Effective Content Measurement in 6 Steps

July 2, 2012

Content, content, content!

Post by guest blogger: Lars von Sneidern//Analytics Director, Babcock & Jenkins

Every B2B marketer is now being forced into becoming a content marketer. Some marketers have been on the content bandwagon for years and understand its value for the brands they manage. However, many are still just dipping their toes into the content pool—reluctant to do so without a set of water wings. In other words, practicing safe content typically means implementing some form of measurement to prove its value.

”What exactly does measuring content entail?” the nascent content marketer might be asking. In most cases, it is assumed that measuring content is pretty much like measuring any other digital asset. But, while looking at web stats may be interesting, it doesn’t tell you much about how useful the content is and whether or not it is helping you achieve your marketing goals.

Who said anything about goals?!

Chances are, your marketing campaigns have goals. If not, stop reading this immediately and go set some! Hopefully your content is helping you reach those goals. That’s right, folks. Content is not just for content’s sake. It is being created to engage with current and future customers.

Ah, the magic word: engagement.  What do we mean when we say it? Its definition varies by content type, but generally we want our target audience using our content to help them through the buyer’s journey. The assumption is that we are weaving ourselves into the process that happens before talking to sales. By the way, this is most of the process—70%, according to SiriusDecisions. Does that make engagement the goal of content? Possibly. But ultimately it’s a means to an end: higher quality, more qualified leads that feed directly into your bottom line.

1.   Verify Your Goals:

This is good advice in general, but often it’s assumed that the goal of any marketing is to drive sales.  And just as often this is an appropriate goal. Sometimes, however, marketing is either not responsible for or unable to effect sales. In these cases, more appropriate goals for content marketing would be something higher up the sales funnel, like SALs (Sales Accepted Leads), or some metrics having to do with sales enablement. If nothing else, content delivers information about what your leads are interested in. Given the proper technology and implementation (more on that in the following steps), you can give your sales team gift-wrapped leads—potential customers who already know all they need to know about your business and how your offerings can address their needs.

2.   Analysis Plan:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”    ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

You need to have a plan on how you are going to measure your content.  The plan itself can take any form you wish, but it should be on “paper” and approved by all invested parties.  Generally, the plan will have the following elements:

      • Goal definitions – (See above.)
      • Responsibilities – Who is responsible what?
      • Technology – What are we using to record engagement?  How will data be collected?  Where will the data live?
      • Timeline – When will everything happen?  When will results be ready?
      • Specifications – How is “engagement” defined for each content type? How will the data be analyzed?
      • Reporting – How will the data be reported?

3.   Use the Right Technology:

There are three basic platforms of content engagement data recoding:

      • Marketing automation (MA) tools
      • Web analytics packages
      • Content management systems (CMS)

If you have spent any time investigating your options for any of these platforms, you know the number of choices is vast, and growing every day. From a content measurement perspective, you want to have the ability to follow your contacts around and observe what they are engaging with, and then what they are doing after. Are certain content pieces correlating to conversion actions?  Some tools can handle questions like this (after some coaxing), but most cannot. But here’s some good news: You may already have the tools required—you just don’t know it.  Get smart with these tools, or hire someone who is.

4.   Measure It!

Now you have the plan, the tools and the talent. The following is a sampling of what to measure:

      • Percent Engagement:Among your leads, what percent are engaging (downloading, watching, clicking, etc.) individual content pieces?
      • Pathing:Contrary to the traditional idea of pathing, you want to look at how well leads are sticking to the buyer’s journey you have laid out for them. Have you anticipated all their content needs? Are any gaps emerging? Are there points with significant drop-off? Is there a skipping phenomenon?
      • Correlation to conversion:Is there a behavioral pattern emerging around certain content pieces that’s leading to conversion?  This ties closely to the idea of lead scoring, in which you assume that some content has higher “value” than other. (For example, watching an entire video versus downloading a small PDF.)

5.   Dive Deep, Dear Marketer:

You have engagement levels, hooray!  But, don’t stop there.  Try slicing and dicing by some established segments.  For example, are certain verticals or job titles engaging with certain content types?  What is the c-suite looking at?  Are leads originating from different sources behaving differently?  This will allow you to optimize continued content development for your specific audience.

