Ever wonder how much you spend managing leads collected from Trade Shows?

A case study of Validar eating its own dog food at Dreamforce 09.

Validar just returned from exhibiting at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual Users Conference in which we generated 148 leads in three days.  This event is the biggest gathering in the world of Salesforce.com users which is a target market for us.  Salesforce.com users can leverage Validar Lead Import with our Lead Capture product suite to get the complete marketing picture which includes the elusive ROI calculation.   Overall it was an absolutely great show with excellent content and smart people attending.  The downside for us, it was very expensive to be there!  We need to close some business to justify the expense which means we need to be smart with regards to how we manage our leads.

As expected, we qualified leads at capture, which was essentially asking some questions and associating the responses to those leads.    Depending on how the questions were answered, we associated respondents in to three simple categories:

1)      “Sales Ready” – I have a need and request sales follow-up post event.

2)      “Incubation” – Our Company can benefit but it’s not the right time to talk OR  I am not the right person.  Put me on your mailing list or send me an email and I will refer to the correct person.

3)      “Trinket Seeker” – We were giving away a Kindle.  These folks wanted to win the Kindle and desired no follow-up.  This is a great way for attendees to control how they will be treated post event.

1)       Here is a graphical view of our data:

Dreamforce chart

Validar has a direct sales model, made up of both inside and outside sales teams.   Inside sales is responsible for incubation and nurturing of existing leads that are not quite ready to purchase.   Outside sales is responsible for following up on “Sales Ready’ leads.  The day after Dreamforce all Sales Ready leads were in outside sales hands, the Incubation leads were handed over to Inside Sales and the Trinket seekers will be treated as requested, no follow up.

Validar’s focus will be on the 45 “Sales Ready” leads.  We need to convert 15% of these in order to meet our revenue goals.  All indicators are positive with the campaign already showing a pipeline that exceeds our revenue goal.

Now, compare this to the large percentage of exhibitors at Dreamforce who were simply scanning as many leads as they could.  An exhibitor we spoke to had a lead scan quota (roughly 24X larger than our actual scanned leads) that they were trying to meet.  In these cases, every lead they captured is uncategorized and will need to be treated as “Sales Ready”.  This creates a tremendous waste of valuable time and money chasing bad data.  Also, most of the folks that were scanned will unwillingly be receiving calls and emails inquiring about products and services that they are not interested in.  Sales typically will try 6 to 8 times to determine a leads validity. That is a lot of effort chasing bad data even if you use a valuable incubation engine.   I have been in this scenario and hate it!  Sales, Attendees, and Marketing all get frustrated.   One last thing–it will take conservatively a month for these companies to identify the true Sales Ready Leads even with an incubation engine, which by this time have already reduced in number by simple lead decay.  How many of your Sales Ready leads are still Sales Ready four weeks after the event?   With a conservative 10% lead decay rate  reduction I would find 40 opportunities versus the 45 we had immediately after the event.

Assuming Validar would have captured leads in this manner at Dreamforce, (Forcing Sales to treat all 148 leads as if they were Sales Ready) how much money would have we wasted chasing bad data and lost through standard lead decay?  Validar has built a model that identifies this figure.

This model takes into account the following metrics in its calculations:

  • Fully Burdened wages of our inside and direct sales reps.
  • Step by step process and time associated with manually processing and distributing all leads to sales versus Validar’s automation.
  • Step by step process of nurturing all 148 leads.
  • Average sales price.
  • Average close rates for “Sales Ready” and “Incubation” leads.

With these metrics in mind, Validar saved $4,710 by identifying “Sales Ready” at capture and automating the process of posting this activity to Sales and the associating Campaign within Salesforce.com.  We are also conservatively projecting an increase in expected units sold for this show from 6.5 to 8.17 based upon reduced lead decay in lead follow up.  This represents $67,000 in increased opportunity and sales provided we can close.  All indicators are in alignment already with regards to our ability to meet these projections.  Woo Hoo!

