This client is a privately held life sciences software company specializing in regulatory compliance products for the U.S., European and Asian markets. This 25 year-old, founder-led company wanted to grow demand in an increasingly competitive space, preferably organically, without increasing costs.
The primary products being built, marketed and sold are Cloud and traditional software and associated services, led by a specialized life sciences software solution to manage a technical regulatory requirement termed “pharmacovigilance.” This software is delivered to pharmaceutical and biotech companies with a range of services required to install, implement, tune, maintain and upgrade the software (and these services make up a large portion of the revenue).
Additionally, in the last few years this vendor had started to become relatively successful with its regulatory information management systems (RIMS) offering for the life sciences space, especially in Europe where each country requires pharmaceutical companies to do regular, specialized regulatory submissions. They had also been developing a number of new software products in the clinical trial management and medical information management fields. In both the pharmacovigilance and RIMS compliance areas the company was 1st or 2nd to market.
The company's now large life sciences software and services portfolio was supported mainly by in-sourced development, support, product, and operations resources overseas in India. A cost-focused company, they had a small Sales organization in the U.S. and Europe and a very fragmented and under-experienced marketing team, primarily based in India.
Like many B2B technology companies, they had initially focused almost exclusively on building and augmenting their flagship product and related products, and then on building the Sales and finance organizations to commercialize their offerings. Focus then shifted to development of additional product lines. Up until the time that B2B3 was engaged, the marketing efforts were a fragmented mixture of mainly business-to-consumer tactics and one-off bits of product-related content (e.g. product data sheets, technical white papers, and technical webinars). Marketing investment had been periodically ramped up over the years and then cut when demand did not quickly increase in-kind, which is a common cycle for founder-led technology and B2B companies. Revenue "forecasting" was done, but it was not accompanied by a demand generation forecast from Marketing and was (predictably) highly inaccurate.
B2B3's challenge was to help the company understand its issues and opportunities, reinvigorate its brand, and build a B2B demand generation engine for the short and long term, and do all this without increasing the marketing budget (or moving existing marketing resources from India to the U.S., Europe or otherwise closer to the target customer).
We could also classify this as a case study in whether "outsourcing" (or in-sourcing to India-based staff) virtually the entire marketing and demand generation function could be successful, despite them having virtually no interaction with customers, prospects and the target market.
The First 90 Days
The first thing we did was to understand the existing marketing organization and what they knew (and were doing today), and to do this we started by auditing the existing marketing material and execution. We also asked the Sales organization what they needed. We also evaluated the marketing message against the markets being served.
The first things we found were:
- Every marketing touch point had been considered a Lead and was sent to Sales. In other words, every time the marketing team had emailed a Contact or gotten any interaction whatsoever, it was considered a Lead for Sales and the Sales organization was therefore being bombarded with white noise, meaning any real Leads were impossible to differentiate from false ones, and were often missed or ignored.
- There was no marketing automation, even the website was hand built without any CMS (content management system). This meant that search engine optimization (SEO) was non-existent, and changes to a web page would take weeks. Also the quality of web content and the reliability of the site itself were very low. There were no multi-touch campaigns of any sort running. Everything was standalone and there was no way of tracking, scoring or engaging with any prospect in the funnel.
- Tradeshows made up the majority of the marketing spend (which was small anyway). Due purely to "muscle memory," the company believed that trade shows were vitally important, but when we asked why, the answer was “We don’t know, but we have to be there or someone will notice.” There was no measurable reason for attendance or attempt at any ROI analysis, but management felt they had to have a presence at a large number of shows. The cost was around 70% of the variable annual budget.
- The existing marketing collateral consisted mainly of technical datasheets. The company had a historic approach to product launches, in which they believed that along with a press release and Sales presentation every product would have a datasheet and web page created for it to to be a complete launch. So the only pieces of collateral that were reliably being created were datasheets, and there were over a hundred of these being updated yearly to keep current, and another hundred that were not being updated. With no CMS, the Sales team were confused as to which ones to use. There was no other collateral being created in any meaningful, consistent way.
- Every individual email blast or event was considered a unique campaign. Each response of any kind was being sent to Sales as a Lead. The Inside Sales team was following up with every one, which meant they were spending their time fruitlessly calling the same voicemails over and over again, and generally annoying potential future prospects and ensuring that no one wanted to share their contact information, as they knew it would just generate another call to them.
