Thursday, May 23, 2013

3 Steps to Move Closer to the Ever Elusive Marketing ROI

CMO ROIHere at the CMO Advisory Service, we recently closed up our 2013 Barometer Study which includes data from senior level marketers working at some of the largest Tech companies in the world. While there are a lot of great insights from this study, these senior level marketers made it very clear that their highest priority is "Proving Marketing's Value", or in other words, that always elusive marketing ROI. While this quest(ion) is nothing new to marketers, as our industry continues its transformation, marketing ROI is becoming an even more pressing topic. We see this truth in our surveys, we hear it from clients, and it is actively being discussed at industry events. This year we launched our  Chief Marketing Officer ROI Matrix (see the image to the right) in an effort to give participants a look into their own return on investment from marketing and continue the conversation. There is no easy answer here (otherwise my days would not be quite as busy), but I have 3 steps senior marketers can take to move closer to measuring marketing ROI.

1. Identify what matters and what does not

This might seem obvious, but to successfully prove value, first it must be understood what is providing value.  Often when we speak with clients we remind them that tactics are important, but without strategy on the front end those tactics may be wasted energy. Before creating a substantial dashboard or reporting tool, take the time to understand which data or measurements are going to further the case and which are white noise. Once done, not only will the organization be better able to prove ROI, but it will be able increase effectiveness.

Key Fact: 27% of B2B companies report they have not yet used predictive analytics to improve any marketing activities.

2. Communicate inside and outside of your department

As transformation continues within the tech industry it is creating a ripple effect to companies and then departments within each company. This means lots of change, and change can often mean confusion. Not only are marketers pushing to prove their worth, but they have to compete with this ongoing confusion. To overcome this issue, communication is a must, both within the marketing organization and across the entire company.  It is key to receive buy-in from stakeholders and make sure the steps taken are continuously aligned with expectations. It also means communicating the actions taken (and why they were taken) to staff or superiors. Remember, over communicate, as in times of turmoil "value" can be a moving target.

Key Fact: In 2013 senior marketers expect 2/3 of the marketing technology budget will come from the marketing department – the rest from IT, Sales, and other areas. Communication across these departments is key. 

3. Benchmark your progress

Identifying what provides value and then communicating as progress is made towards measurment are two great steps. However, when it's time to share the work, comparisons and baselines will be needed. The first step is measuring your own progress. How have the KPIs improved and what can be expected in the future? The next question will be, what is the comparison to competitors? Finding ways to benchmark and measure progress internally and externally will help tell the story of value added and improvement. It will also set standards and targets to shoot for, without these benchmarks there is a risk of flying blind.

Key Fact: Close to 100 tech companies participated (For Free) in IDC's Chief Marketing Officer ROI Matrix and benchmarked their marketing ROI against their industry peers. To participate this year contact smelnick (at) IDC (dot) com.

What other steps would you recommend to prove marketing value or even derive that elusive marketing ROI number?

Do you think this is fools gold and there are other areas marketers should be focused on?

Let me know your thoughts!

You can follow Sam Melnick on Twitter: @SamMelnick 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Social Marketing Guidance for B2B IT Vendors

As you continue to invest and execute in your Social Marketing, step back for just a moment to think about how "Social" fits in your overall marketing-mix.


It is helpful to first look at the overall marketing function. There are two major rivers of information that flow into and out of the marketing organization. The first is the flow of data that informs the "in-bound" product management process, wherein customer requirements are continuously gathered and prioritized. The second is the flow of "out-bound" product marketing work-effort, wherein products and services are presented to the marketplace.

Social marketing is the process of applying social listening and social communicating as a new and value-adding element to those in-bound and out-bound information flows. For example the in-bound product management process has been traditionally informed by customer councils or user groups; where new product ideation would happen one idea at a time, and one customer at a time. With Social product management, crowd-sourcing for voting and ranking of new features can speed up this process by orders of magnitude. SAP today has a robust Social crowd-sourcing engine called IdeaPlace that does just that.

