Hate Rejection? Three Ways to Turn Rejection Into Opportunity

rejection

Rejection hurts. Salespeople don’t like to hear the word no, but the sound reverberates in their ears a lot more than most of them would care to admit. Instead of putting your head in the sand and admitting defeat, buck up! True selling doesn’t even start until you hear the word no.

Most salespeople learn early on how to constructively handle rejection: Keep emotions in check and don’t take it personally. But great salespeople know how to turn rejection into an opportunity. Below are three ways you can turn a no into a yes (or at least a maybe):

  1. Find out what they don’t like: Oftentimes, prospects say no because it’s the easiest and fastest way to get rid of you and get back to what they were doing, not because there’s no interest. When a prospective buyer says no, find out why and have him or her clarify what exactly is undesirable about your offering. It could just be that the intended target needs more information about the product or service, or they have a minor concern.
  2. Get rid of the “I”: Most salespeople make the mistake of approaching prospects with a slew of “I” statements—“I provide X, Y and Z,” “I can help you …”—which turns buyers off. Prospects care most about their own needs, challenges and concerns. If you focus the conversation on them, they’re more likely to engage with you. Replacing the “I” with a “you” can make a world of difference.
  3. Don’t take no for an answer: People—especially C-suite decision makers—often say no as a first reaction. Don’t let them. Instead, show your willingness to work with them and prove that you’re truly interested in helping them better their businesses. Do your homework beforehand and have talking points ready for every possible objection they may throw at you. Remember that polite persistence usually pays off.

While there are a variety of tips sales agents can keep in mind when dealing with rejection, adhering to these three bits of advice will help them inch closer to closing deals.

Why Can’t We Tackle Personalized Marketing?

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It’s completely natural to jump on the business buzzword bandwagon. It’s exciting to get behind the new shiny toy and expect something magical to kickstart our business. Once upon a time, we were excited about “big data”. Then, we fell in love with (and are still enamored with) “predictive analytics”. In a former life, I worked for a company that invested major marketing and product dollars to increase the “virality” of its product.

Over time, these concepts will get widely adopted and become part of standard business lexicon. For instance, big data today is merely … well, data.

Interestingly, year after year, one concept seems to just hang around: “personalized marketing”. Personalized marketing is the act of segmenting and marketing to specific audiences using relevant content to maximize engagement. Its promise – at least in the B2B environment – has yet to be realized. At a recent marketing event, personalized marketing was being trumpeted by vendors, speakers and attendees alike.

I was curious as to why personalized marketing hadn’t yet taken off so I reviewed one common marketing channel: my work inbox. Most emails started off with “Hi John” (a good start I suppose) but the personalization ended there. The messaging failed to relate to my role, company, location or purchasing history. I had advertisements for IT security (I’m in product management), a software workshop in San Francisco (I’m in greater Boston) and a general promotion for a new creative design software solution (I already owned this product at the time of the email). Yikes. Well, at least they knew my name.

The truth is that personalized marketing is still not widely adopted and has been a steep mountain to scale for most companies operating in a B2B environment. Why? Personalized marketing is a two-prong approach requiring a solid data foundation coupled with clever content strategy. Many companies focus on one of the two when both are attainable with the right solutions and personnel.

The two prongs – data and content – were recently outlined in a New York Times article which described the struggle that political campaign marketers have with connecting to voters. According to the article, the “science” of collecting data for personalized advertising is outpacing the “art” of creating effective campaigns leaving marketers to scramble to develop the content.

Unfortunately, many B2B marketers face challenges on the scientific front. According to NetProspex’ 2014 benchmark report, 88% of over 61 million data records analyzed were missing basic firmographic (company) data attributes. Good content is rendered useless when a marketer can’t segment across key attributes like industry, revenue, company size or location.

The challenge of understanding and implementing a personalized marketing program creates problems for many companies but incredible opportunities for those who can pull it off. By truly knowing who your customer is and curating effective messaging toward that audience, a marketer can present relevant opportunities, start meaningful conversations and solve real problems. This extends well beyond knowing a potential customer’s name.

NetProspex Ranked in the Top 10 Places to Work by the Boston Globe

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BostonGlobe_BestPlacesToWork_2014

I could not be more proud to share that NetProspex has ranked 10th in the midsize business category of the Boston Globe’s annual list of the Top Places to Work in Massachusetts. This recognition is another in a long line of recognition we have received from prestigious award programs including Inc.’s 500/5000 and the Boston Business Journal’s Innovation All Stars. These are all huge honors, of course, but there is something really special about this one. That’s because the Globe’s ranking is based on surveys completed by the people who know the companies best – the employees themselves.

I’m a firm believer in the notion that you are only as good as the company you keep. So at NetProspex, we place a huge emphasis on attracting – and developing and maintaining – the cream of the crop. Of course, we offer attractive benefits packages and fun perks like yoga sessions, food trucks, and (the occasional) free beer. However, what I think is most impactful is our supportive, engaging, and open corporate culture. Every single NetProspex employee is treated as a valuable asset to the success of our business. Starting at the executive level, we focus on getting input and ideas across the organization, especially our newest employees – many of whom are recent college grads. I think that’s pretty cool. And, I would argue, it’s critical to building a great company and a culture that attracts more of the right kinds of employees. Every person on our team brings value, and having each of them know they are important goes a long way.

When I see accolades like this – or stats like how more than 50 percent of our new hires in the past year came from internal referrals – I’m psyched because it means we’re doing something (the most important thing) right. People believe in what we’re doing and want to be a part of something great. I don’t think it gets better than that.

For the full scoop, check out the Globe’s Top Places to Work special feature out Nov. 16, or visit the site here.

 

NetProspex Named an Innovation All-Star by the Boston Business Journal

Netprospex in Boston Business Journal

It’s been a banner year for NetProspex – from our Series C funding, to our inclusion in Inc.’s prestigious 500/5000 list, to being named a finalist for MassTLC’s Private Company of the Year. And now we’re beyond excited to announce that the company has just been recognized as an “Innovation All-Star” by the Boston Business Journal. This awards program recognizes “the most innovative and enterprising tech companies fueling the regional economy, attracting VC funding, adding jobs, and transforming the ways we live and work” – so it’s kind of a big deal!

It’s a huge honor to have been selected among such an impressive group of candidates for this award. NetProspex was deemed the winner in the Advertising Tech category, along with Affinnova. And there’s no stopping us as we continue to push the boundaries of marketing tech (in fact, just last week we announced significant enhancements to our Workbench platform).

Details on the Innovation All-Stars award ceremony, happening Nov. 20 at District Hall, can be found here. We hope to see you all there to celebrate an awesome year in Boston tech!

NetProspex Enhances its Workbench Marketing Data Services Platform to Help Marketers Drive Engagement with an Improved Data Strategy

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New release easily connects to marketing platforms, providing B2B marketers a single plug-in for continuous data insights, hygiene, enrichment and trigger-based audience acquisition

Waltham, Mass. – Oct. 15, 2014 –NetProspex, the leading provider of B2Bmarketing data management solutions, today announced key enhancements to its Workbench data services platform, including deeper integrations with Eloqua, Marketo, NetSuite and Salesforce.com. The release also expands the scope of the platform, extending continuous data management for marketers to enable deeper analytics and insights into the health and productivity of their marketing databases, as well as providing trigger-based audience acquisition based on ideal target profiles. The enhancements allow marketers to more effectively derive value from their marketing technology investments by ensuring actionable, targeted and accurate data is fueling their demand generation efforts.

B2B marketers consistently struggle with data quality, specifically completeness and accuracy, when building and executing demand generation programs. These challenges can affect segmentation, targeting, content creation and campaign execution. In fact, The NetProspex 2014 State of Marketing Data Benchmark Report found that 84 percent of marketing databases were considered barely functional. Yet SiriusDecisions notes that marketing organizations that regularly maintain their database see 66 percent higher revenue contribution compared to those that do not. “With so much data available to marketers, the ability to manage it effectively has quickly become a competitive differentiator in demand creation. Organizations that can acquire, clean, unify and provide easy access to the information that matters will consistently outperform those that struggle with those processes,” said John Donlon, Research Director, Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Workbench is now extending capabilities and driving tighter connections into the key applications in which their customers’ marketing data resides to make it easier for all marketers to ensure better data sits at the core of their demand engines.

