Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Social Media ROI Achievable?

Achieving tangible value from social media remains challenging for the majority of CMOs according to a significant study from MarketingSherpa, however incremental investments “keep on trucking”, with over 1/3rd indicating spending increases of 20% or more through 2011, and 25% indicating spending increases well north of that.

Survey participants, 3,342 consumer and B2B marketers, indicated that, as budgets grow to more significant levels, Social Media accountability has become the highest priority. The top 3 priorities being:

1. Converting social media members, followers, etc. into paying customers,

2. Achieving or increasing measurable ROI from social marketing programs,

3. Achieving or increasing measurable lead generation from social marketing.

Studying the tactics that were most effective, highlights that although social media might appear easy on the surface, the most effective strategies require the highest level of effort, including:

1. Influencer / Blogger Relations

2. Blogging

3. SEO for social sites

4. Moderating social networks.

The easier tactics, were seen as less effective, including:

1. Social sharing buttons on e-mail and websites

2. Advertising on social sites

3. Micro-blogging and multi-media sharing.

The level of effort vs. effectiveness conundrum translates to organizations having to spend significantly more than originally anticipated to generate social media results, increasing the risks towards achieving a positive, tangible return on investment (ROI).

When it comes to proving ROI, it seems that CMOs are still focusing on the easy to measure metrics, those that show a level of success but don’t necessarily prove the bottom-line impact of significantly increasing investments.


Most of the metrics used to measure ROI today revolve around activity or popularity-focused metrics including:

1. Visitors referred to website (85%),

2. Reach of fans, follows & subscribers (56%),

3. Search engine ranking positions (54%),

4. Leads generated (51%),

5. Inbound links (44%).

Bottom-line metrics are used, but not by the majority, especially conversions (54%) and sales revenue generated (35%).

Success measurement follows suite with social media tactics, where the highest level of effort / difficulty yields the greatest insight / rewards.

For those who are able to quantify the ROI impact, the results are indeed positive. An average ROI of 95% is being achieved, meaning that for every $1 invested in social media, the organizations are getting back their original $1 investment, plus an additional $0.95 of tangible incremental margin or savings.

The Bottom Line
As social media spending continues to grow, financial accountability will increase in lock step. Assuring that social media efforts translate into incremental leads, purchase conversions and revenue increases is key to assure success. However, bottom-line measurement remains elusive for the majority of CMOs.

The good news is that for those CMOs that currently quantify social media ROI, the financial results are positive and significant.


Additional information on Social Media ROI can be found at: http://www.alinean.com/socialmediaroi.aspx

Source: http://www.sherpastore.com/SocialMarketingBMR.html

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is Sales Enablement The New Number One Priority?

I had the pleasure of recently attending sales & marketing researcher SiriusDecisions’ 2011 Summit (Alinean has been sponsors of this event since its inception six years ago!)

During the conference SiriusDecisions polled the audience of 800 marketing and sales enablement executives with various questions, and one of the key questions posted to the audience at the conference kickoff was, “What were folks looking to get from attendance?”

I was surprised that the response was for Solving Sales Enablement Problems versus other marketing / sales challenges, networking and all other responses.

I think this is because sales is uniquely challenged today in the face of more empowered, skeptical and frugal buyers - a condition we have termed “frugalnomics.” It seems from our research and those from IDC, Forrester, and SiriusDecisions that buyer sentiment towards sales value-add is at an all time low, sales folks are being invited later and later into decisions .... it is not too farfetched to think of many of these sales folks being disinter- mediated all together ... not too different than what has happened in the B2C space because of the Internet and buyer empowerment.

Wondering if other folks agree / have a different take on why Sales Enablement was the number one priority for attendees?

Alinean Adds Six New B2B Customers During the First Quarter 2011

Leading Value-Based Interactive Tool Provider Maintains Significant Growth

ORLANDO, Fla., May 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Alinean, the leading creator of value-based interactive sales and marketing tools for business to business (B2B) solution providers, today announced the addition of six new customers during the first quarter of 2011, expanding its list of top B2B vendors who are improving sales and marketing effectiveness to a new breed of B2B buyers. Alinean has been selected to develop and power value-based interactive sales and marketing tool campaigns for customers including iPass, Maxeler and Verint.

