Thursday, October 25, 2012

Start Operationalizing Your Buyer's Journey

I was surprised to hear so much talk about the 'buyer's journey' at a recent Sales 2.0 conference. More talk than I often hear at marketing conferences! Having said this, it was clear that many people who talked about buyer's journeys did not know what the term meant.

A hesitant raise of hands at one sales enablement panel showed that a little more than half the room thought that their company used a buyer's journey framework. The panelists didn't buy that answer. Sniffed one, "Most companies lift the sales stages right out of their CRM system and call that a buyer's journey."

What isn't a buyer's journey? It isn't a sales methodology. It isn't build rapport, uncover needs, identify options, propose solutions, and close the deal. It isn't a product life-cycle. It isn't development, launch, grow, mature, decline. It isn't marketing stages. It isn't build awareness, create interest, engage, and persuade. All of these processes can be useful to guide an important function. However, they all describe vendor's journeys – not buyer's journeys.

So, what is a buyer's journey? A buyer's journey is a framework that describes the cognitive process each buyer must personally traverse leading from Apathy (Do I care?) to Commitment (How can I buy this?).  IDC's Customer Creation Framework highlights three simple stages of this journey: Exploration, Evaluation, and Purchase. You can break these stages into sub-steps if you like.

In the simplest terms, a buyer's journey is really nothing more than a list of questions.  Buyers have different questions at different steps of their journey.  If buyers get their questions answered clearly, positively, credibly, and with relevance, they will take another step. If they do not, they stall or abandon their quest.

Let's take the example of some questions on a buyer's journey towards a new car:
  • Exploration: Is my current car headed for a problem – how do I know? Are there new cars that I would like better? What cars are new this year? What do I really need?
  • Evaluation: Which cars offer the best value? Which do I find most attractive? Is this supplier trust-worthy? What do the experts say? What do my friends think? How can I test drive?
  • Purchase: How much can I afford? Should I buy this now? Do I find terms acceptable?
Operationalizing a buyer's journey
 
1) Collect a list of questions.
 
Start small. Select just one of your products and its most typical buyer. What questions does this buyer have about the problem? About alternative solutions? About acquiring, adopting, and using products like the one you offer? Finally, what questions might a buyer have specifically about your product?  Most companies will need multiple question lists for multiple situations. But don't boil the ocean at the beginning.

Where do you get these questions? Ask your buyers! Ask the people in your company who talk to buyers – sales people, customer support, systems engineers, etc. Listen to social media chatter.  My experience has been that you can collect 95% of the questions you need after you have talked to about 30 people who have a broad range of roles and backgrounds.

 2) Answer the questions.
 
If your company has EVER sold a product, then somewhere, someone has the answers to the buyer's questions. It probably isn't the marketing team – but that's okay. Go back the same people and places from which you gathered the questions.  Some questions can be answered easily. Others will be thorny.  Some questions will have happy answers. Other questions will be evil.

Do not avoid the thorny and evil questions!  I like this quote from Robert Frost, "The best way out is always through."  Every unanswered question is a place where prospects can get frustrated and where leads will stall or fall out of your pipeline.

You can collect both the questions and the answers in a spreadsheet or an FAQ document.

 3) Put the answers on your website and give them to your sales team.
 
Keep your initial content super simple. Make sure the answers to all the important questions are easily found on your website. Make sure that your sales team has easy access to all of the answers.
 
 4) Improve
 
Later, you can explore the best way to deliver your answers to buyers – how should the message be voiced? What content types and media work best at different steps and with different buyer personas? How do I best map the buyer’s journey steps to the sales process?
 But these are secondary issues. If you don’t first have the answers that your buyer needs, all these secondary questions are a total waste of time.
 
 
 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hey, Sales & Marketing. . .You're not Meeting Prospects' #1 and #2 Needs!

What do your buyers value most during the pre-purchase phase for their IT products or solutions? Spending quality time with your sales reps? Doing a feature by feature comparison versus your competitors?  Hardly.  The top 2 most valued activities by buyers are:
  1. Interacting with your company's technical teams. (e.g., CTO, presales engineers)
  2. Consumption of vendor content à Financial justification/ROI is #1 here
Sure, buyers put "interacting with sales reps" as next in line; and reps are the ones that will be the key facilitators and match-makers to make these activities happen as part of customer enablement.  But what's most surprising, are the results that just came out of IDC's 2012 Sales Investment and Productivity Benchmarks study. (click here for full study for Sales Advisory clients) We asked many of the largest BtoB vendors in the world how long it takes for their sales rep to find different types of information within their organization in response to buyers' needs.  Can you guess which two types of information took the longest to find to meet buyers' needs? (refer to Figure below)


  1. 45% of companies indicated that it takes their sales reps 1 to 5 days or longer to find ROI-related sales assets from across their organization.
  2. 39% of companies indicated that it takes their sales reps 1 to 5 days to find the best fit presales person for their prospects.
Yup, that's right, as technology sales organizations, we're having the greatest difficulty fulfilling the top two most valued activities in the buying process for our prospects. 

A couple of questions to consider as you look within your own organization to resolve these challenges:
  • Do you know what your buyers' expectations are along the buying cycle, and how you are doing at meeting them? (e.g., Are you leveraging customer satisfaction insight as part of your account planning process?  Do you do a win-loss analysis? What does your own buyer experience research indicate?)
  • Are you providing your best clients and prospects with access to your technical teams when needed and justified? Is your ratio of presales engineers to sales reps high enough? (check out IDC sales staff allocation benchmarks)  Are your presales folks productive? (e.g., using teleconferencing to best leverage their time, connecting with sales reps through social media (Social Collaboration for Sales study for IDC clients)) 
  • Is your sales operations team collaborating with your marketing team as part of the content and marketing asset development life cycle to ensure that ROI-related assets are being developed to meet your buyers' needs?. . . And how are you ensuring that your reps can get access to this intelligence ASAP when needed? (yes . . . . sales enablement)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Facebook Announces 1 Billion Users – It’s Time for All Marketers to Give it a Go


A few days ago Facebook announced that their active users surpassed 1 Billion. This is a huge number and like it or not, as a Marketer, you cannot ignore a community of this size. At this point, it is irresponsible to write Facebook off as a fad. Its user base covers all demographics and geographies – chances are, as a business, whoever you are selling to is on Facebook. While I certainly do not advocate for suddenly changing your advertising mix to a 25% Facebook Ad spend or hiring a brand new agency to build a Facebook Page that rivals Coke or Jet Blue, I do believe there are plenty of good ways to start dipping your toes into the giant ocean that is Facebook.

I readily admit that the standard thinking is Facebook is a B2C tool - Facebook is great to reach consumers, however I believe there is something for everyone. B2B marketers need to think creatively, manage expectations and take learning’s from similar communities (think LinkedIn). And if you’re worried that you might be behind the curve or not sure the amount of time and energy to spend on social, through IDC's 2012 Tech Marketing Benchmark Study (full results to be published this quarter), we learned that only 0.9% of tech marketing program budgets are spent on social media. So, while there is a lot of hype around social, we are still in the early days of truly leveraging social as a powerful marketing tool.

Below I've listed three ways you can start utilizing Facebook to make sure you aren't missing an opportunity:

  • Skunk Works Project

While it’s great to have an agency who can own Social and Digital, having staff internally that are just as skilled is important. Facebook advertising is relatively easy to get started with, so it lends a perfect opportunity to give a key staff member a skunk works type side project and see if they can get value out of Facebook. Let them be creative, see what you can get out of Facebook, a worst case scenario is results are unsuccessful but you have a staff member who learns new skills – this can’t be overlooked in a world that continues to rapidly move towards digital. 

  • Don't Forget Mobile

It’s easy to think of Facebook as a website where people go to when they want to take a quick break from work or inconspicuously “catch up” with old friends, but the future of Facebook is Mobile. In fact Mark Zuckerberg recently stated that 600 Million are Mobile users. With that many users on Mobile already, you can be sure that any major updates to the platform will have mobile users top of mind. Combine that with Facebook’s need to continue to monetize, it’s probably safe to predict there will continue to be new and creative ways to reach your target audience through Facebook’s Mobile platform. Be sure to keep your ear to ground when it comes to Facebook and Mobile, test out new products, you never know when one might be just what you need to reach key targets!

