March 30, 2017

Is “social media campaign” an oxymoron?

If you had asked me a few years ago whether the traditional marketing campaign had any place in social media I would have scoffed. Just more evidence of marketing’s old-fashioned, ADHD-driven, love-’em-and-leave-’em approach.

I would have had only slightly less disdain for the audience for these campaigns. Fly-by-night opportunists hoping to win your Facebook sweepstakes. Win or lose, after the contest is over, they’d ditch you as quickly as a toddler dispatching a fistful of broccoli.

After all, “engaging” is one of the four components of social media management. If all you do is run contests and campaigns on Facebook, how can you expect to hold onto prospects over the long term?

But then I see something like HP Technology Services (HPTS)’ “Where’s the Humanity in Your Technology” campaign, or Hitachi Data Services (HDS)’ Social Media Buzz campaign. These campaigns were the winners of this year’s ITSMA Marketing Excellence Awards. (You can read synopses of the programs here and here.) The campaigns used two methods that play well to Facebook users:

  • Let them play games. You’ve heard of Farmville, right? Facebook is the fun social network. HP questioned Facebookers about their work styles and matched them to an “IT personality.” Then HP did something cool. It drove them to a microsite featuring a hand-picked group of HP experts (such as these HP cloud experts) with the same “personality.” Visitors could click on the experts to learn more about them and connect directly with them.
  • Appeal to their sense of charity. Many people feel less silly engaging in games and contests if it is part of doing a good deed. Companies are having success pulling in fans by linking to charitable cases. In HP’s case, it was CARE, the aid relief organization.
  • Let them win stuff. Contests, giveaways, and sweepstakes do really well on Facebook. Indeed, HDS initially started publicizing its contest across Twitter, LinkedIn, Google AdWords, and with media partners as well as Facebook, but soon shifted most of the budget to Facebook because response was so much better there. HDS also did something cool. It segmented its offers to get to the audience it really wanted: After running people through a qualification form, the target high-level executives got a chance to win a free IT storage assessment. Non-targets could win Hitachi consumer products and went to a separate database. The strong results from campaign show that C-levels actually are on Facebook and are just as vulnerable to contests as the rest of us.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Koch, you slut. You’re just warming up to social media campaigns because you work for ITSMA and these are the companies who won your contest.

I’m not a slut, I’m a snob
Actually, I’m not a slut. I’m more of a snob. I’m a content guy and I think thought leadership is the best way to build nurturing relationships with contacts in B2B marketing. I still believe that. But my monism was shaken not just by our social media award winners but by something else I saw this week. Marketing automation vendor Eloqua released a SlideShare entitled 10 ways to “solve” Facebook for B2B.

The presentation mostly hypes Eloqua’s Facebook campaign, but a couple of things stood out for me. One was that a sweepstakes drove 43% of the traffic to Eloqua’s Facebook page, far more than other sources.

Plan for the loss of likes
Then came the real epiphany. They actually planned the campaign with the expectation that many of the “Likes” would disappear after the sweepstakes. They planned for it and tried to stanch the bleeding with a steady stream of relevant content to try to hang onto the minority who came for the contest but also had some level of interest in and need for marketing automation.

This is your funnel on Facebook
So maybe this is your funnel on Facebook: Build spikes in traffic with contests and giveaways and then try to slow the losses with content so that the overall pipeline grows somewhat after the giveaways have settled.

What do you think? Can campaigns coexist comfortably with a thought leadership lead nurturing strategy? Or will the campaigns just distract us from the need to do the hard work of a consistent relationship building strategy?

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We need a chief marketing analytics officer

There’s lots of talk out there these days about the need for a technology guru within the B2B marketing department. Paul Dunay makes the case for one in this post, and Scott Brinker has been beating the drum for this for some time.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but I wonder about the long-term need for a marketing technologist. In the short term, I think marketing has a lot of catching up to do in terms of technology. Most companies do not yet have closed-loop lead management processes supported by systems, for example.

So we need some important systems installed in the short-term. But once the system of record is installed (and many of them are SaaS), do we really need a CIO for marketing?

