Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tech Media Publishers looking more Like Interactive Marketing Firms Every Day

Tech Media publishers have seen an exponential shift in buyer behaviour, recognizing that the B2B buying decisions these publications support are now Internet driven, and that buyers are in control of the buying cycle like never before - seeking trusted sources of diagnosis, advice and recommendations.

As well, the Tech Media publishers have seen a dramatic shift in B2B vendors, who are looking for innovative ways to break through marketing fatigue to attract, connect and engage ever more skeptical and frugal buyers.

The age of Internet fueled buying decisions means that traditional print publications just don't meet buyer or seller needs.

In the recent BtoB magazine article, "Tech Media Evolution a Bellwether", the major technology publishers were examined to understand how quickly the shift to interactive marketing was occurring. Looking at the top three technology publishers:
  • IDG generated 43% of its revenue from print in fiscal year 2008 and 39% in fiscal year 2009. The company said that percentage has dropped even more in its current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30;
  • UBM's TechWeb, which publishes InformationWeek, indicates that print now generates only about 10% of total revenue. Five years ago, it accounted for 72%;
  • Ziff Davis Enterprise, keeper of the eWeek brand, now only derives about 10% of its revenue from print, a similar significant decline from years past where revenue exceeded 75% for print.

Looking at traditional print advertising pages, IDG calculated that technology and tele- communications industry print advertising pages peaked in 1999 at 135,000 pages, declining to just 20,000 pages last year.

To maintain revenue, these Tech Media firms have quickly morphed to develop and deliver interactive marketing services to technology vendors, including:
  • On-line strategy development
  • Building online advertising businesses. and creating advertising networks.  
  • Starting research practices
  • Inventing social media consultancies and services
  • Developing and delivering lead generation microsites and webinars, executive assessment tools, interactive white papers, ROI / TCO calculators
This shift is permanent and important, impacting sellers and buyers of technology, as well as the publishing and interactive marketing landscape.

Steve Weitzner, CEO of Ziff Davis Enterprise, explaining the drivers and shift to interactive marketing: “Advertisers used to pay us to get a message in front of our audience. That was pretty much it. Now, the one word I use a lot is "engage". It's about all the different ways you can engage the audience and the various ways you can develop leads with content.”

The Bottom-Line
Buyers and sellers have fundamentally changed, driving a substantial need for Tech Media publishers to morph into interactive marketing service providers.
To help traditional technology publishers make this shift, we have been proud to partner with several of these providers to develop and deliver interactive smart content ™ and value based interactive tools. Partnering with Alinean has allowed these Tech Media leaders to immediately offer unique tools that B2B buyers demand to help make better decisions, and sellers need to attract and capture leads and engage skeptical and frugal buyers.

One of the programs we worked on is with Ziff Davis Enterprise (ZDE), launching a suite of interactive tool services for IT vendors to drive more qualified leads, reduce sales cycles and generate more transactions. These include:
  • Smart Papers(tm) - interactive white papers that make traditional white papers more effective, more relevant and more One to One via interactive profiling and dynamic generation / delivery
  • Executive Assessment Tools - quick surveys to help customers diagnose and understand issues, benchmark to peers, and obtain intelligent improvement advice
  • ROI Calculators - quantifying how a solution will help buyers do-more-with-less, and quantifying bottom-line benefits, return on investment, and payback.
  • TCO Comparisons - quantifying the value of proposed solutions, differentiating features and costs amongst competitive options
Ziff Davis believes that the interactive smart content offerings, especially Smart Papers, are the most innovative new marketing tools launched over the past 20 years, and indicate as much in this webinar:

More information about these innovative ZDE interactive tool programs can be found at:
Information about new ZDE Smart Papers in particular can be found at:


Sources:
Tech Media Evolution a Bellwether, BtoB Magazine, Sean Callahan ,
Story posted: September 13, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do White Papers Still Engage? They do if they are Interactive!

New digital marketing channels have made it more efficient than ever to broadcast marketing messages to prospects, but are the current strategies effective at connecting with and educating ever more skeptical and frugal buyers?

The good news is that today's buyer wants to be engaged, with 9 out of 10 actively relying on vendor provided information on their way to making a purchase decision. Using this content, buyers are taking control of the buying cycle from direct / channel sales, making the content that marketing delivers more important than ever in driving shorter sales cycles and increasing the number and value of transactions.

Unfortunately, most of today's buyers suffer from Information Overload as a result of current "carpet bombing" marketing strategies. Today's buyers have more sources of information than ever including traditional, on-line and social media sources. For example, the typical buyer receives over 20 e-mail marketing messages a week, up 32% over the past 4 years. Worse, the information is often not customized for the buyer, and is viewed as irrelevant "noise". Instead of being engaged, buyers are now inundated with more meaningless product information and offers than ever before, creating "marketing fatigue".

The question any marketer needs to ask - Are your marketing efforts adding to the clutter, or engaging with prospects to advance the buying cycle?

Let us examine one of the most important tools to engage buyers, white papers, and new best practices to help evolve this traditional medium into an effective selling machine.

Do White Papers Still Rule?
Although social media and blog content have the hype, when we look to which marketing content B2B buyers use more than any other in driving decisions, the white paper shines well above all others (MarketingSherpa and IDG 2010).

According to sales and marketing effectiveness researcher SiriusDecisions, the basic white paper is still one of the most important pieces of marketing content - used and trusted as the key buying decision tool by over 64% of early stage buyers, and 61% of middle stage buyers.

IT publisher Ziff Davis Enterprise (ZDE) indicates similarly that white papers are used frequently in buying decisions, used by 84.1% of IT buyers, consuming an average of 3.2 white papers per month in order to educate themselves on opportunities, best practices and solutions.

Examining the usage of white papers in detail, ZDE indicates that:

  • 35% of IT Professionals use them for awareness and finding ideas
  • 33% of IT Professionals use them for finding vendors or comparing them
  • 23% of IT Professionals use them for creating a short list and for vendor evaluation
  • 10% of IT Professionals use them for making a final decision
The good news is that many B2B markets have recognized the value of this traditional medium, and have invested heavily in valuable white paper content to attract leads, connect and engage with buyers, and shorten sales cycles. HOWEVER, because of information overload driven marketing fatigue, ZDE and others report that white paper downloads and frequency of use are DOWN year over year.

One-to-One a Requirement
The issue is that traditional white papers are not engaging enough to break through the clutter. Although B2B buyers are not all the same, the bulk of white paper marketing involves communicating the same information, in the same way, over and over to prospects as different as Joe’s Barber Shop and Exxon Mobil. This results in a slower buying process and the continual carpet bombing of buyer inboxes with the same static, mass-distributed whitepapers that every vendor sends out.

So, how do you make whitepapers more effective, more relevant, more ONE-TO-ONE? How do you connect with buyers and make sure your message resonates to them personally? How do you ensure your content won’t get filtered out?

One way to overcome these issues is via Interactive White Papers - by creating content that is dynamic, adaptive and personalized in real time, fundamentally changing the way white papers engage buyers.

Research from MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm, shows that targeted content is more effective, viewed by buyers as more valuable in the decision making process when customized for Industry (82% more effective), Role/job function (67%), Company size (49%), and Geography (29%).

