Archive for the ‘Salesforce automation’ Category

How to take advantage of a recovery

Monday, February 8th, 2010

So, 2010 is well underway, and hopefully the difficulties of 2008/9 are slipping behind us. As business begins to pick up again, and budgets and activity levels are restored, everyone looks forward to getting back to business as usual.

Or perhaps not – perhaps there’s a better way.

Many Marketing departments shed staff last year, and although I’m not advocating a jobless recovery, there may be smarter ways of undertaking the activities some of those people may have been undertaking, rather than just throwing bodies at the routine challenges encountered by marketing. Here’s a few things to think about doing differently this year.

  • Data acquisition – When obtaining targeted contacts for marketing activity take a long term approach. Renting a list for a tactical campaign that’s coming up will not be successful; ongoing activity is the key. Spend time researching the right data source (see Business data and Sales prospecting tools on our Resources page) and if bespoke contact discovery is necessary, leave enough time. This also makes investing the necessary time and effort in properly handling the data more worthwhile: load the list into your database/campaign system, flag the source, track outgoing activity and record response (see point below). This allows the effectiveness of the acquired data to be measured much more readily.
  • Proactive data quality management – Avoid “a quick check of the data” being the last thing that happens before campaign execution. Data quality is an ongoing task and leaving it to the last moment will mean it’s always a panic activity that never gets done properly. Ideally, you should implement a true data quality programme and a suitable solution to monitor and maintain data (see previous posts Data quality – a vision and 6 data quality solution requirements). At the minimum though, use one of the many (not necessarily expensive) tools to identify issues on a routine basis and fix them as you go along. (See Data quality tools and consultancies on the Resources page.)
  • Joined up response management – Campaign execution, whether direct mail or email, is often carried out by external vendors, which is understandable. They can pull landing pages and micro-sites together quickly and easily, where perhaps building such facilities into your main website is onerous and time consuming. However, campaign reporting should take place within your existing processes so that it’s a business-as-usual activity, not an exceptional process that only a couple of people understand. If you are hosting you’re own landing pages, the same principle applies of course. Hopefully capturing such responses directly to your marketing database is relatively straight-forward (many systems have web-to-lead functions), but if it has to be manual, so be it. This investment in time will pay off when it comes to reporting and tracking.
  • Skills – Consider the expertise that is really required as activity levels rise and how best to obtain it. Rather than re-employ generalists, identify two or three step change projects and employ temporary specialists or agencies to get those changes achieved using what was, previously, salary budget. Once these programmes have been completed, review the skills you need before determining the types of roles required and taking on new permanent staff. Use this as an opportunity also to do some testing before deciding where to focus new spend. Again, this isn’t to discourage creating jobs for unemployed marketers, but experimenting and testing actually creates gainful activity that will bring the recovery forward, without requiring companies to commit too soon whilst it remains tentative.
  • Sales and Marketing database integration – Strive to ensure that your marketing system and the system your Sales team are using are linked together as closely as possible. Leads, once qualified, should appear directly in your SFA (sales force automation) system, not as spreadsheets or emails sent to Reps. Even better, share contact data between the two systems so that changes in either are immediately available to everyone. This should hopefully also help with tracking leads once they have been supplied to Sales, and eventually measuring the outcome of marketing activity.

As the recovery takes hold, let’s hope that marketing departments start hiring again, and put all that talent to work on creating effective campaigns.

With thanks to Kate Mayfield of Data & Mash for contributing to this post.

Following the clues to a successful sale

Friday, January 15th, 2010

One of the common traps into which Marketing often falls is to treat a lead as a one-off event in isolation to anything that has gone before or after. This results in every response from a given individual being treated as a new lead, rather than as a package of interest in a company’s products and services.

But leads are like clues in a detective story. In a criminal investigation, Police are often said to be “following multiple lines of enquiry” – in other words, following-up on leads. These leads, or clues, whilst separate from each other, may all point to the same end result. In our case, this is a successful sale, but by themselves each clue may not be enough to solve the mystery. Whitepaper downloads and webinar attendances may not mean much by themselves, but put together they point to an interest in a specific solution or a particularly pressing need.

This is where good lead management becomes crucial, and where so many software solutions fall short. Many systems treat leads as separate, unrelated events and make no effort to tie them all together and present the evidence as a whole. It’s little wonder then that Sales are driven to distraction with a stream of seemingly trivial clues, whilst not being able to see the big picture. At the same time, vital evidence is overlooked – leads go to waste without being followed-up.

We owe it to ourselves to recognise the short-comings of the tools we have available and address these problems. Otherwise, marketing investment will continue to go to waste and fail to deliver the results expected.

Salesforce.com, analytics, email marketing and financials – it’s all in the cloud

Monday, April 13th, 2009

The Salesforce.com customer conference in the UK this year took the form of CloudForce, a complimentary day of sessions and vendor showcases, held at London’s ExCel exhibition centre last week. It’s no revelation that Salesforce.com have long since moved on from simply being a salesforce automation developer. Today, they position themselves as “Force.com”, promoting the benefits of cloud computing – multi-tenanted, internet based computer platforms – that obviate the need to install software. Indeed, the “no software” message, and attendant logo of the word “software” with a line through it, was repeated at every opportunity. An amusing moment came when Paul Cheesbrough, CIO of The Telegraph Media Group, made reference to “your software” when joining Salesforce.com CEO, Marc Benioff, on stage during the main session. “Your platform I mean,” Cheesbrough quickly corrected himself, “there is no software.”
“Thank you,” replied Benioff.
“I saw it in your eyes!” quipped Cheesbrough.

The AppExchange platform that forms part of Saleforce.com offers a plethora of opportunities to expand the functionality of the base product. However, the ready integration capabilities of Salesforce.com and the Force.com application platform enable new possibilities, some of which I thought noteworthy. Force.com is particularly interesting, as it opens up the platform beyond Sales and Customer Service management to one that allows developers to create their own applications running on the Salesforce.com cloud infrastructure. To developers, Force.com represents the opportunity to deliver solutions based around the software-as-a-service ethos, without having to build the delivery infrastructure themselves. Adopters of these solutions, for whom not having to install software and maintain their own IT infrastructure is appealing, gain access to applications meeting their requirements that might not otherwise have made it to this delivery mechanism.

One such example is a complete accounting application from financial software developers Coda, called Coda2go. Based around their on premise solution, Coda2go runs entirely on the Force.com platform and integrates closely with Salesforce.com itself. I wrote recently about the considerations of integrating sales order processing within the sales and marketing “data ecosystem”, where I made reference to the point at which an Opportunity is closed and an order booked. With Coda2go, this process, together with resulting invoicing, is practically a one-click undertaking. Once the Opportunity is ready to be booked as a sales order, which would typically involve manually switching to a different system, all of the order details are picked up from Salesforce.com, transferred to Coda2go, invoices created and the rest of the accounting process put in train. I can’t speak to how good a financials solution Coda2go is, but this looks pretty neat!

Closer to marketing home, Cognos (now part of IBM) and QlikTech were offering Salesforce.com enabled versions of their analytics solutions. As well as enabling more sophisticated analysis, visual representation and dashboards than native Salesforce.com, these solutions will work across multiple data sources, holding out the prospect of unified marketing and sales reporting and analysis. Joining marketing data such as campaign execution, response and leads with converted opportunities and closed deals, the nirvana of true, operational marketing effectiveness reporting comes a step closer. Of course a variety of process implications still need to be considered, but at least data visibility is improved.

Finally, and firmly within the marketing realm, a couple of email campaign solutions and a data collection system caught my eye. Genius.com and ExactTarget both offer solutions for creating and despatching marketing emails with all the features you would expect, including HTML templates, personalisation, tracking and reporting. Naturally, this is integrated with Salesforce.com in terms of data management and reporting, making straightforward but relatively sophisticated email marketing very easy. Clicktools allows the creation of surveys, landing page and forms, enabling rapid generation of marketing response mechanisms, as well as questionnaires and so on. Between all of these solutions, it seems possible that best-of-breed marketing campaigns consisting of outbound email and rich landing pages with response tracking can be created relatively easily and inexpensively, without needing full scale and costly marketing automation solutions.

So, there you have my quick round-up of highlights from CloudForce ’09, all without reference to meteorology or having my head in the clouds. Doh! Too late.

The missing link between campaign management and salesforce automation

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Why is it that salesforce automation systems all seem to skip past lead management and pick-up from the point of opportunity creation and disappear over the horizon of pipeline management and forecasting? These are crucial functions for modern, enterprise sales management and the Sales function has done a great job of driving the market to develop solutions to meet these requirements.

However, despite the timeless refrains that “Marketing never deliver quality leads” or “All the leads I receive from Marketing are worthless”, the attention to the lead delivery end of the pipeline is marked by its absence. Many systems treat the individual attached to a lead as completely separate from any contacts already in the contact database, make no allowance for (horror!) multiple responses from the same individual or consider the status and nature of the responses themselves.

Despite the sophistication of many CRM/SFA systems, lead management – the crucial first step in the pipeline building process – is sorely overlooked. Work-arounds exist to address this deficiency, but marketers owe it to themselves to compel software vendors to embrace this crucial consideration as comprehensively as the subsequent stages in the process have been.

Tackling the lead tracking disconnect

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

As we construct the requirements for our new SFA/CRM system, the issue of lead definition and tracking rears its head again (see The broken Salesforce.com leads model). Having largely succeeded in securing the concept of ensuring that responses from the same individual are always linked to that person’s record, such that the individual lies at the heart of the lead, the next discussion revolves around tracking through to opportunity. The problem here is essentially twofold:

  • How is it possible to judge which response is the one that lead to the creation of an opportunity?
  • How is the influence of multiple contacts on an opportunity tracked?

