Most organizations have started planning marketing budgets for 2019 by now. The focus of this post is to review five items that you should consider in next year’s plan. I have been involved in enterprise software marketing for over 20 years and am amazed at how things have changed. To begin, I would like to share two stories that illustrate how software marketing and sales have changed in 2018.
The first is an article published by Don Welch the CISO at Penn State University. The article is titled Open Letter to Vendors. To summarize the article Don says:
- Don’t bother with emails
- Don’t cold call me
- Don’t send me junk through delivery services
- Publish white papers, and don’t require me to register just so that you can annoy me later. I listen and read when I get the chance
- Have a booth or presentation at a conference
- I know I’m difficult to deal with, but I could spend 1-2 hours a day reading/replying to vendor e-mails and listening/replying to vendor calls. That is not a good use of my time. When I’m ready, I’ll listen.
- Make sure your booth staff know what they are talking about, or can bring me to someone who does. Attractive young people don’t impress me; people who can explain your technology do.
The second story involves a consulting client of mine. A few years ago I was hired to help build out a go to market plan for a new service. It was basically an online platform that allowed companies to anonymously engage with prospective vendors. A company could list its requirements, vendors could respond, and they could enter into a dialogue about the problem and solution without revealing who the prospective buyer was. At the end of the process the buyer could reveal their identity and solicit a formal proposal. Once we had solidified the concept of this offering we held a focus group meeting with forty CIOs in the Atlanta area (my client was extremely well connected). To a person, each CIO derided the state of technology sales. Any time they expressed a modicum of interest in a topic they were inundated by vendors and sales reps. Giving an email address in exchange for a piece of web content was a nightmare for them. More than half of the CIOs in the room that day admitted to using throw away email addresses just to avoid having to deal with the inevitable deluge of contacts from vendors. For various reasons my client decided not to move forward with the project, but the memory of those 40 CIOs complaining about software sales people stuck in my head.
In this post I will discuss and scope the budget impact of five key items that should be addressed in your 2019 budget. I am assuming a marketing team of ten and a sales team of forty people. Most organizations will have some of these topics already covered; others should seriously consider expanding their budgets to address them. The five topics include:
- Customer Relationship Management solutions ($15,000-$150,000/year)
- Content Development ($5,000-$50,000/year)
- Marketing Automation ($25,000-$50,000/year)
- AdWords and SEO ($5,000 – $50,000/year)
- Win/Loss Analysis Project ($8,000-$20,000)
Most organizations have some type of CRM solution in place today. CRM solutions are a basic necessity for sales and marketing teams. CRM solutions help you manage contacts, accounts, sales opportunities, task management, forecasts, reporting, etc. While SalesForce dominates the marketplace, after them there are a number of alternatives chasing them. A few alternatives to consider include NetSuite CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sage CRM, Oracle Siebel, SAP CRM, and Sugar CRM. Consider Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for CRM providers:
The most common benefits associated with CRM include:
- Increase in win rate (improvement in percentage of opportunities converted to sales)
- Increase in lead rate conversion (increase number of leads converted to sales opportunities)
- Improvement in sales productivity (improvement in amount of time spent in productive sales activities
CRM suites are typically priced on a per seat/month basis, paid annually in advance. Costs can range from $5/seat/month up to $300/seat/month for SalesForce’s ultra premium offering. Most implementations are going to require some training and customization support which can range from $5,000 to $50,000. For my mythical 50 person sales and marketing team assume $50/seat/month plus $15,000 in training and customization would yield about $45,000 in year one costs.
In 2018 we all have to admit that the technology sales process has fundamentally changed. When I started in software sales in the 1990s I was the king of the six legged sales call. I would hit the road with an account executive, a presales consultant, and a professional services consultant. We would fly to a city and then hit as many prospects and customers as we could schedule. Extravagant lunches and dinners were the norm. In those days, the account executive was the gatekeeper to information about our solutions, pricing, and value equations. Customers had to engage with sales representatives to effectively learn about our solutions,
In 2018 the six legged sales prospecting call is dead having been replaced by sales development reps. According to Gartner Group “Buyers spend only 32% of their journey interacting with supplier-side content or sales people. Two thirds of the buyer’s journey is devoted to internal assessments, peer networking, and the recommendations of external experts.” As the following chart indicates sales people are considered to be the least influential with buyers in comparison to technical experts, service and support personnel, or industry experts:
The best way for your reps to articulate value is to help them share customer stories. 70% of these executive buyers, for example, felt that “customer stories and case studies are the best way that providers can communicate differentiation that I trust”
Content – articles, blog posts, surveys, ROI calculators, implementation guidelines and customer stories are the gasoline that fuels the engine of technology sales in 2018. Where does your company stand in regards to content? Do you have dozens if not hundreds of pieces of relevant content that you can share with prospective buyers at each stage of their buying journey? Most organizations have some but not nearly enough content to fuel today’s technology sales engine.
The good news is that you can readily close this gap. Your organization has a lot of people that are full of stories that can contribute to your content database. Customer support personnel, presales consultants, professional services consultants and even developers have deep insights into the problems your customers have and how your solutions can address them. You should consider launching a content development program where you pay a small bounty ($50) for each piece of content that is created. You do not have to expect that a customer support rep or a presales consultant can produce a picture perfect piece of content. Instead they can work with your product marketing team to develop and polish a specific piece of content. In terms of customer success stories may large customers have policies that limit them in regards to endorsing a vendor’s solution. You can take the customer’s experience and generalize it. You get the benefits of their experience but lose the big name endorsement. A good piece of content can be used for years.
Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as email campaigns, social media, landing pages, other website actions, and analytics. Integration with your CRM is critical and pretty much a standard feature of most Marketing Automation suites. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier. Consider Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Lead Management:
Marketing Automation is used to build interest and leads for your solution through a number of tactics like email campaigns, website landing pages, website chatbots and chat capabilities. It is simply a base requirement for contemporary software companies. Marketing Automation offers a number of benefits. If you are interested, check out the ROI calculators of some of the leading vendors:
- SalesForce: https://www.salesforce.com/form/app-cloud/roi-calc.jsp
- Hubspot: https://www.hubspot.com/roi-calculator
- Act-On: https://www.act-on.com/learn/free-tools/economic-impact-calculator/
- Pardot: http://www.pardot.com/roi-calculator
- InfusionSoft: http://www.pardot.com/roi-calculator
- SharpSpring: https://sharpspring.com/alternatives/
An important feature of most marketing automation solutions is anonymous website visitor tracking. Tools like Google Analytics do a great job reporting on website activity basics. Tools like SalesForce Pardot, and Marketo all offer extended analytics for tracking website visitors. Via cookies they attempt to connect a specific visitor with records in your CRM. When successful, you can see how a visitor moves through your website content on their buying journey. Specific visitor actions can then trigger preplanned marketing automation tasks. For example if a visitor first checks out features, then on a later visit checks out customer success stories, and on a another visit drills deeply into pricing pages that could trigger an email offering a personalized demo of your solution via an email or a chat box popup. This type of anonymous tracking is critical since as Gartner noted buyers are spending 70% of their time not engaging with sales people directly.
Internet search is by far the most common discovery method prospective buyers use to learn about products and services. Google clearly dominates global search as shown in the following table from statcounter Global Stats:
Google Keyword advertising is simply a necessary evil in today’s market. Unless you have some killer SEO optimized content, the odds of your web properties showing up in the first two pages of a Google search are practically nil. Try a simple experiment, pick two sets of keywords that are associated with your firm’s solutions, plug them into Google, and see what pops up. I did a simple search for retail POS systems. On the first page, I saw seven ads:
- 10 Best Retail POS System 2018 | Improve Store Operations
- #1 Retail POS | The Best Retail POS | LightspeedHQ.com
- 10 Best Retail Point of Sale | Compare Top Point of Sale
- Fast & Efficient Retail POS | Easy To learn, Easy To Teach
- Retail POS Software | Single System For Your Company
- Springboard POS Solutions | For Retailers by Retailers
- The Affordable iPad POS System | For Starting a Retail Business
For five years my wife and I ran a small neighborhood liquor store. It was interesting to note that the two POS systems we used were nowhere to be found. They did not show up until page 8 and 9 of the Google search. The costs for Google search can be truly mindboggling. Another client of mine recently expanded their services into a new market. When they researched Cost Per Click (CPC) on Google they found that some competitors were paying $65/click.
Keyword advertising is a necessary evil, especially if you are not the top tier vendor in your marketplace. Google lets you control your daily ad spend and the maximum you will pay for specific keywords. You can use a tool like semrush to get an idea of search volumes and CPC costs.
You should invest some money in search engine optimization and keyword advertising. Even a small investment of $5,000 – $10,000 can yield significant results. If nothing else you will develop a much better understanding of the search marketplace and where you and your competitors stand in it. You should leverage your existing content wherever possible and try and get a page one search result. For almost ten years one of my blog posts entitled How to Calculate the Enterprise Value of Private Companies was featured as the number 1 or number 2 result in Google search. I lost that ranking a few years ago, but it shows that through solid targeting you can receive good organic search results. If I can do it, certainly you can too.
Win/Loss Analysis projects are used to determine why your firm wins or loses specific deals. Win/Loss projects are considered a ‘nice to have’ budget item, but history has shown they provide significant value. In these projects a neutral third party conducts interviews with customers and prospects to determine why they chose your company or a competitor’s solution in a particular deal. Ideally 20 to 40 firms are interviewed. The topics covered in the interviews focus on your core messages, value equations, and proof points. The results are often surprising. As marketers you are often surprised to learn how the sales team has been delivering your messages. Sales leaders are also surprised by how customers and prospects actually believe the messages the marketing team has developed.
A typical project consists of the following phases:
|Kickoff||All of the preparatory work required to ensure the success of the project is performed. This includes determining the project’s objectives, scope, roles & responsibilities, deliverables, and schedule|
|Information Gathering||In the second phase of the project information and deliverables needed for the project are assembled. This includes a messaging platform inventory (messages, value equations, proof points), interview question list, list of targeted customers and prospects, participant recruitment communications, etc.|
|Recruit Study Participants||In this phase prospective participants are contacted either by the sales people involved in the original deal or by email. Often an incentive, like a $50 prepaid Visa card is used to incent customers/prospects to participate in the study. A formal schedule for the interviews is developed.|
|Conduct Interviews||In this phase interviews, usually by a neutral third party, are conducted. Transcripts of each call are also made.|
|Analyze Interview Results||In this phase the results of the interviews are tabulated and analyzed a formal project report is developed.|
|Review Report Findings||In the last step of the project a formal debriefing is held with the appropriate members of the marketing, sales, and other key team members. Action items and next steps are identified to apply what was learned.|
If you are interested in learning more about Win/Loss Analysis projects check out the Win/Loss Agency. In the spirit of full disclosure I am a board advisor to the firm and heartily recommend their services.