Grow Your B2B Audience by Considering Size, Engagement and Value

b2b-marketing-audeinceJeffrey K. Rohrs is the Vice President of Marketing Insights at ExactTarget, a salesforce.com company, and the author of the new book, Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers. I had the chance to talk to him about the importance of audience development in B2B marketing and how this idea needs to be considered as a crucial part of achieving success across social media, email and more.

What’s the premise of your book Audience?

Lots of people say every company is a publisher. Every company is a broadcaster. And we’ve seen some companies really embrace that quite well, and do some wonderful things through content marketing.

But what’s been gnawing at me for a while is that I go to a lot of the content marketing shows, and I hear people speak about what they’re doing in content marketing, and they have what I call Audience Assumption Disorder.

They think their beautiful, well-thought-out content; their wonderful ebooks; and their tremendous videos are just automatically going to get traffic. And it reminds me very much of the early days of website development, where people had that “build it and they will come” mentality. That’s simply no way to build traffic.

The days of “built it and they will come” never really existed in the internet, and yet people continue to operate under that assumption. So what I’m trying to do with Audience is reflect on my experience with email, mobile, and social, and boil it down into some thinking that parallels the growth of content marketing.

Newspapers and magazines have editorial, but then they have a nice wall, and over on the other side of the wall is audience development and circulation. And that’s true of broadcasting as well. There are people who are constantly thinking about how they can bring more people to the table so that when we do have content, they’re going to consume and share and amplify.

And right now, if you look across marketing organizations, you really don’t have audience development professionals, even though every single part of marketing is very dependent on audiences. These are audiences that we can build through email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SMS and contests.

All these channels are siloed because as each new channel came around, you developed a tactical approach to it. How are we going to leverage this? Are we going to leverage this? I call it the Pre-cambrian period of marketing, where we had this explosion of all of these new, evolved states of direct communication in the last five to ten years.

After dust settles on all of these new channels and we know what we should do from a tactical and a strategic standpoint, there’s going to be a rise in new responsibility, and that is audience development. Without audience, content is a tree falling in the forest with nobody to hear it. And without content, the audience has nothing to consume and engage with, and doesn’t develop loyalty or interest in the brand.

So this duality of content and audience is very intriguing to me. Content marketing is still at its early stages of development. And you have great folks proselytizing out there, like Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer and Ann Handley, but there’s nobody similarly carrying the torch of audience development.

And therefore we’ve been left to siloed responsibilities, where you have people who are in charge of email marketing, and in the back of their mind — or maybe it’s their third or fourth or fifth responsibility, they’re supposed to grow the email audience. But they often don’t have any influence across all of the different marketing tactics that they could use to grow the email audience.

The same is true with social media. It gets a little bit more traction because it’s visible in public how many fans and followers you have, so there is a little more top-line focus on audience growth. But across all these channels, growth is really a three-dimensional kind of object. It has size, both in terms of absolute number and quality and caliber of the data.

The second is engagement, which is always so touchy-feeling in social media. But what it means in terms of audience growth is you actually have an audience that’s paying attention, and ready to pay attention the next time you have something important to say.

And the third part is value. We measure the value, or ROI, of these channels focused on campaigns, instead of saying, “What is the aggregate value of this audience on an annualized basis?” If you look at your audience in terms of what it brings you over a non-audience member, for example, a customer versus a customer who’s an email subscriber, you start to see the value of that audience as an asset.

And it’s that asset-based mentality towards proprietary audience development that marketers need to develop. We can’t just look at the individual ROI. We can’t be so tactically focused all the time. We need somebody who’s looking horizontally across all of the different audiences as their focus. This role develop into a director, or a senior director, or a VP level of audience development.

You need to look out across every single channel and understand which channels produce the best audiences in terms of value. And then maximize what you’re doing across all those different channels to grow those audiences by those three dimensions of size, engagement and value.

B2B marketers approach social content, and even all of their marketing, from a persona-based perspective. How does the idea of personas layer on top of this view of audience development?

What I see is that your persona-based development now has to take place with consideration of where those personas live and what they are willing to do to become a part of your audience. When you’re thinking about creating your persona for Jamie, a small business owner and mother of two, or Bill, the 20-something Millennial who’s unattached and has a decent income, you’re not just thinking about their interests, their income level and where they live. You’re also thinking about where do they live in the virtual world, and what are the channels that they’re willing to engage with brands through. That becomes an important part of the development of the actual persona, which then translates into which channels you should prioritize in order to build those direct relationships, and build these audiences and assets.

