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Core Issues for Companies that Sell Through the Channel

July 07, 2011

There are core challenges common to all companies that sell through two tier distribution. While there are many, the four below are some of the toughest to overcome.

Scalable and Effective Management of a Partner Network
It is very difficult to recruit, develop and maintain a good relationship with a large partner network. Technology is a must to cost-effectively get your partners the tools necessary to sell, service and support your products. Automation and on demand access to resources are key to scalability and cost-effective management.

Developing a Relationship with End Users
If you sell through the channel, it is very difficult to find out who your customers are. This gets more difficult as products move down the cost and complexity curve (think mainframes vs. mice). However, you must find a way to develop a relationship to effectively up-sell, resell and retain these customers. Moreover, you have to do this in a way that supports and complements the relationship the partner has with the end user. If not, you risk losing partners and many future customers in the process.

Staying Top of Mind with Partners
Partners rarely, if ever, build a business around a single product. How do you find ways to keep your solutions top of mind with your partner network? If you are a large company, you can probably spend your way out of this problem. If you are not, you need to get much more creative. Having effective communication with partners, motivating them with spiffs and providing better sales tools keeps your company and products on their preferred recommendation list.

Preventing Channel Conflict 
It is critical when working with partners that you develop processes to prevent or at least minimize channel conflict. Conflict can exist between partners or between different segments of partners like VARs, OEMs and direct marketers. It can also exist where your company has both a partner network and a direct sales team.

Have you experienced any of these core issues in your channel organization, and how have you dealt with them? What are some of your other core issues in selling through the channel?


Really, Who Are They?

June 29, 2011

Persona Building in Modern Marketing

 One of the basic things any marketer should do when they come into an organization is understand who your customers are and who your prospects should be. If you don’t, you spin your wheels working off of assumptions. The sad truth is that while many marketers understand the concept of creating personas, few have done the work beyond creating a mental picture of their buyers. That’s dangerous. Making assumptions about terminology your buyers use, their technology savviness, demographics or—more importantly—their buying motivations can disconnect you from them. 

You can’t market effectively to buyers if you don’t

  1. Define who they are from a demographic , cultural and professional perspective
  2. Know what issues they are facing at each stage in the buying process 
    (i.e. awareness, consideration, decision)
  3. What their role is in the company’s buying process
  4. How they measure success 

What’s just as important here is the concept of making that persona information part of your shared corporate knowledge. Being disconnected from your own company when it comes to who your buyers are is a recipe for marketing failure if there ever was one.

So where do you start? The following are tips for creating personas:

Internal Research
A logical place to start for most marketers is interviewing salespeople. That’s great. Also include support managers and executives. You’ll find some disconnects right off the bat. Document the most important personas, keeping it to a manageable list to whom you can market given your resources.

Sitting in on Conversations
Refine those initial personas by sitting in on sales and support calls. Also go out on sales calls if possible, targeting individuals that meet different persona criteria. You can’t capture issues effectively if all you do is hear them second hand.

Keyword Monitoring
Touchy feely work should always be followed up with hard data. Look at natural keywords that are bringing people to your website and those of your competitors. Look at those same keywords in the context of social media conversations. Do the parties involved match your personas? Record the language around issues and at what point in the buying process a keyword is used. Also look in your customer relationship management (CRM) database for people that match your personas and check out which issues are being brought up at specific points in the buying cycle.

Behavioral Data
It takes many, many touches to make a B2B sale. Though Web analytics and marketing automation you can identify what content is resonating when with buyers that match your personas. Sometimes gaps and lost sales by persona speak volumes about not addressing persona needs. Ideally, you’ll get some good information here about issues that buyers face at different stages.

While we’ve talked about the how above, we haven’t talked about the who, what, when and why. Ideally, throughout all your research, you should be identifying who buys products when, their role, timing for when they buy and what the process looks like, along with key prospect demographics. You need to understand who they are, how they operate, how best to reach them, and—most importantly—what words and ideas to use when in the course of communicating with them. This is where persona building starts feeding effective messaging. After you create your personas, you can validate them through sources like collateral feedback, surveys and research calls. 

These tips are a starting point for creating personas in an age of better marketing tools and data. Where else can you draw information from to create your personas?


