Looming EU Data Privacy Regs: Boom or Bust for US B2B Marketers?

DataPrivacyGDPRwordcloudWPIf you’re a B2B marketer in the US you’re probably aware of the general trend toward more stringent data privacy regulations. But are you and your organization ready for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which goes into effect in May 2018 and applies to both B2C and B2B?

The GDPR applies to any B2B marketer who collects, stores, or uses identifying data (name, phone number, email address, IP address, etc.) about individuals in the EU. So if, like most B2B marketers, you have a database with EU prospects or customers, or use web forms, track web visitor behavior, send email campaigns, use third party lists, or exhibit at trade shows, then read on to learn more about the GDPR and why it could be a bust or boom for your marketing efforts.

GDPR Basics

The GDPR became law in 2016 and requires compliance as of May 25, 2018. The law applies to any entity, not just those based in the EU, so US firms need to understand the law now while there’s time to take the necessary actions. Some particular concerns for B2B marketers include: Continue reading

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3 Ways B2B Marketers Can Get in Step with Sales

shoes of people trekking in wood and walking in row

Anyone on a corporate marketing team can attest that alignment with the sales team can be challenging. For example, 48% of B2B marketers indicated sales and marketing alignment was a top priority for their organization’s lead generation efforts in 2017 according to The 2017 Demand Generation Benchmark Report.

Aligned B2B marketing and sales teams result in higher overall effectiveness for both teams and, most importantly, revenue growth. So how aligned is your marketing team with the sales team? Read on to learn three ways to align marketing and sales. Continue reading

B2B Referral Marketing: Driving Leads vs Closing the Sale

Referral Marketing Concept. Multicolor on Dark Brickwall.I’ve been thinking about referral marketing recently due to my own experience giving referrals to friends and family for Blue Apron, the meal kit delivery service. Clearly Blue Apron is using referral marketing to drive lead generation. But does this type of B2C referral marketing translate to B2B marketing?

The classic referral marketing program

Blue Apron’s is the classic referral marketing program where the customer is encouraged to get others to try the service via various incentives. Initially the incentive was being able to give free meals worth $60 to my friends and family. More recently the incentive was upped to include savings for me if the person continued the service. But anyone connected to me on Facebook knows I’m a raving fan of the service, with or without the incentives, frequently posting pictures of the awesome meals we make. So this got me thinking about how this type of program translates to the B2B world.

Referred leads are better leads

Of course for any referral program to work the company must be retaining customers and keeping them happy. So why bother at all with referral marketing? The most recent Hubspot survey report, the State of Inbound 2017, respondents rated referrals as the highest quality leads. The report concluded this was likely because respondents thought these leads are more likely to convert, but the report also acknowledged the challenge most organizations face scaling referral programs to get more leads into the sales funnel. Similarly, according to the Journal of Marketing, a referred customer has a 16% higher lifetime value than customers acquired through other methods. Intuitively this makes sense because we trust our professional peers who may recommend a company’s product or service via word of mouth, social media, or online review. The thing I wrestle with is how a B2B marketing team can make this a formal program for lead generation.

A lead generation referral program?

Continue reading

Picture It, The Right Photo When You Need It

63884851 - blog creativity graphic design deadline concept

Copyright: https://www.123rf.com/profile_rawpixel 123RF Stock Photo

Photos are an important element for B2B marketing such as content, social media, websites, and presentations. Photos and images add visual interest, understanding and engagement whether it’s white papers and case studies or literature, blogs, and web pages. For example, according to Buffer Social, adding a photo to a tweet boosts retweets by 150%. We are visual creatures. In fact it’s been shown that three days after hearing a piece of information a person can only recall 10%, but add a picture and their recall is 65%.

However, B2B marketing teams struggle to ensure photo assets reflect their brand and messaging, are visually engaging, and easy to retrieve and use. Why is this such a challenge and what’s the solution? Continue reading

Is It Back to the Future for B2B Marketing? (Finally!)

10864007 - future concept, future word on puzzle piece with back lightHave you noticed how disjointed some B2B marketing is? Over the last ten, and especially five, years this seemed to be a growing trend. Article after article talked about and many B2B marketers implemented digital marketing, social media marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, etc. as though each can stand alone. And sadly, in many cases, each has stood alone with little thought given to an overall strategy and, unfortunately, delivered less than stellar results. But last week I attended a conference that gives me hope we may finally be seeing a return to strategic integrated marketing. Read on to learn more about this and other takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAM Summit). Continue reading

4 Tips for Conquering the Top Decision Stage Challenges

time to decide concept clockPart 3 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey

I discussed in Part 1: Awareness stage challenges and in Part2: 6 Tips for Conquering Consideration Stage Challenges.  In Part 3 of this 3-Part series, I’ll discuss the Decision stage of the buyer’s journey and provide tips for overcoming the top B2B content marketing challenges.

Decision stage buyer activities

The buyer moves into the Decision stage once they know the best type of solution for solving their problem or opportunity for improvement. They are ready to buy, but haven’t decided exactly which vendor to use, but your company made their short list. During the Decision stage the buyer is typically researching their short list vendors online. The buyer wants to understand the specific products, services, and capabilities of each vendor on their short list to determine which vendor is the best fit for their needs. They are looking for content that helps them:

  • compare vendors and pricing
  • sell the solution internally to upper management (return on investment, ROI calculators)
  • purchase and implement the solution

BuyerJourney

The goal for a content marketer during the Decision stage is to convince the buyer your solution is the best fit for them.

