On-Target Marketing

Sep 14 2011   8:51AM GMT

TechTarget Empowers Sales Reps to Better Connect with Prospects

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

In August, TechTarget announced a major upgrade to its Activity Intelligence platform. I spoke to Jeff Ramminger, SVP of products for TechTarget, to find out more.

Q. Give an overview of Activity Intelligence.

First you need to understand that TechTarget goes to market in a very topically segmented way. We offer lots of editorial coverage around these topics, along with content from a thousand or so clients. Lots of registered users access the editorial and vendor content, while also engaging with each other via our social communities. Moreover, we see about 10 million searches per month across our 100+ Web properties. By analyzing content search and consumption patterns and trends, we distill valuable facts about a huge community of IT professionals.

We developed Activity Intelligence for two reasons: 1) to develop better mechanisms for targeting content to our users, which improves their experience with our sites and content and 2) to track and report on users’ journeys throughout their online research process on TechTarget sites in ways that are useful to our clients. In the first generation of Activity Intelligence, we added data to our lead reports to start sharing these insights with our clients. However, our clients found it was time-consuming and difficult to modify their systems to pull in the raw data and do anything meaningful with it. Plus, marketers want more guidance and counsel on the meaning and implications of this data.

We interviewed over 40 clients to better understand IT vendors’ pain points around managing lead data. While it seems simple, the latest generation of Activity Intelligence is very powerful. Rather than simply sending raw data to our clients, we display the data in a series of dashboards that our clients access securely via the web.

Q. What are the highlights of the announcement?

First is that we deliver intelligence about each individual lead. Each lead is associated with a unique link that provides details on that person’s interactions with your campaigns, meaningful activities across our network, and the content that has and has not been consumed. This helps marketers and sales reps understand the prospect’s mind-set and what content to offer to advance the conversation. In short, we’re making it much easier for marketing and sales to enable a meaningful follow-up with each lead.

Second is that we deliver enhanced data where possible for each lead. We do that by partnering with iProfile to append a variety of additional data points about each contact, such as their corporate phone number and email address, a link to their LinkedIn profile, and additional demographics where available.

The third, and most transformative, change is that we now roll up all information about an account to provide our clients with a comprehensive view. For example, oftentimes large numbers of employees from a single company will be registered users with us. Perhaps only one or a few have downloaded content about a certain topic from your campaign, however, others from that company may be also be researching on the topic related to your campaign – they just haven’t downloaded your content. We can show our clients what these other registered users – or undiscovered contacts – from that same company are doing on our sites. This overall volume of activity on a topic is typically a good indicator of an active project.

In addition to giving sales another piece of data as they determine the priority for a lead, this aligns better with how sales works – they’re assigned to accounts — not individuals — and this information gives them more of an account-oriented view.

Account Intelligence

Activity Intelligence Dashboard: Account Intelligence

Q. Why should tech marketers care?

Amazon.com has done a great job of personalizing the experience so it’s robust and rich for consumers. You can argue that a similar paradigm should exist when it comes to content online. By understanding interests and topics that are top of mind, TechTarget can create a richer experience for IT professionals while also paying dividends to the technology vendors trying to reach them.

Many IT professionals work on a variety of projects in a year and consume a tremendous amount of content as part of that. The basis for Activity Intelligence is that TechTarget has a “handshake” with its site visitors. In other words, when they register for content, site visitors understand their information will be passed along to the vendor as a lead. From the user side of the equation, Activity Intelligence allows us to create a more rich and robust experience by presenting relevant content. On the client (marketer) side, we provide more understanding about a prospect, helping vendors with follow up and nurturing. When we talk to our registered users, one thing that greatly frustrates them is when they receive a generic follow-up phone call from a vendor. If the technology marketer uses Activity Intelligence to enable a more robust and contextually relevant discussion, it’s good for both the user and the marketer.

Q. Does this tie into your research on hyperactive IT researchers and if so, how?

Conceptually, those taking more actions online have a much higher propensity to be in an active project and looking for a solution to a problem. In other words, they make better prospects.

Understanding their online activities is critical to better engaging these prospective buyers. But the reality of a salesperson’s day is that they get leads from a variety of sources. Salespeople need to get as much information and context about a prospect as quickly and simply as possible, as that helps them understand which leads to prioritize.

With Activity Intelligence, they get easy access to a rich display of information about prospects in one place. What they see are the various activities – such as how much of the company’s content the prospect consumed versus how much of the company’s competitors’ content the prospect consumed – so they get context. They also see how many activities have taken place during a certain time frame, which helps to create a sense of priority.

Q. How is this an improvement?

For years, quantity trumped quality in the online demand generation space. Over time, quality became more important, but many marketers don’t know how to make sense of the information at their disposal, especially when it means tracking different activities associated with a single name in the database. For example, many disregard the value of someone downloading a white paper and viewing a webcast a few days later. For marketers without a systematic way to track and score these activities, the activities just become a duplicate record in the database.

With the Activity Intelligence Dashboard, our clients can see all the activities and content downloaded by our registered users. When it comes to pre-sales, it’s just as important to know what a prospect hasn’t looked at as what he or she has looked at. This insight makes the follow-up more compelling and productive, allowing the pre-sales or sales rep to leave a more useful and contextual message and send an email with pointers to other content.

Q. How should marketers expect to benefit from the new-and-improved Activity Intelligence?

We’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from clients during our beta. We expect clients to see better ROI because fewer leads will fall through the gaps. According to our analysis, only 15% of leads turn into a productive sales conversation. Even if we help move that to 30%, it’s a tremendous boost to the marketers’ ROI.

Q. How do you envision your platform further evolving?

Tech marketers will be excited to see what else is on our roadmap. For example, a marketer might want to see interactions with different assets in a campaign by volume, such as which asset is doing best by industry. We also see lots of opportunities to marry activity data on the brand side with activity data on the demand side to give sales and marketing a more comprehensive view of what’s going on. For example, a marketer might want to understand which companies have seen and/or clicked on one of their online ads. It may then want to determine whether anyone from that company has clicked on or downloaded any of the content assets being used to generate leads. The bottom line is that Activity Intelligence sheds more light on IT professionals’ online activity – giving our clients a much higher potential for meaningful engagement and program ROI.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • Samuraiwriter
    Stephanie, That was an interesting interview. Thanks for doing it. The dashboard and visitor profile info looks like it will save busy marketers some time and effort. On the visitor side, I'm real curious what % of IT visitors who sign up use free email addresses and/or non-business contact info (phone, address etc). I'm a touch cynical but I also know from experience how much hands-on IT Pros wish to avoid lead follow-up by vendors, when they are still in the research phase...
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  • MarilouBarsam

    We see about 32%-38% of technology buyers using their personal email for sign-up to vendor offers. In recent studies and conversations, tech buyers tell us they use their personal accounts to separate vendor offers from daily business communications in order to organize them better for follow-up. When they get more information from the vendor they registered with, they can catalogue and organize vendor content more easily.

    Related to follow-up there is some truth that early researchers may not be ready for serious follow-up in terms of accepting a sales pitch, but the point is that they may appreciate follow-up information sent along in a nurturing manner as long as it is contextually related to their research, which is what marketers can do as a means of

    staying in touch with them until they are ready to talk.

    Marilou Barsam





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