Top 3 Playground Rules for Sales and Marketing Teams

July 31, 2012

Sales and marketing teams are often at odds, blaming each other for a loss of revenue or lack of success. In the Playground Rules for Sales and Marketing Teams event presented by the Marketing Automation Institute (MAI), I was on a panel of industry leaders including Brian Hansford, Account Director—Marketing Automation, Heinz Marketing and Alex Shootman, Chief Revenue Officer, Eloqua that was moderated by Jay Hidalgo, President of The Annuitas Group. Together, we explored what it takes to get sales and marketing aligned to work (and play) well together—and what to expect along the way.

All of us on the panel agreed that in today’s market, the focus should be on buyers—what they need and how they want to buy. With 70% of the buyer’s journey now happening before sales is even engaged, sales and marketing alignment is not an option; it’s a requirement. It is not surprising that top performing organizations where sales and marketing effectively collaborate are seeing improved performance and increased revenue. How do they accomplish this? Following are the top three insights for businesses striving to align sales and marketing efforts:

1.  Employ these 5 practices that companies with great alignment share

  • Establish a common understanding of knowledge, vocabulary and goals.
  • Understand that buyers go through a journey and that sales and marketing both need to work with them through the journey.
  • Ensure that sales and marketing each know their role—as if in a partner dance; each should know who is leading and who is following at each stage in the buyer’s journey.
  • Commit to clean data.
  • Employ a common set of metrics and joint reporting.

That’s the big-picture overview. Following are a few of the finer points that can help you be successful as you put these practices into play.

2.  If you meet resistance, start small

When you are first aligning sales and marketing, you don’t have to bite off the whole organization at once. If you are meeting resistance, try piloting with a specific region. Once there’s proof that marketing’s efforts are advantageous to the sales process, the rest of your organization will get on board quickly.

3.   Softer metrics can help you gain traction

When you hear anecdotes about sales enablement tools that help close the deal, make sure to capture and share the enthusiastic feedback. (I gave an example of how my agency helped CenturyLink analyze target audience needs to inform a custom demand gen solution. When one prospect immediately agreed to a meeting and actually brought the tool we created to the meeting, it was evident that marketing helped sales gain both access and credibility. This went a long way toward speeding adoption.)

The good news is that alignment is within reach for your organization! The practices outlined here are very achievable when you start small and remain committed to the process. Our panel suggested that you keep in mind the Steven Covey quote “Light is the greatest disinfectant in nature and business” as you investigate opportunities to maximize the impact of sales and marketing collaboration.

Want the full download? You can listen to the entire Playground Rules for Sales and Marketing Teams conversation any time.

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

November 16, 2011

“If we did realize the difference between the vital few and the trivial many in all aspects of our lives, and if we did something about it, we could multiply anything that we valued.”

~ Richard Koch (former management consultant and acclaimed author on how to apply the 80/20 rule)

The 80/20 rule rules when it comes to marketing efficacy and efficiency for B2B organizations with a complex sale.

Given that I’m in the thick of 2012 demand creation planning for many of the B2B organizations I consult with, Account-Based Marketing is typically at the top of the priority list.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

The ITSMA has done a marvelous job of defining the Account-Based Marketing approach:

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a way to build stronger relationships with your most valued customers and prospects with highly targeted marketing interactions that demonstrate your in-depth understanding of their business and technology issues. It’s a way to increase your customer’s awareness of the total value you offer to heightens their interest in you.

ABM is a game-changing approach for engaging customers and prospects in a way that’s truly relevant to them, their business challenges and their organization. As I’ve discussed in many of my blog posts this past year, adopting a buyer-centric model of marketing is a priority for all B2B marketers. ABM, done well, can take this requirement to the nth degree!

What Are the Most Viable Use Cases for ABM?

  1. Breaking Through to Strategic Prospect Accounts/Audiences: If your  organization has a defined set of targeted accounts that are crucial to your success (based on their potential revenue to the organization or strategic alignment with your priorities), ABM can serve as a powerful tool to SHOW (vs. tell) the customer your value to their organization (through relevant thought-leadership through to how you would specifically approach their unique business challenges). The goal is to make them (key decision-makers and influencers within the organization) aware of the total value you can bring to them.
  2. Retain and Grow Customer Relationships: Customer retention and growth can be one of the most fruitful returns for your marketing dollars in 2012!  Typically, an organization may have a beach head in one division of a large organization or may be leveraging one of many solutions available by a provider. Why not leverage the insight you already have into the business (and hopefully the success) to penetrate new areas for opportunity? Again, it will be important to show value to the customer that specifically addresses a known business challenge or exposes a new area of growth.
  3. Accelerate Pipeline/Nurture Key Prospects: Proving your organization understands the specific needs of your prospect will help you establish credibility and build customer confidence. From my experience, this is a perfect time to accelerate the sales cycle (and ensure you’re on the short list).

