B2B Marketing Metrics - Getting to Relevance


Measure-dudeGeoff Anderson, back for the final installment of a series on the measurement of B2B marketing for the Technology Marketing Center's Leader's Blog.

A slight recap, after taking over the marketing communications function in my last job, at review time, it became clear that the old measures of marketing effectiveness are beyond their sell by, or even their use-by dates.

It is possible for Marcom to obfuscate the increasingly difficult acquisition of leads, by moving their budget to increase the number of touches, and thus collections of contact information to be logged as leads. This practice does produce a natural indicator of the efficiency of that engine, or the cost per acquired lead. But this is a backwards view, increasingly giving you diagnostic evidence that your efforts are failing.

But what to replace it with?

Early in my career, I tried (and failed) to extract a useful rule of thumb on the progression:

raw leads -> opportunities -> won orders

This simple ratio was tricky to get my arms around, as Sales was responsible for making the determination of when a lead became an opportunity, and when it was closed-won or closed-lost.  My ultimate goal was to tie the expense of a particular campaign to the revenue generated.

Marketing program expense and revenue behavior over some time frame are two "knowable" numbers, and are quite relevant to the performance of the marketing expense, yet it isn't quite possible to jump straight to this state based on our internal tracking tools. The hurdles to be overcome include:

  • Patchy, or incomplete information in the CRM tool

  • Opacity of the actual state for each opportunity in the funnel

  • Resistance by the sales team to share data

But each of these are addressable, and can be fixed, given the right incentives.  Assume that you have resolved these issues, what does this expense to revenue metric look like:

  • Campaign cost - the total amount spent. This you either track directly, or you can get from finance.

  • Qualified leads generated - this assumes that you have some inside sales, or sales development team doing the pre-qualification of the incoming leads. An interesting side metric is the ratio of raw leads to sales qualified leads that you hand to the team to run down.

  • Lead to sales conversion rate - how many of those campaign leads turn into purchases. Again, a trailing indicator, but if you properly tag and track the lead through the funnel, your CRM can generate this report for you. This is a percentage.

  • Average order price - or the revenue per order. This again is a simple to calculate number, and give you the bonus of understanding the ASP for sales related to the campaign, and can help drive segmented marketing efforts (i.e. you will be able to identify how profitable the campaign is, and move towards spending your marketing dollars on campaigns with the best payoff)

  • Total Sales Revenue for the campaign - easy calculation, but it gives you a concrete number, hopefully some large multiple of the cost.

  • Finally, you can calculate the return on the campaign, by dividing the total cost of the campaign by the total sales revenue, and represent this as a percentage, where lower is better. That is, a small number means your marketing effort is highly effective, and a large number means that it wasn't an efficient spend of money.

The great thing about this series of calculations is that it is conceptually simple to implement. Most of the direct numbers are already in your hands, or are easily calculated. Furthermore, if you explain what you are calculating, the groups involved (sales, marketing communications, and finance) are likely to agree on it being valid and worth measuring, and even help you capture good data.

Summary

There are many possible means to get a valid, meaningful measure of your marketing spend. I identified one here that has appeal, is possible to measure without massive system overhauls, and one that will energize the stakeholders to actively participate in, and possibly improve their internal tracking and reporting accuracy.

It is infinitely better than the same old "total number of leads generated", but still requires some improvement in knowing when and how leads become qualified, then opportunities, then won orders. With time, you can begin to understand when they leak out of the funnel, and target how to plug those leads, and drive increased closure rates.

However, it wasn't intended to be the one-and-done change, but merely a starting point, with future course corrections, and additional measures to guide the annual and quarterly planning efforts.

Until the next time, happy marketing!


Ignoring Big Data? Time to pay attention

Welcome to the Technology Marketing Center's Leaders' Blog, this is Jill VanDewoestine with your next book review.

Big Data

OK, admit it, B2B marketers, you have been ignoring the whole "Big Data" thing. You develop technology products for technology customers. There's no way some Hadoop-using hipster millennial is going to provide any insights that you haven't already found out through rounds of customer interviews and in-depth product development sessions with the alpha nerds in R&D. Right?

Well, time to wake up, dear friends. Big Data is no longer a passing fad, it's the way things are done. Even if you're developing highly specialized products for highly specialized markets, you can benefit from understanding how it works and dipping your toe in that Big Data pond. Here's how to get started:

 1. Read Big Data

Published back in 2013 by Viktor Mayer-Schoberger & Kenneth Cukier, this book gives an easy-to-read overview of what Big Data is and how it is different than traditional statistical analysis. In a nutshell: analyzing big, messy datasets for hidden correlations enables insights that lead to solving problems in new ways. Unless you're a conspiracy theorist, you can skim through the somewhat repetitive sections on privacy and agency in the last few chapters. Pay close attention to the Datafication chapter, for that's where the insights for the new product marketer lie.

