Meeting of the Minds in Business

Marketing is a fascinating profession. We tend to ignore most of the marketing tactics aimed at us as consumers, especially online — see for example recent news on ad blocking and that fewer than one person in a thousand clicks on a standard banner ad# and as marketers we fret over how half the display ads paid for by us are unviewable# and how half of all U.S online advertising – $10 billion a year – may be lost to fraud#.

The people who most obsess over a brand are marketers. The rest of us love product experiences, go back to services that deliver good value for price, or are hassle free, or are the only game in town for what we want. What happens when we cross the threshold of a business door? Why can't we think and feel like the people we are when we buy? And when we do, why do we stop at what we like? (we are largely still under the influence of our biases anyway.)

In Becoming Steve Jobs, as part of the chapter about doing your level best, Jobs is part quoted to have said:

a corporation “could accumulate or withdraw credits” from its reputation, which is why he worked so hard to ensure that every single interaction a customer might have with Apple — from using a Mac to calling customer support to buying a single from the iTunes store and then getting billed for it — was excellent.

I switched to Apple when the first iPhone came out and never looked back. My experience over the years has been consistent with his designs. It took them a long time to get there, but they had the discipline and desire to do it. Apple digital hub concept and experience scales from their product lines, to the site to the stores.

They have something every marketer salivates after — attention. Which translates into the highest form of preference. Forget likes, transactions are where it's at. But they are a consumer products company, you may say, it's not fair to compare them to say a B2B.

Hold that thought

Depending on who you talk with today, the answer to many of the current challenges marketers are facing in getting buyers attention and getting budgets right/commensurate with a return is a version of content, likely branded content, or making a viral video, or social. Setting aside the fact that this tactic mix would need seriously better definition and matching to goals — e.g., dollar-in/dollar-out mindset in social, for example, is a non starter, you burn your chances trying too hard on the promotional end of things.

Yesterday I tweeted something that only a few short years ago would have received at least half a dozen answers — see this, or this, for example — my tweet got two favorites and no answers (I'm embedding the tweet, maybe that changes.)

We have trained well — the Pavlovian like, favorite, bookmark when something is novel?, interesting?, fun?, there to react to? … who knows? Algorithms are working over time to divine the answers for us.

Yes, we are more keen on measurement and using technology to automate — yet, while we rely on data to tell us what to do, we are still catching up on what is most useful and appropriate to measure, how we should make trade-offs in our decisions, and in how we right size our technology investments.

We are making martech unicorns out of our obsession with technology.

Martech_unicornsThe jury is out on the relative maturity of the organization in terms of processes and people — as in hiring people who can think on their feet across strategy — still a rather poorly understood and defined word — technology — which ones do we pick? how do they integrate? do they? — and analysis — not the same as analytics.

Marketers have been increasing their budgets.


[source: 2014 B2B Marketing Fact Pack AdAge]

We are still not playing well with IT and finance, even though in many organizations the role of the CMO is expanding (some have even gotten their first one recently, like Campbell Soup Co.) and the profile of the marketing group is going to increase — as in the hot seat to perform.

And while the budgets are increasing — according to ISTMA on the services ends of things by 4.4% — the scope is widening.

ITSMA_BudgetStudy2015_MktgScope_sm-560x433Many B2B organizations — companies that sell through partnerships, large consulting deals, or decision makers (everyone is aiming at the C-Suite, the reality is a more varied) at different levels like procurement, IT, marketing groups — typically engage in longer sales cycles because we are likely talking more expensive ticket items.

Then there is the implementation to organize. Those of us who have been there know that implementation is everything — it's how you realize the value of your business investment.

Operative words: both/and

True, these companies are not strictly consumer-driven, but we could make a case for them to be ultimately consumer-related — someone, at some point, is the ultimate customer in the chain, and Intel got us used to thinking about what is inside products and powers services.

Release that thought you were holding.

Research# shows that:

business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete. That means for nearly two thirds of the buying process, your customers are out in the ether: Forming opinions, learning technical specifications, building requirements lists, and narrowing down their options, all on their own, with minimal influence from you.

[…] It’s Marketing’s job to influence the 57 percent of the sale that occurs mostly on the web, before Sales contact, but three challenges – incomplete digital integration, ineffective content, and a poorly-optimized channel mix – are keeping marketers from growing mindshare and making the most of what they are getting already.

It's from 2013, but I am still seeing it referenced today.

Yesterday the Philadelphia BMA gathered with a group of brand-side B2B marketers to break Buttermilk biscuits, and talk about some of these issues and more — some of our questions to get started:

  • Is your organization keeping up with the speed of digital? And what do we mean by digital today?
  • What shifts are taking place in the industry?
  • How can I achieve a marketing trifecta – is it possible?
  • With digital moving so fast, how do you keep up with it? How to prioritize?
  • What channels are working better than others and what is the fundamental reason for it?
  • Where do you think businesses fall down – what are they NOT doing that they SHOULD be doing?
  • How do you think organizations can stand out today with all the noise and “disruption strategies?”
  • How do you deal with organizational peers that aren’t keeping up with the new marketing?
  • If you have one piece of marketing advice for organizations today, what would it be?

Random thoughts

Having been both on the company side — working with IT, inside sales, field sales, lead gen, channel, RFP teams for government bids, consultants, and various agencies to orchestrate things — and on the agency side — helping large B2B service providers with content strategies, social integration, and all kinds of franchise businesses (talk about moving parts!) — here are some random thoughts to add to this conversation.

  • First off, take care of digitally owned properties. Optimize, streamline, design UX/IA based on COPE (create once, publish everywhere) for content. Make your site responsive/develop an site (mobile version), as appropriate. More visual, more space, more video. Liberate your copy from the PDF straight jackets. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • Segment audiences by job to be done – i.e. procurement vs. C-Level vs. channel; understand their hot buttons. Listen, listen, listen, and take notes. Make it super easy for them to submit RFPs, subscribe to news, sign up for product updates, etc.
  • Be accountable. Before you go around commissioning white papers and articles to use as lead gen fodder, look inside. Make it mandatory for SMEs to contribute. If you are offering public speaking training, trade participation to something you are paying for with authorship and involvement in media interviews and opportunities are they come along. Publish the reports all the way to the CEO.
  • Make it super easy for your SMEs (subject matter experts) to leverage their own social capital – i.e., LinkedIn, Twitter, FB, etc as appropriate (industry dictates here) to spread the word on company publications, news, etc.
  • Leverage PR beyond media releases. Guest posting on sites, interviews, support with client relationships, content creation, bulletins, social listening/learning, trade association relations, influencer outreach, etc.
  • Publish original thinking (see point above) – firm’s POVs, what you stand for, believe in, practice. Everyone can recycle news, and they do. You want to stand out.
  • Test and iterate on frequency and what works. Always be experimenting. It can be small and incremental, but you need to pay attention. Be like Sherlock Holmes, the new ones with Robert Downey Jr.#, or the series with Benedict Cumberbatch#, if that is your cup of tea.
  • Mine LinkedIn groups, SlideShare, Twitter, Google trends/insights for topic ideas. Find the gaps in coverage, including by knowing what you may already have and leverage your expertise. Turn your best shots into FAQs (permanent) on your site, break down topics as appropriate for lead gen/nurturing.
  • Don't be afraid to invest some funds to further support articles that are doing well with ads — in social especially.
  • Experiment with content distribution tools / off site. Optimize spend based on results.
  • Track everything, website and all that. Use link shortening services.

Companies that do content well. A bit old, 2012, but B2B content tends to be more evergreen.

I know it is not as easy as writing a simple list. Approvals, budgets, balancing strategy and tactics, there is never enough content!, which tools do I buy?, how do I figure out what is right for us?, I can't get my management team to see the value of automation, metrics!, ROI (these last two are classics), and everything in between.

About keeping up… it is much more valuable to ground yourself on a core set of principles, and to make learning continuously through experience and doing a habit.

There is always going to be a new tool, a new shiny object, campaign, program, what the other guys are doing, etc. Only one of you. Making yourself smarter and more effective is a good bet. For that, if you are really interested in integrated marketing and measurement, go get a copy of IMC The Next Generation by Don Schultz and Heidi Schultz and use it.

One final thing: Have fun, it comes across.


[image via Marketo]

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