Recently, presented at a wonderful event in New Orleans – Frost & Sullivan’s Marketing World 2011. It was a well-attended session and the group shared several ideas, providing a great opportunity to learn from my peers.
The format of the event encouraged genuine dialogue about the challenges facing demand generation professionals today. The final day, the attendees regrouped to share with each other the big takeaways from the three days. Some of the key takeaways included:
- Measure. Test. Improve. This was discussed in every session I participated in. In one session, a woman asked “Do we think all of these metrics are going to stifle our creativity as marketers”? Well, you can probably guess how I might have reacted to that one. I am a big believer that measurement enables us to be even more creative and take bigger risks. But it’s interesting question. We all still struggle with what we should measure and how we measure our impact. By the end of the event, the consensus was to establish a framework for tying field campaigns to revenue for actionable understanding. Also, there is no one-size-fits-all framework. The key is to implement a framework that makes sense for your business and helps you to take action.
- Data is a big challenge. Data quality is still a barrier to adopting high-touch, personalized communication approaches. Everyone seemed to believe in the dream. But what came next often was a sigh and the old “that dream can never be ours sentiment. Many of the organizations represented were multi-billion dollar corporations with complex lead management systems and lots of customer data points. For them it felt impossible to get the strategic commitment required to establish and adhere to data standardization, integration, and data management processes. There was lots of helpful discussion on how to prove value with quick wins and build momentum to elevate the data challenge to a strategic initiative over time versus just throwing in the towel.
- Social – hot or not? Lots of discussion, case studies, and debate on the role of social in demand generation. We still have the shiny object syndrome. However, in the end, as one gentleman pointed out, we still don’t know what we don’t know with social. Still, as organizations get more sophisticated with their ability to measure this challenge will begin to fade. In the end, folks, it’s simply another communication channel. Focus on knowing your customer and understanding how they use social channels – this should inform your social strategy and efforts. As one gentleman stated “we need to manage the tools, not let the tools manage us.”
- Segmentation and Buyer Personas. One theme that resurfaced in several of the workshops I attended was that documenting buyer personas down to the individual persona detail is a powerful tool for B2B marketing, segmentation and message development. Putting a face and a name to our potential buyer segments helps us to keep it real and connect with our buyers on an emotional level – not just on a product affinity level. I think the big “a-ha” here was that in B2B – business buyers are people too…which leads me to the final take away…
- The era of B2B v. B2C elitism is over. I have been longing for this day where we as marketers would publically acknowledge this fact. One gentleman commented that there is no longer a clear divide between B2B and B2C. He said even just a few years ago B2B would turn its nose up at B2C, and vice versa. Today, he went on to note that we finally are starting to listen and learn from each other. Revenue Performance Management is industry agnostic. Every story has a nugget of wisdom for each of us. The challenge to each of us is can we find them and apply them to meet our own revenue objectives.
Riding the Mechanical Whale
Of course it wouldn’t be a trip to New Orleans without a visit to Bourbon Street where a group of us stumbled upon the opportunity ride a mechanical whale. Yup, you read that correctly – not a bull, a whale. A colleague updated their Facebook status to “riding the mechanical whale” and his friend immediately commented, “is that some kind of metaphor?” He promptly replied, “Nope!” This exchange just cracks me up.
When he was bucked off, of course, everyone cheered and laughed. But, I had to smile when he jumped right back on and got an even louder round of applause. I think, in our jobs, we often feel the changes we are making in our organizations are whale-sized projects that take a lot of commitment and patience to tame. So, to all of you, take some time this year to network with colleagues outside of your organization, learn from each other’s mistakes and successes, and keep on riding that mechanical whale.