2. Datify your world

The whole idea of Big Data is that we can cheaply gather large quantities of data, and cheap processing power gives us the ability to process this data into meaningful correlations. These correlations enable better allocation of scarce resources to solve problems. For example, Google's analysis on past seasonal flu patterns compared to search terms enabled better predictions of where and when new flu strains would appear (well, at least for a while). 

Now ask yourself: what datasets exist in my customer's industry? Don't get hung up too much on exactly what data is collected - the beauty of Big Data is that you don't have to have a hypothesis of causality to start sifting through data to find correlations. Also try to use existing datasets where possible, so you don't incur the costs of creating datasets from scratch. As described in Big Data, there are a number of companies whose business model rests on collecting data and providing it for analysis. This can be as general as tweets and search terms or as specific as anonymized medical data or airplane fares.

3. Find an expert

If you don't already have an in-house data scientist, you will probably need to find one. You will need more than just the analytical skills to perform the analysis - you will need people with a Big Data mindset, who understand both the power and pitfalls of identifying correlations without apparent causation (see the aforementioned Google Flu Trends fail). You will want to start small to get a feel for the data and how far you can go with it.

Bottom line: if you've been ignoring the hype surrounding Big Data for a while and need to catch up quickly, then reading Big Data will get you started. It's not the definitive technical treatise on the subject and doesn't try to be. It lays out the basic concepts, provides some decent examples of how it's different from "small data" and is enough to get you started on learning more.


New Marketing For Old School B2B

Geoff Anderson back for the next installment of the Technology Marketing Center Leaders' Blog.

Content_marketing_brighton

The last two posts posited about the difficulty of measuring marketing effectiveness in this changed world, and the gap where in the past the sales team was in control of the sales cycle. This time, I will go somewhat sideways, and talk tangentially about content marketing and a little about marketing automation.

First, as I mentioned in my post "Mind the Marketing Gap", the model of interaction and control in the sales cycle has shifted. In my industry, this was discounted, as our community seemed to be a bit more insular, and that drove our marketing efforts to remain rooted in the last century.

However, when I began peeling the onion, and doing a real accounting of metrics, it was clear that we were fooling only ourselves. Deep in my heart, I knew this, but as I mentioned, until recently, it wasn't within my purview.

Time to go a wee bit sideways. Hold on to your coffee.

First, the phenomenon that is driving marketing in the 21st century is content marketing. Blogs, white papers, articles, influencers and a plethora of other forms are all in the mix. Some can be readily measured (how many times was a white paper downloaded? How many mentions in social media and the press by an influential opinion leader?) while some are less tangible (visits to your web page, google searches, etc.) yet all of them are increasingly important in the sales cycle.

Second is how you curate the information that your prospects use to educate themselves. You want there to be easily available relevant information on your product or service offering. Here is where it gets somewhat interesting. The relative value of content is tied to who produced it. Prospects will view anything that is created or offered by your company lower than information they find from third parties, influential "known" entities who mention or discuss your offering will have significantly more impression than anything with your company logo on it. So anything you can do to get more outside coverage of your products and services is a big multiplier to the effectiveness. 

Third is how the prospects find the information. If you directly lead your prospects to it, they will smell the guiding hand of your marketing efforts, and that will lower its value in their consideration process. Here is where the magic of SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) come into play. A savvy marketer can work both these angles without making it look too overt. But, do a web search on SEO and prepare to be blown away (as well as seeing some practices that seem unseemly.)

How to use these nuggets of wisdom?

There is a new kid on the block, you might have heard of it, "Marketing Automation". Services like Marketo, or HubSpot, who have a variety of tools to help you switch from outbound or "push" marketing, to inbound marketing. The shift is that instead of blanket emails, or direct mail (don't laugh, physical mail is still a huge marketing channel), you work to:

  • Make it so that when a prospect has a problem, and they search for a solution, you are found. 
  • Provide incentive to have them contact you first (with a case study, white paper, or other ostensibly neutral piece of collateral). Offer them something of value in exchange for their contact information.
  • Then, using their contact information, send them small, targeted, personalized messages to gauge interest, and progress in the sales/decision process.
  • Each of these interactions should involve an "offer", or something of value that you are offering for their attention.

The end goal is to allow the prospect to gain access to the information they want on their schedule, and to not needlessly inundate them with messages.

On a small scale, this can be done manually, and as you experiment with the process, you should do small manual efforts to figure out what is effective before bringing in automation help.

As mentioned near the top of this post, there are platforms that are excellent for this marketing automation, providing the flexibility to adapt your offers to your specific business challenges, and with enough customization to handle a wide range of activities.

Wrapping it up

Not much on measurement in this post, but upon stepping back and watching the changing dynamics, even in the sleepy world of high end scientific instrumentation, and the struggles that the old school marketers, and sales teams fight, it is clear that the shift in power from your marketing and sales team to the prospects demands a new paradigm in execution (and measurement) of marketing effectiveness.

However, it is a great time to be in marketing. The options to provide compelling offers for this world of inbound marketing is astounding, and ever growing.

Next up, I will get back to more of the brass tacks of measuring marketing. Until then, Happy Marketeering!


6 Marketing Data Dos and Don’ts in the Key of Uber

Pablo

This is Amanda Vande Brake kicking off my second series for the Technology Marketing Center – this series exploring the use of digital and automation technologies to improve brand and marketing effectiveness.

The Sharing Economy

The sharing economy, that socio-economic juggernaut based on sharing access to goods and services rather than relying on the old standard of individual ownership, has redefined the marketplace. And it’s no flash-in-the-pan. Price Waterhouse Cooper estimates that by the year 2025, the core sectors of the sharing economy will be valued at $335 billion[i].

Powering this peer-to-peer phenomena, according to Forbes all the way back in 2013, is the premise that “when information about goods is shared (typically via an online marketplace), the value of those goods may increase for the business, for individuals, for the community and for society in general.”[ii] And, although technology sales and marketing execs reference sharing economy superstars like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb daily as well as position their products to align with this disruptive trend, the most valuable lessons to be learned – the ones that have the rare potential to successfully disrupt corporate culture from the inside, out – are found within the sharing economy’s technology backbone, specifically open or easily sharable data.

Sharable Data

The ability for web-based systems to gather, measure and share individual user data across an enterprise has never been as simple or affordable for organizations than it is today. So, why are there still so many sales and marketing professionals relying on a limited view of their individual prospect? Why don’t all sales people know the last time I came to their website, opened an email, downloaded a white paper, attended a webinar, talked with a sales rep, bought a product, returned a product, wrote an online review or recommended a product to my social media network? As someone ‘on the cusp’ of Gen X / Millennial generations, I access and rely on the sharing economy almost daily, and, as a result, expect that data is shared across most all organizations already - for both my and the organization’s benefit. As a technology marketer, I know better, though.

Global adoption of internet and mobile technologies, lower-cost mobile devices and ubiquitous social media usage all added up to welcome the advent of the sharing economy just a few years ago; however, attitudes about data ownership within industry and even individual organizations have been much slower to adapt.

6 Marketing Data Dos & Don'ts

So, to help ease the transition away from individual data ownership attitudes for sales and marketing execs especially, I offer this list of Data Dos and Don’ts

1. DO collaborate with colleagues on the other side of the sales / marketing fence to understand the data gathered by and driving their efforts. Connect-20333_1280

Pay close attention to the meaning behind labels like Conversion, Acquisition, Retention, Attrition, etc. One man’s Conversion is another’s Acquisition. Discuss how often their data is updated, how it is sourced and how it impacts day-to-day operations. You’ll discover you may have a better source to offer or a more frequently updated version of the data in use already. They will get a better understanding of all the data – and opportunity – available to them you’re your side. Ultimately, though, start sharing information as soon as possible for the benefit of the entire organization, even if it’s regularly scheduled data exports via email.Powering this peer-to-peer phenomena, according to Forbes all the way back in 2013, is the premise that “when information about goods is shared (typically via an online marketplace), the value of those goods may increase for the business, for individuals, for the community and for society in general.”[i] And, although technology sales and marketing execs reference sharing economy superstars like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb daily as well as position their products to align with this disruptive trend, the most valuable lessons to be learned – the ones that have the rare potential to successfully disrupt corporate culture from the inside, out – are found within the sharing economy’s technology backbone, specifically open or easily sharable data.

2. DON’T wait.

I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but I’ve learned there’s no magical moment when the sun breaks through the clouds amid a heavenly choral chord signaling it’s time to begin syncing data with other departments in your organization. Theirs will be stored in a different way from yours, guaranteed. There will be a lot of questions and confidently offered judgments about how data was managed in the past and how there’s just so much work to do; but, get through this necessary evil as soon as your schedule allows. This is the only real pathway I’ve found to defining requirements for successful enterprise data management.

3. DO document definitions and needs.

You, or a larger team, will likely be assessing several technology systems – from legacy to brand new; from a shared Google Doc to an enterprise-wide data warehouse – to enable data sharing. The first step is to ensure you’re all speaking the same language when it comes to what’s being measured and tracked, and definitions that also spell out what a data point is NOT are the best way I’ve seen this done. Next, ensure that all the wish list items that come up in meetings, hallway conversations and from individual research are written down somewhere. Most of them may get deleted eventually, but you’ll have a record of what was considered to inform possible versions in the future or to give you a good chuckle when you come across these notes a couple years from now.

4. DO embrace web-based databases and APIs.

Like, seriously, hugs are in order. They are what’s making it possible for you to access more data and do your job better, and security protocols today for web-based systems are as strong, if not sometimes stronger, than the security requirements that prevented use of these systems in the past. Of course, data security needs vary across industries, but generally, Anything you can login to and access via the web to access sales or marketing data is going to be more practical and applicable (and therefore valuable) than data you access by logging into your organization’s VPN or local servers. Finally, APIs and systems extendable with use of APIs translate to easier and more opportunities for sharing data in the future, after your system for sharing data is in place.

5. DON’T hoard data.

Just don’t. No one wins.

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6. DO balance the data you gather on your consumers with transparency into your organization

Make transparency a cornerstone of your brand. Share how consumers are having an impact on the organization. Give a human face to your sales and marketing people on external company communications. No (healthy) relationship lasted very long or did anyone much good without equal give-and-take.

 

[i] http://www.pwc.co.uk/issues/megatrends/collisions/sharingeconomy/the-sharing-economy-sizing-the-revenue-opportunity.html

[ii] Geron, Tomio (November 9, 2012). "Airbnb Had $56 Million Impact On San Francisco: Study"Forbes. Retrieved 13 June 2013.


The Marketing Gap

Geoff Anderson back for installment two in a series for the Technology Marketing Center Leader's Blog. In the last post we went in to background on the problem with classical measures of marketing, around leads generated, and the (oh so much) simpler times it was rooted in.

This installment, we will look at the sales cycle from the customer's point of view, and how the instinct of the classical marketing person doesn't mesh.

First, I will talk about something I call the "gap".

In the pre-internet marketing time, like with fishing, you cast about in the sea looking to land a live one. You baited your hook (advertised, attended trade shows, wrote articles, etc.) and waited for a prospect to take that bait. Either a lead form from a trade show, or a returned bingo card from a trade magazine, or any one of a number of points where the "lead" was captured.

This started the process. Marketing or inside sales would then qualify the lead, to gauge its likelihood to bear fruit, and then it was handed to the appropriate sales person.

That set in motion a months' or quarters' long fight of reeling in the fish.

Like in fishing, where the fisherman doesn't give much thought to the feeling of the "fish", the sales people (as well as marketing) don't think much about how the prospect likes the forced feeding of information, collateral, and the desire to follow a scripted process.

As I suspect that fish on the hook don't much enjoy the fight before it is landed, the prospects don't much like the classic sales process.

Raise your hands if you at some point in the past had to give up your contact information to download a whitepaper, or an application note. Did you get added to a list? Were you contacted directly by a sales person? By email, or worse yet, by phone?

I bet 100% of you have hands high in the air.

So, prospects dislike the hard sell. What does this do to the sales process?

With the advent of the internet, and the proliferation of information, the power in this process has shifted. Instead of sales being the key dispensary of key bits of collateral, prospects expect to be able to get all the relevant information. Instantly. Without barriers.

That means what used to be a "lead" isn't captured at the start of the sales process. The prospect wants, nay, demands ad hoc access to any and all information that might educate them on the product or service they are planning to buy.

How does this conflict with classical marketing

When marketing is measured on lead generation, essentially a number, a count of people whom we have interacted with, their practice is to erect a gate keeper at each point of contact. A campaign with a landing page - cool, but to get what is behind the landing page, a user must enter their name, email, and telephone number - not cool.

Thinking back to the number of mailing lists and the volume of marketing emails you get, you can imagine why the prospect would hesitate to enter that vital information, and will look for another competitor, or avenue to get that information.

While your instincts are to grab contact information and generate a lead (that is how you're ranked at year end, after all), this behavior is a huge turn-off to the potential customer.

Enter the gap

What has happened is that instead of you being part of the early decision process, the prospect does almost all the initial legwork, evaluation against internal requirements, comparisons between different products and solutions, identifying the top two or three options before ever asking for contact.

Thus, there's a long lag between when a prospect learns of your product or solution, and when they actually ask for a quote or advanced information.

Conversely, when a prospect ask for contact, they have already considered your offering, done research, compared to competitors or alternatives, eliminated the chaff, and are in the final stages of selecting a product or solution. In short, they are almost at the decision point, and if you treat them like an early stage prospect, you will have lost before you really got going.

