Browsing Tag


Marketing is in the Middle: Lauren Carlson

The next person in the series, is Lauren Carlson.  I asked Lauren to participate since as the interviews started to unfold from a content perspective, no one was really talking about tools which provide marketers an edge.  Lauren writes about various topics related to CRM software, with particular interest in sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service and this background clearly made her a great fit to help fill this gap which has emerged in the discussions around marketing being in the middle.

Like all marketers or people around tech – Lauren isn’t formally trained in technology or marketing.  She has a background in the music industry, and when she isn’t writing about software, you can find her running at  Town Lake and singing at local venues around Austin.  So maybe, just maybe I should have entitled the series Austin is in the Middle of Technology marketing with a couple of  other geographies added to the mix, just for fun.

Here is Lauren’s take:

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

I am relatively new to marketing but I continue to get exposure to many software marketers, companies and service providers as a journalist. The role I have at Software Advice provides great access to leaders in the community. As a practitioner, I am actively involved in doing search engine optimization.

When you look at your career in marketing, what activities have you found most interesting/challenging?

Targeting the right segments in the market.  Ultimately as marketers, we have to find our niche or audience.  So finding the right audience can often be difficult. Sometimes we have really great content, but if it doesn’t hit the right person, it is useless.

Based on your experience what activities do you think get the most return?

Doing the background research! Certainly it can take a good deal of effort and a bit of time, but it often brings back the most returns. I spend days researching keywords and search stats to better understand my audience. It can be tedious, but when we start to rank for those competitive terms, that’s really when you see the fruits of your labor.

What do you feel is the most important component of a successful marketing gig?

Content. Content. Content. Content drives everything. You can have the most talented people or the best business model, coolest tech, but if your content is bad, you’ve got nothing to keep your audience/buyers engaged.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

It would be focused on collaboration and creativity. Sometimes I get my best ideas when talking with a co-worker or when I am simply away from my desk interacting with others. Don’t get me wrong –  some structure is great, but I think having the freedom to team up or step out of a structured environment can really free the mind to come up with some awesome stuff.

How far is this from reality?

I think that a lot of new start-ups are adopting this environment. Our company is working toward it and I have heard of others that are using this model. I think it is possible in organizations with a legacy in the traditional way of marketing. It is simply a matter of them accepting it and making the decision to adopt it.

So what’s next?

I have personally done a lot of research in the area of marketing automation – a piece of software that automates basic to complex marketing tasks. Companies are beginning to see the value of adding a marketing automation system to their enterprise software mix. However, the issue of adoption is what is holding it back. Software Advice just published a very interesting article from Jeff Pedowitz called, “Why the Marketing Automation Market is Floundering & 5 Fixes to Fuel It.” One of the stumbling blocks faced by the industry is education. We have this great new software, but we have not educated marketers on what it is or how to use it. I think we will see a new generation of marketers popping up in the next few years. These marketers will be true analytical thinkers more focused on process. We still need creative minds, as well. I think when you combine great technology and process with vibrant creativity and ideas, you have the perfect marketing mix.


Twitter: @MASoftwareGuide or @CRMadvice


Simplify your marketing with automation?

B2B marketing is changing based on new technology and processes which businesses need to support for their customers.  A recent article by Lauren Carlson, who covers marketing automation at Software Advice, posits a bunch of stuff around macro trends influencing market, 2 of which are spot on which marketers in B2B need to think about as they look to deploy marketing automation and scrm solutions:

Sales cycles are longer in a down economy.

Under adverse economic conditions, buyers are less inclined to purchase – plain and simple. Even when there is a clear business challenge and a solution with real ROI, tight budgets create hesitation on the part of the buyer. Therefore, sales professionals are faced with increasingly risk-averse prospects whose buying time frames are longer. Marketing automation tools supporting drip marketing campaigns and lead nurturing can build relationships with buyers during a longer sales process.

B2B sales processes are becoming “consumerized.“

According to Peter Sondergaard, SVP at Gartner, consumerization is a significant trend that will affect enterprise IT purchasing this decade and beyond. What does that mean? Business buyers are demanding that their enterprise purchase process be simplified to match the consumer purchases they make in their private lives. They demand coherent pitches, simplified pricing, rapid implementation and ease of use. Moreover, they don’t want to have to interact with sales every time they want information. Marketing automation plays a critical role in supporting self-service sales interactions.

B2C just might be the new B2B……   read more of Lauren’s piece at:

Invest in Your Customers: 5 Ways to Raise Your Customer’s IQ

Each year we are coming up with market strategies and tactics to help drive new business, but what have you slotted into your strategic plan for the customers you have?   At the end of the day, your customers are essentially your best asset for a marketer – typically drive significant annual revenues, provide priceless word of mouth recommendations and provide insights from the market when we engage them.   So why is it that many organizations relegate customers to a series of automated tools and process which focus on reducing costs, rather than investing in the relationship in their plans?  In fact, if we present anything in our strategy about our customers it’s about reducing costs.   So one of the questions I would always ask myself and my team about their strategy plans was:  “What Are You Doing to Improve Your Customer Relationships and their Market Understanding?”  Not only do I invest in my customers as it relates to the products I sell, I always try to improve their understanding of our shared markets.   After all, an educated customer who is invested in the relationship is typically a more profitable one and more loyal.