Five Steps for Getting Started with ABM

The ITSMA has conducted research on the four stages of ABM (included below), however, I’ve added a 5th stage around alignment based on experience with dozens of ABM engagements.

  1. Align. Gain internal alignment between sales and marketing to ensure the most attractive accounts (and contacts) are selected as a focal point.
  2. Pilot. You need a few successes under your belt before you can consider expanding the program.
  3. Build. You begin to build a formal program by securing executive commitment to ABM and expanding the number of accounts covered.
  4. Standardize. As the number of ABM accounts expands, you start to need a governance model, a program management office and standard metrics and success criteria across all accounts.
  5. Scale. Finally, you scale the program by creating shared services and letting ABM concepts trickle down into other areas of marketing.

Success By the Dozens

For a great case study on ABM, please explore Nuance Software’s success (as featured last month in BtoB Online) or by viewing  MarketingProfs Virtual Conference Series which featured a highly successful campaign in the session titled: Engaging Your Most Valued Prospects through Targeted Accounts.

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of other success stories about Account-Based Marketing. I’d love to hear yours.

Is Today’s CMO Stretched or Strengthened?

November 14, 2011

Have you heard the news? CMOs report that they feel unprepared for the future!

Sobering headlines from IBM’s global Chief Marketing Officer study have been plentiful over the past few months, focusing on statistics like:

“Four out of five CMOs anticipate a high or very high level of complexity over the next five years, but only half feel ready to handle it.”

And CMO quotes like:    

“In this coming age of complexity and uncertainty, there is a serious risk of ‘losing our North,’ of being intoxicated by data overload and suffering from corporate indigestion.”

While the insights from this report were alarming they were also incredibly valuable, providing some wonderful guidance for CMOs in 2012 and beyond!

What’s the cause for concern?

The interviews (conducted with over 1,700 CMOs spanning 19 industries and 64 countries) revealed that CMOs see four “game-changing” challenges ahead:

  1. The data explosion
  2. Social media
  3. Proliferation of channels and devices
  4. Shifting consumer demographics

It’s true – these are factors that have significantly rocked our world as marketers over the past several years. However, I also believe that we can overcome these obstacles by funneling the expertise of internal gurus and specialty partners/consultants. What a wonderful opportunity for fresh thinking from both inside and outside your organization!

2011 IBM Global Chief Marketing Officer Study

…But, some things never Change – LOVE thy customer!

Yes, it’s true. Marketing has changed more in the last few years than it has in the last 30! However, IBM also highlighted some key actions and opportunities that all CMOs are familiar with: LOVE THY CUSTOMER!

I had the fortunate opportunity to see Katharyn White, VP of Marketing for IBM (who participated in the interviewing process for the IBM survey) present at the ITSMA conference appropriately themed “Passionate About Customer Intimacy”.

While Katharyn was very matter-of-fact about the challenges upon the CMO, she did a marvelous job bringing forth some highlights for me on a key area where CMOs, and organizations, should be focusing their time and energy.

Focus on the opportunity to create value for customers as individuals.
Customer intimacy is crucial—and the entire organization (from the top down) should know this.

IBM shared that awareness and prioritization of customer value in their CEO study, stating, “We learned CEOs regard getting closer to customers as one of three prerequisites for success in the twenty-first century.”

This should be welcome news for the CMO, as it should sit at the top of their list too.

The most successful CMOs will be focusing on relationships, not just transactions.

Relationships mean truly understanding the customer and the key challenges and opportunities they encounter (not just the challenges that you can solve, but a holistic view of their needs). Relationships mean that you and your organization are considered a trusted adviser, and can be relied upon to provide insights and category thought leadership to support business challenges.

In 2012, I will be talking to my client base about strategies like Account-Based Marketing, which is a proven and successful approach for organizations to bring greater business value to their most important key accounts (customers) and prospective accounts. This type of approach is not new, but has been proven to be the most effective way to engage with prospects and customers in a meaningful relationship (I personally have dozens of success stories that I’d be happy to share, but you can see a recent example of Nuance’s Targeted Accounts Marketing Success as featured in BtoBOnline).

Given the speed at which business is changing, I believe today’s CMO is both strengthened AND stretched by relationships with customers, technology and new channels for connecting with prospects. Personally, I feel it’s invigorating and look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

There have been a lot of interesting perspectives on IBM’s CMO Study. Here’s a few interesting links to check out:

CMOs Struggle to Find Sure Footing for the Future, by Bill Babcock

CMOs are at the Cross-Roads of Customer Transactions and Engagement, by Brian Solis

As a reminder, the full 72-page IBM CMO survey is available for download too.

I’d love to hear your perspective on the insights from this survey. Or, please share interesting perspectives from others. It’s definitely a meaty topic worth further dialogue!

B2B Website Evolution Part 2: Inroads to Demand-Centered Websites

November 2, 2011

Corporate websites currently rank as the #1 online source of new leads for businesses according to the 2011 B2B Website Demand Generation Study.

However, according to this same study “the corporate website is not performing to its maximum lead-generation potential, as reported by 80% of overall respondents.” Opportunity knocks for corporations bold enough to redefine their corporate sites as demand generation hubs designed to embrace the complex sale. In my first B2B Website Evolution series post, I outlined several afflictions that have historically prevented demand generation teams from relying on their corporate websites for lead cultivation. If you haven’t read the first post, I suggest that you start there. To extend the conversation of how companies can effectively transition to a demand-centered websites, today I’ll share predictions from several peers.

Demand generation will dominate corporate web strategy

Moving into 2012, I believe that CMO’s will make the corporate website a top priority and that the demand generation team will be in the best position to support the transformation of websites into a demand generation hub. Demand generation marketers know B2B buyers are pushing sales out of the buying process more and more. Therefore, companies have to work harder to ensure buyers have the high-value content they need, when they need it in the buying cycle. In a recent study by the ITSMA, B2B buyers selected Solution Provider Websites as the #1 source of information during the early stages of the buying cycle. (In previous years, it had been “peers.” However, peer influence dipped down to #9 this year).

There are hundreds of additional data points that put the writing on the wall: Demand generation marketers will earn access to the Corporate Website in 2012!

Engagement will support buyer’s journey for the complex sale

Eric Wittlake, B2B blogger and Director of Media for Babcock & Jenkins has offered the following insight for addressing this challenge:  “Driving early stage demand generation isn’t about your products or services, but corporate websites tend to be about the corporation. Early stage demand generation requires providing an industry or category perspective and downplaying information that assumes someone is already focused on the company’s specific solutions. ”

However, as demand generation starts to take a more prominent role in setting corporate web objectives and vision, Jon Miller, VP of Marketing at marketing automation provider Marketo provides this sound advice ” Don’t get field happy.” Miller recently published an interesting case study based on the results of the company’s own lead-generation campaigns. In writing on the company’s blog, Miller described how the company had created three different forms: “short form” with five fields, “medium form” with seven fields, and “long form” with nine fields, and used these on three different versions of a landing page. Marketo’s experiment showed the following results:

  • Short Form: Conversion rate 13.4%, cost per conversion $31.24
  • Medium Form: Conversion rate 12.0%, cost per conversion $34.94
  • Long Form: Conversion rate 10.0%, cost per conversion $41.90

The impact of long forms on conversion rates has become well known among business marketers—and best practices call for web forms to have the absolute minimum number of input fields (usually 5 or 6)— but 68% of respondents still have five or more fields on website registration forms. Marketers understand that the best way to tailor sales strategies is to understand their customer but this approach of information retrieval is affecting their bottom line(s). If shorter forms are best, marketers must collect only crucial data that cannot be gleaned by other website optimization tools (company name, location, industry and size can be easily obtained by third parties). In addition, B2B marketers should leverage data appending services to augment missing fields or re-populate inaccurate data rather than route every lead to sales, regardless of quality.

Carmen Hill, Director of Content and Social Media for Babcock & Jenkins offers up her perspective on this challenge “Think about what you want them to DO while they’re there. Think about the hierarchy of the actions you want them to take and make it easy for them to do that.” Hill also emphasized the importance of knowing the buyer.

According to the 2011 Demandbase B2B Website Demand Generation Survey 37% of responders either moderately know their buyer or barely know their buyer. And, nearly HALF of those surveyed DO NOT KNOW where their users are most likely to abandon the website. While the website continues to be a top area for marketing investment made by B2B companies, both for dollar investment as well as resources across both marketing and IT, businesses aren’t paying close enough attention to what’s working and what’s not. These stats also point specifically to the benefit of truly understanding the buyer by developing out a set of buyer personas and aligning content to the buyer’s journey.

Site technology and governance will evolve to support demand gen

According to Ami Martin, Director of Marketing for Babcock & Jenkins (and long-time corporate website marketeer), “Technology is a key barrier to integrating demand generation digital destinations onto brand websites. Corporate sites are designed with set templates and distinct feature sets to serve the masses. Demand generation programs by nature break the mold and often require advanced functionality like dynamic testing, granular tracking and system integration—all beyond the bounds of  “routine” site administration. Developing new site features and processes to support demand generation means long planning cycles, technology adoption and training which can make the transition daunting for companies lacking executive sponsorship.”

Thankfully, CMOs in the savviest marketing organizations are taking the lead in insisting on demand generation websites as top down initiatives to cut through the politics and budgetary barriers. And, there are several new technology options that can address the needs of demand generation marketers with centralized web governance to streamline administration. If there is some interest in exploring the tools that exist, this may warrant a blog post of its own!

There is an incredible opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of the corporate website for demand generation for companies seeking a competitive edge. I’d love you to chime in with additional tools, insights and recommendations you have, as this topic is VERY ripe for best practices to emerge and for testing, testing, testing.

What is the Major Shift in B2B Buyer Behavior?

November 2, 2011

ITSMA’s (IT Services Marketing Association) Annual Marketing Conference just wrapped up in Boston last week.

The event was buzzing of social media, best practices and an exploration of some MAJOR changes underway in B2B marketing (several of which I’ll expose over the coming weeks).

During an incredible presentation by ITSMA’s Julie Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Research & Thought Leadership revealed a new study showcasing the rise of the social buyer in B2B and the significant changes in buyer behavior and content consumption.

One of the most surprising shifts was that peers were no longer the #1 source of information during the early stages of the buying cycle. Quite the opposite, actually. Solution provider websites and solution providers were the two most significant sources of information. Since 2008, ITSMA has been tracking this data and consistently reporting the importance of peers (all the way through the 2010 report last year). In 2011, peers are cited as the #9 source of influence.

If you take a look at the chart above, you will see that peer influence has slowly been declining over the past several years.

However, it’s important to note that buyers are NOT interested in talking with sales. Rather, buyers are pushing your sales people out of the sales process. They don’t believe you. They want to do their own research! Who they’re looking to hear from is your subject matter experts and they’re expecting these experts to provide great insights into your businesses category and solutions (aka thought leadership content).

To me, this is exciting news as organizations have an opportunity to capture the trust and attention of buyers early on in the sales cycle. However, what comes along with this shift is the REQUIREMENT for marketers to set their subject matter experts up for success, including:

  • Insights into buyers and key stages in the buying cycle
  • A platform to engage with buyers (via industry blog, building community, etc.)

Another impressive data point was that 74% of buyers in the ITSMA study found social media useful during the buying cycle. This universe is categorized as the social buyer.

With the rapid rise of the social buyer, we can’t simply ignore traditional channels and move our marketing plan online. There is still a robust segment of traditional buyers to support (roughly 26% of the universe of buyers based on the ITSMA survey). Needless to say, this bifurcation of buyer types has made our jobs as B2B marketers jobs more difficult. We now have two very different audiences who consume information in very different ways. And, not surprisingly, the most defining characteristic of the B2B social buyer is age. If you take a quick glance at the chart below, you’ll see that majority of social buyers are under the age of 39.

The B2B social buyer has a voracious appetite for information – with the majority spending well over 7 hours a week consuming information on their industry and category.

The study reported the best channels for reaching the social buyer:

  1. Social media
  2. Virtual seminars
  3. Research reports
  4. In-person seminars

Conversely, traditional buyers are best reached via:

  1. In-person seminars
  2. Research reports
  3. Print publications
  4. Sales calls and private briefings

While we have a challenge keeping both buyer types satiated with content and insights to match their information preferences, the good news is that there are similarities in the type of content they want to consume — information from your subject matter experts!

I was busy tweeting up a storm during the event, so if you want to see some other key topics and trends from myself and other tweeters during the conference check out #ITSMA-AC11.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I’m also happy to share more data points and insights I gathered at the event.

Quick Shout Out to B2B Direct Agencies of the Year!

October 18, 2011

Everyone appreciates a little pat on the back.

Making BtoB Magazine’s Top Direct Agencies of the Year might just trump that!

