Category Archives: CRM News and Info
Just a few short years ago, the average B2B buyer still responded well to the classic marketing and sales tag-team approach, with marketing providing high-quantity product exposure and sales moving in to close the deal. This had been the model for decades, and everyone (buyers and sellers alike) was trained to it.
And then the buyer broke the mold.
The evolution of the Internet drastically changed the way prospective buyers fulfill their needs and wants. Where once a scarcity of available information drove all buyers to the same mass-media outlets, such as trade magazines and industry conferences, buyers now have a world of information literally at their fingertips: over 1 billion smartphone subscriptions are reported globally. Today’s population is the most connected and self-educated to date.
In the modern world of data overstimulation, buyers seek relevance over all else. They actively seek out products that relate to their own individual interests, valuing the quality of information presented specific to their needs over the quantity of marketing touches.
And they’re taking control of their own buying experience: 78% start the buying process with a web search, and 50% research through peer reviews, blogs, and news sites before engaging directly with companies themselves. In effect, they proactively construct an educational curriculum for themselves that meets their unique needs, rather than passively absorbing marketing messages pushed through mass media.
Buyers have unprecedented, unlimited access to information and choice, giving them full control of their buying process. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buying process is already complete by the time a prospective buyer is ready to talk to a sales rep.
How do marketing and sales teams respond to the challenges these new buyers present?
To reach these modern buyers, marketing teams need specific, targeted digital programs designed to adapt to the unique needs of every prospective buyer depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. But sending marketing messages that are directly relevant to each individual in a diverse group is a tall order.
Enter marketing automation. Originally built to extend marketing and email capabilities for the large enterprise, the technology has evolved to enable meaningful connections to modern buyers that work as well for the small and mid-sized business as for the big ones.
The marketing automation platform has become a hub of marketing intelligence, tracking each individual buyer’s journey from their first touch point to their final sale, providing an in-depth view of the 70% of the buying process that traditionally occurs in the dark, beyond the firewall of traditional marketing and sales programs. Marketing automation overcomes this firewall – it’s the science and technology that enables marketing and sales to streamline, automate, illuminate, and measure the modern buyer’s journey through the purchase process.
Data is marketing’s new power.
Data that was previously unavailable to marketing and sales teams can now be tracked and analyzed, from the age-old staple of traditional demographics, to behavioral data like email clicks, website visits, and content downloads. Marketers are now empowered to measure this digital body language and discern where buyers are on their purchasing journey and what types of content they want to consume.
Marketing automation centralizes this intelligence. It identifies every meaningful interaction that a buyer has with your brand, following the individual’s journey toward making a purchase decision. It tracks, measures, and analyzes the data of every interaction so that marketing and sales teams can sell smarter to a more engaged audience.
So what do you do with this trove of data? It’s already clear that the number of prospects you reach – or “quantity of eyeballs” – is no longer a meaningful goal to pursue. The world of marketing and sales has changed, but not for the worse. What emerges is the ability to wait for likely buyers who will identify themselves as they become sales-ready, and follow up with a proactive, targeted outreach, making the marketing process more efficient.
The availability of behavioral data makes it possible for marketing teams to push content that is directly relevant to the buyer’s interests and stage in the purchasing journey. Instead of taking the control from the buyer, it is now the marketer’s job to help buyers make the purchase decisions they are currently contemplating, giving them the right information to come to a conclusion on their own.
Where do you start with marketing automation tech?
Getting started with marketing automation can be a daunting task – with so much information available, where do you start? Start with your buyer. Create your programs around what you know about your buyers, and build out from there:
- Map out typical buying stages.
Take a close look at how your best customers make buying decisions. Are there common trigger events that cause prospects to start investigating new solutions? Common questions or challenges that must be overcome? Tip: talk to your sales team. They’ll have a pretty good idea of common decision stages.
- Map out programs and activities that will help you get in front of buyers at each stage.
What do you need to do to get in front of buyers at each stage of the journey? Here you map out tactics, required content, and initiatives necessary to start getting in front of buyers as they begin to make their decision. For example, if most of your buyers start with a web search, creating great web content that’s optimized for search engines should be on the top of your list.
- Map out the systems and technologies needed to support the initiatives outlined in step 2.
What technical systems do you need to support your activities? Ensure that your marketing automation platform meets your key requirements and has the flexibility to integrate with other technologies as your business needs expand. For instance: if SEO is one of your key tactics, you’ll need an SEO auditing tool, a feature that’s baked into top marketing automation platforms.
These three steps are the foundation for building a marketing and sales engine that is centered on your customers – not your teams or products. You’ll be well positioned to dive head first into the digital age and attract modern buyers with this customer-centered approach.
Dismantle, destroy, destruct the “sales vs. marketing” approach.
The traditional “versus” setup has been pitting marketing and sales teams against each other for years. Without a clear central focus on the modern buyer’s journey, sales and marketing teams often become adversaries.
The marketing team thinks the sales team is throwing away good leads out of laziness, and the sales team thinks the marketing team isn’t doing enough brand building or providing the quality leads the sales team needs to do its job. However, it’s likely that neither of these assumptions are true. Quite simply, the way buyers operate has changed. Marketing and sales teams need to change, too.
Nearly 80% of leads deemed “bad” by sales go on to make a purchase within 24 months. That’s a lot of missed opportunities. You know that sales rep who keeps complaining that the marketing team is sending him horrible leads? He might be missing out on some great deals. But on the other hand, he might be at least partially right! The leads he is getting probably aren’t ready to talk to a sales rep yet, leading to frustration from sales, marketing, and prospective customers alike.
With a focus on the buyer’s journey, and the new ability to track and measure that journey, marketing teams can prioritize prospects that are most likely to make a purchase now. And prospects that are earlier in the decision-making process can be held back and warmed up in an automated lead nurturing program.
Companies that use marketing automation see big returns.
So what does the adoption of marketing automation mean for the bottom-line? The figures are astounding:
- Marketing automation helps you more efficiently engage prospects with information that’s directly relevant to them – this builds trust and understanding with your prospective buyers. For marketers who deploy lead nurturing, the return is a 2x win rate and a 47% increase in average order value.
- Targeting the right content to the right prospects at the right time accelerates a buyer’s decision-making process. In fact, companies that use marketing automation also see 70% faster sales cycle times.
- 67% of B2B marketers say lead nurturing increases sales opportunities throughout the funnel by at least 10%, with 15% seeing opportunities increase by 30% or more.
Want more information on how to use marketing automation to connect with the new breed of buyer? Check out how Act-On is paving the way with Adaptive Journeys.
Salesforce has entered an alliance with
QuintilesIMS’ aimed at helping life sciences companies move treatments from clinical phases to commercial applications more effectively.
QuintilesIMS, formed last year through the merger of healthcare data provider IMS Health and medical research firm Quintiles Transnational, is one of the world’s largest integrated healthcare services companies. The combined entity has 50,000 employees in 100 different countries.
QuintilesIMS plans to use the Salesforce Platform’s cloud, mobile, social and artificial intelligence capabilities to build new solutions to bring therapies to market.
Quintiles initially plans to use Salesforce to help manage clinical trials, patient recruitment, marketing and other functions, according to Quintiles spokesperson Tor Constantino.
For example, the companies will work together on ways to improve the feasibility of clinical trials, improve patient enrollment and communications, and help mitigate delays, he told CRM Buyer.
Over the long term, Quintiles plans to work with Salesforce on items like digital health, patient engagement and precision management, according to Constantino.
Salesforce has worked with Quintiles for more than a decade, dating back to 2004, when it inked a deal to provide CRM software for more than 2,000 users at Quintiles Transnational.
The alliance will help QuintilesIMS “create solutions that empower life sciences firms to collaborate with providers and patients in smarter and more predictive ways throughout the clinical life cycle,” said Salesforce COO Keith Block.
The deal represents “transformative potential for the life sciences industry, as it will better equip and enable our customers to meet the clinical and commercial challenges they face as they move healthcare forward,” noted Kevin Knightly, QuintilesIMS president, information and technology solutions.
The agreement represents a clear validation of Salesforce’s efforts to build its health cloud business, observed Jeff Kaplan, managing director at ThinkStrategies.
It shows how Salesforce’s cloud solutions can be leveraged with healthcare service providers like QuintelesIMS, he told CRM Buyer.
The Salesforce deal is significant for QuintilesIMS, as it is one of the company’s first major announcements since the 2016 merger between Quintiles Transnational and IMS Health Holdings was announced nearly a year ago.
The goal of the merger was to help transform the clinical trial process while creating a database of anonymous patient information that could be used to drive new efficiencies in the pharmaceutical and patient care industries.
When announcing the merger, the companies anticipated the deal would create an annual run-rate in cost savings of US$ 100 million by year three. The combined companies reported revenue of $ 7.78 billion for 2016, an increase of more than 7.4 percent, and issued a full-year forecast of between $ 8.1 and $ 8.2 billion — between $ 4.40 and $ 4.55 a share.
The Salesforce deal is important because “partnership strategy is key,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research director at 451 Research.
“Salesforce looks to vertical partners such as QunitilesIMS to build upon the Salesforce platform for its customers,” she told CRM Buyer.
