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ArdathAlbee posted an entry The Blog is MovingMarketing Interactions

Please note that the Marketing Interactions blog will now be housed within the Marketing Interactions, Inc. new website at www.marketinginteractions.com/blog/

I hope you'll continue to read and enjoy the blog as a helpful resource. To do so, please sign up for Content News & Views subscription in the sidebar of the new blog.

It's simply time to consolidate my consultancy, my book website and my blog into one web property. The addition of new hands-on courses in Q2 2015 made it even more important to me. If you'd like to keep up with what's happening with those, you can sign up here.

Thanks very much for joining me in this ride!
Ardath Albee

Please note that the Marketing Interactions blog will now be housed within the Marketing Interactions, Inc. new website at www.marketinginteractions.com/blog/

I hope you'll continue to read and enjoy the blog as a helpful resource. To do so, please sign up for Content News & Views subscription in the sidebar of the new blog.

It's simply time to consolidate my consultancy, my book website and my blog into one web property. The addition of new hands-on courses in Q2 2015 made it even more important to me. If you'd like to keep up with what's happening with those, you can sign up here.

Thanks very much for joining me in this ride!
Ardath Albee




ArdathAlbee posted an entry Digital Relevance: The IntroductionMarketing Interactions
I really appreciate the great reception my new book, Digital Relevance, has achieved in the first few days of its launch. For those of you who would like to know a bit more about the book, I thought I’d publish a few excerpts to give you a “look inside.” This first excerpt is the Introduction: “A few years ago, I spent a lot of time convincing marketers about the value of investing in content marketing. Today, I get calls from marketers saying, “We bought into the idea of content marketing. We’ve created great content. People read it. But it’s not moving the needle.” When I go online to take a look to offer feedback and advice, I usually see decent content. What I don’t see is any strategic plan for orchestrating engagement with prospects and customers. I don’t see any attempt at relationship building. Mostly, I see areas for improvement in relevance, context, and connection. This is because companies tend to talk about what they know best—their products. Even when marketers think they’re developing content for buyers, they’re not—not really. The problem remains that they don’t know their buyers well enough to provide the level of valuable information mixed with an emotional connection that buyers are searching for. Quite often, they also don’t know their customers very well. But compounding the issue is a one-off mind-set that inhibits storytelling over the length of the buying process. Rectifying these issues gets to the heart of context and relevance. I wrote Digital Relevance for the marketers, corporate communications professionals, consultants, and entrepreneurs faced with the need to build relationships with elusive buyers whose context can change in a nanosecond. Technology was billed as the answer. But it’s only confused the issue because the strategy is lacking. Marketing has changed—and changed fast—leaving marketers adrift without the foundation, mind-set, and skills they need to master the dynamics of digital engagement when faced with shrinking attention spans and the increasing noise and velocity of content publishing. Meanwhile, the pressure for accountability builds every day with marketers unsure how to prove what they do matters. Yet matter it does. Marketers, to be successful, must implement highly personalized and integrated programs today in channels and manners they haven’t ever used before. The breadth of skills required to succeed in marketing has increased dramatically. For marketers used to coordinating the activities of external agencies and focusing on one stand-alone campaign at a time, a large gap in competency has been exposed. Filling this gap will require that marketers develop customer-oriented communications, identify the distinct value that differentiates their company, make the shift from one-off communications to a continuum approach, and ensure that data and metrics are used to relate their programs to the achievement of business objectives. More than $40 billion is spent globally each year producing and using custom content in marketing programs. But how much of that money is bringing quantifiable return on investment? How long will companies continue to spend on marketing programs that don’t help achieve business objectives? Publishing content without a strategy isn’t moving the needle. Time, effort, and money are flushed away without a quantifiable impact on business performance. This is a serious problem for marketers. Their companies expect results. Their jobs are on the line. If not now, then soon. Many of the marketers with whom I speak are concerned that their marketing isn’t as effective as it could be. They know that buyers and customers prefer digital information and communications, but they’re not confident in how to go about creating relevant content successfully. And, they’re deeply concerned that they won’t be able to reach their customers as the competition for attention online increases. Much of the marketing content I see lacks the personalization and target[...]



ArdathAlbee posted an entry Extend Your Content's Reach within the B2B Buying CommitteeMarketing Interactions
B2B marketers know there are a number of people involved in a complex buying decision. What often goes overlooked is understanding not only who the marketing programs can reach and engage but how content gets shared among the group. It's common sense that the more people within an organization your content gains exposure with, the more opportunity your ideas and expertise has to gain sway. But, it's not as simple as we could hope for. The CMO Council report, The Content Connection to Vendor Selection, finds that there are three nearly equally weighted scenarios for content sharing among B2B buyers: 35% from the middle out 30% from the bottom up 29% from the top down While the study arrived at definitions for 6 "personas" - two for each type of researcher, influencer and decision maker - for how people source content and what types they favor, the problem I have with establishing "grazers" or "authority leaders" is that they're nearly impossible to identify through online behavior in a way that's meaningful. Rather than aiming for one type of content sharing, B2B marketers need to take into account all three, as well as all the different types of content people choose to source. From the projects I've helped my clients develop and run, there are a few things I've found to be helpful for getting content into more hands of the folks in the buying group: Suggestive Prompts: Present ideas that are relevant to one buyer persona along with why another persona in the group would find the idea valuable. Prompts can be subtle influencers that become conversation starters and promote content sharing. Make sure to do this without breaking the context of your content. Statements along the lines of: "While [persona 1 - your target audience] will find value in this capability, [persona 2] will appreciate this outcome as it helps them to achieve objective X." Content Asset Balance: Hat tip to Shelly Lucas (@pisarose) for this term. While marketers tend to focus on pre-sales content that builds awareness and informs short-list selection, they need to focus on an asset balance that addresses all stages of the continuum buying experience. People on the buying committee will come in and out of the process depending on how the decision will impact them, their role and their workflows. Different levels of depth and formats of content are more valuable at different times. By relegating marketing content to the pre-sales or even to the very earliest stages of the buying process, we're leaving a lot of opportunity to impact the decision up for grabs with our competitors. Map the entire process for each persona, as well as the overlays that may drive further interaction. For example, in the case above, if Persona 2 becomes interested and comes looking for more about how your solution can help her gain the outcome mentioned in the content that was shared with her, will you have it? Will your salesperson know where to find it if she asks the question? Assess Access First During the development of buyer personas is when you find out how easily you'll be able to reach a specific persona. In every project I work on, one or more of the people marketing needs to engage and influence for sales conversations isn't an easy target. By figuring out who invites the most open access, you can then tailor your strategy for how to ensure your content is spreadable once access has been granted. Think of it as a Trojan Horse approach. The whole point is to get your company's ideas and expertise used to set the agenda for how to best solve the problem. And it is doable. It just takes a little finesse. Shameless plug: One of the main concepts of my new book, Digital Relevance is The Continuum Experience. If you'd really like to understand its value, the book will help. It comes out on January 6th.[...] B2B marketers know there are a number of people involved in a complex buying decision. What often g[...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry The Power of the B2B Buyer's PerspectiveMarketing Interactions
I keep seeing that statistic - you know - the one that talks about how far through the buying process prospects are before they talk to salespeople. It's flawed. Here are a few reasons why: Prospects don't care if they're interacting with marketing or sales, they care about the quality of the conversation or interaction and that it's giving them what they need. Salespeople are perfectly capable of using the tools available today to engage with prospects across all stages of the buying process. And they should be competent at all of those conversations. Marketers can facilitate interactions by sharing the strategic problem-to-solution story across the continuum of the buying process to support both buyers and salespeople in having more relevant conversations. For some reason, we haven't embraced these realities collaboratively. Here's the question that we need to answer: What would happen if both marketers and salespeople were so damn relevant that there was no distinction between the disciplines? In other words - if every interaction with a buyer is based on context and relevance, does it really matter if it's initiated or extended by marketing or by sales? Both functions are essentially focused on the same end goal - to drive revenues. But, most of the time, we act like we're on two different planets. I know that marketers may be thinking, hey, wait a minute...marketing doesn't close sales for complex products. That's not our job! Or, if you're on the sales side, you could be thinking - there's no way I'm creating marketing content and running campaigns. SO not my job! Got it. But you're in the weeds. You're not looking at the coordination and collaboration that can end this artificial line in the sand that we've made up to divide the two sides of the B2B buying process. It's not about the work flows, it's about the interactions. Consider the Value of Creating a Continuum Experience Marketing and Sales need to jointly take responsibilty for the buying process. There's no wall in the middle - or even two thirds of the way through. We need to start looking at the buying process as a continuous experience that sometimes plays to the strengths of marketing and other times to those of the sales team. Consistency of messaging and story across all channels and cross-functionally must become our foundation. When we're all on the same page, it truly makes the label of marketing or sales irrelevant. Even better, it enables growth by building credibility. And that results in trust that earns more conversations. When a buyer is working to solve a problem or meet an objective, he or she needs to gather enough information that they are confident about making a decision that will not adversely impact their careers. They need a level of certainty that the solution will do what it promises and that it's necessary to go outside the company to get it. They need the ammunition to build the case, gain consensus from the others involved with consideration to each unique perspective and the ability to secure budget. We, as marketers and salespeople, must help them do all of this. And it won't happen when marketers push out content "How-to" articles that are too tactical for buyers to learn what they need to know or when sales calls after a white paper download to try to pitch a demo. Find Your Story Every company has a story that distills the distinct value they provide that sets them apart from competitors. Why aren't more of us finding it and making it the foundational pivot point for increasing our relevance to and engagement with buyers and influencers? Rather than marketing programs or sales processes, we should be focused on buyer initiatives first and make them the drivers for what we do. When we can take this approach, then we're prepared to interact competently with buyers regardless of where[...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry The B2B Funnel is More Like a Pinball MachineMarketing Interactions
I was watching the video for the second roundtable video that I participated in at Content Marketing World and Nick Panayi from CSC said, "the funnel is more like a pinball machine, with leads bouncing everywhere" - I'm not sure that's verbatim, so go watch it. Anyway it got me to thinking about one of the big concepts in my next book that I call The Continuum Experience. It's actually a continuation or extension of the concept of natural nurturing that I presented in my first book a few years back. Essentially the gist is that the funnel has constraints as a process of elimination based on the limited set of prospects in your database. A bunch go in at the top and a few come out the bottom. If you think about it, it's like setting yourself up for failure. Instead, if marketers are willing to look at nurturing as a function that works both with and outside of your database, you then have a construct based on infinite potential–rather than reduced possibilities. The other thing that the continuum experience does is to eliminate standalone, start and stop campaigns that just halt momentum in its tracks. Why do we ever want to do that? Creating a Continuum Experience makes sense when you consider that modern marketing is about: Meeting and engaging your leads in the channels they frequent Providing information that matches prospects needs based on who they are and where they are in the buying process Helping prospects choose to become your customers In marketing, we've created a lot of issues for ourselves by naming stuff and then separating it. Marketers have a bunch of functions, including: Lead generation Demand generation Lead nurturing Brand awareness Sales enablement And more... We segment our activities to address each one separately. But we don't need to. Who's to say that a white paper that's being used specifically for lead gen isn't just as applicable to a prospect in your database and nurture program that hasn't seen that information? What if a prospect in your database and nurturing programs stumbles upon a blog post that fills in a key gap that was holding him back from taking the next step? What if your salesperson is in a great conversation when a question comes up and she can share just the right content to help the prospect keep moving? Even if it's a piece designated to an early-stage nurture program and not publically available. In any of these situations, should we be sorry that it happened? Or should we be facilitating these types of occurrences as a matter of course? I'm voting for the latter. But the only way this works is if our content and communications are consistent and relevant across all the channels we and our audiences use. And it means that we need to be sharing all the pieces of the story across those channels. We can't just reserve the good stuff for the nurture programs that are only shared with those in our database. Well, you can, but why would you want to limit potential? I would stipulate that the pinball thing has always been there, only we now have the technology to see it happening as we engage with prospects in various channels. So what does it take to adopt The Continuum Experience as a new construct for nurturing? You can wait for my new book, Digital Relevance, to come out in January, or you can get a preview deep dive by listening to my session on PowerViews Live with Dan McDade on demand through the link below. Persona-Based Continuum Marketing - It's the New Nurturing Dan and I discuss the above points and how personas can help you to speed up the buying process through alignment and progression strategies that resonate with buyers. If you're feeling the pinball fatigue, maybe it's time to change your perspective about nurturing. It's really about smart marketing that can help you accomplish a variet[...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry Design B2B Marketing Content in Pursuit of InquiryMarketing Interactions
In writing my new book, Digital Relevance, I spent a lot of time thinking about how a digital approach changes a lot of things, including the opportunity we have to become more relevant to our audiences. An obvious line of thought, given the title of the book, right? But here's the thing. Most marketers have gotten so tied around the axle about wanting their content to perform from an audience perspective that they've not given much thought to how it can perform as an inquiry to improve that very relevance and engagement that they're after. The big question to answer is - What is my content designed to help me - as a marketer - learn about those who engage with it? What I see mostly is the assumptive stuff based on format, such as: If the audience engages with an ROI calculator or views a demo they're late stage If they complete a form they may be a "lead" If they attend a webinar they're in the evaluation stage But, how do you know? Because someone said so? Hmm. We need to be better than this. We need to develop a rousing curiosity about what our audiences are interested in and what engaging with a specific piece of content could mean to them. Based on the information in the content, not the packaging. Content must be designed to have mutual value. It must deliver something your audience cares about AND it must deliver an answer to a line of inquiry that can help you improve relevance in a way that leads to additional engagement. Part of the issue with this is that, as marketers, we're conditioned to think in a perspective based on one-to-many rather than one-to-one. I'm not saying that we yet have the tools or skills to excel at the latter, but I do think we have a huge opportunity to move in that direction. We may as well start now, because that's what's coming. Think about nurturing for a moment. The point of nurturing is to create continuous engagement based on enticing prospects to take steps toward purchase over the course of their buying process. This doesn't mean sending out an email with a link to your latest blog post every two weeks. It means unfolding a story that creates curiosity and anticipation for what's next in the journey to solve the problem on their plates - aligned to their perspective (persona). So what can you learn if you design your content both to serve prospects and as an inquiry? Start simply by considering how the dots can be connected to reveal insights you can act upon to find improvements. For example, if they read A, what's the propensity for them to read B? Or do more of them skip right to F? If they do skip to F then perhaps your content is out of order for how the problem presents to them. Perhaps a change to the way you connect your storyline would improve response and next steps. As another example, let's get to the meat of the content. Let's say someone reads a content article about determining whether to build or buy the solution to a problem and they share the content with their colleagues. What can you learn? Obviously, if you're selling the "built" version, the slant of the content would be toward that choice. So could you discern that the person who forwarded the content is trying to convince others involved in the decision that buying is the better option? Or, is that too much of a leap and maybe the group is still wrestling to answer that internal question? If you have a "see also" about how to make that choice and the person also clicks to read that, you may have an answer. But, more importantly, what you also learn is that where they are in the buying process. They're still considering whether or not to move forward with buying as a means to solve their problem. Until that question is answered, they won't move forward. They are ear[...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry How Did Buyers Get Here?Marketing Interactions
I interview a lot of people during buyer persona projects. This includes representatives from product development, customer service, sales teams, marketing professionals of various flavors, and, of course, customers and prospects. The thing that continues to astound me during internal interviews is the lack of knowledge about how buyers get here. In other words, how buyers become customers. Each of these roles knows their piece of the puzzle, but more often than not, I don’t see a big picture view based on connecting the pieces from start to finish, including the bumps along the way. For example: Product development conducts customer focus groups and surveys to find out what new features are desirable and how existing features are performing. But they need to dig deeper into the “why” about the products. Why do customers want new features? What outcomes are they trying to achieve? Why can’t they do it now? How are they doing it now? Marketers are focused on lead generation, brand awareness and driving traffic to the website and specific content offers. Often they are focused on just what it takes to generate a “lead” or reach the traffic volume number needed to show improvement. But what happens next? How does what they do in the early stages facilitate what happens in the later stages? (Not that marketing shouldn’t be involved across the entire process, but that’s another post) Knowing that “this” white paper drove the most form completions is not enough. Salespeople are focused on prospects who have been qualified in some way. They are focused on next steps and getting the sale, not necessarily on what guided or helped to progress the prospects to that stage. This is not necessarily anyone’s fault. It’s the way it’s always been done. But it needs to change if companies want to keep pace with their target markets and customers. We need to share our knowledge with the others involved across the relationship. We need to collaborate openly. Buyer personas should serve to pull all the pieces together. A comprehensive buyer persona should provide context across the entirety of the process from status quo to buyer to customer. If your company is engaged with a number of buyer personas, there should be an overlay to help all parties understand the relationships between them and how they work with each other during the buying process. This foundation is what’s needed to build a content strategy that turns prospects into buyers and retains customers because we've gained an understanding of "how buyers get here." Before any offense is taken, I'm not picking on anyone. Nor am I saying it’s true for all companies, just that I see these circumstances enough that it’s concerning. I'm frustrated at the lack of true knowledge about customers coupled with the inability to articulate details about the buying process and how it's not being aligned with critical business goals. I'm frustrated at the opportunities for orchestration that companies are missing out on because they aren't enabling collaboration between all parties to create a consistent customer experience in execution and across channels. I'll bet that product managers, marketers and salespeople know much more than what I summarized above only they haven't really thought about it in terms of how it all looks from the customer's perspective across the entirety of the experience. They have been trained to think about the buying process in terms of the product and in terms of how they're judged on performance, which often isn't aligned with what customers care about. We need to find out what prospects struggle with so we can match them to the right solution! This is what I was told in a recent con[...]












