Marketing 2.0 hits enterprise IT

Some observations on how the consumerization of enterprise IT is changing sales and marketing

Earlier this week I was presenting at a gathering of software firms at a mini-conference on B2B marketing. The event was hosted by Technology Crossover Ventures and included many of its portfolio companies. TCV asked me to share some of my experience in how we built the business at MySQL and applied high-volume techniques at Sun.

In preparing the presentation, I was thinking about how much things have changed in the last 10 years. It used to be that marketing was all about the "big bang" launch: rent the billboard, hire a PR firm, call the analysts, buy a Super Bowl ad, ship the product (maybe), hire an enterprise sales team -- then wait for the sales to roll in. And in some cases, the model worked pretty well. There were a lot of $1 billion enterprise software companies built on calling on CIOs and closing 1 or 2 million dollar deals per sales rep per year.

[ See the previous InfoWorld column: "From downloads to dollars" | Keep up with the latest open source news with InfoWorld's open source newsletter and topic center. ]

Of course, those days are long gone. A lot of the traditional IT trade press are no longer in print, analyst firms have consolidated, trade shows have passed by the wayside. I would argue that very few of the old enterprise marketing techniques apply in the 21st century. Why? Because the Internet changed how people search for information. You don't have to buy expensive analyst reports or go to a trade show. Just look on Google and see what people are saying. Download the software and try it out.

Open source software companies were able to disrupt the market by courting an underserved market and using a radical distribution model. But how well do those same techniques apply in more traditional IT firms? A few months back, I showed the first calendar quarter of results of applying these techniques at Sun. We achieved a 13-fold in run rate improvement in top-of-funnel leads in the first quarter -- not bad.

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In the last quarter, we grew to that to more than 1 million raw leads or inquiries -- enough to whet any sales VP's appetite. We also achieved a 25-fold increase in volume of leads further down in the pipeline, what we call "pre-BANT" (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe) leads. While not every lead is going to result in a sale, it enables us to understand more about prospects and their interests. In fact, the volume of leads we're now generating on a weekly basis enable us to develop pretty sophisticated models for predictive analysis and data mining. As Sun becomes part of a larger organization, this becomes a significant asset for cross-sell and up-sell capabilities.

While a lot of these techniques have been pioneered in open source and consumer marketing, we've been able to apply to them to traditional IT hardware and software sales with results that are even better than I would have expected. And there's no sign of the growth slowing down. I suspect we can grow another 10 times in both quantity and quality over the next year by refining scoring models, continuous A/B testing, applying new social media marketing techniques, and so on.

Not only has this focus on performance been rewarding, it's been a lot of fun. People in the Lifecycle Marketing team are developing new skills and pioneering best practices in a rapidly emerging field. That gives them capabilities they can continue to apply throughout their careers.

You can follow Zack Urlocker on twitter at www.twitter.com/zurlocker

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