Like my first boss always told me, “The past is prologue, again and again.” I’m not exactly Continue reading
Effective marketing emails drive awareness, acquisition, conversion and retention. But your email may be missing the mark in achieving its full potential because of some key content and design mistakes.
From the preview text that introduces the email, to its scannability (less is more), prominent calls to action and balance of images and text, your email should contain 7 components to ensure it has the most impact.
Our infographic looks at these email elements and how they can improve your marketing effectiveness.
Almost every other article in the marketing newsletters we receive these days touches on some aspect of content marketing. Experts have, of course, been coming out of the woodwork with their opinions, advice and guidance for the last several years. The Content Marketing Institute has become a major industry force. And a new set of business authors have been on tour promoting their books on the subject.
Truth be told, strategic content marketing has always been important for b2b marketers. It’s just that now we have more ways to deliver it than we ever dreamed possible. Thus, it has become a growing investment in b2b marketing budgets.
Check out these stats
Enterprise b2b marketers have jumped all over the content marketing bandwagon – 87% say they are using it and while doing so, employing, on the average, 16 different content tactics (ie video, blogs, infographics, social media, in-person events, just to name a few.).
However, only 22% of these marketers say that their content marketing efforts are effective; while 52% claim neutrality on its effectiveness and 26% actually admit to their efforts being ineffective. Despite this, 74% of these enterprise marketers (1,000+ employees) say they will produce more content in 2016. And 47% say they will increase their budget for content marketing.
So what gives?
We all know the marketing game plan:
- Do research to better understand what’s important to customers when making a purchase decision for our type of product or service.
- Try to develop content that supports the customer’s “journey” as they make the purchase decision (or not).
- Attempt to deliver the right kinds of content to the right person at the right time in the right manner.
- Aim to insert our brand earlier in the decision process rather than wait until the prospect is finally ready to call us in.
- Measure and track every one of these content tools to determine what’s effective and what isn’t. (66% of enterprise content marketers say it is a top priority to better understand effectiveness.)
So why are we spending so much time and money on so many tactics that we are not necessarily sure are working the way we intended? Are we measuring these tactics in the wrong way? If a particular piece of content does not deliver a quality lead, is it a failure? Are we really listening to what our customers and prospects are saying, or are we just hearing what we want to hear in order to justify what we already intend to do with our marketing dollars?
Is less more?
Perhaps we need to rethink what we are doing in terms of content marketing. Do we really need to be futzing with 16 or more different tactics? What if we just focus on the types of tools and tactics that according to the research report are more effective for b2b marketers? Things like:
- In-person events (76%)
- Research reports (65%)
- Videos (65%)
- Webinars/webcasts (65%)
- Case studies (64%)
If the top challenge for enterprise content marketers is producing engaging content (63% say it is), then perhaps it is time to focus on the top four or five tactics that are most effective for your brand. And turn them into successful tools that make your brand more engaging, memorable and the natural choice for your target audience.
Lastly, make a plan, Stan
According to the research, only 35% of enterprise b2b marketers have a documented strategy for their content efforts. Of those, 75% actually claim to have effective content marketing efforts. So it is pretty clear: a well-documented plan will help your content marketing be more effective.
While content marketing has evolved into its own giant playground as a part of the overall marketing and communications function within the organization, its success is really based upon how well you play. Are you strategic and focused in how you implement the content tactics you feel are best for your organization, or are you taking a shotgun approach and hoping some portion of these efforts hit your target? It seems pretty clear which approach makes the most sense as we all become more mature in our content implementations.
When done well, content can facilitate conversions. In fact, according to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and produces three times as many leads. Equally important is its ability to move business buyers down the purchase path, culminating in purchase and brand advocacy.
So what could possibly go wrong? One word: Value.
In the zeal to create mounds of content, marketers often fail to consider whether their audience actually wants it. They overlook the need to add value, and make it useful or actionable. Here are three ways to make your content more valuable in the business marketplace:
- Define value for your audience
Business buyers love content because they perceive they’ll get something out of it. Make sure they do. Any content you produce should educate, inspire or entertain. It should encourage sharing and make the recipient look smarter or more plugged into their job. If not, it’s just more advertising.
- Create content that aligns to your audience’s interests
Never publish content simply to get your name out there. That’s a monologue. Instead, formulate a content strategy that a) takes into account what’s on the minds of your audience b) adds your brand’s unique POV to this discussion in way that creates value and c) clearly links your efforts to your overarching business goals. By connecting relevant content to your business goals, you can better engage audiences with topics that matter to both of you.
- Match content to the purchase path
Just as you integrate brand communications (ads, PR, digital, tradeshows) to reach buyers at key stages along the b2b purchase path, it’s critical to develop different content for key points of the buyer journey.
For example, early-stage content should simply get you into the consideration set (“What type of packaging is right for my product?”). Middle-stage content should focus on your audience’s specific area of interest that directly relates to your brand (“Why standup pouch packaging is ideal for soups and sauces”). And late-stage content confirms the buyer’s choice to do business with you (“How one standup pouch design has grown by 30% in the last three years”).
Keep in mind these three ideas and you’ll soon discover that a little quality content goes much further than volumes of unfocused whitepapers, blogs or infographics any day.
The marketing world seems to be getting more challenging and competitive by the day. Marketers know they must make every dollar count – whether the budget is in the thousands or the millions. The goal is to deliver disproportionate return on your investment. Here are some key approaches and tips to do just that.
- Don’t just target. Pinpoint.
Every marketer wants to reach – and persuade – the largest percentage of their target audience they can. But casting a wide net can be the wrong approach. First, it generates a superficial and homogenized view of your buyers (“Purchasing Agents,” anyone?). Second, it’s hard to do an effective job of reaching such broad swaths of decision makers. Instead, we recommend identifying more richly defined target groups inside that comprehensive segment.
Hone in on your most likely and most profitable buyers by segmenting and targeting with specific filters. Consider SIC code or zip code targeting. These tactics work in both digital and traditional media channels. You can concentrate your media dollars against your most promising buyers, based on type or location of business. Online you have the chance to augment your marketing efforts with true hyper-targeting – serving up messages to prospects who visit competitors’ websites, search for trending industry topics, show an interest in specific type of product, etc. This will elevate your media plan and enable you to reach outcomes like generating more and better leads, raising brand awareness and driving content engagement.
- Set the right goal posts.
When measuring media performance, do not just use basic or customary measures. Understand how success looks for you and use the most relevant and specific metrics to track it. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should not be a laundry list, but instead clearly linked to brand or business objectives. At Mobium, we use a buyer purchase process model to set KPIs at each phase that correlate to that phase’s main objectives. This ensures that all media performance is measured against its ability to ultimately convert the target into loyal, profitable customers.
- Maximize your owned channels.
Far too often, media plans only consider the brand’s paid media options. But most should consider their owned channels first. What are some ways to do this? Leverage your website by making sure it’s easy to navigate, clearly defines your brand, offers quality content and is optimized for search. Consider and plan how to use your social platforms to maximize your efforts. Look for ways to leverage your loyal customers to share the message with their colleagues and peer networks. Consider an email marketing program against your customer relationship management (CRM) system or customer/prospect database. In conjunction with paid media, owned channels can turbocharge your efforts.
- Invest in paid search.
Paid search is a great way to ensure current campaigns are fully optimized. Paid search reaches buyers at the precise time of interest and need when they are actively searching for your brand, product, service or category. This means you can be there with the right message at the right time. And if you aren’t, your competitors are sure to be instead.
- Don’t get too thin. Or too thick.
In today’s fragmented and complex b2b media ecosystem, it can be tantalizing to try many different tactics and media types. When planning your media strategy, make sure you are expanding out into new vehicles and platforms judiciously. Concentrate on channels that allow you to be targeted while reaching prospects at an impactful frequency. Don’t rely on just one channel to achieve your objectives — the media landscape is not consumed like this. When adding new media and tactics, try testing and experimenting to see what’s working before rolling out and committing bigger dollars. Finally, make sure your message is consistent across all your channels and that all channels align with how your target engages with various media on a daily basis.
Take the time to understand how your brand objectives, buyer interests and media options intersect and you’re on your way to getting the best bang for your marketing buck.
Unless you’re talking to one-person companies based in their parents’ basements, chances are pretty good that your b2b branding efforts will need to reach multiple decision makers within every prospective target.
Whether it’s a formal “purchase committee” or an ad-hoc group of key stakeholders, addressing various titles and points-of-view is a challenging fact of life for b2b marketers—one that our consumer branding counterparts don’t often share.
So how do you successfully run the decision gauntlet and get your product or service on the prospect’s short list?
Know the roles
Within every b2b category—from software to manufacturing—you’ll find four basic roles involved in green-lighting major purchases. These include:
The gatekeeper—resistant to change; looks for reasons not to make a decision or embark on the RFP process
The recommender—usually the company’s change agent; sees an opportunity to solve a challenge by bringing in new technologies or service providers
The influencer—the well-respected, seasoned professional whose opinion matters and who can bolster the case of either the gatekeeper or the recommender
The approver—typically the c-level executive or senior manager who will write the check…and hope for the best
Which titles correlate to each role? It depends on the organization, the product or service, and the category, but procurement, IT, operations, engineering, HR, sales/marketing and the c-suite are all fair game somewhere along the purchase cycle.