Tips for Becoming a Successful Channel Marketer

June 24, 2011

What is the responsibility of a channel marketer?  The simple answer is that they are responsible for the success of partners in selling their company’s products.  With many companies, the competitive positioning and clear rationale behind why someone should choose the products over other options has already been handled by product marketers. Therefore, channel marketers don’t need to concern themselves with positioning and unique selling points, but simply with the success of partners using current resources.

Communication and Resources are Key
Channel marketers and executives should focus on building both programs and tools that help partners communicate the product line’s benefits to customers. That is where the money is.  Because partners have so many different options when it comes to who they work with, those that help them sell more typically win their loyalty.

A good partner portal or partner relationship management (PRM) system allows channel marketers to provide a library of tools that partners can utilize.  Co-branded datasheets, email templates, prepackaged promotions, co-branded sales presentations and competitive pitches are some simple resources that channel marketers and executives can provide in order to help partners sell.  The ability to request assistance for seminars, webinars or event recruitment is an additional resource that enables partner success.  Beyond online, portal-driven communication and requests, a hot line to a deal desk allows partners to get assistance with closing deals—as part of a deal registration system—making partner lives much easier.

If your company does not have a library of tools designed to help partners sell, build one.  If you have one, then taking partners through your resource library during on-site visits and showing them how they can use it will help them to better sell your products.  With this approach, you not only communicate your products strengths, you make it easy for your partner to do so as well. This will lead to more sales and instill partner loyalty as a result.

Simplifying successful of channel marketing down to a single blog post doesn’t do the complexity of the issue justice.  However, scalable communication and the creation of accessible resources are key in creating partner loyalty—and therefore—partner and channel marketing success.

What have you seen work? How important is partner loyalty in your industry?


Keyword Research 101 - Learning to Talk the Talk

June 16, 2011

Guest post by Chris Frank, Marketing Director, TreeHouse Interactive

For marketers, one of the most important tasks when you come into a company is getting your footing quickly and “talking the talk.” What I mean by that is the ability to talk credibly about your industry and products. You want to connect with your target audiences out of the gate.

Unfortunately, most companies haven’t done the basics here and give their new marketer a double dose of executive bias and industry buzzwords. The best advice I can give marketers that go fresh into a company is to do your own homework. Nothing makes your marketing ineffective faster than blindly trusting what has gone before—especially if it didn’t work.

So how do you immerse yourself in the talk? It takes knowing about some important tools and techniques for identifying keywords, validating their use and creating your own core list as a result. By the way, this is also essential baseline work if you’re starting up a company and want to be sure your messaging is on track from the start.

Below is the rough step-by-step process I use for talking the talk. I don’t claim this to be the end all way to do this, just my technique in abbreviated form.

Brainstorm Your Keywords
You need a place to start. Viewing your product or service from a “what does it do” or functional level should give you 20+ keywords to work with. Then look at competitor sites. What keywords are they using in their metatags? Add them to your list. Also check sites like SpyFu and SEMRush. You’ll find out what keywords competitors are putting paid ads on and get a broader keyword picture. Another place to look is in analyst and consultant articles for your industry. Pay attention to headlines and topic sentences in particular. Gather up all these keywords in one spreadsheet and get ready to really dive in.

Find The Right Keywords To Focus On
This is where the fun begins. In this step you want to narrow down your keywords and then validate the right ones. While many corporate marketers will turn their nose up at affiliate marketer tools, I use one called Adword Analyzer to find untapped related keywords to find potential traffic on all keywords and get some insight into what the paid ad competition is like on them. So your list may expand a bit here first before you pare it down. Experiment with tools. There are many of them.

Look at high traffic words first. Which ones do you absolutely need to be found through when someone searches? Can you eliminate any that are competitor specific? You will find some you thought would be great, but have little to no traffic? Now you can whittle your list down to about 20 and then test.

Get Your Hands Dirty
Testing here means a lot of listening before you’re sure you have the right terms for talking the talk. An easy way to do this is to monitor their use in social media. When you use Twitter search, you can get the RSS feed for any results. This is raw information on who is using these keyword terms in what conversations. Subscribe to this feed with Google Reader, and it makes it easy to see all validation information in one place. How many mentions are you seeing for each keyword? What posts are being discussed around these keywords? Is it the type of discussion your company should be mentioned in? Also look at top search results for your list of keywords. Should your company be in those results or not? Modify your list—adding and taking away from it—until you’re comfortable with 10-20.

