Posts Tagged ‘marketing automation’

Consumer Marketing: Implementing marketing automation at a B2C company

August 4th, 2011

When you think of marketing automation software, you likely think about B2B companies with those long sales cycles, and extensive lead nurturing and scoring to help move prospects through the pipeline. Because at B2C companies the distance from prospective customer to paying customer can be so short, realistically, marketing automation isn’t a necessary tool for many consumer marketers.

And just because marketing automation isn’t a great fit for many B2Cs, it certainly deserves more attention at any company with a longer sales process. Read more…

Content Marketing: Keeping creative talent on retainer

July 22nd, 2011

Reacting to an increasingly competitive marketing automation software field, last spring Eloqua created an independent content marketing department.

The idea was to bring the company into what VP of Content Marketing at Eloqua, Joe Chernov, described as the “marketing 2.0” world — the shift from transactional marketing to social/conversational marketing.

Early in the process of putting its content marketing strategy together, Eloqua decided to differentiate itself from the competition by putting a strong emphasis on visual appeal and design elements. This means releasing a steady diet of infographics, and putting more attention on design in live events and even the typically stodgy old white paper.

Build, buy or hire?

Because visual appeal was going to be a key aspect of all its content marketing efforts, getting the right people to execute the design work was very important to Eloqua. Typically two options are considered:

  • Create from scratch or utilize an existing internal art/design department within the company
  • Find a vendor and pay them by the piece for each design project.

Eloqua went a third direction. It found a design firm doing the work Eloqua was looking for and put them on retainer.

And even more unconventionally, Eloqua actually gives that firm — JESS3 — prominent credit for all its work.

Example of JESS3's work (click to enlarge)

Joe says, “We give them a shout-out for everything they create and I have gotten some pushback internally saying, ‘Look, we bought this.'”

He adds, “My view is, ‘Why not?’ JESS3 is a really hot company. And if somebody is putting their name on something, aren’t they going to do the very best work versus if their name wasn’t on it?”

Joe also says Eloqua is getting additional social media and other benefits by connecting their B2B brand to a design firm with a completely different following. When a content piece, blog post or press release goes out mentioning JESS3 alongside Eloqua, the design company’s fans share those links with an entirely new demographic. And that, Joe explains, gives Eloqua additional “top of the funnel” exposure.

Sometimes reality steps in …

And every once in a while something happens that puts an easy-to-see monetary value on taking the unconventional route. Unexpected changes in content marketing publishing plans can leave a team scrambling, and paying additional fees to contract-based creative talent.

I’ll let Joe explain just that occurrence with a recent major content piece, and how having JESS3 on retainer saved Eloqua time and money:

On June 28th the Social Media ProBook was declared final. Done. Complete.

The final version had been approved and it would be published the following day. I’d even made a quip to the team, “Not one more damn edit. I don’t care if there is a typo or two. We’ll survive. This project is ‘a wrap.’ It goes live tomorrow.”

Then, later that same day, Google+ launched. How could we go live with the “social media pro’s” book on social media without so much as mentioning Google’s long-awaited re-entry into the space? We couldn’t.

So I over-ruled myself, and we scrambled to insert a section on Google+, a section that had a major impact on page layout. Had JESS3 been paid by the project, this significant last-minute change may have been an “outside of scope” addition. After all, I had just emphatically declared the project complete. But given the retainer model, our relationship isn’t a series of discrete projects, but rather a constant hum of collaboration, output and refinement.

In the case of the Social Media ProBook, we refined it after it was “final” but before it was published, thanks, in large part, to the continuity that comes with a retainer.

Related Resources

Content Marketing: Four tactics that led to $2.5 million in annual contracts (Members library)

SEO Tactics Chart: Creating content is the most-effective tactic — here’s how to get started

Inbound Marketing: Unlock the content from your emails and social marketing

Content Marketing: Should you lure a journalist over to the “dark side?”

Content Marketing: Analytics drive relevant content, 26,000 new monthly visits to blog (Members library)

Content Marketing: Inbound strategy pulls in 25% more revenue, 70% more leads (Members library)

Marketing Strategy: Revenue-oriented approach leads to 700% two-year growth (Members library)

Lead Generation: A closer look at a B2B company’s cost-per-lead and prospect generation

Lead Generation: Testing form field length reduces cost-per-lead by $10.66

B2B Challenges: Marketing to a long sales cycle

May 13th, 2011

We just launched the registration landing pages for our upcoming MarketingSherpa B2B Summits — the first will be held September 26-27 in Boston, and the second October 24-25 in San Francisco — and looking toward those events got me thinking about all the learnings I’ve taken away from these last months of digging deeply into the complex world of B2B marketing.

Since I began covering the MarketingSherpa B2B beat toward the end of last year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many marketers, industry experts, and our internal researchers and thought leaders here at MECLABS (MarketingSherpa’s parent company). One area that really separates B2B from B2C marketing has come up many times — the complexity of the B2B sale and the length of the B2B sales cycle.

Our research, based on interviews with 935 B2B marketers in the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, found marketing to a lengthening sales cycle as a growing concern, and the third-most-pressing challenge for B2B marketers today (trailing only quality and quantity of lead generation):

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That same report shows that more than one-third of B2B sales cycles from first inquiry to closed deal last seven months, or longer:

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During my B2B beat reporting I’ve learned quite a bit about three very interrelated marketing areas that address this challenge — the strategy of lead nurturing, the tactic of drip marketing campaigns and the use of marketing automation software tools.

Growing the lead into a sales-ready prospect

A lead generated is very rarely a lead ready to hand off to Sales, and when your sales cycle is measured in months, or even longer than a year, you want to have a lead nurturing program to keep in touch with that potential customer and turn them into a sales-ready lead.

Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Applied Research, MECLABS, explained to me that most lead nurturing programs don’t have an impact on conversion before at least five meaningful touches, and that the important thing is to continue nurturing leads whether it takes five touches or 25 touches to get them to the sales-ready point.

He says, “If you have a nine-month sales cycle, you should nurture a lead in those nine months, and that’s at a minimum level. So that means nine nurturing patterns during the course of that lead.”

Here’s a table from the 2011 B2B Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook outlining some lead nurturing basics:

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If you notice, content is a major aspect of that table. That’s because content marketing is a key element in lead nurturing. New information about your product is a good reason to reach out to the nurtured lead. So is a vendor-agnostic article from an industry thought leader that provides usable information or advice on your business area.

Other touches might include an invitation to an event, such as a webinar, or maybe an executive summary and key takeaway list from an event along with links to video or audio excerpts from the presentation.

Content marketing is not the only piece in a lead nurturing campaign, but it should be an area of high priority focus.

Keeping those touches coming

If lead nurturing is an overall strategy to meet the challenge of a long sales cycle, drip marketing is a specific tactic to execute that strategy. Drip marketing involves automatically sending marketing messages to your list via email or other methods. The messages are “dripped” in a series based on the specific behavior or status of the recipient.

Here’s Jeanne Jennings from a SherpaBlog post on drip marketing:

Drip campaigns take their name from drip irrigation, which saves resources by allowing water and fertilizer to be consistently delivered directly to the roots of plants. There’s less waste than with sprinklers and topical fertilizer application; drip irrigation also provides a consistent level of moisture to the soil, rather than the “soak and dry” experience that sprinklers provide.

Drip marketing campaigns are most commonly delivered via the email channel because of its short turn-around, quick delivery time and cost-effective nature. A drip campaign involves a series of messages that are sent or “dripped” in a predefined order at a predefined interval. Each message in the campaign stands on its own but also builds on the missives that have come before it. A drip campaign is a response to a specific behavior or status of the recipient – and it encourages a specific action.

… and then SkyNet took over

Actually April 19th has passed and I’m pretty certain no terminator robots are heading back in time as I write this post, but lead nurturing does have a powerful tool that makes the entire process much easier to manage — marketing automation software.

Marketing automation offers many benefits for marketers:

  • It provides a trackable database and measurable analytic results for marketing efforts
  • It, well, automates many marketing tasks that previously had to be handled manually
  • For a long sales cycle, multi-touch lead nurturing campaign, it allows marketers to focus on determining the creative elements of the effort — email copy, content with each touch, etc. — and setting the timing and triggers for each touch, and the software handles the actual execution of the campaign

A small business with a handful of leads to nurture can most likely run the campaign manually. A large corporation with hundreds, thousands, or even many more leads will require marketing automation to run an effective lead nurturing program.

Related Resources

Members library – B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

Members library – How-To Increase Relevance: Integrating drip marketing into an email campaign

No Budget and Less Time? Lead Nurturing in Five Simple Steps

Lead Marketing: Cost-per-lead and lead nurturing ROI

B2B Marketing: Calls-to-action and the business buying cycle

Members libarary — How and When to Use Content in the B2B Sales Process

Prospect Marketing: Nurturing leads lost to competitors

May 5th, 2011

Every company is going to define its process, but the basic lead lifecycle consists of three parts: lead generation, lead nurturing and hand-off to Sales. Lead nurturing, particularly in B2B companies, is key because that stage turns the face in the crowd with the raised hand asking for more information into a sales-ready prospective customer.

Adam Blitzer, Co-founder and COO of Pardot, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketing automation platform geared toward small- to mid-sized businesses, recently shared an interesting lead nurturing idea he has — nurturing leads lost to competitors.

Often once a prospect makes a purchase decision, and that choice is with a different company, the lead completely leaves the pipeline. Blitzer says there are good reasons to keep that now future prospect in a nurturing program, and discusses how Pardot continues to nurture lost leads.

You have something of a counterintuitive idea — actually nurturing leads lost to a competitor. Is this idea based on research or other metrics?

Adam Blitzer: It really started more as an experiment internally. Since the nurturing is automated, with no real work required on the part of the sales rep, there’s no reason not to try out an idea like this. We saw a fair amount of prospects come our way because they were unhappy with their current vendor, so it made sense to us that someday these leads lost might also be unhappy with their choice and be looking for a new solution.

We started nurturing lost deals back in 2007 and noticed that within a year, we started to win back a reasonable percentage of them.

Explain the reasoning behind nurturing lost leads.

AB: If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense to keep in touch with those lost leads – if your product was on their short list, they saw something the liked in what you are offering. Your sales rep has already invested a good amount of time building a relationship with the decision maker.

Putting them on a nurturing track allows you to keep them informed of new features and updates that you’ve pushed out over the course of their current vendor contract. In a fast-growing, SaaS industry like our own, the scope of a product can change greatly over the course of a year. It’s possible that the feature that cost you a deal might be now be implemented or that you’ve added something new and innovative that puts you leaps and bounds ahead of the vendor that your prospect chose.

It’s really just a way to keep your company top-of-mind in case they are looking to make a change. It isn’t unusual for a company to shop around when their current contract is approaching renewal.

There is also the simple matter of making the most of your marketing dollars, which is the goal of any nurturing program. You spend a lot of money generating leads and even more to generate sales opportunities. If they convert, it is likely a very low touch sale (this time around). You have already spent the funds to try to convert the prospect in the previous year and do not have to re-spend it when winning back the client.

How can a marketer begin reaching out to these lost prospects with a track specific to the vendor who won the deal?

AB: If a good relationship was established with the prospect during the sales cycle, it can actually be as simple as the sales rep setting up the campaign by saying that they wish them luck with their implementation, they’d love to keep in touch and they’ll send them over any information they run across that might be helpful.

Marketers know their competitors well. They can easily set up a different “lost opportunity” track for each competing solution, with content specific to that vendor.

The challenge is keeping automated content “fresh.” The easiest way to do this is to have fairly static email templates that point to dynamic or constantly updating content.

A great example is to have an automated email (personalized from the sales rep) suggesting the prospect take a look at their newest feature and interesting blog post. In both cases the link would just point to a page that is dynamically updated anytime a new feature or post is produced. That ensures that anytime the email is sent out, it points to something fresh and relevant, all without the marketer ever needing to change the nurturing program or email template.

How does timing come into play in this variant on traditional lead nurturing?

AB: The timing or cadence of the nurturing program will actually depend on the competitor to whom you lost the deal. If you know your competitor typically does annual contracts, you can start the program gradually (perhaps one email in each of the first two quarters) and then pick up steam as the prospect is closer to his renewal date.

One of the nurturing best practices we always try to remind people of is to know when to stop. If at any point a lead responds to a nurturing email — that’s a good time for the sales rep to pick up and engage personally with the prospect. And if you’re going to do this, it’s absolutely key that the person be removed from the campaign at that point, to avoid any conflicting messaging. It can be easy to forget this step, but it is so important.

Should the nurturing messaging be based on the winning vendor? If so, how?

AB: It is ideal to use the winning vendor’s name and any other information if possible. This makes the messages much more personal and less likely to be seen as automated. If you do have specific information about the vendor, it can’t hurt to point out the differences in your products, like where you feel yours excels over the competitor.

Should nurturing lost leads have an informal feel, or should these lost prospects be strongly pursued?

