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 Genius.com in 2008. In 2007, Scott helped introduce and the Agile/Scrum methodology at Genius.com.

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.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Scott;
A great post with much relevant and valuable information. We have found, though, that the tools are good - some even great - but without an understanding of the Process involved in using them, they do not live up to their potential. To avoid this problem, we try to first form an understanding of the client's organizational strengths and weaknesses, so that we know what their objectives are, and which internal resources can be brought to bear on the new approach.
We have divided the process of using Inbound Marketing Automation, or IMA, into 4 phases. For each of these phases, then, we write a formal Process Description covering how to:
1) Attract more visitors to your website through SEO, Social Media Marketing or SMM, and PPC
2) Engage their attention with industry leading content (website copy, white papers, videos, podcasts)
3) Qualify these visitors by grading their profiles and using their digital footprints to rack up a score and hence "know" their quality. And, while you are qualifying them, nurture them from cold leads to hot prospects with multi-touch drip email campaigns.
4) Automatically feed these hot sales ready prospects directly into your CRM and automatically notify the assigned sales rep (based on product or territory or whatever…).
To learn more about how to put the Process back into using technology, please visit our website which contains a Resource Library of white papers, tools, videos and an extensive glossary, all covering the above 4 steps in more detail.
www.inbound-marketing-automation.ca