Know the motivations
With this cast of characters to appease, it’s critical that any b2b marketing communications program offers something for everyone. A single website or all-encompassing sales presentation simply won’t cut it.
Do your homework.
Conduct research across every decision-making function. Know how each role approaches their job. What perceptions do they have of your product or category? How much information do they need to make decisions? Where do they look for this information?
Slice and dice your messaging
Don’t talk to procurement the same way you talk to marketing. Create the right media mix to answer all their questions—from emotive, impactful high-level videos to detailed technical specifications in a catalog or brochure. Each prospective purchaser needs to walk away with information in the format they seek or they won’t believe your brand fits their needs.
Stay on brand
Of course, just because the purchase process means you’re talking easy installation with IT, service agreements with procurement and ROI with the COO doesn’t mean you walk away from your core brand messaging. All of the perception-building done with each role still needs to connect back to your brand. And, as we all know, a strong brand is never all things to all people.
Know the messages
Once you understand that virtually every b2b purchase decision is made by some sort of committee, you can map your messaging to the individuals. Around here, we call it a purchase process matrix: a simple chart that lists title, role, and key message.
In a typical business, key messages will break out like this:
The gatekeeper wants to know about pricing, service agreements, length of contracts and all the functional details that go into the purchase price.
The recommender wants to be assured that his or her decision to promote the product or service within the organization will do two things. First, it will positively impact the business and make life easier/better/more efficient for all concerned. Secondly, it will reflect well on themselves. In other words, they get credit for making the right choice.
The influencer seeks to solidify their status in the organization by backing the right product or service. They will take credit for successes and suffer blame when a brand fails to deliver.
The approver is usually focused on three letters: ROI. As the representative of the c-suite, any major purchase must positively impact the bottom line. So it goes without saying that somewhere in the communications plan are messages about ROI and the ability to impact corporate growth.
While everyone talks about how b2b and b2c worlds are continually converging, one thing will likely stay the same: Business decisions are made by committees. Consumer decisions are made by individuals.
And at my house, that individual is named “the wife.”
As b2b marketers increasingly use more of the many communications channels to reach their customers and prospects, it gets even harder for a brand to break through all this clutter and noise to get noticed.
In their new book “Trend Driven Innovation,” several members of the TrendWatching team have coined an interesting phrase that marketers should think about: “Experience Cramming.” This refers to the idea of a brand “collecting and mixing and matching as many and as wide a variety of new experiences as possible to form a collage that reflects the individual” consumer or customer. In other words, creating unique and memorable experiences that help build awareness, familiarity and preference for the brand with customers and prospects.
While on the surface this seems like a more business-to-consumer kind of approach to marketing, there’s certainly plenty of application for the idea of Experience Cramming in the b2b brand world as well. For instance, many b2b brands have a show room where their products and solutions are on display and ready for demo to prospects. Why not use these places to create even more and better brand experiences that aren’t necessarily attached to a product demo? Host an industry event, conduct a seminar or a fundraiser for a charity, to name a few.
Technology brands tend to host an annual user group meeting that hundreds, even thousands of customers attend. But most b2b brands cannot afford such extravagance. The days of inviting a thousand distributors to an invitation-only REO Speedwagon concert at the House of Blues in Las Vegas are pretty much long gone and unattainable for the average-size b2b brand and totally out of reach for the smaller brands.
But the idea of creating numerous smaller, more affordable experiences is something the small to medium size b2b brands could probably work into their annual budget. The challenge is making these experiences memorable and meaningful to the customer and prospect. So here’s the challenge: sit back and think of some ways that you can create worthy experiences that “crammed” together help create a stronger bonds with your customers and prospects. Or perhaps call us and let us help you figure it out.
In the not so distant past, b2b purchasers relied on sales calls and word of mouth to determine and select vendors. But now with 89% of b2b researchers using the Internet instead, Continue reading
Over the past year, there’s been a number of articles preaching that b2b marketers should pay closer attention to how b2c companies conduct their marketing. It’s as if the author thinks they just discovered the Holy Grail:
- Did you know that emotion plays a big role in b2b purchase decisions? So knowing these emotional drivers will help you be more successful in reaching the b2b buyer. Duh.
- Technology has put control of the purchase process in the hands of the b2b purchase decision maker. (Marketers are no longer in control.) Double duh.
