From Strategy to the Bottom Line

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A solid understanding of how a marketing program affects the bottom line can mean the difference in realizing a worthwhile return on investment.

Getting from strategy to profit requires several components. The first is insight. Insight is derived from the examination of customer behavior, the performance of analytics in areas such as customer satisfaction, and a deep investigation of all available data. Data analysis reveals what needs to be done to reach an audience effectively with an appropriate message.

With insight, a marketer can drive a vision - starting with the development of a marketing strategy. Here the establishment of quantifiable goals and metrics is a necessity. This can be especially challenging for marketers in a BTB environment. Consider the marketer that typically places ads in targeted publications. It often is hard to measure how each ad's placement affects bottom-line business results. Yet it is here that measuring the interaction and behaviors of customers and prospects from each marketing initiative becomes critical.

Reaching targets on their terms. BTB marketers generally have one of three goals when developing a strategy:

· Acquire new customers (new and switchers).

· Retain existing customers.

· Grow an existing customer relationship through upsells/cross-sells.

Determining channel choices in any campaign depends heavily on which of these goals is set.

Gaining the attention and interest of a prospect new to the market requires broad-based marketing, such as conference sponsorship, public relations, print advertising and Web media (such as banner ads). Reaching switchers - those familiar with the product category, but not necessarily a specific product or brand - may be accomplished through targeted print (trade publications) combined with addressable media, such as outbound telemarketing, direct mail and e-mail.

Targeting and influencing existing customers to cross- or upsell takes an even more targeted approach. The channels mentioned above - plus a more personal touch, such as field sales and one-to-one techniques - may be needed. A good rule of thumb: As a target moves from being "new to category" to "mature in category," the more personal the channel and the message need to become.

For multichannel marketing, examine the places the target goes to learn about a product or category. For most business consumers, choosing which channel to use when communicating with a marketer is entirely situational. An urgent request or need is likely to prompt a call. When in research mode, many prospects look to the Web. And when a prospective customer is ready to make a purchase decision, typically some sort of physical interaction is needed in the form of literature (such as a direct mail brochure) or actual contact with the product or service - attending an educational seminar or visiting a dealer or distributor location to conduct business or interact with a customer service representative.

It is important to note, too, that multiple channels converge into a unified user experience. Channels should offer a unified voice, look and feel in order to avoid disappointing or frustrating customers. A multichannel user, which most if not all business consumers are, will expect an integrated experience across all points of contact. Business customers expect and demand multichannel access, regardless of how they initially were contacted. Because channel preference is situational, a sophisticated business marketer will put herself in the target's shoes when devising a media strategy.

Optimizing lead management. The way a marketer decides to manage leads affects how the marketing strategy is created, how the campaign is designed and how the program is eventually implemented.

Though lead management is an art and science to which a series of articles could be devoted, the simple lesson is that marketers must build a process to categorize, prioritize and incubate leads. Only when leads are categorized properly can they be managed appropriately and cost-effectively.

Hot leads, which are the most promising, might go directly to the sales organization. Warm leads that have potential can be forwarded to the marketing organization to be incubated or nurtured. These leads should be tracked and monitored for a specified period of time.

Through a system of watching and tracking, a prospect's investment of time and interest in a product can be gauged and scored. A methodical approach to follow up then can be performed based on a lead's specific pattern of behaviors.

A key component to the incubation period is tracking and reporting. All leads thus have been optimized in a way that provides value to the prospect and ROI potential to the marketer.

Measuring for success. All marketing programs must be measured to determine ROI impact. They also need to be predefined (though it is fine to refine or change them as a campaign is executed). Many questions need to be asked before a strategy is put to paper:

· What is the objective?

· What are the current benchmarks?

· Are there feedback mechanisms in place to determine customer loyalty? What are they, and how are data collected?

· What is the company doing to capture customer satisfaction research proactively and reactively?

For measuring customer satisfaction, it is most effective to focus on one question, such as the likelihood to recommend a product or service to another person. A marketer can ask a multitude of questions, but referral probability is an extremely strong indicator of revenue strength and growth.

Adapting to a market's special challenges. Some industries, such as technology, present special challenges to BTB marketers. The high rate of change in technology products is one example. The rapid advancement of technology products affects how marketers execute programs. Lead times for product and service enhancements are short, and this must be considered when planning.

Locking in customers and creating ownership are key, and must be done rapidly. Managing and maximizing channel partnerships are critical. Remember, partners may be selling competing brands. Marketers must consider how to secure preference for their particular brand. The goal should be to manage the lifecycle by creating a relationship with partners that is valuable to both parties and which empowers the partner. And no matter what tactics are used, consistency of message - as with end users - is important, as is channel measurement.

Because time is of the essence in marketing technology products, results need to be gathered and analyzed in near real time. To stay competitive, marketers should optimize media choices "on the fly" and constantly monitor and track results. This allows for more informed decisions in the next phase of marketing or in placing media. With e-channel marketing in particular, changes in creative and targeting can be made promptly.

The value of quantified results is that a marketer can act upon what he has learned and invest resources better to increase return. As the adage goes: "plan the work and work the plan."


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