Can This Radical Change Increase Content Marketing Effectiveness?

23 Jan

2014 is looking like another big year for Content Marketing. Do a search and you’ll find a vast source of predictions from the Content Marketing Institute, Mashable, research analyst Forrester, the IAB and others.   All sources forecast business spending will be up for Content Marketing this year.  Depending on whose report you believe the CM budget will increase 58% to 75%.

While more is spent on Content Marketing are the efforts more effective?  At the recent Northern California Business Marketing Association (BMA) meeting in Silicon Valley, an experienced panel of Content Marketing experts tackled the question and shared their challenges and struggles to make content marketing a success.

Informative presentations, different perspectives and implementations were shared.  One that I found most insightful came from Jeremiah Glodoveza, Director, Public Relations and Social Media at NetApp.

Much has been written and said about the importance of SEO and content strategy for CM success – but we have not heard much about (if at all) the need for organizational change to support CM effectiveness and success.  Jeremiah shared that his company is in process of changing its marketing organization so it can better integrate content marketing campaigns – restructuring from functional silos to an interconnected organization.

Current Organization

Current Organization

New Organization

New Organization

(These charts are examples only, not NetApp charts).

The change will bring together marketing functions that often times are working independently and with goals that are not aligned .

The new organizational structure is intended to better support collaboration and consistency in messaging and campaigns as well as sharing common goals across marketing functions like PR, technical writing, and communications. Jeremiah believes that more companies will begin making this kind of change to their marketing organizations.

Hats off to NetApp for thinking out of the silo. Making a radical organizational change like this one isn’t easy.  It will be interesting to find out if NetApp’s Content Marketing is more effective as a result.

Resources:  NorCal BMA Meeting, January 22, 2014, panel discussion, Content Marketing:  Why Is A Publisher’s Point of View Essential Today

Do Your Content Marketing Efforts Compare with the Best?

8 May

Apple and Orange

Find out what the best B2B small business marketers are doing to succeed in content marketing, the major challenges facing them in their content marketing efforts and the tactics and platforms used to deliver content.

The Content Marketing Institute just released an original research report on small business content marketing, “B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America”.  It’s full of relevant data for the SMB marketing organization, providing an opportunity to compare your content marketing efforts vs. your peers as well as the enterprise business.

The report looks at several trends including the percentage of marketing budget spent today on content and the planned growth in spending over the next year.

You can sign up for your free copy of the research report at Content Marketing Institute.

Partner Up! 5 Valuable Reasons to Include Cross Marketing in Your Plans

23 Apr

This article looks at the benefits of having a cross marketing strategy and program.  It is a first in a series titled “Energizing Your Marketing Budget: How to make the most of your marketing resources and budget.” 

Cross marketing (not to be confused with co-marketing) is when two businesses partner to promote their products or services together. Cross marketing allows partners to share the costs of promoting their products – getting more from their marketing dollars.  Webinars, trade shows, advertising, white papers, website links, and sharing customer mailing lists are cross marketing activities that when done together with a partner provide valuable business benefits. 

Here are my top 5 reasons to include cross marketing in your plans.

1. Increase Customer Value: Together you and your partner(s) offer a more complete customer solution.  Partnering with companies that offer complementary products can provide a solution that creates additional value for your customers.  For this reason, choose a partner that targets like customers.

2. Strengthen Credibility and Reputation: The company you keep says a lot about you.  When you choose a partner with a similar reputation in the industry, you further strengthen customer perception of your company and products.

Girls Running Lemonade Stand

3. Showcase Expertise:  Participating in cross marketing promotions provides additional opportunities to showcase your expertise and reinforce the brand experience customers have with your product and company. When you choose to partner in cross marketing activities, these activities should always be consistent with your brand’s identity.

4. Broader Market Reach: With the right choice in partners, you increase your reach by sharing customer lists, customer referrals and by being included in your partner’s outreach activities; emails, newsletters, promotional materials and social media.

5. Build Strategic Relationships:  Cross marketing activities can be a great way to begin or further strengthen a strategic relationship with a partner.  By spending time getting to know each other, you potentially learn new methods to improve marketing results and ultimately help one another grow your businesses.

     A few things to keep in mind when working with a potential partner that will increase your chances for success:  Cross marketing partnerships range from simple to complex but to be successful the organizations should be in agreement on the goals, the budget and the timeline as well as have the necessary committed resources.  Consider your communications styles, do you use the same channels to market? Are your budgets similar in size?  Understanding similarities and differences at the start of a partnership can alleviate potential problems and increase the probability of realizing the benefits from cross marketing.

