by SocialAgenda Media
Our series on the Sales Funnel which began with the question “Is Sales Funnel Still the Best Way to Describe the Path to Conversion?” continued with the article “Selling Despite Distractions: Customer Retention and Repeat Sales” and now we get our experts’ opinions on how marketing is changing. How we reach customers, track them, analyze our interactions with them and how we score our level of engagement. Enjoy.
Steve Keifer: Vice President – Marketing at GXS:
There is a popular saying, which goes “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Over the years, I have heard many a CEO/CFO substitute the word “marketing” for “advertising” as they lament about all the money they are spending on brand awareness and demand creation with little demonstrable ROI. But those days are over. Today web analytics, social media and marketing automation software provide us with quantitative data that can be used to identify what is and is not working.
Gone are the days of companies spending millions on television, print or billboard advertising with no expectation of ever being able to measure the impact. Within minutes of initiating an online advertising campaign you can begin to measure how many times the ad is being served; who is clicking on it; and whether they converted on your landing page. If the data shows that your initial approach is not working then you can change it online quickly and try another.
Gone are the days of sending out millions of pieces of direct mail with no hope of ever knowing who actually read it and if they converted. Within minutes of sending out an email campaign, you can begin to immediately track who opened the message, who clicked through and who visited which pages of your website. With experimentation like A/B testing you can quickly discover what works and what does not.
Gone are the days of buying the premium real estate at a tradeshow with no hope of understanding what conversations there led to a sales opportunity. With webinars you can track who has registered, who attended and whether they converted into a deal in the pipeline.
Glen Caruso: Vice President of Sales at BLiNQ Media:
Social media — genuine, authentic, back-and-forth communication between the brand and the consumer — is replacing advertising.
Ongoing, relevant conversation between 2 entities (brand & consumer) replaces a brand SCREAMING at a consumer “Buy ME” on TV, Newspaper or digital ads.
Cezar Kolodziej: President and CEO at Iris Mobile:
Instead of advertising, we need to be focusing on brand conversations. Simply conveying a message via multiple touch points is not enough. Marketers need to be pragmatic about specific needs during multiple interactions with the brand and how those interactions lead to a compelling conversation that drives the customer to purchase and build loyalty towards the brand long term.
Mike Yaffe: Vice President of Marketing at BeyondTrust:
I don’t do advertising. I don’t believe in it. Branding is another one that’s ridiculous. One thing that’s always bothered me about medium to small companies is how frequently they try to change their message to adapt to what’s the cool thing of the moment and they forget about being something unique to their market. It takes a long time unless you’re IBM or Verizon and have millions to spend carving out “brain space” to refresh your message. I think most of us should concentrate on marketing what we already are.
Traditional PR is going away. There are so few publications that write product news now. PR agencies have to rethink public relations. Modern agencies run your social programs, handle industry analysts, trade analysts, financial analysts, awards, speaking. Press is only a small part of what agencies do these days.
Industry awards drive me crazy. There are so few awards, in any industry, that are truly unbiased. I’d love to see the awards industry disappear.
Barbara Pilliod: VP of Marketing & Communications at Transfinder:
One-on-one personalized marketing will eventually replace mass advertising.
Cindy Sterling: Director of Marketing and Sales at On Center Software:
Marketing is a pretty fluid part of the business. If I could get rid of one focus area it would be the notion that the number of registrations or attendees should not be celebrated unless it is tied to sales opportunities and closed deals.
Kristen Ortwerth-Jewell: Interactive Marketing Manager at Nexant:
Advertising isn’t going anywhere. It’s still a critical element to brand awareness and name recognition campaigns. Many marketers say that email marketing is dead or dying, but I think this is shortsighted assumption. Email marketing, as we know it has simply evolved and matured with the audience. This is especially true in B2B. The workplace is still heavily email-centric in terms of communication. As companies move from an email service provider to a marketing automation tool, email marketing moves away from massive, impersonal eblasts toward more sophisticated nurture campaigns with better targeting and personalized delivery of content based on behavioral triggers.
Scott Hirsch: VP Product & Content Marketing at Get Satisfaction:
Actually, I think the term “customer engagement” is jargon (even though I use it). What does it really mean to engage with your customers? Some companies who might give themselves permission to intrude in your social networks or to use your content for marketing purposes without letting you know could really misinterpret that.
I prefer the term customer conversations because it implies 2-way dialogue. You can’t really have a conversation unless both parties want it and both parties are getting some value.
Stephen Debruyn: Vice President of Marketing at Clarity Consultants:
Advertising is going through a major transition, moving into programmatic ad buying, ad exchanges, re-targeting, etc. From another vantage point, advertising is morphing into native advertising, content marketing, etc.