We need to connect the analytical dots
I think the larger and more long-term need is for marketing to become data driven. We need to use analytics to quantify and manage how fast we move prospects through the buying process and to increase loyalty and trust after they’ve bought from us.

I’d rather see a chief marketing analytics officer than a chief technologist. Or if this person is going to be a technologist, he or she must have a serious grounding in analytics. B2C companies have these “wonks” today. I think B2B marketing groups need the same emphasis–and that need will never go away once the systems are installed.

What do you think?

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Why Lead Management Automation Really Matters

We should care more about lead management automation in B2B marketing. Maybe we don’t care enough because we’re focusing on the wrong reasons for doing it.

It isn’t because the software for automating this stuff has improved, or because it’s available through the cloud so you don’t have to deal with those people over in IT.

No, there’s something bigger going on here. And that is a huge change in the buying process.

In part it is being driven by social media. ITSMA’s annual survey of IT buyers found that this year, for the first time, a majority of buyers in the US—and 75% when you include other countries—are using social media in the purchasing process—especially the younger ones.

In our research we’ve also seen consistently over the past few years that two-thirds of buyers prefer to research their buying options themselves rather than waiting for vendors to contact them. Indeed, research by Forbes and Google found that 80% of C-level executives perform at least three web searches per day.

And finally, the trade press and general business media are dying. We have fewer and fewer outlets to do the heavy lifting of thought leadership for us by featuring our subject matter experts in in-depth analytical articles. Yet buyers are hungrier than ever for this kind of information and insight.

Buyers are removing salespeople from the buying process
What this all means is that buyers are really trying to remove salespeople from the earliest stages of the buying process. They want to become as informed as possible about current trends and their buying options before they ever speak to a salesperson.

This is where we as marketers need to provide more content—but not sales content. This content must be like what the press used to provide, objective, idea-based, and educational—not selling. Put another way, we have to use content to establish a relationship with buyers where our salespeople can’t. And we have to continue to build that relationship over time until those buyers are ready to talk to us.

That’s why lead management automation is important. It’s too difficult to track that relationship and know when someone is ready to do more than just read your white papers unless you have a process for lead management and can automate it. You have to be able to connect content with behavior with action. That’s not possible manually. It just won’t scale.

What do you think? What is stopping your company from creating an automated lead management process?

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Social media isn’t enough. We need a marketing transformation.

During one of the first few days I went to work at CIO magazine in 1995, I had what we called a “vendor visit”—one of many I would have in the coming years. The idea behind the visits was to avoid having us journos become isolated in our ivory tower. We needed to hear from marketers who were out there day-to-day listening to CIOs’ problems and aspirations. Plus, many were advertisers, so the visits made it seem like we weren’t completely ignoring what they had to say.

But mostly we were.

Back then what marketers had to say was all about their offerings. And why not? The IT industry was on fire and the stuff was flying out the doors. Marketers and salespeople didn’t have to do much coaxing to get CIOs to buy, so why get complicated?

But a quick read of our magazine showed that we didn’t write about products. We wrote about the typical concerns of a C-level executive, such as strategy, leadership, organizational design, and change management. Kind of a Fortune magazine for IT executives.

Bibles, vacuums, and boxes
But the vendors had little need to engage with CIOs at that kind of level. And the guy that showed up to see me that day was a representation of the times. Big, stony-faced and intimidating, with a lapsed football player’s gut and a big school ring buried into one of his fingers. He wasn’t a marketer, but he had been sent by a marketer, who hadn’t bothered to accompany him or even send an agency PR person for translation and kind supplication. So much for hearing about the latest strategic trends affecting CIOs.

This guy was a salesman. Could have been bibles or vacuum cleaners, but they didn’t need sales guys for that stuff anymore. They needed guys to take orders for these boxes. He swung his expanded briefcase up onto the table, pulled out a media kit bulging with press releases about speeds and feeds and plunked it down on the table in front of me. “That’s for you,” he said. Then he launched into a pitch, delivered in a tone and with an expression that made it clear that this time could be money in his pocket if it wasn’t for me.

For my part, I made sure I conveyed the same body language, while choosing the chair nearest the door. I counted the minutes (these things go even more slowly when you have to listen).

Michael Jordan and the baseball bat
When it finally ended he said something that I’ve never forgotten. As he grandiosely snapped the buckles on the briefcase and dragged it off the table, he snorted, “CIO magazine, huh? Why don’t you have CIOs writing it?”

At that moment, I realized that I wasn’t just wasting his time. In his mind, I shouldn’t even have been working there. Given my minimal knowledge of IT at the time, I guess he had a point.

But it was clear that he had no concept of how difficult it is to write clear, compelling content about complex subjects. Assuming CIOs would be willing to accept the pay cut, and smart and determined as they are, I’m certain that few have the talent for or interest in the publishing process.

What am I paying for?
Marketers today are in the same position I was with that sales guy in 1995: Wondering how to explain the value and difficulty of creating clear, compelling content about a complex subject.

Except that today many of those sales guys are gone. Today, more salespeople are able to have business and strategy discussions with customers and take the time to listen to their needs. Thus, their skepticism becomes sharper and more justified. If I can do all this in a sales call now, why do I need you?

At ITSMA, we’ve seen investments in the things that we used to identify as the key contributions of marketing—like advertising, brochures, events, and trade shows—shrink consistently. And today we’re seeing marketing budgets as a percentage of revenue dipping to their lowest levels ever—at or below 1%.

Businesses are asking if you’re not doing all these things you used to do anymore, why should I give you more budget? And if I do, what am I paying for?

The model needs transforming
Pledging to do more with social media isn’t the answer. What we need to be telling the business is that we’re going to transform marketing completely. Getting into social media really means getting into publishing. It means creating a constant stream of idea-based content that keeps buyers interested and engaged. That’s hard, and it means a real shift in skills for many marketing departments.

I think the suspicion that we see of social media, which is justified, is mixed with fear. Let’s identify that fear so that marketers will have an easier time making the transition. I think it’s fear that the hardest aspect of marketing, content development, is ascending to become marketing’s most important role, as advertising, traditional PR, and events shrink and fall away.

The content engine
Marketing departments are going to have to transform themselves into content development engines. And just as important, they are going to have to sell the value of that engine to their businesses to prevent further cuts to the budget. As McKinsey consultant David Edelman said at the ITSMA annual conference last November, we can’t make social media an add-on to a system that isn’t adding the value that it once did. We need to look at how to do things differently.

Here are some of the key aspects of that transformation:

  • Marketing is becoming data. We couldn’t measure the effectiveness of ads in the old days, but the CEO saw the ads and signed off on them, so that made it okay. We couldn’t measure the effectiveness of events and trade shows, but sales people saw the crowds at the booth and the bar and so it didn’t matter. But as we shift to a content focus, it is all online and its impact is invisible. There is no visual, visceral confirmation of its impact. But a white paper isn’t just content; it is data. It can be tracked and measured.
  • Automation creates metrics. We tear our hair out trying to devise metrics that we can’t report on because we don’t have the data. If we automate the processes that matter, the metrics we need will be staring us in the face.
  • The funnel becomes electric. The impact of our content will be visible if that content is linked to an automated, closed-loop lead process. Getting agreement with sales on a sales-ready lead is critical. And with all the SaaS-enabled software available today, there’s no excuse for not automating the lead management process—at least up to the point where marketing hands over sales-ready leads. You don’t even need to involve IT anymore. And the excuse that these systems don’t integrate with old CRM systems is becoming less and less valid. If the vendors can’t help with the integration, IT can. Marketing needs a better relationship with IT.
  • Content creates relationships. It isn’t enough to develop idea-driven content and ship it out; we have to redesign the creation and dissemination processes so that readers are lured into conversations and relationships. This is where social media tools are helpful. But developing and disseminating content that builds relationships—think publishers and subscribers—takes different skills.
  • Buyers become approachable. After consolidating their power for years through internet search, B2B buyers are beginning to emerge from behind their firewalls and show up in places where marketers can find them. We have to meet them halfway. That requires a culture shift in the company and new skills for marketers and employees.
  • PR becomes conversation. We’re all PR now. Employees, subject matter experts and marketers all need to represent the company, but in a way that is transparent, constructive, and cordial. PR people meanwhile should use their thick skins and relationship skills to help build the conversation in social media. But it means shaking up the PR department and our relationships with PR agencies.

