Hasta Luego, Xerox … And Thanks!

Today is my last day working for Xerox Corporation.  For a variety of personal and professional reasons, I have decided to return to Forrester Research and join the team serving the Chief Marketing Officer.

I have really valued the opportunity Xerox gave me to see the world of marketing through the lens of a $23 billion dollar company.

I'm heading back to Forrester Research

I’m heading back to Forrester Research

In particular,  I want to thank Julie Meyers, Duane Schulz, and Christa Carone for making this opportunity possible and for allowing me to participate in a rich set of activities during the almost 3 years I enjoyed working there.  My appreciation also goes out to all the great colleagues, team members, and other folks I had the pleasure to meet, work with, work for, and learn from as I experienced what makes Xerox unique and special.

For me, the highlights of my Xerox career include:

1) Experiencing marketing from the corporate side – and learning about the importance of brand, how brand evolves, and the role advertising, sponsorship, client experience, and public relations in the stewardship of the brand.

2) Heading up the Xerox sponsorship for TEDMED and the internal healthcare marketing council which taught me a lot about the difficult challenges and issues facing healthcare in the US today.  I look forward to keeping in touch with the great folks at TEDMED in the future.

3) Charting the way for industry marketing at Xerox, both for the US Field organization and at corporate.

4) Experiencing the complexity and intricacy of field marketing and sales operations while building new business demand for document services — and the benefits and issues associated with delivering multi-year contractually outsourced services. I’m thankful to my great friends at the ITSMA for their support, research and insight into the services industry.

5) Sharing my experiences with the great people at the BMA, ANA, ITSMA, Geehan Group, BtoB Magazine, and other organizations that invited me to speak with their members.

Returning to Forrester as an analyst is both exciting and reassuring.  Much will be familiar and much will be new.  I look forward to working with top B2B marketing executives at many Forrester clients over the coming months and years.

Due to Forrester intellectual property policies, this means unfortunately that I will take a hiatus from writing the B2B Marketing Posts blog while I concentrate on developing new research and sharing it via the Forrester blog for CMOs.  I hope you visit me there often as I hope to improve my public publishing frequency.  B2B Marketing Posts will remain live throughout 2013, but I will not contribute to it in any way related to marketing or professional advice.  I may drop a post or two about what I am up to personally, and may decide to change the focus of the blog going forward. Let’s see where 2013 takes us.

Until then, thanks for reading and I look forward to (re)connecting with many of you at lramos@forrester.com or on twitter as @lauraramos.

Happy 2013!

What is a Marketing Campaign’s “Influence” on Deals?

How do you apportion marketing effort to sales results?

How do you apportion marketing effort to sales results?

I remember my first one-on-one meeting with the head of major account sales at Xerox.  For a bit of perspective, this gentleman ran the team responsible for over a billion dollars in document outsourcing services revenue.  I presented a carefully prepared summary of the industry marketing team results from the current year and plans for the next period. Included in this review was my analysis of the number and types of deals influenced by industry marketing activity and the size of the pipeline resulting.

Upon seeing those figures, he turned to me and said:

I would be careful about showing numbers like those around.  It’s easy for people to question the impact marketing has on sales.”

Like it or not, this attitude prevails within many enterprise sales organizations. It presents both a challenge and opportunity B2B marketers face at large companies like Xerox and small ones as well — how do you demonstrate the impact of marketing activity on the health of the sales pipeline?

Every sales opportunity or closed deal should have at least one marketing campaign, program, or activity associated with it.  If not, your company is missing an opportunity to drive the cost of sales down. Why?  Because business buyers get most of the information about products and services they might want to buy from sources other than the direct sales force.

When the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) published key research showing that buyers have completed 57% of the purchase process BEFORE they call a supplier, they quantified something we know intuitively — B2B purchasers use the Web, peers, colleagues, online recommendations, and so on to determine needs and buying criteria. They call in the vendors when it’s time to compete on price.

How do you impact that part of the purchase process that represents almost 60% of the time your reps aren’t in touch with the buyer? With marketing.

Source: Corporate Executive Board

Source: Corporate Executive Board

Communications, messages, and content that you send to prospects — or that they find when researching issues online — affect the purchase process.  Prospects and clients see this information, and may pay attention to it long enough to shape buying decisions. The difficulty is how to measure this impact and allocate the influence of marketing activity appropriately across pipeline and deals. And use this influence information to understand which campaigns played the greatest role in creating an opportunity or closing a deal.

Most marketing automation gives CMOs and their staff the false impression that they can use technology to figure this out easily.  However, most tools can’t factor in subjective criteria — like what to measure and how to determine the impact of any particular element on buying — that affect the equation.  Frequently marketers give all the influence credit to either the first or last touch before the deal closes, but this doesn’t help to understand which activities help to move opportunities from stage to stage or play a significant role in the overall process.

Luckily, I think the good folks at FullCircleCRM are on the hunt for a solution to this problem.  Take a break and listen as Andrea Wildt, VP of Products and Marketing, and I talk about the need to allocate influence, why it is difficult to do and the pros/cons of different allocation strategies. I think you will conclude that a weighted allocation works best for those with the analytics and tools to support this analysis.  However, most other B2B marketers should start simple and increase their sophistication as sales becomes more comfortable with talking to marketing about the pipeline and their mutual advantage in making it stronger.

To Choose Where You Play in the Market: Know Your Buyers Well

What do MBAs need to know about Buyer Behavior?

During the past couple of years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to guest lecture at my alma mater, Santa Clara University, to new classes of MBA students. This is something I do twice a year at most, and I love to give back to the business school that kick-started my career in marketing.  My topic is Buyer Behavior and why it matters in B2B focused organizations, where keeping a direct sales force — or channel partners — happy and productive often becomes the primary focus of the marketing organization.

Tomorrow night, I will attempt to impart words of wisdom to Professor Ravi Shanmugam’s next class of unsuspecting scholars.  As always, I will ask them to share their reactions to my presentation by commenting on this blog post. Most Santa Clara MBA students are employed full-time at top Silicon Valley firms and many hail from technical or engineering backgrounds.

Which will make for interesting discussion, since my comments tomorrow evening will focus a bit more on the healthcare industry. I plan to talk about how — in my new role this year heading up industry marketing across Xerox — we are making online, social, traditional and (frankly) unexpected moves in this industry.  Unlike high tech, this is an industry where Xerox is better known for supplying copiers used at the nurses’ station or admissions desk than for solutions we bring to hospitals, insurance companies, government agencies and employers to help them simplify how each manages the health of its respective populations.

Segmentation, personas, and behavior profiling continue to be the tools that good marketers use to understand how and communicate why buyers purchase from technology suppliers. Increasingly, these tools also help marketing executives determine where to head in a strategic direction (e.g.  grow current solutions versus invest in new ones), define how an organization uniquely creates value and plan how – through market execution – to deliver that value to customers.

Today, I think many B2B marketers stop at segmentation and targeting when they answer the question “what type of buyer should we attract?” The temptation to put buyers in broad, all-encompassing categories is difficult to resist.  Marketers want their message heard by more people than fewer.  The irony is that less truly becomes more in many B2B marketing opportunities.

Better marketers (and their sales counterparts) understand the detailed, specific issues buyers face in their respective markets. They understand what motivates buyers and why one buyer’s needs are distinct from another.  This understanding makes it easier to engage prospects in meaningful conversation about how your products and services can help them. Demonstrating that you are part of a community focused on solving key business problems (not just trying to sell stuff) is also important to creating belief in buyers that it is worth the time to have a conversation with you. Personas are a primary tool to help you move from technology supplier to industry insider. Relentless study about who buyers are and what causes them to buy keeps these personas current and useful as tools.

This is the essence of the advice I hope to convey to this class of soon-to-be-MBAs.  I will see how successful I am at achieving this goal based on the comments I receive to this post.  Won’t you join me in reading their comments and seeing how I did?  Expand the comments link below and join the conversation.

Change Management: Critical Skill for B2B CMOs in 2013

Have we reached a “new normal” for marketing budget growth?

Will marketing budget growth trends continue to shrink?

IDC’s findings from its 9th annual Technology Marketing Benchmarks Study show concerning results about the future of marketing budgets.  Prior to the start of the recession, marketing budget growth tended to keep pace with revenue growth.  In high tech, this looked like 6 – 7% per year on average across a variety of firms, large and small.  After everyone hit the reset button in 2009 and slashed budgets into the negative growth range, recovery to pre-recession levels continues to look distant, if not impossible, to achieve.  Current marketing budget growth rates are only half of those rates seen previously.

For many marketers, business leaders and financial officers now demand way more efficiency and accountability than was expected 5 years ago.  Marketing must build a business case for every program and demonstrate a return on investment.  Those marketers who do this well win budget approval for key programs and those that don’t struggle along with shrinking budgets.

Can automation help marketing get more efficient and be more accountable?

Partially.  It is almost universally accepted that applying technology to a poor business process only makes the flaws stand out.  But process improvement is where the future of business marketing lies.  In 2013, successful CMOs will turn their attention to managing change in this new era of marketing budget scrutiny and pressure. In a recent Forbes blog post, David Cooperstein — the leader of Forrester’s CMO & Marketing Leadership practice – outlines 5 areas where CMOs need to get smarter about before having change management conversations with their peers, team members, and agencies.  I want to second his advice and add a couple of more points for CMOs who work with Chief Sales Officers in organizations where direct sales is a dominant part of the business.