“While Salesforce has made headway into a few key verticals, it relies very heavily on its partners,” Kingstone pointed out. “Life Sciences and Healthcare are critical vertical markets that are undergoing digital transformation, with 32 percent in the planning stages and 24 percent in formal strategies.”
Salesforce last month entered an agreement to integrate the Veeva CRM and Salesforce Marketing Cloud to deliver a more coordinated and consistent experience for healthcare professionals.
Veeva is a worldwide provider of CRM for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and the companies have more than 250 combined customers.
They say it can take a product idea 10 years to go from concept to mass-market appeal but that might be only an optimist’s viewpoint. Some of the best ideas in CRM right now have been marinating for at least that long — and some for much longer. Two great examples are analytics and CPQ, which companies like Oracle, Salesforce and others have embraced with passion. Interestingly, each technology has traversed a path that needed other technologies to become fully mature.
“Analytics” — that is, business intelligence and data mining — is an old term for what we now call “machine learning.” Analytics and big data needed a lot of hardware improvements to become prominent.
For example, way back in the 1990s, Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts — next door to MIT — became known as “AI Alley” for all of the startups there that were going to enable us to know customers’ minds before they did. Most of those pioneering companies are gone now, but their ideas generated big R&D throughout the tech sector.
One of the major drawbacks of any kind of advanced analysis is the need for processing power on specific data. To do that, you need fast CPUs — but also, your data can’t be static and sitting on a disk. So, the AI movement influenced not only speedups for CPUs, such as multiprocessors and federated computing, but also in-memory databases and very dense memory.
Of course, it took 20 years, but today we’re reaping the benefits of the investment and research necessary for all of it to happen. Now we really do have the ability to know probabilistically what customers in the aggregate will think, and we can act by putting next best action suggestions on a smartphone. That’s pretty cool.
Flag the Outliers
Analytics has come a long way, but the ultimate benefit likely will be felt in the Internet of Things, as machines increasingly communicate with machines with rich data streams that have to be monitored for exceptions.
CPQ — or configure, price, quote — software has become a now, or in the moment, idea. It was once a standalone category that could be grafted on to SFA for companies that needed it — but every company needs CPQ, and without it many are reduced to relying on spreadsheet apps that often collapse under their own weight.
Consider the spreadsheets involved in proto-CPQ. We all developed spreadsheets in-house to deal with needs not addressed elsewhere for the product catalog, including prices and descriptions. Businesses also needed a spreadsheet for each deal, which would be updated multiple times within a sales process. Quarterly updates to the product spreadsheet and random updates to quotes invited all kinds of problems.
Sales reps are known for their ability to seek out the shortest distance to close, and we love them for it. However, in the past the path often went through using old quotes modified for new deals, using old product catalogs and price lists, and possibly offering the wrong discounting.
In that type of scenario, management has to patrol every bid for every deal, and that’s getting to be hard to do. Management would rather be promoting the new product line with new pricing and other things that add greater value.
There’s also the issue of turning the catalog loose on a website so that customers can configure their own solutions. However, you can’t begin to do that unless you can build business rules into the process — such as “Product A is always sold with 2-Product B’s, or 1 Product C plus services.”
Other forms of front-office automation, like SFA, make it possible for reps to handle increasing territory responsibilities. That decreases the number of reps needed but leaves their managers with the same amount of work reviewing manually created quotes.
The front-office strategy today is to manage the exceptions — SFA with analytics and good reporting makes managing the territory easy. However, spreadsheet-based CPQ is not a good fit for analytics, so CPQ becomes the weak link in an otherwise improved sales process.
Spreadsheet CPQ is impossible to manage by exception, leading to slow turnaround on quotes and lost deals. To manage quotes by exception, the same as you manage a territory, you need a CPQ system.
Not surprisingly, this is where analytics and CPQ cross paths. Analytics tools are great at finding the exceptions based on the business rules set up. Rather than a manager scanning all deals or offers, a rules and analytics-based CPQ system simply can flag outliers, such as overly generous discounts or incorrect pricing.
There might be legitimate reasons for the exceptions, but there should be easy ways to find and deal with them without having to sift through the majority of plain vanilla deals.
Agility for All
Besides just saving labor or improving accuracy, a business that more easily pivots on a customer’s quotation request and does it first is in a better position to win. It’s a form of business agility — an idea much in the news today.
Agility is supposed to be about flexibility, as well as the capability to change rapidly and evolve to meet market demands accurately without incurring a great deal of overhead. Business agility is important. While it might be possible to manually respond to a single special need, it’s not a good idea to base a business model on it. Specifically, responding to special needs — good! Doing it manually over the long run — not so much.
Last point: If business agility is important to your business, then software agility ought to be important too. This means using solutions built on the same platform, where possible, so that they use the same objects and data naturally, without having to rely on massive integrations.
In my experience, many point solution integrations take a toll on IT that should be avoided if you expect to maximize your business’ agility.
CPQ and analytics have come a long way over decades to provide us with some of the needed components of a truly agile business approach today. Spreadsheets barely have changed. In a more competitive world, it makes great sense to ensure that every part of your key business processes (there’s nothing more core than sales) is supported by a system — not a spreadsheet — and the best way to do this is with platform-based components like CPQ.
Healthgrades, an online resource to provide consumers with information about physicians and hospitals, on Wednesday launched CareChats, a tool that allows encrypted text and email conversations between patients and their healthcare providers.
Developed in partnership with
Conversa, CareChats enables doctors and hospitals to communicate with patients outside of visits. Among its uses are management of chronic conditions, communications before and after surgery, and lifestyle health coaching.
CareChats alerts providers when intervention is required, according to the companies, and encourages patients to either book an appointment online or contact doctors directly.
“Conversa’s innovative, scalable and reliable technology delivers an innovative and meaningful way for physicians, care teams and patients to communicate outside of office visits,” said Chris Edwards, chief marketing and experience officer at Conversa.
This approach leads “to more meaningful conversations and exchanges of information and overall better care,” he told CRM Buyer.
The CareChats tool integrates with the Healthgrades CRM platform, which is used to help doctors and hospitals better manage and communicate with existing and prospective patients.
Several major healthcare systems have used CareChats to help doctors and other hospital staff manage patients with chronic illnesses and for other purposes.
Ochsner Health System, for example, instituted a pilot program in which primary care doctors prescribed the CareChats tool for patients with uncontrolled hypertension. The doctors were able to have real-time conversations with patients using personal medical data to drill down for the best treatment options.
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services used CareChats as a tool for digital health coaches in a pilot program last year.
Citrus Valley Health Partners used CareChats in a program to meet requirements set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ bundled payment program for total hip and knee replacements.
The CareChats tool reflects a trend toward automating doctor-patient communications to fill the gap between office appointments, medical procedures and testing, which is important particularly in managing chronic illness, observed Victor Kamlek, a telehealth analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
“In the predigital world, communications that were very important were not always very successful,” he told CRM Buyer.
A doctor might not be able to reach a patient after a surgical procedure to convey valuable information, for example.
The biggest obstacle to growing the doctor-patient communications market isn’t developing the technology — it’s getting the insurance industry on board, Kamlek said. “There are a lot of hurdles that need to be crossed before this is a totally accepted market.”
Content creation is on the rise, with 76 percent of marketers reporting that they plan to generate more content this year than last. Producing valuable, authoritative, and compelling content, however, takes time – and many marketers have already spread their resources thin.
A simple trick, however, is saving marketers dozens of hours creating content. The secret? Not all the content that you make needs to be your own. Incredible value lies in curated content.
Of course, you must always give credit to the source, but showcasing the work of others can leverage content and help you meet pressing marketing goals while providing highly valuable, authoritative marketing materials that your audience craves.
But where should you start?
Content curation: the benefits
Curated content opens up many opportunities that would otherwise not be available. For example, you may publish a piece of content about SEO but personally don’t have a high level of expertise in the matter. Seeking out established experts on the topic and creating a blog post that features quotes about the future of SEO from leading specialists, however, instantly establishes the authority and quality that you need. As a side benefit, the experts will likely share the content in which they were quoted.
Do you want more examples to inspire your use of expert-borrowed content? Here are five tips and examples of curated content done well.
1. Leveraging expert insights
IBM has a “smarter planet initiative,” which shares examples of people and companies that use technology to build a smarter planet. This initiative ties in perfectly with the use of curated content, as the company can elevate the voices of experts in their relative niches while providing customers with great, informative material.
For example, IBM recently highlighted the work of Dr. Sabrine Hauert, who believes that robotics and artificial intelligence receive too much hype. In this piece she presents content about the ethical questions that need to be asked to make the most of the technology and set expectations and predictions for the future.
IBM’s initiative has featured various forms of curated content covering topics including electricity grids, details about water management, green building, and more.
Key takeaway. Keep an eye out for types of content would be good candidates for curation. Perhaps it’s a series of blog posts or an upcoming eBook. Look for opportunities to enhance content while lightening your workload.
2. Use quotes
A great strategy for adding life to content and infusing it with authority is using germane quotes. For example, this post from TopRank Marketing titled “The Future of Influencer Marketing: Top Predictions for 2017” includes several content marketing experts and their expectation for what content holds in the coming year.