Designed to create more impactful and highly relevant content experiences for buyers – and yield deeper engagements and higher conversions for marketers – Interactive White Papers, powered by Alinean, connect a solution's benefits to the unique needs of each customer through a question-and-answer interface that updates dynamic text modules within the white paper. Based on responses to profile questions on industry, location, size, stage in buying cycle, role / job function, goals and opportunities, the white paper is personalized to analyze the buyer needs and present relevant and personalized results.

For buyers, Interactive White Papers provide a fast and easy way to personalize specific data and messaging points in the white paper, enabling them to streamline their research and create more effective resources that can be shared within their organization.

For vendors, personalizing white paper content based on user profile, creates a better connection and stronger engagement. To attract buyers, the interactive white papers deliver a more personalized analysis and relevant content, generating more leads than traditional white papers. Once engaged, the buyer connection is deeper because only meaningful and relevant information is communicated. Noise is removed and education streamlined, helping to reduce sales cycles and drive more sales.

Interactive White Papers offer a turnkey solution to build new, or upgrade existing, static white papers and start making deeper connections with potential customers by offering a higher level of relevance to their customers' needs. All interactions with the Interactive White Paper are tracked, offering a higher level of buyer intelligence and insight into customer pain points than is available through standard white paper programs.

"Our research shows that the features today's buyers want most is the ability to personalize and customize their content experience, to control how they interact with the content, and that they are more likely to share and socialize content that is relevant to them," said Josh Heitsenrether, Senior Vice President, Ziff Davis Enterprise Strategic Services.

Interactive White Papers have been proven to address these buyer issues, and deliver more personalized and more impactful results to potential buyers that will ultimately lead to deeper engagements, higher lead conversions and reduced sales cycles.

The Bottom-Line
In the new world of information overload, important white papers are getting lost in the clutter, and worse, are not deemed relevant to today's more frugal / demanding buyer. It’s no longer good enough to have a one size fits all approach to white paper content.

Interactive white papers provide B2B vendors with a quick and easy solution to help meaningfully personalize content and engage with overloaded buyers.

Resources
Click here to learn more about how Ziff Davis Enterprise SmartPapers (powered by Alinean Interactive White Papers) are driving more effective demand-gen programs for leading B2B vendors via better engagement and personalization: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ziff-davis-enterprise-launches-customized-smartpapers-103276704.html

Click here to view a typical Interactive White Paper (powered by Alinean):
https://roianalyst.alinean.com/ziffdavis/AutoLogin.do?d=151948843902083664
The New Economics of Mid-Sized Enterprise Computing
(sponsored by Sun and Intel)

 Sources:

  • MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm survey - http://www.knowledgestorm.com/search/viewabstract/90153
  • SiriusDecisions B-to-B Buyer's Survey 2010, on an online survey of more than 600 b-to-b marketers
  • SiriusDecisions 2010 Summit: How B2B Marketing Organizations Can Better “Measure, Align, Transform” Their Demand Generation for “High Performance”
  • New Realities about B2B Buying, Jeff Ogden, SandHill.com Blog, Jun. 08, 2010
  • IDC Executive Tele Briefing on Sales & Marketing Strategies for 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

IDC: Tech Marketing Budgets Up, But Lag Revenue Growth

Enough being done to prove returns and drive even more investments in 2011?

IDC has just completed their annual Tech Marketing Benchmarks Survey, and the news is good for tech marketing teams.

The latest survey (completed 9/10) reveals that large technology vendors have increased their marketing budgets by 3.7% in 2010 compared to 2009 levels. This is quite a change from 2009 budgets, which declined 8.3% compared to 2008. This increase in marketing budgets is welcomed by stressed marketing executives who dramatically cut spending, campaigns and staff during the Great Recession.

The bad news for marketing leaders is that although the 3.7% growth “snapback” is significant, the average large tech vendor’s operating budget is still below 2008 spending levels.

Shift to Digital
Marketers are still being asked to do-more-with-less, and this is driving a significant change in go-to-market channels. According to IDC, tech firm advertising spending using traditional (print and broadcast) media is declining by 43%, compared to spending growth of 53% in digital programs. For technology vendors, this dramatic reallocation exceeds digital shifts in other industries, but we expect that as the recovery takes hold and digital media makes accountability easier, marketing budgets in other industry sectors will follow suit.

Marketing Growth Lags Revenue Growth
IDC also tracks and compares marketing growth vs. revenue growth, and for the first half of 2010 the survey revealed that IT vendor revenue grew at a healthy 5.8% world-wide, greatly exceeding the 3.7% market spending growth. Prior surveys over the past 8 years indicate that as a key driver of revenue, growth in marketing spending normally precedes revenue growth. However, the opposite is strangely reflected in these latest results.

Did the revenue growth perhaps catch budgeters and planners by surprise, or are marketers not doing enough to tie spending to performance in order to justify more spending? We have seen the later occur in IT spending over the past decade, where IT spending lag behind growth in revenue after the bursting of the technology bubble in 2001, and are wondering if the same will now be true of marketing budgets going forward?

Spending Justification a Requirement?
With revenue growth driving ahead of marketing spending, IDC believes that marketers are not investing fast enough in the recovery, and we agree. But marketers must realize that the playing field has changed, and two recessions in the past decade have resulted in Frugalnomics - changing the way that budget decisions are made by requiring quantifiable return on investment proof-points prior to investments.

To fight budgeting and planning Frugalnomics, marketing leaders need to do a better job convincing frugal executives to spend more on marketing, and proving quantifiable ROI from proposed spending increases and executed campaigns.

Marketing technology vendors and service providers need to do their part, helping marketers quantify the value of proposals to prioritize projects and garner investment, and verify that post-project expected returns were delivered.

The Bottom-Line
It is great news for weary marketers to see the return of marketing spending growth; however, marketers must recognize that the planning and budget strategies of two years ago are no more.

Frugal executives require bottom-line proof that each investment will reap rewards, and marketers must justify spending increases in order to garner their fare share.

The shift to digital media is one way that marketers are doing-more-with-less and driving higher accountability, but more needs to be done by marketers and solution providers to prove that investments in marketing technology, campaigns and resources are driving revenue and delivering bottom-line results.

A summary and insight by IDC on the Tech Marketing Benchmarks Survey can be found at:
http://www.techmarketingblog.blogspot.com/

Is Marketing Too Busy? The Forgotten Sales Professional

A recent Content Marketing Institute article by Jennifer Watson, The Audience Content Marketers Can’t Afford To Ignore – But Almost Always Do  got me thinking ...


Marketers are struggling like never before to meet the needs of a changing market. More new channels than ever, buyer Information Overload, Frugalnomics driven by two recessions in the past decade, Internet fueled buying decisions.... With so much to work on, its easy for marketers to forget a very important audience, sales professionals, and where marketing meets sales, sales enablement.


As defined by Forrester, "Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the ROI of the selling system."

The good news is that sales enablement programs have become more formalized, and investments in sales support have never been higher. According to Forrester, companies are spending worldwide, on average, 19% of their Sales, General and Administrative costs, some $135,262 per quota-carrying salesperson, in sales support-related activities. However, even with these significant investments, sales professionals have difficulty finding the right information for their needs, and are too often recreating or customizing the content to make it relevant to buyers. According to Jeff Ernst, author of The New Rules of Sales Enablement, the American Marketing Association reports that: 
  • Salespeople spend 30 hours a month searching for and creating their own selling materials
  • 90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales


Not only is sales efficiency an issue, effectiveness is not all it can be either. IDC reveals in a recent survey that, buyers are not satisfied with the value sales professionals are delivering to engagements. In a recent survey, 24% of buyers indicated that the sales reps are not prepared for presentations at all, 30% indicate that they are somewhat prepared , and only 29% indicate that they are well prepared. The lack of preparation has been directly shown to drive inefficient conversion, longer sales cycles, more discounting, and higher competitive losses.

Content marketers obviously have some work to do with sales to overcome these buyer perceptions and drive sales enablement success. According to Jennfier Watson, "As content marketers, we need to own our accountability in the flawed process and be prepared to make some significant changes."


The Bottom Line
Sales Enablement is the key to arm sales professionals with the tools needed to drive better engagements with frugal buyers, and drive business outcomes.

To enable sales, content marketers need to be sure there is focus, energy and budget left to produce the smart content necessary to help sales connect with a new breed of frugal and skeptical buyers, arming sales professionals to have relevant and meaningful dialogue throughout all stages of the buying lifecycle.




Sources:
Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of Sales Support, Forrester Research, Inc., April 2009
IDC Executive Tele Briefing on Sales and Marketing Strategies for 2010
The Audience Content Marketers Can’t Afford To Ignore – But Almost Always Do, Jennifer Watson, Content Marketing Institute, Published: September 20, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

One-size-fits-all whitepapers ineffective due to Information Overload? Fight Back with ZDE Smart Papers

B2B buyers are, quite simply, not all the same. However, the bulk of marketing activities that B2B technology vendors use involve the same information, in the same way, over and over to prospects as different as Joe’s Barber Shop and Exxon Mobil. This results in a slower buying process and the continual carpet bombing of buyer inboxes with the same static, mass-distributed whitepapers that every vendor sends out.

So, how do you make whitepapers more effective, more relevant, more ONE-TO-ONE? How do you connect with buyers and make sure your message resonates to them personally? How do you ensure your content won’t get filtered out?

By creating content that is dynamic, adaptive and personalized with SmartPapers, changing the way white papers engage buyers.

Ziff Davis Enterprise (ZDE), a leader in innovative enterprise IT media and engagement solutions, announced today that it has partnered with Alinean to launch SmartPapers, a dynamic white paper platform that adapts content based on reader interaction.

Designed to create more impactful and highly relevant content experiences for buyers – and yield deeper engagements and higher conversions for marketers – SmartPapers, powered by Alinean, connect a solution's benefits to the unique needs of each customer through a question-and-answer interface that updates dynamic text modules within the white paper. For buyers, SmartPapers provide a fast and easy way to personalize specific data and messaging points in the white paper, enabling them to streamline their research and create more effective resources that can be shared within their organization.

For sponsors, SmartPapers offer a turnkey solution to build new, or upgrade existing, static white papers and start making deeper connections with potential customers by offering a higher level of relevance to their customers' needs. All interactions with the SmartPaper are tracked, offering a higher level of buyer intelligence and insight into customer pain points than is available through standard white paper programs.

"Our research shows that the features today's buyers want most is the ability to personalize and customize their content experience, to control how they interact with the content, and that they are more likely to share and socialize content that is relevant to them," said Josh Heitsenrether, Senior Vice President, Ziff Davis Enterprise Strategic Services. "By utilizing our dynamic SmartPapers, marketers can deliver more personalized and more impactful results to potential buyers that will ultimately lead to deeper engagements and higher lead conversions."

SmartPapers work with any type of white paper content and any technology / B2B solution offering. Marketers can choose to upgrade their existing white papers, tech briefs or case studies, or they can leverage Ziff Davis Enterprise's Strategic Content services to create new SmartPapers. SmartPapers are ideal for use in lead generation programs or as part of a Ziff Davis Enterprise SmartSite program; they can also be easily integrated with leading lead scoring and nurturing platforms to deliver better intelligence for sales.

Click here to learn more about Alinean powered Ziff Davis Enterprise SmartPapers:


http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ziff-davis-enterprise-launches-customized-smartpapers-103276704.html

Forrester: Understand and Drive Outcomes for Sales & Marketing Success

In a recent Forrester Sales Enablement blog post, Dean Davison reminisces about his years of selling technology solutions, and how today's successful best practices are so different than those of years past.

Davison's outlines the significant advancement of how buyer's changing needs have driven changing sales techniques over the past 30 years, advancing from Product Selling, to Solution Selling, and now to a new required technique of understanding and driving customer outcomes:


  1. Product Selling:  The sales organization sold products based on "feeds and speeds". Technology solutions were new and exciting, and sales lived on the cutting edge of technology. Customers bought "products."
  2. Solution Selling: Rather than buying products, customers looked for solutions - usually a functional combination of hardware and software to solve a technical problem. Acronyms such as ERP and CRM were common, and the services industry exploded. Customers bought "solutions."
  3. Value Selling: The financial pressures of the recent (and continuing?) recession changed customers. They now align business investments with technology costs. Customers want "outcomes."
Davison's evolution of successful sales techniques follows the maturation of technology, advancing sophistication of buyers, and austerity driven by economic pressures, what we call Frugalnomics.

According to Davison, "The problem is that tech vendors are going to market the same way that we did 20+ years ago. In today's market, vendors must understand the customer - not in the abstract - but understand current problems and desired outcomes."

We concur with Forrester's Davison that Frugalnomics changes everything. All B2B solution providers must recognize that the sales and marketing landscape has fundamentally changed, and that customers are looking for partners to help them proactively uncover opportunities that many are unaware they have, quantify and drive bottom-line impacts, and deliver more value than competitors offerings.

The original Forrester blog post can be found at: http://blogs.forrester.com/dean_davison/10-09-17-tech_vendors_are_disconnected_customers_new_reality?cm_mmc=RSS-_-TI-_-1780-_-blog_

Frugalnomics: Business Productivity and Cost Reduction Remains Top Concern for IT Executives

A recent survey of CIOs and IT executives reveals that Frugalnomics, a focus on austerity via business and IT cost savings, remains strong. In a survey of CIOs, CTOs and senior IT executives by the Society for Information Management, 172 U.S. companies cite "business productivity and cost reduction" as their top business concern. The spendthrift focus is the second consecutive year that business productivity and cost reduction has received the top priority by such a wide margin.

“The insights from the study confirm that the economic downturn is continuing to cause a significant shift in IT
priorities,” said Jerry Luftman, former SIM Executive VP and Executive Director of Graduate Information Systems Programs and Distinguished Professor of Information Systems at Stevens Institute of Technology, who has conducted the annual research for the last 10 years. “It is essential to recognize how organizations are leveraging IT during this prolonged economic conundrum, as well as preparing for when the economy will improve.”