     The next article in the series, Energizing Your Marketing Budget will look at making the most of your marketing resources and budget by taking advantage of free marketing services, education and materials.  The article will provide examples of some of those offered by leading marketing product and services companies.

Resources:

Entrepreneur, Co-Marketing:  Twice as Nice or Double the Trouble?, Barbara Findlay Schenck, from Business on Main, January 16, 2013.

eHow, Cross Marketing Ideas, Gina Ragusa

biznik, Lead Generation through Cross Marketing, Joel Torres

Solving Real Business Problems and Showing Value – Every Marketers’ Job

19 Jun

For me Marketing has always been about showing customers how a product solves real business problems and creates value.  Recently I became familiar with the term, Solutions Marketing.  Look online and you’ll find Solutions Marketer job titles in Fortune 500 companies and marketing consultants and agencies that provide Solutions Marketing services.

     What is Solutions Marketing?  One of the definitions I found on Google stated, Solutions Marketing addresses a business level problem, aligning products with business value. Good Solutions Marketing speaks directly to business needs. 

     Young Asian BusinessmanAs a career marketer in various roles (communications, product marketing and management), my job has been to show customers how my company’s products solve real business problems.  Whether developing a Marketing Requirements Document for a new product or creating product messaging, each required an understanding of how the product solved a business problem and created value for customers.

     Maybe it’s the sign of the times.  Many marketing functions have become specialized. As marketers, if we cannot show customers how our products solve business problems, we will fail in our efforts. Solutions Marketing is something we all do (or should do) regardless of our marketing job title (or function).

     Wikipedia has this definition of Marketing: B2B marketing is creating value, solutions, and relationships either short-term or long-term with a company or brand. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.

Consider that most companies aren’t large enough to have a specialized Solutions Marketing position or group. Is it the role of all marketing functions to understand and communicate how a product solves a business problem and creates value for customers?  What do you think?

Is There Value In Giving Your Product or Service Away?

6 Jun

Is there value in giving away your product or service? The topic came up at a recent event when a small business owner questioned whether or not she should continue to give away her company’s products at industry events. When the business first launched she provided free products to grow her customer base but, now isn’t certain the free offer is needed.

Red 3-D Dollar SignFor those starting a new business, one of the biggest challenges is getting those first customers. Attracting customers by offering them a risk-free opportunity to try your product or service can be a successful strategy to build business.  The offer may be free trial, special pricing or a 100% guarantee that can remove concern a customer may have about trying an unknown.

Free trials are a frequently used strategy.  Cloud-based software companies use free trials to grow business and then convert trial users to paying customers. One of the most successful companies to employ this strategy is Salesforce.com.  Another cloud-based software company that offers free products is WordPress.com.  WordPress’ strategy is to provide basic blog features free with the intent to entice customers to pay for additional or enhanced features.

Free may not be a good strategy for some businesses.  Costs, brand image, value perception and conversion to sales need to be considered. Answering these questions can help determine if there is value in providing a product or service free.

Will your business benefit by giving something away?

Is the goal is to entice your targets to use your product and convert to paying customers? Or are customer referrals and success stories what you’re after? Both are a tangible benefit. Decide up front what benefits/results you want to achieve.

Do your potential customers find value in what you are giving free?  

The bottom line is if the product doesn’t solve a business problem for the customer, it won’t matter how great the offer is.  A good example of providing something of value to customers are free assessments.  Let’s look at a company that sells a product that improves CRM database performance.  This company provides free professional assessments that evaluate productivity and performance of customers’ current CRM products.  In addition, the assessment includes data showing how by also using their company’s product customers can improve productivity by X% and save $Y annually.  The free assessment underscores how using the company’s product solves key business issues.

Will providing your product free help or hurt your brand?

Providing free products or services must support the brand. In other words, potential customers should not think less of your product or service because it is offered free.  In the example above the free assessment supports the brand, the company is positioned as knowledge experts in improving CRM database performance and employee productivity.

Can your business afford it?

Giving away free product is another marketing activity so evaluate it as such. Set your goals and make sure to include the costs of giving away free product in your budget. Since the desired result is to attract repeat and long-term customers, offer the free incentive to the targets that will continue to do business with you.

Resources:

5 Rules for Giving Your Products Away, Beyond the New Frontier blog, by David Sorkin, New Frontier Marketing Associates

Should You Give Away Your Product, by Tom Taulli, Forbes.com

The Importance of the Why Strategy in Marketing

29 May

It’s almost the end of the first half of the year.  Are you meeting the goals you set for 2012?   If you’re not, it might be time for the Why Strategy.

Continue reading

Social Media – Just Like Any Other Business?

