#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: VMware's awareness campaign for Tanzu rakes in 7 times ROI

B2B Tech company, VMware, together with its agency, MOI, tackled various challenges it faced when attempting to execute its campaign strategy. With various micro and macro issues at hand, the duo met with the challenges head-on and incorporated various executions, leading it to secure the bronze award for the Most Effective Use - Launch / Re-Launch at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's recent MARKies Awards 2021. Its campaign saw results that exceeded its expectations, with its ROI marked at one to seven, meaning for every US$1 spent in advertising, US$7 was driven in the sales pipeline. 

Challenge 

VMware is a global B2B tech company headquartered in the US, with the regional Asia Pacific Japan office in Singapore. VMware streamlines the journey for organisations to become digital businesses that deliver better experiences to its customers and empower employees to do their best work. Its software spans app modernisation, cloud, networking and security and digital workspace. In early 2020, VMware rolled out a new set of services in APJ in a product called Tanzu. Tanzu allows companies to build, run and manage software faster from a single control point. 

As a new product with a niche audience, there was little to no awareness in region of Tanzu. The target audience may have heard or seen the press release, but may not have known if the product was available yet in APJ. Hence, the product needed a launch campaign in the APJ region. Additionally, the VMware Tanzu APJ marketing team was responsible to also drive qualified leads to sales to drive pipeline. Specific target audience unlike B2C campaigns, which may have a mass reach, its B2B tech campaigns will at most be targeting a few thousand people with the relevant job titles and industries with certain companies. Tanzu is aimed at a very specific B2B tech audience of IT decision makers, specifically cloud platform users, buyers, influencers at enterprises in key APJ markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea across a segmented account list of companies.

The "Build Better Apps with Tanzu" campaign sought to introduce the Tanzu product and related services through an omnichannel campaign leveraging organic social and SEM, paid social and SEM, display, retargeting, content syndication, a webinar series (technical and general), virtual clevel roundtable and eDMs to existing VMware CRM database and targeted List of companies in APJ. The main campaign language was English, with localisations into Japanese and Korean for those markets. Duration was from 28 April 2020 to 30 June 2020, with the budget being US$141,760 for paid media.

Strategy 

The campaign was challenging to plan for, due to micro and macro issues. The micro issue being the campaign narrowly focused on two types of target audience with different behaviours and motivations. The first type of audience was C-suites who have a limited audience in region, perhaps in the hundreds, maybe low thousands. Additionally, they are focused on macro business topics and may not understand how VMware Tanzu software works; however, they rely on the IT decision makers to vet the software for them and make a recommendation in laymen's terminology. These C-suites hold the budget and authorise purchase of the software and want to know how VMware Tanzu will help bring their company better business returns.

The second type of audience was IT decision makers, the tech nerds who will use VMware Tanzu software daily and will want detailed information on how the software works, the benefits of using the software versus competitors, and technical specifications. There are many more IT decision makers than C-Suites in APJ. Usually, there is a lead IT decision maker, a head of information technology, who then farms out the process of reviewing potential software partners to lower-level staff in the tech department, such as directors, managers, developers, to make an internal recommendation to the department head. The department head then makes a business case to the C-suites on which software to purchase. Complicating this, was that VMware Tanzu wanted to focus on a select set of companies in the region, in effect making this an account based marketing (ABM) campaign. The campaign scale was reduced in favour of increased relevancy of the target audience.

According to VMware, ABM campaigns usually see a higher ROI than campaigns that cast a wider net. The macro issue, in this case, was that the campaign launched shortly after the onset of lockdown across all APJ markets due to the global pandemic. As a result, the launch campaign relied on digital channels only. A fully integrated digital campaign was developed which spanned across key paid and owned media touchpoints. Intended channels used to target consumers were organic and paid SEM and social, webinars, eDMs, display, and direct buys through IT publishers. 

Execution 

The execution strategy was broken down into the awareness phase, acquisition phase, nurture phase, conversion, and first putt to second and third putt. 

In the awareness phase, the campaign was digitally driven. Leads were driven through content marketing of Tanzu content through IT publishers, leveraging content syndication to the target account list, and carefully vetted that they would be able to reach both the C-Suites and IT decision makers. LinkedIn sponsored posts were also published to drive awareness for Evolve online, which was positioned as a must-attend virtual conference for IT professionals.

LinkedIn lead generation ads were then used to drive digital leads to host registration form and whitepaper to be hosted on an ungated link. SEM retargeting added an edge to the segment site traffic brought in, including organic outreach. Run display to drive traffic through eDMs to existing VMware CRM database in region. 

At the acquisition phrase, VMware drove multiple tactics and channels to acquire top of funnel leads. This was to help the company identify needs and interest among the target audience. Once the leads flow into its marketing automation system, it will be routed to the nurturing phase via various mid to bottom funnel tactics and channels including and not limiting to always on webinar, email nurture, mega event invite, mid funnel content download, and face to face meeting.

The nurture phase is where VMware nurtured the prospects with retargeted search ads based on their browsing behaviour. It lowered the media cost to only target users who have previously engaged with VMware Tanzu content, specifically run kubernetes on cloud, build cloud native apps, Tanzu observability, and vSphere campaign.

In the conversion phase, business development representatives assessed the marketing qualified lead after it has achieved a designated scoring process and converted them to a qualified lead based on the B.A.N.T criteria. The business development representatives then worked very closely with sales to ensure that the quality of lead is aligned and that we achieve the industrial benchmark of sales accepted lead at 8%.

For the first putt to second and third putt, VMware said its strategy was to deploy a “land and expand ” methodology. It wanted to sell its entry solution to these target accounts. According to the company, the first putt revenue is less than US$100,000. Once it landed these accounts, marketing and sales combined efforts in its next phase through the ITSMA ABM method to expand the account to second and third putt. The timeline was from 28 April 2020 to 30 June 2020.

Results 

Compared to the B2C world, the B2B tech world has a long buyers' cycle. Also, VMware said the Tanzu products are expensive and cannot be purchased via eCommerce. Hence, it may take six to nine months before one sees the results of the campaign on the sales pipeline. With that in mind, then, the results from the campaign exceeded expectations with unique responses at approximately 1,800, impressions marking at more than 11,000,000, and media spend amounting at approximately US$140k.

The campaign's cost per lead marked at less than US$80, along with 300 generated sales qualified leads, and US$1 million impact to pipeline. Its ROI was marked at 1:7, meaning for every US$1 spent in advertising, US$7 was driven in the sales pipeline.