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Everything you want to know about Marketo’s product roadmap 2017 & 2018

I sat in a review of the Marketo product roadmap to the Boston Marketo User Group earlier today, led by Frank Passantino, Senior Product Manager at Marketo.

BMUG-Frank-P-Marketo

Since starting out as a Marketo partner in 2010, this was by far the best product presentation and plan that I’ve seen from Marketo. So props to Frank and team, and clearly we are seeing the influence of structure Steve Lucas is bringing to the business since taking over as CEO last October. (Things have come a long way since the SEO release in 2014.)

I’ll highlight each area Frank walked us through, a total of 11, in the order he reviewed it – and provide my take on the impact to Marketo users.

#1 – Bulk APIs

Frank got us started with a topic near and dear to my heart at Bedrock Data – Bulk APIs. In Frank’s words, up until now, “There’s never been a good way to get activity data out of Marketo.” That changes with Bulk APIs.

There are two Bulk APIs: one for lead records, and one for lead activities, which open up the API to the entire activity log on a lead record – every granular detail Marketo has logged on that lead including web pages viewed, data updates, emails sent/opened/clicked and much more.

My Take: Frank gets off to a great start by addressing a long-time product gap. There are powerful applications here. Look for large enterprise customers with their own development teams to take advantage of these APIs, as well as Marketo partners with integration products like Bedrock Data. 

Kudos here to Marketo for showing an appreciation for the value of helping customers getting data out of their system to best use it, and not restricting analytics of Marketo data to within its walled garden.

#2 – Campaign Throughput

Frank clarified Marketo’s definition of the original Project Orion (Marketo's internal code name) and what was delivered with the release of Marketo's Engagement Platform last March.

Per Frank, the revamp of the Marketo Engagement Platform was centered primarily on the ingestion of activities to Marketo, and solving for customers with 2 million+ individual activities per day. Prior to this work, this level of activity volume could not get into Marketo – now it can.

So now going forward, the campaign throughput development in the works is about extending that same level of scale and performance to campaign execution via Marketo.

My Take: This was interesting, as a reminder of Marketo’s flawed product communications of the past. The past developments in this area will go down as a case study of how not to communicate a new product offering – as the stories from Marketo personnel to customers on it would be were all over the map. I don’t want to re-hash it here, but just check out the CMS Wire story arc to see how this went from major over-hype in 2016 (May 17 & May 22) to major confusion in early 2017 (Feb 28) to major attempts to smooth over in March (March 1 & March 17).

It’s best to just move on, but the key takeaway here is that Marketo is still very much in progress on major product scalability to support larger and larger B2B enterprises.

#3 – Marketing Performance Insights

Frank shared new set of Marketo reports dubbed Performance Insights which is now in Beta.

The reports give a customer a view into performance using the two most important closed loop metrics – Pipeline and Revenue. There are breakdowns by programs and marketing channel.  Pipeline and revenue data will be based on opportunity sync from CRMs using Marketo’s Salesforce or Dynamics connectors, or third party connectors like Bedrock Data for any Marketo-CRM connection.

Frank was clear that this would be a powerful overview tool, but would not get as deep into drill-downs or attribution as do tools like Bright Funnel, Bizible and Full Circle Insights.

My Take: This will valuable for a lot of Marketo customers. Marketo has lacked a clean overview dashboard on performance, and this will fill that gap. It looks like they took a fresh approach to building it, outside of the RCE Reporting Engine – which is a good thing to keep it simple.

I also like Marketo’s approach here – they built something that is going to be applicable to all their customers to get value from quickly. And for the customers who want to go deeper into attribution reporting, they can turn to third party providers for much deeper functionality. This is a win for both Marketo customers and the greater Marketo partner ecosystem.

#4 – Web Performance Insights

Website reports, aggregated in Marketo.

My Take: I didn’t see much incremental value here and Marketo appeared to be leaving the big opportunity on the here.

What these reports should do (but don’t) is connect web site analytics to the same performance metrics in the performance reports – pipeline and revenue.

Marketo could answer a question for customers like: which of my blog posts have the greatest influence on creating pipeline, or deals? That would be a game changer for Marketo's web site analytics.

#5  – Account Snapshot Chrome Plug In for Sales Reps

Frank then spoke about how Marketo’s “account-based” focus up until now has been on account-based marketing, and now going forward they will be incorporating account-based tools for sales. The first example is a Chrome plug-in which aggregates key account info (including scoring).

My Take: Getting sales user adoption from a tool is a whole 'nother animal. I’d prefer to see a comprehensive strategy to do that, then a one-off plugin like this. I would have put engineering resources elsewhere (like my Web Performance to Pipeline/Revenue idea from #4, or enhancements addressing customer feedback) ahead of this.

#6 – More ABM Features

Frank bucketed Marketo’s upcoming ABM developments into three categories:

  • Account hierarchy: supporting the build-out of a company hierarchy to support regional or business line structures for organizations.

  • Multi-dimensional scoring: Greater customization around building your own account scoring rules.
  • Extensibility: Here, Frank gave the example of using APIs to push out target account lists or enrich target account data.

My Take: A solid set of tools to deepen Marketo’s functionality here. Just like the attribution example, Marketo is trying to build an ABM suite to meet the needs of many or most customers, so that only the “power ABM marketers” need to turn to additional third party ABM orchestration tools.

#7 – Marketo's Next Generation UX

This got a lot of excitement and attention at the Marketo Summit in May.

This is all about making Marketo’s interface faster, more usable and more consistent.

Frank broke to project down into three areas:

  • Universal design language: making the interface consistent with re-usable components (he gave the example of a date selection widget)
  • High velocity and enhanced usability: making Marketo’s interface perform better, especially areas such as Marketo’s tree when navigating hierarchies such as programs)
  • Value-add features

For value-add features, there are many in the works. Highlights include:

  • An incredible amount of detail around details like calendar reminders, which shows the importance to Marketo users of managing programs through Marketo and I’ve written about. Features include supporting text tokens within a calendar token so that an event name can be dynamically added into a calendar reminder. Another one was the ability to set the reminder prompt time for ICS files.
  • Supporting URLs as a token type – so that they are tracked properly in emails (I remember encountering this issue years ago!)
  • Saved rules for a smart campaign which allow for easier re-use of rules from program to program
  • A stream view of an engagement program, incorporating performance data
  • More flexibility in managing the cadence of engagement streams

Frank talked about a parallel roll-out for this next generation UX – that users will be able to toggle between the new and old interface for a period of time, which will be important since not everything will be available in the new UX right away.

My Take: The incredible detail involved in some of these features shows that Marketo has listened to its users on key usability areas. That said, the creation of this new UX has been a painful one for Marketo users to live through, as there’s been a very long time gap here with minimal improvements on the existing interface in lieu of building this new one.  Let’s hope the interface pains of the past few years will be worth it as Marketo's Next Generation UX hits the user base.

#8 – Ad Bridge !!!!!!!!!!!

For me, this was the “sit on the edge of my seat” moment of the session. It astounded me just how much ad bridge functionality is already available, of which I know many, many customers are not yet taking advantage. 

The features – most of which are already in place – offer powerful integration between a customer’s customer and prospect database and online advertising.

For a guy who’s been doing both marketing automation and online advertising for way-too-long, this was awesome stuff.

Frank broke it down into three categories, covering what Marketo supports or will soon support across Google (Ad Words, YouTube & Gmail), Facebook & LinkedIn.

Matched Audiences: You can build a list in Marketo, and feed it as an audience for a specific campaign in Facebook or LinkedIn (today), and adding Google by end of the year. These audiences can be targeted (imaging a customer cross-sell offer, or targeting those same companies in a targeted outbound program with relevant ads) and also used as the basis for lookalike targeting (finding like companies, through those platforms).

Offline Conversion: You can use your closed loop tracking via Marketo to feed data into Google or Facebook for closed loop revenue reporting directly in those platforms. Very powerful for anyone managing ad spend via Google or Facebook, so that you can optimize for the right metrics.   

Lead Ingestion: Facebook and LinkedIn ad units that capture leads directly in them (one click response) can be fed directly into Marketo. This is especially powerful for mobile campaigns where users can easily click on an ad to opt in – large conversion rate improvements vs. anything involving a click through and landing page form-fill.

My Take: I had two huge takeaways here. Every Marketo customer whose spending money on online advertising or PPC should be using this. And that Marketo needs to step up its customer success and customer education efforts, as they should be working directly with every single customer to help them take advantage of these exciting capabilities.

#9 – “Adaptive”

Frank got futuristic here –talking about potential future AI-based innovations. Marketo already has some adaptive capabilities built into the platform with Marketo Predictive Content, and sounds like they are thinking about more to come.  

My Take: This is definitely futuristic. There are going to be many keys to success here, and having ad bridge in place is going to be one of them (to reach new audiences and more potential media locations). So step 1 should just be getting as many customers as possible using ad bridge.

This is several years away – but probably smart for Marketo to at least be alluding to it as part of it’s road map so customers know where they want to go – and don’t get sucked into AI plays from other vendors.

#10 – “Customer Love”

Frank spoke about how Marketo will address the top ranked request from the customer community every year. This year, it’s the option to send emails in person’s time zone. Marketo is going to leverage Country/City/State/Zip data to populate this, or their own inferred location data if those fields are empty, while also giving customers the ability to overwrite that if they choose.

My Take: Any features addressing mass Marketo user feedback from the Community are a good thing. Would like to see some more investment in these requests in the near term (listen to Gregoire Michel, he knows what he’s talking about!).

#11 – Sales Enablement

I was excited to wrap up on this topic, as I got to see where some of the areas I had speculated about from the ToutApp acquisition in May were headed.

Frank spoke about Marketo’s now hodge-podge of sales offerings – from ToutApp to the new aforementioned Chrome plugin, to their Gmail and Outlook plugins, and the views within Salesforce. Frank said these all would be packaged under a common packaging, and with integration between ToutApp and Marketo (for example, removal from a marketing campaign, if in a ToutApp sales campaign).  

My Take: It's not yet clear if the ToutApp brand will remain or be rolled under the Marketo brand like Insightera and CrowdFactory have been in the past. Either way, we will see a set of packaged products emerge, let's call them "Marketo’s sales products." This is going to get more and more investment but it’s going to take time.

Wrap-Up

Frank just dove right in to the roadmap (which was probably appropriate for this group of hungry power users), so I’m going to take a moment here to net out the key themes that probably served as inputs to what we saw.

#1 – Continue to scale the product, moving up enterprise – bulk APIs, campaign throughput

#2 – Massive UI improvements – although going to be a transition period for about a year

#3 – Lots of listening to customers – although only so many resources that can be put into (still a long backlog to go via the Community)

And my 3 overarching takeaways from seeing the road map:

#1 – Marketo’s going to add functionality, but still lots of room for surrounding ecosystem partners. The addition of activities to the API is actually going to add more potential to leverage Marketo data outside of Marketo. Within Marketo’s roadmap, there’s still ample opportunity for LaunchPoint partners to thrive, whether you’re talking about Bright Funnel or Bizible or Full Circle for attribution, or Bedrock Data for Marketo-CRM integrations.

#2 – Ad Bridge is a huge asset to Marketo customers, and Marketo’s customer success teams needs to be focused on enabling customers to take advantage of it now.

#3 – Marketo is here to stay. The roadmap was rock solid, and confidence instilling. Marketo’s had some bumps along the way here but the path seems a solid one to support their customers and help them take a big step forward in cross-channel digital marketing.

Did you find this useful? I also wrote an expert guide on Marketo Integrations. Check it out here (it does require short registration): The Marketer's Mega Guide to Marketo Integrations

Five Ways Drift Helped Us Engage With More Web Visitors - In the First Week

As our Bedrock Data marketing team prioritized growth initiatives for Q2, improving engagement and conversions on our website was a key priority.

We decided to implement Drift on BedrockData.com as a key step towards that goal (cc Gabi Altunes).

I knew I was intrigued by Drift’s “No Forms” positioning (which I wrote about when they came out with it last year).

