Robert Humphrey, CMO at ForgeRock, discusses what works and what doesn’t when developing strategic relationships and enhancing engagement.
Companies today are bombarded with information and options from all sides. How can technology vendors effectively cut through the noise?
insightive.tv: What’s the challenge to solve in ForgeRock?
Humphrey: The primary challenge for ForgeRock is effectively reaching our target audiences through what has become an extremely crowded and noisy marketplace. ForgeRock serves some of the biggest companies, entities and Governments in the world, which are the same audiences that many other software enterprises are also trying to reach.
insightive.tv: What is the biggest channel management challenge you face when reaching a target audience?
Humphrey: One of the main challenges is the changing nature of channels. Usage has changed dramatically in recent years, going from a small number of traditional broad channels to numerous, incredibly targeted channels.
In the past, marketing mediums focused on reaching out to an extensive target list vs focusing on specific individuals in order to increase campaign effectiveness.
Today, once we’ve narrowed down a target list, the biggest challenge is in identifying the right channels to get to them. The target list may still contain 20 to 30 thousand individuals. The identification of the most suitable channels to reach them and the effective integration of those channels can be a major challenge.
insightive.tv: How many channels do you actively manage?
Humphrey: That depends on how you describe a channel. Within a channel, for example, social there will then be a subset of multiple channels – some of which will be effective mediums for our business and some that will not. The number has increased recently as we are experimenting more with new social channels, video and external meet-up forums, for example. At the top tier level, I would estimate that the number of channels ForgeRock is actively engaged with at the moment is probably around a dozen.
insightive.tv: Which channel is currently the most productive, and why?
Humphrey: It depends on what you’re measuring. Metrics is one of the biggest challenges in modern marketing. Historically, we would measure channels in SQLs or MQLs, and a channel’s effectiveness may be judged on how it is driving numbers, performance or progress.
However, now we are much more interested in which channels are actively driving engagement with our target companies or individuals. As a result, we pay much more attention to that than to a channel’s SQLs. Our ability to measure that is relatively new. We have tools that show us the source of a new lead, but the source of an SQL or an MQL doesn’t show us how we’ve achieved that engagement. Are they tweeting our tweets, are they checking us on LinkedIn, are they clicking our emails? Are those channels enhancing the engagement?
insightive.tv: What do you qualify as engagement when using these channels?
Humphrey: We measure engagement regardless of the channel. This means evaluating all channels used for engagement such as responding to emails, clicking on LinkedIn, tweeting our tweets, or more traditionally, responding to phone calls. All of that combined provides an overall Engagement Score.
Two years ago, I paid a lot of attention to the source of a lead. This is because when talking about channel performance, you’re mostly talking about where leads are coming from. However, now I find that to be far less interesting than looking at what is driving the most engagement. It may be that the first channel used by a customer was a white paper they found online. If we see that a lot of technical people are engaging in meet-up rooms or there is activity going on at a technical level, which might trigger us to create a LinkedIn campaign or webinar on that specific topic.
insightive.tv: How do you evaluate an emerging marketing channel, for example, SnapChat?
Humphrey: When evaluating a new channel, the first thing we take into consideration is whether our target audiences actually use it. This isn’t always the easiest thing to answer, but it is important so as to avoid wasting resources. SnapChat is not currently being used by our target audience, although I do use it at a personal level.
insightive.tv: How do you prioritise and invest in emerging channels? i.e. by seeing an opportunity to engage with customers based on their behaviour?
Humphrey: Maybe not by that specific example, but something we’ve recently started exploring more is custom media channels. These tend to be run by experienced teams consisting of former business journalists and executives with strong contact networks. They are multichannel digital media platforms that publish content on trending topics. I’m finding these custom media channels very interesting.
insightive.tv: What are your target audience roles?
Humphrey: ForgeRock deals with security and identity, so our target audience is the CISO or CIO as well as those in roles that carry cross-functional responsibility for the digital transformation of their business. They are the influencers and the evaluators, so our marketing strategy primarily focuses on reaching individuals in these key roles.
insightive.tv: Are you seeing increased competition for that roles’ attention?
Humphrey: Everybody wants their attention, but that’s not new. All of our competitors are trying to reach the same people we are, and there are more competitors every day.
Often, the most effective way to get to these guys is one of the oldest; getting them in the same room by whatever means necessary. If you get them talking about what works for them and what doesn’t, and you remove the vendor-agenda motive, everything becomes so much easier.
insightive.tv: Which type of channels produces SQLs versus MQLs?
Humphrey: It’s not a specific channel that produces SQLs, it is a combination of them. If we look at what is the number one ‘source’ of SQLs in our business, probably 60 – 70% are from an open source download. But that is not what really drives an SQL – it’s really a combination of things that happen both before and after the download, which can not be measured by a single metric. It would be the combination of channels as opposed to a single channel.
insightive.tv: What is a successful channel campaign or marketing campaign?
Humphrey: A recent example would be a campaign we did with HotTopics, one of the custom media channels we are currently engaged with. We sponsored a magazine they were launching, which named the 100 most influential CIOs in the world. Many of the CIOs on the list were key targets for us and HotTopics used the magazine as a vehicle to gather them all together for a networking event where we were able to meet and speak with them face to face.
That was very effective for us because it provided the opportunity to meet targets in a non-selling environment, providing input and appearing as one of them. Our CIO and CTO attended, so they were seen as peers. It works as an introduction and allows us to come back with a more traditional approach- we’ve won the right as we’ve been introduced and that’s how we break into the noise. This event gives us the credibility and the relationship and at the end of the day, marketing is about building relationships. So the word engagement is a bigger word for relationship.
Robert Humphrey has more than 35 years of sales and marketing leadership experience. Since 2014, he has been CMO of ForgeRock, a leading Identity Relationship Management (IRM) solutions provider that works with many of the world’s largest companies and government organisations.