Understanding the 12-Step Demand Creation Process

It’s been more than a decade since the word “demand generation” began to get used by marketers and sales people primarily to depict a more holistic and relatively sophisticated process of acquiring and qualifying leads and working closely with the sales team on turning these leads into closed business for the organization. Before Demand generation was plain old indiscriminate lead generation.

demand creation

Photo credit: Digital Spy

Over the last few years, demand generation has become much broader, covering a number of marketing and sales disciplines such as search marketing, social media and content marketing, data, etc. But the fundamental principles and purpose of Demand Generation has remained the same, which is to create and drive demand for the goods or services offered by the company.

And so, for those who are actively involved in demand generation, or those not so familiar with it, here’s a review, recap or refresher of what a fundamental demand gen framework should consist of.


The beginning of creating demand starts with an understanding of the audience and of your product. We start by finding the addressable market. The addressable market is the part of the market that might be interested in your product and can afford to buy it. The addressable market is then divided into three additional segments:

  • People or businesses familiar with your brand and/or use your business already.
  • People or businesses who use a competitor’s product.
  • People or businesses completely unfamiliar with your brand or products.

Demand creation properly belongs to the last category, though it can bleed over into the other two. In fact, there’s confusion in the industry about exactly where demand creation ends and disciplines like lead generation begin.


Each of your market segments will have particular problems. Your product or service must be marketed as a solution to those problems. Let’s take one example from our business. Medical offices that don’t have an  Electronic Health Records (EHR) system yet are in danger of legal trouble, but some offices are still stubbornly holding onto paper because that is what they are used to or because they feel they can’t afford the switchover.

To market our EHR solution, we have to explain the benefits of switching to EHR, how it can save costs in the long run, how the office can avoid legal trouble down the road, and offer a way to provide a smooth transition and training period.

Your marketing has to address the pain points of each segment in a compelling way and persuade them that your solution is the best option.


In order for your product or service to succeed you will need to generate enough demand for people to buy it. The people who approach your company will fall into several broad categories based on their behavior.

  • Respondents are all the people that have had some response to your marketing, from the website visitor to the person who books a demo of your product.
  • MQLs (Marketing qualified leads) are people who have shown sufficient interest in your product but aren’t quite ready to buy yet. They need more persuasion from marketing.
  • SQLs (Sales qualified leads) are ready to buy and need to speak with a salesperson to close the deal. From a marketing perspective, once someone is an SQL you’ve created enough demand for them.

At this stage, the important questions are to figure out the signals that move a respondent to the MQL or SQL stage for your particular niche, as well as how many respondents you need to bring in to get enough conversions to make a profit. This forms the basis of your sales funnel. See Step 10 on one metric we use to qualify an SQL.


There’s one more piece that is needed before you can create an overall plan. You need to develop persuasion strategies to get different types of people to respond to your messages. We have four main ones that we use:

  • Chase – Court the potential lead until they convert.
  • Come – Let the potential lead know the door is open but let them come through on their own.
  • Community – Create a presence in the industry that lets your audience know you’re an active participant.
  • Co-create – Tell the audience that you’ll help them build a custom solution to their problem and that they can be an active participant in the process.

You will need to understand the audience and your industry well enough to know which approaches will work.

demand creation


Once you have all of this in place, now is the time to make an integrated demand creation plan. The end plan not only has to make sense on its own, but it also needs points where the rest of the business can hook in to harness the new demand to generate revenue. For instance, If you generate a lot of demand and the SQL qualifications are poor or there’s no good hand-off to sales for new leads, then the demand creation won’t be as effective.


Now we’re getting into the nuts-and-bolts. If you have an existing CRM, you probably have a pretty good audience database to begin with. But demand creation is about spreading awareness to people outside of your existing database. This means that you’ll need to do more market research to see who qualifies. Still, you can use your CRM software to identify disinterested businesses to target. Your new strategy may be just the thing to get them to become interested.


Landing a B2B contract isn’t just about knowing which businesses to target. It’s also about finding the right individuals within the businesses to target. You will need to discover who is responsible for purchasing decisions or who has leverage in the company to generate demand.

Sometimes the information you need can be found on the web, but more often you’ll need to do a little research. Sometimes you can buy or rent contact information for people inside of businesses so you can pull the right titles and roles from the start.


To walk people down the sales funnel, a variety of offers are used. For instance, you might ask for a name and an email in exchange for an information packet about your product. Inside that packet may be an invitation to a webinar or to talk with a representative. The acceptance or rejection of these offers can be powerful clues to see whether or not a particular respondent is should be an MQL or SQL. Leading the customer down the funnel with a series of enticing offers is a common and accepted way to get conversions.


CRM software like Salesforce is a necessity in today’s marketing and sales environment. There are too many potential customers and too many different interest signals to track without the help of software. We like to use Salesforce thanks to its lead scoring and lead nurturing software. We use these features to automate the qualification of leads and to deliver our different demand creation strategies based on the lead profile.


One of the problems with creating lots of demand is that only a certain amount of those people will be ready for sales. Marketing may want to create as much demand as possible but sales only wants to talk to strong leads. That’s why we follow a 10 touch methodology. We require our potential leads to have at least ten touches from marketing before passing them on to sales. Touches include things like:

  • Sending an email
  • Leaving a voice mail
  • Sending direct mail
  • The lead accepting an offer from the website
  • Multiple visits to the website

By requiring many touches before sending a lead on to sales, we weed out those who are merely curious from the truly interested. This creates better synergy between marketing and sales.


Speaking of sales, your demand creation strategy should also involve input from the sales team. Beyond the information in your CRM software, you may need to create sales tools for the sales reps that take advantage of the information generated from the new marketing strategy. Your sales team knows what they want to see in a good lead. Help them get that information.


Finally, you can’t forget metrics. Metrics is the heartbeat of all online marketing. It is the proof in the pudding. Each step in your demand creation strategy should be measured so that you can see where improvements can be made and where people may be falling out of the funnel. Good metrics will also show upper management what the ROI of your demand creation efforts is.

Each one of these steps could have an article all to its own, but this is what we believe a demand creation strategy must have in order to be successful. What demand creation tips do you have to share with your fellow marketers? Post them in the comments!

Keeping up with the Kontent

We are a technology-addicted society – and the withdrawals leave us fighting cold sweats and itching to reconnect to our devices. You can see it when folks are away from their smartphones for a little while, or they haven’t connected to their social streams or their email inboxes have gone untouched for a whole afternoon.

If there were some way we could have a nation-wide intervention about how reliant we are on technology, it would probably make for a great TV show. But you see, that statement ironically in and of itself is why we’re in this position to begin with. It’s our obsession with content!


YouTube content scans over 100 years of video per day, there’s 10 years of Periscope content watched per day – and it’s barely a year old! In fact, content overload is the sixth highest stressor in the United States. The Pew Research Center even found that more than half of all Facebook and Twitter users get news from the sites.

With our dependence on technology to feed us information and entertaining content like rats on a hedonistic treadmill – our attention spans continue to dip to record lows, as information has to be packaged in a snackable format in order to be properly digested – because anything bigger and we need the Heimlich to get it to pass through. This presents a conundrum for many B2B companies that struggle to figure out the right balance of information to present to users so to not lose their interests in the 8-second-or-less window they have open. And because of it, many people skim headlines; look for sexy stats and eye-catching words to fill their needs, and take it for face value, without executing their own due diligence for a forensic look.

Enter, John Oliver’s take.

The John Oliver Effect

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” has tackled some pretty heavy topics that many programs wouldn’t dream of doing. Everything from debt, net neutrality and incarceration in the U.S have been covered – and have seen a massive real-time effect with the public latching onto his all out assault.

Take his segment on scientific studies for example. Scientists are under a lot of pressure to pump out their findings in high-profile journals and they overhype them or wrongly convey the science behind them in order to have a sexy, eye-catching headline. How many times have you listened to morning radio or the talking heads that fill breakfast television and say, “according to a new study, drinking wine can be as effective as 1 hour in the gym?” Media outlets feed off of this because it sounds so appealing – but isn’t true at all!

“There is no Nobel Prize for fact-checking.” John Oliver

The faucet is turned all the way up with how much information we’re drowning in and because of this overdose, everything is skewed and no one has time to question it or dig deeper into the annotations that provide the framework.

Perhaps one of the real reasons we see this “John Oliver Effect” is because they actually dedicate their resources and manpower into obtaining a deeper view into an issue instead of the standard 45 seconds to 2 minutes that are allotted for the daily news cycles. People are starting to take everything at face value – which is why this can lead to a very dangerous path and a vicious cycle.

The lines between objective and subjective are continually being blurred – and this overload on content helps add to this confusing grey area. The late comedic legend, George Carlin cuts to the crux of the issue when he once said, “don’t just teach your children to read, teach them to question what they read – teach them to question everything.”

What’s Next for Marketers?

Being a great marketer means you understand human behavior and the driving forces behind why people think and act the way they do. Psychological triggers are dripping in every marketing message you see.

“All human behavior, at its root, is driven by the need to avoid pain and the desire to gain pleasure.” – KissMetrics

Marketing has now been dumbed down to appeal to our dwindling attention spans. Why do you think SnapChat is exploding right now? It’s the definition of snackable content coming at us in 10 seconds or less – because it’s all we can handle.

What’s worse in this short-attention-spanned digital age is that it has programmed marketing teams to provide information at a superficial level. This is a vicious cycle we’ve been sucked into – so where do we go from here? Marketing teams feel that bombarding consumers with an onslaught of content is the key to opening up their cheque books, even though according to the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey Report, nearly half of key B2B decision makers surveyed say they only need to consume as few as 2 pieces of collateral before deciding. 

Buying is a Continuous & Dynamic Process

Since the financial crisis of 2008, businesses have grow increasingly more conservative with their dollar spends and are executing their due diligence with B2B vendors to make sure they’re not bleeding money. This means more research is conducted, more executive bodies are brought in to give the final green light and the screening process is more thorough to ensure they maximize their return on their investment. B2B buyers are conducting forensic searches to dig up as much information, reading peer reviews and sales presentations. The problem is that by and large most of the content about a product is at a superficial level and buyers want serious, granular level detail so they can be armed with the information going into a sales call and how it specifically caters to their business. 

  • Improve the Marketing & Sales Connection 

Prospects now touch your brand and company at so many different points. Marketing teams need to step up and understand the key roles that events, white papers, and their company websites are playing that actively engage with B2B buyers, and how this can’t be high level, scratch the surface type knowledge provided. This is where you look to improve the marketing–sales relationship and how to coordinate efforts better by helping frame and deliver solutions for that buyer’s needs. Especially when many companies have such a huge disconnect between these two key functions.