I knew Drift runs a phenomenal marketing program with great content from Dave Gerhardt & co.

And I knew the Drift product would be outstanding, coming from David Cancel’s awesome product and engineering team who turned HubSpot’s product from a potential liability to a huge advantage from 2011 to 2014.

What I didn’t know was - would Drift help us drive incremental leads (and opportunities, pipeline & customers) from our website? That’s what our Chief Revenue Officer Alan DiPietro really wanted to know.

If we were just “moving around the furniture” (diverting some would-be forms leads or call-in leads to Drift leads), that wasn’t going to do us much good.

One week - yes one week - into rolling it out, I’m happy to report that we are indeed seeing incremental lift.

I can point my finger at the engagement we’re getting, and while some of it certainly falls in the category of “accelerating leads we would have gotten anyway” (still valuable), there’s a definitive category of website visitors with whom we are engaging & converting whom I’m convinced would have bounced without live chat engagement.

I’ve categorized the impact into five types of website visitors:

#1 - Ms. Urgent

This falls in the category of acceleration. Marketing is about momentum, and if you can carry the momentum of a website visitors into a sales conversation, it’s a win for sales and marketing.

Momentum matters. After a good trade show, the question is can you carry the momentum from the tradeshow floor over to sales & marketing follow-up?  And the same is true for a website visitor - can you carry momentum established on your website over to sales engagement, immediately?

We had a website visitor looking for an urgent solution to their Pardot-NetSuite integration with news hitting that Pardot had dropped their non-Salesforce CRM connectors.

Through the Drift chat I confirmed we did in fact provide that connector, answered several questions and scheduled a meeting for later that day with a rep. I also directed our visitor to several links for expert content including a video walkthrough of what she was looking for. We even joked about how she was really looking to solve this problem quickly because her sales team was upset by the prospect of lost marketing automation-CRM integration.

Interestingly, this Ms. Urgent found us via a paid search ad for Pardot-NetSuite integrations - so if you are asking yourself “Should I put Chat on my paid search landing pages?”, the answer is yes!

By the time that afternoon meeting came around, the questions centered around “how quickly can we get started?” as the entire team had seen the video walkthrough shared from the chat.

#2 - Mr. Ready to Collaborate

This visitor was seeking collaboration - he wanted to know what we could do, and then ask some deeper & deeper questions around the details of, in his case, a Pardot-ConnectWise integration.

Thrilled by the interaction, our Mr. Ready to Collaborate scheduled a follow up call for that afternoon…. and a few days later became our first “Drift to Dollars” customer win.

 #3 - Mr. “Not Ready to Reveal Myself… Yet”

Here’s where we move from acceleration to true incremental engagement.

This is the largest volume of the chats. The chat starts out with a question - and you allow the visitor to do so and remain anonymous. They can ask their question without the overhead of having to identify themselves by name. They’re not quite ready to reveal their identity.

You answer the question - and engage in a conversation. Back and forth, back and forth. Provide clear, expert answers to their questions. Ask a follow-up question. Share a related link.  And then before you know it, the visitor is willing to share their information with you to schedule a follow-up.

It’s a combination of the visitor-driven engagement, a positive experience of chat interaction, and the sharing of expert content - where this magic happens - and back to Alan’s question - I’m convinced this is incremental. Here are some real world examples from Bedrock Data last week:

  • CFO knew his team was looking for a NetSuite-Pardot integration (different company than the one above), was vetting our capabilities after hearing about us from his marketing team

  • Marketer was doing his homework on Marketo-Eventbrite integrations as he built a plan for his team to add Eventbrite as their event management system

  • A web developer was checking on the possibility of connecting Zoho & NetSuite

  • A business development lead was checking on the capabilities of integrating HubSpot and NetSuite as his marketing team considers a HubSpot purchase, so he could refer a solution to his NetSuite power user  

  • A marketer wanted to know how long a Marketo-Zoho integration would take, and confirm the pricing (was surprised Bedrock Data does not charge a setup fee)

 The pattern here is that these web visitors are visiting the site with an intent to learn - and a live chat provides them a pathway to do so - and move them forward in their buying process.

 #4 - Ms. “I Need Help”

Another pattern that emerged was a type of visitor who was legitimately looking for help - as they were very unfamiliar with the subject because they had been asked to do research by someone else. Sometimes these visitors remained anonymous (after helping them out), or sometimes they self-identified.

 Some examples here include a procurement person doing research into options for a HubSpot-SugarCRM integration - and looking to report options back to their marketing team. Another example was a junior member of a marketing team asked to look into HubSpot-ConnectWise integrations by his boss.

 Without chat engagement, these visitors would not have been likely to self-identify, and would have left the site without a solid grasp on the information they were looking for. It was natural for them to ask a question via chat, but likely would not have been natural for them to “formally request something” (see what I did there - formally) as they were outside of their comfort zone with a new subject matter.  

#5 - Mr. International

Due to our capabilities of rapidly implemented integrations which can be self-managed by business users, we do a lot of business with international based customers looking to connect SaaS systems without a traditional IT integration project.

 We wanted to take advantage of chat engagement for our international site visitors as well, thinking it would be a nice touch to reinforce we are easy to do business with even though we are not located in their local country.

We came up with an approach we dubbed “Drift After Hours”, where we have a chat sidebar letting our visitors know we are not online but to share their details and we’ll be back to them as soon as possible. Still far better than having to find and fill out a contact us form.

Even better, when we get an after-hours chat engagement (like all Drift inquiries) we route them via Slack - so in the event a team member is available they can respond in real time.

So Wednesday night a little before 9:00, I’m sitting on the couch watching a baseball game and Slack lights up. A web visitor from Australia (where they are starting their next work day) wants to talk about his need to connect Marketo for marketing automation, HubSpot as CRM for his BDR team, and NetSuite as their back office CRM.

Yes we can do it!  

We engage in a great chat - answer his questions on capabilities, on-boarding time and pricing.

I’m on my couch, watching a baseball game and having a Slack conversation with a marketer in Australia about integrating Marketo, HubSpot & NetSuite. Drift is awesome!

couch-phone-Drift-baseball.jpg

My Only Pain Point

The only significant pain point so far is… integrations. Of course I would complain about that since I spend all day at Bedrock Data helping companies better integrate their sales & marketing systems!  

My issue is that although after a chat, Drift can push a lead into Salesforce (good), it can only bring over the HubSpot source data from HubSpot if that record also converts on a HubSpot form. Ahem, ahem - doesn’t quite align to the no form approach.

Since most visitors aren’t going to - at least not right away - then the tradeoff of bringing these leads in via Drift is losing your baseline metrics on conversions by channel - organic, referrals, direct, etc. That record exists in HubSpot, but it’s anonymous and not connected to the lead record in Salesforce - so the data is effectively lost.

I’m sure the wizards at Drift will figure it out soon. They built HubSpot after all.

Pain Point? Drift's on it! 

(Update June 26) - Drift is all about being custom-obsessed and customer-centric. Check out what Elias said in that post above if you want to hear more about that. 

I experienced that first hand. I published this post on Saturday, and by Sunday I heard from Drift's CEO David Cancel to express interest in learning more about the HubSpot integration challenge, and by Monday Drift's VP of Product Craig Daniel was in our office to talk about it. Craig told us that Drift's on the case, along with sharing some other cool upcoming features around reporting and routing. 

What’s Next?

Next up is rolling it out for our customer success and support teams, including interface via our help site and in-product. Given the back and forth our support team typically has with customers, it’s sure to improve the customer experience for that interaction - and help to resolve questions more quickly.

So stop by and say hello - we’re open for business over at BedrockData.com.

Marketo buys ToutApp: What we know, don’t know & the biggest looming question

It’s a fun time of year for MarTech.

We’re on the eve of both Marketo’s Marketing Nation and Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience, and three weeks out from Scott Brinker’s MarTech Conference.

And, who doesn’t love a little MarTech M&A, like we saw last week with Marketo’s acquisition of ToutApp?

The acquisition was greeted with a lot of press release repackaging – and that’s it – so here we’ll provide the first real analysis of this big industry news.

There are things we know, and things we don’t know. Some questions we’ll get some insight at Marketing Nation this week, but most of the answers that matter will take longer to develop.

Here’s what we know and don’t know, and the biggest looming question, about Marketo buying ToutApp:

#1 – Marketo is ALL IN on Engagement

Since the arrival of Steve Lucas as CEO last October and the promotion of Chandar Pattabhiram to CMO two months prior, Marketo has put its bet on positioning itself as the “Engagement Platform.”

As part of its seemingly continuous push to move upmarket to the enterprise, the pitch goes something like this:

In today’s dynamic and diverse media landscape, marketers must effectively engage their buyers, across all marketing channels and all stages of the buying process. Great storytelling is the key to effective engagement. Marketo is the platform to deliver those stories – and engage – across the buying process. 

 We heard a lot of this earlier last week, before the acquisition news hit, in AdAge’s profile of Pattabhiram’s self-described “brand transformation” of Marketo.

Which gets us to the ToutApp news.

The ToutApp news was literally all about engagement.

Of the 304 words in the press release, more than 3% were that word ‘engagement’ – 10 in the body copy, plus one in the headline and two in the boilerplate.  ‘Engagement’ trailed only the word ‘Marketo’ which had just 2 more mentions.

Marketo, the Engagement Platform, acquired ToutApp, the Sales Engagement Platform.

Got it?

#2 – A prominent voice from Marketo’s past isn’t buying in

Jon Miller matters to Marketo.

Miller co-founded Marketo, contributed hugely to inventing the product and their go-to-market, and was the top non-executive officer shareholder with 527,871 shares of stock when Marketo went public in May, 2013. Miller is now founder and CEO of Engagio.

So it caught my eye last Monday, two days before the ToutApp news, when Miller came out with a blog post on Engagio’s blog titled “What’s the Difference Between “Engagement” and Account Based Everything?”

I asked myself, “Why is Jon coming directly at Marketo’s messaging, so strongly?”

Even the touch of putting the word Engagement in quotes in the title, it was clear this was a Marketo takedown point of view.

Miller went on to point out that first of all, engagement is in the lineage of Engagio’s name -- something I’m sure Lucas and Pattabhiram considered, and, ultimately fueled them to double down on Marketo owning that term.

A couple of the key points from Miller are:

“A sequence of automated interactions is not engagement.”

and

“Sales spam is NOT engagement.”

The first comment above is a shot at how most Marketo customers use Marketo – as a drip email tool.  Miller knows this all too well.

The second comment was a lean-in against ToutApp – if ToutApp is used for low quality sales touches, that’s not engagement, that’s just spam.

Of course the truth lies somewhere in between.

What’s most interesting to me about this exchange is there has been a lot of “frenemy” language used by Marketo and Engagio over the past couple years, but with this latest run directly against Marketo’s positioning, the “fr” in that phrase should be dropped.

#3 – Marketo will put more $ around the strategic bet / opportunity cost / integration than the acquisition cost

ToutApp touts (I had to do it) 400 customers, but it’s in a competitive space with SalesLoft, Outreach and others. ToutApp trails both in its G2 Crowd ranking.

There apparently was some dancing between Marketo and ToutApp a couple years back, - when the offer didn’t make sense, but the timing is right for ToutApp now.

My spider sense says this acquisition is an eight-figure deal; where in that range, I’m not certain.

What I do know is that this being Lucas’ first deal since joining Marketo, and it representing a big step forward for Marketo into sales products – the real cost here to Marketo is not the acquisition $, it’s the need to make this a success.

The marketing automation space is getting more and more crowded with HubSpot, Pardot, Eloqua (now Oracle Marketing Cloud) and Act-on all going strong, plus new entrants such as Mautic and SharpSpring. Most significant to Marketo is their focal point for so many years has been Salesforce customers, where Pardot continues to go aggressively after that base leading with extremely aggressive bundled pricing.

The point is – at a time of crossroads for Marketo, this is a key bet Lucas is making to drive Marketo forward, and he needs to make it a success. There’s going to be a lot of wood behind this arrow. The cost of the acquisition is just the beginning.

#4 – Marketo doesn’t have a good track record for integrating acquisitions… but there’s a new management team in place

There’s no existing internal blueprint for acquisition success at Marketo. The blueprint will come from Lucas’s SAP experience in dealing with multi-product enterprise software portfolios.

There are two acquisitions on Marketo’s books – social media marketing company Crowd Factory in 2012 and website personalization engine Insightera in 2013. 

The positives of those acquisitions were incoming talent, including Crowd Factory CEO Sanjay Dholakia who was Marketo’s CMO prior to Pattabhiram. There were many challenges, however. The challenges highlight areas that need to be better addressed by the Lucas regime this time around, including product packaging, product integration, impact on the sales organization, and ability to upsell existing customers.

#5 – The ToutApp acquisition closed a gap between Marketo & HubSpot… but there’s still a ways to go when it come to Marketo’s breadth

I bring this up because it’s noteworthy that for the first time Marketo is dipping its toe into sales solutions. Marketo’s Sales Insight is used by sales but has always been sold as an extension of the marketing automation product.

HubSpot is well ahead of Marketo in the sales department as they have built and market their own CRM product as well as sales suite. On the other side of breadth – digital – HubSpot also has its own website content management platform which Marketo does not have a parallel tool.

Marketo still has a ways to go in terms of getting to the full breadth of HubSpot. And given the enterprise / upmarket focus, this may not even be a goal of theirs if they see their current functionality set as the sweet spot they want to focus on and build around.

#6 – There are many questions around what comes next…

I posed the question on LinkedIn to Marketo users on their sentiments around the acquisition. I heard from several Marketo power users including Pierce Ujjainwalla, Dan RaduGregoire Michel, and Tim Cerato – and the consensus was positive, with questions on how this would impact the Marketo Sales Insight product, the interface Marketo provides today to salespeople who use Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics.

These are the questions that will need to be answered in the coming days and months:

  • Will ToutApp continue as a separate brand or fold into the Marketo brand?
  • Since it’s the first acquisition under the Lucas regime, it will set a precedent… Does Marketo plan to operate as a “branded house” or a “house of brands” ?
  • How much further integrated will they make the two products? (There is already an integration in place today)
  • Will this and other factors such as Pardot’s Salesforce focus cause Marketo to target growth across a wider range of CRM systems?
  • Will Marketo phase out the existing Marketo Sales Insight product?
  • Will both the marketing and sales products be sold by the same sales team?

#7 – … Plus this, the biggest question

There’s one more question, the biggest question resulting from all of this, in my eyes.

What’s next for Lucas?

There are two possible paths.

Path #1 is: We’re still going through a major management transition following the Vista buy-out. We’re playing catch up to ensure the Marketo platform has the right technical foundation and Project Orion is implemented and proven at scale amongst our customers. And now we have the ToutApp acquisition. We don’t have a proven track record of acquisitions at this company, so we’re going to spend the time to do this right, and make it successful. That’s the focus for the next 12 months.

Path #2 is: This is just the beginning. We bought ToutApp because we saw it as an underperforming asset and a complimentary product. We’re going to opportunistically add MarTech products under the Marketo house of brands. The LaunchPoint ecosystems gives us a bevy of companies to consider. We see Marketo as a holding company of sorts to acquire, develop and co-market a range of MarTech products.

Lucas gave us a clue into the strategy earlier in the year. In this Silicon Angle interview, he stated “massive consolidation is coming to MarTech.”

Re-reading that article now, Lucas told us this was coming! He said we’d see “significant growth in M&A.” Three months later we get Marketo’s first acquisition. I think we’ll find there’s more to come.

 

What do you think? Have I captured the key considerations around the acquisition? Which of these seven points do you find most interesting? How do you rate the move? And what do you see coming next? Please share your thoughts below. 

Arms tied behind my back, if I could do only one marketing activity it'd be this

If I was allowed just one marketing activity – it would be customer interviews.

Not just any customer interview - a customer interview process whereby you leverage those interviews as content across all stages of the buying process. 

Here’s how I approach these:

Step 1 – Work with customer success team to identify customers to interview – could be as soon as when customers have completed successful on-boarding

Step 2 – Interview the customer over the phone (usually 30-45 mins). Questions go back to how the customer knew they had a problem they needed to solve, who did they involve in the decision, how did they talk about the problem, how did they find your company – straight through to how they implemented it, and what benefits they are seeing or expecting to see.

Step 3 – Edit into a conversation style interview, provide to customer to edit/approve, publish & promote (about an hr, plus promotion).

So in less than 2 hours you have quality content, in the customer's language, authentically speaking to all stages of the buying process.

These are some recent examples from Bedrock Data:

Now why would I choose this as the one and only?  It just does so many positive things.  Here are eight ways these help you:

#1 – Credibility content for sales

Great content for sales team to use to build credibility around specific use cases – in Bedrock Data’s case you are trying to integrate say, HubSpot and NetSuite – here’s an interview we did with our customer talking about how they approached the project, some of the challenges they faced and how they got around it.

Providing prospects with content that is relevant to specific to their situation – both in the problem they are trying to solve and the types of questions they would like to answer –is the best way to deliver value to your prospect while also overcoming the natural, and ever growing, lack of trust for vendor written content.

#2 – Conversational content to help prospects move through buying process

To that point of mistrust for vendor content, I find prospects are much more likely relate to the conversational style Q&A format of these articles, then overproduced case study templates. There is a true authenticity to the content which helps to break through the skepticism towards vendor content. And, ironically, it’s much faster to pump out these Q&A style articles then it would be to format into “traditional” case studies.

#3 – Proof points for website

These interviews cover every stage of the buying process, including questions around how the company helped the customer. These quotes become great proof point quotes to sprinkle into a website. You get them as a byproduct of conducting the interview and producing the content.

#4 – Quality SEO content

Each of these articles is keyword rich content, speaking to the problems your company solves. Using that word authentic again, they are an authentic way build out quality content as part of your SEO strategy.

#5 – Long form content to mine from / repurpose

Since the articles themselves are approved, published interviews – they create an asset for you for your marketing team to mine and pull from over time. As you add more team members, even interns, they can easily repurpose fro the topics covered in these articles – e.g. a composite piece on a specific topic, or a specific pull quote to address a specific prospect’s question down the road.

#6 – Helps create customer advocates

I’ve found the customers really appreciate the process of being interviewed, and then seeing their experience packaged up into an article. Oftentimes it gives something they can share internally with colleagues as a way to demonstrate the success they have had in the engagement.

Nearly all of the people I’ve interviewed have been happy to serve as reference accounts for Bedrock Data, and have helped to spread positive word about the company through word of mouth – references, webinars, events and social media.

#7 – Build out your buying journey map and customer specific semantics

The interviews also serve as continuous, first-party research to keep your pulse on the customer buying journey, Whether formal or informal, you can continuously evolve your understanding of the buyer journey. This interviews also serve as launching points for keyword ideas, customer stories for sales conversations and topics for other marketing programs.

#8 – It’s fun and rewarding

Lastly this work has been tremendously fun and rewarding. It comes across as a major win-win for everyone involved.

Bedrock Data benefits from the customer stories and customer advocates.

And every time I’ve felt that the customer gets a lot out of it, including as I already mentioned a testimonial of sorts for their own project for them to share.  I’ve been thrilled to see customers being so engaged by the experience that, without solicitation, they continued to spread the word about Bedrock Data. =

For example Luque Wang repurposed his article in this LinkedIn post, and Amanda Daume packaged her interview into an article on her own blog here

Not too shabby for less than two hours of work, right?

Profiling Scott Brinker, The Accidental Influencer

Scott Brinker, chiefmartec.com

Scott Brinker, chiefmartec.com

At Tuesday’s CMO Confessions event hosted by Daniel Glickman, the Chief Marketing Technologist himself Scott Brinker took stage with a Q&A format that invited 90 minutes of deep questioning from the audience – Daniel equated it to a discovery process for a trial.

Scott came equipped to handle every question large and small and drop serious MarTech insight for the audience.

Along the way he shared his story of how a side hobby has turned, accidentally, into a hit blog with nearly 30,000 Twitter followers – and how he’s resisted the push to turn it into something more.

Here what Scott shared:

Where did the idea for chiefmartec.com come from?

Scott began his career in web development and his company was hired by marketing teams to build out websites. These marketing teams, Scott’s customers, often made the decision without engaging their IT teams.

Scott’s job was go talk to the customer’s IT team, let them know about the project, and engage them.

“I was an ambassador for marketing with IT,” Scott recounted.

Along the way he realized that there was a massive disconnect between the two organizations – cultures were different; incentives were different; and they didn’t have a common language to use together.

These experiences led Scott to see the need for a marketing technologist, or MarTech role, to bridge the gap between marketing and technology.

When did the chiefmartec.com blog start?

Scott started the blog in 2008, as a forum to share his insights around marketing technology.

“I had no ambition whatsoever to create a personal brand,” Scott shared. “There weren’t a lot of people at that point talking about marketing technology. And I can tell you that for sure because the blog languished in obscurity for years.”

Where did the Marketing Technology supergraphic originate?

In 2011, Scott was preparing to speak at a search industry conference, and he was looking for evidence that marketing was becoming dependent on technology.

He built the slide (the 2011 MarTech infographic), which at that point featured 150 marketing technology vendors. And he remembers the reaction, “Wow, how do we deal with it all?”

The numbers of vendors grew from that original 150 to 350 in 2012, 1,000 in 2014, 2,000 in 2015 and a whopping 3,874 in 2016

And now people are really asking, “How, how do we deal with it all?”

How does Scott manage it all? (teaser: it’s not super technical)

Scott got asked, “Scott, you’re a really innovative technologist. You must have some super advanced tools to scrape the web and identify all of the martech vendors in your landscape.”

Scott’s answer – “No!”   Unfortunately, the entire process is managed manually. Scott uses Google, Crunchbase, Angel List, and conference vendor and speaker lists to identify the companies. Scott strongly relies on the clarity of messaging on the vendor’s website to guide their categorization.

“I’m a software guy,” Scott told the audience, “but I have probably the least automated process for managing this.”

When did Scott’s blog chiefmartec.com hit an inflection point of growth?

It was the 2014 landscape hitting 1,000 vendors where a much broader audience really started to take notice, and traffic to his website spiked. At that point there was exponential growth in the chart and the blog.

Why does he think the landscape supergraphic took off?

People related to it and like to use it, because it helps back up the message ‘It’s a complicated time to be a marketer. And this graphic helps lets people, in a glance, get a sense of just how complex the modern marketing environment is.’

“A lot of people are saying to their peers,” Scott said, “that ‘we’re working on figuring out our MarTech stack, but it’s not easy.’ ”

Does Scott have any ‘commercial ambitions’ around the blog?

He doesn’t and he’s resisted those.  Many companies reach out to Scott for advice on vendor selection, and there would certainly be a market there for Scott – but he’s decided to refer that business to others so that he can continue to focus his working hours on his role as Co-Founder and CTO of ion interactive.

“For now, the blog remains a labor of love,” Scott explained, “And any recognition I’ve gotten as a result of it in the industry is gratifying, but largely accidental.”

How does Scott see consolidation around the MarTech space?

Scott posits that there is a strong likelihood that there is significant consolidation in the space over the next five years. But he also notes that there is a possible scenario where it doesn’t consolidate.

Scott equates it to the software development landscape, where the number of software languages, library and frameworks continues to explode. Marketing technology could continue along in a similar way, with both major and minor players, and without ever really consolidating.

Has Scott crossed the line on the blog in talking directly about ion?

Scott emphasized that it’s critical for him to remain true to his audience whom come to chiefmartec.com for MarTech insights, and not for ion’s interactive content offering.

He shared a story that he’s written two posts in the history of the blog that directly spoke about ion interactive.

The first one came at a time when ion was pivoting from a sophisticated landing page platform to a tool to build interactive content, and he wanted to talk about the relevant marketing lessons from his experience. He titled the post, “Why we bet our whole company on marketing apps.”