In other words, how is marketing effectiveness measured, and ultimately return on marketing investment determined? Clearly it’s important that we can systematically link a lead to an opportunity within the database, which makes it easier to draw a line from response to a piece of business. What’s crucial though is maintaining the ability to link all responses to an opportunity, and undertake analysis around how responses influence opportunity creation. It could well be that a webinar is a good way of moving qualified leads through to opportunity conversion and into the pipeline, but what prompted the webinar attendance itself? It could be a whitepaper download or a software evaluation, or specific examples of these types of activity; is one topic more popular and likely to bring about a conversion?

This is where an analytical approach comes in to play. Rather than simply connecting the dots of response, lead generation and opportunity, modelling techniques should allow less obvious links to be made. It’s still crucial that responses are reliably linked to individuals, as this is the linking point (contacts are attached to opportunities, therefore creating the link with response). This is where data quality plays such a crucial role, especially in matching incoming response or new contact creation to existing contacts, such as an event registration or where a Sales rep enters a new individual. Failing to recognise that a new response is from an existing individual, who may already have a response history, will destroy the ability to undertake this kind on analysis and produce meaningful results. (Use the search function at the top of the side bar on the right to look for various past entries on data quality.)

I’m hopeful that this functionality will be adopted in our new system and that we’ll be able to make the investment in the related analytics to maximise the benefit. There still remain the usual, considerable, user education requirements, especially among our Sales colleagues, to ensure that human action doesn’t scupper these best laid plans. The biggest problem is Marketing created opportunities being disregarded and a brand new one created by the rep when they commence working on it. The challenge here, I think, is to ensure that it’s easier to use an existing opportunity that has been created than set-up a new one. After all, the former should be less effort, which is usually a good message with which to start!

The broken Salesforce.com leads model

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Now, I realise that criticising Salesforce.com is tantamount to heresy in this day and age, but I’m not averse to controversy here. What is the source of this cynicism? Well, several hours locked in meeting rooms and on conference calls arguing about the definition of a lead doesn’t help. It has though, made me realise that the way Salesforce.com treats leads is woefully simplistic, with substantial knock-on effects:

  • Salesforce.com treats every response as a lead. This means that every whitepaper download, webinar registration or information request from the same person creates a new lead. This drives Sales insane, as they perceive the person responding to be the lead and basically ignore the subsequent responses, branding them irrelevant. The blame of course falls on Marketing, whose protestations of “It’s SALESforce.com, don’t blame us!” go unheeded.
  • As well as the impact on sales reps’ mental wellbeing, this lead proliferation causes rampant contact duplication. Any given individual could now have multiple leads associated with them, which are in effect separate records. I know of one company who suddenly discovered tens of thousands of lead records sitting in Salesforce.com that had been dumped there over time, representing horrendous duplication but also a complete loss of value as it was so difficult to know what was worth keeping and was not.
  • The absence of any linking together of leads for the same individual makes it very difficult for Sales to review response history and formulate an intelligent, holistic follow-up to a contact, further reducing the value of a lead.
  • Multiple leads per individual also makes analysis very difficult too, especially understanding lead conversation rates. If fifty leads from ten people convert into two opportunities, it looks like a 4% conversion rate, but really it’s 20% at the contact level. Making your lead conversation appear a fifth as good as is actually the case seems unnecessarily self-deprecating, and does nothing to support the argument for marketing investment.

In the discussions in which I’ve been involved regarding the definition of a lead, I’ve been trying to say that a lead is a person, not just a response or other action of an individual. In fact, I’d go further and say that a lead fundamentally represents a potential piece of business, to which multiple people could be related from within the decision making unit of a particular project in an organisation. Another word for this of course is opportunity, which is a completely different entity in Salesforce.com and handled much better (including the ability to link multiple contacts).

I understand that leads are a simpler entity that may come to nothing, and therefore shouldn’t be burdened with unnecessary complexity, but over simplification results in a solution that is not fit for purpose. And keeps me trapped in meeting rooms longer than I’d like.

If you’d rather the force were not with you

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Given all the coverage of software-as-a-service sales force automation solution Salesforce.com it’s easy to forget that there are other solutions. One in particular was highlighted to me this week, at the launch of the latest version of SalesPoint, from marketing services outfit MarketPoint. Taking place at the Sunseeker dealership in Mayfair, we were treated to an introduction from Merlin Stone followed by a demo of the newly unveiled software, including a fully revised interface, all washed down with champaign and canapés!

Although nothing like as feature rich as Salesforce.com, SalesPoint is a nice simple solution and benefits from integration into MarketPoints’ campaign execution and fulfilment services, so direct mail despatch and literature requests can be handled with no further intervention or data management. Well worth a look.