How to Get the Full Value from your MAP Software in 2015

A marketing automation platform (MAP) is a significant investment, yet few marketers get the full value. They limp through the year with a barely used MAP, and are then hard-pressed to justify the expense during the next year’s budget review.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Try a New Feature Every Week

Most marketing automation platforms come with a powerful suite of marketing automation tools. Unfortunately, not all marketers make use of the entire collection. In fact, many just stick to a familiar few and don’t even try out the rest. How do you know if a tool will be effective if you don’t try it out? The feature you’re ignoring could be the one to take your marketing to the next level.

But don’t just toy around with a feature for an hour and drop it. Make a commitment to try one new feature for a week every week. And ”trying” doesn’t just mean clicking a few buttons and opening a couple of menus. Spend the week learning about the feature. Examine use cases. Do trial runs and (if possible) create an actual scenario. You’ll learn more if you see it running in real life.

Then, at the end of the week, you’ll have a much more informed and realistic assessment of whether or not that particular feature works for you.

Expand Your Strategy to Match

Of course, using tools just for the sake of using them isn’t recommended. You need to first understand the features and capabilities and see how it can play into your current marketing strategy. If possible, you then expand your strategy in a way that you can make use of these tools. For instance, you have great content, but it just sits on your website. Using the MAP’s nurturing tools allows you to expand your content marketing strategy and push information out to customers in a timely manner. 

Also, good MAPs have tools that are meant to work together, not piecemeal. Using a collection of complementary MAP features will get you much more value than using them separately. Explore how the features connect, and you may get powerful results.

Include Others in the Loop

Marketing departments shouldn’t operate in a vacuum, and neither should your MAP. Marketing automation platforms can benefit teams across the entire organization, not just your own. For instance, the best MAPs include an option to integrate with CRMs to allow both the marketing and sales departments to share leads. Some MAPs also offer tools like surveys to collect customer feedback, which would be valuable to share with product development teams.

If you can incorporate more MAP features into your workflow, create supporting strategies, and integrate with more internal teams, you’ll be able to increase your marketing department’s value dramatically. Do it intelligently and consistently, and your marketing automation platform’s ROI will be measured in months, not years.

You Bought a MAP Solution! Now What?

Getting a new Marketing Automation Platform solution is a lot like getting a new tool kit. The moment you finish basking in its new-ness, you start looking for something—anything—to fix. As you DIY dads out there can testify, the urge to go and do something with your new tools is almost overpowering. It doesn’t matter if it’s tightening a few pipes or sending a few A/B emails. You want to take it out for a spin. And that’s okay. 

But what happens afterwards? You shove it in the broom closet and forget about it until something breaks. All those fancy tools, and you still only use it to fix the odd chair or send an occasional email campaign. Which is a shame, because MAP’s have the potential for so much more. 

Map Out the Possibilities

To really get the most out of your MAP toolkit, you have to create a plan that makes the most of what you have. Each of your MAP’s components has their respective strengths, weaknesses, and purposes. You can’t just use a lead scoring system on a few customers and expect results. You have to determine how you’re going to implement it across your database, figure out how to collect the relevant data, and strategize on how your sales team can best use it. 

And remember: while it’s important to use your MAP’s features to their best advantage, it’s even more important to use them to your best advantage. Use features in a manner relevant to your market. If your customers aren’t big on mobile marketing, then don’t waste energy on it.   

Which brings me to my next point:

It’s for the Customers, Not You

Yes, you’re going to be the one implementing your new MAP, executing your campaigns with it, and justifying the expense to management. But keep in mind that all of this is for the customer’s benefit. 

So as you create A/B emails and auto-responders and landing pages, keep this question in mind: “what will my customers experience?”

The MAP’s ultimate purpose is to help you give customers an enriching experience with your brand, whether that’s through learning about popular sale items or being taught the best way to use their new purchase. 

So go ahead and tinker with your new toolkit. Get comfortable with it. Explore its strengths and specialties. But while you do, do it in the context of improving your relationships with your customers and leads. Then, when your marketing strategies start taking a more solid shape, you’ll be able to steer them in the proper direction right from the start. 

