A Huge Missed Opportunity in B2B Visual Storytelling

b2b-visual-storytelling

The woman in the picture is Neslihan Uzun. She is a Survey Engineer for Hyundai Engineering & Construction in Turkey. She has been an engineer for the company for nearly a year and a half, and is helping to build the Third Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, also known as the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge. I would recommend that she get the additional title of Chief Storyteller.

This is a high profile project for Hyundai and for Turkey. This bridge symbolizes Modern Turkey. A happy, smiling, female engineer high above the water is a great face for this project.

Hyundai Engineering has a number of social channels including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, even a blog, but none of them have been updated consistently or recently. This picture was not posted on any of those channels.

It was posted on Uzun’s personal LinkedIn profile. And her caption says that she was first woman engineer to walk from Europe to Asia on a catwalk. The main span of this bridge is 4,619 feet long, and when it is completed it will be the eighth longest suspension bridge in the world. It is 1,056 feet high. If strong winds or heights bother you, don’t build bridges. Note that the east side of bridge is in Europe and the west side is in Asia, even though the whole thing is in Turkey.

This photo on her personal LinkedIn page was liked by 16,269 people. That’s half as many as follow the anemic Hyundai Engineering LinkedIn page. And it got 1,793 comments. The story seen in this photo really resonated with people, and tells a much richer and more human story than the single bridge rendering that exists in the company’s online image library.

I couldn’t find any other instance of this photo online. It was not even on her Facebook page, but she did post a video where you can hear how windy it is up there.

What could Hyundai Engineering & Construction do to tell the story of this multi-year bridge project? They could start by seeing what the employees are already doing and re-share those images and videos on their social channels. They could feature a new employee each month and update the progress of the bridge through the eyes of that employee. A bridge is built in the sky, across a road and underwater, and the employees involved with each aspect has a different story to tell about this engineering marvel.

And while this is a B2B company who is looking to connect with other large organizations to hire them for the next project, telling the story of building the Third Bosphorus Bridge through the people building it will also connect it to the people who will drive over the bridge everyday.

4 Takeaways from this Missed Opportunity for B2B Companies:

1. Employees create some of the best user-generated content out there. Don’t ignore it.

2. People relate to people. Make sure you are using them to tell your company story.

3. Visual content is more compelling than other forms of content.

4. Even if your social channels are stale and out of date, if something fabulous or relevant comes along, use that as a trigger to jumpstart those channels.

Interview: How IBM Leads B2Bs in Instagram Engagement

b2b-instagram-ibm-deskAs a follow-up to our list of top B2B Instagram accounts, I reached out to Katie Keating, Social Content & Engagement Strategist at IBM, to learn more about how this globally integrated technology and consulting company approaches a visual platform like Instagram.

IBM ranked at the top of the list of B2B Instagram accounts because we prioritized engagement over number of followers. This put the IBM account way ahead of larger B2B companies who are well-known for their social media prowess, like GE, Cisco and Adobe. What is your approach to Instagram, and does it focus on engagement versus growing your following? And what are the metrics that determine your success?

For IBM, engagement is the metric we put the most weight on when we assess performance of our social content on Instagram. Ultimately, our goal is to create and curate content that is intriguing to our audiences, that maybe teaches them something simple but useful, and builds trust among our followers. It’s not about the quantity of our followers but the quality. We don’t want to speak into a void but to an engaged, interested audience, so listening and gathering feedback is a critical first step before we publish anything on our channels.

Are you using the IBM Instagram account to communicate with existing customers, partners and employees or are you looking to connect with prospects to drive new business?

We have a number of key audiences that we think are interested in what IBM’s doing, and who may not be aware of some of the incredible innovation happening at IBM. IBM is a global company so we try to showcase the company’s innovation around the world. Employee engagement is a key part of our strategy–we always say that IBM is primarily experienced by the world at large through our employees, so it’s important to us that they’re engaged and feel empowered to share their experiences.

In the time period we looked at, some of your top posts were employee-submitted photos showing #viewfrommydesk. Is user-generated content, or specifically employee-based content, a key part of your Instagram strategy, or was this just a good idea that happened to work?

The #ViewFromMyDesk photo series was done in partnership with the IBM global recruitment team. The goal was to showcase that IBM employees come from all over and work in various types of environments. We invited employees to share photos of the view from their desk–be it a traditional office setting, their home office, office on the road, and more. As a result, we received photos from locations all over the world like Slovenia, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Norway, Venezuela, Taiwan, India, and more. Instagram is a highly global platform and IBM is an international brand, so we thought Instagram would be a great place to host a visually-driven series like this.

IBM has a broad, global business serving multiple audience segments. How do you balance that with one Instagram account?

b2b-instagram-ibm-designWe see Instagram a place to share “moments” at IBM–what it’s like to work in our offices, behind the scenes in our labs, or the process behind innovations-in-progress. We want to take our audience on the journey with us. Our photos come from all over: user-generated content, photos that employees like me shoot themselves, photos of teams collaborating, and more. We’ve even had employees “take over” our account for a week at a time and show us what it’s like to work at IBM through their own photos and captions. It’s really important that anything we publish stays true to the platform–inspiring, visually engaging imagery that tells a story, while being true to IBM. We’re not trying to fit certain messages into a box or follow a strict calendar, but instead we’re in a constant mode of discovery, curation and creation.

How do the Instagram photos integrate with social media posts on other channels? How important is visual content to the overall social media strategy of IBM?

We find that Instagram photos also drive engagement across our other channels, so we cross-post. Visuals in general are absolutely critical to driving engagement on our social accounts. I think audiences now expect that visuals should and will be part of the experience.

You seem to be experimenting with more branded video on Instagram lately? How does this compare to Vine or YouTube?

Branded “micro-video” is something we’re definitely planning to do more of. It’s a great way to tell a story or create art out of the everyday, which is the sweet spot for platforms like Instagram and Vine.

And finally, what advice would you give to other B2B marketers who are looking to improve their engagement on Instagram?

First, spend time on Instagram. Really understand the community aspect of the platform and the caliber of the photography. Think about why your followers are spending time on Instagram. It’s an escape. It’s inspirational. It’s beautiful. Make sure that’s the type of content you’re curating and creating for your branded channel too. Use it as a place to show the real moments, to go behind the scenes, to give access and meaning to your brand. Don’t try to promote, sell, drive clicks (URLs aren’t hotlinked anyway). You will drive engagement and preference for your brand by being real and staying true to the platform.

The 10 Best B2B Instagram Profiles

Last week was a big week for Instagram as they announced that they have 300 million monthly active users. This makes the visual platform owned by Facebook, larger than Twitter. It is also growing at a faster rate than Twitter.

B2B companies need to learn how to tell their stories in a visual manner. There are many blog posts that merely list the largest B2B companies on Instagram, or a seemingly random selection of B2B companies on Instagram. But this post is different. These are the ten B2B companies with the highest engagement rate on Instagram. This means their followers (who could be a combination of customers, prospects, employees and partners) have liked and commented on their photos and videos.

Methodology: A B2B company needed at least 1000 followers to be considered for the list. I examined the last ten Instagram posts for likes and comments. The average number of the sum of likes and comments was divided by the number of followers to determine the engagement rate (expressed as a percentage). If you want to put these numbers in perspective, according to SimplyMeasured, the top retail brands have an average engagement rate of 4%. The top B2B companies below have a similar engagement rate.

Note that General Electric, the biggest B2B company on Instagram with 183,000 followers did not make the list because their engagement rate is only 0.78%. Companies need to not just focus on growing their follower counts, but they also need to make sure their content is resonating with their audience.

1. IBM

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Posts: 196
Followers: 9265
Engagement Rate: 4.04%

2. Mailchimp

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Posts: 242
Followers: 9560
Engagement Rate: 3.98%

3. Infusionsoft

b2b-instagram-infusionsoft
Posts: 576
Followers: 1499
Engagement Rate: 3.88%

4. Fedex

b2b-instagram-fedex
Posts: 125
Followers: 11053
Engagement Rate: 3.49%

5. CBRE

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Posts: 490
Followers: 3290
Engagement Rate: 3.36%

6. Maersk Line

b2b-instagram-maersk
Posts: 314
Followers: 29406
Engagement Rate: 2.78%

7. Oracle

b2b-instagram-oracle
Posts: 190
Followers: 5424
Engagement Rate: 2.77%

8. Intel

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Posts: 496
Followers: 29874
Engagement Rate: 2.76%

9. Zendesk

b2b-instagram-zendesk
Posts: 388
Followers: 1231
Engagement Rate: 2.69%

10. Hootsuite

b2b-instagram-hootsuite
Posts: 476
Followers: 6696
Engagement Rate: 2.65%

Which Companies are Totally Nailing B2B Marketing?