This release of Workbench brings several important features:

  • Audience insights through direct connections into CRM and MAP technologies enable marketers to analyze health and profile details within existing segments in their marketing databases.
  • Ideal profile analytics derive key attributes at the individual and company level for improved targeting.
  • Integrated audience acquisition enables marketers to augment their targeted outreach for account-based marketing programs or trigger-based nurturing efforts.
  • Improved web form integrations for visitor intelligence toenrich inbound leads as they hit the system and enable accurate scoring and better segmentation for follow-up efforts.
  • User-defined policies for continuous data management give users greater flexibility and control over how they maintain their data. Customers are able to prescribe granular rules for hygiene and enrichment policies across their database. This “set-it-and-forget-it” capability enables marketers to ensure their data is maintained regularly without bearing the burden of manual file transfers and ingestion mappings.

“A robust data strategy is critical for marketers to unlock the full potential of their demand generation efforts,” said Derek Slayton, CMO, NetProspex. “As companies invest in marketing automation and sales technologies to improve engagement with prospects, they need to allocate a small percentage of their program budget to ensure that the data fueling their efforts is aligned with their objectives. NetProspex Workbench now makes it simple and straightforward by providing an integrated platform for advanced data services that ties natively into the technology environments our customers are utilizing for acquisition and nurturing efforts.”

The release can also be found live on BusinessWire

MarketingProfs B2B Forum: Shipping Up to Boston!

Boston-Blog

The leaves are changing and there’s a buzz in the air here in Boston. That’s right, over 700 marketers have started flowing into the city for MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum. Here at NetProspex, we couldn’t be more excited for the week.

Getting out of the office for a few days to attend one of the must-see events for the year is always nice, but sometimes you can get trapped in the comforts of the hotel and never really get to see the city you’ve traveled to. When I started as the Events & Buzz Coordinator at NetProspex, I made a promise to myself to never fall into this trap while traveling across the country for events.

Rather than spouting off my favorite spots in Boston, I reached out to my fellow Bostonian marketers for their recommendations! Take a look.

Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Katie-Martell Katie Martell, Manager of Content & Communications

Aberdeen Group

@KatieMartell

Boston’s North End (A short cab ride or Haymarket T Stop on the green and orange line) is a treasure trove of Italian dining, and after-dinner fare. My personal recommendation for the best Italian dinner in Boston is the modern-styled Carmelina’s on Hanover Street, just across from the famous Mike’s Pastry. (Ask for Nick, tell him Katie sent you.) If you do seek something sweet after your hearty Italian meal, across the street is Café Vittoria, a charming old-world Italian coffeehouse known for their cappuccinos and beautiful golden interior. If you’d like to feel like you’re in the Godfather, or cigars and scotch are your thing, head downstairs for Stanza dei Sigari – a classic cigar parlor underneath Café Vittoria (call me). One insider tip: Modern Pastry is better than Mike’s, but they’re all cash-only!

Shop, Dine, Run – We’ve Got it All!

Vanessa-Porter Vanessa Porter, Marketing Manager

SnapApp

@NessieBessie

Whether you’re looking to shop, play, or eat- Copley has it all! I love stopping by the Boston Public Library and visiting the garden for a quick snack then walking across the street to the Trinity Church. Newbury Street is right there, so you must stop by and see the shops. Once it gets dark, don’t venture too far. Some of my favorite places to drink are in the area. Try Towne or Back Bay Social Club for delicious food and drinks. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it at Copley.

Vanessa also provided us with her favorite place to get away from downtown!

The Esplanade connects the urban beauty of the city to the nature wonder, you never know if you’ll see a turtle sun bathing in the inner streams or a curious squirrel stopping by to say hello. Who knows, maybe you’ll discovery a free yoga session or concert too!

Oh no! I lost my suitcase!

Megan-TonziMegan Tonzi, Director of Marketing

AG Salesworks

@Megan_Marie_T

 

Looking for a great place to shop? Here’s Megan’s recommendation for best places to shop nearby…

Depending upon your personality and interests Boston has so much to offer, especially the Back Bay (right where the conference is being held)!  I cannot deny that I am a fashionista and I seem to always find myself on Newbury Street wandering in and out of all of the great boutiques.  However, my all-time favorite store is AllSaints Spitalfields which is headquartered in London but conveniently has a store on Newbury!  You can also check out the Johnny Cupcakes shop, which is our local “t-shirt” bakery (side note: they do not sell cupcakes!).