Quick heads up! 
For more research on Social Marketing please view our report: Despite the Hype, B2B Social Marketing Is Still in Its Infancy: 2012 Guidance for New Investment Dollars and Staff

  • Ask For Help


No one is expecting you to be a Facebook expert - it is still a very new platform and it is ever changing. Thankfully, there a ton of innovative companies that work with the platform or leverage Facebook to help large brands reach their goals. Start with your agency, see if they have resources, partners, or experience with building out the type of campaigns you are looking for, if they don’t have the answers, find out what vendors are leaders and schedule a call with them to see what they can offer. You don’t have to go at it alone. 


Regardless of what you do remember to measure measure measure. We never advocate aimlessly trying new strategies without a solid plan and a way to track and compare.

Have you had any experiences with leveraging Facebook? Let me know how it went and how you think it can be best used to reach your audience (if at all!).

Sam is a Research Analyst within IDC’s CMO Advisory Service you can follow him on twitter: @SamMelnick

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Back of the Envelope Marketing Budgets

Here is a simple and I think helpful budgeting rule-of-thumb that a CMO at a $5b software vendor shared with me yesterday:

1) 75% of your budget should be in support of revenue-generation for your current operating year.

2) 15% of your budget should be placed towards efforts that have a 2-3 year time horizon.

3) 10% of your budget should be for activity or initiatives with no time horizon,

-- Rich Vancil

Monday, October 1, 2012

How bright is the silver lining of Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud?


At their annual Dreamforce shindig last week Salesforce.com announced the formalization of their marketing capabilities as the Marketing Cloud. Essentially it is a coupling of four key pillars of Salesforce.com's front end:
  1. Customer intelligence: Data.com enriches contact and account information with fresh feeds from sources such as LinkedIn and many others. Enables both sales and marketing to create detailed contact profiles for segmentation, targeting and campaign management.
  2. Social advertising and content management: The recent Buddy Media acquisition provides support for a wide range of social channels (social, web, mobile) and formats including contests, videos, and photos. Users can coordinate their publishing and advertising activity and measure impact throughout the social sphere.
  3. Social listening and analytical tools: Radian 6 monitors popular social services such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, as well as blogs, forums, communities and more. Supports 17 languages and mobile access.
  4. Core CRM functionality: Salesforce.com consolidates resources to provide sales reps with a single source that can connect them with other applications, contacts, colleagues and workflows. Pulls data together into account/opportunity context. Delivers reporting data to sales and sales managers and can provide opportunity and pipeline performance data into other systems such as marketing and order management.

Salesforce.com is taking its "Social Business" mantra to heart by building its marketing functionality with a "social first" philosophy. The question is: will this be enough to satisfy Salesforce.com customers (and the company itself)? The answer is probably not. The functionality you won't find in Marketing Cloud is significant - the core campaign management tools, workflows, analytics and more offered by marketing automation vendors (e.g. Eloqua, Marketo, Neolane, Pardot, etc.) Even though there are fewer seats to be sold to marketers as opposed to sales, these two worlds are rapidly converging. The systems needed to automate them will need to do likewise, as evidenced by the tight integration of most marketing automation systems with Salesforce.com and the recent announcement of Chatter for Eloqua.

But Marketing Cloud is undoubtedly only the first step, in fact it's well beyond the first step for Salesforce.com and the only issue going forward is how do they continue to expand functionality in this area?  The build or buy equation for Salesforce.com currently favors the build approach as valuations for marketing automation vendors are sky high, at least in terms of an acquisition. Salesforce.com has plenty of time to creep into the marketing automation arena, establish itself as a more serious threat and then re-evaluate its strategic decision around marketing functionality.

In the meantime, marketing automation vendors have their work cut out for them. They must stay well ahead of where Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud may go. They must continue to grow rapidly, prove their staying power and market value. Customers, however, should have no illusions that Marketing Cloud is an enterprise marketing automation platform in its current state. There is much more to marketing than social engagement especially for B2B models. Waiting for Marketing Cloud to evolve or for social to mature is simply not a choice, there is way too high a price to be paid in terms of market share, growth, and profitability. So if you're considering marketing automation don't delay or change course because of Marketing Cloud. Charge ahead full steam and should the social engagement of Marketing Cloud pop your ROI, by all means add it to your arsenal.