The Great Race for New Customers: Navigating Rough Terrain

Integration and brevity are key

On April 14, 2016, our ITAC/SMA Marketing & Sales Think Tank addressed issues that are front and centre today with technology marketers:  how to balance challenges that you regularly face with the need to find and acquire new customers. We found three key themes running through the conversation:

  1. There’s a trend toward more digital marketing, but Sales and Marketing may be performing separate activities. It’s becoming more crucial to integrate the activities of Sales and Marketing, especially in the digital world.  With a wide variety of skills and interest levels in digital communications in Sales, it becomes more important for Marketing to provide content for Sales that allows them to be more effective.
  2. Marrying professional and personal social media experiences together is becoming more important for successful Sales and Marketing. If you can connect with someone around a personal interest, it gives you the opportunity to participate in their world, and leverage that relationship.   Whether in a social media or sales situation, this can be very powerful – perhaps even more so today, as it’s more difficult to catch people’s attention at work.
  3. Effective communication means providing less content, but more valuable content. With the incredible amount of content that’s available today, plus the volume of communications that people receive, it’s important to cut back on content: reduce that 60-page white paper down to four paragraphs, for instance. People don’t have time for lengthy reading:  it’s more important to develop powerful one-liners and really abbreviated communications so people can absorb the key message quickly and move on. 


This ITAC/SMA Marketing & Sales Executive Think Tank was hosted at Dell Canada in Toronto, Ontario by Dennis Hofmann, Regional Director, Education & Public Sector, Dell Canada. The discussion was moderated by Bob Becker, Principal, SMA.


  • Susan Malik, President, Clear Insight FPM Inc.
  • Denis Hofmann, Regional Director, Education & Public Sector, Dell Canada
  • Gilles Phillippe, Canadian Marketing Manager – Commercial Channels, Dell Canada
  • Selin Stancati, Senior Manager, Commercial Communications, Small & Medium Business, Dell Canada
  • Jeremy Freedman, Global Campaigns, Cloud, EMC Canada 
  • Chub Letenyei, Field Marketing Manager, EMC Canada
  • Craig Taylor, Client Executive, Channels, Lenovo Canada
  • Erin Thompson, Marketing Manager, Lenovo Canada
  • Michael Smyth, Marketing Database Lead, Softchoice Corporation
  • John Dos Santos, Regional Director, Business Development, Solver Canada
  • Sandi Sandiland, GM, Xerox Services Marketing, Xerox Canada Ltd.

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.

Today, it is tougher to find new customers; it is more difficult to navigate that tough terrain.  How has your marketing mix changed in the last few years?  How will your marketing mix change in the next few years?

  • We are all facing the same pressure. We are going towards digital technology and need to get serious about it figuring out if it will work or not.
  • Sales is also leveraging social media for opportunities: Marketers shouldn’t lose faith with Sales, they should trust that Sales is capable.
  • Successful Sales representatives are very good at following up with prospects, constantly mindful of connections-to-connections, and entering into conversations. But cold calling is tough to do – no one is picking up the phone anymore.
  • Invest in ongoing development between Marketing and Sales. Content development will remain with Marketing while Sales will retain their focus on making connections.
  • More of marketing enabling and empowering Sales to lead them to successful outcomes by enabling Sales to go faster, easier and more effectively.
  • Marketers will move to a more customized model, by audience, by geography, by size, for different social networks, including vehicle to get to a customer.
  • More of re-purposing content. A 60-page white paper will not apply to all customers.
  • A successful key to campaign marketing is to develop it in a way that hasn’t been seen before.
  • The notion of obtaining new customers is really a share shift. While it may be a new customer to you, it is someone else’s previous customer. Marketing should consider changing the “pitch” for each “new customer.
  • Sales enablement is changing. Historically, it has been four sales representatives to every marketer. The future may be the reverse. It’s not so black and white anymore, it’s a spectrum.
  • It’s never just one-on-one sales pitch in an organization; today is a committee sales pitch with the biggest challenge being addressing customer within the customer.
  • Show Sales the “path”. Marketing’s role is to assist Sales to do it themselves faster by customizing templates. This will better equip Sales to start the conversation.
  • ROI does not happen in a silo; it takes consistent effort and time. One sole activity, such as a conference, will not have ROI. Many prospects do not buy in the short-term.
  • Re-educate C-suite as how marketing influences the buyers’ journey through the types of content developed. Did the sales cycle reduce? If so, then marketing succeed.
  • We can’t be all things to all people. Marketing will continue creating and customizing for different personas to assist with touch points. Five touch points can be considered a lead.
  • Whether it’s new information from a new customer or from an existing customer, holding the relationship is critical.
  • Leads need to be more effective. Marketing needs to get out of the way once that right ‘baton’ is passed. Once Sales receives the ‘baton’, marketing becomes as available support.

What are the best practices to engage the sales team in regarding marketing initiatives to ensure follow-up on identified sales opportunities?

  • The assumption that Sales “owns” the customer is a fallacy. Everyone owns customer. This is a best practice that needs to be part of the organization’s vocabulary.
  • Gather input from Sales, including their challenges. Ask Sales how their prospect conversations are going? These responses can become part of the Sales material developed. Marketing should not be considered the brain-child to come up with content.
  • Go where Sales are, i.e. Inject conject content into Sales’ watering hole. Provide content that can adapt to Sales’ existing conversations and connections, instead of creating something new and asking them to adapt to it: avoid introducing new processes to Sales.
  • Feedback from Sales to Marketing: “Tell me the priorities and the industry focus.” The challenge is funneling it all to Sales.
  • Marketing will need a lot more involvement with account planning. It’s no longer one individual owning an account. The challenge continues with maximizing marketing dollars, including resources.
  • Develop marketing campaigns with compelling information to direct customer back to Sales. This is most effective when both groups are onboard.
  • Ensure marketing develops numerous different points of contact, until interest is piqued.
  • Need to understand that Marketing and Sales have different focuses. Marketing is measured on sales cycle, not on successful sales. How easy and how fast was it to gain that sale?
  • Marketing is challenged to fulfill every need and requirement coming from Sales. Going back to the organization’s pillars can work, as it forces Sales to stay aligned. It becomes challenging to translate content into custom messaging for niche focus.
  • Recently, a new role has been created, Sales Engagement, to represent Sales to Marketing, voicing their needs. It can be successful to bridge the gap.
  • Keep measurement of Sales automated. If done manually, it will not be successful. What was the engagement in that activity and what was the next activity? Measuring has become a challenge and brought in from various automated sources. Marketing needs to support.
  • Pull-push content is the most successful campaign. The challenge is how to make content different than everyone else’s.

Review successful campaigns and continue testing in marketplace – what made it successful? Length? Content? Geography?

TableFrom a marketing/sales perspective, what will marketers/sales do less of in the next few years?

  • Fewer events, especially the lowest performers. Need to look closer at whether Sales is really needed. Be more selective. Pull back on expensive events, but keep certain key events to nurture customers.
  • Reduce emails due to running the risk of spamming. Get content in the right places instead of all over for so many different people.
  • Reduce manual processes.
  • Stop fire, fire, aim! 

Posted By: SMA

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