0416_ChannelchatWhat do the experts find to be sales and marketing best practices? We decided to find out by asking a few questions of some industry leaders. The answers, like our panelists, are diverse, surprising and informative. 

Are there any new sales and/or marketing platforms/tools that you are excited about?

Kay Fernandez: We are implementing Domino Decisions, an internal marketing platform that will help us to more efficiently plan, track and execute against our corporate marketing initiatives. The Domino Decisions platform has built-in marketing benchmarks and integration with industry solutions so we can easily dashboard social media metrics, website analytics, trade show efforts, advertising impressions, lead generation and manage our marketing calendar. We’re continuing to further drill down on the effectiveness of our multi-channel campaigns and drive toward a higher ROI for each marketing tactic. This tool gives the marketing team a comprehensive view of our marketing strategies and allows us to quickly make changes to deliver the most effective outcome for our marketing spend. It’s also exciting that we’ll soon be launching this product to our customers. This is a great tool to support a managed marketing service offering for the graphic communications industry or for any marketing team to utilize.

Dan Murphy: Moving into fiscal year 2016, we are implementing a new go-to-market strategy that will integrate a demand generation program to support our channel partners by increasing awareness of the OKI brand and focusing sales enablement efforts at the end-user level. By integrating these nurturing campaigns into our overall marketing mix and supporting infrastructure – from our sales and marketing organization to sales and marketing automation tools — we believe our channel partners will realize greater success moving forward.

What do you find is the most effective marketing medium to reach your end-user customer?

Hedy Belttary: We have a very vast yet tightly-knit user community.  Our outreach is continuous throughout the course of the year through user groups, webinars, workshops, regularly scheduled user newsletters and our annual Empower Conference.  Every time we touch customers, we make sure there is an educational element to the outreach.  This is of great value to the customer base – keeping them well-informed about their solution.

Fernandez: Many of our marketing campaigns involve a multichannel approach that includes social media, direct mail, email campaigns, PURLs, a special offer to increase campaign response rates, targeted trade advertising, trade shows, video, website and PR. Having multiple touchpoints for each campaign ensures that we are reaching our target audience through various channels of communication. We recognize that customers and prospects consume content in many different ways, and our goal is to deliver the most impactful and relevant message to them based upon how and where they consume information. We recently did a joint marketing campaign with one of our partners that had amazing results. Our click-to-open (CTO) rate, which shows engagement and the effectiveness of email content, beat the targeted industry averages by 15 percent. We find that an integrated marketing approach when coupled with relevant content has the most impact and success at reaching our customers.

Doug Johnson: We find the most effective marketing medium for our value-added services offering is conducting workshops with our reseller principals. These owners and senior executives need discussion and dialogue to better identify their key business pain points and align available solutions to improve their top line and bottom line. While other, more traditional marketing methods are valuable to create awareness, it often requires the give and take of open-ended workshops to generate action. And workshops are an effective way to generate discussion and action.

Murphy: We are focusing on multi-touch and fully integrated marketing campaigns. There is no single best way to reach a consumer, so we will seek to deliver valuable content across a variety of platforms to reach and engage end-users. From social media to trade shows, our goal is to reinforce our message through both traditional and non-traditional channels to help raise brand awareness and customer engagement in order to facilitate sales.

What are some of the biggest pain points for your sales team?

Aaron Dyck: B2B selling has changed dramatically over the last couple of years and customers don’t need salespeople the way they used to. Most of the typical purchase decisions are made well before a sales rep engages the prospect, putting the customer ahead of the salesperson. This has caused sales reps to change the way they engage and interact with the customer. This is why we are focused on implementing and managing a sales system starting with the sales fundamentals. Just like any good sports athlete practicing the game’s fundamentals is key to their success, we focus on implementing systems that address the pain points our salespeople are experiencing.

Through our online training platform we are able to help our reps develop a framework for prospecting to buyer 2.0 through phone, email and social. We coach them on asking high gain questions and coach them on following a structured sales call time line. Although these may seem old hat to the seasoned sales rep, even the best athletes in the world continue to practice the fundamentals and we ensure our teams are focused on continued sales growth.

Murphy: Like most sales forces, our sales team desires access to qualified leads. With the addition of some new marketing initiatives being put into place for fiscal year 2016 beginning April 2016, a demand generation program will identify prospects, initiate outreach, encourage interaction, track engagement, and generate qualified leads to aid the sales process.

What methods do you use to train your sales team? Are they the same methods for continuing education?  

Dyck: Recruiting, hiring and retaining sales people is a challenge many businesses face. We spend a lot of time in the selection and hiring process. When the new salesperson starts, we employ a formal sales training path. We do not focus on product training, we focus on how to teach today’s millennial new hire how to book appointments, what questions to ask, how to handle objections — and the list goes on. We used to have our senior people or sales reps do most of the training, which ended up killing their productivity. That’s why we built an online video-based sales training program. It is perfect for millennials because we don’t overwhelm them with boring PowerPoint. The program is filled with role-play demonstrations, testing and reporting to make sure they utilize the key learning points in the field. Implementing the online testing and reporting helps us measure the sales reps’ competency and allows us to determine where they need the most support throughout the sales cycle. Upon completing the online video based training, we conduct a series of sales workshops. As an example we recently launched a series of weekly “Sales Growth Workouts.” Just like going to the gym, this is a short 30-minute sales workout that is delivered online and in person. We set up real-world business scenarios, leverage the key learning points from the online training relevant to the business scenario and implement a role play with the team. Our weekly workouts run for 12 weeks and happen on the same day and time weekly for consistency. With access to online training and instructor lead workshops we can control the sales messaging and provide our team with a consistent and repeatable training process across multiple locations.

Johnson: We use a combination of self-paced learning (via videos with testing), shadowing, regular coaching and mentoring, and immersion with other functions in the business.  This gives them a well-rounded understanding of the market, our business and solutions.  Ongoing education focuses on consultative selling techniques, training on how to identify and quantify pain points, and how to align solutions that solve or mitigate customer pain points.

Is inbound marketing a part of your program and if so, what impact is it having?

Dyck: Inbound marketing is a huge part of our business. We recently conducted a webinar on the topic and couldn’t believe the number of business leaders that attended. We know that our customers are online and looking for products and solutions these days. We also know that the sales paradigm has shifted and connecting with buyer 2.0 is more difficult than ever. The age-old model of cold calling is now seen as somewhat intrusive and places too much emphasis on calling a customer when they are in the buying window versus being online and visible when the buyer is looking for what we sell. We are focused on leveraging our website for sales leads by turning our site into a 24/7 sales tool. We believe that video is an excellent way to communicate our message and we have built out a large selection of relevant content on our YouTube page. We are vertical-focused ensuring that we are developing the content in the right context to our customers.  In regards to site metrics this year we have seen an increase of over 60 percent in organic traffic, our referral traffic is up by 100 percent, our video views are up 70 percent and new visitors are increasing more that 20 percent month over month.

Fernandez: Inbound marketing plays an integral role in our marketing strategy. We focus heavily on content generation and content marketing to align with our customers’ interests and drive inbound traffic. We redesigned our website last year to include customer personas and focused the content on industry trends and challenges. We publish weekly blog posts that address very specific topics with educational content on our industry observations. Our objective is always to put the customer’s needs and requirements first, and our ability to articulate that in our marketing portrays thought leadership and insight into their specific industry. We continually optimize our website for SEO to generate more inbound marketing traffic, and utilize heat mapping to review the website user experience with the goal of making our call to action (CTA) and content easier to find, ideally within two or three mouse clicks.  As we continue to integrate our marketing automation tools with CRM, our objective is to generate a seamless funnel for qualified leads to reach our sales team to convert into revenue opportunities.

Do you find a vertical marketing approach to be an effective tool in this channel?

Belttary: Yes, we were probably one of the first software companies to take this approach so we have become really good at transferring the knowledge and approach to our VAR channel!  I can say with great confidence the majority of our channel partners have expertise at least in one vertical market. Understanding the needs of your customers as well as your prospects based on their industry increases closure rates both for existing account expansions as well as for new sales.

Dyck: I think a vertical marketing approach is key to the success of any sales organization. Customers want to deal with sales specialists, which can add value to the conversation and teach the customer something new. Vertical marketing is also very important when it comes to your overall inbound marketing strategy, through blog development, video and social channel postings. Inbound marketing allows organizations to take a rifle shot approach to targeted vertical markets and the top dealers are customizing their messaging to multiple levels within the customer environment.

Johnson: Absolutely.  For us, different verticals (in our case BTA, IT VAR, office products, and other reseller types) have unique business models, workflows, and approaches to their respective customer bases that need to be considered when marketing to them.  We have to “get between the blinders” of these different reseller customer types to begin the engagement.  Of course, reseller business models within each of these channels vary as well, so vertical marketing is primarily beneficial in communicating the core value proposition to engage the reseller customer in further, more specific dialogue.

How do you retain good salespeople?

Belttary: We have a very spirited sales team.  They are very competitive but also have a sense of camaraderie – working towards the bigger goal.  Providing a competitive enjoyable work environment with lots of mentoring and career development has helped us retain good salespeople. 

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.