B2B Marketing


I am a big fan of marketing automation.  It has a lot of great uses to streamline your marketing efforts, get you a wealth of insight and help you tailor the right messages at the right time to the right people.  But as with everything, there are exceptions.  One big exception is using marketing automation tools when you are trying to reach a C-level audience.  The typical CEO or other C-level person is extremely busy trying to run their business day-to-day.  The last thing they are going to do is read marketing emails or surf the web in search of information about a particular solution set.  And if they do, they certainly don’t want a vendor calling them up and trying to sell them the latest widget to solve their problem.

C-level people are best reached through live interactions or interruptive marketing techniques such as a slick direct mail package.  These are not the type of techniques that you can automate or score on.  I am hard-pressed to tell you how you can use marketing automation at all when reaching this audience.  The only way I can think to take advantage is to use marketing automation to reach the people that will sell you internally to their C-level.

The bottom line is that every technology has a time and place.  It is probably best to back away from the technology when you are trying to sell into most C-level audiences.  There is no shortcut to reach that target audience.

My first real experience with creating web pages was in the mid-90’s with the Purdue University Graduate School.  They knew they needed a web site, as it was the next big communication medium.  So I took their existing application forms, converted them to PDF, and added all the fields so an applicant could fill it out online, print it out and mail it in.  That seems crazy now, but that’s the best we could think of at the time.  They were just doing what everyone else was.  It’s not really a lot different from how most companies use video, social media and other new media today.

Granted, there are a few companies doing great things with these channels.  And we can learn a lot from watching them.  But until you can create something that is really adding value to your clients and prospects, just jumping on the bandwagon is probably not the right answer for you.  As your mother might say, “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you need to.”

That may seem blasphemous to most marketers today.  You should always be exploring new channels.  But you can waste a lot of time and money doing things just to blend in with the crowd.  What you really want to do is stand out from the crowd.  What if you bucked the trend and creatively used some “older” techniques?  What if you were the only company in your industry sending out hand-written letters?  What if you were the only one taking your product samples door-to-door?  What if you didn’t attend that industry trade show but instead hosted exclusive dinners of your own in cities around the country for those who couldn’t go to the show?

Yes, you need to make sure that you are doing efficient and effective marketing, but you may find that you can stand out more by looking for things that everyone else is not doing.  And if you happen to come up with a creative way to use social media or email to stand out in the meantime, go for it!  Just don’t limit your channel choices to only the latest and greatest trends.

**After a long hiatus to get some work things under control and have a baby, the Chasing Marketing blog is making a comeback!**

When I work with B2B Enterprise companies, I often find that they are very uncomfortable with social media as a marketing tool.  Working with social media is often buried as a PR task if it is used at all.  And when we start talking about using it for marketing purposes, I get a lot of push back.  The reason is often that they don’t think their customers are using social media or they can’t clearly justify the spend with ROI.  The underlying cause, though, is usually always a lack of understanding and therefore comfort with social media and how to use it.

I read a great article in Forbes recently that talked about how social media is becoming more mainstream for Enterprise companies.

It’s no longer about early adoption. The social enterprise is here. You’re now competing with companies that are collaborating on sales opportunities, tracking their brand on Twitter and Facebook and delighting clients through social customer service. They’re also building loyal communities of customers and empowering them as a marketing force. Mobile, social and the cloud are essential business technologies.
The Social Enterprise Becomes a Reality, Forbes 4/23/2012

As your executives become more comfortable with social media, corporate resistance to social marketing tactics should become less of an issue.  And B2B marketers who don’t jump on this bandwagon could miss a big bet.  The window of opportunity is opening up.  Marketing can become the hero for finding successful social marketing tactics that drive awareness, leads and ultimately, business.  And not taking advantage of this opportunity could have some big downsides.  Your competitors could easily jump ahead and make you into a social follower instead of a social leader in your industry.  This can lead to losing more business to the competition which will ultimately make you look like an unsuccessful marketer.

How can you become more comfortable with social media?  For starters, get out there yourself.  Get to know the channels and how they are being used today.  Start monitoring how and where topics related to your company’s products and services are being discussed.  Once you get more comfortable, how to jump in as an active participant to drive awareness and leads for your company will quickly become clearer.

I’ve been reading over the past few days the allegations coming out against Apple, Google, and others about how they are tracking and storing personal data such as where you are at every minute of the day.  Collection of personal data has been an interesting struggle over the past few years.  As we get more sophisticated with our technology, we are also making it easier for people to get data that we don’t necessarily want them to have.  There is very little privacy today.  In the U.S., the patriot act makes it possible for even the government stick their nose into your business.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fine line.  I want to feel safe and if our government having more information that helps them stop terrorists means they also know more about me than I feel entirely comfortable with, so be it.  And with the barrage of media today, the more a company knows about my personal preferences, the more they can help cut down the noise and focus in on the ads that I want.  I’m not against browsers tracking my behavior online because hey – I’m not visiting any sites I’m ashamed to admit to.

But on the flip side, it is much easier for data to fall into the wrong hands.  We regularly hear about security breaches, such as the recent one at Epsilon.  The mass of data floating around out there about me means that it is easier for someone to steal my identity and put my life into a tailspin trying to sort it out.  I have a greater burden now trying to keep my data secure.  And then there are the companies out there exploiting that fear and offering paid services to help you feel more secure and monitor your own data.  Where does it all end?

So let me get off my soapbox for a minute and relate this back to marketing for global B2B firms.  As marketers, it is our responsibility to make people feel safe about the data they are giving us.  The 8-pt font grayed-out link at the bottom of your email to your privacy policy and allowing people to unsubscribe is no longer cutting it.  You need to be more proactive.  Here are a few thoughts for you:

  • Use opt-in, not opt-out lists.
  • Create your own opt-in house list.  That way you ensure only the people who really care about your products and services get your messages.  You’d be amazed at how much this can boost your open and clickthrough rates.
  • Create a preference center for people to manage their own subscriptions.  Why annoy them with stuff they don’t want?
  • Focus your efforts more on inbound marketing, such as paid search.
  • When you ask for data, be very clear on the form page how you are going to use it – don’t bury that information in your privacy policy in a bunch of legal speak.
  • Don’t collect anything you wouldn’t want collected about you – minimize what you ask for on forms as much as possible.  Use progressive profiling forms where you can.

In a 24×7 world of marketing automation, it is easy to push marketing information anytime to your clients, monitor their interaction with your marketing around the clock and react in real-time.  It’s also really easy to screw up.

I remember the first time I setup an automated campaign using a marketing automation system.  Fortunately we had a very small sample test list since we were just learning the system.  The campaign was supposed to send an email offering a whitepaper, wait some period of time, then send another email to people who didn’t download the whitepaper offering it again.  What the program did (due to incorrect setup) was send out the first email and then immediately send out the second email noting that they hadn’t downloaded the whitepaper yet.  My boss was very forgiving about this, and assured me that most people probably thought it was an error and they just got the same email twice rather than us being very impatient.  So we decided to do nothing and just fix our error for the next round.

I’m sure you all have examples of emails sent to you addressing you by the wrong name (I was once called Bill in a marketing email) or with spelling errors or no content at all.  Despite our best attempts at testing everything before it goes out, there is always a chance that you can screw it up for the world to see.  Here are a few suggestions I have for fixing and avoiding those errors:

  • If it is a small error (like the one I described above) it is sometimes best not to address it at all.  That might call attention to an error that no one noticed in the first place.
  • If it is a big glaring error, you should own up to it.  First rule in PR is to be up-front – people are pretty forgiving and it will blow over quickly if you just fess up.  A cover-up is way more interesting and will stay in people’s minds for years to come.  I’ve seen emails sent out that say please disregard the previous email as it was sent in error.  Short, sweet, and you probably put it out of your mind immediately after it happens.
  • When you are automating things, start simple and make sure small parts of the program work before you add complexity to it – that way you will avoid some big fat hairy mistake just because you were unable to test out every possible scenario.
  • Build in plenty of time for testing.  Just because you could create and send that email in the next 5 minutes doesn’t mean you should.  Be realistic and give yourself a day or two in your timeline to test and make sure it all works.  Get someone that’s not involved at all in your project to help with
  • Be really vigilant about data quality.  Put some system into place, whether it is internal or through a third party, to do data cleansing and auditing on a regular basis to avoid embarrassing errors that could cost you a lead. I certainly didn’t respond to that email that called me Bill 🙂

If you are like me, you don’t have much time to read books.  And when you do have time, you don’t want to read a business book.  We are in a world of constant information overload.  For marketers, quite honestly the best information on marketing is found on the web.  However, one of my co-workers recently suggested I write a blog post on my recommended books.  I thought through the books I have on my shelf and came up with this list of influential books which inform marketing both directly and indirectly for me.  And they are actually a pleasure to read!

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
This is a book on change management, which I feel is the least addressed issue in marketing.  We are constantly trying to get our internal and external teams to shift to a new way of marketing in a demand-gen centric world, yet we don’t fully understand how to do that.  This book lays a great foundation for why people resist change and some easy ways to overcome it.

Digital Body Language, Steven Woods
This is the first book that really addressed the concept of how marketing automation (MA) systems can replace the sales team at the front end of a sales process.   If you haven’t bought into the whole MA value proposition yet – this is a must-read.

Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi
A good marketer will always have a good perspective on sales, as well.  I love this book because it helped me put myself in the shoes of a salesperson and think through what it really takes to build a solid relationship.  Once you have the foundation of how to build a relationship “manually” you can think through how you can build and affect that relationship as a marketer.

There is No Secret Sauce, Adam Metz
Props to our own Adam Metz for this quick read on social marketing and how to get started.  Thanks for making this a short-and-sweet book Adam!  It’s kind of the Cliffs Notes version of a social media how-to.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
I have to admit this is one that is sitting on my Kindle unread at the moment.   But I still include it as a must-read because it comes so highly recommended.  It’s on my to-do list!

If you knew in advance that your campaign would bomb, you’d never run it, right?  If you are a traditional marketer, you probably know how to evaluate which publications to run an ad in or whether an event is useful to attend.  And you evaluate these things up front before ever investing the resources or money in them.  The same should be true of your lead generation campaigns.

The difference with lead generation campaigns is that you should have a much more specific goal in mind, such as generating a certain number of leads or revenue from the campaign.  The best way to figure this out is by modeling based on past history.  If you’ve done campaigns long enough, you should know your average conversion rates.  But even if you don’t have past history to draw from, there are enough baseline metrics out there for B2B firms, you should be able to find a reasonable set of metrics to model your campaign.

At it’s simplest, here’s what a model might look like to determine the expected revenue of a campaign:

# Inquiries x % Conversion to Opportunities x % Close Rate x Average Deal Size = Expected Revenue

You may also need to add in information about channel performance and number of targets to figure out how many inquiries to expect.  If you tend to market to a lead throughout the sales cycle, these numbers will generally be reflected in your conversion rates, so you are really looking for number of inquiries that this specific campaign might generate.  If this campaign is meant to be one that pushes people through the pipeline, maybe you are more concerned about increasing the conversion rate or speeding cycle time.  Even if you don’t have numbers, you can model out what it might look like if you increase the conversion rate from a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead by even 1%.

If you don’t have a past history, at least create a model with some conservative numbers to track against.  Once you do this a couple of times, you will have that history, but you need to see if your assumptions are reasonable.  So start making some assumptions to test.  Bottom line – never run a campaign at all before you at least take the time to see if it can theoretically meet your goals.

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