Successful marketing teams use the three sales performance rights—right target, right message, and right timing—to convert high-value prospects. Those same marketers know, however, that as a fourth “right,” ROI isn’t inalienable. Achieving profitable marketing performance requires expertise in four areas: personalizing communications for customer acquisition and retention efforts, connecting conversations across channels, managing sales and marketing alignment, and making accurate spending decisions.
Additionally, winning marketing teams convert the right prospects into high-value customers because their targeted approach allows them to uncover once-invisible prospects that are highly desirable lead opportunities. And these marketers know the audience they bring in is preferred because they gauge pipeline movement; perform segmentation and testing; run face-to-face customer events; and, of course, satisfy C-suite pressure to “get more, faster.”
Direct Marketing News brought together in September five senior marketing specialists from a range of industries for a deep-dive conversation on how these savvy marketers secure best-customer conversions. Chris Golec, CEO of B2B website optimization and sales IQ company Demandbase, served as co-host for the roundtable. The panelists discussed customer engagement, attribution, success metrics, digital channel monitoring, retargeting, website management, and more.
Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon, Direct Marketing News: Welcome, and thank you for joining our roundtable on how to reach the right prospects, and then get them into the fold. Chris Golec, CEO of Demandbase, is co-hosting the discussion. Any welcoming words, Chris?
Chris Golec (Demandbase): Sure, my pleasure. You know, I often meet with marketers from different industries with diverse customer bases, but they’re all scrambling to figure out prospect attribution. To begin with, most B2B marketers don’t understand the audience on their website, with the exception of the 2% who fill out a form. We all know that marketing is more effective when you know who you’re talking to.
DMN: Thanks, Chris. We’ll definitely dive deeper into attribution and getting into which prospects are potential best customers. Let’s start by talking about everyone’s roles in terms of customer acquisition.
Erin Haselkorn (Experian QAS): As senior public relations and marketing specialist, I get into the nitty-gritty of lead generation and messaging across all channels. In terms of success metrics, for us it’s the bottom line. It’s about the number of leads, how many are turning into opportunities, and how much margin we’re producing on a given campaign. That determines whether we’re going to do something similar in the future.
Andrea Dumont (Thermo Fisher Scientific): I’m director of integrated marketing, and my group is focused on managing best practices for digital marketing throughout the organization and seeing how it’s all integrated, from e-marketing to SEO and SEM, and from mobile to the Web. We’re looking to use analytics to determine how to serve a more relevant experience via digital channels.
Claudia Hoeffner (Acquia): My role at Acquia is to manage the demand generation function, everything from programs to marketing operations. We have a weekly pipeline target. That’s how we measure success. We’re still tracking inquiries and marketing qualified leads, but our key focus is the weekly and quarterly pipeline target.
Jane Buck (Dyn): We’re an Internet performance company, ensuring information gets where it needs to go faster and more reliably than ever. I’m director of customer acquisition. At Dyn we have an e-commerce platform, as well as a direct sales platform. As a result of our self-sign-on platform, Dyn has millions of free users that we need to make sure we’re not spending monies on to drive them to an enterprise lead form.
Tom Kahana (Limelight Networks): I’m director of marketing operations and I’m focused on the systems, the processes, and the analytics for the marketing department. We look at everything from inquiries and sales appointments to opportunities closed. We’re fast becoming metrics driven and doing a lot of reporting around content. It’s a complete shift in methodology for us.
DMN: Some of you mentioned challenges like monitoring performance. What are some current pain points, and possible solutions?
Buck: Well, because we’re located 60 miles from Boston there isn’t necessarily a huge talent pool of technical marketers, so I have to hire experienced direct marketers and train them on marketing automation and digital strategies. Fortunately, we’ve also found a couple of interns who’ve shown aggressive interest in growth.
Dumont: I need people who can code in HTML and analysts, not traditional marketers. When I worked at Monster, it was all about brand marketing—the marketing team built a blimp, corn mazes, and ice mazes at the Salt Lake City Olympics. It had nothing to do with metrics, and everything [to do with] the brand. Now, everything is about the data and having real-time measurement.
Kahana: Our executive team wants more and more data to understand this aspect of our business. My next hire will be a data analyst. We unleashed a little bit of data from a marketing perspective and all of a sudden the entire executive team wants more and more. It’s been a challenge to get people to hold off a little bit so we can build up systems and make sure we report accurately.
Haselkorn: The use of analytics has really grown over the past few years where now we have someone solely dedicated to analytics with a lot of demand for her time. And as Tom said, you start releasing some of these figures to the business and everybody wants more.
Hoeffner: We implemented a new process for campaign planning and execution. It’s had a significant impact on pipeline, and we’re ahead of our quarter-to-date target today. One thing we’re struggling with is how to best predict high- or low-pipeline weeks. So, we’re in the process of analyzing the correlation between activity and pipeline. This quarter we had one of our lowest pipeline weeks and we couldn’t tell if it was due to the lack of sales or marketing activity.
Golec: You really have to look at the segment of potential buyers and do your analysis on how they’re converting—go through the pipeline to expose hidden winners.
DMN: How do you handle tracking website traffic to understand where customers are in the pipeline, and then manage different content and messaging across your various channels?
Hoeffner: We’re targeting different buyer personas; we personalize our lead nurturing programs with relevant content. Also, we started testing referral messaging on our website. If someone comes from a certain site, we’ll serve content relevant to that person based on where they came from. If the source is a developer site, we’ll offer a developer toolkit as a call-to-action. In addition, we’re building programs to target different verticals.
Kahana: One of the things we did was map all our content to every stage of the sales funnel. The goal over the next year is to start delivering messaging based on the persona and where a lead is in the funnel. We have a great map, but we’re working on filling some missing content. It’ll be interesting to see how that helps drive customers and prospects through the funnel.
Hoeffner: The website drives more than 50% of our marketing-sourced opportunities. The next question is, what exactly is driving the traffic that converts into pipeline? If we can answer this, we’ll be in better shape to allocate budgets accordingly.
Buck: My job is to drive direct sales, so I partition free e-com customers who are just looking for customer support out of the sales stream. These users are downloading our webinars and white papers at a high percentage, which is great for brand awareness but doesn’t help generate new enterprise sales. We’ve just learned how to partition some support flags out of the direct lead stream; for example, they went to this page and downloaded a form or white paper. As a result, sales is much happier getting fewer poor-quality leads.
Golec: If you look at website activity from a particular company versus the probability that a salesperson puts in on that deal closing, the actual website activity may be a better predictor of a future deal than the probability. And when you chart Web activity versus probability, you immediately find the deals at risk. The VP of sales and the director of sales for a region need this insight on a weekly basis.
DMN: What about capturing leads from chat? And how does that complicate or help attribution?
Buck: I’m going to use live chat to help partition out the e-commerce support requests from the sales inquiries, as we have two different sales channels.
Kahana: A few months back we did a program and we received all these live chats that created many appointments. It was great. Now live chat is our number one converter. The challenge was that we were running several campaigns, but we couldn’t figure out what campaign drove the prospects to live chat. It was frustrating, but it was also clear that something that we were doing pushed people to the website in that particular week.
Golec: Online chat software is a great customer service tool, but underutilized for lead generation. Adobe, one of our clients, proactively offers a chat whenever one of its 1,400 named accounts visits its website. Visitors from those accounts comprise a small percentage of its traffic but a big portion of revenue. The company routes the chats with named accounts to its enterprise account specialist, and, lo and behold, receives three times as many leads from those accounts.
DMN: How does collaboration between sales and marketing work in your organizations?
Haselkorn: In addition to constant data analysis, we have meetings on a regular basis to gain anecdotal insights from the sales team about how campaigns performed. Depending on the week, we’ll try to go on actual calls or listen in on conversations. It’s extremely helpful.
Hoeffner: The key to sales and marketing alignment is having the same daily and weekly reports and dashboards. We have a pipeline taskforce team, and we meet with the sales management team every week to report on our quarter-to-date contribution. This allows us to respond to pipeline gaps in real-time.
Kahana: If it’s a named account, our sales team will follow up on any leads that come from marketing. If it’s a new named prospect opportunity, marketing will send the lead to our business development team. Otherwise, they’ll send it to the account manager, who will monitor and plan for potential upsell.
DMN: What about engaging through live events—any successes or cautionary tales?
Buck: We’ve isolated events in different parts of the country and the world where we go face-to-face to show off the Dyn brand. One of our biggest is South By Southwest, as the music-meets-tech vibe is a huge part of our culture. The whole C-level team is there, and it’s been incredibly successful for our growth over the years.
Haselkorn: We do a live Marketing Forward Tour every year around the country and talk to marketers. We mix customers and prospects together in an open conversation. And we still find that certain trade shows are beneficial in getting face-to-face interaction. We’re very particular about which ones we go to these days and where we want to invest our dollars.
Kahana: We actually don’t bring salespeople to our booths at trade shows and events, because they set up their own appointments away from the booth. We bring the account development representative team. They’re great—young and full of energy and attitude. It’s gone really well since we’ve made that change.
DMN: And how about website programs and improvements for attribution? Are any of you using content in different parts of the pipeline or lifecycle yet?
Hoeffner: We serve targeted content depending on where traffic is coming from. We’ve done that for sources like StumbleUpon. We have a banner that says, “Hey, you’re a StumbleUpon visitor.” We’ve also done company-targeted online advertising, where we display banner ads only to people at specific companies. The boost in Web traffic was great, but we need better ways to capture visitors as they visit the site. So, that’s a lesson learned.
Buck: All offers, all banners, all creative have a shelf life, and if you don’t know when they’ll no longer be effective for you, you ought to be testing to figure that out. Not knowing will dry up your pipeline on very short notice. There should be testing and learning all along.
Golec: One turnaround best practice story is Cisco Webex, which serves consumers, small businesses, and large corporations. The good news is it was getting the traffic to its website. The bad news [is] nobody from large companies was going through to the corporate solutions pages and then getting to the form to request a demo. With this insight, Cisco Webex changed the messaging when large accounts visited, and its pipeline skyrocketed from those large accounts. It was a personalization issue versus what the company was offering, or form friction.
Kahana: We have plans to do website personalization in the coming year. I think that would help drive people to the right content. For example, if you click on the financial services section, then you’re going to get all the benefits for financial services firms.
DMN: What are some of the metrics you’re using to show marketing ROI?
Haselkorn: We’re using different metrics within Eloqua, such as conversion rate, form completion, meetings, and pipeline. We’ve found that on the website visitors weren’t finding relevant pages, which drove us to change the navigation and content on the site.
Kahana: We’re reporting on marketing inquiry, marketing [qualification], sales appointments set, sales calls, opportunities created to close and campaign ROI—basically, marketing-initiated leads for pipeline contribution and marketing-influenced leads. We do this weekly, monthly, and quarterly.
Dumont: It’s important to determine what data is relevant to specific audiences and how much reporting is too much. We send out reports on a monthly and quarterly cadence. Our monthly cadence is for the marketing teams and the demand-gen teams in the business units. We have quarterly reporting that’s delivered to marketing VPs.
DMN: What are some of the approaches you use to improve outcomes, and are you experimenting with better connecting touchpoints?
Dumont: Attribution modeling is an important process to manage to try and understand first touch, second touch, third touch. The benefit you get from an effective attribution model is you uncover which channels and channel combinations are driving the most revenue contribution and gain a better understanding of how to effectively invest marketing spend.
Hoeffner: We promote specific content assets and events. We also use remarketing to promote upcoming webinars and events, as well as free trials and product downloads. In general, display advertising has worked best for us when it’s highly targeted. We’re currently analyzing the true impact this tactic has. Are we sourcing that opportunity or is that opportunity already in progress? That’s the dilemma.
Golec: We’re working on several solutions to help customers better engage accounts. In Q4 2013 we’ll make it possible to retarget companies based on their name, industry, revenue, and specific product interests. We don’t rely on cookies to retarget just the person, but rather the account, to build greater purchasing influence.
Buck: You’re looking at breadth of context within the company, a portfolio approach. So, do you measure the amount of money that you spend on the channel specifically, or do you isolate what that generates the opportunity and tie that back? Is there value in impressions and reach? How do you assign that value? Is it 5, 10, [or] 15% per channel? We don’t necessarily have our hands around it right now. Channel attribution is not a new conversation. Marketers have been having this conversation for decades.
Dumont: All aspects of a campaign have to be planned together. You have to know what the total investment is for a campaign; otherwise, you can’t determine an accurate ROI.
Haselkorn: Marketers have always gone with their gut and focused on creative. But the data piece is the new focus. So, how do I take the data and then do something fun and creative with the insights?
Dumont: I think tools like SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics can help with the analysis of Web activity. They’re not perfect and just one piece of the larger picture that should include more sophisticated campaign analysis from inquiry through revenue.
Golec: Building reach right into a company is important. It’s all about influence to multiple buyers, and only focusing on companies that have a potential to buy. What I find is that a lot of marketers don’t understand what percentage of their traffic is from companies that have a potential to buy. And the reason for that 2 to 3% conversion rate—or I flip it around and say 97% lack of response—isn’t the offer or the page, it could be just 10 years of SEO marketing and people stumbling upon the website.
I think marketers beat themselves up because they include all visitors, not just potential customers, in their denominators to figure out conversion percentage. You really have to look at that segment of potential buyers and do your analysis on that and what they’re doing on the site with regards to how they’re converting and how those go through the pipeline. Your conversion rate might be 25%. You just don’t know because the math is wrong.