ArdathAlbee posted an entry B2B Marketing Content Must Address "Soft" FactorsMarketing Interactions
For some reason, in B2B content marketing, we seem to forget about the "whole" buyer. More and more marketers are embracing buyer personas and the idea of becoming customer centric, but we often only focus on the business side of the buyer, as if they walk into the office and leave the rest of themselves outside. In the personas I help my clients create, a lot of research goes into what I call "orientation." Orientation is an attempt to identify commonalities across the personalities of people who tend to hold the roles that our marketing and sales programs pursue. These traits can tell us a lot about how to structure content to make it more appealing. For example, an engineer who is detail oriented would likely prefer content that backs up a premise with research and fact, rather than relying on the company's credibility for it to be believable. But a report released by Fortune Knowledge Group, in collaboration with Gyro, makes it very clear that there's much more to be taken into account. In Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions, 720 business executives clearly reinforce the notion that "soft" factors, such as trust, relationships, and reputation still hold sway. I have heard this first hand in customer interviews during persona projects where the response to why a vendor was selected was a version of "we just felt they 'got' us and what we're trying to do more than the others." Or "we felt more comfortable with them." And "they made us feel like a big fish in a small pond." While it's undeniable that insights from data are being used in decision making, the final factor that cements the deal or decision could be intuition or based on a gut feeling. And, marketers may be part of the problem. You see, the business executives strongly agreed that as information grows and decisions become more complex, they are relying more on those "soft" factors to decide the way forward, including the vendor's culture (53%) and reputation (70%). Notable highlights from the study: 71% say short-term financial sacrifices are worth more than long-term gains 65% believe subjective factors that can't be quantified increasingly make a difference when evaluating competing proposals (only 16% disagreed) 61% agree that when making decisions, human insights must precede hard analytics 52% say ambition, admiration and potential rewards outweigh fear of failure So how do we, as marketers, use these insights? First - add a cultural assessment to your persona development. Review the cultures of your best customers and learn what they have in common. Then correlate those qualities to your company's culture. How can some of them be woven into your content and messaging wtihout skewing the content back to a company focus? Think of this as a style factor for the way your content is written or created. What words emulate the values that your company shares with your best customers? Second - use more carrot than stick. Take a positive path with your content, rather than the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) approach that content takes in an effort to build urgency to change. Help your prospective buyers see the success, rather than avoid the failure. Third - become better storytellers. Stories engage intuition and help people think for themselves. A well done story invokes emotion in the reader/viewer and helps them to anticipate what their future will look like with the objective met or the problem solved. Stories are meant to engage humans - they've done so for thousands of years. Finally - take a serious look at what it tak[...]





















ArdathAlbee posted an entry Are Salespeople Screwing Up B2B Marketing Performance?Marketing Interactions
I sat pondering another in a burst of self-serving emails sent last week by salespeople who obviously lack any discipline in prospect research or the energy needed to attempt meaningful personalization. As one of the emails was from a company I'd thought "got it," it occurred to me that the salesperson just screwed up my perception of the company they work for. This made me wonder how much salespeople may be screwing up marketing performance now that more marketers are being tasked with proving contribution to revenues and business objectives, not simply lead generation. Before sales-oriented, progressive types take issue with me, let me explain. First - why there's need for concern: Buyers are self-serving content for a longer portion of the buying process. This means, if marketing is doing its job, marketing content and strategies are helping to attract and engage those buyers, building their perception of the company as helpful, credible and experts in their field. Buying cycles are lengthening and the size of the buying committee is growing. This means that content must be produced to engage more people with differing perspectives and responsibilities. For example, a technology purchase is often driven today by business executives, not just IT executives. Marketing is tasked with engaging as many on the buying committee as they can in the most relevant way they can. The amount of content buyers engage with during buying is also growing. Marketing is working hard to help increase the amount of content their prospects engage with. If they're reading yours, that's less time to read the competitor's - just saying. Given those three reasons and assuming that a buyer has been nurtured and qualified before being handed off to sales (although research shows this doesn't happen for most companies who toss form completions to sales - but ignoring this) then it's up to the salesperson to capitalize on the work that's already been done. Or to screw it up. I'm seeing more and more sales communications that are screwing it up. In my work I do a ton of resarch which usually includes submitting a lot of forms to download white papers and reports that help me learn about an industry, market or solution. I get a lot of email as a result. Just this last week, I received a dozen or so examples. I'll share a couple them to illustrate my point: The first is a bucket approach. I hate this type of email. This is the lazy email that tries to make you feel bad by saying you're non-responsive and then asks for you to expend effort because the salesperson can't be bothered to do it themselves. Below is the email copy with only the brand name removed to protect the guilty party. Hi, Good Afternoon. I have tried contacting you in regards to [brand] software. Would you be so kind as to provide me some guidance, as I do not want to be a bother and will gladly follow your direction. Which of the below describes where you are at: A - You have made a decision regarding [brand] and want to chat now. Great End of Month Incentives. B - You want to schedule a call at a future date C - You are no longer interested in [brand] I appreciate your feedback and hope all is going well. Thanks. This same email was sent three times in one day. It was also sent by a salesperson who works at a company that I've talked about as having a truly engaging marketing approach. I assume that I was subjected to this sale[...]












ArdathAlbee posted an entry The B2B Funnel is Now a SieveMarketing Interactions
The buying process has gotten messy for B2B marketers. This easy access to information means that engagement one second can turn into disinterest in the next. Every new channel puts a hole in your funnel. (Although I've never liked the funnel construct, it's appropriate for making the point.) Marketers who don't integrate new channels into their content marketing strategy will find they have a very leaky funnel. I'm not talking about using them, I'm talking about considering how they all work together. If you want to plug the holes, it's time to consider: Consistency of Story Given that only 32% of enterprise B2B marketers consider their content marketing effective, they need to pay attention to what they're doing with the 17 tactics they use, on average. Forty-one percent are creating more content than they did last year but the question remains as to what it is and why they're creating it? Many of them don't have a documented plan which leaves me to wonder how they manage it all. But I'd wager that this is an indication of why consistency across channels is lacking. If you're relying on memory or hoping that everyone is publishing to the idea of the plan, good luck. The problem I see is that in lieu of a strategy, marketers use different channels for different things. One example I've seen a lot is a really well done blog and a Facebook page that's about the company's favorite sports team and silly contests. If you're a buyer and you encounter a really thought-provoking blog post and then click through to the silly Facebook page, what are you left thinking? The other is a conflict of personas. You may have a blog focused on IT professionals and a LinkedIn Group for line of business. But somehow there are cross links that make no sense but were done for SEO purposes. I've seen horrendous crimes done to content in the name of SEO. This can also happen with hyperlinks on phrases that link to product pages on the website with no context. Who do you think you're fooling? I just read a buyer research study that found buyers are hesitant to click on links when they don't know where they'll go. Why do you think this is? Marketers need to think about the impression made by all the channels in use where prospects and customers may encounter their company. What will the overall impression be if they run into your company on the channels you publish in most? When's the last time you looked at it from the outside, from this perspective? Depth of Relevance I was reviewing content for a potential project the other day. The content was solid, focused on industry trends that mattered to their prospects, but it felt off. It took me a bit to put my finger on it, but I finally figured it out. The company had taken the idea of journalism to an extreme. They were trying to be so unbiased that their content was dry, it was like straight reporting and it was stiff because they weren't actually taking a stand or speaking directly to anyone. The company is actually really interesting and has SMEs galore that are willing to contribute content. But they don't know how to talk to their prospects with any tone, voice or personality. If you stripped away the company brand, the reader would think the content was provided by an association or news publisher. And that&[...]












ArdathAlbee posted an entry B2B Marketers Must Stay In the Game to Prove Business ImpactMarketing Interactions
I was reading an interview with Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst with Forrester, and a couple of things she said caught my eye: “The ideal model for understanding how B2B buyers buy is a life cycle, not a funnel.” “When your sales involve multiple buyers in a complex, highly considered process, and when there is a distinct hand-off from marketing to sales—it can get a bit murky when figuring out where marketing’s influence ends and sales’ influence begins.” The question that came up for me (and has for some time) is: Why is there a distinct handoff? If you look at the first quote above (which I also agree with very strongly) there’s no stop and start for marketers. A life cycle indicates a continuum, not a campaign-type focus. There shouldn’t be any stopping. There shouldn’t be a pause. What marketers should be doing is addressing each stage of the buyer to customer to advocate life cycle as it happens and in relation to what’s relevant at the time. If marketers are to prove business impact, they must be able to show influence at every point and pivot. This doesn’t mean that they need to own it as a “marketing” function, but that they empower the relationships held by buyers and customers with the company – no matter how or with whom they happen. Marketing has a brilliant opportunity to become the support system for the customer experience lifecycle - across the organization. Think about all the ways customers play in your business, including: Marketing to Sales Customer support, service and training Product development Branding, reputation, credibility Advocacy and referrals Marketing, as the organization responsible for attracting, engaging and initiating relationships, must expand beyond that early role to sustaining and growing those relationships over the entire continuum of the life cycle. Here are a few reasons why: Marketing collects a lot of data about customers and the marketplace their companies serve. They are the ones positioned to provide the most value by integrating other sources of data and feedback from other departments to evolve the big-picture view used to drive business. Marketing is on the front lines;, they are often the first “face” presented for the company. If they stop there the story stops with them. Then the organization has to count on whatever story sales shares is complementary and that the story also makes the transition through to customer service and support. Good luck – did I mention that “hope is not a strategy?” Buyers and customers are clamoring for higher relevance and vendors who can help them set the vision, realize it and move gracefully forward into the future. This requires consistency in experience and the story that’s started to continue to develop and expand over time. Marketing is in the best position to facilitate this. Social media has shoved everyone into a marketing and potentially customer-facing role. Someone needs to provide some orchestration for how the story is shared from those differing perspectives in a way that honors both the brand and the customer. By staying in the game, marketers can enable every touch point with customers with the parts of the story needed to build a longer-term relationship. Wit[...]



ArdathAlbee posted an entry B2B Marketers Need to Understand TechnologyMarketing Interactions
I attended a webinar this morning, What Marketers Need To Know To Achieve Content Marketing Success, with Robert Rose and Steve Walker. It was a good session focused on the technology needed to empower content marketing. You should go listen to it. At the end of the session, this question was asked: If I'm mostly focused on content writing, why do I need to know about technology? If I'd been sipping my coffee at that moment, I've no doubt that it would have hit my screen. Robert answered the question with the notion of awareness. He used a car analogy; Although he doesn't know enough about cars to change the oil in his own vehicle, he does understand the landscape and the difference between a VW and a BMW. I agree that a general awareness of the technology landscape is definitely something all marketers should have, but I'd push it a bit farther than this. Functional Knowledge Marketers need to understand how specific technology works, its purpose and ultimate objective. Why is it in use? How does it fit into the overall marketing plan? What will the marketing team achieve by using it? And, if applicable, what should content used in the technology accomplish? What are the options? An easy example - email vs. PPC. Arguably both need content, but the content that's effective will be different. The parameters are different. The expectation of the people who experience it will be different. The functionality for each works differently. Best outcomes will be achieved differently. Presentation Related to the above points, how content renders in different technology platforms varies based on channel. Easy example is mobile vs. PC based on screen size. It's always important to realize that the way content looks in a Word doc is not the way it will look on a website or blog - or anywhere else for that matter. It won't look the same based on production format, either. How does the text wrap? Are there orphaned words? Is the main point lost in a paragraph that runs too long given less width on the web page template than in the Word doc? Is the scrolling required to read the piece too much for the attention span you're able to capture from an audience? Experience The points above all roll up into the experience for your audience. What I find interesting is that when I ask marketers how many of them have experienced their content marketing just as their audience will, most haven't. They've only seen the word docs or the preview before publish or the after-the-fact metrics. This is crazy. Given that most marketing today is digitally executed, marketers need to be present from the outside, as well as the inside. I can't figure out how they hope to improve engagement if they don't have the same experience as their target audiences. How would you know what to change or if you should change anything? Easy example here is your Twitter profile. How many of us use an app to manage our Twitter streams? Probably most of us. When's the last time you looked at your timeline? Is it interesting? Or is it a repetitious list of title + link posts to your own stuff repeated over and over every few hours? On your blog, do you hyperlink to product pages every chan[...]



