Paul Adamson

Supply Chain Consulting Firm Uses Marketing Automation to Facilitate Channel Change

As the supply chain evolves from supply-driven to demand-driven, Spinnaker Management uses marketing automation to communicate, educate, and inform.
Article Outline

Editor’s note: Spinnaker Management Group is a supply chain services company that helps clients grow, manage risk, reduce costs, and improve customer service by developing world-class supply chain capabilities. Recently Paige Musto, Act-On’s director of communications, sat down with Paul Adamson, Spinnaker’s Director of Business Development and Marketing, for a conversation about how marketing automation has helped Spinnaker. This is an edited transcript of that conversation.

PAIGE MUSTO: Tell us about the industry that Spinnaker Management operates in.

PAUL ADAMSON: We are a boutique supply chain solutions company offering management and technology consulting, as well as outsourcing services. We do transformative consulting, related to all things supply chain. We holistically look at an organization’s people, processes, technology, metrics and policies through our 5 Lenses approach to improving supply chains. We use this assessment view to help you design what your future state should look like. We roll up our sleeves and really help you implement those changes. For some clients, we manage certain operations as an outsource partner.

PAIGE: How many employees do you have?

PAUL: About 350 across the Spinnaker Management Group, with the majority in the US.

PAIGE: What percent is marketing, versus sales?

PAUL: At the end of day everyone is selling, right? But from a team standpoint, my marketing team has two direct full time equivalents. And my business development team has two as well. It’s growing – we expect 50 percent growth in the business development team in Q4.

PAIGE: What are your key roles and responsibilities?

PAUL: It’s broken into three areas: business development, marketing, and subject matter expertise within our reverse supply chain practice. My business development and marketing teams are the ones who build the brand for Spinnaker, introducing prospect clients to Spinnaker methodologies. We must communicate the Spinnaker difference.

PAIGE: Are there any sort of macro trends or broader changes that are taking place in your industry, that are either affecting or evolving or changing the way that you’re going to market or going to sell?

PAUL: Historically the supply chain industry has been supply driven, but it’s really transitioning to a demand-driven model. A lot of it has to do with what we call “the age of the consumer”. That’s put a lot of pressure on supply chains as they need skilled planners that are able to manage advanced planning methods. While we are helping companies transform their supply chains, we’re also helping companies figure out and rationalize the skillsets they need long term to have the right people in place, and help them understand how to build training programs to develop those skills internally. This is really just one part of our offering, but it is a trend that will impact supply chains in the future.

PAIGE: What challenges does your company or organization face today? And how does your department play a role in helping your company meet those challenges?

PAUL: We’re a boutique management consulting company. We need to quickly differentiate ourselves in the market and help companies understand the value in choosing Spinnaker. Here’s an analogy: If you want a really good bottle of wine, you go to the boutique wine store, not to Costco, because you want somebody to help you select the [air quotes] just right bottle of wine. You might pay a few more dollars for that bottle of wine than you would at Costco, but you’re getting a level of expertise with it. That’s what a boutique consulting firm like Spinnaker offers. That is how we are different. We leverage highly experienced assets. We lease people our knowledge. And our knowledge is really good in all things supply chain.

We’ve got some of the typical challenges of a boutique or smaller company. How do we build credibility faster in the marketplace? How do we build brand awareness? Our business development and marketing teams are focused on helping the market understand who Spinnaker is. And if we can get an opportunity out of that from telling the story effectively, then the day is won at that point.

PAUL: Marketing must create a conversation with our known universe. Our sales cycles are longer than a product or technology sale, so we must stay fresh. On the consulting side, it’s typically about a three- to six-month cycle for a new client. On the outsourced solutions side, the selling cycle is way longer. In that world, most contracts are three to five years, so a typical selling cycle is nine to 18 months.

There’s a tremendous amount of relationship building, so you’re staying relevant with that client, helping them understand what some of the key advantages are in choosing Spinnaker, hearing what their pain points are with their current vendor, and offering up some alternative solutions.

Strategic marketing challenges

PAIGE: What is Spinnaker’s biggest marketing challenge?

PAUL: It’s helping people clearly understand the difference between a boutique like Spinnaker and the big guys – or the technology firms they could go to.

PAIGE: So it’s how to communicate the value add of a boutique over a larger firm.

