Our Points Of View On Sales & Marketing

Thought Leadership

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Sachin Ahuja, Division CEO

We needed help with our mobility solution to find the right business model, go to market strategy, and messaging.  Jon helped accelerate our process by introducing our company to prospective customers and partners, researched the market breadth and depth with Gartner and others, and put together an executive summary on where to head next and what to say.  I recommend him without reservation.

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 3 Comments

Revenue Traction = Sales+Marketing Alignment

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To maximize a company’s revenue result and customer experience, B2B Sales and Marketing teams need to align around similar objectives.  Recent trends point to both sales and marketing are getting increased scrutiny for the following reasons:

  1. Suspect to prospect to deal close time has increased significantly these last two quarters compared to quarters past due to the economy.
  2. ROI is demanded in all investments – Marketing is an investment (typically 5-7% of revenues of B2B companies >$500M  – or expenditure if you are a CFO  )

In most B2B companies that are $50M+ in revenue size, there are typically separate heads of marketing and sales, thus leading to an increased chance that marketing is disconnected from the sales process, sales people, or customers.   Consequently, marketing could celebrate their own ‘lead quantity’ which is handed off to sales versus the actual impact marketing makes on actual revenue.  So what approach could sales and marketing better work with one another in this economic environment?

  • A pipeline commitment: Marketing needs to take a more active role getting involved with the traditional sales pipeline.  With better sales pipeline visibility (ala Salesforce.com), marketing needs to create the right programs to accelerate deals in the later stages of the pipeline.  Specifically, competitive positioning talking points to best arm the sales organization, references of positive customers, or business case tools (Alinean, Mindseye Analytics) that help meet net new objections in the latter part of the selling cycles.
  • A Marketing SLA (service level agreement) between the head of sales who is the primary internal customer and her marketing counterpart, initiated by the marketing leader:  Sales should demand lead quality SLA—how many leads and under what conditions are a lead considered a keeper by a sales organization?
  • Deal autopsy—figure out how deals become deals (both wins and the rare losses companies experience).  What programs are impacting the selling cycles, what messages, what ROI tools?  Once this feedback is gained, test drive what are the winning concepts with a prospect to calibrate feedback.  The resulting information becomes the genesys of a deal play book to help calibrate new sales efforts.

It’s all about sales and marketing effectiveness in our new economy!  What have you found effective to push your revenue cycles and why is that effective for you?

http://www.alphainventions.com/

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 1 Comment

Accelerate Revenue NOW: Be a Student of the Game

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While President Obama was across town in Tempe, Arizona giving a commencement speech emphasizing how to keep studying beyond school, I attended the annual SiriusDecisons Best Practices Summit for Sales & Marketing leaders (see Twitter) in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona.   My objective in attending this year’s conference was to study and gain a more complete understanding of how to best drive new revenue in a challenging economic environment–by either  driving existing prospecting opportunities or net new opportunities–and then listen to what marketing programs make a visible impact in accelerating revenue in these areas.  In attendance with me were sales and marketing leaders fromOmniture,  Cisco, Symantec, Ilumina, PerkinElmer, Pitney Bowes, IBM, HP, BlueCoat, Cox, Ariba, McAfee, SAP, Aspect, and Juniper among others.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a Sirius customer for nearly 6 years and have attended a number of their annual conferences.  In this time, I’ve worked with them to help drive my revenue stream at iPass where as head of marketing,  we nearly quadrupled revenue to $200M – Sirius helped benchmark other company performance and helped my team embark on an aggressive field marketing strategy to support the growth.

Here are 10 key takeaways from the Summit of LEADING SALES AND MARKETING ORGANIZATIONS…these organizations are:

1.  innovating around marketing structure to leverage assets and impact sales productivity (function of company size and channel strategy)
2. leveraging technologies focused on sales enablement and pipeline transparency/analysis (function of investment in sales + marketing automation)
3. applying marketing resources across the entire opportunity life cycle, driving close collaboration between sales and marketing (marketing operations plays a key role here)
4. mandating marketing ROI, which sharpens measurement and drives greater alignment with sales (seems obvious in this economic environment, surprising # of companies work in progress here).

5. leveraging new marketing technologies to increase reach and quality, decrease costs and measure results (social media helps in this regard)

6.  blazing a trail with social media, and linking reputation and demand creation activities (see my prior posts here on this topic)
7. enabling sales via a progressive approach to building sales playbooks (start in increments, prove that it works, then grow it)
8. architecting their channel programs using three lenses: supplier-to-partner, partner-to-customer, and supplier-to-customer
9. optimizing the entire demand life cycle (nurturing leads becomes more important-every lead counts)
10.closing the enormous marketing skills gap created by new marketing technologies and requirements (new technologies creates new opportunties)

Statistics prove that organizations that have embraced an integrated sales and marketing approach vastly outperform (revenue and profit) than those that have not.   To get this synergy, Marketing needs to drive a closed loop lead system that has a specific hand off and visibility to sales with the right measurement mechanisms in place.   Both Sales and Marketing should have joint visibility to the sales pipeline (ie prospects at various stages of the sales funnel).    The benefit to sales in sharing pipeline visibility is becoming one of those firms that wildly succeed versus a marginally performing organization.

In addition to the presentations, I found value in Alinean, one of the many participating vendors given their ability to help provide prospects with a clear TCO/ROI proposition (more on this later.)

This event was well worth the time and money investment for any attendee;  if you are debating about attending or sending a sales or marketing leader next year, do not hesitate.  The ROI is proven based on money saved on not making mistakes and money gained by being a ‘student of the game’ –by studying the best practices of how to best accelerate revenue NOW in a challenging economic climate.

http://www.alphainventions.com

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

Where is the digital marketing puck going?

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Recently, I spoke with a division CEO of a B2B company that earned the majority of its revenue online.  In this conversation, I anticipated that the business would be very savvy on the usage of all digital tools to grab revenue.  The CEO had a background in areas other than marketing so naturally the first set of questions that she prompted turned to how we could grow the business using social media tools (she honed in on Twitter).   Knowing who my audience was for this discussion, here is how I framed my message to inform her about the impacts of digital marketing:

  • Map out a long-term prospect and customer contact strategy based on content that is relevant to their needs: Social Marketing is tactic that is to be integrated with other campaigns (email, webinars, podcasts) to drive demand/revenue without over fatiguing or over touching a prospect or customer.   There seems to be too much press excitement and hype around tools like Twitter—those single tools alone are ineffective to drive revenue; the key for success is weaving all these digital tools (Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos) correctly (tagging, linking, etc.) with relevant messaging to maximize the effectiveness of campaigns. A stand alone social media strategy, like a stand along blog that does not link in any way to the business, will not drive revenue or search engine results.
  • Blog for revenue impact, not to check the box for the C level audience. Not a surprising observation, but a large percentage of B2B companies do not use a blog or it is relegated to ‘one more activity on the plate’ so it gets little care and feeding.   If a blog has the right content for the right audience, the results in search engine optimization (SEO) will improve which will drive revenue.   The idea is to create and shift the game in blogging to relevant, community based engagement versus the spray and pray broadcast advertising messaging that you might see on Twitter or Twitter combined with blogs.  The right combination of activities of domain naming, blogging, building links off the *relevant* blog,  twitter, linkedin, will drive the right search engine optimization result – the blog drives SEO:  SEO drives revenue into the business.
  • Play offense, not defense.  Know where the puck is going, not where the puck has been:   ‘My buyers do not use social media based on a customer survey we just did,’  was the correct assertion of this CEO. You are right, that was how these buyers previously purchased their goods and services.  Yet the puck is moving very quickly in another direction as the importance of word of mouth purchasing increases with new ways to talk about the product of companies.   Forrester sees digital marketing a major driver  in B2B purchasing decisions.    Conversely, let’s look at the same situation from a different view—Domino’s, Amazon, and other B2C companies who are early adopters of digital marketing may have played too much defense on their unique digital media strategy.  Based on this approach, there is a significant REVENUE and brand risk for not playing the game versus playing the game.  In these companies, the CEO is likely now asking the CMO ‘what exactly is our integrated social media strategy?’   This stance is too defensive for a CMO to succeed with the business leaders.

The game is early in digital marketing yet it is a changing and evolving landscape.  Now is a great time to build the right foundation for companies to extend to new revenue channels leveraging digital marketing strategies and tactics.

http://alphainventions.com/

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

Do your customers REALLY use Twitter?

