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#B2BMX Q&A: Lenovo’s Michael Ballard Discusses Company’s Intent-Driven Transformation

ballard headshotWith the amount of data available to today’s B2B marketers, it’s amazing what programs can be created to engage prospective customers with the right message, via the right channel at the right time. With intent data—insights that show buyer propensity—marketers can dive even deeper to create relevant conversations that move buyers along their journey.

Michael Ballard, Sr. Manager, Digital Marketing at Lenovo, has first-hand experience with intent data and will be discussing the topic in detail during a session at the upcoming B2B Marketing Exchange, taking place in Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb. 20-22.

In an event preview Q&A, Ballard discusses the value intent data has brought to his organization, and where the B2B marketplace stands with finding the balance of traditional and intent-driven insights.

Demand Gen Report: Can you please share a sneak peek into what you'll be covering in your session at the B2B Marketing Exchange this year?

Michael Ballard: As marketers in 2017, we have access to more customer data than any other generation. But what do we do with it? How do we access it? What types of information do we need? I will show how Lenovo is transforming all its digital programs away from its reliance upon 1st party data lead scoring and triggering campaigns from publicly available intent data. Our initial pilots with this strategy has given us some of our most successful campaigns based on leads generated.

DGR: Your session will  focus on how Lenovo uses intent data. Why is this type of data valuable to your marketing initiatives?

MB: We need to leave our egos at the door. Our customers don't care about us until they are ready. We need to stop pushing what we "think" they want and wait for them to tell us what they care about. Marketing has always been an interrupter in people’s lives … just take a stroll down Times Square. We now have the ability to only show people information they want and when they want it. Marketing now becomes less annoying and starts to become a true partner.

DGR: Other than intent data, what else factors into identifying when buyers are in market and what they are researching?

MB: We still digest traditional lead scoring and use that as a determination point. However, we are starting to blend intent with predictive modeling for look-a-likes. But keep in mind, intent data (theoretically) covers almost all digital activities that we cannot see on our own properties … at least in B2B activities. The bigger question becomes how do we properly blend traditional lead score, with predictive scoring and with intent topic surges? Do we give more weight to one over the other? Only time and historical data will tell.

DGR: What are you most excited for at the B2B Marketing Exchange?

MB: I really enjoy connecting with other peers and getting caught up with what vendors are doing in this space. There is always a lot of great energy at the conference and gets me excited to tackle bigger challenges. The tracks are carefully thought out and provide a great variety of choices. Plus, the venue is always incredible!

It’s Time to Rethink Marketing

1actonkevinbFor years, it was demand generation that drove us — delivering marketers the leads, conversions and opportunities that won us praise from our superiors, that nudged our top line forward. A high-risk, high-reward vehicle that powered our businesses and proved our worth. But perhaps somewhere along the way, we strayed. Maybe the technologies that rose up around us to support our efforts (digital marketing more broadly) made us complacent; maybe we leaned on demand generation too heavily, figuring it would carry the day.

New Research Shows B2B Marketers Lack Processes For Leveraging Engagement Data

Seventy-one percent of B2B marketers said that digital marketing and technological skill sets will be required for their roles in the next three to five years, according to an Association of National Advertisers (ANA)/Business Marketing Association (BMA) study released at the ANA/BMA16: Masters of B2B Marketing Conference in Chicago. However, a mere 7% of those polled said they have effective processes in place for capturing data on buyer behavior, attitudes and engagement.

“Our study shows that B2B marketers have much to offer, but that message is not getting through to the right people within their own organizations,” said ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice. “These marketers need to implement growth leadership initiatives, put forth a clear vision of their brands and develop strategies to remove barriers.”

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However, the study also revealed that less than half of those surveyed (42%) said they even have a seat at the senior management table, and only 37% said they enjoy strong endorsement from senior management. In addition, 35% of respondents said senior management is still focused on the product and price and not on insights into the customer.

The online survey of 237 B2B marketers was conducted by the ANA and its research partner, GfK, in March 2016. It included BMA members, as well as ANA members in B2B companies.  

The ANA/BMA provided a set of recommendations for B2B marketers along with the study, and several featured speakers that presented during the three-day conference echoed these points as crucial elements to marketing success:

  • Partner with sales to drive business growth. Sydney Sloan, CMO for Alfresco Software, presented a session along with Peter Isaacson, CMO of Demandbase, on her company’s account-based marketing and predictive analytics journey. Sloan indicated that she and her marketing team needed to sell the idea to sales, and it did not happen overnight. “We had to show them where the revenue was going to come from,” Sloan said. “It took longer than we thought.” The sales reps had to pick specific accounts for the initial test, and she said many “dug their heels in.” After nine months, the regions that “did the homework” [of identifying accounts] were compared with those that didn’t, and the results were more than enough to rally the holdouts on the sales team.
  • Inspire the entire organization to build business growth. Russell Findlay, CMO of Hiscox, an insurance company, talked about his company’s brand positioning process and marketing approach. Findlay said buy-in across the organization is crucial. “Marketing can drive revenue, strategy, culture and momentum,” he said, adding that marketers can earn their organizations’ respect “by being great at people, marketing alchemy and the numbers.” Findlay said B2B marketers need to understand the drivers of their business and where marketing adds value. “Think like a business leader first and a marketer second.”
  • Shift the focus of strategy from product to customer. “The customer is always first,” said Ana Villegas, Marketing Director for North America Commercial Business and Marketing Strategy, at Dell. “Digital transformation starts and ends with the customer,” she said. As part of the case study she presented, Dell worked with its B2B agency to cement its customer focus on the website, Villegas said. “[We had a] dynamic content optimization option that let [the customer] build their own path, depending on what he is consuming. The customer picks what he needs rather than you telling him.”
  • Prove ROI to ensure marketing is perceived as a competitive advantage. Measuring campaign results elevates marketing’s contribution to business growth and enables it to be perceived as a competitive advantage. At Dell, engagement on the website increased 20% in terms of unique visitors, pages viewed and downloads, while costs decreased by 50%, according to Villegas. In addition, the metrics evolved as well, and her team now scores what it calls “high-value engagement,” a KPI developed by the analytics team, as its definitive measure.
  • Acquire the tools and digital skill sets needed to compete today. Linda Boff, CMO of GE, said experimentation is necessary with new technology and digital platforms. During the audience Q&A, she was asked for advice on social media for companies that “still struggle to share their stories.” Boff said: “The risk of not being out there and not sharing your stories [on social] is much higher than the risk of doing it.”

Bluewolf Unveils New Service To Assess Marketing Automation Solutions

shutterstock 311821454Global consulting firm Bluewolf, which was just recently acquired by IBM, has launched the Bluewolf Digital Marketing Assessment, designed for companies that already use cloud marketing automation platforms such as Salesforce, Marketo and Oracle. The service enables marketers to audit current business and technology performance, and recommends actions to generate ROI from marketing automation investments.

The Evolving B2B Buying Process

DGR NL IG 2 18 2015

B2B buyers are embracing online options to research and purchase products, B2B suppliers need to evolve and must seek out new opportunities to engage their high-tech targets. MDG Advertising analyzed a 2014 B2B procurement study by Acquity Group and compiled its findings into this infographic.

Silverpop Grows Reseller Channel And Adds EU Data Center

silverpop logoSilverpop, a provider of digital marketing technology solutions, announced the growth of its reseller channel. Revenue for its reseller network in Q1 2013 increased 74% as compared to the same time last year, according to company officials.

The network now offers Silverpop a presence in Australia/APAC, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe with reseller relationships among partners such as Nitryx, Grapevine, Engage Digital, Entera and VIV.

Silverpop Grows Reseller Channel And Adds EU Data Center

silverpop logoSilverpop, a provider of digital marketing technology solutions, announced the growth of its reseller channel. Revenue for its reseller network in Q1 2013 increased 74% as compared to the same time last year, according to company officials.

The network now offers Silverpop a presence in Australia/APAC, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe with reseller relationships among partners such as Nitryx, Grapevine, Engage Digital, Entera and VIV.

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