"Fortune 500 CFOs have a strong aversion to sales hype," notes Sanjay Srivastava COO, Aceva Technologies, a collections management enterprise software firm.
"From a marketing perspective, we need to connect not with quantity but the quality. It's not about how much information we throw at them, but information that's psychologically appealing to them. Information that gets their attention as opposed to every other piece of junk mail they get."
"How do you single out those key concepts, those burning points these guys really relate to?" he asks.
Srivastava notes that copy points and product highlights that interested CFOs only a few months ago might generate far lower response now. (So, yet another Sarbanes Oxley white paper won't cut it.) CFO's most-current challenges and painpoints are shifting far more quickly than most marketers targeting them realize. CAMPAIGN
"In the past, we've fairly successfully done focus groups and run a quarterly product council where you take a few customers and put them on advisory board," Srivastava explains. (Which explains why Aceva has beat some competitors that don't invest as vigorously in market research or that treat boards as window dressing rather than critical information sources.)
However, by late last year, the typical 90-day lagtime for focus group results and board meetings alike began to seem like a glacial pace compared to typical Fortune 500 CFOs' changing concerns.
Srivastava's team decided to test online surveying, using three best practices for this highly sophisticated marketplace. (Link to sample invite and survey below.)
Best Practice #1. Small "acknowledgement" reward (not a bribe)
The survey team fine-tuned their reward strategy based on Fortune 500 CFO psychology. An iPod or desk clock might smell like a bribe or sales schwag rather than a friendly thank you between associates. And, let's face it, if a Fortune 500 CFO wants something worth $100, they can certainly afford it.
So instead the reward chosen was a gift certificate to Baskin-Robbins or Starbucks worth just $2-$3.
Best Practice #2. Set time expectations
Both the emailed invitation and the landing page where clickers begin the survey state roughly how much time the survey will take. Plus, participants can see how far along they are with each question's "progress bar."
Best Practice #3. Highly relevant questions
"We try not to ask information we already know," notes Srivastava. That meant respondents were not shown queries such as contact information, company size or industry. (Remember, this is not a lead generation device itself, but a market research tool that helps improve results for your next lead generation campaign.)
Plus, the team used four more tactics to ensure relevancy and gain the highest number of finished surveys.
a. Taxonomy -- Questions were worded using verbiage that these executives themselves tend to use, so terminology was not buzzwords or jargon from your own company's materials.
b. Decision tree structure -- Although Aceva's typical survey would take roughly 10 minutes to answer, few participants took that long because most didn't see all the questions. Instead the surveying software used a tree structure to funnel only relevant questions to respondents based on their past answers.
c. Adaptive answers -- When participants had to pick an answer from a list of possibles, the software paid attention to the answers that had been more popular with past respondents from the same demographic and presented those answers higher up on the list. (Note: don't try this yourself unless you've got a highly sophisticated stats engine and a large respondent pool to be sure you're not skewing results.)
d. Allow write-in "opinions" -- Positing questions as free-form write-ins will reduce your response rate because the survey feels too much like work. However, the team wanted to respect respondents' opinions and garner invaluable data on what answers and terminology survey writers had overlooked when they put the survey together.
So, critical questions featured an "Add your opinion here" box after the list of standard responses. Plus, the survey was updated on the fly so these participant-generated answers could be shown to following participants to see if they agreed as well or had something completely different to add to the conversation.
Once the survey responses were collected, the team used graphing software to help management visually understand the biggest lessons. (See link below for sample chart.)
Lessons were applied across the board to everything from product development to copywriting. "We mine a lot of information to structure marketing messages, including small things like email subject lines."
Knowing CFOs' fondness for numbers, the team also turned the results into a webinar series "Industry Survey Reports" to garner new business leads. (Link to sample marketing materials below.) Typical topic, "Tools and metrics: What's driving success in credit and collections?"
"We get very high response rates to the program," notes Srivastava. An average of 15% of invited CFOs will take a typical five-six minute survey for Aceva. And five to six percent of prospect company CFOs invited to attend the webinar actually sign up and *remember* to attend in person. (The company later offers an archived version to those who couldn't make it.)
Aceva's marketers consider the length of time a prospect spends with the webinar to be a metric of significant importance, showing both how compelling their content was and how qualified the leads were. The team has discovered three typical "drop off" points for webinars in general -- the half-way mark, 75%-done mark and the 90%-done mark.
Webinars presenting survey response data had significantly lower drop-off rates at each of these points. It seems metrics on how their peers had answered a survey are utterly fascinating to CFOs. Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples from Aceva's survey and webcast invite: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/aceva/study.html
Informative -- the online customer surveying and response analysis tool that Aceva relied on for this campaign http://www.informative.com
Aceva Technologies http://www.aceva.com