Our first shout out goes to the winner, OgilvyOne, noted for taking “direct to the next level”. Congratulations!

OgilvyOne COO chocks their success up to evolving the business over the past 18 months to shift from traditional, transaction-based marketing to “making customers part of [the] enterprise…”

My BIG SHOUT OUT goes to runner-up, Babcock & Jenkins, for helping organizations like Adobe, CenturyLink and Nuance bring sales and marketing together to drive revenue and results, (full disclosure, I work for this organization).

BtoB Magazine cites several examples of innovative campaigns that drove impressive results – including CenturyLinks targeted campaign that elicited a response from 40% of thetargeted companies and has resulted in significant pipeline revenue and sales.

A second example for Nuance Communications’ enterprise division, leveraged a heavy dose of targeting and personalization to generate an estimated 14-to-1 ROI (with over $6 million in net-new potential business to date).

Marcie Lascher, Director of Marketing Programs, noted a key challenge of penetrating net new opportunities within a set of highly vetted organizations and within key vertical segments. Tackling this challenge and successfully opening doors along with setting meetings for sales was achieved via an integrated, multi-touch and highly personalized marketing experience.

This month’s issue of BtoB also announced the frontrunners for top marketers and top creative work in BtoB’s Best 2011!

Congratulations to all!

Remembering the “Relationships” in B2B Marketing

October 13, 2011

How often do you remember to say “thank you” and “sorry” in business?

Over the weekend, my kids and I (ages 5 and 2) attended a wonderful family event.

The event featured an animated early childhood educator who shared stories about the importance of saying “thank you” and “sorry”.

My children (mostly the 5 year old), were so attentive to these lessons – and I couldn’t help but think that this could be a good reminder for all B2B marketers (self included!).

When was the last time you thanked a customer (socially, personally or as part of a large outbound communication)?

Have you ever admitted to a wrong-doing and apologized to a customer for a mistake (possibly related to delivery or support)?

Individuals and companies who understand and nurture strong relationships will succeed.

Gary Vaynerchuk does a wonderful job at diving deeper into this belief in his book The Thank You Economy. He applies a mantra of listening, engaging and taking care of all customers – and reminds us that social media is unlocking numerous opportunities for building deep relationships with customers at any time, in any place. In it, he shares:

“I believe that we are living through the early days of a dramatic cultural shift that is bringing us back full circle, and that the world we live and work in now operates in a way that is surprisingly similar to one our great-grandparents knew. Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring and the power of word of mouth.”

We should all spend 10 minutes (or more)  – now – and jot down some ideas for thanking our customers. Here’s a few simple thoughts to get you started:
  • Employee Training. All customer-facing employees should understand and be given training around a customer-centric attitude. We have an opportunity to create a brand impression at every touch point and in every communication we put into market (or engage in face-to-face). Our attitude and the value we bring to each and every interaction will be the basis by which our organization is evaluated as a trusted partner by our customers.
  • Marketing Campaigns. There’s a multitude of value-add and fun you can have with marketing campaigns aimed at customer appreciation.
    • Welcome Campaign. The on boarding period is the perfect time to set the stage with a new customer and provide valuable tools to facilitate what you’ve been hired for – or their overall needs.
    • “Thank You” Campaign. For years, I’d look forward to December when Alaska Airlines would send me a simple box of short-bread cookies with a handwritten note. The cost was insignificant to them (in context to what I was spending), but the gesture was genuine and appreciated.
    • Thought Leadership Content Series. A thought leadership series (delivered via email, blog, customer community, webcast or physical format) can be the  #1 most valuable “gift” a customer receives. This content MUST be relevant, and must address key business pains/challenges faced by your audience. The source for this material can be an internal subject matter expert (as long as he/she has bandwidth and understands that this cannot be about the company’s products/solutions), analyst or publisher.
  • Customer Advisory Board. I’ve seen this work as a win-win for a number of organizations and can start with a small and informal program. Customers benefit in a number of capacities: their needs are captured (and ideally addressed) by the organization, they likely have access to early insights and solutions and are elevated amongst their peer set. The company benefits through important audience insights, buy-in and guidance.
The art of saying sorry is simple – if you make a mistake, own up to it! Your first instinct for resolution will be your most genuine.
Our customers are our #1 priority – not just because it makes smart financial sense (we all know the math here), but  companies that build genuine relationships with customers will succeed.
I’d love to hear your additional suggestions around customer appreciation. Or, if you have examples of organizations that have said “thank you” and/or “sorry” well – please share.

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