Going Further With Your Nurturing

It can be hard to go from blasting email to identifying the ways your buyers engage, what stages they go through, and how to effectively prepare them to talk to a salesperson with nurturing campaigns. Even after doing this up front work, many marketers have a hard time executing because it can take an enormous effort to create the content necessary to fuel nurturing. It can take months to identify and create content that triggers off of popular downloads, demo offers, specific sections of your website or events common to your marketing mix. 

It is important not to stop here, however. You can easily get bogged down in optimizing nurturing paths once you have them created vs. leveraging nurturing concepts in other areas of your company. Nurturing concepts, along with technology used to execute nurturing campaigns, can be applied to critical processes within your company—ultimately expanding the value that a marketing team can provide.

Here are two brief examples of using nurturing concepts in departments outside marketing:

Sales Initiated Nurturing

Salespeople hold on to a lot of knowledge. They also send a lot of nurturing email you don’t know about. The most successful salespeople get good at having prepared messages they reuse at specific stages in the buying process. Many will use tasks or reminders within their CRM system to let them know when to send these messages. 

Here’s the bad part that hits your company’s bottom line: When that salesperson leaves your company, so does the knowledge of what nurturing works.

There are spots in the post-marketing buying process where things typically stall out or where the buyer exits because of a specific reason (budget, authority, timing as examples). What types of communication are your best salespeople using to re-engage people? Meet with your sales teams often. You’ll discover some content that makes you understand the buying process much better.  There could also be some that makes you cringe. If you can create re-engagement communication that uses the tactics and content from your best salespeople, you can begin to replicate results across your sales team.

To automate this and send the right message at the right time, you have to make it easy for salespeople. That means giving them a place within their CRM system to initiate the timed nurturing communication based on their personal evaluation of the buyer. This is a lot easier than it sounds. You can integrate your CRM and marketing automation systems today in a way that puts nurturing paths at salespeople’s fingertips in custom fields. Once they choose the nurturing path and save the lead record, the right communication is launched via your marketing automation system—giving you the ability as a marketer to monitor its effectiveness, refine as needed in collaboration with salespeople and send them down a completely different nurturing path if you see new behavior.

Customer Onboarding

For many organizations, customer onboarding can be an involved process. The interesting part is that those responsible for this within your organization likely do the same thing salespeople do—create communication that supports the buyer going through a process. While the type of communication often changes from persuasive to being more task oriented, the concept is the same. There is no reason you can’t create and refine onboarding communication for the different stages a buyer goes through to use your product successfully.  If you can't find those within your organization that help your buyers do this better than others, then replicate and automate the general process. You can use this as a starting point to increase customer satisfaction.

If those responsible for onboarding new customers use your CRM system, this typically means creating nurturing paths using the contact or account status as a trigger. If they don’t, your marketing automation system should have robust enough APIs to let you queue off of a change in any system to launch the nurturing.

There are very few walls today when it comes to integrating system across your internal teams and leveraging the technology you have in place. Start experimenting with creating nurturing that touches buyers throughout all areas of their interaction with your company. Does this give you some ideas? What groups within your company could use automated nurturing and how could that change your potential for revenue?

TreeHouse Extending Technology Lead in Partner Relationship Management and Marketing Automation

TreeHouse Interactive continues to extend its lead in partner relationship management (PRM) and marketing automation this month at the Dreamforce trade show in San Francisco, CA on August 30.

New technology will be released for the Marketing View™ marketing automation solution. The new features include ground-breaking capabilities related to company level behavioral tracking. 

TreeHouse will also add revolutionary new partner marketing enablement to its Reseller View™ PRM solution, which is already the most comprehensive PRM system available and the only one on the Appexchange. 

Set up a time to see Marketing View and Reseller View in action at booth 219 at the Dreamforce trade show in San Francisco, CA August 30th - September 2nd or any time after via an online demonstration.

In the Weeds – Landing Page Tips

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Looking at the big picture is a good thing. It’s what helps marketers make sense of the work in front of them, their results and what they want to do from a strategic standpoint. But if you aren’t willing and able to roll up your sleeves, take out the scythe and cut through some weeds every once in a while, no birds-eye view will actually get you to your destination. This post is deep in the weeds… It’s about helping you improve campaign landing pages.

