FEBRUARY 25, 2016 BY SRINIVAS PENUMAKA

2016 B2B Marketing Advice from Mandeep Khera

Mandeep Khera

Learning from experts is always beneficial and there is no better moment in a marketer’s life than sitting down with an accomplished marketing expert and chat about their learnings and expert advice for future. In an effort to unearth some of the secrets to their success, we sat down with 7 experts and compiled the gist to our eBook – “7 Marketing Experts on Life, Lessons Learned in 2015 and their Top 7 Strategies for B2B Mastery.”  It is available for download and your reading pleasure here.

As part of this series, we are publishing the complete interview with each of the seven experts and we are excited to present Mandeep Khera, VP of Marketing and Channels, Daintree Networks.
We have the interview in two parts – lessons learned in 2015 and the the plans and advice for 2016 B2B marketing.

Wrapping up 2015

Qwardo:  Happy new year. We thought we will catch up with you regarding some of the marketing initiatives you had in 2015, as well as what are strategies and initiatives you are driving for 2016.

Mandeep: In 2015, I mean, for a typical marketing and markets also channel sales organizations, right so channel sales I can briefly describe that, and then spend more time on the marketing side. On the channel sales, of course, we have to not only the numbers that we need to be cognizant of because we’re having aggressive 2x, 3x growth, so we want to make sure we are staying on target for that. Also create a lot of processes and methodologies, and you know, it’s all about … Sales is not just about going out and pounding the pavement. It’s also about creating processes and methodologies to make things the right … especially in channels. Providing support to wards and those types of things.

We obviously had those types of initiatives around that. For Marketing we had lots of different initiatives. I’m a huge believer of thought leadership. There is a lot of things around thought leadership. You know, how do we get our name out in a way that is not a product pitching, but makes us look like a thought leader, and of course, dimension in channel marketing and all of those things, compile all of the over all marketing functions as well.

Qwardo:  Let’s do a little bit deep dive into the 2015, some of the cool things you guys have done. Are there any one or two initiatives you could identify that have got great results?

Mandeep: Yeah, we launched a lot of interesting initiatives and one of them which I’ve used before, and I think it always helps in establishing as a thought leader, and then alternately the use of PR and leads then come back, is really doing an industry service. We actually did surveys on two specific topics around the building automation space.

The secret with survey is you have to ask questions in a way that it looks exciting when the results come out, and there are unique things that pop up. In both of those surveys we got a lot of good coverage, a lot of good results which we were able to leverage it for PR, and then also generated leads from that because that became a white paper and that was very successful. We also announced our own energy champion award, which then we actually invited people to nominate different industry experts and then we give them awards. We’ve done this now two years in a row. I picked a specific month which was October [it] was an energy awareness month so I picked that as the month to do that. We picked an end customer who had done a lot of great things in the space as well as an industry thought leader. We gave those awards. Those are unique things that marketers typically don’t think about or a lot of times. That not only establishes you as a thought leader but like I said, it helps you in PR and lead gen.

Qwardo:  Awesome. What channels have been most effective from a demand generation perspective in 2015.

Mandeep: Yeah, I think this is a long going debate, right, which is what’s the most cost-effective channel? I think in general everyone is cutting down on trade shows . It makes sense, and we have as well. You want to do a few strategic trade shows because trade shows are not necessarily good for lead gen[eration], but great for branding and establishing yourself as a player. Most people remember those names, and they’ll come to our channel. I would say the most productive channel for us was webinars, from stickiness point of view, because you got hundreds of people in the audience captive for an hour, hour and a half. We did a number of those and then followed up on those leads. Those are very effective. Content syndication was also effective, but it has to be very specific and the right publication to make that more effective. Those were effective for us. On the Fortune 500 deals, those types of things typically don’t work as well because a lot of times, Fortune 500 executives don’t go on webinars and read white papers and those types of things so we used telemarketing very attractively for that. I had hired an outside agency that actually focused on specifically on Fortune 500 and set up a lot of meetings and calls. That has been very effective for us.

Qwardo:  Interesting. Are you using anything like insidesales.com?

Mandeep:  No, I am not in this. I think I used in the last company. I’ve not used at Daintree.

Qwardo: Got it. In general, telemarketing has been very effective in terms of reaching all the Fortune 500 stakeholders?

Mandeep:  Yeah.

Qwardo:  Ok. Any challenges you guys faced in 2015, not only from generating leads but also probably from a quality perspective or any other angle?

Mandeep:  Just specifically on lead gen or?

Qwardo:  It could be lead gen. It could be brand awareness campaigns as well, or any other marketing channel figuring out which channels to participate.

