I've been following the comment thread on Jep Castelein's Lead Sloth post from earlier this week, "Will Marketing Automation Be Free?" What struck me about this 'freemium model' dialogue is that it is semantically interesting, but fundamentally focused in the wrong place. As important as your choice of marketing automation technology provider is -- and it is important -- I'd argue that the stumbling block for most B2B marketers attempting to take their demand generation to the next level is not access to the technology, itself. So giving it away for free doesn't necessarily improve adoption rates.
The major obstacle today for the next generation of B2B demand generation is actually the 'people and processes' that must be in place to successfully leverage marketing automation technology. And this is a point backed up by stacks of recent research reports and commentaries by some of the best and brightest in B2B marketing today.
Thor Johnson -- who was formerly CMO of Eloqua and who today consults on an independent basis with B2B marketing organizations around their demand generation strategies -- said it perfectly in his comment on Jep's post:
The dominant trend in the market is a totally human one: the rising wave of transition from B2B marketers being primarily PR and branding people to becoming database marketers who embrace metrics-driven process. Oh yes, and they’ve still got to be creative, too.
It’s not about the bike. It’s the rider – and the team (and the sales guys and the CFO, …)
This point is also very timely for me because this week I published a series on my personal blog, Propelling Brands, digging into "The Unspoken 'Real State' of Modern B2B Demand Generation." The focus of my series was on identifying why there is such a gap between 'best-in-class' demand generators and the reality for the bulk of B2B marketing organizations. What are the major challenges preventing us from being more successful in responding to the new era of Buyer 2.0 and in leveraging marketing automation? The primary synthesis I garnered from my research, over and over again, is that people and processes are the stumbling block -- in leveraging technology, using that technology to link tactics to revenue outcomes and in better centering our demand generation programs around the buyer.
In part two of my Propelling Brands series, Bulldog Solutions shared with me findings from the "Executive Benchmark Assessment" research project they collaborated on with Frost and Sullivan. Their research supports what we're saying here -- noting that the top-three major gaps for B2B marketing organizations in successfully leveraging marketing automation technology are people, process and content. (Graphic below used with permission.)
[caption id="attachment_869" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Source: Bulldog Solutions/Frost & Sullivan; click to enlarge graphic"]
I like this Bulldog/Frost data point because its supports a model I've previously proposed for what it takes to build a successful, buyer-centric B2B demand generation program -- integrating lead management processes and a content marketing strategy with your marketing automation infrastructure.
And this is supported by data from SiriusDecisions that they presented at their 2010 summit:
John Neeson said SiriusDecisions believe aggregate marketing automation penetration in the US today is only 7-10% (although he noted his firm believes this will grow to 30% by 2015). He also noted that only about 25% of organizations with marketing automation today are using the platform to its fullest capability. And that’s why process change and training must accompany marketing automation adoption.
So let's be honest. Marketing automation technology is pretty advanced; moreover, the capabilities of most marketing automation platforms far outpace the skill set of their users.
Our challenge as B2B marketers building a best-in-class demand generation program thus isn't the technology; it's our knowledge and skill set in leveraging the technology to support marketing strategy and tactics for tackling this 'brave new world' of B2B marketing we all find ourselves in.
So what are we going to do about it?
That's the question on my mind.
We believe a major answer -- and a critical success factor -- is for us as a marketing automation software vendor to be investing in the people and processes in tandem with our innovation of the technology. We have to pay it forward.
Bill Nussey, our CEO, said it well in his own comments on Jep's blog. "If we are going to 'give stuff away,' can things like education and training help the industry even more?" Well said.
That's why we've invested heavily in doing just that -- with programs such as B2B Marketing University and all of the great B2B demand generation resources and guest posts we pack into our blog. Programs and resources we offer free of charge.
Education ... now that's our freemium!
Have you attended our B2B Marketing University?
This Fall is the one-year anniversary for Silverpop's live B2B Marketing University (B2BMU) series. Over the past year we've held nine B2BMU events in seven different cities across the US and in the UK. This Fall we have planned events in the Bay Area, Boston and New York.
The focus of any given B2BMU event is to help attendees become more situationally-aware of how B2B marketing is changing and to learn about the building blocks you need to build successful, buyer-centric demand generation programs.
The programs are jam-packed with awesome insights from leading firms, including AcquireB2B, The Annuitas Group, Bourne, Conselltants, Lead Sloth, Left Brain Marketing and SiriusDecisions.
There's no secret product pitch. Really. And attendance is free!
We hope you'll join us at one of our upcoming events.
I'd note that we recently added a Web component via our semi-monthly 'Virtual 201' series. We use these 1-hour Webinars as a way to dig deeper on key topics that are slightly more advanced than what we cover at a typical B2BMU. For example, we recently did a 201 session on email deliverability for B2B marketers that was well-attended -- a good one to check out.
What do you want to know about B2B demand generation?
Let me say there are a lot of poorly-written blogs out there -- particularly on B2B marketing topics. Too many companies treat their blogs as an afterthought, where they share random thoughts.
We take the opposite approach, and we use our blog as the one place where you can get access to best practices information and resources to cover anything you might possibly want to know about B2B demand generation.
Since we launched B2B Marketing University in October 2009, we've published a significant body of content on everything from the basics to advanced topics. So I thought it would be useful to break out these posts and index them by topic.
Here's our A to Z on B2B demand generation:
Measurement and Analytics
Online Event Marketing
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Telemarketing and Human Lead Qualification
Finally, our team regularly attends a number of leading industry conferences, and I make sure we convey the top B2B demand generation takeaways from these events here on the blog.
Here are some recent posts from key events: