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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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

B2B Social Media – Has Marketing Effectiveness and Efficiency Improved?

How much effort do you need to put into social media before it pays off in B2B? The answer probably has to do with what you expect from social media in the first place. The problem I see for B2B social media marketing is that instead of 1) increasing marketing effectiveness by facilitating sales and deepening customer relationships 2) making marketing more efficient by streamlining process and resources, it may be doing just the opposite.

Marketing Effectiveness

In it’s ability to facilitate sales and deepen the customer relationship, time and again, marketers and sales are unable to translate awareness and conversation trends in social media to sales. In addition, I wonder if connection trends, comment ratios, and sharing ratios are really anything but another way to track existing customer relationships. I’ve narrowed down marketing effectiveness metrics to four (4) key themes. In each case, I’m looking for improvements due to social media.

  • Improve win/loss ratio – Sales may ultimately be responsible for this metric, but marketing is responsible for lead nurturing which contributes to it. The reality is that the awareness marketing that is happening in social media may not be doing anything but providing another outlet for the same content. Tactics such as white paper promotion and communication of offers may appear to increase leads, but views and registrations may ultimately be with the same people already existing within the customer database. In the end, is the social media marketing tactic really changing customer perception during the sales process to make them choose you’re solution more often? I’m not sure it does.
  • Shorten sales cycle – I pose that the sales cycle may actually be lengthening in social media marketing rather than shrinking. Social media appears to be focused more on awareness building than lead generation. This effort is at the beginning stages of the marketing funnel. In fact, because of the conversational nature of social media, it takes longer to convert a ‘getting to know you’ dialogue to a ‘let’s do business’ dialogue. So, instead of coordinating marketing efforts with sales engagement and the decision process, social media is acting more as a fishing net.
  • Increase sales – Due to an increased sales cycle, you may be losing time to help close a deal. Solely focusing on lead nurturing vs. lead conversion can have the affect of creating a state of purgatory for potential customers. Social media, in theory, should help expand your footprint within your customer base by improving customer relationships. However, all social media marketing is doing today is proving a facelift to existing customer forums, white-paper libraries, and transitioning web content to blog content.
  • Reduce churn – There is much buzz around Twitter’s ability to manage customer expectations and improve customer support. Thus, this translates to reducing customer defection. The issue here is that this isn’t happening in the marketing organization. This is a function of customer service. Where marketing fails is that customers are focused on their business, not yours. Conversations in social media marketing today are still more focused on ‘look at me Mr. Customer’. All the customer wants is for you to look at them. It is an effort for customers to utilize and participate in social networks and gather information in social media. There are still too many places the customer has to go to interact. We make it difficult to solidify relationships by managing multiple properties and outlets to connect.

Marketing Efficiency

There is a real hidden cost to utilizing social media for B2B marketing. It is the cost to do business. Due to the number of ways you can connect to customers, it requires a significant amount of effort to cover and manage all the properties. While you can write a single blog and push it out across multiple communities, the lack of diversity in conversations may hurt more than help. Each community probably has a different DNA. One message is not going to be relevant for all. Thus, you have to produce more content across more topics to be effective.

Another aspect of inefficiency is the art of the conversation. For social media to work, it requires a de-centralized communication web to interact with customers. Sales already has this in place as it is what they do every day. Marketing is smaller and has less resources. This puts pressure on the organization to have personalized attention to carry on a conversation. Marketing needs the ability to respond to comments, participate in groups in a conversational manner, and organize discussions and groups around a multitude of topics that customers are interested in. If you go to forums today, there are few that have real conversations happening. Mostly you see blogging and promotional content being posted. This is because it takes a huge amount of bandwidth to truly be interactive with your customers.

Lastly, there is inefficiency to how marketing manages relationships across multiple social media platforms. Again, the number of venues creates chaos in the ability to recognize a single customer. Efforts are duplicative and can create problems in a cohesive conversation and message. Marketing technology needs to be streamlined to better manage relationships.

What’s Next?

As social media marketing has been the buzz and huge shifts are being made to transition and leverage its potential, B2B marketing organizations need to be mindful of what their business charter is and how they meet their goals through effectiveness and efficiency. Social media is just part of the mix, and as with any marketing effort, you don’t want to put all your efforts into one tactic. If not properly monitored against key business benchmarks it can quickly de-focus your marketing efforts and lead to poor performance.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Filed under: business intelligence, 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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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