  • Get the Product Team & Engineers Involved

Buyers emphasize that any interaction they have with sellers needs to be tailored to their needs as a buyer. Get the product management team involved, get engineers into the conversation to have that level of content, have customers to show other customers. Buyers value interaction with others people besides their sales contact. They want to see a holistic view of the product with product specialists, technical experts, professional services personnel, and delivery personnel, pre- and post-sales applications resources. Marketers can sometimes be so far removed from the nuts and bolts of the application, that they get stuck in a buzzword treadmill, reusing the same high-level talking points that only provide information for a search engine – not targeting the needs of a buyer. 

The Information Age vs. The Experience Age vs. The Middle Ages 

It has been widely speculated that there is the end of the information age, with a shift towards the experience age. In the Information Age, the start of communication was information, the central idea of the experience age is to show – not tell. So again it begs the question – where do we go from here? Will we revert back to the Middle Ages where a small group who had the patience to read or write investigative stories had the knowledge with the vast majority relying on these half truths fed to them in sensational headline form – because that’s what it’s starting to feel like.

Regardless of whom and where the information is being funneled in from, the onus always has been and will be squarely on the end user to take it upon themselves to conduct a thorough background search into what it’s really saying. This goes from everything to an online article with a snazzy headline, to a new survey conducted with innovative results to a B2B company pushing information about their product online. The landscape has forever changed, as despite the speed at which information flies at us – it’s time to slow it right down and dissect it.

Donald Trump’s Guide to Marketing

As if we need another keyword hit on the inflated ego that is the Donald Trump show. He’s commandeered the daily news cycle with his barbarian style and that trademarked soufflé of a mop top haircut he rocks, leaving many Americans eyeing the 49th parallel north as their exit strategy.

However, his approach to politics and otherwise spewing venom to anyone who speaks ill of his name has inspired an almost 180 degree direction on what not to do during your marketing efforts.

So fear not marketers, there is a silver-ish lining to this inflatable Elvis that we have running for the presidency – and took a bit of reading between the lines to find the marketing lessons he bestows upon us.

Here are the top 9 marketing lessons I actually learned (sigh) – from The Donald. 

1) Don’t tweet late at night


If you’ve ever seen the hit TV comedy, “How I Met Your Mother,” it’s strongly advised that “nothing good comes after 2am.” Although in this reference Trump is tweeting shortly after 9pm, he’s provided a litany of late night tweets attacking Ted Cruz and his wife in his now famous late night beef, along with Ann Coulter and basically anything to do with Megyn Kelly.

“Would you act this way as the president of the United States? Would you be doing late-night Twitter wars with world leaders who insulted you?” ABC’s “This Week,” host Jonathan Karl.

Regardless, nothing good will come of tweeting deep into the early hours of the morning for your brand. Keep it within the frame of when folks are active on social media. No good publicity will happen during then – unless they push the kickoff to the Super Bowl to 11:30pm.

On a side note, can’t you just picture Trump in his PJ’s tucked into his racing car bed with his smartphone and his tiny thumbs hacking away?

2) Don’t pander and say things people like to hear

The primary parallel between politics and “how-not-to-do-marketing” is that both sides tell their audience what they want to hear. Politicians lay claim that they will rectify all debt and wars will stop once they take office. Some marketers say that their product is scientifically proven to lose weight and is a healthy part of your daily diet. For voters and consumers alike, taking these statements for face value without finding out if it holds any clout is why both of them can get away with these insane ramblings. Although we probably won’t see politicians speaking the truth anytime soon, marketers can keep it honest and not blur the lines between fiction and non.

3) Don’t be offensive and isolate potentially valuable “target” customers 

It’s 2016 – this should not have to be brought up. However, with this particular Republican frontrunner vying for the leader of the free world, the rhetoric he spews is beginning to spread a climate of hate and fear everywhere. No matter your ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs – your product or service should be open and accepting to everyone. Enough said.

4) Don’t rely on Cable News as your primary source for information

If Donald Trump is serving as the lens for your outlook on life – it will probably come across as a scene from Mad Max. So when it comes to how to properly create a compelling message and communicate it to your audience – don’t just take intelligence briefings and industry knowledge from one source of information. Do your own in depth research, gain a well-rounded and critical perspective and seek advice from marketing professionals who do this for a living that know how to articulate your brand messaging.

5) Don’t use fear as a motivator

Neurologically speaking, our brains are wired to connect with what we stand to lose rather than what we stand to gain. Which is why we see many marketing messages rely so heavily on using fear as a motivator. For example, literally every time Donald Trump opens his mouth.

Speaking negatively about the competition, about life without your product, about what’s wrong with society. What’s the common denominator here? It all conveys negative messaging. And this is the connotation that will be associated with your brand. While fear and reward are two big motivations for making people to act, using negativity can backfire and permanently cast a shadow on your brand and ultimately erode it. 

6) Don’t make promises you cant keep

Blatant lying in advertising has been around since hieroglyphics were pasted on walls (that’s probably not true – but see how easy that is to believe?) Everything from Aquafina lying about where their water came from, to Red Bull’s claims of increased performance to Verizon’s bold statement that they have the largest coverage in America – they all got caught in the way they massaged the real truth of what their product/service offers.