For sellers of technology solutions, the Frugalnomics focus means that marketing and sales must address IT executive concerns. To match needs, we recommend that technology vendors:

  1. help customers understand potential cost savings opportunities that they may not be aware of.  Benchmarks and executive assessments can help determine where the organization is spending more than it should, and which practice improvements could drive savings;
  2. clearly demonstrate and quantify how proposed solutions can drive IT cost savings, business cost avoidance and productivity improvements. A focus on value means that every solution must be cost effective, and have an impact on the bottom-line.
Many of the top 10 concerns in the SIM survey remain on the list from previous years but shifted positions,including business agility and speed to market, which jumped from the No. 3 position to No. 2 in 2010. This may be a sign that with an economic recovery underway or in-sight, that IT is gearing up solutions so that businesses can react quickly to new market changes and opportunities. Globalization, a new priority this year, was ranked as the No. 10 concern on the survey, which annually provides important benchmark data in areas including spending, salaries, job scope of IT professionals and technical/business trends. The top four areas, including IT and business alignment – a perennial concern of IT leaders – received extremely high ratings.

The full top 10 list of concerns in SIM’s annual survey is:
  1. Business productivity and cost reduction
  2. Business agility and speed to market
  3. IT and business alignment
  4. IT reliability and efficiency
  5. Business process re-engineering
  6. IT strategic planning
  7. Revenue generating IT innovations
  8. IT cost reduction
  9. Security and privacy
  10. Globalization
The announcement of the results can be found at:
http://www.simnet.org/resource/resmgr/press_releases/2010_it_trend_survey_initial.pdf

Friday, September 17, 2010

Leaders indicate Growing Investment in Smart Digital Content

The migration of B2B marketing budgets from traditional marketing vehicles toward digital channels continues according to a study by Booz & Co. Survey results indicate that over the next 2 to 3 years, 67% plan to increase spending on social media, and 64% continue to increase spending on digital and online marketing.


Leaders are growing the digital investments more than laggards, highlighting that growing digital strategies is a substantial best practice of these firms.

 

Most important, is that the Leaders indicate the importance of a dialogue with buyers.

Today's buyers are challenged, suffering from Information Overload and Frugalnomics, and are changing buying cycles through Internet fueled decisions. In order to break through, leaders are recognizing the need for smart and engaging value-added content.

The survey highlights this, with Leaders  growing investments over laggards in:
  1. innovative marketing activities around e-platforms;
  2. engaging clients through social media, and;
  3. developing custom content.
Forward-looking focus on smart, engaging and innovative value-added content is a clear differentiator between leaders and laggards.

More information on the study can be found at:
http://www.cmo.com/channels/b2b-marketers-boost-spending-social-media-digital?cmpid=NR53

The End of Marketing as We Know It: Overcoming Buyer Challenges with Interactive Smart Content

The past decade has seen an exciting and dramatic increase in new digital marketing channels including Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, search engines, webinars, virtual trade shows and more. These new channels have made it easier than ever for marketers to reach out to prospects, and marketers are certainly taking advantage of the available efficiency. For example, the typical B2B prospect receives an average of 20.3 email pitches per week, up 32 percent from 2006 according to sales and marketing research firm SiriusDecisions.

With marketers who seem more focused on gaming the channels themselves than in the value of the dialogue being created, buyers are now inundated with more product related and meaningless offers than ever. As a result, buyers now suffer from Information Overload. Reaching out has never been easier, but making meaningful connections has never been harder. The question any marketer needs to ask - Are your marketing efforts adding to the clutter, or driving a valuable dialogue and as a result, connecting meaningfully with prospects to advance the buying cycle?

Making the information overload issue worse, two economic downturns in the past decade have made these inundated buyers more frugal than ever. This has resulted in a condition known as Frugalnomics, where buyers are now immune to empty product pitches and promises, instead demanding quantifiable proof that a proposed solution will drive bottom-line impact and represents more value versus the competition. To this end, are your marketing efforts connecting with these frugal buyers who don’t care about product features and benefits, and are instead value focused?

Rounding up the challenges, recent studies indicate that 9 out of 10 of buyers say that when they are ready to buy, they find you. With ready access to an unprecedented wealth of on-line information, and skepticism toward vendors as a result of direct marketing overload, buyers have revolted and taken the buying cycle into their own hands. Prospect driven buying cycles mean that buyers research solutions on their own, and do their own due diligence, engaging sales much later in the sales cycle. To meet prospect driven purchases, as a marketer, are you providing more of the right content at the right time, presented to fuel buyers when they are researching and progressing through the buying lifecycle?

Although new channels drove the growth in digital marketing over the prior decade, the next decade of marketing innovation will be driven by strategies and tools to address these significant and fundamental changes in buyers:
  1.  Overcoming Information Overload;
  2. Fighting Frugalnomics;
  3. Fueling Prospect Driven Buying Cycles.
These three issues are having a measurable impact on marketing. According to IDC research, 62% of B2B vendors now need more leads in order to generate the same amount of sales, and 72% indicate an increase in sales cycle time over the past 6 months. Although a challenge, it is clear that overcoming these issues can improve qualified lead generations, drive more conversions, and reduce lenghthening sales cycles.


The Smart Content Revolution
In our research, we have developed the Smart Content Revolution, a staged set of three proven best practices that can help marketers evolve their current efforts to overcome these new challenges:


  1. Overcoming Information Overload with Dynamic Content
  2. Fighting Frugalnomics with Value Marketing
  3. Fueling Prospect Driven Buying Cycles with Decision Cycle Mapping
Let us explore these recommendations and the impact they can have to your marketing effectiveness:


Dynamic Content
Ever get a white paper, case study, direct mail or other product promotion and wonder why the marketer sent the promotion to you? It was a case study about an enterprise, and you are a small business, it was outlining benefits for companies in Europe when you are located in the US, or it illustrated case studies for the health industry, and you are in high tech.
In a world of information overload we are inundated with useless information, making it harder to break through the noise and find the important content we need to be more successful as decision makers and buyers.

Dynamic content represents one solution to help break through the clutter, as it allows marketers to build messages piece by piece based on specific recipient characteristics. According to MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm surveys, when content is customized, buyers indicate that the content is much more effective at converting prospects into buyers. The study examined the customization technique and percentage of buyers who indicated customized content is more valuable when customized by this technique, with results as follows:


  • By Industry = 82%;
  • By Role / Job Function = 67%;
  • By Company Size = 49%;
  • By Geography = 29%.
Customization of the content can be generated prior to presenting the content, such as using registration profiles to customize the e-mail blast, or in real time, like a dynamic white paper that asks the customer a few questions and then completely tunes the white paper based on profile, stage in buying cycle, opportunity and need.

According to a marketing automation firm Silverpop survey of B2B marketers, even though customization is very effective, only 35 percent of marketers said they were using dynamic content. However, of those that did, the results of personalized content have been impressive, with 93 percent said it worked better for them than traditional content, and 43 percent reported that it “worked great.”


Value Marketing
Ever been asked to invest tens or hundreds of thousands in a solution without proof of significant savings, fast payback and return on investment? Unfortunately, marketers do this all the time with promotions that talk up product features and functions, but do little to prove benefits and value.

With Frugalnomics, buyers are inclined to not make significant investments or changes, and as a result, customers need to be armed with the tools to “make the case for change. According to Randy Perry, VP Business Value Selling at IDC, “Today's buyers are more conservative than ever, and over 90% now demand that every proposal provide quantified bottom-line impact.” There is a "cost to doing nothing", but customers need to be armed with the tools to quantify the cost of indecision and the positive bottom-line impact these changes can have.

