Focus On What Works: Mobile, Content & Trends

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According to the 2015 State of Marketing Report from Salesforce, which surveyed 5,000 marketers worldwide, mobile marketing and social media are on the rise, with dedicated teams managing them, a far jump from a few years ago. Some highlights:

  • 84 percent of marketers plan to increase social and mobile marketing spend
  • More than 66 percent say mobile is integrated into their overall marketing strategy
  • 58 percent now have a dedicated mobile marketing team

And for a twist on this tale, we take our statistics from the Australian version of CMO.com, presenting these findings:

  • 56 percent see mobile as core to their business
  • 64 percent of all the marketers say social media is critical; 57 percent Australian
  • Budgets increased for social media advertising more than any digital marketing channel.
  • Email is still important, 92 percent say it has a clear ROI
  • Conversion rate is the most important email metric; traffic most important social metric.

Australian respondents cited budgetary constraints, new business developments and building stronger customer relationships as challenges. The three global challenges were new business development, the quality of leads and remaining up-to-date with technology and trends. To learn more, we recommend reading the original report (a simple form required to download it) as well.

In this very space, we often discuss how to deliver the right message at the right time and how important content is to B2B marketing initiatives. Marketingland.com reminds us that the type of content we deliver to C-suite decision makers is just as important because it has to address specific needs. Citing a report by The Economist Group, the desired executive audiences are looking for information and to solve problems, marketers are looking to brands to promote their solutions.

Rather than hoping to foster leads and nourish relationships at one tenuous meeting point, marketers can focus their B2B content on what the executive audiences want:

  • Substance
    • Business executives seek more than marketing prose, they want information. The most useful types: “industry outlook on a matter, both sides of a complicated issue, and an area of business they weren’t apprised of.”
    • Focus on the audience and their needs rather than pushing a product.
    • Add value: Simplify a complex topic, inform on a new or controversial topic.
  • Engagement
    • Make it resonate. Quality over quantity. Author Jim Yu makes a good point, what you put out there will live on Google and can help or hurt search rankings.
  • Form and Function
    • Consider your executive reader persona and create content for how they’re reading it (laptop vs. mobile, no video, etc.)
  • Measurement
    • Do we sound like a broken record yet? (Does anyone get that reference any more?) What good is all the best, most apt, target-hitting and serving content in the world if it is not measured?
    • 84 percent of marketers surveyed want to promote Branding, with Leads, Engagement, Sales, Lead Nurturing following. The article and report suggest focusing on the audience’s needs first; and goodwill and branding will follow… and as it’s occurring, measure!
    • As long as we’re focusing on positive B2B marketing, AdAge reports on some trends industry experts see in the coming year, following GE global creative director, Andy Goldberg’s urging to “be more human.”
  • Be relevant.
    • In order to connect with their audience on a more personal level, B2B marketers will develop better storytelling and more emotional connections in their marketing.
  • Sharable content, such as videos that simplify complex B2B messages, will dominate digital and social channels, per John Kennedy, CMO at Xerox. Considering the long selling cycle and high dollars of B2B transactions, the ideal “sweet spot” will be content that “educates the potential buyer, gains interest and goes mainstream.” Along with that, Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, suggests “consumerization” for B2B to crossover into consumer experience.
  • Seamless user experiences in product design and digital experience from merging of marketing, CIO and CTO strategies, per Eduardo Conrado, SVP, marketing and IT, Motorola.
  • Reprioritization—“marketing within companies” (or “working with all the departments” as we often urge) to create parallel online and offline experiences, per Kathy Button Bell, CMO, Emerson.
  • Connecting technologies—data management, predictive analytics and customer experience—to gain a deeper understanding of customers, per Tom Stein, CEO Stein IAS Americas.

We recognize that the last two articles conflict with each other because on one hand, we’re urging B2B marketers to distinguish themselves from B2C marketing, and then suggesting they steal some of its approaches by being more human, but, overall, it’s because the world has merged and they can both be effective using the same tools and applying them accordingly. B2B marketers can learn from consumer tips and strategies. As long as the focus is on the end user and audience, the marketing consistent and targeted, and the data measured and applied, B2B and B2C marketers will continue to improve techniques and results and borrow from each other’s successes.

Agility. Avoidance. Automation. Three Ways to Boost Your Bottom Line.

Boost SEO, Boost AgilityWow, where has the new year gone to? We’re going from resolutions to regrets this week. Then back to smart solutions for automation and remaining agile.

Let’s start with the regrets. As B2B marketers, we are vying for the same leads our competitors are going after in a specific, sometimes tightly defined industry. Sometimes we get overly eager, overly wordy or even a little sloppy to capture them.

TweakYourBiz lists some of the common lead generation mistakes and gives some tips to avoid them:

  • Too much info on forms.
    – Solution: Keep it simple. Just ask for name and email.
  • Chaos in content and graphics.
    – Use original, well-structured content to educate customers in the research mode and captivate them through their interest in your business.
    – ALSO: Visual marketing is part of content. Quality infographics, images and videos “present the opportunity to be unique and creative” and have “more impact on readers” than mere copy.
  • Not using social media—or not using it well.
    – B2B marketers often see the value in LinkedIn, but Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr also help build the brand, manage customer feedback/responses and promote goods and services. Smartly managing these channels, through dedicated staff or automated tools, will help make a difference.
  • Old lists. Bad landing pages. Wrong platform.
    – List hygiene and maintaining current contact info never go out of style.
    – Test, test, and re-test any user experiences before launch. All buttons, graphics and actions should work—and be measurable!
    – And with that, use what works. Adjust accordingly.

Enough with the bad habits, as any coach or kindergarten teacher worth anything would say, now to focus on the good behavior. Agility and automation are on the rise, and that’s always good for B2B marketers.

Are B2B marketers more agile than a year ago? CMSwire.com revisited an interview with Carla Johnson, president of Type A Communications, to follow up on some 2014 predictions she made.

The good news is: we are more agile, but there is some more work to do. Emphasizing “what can we do to make doing business with customers easier?”
marketers are more agile, better engaged and more responsive to customers. They are better at listening with the goal of creating “systems of engagement” and “experiences that delight audiences.” Johnson mentions that we’re producing more content than we are listening to and need to focus on the customer more and, particularly, measure more, but overall cross-department coordination among sales, marketing, IT—basically, enterprise-wide—are good for creating “momentum to improve.”

A great way to get this momentum is automation and integration. A clickz.com interview with Symantec’s social marketing director Charlie Treadwell highlights some essential reasons for integrating automation with social media strategy that all B2B marketers can relate to.

Much like the lead generation mistakes and status report from Ms. Johnson, the driving principles are flexibility, security and customer responsiveness. As the author states, “Technologies will continue to change and new SAAS products will continue to emerge. Content sharing rests in the hands of the user and big companies cannot afford to not deploy social listening (and reacting).”

While discussing a specific security situation and the solution they employed, Treadwell states the important factors that smart automation and social media strategy require:

• Security/peace of mind
• Immediate knowledge of customer concerns and conversations and a way to respond to them
• Use of social media to listen to customers then specifically address their concerns with custom content and responses.
• Communication and strategy among sales, marketing, customer support maybe IT (across all teams involved)

We shall throw in “measuring” for good measure… After all, one of the best uses of automation and integrated marketing efforts through social media is the ability to measure all campaigns to determine what works and crunch the numbers for more insight on how to respond to customers’ needs.

The technology and the customer’s needs may change, making agility essential. Luckily, B2B marketers are improving customer experience and support through automation, social media responsiveness and outreach, integrated departments with unified strategy, and simple attention to details such as updated contacts and landing pages that work. 2014 might have been the year we woke up to all these factors, but 2015 shall be year we hone and improve them.

New Year, New Marketing Priorities

6636632951_29ae6b49a9_bAlong with the New Year business resolutions come the rally cries that we follow through on our best intentions. Gladly, Jennifer Hanford, in a recent business2community article, urges the B2B community to make content marketing a priority in the coming year.

Why? According to a OneSpot report she cites, B2B marketers are using more content and consumers are engaging with it more. For example, per the Content Marketing Institute, 73 percent of B2B marketers are producing more content than a year ago and the average organization spends 30 percent of their marketing budget on content; the more successful ones are up to 39 percent. Importantly, content marketing is cheaper than traditional marketing (62 percent less) and generates three times the amount of leads, per Demand Metric (quoted in same link.)

Effective content marketing — he ability to “create and curate” useful content to engage customers on the level of information they’re seeking, not information that the organization wants to push — should be prioritized because it:

  • Builds brand awareness and introduces your products and solutions to potential customers. Blogs are an easy way to start.
  • Promotes lead generation through relationship-building. Potential clients recognize you as a thought leader and resource in their industry.
  • Increases engagement by addressing your audience’s needs.
  • Closes sales. We talk about this often; if you maintain engagement and deliver relevant information at the right time, you’re more likely to make the sale.

Content marketing, as we know, is an emerging trend that touches on so may of our marketing intent goals. Big data, with its ability to gather more information, determine more customer intent, and predict buying behavior, is another huge trend that along with increased responsibilities, also increases the potential to improve ROI by making every interaction with customers more measurable and predictable.

In Smart Data Collective, Trips Reddy’s article, with its graphs and more detailed accounts, reviews some of the big data trends to look for in the new year, with an emphasis on personalized, actionable and predictive tools.

First, business objectives for marketing analytics will focus on gaining:

  • actionable insights based on the big data collected;
  • sales funnel transparency to measure marketing activity at every touch point;
  • channel and platform marketing attribution;
  • c-level /executive buy-in on how to use big data;
  • deep customer understanding.

These objectives faced obstacles in 2014, such as lack of system integration and unified data; lack of the right tools and platforms; and the inability to generate actionable results from the customer data.

Therefore, another trend will be resolving those issues through:

  • Bigger analytics budgets.
  • Newly minted data analysts and other jobs that serve the emerging field.
  • More B2B marketers putting more emphasis on personalization, through content marketing, wearable technology and beacons.
  • Autonomy: Companies will be able to process and act on data that improves customer responsiveness in-house.
  • Predictive analytics “pretargeting” will help improve marketing the right message at the right time and convert to sales.

The trends and priorities for B2B marketers in 2015 rely on the growing data collection, automation, personalization, content marketing and integration of sales and marketing practices in place of the previous year(s). They will be fine-tuned and more efficiently executed as the industry grows with the technology and continues to make things actionable, personalized, relevant and measurable. We’re looking forward to a great year communicating with our customers, determining intent and predicting behavior! We hope you are too.

Image via Nana B Agyei

Marketing Myths and Predictions

crystal ballThis week Drew Hendricks, writing for Forbes, chimes in with predictions for Big Data in 2015, attributing growth to access, technology and analytics on the rise for businesses of all sizes.

We agree that most of these technologies are happening and will be more prevalent in the new year:

  •      Retargeting “exploded in popularity” in 2014 and is on the rise for 2015, as data can be gathered on a site’s visitors, products viewed and purchases made—and then used to engage customers during the buying cycle and across other screens.
  •      Custom Dimensions or Custom Variables—businesses can gather customer and demographic data, as well as business data to create relevant messaging.
  •      Marketing Personas—targeting customer types will inform content marketing campaigns.
  •      Customized Paid Campaigns will allow professionals to determine their target audience before a paid campaign; and then measure results and modify accordingly.
  •      Offline and Online Merge. Big data, from sophisticated heat map camera systems to beacon technology, will inform real-world transactions. Web and in-store performance will be adjusted and marketed accordingly.
  •      Personalization. Big data will guide the customer’s online shopping experience with suggestions based on previous interactions, customized emails and targeted messages.

Predictive analytics, using this data to determine how to address a customer’s needs, is included in year-end predictions, as above. As with anything great and mighty, certain folklore emerges. Angela Housman debunks some of the myths of predictive analytics in business2community.com.

Here are some of her highlights:

Myth 1: Predictive analytics is easy. Anyone can do it.

You can’t just throw it together and let the machines sort it out. “Predictive analytics requires some serious training in consumer behavior (at least within the marketing area) as well as alignment with company goals.”

Myth 3: Only what you measure matters.

Not always so. Intangibles, such as trust, go into buying decisions as well as historical data.

Myth 4: Correlation = Causation

“Predictions are primarily based on correlations (relationships) between the data you have. But, correlations don’t mean that one factor CAUSED the other factor.”

Myths 5 & 6: Predictions are perfect…or forever.

All the data in the world can help produce a probably outcome, but there’s no guarantee. Also, when new data is available, it should be factored in.

Myth 7: Only a paid professional can implement predictive analytics.

Not so. Predictive modeling requires a skilled analyst, thorough understanding of what data can be collected, the organization and campaign goals. This is often an employee within the company.

Myth 10: Insights = action

Not so again. Insights inform actions, but need stakeholders to move it forward.

All of these rely on the advanced analytics that are more sophisticated at gathering, parsing and communicating customer data. Adding the human touch to big data will always help improve on any speculation.

Image via Jlhopgood

Native Intent

Urging “quality over quantity,” in a recent bizcommunity.com article, “Buy Data with Intent,” Louise Robinson comments that it’s not only necessary to reach the right person (decision maker with purchasing power) with up-to-date contact information within an organization, but that timing is essential.

To avoid complete rejection (as in, loss of customers, definitive “NOs”), marketers have to know where their prospects are in the buying cycle and communicate to that need. With “behavioral intent data collecting,”* marketers review past and current buying behavior and modify their message accordingly. This is our stock and trade, we are pleased to see it getting more exposure, especially since B2B marketers are still ramping up to B2C levels of intent usage.

And since we’re discussing growing B2B trends, here’s another one for 2015: “Big Data Is Finally Going Native.” MediaPost predicts that Big Data’s ability to improve targeting, efficiency and relevancy makes it a prime area for native advertising, a form of paid advertising where the experience matches the form and function on which it appears. We’re talking about games, apps and content that seemed more consumer-interest than pure product pushing.

Native advertising faced some challenges—they are non-standard and have small data sets, which the article attributes to “initially built around individual ad units served into closed networks of third-party publishers.” However, technology improves so big data can now go native due to:

  • Opening of large user data sets to third parties
  • Open native exchanges—using programmatic, supply sources matched to demand
  • Enabling of third-party data

Why is this valuable? Advertisers can make “native even more relevant than before, thereby raising response and engagement metrics to unprecedented levels” with such benefits as:

  • improved targeting
  • advanced optimization
  • granular contextualization
  • actionable campaign insights
  • fraud prevention tools

Publishers also benefit from more relevant content. Consumers receive a better user experience too.

What better way to go native than Intent and Big Data? In 2015, the consumer experience will continue to improve based on the data and ability to apply it appropriately.

*We use quotes because it’s her exact phrase, but it’s an expression we embrace too.

Big Predictions for Big Data

Oh, yes, it’s holiday list time. We found a great one, “Four Things Big Data Needs for the Holidays” where author Howard Baldwin rounds up some research and articles and “gifts” us the highlights of what Big Data needs:

  1. Press/public relations. Big Data needs better marketing within organizations to explain the “value proposition” of why it is good for businesses and to overcome institutional resistance to change.
  2. Big data analytics have to prove relevance. Discipline, parameters, collecting and coding can harness large amounts of data to make them applicable to business goals. “Adding an incrementally higher level of insight to analytics potentially means adding more certainty to the result.”
  3. Perspective and personalization. Big data is for the big picture. Enterprise-wide solutions (not silo) need to be enacted to maintain perspective on how big data solutions impact business goals and enhance customer retention and nurturing through personalization.
  4. “Patience.” Starting and stopping big data solutions will yield bad results. Companies have to commit to big data processes for the long term; and test, analyze and repeat/fine-tune its use to improve their overall marketing strategy.

And while we’re projecting into the New Year, Al Urbanski shares some insights from a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) report, which bolster our beliefs about Big Data—that it will continue to get bigger. “Spending on data-related software, hardware, and services will hit $125 billion. Rich media analytics surrounding video and audio campaigns will drive more Big Data projects, and Data as a Service (DaaS) offerings will grow in number and importance.” IDC also predicts that the Cloud services (with sales of $120 billion) will become more crowded, but with more services launching and new partnerships emerging to serve it. China will be a stronger force, in retail in particular, in the upcoming Year of the Goat.

The best thing about year-end and holiday roundup advice lists is that they are useful all year long. Keeping Big Data at the top of the New Year’s resolutions will keep marketing strategies and company goals in line.

Bigger Data, Better Analytics

6259499293_b577b94cfd_bThe cool theme that connects this week’s articles, almost to the similarity in introduction paragraphs, is ubiquity. Both data and analytics are everywhere, growing bigger and being better used…and that’s a great thing for managing intent data, using predictive analysis and fine-tuning B2B marketing efforts.

In an outlook piece for MarketingLand, James Green talks about some of the Big Data trends for 2015:

  1. Big Data will increase in size and strength, forming an insightful Big Data Blob. By combining all the data points, such as “sales, purchase history, search history and site interactions,” marketers will gain consumer insights never before revealed and be able to act on the customer profile, influencing creative decisions, audience strategy and more targeted media plans.
  2. First and third party data, aka businesses’ own customer data plus intent data from the web—social, location and search among them, will merge to allow marketers to communicate with customers at various stages of the buying process more effectively.
  3. Automation is still on the rise. Insertion orders already replace manual entry, there will be a move toward increased RTB, and systems will “seamlessly… improve accountability, measurability and efficiency.”
  4. Crackdown on fraud continues as more search players enter the fray. More organizations are preparing to fight it, and there are more resources too.
  5. Personalization will be more personalized. All the data elements will enable advertisers to “transform generic advertising into relevant marketing in real time, regardless of device or location.”

Big Data is a big win for B2B marketers because it allows for a very personalized, 360-degree knowledge of who the customer is and how to best inform and engage him or her. At its backbone is analytics. In the old days, B2B marketers collected tons of useful information on prospects and customers, but lacked the ability to crunch all the data and make it relevant.

In a very direct article for CMSwire, Tom Petrocelli explains why analytics “is” everywhere. It boils down to:

  1. “The technology has matured.” Citing the new cloud analytic platforms and other tools that influence marketing decisions by delivering smart, segmented, useful information about prospective customers, analytics “delivers reliable and relevant results.”
  2. Modern global business is complex. Analytics help businesses handle: social and digital data, purchase history and point-of-sale transactions, a customer’s journey through the sales funnel and other interactions.
  3. Analytics creates intelligence. The previous method was to rely on luck and a few insightful interpreters of data. By processing the raw data, “machine learning, statistical analysis, software infrastructure and computer horsepower can now provide meaningful and actionable insights to help run businesses more efficiently.”

Analytics frees up the data analysts, the insightful experts and marketing gurus to work on strategy to keep up with the demands of global business, while the Big Data is sorted out and analyzed automatically. Both Big Data and Analytics are everywhere, and there symbiotic relationship will continue to improve B2B marketing efforts.

Image via Kevin Krejci

Avoid B2B Marketing Website Mistakes; Leverage Data and Be an Effective Marketer

5448851027_fa53139280_bAre you a modern marketer or are you falling behind the times? According to a Forrester survey of 500 B2B and B2C companies in the UK and USA, only 11 percent are “modern marketers”—defined by Louis Foong in business2community.com as those who “use multi-channel marketing, gather and analyze real-time customer data, create customer personas based on this intelligence, monitor and measure results.” Beyond data and automation, Foong urges top-down priorities that encourage B2B marketers to “explore, discover and experience” so the whole organization can be responsible for enhancing the customer experience. How should B2B marketers incorporate this learning process?:

  • Explore: Find out where your targeted customers are and reach them there—across channels and platforms, and with content, remarketing and other tools.
  • Discover: Measure the results, and then fine-tune. Predictive modeling and big data analytics help determine engagement levels and where to improve.
  • Experience: Remember, “I’m not only the president, I’m a customer” ads? Well, how can you expect to delight your customers without empowering your employees to be passionate advocates of your own products and services?

By promoting this learning culture, your B2B organization will thrive and share the enthusiasm with customers and prospects alike.

Here’s another nugget from a survey we’ve already seen cited in other articles—92 percent of B2B marketers are using social media, and among those, 59 percent of those publish new content weekly. This is more than other marketing tactics, such as e-newsletters, web site articles, blogs and case studies—tools still used as part of an overall content strategy.

Mistakes, we’ve all made a few. Since our website is so critical to our content marketing strategy, lead generation and company presence, it’s important we avoid the 4 B2B Website Mistakes that Rick Whittington suggests we do not even realize we’re making:

  1. Not providing enough information for early-stage buyers.

Rather, the website should:

  • build trust and be informative.
  • answer visitors’ questions without a sales pitch.
  • address the buyers’ situation/concerns and not be a tone-deaf brag sheet.

Edit your website to address the needs of your customers and add content, such as blogs, that helps inform their research.

  1. Not tracking visitors.

All the articles we choose point to data and content as indispensable to better b2b marketing practices. Knowing where your visitors come from is crucial to analyzing marketing efforts. Then you can determine which marketing campaigns works and allocate money accordingly, and cut the deadweight of ineffectual campaigns.

  1. Static or sporadically updated content.

Quoting Emerson’s “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” is great for high school teachers, but in business, providing regular content updates, in a predictable, reliable manner actually serves the customer well by establishing “expertise, credibility, and consistency” that educates and updates your ideal customers. Otherwise, your company appears out of touch—both by being non-communicative and being out-of-date.

  1. Not focusing on the customer in your company description.

Make sure your homepage addresses whom your target customer is, how you help them, and what advantage you have in understanding their business.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled theme of big data. Tom Murphy, referencing a CMSWire webinar with Heidi Bullock, provides excellent pointers on how to use data-driven marketing to increase your marketing budget and measure business impact:

  1. Know which metrics matter. When reporting up, “using metrics that measure business outcomes and improve marketing performance and profitability” are more important than “vanity” metrics (such as page impressions and Facebook likes.)
  2. “Show impact, not costs.” My recruiter friend gives this as her resume advice too. It is important to demonstrate the results of your efforts and not just provide confusing spreadsheets. Some ways to do this: set goals with stakeholders, design measurable campaigns (with marketing automation), and measure things that can be made profitable and improve marketing efforts.

And the beauty of Big Data is that it can actually help B2B marketers become more personal in their marketing efforts when used right. When broken down into “bite-sized, small data” bits, it can be used for “1:1 marketing pursuits” per Daniel Newman in Forbes.com. The way to make the data the customer provides useful in reaching them personally is by measuring across channels… “omni-channel.” Since customers interact with brands from different devices at different points in the buying cycle, it is useful to gather this data and individualize the message. “In today’s B2B marketing world, personalization of customer data will let marketers build actionable strategies.” The same can be said for keeping a current, informative website and prioritizing marketing goals from the top down. Keep up the good work, B2B marketers.

Image via Becca Peterson / Flickr