Increasing the Effectiveness of Primary Research for Technology Marketing

Information used for market analysis and planning has changed a lot in recent years.  In technology and telecom markets, it’s increasingly common to analyze CRM data, web traffic data, and point of sales data for predictive trends.  Past performance and current performance both help predict how sales and markets will perform in future months.

With significantly new products—the rule of our industry – we have no choice but to rely on primary research to for market development.  However, primary research for new products can fall short for several key reasons:

  • Not a good sample set.  Instead, of being representative of prospects for the new technology, such as enterprises with greater than $10 million in revenues, they are usually representative of a company’s existing customer base – people who are already familiar with the company, their products and their technology and are predisposed to buy from them.  Alternatively, they are often representative of traditional industry analyst report subscribers and not necessarily a defined market that exists in the general economy.
  • Emerging technology is beyond what most people can comprehend in an unaided survey. Surveys ask questions about technologies that are still “too visionary” to get trustworthy answers that can pass the “so what?” test. People might not understand the technology the same way you do.  When trying to survey on visionary technology topics, focus on identifying the steps toward that vision and ask survey respondents about those items.  For example, instead of asking about cloud computing, ask about virtualization, managed services, infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service.   These are things that enterprises of various levels of sophistication can easily answer.
  • Gathers information just to know the answer to the question.  Ask youself, what are you going to do with the information once you know the answer?  If you can’t answer this question, you don’t need to collect the information.  Rather, it’s usually focused on verifying and validating what we already know (Marketing can be the culprit).  Research that neither seeks to break new ground nor enlighten marketing departments for better decisions is worthless.  Instead, it’s a better idea to create a series of hypotheses that research can prove or disprove and to have a clear idea of how results will be used, e.g., tie to demand generation, inform channel partners to changing buying habits, or improve products or solutions.  Here, research professionals can demonstrate their value to their marketing counterparts by showing how research can be used for more than the traditional verify and validate scenarios.
  • Surveys done in Techno-speak (or Techno-babble as it’s sometimes known). Finally, terminology often lacks a common understanding.  For example, cloud computing might mean something different to each respondent.  This is especially true when dealing with visionary technology where definitions are emerge and evolve as people are exposed to the technology.

Sometimes, primary research is the only option to understand those next market moves.  To summarize, truly focus on practical understanding by using:

1.  Tightly Defined Target:  A defined research target that represents a defined market or universe that can be measured helps make small sample sizes meaningful

2.  Clearly Identified Next Moves:  Those near-term “next market moves,” so it’s in context of today, as well as that long-term vision

3.  Actionable Objectives:  Research objectives that are tightly coupled with go-to-market or product development goals.

4.  Tests Before You Launch:  Thorough testing of your survey instrument, to include checking frequency distributions, to make sure you are communicating to your technical audiences in a way that makes sense to them.

Follow these tips to make your primary research investment bear fruitful, business planning information.


Fine-tune Messages to your Partners Based on Their Purchasing Habits

We’re marketers, we target everything.  Right?  We do except, except when and how we communicate to our partners.  We seem to think one size fits all.

Sometimes, if we’re thinking about how to communicate to our partners, we do very simple segmentation.  We carve up our partner base by type of certification or “metal” we’ve assigned them as a badge (Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc.) or by training level they’ve taken for their technology specialization (Wireless, Security, IP Telephony, etc.). Sometimes we even try to categorize our Partners by what “type” of partner they are (Reseller, ISV, Alliance, Distributor, etc).

Maybe, if we take time and move to the next step, we target our message to each type of channel partner.  Our partners employ a wide array of different skill sets.  Each person at each partner has a different interest in your products, company, and technology and each person requires different types of information to do their job, be it selling or servicing your solutions.

The most overlooked area of analysis is behavior.  You can learn a lot from a simple analysis of purchase history.  Answer questions about your partners’ purchase habits, such as:

  • Consistently purchase every month?  Same products, same end users, same quantity?
  • Opportunistic purchases at random times?  Could your Partners be selling your competitor’s products more often than your Products?
  • Seasonal purchases? Government or education buying season?  End of quarter and always need special pricing?

Armed with knowing how your partners sell your solutions, you can fine-tune your message in new ways.  Take a look at how this might work when launching a new Internet security appliance, shown in the above graph.  Knowledge of buying habits enables us to target large, security-trained partners, those Security Super VARs. You further target your message to ONLY THOSE who have demonstrated loyalty, e.g., purchase frequently.  The last step is then to tailor messaging to each audience important to the buying decision– sales, marketing and technical.

Finally, characterizing partners by purchase history enables you to keep sensitive new product launch information out of the hands of “opportunistic” partners– those who only sell your solutions as a last resort and are more loyal to your competitor.

Target your partners using purchasing behavior builds greater satisfaction among your most loyal partners and ultimately more revenue in your pocket.


Give your BEST Channel Partners a Boost

Let’s be honest, not all channel partners are created equally.  We wish they were, but they’re just not.  It’s usually the 80/20 rule … 20% of your channel brings 80% of your revenue.  So how can your technology company drive demand for your high producing partners and make your revenue skyrocket?  The answer seems easy… focus 80% of your efforts on the special 20%.

Most channel co-marketing programs require partner to do all or most of the heavy-lifting.   Is it any wonder that partners do not have time to focus on executing your co-marketing campaigns?  Unless you’re their #1 vendor in a category, you’re just along for the ride at that trade show or seminar.

