Posts tagged: B2B Content

B2B marketing that talks “Outside-In” not “Inside-Out”

A few weeks ago, a colleague forwarded a post — “Better SEO through Integrated Content Marketing,” by Scott Fasser — that was on the Optify blog in 2012.

In the post, Scott recognizes that SEO is no longer a separate tactic but an integral part of B2B marketing strategy. He discusses four essentials to maximizing SEO. These include effectively using personas, which I discussed recently in “Personas: They’re not just for B2B marketing anymore.” He covers the importance of addressing all B2B marketing buy cycles, as well as the long list of the social media elements that are now part of any successful SEO initiative.

One point, however, was something I knew but had never seen presented in such a clear and definable way. That was his advice to “Talk Outside-In vs. Inside-Out.”

Here are the highlights of his important point:

“How you talk about yourself and market yourself dramatically impacts how well you are found via organic channels — especially SEO. If your website is driven by a brand perspective that creates new phrases to describe what you do that is unique to your communication, you are not creating a true differentiation in your product, but new words to describe something that prospects don’t understand.

Marketing AutomationA major marketing automation company has positioned themselves as a provider of ‘Revenue Performance Management’ software. This term could mean many different things to different functional perspectives, but the core term for this category of service is marketing automation. ‘Revenue performance management’ has about 590 searches in Google in North America per month while ‘marketing automation’ has 14,800. This tells us that marketing automation is a better known term and more people are looking for this type of solution than ‘revenue performance management.’

The lesson here is to review your current and future messaging from the point of view of a persona that does not know about your brand, focus on true differentiation/value proposition and create content that they will understand without needing an explanation. Finding that balance between pushing new concepts and terms vs. serving the market where it exists today is an important input into your content marketing planning.”

This point was strongly supported in an SEO copywriting training session I attended. It presented the background on Google’s SEO algorithms and why it’s important for top positions in Google to use the terms that customers are using. This is the same in all B2B marketing copy and messaging.

To truly connect with customers, it’s essential to use the words and phrases that they know and to always speak from their point of view.

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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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B2B content marketing: Be noticed in this attention economy.

A white paper I recently downloaded from Marketo, “From Creation to Conversion: Promoting Content to the Right Audience,” turned out to be one of the best guides I’ve read on B2B content marketing best practices. The paper provides all the step-by-step “must dos” for creating and using content properly in this “attention economy.”

They call it the “attention economy” even though demanding attention is not new. It has always been one of marketing and advertising’s most important concepts. The first principle we are taught in marketing and advertising is the AIDA acronym. That is, all marketing must be created to (in this order) grab Attention, generate Interest, build Desire, then call the reader to Action.

Today, however, thanks to the Internet, smart phones and more, demands for our attention has multiplied tenfold.

The secret to knowing how to get attention is, of course, for B2B marketers to get inside the heads of the people they are trying to reach. Who are they? Where do they work? What do they do? What do they care about? What do they know? What are they comfortable with? And, of course, what are their biggest pains?

There’s nothing new in B2B marketing about making subject lines, headlines, teasers, ads, emails, content, etc., relevant to the reader. The Marketo White Paper addresses this important point. The problem is that most B2B marketers go halfway in making their marketing relevant.

Next time a B2B marketer is out there trying to grab attention, they should look at this list and see how many of these important elements of relevance they can include in their content and the messaging they use to market the content. They should also consider how many versions they can create to be as relevant as possible to each individual prospect.

  • Industry or field
  • Type of business
  • Title or area of responsibility
  • Name of company or organization
  • Individual name of prospect
  • Number of employees, size of company
  • Current solution being used (for some companies this can be determined)
  • Partnerships and associations with other firms, where appropriate
  • Location, where appropriate

Getting attention isn’t as difficult when the message or the content offer relates directly to the person trying to be reached. It’s the surest way to get noticed in this attention economy.

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Where B2B marketing personas meet the road.

Knowledgeable B2B marketers know that the better lead generation or nurturing content and messaging focuses on the needs and interests of targeted individuals, the more successful it will be. That understanding has produced the need to create prospect personas.

As defined on Wikipedia, “A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character.”

Personas provide B2B marketers with a strong visual “target person” to keep in mind when creating marketing strategies and messaging.

Since personas are typically built through interviews (not real-world testing) they can be misleading. As respected marketing expert Ardath Albee asks in her recent blog post, Can B2B Marketers Become Content Whisperers?, “If one person says so, is it true? How about 10? Or 100?”

Interviews have value, but real-world response to various testing of content and messaging is far more reliable.

The unfortunate fact is that many B2B marketers don’t have a large enough prospect universe to conduct statistically valid testing. Many do not have the bandwidth to conduct extensive interviews or the budget to hire an outside firm to do it for them.

The solution is to trust your knowledge of human nature. Although there may be nuances discovered in the process of building personas, there are still a number of overriding human traits that are consistent within B2B titles, regardless of industry. Individual industries may drive some overarching goals. Healthcare may want to improve patient care. Service firms may want to satisfy customers and build loyalty. But when the rubber meets the road, most people’s motivation to act comes down to very personal needs and goals.

Therefore, B2B marketers won’t go wrong if they build their marketing strategy and messaging on these basic human needs and goals:

Owner of private company
* Make more money.
* Gain respect and recognition.
* Gain market share.

CEO/President of public company
* Increase share prices.
* Produce growth.
* Increase market share.
* Gain respect and recognition.

CFO/Controller
* Lower costs.
* Minimize risk.
* Get a high ROI on solutions purchased.

CIO/Department or Division Manager
* Increase department productivity.
* Reduce risk.
* Reduce costs.
* Get more done with less effort.
* Meet goals faster.

Workers
* Reduce effort involved in doing their job.
* Minimize mistakes.
* Gain respect and recognition.

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