Donald Trump plans on removing 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States in 2 years, saying: “they say you have to go through a huge legal process. You don’t. They are illegal.”

Despite the fact that numerous agencies including the Pew Research Center and the American Action Forum have estimated the number of personnel devoted to apprehensions would soar to 90,582 from 4,844; the number of attorneys and courts would increase twentyfold and cause major job losses across all sectors, estimating the cost to the economy around $1 trillion.

If you’re going to lay claim to “scientific” results and make bold and outlandish statements – then you best be ready to back it up, otherwise risk an onslaught of bad press and class action lawsuits being hurled your way. 

7) Don’t exaggerate so much  

Sure, marketers have a tendency to get a bit overzealous when implementing their strategies and stretching the boundaries of their copy. But making wild claims that holds no bearing will ultimately come back and bite you and your bottom line.

Trump was called out publicly on taking opposing stances on troops in Afghanistan, and how his numbers didn’t entirely add up when addressing the nation’s debt.

The moral of this story is that it’s okay to get a bit excited with your marketing strategy and creative – but make sure that it’s coming directly from a place of value and substantiated truth.

8) Don’t rely on your brand as a fallback

Your brand is not God’s gift to the world. In fact, the moment you get all high and mighty is when young and hungry up and comers will come gunning for your throne. Trump has repeatedly declared himself as a “winner” and a “leader,” so much so in fact that it led John Oliver to systematically pick him apart on his show, Last Week Tonight.

Everything from his failed Trump Airlines, Trump Mortgage, Trump Vodka and Trump Casinos plus his infamous bouts of being submerged in debt were all brought back into the public’s eye that just goes to show you that relying on your brand can only take you so far – eventually your true value will have to come through. 

9) Just because you throw money at it – doesn’t mean it will be fixed 

Money will not be your saving grace when it boils down to enhancing your marketing efforts. Marketing is not a cost that you can just throw money at and expect an authentic brand to automatically bloom. It means peeling back the layers to get to the root of your value propositions, key messaging and overall vision – not just throwing your weight around in billing hoping to remain the king of the hill. You do not need a big budget to be effective.

Most start-ups know this first hand, that guerilla marketing works and you can bootstrap your way to success. Multi-billion dollar multinational corporations have mega budgets simply to maintain their market share and not for dramatic revenue growth. The best way to keep your brand on top is organically – not commercially.

Just because “The Donald” threatens everyone under the sun with lawsuits, does not mean his problems will go away, but one day, God willing – the man might just go away for all of our collective sanity.

Five Customer Advocacy Rules to Live By

What We Learned at Influitive’s Advocamp Conference

Our experience with customer advocacy started at Toronto’s Pearson Airport aboard our flight to SFO. In a nutshell, we had pre-ordered meals and the flight crew wasn’t made aware of it. So, as time ticks on and our stomachs growl, no one comes by to take our orders.hangry

Feeling hangry, I finally ask one of the flight crew members if he would take our order. He doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about. I express my dissatisfaction (in the nicest way possible) and next thing I know the entire crew is at my seat. A scene is in the making.

Long story short, we get our meals plus some extras and sincere apologies for the poor service. Would we fly with this airline again? Probably. Would we advocate for them? Most likely because they were able to turn a poor customer experience around and make it a good one.

This leads me to the first rule of customer advocacy that we took away from Advocamp:

  1. Hug your haters

I could have easily become a hater of the airline (and was well on my way to becoming one), but they “hugged” me before that could happen. They did exactly what Jay Baer explained in his inspiring talk at Advocamp about why companies need to hug their haters.

He explained that:

Answering just one customer complaint can increase advocacy by up to 25% and haters are the most important part of your business. Although we treat them like they’re nothing.

Take the time to see things their point of view, their frustrations and learn the challenges they’re facing. Every interaction you have with a customer provides an opportunity to give them a positive and memorable experience.

  1. Forge the way

Customer advocacy may be the new kid on the block in the marketing world but now is the time to dive in because customer experience is what will fuel success this year.

In fact, 89% of B2B marketers say they expect to compete primarily on the customer experience in 2016 according to Gartner.

Companies are beginning to realize that they won’t survive in today’s competitive, digitally-fueled marketplaces if they don’t focus on customer delight and retention and a customer advocacy program is the place to start. Be a leader, not a follower.

  1. Understand what fuels advocacy

Strong advocates will defend, support and recommend you and are willing to put their own personal reputations on the line to advocate on behalf of your organization – but why? It’s not a simple answer, but a lot of it has to do with trust and buy in.

Understanding the role of trust in advocacy, what builds and destroys trust and how advocacy affects us in both our professional and personal lives is key to customer advocacy success and Duke University Professor, author and TED speaker, Dan Ariely, explains it better than anyone. You can find his TED Talks here.

  1. Count on your customers

The modern consumer has a powerful arsenal of resources to make informed and active decisions on their own and many don’t trust traditional advertising.

“Your brand advocates are more valuable than any advertisement you could ever buy.” – Dave Kerpen

That’s why it’s becoming so much more critical for companies to count on their loyal customers to vouch for them.

  1. Have fun and be a hero

We sure took this rule to heart and earned the title of “the fun booth” at the conference. (Although we’re pretty sure that VidYard was nipping at our heels for the “most fun” title when their CMO busted a mean move in a full robot or “vidbot” suit at the the After Dark party).dna-team.jpg

Green wigs, gladiator hats and purple feather boas were some of the favorite accessories the our courageous booth visitors sported in style as they “worked it” for the camera for their chance to win an Apple Watch.

At the same time, they became part of our content marketing strategy, tagged on Instagram @marketingheroes and picked up one of the marketing best-sellers to take home and hone their marketing hero-dom.

What does any of this have to do with customer advocacy marketing?

Two things.

First, no matter who your customer or audience is – B2B or B2C – or what product or service you’re offering, you’re still marketing to people and people like to have fun. So inject a little fun into your advocate hub!

Second, be the hero for your customers by offering them value in the form of new information, education, tips and tricks to make them more successful. Or better yet, find ways to make them heroes by including them in your content marketing.

On that note, we’d like to thank everyone who participated in our photo contest (check out our Instagram @marketingheroes to see all of the photos and have a good laugh) and send a special shout out to the winning marketing heroes from SmartBear and GoDaddy who are now the proud owners of Apple Watches.


Were you at Advocamp or have experience with customer advocacy marketing? Share the advocacy rules you live by in the comments.

CX and the City

Since the holiday season is just a few weeks behind us, the story I’m about to tell may be all too familiar and effective for getting my point across.

people waiting in line, travellers in queue

It’s the 22nd of December, and although Christmas is still a few days out, Kaitie is perplexed at how packed the airport is. You would think the Pope is giving mass nearby. It’s just a sea of humanity injected into one space, all with hopes of eradicating the stress of holiday travel and looking forward to that “ahhh” moment when the plane has green lights all the way for take off.

The massive line in front of Kaitie slowly gets chipped away, but as she inches closer to the desk, the disgruntled mumblings of cancelled flights, rebookings and delays starts to grow louder. After a painstaking wait in line, Kaitie emerges to the check-in desk only to be bombarded by an onslaught of bad news from a frazzled airline clerk. Unfortunately, the computer systems are overwhelmed due to the Christmas chaos and the phone lines are jammed with wait times stretching over 45 minutes. The airline is in major crisis mode as they scramble to deal with the mounting issues and customer complaints. Needless to say, the customer experience that they are providing is abysmal at best.

Airlines aren’t the only service industry that gets plagued with poor customer experiences around the holidays, and not just during the holidays.

Another scenario that may also be all too familiar is dealing with communications companies for phone, internet and cable services. When you press one to open a new account, you’re immediately connected to an ultra-friendly, helpful agent and are up and running in no time at all, but when you call to dispute your data overage charges the next month you’re put in to an endless phone loop and then wait 45 minutes to get a human on the line.

What I’m getting at is that Customer Experience (CX) isn’t always at its prime, and that’s a problem.

Being connected in the technology space, I know CX is a hot topic. I also know that there are powerful technology platforms from Oracle, Salesforce and SAP that provide companies with visibility into the customer or a single view of the customer. So why is it so hard to integrate a good customer experience at every level of an organization?

In this metric-driven environment, it’s almost as if customers have been a bit taken for granted, where once the trigger has been pulled on the sale – the great experience simply ends. It’s not a one and done transaction. Customer service shouldn’t be just a separate function of your company – it needs to be deeply ingrained with everything you do. All customer interactions need to be funneled into a common consistent experience. While driving revenue is an obvious focus for any successful business to stay afloat, companies can sometimes be too focused on customer acquisition and not on the entire customer lifecycle.

Flip the script from sales to CX

The bottom line isn’t the ‘be all end all’ as it once was. The gold standard needs to be focused towards the overall customer experience that you’re providing in the sales cycle. Sales reps don’t have to try their hand at their best Alec Baldwin impression (you should know what movie that’s in reference to) they should focus on answering questions and providing prospective consumers with a knowledgeable and friendly end-to-end experience.

This same consultative sales approach can be replicated at any company, big or small. Rather than pushing a hard sell, the junior sales employee at a hockey equipment shop can take the approach of educating the customer to help them make an informed purchase that they feel confident in. Think of a mother bringing her little one in to look at skates for the first time. The salesperson that is truly knowledgeable and helpful (rather than sales-y) will provide a better, more memorable experience for that mother that may foster repeat business (kids grow fast and need new skates every year). A positive experience truly goes a long way!

Excellent customer experience will define your brand

Brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you. As Sheryl Pattek, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research puts it: “your brand is now defined as much by what your customers say about their relationship with you as what you say about yourself.” The tables have long since turned in regards to brands telling their customers what their brand is about – the power balance has shifted and customers now dictate how your brand is perceived within the public sphere. Especially in this increasingly competitive landscape, a key differentiator for your service or product is how well integrated the customer experience is flowing through all points of interaction with a customer through their lifecycle.

It costs more to bring on a new customer than to keep one you already have, making that recommended focus on customer experience an effective strategy on many fronts. – Daniel Newman, Entrepreneur contributor.

Word of mouth marketing is still the Holy Grail

Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) is an acronym that needs to reclaim its rightful throne in the vernacular of every marketer around the globe. WOMM has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing. It’s the one that consumers trust above everything else and the one that is most likely to drive sales for your company.

