Pipeline Acceleration: What’s to Be Done?

In my previous post, I explored the benefits of breaking down the sales pipeline into specific zones in order to drive more effective pipeline acceleration programs. We looked at the main program types – rapid entry, intra-pipeline and last mile – and explored how marketing can best prepare and engage with sales to push new and stalled opportunities through the pipeline more quickly. Let’s turn our attention now to look at what marketing can deliver to ensure program success. In essence, all activity should be designed to educate and encourage the prospective buyer to feel confident enough to move forward, or educate and enable the sales executive to be in a position to re-ignite the opportunity. SiriusDecisions recognizes two major tactic categories to achieve those goals: stimulus offers and (sales) enablement offers:

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How Do Marketing Automation and MRM Interact?

A minority of b-to-b marketing organizations that use a marketing automation platform (MAP) also have a marketing resource management (MRM) solution (according to a 2011 SiriusDecisons survey). We’re often asked by these organizations, and by organizations that have one of these platforms and are considering the other, how the two work together. Here are four key points of integration between these platforms:

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Are You Marketing to Buildings or People?

The legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy coined the phrase “The assets go up and down in our elevator everyday” to express the value he placed on his staff. In the b-to-b world, this is a useful reminder that even though we are focused on the commerce conducted among businesses – it’s the people in the buildings, riding the elevators or taking the stairs whom we are marketing to. For b-to-b marketers, understanding the buying needs of the target organization and its people is critical to developing effective messaging. SiriusDecisions’ b-to-b messaging echelons are a framework for developing value propositions around five common audience dimensions or echelons:

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Eliminate, Offload, Expedite or Automate?

On the surface, the secret to time management is simple: Be sure to spend most of your time on activities that are both urgent and important. The trick is to accurately determine what activities fall into what category and then ruthlessly avoid those that don’t meet that litmus test. Easy to say, but not always so easy to do in our distraction-filled, always-on, always-available world of chat, email, mobile phones, multi-tasking and interrupt-driven workdays. The SiriusDecisions Sales Activity Matrix assigns sales activities to the four quadrants of core selling activities/direct engagement, core selling activities/internal, non-core-selling activities/direct engagement and non-core-selling activities/internal. One of the goals for sales operations is to reduce the amount of time sales reps spend on activities that fall into the lower left quadrant (e.g. non-core activities/internal).

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There Are No Answers In Numbers

If I had a dime for every time someone contacted SiriusDecisions and asked how big their marketing or sales budget should be or what their waterfall conversion rates should be…I would be a very rich man. The simple answer to these and many other benchmark-related data questions I get every day is the very honest answer, “How should I know?” While we collect hundreds of data points from our clients on a regular basis, presenting data blindly, without context, to a client provides little if any value; in fact, it can cause great harm, presenting exactly the wrong message or advice. Which is why, time and time again, we try to understand the context of every client request as well as the key attributes and characteristics of each organization. Companies can invest anywhere between 50 percent and less than 1 percent of annual revenue in their product, marketing or sales functions, depending on their objectives, stage of evolution, business model, go-to-market strategy, target markets and offering portfolios. Some may say that at least the total of all functional investments should not exceed 100 percent of revenue, but even that is not always the case with startup or turnaround companies, which, for a defined period of time, often invest far more than their annual revenue in product, marketing and sales.

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Emerging Marketing Technology Suites

In our recent blog post, Eight 2014 Predictions for Marketing Automation, we briefly mentioned the expanding footprint of marketing technology suites. Through acquisition or organic growth, vendors are building collaborative marketing suites that offer marketers a broader marketing platform to provide solutions for marketing automation, analytics, social media, web content management and marketing resource management. Players include: Oracle Marketing Cloud, IBM Enterprise Marketing Management solution, Teradata Integrated Marketing Management solution, SiteCore’s Customer Engagement Platform and Adobe’s Marketing Cloud. Through our research and interactions with clients, we’ve seen a number of benefits and drawbacks that these solutions can present for digital marketers. Acquisitions are forcing companies to decide whether to standardize on a unified suite of applications or to continue a “best of breed” approach. In either case, the market landscape and competitive dynamics between vendors are rapidly changing. Potential benefits of a marketing technology stack include:

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What Olive Garden Can Teach B-to-B Companies About Innovation

Olive Garden – the casual Italian dining chain – recently ran a one-day promotion offering free babysitting to parents. By partnering with My Gyms – a chain of gymnastics facilities for children – the restaurant allowed parents to drop their kids off at My Gyms, enjoy a child-free dinner at Olive Garden and show their restaurant receipt at the gym when they picked up their kids. Why would Olive Garden do this? Obviously, the company hoped that free babysitting would attract more customers – particularly those who wouldn’t otherwise have been customers. (I’ll admit that, as a parent of small children and someone who rarely eats at Olive Garden, I wondered whether the prospect of free babysitting would entice me to visit.) This is a great example of identifying hurdles in the buying process – and leveraging a partnership to address them – to open up a potential new customer segment.

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From Likes to Leads: Tips for an Effective Conversion Strategy

The overuse of the word “like” in our everyday communications is flagrant. As much as I hate it when I hear others tossing the word meaninglessly into their conversations, I still catch myself doing it. Like so many others before me, I blame Frank and Moon Unit Zappa and their 1982 song “Valley Girl” for my transgressions. Now, thanks to the introduction of the “like” button on Facebook in 2009, we have another “like” to contend with – and this one is just as rampant. Sure, Facebook “likes” have their place; it’s the quickest and easiest way for a contact to show appreciation of a post or a page. But clicking “like” has become almost as commonplace as peppering our conversations with the word “like.”

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