Content marketing in the Decision stage

For most B2B companies, the Decision stage is where others such as purchasing and upper management become active participants in the buying decision. So it’s important Continue reading

Challenges in the Consideration Stage: 6 Tips for Conquering

Part 2 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey

The Thinker in St PaulIn Part 2 of this 3-Part series, I share the top challenges I’ve experienced and observed B2B marketers face when developing Consideration stage content and provide tips for overcoming these challenges. In Part 1 I reviewed the Buyer’s Journey and provided tips for conquering challenges in the Awareness stage. The buyer moves into the next stage, Consideration, once they have clearly defined their problem or opportunity for improvement, and determined it’s worth finding a solution. Now let’s take a look at the Consideration stage in the buyer’s journey to understand the top challenges B2B marketers face.

BuyerJourney

Consideration stage buyer activities

The buyer in the Consideration stage first researches and evaluates the different approaches, methods, or solution strategies available for solving their problem or making improvements. The buyer wants to understand and think about which approach best fits their needs, so they are comparing solution strategies (make or buy, hire or outsource are two examples of solution approaches). They also begin comparing specific solutions, vendors, and suppliers within the approach that best fits their needs. They are looking for content that helps them understand the pros and cons of available approaches and why it would be the best fit for them.  Content should also begin comparing product/service features and functions. The goal for a content marketer during the Consideration stage is to convince the buyer your solution method is the best fit for them and that your specific solution should be on their short list.

Top 2 content marketing challenges in Consideration stage

Especially for B2B companies, the buyer usually spends more time in the Consideration stage than the awareness stage because they want to devote time to researching to ensure they make the best decision. The content marketer should provide more in-depth information and industry expertise to continue building a trusting relationship with the buyer and reinforcing your brand as a thought leader. Continue reading

Tips for Conquering the Top 2 Challenges in the Awareness Stage

Part 1 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey

Victorious - Man standing on the top of a mountain with raising

B2B content marketing seeks to provide helpful and compelling content for each stage of the Buyer’s Journey. By thinking about what actions a buyer is taking in each stage, we as B2B marketers should provide content that educates and helps the buyer progress to the next stage in the Buyer’s Journey and toward our product or service.

In a three-part series of blogs over the next several weeks I’ll address the primary challenges B2B content marketers face during each stage of the buyer’s journey and provide tips for how to conquer these challenges. So let’s jump in!

Review of the buyer’s journey

First, a quick review of the buyer’s journey which defines the typical actions and steps a prospective buyer takes from first understanding their problem to finally purchasing a solution. By defining specific phases or stages along the journey we can better understand what information the buyer needs in each stage. There are many different buyer’s journeys available, some more granular than others. I prefer HubSpot’s Buyers Journey, shown in the graphic below, because it is easy to understand and more than adequate for content marketing purposes.

BuyerJourneyThe entire journey has only three stages, Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. In this blog, Part 1 of 3, I discuss the Awareness stage.

Awareness stage buyer activities

During the Awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, the buyer is just becoming aware there is a problem that may need to be solved or is discovering an opportunity for improvement. The buyer is typically researching online and offline to better understand if they have a problem or opportunity and if it’s worth further investigation. They are looking for trustworthy educational content that is not trying to sell and helps them more clearly define their problem or opportunity. The goal for a content marketer during the Awareness stage is to gain the buyer’s attention by offering educational and helpful content in the places where the buyer is looking and researching.

Top 2 content marketing challenges in Awareness stage

Assuming you know and have defined your target Personas (read my post, B2B Buyer Personas: 6 Easy Ways to Research & Develop, if you need help creating Personas) and have compelling content appropriate for the Awareness stage, your top 2 challenges for Continue reading

Customer Retention: From Sticky Relationships to LTV

Customer Retention

Retention marketing focuses on strategies and programs designed to retain your existing customers and optimize lifetime customer value. In my previous post, B2B Retention Marketing: The First Thing You Must Do, I discussed why retention marketing is worth doing and where to begin. Now let’s talk about some strategies B2B marketers can use to keep their existing customers and gain additional revenues throughout the relationship.

Strategies for retaining customers

At a fundamental level retaining your customers boils down to keeping them happy enough to continue doing business with you. Many customers, though of course it varies by industry and product/service, will maintain the status quo because change involves perceived risk of an unknown provider. Changing providers also involves switching costs.  Switching costs are actual costs the customer incurs (financial fees for early termination) or personal costs (career risks, time required to research providers and negotiate an agreement) to stop buying your product or service and begin with a new provider.

Create “sticky” customer relationships

rubber adhesiveTo prevent your customers from defecting to competitors who will eventually upset the Continue reading

B2B Retention Marketing: The First Thing You Must Do

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Stock: 123RF Copyright : Illia Uriadnikov Image ID : 47795804

Have you ever found yourself writing copy for your B2B marketing efforts with fingers crossed, hoping your company could actually deliver? You know the copy I’m talking about where you describe how great your product and the customer experience is – our product has the “lowest total cost of ownership”, we deliver “premium customer support”, “easy payments with detailed monthly reporting”, “quick spare parts delivery and expert troubleshooting”, “product/service reviews to ensure you get the most value”, etc.

As a marketer you should be confident making promises like these to prospective customers. After all, the messages marketing and sales communicate to the customer during the sales cycle sets customer expectations. However, if expectations don’t match reality, then you’ve likely got low customer retention rates. And what marketer wants to work hard acquiring new leads and working with sales to close the deal, only to learn your customers defect to the competition after a short time.