It all starts with one happy and satisfied customer, and letting it manifest into something much bigger after a positive experience. Still a nonbeliever? According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. This is around the time where the proverbial mic would drop.

What are the companies that manage to still offer a great experience?

Nike has been the heavyweights in fitness and active apparel for decades, but they didn’t become king of the hill by having a weak customer experience. They created their own @NikeSupport account set up to solely respond to any customer feedback or concerns. They are active around the clock, and make sure that any and all inquiries are dealt with in a timely and personal manner to rectify any issues. It also gives them a phenomenal competitive advantage in an increasingly intense retail market.

So what does it take to make customers into advocates?

Customer engagement and advocacy needs to be completely embedded throughout the entire customer lifecycle. It boils down to how consistent you are with connecting with customers, especially if you want them to advocate for you at every stage of your potential buyer’s journey.

The problem is that for the last few years, marketers have been focused on “collecting” instead of “connecting.” In other words, brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them. – Kimberly A. Whitler, Forbes contributor.

Every marketer should have the triple E’s beaten into their cognitive wiring: Engage, equip and empower. It’s by far the most authentic way to create organic brand ambassadors. Let’s take a run through this triple threat:

Engage: Engagement is the gold standard in any marketing strategy – because good customer engagement is good for your bottom line. People want to do business with people, not just a company. Listen to what your customers are telling you and be apart of the conversation around your brand. Engaged customers are more likely to spread positive word of mouth about your brand. Simply put, the way you engage with your customers can truly make or break your business.

Equip: Content is king. The reason content wears the crown is because its driving force is giving the audience something to talk about. (Remember the Bonnie Raitt song?) Are you providing them with educational, entertaining and relevant content?

At the end of the day you have to think – why would they care about this?

Empower: Empowering your audience base means that you value their opinion and feedback and that it isn’t just falling on deaf ears. Your audience has a voice, now amplify and leverage that voice into something tangible. Take what Lay’s did with their widely successful, “Do us a flavor” campaign. They launched a massive social project aimed at uncovering the next great potato chip flavor and took in feedback from customers nationwide. Millions of submissions poured in, social engagement went through the roof and Lay’s went to market with four new flavors straight from their audience’s creative minds.

What steps have you taken to integrate a fully functioning customer experience throughout your company? We would love to hear from you!

What’s at the center of data centralization?

Its 11am on a cold November day. Jack Portersmith, Regional Account Manager at an international office supply company called Office Gear, has just landed at O’Hare International after an early start from New York. He’s enroute to renew a contract for network and security technology with Amy Sellars, the head of procurement an office manager at AG Investments, a hedge fund and investment banking firm and customer of one year.

Jack steps out of his Uber car and makes his way to reception. He announces his name and company to the lady behind the desk, stating that he’s there to meet with Amy. “She’ll be right out,” the lady says and offers him a coffee which he gladly accepts.

He takes a seat beside a woman who is also waiting in reception whom he’s pretty sure has been looking him up and down since he announced his name. He thinks she’s probably interested in him.

She says, “Did you say you work for Office Gear?” “Yeah,” he replies. “I’m Nadia Mecovich, I’m from Office Tech. I’m also here to meet with Amy to renew a contract for video conferencing hardware and software.”

It turns out that Office Gear and Office Tech are subsidiaries of the same parent company and both Jack and Nadia have contracts with Amy’s investment firm. Jack and Nadia are surprised they’ve never met and that they had no idea that both companies had contracts with the same investment firm.

If Office Gear and Office Tech are owned by the same parent company, why didn’t Jack and Nadia know that Amy’s firm was a customer of both companies?

Although the names and companies in the story of Jack, Nadia and Amy are fictitious, it’s a story that we’re seeing play out again and again in real life and it has real consequences.

As one enterprise customer that we do business with, put it:

We call on a customer to introduce them to our company only to have the customer say they already do business with us. We should be able to know that.

Here’s what’s happening and why:


Salesperson A and B in different business units or departments of the same company and are selling to Customer X at the same time because they don’t have access to the same customer data. Data is siloed in different companies, business units, systems and departments.

Based on our own observations working with clients, 5-40% of sales opportunities are being worked by multiple salespeople. It’s not just a waste of time and resources, but there’s untapped potential for larger, corporate-level deals.

According to this infographic, incomplete information that resides in multiple IT systems across a company is considered bad data. In one particular case, lack of visibility into the right data caused one major retailer to lose more than $3 million a year.

But there’s an even bigger problem here. Salespeople don’t have a holistic view of the customer. This impacts customer experience in an age when it is absolutely crucial and a key differentiator for businesses.

Going back to Jack and Nadia; what if the company that owns both Office Gear and Office Tech were to consolidate customer data in a single hub that both Jack and Nadia and all other salespeople had access to?

Yes, the unexpected meeting in reception at Amy’s office likely wouldn’t have happened, but more importantly, Amy’s experience as a customer would have been improved. As a result, the parent company that owns the two subsidiaries would have been more successful.

What did Jack and Nadia do following their meetings with Amy?

They went back to their marketing teams and asked how they could get better visibility into customer data to uncover larger opportunities combining office furniture and video conferencing hardware and software that they could work together on in the future.

The answer? Centralizing customer data.

Data warehouses play a pivotal role in CX initiatives because they house the data used to establish a comprehensive, 360-degree view of your customer base. A data warehouse of customer information can be used for sentiment analysis, personalization, marketing automation, sales, and customer service. – John Foley, Oracle

Both Sales and Marketing teams realize there are missed opportunities by not using data to drive marketing decisions faster. In fact, 45% of marketers agree that data is the most underutilized asset in the marketing organization.

Unfortunately, “Key initiatives such as master data management, data virtualization, data quality, data integration and data governance are employed by just a fraction of organizations that should be mastering the science of information management,” explains Mark A. Smith, CEO and Chief Research Officer at Ventana Research said, citing a Ventana Business Analytics Benchmark study of more than 2,800 organizations.

Consolidating and propagating accurate master data can reduce operational costs, increase supply chain and selling efficiencies, improve customer loyalty, and support sound corporate governance. “Other priorities, including business analytics, business applications, and Big Data, will not reach their full potential without top-notch information management that integrates business and IT efforts,” Smith notes.

In her book, Big Data Marketing, Lisa Arthur, CMO of Teradata Applications talks about untangling the data hairball and tearing down silos.

She cites the examples of Nationwide Insurance who began feeling the cracks in their decentralized data silos back in 2005. They recognized the limitations of their existing systems and were missing the agility, speed and flexibility needed to succeed in its marketplace. They knew it was time to find a better way so they could deliver an “On Your Side” experience to their customers. With a system that had grown to more than 100 terabytes of user data, about 10 times the size of the entire printed U.S. Library of Congress, Nationwide had the vision to leverage its data as a strategic asset for true enterprise analysis and management. They wanted a data-driven approach so they could make forward-looking strategic and tactical business decisions. The effort began with the creation of a mission statement and formal vision for the project. Nationwide has executed that vision and, in the process, migrated from a product-centric company to a customer-centric company.

Arthur explains that nearly 65% of marketers agree that silos within their marketing department prevent them from having a holistic view of a campaign across channels and suggests that organizationally, marketers need to tear silos down within their own team and with IT and other organizations to put the customers at the center of their integration and interaction strategy. There’s enormous value in using data together and proactively as a team.

Internet Multimedia Server

How can companies start tearing down the silos and turn bad data into good by increasing visibility across the organization? The best way to get started is by defining a pilot project focused on a specific business objective.

For example, two such key objectives are to:

  1. Enable transparency and collaboration across product lines and customers
  2. Provide a single view of marketing, analytical, and sales data

Always start with data analysis across business units. In order to realize the benefits of sharing data across an organization and cross-functionally, a critical mass of contact and target customer overlap between product lines must exist.

The strategy might involve identifying and consolidating key data points including customer profile and activity.

The tangible output of the project can be an app or widget embedded within every CRM instance that provides a dashboard view of the customer, the products that she has purchased across the parent company, the sales or account managers she has been working as well as key campaigns and social interactions that she may have interacted with.

Tools such as Informatica’s Power center or Oracle’s Master Data Management software provide the ability to both manage data and provide visibility to the prospect or customer across the enterprise.

For very large organizations such as Telcos with information coming in from user machines as well as humans, SAP’s HANA platform has been deployed quite successfully.

Have you experienced challenges resulting from bad or siloed data as a sales or marketing leader? What solutions have you implemented in your organization? We’d love to hear from you!

The buying cycle is dead. Long Live the buying cycle: 7 tips to modernize your marketing: Part 7

Part 7: Implement a CORE strategy 

The one question you need to ask: Is your business agile enough to be in lock step with your customer’s buying process? The Holy Grail for businesses today is to have the agility to always stay lock step with their customer’s buying process. This means being present where your customer is looking for information and providing the right information at the right time. Making case studies and referrals available to the customer where and when they’re looking to validate their purchase decision is one example. Fortunately, as discussed earlier on, modern marketing technology and access to content channels make this achievable for companies today.


Given this, it’s no wonder that 15% of all advertising spending[i] for major businesses are dedicated towards eradicating their antiquated models and are embracing the relationship-building CORE strategy.

What is a CORE strategy you ask? Forrester Research[ii] defines it like this:

C: customize

O: optimize

R: respond

E: empower


The aim is to customize marketing experiences by tailoring your content to your customer’s behaviors and motivations, optimize your decisions and processes using mathematical algorithms that identify preferred outcomes to adjust content to search trends and user profiles, respond to changing market conditions by being flexible and adaptable and empower staff and customers to be powerful advocates for your brand.

This approach is about leading customers as opposed to following, which is the way modern marketing is moving.

Change is a constant; the question is how far ahead or behind are your sales and marketing efforts? Are you keeping pace? The second question is, how would you know?[i] It’s time to take an agile approach to marketing so that you can adapt to the new customer buying journey and change course quickly in response to customer behavior and demands.


[i] http://www.forbes.com/sites/gyro/2013/01/07/the-disappearing-sales-process/

[i] Forrester: The Future of Interactive Marketing

[ii] Forrester: The Future of Interactive Marketing

The buying cycle is dead. Long Live the buying cycle: 7 tips to modernize your marketing: Part 6

Part 6: Sync up your systems

We live in a world with technology platforms available for just about anything and everything. Modern businesses have a marketing automation system, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, a content management system and any number of other technology tools and platforms to accomplish specific tasks. The common element across all of these platforms is that they collect and store data – data that can be very valuable to the company. The problem lies when this data just sits in silos.

