MarketingSherpa Marketing Summit, Aaron Dun of Ness Technologies - "Think Like the CFO"

Posted by Mike Damphousse
B2B appointment settingAnother of the speakers at MarketingSherpa's 6th Annual B2B Marketing Summit 2009 is Aaron Dun, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Ness Technologies, a global IT services provider. This is the third in a series of Thought Leader Interviews for Marketing Sherpa.

Mike: Aaron, you're speaking at MarketingSherpa about "How to Build a Program -- When Every Dollar Counts Twice." It seems to not only be about the dollars, but about the resources. What would you share with those one-person marketing departments that are out there?

Aaron: Run, fast? Just kidding, of course. I think oftentimes the resource issue is wildly overlooked. You have to be realistic about what you can do with the team that you have available to you, whether it's 10 people or just one person. At a previous company, we expected to be able to knock out a regular set of campaigns in a given quarter, but instead it took all of our energy to roll out two. That was the effective maximum capability that we had and we need to acknowledge and plan for that.

As for specific advice, I would offer the following:
  1. Surround yourself with a great network of freelancers and partners. Have at least one go-to person for each discipline, cultivate them and bring them into your planning process as if they are on your team. If they have visibility into your strategy and can do consistent work for you, they will be that much more effective. The sad reality of the recent downturn is there are some fantastic resources working as freelancers or striking out on their own. (To be clear however, this isn't "good talent on sale!")

  2. Maximize everything you are doing. If you write a whitepaper, what are you going to do with it? Have a strategy to get the maximum value of that asset from posting it on your site, in your social communities, syndicating it out, etc.

  3. Be ruthless in your measurement. If you don't know if something is working or not, figure out how to measure it or stop doing it. (and yes, you CAN measure PR! )

Mike: Some companies are still acting as if they are in economic crisis mode. We're all doing more for less. What can a frugal marketer say or do for their management teams that can free up the much-needed budgets?

Aaron: Paralysis works both ways, unfortunately. But I think the answer lies in the maturity of the organization. If you have been running a strong program and have a good foundation, come to the table with a strong idea that takes advantage of either a market opportunity, a competitor's sudden weakness, or a unique opportunity that wasn't there before. Link the activity to a business outcome you have successfully driven before.

Conversely, if your marketing organization is less mature, you have to show how inaction is delaying opportunity. In this case, it takes a certain amount of time to ramp up the machine and turn marketing efforts into business opportunities. The longer you wait, the longer the payoff takes to kick in.

But the same rigor on metrics applies. Propose something as a Proof-of-Concept first. Rather than suggesting a three-webinar series for $100k, show how you negotiated a pilot for just $15k with an option for future campaigns and articulate the expected value and the steps you are going to take to achieve the goal. Most importantly though, pull the plug if it doesn't work. Willingness to walk away from an idea gone wrong will show that you will spend money wisely and can be trusted with the company's money.

Lastly, think like the CFO. The CFO has many choices for spending your budget. They can invest that money in marketing, or they can invest it in something else or the market. If you show that you can drive a business return with their investment in your budget, they will be more likely to invest more.

Mike: Social Media. It seems to be all the buzz. It also seems to be an inexpensive way to pull off some effective marketing. What are your thoughts here?

Aaron: Yes and no. If you have a consumer product, it's interesting of course. But on the B2B side the value prop is a bit less clear still. I wrote about this issue a bit on my blog. I was one of the early B2B brands advertising on LinkedIn when they launched their advertising platform. We were targeting senior marketing folks and their segmentation capability is pretty amazing. But you always have to ask yourself even if they are on the platform, are they there to engage with you? Or are they there for some other purpose?

You also need to consider your internal audience. It's not a stretch to say that many senior executives are not entirely clear on what social media can do for the organization. I have a hard enough time getting budget and bandwidth for the things I know are going to drive business, I am not sure that I want to hinge my program on the channel today.

But you clearly have to be in the game. Our strategy is to be fast followers. We are dabbling in our "20% innovation time" (to borrow Google's term) to build our presence and test. We are looking to use the channel to "get outside the four walls of our web site," so to speak. I personally went from 0 to 60 on Twitter in just 36 hours at a conference a few months ago; clearly others have as well. With that comes opportunity, but as a B2B service, we can afford to wait and see how things develop.

Mike: So, for a takeaway as it pertains to b2b demand gen, the ultimate goal is putting a prospect in the hands of a sales rep. What programs are you hot on right now? Inbound Marketing? Outbound Marketing? Qualified Lead Gen? Appointment Setting? Web Events? Social Media?

Aaron: This might sound a little strange but my answer is all of the above. While our campaigns tend to be led or focused on a particular tactic, we are trying to run truly "interactive campaigns" that encompass as many channels as possible around a particular theme. This year we set out to do just three themes. We have done single-threaded activities around meeting setting or email or web campaigns, but we prefer to mix together the right set of activities to achieve the desired result.

This has a couple of advantages. First it de-risks your efforts. If you run a meeting-setting campaign and you miss your target, you missed. But if you run an email campaign on a topic, back that up with a web event and layer in your meeting-setting effort against the respondents and previously warm contacts -- you then measure the campaign on the aggregate. If one area falters the others will pick it up. Surely, you need to measure the individual activities and understand any failures, but at least your whole campaign didn't tank.
Second, by committing a series of activities around a particular concept or theme, you can gain economies of scale around your efforts and tell a more complete story. Hosting a web event gives your telesales team another hook to the message, more punch to your web efforts, a boost for your syndication campaign, more assets to drive up SEO hits or run PPC campaigns against, etc. So while they take a bit more effort and at times, budget, when you have limited resources it's far better to multiply those any way you can.

Mike: Last question, it's the B2B Thought Leaders Curry Poll. Do you like Red, Green or Yellow Curry?

Aaron: Sorry to disappoint. As my daughter says, "Don't yuck my yum" so let's just say that Curry is not my favorite!