That’s a perfect world scenario, because if you develop your personas absent an understanding of the channels they live in, then you’re apt to have some inefficiencies in your paid advertising and your owned media efforts. You’re also not going to get as much earned media out of it, because you’re perhaps chasing them in the wrong places.

So relative to B2B folks, it’s a matter of making sure your personas are also looking at what types of channels they’re looking at. The kneejerk reaction with B2B is to say, “Oh, well, you should consider LinkedIn.” Which is very, very true. But those personas may deal in some places where you might find that Facebook’s going to have some interests for you on maybe the HR employee development side of things. Twitter’s going to have certain implications for you beyond just your advocates and influencers. Instagram could have an amazing place in the world for certain personas.

b2b-maersk-marketingJay Baer cited the Maersk Shipping Company in his book, Youtility. Look at what they’ve done with photography, these giant vessels, and explaining what their industry is. And out of the woodwork come folks who really appreciate that industry and are willing to share it in what are ostensibly personal social networks like Facebook, as opposed to just professional ones like LinkedIn.

So I think my bottom line is to make sure that your persona is taking into consideration the channels through which your audiences are willing to have those two-way communications with you.

How does a content-based call to action sit alongside the idea of overall audience development?

This brings up the larger question of how large your audience needs to be so that you actually get results of people taking that action.

The first thing is that you really need to take a step back and decide, are we investing as much time in audience development and distribution as we should be relative to content creation?

You’ve got a lot of companies who have it upside-down, who are out there creating content, creating content, creating content, and they’re not measuring results efficiently to understand that they might be creating the most beautiful content in the world, but they’re influencing such a small percentage of the available broader audience out there that their efforts would be much better directed towards more efficient activities.

This is called the Audience Imperative. We need to use our paid, owned and earned media to not just sell in the short-term but to increase the size, engagement and value of our proprietary audiences over the long-term. So the content is a carrot at the end of the stick. It certainly does attract people to us. But it often attracts three types of audiences: seekers, amplifiers, and joiners.

Data often attracts seekers. It attracts people who are looking for information or entertainment. But those are temporal audiences. They’re there. They’re gone. Once they get entertained or they find information, they leave. We know these people as Google searchers. We know them as television viewers, radio listeners, window shoppers.

The amplifier audience is the one that we most closely associate with social media. It really is just any sort of word of mouth. Social media just technologically enables word of mouth.

But again, with amplifiers, they don’t have to have a relationship with you. They can be there, and they can be gone in a split second of a retweet. They see some sentiment that they like and they retweet it. Somebody who follows them retweets that. They’re an amplifier. So they’re an audience of yours. They’re an amplifier of yours. But you have no relationship with them.

So with both seekers and amplifiers, we should be looking to convert them over to the joiners. The ultimate joiner, of course, is a customer.

Short of that, we’ve got these subscribers and the followers, and all these different types of channels that have different expectations and needs. And job number one of marketing is to make the sale, but one of our jobs now is to get more out of what we do with paid, owned and earned media. That means we need a secondary call to action, or in some instances a primary call to action, to join our audiences.

And that way, the next time you go out with content, you’ve got a bigger audience to impress. Content marketers don’t have the kind of collaborative relationship that they need with email, mobile, and social teams who are managing these very siloed audiences.

This is why I think there’s going to be a director of audience development at some point, because that becomes the person who is the peer to whomever is in charge of content marketing, and those who work hand in glove to say, “All right, how am I going to get you a bigger audience?”

That might mean advertising. It may be that I go over to the brand folks and say, “That ad you’re about to run, just having our logo at the end isn’t sufficient. I want you to have a really clear call to action to come join us on this site. Follow us, or subscribe, or what have you.”

Those conversations will start off the org chart conversations among people who understand this. Content marketing will play a really important role. Email and social media play an important role.

And out of that we begin to understand that if we’re truly going to appreciate and build our audience as assets, we need a leader of audience development. We need a person who can think about this. And it’s only going to benefit the content marketers, because they are going to get broader distribution.

3 Actionable Items B2B Marketers Can Take to the Bank

b2b-social-media-bankB2B marketers need tactics that can move the needle on business growth. Below are three very actionable marketing tactics that can drive that growth. They will lead to more conversations (because you love people), more deals (because you love to see opportunities), and more money (because that’s what makes a business run).

Marketing is being held more and more accountable for top line growth. It’s critical that your tactics drive conversations, opportunities and dollars. Focus on these things that you can take to the bank and watch the dollars flow.