22 May

Has Social Media become so complex that we feel like we’re losing our minds trying to make sense of it? For the majority of us, Social Media is complicated, even for those of us that use Social Media on a regular basis. It’s a young industry and new companies, tools, and applications are continuously launching. Trying to make all that visually understandable to us, Buddy Media and Luma Partners published a graphic categorizing Social Media firms, platforms, tools, and blogs. This graphic seems to have hit a few nerves about the complexity of Social Media today.Businessman with many choices

(Due to confidential and proprietary content, the graphic is not included in this blog. The graphic can be viewed at one of the two links below. )

In Eloqua‘s blog on the recent graphic, Joe Chernov compared the complexities of Social Media to that of the auto industry and its vast ecosystem.   Even if Social Media is as complicated as other businesses making that comparison doesn’t mean that Social Media isn’t complicated. And for most of us, who are not experienced digital marketers, Social Media IS complicated.  Yes, there is an almost endless amount of free Social Media white papers, ebooks, webinars and blogs to help get educated.  It still takes a lot of time to understand every platform and tool, their differences and then to decide which ones are the right ones to support the marketing plan.

Do we need to learn all the tools inside and out to be successful at Social Media? I don’t think so. Deciding which tools to use in Social Media is like other marketing decisions we make.  We start with goals and objectives, focus on the products that will help to achieve them and ignore the rest.  Buddy Media’s graphic depicts 28 categories and almost every Social Media platform and tool available. That doesn’t mean every one of those tools or even a fraction is needed to support our marketing needs.

And if Social Media is like other businesses, a time will come in the not too distant future when there will be a consolidation of companies and integration of products and features.

What do you think?

Resources:

Social Media isn’t “Ludicrously Complicated” Business Is, by Joe Chernov, It’s All About Revenue, Eloqua blog

This INSANE Graphic Shows How Ludicrously Complicated Social Media Marketing Is Now, by Charlie Minato, Business Insider blog

B2C Lessons that Can Improve B2B Brand Experiences

15 May

I recently read The Experience Effect by Jim Joseph.  It’s about creating just that, an ‘experience effect’ that will drive consumers to a brand.  As I read Jim’s book, it seemed to me that many of his lessons on B2C branding translate to the B2B world. A strong brand offers many benefits to business.  It can make it more difficult to be displaced by a competitor, get you invited to the discussions by the customer, justify price premiums, even attract top talent.

Continue reading

Focus or Fail – Tips to Keep Your Eye on the Target

8 May

Focus: a point upon which attention, activity, etc, is directed or concentrated.

A common challenge we marketers confront is keeping a laser-sharp focus.  We may do this some of the time or even most of the time, but, to maintain focus requires awareness and conscious action. I’m not talking about loosing short-term focus because of office distractions like incoming emails, phone calls, or text messages. Although, those are interruptions we need to address because they break our concentration and ability to get our day-to-day work done. I’m talking about maintaining a long-term focus on our goals.

Hypnotic artworkHere are some useful tips I find helpful to keep my focus.

#1 SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS

It’s better to do a few things well.  Don’t sign up for something you know you cannot possibly accomplish given the resources or timeframe. Break down larger goals into smaller chunks. You will feel less overwhelmed and more in control and able to keep your focus.

#2 MAP IT OUT 

Now that you know where you want to go, determine what you need to do to achieve the goals.  Determine the programs, actions, tasks, owners, contingencies and timelines that map to a specific goal.  Make it Visual. Put this information into a project plan tool or excel spreadsheet.

#3 REVIEW YOUR PROGRESS 

Review your goals to plan often. Are you on track? If you’re not, figure out what you need to get back. Ask yourself often if what you’re doing is contributing to achieving those goals you set.  If it’s not, stop doing it. A quick review of progress at the end of each day and a detailed weekly review process will help you stay focused on your plan and goals.

#4 ENVISION SUCCESS

What will it look like when you achieve your goals?  Visualize your success and the path you’ll take to get there.  Athletes do this all of the time to get them ready for a big competition. This exercise will help to focus your mental energy in the right places.

#5 MIX IT UP

Once in a while, kill the routine.  Doing things differently can be reinvigorating and gets the creative juices flowing. You’ll be better able to focus on your work and goals when you feel energized.

#6 CELEBRATE

Celebrate the small successes as well as the big ones with your team. Talk about what you did that resulted in success and how to keep it going.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share that help you remain focused?

6 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Marketing Consultant

1 May

More companies are hiring marketing consultants today as demand for products and the economy fluctuates.  Help is needed but, many organizations aren’t able to bring on full-time staff that they may need to lay-off in a downturn or require help on a project basis only. Consultants bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences that can fill this need. Continue reading

Repurpose Existing Content to Create PowerPoints, Videos and Reach More Customers

24 Apr

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own Content Marketing staff, a team of writers that could meet your every content need?  For the majority of us, there is no Content Marketing staff.  Content development most likely falls under someone in marketing that already has a full plate of responsibilities or maybe it’s outsourced. One way to effectively extend marketing resources and the value of content is to repurpose it in different mediums.

Continue reading

Do the 4Ps Work in the B2B World??

17 Apr

Anyone who studied marketing knows the 4Ps.  Even those who didn’t can recite at least 3 of the 4; Product, Price, Place (a.k.a. Distribution) and Promotion.  The 4Ps were first talked about in 1960 by Jerome McCarthy and later published by one of the most famous marketing scholars, Philip Kotler in 1967.  Back in those days it was Mad Men, a consumer marketer’s dream.

 

For the last fifty years, these 4Ps have been ruling the marketing world but, business marketers have always been doing things differently than our consumer colleagues. The 4Ps model was never a good fit for B2B because business to business sales processes are complex, many are typically involved in the decision-making and products tend to be more sophisticated, very different from the consumer world.

Today, a lot is being written about finding better models for both consumer and business marketing. For B2B marketers, this is an opportunity to define a unique model that works and better fits business marketing than the traditional 4Ps. Why do we even need a model?  Models help marketers put context around the most common challenges we face and provide a framework to address complex business issues.

I recently came across a new model that was proposed by Solutions Insights a marketing consulting firm located in the Boston area. They provide consulting services promoting a customer-solutions focused business model. The model Solutions Insights proposes is appropriately named OVER; O = Offering, V = Value, E = Experience and R = Relationship.  

Below is Solutions Insights chart defining OVER and comparing it to the 4Ps:

Chart comparing the 4Ps marketing model to Solutions Insights' OVER model

Solutions Insights OVER model comparison to 4Ps

 I think it’s a pretty good one for B2B marketers. What do you think?

Resources:

The 4Ps Are Out, The 4 E’s Are In, by Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Ogilvy and Mather

The True 4Ps of Marketing for B2B CEOs, by Michelangelo Celli

Solutions Marketing:  The four Ps are OVER, by Solutions Insights

Is Gut Marketing a Good Idea?

10 Apr

Is following intuition, a hunch, or a feeling a good business decision? Steve Jobs said when interviewed that he made decisions based on his gut.  He didn’t believe in market research and he didn’t believe most people knew what they wanted.  Copernicus Consulting & Research points out in the Marketing Frey Blog, that an argument could be made against the need for marketing research where technology is changing so rapidly or not yet invented that if asked, a customer won’t identify the need or desire for it. For most of us, our products or services aren’t as break-through as the personal computer or Apple’s iPad.

 

Businesswoman deciding which door to openYou may favor an intuitive decision-making style not a fact based style.  But, the question you need to ask is how can you make the best decisions for your business to achieve the most optimal outcome whatever your decision-making style?

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe in intuition. It springs from our knowledge, skills, and expertise. Intuition may be the start of a great new product, improvement or customer service program. But unless you are the next Steve Jobs, you need to do more than run with your gut. Take it to the next level.

I advocate using research and facts to support your intuition. A lot of information is available that doesn’t cost anything except for the time it takes to do some digging to find it.  Look online for free information on markets, competitors, trends, and customers.  Use your intuition and follow it up with facts to achieve the greatest results.

Do you make decisions in your business based on your instincts?  Do you use research to back them up?

Resources:

Steve Jobs:  Did Going From the Gut Really Work?, Copernicus, The Marketing Frey Blog
Follow Your Instincts.  Improve Your Business.  Blog by Brown & Company
When It Comes to Marketing, Your Gut is Still Not Smarter than Your Head.  by Kevin Clancy and Peter Krieg
How Do You Make Your Decision More Data Driven Rather Than Gut Instinct, by Charles Feltman

What March Madness Reminds Us About Business

3 Apr

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is over.  Like past tournaments, this year’s excitement and nail-biting game endings didn’t disappoint. March Madness is entertaining but, to be a winner it takes a combination of the right leadership, players, strategy and desire. Much like what it takes to succeed in business. Here are my top picks for winning on the court and in business.  Any others you’d include?

Basketball game, player shooting a basket

1.  The coach hires a staff that compliments his style and addresses areas where he is weakest.  The best leaders know they don’t know everything and find managers whose skills fill those gaps.

2.  The coach recruits players that believe in his vision and have the right mix of talent and skills to fill the position. The recruit may not be able to fill the position 100% on day one but, the coach sees the ability and desire for growth.

3. Everyone knows the contribution they make to the team and works together to achieve team goals.  There may be stand-out performers but, they recognize they can’t do it alone.  Winning requires every player on the team.  

4.  Individual performance is elevated because coaches focus on developing a player’s strengths.  After all, those strengths are the reason he was recruited.  

5.  Practice, practice, and then practice some more.  I worked for someone who told me that he always over prepared because there was nothing worse than finding yourself in front of an important customer or your boss under prepared. He anticipated questions, objections and various scenarios and prepared responses for them.

6.  Play Your Game with Flawless Execution.  Play to your strengths and what you do best.  If you’ve prepared, your execution will be flawless.

7.  Believe You’re a Winner.  If you believe in yourself, your talents and that you can win, you will do everything in your power to make that a reality.

8.  It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over.  How many times has a team come back from a ten point half-time deficit to win the game.  Too many to count. Fight the battle.  Don’t throw the towel in before the game is over.

Aligning Marketing Programs with the Sales Cycle – How Great Marketers Measure Their Performance

27 Mar

With the end of a quarter upon us, functional departments are pulling together performance results to present to their CEO and CFO. For marketing, it has long been a struggle to show how marketing programs have resulted in growth of revenues and profits.  When asked how a specific marketing program, activity or campaign affected sales, marketers are quickly put on the defensive. Add to that, many marketers don’t see their role as revenue generating. Marketing programs may not be tied directly to an organization’s objectives and goals and therefore their impact on sales and profits is not measurable.  As a result, leadership views marketing as a cost center. Eventually, this thinking can lead to cuts in marketing’s budget and in personnel when the company needs to make improvements to its bottom line.

Bar chart showing sales growth

How to Be a Great Marketer in the Eyes of the CEO and CFO

It isn’t enough to show charts and graphs of how many more visitors viewed a website in a month, or downloaded a new white paper or dropped their card in a bowl at a trade show. A better way to measure marketing performance is to measure its impact on buying behavior during the sales cycle. When measuring performance, marketing must determine whether their activities resulted in moving a prospective customer closer to becoming a buying customer.

B2B sales cycles are typically more complex than B2C cycles. More decision makers are involved in the buying process and from initial contact to actual purchase the cycle itself is longer.  Different marketing programs touch customers at various stages during the sales cycle, making it difficult and even inaccurate to credit a single marketing activity as being responsible for the buyer’s decision to purchase. For this reason, marketing needs to look at its programs, activities and campaigns holistically and measure the impact each has on moving the prospect into the next stage of the sales cycle.

Where Do You Start?

Begin by understanding your company’s sales cycle and gain a clear understanding of what your prospective buyer needs at each stage. Look at your current marketing programs and activities. These should map to the prospective buyers’ needs at each of the stages in the sales cycle. If they don’t, consider whether these activities are contributing to your organization’s objectives. If not,  drop them from your marketing plan. You may need to consider new activities that better align with your company’s objectives, sales cycle and prospective buyers’ needs.

Next, assign values to each program based on the importance of the desired outcome along the sales cycle. Certain activities are tied to more critical outcomes and therefore should be given a higher value. You now have metrics to measure and can evaluate how effective a marketing program or activity was at eliciting the desired outcome in the sales cycle and if they contributed to generating additional sales.

Is the Marketing Program Profitable? 

Once you have measured and quantified how these activities contributed to generating revenues you must determine if they did so profitably.  Calculate the ROI.  Start with a simple P/L statement.

  1. On the Revenue side, include the dollar contributions that the program made to sales and multiply this number by your average gross margin to calculate the gross profit from marketing’s contributions to sales.
  2. On the expense side, total all marketing program expenses and include staff time and any other resources that contributed directly to the program.
  3. Subtract the total program expenses from the gross profit to determine the ROI of the program.

For more details, download the ebook, Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics, by Marketo which provides excellent real business examples for calculating Marketing ROI.

Be a Revenue and Profit Generator

With the start of a new quarter, now is a good time to review your marketing programs and goals.  Consider if these line up with your organization’s overall objectives.  Determine if you have the right metrics in place to measure effectiveness and impact during the sales cycle. Choose the tools to measure results. Decide how often to measure and adjust your activities.

When marketers develop programs that align with prospective buyers’ needs during the sales cycle, measure program effectiveness (incremental sales contribution) and calculate program profitability (ROI), it demonstrates to leadership that marketing is a contributor to the growth of the organization and not just another cost center.

Resources:

Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics, Marketo (ebook)
Digital Body Language, Chapter 9, Can you Finally Measure Marketing Effectiveness? by Steven Woods, eloqua ebook 


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