Considering that customers are bombarded with an average of 5,000 marketing messages per day[i] companies need to get smarter about the messages they’re sending and when. To truly capitalize on the vast amounts of data they’re collecting from prospects and customers, companies need to make sure all of their technology platforms are talking to one another and that the right teams have access to the right information.


One scenario I see when working with clients looks like this:

Marketing is using a marketing automation system that is gathering information about leads, such as where they came from, what content they’ve interacted with, which webpages they’ve visited and more.

Meanwhile, sales is using a CRM system to keep track of customer information and status like where they’re at in the sales process. The two systems aren’t connected and syncing data back and forth so what happens is marketing isn’t aware of where a lead at is in the sales process which means marketing continues to nurture them blindly, meaning the content they’re receiving may not be as relevant as it could to the stage that they’re at.

On the other side of the coin, sales is trying to engage in conversations with these leads that will move them closer to a sale. They’re doing it without the knowledge of what they’re interested in and what content they’ve been receiving by email and so on.

The bottom line is this: Both marketing and sales could provide the right content and conversations in the right context if their technology platforms were sync’d up and they were able to analyze and leverage the data that is at their disposal.


The data contained in someone’s online activities is a goldmine for marketers. The more data that a marketer has on a person, the better they can target them with specific advertisements and deals that appeal to them.

Some marketers dream of a Holy Grail of marketing where each individual is considered their own market. This data-driven marketing would take an immense amount of guesswork out the sales process.

In order to do this, companies will need to start getting a grasp on how to handle all their data and how these new techniques can be utilized. The good news is that leading marketing automation and CRM technology platforms, like Marketo and Salesforce are designed to integrate with one another and there are complete solutions available based on traditional as well as emerging Hadoop technologies with integrated design tools, integrated platforms, and real-time analytics. Data integration technologies work together with the top marketing automation systems, bringing everything in to one consolidated platform.

According to the CMO of Mindjet on CMO.com, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff:

Although big data has been all the rage for the past few years, its practical use in marketing has been reserved for those who have invested in data scientists and/or in a substantial technical stack. With products like Lattice Engines, Leadspace, Infer and more showing huge benefits out of the gate for their customers, the applied value of big data has finally become easily attainable for marketing.


[i]Oracle, Decision Points on the path to unified customer engagement

The buying cycle is dead. Long Live the buying cycle: 7 tips to modernize your marketing: Part 5

Part 5: Empower your sales team

One scenario that I’ve seen play out with clients is leads that are converted to opportunities are blocked out of marketing. Just because a prospect is engaged with a sales rep, doesn’t mean all marketing communications need to come to a halt. They may need to change, however.

There are a couple ways to address this. One is to move all leads converted to opportunities to a program that includes more “bottom of the funnel” content – things like case studies and success stories that can help move the sale along. The great thing about marketing automation platforms today is that these programs can be set up so that the email communications can come from the sales rep assigned to the opportunity.


Another option is to arm your sales team with an arsenal of content and tools that they can use to help their sales efforts along. They can pick and choose which pieces of content to share with their prospect and when.

The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing report suggests:

When developing the content strategy ensure that the best and/or most valuable content is not in the public domain, reserve it for the sales force.[i]

One of the main benefits of continuing to market to contacts that are converted to opportunities is the intelligence that the sales rep can continue to gain during the sales process.

For example, when a sales rep is working an opportunity that is taking a long time to close but the prospect continues to engage by visiting the website, opening marketing emails and attending webinars, it’s a positive signal that the opportunity is still viable. It also gives the rep more information about the prospect’s needs and priorities and presents ways to spark additional conversations that could speed up the sale. Having content on your website for every stage in the cycle is very important, but proactively pushing content to them can help propel them to the next stage while showing your dedication to their success.

Many companies still employ the same traditional sales tactics as they did ten years ago and are caught off guard when customers come to them far more equipped with knowledge than they’re prepared for. This signifies a need to change how they sell and start working in unison with marketing.


[i] http://www.forbes.com/sites/gyro/2013/01/07/the-disappearing-sales-process/

The buying cycle is dead. Long Live the buying cycle: 7 tips to modernize your marketing: Part 4

Part 4: Socialize your programs and campaigns

Marketing teams often manage social media, but sales teams also need to be involved. With well-informed prospects, sales reps have to quickly learn what buyers know or perceive about the organization, products/services and competitors. Social media can help them better understand what is motivating buyers to take action, what buyers believe to be true, and perhaps most important, who they believe.[i]


HootSuite’s VP of sales, Darren Suomi, explains:

Social media is another means by which to communicate. We would not expect to have a sales team function without phones or email, and social media should be thought of in the same way.[ii]

Suomi also makes a good point that sales and marketing leaders need to ask, “What are the goals of my company, team, or department, and how can I fit social media in?” Rather than “What is my social media strategy?”[iii]

I would suggest taking it one step further and ask, “how can social media help us reach and engage our customers?”


[i] http://www.forbes.com/sites/gyro/2013/01/07/the-disappearing-sales-process/

[ii] http://www.sellingpower.com/content/article/?a=9665/why-sales-teams-need-a-social-media-strategy

[iii] http://www.sellingpower.com/content/article/?a=9665/why-sales-teams-need-a-social-media-strategy