What This Research Is And Isn’t
It’s important to understand that this keyword research isn’t messaging. It’s a baseline for connecting effectively with customers and prospects. It will fuel on-track messaging, SEO/SEM, persona building, elevator pitches and unique selling positions later—which is really the next step in what to do with this research. What you’ll find if you do this work is that the words come easy when producing marketing deliverables instead of going through constant revision because it’s not quite right.

Thoughts? What have you found to help with keyword research?

In the Weeds – Landing Page Tips

August 20, 2010

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Looking at the big picture is a good thing. It’s what helps marketers make sense of the work in front of them, their results and what they want to do from a strategic standpoint. But if you aren’t willing and able to roll up your sleeves, take out the scythe and cut through some weeds every once in a while, no birds-eye view will actually get you to your destination. This post is deep in the weeds… It’s about helping you improve campaign landing pages.

You may create landing pages for a lot of different things—email campaigns, pay-per-click campaigns, events, etc. They all involve the basic notion of capturing prospect data. Some marketers do it a lot better than others. Recently, I’ve seen a large technology company convert less than 1% of pay-per-click traffic to a landing page. This is far from ideal because you always pay for traffic to landing pages, whether directly or indirectly.

Below are some tips for improving landing page conversion. They are not exhaustive, but cover what I consider to be most important in conversion after you have solidified a good reason for people to fill out your form.

  • Tip 1: Affinity
    Here I’m talking about the inherent resemblance between all your campaign elements. If the pay-per-click words you are bidding on aren’t in your ad copy, and that ad isn’t reinforced in the landing page that follows, you have issues. The copy, branding and promise you make are all part of campaign affinity. This means the tone, look and what prospects are getting should not change as they travel between campaign elements. If they do, you will lose them. This may seem simple, but I’ve seen marketer after marketer have 300+ keywords that are tied to an unrelated ad, that leads to a landing page, which has nothing to do with what they just clicked on.
Why does this happen? Simple: Marketers get lazy. Make sure the 1-to-1 relationships work between all your campaign elements—from email or ad, to landing page, to thank you page, to follow-up. If the relationships aren’t there, don’t cut corners. Your results and how prospects perceive your company are at stake.
  • Tip 2: Perspective
    Okay, this is a brief, but important point. Marketing is not your English class. Copy from first and third person perspectives have their place, but my belief is you are much better off addressing the prospect directly (2nd person) if you want them to convert. Why? In marketing you have a small amount of time to capture attention and make your offer relevant. “What’s-in-it-for-me” is a concept you should embrace in your campaigns for relevancy and if you want more leads. The fastest way to do this on a copy level without sounding cheesy or downright boring is to quickly change from authoritative 3rd person to 2nd person. See the first paragraph of this post. Did it work? Do your benefit bullets on your landing pages look more like a laundry list of features? You have to connect with people, and you can’t do that if you separate yourself from them with language.
  • Tip 3: Layout and Graphics
    Typical B2B landing pages have a headline, intro copy, bullet points of benefits, a hero image, form, and call to action. You may have more or less depending on what you are marketing. Because this is an area where content differs greatly, I’ll give some general tips:

    • Try placing the hero or main image of what the prospect is getting in a more prominent position—further up the page and possibly in the header. You always want it “above the fold” or visible without having to scroll down the page. Images with people in them engage and draw prospects in, your dull white paper cover on its own likely will not.

    • Placement for your call to action, which includes a button, is important too. And whatever you do, this should not be a “submit” or “register” button if you can help it. Make it related to your promise. For example: “Download Whitepaper” or “Reserve Your Spot.” Experiment with different colors, shapes and sizes for the button too.

    • Use different background colors and graphic treatments behind bullet lists and forms to make them pop. Bullet lists on landing pages should include the value proposition for downloading/registering and should stand out.

    • Use fewer fields. You can’t expect someone to give you that much information unless you’re literally paying them. If the gate is perceived as being locked, your prospect will find somewhere else to go. Once in your database, you should be progressively profiling them as you move them from campaign to campaign. You don’t need their blood type up front. 

