Déjà vu: Mobilize Your Advocates for Brillant Demand Gen

Retro Sales Guy

It’s been more than 11 years since I co-founded Eloqua, today one of the leading global marketing software companies, as a naïve 26 year old consultant.   I’ve been out of the company since 2007, now run under the capable stewardship of Joe Payne, so I have had some time to reflect on it. There is a lot to that story which I may get into in future posts, but I want to focus on the early mission and insights that the three co-founders had back then, and how those remained invariant even as the product and target market changed considerably.

One of the key insights that we had, with powerful data from my consulting work, was just how valuable sales rep time was.  Even more valuable was experienced sales rep time. When I showed the partner on my case that for every month this company we were researching retained its experienced sales reps, it was worth more than $20M per year, he made me redo it.

At the same time, companies were frittering away their valuable sales rep time on prospecting, an activity where yields were plummeting. Prospects were screening out cold calls. At the same time, there were loads of prospects surfing Internet sites, and interacting with company email. It did not take a group of rocket scientists to generate the blinding insight that if we could connect together hungry sales reps with sales-ready web/email prospects, “there was a pony in there somewhere”.

More complicated than Rocket Science

 

Our peers often focused on “new age” web metrics like email open and click-through rates, web site visits, and similar “eyeball” type metrics. I think that one of the reasons why Eloqua achieved success in the marketing content automation / demand generation market was its unique focus on sales productivity as the main metric we were trying to optimize. A focus on the metric – sales productivity – that truly drove business success helped us shape the product and distribution strategy in the right direction, even if we cut across existing company function and product-market boundaries.

Content marketing with segmentation and automation was a big idea in 2001. Let’s fast forward to 2011, and see how the situation has evolved in my view, with an eye towards understanding the trenchant metrics to drive success for marketers today:

Technology Changes in Enterprise Marketing Automation 2001-2011

 

Don’t just take it from me. Salesforce.com, which I consider to be consistently on the leading edge of B2B marketing techniques, has cut demand gen spending 69% over the past year. While increasing demand gen production. What is salesforce.com investing in? YouTube videosProprietary and public communities. Todd Forsyth, VP of Global Campaigns (a demand gen function) put it simply at the 2010 Dreamforce conference: the goal of his group is to grow customer advocates into evangelists, and facilitate the conversation in the marketplace. Amen to that, sounds like the future to me.

Déjà vu, haven’t we seen this before? The time is right for a change in the systematic way that we generate demand for our products and services.

Overproduction of content marketing and advances in social marketing technologies are catalyzing a shift in the most scarce and valuable marketing asset, from the qualified prospect, to the customer advocate.

The qualified prospect is a golden egg and the customer advocate is the magic goose – helping to generate dozens or even hundreds of qualified prospects and help close them as well.

Demand generation leaders have an important role to play in the cultivation and motivation of these special people.    We need people, processes and technologies for getting the most out of our customer advocates. We need to elevate and celebrate them, and give them the value they seek.

How about some advocate mobilization scenarios – how might the new processes and technologies work?

  1. Advocate-Centered Reference ManagementConsider the status quo reference management process:
    • Johnny Sales Rep needs a reference to help close a deal with Percy Prospect.
    • He goes back to his Ann Advocate, his trusty customer advocate (or a references manager does this on his behalf), that he has requested a reference 5 times in the past quarter.
    • He lobbies aggressively, and somewhat annoyingly, for the connection. He wants Ann to take a call in the next couple of days.
    • She has a board meeting to prepare for.
    • Ann has little in common with the prospect.
    • How many more times can Johnny go back to the well, before Ann lets him know that company policy has changed and she cannot provide him with references any more?

    This scenario shows why so many B2B companies have a crisis in references – not enough of them, advocate burnout, and a vicious negative feedback cycle as advocate counts decline.

    How about this for an alternative?

    • Johnny Sales Rep needs a reference to help close a deal.
    • He submits his request to the company community manager.
    • He invites his qualified prospect Percy Prospect to join a VIP community, where he can choose between available customer advocates who fit his profile.
    • Ann Advocate receives an email detailing her advocacy opportunities, which include connecting with interesting people – like Percy Prospect.
    • Ann and Percy choose each other based on shared needs, connection on the LinkedIn social graph, same title and industry.
    • Ann makes a great connection and improves her relationship with the company, providing her and her company with enhanced services. She’s excited to make more connections and recommend more of her peers.
    • Percy buys quickly on Ann’s recommendation and Johnny gets his accelerated commissions.
  2. Trusted Referral Campaigns
    Consider the status quo referral campaign:

    • Mary Marketer’s company is behind the revenue number again this quarter so they ask her to run a referral campaign.
    • Mary has little idea which advocates are satisfied and are willing to refer, so she has to communicate with every advocate the same way, or –
    • She requires a lengthy interaction with the service / delivery organization to identify who should be approached.
    • She sends a mass-blast email to her customers asking them to provide feedback and to recommend their colleagues. She allows for an iPad2 prize. Or perhaps a big check of 5% of deal value.
    • She “helpfully” provides a form where people can register their friends in return for their prize.
    • Customers struggle with who to refer, and in creating the right message for appropriate referrals. They are not motivated by the prizes, and feel tawdry for the quid quo pro
    • Response is lackluster.

    It is such a wasted opportunity, because trusted referral leads are so much more valuable than garden-variety leads. How can we improve this scenario with advocate-centered campaigns?

    • Mary Marketer’s company is behind the revenue number again this quarter so they ask her to run a referral campaign.
    • Mary decides to focus her campaign around her main product’s user experience, an underexploited opportunity in the market
    • She enters the VIP community management console and identifies all of the customer advocates with positive ease of use experiences. The system matches advocates with prospects in her CRM system. She recommends matches and emails go out to both advocates and prospects.
    • Advocates may choose to interact with the recommended prospect or alternatives. The system also crawls her LinkedIn social graph to identify additional potential matches.
    • Pre-written content is available for the advocates to quickly customize and send out. Two of the most important barriers to referring are now eliminated..
    • Advocates earn points for their advocacy and can compare with other advocates, redeemable for items that enhance the relationship with the company – better service, unique networking opportunities, donations to charity and more.

I am excited to be tackling these scenarios and others with my fantastic team at Influitive. How do you best leverage the power of the customer advocate to drive demand generation performance?  I look forward to your comments!

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