Thursday, January 18, 2024

Measuring MROI in a B2B World (4 of 4): A Framework

This is the final installment of a four-part post that explores the challenges of measuring marketing return on investment (MROI) in a high-ASP B2B business. This is the money post. I will describe a framework for evaluating MROI.

Part of why it took me a long time (a year!) to write this fourth and final installment of the series is that my thinking on this topic continues to evolve. Because of this, this post really represents my latest thinking which, with apologies to Regis Philbin, is definitely NOT my final answer. I wrote a draft of this post back then and I just threw out most of it. 

There are many levels at which you could try to evaluate marketing ROI, each potentially providing an answer to a different question. The two most important are these:

  • Campaign-level ROI: Did this campaign 'make money?' Was it worth the investment, especially as compared to other things we might have done with the money invested?
  • Top-level marketing ROI: Is our overall marketing program budget a good investment? Should we increase or decrease the investment level?

Campaign-Level ROI

One of the better articles I have read on the challenges of measuring MROI is a few years old, but still valid: Amy Gallo's A Refresher on Marketing ROI. It highlights some of same the challenges I have in this series. The article focuses on trying to measure incremental return delivered by an incremental marketing program, or what I'm calling campaign-level ROI. The article highlights the primary challenge with this analysis: How do you define incremental? How can you accurately estimate what the baseline revenue would have been if you didn't do the marketing program? And how much of the marketing is truly incremental, because it relies on all of the baseline marketing investments you're already making (what I referred to in my first post as 'the cost of doing business')?

Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash
You can't. Seriously. Give up. Stop trying.

Then what you can do? Two things:
  1. Don't try to measure absolute incremental ROI; focus instead on relative incremental ROI. Answer a different question. Instead of 'did this campaign make money,' answer 'did this campaign have a better return than that campaign?' Why is the latter question an easier one to answer? 
  2. Because you can make a large simplifying assumption: the foundational marketing investment, the 'cost of doing business,' is the same for both campaigns being evaluated. 
If the underlying foundational marketing investment is the same for multiple marketing programs, then just measuring the incremental program spend and program outcomes and comparing those across multiple programs allows you to pick program winners and losers, based on an ROI computation. 

Top-Level Marketing Program ROI

So how can you use marketing ROI analysis to evaluate the level of overall marketing investment? Measure marketing's impact on pipeline. (Note: In post 3 of this series, I said I focus on pipeline instead of revenue because of the time gap from one to the other, enabling quicker decision-making. Another reason is that generating pipeline is marketing's job, closing those deals is sales' job. Evaluating marketing investment based on the latter does not make sense.) This is the highest reasonable level of MROI analysis. 

This analysis should not capture all of marketing investment, like brand programs and website investments -- again, the cost of doing business -- because those would be required if executive management decided to shift resources from marketing to engineering or sales or something else. It should only include demand gen oriented campaign activities.

How can you measure marketing's total impact on pipeline, then? To say it differently, how much of company pipeline is sourced by marketing, and how much does that cost? I break it down to three components:
  1. MQL-Sourced Pipeline: marketing qualified leads that are handed to sales, who then uncovers an opportunity.
  2. MQA-Sourced Pipeline: marketing qualified accounts that are handed to sales, who then uncovers an opportunity.
  3. MDF-Sourced Pipeline: company-funded marketing activities by channel partners, who then uncover opportunities.
In the past, I have argued against the very concept of marketing sourced pipeline, primarily because it is generally associated only with leads, and tends to ignore the multitouch engagement of buying teams and accounts. While the concept behind MQL-sourced pipeline should be familiar, the problem is that past analysis has shown me that leads are a limited and poor indicator of a customer buying team's activity in high-value B2B sales, so only associating leads to opportunities to define marketing's pipeline impact is a very limited view. 

However, with multitouch and attribution modeling, analysts are able to paint a much broader picture of marketing's account engagement and, more importantly, to monitor account-level or buying-team-level activity. This allows you to monitor engagement thresholds to identify marketing qualified accounts (MQAs) and notify sales when an account appears to be in an active buying motion. Any opportunity sales creates at that account within a finite timeframe following that notification is considered marketing sourced. That's the concept behind MQA-sourced pipeline.