Check out this forecast from Amisha Gandhi, Senior Director of Influencer Marketing: “I think the trend and the importance of micro-influencers will increase in 2017, but more importantly – companies/brands will look to the business results they can drive with their influencer programs versus awareness and reach. Specifically, in B2B influencer marketing, we will see companies plan campaigns that include influencer content and offers that help both lead gen and demand gen in the customer journey.”
The curated content includes a quote from each expert, a “Click to Tweet” quote, and his or her respective Twitter handle.
Key takeaway. Do you want to create more high-quality, authoritative content? If so, the easiest way is to select a trending topic, get influencers’ perspectives, and fill the content with valuable quotes and details. As a result, the content will be more valuable than writing from just one person’s perspective, and it also will help you establish authority in your niche.
3. Use audience insights
If you want to build rapport with your audience and encourage sharing, consider audience-curated content. But how does that work? It’s actually pretty simple. Take a look this example from MarketingProfs, who asked their audience to complete this sentence: “You know you’re a marketer if ….” Then the company pulled together this catchy SlideShare.
Each slide highlights an audience member’s answer, giving credit to its author. For example, Libby Eddleman Spears wrote, “You know you’re a marketer if you give your kids ideas about how to market their lemonade stand.” In the captions, a woman is saying to her children, “Did you launch an awareness-building marketing campaign first? What are your S.M.A.R.T goals? What’s your plan for engaging with your customers?”
Key takeaway. Leveraging audience insights to drive content is a double win. First, you engage your audience and discover their perspectives on the selected topic. Second, you amplify their ideas and content, and in turn, they share the content with peers and co-workers, expanding the reach of your brand.
4. Compile the best tools
Short on time but still want to create a valuable post for your target audience? If so, consider creating a “best tools” piece. Check out this post from BufferSocial titled “45 Best Mobile Apps and Tools for Marketers: How to Manage Social Media from Anywhere.”
This article specifically highlights tools that help the reader become more productive when managing social media. When creating the article, the author likely identified that as a pain point of the target audience and then decided to round up programs that would help. The post details 45 different apps that fit the bill.
Here’s another example that uses a similar strategy, published by SmarterBlogger, titled “63 Blogging Tools That Will Make You Insanely Productive.” This blog post breaks the tools into subcategories, including those for the minimalist blogger, the serious and committed blogger, and the entrepreneurial blogger. The post was highly successfully, with 154 comments to date, many of which included additional resources for blogging tools.
Key takeaway. Lists are valuable type of curated content because they save readers time and energy. Instead of your audience having to search for tools that solve specific problems, such as increasing productivity, you do the work for them and create engagement and value.
5. Social media lists
What social media channels does your target audience engage with the most? For the B2B audience, it may be LinkedIn or Twitter. But regardless of channel, you can curate content that highlights who they should follow in those niches.
For example, consider this post published by Jay Baer at Convince & Convert, titled “88 marketers you should follow on Twitter.” The list reflects the recipients of “shout-outs” given by Baer at the end of many of his Jay Today podcasts, when the author acknowledges individuals he respects and admires ‒ people he believes marketers should be following in social media.
Baer pulled from the content of previous podcasts and created the list of 88 influential and relevant marketers. The finished product is simple, including the name of the person to follow and a link to their Twitter profile. The list ranks these prominent professionals in order of importance. At the beginning, Baer starts with his top 10, using the subtitle “The Most Connected Marketers.”
Key takeaway. List posts are a great way to share information of value without creating a large amount of content. In the example above, readers can quickly skim the list, click on the relevant links, and receive instant value from the post.
A few more ideas
The above are great examples of curated posts, but if you need some more inspiration for publishing that next piece of content, here are a few more ideas:
- The ultimate guide on a topic. For example, you could create “The Ultimate Guide to Publishing a Blog Post.” Make an outline of the topic and then pull valuable links and resources from all over the web into the post to get the reader started. This takes far less time than generating all the content from scratch and allows you to highlight the work of others who have already produced great content on the topic.
- A reading list. For example, the Content Marketing Institute published “The Most Significant Content Marketing Books Published during 2016” right before the holidays. Assemble a reading list that is pertinent and useful to your target market during a specific period of relevance. For example, you could easily craft a post on the “3 Must-Read Books to Review Prior to Planning That Next Marketing Budget.”
- Best webinars list. There are many great webinars that are available on demand. Select a hot topic for your target audience, and then pull together links and quick descriptions of on-demand webinars that your audience can listen to at their leisure.
The bottom line
Curating content helps you create more valuable pieces while maximizing the use of your existing resources. Writing a high-quality blog post may take several hours, but using a curated post could significantly reduce that time, freeing up more resources for other marketing activities. Plus, you’ll generate content that resonates with your target audience, is reasonable to manage with your existing workload … and gets results.
Does your marketing team use curated content? If so, please share your best tips!
Global search is one of the best features added to Dynamics CRM, and with the addition of Relevance Search, the ability to find data in Dynamics 365 is even more powerful. However we had a client come to us today with a complaint about how Dynamics CRM for Outlook works with search.
See, they were not happy that the only way to access search was through the Outlook Menus, and when they access through the menu, global search is just a tiny magnifying glass.
They were looking for a better way and asked if Global search could be added to the left hand navigation in CRM for Outlook. At first I didn’t see how that could be done, but after a bit of thought I came upon a very simple way to add global search to the OUtlook for CRM MEnus
How to Add Global Search to the SiteMap
The first step is to know how to access CRM pages through a URL. All CRM pages have their own URL which is generally kept hidden. The URL for global search, the URL would be the crm instance URL + “/multientityquickfind/multientityquickfind.aspx ” for example – https://<
Now to add this URL, I simply open up
Drill down to the Area and Group where you want to add the URL. Right click and select “Add SubArea” In the form that pops up, Name your ID “Search” Then fill in your URL in the URL box. Save your work and then add a Title to the SubArea you just created – I call mine “Global Search”
Update your Sitemap and restart Outlook. You should now see a Global Search Item added to the menu. You can even add Global Search to your Outlook Shortcuts to make accessing search even easier via drag and drop
This method can also be used to add other URLs to the CRM sitemap – for example company webpages, other web applications such as Outlook email or even views of CRM Data.
Thanks for reading our blog today. If you have any questions on managing your storage or licensing Dynamics 365, call our sales team at 1844-264-0729. We love helping you to make the best usage of your CRM system.
More than a quarter of marketers went into marketing because they wanted to be creative, researchers have found. So why do so many B2B marketing efforts seem exactly the same?
The reason, in part, is that some things work well. In nature, convergent evolution leads different kinds of organisms to similar solutions when they work. The number of strategies that will lead to success is limited.
Marketers don’t simply echo the successful efforts of other marketers, though — they also parrot things that don’t really work.
You’d think in this era of analytics that marketers would be ruthless in killing off ineffective strategies. Marketers are often inexplicably fond of some of them, though, and they cling to them beyond the point of logic.
Writers understand this: The expression, “kill your darlings,” often is used to coach writers to exclude content or quotes they love if they interfere with the effectiveness of the story. It is a cruel business. So is marketing.
Here’s a sampling of some marketing darlings that need killing.
The ROI Calculator
Companies have target customers — types of buyers or businesses that are more likely to close and turn into long-term customers with tremendous lifetime value. However, to your ROI calculator — that simple little Web application that asks visitors for numbers and spits out an ROI number in return — every buyer is an ideal customer.
“Has anyone ever seen an ROI calculator that returns a negative number?” asked Greg Tapper of Topo at his company’s recent summit in San Francisco. “No! They all say that every investment always pays off, every time.”
There’s the problem: ROI is not simple. It isn’t based solely on the vendor information, or on information available to the vendor. Integration costs, the impact of implementation on employees’ work, and opportunity costs imposed by downtime are rarely part of the equation. Buyers get this: Why would the vendor include factors that would dim the rosy picture they want the buyer to see?
Buyers typically are not dumb. If an ROI calculator is offered, their assumption is that it is biased in favor of the business offering it, and that assumption is nearly always correct.
If you value buyers, be honest with them. Instead of a simplified spreadsheet that will deliver a positive number every time, give buyers something more open-ended — something that allows them to do a truthful examination of costs in their particular business context.
Suggestions about potential expenses allow buyers to consider their own situation and to draw real conclusions about the financial implications of a purchase. Buyers will appreciate your guidance — and when some get good ROI numbers they’ll be more likely to become ideal customers that stay with your business over the long term.
Forms vs. Funnels
It’s still very hard for some marketers to give content away for free. It costs money to make, so it’s best to stick a form in front of it to understand whether it’s delivering any return on investment, right? Without a coherent strategy about which content buyers should be able to access without filling out a form, the tendency is for everything to go up behind forms.
That creates a nearly un-navigable set of content that irritates readers and drives them to competitors. The good news is that you’ll know exactly how many forms a buyer will fill out before abandoning your site.
Some content should be ungated — ideally, material you’re using to educate the market, leading to better-informed buyers who are further along in the buying journey before they engage with you. If that’s the case, why are you forcing readers to fill out forms before they get the education they’re looking for — education that ought to help them put you on their shortlist?
