Archive for the ‘Lead Generation’ Category

The more prospects who choose to register their contact information with you the better. Someone who opts-in to your house list is demonstrating an interest in your message. Some may represent immediate sales opportunities. Others can be inexpensively nurtured over time using email until they purchase, opt-out or are disqualified as a prospect.

To build your house list you need to give your prospects a reason to share their contact information with you. Having a great product or special offer may not be a good enough incentive because many visitors will not be in purchasing mode when they first get to your web page. Most will be in learning mode. Keep that in mind when deciding what incentive to offer.

Here are the most common motivators that entice people to register their contact details on a web site:

    1. To request pricing or other information
    2. To access or download a white paper or article
    3. To see a product demonstration
    4. To attend a webinar (or to view a recording of one)
    5. To attend a telephone seminar (or to hear a recording of one)
    6. To read a research report
    7. To download an e-book
    8. To access a trial product
    9. To subscribe to an e-newsletter
    10. To subscribe to a print magazine
    11. To get special access to VIP benefits
    12. To participate in a forum
    13. To access technical support
    14. To access a peer network such as a user group
    15. To use an online tool or calculator
    16. To get a coupon or discount code
    17. To register for an event such as a trade show or seminar
    18. To receive notifications (e.g. product availability, new listings, etc)
    19. For a customized experience (e.g. to store preference data)
    20. To download an audio file (e.g. a telephone seminar, podcast, music)
    21. To enter a high-value sweepstakes
    22. To join an affiliate program
    23. To join a loyalty program (e.g. airline miles)
    24. To receive a gift
    25. To participate in a survey

Best practices doe choosing the right opt-in motivators

The best incentive for your business will depend on your unique situation. However, in general the following best practice rules apply:

  • Offer credible value-add information related to what the visitor is looking for. Your brochure does not qualify as an incentive to register.
  • The offer should be of value to a prospective customer, not to the general public. Remember you want sales prospects, not just a list of names.
  • Keep the title of your offer relevant to what you sell.
  • The offer should relate to a prospect’s purchase decision process.
  • If possible, provide immediate gratification once the form is completed.
  • Always tell the visitor what is in it for them.
  • Don’t ask for too much information. You can get more information later. At least ask for a full name, company name and an email address.
  • Build trust. Clearly state your privacy policy on the registration page. Tell the visitor what will happen when they register and assure them they can easily opt-out.
  • Keep it simple. The page must look and work simply. Don’t let the programmers over-complicate it.
  • Test different incentives and registration page designs.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

I’m chairing what may be the first ever marketing-oriented session at the annual Flash Memory Summit in August 2013. A lively panel of experts, editors, and analysts will be discussing product differentiation in a growth market in a session called: Differentiate or Die – Marketing Flash-Based Storage Systems. So, as part of a primer on product positioning, I thought I’d explain the concept of positioning as it relates specifically to Flash-based products.

An earlier post, Competitive Positioning of Flash-Based Products – A Primer for CEOs, CTOs and Marketers, explains that your product’s position is whatever your prospective customer thinks it is, not necessarily what you want it to be. Positioning or repositioning is your attempt to influence that opinion. The post also lists the 5+1 elements of a strong position, and gives an industry relevant example.

This post highlights how customer interests change, and therefore positioning must change, as a market matures over time. Understanding this evolution is important because the market for Flash-based products is moving to a new phase. The early customers have bought their first Flash-based products already.  Those “innovators” and “early adopters” have demonstrated that there is a compelling case for Flash-based products in the enterprise.

Here are some of the use cases that gained traction:

  • Software runs faster with Flash, so fewer servers and licenses need to be purchased to support a growing user base. Users are happier, IT costs and support costs are lower.
  • Very fast IT systems give some organizations a competitive advantage in their market so Flash-based storage is mission critical for high frequency traders, some online retailers and even government agencies (think NSA).
  • Virtual servers lower IT costs, but predictable boot-storms and unpredictable surges in demand for data access can slow the system for all users. Flash-based systems make virtualization work better.
  • Flash-based systems require significantly less space and power than hard drive-based systems, substantially reducing the cost of running a data center.
  • Big Data analytics and structured databases, whether real-time or batch processed, deliver information faster when run on Flash-based systems. A batch process measured in hours can re reduced to minutes or seconds.

These tangible dollars-and-cents applications, along with the falling cost of Flash-based products, bring new customers into the market. However, these follow-on customers have different expectations to their predecessors.

Time Adoption of Innovations, Redrawn from Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, New York Press, 1962

Time Adoption of Innovations, Redrawn from Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, New York Press, 1962

Innovators (Enthusiasts): These buyers are willing to try new ideas at some risk. They can be very knowledgeable. They like to test new ideas and may not need a complete product or solution, just access to the latest technology.

There are very few, very hard to find, buyers in this market and they rarely buy in volume. In most cases, a vendor can win the positioning game at this stage if they are perceived to be a technology leader. For example, first with eMLC Flash, first with an Infiniband interface, etc.

Early Adopters (Visionaries): These buyers adopt new products early, but carefully. They seek breakthrough advantages (e.g. High Frequency Trading on the stock market using solid state disks.) They can be respected opinion leaders. They will invest in creating their own complete solution so they may need lots of support.

There are few such customers, but when you find one, you often find more in the same industry. These customers are looking for products, so with a little bit of sales and marketing, they may find you. However, many start-ups are mislead by this market and their failure to recognize the situation sows the seeds of their demise. For more, please read: Storage start-ups: What CEOs, VPs and VCs should know about the honeymoon period.

In most cases, a vendor can win the positioning game with these visionaries if they are perceived to have the lead with a product feature that’s enables the visionaries to achieve their goals. In this case, that might mean they have the fastest product, or the lowest cost per terabyte product. But it also helps to be perceived as experts in a particular application because customers need help building a solution for their particular situation. Today, that situation often involves databases and virtualization.

For those who did not notice, TMS employed Mike Ault, a recognized Oracle Guru to help customers better deploy their SSDs with Oracle databases. TMS (Texas Memory Systems), a 30+ year veteran of the industry and former client of my firm, Marketingsage, was recently acquired by IBM. TMS was very successful in its positioning for early adopters of solid state disks.

Although these Early Adopters may not buy many units, they can be very influential on the large “Majority” market that will buy in volume.

Early Majority (Pragmatists): These buyers adopt before the average firm, but are rarely leaders. They make deliberate, more considered, decisions and they want references. They have a wait-and-see attitude and like to work with proven solutions and vendors.

This is the market phase that drives the high tech industry. Sales grow rapidly because a large number of new customers enter the market. They are buying a new type of product so new vendors do not have to dislodge an entrenched direct competitor (e.g. it’s not like asking a customer to switch their existing brand of backup software). However, these buyers do not want to experiment and they are more risk-averse than earlier buyers, so well known trusted brands often win against the new lesser known brands.

In most cases, a vendor can win the positioning game with these pragmatists if they are perceived to have the best product that’s safe to purchase.

Late Majority (Conservatives): These buyers are keeping up, but not leading. They prefer simple solutions and look to the established standard. They can be resistant to change and are more risk averse.

In most cases, a vendor can win the positioning game with these conservatives if their product is perceived to be an industry standard, plug-and-play, 100% compatible option with a great warranty that’s on sale from their favorite vendor.

Laggards (Skeptics): These buyers avoid change and very risk averse. They may only purchase when there is no other choice. They buy like the Conservatives do, but only when they are forced to (remember all those UNIX gurus who wanted no part of a GUI?).

Although the real market is not likely to be a nice symmetrical bell curve, and it is hard to know exactly where the market is at, there are indications that we’ve reached the “tipping-point” and the enterprise market is entering the Early Majority phase. In this phase, a large number of new customers enter the market. Of course, as demand grows so does supply and competition.

In July 2013 there were 75+ vendors trying to capitalize on Flash-based products for enterprise customers. This list includes some newborn vendors (not yet shipping) and some undead vendors (they look dead, but still might bite.) In general, I excluded those selling only hard disk drive form-factor SSDs (e.g Seagate) and Flash chips (e.g. Toshiba, Samsung), but I included PCIe SSD vendors if they claimed to have a product for enterprise servers. Here’s the list:

Aberdeen, Amax, Arkologic, Astute Networks, Assurance, Avere Systems, BiTMICRO, BridgeSTOR, Cachebox, Cisco, Condusiv, Coraid, DataDirect Networks (DDN), DataON, DDRdrive, Dell, Dot Hill, Echostreams Innovative Solutions, EMC, Enmotus, Fastor, Foremay, Fusion-io, GreenBytes, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, Huawei Symantec, IBM Systems and Technology Group, IceWEB, Infinio, Imation, Intel, iXsystems, JetStor (AC&NC), JBOD, JDV Solutions, Kaminario, Kove, LSI, Marvell, Micron, NetApp, Nimble Storage, Nimbus Data Systems, OCZ, Oracle, Panzura, PernixData, Pivot3, Proximal Data, Pure Storage, QLogic, Qsan, Radian Memory Systems, Reduxio, Renice Technology, Runcore SSD, SanDisk, Scalable Informatics, SeaChange, Skyera, SolidFire, Soligen, Starboard Storage, sTec, StorageQuest, Super Talent, System Fabric Works, Tegile Systems, Tintri, VeloBit, Violin Memory, Virident Systems, WhipTail, and X-IO.

If we wait, most will be gone by the end of the decade. A handful will be gone because they will have won the positioning game with the global players and been acquired so the bigger firm can compete in this market. Unfortunately, most of today’s vendors will just be casualties who could not differentiate themselves in a way that attracted enough customers, or who could not defend their position from competitors claiming the same benefits at a lower cost.

What is the time-frame for success or failure with Flash-based products sold to enterprise customers?

The answer differs depending on whether you are a major global player or a start-up hoping to be acquired. If the history of the IT industry is a guide, I would say that the global players like EMC, IBM, HP, Dell, and NetApp are just getting started and will play for the next 10+ years.  They already have the sales channels, promotion budgets, and customer base in place. They are trusted brands adding a new line of products to complement all the others.

However, if the start-ups and JBOF (just a bunch of Flash) vendors are not hearing alarm bells, they are not listening. The strategic acquisitions, where the large players buy smaller firms for their technology (not customer base), are in full swing and there can’t be more than a small handful of healthy buy-outs left to go in this round. To survive with iterative technology innovations (rather than major breakthroughs) the smaller firms need to get their sales and marketing right within 12 to 24 months (4 to 8 quarters, if they are lucky) — at the time of writing in July 2013, that means they win or lose somewhere between 2H14 to 1H15. In most cases “losing” results in a change of senior management and a zombie company hoping for a reboot before having to sell the IP assets at a loss.

That’s good news for the firms who have/get their marketing act together now, because in 2 years time they will be on more solid footing with fewer competitors in a large market. In this case, marketing means:

Opening new sales channels. A reseller (incl. OEMs and service providers) is only going to sell one or two brands. With 3 to 6 months to sign, and 3 to 6 months to sell, you can see why the time to act is now. Resellers mitigate end-users’ risk (very important in the Majority market) because they already have a trusted relationship with their end-user customers. They also supply complementary products and expertise so the end-user gets a complete solution. For the vendor, they deliver quick access into new market segments without the high capital costs of doing it themselves.

Build a large prospect list. Email marketing allows you to consistently and frequently promote to named prospects, often prior to their brand-selection decision. It’s relatively low cost and effective. However, it only works when your contacts have subscribed (self-identified and shown an interest in what you have to say). Buying or renting a 3rd-party list won’t do it effectively enough so investment in lead generation is important.

Not everyone who shows an interest in learning (e.g. a subscriber downloading a white paper) is ready or able to buy a system costing tens-of-thousands of dollars (or more) so only a small percentage of your marketing-qualified leads will become sales-qualified in any given quarter. Therefore, you need to (properly) nurture that list. The response rate will be a bell curve from “hot” (buy quickly) to “cold” leads (don’t buy), but 6+ months average would not be unusual. As a result, you need to front-load your lead generation efforts to build that list sooner rather than later.

It takes months and quarters to get a lead gen. machine humming so if you wait to add the talent (employees or agencies, like Marketingsage) or wait for an inexperienced team/agency to experiment with tactics you will likely run out of time — your revenue won’t equal your capital burn rate so you’ll get weaker and weaker with each passing quarter as competitors become the hard-to-dislodge incumbent suppliers to both resellers and end-users.

Build your brand. A typical buyer will only consider 2 or 3 products, not 5 or 60+. If they do not know who you are or what you stand for (i.e. your perceived position as the fastest, best VDI solution, lowest cost, etc.) you will not be considered at all. It’s easy for EMC, HP, Dell, etc. to be recognized and considered, but not so for the other 50+ players. Even if they make it to the small consideration set, the recognized brands are 50% more likely to be selected because familiarity and trust often go hand-in-hand. Branding and positioning are closely related.

