Accelerating Revenue

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

4 Steps to help Sales work Marketing Leads to DRIVE REVENUE!

I recently met with a Field Marketing leader for a successful B2B company recently and she had echoed a similar concern that is common in our industry  –  her concern was as follows:

“The marketing leads we give to sales aren’t being worked by sales, so it’s difficult to justify the marketing investment when the marketing leads aren’t closing or being worked.”

Here are 4 points to consider when trying to address the situation she faces – to net it out, it’s ACCOUNTABILITY:

1.       Inspect the lead definitions in the company by segment, by region, and by channel to make sure a qualified marketing lead is indeed qualified from a salesperson’s viewpoint.  It’s imperative marketing understands how sales qualifies and defines their own leads (not inquiries) as a starting point – what definitions they use, how they establish a need – with that definition in hand, it should MATCH what the marketing inside sales team has as a definition.  An outside, independent audit is helpful as it removes any sales/marketing tension with a disinterested 3rd party;  if that is not feasible, doing it directly from marketing to sales is the next best alternative.

2.       Establish a service level agreement with the head of sales on sales ACCEPTED leads (not sales qualified) AND  incent the inside sales team on sales ACCEPTED leads.   This is tricky – most heads of sales would want to know what to expect or count on from marketing as it makes their job easier.  The tricky part is that not all heads of sales understand the need or what an SLA is – particularly sales 1.0 executives.  So there may be significant internal selling on this point not to overlook!

3.       Establish metrics on a per rep basis –  THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP – specifically measure  on a per sales rep basis the quantity of leads that marketing sources, the quantity of leads that sales sources, the close rates and close TIMING for each sourcing category.  With this quantitative information in hand, a more mature discussion can be held with the sales leadership as to what is actually happening with marketing qualified leads.  Your marketing automation platform or Salesforce.com should help with this measuring.  One intangible point here – this data will force conversations, so treat the discussions with the heads of sales respectfully, not as a hammer.  The objective is to improve or close gaps on business challenge areas, not to hammer reps for how you might think of their performance!

4.       Benchmark similar sized company performance so expectations are set at the executive level.  At a tactical level, there is a great alignment opportunity between the head of sales and head of marketing in this scenario that she poses.  In other SaaS environments, according to SiriusDecisions and Marketo, I’ve seen upward to 60% of closed revenue sourced by marketing (note a more typical average for B2B SaaS is in the 18% to 33% range with Marketo pushing the envelope at 60%+).   The head of sales should want to know what marketing’s funnel is as it is less the head of sales team needs to do revenue wise at days end.  The board of directors will also want to know what marketing’s contribution is to revenue.

This lady was impressive, she had all the right business instincts identifying the challenge and just needed a bit more push as what to do next.  What do you find works for you?  Would love to hear a sales person’s perspective!

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

SaaS: Customer Retention is EVERYTHING!

SaaS – software as a service is a business model that was pioneered in the early 2000s to eliminate the costly software license model.  There are now a handful of global public company comparables with metrics that are published on the performance of these SaaS companies (Salesforce.com, Successfactors) and emerging fast growing companies (Appsense, Eloqua, Marketo, and Qualys to name a few).

An attribute to the SaaS business model is recurring revenue with shorter duration contracts, with resign upsell opportunities that typically range from 0-20% of the annual value.   With shorter duration contracts than that of a typical software license sale, retention of customers in a SaaS model becomes CRITICAL for the organization to make it’s overall annual revenue number.

Here are 5 techniques that I’ve used to help aid in retaining SaaS based customers:

  • Formal interviews with exited customers:  to be done by an external 3rd party to eliminate any survey bias and to get accurate information, you’ll be amazed at what your former customers will say about the onboarding process, their interactions, and the touchpoints they have with the organization.  This will also give a roadmap to win back their business.  I’ve used Primary Intelligence in the past with success.
  • Implement Net Promoter Score with existing customers:   to test periodically how customers see progress in your service offering or where the pain points lie on your customer service side.  This is typically done with larger, global enterprise B2B SaaS companies.  There are newer, more cost effective companies emerging to help smaller SaaS companies to run similar surveys.
  • Study and understand the compensation scheme for how your sales organization gets compensated on new and retention business.  A compensation model that is effective is how Gartner Group compensates their reps on new business and retention business (NACV model is what they call it – ask your rep, he or she will know all about it!)
  • Bundle and drive new feature/functionality around the resign period.  This bundling is key to drive price increases, I’ve had instances of other SaaS companies approaching me for annual renewal increases ‘just because’.  That line of reasoning is difficult to justify!
  • Involve your customers in global customer advisory boards so they can help shape product direction.  Engage your customers in regular field communication via newsletters AND LinkedIn (and opt-in customer forum), thus keeping them in constant contact with new developments on your product so they are always informed and never surprised.

What do you find that works for your organization’s customer retention efforts?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 1 Comment

The B2B Buyer Cycle – Starting Point

If you are a marketer (or any professional in a company that is non-sales oriented), how do you get informed of your buying cycle in a B2B sale and map your buying process to make sure your tools and messages fit with their needs?