At ITSMA, we’re calling 2010 the year of marketing transformation. We wouldn’t use such grandiose terms if we didn’t see a real need for change. When she saw the trend in the numbers that we prepare our annual budget study, my colleague Julie Schwartz asked an important question: “Do we want to spend another year doing more with less? Marketing has to do things differently.”

We’re going to offer more specific on how marketers should make this transformation backed up by selected data from the 2010 survey at our webcast, The Year of Marketing Transformation: ITSMA’s 2010 State of the Profession Address on January 26.

In the meantime, do you agree that marketing needs a complete transformation? If so, how would you do it?

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Why marketers must become the new publishers

One of the great trends were seeing at ITSMA is increased automation of the lead process. It’s great because the software acts as a battering ram for alignment between marketing and sales.

But this trend has an unintended side effect: it exposes our content development processes (or lack thereof). If we now have a system measuring how long it takes marketing to nurture a lead until it is sales ready, we will now also have a measure of whether the nurturing period increases or decreases over time.

That metric is going to be critically important as we automate the lead process because nurturing is marketing’s special sauce. It’s how we move people tantalizingly close to a sale—without ever putting a salesperson in front of them.

We accomplish this feat through content. And if our nurturing metric is going to improve over time, so must our content.

Improvement through relevance
By improve I don’t mean that we all have to learn to write like Tolstoy. By improve I mostly mean that we need to make the content more and more relevant to target buyers. I’ve spent the last two days as a guest at Marketing Sherpa’s B2B conference in Boston and the many excellent speakers used publishing metaphors constantly. And I think those metaphors are useful for simplifying the content process (and for improving it) because most of us are familiar with the publishing model.

The publishing model is also relevant because as a business model, it is dying—especially for trade magazines. The ad revenues that once funded coverage of every arcane niche of technology have dried up, and so has the content that could have mentioned our companies. Demand for that content hasn’t gone away however, and companies that can provide an adequate alternative will grow their businesses more than those that can’t.

How to adapt the publishing process to marketing
To fulfill an ever-increasing demand for content you need a process. And the publishing process works better than the marketing content development process because the publishing process developed without an overlord (e.g., salespeople screaming for a brochure today or an event tomorrow). The publishing process is intended to identify a target audience, develop an understanding of that audience, and deliver targeted, relevant content. To consistently beat competitors, that content needs to remain relevant and targeted. If it doesn’t, circulation drops, ad revenue drops, and the publication goes out of business.

In other words, relevance is the primary measure of success.

That’s how we should think about our marketing content process. Here are some aspects of the publishing process that drive relevance:

  • Identify the target reader. Publications fail if they don’t grasp exactly whom they are trying to reach and why. Marketers need to do a similar kind of segmentation.
  • Create an editorial calendar. Every good publication has an editorial calendar. When I was at CIO, we despised the calendar process because it was the primary instrument that our salespeople used to demonstrate relevance with potential advertisers (and our competitors could see it). But looking back on it I think we despised it more because it revealed the gaps in our coverage and in our knowledge of readers and their needs. The calendar planning exercise always gave us a ton of ideas that wound up driving much of our coverage for the year—especially since we weren’t a newsmagazine and most of the topics were evergreen. Much of the content we offer as marketers is also evergreen, so there’s no reason not to have a plan for content. If nothing else, it gives you something to wave in salespeople’ faces the next time they come screaming about a brochure.
  • Research the reader. Most magazines do annual reader surveys to ask subscribers what they think of the magazine and what could be improved. Through these surveys, they construct archetypes of the typical reader. Marketers can replace offers with survey questions once in awhile to help build an understanding of timely issues to drive future content.
  • Interview the players and the experts. Journalists aren’t experts in the fields they cover, but they’re experts at finding those that are. They’re also good at finding the people who live the stuff they’re writing about every day. All good journalism comes from expert insight and real-world examples. Marketers need to talk to subject matter experts inside the company, influencers outside the company (analysts, academics, bloggers, journalists), and customers. All you need to do is ask questions and the content will flow out of these people.
  • Audit content. When surveying readers, magazines also ask whether readers like specific articles and subject areas covered in the magazine. Marketers need the same feedback from customers and from salespeople. If you don’t have the money to do research, consider adding a review button or comment feature to content.
  • Diversify content. Most magazines are a mixture of long and short, graphic and text-heavy stories. Marketing content needs to be similarly diverse.
  • Cycle through top reader interests. Magazines develop a short list of topic areas that matter most to their readers and hit those topics regularly as part of the issue planning process. Marketers need to develop a similar list as they plan their content calendars.
  • Be timely. Editors always try to leave room in the planning process for the timely, exclusive scoop—the story that identifies an important trend before others do. For marketers, being timely means having content that matches every stage of the buying cycle, so that you have a chance for an “exclusive” at each stage.

What’s your publishing process for content? What have I left out?

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The information gap between marketing and sales—and how to fill it

I’m hearing a lot from clients and researchers about how vast swaths of salespeople need to be eliminated as companies transition from selling products to services and solutions. The estimates range from one third of the sales force, according to these academics, to as much as two thirds.

It’s portrayed as a DNA thing—some are born to do consultative selling and to have “executive-level conversations” and some are not.

Hogwash.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do think there is a gene for sales. Great salespeople truly are born, not made. They have genetic tendencies towards extroversion, confidence, hope (some would say denial), relationship building, and the real differentiator: emotional perception—usually expressed as the ability to “read people” (and one’s self). (For more on this, read about Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.)

Why salespeople can’t make the cut
But I think we start slicing the genetic material a little too thinly when we separate the product salespeople from the services salespeople. If you assume that we haven’t hired the wrong people from the start—i.e., the order takers who never really had any true sales skills, or people who are so inflexible or fearful that they simply refuse to try to make the transition—I think we need something else to explain why so few salespeople seem able to make the cut.

I see two big reasons:

  1. Incentives. Salespeople are about the money. It’s the yardstick of success and self-worth. Companies need to make it worth salespeople’s while to endure the longer sales cycle and lower margins that come with services. Of course, devising those incentives, putting them in place, and driving the cultural change necessary to make them stick is a maddeningly complex process that helps keep consultants and academics in business.
  2. Information. This is the one that’s actually within marketers’ control. Information, not DNA, is the most important piece of the consultative sale and the executive-level relationship. With customers able to do so much research online, the way to get in the door these days is to have information that isn’t readily available elsewhere.

Executives live under constant fear of myopia—that by focusing so much of their time on internal operations, they are missing something important out there in the market. Salespeople who can ameliorate those real or perceived fears with information—and keep doing it over time—will outsell the mere backslappers every time. The essence of this skill is always being able to answer the question: “What are you hearing from others?”

Information is marketing’s responsibility
It’s not salespeople’ responsibility to come up with the answer to this question on their own. Executives are looking for reliable, objective, and insightful answers that go beyond an anecdotal summation of what’s going on with the other accounts in a salesperson’s territory.

If marketers aren’t supplying salespeople with the answers they need, then we need to think of ourselves as partly responsible for all those salespeople going out the door in the transition from products to services. We need to supply salespeople with the information that will create the impression among customers that they are missing something if they don’t stay in touch—an information dependency.

How to supply the information salespeople need
We need to set up a reliable pipeline of information that salespeople can access when and where they need it. Here’s how:

  • Get permission. Sales leaders need to agree that information is necessary for their people to succeed. If they don’t, then the pipeline will feed into a black hole. You may need a third party, such as a sales consultant, to convince sales leaders that they need more than intuition to make the sale.
  • Create incentives for sharing. The information pipeline will be stronger if salespeople have a reason to share information about their own accounts with other salespeople and with marketing. Salespeople need to be active contributors to the information pipeline.
  • Monitor the chatter. Few salespeople have the time or the interest in giving marketers updates on what they’re hearing out in the field. Marketers need to be able to capture that information by monitoring the channels that salespeople use to communicate with each other, whether it is through e-mail or CRM systems. Marketing automation and CRM vendors are beginning to offer ways to capture that kind of information.
  • Do the research. Marketers need to do the primary and secondary research on markets and customers to lend the depth and objectivity necessary to create information dependency among customers. Surveys work particularly well for assuring customers that the information they’re getting is more than a veiled sales pitch.
  • Bring in the experts. Marketers need to identify and make alliances with internal subject matter experts, external academics, and analysts and filter and feed that information into the pipeline.
  • Make it a joint pipeline. The channel for monitoring the chatter needs to be integrated with the channel marketing uses to pump information to sales—salespeople need a reason to access it as part of their normal routine.
  • Make it self-service. Salespeople need easy access to the information that marketing gathers if they are to use it. If they can’t find the information they need, they will quickly lose interest.
  • Make it social. Take advantage of social media platforms to create information sharing groups for salespeople. There are ways to create private groups so that the public can’t see your groups or the information you’re sharing. Yammer is one great example of this.

What have I left out? How are you providing the information salespeople need to make the consultative sale?

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Four reasons to stop measuring marketing

It’s time to declare marketing metrics a failure once and for all. ITSMA research has long showed that when we do it at all, we do it poorly. It’s difficult to parse out the contribution that marketing makes to a sale and it’s even more difficult to get salespeople to spend the time figuring out/checking the box/giving credit in the quest to determine whether marketing played a role in making the sale.

So we should just stop. Now.

I’ve had some good conversations this week with ITSMA’s Julie Schwartz and with lead management guru Brian Carroll and we all agree that in the broadest sense, measuring marketing misses the point. We should be measuring revenue and what Julie calls the Cost per Order Dollar (CPOD). Both marketing and sales should work together to reduce CPOD because that’s what really matters in terms of marketing’s contribution to the business. In this report (free with guest registration), Julie points out that marketing’s primary role is to make sales more efficient. Period.

Stop apportioning blame
So why do we continue to measure marketing separately from sales? If we started measuring CPOD and tracked it year over year, we would know that marketing was doing its job without forcing the annual showdown between marketing and the business in which marketing stands before the firing squad to justify its mere existence.

As Brian pointed out to me this week, this is all about growing revenue. It’s time to measure sales and marketing together in that process.

So here are some simple rules to think about:

  1. Stop measuring marketing in isolation. Marketing and sales are both part of the same process: raising revenue. Measure CPOD instead.
  2. Create a unified lead process. You need a closed-loop lead process that tracks prospect activity from beginning to end (and back again, in the case of lead nurturing) that is supported by a system (see this post for more on that).
  3. Get adult supervision. In working with companies to develop lead management programs, Brian has found that the most successful companies have a CEO who does not try to parse marketing from sales and assign credit/blame to each. He or she emphasizes one revenue generating process that both groups contribute to.
  4. Create content that is tied to (and signals) the different stages of the buying process. As we in B2B focus more and more on trying to pull in prospects through thought leadership, we need to understand that our life’s blood is the Epiphany Stage of the buying process. We need marketing content specifically targeted at that stage, as well as the more traditional stages like awareness and interest. When we create content targeted to specific buying stages—and get sales to agree to that categorization—we no longer need to get salespeople to check off the box for marketing’s contribution; that contribution will become implicit.

What would you add to this list?

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We need an app for that

I’ve been working on a report for ITSMA clients this week about analytics and it got me thinking about the proverbial bigger picture of B2B marketing.

We know from our research that we in marketing don’t do much with analytics—i.e., using data to determine and predict customer buying patterns. Only 50% of marketers in our survey said they had analytics programs, and of these, few were focused on predicting behavior; most were simply reporting past behavior. Even rarer is the ability to carry those analytics all the way through to a sale.

But we need to start doing that. Two of the companies I spoke to for my report use analytics to determine which marketing tactics are working and which ones aren’t. That lets them be more productive in marketing, by focusing effort and budget on the good stuff, and it lets them reduce the time to a sale by giving salespeople better tools to work with. One of them told me that it had used these analytics to reduce the average number of interactions needed to schedule a sales appointment in half.