Besides defining the future state of the organization, mapping process against that and figuring out where technology can help, these CMOS also need to learn more about how to:

1)      Evolve the sales process.  Today, buyers are more than half-way through the purchase process when they decide to talk to vendor reps for the first time. To get ahead of this, sales execs want account managers to “be more relevant”, to get into the need-identification conversation earlier by introducing buyers to critical, insightful information about their business.  They expect reps to go online, mine social network relationships, and target executives with business-relevant information.  That’s a long way from a cold call.

2)      Shift from messaging to creating relevant conversation. Smart CMOs need to understand how the sales process is changing and partner with CSOs to make it easier for reps to have business-relevant conversations. Developing good marketing content that shares a unique point of view on industry-specific issues is the start.  But managing the change needed in the sales process to encourage and reward reps for having business-relevant conversations instead of yakking about features and benefits, is a change management challenge marketing must help sales overcome.

I think David is spot-on when he says that it’s difficult for CMOs to articulated the change management required for marketing to succeed in implementing and making use of the technologies that are now available to them – and that they aren’t going to get much help from vendors like Deloitte, IBM Global Services and Accenture in the meantime.  But I think B2B CMOs face a more insidious challenge – that of making marketing a true partner to sales – one that can help reps leverage the power of online, social activity to become a true partner to prospects, not just the organization trying to get them to sign on the dotted line. And to get this done without jeopardizing the brand image and equity many big firms enjoy.

The Art of Evolving A Big Company Brand

It’s pop quiz time, folks.  Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say?:

BMW           (ANSWER:   “The ultimate driving machine.”)

Nike            (ANSWER:   “The swoosh.”)

Apple          (ANSWER:  “Products designed to be incredibly desireable.”)

Xerox   —   Yeah, yeah… “The copier company….”

This little experiment into bad game-show trivia demonstrates how difficult it is to change well-recognized, deeply-ingrained brand perceptions.  For many people, Xerox will always be the copier company. Although half of our annual revenue now comes from helping other companies shed business process burdens and focus resources more on what they do best.

Last month, I had the pleasure of sharing some steps in my current journey, on the quest to move public perception of Xerox from the old to the new, with a great group of marketers at the ANA Business-to-Business Committee Meeting, held in lovely San Jose, California.  The basic objective of the presentation — that you can find here on Slideshare — was to explain how we adapt Ready for Real Business (our company communication platform) to specific industries (in this case healthcare) to demonstrate that Xerox has been — and will continue to be — about making business simpler. 

Can Xerox make the transition from “the copier company” to something more?

For marketers, the lesson is crucial – develop your brand and be true to it.  In the second half of the day, Intel presented its story behind the new “die” logo and brand image.  The presentation began by contrasting firms that struggled with brand image (think Burger King versus McDonalds) against their more successful counterparts.  I thought it was VERY interesting to have these two presentations open and close the day.  (Nice job, ANA folks!)

During my presentation, I explained how Xerox uses affiliate advertising to tell our services story and highlighted our surprising success with online video storytelling.  I then showed how we evolved this top-level positioning into what we call the “Freedom to Care” campaign, which features our engagement with conferences like TEDMED and the World Healthcare Congress, by engaging in earned and purchased social activity, and with MESC 2012 (the renamed Medicaid conference.)

Key lessons learned through these travels so far? I would say:

  • Be persistent, not impatient. Evolving a brand is a years-long process, so don’t whipsaw your strategy around if the immediate pay off doesn’t surface. 
  • Put the focus on your clients.  If your marketing talks about what’s important to their core business and to their customers, you will be more relevant and your message will get through faster.
  • Top-notch brands are disciplined. Marketers who steward them apply consistent effort and investment. And they are not afraid to be a bit repetitive in their communication.
  • Get everyone singing the same song.  In really big firms (those that have really big brands), cross-business line collaboration is key. Lead business lines by example, it’s easier than trying to be the brand police.
  • Digital technologies help to speed up the process. Of course, it’s always best to integrate marketing into a consistent set of messages and offers/promotions that cross traditional and online channels.

Did my message matter?  I think so –  the folks at ANA let me know today that attendees rated my presentation the highest of the day.  Yay for me, but more importantly “yay” for the marketers who can marry the art and science of brand evolution in ways that stay true to company value but adapt to changing times.

“Moneyball for Marketing”: Why Automation Matters

Source: October 4, 2006, “Improving B2B Lead Management” Forrester report.

Remember this picture?   As a Forrester Research analyst, I published a report called “Improving B2B Lead Management” in October 2006 where this image first saw the light of day. 

Since then, it’s become popular with every marketing automation technology provider who uses to help explain a fundamental problem: how potentially good leads leak out of the demand generation process and how marketers must then spend more time, effort, and money recapturing them and putting these opportunities back in the sales pipeline. Which begs the question, “What am I really getting for my marketing dollar if some portion of the demand generation activity gets wasted?”

A CMO study sponsored by IBM last year found that, by 2015, most marketing departments will measure success using return on investment (ROI) as the primary metric. Most CMOs, however, struggle to demonstrate marketing’s ROI in a reliable way. Why? Because we haven’t instilled measurement discipline in marketing — or the technology, process, and automation to back it up. Since John Wannamaker turned his famous phrase about advertising, marketers have taken the easy way out by assuming much of marketing can’t be measured in a meaningful way.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (ISBN 0-393-05765-8) by Michael Lewis (2003)

But is the idea of measuring what matters in marketing that unattainable?  Recently, I joined Bonnie Crater, CEO of Full Circle CRM (a start up firm I advise), in a conversation about why it’s important to plug a leaky demand generation process. Bonnie drew a great analogy to the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, which details Oakland Athletic general manager, Billy Beane’s focus on an analytical, evidence-based approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite Oakland’s disadvantaged revenue situation.

Like putting together a championship sports program, marketing teams must run a broad range of programs from advertising, public relations, and social media campaigns to lead nurturing and customer engagement programs. And they must do all of this with shrinking budgets and resources, against competitors who seemingly always have more (like the New York Yankees who brought in 3X the revenue when compared to the A’s).  Showing how each of these programs contributes to the business requires a way to track every marketing generated response without overstating or distorting the results.

Using a response-based solution to automate this process helps level the playing field by allowing marketers to track, differentiate and report on the ROI of each program — and to connect multiple program touches to the people in the account where opportunities are developing. With response-centric intelligence, marketing executives can better optimize their portfolio and drive demand more efficiently. Automation allows marketers to be more like Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, where you can use statistics and evidence to figure out which marketing tactics to “draft” and how best to put the lineup together.

Check out Bonnie and my conversation about what it takes to move to response-based marketing and see why marketing automation can help you get there.

How to Tell A Story…Watch This And Be Inspired

B2B marketers feel challenged to create compelling content.  We blindly pursue writing headlines that makes potential buyers drop everything to click on our links or give us a call. Or we chase the two-sentence value proposition that magically opens the door for our sales guys.

What we miss sometimes is the power of a story to get our message across. 

Humans love stories.  We learn from them.  Stories are part of our DNA: ever since we evolved from grunts to language, we have sat around campfires — or dining room tables — and told stories that share experiences.  Storytelling is a profound way to convey information to others in a form that is easy to remember. But B2B marketers get caught up in explaining why what we offer is better, cheaper, faster, more exciting, or more innovative. We lose sight of how a simple story — told by another customer or an employee with real, first-hand insight– can make our message come alive.

Since March, I’ve shared a few of my experiences managing the Xerox TEDMED sponsorship. I’ve talked about my new adventures in corporate sponsorship, messaging to healthcare, developing advertising, and surprising delegates with something unexpected.  All of which flexed new marketing muscles in me.  Now I want to share a TEDMED moment that will affect you in a profound way.  

Watch this video from TEDMED 2012. It will change your life and strike a deep emotional chord. I know this because it did to all the people who listened that day. In this video, Ed Gavagan tells a gripping tale about the medical expertise that saved him after a random violent encounter. It’s 12 and 1/2 minutes and worth every one.

So watch it and don’t be tempted to bail out after the first minute or two.  Because, as presentations go, this one has a few flaws.  Ed stumbles around in his speech a little. He stands in one place. He seems a bit uncomfortable. He doesn’t make a lot of eye contact with the audience. He doesn’t use slides. He doesn’t have props.  He doesn’t use gestures a lot.

But what he does well is tell an amazing story.

At the risk of ruining the moment, here are 3 things every B2B marketer can learn from watching how Ed tells a story:

1) Be authentic. While the presentation doesn’t look rehearsed, it is. However, Ed tells his story from the heart and with rich details that make you feel what transpired deeply. You connect with his story at a very basic level. Transparency, honesty, and realism count so much more than polish. If you need to spend time on your content, do it on the former not the later.

2) Surprise your audience. Using a flashback as the main part of the story is an unexpected twist that draws you into the action. Sometimes not following a linear progression, doing the unexpected (like the way Ed inserts humorous moments into the talk), and challenging your audience’s preconceived notions create the most memorable moments.

3) Tie it all back together. There is no obvious “in summary” or “let me review my key points” in this talk. Yet Ed elegantly draws all the storylines back together at the end to thank an audience made up of many medical professionals for being who they are in the world.

Watch the video and let me know what you see in Ed’s storytelling that B2B marketers should follow.  Share your thoughts. 

And if you really want to experience something poignant, listen to the 25 second Q&A at the end of the session (the shortest one of TEDMED 2012) where Jay asks Ed to explain the real reason why the surgeon didn’t cut his long hair…