    • Links can be a huge issue. If there are links to webpages or content from your landing page that are not directly related to the conversion, remove them. You are bleeding traffic. On the other hand, you should be adding social media sharing links. Make it easy for prospects to connect you with other prospects.
  • Tip 4: Technology
    The biggest obstacle for marketers in creating good landing pages is time. They’re usually an afterthought. That’s why I’d suggest building landing pages first and emails second. You should also be automating landing page creation. This means using form creation technology that is tied into email capabilities and a centralized marketing database. Demand generation systems are very good at this and offer a lot of extras that help you create more sophisticated campaigns. If you are stuck going through an IT department for creating forms or hand coding these forms with limited resources, you will never execute fast enough. Demand generation technology helps you create the forms quickly, set behaviors like how long the form will be active, and then automates what happens with the information that’s submitted (alerts, leads sent to a CRM system, nurturing communication launched, etc.).
  • Tip 5: Follow-up
    Follow-up is the bane of many a marketer’s existence. This should include both testing and evaluation. Ideally, if you automate, you can test creative landing page treatments to random subsets of your larger audience. Play with the size of the call-to-action button, change that headline, swap out the hero image, change the copy. If it is an important campaign that will have any kind of shelf life, you should be testing. Technology can make this very easy, as well as evaluation. Constantly monitor traffic, conversion percentages, referral sources and the breakdown of how prospects are answering questions. This will help you modify the next campaign and target the right people.

Those are just a few ideas on how to improve conversion on your landing pages. What have you seen that works?

Things That Shouldn’t Happen With your Marketing Automation System

June 11, 2010

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Some experts estimate that marketing automation and lead management system usage is still in its infancy (link). I’ve seen estimates as low as 5% penetration and as high as 20%. But I would venture to say that many of the companies that step up to use these systems don’t really know how to use them effectively or have the wrong one in place for their company’s needs.

And that’s not the marketer’s fault necessarily. The demand generation and marketing automation space is very, very crowded. There is also a lot of what I would call “pie in the sky” ideas around marketing automation principles and much less in the way of practical advice.

Focusing more on the practical, here are some things I’ve found shouldn’t happen with a new marketing automation system, but often do because marketers overlook them or don’t think to ask the right questions when shopping around:

Getting Leads to Sales Teams Too Slowly
Demand generation and marketing automation systems integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce CRM and Oracle CRM On Demand differently. What many marketers don’t realize when researching is that some send leads over immediately while others send them in batches or not at all if the integration isn’t built. It doesn’t do any good to qualify leads if you can’t get them into salespeople’s hands at the right time.

In a study by Leads360 of 20 million Internet-generated leads, they found that those called within 60 seconds had a 391% better conversion rate. These conversion rates dropped to just 17% above average at the 24-hour mark. Most of the conventional wisdom in this area suggests that leads go cold after 15 minutes. Thus, you should be able to pass leads in real-time to your salespeople regardless of the CRM system you use. This goes for passing leads to partners in a timely manner as well.

People and Data Living in Silos
A lot of marketing teams have the attitude that once they hand leads to their sales team, they’re done. They provide the obligatory fields for contact and expect sales to take care of them once they hit the CRM system. For sales teams, providing marketing feedback on campaigns is low on the priority list.  For some, these attitudes are born out of habit and not recognizing that technology has changed—and so too should processes.  Today’s best-in-class marketing automation allows for real-time communication between sales and marketing teams. 

Here’s an example: When a lead is distributed to a salesperson or CRM system, the CRM system should allow for automated feedback on the quality of that lead.  Moreover, your marketing automation and demand generation technology should automatically tag the lead to the right campaign so you get return on investment (ROI) reporting. This enables salespeople to focus on the sale. News flash: Sales executives are NOT going to associate their closed business to the right campaign manually, even if it ultimately benefits them in the end to do so. 

In terms of focusing on the sale, salespeople should also be able to see a complete history of marketing interaction within the lead record in their CRM system. This includes behavioral things like email opens, link clicks, webinars attended, downloads off your website, etc. This gives a sales executive the context they need to make the best call they can make with a given prospect. 

