Lately, we have seen an increase in two requests from event organizers: send a customer to speak instead of you and/or speak for free. While made with the best of intentions, these requests are at the very least rude and at worst portray organizations as unprofessional. Why are these seemingly innocuous requests rude?
Mack Collier of The Viral Garden has articulated why it is wrong to ask experts to speak for free, saying that good speakers spend days creating material and preparing for a presentation. He estimated that he spends “anywhere from 15 to 30 hours preparing/rehearsing the presentation, and loses a minimum of one day due to travel, usually two days.” This is a big investment of time for anyone — and for experts, time is money. A good event organizer will not ask a speaker to speak for free and they will cover travel costs. Speakers understand the need to offset costs by giving speaking slots to sponsors. But sponsors are advertisers. Just because someone paid for a sponsorship doesn’t mean they have the expertise you need.
As someone who has organized numerous events, my goal is to secure speakers who provide the expertise participants will benefit from. The speaker’s expertise should be lending credibility and value to your event. Framing the event as a business development opportunity for the speaker is unprofessional; the reason to select speakers is for the value they bring to your program. A good speaker is not there to make a sales pitch; rather, to educate, entertain, and/or motivate the audience.
The second request is to substitute a customer as an expert. The underlying message is “you are good enough to do the work for a company but not good enough to speak at our event.” This request places the experts and their customers in a very difficult situation — who pays for the customer’s travel since many companies’ travel budgets have become restrictive, who prepares the presentation, who preps the customer since they are not experts, how do they handle Q&A’s, what if a company commitment comes up and they need to bail, and so on.
This kind of request often results in the experts paying travel for both the customer and
themselves, preparing the presentation since the customer doesn’t have the time or expertise, and having do a dive and catch when the customer has a last-minute schedule conflict. It also creates schedule challenges for dry runs, which can negatively impact the event attendees’ experience. It is easy to see that this particular request creates an enormous amount of work and additional costs for the experts and additional work for their customers with no payoff for either party.
In today’s environment, customers want to use their limited resources to reach their prospects and customers, to grow their businesses. Their time is money, too, and they want to invest where they will see the best return. If you want to be a better event organizer, stop making these two requests of the experts who can add tremendous value to your event.
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Today, a suitable marketing automation platform is available to meet just about any company’s requirements and budget. These platforms often include systems for managing digital assets, allocating resources and tracking marketing expenditures, automating campaigns (online and offline), measuring marketing activity and demand generation, and managing Web content and leads.Many companies invest in marketing automation platforms as a way to make their marketing organizations more efficient. Though marketing automation can achieve that objective, two key benefits of these systems is that they help you connect better with prospects and improve the opportunity to engage prospects and customers.
What Marketing Automation Isn’t
Marketing automation isn’t magic. Success requires taking a methodical and disciplined
approach to segmenting, defining the customer-buying process, establishing agreed-upon
definitions of stages, creating personas, establishing common metrics, and committing to
faithfully using the system
.Marketing automation allows you to tailor your content and interactions to enhance how you connect with and engage prospects and customers. As a result, you can positively affect the conversion rate and sales cycle. And, in these tough times, who wouldn’t want to see higher and faster conversions?
Take a Customer-Centric Approach to Configuration
Such benefits alone present a good business case for marketing automation. But for a system to “be all that it can be,” it must be properly configured and deployed. Proper configuration and alignment require and enable stronger alignment between Sales and Marketing.
Many companies configure their systems around how they might sell and evaluate an opportunity (e.g., whether they’ve identified a budget, project, or need). However, before you deploy, take an outside-in view and configure the system around how your customer finds, evaluates, selects, and buys products in your category.
For your investment and that approach to pay off, Sales and Marketing need to agree on how the customer buys, the buying stages, and what constitutes a qualified opportunity, in terms of both fit (segment, budget, size, etc.) and buying behaviors. This approach allows you to use fit and behavior to create a lead-scoring schema.
Create and Measure Four Customer Interactions
Marketing and sales teams are typically proficient in connecting at the beginning and end of the conversation, but the real challenge is managing the middle of the conversation. The middle conversation is when prospects and customers are in the “in-between”—between initial contact and interest, on the one hand, and the short list and final selection, on the other.
A properly configured and deployed marketing automation system enables you to manage the middle. How? It makes it possible to cost-effectively sustain a dialogue with qualified
opportunities until they are ready to buy while enabling you to monitor the interaction between those opportunities and your organization.
You’ll want to set performance targets for these four kinds of interactions, and then use your marketing automation system to create, measure, and monitor them:
Think of connections as those contacts with whom you have established communication and rapport and who have agreed to be “touched” by your organization. A connection doesn’t necessarily result in a conversation. Connections are just that: two entities that have a link between them.Think of how many people you may have in your LinkedIn network that you are connected with but don’t necessarily have conversations with. Conversations suggest an exchange—the sharing of ideas, opinions, or observations. Consider how many people you “talk” with on a variety of 3 topics on any given day. Though some of those people might be interesting, they may not necessarily be the right people—or they may not be ready to move the relationship forward.
Ultimately your marketing efforts aim to create engagement, and you want your marketing automation system to support those efforts. Engagement consists of interactions that indicate the strength of the relationship.
Finally, you want to produce and measure consideration because it is the precursor to conversion. Consideration simply refers to those prospects and customers who are actively “shopping” for the products and services you offer and are considering your offer among the options.
If You Build It, They Will Come
The premise of marketing automation is that it will help Marketing increase the number of
business opportunities for your company, deliver sales-worthy and ready leads to Sales, improve your visibility into the pipeline, and enable your marketing organization to focus on efforts that will drive the highest conversion rate and the lowest cost.
The value proposition is that marketing automation will shorten your sales cycle and help
improve your forecast accuracy.And it’s all possible with this one caveat: Marketing automation is only as good as the effort you make in using it. To use it properly and realize the kinds of results you want will likely require changing processes, addressing Marketing and Sales alignment, and improving skills.
Research suggests that when marketing and sales processes, skills, and systems are aligned, an organization can see a five-fold improvement in revenue. If you are willing to make the necessary investments, you can realize the benefits of implementing a marketing automation platform.
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CMOs and their teams are trying to determine the best way to create and measure customer engagement. As more customers connect via mobile and social channels this only adds to the complexity. Just as it took organizations time to learn how to leverage and manage websites, we are still learning how to leverage and manage these new channels. There’s no denying that social and mobile channels have become mainstream engagement vehicles that impact customer acquisition and retention. More of the marketing budgets are now being allocated to digital channels, taking these dollars from more traditional vehicles such as print advertising.
The IBM Global CMO Study of 1700 CMOs revealed that while top marketing executives recognize social media as an important channel for engaging customers, 80 percent or more of the CMOs surveyed said they still focus primarily on traditional sources of information like market research to help shape customer engagement and marketing strategies. Only 26 percent of CMOs track blogs, 42 percent monitor third-party reviews, and 48 percent reading consumer reviews to help shape their marketing strategies. A more recent study by PulsePoint earlier this year found that companies with an established extensive social media presence reported a return on investment that was more than four times that of companies with little or no social network engagement activity. Almost half of the 329 executives participating in the study said that the major impediment to social media campaigns was the lack of a standardized metric that can measure a return on investment. These studies serve to remind us that examining customer interactions across the channels in order to have a holistic picture is important. They also highlight that measuring isn’t the challenge; it is measuring the business value of social media that remains difficult.
In fact, there is no lack of data or metrics to track. As usual, the key challenge is selecting the right metrics and ones that are actionable. A key place to start is to determine what information actually indicates these stages of engagement that you can use to inform decision making. For example, how might you measure the quality and quantity of conversations started via social media channels and the conversion rate of these conversations to consideration behaviors, such as a particular type of inquiry. For example “liking” and “following” metrics may only reflect very early stages of engagement, such as contact or connection. Page views and click throughs provide insight into what captures interest and may also reflect early stage engagement behaviors. Ultimately you want to focus on social media metrics that help you understand how to impact the entire engagement cycle – from contact to conversation to consideration to consumption and eventually consumption and community. By adding these types of metrics, you can learn content and customer communication and interaction create both the most and best interaction and engagement.
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