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Posts Tagged ‘CRM’

I’ve been actively writing and presenting over the last few months on the changing B2B marketing landscape. And I’ll be talking more about this subject throughout the Fall at the B2B Marketing University series that I’m hosting together with my colleagues at Silverpop (please join us).

A great deal of the focus of my dialogue so far has been on the evolution of marketing technology, but it’s impossible to talk about a changing environment for marketing technology without talking about how the nature of the B2B buyer also is rapidly changing. The two are inextricably intertwined in a new reality that is both a cause and effect of the digital age we live in.

Source:  iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

But where is the hard data that this evolution is really occurring? We’re changing how we go to market — and there is plenty of data pointing to shifting spending by marketers — but how do we know that our shifted spending will better align with B2B buyers’ shifting needs and preferences?

There are quite a few data points that support this evolution; however, they’re often difficult to unearth. Often they are buried or confused within consumer-focused studies on buying trends, and sometimes the consumer data even contradicts the B2B reality. Marketing technology analyst and author David Raab hit on this in a recent round-up of many of these ‘mixed’ consumer/B2B surveys on his Customer Experience Matrix blog. And a major call-out from his piece was just this discrepancy: “Many [data points] are contradictory …,” commented Raab.

So how do we better articulate the unique and changing nature of the B2B buyer — separate from the broader consumer perspective? How do we nail down (real) evidence that the nature of the B2B buyer has changed?

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My recent blog post on the inbound marketing / marketing content management crowd has gotten me thinking quite a bit about the holistic lifecycle of leads and of the role of marketers in this process.  The rapid ‘death’ of the consultative sale means that marketing organizations increasingly are playing a more-pervasive role in the lifecycle of leads – blurring the traditional lines between marketing and sales organizations.  “Who builds a [target] list, is it a sales person or a marketing person?” posed Rand Schulman, CMO of InsideView, in a meeting with me in his office in San Francisco a little over a week ago.  Good question.  Also, how should this list be built?

The new marketplace reality requires marketing organizations and their technology systems to be more engaged than ever before in all aspects of lead generation and of lead nurturing.  Thus, an emerging key partner for marketing organizations is the growing roster of what I refer to as the ‘online compiled lead sourcing providers.’  The roots of this category are grounded in the world of opt-in target list builders, prospect data miners and syndicated lead directory/database vendors – this traditionally included firms such as Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B), as well as media organizations and the credit bureaus.  This industry has evolved, though, and it increasingly looks more different than it once did, with an explosion of new market entrants and of new techniques for sourcing and aggregating prospect insight.  Today this emerging group includes firms such as Demandbase, idExec, Jigsaw, Lead411, NetProspex, OneSource, SalesGenie, Selectory (a D&B company), Zapdata (also a D&B company) and ZoomInfo.

It’s a pretty exciting time for this segment, but it’s worth tempering the excitement a bit – making sure we’re analyzing these providers in the context of where they fit into the overall marketing mix.  As with any new data or system provider in the world of Marketing 2.0, these providers are not a panacea.  Leads can come from many sources, and it’s important to recognize the trade-offs.

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original); click to enlarge graphic

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original); click to enlarge graphic

The new marketplace reality, thus, also requires marketers to assess all of their lead-generation-oriented marketing programs against a number of alternatives and in the context of the net impact of these programs.  As I was thinking through this, I built this chart to conceptualize the landscape.  On the x-axis I have made a relative assessment of the net credibility various programs bring in the eyes of the prospect – i.e., the degree to which a lead is pre-disposed to being interested in that brand-company and a relative indication of how hard marketing and sales will have to work to nurture a lead.  On the y-axis I have made a relative assessment of the net estimated cost per lead of different types of lead-generation-oriented marketing programs.  In doing so I considered both time and money, as it is critical to look at both.  For example, inbound marketing may have low dollar cost but it is not a no-cost activity; successful content and engagement requires time and energy, which translates into real dollars via salaries, overhead, etc.  This is why I have it at roughly the same cost level as paid sourcing.  What do you think about this matrix and where I’ve placed various types of marketing programs?

I hope this framework helps you better think about where the online compiled lead sourcing providers fit into the mix and provides a frame of reference as you dig into the status of this segment.  I believe it is particularly instructive because it speaks to some of the opportunity for evolution in this segment and is indicative of the segment’s overall trajectory – particularly predicting moves that will help improve the net credibility of leads while maintaining low net cost per lead.

So what’s new with the online compiled lead sourcing crowd, and how do we break down the vendor landscape?  Moreover, how are they innovating to keep pace with the tidal wave of change in integrated marketing management technology?  And what does this mean for marketers?

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Today I am extending an open invitation for marketers that read this blog to help participate, both in my upcoming book – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – and in my current graduate research project, by taking part in a survey of US marketers that I am currently conducting.

As I noted in a previous post, the focus of my current research is on analyzing and synthesizing ways that marketers could better leverage technology for more connected and more strategic marketing, as well as identifying the cultural, organizational and technological barriers marketers face in trying to adopt strategic marketing technology (versus the myriad of tactical technologies they rely upon today).  By presenting insights both into the ‘state of the art’ and into what is keeping marketers from getting there, I hope to provide marketers with new leverage in how they attack the problem.

A key component of this research is an original benchmark survey of marketers focused on garnering insights into marketing technology priorities and experiences.  This is where I need your help.

    

Participate in the Survey

If you are a US-based marketer, please take a few minutes this week to participate in this survey.

This is the last week of the survey, and I need the help of the regular readers of Propelling Brands to hit my target research sample size.  So if you can take a few minutes today to fill this out, I’d appreciate it.  It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and as a thank-you for your participation, you will receive a summary of the survey results and will be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card.

Deadline for completing the survey is Midnight PT on Sunday, April 19, 2009.

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I’ve been doing a deep dive into the integrated marketing management segment over the past few months. My goal has been to unravel the complex vendor landscape; to help marketers discern the capabilities of distinct vendor segments; and to help figure out what is a ‘best fit’ for their marketing organizations. (While we’re on this topic, as an update for those following this series, I DO plan to publish the final installment of my three-part series on the ‘Top 20’ platform vendors in this segment – i.e., the final ‘list’ – at some point over the next few weeks. So stay tuned.)

I have primarily focused on three ‘camps’ – demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM) in my research and writing to date. My hypothesis with these camps has been that despite “… different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, [they] are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer,” as I wrote in February.

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Enter the fourth camp – the ‘inbound marketing’/marketing content management crowd – examples of which include new inbound marketing pure plays such as Hubspot, Magicomm, Vazt and Video Army, as well as content management stalwarts such as Crown Peak, which are evolving toward inbound marketing.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the phrase, inbound marketing, I said, ‘I don’t get it.’ In fact, I thought, ‘Wow, more confusing buzzwords.’ But I wanted to get to the bottom of this phenomenon, so I dug in, did some research, sat down a few weeks ago with Hubspot marketing VP Mike Volpe and more recently had a call with Vazt co-founder Seamus Walsh.

Now I think I get it, but I’m not sure that the phenomenon around this fourth camp is purely about inbound marketing. Dynamic and search-optimized marketing content management is a critical component and key value-add in a broader, integrated marketing context and for companies that deploy both inbound and outbound marketing. That’s why I describe this space as a dual helix of inbound marketing and marketing content management that is bound to eventually intertwine with the other camps. In fact, my conversations with Hubspot and Vazt made me think of the evolution of Marketbright, which started as a marketing content management system but has evolved into a demand generation system.

So what is inbound marketing, how is it tied to marketing content management and what does this all mean for marketers? Moreover, is this a real ecosystem of solutions, or is it merely a Hubspot phenomenon?

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No member of the C-suite has a riskier or more-short-lived term than the chief marketing officer (CMO).  The average tenure of a CMO at the ‘100 most advertised’ US brands is 28.4 months, according to recruiting firm Spencer Stuart in a recent Advertising Age column by John Quelch.  In fact, as a marketer, few things are as much of a sure-fire, eventual career killer as being named CMO.  Strange … you’d think that getting to the top of marketing hierarchy would be the pinnacle of one’s career.

The challenges faced by the CMO speak to many of the fundamental strategic problems underlying marketing organizations and marketing science today and that are linked to a permanent shift in power from brand-company to customer and to a proliferation of communication channels and information sources.

For CMOs to succeed they must sit at the top of a newly-agile marketing organization, built from the ground up with sophisticated, financially-savvy and technology-empowered closed-loop systems and processes in place that can scale, that can manage increasingly complex and customer-centric communication execution and that can provide necessary transparency into multi-channel program performance.  And this transparency must provide other C-suite colleagues with the real-time status of key performance indicators (KPIs) and on the return on investment (ROI) of marketing programs in net present value (NPV) terms.  “[F]inancial accountability of marketing is here to stay,” argues Quelch in the Advertising Age column.  “[I]mproved accountability requires CMOs to be financially literate, to understand the balance sheet as well as the income-statement effects of marketing initiatives.”

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Too often, though, such an organization does not exist.  “Although the marketplace has changed beyond all recognition due to Web 2.0 and the explosion in digital – marketing technology and process have not kept up with the changes,” commented Bob Barker, VP of corporate marketing at Alterian, in a recent post on DM News.

The imperative for the CMO, thus, is to drive change. 

And that change must be focused on building just such an organization.  It is not sufficient to manage execution of the existing organization or to believe that your company is already ‘getting it right’ today.  There is no room for complacency or incremental efforts.  Marketing is a dynamic practice that keeps an organization in check with the dynamic needs of its customers and of the marketplace.  CMOs must drive change because their organizations must constantly change to remain competitive – a fact that was validated in a recent CMO Council report, which noted “… 61% of respondents believe that marketing operational transformation will be an essential area of focus for them in the months ahead.”

So how do CMOs do this?  And where should they focus their efforts to transform the marketing organization?

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This is the second in a three-part series of posts on integrated marketing management platforms.  The first post identified the strategic need for integrated marketing management, mapped this to key marketing ‘pain points’ that these systems address and provided an overview of the disparate technology camps that are vying to deliver robust integrated marketing management platforms to marketing organizations.  Click here to view the first post, “Marketer’s Needs + Technology Landscape.”

Today’s post will present high-level thoughts for marketers on approaches to analyzing their needs and to selecting a platform that is the right ‘fit’ for their organization.  The final post in this series will present snapshots of the top 20 vendors I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in this segment.

    

What should guide your decision to purchase an integrated marketing management platform? 

Let’s start with the basics:  What are your fundamental business goals?  And what marketing programs have you deployed to achieve these goals?  Ideally you want to invest in technology infrastructure that can help you achieve your business goals, that mirror your marketing programs and that (when all is said and done) can help you measure the impact that you made in reaching this goal.  Seems straightforward … except (and let’s not sugar coat this) … marketing processes and communication flows are complex and borderline ‘ugly’ when it comes to the level of complex, integrated execution and monitoring involved.  This means that your technology infrastructure must be able to handle this ‘ugliness.’ 

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

That brings us to the more advanced issue in evaluating the purchase of an integrated marketing management platform:  “How do I bring method to the madness?” as Market2Lead CEO Geoff Rego framed in a phone interview.  Whereas focus should rule the day in marketing strategy and planning, robust capability and the ‘kitchen sink’ factor should, in part, guide your technology decisions.  You want a platform that can give you real leverage.  In fact, you probably need more than you think you need.  And you can’t ‘wimp out’ when it comes to digging into this decision; this is a system that will become your lifeline; nor can you simply go with the marketing technology equivalent of ‘Big Blue’ (because no one got fired for buying Big Blue, right?).

“One thing not to do is to look at a generic list of the ‘top three’ products or ‘industry leaders’ and refuse to consider any others,” comments industry analyst David Raab in a white paper, titled “Three Differences that Matter in Demand Generation Systems.”  Raab continues, “On the other hand, few marketers have the time or inclination to perform an in‐depth technical analysis of several dozen demand generation systems, or even to document their own needs in detail.”

So then what is the middle ground, and how should marketing organizations approach finding the right ‘fit’ for their organization … without having to build CIO-level expertise and while staying true to their current, successful (but not fully leveraged) marketing processes?

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Today’s post is a bit different from the usual.  We won’t be diving into a key topic at the intersection of brands, marketing, innovation and technology, nor will we be presenting a Q&A with a forward thinker in the space; instead, I am asking for your help with a project.

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

I am in the process of writing a book – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – that is for marketers, that covers the topic of marketing technology and that is meant to help marketers deploy and use technology in a substantially-different way than they do today.

This book has evolved from a convergence of 1.) my interests and blogging about this space, 2.) my past experiences as a marketing leader and consultant in the technology industry, 3.) my ongoing discussions and interactions with leaders in the marketing technology space and 4.) research I’m conducting as part of my current graduate program, which I will conclude in May 2009.

So what are the details, and how can you be a part of helping marketers to better leverage technology and, thus, to take the ‘connectedness’ of their marketing organizations to the next level?

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This past November I posted a blog piece, titled “Top 20 Cross-channel Marketing Execution Platforms?”  The piece was a call for input on the state of technologies that assist marketers in running complex, cross-channel, integrated marketing communication programs that ultimately are focused on delivering one thing – customer sales.  These technologies are becoming more critical to marketing organizations over time.  Why?  Chaos:  Rapid growth in Internet-based communication mediums has led to a power shift in the buyer-seller dynamic; marketers have never been at a greater disadvantage.  Meanwhile, their roles and campaigns are becoming more complicated.  At the same time, they are being asked for greater, real-time visibility into results and marketing ROI as never before.  “The online world … has refused to stay in a nice, little box,” commented Scott Brinker on his Chief Marketing Technologist blog in October.  “[It] has exploded into millions of microchannels, with few boundaries, in constant motion, with people sloshing freely among them — often under little or no direct control of the marketer.”

Since my first blog piece on this topic, I’ve gotten some great feedback from folks in the industry, have spoken with nearly a dozen technology vendors and have digested quite a few recently-published books on the subject, including Sandy Carter‘s The New Language of Marketing 2.0, David Raab‘s Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems and Steve WoodsDigital Body Language — all great reads.  This process has helped to evolve my earlier thinking – validating some initial observations but also changing others.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

A key revision from my first piece is a re-thinking of my taxonomy for classifying this technology group.  First, it is clear that a centralized, intelligent and automated layer is emerging at the heart of the continuum of marketing systems (see diagram), and this layer serves a critical functional role in integrating high-level strategic management with tactical execution.  I have chosen to refer to this layer as integrated marketing management.  Second, it is clear that there are several existing software ‘camps,’ with different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, that are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer.  These camps include:  demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM).  While each comes at this layer from a different angle, the lines between these systems are blurring and their features and capabilities are increasingly quite similar.  Yet these camps remain important points of distinction and differentiation today because they are how many vendors classify their systems, and they help to understand both the strengths/weaknesses and the capabilities/gaps of these vendors systems.

The result is a complicated decision-making environment for marketers that want to harness the capabilities of integrated marketing management.  “Now everyone is trying to tie it all together, [but] you wind up with a weird gulf in buyer expectations,” commented Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua, in a phone interview.  “Marketers aren’t used to doing this evaluation.”

That is why I’m writing about this topic.  As a marketer, who has taken the time to become more educated about this space, I’d like to help lift the veil off of what is perhaps the Holy Grail of marketing – having IT systems that actually provide leverage to your integrated marketing activities and processes, rather than just drowning you in more data and execution responsibilities.

So what is an integrated marketing management platform, how can it help marketers, and who are the top vendors in this segment?

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One common theme on this blog over the past few months is the myriad challenges facing marketers as they attempt to deploy and manage integrated marketing communication programs in an increasingly disparate and complicated customer-communication environment.  Past posts have covered the challenges of:  achieving Marketing Personalization 2.0 and eventually 3.0; managing cross-channel marketing execution; and identifying agency partners with sophisticated people, processes and underlying Marketing Infrastructure that are truly equipped to help their clients make order out of chaos.

There’s no getting around it:  Customer-brand dialogue is becoming more complicated over time, and effective dialogue with customers requires 360-degree coordination of programs and touch points.  This means marketing organizations need their own, increasingly-sophisticated and fully-integrated Marketing Infrastructure. 

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Technology ‘saavy’ is not an option for marketers today; moreover, the level of integration of their technology systems is more important than ever — not only for online marketing activities but also for interactions between the online and offline world.  And it is critical not only for effective and coordinated brand presentation, but also for building closed-loop feedback mechanisms so that marketing efforts can be effectively measured, end-to-end — something that only a fraction of marketing organizations are actually achieving today, according to the folks at SiriusDecisions.

Enter ‘cloud services’ … an emerging IT architectural vision of seamless, Internet-based application and data integration — via common, Web-based service layers — that could get all of your marketing assets talking, in real time, within days. 

Except it’s not so much a vision as it is becoming a reality today — now trumpeted by some of the leading next-generation CRM vendors, such as SugarCRM and Salesforce.com (see below), and backed by next-generation integration services providers, such as Cast Iron Systems.  Want proof this is becoming mainstream? 

  • BusinessWeek recently headlined, “Cloud Computing Is No Pipe Dream,” in a piece by Jeffrey F. Rayport
  • IDC reported this past October that “… spending on IT cloud services [will] grow almost threefold in the next five years, reaching $42 billion by 2012,” according to Roger Smith in an InformationWeek article.  “The growth will in part be helped by the economic crisis that began in the United States, according to a statement by Frank Gens, senior VP and chief analyst at IDC. ‘The cloud model offers a much cheaper way for businesses to acquire and use IT — in an economic downturn, the appeal of that cost advantage will be greatly magnified.'”

So what are cloud services … really .. and how can they help marketers gain control over customer-brand dialogue and achieve a holistic view of their brands through intelligent integration of Marketing Infrastructure?

