We asked our VisionEdge Marketing Expert Community to share advice, tips and lessons learned from the past year. Thank you to all of our Experts for taking the time to share your expertise and wisdom. If you would like more information, please contact us at info@visionedgemarketing.com

kim-weinsAdvice for Using Content to Drive Revenue
Kim Weins, Vice President of Marketing, RightScale
www.openlogic.com


Content marketing is a key initiative here at OpenLogic.  We have been focusing on how to leverage free content to drive demand and revenue.  We had aggregated content around our business to help customers but hadn’t really done much with it.  This year we transformed this repository into a content portal. We invested energy and money to build a continuous stream of content into this area to make it an ideal resource for our customers.  In return we saw increased traffic, engagement and leads for our company.  The lesson we learned from this is that content oriented around a specific topic that resonates with prospects can directly impact demand.  And it’s possible to measure the value in terms of the new opportunities.  We experimented and tested a lot initially which allowed us to create a model.  We are now analyzing the data to drill down into what content is the most valuable and influential in affecting customer behavior.  In closing,  if you decide to pursue such an effort, remember that you won’t get it right all at once. So build a plan.  And be ready to track and adjust as you go. 
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Three Shared Lessons: Improving Effectiveness in Two Different Worlds
Mike Rohan, President, Rohan Business Group
www.rohan-group.com

Corporate/small businesses and nonprofit organizations would seem to be worlds apart. Business: all about market share, sales and brand positioning. Nonprofit: all about Mission, social services and appeals for support. Yet there are valuable best practices and marketing strategies that can readily apply in both worlds. Three lessons I’ve noted include:

Lesson #1: Recognize there are just 24 hours in a day. Everyone works on their To-Do list. The key question is: how is the time used? Is it used for: Putting out fires? Meetings? The individual that blocks time — and then works on written priorities will move their personal and organizational success needle forward. Shared reporting and a dashboard among peers brings a powerful motivator to the table: accountability.

Lesson #2: Select organization priorities–then name the proud priority owners. Is it unclear who owns a priority? If so, you may see it again — next year. A passion for the Mission helps nonprofit staff become skilled in leveraging other resources — stakeholders, partners, volunteers, Board members–even family. All those stakeholders can become emotional owners to help achieve priorities.

Lesson #3: Don’t be afraid to measure. Corporate/small businesses know that measuring progress (or lack of progress) is crucial. They measure: meeting customer needs; sustaining a healthy prospect pipeline; communicating relevant value. Metrics can also help a nonprofit grow and sustain their organization in an increasingly competitive arena.

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Demand Generation
Brian Vacanti, Strategic Marketing Consultant, MDValuate

What a great time to be a marketer! Current technology enables an unprecedented level of creativity and distribution AND also allows us to have incredible insight into how to use our messaging and marketing to engage prospects and customers. At HealthGrades our demand generation and marketing automation efforts are paying off. We’ve experienced a 34% increase in the number of qualified leads and decreased the cost per lead by 69%. Two key steps helped us achieve this kind of success: having everyone (sales, delivery and marketing) agreeing and adhering to properly using the CRM system and doing the work needed to create and use quality data.

If I could offer only one key piece of advice that has worked for us, it is the integration of our marketing automation solutions with our CRM system. This efforts enabled us to send the right message to the right person at the right time. And an added bonus is that we no longer have to assimilate metrics from multiple systems. We now have transparency into our processes and successes. And just as importantly we have engaged and empowered our sales team.

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Steven GuengerichExperience your Touchpoints the Way your Customer Would
Steve Guengerich, Co-Founder & Vice President, Appconomy
www.guengerich.com 

With the many channels of communications to manage in these modern times, it’s easy to get caught up in the broad sweep of activity churning out tweets and reviewing your SEO results and lose sight of the customer experience at your key touchpoints. A touchpoint might be the call tree that a prospect or customer experiences when they dial your toll-free (or direct-dial) phone number(s). Or, it might be the web pages that the embedded links in your news releases point back to if someone were to click on them. The point is, it’s important to sweat the small stuff with these touchpoints, because the impression they leave makes all of the difference in the world about how the prospect or customer perceives your organization. So, dial your toll-free line yourself and spend the time some evening working your way through each of the major branches of the call tree. Were you able to find the person/extension you needed? Were there any dead branches? What was the overall tone of voice mails? And, throughout this and other touchpoints, are your key brand attributes used consistently: logo, company name, tagline, key messages or themes? Make the small stuff a 2010 marketing priority.
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Elizabeth CicchettiMarketing and Sales Alignment and Public Relations
Elizabeth Cicchetti, MBA, MA, ALMI, ACS

Senior Marketing Communications Specialist
Mutual Trust Financial Group
as ask, and you will receive and the second, work hard, be patient and your efforts may pay off.

Instead of continuing to guess how our independent sales force uses sales materials, I asked them through an online survey using Survey Monkey. I emailed our agents a link to the survey and offered them the chance to be entered in a drawing for one of two $100 gift cards. I got good response and useful feedback which I am currently using to tweak communications.

My second lesson resulted from a PR campaign I developed announcing the 25th anniversary of our broker/dealer. With little or no expense, I was able to get the word out to both the consumer and the industry press and obtain free marketing exposure for our company. At our local grocery store, we had a cake decorated for the anniversary. We then held a small celebration with employees in attendance, and I photographed the event and wrote up the story. Then I sent a broadcast email to local consumer and industry publications with the anniversary picture and story attached. I made a few follow up phone calls to the editors to confirm that they received my material. A week or so later, a local newspaper ran the picture and a short article on the anniversary. A week after that, an industry publication included the picture and the caption on the first page of their online newsletter. The press more often picks up copy with pictures than copy alone. So get a digital camera, practice staging photo opportunities, then shoot, write, and develop relationships with editors. Cutbacks on staff journalists and photographers mean increasing opportunities for PR for companies. And, remember, PR is virtually free. Iíve had so much luck with PR recently that people in the industry have mentioned to our Vice President of Sales that they are seeing the name of our company everywhere!
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DJ HeckesMarketing Strategy
DJ Heckes
CEO/Owner, Full BRAIN Marketing, LLC

Developing a positioning marketing strategy is a lot like playing a game of chess. It requires skill and strategy to achieve success. Our company’s overall marketing strategy used in 2009 went back to the basics of taking a general approach to achieve our company objectives.

Our marketing strategy determined the activities we undertook to attract and retain customers. It is the everything that our business did and does to attract and retain customers. Our marketing strategy was focused externally on customers while other strategies were focused internally on the business itself (and only indirectly on customers). We always remember our strategic objective the vision of what our business will be once all is said and done.

Our marketing strategy is part of the overall business strategy that focuses on target marketing and how to attract and retain existing and prospective customers. Many businesses focus only on the strategic objective for marketing, but forget to include the financial and management strategies for business as well as personal development and development of staff. We made sure to do both. BUT, to be effective in the marketing strategy research, we had to measure and track this information monthly and commit to consistency. I also took the time to listen to our customers as they came forward to consult for marketing strategies and wrote my first book in 2009 that will deliver what was asked — How to Merge Traditional, Digital and Social Media Marketing and develop and track a marketing strategy based on practical knowledge, experience, education with results.
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Lead Generation/CRM
Mark

working for a US based software company.

Sometimes some of the most important lessons learned come from something not working well. In a B-B company with long sales cycles, marketing and the customer database play a critical role. We kept all our contacts in Outlook and knew this wasn’t the best option. We wanted to be able to track prospect behavior which couldn’t be done. We had agreement internally that we needed a CRM engine but the leadership team thought we could build it ourselves rather than invest in a third party solution. A big mistake, still no CRM engine and the long-lead pipeline is in sorry shape for 2010. Sales are predicted to be half what they were in 2009, and technical people WILL be laid off, starting in Q1.

Sometimes the best outcome by executives is to trust the Marketing and Sales team to do what is right, and give them the budget and decision space to do so, and allow them to succeed or fail. No decision is a decision with bad consequences in this instance.
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Maria PergolinoMarketing ROI
Maria Pergolino, Vice President of Marketing, Apptus

As a B2B marketer, I am constantly under pressure to justify my investments in order to prove marketing ROI and accountability. In 2009, I found that by demonstrating positive impact on pipeline and revenue, Marketing had finally become a respected part of my company’s revenue process as opposed to being treated as a cost center.

To achieve this, I stopped spending time working on countless excel sheets, as they often resulted in data that either did not correspond to our sales numbers or confused my management further. Rather, I started making best use of my CRM and marketing automation system. By doing this, I was able to understand the effect of each marketing interaction on a lead or opportunity. I was also able to understand campaign influence, which now helps me to determine where to spend my marketing dollars.
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Anticipate Change, Keep Skills Current
Kimberly Kiker

National Account Sales
Creative Marketing Solutions
www.creativecms.com

Isn’t marketing strange? I am a marketing professional and I do this for others but often times need help in how I can use those same good practices for marketing myself!

In a dynamic environment, with changing customer needs, one thing I’ve learned is that change is constant. Therefore, my advice to every marketing is expand your skills and anticipate change so you can quickly adapt. And as your customers needs change, reach within your organization if you need to leverage other’s expertise.

Sometimes in marketing we can isolate ourselves and try to carry the load alone. So my advice for you in 2010, be prepared for change, keep expanding your skills, and collaborate with the rest of your organization.

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