July 9, 2015

Vantage Points

“Email is familiar. It’s comfortable. It’s easy to use. But it might just be the biggest killer of time and productivity in the office today.”Ryan Holmes, Internet entrepreneur

Way back in January, my colleague Eric Wittlake asked me and our fellow BNJ coworkers what our predictions for the year 2015 would be. My immediate response was that we would see B2B nurture communications expand beyond the realm of email and into social, display, mobile or traditional channels – like phone, mail and events. This was my prediction, but more accurately it was my HOPE for 2015. Many B2B marketers are relying too heavily on email as the only channel for nurturing their precious prospects and customers.

Without doubt, there is “email fatigue” – and it’s having an impact on our ability to connect with and engage buyers. And, recent conversations with top B2B marketers only validate what we’re all experiencing – our ability to engage with our audiences through emails is declining.

So, why aren’t we rapidly making a shift?

Is it lack of technology? Not likely.

Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) are purpose built to disseminate communications through dozens of channels (beyond emails).

It’s time to make our nurture communications work harder.

Three Actions to Boost Your Nurture Campaign Efficiency:

With a plethora of channels at our fingerprints, and the ability to up-level the relevancy of email, there are many options for communicating with prospects and customers in your database.

Consider this short list a great starting point for you to consider:

  1. Make Email Work Harder.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to implement better subject lines. An email is relevant only if it gives our prospects a reason to care about what the email will say. According to Salesforce.com, 33 percent of email recipients open email based on subject line alone.

There are dozens of other best practices for email marketing – the ones we know and trust (strong call to action, succinct and relevant communications, limited file size and graphics). There are also dozens of resources (although you’re welcome to ping me) to help you optimize your email success – including this fun Infographic from MarketingProfs website.

  1. Leverage Your Email Lists to Extend Into New Channels!

An email database can serve us well to connect with our buyers in channels beyond email. Not only does this mitigate the risk of being single threaded (by only using email), but it can give us a considerable lift in metrics around engagement and conversion.

A few (but not at all exhaustive) ideas include:

  • Banner display (matched to our email list). Leverage banners to promote content or other calls-to-action. There are many ad networks that enable this targeted marketing – including AdRoll. LinkedIn is also a very smart option for retargeting your audience, but operates a little differently in terms of exact “match” to your list.
  • Social (also matched to our email list) with networks like Facebook and twitter.
  • And, not to be forgotten, are traditional channels: think direct mail (a postcard, a letter or any physical format).
  1. Go Beyond Your Email!

Once we’ve taken steps to make email work harder and to leverage your email list to extend into new channels, there are many ways to increase engagement with our prospects and customers (through channels other than email). For instance, we can start building your audience through opt-ins to an RSS feed or through applications.

And, in the spirit of sharing – I’d love to hear how your expanding your reach BEYOND email (specifically to nurture your known prospects and customers).

No. Email as a primary channel for nurturing you’re prospects and customers is not dying anytime soon. However, we have a fantastic opportunity to improve its performance and reach our audience through a more diverse and effective set of channels.

5 Hot Topics for Top B2B Enterprise Marketers

June 23, 2015

Chutes & Ladders (1)

Remember this wonderful Milton Bradley Chutes and Ladders game board from your childhood? The illustrations on the board show good deeds and their rewards as well as bad deeds and their consequences. By spinning a wheel, you either advance up a ladder or descend down a chute. I used to love Chutes and Ladders but have always considered it simply a beloved childhood game, nothing more.

However, the game took on a whole new meaning for me when I participated in a round-table exercise with key B2B marketing executives from companies like Adobe, Microsoft, Tata Consultancy and Cisco (thanks to facilitator Julie Schwartz, SVP of Research & Thought Leadership at the ITSMA).

The game framework was a perfect analogy for discussing key organizational “ladders” that must be in place for B2B marketers to soar and “chutes” to demonstrate the pitfalls that must be avoided.

There are five “chutes” and “ladders” that I consider “big ones” – because of the reaction I witnessed during this round table from many of the best and brightest B2B marketers and from the prevalence I see of these topics through my client work with leading B2B organizations. Each of these topics can be either “ladders” or “chutes” depending on how well your organization has mastered them. Strengthening each of these aspects will help organizations climb the “ladder” of success, but neglecting any of them could result in falling down a “chute.”

