Do B2B Customers Want to Tweet a Purchase?

b2b-twitter-logoRecently Domino’s Pizza announced that customers will be able to tweet Emoji to order a pizza. Emoji are those little symbols that teens and millennials text, tweet and load up in their Instagram comments.

Lots of people missed the real point about this announcement. It is not about Emoji. It is about serving existing customers. Not only do you need to be an existing customer for the Emoji tweet to work, but you need to have a standard order saved with your account. This means that this is more than a system designed to meet their customers online. It was designed to serve only their best customers. The ones that order regularly enough to have a standard order.

If you look at the best customers of your B2B company, do you have some that have standard orders? Do these orders have a regular frequency? How do they confirm them? These days it is probably an email. Can you remove some friction and make these orders even easier to place?

When I worked for a small manufacturer in the 1990s we required that all orders came in via fax. We needed a paper copy of each order and we were discouraging telephone orders. The fax copy served this purpose and it had a signature. This did not change when email came into the picture. For a while we still required the hardcopy fax. We did eventually move to email ordering and it made life much easier for everyone. Not only did we have a paper copy, but we had a digital copy too. But more importantly, it was a lot easier for our customers.

Do you know what percentage of your customers have smart phones? Do you know how many would be willing to place orders if you removed the friction? According to an IDG global mobile survey, 92% of senior executives own a smart phone and 77% report using it to research a product or service for their business. Most use a laptop or desktop to make their purchase, with 45% citing security concerns of the mobile web and 43% noting the lack of a mobile-friendly website.

And if you take this one step further and think about a Twitter order. Do you know how many of your regular customers are on Twitter? Let’s ignore the marketing problem of that question and examine the steps of the process:

  1. Your customer enters a standard order that can be shipped or invoiced based on a tweet.
  2. Your customer authorizes certain Twitter accounts to place these orders.
  3. You and your customer agree on the text of the tweets. These don’t have to be Emoji. They can be text. Since Twitter is a public network, your customer will want to mask their order a little bit. And note that this process only works if it is already known that your customer buys from you.
  4. You establish a confirmation response, whether through Twitter or another means. You can establish a separate Twitter account to automatically respond when the order is processed.

This becomes like an automated subscription service, but with a manual trigger that happens to be public. Maybe you are selling 500,000 bolts to a manufacturer every month. Due to a slight production slowdown, they need their next shipment in 33 days instead of 30 days. This can help them easily manage that delay of just a few days.

A benefit of a program like this is some social proof. Having companies order from you in public becomes another form of a socially-promoted customer testimonial.

This is not just for products. Service companies can consider a system like this where existing customers regularly renew monthly service agreements based on their needs.

Share why an approach like this would work or would not work for your B2B company either in the comments below or on Twitter.

5 Tips to Increase Engagement on B2B Social Media Sites

b2b-increase-engagementEven if your B2B company has been posting to social media sites for some time, it is always a good idea to review your activities to make sure you are getting maximum engagement from your followers. Below are five considerations that can help everyone from the beginner to the seasoned veteran.

1. Post at the right time

Make sure you are posting to your social media profiles at a time when your customers and prospects frequent those sites. In most cases you might find that B2B buyers will show up on weekdays from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon, thus making this an optimal time for posting messages. Still, every B2B company has its own target time frame, so make sure you pay attention to when your audience is posting in response to your messages and when traffic increases.

2. Add calls to action

You can add calls to action to your individual social media posts to encourage prospects to learn more about what you have to offer. Your posts should give B2B buyers the opportunity to raise their hands and express interest in your products or services. The best way to do that is to make a compelling offer that will drive them to a landing page on your website. Usually they will need to exchange their contact information for the offer. These offers can be a mix of things that generate awareness at the top of the funnel and things that help drive consideration. Sometimes it can also entail telling a prospect why a particular offer is more appealing than something else. In other cases it might involve telling a B2B buyer why the product or service in your offer is so important. Anything that can be used as a call to action will be worthwhile for your marketing plans.

