Category: B2B Content

Three B2B marketing practices driving me crazy this week


Some B2B marketing best practices are costly or complex. For example, B2B lead generation that uses direct mail is a best practice as it’s always proven to work better than email marketing. But it is much more complex and costly than email. I understand it when B2B marketers do not follow best practices because of budget or time constraints.

CrazyHowever, there are many instances when B2B marketing best practices are not followed — but could easily be without additional cost or effort. Frankly, that drives me crazy. Here are just three of those practices.

Practice #1
A colleague forwarded me a link to a 17-page white paper on the topic of email marketing. The copy consists of long, heavy paragraphs of information all printed in a soft gray color. I need a magnifying glass to read it. Even then, the experience won’t be pleasant. To be effective, content should be not only informative, but readable. That means dark type on a light background.

Practice #2
A B2B marketing contact of mine wanted his company’s sales phones to ring and decided to offer a “free assessment” to help make that happen. He added a gift incentive for a qualified call to make the offer even more powerful. This offer stands very nicely on its own and can be communicated quickly and easily. However, the powers that be at his company insist that there be product sales material in the package and in the message. This addition makes the mailing package come off as a product pitch and not a “no-strings-attached” offer, which does not follow best practices and is likely to reduce response.

Practice #3
I lost an argument this week over putting more than one call to action in a lead generation email. Offering case studies is great. Also offering a Webinar in the same email effort is sure to diminish response to both the content and the Webinar. Everyone who has tested one call to action versus two has seen this result; thus, one call to action is always the best practice.

True B2B marketing best practices have been tested and proven to maximize response and/or achieve an acceptable cost per response based on the potential sales revenue. When these practices are not followed, but could be, B2B marketers do more than just drive me crazy, they reduce their company’s bottom line.

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B2B marketing that uncovers hot leads & builds involvement.


LinkedIn may have flaws and spam problems at times, but the ability it gives us to meet and share ideas with colleagues all over the world is wonderful.

One of my new LinkedIn acquaintances, Tracy Johnson, President of Spotted Dog Promotions, recently sent me an article he wrote about “Contests and your Marketing Strategy.”

What he has to say fits right into a tactic that I strongly believe is necessary in today’s B2B marketing. That is the importance of getting attention and standing apart from the competition by getting prospects “involved.”

Contest WinnerTracy’s presentation talks mostly about using contests to get attention in social media and for branding. He makes a strong case. But since my focus and expertise is in outbound B2B marketing and direct response marketing, I see contests also as an inviting way to generate a response.

Content is the primary device used in B2B marketing these days. It’s smart and it works. But just reading white papers, guides, blogs and attending Webinars — even watching videos — can get pretty tedious after a while. Contests add excitement and interest to making contact with a prospective new customer. They even allow B2B marketers to add a bit of fun and personality to their communications.

There’s no reason to think B2B buyers won’t take the time to participate in contests. They are humans, after all, who love to measure or test their expertise. The prizes can be related to the product or service being sold — or be simple gifts that could be tied to a benefit-related theme.

As Tracy explains in his article, contests are also great devices for gathering valuable sales data:

“You can increase sales and learn more about your customers, their perceptions and behaviors, along with their intent to purchase products in your industry category via embedded surveys in your contest entry form. These surveys can identify prospects, generate hot leads or provide insight into your audience. One of our affiliates in the travel industry recently attracted over 20,000 leads to a contest, 97% of whom answered three multiple-choice questions that identified their interests in travel. This is a valuable list of qualified leads that turns into new revenue.”

Even though he uses a B2C example here, B2B marketers can easily imagine how a short survey can be used to find out if a prospect has a need for their product or service.

I’ll bet that many B2B marketers would never think of doing a contest. The reason being that contests don’t appear to be serious and might reflect poorly on the company. I disagree. If the contest is well planned and ties into the company’s brand and product focus, it’s a fresh and effective way to draw attention to its solutions and to get its prospects involved.

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Why anyone can use video in B2B marketing & why they should.


With all the things we do to make B2B marketing interesting, attention-getting and memorable, it’s a fact that there’s nothing like video. Video personalizes and humanizes communication in a way that words and even still pictures cannot do. It adds a human touch to marketing messaging that can be beat only by a face-to-face meeting. I’m not diminishing words and pictures, but, living in a world raised on television and movies, we’ve all been trained to respond to moving and talking pictures.

The arrival of YouTube in 2005 has made it remarkably easy for anyone to put video on the Internet, even a small B2B business like mine. In fact, I did just that in 2012 when my SEO resource, SharpNet Solutions, recommended that I could boost my Website’s SEO performance by adding video. Which it did.

I was so pleased with the result and with the company I chose to do the work that I recommended to the San Diego Direct Marketing Association (SDDMA) that they invite Greg McKinney, Founder and President of Webstorytellers, to be a speaker at one of their luncheon events. So, on Tuesday, I joined my fellow SDDMA members to hear what he had to say. Here are some of the highlights:

Why use video — the stats.*
If B2B marketers are not yet convinced about using video, these powerful stats may convince them. These numbers are based on reality today and don’t even include the projections on the huge future of video:

  • The average user’s visit to a text-and-image-based Website lasts only 43 seconds. For a Website with video, the average lasts 5 minutes and 50 seconds.
  • Customers who watch videos of products or services are 85% more likely to make a purchase.
  • 75% of executives surveyed say they watch work-related videos on business-related Websites at least weekly. More than half watch work-related videos on YouTube at least weekly.
  • 65% of senior executives have visited a vendor’s Website after watching a video.
  • It’s estimated that 75% of U.S. smartphone users watch online video on their smartphones and 26% of them do so every day. 50% of tablet users watch online video content.

Ways to use video.
There are many ways to use video. The best approach is to have multiple videos that cover all these options. Length should depend on the location and purpose of the video. Like all marketing issues, length should be tested for each product and market.

  • Testimonials and Customer Stories: One of my clients took advantage of a customer summit to record video success stories told by their customers. These were then edited into quick video testimonials for use on their Website. They also turned the full stories into case studies, which were put into a very popular content text-based offer.
  • Meet the CEO/President/Owner/Employee, etc.: There are few faster or more effective ways to personalize a B2B company to its prospects than showing an exec or employee talking about the company, its mission, its commitment, or the benefits it offers to customers and clients. Greg recommends that these recordings NOT be scripted.
  • Product Sales: One of my B2B ecommerce clients is adding video descriptions to products on their Website. They’ve made a huge impact on the company’s SEO and product sales.
  • Present the USP: B2B marketers can present their unique selling proposition (USP) in a quick video statement that adds life to the words.
  • Promote the Offer on Landing Pages: Videos produce better conversion from search engine ad or banner landing pages.
  • Enhance Page Content: A video can be put on every page of the site to support or enrich the content of that page with testimonials, product details, etc.
  • Video on Emails: Just like a video can enhance a Website, Web page or a landing page, it can do wonders for generating readership and response to prospect or customer emails.

What to pay for video.
The answer, of course, is, “It depends.” Companies can produce their own videos in-house for very little. But no company wants to project an amateur image. Using a professional video firm can significantly enhance the quality and results. Some resources are willing to do a simple animated video with voice over (like the one I had done) for around $1000. Using interviews, announcers, animation and more might cost an average of $5000 and up.

Video can be a cost-effective investment in better SEO, a more compelling Website and landing pages that convert. If I can do it, anyone can.

*The sources for the stats are available on request.
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When and why B2B marketing fails.


The team at Savvy B2B Marketing has a great blog with consistently valuable information and insight. Recently they printed a wrap-up of their “10 Most Popular Posts from 2012.” One of them is a post by Chris Fell, Managing Director and owner of G2M Solutions in Australia on “The Top 5 Reasons Your Great Content Fails.

The point that struck me most from this post is that great content fails because it’s not marketed properly. He’s right. A company may have the greatest content, the greatest product or the greatest service – but, if it is not marketed properly, it can be a failure.

B2B marketing can fail, too. When prospects call me and I ask about their past marketing, I often hear stories of programs that produced zero response. This got me thinking about what causes B2B marketing failures and what I know about how to help prevent those failures.

In the late 1990s, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a sabbatical living and traveling on a sailboat in Mexico’s Gulf of California — or, as it is called by the locals, the Sea of Cortez. In preparation for this extended life at sea, my honey and I spent several years reading every sailing and cruising magazine available. Every time we read about a death or disaster at sea, we talked about it to understand the cause and try to make sure it never happened to us. Our conclusion was that, with rare exception, every time there was a disaster, it related to lack of proper planning, preparation or a bad decision on the part of the people involved.

B2B marketing failures are no different. Most every time a B2B marketing program fails, it’s because of a lack of proper planning, preparation or a bad decision.

B2B marketers can read blogs like mine and white papers all day long about dozens of best practices you can follow to make B2B marketing perform better. B2B marketers spend lots of time and energy on copy and design because, frankly, that’s the fun part of marketing.

But the fact is, there are only three things that can ensure 100% failure — that is, zero response to a marketing program — and none of them have to do with copy or design. They are:

  1. Marketing is targeted at the wrong industry or titles or both.
  2. There is no content or other offer being made to incentivize a response and no clear call to action — or the offer is bad.
  3. The marketing is directed at too small a number of potential responders.

Most B2B marketing teams spend 80% of their time on copy and design and 20% on market research, targeting and offer selection. The irony is that it should be just the opposite.

Perfect copy and design and a great content offer to the wrong market will fail. Mediocre copy, design and content offered to the right market will still generate some leads, even if the program does not maximize potential response.

So the best insurance against experiencing a complete failure in B2B marketing is spending more time on the big picture and less time on the details.

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B2B marketing: The truth behind the trends for 2013–Part II


Last week, I judged the validity and value of the first ten of Hubspot’s “20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond.”

This trend report covers the issues that marketers are being encouraged to pay attention to and incorporate into their planning for 2013. Here is my take on items 11 through 20:

Good Information

“Email Lives On”
This prediction promotes that email will become “less batch and blast” and more personalized. That’s good, as the more any message can be personalized the more effective it will be.

“Marketing Technology Evolves”
I hope this prediction is correct. One point promises that marketing solutions, ROI measurement, etc., will become more integrated so marketers can get a true picture of what’s working and what is not.

“Content Crowdsourcing Grows”
Leveraging viral content created by prospects and customers adds an interesting and possibly money-saving resource to the B2B marketing tool chest.

“Marketing Gets Gamified”
Not sure about the product placement possibility mentioned in this prediction; however, making content more sticky by adding some entertainment value to it is just the tactic today’s B2B marketers need to stand out and get attention.

Nothing New

“Marketing Speaks Like a Human”
This trend implies that, because of social media, marketers can start talking to their prospects as one human to another. Speaking to buyers in a one-on-one tone, based on the buyer’s individual wants and needs, has always been a hallmark of successful target marketing.

“I’ll Take Some Content Curation, Please”
The creation of more targeted and compelling content has been and should be a line item on every B2B marketing budget.

“A Picture is Worth 1000 Words”
This point refers to the hot new picture posting sites on the Web such as Pinterest. However, since the above phrase has been recognized as an old Chinese proverb, it’s safe to assume that there’s nothing new about value of pictures. How effective these sites can be for B2B marketers remains to be seen.

“Context is Content’s New Best Friend”
There’s nothing new about choosing content, messaging, channels and placements based on the profile and past behavior of prospects and customers. It’s always been and will always be a best practice.

Don’t Believe It

“Inbound, Not Automation, Becomes Priority”
I disagree with the premise that automated marketing is, overall, a failure. I agree that many companies do not put in the strategy and follow-through necessary to make automation work as it should. But automating contact with prospects and trying to move them through the buy cycle based on their past actions is still better than not following up at all. Inbound marketing does not replace this on any level.

“Outbound Marketing Loses Traction”
This claim begins with these stats: “Mass marketing gets a 2% response rate, if you’re lucky. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, can produce conversion rates 10X higher or more.” This is playing with math, as it does not compare response rates or conversion rates. If done right, responders to outbound marketing effort also have high conversion rates. B2B marketers that eliminate outbound efforts to generate qualified leads will be out of work soon.

Technology and channels continue to grow and change. But integrated strategies and best practices will keep B2B marketers on top of those trends regardless of the changes.

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B2B marketing: The truth behind the trends for 2013


Hubspot, a leading inbound marketing provider, is a great resource for B2B marketing how-tos and best practices. I just took advantage of their offer to download the “20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond” they compiled.

These are the issues that marketers are being encouraged to pay attention to and incorporate into their planning for 2013. Looking ahead and planning is one of the critical steps in successful marketing.

However, as an advocate of best practices, I have taken it upon myself to judge the validity and value of these trends. Here are the first 10 divided into three categories:

Good Information

“Inbound Marketing Grows Enterprise-Wide”
Yes, this channel should and will integrate into all aspects of marketing and all departments in an enterprise.

“Social Media Gets Integrated”
Having the ability to integrate social media with contact databases to build additional behavior data is a big win.

“Be Mobile or Fall Behind”
It’s the newest channel and it’s growing rapidly. As reported in an earlier post, 84% of C-level executives see their email on their smartphone first.

“Social and Content Impact SEO Even More”
This reports that search engines are now paying more attention to social media and content than “having the right H1 tag.” Treating all digital efforts and channels as one make a company’s SEO far more powerful.

“Companies Look to Hire More Inbound Marketing Talent”
The stats presented show that “inbound marketing” jobs have increased 53% and “content marketing” jobs have increased by 26% since October 2011. This trend may increase.

“Big Data Gets Bigger — and Digestible”
Data has always been the part of marketing that is the big deal-breaker. Any new technology that allows for access to more customer behavior data is a sure way to improve the results of inbound and outbound marketing.

Nothing New

“Know Thy Customer”
B2B marketing has always been and always will be more effective the more that marketers and companies understand their customer and prospects. Marketing automations systems are helping companies learn more about the behavior and attitudes of their prospective customer, but targeted list sources, modeling and regression-analyses have been around to provide this insight for decades.

“Marketing Becomes More Accountable for Revenue Generation”
Few individuals in C-level management believe in the value of marketing. However, any marketing group that is incapable of tracking lead source all the way to sales is centuries behind the times.

“Marketers Embrace ‘Smart’ Content”
What’s new is the embracing part. “Smart” direct marketers have been matching content to a prospect’s position in the buy cycle for years. Recognizing return visitors or responders and directing content to them based on their behaviors is now and has always been a best practice.

Don’t Believe It

“‘Campaign’ Fade Out, Real-Time Marketing Is In”
This is another way of saying that social media will replace traditional outbound email and direct mail efforts. As long as marketers want to keep control over the number of qualified leads they can generate and the efforts remain cost-efficient, outbound marketing campaigns will not go away. If the incoming calls and emails to sales start slowing down, my clients just crank out another “campaign” and get them going again.

Paying attention to trends is important. However, good B2B marketers should remember that best practices in marketing have not changed.

Review of the last 10 trends will come next week.

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Use December to assess B2B marketing practices for 2013.


December is traditionally a slow month in which to conduct B2B marketing, with the possible exception of outbound calling. When B2B buyers are in the holiday spirit they are typically more likely to take calls. But since December isn’t great for marketing, it’s the perfect month to assess B2B marketing plans and practices for 2013.

For 2013, MarketingProfs is predicting the continued rise of content marketing. Another Marketing is predicting a greater return to offline channels and the increased value of mobile. In fact, all of the predictions for 2013 support the continued importance of integrated marketing. That is, being everywhere a B2B prospect or customer might be and not putting all of one’s B2B marketing eggs in one basket.

So now is the time for B2B marketers to assess how well they are following best practices — then to update their marketing plans for 2013. Here are three areas that might be worth assessing:

  1. Analyze if the targeting being used is missing any huge potential for growth and sales in 2013. Here are a few tips on how to do this: “Is your B2B marketing barking up all the right trees?
  2. Evaluate how well the Website supports the online brand and generates involvement on the part of the visitor by reviewing “Is anything missing from your online B2B brand?
  3. Evaluate overall B2B marketing messaging to make sure it’s consistent from channel to channel. Then check it for best practices in “B2B marketing’s 10 most common copy mistakes.”

B2B marketing is a process of reaching the right people with the right messaging and using the tools and tactics that have been proven to generate leads and convert them into a qualified pipeline. B2B marketers can use December to make sure 2013 doesn’t miss one opportunity to generate leads, support growth and make a big impact on the bottom line.

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B2B marketing content that disappoints.


One of our favorite genres in my Netflix-viewing household is action films. Like all films, however, to be memorable they need to contain more than action. They need characters one cares about so that the action has meaning.

It continues to amaze us how many of the films we get are disappointing. Regardless of how much action these movies contain, the characters do not resonate, the plot is weak or meaningless, the script is poor, and the acting is often amateurish. Fortunately, for movie makers, there are plenty of viewers out there who will pay to see action for the sake of action, so the movies that disappoint us are still money-makers.

That’s not true for B2B marketing content.

Regardless of the form in which the content is delivered — white paper, video, podcast, guide, interactive form — it must satisfy multiple criteria or it will not be a money-maker. It must add value, be well written, and be formatted in a way that is inviting and doesn’t diminish readability. If the content does not deliver what has been promised, or adds no value to the prospect, it reflects poorly on the B2B company that promoted it.

Adding any one of these seven elements to B2B marketing content ensures that it will have value as a lead-generation tool.

  1. Ideas and usable take-aways on how to do something better
  2. Insight into what’s happening that could affect future practices
  3. Introduction to new ways of doing things
  4. Case studies of how peers are handling challenges or critical issues
  5. Checklists or assessments that help prospects determine how well they are handling a task or challenge
  6. Benchmarks or standards being achieved in a given industry
  7. Ways to calculate ROI or other metrics

Offering content is a solid way to generate leads for B2B companies. Unlike action films, however, content for the sake of content doesn’t cut it.

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Great B2B marketing ideas you may have missed.


The rising number of visitors to this blog is not only good for my ego, but also indicates that more and more B2B marketers out there are interested in knowing about and following B2B marketing best practices.

It occurred to me, that with many readers taking the day off to celebrate the great day of our nation’s independence, it might be time to remember this blog’s great history. It seems a perfect time to expose some of the more popular earlier posts to new visitors who may have missed them.

So below are links to five of my earlier posts that remain the most popular on this site. Note that getting “B2B marketing ideas” does seem to be a theme.

Three Great B2B Marketing Ideas I Read in (OMG) Print Media.

  • One over-the-top creative idea that was a big hit
  • Ideas for writing more powerful B2B marketing email subject lines
  • Report on the goals driving IT decision-makers and how they affect B2B marketing copy

Two simple B2B marketing ideas I wish I’d thought of.

  • Making it easy and inviting for prospects to access and share business/product information
  • Adding a powerful Web page that boosts communication and SEO

Five B2B marketing ideas you can implement (almost) instantly.

  • Boost content downloads
  • Increase landing page performance
  • Lighten the burden of creating nurturing content
  • Get a longer life out of email and direct mail content offers
  • Get better results by using the word FREE in subject lines and emails

The two biggest B2B marketing campaign essentials.

  • Targeting
  • Tracking

Bad thoughts that block B2B marketing success.

  • I’m reaching everyone I need to reach with email
  • Social media is the only way to go today
  • We tried that and it didn’t work

I wish all marketers out there a happy and safe Independence Day observance full of fun and festivities, and many years of successful B2B marketing using today’s best practices.

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Great B2B content deserves greater B2B marketing.


As a B2B marketer trying to pay attention to what other marketers are doing, I see so much stuff that it’s hard to really grab my attention, but someone did today and I’m excited to share it with you.

It’s not a new idea, but I rarely see it used — and in this case it was done so very well. The offer is educational content. There’s nothing new or exciting about that. What was so well done, though, was how they got me to download it.

The sender was Symantec, which now owns VeriSign. The B2B content offer was a white paper on “Best Practices and Applications of TLS/SSL.”

The email grabbed me at the subject line by saying, “Take the trivia challenge. Get an 8GB USB.”

Sorry, but that’s a temptation I can’t resist — the challenge even more so than the flash drive. The headline in the email tempted me further with, “Think you’re smart about online security? Prove it.” How could I say no? How could anyone in IT not take this opportunity to prove to themselves, once again, how much they know?

After completing the challenge (I missed only two answers, which is probably pretty good for a non-techie), I receive a second email inviting me to download the white paper. The gift incentive made it more agreeable to fill out the short “who am I” form required.

The design was upbeat, the message short and clear, plus the campaign included an opportunity to generate an immediate inquiry by stating, “If you have any questions about online security, feel free to contact us at 1-XXX-XXX-XXXX or 1-XXX-XXX-XXXX, option 3.”

I don’t know how this campaign performed, but from my perspective, it followed most best practices. It effectively used the strong B2B marketing tactic — interaction. B2B marketers who can get their prospects “involved” in an activity with them and their brand are one step closer to building a connection and a relationship. It’s good marketing.

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