Thursday, February 25, 2010

Make it Rain: Seeding the Clouds for Effective Lead Generation

By Scott Mersy, VP Marketing & Products, Genius

Inbound marketing is all the rage. Once largely the realm of BtoC, inbound has captured the imagination of BtoB marketers who fantasize that inbound will provide them with manna from heaven. And why not?

With 350 million fans on Facebook and nearly 50 million professionals on LinkedIn, there’s a lot of bread than can be made. The question is how this marketer “manna” can feed the coffers of the companies that employ them.

To maximize this social marketing opportunity, BtoB marketers are beginning to understand the importance of content and how it can energize their inbound efforts. Yet the “build it and they will come” (or perhaps more appropriately the “write it and they will buy”) philosophy that presently exists may represent a “Field of Dreams” without a process that provides an efficient path from initially reaching the prospect, through relationship-building, and ultimately to sales. Without this, even the best cloud seeding effort can end up as an ill-fated prayer for rain in the middle of an Iowa cornfield.

We already know that BtoB marketers can take advantage of social media to extend awareness and influence purchasing decisions. Using URL shorteners that are specifically designed to track both traditional marketing campaigns and ad-hoc social media conversations, any member of the organization can seed any online conversation, including Google Adwords, Twitter, LinkedIn, blog content, Facebook, or any other social media activity.

So, you’ve tweeted, Facebooked, and seeded relevant blogs with comments including links back to your site. Now what? In a complex selling environment (often BtoB), generating inbound interest, while nice, is not enough. Marketers can fulfill on the promise of social media after the click by bringing “social” and “marketing automation” together to drive a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship between business and buyer. With social marketing automation, we can (not only) reach out to these customers but show them the front door and then give them a personalized tour through the company store.

And contrary to popular belief this tour doesn’t need to lead inexorably to a locked-in landing page. Landing pages are often appropriate, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to track and measure all campaigns to lead conversion using your most authentic content, including recent blog posts or other great website content? It’s always a good idea to make it easy to navigate to the Web-to-lead form, and the right marketing automation software can still track the user back to the activity, ending the tyranny of the “locked” landing page and instead “landing leads” where it makes the most sense. While the social etiquette of registration forms is often debated, Malcolm Friedberg of Left Brain Marketing notes that customers will gladly exchange their contact information for valuable insight. The key is relevant content for the appropriate buying stage. In his recent article, Friedberg says,

“The answer is to use your valuable content as lead bait in the social media realm… Valuable content about products of interest are always welcome, and most of us are very willing to continue receiving information as long as it meets that standard.”

In her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, Ardath Albee show marketers how they can make their content engaging and relevant by mapping it to a person’s buying persona. With this in place the content is not only more relevant; it will also foster trust before the buyer gets into a conversation with a sales person. With a trusting relationship started, the sales person has a solid foundation for addressing questions, offering advice and providing useful resources.

Throughout the whole process, social marketing automation helps marketers track and collect information about the prospect. This information makes social marketing both meaningful and measurable: you’ve got a named prospect with whom you’re developing a marketing relationship, along with the ability to track all the way from campaign source to revenue. Whether measuring from tweet to deal or measuring how many prospects downloaded your valuable content from a particular Google AdWord, marketers need to be armed with real ROI data to help drive decisions.

This can all be achieved through a process that we call the 3Rs of social marketing automation: REACH, RESPONSE and RELATIONSHIP , which leads to the 4th (and most important) R, REVENUE. The URL shortener extends corporate reach, enabling anyone in the organization to easily create a trackable social marketing campaign. Marketing automation efficiently enables the company to respond and cultivate a relationship with prospects through lead nurturing efforts, extending the conversation. When the prospect is deemed sales ready (often via lead scoring or by recording and triggering off of their online behavior) a right-time hand off is made to Sales to continue the relationship and drive to revenue.