Also, if you become hungry while checking out the shops you can always make a pit stop at Stephanie’s on Newbury for a great brunch.  Or if you’re looking for a great happy hour spot I’d suggest Post 390 (just don’t forget to Tweet me to join: Megan_Marie_T).  And finally, if you’re looking for a one of a kind dinner check out the Top of the Hub or if you’re feeling a bit Francais perhaps Mistral is more your style. 

Work Off that Brunch at Stephanie’s on Adam’s Running Route!

Adam-Vavrek Adam Vavrek, Marketing & Sales Operations Manager

Skyword

@avavrek

Before it gets too cold, take a jog around the Charles River. You’ll get a nice view of the city and the throng of sailboats and kayaks that occupy the water. You’ll run past the Museum of Science and the Hatch Shell where many concerts are held. If you prefer to bike, rent a bicycle at one of the many Hubway docks in the area; the Charles River bike path goes for 23 miles and goes past major universities like BU, MIT, and Harvard.

Enjoy the Taste of Fall in New England!

PowersMichael Powers, Coordinator, All Things Buzz

NetProspex

@powers_m33

As a New Englander, fall is my favorite time of the year. A time for apple picking, sweaters and a personal favorite, Oktoberfest! Now given the fact that we aren’t in Munich, we have to go next best. Boston is home to not one, but three separate breweries. Traditional historic Boston would lead you to think I’m talking about the Sam Adams Brewery, but my recommendation is to head over to the Seaport and check out the Harpoon Factory. Go in, enjoy some of Harpoons newest craft beers and have a seat in the community styled beer hall.

Conveniently enough, you won’t even have to stray far from the Forum to head down there. As NetProspex was working with MarketingProfs on the perfect location for B2B After Dark at the 2014 Forum we thought no further than the Harpoon Factory itself. So stick around Thursday night and head over there at 7:30PM, it’s sure to be a great time!

Don’t forget all the great things that MarketingProfs has in store for us this week. Starting tonight, Wednesday October 6th, 2014 from 5:30-6:30PM, The Welcome Reception at the Westin Copley Place in the Staffordshire Room! Come say hello to your fellow MarketingProfs groupies.

From Boston? Tell us what your favorite hot spots are in the comments below!

 

Where In the World is NetProspex?

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October 1st, in Boston this day means two things, the leaves are changing and winter is on its way. For me it means that Q4 has just started and I am in the middle of Trade show season. NetProspex has been racking up the frequent flyer miles traveling from one trade show to the next, spreading the good word about the importance of keeping your database clean and actionable. With MarTech, Content Marketing World and Marketo’s Boston and Atlanta Roadshows behind us, we’re looking forward to what October has in store… and boy oh boy it’s a doozy!

Here’s where you can find us this month:

Ridiculously Good Content with Ann Handley

NetProspex is heading out to Seattle this Thursday to join our friends at Heinz Marketing as they host Ridiculously Good Content with Ann Handley. If you’re going to be in the Seattle area and want the opportunity to hear directly from the author of “Everybody Writes” then this is the event for you! Heinz Marketing has hosted two very successful marketing conferences in the past two years, and why not couple that success with Ann Handley. For more on the event and to register, click here. Rumor has it you might even get a free copy of the book in your conference bag!

MarketingProfs B2B Forum

Join us at the 8th annual MarketingProfs B2B Forum in our hometown of Boston, October 8-10, alongside hundreds of B2B marketing professionals. Listen to industry experts talk about the latest B2B marketing trends and learn how to take your program to the next level in 2015 and beyond with the latest tips and tricks. After a long day of sessions and workshops, party like rock stars at the official after-party sponsored by yours truly at the Harpoon Brewery. For more on the event and to register, click here.

Dreamforce

With a speaker lineup of today’s biggest names, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Marc Benioff and Tony Prophet, you don’t want to miss Dreamforce ’14, taking place October 13-16 in the city of San Francisco.Hosted by Salesforce.com, Dreamforce offers more than 1,400 sessions and thousands of live solutions catered toward businesses of any size and/or type. Did we mention Bruno Mars will be performing?

