We’ve just returned from Boston, where MarketingSherpa held its 2007 B-to-B Demand Generation Summit. Over two days, 233 marketers -- including executives from Motorola, IBM, Prudential, Dell and MasterCard -- listened to Case Studies and presentations of exclusive new research while networking to share their own best practices and biggest challenges for lead-generation practices.
(The West Coast version of this event takes place October 29-30. See link below for details.)
Topics encompassed everything from performing key research before launching campaigns to the best ways to use different types of content for lead generation and how to target prospects in different sectors and audiences.
Along the way, five themes emerged as important takeaways that all B-to-B marketers can use to improve their own campaigns:
-> Theme #1. Relevancy is still top priority
Presenters shared new campaign tactics and models, but everyone reiterated the importance of staying focused on what your prospects want and need from you. Even the best campaign or lead-nurturing system will fail if you don’t deliver relevant information.
Being relevant often means carefully researching your market and your prospects’ impressions of your current business offerings. This was described in detail by Bappa Choudhury, VP, Siemens Medical. His team markets high-end medical equipment to several decision-makers, including C-level healthcare executives and end-users who react very differently to marketing. “Cardiologists are a different breed,” said Choudhury.
Erin McAllister, Director, Digital Strategy and Marketing, Unisys, delivered relevance through a seven-figure, highly personalized campaign that targeted Fortune 500 CXOs. The campaign was done in such detail that they created unique, personalized microsites for each contact, surrounded by geographic targeting of outdoor ads, such as billboards across from their offices and a specially-wrapped train along their daily commute.
If you’re unsure about the relevance of your own campaigns, try asking prospects and customers what they think of your efforts. That’s what Bryan Thompson, eMarketing Manager, Agilent Technologies, did for his newsletter subscribers. He surveyed his opt-in list to find out what they liked and what they didn’t like about the newsletter content.
Thompson collected quantitative data about what types of content subscribers thought was most relevant, and anecdotal comments that revealed how some subscribers believed the newsletters were not providing information that was useful to their jobs. “If you don’t give them the content they want, you’re going to get the negative comments.”
Thompson focused on techniques that made the newsletter more relevant to subscribers. His techniques included making it easier for subscribers to update their preferences with a tab right on the newsletter itself rather than through a link buried somewhere on the company’s Web site.
Don’t overlook the importance of providing relevant content to influencers as well as decision-makers. Kevin Young, Senior VP Marketing Operations, LandAmerica Financial Group, outlined strategies for improving your relationships with outside influencers, such as analysts, consultants, law firms and media. “These are the folks who make and break deals,” said Young.
-> Theme #2. Blockbuster results on a beer budget
Lead generation success isn't always the result of a big budget. Speakers offered a host of examples that prove some of the most successful strategies and campaigns come with relatively small investments.
Some of the best advice:
- Test and optimize landing pages and microsites. A recent MarketingSherpa survey found that 57% of marketers admit they’re too overloaded to test the landing pages they use to capture leads from webinar registrations, white paper downloads and other campaigns. Yet, testing and tweaking landing pages can deliver up to a 40% increase in conversions.
Angela Tucci, VP Marketing, Indicative Software, offered even better results from her own landing page tweaks: Shortened text and replacing some with several clearly marked offers -- with big buttons encouraging prospects to click to receive marketing collateral -- improved landing page bounce rate from 85% to 57%.
Ken Pulverman, Senior Director, Marketing Strategy and Analytics, Oracle Corp., got around the problem of a huge, sprawling corporate Web site by collecting existing marketing collateral in a variety of formats (white papers, videos, analyst reports, etc.) and placing it in microsites aimed at specific audiences. Working with almost no budget and within the product marketing teams, he was able to create simple sites heavy on white space that clearly highlighted actions that visitors could take -- e.g., click to watch a video or download a white paper.
This clean approach was key, but he cautions that it requires a commitment from all team members to keep the sites simple. “Clean is actually fairly hard,” said Pulverman.
- Create a “What to look for in a vendor” white paper. If you’re looking for an effective title to add to your white paper library, Michael Stelzner, author of ‘Writing White Papers,’ recommends a brief guide that describes the key considerations buyers should make when looking for a vendor in your marketplace. “If you know [prospects are] going to shop, why not give them a shopping list?”
You’re providing value to prospects without being overtly sales-y. By making sure the top characteristics are all strengths of your firm, you’re likely to end up on their short list of vendors.
- Start blogging. Blogs aren’t as trackable as other lead-generation techniques, such as email marketing or webinars, but they can establish you as a thought-leader in your space, and put you on buyers’ radar very early in the sales cycle. “It’s a way to engage people before they even realize they have a need for what you do,” said Brian Carroll, author of ‘Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.’
Carroll spends only about two hours a week on his blog, but it has landed him in the top spot for a Google search on the term “lead generation” and it has more than 5,000 subscribers.
- Experiment with low-cost video. Video content is hot, but don’t assume the only effective videos are slick, broadcast-quality pieces with high production values. As long as the content is fun, engaging and relevant to your target audience, it can create a huge buzz.
Pam O’Neal, Senior Director, Marketing Communications, NetQos, described a viral video campaign she developed based on a simple, animated depiction of network traffic developed by one of her in-house engineers. After creating a microsite for the video piece, posting it to YouTube, and seeding a few key industry sites with mentions of the demonstration, she created a viral video phenomenon that delivered a 6330% return on investment and cost per qualified lead of just $16.
“Always have your flip camera ready. [Video] doesn’t have to have high production values. When something great happens, be there to capture it,” said O’Neal.
-> Theme #3. Exclusive new data
MarketingSherpa readers love data, so it was no surprise that some of the exclusive new research presented at the summit grabbed its share of attention. Among the most surprising data points presented in Boston:
David Elkington, President, InsideSales.com, and MIT Professor James Oldroyd shared new data answering some of the important questions marketers face: How quickly should you follow up on Web leads? What days of the week and times of day deliver the best conversions?
- The odds of qualifying a lead decrease 21 times if you wait 30 minutes to place a follow-up call.
- If you wait more than 20 hours to place a call, you actually hurt your chances of qualifying that lead.
- 8-9 a.m. and 4-5 p.m. are the best times of day to qualify a lead by telephone.
- Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to qualify a lead, with Wednesday’s conversion rate 24.9% better than Fridays. “Make sure your sales teams are very efficient on these days,” said Elkington.
Tim Curran, CEO, Global Technology Distribution Council, presented new survey data showing just how tenuous the relationship between vendors and their reseller networks really is:
- On a scale of 1-7, with 7 being the highest rating, resellers only gave a rating of 4.1 to their overall satisfaction of vendor channel programs. By contrast, a similar survey of beer distributors found them giving vendors an overall rating of 5.1.
- Worse: Resellers only gave a rating of 4.4 for their commitment to vendors.
“There is potential for channel conflict, and resellers know that. So they hedge their bets and have loose relationships with vendors,” said Curran.
Stu Richards, CEO, Bredin Business Information Inc., presented new information about using Web 2.0 features as a business information tool for small and medium businesses. The key takeaway: “SMBs have not yet adopted Web 2.0 for business information.”
- Less than 20% of SMBs said they use blogs, podcasts or RSS feeds for business information.
- Only about 20% said they use social-networking sites.
-> Theme #4. New lead-gen technology
Lead generation is only the beginning of a marketer’s job. Once a lead comes in through a marketing campaign, it still must be categorized, qualified, scored and otherwise nurtured through a long sales cycle before it can be turned over to the sales team.
To help with this task, several presenters outlined the key technologies and formal processes they use to manage and nurture their leads.
Bill Rozier, VP Global Marketing, Ciena, described how his team developed an integrated process for lead generation and management with the Web at its center. The team created a four-month lead-nurturing program that used 21 emails sent to prospects every other week. They relied on three landing pages to capture qualifying information.
Communications consisting of a series of reminders, thank you and follow-up notes for non-responders centered on offers of white papers, events and demos. That process captured additional responses that stand-alone campaigns missed. For example, the team’s thank-you emails and “missed-you” emails for events and webinars typically achieved open rates around 50%. “We cannot afford to waste any touch,” said Rozier.
Tucci described how her team internalized a lead-scoring system to identify the sales-ready leads that get kicked over to the sales team. “Anything that’s not a ‘4’ or a ‘5’ gets kicked back to marketing,” she said, describing the process as something of an admonishment: “Hang your head in shame. You haven’t done your job.”
Several presenters discussed the role of technology in improving lead gen and lead performance analysis for search marketing campaigns. David Szetela, CEO, Clix Marketing, explained how to take a different keyword approach to your Google search campaigns and Google contextual advertising efforts, which place related links alongside third-party content, such as blogs.
A big mistake most marketers make is to use the same keywords and ad copy for both campaigns, which doesn’t take into account the different methodology Google uses for placing links next to content. “You are paying for impressions on sites that have nothing to do with your product or service,” said Szetela.
Furthering the discussion on search marketing, Internet marketing Consultant Todd Miechiels described his experience with the new integration capability between Google’s search marketing tools and Salesforce.com. The tool lets marketers track the performance of keyword campaigns from click to close -- often with surprising insights.
In his own tests, for example, he found that one ad campaign that delivered 0.70% clickthrough rates actually performed better (565.75% ROI) than an ad that delivered 0.99% CTR (113.16% ROI). “Your totally worst keyword for clickthrough rate could be your best revenue generator,” said Miechiels.
Despite the importance of technology and processes, marketers shouldn’t overlook human input. Liz Thibeault, Senior Marketing Programs Manager, EMC Corp., described a successful Web-based marketing campaign to upsell existing clients on additional services. It starts by having those clients’ account reps deliver the names and important qualifying information before her team places them into the nurturing process.
“We never contact customers without warning [account managers.] They get to see what’s being sent,” said Thibeault.
-> Theme #5. International marketing differences
Several presenters discussed their global lead-generation campaigns. The trend at most firms is to move toward a centralized approach to global campaigns. But regional and local sales teams are still crucial partners in global marketing efforts. Those local team members help adapt campaigns to the characteristics of each market.
Some of the experts' top advice:
- Regional markets are not monolithic. Recognize the difference between each country within a market, and tailor your marketing accordingly. Take the red hot Asia-Pacific market, which is really a collection of more than 40 countries with hundreds of languages. “Asia-Pacific is not a market. It’s a management construct,” said David Bebko, VP Marketing Strategy and Planning, Novell.
- Use a centralized, global-marketing team to avoid redundancies or conflicts between corporate marketing efforts and regional/local campaigns. For example, Abobe has coordinated its global search campaigns through a central global marketing office. “We needed to coordinate keyword bidding so Adobe was not competing with themselves,” said Ed Kim, CEO, Red Bricks Media, which helped manage Adobe’s efforts.
- Personalized campaigns aren’t appropriate in some countries. A US exec might be flattered by marketing materials highly targeted to their personal interests. Execs in some Asian countries might be offended, however, if you approach them on too personal a level. For example, Unisys’ highly-targeted campaign aimed at U.S. CXOs featured a mailing of The Economist magazine with a special wrapper showing the executive’s face on the cover. That technique wouldn’t fly in Japan, said Niharika Shah, VP Strategy Practice, imc2, which helped Unisys develop the campaign.
- Don’t hire US-based translators. Kim said hiring a translation team for Adobe’s global marketing was “probably the worst mistake” they made. Translators often don’t understand the subtle differences in some languages, particularly Asian languages. Instead, the team turned to contractors who held college degrees from an Asian university and graduate degrees from a top US university. This gave them the language skills and business acumen necessary to translate business content. Useful links related to this article
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