Practitioner Interview: Bob Marsh of ePrize on social marketing and gamification.

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Bob Marsh

Senior VP of ePrize

Bob Marsh is a Senior VP of ePrize the company that runs contests, campaigns and loyalty programs for consumer brands such as Coca-Cola, The Gap, American Express, P&G and Microsoft.

He’s also the General Manager of the Sales Contest Builder division, a new business that helps companies easily build and run internal sales competitions within Salesforce. (Not surprisingly, ePrize is a major user of Salesforce and partner apps).

On Twitter: @bobmarsh5      On LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bobmarsh5


We caught up with Bob to find out how social media has helped Sales Contest Builder to attract and engage prospects. We also asked how their product leverages social 'gamification' principles to make best-practice CRM adoption fun.

For people who haven't heard anything about Sales Contest Builder, what’s it all about?

Sales people are competitive by nature, so what we do is tap into that by creating competitions around the key behaviors that companies want to motivate. We developed a really easy to use app, built 100% on Force.com, that allows sales managers to create competitions to improve adoption, motivate more client meetings, pitch new products, or run your classic sales contest – whoever sells the most wins.

How did you use social media to get this new concept on to the right people’s radar?

Well we’ve helped ePrize clients run social campaigns quite a lot but this was the first time I’d approached it as a business owner looking to get attention and interest.

The single statistic that motivates our use of social channels is that 70% of any buying decision has already happened before anyone talks to a salesperson. That’s the only statistic you need to know to get you involved in social.

Once you start, it quickly becomes clear: success in social channels doesn’t just happen. You don’t just tweet your news then sit back and watch it go viral.

It’s all about using social to take the pulse of the market and find out what prospects are talking about; then creating content to grab their attention and pull them into the buying process.

How did you discover the right topics?

On the ePrize side of things, we use Radian6 for social media monitoring. For Sales Contest Builder, we’re a bit less developed. I used to spend my time on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook but as we grew I knew we’d need a dedicated resource for this.

So now we have one person who spends her time out in social channels, listening, responding, engaging and leading people to our content. As we grow, we’ll use more tools for this. For now, it’s a person spending a portion of her time on our business line.

What role does content play in your inbound marketing?

Content is totally central. And it’s a circular effect: a blog post might give us SEO value, so we’re more findable on key topics; then we tweet about it or share it on Facebook and LinkedIn. And the traction we get tells us what content to develop further.

Once people download a bigger piece of content – like a white paper – we put them into a nurturing campaign that’s targeted according to the content they chose.

We’ll also turn around and get in touch with people who download our content – especially if we find they’re Salesforce users. This demonstrates our responsiveness even if we’re just making that first contact to thank them for their interest. A white paper download doesn't mean the person is a qualified sales lead. So we approach that first contact very differently than someone who is specifically requesting a demo.

A recent MIT study showed that this early response can really multiply the probability of a conversion.

On the product side, where does gamification come in?

Gamification is a new buzzword for something we’ve been doing for years: deciding what actions you want people to take and making those actions fun and rewarding.

So for Sales Contest Builder, we make it easy to create a game and a leaderboard for just about anything a sales person can do inside Salesforce. If you want to incentivise entering a mobile number for every contact, you can build a contest for that. You name it.

So do you use ‘gamification’ as a key phrase to track in social media and to rank on in SEO?

We do. But a lot of the activity around gamification is still on the theory side of things. So we make sure we’re also getting into the conversations around sales motivation, or CRM adoption – these conversations indicate people who are experiencing the kinds of challenges we help solve.

Or we might build content and social activity around an idea like competitiveness – sales people are competitive types and we tap into that in our solution. So conversations around this can be quite rich for content purposes.

It sounds like gamification made practical.

Yeah, we feel like we've been doing this for 13 years but now it's getting a label. I'm thrilled to see that but also get cautious about people grabbing onto the theory of it without knowing how to put it into practice.

We've seen with consumer programs and with sales motivation programs that the key is to keep it simple. Salespeople are busy and if you create a competition or motivation program that tries to motivate too many things, they'll just get confused and then do nothing.

The whole concept works because people like earning and being recognized for their work. People like competitions and leaderboards – that's what makes it work. It's just a powerful tool that needs to be managed correctly.

How do you target effectively in social media?

You have to really know who your audience is. So we want to talk with sales managers looking to motivate their teams; or sales operations people looking to accelerate CRM adoption.

Another target is actually Salesforce account execs – they’re an important channel for us. I recently wrote a blog called "Three ways Salesforce.com made us a better company" and for this target, it’s been a great traffic builder and has led to specific opportunities.

Knowing who you need to reach and understanding what they care about is absolutely essential for social media success.

How does social media change the role of sales people?

Sales is and always will be about creating and building relationships, being an expert in your category, and helping people make decisions.

Social media is a really helpful tool for lead generation and to help salespeople and marketing understand clients' interests. However, I think it's just a new tool that helps separate the great salespeople from the not so great ones. To me the key to effective social media is to genuinely be interested in people and share content that's actually helpful to your audience.

If your team is genuinely interested in clients outside of social media, they'll be the same way within social media. Think about the number of times you've posted a question out on Twitter or LinkedIn and then been bombarded with people trying to sell you something. They're not helping you – they're just reacting. Be genuine, be interested, and you'll be successful using social media.

How does CRM help get salespeople to engage in the ways you want?

When you are managing a sales organization, there are always times that you want to point people in a certain direction. CRM empowers you to do that, but you still need to motivate and inspire the team to be using the CRM tool to manage their activities – the "it's your job" approach doesn't inspire.

Our background – the ePrize business – is all about using digital triggers to motivate and reward a behavior – like us on Facebook, Tweet this, upload a photo, fill out this form, etc. Since companies are now using CRM to monitor all kinds of sales activities – lead follow-up, calls, meetings, pitching new products, creating and progressing opportunities, and closing deals – we’re simply using those as the digital triggers to reward against.

The "aha" moment was that CRM allows a company to measure and monitor all kinds of activities. Now you can create competitions around anything because it's all tracked in CRM.

So you can run contests based on logging client meetings or pitching a new product – any specific action. Without CRM, there wasn't a trusted common place to track this. Now there is.

So you use Sales Contest Builder internally at ePrize?

Absolutely! We have a little over 100 people in our sales organization and we use our own app regularly to motivate different things. Several months ago we did one to motivate the sales team to fill out the industry field in their Account records.

This empowered our marketing team with much better data to run targeted marketing campaigns to help generate more leads. In less than 10 days we went from 45% of accounts with the industry field completed to over 90% - over 1500 accounts were updated in total. The prize was $10 to Starbucks which is amazing – people were mostly motivated by the competition of it. We've also used competitions to motivate our sales team to pitch new products which has had a direct impact on sales. You can see our case study here: "Incentivize sales, or the behaviors that LEAD to sales?"

What other cloud or social tools do you use?

Well, we use Sales Cloud to manage and monitor everything – lead status, client demos, meetings, opportunities, and the real time dashboards to keep everything focused on the right things. We're also using Data.com to help us find the right contacts at companies within our target list.

We've then bolted on products from InsideView and HubSpot. InsideView gives us additional intelligence on the accounts we’re working on. HubSpot is fantastic in managing our website, SEO, blog, and top of the funnel activity. The key to making it efficient is that it connects seamlessly with Salesforce.

In addition, our larger ePrize organization has many users on Chatter, we use Radian 6 to run social listening campaigns for clients, and we recently added Service Cloud to manage our customer service organization.

What advice would you give companies that want to use social media to engage better with their customers and prospects?

Just start doing it and observe for a while. Be genuine, be yourself, and create content that people want to know about. Don't get overly worried about exposing too much of yourself or your company. Oh and also, you better get in there or you'll be irrelevant within a few years.

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