Have you noticed how disjointed some B2B marketing is? Over the last ten, and especially five, years this seemed to be a growing trend. Article after article talked about and many B2B marketers implemented digital, social media, inbound marketing, SEO, etc. as though each can stand alone. And sadly, in many cases, each has stood alone. Many marketers gave little thought to an overall integrated marketing strategy. As a result, these marketing efforts delivered less than stellar results. However, last week I attended a conference that gives me hope we may finally be seeing a return to strategic integrated marketing. Read on to learn more about this and other takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAM Summit). Read more
B2B customer retention marketing focuses on strategies and programs designed to retain your existing customers and optimize lifetime customer value. In my previous post, B2B Retention Marketing: The First Thing You Must Do, I discussed why B2B customer retention marketing is worth doing and where to begin. Now let’s talk about some strategies B2B marketers can use to retain their existing customers and gain additional revenues throughout the relationship.
Strategies for customer retention
At a fundamental level retaining your customers boils down to keeping them happy enough to continue doing business with you. Many customers, though of course it varies by industry and product/service, will simply maintain the status quo. Change involves the risk, real or perceived, of an unknown provider. Most importantly, changing providers also involves switching costs. Switching costs are actual costs the customer incurs (financial fees for early termination) or personal costs (career risks, time required to research providers and negotiate an agreement) to stop buying your product or service and begin with a new provider.
Create “sticky” customer relationships
To prevent your customers from defecting to competitors who will eventually upset the Read more
Have you ever found yourself writing B2B marketing copy with fingers crossed, hoping your company could actually deliver? You know the copy I’m talking about that describes how great your product and the customer experience is using phrases like:
- our product has the lowest total cost of ownership
- we deliver premium customer support
- easy payments with detailed monthly reporting
- quick spare parts delivery and expert troubleshooting
- product/service reviews to ensure you get the most value
As a marketer you should be confident making promises like these to prospective customers. After all, the messages marketing and sales communicate to the customer during the sales cycle sets customer expectations. However, if expectations don’t match reality, then you’ve likely got low customer retention rates. And what marketer wants to work hard acquiring new leads, only to learn your customers defect to the competition after a short time.
Losing customers isn’t only frustrating for marketers, it’s really bad for sustaining business growth. Consider the following data:
- From Bain & Company:
- Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits 25 – 95%
- The likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, versus 5 – 20% to a new lead
- It costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one according to Lee Resource Inc. Although I’ve seen numbers as high as 10 times depending on your product/service and industry.
Check out this infographic Customer Acquisition Vs.Retention Costs Statistics and Trends for even more data.
The point is, if your customer retention is low, don’t assume that a retention marketing program will improve your numbers. Before you start a retention marketing program, Read more
In my previous post, Competitive Intelligence: 8 Ways B2B Marketers Should Use, I discussed what competitive intelligence is and how B2B marketers should be using it to stay ahead of their competition. In this post I want to share ideas for gathering competitive intelligence.
The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals defines competitive intelligence as: The legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of a business competitor.
According to Benjamin Gilad, president of the Academy of Competitive intelligence, “Companies spend about $20 billion on market research annually and about another $2 billion on analyzing specific competitors.” I don’t know about you, but I never worked in a company that spent anywhere near that on competitive intelligence. In fact, most of the companies had no formal system or process and no people devoted to gathering competitive intelligence. As is typical in most small and medium (and even large ones if the truth be told) B2B companies, competitive intelligence is an ad hoc word-of-mouth sort of thing. Typically sales and marketing send emails or have phone calls whenever anyone sees or hears something about a competitor.
As the marketing leader for a medium size B2B product manufacturer, I led a CRM implementation. This included creating a process for gathering and maintaining competitor information in the CRM. I’ll share ideas based on this experience, along with many years gathering competitive intelligence. For instance, gathering competitive intelligence for specific sales opportunities, analyzing the competitive landscape for strategic marketing plans, ongoing business development, and creating competitor tools for the sales team.
Here are 8 inexpensive ways you can gather competitive intelligence for your B2B marketing:
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s not much discussion about competitive intelligence in B2B marketing circles lately. However, competitive intelligence should be an ongoing effort, not a one-time snapshot, even in small and medium sized companies. According to the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), competitive intelligence is the legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of business competitors.
A 2014 study by Global Intelligence Alliance (now M-Brain), Market Intelligence Trends 2020, reported that 42% of respondents said competitors will be the most important area of focus for market intelligence with regards to the business environment in 2020.
Here are 8 ways B2B marketers should be using competitive intelligence:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
A modern marketer visits this centuries old tower
I recently returned from a trip to Italy (I highly recommend visiting Tuscany if you haven’t already!) that included the “required” visit to the Tower of Pisa. Our return flight left from Pisa, so it made sense to visit the tower. Though to be honest, I wasn’t very excited about it. I prefer seeing and experiencing less touristy and off-the-beaten-path places when I vacation. In spite of my lackluster expectations, I came away a fan of Pisa and its leaning tower. As I analyzed why this was it struck me this centuries old tower illustrates an important lesson for the modern B2B marketer – the importance of a differentiation strategy.
Differentiate your product or service
Every marketing student will recall Michael Porter’s differentiation strategy in which a firm seeks competitive advantage by offering something unique. This unique offering must be something customers value and see as different from or better than the competition. Using this marketing strategy a firm can command higher prices that drive revenue growth and profits.
OK, so you may be thinking the Tower of Pisa is unique because it leans, that’s why they call it the Leaning Tower of Pisa after all. However, it’s not the only tower that leans. In fact, when I search for “leaning tower”, Google returns 2,680,000 results! And they aren’t all for Pisa’s leaning tower. According to Wikipedia, several towers lean even more than Pisa’s. For instance, one 15th century tower in Germany leans due to a similarly bad foundation. And two towers, one in Abu Dhabi and another in New Zealand, have designs to make them lean on purpose.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa uses a differentiation strategy
The tower is part of a beautiful white marble cathedral complex called the Field of Miracles that includes an impressive cathedral, baptistery, and cemetery. The leaning tower was the campanile, or bell tower, for the cathedral. The tower’s intricate white marble carvings gleam in the sun creating a stunning sight. During World War II the Germans used the tower as an observation post. However, the U.S. soldier sent to confirm the Germans presence was so impressed with the beauty of the cathedral and its bell tower that he saved it from destruction by the Allies.
An engaging history
The history of the tower is especially engaging because it began leaning almost immediately. During further construction and in more recent times there were several attempts to correct the lean. Early on during construction of the second floor in 1178, there was a noticeable tilt. So of course word of its leaning stance certainly spread from the outset. Then it sat for a hundred years before adding a few more floors. This even included extra height on one side to try to compensate for the lean. Finally in the mid 1300’s they added the top floor and bell-chamber, again at slight angles to counter the lean. Today if you succeeded in straightening the base of the tower, it would still lean!
A tourist icon
Several times engineers attempted to reduce the lean or keep it from falling over. However, the Italian government realized they needed to retained some lean because of the tower’s vital role in Pisa’s tourist industry. The tower is as one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World, putting it in a very exclusive class. And in 1987 the entire Field of Miracles was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site further solidifying the tower’s cultural and physical significance to tourists worldwide. Even though I’d seen a million pictures, seeing it firsthand made me realize how unique and special it really is – and how much it leans. Over two days I walked past it many times and each time amazed it hadn’t fallen over yet!
Learn more about Porter’s generic strategy concept for competitive advantage. Is your company using a differentiation strategy for competitive advantage? Is this concept still valid given today’s pace of change?
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
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
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.
I was reminded recently how important it is to have an understanding of marketing fundamentals to deliver successful B2B digital marketing. I attended a couple of webinars that covered aspects of content marketing and lead generation. While they talked about specific digital tactics like email, landing pages and SEO, they also spent a good deal of time talking about marketing fundamentals. My guess is many who are tasked with digital marketing today may not have marketing education or experience. So while they know how to use digital tools and channels, the marketing fundamentals covered in these types of webinars are very useful and educational for them.
Below I highlight three examples of fundamental marketing concepts every B2B marketer needs to know for any strategy, whether it’s digital or not.
Know Your Audience
The buzzword today is persona, but knowing who your best prospects are (influencers and decision makers) and how to reach them is the foundation of any B2B marketing strategy. Who do you want to reach? What topics interest them and what problem(s) can you solve for them? When they have a problem where do they look for information and how do they consume it?
If you don’t know who you’re writing for, no matter if it’s a blog post, web landing page, phone script, direct mail postcard, or case study, it won’t be relevant. As a result you won’t be able to attract or move your ideal prospects further along their buying journey.
Your B2B prospects aren’t all the same. Some common differences include:
- Ways they use your product/service
- Industry terms and language
- Topics that interest them (problems they need to solve)
- Value they place on various aspects of your offering
For these reasons it’s important to define and create meaningful segments for your marketing messaging and strategy.
If you know your audience (see above), then creating segments to target will become more obvious. For example, you may want to segment by specific verticals or functional roles. As a result, your marketing campaigns will be more personalized, compelling and engaging for your target audience.
Good Data is Paramount
More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to marketing data. From trade show and webinar attendee lists, CRM systems data, and website form fill data to click through and download data, B2B marketers need effective, best-practice processes for ongoing data maintenance and quality.
The digital era has only accelerated and exacerbated data quality issues, generating large amounts of often inaccurate data. Low quality Contact data (studies show nearly 25% of B2B contact data goes bad annually) decreases marketing’s effectiveness and reputation with the sales team (ex. bad phone numbers). In addition, it makes generating meaningful metrics and analysis difficult.
We may focus much of our B2B marketing efforts and budget on digital tactics. However, it’s still important to have an integrated strategy built on fundamental marketing concepts. I’ve only touched on three concepts in this post. What fundamental marketing concept have you seen missing in B2B digital marketing efforts?