marketing automation

Best-in-Class Marketers Prove They Create Value

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In 2000, the Advertising Research Foundation probably didn’t realize that their report about marketing’s ability, or lack thereof, to measure its value and contribution would initiate numerous studies, conferences, and products on the topic.  This year’s joint VEM/ITSMA Marketing Performance Management Survey* , which looks at how marketers and C level executives would rate marketing’s value, revealed that 85 percent of the nearly 400 study participants are seeing increased pressure for marketers to measure marketing’s value and contribution.

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A key component of the annual study looks at the comparison of the number of marketers earning an ‘A’ grade from the C-Suite for their ability to impact the business and measure their value with their counterparts who are falling short. The grades remained relatively consistent with prior years, with only a quarter of the marketers earning an ‘A’ for their ability to measure and report the contribution of marketing’s programs to the business.

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By now one would think this journey would be nearing completion, but there appears to still be plenty to learn.  Over the years, the study has revealed that ‘A’ marketers exhibit a number of differences from their colleagues–they are better at alignment, accountability, analytics, automation, assessment, and alliances.  The investments in these capabilities and how they approach the work of marketing has enabled them to serve as value creators for their organizations.  On the other hand, the marketers in the “middle of the pack” focus more on enabling sales, and the laggards operate primarily as campaign or program producers. In this day and age, with all the technology that marketers have at their fingertips, it begs the question “Why can’t ‘B’ and ‘C’ marketers get close to C-level executives and show their value?”

Become a Value Generator

Marketing organizations that create value are proactive.  The ‘A’ marketers hold themselves accountable for contributing to business outcomes even if senior leadership doesn’t. They believe it is their responsibility to identify, investigate, evaluate, recommend, and prioritize market and customer opportunities. These marketers implement continuous change to maximize the organization’s success, and enable it to stay abreast or ahead of market, customer, and competitor moves.  ‘B’ and ‘C’ marketers don’t seem to do that, don’t ask the right questions, or don’t know how to show their value.

Make Marketing Performance Management a Priority

According to the data, organizations that are performing well when it comes to customer value and business growth, are those where the marketers excel at performance management.  ‘A’ marketers prioritize performance management, establish a clear roadmap for performance improvement, and focus on aligning marketing to the business not just sales. They have regular two-way dialogue with senior leadership and are motivated to select and report on the metrics that matter most.

Here are three qualities of this elite group that any marketing organization can emulate:

  1. Be a business person first, a marketer second
  2. Provide customer and market insight to inform business strategy, in addition to enabling sales
  3. Tap experts to hone skills and improve capabilities

Join the conversation with VisionEdge Marketing and ITSMA in our webinar, The Link Between Performance Management and Value Creation, Tuesday, June 17th, from 10:00-11:00am CST.

*VEM has been conducting the survey for 13 years. ITSMA has co-sponsored the survey for the past three years.

 

Be a Better Event Organizer

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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?Image

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.

Need to Engage and Connect With Prospects and Customers? Marketing Automation to the Rescue (Maybe)

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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 Imagecampaigns (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:

• Connections
• Conversations
• Engagement
• Consideration

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.