Dreamforce GAP

We’re a small company that exhibits at very few shows.  Imagine the impact qualifying leads at capture can have for a large program.  Call us if you want to model out one of your shows.  You’ll be amazed at the opportunity to reduce cost and increase revenue.

Corporate Events – A sales person’s perspective on users’ conferences

As a recovering sales manager and active sales person, this story may resonate with those of you who produce internal corporate events as a means to increase sales to existing and prospective customers. Today, I still see corporate events being managed in a similar fashion with regards to data capture and hopefully this will get your mind flowing for 2010 planning.

I used to manage a large sales team for a $120 million company in Seattle; we sold a large enterprise application with an average sales price of $125,000. Every year we would put on our Annual Users’ Conference that customers and prospects from all over the world would attend. We would typically have over 600 attendees with break-out sessions spread across three days. The sessions covered new product releases, support issues, and training. I had a total of 25 sales reps reporting to me from three regions, each with their VIP customers attending. These customers were either prospects or existing customers at different stages in a sales cycle considering a large capital purchase of our software and services. Like my team, I was compensated on quarterly quota achievement and forecasting accuracy. Essentially a large percentage of my pipeline was walking the floors of the Hyatt Regency. I found this simultaneously very exciting and nerve wracking as new products, pricing and value were being presented from folks not under my control.

Questions like these were always popping up in my mind:

  • Where is Cindy from AGT, and Dawn from Providian? The deals with them are forecasted to close this quarter.
  • Did they see the presentation that Jack gave on our latest release?
  • Did Jack piss them off with his rancid humor? Oh man, I hope not.
  • Did he cover the new features appropriately?
  • Did John from Capital One go to the session on our new telemarketing module or is he golfing with Rob?

Meanwhile, my calendar was packed with customer meetings, so I was unable to find the answers. Whenever I saw one of my sales reps without one of their VIPS, I immediately bombarded them with questions they couldn’t answer. They were in the same situation as I was and could only manage one customer at a time. Post Users Conference, I was running blind and unclear of the impact this show would have on my ability to make my number. Session feedback was sparse and solely speaker focused; plus it would take my team anywhere from 30 to 45 days to determine the impact.

I simply wanted to know– in real-time,–who was attending the event, where they went and what they thought.

EMC Feedback sign
This is easier said than done. Validar has had the pleasure of working with some of the smartest event marketing companies in the world this year. As a sales person, I would have loved to get data from these shows. What they do well is appropriately ask questions during the various touch points– pre event registration, on-site check-in, session tracking and evaluation, and keynote evaluation—to further gauge the attendee’s interest level. Additionally they provide incentives and run contests to elicit feedback and ensure their response rates are high. The questions they ask are focused on propensity to buy and were developed in collaboration with the sales team. They also used technology to improve the delivery of these answers so if follow-up is needed it is done at an appropriate time.
Feed back incentive

Feed back incentive

Our clients’ successful event efforts involved both the sales and marketing entities. I can’t stress how important this is and how I would have appreciated this opportunity in my previous role. We’ll be publishing a case study on this topic soon. Please let us know if you have questions or want to learn more.

MTI-Interactive: Smart Lead Generation

MTI-Interactive uses Validar solutions to improve lead collection, justify marketing budgets, and effectively assign leads to sales reps.

For the last 30 years, MTI-Interactive (MTI) has developed SKU-activated merchandising that helps both retailers and manufacturers sell complex products by letting consumers interact with products before buying them. When Helen Stonhill signed on as the marketing communications manager at MTI, she quickly realized that the company needed to jettison manual, paper-based lead capture processes and import leads more effectively into Salesforce.com. By adopting Validar Lead Capture, Validar Lead Source Manager, and Validar Lead Import with AnySource, MTI has been able to:

  • Ask leads qualifying questions at the point of capture
  • Develop web forms that collect and categorize qualified leads
  • Pass leads to the appropriate sales person
  • Justify marketing budgets by quantifying initiative impact

Losing Lead Intelligence
In the past, MTI collected a lot of unqualified leads at large trade shows such as CES and GlobalShop using wands that swiped badges to capture contact information. The wand also printed paper the MTI sales person could use to write notes. “After the show, all the notes went into a box that nobody ever touched again,” says Stonhill.

At some shows, MTI used lead management software provided by organizers, which at least allowed employees to electronically capture notes. However, importing these into MTI’s Salesforce.com application wasn’t straightforward. “There was a lot of duplication and other problems when records didn’t match up exactly,” adds Stonhill. “I knew there had to be a better way to collect qualified leads and get them into Salesforce.com.”

Qualification Through Questioning
When MTI began using Validar Lead Capture software, the company gained the ability to ask prospects questions at the point of lead capture. “We find out if they’re familiar with us, what type of product they want to merchandise, whether they already use an MTI product, and what exactly they are looking for,” explains Stonhill. “Do they want to resell our product? Are they looking to integrate our technology into their fixtures? By getting answers to these questions, we know how to follow-up.”

In addition, asking these questions helps MTI put leads into the right Salesforce queue. Because Validar Lead Capture lets MTI add notes from the show floor, no intelligence is lost—allowing sales people to follow up appropriately with the prospect. Furthermore, sales people know that when they get leads, they are worth pursuing.

When asked whether companies that don’t qualify leads at the point of capture are at a disadvantage, Stonhill doesn’t hesitate. “Absolutely,” she says. “You should be asking prospects questions when they approach you for the first time. If you don’t ask, you don’t know whether you should follow up. And, if you call prospects who talked with a sales person at your booth for 20 minutes, but you don’t know anything about it, they’ll likely feel you’ve wasted their time.”

Salesforce.com Integration
Getting qualified leads into Salesforce.com was no longer a huge headache once MTI implemented Validar Import for AppExchange with Anysource. It interfaces directly with Salesforce.com, identifying duplicates and simplifying distribution to sales teams with lead categorization functionality. “I love the fact that Validar lets us customize our import process and decide how we want things imported,” says Stonhill. “And we can have the process happen automatically—we don’t need to get the Salesforce.com administrator involved.”

Stonhill continues, “Getting our leads into Salesforce.com is seamless and easy now. At CES this year, we loaded leads into Salesforce.com the same day we collected them.”

Not only were leads passed to the sales team quickly, Stonhill had an immediate view into the show’s performance thanks to Validar Lead Source Manager. “Every night at CES, I could send a report to the CEO about how many leads we gathered and which products interested them,” notes Stonhill. “I even had bar charts that made it very easy for me to illustrate the show’s performance.”

More Than Events
Noting how easy Validar makes it to capture and qualify leads at events, MTI began using Validar software to create AnySource forms to capture qualified leads on its website. The company has a basic form on the contact page and another for a video demonstration. People can click on the video when they see something that captures their interest. “The form lets us know right away how we should follow up with the prospect,” says Stonhill. “We not only know which part of the video was compelling to them, we ask them questions about the type of product they want to merchandise. As a result, we can send leads to the right sales rep.”

Justifying The Marketing Budget
Stonhill also appreciates the fact that Validar solutions have helped her quantify the value of events and other marketing initiatives. “Measurement is very important because marketing can be one of the hardest line items to justify to the board,” explains Stonhill. “Validar lets us assign our leads to a campaign or event when we import them into Salesforce.com. As a result, I can show how different campaigns have influenced a sales opportunity. If a prospect visited our website and came to our booths at CES and GlobalShop, then I can easily say that these three marketing touch points influenced the opportunity. It also helps me amortize my web and event costs.”

“I can even attach a dollar value to the leads we’ve generated through various campaigns,” continues Stonhill. “For a given event, for example, we could show that we gathered 250 leads, which created 15 opportunities with potential revenue of $10 million.”

Stonhill concludes: “Validar has helped us capture qualified leads, get them into the hands of the right sales people, and quantify the value of our marketing efforts. There’s no downside to Validar solutions.”

Are you losing business because of your landing pages? Let your leads control how they are treated

You might find yourself thinking: “Landing pages are a turnoff. I hate providing information simply to get access to a white paper or content that is of interest. I like to shop around before making a decision and definitely don’t want a pushy salesperson bugging me if I inquire about a webinar. Just let me have the content and I will tell if I want to talk. OK?” I think this myself when grabbing content from the Internet.