Mandeep:  Yeah. I think one of the key challenges for all marketers, and I’ve come across in every position, is not only quality of leads but follow up on leads. I think the problem is a lot of sales guys are busy, and you can force them, and you can try to murder them and all of that stuff and put incentives around to make sure that they follow up on leads right away, and put everything in the CRM system. That has been a big challenge. The Reps get busy. They don’t have time or they don’t understand how to use the CRM tool. Whatever reason might be, they don’t necessarily follow up on leads right away. Even if they do, they don’t put it in CRM system and that causes a lot of problems because obviously, then you don’t know what campaigns are successful. We are in the way to fix things right, so that I think is a big challenge for most marketers.

Qwardo:   Okay. Are there any initiatives you wish you had started and completed in 2015 or something that are in the making type?

Mandeep:  Yeah, I would say one of the things that we were planning on doing more of, which we did not … I mean, I think we pretty much did something in every category we were planning on. The one area that I think I wanted to do more, but because of budget and time issues, we were not able to do, was live event. You know, things like round tables, receptions, those types of things with C level executives, because I had done in the year before. That was extremely successful with 30 key C level executives from HP, IBM, Google and various other places. I wanted to replicate that and have multiple of those so we were not able to get those accomplished in 2015.

Qwardo:  Got it. Those receptions are very, very effective, and especially reaching out to the higher-level stakeholders.

Mandeep:  Exactly.

Looking forward to 2016

Qwardo:  What are some highlights of that if you don’t mind sharing, not specifics, but in terms of direction, as well as maybe some channel investments, and things like that?

Mandeep: Yeah, I think because I also run the wire or the channel sales piece of it as well, to do more with partners is important because, if I can do joint marketing efforts with partners, whether it’s ecology partners or wards or agents and things like that, then they have skin in the game. They tend to follow up on leads much better. Then it also reduces the cost for us. It kind of gives ownership and accountability, so we are planning on obviously doing more joint marketing efforts and that’s clearly one direction. We are reducing emphasis on trade shows because a lot of the trade shows that did not pan out, we’re going to eliminate those. More online marketing for sure. More webinars and content syndication. Much tighter process on follow-up on leads to salesforce.com and other tools that we’re planning on using. More use of marketing automation tools to kind of have more closely driven more tracking type of mechanism for leads. So those are some of the things that I think we’ll be changing.

Qwardo:   Awesome. Are you guys using any specific platform today, marketing automation platform?

Mandeep:  We’ve been using Act-On.

Qwardo:  Okay. Got it.

Mandeep: I’ve used Marketo and Eloqua in the past.

Qwardo:  Since you own both channel sales and marketing, I think it’s a good question for you. In terms of sales and marketing alignment, where do you see that evolving … How do you rate your current alignment as well as how do you see that in 2016?

Mandeep:  I think alignment, it boils down to expectation setting up front and then making sure there are regular communication meetings. I would say we did okay but not excellent. I think, again as I mentioned, part of the problem was people not following up on leads right away, people not putting data in terms of CRM right away. Those types of things, I think, modestly caused issues because then the marketing side says, “Hey, I’m selling these campaigns. I can’t track them. You’re wasting my leads because I created all these great leads, and if you wait three weeks or four weeks to follow up on them, leads grow cold.” Sales comes back and says, “Well, these are not qualified leads.” Well, was it because you waited four weeks?

Those issues continue to happen. I think it’s … Communication becomes a very important thing, both in terms of upfront expectations, saying, “Are you going to follow up on these leads? If not, then maybe we shouldn’t even get any more leads for you, right?”

I think setting those expectations, and parameters and metrics are critical and marketing self alignment, and then making sure having regular communication meetings. At least, we were trying to meet every couple of weeks to discuss these things. Even if you can’t do every two weeks, at least once a month. Have a sales and marketing alignment meeting where you discuss all these things and say, “Look, here are the leads that were generated. What’s the feedback so far? Here’s what we’re planning on doing in the future in the upcoming months. What do you guys think? In that the right place?”

Usually you find that when you have good communication meetings, people will say, “Hey, that’s not the right place to go, right? I want to focus on retail, not on financials.” Those types of things come up, so that’s really the secret for, I think, improving the alignment, even though as simple as it sounds, I think that most people don’t do that.

Qwardo:   Yeah. In that regard what do you see as your lead nurturing and drip marketing campaign? Are you going to send more emails, less emails?

Mandeep: Yeah. Definitely more emails. I think the marketing, nurturing and automation piece is very important because … but you know, obviously, you don’t want to become a spammer because then people start unsubscribing, and get tired of your emails. There’s a fine balance there. In general, I think increasing the database and marketing to the larger database, and providing the right types of content is important because just sending emails for the sake of emails is not a good thing. We provide a lot of … For example, we have a monthly newsletter that has a lot of good … Not only Daintree news and awards we’re winning, but also industry news and how the industry landscape is changing. People find that content useful, and they appreciate it, and they open. We have high open rates, so that kind of-, right? It’s providing the right content to help more people, I think, would be a good main goal.

Qwardo: Awesome. In terms of the data quality, how good is your data, and are you doing anything specific to improve the quality this year?

Mandeep: Data in terms of customer data?

Qwardo: Yeah, customer data, CRM as well as some of the lead qualification data, what you can get from the leads to qualify properly.

Mandeep: Yeah. I think data quality, I would say from an analytics point of view, is not very good. I think part of the problem is because we were using NetSuite which is not necessarily the most friendly from a reporting standpoint. That’s where we look into salesforce.com, and will also look at other tools that can be integrated with that. I would say not satisfactory in terms of what we have today, in terms of data, the quality of data and analytics of data.

Qwardo: Got it. Another interesting angle people are investing these days is pipeline acceleration, so are you thinking of any investments or any change in the strategies or matrix?

Mandeep:  It depends on how you define pipeline acceleration. What’s the context, how do you define it?

Qwardo: Basically, in terms of how people are going through multiple stages of the funnel and in terms of the close cycles and time to close, etc.

Mandeep: Yeah, so we have a very defined process where we essentially have different stages right out of the pipe line. We are not quite there yet. What I am trying to implement like in the past in some of the companies I’ve done before, is basically have defined metrics for each stage. For example, procurement for 365 days, there’s something wrong, right? To hear the Rep is doing pipeline stuffing or the customer never had an end procurement … There are all kinds of issues that can come out of it. Defining those KPIs at each stage is very important and then tracking and then see the deviations from that. We haven’t been doing too much of that because there were too many other priorities, but that’s one of the things that we’re looking at focusing more on.

Qwardo: Right. Another key area people are thinking about is persona driven marketing at various stages. Any thoughts on that? Do you guys already implement that or do you have a way to institutionalize the personas down to the sales and user experience level?

Mandeep:  Not institutionalize but being able to define the persona of our end user, you know, what are their pain points, what types of things that they’re looking for and how to target them, but not in an automated way. We basically went through define the persona, talked to different target users, found out what their pain points were, put together a document, came up with a strategy on how to target them, but not institutionalize in an augmented tool way.

Qwardo: Finally, some of the advanced marketers are thinking about predictive analytics and leverage data to generate insights that can predict acquisition, retention or reactivation depending on the context. Do you guys have any specific focus area on that or?

Mandeep:  No, not right now. I think for smaller companies it’s probably, you know because of the other priorities, and just keeping up but basically making sure the following up of leads in chosen fields and all of that is so important. I’ve used predictive analytics and data in the past in bigger companies, and that’s definitely useful, you know especially if you can find the right tools.

I think we need maturity in the organization before you can start using those strategies, so we haven’t used a whole lot on that front so far.

Qwardo:  But you might be using things like a lead scoring?

Mandeep:  We use lead scoring mainly through marketing automation.

Qwardo:  Right. What’s available in marketing auto…

Mandeep:            It’s pretty basic, right? Basically, it’s how many times are they in the coming in? If you get so many points. If you’re a C level … You know, all that stuff, right? That’s a pretty basic, I think, bread and butter type of stuff that everyone uses, but we haven’t done any advanced behavioral analytics in an extensive way, at least.

Qwardo:  Okay. One last question on the mobile, especially in the B2B lead gen context, how are you using mobile, and what’s your mobile strategy from a marketing standpoint?

Mandeep: In our case, partly it’s driven by the target user. Our buyer typically is facility manager, energy manager, operations manager, and those types of people. If you were targeting a tech, IT, CIO group or CSO group, then I think you would see a lot more mobile impact. In our case, because of the target audience we’re going after, the mobile piece has not been very popular.

We haven’t really used that at all. We know that certain percentage of audience comes to the website using mobile, but we have not used any of the lead gen or marketing tools for mobile, at least for this audience because they’re not as sophisticated.

Qwardo: We really appreciate your time and your insights. Thank you.

Mandeep:  Absolutely. Thank you.

About Mandeep Khera

MaMandeep Kherandeep has over two decades of diversified experience in marketing, channels, sales, engineering, business development, customer support, finance and general management. Most recently Mandeep worked as a VP of Marketing and Channels for Daintree Networks focused on Smart Buildings and Internet of Things (IoT). Prior to this, worked as strategic marketing consultant (CMO) for software/cloud companies that have included mobile application development platform (MADP/MEAP), Big Data, on-line advertising/RTB, and Consumer Internet. Also on board and advisory board of companies in application security, Internet b2c, Big Data, and Social Media space.

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