1. Double down on what’s working

Start by understanding what is working. Do not add anything new before knowing what’s working. Then double down on it. I frequently see businesses trying new things, but there’s nothing better than doubling down on what’s already working. Whether it is blog content, social media interaction, webinars or events, you need to double down on those marketing activities that are working well for you.

You should already be measuring each marketing channel that you operate. Take a look at your top three channels, look at your budget and put more into them. This might mean that you have to pause another initiative lower on the list.

2. Support your sales team by creating marketing they can give away

I know the sales process. I’ve lived it, worked in it and won with it for a decade. It’s a process that constantly includes give and take with the prospect. Seek to understand your business’ sales process (especially places in the process where they are asking for things) and find places where you can provide content of value that they can use to keep the prospect engaged. Arming them with ebooks, white papers, cost calculators that can be helpful can shift the perception of your brand.

As the buying cycle gets longer, there needs to be more in your arsenal to give to the prospect as they progress through the buying cycle. Your sales team should be doing plenty of asking to discover these opportunities.

3. Clearly communicate why you exist.

If your marketing collateral does not clearly state why your brand exists, then you must change that. This is the vision, the purpose, the “why” of your brand. Four things will result from this clear communication.

  1. Existing clients who currently buy from you may share other needs that you can fulfill (oh look – more conversation, more deals and more money).
  2. You will see an increase in prospects that have a higher degree of trust in the brand (people trust people and brands that believe what they believe).
  3. The number of prospects that take up more of your time in your sales cycle will go down (well, people who don’t believe what you believe will not trust you and this will increase your cost to acquire them). It is often overlooked that these customers have a higher retention cost.
  4. But what about those folks who don’t necessarily agree with you, but also don’t disagree with you? This is a wonderful group for you. They will engage with your brand. They will challenge you to clarify what you believe in. You may even convince them to believe what you believe and help them discover their path in life. (this one gets deep).

These actionable items will help your B2B business grow, so you can visit the bank more often.

Photo credit: Flickr

I Went to a B2B Trade Show, Was Underwhelmed by Your Presence and Kept Walking

b2b-social-media-trade-showB2B companies make products to solve problems and make their customers’ lives better or easier. B2B service organizations help customers run their businesses more efficiently or more cost effectively. These are noble causes. Sure, if we are successful at it, we make money, but a business product that doesn’t add value to the business is not worth considering.

And social media doesn’t help this problem.

If you have a bad product or service, social media provides both an outlet for frustrated customers and the means to amplify the message further.

So let’s assume that you have an awesome product that solves problems, a great team to provide services, and even a great sales staff to explain the value proposition and close deals. With all that awesomeness in mind, take a look at your trade show presence.

Really take a look at it.

Are you telling a compelling story? Are you enticing prospects to stop by and chat about your great products and services?

Or are you giving away pens and hard candy? Maybe you have progressed to give away squeeze balls in the shape of the world. Maybe you made enough of them that it is in the shape of your logo. These are perfect for the conference attendees who need a gift for their children. I know it has always worked for me. Even as a teenager my daughter still loves kitschy trade show giveaways.

And don’t even get me started on collecting business cards, scanning badges and any other means of gathering leads. “I just need a business card to give you one of those squeeze balls.” What’s the follow-up plan for those leads? Gathering dust on the sales manager’s desk?

Are you building awareness at the top of the funnel? Are you qualifying prospects or are you just trying to hit a metric that someone else imposed on the marketing team?

How about sending them an email newsletter or your latest ebook? It’s better than many of the emails I get. “Thanks for stopping by our booth. Did we tell you how awesome we are while you were there? Can we schedule a phone call with our junior level inside sales person to remind you how awesome we are?” This is not a follow-up plan. This is spam. And nobody will respond.

This is what happens when your only trade show metric is gathering leads rather that acquiring qualified prospects. And it is obvious to everyone who walks by your booth.

Here are 5 tips to change the outcome of your next trade show:

1. Adapt your personas for the trade show audience to make sure you present the correct message to the onsite audience.

2. Focus on qualified prospects as a metric of success, not raw lead numbers.

3. Don’t bother giving away something with no connection to your business that provides no value.

4. Create a true follow-up plan with a timeline, prepared emails and phone scripts and areas of responsibility.

5. Enhance your trade show presence with social media by posting and sharing content resources before, during and after the event to provide value to all attendees, but especially your targeted prospects.

Photo credit: Flickr

3 Ways Your B2B Content Can Provide the Most Value

b2b-social-media-content-giftMost of us wouldn’t give a friend or relative a highly flattering portrait of ourselves as a gift. Yet, B2B marketing organizations and marketing agencies do it all the time on social media and in other marketing communications. They push out self-promoting content about their brand, news, successes, or participation in industry events. You don’t have to go any further than the nearest press release to find examples of this self-serving marketing prose. Has anyone ever described themselves as anything other than a leader, an innovator or an industry disrupter?

The fact is that we know what makes a good personal gift, but we sometimes fail to put that knowledge to work in our marketing.

1. Understand What Content People Care About

Content is based on an understanding of what’s important to others, what interests them, what they care about. To do that you have to listen. In B2B marketing, one thing that fills the lead and demand generation pipeline is content that gives your audiences insight and information on the subjects they care about.

On top of your regular social media engagement, you can go one step further to connect with your buyers by following industry forums, blogs, interest groups and webcasts where they also share content. For example, IT.Toolbox.com does a fantastic job of not only understanding their IT audience, but engaging them with the right content. You can find blogs, research and discussion groups ranging from topics like technology trends and business intelligence to storage and security hardware. Content is available in real-time to stay relevant and engaging, while providing insight into industry behavior and patterns.

2. Make Your Content a Gift That Gives Continual Value

Give people content they can use long after their initial visit. After a lead becomes a buyer, valuable content will keep them engaged. Cisco Communities is a great example of how you can provide a wealth of buyer-generated content around trends, implementation and performance tuning. Help your buyers share what delivers results for them.

One organization found that its Facebook posts generated more interest and followers when it provided tips on using social media effectively, than by simply announcing product marketing news. Everyone wants to know where technology is going, so start a conversation. Ask “what, why and how” questions. Give your audience direct links to industry research and to the thought leaders who are talking about tomorrow’s technology.

Promote others’ relevant content, including that of your industry’s thought leaders. Find out who the thought leaders are in your industry and what they’re talking about. For example, searches in Cisco Communities not only include Cisco’s own product marketing content, but content from other partners and interest-based communities as well. Cisco even provides a filter so visitors can get to that non-Cisco content directly.

3. Be Surprising

People love a surprise. One sure-fire way to surprise people these days: give them content without asking for something in return – their personal information or an offer to chat now. Highlight your buyers’ successes, even when it has nothing to do with your solution. Offer an unexpected additional service or a one-time upgrade at no charge.

Stepping outside the “just business” zone can also favorably surprise your audience. Find out what community service organizations your top buyers support and get involved. Rotary International is one organization with a long track record of proven success at building business by building goodwill. Work with them, or a similar organization, and share what you are doing.

In a nutshell, your content strategy is all about giving content “gifts” that raise your value in the eyes of your buyers. Differentiating your brand isn’t only about your product marketing. It’s also about how you engage with your buyers: Understanding what they care about, reaching out to them wherever they are, supplying content with ongoing value, and, finally, surprising them with unexpected value.

What are some ways your content has given great value? Share what you’ve done in the comments below.

The preceding post is inspired by my podcast interview with Rishi Dave, former Executive Director of Digital Marketing at Dell.

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Photo credit: Flickr

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing

b2b-marketing-meaningOur friend Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners has written a lot about the what and the how of B2B marketing, but never the why. In this amazing Slideshare presentation called The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing, and embedded below, he tackles the question of what makes his career in B2B marketing meaningful.

In addition to the ideas expressed, pay attention to the presentation itself. Presented as a notebook with handwritten notes, sketches and more formal type, this comes across as the simple musings of a creative guy (which Doug certainly is). He really captures the right tone and visual style in this piece. And the voyeuristic quality of reading someone else’s notebook makes it even more fun.

b2b-marketing-meaning-doug

The honesty of Doug’s writing really creates a connection with his audience of B2B marketers. While he is working out meaning in his own career, he hopes that it helps others in the field. My favorite line is:

When you were a kid, you never said, “I want to be a B2B marketer when I grow up.”

You definitely need to check out the whole notebook, but here are the seven things that give his work as a B2B marketer meaning:

1. I like helping companies grow.

2. I Like helping our clients achieve success in their careers.

3. I love working alongside talented, engaged, positive people who also love what they do.

4. I love learning new things.

5. I love work that demands creativity.

6. I like honest work that asks me to build a great case for my client.

7. I like figuring out how the business of business works.

Are there other things that give meaning to your career as a B2B marketer?

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.

The Difference Between B2B and B2C Digital Marketing

I was tempted to write a list of seven or so ideas on the differences between B2B and B2C marketing. Traditionally there’ve been several, but in 2013 (and soon 2014) I think there’s only one, albeit with seven or more consequences and considerations.

It’s important that we recognize the shift in how similar B2B and B2C have become. The method by which people find information has largely become the same, thanks to computing technology and of course Google’s drive to make vast information searchable on every level. Whereas B2C was traditionally led by outbound broadcast and press tactics — and B2B by outbound direct mail and sales calls — we’re seeing an always on consumer now searching online and leading the charge for information, creating an inbound approach from the perspective of both B2C and B2B marketers. This starts to reveal a common set of planning imperatives that we’ve outlined below.

What remains the real difference then?

It’s the number of decision makers and influencers involved in the sales and marketing process. The nature of influencing a purchase decision in an individual or household is of course more obvious and directed in B2C, whereas in B2B we have hierarchies and people in decision chains. Though the same B2B decision makers are as emotional and irrational as they are at home, it matters that there are so many of them in one chain. It sounds simple, but it’s not. The reality is that there’s not a uniform B2B hierarchy that we can expect either. These differ by market, and most of all by business size. It’s OK though, since it’s about employing key observations on strategic planning.

1. Product or service explanation

Some might say that B2B products and services require a lot more detail than B2C. I’d suggest the specific insight here is that those products and services require explanatory content in variable levels of detail and format for more audience types at different stages of the buying cycle. This makes it a longer planning process, with more variables to consider. For example, the requirements of a Finance Director at the closing stages of the sales process are wildly different to those of the Sales Director who becomes motivated to short-list the product initially.

b2b-content-matrix

2. B2B is naturally more targeted

Thankfully, there appears to be a little more common sense for customer targeting in B2B, something that we’d hope would exist in B2C, where the attention is more sporadic and possibly distracted with vague ideas of viral and a misplaced value on collecting fans and followers — only to underserve them afterwards. B2B companies, on the other hand, have a better handle on who they’re targeting and where they are, a natural inclination which is also easier to solve. After all, buyers of a particular chemical product or future technology are inherently more findable that 16-19 year old males interested in football.

3. Creative, marketed content fuels inbound

Placing excellent content where buyers already are, or likely to be, and amplifying that with paid media is good sense for targeted marketing. It’s never been more important for B2B and B2C marketers alike to invest heavily in content that solves the problems of the prospective buyer. For B2B that’s also handling content that the potential buyer may need to manage influencers, too. Especially those holding the purse strings.

b2b-inbound-marketing

4. Content strategy

Related to the above is recognizing that our content exists in an eco-system with our own content hub at the center of that. We must appreciate the difference between content requirements around a sales funnel on owned media platforms, whilst at the same time promoting content to an audience away from owned web properties. The quality of process and planning needed to do this well, and affordably, can’t be over-stated — targeted content can be re-shaped, re-purposed and re-created in multiple formats, for multiple applications. Considering long-form content first, and planning the process of atomizing it, can save time and money. Is it here that B2B marketers can seek inspiration from their arguably more creative B2C cousins? After all, all buyers are people, and entertainment and inspiration does not have to come at the expense of credibility, does it?

5. Integrating email and social media

It’s easy to abuse both social media and email, with poorly targeted ‘blasts’ of information that matter to a hungry sales division. This is something that B2B marketers have been notoriously bad at. Planning how to nurture those vaguely interested enquiries to qualified leads is something different again — and there have never been so many tools and strategies to make this affordable for even the smallest of businesses. Returning to the question of “how do I serve the needs of [the target audience],” at every stage of the buying cycle, will enable prospective customers to take the next step towards purchase by showing intent and re-engagement, not one giant and unrealistic leap. Both B2C and B2B marketers are still learning how to enter the conversational, and in the moment, nature of social media, the power and genuine one-to-one potential for slow and steady relationship building — using the networks, portals and platforms for what they are, catalysts for connection, rather than the be and end all.

The key remains to plan appropriately- to plan to succeed through a combination of targeted, integrated marketing that works in the service of the audience first and foremost.

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

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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.

How to Build a Great B2B Community on Facebook

b2b-facebookWe know you (yes, you B2B marketer) are skeptical. The social network of choice for many B2B marketers is LinkedIn. Even though Facebook is the largest social network by far (and one of the most trafficked websites overall), B2B marketers remain skeptical of Facebook’s viability for marketing impact.

Mike Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer of Peoplefluent kicked things off his session at MarketingProfs B2B Forum with a few important statistics courtesy of a recent Hubspot report about Facebook:

  • 750 million monthly visitors
  • 51% more likely to make a purchase after they “liked” a brand on Facebook
  • 41% of B2Bs surveyed indicated they have acquired customers through Facebook

Here are three examples of B2B Facebook pages worth reviewing:

Mike also showed a business page he worked on – Awareness Social Media Best Practices – and the key is / was content and communication (and literally, “best practices”). The page went from 0 – 10k likes in 2011 and more importantly the organization could track 22% of leads back to a first interaction on this Facebook page.

What makes these examples outstanding?

  • Audience engagement
  • Compelling and relevant conversations
  • Encouraging the share
  • No selling (direct selling at least)

6 Keys to effective B2B Facebook page development:

  • Paying Attention
  • Interaction
  • Content
  • Presence
  • Management
  • Measurement

On paying attention: listen to people and their actions and behaviors. This is the heart of a Facebook strategy but more importantly (taking a phrase from Chris Brogan – paraphrasing) ”It’s not what you say, it’s about what you hear.”

  • Why are you listening?
  • Where are you going to listen?
  • What are you going to pay attention to?

Silo your attention based on brand, keywords, buying signals, etc. Understand the market landscape, brand, competition, customers, influencers, buying intent phrases (situational, problems, etc), and of course, what’s happening on the page itself.

If attention is the yin, interaction is the yang. Mike outlined how to understand your extended audience, since your direct competition is not necessarily your competition on Facebook. You’re also competing with other brands, a person’s friends, family, network, etc.

At a high level, here is your extended audience and the basis for how to communicate with them:

  • Broad Extended Audience – share photos and videos
  • Passive – ask questions
  • Moderate – consistency is key
  • Active – make them champions
  • Influential – guest post opportunities

Considerations for improving and developing presence:

  • Use milestones
  • Star and highlight important information
  • Connect other channels
  • Use custom tabs within your Facebook page
  • Maintain consistent branding across Facebook page

All in all great examples and ideas that hopefully can sway a skeptical B2B market audience to do more with Facebook.

The 2014 B2B Content Marketing Report is Here! Today! Plus an Infographic!

b2b-content-marketing-usage-2014It is that time once again and the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs have released the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America Report. This is the 4th annual version of this B2B content marketing report, based on surveys of 1,217 North American B2B marketers across many industries from companies of all sizes. This is the gold standard report and you will be seeing it in presentations about content marketing for the next year. Grab some data for yourself today.

There is so much data in the report, and it always begins with the stat of how many B2B marketers are using content marketing. Again this number is up from 91% to:

93% of B2B Marketers using content marketing

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Most Effective B2B Content Marketers

One of the highlights of the report is what the most effective B2B content marketers are doing differently than their peers. And maybe that includes you. This is a great yardstick for your efforts. 42% of those surveyed rated their content marketing as a 4 or a 5 on a five-point scale with 5 being very effective. And this is up from 36% last year. And what are these most effective marketers doing?

66% of them have a documented content strategy

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86% of them have someone overseeing content marketing

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80% of them cite lead generation as a goal

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They use an average of 15 different tactics

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They use an average of 7 social media platforms

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39% of the marketing budget is spent on content marketing

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Only 35% are challenged with producing engaging content

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Metrics

The top metrics have not changed for the last three years and the number of B2B marketers citing them as their content marketing goals have gone up. This means that content marketing with solid goals are growing. And this report helps reinforce that. In a marketing space without clear standards of measurement, the answers of your peers in this report really are the benchmarks for how you need to approach content marketing.

63% use web traffic to measure content marketing success

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54% use sales lead quality to measure content marketing succes

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Challenges

And finally, the content marketing challenges for B2B marketers have been pretty consistent from year to year, however, this year the stats are split out by large companies and small companies. This helps add some context to the challenges reported. I have had this very discussion about last year’s report, so I am happy to see this breakout.

16% of large B2B companies cite their biggest content marketing challenge is producing content that engages

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34% of small B2B companies cite their biggest content marketing challenge is a lack of time

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Make sure you view the full 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark Report embedded below to find that nugget of data to convince your boss that now is the time for content marketing.

B2B Content Marketing Benchmark Report Infographic

Click the infographic to view it larger and explore the awesome visual data from the report.
b2b-cmi-infographic