Billy Beane, Moneyball & Modern B2B Marketing
Earlier today, I sat through a surprisingly relevant keynote speech by Billy Beane. Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s, spoke to the marketers gathered for Silverpop’s event in Atlanta.
If you’re a baseball fan, you know who Billy Beane is and why he’s important to the history of the game. If you’re not a fan (and haven’t read Michal Lewis’ Moneyball or seen the movie) then you probably don’t know him.
Here’s the short version of Beane’s story: He came into the Oakland A’s, a team with a losing record and a much smaller bankroll than its competitors. Baseball is a sport where talent scouting was always — ALWAYS — based on tradition, gut instinct and conventional wisdom.
Most baseball teams threw vast sums of money into a black box. Sometimes they got results — the players they drafted paid off. Sometimes they didn’t. Nobody really knew for sure.
Beane couldn’t spend the money to play this game, so he changed the rules. Instead of gut instinct, he used quantitative analysis to find under-valued players — players that didn’t fit the conventional baseball mold, even though the numbers told a different story about their abilities.
The A’s found the talent nobody else noticed — and they got that talent for bottom dollar. They started to win…..and win, and win, and win some more.
If you’ve read this far, you already see where this is going. Marketing, like baseball, was traditionally a profession where you threw money into a black box and (sometimes) got results. You didn’t know exactly what worked, and you certainly didn’t always know why things worked, but hey — neither did anyone else.
That’s changing. Your CEO and CFO want to know what they’re buying with their marketing budgets. They want to know how campaigns deliver leads. The CMO, in turn, wants to know whether one campaign delivers better results than another — and she wants to know why.
Gut instinct and conventional wisdom don’t cut it in this world. But some marketers still do it. Why?
That’s where Beane earned his speaker fee. He likened Moneyball to card counting in a casino: You don’t win every hand, but you DO win enough hands in the long run to make money. But the strategy only works when you stay with it for the long haul.
I think there’s some extremely valuable advice there for marketers trying to stick with a rational, objective, quantitative strategy. The tools take time to set up, and they take time to understand. It takes time and patience to track campaigns, develop lead scoring models and get visibility into your funnel.
The numbers you see won’t always jibe with gut instinct or “tradition.” Your emotions — and your colleagues’ emotions — will tell you to go a different direction. You’ll want to quit counting cards and run off with Lady Luck.
Just remember, your competitors are all playing Moneyball today — and they want to win.
A (Hellish?) Vision Of The Future For B2B Marketing Teams
Earlier today at the SiriusDecisions Summit, Jonathan Block and Ross Graber offered a look at what they see as the future for the sales and marketing technology ecosystem. The presentation included a chart that I’ll do my best to reproduce here (forgive the low-rent photography job):
What you’re looking at is an ecosystem that includes more than two dozen technology components. Some are familiar, and you probably use them today (marketing automation, sales force automation). Some are less familiar but on the radar. Others, perhaps many, are unexplored territory for you and your colleagues.
The presenters made a couple of important points here:
First, as Jonathan Block put it, “there is no rest for the tech-weary…new technologies and new approaches must be considered and evaluated.” These are the tools that will deliver a competitive advantage — and if you’re not using them, your competitors will.
Second, the tools aren’t worth very much unless they’re tied to the right business processes, data governance and integration models. If you implement 27 point solutions, each with its own data silo and tied to ad hoc business processes, you’re not on the bleeding edge — you’re just screwed.
This is a vision of the future that some CMOs will find exciting. It’s also a vision that will drive other CMOs to start drinking. Either way, while SiriusDecisions might be pushing the limits with its technology vision, I wouldn’t count on it being too far off the mark.
Quality Content: Helping Your Sales Team Help Themselves
I’m in San Diego right now, catching the action at this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit. One of the big advantages of this event is the perspective it gives on sales and marketing alignment issues, and that’s exactly where SiriusDecisions Managing Director John Neeson took today’s first session.
Neeson presented some interesting research data on the needs and concerns of B2B sales reps. The top three inhibitors to sales effectiveness, in order of importance, are:
- An inability to communicate a value message;
- A lack of subject matter expertise around a specific industry or solution;
- Insufficient leads.
“Five years ago, leads would always come up number one [in this kind of survey],” Neeson told the audience. “Today they’re saying that’s not the case — they want help being more efficient and effective.”
Neeson tied this in with another important point: Sales reps find it so challenging to engage with prospects in the early stages of their journey — the education and awareness stage — that many of them no longer try. Instead, they wait to engage with prospects later. Inevitably, they miss some important opportunities when they do so.
This is why it’s vital that marketing teams deliver the right content — targeted, persona-based content — at the right time to enable their sales partners. Content is the lever that allows a sales team to pry open the door to those early-stage encounters and to establish the kind of thought leadership that B2B prospects now expect to see.