Scott went out of his way in the post to provide an introductory disclaimer around the content of the post, and went as far as to highlight ion’s competitors as part of the article.

“The post generated a lot of traffic and demand for ion,” Scott shared. “But if I was trying to write something like that every week, I think it would quickly lose its impact.”

Quick hits with Scott

Scott was full of great soundbites all evening.  These were some of the other highlights.

On how to get noticed in your industry

“The reality is 2/3 of my Blog traffic is to the landscape. So the cynical viewpoint could say it’s not about the content I’m creating every week, it’s actually about this one single visual that I created that people are in to. So think about how you create the reference graphic for your category or what you do. It just happens to be incidental that it came from my personal brand.”

On the effectiveness of infographics today

“Sadly most infographics are crap. They aren’t even visual.”

On why he doesn’t listen to vendor pitches

“I don’t listen to vendor pitches. I want to go to their website, and if I can’t figure out what you do and if you’re not telling a great story on your website, then that’sa problem. And the reality is the majority of B2B websites are terrible at telling their story.”

Do software vendors request to get added to more categories

“Yes. but if the categories I’m told they belong in don’t match the narrative on their website, I think that’s something they need to resolve outside of my landscape.”

On the role of Gartner and Forrester in today’s crowded MarTech landscape

“I think their work is becoming more challenging, just because the landscape is so chaotic. One of the difficulties for the analyst firms is how they categorize and evaluate vendors. Often, they are looking at vendors from multiple categories — a multi-channel campaign management lens, or a digital marketing hub lens, or a lead-to-revenue management lens — and the evaluation of the same vendor could be completely different. There’s so much overlap between vendors and categories, it’s hard to give easy answers for which horses to bet on."

On the “separation of church and state” between his role at ion and his chiefmartec.com blog

“If I weren’t a co-founder of ion, I could see it being a lot more uncomfortable for both parties. I wouldn’t ever want to feel pressured into turning my personal blog into shilling for the company, and the company wouldn’t necessarily want someone outside the formal marketing hierarchy presenting his opinions in a way that could be interpreted as official brand messaging."

On what he would say if he were a non-technical CMO asked about MarTech strategy

[joking] 

“I’d say ‘I don’t know but I’m going to hire a heck of a VP of Marketing Operations to figure it out. ”

When asked if he had permission on each of the logos in the landscape

“I don’t think I could face filling out 4,000 permission requests. But I’ll remove anyone who doesn’t want to be on it.”

Why you need to unify sales & marketing operations (via MassTLC Marketing Leadership panel)

Yesterday’s MassTLC Next Wave of Marketing Leadership event turned into a great discussion on a range of issues growth marketers are facing – spurred by so many audience questions that we ended up going over time.

MassTLC-marketing-leadership-panel

A particularly interesting topic was organization and team design around marketing operations – for which I advocated for businesses moving to a unified sales & marketing operations function.

We are doing this at Bedrock Data with great success – Ryan Plunkett serves this role and with this owns the view into our end-to-end funnel metrics, performance and forecasting.

There are different ways to get there based on size of business; these were some different possibilities discussed yesterday:

#1 - For startups / growth companies, start out with a single, unified operations role that serves the whole business. 

This has been our approach at Bedrock Data. In fact Ryan’s role extends across the whole customer lifecycle including customer success. For me as the chief marketer with many different areas to drive, it’s a great relief to have the operations piece supported with an integrated resource.

#2 - For larger companies, a centralized business operations role can serve both sales and marketing operations.

In my recent Marketo power user series, Jame Ervin of Optimizely spoke about operations centralization at Optimizely.  There are tremendous alignment and efficiencies advantages to this. I’ve found when the teams are separate, most of the time is spent going back and forth debating issues, whereas an aligned team should be much more nimble and effective.

#3 - For company sizes in between without a formal business operations function, this role can roll up to Finance

Several folks yesterday spoke about these roles being centralized in Finance. I loved what Jonathan Burg has to say about it – he said the role does in fact sit outside of marketing but it suits him just fine. Jonathan said they have a running joke that in his marketing all hands meetings, there are more people outside of marketing that attend than those on the marketing team.

Given the integrated nature of marketing across an organization, that is the way it should be. Kudos to Jonathan and Reward Gateway.

Great topic at a lively MassTLC event, and looking forward to more in 2017.

What’s so intriguing about the Mautic $5M Series A announcement

Mautic announced this week a $5 million Series A round and the CEO appointment of Matt Johnston, who will now be wrapping up his Chief Strategy Officer duties at Applause through the end of the year.

I find this particularly intriguing because Mautic is an open source marketing automation platform, backed by some of the same investors as, and to be co-located with, Acquia. Mautic aims to make a mark in the marketing automation space similar to what Acquia, with its Drupal community, has done in the web content management space.

Here’s why I think Mautic has a real shot to make noise in a sector that hasn’t had any serious new entrants since the parallel rise of Eloqua-Marketo-HubSpot-Pardot from 2008-2012 (I don’t put Act-on in the same class as those big four).

  • The marketing automation space has been largely headed towards a state of functional parity (or, more bluntly, commoditization) whereby everyone has the same core marketing automation features enabling lead lifecycle stage management, lead management, lead nurturing and lead scoring. The differentiation of late has been primarily around interoperability – HubSpot is differentiated through its COS serving as a company website, and its CRM features aligning sales; while Pardot is looking to differentiate on its Salesforce integration.
     
  • The true differentiation of these companies, and their brands, is their communities of users and partners. Hence the investment of HubSpot’s Inbound conference and community (projected to have 18,000 attendees at a live conference in Boston Nov 8-11) and Marketo’s branding of Marketing Nation to represent its communities. It’s why both HubSpot and Marketo have made such massive marketing investments to build and develop these user and partner communities.
     
  • Open source is distinguished by this precisely - the ability to develop a unique, passionate community. Mautic has the potential to do this in the marketing automation space.  Plus the hire of Johnston whose work at Applause was highlighted by the development of a significant online testing community is a key step towards this.

Keep an eye on Mautic.

12 Little Things Marketers Can Do To Better Align with Sales

I get it – sales and marketing alignment is difficult. But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. I read this downright dreary depiction of sales and marketing alignment from Billy Cina and it got me thinking – there’s a lot more that marketers can do

And I can say that because I’m a marketer.

Like many things in life it’s the little things that can add up to making a huge difference. Gavin Rossdale said it’s the little things that kill, and on the flipside little things can also drive growth.

With that in mind these are 12 little (or maybe not so little) things marketers can do to better align with sales:

#1 - Talk to reps and share insights back with sales management

This is a great place to start for multiple reasons. Sales reps can give marketing good feedback on conversations they are having with customers, as well as insight on what’s working well and not working well related to specific types of leads or programs. 

In addition, speaking to reps put the marketer into a strong position to add value back to sales management. Aggregating rep feedback and then going back to sales management with “this is what we heard from your team, this is how we are incorporating it into our plans” helps ease some of the management load from sales management which they will appreciate and help build the relationship.

 

#2 - Be humble about leads/MQLs growth

Leads and MQLs are a means to an end, and it’s vital that marketers maintain that mindsight. Lead/MQL growth can be ‘celebrated’, sure, but it should be with the right perspective of keeping the end goal in mind. The end goal of pipeline growth (and the sales and marketing relationship) is best served with an attitude of “we’re happy there's lead growth, but we really want to see it translate to pipeline” as that serves to both keep the sales team focused on turning those leads into opportunities and avoids the misalignment that comes from marketing being seen as patting itself on the back for driving up “lower quality” leads. 

 

#3 - Align reporting to opportunities and pipeline

To this end, reporting KPIs should align to opportunities and pipeline. As marketing is looking at the effectiveness of marketing programs and investments, outcomes should be tied to not only leads but also opportunities and pipeline. Applying win rate assumptions makes it very easy to look at this from an ROI perspective and keeps Marketing, Sales and Finance all aligned around the metrics.  

 

#4 - Be the first to say leads need to increase

As a demand gen marketer, if my closed loop reporting indicates leads need to be higher, I always want to be the one who said “leads need to go up.” In fact, for a growth business leads usually need to be increasing. As a demand gen marketer I like to embrace that reality vs. push back on it.  

 

#5 - Keep your pulse on lead trends and root causes

To build confidence with sales around the path to growth, you want to show you have your pulse on the underlying levers and what you’re doing to drive leads/pipeline, that there is a growth strategy behind your actions. E.g.

  • XXX web page has been our top converter to pipeline, so we are building out more content across this theme
  • YYY content asset has been our top converter to pipeline, so we are putting more promotional $ behind it
  • We are seeing a strong mid-funnel conversion rate around webinars on ZZZ, so we are making that a more prominent focus of our lead nurturing campaign

 

#6 - Be completely open about challenges marketing is facing

Along similar lines, if there are challenges marketing is facing be very open about them. As long as you clear on what the issues are, what the ramifications are and how you are addressing them, it’s hard for sales to “beat you up” over those challenges. Or they may still beat you up but the issues are open acknowledged, and maybe even leads to cross functional discussions around if additional investment can help to accelerate improvements/growth.

 

#7 - Treat converting leads to opportunities (and the conversion rates) are a team game

The challenge with pipeline growth is that it’s a team game – sales and marketing need to work together to ensure the right leads are generated with the right follow up programs and turned into opportunities.  Don’t take an attitude that marketing’s job is to generate leads and that’s it, as that will not only lead to poor behavior but that will lead to misalignment.

Partner with sales to address the issue and build alignment around the criteria of quality leads (which can factor into lead scoring and prioritization), provide the right enablement tools and automation to sales for lead follow up, and work together to go after opportunity & pipeline objectives.

 

#8 - Leverage CRM data for insights around lead quality

Marketers will often talk about the need to get feedback on sales from leads. But I find many marketers don’t leverage the data that is available to them in their CRM systems such as lead disqualification reasons provided by reps. By digging into that data and netting out key insights, that will not only help to improve marketing effectiveness but it will reinforce to the sales team that the data they enter into CRM is valued.

 

#9 – Build demographic data into lead scoring

Sales cares about getting to the right people in their target profile – whether that means job titles/roles, industry, size of company, etc. So as marketing embrace this and build these criteria into your lead scoring models, so that these things that sales cares about factors into the leads they receive.

 

#10 - Execute on short-term programs to support sales

Marketers need to be strategic and drive the right long term KPIs that ensure business growth. But this can absolutely be balanced with attention on short-term programs to support sales objectives. This falls in the category of “a little bit can go along way”. I’d want to be all over building a short-term email program to the customer base to support sales objectives. If sales is going to do it anyway, I’d rather partner with them to build and execute it so that it can align with the overall program plans and you marketing get acknowledgment for supporting the short-term sales objectives.

 

#11 – Focus on the “real enemy”

Rather than beat each other up, sales and marketing can build alignment by staying focused on the *competition*. Look at what competitors are doing in both their marketing and sales programs, and build alignment around this common enemy. This helps keep you at the same side of the table and can lead to performance improvements in both marketing and sales effectiveness.  

 

#12 - Be there on the last day of the month/quarter

Sometimes it’s just about letting sales know that you care - by being there last day of the quarter/month and rooting them on to hit the monthly target. Plus that’s part of the fun.

 

I want to hear from both sales and marketing. How did I do with this list? Anything missing? Am I dreaming to think that sales and marketing really can get along (and work together to drive growth)? Or do you agree with Billy Cina's take that misalignment is inevitable and irrevocable?

On NoMQLs, soft paywalls, PQLs and the winning demand gen formula

The great Scott Brinker recently took an “end of forms” blog post by Drift (startup from the also great David Cancel, whom HubSpot has to thank for their Gen 2 product reaching prime time) and coined this the NoMQL movement.  In short it’s:

  • Produce great content
  • Give it away
  • Let your prospect self-educate and continue to consume your great content….
  •  … and they’ll seek you out when they are ready to try your product

Here’s my take on this:

The concept is sound but it’s too extreme. With the gated vs. non-gated content debate, I’ve always said you need to do both and that applies here too. 

I’d rather land on a model akin to soft paywalls of online publishers that goes like this:

  • Produce great content
  • Give it away  to start … and…. Ensure there are conversion paths as prospects move through the buying process. For example:
  • Article that introduces a topic (for free) and as prospect goes deeper into a detailed guide require some info capture
  • Give away a certain number of articles per month and then require info capture on a certain number of articles or specific “later stage” content

I’d also add another wrinkle which is ensure “later stage” content is promoting Free Trial or Freemium product trials. Another compelling trend in the demand gen circuit of late is the Product Qualified Lead or PQL (blurb here from OpenView Labs).  This dovetails well with the above as it says diligently focus on your free trial experience AND analytics such that:

  • Free Trial/Freemium become a strong pathway for purchase
  • Analytics on in-product usage allow you to monitor prospects through key product ‘gates’
  • Such that you can nurture prospects with content to best support the trial experience
  • And this product usage becomes a key element (along with other scoring criteria such as target demongraphics) in qualifying leads for sales, hence the “PQL” moniker

Not a surprise but the winners will be those who:

  • Maniacally define their target audience (company criteria, roles)
  • Maniacally work with customers to understand the buying process – how it started, who was involved, the questions asked, where they went for information -- and document it
  • Consistently product quality content to attract and engage this target audience – balancing quantity and quality (video content is increasingly effective)
  • Employ strategies to convert this audience at the right point in the buying process, and leverage SDR/Sales teams to build a relationship with prospects and accelerate them through the buying process (first in has an advantage - and does usually win)
  • Have engaging trial product experiences with the analytics and process to both nurture and qualify for sales
  • Have a bevy of customer stories aligned to each stage of the buying process to support the above process (ranging from “Why Change?” to “Why Now?” to “Why Us?”), delivered through blog, website and sales enablement

Did I miss anything?

 

How to Get Profitable Return on your Paid Search Program - A Four-Step Framework

Paid Search is a necessary component to a growth mix for B2B marketers. It should prove to be a source of solid cost/MQL and cost/opportunity leads, and one that helps reach Google search audiences in an important way to compliment organic/inbound efforts.

Let’s be very clear on one thing though - paid search is tough.

Unlike a well-executed organic search program, which over time can drive exponential growth and significantly reduced cost per lead metrics, the ‘natural course’ of a paid search program is increasing cost per lead.

Why?  Two reasons:

First off, Google is always looking to make more money. Google is always going to be acting in Google’s best interest, which means looking for ways to siphon off more dollars from advertisers. This past year it’s been hiking up branded search rates.

And secondly, successful terms are likely to get more and more spend from competitors. Meaning what’s working for you today, is likely to cost more money to work for you tomorrow.

So how do you get this Paid Search beast to work for you?  Here’s a four-step plan to get payoff:

#1 - Ensure you have the right measurement in place (HINT: Google AdWords is not enough).

Optimizing a paid search program for form-fills alone is a surefire way to drive a high number of ‘conversions’ (leads) that  have a high noise level for sales, and low pipeline return.

A proper measurement framework is critical to success. Specifically here's what to do:

  • Setup SalesForce campaigns for each AdWords campaign to enable tracking opportunity and pipeline return
  • Pass a Google click ID (GCLID) into marketing automation/CRM systems and pass opportunity values back to AdWords. This will allow for cost/opportunity and pipeline $/investment to be calculated at the keyword level – crucial for the optimization needed to drive success
  • Setup ‘stacked cookies’ so that latent conversions can also be measured and attributed back to the paid search investment – to give you a full picture of the impact of your investments

#2 – Target long tail, use case driven keywords

Driving profitable pipeline from PPC investment is a numbers game – and as I mentioned above it gets harder and harder. So eeking out every efficiency is vital.

Long tail, use case driven keywords are vital to this.  Rather than investing in broad category based searches which will be expensive, and tend to be more ‘top of funnel’ research terms – the searches that will drive returns are going to be more long tail (both longer search phrases, and lower volume) which are more likely to signify "intent." and lead to action -- both conversion and follow-on engagement with sales rep. This will be lower cost, lost volume and higher converting terms.

Your job as a paid search marketer looking to optimize pipeline return is to identify more and more of these terms, and invest in those.

#3 - Tailor landing pages for these use cases

Back to the point of eeking out every efficiency, as you identify these terms, build landing pages tailored for these terms. Landing page conversion rates will go up based on having more relevant, tailored content which align ads to the specific search phrase and landing pages. 

This payoff of this work will be higher conversion rates, which therefore lead to a lower cost per lead and cost per opportunity. There will also be a double positive hit as more relevance will increase your Google quality scores and help to further reduce cost per lead.

#4 - Optimize, optimize, optimize

The above framework will give you a framework for success. Then the key is optimize, optimize, optimize.

Watch the results every single day, and align with sales on what’s working and what’s not working.

Optimize for pipeline $ and opportunities created, leveraging the reporting capabilities on #1. Constantly work #2 and #3 above to identify the right terms and take all the steps possible to minimize costs per opportunity while driving quality. 

As you identify low performers, either get rid of them or work to improve them.

As you identify high performers, invest fully in those, and look to spin off other ideas from those performers that could lead to new potential winners.

 

The “Google PPC pill” is a tough one to swallow – when you realize the size of the check you’re writing to Google each month – but it’s much easier to do so when you know you are running the program in a way that is driving profitable return.  Because then at least, it’s a win for Google and a win for the Marketer.

When Inbound Marketing Isn’t Enough

I caught up with John Marcus at Bedrock Data last week, talking about his business’ next step of moving from an nearly exclusively inbound demand model to one that will blend both inbound and outbound and also entail selling to more enterprise businesses with buying teams.

In kicking around ideas we came up with this list of key areas you need to get right in expanding from an inbound model, often 1:1 selling to a single buyer who has found you to solve an immediate need – to an approach requiring creation of new demand.

I’ll list them in reverse order of buying process.

#1 - Create role-based content for your Champion Buyer to enroll his buying team

This is truly the make-or-break juncture of the enterprise buying process – the difference between deals which move forward at an accelerated pace vs. those that flame out due to no decision.

A relentless understanding of the buyer journey includes what types of questions, issues and objections those in different roles will have for your buyer champion. Equipping your buyer champion with this content (e.g. videos, tools, FAQs) will serve two objectives: #1 it will differentiate you in the eyes of your champion vs. any competitors and #2 it will remove potential roadblocks proactively.

Interestingly I was part of a buying process around HubSpot that did not move forward, and found that although HubSpot has a hugely successful content creation machine, this type of role-based, buying process content was not one that they had yet developed -- likely due to being relatively new to enterprise selling at that point.

#2 - As part of the sales qualification process, work with customers to identify, articulate and align around critical business issues – and make these the centerpiece of the selling process

Enterprise buying gets messy – multiple personalities, multiple agendas. Centering around critical business issues from the start of the sales process gives the vendor a way to work with the Buying Champion to align that buying team around what matters. It also serves as a qualifier to ensure you’re in fact working the right deals.

Once you’ve established those critical business issues, these should become the ‘themes’ that drive all conversations and meetings to advance that deal to close.

#3 - Create content focused on moving prospects from the Status Quo to “We Have a Problem”

This is the often overlooked step in the buying process required to create new demand.

To demonstrate this consider two different customer story videos that could be used as part of a marketing program:

Video A: Prospect Says, “Company ___ was great because they helped us solve ___ problems and got us ___ results.” - pretty typical case study / customer story featured on a website. 

Video B: Prospect Says, “What’s amazing is we thought our ___ was fine, until we got a better understanding of ___ issue. Once we realized that ___ issue was actually having ___ impact, it became clear this was a real problem we had to solve quickly. And aren’t we glad we did…. (then could proceed with Video A).”

Video B addresses that crucial step needed to first empathize with and then move early stage prospects forward in their buying process… which is from a place where you may know you have an issue, but it’s not top of mind, and it’s not the most urgent thing you need to fix. Hearing that from a customer, how they moved from that point of malaise to having this become their most important thing, is where content will make a significant impact, and that's the key step to propel buyers forward.  Most businesses have a gap in this area.

#4 - Build and Brand Teleprospecting team as value-add experts to your prospects

The Tele function is vital to creating demand through outbound (as well as moving early stage inbound prospects forward). I’ve described this as applying Inbound marketing principles of helping your prospects to Teleprospecting – so that they play the role of providing the right content at the right time to move a prospect forward in their buying journey (in exactly the same way a good website does).

I’ve covered this in detail elsewhere including this CMO Essentials article, and this was TechTarget’s take when I took them through my program.

#5 - Drive and measure outbound programs across a range of marketing channels – with the goal of initial engagement

Once you have the Teleprospecting engine in place, it’s a matter of finding the right channels to reach your audience where you can get strong return. This includes many options and I'll highlight three below:

  • Webinars – becoming more and more challenging but when done right can still be very effective (Hint: that’s the right content, for the right audience, through the right publisher and promoted in the right way – I covered ideas and best practices around this here).
  • Content Syndication – need to be very careful here and make sure the economics are right. It’s easy to waste money here so you need to be sure you do it right. Also Integrate is a vendor particularly effective in helping customers get content syndication right.
  • Direct Mail – Often overlooked but can be a great way to breakthrough the clutter today. Especially when you look at it as…  you are trying to create that initial engagement and then have your Teleprospecting/Nurture work from there. So the job of your direct mail program doesn’t need to be to sell your solution, just to engage on an initial piece of content (e.g. a “State of Industry” or “Industry Best Practices” report)

#6 - Build and drive influencer relationships

I put this into outbound because this is something that needs to be driven in a highly proactive matter to support demand generation growth. Influencer relationships, and having them link back to your blog/website or content is doing to be a key feeder to the above as well. In addition to traditional Analyst and PR relationships, here we are talking Bloggers and anyone in your customer’s target profile (e.g. peer group) with significant online social following.

This is far from easy but executing the above gets a business to a mature steady state of demand generation covering both inbound and outbound which will then further scale with greater investment over time.

Five Specific Actions Sales & Marketing Can Do Together To Drive Alignment & Business Performance

We all know sales & marketing alignment is extremely important. This Kapost article references an Aberdeen Group stat that “Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve 20% annual growth rate, and companies with poor sales and marketing alignment have a 4% revenue decline.” (Now if I could just find that pesky Aberdeen stat... although this stat is referenced everywhere, I’m citing the Kapost article because I couldn’t find  a public version of the original stat from Aberdeen).

Knowing it’s important isn’t enough though, as actually attaining true sales & marketing alignment is challenging.

To that end, these are five specific actions that I’ve found sales and marketing can do together to drive alignment, and achieve the resulting business performance. I choose the word “sales and marketing” and “together” very precisely, as the key to this is that equal responsibility and commitment is taken from both groups within the company’s revenue team.

#1 - Be overly transparent with each other

Within pockets of sales and marketing teams, the “default” mentality towards the other group may be that of mistrust. The best way to address that proactively is to be overly transparent.

From the marketing side, share regular communications around strategies, program plans, program performance, program optimizations and what’s working and what’s not working.

From the sales side – same thing. Share insights around what’s working and what’s not working, identify areas to improve opportunity conversion rates and win rates, and also over communicate around how the business is trending towards meeting its monthly or quarterly revenue/bookings targets.

#2 - Diligently focus on opportunity creation targets as a KPI

I’ve seen sales and marketing relationships stumble when marketing drives attention to MQLs as their KPI. That can lead to friction if marketing “celebrates” MQL performance that isn’t translating downstream to opportunities or deals.

MQLs should be seen as a “means to the end”, and if both sides are laser focused on opportunities created it has several benefits:

  • Marketing drives towards MQLs, but also has a keen interest in working with sales to ensure MQL to Opportunity conversion rates improve
  • It opens up the perspective of Sales Management to focus both on what’s closing (what they would typically be monitoring each day/week/month), and also using Opps Created as a KPI for them to also monitor to ensure that a healthy pipeline is continually being built to feed the months ahead.

