This is a verbatim transcription of an interview with Fred Yee, CEO of ActiveConversion. You may use quotes from this interview, but please edit Fred Yee or James Obermayer if required due to the conversational nature of the program.
Long Sales Cycles are difficult enough for salespeople to keep top of mind, much less gearing up a marketing automation program to do it for you. Too many marketers are so short of content that the longer the sales cycle the more likely that the content and communications may be lacking in specificity for each prospects need. During this live program, Fred Yee, CEO and founder of ActiveConversion discusses how to use the “smarts” in marketing automation to your advantage for long sales cycles.
Paul: It’s time again for the SLMA Radio Hour brought to you on behalf of our 8000+ members of the SLMA; Sales Lead Management Association. If it has to do with sales lead management or sales lead marketing, it probably starts here with the SLMA Radio Hour.
Our host today is Jim Obermayer, executive director and founder of the SLMA and your producer is yours truly Paul Roberts coming to you live from our studios here in kind of sunny Southern California.
SLMA Radio is a syndicated show and our archives have over 362 episodes now with an audience reach of close to 90,000 listeners.
SLMA Radio is part of the SLMA Live Channel which currently offers eight programs for at work listeners and all of which are spontaneous exchange of ideas, not scripted starting with this one.
Alright let’s kick things off by welcoming our host Jim Obermayer, hey Jim!
Jim: We are changing… there’s a couple of things that’s going on here we might as well let the get out of the way. The SLMA Live Channel is changing to a new name – Funnel Radio and Funnel Radio is now owned by the Funnel Media Group LLC and SLMA is one of the divisions below that. And along with Funnel Media we are starting several new radio programs starting this summer – CRM Today is launching on July 7 so many, many programs to follow on through the fall.
Our program today, we’ve got Fred Yee, he’s the founder and CEO of Active Conversion. We’re going to tackle the subject: How to Use Marketing Automation to Follow a Longer B2B Sales Cycle. Long sales cycles are difficult enough for salespeople to keep top of mind much less gearing up marketing automation program to do it for you. Too many marketers are so short on content that the longer sales cycles are more likely… as the longer sales cycles are more likely the content sometimes peters out and lack specificity, it just gets a week and yet we all know that half of the sales especially in business-to-business take at least 6 to 12 months.
So we’re going to tackle the subject and Fred is unique in this. He is the founder of Active Conversion, he’s held careers in software as a software developer, project manager, sales executive but you will see that right away. Fred is an accomplished expert in online marketing and the community. He’s been recognized in 2009 and 10 as one of more of the top 50 most influential people in sales lead management. He’s been interviewed by industry media companies such as Demand GEN Report, Marketing Sherpa, Marketing Advice, Dream Force – the dream force console conference sponsored by salesforce. Active Conversion is Fred’s third successful company and he continues to explore the possibilities of software automation especially in the industrial areas. Fred welcome!
Fred: Hi Jim!
Jim: Good to talk to you again. To be 100% revealing to our audience you’ve been a sponsor for the SLMA for some years and we appreciate your sponsorship that you have a page on our site and everything and you always have given me good advice in the past.
Now before we get started I don’t always do this, I usually ask, tell us a little bit about Active Conversion but… or your company so people know where you’re coming from but you seem to set yourself apart by saying that you are marketing automation company for industrial companies. Now what do you mean by that and who is your typical user?
Fred: Well, that’s exactly right. We set ourselves apart, there are various products and services out there but they are very few for industrial companies. So we say we are a marketing automation industrial SMB in particular, companies that are anywhere from about 25 to 500 people pretty wide range – underserved.
Jim: Get started on this Fred can you tell me who your definition is… what the definition is of sales lead nurturing?
Fred: The obvious one in marketing automation is having email whether it’s in a blast or a form where they fill out a form and they get regular blasts, but all of these sort of things. I think when a sales rep sends an article to a prospect; that’s nurturing, that in my view is actually the best kind. Writing an article is very pertinent to the prospects business.
Jim: Okay now is there really a difference between short-term nurturing and long-term nurturing?
Fred: Yeah, I think there is. Long-term nurturing tends to be marketing driven. The we’ve had customers where their sales cycles were two years. No sales reps in their right minds trying to make quota will follow that very well. It’s one of the reasons we started Active Conversion, is I’ve been carrying a bag with me basically which I know sounds like the typical war story but I was found selling this pretty straightforward even with large size deals and long sales cycles. The hardest part was knowing when they were ready to buy.
You could nurture them until the cows come home but the point is you never really knew what was going on. And with Active Conversion one of the key things our customers enjoy is when that prospect is ready to reengage, they give you signals by responding to your email. They look through their inbox and go yeah, I need to get back on this project and they click and they hit your website and then Active Conversion tells you.
Jim: The nurturing, the long-term nurturing is important but somebody like Active Conversion, because of your program, you can begin to tell where the person is re-engaging and thinking about coming in without necessarily raising their hand is that right?
Fred: Right, exactly right.
Jim: Alright and how does this engagement really happen over time?
You are right, so if a salesperson has two or 300 inquiries over a years’ period which is not unusual and half of them are potential buyers and he starts tracking five or 10 per month even with a good CRM system it’s hard to really tell. It’s got to be his outward bound activity that begins to dig up with her they are ready to buy and you’re saying that you can provide that G2, that intelligence back through Active Conversion, right?
Fred: Right. You know, CRM’s are great Jim but we had them even back in the 80s and the 90s and I’ve used them and about the best they could do was remind you to call that guy every month until he was ready. And for those that were never ready because they never really intended to buy at least from you or from the sales rep, it wasn’t really all that useful in my mind. People, on this radio show I am sure everybody understands the term buy signal. What you’re getting from Active Conversion is virtual buy signals; the signals are actually more important than actually what they are saying to you.
Jim: What they are saying is very often what you want to hear or what you don’t want to hear. As soon as people know, as soon as they say well we are getting close to making a decision then they know they can expect four more calls from the sales reps the next two weeks and find out how close that is. Now it’s up on the pipeline, it’s visible management is asking about it; the bigger the dollars, the worse it gets and the race is on and all because the person was honest, that’s why so many of the people of the same trade who are inquirers, they lie but they can’t lie about their activity can they?
Fred: Right. But not only that but that’s only from one person that you may have talked to.
Jim: Now let me get this straight to a certain extent let’s say that I am inquiring about your services and then I go quiet for a while and then you see Susan Finch from SLMA come in and look at some of your products and services and come to a couple of your pages and then you see Ron Goodman comes in and he looks at different pages and downloads a few white papers. And then you see Sue Campanelli come in and she begins to look at pricing and other things and you haven’t talked to me at all but…
Fred: I would be putting you pretty high on our forecast.
Jim: Well good.
Fred: Four different people from the same company visiting.
Jim: As the user, you would be able to get that signal and you would begin to know that something is going on especially if people identify themselves and they start looking at white papers or E content to other things. We’re going to take a break for just a moment. When we come back I would like to take a look at some of our… the changing nature of nurturing overtime from your perspective and we already answered what it takes for your salespeople to follow up the inquiry and what have you but if you’ve also got some case studies that you would like to approach and talk about so people can get the vision in their mind exactly how that works. And I am filling time right now because Paul my producer is away from his desk and I see a blank desk so let’s move forward.
Can you give me a sample… well here is Paul! Paul is back again and he is going to go ahead and he’s going to have a word from our sponsor. When we come back Fred Yee is going to give us a little sample of maybe a real-life example of how this all works for the customer. Paul!
Paul: All right, let’s get back to Jim and his guest!
Jim: We have been speaking with Fred Yee, he is the founder and CEO of Active Conversion. We’ve been talking about the problems with long-term nurturing and the nurturing itself is only as good as the salesperson’s ability to follow up. Nurturing is a one-way communications very often. And even if you do get notice of what someone is doing by downloading papers you don’t know really what’s going on in their head and Fred gave us a great idea, a feeling for what happens in the long-term because it through Active Conversion you’re actually able to see activities that are going on without the person raising their hands – in other words they can see when someone hits your website, downloads papers et cetera. I believe they grade the inquiry and begin to present it to the sales rep and the reps start to see two or three people from the same company and is on his prospect list, he knows something is going on.
Fred have I outlined that about right?
Fred: Sounds pretty much it. The only thing I would maybe add is we might only see Jim on our website but when we see three other people from SLMA even if they haven’t downloaded anything and identify themselves, that’s still the same thing, right?
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Jim: Right. Definitely and sometimes a can’t definitely the person but you can see is coming from their website so you know somebody’s nosing around someplace and it gives you an idea. Maybe somebody on a purchasing committee, it could be somebody on the product choice committee, it could be six or eight people that you don’t even know their names of but they are coming indefinitely and the salespeople really find that interesting.
Can you give us an example of an industrial company that’s using this kind of technology and how it’s working out for them?
Fred: Yeah, I think actually I can probably even use their name, they are very happy with us; they are actually fairly new. Adex Electronics, they do battery manufacturing and distribution, pretty good size company, probably around 200 people or so. The guy, Sean Bradshaw fell in love with it right away and he literally paid for the software in the first week he tells us because he did exactly what we were talking about earlier.
They had a prospect who visited the website, didn’t raise their hand by filling out a form or downloading anything but they recognize the company name and then they went right into their CRM and said you know I wonder if it’s Jack from XYZ. They actually called up Jack and found out three years, I am not kidding you, three-year sales cycle Jack was finally ready to move and they were ready – they basically anticipated that he was ready to restart the project.
So not a case study per se about nurturing but I guess you could say they probably had talked to Jack for a long time before that, maybe they sent him information but the fulfillment of that nurturing was the key for them. But of course with Adex being a smart company they actually understood the value of content marketing so they want to be able to use our system to also email customers and prospects.
Again our email is not like regular email. Our email is such that when you interact with that email it’s as if they filled out a form so we know who it is, what you are interested in and ultimately a profile gets built up in our system that looks much like a CRM screen, a typical one where you have today, what you are interested in and when they call back and when you had your last conversation except that no one ever has to actually type anything in right up their name, their URL, their phone number, their email address its output in either by the system filling it in or by the prospects or by their behavior. Does that describe it reasonably well?
Jim: Your system provides a scoring system which… does that keep increasing the score of the lead so it continues to become more and more valuable?
Fred: Right. And we even have things on certain key pages. So they start… they get pretty deep into your webpage or website to look for pricing or about us pages or awards pages or certification type pages, we give those actually a higher score. You know that they are not going to be looking up those things unless they are actually looking to buy.
Jim: Yeah. Yeah that’s interesting. Now what is it cost to get started on a system like this?
Fred: Well obviously it depends but you can probably budget around $1000 a month and one thing I should say is that we haven’t too much about because we’ve been talking more about the software is that includes [18:12 inaudible].
Jim: What do you mean by that?
Fred: Well our typical customer, like I said, hate marketing, hate advertising usually have little or no marketing personnel and if they do it’s usually somebody who just sets up their trade shows and builds their brochures. So the system doesn’t work all that well unless there’s visitors who are interested in what they do coming to their website.
Fred: We work with Google; we are actually a hired to appear partner with them because they want to see success in the industrial market. And so we provide ad words help with SEO, email marketing, setting up blogs so I could go on and on but basically there are certain things you might see from an agency but we’re not trying to be an agency we’re just trying to help them get relevant visitors to the website so the system can pick up this information.
Jim: Is this a long-term agreement or is this a short-term agreement? Is it a year or month-to-month?
Fred: We priced it as a year agreement but it’s month-to-month. You pay month-to-month and if you are unhappy you don’t have to wait for the year to finish.
Jim: Setup fees to start it up?
Fred: There is no setup fees.
Jim: Fred, Fred! You are leaving money on the table!
Fred: Yeah! We used to think that back a few years ago until we discovered we had to put our money where our mouth was and take a risk. And we actually do, in a sense, 12 months worth of work, well maybe not 12 months but six months worth of work up front. The thing with our system is it tracks the ROI and then shows the visitors even if they have a long sales cycle they realize they are not going to close in the next month, right? – As long as they can see the results; the visitors coming, their scores increasing, the engagement, the fact that they are downloading content. Let’s put it this way, we wouldn’t continue to avert if we were getting cancellations after the third month. People do see the value when they can actually see the analytics of that.
Jim: You’ve been very helpful in getting through our mic problems today, the mic problems on my end. We’ve been speaking with Fred Yee, the CEO of Active Conversion and Fred is going through why long-term nurturing is important but what’s behind really behind the curtains nurturing which really is going on in the customer’s mind and how often they are coming to your website. He shared with us how this works, he shares with us the cost per month which is pocket change compared to the benefits of the customer. You may not [21:15 inaudible] make any money for six months Fred but I guarantee the customer is. This will be available as a podcast next week and we will make sure we take care of the mic problems before then so it’s a clearer podcast for replays. Fred thank you very much for being on the program today.
Fred: Thank you Jim!
Jim: Paul, over to you!
Paul: You’ve been listening to another edition of SLMA Radio brought you on behalf of our 9000+ members of the Sales Lead Management Association. If it has to do with sales lead management or sales and marketing it probably starts here with the SLMA Radio Hour.
About Fred Yee
Fred is the founder and CEO of ActiveConversion. Holding a B.Sc in computer science, as well as completing the MBA for executives course at the University of Calgary, he has held careers as a software developer, project manager, and sales executive. Fred is an accomplished expert in the online marketing community, being recognized in 2009 and 2010 as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and has been interviewed by industry media such as Demand Gen Report, Marketing Sherpa, Technology Advice, and the Dreamforce Conference presented by Salesforce.com. ActiveConversion is Fred’s third successful company, and he continues to explore the possibilities of software automation on industrial sales and marketing systems.
ActiveConversion is North America’s leading industrial sales & marketing system. Designed specifically for manufacturers, distributors, and service providers, ActiveConversion helps businesses generate more leads online and convert leads into sales. Founded in 2007, ActiveConversion combines software and services to manage the traditionally longer B2B sales cycle and has been recognized by Deloitte as a Tech Company to Watch for its technology and thought leadership.