In this second post in a three-part series, entrepreneur and communications strategist Cheryl Conner continues her look at three companies succeeding with highly innovative content strategy. This week, she examines how InsideSales.com has become a forerunner in the changing sales market by parting ways with the traditional and trying new event marketing strategies.
New Event Marketing Strategies: Going Virtual
InsideSales.com is a cloud-based provider of sales acceleration solutions that amplify the effectiveness of salespeople. By leveraging communications technologies, innovative gamification techniques, and predictive analytics, InsideSales.com is advancing the science of sales and pioneering new content and event marketing strategies.
Headed by CEO Dave Elkington and President Ken Krogue, InsideSales.com has made early milestones through unique research on topics such as response time to Internet leads (abysmal for even many “sales” companies), through innovative ebook campaigns and national column authorship, and most recently, through the first-ever 100% virtual sales summit event, drawing 62 leading sales authorities and 15,000 online registrants within the space of three weeks.
Thriving in a Changing Sales Landscape
Since 2004, InsideSales.com has made an inroad for itself with a strategy that has relied heavily on innovative content marketing. Recognizing that the function of inside sales would become increasingly vital as the economy tightened and the roles of traditional field salespeople evolved with the market realities, the company revolutionized this function by finding methodologies and automation technologies to give all salespeople — even when they are young and relatively inexperienced — results that are turbocharged. InsideSales.com leverages research, events, and content to attract high quality leads for its SaaS communications and predictive analytics software that accelerates the sales cycle.
Everybody wins in the process. Already established, the company became even more successful during the recent recession. While Dave Elkington led the funding and growth strategy of the emerging company, Ken Krogue leveraged the opportunity to let his sales instincts — honed during prior sales leadership roles at InContact and FranklinCovey — go wild.
3 Core Content Marketing Strategies
1) Unique research
With the help of university researchers, InsideSales.com has conducted original research to key in on the stunning fact that the majority (as high as 71 percent) of leads that come to companies’ websites go unanswered. Even for those who do respond, the vast majority react so slowly that they cost these companies — even great companies — the majority of their incoming sales. InsideSales.com has published its research in MIT’s Technology Journal, in Harvard Business Review, and has issued new updates at every annual Salesforce.com Dreamforce event.
InsideSales.com has become expert at the creation of compelling ebooks such as 42 LinkedIn Inside Sales Tips. The books give away valuable sales strategies free of charge. They also create a vast source of high quality leads and — keying in on the company’s theme of being able to respond quickly — InsideSales.com phones the individuals who download the ebooks within the space of about a minute. The recipients smile and most agree to a continued dialogue. The company converts as many as 35 percent of these recipients to active leads, with the majority leading to sales.
3) Thought Leadership
Ken Krogue has become a national columnist, writing ongoing columns for Forbes Entrepreneurs that have become synonymous with inside sales. Columns such as The Death of SEO: The Rise of PR and Quality Content have gone viral, spurring energized dialogue that has only gained in energy over time.
As a result, the company has used its content strategy as an ongoing source of potential customers for its SaaS sales acceleration platform, which translated in 2012 to 100 percent revenue growth, 100 additional jobs and 550 percent stock growth. Continuing that trend, InsideSales.com obtained $4M in funding in August 2012 from Hummer Winblad, followed by a $35M investment from US Ventures in January 2013. The company is widely lauded as a venture destined to become “Utah’s next $1B company” in a nod to early investor and board member Josh James who led his earlier company Omniture to a $1.8B acquisition by Adobe in 2009. The company also recently recruited Mick Hollison, former VP of integrated marketing for Citrix, as its new CMO.
The Next Level: The Inside Sales Virtual Summit 2013
How to take its content strategy over the top? The company concocted a plan to create the first-ever sales trade show entirely online, in the space of… wait for it… three weeks.
The Inside Sales Virtual Summit 2013, on June 20, presented a line up of 62 speakers in 7 tracks including sales all stars such as Jeffrey Gitomer, Jill Konrath, Trish Bertuzzi. The primary keynote: Guy Kawasaki. All content has been catalogued for perpetual access and most sessions are becoming new ebooks, extending the utility of the presentations for many additional months. While the session has yet to hit the Guinness Book of World Records, it has set a number of bars for value-added content to facilitate sales.
Here are the highlights:
- 15,000+ registrations
- Participants logged in for an average of 2.5 hours, translating to 5 30-minute sessions apiece—a tremendous outcome.
- Participants were highly engaged—in one session (with Jeffrey Gittomer), participants delivered more than 600 live questions, with the speaker remaining on the line for a full 45 minutes beyond his session to engage and respond.
- Presenters—especially those in continually high demand—reported that the ability to participate via the web made the event an exciting opportunity that would have been impossible to take advantage of if it were a traditional event due to travel requirements, time constraints, and associated costs.
Several industry bloggers have weighed in on the Sales Summit model:
- Epic Recap of the Virtual Inside #SalesSummit, by Greg Klingshirn
- Webinar Replay: Research from Harvard, MIT Pinpoints Hard Lead Conversion Lessons with Easy Solutions, by Andrea Johnson
- The Modern B2B Buyer – a Recap from Inside Sales Virtual Summit, by Kenneth Wagner
- 25 TweetRecap from the Virtual #SalesSummit, by Kyle Porter
- 4 Ways to Simplify Your Email Marketing Messages, by Shannon Belew
However, Krogue encapsulates the event and its outcomes below:
“The Inside Sales Virtual Summit came about from over two years of research on the best practices of webinars on smaller virtual events. We believe that it has reinforced or introduced five main principles that represent a shift in the landscape of event marketing.”
- High Quality Content is a Top Priority This was real thought leader content from the best. People came out in droves to experience it.
- Last Minute is the new best practice. We noticed that without travel issues people don’t need to register months or even weeks ahead. In fact, those who do don’t typically show up. Three days ahead is the magic. In the case of the Inside Sales Virtual Summit, the entire event was executed from scratch in three weeks.
- You Need to Get Collaborative. Collaborative marketing is a profound way to lower cost, increase exposure, and increase brand equity. In total, 62 different organizations worked together to pull this off and everyone benefited. Attendees experienced incredible content, vendors received incredible leads, speakers gained incredible influence.
- Virtual Equals Incredible ROI. We have found ROI to be extremely strong in an event like this. It would have cost about $1.5 million to pull off in the world of brick and mortar, hotels, and airlines. It cost 1/50th that much. Besides, there are very few venues in all of Utah that could hold 15,000+ people, and it would have been impossible to book them at three weeks notice.
- Supporting Content is Where the True Lead Gen Value Lies. Using the Core Content model, the content value only improves. We learned that the leads from the ebook, archived webinar, and blog articles derived from the webinar are five times more valuable than the specific live webinar.
Regardless of a company’s core product or focus, everyone markets and everyone sells. The content InsideSales.com has produced is universal, whether or not recipients are interested in software products to accelerate sales. This is a factor that makes the company’s content relevant and interesting to all.