9 B2B Marketing Lessons from Judging Online Campaigns

b2b-marketing-contest-judgingI recently judged the online marketing category of an internal marketing competition for a B2B company. The marketers chose their best online marketing campaigns and submitted the details of their strategies, activities, creative work and metrics of success. There were a lot of great ideas and great effort on the part of the marketers. The following lessons are derived from my feedback to the entrants and some reminders for all marketers that occurred to me as I reviewed their entries.

1. Marketing Goals Must Align with Business Goals

Marketing cannot exist in a silo. This is one of the biggest issues that marketers, especially social media marketers, have. They create their own set of goals that are not important to anyone else in the company. While those goals may be important to the marketing team, you also need goals that relate to the high level business goals. These are the things that executives care about. These are the things that you must report on. These are the things that have material impact on the business.

2. Tactics without Strategy Will Only Get You So Far

It is easy for marketers to do things to look effective, and maybe on small levels, they are effective. But unless those small tactics add up to the overall strategy, you will never truly grow the business. Can you get more people to like your Facebook? Sure, but how does it relate to growing sales or improving the customer experience? You need to make sure you understand how to leverage that larger audience to meet the strategic goals. Grow your audience for the sake of having a bigger audience is not going to win any points with anyone. And if your boss wants a bigger online audience just so the numbers look bigger, tell them they are wrong. It’s about more than that.

3. SMART Goals are the Best Way Ensure Solid Marketing

Make your marketing goals:
Specific
Measurable
Actionable
Relevant
Timely

4. Great Results Don’t Count if They’re Not Against Your Goals

Every so often fantastic things happen as a result of a marketing campaign. Maybe you achieved a big bump in sales that you weren’t counting on. Whether or not you can attribute this to your marketing efforts, or it just occurred in the measured time period, you cannot take credit for this success if it wasn’t one of your goals. The point of goals are to plan what is going to happen and what success looks like. So that success can become repeatable. Happy accidents are not repeatable. Your boss might be happy with the extra sales, but if you don’t know how to make them happen again, they are not one of the success points of the campaign.

5. Present the Context of Your Success

Measurement is a key to understanding your success. Did you meet your goals? Did you grow your business? Did you drive traffic back to your website in significant numbers to make the effort worth it? Just like marketing doesn’t work in a silo, neither do metrics. How do your increases compare to a similar period? That could be the previous period or the same one last year. This context is required to understand the success of your marketing. And if you are doing something new, look to industry averages as your baseline. Even if a click-through-rate sounds good to your gut, you need to compare it an industry benchmark to know if it really is good.

6. Let Your Customers Tell You What They Want

Your customers are your marketing audience. Even if you are trying reach new prospects, they are like your current customers. Make sure you know what things are important to them. And not just as they relate to your products and services, but in the running of their business. What are their typical business problems? How do they like to receive information? And how do they communicate back with you? Thankfully we have stopped using fax machines to communicate.

7. If You Can’t Explain the Value of Your Efforts to Your Boss, What Are You Doing?

One of the more interesting evaluation elements of the marketing contest was to view the submission from the perspective of a company executive. This is very different from looking at it from a marketing perspective. Does your boss understand what you are doing? Do they understand the value of it to the business. If not, there could be one of two main problems. There could be a communication problem. You are just not explaining it very well. The other is that your efforts just don’t have real value to the business. This happens when you are chasing the wrong things. The ones that don’t have enough business impact, or they don’t lead to something with business impact.

8. Focus on One Core Campaign for the Best Results

Sometimes marketers get caught up in big, complicated campaigns with lots of moving parts. Not only are these expensive, but they are harder to measure. Marketing campaigns should have a core strategy and all the elements pointing in one direction. Successful campaigns should have multiple elements, but they’ll be more successful if they are ultimately trying to do the same thing.

