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Book Review: Revenue Engine

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

In the foreword to Revenue Engine: Why Revenue Performance Management is the Next Frontier of Competitive Advantage by Steve Woods and Alex Shootman, Eloqua CEO Joe Payne writes that “This is not a book about marketing. It’s not about sales. This is a book about the only thing that matters: revenue.”

Revenue Engine by Steve Woods and Alex ShootmanWoods, CTO and co-founder of Eloqua, a provider of marketing automation software, and Shootman, the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, present a bold and comprehensive framework for realigning sales and marketing groups around a data-driven process for maximizing revenue. The authors rather audaciously position the concept of revenue performance management (RPM) as “the final frontier for transformative investment,” following in the footsteps of the development of the principles of scientific management, total quality management and supply chain management.

Whether or not readers are ultimately persuaded by the authors’ arguments, there’s no question that their diagnosis of the changing landscape for b2b and considered consumer purchases hits the mark. Buyers now control the process; through search and social channels, buyers now complete 70% of their decision process before making their first contact with a sales person.

Yet at the same time, marketing and sales professionals now have access to far more data about what types of information buyers are seeking, where they are looking, what questions they are asking and what sources catch their attention, than ever before. Woods’ first book, Digital Body Language, explained how to capture and interpret that data; this book carries the process through to its conclusion, showing how to tailor content and communications based on that data to maximize sales revenue.

After examining the changing landscape and explaining why the traditional separation of sales and marketing functions no longer makes sense, Woods and Shootman delve into the buyer behavior and psychology, and what can be learned about these elements through online data collection; a framework for optimizing media and content investments; and how clean, high-quality data provides the foundation for the revenue engine.

Part 2 of the book, sub-headed “Stop Crunching Numbers—Start Crushing Them” delves into the detail of data collection, cleansing, benchmarking, optimization and utilization. It’s a practical field guide to building and running a revenue engine, though this isn’t an exercise to be taken lightly. It is in many respects a fundamental reordering of marketing and sales functions based on observation, testing, measurement and continuous improvement.

Among the insights offered along the way:

Search and social must work together to connect buyers with content: “The resulting challenge for marketers is interesting. If searches become more precise, we must strive to create a wealth of interesting, relevant content at all phases of the buying process. Similarly, as search results are increasingly guided by social influence, we must also build influence and reputation among the appropriate audiences so that our results are found to be relevant.”

Understand your primary marketing challenge in order to fix “leaks” in the buying process. Most marketing challenges fall into one of three broad categories: the Flying Car (“your business can solve a problem that most of the world is unaware can be solved…so potential buyers blindly continue with their inefficient processes…and do not actively look for a solution:);  the Wallflower (“you are not a vendor that comes to mind when prospective buyers look for alternatives”); or the Red-Headed Stepchild (“you are evaluated when potential buyers look for solutions, but buyers rarely select your solution”).

Your marketing emails had better provide value. “One or two uninteresting or non-valuable messages from a particular source will quickly lead the user to to reflexively delete or ignore any future content. This is known as an ‘emotional unsubscribe’—the recipient has effectively tuned out of the communication.”

Provide prospects with multiple methods for direct contact. “Active searches for information also occur when prospects call a vendor organization, submit an online request for information, or attend a tradeshow seeking answers to specific questions” (or engage directly in an online conversation with a vendor representative).

Understand who the key influencers are in your market and engage them. “The most reliable way—indeed, perhaps the only way to ensure your messages are fully discoverable in social media is to build strong relationships with the influencers in your space who are more likely to share those messages and ensure that your messages are sufficiently interesting, relevant and non-salesly.”

Use multiple methods to help prospects discover your solutions. “There are three primary avenues for buyers to become aware of your company and solutions: by actively seeking information (often via search), passively encountering information (often via ads), and being influenced to consider new information (often via social media).” PR can help with any of these methods as well.

And there’s much more.

Smaller companies with modest lead flows may find that this motor has more horsepower than they need, but marketing executives at mid-sized and larger b2b firms should give the Revenue Engine a test drive. They may just find it to be the key to a faster and more efficient vehicle for accelerating sales growth.

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When Behavioral Tracking Gets Creepy

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Online behavioral tracking, in theory, is beneficial to both marketers and consumers. When marketers can track a web user’s behavior (anonymously) within a website or across certain ad network properties, they can serve up ads that are aligned with the user’s apparent interests.

Creepy Behavioral Tracking

Image credit 5 to 9 Branding

For example, if you search for “camping gear,’ visit a couple of websites that sell camping gear, and read a few articles about the latest new camping products, don’t be surprised if you start seeing ads for camping equipment brands and retailers on subsequent websites you visit.

Marketers want to put their ads in front of people who display an interest in what they have to sell, and consumers (presumably) prefer to see ads relevant to their interests. And as long as the tracking is done anonymously, no one’s privacy is actually violated.

There is a problem, however, when anonymity is lost and marketers are able to learn far more about you than they need, or you want them, to know.

I recently visited a marketing interaction software vendor’s website (doesn’t matter who–I’m not out to besmirch the company, but rather look at a disturbing practice that goes well beyond a single organization) and read in disconcerting detail about what’s possible when the vendor’s product is combined with analytics, post-click marketing software, online databases, marketing automation software and social media monitoring tools.

Anyone familiar with website analytics tools understands that when you visit a website, certain bits of knowledge about you are collected: your (approximate) geographic location, browser used, device used, network (corporate or ISP), and of course your behavior (pages viewed, time spent) while on the site. But it’s all collected anonymously; Google Analytics and other website tools can’t identify you specifically.

Even when this data is paired with website visitor intelligence packages, you remain individually anonymous. The site owner knows a bit more about you (e.g., the size of the company if you’re within a corporate network, your industry, your office location) but still nothing personally identifiable.

This technology crosses the line from helpful to creepy when these online behavior elements can be traced to you as an individual, and then supplemented with other online databases and information sources.

Here’s an analogy: you attend a local business networking event, and meet John Doe. He tells you that he knows a bit about you because he’s seen you mentioned on Twitter and read your blog a few times. You’re flattered—this social media stuff works! And you have a fan.

Now, slightly different scenario: again, you attend the networking event and meet John Doe. But this time, he doesn’t just know about your blog, he knows when and where you were born, where you went to high school and college, your home address, the age and approximate market value of your home, the type of car you drive (and the fact you had some major service work performed last week), how many kids you have, how old they are, that you have a dog (aging and with a bad hip), and your entire work history.

That’s not flattering, it’s creepy. You don’t have a fan, you have a stalker.

How is this possible in the behavioral tracking realm? It can happen when you lose your anonymity by providing the most rudimentary personal information on a vendor’s website, such as entering your name and email address in order to register for a webinar or download a white paper.

Visitor tracking and marketing automation systems can now use various technologies to tag you, and from that point on, everything you do on the vendor’s website is attributed to YOU, individually. Furthermore, the vendor can now tie this behavior to personal information purchased from online database owners and scraped from social media profiles and updates.

Using this information, the vendor can display different products, offers, even prices to you. Helpful? Possibly. Creepy? Most definitely.

What to do about this is a thornier question however. Industry self-regulation would be the ideal answer in theory, but it often fails or falls short in practice.It’s tempting to call for government regulation, but as we all saw with the SOPA and PIPA debacle, the heavy hand of government often hurts or threatens the innocent in its ham-handed efforts to punish the guilty. Stopping copyright and IP theft seems like an eminently laudable goal, but the government’s approach was horrendous.

The same risk certainly applies here, though it’s probably inevitable that legislation will end up being part of the public response. Along with that, individuals need to careful about what they post online, companies need to accurately disclose their information use policies, and creative developers need to continue creating tools that enhance web user privacy.

But ultimately, companies need to more respectful of their customers. Collect reasonable information, but not everything available. What counts as “reasonable?” Ask your customers and prospects. Happily, ethical companies can do the right thing today. Unhappily, unethical or overzealous marketers are likely to bring down upon the industry government regulation that, if history is any guide, do as much harm as good in the end.

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Why Twitter Needs to Change to Keep Up with Social Media Marketing

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Guest post by Nisha Kaushal.

Twitter has long dominated the social media scene in terms of spreading the word to a lot of people at once. The reach of Twitter is incredible. For every one person that reads a comment of yours on Facebook, there’s a chance that a dozen will read it on Twitter. Facebook posts have to be reshared and reshared to reach a million people, but as Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher have proven, a Twitter post can reach a million people in the blink of an eye.

Twitter Has Issues to OvercomeHowever, this wide range of influence may not be enough to keep Twitter relevant to marketers who rely on social media to get the word out. Here are some of the major problems Twitter needs to address if they hope to keep up with Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook.

1. A Lack of Community

You don’t have friends on Twitter, you have followers. Google+ allows you to post similarly to Twitter, posting short ideas and jokes and links, but they also encourage a sense of community with comments threads and Circles. Twitter has nothing like this. There are people following you and there are people you follow, and that’s about it. Well, there are Twitter lists of course, but they are under-used.

There are a lot of ways to approach this problem without sacrificing the simplified, bare-bones nature of the site that users find so appealing. Something like small social circles or short comment threads could easily be implemented without seeming like clutter.

The impersonal feel of Twitter makes it great for short updates and sharing, but while Facebook feels more and more like Livejournal every day, Twitter has made almost no evolution whatsoever in any direction.

2. Zero Monetization

Other than the money that Twitter collects, nobody is making anything on Twitter. A marketer who’s looking to launch an ad campaign that will pay for itself will look at the monetization available on other social networks and make the obvious choice. They look at Twitter, and all too often, they see nothing but an expense.

True, it’s possible to make a Twitter following really pay off, but only in the long term. An ad on Facebook or an affiliate link on Blogspot will pay off immediately.

3. The Lack of Multimedia

Multimedia isn’t the point of Twitter. If they add comments, friends and unlimited multimedia, then they’re just copying Facebook. However, sometimes users don’t want to click a link to see a picture. Small embeddable photos, videos and other multimedia might be a great way to create a more natural and immediate Twitter experience.

4. Maintaining Their Identity

This is another major challenge if they do hope to make changes: How can they keep up without losing their identity? The issue here is that Twitter’s appeal is largely their simplicity. If users have to learn how to use multimedia settings, profiles and so on, they may lose interest.

Unfortunately, as it stands, Twitter isn’t really a way to make friends or really, truly connect with people. It’s a way to get attention, perhaps, but a Twitter user is just one voice in a sea of noise. It’s hard to stand out against that. Whatever the answer is, Twitter needs to find a balance between being the short-sentence side of social media without falling behind.

5. Public Image

Public image isn’t too big of a problem for Twitter, but there is a degree of bias against the site. Many people don’t feel that Twitter is worthy of their time, they worry that there’s absolutely nothing of substance to be found or shared on Twitter.

The truth is that, if used properly, Twitter can be an incredible tool. Unfortunately, it’s a much more difficult tool to use properly than Facebook or a blog. Where you can build a small, dedicated following with a blog, or a larger, somewhat-involved following on Facebook, you’re building an enormous and barely connected at all following on Twitter. Most users have a lot of followers who don’t even read any of their Tweets.

Twitter is a necessary component in the fast-moving age of iPhones and Androids, but the shallow user experience, the lack of any real monetization angle and the lack of any real sense of community may turn marketers off of the site in the long run. Social users, casual users will likely continue to use Twitter for as long as the site remains available, but businesses may turn more and more towards other means of getting the word out.

Nisha Sharma represents a site called She is a keen writer who enjoys offering business advice and tips.

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