In order to attract, connect and capture these frugal buyers, marketers need to produce content that raises economic interest, quantifies value, and boosts urgency in a time where it’s easier to do nothing than make a wrong investment.

How fundamental is the shift from product / solution selling to value selling / marketing? According to Forrester analyst Scott Santucci, “Today, buyers are looking for business partners that will help them drive business results or outcomes – rather than bundle their products and services into solutions.” As a result, Mr Santucci indicates that, “A distinct and important supplier caste system is emerging between a Business Outcome class – those who align their resources to help their customers achieve results, and a Commodity class.”


Decision Cycle Mapping
Ever get a product sales pitch for a problem you don’t have? Ever get a competitive comparison ofor a product when you don’t even know what the product does and why you care?


Not only is it important to provide the right content to create a dialogue with overloaded and frugal buyers, but to present the right information at the right time.

Many customers are not fully aware of what issues they have, or what urgency they should place on various opportunities they have. During these early phases, buyers are most looking for diagnostic advice and consultative ideas. According to SiriusDecision buyer studies, the most favored source of content during the early stages of b-to-b decision-making are white papers, with the rankings as follows:
  • white papers (64.4%);
  • peer referrals (51.1%);
  • webinars (48.9%);
  • trials or demos (42.2%);
  • analyst reports (37.8%).
White papers help customers learn about the typical issues customers like them face, and educate the buyer on best practices others have used to resolve the issues. Interactive white papers can be even more powerful, delivering customized content to match the prospect’s profile, opportunities, and stage in buying cycle precisely.

Even newer types of decision support tools such as interactive executive assessments can be used by prospects early in the buying lifecycle to self-assess and diagnose issues, as well as obtain prescriptive advice based on what issues were uncovered. These assessment tools ask about current practices and issues the customer is facing and compares the responses to a database of best practices to highlight where the prospect is doing well, and where improvements are needed. Peer comparisons can be used to drive urgency, showing the prospect where they are falling behind competitors.

In the middle stages of the buying lifecycle, prospects know they have an issue, and know that there are solutions, but need to get educated on which specific solutions would be best, and what these solutions can specifically deliver. At the middle stage, buyers need to understand product features and savings / benefits that can be derived. Assuring that the solution delivers bottom-line benefits is key at this stage. Content such as relevant case studies illustrating the value others have received, benefit and ROI calculators help to prove bottom-line impact and assure that solving the problem will drive savings and other business benefits.

In later stages of the buying cycle, the prospect needs to understand what the solution will cost, and whether the solution represents the best competitive value. At this later stage providing buying guide content and tools such as quoting and configuration tools, TCO comparison tools, feature comparison tools, testimonials, trials and pilots can help skeptical buyers to be assured that they are making not only a good choice for their business’s bottom-line, but the choice that represents the best value.






Throughout the buying lifecycle, buyers are skeptical, and vendor credibility is an issue. According to SiriusDecisions buyer surveys, the more the B2B vendor can use third party validation, the more credibility can be raised. Survey results indicate that the most trusted sources of marketing content information through the buying lifecycle are industry analysts (cited by 31.4% of respondents) and peers (28.7%), especially early in the lifecycle. Using these trusted sources to help drive and validate the decision support content is a requirement in creating a meaningful dialogue with prospects, and converting prospects to customers.


The Bottom-Line


The past decade has seen a revolution in new channels to reach prospects like never before, however these innovative channels and macroeconomic conditions have wrought new challenges. Marketers are facing buyers suffering from Information Overload, Frugalnomics and Prospect Driven Buying Cycles.


To drive sales, marketing needs to realize that buyers have fundamentally changed and must change their playbook to match. Three best practices to help overcome the challenges of the next decade include:
  • Overcoming Information Overload with Dynamic Content
  • Fighting Frugalnomics with Value Marketing
  • Fueling Prospect Driven Buying Cycles with Decision Cycle Mapping
We predict that those marketers that realize the unique and significant challenges to buyers over the coming decade and deliver smart content to match changing buying lifecycles and requirements will be the winners.

Sources:






Thursday, September 16, 2010

Measure to Manage - Driving Sales Enablement Success

Selling B2B solutions certainly has changed over the past decade, and these changes are only accelerating, driven by significant customer challenges:
  1. Information Overload - Buyers are inundated with more marketing pitches and sale calls than ever, and suffer from a severe case of information overload. The right messages and tools are needed to break through and reach overloaded prospects;
  2. Frugalnomics - Reeling from the impact of two economic downturns, the last one particularly severe, executives are demanding more scrutiny on every proposal and buyers now demand quantifiable poof of bottom line impact and value from each investment;
  3. Internet Driven Buying Cycles - With more information from more sources available than ever, buyers are engaging sales teams later in the sales cycle, and are taking control of the buying cycle more than ever, creating a disadvantage for those firms who don’t engage with a compelling dialogue early and often.
Transferring knowledge to sales representatives, and then helping these reps more effectively share this knowledge with customers and prospects is the mission of sales enablement, and it has become a vital best practice to overcome Information Overload, fight Frugalnomics and take control of Internet driven Buying Cycles.

 
Sales Enablement Investments are Significant
As a result, B2B vendors are recognizing the importance of sales enablement, and have invested significantly in empowering sales professionals to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle. So how much is spent on sales enablement?
  1. According to Forrester, companies are spending on average 19% of their SG&A costs, some $135,262 per quota-carrying salesperson, in sales support related activities;
  2. SiriusDecisions, focusing on marketing costs per sales person indicates that on average companies invest  $43,011 / salesperson, an estimated 3%-7% of the opportunity value of the sales pipeline.
 Though required, is the enormous and important investment in sales enablement paying off?
 
Research by IDC recognizes that sales enablement investments are significant, but may not be delivering on promises. Surveys reveal that buyers are not satisfied with the value sales professionals are delivering to engagements. In a recent survey, 24% of buyers indicated that the sales reps are not prepared for presentations at all, 30% indicate that they are somewhat prepared , and only 29% indicate that they are well prepared. The lack of preparation has been directly shown to drive inefficient conversion, longer sales cycles, more discounting, and higher competitive losses.

 
Can't Manage What you Haven't Measured
So how can sales enablement stakeholders help to drive better performance. The secret to management is often measurement, and SiriusDecisions recently recommended a series of best practices to help drive better sales enablement performance and success. There advice, a formal effort to better enable a sales force must be paired with formal measurement of the effort.

 
SiriusDecisions recommends that the performance of sales enablement programs and investments be tracked in four dimensions, successively implementing these metrics to assure sales enablement return on investment:
  1. Usage and Activity – are the tools you are providing being used to the scope and level expected? Are there issues with the adoption of these tools related to awareness, usability, and acceptance? Are there issues with sales people not understanding that customers have changed and require a different approach? Measuring usage and activity can help determine if the large number of tools and content are actually being used, or not;
  2. Feedback – do the sales professionals like the tools you are providing? Feel that the tools match what customers need to drive the buying cycle forward? Surveying the community for feedback can add a dimension of quality to the quantity metrics, and help shape potential improvements to drive better usage and activity;
  3. Sales Effectiveness – measurement of before and after sales performance metrics including reductions in sales cycle length, increases in average deal size and increases in close rates;
  4. Sales Productivity – a measurement of how much time sales professionals spend on critical engagement tasks, and how much time sales enablement can help reclaim to yield more time to engage with customers, such as the time savings in customizing presentations, preparing proposals, and developing business cases.
The Bottom-Line
With the growing importance of sales enablement and increasing significant investment, it is vital that sales enablement stakeholders recognize measurement as a tool to drive better sales enablement programs, tools and investments.

