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?


Top 3 Playground Rules for Sales and Marketing Teams

July 31, 2012

Sales and marketing teams are often at odds, blaming each other for a loss of revenue or lack of success. In the Playground Rules for Sales and Marketing Teams event presented by the Marketing Automation Institute (MAI), I was on a panel of industry leaders including Brian Hansford, Account Director—Marketing Automation, Heinz Marketing and Alex Shootman, Chief Revenue Officer, Eloqua that was moderated by Jay Hidalgo, President of The Annuitas Group. Together, we explored what it takes to get sales and marketing aligned to work (and play) well together—and what to expect along the way.

All of us on the panel agreed that in today’s market, the focus should be on buyers—what they need and how they want to buy. With 70% of the buyer’s journey now happening before sales is even engaged, sales and marketing alignment is not an option; it’s a requirement. It is not surprising that top performing organizations where sales and marketing effectively collaborate are seeing improved performance and increased revenue. How do they accomplish this? Following are the top three insights for businesses striving to align sales and marketing efforts:

1.  Employ these 5 practices that companies with great alignment share

  • Establish a common understanding of knowledge, vocabulary and goals.
  • Understand that buyers go through a journey and that sales and marketing both need to work with them through the journey.
  • Ensure that sales and marketing each know their role—as if in a partner dance; each should know who is leading and who is following at each stage in the buyer’s journey.
  • Commit to clean data.
  • Employ a common set of metrics and joint reporting.

That’s the big-picture overview. Following are a few of the finer points that can help you be successful as you put these practices into play.

2.  If you meet resistance, start small

When you are first aligning sales and marketing, you don’t have to bite off the whole organization at once. If you are meeting resistance, try piloting with a specific region. Once there’s proof that marketing’s efforts are advantageous to the sales process, the rest of your organization will get on board quickly.

3.   Softer metrics can help you gain traction

When you hear anecdotes about sales enablement tools that help close the deal, make sure to capture and share the enthusiastic feedback. (I gave an example of how my agency helped CenturyLink analyze target audience needs to inform a custom demand gen solution. When one prospect immediately agreed to a meeting and actually brought the tool we created to the meeting, it was evident that marketing helped sales gain both access and credibility. This went a long way toward speeding adoption.)

The good news is that alignment is within reach for your organization! The practices outlined here are very achievable when you start small and remain committed to the process. Our panel suggested that you keep in mind the Steven Covey quote “Light is the greatest disinfectant in nature and business” as you investigate opportunities to maximize the impact of sales and marketing collaboration.

Want the full download? You can listen to the entire Playground Rules for Sales and Marketing Teams conversation any time.



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


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


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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