Takeaway Points

1. The market is evolving. The new buyers of Flash-based products are more risk-averse. To win the positioning game you need to convince a high volume of potential customers that you have the best product that’s safe to purchase for their particular needs.

In this market, “safe” does not just mean a reliable product. It’s is not just about MLC vs eMLC vs SLC technology or redundant components. A safe purchase is also about proven interoperability (e.g. certifications), ease of integration (e.g. same brand as server), warranties, references (e.g. customer case studies), endorsements (e.g. awards), familiar brands names (e.g. firms they read about in the press, see at events and hear about regularly) and trusted suppliers (e.g. vendors they have experience with).

2. Marketing is more important now. If technology innovation remains iterative (not ground breaking) and quickly matched by competitors, sales channel development and marketing promotions will separate the winners from losers.

3. Time is short. If you are not one of the big global vendors, your time frame for success is very limited (I’m predicting 2H14 to 1H15) for most. In this case, success might mean getting acquired or becoming profitable before the initial capital runs out. Of course, profits come from customers. The early winners have the advantage of revenue, references and incumbency.

About this Series on Positioning and The Flash Memory Summit

Join me and a lively panel of experts, editors, and analysts at what may be the first ever marketing-oriented session for CEOs, CTOs, and marketers at the annual Flash Memory Summit in August 2013. We will be discussing product differentiation in a growth market in a session called: Differentiate or Die – Marketing Flash-Based Storage Systems on Wednesday, August 14, 9:50-10:50 am. This is an Open Session so you can register for free up until 8/11/13.

You can follow this blog by signing up in the left sidebar. You can find related posts like these by clicking the Flash Memory Summit 2013 category:

  1. Flash Memory Summit 2013 Session: Differentiate or Die – Marketing Flash-Based Storage Systems
  2. The Positioning Game: 75+ Vendors Promoting an Enterprise Solution that Uses Flash Memory
  3. Competitive Positioning of Flash-Based Products – A Primer for CEOs, CTOs and Marketers
  4. Positioning and Hype for Flash-based Products – A Primer for CEOs, CTOs and Marketers

You can suggest questions and discussion topics using the comment box below or by sending me, David Lamont, an email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. If you’d like to support this topic and enhance your own social media reputation, please click the “Share This” and “Like This” buttons below. Your support is appreciated.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

Here’s a situation that’s not uncommon when selling enterprise storage or data management products: a firm generates an increasing number of marketing-qualified leads, but the percentage, or even the volume, of sales-qualified leads drops. Obviously, the quality of the leads should be questioned. But what if the lead sources are the same? Why are the new leads not as good as the old leads?

Before you kill your marketing programs you should look at your December data (or any other short month for business). You’ll likely find a very a strong correlation between the time the salespeople spend actually talking with prospects and the number of sales-qualified leads. In other words, if the salespeople are not connecting with prospects, leads will not convert from marketing-qualified to sales-qualified. The number of man-hours dedicated to talking with prospects, and the quality of the initial sales pitch, are far more likely to determine the number of sales-qualified leads than the source of the lead. The holiday season can highlight this often overlooked fact, especially if you don’t track the actual number of sales conversations.

Unfortunately, the sales bottleneck is not always recognized, especially when many marketing programs are running and evolving at the same time. It’s easier to conclude that a marketing campaign is failing, or worse, that marketing as a discipline does not work.

It’s natural to assume that if you increase the number of marketing-qualified leads, the number of sales-qualified leads will increase at the same rate. However, that is only be true if the sales team also increases its bandwidth to process them.

Think about the logistics (optimistic for complex/expensive IT products): A salesperson with time for qualifying leads makes an average of 60 calls per day. With an average of 3 attempts required to reach a prospect, they can talk to 20 prospects per day. With an average of 17 dialing days per month, one dedicated salesperson can talk to 340 prospects. If 5% have an open project, budget and authority the salesperson would convert 17 marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads per month. Put another way, that’s 17 sales-qualified leads per 1020 dials assuming you have a large team of salespeople and can average the data. Obviously, a single salesperson talking to 20 prospects for 15 minutes each would require over 5 hours of talk time and would not be making as many dials.

If the overall bandwidth does not increase, individual salespeople are put under pressure to quickly “work through” the backlog of leads before they go “stale”. Nobody wants to have a large number of “Open”, “New” or “Unopened” leads next to their name in the CRM system. However, the salespeople can only make a limited number of calls in a day so they only try to reach each prospect once or twice before they move on. Best practices call for 5 to 8 call attempts, so while they make many calls, they have fewer timely conversations. As such, they don’t identify as many sales opportunities. Additionally, pressure to clear a backlog may result in less thought going into a customized sales pitch – again depressing the number of sales opportunities.

Even successful sales calls can result in fewer sales-qualified leads when there are more leads than sales bandwidth. Typical enterprise sales are complex. They require research, demos, evaluations, team selling, etc. so once an opportunity becomes “hot” the salesperson has less time to work on new opportunities. Because they have an opportunity in-hand and less time, their criteria to qualify new leads gets more stringent, again reducing the number of sales-qualified leads.

In conclusion, bandwidth is not just an issue for engineers to consider in their storage and data management products, it’s also an issue for the CEO, CMO and VP of Sales to consider when selling those products.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

Summary: Marketing VPs and CEOs at data storage and data management firms can use these 5 techniques to generate more sales for the same budget by thinking strategically about how they allocate money.

I think it fair to say that most executives take a tactical, rather than a strategic, approach to the marketing budget. For the most part they take last year’s budget and adjust it up or down or they base it on a percentage of revenue. Then they apply the relatively small changes to their existing expenditures. Accordingly, firms set in motion a marketing program that may not provide them with any competitive advantage. And for most, that’s OK. It is good enough not to be at a competitive disadvantage.

However, it’s possible to gain a competitive advantage at budget time. By that, I mean a small sales-centric firm can “punch above its weight” and generate more sales for the same budget by thinking strategically about how it allocates money.

Strategic budgeting also makes it possible to overcome many of the B2B marketing challenges:

MarketingSherpa Marketing Research Chart:

A worthy goal is to maximize the funds that are applied to lead generation and lead management. What’s a lead? It’s not a web page visit, a click, or a rented list. A lead, according to Marketingsage’s definition is “a sales opportunity-related request with actionable contact information recorded by [you].” These actionable requests are reliably generated by paid promotions such as online advertising, trade shows and email campaigns, especially when supported by product-centric PR and highly selective participation in social media.

Another goal, for business with a resale or distribution channel, might be to increase the funds available for sales incentives directly tied to revenue. For example, paying market development funds to resellers only when they meet a set revenue objective.

Regardless of the promotion or incentive, strategic budgeting usually comes down to applying money to programs and campaigns that have a direct, or highly influential, impact on sales. So if your budget is not increasing, you are really making a decision to take funding from something or someone so you can apply the money to something or someone else that may have a greater impact on sales.

That’s why strategic budgeting is tough. Almost all marketing program and campaign will have their merits and supporters. However, the fact that it tough to do is also the reason why it’s possible for some to out perform peers with the same budget.

With that said, I’ll highlight my top 5 techniques for strategic budgeting.

Calculate What your Promotional Budget Should Be

When you have a revenue target, a lead-to-sale close rate, an average cost per lead and an average customer value you can estimate how many leads you’ll need and the required budget.

For example, if you pay the industry average of $60 for an information request type lead (e.g. white papers download), and your lead-to-sale close rate is 0.5%. You can calculate that you need 200 leads per sale and those leads will cost $12,000. If this year’s revenue target is $10-million and the average customer generates $100,000, you need 100 customers. The 20,000 leads you need for 100 customers will cost $1.2-million in promotions.

Of course, a happy customer can be expected to purchase more and the cost of incremental sales to existing customers will be far lower.

When you do this for the first time you may fund the numbers quite sobering. That’s not a bad thing because the strategic marketer will use this calculation to push back on unrealistic expectations and goals or to justify the appropriate budget for the targets set.

Adopt an Opportunity Cost Perspective

The average cost for an information request type lead (e.g. a white paper download) in the data storage industry is ~$60. As such, you’ll find it helpful to think of each $10,000 that is not spent on lead generation as 166 lost leads.  You can translate that into foregone revenue when you calculate your own close rate and expected average value of a customer – $83,000 using the above example (more if customers have a recurring value).

Thinking in terms of lost leads is very helpful when making judgment calls. For example, should you spend $60,000 to upgrade the trade show booth? Yes, if you think it will deliver a return greater than ~1000 leads – $500,000 in new revenue using the above example.

The same question can be applied to the purchase of marketing analytics tools, paid analyst relationships, promotional giveaways, internal sales meetings, custom creative, etc. If you are the CEO, you can apply this opportunity cost perspective when allocating budget to other departments, rather than to marketing.

Invest Early

If it takes an average of 3 months to convert a sales lead to a customer your fourth quarter promotions are driving next year’s revenue, not this year’s. Therefore a strategic marketer will invest almost everything early in the year to drive sales. Early sales success can be used to justify, and fund, the additional budget required to sustain the momentum later in the year.

Although the data storage and data management industry is not as seasonal as bathing suits and snow blowers, it does have some peaks and troughs that should be taken account. For example, summer months tend to be slower and government and educational customers purchase in cycles. Strategically it may make sense to execute the bulk of your lead generating promotions in the first 5 months of the year.

The word “execute” is important here because it takes 4 to 8 weeks to prepare most promotions – longer for trade shows. Add months and quarters if you need to hire staff, plan and/or build consensus.

Think Talent

Executing lead generating promotions on time with sufficient budget is paramount to success. Your ability to do this will depend on having the right skills at the right time. Therefore, strategic marketers think about talent before they decide whether to hire employees, agencies and/or contractors.

Your choices here are critical simply because talent is likely to be your largest single expense. Typically talent expenses, including payroll, annual analyst contracts, and agencies can consume 60% to 90% of a marketing budget so productivity gains can make a huge difference if savings can be directed into sales programs and lead generating campaigns.

Whether you can redirect savings from increased productivity depends on whether your talent expenses are fixed or discretionary. Payroll is essentially a fixed costs so sales-centric productivity is key. If an employee costing $150,000 per year is spending just 20% of their time on irrelevant tasks, you are effectively forfeiting $30,000 worth of leads. Using the above example, that’s 500 leads that could drive $250,000 in revenue.

On the other hand, outsourced talent is typically discretionary so you can use the services for what you want, when you want, for as long as you want. There usually very little, if any, “busy work.”

Therefore, the strategic marketer minimizes fixed expenses by keeping the number of employees to an absolute minimum and ensuring that the vast majority of everyone’s time is spent on activities that can impact sales. Many deliberately under-staff for 3 reasons:

  • Employees, and everyone who demands their time, are forced to prioritize.
  • To get everything done, tasks will need to be outsourced. Therefore the value and cost of the task will more visible and it will get more consideration (see note on the Opportunity Cost Perspective).
  • Discretionary budget can be more easily reallocated to sales programs.

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Of course every situation is different, but based on decades of experience I’ll offer this rule of thumb:

≤60% of the talent portion of the budget should be allocated to employee payroll, bonuses and benefits and tools (including the VP of Marketing). The most productive teams have experienced product marketers with deep knowledge of the products and industry.

Their job is to manage the day-to-day tasks that cannot or should not be managed by outside agencies. These include liaising with customers, vendors, technology partners, resale partners, salespeople and engineers. This interaction allows them to:

  • Define the strategy, budgets, and timing.
  • Define the product and company positioning.
  • Tee-up press announcements and the outsourced development of sales tools (case studies, brochures, video, etc.)
  • Make decisions about product pricing, sales programs and promotional investments (lead quality, the acceptable cost per lead, tactical placements, events, etc.)

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≥40% of the talent portion of the budget should be allocated to outsourced services such as PR, creative services, media buying, event management and strategic counsel – tasks that are performed better by people with broad media relationships, independent perspectives, and specialist skills. For most firms these tasks do not fill a 40 hour week and specialist skills, contacts and tools make it difficult to hire an effective do-it-all employee. Additionally, many of these tasks need to be executed simultaneously during certain periods of the year requiring bandwidth that just not available from a highly productive internal team.

