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Evidence-based Marketing: This blog post will not solve your most pressing marketing challenges…yet

June 23rd, 2011
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Here at MECLABS, we have a pretty singular focus – to help you optimize your sales and marketing funnel. Or as I like to say in every email I write: Our job is to help you do your job better.

But, as Tom Cruise said to Katie Holmes (or maybe it was Cuba Gooding, Jr.), “Help me, help you.”

So evidence-based marketers, on what topic do you need more evidence? Evidence to help you understand what your peers are doing. Evidence to help you understand what really works. Evidence to do a little internal marketing to your business leaders (or for the agency folks out there, your clients)?

Below are a few key topics you’ve been telling us you want to learn more about. We’re trying to decide on the topic for our next MarketingSherpa Benchmark Report. In which topic should we invest 5 months of a research manager’s time digging into to discover the evidence you need.

Please take 7 seconds and rank them in order of importance in the poll below. Or if we missed a topic entirely, please tell us in the comments section below.

In no particular order, the nominees are…

  • Analytics – Using analytics and metrics to drive business decisions from which products to launch to which landing page works best to which content is most relevant to your audience.
  • Mobile – Mobile tactics can vary slightly or widely from traditional approaches, so how are marketers developing and implementing wireless strategies? How are marketers planning their budgets and measuring their results? And, for the love of all that is holy, when on Earth will I be able to view Flash on my iPad? OK, maybe not that last one. But seriously Steve, it would be nice.
  • E-commerce – What do direct sale sites view as the top opportunities for the upcoming year? Are they investing in site speed enhancement, conversion optimization, or both? And is social media impacting purchases?
  • Agency and vendor selection and management – What factors play into how marketers choose and compensate agencies? How do marketers determine if they need a software platform in a specific space? And if so, do they buy, go with open source, or attempt something homegrown? How do you get IT’s support in choosing a vendor? And then, more importantly, how do you get IT to stop talking about “Star Trek: The Next Generation” already?
  • Salary survey – How much does Bill make?  He hasn’t had a good idea since 1993. And his tuna salad lunches stink up the office. OK, if not Bill, then what about the rest of your peers. Are you being fairly compensated? And what should you pay your team?
  • Lead generation – Which information do marketers view as most valuable? How do they keep their databases updated and clean? Do marketers find third-party lists effective? And in an age of social media, do marketers value a big email list as much?
  • Content marketing and lead nurturing – Do my peers outsource content creation or do it in-house? If so, how? Do they have their own teams? Or just beg, borrow, and steal from other departments?

B2B Marketing: Combining sales and marketing knowledge to improve lead qualification

June 10th, 2011
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Few issues create more conflict between sales and marketing than lead qualification criteria. In the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Benchmark Report, 72 percent of marketers listed generating higher-quality leads as their single biggest challenge, up from 69 percent the prior year. In most cases, Sales and Marketing each see lead qualification from very different perspectives, both of which have value.

In sales, management spends considerable time, including extensive one-on-one coaching, teaching sales people about lead qualification criteria, often dissecting specific sales calls, contacts, opportunities, and accounts. Good sales people soon learn that qualifying prospects takes significant skill and judgment.  Invariably, the best sales people are superb at this skill.

In contrast, the best marketers look at a sophisticated combination of techniques for delivering more qualified prospects to sales:

  • Targeting. By soliciting the right audience, fewer out-of-market prospects inquire.
  • Messaging and calls-to-action. The right message and supporting content will attract the most qualified buyers.
  • Explicit user-supplied information. Registration forms enable marketers to ask qualifying questions, questions that can evolve as the prospect moves deeper into the buying cycle.  Unfortunately, prospects are unwilling to fill-out a lot of information on a registration form so this tactic must be used with great restraint. MECLABS has one case study, for example, that shows a 189 percent increase in registration largely by decreasing the amount of information on a registration form.
  • Implicit data. Increasingly, marketers are drawing inferences about not just an area of interest, but the likely depth of interest, the role of the responder in the buying process, and similar qualifying information, all based not on what a prospect says but on what he or she does, primarily via his or her clickstream behavior but also via other media and transactional information.
  • Data Hygiene, enhancement, and consolidation. The cloud is creating very scalable and cost-effective tools for cleaning up inquiries, appending additional or better business card or firmagraphic information to each record, and consolidating duplicate accounts, contacts or areas of interest. The right processes will typically identify 14 to 21 percent of the lead pool as either duplicate or not usable (e.g., the visitor enters “Mickey Mouse” for a name).
  • Lead Scoring. Lead scoring uses any and all of the implicit, user-supplied information along with explicit and appended information to identify and prioritize records worthy of human follow up.

Leaving aside tele-qualification as a marketing function, the key difference between the approach of sales and marketing is this: marketing uses largely quantifiable techniques, primarily driven by highly scalable business rules and automation while sales uses qualitative techniques that are extremely nuanced and very subjective and invariably much more exacting for a given account.

In other words:

  • Marketing improves the probability of success across a pool of responders.
  • Sales identifies the probability of success for a particular responder.

Customers and prospects hedge, withhold information intentionally, change their minds, and/or misunderstand and even fabricate information.  Sales people use, not just the words of a customer, but a range of information, including someone’s tone, body language (in the case of on-site sales calls), the perspective of others within the account, external sources, and many other tools to evaluate the probability of purchase. While lead scoring is improving every day, it obviously has a long way to go before replicating the qualification techniques of sales people.

