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B2B Marketing: What It’s Like in the Real World



There is plenty of information for marketers to consume on a daily basis and, quite honestly, it all starts to sound the same after a while. That’s a shame since many of the SEO fueled articles and posts of “How To’s” and “Here’s the Latest Theory Regarding (blank)” cover up real world lessons given by people who live this online marketing life every day and in very real situations. In fact, there are a lot of really good “How To” and “Top 5 This” content offerings that get lost in this noisy shuffle.

As part of our effort to bring our readers something a bit different we offer insight from someone who can talk about the real world delivery of marketing in the new media setting.

This post is an e-mail interview with Heather Smith of arcplan, a business intelligence software provider. Heather is the director of marketing at arcplan which is a growing business but can be seen as small in the B2B space despite the reach of the company’s offerings. Heather lives in the world of having to do many things despite having the title of director. The world of online marketing is not for the faint-of-heart and those that want to sit in an office and strategize all day every day. Most real world marketers need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in order to succeed. Heather is one of those and was kind enough to answer some questions for us. Enjoy!

MP: Give our readers a brief description of arcplan, who you are marketing to and any other vital data you would like them to know.

Heather: arcplan is an international business intelligence (BI) software provider that’s been in business since 1993. Our solutions consist of dashboards and reporting environments, as well as corporate performance and planning software, but also mobile BI and collaborative BI solutions, so we’re at the forefront of a lot of new trends in the BI space.

Many people haven’t heard of us, but we’re literally everywhere – in use at 3,000 companies worldwide, from Fortune 500 companies to SMBs, as a departmental solution or enterprise-wide. One of the most powerful aspects of arcplan is that it ties together multiple systems to give users greater insights from their data.

We’re marketing to businesses over $100M in revenue who are graduating from Excel reporting to business intelligence. We also talk to businesses with mature BI systems in place who are realizing the limitations of their current infrastructure and need an affordable solution that leverages their existing investments. With business users clamoring for BI more and more, our market is anyone who needs visibility into data, like finance and operations teams.

MP: Describe your role at arcplan

Heather: As the Director of Marketing, I handle all marketing for North America – lead generation, content creation, social media, campaigns, email marketing, shows, etc., and I even manage our inside sales team. I’m a jack-of-all-trades here, as I have been since I started my career. I think many SMB B2B marketers can relate – we’re all being asked to do more with less, whether that means smaller budgets or fewer staff. A lot of us end up falling into this role of “do everything / be everything” marketers.

MP: With all the responsibility you have what do you get the most impact from? Social media? Which outlets? E-mail? How do you use e-mail?

Heather: In terms of lead generation, we get the most impact from shows and webinars, but in terms of opportunity development, the impact comes from lead nurturing.

For awhile, like a lot of B2B organizations, we de-emphasized trade shows in the wake of the recession since they began to seem like an unnecessary expenditure in a time when we were supposed to be buckling down and reducing our marketing spend. In 2010, we decided to exhibit at several trade shows again after realizing nothing can replace face-to-face contact. The key for us is to form personal relationships with our prospects, listen to their issues, and become trusted advisors. We’re a software company, but we’re really selling solutions to BI problems. Business intelligence is a large expense for many companies and they need to be able to trust their vendor. Meeting face-to-face is a great way to kick-start that process.

We put on webinars about every 6 weeks with BI solutions experts as presenters, and we’ve gotten terrific response from those. We try to be really practical and thought-provoking with the material. I’ve seen a lot of companies regurgitate product demos and call them webinars, or present purely educational material with no sales pitch at all, and I haven’t seen either of those strategies work. We have had a number of opportunities develop from webinars in the last 12 months, so our content seems to be having an effect on prospects. I use on-demand webinars as campaign material, which also works quite well to generate leads and nurture them.

Lead nurturing has had a great impact for us in terms of opportunity generation. I’ve found that targeted e-mails followed by calls from our inside sales team is a winning combination. When it comes to BI, no company has the same mix of data sources, pain, and wish list items, so conversations are important. Our targeted emails tip prospects off to some of the capabilities of arcplan, but it’s the personal conversations that truly drive business for us. I use a marketing automation solution called Pardot, which helps me segment leads and nurture them with drip campaigns. So far, the longest one I’ve done has been 4-5 weeks of emails, with intermittent calls from our inside sales reps.

MP: You’ve told us that you do not control search marketing but that is done from another area of the company overseas. Since you do not control search is there a problem with that “disconnect”?

Heather: Unfortunately, we have not put enough emphasis on SEO to date, despite the fact that inbound leads are some of our most significant in terms of opportunity generation. However, this is changing and 2012 will be the year that we put the focus on search again.

MP: What are your primary (and secondary) KPI’s? How have they changed over time as the business web changes? Have they changed at all?

Heather: As a business intelligence company, you’d think we’d have excellent visibility into our metrics since that’s what we help our customers achieve every day. And you’d be right. There is a huge emphasis on tracking results, especially marketing effectiveness, at arcplan. The KPI I’m most concerned with every quarter is marketing’s contribution to revenue, specifically the % of revenue influenced by marketing. Gone are the days when marketing could vaguely influence sales – now we have to have direct, measurable impact.

I also track the % of the US pipeline generated by marketing/inside sales (inside sales is under marketing at arcplan North America), since sales reps are supposed to generate their own opportunities as well as receive them from marketing/inside sales. Once more than 50% of the pipeline is generated by marketing, it’s time to bust the salespeople’s chops!

I also track customer satisfaction via a yearly survey. The entire company obviously wants to ensure that our customers are happy, but selfishly, as a marketer, I need satisfied customers to participate in industry surveys on our behalf. I don’t know if it’s unique to business intelligence, but there are so many surveys for users to participate in, and if vendors don’t hit a certain threshold of responses, they are excluded from the analyst reports. So from a marketing perspective, I want to make sure that on average, our customers are satisfied and willing to go above and beyond for us by participating in these surveys.

Other important KPIs include the number of leads marketing brings into the top of the funnel (quarterly) and what lead sources generate the most opportunities and subsequently, revenue. Tracking this last KPI has revealed that webinars and lead nurturing efforts are some of the most profitable ways for marketing to spend its time. As the web matures as a marketing tool, I think the KPIs a marketer finds most relevant may evolve, but the pervcentage of revenue influenced by marketing is here to stay. Especially post-recession, marketing is going to have to justify its spend in ways we never had to before. I believe it’s for the best – aren’t we all tired of marketing being the department that produces pretty pictures? I’d much rather be known for producing revenue.

MP: What tools do you use to perform your marketing duties in the online space?

Heather: Salesforce.com is our CRM, Pardot is our marketing automation platform, and TweetDeck is my favorite tool to manage our social media accounts. Salesforce has its limitations, but I believe it’s the most comprehensive tool out there for managing the lead-to-close process. I get the visibility I need into what campaigns produce opportunities that lead to sales. I’ve also never worked for a company that uses Salesforce as fully as arcplan. We have a “if it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen” philosophy that applies to everyone from inside sales reps all the way up to our CEO.

I’ve worked with 3 different marketing automation solutions to date, and Pardot is a terrific and affordable option for marketing departments with limited budgets. I get everything I need, from list segmentation to progressive profiling to automated campaigns and it doesn’t eat up a huge chunk of my budget.

Finally, TweetDeck has been a life-saver for managing my 3 Twitter accounts (2 corporate, 1 personal) and LinkedIn status updates. It’s probably made me a little more addicted to Twitter than I need to be…

MP: Are there any areas where tools are deficient and you would love to see something developed that truly worked?

Heather: In my dreams, I’d love “marketing middleware” – an application that serves as the glue between all the other applications I use. I believe that marketing follows technology trends, and one of the trends that has emerged over the last few years, especially in 2011, is the API (application programming interface). APIs allow software components to communicate with each other – think about how you can “Like” something on a website and Facebook posts that to your Wall. That’s an API making the connection between the website you’re on and Facebook. What’s cool is that APIs are what allows my webinar provider to communicate with Pardot, and what allows Pardot to communicate with Salesforce. There’s currently no one tool that ties all these systems together into some kind of marketing middleware, but APIs will make that possible one day (hopefully soon).

Until then, marketers like myself will be presenting their quarter- and year-end reports in PPT and Excel, combining reports with anecdotes and analytics to prove ROI on marketing spend. Reporting chaos is a common complaint from people seeking a BI solution, so at least I can relate to our prospects!

MP: In the space you play in, where would you say the use of the web as a true marketing tool is? Is it in its infancy? Is it maturing? What is needed to move it forward?

Heather: I believe the web is constantly maturing as a marketing tool. Marketing is riding the wave of internet technology and is subject to the constant ebb and flow of technology changes. Direct mail used to be the old stand-by, even 8-10 years ago when I started my marketing career. We’ve moved on to e-mail, which has been a reliable way to target and nurture prospects for years. We’ve got metrics to analyze our e-mail success at this point. Social media was the new wave a couple of years ago – now marketers are using it pretty successfully to create awareness and generate leads and we’re starting to put metrics to it to analyze the ROI. There’s a constant flow of technology infancy that leads to a maturation stage where we’re understanding it, then a stage where we’re able to put metrics to it to analyze the effectiveness and make adjustments to our strategy. I’d say marketing is tied to technology – especially web technology – moreso than anything else.

The next new thing for us in the BI space is embracing the cloud – particularly to demonstrate our software to prospects – to really let them play with it. arcplan has a new cloud demo environment launching this year that will give people the ability to really experience arcplan in a way they haven’t been able to before. Some vendors are doing this already, and your readers may think “Well, yeah obviously, why wouldn’t they have been doing this all along?” But the truth is that BI software is complicated and sometimes it’s not the best idea to let prospects run wild in your software. But we’re going to present some of our most streamlined kinds of reports and dashboards that will be easy for people to use and understand. The idea has existed for a while – “cloud” isn’t necessarily anything new – but marketers have to take advantage of it. Again, this is what I mean by marketing following the ebb and flow of technology changes.

We would like to thank Heather for taking the time out her schedule to talk about marketing in the real world. We have looked at other real world examples of how marketing actually happens beyond the theory and How To lists. We would like to bring more of these kinds of posts to you in the future.

If you know of a marketing professional or a company that is truly “walking the walk” and you think would be of interest to our readers please let us know. We would love to consider them for a feature here at Marketing Pilgrim. You can reach Frank Reed at (editor AT marketingpilgrim DOT com).

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  • Jack

    This is a great reading. I am always being keen to gain information about B2B marketing and this post has made my day. Though we all are living B2B marketing in our business life, but it is always better to know others perspective on the subject. It gives us a feeling that there is much more in the field apart from what we know. Thanks for sharing this post.

    Jack

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