The final component of marketing sourced pipeline for B2B enterprise sales comes via MDF-funded channel partner marketing execution. Obviously, that's only relevant if your company funds marketing campaign execution by your reseller partners. 

Perfect MROI Analysis is Impossible, but Usable MROI is Achievable

I recognize the framework described above, with relative ROI analysis for campaign evaluation and top-level marketing program ROI for overall marketing investment evaluation, is not perfect, nor is it complete. Marketing just doesn't exist in a silo, particularly as it relates to sales, so isolating either the investments or the outcomes is impossible. If that weren't the case, there are so many other questions that a more clean and complete MROI measurement capability might be able to answer.  

But it is adequate for answering some important and relevant questions. And if you have built the required underlying capabilities, like multitouch and attribution modeling, to evaluate MROI in this framework, then you also have given yourself access to so many more capabilities, like marketing mix optimization or even predictive modeling. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Measuring MROI in a B2B World (3 of 4): Attribution is Required

This is part three of a four-part post that will explore the challenges of measuring marketing return on investment (MROI) in a high-ASP B2B business. 

As I stated on the first post of this series, MROI is a straightforward concept: measuring what the return is on your marketing investment. I have also identified six problems that make that concept much less than straightforward in real-life implementation. "Devilishly complex" was the phrase I used. However, it is not impossible to get reasonable MROI measurement to guide decision-making, if you have certain baseline capabilities in place. 

There are two key capabilities that enable MROI measurement: multitouch attribution (MTA) and pipeline attribution. Why? Because that attribution is the bridge that associates all of the touchpoints in a complex customer journey to resulting pipeline.

Photo by Adrien CÉSARD on Unsplash

[To get one thing out of the way, I'm only going to talk about pipeline attribution, rather than revenue attribution, because of the Delayed Return Problem. Focusing on pipeline, which is the estimated value of the sale when the opportunity is created, reduces the time gap between investment and return by the length of the opportunity-to-close cycle, commonly a couple of months in this type of business. This makes the resulting learnings more actionable.]

Multitouch Attribution

MTA has been a well-known concept in marketing for many years. However, it's frequently associated with attribution marketing touchpoints to the generation of a marketing qualified lead. (For example, here's a HubSpot article talking about it.) While that may be adequate for some businesses with simple sales engagement models, in the case of high ASP B2B, it doesn't solve for the Buying Team and Lead Irrelevance problems. (I guess I called the latter a sub-problem, didn't I?) What this more complex sales engagement model requires is a way to associate multiple marketing touchpoints to multiple leads.

One way to do so is to associate all marketing touchpoints with an opportunity, rather than a lead. In doing so, you retain all of the benefits of traditional multitouch attribution, like being able to compare performance of very different marketing channels, like email and in-person events, but in a way that acknowledges that you're engaging multiple individuals at an account.

Pipeline Attribution

Maybe this goes without saying, but if you have implemented the ability to associate touchpoints with opportunities, then you are now associating touchpoints with pipeline. It is then a straightforward exercise to attach costs to the marketing investments that generated those touchpoints. After that, you know what you have? MROI! 

Well, sort of. In my next post, I'll break down different views of MROI into a framework that can be applied for various forms of marketing decision-making.

Also, I don't want to gloss over the complexity and hard work that I just described in a few short paragraphs. At our company, it took us two years to build out this capability completely, and we're still fine-tuning it. The point is, if you do that hard work and solve the hundreds of small problems you'll encounter, you'll have an analytics foundation that can serve many purposes, not just MROI evaluation. Our attribution model is at the center of almost all marketing performance analysis that we do.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Measuring Marketing ROI in a B2B World (2 of 4): More Challenges

This is part two of a four-part post that will explore the challenges of measuring marketing return on investment (MROI) in a high-ASP B2B business. 

Why is Measuring MROI Difficult?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
The first post in this series identified several challenges facing the marketing analyst when trying to evaluate marketing ROI. This post will discuss the following additional challenges:
  • The Delayed Return Problem: purchase cycles can easily exceed six months after initial marketing engagement
  • The Relevant Investment Problem: some marketing is 'the cost of doing business' and other marketing is incremental, optional investment
  • The Campaign Definition Problem: campaign definition is inconsistent, making it difficult to evaluate campaign MROI

The Delayed Return Problem

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

The buying process for a $1M piece of technology is typically months long, frequently well over a year. Let's say you want to base the return of your MROI calculation on sales revenue. That sale likely takes place two to four months after the opportunity was identified. That opportunity is identified months after the prospect account interacted with your marketing campaign. And that campaign interaction took place months after your campaign was planned.

