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


Is B2B Demand Generation in a State of Chaos?

September 19, 2011

B2B marketing experts everywhere agree that the landscape is changing dramatically.

Is this change creating a culture of chaos and, ultimately, the obsolescence of B2B marketing itself? Or is it simply the evolution of it? Call me the forever optimist, but I believe we’re at an extraordinary crossroads, and that this perceived “chaos” is actually ground-breaking progress.

Some thought leaders, like GyroHSR’s President Rick Segal, believe  B2B marketing is obsolete (BtoB Magazine Is B2B Marketing Really Obsolete?). Segal believes the lines between professional and personal life are blurring therefore changing the profile of the business decision-maker.

Jeff Ernst, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, recently published a report titled: The State of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed,” based on an online survey of 266 marketing and sales executives (conducted in May 2011).

The disjointed state of B2B demand generation that Ernst references is based upon key statistics in the report, including:

  • 44% of marketers said prospects view communications from their companies as “disjointed” or “hit and miss.”
  • Only 3% of marketers think they “wow” prospects by knowing what information customers need and giving it to them.
  • Only 23% of companies have a defined lead management process.
  • Only 5% of companies follow a streamlined lead-nurturing process in which every customer contact is orchestrated.

The sum of these last 2 points tell us that less than one in four marketers have defined how they handle a lead and only 1 in 20 nurture those leads.

In a recent blog post, Ernst furthered his point of view (http://blogs.forrester.com/category/b2b_marketing):

“To back up my claims, I decided to survey B2B marketing and sales leaders to gather some data points on the real state of affairs.

Just for kicks, I asked people to give a word or phrase that summarizes their view of the state of demand generation, and the word that appeared most frequently in the responses was ‘disjointed.’ Hmmm, how fitting. And there’s no shortage of contexts for how that word fits. Disjointed between sales and marketing, disjointed channels, disjointed messages…”

In conclusion, Ernst does go on to say, ‘The good news is that B2B marketing and sales leaders are planning to make big changes over the next 12 months to address many of today’s shortcomings.’

While I don’t debate the accuracy of the data, I do challenge his interpretation of the data and that big changes are forthcoming vs. happening today.

My bias is based on the fact that I am working with many mid-sized and enterprise organizations (many of which are in the technology and information services sectors) who are clearly embracing today’s challenges head on. Instead of hitting walls, they are geared up with harnesses, helmets and rope and making significant strides over these walls. Key advances I’m seeing with these organizations include:

  1. A shift toward a buyer-centric (customer-centric) marketing model that enables more relevant conversations suited to buyer and where they are in the buying cycle
  2. Sales and marketing alignment around organizational priorities and objectives and more tactical issues like lead scoring and lead passing
  3. Adoption of marketing automation platforms (MAPs) that elegantly integrate with Salesforce.com (or other CRM tools), enabling more relevant conversations between organizations and buyers and providing metrics to prove effectiveness of marketing. Adoption of MAPs, we are seeing companies align people and processes to support the power of these tools (which was not happening initially).
  4. Honest dialogue around and progress toward key metrics that matter to the bottom line (and tools that enable this)

Of all these advances, the most important is #1: In a recent post, I provided a few tips for how to get started on this path to buyer-centric marketing.

With a combination of people, process and technology, buyer-centric marketing is alive and well (and it’s a requirement to be successful in B2B marketing today).

I love this quote by Michael Dell, as it further supports the need for a customer-centric approach:
“It’s customers that made Dell great in the first place, and if we’re smart enough and quick enough to listen to customer needs, we’ll succeed.”
Michael Dell, Dell
In conclusion, some may call B2B obsolete, and others may call it chaotic, but I call it progress and am embracing change!

I’d love to hear your perspective on this topic. Please take a moment to share your point of view.


How to Use Social Media Tools for B2B Demand Generation

March 7, 2011

St Mary's Church Weathervane, Edwinstowe

Here’s a refreshing guide for “how to use social media in B2B that does not involve talking about the specific tools,” but rather explains what to do with them.

Here’s a good one from Chris Koch, a leading B2B researcher and blogger for one of my favorite resources, the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA). He starts off with three directives you may already be familiar with:

  • Monitor. Find and track the relevant conversations in social media and online.
  • Engage. Take an active role in social media by engaging with customers and influencers in the various forums where conversations are taking place.
  • Manage. Take an active role in facilitating and managing conversations, such as creating a blog or community.

No surprises there…but Chris breaks out detailed tasks under each of these headings. The result is more of a map than a signpost to B2B social media success. Here’s another excerpt:

Monitor

  • Track conversations about your company.
  • Develop a target audience. Discover customers and prospects that are most relevant for your offerings by observing the patterns and topics of their conversations.
  • Discover influencers. By monitoring conversations online, we can find the people inside and outside our companies that say smart things.
  • Gather research. Search tools can help you mine the data.
  • See the distribution of conversation. Some monitoring tools let you segment the different types of social media to determine where conversations are happening.

And there are five more action items under “monitor” alone, and much more analysis under all of the action items in the article. Good stuff.

Of course, we all have to decide exactly which form of social media will help us achieve our specific demand generation objectives, but digging into this meaty outline of B2B social media action items now will ensure you’re well-prepared to go the distance at any time.

  • Monitor. Find and track the relevant conversations in social media and online.
  • Engage. Take an active role in social media by engaging with customers and influencers in the various forums where conversations are taking place.
  • Manage. Take an active role in facilitating and managing conversations, such as creating a blog or community.

A Knockout Social Media Guide for the B2B Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

March 4, 2011

Whether you’re a demand generation-focused CMO yourself or part of a CMO’s team, the following snips from Eloqua will support your case for CMO social media involvement.

Eloqua is offering an indispensable guide to social media for the CMO—and it’s an easy, engaging, skimmable read, too. Honestly, 14 pages never went so fast.

But if you just can’t face downloading yet another document for “later,” maybe the following excerpts will perk you up for the full read. I’ve explored three of the main topics in the guide as a sneak peek of all the good things that await.

What Is Social Media?

“Its promise is simple: converging friends, colleagues, partners and customers into one digital melting pot.”

The promise may be simple, but for the uber-busy CMO, the practice is not. In fact, this promise sounds like some executives’ worst nightmare. How do you target effectively, or direct others to do so, in a melting pot?

Yet the warning tone of the guide is clear: get onboard or get left behind—not a place any C-level professional wants to be.

Why Do CMOs Need to Understand Social Media Personally?

Most CMOs today still:

  • Leave social media to their junior staff; or
  • Set it and forget it—They register for Facebook or Twitter and then lapse—or
  • Get another department to handle it.

All of these are big no-nos. The Eloqua guide touches on several reasons why, but for me, the need for “positioning, messaging and strategy” from the senior marketing level is the best one.

If you’re the CMO, you’re the voice of experience, and you need to understand fully how to your project your voice through social media.

Why Does My Business Need to Understand Social Media?

If you don’t champion social media for your business as a whole, it’s like refusing an invitation the one party you can be sure all your customers, prospects, and competitors will attend. More specifically:

“Organized, executive-sponsored social engagement models provide companies with rich opportunities for intelligence-gathering, internal communications, public influence, competitive insights, customer service and media relations.

“Conversely, ad hoc programs can ultimately damage companies in all of these fundamental areas.”

There’s more to look forward to and keep close at hand, such as the 10 Dos and Don’ts, one CEO’s “Three tips for every CMO,” and the very handy Content Grid infographic.

And Eloqua has generously urged everyone to share the wealth of the guide freely, so here it is: Eloqua’s Grande Guide to the Social CMO.


Storytelling That Sells: Five Tips for B2B Demand Generation Marketers

March 2, 2011

(Click for larger image)

As marketers, we know that providing the right information, to the right people, at the right time is crucial. But can we tell a good story? What is a “good” B2B story? How do we make one? And why is it important?

“When you share a story with an audience you open up their minds, their imaginations and their hearts—and as result the audience becomes more receptive to your message. This is the power of stories.”
—Jean Hamilton, “The Art of Storytelling: The Key to Memorable Presentations.”

I think that simple statement sums up the “why” pretty persuasively. The “what” and “how” require slightly more explanation, and are intertwined.

A good story is (not always) hard to write. Or film. Or record.

But it does take practice, and an understanding of some essential principles. Case studies are the most obvious vehicles for storytelling, but any information you deliver—in a product demo, a presentation,  a white paper—can be made more compelling with a personal experience baked in.

No matter what media you plan to deliver your story in, the following elements must be present.

Relevance

I trust you’ll do your B2B homework and ensure your information is relevant to a buyer persona and their stage in the buyer cycle. But if you plan to frame that information with a story, you must also ensure your buyers can relate to the characters, themes and tone of the story. If your audience is a small business owner, offering the example of an enterprise VP is likely to miss the mark, no matter how thrilling it might otherwise be.

Conflict and Redemption

Without challenge or conflict, there is no story. You might recall the old newspaper adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” B2B stories typically aren’t quite that dramatic, but the point holds true: if you want to engage interest via storytelling, you need to show the bad and the ugly as well as the good.

In a case study, that might mean revealing challenges on the solution side as well as the customer side. If your original solution didn’t quite go to plan, but your team made an above-and-beyond effort to overcome the unexpected challenge, you stand to gain points for heroic measures.

How much conflict you reveal is a risk you have to weigh, but don’t automatically discount the power of redeemed conflict.

Character

A B2B character is any specific, named person who appears in your story narrative or onscreen. It doesn’t mean you have to dream up a fictional spokesperson, although if you can construct an articulate, charming character suitable for your audience, go for it!

A “good” character is quite simply one that your audience can relate to, based on similarity of role, expertise or situation. If they’re featured in a video, it does help if they’re comfortable on camera and well-prepared to articulate their story.

Although the following video is not what we may usually think of as a story, the IT expert featured does add a sympathetic element to what would otherwise be a purely informative narrative.

Specifics

You probably know this one already: Specific details are typically more convincing and compelling than generalities. This partly explains the popularity and pervasiveness of the case study as a content tool. Not only is it evidence of your solution’s success, it’s a mechanism for making the solution more memorable.

Action

Say less and show more. In written form, this means introducing dialogue or quotes whenever possible. In visual media, interspersing “talking head” moments with demonstrations (whether live action or illustrated) will be much more powerful than several minutes of monologue.

And remember…

The story doesn’t have to carry the entire weight of your offering.

The case study shown at the top of this post was commissioned for a large telecoms company to help their small business customers take greater advantage of technology for business. It eases the audience into a more instructive presentation of social media tools and resources. It’s a nice example of how stories provide an effective opening (or closing) act.

What’s your story? As always, your comments are very welcome.

 



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