Ignite the Pipeline: Personalized, Integrated Communications Drive Revenue for B2B Enterprise Organization

February 8, 2012

Ready to be a marketing rockstar?

There’s buzz in the air at this year’s Online Marketing Summit in San Diego (#oms12) and everyone is striving toward the same end game: Igniting their marketing!

The annual congregation of digital marketers in San Diego to evolve their practice shares the same casual, friendly community I’ve enjoyed in the past, but the event’s explosive growth from 500 attendees in 2010 to nearly 1500 this year represents an industry that is growing up fast. As a digital native focused on B2B demand creation, I am delighted that OMS attendees understand the value of  leveraging buyer insights across channels to produce relevant, measurable experiences!  As evident in keynote address and draw for my session “Ignite the Pipeline: Personalized, Integrated Communications Drives Revenue for Nuance Software” the thirst for advanced strategies that push the bounds of marketing technology to design multi-channel, measurable experiences is alive and well at OMS.

The wide array of conference tracks and sessions makes one thing clear: there’s no silver bullet. Search, social, conversion,  content, email, A/B testing, and marketing automation are all important pieces of the mix. But to truly connect with prospects and customers and move them through the sales funnel you need insights and integration. PERIOD.

In my OMS presentation, I shared a truly integrated account-based marketing model that allowed Nuance Software to:

  • Engage 46% of their most important customers and prospects
  • Drive over $6M to their pipeline
  • Deliver a 19-to-1 ROI on their marketing investment
  • Enable sales with personalized tools to support prospects and customers engagement

Please check out the attached slideshare presentation.

Related Post:

Three Reasons Why Account-Based Marketing Should Be a Priority in B2B…And 5 Steps for Getting Started

Take 4 Steps Back for 1 Giant Leap Forward: The Buyer-Centric Marketing Model

June 3, 2011

One Lady Leaping

Take these four (often overlooked) steps to attract savvy B2B buyers and increase pipeline efficiency.

Moving toward a buyer-centric marketing model is an essential strategic requirement in B2B marketing today.

As marketers, we have a tendency to indulge in marketing strategies that focus on OUR priorities, our key messages and our current content assets first. A buyer-centric model naturally prioritizes the buyer’s business challenges and the questions they need answered to make a purchase.

And there’s good evidence that the buyer-centric model is working. At the 2011 SiriusDecisions Summit, Athena Varmazis—American Express Director of Corporate Payment Solutions—provided a great case study that proved the success of adopting a buyer-centric marketing approach and technology solutions to support nurturing communications.

Before adopting this approach:

  • Precious resources were being utilized to call on cold leads and provided limited visibility into lead quality
  • Marketing qualified leads were converting to sales at a rate well below average

After adopting the buyer-centric approach:

  • They increased the quality of leads
  • They closed a significantly higher percentage of leads

So instead of kicking off strategic marketing discussions with defining messages, tactics, marketing channels and assets you want to promote, take four steps back and start with the buyer!

Step 1: Identify and segment the audience: Who are the buyers (and influencers) of your solution?

If you’re connecting with your customer base—or trying to convert a known prospect base—you likely have the critical information in your marketing database (e.g., the decision-making and/or job roles). Plus you can always consult your sales team for information that can be analyzed to determine “who” this audience really is.

In B2B tech marketing, it’s typically important to consider variances in your business-oriented buyer vs. the IT buyer. It’s also important to identify any key influencer types, or researchers.

If you’re just getting started with segmentation, consider limiting yourself to 2-3 key target segments for a particular initiative. You can always expand once you’ve mastered these!

Beyond identifying your core audiences, sub-segmentation within these audiences will enable you to target your content and messaging to be as relevant as possible.

Sub-segmentation will vary greatly depending on your top-level of segmentation, but may include variables like vertical, organization size or geography.

Step 2: Develop personas

Now that you’ve identified your key audiences, you need to find out what they care about and how to speak with them for best results.

Ideally, we’d always have the time and budget to commission formal persona research, complete with focus groups and well-targeted online surveys. But you can also collect information to inform personas by:

  • Reading the blogs and other media your audience reads
  • Joining the LinkedIn groups they are active in
  • Talking to your salespeople (they are the closest point of contact with your audience, after all)

Step 3: Define the buyer’s journey

The key purpose of the buyer’s journey is to reveal the questions that the buyer (or influencer, or researcher) needs answered in order to make or influence a buying decision. Typically the buyer’s journey can be broken into four quadrants, and should address the key questions your buyer will have.

  1. Discover: “What issues am I dealing with?”
  2. Consider: “What options do I have to solve this (these) problem(s)?”
  3. Evaluate: “Which of these solutions is best? What are the core benefits and disadvantages of each?”
  4. Advocate: “What will my TCO or ROI look like? What are the best practices for this type of solution?”

Step 4: Map content to the buyer’s journey

Almost there! Next you need to do a thorough review of all content assets to determine which quadrant (discover, consider, evaluate or advocate) they best serve.

Although this can seem daunting at first, you’ll find it’s much easier to “know” what kind content will be relevant to your audience after completing persona development and defining the buyer’s journey.

