Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why B2B Marketers Need a New Marketing Campaign Model

Marketers have long used campaigns as the basis for planning marketing efforts. For decades, the campaign paradigm provided a useful way to organize marketing activities and link those activities to marketing objectives. Today, however, effective B2B marketing requires new kinds of marketing tactics and methods that don't fit the traditional campaign construct.

Several industry analysts and marketing thought leaders are now contending that the campaign paradigm is becoming obsolete. In October of last year, Forrester Consulting published a white paper (The Rise of Marketing Orchestration) that described one of the major problems with the campaign model:

". . . despite a rapid growth in addressable media, pervasively connected devices, and real-time marketing technologies that enable marketers to reach and respond to individual customers, most companies are stuck in an old campaign mindset and a corporate reality where each of their touchpoints is typically the domain of separate channel silos, such as email, mobile, display, social, and web. The overall result is often messaging, execution, and delivery strategies that are fragmented across touchpoints and out of context to the consumer."

While many of the criticisms of the campaign paradigm are valid, marketers still need a way to organize their marketing efforts. One approach is to ditch the campaign model altogether and replace it with a new concept. Another approach is to change how we think about and define marketing campaigns to make the model more suitable for today's marketing techniques.

SiriusDecisions adopted the second approach in developing its B-to-B Marketing Campaign Framework. In the SiriusDecisions framework, a marketing campaign has three core attributes:

  • It is based on a buyer need (or a group of related buyer needs) rather than on the seller's products or services.
  • It includes four distinct types of marketing programs - reputation, demand creation, sales enablement, and market intelligence.
  • It is designed to run for a relatively long period of time, usually about 12 months.
The diagram below shows my interpretation of the SiriusDecisions campaign framework.

When I use the campaign framework with clients, the one significant change I make is to add a core value proposition component. In the planning process I use, core value propositions are based on buyer needs, and those core value propositions provide the foundation for the development of marketing messages and content resources.

One major benefit of this planning model is that it brings consistency to a company's marketing efforts. Each marketing campaign has a message/content theme, and all of the marketing programs within a campaign feature some version of that theme. This approach eliminates disconnected (or even contradictory) marketing messages and content resources that can leave potential buyers confused about the company's brand promise and the value its products or services will deliver. It also enables companies to tell a consistent story regardless of how potential buyers interact with the company or where they are in the purchasing process.

The traditional campaign model is becoming an ineffective tool for planning and executing marketing activities, but the more strategic marketing campaign concept suggested by SiriusDecisions provides an effective way to design and execute marketing efforts.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why B2B Marketing is Like Curling

(This post is an updated version of an article I originally published four years ago this month. Since the Winter Olympic Games opened last week, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this important topic.)

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games began last week in Sochi, Russia, and I've already watched some of the curling competition. I'm not really sure why I watch curling, because it's definitely not an exciting sport. If you're not familiar with curling, it's a little like shuffleboard. The big difference is that curling is played on ice and involves sliding a polished granite stone weighing about 40 pounds toward a target painted on the ice. The playing surface is prepared by spraying water droplets (called "pebble") onto the ice. Because of friction between the stone and the pebble, the moving stone will turn or "curl" to one side or the other.

After one team member "throws" the stone toward the target, two other team members accompany the stone as it moves down the ice and guide it toward the desired position on the target. The catch is, these players are not allowed to touch the moving stone. Instead, they use brooms to sweep the ice in front of the stone. Sweeping temporarily melts the top of the ice and thus reduce the friction between the stone and the ice. By reducing the friction, sweeping changes both the speed and the direction of the stone. So, knowing when and how much to sweep is a critical skill in curling.

In some ways, curling is a good metaphor for the job confronting today's B2B marketers and salespeople, particularly those involved in selling complex or expensive products or services. As I've written before, B2B buyers are now firmly in control of the buying process. They determine when and how they will access information to learn about business issues and possible solutions and when and how they will interact with potential suppliers. They also decide how quickly they will move through the buying process.

In these circumstances, the first job of a marketer is to persuade a potential buyer to begin an active evaluation process that may lead to a purchase. Through a combination of inbound and outbound marketing tactics, your objective is to convince the potential buyer to focus his or her attention on the business issue, challenge, or problem that your products or services can address. The execution of these marketing programs is the equivalent of "throwing" the stone in curling.

Once you've gained the attention of potential buyers, your most important job is to provide them the information they need when they need it. Like the sweepers in a curling match, your primary job is to reduce the friction that slows prospects down and causes them to veer off course. You would like to be able to directly lead your prospects through the buying process, but that would be the equivalent in curling of touching the stone, and that's against the rules. In today's B2B buying environment, attempting to push your prospects through the buying process toward your desired objective on your schedule just doesn't work - at least not very often.

The friction gremlins live everywhere in the buying process, and some of the causes of friction are beyond your control. For example, a change in the prospect's business or financial condition, or a change in the composition of the prospect's senior management team can delay or stall the buying process.

The good news is, you can address many causes of friction with the right marketing content and selling skills. If you consistently provide potential buyers useful and valuable information that is appropriate to where they are in the buying process, you can help them move more easily and quickly through the process and, even more importantly, make better buying decisions.

Photo Credit:  kbmaloney via Flickr. Used by permission under a Creative Commons license.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Is Your Lead Response Time Costing You Sales?

One of the most basic requirements for maximizing results from your lead generation efforts is responding to new lead inquiries in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, it's clear that most companies don't respond nearly fast enough to inquiries from new leads.

In 2007, and Dr. James Oldroyd conducted a landmark study regarding lead response methods and timing. The study addressed several important issues, including what day of the week and what time of the day is best to call a new lead to respond to an inquiry submitted online. The most striking results of the study, however, related to the impact of responding quickly to lead inquiries. Here are two of the most significant findings:

  • The odds of contacting a lead are 100 times greater when the initial contact attempt is made within 5 minutes vs. 30 minutes after the inquiry is submitted.
  • The odds of qualifying a lead are 21 times greater when the initial contact attempt is made within 5 minutes vs. 30 minutes after the inquiry is submitted.
These results relate specifically to telephone contacts, and they clearly show that leads go cold quickly.

Since 2007, InsideSales has conducted several additional studies pertaining to lead response practices. The most recent research (the Dreamforce 2013 Lead Response Report) was a lead response audit that involved attendees of the 2011, 2012, or 2013 Dreamforce conference (organized by Salesforce).

This study used a "secret shopper" methodology. InsideSales created an alias name, phone number, e-mail address, and a company website. Then, the "shoppers" visited the websites of the companies included in the study, located the main web form on the site, filled out the alias information, and submitted it. Then, they simply waited and tracked how fast each company responded, along with other response attributes.

The Dreamforce study included 5,257 companies, 1,811 of which were eliminated from further analysis because their websites did not contain a functioning web form. Here are four of the most significant findings:
  • 40% of the companies did not respond at all to the submitted inquiry.
  • The median first call response time of all companies that responded to the inquiry by telephone was 4 hours and 8 minutes.
  • The average first call response time for the same group of companies was 40 hours and 56 minutes.
  • Only 38 companies responded within the best practice time of 5 minutes.
These studies clearly show that most companies need to significantly improve their lead response processes. It's also important, however, to understand what this research is not saying. In all of these studies, the lead submitted an inquiry that asked for someone to contact him or her, requested information, or otherwise signaled that he or she wanted to communicate directly with the company. Common sense, as well as the research, says that companies should respond to these types of inquiries as quickly as possible.

These studies did not address the situation in which a lead fills out an online form in order to gain access to one or more specific content resources. This type of "inquiry" does not typically signal that the lead is ready to have a personal conversation with the company. In an earlier post, I argued that companies make a mistake when they reach out too aggressively to these kinds of leads, and the InsideSales studies do not contradict this important point.

The bottom line? When an inquiry by a new lead indicates that he or she is ready for a person-to-person communication, you need to be able to respond immediately. For other types of inquiries, immediate and aggressive person-to-person contacts may do more harm than good, and content-based lead nurturing is the best response.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Why B2B Marketing Automation Software Isn't the Whole Solution

David Raab, a widely-respected marketing automation industry analyst, recently published three blog posts (available here, here, and here) that discuss the usage of, and satisfaction with, B2B marketing automation software. For these posts, David gathered research from several sources, and I recommend that you read David's posts to get the full flavor of his analysis.

For me, there are three major takeaways from David's posts.
  • The market for B2B marketing automation software continues to grow rapidly. According to David's estimates, revenues from B2B marketing automation software reached $750 million in 2013, and the market has been growing at about 50% per year for the past several years.
  • A majority (about 60%) of companies using B2B marketing automation report increases in lead quality and lead quantity, but 25% to 30% of companies are reporting no improvement in these key metrics. (2012 Lead Gen Marketing Effectiveness Study, Lenskold Group/Pedowitz Group)
  • About two-thirds of B2B marketing automation users say they are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their solution, but one-third of users are neutral or dissatisfied. (2013 Marketing Automation Study, Winsper)
  • Most importantly, research from several sources indicates that only a minority of companies that have implemented marketing automation software (probably in the range of 25% to 45%) are fully utilizing their solution. As a result, most companies aren't realizing the full potential value of marketing automation.
These findings shouldn't be all that surprising. While B2B marketing automation software has been available now for several years, much of the adoption has been relatively recent. Therefore, we should expect that many companies are still learning to maximize the capabilities of their solution.

I also contend, however, that some companies have underestimated what is required to maximize the value of B2B marketing automation. The reality is, getting the most from your marketing automation solution is as much about non-technological factors as it is about mastering the finer capabilities of a software application.

Marketing automation software has sometimes been portrayed as a disruptive force in B2B marketing, but this characterization is only partially accurate. What has actually disrupted B2B marketing has been the emergence of independent, self-directing buyers. The Internet has put a voluminous amount of information at the fingertips of business buyers, and many buyers now perceive that they can find whatever information they need, whenever they need it. To put in simply, buyers now have more options than ever, and the bar has been raised for B2B marketers.

The growing use and popularity of marketing automation software and marketing techniques such as content marketing, personalized/customized messaging, and lead nurturing are all reactions to the dramatic and profound shift in power from sellers to buyers.

Like all technology, B2B marketing automation software is an enabler. It enables marketers to use marketing techniques that would otherwise be impractical, if not completely impossible. But to create effective marketing programs and to maximize the benefits you obtain from your marketing automation solution, you also need compelling content and well-designed demand generation processes. As with many other business initiatives, success requires a combination of the right people, processes, and technology.