Luckily, Mobium has been talking about these things for over 20 years, along with a few of our smarter contemporaries. Guess we all just discovered the Grail earlier.
Consumer trends apply to b2b, too
Several members of the TrendWatching team have teamed up to write an intriguing new book entitled “Trend Driven Innovation.” In the book, they talk about today’s Expectation Economy which is “built on the convergence of three strands of customer expectations:”
- Rising quality
- Positive impact
- Personal expression
These expectations give the buyer “significant power and control,” while business never seems to catch up to this “curve of accelerating expectations.”
Business-to-business marketers should read this book and think about how the identified trends might apply to their business strategies.
Clean Slate Branding
For instance, take their idea of a “Clean Slate Brand.” According to the authors, “traditional brand theory suggests that history and heritage are valuable assets that lie at the heart of a brand’s ability to attract and retain customer attention.” In today’s Expectation Economy, the trend says consumers “are now as attracted (if not more so) to unproven brands and organizations as they were to established ones in the past.”
The consumer expects these new, Clean Slate Brands to be “more trustworthy, ethical and simply better than the established brands.” In fact, the established brands (banks, fast food chains, big pharma) are now just another word for unsustainable, unresponsive, untrusted, un-this, un-that, etc.
A Clean Slate Brand is more than just a “new category” for the existing brand. It’s a brand that meets the expectations of the buyer through attributes that “are deeply embedded in their business models and practices from the start.”
As the b2b decision maker’s expectations continue to grow, b2b marketers should look at ways to develop Clean Slate Brands that are unencumbered by the legacies of their existing brands. That way, if existing brands can’t offer rising quality, positive impact or personal expression—or at least the perception of each—a Clean Slate Brand can.
Plateauing volumes, eroding margins, sales lost to that competitor with an inferior product. What you feel in your gut is probably true—the market views you as just another supplier. You’re becoming a commodity.
But there’s hope. We’ve helped marketers across multiple industries unclog their brands by following the principles outlined below.
Uncover customer value and differentiation
We’re all experts on our own business and can quickly rattle off specifications and product features and quality measures galore. But customers make purchase decisions to help them solve problems and challenges they are facing. Understanding those challenges – and positioning your organization to help solve them – is the key to unclogging your brand from your competitors.
The best way to identify those customer challenges is to simply listen. Whether it’s via a focus group, in-depth interviews or a quantitative survey, invest in the opportunity to gain the insights that will ultimately help you better serve your customers – and set you apart from your competition. Take care to listen without letting your current perceptions color what you hear. Insights are gained from assuming you haven’t heard it all before.
Assess the competitive environment
It might be difficult to think objectively about how your marketing materials stack up against your competitors, but it’s a worthy exercise. Chances are your customers are seeing the same jargon, the same clichés, the same stock images and the same product shots. If you covered up the logos with your thumb, would you be able to identify who is who? Probably not. And neither can your customers. Take the time to read through anything you can get your hands on and take note of the words or claims that are used over and over again. Then stop using them.
Create a unique and compelling voice
Armed with a new understanding of your customers and competitive environment, you’re ready to stand out:
- Avoid the clichés and jargon your competitors’ use and speak simply and directly to your customers instead
- Talk to them about the challenges they face and demonstrate how you can help solve them
- Use case studies and/or customer testimonials as appropriate
- Instead of leading with product images, be human. Show situations your customers can relate to or see themselves in. Your marketing materials should read like a conversation, not Advertising CopyTM
Help employees deliver the brand
So now you know what your customers are looking for, you’re avoiding all the jargon and you’re speaking directly to your customers about their challenges. That’s awesome! But there’s one more audience that should not be overlooked – your employees. They are the ones who come into contact on a day-to-day basis with your customers and it’s important they understand what your brand is, why it matters and how it shapes their role within the company. Consider having a fun event that explains the unclogging process you just went through. Follow up with a handy reference guide to reinforce they key ideas. Empower them to make certain decisions during customer interactions that will reinforce your company’s position.
Let the unclogging begin
This unclogging process forces you to look at youself and your competitors from your customers’ and non-customers’ points of view.
That’s important because in a world where customers and prospects control information, communication and the buying process, it’s in your best interest to think about things the way they do.
And ultimately, the process can provide direction to help you change the relationship that you have with customers and prospects. You can more easily focus on helping them solve their problems and draw them closer to your brand on a deeper level. This understanding of customer and prospect value is the key ingredient to developing a powerful business brand that sets you apart from the competition.
And that’s key to winning sales and getting paid as a trusted brand rather than another commodity.
Sounds complicated? Don’t worry, we can help. It’s what we do. Call me at 312.422.5942 and I’ll talk you through it.