Engaging Sales – An Action Plan for Increasing User Adoption of Sales Tools

You’ve spent time and money building a comprehensive marketing plan, buying fancy tools and implementing them you even bought the sales tools that go with your marketing automation platform, now what? You turn them on and run right? Not quite. Unless you have less than five sales people and they are all very very deeply involved in your marketing organization, chances are they have no idea what you invested in or why it isn’t just another shiny object for them.

Sure you can go to the Marketo or Eloqua websites and pull screenshots galore and PDF documents that extoll the virtues of the various tools you now own but Joe Salesguy may not be all that interested in reading all of those. Let’s be realistic, you wouldn’t send emails to your marketing universe that were less than relevant so why pass out generic stuff to your sales team and hope they will read it and find value? While it might sound like a lot of work to build a plan and execute isn’t it worthwhile? You bought into the Sales Insight or Discover tool-set because it was supposed to empower sales, so let’s really empower them. Here’s how:

1. Build a buzz. Prior to launch pick a small subset of your sales users for a pilot. You will want to get some of your more engaged, willing to experiment sales folks. With this you are doing two things, first you are making sure these tools work for your teams but second, and most important you are creating an internal case study. *If you’ve already launched then go fishing for some case studies, we all know how powerful they can be in a sales cycle, think of this as your own internal sale!

2. Set up in-person training time. At launch time plan to have a few in person workshops at different times (and if need be locations) so that you can connect with the sales users, explain the tools, gauge the reactions and then assist them in set up and use of the tools. Be ready to have some sample contacts/leads for them to test sending emails to, test following and watching the buying signals in the tools you have built.

3. Don’t set it and forget it. Build internal resources to support adoption of the tools, everything from an internal email nurture program to a webpage with resources, FAQ docs and samples will go a long way towards helping your users after training. These documents are definitely not one time use, make sure that the team who trains new sales users is involved so that they can leverage these going forward.

4. Reach out in multiple formats. You don’t send one-dimensional campaigns to your prospects so don’t do it here either! Engage your users with video, blog posts, emails and any other format you think might help them.

5. Track use. After you have gone through all of this you need to track the usage of the tools, listen for case studies of success with the tools (socialize those case studies!) and make sure the tools continue to be used. These tools cost money, make sure you are able to show some return on the investment.

How are you socializing your sales tools with the sales teams? How do you measure user engagement and what is “success” for your company? These are crucial questions to keep your eyes on as you roll out new software for your teams.

Data Governance – another byline in organizational alignment

As Marketers we have quickly become the holding place for so much data, from who we view as our Total Marketable Universe (both companies and people) to who we communicate with  to what those people care about.  The volume is not trivial nor is the care and maintenance of this information, however few companies have a true process and policy for the care of their marketing data.  

As we clamor for more and more data (purchase history, invoice information, etc.) we need to establish and maintain data governance policies, not just for compliance and legal reasons but also as another way to enhance the relationship between Marketing and the other departments inside of an organization.  Marketing and Sales must be aligned on what data is coming from what systems, who can fill it in and where the expectation for supplying information comes from.  Marketing and  Accounting need a good working relationship to ensure that marketers can really understand who a “customer” is and can maintain a loop between the systems to flag these people for the appropriate marketing based on their place in the customer lifecycle. IT and Marketing need a deep relationship to ensure that systems are in compliance with both internal security standards and, where needed, external compliance standards that the company is subject to.   To this end, here is a step-by-step guide to establishing a data governance policy.

  1. Create a cross-departmental committee for data governance.  Bring together representation from each group that holds major data and be prepared to explain why you (as Marketing) want and need to share information with this team.
  2. Understand who uses the system and what their goals are.  Everyone from the end-user who accesses the CRM to the Marketing Manager designing Campaigns to the Customer Service Representative who takes support calls should be considered in this process.  Understand who touches the data and at what points as well as what they need to get out of the systems.
  3. Determine what the system of record is.  If your Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) is the system of record then link all of your other data sets to it, or, if you need to maintain a few systems define the use cases.  For example, the ERP system might be the system of record when it comes to determining who a “customer” is but your MAP might be the gold standard with regards to prospects and the pre-sales process.
  4. Assess the health of your current database.  Once you understand what systems should be the standard for your various processes, establish a baseline assessment of the completeness, quality and correctness of the records in these tools.
  5. Understand what your deficiencies are; after you have established a baseline map out where you have gaps to fill and then create an action plan for fulfilling them.
  6. Fill in the gaps.  Pretty self-explainatory 🙂
  7. Build technological process to prevent lapses.  This may take the form of integration between your systems or data washing machines in an external database or even data append programs in your CRM or MAP tools, whatever it is create a process that does not require daily monitoring.  You should be able to build it, review it periodically and let it run.
  8. Build business process and reporting for exceptions.  Knowing what your problems were before you filled in the gaps and what key pieces of data are necessary for the users in each system build out exception repots that can be checked on a regular basis and reviewed for necessary corrections.
  9. Dashboards to review health at a glance, set yourself up for success by creating monitoring dashboards that show (at a very high-level) whether or not your tools are maintaining your systems as you expect them to.

How far along is your company on the path to a realistic data management policy?

don’t go blindly forward

Lately I have been hearing a lot of people talk about ways they are using blind forms.  I think this tool has either just come to light for many marketers or it is enjoying some kind of resurgence.  So, for the uninitiated, what are Blind Forms? Blind forms are a mechanism that allows an email click to translated automatically as if the recipient hit “submit” on behalf of the recipient (they are identified by their email address). Blind forms allow a known contact to be send directly to an asset/landing page/etc. without requiring data entry but still allows the same processing steps behind the scenes (such as the sending of a confirmation email or thank you email).  Sounds powerful, right? Well they are, here is a small list of the benefits:

  • It directly ties clicking a specific url inside an email to the submission of a form within your automation platform
  • It mirrors existing form actions (i.e. if you have a form submission trigger the sending of an email or adding someone to a different campaign a blind form can achieve the same end)
  • It appends campaign response to a contact record

So, what is a good use of a Blind Form?

  • Sharing knowledge with existing customers
  • Moving late-sales stage deals through the pipeline with additional nurturing

Conversely, what is not a good use of a Blind Form?

  • Sending to 3rd Parties Lists/Vendor
  • Any program with potential reach outside of your known audience (known meaning, email addresses that currently exist in your Eloqua database)
  • Opt-In campaigns (this would not only be very inappropriate but also is likely outside legal compliance

There are some caveats to the use of Blind Forms.  They are only applicable in scenarios where a URL is driving from an email to a single asset or landing page. They cannot be used to monitor traffic/clicking inside of landing pages or between landing pages.  Additionally, using Blind Forms is likely to break the way that out of the box reports in your Automation platform work.  Be prepared to do your own, custom reporting on Blind Forms if you plan to use them.  You should also be cautious about how you leverage them if your lead scoring programs are simple in that they score “form submit” vs. submission of specific forms.  While Blind Forms are an immensely powerful tool they also come with a big flashing yellow caution light because you need to consider a lot before you forage ahead in using them.

Do you have a creative use for Blind Forms that I haven’t mentioned?

send, resend, repurpose. all the same, right?

You’ve got some great tools in place, you can see who has opened your email, you can see who hasn’t and now you want to get all those people who haven’t engaged with you yet to open it so why not send it again?  Seems harmless enough, in fact it sounds like a great way to “repurpose” your content, here comes the bad news…it’s not.  In fact, it can do you more harm than good.

Now you’re either angry or confused, that’s ok, let’s walk through this.  The way that the neat little tracking bits work in your email marketing technology or marketing automation platforms is that it embeds a hidden image in the email, when that image is downloaded it registers as an “open” with the tool you are using.  So let’s say the person receiving your email is using Outlook or Gmail a Mobile Device or some other email client that turns off images by default, meaning you get an email that looks like this:

imagesturnedoff

instead of this:

imagesturnedon

What does this mean in terms of your tracking? Well it means it doesn’t register until (or unless) someone turns on the images or downloads them.  Now, let’s just presume that some portion (maybe 1-2%) of your tracking doesn’t register a true open, is it really fair to send those people the same message twice in a quick enough period of time that they will remember? So you get crafty (or so you think) and you send the same message but with a different subject line, is that really fair either?  Again you are running the risk of sending the message again and inviting someone to unsubscribe (at best) or report your message as spam (at worst).  Neither unsubscribe or spam complaint is a pretty picture.  How about an alternative, how about a true reuse of the content.  If someone did not engage with your message via email, why not try a different mechanism for reaching them, maybe the subject line itself could use some work.

The answer to non-engagement is not to resend until someone happens to open it, the answer is to understand the preferences of your audience. Is a specific type of content better (webinar vs. white paper, etc.) or is a specific channel of communication more popular (live chat, email, social, etc.).  The key to understanding the real problem is not to resend your email, the key is to understand how your audience communicates and to tailor your plan accordingly.

test me, i dare you

Remember how excited you were about testing sitting around the conference table?  Yea I know, now it’s real work but a little elbow grease will yield good, actionable results so stick it out.

At this point you have a good feel for what your assumptions are…will the blue CTA win out?  Will the text-only email perform better than an image-heavy version? Take bets and make some guesses.  The only way to find out is to let it go then sit back and wait.  Here comes the least popular thing you can tell a marketer…one test doesn’t give you all the answers.  You want to drive results right?  This is all about conversions and what does best so you have to know whether or not you have significant results.  No, it’s not as simple as saying email A got an 8% open rate and email B got a 9% open rate so BOOM email B worked!  It’s a little more than that.  Some marketers are lucky enough to work with statisticians on staff, but that’s a rarity.  So how do you decide something is significant?  Math of course (scary, I know).    In textbook terms you need to run significance testing.  Good news, there are calculators online for that!  Bad news, you still have to know things to be able to use them effectively.  So before I point you to the calculator here’s what you need to know:

Low Confidence Level is defined as being in the range of 90-95% while High Confidence Levels are defined as 95-99%+. If you plan to conduct multiple tests or have low traffic, go with the Low level. If you have high traffic or “significant business value flowing” through the page, go with the High Confidence level.How do I know this you ask?  Because I love to read and I spent some time reading a great book on Landing Page Optimization.  It’s a well written book for those who want lots of detail on Landing Page optimization, definitely recommend it, however for your “Cliff Notes” version of testing all you need to know is whether you are going with Low or High confidence.   The place to use this new found knowledge?  Well this handy calculator of course!
So what happens if you are testing email and run the results through the calculator, and GASP! your results aren’t significant??  Run your test again!  No, I don’t mean email the same people with the same stuff all over again…not unless you want to make your audience angry.  What I mean is develop a new email that tests the same hypothesis and send it to the same folks again. Don’t be afraid to retest your assumptions and even known results over time.  Your audience changes and so do the things that cause them to react, so don’t be afraid to revisit old tests to see how things change.
What if you aren’t testing email, what if you’re building a fabulous landing page and need to do some testing there, how do you determine significance if you don’t have fancy schmancy software to help you out? Well you can read all about it here on this great post by Hubspot where they even have a handy spreadsheet to use in calculations.

easy as a…b…multivariate?

The scene: a small conference room full of marketers, the problem, one of them wants to “test” things.  Everyone smiles, nods, knows it needs to happen and then walks away happy no real plan in place and no idea what the plan should even be.   Where do you go from here and what do you do with it all?

Start off by adopting a framework for testing and a methodology.  This is a step all too often skipped.  Think back to the days of elementary school science fairs…scientific method anyone?

  • Formulate a question – What are you testing?
  • Develop a hypothesis – Which if the items being tested will be well received?
  • Predict the results – Make some assumptions
  • Perform your test – Do work!
  • Analyze the results – Measure, measure, measure

First, decide what kind of test you are going to do, here are a few options for you:

A/B or Split testing: This involves two versions of the same thing (be it a web page, email, asset, etc.), the plan is to divert half of your test subjects to one version of the asset and half to the other.  In this scenario you make a single change in the two versions, variations could be as simple as changing the color of something, placement of a call to action, font being used, day of the week an emails is sent, the possibilities are endless.

Multivariate testing:  The process that allows testing of multiple variations in the same test.  In a mutivariate scenario you make many different changes in an attempt to find the biggest impact the fastest across your experiment.

The important thing to know here, if you are doing mutivariate testing on a landing page/web property you will need substantial traffic to find real answers.

Next, set up your test.  Depending on what tools you are using you can go crazy at this stage.  If you are running web tests there are literally tons of great software tools available to test with from Google’s own testing tools available through Google Analytics to KISSMetrics to Optimizely or even native apps inside Marketing Automation Platforms.  If you are running an email test you might need to build out some programming inside your automation platform but at this stage in the game you have to put all the pieces together inside the technology.

Where do you go from here?  Wait and see..that’s up next.

How well do you really generate leads?

I am in a transitional phase right now, moving from one agency to another.  It’s exciting and fun but also has caused me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished with my current clients and where there is room for growth still (for me and them).  One of the topics that comes back to me over and over again is Lead Generation, when I first got into B2B marketing this phrase was the term, everyone was a Lead Generation expert, every agency and vendor did “lead generation” and therefore could make you better at it too.   My issue isn’t so much that I feel it’s a buzzword (it is) or with what it is intended to mean but more so what it doesn’t actually meant.  For every success story out in the marketplace of a company who is doing all of the right things there are four or five quietly sitting on the sidelines wishing they could join the ranks of modern marketing.

A recent study by B2B “2013 Lead Generation: Optimum Techniques for Managing Lead Generation Campaigns” bares testimony to the same sentiments, according to the study 55% of marketers only think of their lead generation efforts are average and that the means by which they measure their success remains relatively unsophisticated, 76% say their definition of a lead is a prospect asking for contact.    What happened to lead scoring?  What happened to nurturing your contacts through the buying cycle and speaking to their needs at the time it matters most?  Is it unattainable to believe in these ideals or is it just to hard to align sales to the idea of quality over quantity?

I know it has fallen out of favor to talk about marketing and sales alignment but that is the heart of the problem.  Understanding how leads are managed by sales, expectations of velocity through sales stages and the messaging sales uses to bring home the deal will help marketers better understand how their story helps drive the process home.  Having a unified definition of a lead is a great starting point.  Does sales really feel like any working email address that gets submitted when someone wants to read a whitepaper is an indication someone is ready to buy?  Not likely, now I am sure there are a few choice whitepapers that sales feels are stronger than others (hint hint: score those higher) but in general it is likely that they view a person reading a single asset as only moderately interesting.  Why not leverage the expensive and powerful automation technologies to hand them prioritized leads instead of just leads, or better yet the all important “hot” lead.  Gathering sales leaders and marketing leaders together to create a portrait of the idea lead can start the conversation towards a more aligned team and a more productive lead scoring model.

Start simple, the key to not being part of the 55% of marketers who feel like their efforts are “average” is aligning with your sales team.