Finally, you should be able to support nurturing within the sales process regardless of whether it’s based on sales qualification or explicit nurturing that salespeople kick off from the CRM system (but is executed out of the marketing automation system). It’s about supporting the sales process and revenue goals, not just lead numbers.

Insufficient Ability to Target
Many marketers are used to sending blanket emails to a prospect base. They often continue that practice in marketing automation and demand generation systems unless it can accommodate additional data collection. You shouldn’t have to call your vendor to add a field to email or pay-per-click landing pages, event registrations, surveys, etc. Non-programmers should be able to set up the collection of any data, be able to associate it to contact records automatically as it comes into the database and then turnaround and target based on that information. The same goes for importing lists with additional columns of data outside normal contact fields.

The point here is that demand generation and marketing automation systems should be a central place for targeting data. Without that, you might as well be using a standard email blaster. You want to be able to collect any pertinent prospect information and then use it to target when sending one-off emails or entire nurturing campaigns. Incidentally, if you have your CRM system and marketing automation system talking, all standard and custom fields in your lead and contact records within your CRM system should be available for targeting. You should not be manually exporting lists from your CRM systems and importing them to your marketing automation or demand generation system. This is a complete waste of time I’ve unfortunately seen many marketers go through because they either have the wrong system or don’t have their current system set up correctly.

Spend five minutes on the Marketing Sherpa site and you will find case after case of improved open rates, numbers of leads, and conversions for micro-targeted campaigns. Ultimately, the ability to bring detailed prospect information into your marketing database is what allows this to happen.

Outsourcing Everything
One of the most ironic things I’ve seen when marketers adopt a marketing automation system is that they begin outsourcing all their campaigns. Many times this is an unfortunate byproduct of implementing a system that only a consultant knows how to use. It can be an unexpected and frustrating consequence of not doing enough research. Understanding the basics of setting up and sending an email, creating a landing page, and producing automated actions shouldn’t take more than a day. If training is a several week process or the vendor/consultant won’t get their hands dirty to help you launch the first couple, then there’s a real issue. Marketing automation and demand generation should empower marketing teams regardless of size and level of experience if you’ve done the work to educate yourself.

Isn’t the point of implementing a marketing automation system to improve internal processes and capabilities, as well as ramp up marketing execution? Depending on an external team for all campaign execution is a sure way to slow productivity to a crawl. While I think you have to prepare yourself by learning all you can about lead nurturing and demand generation before you implement a system, the technology shouldn’t get in the way of execution.

Because the marketing automation and demand generation space is so crowded, I’d suggest you focus on how your sales and marketing teams operate now, where you want to take them, and how whatever system you choose will provide real value. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. The points above are by no means exhaustive—they are just a starting point.

What things have you found in your research that are important when looking for a marketing automation solution? What do you wish you would have known before signing on with a vendor?

Oracle Acquires Assets of Market2Lead - Lessons Learned

June 01, 2010

Oracle Acquires Assets of Market2Lead

First, viewing this move as anything other than assets picked up at a fire sale would be a mistake. If this acquisition were strategic, it would have to have obvious benefits for Oracle. It would have also warranted more than a 4-sentence press release with no press follow-up:

Second, Market2Lead (M2L) is not integrated with CRM On Demand (SFDC Competitor) or any other Oracle platform out of the box. There are several leading MAP (marketing automation platform) vendors that already are.

Third, as far as I am aware, M2L never had its own email facility (my sources say they used Exact Target), so any issues with this facility in Siebel Marketing, which has been described as not “matching up” against the leaders in this space (, will remain or they have to pay Exact Target to fix them.

Fourth, M2L is widely regarded as very difficult to use. As they bled cash in the waning hours of their existence, how many of the good engineers stuck around? Without them, the work that will need to be done to address this issue and the integration of with Oracle offerings will take longer. Thus, there is likely a long wait for Oracle users or current M2L customers to see improvement in this area.

Finally, it is obvious this purchase wasn’t executed for sales. If M2L was competitive, profitable or had a top-notch customer list, this would have been a purchase, not an asset sale. Thus, no help on this front either.
This is a good example of what over investing has done to the MAP market. The top companies in this space (revenue wise, not features) have taken obscene amounts of cash and not made a profit or made very little. Thus, to acquire one, it is going to take a lot of money to satisfy initial investors. In the end, however, a potential purchaser of an over funded start up is essentially buying a cost burden that has proven it cannot scale profitably. So the only prudent thing about Oracle’s approach is the fact that they didn’t over pay. They likely bought garbage, but they paid what it was worth by buying the assets at a fire sale rather than buying the company. There ultimately could be a nugget of code that makes this purchase worthwhile at a bargain basement price, but that is the extent of it.

The folks that really get stuck here are the customers, and I think there is a lesson to be learned: Don’t confuse revenue and funding with success. Now these customers have the expense and pain of having to switch platforms or stay with a dying one. The time and money to acquire new technology will be significant. Moreover, contact histories, nurturing actions and other critical marketing data will be lost forever in the process.

Selecting a demand generation, marketing automation, CRM or other vendor for any key piece of business infrastructure can be daunting. Unfortunately, buyers are neglecting to ask about the stability of the company during this process. Profitability and sustainability matter. Revenue without profit equals an unsustainable business model, especially for companies that have been around a while. Make sure the vendor you choose can demonstrate to you that they aren’t only as stable as their next funding round and that they have profit to sustain them in addition to reference accounts and analyst opinions. The acquisition of M2L assets by Oracle is a good example of what can happen when this important step is skipped.

Keys To Successful Deal Registration Programs

April 21, 2010

This month’s blog post is in response to a huge amount of inquiries I received relative to deal registration and how to implement it successfully.  Later this month, our TreeHouse webinar series will follow up with a piece on successful lead distribution programs, so stay tuned.

To do any piece on deal registration justice, one needs to first understand why companies implement it in the first place.  Below is a bulleted list of some of the most common reasons companies implement deal registration.  Most of these are self explanatory and most revolve around closing more business, increasing visibility to partner pipelines and/or preventing channel conflict.  A subsequent motivation is to automate the workflow around Special Pricing Authorization (SPA) approvals.

· Win more business!

· Visibility into partner pipelines

· Assist partners to close more deals

· Prevent channel conflict

· Allow partners to compete better

· Automate approval workflow

· Automate SPA (Special Pricing Authorization) request process

· Forecast SPA dollars

Partners will give manufacturers visibility into their pipelines but need to be motivated to do so. From having worked with many companies to help develop deal registration programs, what is often missing from their thinking in the early stages is remembering there needs to be something in it for the partner as well.   While cash is still king, there are non-monetary incentives like exclusivity and closing assistance that can be equally motivating to the right type of partners.

· Increased margin

· Incentive dollars

· Commissions

· Better ability to compete

· Deal exclusivity

· Prevent conflict

· Assistance with closing

· Move up to next tier of program

· Access to MDF/Co-op/Rebate dollars

· Training access

Recommended Approach


So how do you go about setting up a deal registration program that will work?  There are three steps.


First, get your internal house in order.  Make sure everyone is on board.  Make sure the processes for receiving, approving and rewarding deal registrations are clear and approved by those that need to approve them.  Processes for special pricing authorizations (SPA’s) should be in place.  Finally, the processes and policies for managing channel conflict should be clear to all should more than one partner register the same deal or should a partner and a direct sales team member be found chasing the same opportunity.   If you work with distributors and are going to offer special pricing or discounts for deal registrations, make sure you have worked out a system to rebate the partner or distributor in advance.  If you need the distributor to do something special for these kinds of opportunities (good luck here) get it setup in advance.

Below is a list of some of the departments/organizations that typically should be involved from the beginning.

· Direct Sales

· Channel Sales Managers

· Inside Sales

· Finance

· Operations

· Distributors

Second, make your program clear to your partners.  If your program is housed in a partner portal I highly recommend a program overview page.  On this page you should clearly detail the rules of engagement involved with your deal registration program. Are there deal size restrictions?  Are there national or government accounts that are off limits?  Are all products available for deal registration? How often does a partner need to update their deal registrations to keep them from expiring?  (For more on the expiry concept please see the webinar link below.)

Once you have laid out all the rules, make sure you clearly illustrate all the benefits to partners for providing you with deal registrations.  Are they going to receive commissions, increased margins, exclusivity or closing assistance? 