"There has been a fundamental and permanent shift in buyers, who are more empowered, skeptical and frugal than ever before, a condition called 'frugalnomics'," said Tom Pisello, Chairman and Founder of Alinean. "As a result, leading marketers and sales enablement groups have recognized this change, using Alinean's solutions to become more interactive, provocative and value-focused in their sales and marketing campaigns."

These new customers add to Alinean's ever-growing list of over 100 leading B2B vendors. Combined with being named as the standardization choice at several of these major B2B accounts, these latest new 2011 account additions widen Alinean's lead and affirm its position as the industry-standard value-based sales and marketing solution provider.

Several additional noteworthy accomplishments occurred during this past quarter for Alinean, including:

• Recognition by BtoB Magazine as a Top Agency for 2011

• Acknowledgement of Tom Pisello, the ROI Guy and Alinean's Chairman and Founder, for his thought leadership in value selling and marketing through published articles in IT Marketing World, SandHill.com, Savvy B2B Marketing and the Content Marketing Institute as well as being recognized as a B2B Marketing Zone Rockstar Blogger

• Credit to Jefre Futch, Alinean's CEO, beings named a Center Florida Impact Player in the Annual Economic Outlook of Florida Trend Magazine

• Launch of two new diagnostic assessment tools, the Alinean Value Selling and Marketing Assessment and the Alinean ROI Analyst, to help marketers and sales enablement teams assess the opportunity and benefits of implementing value selling programs

• Launch of dozens of new best practices tips to effectively Fight Frugalnomics™ and drive value-based sales and marketing effectiveness

• Securing a new channel partnership agreement with Demand Creation Specialists (DCS), a leading content creator and marketer and publisher of the DemandGen Report

• Promotion of Paul Demopoulos to a Managing VP of Alinean's Analyst Group and Greg Shanker as Alinean's Chief Analyst, expanding Alinean's leadership in the development of value-based sales and marketing tools.

Is Your Content Marketing Relevant to Buyers?

More than 1,100 North American marketers are spending 26 percent of their budget on content marketing projects, and 51 percent say they plan to increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months, according to Content Marketing Institute research.

Great, right? Not so fast according to CMI and IDC ….

http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2011/05/content-marketing-relevant-to-buyers/

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Number One Sales Priority for 2011: Show Buyers the Money

Improving sales’ ability to show benefits / value to prospects is the number one tactic to drive B2B sales performance in 2011, according to a recent survey by CSO Insights.

With two economic downturns in the past decade, buyers have permanently and fundamentally changed, requiring that B2B solution providers prove the bottom-line impact, significant return on investment (ROI) and fast payback of any proposed solution. This condition, termed “frugalnomics”, requires that sales professionals adopt new tactics, to connect, engage and sell to today’s more economic-focused buyer.

Sales executives are recognizing the changing buyer landscape, and are seeking to re-engineer and empower sales professionals to meet the needs of these new buyers and effectively fight frugalnomics. According to CSO Insights, respondents decidedly indicate that improving the ability to show benefits/ value to prospects is the number one priority, In the technology sector for example, 29% of respondent indicated this as the number one priority, while another 60% indicated improving benefit / value delivery as a top 3 priority.

This dramatically exceeds the next highest priorities by 25% or more for technology sales, particularly Reaching People with Power, Optimizing Sales Processes, and Increasing Customer Loyalty.

The CSO Insights Sales Management survey for 2011 examined responses from sales executives at 850 firms.
CSO Insights survey results for sales executives at high technology companies.

Proving Benefits and Value throughout the Buyer’s Journey
In order to succeed in this new environment, sales professionals need to show the benefits of proposed solutions and prove superior value to ever more frugal buyers.

The successful sales groups will move from selling products, to helping buyer’s facilitate their decision making cycle, a set of change management steps a buyer goes through in their journey towards a purchase decision.

