An Interview with Steve Gershik of 28Marketing

Happy 2011!  We are excited to kick off the New Year by interviewing Steve Gershik, CEO of 28Marketing. Steve has nearly 20 years of experience in brand building, demand generation and corporate marketing. As the founder of 28Marketing, he’s worked with a number of B2B technology and cloud computing companies. Steve has a proven track record in marketing communications development and execution. He has served as chief marketing executive at TOA Technologies and Eloqua, as well as at Nuance Communications.  A former college English instructor, Steve has taught at Apple, Tektronix, Hewlett Packard and Stanford University. He holds degrees in communications and linguistics and has done post graduate work at Harvard University and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.  You can read his blog at http://www.theinnovativemarketer.com or follow him on Twitter at @sgersh.

We sat down with Steve and had some great discussion around B2B marketing and what lies ahead for the marketing automation industry.

Q1. As we exited 2010, there were a lot of predictions for what’s in store for B2B Marketing in 2011.  In your view what will 2011 bring for B2B Marketers?

A. I see more and more marketers adopting good lead management approaches, driven by the number of high quality consultants and educators out there to ensure that organizations chart their course efficiently.   Many demand generation models were first built five or more years ago, and next year will see some updating of those tools based on contemporary marketing approaches.  2011 will be another in a series of transition years where companies are now looking at optimizing the last bastion of un-optimized systems and processes –– the sales and marketing departments.

Q2. In 2009 & 2010 there was a lot of noise about how marketing automation adoption rates among B2B companies were going to sharply increase, yet the adoption rates remain less than 20%.  In your opinion, why is that?

A. Honestly, marketing automation is hard to adopt.  First of all, it’s hard to buy –-marketers are for the first time having to buy enterprise-strength software with no guidance or historical training as marketing professionals.  We don’t learn in business school how to purchase software, so it’s a bit of a mystery.  Do we need email marketing or something more?  What about testing? Adoption rates are going to remain relatively stable until we see greater uptake in building the kind of competencies in-house to make marketing departments successful post-deployment.  Otherwise, people revert back to old ways of doing things.

Q3. Given your expertise, what should an organization do to ensure they get the most from their marketing automation investment?

A. The trite answer is to plan ahead.  The actual answer is to over-plan ahead.  Make sure your organization knows what to expect and when.  For example, a number of my clients went ahead and bought technology before they knew how their organization was going to incorporate the new capabilities into their staff’s day-to-day responsibilities.  Many of us in the demand generation business talk about the necessity to focus on people, process and technology.  I think you need to think about that in a 3:2:1 ratio.  Focus on people at least three times as much as you focus on technology.  When you have the right people in place, combining it with a proven process like you guys at The Annuitas Group have developed makes the technology decision and adoption much easier.

Q4. Multiple reports out in the last 6-months are showing that marketers are still struggling with providing quality leads, up to 80% lead abandonment rates, measuring ROI and aligning with sales.  What can marketers do to change these trends?

A. First of all, stop doing the same old thing.  I’ve seen marketers who take a few baby steps along the demand generation path, only to see them retreat into the smog of pointless trade shows, unrealistic branding activities and expensive PR efforts that have little or no traceable effect on revenue attainment.  Those classic marketing activities may feel comfortable, but unfortunately, they’re the career limiting behaviors that lead to CMOs having the shortest tenures of any executive in the C-suite.

Q5. I have been reading some articles that have been discussing brand versus demand generation.  Do the two have to be separate or can you accomplish both simultaneously?

A. They can’t be separate.  They’re not separate to the customer, who interact with companies in multiple, integrated ways. Today’s champion marketers know that every touch point, ever interaction is an opportunity to strengthen or weaken a company’s brand, and they pay attention to those interactions as assiduously as they do to classic branding maneuvers.

Q6. Many vendors and organizations are using the terms “marketing automation” and “lead management” interchangeably.  What do you see are the differences in the two?

A. It helps to think of marketing automation as a set of technologies that enables lead management.  You can have marketing automation (think “spray and pray email marketing”) without lead management, and you can have lead management (think “Excel spreadsheet hell”) without automation.    People who want to adopt good lead management practices should look at marketing automation software as part of their overall strategy.

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