B2B marketing: The truth behind the trends for 2013–Part II

Last week, I judged the validity and value of the first ten of Hubspot’s “20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond.”

This trend report covers the issues that marketers are being encouraged to pay attention to and incorporate into their planning for 2013. Here is my take on items 11 through 20:

Good Information

“Email Lives On”
This prediction promotes that email will become “less batch and blast” and more personalized. That’s good, as the more any message can be personalized the more effective it will be.

“Marketing Technology Evolves”
I hope this prediction is correct. One point promises that marketing solutions, ROI measurement, etc., will become more integrated so marketers can get a true picture of what’s working and what is not.

“Content Crowdsourcing Grows”
Leveraging viral content created by prospects and customers adds an interesting and possibly money-saving resource to the B2B marketing tool chest.

“Marketing Gets Gamified”
Not sure about the product placement possibility mentioned in this prediction; however, making content more sticky by adding some entertainment value to it is just the tactic today’s B2B marketers need to stand out and get attention.

Nothing New

“Marketing Speaks Like a Human”
This trend implies that, because of social media, marketers can start talking to their prospects as one human to another. Speaking to buyers in a one-on-one tone, based on the buyer’s individual wants and needs, has always been a hallmark of successful target marketing.

“I’ll Take Some Content Curation, Please”
The creation of more targeted and compelling content has been and should be a line item on every B2B marketing budget.

“A Picture is Worth 1000 Words”
This point refers to the hot new picture posting sites on the Web such as Pinterest. However, since the above phrase has been recognized as an old Chinese proverb, it’s safe to assume that there’s nothing new about value of pictures. How effective these sites can be for B2B marketers remains to be seen.

“Context is Content’s New Best Friend”
There’s nothing new about choosing content, messaging, channels and placements based on the profile and past behavior of prospects and customers. It’s always been and will always be a best practice.

Don’t Believe It

“Inbound, Not Automation, Becomes Priority”
I disagree with the premise that automated marketing is, overall, a failure. I agree that many companies do not put in the strategy and follow-through necessary to make automation work as it should. But automating contact with prospects and trying to move them through the buy cycle based on their past actions is still better than not following up at all. Inbound marketing does not replace this on any level.

“Outbound Marketing Loses Traction”
This claim begins with these stats: “Mass marketing gets a 2% response rate, if you’re lucky. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, can produce conversion rates 10X higher or more.” This is playing with math, as it does not compare response rates or conversion rates. If done right, responders to outbound marketing effort also have high conversion rates. B2B marketers that eliminate outbound efforts to generate qualified leads will be out of work soon.

Technology and channels continue to grow and change. But integrated strategies and best practices will keep B2B marketers on top of those trends regardless of the changes.

B2B marketing automation is finally integrated.

You may have heard me shouting with joy recently when I received my latest copy of Deliver Magazine, the marketing magazine put out by the U.S. Postal Service. The article I loved is entitled “Pulling the Trigger“, which you can read in full by downloading the issue.

What it reports is that Eloqua, one of today’s more well-known B2B marketing automation providers, is now testing the integration of direct mail into its automated offerings.

They started the testing in one of their own marketing campaigns — as Elle Woulfe, Eloqua’s director, marketing programs reports, “To get our message in front of executives, we need to reach them over their preferred channels. By adding a direct mail touch to an integrated e-mail campaign, we hoped to open the door with new contacts and reach them outside of their inbox. If an executive target clicked through an Eloqua e-mail, a customized direct mail response was activated.  One card, themed ‘Cash Cow,’ went to CMOs. Another, entitled ‘Profit Prophet,’ went to non-CMO prospects. The cards featured themed graphics, first-name personalization and a QR code. Executives who didn’t respond immediately received a triggered e-mail; those who did respond drew another direct mailing. All mail pieces were tracked, so when a card was delivered, it instantly activated the next marketing step.”

All marketers today are endorsing integrated marketing and reaching out to prospects in different ways with different kinds of content. The reason integrated marketing works so well is that it gives B2B marketers a greater chance of reaching more of their prospects in the way that those prospects are most receptive to receiving information.

There may be a big and popular “cloud” out there, but B2B buyers still read their mail. Congrats to Eloqua for integrating offline into their online and offering truly integrated B2B marketing.

B2B Marketing Automation: Is it really worth the effort?

There’s nothing nicer when writing B2B marketing copy than to be able to talk about the fact that a product or service has “automated” some process. Automation typically removes one or more steps that have to be done manually by one or more human beings.

Automation can mean completely releasing labor from one task so time can be spent more productively on another. It typically lets today’s universally overburdened workers get more done in less time. That description is not, however, completely accurate for B2B marketing automation — as Justin Gray, CEO & Chief Marketing Evangelist of LeadMD, reports so accurately in “Marketing Automation ROI: Myths and Facts.”

Appearing on the Marketing Automation Software Guide, the opening of his conclusion says it all –marketing is hard. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, making the decision to implement and use this marketing tool provides two big benefits:

  1. Automate an essential process that is messy and time-consuming to do manually. Nurture prospects by automatically offering them the appropriate next piece of marketing content based on their last action with the goal of helping them move through the buying cycle.
  2. Boost sales by achieving 100% follow-up on ALL leads generated. 45% of all leads generated make a purchase from someone in the industry product category within one year. Companies not paying attention to all the leads they generate will miss sales they could have won.

Gray’s instructions on the steps necessary for building an effective marketing automation strategy are valuable and sound. He warns that there are no shortcuts. However, if all of it seems like much more than your company can take on, you should check out these lead nurturing stats reported on an insightful, one-page infographic prepared by NuSpark Marketing.

  • According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing are able to generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead.
  • According to CSO Insights, sales reps at companies that excel at lead nurturing reach quota 9% more often and new reps at those companies enjoy a 10% shorter ramp-up time.
  • According to DemandGen Report, nurtured leads produce, on average, 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads.

Just like all aspects of successful B2B marketing, effective nurturing takes strategic planning, the creation of useful content, plus having a team in place to manage the process and take advantage of all best practice tools that are part of today’s marketing automation software. In the end it means more sales. I say that’s well worth the effort.

True B2B marketing success depends on what you don’t see.

As a B2B marketing copywriting specialist, my readers might think I’d lay it on thick about the importance of the copy and design in B2B marketing messages — emails, content, direct mail, landing pages, product brochures and more.

Copy and design are both important elements in B2B marketing. They’re physical parts that B2B marketers can share with CMOs, CIOs, product managers, sales and others. They are marketing elements that can be revised, enhanced, and can make marketers feel as though they’ve made a difference in the outcome of their B2B marketing programs.

Copy and design, however, are not the most important elements in the success of B2B marketing — data is.

I’ve written about this before, but, all too often, I come in contact with clients and prospects that spend a large percentage of their time and money on copy and design and virtually nothing on data. Most have bought and use Salesforce.com, CRM programs, marketing automation programs and more. But how much time are they spending on the data that is contained in those programs?

  • Has it been updated and verified?
  • Has it been enhanced with information from data providers?
  • Has it been profiled?

Getting the right message to the right person ALWAYS enhances response rates — more than rewriting the same #$%^%# paragraph five times. The more B2B marketers know about their buyers and prospects, the more effective all their marketing will be.

Once a company has invested in marketing automation, sending emails appears to be virtually free. It’s actually quite costly when considering a company’s reputation. When B2B marketers send off-target messages to their prospect base, it appears as though they don’t know what they’re doing.

Here are three tactics B2B marketers can take with their in-house customer and prospect data that are more important than anything else they do. These steps may be costly, but each is an essential investment in the success of all future marketing and sales efforts:

  1. Update and Verify Data: Hire a temp or a telemarketing firm (I personally like Business to Business Marketing) to place a call to every one of your prospect companies to verify names, titles, functional titles, mailing addresses, and other information that helps target communications with each one.
  2. Enhance Data: Data sources are available (D&B, infoUSA, ReachForce) that can append information to data such as annual sales, years in business, number of employees, headquarters vs. branches and more. There are also sources for less common information such as number of computers, software presence (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Apple), building square footage, etc. While this data may not be perfect, it can help B2B marketers better target their marketing and sales efforts.
  3. Profile Buyers: B2B marketers can take their customer base and build a profile of size, SIC code, annual sales, etc. and rank them. This ranking profile can be used to identify marketing lists that will more likely contain qualified prospects. If the B2B company’s target universe is small, this is not cost effective. But for those with larger prospect pools it’s a valuable tool.

Data may not be as creative and touchable as copy and design, but unless it’s clear, up to date and accurate, the greatest copy and design will not generate results.

3 simple technologies B2B marketers can love.

Has the day come when technology can replace the B2B marketer? I think not. But two Web-based analysis tools, and a tool for interacting with B2B event attendees, may help them be a lot more effective.

  1. AttentionWizard.com is a “Visual Attention Prediction Tool for Landing Pages.” Technically, it “simulates human vision during the first 5 seconds of exposure to visuals, and creates an eye-tracking heatmap based on an algorithm that predicts what a real human would be most likely to look at.” Ranging from $27 to $197 per month, this tool tells B2B marketers scientifically how the layout and organization of their Landing Pages might enhance or detract from its performance. I believe it offers a free trial.
  2. OfferGrader™ was discovered by Dale Underwood of B2B Conversations Now. It is the site builder’s first attempt at “a tool that would help our B2B clients gauge the strength of the call-to-action offers they provide on their websites to assist with b2b lead generation.” One look at the site told me immediately that, even if you don’t run their analysis against an actual site, it gives you a pretty quick list of the elements that would improve its performance. It’s in its trial form now; therefore, there’s no cost to try it.
  3. David Meerman Scott of WebInkNow has focused a few blogs lately on QR codes. Although I think they’re very cool, I also know that they are new enough right now. So usage is small and not without some technology barriers. However, Scott’s latest post on the subject does point out two excellent uses of QR codes for B2B marketers at trade shows and conferences that are well worth reading.

Check out these tools and posts. I think B2B marketers should find them to be interesting additions to their portfolio of solutions.

B2B marketing automation hindsight.

Marketing experts have been beating the drum of marketing automation for quite some time now. If a B2B company is not using marketing automation yet, they could feel behind the times.

Today, however, those who have NOT implemented marketing automation yet are in luck.

Recently, a survey of marketing automation users conducted by Software Advice reveals what users of marketing automation wish they had done when selecting their software automation vendor. B2B marketers who have held off moving into marketing automation can now benefit from this valuable hindsight.

Lauren Carlson, CRM Analyst at Software Advice, reports the results of this survey in her recent post “What Do You Wish You Had Asked Your MA Vendor?”

Each participant was asked, “What questions do you wish you had asked your marketing automation vendor before purchasing?” Their responses fall into four areas: integration, support/training, roadmap and maintenance. Lauren’s post highlights these top 10 most popular questions:

  1. How do the marketing automation and CRM systems work together?
  2. Can we have a bi-directional sync between the marketing tool and our CRM software?
  3. If we discontinue using the software how do we get our valuable lead information and lead activity out of the system to load in the next system?
  4. What kind of training is required to get program managers up to speed, and what is the learning curve?
  5. What level is the instruction and is it customizable to meet the level of knowledge that our team currently has?
  6. In terms of customer service, what happens after implementation? Is there something in the contract that can guarantee a set of dedicated reps or a minimum turnaround time for customer service requests?
  7. What is your roadmap for the coming year and how committed are you to delivering on that? (i.e., when you announce a new user interface, how long before it’s actually rolled out?)
  8. Is the solution robust enough to handle our long-term goals?
  9. How complex is the system to maintain?
  10. How much down-time does the system have and how does that affect our usage of the tool?

You’ll want to catch her full post to read the insightful comments of those interviewed. For B2B marketers who have not yet made the move to marketing automation, I say thanks to Software Advice and Lauren for providing this valuable guide to help them choose the right provider.