You may create landing pages for a lot of different things—email campaigns, pay-per-click campaigns, events, etc. They all involve the basic notion of capturing prospect data. Some marketers do it a lot better than others. Recently, I’ve seen a large technology company convert less than 1% of pay-per-click traffic to a landing page. This is far from ideal because you always pay for traffic to landing pages, whether directly or indirectly.

Below are some tips for improving landing page conversion. They are not exhaustive, but cover what I consider to be most important in conversion after you have solidified a good reason for people to fill out your form.

Tip 1: Affinity

Here I’m talking about the inherent resemblance between all your campaign elements. If the pay-per-click words you are bidding on aren’t in your ad copy, and that ad isn’t reinforced in the landing page that follows, you have issues. The copy, branding and promise you make are all part of campaign affinity. This means the tone, look and what prospects are getting should not change as they travel between campaign elements. If they do, you will lose them. This may seem simple, but I’ve seen marketer after marketer have 300+ keywords that are tied to an unrelated ad, that leads to a landing page, which has nothing to do with what they just clicked on.

Why does this happen? Simple: Marketers get lazy. Make sure the 1-to-1 relationships work between all your campaign elements—from email or ad, to landing page, to thank you page, to follow-up. If the relationships aren’t there, don’t cut corners. Your results and how prospects perceive your company are at stake.

Tip 2: Perspective

Okay, this is a brief, but important point. Marketing is not your English class. Copy from first and third person perspectives have their place, but my belief is you are much better off addressing the prospect directly (2nd person) if you want them to convert. Why? In marketing you have a small amount of time to capture attention and make your offer relevant. “What’s-in-it-for-me” is a concept you should embrace in your campaigns for relevancy and if you want more leads. The fastest way to do this on a copy level without sounding cheesy or downright boring is to quickly change from authoritative 3rd person to 2nd person. See the first paragraph of this post. Did it work? Do your benefit bullets on your landing pages look more like a laundry list of features? You have to connect with people, and you can’t do that if you separate yourself from them with language.

Tip 3: Layout and Graphics

Typical B2B landing pages have a headline, intro copy, bullet points of benefits, a hero image, form, and call to action. You may have more or less depending on what you are marketing. Because this is an area where content differs greatly, I’ll give some general tips:

Try placing the hero or main image of what the prospect is getting in a more prominent position—further up the page and possibly in the header. You always want it “above the fold” or visible without having to scroll down the page. Images with people in them engage and draw prospects in, your dull white paper cover on its own likely will not.

Placement for your call to action, which includes a button, is important too. And whatever you do, this should not be a “submit” or “register” button if you can help it. Make it related to your promise. For example: “Download Whitepaper” or “Reserve Your Spot.” Experiment with different colors, shapes and sizes for the button too.

Use different background colors and graphic treatments behind bullet lists and forms to make them pop. Bullet lists on landing pages should include the value proposition for downloading/registering and should stand out.

Use fewer fields. You can’t expect someone to give you that much information unless you’re literally paying them. If the gate is perceived as being locked, your prospect will find somewhere else to go. Once in your database, you should be progressively profiling them as you move them from campaign to campaign. You don’t need their blood type up front. 

Links can be a huge issue. If there are links to webpages or content from your landing page that are not directly related to the conversion, remove them. You are bleeding traffic. On the other hand, you should be adding social media sharing links. Make it easy for prospects to connect you with other prospects.

Tip 4: Technology

The biggest obstacle for marketers in creating good landing pages is time. They’re usually an afterthought. That’s why I’d suggest building landing pages first and emails second. You should also be automating landing page creation. This means using form creation technology that is tied into email capabilities and a centralized marketing database. Demand generation systems are very good at this and offer a lot of extras that help you create more sophisticated campaigns. If you are stuck going through an IT department for creating forms or hand coding these forms with limited resources, you will never execute fast enough. Demand generation technology helps you create the forms quickly, set behaviors like how long the form will be active, and then automates what happens with the information that’s submitted (alerts, leads sent to a CRM system, nurturing communication launched, etc.).

Tip 5: Follow-up

Follow-up is the bane of many a marketer’s existence. This should include both testing and evaluation. Ideally, if you automate, you can test creative landing page treatments to random subsets of your larger audience. Play with the size of the call-to-action button, change that headline, swap out the hero image, change the copy. If it is an important campaign that will have any kind of shelf life, you should be testing. Technology can make this very easy, as well as evaluation. Constantly monitor traffic, conversion percentages, referral sources and the breakdown of how prospects are answering questions. This will help you modify the next campaign and target the right people.

