vCom Solutions faces a challenge: “We're in a young industry,” said Leslie Leach, VP-marketing of the San Ramon, Calif.-based company, which provides cloud-based software and services that help businesses manage complex telecom systems. “People just don't know that there is a better way to manage telecom. It's a huge market-awareness and educational challenge.”
Leach joined the company a year ago and has focused on transforming a marketing program centered on customer newsletters and public relations into a modern marketing ecosystem. “We were an 'eat-what-you-kill' sales organization,” she said. “Salespeople had to go out and find their own leads. I and the executive team here have tried to put in a whole new process.”
Their efforts focused first on the development of a pipeline for leads. The company adopted Marketo's marketing automation platform and began to build a content marketing strategy to educate prospects and pull them into that pipeline. Webinars, email campaigns and software demonstrations became part of that outreach and fed information on prospects into a database.
“There is not a lot of search volume because it is a new industry,” Leach said. “You have to proactively educate people who you know this is valuable for rather than collect them.”
The educational strategy led to an increased focus on industry trade organizations, she said. “It gives you traction. You can educate a targeted group when you are involved, and you have different channels to reach them.”
Those steps have yielded results: vCom saw a year-over-year increase in billings of more than 30%, a feat achieved with two fewer salespeople than before. Marketing—a lean department made up of Leach augmented by an inside salesperson parttime—now contributes 50% of leads to the sales pipeline. “We're not handing people over to sales until they are educated and have seen a demo of our software,” Leach said. “They are very well-qualified. Sales executives are closing deals and not trying to carry leads all the way through the process.”
The company's redesigned website, vcomsolutions.com, received industry awards, as did the software itself. “Market awareness is growing, and we're getting recognition,” Leach said.
Now, Leach is working to build on that success. vCom will increase its educational offerings with the introduction of a large-scale customer conference this year, she said. The company also is segmenting its pipeline into vertically focused customer tracks that focus on targeted industries. vCom places emphasis on the financial, healthcare and legal verticals. “The first year we tackled the basics,” Leach said. “We got the website going [and] the marketing programs. Now we can go back and tackle the nurture tracks.”