PAUL: Correct. One of our directors of consulting shared a story with me recently. He was selling a project and we were several times more expensive than the competitor. But we still won. And we won because the competitor was going to utilize some subset of the thousands of overseas resources they employ. There was no set team, no project intimacy. Spinnaker offers our clients highly skilled resources that are onsite every single day making sure that the project is successful and that expectations are met.

The people who get that – who understand that we’re competing on quality, not necessarily on cost – who expect to be in their jobs for more than two years, they get the value add of Spinnaker. On the other hand, there are the supply chain Ninjas who come in. They don’t want to have that conversation. They don’t care about the relationship part. They just want to see how they can drive a few million dollars out of the supply chain, get a nice bonus, then move on to a new company. So you’ve got that challenge.

PAIGE: From the time you adopted Act-On until four months later, you’ve seen a 250 percent lift in conversions and $100,000 in qualified opportunities. It looks like you’ve overcome some challenges.

PAUL: Going into this, we had a known universe of prospects, historical clients, current clients. But what we didn’t have was a way to communicate with them on a regular basis. And what we also didn’t have was a way to rationalize our known universe and say, are these actually good contacts still? Do they want to hear from us? Are the things we’re going to send to them relevant?

These first months with marketing automation with Act-On has been focused on rationalization. Who’s in our database that’s actually a person? They’re living, breathing, they haven’t moved on to a new company. Let’s get that part figured out first, let’s rationalize what we currently have and start communicating with them in a more effective way.

Tailoring communications to the customer

PAUL: If they’re current customers, then we talk to them differently. We want to let them see other services that we offer. We really work from a retention standpoint on historical clients and active clients to say, do you know the breadth of what we do?

We’re very cautious in how we engage. We have flags set in our CRM that prevent us from doing blanket campaigning to certain account contacts. We go through an approval process with our practices prior to sending anything. We want to keep that conversation going, in case there is an expansion opportunity. For example, maybe they didn’t realize that we optimize AND implement JDA or SAP enabled supply chains.

Building a funnel to identify customers and prospects

PAUL: We wanted to automate because we didn’t have a way to really start building a funnel type of program for our historically untouched people. We wanted to be able to start getting some workflow automation. We never knew, in the past, whether they were engaging.

And now we at least know, and now we can start scoring them, we can see if there’s some level of engagement.

It’s only since we adopted Act-On that we can say, without any fear of somebody trying to call us out, that a sale is definitively a marketing-related sale. There is a trail: They did a Google search for supply chain, they came to our website, they allowed us to cookie them, they asked for more information, they went through our resource library, we watched their lead score go up, and then they asked us to contact them to address a specific need, and sales got involved and got it closed. We could never do that before.


PAIGE: You mentioned that you’ve been able to increase the volume and frequency of your campaigns, and that now you’re executing a campaign once a week. Could you tell us more?

PAUL: Sure, our supply chain management consulting is broken down into four areas, namely supply chain management consulting, JDA enabled supply chains, SAP enabled supply chains, and the fourth would be what we call returns management or the “reverse supply chain”.

Our database is segmented based on enabling technology, industry type, NAICS, and geography. We utilize five additional segments for content delivery, including general supply chain, general returns management, JDA, SAP, or staffing. The sales and marketing teams, as well as the customer, can opt-in or out of each content group.

We run campaigns year round, centered on general knowledge or best practices, SAP, JDA or returns.

For the return side, we campaign to seven industries. We consider whether they are a core centric company, meaning are they in automotive or heavy duty, industrial manufacturing, where there’s typically longer life cycles for products. Or are they more concerned with the ability to plan returns more efficiently, with a rapidly commoditizing product? Depending on those qualities, the messaging is different. The collateral may be the same in some cases, but the messaging for the campaign is different.

Testing and analytics

PAIGE: Are you looking at the data and the performance of your campaigns, and using that to then optimize or augment kind of the dates and types of messaging that you are using in the next campaign series?

PAUL: Yes. We constantly evolve it based on time of day we send, and we’re doing a lot of A/B testing as well. On any campaign that goes to more than 1,000 contacts, we’ll set up some level of A/B testing for it. Often we might have the same subject line for two emails, but one includes graphics, and the other’s just text, to see if that gets through better, gets better attention.

PAIGE: Do you drive folks to specific landing pages?

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PAUL: We do. We have templated emails as introductions for the business development reps to use based on who they’re emailing to. So if our returns BD is emailing someone at Kawasaki versus someone at Sony, they’ll pick a different template. These have different links for different pages to go back into the website, directly to collateral pieces, or just different parts of our returns management area, etc. We just create the email in Act-On, and then the BD team can pick the email from the dashlet inside of Sugar.

PAIGE: Is there one campaign that you can think of that’s kind of stuck out as being more successful, or that you were able to learn something from and use it to optimize another campaign that you did?

The difference a good “Contact Us” form makes

PAUL: A lot of the learning from the campaigns has been incremental. It helps to have a client success manager at Act-On; that’s what we offer to our own clients, to give them that broad-based, cross-industry knowledge of what works. As we got started, one of the first things that Riley [Spinnaker’s Act-On Customer Success Manager] had us change was our Contact Us form. We moved it from living in our webpage to being an Act-On template embedded into the webpage itself, and simplified it with some guidance from Riley.

The change – not only in people going to that page, but the number of people that actually completed the form and submitted it – was dramatic. To put it in perspective, prior to July of 2015 we had received a total of three inquiries from our website Contact Us. Since making the changes in August, in about a month, we’d gotten eight inquiries already. So to see that 250 percent increase in such a short amount of time is fantastic for us.

PAIGE: You mentioned you changed the number of questions that you were asking in the Contact Us form to four. How many questions did you ask prior?

PAUL: Ten or 11 questions. Basically we were trying to prequalify, versus just starting a conversation.

Watching how visitors access the website pays off

PAIGE: You mentioned that you’d made website changes for better lead capture.

PAUL: We introduced gated URLs across the site. Now we have a clearer picture of what’s happening. We know a lead has been to the website; we know where they spend their time. Now we can actually formulate our follow-on conversations better. That’s been really important to us.

If they come in and go to our supply chain management page – but spend most of their time looking at just management consulting – that’s a different conversation. [One Fortune 500 company] for example, which is a large SAP practice – we probably don’t need to have a conversation with them about SAP. But maybe they’re challenged by network optimization, there’s a needed technology enhancement, or they’re trying to make some other change from a supply chain standpoint. Since we can see their research, we can open up the conversation around that. Maybe we’ll send them a collateral piece that talks to the move from supply to demand planning and the challenges there, or the need for add-on planning tools to supplement your SAP installation, or some thoughts on how to get real traction for network optimization exercises.

PAIGE: So you’re looking at the digital footprints of these buyers and seeing where they’re navigating on your site, and to give you a better idea as to kind of what their challenges are, or what your talk track would be, or the type of content that could help them as they go through their discovery process?

PAUL: You make it sound so much sexier. Yes, [LAUGHTER] that’s way better.

PAIGE: How is your sales team is using Act-On?

PAUL: They utilize that knowledge of where the prospect went on our web page to help shape their messaging. The BDs look at the Website Prospector information every day. Maybe they’ve been calling into a company where we don’t have any contacts, but all of a sudden now people from that company are showing up even as an unknown visitor on our web page. We can see where they went, the BD can start to piece together whether it is one of the people they reached out to, and now they can reengage because the company has shown a little bit of interest.

Scoring indicates interest

PAIGE: So when does your sales team get involved?

PAUL: They start getting really interested when the lead score gets above 20. On their main dashboard for Sugar they’ve got the Act-On Hot Prospects list. So when they see them trend above 20, then they usually engage again. They do also if there is a Contact Us request.

PAIGE: Where would you like to be in the next two quarters?

PAUL: We have two main goals moving forward into Q1. For our campaigns, we want to be above a 15 percent open rate and above a 3 percent click rate. We also want to introduce our advanced workflows in Q1 of next year, that’ll incorporate all pages of our resource library specifically. So based on what they go and look at inside of our resource library, we’ll then [incorporate content] into the automated programs.

We’re going to monitor and measure from there. I also plan to figure out our engagement metrics of our known population.

PAIGE: I’m wondering … because of the macro change happening from supply to demand, does that mean more communication, more precise engagement was needed to educate or inform people?

PAUL: Yes. What we’re saying is, “Hey, here’s a change in the industry that’s going on.” Spinnaker feels that we can enable companies to do transform. Companies need to be informed and educated and marketing automation allows us to share our views and thought leadership.

PAIGE: Paul, thanks for your time today. I really enjoyed our conversation, and learning how you’re using marketing automation to grow Spinnaker.

PAUL:  You’re welcome, Paige, I enjoyed it too.

Read the full Spinnaker/Act-On case study here.

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