With the multitude of marketing technology resources available moving toward 2016, a well-conceived roadmap has never been more crucial. Building a marketing technology stack from the growing number of options available—from 100 software choices back in 2011 to 1,876 and counting in 2015—means navigating a crowded landscape and harnessing ever-increasing amounts of data. What should companies consider when creating a tech stack, and how do you manage tech to effectively to meet your marketing and sales goals?
For answers, we spoke with Mitch Rose, Senior VP of Marketing at Billtrust, a global leader in payment cycle management. Not only has Billtrust been on Inc.’s list of fastest growing companies for 9 years in a row, they’re achieving a 99% client retention rate.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.
At the recent B2B Customer Engagement Leadership conference in NYC, your presentation highlighted the success of Billtrust’s client advocacy program, which has been a key driver of your exceptional client retention rates. Could you tell us a bit more about the process of incorporating tech into the initiative in terms of gathering data, marketing automation, and staying in touch with customers?
Absolutely. One of the key things we start with is an objective SWOT analysis identifying our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and it was clear that one of our strengths is our very supportive customer base, with high retention and high net promoter scores. We had already implemented a marketing program we call Billing Rockstar, in which we celebrate individual customers who’ve shown leadership and had a lot of success using our services to improve the performance of their business. Doing our SWOT analysis we still felt there was so much more we should be doing to leverage the strength and loyalty of our customer base. Once we had a strategy it was a matter of seeing what kind of technology platforms were in the marketplace, and that’s when we identified, in our case, Influitive, which made it easy for us to develop a client advocacy portal where we could engage in a deeper dialogue with our customers, give them challenges and create a fun, educational experience that would also result in even more loyalty and support.
So it sounds like you started with the business need first, you piloted the program and then followed up with automating it once you knew it would be successful?
That’s right. When we do our corporate strategic planning and then the marketing planning, we look for opportunities for improvement that will build market awareness and demand creation. For us, it was important to look at marketing automation. We’ve also created our own proprietary portal in a way that really works for our sales team in terms of identifying what’s the right piece of content to use in what stage of the selling process.
Approximately how many technologies currently make up your roadmap?
We’re using Salesforce, Marketo, Influitive, ConnectAndSell, Zoominfo, Buffer, Google Analytics, SilverPop, LinkedIn Navigator and LinkedIn Accelerator, among others.
Interesting, you’re using both Marketo and SilverPop, are they for different functions?
They are…we use Marketo for lead automation, lead nurturing, lead tracking, and lead scoring. As for SilverPop, we have a whole group at BillTrust that’s dedicated to working directly with our clients to help them drive electronic adoption of invoicing, and we use SilverPop as part of the email marketing that we do for that team.
You mentioned working with the sales team, and obviously IT is involved in some capacity…who is really driving the change, and which budget does it come out of?
All of it comes out of the marketing budget; and, on the marketing team, we have a senior marketing operations manager whose role is to support the use of the technology—to operationalize it. They work hand in hand with the sales operations team, communicating daily. Ultimately, for the technology to succeed, it’s important that the gap is bridged effectively between sales and marketing.
That’s definitely a challenge that we see in a lot of organizations, and having somebody on both sides dedicated to that is ideal. How long does your team use a technology before assessing its efficacy?
We usually give it about 6 months, but it depends on the technology. An SEO technology that is going to help extend the reach of your digital presence, or an ad retargeting tool, those could take longer before you really know the impact they could have on the business. A lot of that depends on the company, what they sell, the complexity of the sale, the sales cycle and how much education is involved.
In terms of building out your marketing team, what strengths do you seek out and what are the pitfalls to avoid?
What’s critical is that you need people on your marketing team that are fearless, that love new tech and embrace new tech and want to learn new tech. Yet, I will tell you that one of my biggest concerns is taking on too much technology at one time; I think that’s a very hard balance. Marketers tend to be very driven, but has it has to be counterbalanced, which is where the roadmap comes in. It has to start with the strategy.
With so many new tech options, there’s a lot of noise out there and virtually endless choices for marketers. When evaluating and differentiating the vast amount of new tech, what approach do you take? How does new marketing tech get heard in this environment?
That’s a great question. I think the good news, with all the noise, is that for marketing companies, the people they’re targeting, people like me, we want to learn, we want to be educated, we want to know what’s new. The bad news is, there’s so much noise that phone calls and emails aren’t the way it’s going to work. It’s about conferences, educational channels, the right social media, sites, blogs, and word of mouth. The good news is they’re targeting a group that’s very aggressive. We’re a group that’s willing to read articles, read whitepapers, attend webinars, and have network groups that we interact with. Marketers, in general, we’re very open to new ideas, and we’re curious by our very nature.