Marketing traditionally gets a bad rap in a lot of organizations. I should know this, as a marketer myself. There are a lot of old anecdotes – mainly around the idea that marketing is either spending money foolishly, or at the very least with low accountability. I see it a little differently. This is because for us, we have created an inbound, and in my opinion highly effective and cost efficient marketing model. Now, our jokes focus on the idea that marketing gets blamed when sales are low, and ignored when they are good.
So, how can you transform your marketing into a lean and mean machine? Well, for starters demand generation tools, linked to your CRM system, can help you move from outbound to inbound – shaving costs and automating a lot of the qualification process. This automation is the sweet spot of SugarCon speakers Pardot. Their product integrates well with SugarCRM, so it makes sense that they would be presenting on bridging the gap between marketing and sales in a CRM system.
I recently spoke with co-founder and VP of marketing at Pardot Adam Blitzer. Adam had a lot of great points, around inbound marketing, how SaaS and the cloud are affecting marketing automation deployments, and how to grow a marketing initiative from simple demand generation into complex multi-channel marketing automation…
What major changes in marketing are driving customers to products like Pardot?
A key part of products like Pardot is the ability to objectively evaluate your marketing campaigns. Marketers can no longer get away with simply producing fluffy branding initiatives and calling it a marketing success. More and more often they are asked to provide data on how their efforts contribute to sales and ultimately the bottom line. Connecting assigned prospects and opportunities created directly to a specific marketing campaign is a powerful way to show you’re up to snuff.
Beyond the obvious issue of ROI in this economy, there is also the technology factor. These tools put marketers back in the driver’s seat. Marketing has become so heavily reliant on online mediums that there really needs to be a way for a non-technical user to create their own landing pages, emails and other materials without having to outsource to an expensive agency or wait on the IT department.
Is “outbound marketing” dead? Or just evolving?
Outbound marketing is far from dead but it needs to be done more effectively. The old “spray and pray” mantra of the past is simply too much guess work. Marketing automation provides a layer of objectivity to the B2B sales process by scoring your prospects’ activities and grading them based on how well they fit your ideal customer profile.
We never advocate certain types of outbound marketing, such as purchasing lists, but we still see the bulk of clients, ourselves included, using outbound marketing techniques like sponsorships or trade shows. The difference is we’re not going to waste our sales reps time blindly following up with all of those leads; instead we’re going to bring them into Pardot, evaluate them for fit and then nurture them to keep them engaged until they show the appropriate amount of interest.
Where is the first place to start when it comes to bringing demand generation tools and CRM systems together?
As a B2B sales organization, think about the CRM as the center of your sales reps’ universe. With demand generation tools, the goal is not to replace a CRM but to enhance the value of the system. It is key to drive adoption of a new demand generation tool by making it easy for them to use the new information in an environment they are comfortable with. Displaying prospect data from your marketing automation system within the familiar CRM interface goes a long way toward lasting success. In addition, since the CRM is typically the most up-to-date, it is important to bi-directionally sync all of your data and ensure that the CRM serves as the master record.
How has SaaS or the Cloud aided companies looking to perform this type of integration?
One of the biggest benefits of SaaS products is the ability to roll out changes so quickly and instantly have 100% user adoption. If the CRM provider was to make a change or add new functionality, the demand generation provider can adapt the integration and update the product for all users without having to worry about some customers being slow to upgrade. This is, naturally, beneficial from a support standpoint as well since SaaS providers never have to worry about supporting multiple versions.
Another aspect of the speed factor is that the integration can happen very quickly on the client side, without having to spend time on a lengthy installation process or deal with a lot of red tape from within the organization.
I take it this type of initiative is best rolled out in phases?
Absolutely. The vast majority of companies employing marketing automation are implementing solutions for the first time. We can teach them to use Pardot pretty quickly, but they have to have the business processes in place to put everything in motion. If you go in with a good project map, it is much easier to put it into action than if you’re trying to figure it out as you go.
Fortunately, you can easily set up just a few simple pieces and get off to a running start. Then you can go back later and use what you’ve learned to fine tune your strategy.
Apart from email and web visits? What other channels do you see playing into demand generation strategies in the near future?
Live events (trade shows, networking events) and online events (webinars, virtual trade shows) are both still great lead sources because they allow you to get out there and interact with the prospects in an environment in which they are open to learning about your product.
In the same vein, you can’t ignore the role social media is playing in marketing today and I think that presence is only going to get stronger. It will be interesting to see how tools evolve to integrate with and track return from all of the emerging social channels.
The last strategy that comes to mind is the blogging and thought leadership angle. Building a relationship with potential customers through your blog can really add to the credibility of a company and help you earn new clients.