Thursday, 7 September 2017

The MQL Trap and What Marketers Should Measure

The effectiveness of marketing in a B2B provider firm can be increased by focussing on metrics that reflects entire sales funnel. A marketing qualified lead (MQL) implies a lead that is ready to hand-off to a sales person has been viewed in recent time as definitive way to measure marketing’s effectiveness. However, it wouldn’t be intelligent to focus all of marketing’s time and budget in top-of-the-funnel activities and limit the department’s capability to impact to help impact in later in the sales funnel. This is what Gartner calls ‘MQL Trap’. Marketers are required to broaden their scope from generating leads to contributing in actual revenue generation. 

Moving Beyond MQLs — Other Ways to Measure Marketing Performance 

MQL Conversion Rate: A typical inside-out sales funnel encompasses qualified leads (MQLs, SALs), prospects, opportunities, and concluding at closed deals. If the conversion at each step is tracked and looked over time, it will give a fair idea of the bottleneck and businesses accordingly can model campaigns to improve their performance. 

Competitive Win Rate: How is the performance against competitor on a quarter-over-quarter basis gives an important metric to track for sale success. However, it's important not to measure only the overall win/loss rate. A more holistic measurement includes: 
1) Win rates against the most common and direct competitors 
2) Win rates against competitors in other parts of the Gartner Magic Quadrant (As a Leader, it is important to track against Visionaries and Challengers as you would ideally like to prevent them from moving into the Leaders quadrant). 

A majority of revenue comes from renewals (especially with cloud solutions) and upsells/cross-sells, so retaining customers (with their recurring revenue) and growing account revenue are vital. More than 70% of respondents in a Gartner survey rated interaction with marketing as extremely important in their willingness to remain customers and increase their spending with the provider. Hence, it is wise to include several other metrics that measures the role of marketing in this front. 

Customer Retention Rate
Upsell and Cross-sell Rate
Average Revenue Increase/Customer
Reference/Case Study Growth

A Big Data Approach for Predictive Lead Scoring 

Case#1 DocuSign, a provider of digital transaction management solutions, was faced with a challenge of having four times as many qualified leads as it could handle with its existing sales team. So, instead of hiring more salespeople, DocuSign implemented a predictive lead scoring application that helped classify leads based upon propensity to close. As an example, the model determined that companies from two specific industries were far more likely to buy than were companies that used a specific lead management system, while venture capital-backed companies were less likely to buy. Since the implementation, DocuSign has seen a 38% improvement in leads that converted to closed deals. 

Case#2 SolarWinds spends a lot of money with external lead generation vendors, and it was critical to optimize that marketing spend so the right types of leads got into the top of the funnel. Now, when it gets a batch of leads from, for example, a white-paper campaign, it runs them through the models created by Mintigo to see how they score. For example, the model found that a company was more likely to buy if it had to deal with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance or had a call center, and SolarWinds could look for leads that scored well in those categories. 

Case#3 Citrix, a provider of virtualization, mobility management, networking and cloud services, built its own regression models using existing data, and then utilized Demandbase to clean up and append that data. While its internal models helped improve conversions for individuals, the emergence of buying teams meant that it needed to look at company level data, which it didn't have internally. It worked with Lattice to get proprietary and social media data about attributes, including a company's job postings on LinkedIn, regulatory actions, credit information and Web traffic, and built those into the predictive models. The leads were given a score from 1 to 5; leads of 4 or 5 were indicative of a high propensity to buy. In fact, those with a score of 5 wound up converting into opportunities at a 70% higher rate compared with all leads, and the value of the deal in the pipeline was nearly double.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Homecoming of Terror - House of Cards

Frankly speaking, House of Cards (HoC) has been one of the best TV series on political drama in the recent past. It is based on the novel by Michael Dobbs and deals predominantly with themes of ruthless pragmatism, manipulation and power. Frank Underwood kept us hooked to the screen in its last four seasons of manipulation and politics of fear. It is now back with a tinge of terror in an all new season. 