We have seen organizations create centers of sales enablement excellence, with a focus on tracking the value of sales enablement investments as a key objective.

Organizations with a focus on measurement are more able to meet changing customer challenges, grow sales enablement programs, and as a result drive better sales efficiency and effectiveness.

 
Sources:
  1. IDC Executive Tele Briefing on Sales & Marketing Strategies for 2010
  2. Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of Sales Support, Forrester Research, Inc., April 2009 
  3. Sales Enablement: Measuring its Impact. SiriusDecisions Perspectives.

 

Marketing Budgets on The Rise. Sign of Economic Recovery, or Head Fake?

In perhaps a great sign that the economy may be in better shape than many are realizing, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business bi-annual marketing spending report reveals that marketing budgets are back on the rise. The latest survey in August 2010 indicates that CMOs are anticipating dramatic marketing spending increases of 9.2% over next 12 months. This represents a dramatic turnaround from last year where annually spending growth was indicated to be only 1.1%.

Although this growth is significant, many organizations are simply growing back to normal, recapturing some of the budget cuts over the past 2 years.

In looking at the allocation of spending increases, it should come as no surprise that Internet Marketing spending is expected to increase the most, with 13.6% annual growth expected. This is followed by growth in spending on new product introductions (9.1%), new service introductions (7.2%), customer relationship management (8.3%) and brand building (8.3%). On the decline, with negative growth of 2.5%, is traditional advertising spending.

A look at Social Media spending reveals that marketers expect to spend 9.9% of their budget on social media over past 12 months, that this is expected to almost double in next five years, to 17.7% of total marketing budget. These social spending estimates are up 30% from surveys a year ago.

A summary of the results can be found at: http://www.cmo.com/budgeting/new-cmo-survey-reports-marketing-spending-rise?elq_mid=95&elq_cid=622&cmpid=NR51

Friday, September 10, 2010

IT Budgets into 2011 - Robbing Peter to Pay Paul?

Gartner Executive Programs midyear survey indicates that IT budgets are growing at a paltry 1.1% in 2010, essentially flat in 2010.

The good news is that the second half of 2010, projections are in line with Gartner’s survey in the fourth quarter of 2009 when CIOs reported IT budgets would increase, on average, by only 1.3%, and spending outlooks are more positive than earlier surveys. More good news is that 2010 is far better than 2009, with a weighted global average reduction in IT budgets of 8.1% for 2009, showing that a spending recovery is in place, but marginally.

Infrastructure vs. Operations
However the most important trend from the survey is not positive spending growth, it is that CIOs are paying for needed infrastructure upgrades via cuts in operating budgets – essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research at Gartner Executive Programs indicates that "CIOs plan to increase capital expenditures (CAPEX) by 3% this year and pay for that increase with a 1.3% cut in operating budgets. CIOs felt they could no longer delay infrastructure upgrades and other capital investments and they funded them at the expense of operating budgets."

This means that spending on people and services will remain tight, and according to the research, the larger the firm, the tighter it is managing its IT budget in general and IT operating expense in particular. This continues a trend Gartner has observed since 2008 as larger IT organizations started reducing their resource requirements through consolidation, waste elimination and other measures. CIOs of the largest firms indicate that opportunities in these areas remain."

Smart vendors need to anticipate these frugal budget trends, and help organizations figure out how to do-more-with-less. The trend of all buyers is towards Frugalnomics, a requirement that investments deliver quantified bottom-line impact, with pressure on vendors to prove and improve the value of their solutions.


The Bottom-Line
The Gartner budget survey provides great clarity to IT vendors looking for sales and marketing guidance to fight Frugalnomics:


  1. For those selling infrastructure solutions, the budget pressures require showing how solutions will "pay for themselves" via reduce operating expenses such as reducing management and support labor requirements, support and maintenance contracts, power and space usage.
  2. For those selling services, the road is tougher, and will require sensitivity to price, extreme value, and benefits of the services to far exceed the costs, as organizations will be looking to reduce services contracts overall for needed infrastructure investments.
  3. In both cases, frugal buyers will be looking for proactive help in guiding budgets, and any project proposal must quantify a significant return on investment and quick payback.
The press release announcing the Gartner Executive Program study results can be found at: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1433218


Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research at Gartner Executive Programs will provide more detailed analysis on the CIO Agenda at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, being held October 17-21 in our hometown of Orlando, Florida.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

SaaS Solutions Becoming the Standard for Marketing Solutions

A recent survey conducted by Big Blue Moose, a digital media consulting firm, found that an overwhelming majority of respondents are using SaaS products for their marketing efforts. Of the 105 people who responded to the online survey--72 percent of whom said they were in a marketing function--over half said more than 50 percent of their digital marketing tools were delivered as SaaS.

As with other business units, marketers are turning to SaaS solutions to help reduce the total cost of ownership of their marketing applications, drive cost predictibility and improve scalability / agility.

Read more: Survey finds increased SaaS use in marketing - FierceContentManagement http://www.fiercecontentmanagement.com/story/survey-finds-increased-saas-use-marketing/2010-09-07#ixzz0z4HMa0rj

Forrester announces Sales Enablement Conference focused on Selling into the New Economy

We were excited to hear that Forrester's first Sales Enablement Conference will be focused on Selling into the New Economy.

As sponsors of the conference, Alinean is greatly looking forward to participating and helping sales enablement professionals understand how the new economy is driving significant changes in buyer sentiment, and how addressing such changes will mean the difference between taking the lead, or being an also-ran.

If you are a sales enablement professional you have to attend this event to learn how these changes will drive demands and shape investments.

From our research we know that two economic downturns in the past decade have permanently changed how B2B solutions are bought and sold, forcing all stakeholders to focus on quantified bottom-line impacts. Alinean has coined a term to capture this change - Frugalnomics.  We feel that those companies that recognize and address this fundamental Frugalnomics market shift with the right sales effectiveness enablement investments, particurly value selling initiatives, will have significant more success than those focused on sales efficiency.

According to Forrester, "In today's dramatically changing world, many of you are also at a metaphorical fork in the road. The path most traveled represents squeezing that last ounce of productivity from the tried-and-true practices that got you to where you are today. The other path is being set by trailblazers who recognize that the economy is resetting itself and new go-to-market models are emerging."

The new go-to market models are shaped by buying organizations who are forced to do-more-with-less, as a result, putting pressure on solution providers to demonstrate clearly how proposed solutions can help prospects drive savings, improve competitive advantage and deliver bottom-line impact. Value selling is an imperative.

"Simply put, it's a race to see who can develop a selling system that allows client-facing people to add more value to clients, at every interaction. These value-exchange patterns are different based on your customer types, the problems you help address, and the role your organization plays in solving them." according to Forrester.


