by Shikhar Bajaj

Conversy sponsored the CMO Inflect conference in Silicon Valley last week, where business leaders gathered to talk about best practices in marketing and demand generation. After listening to great speakers and panelists, 6 common themes quickly emerged.

Personalization and Automation

No forum on marketing would be complete without a wholesale embrace of the virtues of personalized messaging and how to scale them. Not only do we expect tailored messages but they are effective. According to Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio, 75% of executives would read unsolicited email if the message was highly relevant to their business.  

So the key to personalization is knowledge. Indeed, acquiring as much insight about customers (present and future) is a prerequisite of successful marketing. This is area near and dear to our hearts at Conversy. Pankaj Malviya, CEO of Conversy, spoke about how AI can help enterprises scale customer engagement. He showed data about how chatbots are increasingly embraced by consumers and how using these technologies improves brand perception. Content targeting, lead acquisition and qualification, and sales process improvement are all prime areas where conversational marketing automation can add significant value.

Convergence of Sales & Marketing

Almost every speaker and panelist spoke about the need for Marketing and Sales to be a more integrated team instead of siloed functions. At many businesses, marketing generates leads and then hands them to Sales to close the deals. Then you get the usual finger pointing about how the leads are crap vs. how you can’t close.

To strengthen the argument for greater integration one needs to ask what is the measure of marketing performance? It is sales / revenue. If you cannot draw a line to how your marketing performance affects sales you will have a problem. If you cannot answer how a 10% increase in marketing budget will affect sales be prepared for the other side of the conversation. What will happen if we reduce your budget by 10%? Great question, Jon Miller.   

I heard one concrete success story about how Marketing and Sales collaboration led to actually led to more closed deals. A firm’s marketing organization realized that it was gaining traction with the same solution it was offering to companies which shared a common private equity parent. With this knowledge, Sales began targeting the PE firm’s entire portfolio and grew deal closure rates by 18x.  

Transparency & Values

While these are hardly new concepts, today it is imperative that companies are transparent about what they truly believe in. We can all think of a few current high-profile examples where customers and employees are forcing companies to live up to their professed core values.

The prerequisite is transparency, both internally and externally. A great example that captures this was given by event MC Jeffrey Hayzlett, CEO of C-Suite. Most of us have eaten Dominos Pizza. Most of us will also agree that it is hardly the best pizza that we have ever had. But at the end of 2009 the brand did something that was revolutionary. It spent over $60M on a national advertising campaign to tell customers that they understood that their product sucked.

How many companies are willing to admit that privately much less spend money to advertise it?  

Domino’s slogan at the time was, “Delivery in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” The brand message was that was that it didn’t matter what was in the box; what mattered was how fast it got to your door. The implicit message to customers was: “We have a product that sucks. And we know that you hope that our service will also suck, so that you get a free pizza.” Dominos invested millions into improving the product, and scrapped the “30 Minutes or Free” slogan.  

So what was the result? Immediately after the campaign started, sales skyrocketed. The product was basically the same, but people embraced the transparency. At the end of 2009 Domino’s stock price was around $9.00. By end of 2010 it was around $16.00.  As of Nov. 2, 2018 the closing price was $265.37.

The same concept of transparency was discussed by Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO of Coupa.  He had a nice paradigm where 99% of your customers are Lurkers (they use your product but have no special attachments.), 9% are Likers, and 1% are Lovers. The people who spend the most money on your product are rarely Lovers. (Think about it a moment in your own situation and see how true that it is). Therefore, it is imperative that you embrace those Lovers and be as open with them about plans and challenges. They will help you in the market because they want you to succeed. These “earned channels” are priceless compared to “owned channels” (blogs, paid content, etc.).
In summary, there was much to digest and learn from. In any of these conferences the hope is that you get a couple of actionable takeaways. I got more than a couple and hence it was a day worthwhile spent.

Shikhar Bajaj