6 Tips to Ensure Your B2B Demand Gen Content Connects

September 25, 2012

Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing Eloqua

Strategically mapping content to the Buyer’s Journey is important—and so are the basics that make content connect. I recently checked out a video where Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing at Eloqua, shares some content marketing tips that I thought I’d pass along. Joe offers a few good reminders to help ensure your content gets shared:

  1. Un-friend the form
    In short, compelling content should be set free. Not sure which content should be gated? Check out my post Four Criteria for Gating Content to Aid Demand Generation.
  2. Be visual
    Include visuals to break up the copy—and leave plenty of white space.
  3. Be brief and digestible
  4. Be personal
    Make sure content is authored by a real person at your company.
  5. Be the viewer’s advocate
    Meet real needs and desires to make a real connection.
  6. Take a big idea and break it down into different kinds of content (or “atomize” it)
    Want to learn more about atomizing content to reach more people with greater impact? Get started with Three Essentials For Atomizing Content to Fuel B2B Demand Generation.

When making content choices, Joe favors the slideshare over the infographic and doesn’t think too highly of the whitepaper. He and I don’t entirely see eye-to-eye on this. I think there’s no silver bullet when it comes to content. Diversity is the spice of life, and our job as marketers is to offer diverse formats and experiences—because everyone consumes information in different ways.

What steps do you take to ensure your content connects to drive demand, and what has been most effective in meeting that goal?


Inbound vs. Outbound B2B Demand Generation Marketing

March 10, 2011

How to choose between inbound and outbound? Here’s what makes both types of marketing effective, depending on your audience, content offerings and personalization capabilities.

Inbound marketing is the ever-rising star in B2B, but I believe outbound marketing is STILL A VERY RELEVANT…and VERY NECESSARY part of the overall marketing mix.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both tactics.

Inbound is the hamster on the wheel.

Inbound tactics (SEM, SEO, social marketing) target groups, attempting to provide enough value that individuals within these groups will self-identify in order to obtain even more value from the provider.

Right now, research on the cost per lead for inbound marketing makes headlines the most, and can sound too good to be true.

According to recent survey research by HubSpot (in which 76% of respondents were B2B professionals), “Inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a cost per lead 62% lower than outbound marketing-dominated organizations.”

Of course, cost per lead isn’t everything…but HubSpot also reports that “Blogs and social media channels are generating real customers: 57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers from leads generated directly from their blog.”

And blogs lead the pack of all tactics in terms of cost per lead.

I expect inbound marketing will continue to rise in importance due to the desire of B2B buyers to drive their own buying processes at their own pace, with their own research.

Outbound gets personal.

When done right, outbound marketing is very personalized and targeted. The customer profile (based on segmentation and personas) will shape the media, content and creative that reach out to and connect with an organization’s most likely prospects.

Outbound tactics I typically recommend and support include:

  • Targeting based on audience profiles instead of sites, allowing greater perceived scale in a program while often delivering a more targeted audience than any but the smallest niche publishers can deliver
  • Developing content partnerships with publishers to address specific needs or priorities for the target audience, facilitating sharing and discussion, and increasing response rates
  • Telemarketing pre-screening to qualify leads from online media programs
  • Marketing through trade publications that reach vertical audiences (such as Health Data Management, which reaches business, operations and technology in the healthcare vertical)
  • Promotion of content (white papers, webcasts, etc.) through publishers to broadly defined audiences (such as IT Managers and above at companies with more than 500 employees)
  • Targeted databases or list rentals. List rentals support granular targeting, and databases of contacts using competitive products or in the market for a solution, or available for some audiences

To run a successful marketing campaign, inbound or outbound, you need relevant content that meets the pain points and interest areas of your target audience groups. See Overcoming the #1 Challenge in B2B Demand Generation Content Marketing for specific guidance.

And don’t miss HubSpot’s report and webinar on “The 2011 State of Inbound Marketing.”


Tell Me: How Do You Handle Non-Responders in B2B Demand Generation Nurture Campaigns?

February 24, 2011

Doors

Let’s identify alternatives for nurturing non-responders.

My first thought on this topics is: never stop nurturing. I rarely elect anyone out of nurturing unless, of course, they opt out.

Even if a target hasn’t responded to 4-6 touches over several months, the fear is that you could be removing a potential gold mine. They simply may not have a need in the timeframe you chose to market. Knowing when the need will arise is not easy to predict in most cases.

However…continuing to poke a prospect with offers, content or messages they simply don’t respond to is a waste of your time and theirs—and can even alienate potential buyers. The simplicity of email marketing has made this trap of autopilot communication easier to fall into.

But imagine if each touch were a phone call or an in-person visit instead. Would you visit a prospect twice a month, for 6 months to a year if they always refused to let you in the door?

If so, you have more guts than I do. And as my friends and colleagues will attest, I’m pretty bold!

Here are a few alternatives to breaking off communications with a non-responder altogether.

Slow down.

Decrease the frequency of your communications to the non-responders. For example, if you’ve been tapping them every two weeks, switch them to a schedule of every two months.

To prevent this from creating  unworkable and expensive inefficiencies in your implementation processes, outline your non-responder strategy upfront. Because, let’s face it, there will always be non-responders—it’s more than safe to plan for them, it’s smart!

Change the channel.

I like the way Eloqua Best Practice Consultant Andy Worobel encapsulates this shift:

“Try mixing up the channels—introduce new tactics such as direct mail, phone outreach, or social media if you’ve not previously. If your benefit-focused campaign has exhausted all enticement, invite them to subscribe to your e-newsletter or some less-specific content in order to preserve the relationship without the burden of creating additional content.”

Again, this is the kind of action you want to plan for, not introduce midway through your campaign.

Ask for opt-out.

This is another Andy suggestion, but I don’t entirely agree with it. I’m not a fan of posing ultimatums to people I’m trying win over.

I’d rather try a new channel or message or type of content than effectively tell a prospect we don’t want them if they don’t want us.

In any case, Andy offers some good food for thought on lead nurturing stop signs.

I’m especially curious to hear your thoughts on the subject. Has it caused controversy in your marketing department? Have you seen good results from any of the three actions put forth above?

Let’s chat in the comments.


B2B Demand Generation Best Practices: Five Tips for Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

February 7, 2011

Follow these five tips to create a snowball effect of mutual benefit (and goodwill) between sales and marketing.

If you’re in the same boat as the demand generation marketers referenced in findings below, I have some good news for you.

  • “53.4% of respondents said their company has no formal process for generating, clarifying and validating leads.”—CMO Counsel Survey
  • “Business acquisition experts estimate that 80% of leads are typically lost or ignored.“—GlobalSpec report

The good news is that this is not hard stuff to resolve, but it does take focus, discipline and conversation. The five tips outlined below can provide you with a good framework to begin this process.

Tip #1: Define “Lead”

Based on my experience with hundreds of B2B  marketers (and thousands of campaigns), I’ve come to realize that less than half have a definition of “lead” that is clear, written down and unanimously agreed on by sales and marketing.

It’s key to get both sales and marketing in the room to hash out that defintion—by no means an easy task. If attendance for your first lead definition summit is poor, show them you mean business. Cancel or dismiss that meeting, elevate the issue up the relevant food chains, and reschedule.

Once your key sales and marketing people are assembled, discuss “what is a lead” based on multiple variables from persona (or job role) to pain points and business drivers. This insight can also be useful to your content planning work.

Tip #2: Determine How You Will Close the Loop

Agree on the “system.” Most organizations have a CRM solution. Salesforce.com is far and away the defacto standard in my experience. This step is a lengthy process, but I find most organizations have this in place today.

Tip #3: Handling “Inquiries”—Nurture and Re-qualification

A typical demand generation campaign yields about 5-15% of leads that should be considered SQLs (sales qualified leads), meaning they meet the sales definition of “a lead.” This percentage can vary greatly by tactic (with highly targeted campaigns yielding the best results, but at a greater cost).

Nurture campaigns will transition over 25% of marketing inquiries to SQLs. This is especially true with solutions that have a long sales cycle (6-18 months).

Tip #4: Educating and Rewarding Sales

Educate sales about the benefits of the marketing programs you’re about to employ BEFORE they go to market. Show them the program materials you’ve developed and remind them of the lead qualification process that all inquiries go through (and of course, remind them that they helped define what a lead is).

As simple as it sounds, this type of education can get a sales team excited about following up on leads.

Also, a small incentive to reward follow-up can drive huge returns. One client of mine offered a $20 Starbucks gift card to sales folks who followed up on leads.

Tip #5: Re-Evaluate “Lead” Criteria

There’s a good chance that the lead criteria (defined in Tip #1) will require some adjustment after your first campaign. Re-engage with your sales team for a formal discussion within two weeks of a campaign going to market and at the end of the campaign. Talk through their experiences with the leads they’ve been given to date.

Do you have any tips to add? Please share them in the comments.


Five Steps to Successful B2B Targeted Demand Generation Campaigns

February 7, 2011

(Click for larger image)

Here are five actions that will always help your demand generation campaigns succeed.

Every formula for successful targeted campaigns requires two elements:

  • Know your audience
  • Drive an integrated approach between sales and marketing

But most of us need a few more specifics. Here are five actions always worth investing your time and resources in.

1.     Tap your sales team to define buyers and influencers.

If your organization has already adopted persona-based marketing, you’re several steps ahead of the curve, but it’s important to validate this audience with sales: decision-makers, influencers and other key participants in the sales process.

If sales is the ultimate recipient of leads, you want to make sure they’re bought into your (marketing’s) prescriptive approach to targeting.

And if you’re not entirely sure who your audience is, sales can be a great place to start. A seasoned sales executive is on the front lines every day and has a considerable amount of insight they can lend.

2.     Focus on developing audience insights.

If you haven’t yet adopted persona-based marketing, now is a good time to begin. Defining audience personas essentially means understanding who they are, what they care about, and how to talk with them, not at them. See my brief guide to persona development for busy B2B marketers to learn more.

3.     Target identification.

You need to physically identify your target—decision-makers and influencers. Start with sales: Understand their priority accounts (either for prospecting or cross-sell opportunities), and which contacts within those accounts they’ve already identified. Some sales teams will have no problem pulling a targeted list of companies and 2-5 contacts (best case) within those organizations.

However, if you have no contacts at your targeted companies, there are several methods to build out a list. The most successful list-building methods will require time and effort to hand-build, leveraging a combination of data (available online, often for purchase) and calling (for validation).

4.     Participate in an integrated touch strategy.

Even the most stellar marketing campaign—great offers, compelling visuals/call-to-action and persuasive messaging—won’t reach its full potential without sales support. When sales follows up on all inquiries immediately, there’s typically a significant increase in impact. And I’ve often found that buyers will be much more receptive to a proactive phone call after receiving a relevant and interesting package or offer.

5.     Communicate impact.

This goes both ways. If you want to get sales jazzed about a campaign, it’s helpful to SHOW THEM THE $$. Let them understand your projected path to revenue. Identify where in the process they’ll have an opportunity to make an impact (see #4). Set up campaign codes in Salesforce.com or other CRM tools to indicate the source of leads, and keep track of their progress through the pipeline.

Since partnering with sales is clearly key to building successful targeted campaigns, see Five Tips for Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing to give your campaigns a real depth charge.


Proof That Personalization Can Open Doors and Close Sales

January 26, 2011

If you wish all targeted account campaign results looked like this, let me take you through the steps that made these possible.

These results demonstrate:

  • The value of targeting
  • The power of personalization to sell a high-value solution
  • The significant role that sales plays in demand generation marketing programs
  • That sometimes you need to break the rules

Targeting, personalization and sales integration

A large telecoms company wanted to engage with senior technology executives at top-tier companies, but these prospects were in markets where the company had little to no brand recognition. Not the easiest way to start a relevant, personalized dialogue.

Sound familiar?

Then one of the company’s sales engineers had a breakthrough idea: why not use the customized network diagrams he was preparing to help close contracts as an introductory clutterbuster? This would show not only how the company could address their unique network challenges but also how committed they are to providing great, personalized service.

The company tapped B2B agency Babcock & Jenkins (BNJ) to turn this provocative idea into a reality. (Full disclosure: BNJ is my home base.)

Collaborating closely with both the sales and marketing teams, BNJ developed a pilot targeted accounts campaign that included:

  • A multi-touch, high value series of communications, including  a dimensional direct mailer that included the customized network map in an architectural blueprint tube plus a handwritten note from the recipient’s named sales rep directing them to a personalized microsite via a personalized URL (PURL). Other touches included a “teaser” package (complete with brownies and coffee) and a follow-up note card and email “from” the sales rep.

Brownie

  • A personalized microsite featuring a short welcome video from company’s CTO, direct contact information for and a picture of the prospect’s named sales rep, a 40-page recommendation specific to their company, and more.
  • Passive profiling to give sales deep insight into each prospect’s interaction with the site, plus a sales alert that immediately notifies each rep when their target responds to the site.

Given its 10-to-1 ROI projection (including  impressive sales already closed) and other phenomenal results, the campaign is being fine-tuned for further rollouts. One happy sales rep noted, “This is the best marketing program I’ve seen in my 15 years in the business.”

The key elements

And the rule-breaking?

Well…most sales-cycle models (and seasoned marketing folks) typically recommend that early-stage outreach content stay on the soft side: thought-leadership content such as white papers or third-party articles. Specific solution and implementation information normally comes later, once you know more about your prospects and their particular needs.

However, the small size and tight targeting of the audience allowed delivery of specific relevant information upfront, condensing some of the usual getting-to-know you stages of content provision.

Have you broken (or invented) rules of targeted marketing for breakthrough results? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.


How Busy B2B Demand Generation Marketers Can (Still) Use Personas

January 24, 2011

bees wallpaper

Let’s explore what level of persona development can help you accomplish your demand generation goals.

Developing B2B buyer personas is an essential first step to successful B2B marketing. However, there are many methods for collecting this mission-critical information.  

As marketers, our ultimate goal is to engage prospects and customers with relevant dialogue to develop and maintain long-term profitable relationships.

To engage B2B buyers in a relevant manner, we have to know:

Who they are

This is the most basic level, identifying targets by role and general demographics. It’s not so difficult to collect data on who the decision makers, influencers, and amplifiers (advocates for a solution) are within any given industry, or the size of their company. The difficulty is that B2B marketers often stop here to—let’s just admit it—guess what motivates them to buy.

What they care about

This is the heart of persona development and its value. It means probing beyond the title to figure out what makes them tick: their daily and long-term concerns , their level of technical experience and understanding, their measure of success, their professional aspirations, their work habits, and even their social status.

This vivid picture of each type of buyer saves us from the common pitfall of basing messages on our own personal preferences—often euphemized as our gut feeling.

How to talk with them, not at them

Initiating and maintaining a relevant dialogue means putting the target’s information needs first. Not only must we understand what they need to know, we must uncover their preferred ways to find and consume content. Do they research your type of solution online? Via smartphone? Are they more receptive to webinars, demos, or white papers?

Part of this knowledge can be revealed through persona research and development, but we must also be careful to align these findings with each stage of the buyer cycle.

But how?

Ideally, we’d always have the time and budget to commission formal persona research, complete with focus groups and well-targeted online surveys. But you can also collect information to inform personas by:

  • Reading the blogs and other media your audience reads
  • Joining the LinkedIn groups they are active in
  • Talking to your salespeople—they are the closest point of contact with your audience, after all

Then boil the insights you gather down to a two-paragraph story that highlights who they are, what they care about, and how they prefer to engage.

Give them names! Add pictures that give you an idea of their environment and what they look like. Make posters of the personas with their info and stick them on the wall as a vivid reminder to put their concerns first in all your demand generation programs.

How have you used personas (or wished you could)? Please comment and share your experiences—I may be able to help.


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