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Adage recently published an article that challenged whether the majority of customers were paying attention to Twitter and asserted that marketers should not rush to make judgments based on the minuscule percentage of customers that are actually using Twitter.   The article implies a B2C focus and does not specify if B2B is included in this analysis.

As a B2B CMO, I disagree with the intensity one should pay attention to tools like Twitter for the following reasons:

1.  A CMO’s job is to connect the outside world ideas back to internal reality, and sometime this customer feedback is the direct feedback needed at an executive level;  it is an absolutely critical data point to carefully monitor and critically consider.  Too often the ivory tower approach is taken on service delivery capabilities and a direct customer pipeline of feedback is important to consider and not to discount as ‘one loud customer’ or a ‘disgruntled customer’.  These same customers are sometimes the very seeds of the next generation of innovation.  Twitter provides the forum for CMOs to interact with customers in new and different ways than ever before.

2.  In our current economic environment EVERY CUSTOMER INTERACTION counts as I’ve said before.  Twitter provides an early warning system ahead of the customer calling your CEO to complain or worse yet, the customer abandoning your product and thus cutting your revenue and eventually your job.  Twitter gives an instant feedback mechanism–and when questions go unanswered, the 91% of B2B decision makers according to Forrester that are on the sideline are observing the no response approach in Twitter–and that is crushing in a sales cycle in this environment not to be listening attentively.

3.  CRM companies see the value in Twitter–Salesforce.com has plans to integrate Twitter according to their Cloudforce tour which I attended in NYC last week – according to the product lead from Salesforce.com, this integration is in its very nascent stages but will soon be available via an API that allows trending of information to occur, so every customer instance via Twitter is logged.  So if Salesforce.com sees potential value here to log customer interactions as they occur, so should your company.

While I agree with the premise that not every customer reaction merits an abrupt change in overall marketing strategy, tools like Twitter are absolutely essential to the success of the CMO in connecting the customer experience to the service or product offer.


by Jon Russo Jon Russo 2 Comments

Should B2B CEOs and CMOs care about Social Media?

Why social media is relevant to B2B CEOs and CMOs

What an interesting week.  I met with a CEO of an established B2B software firm interested in having his company more involved in social media, met with a B2B CMO colleague dabbling in social media on behalf of his company, and listened to Scott Monty of Ford Automotive present at DigiDays on Ford’s innovative B2C social media strategy (which I’m quite impressed with to say the least–B2B marketers, this is a case study worth observing).  From those discussions, here are 3 Reasons why I believe social media has become more relevant for the C level audience based on actual B2B data on sales and customer experiences.

1.   Branding opportunity:  I recently met with a software company specializing in helping CMOs do their job more effectively.  Ironically, they are  unable to use their company name and identity in social media tool Twitter because someone else took their unique name ahead of them (maybe a competitor?)   What happens if malicious or false information is disseminated via this new identity owner, think of the brand risk and damage control.  Better to play a strong offense NOW rather than waiting to play a defense.   Grab those ever important product or service line extension names BEFORE you go to market if posible–either your PR agency and/or marketing communications head should be leaning into this at the CMOs direction.

2. Given the current economic climate, some buyers are grouchy yet every customer connection counts.  As an example, a CMO colleague of a successful SMB  $50M+ company personally contacted every disgruntled customer he found complaining on Twitter and used the tool as more for understanding customer issues and did not use it selfishly for demand/pipeline advancement (defense instead of offense!).   This was a great case of observing, listening, then responding and an engaged two way dialogue like I mentioned in my last post.  The risk in pushing a product or view ahead of engaging customers is tuning out an audience.  This CMO effectively built a rapport.