9. Don’t Get Left Behind Best Practices

Today’s marketers need to keep up with trends in the marketplace. This means paying attention to their own industry verticals, but also marketing trends in general. Social media practices have evolved over the last 5 years and what made sense then no longer makes sense. For example, merely growing your social media followers as an end goal is one of those activities. Nobody cares how many people like your Facebook page. But if you are growing your audience on Facebook and other platforms as a means better serve your customers and drive prospect traffic to your website, that makes sense. As overloaded everyone is, you need to make a little time in your day to dip into some of the top marketing blogs. You will get a better sense of what other marketers are doing and where they are finding success.

Photo credit: Flickr

Give Your B2B Customers Clear Calls-To-Action on Social Media

b2b-social-media-call-to-action2Sometimes B2B marketers focus all their efforts on creating the best content, the ultimate customer experience, the perfectly nuanced status update to drive traffic back to their website or blog, but they forget to provide a clear call-to-action for the visitor.

The other extreme is to create a complex series of Rube Goldberg-inspired steps to get a visitor to the right place that is very nearly personalized for their interests, industry and stage in the buying cycle. This is not a bad idea in theory, but an overcomplicated process confuses prospects and they may never convert to a customer.

I was on vacation in Alaska for the past week and stopped at Meier’s Lake Roadhouse to get gas (click the picture above to enlarge it). This remote roadside stop understands the difference between just telling their customers something and providing clear instructions what action they would like them to take.

“Meiers Lake Roadhouse is now on Facebook,” reads a simple printed sign (shown below).

As a traveler passing through, and unlikely to ever return, I would not gain much value from liking their Facebook page. But maybe it was the perfect spot in this remote area to get gas before running out. Or maybe I ate at their restaurant, stayed in a cabin or bought the perfect souvenir to remember my trip. Maybe I just enjoyed my interactions with this Alaskan independent businessman.

“We appreciate your reviews,” was the second and only other thing on this sign.

Liking their Facebook page is not the action they want you to take. It is just a means to get to the call-to-action. They are asking you to leave a review. If this was a good place for you to stop, then it might be a good place for others. And the owner of Meier’s Lake Roadhouse wants you to let others know about your experience. It is a simple ask, and it is very clear.

There is no need to beat this idea into the ground, especially since I am just back from vacation. Here are the two social media lessons from this Alaskan roadside business:

1. Make sure you give prospects, customers and visitors an obvious call-to-action, by telling them what you want them to do.

2. Make it simple and clear.

And even though these are lessons for social media and online activities, they definitely apply for physical interactions.

b2b-social-media-call-to-action1

B2B Sales Pros Need to Create Demand with Content Marketing

b2b-demand-generationI recorded another video conversation with my friend Tom Skotidas. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. We have been talking about the intersection of sales and content marketing for B2B companies. A lot of people call this social selling, but that really oversimplifies the process.

Today’s conversation is about demand generation. Tom smartly points out that no matter how much content you create or share, if you are not creating demand for your product or service, nobody will want to buy it.

Highlights of the Conversation:

  • Without demand, there are no buyers.
  • Use authoritative third-party content to create demand for your products or services.
  • Create hybrid content that “wraps” your own content in someone else’s authority.
  • Speak the language of your prospects and customers.

How are your sales teams using content to drive demand for your B2B products or services?

Photo credit: Flickr

YouTube Insights for B2B from the Frozen Food Master

b2b-youtube-freezerburnsGregory Ng is the CMO of Brooks Bell, an optimization firm focused on enterprise-level A/B split testing, targeting and optimization services. But at night he opens the freezer, cranks up the microwave and transforms into the Frozen Food Master. Greg has been reviewing frozen food on Freezerburns since 2008. In that time he has learned quite a bit about YouTube. Combining that with his understanding of B2B marketing and optimization, he shared his insights for B2B companies in the interview below.

Most of the biggest YouTube channels are run by individuals, not corporate brands. It seems that the promise of “anyone can be a publisher” really has taken hold on this platform. Does this make YouTube different from other social platforms?

I believe that most of the big YouTube channels are run by individuals because they don’t have the politics or red tape to publish like corporations have. YouTubers like honest messaging. They like genuine interaction and raw emotion. They tend to dislike brand marketing messages and paid endorsement material. If you want to create a beautiful brand anthem spot, definitely publish it on YouTube. But don’t expect the same type of engagement you would get by publishing on video sites like Vimeo that celebrate the art of video and have a community that appreciates video as an art form. The promise of “anyone can be a publisher” really took off when Blogger made a free blog platform. But while this allowed people to publish thoughts, the written word did not have the cache and sexiness of making you feel like a TV or movie star. YouTube provided a free way for people to publish a movie or a music video or a video diary for all to see. It is the promise of celebrity that inspires people to push out content on this platform.

Corporate brands could totally leverage the audience of this platform but typically they approach it in one of two ways, which are both ineffectual to this audience:

1. The Brand Advertising Method: They post every one of their commercials on YouTube and hope they go viral. While consumers expect to find those ad campaigns online, they do not engage with the channel, but they engage with the specific video. That’s why you will see well-known brands have videos with millions of views but only thousands of subscribers. This is not leveraging the platform correctly.

2. The “No Value to Anyone But the Sales Team” Method: They post product demos and video brochures. Again, this does not welcome community engagement and it is nether entertaining nor is it useful content.

So the reason why the biggest YouTube channels are run by individuals is because those individuals interact with their audience and their content is engaging.

You have built an audience on YouTube by focusing on one niche and consistently publishing videos. Would the same strategy work for a B2B company? Is there a business audience there?

No question YouTube has an audience large enough for whatever business you are in! In fact, YouTube has a big enough audience to support every single niche you can think of! If you are passionate about something (no matter how specific) there is bound to be a couple hundred thousand people in this world that are equally passionate. Consistently publishing videos in that niche is how those hundred thousand people find you. But growing audiences and creating awareness does not come from owning a niche and publishing consistently. Staying true to your niche simply helps you own the category so competitors can’t jump in. Consistently publishing simply keeps your content relevant and current.

The real key to building an audience is to provide value to your viewer. For me, this means reviewing food so customers are informed before buying something. This works for me because I do not own or work for any of the products that I review. For B2B it is a bit trickier. YouTubers do not like to be sold to. So the way to reach an audience is to provide value. For example, if you sell marketing automation software you won’t have much of an audience for tons of videos talking about the features of your product. But there is a huge audience for a web series highlighting success stories from your customers using your software. Jay Baer’s book, YOUtility covers this idea at great length and it is worth a read when creating your YouTube presence.

How can B2B marketers use video to support their overall content marketing efforts?

Uploading video content on YouTube can have multiple benefits towards your content marketing efforts. Video can capture a moment like no other medium can. You can use video to capture customer testimonials that mean a whole lot more than just a quote written in text. You can document an event or interview a team member. You can produce video demos or explain an FAQ using video. In all of these examples you can give a prospect, a customer, and investor a better idea of what your company is all about and instill more trust and confidence in the messages you are producing.

From a tactical standpoint uploading a video to YouTube means you can cultivate a new audience on the YouTube platform as well as embed the content on your website, blog and other social networks.

Does a YouTube channel let B2B companies tell their stories in a different way, or does it let them reach a whole new audience segment?

YouTube definitely allows B2B marketers to communicate a message in a more personal way. Instead of a message coming from a press release, it could be the same message delivered by the CMO. Have an endorsement from a partner vendor? Instead of dropping in a text testimonial, how about having their CEO put it on camera? There is potential for a whole new audience segment in YouTube, but it requires focus and commitment to realize that potential. There are 24 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute! The only way to stand out is to put in as much as you expect to receive from the platform. Like Twitter, it requires engagement and community management in addition to quality focused content.

What are the analytics you focus on for your YouTube channel, and would B2B marketers focus on the same ones?

Fortunately YouTube has been making great strides in the analytics they provide (for free) for YouTube channels. My primary metric is engagement per video. This means out of the total number of people that see the video, how long into the video do they watch until they bounce. Also, do they Like, Comment, add to playlist, or subscribe as a result of that video. My secondary metric is the time of day that my video is watched. This is important to me because I have an international audience and it helps me strategize when in the day to publish my videos. This also helps when I schedule live video events and decide on the start and end times of contests and promotions.

My advice to B2B marketers is to think about what your primary goal is for your YouTube channel and then report on the metrics that influence that goal. Like Google Analytics you can gain insight into different metrics through your YouTube Analytics dashboard. But just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean it matters to you. And just because it is important to one channel doesn’t mean it matters to others.

It can be overwhelming to sit down in front of a camera and start talking. What are some tips you can provide for getting started with video content?

For some people, putting yourself on camera is easy. For others it is the most terrifying thing imaginable. But video content doesn’t have to just be someone talking into a camera! You can be very successful using voiceover over a product demo. Or you can get even more creative (and still be professional if used correctly) using animation, whiteboard drawings, and even puppets. The key is to find a method that is on brand, cost-effective to execute and something you believe in enough to commit to!

And can you really shoot good quality video with a smartphone, provided you turn it horizontally and you stabilize it by setting it down on a table?

Five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say this, but yes, you can shoot perfectly fine, professional quality video with your phone. In fact, full movies have been shot using just an iPhone camera! The key is to use a tripod or a steady cam rig, and make sure your sound is great. People would much rather tolerate a low definition video if the sound is clear and the video isn’t shaky.

If you want some frozen food advice from Greg to go along with his YouTube advice, here is his list of the 50 Best Frozen Foods in 60 seconds:

11 B2B Social Media Takeaways from BMA14

B2B marketers from across the world gathered together for BMA14, the Business Marketing Association’s annual conference in Chicago from May 28th-30th. During those 3 days, approximately 1,000 business-to-business marketers were exposed to the latest B2B marketing trends, thinking, research, technology, case studies and best practices.

Although the conference covered a wide range of topics, social media was a key theme in many presentations.

What was perhaps most interesting is how many brands were using a variety of techniques and social channels to spread and amplify their message.

Here are some interesting B2B social media insights and takeaways from #BMA14.

1. General Electric’s use of Vine, Instagram and Tumblr

Linda Boff, Executive Director Global Brand Marketing at GE, mentioned that General Electric has found Instagram, Vine and Tumblr as platforms where the GE brand has found its voice by sharing groundbreaking research and simple science experiments.

Creating great content that tells a story is key to attracting an audience that consumes and shares via social networks.  Some examples of GE’s successful social campaigns include #6SecondScience, #SpringBreakIt and #GravityDay on Tumblr and Vine, and their 170,000 follower Instagram account.

2. Social Selling Gets Results

Could “social selling” be the next big thing in marketing? Many attendees of BMA14 believe so. Sales people need to be aware that they can be more influential and effective when using social selling techniques. Jill Rowley presented a powerful case for social selling by sharing how sales people always need to be connecting and curating quality content. 78% of sales professionals using social media outsell their peers that use traditional selling techniques.

Want a bit more info on social selling? Watch Jill’s “Traditional Selling vs. Social Selling” video.

3. Make your presentations tweet-worthy

Jay Baer, author of “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype” is always good for an entertaining and informative presentation, and his BMA14 keynote was no exception. Jay had perhaps the most tweet-worthy presentation at BMA14, largely because he includes tweet-worthy content.

Here are a few examples:
- Youtility is marketing so useful, people would pay for it. (View tweet)
- Youtility comes from the wizard, not the wand. (View tweet)
- Inspiration doesn’t respond to meeting requests. (View tweet)
- Content that is only about your products and services isn’t a Youtility, it’s a brochure. (View tweet)
- We are surrounded by data but starved for insights. (View tweet)

Jay Baer Youtility slide

4. WhatsApp as a business tool

Lisa Abbatiello, CEO of Leo Burnett Business, New York, mentioned that they use WhatsApp for engaging among global groups and Twitter to highlight their team’s point of view on their client’s industries.

5. Market like its 2014. Use the tools available.

Keynote speaker Gary Vaynerchuk roused the BMA14 attendees with his edgy presentation style. Gary urged marketers to jab first (engage customers) before using a right hook (going for a sale). He urged marketers to use the tools available to them and to stop marketing like they did years ago.

He practiced what he preached by sharing stories about how he used social media to determine a prospect’s interests then used that information to start a conversation. This resulted in several big sales.

6. Use LinkedIn to make C-level connections

Scott Salkin, CEO and founder of IDS Marketing Technology, says LinkedIn is the most effective B2B social media platform. “It’s become a very credible way to connect with people and reach out directly to C-level executives.” Scott has achieved an impressive response rate of around 80 to 90%.

7. Social Media is Mobile

Marketers are aware of how mobile is impacting their business, but they may not be aware how much. Mobile was still one of the big topics at BMA14, and the speakers from the social media focused sessions had a lot of eye-opening mobile takeaways.  Here’s a few:

“Facebook and The Move to Mobile” presented by Gary Briggs, Chief Marketing Officer, Facebook

- Facebook has 1 billion+ monthly actives on mobile, 609m+ people using Facebook on mobile every day. (View tweet)
- Every team has to be mobile. At Facebook, every team is the mobile team. (View tweet)
- 200 million people use Instagram each month. That’s twice the number of books in the Library of Congress. (View tweet)
- 85% of global mobile devices have WhatsApp. (View tweet)

Facebook mobile team

“Mastering the Moment: the Live Opportunity for B2B Marketers on Twitter” presented by Richard Alfonsi, VP Global Online Sales, Twitter

- 80% of Twitter users access via mobile. (View tweet)
- There are 135,000 new users on Twitter every day. Chances are your customers are among them. (View tweet)
- Wednesday is when the most B2B conversations happen on Twitter. (View tweet)

“Tell Better Stories, Build A Better Business” presented by Nick Besbeas, VP Marketing and Customer Support, LinkedIn

- Over 300M professionals are on LinkedIn. (View tweet)
- LinkedIn is no longer a jobs site, it’s a content site. Users consume content 7x more than job listings. (View tweet)

8. Storytelling has an important role in Social Media Globalization

Social media took center stage during a panel discussion about the impact of social media globalization. While a brand’s logo and mission statement are consistent globally, its social media has to be flexible to address the interests of individual cultures while maintaining a cohesive voice.

For example, social selling is much more popular in Asia, as personal relationships matter to the point where people won’t do business with brands they don’t know. Brands should consider using visual storytelling to break down language barriers.

9. Game mechanics promotes participation and engagement

The attendees at the BMA14 conference were encouraged to use an event application called LiveCube. LiveCube fuses game mechanics and audience participation to promote participation and engagement. When synced to your Twitter account, the application would allow you to tweet, retweet and follow users through their interface, as well as get session information, participate in real-time polls and surveys and much more. And when you did so, you accumulated points for the various activities. In short, it made participation fun.

And the numbers showed it worked. By the end of the conference, the 1,000 attendees had generated 17,269 Twitter mentions which had an overall reach of 63.7 million impressions.

LiveCube Interface

10. Facebook is still relevant in B2B

During the “Understand the DNA of a Growth Marketer” panel session, Mark Rentschler, Head of Marketing at machine tool company Makino, mentioned his shock over the last year regarding Facebook. “Facebook folks are converting at more than double the rate of normal marketing activity, and are spending from 10 to 30 minutes on our website.”

11. People love a good selfie.

When you have a conference that has as much mobile and social media content as BMA14, there’s no better way to wrap it up than with an Ellen-inspired selfie.

BMA14 closing selfie

The Business Marketing Association (BMA) is the premiere marketing organization for B2B marketers. The BMA offers unparalleled access to the knowledge and network you need to be the best B2B marketer possible.  What can the BMA do for you?  Watch the video and find out.

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.

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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?