Being a product marketer at the core, I have always believed messaging and positioning are fundamental to marketing technology solutions because these exercises force you to have a business discussion with potential buyers. This is especially true when selling to senior level executives. My observation has been that executive buyers don’t really care about specific features, functions, speeds and feeds of the product. Instead, they care about what it can do for them, and more importantly, how it can help them achieve their strategic objectives.
Once you nail the product positioning, then you’ve tackled the hard part and everything else (e.g. presentations, market collateral, web content, etc.) falls into place. I recently participated in a positioning workshop for a software company I’ve been consulting for, and was very encouraged to see that they used Geoff Moore’s formula from Crossing the Chasm. Moore’s positioning formula was written in 1991 and has withstood the test of time. It is still the Gold Standard for positioning and highly effective. It answers several key questions, including who the target customer is, what their needs and challenges are, what type of product you are selling, why customers should buy it, and how it is unique in the marketplace (or why they should buy it from you instead of the competition).
Here is the formula:
- For (target customer),
- who (statement of need or opportunity).
- The (product or company name)
- is a (product category or market segment)
- that (statement of key benefit – compelling reason to buy).
- Unlike (primary competitive product or alternative),
- our product (statement of primary differentiation).
- Organize a few working sessions with leaders in your organization who understand your market and the needs of buyers.
- Be creative – think of some powerful verbs and adjectives that will resonate with your buyers and differentiate your product.
- Align your product with the strategic objectives of your buyer. If they see that buying and implementing your product can help them get an internal win, then you’re likely to get the sale. Take some time to research the business challenges your buyers are facing, and map the product capabilities that can help them overcome those challenges.
- Iterate – positioning is a creative, critical, yet iterative process. If you keep at it, your message will continue to improve over time and with each new iteration.
Enterprise Technology Sales Cycles are Too Long
Many enterprise software and technology companies suffer from long sales cycles, especially when their prices approach 6 figures. It’s typical to have 9-12 month sales cycles for traditional perpetual license models. Although SaaS delivery has helped to compress this timeframe significantly, larger enterprise deals are still extending sales cycles for SaaS solutions. These long sales cycles present a significant challenge for marketers because the ROI may not be realized for 9-12 months after an investment is made. Imagine not closing a deal for 12 months after spending $30k-40k on a turnkey webinar sponsored by a top-tier industry magazine. Explain that to your CEO and you’re likely to get lambasted, or even worse, lose your marketing budget, job, or both. Businesses simply cannot afford to operate with this type of cash flow model.
Lead Nurturing Reduces Sales Cycles, Builds Credibility & Trust
This is where a sustainable Lead Nurturing program can help. By touching prospective buyers with high value content on a regular basis (e.g. every 2 weeks) through drip campaigns, you can keep your brand in front of them so that when they are ready to buy, they will come to you first. The key to any successful lead nurturing program lies in your ability to build confidence and trust with each drip campaign. By delivering high value content, prospects will continue to engage with you because they will perceive your company as a market leader. This high value content may include case studies of companies that are in the same industry, white papers, press articles, analyst reports, surveys, best practice guides, templates, blog posts, webinars, product demos, contests, or monthly newsletters. Each of these must be carefully designed to provide value to prospects – show them how to do something by offering tips, tricks, best practices, sample templates, checklists, or how-to guides.
5 Lead Nurturing Best Practices
Here are some best practices to consider for your Lead Nurturing program:
- Leverage Marketing Automation Tools – Although lead nurturing emails can be sent out individually through corporate email systems, Marketing Automation tools can automate the process to ensure that new drip campaigns are launched on a regular basis to a targeted contact list. These systems also include the ability to incorporate custom landing pages, lead nurturing rules, website visitor tracking, lead scoring, and reporting on campaign ROI.
- Use a Targeted Approach – A Lead Nurturing campaign should incorporate a series of drip campaigns, each building upon a central theme and targeted to a specific audience. For example, targeting CFOs with a series of articles on best practices for finance transformation would constitute a sound Lead Nurturing campaign. Each drip campaign would incorporate a new article, blog post, webinar or white paper on a specific aspect of finance transformation – all built around the central theme of what’s important to the office of the CFO. Be careful not to confuse your target audience by including information on products that may be irrelevant to this central theme.
- Always Deliver Value – An effective Lead Nurturing program builds credibility a trust with prospective customers by engaging them through high value content. This is the hard part because you have to know something about the people and business process end of the equation. My recommendation for technology companies is to engage an industry or domain expert or consultant because they often have experience in helping companies with implementation projects and know some of the best practices. Engaging experts in helping to create high value content can help you can position your company as the expert by sharing best practices with prospective buyers.
- Align Your Solution with Strategic Objectives – Understanding the strategic objectives of your buyer is another critical success factor in Lead Nurturing. If you know what these strategic objectives are, then find a creative way to align your technology solution with those objectives. Strategic objectives are typically high level goals designed to increase business performance such as increasing efficiency, mitigating risk, improving compliance, or global expansion. What are the top 3-5 strategic objectives your economic buyer/decision maker is concerned with? Nail these down, and tell a story through your high value content that allows the buyer to achieve those goals by leveraging your technology solution. When you look at selling in this light, you’re actually partnering with customers to deliver solutions that enable them to meet their strategic objectives. It becomes a win-win scenario for both buyer and seller.
- Measure & Track ROI – A Lead Nurturing program is all for naught if you don’t have an effective way to measure its effectiveness. At a minimum, you’ll need a few reports to track leads, including lead score, response rates, and lead follow-up activities. Make sure you can track how much money was spent on a particular campaign, which leads were turned over to sales, which ones resulted in closed sales, and how much revenue was brought in for each deal. A campaign ROI report should be created to track the ROI for each campaign over time. If your organization is using a CRM system to track sales opportunities, then make sure your marketing automation system has an integration with the CRM system so that you can run a campaign ROI report on a periodic basis.
In summary, if you’re organization suffers from long sales cycles and needs to spend extra time educating prospective customers, then consider incorporating a Lead Nurturing program into your marketing mix. It is a best practice for marketing to enterprise decision makers and can significantly shorten sales cycles, thereby increasing revenue.
If you have any comments, thoughts or suggestions, please send me an email.
In any enterprise technology sales cycle, it’s critical to earn the confidence and trust of prospective customers before you can earn their business. They need to know that you’re the vendor who understands their unique needs and can deliver a solution to make their project a success. Marketing should play a key role in this process. Here are 5 practical ways marketing can help accomplish this goal:
- Keep the Buzz Alive – Stay in front of your leads and prospects on a regular basis with news on new product offerings, new features and enhancements, success stories from other customers, news on recent industry awards, and announcements on upcoming events or webinars. It’s important to maintain a high level of buzz about your company because it projects a positive image that you have the most momentum compared to your competition. You’ll need a CRM system and an email marketing tool or marketing automation system to send out regular email announcements and newsletters to your contact list.
- Share Best Practices – If you are a technology vendor, prospective customers will most likely view your company as an expert. They want to know about best practices for integrating your technology with their people and unique business processes. It’s easy for technology vendors to get bogged down in the details of product features and benefits, but don’t forget that the customer will likely need a significant amount of help on the people and process end of the equation. Sharing success stories on what other companies are doing with your software or best practices are effective ways to position your company as THE expert. For example, you may want to share a template for a policy or operating procedure for prospects to use as a starting point. Many times, your prospects don’t know what they don’t know, so this is an excellent way show them the right way to approach the problem. Other examples may include a business process blueprint, sample workflows, examples of efficient ways to configure the software, or other tidbits of useful information from your consulting team.
- Offer Something of Value – Oftentimes creating buzz and sharing best practices may not be enough to get a prospect’s attention. You can “up the ante” and identify more serious buyers by offering something of value. At Prodiance, our software could perform a deep dive diagnostic of complex Excel spreadsheets, so we offered a Free Spreadsheet Diagnostic in all of our webinars. It was an incredibly popular campaign, and after each webinar we had numerous requests coming in. Prospects would send us one of their complex spreadsheets, and we would run it through the software diagnostics for them at no cost, and then present the results back to them and even offer a few recommendations. This exercise was much less in-depth than a proof of concept, and was typically performed by an in-house spreadsheet domain expert. It allowed our prospects to see how the software would work with their data, and it often uncovered serious logic errors. On several occasions, we found spreadsheet errors in the $ millions! What small token can you offer that is of tremendous value to a prospective customer?
- Take the High Road Against Competition – This can be a somewhat controversial topic among technology vendors, but I believe in taking the high road when you are competing. Talking negative about competitors to prospective customers cheapens the image of your company and lowers your credibility. It’s always better to focus on the solution YOUR company is selling and highlight its unique features, attributes, and benefits. If you select these unique features carefully (based on who you are competing against), they can be designed to also point out weaknesses in the competitor’s solution. For example, if you know the competition’s solution is weak in terms of reporting and analytics, then make sure to highlight the strengths and advantages of your product’s reporting dashboard and leave it at that. This can be accomplished through a demo, marketing brief with screen shots, YouTube video, press release, white paper, or a webinar. There is no need to even bring up the competition in sales discussions regarding this feature because you have already planted a land mine for competitors (assuming you have presented your solution before they have). If your company has domain expertise and competitors don’t, then highlight it but don’t bash the competition.