Erin Cresta, Director of Americas’ Campaigns, leads a team of marketing professionals focused on engaging and activating HP Software’s community of prospects and customers. Erin and her colleagues have focused on creating demand for HP products and solutions utilizing lead generation programs, while building their brand via relationship marketing. Not an easy task and one that takes constant tuning. We recently spoke with Erin to get her insights and tap into her experience.
Demand/lead generation has been all the rage, especially coming off a very tough economic environment. How are you allocating your efforts between lead generation and branding?
A significant portion of our regional budget is directed towards demand generation. We still invest in traditional awareness and branding activities but also utilize lower cost online vehicles like social media, banner ads, and virtual tradeshows. We also focus on participating and speaking in industry events like the InformationWeek 500 Conference.
How are you building and managing relationships with HP’s best prospects and customers? And, is this changing?
We pay close attention to managing customer touch, so our prospects and customers opt in to communicate with us, and so their needs are met promptly by the team that can best address their specific business challenges – whether it’s marketing, support & services, sales, the channel, or other HP business groups.
Our customers want to hear from other customers. We listen to them. One of our marquee events is the HP Software & Solutions’ Executive Track, co-located with HP Software Universe (www.hpsoftwareuniverse2010.com). It is a one and a half day event designed for CIO’s and VPs in our top accounts. We pack the agenda with customer panels and case studies. Our speakers talk about how they leverage HP solutions, but the heart of an IT transformation story really centers around change management practices, organizational realignment, and resulting business outcomes – the “how”, not the “what”. This year’s track, sponsored by HP Enterprise Services, will feature discussions around innovation, the business ready data center, application modernization, and managing the public/private cloud infrastructure. When execs take several days out of the office to attend an event, they want to walk away least one new idea to improve how they run their business. So, we also deliver leadership content that will help them be more successful in their own careers, and provide ample opportunity for peer to peer networking.
Is this changing? We all know that marketing doesn’t stop when a lead turns into pipeline or even closed business. Think about the last time you had a good experience with a vendor that helped you work through a problem. This is what creates loyalty and stickiness. Integrating marketing campaigns with support, education, and services is a must. We are doing this more than ever today to ensure customers are successful using our products. Last year, the HP Software Services/Meet the Experts Zone was one of our most popular programs at HP Software Universe.
What strategies are you using to accelerate your brand while executing on demand generation needs?
I recently had the opportunity to hear local San Francisco guru and consultant, Stan Slap, speak at a conference for IT executives. His contention is that brand is an extension of faith given to a company by its customers. Ultimately, “it’s the quality of the customers’ experience buying and using the product that decides how they advertise and sell for you, how they brand you.” I couldn’t agree more.
We’ve built an automated email lead nurturing program designed to cultivate contacts through a series of touches around a specific solutions they have interest in. Recipients are delivered content based on their indicated interests and behavior. These programs help us gain a much higher rate and level of engagement with prospects and customers. They also decrease the cost of sales because it costs less to nurture via email. We hand sales warmer leads that are ready to engage in the buying cycle.
Customers don’t want to hear from you only when you want them to buy more (although as marketers and sales people, we are always selling!) Regular call programs to our customers help keep the HP brand front & center and enable us to introduce new products and services that allow our customers to derive more value out of their existing HP investments.
I mentioned our focus on integrating marketing campaigns with support, education, and services. My team partnered with education services to deliver and promote downloadable “light” versions of our end user training (EUT) manuals. EUTs help contacts that download our trial software be more successful with the product. And, marketing generates a higher conversion rate on the download leads.
What role has community and social media played in your efforts to date? And what role will it play in 2010 and beyond?
Community and social media are playing an increasing role in our efforts. Today, it complements my marketing mix. I think social media is a great mechanism for listening to our customers; it helps my team tune campaigns, promotions, and product offerings to meet our customer needs. We also leverage social media to help drive attendance to events.
What is your “BEST ADVICE” and what is your “MUST AVOID” as your marketing peers look to build their brand AND generate demand for products or services?
My best advice - stay focused on your customer. Involve your sales team in the campaign planning process; they are closer to the customer than you are as a marketer. Design marketing campaigns to seed your business, create a brandable experience with the customer, and then go back and sell some more via targeted cross-sell/up sell programs. Avoid launching new campaigns into market without proper marketing/PR support and sales enablement.