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Posts Tagged ‘Kristin Zhivago’

Customer Relations: Bringing power back to Marketing during the B2B buying process

October 18th, 2011
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“Marketing is broken…”

In an event packed with quotable, Tweetable comments from marketing experts, the above, from Kristin Zhivago’s keynote, “The Buyer’s Funnel and Your Political Power: Joined at the Hip,” may have been my favorite sound byte from the East Coast swing of B2B Summit 2011.

(Though I also loved her idea of “drinking from the fire hose of truth,” but I digress…)

According to Zhivago, customers’ wants and needs are unknown, and as such, Marketing is making assumptions on how to market to different segments. We’re expected to communicate with customers, but are often removed from the conversation by Sales. Essentially, the customer relationship is regularly outsourced to Sales, relinquishing control of our most crucial job function. Think about it, if your CEO asked, “What does the customer want?” would she ask you or someone in Sales?

And the answer to that question has never been more crucial. Thanks to the continually growing importance of easily accessible information on the Internet to buyer decisions, customers have been forced into a position of power, and are more in charge of the buying process than ever before, leaving companies to struggle with this shift in power.

More than 80% of customer questions are answered before talking to a salesperson. Their information needs are being met by other customers, not company authorities.

In short, if you can’t answer customers’ questions both internally and with your marketing, you’re abandoning your position of authority in your organization and undercutting all of your marketing efforts.

Read more…

The Data Vs Creativity Debate: Is successful marketing driven by analytics or art?

January 20th, 2011
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The answer from one marketing automation vendor might surprise you.

During an interview with Kristin Zhivago, President Zhivago Management Partners, for a Sherpa B2B article, Guided by Buyers: Four tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy (members’ library), she mentioned that marketing has undergone a sea-change in focus from 80% creative and 20% logistics in the past, to today where those numbers are exactly flipped. I recently had the chance to speak with Phil Fernandez, President and CEO Marketo, and a 26-year Silicon Valley vet with a present and past riddled with marketing software companies. I guessed this “80/20 rule” was a topic right up his alley.

We covered a wide range of marketing subjects, and in passing I mentioned the 80/20 rule presented by Zhivago and Phil immediately offered his opinion on the topic. We didn’t want to sidetrack our talk at the time so I told Phil we’d get back together and revisit his thoughts. This quick interview is the result.

A surprise that opens a debate

Phil’s answer was more than a little shocking coming from a marketing automation guy, and not an agency, since he sells data and logistics … or so I thought. Read on to find out what the CEO of Marketo thinks about the art of marketing versus the science of marketing.

His response opens a debate on the state of marketing today — is it more data- or creative-driven? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.

During our conversation a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Kristin Zhivago told me marketing once was 80% creative and 20% logistics and data-driven, and now that number has flipped to where logistics and data make up 80% of a marketer’s world and creative is only 20%. You strongly disagreed. Tell me why.

Phil Fernandez: At Marketo, we obviously evangelize marketing automation and analytics as critical components to drive significantly better marketing performance and ultimately greater revenue growth. I regularly advise corporate management to embrace a more metrics- and data-driven sales and marketing culture – what I like to call “hard marketing.”

So it may come as a surprise, especially from the CEO of a leading technology company that builds products for marketers, that I fundamentally disagree with the premise that marketing has flipped to a world where creative is only 20% of the craft of marketing.

There is no question that the sophisticated marketing automation and analytical solutions available today, such as Marketo’s, are imperative for successful marketing. However, it is incorrect to suggest that the adoption of technology solutions has made creative less important. In fact, I’d argue that the creative side of marketing is more important than ever! Why? Two reasons, one tactical and one strategic.

Tell me more about why the creative side of marketing is more important than ever.

PF: First, we need to look at how marketing automation (“MA”) tools are changing the job of the marketer. In particular, MA solutions help the marketer to implement a key new business process called Lead Nurturing. In Lead Nurturing, it is the job of the marketing professional to engage across channels and develop a relationship over time with each and every prospective buyer for their product or service. They work to educate the buyer, to assist them in their independent research, and to stay top-of-mind for that magical moment when the buyer is ready to make a decision.

And what is the single most important factor in implementing an effective Lead Nurturing program? It’s content. If a marketer is going to stay in touch with prospective buyers over time, helping to educate them and build trust and awareness, the marketer must deliver a stream of compelling, persuasive and brand-reinforcing content. Effective Lead Nurturing initiatives need a continuous stream of new content to stay fresh and relevant, and the most common reason why MA initiatives fail is a company’s inability to create enough content to build a trusted relationship with prospective buyers.

What defines an effective marketing automation system?

PF: The goal of effective MA solutions needs to be to make it fast and easy to do the logistics and data-driven parts of the job and then fade into the background, so that the marketer has the time to focus on the critical process of creative development.