Additionally, it will become clearer which specific content assets will match each of the personas within the audiences you’re targeting.

Note: Following the content mapping process, you’ll often see glaring “gaps”: quadrants without relevant content. Consider these gaps your roadmap for new content development.

Now, go full steam ahead with your campaign work—and you’ll find you’re already a GIANT STEP ahead!

Related links:

The Buyer’s Journey Diagram for B2B Demand Generation (and More)

How Busy B2B Demand Generation Marketers Can (Still) Use Personas

5 Steps to Building a Rock-Solid Content Roadmap for B2B Demand Generation

The Only Way to Get Sales on Your Side for B2B Demand Generation

March 21, 2011

Pink Elephant

Even the most tightly targeted and timely marketing content won’t inspire the sales team to employ it if you forget (or ignore) this one critical task.

A recent ITSMA sales enablement article rightly clarified the obligation of marketers to:

“…provide salespeople with the tools to connect customer needs with the company’s solutions. Marketers must create content that makes it easier for salespeople to uncover customer needs, outline capabilities that solve the need, and articulate the value.”

You know I stand by the truism that “content is king”—and its sister axiom “context is queen”.

But I don’t believe that providing the best content is the only, or even the primary, way to ensure that your sales team will consider it valuable in their conversations with customers.

(Isn’t that normally the big pink elephant in the room? You can lead sales to fantastic content, but you can’t make them use it?)

If you want sales to support and use marketing programs, there’s only one way to do it:

Get salespeople involved early and often.

Sounds…obvious, doesn’t it? But as you probably know, it’s harder than it is obvious.

What makes it a lot easier is planning your sales enablement strategy with this upfront, ongoing involvement in mind.

In my experience, these are the five points in a program where you should invite sales participation:

  1. Align marketing and sales on the ideal audience: attributes, insights, pain-points, title, etc.
  2. Engage the sales team’s help in building your lists.
  3. Discuss success metrics from the get-go and revisit the topic throughout the program. Let your salespeople  determine how and when leads will be passed to them.
  4. Expose your salespeople to the campaign elements-in-progress early. Get them comfortable with the messaging.
  5. Align on the sales team’s role in the touchpoints and follow-up.

Bonus: Per the recommendations in the ITSMA sales enablement post – make sure your salespeople have the proper tools for follow-up.

Have you had great success (or not so much) with this route? Tell us all about it in the comments.

B2B Demand Generation Best Practices: Five Tips for Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

February 7, 2011

Follow these five tips to create a snowball effect of mutual benefit (and goodwill) between sales and marketing.

If you’re in the same boat as the demand generation marketers referenced in findings below, I have some good news for you.

  • “53.4% of respondents said their company has no formal process for generating, clarifying and validating leads.”—CMO Counsel Survey
  • “Business acquisition experts estimate that 80% of leads are typically lost or ignored.“—GlobalSpec report

The good news is that this is not hard stuff to resolve, but it does take focus, discipline and conversation. The five tips outlined below can provide you with a good framework to begin this process.

Tip #1: Define “Lead”

Based on my experience with hundreds of B2B  marketers (and thousands of campaigns), I’ve come to realize that less than half have a definition of “lead” that is clear, written down and unanimously agreed on by sales and marketing.

It’s key to get both sales and marketing in the room to hash out that defintion—by no means an easy task. If attendance for your first lead definition summit is poor, show them you mean business. Cancel or dismiss that meeting, elevate the issue up the relevant food chains, and reschedule.

Once your key sales and marketing people are assembled, discuss “what is a lead” based on multiple variables from persona (or job role) to pain points and business drivers. This insight can also be useful to your content planning work.

Tip #2: Determine How You Will Close the Loop

Agree on the “system.” Most organizations have a CRM solution. Salesforce.com is far and away the defacto standard in my experience. This step is a lengthy process, but I find most organizations have this in place today.

Tip #3: Handling “Inquiries”—Nurture and Re-qualification

A typical demand generation campaign yields about 5-15% of leads that should be considered SQLs (sales qualified leads), meaning they meet the sales definition of “a lead.” This percentage can vary greatly by tactic (with highly targeted campaigns yielding the best results, but at a greater cost).

Nurture campaigns will transition over 25% of marketing inquiries to SQLs. This is especially true with solutions that have a long sales cycle (6-18 months).

Tip #4: Educating and Rewarding Sales

Educate sales about the benefits of the marketing programs you’re about to employ BEFORE they go to market. Show them the program materials you’ve developed and remind them of the lead qualification process that all inquiries go through (and of course, remind them that they helped define what a lead is).

As simple as it sounds, this type of education can get a sales team excited about following up on leads.

Also, a small incentive to reward follow-up can drive huge returns. One client of mine offered a $20 Starbucks gift card to sales folks who followed up on leads.

Tip #5: Re-Evaluate “Lead” Criteria

There’s a good chance that the lead criteria (defined in Tip #1) will require some adjustment after your first campaign. Re-engage with your sales team for a formal discussion within two weeks of a campaign going to market and at the end of the campaign. Talk through their experiences with the leads they’ve been given to date.