At a recent Sales2.0 conference in San Francisco that I attended, there were a number of interesting trends mentioned in b2b selling cycles:

  • 70% of buyers already have information about your product prior to contacting a sales person
  • The sales profession in 2020 is estimated to be a profession of 3 million, down from 18 million today.
  • Inside sales as a profession is growing at a 20% annual rate while outside sales is stagnant (and likely trending downward).

Here are some suggested approaches on how to best start mapping your buyers process – these are techniques that I’ve used in the past with great success.

1.        Go on face to face calls (after getting permission from sales of course):  If you look at some of these trends, it is becoming more challenging to participate on external sales calls in hopes of learning what a sales professional faces.   I highly recommend going on external sales calls if possible, I’m still amazed at the number of marketing professionals that seldomly or never participate on calls to get sharper at their own knowledge!

2.       Go on calls – internally with inside sales:  With the growth of inside sales occurring, there is a very cost effective way to get smarter about how your buyer sees your value first hand.  Usually there is low cost for a sales person to involve an external entity on a call if one participates quietly.  Listen to the language your buyer uses (and where they are getting their data from).

3.       Run surveys:  either through regular customer advisory boards or SurveyMonkey, figure out how your customers are getting so smart so quickly.  If you have established communities (LinkedIn, Twitter), regular surveying is easy to do.  The survey can be of your existing direct sales channel, your indirect channel, your prospects (if run over your home page website) or of your customers.  Get the data to make informed decisions!

4.       Be active monitoring social media:  in a B2B environment, Quora and Focus.com provide a prospect a forum to learn what others are saying about your product in long form (more than 140 characters).  LinkedIn questions also have a similar structure to Quora and provide visibility to what your customers are saying.  An active monitoring at a minimum augmented with a strategy to be responsive to customer service or product issues within these forums is a must.  The other social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook) are also valuable, though the longer form of LinkedIn and Quora give someone the opportunity to vent at length.  Also, I’m finding very few businesses relying on Facebook for their B2B purchase!

There are other processes to map along the buyers journey including all customer touch points.  We’ll save that for another post!

What do you use to make sure you are understanding how your buyer thinks?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 1 Comment

Dashboards – Marketing and Sales – Driving Revenue!

There are several challenges to establish ‘board level’ dashboards that report on marketing activity that tie directly to revenue generation.  Here are 5 tips that I’ve used in creating dashboards for executive level reporting.  (NOTE – LETS TALK REAL TIME IF YOU NEED HELP IN CREATING A DASHBOARD, I HAVE ACTUAL EXAMPLES OF THEM.)

  • With new automation tools like Eloqua and Marketo, from interviews I’ve done with a number of CMOs of B2B companies, a surprising number of teams use Excel to report out on activity despite having capabilities elsewhere. Whether it’s Cognos, Salesforce.com, Eloqua, or Excel, the tool really doesn’t matter as long as the data is consistently measured month over month or quarter over quarter.  The trick is to baseline the activity based on current information, especially as a new leader or CMO.
  • Dashboards (or numbers) can sometimes not paint a complete picture as a stand alone entity on campaign effectiveness.  I augmented my quarterly board dashboards with a ‘green, yellow, red’ status indicator on QUALITATIVE indicators in addition to QUANTITATIVE indicators to help paint a more complete picture of actual marketing activity that impacted revenue.
  • Measure global/regional impact and channel impact that marketing had on sourced revenue – in other words, what did marketing contribute and at what cost point by region.   This analysis can be further filtered on a timeframe to close, no different from a sales funnel, where leads are predicted to close. (predictive analytics).  Also, be aware for you global marketers – activity within region should be compared within region and not across regions.
  • Web traffic is worth measuring as is the impact social media has on web traffic.  Social media in and of itself did not contribute to my dashboard foundation, my experience so far is social media (linkedin, twitter, facebook), more of an enabler than an actual converter of revenue in B2B marketing.  LinkedIn seems to be the most relevant here (I plan to create another post on this later).
  • Tracking contacts to opportunities allowed for better tracking of marketing influence/sourced, this is particularly true for those that leverage the campaign module of Eloqua.  This tracking can be further augmented by the Microsoft Outlook plug in leveraging Eloqua.

Dashboards vary with mileage and will change as your company changes it’s needs and growth patterns.  What dashboards have you found to be effective for you?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

Revenue through Marketing Automation

Increasing Productivity through Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)

My experience in this post comes from implementing MAPs in 3 different companies – in one of those companies, the MAP providers (Eloqua, Marketo, Aprimo) were a channel of distribution for us, so I had unique visibility as to their effectiveness.  When a process is followed, time efficiencies can be gained;  skipping implementation steps risks losing significant time to see effectveness.  When investing in these systems, you have to commit as an organization to move QUICKLY else you risk the ‘Ferrari collecting dust syndrome…’

You’ve heard of the brand new Ferrari collecting dust syndrome – someone buys a new car and it collects dust due to lack of use.   This same analogy has been used in investing in what is perceived as expensive marketing automation software to run routine marketing campaigns to accelerate revenue.  Implementation of these systems is very challenging to say the least in larger enterprises – outlining business process, integrating with sales ready tools, identifying KPIs and metrics, getting buy in, etc.  There are several key considerations when evaluating the need to increase productivity through marketing automation efficiency.

1.        Map out your lead flow process from inquiry to close by studying your Salesforce.com information, your marketing automation information, and interviewing your key sales stakeholders.  I’ve done this in two different companies and have found stunning results in both the process and in the experience that sales expects from marketing.

2.       Implement lead scoring through progressive form input/dialogue.  The progressive lead scoring will allow only the most qualified prospects deemed worthy a real time conversation (which is more costly than an automated touch).  The idea is to pass only the best qualified along to a telequalifying or inside sales entity.

3.       With the MAP platform, synthesize ALL campaigns to maximize effectiveness, to include SEO (search engine optimization).   It’s no good just to have campaigns for the sake of campaigns.   Some of the MAP platform providers are VERY early in on this process themselves which is somewhat shocking but true!

4.       Engage your marketing automation vendor early and often in your process flow (Eloqua, Marketo, soon to be Netsuite).  They do have best practice information as does other companies like SiriusDecisions.  You are better off engaging the MAP platform provider directly.

5.       Engage an outside party to help to move things more quickly.  An outside party can take the pressure off difficult conversations and can have the added insight of having been through other operational deployments.

What have you found that works for you?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 3 Comments

Maximize revenue as a goal – Aligning Sales/Marketing

If you read the last post, you saw the importance of tying revenue to results in both sales and marketing.

Let’s dig into some key steps to tie revenue to results:

1.        Adopt common language between sales and marketing on tracing inquiry to revenue – an exercise like this that is NEW to an organization has the potential to be tricky if expectations are not properly set in advance– the objective is not spend oodles of time on the adoption and process portion but to focus on the outcome of why this is needed.  The focus is aligning sales and marketing to measurable, tangible results at day’s end.  With common language, a baseline measurement can be established to make further improvements in and on.

2.       In advance of the above discussion, get buy in with key executive stakeholders on the measurements so baseline measurement is established.  As an example, it would be good to get buy in on the framework of what the outcome will look like in advance of digging into the details between sales and marketing.

3.        Once the framework and language is agreed upon, both sales and marketing can establish measurable goals to be held accountable to.   These agreements can be measured monthly, but the results will likely be in quarterly or half year increments.

4.       Create a lead flow process via marketing automation platforms (Eloqua, Marketo, Aprimo) to drive that delivery effectiveness (this will be the next series of posts).

5.       Avoid speaking in ‘Star Trek’ marketing language/speak in this measurement process – while the establishing of common language is important, it always needs to tie to revenue.  Marketers who talk in their terms (Inquiries, MQLs, SALs) can lose people in translation in companies that may not be familiar with that language.  This is particularly true with non-marketing executives which are typically less analytical in nature and board members who do not operate at the marketing tactic level.

What do you find that works?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

Connect B2B Marketing to Revenue!

This is the first in a series of posts of tying B2B marketing result to revenue.  This is the framework for the discussion on how marketing drives revenue for their enterprise organization.

A key aspect for business to business marketing to focus on is delivering activity (sales qualified leads or sales ready leads) that close to actual revenue – ‘revenue’ is language the head of sales, CEO, CFO, and board of directors understand.

But what do I measure as someone in a B2B marketing organization?

Too often, marketing teams and leaders measure their internal impact for the sake of measuring and are not making the direct connection from their activities to revenue either by channel type or geographic region.  Some call it ‘activity’ vs. ‘impact’.  Measuring followers on Twitter, Facebook fans, webviews, etc. while impressive to those in marketing really have no true tie to what non-marketers truly understand – the contribution to revenue.  This is what drives business!

Let’s take an explicit example.  The contribution marketing makes can vary widely by the type of company and it’s distribution channels.  I’ve been involved with companies that marketing has sourced 16% of annual contract value and have seen other companies, particularly SaaS companies sourcing beyond 50% of revenue through their marketing activity.  Benchmark companies like Forrester and SiriusDecisions also have similar percentage contributions for enterprise companies – your percentage will vary on company type, geography, and buying cycle characteristics.

Look for this trend to continue of more revenue getting sourced through marketing – prospects today are spending more time in online communities or researching online their needs before engaging with sales organizations.

To do this kind of measuring, automation fundamentals need to be in place (Eloqua, Marketo, Aprimo), processes need to be installed, and an executive agreement needs to be discussed on outcome.  Our next posting will dig into key steps on how we will tie revenue to results in these areas!

http://www.alphainventions.com/

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 2 Comments

Revenue Traction = Sales+Marketing Alignment

alignment_one_per_customer_med

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

obama10c

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?

skate

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/