Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What do a boutique, a 5 & 10 store, and a enterprise technology company have in common?

Customer Experiences.

Every experience we have with every brand (B2B and B2C) sets a precedent. If I have a great experience with Amazon for example, I then expect that CaptialOne, HP, Whole Foods or any other brand will be able to match that experience within their own domain. The boutique, 5 & 10, and tech vendor all have the opportunity to provide experiences that set a new precedent in our expectations for every other brand we engage with. Our expectations of brand experiences are blending:

-If I buy something online and have a chat box pop up with a real human who has a great personality and delivers great customer service, I then expect that everywhere.
-If I shop and see highly relevant, personalized recommendations, I then expect that everywhere.
-If you offer me something free that I would gladly pay for (A Youtility), I then expect that level of service everywhere.

However customer experience goes beyond just expectation setting, as Scott Brinker says here in his slideshare:
“Within the blink of a click, a customer can jump from reading an ad or an email to interacting with us in a digital channel. And the experience they have – good or bad – may be instantly shared, resonating in search and social circles for all time. This makes customer experiences the definition of our brand.(bold font added in by me)
What do your experiences say about your brand? Are you boring, hard to navigate, or exciting and easy to use? Tweet This:

The Hyper Focused Marketer:
While consulting with many B2B technology marketers I have seen many focusing only on what their direct competition is doing. We mustn’t forget that B2B buyers are still people. The experiences these people have with any other company B2C or B2B will carry through into their B2B Technology buying expectations.

When you do a competitive analysis, do you review every engagement point your potential visitors/customers have?  
Do you compare the customer experiences you provide with leaders from all industries, or just your core competitors?

The digital world in all its good and bad has created the ultimate melting pot for user experiences. These experiences will live on forever. We must ask ourselves, are we providing digital and physical experiences that will live on forever in the hall of fame, or the hall of shame? Tweet This:

The simple truth is, in today’s digital environments we are competing with Every Single Brand. Tweet This:


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tell Your Marketing Team To Go Pound

Tell Your Marketing Team To Go Pound…

I was recently on a call where a marketer didn’t know which social community (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) their audience was most engaged on.  This called to my attention how important it is for us as marketers to take a step back from the tactical day to day, and get closer with our audiences,   
tell your marketing team to go pound, the phones.

Often times as marketers we get so caught up in our daily activities that we forget to take a step back see the forest through the trees, or maybe for marketers I should say we don’t see the audience through the people.

A great way to get to know our audiences is to pick up the phone and call customers and prospects. It’s my experience, that if you approach the call from the angle of doing research, not selling a product, people are much more willing to talk. Here are 5 reasons you should call into your audience:

1) Get more wins:
Talk to the sales wins your organization has seen. Ask them what they liked about the product, what pain points where the biggest, what part of your solution hit home with them? Does your product or messaging align with the primary goals of your customers?
A great example of listening to users comes from Instagram, as mentioned in the book “Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday –“Instagram started as a location-based social network called Burbn (which had an optional photo feature)”. When they let the user’s guide the messaging and the product, they realized that what users wanted most was a mobile app for posting photos with filters. When they re-aligned the product and messaging to fit what users wanted most they experienced explosive growth and became the brand everyone knows today.

2) Turn a loss into a win:
Sales wins are good, but a sales loss can be even more educational than the wins– talk to the respondents that didn’t buy from you! What did they feel you were missing? Do you offer what your prospects want, is that aspect or feature being downplayed in your product feature set? Identify what lead to the sales losses and help adjust messaging or even the product where possible.

3) Understand the buying team layout and personas:
Talk to your prospects and customers and work to identify how big your average buying team is. TechTarget media consumption shows that 2/3’s of organizations have buying  teams bigger than 5 people. Also use this opportunity to confirm or build buyer personas. This will ensure you can strategically work to influence all members of the buying team, while at the same time increasing the effectiveness of your content and messaging.

4) Map the Buyers Journey:
Find where your customers are most active as they navigate the buyer journey. Identify where your customers are starting their research process, where do they go when they are in the middle of the buy cycle, what information sources do they use to finalize the decision? Dig into what distribution methods their journey aligns with (IE search vs. social vs. publishers sites, etc.).
It doesn’t end there, go deeper and dig into the content preferences your customers have (keep in mind it may vary based on each buyer personas). 