Yikes.

This makes the job of marketing even more crucial to the sales process. No longer can we hand off the prospect to sales, and just supply high quality content to the sales team, but we have to create content that drives awareness in the prospect at the start, and then make available enough information freely for the prospect to discover, learn, compare, and decide to buy, all without ever having a specific conversation.

This is very difficult for the old school marketer to accomplish. The behaviors of latching on to every customer interaction, at every step in the process, the desire to control the flow and timing of knowledge, and the overarching desire to ride herd on the entire sales process, is a tough habit to break.

But, the balance of power has shifted. The sales cycle gap is real, and it isn't going to go back to the good ol' days.

The gap requires a rethink of the process, as well as a revision of the definition of what is a lead, and how to reach those potential prospects at the start of the process. It is scary to have to put forth efforts that you can't measure, jumping into an abyss, yet if you insist on capturing the contact information at the front, you risk being in the first discard pile of products.

In closing

In this installment, I have described the gap, and how we must market to people whom we don't know exist, assuming that they are looking for our products or services. While we can't see them in this gap, we can see evidence of their investigations, and infer their progress.

We still need differentiated products, winning solutions, and the whole product concept is more important than ever. The challenge is how to make it discoverable by those who are searching for our products or services. And how to remove friction from their pursuit.

Next up: strategies for engaging without direct contact, and influencing the decision from behind the curtain. And how the heck to capture that effort and evaluate its effectiveness. Until then, happy marketing!


The New Measure of Marketing

Hello, my name is Geoff Anderson, and it has been 459 days since I last posted for the TMC Leader's Blog. I feel a bit like Rip van Winkle awakening after a long slumber. My hiatus began with a change in roles and responsibilities that greatly impacted the spare bandwidth I had to contribute, but I am back for a series of posts.

As part of the aforementioned role change, I picked up responsibility for our marketing communications function, and all the outbound messaging as well as for the "lead generation". While in my "Product Marketing" roles, I had been contributing to the outbound messaging, and activities to generate leads, I was insulated from the metrics involved. Sure, I heard the annual reports on metrics like lead count, leads to opportunity conversion ratios, and the statistical filtering as the sales funnel progresses, but since I wasn't incentivized on it, it was just data.

Last fall, while working on the performance review for my MarCom manager, I began to look long and hard at the measures of success for marketing.

First, a slight diversion

In the pre-internet era, life for marketing was much simpler. You created a message, you propagated it via several well defined, and understood vehicles, and you collected leads.

Sales then took these leads, and "worked" them. This meant qualifying the lead, creating an opportunity, managing the exchange of information and ultimately managing the opportunity through its life, and, hopefully, closing it with a win. Marketing's heavy lift was the original lead generation, and providing collateral that sales would use throughout the cycle to nurture the lead into an opportunity, and then a closed deal.

This balance of power worked, and there was a bond of trust between sales and marketing that allowed a degree of success.

Marketing liked it, because calculating the number of leads is simple arithmetic. The vehicles for promotion are well understood (trade shows, trade magazines, press, advertisements, etc) and known quantities.

Sales liked it, because they were in control. From the moment that Marketing handed them the lead, they were in the driver's seat. They metered out information to the prospect, they determined when each piece of collateral or action was handed to the customer. They could control the pace of the sales process (and hence game the incentives to maximize payout).

Yet, the world is changing

While I had been aware that lead generation via traditional media had lagged, since I wasn't directly measured on it, the degradation hadn't sunk in. Of course, I go to enough trade shows to know that their effectiveness had dropped in the last 7-8 years, but how bad it had become wasn't apparent.

Now that I am responsible for ensuring our marketing spend is effective, I did some analysis. It was alarming. Last year, our cost per lead was almost $700 per lead across all our vehicles. An eye opener to be certain. (for reference, marketing wisdom for B2B marketing estimates that leads should be in the $30 - $60 range). Note: There are many other measures I have been calculating, all equally disturbing.

While our products, scientific instrumentation, are not mainstream, and our user communities aren't easily reachable by the new social media, I can accept that our cost per lead generated is higher than norms. But this is right out.

This has caused me to look deeper into the sales cycle, lead generation, and how the sales process has changed (whether marketers or sales people acknowledge it, more on this later), to begin to better address the gap.

In closing

I will stop here, and leave this a "teaser" post, but I will tell you that what we used to capture as a lead is no longer as valid, and that often when we first learn that a prospect is interested in our product, is when they are weeks away from a purchase.

Future segments will explain this chasm of customer contact, and why traditional lead generation is off-putting to prospects.

