All posts tagged Strategy

Robot Sales Teams (And Why They Won’t Work)

"Mini" Vending Machine

Technology has enabled so much innovation and growth for Marketing and Sales so quickly that it’s easy to lose sight of the people behind the technology. These technologies are often discussed in a way that conjures up images of robot salespeople and giant vending machines that work independently of human interaction. Much of the technology is focused on creating a more individual experience for each person; various tools track and measure how people interact with brands; and people build and use and improve that technology. The human role in the technology suite is obvious but still often goes overlooked.

Technology designed to align Marketing and Sales does not automatically result in better alignment. A new campaign management tool does not immediately result in more successful campaigns. Having the best CRM and lead management suite will not guarantee better customer satisfaction. There must be people at the helms of these tools who are equipped to get the most out of them. The human element is a foundation for successful technology use because it is people who use the technology and they use it to interact with other people. At a fundamental level, the success of technology is still based on people.

Marketing and Sales can see better alignment by integrating lead management technologies; campaigns are much more successful when every element is controlled and optimized; and customers benefit from better data management and communication between departments. Technology can make everyone (at least somewhat) more successful and productive, but the tools are only valuable if people know how to use them. And this doesn’t mean the bare minimum; people should really be experts in every tool they use.

Every single person who is or will be using any piece of technology should understand what it does, why it’s being used, how it will help, and who to go to for help or further training. Training should take place in a low-risk environment where people can find out for themselves what a piece of technology can and can’t do, and they should be rewarded for their discoveries. They should be given opportunities to push the limits of the tools. If a new tool is introduced, users should be given time to get comfortable with the tool and encouraged to explore the full reaches of its capabilities. That’s when technology improves: the field testing. And many times, that’s where the real insights are uncovered.

If people are using a tool every day, they will have ideas on how it might improve. If they have the skills and the knowledge to experiment with the tool, there is a chance to capitalize on that improvement. If people only understand the bare minimum, that chance is never realized. When everyone is well trained and empowered to experiment, technology can drastically improve performance and productivity, but the key element is the people! We’re not at the stage of intelligent, responsive networks of robot vending machines…yet.

Social Selling for the Modern Buyer

Social Media Cube

Most of us would probably agree that the average person does not want to be sold to. As much as we all buy products and services and experiences, we don’t want them to be sold to us. People don’t like to feel the pressure. When we recognize a need or a problem we look for a solution, and that’s when we traditionally reach out to Sales. Buyers have to contact Sales to inquire about a solution, get more info, and eventually make a purchase. This puts Sales in control: the buyer has to come to them.

But the modern buyer operates within a completely different environment, so the modern salesperson must fill a completely different role. With such free access to information, buyers can do their research without ever contacting a company. They can seek out reviews online, find testimonials on social media and find out the general public sentiment about a company before Sales has a chance to get involved. If the company has an e-commerce system, buyers can pretty well avoid every potential Sales interaction.

Social media provides a wonderful new environment for the modern buyer, but the modern seller is able to benefit too. Sales can see how prospects interact in the social environment as they volunteer information about themselves in real time. They can track what prospects are reading, who influences them, where they seek out information and so on. This gives Sales an opportunity to tap into the same networks and build trust within a community the prospect already belongs too. Now, when a prospect is ready to make a purchase, guess who they think of first?

Not only that, it facilitates customer-Sales interactions in a way that benefits both parties. Sales listens to prospects and customers in real time, meaning a better understanding of customer needs. Prospects hold Sales accountable to always provide engaging information rather than make constant sales pitches. Plus, this power-neutral relationship allows less formal and more immediate communications: Sales can reach out to new prospects or rekindle interest by old customers without ever picking up the phone.

Social Selling is defined in Eloqua’s Grande Guide as “the practice of leveraging social networks…in the overall sales function, from lead generation, to closed deal, to account management”. Social Selling is a way of responding to the changed buyer environment, and it works better for both parties. Sales is able to connect with potential buyers much earlier in the cycle and start building a relationship that can lead to more and bigger purchases. And buyers still have control over what information they provide and the degree to which they engage with Sales.

As much as the way the modern salesperson does her job is changing, the goal of Sales is still very much the same. Fundamentally, Sales is responsible for getting a buyer to the point where they can purchase. Buyers still start the cycle by seeking solutions to their problems. Branded thought leadership content is great during this information gathering stage. Then buyers narrow down the list and compare their best options. Sales can share internal and external content that touts the benefits of their solution. When the prospect is ready to buy she looks for social proof. Having an engaged social media following of current and past customers is exactly that kind of proof.

So Sales is still working towards the same objective, they’re just taking a different route through a new environment. Now, Sales accompanies the buyer throughout the whole purchase journey. “Selling to” a prospect means building a relationship over time, building trust with the buyer, and eventually making a transaction. And what better way to build that relationship than to engage “socially”, with Social Selling?

Why You Need a Personal Brand

Your “brand” is the meaning behind your name – the thing that is recognizably “you”. A sort of mental and emotional short-hand, your brand is the collection of thoughts and feelings and experiences that people connect with “you” inside their heads. If there is consistency in these experiences, people begin to associate them with your brand, giving it its own identity.

The real benefit of a brand identity is that it can connect tangible products and services with somewhat intangible ideas like innovation or customer experience. Now when I think of your brand I don’t just think about widgets, I think about trustworthiness and quality of work and accountability; I connect with your brand on an emotional level.

By giving people a way to identify with you on an emotional level, beyond the product or service you offer, that connection runs deeper and is much stronger. When people are able to make that emotional connection, they naturally become more loyal and even become brand advocates.

But there is also incredible value in having a brand on an interpersonal level. By creating a consistent set of expectations about yourself and your work, and meeting those expectations, you see similar rewards. You appear as a more authentic team-mate and leader and you can motivate people to follow you based on their previous experiences with you.

If you can make the work you do synonymous with who you are as a person, you don’t have to convince people to buy into your ideas or products; they will trust the dependable brand they are familiar with and will see value in what you provide just because you’re the one providing it. Wouldn’t it be great for your customers, employees, or teammates to see you as the perfect company, leader, or teammate to help them meet their needs?

So create that brand and use it to guide your personal and professional life. Create that identity that can connect who you are with what you do. Brand your work and your ideas and make them identifiable and familiar for people, and then use the emotional connection they have with you to sell them your ideas.

B2B Marketing Tips from the Funnelmentals Panel Discussion

Bizo’s B2B Funnelmentals event in San Francisco made for an exciting day; we loved all the insightful presentations and conversations. As co-sponsors of the event, we were invited to participate in a panel discussion on Modern Marketing, and the conversation uncovered lot of great insights; insights we want to share with you.

Bizo has done a fantastic job of summarizing the most valuable learnings from the full event, but we also wanted to answer some of the questions we didn’t get to during the panel. Our own Ryan Abreo has summarized the main insights from the discussion and even included a few bonus questions that weren’t answered Thursday. We hope you find it helpful.

Q: Where is content marketing headed? We’re all swimming in white papers, webinars, blog posts, videos, and Tweets; where should we be focusing our content development energy? What’s next?

With Content Marketing we’re trying to drive engagement, showcase thought leadership, increase brand awareness, support/accelerate the ‘Buyer’s Journey’ and so on; there are lots of objectives.

The biggest challenge we’re trying to overcome is content saturation and therefore prospect atrophy. The important thing then is to provide the right balance of quality and quantity: not too much content or too little, but always relevant. To nail down an efficient content marketing strategy, try to do the following:

  1. Make an impression – Ask yourself: how am I being unique? Ask yourself: is this content I would share with a relevant audience in my social network? Ask: what is my Content Reputation? Ask: is this content high quality and interesting, or mediocre and boring?
  2. Simplify Content Discovery/Curation – people have short attention spans, you have to be thoughtful about getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time, (and increasingly now) through the right channel. You have to combat content saturation with high-value, but “digestible” content.
  3. Mine Internal SME’s – content creation is expensive but there is definitely an “internal expert” within your organization; someone with great ideas but no bandwidth or competency for developing content. Facilitate content creation by making it easy on them.

Q: How has your own “marketing stack” (your CRM, marketing automation, analytics, DMP, and other tools and software) evolved over the past 24 months?

There has been a lot more off-platform, value-add development. The gaps between the services many marketing technologies offer reveal huge integration opportunities. Tools for consolidating the view of the customer and managing leads throughout the cycle will be the next big drivers of growth.

An interesting way to broaden that consideration is to look at the evolution of the entire ‘Sales and Marketing Stack’. The past 12 months have seen a climate of aggressive acquisition: Oracle [Eloqua]; SFDC [ExactTarget]; Adobe [Neolane]; Microsoft extending Dynamics via 2012 acquisitions of MarketingPilot and Social.

For the short term there are, and will continue to be, Apps or Services that extend or improve functionality as we evolve towards a “one platform” system; for now they are still fundamentally different products and services. In the long term, disparate marketing arms like social marketing, automation, CRM, and revenue performance management will be consolidated under one central program, with a slew of integrative benefits:

  • Data Management (one ‘master’ contact and account DB)
  • Closed Loop Reporting
  • Integration Simplification
  • Better Automation, Segmentation

Q: With the rising importance of technology in marketing, how have you changed your marketing organization? It seems that every company’s marketing organization is different. Is there an optimal way to structure our marketing team? Will a best practice organizational template evolve over time?

Modern Marketing exists because there is a Modern Customer. There’s been a rise in technology to support engagement with the Modern Customer, but it’s still valuable to keep a “customer-centred vs. technology-centred” view when considering operational changes to your Marketing Organization.

Yes, you will need technologists to run your technology, but you will also need customer service experts to connect with customers on a deeper level. Best practices are always first practices; this balance of technology- and customer-centrism will help you continue to evolve over time. Two important changes that support this balance are:

  1. Adopting a more Agile Campaign Methodology– really get focused on right message, right customer, at the right time, through the right channel.
    • OREO – “You can still Dunk in the Dark”
      • 15ppl in War Room – Decision Makers, Social Media Team, Web Design Team
      • 15K Retweets, 20K Likes on FB, trending for hours after the game
      • Actionable Insight: Knowing 36% of people “second screen”
  2. Being Clinical about Testing – build your “marketing strategy” from the bottom up with a firm basis in testing. This means WAY more than A/B testing a subject line, evolving away from HiPPO or even conforming to ‘best practices’; it means finding out what works for you based on a rigorous process of hypothesis and testing.
    • Obama’s Digital Team – Crowd-sourced Fundraising for Re-Election Campaign ($500M in Donations). Key Insights:
      • Test – Do not Trust your Instincts
      • Create a Culture of Continuous Testing

Q: What are your biggest challenges right now?

There are several big challenges in Modern Marketing which are really manifestations of the same problems marketing has always faced.

  • Proving Value/ROI – “not getting the most out of our technology investments”
  • Poor relationship with sales/combatting low credibility with Sales
  • Difficulty getting past execution to developing an actual Marketing Strategy
  • Data Acquisition: collecting it, analyzing it, acting on it

Analyzing Email Marketing Benchmarks

The MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report provides some revealing insights into the email marketing trends over the last year, and provides insights for potential opportunities in the coming year. At more than 200 slides long however, the information is a little dense.

We encourage you to look at the original report to form your own impressions but to make things easier to manage, we’ve outlined three key insights we feel are the most applicable and beneficial for Business-to-Business organizations.

1. Measure the Right Metrics:

Some responses revealed a disconnect between strategy and tactics when it comes to email metrics. In aggregate, measuring engagement was seen as a higher priority than post-click conversion, but high engagement and high conversion were not always correlated. In fact, one response suggested engagement rates were highest in “knowledge sharing” pieces, while these same pieces also resulted in the lowest conversion of leads to sales.

“The most engaging content for our customers is knowledge sharing, but that tends to produce the least amount of sales leads.”
top-goals-of-email-marketing
What do I do? Ask yourself if the metrics you track are telling you what you want to know. If you want to know how many leads you generate from social media, you have to track more than the number of re-tweets. Remember, impressions do not necessarily equal sales.

2. Quality Content Is King:

Most responders (two thirds!) agreed that delivering quality content is a priority in email marketing, but nearly one third of responders noted that creating this content is presenting a problem. The inability to consistently generate relevant content was one of the biggest challenges faces by Business-to-Business organizations.
barriers-to-email-marketing
Oddly, only a third of responders integrate the company blog (a potentially huge content source) with their email program:
marketing-channel-integration
What do I do? If you can, supplement premium content like white papers or studies with lighter content like thought leadership pieces or guest blogs. This can fill the content gap and also give your subscribers one more point of connection with you, strengthening your relationship.

3. Make the Move to Mobile!

The responses around mobile point out a huge disconnect between what B2B customers want and what their corresponding organizations provide. One in four B2B users report viewing email on a mobile device and yet only 40% of B2B organizations design their emails to render differently and only one out of every six organizations integrates mobile marketing into their email campaign. Talk about a missed opportunity.
mobile-email-open-rates
What do I do? Even if you have already started the move to mobile, further integrating mobile into your email marketing efforts is a surefire investment. The percent of users accessing email through a mobile device increases monthly, so passing up this opportunity is just self-sabotage.

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These insights may seem obvious based on your experience, or they may be completely revelatory. The interesting thing to note was the consistency of answers to the majority of questions. In most cases, for better or worse, there was consistency among B2B organizations in terms of priorities, challenges, goals, strategies, short-comings and even individual metric measurements. In other words, they’re all doing pretty much the same things in the same ways, mistakes and all. But this insight also provides a perfect starting point for correcting that course, outlining a clear path for improvement in B2B email marketing.