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7 Reasons Every B2B Marketing Strategy Needs Buyer Personas

Are you confident your B2B marketing efforts are targeting the right audience? Most B2B buyers today self-educate long before reaching out to sales. That’s why your B2B marketing strategy needs buyer personas.

You’ve seen the numbers — 57% of the purchase decision happens before sales gets involved according to CEB and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally according to SiriusDecisions.  Therefore, it’s more important than ever that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attracts, converts, and nurtures the right people – your ideal customer or buyer persona.

Here are 7 reasons your B2B marketing strategy needs buyer personas:

  1. B2B buying is complicated – Most B2B buying decisions aren’t made by one person. Sure, there may be a single signature on the contract or PO. However, usually a buying team has purchasing, technical and functional experts. In addition, senior management weights in on final B2B purchase decisions. In fact, CEB’s research shows that an average of 5.4 people are involved in B2B buying decisions. Personas help marketing reach and influence each person on the buying team.
  2. Helps you prioritize – Every marketing team has limited resources. The persona development process helps you and your marketing team (and sales) really home in on your ideal prospects. In addition to the role of your ideal customer (see above), developing personas forces everyone to think about and prioritize verticals, geography, etc. that will drive growth for your organization.
  3. Improves sales and marketing alignment – Since marketing works closely with sales to develop personas, this naturally drives alignment between marketing and sales teams. Marketing will learn from sales, and marketing and sales will be aligned on reaching the priority prospects. The personas you develop can become part of sales on-boarding. This helps new sales reps ramp up more quickly and align them with marketing.
  4. Improves lead quality –Creating your marketing campaigns and content with your persona in mind will naturally attract people more likely to convert to leads. And those leads will be easier to segment for more targeted, personalized and engaging campaigns resulting in more effective nurturing. Marketing will be handing off higher quality leads to sales – sales will love you!
  5. Better focus channels – Do your research right and you’ll know where your personas go to educate themselves and research new solutions. This means you can save time and money by devoting resources and promoting your content to the channels where your personas are, not where you think they might be.
  6. Improves content topic ideation – Without personas your team will be wasting time trying to guess what topics will be of interest. Even worse, you may be developing marketing content that never gets seen. Well-developed personas clearly spell out pain points and challenges, interests, common problems, goals, etc. This makes it much easier to develop topics that resonate with and engage your ideal prospect.

During the persona development process you will invariably uncover internal resources for developing future topics and content.

7. Quicker and better content – Having a persona to share when making content development requests or assignments helps ensure it’s written with the right audience in mind. This is true no matter who the writer is, a new marketing team member, guest blogger, outside writer, or internal subject matter expert. You’ll save time and improve your content.

According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study, companies that exceeded their lead and revenue goals were 2.2 times more likely to have and document buyer personas than companies that miss their goals. So what’s holding you back? Isn’t it time your B2B marketing strategy includes formalized buyer personas for marketing success? Learn more by reading 6 Easy Ways to Research and Develop Buyer Personas.

 

Marketing Automation: Poor Data Quality and 3 Things You Should Do Now

The data “monster” lurking within

With the adoption of Marketing Automation technology, B2B marketing teams are able to do more with less and measure everything. But what’s the scariest thing about these systems? Sending a campaign to the wrong list. Or forgetting to finish a landing page before a campaign launch may haunt you. Maybe you’re spooked that you won’t make your demand generation and ROI goals. However, I contend the number one scariest monster to tackle now is your poor data quality. It’s just waiting to rear its ugly head. Maybe it already has, but you just haven’t realized it!

The data on B2B marketing data

According to a D&B survey of over 500 B2B companies, 27% sited poor data quality/accuracy as their biggest obstacle for maximizing return on investment in marketing technology. Without reliable sales and marketing company and contact records, how will you target the right audience with the right message at the right time?

Marketing data quality is the foundation of all your digital marketing efforts.

Another survey from Openprise and Ascend2 found 72% of B2B marketers say a top goal of their marketing data management strategy is improving ROI measurability. And 44% said data quality is the most significant barrier to marketing data management success. This same study revealed the top 3 most effective uses of marketing data are campaign targeting (62%), content personalization (51%), and sales attribution (43%). Pretty important stuff wouldn’t you say?

Let’s delve a bit deeper into 3 things you should do now to ensure quality data.

1. Conduct a data audit – Review your existing contact and company records, see where your biggest problems are, and develop an improvement plan.

  • How many duplicates are there?
  • Which fields are being left empty or have inconsistent entries?
  • How many records haven’t been touched in 6 months?
  • What fields have typos or wrong information?

Very likely you’ll quickly see where the biggest issues are. Subsequently, you can prioritize what to work on first. As you tackle each issue, think about how the you’ll use the data (or is it even needed any more). In addition, consider where the data is coming from (users or other systems such as CRM, social media, or other marketing tools).

