B2B marketing that talks “Outside-In” not “Inside-Out”

A few weeks ago, a colleague forwarded a post — “Better SEO through Integrated Content Marketing,” by Scott Fasser — that was on the Optify blog in 2012.

In the post, Scott recognizes that SEO is no longer a separate tactic but an integral part of B2B marketing strategy. He discusses four essentials to maximizing SEO. These include effectively using personas, which I discussed recently in “Personas: They’re not just for B2B marketing anymore.” He covers the importance of addressing all B2B marketing buy cycles, as well as the long list of the social media elements that are now part of any successful SEO initiative.

One point, however, was something I knew but had never seen presented in such a clear and definable way. That was his advice to “Talk Outside-In vs. Inside-Out.”

Here are the highlights of his important point:

“How you talk about yourself and market yourself dramatically impacts how well you are found via organic channels — especially SEO. If your website is driven by a brand perspective that creates new phrases to describe what you do that is unique to your communication, you are not creating a true differentiation in your product, but new words to describe something that prospects don’t understand.

Marketing AutomationA major marketing automation company has positioned themselves as a provider of ‘Revenue Performance Management’ software. This term could mean many different things to different functional perspectives, but the core term for this category of service is marketing automation. ‘Revenue performance management’ has about 590 searches in Google in North America per month while ‘marketing automation’ has 14,800. This tells us that marketing automation is a better known term and more people are looking for this type of solution than ‘revenue performance management.’

The lesson here is to review your current and future messaging from the point of view of a persona that does not know about your brand, focus on true differentiation/value proposition and create content that they will understand without needing an explanation. Finding that balance between pushing new concepts and terms vs. serving the market where it exists today is an important input into your content marketing planning.”

This point was strongly supported in an SEO copywriting training session I attended. It presented the background on Google’s SEO algorithms and why it’s important for top positions in Google to use the terms that customers are using. This is the same in all B2B marketing copy and messaging.

To truly connect with customers, it’s essential to use the words and phrases that they know and to always speak from their point of view.

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.

Ideas to help break the B2B automated marketing content barrier.

Recently I sat in on a great Webinar put on by Brian Carroll of MECLABS Applied Research. Brian is the organizer of the LinkedIn B2B Marketing Roundtable of which I am a member.

Instead of the speaker being a B2B marketing resource, this Webinar was a real-life case study presented by a true B2B marketer, Michelle Levy, Associate Vice President of Marketing Programs for ECI Telecom.

Her presentation was “Learn from Real-World Success: How ECI Telecom Developed a Content-Marketing Program from Concept to Completion and the Surprising Results.”

It was a great presentation, but I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised at all by the results, which included achieving a 79 percent email open rate and high conversion rates.

The reason I was not surprised is that she and her team did EVERYTHING according to best practices (which I passionately advocate) and they used excellent resources to help them:

Step one in the ECI campaign was to inventory all of its content assets — content being educational information that could be offered to acquire and nurture prospects through the buy cycle until they are “buyer ready.” After taking its inventory, ECI found 695 assets. Most assets were product brochures, of course, but nonetheless, that number is remarkably high. Many companies I deal with are lucky to find 10.

Here is a recap of how Michelle defined “valuable” content:

  • Quality: Does the content asset meet the same standards you set for your products and services?
  • Value: How thoroughly does it address a customer pain point?
  • Relevance: Does the content meet the information needs of the buyer’s place in the buy cycle? Is it relevant to the pains of that particular title?
  • Influence: Does the content influence the buyer’s perceptions in terms of issues, risks, or opportunities?

Indentifying and creating valuable content is one of the biggest barriers to effective automated marketing that establishes a B2B company as a thought leader. But it doesn’t have to be. By thinking outside of the white paper box and repurposing existing materials, many B2B marketers find that creating valuable content is not as overwhelming as it seems.

The following suggestions, organized by traditional buy cycles, have all been used successfully by other B2B marketers and should help stimulate ideas for building a content library that supports B2B marketing efforts throughout the entire buy cycle.

Interest Stage — Prospects have discovered they have a pain and are seeking education on how the pain can be fixed:
*Benchmark Reports
*Blog Reprints
* Case Studies (if organized into a collection of how peers are handling a specific pain)
* eBook of Blog Reprints
* Games
* How-to Guides
* Industry Category Surveys
* Live Seminars
* Podcasts
* Quick Self-Assessments/Checklists
* Survey Reports
* Third-Party Analysts’ Reports
* Video of Top-Level Exec or Product Category Expert
* White Papers — High-Level Industry-Focused

Consideration Stage — Prospects are beginning to look at specific types of solutions:
* Brochures
* Case Studies/Success Stories
* Interactive Games
* Live Seminars
* Podcasts
* Product Demos
* Quick Self-Assessments/Checklists
* Step-by-Step Guides
* Third-Party Analysts’ Reports
* Video of Top-Level Exec or Product Category Expert
* White Papers — Mid-Level Solution Focuses

Evaluation Stage — Prospects are comparing specific solutions:
* Brochures
* Case Studies/Success Stories
* Comparison Charts with Competition
* Product Demos
* Product or Company Press Releases
* Product Solution Briefs
* ROI Calculators
* White Papers — In-Depth Technical Product Focus

Purchase Stage — Prospects making buying decisions:
* In-depth Demos
* ROI Calculators

There are more options for creating content than ever before and I welcome suggestions for ideas I might have missed. Content does not have to be the big automated marketing barrier. For B2B marketers who don’t have the bandwidth to produce these items in-house, there are a number of excellent professional resources who can do it quickly and cost-effectively.

B2B marketing automation: 3 essential considerations.

How many B2B marketers out there are not using some kind of marketing automation?

Plenty, I would guess. Yet the reasons to automate are overtaking the reasons not to.

Today there are 20+ vendors providing automation products and services, with Marketo and Eloqua being the leaders. That competition brings a great range of pricing that makes automation more affordable for smaller B2B companies. In fact, the smaller a company’s marketing and sales team, the more it may need to automate some of its marketing processes.

Today, Neolane, one of today’s marketing automation players, sent out an email invitation to their Thursday, February 11 webinar entitled Keys to Marketing Automation and Where to Start. The message on the email invite includes a big warning message from IDC, a premier global provider of market intelligence. When they speak, people listen. Their warning is, “Not implementing a marketing automation solution may be the ultimate career-limiting move for today’s marketers.”

Of course we hear this warning about every new marketing channel or tool that comes along. So should a B2B marketer take that warning seriously and adopt some kind of marketing automation?

Here are three issues to understand and consider when making the decision:

1. Automate an essential process that is messy and time-consuming to do manually.
B2B marketers have checklists, white papers, Webinars, videos and product demos to offer their prospects. Getting the right content offer to the right prospect — based on that prospect’s stage in the buying cycle — is a very messy thing to attempt to do manually.

Generally, B2B marketing automation looks at the content a prospect has downloaded or the offer the prospect accepted, then automatically sends that prospect the appropriate next email in the series. The software tracks that prospect’s action and can even import the information into the company’s CRM or SFA system. All the B2B marketer needs to do is review reports on the activity and adjust the program as necessary.

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.

3. Commit the time and effort it takes to get the program set up and going.
Marketing automation requires buy-in from marketing, sales and management. It then requires time to build the series of content offers, emails, and companion landing pages. See my post on “4 Tactics for Getting B2B Marketing Programs Approved and Implemented Faster” to learn ways to speed up this process. The plan should be based on who should get what offer at each stage in the buying cycle. The visual, from Russell Kern’s guide “Direct Marketing’s Five Biggest Hurdles (And How to Get Over Them),” should help. It is a good starting point for determining what content to use and when to use it.

The launch is hard, but the payoff is a big one. Software Advice provides a nice list and description of all of today’s marketing automation providers. Once chosen, the vendors themselves are very willing to advise their customers on setting up their automation process and doing it right.

Consider the downside of not effectively nurturing every lead that comes your way. Then consider marketing automation.

Making B2B marketing personalization personal

I have often written about the top-line needs that should be addressed in messaging when marketing to the buyers of B2B products and services.

Terri Rylander’s post “My 3 Wishes from the Marketing Genie” goes deeper into the minds of buyers and explores what they want, not just from a solution, but from the provider of that solution. She clearly explains some of the ways buyers will determine whether a company can deliver on these three wishes.

1. I want a real relationship with you.
2. I want you to help me be successful.
3. I want to be able to find you when I need you.

Terri talks about the value of social media and educational content to project a personal image for a company, and it’s solid advice. But how does relationship-building fit for the many B2B marketers who are using email systems such as Eloqua, Silverpop, and Marketo to automate their marketing communications to their pipeline of sales leads?

Fortunately all of these systems and services are built to do just that. They give marketers extensive options for personalizing, from the salutation all the way into tracking the behavior of prospects and selecting specific messaging to be sent to them based on their behaviors.

The magic words for marketers to make a personal connection with their prospects are “data” and “versioning.”

By creating multiple versions of email communications, B2B marketers can make sure that every email addresses each prospective buyer’s area of interest. Marketers first set up business rules that outline specifically which message and content offer should be sent based on a previous behavior.

If a prospect downloads ABC White Paper, the system looks at the marketer’s business rules and send the prospect the next appropriate offer message:

Dear James,
Hope you enjoyed ABC White Paper, you may also want to read XYZ Case Study and learn more about how one of your peers . . .

Terri nicely presents the wishes of today’s buyers. What they want is a real connection with the companies they do business with. To make that connection, it’s time for B2B marketers to make their personalization personal.