17
Jan

Start Collecting Information About Prospects as Early As Possible for Maximum Efficiency

Once a dominant theme for marketing communications collateral has been established, the intended audience has been identified, and a top down strategy has been implemented with regard to producing the actual editorial content for the campaign, the objective that ought to become paramount is to identify the information required to qualify the likelihood of purchase interest on the part of prospects who may respond to the collateral with an inquiry, etc.

The task of collecting important information about prospects that will contribute to useful prospect qualification must start with the registration form that prospects will complete in order to receive what we call tier II collateral. Prospects receive tier II collateral when they take an action in response to a call to action that has been included in the initial product promotion campaign. The action could either take the form of an incoming telephone call from a prospect, or a click on a link embedded within an email version of the initial product promotion campaign.

Regardless of how prospects opt to act in response to receipt of direct marketing collateral about products, the procedure must be the same: collect targeted information before handing over tier II collateral to the prospect.

We think that it makes sense, at a minimum for registrations to collect at least the following information:

  • Name
  • Company Name (or Organization equivalent for inquiries from the public or from the not-for-profit sectors)
  • web site address (if one exists)
  • Title
  • Telephone Number
  • eMail Address

Once policy is established that makes receipt of these 5 pieces of information a mandatory preliminary requirement that must be satisfied before any further information is distributed, then the job of advancing the conversation further becomes that much easier, not to mention more efficient. After all, why task personnel to follow up on simply an email address when an inquiry has been received, when time can be better spent working with other prospects that represent more promising opportunties?

Further, it makes sense to research prospects that provide these 5 pieces of information. Where a web site may not be available, based upon company name and/or email address it ought to be possible to develop some familiarity with the incoming prospect. As we have noted earlier in this blog, we find that LinkedIn provides us with a lot of very useful information about companies; therefore, we highly recommend LinkedIn as a resource for gathering this company-specific research.

Based upon a prospect’s title, it should be possible start to put together an organizational chart. We think it makes a lot of sense to start working with organizational charts as early as possible. After all, these charts can provide the basis for assumptions about how the various personnel within an organization interrelate as regards formulating a purchase decision, which will certainly need to be tested, over time.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

16
Jan

Product Promotional Content Should be Targeted to Market Needs

A common ground between sales and product marketing can be found at that fork in the road where product marketing decides how to successfully target marketing communications collateral to deliver the most effective return on investment. In our experience we have found it works best for promotional content to be written on sales topics, meaning topics that present popular market requirements for relevant solutions. Of course, the popular market requirements should amount to the demand, meaning the need, for methods of solving precisely the type of problem that products/services/integrated solutions have been designed to address.

Here’s an example:
For heavily regulated businesses it is mandatory to file periodic reports with regulatory agencies. These reports usually provide a comprehensive list of activities, and related documents, including email correspondence.

In terms of pervasive market requirements (commonly referred to as “pain points”), one could argue that the whole requirement of reporting to regulatory agencies constitutes a problem requiring a solution. However, if one’s product happens to be a highly effective method of collecting copies of all email messages, and sorting them by employee and also by activity, regardless of whether messages are sent through public servers like GMail, Yahoo Mail, or private servers including Microsoft Exchange, or Google Apps for Business, then we think that the promotional collateral produced for the product must focus, entirely, on the specific challenge of email messaging for regulated businesses.

In sum, one aspect of successfully targeting marketing collateral for software products/services/integrated solutions is to write copy on topics as close to the specific area of need that one’s product is designed to solve as possible. A second critically important aspect of the same process, is to address the editorial content to the type of reader who promises to exercise the most influence over a purchase decision. In other words, the presumed audience for the content must be the group of decision-makers, including end users, analysts and implementation project managers, and, where possible, management with budget authority to authorize purchases.

From our experience, once the dominant theme has been established, the rest of the promotional collateral effort should include components designed for each member of the decision-making group. The point of having different pieces of editorial content available, is to encourage the development of purchase interest over time.

In fact, for enterprise markets, developing interest over time often amounts to communicating a product message to different members within a decision-making group. At an early stage it may be a user, in other words an IT professional, who will develop interest in a solution. For this user it will likely be useful to produce technical promotional content on the product, how it works, etc. But at a later stage it may be personnel involved with any project to implement a solution like one’s product that will benefit most from promotional content, etc.

In the next post to this blog we will look at why it is important that a consistent theme (at a very high level), one that is clearly organized in a top down manner, be implemented for any/all targeted marketing collateral included in the effort if the campaign is to be successful.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

15
Jan

Successfully Targeted Product Promotional Marketing Collateral Speaks First to the Most Pressing Need

It’s fine for promotional editorial content for software products, services, and even integrated solutions to speak to the needs of technical users. In fact there is no lack of this type of promotional collateral to be found in popular enterprise markets. But the rub, in our experience, is that most of this content fails to deliver on objectives. We think the reason why is that the technical issues keeping systems administration personnel up at night, or developers, for that matter, can be far removed from the reasons that division heads have become insomniacs.

The first objective of this type of promotional collateral must be to speak to the reasons that division heads are experiencing sleepless nights. To go back to the example that we presented in the last post to this blog, let’s say that a regulatory agency levied an enormous fine on a heavily regulated business as the direct result of this business’ inability to produce a complete set of email correspondence for each of its staff members involved in a specific project. Further, the regulatory agency in question decided to levy this enormous fine when several email messages not produced by the business showed up in public discussion about the specific project under review.

In this case, it should be obvious that the most pressing need is for the business to pass through a review like the one we have depicted unscathed, meaning without a fine. The sleeplessness experienced by the division heads of the teams responsible for the project is directly attributable to the exposure of the firm to a calamity like the agency fine to which we have alluded. The fact that the technical nuts and bolts for any solution that will satisfy the business’ need to successfully collect the highest percentage of all email messages exchanged during the project must work with Microsoft Exchange is entirely secondary (and likely way down the pipe) from the operational risk exposure that we have built into this example.

Therefore, the best approach to designing effective promotional collateral for the type of market need that we have depicted in our example is to start with a description of the operational risk represented by an inability of any heavily regulated business to collect the highest possible percentage of email messages exchanged during specific projects. Division Heads should get the message. Once they have the message, then they can direct technical personnel to research the best possible solution.

If your marketing communications efforts can use the type of top down architecture that we have described, perhaps you should speak with us. You can reach us at +1 631-673-2929, or use our contact form to send us a message.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

14
Jan

Marketing Communications Content Should be Used to Produce Opportunities to Directly Engage with Market Participants

IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable experience identifying opportunities for clients to meet with prospects who want to learn more about our clients’ products, services, or integrated solutions. Usually the type of opportunity that we produce is a meeting between a representative from our clients’ team and a prospect.

Often this type of service is called “lead generation.” However, we won’t use the term lead generation over the next series of posts to this blog. “Lead generation” is, in our opinion, a vague term that, literally, refers to an undefined process, “generation”, which somehow produces “leads”, meaning the names of contacts and prospects likely to have an interest in specific products/services/integrated solutions.

Further, the term “leads” is, itself, hard to define. For example, what does interest really mean? In fact, it is often the case that interest can arise as the result of any of a wide range of factors, not all of which will result in a purchase.

We think it is much more useful to break up the process of promoting products to attract sales prospects into a series of steps, which are each clearly defined. Once each of these steps is clear, then the method of managing these steps to ensure success should be clear, as well.

The first step in building a successful product promotional campaign is to target the marketing communications component, meaning the promotional editorial content, to the specific market segment most likely to be receptive to invitations to engage in a manner that will produce useful information. There are 3 key aspects to this first step:

  • The content must be targeted
  • A specific group of recipients, meaning a subset of the overall market, should be the intended audience
  • and, finally, the objective should be to collect preliminary information that can be used to qualify individuals and their respective organizations as to the likeliness that they will emerge as customers

It is by no means a simple matter to successfully accomplish each of these three steps. We think that the challenges that arise for clients as they realize mediocre returns from their efforts to promote their products contributes to a general skepticism about “lead generation” services.

In the next post to this blog we will talk about what we think successfully targeted product promotional content is all about.

If you are tired of mediocre results from product promotional efforts, and would welcome a fresh look at your marketing and sales plans for your products, please consider IMB Enterprises, Inc. We have current experience working with software products, services and integrated solutions for enterprise business markets and comparably sized organizations in the public and not-for-profit sectors. You can telephone us at +1 631-673-2929. If you prefer electronic contact, then please contact us. We are enthusiastic about opportunities to engage with businesses looking for a truly effective method of producing market interest.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

11
Jan

Product Awareness Collateral for Channel Partners Should Include a Call to Action

There is no less a requirement for a call to action to be included in a piece of product awareness marketing collateral than is the case for any other type of promotional marketing communications. In fact, driving engagement is, perhaps, a more pressing objective for this type of marketing communications than is the case for other types of promotional material. After all, legitimate opportunities for ISV staff to engage with channel partners outside of joint sales calls are usually rare. Therefore, it makes sense to use an opportunity to present product awareness information as an occasion, as well, to schedule a follow up telephone call.

The most obvious reason for a follow up telephone call is to ensure that recipients have correctly received the intended message about a specific product, or product line. Certainly it makes sense to enlist the support of channel partner management in this effort. Specifically, efforts must be made to convince channel partner management to encourage their personnel to make themselves available for these follow up telephone calls.

We have participated in quite a number of these efforts where the management encouragement piece was missing. In each of these cases it proved to be very difficult to gain commitment from personnel to speak with us about the product awareness information that they had received. Subsequently we determined that product awareness collateral was less effective as a method of attracting the attention of sales, and maintaining it. Bottom line, a follow up telephone call can be a very powerful method of wrapping up a product introduction for channel partners.

These follow up telemarketing calls should be carefully scripted to ensure that each and every important point has been received by the individuals contacted by the telemarketing team. In fact, we think that the team of telemarketers selected for the follow up telephone call activity ought to be selected by the same marketing communications team responsible for the creation of the product awareness collateral. After all, the purpose of these calls is to ensure that each of the individuals contacted have a useful understanding of the product in question. It is important to note that a “useful” understanding is one that empowers the individual newly empowered with your information to relay the right message along to her contacts in an enterprise IT organization, or even contacts from influential line of business (LOB) units.

Keep in mind that an important objective of the entire product awareness campaign will likely be to multiply the number people broadcasting a correct message about your products, related solutions, and, of most importance, benefits.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

10
Jan

Marketing Communications Collateral that Builds Product Awareness Requires a Renovation for Enterprise IT Markets in 2013

In 2013 Marketing communications collateral that builds product awareness for an audience of channel partners must be redesigned. While product comparisons may still provide useful topics, we think that the actual basis of comparison presented by product awareness collateral needs a renovation.

For example, no one has an interest in a comparison of product features outside of the context of a discussion of solutions. Therefore, we think it makes sense for product awareness collateral to present the most popular solutions that can make use of a specific product, or, for that matter, its competitors. Certainly it is safe to present important features within the context of a presentation of popular solutions. Further, a product to product comparison based upon features within a success story, case study, or other solution document can be useful.

But some mention, as well, should be made in the product awareness document as to why cited solutions have attracted market popularity. Invariably, this type of mention will include some reference to broad benefits. We think the more successful of these marketing communications efforts will include some cost information within the benefit presentation.

After all, enterprise IT organizations, in 2013, are still looking as intently, as ever, to reduce the cost of computing solutions. Channel partners providing these organizations with solutions should be comfortable and familiar with this type of benefits discussion. Therefore, providing the benefit background to solutions should be very useful for prospective channel partners.

In the interests of keeping marketing communication terse and strictly on point, we think it makes sense to provide channel partners with several pieces of product awareness collateral, perhaps 2 case studies (or in depth presentations of popular solutions), a product brochure, and, of most importance, a product summary document. This product summary document should be largely composed of bullets (or other very short summary statements that present key points about products) that reference points illustrated elsewhere in the product kit.

It is important to set realistic expectations for the results of a product awareness campaign. Certainly, the best gauge of the success of the campaign should be sales. If there is no other way to gauge the effectiveness of a marketing communications campaign, intended to promote product awareness on the part of channel partners, then an analysis of sales figures should provide indication of whether the campaign has worked, or not. If sales are growing, and sales growth can be attributed to better understanding of product positioning, then we think ISVs should consider this type of product awareness campaign to be a success.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

9
Jan

Marketing Communications Needs to Build Product Awareness on the Part of Enterprise IT Channel Partners

IMB Enterprises, Inc. is a consulting firm that provides early stage technology businesses with a range of services in the “business building” category. A leading offering for us are lead generation services, which are a combination of targeted direct marketing communications with a follow up telephone call from either a telemarketer or a teleprospector. You can learn more about our services by contacting us by telephone at +1 631-673-2929. Alternatively, please contact us via our online form.

This post is the third in a series on what we think are some important changes in the familiar dynamics of building a channel sales strategy for software products on the periphery of core demand for enterprise IT customers. We collected the information we are presenting here as the result of some of our current activities. What we have noted from some recent discussions with prominent IT services companies offering systems administration and software development to enterprise IT customers is their need for the type of marketing communications collateral that will build awareness on the part of their personnel of a product offer.

It is worth taking a moment to look further into what these contacts may have had in mind. First, we think that these contacts meant “product awareness,” rather than simply “awareness”. If our reader can stay with us as we make this leap, then we can propose that the traditional definition of product awareness is vague (“knowledge about the particular products . . .” can mean very different things to different readers), with an emphasis on the use of marketing collateral as a means of comparing different offerings for the same application from different manufacturers.

We don’t think that this traditional definition of product awareness is particularly relevant, in 2013. In fact we think our contacts used the term “awareness” to either let us know that their personnel have simply far too many products to think about at any time, or to let us know that staff activities on behalf of clients are strictly limited by their clients, with the result that their personnel lack the time to conceptualize the solutions that products like ours can be used to build.

In either case, without material to build this awareness, our clients’ products would be relegated to the role of an invisible option, seldom discussed and almost never recommended. Of course, invisible products are never sold. Therefore, these contacts were alerting us that we need to provide some very important information that builds awareness as a first step towards building a sales partnership with their respective firms.

In our next post in this series we will look at, specifically, the type of content that we recommend for inclusion in product awareness marketing communications collateral for enterprise IT software products.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

8
Jan

A Transformed Enterprise IT Buyer has Transformed the Business Model of the Services Companies that Provide Support, and More

Much has been written over the last several years about the characteristics of a new enterprise IT buyer for 2013. We have written about this new buyer in earlier posts to this blog, for example in a post on the possible Obsolescence of Outside Software Sales Teams [as a result of] a Combination of Factors.

The bottom line on this new buyer is that she does almost all of the work required to research, specify, and identify likely solutions for “bleeding wounds” online before ever lifting a telephone to call on a sales organization.

Further, she is likely to be a survivor of a number of failed IT projects. We have written on this topic of failed IT projects earlier in this blog in a post titled Buyer Skepticism must be an Underlying Assumption for Enterprise IT Sales in 2012. This experience, where lots of money was expended on IT projects that failed to deliver a return on investment (ROI), as anticipated, has fed the enterprise need for so-called “portfolio management,” which amounts to an activity undertaken to ensure that, for future projects, all efforts will be made to capture as much of anticipated ROI as possible.

Our recent interactions with the services companies that do business with this new enterprise IT buyer, meaning the systems integration businesses, development shops, and other consulting and even advisory firms, indicate that they, too, have been transformed to keep up with the times, and in a manner that increases the difficulty that most ISVs will likely face should these ISVs opt to pursue channel sales strategies targeting these services businesses.

Specifically, we think that enterprise IT market demand for turnkey systems integration work is a mere shadow of earlier years. The reason for this decline in demand is that enterprise IT organizations, generally, are shouldering more of the responsibility for all of the key aspects, meaning the actual answers to “who/where/how/why” questions for all implementations of solutions for core requirements.

Enterprise IT may not provide the actual human resources required to implement core projects, but they do, with increasing frequency, specifically direct all aspects of the implementation. Therefore, in this new world, the type of products that we discussed in yesterday’s post to this blog, specifically, products on the periphery of core demand, which, nevertheless, can play an important role in an integrated solution, will likely have to look to joint marketing opportunities with vendors of core solutions if they are to capture the attention of channel partners.

In the next post in this series we will look at how this constrained atmosphere necessitates a different set of themes for marketing communications efforts for these peripheral products in search of channel partners.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

7
Jan

Important Points for Enterprise IT ISVs to Address as They Consider Implementing a Channel Sales Strategy

There are many reasons for enterprise IT ISVs to consider implementing a channel sales strategy for products. In our experience the most prominent of these are:

  • an ISV is supported by too few internal sales personnel, or
  • a software product requires a comparatively complex installation, which is usually accomplished with some significant amount of customer-specific customization, or
  • a software product (usually a commodity) is targeted to a market where customers generally work with a select set of prime vendors and have little to no motivation to change their buying preferences

Another very important reason for enterprise IT ISVs to explore the opportunity presented by a channel sales strategy stems from the distance between a software product’s typical application and the core driver of market interest.

It is worth taking a few words to explain this last notion. Consider that products designed to satisfy peripheral market needs are, necessarily, located at a distance from the core market driver. Examples of these software products on the periphery include, but are certainly not limited to, applications designed to enable wider use of specific features of the core application. These products are usually captive to the core application and intended to meet the needs of specific market niches.

If one considers Microsoft® SharePoint® as a core solution designed to address a need for enterprise content management, then a product like the Outlook to SharePoint connector offered by Colligo Networks can be seen as a means of enabling users to extract better performance from SharePoint, itself. We note that Colligo Networks’ solution provides SharePoint users with a seamless method of storing email data to document libraries, in other words the system works without any need for human intervention, thereby ensuring that a substantial proportion of documents sent by email, as well as email messages, themselves, will be correctly stored in SharePoint document libraries.

While gaining assurance that most email messaging is recorded in SharePoint document libraries may not be critically important to lots of businesses, for those businesses operating in highly regulated industries, where adhering to compliance regulations is an ongoing imperative, gaining such assurance is, in fact, very valuable, and, more often than not, worth the cost of acquiring a solution like the one offered by Colligo Networks.

In our experience, products positioned at a distance from core market drivers, which, nevertheless, can be used, like Colligo’s Outlook to SharePoint connector, to deliver a tangibly more valuable solution to users, are particularly well positioned for a channel sales strategy. After all, for a range of service providers, including businesses offering users system integration, or custom development, it makes sense to include these products in project implementation plans for the strategic role they play in ensuring that the end customer receives optimum value.

Therefore, one could argue that the task of attracting channel partners, for peripheral products correctly positioned, should be a rather easy one for sales. But, as we will show in the next post to this blog, in 2013 some other factors are at work that act as repellents, regardless of how successful a product market message may be.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

4
Jan

Teleprospecting is Not to be Confused with Telemarketing

Teleprospecting services are not to be confused with telemarketing services. This is hardly the first post to this blog intended to provide readers with a look at how IMB Enterprises, Inc. implements teleprospecting services for clients. Nonetheless, as we just alluded to telemarketing services in the prior post, we thought it would be helpful to follow with a post dedicated to teleprospecting.

Usually we recommend teleprospecting services when a client needs to sample market sentiment. Market sampling is very much about collecting information from a set of telephone contacts on a formal list of topics of discussion. Therefore, teleprospecting is our preferred method of successfully delivering on a market sampling requirement. As well, clients can opt to avail of teleprospecting services from us when the objective is to collect what we refer to as “environmental detail” about sales prospects; for example, to fill out an organizational chart, or to establish the authority of contacts that appear to play a role in a decision-making process. In the same vein, we find that teleprospecting activity contributes substantially to the usefulness of market studies and product viability reports.

The approach of our personnel on this type of an assignment is more about collecting information than is the case for our telemarketing services. In fact, the scripts that we have prepared for teleprospecting assignments read very much like a reporter’s interview.

We highly recommend teleprosepecting services for so-called under the radar product marketing requirements. After all, successful management of these requirements usually requires ongoing analysis of lots of information. Teleprospecting techniques are particularly useful as a method of data collection. Ongoing activities built on these techniques can provide our clients with fresh, absolutely current information about markets under close consideration, competitors, and even candid opinions of products and plans.

We have lots of experience producing reports and opinions from the information our personnel have gathered through teleprospecting activities. As well, we have good experience designing marketing communications campaigns to create opportunities for teleprospecting activities. Finally, we welcome interest in our capabilities with regards to mentoring teleprospecting teams, and even managing outsourced teleprospecting resources.

From the above information it should be clear that we see a very close connection between teleprospecting services and requirements for market viability reports and the like. We will be happy to expand on this information upon request. Please feel free to contact us for further information. You may also telephone us at +1 631-673-2929.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved