Tag Archives: marketing

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

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

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

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 


Are You Watching Social Media from the Sideline?

20 Mar

American football field at the 50-yard line.Many companies have Social Media strategies and plans in place.  Many still don’t. And it isn’t only small businesses. Even some large companies don’t have Social Media in their marketing play books. Social Media is the great unknown and risky unchartered waters for many businesses. They avoid any efforts to develop a program, instead watching Social Media from the sideline.  If this describes how Social Media is viewed at your company, maybe it’s time to learn to crawl before you run.

Consider trying one Social Media platform first.  Don’t wait to develop a comprehensive Social Media strategy and campaign. Having said that, it is important to have goals in mind and what you’d like to accomplish.  An initial goal may be as simple as creating a Twitter account and following leaders or competitors in your industry everyday for the next three months. Remember that your actions should be consistent with your brand and target audience messaging, no matter how high of a level you decide to initially participate in Social Media.

The Best Platform for a B2B to Start Social Media Activities

If you are a B2B, LinkedIn is a great choice to test the Social Media waters. This is the professional business networking platform.

Start by completing a LinkedIn Company Profile page.  You can add information, accessible to all LinkedIn’s 150 million members, about your organization including your logo, products and services, current promotions and job openings .  With a company page, once you have followers you can start a conversation and engage with them. LinkedIn members follow what matters to them professionally and to their business.

Next, build your company’s LinkedIn presence by identifying members within your company to join industry groups related to your business like customers’, partners’ and competitors’ groups.  Being a part of these groups is really where your business can benefit.  If this is a first time participating in a group, take some time to listen and get a pulse on the conversations of the group.  Establish your authority and expertise in these groups by becoming an active participant sharing useful information and starting discussions with the group. Another benefit of participating in groups is the opportunity to hear what customers are thinking about your product, your competitors and what is trending in the industry.

Increase your LinkedIn presence further by creating your own industry group. I like the HP and Intel group, Small Biz Nation that features good discussions on relevant topics for small businesses like the discussion on Techniques to Stay Connected to Your Customers. Another group I like is the American Express Business Knowledge Share with discussion topics ranging from Social Media and online marketing tips to How Participating in LinkedIn Groups Can Help Your Business.

The costs of not participating in Social Media are too great.  You don’t have to watch Social Media from the sideline.  Pick a platform and get started.

Get Unstuck and Seize the Opportunity

13 Mar

One of the problems that we all face from time to time is getting stuck.  We may get stuck for different reasons but when we are stuck, we have closed our minds and our ability to be open to change.  The cost is missed opportunities.  

Woman with Arms in Air upwards towards the sky/sunAt one time in my career, I was a data security product marketing manager and made the mistake of being stuck in a belief.  It was very early on in the data security market, (late 90’s), and we were marketing enterprise-grade security firewalls.  These firewalls were designed for large networks, expensive and required technical expertise to implement and manage.  This worked fine for large enterprises but, not for small/medium size businesses (SMBs).  Back then SMBs were the next big growth market for data security products.

Taking the advice of very knowledgeable security gurus, I wasn’t willing to compromise the level of security that large firewalls provided in order to move down market.  I was stuck in the belief that the new firewall designed for SMBs would not provide adequate security.  The truth was that the new firewall did provide good security and SMBs needed a security solution.  The large, expensive, complex enterprise firewall was not it.  Fortunately, after many heated discussions with those in favor of the new firewall, we included it in our security offering. It wasn’t enterprise grade but, it met the needs of the SMBs on price, technical simplicity and security.  The small firewall was a successful addition to our product offering.

Many times, you don’t even realize you are stuck in a belief or idea that is keeping you from seeing an opportunity clearly.  We need to remind ourselves often to remain open to new ideas, not be too quick to judge them and allow them the time to be considered so we don’t miss out on those opportunities for growth.

Sharing the Who, What and Why With Customers

28 Feb

Several months ago a start-up had asked for a review and recommendations for improving  their current website and Facebook page.  What stood out most for me was that their website lacked information about the organization, the Who, What and Why were all missing.  Who is a part of their organization? What is their organization about?  and Why does it matter that customers do business with them?

For a new business with a unique product, sharing this basic yet key company information with potential customers is even more critical to build trust and a relationship with customers.

While this may seem pretty obvious to most of us, sometimes smaller organizations and start-ups feel the need and want to be different starting with the website.  For this organization, they have a unique, creative and non-traditional approach to funding charities.  Their website design and content reflects those attributes.  But, the important point is not to get so caught up in being creative or non-traditional that you forget about why you have a website in the first place, to provide information and to connect with your customer.

On this organization’s website, there is no tab or section that tells the story of how or why the organization got started, who the founders are or what is the mission.  A Join button is located on the home page that immediately opens to a window requesting customer contact information to join. There is no landing page to tell the customer why do business with them or in this case ‘join’ their cause. And because this organization has a new model in charity giving, it is important for potential customers to clearly understand how the giving of donations works, what is expected of them and what if any are the costs should be explained on the site before the call to action to join.

Understanding where customers are in the sales process and providing the right content for each stage in the sales cycle is also critical.  If you don’t provide the appropriate information, customers that are not yet ready to buy will leave.  Don’t ask for the sale too soon.  You’ve got to build trust first.

Start with the website. For the majority, it is still the first place they go to learn about a company.  Be creative in design and marketing on your website but, also include the information that customers need and want to know, who you are, what you are about and why they should do business with you.

How to Rise Above the Noise and Be Heard

21 Feb

In today’s marketplace, there is more ‘noise’ than ever before. The number of companies (all sizes and levels of resources) and volume of content competing for customers’ time is staggering thanks in large part to social media, the Internet and mobile technologies. How can your company rise above it all and be heard? Tell Your Story.


People remember a good story.  Every business has one. If you think you don’t, take some time to remember why you started your business. What is your vision? What does your business stand for? What are your core values?  What do you want to be known for?  What are your customer successes?

By creating your story and consistently telling it again and again, your business develops a persona that customers identify. Story telling isn’t new.  In this day of sound bites, tag lines, and elevator pitches, telling a story may seem a bit long winded.  But, an effective narrative can tell a memorable story that has impact and matters more to your customers than advertising jargon.  Be truthful and authentic in your story and customers will develop trust in you and belief that you will deliver on your promise.

For the B2B Company:  A Great Story Can Rise Above the Noise

For B2B companies, customer successes are a great way to tell a story. How did your company help solve a problem for your customer or your industry? What did you do that sets you apart from the rest?  An employee success story can confirm your core values with customers and serve as a guide to employees in their decision making and interactions with customers to ensure consistent customer experiences.

Best Media to Tell Your Story

The best media to use when telling your story is always the one that most effectively reaches your customers and best fits your story.  Video is an important part of Cisco’s product offering so, it isn’t surprising that Cisco uses video for its story-telling and launched the Cisco YouTube channel in September 2011. Video is a powerful way for companies of any size, not only the largest, to reach and engage with customers as an alternative to standard text.

Businesses don’t make buying decisions.  People inside businesses make decisions.  Make the connection with them through your story.

Resources:

Name that Brand Story… by Rob Marsh, http://www.brandstoryonline.com
The Power of a Good Brand Story, Mark Thomson, the BrandChannel
The Importance of Story-Telling in Lead Nurturing,  Jeff Ogdon, Fearless Competitor
Are You Telling Your Brand Story, Steve Woodruff , Small Business Branding
Strategy:  Story’s More Powerful than the Brand, Tom Peters, You Tube

%d bloggers like this: