an important metric, but not the end-all way to measure Marketing. By having the same revenue goal, you tend to focus on the same problems.

So if Sales and Marketing agree that revenue is the most important goal, what does that mean for demand generation? Simply put, it’s about empowering salespeople to do more. If you look at your sales cycle, there are key points where people tend to stall out, exit, and graduate to being a customer. Giving salespeople the right tools at these points can change your demand generation from a hand-off-and-forget proposition to one that’s really one about forming a partnership with Sales and being on the same side.

Here’s an example of what happens when Sales and Marketing are aligned. Pay close attention to the last step. The example involves inbound marketing, lead nurturing and Sales-triggered nurturing that happens post-handoff.

• You answer a question in a LinkedIn group
• A member of that group you’ve engaged with downloads a white paper on your site
• You send them a webinar invite on a related topic as a follow up
• They sign up for your webinar
• You send out an invite to download a post-webinar eBook
• They fill out the eBook form and “raise their hand” to get a demo
• You send the lead into your CRM system
• You send an alert to the salesperson
• They have a demo with your sales team
• They’re not ready to talk more about your product (They don’t quite see the need yet)
• You deliver a healthcare IT white paper to them based on their industry, role and point they’re at in the sales process, which is triggered by the salesperson in the CRM system (delivered through your demand generation system)

The last step may be new, even if you have demand generation efforts in place. Don’t get hung up on the example. The idea here is that based on any fields or combination of fields in a CRM system, salespeople can kick off appropriate nurturing that is specific to a lead’s situation. Does this require more discussion with Sales and content to support key points in the sales process? Absolutely.

As always, walk before you can run. If you’re struggling to just launch campaigns and get marketing automation in place, you need to work on that first. As an end goal, however, you want to add a level of sophistication to demand generation and nurturing that helps you address the holes in your sales process.

Making all this happen from a technology perspective is easier than you might think. Many demand generation and marketing automation vendors are integrated with CRM vendors like Some have what’s called a “bi-directional” integration that enables the updating of information between your Sales system and your Marketing demand generation system.

Some vendors also enable you kick off nurturing campaigns based on the answers in a single field or combination of fields in your CRM system. For example, if the lead is in the Healthcare vertical and they are in an IT role, and they haven’t received email from you in the past 14 days, send them more nurturing content. You many have caught something else there, the ability to use and, or, and not logic when deciding if a leads receives nurturing content.

Remember this is post-hand off in most cases. The idea is that you empower sales personnel to make better choices when it comes to nurturing and do it in a way that is easy and automated. The potential? Judge for yourself. Take a look at your sales process. How many “qualified” leads do you currently hand off? When are they followed up with? How do they fall out of the sales funnel? What holes are the biggest? What do these holes mean in terms of dollars? Set modest goals at first, addressing the biggest areas of loss. As you tweak and improve your Sales-triggered nurturing, you’ll find using this approach in your marketing yields significant results.

Chris Frank is the Director of Marketing for TreeHouse Interactive, a SaaS company that provides solutions for demand generation/marketing automation, channel sales force automation and partner relationship management. He has spent a decade in high tech marketing, and has helped companies that sell direct to consumers, to companies, and through partners.

Monday, January 4, 2010

5 Steps to Effectively Leverage Virtual Engagement

By Joerg Rathenberg, Senior Director of Marketing, Unisfair

The sales process is all about control – on both sides. Sales and marketing people want to control the conversation and often overload their target audience with sales pitches and marketing messages. This frequently causes people to run in the opposite direction. Similarly, prospects want to have control over their purchase decisions and the information they receive. Fortunately, virtual engagement, where vendors host conferences, road shows, roundtables and company meetings on the Internet, can provide a way out of this dilemma, by offering control to both the seller and the sell-ee.

Virtual engagement offers sellers the ability to track what interests their attendees who, in turn, can come and go as they please – learning, networking and collaborating at a pace that works for them. The end result is a stack of better-qualified and intrinsically higher-value “sales-ready” leads.

pastedGraphicBut in order to effectively leverage virtual events to track and drive leads through the customer lifecycle, it is important to consider some best practices. Tips from our expert “Virtual Marketing Playbook” can help ensure success.

  1. Focus on the big picture. Leverage a virtual engagement platform during every stage of the customer lifecycle — from awareness to retention. This gives the customer an opportunity to not only learn more about your offerings, but also to discuss their experiences with each other and build a community, which in turn fosters customer loyalty.
  2. Track, track, track. Virtual environments have a number of advantages over other marketing channels, because attendees are in a controlled environment, where all of their actions, conversations and information can be measured and evaluated. Virtual event reporting allows organizers to track each registrant, their demographic profile, interest level and activities. This is achieved by measuring how much time they spend in which location, what questions they ask, whom they connect with and how many chats they participated in. It is critical that virtual event hosts take advantage of each piece of information, as it leads to more qualified leads.
  3. Engage with attendees in a creative way. For example, hold surveys, polls, group chats and networking sessions to allow the exchange of ideas among attendees. This provides the ability to better assess their interest level in specific products, ideas or themes. Some organizers will send their attendees kits with t-shirts, coffee mugs and other trade show giveaways to recreate the feeling of a physical event. Think of having breakfast catered for the networking Café.
  4. Follow Up. The beauty of a good virtual event is that your registrants can visit it any time they like. Still, a number of registrants will forget that fact and may never log on to see the on-demand version. Use email and social networking tools to follow up with non-attendees, share some of the excitement and encourage them to join the on-demand environment.
  5. Measure Success. There are many different ways to measure the success of your event, which is ultimately determined by your goals. In July 2008, Brian Haven at Forrester Research established a framework of four metrics that include: involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence to measure the level of customer engagement. Be sure that you chose a virtual platform that allows you to report on customer engagement and other key metrics. Doing so can serve as a highly effective lead ranking mechanism for prospecting events and allows your sales team to directly assess the level of interest of its prospects.

Following these five basic steps will enable your sales team to more effectively listen to, and connect with their customers. And most importantly, it will deliver high-quality leads more cost-effectively, all while enabling everyone to have control over the process.

Joerg Rathenberg is heading up marketing at Virtual Events leader Unisfair. With more than 12 years of high tech marketing experience, Joerg has focused on positioning and commercializing emerging technologies worldwide. Prior to joining Unisfair, he held senior management positions at, KXEN, Brio, SQRIBE, APC and IBM. His background in cloud computing, business intelligence and advanced analytics has helped companies to successfully grow revenues and capture market share.