Until the next installment, happy marketeering!


Marketing Tactics That Drive Predictable Revenue

This is Chris Halliwell, Executive Director of the Technology Marketing Center with a discussion of the mind blowing book Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler, and and some thoughts about what it means for industrial and technical marketing leaders.  

Predictable Revenue

If you read one business book over the holidays...

Two observations or "facts" came to my attention over the last few months that have me wondering about implications for effective industrial/B2B marketing. One: 70% of all B2B purchases start with a google search (here's a TMC Roundtable Discussion on that topic); and two: most B2B companies give their least mature and qualified leads to their most expensive resource...field sales.

The googlization of sales means that customers are gaining their own information and shaping their own opinions about options well before they actually engage with a live salesperson.  B2B corporate response to these two observations is binary.  Most management teams don't think much about these issues, instead continuing to place market development and growth bets on hiring new field sales people.  On the other hand, SaaS sector players, particularly salesforce.com, have completely transformed the roles that marketing, inside sales, and field sales play in developing and closing new business.

The x-salesforce.com executives responsible for closing 6 figure deals without involvement from field sales (read that phrase again and think about it) have written Predictable Revenue, an easy-to-read playbook for marketing and inside sales to implement something they call Cold Calling 2.0.

 Customer and Influence Definition and Identification

The book describes the Cold Calling 2.0 process mostly from the point of view of sales, but whats interesting to me is that as the internet moves traditional early sales tactics from offline to online, it thereby moves some traditional sales functions to marketing, at least demanding we take a leadership role. 

The first step in CC 2.0 is getting clear on your ideal customer.  If segment, customer and value definition isn't part of strategic marketing, then I don't know what is.  This becomes an even more critical marketing function as we spend more time and resources on activities to drive website traffic such as "thought leadership"  (note that blogs are critical here) and online content marketing.

The first step in any purchase process is "Should I focus on this problem?", and later, "Whose solution is best?" In an online world it is even more critical that marketing and sales are aligned on customer and problem characterization, and that marketing take responsibility for getting the "Why you should focus on this problem" message to the right influence peddlers and customers."

[Marketing automation hint: Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social]

Converting Suspects to Prospects to Leads

The Suspect list marketing must build comes from customer detailing and online/social media sleuthing.  As soon as a Suspect shows any interest in your company's information they become a Prospect.  The key online tracking tool for Prospects is capture of website visitor registration via content download or event/webinar registration.  With the Prospect list in hand, the marketing "sales" tool of choice becomes an effective email marketing campaign.  

Predictable Revenue tells us that the internet has drastically shifted power from sellers to buyers," so the goal is to make it easier for prospects to choose their own adventure in how they get to know a company -- we are urged to give customers multiple routes and to remind them if they stall. We know from sales literature that it takes 7-13 touch points to fully qualify a sales opportunity, so it makes sense that marketing automate and implement a good number of initial touch points through email marketing. The book is very practical and includes great detail on what makes for an effective email.

"Permission based direct email marketing is still the most important marketing technique to both develop new leads and to nurture old ones." You can establish expertise, build trust, and promote with this tool." Full disclosure: the book assumes that the Marketing Department exits the sales cycle after Suspect ID and Prospect capture and it is Inside Sales, rather than Marketing, who designs and implements the email campaign.  It's a point of debate, but I don't see why professional Marketing people cannot step into this role -- it seems natural to me as we are authors of the value proposition.

[Marketing automation hint: Hubspot, Marketo]

Cold Calling 2.0

Handoff to Inside Sales

The handoff from Marketing to Inside Sales (assuming you have an Inside Sales department) is another critical juncture of alignment across organizations.  At some point, with some specified and agreed metrics (like a scoring system), the email marketing touch points yield a qualified Lead which is then transferred to Inside Sales. The bulk of Predictable Revenue is a detailed manual for running an incredibly effective Inside Sales organization.  Inside Sales takes Leads and provides much more personalized (E.g. phone calls) and tailored touch points to qualify them to Opportunities, worthy enough to be given to expensive and limited bandwidth professional field sales people. 

[Automation: The Cold Calling 2.0 process, with actions, metrics and hand-off milestones, is defined and tracked through your CRM system.] 

If you are interested in this topic, download Predictable Revenue.  It is bursting with Best Practices and will make you think about how you can turn your Marketing team into a more productive, more measurable, and more effective part of the revenue generation process in your company.

 

 

 


Think differently about differentiation

This is Christopher Parks with a new post for the Technology Marketing Center Leaders' Blog.

Innovative people are always thinking about differentiation.  We have a sense of how to do things differently in a way that we really believe will make things better. The most obvious example for me is when I am standing in line at a coffee shop. The engineer side of me just pops right out and there I am, redesigning how to "do it right" in my head and in the course of a few minutes I believe I could beat them at their game. Except not. I don't know the first thing about running a coffee shop so I am pretty sure that the the whole product offer would be overlooked resulting in mayhem and disaster.

In our business lives the reality is that we often focus on how to marginally improve a product. In fact I notice that we train ourselves to keep doing this over and over.  Precious little wonder that when the time comes to innovate, we start out thinking about how to take a marginal improvement and turn it into what we believe is sustainable competitive differentiation. But to the customer the marginal improvement is either not perceived or not worth paying the difference.

Sometimes Different Doesn't Matter

MicroPro early family shot
MicroPro early family shot

So I want to propose a way of thinking about differentiation, and use my business to demonstrate exactly what I am talking about. We developed a lightweight and powerful solution in the form of a guitar amplifier which by every shake of the stick should easily have bested the competition. Our product was lighter and easily as powerful, and more:   More controllable, better sounding... So many advances (If memory serves me correctly it was nearly 57 individual unique improvements.) that by all means we should have been begging orders to slow down. But they didn't come at all. Well...  A trickle by some forward thinking users, but just a trickle. Because we were as different as could be and better too, one would expect we would just kill it.  But reality was far from that.  Sales were slow, forum posts were almost non existent.

What Went Wrong?

The reality was that getting the message out just didn't mean much because there were far too many competitors out there shouting their messages too. We weren't in the stores (distribution channel decision); we advertised in magazines rather focusing on building opinion leadership and social buzz (marketing decision); and the product didn't make the guitarist look cool. (design decision) This trifecta of terror certainly had me rethinking my life choices. 

But more than any of these decisions, we learned that sometimes the trick is not to make small changes, but rather to position your new product as radically reinventing a category in a way that solves an important customer problem.   A long talk with one of our dear friends and customers illuminated a problem that professional touring musicians have that drives them nuts.  When they pay to fly their equipment to Europe, they are charged 6 to 7 times as much to fly it home, thus eating up all of the tour profits.  "If I could just get something small that would fit on my pedalboard and worked on 230 volts...", pined the awesome but beleaguered guitarist.

The Power of Problem Solving

Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters) Shows off the Tone Block 200
Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters) Shows off the Tone Block 200

So we stumbled inadvertently from targeting a highly saturated market into a green and wide open field left largely untouched by anyone else. A gaping need, it turned out, we had a unique ability to fulfill. The Tone Block 200 gave enormous power to guitarists trying to fit the most power into the tiniest possible space for use with their existing pedals and speaker cabs.  Because of this suddenly we had a "wow" factor in a whole new category where light weight and good tone allowed us to blaze a whole new foothold in the market space.

Amazingly enough, this also became the product that got people to walk through the door and take our other lines seriously.  So by launching this product into an adjacent category, we wound up giving lift to everything. So much so that we continued expanding upon that line and now have a couple of products occupying that space. (Introducing the 101 Mini Head)

Leveraging Use Case Leadership

The 101 Mini Head
The 101 Mini Head

The lesson learned? Well, there are many in our case. But one thing that stands out strongly for me is that when considering how to differentiate your product, be careful that you aren't ignoring the market itself.  Although you may truly have advances in a product category, if the market itself is thickly competitive it may be impossible to achieve penetration because the advances aren't easy enough to perceive for the end user or the advertising space is overwhelmed and you just can't be heard. Sometimes finding an adjacent category that really  drives home the value of your offering actually makes your advances in the larger traditional space more attractive. By using the adjacent market product to drive eyes to your site, you can slowly but effectively steal share in the larger mainstream category without spending infinite marketing resources that are effectively useless. To put it bluntly... We can't get anyone to come see our new super lightweight combo amps, but show someone a 200 watt 4 pound pedalboard amp and we can't keep them away from the website. 

Keep an Eye on Your Side View Mirrors

The story really doesn't end here. As the business continues to grow we are exploring other areas where we can solve problems that traditional technologies just can't. Which means we have taken on a leadership role in the market space itself,  and I must say that it is far better to innovate than make a better version of what exists already. More importantly, you should be thinking about the major advancements that could make your incremental differentiation approach moot. There are hundreds of amp companies still thinking about just the right set of advancements they can make to really get sales, while we just blew right past them. How could someone take a different approach and fill an adjacent need and totally blow past your advancements? Why shouldn't that be you? So I suggest an exercise. When you are done thinking of ways to improve your product, think of ways you could modify your technology to serve a different use case that might be overlooked. By winning the "green field" market that lives next door to your great idea you might actually make a killing with both. 


When Technology Marketing Delivers Highly Targeted Sales Campaigns

This is Judi Uttal signing back in for my next Technology Marketing Center post.

Targeted-displayt-ads

Over the last six months our marketing department has been in the process of transitioning from a lead-generation focus to a campaign focus.  Previously we were obsessively focused on lead gen, implementing a variety of events, webinars, paper syndication with the generalized goal of delivering a quantity of non-specific leads to the sales organization.  But with the wave of a new, enlightened marketing management, we changed our focus to be campaign-centric. The new mindset centered on building campaigns that with a clear marketing focus, executed over a defined duration, to achieve very specific business objectives.

Previous campaigns I've executed were designed around thought leadership themes, such as virtualization or the cloud, new technology paradigms that IT needed to grasp and showing how our technology was critical to implementation.  This time around we designed a portfolio of campaigns.  Some focused on thought leadership themes, but the most successful campaigns were the highly targeted sales campaigns with very specific competitive objectives.  These targeted-campaigns specified a set of customers with an aggressive offer.  One campaign was focused on pushing customers to upgrade to the latest release.  This was marketing to our installed base, specifically to those customers who had not made the transition to the latest software release.  Customers who don’t make a practice of being on the current release lose interest in a product and ultimately switch to competing solutions.  By aggressively emailing them with educational webinars and videos, we were able to convince them that the new release was attractive and would ultimately make them more successful.  A compelling offer inspired over 300 customers to move to the new software release.

The second campaign was targeted at the customers of our competition.  A particular competitor was going through a transition that caused them to sell off portions of their business, bifurcate their product line, and cause serious concern among both channel partners and customers.  To attack this opportunity we built an actual list of our competitor's known customers and sent it out to our sales people.  We educated our sales people on the competitor and their products, and equipped them with a deep discount to take business.  Although not complete yet, this campaign has already identified several million dollars of opportunities.

What have I learned?  The most successful campaigns are those that have a clear target market, a value proposition that is tangible and quantifiable to those prospects, a time-sensitive offer, and enthusiastic support from the sales team.  Marketing’s role with this type of campaign is to wrap the package together, to provide marketing communication and sales support required to make the target customer aware of the promotion, and to fully equip sales to close the business.


Marketing & Production Planning

This is Jill VanDewoestine blogging for the Technology Marketing Center with another commercialization tip for product managers.

Production Forecast

You’re the marketing director for a new product, in a monthly supply planning meeting with the production planner, manufacturing manager, and sales manager. You deal with the same arguments each month: sales is waiting on samples to get customer qualification, because sample production is behind. Manufacturing is grumpy because the demand forecast keeps changing and they have to keep making job changes. The production planner’s numbers never seem to make any sense. Why can’t we get this right?

It’s easy for marketers to dismiss production planning as a detail not worth thinking about, or a means of not having to deal directly with manufacturing. It’s also easy for the planning side to completely lose faith in the commercial team because of what they perceive as poor forecasting. However, effective production planning can be a real source of competitive advantage: faster lead times, lower product costs, and more effective use of manufacturing resources all contribute to higher sales and happier customers. Here are some ideas to try:

1. Pitch your product and customer to the planners

Does your planning team understand the customer, the industry, and the value prop of your product? Do they understand the demand drivers and the competition? Have they ever spoken directly to a customer? Many customer-facing folks believe they don’t have time to educate planners on these topics, or see it as a potential loss of power in the organization. A good planning team can save your bacon in times of unexpected demand, or be a great ally when asking production to do something challenging. But they won't support you if you don't treat them like a partner. And partners tell each other what's going on.

2. Treat your demand forecast like you would treat a sales contract

A demand forecast is a lot like a sales agreement between you and production: it’s a communication of expectations between two parties. If you are just sending a spreadsheet over to planning without comment, you are missing an opportunity for important discussions to take place. Would you agree to a sales contract with your customers without discussing it with them first? Take the time to discuss the major drivers of changes to the forecast and where the areas of highest risk are directly with the planning team. Otherwise it’s like sending them a non-negotiable contract, any they will mistrust it at best and completely ignore it at worst.

3. Collaborate on the supply plan

If you open up your demand forecast process to planning, take the time to participate in the supply planning as well. This can be challenging: the planning team may be skeptical that you can add value, or they may have had a bad experience with commercial folks trying to micromanage them. Work with them to figure out what the critical items are in the planning process (a certain product, a certain customer, areas of high uncertainty or risk) and focus the attention on those. Find a balance between the big picture and critical details where you can align.

None of this is easy, because of the natural tension between these two functions. The degree of difficulty is higher for new products than mature ones. But your perseverance will be rewarded.