Retention data

Losing customers isn’t only frustrating for marketers, it’s really bad for sustaining business growth. Consider the following data:

  • From Bain & Company:
    • Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits 25 – 95%
    • The likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, versus 5 – 20% to a new lead
  • It costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one according to Lee Resource Inc., though I’ve seen numbers as high as 10 times depending on your product/service and industry.

Check out this infographic Customer Acquisition Vs.Retention Costs Statistics and Trends for even more data.

The point is, if your customer retention is low, don’t just assume that a retention marketing program will improve your numbers. Before you start a retention marketing program, Continue reading

Your B2B Content: Corporate Asset or Just Another Expense?

Asset Growth Concept - Coins in the jarWay back in 2011, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, posed the question, “Is content an asset or an expense?” While most B2B marketers know content is the fuel for their lead generation and nurture, it seems many have forgotten or failed to answer Joe’s important question. So let’s revisit this topic now.

“Why now?”, you ask. You’ve likely set your budget for 2017. But ask yourself how hard it was to get the budget needed for your content development including writing, design, and management. If you had trouble justifying the budget or didn’t get the budget you needed, then read on. Continue reading

5 Reasons You Should Resolve to Build a Strong In-House List

strongb2bin-houselistwpB2B marketers continue to rely heavily on email for effective lead generation and growing revenues. According to results from the B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America report, email is the number one content distribution channel used by 93% of marketers. This means you need a “strong” in-house marketing database or house list, one with complete and accurate contact information.

Do you rely on purchased lists? Haven’t been properly maintaining your in-house list? If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions you’re wasting time and money, and increasing the risk of missing your 2017 revenue growth goals.

Let’s discuss 5 reasons why investing in your in-house Email list should be a resolution you keep in 2017.

Continue reading

8 Cheap & Easy Methods for Gathering Competitive Intelligence

gatheringcompetitorintelligence

In my previous post, Competitive Intelligence: 8 Ways B2B Marketers Should Use, I discussed what competitive intelligence is and how B2B marketers should be using it to stay ahead of their competition. In this post I want to share ideas for how to collect and gather information about your competitors.

The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, defines competitive intelligence as: The legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of a business competitor.

According to Benjamin Gilad, president of the Academy of Competitive intelligence, “Companies spend about $20 billion on market research annually and about another $2 billion on analyzing specific competitors.” I don’t know about you, but I never worked in a company that spent anywhere near that on competitive intelligence. In fact, most of the companies I worked for had no formal system or process and no people devoted to gathering competitive intelligence. As is typical in most small and medium (and even large ones if the truth be told) B2B companies, competitive intelligence is an ad hoc word-of-mouth sort of thing with sales and marketing sending emails or having phone calls whenever anyone saw or heard something about a competitor.

As the marketing leader for a medium size B2B product manufacturer, I led a CRM implementation which included creating a process for gathering and maintaining competitor information in the CRM. The ideas I share with you here are based on this experience along with many years gathering competitor information for specific sales opportunities, analyzing the competitive landscape for strategic marketing plans, ongoing business development, and creating competitor tools for the sales team.

Here are 8 inexpensive ways you can gather competitive intelligence for your B2B marketing:

Continue reading

Competitive Intelligence: 8 Ways B2B Marketers Should Use

competitors2

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s not much discussion about competitive intelligence in B2B marketing circles lately. However, competitive intelligence should be an ongoing effort, not a one-time snapshot, within B2B marketing, even in small and medium sized companies. According to the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), competitive intelligence is the legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of business competitors.

A 2014 study by Global Intelligence Alliance (now M-Brain), Market Intelligence Trends 2020, reported that 42% of respondents said competitors will be the most important area of focus for market intelligence with regards to the business environment in 2020.

Here are 8 ways B2B marketers should be using competitive intelligence:

Continue reading

B2B Buyer Personas: 6 Easy Ways to Research & Develop

Buyer personas b2b

In my previous post I shared 7 reasons B2B marketers need buyer personas. A buyer persona describes your ideal customer so that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attract, convert, and nurture the right people.

Now that you’re convinced you need buyer personas, these tips will help you get started. According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study high-performing companies use a variety of methods to compile insights about their buyers, while underperforming companies reported using fewer sources of data. So use as many of the tips below as you can to research and develop your buyer personas.

Here are 6 tips for researching and developing your buyer personas:

1. Create (steal) a persona template – The first thing you need to know is what information will describe and personify your ideal customer so that it’s meaningful to internal users in marketing and sales. Create a buyer persona template with sections for the types of information you want to collect.

Why start from scratch when you can get persona templates for free. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find many more in addition to these – HubSpot Buyer Persona Guide, Content Marketing Institute Target Persona Template, Content4Demand Buyer Profile Playbook. The HubSpot and CMI templates are simple to use, but I like the Content4Demand templates which are downloadable from within their Playbook because they are more comprehensive, providing a richer description of the persona. As you review the templates, take what makes sense for your situation to create your own custom buyer persona template. With this in hand, the rest of your persona research will fill in the blanks.

2. Analyze customer and prospect data – According to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America 64% of marketers use a dedicated email platform while 51% use a marketing automation system. That’s a lot of contact data. Plus you’ve likely got a CRM system with even more customer and prospect data. Mine your contact data for things like contact titles, company types, gender, and vertical. Use this information to focus in on specific LinkedIn profiles (see #5 below), or segment and send a survey to your contacts to gather insights.