The truth is these two approaches are highly complementary

The more sales understands the tools and limitations marketing uses, the more insightful their suggestions can be; likewise, the more marketing understands the criteria and methods the best sales people use, the more marketers can improve their own upstream practices.

Related resources

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 – in San Francisco and Boston

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

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

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

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Review: B2B Marketing Best Practices – MarketingSherpa 2011 Handbook by Lee Odden at TopRank online marketing blog

Strategic social media marketing advice from your peers

June 9th, 2011
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To truly gain ROI from social media marketing, you need to take a strategic approach…as you would with any other marketing discipline.

So, at 1 p.m. EDT in today’s MarketingSherpa webinar (sponsored by Facebook) – Intro to Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach – I’ll be moderating an hour-long session with Todd Lebo and Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe from MECLABS and Tamara Rosenbaum from Facebook, to arm you with some ideas as you embark on a strategic approach to social marketing.

But before we share our research, we asked your peers what advice they would give fellow marketers to help you transform your efforts from random acts of marketing to a strategic approach. Here are a few of our favorite responses…

Relationships are based on an open and honest conversation

The best advice I can offer is to look at social media as an extension to your Acquisition, Engagement, Retention, and Growth strategies. The majority of companies look at it as a function of PR – what about marketing, sales, and support? Isn’t a happy customer worth more than a random fan?

Don’t forget the most important part of social media: listening. Look at all the companies that pride themselves in having thousands of followers/fans but in turn only “listen” to a couple of hundred… that’s more of a monologue isn’t it? Don’t measure your success by the number of people listening to you.

Relationships are based on an open and honest conversation. Listen, and only then “talk” about things that are relevant to your audience. Do it in a timely way. Measure reactions to your conversations.

Using social media as just another channel to “get your message out” is not the way to build the dialog needed to create and nurture a close relationship with your prospects and customers.

– Roberto Lino, Skype Enterprise Global Head of Ecommerce, Skype



Research, strategize, and then get going

My top 3 tips for success in social media would be…

1. Do some research to find out where your customers are having the conversations before trying to join every single social site. Monitor what’s being said about you and your competition.

2. Go in with a strategy!!!

Who will be in charge of this effort? How many times a week will you tweet? What kinds of content will be useful for your audience?

3. Start small so you make sure you have time to keep it up. What we find is many companies have such limited resources to devote to social media marketing that time is wasted in the wrong groups, content is too weak, and schedules get too busy and the first thing to drop to the bottom of the priority list is the social stuff. Consistency is key when it comes to social media, so it’s important to find a way to keep it up.

I look forward to hearing everyone’s advice and joining the webinar!

Michelle Etherton, Creative Director, Nurture Marketing



A dissenting opinion

My advice to marketers is to not transform your efforts from random acts of marketing to a strategic approach. Social media is all about being random and experimenting. Show up. Participate. Be random.

Social media marketing differs from traditional marketing in that you don’t just set it and forget it. Successful social media marketing requires interaction. It requires actively networking, meaning you are responding to others and your status updates are more than predetermined calculated scheduled posts.

By being random, you will find new and unique ways to gain ROI. I think you take all the fun out of social media marketing if you are rigid with strategy.

Lara Nieberding, The Data Digger



Related Resources

Free webinar, Today June, 9th 1-2pm EDT — Intro to Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach

Social Media Marketing: You value (and earn ROI on) what you pay for

Social Marketing ROAD Map Handbook

Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters



Social Media Marketing: You value (and earn ROI on) what you pay for

June 7th, 2011
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Free. Look inside any copywriting book or on any marketing blog, and it will tell you that “free” is one of the most powerful words in marketing. However…how often are you, as a marketer, susceptible to that magic word?

For most media we use – from PPC ads to television spots – we recognize that an investment must take place. Yet social media, with its tantalizing lack of an invoice, seems almost too good to be true. Thanks to the power of technology, you no longer have to spend money to make money!

Some say the best things in life are free…

Well, the attitude may not be that severe, but take a look at this quote from the 2011 MarketingSherpa Social Marketing Benchmark Report

“I do not look at social media marketing as something I invest in. I advertise on Facebook and consider that an online advertising expense like Google AdWords. I consider the time I spend creating, maintaining and promoting my Facebook page as “free” because I do the work myself so the costs are all soft, not cash. I know this approach isn’t really accurate and may not help me understand my costs, but it’s how I think of it for now.”

This marketer is not alone. According to the Benchmark Report’s lead author, Sergio Balegno, “On average, 15 percent of organizations think social marketing is free and wish to keep it that way. When we segment this group by primary channel, we find that B2B marketers are, by far, the least likely to believe this misconception. Social marketing is a time-consuming practice requiring significant staff commitment to execute effectively.”

…but you can keep it for the birds and the bees

As Sergio says, all of that social media buzz comes at a price. But, you may say, what is the harm in viewing soft costs as, essentially, no costs? There’s no outlay in cash, so what’s the difference?

The savvy CMO is looking for money (that’s, what he wants). Specifically, ROI. So it takes an attitude shift. From my experience, when people (and especially marketers) don’t pay anything for a product, service, or media, they don’t value it. And if they don’t value it, they don’t invest in it. And if you don’t truly invest in a tactic, you will never nail the ROI.

On the flip side, you don’t understand the true costs either. Even soft costs are costs. For example, you have the opportunity cost. A sole entrepreneur must decide whether to engage in Twitter for an hour or call some customers and see if their needs are being met. A content marketer at a major company must decide whether to invest in writing a blog post or spending some more time testing and optimizing the Web site.

In the above-referenced Social Marketing Benchmark Report, there was an interesting chart about how CMOs perceive Social Marketing ROI…

Almost half of marketers that are taking a strategic approach to social media marketing are realizing a measurable ROI.

Yet, as you look at the bottom of the chart, all too many marketers (especially those who haven’t reached the strategic phase) just look at social marketing as a freebie, not a marketing discipline.

So, in this week’s MarketingSherpa webinar (sponsored by Facebook) – Intro to Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach – I’ll be moderating an hour-long session with Todd Lebo and Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe from MECLABS and Tamara Rosenbaum from Facebook, that we hope will give you basic info to help you begin to take a strategic approach to social media marketing or give you ideas to optimize your current approach.

Oh, and did I mention? The webinar is absolutely free.

Related Resources

Free webinar, Thursday June, 9th 1-2pm EST — Intro to Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach

Study: Marketers Reporting Social Media ROI of 100, 200, Even 1,000 percent
— via Forbes

In Social Media, Your Return Represents Investment –via Fast Company

Social Media Marketing: Facebook news feed optimization

Social Media Marketing: How to optimize the customer experience to benefit from word-of-mouth advertising

Marketing Metrics: Aligning ROI goals across the enterprise

May 26th, 2011
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More than 80 percent of CMOs were dissatisfied with their ability to measure marketing ROI and less than 20 percent said their company employed meaningful metrics according to a CMO council study quoted in Harvard Business Review.

The same article cited Copernicus Marketing Research findings that noted that most acquisition efforts fail to break even, no more than ten percent of new products succeed, most sales promotions are unprofitable, and advertising ROI is below four percent.

There is no absence of metrics or measurement tools. The problem is less one of analytics than of lack of alignment across the enterprise as to ROI goals.

But how can that alignment be attained?

There is a need for a common vocabulary and shared buy-in as to key performance indicators (KPIs). It is commonly assumed that all can be resolved if the VP of Sales and the VP of Marketing just go off and have a beer together. This rarely works. A better way to achieve alignment is to borrow from the toolbox of strategic planning and to use scenarios.

Scenario planning is a discipline popularized by Royal Dutch Shell in the ‘80s that has become a standard tool of strategic planning professionals. It is the process in which managers invent and consider the implications of alternate assumptions and futures. As a team-building exercise, it can remove the barriers that office politics, turf wars, and loyalty to current vendors bring to the effort to align goals and assumptions.

As consultant Juergen Daum has written, “The purpose of scenario planning is to help managers to change their view of reality, to match it up more closely with reality as it is, and reality as it is going to be. The end result, however, is not an accurate picture of tomorrow, but better decisions about the future.”

Scenario planning session

A Scenario planning session can be done over a one- or two-day off-site:

  • Start by modeling a scenario in which the current ROI goals and benchmarks are accurate and lead to a positive future. This is the “rosy scenario” that is implicitly guiding current thinking.
  • The team can then turn, in a politically non-threatening way, to alternate scenarios – those in which current goals and assumptions can be challenged. This process surfaces doubts and uncertainties while clarifying disconnects among the team as to definitions and priorities. Whatever the outcome, the very process builds agreement and understanding.

This process allows managers to confront, without defensiveness, the essential question:

“What if our current assumptions and procedures are wrong?”

Contemplating a scenario without a “rosy” outcome forces participants to both question current practices and to work together to forecast outcomes. The implications of using “wrong” ROI goals can be discussed collaboratively, fostering collaboration and understanding. Ideally, new metrics can be identified and outmoded ones discarded. Inevitably, participants emerge with greater understanding of their goals, of their key performance indicators, and of each other.

Bob Heyman is a keynote speaker at Optimization Summit 2011, and all attendees will receive a copy of his book, “Marketing by the Numbers: How to Measure and Improve the ROI of Any Campaign,” provided by HubSpot.

Gary Angel, President and CTO, Semphonic, contributed heavily to this blog post as well.

Related Resources

Digital Marketing: How to measure ROI from your agencies

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

New Chart: What Social Metrics are Organizations Monitoring and Measuring?

Maximize your Agency ROI

Digital Marketing: How to measure ROI from your agencies

May 17th, 2011
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agency watch dogToday’s marketing world is incredibly complex. The growth of digital has dramatically expanded the number of channels and customer touch points that require marketing attention, and it isn’t just a question of number. Digital channels often involve unique skills, unique technology and unique culture. Combining SEO expertise with great digital creative plus Facebook smarts and traditional media buying isn’t difficult, it’s pretty much impossible.

Inevitably, you’re faced with a world where you need to rely upon, direct, manage and motivate multiple agency partners. To do that – and to understand how to allocate resources between channels, how to decide if an agency is giving you all they can, and how to choose where to invest your time and resources – takes sophisticated measurement. You can’t manage what you don’t measure – this statement is as true for your agency relationships as it is for your marketing dollars.

In a world where there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, why would you let your agencies measure their own performance? If your agencies are siloed, they have every incentive (and ability) to make their channel look maximally successful. If you’ve concentrated everything in a single agency, that agency has every incentive (and ability) to make their entire program look successful and not delve too deeply into any single piece.

In today’s environment, measurement is just too important to leave to the wolves.

Intra-Agency Measurement suffers from four BIG problems:

  • Skill Set: For most agencies, measurement is just grafted onto a creative culture. It isn’t their business, core expertise or focus and isn’t what makes them money.
  • Bias: It doesn’t take evil intent to create bias. One of the great challenges of measurement is the temptation to always pass on good news. When the analyst has a self-interested stake in the measurement, this problem is that much worse.
  • Siloed View of the World: Even the best measurement an agency can provide is typically limited to their world and their tools. They see only their slice of the pie – meaning that cannibalization, cross-channel, and customer issues are invisible to them.
  • Standardization: Every industry has evolved its own way of talking about measurement and they are all different. Nobody agrees what engagement means or how ROI metrics should be applied to them. Vendors have reports and technology that are narrowly adapted to their own language and techniques and cannot be standardized.

What’s the right solution?

You need a “Digital Watchdog” – either an analytics agency of record or an internal employee or department tasked with making sure that every channel you use has the right measurement, the right standards, and the right level of resources and attention.

A Digital Watchdog should be focused explicitly on measurement, measurement tools and measurement skills. That guarantees you a culture based on measurement and an appropriate skill-set to solve your measurement challenges. A Digital Watchdog should have NO vested interested in your spend. They should not manage ANY media budget or have any stake in which channels you invest in or use.

That’s what you should expect of a Digital Watchdog. Here’s what they should expect of you.

A Digital Watchdog needs to be given a cross-channel view of your customers and measurement. They need to see and have access to all your marketing spend and agency reporting. A Digital Watchdog needs to be able to create or collaborate on the creation of a comprehensive view of measurement standardization. As long as you allow each channel to measure itself its own way, you can’t expect ANYONE to make sense of the whole picture.

There are some key steps when it comes to getting started with a Digital Watchdog. Usually, you’ll start with review of the measurement in-place for each channel – is it complete, accurate, and robust? Having the basic measurement infrastructure in place (and knowing it’s right) is essential.

The second step is typically the creation of a standardized measurement framework (based on segmentation) that can be applied to every channel. Useful measurement begins with audience segmentation and drives across your business naturally – not by forcing your business into artificial measurement constructs.

Once you’ve got a good framework in place, it’s time to execute both Media-Mix and Attribution Modeling to understand spending interactions and optimization. Media-Mix Modeling is your best tool for deciding how moving the levers of marketing spend by channel drive total business results. Attribution Modeling helps you understand how channels work in harmony (or at cross-purposes) when it comes to acquisition, engagement and conversion.

At the same time, you’ll want to identify the holes and gaps where your agency measurement isn’t adequate, where their performance is sub-optimal, or where you’re not getting the attention you deserve. Your Digital Watchdog should drive channel-specific optimizations for “problem” agencies and help you evaluate how to get more from your relationships.

With the dollars at stake in today’s marketing world, there’s just too much at stake to count on your agencies doing the right thing with measurement. They are in the wrong place, with the wrong tools, the wrong motives and the wrong skill sets to do the job right.

Bob Heyman is a keynote speaker at Optimization Summit 2011, and all attendees will receive a copy of his book, “Marketing by the Numbers: How to Measure and Improve the ROI of Any Campaign,” provided by HubSpot.

Gary Angel, President and CTO, Semphonic, contributed heavily to this blog post as well.

Related Resources:

Optimization Summit 2011

Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

New Chart: What Social Metrics are Organizations Monitoring and Measuring?

Maximize your Agency ROI

Photo attribution: Randy Robertson

Social Media Marketing: How to optimize the customer experience to benefit from word-of-mouth advertising

April 14th, 2011
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Do you know the problem with the customer experience? It doesn’t have a media sales rep.

So no one is taking you out to a nice lunch, plying you with semi-fine wine while slowly separating you from your budget and increasing your media spend on it.

However, that doesn’t mean that the customer experience doesn’t generate media for you. We live in a digital age where you must assume that every customer is also a publisher. So, if you invest in your customers, you can gain significant positive media exposure. Fail to invest? You can get significant exposure as well…it just won’t be as brand-friendly as those TV spots you just bought.

So, while businesses are expected to spend $214.3 billion on advertising in 2011(according to SNL Kagan), what return will they get for their investment? In recent research by Satmetrix, only four percent of Americans said they trust advertising the most as an information source when choosing products or services. The top choice? Independent sources (83 percent), especially those with whom they have personal relationships.

While recent research from Experian (warning: there is a squeeze page) disagrees on the exact number, it reaffirms the importance of winning over your customers. It states, “Despite consumer reliance on digital devices and Internet-provided information, the most influential element driving purchase decisions today is still word-of-mouth.”

Experian found that 54 percent of consumers chose word-of-mouth as highly influential to their purchase decisions. Of course, this shouldn’t be news to you. You probably learned about word-of-mouth in Marketing 101.

But, a lot has changed since then. As stated above, every customer you have is now likely a publisher as well. So now there is even word-of-mouth advertising from people your consumers have never even met. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “nearly six-in-ten adults (58%) have done research online about the products and services they buy, and about a quarter (24%) have posted comments or reviews online about the things they buy.”

So, how do you optimize the customer experience to get the most from word-of-mouth advertising today?

There is no one right answer, of course. I asked around a little in this vast, resourceful marketing community of ours. Read on for a few tips, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as well…

Your customers can see right through your marketing so you might as well let them

“When a company is humble enough to admit a weakness, they immediately distinguish themselves from the competition. It opens the door for a trust relationship.

The consumer is all too aware of the fact that we are not perfect. To pretend otherwise only serves to raise their suspicion. Tell them what you can’t do, and they’ll believe you when you tell then what you can do.”

– Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director (CEO), MECLABS



Transparent marketing is essential. According to the Satmetrix study, 20 percentof those who defected a company did so because of unfair fees or charges.

“Companies still need to advertise to create market awareness, but market trends such as the increased use of social media networks and consumer reviews online are all increasing transparency about the actual experiences that companies deliver, and what customers think of them,” John Abraham, general manager of Net Promoter programs at Satmetrix, said. “You just can’t hide any longer behind bad quality. Advertising and marketing messages need to line up with customers’ real experiences. So, first and foremost, you have to get the experience right.”

We’ll talk about getting that experience right in just a minute. But first, how do you ensure that your advertising and marketing messages are transparent and truly reflect what your customer is experiencing? You don’t want to be the Comical Ali of your company, claiming victory while the facts on the ground so clearly conflict with your messages. And while he may have literally had a gun to his head, forcing him to make ridiculous claims…you don’t. You have a choice.

As I’ve said before in these (Web) pages, I think Transparent Marketing: How to earn the trust of a skeptical consumer is an excellent guide, but, in full transparency, it is written by the man who signs my paychecks – Dr. Flint McGlaughlin.

So, I also wanted to get a perspective from someone outside of MECLABS and provide a very granular example that you could apply to your marketing efforts today. I asked Ryan Deutsch, VP of Strategic Services, StrongMail, about transparency in email marketing. He said that “welcome programs offer the best opportunity for transparency” and offered these specific tips:

  • Provide examples of the types of messages the subscriber will be receiving
  • Provide an overview of the frequency of communication and give the consumer the opportunity to set preferences around cadence
  • Provide an explanation of how data is captured within the email program and how that is used to create more targeted and relevant messages
  • Explain the privacy policy of the brand
  • Explain the opt-out and unsubscribe options

Don’t dictate, discover

“It is the customer who determines what a business is. For it is the customer, and he alone, who through being willing to pay for a good or for a service, converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods. What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance – especially not to the future of the business and to its success. What the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers “value,” is decisive – it determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it will prosper.”

– Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management



In Peter Drucker’s day, it was far more difficult to determine what the customer considered valuable. Today, you have almost instant access to that information in many different ways:

  • Test your value proposition – You can test and measure your value proposition in real-time under real-world conditions with your actual customers using PPC ads
  • Actually ask your customers – Use automated exit surveys, ensure your sales and customer service teams track customer interactions in a CRM system, engage in one-on-one conversations in user forums, or use technology in some other creative way to pick your customers’ brains.
  • Listen to what they say – Social media monitoring has become a very powerful tool to learning from your customers. Of course, don’t stop at listening to customers and discovering what they want, use social media to respond as well. For example…

I asked Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing, Eloqua how he uses social media to discover what customers want and nurture word-of-mouth advertising. As co-chair of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Ethics Panel, he knows a thing or two about the topic. Here’s what he had to say…

“All customers are not created equal. Those who engage with you on social channels are far more likely to be your brand advocates. In fact, at Eloqua, a client who engages with us on any social network is 450 percent more likely to be a brand promoter than our baseline client. This self-selecting group is a collection of ambassadors-in-waiting.  The key to unlocking their word-of-mouth is as simple as connecting with them on a personal level on their social channel of choice. That’s really all it takes.”

Truly serve your customers

“We learn whatever skills we need to service the customer. We build whatever technology we need to service the customer.”

– Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon



Think about Amazon for a moment. They mostly sell books and other stuff (lots of stuff) through an e-commerce store. Yet, out of seemingly nowhere, they launched their own hardware device – the Kindle. We take it for granted now, but for an e-commerce store to launch a hardware device in a segment that barely existed before it entered the market is quite revolutionary.

Why take that leap of faith? To truly serve the customer.

How can you truly serve your customers? After all, you’re likely not Jeff Bezos. You likely only have control over a small patch of territory in your overall company.

And yet, that patch is likely the tip of the spear in terms of customer interaction. You are in the unique position to discover and then shine a light on issues that really matter to your customers, to ensure that there is true value in your marketing propositions.

I asked Dave Ewart, Senior Director of Marketing, Satmetrix how marketers can achieve this. Satmetrix, the company behind the study referenced above, makes a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. Ewart said that successful customer-centric marketers:

  1. Continuously collect and analyze data about customer interactions and customer satisfaction, and they use automated customer listening and feedback systems;
  2. Track and measure word-of-mouth online, and identify and support customer advocates;
  3. Share data from customer interactions across organizational departments; this helps them strengthen relationships with customers and sometimes even uncovers untapped markets; and
  4. Lead a company-wide commitment to addressing and resolving customer issues and problems.

Don’t consider anything that impacts the customer “not my problem.” It’s you who made the promise upfront with your impressive marketing campaigns. So, it better be you who ensures that your company delivers on that promise with an exceptional customer experience.

If not, your customers hold the trump card. Advertising even more successful than yours. Word-of-mouth.

Related Resources

Hoax Marketing: Your brand comes first, humor second, even on April Fool’s Day

Social Media Marketing: Turning social media engagement into action at Threadless

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of transparent marketing

Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters

Social Marketing ROAD Map Handbook

Photo attribution: hansvanrijnberk

Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

April 12th, 2011
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Every advertising agency, SEO specialist, and PR firm likes to be seen as a partner, not a vendor. And that may well define your relationship. But, go down to accounting and explain that relationship, and they’ll laugh in your face.

And for good reason. While, hopefully, you do have that close knit partner relationship, at the end of the day, this is a financial arrangement and you must maximize the value of that arrangement.

On the face of it, performanced-based pricing seems like a no-brainer. You get a guaranteed result, or you don’t pay.

Is this a great country, or what?

Like many things, the devil is in the details. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the vendor knows the metrics far better than most prospective clients do. That means, in many cases, the vendor is selling the illusion of risk.  Second, and more importantly, you have to be sure the result you are paying for is the result you really want.

Let me show you what I mean. I’ll use a teleprospecting vendor as an example, and highlight the lesson you can get out of each example for the type of vendors you work with every day.

What intermediate metrics truly contribute to your success?

In B2B lead generation, a common result is defined as an appointment for sales people. The cost per appointment generally runs from about $400 to $800, depending typically on volume, your brand and the target.  If you can provide the vendor with the people your sales team absolutely, positively wants appointments with, you’re in business.

In my case, I would gladly take appointments with CMOs of B2B companies with $500 million or more in revenue. At least, that would probably be my immediate response. Of course, there might be a few CMOs in that target that oversee pure e-commerce plays, or highly commoditized, low-end products that do not require lead generation, my area of expertise (or, so I would like to think). Therefore, I might pay for some appointments that I don’t really want. So, the real cost for a qualified appointment might be a bit higher than I originally agreed to.

Then there is the hidden cost: sales productivity. The purpose of such services is to increase sales productivity. For these kinds of top executive-level appointments, the representative might very well expect to meet face-to-face with the CMO. So, you have to add to the equation the cost of the commuting time and meeting time. Loaded field sales costs for complex solutions often start at about $100 an hour and can be $500 an hour or more, for elite, high-end key account sales people.

Very quickly, a $500 appointment can become an $800 or even $1,500 appointment, especially if any serious commuting takes place. If the conversion-to-deal is high or the revenue-per-deal is high, then who cares? In many cases, however, buyers find out that 20 to 30 percent of the appointments are not a fit. Now the cost of the qualified appointment goes way up, and the soft cost of sales expense goes to the moon, not to mention the hit on sales productivity.

Unless you are absolutely certain that your sales team wants appointments with a particular set of individuals, then you really need to focus more on qualified leads, not just appointments.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you pick the correct intermediate metrics when paying for performance.

Are you helping  your vendors be successful?

OK, now you have learned your lesson, the hard way. You won’t do that again, right? So you negotiate a cost per lead fee structure. Before you do, you wisely work with sales to define BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) lead criteria and structure the deal accordingly. Again, the devil is in the details. What if sales discovered, after further review, that what they really wanted was to get in to larger accounts before the prospect had finalized a budget? In those cases, maybe the deal takes longer but the win rate is higher and the deal size is higher. Happens all the time. Now you have to try to change the deal. At least for some accounts.

With leads, there is also often subjective information, open to interpretation. Is the prospect really acting with authority? Do they really have a budget? Even seasoned sales people can be mistaken about such things. In short, lead qualification is almost always nuanced, complex and evolving, as the teleprospecting operation figures out how to qualify leads precisely and the sales organization figures out what it really wants and needs. This reality often creates conflict with the vendor initially, because the fee structure negotiated is not really the right fee structure and so one side or the other loses.

Finally, if the vendor is taking all the risk, many people understandably put vendor support on the back burner. It’s human nature. In reality, teleprospecting operations fail, including those that are in-house, without proper support from marketing and sales. For example, from marketing, this operation needs lists, assets and tools, and an appropriate supply of reasonably qualified responders. From sales, the team needs training and mentoring on qualification and precise, rapid feedback on leads..

After all, the fee is fixed and the operation should run on auto-pilot. You also might not bother investing in effective demand generation that feeds the vendor or even list development, instead allowing the vendor to get by on cold-calling decaying lists.

Your program then becomes the dumping ground for new hires. The vendor might also park underperformers there before giving them their walking papers. In other words, both you and the vendor try to extract some value out of the effort. But, some of what matters isn’t getting measured, like the cost in the market place to your brand because of the quality of the calling.

LESSON LEARNED: A business relationship is a two-way street. Your vendor can’t help you be successful, if you don’t help it be successful. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you!”

Is there transparency in your relationship?

So, what’s the right approach? It really depends on what you need and how clear you are about your needs. If you have a reasonably well-oiled, well-documented process and approach to teleprospecting, then asking the vendor to share in the risk and the upside can serve your mutual long-term interests.

If things are not going so well and you need to figure out the right approach, then pay-for-performance is going to create unnecessary conflict. You might be better served in that case to put your focus on determining the right model or strategy for teleprospecting and the parameters of a pilot. Insist on a level of transparency during the pilot and then use the pilot to optimize the approach. Then, after the production level has begun to plateau, start working on a shared risk model.

The right shared risk fee structures ensure that both the vendor and the client win if the program is working and lose if the program is failing. To arrive at such an arrangement, there must be clarity on both sides about mutual obligations and the consquences for non-compliance. Mutual trust and respect are also necessary, including a win-win approach to the fee structure.

To those who might argue that every dollar of profit a vendor makes is a dollar of margin that is lost to its clients, I would point to the free enterprise system. Everywhere in free markets, the quest for profits drives higher levels of efficiency (and losing money drives companies out of markets and out of business). If the vendor makes above average profits for driving above average efficiency, then its clients are the beneficiaries. And the profits that the vendor makes must always be tempered by what its competitors offer or what its clients believe they can achieve in-house.

LESSON LEARNED: A rising tide lifts all boats…as long as everyone is clear on how “tide” and “boat” are defined in the process. So, before you dive in, dip your toe in and start with a pilot that has flexibility to evolve over time. Once the proper success metrics have been discovered, and a working relationship is established, you can create a more successful payment model that truly shares risk and reward.

But don’t stop there. Look at this as an evolving fee model. Continue to optimize as you learn more about what creates a mutually successful relationship.

Related Resources

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

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Online Advertising: How your peers optimize banner ads

March 29th, 2011
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Online display ad spending by B2C marketers increased 57 percent over the last two years…which means more competition for your ads to get that click, and more pressure to deliver ROI on your ad spending.

To help you get the most from your banner ads, we’re hosting a webinar this Thursday, sponsored by TRUSTe, to teach you “How to optimize your banner ad performance while complying with new privacy regulations.”

But before we share our discoveries, we wanted to hear what you had to say. Here are a couple of our favorite tips for optimizing display advertising…

Match your ad closely with the landing page

Create a landing page for this ad, don’t send people to your homepage and make them figure out what to do next or where to look for their answer. Your ad attracted them for a reason – usually to solve a problem, so make sure you offer a solution that they can find easily before they lose interest:

  • Make sure your ad matches the look and feel of the page they will be landing on – from wording used, to matching the colors of the display ad with the landing page. You want to ensure the person who clicked on your ad knows they have arrived at the right site.
  • Reinforce your message from the ad through headlines and copy on the page, as well as images.
  • Along with your solution, make sure both the ad and the landing page have a call to action that clearly tells the visitor what step they need to take next in order to complete the desired action. Whether it be signing up for a newsletter or adding something to their shopping cart, a direct call to action promotes user activity.
  • Test. Don’t assume your first ad you created is working out well. Always test and see what you can do to improve the ad and landing page. When you have determined a winning ad – test a new one, make it a continual process.

Rebekah May, Founder, Whole SEO

 

First ask “Why?”

You need to know why you’re running display ads long before you start. So many companies have said “we need to try banner” with no idea of whether they want to run a branded campaign or a direct response campaign, and whether they want to run on a CPA, CPC or CPM basis. Display will flop dramatically if you don’t have a goal.

And then make sure that whatever your goal is, you must design your creative around it. There’s no point putting a brand ad out on a direct response campaign (or vice versa). I’ve seen people create banners that are so pretty but have no call to action, and then wonder why they get no clicks.

– Carl Eisenstein, Founder, DropDigger



Related Resources

How to optimize your banner ad performance while complying with new privacy regulations — Webinar, Thursday, March  31, 2011, 1-2 PM.

Sherpa 101: Online Display Ads, Part II – Copywriting, Design Tips & Ad Networks + How to Counter ‘Banner Blindness’

Online Advertising: The 3 obstacles you must overcome to create an effective banner ad

This Just Tested: PPC vs. banner ads?

Jujitsu Marketing: How B2B marketers leveraged Super Bowl buzz (minus the media buy)

February 10th, 2011
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The Super Bowl isn’t only the Super Bowl of football, but the Super Bowl of marketing as well.

Big splashy ads. Massive media spends. And tons of buzz in the media, both print and social.

Ah, but pity the poor B2B marketer. While she can probably find the budget to land a spot on the big game (most memorable for me – the EDS cowboys and their cat herding adventures), she isn’t selling sodas or cars, so she can’t get a big-name celebrity to pitch industrial plumbing equipment or enterprise telephone software.

Or can she? Salesforce.com hired The Black Eyed Peas (personally, the first person that come to my mind when I think of a real-time, enterprise collaboration platform is apl.de.ap) in its recent Super Bowl spots. Sounds like a lot of fun, but was there ROI? Considering they spent “big numbers” it’s quite hard to judge.

Jujitsu Marketing

Aside from having big numbers and black-eyed peas on your side, can your B2B marketing efforts benefit from a major consumer event like the Super Bowl? I’d argue, yes. For the sake of this blog post, and to parrot every other marketing blogger who is much better than me at branding their own terms, let’s call these attempts Jujitsu Marketing (perhaps a subset of real-time marketing).

In case you’re not familiar, jujitsu is a martial art designed to use an (often better equipped) enemy’s energy against him, instead of directly fighting it. Jujitsu Marketing (and I’m just making this up off the top of my head, as I type so there are no hard and fast rules) uses the energy created by a (most likely) larger marketer in the consumer realm to grab some B2B attention and buzz.

Here are two examples, one for Enterprise and one for SMB B2B marketers. One example leverages a partner’s energy, the other example leverages a competitor.

ENTERPRISE B2B MARKETING: USING EMAIL TO ENGAGE B2B AUDIENCE ON A SUNDAY

As I mentioned above, BEP was selling B2B during SB XLV. What I saw as bizarre, the always clever marketers at Marketo saw as a marketing opportunity to ask their email list if this was, in fact, bizarre.

“A few of my colleagues read that Salesforce.com had purchased commercial slots during the Super Bowl halftime show one week before airtime. We were impressed that Salesforce.com would invest millions of dollars to promote Chatter.com via a medium dominated by B2C companies,” remarked Shonal Narayan, Manager, Marketing Programs, Marketo.

“Having this prior knowledge, we debated amongst ourselves if this [email send] was a good investment. Feeling compelled to ask what other marketers would think about the ad, we came up with the idea of a poll right after the ads aired live, so it was still fresh in people’s minds.”

click image to enlarge

There were two landing pages to confirm to recipients that the poll voting had been captured, one for the “yes” and one for the “no.”

Narayan’s team followed up with a results email the next day to everyone that participated in the poll. It drove people to a landing page that encourage people to tweet. The landing pages for the initial email send were also redirected to the results URL, so anybody clicking the initial poll email after the results were sent would see the results from the poll.

click image to enlarge


Keep mobile in mind

When leveraging a consumer event, keep in mind that your B2B audience likely doesn’t have a bulky gray Dell on their lap when engaging in the activity.

“[We] ultimately decided to use a single-click poll embedded within the email to make it easy for the people viewing the email on their mobile device. Just a simple ‘click yes or no’,” Narayan said.

The results: Marketo, B2B Super Bowl advertising win

“We conduct many A/B tests, and we’ve found that Sunday emails (especially P.M. sends) do not perform well. However, this campaign did particularly well. We wanted to give a buffer after the halftime ads had been shown, so I scheduled it to send at 5:40pm PT,” Narayan said.

Here are the results from Narayan’s team:

  • Email sent to more than 20,000 marketers in the US and Canada.
  • 13.5% open rate, yielding a 16.5% click to open rate.
  • More than 680 respondend to the poll (which is more than the initial click performance reveals, indicating that marketers were forwarding the email on to colleagues and friends)

And the results of the poll itself? Personally, I thought the Salesforce.com ads were ridiculous. After all, the only thing Will.i.am and Salesforce.com have in common is dots in their name. But in the end, 63 percent agreed that B2B advertising is a good idea. Ouch. Hard to argue with data.

Or Narayan, who disagreed with me as well. “I think it was a good idea. I like how the ads were at the bookends of the halftime show, integrating the performers into the ads. I like how Salesforce.com stayed consistent with Will.i.am as somewhat of a spokesperson, as he appeared at their Dreamforce event.”

Surely, Narayan at least agrees with my newly branded term, Jujitsu Marketing, to describe his efforts?

“It wasn’t so much Marketo leveraging someone else’s name and investment to draw attention to our brand, we were excited and supportive of a SaaS company finally breaking through and attempting to become a household name,” Narayan stated.

Ah, well, so maybe the term isn’t as fitting when you’re playing off of a partner’s efforts. So let’s take a look at how an SMB marketer leveraged a competitor’s Super Bowl ads. From my past work, the Competitive Sales Office always seemed to have the most fun…

SMB B2B MARKETING: WEB 2.0 REVS UP SOME EXCITEMENT

GoDaddy.com has been advertising to the SMB in the Super Bowl since 2005. And, supposedly because of these ads, has garnered a 50 percent market share of domain registrations. This year, it focused on selling a new top-level domain (.co).

So, what’s the Jujitsu Marketing move against Danica Patrick and a $3 million media buy? Cloris Leachman and social media.

You read that right. On their Go Granny microsite, Network Solutions posted a “mockumentary” YouTube video of Cloris Leachman doing three minutes of sexual innuendo jokes, followed by (I couldn’t make this up) an interstitial titled “Get Serious,” and then an actual serious minute with Lisa Stone, Co-founder & CEO, BlogHer.com. The video was also posted to other sites, such as Metacafe.com and Frequency.com.

You can check out that microsite at http://gogranny.co but, fair warning since this is a family marketing blog, it features Frau Blücher as you’ve never (wanted to) seen her before, including licking a man’s hand and discussing her chest.

But this was not a one-channel effort. The campaign included a variety of elements:

  • Banner ads
  • Media outreach
  • Web 2.0 “share” functionality (via email, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Twitter promotion on #GoGranny

According to Shashi Bellamkonda, Social Media Swami, Network Solutions, all of these channels had a consistent message, tightly timed around the celebration of the Super Bowl and launch of Go Daddy’s new Go Daddy Girl commercial.

Monday morning quarterbacking on the video creative aside, let’s take a look at how this Jujitsu Marketing campaign did on the field. To the results…

Results: Aaron Rodgers, Cloris Leachman have reason to celebrate

Since launching on the Friday before the Super Bowl, the campaign has generated the following impressions as of 10 a.m. EST on Tuesday:

  • Twitter – 18,026,251
  • Blogs – 14,688,221
  • Video – 8,332,625

It also had a viral element:

  • Facebook – 2,000 shares
  • Twitter—1,680 retweets

And most importantly…

  • 500% increase in .co sales (based on historical data from previous weekends – since .co is relatively new, there is no apples-to-apples comparison for last year’s Super Bowl weekend).

“The success of the campaign also stemmed from Network Solutions years of listening, community engagement and community building strategies through social media,” Bellamkonda said.

MAKE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITY

So, B2B marketers, there is no need to sit glumly on the sidelines and watch as your consumer marketing peers bask in the glow of big-time events like the Super Bowl. If you can’t find budget or justification for hiring pop stars to pitch your products in prime-time, slip on your Jujitsu Marketing belts and get to work.

“Instead of investing millions of dollars in Super Bowl ads, we leveraged the power of the Internet to promote our brand, like we do for our small business customers every day. With a little bit of creativity and the support of an online community we’re letting the masses know that as a company, we like to have some fun, but when it comes to our customers, we take their business seriously,” Sanjay Gupta, Head of Marketing, Network Solutions.

Related resources

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

B2B Marketing: Marketing automation helps with lead nurturing and management

B2B Lead Generation: Increasing leads 296% by analyzing Web traffic — Case Study

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Newsletter – Weekly demand generation and lead nurturing case studies

jujitsu photo by:  saia.neogaia