Unstructured data, such as text fields and comments or notes entries cause many problems. For example, unstructured data fields are not very useful for filtering, creating criteria, or analysis. I’ve found that structuring field input, for example using dropdown lists or multi-picklists, reduces blank entries and increases data quality. As a result, your campaigns, personalization, and analysis will be more accurate and effective.

2. Develop a data management process – If you don’t have a data management process, develop one. Make sure you have people dedicated to routine maintenance, data input standards (with agreement from sales), and documented processes that detail who, what, and when. The data audit discussed above will highlight the lack of or broken processes. For example, data importing, duplicate handling, data cleansing, and archiving/merging/deleting old contact and company records. Clean out the cobwebs and establish processes for keeping it clean.

Read my post about business processes to learn the why and how for data management and other marketing processes.

Vector Halloween Background Scary Eyes Orange

3. Training, training, training – Let’s face it, most poor data quality comes from a lack of data management processes and user training. After you have documented data entry processes, it’s time to train users. Provide documented data entry standards, create on-boarding training for new employees, and periodic tips/updates/helpful hints to your users. Provide one-on-one help to those not in compliance. Make sure your CRM and Marketing Automation systems have on-screen field level help. Provide short tutorial videos for on-demand, self-service help.

Without good quality data your B2B marketing team struggles with personalization and campaign effectiveness. Plus you may make decisions that’ll haunt you down the road.  That’s not scary, that’s terrifying!

What’s your biggest challenge to data quality management?

 

B2B Lead Generation is Just Like Motorsport Racing – No Really!

The Top 4 Elements for a Podium Finish

Over Labor Day weekend I had the opportunity to drive my race car on my favorite track, Virginia International Raceway. The weather was perfect in spite of Hurricane Hermine barreling along just 20 miles south of us. Plus the car performed well making it a most enjoyable weekend. By now you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with B2B marketing. A lot actually! In this post I’ll discuss the top four elements to ensure your B2B lead generation strategy results in a podium finish.

Prepped for high performance B2B lead generation

Before I head to the track there’s a lot of preparation required to ensure a fun and safe weekend of high performance driving. I inspect the car for any safety or mechanical issues, purchase gas, and gather spare parts. Sometimes I change the oil, brake pads, or tires. Then there’s the hotel reservations, event registration, planning when to get the trailer from storage and load the car, and purchasing track insurance. Yes, I have a very long checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything.

Successful B2B lead generation requires a lot of preparation also. Before the launch of any campaigns you need to be “race prepped”. By that I mean you need target buyer personas, a mapped out buyer’s journey, and appropriate content for each journey stage. You need your marketing engine (website, online and offline channels, marketing automation, and analytics) tuned up and ready. Your content calendar may have some holes in it, but you should have some “spare” content on hand. Additionally, you need a plan for producing new content going forward since content is the “fuel” for lead generation.

Think about what else might be needed and what might change. Not having a set of spare tires or brake pads at the track can ruin a weekend. In fact it can waste the investment made to be there. What can you prepare ahead of time to respond more quickly? Close alignment with sales can provide early insight into customers and sales enablement needs. Having relationships with outside resources for market research, content development, design, etc. can help you implement backup plans or new tactics, make you more nimble, and reduce risk.

Strategic and integrated tactics win the B2B lead generation race

The courses I drive are road courses, typically 2 to 3 miles long with many turns and elevation changes. So unlike NASCAR’s oval tracks, I can’t see the whole course at once and it’s not just left turns. Before going to a new track I’ll watch video and study a track map to learn “the line”, the best way to take each turn for the fastest lap times. Although each turn has a “best way” through it, it’s better to take an integrated approach to get the fastest overall lap times. An integrated approach may sacrifice speed through one turn to optimize a more important turn that follows. For example, turning in later and slower for a turn so that upon exit the car is set up perfectly to enter the next more important turn.

B2B marketers have more channel choices than ever for lead generation. However, it takes a strategic and integrated approach to beat the competition. For example, exhibiting at a trade show will certainly generate some leads. However, integrating your trade show presence with social media, email campaigns, a web landing page, and direct mail will generate higher quality leads faster.

Consider which marketing tactics integrated together will deliver the fastest results for the overall strategy and resources available. According to the B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs 75% of B2B marketers rated in-person events as the most effective tactic while infographics and on-line presentations came in last at only 58%.

The report also shows that B2B marketers use on average 13 different tactics and 6 different social media platforms. Respondents chose LinkedIn(66%), Twitter(55%), and YouTube(51%) as the most effective platforms. If your target prospects don’t use Facebook for investigating solutions to their business problems, then why devote resources to it? An integrated marketing plan might “sacrifice” Facebook while putting more resources into LinkedIn, YouTube, email campaigns and webinars. Running fewer email campaigns may actually reduce unsubscribes and increase click through rates and engagement with prospects.

A data dashboard for midrace adjustments and a strong finish

Speedometer up and close

With preparation and an integrated strategy in place, you’ll need to gather data to assess and make course adjustments as you go along. During a race the team measures tire pressures, engine and transmission temperatures, fuel levels and lap times. This helps drivers and crew make adjustments that improve performance. Teams also relay competitor information to help determine when to make pit stops and what times will win the race. Without this kind of data, the team is driving blind. Making more pit stops than necessary or not changing tires soon enough can lose the race.

Measuring lead generation efforts helps B2B marketers know whether they are meeting their goals, what’s working and not working. This measurement data should provide an indication of where to allocate resources and help justify more budget. With the tools and technology available to marketers today, such as marketing automation and Google Analytics, there’s really no excuse for not being able to gather and measure lead generation efforts.

The bigger challenge now is learning what to measure and how to analyze, adjust and optimize to keep improving your lead generation capabilities. The B2B Content Marketing Report indicated the top 3 most important metrics for B2B marketers were sales lead quality (87%), sales (84%), and higher conversion rates (82%). Creating a lead generation dashboard with meaningful metrics will ensure you’re not driving blind and take you to a strong finish.

B2B lead generation is an enduro, not a sprint

Race car crossing the finish line on a circuit

You can’t win the race if you don’t finish. Race cars have more robust parts and extra cooling to withstand extreme conditions for longer periods. Your street car with the same horsepower might make a few laps around the track. However, it would likely lose brakes, wear out tires, or break a part before finishing the race.

B2B lead generation, contrary to the sales team’s quarterly or even monthly sprints, is more like an enduro race that lasts several quarters or even a fiscal year or more. Sure there may be twists and turns that require you to adjust your tactics. However, consistently engaging your prospects throughout their buyers’ journey is what wins the race. Stopping and starting tactics midstream or doing one-off campaigns, be they online or offline, won’t make much, if any, impact. Make sure you’ve got the resources and team in place to make it through several quarters at least. That way you’ll have enough data to learn what works and make educated decisions about your future B2B lead generation strategy and tactics.

 

Producing Engaging B2B Marketing Content: Overcome 3 Challenges

The most effective B2B marketers focus on better, more engaging content to drive sales lead quality. Most B2B marketers know that producing more and more content doesn’t necessarily translate into better quality leads. That’s because lots of content that no one engages with is useless. Today, many marketing automation systems provide B2B marketers the ability to measure which content is most effective. However, when everyone within an organization can see the numbers, the importance of producing engaging marketing content only increases. This post discusses why engaging content creation is hard and ways to overcome the challenges.

Top B2B marketing content challenges

Making B2B marketing content engaging is often challenging because of highly technical, or seemingly dry, subject matter. It can also be challenging to measure content effectiveness accurately, especially because it usually takes a while, and there are so many factors that can impact its engagement. Another ongoing challenge is producing engaging content consistently, usually because of resource limitations. Finally, many B2B marketers find it a challenge to understand their audience. However, understanding the target audience using Buyer Personas is critical for producing engaging content.

Below are three content production challenges many B2B marketers face and how to overcome each

Challenge 1: Understanding prospects’ and customers’ business

The internal marketing team doesn’t understand their prospects’ and customers’ industry or business well enough. Therefore, they write content from their own perspective, not the prospect or customer’s perspective.

 

    • Solution – Marketers should spend time with the sales team, prospects, and customers in the field, on phone calls and in meetings. Hearing conversations and seeing first hand is invaluable for gaining this understanding. Marketers should take this opportunity to learn as often as possible. It’s not a one-time thing.

 

Challenge 2: SMEs not delivering the content needed

Internal subject matter experts (SMEs) don’t have the time and/or are not good writers. For many B2B firms, SMEs are often engineers, software developers, R&D, etc. These individuals know the company’s product or service from the ground up. They may even know how customers use the product or service. However, writing content for the marketing team is not their priority and many times they are not good writers.

 

    • Solution – Marketers should determine which SMEs can deliver content (with a real commitment to deadlines). Also understand which SMEs can be a resource to help develop content topics (ideas, webinar speaker, or being interviewed by content writers).

 

Challenge 3: Technical marketing content is hard

Content writers may be unable to research, interview SMEs, use technical research reports, etc. to develop educational and informative content that will truly engage the prospect or customer. Many writers and marketers, whether in-house or outsourced, simply lack the ability to translate complex technical information into compelling educational content. Content their prospects and customers want and need. This is not an easy task for many writers and marketers who come from a liberal arts, journalism or marketing background.

 

    • Solution – Find a marketer with a technical background. If that person doesn’t exist on your in-house team, find a freelance or other outside resource who can fill this role. Sometimes it’s a marketer with a double major like marketing and economics or math. Or look for someone who came into marketing from a technical field, even engineering like I did.

What are you doing to produce more engaging B2B marketing content?

Susan Mitchell is owner of B2B Marketing Source and a freelance B2B marketing consultant to domestic and international firms. She provides marketing strategy, content marketing, sales enablement tools, and lead generation as an extension of your B2B marketing team or to fill resource and capability gaps. Visit her blog “Musings on B2B Marketing” to read more.