Third, make sure your deal registration is integrated into your PRM and CRM system.  I know this sounds self serving coming from a PRM vendor.  But think about it. How are you going to check to see if a deal has already been registered without a CRM/PRM database?  If you have 5-10 partners you might be able to manage deals on a spreadsheet, but what are you going to do with 50, 100 or 1,000 partners?  How are you going to forecast these deals if you don’t have a tool that can look at the deals in your funnel and weigh them accordingly?

Finally, stick with your policy with respect to channel conflict when what I call, the “moment of truth” arrives.    Once your deal registration system is implemented conflict is inevitable. Conflict existed without registration and removing it is a goal of many registration programs.  Two partners will attempt to register the same deal or a direct sales team member and a channel partner will attempt to work the same opportunity.  While it is tempting to give the deal to your favorite partner vs. the one who registered it first, or equally tempting to give the deal to your internal team vs. a partner that might have brought the deal to you first, Don’t!  Partners talk, especially with today’s availability of social media networks.  Once you get the reputation for poaching or playing favorites, good partners will leave you.

Good deal registration programs are valuable channel assets.  If you take the right steps up front you can realize that value quickly.  If you would like to see a more detailed version of this post, please feel free to download our webinar on this subject at here.

Marketing Challenges in 2010

January 12, 2010

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Marketing CMOs and VPs have some very unique challenges in 2010. The marketing processes and tools for influencing the buying cycle have changed rapidly and will continue to change. This necessitates being educated not only in new marketing methods, but staying up to date with new marketing automation technology. The end goal really, for any CMO or marketing VP, is to provide real, measurable results. I would argue that these results are becoming less about up front metrics like open rates and number of leads to being more about revenue contribution. To address this you really need to look at the buying cycle and adjust how you communicate in the awareness, consideration and decision buying phases, as well as examine how you’re enabling all resources in your organization to better close business.

The Rise of Inbound Marketing
The concept of using social media, search engine optimization and blogs together in driving early awareness stage traffic is still a fairly new one. Marketers over 2010 will get much savvier about doing this, however. Beyond the basic tactics for using each tool, there are going to be innovations in marketing automation that will help marketers better manage their efforts, measure results and target prospects.

On an execution level, we will see marketing automation vendors including ways to manage downloadable content that powers meaningful inbound marketing efforts. This includes the ability to control the “gate” or absence thereof for accessing content and then measuring interaction on an aggregate and individual level. This, when combined with other behavioral insights, will drive better targeting and lead nurturing, which leads to more revenue.

These behavioral insights will not necessarily be tied to those that have interacted with you in the past either. There is reverse IP lookup, normalization and contact query technology that will help identify more inbound traffic on a non-personal level and give marketers in their marketing automation systems new ways to expand their database and increase the number of people in their pipeline.

Cohesive Communication
Of the marketers that I talk to in the industry that are not on the consultant side, many are still struggling to escape from being reactionary to being more proactive. It is a huge shift for marketing teams to make, but a very important one to use marketing automation technology correctly. I see teams that make the shift being better able to compete on a campaign-by-campaign level, better satisfy sales team needs and ultimately being able to drive more pipeline opportunities. A funny thing happens when you start planning out communication—it actually happens, it addresses buying cycle gaps and it becomes more effective because it’s cohesive.

To this end we will see marketing automation solutions continue to become better at incorporating communication methods beyond standard email. Here I’m talking primarily about social media and mobile. In marketing automation solutions we will see new ways to monitor these channels, as well as new ways to support or even have it be the primary communication method. We will also see continued convergence here. Landing page and email sharing on social media sites with URL shortening is an example of this. We will see this and other integrations refined in 2010. The upshot of all this is that you will be better able to connect with people via their chosen method of communication with the type of content they need at their particular spot in the buying cycle… So consistent, but progressive messages delivered through your marketing automation system that address individual needs.

Getting Along
One of the biggest benefits of using a marketing automation solution is that it has the potential to put sales and marketing teams on the same page. The ability to define what a lead really is and then use your marketing automation system to qualify, nurture and pass along those leads is a basic benefit. In 2010 there will be many integrations between marketing automation and CRM systems that will change how teams work together to close business.

