Intelligent Metrix

Data to Metrics to Insight to Intelligent Decisions

B2B Lead Nurturing is Not Linear

Lead Nurturing Lead PassIt is much easier and cheaper to work with people that know you than it is to build a new realm.  That is what many marketers and companies are realizing as they shift marketing investment.  Lead nurturing is now more important than ever.  Yet, if you analyze your database, what does lead nurturing look like?  When is a lead qualified to truly enter into the sales cycle?

Demand and lead generation steps have typically progressed from response to lead pass without adequate filtering or analysis that a lead is ready to engage in the sales process.  This has hurt marketing’s credibility in generating real value to the pipeline.  It has put the work on sales to ‘clean’ the database and have them focus energy on leads that aren’t interested or ready for personal connection and may be of lower value than cold calling.  Additionally, some companies try to alleviate this by adding a telemarketing stage prior to a lead pass to personally assess and qualify a lead for the pass.  This can be a costly investment for marketing if again, it is putting leads into this step of the process before leads are fully baked.  Yet, that doesn’t have to be the case.  Properly analyzing and defining leads or groups of leads by their activity within an account can offer sales insight that puts them closer to the opportunity.  This is where lead nurturing can be a strategic effort rather than a tactical process.

Traditional lead tracking reports show a linear funnel from response to disposition within a campaign or program which mimics the linear aspect of the lead process.  In reality, leads have most likely been associated across campaigns, social media marketing interactions, organic web visitations, and even events or interactions with sales and other organizations.  How leads interact, where they go, the frequency, and topic concentration tells you a lot about how ready they are to enter a sales engagement process.  Additionally, compared and correlated to other leads within the same organization, you get a good picture of account readiness and opportunity.

This analysis in many cases is conducted to create target segments as launch pads for new campaigns.  Leveraged within a lead nurturing process, it can be the used as the decision point for when it is best to pass a lead to sales.  It becomes what qualifies the lead to move on vs. relying solely on a single response point on its own or in a linear context.  In fact, analyzed properly, reports and dashboards can be provided to sales that provide a picture of high opportunity areas within their accounts that they may not have seen.  For instance, an up-tic in white paper readership and participating or scanning of social media marketing content on products within an account might provide account managers early warnings that companies are assessing new solutions.  By having a report that provides context on the customer relationship provides sales a greater ability to pick up on the lead nurturing process without having to wait for marketing to pass the lead themselves.

Today, leads are classified as meeting minimum requirements of responding to a campaign and having check boxes of information filled out.  Lead nurturing is really about understanding interactions with your customers and how those interactions are indicators for next steps in the relationship.  Analyzing and recognizing patterns within your contact and account databases is more than identifying segments for targeting new messages and offers.  Used strategically it can be a transition point in your lead pass process improving your ability to generate business and reduce resources and budget through better focus.

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Filed under: business intelligence, CRM, Lead Management, , , , , , , , , , , ,

B2B CRM: The Right Contact Mix for Your Customer Relationship

You’ve spent years gathering contacts into your databases.  You’ve implemented a data quality practice that is now starting to give you a solid picture of your universe.  It is now time to classify your contacts.

Invariably, your database is more than just purchasing/decision maker contacts.  All departments have gathered people’s information depending on the purpose.  It offers a window into your business dealings.  It also offers a window on your ability to market and sell.  Just as you consider vehicles, content, and message to deliver to your database, you also think about who you are reaching and who can be converted.

SOA and MDM initiatives are great because they bring together a full picture of interactions with the customer as well as who is part of those interactions.  But, not all contacts are created equal.  Just as not all customers or companies are created equal.  It is the first thing that is considered when determining targeting strategies.  The size of a database is typically determined based on the silo it is intended to help.  Marketing wants decision makers, finance wants accounts payable, customer support wants end users, investor relations wants analysts and media.  By themselves, these data silos serve a purpose.  Together, they can show a picture of where your awareness, message and brand really are.

A good  test once consolidation of data bases is done, or even within your CRM system alone if it receives lists and feeds from other internal sources, is to classify contacts based on their primary interaction with your company.  Everyone in your database has had a reason to connect.  Bringing these reasons into a standardized category will help determine the value they bring to a marketing program, customer relationship, or evangelist role.  Monitoring the ratios of these groups within a cusotmer relationship and firmographic data can give insight into the ability to grow a relationship, if it is at risk, or there is no relationship and the company serves another purpose.

While as marketers we typically look at the entire size of our database to determine if we have enough contacts to convert to leads, if those leads are weighted towards a low number of companies, or they are not the right contacts, then our efforts can be wasted.  With the cost to acquire customers and contacts expensive, having a mechanism to determine when to purchase lists and how much to purchase will refine the amount of resources and budget needed.  In addition, messaging and engagement strategies can be modified to align to the type of relationship outcome you intend.

So, rather than thinking about personas when you need to target, think about them strategically and as an indicator of the strength of relationship with your customer.

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Filed under: business intelligence, CRM, Data Quality, marketing operations, , , , , , , , , , ,

Driving Marketing Effectiveness and Efficiency from Within using Social Media

I wonder if the real value of social media for B2B marketing is not the external use to drive sales and customer relationships, but to improve marketing capabilities and become more efficient.

In 2007, the company I worked for set up a social network and everyone was commanded to create a profile and connect with our fellow marketers.  The reason behind it was that we were expanding the team to China and it was a way that our new collogues could feel integrated with the marketing groups in the US and Europe.  It was all very ‘friendly’.  To be honest, I groaned and only created my profile because I was required.  For me, personal life is not what I wanted my marketing leadership to see or the people that worked for me.  My profile was tame to the point of boring.

It goes to show that they didn’t really get the value.  Outside of the fact that it was a requirement to share you personal self, there was a real missed opportunity to drive marketing effectiveness and efficiencies.  

Improve Effectiveness through Sharing

Each quarter regional and program teams were required to review campaigns and programs.  For several weeks marketers prepared their slides to show what was working, what didn’t, and next steps.  These were long conference call sessions where people presented and we all listened in.  Mostly, unless you were involved in the program or campaign, your phone would broadcast the meeting while you worked on what ever it was you had to do.  Not a lot of value there.

Social media would have provided the perfect platform to post presentations and create forums for questions and discussions on how to apply what was learned to other sectors of marketing.  Discussions on the calls were limited to those that were involved which was required for time sake.  But, using Twitter or micro-blogging on a social network would have provided key points to marketers to read as well as offer the ability to shoot over questions.  Reviews didn’t have to merely operate within the allotted time slot and webcast, they could be extended, shared, and saved for all to learn from later.

Create Efficiencies in Project Management

Any major project conducted was stored within an internal project management and knowledge management solution called ProjectLink.  All documents and images were posted there along with managing the change/revision process.  These project environments were huge, messy, and primarily acted as a glorified shared folder.  You had to dive into files to truly understand the project and there was no conversational stream to provide insight or background on why something was decided upon.

Setting up a project group using social media could alleviate workflow, sharing, and archiving problems by containing project management.  Instead of using email and IM, forums and micro-blogging could provide the communication streams.  Content could still be stored, but it would also have notes and comments attached for review and reference of other team members or other marketers.  A big benefit is that it could also provide a platform to share assets and content across marketing projects and groups to re-use and re-purpose allowing for reduction of duplicative work.

Efficient Workflow with Other Organizations

Marketing was a pretty silo’d organization.  While there was a significant amount of conversation with sales and product management, the reality is that in the end, marketing would go off and do their work.  Even in the hand-off process at the lead management stage, the CRM system controlled the process and created a wall of sorts between marketing and sales.

Opening up the door between marketing and key stake holders in other organizations is what social media is made for.  As marketing might share amongst themselves in a social network, they could invite others to their groups or set up new groups to facilitate relationships.  In the sales process, key accounts could be manages through a joint relationship between marketing and sales through asset and content sharing and communication support.  Hooked in with conversations that marketing is having with customers would add significant value to closing business with social media.

Efficient and Effective Marketing Operations

Marketing needs to consider how social media from an internal perspective can help them be effective and efficient internally.  Today, too many forms of communication, and silos within the organization drag down ROI. Implementing social media capabilities will spread knowledge, drive operational efficiency, and break down walls between marketing and other organizations.

Filed under: CRM, marketing operations, Performance Management, , , , , , ,

Starting Your Business: Data From the Ground Up

data managementIt is easy when starting up a business to think about selling first, marketing and database management later.  Afterall, revenue is the most important thing to focus on.  Though, once you get over the hump and begin to groove, you realize that data is important.  Now you have to sort through it and it feels worse than diving into list of 300 emails in your daily inbox.  Well, if you have a method to deal with your email inbox, create one for managing customer and contact data.

Here are some simple things you can do up front to stay organized and be better prepared when you are ready to look at and manage your customers and the business in depth.

  • Be consistent about how you collect customer data – There are usually several layers to the importance of customer information elements depending on your relationship.  What you want to do is determine the information that is most critical and collect this consistently across all methods.  Keep in mind that what is mandatory to transaction may be different from what you need to follow-up with customers after a purchase.  So, make sure that you take this into account at the point in time you collect the information.  It is harder and more costly to collect after the fact.
  • Save data elements into dedicated fields – The biggest issue I find with new businesses and small businesses when they need to convert to more robust systems is that data elements are merged together into a single Excel cell.  When collecting contact names, break apart the first and last name into separate fields.   Do the same for addresses having fields for street address, city, state, country, and postal code.
  • Determine what platform has the Master data – The second biggest issue when migrating customers to a robust system is the inability to determine which record is the most valid of duplicate entries.  If you are saving contact and company information between your mobile phone, laptop, website, and company server, which will you consider the single source of record?  Once you determine this, make sure you sync your lists to that source.  I recommend you do this weekly at the least and use your primary server.  Then, include the database in a weekly back-up process.
  • Save, Save, Save – You may have caught this recommendation in the previous bullet.  Backing up is critical.  It is mandatory.  I’ve watch small businesses loose business critical information because they didn’t back up or back up often enough.  There are easy services today that make backing up our information simple.  At the very least, invest in a USB storage device and plug into daily when you sit down and get to work.  Before you do anything, back up.  Make it a habit.

Managing your customer and company information does not have to be difficult or cumbersome.  With a little forethought, when you business gets off the ground and you are ready to invest in better platforms and reporting, you will have a great foundation to do so.

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Filed under: business intelligence, CRM, Data Quality, , , , , , , , , ,

Translating Awareness to Consideration Set in B2B

Want to improve lead quality?  Focus on knowing when a customer includes you in their consideration set.marketing timing

It is one thing to get someone to notice you, it is quite another to get them to think of you when getting ready to make a purchase.  B2B marketing works to tie these aspects of a customer purchase cycle together through a strong call to action.  In the end, the holy grail when targeting the campaign is reaching the customers that are truly at the beginning of the purchase cycle.  The relevancy of a campaign isn’t just that you provide valuable content to someone that is the subject matter expert (SME) in their company, it is that it is relevant when the SME is ready to become engaged.

Right message, right person, RIGHT TIME.  Timing is everything.

Judging when a customer is ready to engage is not as allusive as you might think.  The key is to recognize behavioral aspects within you customer and contact base.  Opportunity segmentation has typically focused on financial transactions due to its availability and consistency.  It is effective when determining customer value and staying on top of purchase cycles.  Although, this fails to account for the “who” that acts with in high opportunity customers as key influencers and decision makers.  In addition, it fails to account for prospects you’ve brought in and engaged.

The other piece of opportunity identification through behavior analysis is recognizing how contacts are interacting with content on your website, responding to campaigns, support inquiries, and, if available, social media venues.  There are a several ways to leverage this type of information from the simple to more sophisticated predictive analysis.  It will depend on your level of ability to identify behavioral aspects of contacts and linking behavior information across various marketing venues.

  1. RFE Analysis (Recency, Frequency, Engagement) – A modified version of RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) which focused orders, replace M with E (Engagement), you can begin to identify behavioral aspects for simple segment selection.  E is the point when sales recognizes the opportunity and includes in a pipeline and confirmation that the customer includes you in the consideration set.  E can also be another type of event that the outcome is a face-to-face meeting, for example trade show attendence or in-person seminar.
  2. Reference/Word-of-Mouth – There are two aspects of this.  The first is that the contact will be a reference or unrequested acts on your behalf to influence others.  However, the other side is that they are actively seeking out other customer perspectives by reading other’s opinions and asking for opions.  Tying together campaign interactions with a transition to reference/word-of-mouth activity can provide insight that they are ready to engage.
  3. Predictive Analysis – The previous two approaches can be easily done through simple segmentation techniques.  Taking them a step further, you can apply predictive analytics to solidify benchmarks and KPIs.  Indexing of contacts’ behavior and mapping that to scorecards identifies pre-engagement contacts and customers.  The values can be dynamically set so that as contacts and customer reach thresholds they move into campaigns that are targeted to move them into sales engagements and support the sales engagement.

Are you tracking the transition from awareness to consideration?  What do you look at?

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Filed under: Awareness, Consideration, CRM, Decision Cycle, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,