Monday, October 22, 2012

Managing Your Social Network: Top Tools You Should Use

After having my kids I took a step away from social media except for posting adorable pics of my kids on Facebook. That's about all I had time for - so I thought. My thought process was driven by a severe lack of sleep (which still exists) and a desire to focus on my core tasks which included leading my team. Here's the problem: my role is all about helping out customers and providing the best customer experience possible. In addition, establishing relationships on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn doesn't mean just setting them up and letting them languish. You can do this but when you need these people, don't expect them to respond. Like any relationship, you need to nurture your social network. This doesn't mean connecting with everyone but there are some tools I've started to use that are easy to use and can quickly turn you into a social media rock star.

Top 5 Tools You Should Use to Manage Your Personal Social Media Network

Before we start, when I refer to social media, I'm mostly referring to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

  1. Buffer. Buffer allows you to setup a bunch of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook updates to publish on a set schedule. That way if you have interesting things you want to post, you don't have to do it all at once or use another tool where you delay the posting. Just post items to Buffer and they will be published based on the schedule you've setup. In addition, you can use Buffer with other tools like Tweriod or Socialbro (recommended) that will tell you the optimal times to post your updates. That way your posts will get the largest possible audience. You can download a Buffer app for your Iphone or get the browser extension.

    Since using Buffer for only two months, my Klout score has jumped more than 5 points. I can't give all the credit to Buffer as I do have some cute kids and they do get a bunch of likes on Facebook but Buffer is a goldmine. When I have time, I find interesting pieces of information that I hope my audience will like and I post them using Buffer. It allows me to spend some concentrated time and then have posts setup for the next 2-3 days at least.
  2. Flipboard. Flipboard is an app for your Iphone or Ipad that allows you to easily flip through a summary of your social media networks. It allows me to review what others in my network have posted and either like, retweet, +1 or comment on what they have created. I can do it quickly when I'm waiting in line or caught in a subway or flight delay. I see it as the ying to Buffer's yang. Buffer allows me to post more material and Flipboard allows me to better engage my audience. I like it as I can easily listen to what others including friends, colleagues and customers are saying.


    Flipboard has opened my eyes to new people and information that I would never have known about the flipping action of cycling through materials is fun for me. I can setup a number of boards based on my interests (for example, saved Twitter searches) and it also has a highlight reel of top pieces of information from your different social media accounts. I have used it to review my Google Reader RSS feed that I not looked at for 2 years (and never thought I would until my kids went to university). You can even blend Buffer with Flipboard by sending articles you find on Flipboard to Buffer's account email address which will queue up your posts via Buffer.
  3. Pocket (Read it Later). Pocket allows you to save web pages and articles to read them later. I typically use the Iphone bookmark plugin or the browser bookmarklet to capture pages. I then read them using the Iphone app typically when I'm stuck without an internet connection (on a plane or subway). This application also works with Flipboard so I can save items I find there to Pocket to read them later. Once I've read the full article (when I have time), I'll then decide if I should I forward it on to my social network. This is another great application that helps me feed my buffer stream.
  4. Rapportive (or Xobni). Rapportive is a Gmail plugin that allows you to easily social network with people you email to or who you receive email from. When you receive an email or type in an email you'll see their social media profile pop up on the right side and you can see which social networks they're associated with and if you're currently connected. If you're not connected, you can easily connect with them which quickly helps you grow your network. Xobni does basically the same thing for those that use Outlook and there is a version called Smartr for Gmail but I didn't like it as much as Rapportive. I do have Smartr on my Iphone as it does have all of the social media profiles for contacts that are on my phone but I haven't found a use for it just yet.

    What I typically do is provide an item of value (such as a follow up from a meeting) and then request a connection through Twitter and/or LinkedIn using Rapportive. I like this tool as I can expand my social network in the normal context of my working day. If I'm already connected, I may review their latest social media posts and decide to engage with them. I can also refer to this information during meetings etc...
  5. An Iphone. Tying all of these tools together is an Iphone (or an Android phone). In order to make it easy to listen, engage, connect with my social network as well as expand it, I need my Iphone as it allows me to do all of this anywhere and with the swipe of a finger.
You don't have to right off social media or let it control you. You just need the right tools. Hope this helps. Do you have any tools you can recommend?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Marketing Automation Not Just About Revenue (But it's Damn Important)

I've had the following conversation a few times with clients who have implemented marketing automation: "so now that we have marketing automation in place we want to do ROI reporting - TODAY". Jumping into ROI/closed loop reporting right away can be difficult. You need to have the right processes in place including a strong relationship between marketing and sales as well as a focus on revenue metrics to name just a few of the requirements. A recent report by the Lenskold Group and The Pedowitz Group backs this up. Don't try and do everything at once with marketing automation - create a plan that will lead to incremental success but don't stop with just simple automation. Improving your organization's overall reporting structure and focusing on marketing's contribution to top line revenue brings many added benefits.

Show me the ROI?

While companies that have implemented marketing automation demonstrate a higher adoption of ROI type reporting such as sales metrics and revenue metrics, the focus is still on cost efficiency metrics, engagement metrics, lead metrics and response metrics (see the right side of the chart below).

Source: Lenskold Group - 2012 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study

There is no question that there has been a tremendous improvement in the number of companies that are now using some ROI type reporting (4 out 10 companies according to this report). That said, the biggest improvements with marketing automation are seen in increased quality and quantity of leads. Ensuring that the marketing automation building blocks are in place including automated lead scoring and nurturing help generate trust with sales and the rest of the organization. This can help you buy the influence that is needed when trying to close the loop and gain more insight on leads after they move to sales - especially with the long sales cycles that we see with many B2B companies. ROI reporting requires marketing to create a unified lead management process with sales and to also have support from IT when needed.

Source: Lenskold Group - 2012 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study

Take it to the Next Level - It's Worth it

The bottom line is that it is worth it to get to ROI type reporting. Those companies that are using marketing automation and ROI metrics are seeing a measurable difference when compared to companies that don't use these similar metrics. For example, companies using marketing automation and ROI metrics have seen a 69% increase in marketing's revenue contribution. I would be rather a CMO at a company where I can demonstrate how my team is impacting sales and revenue growth then a CMO at the other company that has marketing automation but can't demonstrate top line revenue contribution. Marketing Automation gives you the tools to reach the promised land. If you can't see a clear path to get to ROI reporting, talk to your account team with the marketing automation vendor you work with - they should have marketing experts that can help.
Source: Lenskold Group - 2012 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study
Oh and if that wasn't enough, here are a few of the other key findings from the report for companies using ROI metrics to assess their effectiveness:

  • More likely to be outgrowing competitors
  • More likely to define their marketing as highly effective and efficient
There is no question that there is some tough roads ahead for companies that go down this path. What this report backs up is what I see every day. The companies that roll up their sleeves and go all in get the best results. This requires patience, determination and proper planning. Good luck to those going down this road and congratulations to those that are already reaping the rewards.

Additional Sources:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When Lead Scoring Will Fail

Reasons lead scoring fails
Having worked with B2B marketers for many years, it's typically a no-brainer when someone asks me "should we implement lead scoring?". Lead scoring, which is the process of automating the qualification of leads that you generate, is a key stepping stone to get marketers to the next level. Having said that, your company may not be fully ready for it and there are some steps to start moving in the right direction. Lead scoring can't be used as a band-aid for companies that have incomplete processes. I'll outline some items that will prevent your organization from a successful launch of lead scoring. I'm not saying that you need to nail all of these before you start down the lead scoring path. Lead scoring evolves over time. However, you should consider these items.

Top Five Reasons Lead Scoring Will Fail

  1. Not enough leads. I read a recent Marketing Sherpa article about a company that was able to produce some awesome lead gen results without a CRM or lead scoring. You can get away with this if your a small company starting out and your still ramping up your demand generation efforts. You really need a large supply of leads to justify lead scoring. Lead scoring is disruptive for organizations as your automating the prioritization of how leads should be followed up on. If there are not enough leads then sales or the tele-prospecting team will jump on every lead regardless of the best lead scoring system put in place. People need to make their quotas.
  2. There is no end goal. Lead scoring can't be something that you setup just to cross it off your marketing automation checklist. It must be setup with a goal in mind. Typically it has a dual purpose: it helps sales prioritize the follow up of qualified leads and it helps marketing determine the type of offers that should be sent as lead scoring is tied to the different stages of a buyer's journey. Possible goals can include increasing the velocity of leads through the sales funnel, increasing the overall revenue generated by sales, launching a specific lead nurturing campaign that is geared to leads with a low lead score etc...  You also should consider the emotional side (have you read Switch?)- making sales people happy and giving more power and respect to marketing. These aren't as flashy to the CEO but they make things more enticing for both sales and marketing. Besides winning a Markie (special award for marketers), the biggest award I've seen given to a marketer was receiving recognition from the sales team of a job well done.
  3. Unrealistic expectations. Lead scoring at the moment is still not a science. It will not slice bread. It will not make your product more attractive. It will not generate more leads (it may reduce the number of leads). Many marketers and sales teams see it as the bright shiny toy on the shelf that they have to have. They think it will solve all of their problems. It won't. It will promote some great conversations and it can help you improve your lead generation engine but this will take time. Because lead scoring is not a science it will require some tweaking and fine tuning. Don't expect it to move mountains after a few days.

    I also see sales teams that want to take over the lead scoring discussions and build out very elaborate and complicated lead scoring models that use some of the traditional BANT criteria that sales teams have used for years to qualify leads. I don't recommend that lead scoring be used for that purpose and I'm not alone (See: Why BANT No Longer Applies for B2B Lead Qualification).  Automated lead scoring is best used or doing an initial qualification of leads that meet a minimal level of an agreed upon definition between sales and marketing of a "qualified lead: and then having a tele-prospecting team do further qualification to see if a real sales opportunity exists. At that stage, there are different tools that sales can use to determine if a prospect is really engaged or not.
  4. Too many lead scoring criteria at the beginning. I recommend using five criteria to track the profile of an individual (job role, industry, company size etc...) and five criteria to track engagement (recency and frequency of web visits, social media activity, email responses, form completions etc..) to start off with. Test out the criteria and see if it's working after three months. You may find that you can add some additional criteria based on discussions with your sales team. Build in a schedule for a regular review of your lead scoring criteria.
  5. Not enough data. I still help review about one lead scoring model each week on average and one of the biggest issues I see is lead scoring programs that are scoring on data points that don't exist. Your lead scoring criteria can't be created in a vacuum. For example, if your going to score leads based on industry, review your web forms to determine if you are collecting that data. Review your live events to see if you ask that question at booths and/or roadshows. The score is only as good as the data you are collecting. You may even require some additional data tools to clean your data and append additional information.

    In addition, you need to review your lead scoring model every 3-6 months to ensure that it's still producing enough quality leads. If you don't do this, sales will ignore the lead score and you will be back to square one.
Another  top reason that lead scoring typically fails and a common thread through these five items is the lack of alignment between marketing and sales. These two teams need to work together and have common goals to get the most out of lead scoring. I have seen lead scoring work when the end goal was to help marketing segment their database and serve up different pieces of content but you can only get so far without having a good relationship with sales. The success of your business depends on a close tie between these two groups.

This is not meant to discourage you but it's something to keep in mind when thinking about a lead scoring project. Many companies I work with will concentrate on getting their database in order first as well as creating nurturing paths to help enrich their database before tackling scoring. It comes down to your priorities.

Articles to consider: Lead Scoring Has Drastically Changed – How do You Measure up?

Image courtesy of Beachhead Marketing


Monday, September 03, 2012

Improving Your Upsell/Cross Sell Conversions

I was recently asked about approaches to take for creating a cross-sell nurturing program - what are the best practices? I could highlight a few examples of some well crafted emails and messaging but getting a good conversion rate goes well beyond a good email design and an engaging call to action.

Amanda Hinkle wrote a great a simple yet powerful article over at MarketingProfs "Three Cross-Sell and Up-Sell Tactics to Improve Email Marketing Results". Her first point "Take Advantage of Available Data" really hit home with me. If you have a marketing automation tool that can track the digital behavior of your web visitors, then you can review which pages your customers have visited on your website. Take a first pass at some of the products your looking to cross sell to existing customers and review which customers of other products have browsed those pages. That simple step can provide you with a seed list for contacts to add to your first cross-sell campaign.

You can also rely on traditional methods such as truly understanding the sweet spot of who buys your products and looking for similar customers in your database. Try this - instead of just firing off campaigns to anyone who matches your criteria, start with those who are actively engaging with you. This includes those that are responding to your emails, visiting your website regularly and/or agreed to be customer advocates (references). Segmenting based on behavior has proven to be a major contributor to marketing success,

A lot of this all comes down to data - start small and focus on who you are targeting. The list and not the email creative is more important in executing a successful campaign. Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

B2B Webinar Best Practices from VMware

As you’re gearing up for a great new year, I wanted to highlight some webinar/event best practices from the marketing team over at VMware. VMware has found that this marketing channel is one of their most successful when it comes to ROI so taking a few pointers and optimizing your own efforts could pay off big time this year. They achieved an ROI of 1324% in 2010 - not too bad! They were kind enough to share these  best practices via a webinar and I’ve summarized the items that I thought you may be interested in.

Evolution of Webinars

Webinars have changed over the years at VMware. Previously, webinars were controlled by product marketing. VMware have now integrated webinars with marketing as a whole and have included them across various campaigns. Marketing has also aligned the topics with sales goals. This tells me that VMware has worked on eliminating silos that exist within its own marketing organization as well as those that exist between marketing and sales.

A few other interesting tidbits – VMware now prerecord all webinars rather than doing them live. This still do a live Q/A though which allows attendees to post questions and have them answered in real time. This cuts down on potential issues that I’m sure many marketers have been plagued by (“Can anyone hear me?”, “Our speaker will be a few minutes late”, “I’m firing my webinar provider today!”) and makes the recorded version instantly available.

VMware has also successfully experimented with virtual events which are now a mainstay in its event roster.

Social Media and Webinars

Here are a few of the best practices that VMware uses: 
  • VMware broadcasts upcoming events to the VMware Twitter handle and Facebook page. The number of registrants from Twitter has consistently grown over the years.
  • The marketing team sends reminder tweets 24 hours before the event and an hour before the event.
  • The post an event reminder on Facebook 2 days before the event.
Some of these are obvious but I like how they stagger their event reminders using different social media platforms. I was also surprised not to see the use of LinkedIn (I'm sure it's used but it wasn't mentioned). Of course, LinkedIn is more contact focused at the moment (while you can follow a company). I would recommend using your own employees to highlight upcoming events to their LinkedIn friends and posting to various LinkedIn groups. I also expect Google+ to be more prominent this year with the launch of branded pages.

Maximizing Email for Webinars

Here are some best practices on using email to promote your webinars and remind registrants:
  • VMware sends the first email invite two weeks before the event  and a second (final) email invite a week before the event.
  • VMware has found from testing that sending an email invite one week before the event for their Latin America webinars works best.
  • The email subject line for webinar invites should be kept short and simple - highlight why the email recipient should attend.
  • VMware has restrictions on how many emails it sends per month to a contact so they summarize all events per segment in a monthly email.
  • Targeting (the email list) is extremely important – better to have 100 people that are interested in the event then 1000 that aren’t and may unsubscribe. VMware segments based on title, size of company, product interest to name a few of the criteria.
Again, most of this is straightforward but VMware has done a good job of reviewing what has worked best for certain campaigns based on testing and improved its performance over time.

To take this a step further, here is an example of one of their email invites:
There are a few items to point out. The call to action (Register Now) is very apparent and is above the fold so it can be easily and quickly seen by the email recipient. The details of the webinar are also very clear and to the point. The subject line is simple and very straightforward but doesn’t tell us the content of the webinar. VMware has a strong enough following so additional detail may not be needed. I’ve also noticed that the header image is part image and part text. This allows the text to be seen by the email recipient even if images are turned off (which mostly occurs by default these days) and makes it easier for the marketer to reuse an email template and deploy emails (designers aren't needed to create header images for each email). Finally, VMware has included extra events in the emails to reduce the number of event invites they send and also include a link to access all of their recorded webinars (not a bad tip to get more bang for your webinar buck).

Optimizing Your Website for Webinars

VMware recommends the following:
  • Promote events on your home page
  • Create a dedicated events page that you can refer people to. See the following example.
  • Promote events on specific product pages. As an example, VMware highlights an associated webinar in the bottom right on this page.
  • Previously recorded webinars provided leads every month. Make recorded webinars available to different teams in your marketing organization so that they reuse this content and generate even more leads.

Aligning Webinar Campaigns with Sales

Besides working with sales on the content for your webinars, here is how you can get sales to help you generate more leads:
  • Create emails that sales can use to send to their prospects that highlight webinar details. Again, having a central area for all events on your website makes it easy for everyone across the organization to see which events are coming up.
  • Update the sales team via internal newsletters and the sales portal on upcoming webinars/events and explain how they can inform their customers. Also let sales know how their help has generated more leads. Share the success.

Increasing Event Attendance

This is something that all marketers want. Here is what VMware recommends:
  • VMware found that having a live Q/A is the number one draw of live events. Ensure that your webinars/virtual events are interactive using Q/A, surveys and other interactive tactics.
  • Video webcasts (where you can see the person speaking) have a higher attendance then audio webcasts
  • Use an Outlook calendar reminder (.ICS File) in your reminder emails. This ensures that registrants books off time in their calendars and make the webinar information easily accessible. For more details, see this post: Increase Attendence for Webinars and Webcasts

Lead Management

Once leads are generated from your webinar campaigns, the job of the marketer is not over - it's just the beginning. VMware follows these processes: 
  • Leads are downloaded within two business days from the event database and provided to the sales database.
  • Most leads are then followed up with by a telequalification team and those that are possible opportunities are sent on to sales.
  • Follow up emails are sent to attendees and those that registered but didn't attend.
To speed up the process of getting leads to sales, marketers are now linking marketing automation tools to webinar providers seamlessly via the cloud. For an example, check out Eloqua's Appcloud. This eliminates much of the manual upload processes needed for closed loop reporting and follow up communication.

Measure Webinar Success

Marketing can't be just about executing. There should be goals that have been established ahead of time to define what success means to the marketing team and the entire organization. VMware measures the following:
  • Marketing sourced vs marketing influenced pipeline. Marketing sourced pipeline is when a new opportunity tied to an individual is created due to the marketing campaign where one didn’t exist previously. Marketing wants to understand which opportunities it helped generate and specifically to this type of marketing channel, which webinars are generating potential revenue for the business.

    Marketing influenced pipeline is when an opportunity that is less then 6 months old already exists for the individual that is tied to the current marketing campaign. In this case, marketing wants to understand the campaigns that are influencing the pipeline and hopefully converting prospects to closed deals.
  • VMware also track event registrants, attendees, attendee rate etc… The normal metrics you would expect to determine if a webinar campaign was successful.
I hope you found these useful and at least justified your current efforts. Please share any additional best practices that you have that have helped boost your webinar campaigns.

With a new year comes a time of reflection. This past year has been a great one for me personally. I have a new son, Judah, and my oldest is growing up quickly. I am very grateful for all that I have for what is to come. All the best to you and your family this year.

Chad H.



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