How has B2B Lead Flow Changed?

Recently I have had the opportunity, more than once,  to consider and explain what’s different about today’s B2B marketing.  It seems the standard that exists in the mind of many outside of the marketing discipline is a lead flow where marketing played a much smaller role.  In that mindset, marketing found leads and sent them all off to sales.  Aside from the occasional last-ditch follow up campaign most of those leads fall dormant.

Now, that mode of operation helped grow a number of great companies, some would say.  The time-honored tradition of following up on leads became a B2B pastime.  So did complaining about lead quality and executing poor follow up.

For example, in the “old days” marketing would set up a trade show, do a promotion or devise a game that brought booth traffic, and then sales interacted with prospects in the booth.  Out of a show came a small number of “hot leads” and a larger number of lesser quality “scanned leads”  Of course the “hot leads” got entered in the system and followed up on quite quickly.  The larger number of “scanned leads,” not so much.  Really, marketing’s role was to instantly hand off all leads to sales.

Marketing Funnel

Enter the 21st century marketer, armed with advanced marketing automation and lead nurturing tools, carefully-created content and end-to-end CRM visibility.  These tools have changed the nature of the game for B2B marketing forever.  Now a “lead” stays in marketing for long periods of time, being nurtured by steady and consistently-applied campaign rules dictate each email, call and question.  This is the middle section of the chart.

Marketing then can “watch” the digital body language of leads and, in a lead scoring environment, can automatically move these to the sales process when they are ready.  The systems can also dictate and advise when a potential customer should be called in the process.  In that manner they can also feed the exact right content for the prospect’s stage of the purchase process.

Within a campaign executed by an automated marketing system, you take different paths based on feedback from the prospect; did they open the email?  Did they click on any links?  Have they visited the website?  All of these actions can be input the lead nurturing campaign and each result can dictate different reactions.

Back in the stone ages of marketing “sales” did these tasks.  Often poorly or inconsistently.  Using a process that was basically untrackable.  But we’re over that now.  Take a deep breath.  We can move on now!

Using one of these systems also allows the marketing team to work on new and creative campaigns rather than executing repetitive marketing execution tasks. It’s all good!  Consider bringing it into your world!

What is the state of your marketing lead engine?  Are you nurturing your leads properly?

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The Good the Bad and the Ugly of Trade Shows 2014

This week I attended one of my favorite trade shows, Interop, held annually in Las Vegas.  It’s a great trade show dominated by the big networking companies like Cisco, HP and Dell, who wire our world and connect us to the Internet of things.   It’s one of the biggest technology trade shows in North America.

As I walked the show floor, I made some observations on what works and what doesn’t in trade show marketing 2014.  Some things change, some stay the same, but most surprising to me are the simple to fix mistakes many companies make.  Here’s my add-up of the “good, the bad and the ugly” of Interop 2014.

The Good

Some booths are built out of displays

Some booths are built out of displays

Ubiquitous and innovative use of flat panel displays.  This has been a trend for a while but I think has had a boost in the past year.  Many booths are now designed around multiple flat panel displays and when these are used effectively, make an memorable statement.   However, now usefulness of these displays depends on the content behind them.  Some do it much better than others, who waste the technology.


T-shirts are in good supply at tech trade shows

T-shirts still get the job done.  As a head of marketing, I have always been amazed at what trade show attendees will do for a t-shirt.  I’m also amazed at the low price of printed shirts, which seems to have dropped over the years.  It all makes for a win win; the attendee gets a wearable shirt; the company gets their contact info and their ear for a few minutes.

The Bad

too many blue shirts

Too many booth employees make the booth seem devoid of customers

Too many employees in the booth  Too many uniform-wearing employees in the booth can be imposing and even scare some people away.  It also gives the booth a certain desperate look and frankly doesn’t enhance the brand.   Plus, someone is paying all these people and they aren’t doing their normal jobs.

Can you tell what this company does?

What do you think of this messaging? What do they do? I guess you have to imagine…

Irrelevant messaging.  I’m always amazed that marketers at all size companies often forget some of the basic rules of messaging trade shows. The booth graphics must answer the question “what do you guys do” that permeates the show floor and starts nearly all conversations.  If your booth graphics don’t address that question, don’t bother going to the show.  Don’t assume (this means you Avaya) that everyone knows or cares what you do.

The Ugly

Not every situation is right for a formal presentation

Not every situation is right for a formal presentation

Is that your best presenter? Trade show presentations are like karaoke, just because you are willing to take the mike doesn’t mean you can sing.  Technology trade shows like Interop are wrought with technical product managers who possess great knowledge about the product and very little innate ability to share that knowledge.  Then someone decides they are the best person to do the booth presentation and it goes downhill from there.

Too much message and clutter can ruin the booth

Too much message and clutter can ruin the booth

Crowded booths.  I don’t know if the phrase “less is more” applies, but certainly you can have too many messages, or too much “stuff” in the booth to the point that it looks like a storage closet.  Clean and simple is a better goal.  It’s not a garage sale; don’t let your booth look like one.

These are just a few of the images from Interop 2014 that stick out in my mind.  Trade shows evolve, but they also stay the same.  They are an excellent place to see how others market and to not repeat their mistakes.

What trade show trends have you noticed?  Have you made some of these same mistakes?


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Three Key Learnings From Dreamforce 2013

I’ve just come back from the Dreamforce 2013 conference in San Francisco.  Once thought of as the user conference, this gathering has exploded to become an epicenter of B2B marketing thought and collaboration.  The 350 vendors that support the Salesforce world, along with the impressive set of products from themselves, showed an exciting future for B2B marketing.

DF13 photo 4-cropped

Dreamforce has also begun to transcend being a merely a technology gathering and becoming a cultural event.  There was big-time celebrity involvement in the keynotes and a general buzz of excitement during the real opening of the show Tuesday.  There was also Dreamforce’s grip on the city of San Francisco.  From the closing of Howard street to become an enclosed meeting and entertainment center, to the sessions distributed over many of the big hotels downtown and with a total force of 135,000 attendees, 350 vendors and so on that have taken over the city.

So what did I learn?  Here are three big learnings I had:

  1. B2B Marketing tools are more sophisticated than ever.  The digital marketing age has now produced enough critical mass in terms of new data, new channels of communication and new ways to engage with customers to warrant a new generation of marketing tools.  Dreamforce was a showcase for those tools and the real-time world of interacting with your customers in a digital fashion that can be monitored in real time 24/7 in a fashion never seen before in the B2B world.
  2. Everything is integrated with everything.  That might be exaggerating the current state just a little bit, but the ongoing march toward seamlessness in both development and customer experience integration is moving along.  Social media networks will always have limitations in the data they can share, due to their privacy agreements with their customers, but aggregate studies and searching of keywords can create some pretty interesting data, especially when the topic is your product.  Salesforce has also released a new vision of their world and a connected platform called the“Salesforce 1 Platform,” designed to bring all customer interations under the same umbrella.  This, coupled with the string of impressive acquisitions Salesforce has made, makes for a powerful set of tools.
  3. Marc Benioff and his team put on a hell of a show. Especially for an event of its size, Dreamforce was well-run and seemed to move with a naturally-generated energy.  The scale was tremendous, the execution amazing and even the steady rain did not slow it down.  I personally learned a great deal in a short period of time and got caught up in the show’s energy. I think it’s great to have so much energy focused on engaging customers in B2B situations.  It’s a breath of fresh air and the momentum has created will continue in a higher gear.

Long overdue, B2B marketing is becoming technology-driven like never before.  That technology was in full display at this year’s Dreamforce.  We should all welcome the arrival and look forward to using the tools.

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The Marketing Power of the Mighty Tchotchke

Tchotchkes.  Swag. Trinkets.  Promotional items.  These are the tiny items that fill the bags trade show attendees drag around.   Often the goofier the better.  Light-up balls, flashing pens, flashlights, eyeglass holders, phone cases and notepads, all proudly displaying your logo and brand messaging.

So where does the tchotchke stand in the digital age?  Is the online marketing manager as interested in them as the trade show manager? There are online alternatives, but it seems the tchotchke lives on.  There’s even an industry association, the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), which puts on an annual trade show in Las Vegas. They don’t seem to call them “tchotchkes,” however.


Branded pens and note pads are still part of the office landscape.  They do their jobs as reminder of your branding.  Trade shows wouldn’t be the same without them.   Upper level giveaways can be a nice thank-you to customers and partners.   Here are some ideas to get the most from your tchotchke investment:

  • A durable, quality item will sometimes last for years.  It’s not uncommon for a good pen or letter opener to sit on someone’s desk for years.  There are also other kinds of tchotchkes that have a shorter life.  When given the choice, go for the longer lasting giveaways.
  • Make sure your branding is visible.  There’s no purpose in the whole promotional giveaway strategy if your branding and message is too small or otherwise hard to see.  Yet some portion of the bounty from any show will illustrate items that violate this.
  • Clever gets attention at trade shows.  Giveaways that are different or that match your message well will enhance your trade show presence.  A unique tie in with your name, tagline or message will help folks remember both.
  • Things that can be easily mailed can serve a dual purpose.  If you get items that come in their own package or are uniquely ready for mailing, they can be sent to customers, prospects, partners, etc. quite easily.  It makes purchasing a larger quality easier when you can use them both for trade shows and for mailings.
  • Tchotskies have become digital.  The mobile app, for example, serves very much the same role and many of our phones are as full of them as bulging trade show bags.  They provide amusement or function and carry the provider’s branding.  Can also be great tie-in with trade shows or premiums given in exchange for contact info.
  • Make sure they get given away!  Branded promotional items don’t do any good packed in boxes in your storage area.  They are only really doing their job when they are in customers or prospects hands.  I am always surprised when I see people hording the giveaways.  Give them out!  Make sure they get used!

Often dismissed as junk, promotional merchandise done well can help distinguish your brand and add to your name recognition.  Don’t miss this important opportunity to spread your brand.  Take a moment and do it right! Long live the tchotchke!

What has been your best promotional item?  Have any favorites from other companies?

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4 Tips to Put Your Trade Show Over the Top

I’m a big believer in trade shows.  Even in today’s social-media-based, always-connected-via-mobile world, trade shows have a unique and useful place.  I think they are the perfect setup: you put the buyers and the sellers of an industry in one big room, get the experts, analysts and thought leaders to speak in the smaller rooms and then have everyone party with old friends every night.  What could be better than that?

Trade shows come in all shapes and sizes.  Some you need to do on a budget.  Some you have to do to enter a new geographic region or a new area of the industry.  However, some are your signature shows; the shows where your industries fortunes are made or broken.  For those “make it or break it” shows, you need to pull out all the stops.  Here are some ideas to put the finishing touches on a killer show.

A well-dressed booth team!

A well-dressed booth team!

  1. Use a professional presenter.  Trade show attendees are bombarded with sounds, visuals and motion as they walk around the show floor.  Walk around a show sometime and notice that the best presenters have the biggest crowds.  They have pleasant, confident voices and friendly, inviting faces with huge smiles.  They have personality plus.  That’s what they do for a living.  They will also deliver the message consistently.  Non-pros have few of these aspects that make all the difference.
  2. Dress everyone on the team the exact same.  Now, I’m not talking about doing what most companies do, which is pass out some polo shirts and say “wear black pants with this.”  You’ve seen booths where everyone is wearing the same polo with “khaki” slacks.  There seem to be an infinite number of shades and styles of khaki and as a result, the team uniform effect is minimized.  No, I’m talking about choosing both a branded shirt and a specific color and style of pants, so everyone really does look like they are a team.  It’s not that easy to execute, but worth the effort.
  3. Hang the sign. Hanging signs are fairly inexpensive to buy and a small fortune to put up and take down at shows. Makes your whole presence look bigger.  I’d consider them at every show and feel more urgency the closer to the back of the hall I am.
  4. Keep the booth spotless.  Now here, I don’t mean “pretty clean,” I mean spotless.  It’s often real hard to tell everyone that they can’t leave their coat, rolling laptop bag and bulging trade show stuff bag in the booth.  It’s hardest to tell this to upper level execs.  But it must be done.  If you don’t have adequate storage space in the booth, warn attendees in advance (every time you communicate with them) and have alternative options (“the coat check will take your things, it’s near the North entrance”) for them.

I will admit, all of these, except number 4, cost money.  However, at a signature show, your goal is often to look like an industry leader or an up and coming superstar company.  Consider and try these items in that context.  You will be glad you did!

How polished are your trade shows? Do you keep your booth spotless?  What can be improved?

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The Trade Show Was a Train Wreck. Now What?

You worked on this show for months. You shipped the tchotchkes, unrolled the graphics and set out the brochures. Your team waits with quiet anticipation as the show opens. Then the worst happens: nobody comes to your booth. You have no foot traffic, no visual interest, no gimmick and almost no visitors.

It’s happened to all of us. I had a particularly disappointing show at Interop some years ago. I had just joined the company and didn’t have time to rethink and redo the show. I went with “what we had.” A picture of our booth is below. It was a poor booth, with an abundance of confusing messaging in a poor location deep in the back of the Las Vegas Convention Center. On the positive side, we learned a TON. You should also learn from every less than 100% trade show.

Can you find all 11 messages?

Can you find all 11 messages?

What were some of the things we learned?

You must be seen to be heard. Our train wreck location was in the big hall at the Las Vegas convention center. Our booth was located right behind the 2-story office, bathroom and concession center. The thinking was that folks would see us as they were walking to the bathroom or to get food. It was an awful location. Our line of sight was nonexistent. Since the bathroom center had entrances on both sides, most people never went behind this. Only people in our sparsely-populated short end of the hall would pass us. We were completely hidden from the main part of the hall.

Use effective booth messaging. The message needs to answer ”the question” which is: “So what do you guys do?” In messaging trade shows, less is more. At the train wreck show, there were 11 messages visible from one angle. Not one of them said what we did. It was a message per square foot strategy, hoping one of them would catch on. None did.

Just because you’re talking, doesn’t mean they’re listening. It’s hard to fill 10-15 chairs for your presentation with very little booth traffic. Presentations with almost no audience look painful and uninviting. Sometimes even a free t-shirt is not enough to get weary trade show attendees to give you some time and brainpower. By the time people got to our end of the show, their energy and time were both running thin.

Your ability to “call an audible” is limited. Trade shows happen on time and move quickly. Once the show begins, your ability to recover from a mistake is very limited. Almost everything you need to make changes, has a lead time, is very expensive and will come too late to make a difference. Also, since most of the show floor traffic, excitement and buzz happens on day one, recovering and having a great day three is admirable, but unlikely to make the same impact as day one

If your booth location is bad, seek another. I can’t stress this enough. If you have poor location, start early and work to change it with your show rep every day for potential cancellations or floor movements. If you are forced in a bad spot, work with the show to find a way to make up for it; additional signage, an advertisement in the show guide, something! Ask them to help people find you on the show floor.

These are just a few of the things I learned from a lousy show. You should learn from every show.

What not-so-good trade shows have you been to? What needed to be improved?

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