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.