To avoid the form-fill fiasco that hamstrings so many companies’ Web pages, identify where content falls on the funnel and establish the line that suggests a buyer who’s ready to purchase. Put content that corresponds to the bottom of the funnel behind a form — and figure out a way to shield buyers from additional form prompts after they’ve filled one out the first time.
Conversely, use a portal approach to make all content accessible via a unique password established upon a customer’s first interaction with your content. That will make buyers feel like they have gained the privilege of special access — and it will enable you to see the entirety of their interactions with content, allowing you to map their journeys with accuracy and completeness.
Booth Visit Does Not Equal Eager Buyer
Events are great opportunities for marketers to balloon their lead pipelines, and there’s nothing wrong with the idea of adding as many contacts to the list as a company can when it’s spending big bucks for trade show floor space. That said, those contacts need a bit more context before they can be taken seriously as leads.
If the business is trading a badge scan for some swag, there’s a fairly good chance that many of those scans are connected to swag hunters, not people ready to buy. By the same token, when people who are ready to buy stop at a booth, often they are not steered toward someone in sales or noted as contacts who have expressed some degree of buying interest. Boop! Their badges get scanned and dumped in the virtual hopper with the rest of the looky-loos.
The aftereffects can be big lists of contacts (often mischaracterized as “leads”) that the sales development team has to call through to understand their position in the buying process. The pipeline shrinks as the sales development reps disqualify people, yielding a small percentage of contacts that are worth forwarding to sales.
Instead of basing success on the number of badge scans snagged at the both, change the metrics and tactics, and begin looking at the conversations your sales team is having at each event.
Scanning isn’t enough. Buyers should be engaged and guided to the right experts for their interests. You may leave the show with fewer new names, but they will have a much higher close rate than the random scans, and their show experience will be much better. You’ll also spare the SDRs the thankless task of calling through 3,000 names to get 25 possible customers, allowing them to focus on contacts from other sources.
Next, it’s essential you think about the key message or messages you want to get out to your target personas.
“It is important to understand what value you can provide the buyer,” West said.
She suggests creating one to three key themes or ideas to convey to your audience. A message could center on a differentiator you’re creating, or it could be your business purpose or mission, or it could be something very aspirational or forward thinking.
A tax accounting company, for example, might choose the message: “Make taxes simple.” Moving forward, each piece of content its marketing team creates would be influenced by that theme.
For the tactics pillar of your High-Performance Marketing Plan, identify how you’ll activate your content and get it in front of prospects at each stage.
This could be developing a middle-of-funnel nurture email campaign, modernizing your website so that it’s mobile friendly, or defining how you prioritize leads that get passed on to sales. The list goes on.
In addition, you should assign responsibility for who will be in charge of those tactics and when they’ll be completed, as well as pinpoint any potential obstacles. Explore ways you can help your vision come to fruition, such as by purchasing a marketing automation program to create nurture campaigns or hiring a vendor to work on your website.
Want to learn more? Listen to Linda’s webinar on How to Create the Ultimate Marketing Plan.
“Today, marketing is a techie discipline,” West said.
Two core pieces of technology are available to today’s modern marketer – the marketing automation platform (MAP) and the customer relationship management (CRM) system. Additionally, you may have content tools and other technology you need to integrate into your tech stack.
“You want to connect the dots from the technology you’re using to the tactics that you’re planning,” West said. “Because every single time a prospect interacts with you, it means something.”
These interactions provide valuable information about who these potential customers are, what they want, where they are in the journey, and what they’re thinking about your product. You don’t want to miss out on that insight because your tech stack wasn’t able to track it.
As you build out your plan, be sure to identify your measurable goals for each stage of the buyer’s journey. For example, you may focus on gaining web traffic for the attract phase and increasing qualified leads at the convert stage.
We asked our Act-On customers and prospects to tell us their key performance indicators (KPIs) for each stage of the journey. Here are some to consider when choosing your own goals:
- Brand: web traffic, social engagement and social follows, brand search volume, and direct revenue contribution of brand efforts
- Demand: leads generated, opportunity generated, revenue generated, ROI
- Expand: website traffic, retention rates, Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction score, upsell/cross-sell revenue
West also recommend getting buy-in on your targeted KPIs from your CEO and other executive stakeholders.
The Big Idea
West’s final piece of advice for marketers: Find a big initiative or idea that you can champion and use to boost your career. This can be a new tactic, a new channel, a new type of content (podcasts or videos, anyone?), or a new technology … and the list goes on. Pick one thing in your annual marketing plan that enthuses you and use it to become a change agent for your company. In other words, look for an opportunity to shine professionally.