Those are just a few ideas on how to improve conversion on your landing pages. What have you seen that works?

Things That Shouldn’t Happen With your Marketing Automation System

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Some experts estimate that marketing automation and lead management system usage is still in its infancy (link). I’ve seen estimates as low as 5% penetration and as high as 20%. But I would venture to say that many of the companies that step up to use these systems don’t really know how to use them effectively or have the wrong one in place for their company’s needs. 

And that’s not the marketer’s fault necessarily. The demand generation and marketing automation space is very, very crowded. There is also a lot of what I would call “pie in the sky” ideas around marketing automation principles and much less in the way of practical advice. 

Focusing more on the practical, here are some things I’ve found shouldn’t happen with a new marketing automation system, but often do because marketers overlook them or don’t think to ask the right questions when shopping around:

Getting Leads to Sales Teams Too Slowly

Demand generation and marketing automation systems integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce CRM and Oracle CRM On Demand differently. What many marketers don’t realize when researching is that some send leads over immediately while others send them in batches or not at all if the integration isn’t built. It doesn’t do any good to qualify leads if you can’t get them into salespeople’s hands at the right time.

In a study by Leads360 of 20 million Internet-generated leads, they found that those called within 60 seconds had a 391% better conversion rate. These conversion rates dropped to just 17% above average at the 24-hour mark. Most of the conventional wisdom in this area suggests that leads go cold after 15 minutes. Thus, you should be able to pass leads in real-time to your salespeople regardless of the CRM system you use. This goes for passing leads to partners in a timely manner as well.

People and Data Living in Silos

A lot of marketing teams have the attitude that once they hand leads to their sales team, they’re done. They provide the obligatory fields for contact and expect sales to take care of them once they hit the CRM system. For sales teams, providing marketing feedback on campaigns is low on the priority list.  For some, these attitudes are born out of habit and not recognizing that technology has changed—and so too should processes.  Today’s best-in-class marketing automation allows for real-time communication between sales and marketing teams.  

Here’s an example: When a lead is distributed to a salesperson or CRM system, the CRM system should allow for automated feedback on the quality of that lead.  Moreover, your marketing automation and demand generation technology should automatically tag the lead to the right campaign so you get return on investment (ROI) reporting. This enables salespeople to focus on the sale. News flash: Sales executives are NOT going to associate their closed business to the right campaign manually, even if it ultimately benefits them in the end to do so.  

In terms of focusing on the sale, salespeople should also be able to see a complete history of marketing interaction within the lead record in their CRM system. This includes behavioral things like email opens, link clicks, webinars attended, downloads off your website, etc. This gives a sales executive the context they need to make the best call they can make with a given prospect.  

Finally, you should be able to support nurturing within the sales process regardless of whether it’s based on sales qualification or explicit nurturing that salespeople kick off from the CRM system (but is executed out of the marketing automation system). It’s about supporting the sales process and revenue goals, not just lead numbers.

Insufficient Ability to Target 

Many marketers are used to sending blanket emails to a prospect base. They often continue that practice in marketing automation and demand generation systems unless it can accommodate additional data collection. You shouldn’t have to call your vendor to add a field to email or pay-per-click landing pages, event registrations, surveys, etc. Non-programmers should be able to set up the collection of any data, be able to associate it to contact records automatically as it comes into the database and then turnaround and target based on that information. The same goes for importing lists with additional columns of data outside normal contact fields.

The point here is that demand generation and marketing automation systems should be a central place for targeting data. Without that, you might as well be using a standard email blaster. You want to be able to collect any pertinent prospect information and then use it to target when sending one-off emails or entire nurturing campaigns. Incidentally, if you have your CRM system and marketing automation system talking, all standard and custom fields in your lead and contact records within your CRM system should be available for targeting. You should not be manually exporting lists from your CRM systems and importing them to your marketing automation or demand generation system. This is a complete waste of time I’ve unfortunately seen many marketers go through because they either have the wrong system or don’t have their current system set up correctly.

