by Courtney Eckerle
, Manager of Editorial Content
Amanda McGuckin Hager has built a company's infrastructure and process for inbound marketing from the ground up — twice.
Her experience comes from working with a number of seed-funded startups where she often was the first marketer on board. As a B2B lead generation marketer for nearly a decade, she has seen her focus evolve significantly in that time.
"I started doing market development — which was lead qualification — many, many years ago, and then defining the strategy, training the team," she said.
It was while she was working with a small startup that had been recently purchased by Home Depot that Infochimps reached out to McGuckin Hager with "quite a curious situation."
Infochimps is now a cloud service for big data. But, from 2009 to 2012, it had been operating as a data marketplace with the intention of building the world's largest open source data marketplace.
What Infochimps found along that path, however, was that it had built an infrastructure for that product and it was "actually more valuable than the data marketplace itself. [It] was so cutting edge, nobody else knew how to do it," she said.
Infochimps' newly discovered infrastructure allowed its customer data to flow and be analyzed and processed in time for a marketer to perform real-time analytics, and also allowed for ad hoc analytics where marketers could run queries against data or batch analytics.
There was only one problem: The current sales system simply wouldn't cut it. When McGuckin Hager was brought on in April 2012, she was presented with the challenge of building the inbound marketing channel to support the new product.
"We've got a demanding board, investors, all of us wanted to see this thing take off and grow. We are a startup so we're not supposed to grow slowly. Bringing in someone to help these inbound numbers up was a key thing," added Joe Kelly, Chief Operating Officer, Infochimps.
The previous business model, which ran through the founding of the company through November 2011 according Kelly, was "somewhat a data marketplace, somewhat a more consumer-oriented business."
Infochimps needed to scrap a lot of the ecommerce parts of the site, Kelly added, and replace the site's experience with content marketing and "places where people could read about the technologies that we offer and what we could help them with."
"[Infochimps] specifically brought me in and said, 'This is what we have. This is the deal,'" McGuckin Hager said.
Infochimps had been a Web-based transactional business, she added, so there hadn't been "any need for an infrastructure, a lead gen [program], a marketing funnel for sales reps — none of that."
The challenges McGuckin Hager was tasked with upon entering the company were to:
- Leverage current brand equity
- Add an enterprise focus
- Get in front of decision-makers inside the Fortune 1000
She and her team accomplished these goals by working to build up an inbound marketing funnel and establish a process with the sales team.
Step #1. Have the sales and marketing team work together
The initial step for McGuckin Hager was to sit down with executives such as Kelly and Worldwide Director of Sales Burke Kaltenberger.
"We do believe every resource has a cost and we manage those costs very efficiently. So that was the very first thing, defining the funnel and organizing the process," McGuckin Hager said.
The bulk of that conversation involved mapping intent through the sales funnel.
"Once we put it in-process, we fine-tuned it a little bit, but more of it has stayed very similar to what we first drafted," she said.
"It was critical that we all were on the same page. If Sales and Marketing weren't in agreement of when a lead was ready to talk to Sales, then we would have failed from the very beginning," she said.
"It was a significant transition that happened," Kaltenberger added in regard to Sales.
One of the biggest challenges Kaltenberger saw for his sales staff at the outset was enabling them to strategically approach more executives and large companies, and move away from the small- to medium-sized enterprises that were previously focused on.
"There's been a little bit of a transition in educating the sales team, and making sure we have the right folks on the team that are capable of selling value in large companies and navigating those large corporations," Kaltenberger said.
The aspect of this transformation that has been interesting to Kelly from "a marketing philosophy viewpoint is how a platform like this — a very inbound-focused marketing style — blends with your traditional enterprise sales model."
Kelly added that an Infochimps sales engineer who joined the company from a big enterprise company remarked "he'd never worked at a company where there's so many leads that just come in. Usually, these people are assigned a territory and given a quota and told, 'Good luck! Talk to Marketing if you want a white paper.'"
Kelly said, organizing workflow became a conversation between McGuckin Hager and Kaltenberger on how to align teams.
"Directors can have 20% of their focus on named account-type strategy, while the other 80% is spent on managing this inbound that Amanda gets," he added.
The sales and marketing teams come together for meetings to talk about "what are they hearing on the phones — your insides sales reps are your most valuable components to the success of your sales, or your marketing campaigns," McGuckin Hager said.
"They're the eyes and ears of the market; they're going to tell you what messages are resonating, what messages aren't resonating," she added.
Currently, of all of Infochimps' opportunities, "about 30% of our sales are inbound. Another 20% to 30% would be constituted by partners and the rest would be systematic, programmatic account management targeted at the Fortune 1000," Kaltenberger said.
Step #2. Capitalize on strong community development
Infochimps had regular newsletters, Kelly said, but "a trickle down, ecommerce-type thinking" is what was relied on rather than a funnel.
"There was no concept of a funnel, other than simplified, 'Well, let's get 30,000 users this month, so we can expect maybe 10,000 downloads and then maybe we can expect 200 sales,'" he added.
A valuable asset Infochimps did have at the outset of this effort was a voice, and McGuckin Hager knew her team had to capitalize on that to develop the inbound funnel.
"They had built up tons of brand equity in the data marketplace. They had a good, playful tone to their messaging and communications," she said, adding that previously, the messaging and communications was very "nerdy. Data nerds would just eat it up. And then, [Infochimps] played up the chimp tone quite a bit. Monkeying around."
Along with the voice, Infochimps had already developed a very strong community development.
"When I came onboard, the Twitter following was around 7,000, [or] maybe 6,500," McGuckin Hager said, adding that it has grown 21% from the inbound program.
The problem, however, was that "the followers and the people in the email database weren't necessarily the ones that would be buying, or even recommending, the big data infrastructure that they now wanted to sell," McGuckin Hager said.
Step #3. Develop the funnel with content
"Content is critical to driving the funnel. We created a library of materials from scratch," she said. "We believe in sharing our experiences, both our successes and failures, in order that others may gain value from it."
Throughout the space of a year, the team created 30 different calls-to-action across "a number of different channels — video, digital content, experiences," with an average conversion rate of 20%, she said.
The marketing team developed four personas, with the calls-to-action spread out among them. The four were:
- Business users (C-suite) — the CEO, product, marketing and finance executives
- Technology executives — the CIOs and CTOs, chief architects
- Analysts and analytics staff
- Application developers
Along with running a blog, they were able to develop:
- Six technical white papers; one how-to guide; one report
- Three data sheets
- Six case studies
- Nine webinars and seven event videos
On average, according to McGuckin Hager, "if you were to take all those landing pages and average out the conversion rates, we're looking at 20% conversion rate. The low end is 5%, the high end is 38%. These how-tos are very, very popular, especially in this world of big data where not many people truly understand what it is, and the technology behind it is complex."
After building the infrastructure and having everyone trained on it, the team then turned attention toward the personas, working with the product team to understand them.
Knowing "which kind of content is most relevant at which level" and mapping out a corresponding content calendar are key elements of their inbound funnel, she said.
"I really believe in having substantial content that people can benefit from, whether they choose to use our software or our cloud service — something that benefits them in their job one way or the other," she said.
"Simple is not a negative word," McGuckin Hager said about this effort.
Her team's approach to inbound marketing is to "drive the sales funnel. It really is that simple. Now, it does become much more complex, but the bottom line is the foundation never changes."
By doing so at Infochimps, the team has managed to grow the database 94% in the first year of the inbound effort.
"We went from not having any leads in April of 2012, to having a very strong, steady state of leads that come in naturally and organically," she said.
Infochimps grew the steady state of lead gen coming in by 358% in one year, up from a database of 12,000 that had been built over three years.
"I like to say that we believe in the power of connection, and the natural consequence of that is ground flow. Those people will carry you wherever you need to go. Progress is starting simple, growing sophistication — that's kind of been our approach, being very nimble and efficient," she said.
The best part of the change is that it's not over by far.
"I like to think of what we're doing right now as simple basics. It's foundational work that we need, but we have so much more room to grow," she said.
She has "big dreams about scaling the team to having a video team, and having a social team. That will come in time."
From a COO's perspective, Kelly gives a lot of credit for the company's continued upward trajectory to the transition toward inbound marketing.
"What we do is pretty sophisticated for our space. For our stage of company, I think it's given us a leg up on people who are at a similar stage in their product development who don't have these kinds of resources for a marketing program," Kelly said.
Burke Kaltenberger, Worldwide Director of Sales
Joe Kelly, Chief Operating Officer
Amanda McGuckin Hager, Director of MarketingTeam update: Both McGuckin Hager and Kaltenberger have moved on from their roles at Infochimps.
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