Do you have any tips to add? Please share them in the comments.

Five Steps to Successful B2B Targeted Demand Generation Campaigns

February 7, 2011

(Click for larger image)

Here are five actions that will always help your demand generation campaigns succeed.

Every formula for successful targeted campaigns requires two elements:

  • Know your audience
  • Drive an integrated approach between sales and marketing

But most of us need a few more specifics. Here are five actions always worth investing your time and resources in.

1.     Tap your sales team to define buyers and influencers.

If your organization has already adopted persona-based marketing, you’re several steps ahead of the curve, but it’s important to validate this audience with sales: decision-makers, influencers and other key participants in the sales process.

If sales is the ultimate recipient of leads, you want to make sure they’re bought into your (marketing’s) prescriptive approach to targeting.

And if you’re not entirely sure who your audience is, sales can be a great place to start. A seasoned sales executive is on the front lines every day and has a considerable amount of insight they can lend.

2.     Focus on developing audience insights.

If you haven’t yet adopted persona-based marketing, now is a good time to begin. Defining audience personas essentially means understanding who they are, what they care about, and how to talk with them, not at them. See my brief guide to persona development for busy B2B marketers to learn more.

3.     Target identification.

You need to physically identify your target—decision-makers and influencers. Start with sales: Understand their priority accounts (either for prospecting or cross-sell opportunities), and which contacts within those accounts they’ve already identified. Some sales teams will have no problem pulling a targeted list of companies and 2-5 contacts (best case) within those organizations.

However, if you have no contacts at your targeted companies, there are several methods to build out a list. The most successful list-building methods will require time and effort to hand-build, leveraging a combination of data (available online, often for purchase) and calling (for validation).

4.     Participate in an integrated touch strategy.

Even the most stellar marketing campaign—great offers, compelling visuals/call-to-action and persuasive messaging—won’t reach its full potential without sales support. When sales follows up on all inquiries immediately, there’s typically a significant increase in impact. And I’ve often found that buyers will be much more receptive to a proactive phone call after receiving a relevant and interesting package or offer.

5.     Communicate impact.

This goes both ways. If you want to get sales jazzed about a campaign, it’s helpful to SHOW THEM THE $$. Let them understand your projected path to revenue. Identify where in the process they’ll have an opportunity to make an impact (see #4). Set up campaign codes in Salesforce.com or other CRM tools to indicate the source of leads, and keep track of their progress through the pipeline.

Since partnering with sales is clearly key to building successful targeted campaigns, see Five Tips for Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing to give your campaigns a real depth charge.

Proof That Personalization Can Open Doors and Close Sales

January 26, 2011

If you wish all targeted account campaign results looked like this, let me take you through the steps that made these possible.

These results demonstrate:

  • The value of targeting
  • The power of personalization to sell a high-value solution
  • The significant role that sales plays in demand generation marketing programs
  • That sometimes you need to break the rules

Targeting, personalization and sales integration

A large telecoms company wanted to engage with senior technology executives at top-tier companies, but these prospects were in markets where the company had little to no brand recognition. Not the easiest way to start a relevant, personalized dialogue.

Sound familiar?

Then one of the company’s sales engineers had a breakthrough idea: why not use the customized network diagrams he was preparing to help close contracts as an introductory clutterbuster? This would show not only how the company could address their unique network challenges but also how committed they are to providing great, personalized service.

The company tapped B2B agency Babcock & Jenkins (BNJ) to turn this provocative idea into a reality. (Full disclosure: BNJ is my home base.)

Collaborating closely with both the sales and marketing teams, BNJ developed a pilot targeted accounts campaign that included:

  • A multi-touch, high value series of communications, including  a dimensional direct mailer that included the customized network map in an architectural blueprint tube plus a handwritten note from the recipient’s named sales rep directing them to a personalized microsite via a personalized URL (PURL). Other touches included a “teaser” package (complete with brownies and coffee) and a follow-up note card and email “from” the sales rep.


  • A personalized microsite featuring a short welcome video from company’s CTO, direct contact information for and a picture of the prospect’s named sales rep, a 40-page recommendation specific to their company, and more.
  • Passive profiling to give sales deep insight into each prospect’s interaction with the site, plus a sales alert that immediately notifies each rep when their target responds to the site.

Given its 10-to-1 ROI projection (including  impressive sales already closed) and other phenomenal results, the campaign is being fine-tuned for further rollouts. One happy sales rep noted, “This is the best marketing program I’ve seen in my 15 years in the business.”

The key elements

And the rule-breaking?

Well…most sales-cycle models (and seasoned marketing folks) typically recommend that early-stage outreach content stay on the soft side: thought-leadership content such as white papers or third-party articles. Specific solution and implementation information normally comes later, once you know more about your prospects and their particular needs.

However, the small size and tight targeting of the audience allowed delivery of specific relevant information upfront, condensing some of the usual getting-to-know you stages of content provision.

Have you broken (or invented) rules of targeted marketing for breakthrough results? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

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