6.   Indexing

You might be asked (or are asking), “How much engagement is enough?” There is no reliable benchmark for content engagement available, which is good because as is the case for all benchmarks, what’s “normal” is heavily dependent on your specific audience. To overcome this, you simply need to start measuring. Once you have some baseline engagement numbers, an index can be created and used as a comparison for future campaigns and new content. For example, if you have a series of webcasts or slideshares, measure what percent of your leads are engaging with them. Then as you create new similar materials, you have a baseline comparison.

Content is not the brave new world it once was, but measuring it definitely is.  Just remember to focus on your bottom line, whatever that is, and how content is delivering it to you and your colleagues.

About the Author: Lars von Sneidern is Director of Analytics at Babcock & Jenkins. He is an expert market researcher with a specialty in traditional and digital media measurement, Lars integrates comprehensive lead tracking, website usage and social management into cutting-edge media optimization. Lars can be reached at larsv@bnj.com on twitter @LarsvonS


5 Key Insights to Prime Your Inbound Marketing Pipeline

June 28, 2012

Today, our best (highest quality and velocity) leads are coming from inbound marketing. In this post, you’ll learn about the business climate shaping this trend and important content creation insights that can maximize the value of your inbound marketing efforts.

1.  Inbound marketing is the new frontier for lead generation.

Today, buyers control the journey toward a closed deal. According to SiriusDecisions, by 2015, more than 71% of an organization’s leads will come via inbound marketing. Yet, their recent research brief “Inbound Marketing: Findings From Our Survey”  indicates that fewer than half of organizations today have defined an enterprise-wide inbound marketing strategy. This means that the playing field is wide open and you have an opportunity to become a B2B inbound marketing leader.

5 Components of Inbound Marketing, by Eric Wittlake

2.  Be found through the recommendation of others and delight everyone that finds you.

I believe that this recommendation offered by my esteemed colleague and celebrated B2B blogger Eric Wittlake in his blog post “5  Key Elements of Modern Inbound Marketing” will give you the greatest return on your inbound marketing efforts. In this post, Eric sums up the opportunities of inbound marketing today as follows:  Modern inbound marketing is built around the core of your content and the experience it is wrapped in. This content and experience is discovered through organic search, other people’s social media recommendations and earned coverage from media, analysts and other publishers. The rest of this post is focused on “delighting everyone that finds you” to ensure that you are found.

3.  Deliver content that has meaning for your audience.

Content becomes discoverable when it is relevant. When you understand the buyer’s pain points and produce content designed specifically to meet those needs, you maximize the odds that your content will be read—and shared. In fact, I advised a prospect today with limited money, time and resources that they’d get the most return on their marketing investment by discovering what kind of content their audience wants and then dedicating their resources to creating that content and leading that conversation.

4.  Stand in your buyer’s shoes.

Don’t forget that putting content at the heart of everything you do becomes powerful when you put the buyer at the heart of everything you say. Don’t stand in your own shoes and talk about your own agenda. Write content from a buyer-centric perspective—to help answer questions, solve problems and reveal opportunities for that buyer.

5.  Increase your buyer-centric marketing intelligence.

You can learn more about how to become a leader in inbound marketing in my post Take 4 Steps Back for 1 Giant Leap Forward: The Buyer-Centric Marketing Model where you can review the four (often overlooked) steps to attract savvy B2B buyers and increase pipeline efficiency.

In summary: When content is GREAT, it is inspired by what your prospect or customer cares about most. And they can’t wait to read it, apply its insights and then spread the word. This is the power source behind high-impact inbound marketing. Put this principle into play now and you’ll have a strategic advantage in satisfying buyers all the way to the purchase.




EXCLUSIVE: Research-Based Insight into the CIO—and how it can Drive Marketing Success

February 9, 2012

For B2B tech marketers, it’s critical to understand the CIO’s mindset, motivators and attitude toward marketing.

CIOs today play a vital role within their organizations as change agents—not just functional heads. They care about solutions that will help propel the business forward, and if you can connect with these decision makers, you have a truly valuable high-level ally.

But to engage buyers like the CIO and move them through the sales cycle, you need to stay focused on all the things that make them tick (and what things turn them off). That’s where building an in-depth CIO buyer profile, or persona, really pays off.