A buyer's journey, as mapped by sales & marketing advisory SiriusDecisions, is as follows:



In the beginning of the journey, buyers often are risk adverse, and unwilling to make a change. The status quo is often good enough. They are often unaware that certain issues should be a priority. At this Discovery phase in the journey, sales professionals needs to help buyer’s understand that certain issues should be a priority, and that solutions exist to help solve the opportunities and deliver significant benefits. At this stage, the sales professional seeks to make the issue a priority to solve, over all other issues.

In the middle phases of the buyer’s journey, the Consideration phase, the solution should be justified with a formal business case, in order to convince other stakeholders and executives that the proposal can deliver, especially when compared to other proposed projects, a significant ROI, quick payback. The sales professional seeks to make the proposed project a priority over all other proposed projects.

In the final step of the journey, the Decision phase, sales professionals need to assure buyers that the selected solution represents the best value over competitive alternatives. At this stage, assuring the buyer that the solution delivers incremental value, less risk, and lower total cost of ownership is key to closing the deal.


Content enabling the sales professional to communicate the value proposition at different phases, with progressive detail can help drive success.
According to IDC, moving to a comprehensive value selling approach across the buyer’s journey has proven to substantially help:
1. Drive higher level engagements
2. Reduce sales cycles and unfreeze stuck deals
3. Reduce discounting and improve deal size / transaction value
4. Improve competitive win rates

The Bottom Line
Buyers have fundamentally and permanently changed, requiring sales to take a new approach to fight the current “frugalnomics” trend. The priority for 2011 clearly recognizes this shift, with an initiative for sales enablement to prove the benefits and value of solutions to ever more frugal buyers.

Best practices, mapped to the buyer’s journey facilitation, can point the way to the right provocative, value selling tools to use to facilitate the buyer’s decision making process.

Sources:
The CSO Insights Sales Management Optimization research report for 2011 can be found at: http://www.csoinsights.com/Publications/Shop/sales-management-optimization

A free sample is available at: http://info.csoinsights.com/BenchmarkGreatestHits.html

Additional strategies and best practices can be found at the Fight Frugalnomics Resource Center: http://www.fightfrugalnomics.com



Optimize Content Marketing by Facilitating the Buyer’s Journey

Content marketing represents a significant investment, consuming over 26% of total marketing budgets annually, according to surveys of 1,100 marketers by the Content Marketing Institute. This already significant spending is increasing, with 51% of respondents indicating plans to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months.

However, even though budgets are significant and growing, marketers have serious doubts in the returns on these investments, with only 41% indicating that their content marketing efforts are effective.

Junta42 and MarketingProfs surveyed over 1,100 North American B2B marketers from diverse industries and a wide range of company sizes. The survey responses indicated a decided lack confidence in newer tactics like social media, blogs and videos, and even some stall worth tactics such as white papers and case studies.

Content Marketing: A Crises of Confidence
Examining the sentiment in detail, 60% of respondents reported that efforts in new marketing channels such as social media and blogs are being reported as ineffective / less than effective, and over 50% indicate effectiveness doubts with videos and white papers. Even print magazines, case studies, eNewsletters and webcasts are ineffective or less than effective for more than 40% of respondents. There is clearly a crisis in confidence in content marketing.

One of the reasons for the crisis in confidence is that content marketing success is measured, more often than not, not by how effective the content is at facilitating sales, but by how much content is produced in the shortest amount of time, and how it is distributed through as many channels as possible – success by the pound. As content continues to proliferate, relevancy to buyers is often lost in the mix, as buyers become overwhelmed by the sheer volume that needs to be weeded through.

Relevancy is a Requirement
According to IDG Connect’s IT Buyer Survey, current content marketing strategies are producing too much content that is not relevant to buyers, and seen as ineffective. And this lack of relevancy has a significant cost, including:
o Driving up content creation costs
o Increasing the buyer’s decision making process by two weeks or more
o Reducing the chances of making the buyer’s selection shortlist by 1/3rd
o Shrinking the chance of getting the sale by almost 50%.

Making content more relevant to buyers can have a substantial impact, improving effectiveness and driving a tangible ROI to the business. In fact the level of relevant content affected whether made the vendor made the short list of alternative choices, with 86% of respondents indicating that relevant content drove the buyer’s decision.

With relevancy being key to content marketing effectiveness, is there a strategy to better focus the content that is produced so it can be more precisely developed / targeted to be more relevant to buyers, and to ultimately drive effectiveness success?

Achieving Relevancy by Mapping Content To the Buyer’s Journey
In order to improve content relevancy, content development needs to be concise and important, with the right content developed to best facilitate buyer’s decisions, and enable sales to leverage the content to engage most effectively.

One way to achieve relevancy, is to be sure content is aligned to help guide the buyer’s journey, facilitating the change management process that buyers need to go through within their own organization, with multiple stakeholders and executives.

The buyer’s journey, as proposed by sales & marketing advisory firm SiriusDecisions, consists of several different steps that a buyer goes through to make a decision.


In the beginning, the Discovery phase, the buyer has to realize they have an issue and want to change. The pain point needs to be recognized and prioritized, and the existing status quo needs loosened in order for the process to proceed.

Once the buyer has committed to a change, the Consideration phase is next, where the buyer explores potential solution options, and then commits to a solution set (but not necessarily to a single provider). The selected solution set, especially in today’s frugal times, needs to be justified, providing stakeholders and executives with a quantification of key financial indicators that the project is worthy of investment, including bottom-line impacts, investment requirements, return on investment and payback calculations.

Once the solution is justified, a particular provider needs to be selected in the Decision phase. With buyer’s so frugal, often the lowest purchase price is a dominant criteria for selection, however, this may not deliver the lowest total cost over the useful life of the product / service, may require untoward risks, or may not deliver all of the expected benefits. In the final selection phase, the best overall value is selected.

For a marketer the buyers’ journey represents an opportunity to provide content and tools better aligned to help the buyer overcome resistance at each step in the decision making cycle, providing specific deliverables to facilitate buyer’s decisions. For sales enablement, tools need to be provided to sales in order to empower engagements at each step in the process, especially earlier in the sales cycle where sales professionals are often excluded from the decision making process.

With content now having a specific purpose, aligned to facilitate each step, the overall amount of content needed can often be substantially reduced, relevancy improved, and effectiveness assured.

Facilitating the Buyer’s Journey
Across the buyer’s journey different branded content tools can help facilitate buyer’s decisions, and help sales better connect, engage and sell using this content. The more aligned the tools are to helping the buyer through the journey, the better.

For today’s more conservative buyer, it is often easier to do nothing, than to change because change that comes with an investment in resources and capital, and has risks that many are not willing to take. In the beginning of the buyer’s journey, during the discovery phase, interactive research and diagnostic tools can be used to be provocative, helping confirm and prioritize the buyer’s current issues, as well as potentially uncovering issues they might not know they have. The insight from these diagnostic tools can help the buyer realize that addressing a specific issue and changing the status quo is a priority, and worthy of pursuit.

Later during the buyer’s journey, economic focused executives demand that every investment deliver a bottom-line impact, positive return on investment, and quick payback. For marketers, it is vital to proving the value of the solution to ever more frugal buyers, quantifying the potential savings, incremental benefits, and that the selected solution represents the lowest total cost / best value.

Across the buyer’s journey, the recommended branded content and tools include:
The following is a recommendation for specific content to address the buyer’s needs at each step in the Buyer’s Journey:

Buyer’s Demand More: Interactive versus Passive Content
It is harder than ever to connect and engage today’s more overloaded, skeptical and frugal buyer. These buyers are demanding marketers to create content that is more concise, relevant and personalized.

Traditional content such as white papers, case studies and even webcasts and videos are often created for a broad audience. The one-size-fits-all approach means that the content often has to be lengthier than today’s time pressed buyers want, and often contains irrelevant content. For example, the same white paper is often used to connect and engage a manufacturer and a financial services executive, or an enterprise and a medium sized business.

New technology is available however to profile users, serving up content to better match their unique needs. Interactive tools go further, letting the buyer completely personalize the engagement, delivering content perfectly tuned to their needs and opportunities.

Personalization can pivot content around the buyers industry, geographic location, size, as well as around the buyers’ stage in the buying journey, role in the decision making process, and pain points. The customization can include qualitative information, such as presenting only case studies matching the buyers industry and size, or just the opportunity overview and solutions that match the buyer’s pain points. Quantified information can also be personalized, including presenting personalized diagnostic benchmark comparisons to peers and leaders, personalized benefit and ROI quantification, or a tally of expected total cost of ownership savings versus legacy solutions or competitive options.

The Bottom-Line
Content Marketing is a significant investment, yet most marketers have little faith that their current content marketing strategies are effective. Marketers often measure content marketing success “by the pound”, yet buyer’s, already suffering from information overload, want only the right information at the right time.

Marketers who map content to the buyer’s journey can help reduce the amount of content that is produced to just the relevant content needed to facilitate purchase decisions. This enables buyers to make better / quicker decisions, and sales to leverage content to engage earlier and more effectively.

Taking advantage of the latest personalization and interactive content can further improve the ability to connect, engage and close today’s more empowered, skeptical and frugal buyer.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Alinean Announces the CMO Challenge

Free Campaign and Marketing Optimization (CMO) Assessment Tool and Service to Optimize B2B Marketing Return on Investment (ROI)

Alinean announces the CMO Challenge, a free online assessment tool and service to help B2B marketers optimize the spending and practices of overall marketing groups, or individual campaigns. The assessment benchmarks an organization’s marketing or campaign spending, tactics, and effectiveness compared to peers and leaders. The resultant report identifies which tactics are currently being used to drive success, any gaps in these tactics and recommended improvement to drive higher marketing success.

Marketing budgets, although growing, remain under pressure from current market conditions and Frugalnomics, a market condition where executives require quantifiable proof that each investment will deliver tangible bottom line benefits, quick payback and a solid ROI. Marketing executives can use the CMO Assessment tool’s analysis report to optimize marketing spending and campaigns and drive best practice improvements.

Taking the CMO Challenge, marketers can access the online CMO Assessment Tool, completing a survey on current spending, tactics and effectiveness. The survey typically takes 15 minutes or less to complete, and results are delivered immediately as a personalized PDF research report (registration is required) including survey responses, comparative benchmarks, analytical assessment and intelligent best practice recommendations and advice. Based on the request of the marketer, an Alinean Value Expert consultant is available for a complimentary review of the results and a no obligation advisory session.

The CMO Assessment Tool is initially populated with survey research and benchmarks from over 235 marketing executives in 31 different industries in North America, South America and Europe. As each new marketer participates, the responses are aggregated with the initial results to continually expand and refine the assessment research base.

The tool is available for complimentary self-service access at: http://www.alinean.com/CMO_Challenge

Alinean and Content Marketing Institute Launch Content Marketing Assessment Tool

Report Offers Industry Competitive Comparisons on Marketing Effectiveness

Alinean and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the go-to source for practical how-to content marketing advice and consulting, have announced the development and launch of a new Content Marketing Assessment Tool. The interactive assessment is designed to help B2B content marketers compare spending, tactics, effectiveness and success, benchmarked compared to peers.

The Alinean-powered Content Marketing Assessment Tool is based on the B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report that surveyed over 1,100 North American B2B marketers.

The assessment is an 8- 10 minute survey with 20 questions that assesses the dimensions of a company's current B2B content marketing efficiency and effectiveness. The tool immediately provides personalized results comparing the marketer's responses to peers of similar industries and sizes in the form of a quick benchmark comparison and a 20-page detailed analysis. Best practice recommendations are also included.

The Content Marketing Assessment Tool is free, and can be accessed at:
http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/assessment/