DMA Annual Conference

Celebrate the very best of real-time data-driven marketing at the Direct Marketing Association Annual Conference, taking place October 25-30 in sunny San Diego. Hear case studies from leading executives on how to drive consumer engagement; network and share with thousands of your colleagues, and get a taste of industry-specific solutions from over 300 companies, including NetProspex. Check out more about the event here.

We are also throwing a kickass party with Marketo, the Marketer’s Networking Party, at the Marriot Marquis & Marina. Join us on Monday October 27th, 2014… click here to register!

If you’re planning on attending any of these events, we would love to meet up! Connect with us on social media or simply shoot me an email by clicking here.

See you at the next event!

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How to Get Your Database Ready for Marketing Automation — Part One

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So your team finally decided it was time to implement a marketing automation platform. Awesome! Oh, wait, they put you in charge of making it work? Yikes! Sure, you’ve taken on big projects before, but this is a beast you’ve never encountered. However, there’s no need to panic—I’ve got your back.

In this four-part series, I will walk you through the steps to get your database ready for marketing automation, beginning with running an audit on your current database. These are the tried and true steps I personally followed to get our own database ready for a new marketing automation platform, after years of developing marketing data best practices.

Step One: Becoming Best Friends With Your Data

The success of your marketing automation strategy depends on the strength of your contact database. If it’s weak—or riddled with inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicate contacts—then your strategy is going to fail. Before you implement you’re new marketing automation platform, you’ll need to see what you’ve got in your system. Follow these three steps to do your first round of cleaning out your database.

1. Get the numbers: Or numbahs, as we say here in Boston. Pull an exact record count of how many leads, contacts, and accounts live in your CRM. If you already have a marketing automation system, determine how many leads are known vs. unknown (anonymous web activity that hasn’t converted yet) as well as how many active vs. inactive records are there. You don’t have to do anything with these records yet, just establish your benchmarks so you can measure your success later.

2. Dig into the details: Perform an audit of the important fields in your database. You can perform a few basic searches to easily discover the junk in your database. Here’s a few I recommend:

  • Audit your sales leads for anything older than two years that have no sales/marketing activity on them
  • Audit your phone number fields for things like 555-5555 and begins with 123 or 000
  • Audit your first name/last name/company fields for things like test/fake/contains numbers

While you’re at it, do a full value lookup at what is in your first name column. A quick pivot table will reveal if there is any junk in there. We found Mariah Carey, Homer Simpson, and Elton John in our database. Those are quick wins that you can stop paying storage fees for. It’s also worth it, as you’re guaranteed to find a record or two where a salesperson has chosen that field to put “No longer works here” or an example of how to pronounce their name. Embarrassing if that shows up when you’re using email personalization.

3. Decide what to kill: After you’ve dug into the details, find out what data you can quickly get rid of. The records that contain obvious fake information are easy to delete. But the records in your CRM that are old and haven’t been worked are another story. You may choose to put those folks through a re-engagement campaign, or get rid of them altogether. At NetProspex, in the interest of spring cleaning, I deleted any leads that were older than two years, but never had any sales activity. Whatever you decide, I recommend looking at each type of record separately. Leads in your CRM are different than Contacts in your CRM and both are different from inquiries sitting in your current marketing automation platform. And of course, before you delete anything, make sure you have a conversation with your CRM Admin about a backup plan if you need to restore any of these records if something goes wrong.

That’s Phase 1 of getting yourself to a cleaner, smarter marketing database. If you’ve got questions about this process, leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @B2BLauren. I love connecting with other marketers about this stuff.

To get a crash course as well as tips on reporting must-haves, tune in on September 30th as we partner with MarketingProfs and Marketo for a free webinar Marketing Automation: Starting, Switching and Making it Sing!