This long delay between campaign planning (i.e. investment) and campaign return (pipeline or revenue) severely limits how MROI calculations can be used to guide marketing decision making. For instance, it makes no sense to use MROI to optimize an existing campaign to maximize ROI because of the delay between optimization changes and subsequent effects.

The Relevant Investment Problem

Frequently in marketing performance measurement, the focus of the computation is just the incremental program spend, like the cost of a media buy. Or maybe you include the costs of an external agency to develop creative for that ad run. But you typically don't include the cost of your internal staff that manages paid media.

But in the high-ASP B2B multitouch world, which investments are considered part of the 'campaign' under evaluation, and which touches are baseline execution to even be in a market? For instance, you're not really a business if you don't have a website, and websites aren't free. But some components of your website are specific to a campaign, not just the baseline web presence to show you're in business, and the cost of those components are an incremental cost associated with the campaign.

Deciding which costs to include and exclude from a given MROI calculation, and uniquely identifying those costs, are some of the most difficult steps in MROI measurement.

The Campaign Definition Problem

What is a marketing campaign? To many folks not involved in marketing, they probably think they have a good idea of what one is because they have been subjected to advertising campaigns their entire lives. Why does the definition of a campaign matter? It matters if you intend to use MROI to evaluate campaigns as compared to each other. You need a consistent basis for campaign definition to ensure you're fairly evaluating campaigns by this metric.
Photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer on Unsplash

Mateusz Makosiewicz' recent blog post gives an excellent list of many different types of marketing campaigns. A former CMO of mine asserted that a marketing campaign is a large-scale, multiyear program. Her definition didn't match any of the eight examples in the article, although it comes closest to the eighth, the 360° campaign. 

Two of Mateusz' examples are an SEO and an email campaign. Those typically don't have incremental associated costs because your SEO and email infrastructures (staff, agencies, martech) are part of your baseline marketing function. Contrast that to the brand campaign he also mentions. Brand campaigns are typically executed with large media buys, and frequently leverage creative developed by marketing agencies that specialize in brand programs. 

Applying MROI to 'free' campaigns, like SEO and email, would yield infinite ROI, as compared to the finite returns of the brand campaign (ignoring, for the moment, how you would even measure the return of a brand campaign). This extreme example highlights the need to have a consistent definition of 'campaign' if you want to apply MROI to the evaluation of those activities.

Lots of Challenges; Where to From Here?

I have identified many challenges associated with measuring and using MROI in your marketing performance evaluation. But they are just challenges, not complete roadblocks. In the next post, I'll discuss the importance of multitouch and pipeline attribution in this effort, and the final post will provide a framework for evaluating MROI in high-ASP B2B businesses.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Measuring Marketing ROI in a B2B World (1 of 4): Challenges

This is a four-part post that will explore the challenges of measuring marketing return on investment (MROI) in a high-ASP B2B business. The posts will break down this subject into three topic areas:
  1. Why is it difficult to measure? (2 posts)
  2. Multitouch and pipeline attribution are both required
  3. An MROI measurement framework
(Make sure you subscribe to the blog to be notified when subsequent posts are published!)

Why is Measuring MROI Difficult?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Marketing return on investment (MROI) is a straightforward concept: how much return is the company receiving on its marketing investment? Company leadership simply wants to evaluate their marketing investment just like they would investment in other functions, like product development and sales. MROI is typically thought of as comparing the incremental sales generated by marketing campaigns with the cost of those campaigns. If marketing campaigns achieve less ROI compared to other investment types, like developing another new product, then leadership can shift those investment budgets accordingly.

While the concept of MROI is straightforward, the actual measurement of it is devilishly complex, particularly in business-to-business (B2B) markets with high average selling price (ASP). There are several reasons for this complexity, and this post will describe each.

Fundamentally, the high-ASP B2B sale is different from a low-priced, transactional consumer sale: there are long customer research cycles prior to sales engagement; selling cycles are many months, or even years long; and the 'buyer' is not an individual but a team that involves multiple customer departments. There are also some factors shared with consumer sales, such as the impact of online research on purchasing decisions.

If you examine the problem more deeply, you'll find seven overlapping and interrelated factors that make measuring MROI particularly challenging. In no particular order, they are: 
  • The Multitouch Problem: contacts engage with multiple marketing channels
  • The Cookie Problem: contacts engage on multiple platforms, privately
    • The Work From Home Sub-Problem: contacts are no longer working from their office
  • The Buying Team Problem: prospective accounts have a buying team, rather than a buying individual
    • The Lead Irrelevance Sub-Problem: those that control budget actively avoid becoming a lead
  • The Delayed Return Problem: purchase cycles can exceed six months or more after initial marketing engagement
  • The Relevant Investment Problem: some marketing is 'the cost of doing business' and other marketing is incremental, optional investment
  • The Campaign Definition Problem: campaign definition is inconsistent, making it difficult to evaluate campaign MROI

The Multitouch Problem

This may be the most well-documented challenge in evaluating marketing execution performance, but it presents a new level of complexity for MROI measurement, especially in B2B.

The multitouch problem arises because in any long marketing and sales prospect engagement timeframe, the prospect engages with many different marketing activities. The common solution to this problem is a technique called multitouch attribution (MTA). Rather than describe MTA here, you can find a couple of excellent tutorials here and here. (Interestingly, the second article quotes market data indicating that only about ⅓ of companies have even implemented MTA. Wow.)

One thing to consider when learning about multitouch MTA is that the majority of the relevant literature, including the two linked articles above, is from the perspective of an all-digital customer engagement. In high-ASP B2B markets, marketing also invests in important offline engagements, like trade shows, in-person lunch-and-learns, sports hospitality, and similar. These investments are frequently a large part of the marketing budgets at these companies, so a proper MTA solution must also account for these interactions.

Photo by David Nicolai on Unsplash

Using MTA, you can now assign 'value' to each marketing execution. In other words, each marketing execution now has a measurable contribution to the desired outcome, like leads or pipeline. To then use MTA as a foundation to compute MROI, another layer of complexity is introduced: the need to assign investment costs to the marketing execution. This is where it gets really tricky, because the costs need to be tracked at the same granularity, and using the same hierarchy, as the performance measurement. 

For example, participation in a large third-party trade show may have a single budget number, but that budget number is likely broken down into component pieces, like hospitality events during the show, or paid media buys for pre-show promotion. Engagement touchpoints may be captured in multiple ways, like clicks on paid media, in-booth badge scans, hospitality attendees, VIP meetings in a suite, or post-show email responses. There may be several questions about this trade show, or trade shows in general, that you want to answer with MROI, like 'are hospitality events worthwhile?' or 'is paid media an efficient channel to promote trade shows?' or just the more global 'was Trade Show X a good investment?' To answer each of these questions, you need to ensure that you're including only the correct marketing touchpoint contributions to the multitouch model AND isolating the correct associated investments. For even medium-sized marketing organizations, this quickly becomes big challenge.

The Cookie Problem

Most of the technical problems marketers face when trying to measure performance tend to get easier over time as more advanced technologies are made available. The opposite seems to be happening with what I call the cookie problem; it's getting worse. We do see technological advancement, but any improvement is facing increasing headwinds from increased privacy protections, both legal (e.g. GDPR) and commercial (e.g. DuckDuckGo), in addition to evolving user behaviors, like an individual prospect using multiple platforms to access company digital assets.

Simply put, the cookie problem is this: whereas we used to be able to track a prospect's interactions with our digital marketing via a simple cookie on their machine, and use that cookie to associate and aggregate lots of that individual's interactions, we can no longer do so. 

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
The WFH Sub-Problem. Adding an additional later of complexity to the cookie problem is what I'll call a sub-problem: the work from home sub-problem. One standard method of associating an anonymous visit with at least an account, if not an individual, was by using a reverse IP address lookup tool. This worked because prospect companies have a limited set of IP addresses that became known over time. Now, with so many prospects working from home, if they're not on their company's VPN, then their IP address just looks like their local broadband provider. This presents a significant new challenge for the IP lookup tools to identify accounts.

The Buying Team Problem

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash
Purchases of high-ASP B2B technology are rarely performed by an individual in a simple transaction like consumer purchases are. Rather, they are executed by a multi-departmental buying team, potentially including people from operations, finance, purchasing, and IT. The serve in a range of purchase roles, like technical approver, budget owner, product evaluator, supplier evaluator, and so on, and all of those roles will interact with marketing campaign activity at some point. 

