Searching for Marketing ROI

And the continuing quest for real leads

Our most recent ITAC Think Tank addressed issues facing all technology marketers: how to find increased return on marketing investment with the right mix of digital and traditional marketing tools. Our key conclusions from this event include: 

  1. Challenges continue to demonstrate true Marketing ROI
    • IT budgets are not growing significantly
    • There are fewer opportunities in the marketplace for large technology deals
    • Sales cycles are longer and there is increased competition
  2. Digital marketing continues to grow with a focus on top of the funnel activities
    • To achieve qualified leads, most marketers realize that a strong plan requires investment
    • Digital effective but does not generate leads in the short term
  3. Need to have the right marketing mix to achieve leads
    •  Mix needs to include digital and traditional elements
    • Call out programs important to connect directly with prospects
    • Digital marketing programs to drive inbound leads, awareness and credibility


This ITAC/SMA Marketing & Sales Executive Think Tank was hosted at SAP Canada in Toronto, Ontario by Nicole German, Head of Marketing. The discussion was moderated by Bob Becker, Principal, SMA.


  • Praveen Kumar, Director Consulting, 2i Solutions Inc.
  • Joe Mchugh, Director Technology Solutions, 2i Solutions Inc.
  • Tracy Staniland, VP Corporate Marketing, Asigra Inc.
  • Manny Palombi, IBM Business Unit Executive, Channels – ArrowIBM Canada Ltd.
  • Carel Villanueva, Head of Marketing, SAP Canada 
  • John Morrison, Director of Strategy and Marketing, Xerox Canada Ltd.
  • Anu Vijh, Independent

Comments from our Discussion

Below are participant comments from our think tank.  Each event is unique, and the needs of each technology company represented at the event are equally unique. As you will see, there are different opinions and approaches, but also some clear themes. We think you’ll find much food for thought in these comments from our participants.

What we learned

  • Digital marketing focus should include a rigorous process of attracting, capturing and nurturing of leads. This process is growing.
  • There is a continuous pendulum swing in the marketing mix – old becomes new again. Digital marketing is very important but there is a lot of push. With so much activity, we have seen the rise of traditional marketing tactics such as direct mail and call out campaigns to increase prospect/client engagement.
  • Most marketers are sharing the same marketing pain in that there is heightened pressure to deliver on marketing’s ROI in the form of lead generation. Participants indicated group discussion among Marketing and Sales increases learnings about specific targeted marketing.
  • There is validation that Marketing and Sales are finding common ground about tips on how to do more, effectively and efficiently, and that alignment between the two groups is even more important. Working collaboratively to close leads is paramount.
  • Convincing leaders in technology companies that digital media needs time to work is a big challenge. With a short term focus on the bottom line at the senior leadership level, marketing professionals need to reinforce the ‘evangelism’ of digital media – that it’s slow, yet effective. The includes continuous education and also creating an understanding with sales that ROI is not immediate.
  • Focus marketing one external partner at a time to get the best results.
  • Persuade executives to focus on top of funnel marketing.
  • It was agreed that LinkedIn Sales Navigator & marketing automation programs (Marketo, Hubspot etc.) improve connections and accelerates pipeline.

How has your marketing mix changed in the last few years? What have you stopped doing? What activity has received the best ROI?

  • There is a trend towards limiting compensation to sales representatives in targeted accounts.
  • Traditional marketing is being revisited and a continuation to co-market with partners. Increase in partner to partner activities although slow and takes time to see traction. Expectation of immediate return continues to be challenging.
  • Marketing mix continues to be events, digital content with in/outbound telephone support.
  • Marketing and analytics is becoming more scientific in order to better understand the customer journey. Marketers are expected to put their ‘A–game’ forward and need to work with the data behind the art of marketing and fully comprehend funnel activity.
  • Marketing is more than creating awareness and has changed significantly. In the past, marketing would obtain a booth at trade shows, go to events and rely on a corporate logo for critical mass; this no longer works. Marketing mix today focuses on digital and social strategies with some traditional tactics (events and in/outbound telephone support).
  • Feedback around conducting less events but consider more targeted programs to specific industries and LOB with crisp palatable messages that audiences can relate to and learn from, including a peer guest speaker.
  • With the trending back to some traditional marketing it was noted that content needs to be right, relevant and appropriate to the specific audience for direct mail.
  • Small organizations are challenged by lack of budget and need to use every avenue and partner to maximize digital marketing.
  • Digital marketing has increased the ability to track ROI but with management expectations for immediate return. But, this is not the case. That coupled with the fact that most leads that come from social media are difficult to track.
  • 70% of prospects research (Forrester research) a product or organizations on their own or have someone do research before contacting company.
  • Marketing is conducting more in-depth qualifying activity before forwarding to Sales.
  • Email broadcasting not working well. Too much email and Canadian Anti-Spam laws (CASL) can limit campaigns but targeted email campaigns on the rise using LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Second and third degree connections help with introductions and also work around CASL.
  • Digital content [such as seminars about How to Use Google or Learn about Digital Marketing] connected to your company website is working well with participant organizations.
  • Analytics has evolved with information about value of leads and number of opportunities accepted by Sales. Use analytics to do the right campaign.
  • Trends shifting to traditional marketing; direct mailers becoming popular again. Content needs to be right, relevant and appropriate to audience.
  • Still need to qualify list to identify right target market. Lists constantly need to be up to date.
  • Social media is a necessary evil that cannot be avoided. But there is still not much traction. Need to have a very solid lead nurturing process before jumping into LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Consider digital marketing with employee engagement to track success.

Specifically relating to digital marketing, where does content come from? Who do you use to develop content?

  • Product management teams are adding graphics to content while Marketing team researches data to add to content.
  • Personalized content (such as summary of a white paper, curating content and adding personal experience) has best traction and adds value to “out of the box content”.
  • Find the best nuggets to extrapolate for what is critical to the market.

How do you create measurable goals and set realistic expectations with management in a declining ROI environment?

  • Internal stakeholders work together to advise and obtain agreement on top of funnel objectives.
  • Need to know your target market personas as they all ‘consume’ differently, i.e. C-level versus management. Need targeted communication such as nurturing versus cross/up-selling.
  • Social media is all about educating using examples; such as, how did 20 leads find you?
  • Understand everyone’s interpretation of marketing and ROI.
  • Consider hiring an external company to analyze how much is spent on marketing, for return year over year. This can be a very elaborate exercise with a lot of learnings.
  • Direct sales have an easy measurable ROI. Sales via channel is more challenging to measure.

What are the best practices to engage the sales team regarding marketing initiatives to ensure followup on identified sales opportunities?

  • Consider a process where Marketing personally qualifies inbound leads (persona, budget, interest) before forwarding to Sales.
  • Marketing inbound leads can be more effective than cold calling.
  • Meet with Sales team weekly for connection and accountability.
  • Set clear expectations between Sales and Marketing. For example, set up a process where Marketing forwards lead to Sales. Have a process where Sales attempts a number of touch points (8-10) and if there is no response, the lead goes back to Marketing for further qualifying.
  • Farmers and hunters – send leads to appropriate team member.
  • Top of funnel – discussion that leadership needs to understand that marketing’s focus should be on the upper portion of the funnel that includes all inbound such as email, social media, blog posts, traffic, paid advertising, white papers and other content.
  • Define KPI’s to work closely with Sales and Marketing for each to be successful.
  • Millennials are excellent at using online tools and maintaining good contact information. Some struggle to find balance between the younger and older generation, including a fine line between online activity and face-to-face connections. Being busy online does not always mean productive.


  • CASL concerns are decreasing with corporations realizing that the legislation is targeting consumer-based marketing. Corporations need to continue to tread lightly to prevent legal action.
  • Your prospects are more sophisticated than ever and do their own research. Buyers are well down the decision making process – between 60% and 90% – before they speak to a sales representative (Forrester Research).
  • Twitter is effective for personal searches and info gathering; its analytics is not there yet. Top-of-funnel marketing is all about engaging prospects with thought leadership and content marketing—and not beating prospects over the head with hard-sell tactics –Do’s and Don’ts of Top-of-Funnel Marketing by Maribeth Ross, October 20, 2015 (5,306 views)

Posted By: SMA

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