More strategically, the relationship between buyers and sellers has fundamentally changed with the emergence of the Internet, Google, and more recently, the whole world of social media. The buyer has taken control of the process and only “listens” when and where he/she wants. And we all know that the Internet and social media world is a pretty noisy and chaotic place. This shift has greatly elevated the need to break through with creative, compelling content and big ideas – it’s the only way to get buyers to listen.

As a result, the art of marketing (communicating your brand, creating awareness about your unique value proposition and creating marketplace excitement through big ideas) is even more important today than it was a decade ago. If your message and/or content are not resonating with potential buyers, they will purchase from competitors who have done a better job of connecting with them in a relevant, timely and compelling way. That’s why our own marketing team at Marketo spends a lot of time focusing on our brand strategy and developing “magnetic” content via our blogs, webinars, “Definitive Marketing Guidebooks,” videos, events, and yes – advertising.

So both automation tools and the creative side of marketing are important …

PF: Keep in mind, automation and advanced analytics provide marketers speed, precision, and powerful insights into revenue performance. They can even go as far as predicting the amount of revenue a marketing campaign will generate. However, it’s the creative that inspires someone even to consider what you are selling in the first place, and eventually (if you did your job effectively) to buy. Automation and advanced analytics such as we offer at Marketo, give a marketer more productive time to spend on developing compelling creative that will generate the greatest impact. By balancing the “science” of marketing with the essential “art” of the craft, successful marketers are able to accelerate predictable, expanding revenue across the revenue cycle.

Then, what do you think is driving the argument?

PF: As much as anything, it’s probably a factor of today’s technology-driven business environment, where there is an expectation that the right technology can solve pretty much anything. More broadly, since the Industrial Revolution, we have been conditioned to the idea that science and technology replaces the arts and crafts culture that came before it. And in lots of areas, like precision manufacturing, this has been true.

But the world of creating revenue is different. The art of marketing and the art of sales remain very much alive. The good news is that there is a tremendous amount of synergy to be had when companies get this right and the art and creative elements of marketing and sales are combined with hard science and technology that Marketo and others have created. It can seem like the Holy Grail to companies looking to generate more revenue more predictably.

Related Resources

Find Phil’s blog at Revenue Performance

B2B Marketing: What to look for in 2011

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

Inbound Marketing: Invest in content to generate leads

Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges (Members’ library)

photo by Jennifer R.

Product Marketing: You already know how to chew gum, right?

December 16th, 2010
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Kristin Zhivago, a longtime friend of MarketingSherpa, has over 30 years of experience working toward improving the alignment between Sales and Marketing. Through her company, Zhivago Management Partners, she works as a “revenue coach” for entrepreneurs and CEOs at companies from startups to Fortune 500 firms.

Her current focus is on making the entire sales and marketing process more customer-centric, and a major part of that effort is to conduct research and actually map out the customer’s buying process. This process is unique down to different customer groups (such as an IT buyer versus a C-level buyer) for specific products at specific companies.

Four product and service categories

During a recent conversation about how to create a customer-centric marketing organization at a B2B firm, Kristin also offered an interesting insight that applies to B2C marketers as well. After being part of mapping many customer buying processes for many different products at different companies, she developed the idea that all products and services fall into one of four categories based on the amount of scrutiny the customer applies to the buying process:

  • Light scrutiny products are impulse purchases and relatively inexpensive trinkets. She describes them as, “checkout counter” stuff.
  • Medium scrutiny products include items such as clothing. There are questions, but usually only one buyer, and these products run from the tens, to the hundreds, of dollars.
  • Heavy scrutiny products include items like cars and houses. Zhivago says they involve contracts, salepeople and possibly a demonstration or some other type of try-it-before-you-buy-it. Heavy scrutiny products involve lots of questions and most likely multiple buyers.
  • Intense scrutiny is everything involved with heavy scrutiny, plus, as Zhivago puts it, “you get married.”Intense scrutiny products involve some measure of ongoing services.

Knowing what category the product or service you are selling falls under is key to implementing the correct strategies for marketing to customers.

Marketing to the wrong category

Treating a light scrutiny product as though it was a medium scrutiny product only serves to waste sales and marketing resources. Little stuff like money and time.

And treating a heavy, or even intense, scrutiny product or service like it was merely a medium scrutiny product is a recipe for disaster. The customer has a page full of detailed questions and is looking for a little hand-holding while the company is whistling and tapping its foot with arms crossed, so to speak, and thinking, “Why don’t they just buy the thing already?”

Kristin told me she came up the four product categories after seeing companies making both of the above mistakes over and over again. As she put it, once a company knows what category their product or service falls under, they can stop making stupid mistakes like churning out newsletters teaching people how to chew gum.

I don’t know about you, but I think I have gum chewing pretty nailed down.

Related Resources

Guided by Buyers: Four tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy (Open access until 12/25)

Conversion Window: How to find the right time to ask your customer to act

Kristin Zhivago Reveals What Businesses are Doing Right — and What They Are Doing Very, Very Wrong

Marketing Career: How to become an indispensable asset to your company (even in a bad economy)

Photo attribution: KonRuff