So what are the rest of us to do? I’ve said before that this isn’t just a problem with the issues that come back to us in the surveys: lack of budget, clean data, and unified IT systems. We also have a cultural problem: numbers and metrics just aren’t in our bones; we’re the creative types, what others might refer to derisively as the English majors (yep, me too).

Make the analytics come to us
This is why we have to automate our way out of this problem. The metrics and analytics have to come to us; we can’t continue to expect to dive in and pull them out because we just don’t do it. The things we do and the content we produce need to be contained within an IT system that can watch what we do and tell us about it. This is especially important as more of our work moves online.

But I don’t think you can just start with an IT system, because we’re not much more inclined to be IT geeks than we are to being analysts. So you have to start with the bigger process picture.

I haven’t seen a better articulation of what marketing should be doing in B2B than Brian Carroll’s marketing funnel concept. He differentiates between a marketing funnel and a sales funnel because so many leads are lost in the handover between marketing and sales—94%, according to this report. The marketing funnel helps focus attention on a number of important issues:

  • Qualify leads. Marketing can’t send every lead to sales, nor can it spend too much time qualifying leads.
  • Universal lead definition. A lead that both sales and marketing agree is ready to be pursued.
  • Lead scoring. You can’t call everybody who downloads a whitepaper. You need a system for determining who is ready to talk. And as I discussed in this post, the qualification process needs to be gradual and non-invasive, what Brian has since christened “micro-conversion.” Steve Woods of marketing automation vendor Eloqua has an excellent list of questions to ask about lead scoring here, but I wonder if they rely too much on making people fill out forms.
  • Lead nurturing. There needs to be agreement on when and how a lead will come back to marketing if sales doesn’t pursue it or if the prospect turns out not to be interested.

But what about the fact that sales and marketing don’t talk to each other?
The key to this process is getting sales and marketing to work together create an integrated process. Suzanne Lowe makes the radical assertion that marketing and sales must be integrated together. Eliminate the silos, imbue people with both sales and marketing skills, and eliminate the problem. Once again, however, we have a cultural issue: Sales and marketing people are just different.

The system we’d like to see
In organizations where sales and marketing are forever destined to be separate, processes and systems have to do the integration work. At its foundation, it is a system that sees that the lead process is a loop, not a linear progression—especially considering the length and complexity of the B2B buying process—and is capable of tracking every interaction with a lead over the course of this torturous route.

The system needs to house every bit of content marketing creates, for both customers and sales, and integrates with the lead management system, so that marketers and sales people can use content, not qualification forms, to gauge progress towards a sale. For example, if sales has visibility into the content that prospects are downloading, and both marketing and sales have agreed on the pieces of content that indicate serious buyer interest, the system can signal salespeople to make the call, rather than waiting for marketing to ship the lead to them.

The system needs to be interactive with both prospects and salespeople so that they can rate and comment on the content. And finally, the system needs to integrate with whatever salespeople use (CRM, most likely), so that marketing’s impact on a sale can be automatically tracked from beginning to end.

If marketers had such a foundational system, we wouldn’t need to “create” analytics programs, all we’d need to do is look at what our customers and prospects are doing.

What do your process and system look like?

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Fix the relationship with IT

In 13 years of covering IT for CIO magazine, there was a recurring theme: the tribal mistrust between IT and the business. It’s those Mac vs. PC ads writ large—almost postal. IT people are really angry about the way business people treat them like servants, and business people hate how IT people treat them as if they are stupid and helpless.

So when I created our survey on marketing automation this summer, I made sure to ask questions about marketing’s relationship with IT. I wasn’t surprised by what I saw. Nearly 70% of respondents said they have no formal IT strategy. Marketers don’t think it’s their fault, however—67% of respondents blamed the lack of strategy on a lack of support from IT.

Clearly, we have a relationship problem here. When we asked people about their biggest challenge in marketing automation, 70% said money. But everyone always says that. It’s a bit of a red herring. Our belief is that it’s the relationship with IT that’s really getting in the way here. Following closely behind money as the primary challenges were organizational support and change management processes. Who in the organization is supposed to provide support for technology? And who is supposed to develop change management processes for the implementation of technology? I hope you said IT.