It is concerning to see that only 47% of B2B marketers use buyer personas according to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America even though more than half use a dedicated email platform or marketing automation system. Apparently these marketers aren’t convinced they need buyer personas.

3. Interview sales – Your frontline sales people know who they want as customers and who have made the best customers in the past. The same goes for Key Account or National Account sales people. So interview your sales team to learn who they see as your ideal customer. Be sure to pick sales people from the different geographies you sell into and with experience in the persona’s vertical. It may also be insightful to interview sales support or account managers, depending on your product/service and company structure, since these people probably know your existing customers better than anyone else.

Attending regional or national sales meetings is a great way to get in-person interviews with sales, but picking up the phone works too, especially if timing is an issue. Interviewing sales team members has the added bonus of helping align sales and marketing.

4. Interview your customers and prospects – There’s nothing better than hearing firsthand what your customers and prospects think, how they find information, and who they look to for advice. If you have time and access, conduct in-person or phone interviews with customers and prospects.personaswordcloudsmall

Trade shows can be a great place to do quick in-person interviews, as are sales ride-alongs. Or filter through your CRM database with guidance from sales to find suitable customers and prospects to interview over the phone. Be sure to keep the call less than 30 minutes, 15 minutes is better.

5. Use LinkedIn – Search LinkedIn to find real customers, prospects, and others similar to them using titles, companies, and verticals. Look at individual profiles to learn their education level, interests, “typical” background, certifications, associations, and years of experience. See what LinkedIn groups they belong to and who they follow. LinkedIn job postings for the titles/roles you are researching provide additional insight into education, background and experience, certifications, plus their responsibilities and goals. You may need a LinkedIn Premium account to see the information you want, but can drop back to a free Basic account afterwards.

6. Interview customer service – You may need to understand and describe those who actually use your product, a user persona, especially if your marketing efforts include customer retention goals. The user of your product or service often has direct influence on renewal/repurchase decisions. Your customer service reps know better than anyone in your company what describes your ideal user – their challenges, typical titles/role in the company, where they go to get information, and how their input factors into the buying decision.

You may only need one persona to improve your marketing results and can add others later. Developing buyer personas is a bit like exercising — it can be hard to get going and there’s many ways to go about it. But like the Nike slogan – Just Do It! Using these tips can make getting started on your highest priority persona easy.

What techniques have you found effective for researching and developing B2B buyer personas?

 

7 Reasons Every B2B Marketing Strategy Needs Buyer Personas

personaswordcloudHow confident are you that your B2B marketing efforts are targeting the right audience? Most B2B buyers today self-educate long before reaching out to sales.

You’ve seen the numbers — 57% of the purchase decision happens before sales gets involved according to CEB and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally according to SiriusDecisions – so it’s more important than ever that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attract, convert, and nurture the right people – your ideal customer or buyer persona.

Here are 7 reasons you need buyer personas for B2B marketing success:

  1. B2B buying is complicated – Most B2B buying decisions aren’t made by one person. Sure, there may be a single signature on the contract or PO, but usually a buying team has purchasing, technical and functional experts, as well as senior management weighting in on final B2B purchase decisions. In fact, CEB’s research shows that an average of 5.4 people are involved in B2B buying decisions. Personas help marketing reach and influence each person on the buying team.
  2. Helps you prioritize – Every marketing team has limited resources. The process of developing personas helps you and your marketing team (and sales for that matter) really home in on your ideal prospects for growth. In addition to the role of your ideal customer (see above), developing personas forces everyone to think about and prioritize verticals, geography, etc. that will drive growth for your organization.
  3. Improves sales and marketing alignment – Since marketing works closely with sales to develop personas, this naturally drives alignment between marketing and sales teams. Marketing will learn from sales, and marketing and sales will be aligned on reaching the priority prospects. The personas you develop can become part of sales on-boarding to help new sales reps ramp up more quickly and align them with marketing.
  4. Improves lead quality –Creating your marketing campaigns and content with your persona in mind will naturally attract people more likely to convert to leads. And those leads will be easier to segment for more targeted, personalized and engaging campaigns resulting in more effective nurturing. Marketing will be handing off higher quality leads to sales – sales will love you!
  5. Better focus channels – Assuming you’ve done your research right, you’ll know where your personas go to get information, educate themselves, and research new solutions. This means you can devote resources and promote your content to the channels where your personas are, not where you think they might be, saving both time and money.
  6. Improves content topic ideation – Without personas your team will be wasting time trying to guess what topics will be of interest, or even worse, developing content that never gets seen. Well-developed personas clearly spell out pain points and challenges, interests, common problems, goals, etc. which makes it much easier to develop topics that will resonate with and engage your ideal prospect.

During the persona development process you will invariably uncover internal resources for developing future topics and content.

7. Quicker and better content – Having a persona to share when making content development requests or assignments helps ensure it’s written with the right audience in mind, no matter if it’s written by a new marketing team member, guest blogger, outside writer, or internal subject matter expert. This saves time and improves your content.

According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study, companies that exceeded their lead and revenue goals were 2.2 times more likely to have and document buyer personas than companies that miss their goals. So what’s holding you back? Isn’t it time you made formalized buyer personas a priority for your B2B marketing success? In my next blog I’ll provide tips for how to go about developing buyer personas.

 

The Scariest Thing about Marketing Automation and 3 Things You Should Do About It

The data “monster” lurking within

scarypumpkins2With the adoption of Marketing Automation technology, B2B marketing teams are able to do more with less and measure everything. But what’s the scariest thing about these systems? Sending a campaign to the wrong list or forgetting to finish a landing page before a campaign launch may haunt you. Maybe you’re spooked that you won’t make your demand generation and ROI goals. However, I contend the number one scariest monster to tackle now is your data, or more specifically, the poor quality data that’s lurking in your system. It’s just waiting to rear its ugly head…and maybe it already has, but you just haven’t realized it!

