Archive for the ‘CRM’ Tag

Marketing and IT expertise

The latest issue of B2B Magazine has an interesting article entitled In-demand tech experts find new home in marketing. It’s interesting to see how some companies are combining traditional Marketing Operations and IT roles to better support the critical systems many marketing teams now rely on – usually very heavily. In my experience, I would NEVER implement a marketing automation solution without having a solid marketing ops person to support it. And at the companies I’ve worked at that used marketing automation, I also saw much better success when there was a dedicated IT resource(s) to support marketing needs. The third leg is a strong connection with the Sales Ops team as marketing automation and CRM systems have to be intimately intertwined.

For those of you not familiar with the Marketing Ops function, this article from a few years ago still does a good job of explaining the function. Plus, I like their graphic:

Marketing Ops, a comprehensive discipline that leverages technology, process and metrics.  Courtesy of Marketing Operations Partners.

One area where I’ve particularly found the need for Marketing Ops/IT teaming is in metrics. In many organizations, without IT help, you can not reach into key systems to get the reporting you may want. Systems such as financial, ERP, order management, customer service and more often reside with those groups. Unless you have an enterprise data warehouse, you need help querying those systems. And even with a warehouse, you still need expertise to query that. So a solid teaming of Marketing Ops, Sales Ops and IT works to make all teams more successful.

As and aside, as I’m writing this, the marketing ops person on my team is at Eloqua Experience 2012 – Eloqua’s annual user conference – staying plugged into the latest best practices. Even though we didn’t win the Markie award, I will still give them a plug.  : )

 

Trade show leads

Everywhere I’ve ever worked struggled a little with follow up on trade show leads. For marketing, the biggest problem was getting the leads processed, the data cleansed, notes entered and then passed over to sales. Hot leads often failed to get to sales quickly and then hot turns to warm. Or worse, to a competitor.

Besides that, I hate paying those lead scanner rental fees. The bastards rake you over the coals.

Mark talking to a prospect.

Typically at a show, you get your device and use it to scan bar codes of the booth visitors. Some vendors are good enough to let you access the leads on a daily basis. Most make you wait until the end of the show to get them. Then you have to travel home and may not be back in the office for a few days. And even then, you most likely need to manually do data cleansing. If you use a marketing automation system, you then have to upload them. More time delays.

If you have a really good conversation with a prospect, you don’t want to wait that long to get them to sales.

Some companies bypass the delay by directly notifying the sales rep w/ the info. But, unless you are REALLY diligent, you lose the tracking and hence, ROI measurement for the event.

So we worked on a better way. We now use an iPad or iPhone, take a picture of the prospect’s business card, use an inexpensive app to do character recognition and send it to our marketing automation system. There are steps to do data cleansing on the spot (in case there were errors in scan) plus add notes from the conversation. The prospect often gets entered into our system before they leave the booth. And they get the “thank you” email w/ links to relevant content – often while still talking to us. Additionally, the system feeds our CRM system so our sales team gets the leads w/in hours of the booth visit – not the days plus typical of the old system.

Sales is ecstatic with quicker access to leads and more complete (and accurate) information and notes. Marketing is happy with much quicker turnaround, higher quality data and increased ROI. And we are putting ourselves in for an Eloqua Markie award. Root for us!

MarketingSherpa B2B summit

I’ve been in B2B marketing for about 15 years. Ever since my MBA days, finding learning experiences that were relevant and applicable to me as a B2B marketer – well, there just weren’t many. I can count on one hand the number of conferences and “training” seminars I’ve been to that actually taught me enough to make it worth  my while. And my company’s money. This conference was four of the five fingers on that one hand. From the first session on day 1, I was engaged and learning. I’ve been on the bleeding edge of high-tech marketing for over a decade but, not only did I learn a substantial amount of new stuff, I also has the “slap in the face” moment of things I know better about but just haven’t spent the time on.

#1 from this conference – the VALUE PROP – the basis off of which almost everything you do depends. It needs to be a clear and succinct value proposition. It has to answer “why should I care about you?” and “how are you different/unique for your competitors?” Here’s a link to one of the many free pieces of content you can get on MarketingExperiments.com:

Do You Have the Right Value Proposition?

So much more to digest from this. Hopefully I’ll get time to spread some more in future posts.

Evaluating Marketing Automation vendors

Lately, I’ve seen several ongoing LinkedIn threads in various groups on evaluating or suggesting marketing automation (MA) vendors. The first thing that comes to mind when I see the dozens of short posts that go something like:

“I highly recommend [fill in vendor name here]. They’ve been great!”

is “what a waste of time.” I mean, what value really can you get from simple, blanket statements like that with no backing? But after seeing other, more thoughtful responses, I went back to what I did and my company went through when we decided we needed to move from just an email vendor to a full-fledged MA system. And I am not seeing much of this in the responses and comments being posted.

Image courtesy of qwickstep.com

Part of the LinkedIn problem likely is the question. Often, it is simple – something like “what marketing automation system do you like and why?” And this leads to quick, simple answers. However, if you are actually looking to purchase such a system, you need to ask much more.

The keys to a successful choice and implementation of a marketing automation system include:

Evaluate your specific needs and what you want to accomplish

At the time, we had a very good email vendor. But we struggled with doing list pulls from our database, uploading the lists and maintaining opt-out information. Then, we had to work with our web team to create landing pages. They were a great team but had too much on their shoulders and often we faced delays that hindered our marketing efforts. Our ability to move quickly was compromised.  As marketing managers, we had to use multiple systems and processes in order to develop and implement an integrated, multi-phase campaign.  So, although we were satisfied with our email vendor, we were not satisfied with the processes we had to go through in order to implement more advanced marketing campaigns. We wanted to move to the next level.

We knew some of our needs but then spent time researching where we could go above and beyond our needs. If you are going to undertake a change like this, you should see where else you can take it and maximize the move. You will have disruption when this happens and you want to get the most out of it you can. So we asked analysts and vendors but most importantly, we studied other firms – what are they doing? What are best practices? What emerging trends and technologies should be consider?  Then we brainstormed. We knew our immediate needs. To them, we added “where we want to go” scenarios. From there, we had a really good understanding of what we wanted.

Figure out what capabilities you (and your team) have

I’ve found that many of the MA systems have similar features and functions. When we did our evaluation, a key point was the abilities of our marketing managers. Most came from a Marketing Communications background and, though very computer literate, were not engineers or HTML experts. They needed easy-to-use systems so they could quickly set up campaigns. That meant an interface to the database that was Excel-like; a WYSISYG editor for landing page creation; an intuitive process for setting up multi-phase campaigns; and the ability to easily monitor and analyze progress of campaigns. Usability can be critical to success. With what systems do you need to integrate The obvious one for most is your CRM system. However, you also have to think about your email database and possibly your content management system for landing pages.  Sometimes there also may be the need to connect with billing, shipping or other systems. You need to identify this in advance and then see what the vendor can do to help.

Price and timeline

OK, this is a given. Price is critical. But also remember to think about the timeline for implementation, especially if you need to do any custom integration work.

Support

As was often pointed out in the LinkedIn posts, customer support is either a source for competitive advantage – or a badge of dishonor. And here, user case studies and comments from your colleagues do prove helpful.

There are other things to consider but I think these can help you get started. My biggest concern after seeing all of the comments on LinkedIn was that people were just moving to a new platform for the sake of doing so. Thought and planning are needed before you make such an investment.

Marketing automation

Marketing automation systems

So I really think any firm that reaches a certain critical mass (what that is, I can’t define yet) should be thinking about using a marketing automation system. Maybe the tipping point is when you have a CRM system, a dozen sales reps and at least one marketing person dedicated to lead generation. Anyway, if you have more than that, you should definitely be thinking automation.

What can marketing automation do for me?

The short answer is – empower your marketing team to create high quality leads for your sales team. Often, marketing “generates leads.” And often, these leads are considered crap by sales reps. This gets to the whole marketing/sales alignment which is another topic. The short of it is that sales is marketing’s customer. And sales people should be spending time on closing deals – not cold calling or qualifying leads. A good marketing automation system combined with a review of your marketing/sales funnel is powerful. And it can automatically feed high-quality, “sales” leads to the reps.

What do marketing automation systems do?

It varies but basically, it gives your marketing team the ability to work with your database, send emails, create landing pages and track all sorts of metrics. It empowers marketing people to implement campaigns without having to wait for items such as web pages being published by the web team. Potential con? You publish something that hasn’t been reviewed and approved. But a good firm finds a way to use templates and a simple review process so this is not a hindrance.

What’s the ROI?

This is a question you really should press the vendor on. If they can’t give some good examples of case studies w/ proven ROI, then it will be much harder to justify. If I was at one of these firms, I’d spend time working with existing customers. The benefits are hard to quantify. How do you measure a marketing manager being able to create his/her own landing page in hours instead of waiting for the web team to create it? How do you measure the ability to send emails (or segmented emails like a re-send to people who did not open the first one)? It’s not easy. There are a lot of intangible benefits which always makes it tough. So I don’t have an easy answer.

What do I need to do to be successful?

This one is a little bit easier. Any marketing automation system needs to be tied very tightly with the CRM system. Hence, marketing and sales need to communicate. It you align sales and marketing, then marketing automation is simply the way to implement the process.

So why am I promoting marketing automation systems?  Easy.  I’ve been a marketing manager for ten years.  I’ve seen how my lack of access and ability to do what I needed to do – IN A TIMELY MANNER – has cost my employers millions of dollars in potential revenue.  I have been responsible for driving tens of millions of dollars of revenue annually. In order to optimize my work, marketing automation has been irreplaceable.