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by Jon Russo Jon Russo 2 Comments

Content – how buyers consume

Last week, I facilitated a lively marketing leader panel discussion for Andrew Gaffney’s Content2Conversion event which was an audience of 300 B2B marketers cross industry.  The event was focused on understanding what types of content buyers were interested in viewing at varying stages of the buyers funnel.  Leslie Hurst from American Express Open, Heather Teicher from click to chat leader Liveperson.com, Candyce Edelen, CEO of propelgrowth.com, and Amanda Maksymiw from OpenView Labs participated on my panel.    Click here for the webcast to our panel .

Owly Images

While there were several key takeaways around measuring content, mobility, social, and privacy, there were 5 key areas that were surfaced during our discussion that motivated me to capture them in my blog.

  • LinkedIn has increasing relevance and value in the B2B community.  Two of four panelists mentioned how sharing content on LinkedIn was more reliable for information sourcing than that of Twitter as the information from a connected contact has a relationship and ‘feels’ more relevant than a stranger.  One audience member from Rackspace who has 15,000 followers on LinkedIn is leveraging LinkedIn’s APIs to its web product pages, so when recommendations are published, prospective buyers can check to see if other buyers of Rackspace services are in their network.

 

  • Content measuring –  successful companies measured how often a piece of content was shared (shared with a friend, shared on links, shared with a blog, etc.) AND tied it to sales ready opportunities;  at that point a piece of content was seen as a very valuable contributor to the sales and revenue processes.

 

  • On segmentation and reaching end customers – across the panel, there was a relentless focus on understanding the customer and their respective pain points as a precursor to segmentation;  what was less of overall focus for each panelist was reaching these customers via a specific technology (mobile vs. desktop) as well as the medium for reaching the end users (twitter, facebook, linkedin).  Two panelists mentioned that mobile was ‘built into’ the development process rather than thought of as a separate initiative.  Facebook was universally seen as adding a human touch to a B2B organization but was not seen in converting meaningful leads.

 

  • On influencers in the buying process – quite a bit of emphasis was placed on identifying both customers and influencers that would help in the buying process by marketing to them, with them, and through them through co-developing content.  This was also referenced by one of the marketing automation vendors as an approach.

 

  • On Automation – one panelist summed it up best by saying, “Marketing automation has made some of our job much easier and much harder at the same time.  SFDC is not built for marketers which is where marketing automation helps us but marketing automation is causing us to think differently than before and thus creating more work for us.”  This seems to be the conundrum many organizations face – how to implement change with limited resource.

It was a terrific experience moderating this panel.  What are you seeing in these areas?

 

 

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 1 Comment

B2B LinkedIn – Take 2

For years, I’ve been raving publicly about LinkedIn and was one of the very early adopters in Silicon Valley of this technology.  LinkedIn has some compelling newer offers to consider in the B2B segment.

Many B2B Marketers have felt a bit burnt by prior years performance of text based LinkedIn ads – investing quite a bit of money at a high CPM rate with little to no conversion, so LinkedIn has some work to do to earn trust back.  However, B2B Marketers that may not have taken a recent look at their advertising capabilities and may be missing out on highly targeted new offers.  As I talk with my global clients particularly with those that are sales oriented are consistently using LinkedIn to get account, opportunity and lead intelligence information – it is by far the global standard for information relative to other comparables (Data.com, Hoovers, D&B, etc.) that are either largely North American centric or English country centric.

Let’s quickly delve into a couple of the newer advertising capabilities of LinkedIn.

First, it is really important to understand what your company is trying to do – drive more revenue, speak more frequently to customers, gain more market intelligence, etc.  Each tactic could use a different LinkedIn strategy.