B2B marketing can often be dry, stuffy, and an overall snooze fest when not done correctly. Businesses are slowly but surely learning that business-to-business marketing doesn’t have to be all direct mail and incentive promotions. Some companies are actually producing really creative B2B marketing.

So, which companies have totally got this B2B marketing thing down? Let’s take a look.

Salesforce

Salesforce is one of the most well-known B2B products on the market and since part of their business is actually providing social analytics to customers they’d better be good at social themselves. Fortunately, Salesforce really excels on social, particularly on Facebook where they consistently using their header image to promote upcoming events. They also use Facebook to prominently display links to everything from infographics to blog posts.
b2b-salesforce-facebook

Demandbase

Demandbase does a really great job of providing (and sponsoring) educational content for B2B readers. Typically using a mixture of slides, white papers, blog posts, and even microsites, Demandbase racks up leads and pipeline every time it releases a new informational program. Their oft-downloaded and entertaining series of webinars doesn’t hurt.

Microsoft

Microsoft has gotten a lot of flack lately for its aggressive marketing in the wake of the disastrous Windows 8 platform, but what they’re really, really good at is bridging the gap between B2B marketing and customer-facing campaigns. For example, the “Children of the 90s” campaign spoke to every millennial who saw it, from consumers to in-house developers at big firms. Reaching the target audience is half the battle and Microsoft’s doing it right.

Sungard

Sungard provides software and IT solutions for a wide variety of situations…kind of boring, yes. But Sungard hit on one of the biggest trends of the year with their “Zombie Apocalypse” campaign that linked their services with the risk of an impending zombie surge. Using an infographic, social campaign, and even an e-book, Sungard made a totally boring concept totally viral. Genius.
b2b-sungard-zombie

Atlas Copco

Atlas Copco is a producer of industrial equipment and they’re revolutionizing the way B2B companies use apps. Utilizing smart phone apps, Atlas offers at-a-touch technical specs, hazardous workplace information, and informational videos for customers to access anytime. The company didn’t just create the content and leave it there – they’re already on the 5th version of the iTunes app because they like to reevaluate and add new content often.

Clippard

You’ve probably never heard of Clippard and that’s because they’re a medical device company specializing in pneumatic actuators. They mixed up the boring trade show booth by creating an actual guitar made out of actuator valves that’s played by air. Get it? An air guitar! Their booth is now the must-see stop of any medical device tradeshow and they get to show off their product while engaging potential customers. That’s what good B2B marketing is all about.
b2b-clippard-air-guitar

In 2014, B2B marketing will evolve to be more strategy-focused, much like traditional marketing. Companies will have to work harder to cut through the clutter and they’ll increasingly find ways to utilize social media marketing for business-to-business interaction.

Two Examples of Stellar B2B Facebook Pages

Facebook is a huge topic of interest to B2B marketers, so we wanted to share two examples of stellar B2B Facebook Pages, as a follow-up to How to Build a Great B2B Community on Facebook. That post was the first part of a MarketingProfs B2B Forum presentation and here are the case studies from the second part.

Examples of Interaction on Facebook

B2B-Facebook-MarketingProfs
Corey O’Loughlin is a community manager for MarketingProfs. She shared the interaction and impact of their Facebook initiatives (go ahead and like them if you haven’t already!).

At a high level, Corey outlined the following goals for their Facebook initiatives:

  • Map goals – MarketingProfs does engage in sales via Facebook but had examples for effective integration throughout the presentation
  • Create content
  • Get feedback
  • Drive membership
  • Show personality

Corey shared a series of examples from the MarketingProfs Facebook page, walking the audience from Facebook update through impact in overall content marketing initiative.

Example: 15 Marketing Buzzwords to Stop Using
A question, discussion, and response from this update, poking fun at marketing buzzwords turned into a Slideshare presentation, blog post, and follow up series.

The presentation hit the hot spot on Slideshare three different times and could be traced back to 500 new members.

Example: 8 Misconceptions About a Remote Workforce
Newsjacking Yahoo’s announcement eliminating their remote workforce, MarketingProfs (who’s workforce is completely remote) used a similar strategy, leveraging the actively participated in Facebook discussion to generate a presentation, which now has over 80,000 views on Slideshare.

A few other ideas to consider:

  • Fill-in-the-blanks are great for developing discussion
  • Negative updates tend to do better than positive ones, but use them judiciously
  • Updates can be great for getting feedback for challenges or issues (Corey cited an example of understanding their lack of pickup on mobile marketing events even though broader interests seemed so high)
  • Doodles and images work and MarketingProfs is lucky to have such a talented artist on their team

From a sales perspective, Corey showed an example of a creative brand-based selling action / promotion. The key is to be creative in communication and execution. The end result was that even though the update itself had very little engagement, they still sold five passes to this event.

Content Makes Your Boring B2B Business Less Boring

B2B-Facebook-Constant-Contact
Kristen Curtiss is the social media specialist who takes on the daily challenge of making sure Constant Contact customers stay engaged with the business through social media. Believe it or not, email is not very exciting without a bit of valuable content to keep things moving.

High level results of Constant Contact’s Facebook initiatives:

  • Over 91,000 Facebook Likes
  • 59,000+ fans (likes) gained in a two year period
  • 13% of fans have connected (interacted) with the page

Constant Contact uses a mixture of posts and updates to develop reach and engagement. Some of their best practices include:

  • Custom images work – they started by just using photos but found that adding “thought bubbles” and other customizations worked better for engagement
  • Remember marketing objective – Constant Contact consistently queries their audience to find out what they are most concerned with
  • Text only posts tend to get more reach from fans; even more so than images. Constant Contact uses a 50/50 mix of image and text updates to keep things balanced
  • They only post links to the site once a week because they get the least engagement (as opposed to images and text)
  • Constant Contact uses Facebook chats. They created a custom image that points to a chat on Facebook, which in turn helps develop customer understanding
  • Customer feedback is very important – Facebook is an important tool for them to message customers about issues / service and feedback on new functionality and development
  • Kristen recommends running social campaigns via tabs on Facebook and make certain to cross pollinate efforts (for example, their Facebook initiatives are embedded through other marketing channels like email distribution)

Lastly and most importantly, HAVE FUN! Remember that the key to getting good engagement rates is to keep things lively and conversational.

7 Examples of Innovative B2B Content Marketing

At Content Marketing World, my good friend Ann Handley, coauthor of Content Rules and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, presented a number of innovative examples of content marketing. The following are some of the B2B examples she shared in her presentation. Any metrics or results came from Ann’s presentation or published information. These examples are meant to inspire B2B marketers to think bigger than just basic written or video content. And bigger doesn’t mean spending more money.

Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is

  • Packed with utility
  • Seeded with inspiration
  • Honestly empathetic

to attract customers to you.

Here are 7 examples of innovative B2B content marketing:

1. Kinvey ebook

Kinvey provides a backend infrastructure that makes it easy for developers to set up cloud hosted mobile apps. It is a natural fit for them to create content about creating mobile apps, in this case one called How to Make an App: Android. This first content offering was so successful, they created a series of ebooks on create mobile apps for other platforms. More than 40% of customers who opened a Kinvey account first converted on a content offer.
b2b-content-Kinvey-How-To-Make-An-Android-App

2. Marketo Coloring Book

Marketing automation company, Marketo, wanted to make marketing fun again and created the Marketo Big Activity Coloring Book. It featured such activities as thought leader book matchup, dress a marketer, a revenue cycle maze and a marketing automation mad lib and has been downloaded over 22,000 times.
b2b-content-marketo

3. MarketingProfs Slideshare Infomercial

MarketingProfs wanted to do something different to drive registrations for its upcoming conference, so they called on their love of late night informercials and created one. But on Slideshare. And the results were impressive. They had four sales in the first hour

4. UberFlip Video Infographic

UberFlip helps companies present and distribute their content in dynamic ways, so when they wanted to tell the visual story of the growth of online video, they created a video infographic. This drove tremendous awareness and traffic with 800% increase in blog traffic.

5. Levenfeld Pearlstein Profile Videos

Law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein discovered that the attorney profile pages were the most visited pages on their website. This is not surprising, as prospective clients want to know the backgrounds of the attorneys they would be working with. So they created a series of videos with attorneys answering interesting questions, beyond the usual legal stuff. Attorneys talked about first jobs, most prized possession, how one met his wife, and even time travel.

6. IBM Smarter Planet Billboard

IBM has been promoting its Smarter Planet initiatives for quite a while. One of the most innovative approaches to sharing the ideas of things being smarter is to provide multiple uses for billboards. When posted in cities, they can provide utility, as in this example with a curved top that functions as an awning to people out of the rain. If you wonder if this is content marketing, let’s look back at Ann’s definition. Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is packed with utility, seeded with inspiration and honestly empathetic to attract customers to you. This is definitely all those things.
b2b-content-ibm-

7. TalkTo iPhone App Update Notes

Mobile app TalkTo lets you text businesses instead of calling them, and TalkTo will make sure they get the message. Even if they don’t use texts. They have created content in an unlikely place. The update notes in iTunes store. The update starts with “now comes with 600 pounds of awesome sauce,” so you get a clue about what to expect. Click the image below to read further updates, including many about David Hasselhoff. This is a company that is building a business, connecting with consumers and businesses by creating a unique voice and having fun doing it.
b2b-content-talkto

What are other examples of innovative B2B content marketing you have seen?

4 Ways LinkedIn is All-In for B2B Content Marketing

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoLinkedIn has always been the professional social network and the most effective network for B2B marketers. The mission of LinkedIn is to connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive. As they focus more on content marketing, there are strong parallels, as the right content can also make users more productive.

The context of LinkedIn is professional. This is important to understand as LinkedIn is a customer first company. Even though customers go to Facebook at night, the next morning they come back to LinkedIn with their professional hat on. They are aspirational as they think about their career and other professional goals. They are investing time in the platform, rather than spending time.

Marketers need to put their prospects and customers first when it comes to content.

Here are the four ways that LinkedIn is all in for B2B Content Marketing:

1. LinkedIn Today

LinkedIn Today promotes content from the web that is shared using the LinkedIn Share button. The most popular content is surfaced to LinkedIn members, and shown to their based on their industry, interests and self-selected categories.

2. Influencers

LinkedIn selected 150 influencers to launch this program by offering the opportunity to post long form content about any topics, or blog, on LinkedIn. The only guidelines LinkedIn provided were that members are interested in content that informs, educates and inspires. These posts generated rich, deep comments from real thought leaders. The program has expanded to 400 people since its launch last year.

3. Slideshare

The acquisition of the world’s largest collection of business presentations really brought the idea of visual content to LinkedIn. There was always a strong connection between two platforms, as they both focused on the business side of things, but by using the Slideshare technology, LinkedIn has created more opportunities to post richer, visual content on profiles and company pages.

4. Sponsored Updates

LinkedIn took their time developing an in-stream, native ad product because of their customer first focus. These updates appear across mobile, tablet and desktop versions of the site. One example of a company that has achieved success with these updates was marketing technology company and power content creator, Hubspot. They got 400% more leads from their sponsored updates than any other source.

Change the marketers mantra from always be selling to always be helping

The key ingredient to better content experience is relevance and as marketers move from information to insights they can create more relevant content. Three ways to create more relevant content in real time:

  • Waiting for the Moment:
  • In the Moment:
  • Anticipating the Moment:

What is LinkedIn doing to help marketers make sure they have relevance content?

  • Highlight content types
  • Quantify content influence
  • Provide recommendations

How have the changes to LinkedIn and their approach to content marketing affected your B2B marketing on the platform? Have these new opportunities driven more traffics and leads to your own content?

What Social Media Looks Like at the New B2B Version of Kodak

Yesterday as Kodak emerged from bankruptcy, Antonio M. Perez, Kodak Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We have emerged as a technology company serving imaging for business markets – including packaging, functional printing, graphic communications and professional services.”

This is not the dream of most companies to start as a consumer brand, especially a global and ubiquitous brand that dominated the camera and film markets, and emerge 125 years later as a B2B brand focused on commercial printing. Everyone had a Kodak camera at some point in their lives. Now that company is gone. The personal imaging division has been sold off, although still licensing the Kodak name, and the commercial folks need to reclaim and reinvigorate the company’s social media profiles.

Let’s start with the main Kodak Twitter profile.
b2b-kodak-twitter
The Twitter profile of @Kodak has been minimally used in the past and does not have many followers. But when someone’s grandmother finds an old camera in her attic and wants to get film for it, her granddaughter is going to reach out to this account.

b2b-kodak-twitter2
And with the exception of three retweets, the account has been dark for more than a year and half between the announcement of the bankruptcy and the emergence. The newly emerged company needs to take on this account and run with it. They need to approach their customers and prospects with information that helps them solves problems. It can’t just be press releases about new products.

b2b-kodak-twitter3
And this is the account that represents the current business. While their Twitter bio of “Kodak’s conversations about commercial printing, packaging, integrated marketing, innovation and sustainability” is an accurate description of what they do, there is no indication that this is now their core business. And the name has to go. “Kodak I Dig Print” or an abbreviation for “i” digital printing. The team just needs to switch to @Kodak.

b2b-kodak-chief-blogger
And I know that this is day one, but the Twitter link from Kodak.com leads to the Twitter account of Kodak Chief Blogger Jennifer Cisney. Over the years she has been responsible for Kodak’s social presence and running their blog, but she is now part of the division that was sold off. Hopefully this will remind someone to update that link to the correct account (which ever one they chose).

b2b-kodak-blog
This is the blog for the commercial side of the business. This will become the main company blog, and it needs help. Post after post of product specs and new releases is not a corporate blog. They need to inspire customers and prospects, not bore them. They should take a lesson from Jennifer and feature spectacular images that were created with their equipment. They can consider honest customer and employee interviews. It is important to share what people really think about the new company.

b2b-kodak-facebook
The Facebook page for this part of the business is trying to provide value to customers and prospects, but the updates shared on the page seem to have a limited audience. The Kodak team needs to focus on their core audience and use this as another touchpoint.

b2b-kodak-linkedin
And finally, the LinkedIn products page definitely represents the new B2B version of Kodak. By understanding who their LinkedIn audience is, they have the opportunity to share more relevant updates on the company page. Not everything needs to be posted everywhere, but the right content that drives engagement and traffic needs to be a focus. Oh, and since B2B is now the core of the business they can’t forget that they need to use social media to drive leads.

What would you tell the team at Kodak now that the B2B social media team is front and center managing the presence for the core business?

Topsy Turvy: The Shifting Relationship Between B2B Marketing and B2B Sales

We used to talk to a real person as a first step. To get familiar with the company. To learn more. To create bonds. Not now. Now we talk to a real person as a last resort when we’ve exhausted the supply of Zero Moments of Truth and have a query so specific only a human being can answer it.

This is most egregiously true in a category where the transactional stakes are often the highest: business to business marketing. In 2011 the Corporate Executive Board surveyed 1,900 B2B customers to uncover insights about purchasing behavior and found that customers will contact a sales rep only after independently completing 60% of the purchasing decision process. Sixty percent of the decision is made before the prospect identifies himself. Sixty percent of the decision is made before a call, or an email, or an entry into your lead tracking database. Customers are ninjas now. They are stealthily evaluating you right under your nose.

This has manifest consequences on the role of salespeople, whose job used to be to develop and nurture relationships. No longer. The role of the salesperson is now to answer specific questions capably and quickly, and to close deals that became possible due to the self-serve research performed by the customer. What does that 60% figure mean for marketers? A lot, according to the Corporate Executive Board’s Ana Lapter:

“The 60% mark is in that part of the mid-funnel that is critical in terms of driving the buyers’ consideration of a supplier for a potential purchase,” Lapter says. “Therefore, marketing needs to de-emphasize tasks like thought leadership and white papers, and focus more on advanced activities, such as diagnosing purchasing needs and identifying internal barriers to purchase.”

Marketing needs less top of mind awareness and more Youtility – marketing so useful, people would pay for it. Sounds about right to me.

Life Technologies Offers Self-Serve B2B Product Information Through Interactive Video

Global biosciences company Life Technologies operates in a business category not typically known for its cutting edge use of YouTube, nor its embrace of new marketing principles. But, in 2011, Life Technologies launched the most quintessentially useful video program with the best utilization of video annotations I’ve ever seen. (Annotations are words or phrases embedded in videos that serve as a call-to-action, and sometimes provide a direct link to other videos.)

Their “Interactive Selection Guide to Immunoprecipitation” is actually 42 short videos chained together with an elaborate annotation scheme, giving Life’s customers – working scientists – an easy, self-serve way to determine which products are the best fit for the job.

According to Oslo-based Andrew Green, Life’s Divisional Lead for Video and Interactive Marketing, the original plan was to create a customary, Web-based product finder. Realizing, however, that online arrays of pull-down menus and such are ultimately devoid of personality (and only passively educational), they decided to build it entirely in video, where they could better anticipate some of the questions customers might have, and actively incorporate them.

Mapping the content and determining how the videos would connect and branch was the most difficult part of the project, says Green – who sent me a photo of the wall-sized chart they used to plot it all out.

The videos have accumulated more than 75,000 YouTube views, extraordinary, given their extremely narrow customer target.

Smart B2B companies understand that providing self-serve information and giving customers and prospective customers the opportunity to find answers for themselves, without being burdened by personal, synchronous communication, isn’t shirking their duty as marketers; it’s become their duty as marketers.

Excerpted from Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype by Jay Baer, published in late June by Portfolio/Penguin. See YoutilityBook.com for other resources.

Photo credit: Flickr

Integration, Content and Analytics Drive B2B Digital Marketing Success

In a recent study, CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council and Google found that 57% of the buying process is complete before a B2B buyer ever contacts a salesperson. And their results showed an even higher number, 70%, in some instances. The researchers used their interviews with more than 1500 decision makers and influencers in a recent major business purchase at 22 large B2B organizations (spanning all major NAICS categories and 10 industries) as the basis for their Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing whitepaper. The authors contend that mastering the following three topics are required for succeeding in the world of digital B2B marketing:

The project itself is a great example of content marketing. It is featured on the Google Think site, with a narrative written in an informal, friendly style. The research also has its own landing page, complete with an overview video. There are links to download the complete whitepaper or a presentation version (both as PDFs), with no registration required.

Each of the three subject areas (Digital Integration, Content Marketing and Analytics) has its own page including a short video, links to download just that chapter of the whitepaper or the whole whitepaper. There is also a link to take an assessment survey on each topic.

Rather than summarize each section, I have included the key findings below.

Digital Integration Key Findings:

■ Companies still struggle to integrate digital tactics deep into broader marketing campaigns, but there are a few key points of leverage (such as pushing to mandate an objective “Channel Consideration Review” early in the process) that can help weed out reflexive channel bias, opening the door for digital influence.
■ Armed with past performance data and evidence from external best practices, a growing number of marketers are pushing to develop standardized campaign architectures, which offer a strong platform for promoting the best applications and integration points for digital tactics.
■ Increased digital marketing efforts demand continuous and collective management, something few companies are designed to support. The value destroyed by this misfit approach—although hard to quantify—is potentially very large. Several companies are taking steps to restructure as a result.

Content Marketing Key Findings:

■ Many companies are attempting to overlay a coverage model on their existing campaign-oriented content production efforts; this helps to orchestrate a continuous flow of content aligned to the topics and issues customers care about but introduces a hidden danger.
■ Many companies display a troubling overemphasis on tools, shallow consumption metrics, and process—placing a greater emphasis on producing a steady flow of content than the quality of the content.
■ More progressive companies have consolidated strategic and creative guidance for content, to help business units get more impact from their content and to stitch together cross-BU points of view that have broader impact in the marketplace.
■ In selecting what content to create, marketers should place greater emphasis on the power of communication channels versus the competitive noise they have to contend with; many organizations seem to pursue content strategy with little regard for the clutter they are competing with.
■ B2B marketers have been slow to push into more visually engaging content (typically relying largely on text-based content) due to concerns about skill and cost but most directly due to perceiving it as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.

Analytics Key Findings:

■ The smartest companies dedicate a greater portion of their marketing budgets to improving their fundamental understanding of effectiveness, interactivity, and causality across marketing programs.
■ A central hub for marketing data is becoming more common but is still a long-term aspiration for many companies. Regardless of the data environment, marketers should be focused primarily on extracting insight and decision-support value from the data they do have (which is a lot of data). The single most important factor for success is getting the smartest people you can find to tackle your most important analytical challenges. Ninety percent of your analytics spend should be on people.
■ Pipeline analyses often overemphasize contact-level web analytics data, neglecting important off-site and social behaviors and collective account-level behavior.
■ Conversion attribution modeling efforts typically ignore key aspects of a supplier’s engagement with potential customers (especially nondigital touchpoints). Marketers should make a greater effort to place estimates of digital impact in proper proportion and context of broader marketing strategy and the market environment.
■ Experiments are difficult to design are often executed poorly, rendering results unreliable and wasting time and money. It is a worthwhile effort to create very strict process guidelines to validate experiment design in advance of execution, so results can be confidently applied to decision making.

If any of these findings reflect situations at your company, download this study for details about these findings, recommendations how to overcome them and examples from companies like EMC, CSC and Level 3.