Let’s review some interesting facts:

  • The majority of partners in the IT industry do not employ marketing people.
  • Over 65% of partners in a recent Everything Channel survey are dissatisfied to somewhat satisfied with leads supplied by vendors.*
  • IT vendors spend, on average, 3% of revenue on coop/Market Development Funds (MDF).*
  • About 21% of the coop/MDF spending went unclaimed.*
  • 67% of a partner’s new business revenue is generated from their existing customer base* – partners just are not good at finding new business!
  • Partners carry between 2 and 4 vendors in every product category.**
  • Partners drop or deemphasize on average 2.5 vendors and 4.7 products per year (and 8 out of 10 partners won’t tell you if you’ve been dropped).**

Grow together instead of apart by investing your MDF dollars in a different way.  Target your best partners with smarter demand generation – sales targets identified using analytics and lead generation programs together — to help them grow.  Instead of relying on anonymous tools to produce their campaigns, engage with your channel partners in an entirely different way.  Use channel marketing to work directly with your partners to execute campaigns.  What is the net result?  Better partner relationships, increased satisfaction, higher loyalty, a measurable return on your MDF and higher sales for both your technology company and your best partners.

**”2010 State of the Market Survey”, Everything Channel

*The 2008 Survey: Vendor and Partner Attitudes to Key Channel Issues,” Baptie & Company


The Combination of Analytics and Marketing Programs

When you say marketing programs, do you just mean lead generation? We get this question a lot, so we’ll give the quick answer. Analytics are commonly used to set the strategic direction of firms and products. However, analytics need to guide programs, which are the heart of any marketing plan; they are the detailed tactics performed in order to reach the goals and objectives of the marketing plan. We’re just believers in using metrics to measure performance at the beginning, during, and after completion to make mid-course corrections and do post-program evaluations. The programs can be broadly defined, and in most cases, often are. We’re not just about quantifying something, we’re about improving marketing, which boils down to efficiently making sales.


Sometimes Smaller is Better… Really Now?

Ok, now that I have your attention…  In the world of B2B lead generation for technology, a small number of qualified leads with a higher likelihood of a sale is better than just renting a long list of names.  For example, if I give a channel partner 500 leads using traditional lead gen methods, he’ll spend lots of time weeding through them without enough time to follow-up on most.  The reseller or account rep will then just tell me that ALL leads were worthless…and only because they actually called a few of the leads without any success.

That’s why I’ve had enough of the traditional approach of just renting contact names and sending out huge lead lists to my account reps and resellers.   I prefer a drastically different approach that focuses on delivering a small number of high quality leads that are actually worth the time for follow-up.

Using a call center for my list building and lead generation activities is a far superior approach.   With a call center, I jump straight to qualified leads where I already know the companies I’m targeting (this part is a must).  Starting with my ideal target list of organizations with a higher likelihood of needing my technology solution, we rely on the call center to do a lot of the heavy lifting by qualifying the contact, grading the lead, and get great intelligence on my ideal target organizations.   Finally, another benefit of using a call center is to build out my ideal target list with the exact individual who will ultimately make the buying decision.  This is especially important in a downturn, when senior executives are often the decision makers, as opposed to technology managers that marketers traditionally targeted in good times.

As we all know, it takes an awful lot of leads to make a single sale.  On average, the conversion rule is 1000 leads convert to 2.5 sales.  In the era of scarce marketing and sales resources, it makes better sense to focus on the following activities to use your limited marketing dollars more wisely:

  1. Build a list of Ideal prospect companies/organization
  2. Populate that list with a call center
  3. Stay focused and do a strong outbound campaign to opt-in your prospects
  4. Continue to nurture your prospects and build out the contact names

By going directly to the correct target list, the right target contact and building your smaller and focused list will shorten your sales cycle and lower your cost per lead (CPL).


Focused Lead Generation vs. Random Results

There are lots of ways to generate leads for you technology sales teams. You probably already know this because every day you are besieged with advice from agencies, vendors, and consultants. Among the noise, there’s a lot of confusing, often conflicting information on the topic.

So what is the best way to generate leads?

First and foremost, leads are best generated by using content. Solid leads result by offering your potential buyers content that is interesting, not self-serving, informative, and valuable. The delivery method is always secondary to the “pull” that high value content creates.

Another imperative in lead generation is to answer the all important question of “who are you targeting?” Many marketers answer this with titles to target people. Instead, the first step should be a master list of organizations, those companies, universities, government, and/or non-profits that need your service or product. Without this, it really is a shot in the dark… or spaghetti on the wall, as one of my favorite bosses used to say.

So, the first steps to successful lead generations campaigns are:

1. Define your ideal customer target by organization-type and get as specific as possible. For example, if you are selling network equipment, does your ideal target have a large number of small branch offices? Or concentrated to a large headquarters? Do they run multiple, complex applications to those small branches? Do they have a lot of servers and network devices? What verticals? What size?

2. Craft content for your ideal customer targets. Constantly ask yourself whether it is of value or interest to your potential buyer.

3. Choose the delivery vehicle that matches your budget. Just remember when you create an email or webcast that you need to send it out to some people. Those names can cost big bucks. For a one-time rental for an email blast, each name costs between 70 cents and $1.10! Under the best circumstances, response rates will be around .05%. So, to get 50 leads using rental lists, assuming the standard .05% response rate, you would need to rent 100,000 contact names for a one-time use! At a cost of 90 cents per name, those 50 leads would cost $90,000. Yikes!

So we build momentum for your sales funnel by using another approach – by building and owning your list, as opposed to renting, for you to nurture and market. We define your ideal target list and then use a call center to update contact names, numbers, and emails. For example, we can build out a lead generation list that you can OWN with 500 to 1000 target organization for around 9K per month. After we complete the list build, a nurturing campaign goes deep and wide to 3-5 contacts per ideal target organization… and your sales team will be off and running!