C. Edward Brice serves as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Lumension. In this role, Brice is responsible for leading the company’s strategic global marketing efforts; including branding, demand generation, solution marketing, partner marketing, installed base marketing, online marketing, corporate communications and public relations. We discovered quickly that Ed and the Lumension team had lots to share on digital and content-driven marketing, mastering the buying cycle and how to compete with the behemoth tech providers.
Marketing to tech professionals is much harder today. This audience is much more educated, tech savvy and more heavily engaged with online communication channels than most other target audiences. As a result they are inundated with an onslaught of targeted and automated online media, promotions, and offers and they are trying to break through all of that. Driving demand conversions is a challenging task for any marketer, but especially challenging for those of us that may not have the luxury of everyday household brand awareness. Look at industry data that shows the erosion of click-throughs and conversion rates for the tech industry along with a general shortening of buying cycles and the challenge is made crystal clear.
Another major shift I’m sure all tech marketers have seen is the balance of power that has clearly shifted from the company/vendor to the customer. Customers have much greater access to information today, and as a result, they control the relationship. They drive how and when they buy. This means marketers have to be better trained, be better suited to deliver valued content, and focus more on their customers’ and prospects’ information needs relative to their buying process. A shift in marketing focus and resources has to occur from being sales centric and enabling the sales process to investing our time and resources on supporting the prospect and customers through their buyer process. In short, marketers have to get buyer-centric not sales-centric to be relevant and achieve the engagement they need to drive a successful conversion.
Many organizations today would consider that heresy, but I believe we need to start being honest with ourselves and start viewing our sales processes as something we have historically inflicted on our buyers. It’s time to turn the tables and focus on unifying our demand efforts around enabling our buyer’s process. This has to happen in an environment where the buyer is in control and two-thirds of B2B buyers have already made a decision to short list you or not by the time they engage your sales team.
To tackle this challenge, we approach marketing as the gear box between our internal sales process and their enablement requirements and our prospects’ buying process. We ensure a buyer centric view is prioritized in our content development which supports our sales education efforts. This gear-box approach provides an ability to also prescribe appropriate content, tie in behavioral scoring from our automation system, and wrap in some prescriptive guidance about where a prospect might be in their buying cycle and what resources would be appropriate for sales to use. This hasn’t proven to be utopia, rather a small step on an evolutionary path that I believe all tech marketers will have to undertake as we drive yet another round of change in our organizations.
We are focusing our marketing efforts around three core areas: brand, demand and social. The real power is in the convergence of these three areas for delivering on our ultimate objective – stronger engagement with our customers and prospects. Since 95% of what we do is digitally-driven, we view our web site as our core engagement platform. In general we have cut back on all things non-digital, especially live events in 2011 and 2012, simply because our audience is predominantly using online channels for their core buyer-centric research. Not to mention our customers’ travel budgets have been cut. In 2012, we have seen a high growth in the number of webcast and virtual event attendees over 2011.
We started relying on social media in 2007 and we continue to increase effort there, particularly by placing priority on social listening. Two years ago, we did not see many IT buyers involved in professional social networks and communities. This has changed dramatically in 2012 and it will continue to gain momentum in 2013. The majority of IT pros are now actively involved in social communities and networks, working with each other and sharing information, every day.
Active listening and monitoring is crucial for us, so we can engage in real time conversations. For us, social is not about a pitch or promotion, so we can’t just set it and forget it. We need to be actively engaged and this effort requires a very strong content program to have meaningful, real conversations. We’ve had an active listening program for over 3 years and it’s a partnership we established with sales engineering (SE) and corporate communications. Talk about strange bedfellows, but it works exceptionally well for us. Our corporate communications team has an automated system that sends an event trigger of a mention. Our social media intern then reviews the event and whether it’s a positive or negative mention across product areas, it will be forwarded to our SE team for a real time engagement.
Content is so important to your brand, social and demand model. How do you develop content?
Today, you have to commit to quality content. It is not cheap and it takes time. If our content is low quality and misses the mark, then our entire engagement and demand model goes down the toilet. IT pros, especially security buyers, are very educated technical people who will not tolerate promotional garbage. Good content equates into an exchange of re-contactable information between prospect and marketer.
We actually think like a publisher first, and focus on our prospects buying cycle, and what content they need to move from one stage to the next. Next we think how we can produce one set of core content and how and where we can syndicate that content to get as much leverage as possible from an initial content investment. It’s really no different from a TV producer or media publisher today. Before you send out a production crew to create content, we are thinking about where and how to use it. I can have my main reality show episode, I can then use the content for the “best of show”; I can also use some of that content for the show website and the “out-take show”.
Our content strategy really begins with our buyer framework which is a basic mapping of our buyer roles, process, content requirements and preferred packaging and distribution media channel. This is a pretty basic model and it’s the core blue print for our all of marketing programs. Supporting this is our buyer persona model which helps us better understand each role to a greater degree from a emotional point of view and the nuances that our messaging and positioning need to leverage. When there is a hot topic or challenge, we rely on our buyer personas to craft angles for the content that is in response to that hot topic. This hopefully allows us to develop something that is more appealing to our audience. Again not that different from the newspaper editors of old.
Content fuels our demand engine and all levels of engagement. We use media partners like your company (UBM TechWeb), independent journalists and writers that we have in our network, bloggers, second and third tier analysts, in-house subject matter experts, and consultants. We have an advantage of being a smaller company because solutions and program marketing and corporate communications sit down the hall and share and exchange ideas all the time on our content agenda. And, our internal experts are willing to share their knowledge with a strong point of view.
You have been exploring mobile. Tell us about what you are doing?
Using our data and analytics tracking, we stated to observe a large shift in our web site visitors and prospects using mobile platforms to consume our content and interact in 2011. In fact, it compromises more than 15% of traffic on web site today. We also learned in a customer survey that only 18% of respondents had never tried to access information from a mobile device off our website. In 2012, we started an initiative to become mobile ready where we focused on mobilizing key aspects of our demand engagement platforms like our landing pages, emails and even blog to get them up and running within in mobile environments.
We also piloted a program that utilizes “click to dial” on pay-per-click click advertisements on Google. It is a big convenience for mobile users researching us on mobile platforms and due to the strong results we have seen from that program, we have now extended the initiative to our UK market. In 2013, we will focus more on designing and enhancing our user experience within specific mobile platforms with a goal to drive up our mobile conversion rates.
You believe and live by systems and analytics to meet business and revenue goals. What are you doing from a marketing ops and systems point of view?
Marketing Ops is a fundamental pillar in our organizational strategy and has responsibility for our lead management process, our data quality and analytics, and our marketing technology strategy and road map. In 2012, we focused on upgrading our marketing automation platform (MAP) and improving our team’s analytics capabilities. We still face challenges with MAP as our tech buyer process is not a linear process meaning that it’s difficult to complete the whole marketing value story within a particular deal of who we touched in that account and when. So we focus our analytics efforts on trying to complete the value picture of what marketing delivers to the company. Central to this is our contribution analysis where we look at quantifying all related and valid marketing touches within an account prior to sales creating an opportunity.
In 2013 we will continue to focus on improving our ability to deliver better “engagement” and in that goal we will look to invest in being able to QA and enrich our web-based prospect contacts with more velocity and accuracy to facilitate faster time to value generation.
One example of where this comes together now is in an initiative called “30 Minutes to Value.” We have a commitment to follow up within 30 minutes of a web inquiry. This is not a BANT (budget, authority, need, timing) call, rather it’s more of a “concierge style” of engagement in terms of asking the prospect, “how can we help you with your buying process and research?”
Even with all this great marketing automation technology and advanced behavioral scoring a lead management process is still needed and a MAP system should be viewed as supporting your lead-management process. Too often I see people relying on the MAP system as the lead process itself; when technology fills a process gap we have missed expectations and nothing but mounting challenges and compounding pain.
As a security provider, do you use “fear” or “enablement” in your marketing and messaging? What delivers for both creating demand and closing business?
There is a tremendous amount of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in the security market. To me, using fear or scare tactics is not effective long term marketing. Our content-driven approach is centered on knowledge, how-to information and managing risk. Malware, for example, is really viewed by our target audience as a “when,” not an “if” proposition. It is a cost of doing business. So we tend to focus our messaging on topics such as how to reduce risk, and better meet compliance and security requirements with limited staff and spending. You can always get a short bump in downloads going the fear route, but I don’t believe it’s the way to build long term engagement with your audience.
We are a small company, but in being content-centric, we can think and act LARGE! Let me give you a few examples.
We start by using targeted blogging to effectively communicate our ideas, provide insights, and deliver meaningful point of view across industry hot topics. When news breaks, for example, we can comment in real time via our blog. This then enables our PR team to quickly syndicate a content-ready piece to mainstream media covering the issue. I don’t know any reporters these days who aren’t looking for some cut and paste content to meet a deadline. This reality enables us to get into some main stream media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and USAToday because we move fast with turnkey content at the ready. One thing we have recently done is to package our content for easier media consumption using infographics, such as what we have done with our Patch Tuesday content, and then distribute this through our blog.
Another content-centric example is the recent virtual event we produced, SecurityScape 2012. This 2-day Virtual Event – SecuritySCAPE 2012 –had over 2,000 people register including customers, prospects, product and technology experts and analysts from major firms such as Gartner and Forrester. Just as important, the event is available on-demand so the content lives on and we can re-use and re-package in many forms and formats.
Going virtual costs me less than what I would spend at the industry’s largest annual live event. There’s no way I can go mano y mano in the physical realm against larger well funded competitors as they can simply outspend me. By being content-centric and building a large presence virtually, I can at least play in the same league and in the same virtual stadium with any competitor no matter what size they are.