Seventy-one percent of B2B marketers rate their company’s overall content marketing success as zero to minimal, according to the Content Marketing Institute. The issue, however, isn’t about creating and publishing content, but rather creating the right content that authentically speaks to buyer needs and pain points. Leveraging inspiration from other organizations, as well as incorporating more authenticity and even humor into your messaging, can position marketing teams to create genuine, personal relationships with buyers.
Salesforce and IBM announced that they have expanded their strategic partnership in an effort bring together IBM’s Cloud and Watson services with Salesforce’s Quip and Service Cloud Einstein offerings. The expanded partnership positions both companies to help their customers better connect and engage with prospective customers, while also enhancing collaboration capabilities with deeper AI.
Data giant Dun & Bradstreet this week announced the launch of D&B Hoovers, a solution that enables sales and marketing teams to align around the same connected, dynamic data and analytics to make their efforts more impactful and help them close deals quicker, according to the company’s CMO Rishi Dave.
The new sales acceleration application combines Hoovers, Dun & Bradstreet's commercial database with prospect intelligence and the company’s recently acquired Avention technology platform.
We discussed the news with Dave this week to learn more details. He also touched on the role of data, why aligning marketing around sales goals matters and how AI will impact the marketing industry.
DGR: D&B Hoovers is described as a sales acceleration solution. Is this the culmination of marrying Avention technology with Hoovers data? What was the catalyst to bring this to market?
Rishi Dave: As we all talk about it, the customer’s behavior has completely changed. Buyers are self-nurturing before talking to a sales rep. During that time, we want to make sure we’re capturing data and information [on that journey].
[Business and trend] Data is becoming much more easily available overall today. The key thing we saw was the tremendous opportunity to bring the right data to people in the company who could [take] action on it immediately. The goal is to surface all of that information to the sales team—in real time or near-real time, when they need it and in the right context. How do we surface what is happening and help the salesperson take action, and how do we marry the data with their CRM?
[D&B Hoovers is] integrated with CRM data, and it is also available as a web-based application, so salespeople can utilize their processes in place.
DGR: LinkedIn provides sales with near-real time updates on individuals and companies. Is your product similar?
Dave: You could think of us as the LinkedIn for company and people data. Our data is open and comprehensive, not in a closed system. We also integrate Dun & Bradsteet’s own data of 265 million commercial entities. [Customers can then] integrate third-party data and bring that all together in a more comprehensive, open way. Salespeople can customize that information [as well]. Think of it as the next evolution of social selling. You’re looking at all data available to you, and then surfacing the data and analytics so that sales people can take action.
DGR: We’ve heard more and more in B2B about how marketing needs to stay closer to prospects further down the funnel? Do you think that is a trend picking up speed?
Dave: I think customers, even in most complex B2B sales cycle, like to do the research on their own before they go to a vendor. Therefore, it is incumbent on marketing to nurture that customer towards their solution. How are they moving the customer down the process? Once it gets to a salesperson, they should have a clear view of that prospect.
Here’s one example at Dun & Bradstreet: We [traditionally] focused on pipeline. The challenge is pipeline doesn’t pay bills, but close rates do. We in marketing changed our metrics and aligned them with sales and focused on close rates. We’re enabling sales to close more opportunities, either with training and content or serving up data and analytics. Marketing plays a big role in surfacing the data, the right insights and the models.
We do pretty comprehensive real time analysis on all our accounts. We’ve embedded that in the CRM dashboard so that salespeople here understand exactly [what is going on within specific accounts].
It also affects how we allocate accounts to which salespeople. The key thing is, over time, it’s important to revisit propensity models on a regular basis. In the old world, we’d look at historical data on a customer, model that and apply it to other customers. With near real-time data, we may look at [variables, such as] credit rating, capital expenditure, supply chain changes, or level of industry growth.
You can combine the historical with the near-real time changes to help predict opportunities within the account. It’s important to look at all the data we have available to us.
DGR: Sales enablement seems to be growing in importance. Do you agree?
Dave: I do think inside sales is becoming increasingly important, and companies are increasing investment there. Customers are self-nurturing and looking for quick responses. Expectations are changing; they want you to understand them and respond quickly. And there’s a lot more information and data we can provide to sales, which enables more meaningful conversations.
DGR: What are your top goals as CMO of Dun & Bradstreet?
Dave: We’ve invested heavily in drinking our own champagne—putting to use our own data to glean valuable business insights. Another big thing we don’t talk enough about are the people and process changes that are necessary. I’m focused this year on optimizing that to scale sales and marketing and grow. Once you have all this stuff in place, you need the culture that supports it.
DGR: Are there key initiatives you’re most proud of that have been accomplished on your watch since joining Dun & Bradstreet three years ago?
Dave: Number one is modernizing the brand. As part of that, we spoke to customers, employees and people influential in the space [to understand their impression of Dun & Bradstreet]. People had different perspectives on what Dun & Bradstreet did. We stepped back. We wanted to be clear on our goals, values and what we needed. We needed to determine what made us different.
[As a result], we changed the entire go-to-market approach around personas rather than products. We had been very product focused. We changed our content and sales enablement material around that. We took our monolithic product organization and changed it.
A great example is our new website, launched first in the U.S. and then in the UK [in 2016].
We had such a strong understanding of the customer and we did all the hard-up-front work to make sure the site reflected that.
DGR: What about the future? What’s next?
Dave: The Internet of Things generates lot of data. We’re looking at how we integrate that and build new models. People talk about AI and machine learning; we need to build models that are actionable for sales and marketing professionals. How do we continue to build applications like D&B Hoovers for our customers?
DGR: What was your reaction to the just-announced news of Salesforce and IBM partnering on AI?
Dave: It’s great news. We partner with both companies. We’re on Salesforce App Exchange. We continue to provide our data for commercial entities around the world. It’s the information AI systems need to gain insight. We love more sophistication in that space. That data needs to be integrated and usable. We still have a lot of data out there, and it still needs to be brought together, you still need to supplement it, link it together and clean it up. We can do that.
Lenovo, a computer manufacturer and technology company, turned to B2B loyalty marketer Motivforce to drive loyalty and engagement within its partner channel, as well as grow relationships with newly added partners from a recent acquisition.
In 2014, IBM divested its System X86 server division by selling the business to Lenovo. This included not only the acquisition of hardware solutions, but also the product name and business partner distribution channel. These new partners had been loyal to IBM for many years and were unaccustomed to doing business with a company like Lenovo — let alone one that was unknown for manufacturing and selling servers. The challenge for Lenovo was to migrate these System X86 sellers to Lenovo and convince them to remain in the distribution channel.
Thomas Marquie, Program Manager for Lenovo’s Worldwide Data Center Group (DCG) Brand and Sales Enablement, said that these new partners required “a one-stop shop where the partners can receive benefits and help firms differentiate themselves.”
Motivforce helped the company develop LEAP (Lenovo Expert Achievers Program) to drive loyalty and engagement. Every element of LEAP was built from scratch in terms of infrastructure and support. LEAP also had to meet the cultural and geographical business needs of 8,000 participants, and 1,800 firms in 80 countries involving eight languages.
The program is delivered to partners through a portal, which is designed to offer them online tools, and educational and technical resources to help them sell Lenovo server products effectively.
LEAP is structured around two components:
These points can then be redeemed online for rewards such as MasterCard gift cards or other reloadable cards.
“Three people on the Lenovo side laid out the program — designed the terms of service and whatnot — and [Motivforce] had one program manager,” said Marquie. “In six months, we created a finished product that we deployed at the firm and seller level.”
The LEAP program encouraged the former IBM partners to migrate and remain loyal to Lenovo, and it more than doubled the active user base and achieved significant revenue for Lenovo — 40% more than its target. The company also stated that the number of educational modules completed by partners was 200% more than its original target.
The program also impacted partner sales efficacy; partners sold seven times more Lenovo products than non-participants in 2015.
Lenovo is now looking into growing its benefit offerings to promote deeper engagement within the program. “The latest thing we’re doing is providing nonfinancial benefits, such as dog walking and grocery services,” he said. “We can extend bread and butter loyalty programs and quickly bring in new content and programs to better our partnerships.”
Global 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.
IBM and content management platform Box have released an updated version of the IBM MobileFirst for iOS Expert Seller app, which is built on the Box platform. The new release enables sales and marketing teams to access Box’s content management and IBM’s iOS cloud capabilities on their iPads and iPhones.
Social media platforms have become a common source for B2B marketers to engage with their client base and potential prospects, as well as share content. Some companies, such as IBM, MongoDB and PR Newswire, are taking it a step further, leveraging employee advocates and social media together to expand reach, increase engagement and drive demand.