Cezar Kolodziej: Offline retargeting – today, with mobile at our fingertips, interactive metrics are not enough. We need to continue the tracking in store using proximity-based solutions. Serve personalized content based on what you know about the customer from past purchasing/online browsing habits. This tracking methodology only works if you can get the user to opt-into proximity based programs, by again providing a compelling value based offer, but once initiated, can truly give you a better view of how your online initiatives are affecting your in-store sales.
Scott Hirsch: Rather than just tracking behaviors (like views, downloads, and clicks) the next level of tracking will be around the content that customers create, such as questions they ask or problems they report. We are already working on these advanced Marketing Automation use cases at Get Sat.
Mike Yaffe: When we’re tracking someone I need to be able to score his or her relative activities in a behavior. If someone is doing something that indicates interest, correlate those behaviors and give me an indication of state of readiness in the buy process.
Then there’s simple correlation data for different functions, different campaigns. I want to be able to rate them all and apply the results to the lead more simply.
Glen Caruso: I would add attribution and data visualization with actionable intelligence across various marketing and media platforms.
Steve Keifer: We are at a big risk of losing visibility to customer behavior as browser vendors and search engines change their policies. For example, tracking the activity of users who clicked on AdWords to arrive at your website has become significantly more challenging since Google started encrypting traffic for all those logged into Google+ (the dark search phenomenon).
Another concern is browsers which are setting “do not track” options by default. Without cookies enabled, most marketing automation software cannot identify repeat visitors and provide a full view of their activity on your websites.
I would be happy if customer tracking stayed consistent over the next 24 months, because I am most worried about losing visibility!
But in terms of new features, I would like to be able to see marketing software integrated with heat map technology that allows you to track where people click and where their mouse hovers for emails, landing pages and websites.
Beyond the area of customer tracking, I think there are lots of opportunities for improvements in marketing automation tools.
1) Why can’t my marketing automation software analyze the millions of records in its database and automatically recommend content that end-users should be offered next for lead nurturing? It should work like Amazon.com does with its personalized recommendations. Today, marketing professionals have to pre-configure rules based upon guesses that are often incorrect. Just because an end-user viewed a webinar on Facebook marketing, doesn’t mean that they will also want a white paper on Facebook marketing. Analysis of the real data might show that 20% people who are interested in Facebook Marketing would also be interested in a Guide to Bing’s Webmaster tools – an association most people would never make. Today these associations are almost impossible to find.
2) Why can’t my marketing automation software recommend improvements to emails and landing pages before I deploy them? Cloud-based vendors have access to billions of records about end-user behavior across their various tenants. Why can’t they tell me what types of subject lines are most effective with audiences at different types of companies? Why can’t they tell us the best time to send an email out based upon statistical analysis of open and close rates? Why can’t they provide real time feedback on the layout, fonts, colors and other design elements of an email or landing page based upon analysis of past user behavior and neuromarketing techniques?
3) Why can’t my marketing automation software help me to improve the quality of contacts in my database? If an email sent from company A to John Doe bounces, why can’t the marketing automation software tell companies B, C and D who also have John Doe in their database that this contact is out-of-date?
Although these tools claim to be “multi-tenant” cloud services, their features are only designed for individual customers. And the concepts of algorithms and big data that you read about in every other sector are suspiciously absent from the strategies of these organizations.
Stephen Debruyn: For certain companies and services this could be the communities, evangelists, and their involvement and behavior.
Cindy Sterling: Often automation tools look at people as individuals and not as part of a complete organization. The correlation and scoring of a collection of people is a better indicator of interest rather than a rogue person taking action in isolation. It would also be great to watch repetitive behavior where a person may have reached a threshold more than one time.
Kristen Ortwerth Jewell: This isn’t entirely tracking, but it’s one of the biggest obstacles that B2B marketers face in the social media landscape: our prospects use their company email address to conduct business, but their personal email address for social platforms. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult to track and cross-reference multi-channel engagement and communication efficacy. I would love to see someone in the automation space come up with an automated method for addressing this problem.
Scott Hirsch: Social metrics like followers and likes are almost completely meaningless. Reach metrics like shares and retweets are more interesting, but I think the new metrics will be more about mindshare and context. At Get Satisfaction we have done some interesting work to understand the context within which customers share information. For instance, if they are more likely to search for answers than actually post a question while on a mobile device (BTW, they are!), then what is the impact of providing great answers in mobile? It’s more than just providing an answer on a desktop.
