The lead management automation vendors have been busy. In March, Genius announced Genius Enterprise and broadened their scope from sales enablement to lead management. Late in May, Eloqua introduced Prospect Profiler, a graphical, one-stop interface that tracks a prospect’s digital footprints and summarizes buyer activity. Next, Silverpop’s EngageB2B team unveiled a new graphical campaign design and management tool to the market and, on June 9, Marketo launched Sales Insight, a 100% Force.com application that lets sales reps see and interact with the “hottest” leads in their queue, a product they made generally available at the end of May. It’s interesting, and not coincidental, that 3 of the 4 announcements target sales reps as the primary user and demonstrate growing demand for technology helps marketers align with sales activity.
At first, I thought tools that let sales see information about prospect activity – like tracking when potential buyers visit a Web site and what they look at – amounted to no more than fancy cold-calling tools. Just because someone opens an email or visits a Web page doesn’t mean they want to get phone call from a sales person minutes later. It feels a bit intrusive and creepy. But the Eloqua and Marketo announcements are changing my mind by showing that access to prospect information, done right, helps sales understand how buyers buy and makes the sales process more efficient.
What I like most about the Eloqua and Marketo offerings is both put marketing’s lead generation hard work in front of sales in a succinct and digestible manner. Both make it easier for sales to decide how to pursue leads and how to pick up the conversation marketing starts. Of course, the devil is in the details when it comes to determining which tool will best fit your firm’s specific demand management needs. Here are the pros and cons of these sales enablement tools that jump out at me:
1) Integrating with the SFA system. Like it or not, reps prefer the phone or in-person meetings. When online, they spend time almost exclusively in email and the SFA system using either through an iPhone or Blackberry interface. Getting them to open another tool, can be like pulling teeth without an anesthetic. Kudos goes to Marketo for seamlessly integrating with Salesforce. While sales can open Prospect Profiler inside of Salesforce, the action looks like opening another app and Eloqua will have to work to convince reps to take that extra step. Of course, the nod goes to Eloqua if you are not a Salesforce user because their tool can run standalone like the Genius Tracker. But the task of getting reps to open it still remains.
2) Delivering information versus data. Reps want to know “Who should I call first? Who should I call now?” While the Eloqua tool does a great job of summarizing a broader range of customer activity by category – how many emails have prospects opened, what have they searched on, etc. – it doesn’t highlight which leads are “hot” or “qualified” with the simplicity that the Marketo tool does. However, getting reps to agree on marketing’s definition of hot and qualified is the challenge Marketo faces – because if sales disagrees with the label Sales Insight applies, they won’t trust the tool’s suggestions in the future. To counter this, Marketo’s tool lets reps, with one click, send feedback to marketing and close the scoring loop. How quickly marketing responds to this feedback and zeros in on regional or territorial differences will determine how effective the stars and flames become.
3) Investigating anonymous visitors: Integrating with reverse IP lookup tools is a hot topic today. From a pure marketing perspective, this feature is not one I would put at the top of my list. Letting reps check out anonymous Web traffic seems like shortcutting the lead development process. Sales management says “have an account plan and execute against it.” Marketing says, “here are well-qualified leads you should pursue, and here’s why.” I just don’t see how chasing anonymous Web traffic helps reps take care of these two mandates.
Yes, I know reps are expected to develop their territories and that looking for clues about buyer intent in Web traffic is less expensive, and (today) more productive, than cold calling or buying lists. But I also believe that marketing is the best way to develop new business and that sales should focus more on mining existing accounts, where relatively more expensive sales prospecting activity can be put to use building relationships. I find Marketo’s featured integration with Jigsaw, Demandbase, and LinkedIn a nice-to-have. To keep it from becoming an annoyance, I recommend using it in a telesales or lead development function as one tool in a kit used to qualify and build dialogue before turning prospects over to direct sales. (Happy to hear if you see it differently.)
4) Notifying versus overloading. I like Marketo’s Interesting Moments feature because it keeps sales and marketing focused on “moments of truth” – events that influence prospects’ propensity to buy. The language here is simple and understandable. And marketing can adjust it to make the descriptions even more relevant. However both firms need to avoid crossing the line between providing useful information and causing information overload. Optionally sending email notifications and Web visit alerts to reps is the right approach. The next step should be to automatically create a report that summarizes how many reps use these features and how many have turned them off and send it to marketing.
5) Understanding the Buyer’s Journey better. As any rep can tell marketing, not two deals close the same. Learning how buyers buy is a huge challenge in B2B made more complex by the myriad of digital channels that buyers now use. That’s why I like Eloqua’s profile feature that summarizes inbound and outbound activity over time. This helps marketing see to which communication a customer best responds and sales see if the prospects digital body language is showing an increase in interest over time or just the random activity of someone not fully engaged.
To determine whether one of these tools is right for you, look at which one will do a better job of answering the “so what?” question from your sales team’s perspective. And, let’s face it, that’s a key question to answer because sales always want to know “what have you done for me lately?”
So what do you think? I’m happy to hear your thoughts on which product you’d pick and whether these features are essential when investing in automation for B2B marketing.