According to a D&B survey of over 500 B2B companies, 27% sited poor data quality/accuracy as their biggest obstacle for maximizing return on investment in marketing technology. Without reliable sales and marketing company and contact records, how will you target the right audience with the right message at the right time?

Marketing data is the foundation of all your digital marketing efforts.

Another survey from Openprise and Ascend2 found 72% of B2B marketers say a top goal of their marketing data management strategy is improving ROI measurability. And 44% said data quality is the most significant barrier to marketing data management success. This same study revealed the top 3 most effective uses of marketing data are campaign targeting (62%), content personalization (51%), and sales attribution (43%) – pretty important stuff wouldn’t you say?

Let’s delve a bit deeper into 3 things you should be doing to ensure your data takes you in the right direction and drives the results you want.

1. Conduct a data audit – Review your existing contact and company records, see where your biggest problems are, and develop an improvement plan.

  • How many duplicates are there?
  • Which fields are being left empty or have inconsistent entries?
  • How many records haven’t been touched in 6 months?
  • What fields have typos or wrong information?

Very likely you’ll quickly see where the biggest issues are and can prioritize what to work on first. As you tackle each issue, it’s helpful to think about how the data is used (or is it even needed any more) and where the data is coming from (users or other systems such as CRM, social media, or other marketing tools).

Unstructured data such as text fields and comments or notes entries cause many problems if you need to use it for filtering, creating criteria, or when trying to do analysis. I’ve found that structuring field input, for example using dropdown lists or multi-picklists, reduces blank entries and increases the quality so that your campaigns, personalization, and analysis will be more accurate and effective.

2. Develop a data management process – If you don’t have a data management process, develop one. Make sure you have people dedicated to routine maintenance, data input standards (with agreement from sales), and documented processes that detail who, what, and when. The data audit discussed above will highlight the lack of or broken processes such as data importing, duplicate handling, data cleansing, and archiving/merging/deleting old contact and company records. Clean out the cobwebs and establish processes for keeping it clean.

3. Training, training, training – Let’s face it, most bad data comes from a lack of data management processes and user training. So once you have documented processes that make it easy for users to provide accurate data, it’s time to train users. Provide documented data entry standards, create on-boarding training for new employees, and periodic tips/updates/helpful hints to your users. Provide one-on-one help to those not in Halloween Background Scary Eyes Orange Vectorcompliance. Make sure your CRM and Marketing Automation systems have on-screen field level help. Provide short tutorial videos for on-demand, self-service help.

Without good data your team struggles with personalization and campaign effectiveness, and you may make decisions that’ll haunt you down the road.  That’s not scary, that’s terrifying!

What’s your biggest challenge to data management?

 

A Marketing Lesson from the Tower of Pisa

A modern marketer visits this centuries old tower

pisatowerandcathedralI recently returned from a trip to Italy (I highly recommend visiting Tuscany if you haven’t already!) that included the “required” visit to the Tower of Pisa. We were flying out from Pisa so it made sense to visit the tower, though to be honest, I wasn’t very excited about it since I prefer seeing and experiencing less touristy and off-the-beaten-path places when I vacation. In spite of my lackluster expectations, I came away a fan of Pisa and its leaning tower. As I analyzed why this was it struck me that this centuries old tower illustrates an important lesson for the modern marketer.

Differentiate your product or service

Every marketing student will recall one of Michael Porter’s generic strategies is a differentiation strategy in which a firm seeks competitive advantage by offering something unique that customers value and see as different from or better than the competition. Using this strategy a firm can command higher prices that drive revenue growth and profits.

OK, so you may be thinking the Tower of Pisa is unique because it leans, that’s why they call it the Leaning Tower of Pisa after all. But it’s not the only tower that leans. In fact, when I search for “leaning tower”, Google returns 2,680,000 results! And they aren’t all for Pisa’s leaning tower. According to Wikipedia several towers lean even more than Pisa’s. One 15th century tower in Germany leans due to a similarly bad foundation and two towers were designed on purpose to lean in Abu Dhabi and New Zealand.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa differentiates itself via its stunning beauty, engaging history, and perception as a tourist icon.

The tower is part of a beautiful white marble cathedral complex called the Field of Miracles
that includes an impressive cathedral, baptistery, pisatowerand cemetery. The leaning tower was built as the campanile, or bell tower, for the cathedral with intricate carvings in the white marble that gleams in the sun. Even though the tower was being used by the Germans as an observation post during World War II, it was saved from destruction by the Allies because the U.S. soldier sent to confirm the Germans presence was so impressed with the beauty of the cathedral and its bell tower.

An engaging history

The history of the tower is especially engaging because it began leaning almost immediately and several attempts were made to correct the lean during further construction and in more recent times. During construction of the second floor in 1178 there was a noticeable tilt, so word of its leaning stance certainly spread from the outset. Then it sat for a hundred years before a few more floors were added with extra height on one side to try to compensate for the lean. The top floor and bell-chamber were finally added in the mid 1300’s, again at slight angles to counter the lean. Today if you succeeded in straightening the base of the tower, it would still lean!