I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more on this topic over the next couple of days, but it’s a good way to set the stage what are sure to be some interesting discussions.
Email Is Dead? I Don’t Think So
Over the past several weeks, we’ve been sharing the results of our 2013 B2B Content Preferences Survey. Along the way, I’ve been pointing out some survey data that strikes me as particularly interesting.
This week, I want to use our data to address the notion that email is dead. It’s something you’re as likely to hear from grumpy get-off-my-lawn types like John Dvorak as from billionaire social media moguls like Mark Zuckerberg.
The B2B buyers we polled, however, beg to differ. When we asked them which channels they most frequently use to share content with their colleagues, they gave us a very clear answer:
I’m making what I think is a reasonable assumption here: People who share content with colleagues know how best to communicate with them. Email beats every social media platform on this count, although LinkedIn and Twitter also cross the 50% threshold.
Maybe the kids use email these days. Maybe they don’t. Who cares? The people you’re trying to reach as B2B marketers definitely do use it, and you’ll want to make email sharing as easy as possible for the content you create and distribute.
Consistency: Your Content Marketing Secret Weapon
During his Content2Conversion session, Joe Pulizzi packed a lot of good ideas into the space of 15 minutes. But one particular point stuck out, because it’s something almost every content marketer can relate to.
Here’s the relevant data point Joe cited: 85% of all corporate blogs have published five posts or less.
Think about that. These companies spend thousands of dollars on content strategies, development and management. They’re on board the content marketing train, and they expect great things from their investments. Yet they’re surprisingly quick to surrender one of their most visible — and potentially valuable — content channels to crickets and tumbleweeds.
We’ve all been there. Like Joe said, most of us are better at starting things than we are at staying with them. It’s an occupational hazard in a field where there’s so much to do and things move so quickly.
That’s why I think it’s worth repeating a fairly obvious point: You’re better off executing a basic corporate blogging plan consistently than you are running a hit-or-miss plan with all of the bells and whistles. Posting to your corporate blog once a week, week in and week out, will build a much stronger online presence than a blog that publishes three times in one week and then goes dark for a month at a time.
If you can’t post consistently, think carefully about whether you want to publish a blog at all. A neglected site makes a statement about your business, and it’s not the kind you want to make.
There’s a corollary to this rule. A simple, 200 word blog post that hits one or two major points can be just as effective as a 900 word post that takes hours to research and write. Honestly, in a content environment where busy people are looking for a quick payoff, that short but sweet post might be a lot more effective.
Here’s the best news of all: Consistency can be your company’s secret content marketing weapon. It will make your content stand out, it will build your reputation and it will bring your readers back for more. Those are big benefits for such a modest investment.
Email Benchmarks: Data-Quality Metrics Tell An Interesting Story
Silverpop recently released its 2013 Email Marketing Metrics Survey. It’s a good resource for two reasons: The sample size (email sent from more than 2,700 brands in 40 countries) and its usefulness as a benchmarking tool.
My favorite part of the study has to be the comparison of what I call “fail-stats.” These are the numbers that tell you just how bad the consequences can be when a marketing team does something really dumb.
First, look at this summary of hard bounce rates. (I’m just looking at the top-level regional averages here, rather than industry-vertical breakdowns, for the sake of simplicity.)
Check that out: The U.S. brands in the bottom quartile, based on performance, had bounce rates nearly 70 times higher than those in the top quartile.
Next, a look at unsubscribe rates:
Finally, and perhaps most telling, a comparison of spam complaint rates:
What do these three metrics have in common? They’re all fundamental indicators of a marketing team’s competence — or lack thereof.
These are problems that can be addressed using accepted data quality best practices. Yet in spite of the fact that this is the equivalent of Email Marketing 101, there’s a tremendous gap between the most successful brands and the least successful ones.
For most companies, these problems should be easy to fix. Even if they aren’t, you definitely don’t want your CMO looking at these benchmark numbers and discovering that your email campaigns line up with that bottom-quartile group.
Why Embed Marketing Automation With CRM? One Answer Is Productivity
A few announcements about marketing automation systems being embedded in CRM systems have landed in my inbox recently, including one from INBOX25 about designing its marketing automation solution to operate within SugarCRM. And, of course, the jury is still out on how independent Eloqua will remain from Oracle’s CRM.
A chat with Ellen Valentine of Silverpop and Rhett Thompson of CoreMotives shed some light on the benefits to both marketing and sales of configuring marketing automation to work within CRM. As Thompson explained, it allows marketers to develop and execute their marketing efforts from within the interface of the CRM —Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the case of CoreMotives — they are already comfortable using.
That, I think, goes to the heart of the matter. Face it, a harried sales rep or marketer is probably going to resist if they have to become fluent in two technologies — a marketing automation system and a CRM.
Since there is already enough going on to hamper sales productivity, it makes sense to put as few obstacles in the way of the sales reps as possible. But if marketing automation gets gobbled up into CRMs, will marketers lose some of the nuances and features they need to keep the sales pipeline full? It is up to the marketing technologists to maintain the important aspects of marketing automation, not matter where it resides.
In commenting on the Marketo IPO announcement, Demand Gen Report Contributor David Raab recently argued that it may be difficult for marketing automation vendors to remain independent, but that doesn’t mean there will be less of a need to continually enhance and automate the unique functions of marketing.
Stay tuned. —Kim Zimmermann
The Salesforce Marketing Automation Dilemma: Buy, Build Or Beg
Earlier this week, Marketo’s IPO announcement set off a round of intense speculation. But most of the talk isn’t about the company’s stock price or financial performance – it’s about Marketo’s prospects as an acquisition target.
Would SAP or Adobe be interested in buying Marketo once it’s public? How about SAS or Infor? Those are possibilities, but Salesforce.com remains the odds-on favorite.
Right now, four out of five Marketo customers integrate with Salesforce CRM. That’s actually not so different from the situation at Eloqua, where more customers use Salesforce than any other CRM platform.
Or is it different this time?
Eloqua executives insist that nothing has changed for Salesforce users since the Oracle acquisition. I’m willing to accept that at face value, but it’s not the whole story. While Oracle may support existing Eloqua-Salesforce users, the company will also push very, very hard to sell new users on its own CRM platform. It will do this through aggressive pricing, and it will also do it through tight data integration.
The same would be true if, say, SAP snatched up Marketo. SAP will do its best to keep existing Salesforce users happy and content. But it will also bend over backwards to ensure that a growing user base steadily drives down the percentage of Marketo users on the Salesforce platform.
This is not a sustainable path for Salesforce – a company whose current “marketing cloud” is heavy on social media marketing and very light on everything else.
Last week, our colleague David Raab pointed out that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff came right out and told analysts that Salesforce needs to “buy more marketing companies.” David also pointed out that marketing automation is an inherently limited product that becomes far more valuable when it’s delivered as part of an integrated customer relationship solution.
That leaves Salesforce with three choices: buy, build or rely on the kindness of its competitors. Which one of those options would you pick?
Can Software Really Change Your Life?
After covering retail technology for a number of years and now marketing automation, I can’t recall anyone ever telling me that software had significantly changed their life for the better. I can recollect plenty of people telling me it changed their lives for the worse. And, sure, I’ve interviewed a number of users who were happy with some new features or functions in a new release. But I had never heard anyone describe them as life altering.
But I heard the phrase over and over this past week at InfusionCon, the users’ group meeting for Infusionsoft customers. The phrase came up in presentation after presentation and in conversations over lunch, dinner and cocktails. I almost felt as if I were being initiated into a cult — and I mean that in the best possible way.
After meeting Clate Mask, CEO and Co-Founder, Richard Tripp, Chief Product Officer, and other members of the executive team I came to appreciate that they were indeed extremely passionate about developing software to make the lives of small business owners easier “so that they can live the lives that they want.”
Many of the people who work at Infusionsoft were small business owners themselves, and some even continue to run their own businesses. So they understand the technological challenges facing marketers who are also owners, accountants, HR and every other hat that you can think of.
But they also looked beyond their own personal experiences as business owners. In developing the latest release of their software, they conducted extensive interviews with 256 customers. Not just quick five-minute calls to tick off a few questions on a survey. They spent an hour to an hour and a half talking to each of them about their most pressing needs and most desired features. That’s quite a commitment.
How many of your customers would be willing to spend an hour to help you improve your product? An even better question: Have you called them to ask?
Provide Prospects With More Than A Sales Pitch
When someone downloads a white paper or attends a webinar, the knee jerk reaction can be to bombard them with every piece of product-related content you have in your arsenal. They like you! They really like you! You want them to buy!
But if that’s all you do, you’re sure to turn them off. In a Q&A earlier this week, Michael Brenner, VP of Global Marketing and Content Strategy for SAP and speaker at the upcoming B2B Content2Conversion Conference, talked about how marketers need to be a trusted source of content, with the keyword here being trusted. It is advice worth repeating.
B2B buyers know they are going to get a product pitch. That is part of the deal they make when they give up their email address to download an E-book, video or whatever piece of content that caught their eye. It is also why so many are setting up alternative email addresses so that they can keep their “real” inboxes free of sales pitches.
Why not give them something unexpected? Share the occasional blog post or article that did not originate from your company but provides them with some valuable insights into their areas of interest. In other words, be a bit of a news feed for your prospects and not just a steady stream of product hype.
I don’t think any B2B buyer is expecting a marketer to be completely vendor neutral, but sharing some relevant, unbiased content with your database of prospects can’t hurt. Will it take more of an effort? Absolutely. But the return on the investment could pay dividends.
— Kim Zimmermann