Close-Up with Stephan Gray, VP-corporate marketing, Kronos Inc.

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Stephan Gray leads the team responsible for expanding awareness and consideration of Kronos Inc.'s workforce management products and services. He oversees the company's demand generation programs, global websites, creative development, events, advertising and marketing operations. Since joining Kronos in July 2007, Gray has focused on aligning the company's marketing and sales efforts to drive revenue. Last month, at the SiriusDecisions summit, Gray presented the Kronos story, along with Jim Kizielewicz, Kronos senior VP-CMO. At the summit, Kronos received SiriusDecisions' Return on Integration award for its focus on marketing and sales integration, and the resulting strong growth. CMO Close-Up: What were some of the challenges you faced when you came to Kronos? Gray: Our challenges tended to be around our brand awareness, which lagged behind our key competitors'; our messaging was fairly confused and not well-targeted. Also, we had no particular scoring mechanism to uniformly determine the readiness of a lead for sales, and our technology required to process inquiries and leads was outdated. The time to hand off qualified leads to the field took days, and sometimes weeks. These things eroded sales' confidence in leads coming from marketing. That can lead to bad behavior, such as sales reps walking off a trade show floor with leads in their pockets that never get into our system. So marketing would never be properly credited with sourcing that particular part of the revenue pipeline. Finally, our database was really not adequate to grow the company at the right rate. We had around 150,000 contacts in our database four years ago, with maybe 15% having a verifiable email address. That size of database wasn't sufficient to generate new business and to avoid list fatigue. Today, we have about 1 million contacts in the database, 60% have email addresses and 80% are what we call “profiled.” CMO Close-Up: What steps did you and sales take together to better align sales and marketing? Gray: One change was consolidating inside sales, telemarketing and lead development under the same management in order to get synergies. Teleprospecting's role is basically doing cold-calling and some follow-up. Lead-development reps qualify leads. There's enough synergy here that they can get the resources for call campaigns, such as in setting up appointments in advance of trade shows in a structured manner. CMO Close-Up: What steps did you take to better develop qualified leads? Gray: Information is valuable, yet getting at it quickly and easily is sometimes a challenge. We turned to SiriusDecisions when it was determined we didn't have a uniform definition of what a sales-ready lead was. Their definitions of marketing-qualified leads helped to define our leads, so we could have a proper balance between marketing-qualified and sales-qualified leads. We also began using the Net Promoter score concept. At last year's SiriusDecisions summit, one of the presentations included a survey that indicated that the single most powerful form of persuasion is word-of-mouth and peer recommendation. We had monitored the Net Promoter concept in the past. We launched our first Net Promoter survey in April 2010 with a certain number of accounts and later surveyed another round, which included some of the original ones. We regularly take the feedback we get from our Net Promoter scores, share that across the senior management team and take action-item assignments—such as responding to a specific product criticism—to gain an opportunity to improve things. We use an outside organization to facilitate feedback. We also worked with sales to develop a 100-point BANT-based [budget, authority, need, time frame] scoring method, and set the conversion threshold at 85, where we'd send the lead to the field. That's pretty high, so subsequently we've relaxed that threshold a bit to get more quantity. CMO Close-Up: How did sales respond to these initiatives? Gray: We found a lot of support with sales here. We share a common set of goals. We both want to fill the pipeline. And we were undertaking these changes during the softening of the economy, so we were doing everything possible to contribute to opportunities. Before, marketing-captured opportunities were sourcing less than 8% of the sales pipeline, which was the result of a lot of things such as infrastructure, sales alignment, etc. Today we source about 25% of the pipeline, and that pipeline itself is much larger. According to Sirius, best practices is about 27%, so we feel we're knocking on the door today of where we should be. But we still have room for improvement; we'd like to get it to 30%. CMO Close-Up: What takeaways can you cite from this process to date? Gray: Research is one of the first things to get cut from any marketing budget but, if we hadn't invested in that, we might have taken our messaging in the wrong direction. Also, messaging and branding need to link up, and the database needs both quantity and quality. And it's important early on to establish a baseline against which to measure progress.
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