A tourist icon

While several attempts have been made to reduce the lean or keep it from falling over, the Italian government realized that some lean needed to be retained because of the tower’s vital role in Pisa’s tourist industry. The tower is listed as one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World, putting it in a very exclusive class. And in 1987 the entire Field of Miracles was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site further solidifying the tower’s cultural and physical significance to tourists worldwide. Even though I’d seen a million pictures, seeing it firsthand made me realize how unique and special it really is – and how much it leans. Over two days I walked past it many times and each time I was amazed it hadn’t fallen over yet!

Learn more about Porter’s generic strategy concept for competitive advantage.  Is your company using a differentiated strategy for competitive advantage? Do you think this concept is still valid given today’s pace of change?

B2B Demand Generation is Just Like Motorsport Racing – No Really!

The Top 4 Elements for a Podium Finish

Racing Background Horizontal, 10eps

Over Labor Day weekend I had the opportunity to drive my race car on my favorite track, Virginia International Raceway. The weather was perfect in spite of Hurricane Hermine barreling along just 20 miles south of us and the car performed well making it a most enjoyable weekend. By now you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with B2B marketing. A lot actually! In this post I’ll discuss the top four elements you need to ensure your B2B demand generation results in a podium finish.

Prepped for high performance

Before I head to the track there’s a lot of preparation required to help ensure we have a fun and safe weekend of high performance driving. I inspect the car for any safety or mechanical issues, purchase gas, gather spare parts, and possibly change the oil, brake pads, or tires. Then there’s the hotel reservations, event registration, planning when to get the trailer from storage and load the car, and purchasing track insurance. Yes, I have a very long checklist to make sure nothing is forgotten.

Successful B2B demand generation requires a lot of preparation also. Before the launch of any campaigns you need to be “race prepped” with target personas, a mapped out buyer’s journey, appropriate content for different stages in that journey, and have your marketing engine (website, online and offline channels, marketing automation, and analytics) tuned up and ready. Your content calendar may have some holes in it, but you should have some “spare” content on hand and a plan for producing new content going forward since this is the “fuel” for demand generation.

Think about what else might be needed and what might change. Not having a set of spare tires or brake pads at the track can ruin a weekend and waste the investment made in being there. What can you prepare ahead of time to respond more quickly? Close alignment with sales can provide early insight into customers and sales enablement needs, and having relationships with outside resources for market research, content development, design, etc. can help you implement backup plans or new tactics, make you more nimble, and reduce risk.

Strategic and integrated tactics win the race

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The courses I drive are road courses, typically 2 to 3 miles long with many turns and elevation changes. So unlike NASCAR’s oval tracks, I can’t see the whole course at once and it’s not just left turns. Before going to a new track I’ll watch video and study a track map to learn “the line” which is the best way to take each turn for the fastest lap times. Although each individual turn has a “best way” through it, it’s better to take an integrated approach to get the fastest overall lap times. An integrated approach may sacrifice speed through one turn to optimize a more important turn that follows. For example, turning in later and slower for a turn so that upon exit the car is set up perfectly to enter the next more important turn.

Modern B2B marketers have more channel choices than ever for demand generation, but it takes a strategic and integrated approach to beat the competition. Exhibiting at a trade show may generate demand, but integrating that trade show presence with social media, email campaigns, direct mail, and webinars will help you generate higher quality leads faster.

Consider which marketing tactics integrated together will deliver the fastest results for the overall strategy and resources available. According to the B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs 75% of B2B marketers rated in-person events as the most effective tactic while infographics and on-line presentations came in last at only 58%.

The report also shows that B2B marketers use on average 13 different tactics and 6 different social media platforms with LinkedIn(66%), Twitter(55%), and YouTube(51%) being the most effective platforms. If your target prospects don’t use Facebook for investigating solutions to their business problems, then why devote resources to it? An integrated marketing plan might “sacrifice” Facebook while putting more resources into LinkedIn, YouTube, email campaigns and webinars. Running fewer email campaigns may actually reduce unsubscribes and increase click through rates and engagement with prospects.

A data dashboard for midrace adjustments and a strong finish

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With preparation and an integrated strategy in place, you’ll need to gather data so you can assess and make course adjustments as you go along. During a race the team measures tire pressures, engine and transmission temperatures, fuel levels and lap times, and gathers weather data to help drivers and crew make adjustments that improve performance. Teams also relay competitor information to help determine when to make pit stops and what times to beat to win the race. Without this kind of data, the team is driving blind. Making more pit stops than necessary or not changing tires soon enough can lose the race.

Measuring demand generation efforts helps B2B marketers know whether they are meeting their goals, what’s working and not working, and should provide an indication of where to allocate resources and help justify more budget. With the tools and technology available to marketers today such as marketing automation and Google Analytics, there’s really no excuse for not being able to gather and measure demand generation efforts.

The bigger challenge now is learning what to measure and how to analyze, adjust and optimize to keep improving your demand generation capabilities. The B2B Content Marketing Report indicated the top 3 most important metrics for B2B marketers were sales lead quality (87%), sales (84%), and higher conversion rates (82%). Creating a demand generation dashboard with meaningful metrics will ensure you’re not driving blind and take you to a strong finish.

B2B demand generation is an enduro, not a sprint

Race Track Finishline

You can’t win the race if you don’t finish. Race cars have more robust parts and extra cooling to withstand extreme conditions for longer periods. Your street car with the same horsepower might make a few laps around, but would likely lose brakes, wear out tires, or break a part before finishing the race.

B2B demand generation, contrary to the sales team’s quarterly or even monthly sprints, is more like an enduro race that lasts several quarters if not a fiscal year or more. Sure there may be twists and turns that require you to adjust your tactics, but finding ways to consistently engage your prospects throughout their buyers’ journey is what wins the race. Stopping and starting tactics midstream or doing one-off campaigns, be they online or offline, won’t make much, if any, impact. Make sure you’ve got the resources and team in place to make it through several quarters at least. That way you’ll have enough data to learn what works and make educated decisions about future demand generation strategy and tactics.

 

Is Your B2B Marketing Agile or ADD?

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There’s no doubt that technology and the explosion of digital channels over the last ten years has had a dramatic impact on marketing, how marketing departments function, and their role in most B2B companies. From marketing automation systems to new social sites (or new ways to market on existing ones) and new marketing technologies or apps, the increasing pace of change is astounding. Add to this our increasing tendency toward distraction and now you’ve got what I call an “ADD” marketing department — one where attention deficit disorder is manifesting itself on a daily basis resulting in:

  • Frustration for marketing team members
  • Inability to drive company growth
  • A lack of respect for marketing within the organization

Below I’ll describe in more detail what I mean by ADD marketing and then discuss briefly why agile marketing could be just the remedy to make your B2B marketing team proud to be part of a winning and respected marketing department.

What is ADD Marketing?

Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD, is a serious neurological condition for many causing them to be inattentive, impulsive, or have great difficulty staying focused. I think this condition describes many B2B marketing departments today. Symptoms of an ADD marketing department include:

  1. Prone to distraction – Whether it’s the latest “shiny new thing” (remember QR codes and doesn’t Pokémon Go fit here?) or reacting to constant requests from internal stakeholders, especially sales. The team is always “busy” and often trying new things, but doesn’t accomplish their bigger goals, say generating qualified leads.
  2. Inattentive and poor listeners working largely in isolation – The marketing team finds it hard to collaborate with other departments, and vice versa, and rarely seek direct insights from prospects and customers. Other departments have “no idea what marketing does”.
  3. Difficulty staying focused long enough to measure the results of all their activity – As soon as one thing is completed, or often only started, it’s on to the next activity without learning what works or doesn’t work. Many haven’t been able to get marketing automation implemented because of 1 and 2 above which makes measurement of digital marketing at scale nearly impossible.

If you recognize any of the above in your B2B marketing department, read on.

Agile marketing defined

Agile marketing can be the antidote to ADD marketing and uses a process adapted from agile software development that I’m convinced isn’t a passing fad. Andrea Fryrear defines agile marketing as “a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time”. She suggests you need an overall marketing strategy, but advocates using agile techniques to implement the tactics more successfully, efficiently and with less stress.

Agile uses a process called Scrum and techniques such as Sprints, Burn Down Charts, and Epics to help teams focus on what’s important, get higher productivity from limited resources, and iterate quickly using measurable results.

According to Jim Ewel (check out his excellent blog), agile marketing places value on:

  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Rapid iterations over Big-Bang campaigns
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions
  • Numerous small experiments over a few large bets
  • Individuals and interactions over target markets
  • Collaboration over silos and hierarchy

It’s a process, but it’s really about getting people communicating

At the end of the day agile marketing provides structure to ensure marketing is flexible, responsive to change, customer focused, and delivering growth to the organization. Marketing teams can use agile methods for campaigns, content development, social media, and more. Maybe you’re starting to see that agile marketing is as Jim states, “as much or more about culture and values than process”. My guess is that many organizations struggle with the culture and values part because agile requires transparency, collaboration, trust, and respect among and across departments which doesn’t exist in many B2B organizations especially as it relates to the marketing department (brings to mind a Dilbert cartoon). Cross functional teams must become comfortable with failing fast which is hard for most.

Agile marketing works

A 2014 survey by CMG Partners found that 63% of marketing leaders place a high priority on agility, but only 40% rate themselves as agile. Barre Hardy, senior director of CMG Partners commented in Forbes, “With Agile, CMOs gain the flexibility and productivity they need to increase speed-to-market and ultimately create more relevant end-products.” This survey also found that marketing departments who consider themselves agile are three times more likely to significantly grow market share. (see the Forbes article Applying Agile Methodology To Marketing Can Pay Dividends: Survey here).

Measurement, transparency, results equals respect for marketing

Perhaps the biggest benefit of agile marketing is increasing respect for the marketing team across the organization because as teams measure and iterate to learn what does and doesn’t work, everyone gains visibility to marketing’s value to grow the organization. And with respect comes the budget required to drive growth along with more satisfied marketing employees who get to learn and try new things.

That sounds like a lot less stress and way more fun doesn’t it?

Resources to Learn More about Agile Marketing

Agile Marketing – Save Your Sanity, SlideShare from Mathew Sweezy, Salesforce Pardot

Agile Marketing: Managing Marketing in a World of Constant Change, SlideShare from Scott Brinker, ion interactive

Agile Marketing: Managing Marketing in High Gear, SlideShare from Scott Brinker, ion interactive

Charlotte AMA: Market 2016 Technology & Agile Marketing, SlideShare from Russ Lange, CMG Partners and Roland Smart, Oracle

Jim Ewel and John Cass’s Agile Marketing Resources List

How to Stop Working So Hard: Agile Marketers Work Smarter, by Andrea Fryrear June 16, 2016, Content Marketing Institute

Amazon – just search “agile marketing” to see numerous books on the topic. One of the most recently published is The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage, by Roland Smart

Producing Engaging B2B Content: How to Overcome 3 Challenges

Engaging B2B contentThe B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs indicated the most effective B2B marketers focus on better, more engaging content not just creating more and more content in an effort to reach their number one content marketing goal – driving sales lead quality. This didn’t, and yet did, surprise me. Let’s take a look at what respondents said.

When asked how much content their organization will produce in 2016 compared to 2015, 76% of B2B marketers planned to produce more. However, as most B2B marketers know, producing more and more content doesn’t necessarily translate into better quality leads. Lots of content that no one engages with is useless.

When asked to select their top 5 challenges, producing engaging content came out on top at 60%, and the ability to measure content effectiveness and produce it consistently tied for second at 57%. This didn’t surprise me given the increasing functionality of marketing automation technologies and ability to integrate with CRM systems. Increasingly B2B marketers are gaining the ability to measure which content is most effective, but many don’t quite have a handle on it yet. When everyone within an organization can see the numbers, the importance of producing engaging content that truly qualifies sales leads should only increase.

What was surprising to me was that only 41% of internal content creators are making it a priority to better understand their audience while an overwhelming 72% want to create more engaging content. Maybe it’s something to do with definitions and semantics, but how can a marketer create engaging content if they don’t understand their audience? Perhaps they already understand their target audience (developed the personas), but haven’t been able to produce the engaging content yet.

Below are three content production challenges many B2B marketers face, especially those marketing complex technical B2B products and services and how to overcome each:

  1. Understanding prospects’ and customers’ business: The internal marketing team doesn’t understand their prospects’ and customers’ industry or business well enough to write content from the prospect or customer perspective, not theirs.
    • Solution – Marketers should spend time with the sales team, prospects, and customers in the field, on phone calls and in meetings. Hearing conversations and seeing first hand is invaluable for gaining this understanding. Marketers should take this opportunity to learn as often as possible. It’s not a one-time thing.
  2. SMEs not delivering the content needed: Internal subject matter experts (SMEs) don’t have the time and/or are not good writers. For many B2B firms, SMEs are often engineers, software developers, R&D, etc. who know the company’s product or service from the ground up and maybe even how customers use the product or service. However, writing content for the marketing team is not their priority and many times they are not good writers.
    • Solution – Marketers should determine which SMEs can deliver content (with a real commitment to deadlines) and which SMEs can be a resource to help develop content topics (ideas, webinar speaker, or being interviewed by content writers).
  3. Technical content is hard: Content writers may be unable to research, interview SMEs, use technical research reports, etc. to develop educational and informative content that will truly engage the prospect or customer. Many writers and marketers, whether in-house or outsourced, simply lack the ability to translate complex technical information into compelling educational content their prospects and customers want and need – this is not an easy task for many writers and marketers who come from a liberal arts journalism or marketing background.
    • Solution – Find a marketer with a technical background. If that person doesn’t exist on your in-house team find a freelance or other outside resource who can fill this role. Sometimes it’s a marketer with a double major like marketing and economics or math. Or look for someone who came into marketing from a technical field, even engineering like I did.

Were you surprised with the 2016 survey results discussed here? The 2017 report will be published soon. It will be interesting to see if more B2B marketers are figuring out what content engages and qualifies sales leads and how to produce it. What are you doing to produce more engaging content?

Digital: 3 Marketing Fundamentals That Still Matter

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I was reminded recently how important it is to have an understanding of marketing fundamentals to deliver successful B2B digital marketing. I attended a couple of webinars that covered aspects of content marketing and lead generation. While they talked about specific digital tactics like email, landing pages and SEO, they also spent a good deal of time talking about marketing fundamentals. My guess is many who are tasked with digital marketing today may not have marketing education or experience. So while they know how to use digital tools and channels, the marketing fundamentals covered in these types of webinars are very useful and educational for them.

Below I highlight three examples of fundamental marketing concepts every B2B marketer needs to know for any strategy, whether it’s digital or not.

Know Your Audience

The buzzword today is persona, but knowing who your best prospects are (influencers and decision makers) and how to reach them is the foundation of any B2B marketing strategy. Who do you want to reach? What topics interest them and what problem(s) can you solve for them? When they have a problem where do they look for information and how do they consume it?

If you don’t know who you’re writing for, no matter if it’s a blog post, web landing page, phone script, direct mail postcard, or case study, it won’t be relevant and you won’t be able to attract or move your ideal prospects further along their buying journey.

Segmentation

Your B2B prospects aren’t all the same. Some common differences include:

  • Ways they use your product/service
  • Industry terms and language
  • Topics that interest them
  • Value they place on various aspects of your offering.

For these reasons it’s important to define and create meaningful segments for your marketing messaging and strategy.

If you know your audience (see above), then creating segments to target, say by specific verticals or functional roles, will become more obvious. Your marketing campaigns can be more personalized, compelling and engaging for your target audience.

 Good Data is Paramount

More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to marketing data. From trade show and webinar attendee lists, CRM systems data, and website form fill data to click through and download data, B2B marketers need effective best-practice processes for ongoing data maintenance and quality.

The digital era has only accelerated and exacerbated data quality issues, generating large amounts of often inaccurate data. Low quality Contact data (studies show nearly 25% of B2B contact data goes bad annually) decreases marketing’s effectiveness and reputation with the sales team (ex. bad phone numbers), and makes generating meaningful metrics and analysis difficult.

While we may focus much of our B2B marketing efforts and budget on digital tactics, it’s still important to have an integrated strategy built on fundamental marketing concepts. I’ve only touched on three concepts in this post. What fundamental marketing concept have you seen missing in B2B digital marketing efforts?