Forrester indicates that key topics will include:


What do buying executives actually think of how they are engaged by sellers? There’s a lot of talk about getting sales and marketing to sing off the same page, but what is the song? Any kind of alignment should start with buyers, and we are going to present a mountain of buyer insights that in many ways are jaw-dropping.


What does your CEO expect from your selling and marketing efforts? CEOs are caught between their investors’ expectations of more profitable growth and the increasing perception of being mere commodities from buyers. George Colony (our founder and CEO) will share results from his exclusive chief executive research project and provide you with what’s on the mind of your CEOs.


Where is sales enablement heading, and how do you get started? We’ve been working closely with many leading companies to figure out new ways to develop more adaptive go-to-market models designed to help sales organizations add more value to executive-level buyers. We’ll share our findings and also showcase a rich mix of speakers who are in various stages of the journey to provide you with real-world advice.


The Bottom-Line
The conference will be held in San Francisco on February 14th and 15th, and if you are sales enablement professional, you have to attend this key event.

At this event, Alinean will be announcing significant findings and new solutions, and will have key value selling analysts on hand to help discuss how these best practices can be applied to drive improved selling effectiveness and success.


More information on the event can be found at:
http://www.forrester.com/events/eventdetail/0,9179,2438,00.html


Forrester's blog announcing the event can be found at: http://blogs.forrester.com/scott_santucci/10-09-08-forresters_sales_enablement_conference_will_be_about_selling_new_economy

"Big Ideas" still Trump ROI in driving Marketing Strategy

A recent Forbes Insight research survey indicates that despite the impact of two economic downturns in the past decade and current economic pressure to deliver bottom-line results, Marketing Executives are still more focused on the "big idea" , left brain creative to drive marketing strategy, vs. the quantified ROI, right brain impacts.

When marketing executives at larger firms were asked, what attribute is most important to marketing strategy,
  • 58% indicated that it is a core "big idea" that guides all of our marketing initiatives,
  • while only 40% indicated that it was "tools and metrics that measure ROI and ensure accountability for outcomes" that drives marketing strategy.
Interestingly, perhaps because of closer accountability to bottom-line results, small / medium business marketers(those with budgets of less than $1 million) favored metrics to drive strategy, at 58% compared to the "big idea".

Measurement is Driven by Frugalnomics
Measurement is definitely more important than in the past, and is being driven because marketing executives understand that the buyer landscape has fundamentally changed. Driven by Frugalnomics, a new age of austerity which demands proof of bottom-line impact from all significant investments, marketers are implementing marketing performance measurement to prove strategic impact and justify to senior executives that marketing monies have been well spent.

According to the survey results, for those larger firms who are measuring marketing performance, the motivation for implementing a measurement program:
  • 71% - make marketing more strategic and impactful within the organization
  • 56% - senior executives demand some justification for the money we're spending
  • 35% - improve marketing team accountability
  • 27%  - increased competitive pressures
  • 25% - financial pressures
  • 17% - changes in consumer behavior
  • 15% - need to improve business planning
  • 8%  - need to guide product development
  • 6% - need to improve advertising agency relationship and effectiveness
Overall, 68% of respondents have implemented a measurement program, although only about half indicated that the measurement program was formal. The good news for the "quants" is that interest in measurement programs is clearly growing, with almost all organizations indicating that they will be implementing formalized measurement programs in the near future.


The macro-economic conditions are clearly driving more measurement, and in particular, respondents indicated that sentiment was driven by a more competitive landscape with more companies competing for less market opportunities, overall economic pressures, and more scrutiny from internal stakeholders. When asked what market changes were driving measurement changes to a large extent, respondents indicated:
  • 65% - to remain more competitive
  • 55% - because of current economic conditions
  • 52% - because of internal financial pressures
  • 52% - because of changing client / consumer behavior
  • 49% - because of new tactics to our marketing program
  • 43% - shift in marketing strategy to new media
The Bottom-Line
Marketing is under pressure to shift from creativity to accountability, and clearly that shift is taking place. Although for some chief executives and financial officers, some marketing executives are still not getting the accountability message, and the balance is still not meeting the needs of a frugal environment.

After the technology bubble-burst in 2001, CIOs were held more accountable to bottom-line results. 
Many CIOs did not shift from creative to accountable and as a result, IT budgets as a percentage of revenue has declined substantially over the past decade, even though the importance of technology has substantially increased. CIOs who did not shift to address Frugalnomics saw tenures shorten, and reorganizations that moved their leadership lower in the corporate chain of command.
Do CMOs face a similar fate? Faced with Frugalnomics, marketing executives clearly should be putting accountability ahead of creativity, but the survey results still show this to not be the case. To be successful, the marketing executive of the near future needs to better balance the "big ideas" with the ROI, and provide bottom-line impact proof in order to get their fair share of budgets and remain strategic.

Source: The Accountability Evolution, Marketers Turn to Metrics to Boost Their Strategic Value, Forbes Insights and MarketShare Partners. The survey was fielded online between February 9, 2010 and April 1, 2010 among 103 senior marketing executives. Half of respondents (50%) had marketing budgets of greater than $1 million, 39% had marketing budgets of less than $1 million, and the remaining declined to specify their marketing budgets.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Demand Generation In the Face of Frugalnomics and Internet Fueled Decisions

Formally defined, Demand Generation is the use of targeted marketing programs to address four key objectives for B2B marketers:
  • Building awareness of a company’s products and services;
  • Establishing relevance to a prospective buyer/end user;
  • Supporting validation for the purchase; and
  • Mitigating customer concerns.
Successful demand generation programs are uniquely challenged today, and must address a changing landscape where:
  • Economics are driving more decisions;
  • The Internet is fueling a prospect driven buying cycle, and;
  • Prospects are faced with information overload resulting in shorter attention spans than ever.
Frugalnomics Changes Everything
According to Forrester analyst Scott Santucci, "Go-to-market models always change during periods of disruption, and this economic downturn has been deep, long, and might not even be over. The more buying organizations are a forced to do-more-with-less they adopt different business patterns.” We term the current shift Frugalnomics, where two successive economic downturns over the past decade have produced an age of austerity where buyers demand quantifiable proof that any investment will yield a beneficial bottom-line impact and provide maximum value compared to alternatives. 

This shift in B2B buying cycles and requirements has significant impacts on marketing and demand-gen success. According to Forrester’s Mr. Santucci, “Today, buyers are looking for business partners that will help them drive business results or outcomes – rather than bundle their products and services into solutions.”

In order to attract, connect and capture frugal buyers, marketers need to produce content that raises economic interest, quantifies value, and boosts urgency in a time where it’s easier to do nothing than make a wrong investment. Randy Perry, VP of Business Value Selling for IDC indicates that times have indeed changed, where now “over 90% of buyers indicate that to connect with them, B2B vendors need to prove that solutions can deliver a quantified bottom-line impact.”

A Prospect driven Buying Cycle Changes Everything
Back in the day, in the 1970s and 80s, companies like Xerox and IBM established the best practices on how B2B, and especially technology, was successfully marketed. But the successful ways to sell in the past are long gone.