3.  Now that the financial Q4 surprises are behind us and fiscal 09 planning is either in progress or behind us, CEOs have now got permission from their board of directors that  financially speaking, ’09 will look nothing like ’08.  Consequently, now is the time for smart companies to take prudent risks with social media (see my earlier post on how B2B companies were using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) to further their business objectives.  Each company will need to prudently invest as it is likely to cost internal cycles of people to create the right content or do the right monitoring of social networks to get the maximum benefit from these networks–this work should be done internally, not externally, though one has to weigh the cost/benefit analysis relative to other priorities.

comScore posted a note that Twitter’s February traffic was up 55% over January.  This other link is an excellent analysis of the growth trajectory of Twitter and reinforces the importance of why CEOs and CMOs must take social media tools like this in consideration in the next generation of marketing to their customers and prospects.



by Jon Russo Jon Russo 3 Comments

B2B, Social Media, and ‘old school’ CEOs

In the last few weeks, I’ve carefully studied best practices of business to business companies leveraging social media, and have also studied B2C social media successes to use as a framework to evaluate B2B companies. My analysis includes studying Forrester analysts who seem to ‘get it’ (current and past), reading Groundswell (and meeting Josh face to face when his book came out), and doing one heck of alot of observing online and offline of leading global ‘Tweeters’. I’ve recently tracked metrics of 6 companies over the last few weeks to see how their social media strategy has evolved over time and have found some interesting results. These results are of companies that help marketers market (keeping names out to protect the innocent), so I am starting with a unique subset of companies but ones that should have a vested interest in seeing social media succeed in the long run in the B2B segment.

I have a premise and ask that you challenge my thought process (it’s all about continuous improvement!). I believe in today’s marketing world, business to business marketers are woefully unprepared for the tsunami of digital marketing techniques and do not know how to effectively market in this new, one to one marketing environment. This social media approach, when integrated with other aspects of marketing, absolutely change the game on how businesses interact with customers, prospects, analysts, and employees, yet the game changer is mired down for a variety of reasons.

Over the last four weeks, I analyzed 6 B2B companies specializing in marketing–4 of 6 had blogs, 4 of 6 were actively using Twitter via their brands vs. their employees, 2 of 6 used Facebook effectively, and 3 of 6 had some mention on linkedin. Here are the tools they used:

1. Blogs–the savvy are realizing these are ‘must haves’ to successfully compete in organic google search optimization and to maximize the amplification other social media tools like twitter provide.

2. Twitter–in B2B companies that leverage the brand of the company, Twitter is the fastest growing medium to amplify blog content; on average, the companies I studied are seeing 20% growth week over week for 4 weeks in their followership base. Average user 31 years old, with North American and Europe demographic.

3. LinkedIn–in B2B companies, very little growth within the specialized ‘Groups’ function, under 2% growth week over week. It was very easy to join ‘exclusive’ groups on Twitter, the owners rarely screened me out (what if i were a competitor?) That said, the average user is 41 years old and likely a decision maker.

4. Facebook–varying popularity, no conclusion of data exists based on sample set. The question in my mind that remains is how effective is Facebook, generally thought of as a way to reach former high school and/or college colleagues, to reach a business level decision making audience with average user age of 26 years old.

That said, as I survey other B2B companies outside this subset of 6, I see a couple major factors slowing social media business adoption down:

1. ‘Old School’ CEO mentality… While very good CMOs take risks and put themselves out there, CEOs are not rewarding innovation without a clear ROI–and consequently have not placed any value on a newly emerging communications medium (Sun Micro, Apple, and Zappos the exception). CEOs are typically not ‘digital natives’ (ie born into an environment where they think online) unless they have a technical proclivity, and it is a rare CEO who has that bent and can also talk financials. Social media, while new, has not yet proven and demonstrable ROI in the B2B world (I’ve found very little information on this topic, please educate me if you see differently), but it has promise when integrated with other aspects of marketing.

2. Time: with marketing budget cuts galore, everyone being asked to do more with less, no one has the right time to pick their heads up and see how effective social media really is to market on a one on one basis vs. traditional alternatives. Consequently, an agency, like a PR agency, might get the extra bandwidth to help out with blog content population and blog amplification through Twitter, but that agency is likely responsible for other things for that same company.

3. Lack of two way dialogue or meaningful conversation. Are customers actually acknowledged and heard or is it more of two sets of one way dialogue–vendor pushing product, customer complaining about the product, and the two never cross? I see the latter.

4. Disparate strategies–some leveraging blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, but the strategies are islands, not tied together with search engine optimization, so therefore ineffective at days end.
We live in exciting times!

The b2b company that can overcome the CEO objections to keep trying something new, the CMO who can convince his/her channel partners and head of sales the value of this level of interaction, and the companies that can integrate social media will be the winners.

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