A highly productive small tech firm marketing a B2B product like storage or data management software can compete using an experienced product-centric VP of marketing, a senior marketing manager, and one full service agency (like my PR and lead generation firm, Marketingsage 🙂

Such an organization would typically:

  • Run 20-25 simultaneous adverting campaigns, including creative, landing pages and lead capture.
  • Generate 10-12 press announcements per year and brief press/analysts each time.
  • Run quarterly reseller inventive programs.
  • Attend 6 or so domestic trade shows.
  • Run 8 to 12 prospect lead nurturing email campaigns.
  • Manage the process for 4 or so interoperability certifications.
  • Author and layout 4 or so white papers.
  • Author and layout 6 or so case studies.
  • Produce 20 minutes worth of videos.
  • Maintain the web site.
  • Maintain a corporate blog.
  • Selectively participate in sales-centric social media discussions.

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Fast, Good, Cheap

You’ve heard the saying: You can have it fast, good or cheap. Pick any 2. For a marketer at a small firm in the storage and data management sector the priority is clear:  Fast and good (enough). Cheap is not the strategic option, even for a cost conscious marketer. Here’s why:

Time is your enemy. The market is highly competitive so a better or less expensive product will emerge soon – maybe before you see an ROI on your current development efforts. This could leave you at a competitive disadvantage with unsold inventory, depressed margins and higher promotional costs.  Additionally, if your firm does not yet have a positive cash flow, time is burning up your available capital. Ask the CFO what’s preferable: spending an extra 20% on an agency that can execute now; or burning 3 months of expenses for the whole company while you go through a hiring or orientation process.

Obviously fast and bad will not win you customers. However, don’t let perfect become the enemy of good enough. Good enough is faster and less expensive than perfect. You’re in the B2B IT market, not the fashion market, so let your competitors waste time and money on custom art, billboards, golf sponsorships, and chotskies while you deliver what prospects want – timely information that helps them choose your product over the alternatives!

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

It’s very unwise to pick just one promotional strategy and exclude all others, but it happens a lot among start-ups in the IT industry. Typically, the underlying problem is money. The firm has a very limited promotional budget so they bet it all on a single promotional strategy.

More often than not, inexperienced marketers at these cash-strapped start-ups purchase a list of prospects to email and call. After all, the list is affordable, email is almost free, and the sales team can start dialing on day one. From that same perspective, online advertising is ruled out because it is obviously expensive, it takes more time, and the number of callable contacts is expected to be relatively low.

However, choosing a purchased list over online advertising is invariably a bad bet.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • Advertising: The more expensive pay-per-lead adverts average $60 per lead. However, while the cost-per-lead (CPL) is expensive, these contacts are leads insofar as they have requested one of your resources (e.g. a white paper). Such leads result in a “warm” contact list.
  • Purchased Lists: A contact on a list costs more or less $5, depending on the criteria chosen. The cost per contact is relatively low, but they haven’t taken any action to demonstrate even a passing interest in your offering. A purchased list is a “cold” list.
  • The cost of email is almost free. It’s usually not a material factor.

A typical click-through (action) rate for cold list is 0.05%. A click might result in a white paper download, a webinar registration, request for quote, or other action that the sales team considers actionable. However, a click-through rate of 0.05% means you need to send 200,000 emails to generate 100 clicks. Those 100 clicks cost $1-million at $5 per contact (of course the cost is lower when you amortize it over many campaigns, but to make the point we’ll leave it as is.)

A low click-through (action) rate for warm list is 1.5%. It can be much higher. Again, a click might result in a white paper download, a webinar registration, request for quote, or other action that the sales team considers actionable. A click-through rate of 1.5% means you need to send 6,667 emails to generate 100 clicks. Those 100 clicks cost ~$490,000 at $60 per contact (again, the cost is lower when you amortize it over many campaigns.)

The net result: Generating a desirable action from the $60 online advertising leads costs ~50% less than generating the same action from $5 purchased contacts because the response rates are significantly higher for warm lists.

Email clicks are easy to measure, but the lesson can be logically applied to other factors. While the cost of promoting using email may be close to free, the cost of promotion using a sales team is not. Because of the significant productivity difference, cost of a sales team employed to call a cold list will be higher than the cost of a sales team calling a warm list.

You can easily test this for yourself and generate numbers for your own business. Your numbers may be higher or lower, but you will inevitably learn that a warm list is considerably more valuable than a cold one.

This analysis assumes your firm has no ethical issues with emailing people who have not subscribed for your messages. Such unsolicited emails may not be SPAM from the legal sense, but they are usually considered SPAM by the recipients. It’s certainly possible that a portion of the 99.95% of email recipients who do not respond to your unsolicited emails will in fact remember your brand and make a decision to avoid it at all costs. As a result, every campaign has the potential to diminish your brand among the carefully chosen audience you wish to sell to.

How CEOs, CFOs and VCs Might Mitigate the Underlying Budget Problem

I get it. The marketing budget of many early-round start-ups won’t support much online advertising. However, that budget crisis is usually the result of an earlier decision to invest other things. Typically, CEOs at these firms invest 90% of their sales and marketing budget in staff alone. They usually start by adding salespeople, but don’t reserve enough cash for the marketing programs necessary to feed that team.

Soloed VPs can’t address this issue because the parameters of their world have already been set by the CEO and board. The result is a failure by marketing to deliver enough high quality leads to satisfy the needs of a relatively large sales team. However, the sales team also fails because they don’t have those leads. The CEO, CFO and VCs fail because of the lost time (multiplied by the company’s cash burn rate) and the destructive interdepartmental politics spawned by the imbalance between objectives and resources.

A more prudent approach is to recognize the fact that sales and marketing are interdependent, not independent. You must invest proportionally in both. You must also recognize that marketing takes time and money and it often precedes the success of the sales team.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

My firm, Marketingsage, helps data storage and data management firms market to enterprise customers. One of our lead generation services is trade show support so we see a lot of shows. We also use trade show-timed PR to launch products and to seek quality speaking engagements for our clients. Therefore, we though it might be useful to maintain a list of top trade shows for marketers of enterprise storage and data management products.

The following shows attract the same vendors year after year — a good sign that the show produces results for them. They also attract a reasonable number of like vendors. That’s important because sales lead results are often better when a firm is among a cluster of competitors rather than on its own.

The list is far from comprehensive. There are a host of vertical shows that would be of interest to platform-specific or industry-focused vendors. I’ve just listed the bigger, more well known, shows frequented by enterprise storage and data management firms.

Note: The start dates and locations listed can change from year to year.

4Q USA: October, November, December

  • Interop – Early October, New York, NY. Billed as “the most comprehensive IT conference and expo.”
  • Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) – Early October, San Francisco, CA. Billed as “most cost-effective and efficient way to stay ahead of the technology curve.”
  • Storage Networking World (SNW) Fall – Mid October, Orlando, FL. Billed as ” transforming the information infrastructure.”
  • PASS Summit – Mid October, Seattle, WA. Billed as “the premier conference for SQL Server professionals.”
  • SC Conference – Mid November, Seattle, WA. Billed as “the international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis.”

1Q USA: January, February, March

2Q USA: April, May, June

  • FOSE – Early April, Washington, DC. Billed as “the choice for government IT education.”
  • National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) – Mid April, Las Vegas. Billed as as the show “where content comes to life.” Listed as one of the Top Trade Shows (see below) with the highest Net Buying Influence (91%) and highest Total Buying Plans (59%).
  • COLLABORATE – Late April, Las Vegas, NV. Billed as “the technology and application forum for the Oracle community.”

3Q USA: July, August, September

  • VMworld – Late August/Early September, San Francisco, NV. Billed with “Your Cloud. Own it.” Listed as one of the Top Trade Shows (see below) with the highest Net Buying Influence  (91%) and highest Total Buying Plans (55%.)

Top Trade Shows Notes for NAB and VMworld (4/12 update).

Exhibit Surveys Inc. produces an annual Trade Show Trends report and highlights are usually published in the April issue of Exhibitor Magazine. The report compares various industries so it’s limited in its coverage of any one industry, such as IT. The IT-centric events in the 2011 survey included CES (consumer electronics), NAB (broadcast technology), RSA Conference (data security), Supercomputing and VMworld (virtualization). These are all good shows, but hardly representative of all good shows frequented by IT buyers.

The Trade Show Trends report looks at many factors, but the two most useful are the Net Buying Influence and Total Buying Plans statistics.

The Net Buying Influence number indicate the percentage of show attendees who have the power to recommend or make final purchasing decisions. The average Net Buying Influence for High Tech shows was 84% in 2011. That’s 3 points above the overall average of 81%.

The Total Buying Plans number represents the percentage of attendees whom plan to buy within 12 months of a show. High Tech shows rate better than most in this category with an average of 46% in 2011, just below the overall average of 47%.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).