Revealing what matters most

Recently, my organization created research-based buyer profiles for the CIO and several other decision makers and influencers by:

  • Interviewing the audience (buyers and potential buyers)
  • Drawing on publicly available and paid research reports
  • Interviewing sales teams (who often have the closest ear to the buyer)
  • Applying plenty of quantitative and qualitative analysis
  • Employing social listening

The result is a concentrated view of the CIO that you can capture at a glance—a poster that acts as a reliable sense-check for every marketing initiative (snippets of this are featured in this post). It highlights how and why the CIO thinks and responds when approached by tech partners, as well as an intimate summary of the CIO’s general mindset (in the first-person):

“These are exciting times. There’s huge opportunity for me and my team, but also a fair amount of risk. Some days I’m drinking from the fire hose, trying to keep up with the challenges of my new role and the information needs of my company. Now I have a revenue number to hit and my responsibilities are global! But I love that I have greater visibility within the company and can make a greater contribution to helping our company win in the marketplace. I feel it is my responsibility to leverage our business needs into more transformational processes and innovation. I expect my technology partners to be reliable, accountable, innovative and to make my team look good.”

Just the facts, please

Important highlights of the CIO buyer profile include questions and issues CIOs keep in mind when considering tech solutions in their roles as  business strategist, functional head, and transformational leader. Good insights, but what can you put into practice? Here’s a peek at one of the most useful do’s-and-don’ts lists in our CIO profile:

       CIO Communication Preferences

  1. Technical, data-driven facts
  2. Credible blogs and news pertaining to partnerships, who’s investing, new trends and technologies
  3. White papers that outline decision points and content that illustrates the implications of those decisions
  4. Case studies that detail a complex issue and how it was solved
  5. A way to measure the potential impact of the solution on my unique environment

“I ignore marketing language that makes promises but fails to quantify how or why. Don’t market down to me. I also ignore generic emails from people I don’t know and anything that isn’t factual or analytical in nature.”

Can’t do the deep dive? Two ways I can help.

1. Email me at laureng@bnj.com to request your own copy of the research-based CIO profile featured here.

2. See my quick guide to building B2B buyer profiles in a pinch. Even simply tuning into resources like CIO.com’s Top Ten Tech Predictions for 2012 will help you keep CIO concerns and views top of mind. What will it mean for your CIO prospect if:

  • The global economy looms larger?
  • The CFO and CMO become key collaborators?
  • Virtualization goes viral?
  • Consumerization of IT explodes?

I’d love to hear how buyer profiles are shaping your marketing efforts. Please share your comments!



Ignite the Pipeline: Personalized, Integrated Communications Drive Revenue for B2B Enterprise Organization

February 8, 2012

Ready to be a marketing rockstar?

There’s buzz in the air at this year’s Online Marketing Summit in San Diego (#oms12) and everyone is striving toward the same end game: Igniting their marketing!

The annual congregation of digital marketers in San Diego to evolve their practice shares the same casual, friendly community I’ve enjoyed in the past, but the event’s explosive growth from 500 attendees in 2010 to nearly 1500 this year represents an industry that is growing up fast. As a digital native focused on B2B demand creation, I am delighted that OMS attendees understand the value of  leveraging buyer insights across channels to produce relevant, measurable experiences!  As evident in keynote address and draw for my session “Ignite the Pipeline: Personalized, Integrated Communications Drives Revenue for Nuance Software” the thirst for advanced strategies that push the bounds of marketing technology to design multi-channel, measurable experiences is alive and well at OMS.

The wide array of conference tracks and sessions makes one thing clear: there’s no silver bullet. Search, social, conversion,  content, email, A/B testing, and marketing automation are all important pieces of the mix. But to truly connect with prospects and customers and move them through the sales funnel you need insights and integration. PERIOD.

In my OMS presentation, I shared a truly integrated account-based marketing model that allowed Nuance Software to:

  • Engage 46% of their most important customers and prospects
  • Drive over $6M to their pipeline
  • Deliver a 19-to-1 ROI on their marketing investment
  • Enable sales with personalized tools to support prospects and customers engagement

Please check out the attached slideshare presentation.

Related Post:

Three Reasons Why Account-Based Marketing Should Be a Priority in B2B…And 5 Steps for Getting Started


How B2B Companies are Achieving MAJOR Growth

February 2, 2012

The humble but truly effective growth principle we tend to overlook—and 4 ways to make it work for you.

Many of the technology organizations I consult with have one primary marketing priority: GET NEW LOGOS!

It happens at my organization too—everyone gets excited when we secure a major new customer. We open champagne, toast the great accomplishment and sing the praises of the key contributors who led to the win.

But what happens when, say, your largest customer renews for an additional 2-year commitment (without requiring procurement, RFPs and competitive bids)? These retention wins may represent a larger opportunity and/or higher margins, but do we invest our marketing dollars as heavily toward these wins?

I think intuitively we know that customer retention and growth contribute more profitably to the bottom line than acquiring a new customer. But if we need more nudging, here’s a powerful reminder from Sean Geehan, author, speaker and leading expert in B2B executive strategies.

The Business Case for a Retention Focus

I had the pleasure of hearing from Geehan at ITSMA 2011, where he reminded us of the Marketing 101 principle: It costs 3-5 times more to acquire a new account than it does to retain an existing customer.

His useful chart, shared below, clearly demonstrates a best practice model for ensuring the greatest ROI from marketing spend AND has been the baseline model for helping many organizations catapult growth.

Geehan also shared an eye-opening business case from his client, HCL Technologies, a multi-billion dollar global IT Services firm that has grown by more than 20% annually for the last 5 years.

When HCL realized that 70% of their revenue came from just 70 customers, they formed a Customer Advisory Council (CAC) as the centerpiece of their highly focused marketing efforts. Essentially, C-level executive and thought leaders from 80 HCL customer companies met regularly to exchange ideas, experiences and best practices.

In the process, the CAC shared the honest requirements of their businesses with HCL, and ultimately steered a lot of product direction. Meanwhile, HCL helped customers address more of their problems, nurturing trust and senior relationships.

As a result, Geehan notes in his B2B Executive Playbook, establishing a Customer Advisory Council can:

  •  Improve strategic relationships with key decision makers
  • Enhance companies’ ability to sustain, cross-sell and grow large strategic accounts
  • Validate that the company was launching the right solutions at the right time
  • Create a customer reference program
  • Elevate the company’s positioning in the customer’s mind: true partner vs. vendor

4 Ways You Can Drive Retention Efforts Worth Celebrating.

  • Showcase your expertise via thought-leadership content! Being a thought leader is AS important with customers as it is with prospects. Customers are looking for partners to support growth and innovation, so keep them informed and in tune with your organization’s best practices. You never know when they’ll have a need for them.
  • Marketing can drive increased account penetration by developing targeted Account Based Marketing campaigns for customers. Here’s how it works and 5 ways to get started.
  • Consider whether a Customer Advisory Board makes sense for your business. Geehan shares some very compelling evidence for the importance of this function within large tech organizations. Regardless of how you execute, access to customer insights, challenges and opportunities is essential.
  • Remember the math: It’s far more profitable to retain/grow customers than acquire new ones. Treat your customers as your organization’s #1 asset. Customer appreciation efforts go a long way!

Related Links:

The B2B Executive Playbook: The Ultimate Weapon for Achieving Sustainable, Predictable and Growth—by Shawn Geehan

Three Reasons Why Account-Based Marketing Should Be a Priority in B2B…And 5 Steps for Getting Started


Two Major Building Blocks for Social Media Success in B2B Demand Generation

January 25, 2012

There’s no doubt that social media is an important part of any B2B marketer’s job. However, we need to be more cognizant about the prerequisites of a great social strategy. Social strategy is NOT defined by the social channels you choose for engaging  your audience. More importantly, it’s about ensuring your content strategy is stellar and aligned with buyer needs.

To build a successful B2B social media strategy, there are two major building blocks that all organizations must adopt:

1.      Think like a publisher

2.      Be a thought leader

In a recent Forrester survey, senior analyst Kim Celestre points to some misalignment between where marketers are spending the most time and money, and where tech buyers are spending the most time.

The chart below provides a great proof point. Many marketers are focusing their attention on high visibility social channels like Facebook and Twitter. Buyers are using other social networks, such as user forums and communities. In an interview with B2B magazine, Celestre shares:

Marketers need to understand customer social behaviors. We found that 86% of business technology buyers use social media during work. Business technology buyers are very social in how they interact with peers and go to online sources to get information. So knowing that and diving deeper to get an understanding of customer preferences will help the technology marketer start getting really strategic.

Chris Koch, Associate Vice President of Research and Thought Leadership for ITSMA (IT Services Marketing Association) summarizes the requirements for successful organizations:

For social media to get anywhere in B2B, companies must undergo a culture change in which they become as good at creating ideas as they are at creating products and services and at servicing customers.