One of the catalysts for this change has been the Internet, which has clearly made more information and tools available to decision makers, and put the buyer in control of the buying process. As a result, B2B sales and marketing will never be the same, evidenced by “how so many things we did when we sold to businesses in the past — things that actually worked well — no longer work”, according to Jefre Ogden, author and President of Find New Customers.

More Stakeholders than Ever
The old method used to be to get to the Decision Maker to get the sale. Unfortunately today, B2B buying decisions have more stakeholders than ever.

To be successful in multi-stakeholder decisions, you often have to engage executives, finance, business leaders, purchasing, operations and technologists, and provide compelling value messages to each stakeholder. The challenge, how do you market with what matters to each stakeholder personally with the right content, knowledge and value metrics to be compelling to this diverse group?

Customized "Smart Content" is King
In the past, a nice website would get buyer's attention. Unfortunately, most everyone has a nice website today.

In the new world where buyers are in control, content is king. Studies indicate that 9 out of 10 buyers consumed and relied on content on their way to a purchase decision: especially white papers, eBooks, webinars, interactive analysis tools, podcasts, and video clips. And the content that worked best was content personalized to the buyer: their industry, their role, their stage in the buying process.

According to MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm surveys, when content is customized, buyers indicate that the content is much more effective at converting prospects into buyers. The percentage of buyers who indicated customized content is more valuable when customized for:

  • By Industry: 82%
  • By Role / Job Function: 67%
  • By Company Size: 49%
  • By Geography: 29%
Buyers are In Control
The old mantra was that, “With enough leads, we will find more sales opportunities.” Unfortunately, buyers are inundated with cold-calls, e-mails and sales pitches, making qualified leads harder than ever to generate, and making “cold calling” a thing of the past. Information overload makes it difficult to break through the noise and connect with prospects.

According to Mr. Ogden, “9 out of 10 of buyers say, when they are ready to buy, they find you.” And when they find you do you have the right tools to engage them? The marketing mix needs to change, investing in the right tools and content to engage the buyer, rather than cold calling.

According to MarketingSherpa and IDG, “Social Media and blog content have the hype, but lag considerably in connecting with buyers, behind other more traditional marketing tools, particularly white papers, competitive comparisons and buying guides, and peer best practice / benchmarking tools.”

And if you do reach out to buyers, adding personalized value to every outreach is required. Valuable research and interactive tools are required.

Marketing Needs to go Beyond Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
One of the major ways to generate leads in the past was to optimize the corporate website for search. However, new research shows that most buyers rely on vendor relationships and recommendations and not search. According Mr Ogden, “7 out of 10 buyers say they start their buying process at vendor sites, not Google.”

This is emphasized in recent buyer surveys from SiriusDecisions, where the most trusted sources of information overall are industry analysts (cited by 31.4% of respondents) and peers (28.7%). Analyst case studies and validation, and peer social network recommendations are key to early engagement success.

Later in the sales cycle, personalized value-added content, tools and advice via the corporate web site or micro-sites is required. Don’t have the information buyers are looking for as they do their research, and don’t have the content validated by analyst and peers for credibility, and you can lose the deal.

The Bottom Line
With prospects in charge of the buying process, and more frugal than ever, today’s marketer needs to be ready with personalized and relevant content to address:

  • Prospects suffering from information overload;
  • Value conscience and bottom-line focused buyers;
  • More stakeholders with different goals, issues and value propositions;
  • Analyst and peer references
The buyer is now in control in the age of Internet fueled decision making and Frugalnomics. The successful B2B marketer and seller recognize that the old ways to success are dead. Today the roadmap to success is a proactive facilitator in the buying lifecycle, providing personalized content and analysis to help diverse group of decision makers value the correct purchase decision. Decision-driving content is required, and as a result, will continue to command a greater and growing percentage of B2B online marketing spending.

Sources:
1) MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm survey - http://www.knowledgestorm.com/search/viewabstract/90153
2) SiriusDecisions B-to-B Buyer's Survey 2010
3) New Realities about B2B Buying, Jeff Ogden, SandHill.com Blog, Jun. 08, 2010
4) IDC Executive Tele Briefing on Sales & Marketing Strategies for 2010

Sales Enablement Effectiveness?

Because of Frugalnomics, an environment where buyers now demand bottom-line value from every investment, B2B sales teams are challenged more than ever to deliver expected results.

IDC research shows that because of frugal buyer sentiment, 62% of B2B vendors need more leads in order to generate the same amount of sales, and 72% indicate an increase in sales cycle time over the past 6 months.

Sales enablement seeks to address these challenges, providing the practices, resources, training and tools needed to help fight Frugalnomics. According to sales and marketing analyst firm SiriusDecisions, “Successful reps know that establishing credibility and providing value to a prospect or customer throughout the buying cycle is the difference between closing the deal and losing it. Sales professionals must ask the right questions, gather data and coherently identify need in the context of an opportunity, then be equipped with the proper tools as the opportunity progresses.”

Sales Enablement Ineffectiveness?
No one would argue the important of sales enablement in the face of Frugalnomics, but most would be surprised that the current practices and significant investments are not delivering to expectations.

According to Forrester, companies are spending worldwide, on average, 19% of their SG&A costs, some $135,262 per quota-carrying salesperson, in sales support-related activities. And these costs are growing, with 65% of sales executives indicating that investments in sales enablement will be increased / increased substantially over the next 12 months. Unfortunately, not only are the investments in sales enablement much higher than most expect and growing, the investments don’t seem to be generating expected returns.

According to IDC research, legacy sales enablement investments have not generated expected outcomes, with buyers not being satisfied with the value sales professionals are delivering to the engagements. In a recent survey, 24% of buyers indicated that the sales reps are not prepared for presentations at all, 30% indicate that they are somewhat prepared , and only 29% indicate that they are well prepared. The lack of preparation drives inefficient conversion, longer sales cycles, more discounting, and higher competitive losses.

Forrester analyst Scott Santucci concurs, indicating that "problems cross-selling, long sales cycles, declining win rates, margin pressure, and getting average deal size up can be traced back to the same source – the conversation between your client facing people and the combination of stakeholders that represent your buyers."

So why are the sales enablement investments not paying off?
  • Are sales professionals resisting the fact that buyers and the buying lifecycle have fundamentally changed?
  • Are marketing and sales enablement teams producing the right presentations, white papers and tools for sales professionals to use in customer engagements?
  • Is the sales force aware of these tools, and have knowledge to select or is prompted as to which tools to use when?
  • Is the sales force using the presentations, white papers and tools?
  • Or is it an issue of acceptance, where the methodology, presentations, collateral and tools are not being accepted by customers as credible?
The fact is that according to the research, key marketing and sales enablement investments are not delivering the expected return on investment - improved sales effectiveness, and executives will not let the current trends continue without intervention.

Before executives take negative action, sales enablement groups should proactively assess which of these suggested barriers to success, or others, are preventing success, and what can be done to improve effectiveness.

Sources:
1) SiriusDecisions B-to-B Buyer's Survey 2010
2) New Realities about B2B Buying, Jeff Ogden, SandHill.com Blog, Jun. 08, 2010

3) IDC Executive Tele Briefing on Sales & Marketing Strategies for 2010
4) Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of Sales Support, Forrester Research, Inc., April 2009