#3 – Regularly dialogue on how to improve opportunity conversion rates

With Opps Created as a KPI, marketing and sales management should openly dialogue about how to improve conversion rates from MQL to Opportunity.

When I say openly, it should be done acknowledging that there are always improvements needed, and it’s not a criticism of either group.  Specific areas to look at:

  • How are MQLs specifically being generated? (e.g. forms, webinar responses). Is prospect intent made clear? Are there any improvements to that process that can help how sales follows up?
  • What is the systematic lead handoff? Is it real time? Do the sales reps have clear visibility into the right data they need to best follow up?
  • What is the response time to follow up? This is where SLAs come in to ensure there are standards across all of the reps.
  • Is there a defined follow up approach – both number and frequency of touches, as well as guides for the conversation?

These are all areas that require consistent attention and improvement.

#4- Create an aligned approach to lead scoring

The SiriusDecisions Research from their 2015 Summit reinforces the need for approaches to engage buyers at the earlier phase of the buying process, when they are most open to support  and guidance from people (reps).  I’ve been outspoken in cautioning the perils of attempting lead scoring before you’re ready, and the key is that sales and marketing both need to be fully bought into lead scoring and design it collaboratively. Keep the initial lead scoring models simple. The types of questions to answer during a lead scoring creation exercise include:

  • What’s the profile of prospects that we want to talk to?
  • What content would a prospect consume that would lead us to think he’s most open to a conversation?
  • What content would a prospect consume that would lead us to think he’s in a buying process?
  • How do we want to consistently follow up with prospects for each of these scenarios?

#5 - Build joint programs

Finally, a great way to build alignment is to build programs together. There does not need to be one recipe as to how sales and marketing share responsibilities in executing programs.

In addition to traditional marketing executed programs, ways to build joint programs include marketing sourcing the data for a given target audience and sales leading the outreach (email, phone, social media) to the targeted list.  Another scenario could be marketing sourcing the data and designing integrated email & phone outreach that is executed by Sales or SDR/Teleprospecting resource. Monitoring the success of these joint programs, and improving them, helps to build the alignment.

What do you think? What are some specific ways you’ve seen sales and marketing teams effectively align?

Marketo vs. HubSpot – Comparing Purple vs. Orange at their Essence on 10 Key Points

It’s funny – although I’ve been following or using both HubSpot and Marketo since 2009, I  recently started sharpening my perspective on how the two marketing automation firms, now HUBS and MKTO on your CNBC stock ticker, directly compare.

Before I get to these 10 comparison points on Marketo vs. HubSpot, two ‘preamble points’ I want to make clear first:

  • Both are strong products, and both have come a long way since those early days in 2009 (thanks goodness!), and are going to continue to quickly evolve as both companies continue to invest significant resources into R&D. So the points below may look very different a year or two from now.
  • The below is very much a DRAFT – I would love to get feedback on these and other points – in fact the main reason that I am publishing this now is so that I can share my observations to date and get additional expert opinions on this topic.

So with that, here we go:

#1 - Marketo is a kick-ass marketing workflow tool

Marketo Flow Steps are a work of beauty for any marketing ops manager. Marketo gives its users tons of control for both recurring and trigger based data-driven actions, and the sequences of marketing or data activities that follow. It’s truly a powerful engine that supports lead nurture flows, lead routing processes and coordination between marketing and SDR/Teleprospecting activities.

 #2- HubSpot is a powerful lead attraction & conversion platform

If Marketo’s bread is buttered through marketing workflow, then HubSpot’s sweet spot in the process is the activities preceding and leading up to that initial web conversion (form fill). HubSpot gives digital marketers powerful insight into what pre-conversion activities (e.g. specific web pages, blog content or social media activities) have the most impact on both “conversions” as well as any follow on impact (e.g. MQLs, Opportunities, Pipeline, Wins, etc.). 

#3 - Marketo struggles big time (today) with pre-conversion analytics

I see Marketo already on the path to change this, and it’s just a question of when – and how well they communicate it. The core of this issue is that at its heart, originally, Marketo tracking leverages programs which sync to SalesForce campaigns; and these programs are wonderful at tracking ‘known traffic’ – once you are converted/cookied – a web visitor can be added to a Marketo Program with ease and powerful campaign influence reporting can be achieved from there.

Marketo struggles with granular program level tracking of anonymous traffic. For example, if you want to ask the question: “Which of my Blog Posts (or Web Pages, for that matter) have the greatest influence on the follow-on generation of MQIs – or MQLs, Opps, etc.?”, you’d struggle to answer this question in Marketo – whereas HubSpot is geared to naturally helps its users answer and optimize around that question.

You could (and should) create a Marketo program that adds any Blog Visitor to a program to be able to answer this question for the Blog as a whole – but doing it at an individual Blog post level seems impractical.

Marketo, as I’ll reinforce below, is a technology ecosystem player (which by the way I believe is the right approach), so the way they are attacking this problem is through Google Analytics integration which was released in April 2015.

And while I think this is the right strategy and will get to the desired result for Marketo users when fully implemented -- to date I don’t think it’s been well communicated or trained across the Marketo customer base.

And the missing link, which presumably is coming, is feeding Marketo lead outcome data (e.g. MQL, Opportunity, Pipeline) back into Google Analytics in a way that can help answer those original questions I posed around which specific blog posts, web pages or digital interactions are having the greatest impact on conversions and the follow-on business results. Once that is in place and well understood by the Marketo base, it will close a significant gap vs. HubSpot today.

#4 - HubSpot’s Blog Analytics crush anything Marketo can do

The reason I used ‘essence’ in this article title is many of these points come down to the original vision for why these two products were created and the problems they were focused on solving. In the case of HubSpot, blog optimization was at its core as a means to drive web traffic and 'leads'.

So therefore keyword rank tracking, real-time SEO guidance for blogging and what my colleague Matthew Wainwright calls “absurdly transparent blog metrics” are significant competitive advantages. Marketo tried to play catch up here in 2014 with its SEO module which let’s just say I wasn’t a huge fan of in its initial release

#5 - HubSpot leans towards “all in one”, Marketo is all about technology ecosystem

Whether it’s their Free CRM announced at INBOUND 2014, or their fully integrated Content Management System, HubSpot’s strategy has been “all in one”. That can be incredibly powerful for a business  to connect its website, digital marketing, lead nurturing through to CRM.

Marketo’s strategy has been one of enabling hundreds of technology integrations through its impressive LaunchPoint ecosystem. Some of the integrations my team has done already include Marketo to On24, SnapApp, LinkedIn Lead Accelerator (the former Bizo platform for retargeting) and Integrate.

The result of this is what you’d expect:

HubSpot can go very wide, and for those organizations who have minimal existing infrastructure and minimal infrastructure requirements – this can be hugely powerful. This is why HubSpot has leaned more towards the SMB user base who fit this criteria.

Marketo’s integration approach means customers can go for “best of breed” and leverage a range of other technologies. I tend to prefer this integrated approach for achieving business value, although costs will also be higher in this approach across multiple vendors (vs. "all in one").

#6 - Marketo has a really strong SalesForce integration

Going back to essence, this has always been true of Marketo – including the automated data integration through to the SalesInsight plugin for sales visibility into prospect program and web activities. That said, HubSpot has closed the gap here over the years and recently announced a five-year extension to its partnership with SalesForce.

In addition to the standard Marketo-SalesForce integration, I’ve enjoyed the ability for Marketo to push tasks into SalesForce for custom integrations – creating SalesForce triggers based on specific task types has been useful for aligning more complex business processes between the two systems.

#7 - Marketo tokens provide great program scalability and maintenance capabilities

Marketo tokens continue to get more and more powerful. Tokens are Marketo’s method for data-driven content that carries intelligence over different programs. With properly implemented tokens, there is significant time savings, reduction in errors and additional marketing capabilities across programs.

For a simple example, think of a program token as a Webinar Name, Title, Speaker & Time --- updating that is one central place on the program and then propagating across all email invitations, follow up emails, registration pages, thank you pages etc. --- at the click of a button..

 #8 - Marketo scales better across multiple business lines and geographies

Because of the aforementioned tokens and workflow capabilities, along with other features including lead partitions – Marketo scales well as a single instance is applied across multiple business lines and geographies – more so than HubSpot.

 #9 - Don’t Sleep on Marketo’s RTP

Marketo is more than Marketo. What I mean by that is that when you think about Marketo you also need to factor in their Real Time Personalization Product which originated from Marketo’s acquisition of Insightera in December 2013. In fact, in that same article where I panned Marketo’s SEO module, I lauded RTP as the bright future for Marketo.

RTP answers many – not all, but many – of the pre-conversions concerns on the original Marketo product. RTP enables customers with the ability to target both anonymous & known traffic with more precise on-site targeting and off-site campaigns (including retargeting) – and -- again with Marketo’s ecosystem approach -- the approach here is largely to create web content modules that can then be embedded into any web site regardless of CMS..

 #10 - HubSpot partners are passionate digital marketers, Marketo partners are marketing ops geeks

I realize this is a generalization, but it’s true! (And I’m allowed to say it because I was one of the first Marketo partners before they even had a partner program in 2010.)

I see more digital marketing talent in the HubSpot partner community, whereas I see outstanding marketing operations expertise amongst the Marketo partner base.  

 

OK so that’s what I got. What did I miss? What did I get wrong?

Would love to hear additional points about how the experts out there are comparing Purple vs. Organize now and in the future. Fire Away!

#SDSummit Takeaway: SiriusDecisions clarifies a misunderstood statistic – and opens up a whole world of possibilities for integrated digital demand generation

Today is the day SiriusDecisions set the record straight.

Jen Ross & Marisa Kopec unveiled SiriusDecisions new research on B2B buying process and in doing so made a simple but powerful clarification that should open the collective eyes of sales & marketing organizations around the possibilities of digital marketing supported sales prospecting as a competitive difference maker.

The original 67% stat was “67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally”.

However it often got spun colloquially as: “Buyers are 67% of the way through the sales process before they want to speak to a sales rep.”

The implications of the misinterpreted stat were:

  • Buyers don’t want to talk to reps
  • By the time a buyer wants to talk a rep, they are 2/3 of the way through their buying process

The overall message to sales was one of helplessness and disempowerment.

It was WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

Today at the SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit we learned about the recent SiriusDecisions study of over 1,000 different B2B buyers from actual purchase processes and we got clarification that: Buyers aren’t 67% through the buying process when they want to talk to a Person/Rep. 67% of the buying process may involve digital content consumption, but the sales/rep engagement is threaded throughout that buying process and spans all stages.

And here’s where it’s most interesting, as I live Tweeted as the event.

The sales and marketing organizations who can partner and enable reps to leverage digital tools to get visibility and engage with prospects will create a massive competitive edge. What we are talking about here:

  • Expanding data sources of potential prospects
  • Leveraging scoring to prioritize best fit leads based on company attributes, web behavior and social interaction
  • Leverage social marketing, content and teleprospecting techniques to build credibility as authority and engage with prospects as early in the buying process as possible
  • Use tools to best tailor conversations and understand where buyer is in the buying process
  • “Rinse and repeat” to deliver useful content to support them through their buying process, wherever they may be

The impact will come from properly harnessing reps around digital interactions. It's about Sales AND Digital and how they work together through the ENTIRE buying process.

Much more empowering for sales reps and teleprospecting.

Much more inspiring for aligned sales and marketing teams to go after this together.

And great news for all the great digital technology vendors at #SDSummit who can add value to help companies build that aligned sales and digital marketing demand generation machine.

Related Resources:

Seven insights from SiriusDecisions Forum on Channel Sales and Marketing Operations

This morning I attended the SiriusDecisions Forum titled “Bridging the Direct/Indirect Visibility Gap” with Steven Silver & Laz Gonzalez. The topic was particularly appealing as I look at ways to improve effectiveness in the lead-to-win process in supporting channel partners.

Seven insights from the morning

#1 - “Process precedes technology”

Laz gave us the first Tweetable moment of the session:

Of course this doesn’t apply specifically to channel marketing, but it does apply especially to channel marketing.  Creating and applying common definitions to how leads are qualified and processed is vital to improving and optimizing the lead-to-win process through channel partners.

#2 - Consider adding more qualification before leads are passed to partners

SiriusDecisions benchmarked conversion rates across different levels of lead qualification. There are various definitions and scenarios here, but the crux of this for me centered on comparing these two scenarios:

Qualifying MQLs based on an action (e.g. filling out a free trial form) and profile (e.g. not  meeting specific disqualification criteria) saw a total conversion rate of 7 wins per 1000 inquiries which was achieved through 16% inquiry to MQL, 55% MQL to SAL, 40% SAL to SQL and 20% SQL to Win.

Adding in the qualification of non-verified propensity to buy (which in SiriusDecisions terms moves a prospect from Lead Level 3 to 4) moved the total conversion rate to 9 wins per 1000 inquiries which was achieved through a 7% inquiry to MQL, 72% MQL to SAL, 65% SAL to SQL and 27% SQL to Win.

So in this benchmark by SiriusDecisions, adding more qualification to the leads passed to partners increases the total lead-to-win performance by 29% - significant business impact. This was the most significant tipping point in performance improvement for varied levels of lead qualification.

How could this be done? This needs to be done with care (and A/B testing!) as this will have an impact of reducing the number of leads to partners – so this needs to be well communicated and well managed with partners. Possible ways to accomplish this include adding an additional qualification question (e.g. “what business problem are you trying to solve?”)to a free trial form or a product activation form.

#3 - (My idea) score leads after they are sent to partners

This is my idea building on #2 above. Since the process we are trying to optimize is the lead-to-win, and the fundamental issue is visibility, this could be a great opportunity to apply lead scoring. Score the prospects post MQL qualification behavior (e.g. product activation, engagement in post qualification emails, website page views) so that these scores can be used with partners to evaluate lead quality.

This can then be used in a number of ways:

  • As part of lead reviews with partners, to demonstrate lead quality (demonstrate to the partners “there’s life there” when they may have otherwise given up and moved on to the next lead)
  • Can be used as a ‘carrot’ to drive partner adoption of CRM systems – “get visibility into lead behavior”
  • Analysis around partner lead conversion rates – does the lead score prove to be an indicator for lead-to-win? If so this can be a powerful tool for managing partners deal conversions and business predictability in an area that has often been a black hole in the past.

#4 - What’s next in marketing automation? Channel marketing automation

You thought the marketing automation market was fully mature? Guess again.

Apparently there is a new class of technologies emerging (and much needed) in channel marketing automation, and one specifically called out by Laz was Zift Solutions.

Just guessing that some of the features available including the creation of centralized templates that can be ‘pushed’ into partner co-branded assets (emails, landing pages), the management of partitioned leads for each partner and CRM connectors for opportunity management.

Some questions that come to mind:

  • Are these replacement to or integrated with a company’s marketing automation platform? “Integrated to” – powerful. “Replacement to” – still interesting but now creates potential silo’s between demand generation and channel marketing.
  • Are there proven tools to support partner outbound lead generation (e.g. social media)? – that would be very attractive.

#5 - “Treat partners like leads”

This was another soundbite from Laz. What  he meant here was that the partner relationships need to be worked to ensure adoption of marketing programs and adoption of lead management SLAs. This takes hard work. Totally agree.  

#6 - Waterfall Metrics Direct vs. Channel highlights where funnels are leaking in channel process

Another powerful data benchmark:

SiriusDecisions looked specifically at Lead Level 2 qualification (qualified based on lead profile data) and looked at lead-to-win rates for a direct sales team vs. channel sales teams.

For Direct Sales, the lead-to-win was 7 wins per 1,000 inquiries which broke down as 16% inquiry to MQL, 55% MQL to SAL, 40% SAL to SQL, and 20% SQL to Win.

For Channel Sales, the lead-to-win was 1.4 wins per 1,000 inquiries which broke down as 2.3% inquiry to MQL, 53% MQL to SAL, 51% SAL to SQL and 22.5% SQL to Win.

So here’s where this gets interesting:

If you look at the above, the channel actually performed better from MQL to Win (6.1% vs. 4.4%) – channel sales was better at working the right deals and closing the ones they worked, that’s where they specialize. However there was a massive gap for channel teams in managing inquiries to MQLs -- the direct process converted at 7X the rate at channel.

That’s telling me that the heart of the issue with most channel programs is that lack of process applied to the top and middle of the funnel. Issues here could include legacy processes where all top of funnel leads are sent to partners, no lead nurturing process applied to partner leads and/or the lack of nurturing systems by partners.

Therefore applying process and systems to top of funnel partner lead generation and qualification is a major opportunity for most.

#7 - Work towards SLAs for partner lead distribution & management

Tying it back to point #1 on process, the best practice (which, by the way, based on show of hands, very few of the companies in the room have implemented) is developing and applying a service level agreement to partner lead management. Some of the areas to agree as part of this include:

  • At which stage are leads routed to partners?
  • How will partners accept, interact and update the lead?
  • What are the response times required from issuance to close?
  • What should be done to ensure commitment to SLAs; what should be done if response times are not met?

Choose the marketing and sales performance levers to fuel your growth (and here are 20 to choose from…)

In 2014 SiriusDecisions introduced their Intelligent Growth Model which detailed five pillars of growth that companies could choose from or combine as part of their business growth strategy. The five are:

  1. Expand into new markets – geographical expansion, vertical market expansion
  2. Introduce new offerings – add additional product offers with new revenue streams
  3. Sell to new buyers – sell existing products to those you haven’t reached before
  4. Increase productivity – improve effectiveness in marketing & sales
  5. Acquisitions – acquire businesses as a source of expanded revenue

Taking a closer look at these, I’d segment them into these two categories:

  • Growth via Business Expansion: includes #1 (expanding into new geographies or verticals), #2 (expanding with additional products) and #5 (expanding by acquiring other businesses).
  • Growth via Business Improvement / Optimization: These apply to growing an existing product in an existing market, and in this case the two options are #3 (new buyers) or #4 (productivity).

The second category is more universally relevant, as every line of business can relate to it as management teams plan growth for existing products in existing markets typically as part of an annual business planning cycle.  When planning business growth in these scenarios, teams can categorize growth drivers into two high level buckets:

#1 - Growth in marketing qualified leads and opportunities

And/or

#2 - Improvement in sales performance metrics (e.g. win rate, average order value) – I use the term ‘sales’ to describe the business process, not the department, as sales performance metrics are influenced by sales, marketing and product management – as you’ll see below.

When planning for growth within a product line, management teams should agree on to which degree these two areas will contribute to that growth – as that decision will foster alignment, and may impact other investment decisions including resources and budget.

As part of that decision, there are many potential levers to consider within each of the two buckets – let’s take a closer look.

To grow marketing qualified leads (and resultant opportunities) here are 10 levers to consider:

  1. Grow web traffic (via SEO, SEM, Social Media, Influencer Marketing, PR programs)
  2. Grow website conversion rates (make website more effective in converting visitors from #1 to MQIs or MQLs)
  3. Improve web conversion rates through post-visit tactics such as abandonment techniques or retargeting
  4. Grow MQIs through expansion of or improvement in MQI generation programs (“Growing the top of the funnel” – e.g. content, webinars)
  5. Improve MQI to MQL conversion rates and velocity via optimization of lead nurturing programs and/or expansion or sales development / teleprospecting resources (more MQLs via "optimizing middle of funnel")
  6. Grow incremental MQI/MQLs via highly targeted account-based sales and marketing programs (“small net fishing”)
  7. Improve the effectiveness of sales development / teleprospecting resources through tools including lead prioritization engines, predictive lead scoring or training
  8. Generate more upsell MQLs from customer base via educational programs or specific upsell paths
  9. Generate more MQIs/MQLs through harnessing customer base via community, advocacy or referral programs (typically a longer term strategy)
  10. Grow partner generated leads by expanding number of ‘push’ partners actively marketing your offerings and/or adding additional marketing programs implemented via partners

And to improve sales performance metrics, here are 10 levers to consider:

  1. Grow MQL-to-opportunity rate via improved lead response times
  2. Grow MQL-to-opportunity rate via developing, improving or optimizing MQL follow up programs (conversation guides, email messaging & sequences)
  3. Grow MQL-to-opportunity rate via follow up techniques or data (e.g. leveraging of multiple contacts at an account)
  4. Grow win rate through applying sales process around ensuring the right criteria is applied to choose which deals are qualified
  5. Grow win rate through more effective enablement of a champion buyer (enabling that buyer to more effectively sell up/across their organization) – this could be via conversations, content and/or technologies
  6. Grow win rate through focus on urgency drivers (including content to position the buying decision vs. the downside, risk or pain attached to the status quo)
  7. Grow win rate through the development of specific competitive content or positioning vs. key competitors
  8. Grow win rate through development of new product functionality to address top loss or no decision reasons (a process for win/loss analysis will help uncover and prioritize these)
  9. Grow average order value through product packaging or bundling  
  10. Grow average order value through price increases (hey, you gotta consider it right!)

Aligning around the how of growth, first at the high level and then into the specific growth drivers, is a key step to achieving the growth that every business wants.

Moneyball Marketer Demand Generation All-Star: Courtney Kay

For our next Moneyball Marketer Demand Generation All-Star, we go a little bit outside the box and talk to Courtney Kay, who is becoming a trusted ally to many demand gen marketers in her role as VP, Field & Product Marketing for TechTarget. Courtney has her finger on the pulse of the latest demand generation best practices and as brands need to behave more and more like publishers to build and engage their audiences (prospects and customers), there’s a lot demand gen marketers can learn from experts like Courtney.

(You’ll notice several related links that Courtney shared as well interspersed throughout our conversation).

Zak: I’m excited to pick your brain so let’s get right to it. TechTarget is a publisher, and brands are being told to act more like publishers to support their content marketing and demand generation. What are your top tips or tricks of publishing that you’d recommend to marketers?

Courtney: I really feel for B2B marketers today.  To be effective in this environment, we really do have to act like publishers and for most folks, content isn’t their business- so the skillsets, the tools, the resources and the budgets frankly aren’t aligned very well to a publishing model.  Being a publisher means both a marketing and overall organizational shift in mindset, followed by an alignment of teams and processes to essentially create a content architecture that can deliver thoughtful content with a regular cadence.  I’ve been in this business for over 10 years now, and when I work with brands in the tech arena today on this topic, I focus most on getting the foundation right.  I see three critical steps to get started as a brand publisher:  

Number one - shift from a product centric to buyer centric mindset. Digital enables buyers to define their own research path.  If they don’t like the way we have to say what we want to say, they’ll simply leave us out of that journey.  Historically, businesses have lead with product.  Being an effective publisher means leading with the buyer: what does he or she need to know, and how can we as a brand meet that content need while inserting our point-of-view in the right place, at the right time.  Sirius Decisions does some great work on buyer-centricity, particularly Jay Gaines if you get the chance to work with him.

Zak: Absolutely, I just saw a quote in an article with one of Jay’s colleague, Jason Hekl – Jason said the key to effective demand generation is to figure out how to genuinely help your buyers – I love that.  OK, so what is number two?

Courtney: Number two is getting the right team in place. Traditionally we’ve used product teams to talk features/functionalities, sales folks to talk differentiation and execs to talk vision.  Now we need advocates and editors who can translate the brand and product story into a language and suite of content on any one topic that facilitates the buyer’s holistic research process. This often requires skillsets beyond marketing to more of a journalistic background.

And then third is create a smart content taxonomy, organizational structure. Your value as a publisher lies in your ability to convey expertise and meaningful coverage against the specific topics related to your business that matter to your target buyer.  We classify our content in multiple ways and align our production to ensure coverage across each element of that taxonomy through smart calendaring.  The fundamentals for a solid taxonomy include: topic, stage of the lifecycle, and the specific solution.  If you’ve done the work, you can also leverage personas here, which will ultimately inform your personalization efforts later.

Zak: This sounds like an area where that publisher know-how can really help.

Courtney: You’re right. The key is don’t try to cover too much- think depth, not breadth to facilitate that journey and align the right types of content to the various lifecycle stages. We have a quick grid that can help.

Zak: What aspect of demand generation do you see as particularly ‘hot’ over the next year?

Courtney: When I think about demand gen trends I think about 2 aspects, 1: what we’re doing buyer-side to create deeper engagement and 2: how we’re utilizing that gained buyer insight in conjunction with other data on the backend to continue to facilitate that journey -- be it via marketers, advocates, or sales.  Regarding #1, I think we’re going to continue down the personalization path with brands thinking beyond email nurture, to more seamless/holistic personalization of brand experiences thanks to technology advancements.    The second trend, regarding #2, is the real-time utilization of data in our marketing, sales & service efforts. We’re bringing not only contact details but behavioral details into our systems and providing visibility real time.  We’re also starting to augment that data with other relevant external data to create 1-a more comprehensive picture of our buyer and 2- a better functioning, more efficient CRM system.

Zak: So you’ve mentioned a couple technologies that TechTarget is focused on. What technologies to support demand generation are you seeing increasing in adoption by marketers?

Courtney: This idea of personalized content experiences and better, deeper engagement is being made possible by some pretty exciting technologies that we’re going to start to see more widespread adoption of, and probably acquisition of by the major marketing platforms.  In particular I see content experience tools- tools like Uberflip and Ion Interactive are a few examples of software tools that are allowing us to bring more, related, and personalized content offers to prospects, at their point-of-consumption.  They’re doing some exciting things to by assessing your engagement and capturing information on the buyer as he or she researches and using it to customize it as buyer’s progress.

And then also retargeting & programmatic- the display ad is essentially born again thanks to our ability to merge interactive experiences with advanced targeting tactics, and the immediacy afforded by programmatic to react more real-time with progressive, personalized content via the banner. 

On the backend, when it comes to the utilization of data, I think we’re on the cusp of something really exciting.  First we’re starting to see much more powerful data being made available that can help us make better sense of our CRM systems and prioritized our sales efforts.  Then we’re seeing the growth of predictive tools that are mining our CRM systems and these additional data sources to predict where our next opportunities lie.  This is a space to watch and invest in for sure- we sure are!

Zak: Is there a marketing program that you’ve seen in the past year that stands out as being especially innovative and/or effective?

Courtney: I really like the work that CommVault did this past year- not because it’s any big, over-the-top concept, but because the team got very strategic about how they tackled some real challenges I think we can all relate to, and they share their results- which can often be hard to come by.  I won’t run through all the details, but to summarize- the team was struggling with a few key things heading into their FY14- 1: having so many distribution channels and efforts that they felt as though they weren’t getting meaningful enough visibility across any 1 channel- 2- they were running into challenges trying to drive the adoption of a persona-based strategy and 3- they were struggling with cross-pollination – meaning driving any one account to purchase multiple solutions.  In response, the team reduced the number of channels they were leveraging, created a very integrated brand/demand/enablement approach across those they were leveraging (aligning teams and technology) and worked with us to develop a buying-team focus and cross-solution messaging strategy that drove both deeper engagement with prospects, and a greater solution awareness across accounts.  You can watch the case study (3rd video down) and also check out an interview with CommVault’s marketing teams if you’re interested in learning more.

Zak: OK, we’ve gone deep into some great topics. I want to learn a little more about your background and how you’ve grown into these areas. How did you get your start in marketing?

Courtney: I actually started out in sales and quickly realized that it wasn’t the close that got me most excited, it was creating the vision for a client of how he or she might use and benefit from my solution- relating to them, and seeing that “ah ha” moment.  It was the storytelling that I loved, and also figuring out how to visually represent that story is something I really enjoy.  I do think the background in sales was one of the best things I could have done for myself as a marketer because it helps me relate well and frankly work very well with my sales team- something I think a lot of marketing and sales organizations struggle with.

Zak: Absolutely and I’ve had similar experiences to what you’ve described. And now that you are an absolute marketing and demand generation pro, what do you like most about those areas?

Courtney: This is where I get to geek out a bit.  I love digging into the data to test hypotheses, debunk myths and bring those marketing stories to life.  Demand tools provide a very measureable way to draw some pretty clear conclusions about our marketing efforts, I love to survey, test and measure everything.  If you’re ever subjected to one of my presentations, you’ll quickly realize my love affair with all things statistically oriented!

Zak: What skills do you see as most important for a demand generation marketer?

Courtney: This is more of an attribute than a skill but is directly related.  I personally think one of the best things a demand generation marketer can be is inquisitive.  So often I deal with media buyers or demand generation marketers that are so focused on the numbers – and rightfully so, it’s a big job! -- that they often overlook the bigger marketing point.  For example with one client we had a series of content that we were marketing.  A subset of that content was generating exponentially more leads so they want to stop circulating the rest rather than poke at why that might be.  So we took it upon ourselves to test out a few ideas and discovered that a number of the assets they wanted to stop circulating were actually driving exponentially more secondary touch points which were also directly correlated to a higher engagement with trigger content.  So being inquisitive to me is really important… and the corresponding skill: being at least a little bit analytical.

Zak: What advice would you give to any aspiring demand generation marketers?

Courtney: I have three pieces of advice.

First - avoid “analysis paralysis.” As much as I do think being analytical is important, don’t lose sight of the reality of the situation.  It’s easy to get absorbed in the numbers- I’m definitely guilty- but try to stay rooted in the reality of what you’re dealing with and looking to achieve.

Second - just because you can doesn’t mean you should – technology is enabling us to do so very many things now with our targeting and content delivery.  Be sure that what you’re taking on is enhancing- not detracting- from a buyer’s journey.

And third - don’t over-engineer it- at the end of the day, we’re all trying to sell a product and nothing will ever beat a great conversation and a personal connection.  You don’t need a 200 parameter scoring mechanism or 30 touch nurture and retargeting strategy that takes an astrophysicist to decipher to make that happen.  Take the time to understand a client’s journey from introduction through to close and service and figure out the right places to add your value to that journey.

Zak: Where can we find you on social media?

Courtney: You can find me on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/courtneylkay/en and on Twitter: @CourtneyLKay  I’m always happy to connect and hear about your great marketing experiences or chat about challenges!

Zak: Thanks so much Courtney.

Enjoyed this interview? Meet all of the Moneyball Marketer Demand Generation All-Stars

Moneyball Marketer Demand Generation All-Star: Allison MacLeod

Allison MacLeod is the latest of our Moneyball Marketer Demand Generation All-Stars. As Senior Director of Demand Generation & Marketing Operations at Rapid7, Allison has a wide range of responsibilities and has both the blessing and the challenge of growing demand for a business that recently received $30M in investment to accelerate its growth(!).

Zak: What is the target audience you are marketing/selling to?

Allison: Rapid7 provides IT data security data and analytics solutions and we market and sell to information security professionals. That includes the CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), security managers, directors and VPs, penetration testers, security analysts, and incident responders.

Zak: With that wide range of roles, how do you segment your audience?

Allison: We segment by customers and prospects, but mostly our segmentation strategy is based on relevance.  We have three different solution areas – threat exposure management, incident detection and response and security advisory services. It is important that we deliver and provide relevant marketing resources to people based off of their need and interest, as well as their role. A security admin looking to scan their network likely wants different content than a CISO who has just joined an organization trying to measure the maturity of their security program. Right time, right message, right person is critical!

Zak: Absolutely. Part of that right time, right message is well defined lead stages, how have you approached that area?
Allison: We follow a Sirius Decisions model, but with a bit of our own Rapid7 twist on it. We measure each stage of the funnel and are pretty maniacal about it to make sure we are staying on top and achieving our goals.

Zak: What does your “technology stack” look like?

Allison: Our stack includes marketing automation, CRM, predictive scoring, customer advocacy, online community, analytics platforms, as well as a few onsite conversion tools.

Zak: That’s outstanding. What aspect of demand generation do you see as particularly ‘hot’ over the next year?

Allison: There are a few different areas – predictive analytics and scoring, account based marketing, personalization and customer focused marketing.

I definitely think we’ll see more of a need for predictive analytics and scoring. Being able to better identify high quality leads and increase conversion is something all of us marketers want as well as the ability to focus on quality over quantity.

I also think personalization will be big in the next year. Being more relevant and targeted in messaging and content is important. Our customers and prospects want what is relevant to them not to be served up a ‘one size fits all’ type of campaign. The better marketers are at this, the more successful they’ll be. But like others have cautioned in this blog series, you have to have enough of the right data to get it correct!

And lastly customer marketing and advocacy is another hot area. We LOVE our customers at Rapid7 – and customer advocacy is really important for us. We get our customers involved in our product programs, events, webinars, blogs and our own customer-only conference UNITED.  I’ve seen a lot of marketers start to focus more on their customers and I think this will be an area that will see a lot of growth in 2015.

Zak: Jon Miller of Marketo has talked about behavior targeting being an area he expects more marketers to get their head around in 2015. Are you doing any form of behavioral targeting or triggers and what?

Allison: This is definitely important and an area I’d like to focus on. Stay tuned.

Zak: We all know content creation is critical to demand generation? How does your marketing team approach content creation? Who owns it? Who contributes?

Allison: We approach content generation based off of the needs of our audiences, what is new and trending in the industry and relevance. We try to be very agile – so for example if there is a big security vulnerability discovered in the industry -- take your pick from 2014 like Heartbleed, ShellShock or Poodle -- we act as quickly as possible to deliver content that is educational and actionable, whether that is a blog post, video, webinar, or eBook.

Content is managed centrally out of our Marketing Communications team, but we have a lot of contributors throughout the organization. Our Community Manager is responsible for our blogs strategy, and we have many contributors to overall content including PR, product marketing and management, engineering, demand generation, our services group, and research.

Zak: What are the top social media platforms you’ve found to reach your audience?

Allison: Twitter and LinkedIn are best for our audience.

Zak: How did you get your start in marketing?

Allison: In college I knew I wanted a career in Marketing, so decided to get my Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communication. While I was working on my M.A., I got a great gig at a small marketing and advertising agency in Boston where I got to wear many hats, mainly product marketing. After I finished grad school, I started at a marketing consulting company where I worked with a number of different clients on their marketing automation and email programs. My first assignment was creating a data dictionary for the CRM and automation platforms for the client’s marketing team. I thought I had wanted to be more on the creative side, but that job was definitely a great intro into demand gen, data and analytics.

Zak: That is so cool. What do you most enjoy about marketing and demand generation?

Allison: I love working across many different departments in the organization. I get to work with sales, all teams in marketing, products and services teams, IT, Finance and more. There is nothing more exciting than knowing that the campaigns or leads you have been responsible for have led to opportunities and won business.  I also love working on integrated campaigns and using new technologies to reach customers and prospects. It’s a job that gets you exposed to a lot of different areas, and no two days are the same which is something that keeps me on my toes and thrilled to keep doing it!

Zak: What skills do you see as most important for a demand generation marketer?

Allison: Data driven, analytical, results oriented, and creative are key skills. More specifically, I think having a natural curiosity about results, being able to create and design programs that are relevant and elicit interest, creating strong alignment with a sales organization, and the ability to change course or alter your programs based off of performance.

Zak: What advice would you give to any aspiring demand generation marketers?

Allison: I’m in demand gen, so of course I think it is one of the most important and exciting functions in marketing.  For those aspiring demand gen professionals out there, I’d suggest joining a company where you can try many things to see what suits you best and round out your experience. Get to know how marketing ops uses technology and data to drive strategy, understand how the digital team creates awareness and fills the top of the funnel, do a stint in customer marketing, content or campaign creation. One of my first roles was focused on marketing operations and it gave me a great foundation to get more involved in the creative side of demand, and ultimately responsible for both.

Zak: Where can we find you on social media?

Allison: You can find me on Twitter @allib1121 and on Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/allisonbmacleod

Zak: Thank you Allison.

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