- The pharmacovigilance software was quite well respected by the customers, but the services engagements required to implement or update this software were time consuming, expensive and not well respected. This meant there was considerable dissatisfaction with the overall product (and the company) with existing customers. The software was at least as good as the competition, and in many respects superior, but the lack of timely, quality services delivery meant that the installed base were not happy with the overall experience. This was reflected in a lack of quality references and positive word-of-mouth.
- The regulatory information management system (RIMS) offering was well respected by its customers and the services involved in its implementation were seen as higher quality than those with the pharmacovigilance software. But not enough effort had been placed in obtaining and publishing quality references, so the RIMS sales cycles with highly risk-averse prospects often took too long.
- The other software product areas had so few existing customers per product that it was hard to measure satisfaction. There was a feeling among the employees that too many products and initiatives were being tried at the same time, supported by the same resources, and that not enough effort was being placed with each of them to achieve success.
- There had never been an awareness or preference study performed for any of their target markets so without a baseline understanding of the acceptance of the brand in the market, it was hard to identify gaps or measure brand improvement, leading to a very emotional and internal view of the brand.
What This Told Us
We knew they absolutely needed us to perform "the Drill," a specialized insight and targeting project to understand exactly the business problem/s the vendor solved (from the perspective of a prospect), exactly who had these problems (companies and roles), and exactly how these targets want to solve these problems. The Drill would also provide a much-needed market perspective for a management team very close to their technology with an internal-only perspective, namely an understanding of "the business they're in" from the perspective of their customers and prospects. Popularized by the great Peter Drucker, this "What business are you in?" exercise was especially needed as every executive had a very different answer to that seemingly simple question.
The business problem boiled down to their pharma and other clients needing help “creating and enhancing the trust that their customers needed from 1) regulatory authorities, 2) medical practitioners, and 3) their patients.”
This may sound a very simplistic, but in the life science industry achieving regulatory compliance with the regulatory authorities (such as the FDA, EMA, PMDA, etc.) is a critical factor in being able to develop, market and sell products. The time it can take to achieve compliance and launch a drug is generally around 10 to 15 years and can cost several hundreds of millions of dollars. Implementing automation that can speed up this process, improve the quality of this process, or reduce the cost of this process is incredibly important to the life science industry.
We also confirmed that our client actually provided a more complete solution to this specific problem for global companies than any other vendor in the industry, so the Drill had identified an important unique differentiator.
Every life science company aims to sell products that increase the length and quality of human life and every drug, medical device, nutrient, etc. is developed with this aim in mind. Every country in the world has a regulatory authority the checks that every single product has met their very stringent regulatory requirements. Alongside this regulatory framework are the patent laws which protect the manufacturer's intellectual property and enable them to recover their R&D and other costs associated with bring the product to market. Patents and "exclusivity" rights issued for new drugs and other life science products tend to have a life of 20 years (or 5-10 years after commercial launch). This means the process of achieving compliance takes up nearly all the patent life of a product and once a patent expires, other companies can copy the products legally (often referred to as creating generic drugs), often at significantly reduced prices, driving down the profitability for the original creator. So, many life science companies are willing to spend substantial amounts of money to reduce the time it takes to get a product to market, and our customer had a material advantage in the market in this area.
In parallel to performing "The Drill" we also looked at what we could do to quickly improve the pipeline of actionable demand for Sales. Quick "wins" while creating a framework for long-term success were required here.
Pipeline Alignment Across Marketing and Sales
First, we implemented a simple process to qualify every Lead in the pipeline; we re-categorized them as Contacts, Inquiries, Leads and Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). Whereas before, every marketing touch was considered a Lead, now we had a way of qualifying and categorizing prospects effectively. We called this process CILO, and this term became well understood across the company:
- A "Contact" was just the contact or business card details (name, company, title, etc.) of a potential prospect.
- An Inquiry was a Contact who had accepted and engaged in our marketing in some way (downloaded a paper, registered for an event, etc.).
- A Lead was an Inquiry who had told is something material about their buying behavior. (Key elements for a Lead were agreed with Sales, and primarily were these four answers/responses: 1)identification of what business problem they needed to solve, 2)confirmation of who makes up the buying team looking to solve his problem, 3)what timescale have they placed on making a purchase decision to solve this problem, and 4)what approved budget they have to solve this problem). Confirming each of these were equivalent to a 1/4 Lead and a further distinction of Lead type and an MQL was a Lead where marketing knew enough about the prospect to believe that Sales will find this Lead of immediate value and should expend effort following up on it directly.
- Once Sales had accepted a Lead they were mandated follow-up within 48 hours to assign a proposed close date and proposed value to it, and add it as a pipeline Opportunity to be tracked by both Sales and marketing in the new CRM system (Salesforce.com).
Using this model we were able to quickly turn a huge amount of white noise into meaningful, prioritized demand for Sales to follow up on. And we were also able to start to think about how to move prospects through a buyer's journey at every increasing rates to utilize the full Sales capacity in the most efficient way.
Digital Presence Improvement
Next we looked at the ongoing online or "digital" marketing execution. There are several immediate actions we were able to take:
We built a simple WordPress website to replace the incumbent homebrew website. Based on our budget, existing resources, and need for immediate improvement we felt WordPress was the best choice for this phase as it was a very easy to use open source content management system (CMS) that allows quite advanced websites to be implemented quickly. We built ours on a Cloud platform run by a well known U.S. hosting provider, allowing it to be hosted outside of the corporate IT environment to improve security and increase availability and performance. WordPress provides a good framework for search engine optimization (SEO).
This had the impact of immediately improving SEO results, as using a standard CMS allowed us to quickly build the metadata required for every page and to drive up website attendance from several hundred a month to tens of thousands a month. Within three months the unique visits to the site had risen from under one thousand per month to forty thousand per month. The bounce rate (visitors who just visit the home page and leave without looking any deeper) shrunk from 90% to 30%. All of these numbers exclude employees accessing from inside the corporate network so they were now valid numbers of interested external site visitors.
Since the company still believed in attending a huge number of trade events, we first needed to find a way of making these events both more effective and more efficient (and knowing the impact of each on CILO). We started by replacing the older but still expensive to store and ship trade show booth property with a modern, modular, flexible system that was much easier to store, ship, setup, teardown and use creatively at all sizes of events. We also moved from using fixed printed signage to using multimedia content using very short-throw projectors and fabric screens. These projectors were easy to ship and could project a 100 inch image onto a backdrop from just a couple of feet.
The previous tradeshow booth was actually a set of booths and had required over a hundred thousand dollars per year simply for shipping and maintenance due to its complex design and weight. The old booth property wasn’t creative and required different shapes and sizes for each different size of booth space. It also used pre-printed backdrops that were screen-printed and so they had to be created, separately, for each different type of show and replaced as new "products" were released (which was often).
The new system we built was able to fit in several small shipping cases and could scale from a tabletop to an 8 x 10 stand and all the way up to a 40' x 30’ stand for the largest industry events (i.e. DIA Annual). By using a short-throw projector we were able to place most of the creative multimedia content on laptops and so could redesign tradeshow messages very quickly for each show. This meant that with the same budget we could now attend twice as many shows and each show was able to have custom messaging designed for specific audiences.
We also implemented a comprehensive process for prioritizing and deciding which shows to attend and which not to attend, with clear CILO targets for each event. We could then measure the performance of each show and start to make less emotional decisions about which shows to attend. The impactful but relatively inexpensive videos we had created for the large screen projections also drew large crowds to the booth and dramatically increased the number of Contacts, Inquiries and Leads collected at each show. After optimizing this process we used the money saved to develop and execute our own executive event series which, over time, averaged nearly 100 registrations and 50 targeted attendees per city in the U.S. and then Europe. In all cases we used innovative techniques and tactics to drive traffic, including our new professional "profile" photo program and its associated custom magazine and cover photo follow-up for each photo subject.
Collateral Printing and Management
We also moved from storing and shipping printed collateral to every event to a print-on-demand system. We could then print just what we needed for each show and for larger shows could even use a local small color printer for on-site printing. Whereas before the client printed in advance a thousand of each datasheet (many of which became outdated before use), we could now stock almost nothing and only print when required. Like most companies the client's datasheets were continually evolving and using the old process resulted in thousands of redundant, old data sheets being scrapped and replaced with the latest version. The new process removed all of this waste and made updates simple and immediately global. We utilized the same process for the most relevant white papers for a particular show as well. The savings both in terms of eco-friendliness and raw dollars were huge.
We also implemented a new "content factory" approach to knowledge content creation and delivery. It was quite clear that customers and prospects didn’t value highly the data sheets (especially early in the cycle), and the main reason we were creating them was that our product teams in India knew how to create them.
What the prospects and customers valued was information that would help them get smarter in their roles. They valued information on regulatory changes, how to get the best out of existing solutions, thought leadership, industry trends, describing problems they should be concerned about for the future, best practice information, case studies, and information that would generally help them in their daily work.
What most didn’t value were the technical details on the software, which was pretty much all the company was providing.
Data sheets are useful during the final stages of a negotiation, as they provide a clear statement of a product's function that can be reviewed by a prospect's technology team and included in contractual terms, but they are not valuable in helping a prospect earlier in the buyer’s journey.
To produce this "knowledge content" we identified all of our client's existing subject matter experts (SMEs) and evaluated both their knowledge depth and breadth and their writing skills. What we found was that while they had good technical knowledge, their ability to communicate using written words was very poor, so we recruited a writer and creative designer that were tasked with working with the subject matter experts to regularly generate high-quality, new content that aligned to the relevant business problems (and related trends) identified during The Drill. With this process in place we were able to generate a large number of white papers, case studies, best practices guides and webinar presentations as well as specialized editorial content for placement in the press. Using all this content we were then able to develop truly functional integrated marketing campaigns with compelling, timely content for the client's target audiences.
Press and Advertising
One "free" activity we undertook immediately was identifying the relevant press and establishing ongoing relationships with them with a goal of getting them to let our client's thought leaders and SMEs to write editorial for their publications and be quoted in their stories. We also leveraged these relationships to get coverage of our newsworthy events and announcements.
Like many B2B organizations, our customer wanted to enhance the brand, and had sporadically invested in advertising, both online and in print. These efforts had (as could be expected) elicited very little meaningful value, and none of it was measured. The challenge of course is that B2B markets are relatively elusive and the number of places where prospects may read a message is high but the probability of the same target seeing it many times was relatively low. Placing an ad in a single publication for a single issue or two provides very little hope of retention of the message. Also, as with all advertising today, the audience tends to ignore or "tune out" the ad as soon as it is recognized as such.
We implemented a simple rule for advertising. Either the ad must have a very relevant and measureable call to action, or the ad must be placed only in a publication that has editorial that includes our thought leaders with a piece in the same issue such that the ad was reinforcing the editorial. These articles would they be reprinted and syndicated through the Sales team and web presence to leverage value.
The ad itself wasn’t the real value to us, it was the leverage it could generate in helping us get third party-published content that supported our story, which was of great value.
This process led to a 2000% increase in inclusion in editorial as well as a new form of high-value content to be used by the Sales team and by the Marketing team which we were now training to develop and deliver true B2B "Black Box" buyer's journey campaigns. The "rule" also ended a wasteful historic practice of management doing a single "big" ad spend during a marketing spending ramp-up cycle, expecting an immediate ROI from the ad, and being disappointed (and ultimately blaming marketing for poor ad execution and ROI). The goals and measures (which now include periodic awareness and preference surveys) now made sense to everyone.
"Black Box" Buyers Journey Campaigns
With multiple "quick hit" pipeline and public relations initiatives underway, we then set about designing and building fully integrated "Black Box" buyer's journey demand generation campaigns (see B2B3 Essentials under SERVICES) around each of the specific identified business problems we uncovered during the full "Drill" project. After we verified and prioritized the business problems to which we would build these campaigns (and the target companies and roles for each), we mapped the buyer’s journey phases that we had identified against the company's seller's journey phases.
In other words we understood how people made buying decisions and we also understood how our Sales organization needed to consume leads. We then developed specific messages and developed and mapped our content (white papers, videos, web content, events, webcasts, etc.) against each phase of the specific buyer’s journey. We made sure every asset had a clear call to action and where there was no obvious way of linking one asset to the next, we implemented micro-surveys. In this way we made sure that every single marketing asset worked effectively to drive prospects closer to being qualified for Sales. Phase-specific asset consumption and scores from the micro-survey questions drove the CILO score we tracked in Salesforce.com and we now knew exactly when each prospect has progressed to the next phase and was ready for the next messages and assets. We created a "nurture" path for prospects not yet ready to progress so they would stay in the campaign and be progressed when they they were ready.
We chose to not immediately automate the buyer's journey campaign process, instead making the whole marketing team become deeply immersed in the campaign process such that they manually executed key campaign elements. This meant that all the marketers (including the team in India) became experts at understanding the buyer's journey for each business problem we solved, and what worked and what did not work within the campaigns and their phases. In doing this we were able to turn a flat, broken "demand gen" process into a vibrant, active and successful Black Box demand generation engine into which went Contacts and out from which came fully qualified Leads (MQLs) ready for our special "Hand-off" to Sales. We also trained and mentored both the extended marketing team and Sales on the business problems and buyer's journey campaign for each problem so we were all on the same page and were all using the same language. Between this and "The Hand-off," Sales and marketing now worked as a team (and not adversaries) for the first time there.
And we did not increase the budget at all. Where we had to add costs, this was balanced against cost reductions in previously wasted printing, events, advertising and other low-ROI marketing costs. In fact, we were able to come in under budget even as our number of campaigns and assets increased each quarter. As more histroical data was collected into the CRM, we in marketing were able to do true, accurate forecasting of future pipeline, win/loss %, etc. and ultimately of revenue.
Penetrating New Prospect Companies
We utilized both proven and innovative types of campaign assets to increase impact without increasing costs. In one case, we took a number of the white papers and other content related to a selected business problem and reformatted these into a perfect-bound book which we published using self-publishing services. This book of several hundred pages was provided to the inside and outside Sales teams as a tactic to use to gain interest from, and meetings with, prospects. The program was simple, inside Sales would call targeted roles in target companies for which we currently had no relationship and they would offer them for free this non-sales related piece of valuable content, namely this book. If they decided they wanted the book, then we just required getting their address to have it delivered to them. This meant we were able to identify highly relevant and interested new prospects to whom we could then add to appropriate buyer's journey campaigns. Instead of sending the book in the mail we arranged for a salesperson to hand deliver it via a 15 minute "non-Sales" appointment, which gave them the opportunity to meet a new prospect and to expand the relationship by walking the corridors and meeting other relevant people. We targeted 100 accounts that we wish to penetrate but had absolutely no relationship with in the European territories. This was an excellent, low-cost way of helping our outside Sales team expand their existing Contact database. We were incredibly careful to not sell to these companies at this point in time, but instead to focus on building a relationship and purely delivering something of interest and value to them. Most of these targets became legitimate new prospects and much-needed pipeline for the region for the next 12 - 18 months.
In summary, the B2B3 team utilized our unique processes and techniques to grow demand by approximately 500% in a 12 month period, without increasing the budget. We were able to utilize and retrain existing people resources (including globally in-sourced marketing functions) and augment them only surgically for the highest impact. We didn’t at that time try to fix broken products or try to fully repair a weak and fragmented Sales organization, but these were challenges we were able to work around and still generate a much more meaningful, consistent and productive pipeline. The relationship between marketing and Sales had moved from one of adversarial relationship to a genuine partnership. Sales could now rely on the quality and volume of the marketing pipeline, and it was possible to accurately forecast exactly how many new MQLs and Sales Opportunities would enter the pipeline in any given period of time. Utilizing the new knowledge content as well as "how to better use the software you already have" content with existing customers also helped with the creation of well-crafted new case studies, references and their first ever set of web-friendly "Customer Stories." All the activities and communications were also able to significantly and positively impact the brand and awareness and preference for the selected target markets for each campaign.
Along with the elements listed above we also implemented (and where needed, developed):
- a very simple set of brand guidelines
- a new internal video creation process
- a program of marketing training and mentoring for the marketing team (and campaign training for Sales and marketing)
- a model for outsourcing and global in-sourcing of select marketing functions (product marketing, marketing operations, digital marketing, etc.)
- a much stronger and open communication program across all of marketing
- standardized templates for presentations and documents
- writer and editor/reviewer guidelines for our staff
- a process for turning a single asset into a full set of impactful related and derivative multiple media content assets
- a project management process (using Zoho Projects)
- an inside Sales automation process
- a RACI model (The RACI model is a straightforward tool used for identifying roles and responsibilities and avoiding confusion over those roles and responsibilities during a project) for product marketing and product management
- a corporate business planning and forecasting process with record accuracy
- a detailed events management process
- a series of A/B tested methods of integrating trade events into demand generation buyer's journey campaigns
- many other elements planning and cross-functional operationalization.
Based on a very aggressive marketing plan, we set goals at approximately 300% of previous actuals, and we then proceeded to exceed even these new high goals by a dramatic margin, while coming in with a spend of under 90% of a budget which was the same as previous years' budget. These are the numbers:
|Contacts||135% of target|
|Inquiries||111% of target|
|Leads||217% of target|
|Marketing Qualified Leads||230% of target|
|Sales Qualified Leads||140% of target|
|Opportunities||135% of target|
The end result was a professional, highly efficient and effective marketing organization and a black box demand gen machine that can be throttled to the capacity of Sales and will drive record growth for years to come.