Frank Underwood is coming to India with the television premiere of House Of Cards Season 5 on Saturday, 3rd June, 5 PM onwards, only on Zee Café! 

Here is a sneak peek at what you can expect in this homecoming of terror – 

**Spoilers Ahead**

The episode commences with a message from Claire Underwood. She appeals to the nation to be observant of unusual activities and report it to the authorities. There is an intense look on her face, and the gravity of the message send a chill down the spines. Frank Underwood then plays a masterstroke in the congressional session and declares war on terror. He delivers a powerful and a compelling speech on the floor in the backdrop of an investigation demand on the crimes he committed as vice president. However, like always, Frank Underwood knows how to turn the tide. 

I am on my way to the funeral of an American patriot. A good man, a husband... a father... who was beheaded on American soil. And this chamber chooses to debate me?”, says Frank Underwood in his fierce speech. 

Claire Underwood chooses to make a public appearance at the convenience store in North Carolina that possibly saw a terror attack. It shows how she is trying to influence the public opinion and use anti-terrorism sentiments among the masses to get votes in the upcoming elections. The funeral scene when Claire breaks down and tries to hide her tears but is stopped by Frank highlights the extent to which he has gone in manipulating sentiments and opinions of the people. As when Claire Underwood says, “We need to dial up the terror”, it reminded me of Donald Trump’s campaign that carefully managed apprehensions and staged ‘anti-muslim’ hysteria to garner votes and eventually won the election. In one of the scene, Catherine Durant and Frank Underwood talks about restrictions on visas and closing down the borders that draw striking similarities in thinking and policies of the reel life and real life POTUS. 

The episode ends with Frank Underwood uttering the words “You have nothing to be afraid off” to a large public gathering outside the White House. However, it is frightening when he pronounces those words facing the viewers. I firmly believe it is just the beginning of the reign of terror under the President Frank Underwood and a lot more exciting but terrifying events and plot twists are about to happen in the coming episodes. Let’s wait and watch as it is revealed on Zee Café. Lay all your cards on the table with the Homecoming of Terror this season! #HOConZCafe

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Mountain Story - Kedarkantha Diary

I want to go someplace where I can see snow”, she asserted. 

It was last few days of the college, and mandatory graduation trip was already in place. Our group was heading Indonesia for possibly the longest duration, but we craved for more and thus began the search for a snowy destination as she desired. We explored options from Sikkim to Everest base camp and finally zeroed down to Kedarkantha trek. It wasn’t easy to convince the lazy bones in the group for a trek, but we managed to establish a consensus. Just when everything looked fine, the plan received its first jolt when one of us had to drop because of early joining date. However, it didn’t stop the rest of us, and we embarked on the journey. 

“If anything can go wrong, it will”, says the Murphy Law. A quick stop in Delhi to buy trek gears looked impossible even when we had buffer time, all thanks to the great Indian railways and the dreadful journey that continued for 36 hours. It can be a whole new story on how we did everything just in time and managed to catch the connecting train to Dehradun. Early morning, we reached Dehradun railway station where we met the rest of the trek batch. Our transportation was ready, and it took 8-10 hours to reach Sankri village. It wasn’t a pleasant ride. It was almost evening when we checked-in to our hotel. A quick batch meet was called, and we were introduced to trek leader and the staff. It was followed by a session on detailed rules and scenarios in trekking. Later after dinner, I thought of going for a walk to explore the place, and I was accompanied by my friend. However, there was nothing much to see except few open shops and basecamps of other trek organisers; therefore, we mostly spent time chit-chatting while discreetly strolling the street from one end to another. It had been a long tiresome journey in past three days, and I dozed off early. 

The next morning, after quick breakfast and a mandatory group picture, we started our trek. The destination for the day was ‘Juda ka Talab’. It is approx. 4 KM from Sankri at an altitude of 9100 ft. Though the distance sounds less the steep climb and slippery track made it look like never ending path. The queries about distance kept coming, and there was always one standard reply from the guide – ‘another half hour’. Perhaps that was true for someone living in the mountains but for city dwellers like us that half hour was taking hours. A much-needed break came halfway when we stopped for lunch in an open meadow. A small Dhaba served us bread omelette and Maggi. It gave us some energy and with renewed vigour we continued. The first glimpse of campsite finally brought a smile and an end of today’s journey. I spent the evening sitting idly near the lake shore. The body was yet to acclimatise the mountains and the night wasn’t easy as almost everyone struggled to sleep. I had a sleepless night too but for an entirely different reason. 

Juda Ka Talab
The girl who yearned for snow got sick and had a restless night, but she recuperated by morning. “I drank a lot of water, and that’s how I recovered”, she said. It is true that hydrating adequately is an essential aspect while trekking as it keeps body and mind energised. It was time for us to march ahead and move to the next campsite, the Kedarkantha base. It is approx. 1.5 KM from ‘Juda Ka Talab’ at an altitude of 10,800 ft. Everyone was expecting another hectic day, but this was the easiest part of our entire trail, and we reached there even before we realised. There I witnessed the most picturesque sunset, and it was pure bliss. I spent next one hour trying to capture the remarkable moments. The darkness engulfed the entire place soon after sunset, and we headed to our tents after early dinner. 

A starry night greeted us at 3 AM in the morning as we got ourselves ready with crampons and gaiters to push for the Kedarkantha summit. I had started showing weariness, and my health card readings went alarmingly low in the morning. 
I told you to drink more water. Why don’t you listen?”, rebuked the girl. 
It is so scary to go out of the tent in that darkness.”, I replied sheepishly. 
Under the moon holding a torch in hand, we began hiking in the sleepy trails of the snow-clad Himalayas amidst the dark trees. I saw moon fading slowly as the sunshine engulfed the sky and the summit was visible but still far away. The trail was getting steeper, more inclined and challenging as we marched ahead. However, the landscape in front of us was getting more beautiful, and that kept us going. As we reached halfway, a sumptuous treat of deliciously baked omelettes came from the Barfani Dhaba. There we stopped for a while to fill our stomach and regain lost energy before continuing to the summit. The last leg of the trail was toughest where at some point inclination was almost 70 degree, but it didn’t deter us reaching the peak where at 12,500 ft. altitude breathtaking 360-degree views of mountains welcomed us. 

The descend started after spending 40-45 minutes at the summit. I felt exhausted and weak. However, it didn’t stop me as going downhill was comparatively easy and was more fun when we had to glide down. We traced our path back to Kedarkantha base and continued to our next camp in Hargaon. It was at an altitude of 8,450 ft. but not very far from Kedarkantha base. The body was drained but a jubilant mood wanted to celebrate the successful summit, and we continued playing games till late night. The next day we began descending back to Sankri. It was the last day of the trek, and we slowly but steadily followed the trail that was mostly through forest cover. 

Hargaon Camp
It felt good to see roads again though we started missing the harsh terrain soon. It was a relaxing stay in the hotel in Sankri, and we geared up to leave for Dehradun next morning. I looked out the car window as we ran parallelly to the river amid continuous drizzle. It was time to say goodbye to the beautiful landscape, the never-ending trail we covered on foot, the bonding and pain we shared. Though our journey ended we’ll continue to cherish the lifelong memories made in the woods and mountains. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Not Just Friends #HalfGirlfriend

I am sharing a Half relationship story at BlogAdda in association with #HalfGirlfriend

“She is my best friend, but then I don’t know how to stop these feelings for her”, Rohan exclaimed. “I wonder what she will think if I tell her that I love her. It will spoil every good thing that is between us and that scares me to death.” He said.

I have known Rohan for two years, but we became friends only in the last couple of months of my graduation year. He was a quiet, thoughtful and introversive person. Sanya, on the other hand, was full of life, cheerful and congenial. Destiny brought them together, and they became friends; soon something more than that, best of friends! Their friendship was one of the favourite gossip topics in the campus, but they never cared what everyone talked about and continued being together. Three years of togetherness where both remained quietly by each other’s side. They had redefined friendship and rejected a popular misconception i.e. “A girl and a boy can be friends but sooner or later one will fall for the others” in all these years. However, I was witnessing an entirely new angle in their story that day. It was last day of our college. A farewell party was thrown by the juniors.

I didn’t know what to tell him, but I wondered how Sanya feels about the whole thing. In the corner, we were sitting when I saw her coming to us.

“If I were you, I would have told her without expecting a relationship instead just acknowledging how badly I am in love and without putting any conditions wants to continue loving her”, I replied and went away giving them some privacy.

I don’t know what happened next, but I saw tears rolling down their eyes. I stood motionless not knowing what to do next. It was heartbreaking to see her crying. I closed my eyes and wished a happy beginning of their love story. A minute later everyone was being called for one last group picture. I didn’t feel like going.  

The next morning, I met Sanya on the bus while we headed to the railway station. Rohan accompanied her, and they looked happy just like the old days. I could sense the love she felt for him. They lovingly waved at each other till the bus left. She looked at me.

“You were right. It is all about being there for each other”, she smiled.

I was happy for her. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

More Indian Than You Think

It was summer of 2012 when I graduated and had an offer to join one of the biggest Indian manufacturing company. I was more than excited to begin the new phase of my life. The early days in the organisation mostly involved interaction with the officials, workers and various level of training before I was given the first work assignment. The job included assisting in managing one of the smaller plants in the suburbs of the Jharkhand. The productivity of the plant had declined continuously over the year, and the management wanted to bring some changes to keep it profitable. This had caused resentment among the workers, and it further aggravated the situation. 

I was sharing my workspace with Ajay Sinha. He was senior plant manager and my mentor. He was in his early 50s and had spent thirty years of life in the organisation. A man known for his values and widely respected among peer and workers. However, the bitterness in the workers was growing, and he was snubbed a couple of times while addressing them in the morning. The same day something happened that frightened me to the core of my heart. At 11:30 AM, approx. 40-50 workers came into our cabin, and there were more than 200 workers that stayed just outside in the lobby. I had recently read about the deadly riot in 2012 at Maruti plant in Manesar in Haryana that happened due to a certain conflict between workers and senior management. The workers there had smashed properties, set the factory on fire and burned manager to death. I was literally scared playing out different scenarios that could happen. I looked at Ajay helplessly. 
“What happened? There is still an hour to go before lunch”, said Ajay. 
“Nobody is working until we know what is management’s decision” replied a voice from the crowd.  
“Very well” replied Ajay with a calmness in his voice and then continued, “You know these things take time. I have conveyed the issues to management, and appropriate solution will be implemented keeping in mind everyone’s interest. However, I cannot defend us if the management comes to know that you are halting the work.” 
“We’re not moving from here till our demands are met. No work today. We are ready to go on hunger strike” came another voice from the crowd after a pause. 

Nobody moved or spoke anything for next couple of minutes. The tension in the room was palpable. Breaking the silence, I said, “I am not asking anyone to go out of the room, but then some of you can sit on the sofa.” I then vacated my chair and looked at Kartar Singh. I knew him because he was retiring in a couple of months and was one among many who had been in the manufacturing unit since its inception. He was respected figure among the workers, and they used to affectionately call him ‘Sardarji’. I pulled him from the corner and politely asked to sit on the chair. He was startled with this gesture and couldn’t refuse. I went back and sat on my desk. A dead silence prevailed in the room. 

I looked at the clock. It was about lunch hour. I said, “I know we have issues here and I am trying hard to resolve it, however, if you think skipping work or lunch can help it then let me try that also.” I switched off my computer and put aside my lunch box. Everyone looked puzzled. At this, Sardarji got up from his chair and with folded hand said, “Sorry, that we all barged into your cabin, but we were just concerned whether management is taking necessary steps to safeguard our interest.” In next couple of minutes, the crowd dispersed, and it was just two of us in the cabin. I looked at the big screen in the hallway where Lufthansa ad was playing. I believe a major incident was averted that day because of the values that I learnt as a kid.