One thing that we’ve seen already is some intelligence passed on marketing history both on an aggregate and detail level. This information, put at the salesperson’s fingertips, can make a consistent difference in the depth and types of conversations that happen. Knowing what emails a lead has opened, what links they’ve clicked on and what upcoming nurturing they have scheduled can be very powerful. This type of lead intelligence will increase over 2010. On the flip side, we will see information flowing from other systems to the marketing automation system too. This will improve the marketer’s ability to automatically calculate campaign ROI regardless of sales model—combining the information in a dashboard that includes all campaign metrics.

More importantly, we will see some bi-directional integration between CRM and marketing automation systems that extends a company’s ability to address individual nurturing needs and smooth internal processes. So whether a marketing team needs to know if a lead is accepted, a company needs to automate communication based on contact qualities or sales teams need to initiate nurturing for leads that have fallen out of the buying process, new technology will address this. We should also see enough flexibility here that sales and marketing teams can define these points together and use marketing automation system logic to plug the holes in both internal operations and sales processes.

To get tips on setting up marketing automation and demand generation processes for your company, download the "6 Steps to Building a Successful Demand Generation Program" quick guide.

Best Practices for Integrating Social Media into Outbound Marketing Campaigns

October 06, 2009

According to BtoB and the Association of National Advertisers, 66% of marketers have started using social media. They’ve figured out that the inbound marketing capabilities of social media are important and started using it—ideally to drive more awareness phase traffic to company expertise and perspectives that are important to the buying process. Even given this ideal use, many marketers don’t leverage social media fully. What many don’t realize is that social media and outbound marketing are not silos. By leveraging company, team member, customer, and prospect social media profiles in outbound marketing, you can significantly increase campaign reach and realize new blood in your database that you can begin marketing to. These are additional benefits of social media that come from going beyond typical use.

So just how do you go about integrating social media and outbound marketing efforts? Below are a few best practices we’ve found in working with our customers.

Best Practice #1: Add social media links to the headers or footers of email and landing pages

These links are not to your social media profiles. Many marketers incorrectly link back to their inbound marketing efforts.  This may increase awareness to the value you provide through these profiles, but it doesn’t help increase the success and reach of that specific campaign. The better thing to do here is enable the sharing of your email or landing page. When someone clicks on the Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn link on your email or landing page, they should be able to share your content with their friends and followers. This increases campaign reach. Even the 5-10% typical share rates and average 70-120 friends or followers (depending on the social media site) translate into an impressive increase in reach. When that expanded audience opts in to your campaign, you’ve just added someone new to your database at no additional cost to you.

Best Practice #2: Measure immediate results of integrating social media with outbound efforts

It’s important to look at how this integration of social media and outbound marketing is going. For each of the emails you send, this means monitoring how many shares you have via different social media tools and who is doing the sharing. With just this simple tracking in place, you can learn a lot. Understanding who is sharing helps you identify your promoters. You can then reward them, talk to them about a case study, educate them about your next big thing, etc. This can have a significant influence on future campaign success. By understanding where and in what frequency your content is getting shared you can also adjust your inbound marketing strategies. For example, if you see your target audience sharing more on LinkedIn than any place else, yet you put all your effort into Twitter, it may be time to re-examine your strategy.

Best Practice #3: Change your approach to what you deliver in outbound marketing

For many marketers, the next promotion is all they think about with campaigns. Email and landing pages focus on the same tired things. But social media users can sniff out a sales pitch from a mile away. If you want your content to get shared, it has to be compelling. Compelling here doesn’t mean you try to convince someone why your products are superior. They don’t even know who you are most of the time. The idea is to provide content that addresses a specific lack of knowledge or need. You provide value via the white paper, webinar, quick guide, etc. while at the same time making your expertise known. Giving useful content to the new people your message is getting shared with is what gets them to engage with you. 

Best Practice #4: Dedicate a resource

To really succeed in inbound marketing you have to be active in it.  It requires regular (daily in some cases) updates of your social media profiles. If your content is not fresh or interesting, or worse, is 100% sales focused, you will not be successful. Find someone in your organization that is passionate about social media and your company to run this effort and measure your results.

These are just a few best practices to get you started with integrating your social media and outbound marketing efforts. It can help you increase campaign reach, identify and leverage your promoters, and add another element to your customer acquisition strategy.

Download the free white paper below for a more in-depth discussion, as well as some information on technology from TreeHouse Interactive that can help.

Download the White Paper >>

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