5) Bring sales and marketing together:
Though this action sales will see that marketing is "walking a mile in their shoes". This in turn can help strength the sales/marketing alignment. In a recent demand gen report it was found that“42% (of sales people) stated that their marketing department "rarely" or "never" includes them in the content development process”. This can help show sales that you are thinking from their point of view.

This info can be hugely valuable for crafting messages that resonate, and then understanding where to distribute those messages. Though these calls you can help build better stories to tell, and even increase your customer advocates.

What are you waiting for, tell marketing to go pound! Pound the phones!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A digital strategy isn't a commodity

A digital strategy isn't a commodity, yet in my 10 years’ experience working with many different agencies (B2B and B2C) so many agencies treat a digital strategy like a commodity looking at it from the most simplistic outcome and goal.

Why is this? As indicated by Digiday here, and with ClickZ in an interview with OMI here there is a significant shortage of digitally savvy people at agencies.  The result is people that view a digital strategy in the simplest way they know how, cost.

This is further compounded by marketers having limited faith in their own skills as highlighted in this MarketingProfs post. Because of this marketers are relying on agencies to help guide strategy, yet we know there is a skills gap there.

Marketing is amidst an evolution, marketers agree that in the past 2 years marketing has seen more changes than the past 50 years (Adobe Study). This mindset of being focused on cost will drive limited reach, engagement, brand impact and limit the scope of executing a smart strategy. A smart digital strategy is about understanding goals, tracking, testing, optimizing, all while understanding that marketing is a long game.

So what is a marketer to do?
  1. If you are working with an agency – have they proven themselves as a thought leader? Do they understand content marketing, agile marketing, data driven marketing and analytics, marketing automation/nurturing, mobile, social, etc. or are they just media buyers? Talk to them and understand the skill sets and where they bring value to the table.
  2. Take a step back and understand what your goals are. Are you tasked with X number of leads per quarter? Ask why that number, how was that number determined?  What other metrics are you aligned with? Engagement, reach, conversion, sharing, these are examples of other metrics you might be tasked with or should consider. If it’s simply leads, is that volume reached by backing out from sales conversion rate and sales goals? A better digital strategy (and not one based on CPLs) likely means more effective conversion rates which can change your goals if they are based on solely on lead volume. Take time to ask these questions and explore here.
  3. Find a trusted resource. Identify which of your trusted resources are the experts in digital tactics and learn from them. Who has done the research, who has proven experience in a smart integrated digital strategy? Use those proven partners to help guide and structure your digital strategy.
  4. Bring the passion back to marketing. This evolution and these changes are exciting and open a huge opportunity to learn and grow careers.  The CEO of my first job taught me something I still find true to this day, there are 3 things an employee needs to be happy in their career, first to be challenged and learn, second a good company culture, and third respectable compensation. As said in the ClickZ video “learning is happiness”.  Use this huge shift in marketing to learn, grown, and bring back the excitement to marketing. 

A digital strategy isn’t a commodity; it’s a commitment to smarter, more efficient marketing. It’s not about doing more with less; it’s about getting more out of what you are doing.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

What your #1 goal for November should be (aside from growing a mustache)

This weekend like many other marketers I was thinking about the upcoming holiday season. However I wasn't thinking of holiday specials, promotions, or even Black Friday. So what is left after all that for holiday marketing plans? Dinners and parties with friends and family.

It’s a small world – and often our work lives cross over into personal. For me, many of my closest friends are those that I have the most in common with (work and personal interests included alike). Many of my longtime close friends in the offline world also happen to cross paths with me professionally and online.  Those from only the online world that I am most intrigued by or follow closest have several traits in common with me. Most are marketing based, but those that are also into biking, skiing or other similar hobbies of mine capture further interest.  That interest builds and turns to trust quickly.  

As I was thinking through this, I realized that when I sit with my friends and family in the upcoming weeks (for me many of whom are fellow marketers). In the course of small talk we will undoubtly end up talking shop at some point.

Nice weather huh? How is work? Busy, oh yea, me too….Anything cool or new going on there? And there you have it, a HUGE opportunity for all marketers to get their advocates to talk about their product or service with likely minded people. People that are like minded to your current customers are likely a good fit to be future customers.

For me I have been wildly excited about some of the data visualization tools like crazyegg lately and will likely end up talking about how cool the service is to my marketing buddies.

So there you have it. Your number 1 Marketing goal of November should be increasing the number of Advocates you have. Be the topic of conversation at the holiday parties.  

Why do you need Advocates?

Advocates as shown here – can drive huge impact to sharing your message and promoting your brand.

“90% of Advocates write something positive about their purchase experience.” If you can harness those comments and feedback, its valuable “earned” impact.

“Offers shared by trusted advocates convert at a 4x-10x higher rate”

 Need more? That trust I mentioned above, well we trust peers (IE Advocates) more than we trust communication from brands. As Jill Rowley said on twitter recently: “Why Employee Advocacy? Company-to-Buyer trust = 33% vs Peer-to-Peer trust = 92% Nielsen Research 2012  #SocialShakeUp”

How do we create more advocates?
As noted in the above slide share about Advocates – “50% of advocates recommend because of a good experience”. Focus on user experiences – from good content all the way through the buy “funnel” to the sale. Users are going to self-educate with content about 10+ times for complex purchases, if 1 in those 10 experiences isn’t absolutely great, they might not become an advocate. November should be about great mustaches, good content and better user experiences.

If you don’t understand the mustache reference, November is also Movember, (a good cause) so grow a mustache or donate! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

3 Lessons learned in building brand loyalty

As marketers we can’t always control our products, but we can influence the perception of them. So how do you build brand loyalty? Let’s learn from a couple of today’s strongest brands: 

Apple: Speak your users language

Like them or not, Apples brand power is un-deniable (see this article and this one for more about their brand power). Apple created a cult like brand loyalty by speaking their users language. Apple knew early on in the 80’s that their users were the creative types and “geeks”. They embodied that with their product marketing and aligned their brand with the same values of these buyers. At that time being a geek wasn’t trendy or cool, it was just different. Apple didn’t try to be everything to everyone, they spoke to their audience. 

Image Source:

                Take it further:  If your brand has multiple types of people you are looking to engage with, utilize buyer personas to foster and develop this high level of loyalty. For example in IT buying, most large companies (1,000+ employees in size) have buying teams of 10+ people.  Generally you will have 4-6 different personas involved in the decision. An example of this might be a IT staff member vs a C-level executive vs a procurement specialist. All have different pain points, product needs, outlooks and personas. Adapt content to speak to each persona this will increase the brand loyalty from multiple groups at the same time. 

Harley Davidson: Listen and Bond

In terms of product, Apple and Harley-Davidson are very different, but both have created Brands with unparalleled loyalty. Harley built their brand loyalty by listening to their audience, and by relying on humans need for brotherhood.  Harley was doing very poorly in the 60’s and made a huge comeback through listening to what riders wanted. Beyond that, they also tapped into humans need for social interaction. They develop a club for Harley Owners (Harley Owners Group, HOG). Through this they helped encourage fellow owners to ride together, and share brand experiences. This has strengthened the bond the brand has with its customers, and the bond customers have with each other. These two efforts have worked to magnifying brand loyalty.  

Both of these brands have such a strong loyalty built around them people are willing to display the logos and names on their bodies. Do you customers go that far? That’s loyal:

Image Sources:

How do you replicate this success?

1 - Identify who your audience is

2- Speak clearly to them, and their needs. Remember no body wants to hear how great you are, they want to hear how great you will make them

3 - Integrate social elements on every level of your brand engagement.

Leave a comment, tell me what are you brand challenges, how are you working to overcome them? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Company size isn't relevant to technology needs.

It’s well known that cloud computing is a disruptive technology. Cloud has lowered the barrier to entry for many businesses, which has in turn made many small businesses or start-ups become formidable competitors to traditional big business. The worldwide business environment has forever changed.

Have you adjusted your B2B technology marketing efforts to align with this shift?

In today’s environment we have many small companies dealing with big data now.  For example when Instragram was sold, they had 13 employees and 9 investors. They would show up as a company of less than 50 employees on many lists, but they were acquired by Facebook for $1Billion. Many traditional technology marketers might have overlooked a company like this based on their company size.
So what about looking at revenue instead of number of employees? Same concept applies. Twitter for example had over 25 million users in 2010, yet operated at a loss for most of that year

Yes, we know not every start up or SMB will be acquired for $1B or have a planned $1B IPO, but the business environment has changed and our marketing tactics need to re-align.  The take away is: Company size isn’t relevant to technology needs. 2 other powerful data points from a great SAP Slide Share:

"40% of companies at the top of the Fortune 500 in 2000 were off the list in 2010"

“Only 7% of Gen Y works for a Fortune 500 company as startups dominate the workforce for this demographic” (also worth noting “Gen Y will form 75% of the workforce by 2025” – see the trend here?)

Growth is more rapid than ever before. Groupon, I know they are not what they use to be but consider this, reached a $1.3B evaluation in the first 17 months. That’s fast. How many times did you adjust the target list of accounts (or campaign filters) in the past 17 months, once, maybe? 

Are you missing your opportunity to get in with a smaller business that has big technology needs because you evaluate opportunity by the wrong metric?

How should B2B technology marketers re-align?

1) Marketers should rely on digital footprints, and marketing automation systems to help identify who is worthy of sales follow up, not an outdated company size filters or rules. Don’t filter out prospects by a pre-determined and potentially irrelevant filter sets.

2) Speak to your audience clearly, and directly. Produce content that addresses the pain points of users. In a noisy world people are not going to engage with content that doesn’t help them. Keep it clear, concise and helpful. Through this content, you will only attract relevant prospects.

*Disclaimer - of course there are very few absolutes in the world, so yes there are some exceptions here like end user focused technologies. However the general idea is that there are many small companies in need of big computing power. Don’t overlook them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

FAQ Series: What types of assets are users viewing at each stage of the buyer journey?

A frequently asked question that came up again at a recent client meeting was “what types of assets are users viewing at each stage of the buyer journey”

There are several reports available that provide deeper insight on this – TechTarget Media Consumption here. DemandGen also has a similar report here. Beyond that Annuitas Group also published a similar report about how to bridge the gap of getting users from the top of funnel to the end here.

However to simplify, my brief thoughts on this are:

With the ease of access to information that the web and mobile provides, users can enter the funnel at any time. It’s no longer linear. There are several published articles on this already but I like this one by Nichole Kelly as she uses the visual of a Neural Network rather than a funnel.

The buyer journey is complex and the path is subject to changing direction as they digest information. As users research, new questions come up and pain points or goals of the solution they are looking for can change. This changes the type of content they look for.

This becomes exceptionally clear when you look at a real user journey from start to finish. I have worked to produce visualizations of real users navigating through the buy cycle. These visualizations show where companies have a sales win and then look back through the content consumption of all users at that account from start to finish in the buy cycle.  What is obvious in these exercises is that users are engaging with content that would often be labeled typical “awareness stage” content even in the late stages of the buy cycle. 

Below is a simplified real account journey of an account that purchased from a client (client info removed for privacy concerns). You can see below their interactions cover everything from Editorial articles, to live chats, through to custom live events. Editorial articles are typically something that would be labeled awareness content yet this account still viewed almost 50 articles of this type in the month prior to purchasing. This content consumption pattern process isn't a linear process with users consuming only Awareness -> Consideration -> Decision Stage content. The better indicator of buy stage is overall volume of topically relevant content consumed, and other triggers like how many from a buying team are involved, buyer personas factors, etc. Yes content type can be considered but it’s not the primary or only indicator. Identifying the buy stage is a about looking at a blend of aspects rather than looking for one singular asset interaction.

So to get back to the question was “what types of assets are users viewing at each stage of the buyer journey”. I think it’s clear that users view all types of assets during the buy cycle. The better question would be to ask, do you have the right content, in the right place, at the right time?

Here are 3 steps you can take to help have the right content, in the right place, at the right time:

1 – Focus on producing content of value. As explained in the book Youtility content must help users with their problem. (Forget product sell sheets; focus on the users pain points)
2 – Identify the buyer personas that apply to your solutions buying teams. Tailor content to each personas unique needs
3 – Conduct a content analysis to find gaps, and then fill them.

So while yes generally speaking assets like eGuides tend to be early stage, and assets like vendor comparisons tend to be late stage, this isn’t an absolute. The better approach is to do the content audit, then fill gaps based on priorities. From there use analytics and other nurturing data to identify where the users/accounts are in the buy cycle based on overall consumption patterns.

Friday, October 11, 2013

In Content Marketing Karma is a Bitch…

I was at the park the other day and overheard one dad talking to another saying: “Karma is a bitch. What you put out into the world, is what you get back.”

As I have recently finished reading Youtility, I immediately thought of content marketing here. If you produce self-serving content, content that isn’t truly helpful or useful, you are not going to get anything good out of your content marketing efforts.