Know Your Customers and Know Their Industry

As experts in the markets we serve, we often read more, have access to more information and definitely have more discussions with people in the market than our customers do.  Much of information gleaned is used to build out our personal understanding of the market or the larger organization, but many of us tend to not share these industry insights and market information with our customers.    Not sure why, maybe we are just too focused as marketers to get that next prospect  or feel this information is somehow proprietary info.  Whatever the reason, the industry analyst calls, market trends and other content we get access to is just the type of information your customer’s want/need to be more  competitive in the markets THEY serve.  So on some levels both us, as vendors, and them, as customer’s are sorta “all in it together in this shared market”.

Share the Knowledge Your Organization Has

We have all kinds of info we create to do our daily jobs as marketers which could be re-purposed for prospects and customers alike. We gather all kinds of market data –  whether it’s usage trends on our SaaS platform by industry, learnings from speaking with customers or the information gleaned from the last analyst call, it’s all potentially interesting for your customers.  It takes all of these sources to get a baseline understanding of markets and their problems to get approved projects and build sufficient products.  Much of the information we get is not directly related to our products, but rather the markets our customers are in and could help improve our customers’ businesses as well.

Just as we invest in creating content strategies to putting people in the funnel, we also need to invest in creating content which strengthens our relationships with our current customers to maximize retention, so here are 5 ways to better share the information inside your company and help your customers improve their businesses:

5 Ways to Raise YOUR Customers’ IQ

  1. Blog About Your Customers’ Industries: It’s always a focused to blog about the problems our product solve or advances in technology around the product sector we service since this helps with demand generation. Once people buy your products however, they want to better improve their businesses and compete in markets now that they have solved the problem which drove them to purchase your product.  Not only does this approach help with maintain the existing relationships with your customers, this too will help with the demand side of things.
  2. Recommend online outposts, industry groups and readings: We spend a lot of time focusing on our own communities, but as marketers and product managers we also are aware of great industry resources which help us keep abreast of our customers industries which would be equally useful to our customers and we should share this information – even if we don’t manage these groups or produce the content.
  3. Provide Updates on Industry Conferences & Events: Many of us attend industry events and conferences and often have to right up a trip reports, that very content could easily be re-factored for your customers in minutes.   You should also provide information on events your company isn’t going to, if it would be of interest to your market.  For example, if you go to an event just do a little post on it, whether it’s directly related to your product or not.  Maybe the marketing folks at your customer companies would be interested in that agile preso you saw or the Product Camp presentation you did.
  4. Create a mini educational/informational thing for your customers: Nothing big, basically a very light presentation or ebook-let on an industry trend. While this seems like something we should be doing anyhow, we typically write for non-customers, this should be targeted at customers and shouldn’t necessarily be related about our products or the problems we solve at all.  Think of all the analyst calls and original research you do/content you curate to understand your market, pick just one small topic and put something together on slideshare, scribd or just available on your website. Here is an example I did on innovative brands which took under an hour.

So what is your CRM strategy to raise YOUR customers’ intelligence in 2011?

Develop content your buyer might actually scan…

a kind of magic
Image by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Flickr

There is no shortage of stuff to write as marketers and nearly everyday someone is looking for a new piece, email blast or other “tweak” to content from us as product marketers.  So we either edit, proof or create content daily so it is important we create something which might actually get read.  Research indicates folks have 8 or 9 seconds to grab the buyers attention to keep them reading or get them to click on another web page.

When people are looking to solve problems they are more than likely real busy, just like you, so to get them to read your email, move through your website or to even scan a piece of collateral provided by a sales person is no easy task.

Which takes me back to the 7 Expectations of a Buyer which I’ve been working…. #3 is I don’t want mass communications and generic content.   Even though we probably know this 3rd expectation of buyers intuitively, it’s not what we do.  More often than not, we write to our own personal comfort levels and make sure we feel good about the content – it’s got the right buzzwords, the right images and just the right amount of boxes and arrows to show that we know our stuff.  In fact, we spend so much talking about us, that it’s difficult to get even a couple of sentences in around the needs of the prospect/buyer.

Whether it’s the corporate website, a blog, an email campaign or onsite presentations/demos, buyers want content that allows them to buy your product, but we have spent a good deal of time “optimizing” our CRM implementations over the last decade and processes for OUR needs and we created content which drove the automation.

Yup, we spent the last decade focusing on getting contact information and routing leads automagically which is definitely at odds with content the buyer needs and when the buyer needs that content.   The first attempt at CRM in many companies was to track and automate the sales process.  Another way to look at it was to do everything possible to not have a customer talk to us.

Content as a task.  Asked for, Delivered, Done?!

A equally challenging as developing content for our CRM needs, many of us create a good part of the content we develop as marketers is project based – reactive.  We all get these projects – perhaps you have a web site refresh, a given email campaign or even an all-in re-branding exercise which is lead by a peer or different group all together which need you to complete your tasks by a certain date.

So what do most of us do?   We create/edit/proofread the content as requested and move on to other 75 really urgent items in our inbox.

There are always going to be tasks to do and content which is needed, but finding a way to provide focus for your content is critical.  What is really needed for sales?   Why do some pieces get read and others get tossed/not used by sales?

The main reason for this is the increasing importance of content to how buyers discover you and your products – a search term, a link from a friend or the subject line on the 1 of 400 emails which are unread in their inbox.

Ok, maybe that’s just my inbox….

With this flurry of content available in everyone’s inbox and everything just a Google search away, you can’t see developing your content as check-box tasks which just need to get done, it should be based on a strategy grounded in an understanding of your market’s buyer personas and their expectations.

Curious if your content is interesting or relevant to a buyer?  Here are a couple of tools to check out:

The We We Calculator – An online tool to see if your text is about your products or services or the customer/buyer.

Gooblygook Grader – this is from the folks at Hubspot you created website grader and twitter grader.  This tool analyzes if you’re writing content which is effective.