  1. Organizational Change Management: This complex challenge is worthy of a post of it’s own. Two repeating themes here include:
    • Who Owns the Customer? Is it Sales? Marketing? Product Marketing? Someone else…? The reality is that EVERYONE owns the customer. However, in order for this to work, there needs to be a perfect alignment across the organization. Many of the points below are actually further proof that this is the #1 challenge for organizations looking to “win” and succeed with their customers! It’s not just alignment with Sales and Marketing – its organization-wide (although Sales and Marketing Alignment is a good starting point).
    • Changing Internal Perceptions: Historically, marketing has been viewed as a support function – but the tides are changing as data-driven CMO’s are using fact-based storytelling to show their value as strategic marketers.
  2. Defined and Aligned Success Metrics: One way to support the first point from above (organizational alignment) is to ensure that the entire organization is focused around success metrics. These metrics should include a 360-degree view ranging from revenue to customer satisfaction.
  3. Creating a Symphony of Systems: While cultural and structural change is critical to success, so are the systems that enable a true customer-centric experience. We’ve all had a glimpse of Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape (if you haven’t, it’s a MUST). Successful organizations need a roadmap to weave these critical pieces together to create the experience and to understand the data/insights needed in order to optimize the experience.
  4. Culture of Thirst and Experimentation: On the contrary, those organizations that loath failure will fail. Modern marketing is about taking risks, measuring outcomes and optimizing opportunities. It’s about using data to give insights about a next move.
  5. Data is KING! Having an eye for data is incredibly important, but also having the scientists who can capture, analyze and optimize it completes the recipe for success.

Which of these topics are “chutes” for your organization and which ones are the “ladders” to your success?  Are there other key “chutes” and “ladders” that you’re experiencing?

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Ready to ROCK the Wave of Modern B2B Marketing

June 11, 2015


When I first saw this quote, immediately it made me think about how modern B2B marketing is no different. We use data analytics to closely evaluate and give lift to what we’ve created in order to move forward. You never know what’s around the corner, so B2B marketers have to do our best to look back on what we’ve done in the past in order to get insights for the future.

Now I’m not a surfer – but I can feel the fear and exhilaration in this BIG WAVE.

But what’s the connection between B2B marketing and big waves?

To answer that question, I am reminded of a key theme from last week’s ITSMA Marketing Leadership Forum in Napa, CA. That is: as marketers, we are all experiencing a BIG WAVE of change.

Out of the gate, we were welcomed by ITSMA CEO, David Munn, and put to the challenge, “Are you ready to ride the Big Wave?” (No fear, there were no real waves involved). B2B marketing is one of the fields that constantly changes, and our current way of thinking is not immune to this. Modern B2B marketing is undergoing a shift that caters every aspect to the customer. Increasingly, we can see that the customer is becoming more self-directed and that there are a greater number of channels to engage them in. There are far more systems to enable engagement, measurement, and personalization than ever before, as well as a wide variety of ways to measure and analyze our data.

This may seem overwhelming and a HUGE challenge – but exhilarating if you can ride the wave!

To successfully ROCK this wave, marketing organizations need to bring their A+ game to the table and above all else: not be afraid of this wave of change.

Immediately I thought to myself, “I’m IN!”

So what does this model surfer look like?

Key characteristics – as shared by Munn – include:

  1. Change MORE than just marketing.For marketing to thrive (and ride), there’s a wide influence of change required within an organization. Understanding the roles and alignment between sales, marketing, products, operations and other key groups is essential.
  2. Drive to growth.While I see this visible in many of the organizations we work this – I presume it’s not ubiquitous. Marketing must have accountability for revenue across the whole buyer lifecycle.
  3. Move from tracking activities to predicting behavior.As social media scientist and writer for Hubspot, Dan Zarella so wisely says: “Marketing without data and technology is like driving with your eyes closed.” With the holy grail of data and technology, we can truly predict outcomes by smartly leveraging today’s best-in-breed technology solutions with data scientists who translate that data into stories.
  4. Expand the sphere of engagement, not just discrete touch points.Instead of limited moments of engagement; focus on the total customer experience. This could not be more true as campaigns are all about moments in time. But the customer experience is about a lifetime of engagement. We need to consider breaking the habit of investing our most valuable time and resources on acquisition, and instead focus as heartily on nurturing relationships with prospects and customers.
  5. Nurture relationships – NOT JUST LEADS.We must not forget that we are marketing to human beings. They are looking for trusted advisors to help move their business (and their own careers) forward. We need to engage and develop the entire relationship with that point in mind.

Of course, these items are all easier said then done.

So what are some actionable steps you can take to rock the wave?

ITSMA’s SVP of Research and Thought Leadership, Julie Schwartz, shared her recommendations to meet the challenge:

  1. Foster a culture of accountability!This isn’t a three or six month transformation – this is a long-term investment. Don’t look for a quick hit since this can take up to three years or more for large enterprises.
  2. Build trust in marketing and data.Then build even further trust by showcasing a compelling story to inform the data. CEOs want to know about their customers, and they want data to back up this point of view.
  3. Create business value – BEYOND campaigns and leads. Marketers who think in increments of campaigns and leads will quickly “wipe out” when the wave hits. Rather, FIRST focus on building relationships with customers. This will foster brand value and ultimately support revenue.

What other recommendations do you have from your organization to ready us for this BIG WAVE?

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Back to Basics for Great B2B Content Marketing

August 23, 2013
Content marketing “euphoria” is when your content is relevant, engaging and shared widely across the social sphere. Today, B2B modern marketing is progressing at a gallop – and it is easy to overcomplicate content marketing practices. Often it’s important to get back to basics – and take a moment to reflect on the essence of stellar content marketing (then, let the dream state appear).

Image credit: Content Marketing Institute

Here are six core tips for ensuring that your content marketing is great:
1.) Know your target
Having a grasp on a prospective audience enables messages to be tailored for greater relevancy. Analytics are a keystone of all marketing; giving special effort toward finding what is most impactful can be an important place to start in content marketing. Personas are an absolute staple! Check out my previous post on a persona developed for CIOs. By using trending topics, content optimization, and other tools, content marketers can make an educated guess on which topics will have the most relevance to a base of customers. Ultimately, if you want to know what to share with prospects, quit playing games and ask them directly! This can be done through comments, feedback, or surveys.
2.)  Tell a Story
Without a story, content marketing would be fragments without cohesion. When crafting great content, take a cue from English class and create a momentous beginning, middle, and end. A compelling story is one of the most effective tools marketers could use since it excites an audience while simultaneously making important points for a brand. Corning Glass did a great job of using this principal in a recent B2B campaign. In their video a day is shown in entirety- from wake to rest — and showcases a variety of products in high tech and innovative ways. This video has pulled in over 22 million views on YouTube by crafting a beginning, middle, and end which all demonstrate the product’s functionality.
3.) Make it a conversation starter
While social media is the dominant force of sharing, good old-fashioned word of mouth can also play a large role in the dispersal of content. Compelling content marketing should be engrossing enough to end up in conversation. Remember that your business buyer is human. Connect with him or her in an emotionally relevant way. A Serena Software Ad from a few years ago was provocative, interesting, and made people talk– I received it in an office email. As a general rule, the more engaging and conversational a topic is, the more it will be shared.
4.) Make it look good
Simply adding images to a long write up can boost appeal in a tedious article. Infographics are visual, straightforward, and easy to consume. As a result, infographics have great potential in going viral. A great example of a nice-looking piece of content marketing is Marketo’s B2B coloring book. This download took the notion that B2B marketing is boring and created an entertaining coloring book experience to demonstrate expertise.
5.) Make it consumable
A 40-page download in size 12 Times New Roman can cause a set of sore eyes and a dulled mind. If you can’t read it, you won’t share it. To make material readable create bullet points, numbered lists, and bold/color important take-aways. According to a study by the Nielsen Norman group, the average web user consumes only 20% of content on a web page. This means that it is crucial to make 100% of content downright fascinating so that whichever nugget of information is consumed leaves a great and lasting impression on the viewer. Vertical Response made a rap video spoof to promote their services, making their material consumable AND entertaining.
6.) Urge a Call to Action
Without this step the whole point of content marketing is lost. Once you’ve established an audience’s attention (and have them engaged) make sure to leave a viewer with a step for future engagement. To prevent a prospective relationship from losing steam, it is essential to encourage a call to action while an idea is still fresh in the viewer’s mind. Examples could include linking video to a website, inviting people to subscribe to your newsletter, or encouraging sharing. For Jive software Babcock & Jenkins created an email campaign featuring a firefly with words that read “The Spark Starts Here.” This invitation lead to a personalized Jive Intranet site, a fresh twist on a standard campaign email. Once on the site, a viewer could follow several invitations to engage.

Bottom Line:   There needs to be a reason to click a link or make a call. Content can do that. If prospects are going to want to share content, it needs spice, entertainment, and genuine human interest. With all forms of content marketing, brevity is key! If you are sharing something, you are putting your name and reputation on the line. If a friend clicks on a shared link it needs to be worthwhile and prompt a laugh, smile, or emotional response. If the content isn’t to the point, appealing, or enriched with images, it is not going to be shared.

I’d love to hear your feedback! Am I missing any basics?

Why The Best Modern Marketers Use Right and Left Brain

July 16, 2013

A good modern marketer is able to merge data with art, logic with imagination, and fact with hyperbole. Modern marketing should be a combination of both right- and left-brain marketing tactics.

Left-brain marketing includes marketing automation, analytics, and consumer insight gained through data and numbers.  It’s often thought to be a “black and white” approach lacking in passion. Meanwhile, without the “color” that right brain marketing provides, pitches would be without zest and personality, failing to capture or excite a prospective client. If a campaign doesn’t tingle your senses and thrill your mind, then it is lacking in the “color” or creativity component.

Why chose just one side?

Why choose just one side?

In today’s marketing environment there is no room for marketers who perform by isolating one side of the brain; the best modern marketers aptly blend both.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Sheryl Pattek, Forrester analyst and CMO blogger, recently echoed this sentiment in her article “2013 B2B CMO Imperatives,” which pinpoints 3 key trends:

  1. Use data to define the customers to obsess over and how to deliver value to them.
  2. Optimize marketing automation investments beyond email management.
  3. Activate a content marketing strategy across traditional and digital channels of communication.

While marketing automation requires left-brain analysis, content marketing employs right-brain creativity. Interestingly, the final criteria Sheryl discusses engages both sides of the brain. Focusing on data spurs customer insight, which helps drive persona development. In the end it takes right-brain analysis to put a face on the numbers and to understand the human aspects of your target audience.

As Sheryl states, “The ability to look beyond data to discover underlying patterns and trends creating actionable data-driven insights must be a part of the 2013 team’s core skills.”  This perspective impressed me and affirmed my thoughts, since I also feel that the days of using a one-sided approach must be left behind.

Using both right and left brain allows for a harmonious blend of art and data, just as good marketing should be. Emphasis on data spurs clear strategy and insight, while artistry captures attention and drives change.

I recently came across an interesting Marketo infographic that illustrates ways to identify right-brain vs. left-brain marketing. I definitely recommend checking it out, but keep in mind that the best marketing uses both lobes of our brains, rather than relying on one or the other.

What do you think? Is one side of the brain put to use more when it comes to marketing?

Top 5 Insights About the Rise of Content

December 12, 2012

It’s refreshing to see that content is becoming a core competency and a priority for organizations, according to BtoB Magazine.* As an agency focused on B2B, content has been a core piece of our client GTM planning for at least five years.

It seems to me that maybe there’s been a gap between recognizing the right approach and having the strategic-meets-journalistic expertise to actually develop great content. The good news for businesses looking to bridge this gap is that there’s some great information out there about how to do so. This post offers a quick roundup of trends and best practices.

Excerpted from Sirius Decisions Core Strategy Report, Building a Content Strategy

Excerpted from Sirius Decisions Core Strategy Report, Building a Content Strategy


1. Best of breed marketers’ No. 1 challenge is producing enough content.

A recent BtoB study “Content Marketing: Ready for Prime Time,” credits marketers that invest 30% or more of their budgets in content marketing as “best of breed” practitioners. The study reports that this group’s No.1 challenge is producing enough content to feed the various channels.

2. By next year, the percentage of marketers engaged in content will nearly double.

34% of BtoB study respondents say they were “very” or “fully” engaged with content marketing—18% more than last year. And the study suggests that by next year, this group will nearly double to 66%.

3. Everyone in an organization needs to be content-centric.

Last week, I attended the Sirius Decisions conference, The New Content Paradigm: Strategy, Process and Best Practices, where Jay Gaines and Marisa Kopec discussed how companies are using content development to fuel inbound marketing and sales content optimization strategies. Marisa explained that successful organizations are defined by ownership of content across the entire marketing ecosystem.

4. The new content strategist should be second in command.

In a content-centric organization, someone needs to be behind the wheel. The new paradigm defined by Sirius Decisions puts the content strategist second-in-command, reporting to the CMO. The strategist not only understands that content is the lifeblood of marketing, but is also senior enough to have influence across the organization—ensuring that sales and product marketing are on board.

5. The future of content is in our hands, and measurement can harness its power.

Now that we all agree on the importance of relevant content and why we need to invest resources in developing it, my prediction is that 2013 will bring exciting experimentation with nuancing channels and formats—from mobile to outdoor experiences to highly engaging online experiences. Through measurement, we’ll understand what’s doing the best job of engaging different types of people and converting them directly and indirectly.

Want more insights about content? Check out these posts!

Do You Speak Content? Top 8 Terms for Savvy B2B Demand Generation Content Experts

Three Things NOT to Do When Curating Content for B2B Demand Generation

Effective Content Measurement in 6 Steps

* Obrecht, John, ”Content ascends to marketing throne,” BtoB, October 8, 2012 4.

Content Marketing Orange Awards Results Are In!

October 25, 2012


“The Driving Force of Tech Marketing In This Decade: Education” — Tim Harmon, Forrester Research

I could not agree more. As marketers, our roles have evolved—in an exciting way. Marketers have always been tasked with creating communications and delivering information. But to accomplish “education”, we must truly know our audience, our buyers and our customers—and ensure we speak to their needs.

Content is the currency of this education; it brings conversations to life. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) Orange Awards honor the content marketers who are setting the standard for this dialogue, and this year’s results are in. Big congratulations to the winners:

  • Content Marketing Agency of the Year (50+ employees): Imagination Publishing
  • Content Marketing Agency of the Year (15-49 employees): Babcock & Jenkins (Full disclosure: I work for this organization.)
  • Content Marketing Agency of the Year (<15 employees): King Content

The judges were juiced about BNJ: “They made a strong case as a cutting-edge content agency. Their philosophy and thought leadership stood out among other agencies of their size. Their funnel formula and focus on the buyer’s journey, and content opportunities within, is worth noting in particular.”

For the inside scoop on what makes content marketing powerful, I asked Carmen Hill, our content queen, to share a few tips from her arsenal. She says:

1. The most important thing we content marketers can do is to think more about what our audience wants to learn, what they need to know to solve problems that are important to them at each stage of their buyer’s journey, and less about what we want to tell and sell them. This gives us a direct conduit to their decision-making process and provides the opportunity to influence that decision.

2. We also need to focus first on the substance of the information we’re sharing rather than on the format. People aren’t looking for a webinar or a whitepaper, they’re looking for information that’s relevant to them.

3. Finally, with so many creative options available to us now, we should expand our vision of how we present information. If you have relevant data, don’t bury it in text—bring it to life in an infographic or SlideShare presentation. Interview your company’s subject matter experts in a Google Hangout and post the video on YouTube. Host a Twitter chat and collect the best contributions via Storify.

 Want to learn more about who’s doing great things with content—and how? Check out the press release announcing all Orange Awards winners and finalists, take a quick tour of the BNJ Content Practice and see how BNJ turns up the juice on content marketing.

 Congratulations to all!


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