Social Marketing begins with good Social Listening. This involves tapping into the blogs or forums or communities where your customers are present; the virtual places where they are actively becoming self-educated about potential IT product and services. If you can be a good listener, you will then "earn" the right to contribute to the conversation, perhaps by connecting those buyers with information sources and tools to further their self-education journey. B2B IT vendors are placing their bets on this. Just in the past few months I have observed Dell and HP make an overt organizational change by placing their Social Listening function into their existing and formal Market Intelligence functions.

So: Listen first. Become an excellent listener before you begin to insert your voice in the communications stream as a contributor. There are many examples of this in B2B, and it is accelerating. Dell gets a lot of play as a listening expert and deservedly so: they were a first-mover on this capability more than six years ago. HP now has a Chief Listening Officer (CLO) role. Cisco has been so successful in social media training for its employees that they are now starting to sell this to their customers. Intel just told me that they are now listening in over 50 languages. The list goes on.


To punctuate this last point, some research might be useful. IDC conducts an annual survey on "How Buyers Buy." We seek to understand: Where do buyers go for their product education? What media types are most frequently accessed? What is the pathway of their digital journey? What is their preferred content types or subject matter? On this last point, buyers tell us that their preferred content sources are (in rank-order): information that comes from peers; then information that comes from independent third-parties; and third, information that comes directly from the vendor.



This is why social marketing should be such an important part of the B2B marketer's tool kit. If vendors can help prospects to connect with peers as part of their education process; they will be viewed favorably by those prospects. The social media are the best tools for doing this.


A mis-step to avoid…


B2B marketers entering the social media environment will often start listening and communicating with the most popular social tools: Twitter; Facebook; and LinkedIn, to name a few. These are all fine tools and readily at-hand. But the question is: are your customers and prospects using them? IDC research shows that B2B buyers who are evaluating complex products and services are most likely tapping in to the technically-oriented social communities and blogs. And so lesson number one is: "Hang out where your customers are hanging out!"





Thursday, May 9, 2013

Connectedness - The Missing Metric for Sales Enablement

Enablement programs for B2B sales and channel resources tend to focus on activities – trainings, certifications, portal visits, most popular assets, most posts per person, ratings, etc. These are all indicators suggesting enablement resources may have been consumed. But they don’t do a very good job of measuring one of the most important objectives of enablement - changing behavior. New platforms that integrate publishing, process, and social capabilities are making it possible to track behavior patterns in the context of specific business processes. Hidden in this data are the daily habits that differentiate our best direct and indirect sales resources. Sales enablement professionals need to find this data and share it with the rest of their sales audience.
This is a particularly crucial for the on-boarding process. Regardless of whether you’re training a new/replacement sales rep or bringing on a new partner and their employees, connectedness is a key metric that you need to capture and track. It is the only way to continually optimize behavior. You can capture financial and operational data with most of the content management, CRM, and marketing automation technology out there. But these systems are not explicitly designed to capture patterns of behavior. Even those with social networking capabilities are not being used effectively in this regard.

Sales enablement professionals need to use social networking as a basis for propagating best practices. The measurement should span not only person to person networking, but also track community membership, links to all manner of resources from internal portals, as well as communication with subject matter experts, peers and mentors. To be most effective, this capability should be deployed within a process driven platform for sales enablement, as opposed to an old school portal based on a publishing model. These new platforms go beyond simply providing access to content. They are process driven and deliver content, sales plays, transactional capabilities, and more all in the context of the company's go to market strategy. In addition they have or are easily integrated with enterprise social networking capabilities which are crucial to facilitating and capturing how people interact with all the great resources they contain. 

