Live from the Dell Founders 50 Summit: How you can engage customers effectively

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Innovation. Many B2B leaders talk about it, but not many do anything about it. However, actionable advice in this arena was on display this week in San Francisco at the Third Annual Dell for Entrepreneurs Founders 50 Summit.

On April 23, another bright and clear day in San Francisco saw the sun gleaming off the tower of the Hotel Nikko, the site of the Dell Founders 50 Summit. In the 25th-floor Golden Gate Foyer conference room, Dell CMO Karen Quintos moderated a “fireside chat” panel discussion with Jeremy Bloom, CEO and founder of Integrate, a Big Data platform that integrates all incoming demand gen leads, and Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance, a omnichannel platform to personalize the consumer retail experience. They discussed how B2B companies and startups can collaboratively innovate customer engagement to fulfill the promise of modern marketing methodologies.

Nurture not nature

For example, large enterprises and startups have to innovate a nurture strategy to reach mid-market companies, according to Bloom. Otherwise, in this case, the lifetime customer value will exceed the cost to acquire the customer in the first place. As a marketing automation solution provider with 90 percent of its customers in the B2B space, Integrate helps business marketers with their nurture strategies by cleaning “dirty data.” Not only does Integrate de-duplicate contact database entries but it also flags and eliminates erroneous entries, such as “Mickey Mouse” in the name fields.

As an alum of the Founder 50 program, Bloom came back to the Summit to describe to current enrollees how his company now works with all 26 Dell divisions to clean their data. And like Dell, Integrate believes in open platforms. Bloom described how Integrate is working with Oracle’s Eloqua and Marketo to develop add-ons that will clean data within both of those electronic direct marketing applications. Bloom says Integrate is agnostic among email marketing programs, even working with up-and-comer Pardot, as he described Salesforce’s entry in this niche.

Culture trumps strategy

For Kegley, innovation in B2B marketing can often come down to culture. She said that culture will vary from company to company and that it can make it hard to align the team. In those situations, the B2B company could very well need a full-time program manager. But whatever the culture of the company, there’s never any excuse for rudeness. B2B marketers should use common business courtesy in all their interactions. This can open doors to different business relationships going forward, according to Kegley.

Returning to the discussion regarding the mid-market, Kegley felt that the B2B marketer must refine her message to reach those participants. Such messaging will have to be different than the one B2B marketers use to go after the enterprise. Quintos echoed that sentiment saying that the right message and right content in the right context can be very powerful. After all, the CIO of a large financial institution is going to be receptive to a different message than what an entrepreneurial networker will key on. Bottom line: target messages to where your customers are, figuratively speaking.

Social media for innovation

As Quintos recalled, when she rose to the CMO role four years ago, social media at Dell was like chasing the new shiny object. “There was too much effort being spent on marketing tactics and not enough on strategy,” Quintos noted.

Even with all the new innovative social media channels available today, the fundamentals of marketing have not changed. Clearly referencing the 4Ps of marketing, Quintos said that a great product at a great price is still necessary. Digital marketing only allows for automation of the 4P concept.

B2B marketers need to be wary of their own successes. In Quintos’ view, marketers are great at hype (e.g., Internet of Things, the Cloud). While these names could imply a new bottle, it’s really just the same fine wine.

Rather than spend more time on hype, B2B marketers need to ask themselves how they can help the customer on her journey with marketing automation. The B2B company that really knows its customers on a one-to-one basis and uses marketing automation to ease that activity will win the battle for mind share, according to Quintos.

Now it’s time to say goodbye

In closing, Quintos reflected on her experience with company founder Michael Dell. A number of years ago, Dell took a step back to consider where the business was headed. And now in the wake of the leveraged buyout that took Dell private, the company has an unbelievable opportunity to expand beyond the PC/hardware space. This follows the history of Dell progressively moving up the high-tech food chain. As it originally worked only on desktop computers, naysayers never saw the Dell ascension into notebook computers, as an example. And Dell continues to expand its mission.

Quintos shared that Dell has been making acquisitions in PC-adjacent business spaces. And with the scheduled severing of HP’s computer and printer divisions from the IT services and software units, Dell will be left standing as the only end-to-end technology provider for businesses.

From this position Dell will be able to innovate in the small-medium business (SMB) sector. Dell has a strong focus in this segment, because as Quintos saw it innovation is just not happening at the many Fortune 50 companies. “We have an opportunity to lead in SMB,” she concluded.

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).
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