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I wrote in a recent piece on this blog, titled “Marketing Personalization 2.0,” about how companies are increasingly applying techniques from mass customization, using ideas such as personas and embracing what Patricia Seybold refers to as ‘customer scenarios’ to improve personalization of marketing efforts.  I also cited a range of technologies that can manage execution of this type of marketing.

Yet, even as this evolution represents an advancement over Marketing Personalization 1.0 (i.e., demographic and lifestyle channel targeting), there is much to be desired.  We are still at a point as marketers where we are guessing at personalization.  It is still possible to make costly mistakes, particularly if we misjudge customer persona or the channels for interacting with a given persona.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

“If you think backward from the audience you’re trying to reach and the channels and methods you’ve used to try to reach them, it all argues for taking a much more integrated approach to the work of marketing and communications,” argues Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing and Communications for IBM, quoted in a recent piece by Paul Dunay on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

Fortunately, waiting in the wings is a new wave of technologies that promise to rapidly leapfrog the current state and to take us to what I believe is a very tenable basis for structuring and ‘propelling’ forward to Marketing Personalization 3.0 (see diagram).  These technologies, which include semantic analysis and social graphs, offer the potential not only to get closer to customers than ever before, but they also approach enabling what I believe is true ‘co-creation‘ of the marketing experience.

What do I mean by this?  Customers, who increasingly have power and leverage over brand-companies, will not only specify what they want but will also shape the boundaries and expectations of their communication with, recommendations regarding and the ultimate delivery of products and services from vendors. 

The entire experience will become a partnership, but why is this important?

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In my recent Marketing Personalization 2.0 blog piece, I spent some time talking about what I referred to as ‘cross-channel marketing execution management platforms.’  This is a technology segment that is of particular interest to me for two reasons.

First, as someone who has run integrated marketing communication campaigns that have included elements as diverse as PR, live events, direct e-mail, salesforce materials and blogs, I recognize that managing a consistent marketing campaign across mediums is tough.  This is particularly the case when it comes to ensuring outbound continuity of brand presentation, while also personalizing content to the customer, and achieving comparable metrics for campaign effectiveness analysis across mediums.  Getting a normalized sense of ROI remains the Holy Grail.  So I think that every marketing leader has a vested interest in the advancement of the ‘state of the art’ in this technology area. 

Cross-channel Marketing Execution ManagementSecond, related to the first point and complicating matters a bit, as marketers we are only being asked to handle and operate across more mediums over time, not less.  Platform provider Eloqua claims on its Web site, “According to industry surveys, 34% of marketers cannot execute a coordinated, integrated, multichannel marketing campaign.”  I hope this isn’t true, because it is a sad state for marketing if it is.  Operating diversified, integrated marketing communication campaigns are a way of life, not an option.  And with the explosion of social media and social networking technologies and platforms, our lives are only more complicated and fragmented.  So we not only have a vested interest in this technology area, it will rapidly become the keystone for execution.

So I wanted to devote some time in this post to:

  1. better identifying the state of this technology segment,
  2. building out a ‘definitive list’ of the major providers, and
  3. presenting insights into their strengths and weaknesses.

But I’m hoping to do this is a collaborative fashion, and this is where I invite your assistance.  Please help review my initial entries on the list and provide suggestions on who else should be included.

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I was doing some research over the past week related to best practices for shaping customer-brand experience, and it made me think more about the state of marketing personalization.  The whole point of marketing is to build a relationship between a customer and a brand through which both the customer and the company behind that brand derive benefit.  It is a direct, one-on-one and mutual commercial exchange; for the customer, the brand is experienced at a very personal level.  In fact, we may aggregate data about brand perceptions for larger populations, but the basic unit of measuring brand experience remains something that occurs at the individual level.

That’s why “[e]xperiences need to be designed for individuals,” advocates Bruce Temkin, Forrester Research‘s principal analyst for customer experience in his blog-published book, The 6 Laws of Customer Experience.  “While it may not be possible to individualize every interaction, focusing on narrow segments (like Personas) is critical.”

Yet so much of marketing practice and technology infrastructure seems to focus on de-personalizing and scaling marketing communication to as large of an un-segmented population as possible – a trend decried by marketing pundit Seth Godin.  We extract the individual and disregard his/her personal experience.  We engage in shotgun marketing.  Why is that?

I’m not saying that as a marketer we shouldn’t attempt to reach a scale audience.  Quite the opposite, we should absolutely shoot for scale, but I’d argue it’s how we build that scale that is critical.  We need to do it one customer at time … which is the point of personalization.

How can we make both scale and personalization co-exist as hallmarks of every marketing program?

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