Spend five minutes on the Marketing Sherpa site and you will find case after case of improved open rates, numbers of leads, and conversions for micro-targeted campaigns. Ultimately, the ability to bring detailed prospect information into your marketing database is what allows this to happen. 

Outsourcing Everything

One of the most ironic things I’ve seen when marketers adopt a marketing automation system is that they begin outsourcing all their campaigns. Many times this is an unfortunate byproduct of implementing a system that only a consultant knows how to use. It can be an unexpected and frustrating consequence of not doing enough research. Understanding the basics of setting up and sending an email, creating a landing page, and producing automated actions shouldn’t take more than a day. If training is a several week process or the vendor/consultant won’t get their hands dirty to help you launch the first couple, then there’s a real issue. Marketing automation and demand generation should empower marketing teams regardless of size and level of experience if you’ve done the work to educate yourself. 

Isn’t the point of implementing a marketing automation system to improve internal processes and capabilities, as well as ramp up marketing execution? Depending on an external team for all campaign execution is a sure way to slow productivity to a crawl. While I think you have to prepare yourself by learning all you can about lead nurturing and demand generation before you implement a system, the technology shouldn’t get in the way of execution.

Because the marketing automation and demand generation space is so crowded, I’d suggest you focus on how your sales and marketing teams operate now, where you want to take them, and how whatever system you choose will provide real value. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. The points above are by no means exhaustive—they are just a starting point. 

What things have you found in your research that are important when looking for a marketing automation solution? What do you wish you would have known before signing on with a vendor?

Oracle Acquires Assets of Market2Lead - Lessons Learned

Oracle Acquires Assets of Market2Lead

First, viewing this move as anything other than assets picked up at a fire sale would be a mistake. If this acquisition were strategic, it would have to have obvious benefits for Oracle. It would have also warranted more than a 4-sentence press release with no press follow-up: 

Second, Market2Lead (M2L) is not integrated with CRM On Demand (SFDC Competitor) or any other Oracle platform out of the box. There are several leading MAP (marketing automation platform) vendors that already are.

Third, as far as I am aware, M2L never had its own email facility (my sources say they used Exact Target), so any issues with this facility in Siebel Marketing, which has been described as not “matching up” against the leaders in this space (, will remain or they have to pay Exact Target to fix them.

Fourth, M2L is widely regarded as very difficult to use. As they bled cash in the waning hours of their existence, how many of the good engineers stuck around? Without them, the work that will need to be done to address this issue and the integration of with Oracle offerings will take longer. Thus, there is likely a long wait for Oracle users or current M2L customers to see improvement in this area.

Finally, it is obvious this purchase wasn’t executed for sales. If M2L was competitive, profitable or had a top-notch customer list, this would have been a purchase, not an asset sale. Thus, no help on this front either.

This is a good example of what over investing has done to the MAP market. The top companies in this space (revenue wise, not features) have taken obscene amounts of cash and not made a profit or made very little. Thus, to acquire one, it is going to take a lot of money to satisfy initial investors. In the end, however, a potential purchaser of an over funded start up is essentially buying a cost burden that has proven it cannot scale profitably. So the only prudent thing about Oracle’s approach is the fact that they didn’t over pay. They likely bought garbage, but they paid what it was worth by buying the assets at a fire sale rather than buying the company. There ultimately could be a nugget of code that makes this purchase worthwhile at a bargain basement price, but that is the extent of it.

The folks that really get stuck here are the customers, and I think there is a lesson to be learned: Don’t confuse revenue and funding with success. Now these customers have the expense and pain of having to switch platforms or stay with a dying one. The time and money to acquire new technology will be significant. Moreover, contact histories, nurturing actions and other critical marketing data will be lost forever in the process.

Selecting a demand generation, marketing automation, CRM or other vendor for any key piece of business infrastructure can be daunting. Unfortunately, buyers are neglecting to ask about the stability of the company during this process. Profitability and sustainability matter. Revenue without profit equals an unsustainable business model, especially for companies that have been around a while. Make sure the vendor you choose can demonstrate to you that they aren’t only as stable as their next funding round and that they have profit to sustain them in addition to reference accounts and analyst opinions. The acquisition of M2L assets by Oracle is a good example of what can happen when this important step is skipped.