Accelerating Revenue In A Changed Economy

A long time ago, a savvy marketing consultant told me, “The role of the sales person is to teach the customer how to buy”.  That is still true, but the wisdom has morphed a bit with the times – as wisdom is wont to do.  Today’s B2B buyers control their own journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s sales person controls the selling cycle. Although it varies with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out for a sales person.  For many product categories, buyers now put off talking with sales people until they are ready for price quotes.  This new dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way.  “Lead Generation” was generation 1.0 of “Lead-to-Revenue Management”.  It’s no longer enough to provide qualified leads to sales.  It’s still necessary, but it is no longer sufficient.  In 2013, it’s the role of marketing to guide the customer through the early stages of the buying journey.  Today, marketing owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle.  B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through most of the buying cycle.  This new remit is not without its challenges: vision, resources, organization, skills, process to name a few. That’s why I am getting more and more excited as my colleague Peter O’Neill and I toil on creating the “just for marketers” track at the upcoming Forum for Sales Enablement Professionals in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 4th and 5th

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Oracle Acquires Eloqua: A Quick Take on What it Means

Oracle announced today that it will acquire Eloqua, a SaaS marketing automation provider. Oracle’s stated motives address, head-on, the zeitgeist facing the 21st century marketer.   Today’s buyer definitely controls the buying process more than today’s seller controls the selling process. Digitally active and socially connected, buyers demand consistent, seamless, and seemingly sentient engagement across multiple (online, offline, digital, physical, social) channels and touch points.  I agree with the assessment of my colleague Rob Brosnan, in his blog that this is a move that has large ramifications for the future of all customer relationship marketers and marketing vendors. In this blog, I wanted to ponder some of the near term implications, the WIM – What it Means – as we like to say at Forrester, especially for the B-2-B marketer.  I see some clear winners, but it gets a little hazy after that.

Winner: Oracle

Oracle presented a grand vision -- a comprehensive customer experience cloud that enables business to create an integrated, end-to-end process of marketing, sales, service, and support with the goal of delivering a delightful customer experience.  Oracle made a big bold move to deliver on that vision. They have picked up a company with a robust product, happy customers, and (arguably) the best brand in the B2B marketing automation space.  For B2B marketers, Oracle is now the first vendor to actually have a shot at providing a unified automation platform for the end-to-end lead to revenue process. 

Winner: Eloqua

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Forget The Funnel! Introducing A New Metaphor For Lead To Revenue Process Management

I’ve seen too many lead-to-revenue initiatives underperform because insufficient attention was devoted to process.  And, I’ve seen an equal number stall because the attempt to document the current state and define the future state leads to analysis-paralysis.   It’s not fair to say that marketing organizations run their demand management completely without process.  What most marketing organizations don’t have, however, is a consistent, end-to-end process to manage a single customer from lead origination to purchase, which is the heart of lead-to-revenue management.  And for that, I blame the funnel.  

The “lead funnel” (the universal model for demand management) gets well-deserved celebrity for giving B2B marketers a metaphor to communicate the relevance of marketing activities to revenue production.   The funnel’s clearly defined stage gates (MQL, SQL, SAL, etc.) give marketing the basis to collaborate with sales on lead management.  The funnel makes it easy to snapshot the health of the end-to-end pipeline.   But, as a construct for thinking about the lead-to-revenue process, the funnel fails spectacularly.  In this blog, I'll introduce an alternative metaphor, the Lead-to-Advocate Escalator.  But, first, here’s what wrong with the funnel (and funnel derivatives like the waterfall).

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Dealing With The “People Part” Of Your Lead-To-Revenue Management Transformation

Demonstrating the revenue return on marketing investment is the No. 1 issue for B2B marketing executives. In Forrester’s Q4 2011 B2B Marketing Organizations And Investments Survey, when we asked marketing execs to identify the most important metrics for their marketing organization, 56% identified a revenue-related metric — compared with 44% for customer satisfaction and 40% for brand awareness. So, it’s no wonder that marketing automation solution vendors vociferously tout the ability of their solutions to track the revenue performance of marketing campaigns and programs.

But, looking at marketing automation solutions solely through the value lens of revenue performance management masks a more fundamental benefit. Marketing automation can transform a company’s marketing operations. These solutions deliver scalability, root out excess cost, improve marketing execution, and provide the basis for continuous incremental process improvement.

Still many marketing execs hold back on investing in marketing automation. They fear the concurrent assimilation of new tactics, processes, and automation will unduly stress their marketing organization. But the transformation is necessary, and the stress unavoidable. Marketing execs need to proactively address the “people part” of their lead-to-revenue transformation.

I addressed these challenges in this recent webinar, which is available on-demand.

In summary, here is what I suggest to clients in inquires about how to lead the overall transition to L2RM:

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Buyer Behavior Helps B2B Marketers Guide The Buyer's Journey

Forrester research shows that today’s B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that marketing can publish or sales can deliver. They are finding this content in an ever-expanding number and variety of channels.  And they are accessing these channels from an increasingly diverse array of devices. Without debate, the business from business buyer is already much more multichannel than the business-to-business sellers are. Buyers of business products and services are online, in social channels, on YouTube, going to events, and evaluating options on their iPads and smartphones.  The buyer’s journey looks a lot  more like this than the linear models (e.g., the funnel) that we usually use as a graphical representation. 

Understanding the customer journey across these touchpoints is essential to the success of any marketing program. B2C marketers are much more prepared than B2B marketers to engage their multi-touchpoint customers with a multichannel approach. B2C marketers have reacted to the multi-touchpoint customer with multichannel marketing strategies; these strategies use a combination of process, technology and organizational alignment to engage current and prospective customers in all of the digital, social and offline channels that are part of the buyer’s purchase process. 

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The Missing Link In Social Media Use: Tracking Prospects

The University of Massachusetts released its annual survey of social media usage at Fortune 500 companies. The report revealed that in the past year, these business giants have increased their adoption of blogging by 5%, their use of Twitter for corporate communications by 11%, and their use of Facebook pages by 8%. Sixty-two percent of the 2012 F500 have corporate YouTube accounts, and 2% (11 companies) are posting on Pinterest. Sixty-six percent of the F500 are now on Facebook. Seventy-three percent of the F500 have active corporate Twitter accounts.  

However, what caught my attention was another recent survey that the University was also promoting on the same web page. This survey examined how universities use social media to attract students to their MBA programs. The study showed the same sort of increases that the F500 survey revealed. However, the headliner take-away from this research was “The Missing Link in Social Media Use Among Top MBA Programs: Tracking Prospects.”  The report concluded that “the missing link appears to be tracking those who first become interested in the program through one of the program’s social media sites. Being able to measure whether these prospects actually apply to the program is something schools may be looking to do, but have not yet mastered. Without this piece of information it is difficult to really assess the effectiveness of the social media plan and to know where future investments should be made.”

As I talk to companies in large and small companies about their lead-to-revenue processes, the most frequent topic over the past six months has been about leveraging social media in demand management programs. I’ve compiled a list of the most common questions and my perspective:

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Are You Absolutely Sure You're Doing Enough With Social?

I (Lori Wizdo) have just put the finishing touches on the content for tomorrow's (Wednesday, March 28 at 10am PT/1pm ET)  interactive webinar, Socialize Your Lead To Revenue Process.   B2B marketers (even tech marketers) are not sure their buyers are really engaged in social media for business purpose.  We'll see Forrester research that proves they are. We'll discuss how social marketing can address the issues I am hearing, over and over again, in client inquiries:

"How can we increase inbound?"....  "How can we increase conversions?" ... "How can we shorten nurturing cycles?"  And, most importantly, "Is social worth it?"

Despite the doubts and uncertainties, tech marketers plan to increase spending on social media for L2RM in 2012: 43% plan to increase social media spend for lead origination; 41% for lead nurturing.  Tomorrow's webinar hopes to give some very pragmatic advice to help you jumpstart or scale-up your social marketing program.

If you can join us, you can register here.

Proving Theodore Levitt Wrong About Sales

I (Lori Wizdo) am on a plane, flying to San Francisco, to participate in Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum. As I was prepping for my (limited) role in the event, I had a flashback to one of the most famous disses of the sales profession ever written. 

It’s contained in the 1960’s article "Marketing Myopia”, written by Theodore Levitt, which has become one of the best known and most quoted of Harvard Business Review's articles. The article is essentially about having a business strategy that concentrates on meeting customer needs rather than selling products. A key take away, which most marketing or business school grads remember, is the observation that “had railroad executives seen themselves as being in the transportation business rather than the railroad business, they would have continued to grow.”

However, it is also in this article that Levitt was breathtakingly critical of the sales profession: "Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about." He went on to explain that sales "does not...view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs. The customer is somebody 'out there' who, with proper cunning, can be separated from his or her loose change."

Well, that might have been true then (who I am to disagree with a marketing legend) but it’s definitely not true now – and certainly not in the tech industry. 

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