All posts tagged B2B Marketing

Robot Sales Teams (And Why They Won’t Work)

"Mini" Vending Machine

Technology has enabled so much innovation and growth for Marketing and Sales so quickly that it’s easy to lose sight of the people behind the technology. These technologies are often discussed in a way that conjures up images of robot salespeople and giant vending machines that work independently of human interaction. Much of the technology is focused on creating a more individual experience for each person; various tools track and measure how people interact with brands; and people build and use and improve that technology. The human role in the technology suite is obvious but still often goes overlooked.

Technology designed to align Marketing and Sales does not automatically result in better alignment. A new campaign management tool does not immediately result in more successful campaigns. Having the best CRM and lead management suite will not guarantee better customer satisfaction. There must be people at the helms of these tools who are equipped to get the most out of them. The human element is a foundation for successful technology use because it is people who use the technology and they use it to interact with other people. At a fundamental level, the success of technology is still based on people.

Marketing and Sales can see better alignment by integrating lead management technologies; campaigns are much more successful when every element is controlled and optimized; and customers benefit from better data management and communication between departments. Technology can make everyone (at least somewhat) more successful and productive, but the tools are only valuable if people know how to use them. And this doesn’t mean the bare minimum; people should really be experts in every tool they use.

Every single person who is or will be using any piece of technology should understand what it does, why it’s being used, how it will help, and who to go to for help or further training. Training should take place in a low-risk environment where people can find out for themselves what a piece of technology can and can’t do, and they should be rewarded for their discoveries. They should be given opportunities to push the limits of the tools. If a new tool is introduced, users should be given time to get comfortable with the tool and encouraged to explore the full reaches of its capabilities. That’s when technology improves: the field testing. And many times, that’s where the real insights are uncovered.

If people are using a tool every day, they will have ideas on how it might improve. If they have the skills and the knowledge to experiment with the tool, there is a chance to capitalize on that improvement. If people only understand the bare minimum, that chance is never realized. When everyone is well trained and empowered to experiment, technology can drastically improve performance and productivity, but the key element is the people! We’re not at the stage of intelligent, responsive networks of robot vending machines…yet.

Improving Student Enrollment with B2B Marketing Strategies

classroom desks

The problems of increased competition for students, staff, and research funding are putting a strain on higher education institutions, forcing many to completely re-invent their recruiting methods. With more higher education institutions to choose from, students, staff and donors are having an equally hard time connecting with any one institution; the competition is negatively affecting both parties.

To better serve their customer (i.e. the student or staff or donor), higher education institutions can learn something from the many similarities between their challenges and the challenges in B2B marketing. Consider, if you will, how the challenges of increasing enrollment in the academic sector and improving lead conversion in the business-to-business sector face are really very similar.

B2B and higher education marketing have several common dilemmas, in fact. Both have to market to a variety of individuals, all on an individual level; each must appeal to every customer in a personal way. This is a challenge of mass-customization. Both are plagued by extremely constrictive budgets to achieve their goals, prompting questions of revenue management and ROI. Both are highly focused on conversion; a primary objective is getting more prospects from the “interest” to the “purchase” stage. The ways that B2B marketers approach these problems can reveal tricks for how higher education marketers might do the same.

B2B solves the problem of variety by ignoring it. Where there are no common factors in demography or geography, there are common factors in behavior. While a final purchase decision is made on different variables for each customer, most move though the same buyer cycle when considering that purchase. If you know that buyer journey, you can track what leads a prospect to become a customer, or a student.

B2B marketers have customer life-cycle management tools that they use to track this buyer journey and in fact, many education institutions are already taking advantage of these tools for their own purposes. The data capture available through many of these tools makes it easy to track current student behavior, which gives insights into how to target prospective students. Further adaptation of these tools represents a huge opportunity for higher education.

These same tools also help B2B marketers solve some of their resource-restriction problems. By using a more robust analytics system, marketers are able to identify their “ideal” customer and target them specifically. Without superfluous ad spend on uninterested prospects, marketers also have more money to spend on their ideal customer. Consider the benefits if higher education institutions could identify the “ideal” student and target that student exactly where she is, providing her all the information she needs, before she even asks for it. This would also reduce costs in head-count, as fewer active marketers would be needed to connect with more prospective customers.

With student personas and an idea of the typical student life-cycle, higher education marketers will be able to spot potential students much earlier in their search for an institution and thus guide them to that purchase decision. Not only will marketers be more effective, we will be using fewer of them, and their jobs will be easier. Taking a page out of the B2B marketing hand-book will improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of higher education; we give that strategy an A+.

B2B Marketing Tips from the Funnelmentals Panel Discussion

Bizo’s B2B Funnelmentals event in San Francisco made for an exciting day; we loved all the insightful presentations and conversations. As co-sponsors of the event, we were invited to participate in a panel discussion on Modern Marketing, and the conversation uncovered lot of great insights; insights we want to share with you.

Bizo has done a fantastic job of summarizing the most valuable learnings from the full event, but we also wanted to answer some of the questions we didn’t get to during the panel. Our own Ryan Abreo has summarized the main insights from the discussion and even included a few bonus questions that weren’t answered Thursday. We hope you find it helpful.

Q: Where is content marketing headed? We’re all swimming in white papers, webinars, blog posts, videos, and Tweets; where should we be focusing our content development energy? What’s next?

With Content Marketing we’re trying to drive engagement, showcase thought leadership, increase brand awareness, support/accelerate the ‘Buyer’s Journey’ and so on; there are lots of objectives.

The biggest challenge we’re trying to overcome is content saturation and therefore prospect atrophy. The important thing then is to provide the right balance of quality and quantity: not too much content or too little, but always relevant. To nail down an efficient content marketing strategy, try to do the following:

  1. Make an impression – Ask yourself: how am I being unique? Ask yourself: is this content I would share with a relevant audience in my social network? Ask: what is my Content Reputation? Ask: is this content high quality and interesting, or mediocre and boring?
  2. Simplify Content Discovery/Curation – people have short attention spans, you have to be thoughtful about getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time, (and increasingly now) through the right channel. You have to combat content saturation with high-value, but “digestible” content.
  3. Mine Internal SME’s – content creation is expensive but there is definitely an “internal expert” within your organization; someone with great ideas but no bandwidth or competency for developing content. Facilitate content creation by making it easy on them.

Q: How has your own “marketing stack” (your CRM, marketing automation, analytics, DMP, and other tools and software) evolved over the past 24 months?

There has been a lot more off-platform, value-add development. The gaps between the services many marketing technologies offer reveal huge integration opportunities. Tools for consolidating the view of the customer and managing leads throughout the cycle will be the next big drivers of growth.

An interesting way to broaden that consideration is to look at the evolution of the entire ‘Sales and Marketing Stack’. The past 12 months have seen a climate of aggressive acquisition: Oracle [Eloqua]; SFDC [ExactTarget]; Adobe [Neolane]; Microsoft extending Dynamics via 2012 acquisitions of MarketingPilot and Social.

For the short term there are, and will continue to be, Apps or Services that extend or improve functionality as we evolve towards a “one platform” system; for now they are still fundamentally different products and services. In the long term, disparate marketing arms like social marketing, automation, CRM, and revenue performance management will be consolidated under one central program, with a slew of integrative benefits:

  • Data Management (one ‘master’ contact and account DB)
  • Closed Loop Reporting
  • Integration Simplification
  • Better Automation, Segmentation

Q: With the rising importance of technology in marketing, how have you changed your marketing organization? It seems that every company’s marketing organization is different. Is there an optimal way to structure our marketing team? Will a best practice organizational template evolve over time?

Modern Marketing exists because there is a Modern Customer. There’s been a rise in technology to support engagement with the Modern Customer, but it’s still valuable to keep a “customer-centred vs. technology-centred” view when considering operational changes to your Marketing Organization.

Yes, you will need technologists to run your technology, but you will also need customer service experts to connect with customers on a deeper level. Best practices are always first practices; this balance of technology- and customer-centrism will help you continue to evolve over time. Two important changes that support this balance are:

  1. Adopting a more Agile Campaign Methodology– really get focused on right message, right customer, at the right time, through the right channel.
    • OREO – “You can still Dunk in the Dark”
      • 15ppl in War Room – Decision Makers, Social Media Team, Web Design Team
      • 15K Retweets, 20K Likes on FB, trending for hours after the game
      • Actionable Insight: Knowing 36% of people “second screen”
  2. Being Clinical about Testing – build your “marketing strategy” from the bottom up with a firm basis in testing. This means WAY more than A/B testing a subject line, evolving away from HiPPO or even conforming to ‘best practices’; it means finding out what works for you based on a rigorous process of hypothesis and testing.
    • Obama’s Digital Team – Crowd-sourced Fundraising for Re-Election Campaign ($500M in Donations). Key Insights:
      • Test – Do not Trust your Instincts
      • Create a Culture of Continuous Testing

Q: What are your biggest challenges right now?

There are several big challenges in Modern Marketing which are really manifestations of the same problems marketing has always faced.

  • Proving Value/ROI – “not getting the most out of our technology investments”
  • Poor relationship with sales/combatting low credibility with Sales
  • Difficulty getting past execution to developing an actual Marketing Strategy
  • Data Acquisition: collecting it, analyzing it, acting on it

A Best Practice is a First Practice

Best Practice Pinboard

In marketing, a best practice is an excellent stepping stone towards innovation, but it is not an effective steady state; the value of a message and its means of delivery both degrade with exposure.

Today, many corporations are leveraging technology as a vehicle to communicate with their customers. However, many marketing departments simply employ ‘best practice’ configurations of that technology. They see the industry standard as a utopia of efficiency; a way to guarantee effective technology spend. This is simply not the case.

In many cases, a best practice is a process whose effectiveness is not negatively impacted by its use. In other words, in these cases, continued implementation of the same best practice does not make it any less effective. But there are also cases where effectiveness has a sort of half-life. Consider two common medical best practice scenarios:

1)      Apply direct pressure to a wound to slow bleeding
2)      Administer antibiotics to assist fighting a bacterial infection

Consistent application of the former technique will typically never hinder its effectiveness, as millions of repetitions of this practice, even on the same patient, will generally yield the associated outcome. This is a static best practice. It largely holds true until a better practice is developed to replace it. In the latter scenario, this is not the case. Some bacteria can become resistant to certain antibiotics – largely believed to be attributed to repeat exposure []. As with marketing messages and techniques, this type of best practice is a dynamic best practice – it can degrade with use.

Marketing and Antibiotics
Similar to the antibiotics scenario, the effectiveness of a Marketing Best Practice is directly proportional to the frequency of its usage. Consider this sequence:

  • Marketing technology is rampant[].
  • Innovative marketing departments create processes (message / media combinations) which prove to be effective.
  • Software companies aggregate these processes, defining and sharing ‘best practices’ to increase adoption of their software.
  • Marketing departments are exposed to best practices and begin to mimic them.
  • End customers are continually exposed to the same best practices (the same message/media combination) from multiple brands across multiple channels.
  • The effectiveness of the marketing dwindles with each exposure.

In an attempt to force better results out of the process, marketing departments begin to put undue pressure on content of the message, when the underlying problem is that they are simply mimicking a stale best practice. The audience has received the same message through the same media that has been used so many times before. Any novelty has simply worn off. No content, regardless of quality, can be expected survive this scenario.

A best practice approach is still a dependable methodology, when implementing technologies for the first time. These foundational practices are a great way to ensure you start on the right path. That said; do not expect consistently heroic results from these configurations and practices – especially if your competitors have already exposed your shared audiences to the exact same techniques.

The Marketing Medicine
To tackle this problem, it is critical for a marketing department to foster an environment where processes can be explored and tested against other ideas. This is especially critical for a brand who wants to stay ahead of their competition.

There are some simple first steps to transforming your marketing processes to encourage and drive innovation. They can be done in parallel:

1)      Build a best practice configuration of your marketing technologies
2)      Construct a data-driven, cyclical approach to your campaign planning[]

Building a data-driven, scientific approach to your marketing planning will foster an environment where information can be leveraged to make innovative decisions. A campaign planning structure which includes hypotheses and true experimentation allows organizations to break out from the paralysis that can be caused by relying too heavily on a ‘best practice’ approach.

This cyclical approach draws attention to competitive analysis and an audience-focused message. It complements the KPIs that already exist for marketing effectiveness, but also creates a framework for continued marketing success. Corporate in the infancy of leveraging technology for their marketing efforts actually have an advantage: they have the ability to leap-frog competition who have settled into a best (over-used) practice scenario.

The brands of tomorrow will be shaped by their ability to evolve best practices to better meet their customers’ needs. Those that hope to be lucky enough to continually stumble upon the best content and campaigns will inevitably become obsolete. It is only those brands and marketers that empower themselves to innovate consistently who will succeed.

6 Reasons Why You Need Content Marketing

2013_04_18_Content_Marketing

Filling the funnel with new prospects for marketers means the need to insert a brand’s message in front of as many prospects as possible, as often as possible.  The effectiveness of this “interruptive approach” (ads for print, TV, radio, direct mail, online display ads) is declining as today’s consumers are overwhelmed with messaging and look beyond ads to stay informed.  Interruptive messaging is now being replaced by engagement – defined as content-rich, two-way communication between brands and their customers.   Continue reading →