Matt Bowman is VP-demand generation at Teleperformance USA, a business process outsourcing company that provides customer service, technical support and chat support to Fortune 500 companies. In the following interview with CMO Close-Up, he discusses effective demand-generation practices for b-to-b marketers.
CMO Close-Up: What is your job as VP-demand generation?
Bowman: I'm responsible for managing the very early stages of the sales cycle. As little as 10 years ago, particularly in the b-to-b space, when prospective customers wanted to learn about their options, how to overcome a particular challenge, is the solution feasible and could they afford it—the typical questions a person goes through in the early stages of the sales cycle—they used to have to go to a salesperson. Now, because of changes in technology and consumer buying behaviors, often vendors are being eliminated long before a person picks up the phone to talk to a salesperson. That is the stage I manage. I have identified three distinct stages a person goes through before they're ready to talk to a salesperson, and I help develop collateral as well as user experiences to guide them to the answers they need before talking to a salesperson.
CMO Close-Up: What are those three stages?
Bowman: They will vary according to industry, but the three stages are awareness—I'm aware I have a problem, and how are others solving it; options—what options are available to me to solve the problem; and what vendors are out there to provide me the options I am now interested in?
CMO Close-Up: How do you market to prospects effectively at the early stages of the buying cycle?
Bowman: One of the best practices is to realize that just because you've been able to attract someone's interest in downloading a white paper or attending a webinar, don't assume they are ready to talk to a salesperson. Some companies spend a lot of money to get people to download a white paper, and then immediately they get a salesperson to call them. At this stage, only between 11% and 15% are ready to talk to a salesperson and move into the next stage. For the rest, a drip marketing campaign is a very cost-effective way to nurture them. The messages have to be segmented and highly relevant in order to avoid getting opted out. You need a drip marketing system to allow you to do dynamic content on your website, landing pages and emails based on the prospect's title, demographics, industry, department, etc. Another best practice is trigger-based drip marketing. It's one thing to map out a whole series of drip marketing emails. What's even more effective is monitoring which white papers they're downloading, which web pages they're looking at, which webinars they're attending, and (then) sending them other material related to the information they have downloaded.
CMO Close-Up: Which vehicles do you use to deliver more material?
Bowman: My first option is email. In my experience, if I'm going after a C-level executive, emails don't work that well, so it may be a matter of sending them something in the mail. But for a VP/director level, I'm still finding email effective and cost-efficient. Most execs will quickly skim through all emails. If you have the right subject line, don't come across as a pushy marketer and make it personal and relevant, you can still reach people that way.
CMO Close-Up: Do you have an example of a recent demand gen program you've implemented using these best practices?
Bowman: I was brought in recently on a campaign, and the initial campaign was sent out to try to attract the interest of viewers in watching an online video. The target audience was customer experience senior execs—chief customer experience officer or VP-customer experience. The proper foundation had been set and the audience had been segmented. It all boils down to the quality of the list, the quality of the call to action, and the quality of the creative. The original (campaign) was an HTML email, which I am no longer a fan of, (that) was very much, "Download now,' in typical marketing verbiage. The response rate was about half a percent, which was quite bad. Without changing the list, I created a new call to action and creative. Instead of using HTML code, I used plain-text email and made it very personal. It was still a mass email, but there is such a thing as dynamic email, where you can change certain things in the email so it's still personalized. We sent out the invitation to view the email to the same group about three weeks later, and the open rate jumped from less than 1% to close to 15%, and the conversion ratio—people who actually clicked on the link to watch the video, jumped from less than 1% to 11.4%.
CMO Close-Up: How did you make it personal?
Bowman: You can mention their company name, their name and, if I'm going after a chief customer experience officer, I will include a paragraph that specifically mentions topics of concern to a VP-customer experience or chief customer experience officer.
CMO Close-Up: Why are you not a fan of HTML?
Bowman: I'm not a big fan of HTML because the open rate isn't as good, particularly when people are checking emails on the road with their mobile device or tablet. (HTML) doesn't open up as clearly, and depending on how the email viewer is set up, they may not see the subject line. If it's just plain text, at least they can see the subject line and read the email.