3. Keep from being overly personal

While you might have lots of friends that follow your B2B company on your social media profiles, you should treat your page as a business-first spot. You need to avoid posting too much personal information. Focus on posts that are relevant to what your business is doing right now and what it has to offer your customers.

4. Take risks

Sometimes you’ve got to take a few risks in order to go places. You might want to take some small risks that will cause your B2B company to look more appealing. Don’t be afraid to post funny videos that are relevant to your customers and prospects. This could be your chance to break out of the “boring B2B” mold. The odds are people will see the human side of your business.

5. Get special guests

Consider adopting the idea of the celebrity takeover on your social media profiles. Identify influencers from your industry, or even subject matter experts from within your B2B company. Customers and prospects are more likely to engage with these industry stars during the takeover. There is really no limit to who you can tap for this purpose, and it can even become a regular feature of your social media profiles.

If you follow these reminders for how to post and interact on your social media channels, you will create more engagement with your B2B prospects and customers, especially if you can drive them to your landing pages or website.

Photo credit: Flickr

5 Smart Ways to Build B2B Thought Leadership with Content Marketing

B2B-Thought-Leadership-Smart-Content-Marketing-smallLet’s face it; B2B buyers are unlikely to take you seriously unless you’re a big-name brand or they’ve heard about you from an independent source, for example through a recommendation on a social network. Unless you’re Google, Apple or you happen to know the buyer’s cousin, you might as well not exist, right? Wrong. You can establish B2B thought leadership and build awareness through a smart content marketing campaign.

You’ve likely read blog posts explaining how to establish thought leadership in 10 Easy Steps or other such nonsense. But establishing real thought leadership, the kind that can position you as a trusted source (and one worth buying from), isn’t some kind of cheap parlor trick. Content marketing takes work. With so many B2B brands out there clamoring for the sacred status of “thought leader,” you’ve got to go the extra mile with your content marketing if you want to position yourself as a truly trustworthy and authoritative B2B brand.

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1. Authenticity Is key

According to Michael Brenner, former VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP, in an article for Forbes, “thought leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”

Rather than push out half-baked content that’s merely trying to give the impression that you’re an authority in your field, you need to actually acquire the necessary knowledge and provide B2B buyers with purposeful, practical advice. In doing so, you’ll build trust and develop a relationship that could eventually lead to a sale. This is what real thought leadership is about &mdash knowing your topic extremely well and pushing out informed, creative content.

2. Do your homework

Do you know what pains your B2B buyers? You better if you hope to make any sales. B2B buyers will be more likely to engage with you if they feel comfortable with you and see that you’ve spent the time to get to know the kind of problems they deal with on a daily basis. It should not seem like you’re simply pushing them to buy your product.

Thought leaders are perceived as being entrenched in the pains that exist in the market, and that’s not something you can fake. You’ve got to spend ample time getting to know your B2B buyers’ pain points, by speaking with end users, reading relevant content, and attending industry events.

Spend the time getting to know the pain points of your B2B buyers and the content you produce will be more informed and more likely to make a positive impression on your buyers.

3. Think outside the box

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your B2B buyers’ pain points, it’s time to hit them with content that demonstrates your knowledge of said points. As mentioned above, it’s not as easy as spending millions of dollars (as if that were easy to begin with.) It comes down to creativity.

Your competitors are likely pumping out blog posts and e-books to establish thought leadership themselves. The Internet is practically clogged with this kind of content. If you want to stand out in the sea of would-be thought leaders, you’ll have to go a step further with your content. What this looks like (or sounds like) depends on your brand and its unique place in the market, but you can do it if you put in the time and effort.

What can you say that others haven’t said? How can you solve a problem no one else has been able to solve? Again, you’ll be better prepared to create more original content if you’re knowledgeable about the buyers’ pain points.

4. Be a presence

You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” That certainly applies to B2B brands trying to establish thought leadership on the web.

Once you’ve amassed a content arsenal, it’s time to get it out there. By strategically placing your content throughout the web &mdash on popular content marketing blogs, YouTube, podcasts, social media, online magazines, etc. &mdash you’ll start gaining more recognition.

The more B2B buyers see your name, the more they’ll think “Hey, I see this brand’s name out there all the time. They seem to understand me.” Just make sure that your content is honest, smart and helpful. Visibility is important, so long as what’s being seen is top-notch stuff. Remember, quality over quantity.

5. Don’t Take Shortcuts with Your Content Marketing

Content marketing isn’t something you can “hack” or do in “just fifteen minutes a day!” It takes a concerted effort on your part and a willingness to really learn the pain points of your B2B buyers. By becoming an actual thought leader, as opposed to one solely doing it just for the sale, you’ll create more meaningful content and, in turn, will be more likely to have a more comfortable, open conversation with the buyer.

Happy B2B Customers Can Get You More New Customers

b2b-customer-acquisitionAs we all know, word-of-mouth is the best marketing channel there is. Social media gives us the opportunity to create and scale word-of-mouth on a level that was impossible a few years ago. Top B2B companies are already taking advantage of this. According to a 2012 report by the Aberdeen Group, the top B2B firms gained 230% more leads via social media than their competition.

So how does this happen? The process has a few steps:

  • Identify why customers love you
  • Build a relationship
  • Ask for referrals and get them started
  • Make it a system

1. Identify why customers love you

Why do your customers love you? It may be your unique value proposition (i.e. we provide a super simple way to create media clips), or something distinctive about your company (i.e. we provide great customer service).

If you don’t know this, the way to find out is simple. Just ask. Ask your happiest customers why they are so happy with you. Ask them why they love your product and your company. Ask them what drew them to you, and why they are staying.

Make sure you write down as much as possible. You’ll be able to hear directly from customers what keeps them with you, and you’ll use this exact language later.

Now that you know why your happiest customers love you, it’s time to build a deeper relationship with them.

2. Build a relationship

When you’re dating, you don’t ask someone to be your boyfriend or girlfriend right away – you build a deeper relationship. And when you’d like a referral, you do the same thing. The goal is to transition from customers to happy customers, and from happy customers to evangelists.

To start, make sure that they’re getting top-notch customer service. Then get them more involved with your company so that they feel an emotional investment in your success. The best two ways to do this are through case studies and testimonials.

In a case study, you would feature the customer and their success using your product. If possible, try to make the case study a longer form piece of content, like a long form interview, a video, or a podcast. This gives your readers more quality content and allows you to spend more time with your customer.

Testimonials are also useful. It’s always good to have testimonials, and they also help build a stronger relationship with a customer. Remember, the more you interact with your customers (within reason), the better the relationship.

One you have case studies and testimonials, feature them on your blog or website. Share it on social media, and invite your customers to do the same. When they do, engage with them and have public, online conversations. This breaks the ice of you talking about your business on social media with the customer. It also makes them feel special, because they were highlighted on your blog and on social media. It’s a win-win.

3. Ask for referrals and get them started

After you have established a relationship, directly ask for a referral. At this point, this should be easy. By now you have a long-standing relationship with them, beyond just being a vendor. You have talked to them about why they are happy and what makes them stay, you have ensured they’ve gotten top-notch customer service, and you’ve given them exposure in your blog and in social media. They should be delighted with you, and delighted to do it. If not, you can win them over using the same language they used with you when they said why they loved you.

How you structure the referral program is up to you. There are many different flavors of this. Dropbox has a referral program built into the product – they offered up to 16 GB of storage space for referrals. Many companies have referral programs that are simply discounts for both parties for a certain period of time. Some firms don’t have formal programs, they just ask for customers to refer others as a favor. Figure out what works best for you.

The key to making this work is to make it easy for them and to get them started yourself.

Take the time to create suggested LinkedIn posts, Facebook posts, or Tweets for them. In the suggested posts, use the language that they themselves used to describe you. It will resonate more with them and make them more likely to share it.

When they do share, Like/Retweet it, and engage in (another) conversation with them online.

4. Make It A System

You should systematize this process in your company, moving new customers to becoming happy customers to becoming evangelists. In the process you’ll gain insight into your customers, create great content and testimonials, and ultimately, get more referrals.

Your B2B Prospects Want to Binge Your Content

b2b-content-binging-house-of-cardsB2B marketers are often focused on their industry competitors when they think about social media and content marketing, but that is frequently the wrong way to think about it. It also is not the best way to consider their prospects. They should not worry about a competitor poaching their prospects, or even their customers. They should focus on attention. Their prospects are not just watching Twitter, reading blogs and following influencers and companies on LinkedIn, but they’re watching Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and all those shows that they have been DVRing. Timeshifting is only the beginning of what’s happening to their attention. It’s now all about binging.

Netflix and Amazon drop shows a season at a time. This is not by accident. This is based on viewers’ habits in watching old shows. Since your customers and prospects are staying up all night watching full seasons of “Must See TV,” these platforms decided that there was no reason to continue the idea of appointment television on a streaming platform. If someone wants to watch all 13 episodes of season 3 of House of Cards, there’s nobody to stop them. This is part of what it means for the prospects and customers to hold the power in the relationship.

Are your prospects responding to cold calls? Are they responding to your generic blast emails? Or are they doing their own research about your company and your solutions before they ever want to talk to you? It is a very clear No, No, Yes. And according to research from SiriusDecisions, “67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” Again, they hold the power in this relationship by seeking out the information that is most helpful to their journey.

So what about your content? Daily blog posts? Check. Monthly ebook? Check. Quarterly webinar? Check. But can they consume this content on their own terms? Sure they can read all the blog posts they want at anytime day or night, but what about those things behind forms? You’re creating educational content that they can download, but each time they have to fill out the form. Sometimes that form is auto-populated with their information, which is cookie driven or browser driven, but your prospects still have to submit each time to get each piece of content. And depending on how your marketing automation system is set up, those downloads might happen in the browser or in email. This seems quite contrary to how your prospects are consuming things in other parts of their lives.

Let’s look at each of these challenges that B2B marketers face when approaching content marketing.

1. Competition for Attention

The best way to compete for someone’s attention is to provide relevant, helpful information in an easy to consume form. Can you teach your prospects how to do something? Can you help them solve business problems? Can you make it quick and easy for your customers to solve issues related to your product? They are used to customer experiences like Amazon’s website and hotels where they are greeted by name. Would you wade through all the outdated pages on your website to find an answer? If there’s too much friction, prospects won’t bother. And this has nothing to do with how good or bad the product is. This is all about having little time and less attention, and when things are too hard to find they move on.

2. Buyers Setting the Terms of the Relationship

This is not a new idea, but many B2B marketers are still coming to terms with this. How well do you really understand your personas? Do you really know what their problems are? And how they like to consume information? And where they look for it? The way to make sure that you are part of their consideration set, or even just ensure that your content gets in front of them when they are looking, you must know how and why they are looking. Can you anticipate their questions? Insights into your own customers can give you some guidance in knowing more about your prospects. Using the word relationship to describe this is not accidental. You must be attentive to their needs if you want them to stick around.

3. Binge Consumption

Let’s assume that you are creating great content that your prospects want and you are using social media, search, influencers and advocates to drive awareness to your content. Every blog post has a call to action that leads to a deeper dive piece of content. And your prospects love it. But what if they are getting on an airplane and they want to read six of your ebooks and watch two recorded webinars? You have created successful content, but you are not all the way there. You must make it easy for people to download more content. If you are using landing page forms for an ebook, you can have related ebooks on your thank you page. If you send the ebook link via email, include related content there. In either case, you must make sure your system can track these additional downloads without filling out a form again.

If this is not possible, consider pre-packaged bundles of content. When a prospect comes to a landing page for a single ebook, give them the option to download the bundle instead. This gives them multiple pieces of content without multiple form submissions. Don’t let the technology drive your decisions. Consider the customer experience and the websites you interact with. If you are already sharing content, you have the data to determine if your prospects having binging habits. If so, consider developing connected content that meets those consumption preference and create the infrastructure to match.

The more you understand about your prospects and your customers, whether through well-developed personas or not, the better you will be able to create and share content that speaks to their interests and their habits. Again, that sounds like a relationship to me.

How B2B CMOs Can Turn Social Media into Social Storytelling

b2b-social-storytelling-cmoFor the CMOs of B2B companies, the to-do list is never-ending. Provide more original social content. Engage your target audience. Attract new followers. Create ambassadors. And these tasks can appear monumental given the lack of time and the fluctuating gap in social skills, which require an understanding and communicating on multiple social networks, each with unique style, form, and community.

To be successful requires more than a social presence. It requires continuous social storytelling. Original stories are now one of the most strategic marketing deliverables B2B companies can create for engaging social audiences and communicating a company’s core positioning and value proposition. If told in a meaningful and engaging way, this narrative can become more than just story – it can become the blueprint for a B2B company’s entire social communication strategy.

But how to deliver effective social stories and content every day? Recognize that social media has created a new marketing lifecycle, combining social awareness, education, and engagement. CMOs must execute this new lifecycle within a digitally driven ecosystem against unrelenting competition to win buyer influence. Storytelling is at the speed of social.

In order to answer the challenge, you must have a team in place that shares your company’s vision and positioning. Form a story marketing team that is capable of telling original stories with clear roles, processes, and techniques. The goal for a story team is to make social storytelling part of the internal flow of conversation, to reach messaging alignment, and to deliver lifecycle organized social communications. Without clear storytelling management and workflow, your marketing team will be stuck in a world of one-off social media efforts. Here’s how to get started:

  • The story team members: product experts, customer experts, digital media designers, and experienced social marketing communicators. Select individuals from product marketing, product management, marketing communications, customer experience, and social media management.
  • The story team roles: story owner, collaborator, and viewer. Owners create and drive ideation and targeting. Collaborators add context and content. Viewers help share and communicate stories before, during, and after delivery. Consider a center of storytelling excellence to share roles across teams.
  • The storytelling process: story planning, design, and production. Planning is simple and fast. Ideate and organize ideas everyday. Design includes social targeting, social contexting, and social message testing. Production takes feedback from tests and completely prepares the final digital versions, the sequence, and schedule. Make sure these three phases become a standard lifecycle. Story is a deliverable so it requires a lifecycle process.

Delivering these original social stories that drive awareness and increase engagement by your prospects must be designed with the following key strategies and techniques in mind:

1. Know your rainforest

Your social rainforest is your target ecosystems and social connections. Entering social networks is much like wandering into a rainforest where everything is fundamentally connected. If you enter this ecosystem without knowledge of the power of its connectivity, extinction is eminent. Stories provide the link between your positioning, digital media, and target customers. They are that crucial connecting thread between your marketing team, your desired image, and your target social communities. In other words, the marketing team needs to be one with their target community. Aligning your employees and your story is the first step to telling it to the world.

2. Be authentic and helpful

Stop the vendor speak. Making an emotional and real impact means telling your story in an authentic, honest, helpful manner that is accessible to all parties. Worry less about impressing your audience and more about engaging them.

3. Find the stories within the story

Your story is just the beginning. Within that story are additional narratives, flowing together to help express your core beliefs and ideas. Think about it – every blog post, webinar, e-book, and customer experience has many related needs, tragedies, successes, and conflicts that can be shared on social networks to increase awareness and positioning. Finding and telling those stories will only enhance your overall story.

4. Arm your team

Social storytelling marketing teams must compete like sports teams. They need the best equipment. They need to create the strategies and they need to craft brilliant play books. They need experts in the right positions and, above all, they need experience playing the game.

5. The right apps

Today, CMOs and their team improvise by patching together an ad hoc mix of marketing tools and unmanageable volumes of content without a blueprint for scaling people, technology, and processes for storytelling. Invest in integrated, social ware marketing applications that instantly guide users through creating the right story for the right ecosystem through the right content and network. Thus, the entire marketing team is able to focus on creativity rather than administrative tasks. Arming your team with collaborative, marketing intuitive apps for story planning, story component design, digital publishing, and story measurement allows your team to deliver empowering and compelling social stories every day.

Your story is your strategy. By creating a high performance storytelling marketing team for your B2B company with clear roles and processes you can begin to source and pipeline ideas and content from across your team, partners, and customers. Team consistency and alignment becomes the norm versus the project. Turning social media into social storytelling requires well-designed organization, digital content, and applications that truly orchestrate social story planning, design, and delivery seamlessly and successful from ideas to wins.

5 B2B Social Media Lessons Cisco Learned in 2014

b2b-ciscoWith 2014 officially behind us, it’s a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and speculate on the future. At Cisco, we continue to explore how social media is used not only to generate awareness and buzz, but also to drive thought leadership, influence the customer journey and make a greater impact to the overall marketing strategy. During the last year, I’ve seen first hand how the growth and pervasiveness of social media trends are shaping new digital experiences. Here’s a closer look at our top 5 social media lessons from 2014 and what we can learn from them as we head into 2015.

1. Social analytics are mission critical

Proper social analytics methodologies can help you develop a more sound social strategy. Social listening is not a new concept, but understanding how to analyze the data and turn it into actionable insights is not always a simple task. Take for example our listening effort to determine the best strategy around the #IoE and #InternetOfEverything hashtags. While there is not a shortage of hashtag best practices such as use the least amount of characters, use the one where your audience is, and create your own unique hashtag, it’s knowing the one that is best suited for your strategy. By analyzing the usage, frequency and audiences that leverage #IoE vs. #InternetofEverything, we made a decision to invest more on the latter hashtag. The shift in our strategy led to an approximate 440% usage increase in the last 12 months.

2. Influencer marketing lends credibility to your narrative

It’s no secret that leveraging authoritative, expert voices in social content can provide deep insight into any conversation. However, there are many formats in which those conversations can happen – beyond TweetChats, forums, and blogs. We’ve seen the power of using industry analysts, pundits and thought leaders in our Future of IT podcast channel, which has received more than 6,000 downloads to date. The result is rich, engaging content that continues to get engagement over time. In fact, when combined with recap blogs, SlideShare decks with key quotes from industry thought leaders and social content across our various channels, we’ve seen more than 100,000 engagements.

3. Graphics and videos drive more social engagement

I may be stating the obvious here but it’s important to emphasize how information consumption continues to evolve in favor of visual content and short-form video. We clearly see this with the gaining popularity of visual social networks such as Vine, Instagram and Tumblr. Also, keep in mind other trends such as Facebook’s news feed algorithm update means brands need to get more creative with how they capture audience attention. We’ve learned that by visually showing the impact of the Internet of Everything on the Public Sector, we’re able to drive more engagement and social reach. And through experimenting with short-form video content such as our recent Vine videos, we’re able to increase our engagement by 500% compared to the average text social post.

4. The influence of social good campaigns can be transformational

2014 was a big year for social good campaigns such as the ALS ice bucket challenge and many others. Campaigns such as these showcase an organization’s ability to reach target audiences to shape real change. At Cisco we’ve seen the power of challenges such as the IoT Challenge for Young Women help increase awareness for our involvement in emerging tech development.

5. Social demand generation can drive demand for goods and services

With 67% of consumers (and 94% of B2B buyers) conducting their own research on goods and services online before making a purchase decision, how brands show up on social media can have a great influence on sales. This goes back to ensuring there is a good content strategy, as well and a digital journey that can be effectively tracked all the way to purchase. Admittedly, this is an area we are continuing to explore and refine, but have already seen initial success. We do see huge upside potential and will continue to explore.

Your 2015 B2B Social Media Predictions Are Totally Wrong. Or Maybe They Are Totally Right!

b2b-social-media-predictions-2015It is the time of year when bloggers dust off their crystal balls and try to predict what will happen in B2B social media in the coming year. I have done this for many years myself. Whether these predictions are based on recent data, anecdotal experience or pure conjecture, they are frequently wrong. Or maybe they are right.

But the best part of writing these blog posts is that nobody ever goes back and looks at last year’s post to see what bloggers got right and what they got wrong. It is a content creators dream come true: attractive headline, shareable content, no repercussions.

Anyone can predict the future if they are not accountable for being right.

These opinion pieces are just that. Opinions.

It is very easy to find a survey and say that B2B companies are increasing their social media budgets. The percentage of B2B marketing budgets spent on social media will rise from 9% to 13% in the next 12 months. It will continue to rise to 21% in the next five years. This single data point will let a blogger predict growth in social media budgets for the next five years. And this survey is updated every year, so this one can go on for eternity.

But nobody is checking up on the bloggers to see what really happened. Or the marketers.

Every year the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs release their benchmark report about content marketing. But in this year’s version they changed the definition of content marketing and the number of B2B marketers indicating that they used content marketing went down from the previous year from 93% to 86%. Does this mean that bloggers can use this study to predict the decline of content marketing? Of course they can.

But other parts of the report reveal that B2B marketers are spending more time and money on content marketing. These selective data points support a prediction of increased reliance on content marketing. A blogger can take their pick of the direction, based on their opinion.

And be right either way. Or wrong.

What about making predictions about mobile? Is this really the year that B2B marketers will finally embrace mobile? It’s very easy to predict. Even easier than it’s been for the past five years that bloggers, including me, have been predicting it. 58% of American adults have smartphones. The breakdown of that data is even higher when you look at groups that likely contain your customers. And that data is almost a year old.

Predict away about the impact of mobile, but B2B marketers will prove it wrong once again. B2B websites, white papers, ebooks are still designed and built for desktop computers. This is one of the biggest no-brainers for marketers in years. But bloggers can predict this until they are blue in the face, but it is just not happening.

Other areas that inspire prognosticating for 2015 are marketing automation, social media advertising, scaling of social media across organizations beyond marketing, measurements of success beyond chasing likes and followers and true executive understanding and adoption of social media.

But for every one of these data-supported predictions, there will be many B2B companies that just don’t follow the trend. And prove the predictions wrong yet again.

It is easy to sign up for a Twitter account, but hard for many B2B marketers to embrace the platform and share information that is of value to their customers. It is easy to pull a white paper out of the archives and say you are doing content marketing, but harder to build a content funnel that matches prospects’ interest and timing so it can all lead to sales. And yes, it is easy to look at your own behavior on your mobile device as a rallying cry to go “Mobile First,” but to get all the pieces in place to make this happen at most B2B companies is hugely challenging.

For many B2B companies 2015 will be the year of true social media adoption and success at many levels. Unless I’m wrong.

Photo credit: Flickr

20 Most Important Stats from the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report

The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs released their annual benchmark report on B2B content marketing. It is based on surveys of 1820 North American B2B Marketers across all industries and company sizes. This is the fifth year that they have released this report, and it continues to improve each year. The entire report is embedded at the end of this post.

The first, and most notable stat in this report is that number of B2B marketers using content marketing has gone down from 93% last year to 86% this year. That is because they changed the definition of content marketing to “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Apparently this helped some respondents realize that there is a difference between content marketing and just creating content.

This is a benchmark study, so it gives you something you can compare yourself to. The study also examines the habits and activities of the most effective B2B content marketers, so you can see how you are doing against those who report that content marketing is meeting their goals and driving business value.

1. 86% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing

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2. Only 38% of B2B Marketers rate their content marketing as effective

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3. 47% of B2B Marketers have dedicated content marketing groups

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4. 69% of the most effective B2B Marketers have dedicated content marketing groups

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5. Only 35% of B2B Marketers have a documented content marketing strategy

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6. 54% of the most effective B2B Marketers have a documented content marketing strategy

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7. 55% of B2B Marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending in the next year

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8. The top goal for B2B content marketing is brand awareness

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9. 83% of B2B marketers use content marketing for lead generation

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10. 81% of B2B marketers use content marketing for engagement

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11. 70% of B2B Marketers have created more content in the last year

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12. 63% of B2B Marketers use website traffic as their metric of content marketing success

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13. 94% of B2B Marketers use Linkedin to distribute their content

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14. 88% of B2B Marketers use Twitter to distribute their content

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15. 84% of B2B Marketers use Facebook to distribute their content

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16. 54% of B2B Marketers see producing engaging content as their biggest content marketing challenge

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17. 50% of B2B Marketers see producing content consistently as their biggest content marketing challenge

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18. 49% of B2B Marketers see measuring content effectiveness as their biggest content marketing challenge

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19. 54% of the most effective B2B Marketers publish content daily or multiple times per week

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20. 37% of the total marketing budget of the most effective B2B Marketers goes to content marketing

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Professors Share Observations on the State of B2B Marketing

b2b-marketing-ebookI recently participated in a project with the Oracle Marketing Cloud where they interviewed marketing professors about the state of B2B marketing and how they are using that knowledge to develop curriculum to train the marketers of the future. It was an esteemed panel of professors, including:

  • Barbara Kahn, Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
  • Josh Murdock, Professor of Educational Technology & Social Networking, Valencia College
  • Mark Schaefer, Marketing Consultant, College Educator and Author, Rutgers University
  • Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing, Co-Director of Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
  • Eric Bradlow, K.P. Chao Professor of Marketing, Statistics, and Education, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jessica Rogers, Graduate Social Media and Marketing, Southern New Hampshire University
  • Jeffrey L. Cohen, Distinguished Lecturer of Marketing Analytics and Social Media, Ball State University (hey, that’s me!)

Download the entire ebook here (registration required), but in the meantime, here are my answers to the questions.

1. What is the number one thing marketers may have lost sight of?
Too many marketing activities are siloed from the top-level business objectives of a company, and are not measured against metrics that others in the company care about. If your executives follow daily, weekly or monthly numbers related to things like sales, customer retention, cost savings and customer satisfaction, then reporting softer marketing numbers will not win any points with those executives. Marketers need to find ways to tie their efforts to those business metrics.

2. What are your observations with respect to the nuances of the B2B and B2C marketing disciplines?
As a lifelong B2B marketer, and co-author of The B2B Social Media Book, B2B marketing makes sense to me. No matter what techniques you use, you are ultimately driving prospects into a buying process where you can track where they came from. While selling through a distribution network can complicate things, a company sales rep, or someone no more than a couple steps removed away from the company, handles B2B purchases, making tracking possible. I have never understood how Coca-Cola marketers can track their efforts to sell a bottle of Coke at the grocery store or convenience store. This action is too far removed from their brand marketing and advertising to attribute action to particular campaigns.

3. What do you think a B2B marketer can learn from B2C or vice versa?
B2B marketers can learn creativity, creating an emotional response and storytelling from the B2C pros, and B2C marketers can learn more about calls-to-action, attribution and leading a buyer through a journey from their B2B brethren.

4. Can you compare and contrast the curriculum that you’re teaching and the current roles and responsibilities of today’s marketers?
I am teaching students about the importance of their public, online presence and how to keep up with a constant flow of information in their industry. This would not be an explicit part of their marketing role, but an understanding of this will make them stronger marketers. Traditionally, it has been social media savvy folks on the team who really understand how to build a personal presence and follow all the right sources in a manageable way, but these skills are important as a solid foundation for all marketers.

Students learn how to create and analyze social media marketing campaigns that resonate with customers, B2B and B2C, and are based on solid marketing and business principles. Proper goal setting and how to review analytics to understand success are also a key part of my learning objectives. This fits in with the skills and requirements of marketers in the field. Marketers create campaigns, analyze competitors’ campaigns and review the success of their own efforts.

5. What will you teach my future employees this year?
I start by explaining the difference between personal social media, which is what most college students do, and professional social media. They need to understand the importance of a professional profile, not just on LinkedIn, but on all social platforms, if they are going into marketing. This is part of the transition to the working world. I tie social media to business results and the basic principles of marketing, so students understand the value of social media to an organization. I go though major and minor social platforms, looking at current examples and best practices, so students have an understanding of what is happening right now in social media marketing.

Please download the ebook here to learn what the rest of the panel thinks about the state of B2B marketing and how education feeds into it (registration required).