ALL of those touchpoints, across ALL of those roles and team members, are relevant to the evaluation of marketing return. In other words, marketing return must be evaluated on an account basis, not a contact basis. That means that your martech stack must have the capability of associating contacts into accounts, at scale.

The Lead Irrelevance Sub-Problem. I only call this a sub-problem to the buying team problem because the individual lead is a subset of the buying team. However, it may be the more impactful problem. Simply put, the contact that typically becomes your first lead at an account is likely NOT a particularly important contact in the account's purchasing process. 

Why is this? Modern B2B marketing techniques have been deployed and refined for about 20 years, and the targets of those techniques have come to recognize and assertively avoid them. The 'big fish' is not going to fill out your lead form. She's not going to be scanned in your trade show booth. He's not going to answer his phone when your SDR calls. Anyone sufficiently advanced in their career to have a meaningful influence on a high-ASP purchase has seen all these techniques and is immune to them. The ones filling out your lead form and being scanned at your booth are low-level players at the account. The lead is dead.

That doesn't mean that you don't want to capture leads or stop executing at least some of these techniques. (I might argue that your lead forms are doing more harm than good, but that's a topic for another post.) But leads should be treated as what they are: a simple indicator of possible account-level interest that should be targeted with a broader account engagement strategy.

(Please see the next post for the remainder of the problem statements. Reminder ... subscribe if you want to be notified when subsequent posts are published.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Who’s Your Customer?

Anyone that has worked with me for any length of time or whom I have managed knows that, at some point, I will ask them, “Who’s your customer?” Anybody that does work has a customer, but few people really think about who their customer really is, or even think in terms of having customers.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about your company’s customer, the business or individual to whom your company sells goods or services. I’m talking about your customer, as an individual employee, as a team member, or as a manager.

I’ll use myself as an example. At SolidFire, I ran the demand generation function. The role of demand gen is to develop leads for sales to pursue. As such, we had two primary customers: inside sales, who would receive and pursue our leads; and the campaigns team, for whom we managed several (mostly) digital channels through which to execute their campaigns. We had secondary customers, like field marketing, who would generate leads through field events that we would upload, process, and deliver to sales. As a manager, the members of my team were also my customers, and there are also other customer relationships that I maintained in that role.

What’s the value of considering those teams, campaigns and inside sales, as customers, rather than simple collaborative teams or stakeholders in our activities? Because the concept of a customer carries with it a set of expectations that are richer, deeper, and more meaningful than a mere collaborative relationship, and those expectations lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.

Here’s an example. At one point, we started hearing rumors that sales was dissatisfied with some types of leads we were providing, even though we believed these were quality leads. The tension between marketing and sales is a common situation, so it wasn’t surprising to hear this. But if we could break down this barrier, both teams could be much more successful in their efforts.

There are a lot of ways I could have handled this problem, but I decided to view the problem through the lens of a customer-supplier relationship. If we were a supplier to sales as a customer, a common role in that relationship is the customer success manager (CSM), whose job is to ensure that the customer is successful in using the supplier’s product or services. The CSM role is bilateral: she represents the supplier’s product to the customer, helping them use it properly and fully; and she is the voice of the customer to the supplier, helping guide product development to better serve the needs of the customer.

We needed the equivalent function between demand gen and inside sales, so we created a CSM type of role and, in fact, we hired an inside salesperson to staff it. In this role, our CSM (I think we called him a marketing sales coordinator) had a bilateral role: he represented marketing to the inside sales team, explaining different types of leads, why they received them, and how they should pursue them; and represented the sales environment to marketing, describing which types of leads were working best or worst, and why, enabling marketing to optimize their campaign efforts.

The result of this change was dramatic. Inside sales came to view demand gen, and the broader marketing team, as partners in their success. Sales acceptance rates of marketing leads increased, and sales qualification rates of accepted leads improved. Would we have achieved the same result by having a more traditional approach of trying to collaborate between these two teams? Maybe, but I doubt it. In the same way that customers and suppliers generally don’t achieve a truly collaborative relationship, marketing and sales frequently struggle to truly collaborate. By establishing a role whose entire job is to ensure sales’ success, that changes the relationship measurably.

So, have you started to ask yourself who your customers are in your job? Does it change how you think about your interworking relationships? Try it. It can be powerful.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Challenges Facing Today's CMO

As was widely reported last year, Gartner's Laura McLellan predicted that by 2017, the CMO would spend more on IT than the CIO.

This has come up again in my thinking as a I have been doing some work recently for a client. I was struck by the complexity of the set of software tools available to the CMO. If we just look at content marketing, Curata recently published an interesting map of the associated tools available for that discipline:

Curata's Content Marketing Map (click here for a full size version)
Consider this complexity shown in the diagram for a moment. Granted, content marketing forms the foundation of most modern marketing campaigns, so this is a large part of the tool universe that the CMO has to worry about. However, this doesn't even address digital advertising, another major area of concern for the CMO. The map for the digital advertising toolset it equally as complex, including media firms, ad networks, targeting technologies, paid search and paid social management, etc.

Because of the movement toward everything being digital, the CMO is asked to manage incredible technical complexity. Even a smaller firm's chief marketer probably deals with at least a dozen different tools. At a larger firm, it can be far more.

So how is a CMO supposed to manage this technology complexity? The Gartner statement implies a comparison, or even a competition for resources, between a CIO and a CMO. But there is one major difference between the two: the CIO is a technologist, but that frequently is not true of the CMO. Although it is changing, the CMO's experience is built on branding, positioning, strategy, advertising, and many other tools, not necessarily on technology.

Purchase Risk

One of most challenging aspects of managing these large technology bases is reducing the risk associated with purchasing and integrating new technologies. The CIO and CMO both control very large technology budgets, and hence face significant risk when making the decision to purchase a new tool that may cost millions of dollars. How do they ensure that this new tool will work as advertised with the other tools they already own? How do they limit purchase risk?

The CIO has a couple of means to minimize risk:
  • Large tool providers with complete offerings, like IBM or Microsoft. These companies offer very broad product lines that are already integrated, so the CIO can confidently add new tools to her existing lineup.
  • Third-party VARs, integrators, and middleware providers. Because the IT software and services industry is fairly mature, there are thousands of third-party providers ready to step in to both help guide the purchase selection process and to ensure successful integration of the new tool.
Does the CMO have access to the same risk-reduction techniques? The marketing tools market is much younger than the IT market. Some tool categories are brand new (like content curation) and others are still rapidly evolving. There are few large providers that have complete solutions. Third-party providers are rare, and tend to take the form of marketing agencies that don't have much of a track record in technology integration.

Risk Abatement for CMOs

The marketing tools vendors are moving rapidly to address the risk issue. First, there has been a lot of consolidation activity as large enterprise software providers have made significant purchases in this area. Here are some examples:
  • Adobe acquired Omniture, Efficient Frontier Technology, Demdex, and Neolane
  • IBM acquired Unica, Xtify, DemandTec, and Coremetrics
  • Oracle acquired Compendium, Eloqua, Collective Intellect, and Virtrue
  • Salesforce acquired ExactTarget, Pardot, Buddy Media, and Radian6
Clearly, these companies are trying to become the same kind of full solution provider for marketing technology as they are for information technology.

Beyond acquiring companies for their portfolios, these companies are also establishing 'marketplaces' for third-party applications that work with and complement their solutions. These marketplaces include the Eloqua AppCloud and Salesforce AppExchange. While these marketplaces help reduce risk for the CMO by offering products that 'work with' the company's core offering, the products are not the same as a fully integrated tool developed by the company. (For an excellent article about third-party marketplaces for marketing automation, including a more complete list, see The emerging third-party era of marketing automation by Scott Brinker at Chief Marketing Technologist Blog.)

What's Next for the CMO?

While vendors are helping reduce the purchase risk associated with marketing technology, this is still just one aspect of the complexity facing the CMO. It's not likely going to be enough to make the 'traditional' CMO adequately prepared for the new technology environment.

A post on the Wall Street Journal blog speculated that this will mean the CIO may evolve into the Chief Digital Officer, responsible for not only a company's network, servers, computers, and productivity tools, but also for the digital marketing technologies. Maybe. But the CIO / CMO difference mentioned above has an important aspect: the CMO is a marketer, and that's not true of CIOs. So, can the CIO manage marketing automation tools for maximum marketing effectiveness? I'm doubtful. Another solution must be out there.