  • In the newer partner based advertising models, emails can be targeted on a job title basis with open rates on their emails according to one representative from LinkedIn range from 20% to 40% – with click through rates of 10%.  The more granular one can get with the right industry, title, etc, the better these ads perform.  At a cost of $2.50 per message (approximate estimation), it is costly, but  worth the investment for the response rate if you know exactly who your target sponsor, influencer or end user you want to reach by title.  This information was reverified at a recent Sales 2.0 conference which I attended where an enterprise client claimed a 15x open rate vs. conventional email.
  • LinkedIn Polls provide a dialogue and a light weight market research mechanism.   It allows for more engaging dialogue by a community and gives flexibility to virally share ads.  This is probably not ideal for lead generation purposes.
  • Lastly, LinkedIn company pages allow companies to target followers, who are likely to be existing customers or existing ‘net promoters’ of the product (sans competitors of course).  This approach allows direct communication with the follower base through status updates – and the added benefit that information shared with the follower is also seen by the followers network of people.  This seems to be targeted to either customer retention or upsell capabilities within an existing customer base.

LinkedIn continues to innovate.  I’m test driving some of the above concepts more aggressively with my clients in our search to convert more leads to revenue and will let you know what I find out.  In the mean time, I’m curious what your experience is – particularly around other social media mechanisms that are getting more aggressive in the B2B lead generation segment.

 

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Improving Conversions – what to measure?

Many B2B companies look to improve conversions from lead to revenue and increase the productivity of their direct sales arm.  Here are 4 reports that can be run immediately in your CRM that can impact conversion positively without having to invest more money in new marketing programs.

  • Lead disposition reports:  when this report is run, it gives an overall status of how marketing is doing with handling of leads to and through the inside sales function.  Symptoms of problems in this area are a large pool of ‘open’ leads with no disposition.  what this means is inside sales is not taking action on these, which is cause for root cause analysis as marketing is producing a great quantity with no quality conversions.

 

  • Opportunity reports – look at the ‘closed opportunity’ status pick list (if there is one).  If there are choices that speak to ‘not qualified’ ask yourself or your team, why is it that they were promoted to an opportunity prior to being not qualified?  Within opportunities, look at aging reports, the number of days on average a deal sits in any one cycle.  Because an arthimetic mean is provided, give careful study to the outliers of deals that have sat in queue for a very long time.

 

  • Funnel metric reports – do an analysis by either lead and/or opportunity (sales accepted opportunity) to study the entire shape of the ‘funnel’.  Is it indeed a funnel or is it a snowman (heavy bottom) or inverted funnel (due to deals getting clogged up in legal review).  Against the backdrop of aging reports, funnel metric reports can be very helpful for sales and for marketing to determine what sales enablement strategy need to be put in place.

 

  • Duplication reports – do some basic analysis in/around fields within the record structure of your CRM – account duplications, lead duplications, and contact duplications.  Salesforce administrators sometimes overlook plugins that can prevent these duplications from happening – consequently, poor performing outbound campaign performance is symptomatic of the cause of poor data hygiene practices.  Poor campaigns = poor conversion.

What reports have you found helpful?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

Wow, what a year!

Wow, what a year!  As 2012 revs back up, I want to take a moment to reflect and share some brief accomplishments of my company that started the second half of last year.  It was an exhilarating ride that only gets better each day!  Here are a subset of the highlights.

  • My B2B client base expanded to 6 different companies – helping them predict their revenue by tying their marketing investments to new revenue activities at an executive level.  These companies were global in nature with headquarters throughout the US with revenues ranging from $50M to $15B+ spanning a range of industries.  I am very grateful for the opportunity for my company to help them!
  • Forrester Research cited my company in their first report on best practices for business to business key performance marketing indices (KPIs). This was very exciting for me!
  • I spoke at a number of engagements including presenting with one with one of my customers showcasing how we established KPIs for her business by working through key process elements.  We also spoke at the leading demand generation conference on this same topic.

Interesting observation across my 2H11 experiences – each of my clients had a different set of sales and marketing technology choices around marketing automation (as an example Eloqua, Marketo, Manticore, Leadformix) and CRM/data sourcing (Zoominfo, Jigsaw, Data.com, Dun and Bradstreet) leading to very different outcomes in segmentation, data quality, campaign effectiveness, and overall marketing ROI.  There was a strong correlation to those first working on their business strategy, then selecting their technology to support the strategy, in terms of sales and marketing ROI effectiveness.

2012 looks very promising so far – there is an underserved need at an executive level of connecting marketing to new revenue – in large part because there are so many technological combinations and a varying skillset of people.

Thank you again to my clients!  Good luck to all in 2012!

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Marketing ROI through automation

There are 3 system components to getting effective marketing ROI leveraging marketing automation:  Content, Process, and Data.  Think of ROI as a 3 legged stool – the automation (seat) is supported by 3 legs of Content, Process, and Data.  The stool falls over if any one element is missing.  Let’s dive in.

 

Content:  Must be relevant for the segment of audience we are going after, and built to keep the segment engaged over a period of time.  Lead nurturing, or the art of keeping in front of a prospective buyer with their permission is the key stage leveraged here.  The example I use in presentations is think about the JetBlue or other airline emails you receive at home – the content is relevant as the emails focus on your local airport and they keep in front of you on a regular basis even when you are not considering an airline purchase.

Process:  Can vary depending on organization size and structure and is most acutely needed when handing off sales ready leads to the sales organization from the marketing organization.  Processes need to be built for the ‘not now, maybe later’ buyer where sales has a clear disposition path of these inquiries.  Processes need to be considered a ‘system’, not a ‘handoff’ – the prospect to customer conversion experience must be seen as one whole, not as two parts with a handoff.

Data:  Quality makes the difference between good conversions and so-so conversions.  This area is often overlooked, particularly around field integrity and processes that eliminate duplication in entries.  In some clients, I’ve seen up to 60% bad data in their database.  Marketing campaign effectiveness is directly proportional to database quality.

When these three areas are tackled, marketing ROI can be measured and improved upon.  Focusing on just one of these elements risks not getting the right return – leads that are hung up in bad processes can not be fixed with good content or good data.  Think of ROI as a system and not as individual pieces and you’ll be on the right road of success.

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Who owns the contact data?

“3 out of every 4 commercial businesses believe that they are losing as much as 73% of revenue due to poor data quality”…Experian – QAS. U.S. Business Losing Revenue Through Poorly Managed Customer Data


A common issue I see in enterprise companies is the ‘perceived’ ownership around ‘data’ amongst sales and marketing – specifically I see marketing underestimating the value of clean contact data and overestimating sales ownership of contact information.  CRM systems like Salesforce.com and others have been around for 10+ years and many larger enterprises have a Salesforce admininstrator, reporting into sales, responsible for the policies and procedures within their company’s CRM System.   So naturally, marketers tend to say ‘contact data is a sales problem.’  I disagree.  Data Integrity is a business issue.  Marketing needs to take a more active role in data ownership and data quality around the contact level – and the need is acute if all contact level data is housed in the CRM system as it is likely the marketing organization is not digging in their CRM system as often as they should be.

With more B2B companies leveraging the capabilities of marketing automation vendors to do batch and blast email among other tactics, suddenly, the contact information has become very relevant to marketers – clean contact data means more conversions which means more revenue.

A variety of issues cause the data to be bad or incorrect.  With this in mind, marketing can take a business leadership  position by inspecting data samples or sets– to then present to the heads of marketing and sales on what the quality is. As an example, either sales or marketing should reports to analyze the following areas:

  • Complete a Country Code analysis
  • Look at Duplicates (even Leads that duplicate Contacts or Accounts)
  • Verify and enrich address data (data appending)
  • Compare external data to CRM data for accuracy
  • Run Reports on fields, test to see how often fields are used
  • Analyze all or a subset of your records for verification

With this information in hand, a leader will have a more precise understanding of the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.  Better data = better campaigns = better conversion which makes for the right business mix.

What have you found successful in your data analysis?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 3 Comments

Leveraging your Salesforce.com investment

As you’ve seen in previous posts, customer needs and revenue trajectory dictate technology decisions for the companies providing services.  As mid-sized companies contemplate how to get their sales teams more productive and get revenue quicker, they have a variety of marketing automation choices – Pardot, Infusionsoft, and now Marketo.  After listening to Marketo’s newest offer and watching a detailed demo, and contrasting it to the capabilities that some of my clients have, I am really impressed with Marketo’s offer.  I am not compensated by them in any way nor by any other marketing automation vendor.  Here’s why I’m impressed:

  • After studying a variety of models at high and low ends, the integration with Salesforce.com is key.  Marketo has perfected a native connection that makes it easy for companies to do this integration.  From my client experiences and my own, other automation systems lack in this area.  They’ll claim they have the functionality but it isn’t as clean as that of Marketo’s.
  • At $750/month,  it’s competitive with other offers – but what’s nice is if the company grows and has more need, there is no rip and replace needed in this cloud based solution.  A configuration change is needed in the cloud.  Now while I’ve not actually deployed this Spark software, it is my sense that with the upgrade, more business processes will be needed to be defined.  This is a category of ‘good headaches to have’.  The other lower end solutions do not have this capability.  This makes Marketo an ideal ‘try before you buy’ scenario.
  • Ease of use – the 4 step process makes this system incredibly easy to use so for a marketing shop with few or limited resources, this is definitely a solution to be aware of.
  • On the fly lead scoring which enables more leads to flow to sales depending on definition criteria.

Some other things to be aware of regarding Spark:

  • Marketing campaigns only get measured on first touch, not last touch or multi touch like the ‘Marketo Classic’ offer has.  This may impact how one allocates their marketing budget.  First touch allocation is common in about 45% of companies according to numerous industry surveys.
  • There is limited PURL capability or personalized URLs which are more prevalent in the ‘classic’ version.
  • There is a limit of 30,000 emails per month.
  • Emails are sent through Marketo – not through your company.  Email deliverability rates are high for Marketo but it’s an area to pay close attention to that not many in the industry know or study.

I think this move for Marketo is the right move and wish them luck tackling this new market.

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

Sales & Marketing – Your Prospect Database

 

Your prospect database is like a sight and scope on a rifle. If the sight is set on your rifle correctly, you’ll hit your revenue target easily when you squeeze the trigger to execute on your inside sales and marketing efforts.  If the site is off by the slightest amount, as you shoot your weapon (ie try to get revenue), you’ll miss your target.

Several issues contribute to poor data quality – technology, executives, segmentation, and processes. Let’s dive into each.

Today’s technology enables an end user to enter in multiple variations of a company name or contact affiliation.  Salesforce.com fields for a company name may include variations on company names such as I.B.M., IBM, and International Business Machines.  Consequently, data duplication issues may exist as a result.

Executives often overlook the importance of database health.  The technology is new, inbound marketing and inbound selling is also an emerging area in terms of importance, so as these two areas collide, it sometimes can be counterproductive.  Prospect databases are typically owned by marketing – yet when marketing struggles to measure its own value via metrics, this metric is not always considered enough or relevant to make it a key performance indicator.  What gets measured gets improved upon so no measurement means high risk.

Segmentation is often overlooked by marketers relative to database size and quality.  If a sales and marketing element agree on what a ‘perfect prospect profile’ looks like, how many of the prospect database actually fit the description of the target?  How wide is the overall contact or total available market for contacts?  Dun and Bradstreet 360 can help solve this type of concern primarily for North America market segments;  globally, data is much more challenging to segment.

Processes are also missing at the tactical level.  People often change companies within the prospect database.  Is there a strategy to ‘retire’ dead prospects, or does the company keep marketing to those prospects until the point where the company renders its email campaigns ineffective?  Is there a process to monitor the database quality at the tactical marketing level to ensure the site of the rifle is constantly fine tuned?

This element of marketing is one of the least ‘sexy’ or glorified for those that are non-analytical or are big into branding.  Yet the branding, the marketing campaigns, and the PR can be rendered ineffective efforts if the database is not healthy.

What have you found to work effectively for your database?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

CMO Roundtable @Velocidi

Along with 35 others, I participated in a terrific CMO roundtable hosted by digital agency @Velocidi moderated by @MargaretMolloy in NYC.  @JeffreyHayzlett, the recent head of marketing for Kodak and current head of The Hayzlett Group, was our guest speaker for heads of marketing in a variety of B2B and B2C companies.  Velocidi is the next generation digital agency leader in NYC with global offices and definitely a company to keep an eye on what’s happening next in the digital marketing space.

The topic of conversation was CMOs – what are the key issues we face and was based on some research Jeff had completed.  He had several areas that were important to consider as part of his research and he prompted breakout sessions to validate (or not validate) the research based on our own experiences.  In our breakout session, we had 4 takeaways that were mostly business oriented vs. marketing tactic oriented:

  • Be accountable to ROI – this was a reaffirmation of the research findings, though there was some side debate about ‘just because something could be measured, doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to get measured’.   There was also some side debate about the actual connection to some activity to meaningful results as there is not always a 1 for 1 correlation.
  • Be the steward of change and growth – swing for the fence when culturally appropriate.  The visual of ‘swing for the fences’ seemed to resonate well with others.  Although there was some debate about the degree a company could change, there was no debate that the CMO had to be the steward of the process.
  • Have courage in making tough decisions.  Whether it be people that work for the team or with the team, this element seemed to be a really important area for those that were responsible for implementing change in the organization.
  • Plan for a 3 month to 12 month horizon rather than do an extended planning process.  Technology is changing too quickly to plan beyond this time frame.   Be prepared to adapt people and processes for this planning horizon – there was a published article in Marketing Week that reaffirmed this view.

It was an excellent conversation.   What have you found in your experiences?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

B2B Freemium: Benchmarks & Key Questions

Recently, I had a dialogue with a colleague in Silicon Valley who asked me about my experiences with B2B Freemiums as she thought through new distribution models for her product.  It made me reflect for a moment about some of my more recent experiences about giving away an aspect of my product in the hope of getting more revenue.

Let’s assume we can tie the Freemium to actual revenue production – meaning the systems are built to track and trend that soon to be customer activity from download of software to close of revenue.  With no systems in place, you may as well nix a Freemium strategy in terms of measuring its success!

In my experience, a large majority of my inbound unqualified inquiries (meaning people with interest in my product offer) came from the Freemium offer, although the product offer itself had more B2C characteristics than a traditional B2B sale.  My conversion rate was in line with industry rates that appear to range from 1% to 13% depending on the source.  Here are 5 examples I dug up that could be considered a B2B benchmark for Freemiums:

  • Evernote 5.6% conversion rate on their two year user cohort, but note that the conversion rate on new users is much lower, likely SMB or consumer users.
  • Logmein 3.8% conversion rate, likely SMB users.
  • Heroku 1-2% ratio of paid-to-free users when it was about 50,000 apps in size
  • MailChimp –13% of users paying.  Having competed against MailChimp, their users are likely SMB and consumers.

So let’s say you had 2,000 inquiries/month, of which 2.5% used a Freemium at an average sales price of $10k/month – $500k/month revenue = $6M/yr on a very reduced customer acquisition cost if customers are able to buy via the web.

So that’s pure math…but let’s ask 4 key questions as you develop your B2B Freemium strategy:

1.  Will your buying entity see value in a freemium?

Companies are not as price sensitive as individuals. How large is your average selling price and your buying entity?  In the examples above, I do not have clear average revenue metrics, but by experience, an upper limit of value was in the $30k/yr range or lower – which may be in line with many cloud based applications.

2.  Can you get away with low acquisition and support costs?  Meaning, no support!

3.  Can you use the freemium as a low cost inquiry or cost of acquisition vs. traditional means?  If one were to look at customer acquisition costs, sales cold calling is very expensive/ineffective, targeted marketing less expensive, freemium is the least expensive.

4.   Companies do not virally spread a freemium offering and word of mouth is key.  How will you get others to talk about your freemium outside your community?  Freemium is all about scale, so you’ll need to assess the potential customer segment size for such an offer.

I think it is definitely worth testing the Freemium concept in a B2B environment.

What has your B2B Freemium experience been?