Although MediaBin has been around since 1987, the company reinvented and renamed itself four years ago. "We like to think of ourselves as a start-up," says Marketing Communications Director Christine Smith.
However, although four years ago being new was a positive marketing message, these days prospects only want to hear about the old, the standard, the proven.
At the start of 2002, Smith was stuck trying to get sales leads of high level execs in the Global 2000 who would like to purchase enterprise-level software from her relatively unknown company. Due to the recession, her budget was 15% lower than the year before. CAMPAIGN
Smith decided against advertising and direct mail because no matter how targeted the list or magazine, it is still mass messaging. She just could not afford to spend money on reaching prospects who were not going to be hand-raisers.
Some day a branding campaign, or casting a wider net would be all very well and fine. Not for 2002.
Instead Smith focused on five core tactics she hoped would have the most punch:
Core Tactic #1: Telephone prospecting
One great thing about a recession is that you can often hire great people who have been laid off elsewhere. Smith put together a team of three outbound telephone reps who were all experienced at "selling high value solutions to large organizations high in the food chain."
She give them two fairly targeted lists (one from Dun & Bradstreet and the other from a trade magazine related to MediaBin's niche), and asked them to set up appointments for the field sales team.
It is easier said than done. One appointment could require dozens or even hundreds of calls to get through to a qualified lead who wanted to learn more.
"They're able to dig up the right name through persistent calling. The name on the list leads them to someone else, who leads them to someone else, who leads them to someone else..."
The team are paid a base salary along with a quarterly commission based on how many qualified leads they generated that quarter. The field sales force decide which leads count as commissionable ones, which encourages telephone reps to work tightly as possible with them.
Core Tactic #2: Offline Seminars (not webinars!)
Smith had tested webinars in the past, but had never been overwhelmed with success. "I don't know if it was the content. We never got a great turn out. We'd get an average of 25 people attending and they didn't want to ask questions because they wanted to be anonymous. They didn't want other attendees to know who they were."
Smith decided to return to road-show seminars held in various cities so at least her reps would have the chance to meet prospects personally rather than virtually, thus making the most of the leads who showed up.
Road-shows are generally far more expensive than webinars, costing $100-$150 per attendee when all expenses are factored in.
Then Smith had a brainwave. Like many software companies, MediaBin is a Microsoft partner. Microsoft has offices with meeting rooms in lots of cities.
"They gave us the space for free," she says. Plus, she also saved on refreshments because she did not have to pay high hotel catering rates.
Core Tactic #3: A variety of white papers
Sales reps told Smith that invariably when they met with a qualified prospect, usually that person brought two or three execs from other departments to the meeting too. For example, a marketer might bring an IT leader.
Smith decided to offer seven different white papers, each addressing a different typical meeting member. She notes, "IT people want to know about bandwidth, 'Are you going to be schlepping huge files back and forth?' 'Will this be a huge amount of work for me?'"
Smith also got ideas for white paper topics from the sales department. "The VP Sales' office is next door to mine, so we have a lot of hallway conversations about what the sales force is hearing from prospects about what prospects need to know, or what they are asking about, or what topics they challenge sales on."
She kept white papers as non-salesy as possible; they are "very factual" and limited to an easy-to-read eight pages.
Aside from word of mouth via sales reps and mentions in the Company's monthly newsletter, Smith relied on search engine marketing to get more white paper distribution from MediaBin's Web site.
She revamped the Company site in August, making search engine optimization through meta tags and careful copywriting a top priority.
Plus, she purchased pay-per-click listings linking to the white papers in Google AdWords for a few very tightly targeted search terms such as 'digital asset management,' 'brand asset management,' and 'enterprise content management.' These are not terms searched on by thousands of people per month, but they are occasionally searched on by the right people and that is all that counts.
Core Tactic #4: Customer story-based PR
Although MediaBin has plenty of Company news such as new clients and partnerships, Smith mainly focused PR efforts on client-side success stories instead because that is what reporters are looking for these days.
She notes these stories can take a frustratingly long time because new customers and reporters alike want to wait for a bit to see how well the product works before talking about it.
When she does get a win (for example a Forbes story this fall featured a MediaBin client using the product) she contacts the publisher for permission to link to the story from her home page. She also asks for permission to reproduce the publication's logo and cover. (Yes, you do have to ask for separate permission.)
Core Tactic #5: Analyst relations
Although Smith did not have the budget to become an actual client of any of the major analyst firms such as Gartner Group, she did not let that stop her from requesting meetings with their staff who might be recommending related technology to big name clients.
She used four tactics to make meetings more successful:
a. Cutting back to just a handful of slides. "Keep your presentation short. Do not have 40 slides to go through. Cut it down to 6-8 slides. They just so appreciate it. The most successful meetings are conversations, not us telling them what we think."
b. Asking if the analyst would like to be informal. "We ask them up front at the beginning of the meeting, 'Do you want to see our slide presentation or would you like to make it informal and jump in with questions?' Most of them say, 'Let's keep it real casual.'"
c. Following up with personal text-only emailed letters that are not cc:ed or bcc:ed. No Smith does not add analysts to the Company email newsletter and she does not ever send them any other type of obviously mass-communication. Every time she has got news to share, she personally types a separate email to each analyst. She never bcc:s them because it is obviously not personal.
d. Bringing the relationship in-house. Although Smith has used PR firms to help get first meetings set up with important analysts, she always moves the relationship inside MediaBin from then on. "You need someone in the Company to be pretty on top of them, and it's just as easy to handle in-house ourselves."
Smith's job is not done at lead generation. She also helps sales reps send out the best possible responses when a lead turns into a formal request for proposal (RFP).
She explains, "We put our responses into nice notebooks, with color and lots of screenshots. We try to tailor the screenshots to something that company is doing. For example, for Ford we would have lots of pictures of Ford cars in screenshots. It's very professionally done."
She also notes that most RFPs ask if you have won any awards as a routine question, so it is worth making sure you have submitted your product for potential awards whenever possible as she has done.
"Our total number of customers has increased nearly 50% from 2001," says Smith. "Our revenues are more than 85% higher through Q3 2002 than for the same period in 2001."
34% of qualified prospects in her current sales pipeline have attended an in-person road show.
The average number of white paper downloads has doubled from 2001. In October 2002:
- 25% were from search engine marketing
- 24% were from colleague referrals
- 7% were from a link in MediaBin's email newsletter