Save the Date – 2014 Must-Attend B2B Marketing Events

February 11, 2014

Happy New Year! In the spirit of setting goals and mapping out the new year, I want to share with you my top five 2014 events I recommend attending this year and why.  I love attending conferences because it is a dedicated 2-3 days to refuel. In addition to learning and connecting with your peers, conferences can give you the boost you need to get reenergized and motivated.

LG Goal

Here’s my list of 2014 can’t-miss B2B marketing events:

Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders (San Francisco: April 10-11: Join Forrester experts for smart discussions with smart people about what you and your organization need to keep you on top of upcoming digital developments.

BNJ’s partnership with Forrester has been invaluable. Their analysts have helped us stay informed and ahead of the curve so we are always bringing marketing best practices to our work with clients.

SiriusDecisions Summit (Orlando: May 21-May 23) SiriusDecisions’ annual Summit is another place for smart people to gather and share stories. This unique three-day conference with analysts and top sales and marketing leaders from Fortune 500 companies and major SMBs share how B2B organizations are solving critical issues that hinder predictable growth. Each year, the theme focuses on aspects of how sales and marketing can, and should, intersect. Bring your marketing and sales team to get the most out of this event.

ITSMA Marketing Leadership Forum (Napa: May 25-26) The Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) has assembled some of the best minds in marketing to explore the “New Vision for Marketing.” Dave Munn, President & CEO of ITSMA, says this event is meant to be a small, highly interactive, content-rich, leadership roundtable for marketing leaders who want to remain ahead of the curve on marketing trends and breakout strategies.” Sometimes smaller is better, but no matter what, conferences of every size can be beneficial—it’s all about what YOU make of it.

BMA Blaze (Chicago: May 28-30) The Business Marketing Association’s (BMA) Global Annual Conference boasts the latest in B2B marketing thinking, trends, best practices, success stories, technology and tools and more. We never miss the BMA Blaze.

Mirren Live the 2014 New Business Conference (New York: May 13-14) The industry event focused on agency business models and agency new business innovation. This year, Mirren’s content is focused into several key tracks. They want you to bring your agency materials—in numerous sessions, you’ll be evaluating your own new business practices and your own business model. In others, you’ll be exploring innovative agencies as you take away new ideas for your own agency growth. I love the idea of how interactive and personalized this conference will be with utilizing your own agency materials. In other words, you get down to brass tacks right away.

There you have my top five conferences and benefits of attending. What conferences do you support and who from your team attends them? What’s your biggest motivator in 2014?


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.


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!



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.


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