In your content marketing, practice good karma. Make your content something valuable and you will get something valuable in return.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

4 World Wide Marketing Fundamentals and How to Target Your World Wide Marketing

Technology has made our world smaller. It's easier than ever before to engage with people on a worldwide level. Because of this, technology companies need to adapt their marketing strategies based on growth markets. These growth markets are the low hanging fruit for marketers. Today's marketers need to be agile in their strategies.

Before we dive into where the low hanging fruit is, lets set the table with 4 world wide marketing fundamentals:

1) Know your Target Audiences – Do you have the ability to sell solutions in every country? Do you have local/regional sales or support people? Identify which countries/regions you can support and target those as primary focuses.

2) Media Type – It has been proven that different countries have different content type preferences. After identifying the countries/regions you are targeting, build a content marketing strategy to support that. Understanding that a Case Study for example will excel in the UK, but likely see just average performance in the United States is fundamental. For more of these content insights read this study. A universal truth in content marketing is keeping content focused on buyer pain points - more education, less product pitch. This will be successful in any region/country.

3) Translation vs.  Localization – In some countries you can get away with simply localizing content (IE – adapting parts of it to fit the region or country) however in other places you need to translate (IE English language content won’t perform well in Germany, Japan, etc.). Adjust content marketing strategies to factor in which regions/countries need translation vs. localization.

4) Understanding the Marketing Laws – It’s important to know how privacy laws and users expectations differ from country to country so you can stay compliant. While laws are one thing, being mindful of user’s expectations is equally important; after all as Seth Godin says “The essential truth is that spam is always in the eye of the recipient.

These are the basic fundamentals you must understand before perusing your worldwide marketing strategy. If you have already addressed the above elements, a quick and easy way to ramp the worldwide marketing investments is to go after the low hanging fruit.

The Low Hanging Fruit:
Different countries and regions have different economic outlooks and growth rates. These growth rates/outlooks as well as the current technology infrastructures impact what they are investing in and the priority levels for those investments. To maximize your marketing ROI you should look for regions/countries that are investing heaviest in your technology area and add or increase marketing efforts there.

Some examples of low hanging fruit coming out of the TechTarget IT Priorities Audience Survey:

90% of respondents in ANZ believe the recession is no longer in effect vs. LATAM where 
40%+ are still feeling the effects of the recession

Mobility is a top area of investment for ANZ with 43% of respondents investing against it, yet compare that again with LATAM and Compliance is the number area of investment.

If you are a MDM vendor and you don't have ANZ as a priority region for growth, you are likely missing out on low hanging fruit. Studies like this can be help you narrow down on where the best places to invest are. Use your partners and other resources like this to help identify and map your strategy. 
To take a slightly less direct view, but still insightful – this chart highlighted in Michael Brenner’s blog post shows “Global Economic Indicators suggest a massive increase in China, India as US and Europe continue to decline as a % of global GDP. Key Consideration: there will be tremendous business impact from the economic growth in China, India and other countries like Brazil and Russia. Is your organization ready?”
What does all this mean?
As Marketers – we all need to think globally.  For example, I have heard of marketers looking to limit efforts in India because of the number of consultants in that region. Yet this is a country with explosive growth, why limit explosive growth?  The success of our organizations depends on thinking globally.  We need to be mindful of regions with explosive growth and not limit our growth in those areas.  Cloud technology is all about being able to scale rapidly in times of need, as marketers we need to adjust our marketing strategies to be “cloud” like in this way.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Buyer Journey: Understanding is the key to better marketing investments

Traditional mass media marketing has “set the bar” very low for all marketers.

For far too long marketers haven’t had any skin in the game. Traditional mass media marketing had tactics which set the stage for much of marketing to be measured in a soft way. By soft, I mean things like - circulations/page views, total sales lift, CPL, and even brand awareness/value.

The result of this is marketing and management teams have accepted limit visibility into true Marketing ROI. A stat recently came out that helps validate this – “Only 6% of B2B leaders can calculate ROI on all marketing activity

My god. Think about that.

Investing in the ability to track the ROI on all marketing investments will help marketers invest smarter, but also help put marketers into a position of power in organizations. If we can shift the perception of marketing from being a cost center to a revenue generator our power as marketers will be amplified.

How do we make this shift? 

Simple, don’t invest in efforts if you can't tie them to a user journey. There are 2 critical elements to remember here:

1 – The user journey isn’t a funnel.
As shown here the buying process is especially complex in B2B technology marketing. Google’s ZMOT, TechTarget media consumption studies and others find that buyers are researching by consuming 6-10+ assets as they go through a purchase decision. A single attribution model isn’t enough. If someone is researching and consumes 15 assets as they navigate their decision process, only tracking the final assets viewed when they converted to SQL or MQL doesn’t tell the full story. It doesn’t give credit to all the prior engagements that contributed to the conversion. Each engagement has influence and helps drive the next engagement.  We need to understand our relationship and influence at each step. 

2 – As the user journey progresses, so should the goals and metrics of success.
In point 1 we already established that the buyer’s research process is complex. The content we use to help them navigate from start to finish should vary in its goal as they move through this process. Some content might help them better understand the problem they are facing, other content might help them understand better how your solution solves their problem. With this concept in mind, not all content should be held to the same metrics of success. A engagement metric might work for early stage content, while a call to action click might work better for late stage content. We need to adjust the metrics/goals based on the stage and content goal

We need to understand that the traditional elements of marketing are rapidly dissolving. Many of today’s fastest growing brands are built on this concept (Instagram, Dropbox, Twitter) – and many of them got there without tradition mass media marketing. In the book Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday he says "marketing has always been about the same thing - who your customers are and where they are" what growth hackers do is focus on the "who" and the "where" more scientifically" (bold added by me). Call it “Growth Hacking” or anything else, but these companies have been 100% focused on solid metrics, combined with the who and where of their audience. In his blog post Lung Huang expands on this concept Breaking Bad Media with a great analogy. 

The Take-Away:
Focus on growth and impact. Reach only matters if it’s the right people. We need to be able to identify where the right people are in their research process and help them navigate through it with meaningful content.  We need to focus on the hard metrics and invest in technology to track each engagement.

It’s not easy. Vanity metrics are easier to track and might feel better in the short term – but success never comes easy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Future of Marketing and How to Get There Faster: Personalization Matters

Years ago Amazon’s recommendation engine started something; their ability to personalize content changed the mindset of buyers everywhere. I see a future of blending personalization models like Amazons with social channels which will offer brands opportunities to learn more about prospects than ever before.

As marketers we live in a time when we have unprecedented levels of information available and that volume is growing every day.  I can identify who is visiting my site, with social integration's we can see what hobbies/activities users are interested in, where they live, what they buy, what they drive, etc. I see a future of harnessing this info on a scalable level. Brian Kardon explains more of what this might look like in his post “Marketing in Real Time – The New Trading Room Floor”. In this Forbes article you can see in some of the ways that Target is already personalizing outreach.

How I see this playing out:

I heard a Pandora Ad the other day for Lyft, and they dropped “Boston” into the ad copy. While this location dropping is good it’s just a small piece of who I am.

How do you make an experience that would really get my attention?

My Pandora is linked to Twitter and Facebook – through those you know where I live (more specifically than Boston), you know what hobbies I have, you know what I drive, how old I am, my gender, and on and on. Tailor your engagements, get my attention.

This is the way to be effective no matter what channel you are using (inbound or outbound). A better user experience for this same Lyft ad I heard might play out as follows: Hey Ben, saw that nice Niner Mountain Bike you were looking at! You would look good on it, how about you spend a few extra hours driving for Lyft and earn the extra money quick to get yourself on that Bike!

Now that is how you would get my attention!  Show me that you care about me, and I will care about you.

Hubspot recently just posted an article showing the increase in performance you can get from personalization. Now image if you could get a level of personalization like my example above, these results would likely skyrocket!

Why am I talking about this on a B2B blog? Because businesses are comprised of people, people make up the buying teams and the lines between B2C experiences and B2B are crossing. Every great engagement you have with a brand (B2B or B2C) sets the bar of brand experience expectations. If brands are not constantly looking to improve every engagement they are falling behind.

There are many articles about developing buyer personas, and those are a great starting place, but as the relationship develops we need to continue to tailor our communication. We need to make every engagement meaningful.

Where do you start today?
Utilize converged marketing tactics to align all channels of communication.  As noted in this study “84% of consumers would walk away from a company that doesn’t link up, understand and respond to their engagements across channels.”

Marketing is hard; there are many opportunities to leave a negative brand engagement during a user journey. Don’t stack the odds any more than they have to be. Make marketing personal.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What do Toilet Paper and Marketing have in common?

With football season officially upon us, a flood of amazing sports quotes come rushing into mind. Perhaps one of the funnier football quotes comes to us from College football coach Bob Green:

“The season's a lot like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes."

What does this have to do with Marketing? Like the role of toilet paper, the closer to the end of the sales funnel you get, the faster it goes.

If you are waiting until the end of the funnel to try to engage your prospects, you are reducing the opportunities to build a relationship. It’s well accepted that buyers are progress through more of the sales funnel by doing their own research (Google, Sirius Decisions, Forrester all report buyer’s progress through more than half of the buy cycle before talking with sales). As marketers we need to carry the ball for more yards than ever before.  We need to take every opportunity possible to help our buyer’s research and engage them at every step.

If you are only engaging buyers during the last steps of the funnel (at the end of the role) there will be a sense of panic when you realize how little time you have to educate the buyer. You are going to need to work much harder in much less time to build the relationship. A relationship that your competitors established by engaging the buyer early on.

We need to make sure we are helping our prospects at every stage of the buy cycle. If we do that, we will be top of mind and lay the foundation to a strong relationship. Don’t let opportunity slip by. Don’t be caught with just one ply of toilet paper.

Do you have another good sport quote to tie back to marketing? Leave a comment with the quote and marketing tie in! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Converged Marketing – Aligning to make 1+1 = 3

In my opinion converged marketing is about 2 things:

1 – Combining “inbound” and “outbound” tactics:
Traditionally many organizations are framed with fragmented and silo’d responsibilities across marketing teams by channels or messaging types. For example a quick job search will show many organizations with silos for inbound marketing, display marketing, demand generation, etc. Christopher S Penn has a great analogy for why outbound and inbound needs to blend here.

With Converged Marketing we need to make sure we blend all the ways a user can interact with our brand. Avinash Kaushik does a great job of setting the framework here for how a user might journey through the buy cycle.

Modern marketers have more channels than ever before to reach prospects (social, mobile, search, etc). Prospects expect to be able to consume any content piece, at any time, on any device (see more on this in the Forrester Mobile Mindshift report)  – Converged Marketing is about making sure we can fulfill this expectation. Beyond that we need to maximize mindshare throughout the research process.  If a user isn’t engaging with your brands content at a given moment, how do we make sure we stay top of mind?  A consideration for this particular problem would be branding products that follow the user as they search and explore other sites. Take every engagement you can, as every engagement is an opportunity to drive impact.

2 – User experiences:

The second key element of Converged Marketing is to make sure that the communication and user experience across these different tactics (in part 1) remains uniform. As displayed here in this McKinsey post users are going to expect seamless communication every step of the way as technology gets smarter.  Understanding our users and segmenting them so the communication and interactions are tailored specifically to their pain points will further enhance marketing efforts (IE applying Buyer Personas). Users don’t view brand engagements by “marketing buckets – (social, display, demand gen)” so we shouldn’t make the messaging and branding different by engagement channels.

Theory is good, but practice is better:

The theory of Converged Marketing is good, but if you need to see it in action there is an article of HP putting this into practice in the EMEA region located here. They call it “integrated marketing”, but it’s the same concept yielding a 16% increase in sales, as well as some other impressive engagement metrics.

Converged Marketing is about seamless user experiences and staying top of mind during the full research cycle. The result, Converged Marketing will significantly compound the effects of individual marketing efforts, making 1+1=3.  Leave a comment and tell me about your Converged Marketing experiences.

Friday, September 6, 2013

FAQ Series – How do I drive more impact with my content?

A frequently asked question I hear as a content marketing consultant is “how to I make content that will bring bigger impact?”

I have performed numerous content audits in my career, so to help address this question I wanted to highlight some of the most prevalent themes I have seen occur in these audits:

1 -  Don’t Lose Focus – As Michael Brenner said “The biggest mistake content marketers make when getting started is they create content focused on their products or services”. Content that truly helps buyers understand the problem as it relates to their (the buyers) business will drive impact. Remember:

2 – Segmentation - this is related to the first point and can be achieved in several ways:

Industry targeting - the simplest way to segment is with vertical or industry level targeting. Per this Demand Gen study 45% of buyers first seek out “articles and resources targeted to my industry”. This isn’t just a bullet from a study; I have seen this play out time and time again in my content audits. I have seen response on industry specific content triple response rates compared to general (no industry focus) content.

Pro Tip – rather than re-write content from scratch, consider re-purposing existing content and adding industry call out boxes to help tailor content to specific verticals.

Persona targeting – This is a deep topic that has many blogs fully dedicated to the topic – check out Tony Zambito’s blog for great info. That said, to highlight the concept. It is critical that we understand the user journey of our buyers, beyond that we need to know the journey of each member of the buying team. Their pain points will be different, so our messaging should be different. For example a CIO or other C levels executives might be focused on strategy, while an engineer might be very focused on the tactical execution. Different focus – different content. As noted here – I have seen this strategy drive a 200% increase in click rates.

3 – Competitive Comparisons – Many vendors are hesitant to do this, however this is exactly what IT buyers are tasking with doing. Building this asset type for it buyers is helping them do their job, while giving you the opportunity to help steer the conversation in your favor.
In most lead nurturing programs when a comparison asset is part of the mix, it will easily place in the list of top performing assets. These are asset types that generally pull very strong response rates, but they go deeper than that. In a current lead scoring and nurturing program I am involved in a comparison asset is driving the most (39%) of the MQL lead conversions.

Pro Tip – keep it honest.

Whether you are producing new content, or looking to re-purpose content pull in these 3 considerations to drive bigger impacts. Response rates all the way through to conversion rates should see improvements from these content types. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Content Marketing: What content type is best?

As a marketing consultant (and one that is largely focused on content marketing) one question that I frequently hear is, “what is the best content type to use?”  Oftentimes if this is coming up a full content audit is suggested. However I did want to take a few minutes to address the benefits of different content types in this blog post to help quickly and easily answer this question.

To set the stage here, the real answer lies in another question – what is the goal of the content? That will dictate what the best type of content is. To help work through these questions I wanted to first provide a list of common content types and list benefits of the content types:


Other Elements to Consider

3rd Party Content

Extend Reach with Well Trusted content pieces:

A CMO Council report: 9% of respondents considered vendor content trustworthy vs. 67% who trust research from professional associations, 50% from industry organizations, 48% from customer case studies (48 percent), 44% from analyst reports (44 percent) and 40% from independent product reviews.
Make sure you align with a reputation brand
Extend reach, be visible - a users needs to see your message 8+ times before it resonates, this will help with that cause.

1)      There are many types of banners from standard to flash to fully custom units - each can achieve different goals of visibility to engagement
2)      In a TechTarget media consumption survey 79% of members say contextually aligned adds influence their purchases.
Blog Posts

Build brand value - enables 2 way conversations via comments
Requires heavy dedication to keeping updated regularly
Case Studies

Show successful implementations - good mid/late stage asset types
Good for industry call outs and targeting
(Demand Gen reports 45% of IT Buyers look for industry specific content)
1)      Industry specific will capture better response rates
2)      Response rates on this type of content vary significantly by country/region

Late stage content type with ability to showcase deep features - engagement and view times are metrics to watch


Set the stage for how to attack a problem - good for thought leadership. Also helps to maximize creditability and market alignment, pulling in serious buyers

Editorial Alignment

Extend reach, Similar to 3rd party content
Helps build content volume turn-key and is a trusted content type


Live Event

Maximize time and exposure onsite with an audience most pertinent to your solutions.  Capture late stage users and have meaningful engagement face to face.


Build mindshare and thought leadership through comprehensive learning environments
Goals can vary depending on build and layout: educate users, engage users, offer a unique experience

Provides engagement opportunities that can be HIGHLY segmented and personalized


Very portable & can be leveraged to extend the reach of your video & webcast content


Drives strong engagement - highly trackable metrics - view time, % completion rates

Virtual Event

Combine interactivity & intimacy of a live event with the ability to capture online user in a deep learning environment.


Webcasts are an increasingly important component of a content strategy.  Engaging assets if live, live Q&As, also - great assets to easily break into session, and other types - transcripts and podcasts
1)      Market for Webinars, Online Seminars and Webcasts will grow from $200m to $400m in 2014*
2)      59% B2B Marketer’s using webcasts today & they are the 3rd most effective tool for content marketing (Content Marketing Institute)
White Papers

White papers remain the most effective media type for IT research and technology purchases (Source - 2012 TechTarget Media Consumption Study)
Can be strong assets to capture and engage prospects at any stage of the buy cycle

What do you do with this grid? 
When looking to produce new content, first ask what your goal of that content is, then find the asset type that best corresponds to the goal in the grid. That’s a good start, however you will want to do a full content audit, and make sure it aligns to your content strategy. If you don’t yet have a strategy this post from Ian Lurie is brilliant and will give you the steps necessary to get started. 

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know if there are other benefits or types you would like to see here!