Don’t miss out on part two! Subscribe to NetPerspectives:

NetProspex Marketing Challenge 2014: Spartan Race – From Individuals to a Team

SpartanRace-Blog

We’ve had a lot of team objectives at NetProspex this year. One early morning during our Marketing Scrum (yes, we have a marketing scrum), Sean suggested we do something to take our teamwork to the next level… prove we could be successful at something outside our wheelhouse by utilizing each other’s strengths and the powerful dynamic of a team. This proposition was completing a Spartan Race – a five mile obstacle course through muddy terrain, carrying odd and heavy objects, climbing hills, walls and ropes, and much, much more.

A few weeks ago I posted about team bonding during the Tough Mudder with some of my friends. Events with friends are fun and challenging, but does the same apply with your coworkers? You inevitably have to break a barrier physically and emotionally by helping each other through obstacles, which presents a whole new set of challenges!

BEFORE: Not a whole lot of love.
Spartan-Race1

Winning is not the objective, it’s team achievement overcoming obstacles you can’t tackle alone. It’s literally trusting your coworkers to hold your back. For us, different techniques were offered up and executed until we all got up and over the walls, across the monkey bars or swinging over the mud swamp. Today we’ve brought this trust, teamwork and motivation back to our office with our mud-stained medals and pride. Together we’re tackling our own objectives while helping our customers do the same when facing data management struggles. Everyone at NetProspex has your back.

AFTER: So much love!
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These pre and post pictures say it all… before, we were seven individuals, scared and nervous about starting a new project, and now, we’re a stronger (muddier) team that knows we can tackle all obstacles together. To quote one of my favorites, Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Make your own initiatives, and figure out as a team how you’re going to accomplish them. You’ll be happy you did.

Challenge your team to do the same, think of something outside the realm of the office and get to it! Will you be able to rise to the occasion and come out on top?

Did you enjoy my post? Subscribe to NetPerspectives to get more from the NetProspex Team!

Chiefmartec Weighs In On The Intersection of Data and Technology

Martech-Blog

Next up… Scott Brinker. For those of you who don’t know Scott, well… get with the times! Scott is the man behind chiefmartec.com and the Co-Founder/CTO of Ion Interactive. Scott has become the tech guru in the marketing space and was featured at this year’s Content Marketing World. His posts are shared around our office so frequently that we figured it was time we got on the phone with him. Here’s what he had to say…

Derek: Coming out of the MarTech conference, and all of the discussions that occurred around it, this concept of the software-driven marketing organization came up a lot. At a high-level, how do you see this playing out in the way that marketing departments are working today?

200x200_ScottBrinker_ion_PresidentScott: I think someone made this remark, and it is a little bit like what Marc Andreessen said several years ago, and that is “software is eating the world.” And that is simultaneously a mundane and profound recognition. It’s mundane because so much of the software we use – even in marketing with what we’re doing with social media tools like Twitter and Facebook – you don’t even think of it as using software, per se. But it’s profound in the sense that the choice of software we select, and how we configure it, and how we creatively use it, can have a tremendous impact on the kinds of experiences we’re delivering customers. I don’t believe marketing is about the software. It is, as always, about the customer experience and the customer journey. And all the other facets of marketing that have been so important for years –creativity, design, etc – are still just as important as ever. But the software layer is now equally important in delivering amazing customer experiences.

Derek: I think that’s an interesting way of putting it, because I do think at a show like MarTech, you tend to over-rotate on the technology a bit. We can start to geek out on what the technology can do, and being a software guy, I get pretty excited about stuff like that. But I like the way you talked about it as a layer. It’s always been a layer – a more important layer than it’s ever been – but still just a layer that makes the marketer better and more efficient. Dharmesh’s quote on marketers being like coders, in that they’re always looking for scale, really struck a chord with me. But at the end of the day, it still is about making the connection to a prospective customer in a way that they see value. I do think marketers need to be careful not to get too oriented on “Oh, the technology is what’s going to make me win here,” because it’s more than that. Is that how you see it?

Scott: Absolutely, and I think Erik Brynjolfsson mentioned this a little bit in his presentation, but goes into it more in his book The Second Machine Age. The real power here is those intangible assets. It’s not the technology. It’s the new kinds of processes, thinking and management approaches that were enabled by these technologies. I think we see examples of this all over. It’s at one level not wanting to glorify the technology as the savior of marketing, but at the same time, not downplaying it as just a way of making slightly more efficient the same things we’ve always done in the past. There’s a middle ground of how we think creatively to really transform our businesses with these capabilities.

Derek: Yeah, so not just making the things you do faster or better, but rethinking and doing things differently as a result. There is a line to straddle there, and I think about it in our business, too. We get excited about automating things, and sometimes we have to take a step back and say, well, given the new vehicles that are available to us, are we automating the right things? Should there be automation here, or should we just use this as a trigger to go and do something different manually? It’s something we are struggling with internally, and, frankly, I think a lot of people are.

Scott: I think that’s a really cool thing. Leaning back on Erik’s talk, there’s this whole idea of race with the machines. He cites an example of the winning chess teams: not the world’s best chess technology, not the world’s best chess players, but a combination of good technology and good players working in tandem. And the concept of being able to leverage the strengths of humans and machines, each in a much more scalable way – that’s pretty profound. It feels like we’re just barely beginning to tap the new ways we can leverage those sorts of machine/human partnerships in marketing.

Derek: Like most things, a lot of times it comes down to organizing your team to do it. And, again, something we are continuously assessing here at NetProspex: what rules, what functions, and what grouping of people do we put together? Not only in marketing, but in the whole product and go-to-market process, so you’re not just pigeon holing the marketing responsibility, but looking at it across everything that touches the customer. You tend to rely on the organizational structures we’ve used in the past, and even to the point where we divide sales and marketing more rigorously than we maybe should. It takes some reassessment, frankly, with how you compensate and organize people given the way things are changing.

Scott: Yup, I think that’s probably the most exciting dimension of this. In some ways, it’s the aspect that receives the least attention in the marketing world. We do focus a lot on how this looks through the customers’ eyes, which explains the attention we’ve given to social media marketing, content marketing and inbound marketing. And that’s great; it’s wonderful there has been so much focus on that. And then there’s this other area that’s had a lot of focus on analytics and big data algorithms, which is also fascinating, a whole new set of capabilities. But, in many ways, the tougher conversation is how do you restructure your organization and your management processes to really take advantage of these technologies to deliver on rising customer expectations.

Derek: I completely agree with your point that it’s probably the area that has received the least amount of discussion. I think partially because it’s one of those subjects that is hard one to broach, because it has a profound impact across a larger set of the organization that maybe marketing controls. How do you elevate these sorts of discussions around the use of technology, and the organizational structures that are tasked with doing it, to the executive level so that companies can address it more systemically?

Scott: This doesn’t get discussed as much because, in many ways, they’re much harder problems. They’re threatening to the status quo and the politics of “Hey, I’ve had this budget, I’ve had these responsibilities. This is my domain, you keep to your own.” People are reluctant to want to change that in what seems like a very short period of time.

Derek: I think that’s a real challenge we’ve all got – how do you incrementally shift without disrupting things that just need to deliver. You don’t want to blow up the ship while you’re still in the water so-to-speak. You’ve got to think of how you rebuild it so that it is a better speed boat. It definitely warrants more content, maybe for your next conference. I’d be interested to hear how people are tackling that.

Scott: I think this is one of the reasons why we see these chief digital officer positions, because pretty much everyone I’ve heard talk about them acknowledges that, structurally, they really don’t make sense. It’s almost like you’re creating a parallel organization within the rest of the organization. The sole reason they make sense is because they become this way of saying: okay, without blowing up the ship we’re on, can we build another ship over here and, at some point, we will just hop over to the new one. And maybe we’re not even quite sure when that time is, but we know we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Derek: [Authors note: In retrospect, I have to acknowledge the awesome, and subtle, and awesomely subtle reference to Jaws that Scott makes there…]

Derek: I think that’s probably why that roll is emerging. And I think you’re right, it does seem hard to reconcile that roll, but maybe that’s the change agent that figures it out. So bigger problems aside, I wanted to dive deeper under the covers of marketing, because we’re a data-focused company. We focus on helper marketers better identify and communicate with the people they want to connect with, and in ways that hopefully provide value. How do you see data as part of the technology stack evolving? And do you think the use of software has eclipsed how people approach their data? I think as an industry, especially in B2B, we have been fairly quick to adopt new technologies and maybe not so quick to think about the data implications, and how we leverage the data that supports those technologies. And we’re kind of getting stuck by that now. Is that anything you’ve seen or thought about?

Scott: I think, yes, for the most part, people have yet to fully comprehend the implications of all this data. Both what it means operationally – how do we manage this? Strategically – how do we take advantage of this? Even issues like privacy and security; I mean, classic IT infrastructure challenges with the cloud. With all of these solutions we have in the cloud – not to say we shouldn’t have them in the cloud – but right now, I think it’s both the CMO and the CIO thinking about these things. So neither of them really have the full picture of all the different components that are operating here, much less a bigger plan of, okay, how are we synthesizing the data flow among these things? The pace at which new things are entering into that mix continues to happen at such a rapid rate that the problem is not standing still. That being said, I do feel that there is an acknowledgement that, at the end of the day, this comes down to two transformative capabilities in marketing: the data and the insights/experience we can deliver from that, and then the customer experience delivery that we have through these different channels. The buzzword at the show was omnichannel. You know, marketers need to get really good at leveraging this incredible set of data they have access to, and they need to get a lot better at delivering on the customer experience that the data implies.

Derek: I think that makes a ton of sense, and I think for us and me in particular, always being in the B2B space, it feels this term omnichannel makes it sound bigger than it actually has to be. I think people need to be realistic in that they don’t need to boil the ocean with it. If you can just get consistent across a couple of channels to start with, and really focus on how you use data, technology and insights to really be consistent across a couple of your outfacing channels, you’ll see incredible improvements. Particularly if you can narrow the focus on a smaller set of customers that you know are best fit for your solution. And you can be, maybe not excellent, but at least omnipresent to them over a period of time through multiple channels. In this consistent way, you’ll win more customers faster. Sometimes, I think the term omnichannel can be overwhelming, so I do think there’s some rational thought that needs to get applied around, how can I bite-size getting better at this. And I think the bar is pretty low. You don’t have to do much to look excellent from what I see.

Scott: I agree. I think the more I talk to people who are wrestling with this idea – as Laura McClellan mentioned – of a bi-modal IT organization, where one mode is really suited towards infrastructure and standardization, stability and cost optimization. And the other mode is much more suited toward the agile and the experimental, and I think that applies to marketing programs too. There’s a set of core marketing programs that, it’s better for us to do fewer things and do them really well, because it’s the core expectation our customer has with us. And then there’s another set of stuff that is going to be more experimental, and it’s going to be trying out new innovations – and probably with relatively high failure rate for a number of those experiments – to find the new winners. And I really do believe you have to treat those as two different kinds of programs that you’re developing in marketing. And if you try to mix them all in one bucket, you fall into that trap of trying to do too many things poorly rather than a few things really well.

Derek: Interesting, because my next question, to wrap things up, was going to be about agile marketing. I’ve been at a couple different software shops, this one included, and the development process has been agile. And coming in here and reading a lot of your stuff, we thought, we should try this agile marketing thing. Honestly, we struggle because you have to have both. You can’t have it all agile, because, like you said, there is just core functionality that the marketing department needs to deliver to the company, and they have to be really good at it. They have to be predictable at it, and it has to be locked down. So my question is how do you see agile being embraced? Is it kind of a mix-mode approach to the companies that are being successful with it?

Scott: So agile marketing is a lot like marketing technology management today in the sense that everyone knows they need to be doing something with this, but if you get ten companies in a room, they would have ten different ways in which they were interpreting that. And, again, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because what we’re trying to figure out here is new territory. This is not software development, and while we can certainly take inspiration from agile software methods, and how that has worked and not worked, I don’t think it’s a pre-determined playbook. Having heard a number of companies wrestle with it, some of them are doing it by dividing: this part is being governed by an agile process and this other part is being governed by something that’s more waterfall. I’ve seen people experiment in very interesting ways by mapping the long-term processes and more stable aspects of marketing into the context of a more agile process. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m dying to read Jascha Kaykas-Wolff and Kevin Fann’s book, Growing Up Fast, because Jascha has been pioneering this for years. I don’t expect that he will have all the answers, but I am sure he’ll have some!

Enjoy the post? Check out the first two stops on my Q&A tour with Ann Handley and Joe Pulizzi.

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