Marketer: master of your domain?

In 2015, an expected 87.9 billion consumer emails will be sent and received each day. Who said people are reading less? Maybe people are just so exhausted after reading emails all day that they want to go comatose in front of the T.V., and picking up a book or newspaper is as desirable as cleaning out an inbox after vacation.

Considering the colossal amount of emails we have to sort through, how are your messages going to be heard? Let me answer that rhetorical question: personalization.

In 2015, personalization, account based marketing, dynamic pages, and other tailoring methods have been top of mind for organizations seeking to improve the customer experience. What I’m seeing is that once organizations deploy technology to help create inefficiencies with respect to communicating, they’re missing a critical component. This is where the data comes in.

You have issues…

Speaking candidly, marketers have a data issue. That means that they’re not getting the maximum return on their marketing technology investments.

  • According to eMarketer, recent research from VB Insight showed that most companies are using only a small fraction of available data for personalization.
  • While some companies struggle with data collection, that’s not the problem for most. The overwhelming majority (96 percent according to the VB Insight study) cannot unify the data they have. Most companies, a full 60% according to research by Signal cited in the eMarketer article, can’t “personalize customer experiences the way they wanted to due to fragmented data/profiles.” That’s a big problem.

Why is this? Check out this video that helps explain why access to data has become a major hindrance on delivering personalized experiences.

Marketers: Are you the Master of your Data Management Domain?

Most likely, the data you have is spread across multiple systems and databases. Statistically speaking, your company is likely part of the 96 percent of companies mentioned above that have not unified these disconnected data sources into a single data layer. That implies that master data management (MDM), linking all data sources into a single source, is seen by most companies as being either too difficult and/or too expensive to achieve. The good news for you is that it’s not and it’s not.

Marketers need to integrate the platforms and applications they use to gain access to more and cleaner data. When integration is successful, campaigns are more personalized and the ROI can be effectively measured. Integration without strong data governance, and the bad data that can come of it, are marketers’ biggest obstacles to success.

The main objectives of the data-driven marketer (modern marketer) are to increase and measure campaign ROI. To achieve this, the best marketers will be focused on the following:

  • Connecting disconnected marketing applications to gain a complete view of their customer
    • This extends to social, advertising, mobile, content marketing, etc.
  • Integrating data and driving visibility across sales, marketing, and service.
  • Strengthening their partnership with IT to promote system governance and ongoing innovation
    • This is the convergence of the art and the science of marketing

To that last point, six out of ten marketers cite poor or inconsistent data quality, or lack of data, as their biggest challenge to producing personalized campaigns. Leading marketers are partnering with IT, the traditional leaders in governance, to establish a mature data governance strategy.

CMOs should partner with CIOs to tackle bad data. I understand that this is like asking the Mac guy to become friends with the PC guy, but it’s the best way to get clean, accurate data, enabling marketers to focus on the messaging strategy and creative campaigns.

For companies striving for clean data, taking steps toward establishing a data governance strategy will set the foundation for success. You don’t need to be a calculus whiz either. Here are some things to think about:

  • Constrain data input.
    • Sometimes less is more
  • Standardize what users can enter into CRM.
    • This will make segmentation a breeze
  • Integrate the right data, not the most data.
    • Bigger Data isn’t always better – quality over quantity
  • Pinpoint the desired outcome of a campaign and find the most relevant data sources to support it.
  • Reducing bad data is only half the battle. The other half is keeping it up-to-date. Trusted third-party data sources that consistently update customer information can reduce the manual burden on employees and limit errors.
    • Sure, you can pay a 3rd party to clean up your data, but what happens in a year from now when the data is dirty again? Wouldn’t it be great to have a tool that constantly cleanses, de-duplicates, and updates the data?

Some marketers were tricked into believing that a cloud CRM tool, designed 15 years ago, could be the engine that powered marketing personalization, but simple SFA tools aren’t enough to create personalized marketing interactions today. Unless you have a modern CRM tool that has robust data management capabilities, or a MDM solution, you, Mr. or Mrs. Marketer, are not the Master of your (Data Management) Domain.


Content Marketing: strike out, or homerun?

So, content marketing is a priority for your organization? Good for you; content is great, but are you putting the right content out there?

I finished reading The Challenger Customer on a flight yesterday. During that time I was in the air, I missed my son’s soccer game (5 years old). He only has a few more games before they shut down for the winter. After the last game, they give out trophies for showing up.

That stream of consciousness connected back to the focus in the book on content marketing (showing up) and the actual success of delivering the right content. We (adults) don’t play in the world where we get trophies for showing up.

To further illustrate that point, let’s change sports and jump ahead a couple of hours…when I checked into my hotel I was eating dinner and glancing up at the TV when I noticed an ex-Phillies pitcher (Philly is my hometown), Cole Hammels implode and hand a victory over to the Toronto Blue jays. No one cares that he had 7 great innings of pitching…he failed to deliver a win. That’s the world we adults live in. We don’t get trophies for showing up and giving effort. You either strike out, or hit a home run.

What does that have to do with content marketing?

Showing up and delivering good content is essentially striking out, unless you deliver the right content that moves your prospects from “that’s nice to know” to “wow…I need to do something now!” That should be the goal of content marketing; unless it drives a prospect to action, it’s not a grand slam…it’s a swing and a miss.

Content that isn’t action provoking is just extra noise in an already noisy landscape of marketing “content” collateral that argues that company X is better than company Y, or product “A” is superior to “C.” Maybe you’re right, but so what? Why should anyone do anything?

That is the real question that any marketing content should be answering: why do anything? Along those lines, content marketing should always answer these 3 questions:

  • Why do anything?
  • Why do anything NOW?
  • Why is (insert your name here) the right partner to help with those 2 questions above?

You should read the book yourself, but that is what I took away from The Challenger Customer as it relates to content marketing. Here is a link to learn more about becoming a “Challenger Marketer” (CEB Global Site)

Now, let’s get real…take a look at your content and see what meets the criteria of those three why questions above.

I’ll start…of my 30 posts on LI, about 25 should be deleted for failing to deliver (they are strike outs).

Determining the Social Media Payoff

With social media, collaboration is the key to success. Customers don’t care if the company representative works in marketing, accounts payable, public relations, or customer care; they only want the person to understand who they are and solve their problem. For social strategies to take root, barriers between departments need to fall and different groups must work in a cooperative and cohesive manner. For social to succeed, it is all about serving the customer. Such thinking is hard to nurture in organizations where historically performance was measured strictly in dollars and cents and departments were often pitted against one another.

The process also requires that companies make significant investments in these tools. At General Motors, 500 employees engage with customers across 400 social media channels, from Twitter and Facebook to specialist forums for motoring enthusiasts. In the U.S. alone, GM operates 20 different Facebook pages. Corporate investments require an ROI. In select instances, the payback can be easily translated.

Here is a short video clip about how GM is leveraging social tools:

Unfortunately, most paybacks are unclear. The line from improved customer service to the quarterly profit-and-loss statement is more difficult to draw than traditional manufacturing-based ROI models. Businesses are not measuring how many widgets are sold or the cost of a plastic case. They are building relationships with customers. Rather than the cost of goods sold or the number of sales, businesses are trying to measure the quality of interactions and track customer emotions, new areas that are hard to quantify, and volatile. Progress is being made, though. For example, Oracle is using semantic based logic, or artificial intelligence to monitor how customers feel about their interactions. The system can differentiate between sad, which means disappointment in how the company responded, and frustrated, which may lead to anger. If a tool relies on Boolean logic, it misses the context of what’s being said; it’s simply matching keywords.

Where is the payoff?

It seems clear that happy consumers will buy from a company repeatedly, but when they will buy is often a mystery; the payback may not come for months or even years, and linking the eventual purchase back to a couple of positive social interactions seems impossible.

Social platforms are changing the ways companies interact with customers. To switch from reactive to proactive, businesses must not only revamp themselves but change how they measure success and failure. Those willing to change have seen successes, and as others follow, we’ll likely see a social media gold rush.

What can your business learn from a bar?

What can your business learn from a bar?

First, what is Bar Marco? Let’s start with the location; in a section of town where visitors are unlikely to discover, resides an establishment that portrays an old fashion gratitude and spirit of service, when the provider knew and understood the buyer, with sophistication of the modern era. If you’ve been to Pittsburgh in the last five years, you may have noticed that the city is now a blend between the blue-collar manufacturing legacy and a new revival of energetic luminaries. The contrast is stark, but the blend is symbiotic. In that same spirit of “blending,” Bar Marco has established itself as one of the premier cocktail bars in America, according to a recent Thrillist assessment (and me…an inexperienced one-time patron).

People (employees) are a company’s greatest asset…they are the prerequisite for the next most important asset: customers (also people)

Bar Marco has abolished tips and low hourly wages, opting for a revolutionary restaurant business practice of providing a salary to its workers, with healthcare and benefits. This is a reflection of the “energetic luminaries” residing in the Steel City, who challenge the status quo and seek out better ways of doing things. Further, they have a profit sharing model, so the employees are invested in the success of the business. Since Bar Marco’s business relies on satisfying customers, it’s logical that compensation would be tied to business performance, as opposed to tips. Why has it taken so long for people to figure this out? This philosophy pays homage to the once powerful Steel workers unions that stood up for workers’ rights and argued for fair compensation.

For more about the investment Bar Marco has made on its people: (click here)

Know your customer

As for satisfying customers, Bar Marco made a bold move in omitting a cocktail menu. Every drink is customized for the individual customer, based upon their preferences. When you sit at the bar, the friendly bartender asks you “what do you like?” From there, they customize a drink. If you ask what it’s called, they’ll ask what your name is and there’s your answer. Good luck replicating it, though! Think about the implications here: there isn’t a preset, one size fits all cocktail – it’s a personalized blend of your preferences.


Imagine if organizations took this same approach to understanding their customers? You’ve heard the buzzword “customer-centric,” but often times, it’s a meaningless catch phrase. Getting inside the mind of your customer is really the only way to be customer centric. While it might be a ridiculous notion to throw away a product list, the exercise would force you to focus on the customer’s needs, instead of trying to force something down their throat, in hopes that it satisfies their needs and desires.

Whether you enjoy spirits or not, you can appreciate the forward-thinking business practices of Bar Marco. More importantly, what can business learn from this revolutionary establishment?

CPQ: A need for speed

Have you aligned your sales process with the way customers are now buying?

Web enabled orders have been replacing the traditional customer order tools including fax, postal mail, and phone, and this trend is expected to grow over time.

  • Gartner has observed that companies automating the configure, price, and quote process view it as a strategic priority, and can expect to grow sales by 10 percent. Even a modest improvement in the perfect order rate can increase customer or partner satisfaction, increase repeat business, decrease expedites, and shrink quote-to-cash cycles. Not only are the results easy to track, but the benefits appeal to sales, marketing, finance, customer service, and most importantly, customers.

CPQ: A need for speed

Speed is no longer a competitive advantage…it’s table stakes. Consistent with the movement to the cloud, more and more companies are realizing the “need for speed.” Successful organizations still need to figure out how to automate growth and scale without adding manual processes. The more automated a business becomes, the more they can focus resources more strategically, and enable executives to manage by exception.

This concept is particularly important when it comes to issuing quotes and proposals, responding to customer requests, and putting together a deal. If you are building quotes manually, take a week to approve an order, or miss renewing (or ending) a contract, there’s no way you’ll keep up with the competition.

Companies must eliminate inefficiencies throughout the inquiry-to-order (ITO) process to remain agile and competitive in today’s economy, but before improvements can take place, they have to understand where the inefficiencies exist; in evaluating existing processes for improvement, consider the following potential objectives and value-based benefits of a streamlined sales process:

  • Sales representatives and distributors instantly generate quotes online in the field, without support from the sales and engineering teams.
  • Every quote is generated at least 50 percent faster and with 100 percent accuracy, and quotes are converted to orders with one click.
  • Orders are submitted online and flow “hands-off” from customers or channels to the enterprise system and production environment, with no intervention.
  • Quotation costs drop 20 to 70 percent, order entry costs drop 50 to 80 percent, and fulfillment cycle times improve at least 50 percent.
  • More than 80 percent of customer service inquiries are resolved quickly through self-service over the web.
  • Up to 75 percent of printing and distribution costs for catalogs, technical bulletins, and price sheets are eliminated.

A streamlined sales process begins with the salesperson, distributor, or customers themselves selecting the best product fit, configuring the total solution, and generating an accurate price quote. Technology can be used to automatically generate a detailed proposal, with little work from the salesperson. The sales data should seamlessly feed into the order and fulfillment system, and ultimately into a reporting system for visibility across the organization.

What you do not measure, you cannot improve.

Managing process improvements can be frustrating for suppliers of complex products or services, as well as for companies with large, complex sales and distribution channels, but any inefficiency at the front end of the business process, during the sales and quoting cycle, has a direct impact on the customer experience and can resonate across the entire organization, affecting quality, customer service levels, profit margins, and profitability.

Understanding how information systems support the value stream is critical, because the limitations of the current systems often cause substantial waste, duplicate data entry, redundant work steps, and so on.

The most Significant KPIs of a successful ITO transformation include the following:

  • Reduced lead and cycle times: With a single cohesive system, sales personnel, distributors, and value-added resellers can quickly create consistent, accurate, and cost-effective proposals, complete with supporting documentation and graphics, and accurate pricing. By granting 24/7 access and providing complete guided selling information, companies can reduce ITO cycle times by 50 to 100 percent and eliminate one to four days from the order-to-shipment cycle.
  • Mistake-proof quoting and pricing: With the configuration logic, pricing rules, and workflow, quote and order errors can be eliminated. This can result in 100 percent clean orders and the elimination of 80 to 90 percent of credit memos caused by pricing errors.
  • Faster customer response time: With all required data, including historical order information, available via a web – based portal, sales personnel can respond to customer queries in seconds or minutes, rather than hours or days.
  • Higher fulfillment rates: Technology-enabled automation results in quoting efficiency and fast order processing—from order to production—leading to higher throughput of finished goods.
  • Margin improvements: Standardizing, automating, and synchronizing front-end processes can reduce selling, general, and administrative expenses by 10 to 20 percent. This typically reduces operating costs by 1 to 5 percent of revenue and boosts operating profit by 30 to 50 percent. Margin improvements are typically achieved through faster and more accurate quote generation, automated order entry with no errors, decreased need for sales engineering support, and fewer demands on customer service resources.
  • Revenue growth: Automating quote follow-up and improving quote management through accurate real-time reports can increase quote conversion (hit rates) by several percent. Improved price control, up-sell, and cross-sell capabilities can increase average order value by 10 percent.

Sales optimization is a process of continuous improvement; optimizing operations across the enterprise, including critical customer-facing sales processes, makes good business sense in both the short and long term.

Challenged to increase earnings in difficult economic times, companies cannot rely on the market alone to drive growth. Many businesses are turning to mergers and acquisitions, global outsourcing, and penetration into high-growth global markets such as China and Eastern Europe. Depending on a company’s size and market position, these growth strategies can be costly and their outcome uncertain. Optimizing and streamlining the sales process, however, presents a more cost-effective, less risky opportunity to drive out bottom-line costs and pave the way for organic top-line growth.

Here is a link to read the full white-paper, “Aligning Your Sales Process to Increase Speed, Accuracy, and Revenue.”

Social Fuels the Marketing Automation Bus

Social Media is the gas for your marketing automation vehicle.

Think of marketing automation like a bus. Potential customers get on and start a journey with your brand. The riders know where they want to go, but if the experience doesn’t meet their expectations, they can pull the chord and get out at any time…the ride is over.

In this scenario, think of social media is the gasoline. It fuels the bus so it can keep moving along, picking up additional passengers.

Like a bus, marketing automation can get your leads from point “A” (interest) to point “B” (purchase intent). The main objective for marketing automation is to nurture leads until the point when they are ready to talk to a salesperson. Marketers call this a MQL, or marketing qualified lead, but really it’s just a person who thinks they might need something from you. When marketers see the buying signals, they move those people through the funnel, but in order for automation to succeed, it’s important that the right messages go out at the right moments in time.

At its most basic level, a marketing automation tool needs leads to be useful; as mentioned, it’s like gasoline for a vehicle. Without passengers, a bus is useless. Social media is one of the best ways to acquire new leads; when used in tandem with marketing automation, social media efforts help you reach new prospects so you can add more leads into the marketing automation platform.

Social media allows companies to slowly build relationships of trust and authority, while keeping your brand name in front of customers so they are aware of what you have to offer. The more information you have about your leads, the easier it is to segment, nurture and score them. Connecting through social media is an excellent way to collect data on customers that can be useful not only for optimizing your automation efforts but also for building lead-specific profiles that will eventually enable your sales team to close.

True success here depends on closing the feedback loop. To gain the insights you need for optimizing both lead generation and the nurturing process, it is essential that your social dashboard and automation tools share information with each other. As an example, when you integrate a social relationship management platform with Oracle Marketing Cloud, the leading marketing automation platform, it’s easy to see what’s happening across all channels.

This level of integration allows marketers to know which messages on which social channel were of most interest to which prospects, the exact pages they viewed on your website, which emails they paid the most attention to, and the specific downloadable materials that they saved.

This type of integration allows marketers to automatically assign social engagement data to user-specific records. It provides detailed information such as which social network first brought in each lead and even which campaign and post created the lead. This data can then be used to determine which email message to send to the prospective customer. At later stages in the conversion funnel, the activity logs stay with the lead’s records, so it’s possible to nurture the relationship and remarket to prospects with maximized relevance.

A game-changing benefit of sharing data between your social media marketing dashboard and your marketing automation platform is access to the big picture of what’s happening at all stages of the sales funnel. Which social media channels are bringing in the most leads and/or the leads with the highest conversion rates? What types of posts and messages attract your newer audience members or encourage dormant ones to take action? What are the most successful combinations of social media engagement and email automation when it comes to driving sales in general and especially lucrative sales specifically? If you can’t answer these questions, then you’re not leveraging your marketing data.

When you segment your audience according to metrics such as page visits, clicked links, demographics, profession, referral source, or social media channel, you can then send personalized messages that hit the right spot.

Words of caution:

Automation can be dangerous. Keep in mind that social media works best when there are real people, with genuine intentions and quality content, behind every profile, tweet and tag. Further, automated messages need to be personal and relevant, or else you’ll do more harm than good.

Sell me something good…

When was the last time someone rang your doorbell and tried to sell you something? For me, it was last night around dinner time.

Being in sales, I’m fascinated to see others “pitch.” I’m not sure why everyone else likes Sharktank so much, but I watch it, just to see people pitch their ideas. I’m obsessed with the art and science of selling.

As mentioned, yesterday someone rang my doorbell and tried to sell me a service for insect control. I have limited time with my wife and kids, so if someone is going to take away that time, it better be for a good reason, so I gave the guy a few minutes to see if he had anything valuable to offer.

Here’s how the pitch went:

  • he was in the area and they had trucks coming out tomorrow to service my neighbors
  • he wanted to know if I would be home tomorrow, so they could treat my house
  • the standard price was $150, but just for me, he was going to offer $99 (since they were in the neighborhood)

No matter what I said, he kept going back to the first two points, following a script. Even after I told him that pest control wasn’t a priority for me and that I’d rather spend the money on other things, he kept going for the close “you said you’d be home tomorrow, what time can we come by?” This really bothered me, because I was trying to guide him down a path: pest control wasn’t a priority for me. Why should I care about spiders and ants sneaking into my house? I was inviting him to educate me on the dangers of insect infestations, but that didn’t happen.

The guy was nice and I appreciated the fact that he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, but he represented everything that is wrong with sales “professionals” today. Instead of selling first, he needed to educate me on why it’s important to kill all the pests (insects) around my house.

Anyone else have stories to share about a door to door salesperson who didn’t quite get it?