In today’s competitive environment marketers need to go beyond “seed nurturing” and plant information that roots the company’s brand in the mind of the customer with multiple options to engage. In exchange, marketing gets information about the prospect so they can nurture the lead to an opportunity or re-market to them as appropriate. What results is a complete end to end process that enables marketing to reach out and track valuable conversations in the clouds, respond to prospect needs, build and foster a relationship through lead nurturing, and then recognize revenue.

In today’s socially enabled world it not only makes sense, it makes for good business.

As Vice President of Marketing & Products at Genius, Scott Mersy leads the company's marketing strategy, awareness, demand generation and product efforts. Scott has been with Genius since its early 2005 inception, working to develop and launch the initial SalesGenius product in 2006. Since then, Scott has worked closely with colleagues in marketing and engineering to define and launch 5 products in 3 years, contributing to 200% year over year growth at in 2008. In 2007, Scott helped introduce and the Agile/Scrum methodology at

Prior to Genius, Mersy’s long history of marketing leadership in the valley is highlighted by his successful implementation of 2.0 principles in lead management at WebEx. Mersy led demand generation and marketing operations for the web conferencing pioneer from 1999 – 2003.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

5 Part Framework To Assess Influence In The Social World

By Steven Woods, CTO, Eloqua

Managing influencers, such as analysts and the press, has long been a part of the role of marketing.

By carefully managing and cultivating good relationships with influencers, you would find your perspectives known and understood by the writers, you would be included in mentions, and you might even find a slightly more positive perspective on your company than without such a strong relationship. In today’s social media dominated world, the core benefits of good relations with key influencers remain, but the approach that we need to use to manage influencers has changed significantly.

More But Smaller

The first major change is that the influencers have changed in number and in size. Historically, there may have been a handful of analysts and publications worth focusing on. Now, due to the ease with which anyone can publish, there are many, many more publishers in the form of blogs, content sites, and magazines. This explosion in the number of publications is matched by a corresponding decrease in their individual size. Many only have a few thousand viewers, or focus on a highly specialized niche that would have been unprofitable for a major news outlet.

Changing Relationships

With this change in size comes a change in how relationships are maintained. Major news and publishing outlets forced structure on the process in order to manage the volume of communication. This led to formal briefing processes, embargoed news releases, and the use of news wires for the release of news. Now, with an explosion of publishers, the process for interacting with each one is not necessarily as formal.

These new publishers – bloggers, independent writers, and niche experts – neither want, nor need, to follow the formalized briefing processes of yesterday. What they want are the direct relationships with the key subject matter experts, executives, and thought leaders, who are of relevance to their area of interest. These key people within your organization, rather than the PR group, must now maintain a larger number of relationships with industry influencers.

Easier Relationships

Making this easier, however, is the fact that the dynamics of these relationships are changing significantly. The technologies of social media make it easier to maintain a large number of “low intensity” relationships via an occasional conversation, periodic micro-communications (such as Twitter interactions), and familiarity-building tools such as status updates. Many relationships can be developed this way while only meeting face-to-face once or even not at all.

Measuring Influence

With a broader set of people in your organization maintaining relationships with a larger number of smaller influencers, the way we look at our effectiveness also must change. As the concept of influence remains very amorphous, it is difficult to measure it directly. We must measure the indicators that surround the various relationships, their strengths, and the activity we put into them in order to see if we are being as effective as needed.

The following five part-framework is helpful for measuring influence:

1) Publication Value

First, assess the publishers and publications you would like to influence. Each publication that is of interest should be assessed (subjectively) and given a rating between one and five. This is based on their readership, reputation, presence, and whether they appear in the search results for key terms your buying audience is looking for.

2) Relationship Activity

Next, track how active you are in maintaining those relationships. Each blog comment, each Twitter conversation, each LinkedIn discussion that someone on your team has with an influencer is a relationship activity, and can be tracked objectively. Tracking this activity, across your entire team including subject matter experts, gives you a clear metric on whether trust, awareness of key messages, and knowledge of perspectives are being built.