The need for a CMO grounded in marketing fundamentals is not going to change. Some CMOs may become comfortable with the new marketing technologies, but I don't know if that will be true of the majority. I also think that a Chief Digital Officer that combines information and marketing technology may work from a technical perspective, but someone still needs to ensure that marketing strategies are effectively implemented on those technologies.

I think we'll see a rise in a new set of executive titles, like VP Demand Generation, Chief Marketing Technology Officer, or, as Scott Brinker says, Chief Marketing Technologist. Marketing leaders in these new roles must be as much technologists as they are marketers.

(Image of digital marketing on chalkboard provided by KROMKRATHOG and traffic sign by mrpuen, both at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Marketing Gold: How to Develop Brand Evangelists

How to develop brand evangelists and product evangelists
The concept of the brand evangelist has been around a long time. Guy Kawasaki wrote about it in the Art of the Start back in 2004. However, relatively few marketers actively recruit and engage evangelists, in part because it's not as easy to do as simply writing case studies or buying ads. But brand evangelists are the marketer's gold, and the smart marketer should include the development of brand evangelists as part of any complete marketing plan.

The Value of Evangelists

Why are brand evangelists so valuable? The evangelist:

  • Provides unpaid third party validation of your product or service. Because they're unpaid, they're perceived as especially trustworthy and credible.
  • Develops or extends word of mouth. Evangelists are the most energetic form of word-of-mouth referrers.
  • Allows prospects to see themselves with your product. They can see how your product or service improved users' lives, and hopefully will see themselves in that 'mirror.'
  • Continues indefinitely. Unlike marketing campaigns that have a limited lifetime, evangelists tend to continue for many months or even years with continued company engagement.
Evangelist-sourced content can be part of, and provide lift to, any marketing campaign.

Finding Your Evangelist

A brand evangelist can be one of the most valuable marketing assets a firm has. So how does the marketer go about identifying potential evangelists?
How to find brand evangelists and product evangelists for marketing

  • Recruit salespeople and post-sales support teams. Not only are they the ones who communicate most with customers, but they're going to be the biggest user of the evangelists' content, as well. They have a stake in the entire process.
  • Identify customers who are active bloggers. They have shown an interest in publishing their opinions.
  • Use influencer* identification tools, such as Klout for Business, Traackr, GroupHigh, or SpotRight. There are many others.
  • Monitor and review comments on user forums or product review sites.
  • Establish promotions that solicit user submissions at events for users or owners. If your company is large enough to have a user event, take advantage of that investment. 
  • Listen to visitors at your trade show booth. Evangelists are already fans of your product or service, and they'll make a point of visiting your booth.
By comparing candidates across all of the above sources, you should be able to identify a handful of promising candidates. Now, you have to recruit them.

Recruiting Evangelists

Why does someone evangelize about a product or brand? According to Kawasaki, simply because they want to make the world a better place. They want to help others who might be facing the same challenges, providing them with advice based on their own experiences. This is the key to recruiting someone to serve as an evangelist, and should serve as the theme of your outreach to them.
Recruiting brand evangelists for marketing purposes
A secondary motivation might be their own self-interest, whether that's to enhance their career options, to grow their blog traffic, or just to boost their own ego. Depending on the characteristics of the prospect, the appeal to his or her self-interest can be explicit or implicit. For instance, you could offer them early visibility into upcoming product features.

Leveraging Evangelists

Once identified and recruited, there are many different ways to channel their evangelistic fervor into corporate content:
  • Provide them with opportunities to submit guest articles
  • Encourage them to post ongoing videos, and promote those videos through your channels
  • Share infographics, or help them create their own
  • Enable them to become an active voice in user forums
That's the great thing about evangelists. They're already motivated, so the only limitation on how to leverage them is your own imagination.

*Influencers and evangelists are not synonymous. Evangelists are influencers that are true believers and have a much higher motivation to provide active support to, and endorsement of, the brand. Much of recent social media marketing has been focused on identifying and engaging influencers. While this is important, it is also important to go that one step further to identify and recruit evangelists.

(Image of woman with megaphone provided by imagerymajestic and group with magnifying glass by Naypong, both at Army recruiting poster image is public domain.)