There are two key dimensions the connectedness metrics should include – the number of connections to the right resources and the cadence of communication. For example:
  •          Which internal portals/systems do they log into – how often?
  •          Which SMEs do they interact with – how often?
  •          Which internal communities have they joined – how often do they visit and contribute?
This data can be invaluable in helping new reps and partners become more effective faster. What behaviors do our “A” reps and best partner reps exhibit? The intention is not to gratuitously boost hits and visits to marketing collateral, but to find the right level of connectedness for different types of reps. Being able to show other reps and partners that they can boost performance by making simple behavioral changes like subscribing to certain resources, joining communities they didn't know existed, or increasing the frequency of communication is the path of least resistance to effectiveness.

Today many large high tech companies report it takes a year to get a sales rep fully up to speed with the pipeline needed to meet quota in the following year. Clearly there can be a lot of process, product, market, customer, competitive, etc. knowledge that needs to be transferred. But don’t neglect to transfer the behaviors that will help them  best utilize the resources the organization has offer.

For more information on IDC's sales enablement research, please contact me: gmurray (at) idc (dot) com.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Content Trends: Insight from IDG's Tech Media Executives

A company that publishes over 460 websites, 200 mobile sites and apps, and 200 print titles knows something about media and content. Last week, I had the pleasure of discussing trends with executives from IDC's parent company International Data Group (IDG), the world's leading technology media company.

Here's what I learned about the changing state of communication and content.

The currency of information is shifting:
The primary indicator of engagement is the "quality" time spent with content as well as the meaningfulness of the action that time drives. Someone who is truly engaged in a conversation is more likely to download content. Some content is Core while other content is Candy. Core content gets fewer pageviews but drives more meaningful action while Candy content attracts attention (such as page views or clicks) but doesn't drive much action. Be careful about using easy metrics like page views or clicks as a sole metric as they are easy to manipulate by upping the ratio of Candy content.  Clicks are also increasingly useless as a metric as 85% of clicks come from about 10% of people. 

New ways to think about social:
Expect social media as a separate category to eventually go away. ALL media is now social with participation ranging from simple comments and sharing to citizen reporting.  An emerging model for content is to create high-quality conversations with two or more experts/leaders/celebrities engaging in public dialog about a story then to create an echo chamber around the story by attracting a larger community to listen in and comment. Note that both IDC CMO Advisory service and the IDG media and editorial team find that marketers are still pretty lost when it comes to how to work with the social aspects of communication.

The way we consume content is changing: 
My favorite new term is "snackable" content. Audiences prefer consuming in smaller bites. Increasingly, these bites are visual, with mini-videos especially popular.  Video is also getting more casual and less edited. Think of a recorded Skype conversation (see the above comment on social). The move to snackable is changing content delivery. The "content event" (spending four months coming up with a big launch of a big story) is declining and is shifting to dripping out small amounts of content on the subject over time.

"Native" media is hot:
 A big new trend is native media which is content in an online publication that is labeled as sponsored content (typically thought leadership) that really reads like part of the user experience. This is NOT an advertorial driven by a sponsor. Advertorials are too product-oriented and transactional. Instead, real journalists create the content on behalf of the sponsor. The real journalists are much more reader-focused and in-tune with the editorial voice and policies of the publication. Think of this as joint-venture communication.

Trends in ad-buying:
Real-time bidding for advertising inventory (versus monthly contracts) is the most revolutionary trend in the media industry since publications went online. Fast growing ad categories: selling ads based on audience behavioral context, search ads, newsfeed ads, mini-ads (like Facebook uses).

What we are learning about mobile: 
Smart money isn't thinking about whether it's mobile first or not. The key is user first.  Publications are using "responsive design" design it once and render differently for different screens – a trend made possible with HTML5. Across all kinds of advertising (not IDG specific) mobile ad revenue is still tiny – only 1% of all ad spending. However, mobile screen time is about 10.1% of all screen time.  Will this change? Maybe not. Mobile is driving a different use model.  Rather than being primarily an advertising screen, mobile is being used as an authentication point to offer other services.  Audiences have different expectations for mobile. They don't consider it to be as open and free as the web. They are more willing to pay for content and services. What is working for mobile monetization: promoted tweets, newsfeed ads; metered content (example, New York Times).