Guest blogger Sean Parnell has over 16 years of marketing experience in the ECM industry. In 2007, Parnell founded Innovaxis, which provides accelerated sales growth for ECM vendors and their channel partners through development of B2B marketing strategies and delivery of managed services. Prior to Innovaxis, Parnell was head of product management for Bell+Howell and was directly responsible for the success of its 8000 Plus, Spectrum, and Nexus document scanner series.
“Marketing doesn’t work”—statement from a document imaging reseller to us in 2012.
He was 100% correct—if you are marketing without a strategy, or with poor execution and disconnected with sales – and this is the most common form of marketing that we’ve encountered in the ECM market.
So, what does work?
The Marketing ROI Formula
Based on our 16 years working in the ECM industry with over 50 companies, plus our 20 years of business-to-business (B2B) marketing experience, here’s what we’ve found to be a successful marketing formula:
- Marketing Strategy: creation of a comprehensive marketing plan that answers how marketing will achieve your lead generation, sales, profitability, branding, and thought leadership goals
- Implementation: execution of the marketing plan, in harmony with sales and executive management, where leads generated are qualified and tracked to determine how much sales was generated to determine marketing’s ROI
ECM Marketing Strategy
For this blog post, we’ll focus on what makes for an effective strategy. Here are five elements for you to consider:
Market Research & Planning
Interviewing your channel, customers and partners to determine market size, brand share and product requirements is critical for ensuring that your marketing plan is grounded in reality. We often see misalignment between what the executive team thinks about the market and how the market views your company, products and services. This market research can be used to create a comprehensive SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and prioritize target markets.
The final portion of the marketing plan identifies how to achieve sales and thought leadership goals within each target market. Estimated sales for each target market helps identify what should be invested in marketing, which narrows down what marketing activities can be achieved for that budget.
Tip: even with horizontal solutions (e.g. invoice processing automation, HR onboarding, etc.), a vertically oriented marketing approach is critical. Embedding yourself in these industries and working with industry associations can help you penetrate the market and generate a recurring flow of referrals.
Product managers represent the Voice of the Customer (end-users and channel partners) in the product development process, and they are accountable for the products success from concept through end-of-life.
Product managers are integral in creating a coherent product roadmap, product/market requirements document (PRD/MRD) for any new product or service, beta testing/pilots of new offerings, and the right kind of launch (soft launch vs. big splash) – all of which are key to driving major growth initiatives.
So, why then do so many small and mid-size vendors not employ product managers? Fortunately, you have now the option of outsourcing some or all of this role.
Your website is your greatest marketing asset. If it’s not the first impression of your company, it’s likely the second and it’s also your 24/7 sales rep. So, how can you get more prospects from your target market to your website?
When you think about sales, it’s a lagging indicator. Think of everything that goes into making a sale and how long it takes. The “everything that makes a sale” parts are leading indicators, and we have much greater control of them.
Strong keyword rankings aligned for common Google searches could be interpreted as a leading indicator, but it’s lagging in the sense that content leveraged with search engine optimization (SEO) greatly influences and accelerates those rankings – and we have 100% control over content marketing and SEO, an no control over rankings (unless you also work for Google).
Thus, professional graphic design coupled with content and SEO (and strong user-friendly site navigation) is key to generating the keyword rankings that generate the leads that generate the sales. To know what content and messaging are needed, you need to know what appeals to your target market, which you should have determined in the market research and planning phase.
Tip: an “active disqualification” of leads that come in is critical before turning over to seasoned sales reps.
Waiting for web leads is the modern equivalent of waiting by the phone. A more proactive outbound effort needs to be designed to go after where the juiciest opportunities are in your target markets, usually with some combination of email, direct mail, events, webinars, PR, and social media.
To know the right combination, messaging and frequency, you need to know what appeals most to your target market, which you should have determined in the market research and planning phase.
Tip: proactive sales follow up by phone within 24 hours of any outbound campaign is critical to ensuring success.
It’s critically important to ensure that your inbound marketing efforts work in harmony with your outbound efforts.
If the people working on your marketing strategy, inbound and outbound activities are different, then they all need to be on the same page by working closely together – along with your company’s sales executives, whom they serve in our opinion.
Implementing a marketing strategy as outlined above, combined with an effective implementation (our next blog post), typically generates a 300-500% ROI. This may seem unrealistic or exaggerated, but it’s not – with the right partner.
Final Thought: the document imaging reseller in the marketing quote above is no longer in business.