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Optimize the Buying Process: Transactional vs. Consultative Marketing Models

Bill Carper is senior director of global marketing for Oracle Corp. During his talk at Ad:Tech 2003 today, he considered tactics and strategies for marketing organizations driven for immediate sales, as well as to provide layered services for prospects. He also focused on using audience-appropriate marketing models to improve acquisition, retention, and monetization. Here is a rough transcript of his presentation:

Bill Carper is senior director of global marketing for Oracle Corp. During his talk at Ad:Tech 2003 today, he considered tactics and strategies for marketing organizations driven for immediate sales, as well as to provide layered services for prospects. He also focused on using audience-appropriate marketing models to improve acquisition, retention, and monetization. Here is a rough transcript of his presentation:

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What I want to talk about is how to use audience-appropriate marketing models based on what you see your audience doing. My primary responsibilities are global campaign planning and execution. I also work on Oracle events and conferences. I work in a larger group that’s a campaign planning and analytics organization that has about 50 people.

Today I’ll walk through the motivation for different buying audiences, the models we’ve defined to attract and mature those people, some examples, and some results.

There are some industry challenges that are appropriate to this group. To quote Geoffrey Moore, “Yesterday’s technology is just that. Today it’s about customer aspirations and customer realities. The future of technology will be based on the lifetime value of the customer.” Another challenge comes from TS Eliot: “Between the conception and the creation, between the emotion and response, falls the shadow.”

This is where the shadow falls. How do we motivate action? How do we reach decision makers? When are decisions made? What are we learning? You can generate incredible insight if you measure a carefully architected campaign.

Through a lot of data analysis, we started to notice some very
distinct engagement patterns. We created unique marketing approaches based on those patterns. There’s an audience that’s a very transactional audience. And there’s an audience that needs a lot of information and consulting. Especially at the C level, people need to understand applications. They don’t need to be sold, they need to be informed.

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Essentially, if you think about transactional marketing, there are discreet functions and handouts between marketing and sales. Our job is to generate a high volume. It’s the model on which most technology companies have grown. On the consultative side of the equation, you find associated functions and a gradual handoff. We need to create some intelligence. That’s a big difference, and it’s a big impact on the business. It’s not always an easy transition.

What’s the impact across the process? The buying process on the transactional side is shorter. In a consultative approach, it’s more complex. They don’t know what the solution is, but they know they need to optimize their performance. Home Depot has a great DIY model. They’re not the most friendly stores. They’re not always clean. But they cram a lot of stuff in there. Then there’s the Expo Design Center. They tell you why certain pillows match certain couches. They understand how to help you make your house a home.

Another example is us. We don’t really need to make an impression of the impact we can have in database software. We are not the 800-pound gorilla for the business applications business. That’s more consultative. We have to market to a more senior audience.

Offers tend to be very promotional in the transactional model. For consultative, it’s value based. It’s consulting based, value assessment, third-party association.

With transactional, we market to individuals. Home Depot markets to contractors. On the other side, you market to an organization, a larger decision-making population. That’s the approach that Expo Design Center takes when they market to women. Decisions are made by groups of people when products are less known.

Metrics are straightforward. In transactional, it’s all efficiency, margin, and volume. In Oracle’s case, we have a large telemarketing organization. Most sales start or end there. Consultative is more engagement oriented. There’s more uptake and organizational penetration.

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For a transactional campaign, we’ll establish goals, create efficiency and drive margins. We start with a forecast. We have enough history and enough data. It’s very clean cut and simple. Here’s a campaign that we ran for our Collaboration Suite, a communications package. We get our voicemail as email in our in box. I haven’t picked up my phone in months. This is very different for Oracle in terms of our brand and our image.

The campaign objectives were to drive opportunities, pipeline, and revenue; illustrate and leverage differences with our competitors; and to create excitement within the tech community. The first goal was not to create awareness. Our segmentation was primarily aimed at our installed base. We did have some C-level targets, but they were not our primary targets. We did not build a big field sales for this. It’s a more efficient model to go through the phones.

The results indicated that we were on target with the message, a strong offer, and intelligent media purchases. Lead volume was 30% better than forecast. And opportunities were 81% better. That’s an example of one campaign. And the nice thing about transactional marketing is that it’s scalable globally. It’s not about relationships. We designed to test the efficacy of globally coordinated media. It’s hard to test how a message works in China vs. France. We started with the top 10 countries for us in terms of revenue.

Let’s talk about the consultative model. Consultative is more focused at the organization level and is designed to drive one-to-one relationships. You want to segment by industry and job role. You also want to understand potential value of the promotable universe. Understand organizations at the org level, all the decision makers, what kinds of events have been attended. Don’t look at one DBA, one senior IT manager. Try to find people who are C level. You can underestimate the importance of doing this as well as the difficulty.

Create targeted org-level marketing plans. Surround them in a concerted, coordinated manner. We can all surround organizations, but to do it efficiently is a little more difficult to do. Focus on business needs and solutions. Provide value add. Market through sales. As a marketer, that’s a little hard to swallow, but if you’re smart, you’ll realize that field sales have a lot of enterprise knowledge.

Approach the target in phases. In the first phase, create account-specific marketing plans. Then target industry and line of business marketing. The majority of your mix and your spin should target these organizations. And work to win more customers, but be prepared to walk away from the stuff that’s not worth winning. It behooves you to walk away from accounts that just won’t work. It’d be smart to spend your money somewhere else.

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There are four key portions in this case. The customer experience is messaging, sales cycle integration, influencing the influencers, and managing your systems. You need to measure this and model this.

For messaging, identify a key pain point, create messaging that resonates with that pain point. Make sure your messaging is consistent online and offline. Make sure that it’s relevant to the account industry and role. If you do that well, you’ll establish credibility, add value, and present solutions. Talk about something other than Oracle.

The most important thing in sales cycle integration is synchronization. Synchronize customer contact between marketing and sales by aligning activities to the stages in your sales cycle, enable one-to-one account-based communication, and market to and through sales. They may have something on their PalmPilot that you’d never know about. Share segmentation and data. And target companies, not individuals. You can focus on a person, but realize that there are six other people on the proof-of-concept committee.

In terms of influencing the influencers, enlist them as advocates to generate awareness, interest, and add credibility to build demand. Influencers are either subordinates in an organization or peers — or a third party outside the company. The challenge is making sure timing and consistency are appropriate. Trade associations and luminaries are important.

Finally, systems. Systems are systems, but you need to have a single, consistent data model. Understand how many times a customer touches the organization. I need to say here that Oracle has not perfected this, If we did, we’d own the marketplace. But internally, we’ve made significant strides.

One of the biggest issues in business is corporate compliance. Those laws have teeth, and they’re written in a very nebulous manner so they can have even bigger teeth. We enlisted our CFO to sit down with his peers and talk about compliance. People may think that a technology company doesn’t have a lot to say about compliance. But that stuff is done using software. How can you set a course for compliance? How can you navigate a rough landscape?

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The creative in the resulting campaign wasn’t oriented toward making a sale. But maybe we can help you with a piece of software that can mitigate that worry and keep you from going to jail. We positioned Oracle as a trusted business partner. We focused on compliance, visibility, control, and process efficiency. It wasn’t about the product. It was about business needs. We needed to grab attention, create urgency, and manage the gatekeepers.

The difference here is that we had executive solutions factories. People would call in, and we’d create solutions for them so they could understand how to manage numbers, data, and projects. Our segmentation was almost all C level.

Here’s where the two differ. We built a tool for sales, a portal for our creative side that would allow the sales organization to see a list of must-see accounts. We listed those and described what the campaign would be. Then we allowed them to build their own creative. Our uptake on this campaign was about 70%. We essentially played a service bureau role in this case.

Online, we had offer and message testing. We tested different guides such as an Executives Guide to Sarbanes-Oxley vs. Oracle’s White Paper on Sarbanes-Oxley. We also did a series of Webcasts through Forbes.com’s CEO Portal. It’s not download a white paper. It’s telling you how important this all is. Two hours, no sales pitch at all. It was branded Oracle, but that’s as deep as it went. We also worked with Dow Jones, which has a Corporate Governance newsletter. All we did was put our name on it. If they came to our landing pad, they’d come to our information on audit controls and project management. Overall, the campaign was a success. 71% of responders were C level or VP. 66% were CEOs.

The big things I would take away are this. You need a single data model across shared applications. You need to orient campaigns around the buying process. You need to analytically derive and evolve. You need to integrate with sales and plan and drive toward shared goals. As a marketer, swallow your pride. And synchronize activities. Regardless of whether integration exists or matters, if your messaging and creative is consistent, we’ve seen 40% lift. It works. Take the time to do that.

Develop an audience-appropriate channel mix. In our contact management database, the CEO names that we have are 70% opt out. Don’t build an email campaign for them. Optimize continuously. Focus globally if it’s possible. Dont look away from all parts of the organization. And the biggest thing is to develop strong agency relationships. Work to develop partnerships. Don’t approach agencies as vendors.

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