“This is why you come to work every day,” West said. “Get excited about something ‒ because marketing can be really, really fun, and cool, and interesting.”
4. Personalize the email.
We touched on this in two earlier points, but I wanted to give personalizing emails their own moment.
Personalization works. Period. You saw how a personalized subject line can lift open and click-through rates. Then you saw how a personalized greeting, combined with a personalized close, can make a good email stronger and more convincing.
And that’s all true and good.
But it’s also important to acknowledge a different kind of “personalization” ‒ sending the right message to the right customer (or influencer, or prospect, or co-worker) at the right time.
This is the kind of personalization that’s more effective than just dropping somebody’s first name in.
It’s also far harder … but it gets much better results.
So when you’re sending out emails to people (for requests, or sales contacts, or whatever), don’t just use the same copy over and over again. Customize it based on the receiver. Take a look at their website to get the gist of what they do and who they are. Then write an email that acknowledges that.
I get far too many emails (I bet you do, too) from people who say things that make it vividly clear they have no idea who I am or what I do. And you know what? I don’t answer those emails.
I bet most of the other people they’re sending these emails to don’t answer them, either. I bet they get pretty awful response rates.
I also bet that if they sent out even a third as many emails ‒ but actually checked who they were mailing to and wrote emails that made sense and showed five minutes of research – that they’d get more results. Fewer emails, same amount of time … but emails that actually connect with their targets and show that the sender wasn’t just cranking out a template with people’s first names stuffed in. That’s not too much to ask.
As marketers, we want to maximize our results at every step of the customer journey. We want to attract more prospects, capture critical information, nurture them, and convert them into closed deals.
That’s easier said than done, of course.
At Act-On, we understand that marketing can be complicated and even confusing at times ‒ unless you have a comprehensive and easy-to-use system to help you stay focused, organized, productive, and effective. Our marketing automation platform enables you to run your programs smoothly in order to drive better business outcomes.
Act-On’s integrated marketing workspace is built to enable marketers to address the needs of the customer experience, from brand awareness and demand generation to customer loyalty. For best results, you’ll need to first thoroughly understand your opportunity for engagement at each stage of the customer lifecycle ‒ and Act-On’s software makes that not only possible, but easy.
In our Customer Lifecycle Optimization Playbook, we’ll show you how, with Act-On, you can create a prospect marketing lifecycle structure that lets your team reliably meet your goals, craft winning strategies, and realize a quicker return on investment.
This playbook is a starting point to your success with customer lifecycle optimization. It defines a purpose for each stage, sets clearly defined instructions, and creates a foundation for your marketing automation strategy. It also provides a set of sequential projects, empowers the launch of marketing campaigns, and builds a comprehensive marketing structure for the entire prospect lifecycle.
You’ll get an overview of every step in the process, from getting started through attracting, capturing, nurturing, converting, and expanding your customer base. You’ll get simple, actionable tips for marketing effectively at all stages to give you a strong advantage in the following areas:
- sparking interest in your product or service;
- transforming more prospects into sales;
- onboarding and keeping customers for the long term, and;
- ultimately strengthening customer relationships through upselling and cross-selling.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how we define the different phases of your customer’s journey and how using marketing automation can help positively impact the bottom line.
In the attract phase of the customer journey, marketing automation (MA) helps your team leverage current content to build landing pages, use social media to find customers, and optimize ways to get your content seen on-line.
To capture more leads, MA allows you to connect effectively with prospects via forms by making it easy to invite prospects to view exclusive content and attend webinars and other events. It also aids you in identifying content that could be gated.
To nurture prospects in the next part of the process, marketing automation can help you use drip campaigns by sending targeted, personalized, dynamic content. You’ll also be able to easily combine profile information with behaviors to promote more exclusive content.
During the convert stage, MA allows you to focus on hot prospects by empowering your sales team with marketing-approved email templates and other essential tools and information they need to connect with the most qualified leads at just the right time.
As you work to expand your customer relationships, you can use marketing automation to keep the momentum going by focusing your efforts to supply customers with information and training about purchased products and/or services. It will help you find opportunities to upsell and cross sell and more closely engage with customers so that they become valued advocates for your brand and contribute referrals.
Let’s not fail to mention how marketing automation can greatly enhance your ability to report on and measure conversion rates to help you identify areas to improve, keep prospects flowing through the customer lifecycle, and measure marketing’s contribution to revenue.
Additionally, we’ll provide you with ongoing customer success resources for the lifetime of our relationship ― and that’s just one more benefit that sets us apart from the rest.