Marketing organizations today spend millions of dollars annually creating great content describing their company’s products and services as a means to educate customers, entice prospects, and streamline the sales process.  The effort and creativity I have seen produced by our customers’ is amazing. But all of those departments suffer from the same fundamental challenges:

  1. How can I articulate the true value of these efforts and make sure that gets back to my organization?
  2. How much revenue did I generate for my company based on this content or campaign, and how can I get credit for this effort?

As we all know, marketing budgets have a tendency to be the first ones cut due to these challenges.

Sales perspective

I have been the recipient of leads for many years as a direct sales contributor and have also managed a large sales team of lead recipients. Through this experience, I know firsthand the frustration Sales has in following up on leads who visited your trade show exhibit or downloaded a white paper only to find out eight touches later that those leads were interested in the squishy ball or just curious about the white paper topic.

It’s a strange problem: the respondent, marketer, and lead recipient all experience frustration with regards to landing pages.  Sales wants good leads, Marketing wants the credit they deserve for their great content, and the respondent wants to be treated in a specific manner. What should you do?

Ask.

Ask appropriately, though, given your goals and objectives. You are doing yourself and the respondent a favor by enabling them to tell you how they want to be treated. If your campaign goal is to build a mailing list, keep your form clean, simple, and inviting. Always include an opt-out. You’ll be amazed at how many people will complete a form when given an opportunity to tell you they are just curious and don’t want to be bothered. Also, if they tell you on their form submission that they don’t want to be bothered, don’t incubate them. This will build trust in your community.

There is a tremendous value to organizations in asking.

“Drive Higher Sales Conversions: Ask the Right questions during Lead Capture”

There is also an art to it.  We’ll be publishing a white paper soon on this topic. Stay tuned.

Are Your Marketing Efforts Undervalued? Stop Measuring Marketing!

Cost per lead, conversions per month, leads per show, white paper downloads, time on Web site, Web site visits, webinar attendees, webinar registrants who did not attend, user conference attendees, click-through metrics, return Web site visitors… I can go on and on. These are all interesting metrics, but does Marketing really get credit for a positive increase when it’s budget time? In most cases, no.

I am continually amazed at the creativity of our customers in generating interest in their products through their marketing efforts, whether it is at a trade show or user’s conference, or in Web site content or webinars. Through these efforts new opportunities (leads) are identified and delivered to Sales for closure. Credit usually stops here, though with Marketing value implied and Sales value recognized. It’s not fair! It all comes down to revenue production, and today marketers are not getting the credit they deserve.

There are three metrics that should be readily available to Marketing and executive management on a campaign-by-campaign basis: projected revenue, pipeline revenue, and actual revenue. Also, the metric that all C level leaders are interested in seeing is Campaign Cost per Order Dollar (CPOD). By accurately capturing this metric, an organization will know whether the revenue generated from a particular campaign warrants the cost and effort or whether it is better off spending its marketing dollars elsewhere. How do you accurately capture this metric?

It requires a collaborative effort on Sales and Marketing’s behalf, a good closed-loop marketing solution, and CRM implementation. Also, there are many smart people available to help. Lead Management guru Brian Carroll comes to mind. Chris Koch does as well.

Please let us know if you are interested in learning more.

Intergraph Corporation: Event Lead Overhaul

Quick qualification and import of event leads into Salesforce.com helps the Intergraph sales process.

How do you more quickly get qualified leads into your sales pipeline after events? Just ask Intergraph Corporation (Intergraph), a global provider of engineering and geospatial software that helps customers in more than 60 countries build and operate plants and ships, create intelligent maps, and protect people and critical infrastructure around the world. By transforming its lead capture process, Intergraph has been able to:

  • Qualify leads at the time of lead capture
  • Get leads into the sales pipeline in minutes rather than weeks
  • Reduce lead decay and leads lost to fast-acting competitors
  • Improve cooperation between sales and marketing teams

 

Inefficient, Paper-based Lead Capture
Every year, Intergraph attends more than 50 events and user conferences in the U.S. alone. While generating leads has always been a top priority at these events, Intergraph lacked an efficient method for qualifying leads and getting them into the sales pipeline quickly after events. “We used paper lead sheets at shows to collect basic demographic information,” explains Faun Langston, the Salesforce.com application manager at Intergraph. “Because we have a global sales force, it was a tedious and time-consuming manual process to enter leads into Salesforce.com after each event,” adds Jeff Paddock, senior event manager at Intergraph.
What’s more, everyone had their own way of processing leads. “Sometimes I got Excel spreadsheets, sometimes lead sheets,” recalls Langston. “We would get countries with different spellings, lines of business, and other relevant information with no standardization of data, making it difficult to import the leads into Salesforce.com. It took hours and hours of work and often we had to call the people collecting leads to clarify information.”

Finding the Right Partner
When Intergraph was ready to make a change, Langston and Paddock looked to a company they thought would have some answers. “At a global event, we asked Salesforce.com employees how they track leads,” says Langston. “They pointed us to Validar’s booth.” It didn’t take Intergraph long to realize that Validar would be the right partner to help Intergraph streamline its event lead capture and qualification process.

Asking the Right Questions
The first step in transforming Intergraph’s event lead qualification process was switching from a paper-based lead capture process to an electronic one. Instead of completing lead sheets, Intergraph employees at events began to use card scanners and barcode readers to capture leads with Validar Lead Capture.

The second step was introducing lead qualification questions during the lead capture process. Intergraph employees now ask budget, authority, need, and timeframe (BANT) questions to assess the lead’s sales readiness and ability to authorize sales. Depending on the answers given, leads are immediately ranked as “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D” based on company-wide standardized criteria.

Importing to Salesforce CRM
At the end of each day or after a show is over, the ranked leads are imported into Salesforce.com using Validar Lead Import for AppExchange, which interfaces directly with Salesforce.com. Whereas it once took up to a week to get leads to the sales team, it now happens within minutes—and takes only a few clicks. Instead of relying on Langston to import all the leads into Salesforce.com, each person working an event does it themselves, removing the bottleneck.

“The sales team can put aside the ‘D’ leads that need nurturing and immediately follow up on ‘A’ leads,” says Langston. “We no longer worry that the sales team isn’t chasing people with a one-hundred-million dollar budget and a willingness to purchase in the next three-to-five months. The sales team knows who they are at a glance.”

Paddock adds, “It’s a lot more efficient than what we were doing before. What’s more, we’re able to capture more information about our leads. Within minutes of a show’s close, we have leads in Salesforce.com that are automatically coded into the right sections for the sales team.”

Making It Easy

One of the things Langston likes most about Validar solutions are their ease of use. Because people on the show floor are responsible for uploading the leads they’ve captured into Salesforce.com, it was critical that the process be extremely intuitive. When Intergraph explained that it still wasn’t easy enough for less technical people to upload leads, Validar worked with Intergraph to modify the solution so that virtually anyone could easily upload leads. “With Validar’s help, we addressed user issues with an intuitive, one-click solution for uploading leads following an event,” says Langston.
“Validar Lead Import includes a wizard that walks users through processing a lead, which makes it easy to get lead information in to Salesforce.com,” says Langston. “Validar also provides metrics about the event for easy viewing and analysis in a portal.”

Benefiting From The Results

Using Validar software, Intergraph has transformed its event lead capture and qualification process into one that’s highly effective in transferring qualified event leads into the sales pipeline. “We are providing ranked leads to sales and marketing in a productive timeframe.
When asked about their experiences working with Validar, Langston and Paddock agree that Validar is much more than a software vendor. “Validar’s customer support makes it one of the best partners I’ve ever worked with—the level of collaboration we have with Validar is amazing,” says Langston. Paddock adds, “We can call them 24/7 and get help. Once they solved a problem we had at an event through no fault of theirs within two hours—on a Sunday. Validar is not just a vendor. The company is a long-term partner that provides Intergraph with a solution vital to our event lead process.”