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ITSMA Marketing Strategist

April 22, 2015

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Eager to recognize the great work your marketing team is doing? Look no further! The ITSMA Marketing Excellence Awards focus exclusively on B2B marketing for services and solutions companies and emphasize excellence in the three most critical aspects of success: innovation, execution, and business results. Categories for the 2015 awards include:

  • Marketing ExcellenceDriving Business with Thought Leadership
  • Enabling Sales and SME Channels for Deeper Customer Engagement
  • Delivering an Omnichannel Customer Experience
  • Capitalizing on Marketing’s New Tools and Technologies
  • Accelerating Growth with Account Based Marketing
  • Measuring and Communicating Marketing Performance

Submissions may be entered until June 12, 2015.

So You Want to Deliver Marketing ROI?

By Nicole France

Nicole FranceAt ITSMA, we’re big fans of account based marketing (ABM). It’s not just that we think it is a challenging and fulfilling role for marketers, but also because it consistently delivers some of the highest return on investment (ROI) in B2B marketing. In our latest research on the subject, we talk about why that is. We also provide guidance on how to develop meaningful metrics to demonstrate the performance of ABM from initial implementation through maturity.

This challenge of identifying meaningful metrics—whether in ABM or other marketing programs—raises the bigger issue of exactly what ROI means in the context of marketing. Let’s consider why marketers should treat the term with care.

ROI Defined

First, ROI is a finance calculation that measures the real or expected gains from a capital investment. In finance terms, however, just about everything marketing does is an expense.

Does that mean we shouldn’t consider the work we do in marketing as an investment? On the contrary. Companies that get it do consider marketing an investment. But it is important to remember the risks and limitations that emerge when we try to apply ROI calculations outside of their natural habitat. We can take the spirit of ROI calculations, but as marketers, we have to set clear boundaries as to what constitutes the investment in question. What spending over what time frame will you include?

Second, ROI is calculated for a defined period. Any ROI calculation will vary depending on the period over which it is measured. So if you are a widget company investing in a fancy new widget press, the return that you might expect on that investment will be different if you calculate it after six months, two years, or five years. ROI does not stand on its own: it must be tied to a specific interval.

Third, the point of ROI calculations is to evaluate multiple investments of the same size over a specific period to decide on the best option to take. In a world where there is no such thing as limitless resources, this is an important way to make trade-off decisions. It’s sensible, then, that ROI measures are also used to evaluate the performance of an investment over a given period, presumably the one that was used to justify it in the first place.

The challenge we often have in assessing marketing programs is that we fail to specify the period over which we are evaluating the performance of a specific investment. To make matters worse, we often try to compare the ROI of different scales of spending over different periods—talk about apples to oranges! This sets the scene for the all-too-common, typically fruitless debates on long-term ABM programs versus short-term lead-generation campaigns. Sound familiar?

That doesn’t mean we should abandon use of ROI in marketing. It got your attention, didn’t it? Rather, we must shape ROI discussions to focus on measures and timeframes that make sense for the marketing objectives defined.

For account based marketing, this means balancing metrics that cover relationships, reputation, and revenue and adapting the set of metrics depending on the maturity of the ABM account or program. For further detail, read ROI in Account Based Marketing: Delivering Consistent Results.

We’re also now working on the broader issue of communicating marketing performance and ROI. If you’d like to be part of the discussion, answer our online survey or contact us directly.


Rethinking the Role of Education and Training

By Lori Weiner

Lori WeinerWayne McCulloch, senior vice president, Salesforce University, has a vision. Technology changed the way individuals work and interact, and McCulloch believes that it will also fundamentally change the way businesses get value from education and training services. In essence, this means meeting the expectation that training will be provided in whatever way best meets an individual’s needs (e.g., mobile tools, videos and simulations, virtual communities, online courses, etc.) at just the right time. Doing so, he theorizes, yields tangible business results, such as closing a deal, increasing the deal size, or keeping a customer.

Traditional, instructor-led training won’t go away; it will find its place among virtual and social learning environments, enabled by technology. On the premise that “none of us is smart as all of us,” we are innovating when we facilitate a group where people can ask questions of the instructor and of each other, no matter where the learners are. Providing learners the ability to craft those ideas and content into a discussion about topic they’re interested in generates real value to them.

From a business standpoint, mining this new source of data results in a better understanding of training’s value and the subject areas and formats that are most frequently accessed, creating a continuous improvement loop.

McCulloch also sees a role for gamification. When approached as a behavior science, gamification sheds light on how to get people to behave in a certain way based on what motivates them. In his experience, gamification establishes a two-way dialogue about what gets created at headquarters and what gets consumed in the field.

Technology isn’t just changing the way education and training services are being delivered; it’s also putting McCulloch and his team at the forefront of customer engagement and growth at Salesforce. Read more about what McCulloch is thinking and doing in the Viewpoint How Salesforce Is Redefining Education and Training Services.


Research Highlight: Marketing Automation and the Sales-Marketing Gap

By Nicole France

Nicole FranceWe’ve turned a corner in B2B marketing, as our latest survey on marketing technology shows. Marketing automation is no longer optional. It’s now a requirement, and something that most B2B marketing organizations have implemented or are in the process of implementing. The question now is how to use it effectively.

In a perfect world, marketing and sales would have a close, cooperative, even symbiotic relationship. Reality, however, doesn’t always match the ideal. We see this clearly when we look at one of the critical aspects of marketing automation success: the lead handoff from marketing to sales. Getting this right is a matter of discussion, negotiation, and mutual agreement, not technology. Implementing marketing automation offers a great excuse to open the discussion, but meaningful agreement and consistent behavior on both sides are rare.

As our survey shows, only 16% of respondents said that marketing and sales agree on the definitions of marketing-qualified leads and sales-accepted leads—and stick to them. The marketing technology frontrunners in our survey do better, but not a lot: only 26% of them stick to agreed definitions.

Clearly, marketing technology isn’t going to bridge this gap. Marketing and sales must build stronger relationships and cooperate more closely. Fundamentally, it is a question of building trust on both sides. Of course, getting better at identifying the kinds of behavior that indicate purchase intent will help, too.

Marketing automation highlights the gap between marketing and sales


Ask ITSMA: Sharing Survey Results – Suggestions for Preparing Meaningful Communications

By Lori Weiner

Lori WeinerEach month, ITSMA receives a number of queries through Ask ITSMA, a resource designed to give members a quick and easy way to get insight on important services and solutions marketing questions they face. In this column, we will publish some of our favorite questions, along with excerpts from our replies.

Q: We just completed the analysis of our annual customer satisfaction study and are preparing to share results with participants. What suggestions do you have for preparing a meaningful communication?

A: First of all, kudos for taking the very important step to circle back with your customers with survey results. It validates your sincerity in asking for customer input and continually striving to improve.

Some of the following tips may seem obvious but are helpful to refer to:

  • Send the communication to everyone invited to take the survey, not just those who participated. Some people might not even remember that they participated!
  • Issue the communication from a senior executive. This conveys that management knows what’s going on and is taking action.
  • Personalize the salutation. Customers will pay more attention to a communication addressed to them personally than they will to a generic group.
  • Recap areas of strength. Articulate how pleased you are with good results, which may include improvement from past measurements.
  • Acknowledge areas that need improvement. Be sure not to sweep weaknesses under the rug. Let customers know that their concerns have been heard and that a plan is in the works to demonstrate improvement.
  • Judiciously share numbers. Focusing too much on scores and ratings can overshadow the value of the feedback. However, a simple graphic can reinforce a positive message.
  • Avoid management consultant jargon. Models and paradigms mean little unless they convey how customers will be directly affected.

Do you have a sales or marketing question?
Visit Ask ITSMA to access our experience, insight, and research results.


Services Marketing News

For up-to-the-minute services marketing news, follow ITSMA on Twitter: @itsma_b2b.

Upcoming ITSMA Events

Capitalizing on Marketing’s New Tools and Technologies
Road Show – Lunch Briefing
London, UK: Thursday, 23 April 2015, 12:00–2:00 pm

Introduction to Account Based Marketing
Online Training
May 5, 12, and 19, 2015
The 90-minute sessions will begin at 11 am ET.

ITSMA’s 2015 Marketing Leadership Forum
In-Person Event
June 2–3, 2015
Napa, CA

Communicating Marketing Impact and ROI to the C-suite
Web Briefing
June 17, 2015
8:00 am Pacific – 11:00 am Eastern – 16:00 London (Duration: One hour)

Account Based Marketing Certification Program
In-Person Event
June 30–July 1, 2015
The Charles Hotel, Cambridge, Massachusetts
(This course will also be run in the UK on 30 September–1 October, 2015)

To view all events, please see our online events calendar.

Recent ITSMA Thought Leadership

ROI in Account Based Marketing: Delivering Consistent Results
ITSMA research has consistently shown that Account Based Marketing (ABM) delivers the highest return on investment (ROI) in B2B marketing. ABM benefits from a specific audience and close coordination between sales and marketing to achieve joint objectives―with something in it for the client as well. But despite the growing number of ABM programs and advocates, it still isn’t a standard element of every B2B marketing plan. Part of the challenge in achieving the potential ROI of Account Based Marketing is that results take time. This is a strategic business initiative to grow business in key accounts, not a short-term lead-generation program. Establishing an ABM program and securing the ongoing funding to make it effective require establishing a clear set of metrics that change as the program matures. Getting the right metrics to demonstrate success, even at early stages, is critical for success. This Update examines the important metrics to consider at each stage of maturity for ABM accounts and programs and offers recommendations to ensure effective communication of results to all program stakeholders.
Read more on this Update: http://www.itsma.com/research/roi-account-based-marketing-delivering-consistent-results/

How Salesforce Is Redefining Education and Training Services
Wayne McCulloch, senior vice president, Salesforce University, came to Salesforce a year ago and is doing what the company mandates—innovating. As he sees it, corporate education has become static, outdated, and ineffective. Technology has changed the way education is delivered. In his view, it can and should change the way we think about corporate education, too. This is especially important for a cloud company, where customers can leave at any time.
In this Viewpoint, McCulloch shares his vision for using technology to fundamentally change the way businesses think about education and training services. He offers a case study in reinventing both the way these services are delivered and the role they play in the wider business strategy.
Read more about this Viewpoint: http://www.itsma.com/research/salesforce-redefining-education-training-services/

Wobbly Steadiness: Leading Your Organization to Change
In the face of enormous shifts taking place across all sectors, marketing leaders can step up from leading their teams to leading their companies through major change. Marketing leaders have the advantage of expertise in effectively communicating big ideas that spur action as well as the experience of high rates of change in their own domains. Graham Clark, a specialist in service operations and change management and a visiting fellow at Cranfield University School of Management, explains why leadership skills are needed now more than ever and why marketers are best placed to lead their organizations. He offers views on how marketing leaders can prepare themselves to take on the challenge.
Read more on this Viewpoint: http://www.itsma.com/research/wobbly-steadiness-leading-organization-change/


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