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Helpful Practical Advice for B2B E-mail Marketers: Note the Out of Office Replies

Interesting tidbit from WSJ this morning on B2B marketing:

Pay attention to out of office replies- they may contain useful information on contacts and other stakeholders in decision making process.  One B2B marketer points out that this technique accounts for 6% of his new business.

Same article has some stats on the “typical” business email box (created by Radicati Group).  It points to the fact that nearly 20% emails are spam. No clear definition of what spam is in this study, but my guess is that if you include all opt-in mail lists, this percentage is much, much higher.

Implications for marketers revolve around building meaningful and relevant content and being able to track and monitor what is relevant to your audience.  It also highlights the importance of branding, which I have blogged about here.

Link to WSJ article is here.

Enterprise Selling is Like Dating, so Shower Before You Go

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

You’ve done your homework on the prospect- checked them out on Linked in, looked at their Facebook profile, checked out what they have had to say on Twitter, maybe even confirmed that they are not on a predator database.  Now you are ready to meet.  After all of this effort to find the perfect mate, would you not want to look your best before you go?

Pretty basic right?  And yet I am continually shocked by how poorly many B2B firms approach the initial sales meeting.   Over the past 6 months, I have had exposure to half a dozen firms (primarily SaaS companies) who finally get to their first meeting and then create questions about competence, trust, and capability based on what and how they present.

Whether it is the quality of the pitch materials, quality of the demo, or knowledge of the personnel involved on the call I have seen lots of failure points that severely hamper a selling organization’s ability to build an ongoing dialogue with a customer.

Specifically, here is a sampling what I am talking about:

  • Presentations- Why do so many people insist on sticking with slides they have prepared for a pitch? If the slides are not facilitating productive conversation with your client, ditch them.
  • Unrehearsed demos- Why should you ever have problems doing a demo?   Presenters should know the capabilities and potential failure points of their applications inside and out.  If they don’t, you’ve got the wrong people.
  • Webex technology failures- You would think that people know how to create back up plans for this type of contingency.  I have seen it happen more that I care to mention and have seen how clients react to this most basic failure.  Have a contingency plan.
  • Mismatch of skills/knowledge- I have seen situations where customers are more knowledgeable about technologies/processes than those on the sales team.  Make the extra call/email to get a sense for who will be in the room and what they will be interested in and bring the folks on your team who can address the issues.  Don’t save follow up for another meeting- you might not get it.

I originally hesitated on writing this post for fear of restating the obvious, but the last demo I participated on was too much for me to bear.  Too many people wasting time and money out there!

Implications- If you are a sales or marketing leader, routinely involve yourself in that first customer contact from time to time and ensure that your firm is putting its best foot forward.  Have you recently checked to make sure the basics are covered?  Consider all the investment that has gone into getting just the opportunity to talk to that one prospect.  Start off creating your perfect match with the right impression and for heaven sake, clean up before you go!

Enterprise Selling- Not Just for the Salesperson Anymore

April 16, 2011 2 comments

Great thinking from Sameer Patel on Saleforce.com acquisition of Radian6 and discussion of implications for Customer Experience Management (CEM).

Most relevant points/learning for me in the article that resonate with my own experience in selling enterprise solutions:

  • Customers now come informed before they are ready to buy
  • This is pushing a shift in marketing which requires involvement of entire organizations, not just sales/marketing (marketing fluff won’t cut it with these educated prospects).  Note: just because this is needed doesn’t necessarily mean that this is what the selling organizations are offering
  •  This is in turn driving increased need for all parts of the organization (not just sales) to be listening and engaged in the discussion with customers- and where social networking tools can provide additional value
  • The combination of Radian6/Salesforce.com provides an opportunity to begin to manage and mine these interactions, but it has a ways to do this before the vision is realized

One hole in the “stack” that Patel points out in the combined offering is the ability to generate leads.  He coyly suggests Marketo/Hubspot as solutions for this, but my question here is how effectively an application can do this.  In my view applications help manage the lead generation process, not execute it. If anyone has experience in the effectiveness of these tools or has come across resources which point to the success of these tools, I’d welcome your thoughts and input.

Link to the article here:

http://bit.ly/f9aSIT

While Others Argue on Ownership of Facebook, Let’s Figure Out if We Can Sell on It

April 13, 2011 3 comments

 

WSJ article summarizes findings of a Forrester study that suggests that few businesses are having success with commerce on Facebook.

  • Email and paid search are more effective at acquiring and retaining customers
  • Generating awareness of commerce on Facebook requires investment (people need to be aware of your fan page)
  • Appears to be fallback mechanism for businesses that do not have a website/web-commerce capabilities

In sum, people go to Facebook to socialize, not shop.    Something to consider when crafting your business’ social media strategy.

Link to article:

http://on.wsj.com/gkJLhj

 

Network Based Selling- Can it shorten the enterprise selling cycle?

Long sales cycles. How many of those of us who have sold enterprise software before have had to deal with this problem?  To be sure it’s a challenge that many IT companies face when peddling their wares to clients (and a big challenge for startups that want to sell to enterprise http://wp.me/p1hDJ1-1A).  But is it something we as business development professionals just accept and live with?  Should we all just crawl back into our respective caves and hibernate until our clients thaw out? After all, what influence could we possibly have on how fast an organization can move?

Over the years I have been developing some thoughts on this based on the experience of the companies that I have worked for and advised, and I believe that in fact there are ways for companies to influence faster decisions, open new market segments and raise awareness by thinking beyond their core customers and looking to the various constituents in their respective supply and distribution chains to provide value.  It’s a concept that I am calling “network based selling” which I try and describe in more detail below.

I came across this concept while serving on the board of a company that sold compliance solutions for the insurance industry.  Due to the regulatory morass that is the nightmare of the insurance industry, there was this massively complicated paper-based process that involved insurance companies, regulatory bodies and the independent and captive agents that sold insurance policies to end customers.  The company I served was formed to take these processes to the digital age.  It began by creating a platform for state governments then moved to manage licensing processes with agents, then moved to serve insurance companies.

What is interesting in this case was the momentum and selling inertia that this company was able to gain with the most intractable customers (can it get any slower in IT than government and insurance companies?) because of the fact that it had strong penetration within constituents in the insurance regulatory/distribution chain.  Agents liked the company because it had a fairly seamless way to deal with regulators in each state.  Insurance companies liked having access to multiple states and thousands of agents.  As we bulked up the number of agents and insurance companies we served, we got more attention from state regulators.

The important point here is this.  You can accelerate the speed and ease with which companies make decisions about your solutions if you engage other constituents in your client’s ecosystem.  Think carefully about your prospective customers’ upstream and downstream constituents- their customers- their suppliers.  Is there anything that your company or your solution can do to provide these entities with value?  Do these constituents represent potentially new markets for growth?  Because if you do build traction in these markets that comprise the “network” of your core clients constituents, you’ll be sure to garner more attention and likely deliver more value for the companies you seek to serve.

I’ll blog more about this concept of “network-based selling” and provide more examples of companies who do this effectively.  I’ll also present some ideas on how/where I think this concept can be used more effectively ( e.g., Enterprise Purchase to Pay industry), but my point here is to introduce the topic to my blog and return to it with future posts, examples and content.

Happy selling (in shorter cycles).

HubSpot: Innovator in B2B Marketing

March 24, 2011 1 comment

Was recently introduced to a company that is leading the charge in driving the efficiency of B2B marketing called HubSpot.   HubSpot makes a platform for SMBs to manage content, campaigns, leads and conversion across all of the social media channels.  There’s lots to like about this company, but a couple of things stand out:  1) the way that they are on the cutting edge of using social media for their own marketing and (check out how their lead in terms of twitter followers vs. other top B2B SW firms- http://b.qr.ae/igVyJM ) and 2) the content that they provide on their own site.

If you are a business that sells to other businesses, this is a company worth watching.

Erasing the Stigma of Enterprise Software

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I read an interesting article last night (thanks to @JHaughwout) reporting that Andreessen Horowitz (Silicon Valley VC) is bulking up its capabilities in enterprise computing and solutions.  There were a couple of great points made in the piece:

1) many VCs have shied away from investments in enterprise solutions because

  • Sales cycles are long
  • IT purchasers are a difficult sell (are a pain)
  • The companies they fund compete with industry stalwarts such as IBM

2) there is a great divide between the quality and usability of B2C software and that of B2B solutions

Why is the elegance we find in consumer applications so blatantly missing on the enterprise side?  As the author of the article points out, our experience at home increasingly raises the bar for those who want to play in the enterprise side.  People will demand solutions at work that are as functional as those they use at home.  Companies who get this will not only be highly differentiated, but  will be able to bring a new set of evangelists and advocates for their solutions.

We believe that this “consumerization” of the enterprise space is a very important trend.  It is driven by the proliferation of Saas models, infrastructure on demand, outsourcing and increasingly efficient marketing and distribution methods.  Its why you will see more content from us on successful tactics used in B2C social media and how these can be applied to the B2B/enterprise world.

Through my experience with small enterprise software companies I have lived through the painful truth of the points above, but currents in the competitive structure of the enterprise software space that suggest that they may not be the status quo for long.

Link to the article:

http://read.bi/eyjCM8

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