3) Relationship Strength

For each relationship, assess whether you feel that the relationship is a strong one. This is a subjective measurement, and can only be done by the people involved in each relationship. Use a similar scale of one to five to show your assessment of the strength of each relationship.

4) Mentions

Next, look at whether this effort is bearing fruit in terms of mentions of your company, your solutions, and your views on the market. This metric is only useful when viewed as a trend over time, as different publications with different niche focuses will naturally mention company and product names in a wide range of frequencies. An upwards trend in mentions is generally a good thing and shows a positive influence.

5) Sentiment

Mentions are usually only good if they are neutral or positive mentions – that highlight your strengths, key aspects of your reputation, and your views on the market. Although there is some good progress happening in the realm of technology solutions for sentiment analysis, this is often quicker and easier to do in a B2B environment using a subjective assessment.

With each of these dimensions analyzed, you can begin to gather a picture of how your overall team is influencing the key influencers in your market. Over time, these relationships will develop and grow, and can become an extremely effective way that your message reaches your intended audience.

Steven Woods has been a leader in the current transformation of marketing since 1999 when he co-founded Eloqua. In his new book, Digital Body Language, Steven distills his insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by today’s marketers into a framework of thinking about their audience, and their role, in a new way.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Seed Nurturing? Not Unless You’re Walt Whitman

By Malcolm Friedberg, Principal, Left Brain Marketing

I read the column on Seed Nurturing in DemandGen Report last week and was surprised by some of the recommendations it made.

Not only did the column’s suggestions seem to run counter to best practices, they seem to be diametrically opposed to what marketing automation is designed to do.

The article instructed BtoB marketers to, “Make valuable content freely available on social media sites.” It explained that, “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.”

While I understand that there is some limited value in making your content more accessible through social media in order to entice people to engage with you, what’s the point if you can’t leverage that content to generate leads (as in known individuals) that get passed to sales? The lack of valuable content is probably the single biggest roadblock companies face in creating a successful marketing automation program. A decent piece of content can cost several thousand dollars, and customized white papers or case studies can cost two or three times that amount. Most companies are lucky to have a couple of really good pieces. Why would you want to give these away without leveraging their value? All you should be asking for in exchange is a name and an email address.

The column told us that it’s so we can “strengthen your rapport.” I’m not sure what that means since rapport literally translates to “friendly relationships,” and that’s not what, in my opinion, BtoB marketers do at the early stage of a sales process. I’d argue the goal is to build brand awareness and begin to educate the prospect about your product, service and company. It also explains that “these anonymous leads (the ones you’ve given your valuable content to) will likely surface as inbound leads once their interest increases.”

Call me cynical, but I’m not comfortable betting my job on whether anonymous leads will “likely” surface from the social media world and appear on my front door. For starters, while I’m waiting for them to come back, my competition is sending timely and relevant emails (and possible sales calls) that highlight the benefits of their solution. Second, and arguably more important, how can I contribute to helping increase their “interest level” if I’m not even engaged with them? Am I supposed to leave the education process up to the devices of the prospect, or even worse, my competitor? The article later characterizes these prospects in a manner that causes even greater alarm, “The feeling of risk consumes BtoB buyers, causing them to behave during the decision-making process.” Given that, is the argument that I’m supposed to trust the “irrational” buyer that is “likely” to come back to me even though I’m not directly engaged with them? Wow. That must be some darn good content.

So, what’s the answer?

The answer is to use your valuable content as lead bait in the social media realm. Put a portion of your content into the right social forums as a way to entice the prospect to want more. If your content is good (e.g. educational), and you do an adequate job of exposing the value they’ll receive, prospects will be more than happy to provide you with their email. What none of us want (as BtoB buyers) is sales junk from companies whose products don’t interest us. Valuable content about products of interest are always welcome, and most of us are very willing to continue receiving information as long as it meets that standard.

Malcolm Friedberg is a twenty year marketing veteran and former CMO. He is a published author and frequently speaks and writes about marketing automation. He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .