October 15, 2008
Seven themes emerged at MarketingSherpa’s B2B Demand Generation Summit ’08 in Boston last week, where more than 200 marketers shared practical advice and best practices for generating, scoring and qualifying leads – especially during an economic downturn.
The seven key takeaways included:
- importance of forming strong relationships inside your organization
- best practices in lead nurturing
- content strategies for building trust with prospects
- tips on finding opportunities in an economic downturn
The West Coast version of this Summit takes place October 26-28 in San Francisco. See the Useful Links section below for more information. Special thanks to our 2008 Visionary Sponsor, On24, with a link for B2B Demand Generation attendees: http://www.on24.com/
For two days last week, while the stock market’s gyrations underscored fears about the economy, more than 200 marketers gathered at The Seaport Hotel in Boston for MarketingSherpa’s B2B Demand Generation Summit ‘08. They listened to case studies and presentations from more than 20 marketing professionals who offered practical and proven advice for optimizing campaigns and finding new opportunities in an economic downturn.
While acknowledging the challenges, speakers and attendees from companies such as Oracle, Fidelity Investments, Hitachi Data Systems and Elsevier focused on strategies and tactics to generate and qualify leads that will drive revenue for their organizations. Several themes emerged from the Summit, including the need to focus on lead nurturing, revamp content for trustworthiness and relevance, and find opportunities for social media, viral video and other lower-cost tactics.
Seven key takeaways from the Summit
-> Takeaway #1. Solidify your internal relationships
Before you can communicate effectively with customers and prospects, you have to ensure that you’re communicating efficiently within your own organization.
Brian Carroll, CEO, InTouch, and author of ‘Lead Generation for the Complex Sale’, told the audience: “I ultimately believe that if we get tight with the people in our companies, everything we do outside of our company is impacted by that.”
Solidifying those relationships means:
- Frequent and ongoing communication with the sales department.
Working with the sales team to define a qualified lead is essential. But Ross Nepean, VP Global Marketing, TAB, recommended taking the conversation even further: Talk to the sales team about their selling process, and the typical obstacles and concerns they hear from prospects.
“It’s really important for business-to-business marketers to understand the pains in the sales process that your sales people go through,” said Nepean.
- Reaching out to other departments – such as customer service teams and product managers.
Cynthia Nottoli, Principal, Alta Terra Marketing, described regularly speaking with the customer service team at her previous employer, Ping Identity. Those reps often provided subjects for educational webinars that dealt with their clients’ most pressing needs.
“I believe it is our responsibility to create the perception of our companies as centers of expertise,” Nottoli said.
- Demonstrating to execs marketing’s contribution to revenues.
At a time when marketing budgets may be under pressure, it’s imperative that marketers provide data to their corporate management teams that prove the effectiveness of their efforts.
Debbie Oenning, Director Americas Marketing, Sterling Commerce, explained how she received buy-in for a new online community by creating a series of short-term and long-term goals for the process. By reporting strong metrics on short-term goals, such as user participation, she was able to continue building out the project and pursuing longer-term goals, such as increasing sales.
“We knew we had to build the business case,” said Oenning.
-> Takeaway #2. Reach out to partners
Look for ways to collaborate with external partners on marketing efforts if economic factors are making lead generation more difficult.
- Denise Sparks, Director Demand Generation, Exeros, shared a case study about an educational campaign focused on a relatively new technical discipline called Master Data Management, which her company’s software supports. Rather than creating Exeros-branded content, she recruited non-competitive vendors targeting similar prospects to create “MDM University” – a microsite that hosted educational webinars and white papers.
The partners shared the cost and effort to build the content and the leads generated when prospects registered for collateral from MDM University. The campaign resulted in a cost-per-lead of $7 to $17, compared to the typical CPL of $100 to $112 for campaigns she ran by herself.
“I don’t need media companies to do this,” said Sparks. “I can put on five webinars over three months by myself.”
- Ed Lemire, Executive VP, Acteva, described how he revamped a customer referral program by providing text-based email messages that partners could send to their prospect lists. By centralizing the content creation and email blasts, he generated 300% more marketing campaigns than his team could on its own.
Those leads are now filling his sales team’s pipeline with far more than the roughly 20 accounts they could generate on their own each month. “Every lead that sales works and closes comes from marketing,” said Lemire.
-> Takeaway #3. Trust and relevancy are more important than ever
Nearly every speaker emphasized the importance of creating marketing messages and collateral that focus on your prospects’ needs and interests.
- Jarvis Cromwell, CEO, Storm Exchange, shared alarming statistics about the public’s eroding trust in government, businesses and other large organizations. In a low-trust environment, prospects are less likely to believe a marketing department’s claims about their products and services. Instead, they look for third-party validation.
He provided an example from his own work reaching a very tough audience: C-level executives. “You have to engage them on a terrain where you show them that this is a solution that is scalable and can drive success in the business.”
His approach was to establish credibility for his company’s weather-related risk management service through major media reports in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNBC, Reuters and Bloomberg News, among others.
- Brian Reed, CMO, BoxTone, recommended creating prospect personas. He identified different prospects for his firm’s enterprise BlackBerry management systems, such as those with immediate problems or those proactively planning for their company’s BlackBerry platform needs. Then he made sure to provide relevant content for each one.
Once you’ve established profiles, he said, you must “recognize that they change over time.”
- Dawn Brister, Integrated Marketing Communications Manager, Cisco Systems, revamped a small-business awards program by soliciting entries with a message that was more relevant to the target audience.
Previous campaigns had stressed the chance to attend a lavish awards party. But the team changed the emphasis of the promotion last year to highlight the recognition winners would receive for their innovative use of technology. The new messaging helped boost entries 59%.
- Jason Billingsley, VP Innovation, Elastic Path Software, explained how he created one of the most popular ecommerce blogs by focusing entirely on industry issues and education – not the company’s products or announcements.
The blog has made him and his team industry thought leaders. “We don’t sell our software, we sell our expertise.”
-> Takeaway #4. Lead nurturing builds relationships
Another common presentation topic was the best way to conduct lead nurturing. Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Director, MECLABS Group (parent company of MarketingSherpa), reminded marketers to focus on people in the lead-nurturing funnel – not on the process.
Other speakers recommended finding ways to incorporate multimedia into lead-nurturing tactics. Email alone can’t always make a strong connection:
- Katherine Staveley, Marketing Programs Manager, HP Software Americas, described the impact of a multidimensional direct mail piece with a free gift (night-vision binoculars) to promote a live online product demonstration.
The direct-mail piece had an 11.7% response rate. “It still surprises me how much people want toys,” she said.
- Steven Amiel, Common Sense Officer, Marketing Mentors, described a prospect road show he conducted for Kodak to promote commercial digital printers. Despite using invitations with personalized URLs, 75% of attendees registered for the event after a telephone call from a representative.
Communication during a lead-nurturing campaign also should be focused on the prospect’s goals and potential benefits. Alan Isacson, President, ABI, recommended creating campaigns that emphasized what technology can achieve on behalf of your clients.
Rather than emphasizing products, he said, focus nurturing messages on prospect benefits, such as reducing costs or improving operational efficiency. “Innovation is not about technology. It’s about giving customers a competitive edge,” said Isacson.
-> Takeaway #5. Pay attention to your most important metrics
Marketers often measure dozens of metrics during the course of a campaign. But it’s essential to identify the metrics that give the best picture of your campaign’s effectiveness.
- Brian Carroll recommended that marketers focus on the conversion rate of leads to opportunities – not just on the conversion rate of prospects to leads. Your lead/opportunity conversion rate will provide a better picture of the quality of leads in your pipeline.
- Jaren Green, Director eBusiness, IHS, described tracking several metrics during his team’s lead-nurturing process. In the end, though, he is most interested in calculating how much revenue that activity helped generate.
“The amount of sales is doubling every year because of our programs,” said Green.
- Finally, be sure to share your key metrics with your sales team and corporate executives. It helps demonstrate marketing’s accountability for its budget and its campaign tactics.
“Reporting needs to be public,” said Michael Veit, Sr. Manager Database Marketing Group and Measurement, RSA Security. “You’re going to publish bad results sometimes.”
-> Takeaway #6. Optimization can help you work smarter, not harder
MarketingSherpa Research Director Stefan Tornquist presented new data indicating that there is increased pressure on marketing budgets. But several presenters showed how optimizing existing campaigns can help marketers achieve better results with less effort.
- Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Aaron Rosenthal and Bob Kemper of MarketingExperiments led a live landing page optimization session in which they critiqued audience members’ pages.
They used the examples to demonstrate one of the key elements of their optimization philosophy: Focus on the transition points, such as registration forms, that lead prospects through a marketing funnel.
“It’s about the sequence of thoughts that happens in the mind of the person who’s arrived at this place,” said McGlaughlin.
- Gary Ware, Web Marketing Manager, Overland Storage, described the importance of testing. Testing helped his team achieve a 30% increase in clickthroughs and a 60% decrease in cost-per-conversion for their pay-per-click marketing campaigns.
“Anything that we can test, we test,” said Ware. “We always get together monthly to see what’s working, what’s not, and see what we can do to keep moving the needle.”
- Dennis Head, Principal, eDemand Leads, reiterated the importance of capturing leads from all channels in a centralized database. In that database, they can be recorded with promotion codes and individual campaigns can be analyzed for effectiveness. “Someone has to be watching the store,” Head said.
- Takeaway #7. Find opportunities in the economic downturn
No one downplayed the significant challenges marketers face in the current economic environment. But several speakers reminded the audience to look for opportunities within the downturn. Among the ideas presented:
- Look for cross-selling/upselling opportunities.
Francois de Laigue, Product Manager, Microsoft, suggested working with product managers to analyze clients’ purchasing behavior. That research can identify which adjacent products customers of one line were most likely to buy.
“You probably want to talk to those customers who’ve upgraded your product much more easily,” said de Laigue.
- Experiment with low-cost, viral videos.
Paul Dombowsky, Director Marketing, VoIPshield, shared the success his team achieved by creating viral “hacker” videos demonstrating security vulnerabilities in voice-over-IP systems. The videos only cost his team $3,000 and helped them land articles in major newspapers that raised awareness for security problems.
- Incorporate social media.
Consider relying on customers and prospects to help spread the word about your campaigns and products. Jakub Mochon and Samantha King, Marketing Managers, Siemens Medical Solutions, achieved $130 million worth of pipeline revenue for a new MRI machine by having rural hospitals participate in a viral video and community voting contest. The campaign awarded a free machine to the hospital that received the most votes for its homemade video.
“We needed something to stretch our dollars,” said King. “We needed to use social media.”
Useful links related to this article
MarketingSherpa’s B2B Demand Generation Summit, San Francisco:
B2B Demand Generation Summit Welcome Sponsor, Netline, with a link for B-to-B Demand Generation attendees:
Alta Terra Marketing