The Top Challenges Facing Integrated Demand Generation Marketers and How to Overcome Them: Interview with Atri Chatterjee

Interviewer: Today I am very pleased to welcome Atri Chatterjee, the CMO of Act-On software. Atri is responsible for all things marketing at the company. How does Act-On describe themselves? Act-On software is the leading automation provider for small and midsize companies. Atri it’s a pleasure to have you here, welcome.

Atri: Thank you Glenn. It’s great to be here.

Interviewer: Last time we spoke we were talking about multichannel and integrated campaigns; and what possible with the latest software available to marketers. Share with us your perspective on how we as marketers should think about multichannel and integrated campaigns.

Interviewer: Yes Glenn, in fact, in the last few years things have really changed a lot in the world of marketing and it really involves sort of the buyers journey in terms of how people are looking at potential purchase decisions, how much time they’re spending online, and the different channels that they are using to get their information. Traditionally, we always thought of marketing as providing air cover, and sales, in the business-to-business world at least, taking down deals. But, that actually has changed quite a bit. The new buyer’s journey involves the buyers themselves spending a lot more time doing research, a lot more time getting smart about things even before they really embark on a buying process.

Interviewer: Sometimes getting smarter than the sales reps they are eventually going to talk to.

Atri: Absolutely, absolutely that’s exactly what’s happening. And that is where multichannel comes in because you as a marketer, and even as a salesperson, you have to be in the channels that your prospects and customers are using.

Interviewer: Right.

Atri: To give you an example of some of these channels, think about review sites; think about all of us we use Trip Advisor, or Yelp or things like that. Well, they are
business-to-business versions of that. For software there are places like G2 Crowd and TrustRadius which are reviewing software, etcetera. So, there are whole varieties of different areas such as this that are online. Then there are blogs, there is microblogs, there is social networks. You know, 50% of all purchasers turn to social media and look at peer reviews of products to see what people think about them.

Interviewer: Is that right, 50%? I didn’t realize that.

Atri: That’s right. And so, that’s an amazing number. The other interesting stat is that 78% start the buying process with the website, so that’s sort of understandable right? The first thing we do when we want to get smart about something, or what we learn more about something we go to Google and we start searching on it.

Interviewer: That’s why we all want to win in the SEO awards right?

Atri: Exactly. So, there inherently you have this multichannel environment. You’ve got online, latest channels online, social search, blogs, and websites. You’ve got email which is still a very important thing, people still read email. And then you’ve got physical channels. You’ve got actual print media. You’ve got physical locations. You’ve got tradeshows, and those haven’t gone away. In fact, what has happened is that in fact some of the effectiveness of those channels has increased because when people actually go out to those physical locations they’ve already done a lot of that research. So what ends up happening is when someone comes to you at a tradeshow and really wants to know more about your product chances are they’ve already done a lot of research, and now they are further along that buying cycle and they want to actually make that physical connection with you.

Interviewer: That’s an interesting point. So, at that level it’s now more meaningful conversation to the buyer because they’re not just at the awareness stage. They are now down lower in the funnel.

Atri: Absolutely, that’s exactly what’s happening. Unlike in earlier times when people would show up at your booth at a tradeshow and they didn’t know a thing about what you were doing and you had to start from scratch to try to explain to them.

Atri: That doesn’t happen very much anymore.

Interviewer: Very interesting observation. Okay good, tell us more.

Atri: Well, so therein lies multichannel. That’s why, as a marketer, you have to start looking at how is your campaign going to work across those different channels. How do you use assets when you create a thought leadership piece, or a white paper, or a particular asset that you’re going to use, or a set of assets that you’re going to use; how do you use them across those different channels and take advantage of where people are and what they’re doing in that particular environment. For example . . .

Interviewer: Before you jump in, isn’t there another element here which is I don’t necessarily know what kind of channel my buyer prefers. They might prefer video. They might prefer reading. They might prefer communities. They might prefer even a podcast right, so I have to kind of the everywhere.

Atri: True. That’s absolutely right, and all you have to do is – and I think some of the things you need to take into account is that in those different channels you have to do things just slightly differently in order to get their attention.

Interviewer: Right.

Atri: For example, on your website, chances are that people when they come there and they are reading something and they want to download the white paper they’re okay with getting long form content. On social media, on LinkedIn for example, they don’t want to see the whole white papers; they may be one of see a summary version of it. Or, in social media, on say Facebook, they may want a little app that plays a game that tells them how to best estimate their return on investment on a particular investment of money in a particular area. So, the way you want to engage the customer in these different channels is slightly different. And then of course there is video. Go to YouTube and put up video there. You want to keep it short. You want to keep it to the point. It should be a preview of something that you may want to offer and a more expanded form on your website.

Interviewer: I have a question for you. How do you integrate those touch points?

Atri: That’s where technology like marketing automation comes in. You create these assets you want to manage them in one place. You want to create certain variations of these assets; put them out on different channels, but you also want to be able to measure the responses that come back from those different channels.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Atri: You want to see how they’re doing. One of the very important things for a marketer in today’s world is to look at how campaigns are performing across their different channels so they can get a better idea of how best to mix those channels.

Interviewer: What about, everybody asks us the question about attribution. How do you think about attribution when I’m going multichannel?

Atri: We look at sort of attribution, it can get as complicated as you want it for you can start simple and then refine it and get more sophisticated over time. We often encourage our customers to start simple; you can always make things more complicated. You start off with attribution across different assets with the sources that you’re usi for your campaigns. That’s one thing. How is a particular asset doing, or a white paper or something? Then you want to look at how those assets are doing across the different channels so that you can combine and say “Oh yeah, this particular asset, this particular video did a lot better on Facebook than it did on LinkedIn for example. And now you’ve got a better sense of how an asset is doing and also how it’s doing across channels. And the important thing about those channels, also some of those channels are going to be paid for channels, so now you can start measuring the return on investment on a particular channel so that you can decide. I often talk to our customers about this is a common problem, which is what happens if your boss told you that you had another hundred thousand dollars to spend in the next two months; what would you spend it on in order to be able to help the company make it number? So, when you look at that problem, that question, you start thinking about well, where do I get the best qualified leads; how do I get the most number of them, and how do I make sure I get them from the channel where the leads are actually further qualified so that they close fast enough so that they actually make an impact for that quarter?

Interviewer: Right.

Atri: So, when you come back to think about attribution you look at those different channels. You look at the money you’re spending in those different channels. You look at the assets that are most effective in those channels and you measure that. Then you get to the next level of complexity I think which is the asset is what you call first [00:10:22 – Indecipherable] attribution; what is the thing that actually drew people in and got them interested.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Atri: And then there is what were the assets that contributed to it. So, you may already have a prospect in your pipeline, but they came to a webinar and they just got more educated, and the webinar influenced them to get further along the line to become a customer. So, that’s what we call a multi-touch or along the way what happened, what was the influence the marketing channel had on that particular customer. So, as you can see it gets sophisticated, it gets complicated, but my advice to customers is start simple, start measuring things and then you’ll find more and more things that you want to have answers to and you get to a level of sophistication that works for your business. And each business is slightly different so everyone doesn’t need the same formula.

Interviewer: Good point, good point. Now Atri, you and I spoke about one particular company that is doing some very interesting things, and you had a story for us. I’d like for you to jump in and share that with us.

Atri: Yeah, I would love to do that. The company is Lego Education. So many people are probably familiar with the name Lego, the toymaker based out of Europe, out of Denmark. They also – a lot of people don’t know this; they actually sell into the education market. Lego Education is a customer of ours in the US. The education part of the market is not as big as the toy, the general retail toy part of the market. But, what’s interesting is that they have approached the US education market, particularly elementary education, and have a set of Lego products that can be used in the school as part of the education curriculum. So, this is just setting the background for you. Lego sales to both the educator, the teacher, as well as to the administrators, so it’s a typical business-to-business type of marketing and sales process. It just so happens that the product is toys. And they do a whole set of things. Lego’s website has a whole section for the education vertical. They do a lot of email. They do a lot of social media promotions. In that, the education market, in the teachers and also the administrators they vary the content. Obviously teachers want to know about how the toys can help with the education. Administrators get a slightly different message about the economics, and the value and the benefit that comes from being able to use Lego products as part of the curriculum. So, that’s how they use this across multiple channels. They also do a lot of physical events because they sell this to a direct sales organization. The direct sales organization as territories, obviously map to states and school districts within states. And they host events there where there is a physical presence where teachers and administrators come and get to an educational event they go to a Lego booth and they can see some the products that they have there, and they can have an interactive discussion with live sales and marketing people.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Atri: So, they sort of blend all of that in because their campaigns start on the web, get promoted on social media, they also are present at the physical events such as the trade shows and mixers that they have in different territories. All of that comes together as part of their unified marketing campaign that they do in North America to promote Lego education products.

Interviewer: So, they are thinking very holistically. They’re thinking how do I communicate from a multichannel standpoint and how do I integrate those campaigns. It sounds like just out of the box that’s how they’re thinking about it.

Atri: Absolutely, absolutely they approach it in a very sophisticated marketers – setting very simplistic products that help kids but the way they market it, particularly to the education market, is quite sophisticated and quite involved. Firstly, they understand their buyers. They know that there are two categories of buyers. They have the economic buyer and then they have the so-called line of business fire, the teacher; and they have different needs. And they have different and related messages for both of them.

Interviewer: Excellent, now one of the things you spoke about and I think Lego might’ve been an example, is going beyond lead to revenue. In other words, marketers tend to focus on the funnel and the handoff to the sales organization, and you were talking to me a little bit about how do I retain and expand from within my customer base and think about marketing to my customers. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Atri: Absolutely, if you look at – the thing that we were talking about Glenn was marketing and people often associate marketing with essentially being the front end of the sales process, so it’s how do I get from lead to revenue. How do I get a lead, try to qualify that lead, make it into a customer? You don’t think about sort of like what else happens.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Atri: What’s interesting is marketing is one of the few organizations that, it’s probably the only organization in the company that should be involved throughout the lifecycle of customer. From the time that they are a suspect to the time that they become a lead, they become an opportunity where there is actually a real value associated with that, and then making that opportunity into a customer. Then that customer becomes hopefully an engaged customer and then an advocate and a fan, and a more valuable customer.

Interviewer: Right.

Atri: If you think about in particular organizations you’ve got the sales organization, which is largely focused on taking those opportunities and making them into customers.

Interviewer: Right.

Atri: You’ve got some sort of a support organization. Even companies like Comcast and phone companies and things like that, there’s a phone support organization that deals with customer issues. And there is typically a marketing organization that frankly has the unique purview of being able to see all of that. Marketers get involved before something becomes an opportunity, continues to interact with that. After the customer becomes a customer it really should be marketing’s responsibility to continue to engage with the customer. It’s not just the customer support organization’s responsibility. As a result of that, make that customer a happy customer and make them into a more valuable customer. You know, the numbers support this in the sense that it costs six to seven times more to get a new customer than to sell something to an existing customer. That’s just plain and simple. That’s a study that was done a long time ago by [00:17:44 – Indecipherable] and by Harvard Business School. So, it makes sense that we should spend time and effort marketing to our existing customers, understanding them better and making them more valuable customers. More often than not you don’t do that.

Interviewer: Yeah, Atri why do you think that is? I encounter many marketing organizations that just don’t focus on the customer after sale except for periodic campaigns into the install base. And I think it’s because somehow they are not measured on this. That’s my theory. I’m wondering what you think.

Atri: Yeah, I think it’s a combination of things. I think that measurement is definitely one of them, if they’re not measured on it. And it’s also not set up as the charter of the marketing organization. So, now, there are some top-performing organizations where that happens, but a lot of organizations that doesn’t happen. Also there is so much emphasis in new business and in getting new customers in through the funnel and that seems to be where all the action is. Part of it is that’s where all the glory is and that may be just [00:19:07 – Crosstalk]. It’s so much more glorious to win a deal, brand-new deal. But really what’s happening in most successful companies you’ll find that a lot of the business comes from existing customers.

Interviewer: One of the challenges I know associated with it is a lot of companies just don’t have good data about their customers, and that creates a real challenge if I want to start leveraging that information to drive campaigns into it. Do you see that as well?

Atri: Absolutely, absolutely understanding what customers are doing, data on the customers is really important. It starts with; firstly we have multiple systems, so information gets captured in a sales force automation system, maybe in a marketing automation system and a sales force automation system. Then we get into other systems, the billing systems that the finance organization uses, etc. I think one important thing is to at least have a plan to see how can you look at all of this information because you can factor that in to get a view of customers. Example, you’re selling a product; you want to know which of your customers are using the product and who aren’t.

Interviewer: Um hm, um hm.

Atri: You are invoicing them. You want to know which customers are paying their bills on time and who aren’t. You’ve got a customer support system. You want to know which customers are asking questions and having problems and how many are filing support tickets and aren’t. As a result of that you can build using that information, and that’s not difficult. You can build a view into your current customers, and you can start looking at it and saying what are these – before we even start doing campaigns one of the things we talked about Glenn was companies doing episodic marketing campaigns into the customer base. Most of the campaigns end up being vanilla campaigns. They end up being newsletters and promotions and things like that without any intelligence of what the customer really needs. It’s a sort of one-size-fits-all blast into the customer base hoping that there will be some results. And there are some results to come back because at any given time there is always someone who is interested in something. But imagine if you could actually factor all this information about the customer and then better communicate with them both on a one to [00:21:28 – Indecipherable] level so that when you go out to a tradeshow you can invite all your customers in that particular region to come and meet with you and you’ve actually got a good view into who they are. You have so much more of an engaging dialogue with them, and they’ll feel so much better about it. And then even on a more one to many perspective when you can segment based on information that you have on customers so that the thing that you’re offering them becomes more relevant to what they need. It could be as much as a refresher on better using the product which means you’re not trying to get money out of them, or it could be selling something because you found that they could be right for using another product because the behavior for what they’re using.

Interviewer: Well thank you that’s great. I think we need to think a lot more about capturing that information. And you’re right about starting simple. If we can start simply that we don’t have to overcomplicate things then we can know more about our customers and market to them more effectively. I wish we could talk longer but we are actually out of time. So, Atri thank you so much for being part of this and I am confident the listeners have learned something because I know I have today. Thank you.

Atri: Thanks Glenn it’s a pleasure being on.

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