Marketing Needs Help

One of the things that intrigued me about the relationship issues I saw between the business and IT when I was at CIO was the currents flowing beneath the sentiments. IT people are like tradespeople, often more loyal to their craft and their peers than to the businesses they serve. This drives businesspeople crazy, partly because they think it leads to poor IT support inside their companies, and partly because businesspeople lack that kind of broader community. The business itself is their community and that’s where their entire loyalty is focused—they are impatient (and maybe a little bit jealous) with those whose loyalty is more broadly focused.

I guess I hoped that marketing’s relationship with IT might be a little better than the broader relationship between IT and the business, because IT and marketing have something very important in common: they are both viewed as support functions by the clueless inside their organizations.

Marketing people can be as downtrodden as IT people can. And empathy is a critically important component of good relationships. If you can’t get inside your significant other’s head and imagine what it was like to hear that snarky comment that a colleague made at the meeting, you have a problem.

But IT and marketing people both know what it’s like to be treated as a servant and it could actually be the key to improving the relationship. You should try sharing some of that misery with them sometime.

I say that in part because having a technology strategy is going to become more and more important to success in marketing because marketing needs more automation—especially as so much of our work begins migrating online. IT decisions have gotten much more complex. Years ago, marketers could get away with approaching their major IT decisions much as consumers do: Discover a need, find a tool, and install it for yourself and perhaps for a few colleagues. But today you need to weigh carefully issues such as scaling the tool to all areas of marketing, data storage and retrieval, and integration. These are not decisions that marketers are equipped to make on their own.

Marketing needs to take steps to fix the relationship with IT. Though IT is the natural target for blame, marketing needs to take a share of it, too. In our survey, we found that only half the marketers had tried to develop a formal liaison relationship with IT (and vice versa). This has to change. If it doesn’t, it’s unlikely that marketing will ever achieve its goals with automation. If you lose the ongoing dialogue with IT below the C level, it’s unlikely that things will go your way at the C level, either.

This is something you can look into and fix today. Do you have someone in your marketing organization who loves IT and is interested in working with IT? You have your spokesperson. It costs you nothing. They can still do their day jobs.

There are many other mechanisms for creating a better dialogue with IT that are more formal, such as steering committees, periodic joint off-sites, collocating IT and marketing people together, and, at the ragged edge of reality, a coup d’état. At one of our member companies, the CMO literally took over the responsibility for IT. As you can guess, there were no issues with the marketing automation budget after that.

So before you start being one of those outlaws who goes around IT when you need software, first pick up the phone and see if you can enlist IT’s help. It will hold up your plans a bit, I know, but it’s becoming ever more critical to success.

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Automating the Processes that Matter Most

Applying technology to marketing makes you a better marketer. In our recent survey about marketing automation, we saw that there is a correlation between the degree of automation in some of marketing’s core operational support processes and respondents’ level of competency in those processes.

Trouble is, the processes we are best at aren’t the ones that matter most.

In my last post, I talked about how things like email marketing, CRM, and web analytics are the processes where people have applied the most automation—and say that they do them well.

But to support the core goal of services marketing—putting good thought leadership before customers and prospects at the right time and in the right context—you need to be good at processes like content management, lead management, campaign management, and segmentation/predictive analysis. All of those processes ranked lower in their levels of automation and competency.

The good news is that you know what you should be automating. When we asked survey respondents to rate the ROI they have gotten or expect to get from automating processes, lead management, and campaign management rise to the top. And segmentation rises, too. And of course, contact management is up there, because nearly everyone has some sort of a CRM system these days.

Meanwhile, the highly automated processes—especially web analytics and email marketing—drop like stones in terms of ROI. This says to us that we are spending at least some of our marketing technology dollars in the wrong places.

I think it’s also a testament to the relative complexity of automating the processes that really matter. The four key automation areas of content management, lead management, campaign management, and segmentation/predictive analysis won’t be successful if they are developed and implemented in isolation from each other. They should be integrated into a holistic process-based approach to generating leads and nurturing them until they are sales ready (and salespeople agree that they are sales ready).

What do you think?

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