In his latest blog post, Seven Prerequisites for Social Media Success—That Have Nothing to Do with Social Media Koch provides some compelling qualitative and quantitative data that supports the role of these two building blocks. Of his seven prerequisites, three in particular resonated with me:

1.      Social media participants contribute very little to conversations. Research from the Online Community Research Network shows that fewer than 10% of people in online communities ever say anything. And fewer than 2% take a leadership role in starting conversations. Therefore, if you want compelling and relevant content – it’s critical to have a content leader or practice who can think like a publisher and develop a strong editorial calendar.

 2.      ITSMA research shows that 66% of buyers seek information themselves rather than waiting to hear from providers. They seek that information through search. 79% of C-level executives do at least three searches per day. They are more likely to encounter your content through search than through the social media channels themselves. Again, this points back to the importance of content being well-targeted and relevant—and therefore easily found when doing a search.

3.      The business case doesn’t exist for social media, but it does for thought leadership. When [ITSMA] asked buyers last year how important good ideas are to the buying decision, 58% of executive-level buyers (people buying more than $500,000 worth of IT services) said that they are important or critical for making it onto the short list of providers. Buyers were then asked: If a provider brings you a good idea, would you be more likely to buy from them? 30% said yes. And, of that 30%, 54% said they’d consider sole sourcing the project. Social media are great for developing those ideas and for making them available to many more people. But first you have to have an engine for creating the ideas.

The bottom line: Organizations (and B2B marketers) need to focus on content, thought leadership and engaging B2B tech buyers in channels where they go to consume information. Marketing can help by understanding the buyers and the  thought leadership topics relevant to those buyers. Additionally, they can drive the editorial calendar and help orchestrate content development to delivery upon content requirements.

Market well!

Related links:

Roadmap to Buyer-Centric Marketing in B2B

Seven Prerequisites for Social Media Success—That Have Nothing to Do with Social Media

2011 Social Technographics® For Business Technology Buyers


Three Reasons Why Account-Based Marketing Should Be a Priority in B2B…And 5 Steps for Getting Started

November 16, 2011

“If we did realize the difference between the vital few and the trivial many in all aspects of our lives, and if we did something about it, we could multiply anything that we valued.”

~ Richard Koch (former management consultant and acclaimed author on how to apply the 80/20 rule)

The 80/20 rule rules when it comes to marketing efficacy and efficiency for B2B organizations with a complex sale.

Given that I’m in the thick of 2012 demand creation planning for many of the B2B organizations I consult with, Account-Based Marketing is typically at the top of the priority list.

What is Account-Based Marketing?

The ITSMA has done a marvelous job of defining the Account-Based Marketing approach:

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a way to build stronger relationships with your most valued customers and prospects with highly targeted marketing interactions that demonstrate your in-depth understanding of their business and technology issues. It’s a way to increase your customer’s awareness of the total value you offer to heightens their interest in you.

ABM is a game-changing approach for engaging customers and prospects in a way that’s truly relevant to them, their business challenges and their organization. As I’ve discussed in many of my blog posts this past year, adopting a buyer-centric model of marketing is a priority for all B2B marketers. ABM, done well, can take this requirement to the nth degree!

What Are the Most Viable Use Cases for ABM?

  1. Breaking Through to Strategic Prospect Accounts/Audiences: If your  organization has a defined set of targeted accounts that are crucial to your success (based on their potential revenue to the organization or strategic alignment with your priorities), ABM can serve as a powerful tool to SHOW (vs. tell) the customer your value to their organization (through relevant thought-leadership through to how you would specifically approach their unique business challenges). The goal is to make them (key decision-makers and influencers within the organization) aware of the total value you can bring to them.
  2. Retain and Grow Customer Relationships: Customer retention and growth can be one of the most fruitful returns for your marketing dollars in 2012!  Typically, an organization may have a beach head in one division of a large organization or may be leveraging one of many solutions available by a provider. Why not leverage the insight you already have into the business (and hopefully the success) to penetrate new areas for opportunity? Again, it will be important to show value to the customer that specifically addresses a known business challenge or exposes a new area of growth.
  3. Accelerate Pipeline/Nurture Key Prospects: Proving your organization understands the specific needs of your prospect will help you establish credibility and build customer confidence. From my experience, this is a perfect time to accelerate the sales cycle (and ensure you’re on the short list).

Five Steps for Getting Started with ABM

The ITSMA has conducted research on the four stages of ABM (included below), however, I’ve added a 5th stage around alignment based on experience with dozens of ABM engagements.

  1. Align. Gain internal alignment between sales and marketing to ensure the most attractive accounts (and contacts) are selected as a focal point.
  2. Pilot. You need a few successes under your belt before you can consider expanding the program.
  3. Build. You begin to build a formal program by securing executive commitment to ABM and expanding the number of accounts covered.
  4. Standardize. As the number of ABM accounts expands, you start to need a governance model, a program management office and standard metrics and success criteria across all accounts.
  5. Scale. Finally, you scale the program by creating shared services and letting ABM concepts trickle down into other areas of marketing.

Success By the Dozens

For a great case study on ABM, please explore Nuance Software’s success (as featured last month in BtoB Online) or by viewing  MarketingProfs Virtual Conference Series which featured a highly successful campaign in the session titled: Engaging Your Most Valued Prospects through Targeted Accounts.

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of other success stories about Account-Based Marketing. I’d love to hear yours.


Is Today’s CMO Stretched or Strengthened?

November 14, 2011

Have you heard the news? CMOs report that they feel unprepared for the future!

Sobering headlines from IBM’s global Chief Marketing Officer study have been plentiful over the past few months, focusing on statistics like:

“Four out of five CMOs anticipate a high or very high level of complexity over the next five years, but only half feel ready to handle it.”

And CMO quotes like:    

“In this coming age of complexity and uncertainty, there is a serious risk of ‘losing our North,’ of being intoxicated by data overload and suffering from corporate indigestion.”

While the insights from this report were alarming they were also incredibly valuable, providing some wonderful guidance for CMOs in 2012 and beyond!

What’s the cause for concern?

The interviews (conducted with over 1,700 CMOs spanning 19 industries and 64 countries) revealed that CMOs see four “game-changing” challenges ahead:

  1. The data explosion
  2. Social media
  3. Proliferation of channels and devices
  4. Shifting consumer demographics

It’s true – these are factors that have significantly rocked our world as marketers over the past several years. However, I also believe that we can overcome these obstacles by funneling the expertise of internal gurus and specialty partners/consultants. What a wonderful opportunity for fresh thinking from both inside and outside your organization!

2011 IBM Global Chief Marketing Officer Study

…But, some things never Change – LOVE thy customer!

Yes, it’s true. Marketing has changed more in the last few years than it has in the last 30! However, IBM also highlighted some key actions and opportunities that all CMOs are familiar with: LOVE THY CUSTOMER!

I had the fortunate opportunity to see Katharyn White, VP of Marketing for IBM (who participated in the interviewing process for the IBM survey) present at the ITSMA conference appropriately themed “Passionate About Customer Intimacy”.

While Katharyn was very matter-of-fact about the challenges upon the CMO, she did a marvelous job bringing forth some highlights for me on a key area where CMOs, and organizations, should be focusing their time and energy.

Focus on the opportunity to create value for customers as individuals.
Customer intimacy is crucial—and the entire organization (from the top down) should know this.

IBM shared that awareness and prioritization of customer value in their CEO study, stating, “We learned CEOs regard getting closer to customers as one of three prerequisites for success in the twenty-first century.”

This should be welcome news for the CMO, as it should sit at the top of their list too.

The most successful CMOs will be focusing on relationships, not just transactions.

Relationships mean truly understanding the customer and the key challenges and opportunities they encounter (not just the challenges that you can solve, but a holistic view of their needs). Relationships mean that you and your organization are considered a trusted adviser, and can be relied upon to provide insights and category thought leadership to support business challenges.

In 2012, I will be talking to my client base about strategies like Account-Based Marketing, which is a proven and successful approach for organizations to bring greater business value to their most important key accounts (customers) and prospective accounts. This type of approach is not new, but has been proven to be the most effective way to engage with prospects and customers in a meaningful relationship (I personally have dozens of success stories that I’d be happy to share, but you can see a recent example of Nuance’s Targeted Accounts Marketing Success as featured in BtoBOnline).

Given the speed at which business is changing, I believe today’s CMO is both strengthened AND stretched by relationships with customers, technology and new channels for connecting with prospects. Personally, I feel it’s invigorating and look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

There have been a lot of interesting perspectives on IBM’s CMO Study. Here’s a few interesting links to check out:

CMOs Struggle to Find Sure Footing for the Future, by Bill Babcock

CMOs are at the Cross-Roads of Customer Transactions and Engagement, by Brian Solis

As a reminder, the full 72-page IBM CMO survey is available for download too.

I’d love to hear your perspective on the insights from this survey. Or, please share interesting perspectives from others. It’s definitely a meaty topic worth further dialogue!



B2B Website Evolution Part 2: Inroads to Demand-Centered Websites

November 2, 2011

Corporate websites currently rank as the #1 online source of new leads for businesses according to the 2011 B2B Website Demand Generation Study.

However, according to this same study “the corporate website is not performing to its maximum lead-generation potential, as reported by 80% of overall respondents.” Opportunity knocks for corporations bold enough to redefine their corporate sites as demand generation hubs designed to embrace the complex sale. In my first B2B Website Evolution series post, I outlined several afflictions that have historically prevented demand generation teams from relying on their corporate websites for lead cultivation. If you haven’t read the first post, I suggest that you start there. To extend the conversation of how companies can effectively transition to a demand-centered websites, today I’ll share predictions from several peers.

Demand generation will dominate corporate web strategy

Moving into 2012, I believe that CMO’s will make the corporate website a top priority and that the demand generation team will be in the best position to support the transformation of websites into a demand generation hub. Demand generation marketers know B2B buyers are pushing sales out of the buying process more and more. Therefore, companies have to work harder to ensure buyers have the high-value content they need, when they need it in the buying cycle. In a recent study by the ITSMA, B2B buyers selected Solution Provider Websites as the #1 source of information during the early stages of the buying cycle. (In previous years, it had been “peers.” However, peer influence dipped down to #9 this year).

There are hundreds of additional data points that put the writing on the wall: Demand generation marketers will earn access to the Corporate Website in 2012!

Engagement will support buyer’s journey for the complex sale

Eric Wittlake, B2B blogger and Director of Media for Babcock & Jenkins has offered the following insight for addressing this challenge:  “Driving early stage demand generation isn’t about your products or services, but corporate websites tend to be about the corporation. Early stage demand generation requires providing an industry or category perspective and downplaying information that assumes someone is already focused on the company’s specific solutions. “

However, as demand generation starts to take a more prominent role in setting corporate web objectives and vision, Jon Miller, VP of Marketing at marketing automation provider Marketo provides this sound advice ” Don’t get field happy.” Miller recently published an interesting case study based on the results of the company’s own lead-generation campaigns. In writing on the company’s blog, Miller described how the company had created three different forms: “short form” with five fields, “medium form” with seven fields, and “long form” with nine fields, and used these on three different versions of a landing page. Marketo’s experiment showed the following results:

  • Short Form: Conversion rate 13.4%, cost per conversion $31.24
  • Medium Form: Conversion rate 12.0%, cost per conversion $34.94
  • Long Form: Conversion rate 10.0%, cost per conversion $41.90

The impact of long forms on conversion rates has become well known among business marketers—and best practices call for web forms to have the absolute minimum number of input fields (usually 5 or 6)— but 68% of respondents still have five or more fields on website registration forms. Marketers understand that the best way to tailor sales strategies is to understand their customer but this approach of information retrieval is affecting their bottom line(s). If shorter forms are best, marketers must collect only crucial data that cannot be gleaned by other website optimization tools (company name, location, industry and size can be easily obtained by third parties). In addition, B2B marketers should leverage data appending services to augment missing fields or re-populate inaccurate data rather than route every lead to sales, regardless of quality.

Carmen Hill, Director of Content and Social Media for Babcock & Jenkins offers up her perspective on this challenge “Think about what you want them to DO while they’re there. Think about the hierarchy of the actions you want them to take and make it easy for them to do that.” Hill also emphasized the importance of knowing the buyer.

According to the 2011 Demandbase B2B Website Demand Generation Survey 37% of responders either moderately know their buyer or barely know their buyer. And, nearly HALF of those surveyed DO NOT KNOW where their users are most likely to abandon the website. While the website continues to be a top area for marketing investment made by B2B companies, both for dollar investment as well as resources across both marketing and IT, businesses aren’t paying close enough attention to what’s working and what’s not. These stats also point specifically to the benefit of truly understanding the buyer by developing out a set of buyer personas and aligning content to the buyer’s journey.

Site technology and governance will evolve to support demand gen

According to Ami Martin, Director of Marketing for Babcock & Jenkins (and long-time corporate website marketeer), “Technology is a key barrier to integrating demand generation digital destinations onto brand websites. Corporate sites are designed with set templates and distinct feature sets to serve the masses. Demand generation programs by nature break the mold and often require advanced functionality like dynamic testing, granular tracking and system integration—all beyond the bounds of  “routine” site administration. Developing new site features and processes to support demand generation means long planning cycles, technology adoption and training which can make the transition daunting for companies lacking executive sponsorship.”

Thankfully, CMOs in the savviest marketing organizations are taking the lead in insisting on demand generation websites as top down initiatives to cut through the politics and budgetary barriers. And, there are several new technology options that can address the needs of demand generation marketers with centralized web governance to streamline administration. If there is some interest in exploring the tools that exist, this may warrant a blog post of its own!

There is an incredible opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of the corporate website for demand generation for companies seeking a competitive edge. I’d love you to chime in with additional tools, insights and recommendations you have, as this topic is VERY ripe for best practices to emerge and for testing, testing, testing.


What is the Major Shift in B2B Buyer Behavior?

November 2, 2011

ITSMA’s (IT Services Marketing Association) Annual Marketing Conference just wrapped up in Boston last week.

The event was buzzing of social media, best practices and an exploration of some MAJOR changes underway in B2B marketing (several of which I’ll expose over the coming weeks).

During an incredible presentation by ITSMA’s Julie Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Research & Thought Leadership revealed a new study showcasing the rise of the social buyer in B2B and the significant changes in buyer behavior and content consumption.

One of the most surprising shifts was that peers were no longer the #1 source of information during the early stages of the buying cycle. Quite the opposite, actually. Solution provider websites and solution providers were the two most significant sources of information. Since 2008, ITSMA has been tracking this data and consistently reporting the importance of peers (all the way through the 2010 report last year). In 2011, peers are cited as the #9 source of influence.

If you take a look at the chart above, you will see that peer influence has slowly been declining over the past several years.

However, it’s important to note that buyers are NOT interested in talking with sales. Rather, buyers are pushing your sales people out of the sales process. They don’t believe you. They want to do their own research! Who they’re looking to hear from is your subject matter experts and they’re expecting these experts to provide great insights into your businesses category and solutions (aka thought leadership content).

To me, this is exciting news as organizations have an opportunity to capture the trust and attention of buyers early on in the sales cycle. However, what comes along with this shift is the REQUIREMENT for marketers to set their subject matter experts up for success, including:

  • Insights into buyers and key stages in the buying cycle
  • A platform to engage with buyers (via industry blog, building community, etc.)

Another impressive data point was that 74% of buyers in the ITSMA study found social media useful during the buying cycle. This universe is categorized as the social buyer.

With the rapid rise of the social buyer, we can’t simply ignore traditional channels and move our marketing plan online. There is still a robust segment of traditional buyers to support (roughly 26% of the universe of buyers based on the ITSMA survey). Needless to say, this bifurcation of buyer types has made our jobs as B2B marketers jobs more difficult. We now have two very different audiences who consume information in very different ways. And, not surprisingly, the most defining characteristic of the B2B social buyer is age. If you take a quick glance at the chart below, you’ll see that majority of social buyers are under the age of 39.

The B2B social buyer has a voracious appetite for information – with the majority spending well over 7 hours a week consuming information on their industry and category.

The study reported the best channels for reaching the social buyer:

  1. Social media
  2. Virtual seminars
  3. Research reports
  4. In-person seminars

Conversely, traditional buyers are best reached via:

  1. In-person seminars
  2. Research reports
  3. Print publications
  4. Sales calls and private briefings

While we have a challenge keeping both buyer types satiated with content and insights to match their information preferences, the good news is that there are similarities in the type of content they want to consume — information from your subject matter experts!

I was busy tweeting up a storm during the event, so if you want to see some other key topics and trends from myself and other tweeters during the conference check out #ITSMA-AC11.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I’m also happy to share more data points and insights I gathered at the event.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,164 other followers

%d bloggers like this: