5 Hot Topics for Top B2B Enterprise Marketers

June 23, 2015

Chutes & Ladders (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ready to ROCK the Wave of Modern B2B Marketing

June 11, 2015

Surfing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does this model surfer look like?

Key characteristics – as shared by Munn – include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why The Best Modern Marketers Use Right and Left Brain

July 16, 2013

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

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

Why chose just one side?

Why choose just one side?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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