Stuff that Works: Insights on Creating Customer Pipeline

Greg_nessGreg Ness, VP Marketing at cloud app provider CloudVelox, is a proven practitioner of data-driven marketing and a wizard at creating demand and customer pipeline for products and services.  My first work with Greg was at Redline Networks a few business cycles ago.  I’ve seen his work firsthand through engagements at Juniper Networks, Blue Lane Technologies, InfoBlox, and other players in the B2B tech space.

Greg’s relentless focus on marketing outcomes, customer needs and investing in programs that deliver a pipeline of business opportunity was his core mission long before this was marketing’s primary mandate – and before marketers had all the available tools and technology.  I talked with Greg to get his view to contrast “old school” demand generation tactics with today’s modern techniques and see what we could glean from a seasoned pro.

Scott: Let’s cut to the chase – show us your playbook: three things that simply work and are staples in your marketing playbook to create business opportunities/pipeline?

Greg: While tactics can change from one company or market to the next, I think there are three things that always seem to be key:

1) Having a very clear understanding of the prospect/customer and what he or she cares about – what resonates.  

2)  Developing highly impactful content that builds credibility as much as it persuades.

3)  Getting as close to real-time data from the top to the bottom of the pipeline.  Sometimes that can be difficult, because the level of the activity may not support the investment.  Yet conversion rates by MQL, SAL, SQL and PoC by program, region and individual is key to competitive advantage.

Scott: You’ve been measuring ROI for a decade plus.  Is technology and automation good or bad for marketing? Where does it add value? And where does it hinder your efforts?

Greg: Tech and automation are changing the game for the better.  Twenty years ago the consumer goods marketers were at the top of the food chain because they had tighter feedback loops (timely sales data; variables that were easier to isolate; and the frequent use of market research, from focus groups to quant methods tying awareness, preference, revenue to spend).  Tech marketing has caught up fast thanks to the evolution of marketing automation and new integrated marketing platforms that can harvest, compile and analyze data.

It can hinder marketing in some cases, such as when the first data comes in and one is tempted to overreact before there is a statistically significant finding and erroneous changes might be made.

Scott: What are the good points about all this MarTech we’re adopting and what are the drawbacks?

Greg: Marketing execs are becoming more data-driven.  Opinions can be justified.  Yet, Mark Twain's comments about statistics being revealing but not vital means that numbers can be over read.  Hence, the value of focus groups and interraction at events and through social media.

 Scott: What marketing metrics do you use to grade and benchmark your work?  Would this list change if you were presenting to your boss (the CEO) or to your sales executive partner?

Greg: In my opinion credibility is the most important contribution of solid marketing for startups with disruptive tech.  Then the cost-effective production of leads with well-aligned, credible content.  Awareness is key after credibility is established.  I view the partnership between sales and marketing as the core of a successful team.  Without a partnership, little is possible; with it, anything is possible.

Scott: How are you evaluated as a marketing executive today?  Is it fair? And will this change in the next 18-24 months?

Greg: Leads, leads, leads; followed by third-party endorsements, conversion rates and sales productivity.  Increasingly I think marketing will be tied to sales success and metrics will become the tools used to enhance sales productivity versus simply the regular reporting of data to execs.

Scott: What do you do in your role to stay connected to and groovin’ with sales colleagues?

Greg: I try to proactively reach out to sales managers and survey their needs, opinions and challenges.  It’s all about teamwork.

Scott: How do you see the role of Marketing Operations/Demand Gen evolving over time? Will it be much different in two years?

Greg: I think we'll see more automation and integration, tighter feedback loops.  We’ll see more sophisticated causal analysis between programs and outcomes. For example, at one company we did a quad analysis of ten years of programs based on lead quantity and revenue contribution (HH, HL, LH, LL) and discovered that an old piece of freeware buried on the website was the best program of all time.  Rather than invest in a new white paper we invested in enhancing the freeware and making it more prominent. The results were immediately apparent. I think we will see more of that going forward.

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