AB: While I do think it can be effective to use vendor-specific information that has a strong message, it’s often best to start out with a softer sell, especially at the beginning of a nurturing program. Since the prospect already has an established relationship with the losing sales rep, a personal, informal tone tends to work well.

These emails might include new features about your own product or perhaps even best practices information that could be helpful to them even as they are using a competing product. This best practices information still acts as a reminder that your company is a thought leader in the space and helps keep your brand top-of-mind.

Related Resources

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

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

Web Clinic Replay: How Lead Nurturing Produced $4.9 Million Pipeline Growth in Eight Months

No Budget and Less Time? Lead Nurturing in Five Simple Steps

photo by: Phil Roeder

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

January 20th, 2011

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.

B2B Marketing: What to look for in 2011

January 6th, 2011

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Applied Research at MECLABS, the parent company for MarketingSherpa, about the current state of B2B marketing, and what marketers can look forward to in 2011.

Our discussion covered three main areas — the alignment of Marketing and Sales, marketing automation tools and marketing operations as new a position within Marketing — and how all three are related.

For those attending MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 (January 24-26 in Las Vegas), Brian will be moderating a panel entitled, “How to Develop Content for Specific Buying Stages” as a B2B breakout session on Day 2.

Aligning Marketing and Sales

B2B marketers are being pressured to prove their value, particularly in terms of being able to contribute measurable revenue, and the struggle is that marketers are not fully in control of the process. Essentially marketers do not get to own a lead from first contact to close. Leads are generated and at some point the baton is handed to Sales to, “run the race and win,” as Brian put it.

He explained to me, “A lot of marketers don’t really understand the challenges facing salespeople today because they haven’t been a salesperson themselves. So there is the age-old debate around Sales and Marketing alignment, which is — Marketing wishes salespeople would act on their leads and give them feedback, and the salespeople wish that Marketing would actually give them leads, or at least more of the good leads and less of the bad, because they want real opportunities.”

Brian said the big theme is: the alignment of Sales and Marketing will drive results from the top of the funnel to the bottom line. Many B2B marketers understand that aligning Marketing and Sales is a net gain for both departments and the entire company, and evidence of that can be found in the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report where research found that lead quality is a top priority for B2B marketers.

And to go back to Marketing proving its value in terms of revenue? Brian said the key metric more and more executives are looking to Marketing for is the expense-to-revenue ratio, that is, the expense of marketing efforts to the revenue produced.

Marketing Automation

According to Brian, marketing automation is not going to solve every problem, but it’s a great start to help marketers. He did caution that often starting a marketing automation effort can expose more problems than it solves. It can expose things like the weakness of the data quality marketers are using. So it’s important to remember marketing automation is a tool, but it won’t do the work for you.
He said many marketers are using marketing automation mostly as an email tool, and this usage can expose the lack of a content strategy.

“Most people are still doing ‘batch-and-blast’ campaigns to lists that aren’t very targeted,” Brian told me.

This ties back into the alignment between Sales and Marketing, because better alignment will, hopefully, help bring about a content strategy, clarity of the value proposition, effective lead qualification and a lead nurturing process.

Marketing Operations

During our talk, Brian said, “I think what’s really needed is new position within Marketing which is called ‘marketing operations,’ and what that entails is really working to understand how Marketing is interfacing with the different operational aspects of the company — including Sales, including IT, including Finance — because those are all the places that marketing needs to go to get the data points that they need in order to prove their value.

“And on the other side of that is they are often going to be interfacing with the product development, or R&D, inside the company as well.”

He added that when marketing automation exposes problems, it will be up to marketers to really act as leaders inside their companies to teach and explain, and to not just report data, but to give real insight to the executive suite. When the CEO asks why only 1000 emails were sent to a list of over 10,000, the marketer is ready to explain those 1000 addresses were created by a high-level segmentation and that targeted list represents 70% of the revenue opportunities for the year.

He thinks when marketers can achieve better alignment with Sales and are prepared to explain and lead, they will do a better job of marketing inside the company. And that will make their marketing outside the company more effective as well.

Related Resources

Email Marketing Summit 2011

Fostering Sales-Marketing Alignment: A 5-Step Lead Management Process (MarketingSherpa Members’ Library)

2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

Marketing Career: Can you explain your job to a six-year-old?

Marketing Leader’s Perspective: No cogs allowed in social media and content marketing