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My favorite guerilla lead gen program aimed at CEOs July 15, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Lead Gen.
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One of my most favorite lead gen programs I worked on was about 10 years ago when I was VP of marketing for a knowledge management start-up.  This was during the early days of online search.  Using today’s terms, we offered a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product/service that allowed users to get immediate answers to their questions. What was unique at the time was that our engine was very advanced and would offer up correct and relevant answers as opposed to a laundry list of links.

Since we were a start-up, our marketing budget was non-existent.  Our objective was to seed our sales pipeline quickly with a dozen well-qualified, brand name customers that we could eventually use as public references. Our only choice was to approach this project as a guerilla (see Jay Levinson’s many books on Guerilla Marketing).  So, we got creative.

  • We built our own list of target companies. We carefully matched our product strategy with a prioritized set of target segments.  Rather than blanketing all potential audiences, we produced a list 500 target companies. We needed wins quickly, and we felt we had a good story to tell.  So, with a laser-focused ambition, we set our sites and did not waiver from them.

  • We researched each company to confirm the name of their CEO and to obtain his/her email address and an issue they were facing that was relevant to our product. How did we do this?  We were blessed to have one of the most savvy executive admins around.  She called into each company and navigated to her counterpart – the CEO’s executive admin.  Calling on behalf of our CEO, she explained that we wanted to share some information that her CEO would find interesting, based on an issue his/her company was wresting with, as noted in the news, their website, etc.  She asked for his direct email address so she could send our information on behalf of our CEO.  (This approached worked exceptionally well for several reasons: this was not a telemarketing call — it was exec admin to exec admin; we were not selling anything; we were honest, forthright, and polite.  To our delight, we captured and verified 80% of the CEO email addresses this way.)
  • We created a standard email for this program, then tailored it for each CEO. Our email (ghost written for our CEO) was one paragraph in length and included a mocked-up screen shot of how our product would look on the target’s website, under their brand.  So, while the data in the screen shot was bogus, their company logo, homepage design was obvious.  Several energetic souls in our support team built these screen shots for us.
  • The call to action was personalized by our CEO. It may seem ironic, but our goal was not to sell our product.  At least not at first.  Instead, the text of the email illustrated our idea/value proposition.  We showed the mocked-up screenshot to show how our product/service might look on their home page.  Using regular language (not jargon or energized marketing-speak), we asked them if they thought this was a crazy idea.  In closing, we asked them to contact our CEO to provide us with some feedback.  The telephone number we provided was to a new line that that marketing team would answer as if we were the CEO’s office.
  • We created a separate email mailbox for our CEO and distributed these emails from that account. Twenty emails were developed and dropped each week.  (Remember, we had no budget to outsource any of this work.)  It took time to tailor each email, but we didn’t want to wait for all 500 to be ready.  Also, by staggering the drop, we could learn how effective we were being by watching our response rates.

We successfully ran the program for 6 weeks before we claimed victory.  We received a 12% response rate and won audiences with a number of brand-name customers.  My personal favorite was an email response we received from Michael Eisner (then the head of Disney) who directed us to follow-up with his VPs of marketing and support.  Everyone was copied on his response; the skids had been greased; we were in business!

Have a creative lead gen story to share?  I’d love to hear it!

Demystifying the Marcom Mix October 16, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations, Social Media.
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Marcom teams are moving so fast that we sometimes overlook how all of the  pieces fit together.  I’ve used variations of this graphic throughout my career to help align marketing teams as we explore, debate, and decide upon the optimum marcom mix.

How to read and use the graphic

As leads are generated and prospects are nurtured from "awareness" to "decision", this graphic maps the high-level marcom objectives to a few marcom activities and tactics.

As leads are generated and prospects are nurtured from "awareness" to "decision", this graphic maps the high-level marcom objectives to a few marcom activities and tactics.

The central marcom objectives are noted at the top.  Prospects will never buy anything from us if they don’t know who we are.  So, we must invest in building “awareness.”  Once they are aware of who we are and the value we provide, we can begin to encourage “preference” in our solutions.  As we nurture prospects and learn more about them and the problems they are interested in solving, we can then present alternatives and showcase our points of differentiation.  When prospects have collected information and are evaluating alternatives, that’s when we enter the “decision” stage and go for the close.  This is when most marketing teams drop the ball.  The process isn’t over; we want to encourage “repeat business”.  To do so, continuing the dialog and staying in touch is critical.

Programmatically, there are two types of  “master programs”, underneath which there will likely be many variations.  However, at the “master” level, we are either driving/developing new leads, or we are nurturing a prospect database or our own internal customer base.  It’s important to recognize that different tactics, messaging, and timing will apply.

The dark gray boxes represent a sampling of a number of marcom tactics that are being used today.  In general, these tactics work best when mapped to the appropriate marcom objective.  For example, using a PPC tactic to try to close a complex sale will likely not work very well.  But, as a way to garner some initial awareness and interest, that’s a helpful tactic.   The point here is to carefully select which tactics to use, and when, in order to achieve the maximum ROI for your marketing investment.

I share this graphic not as a defined concrete model, but as a flexible framework that can help you and your team explore marcom mix elements and discover/debate which ones you think will work best.  Understanding how all the pieces fit together is critical in being able to design a truly integrated marketing campaign.

For more information, check out these additional blog posts:

Adding video to the marcom mix September 22, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Social Media.
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Amanda Ferrante of the Demand Gen Report has a great article today entitled: Marketers Tapping Personalized Videos to Generate, Engage Leads. 

YouTube has been the video bulletin board for all kinds of random content.  Now, however, savvy marketers are figuring out how to add video into their marcom mix.  This fits perfectly into the marketing blueprint I shared in an earlier blog post.

Quoting directly from Amanda’s article:

“With the use of video, a solid connection can be made between the presenter and end-user and personalizes the communication while creating interaction,” says Ben Chodor, President of media software provider Stream57. “With video exposure, you are giving clients the opportunity to associate a name and a face with your company and creating a personal relationship.”

Video by itself is not “the magic bullet” that will ensure a successful marketing campaign.  However, this is another example of a piece of the integrated marketing mix.

Social Media & the Marcom Mix September 8, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Social Media.
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I have a hard cold truth for marketers: we are no longer in complete control of driving the lead funnel! 

As recently as a couple of years ago, marketers were.  The lead funnel was driven by our pushing messages out to our target audiences.  We controlled the message, the media, and the timing.  Social media has changed the dynamics.  People are finding out about our companies and products before they even get on our radar screen.  Some sources even estimate that 90% of the customer’s buying process takes place without the aid of a sales rep!  This has huge implications for our marcom mix.

The upshot: we must help our companies become “findable” in a marketing landscape we no longer control.

Being “findable” is not just about having a decent website.  It’s about having relevant, meaningful content available that addresses the topics buyers are interested in.  And, it’s about having this content posted in places where buyers look.  In fact, we shouldn’t be talking about social media as if it were another marketing silo.  Instead, we should focus on “content marketing” — providing information and experiences that buyers are looking for.  More than that, we can better establish and nurture a dialog with a prospect if we think about how to provide meaningful content that can be:

  • Captured = easy-to-read content posted in a friendly format that can be cut-n-pasted and downloaded, and . . .
  • Stored = easy to tag, sort, and file in electronic or printed format
  • Forwarded = easy to pass-along and share with others, both formally (i.e. cut-n-pasted into a presentation) and informally (i.e. sharing a link via Twitter)
  • Repurposed = content that can be annotated and adapted by the reader to fit their unique decision-making process

Including Social Media in a Marketing Blueprint

Integrating social media in the marcom mix

Integrating social media in the marcom mix

Today’s lead gen programs can produce higher ROI if they combine elements of both traditional “push” marketing (where you control the message) and “pull” marketing (where we offer information on non-corporate sites and we  listen to and monitor the discussion around us).  The example shown in the above illustration is based on a real marketing blueprint being executed today by a local hi-tech company.

There’s more to the story, of course.  But this gives you a flavor on how and where social media is being used to complement traditional outbound marketing activities.   How will all this play out?  I’ll let you know when the campaign concludes in November!

How are you using social media?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Executing Personalized Marketing Programs April 20, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing.
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Been wondering about PURLs  (Personalized URLs) and how to apply them in your integrated marketing programs?  Check out this new blog post from Mary  G. at KickStart Alliance.