Glen Caruso: Brands must trust the data and what’s driving sales. Advertising based on “gut” is outdated. No, we shouldn’t buy a Superbowl ad so that the CEO can brag to his neighbors in Greenwich, Connecticut that his brand is on the Superbowl… and he’s going to be there. There has to be empirical evidence that your media is working to drive customer ENGAGEMENT and, most importantly, SALES!
Brands only advertise to sell product. Period. Brand love is meaningless if we do not raise sales from customers who are lucrative.
Mike Yaffe: Nobody gives a darn about leads, names or inquiries. Any company that tracks on leads exclusively, and I know a lot that do, are destined for failure. All marketing people should be paid on pipeline. That’s the validation of whether we’re doing our job or not.
Barbara Pilliod: The metrics that track customers who sign on for an online presentation and then receive a proposal don’t seem to work as simply as they once did. Once again, it takes many more touch points to make the sale. Customers expect more face-to-face interactions before they will buy; also, in today’s economy, there are many more decision makers in on a potential purchase.
Cindy Sterling: Too often we measure those things that make us in Marketing feel good about ourselves and our programs and campaigns – like how many registered and how many attended. The real value comes in correlating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) to closed sales won.
Cezar Kolodziej: Conversion rates are important, click through rates are no longer relevant. This is especially true of mobile where device capabilities vary greatly. Ultimately conversion rates determine if we have converted someone to purchase a product. Click through rates are no longer relevant in a world where people choose to read personalized content at their leisure and the message itself may lead to a purchase via a social avenue, or via mobile and not necessarily through the traditional online purchase path. This is another reason why offline retargeting will become even more important over time.
Scott Hirsch: We have a pretty sophisticated lead scoring system based on several factors: lead profile, actions on our marketing sites, downloads, participation in our community, etc. IN 2014, we’ll be focusing on the triggers and the content that will accelerate lead development. For instance, we know that certain compelling events are what make certain segments of our customers buy. We’ll be working on creating marketing programs that help us identify when our lead is nearing one of those compelling events.
Steve Keifer: The biggest challenge is identifying outliers. We continue to see scenarios in which a lead scores relatively low based upon firmographic or behavioral intelligence factors, but it turns out to be a big opportunity. For example, suppose a CIO at a Fortune 500 company asks one of his/her lieutenants to research a new technology. This individual delegates to a business analyst far lower in the organization. Although the researcher visits 50 pages on your website, their lead score is a 3 out of 10 due to the user’s title and demographic information. As a result the sales team does not reach out to the analyst and misses an opportunity to engage early with a prospect.
Companies continue to refine their scoring methodologies, however, there will continue to be outlier scenarios that slip through the cracks. Most lead scoring methodologies are really just people guessing what makes a good lead then refining the rule set through trial and error. This is the fundamental flaw in the process. People should not be guessing at lead scoring methodologies. The technology exists today to allow machines to develop self-learning algorithms that define the methodology. Marketing automation and customer relationship management software should be able to analyze the millions of records in their databases to identify the digital body language activities that most frequently correlate with opportunities moving through the sales cycle. The result would be an algorithm whose scoring continues to grow more and more accurate as it gains access to more data.
Glen Caruso: We have no formal lead scoring methodology, I’m afraid to say. If a lead comes in from an important client, we take it more seriously and answer it first. If the lead comes in and is thoughtfully written and sent from someone who obviously knows what he’s talking about, that lead takes priority.
Cindy Sterling: Scoring is absolutely evolutionary. MQLs that are rejected during the Sales Qualification process must be reviewed. Perhaps one particular action or activity was anticipated to result in highly qualified leads but upon review it is found that the value of the score for that activity must be lowered. This is an ongoing process and should be for a marketing organization.
Kristen Ortwerth Jewell: We actually moved to a combined view of a lead: scoring and grading. We use the score to track how interested a prospect is in us, and we use the grade to determine how interested we are in a prospect. Our scoring continues to perform well, and we give higher weights to the kinds of activities that are typically associated with prospects that are further down the line in the buy cycle.
Stephen Debruyn: Right now our lead scoring can be separated into three different levels:
Cezar Kolodziej: Mobile metrics are becoming more and more important, but we are all trying to apply digital methodologies to measure mobile initiatives. This does not work. Simple click through rates, and app download rates do not tell us enough of the story. This has led us to create a custom mobile analytics platform that first starts by understanding customer devices broadly, assessing capabilities, then calculating response/conversion rates from there instead generalizing trends for all customers. This approach provides more insights into where marketing dollars should be directed and results in higher conversion rates as initiatives are more targeted and personalized.