Tech Marketers: Too Much Proof = Bad Content

January 21, 2010

When developing your content to build credibility for your tech solution it makes common sense to include data to back up your claims.  Let’s face it, we are taught throughout our educational years to demonstrate and prove our intended results with documented evidence. There are so many technology solutions competing for share of voice, that incorporating proof data to build credibility in your marketing message should be automatic. Without the backing of data to support your claims, you leave your prospect simply wondering if they should take a chance on your solution.

But how much data? With technology solutions, I have reviewed many “pitches” that incorporate pages and pages of data to prove out their thinking. Marketing teams at technology companies that have adopted the content approach are gathering and analyzing data toward developing their proof points. Certainly they are demonstrating their commitment to content development which is quite necessary for their marketing initiatives. But I am often surprised by the results of this activity. Most often this content is delivered through heavy white papers and elongated sales brochures, powerpoints that can go one for days, all filled with mounds of data and proof points to back their claims.

I am not a tech buyer, but I read a lot of this content and am amazed at the quantity of data and the quality. There are some messages that have an overwhelming amount of data to support their claims, and causes me to become suspicious of their claims. It is almost too good to be true.

We can only comprehend so much. Our minds have limits in our ability to digest information and too much knowledge can undermine the intended message, greatly diminishing the intended credibility.

Developing content should be a critical component to your external marketing initiatives, but balancing the amount of benefits and proof points included within your messaging should consider the audiences ability to comprehend and digest your message. If you are truly attempting to build credibility for your tech solution, limit your messaging to four or five data points that can prove out your claims.

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Tech Marketers: When developing content, is speed or production value important?

January 18, 2010

As a CMO or marketing person at a technology company, I have to believe you are well into understanding the need to develop relevant content and its value toward driving leads, building credibility and differentiating your brand. With more and more content available to tech buyers both on-line and off-line I am beginning to question whether speed to market vs. production values will emerge as the crucial consideration for businesses and brands as they create and distribute new content.

Developing content can be quite laborious and requires a full marketing team effort. Listening to many CMO’s communicate the concern for cost and time necessary to develop and produce quality content has me wondering about the process and the budget necessary to achieve an organizations content goals. While one of the key issues in enterprise technology is cost optimization, I would suggest that this line of thinking can be applied to content development as well. Is there a tipping point with content development? How much production value should be embedded into the process to best serve your audience ?

As I think about video and audio content-creation for a technology company, I tend to focus on the basics. The content’s purpose will directly impact the tolerance (or lack thereof) that your audience will have for the quality of the finished content. The speed to deliver the content should reflect the audiences need for the information. With a fast paced world out there, I would lean more toward content relevancy and speed versus a high production value.

As an example: If you are reporting live from an event and the purpose of the content is to give your audience a feel for the event as it happens, speed is valuable and you can get by with little to no editing. In fact, the “in the moment” feel of almost-raw video helps support the purpose of the video and communicate the essence of the event.

However, if you’re putting together a reflection on the same event, with the goal being to provide a solid overview of the event as a whole and to draw larger conclusions, I would suggest that you have to balance time and quality. You have a little more time and you’ll need to more thoroughly edit your available footage to tell the bigger picture.

I believe web-content can follow the same measure of content purpose versus production value. Users expect different things from a post created as part of a live blogging activity vs. even a daily post on a thought-leader’s blog. Live-blogging is rawer but is immediately timely. A daily blog is still timely but should have the benefit of a little thought and at least a read-through before posting. If you are developing a white paper, Web site, or learning content, a plan and more substantial editing are called for to truly support the purpose of the content.

Bottom line is you should review your content development with cost optimization in mind. Match your resources against the audience, identify the purpose of the content and measure the added value you may receive from the extra time and budget spent to deliver versus delivering the message faster.

What do you think?

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Tech Marketers: One Leadership Goal Drives Successful Sales Enablement

January 13, 2010
There’s a fundamental shift happening in technology marketing around the globe today, as the formerly adversarial relationship between sales and marketing is being replaced by a new level of collaboration driven by the need to achieve shared goals. Marketers face increasing pressure to provide sales with content that meets a specific need at a specific point in the sales cycle and at the same time marketing departments are challenged to reduce  customer acquisition costs. This means that marketers need to shift from supporting, to enabling the sales team.
CMO’s at many technology companies are implementing more refined sales enablement programs to better the alignment of these two departments. But here is the bottom line, these sales enablement programs, no matter the intention of both sales and marketing are only going to be successful with the appropriate leadership in place. Too often, marketing and sales attempt to align with each department head calling the shots and driving the strategy with their department needs in mind. This tends to cause confusion and hampers the process.
ITSMA’s most recent study Sales Enablement Practices and Trends: Increasing Marketing’s Impact suggests sales enablement needs to fall under a unified leadership in order to be the most effective. It helps assure that the burden to improve performance will be shared fairly between marketing and sales. It also creates a single point of authority and accountability for improving the processes that marketing and sales share. Julie Schwartz, from ITSMA details six reasons as to why sales and marketing need to share the accountability and leadership for effective sales enablement efforts:
  1. Integrate a split buying process. Many companies still treat the buying process as having two separate and distinct pieces, with marketing generating leads and then handing leads off to sales. But marketing and sales should collaborate to move the customer/prospect through the entire customer buying process, not just hand off leads.
  2. Create a single system for tracking leads. One of the best ways to encourage collaboration between marketing and sales is to integrate a marketing automation system with sales’ CRM system to track lead generation and nurturing. But that kind of integration requires leadership.
  3. Reduce indirect selling activities. Shared leadership would also help eliminate the inefficiency that’s occurring right now in the sales process. Salespeople spend 23% of their time on indirect selling activities (lead generation and tracking, planning, account management, creating presentations, customer research, after-sales service, etc.). This is time that could be better spent in front of customers.
  4. Make marketing accountable for that reduction. If sales enablement is all about reducing the cost and effort to move a prospect through the buying process, marketers need to be taking steps to reduce the time that salespeople spend on activities that marketers could be doing more efficiently. But until more marketing organizations become accountable for reducing the time sales spends in indirect selling activities, improvements are less likely. We found that just 11% of marketing organizations are held accountable for doing this now, whereas 37% are in the planning stages. A strong, shared marketing and sales leader could convince the other 51% to get started soon.
  5. Help marketing improve its most effective programs. In our survey, marketers told us that the three most effective sales enablement activities are reference programs, ROI/price justification tools, and client briefing centers. To be effective, all these programs require close collaboration between sales and marketing.
  6. Know what the other hand is doing. We found that companies that are succeeding at sales enablement use quantitative metrics to gauge the impact of sales enablement activities, such as:
    • Number of closed deals influenced by marketing
    • Number of opportunities in the pipeline
    • Number of sales-ready leads generated

If we are going to close the gap between marketing and sales and truly reduce the cost and effort to move a prospect through the buying process, it’s time for marketing and sales to get together.

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Tech Marketers, it is time to evaluate your lead nurturing efforts

November 30, 2009

Whether you have a lead nurturing strategy in place or you are about to incorporate this strategy in to your lead generation activities, now is a good time to evaluate your nurturing approach.

A quick recap of the definition of lead nurturing: In a complex sales cycle, nurturing is a relationship-building approach utilizing multiple media to provide relevant information to prospects and engage in an ongoing dialog until qualified prospects are deemed “sales ready.” A smart nurturing strategy shortens the sales cycle and improves return on investment from lead-generation activities, so it is important to reconsider or re-evaluate your nurturing strategy frequently.

If you read about the effectiveness of well thought out lead nurturing efforts, you may have come across data that suggests some lead nurturing programs can yield anywhere from 15% to 200% in additional, new qualified leads.  Close ratios are higher.  Sales pipelines open up and are stronger.  Average sales cycles are shorter.  One company determined that its nurtured prospects bought from 100% to 250% more than those that were not nurtured.  Lastly, many nurtured prospects cited greater overall positive impression of the company.  Bottom line is that a properly planned lead nurture strategy can drive results.

Ardath Albee, a known B2B Marketing Strategist, recently outlined some basic evaluation criteria to evaluate your lead nurturing efforts. These are great thought starters and should be discussed among your team responsible for lead nurturing.

3 steps for evaluation that will help you create a baseline for building an effective nurturing program.

First – About your customers:

  • Who buys from us?
  • Why do they buy from us?
  • What do they need to know to make a purchase decision?
  • Who influences our buyers?
  • What could stop them from choosing to buy?
  • Is one kind of customer more ideal than another? Why?
  • What’s your best foot-in-the-door sale?

Second – Evaluate your prospect database:

  • Who’s in it?
  • Did THEY opt in or did YOU opt them in?
  • How do the prospects in your database match up with what you know about your customers?
  • How are you getting more prospects to opt in?
  • When’s the last time your database heard from you?
  • What topics have they responded to?
  • What’s your opt out rate?

Third – Audit Your Website:

See Ardath’s recent blog post about how to audit your web pages.

  • How much information on your website matches the answers to the questions in the About Your Customers step above?
  • What can be improved?

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Marketing your technology to the C-suite

November 24, 2009

“We need to sell up to the C-Suite.” This is the ongoing discussion and challenge  among all marketing folks in technology. The thought that if we can get our message beyond the day-to-day executives that we currently have a relationship with, the sales people will have a better business outcome. Although the C-suite is a very important audience and can certainly influence the purchase decision, as a marketer, you cannot ignore those day-to-day executives. In many cases they have the direct line to the C-suite and can determine if your message is C-suite worthy.

Reality in many cases is that each prospective organization has very different protocols in terms of the C-suite influence. Many CEOs, CIOs and CFOs rely on these day-to-day executives to make smart decisions and at the end of the day they trust their talents. This would then suggest that the C-suite audience is simply going to forward your information right back to the day-to-day folks or perhaps simply discard your message. Worse yet, is if you have not developed your content specific to a C-suite audience you can potentially create a perception of irrelevance among this highly sought after group.

Should you be marketing to the C-suite…I believe yes!. There is still great value in creating awareness and building credibility for your technology solutions among the c-suite audience. But as with all other strategic marketing efforts these C-suite focused activities should be integrated with the rest of your marketing efforts against the day-to-day executives.

If you are looking to penetrate or increase your share of corporate budget and provide long-term value to a company you would be wise to plan your approach both tactically and via content development. Do some homework against each account. Meet with your sales team and map out the authority of the day-to-day executives as well as the influence of the C-suite. Find out how the organization tends to make decisions.  Figure out who is actually involved in the decision-making process. What information do they need? When do they need it? Who are the influencers?

Using this information, develop a content strategy to nurture both the c-suite as well as the day-to-day executive. Have your content developed so you may react appropriately based on response or feedback from these two targets. Every touch point should add value to the conversation and continue to build your credibility.

Keep in mind, you need to prove your worth to those who will immediately benefit: the day-to-day business-unit executives. With the right messaging and ROI, they may take the results directly to the C-suite, which will increase the impact of your C-level messaging. The effectiveness of your messaging to th e c-suite will increase if it is delivered by the very team they trust.

 

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Technology and B2B Marketing Benchmarks for 2010

November 18, 2009

Planning season is continuing to heat up around marketing departments at technology organizations and many of you are looking for insights to justify your planned activities or perhaps inspire some of your upcoming marketing activities. Marketing Sherpa has recently released its annual B2B benchmarking report that I would encourage you to invest in. The report is probably the most comprehensive of its kind and addresses everything from trade shows to outsourcing and lead generation trends. There are several focus areas for technology marketing that may aid your marketing planning development.

I have listed some of the highlights below.

So the good news is that there is a lot of optimism for the upcoming year as many respondents of this study suggest that feel as thought there has been a turning point in the economy and there expectations for their business. This is good news for marketers trying to secure budgets and renew their limited marketing activity from the past two years. As the Marketing Sherpa study suggests, the expectation of better days ahead will mean a change in marketing objectives and the strategies required to achieve them for 2010. Those organizations that have learned to be efficient marketers on a lean budget will apply the lessons learned during these difficult times to become even more effective in the future.

Sales and marketing continue to debate quantity of leads over quality. Of course each of these department have performance measures that create this ever ongoing dialogue. Online search activities have become an ideal solution to balancing lead flow because, in many cases, the spigot can simply be opened or closed to control volume. The more complex challenge is controlling lead quality. This requires a much more strategic approach to optimizing not
only web pages for SEO, but in the case of paid search, carefully aligning the sequence of PPC keywords, ad listings and landing pages.

Tech Buyers are still consuming content at a rigorous pace, so whatever you are planning on doing, ensure you have outlined a smart content development process to feed into the various mead and outlets relied up on by these tech buyers. The chart below outlines the changing use of information resources by technology buyers in the past six months.

Aligning marketing and sales is still essential to creating a productive new business pipeline. As this chart demonstrates, many marketing and sales organizations are collaborating at minimum level by mutually engaging in best practices like defining what a sales-ready lead is – but few are developing a more complete process for sales to hand leads back to marketing for re-engagement and continued nurturing.

The website has also become an extremely efficient platform for integrating and automating the lead generation process. As a result, the role of a company’s website has been elevated from simply a spoke in the marketing mix wheel to the hub of the marketing strategy. While many website capabilities are being managed at a high level, or clients were at least doing a good job of managing them, the report suggests that system integration which enables the flow of leads generated on a website to the CRM system was a weak point.

 

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Tech Marketers: Reach the Influencer with Video

November 10, 2009

One of the most difficult challenges technology marketers face is reaching the influencers of a technology purchase. In most cases, technology marketers have a house file or have purchased a list identifying a key contact at the prospective company. But as we all know, there are multiple persons within an organization involved in purchasing large technology solutions. Reaching these “other” folks has proven difficult for many marketers.

One solution to reach the important influencers in an organization is to utilize video to create a more viral approach beyond the one or two email addresses or contact information you may have. Whether you embed video in your emails or post it on a site and link back to it in your email, the video is a great vehicle to create conversation. Of course, you need to ensure that embedded videos are sized correctly so you do not hamper the delivery with an enormous file size.

Video content can be developed to drill down to a technology solution benefit and communicate in an engaging manner. If your technology solutions have more complexity to them, break up the content into more concise parts and use them in a series. As long as you create relevant content addressing business issues, your video can have potential pass along value, with the ultimate goal of reaching those individuals beyond your original contact information.

Your sales team can follow-up sales calls with an embedded video in their email with language to encourage forwarding this or the link to additional colleagues within their organization. Back end tracking can capture viewers information and allow your sales team to follow-up with any new contacts.

 

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