ArdathAlbee posted an entry B2B Buyers Choose Their Own AdventuresMarketing Interactions
I was reading this blog post interview with Paul Greenberg over on Hubspot's blog about defining customer engagement and one of his examples stuck out to me. The essence of it was "don't make decisions for your buyers." Instead, let them choose. Regardless of how much research you've done, the number of personas you've created, you can only know so much. Each buyer is an individual, a human. While your content marketing programs lay down the bread crumbs they can choose to follow, it's what happens next that's critical. Paul Greenberg defines customer engagement as: “the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer” The point is choice. While marketers plan out their content strategies and map content to buying stages - which they must do - they need to also realize that these are starting points...that flexibility and agile response are the keys to becoming truly relevant. One of the biggest complaints I hear from marketers today is that content isn't necessarily resulting in prospects choosing to "do" something. Most of the time it's because the choice of what to do next isn't obvious, or if it is, it's not relevant given how they interpreted what they just viewed based on where they are in the buying process. So your audience either clicks around trying to find something that extends the dialogue they embarked upon, or they move on. The problem I see is is caused by the way marketers have decided to align content to buying stages. Rather than introducing flexibility that more than one choice could exist, we've ended up trying to dictate what's next by offering content that we think is a logical and linear progression. Marketers remain under the illusion that they control the informational exchange. This is a big misconception. In an informational environment now driven by choice, why do we think limiting choice is the way to go? I get that marketers have budgets and that developing content has its limits, but we need to make decisions about how we'll offer our audience options. We also need to pay careful attention to what their choices in relation to those options can tell us. There are a variety of ways in which choice can manifest. Here are a few examples. Option 1: Prospect engages with an article about a topic The "see also" options include a video, a link to register for a webinar, and an infographic Offering choices based on format can help you discern which type of content the prospect prefers and how much more time and attention the person is willing to invest, should all three be versions of the next topic on your list. Sometimes it's the format that matters. If this prospect only looks at infographics, then how serious are they about learning what they need to know to buy? Most infographics are lightweight data presentations that lack context and depth. However, if this prospect registers for the webinar and attends, the behavior can tell you something quite different. Option 2: Prospect engages with a blog post The hyperlinks in the blog post offer three different perspectives related to the topic in th[...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry Curiosity and Context: Keys to Engagement for B2B BuyersMarketing Interactions
Many B2B marketers have jumped on the bandwagon about answering their buyers and customers' questions. There's a bit more strategy involved to do so in a way that drives momentum, but what I'm not seeing is marketers attempting to promote the curiosity that motivates their buyers to ask the questions they haven't thought of yet. Campaigns are dead. Even Forrester says so. Curiosity and Context are the fuel for engagement. And in B2B, you're going for the long-term - not the one-off. Consistency and longevity critical. The story must build across stages, pulling buyers forward by building anticipation for what's next - for them to understand how they get the outcome they want with your help. So what drives engagement? Curiosity. A desire to know more. Ideas that reshape the way people think about a concept, inviting them to ask new questions in exploration. Context that uses stories based on how problems and priorities might be playing out for prospects and customers. Perception of low effort that makes it stupid simple and appealing to create a dialogue with you. A sense of empowerment that comes when buyers feel they are driving the conversation, not your agenda. Anticipation to get what's next because your story (content) has motivated them to "turn the page." Simply making a list of questions and answering them is not the solution to creating lasting engagement that drives revenues for complex sales. Why not? Because there are hidden questions, subconscious needs that buyers don't think to ask until their curiosity is aroused. Reasons why content doesn't create curiosity: There's no Open End. Much of this has to do with corporations thinking that they need to be the definitive answer to prove their expertise. There's no room left for discussion without the risk of the buyer looking stupid or presenting an outright challenge. Let's just admit that we don't know everything - never will - and get it over with already. It's not Novel. A lot of content is a restatement of stuff other people have said so many times that there's nothing new. If this is a constant, these are the responses you can expect. People will either scan and see they've read the same stuff before and leave. Or they'll finally reach their breaking point and either mark your brand off their resources list or post a comment expressing their irritation. Either way, your value to them has diminished. It's trying to talk to Too Many People at once. When you don't know your audience well enough or you have limited resources, you try to do too much with one content asset. This usually means that it's so high level that it doesn't speak with meaning to anyone. The Context is Skewed. You are still using gut instinct to tell you what your audience cares about. But you've missed the points that matter to them. Perhaps you nailed the topic, but the angle you've taken tells them you really don't understand their situation or what they care about. In this scenario, there's just no motivation to engage because the buyer knows you don't "g[...]















ArdathAlbee posted an entry Cut Through the Red Tape of Consensus for B2B Buying DecisionsMarketing Interactions
This headline caught my eye - 53 Percent of B2B Fortune 500 Companies Use Marketing Automation - so I clicked through to read it. Mathew Sweezey wrote the post based on his research into the State of Demand Generation. Mathew presents three reasons for why this increase in the use of marketing automation foretells good things for the industry and his first one got me thinking. Reason #1: Lots of Red Tape Mathew makes the point that these enterprise companies are not light in the wallet, but that the process of getting through all of the red tape to get a deal done is exhausting. The fact that this obstacle is being removed bodes well for giving marketing automation the visibility it needs to gain more market share. I agree. Even though I find it curious that only 53% are using it so far. But what it made me think about is how many companies I work with where the sales team is convinced that losing deals is about price. We've all heard this argument, but we've also heard the repetitive push back that value overrules price considerations. Both marketing and sales are told to go prove the value. And I agree with value playing an important role in the decision - perhaps a critical role. But what if we haven't looked far enough? When I think of red tape, what I think about immediately for a B2B complex sale - and marketing automation is definitely complex - I think about consensus. Consensus is hard to get. With the growing number of people (43% increase in stakeholders per IDC) involved in a B2B buying decision, 34% say it's so, getting all of them to buy-in to a decision is requiring more effort. But are B2B marketers tackling this? Or are they leaving it up to sales? It appears that neither are doing a stellar job as Sales Benchmark Index finds that 58% of typical pipelines are stalled or end up as no decision. Here are a few reasons marketing needs to get the jump on this: 58% of buyers say they spend more time researching 53% rely more on peer recommendations 34% say purchases were initially unbudgeted 65% said the winning vendor's content had a significant impact Non-executives view more content than executives B2B marketers are very concerned about reaching decision makers. This is primarily because this is who salespeople want to speak with. But we need to start thinking about consensus. For without it, we have no deal. If your marketing content is focused on engaging the decision maker and/or economic buyer, what about the other 3 - 7 (or more) people who can argue against the decision and stop it cold? What are we doing to convince them that making the decision is the best answer to their problem, issue or achieving their objective? Context and Conversations One-size-fits-all content won't get this done. The context, care abouts and decision criteria are different for every influencer involved. In order to promote consensus, marketers need to figure out what the "overlay" conversations are amongst the stakeholders and provide ideas and[...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry B2B Marketers Need a Fresh PerspectiveMarketing Interactions
In response to my last post, Product is Not the Hero of a B2B Company’s Story, Michael Webb asked a great question. I started to answer it and then decided the answer deserved its own post. Michael asked: I can't help wondering what you (and others) think about the "Why-why-why?" of the things you've written about? For example, take the issues you addressed in your last five articles. Why is it so easy for marketers to focus on: Products, rather than the customer as hero? (Product is Not the Hero of a B2B Company's Story) Shiny objects, rather than the thinking work required to support the outcome? (Shiny New Tech: Content Not Included. Proceed With Caution) Generating "leads," instead of working with sales and service to help customers solve problems? (Crossing the Chasm: The new Obstacle for B2B Buyers) Creating content and events, instead of orchestrating for momentum? (Is Your B2B Content Just a Pt Stop?) Building campaigns that end, instead of encouraging dialogue (Why B2B Marketers Need a Ping-Pong Plan) Do you think there might be some sort of common cause underlying these? If so, what might it be? My gut response is short-termism and a failure for companies to get out of their own way. But that would be too easy. The real issue is that change is hard. Factors at play include, but are certainly not limited to: Marketers are evaluated on lead generation, not the stuff that I've talked about in the posts Michael mentioned. The same is true for sales. They work in short windows of time to meet "numbers" set for them. Marketing is supposed to feed this goal. Until companies can look at both short and longer-term goals based on customers, this perspective will continue to limit potential - especially in complex sales where the buying process takes longer than one quarter. Culture is still very much inside-out, no matter how much lip service is paid to being "customer centric." Change is hard. And I'm not sure companies really know what to change. They still think they are in control of the process. No matter how much this shouldn’t make sense, given the changes we can plainly see, it is true. Marketers are told to go out and get leads. Sale teams are told to sell more. The pressure to perform is immense. But the tools and skills to do so in today’s environment are lacking. The curse of knowledge is also a factor. We simply know too much about what we sell. We believe in it and we see the value. This causes us to not relate to buyers in parallel with what they need to learn to develop the confidence to buy. Marketers and sellers are often out of sync with the marketplace. We haven't developed trust. Buyers see vendors as biased in their own favor. They don’t know whether to believe us or not. There are many buyer surveys that basically reflect buyers as saying, don’t call us, we’ll call you; stop pitching us; quit trying to go around [...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry Product is Not the Hero of a B2B Company's StoryMarketing Interactions
Despite the shift in the B2B buyer landscape that puts them squarely in the power position, I still hear marketers insist that the product is the hero of the story. Well, I'll just rip the bandaid off and say it straight up - You Are Wrong. As a level set for this post: The hero of the story is the protagonist or main character. The protagonist has a goal; is impeded by the antagonist/villain in achieving the goal; seeks knowledge along the way from a mentor to vanquish the villain; and achieves victory to accomplish his goal successfully at the end. Does this description of the hero represent your product? Nope. Instead, B2B marketers need to make their buyers and customers the hero of the stories they tell. Try this: The buyer has a business objective (goal), is impeded by problems or issues (villain) that get in the way of achieving it. The buyer seeks knowledge along the way aided by vendor expertise (mentor) and achieves his objective with the help of your product to enable him to resolve the problems and issues keeping him from achieving his goal. Nowhere in here is the product playing the starring role in the story. Now try this: A CTO and founder of a startup SaaS company that's the subsidiary of a global enterprise is building a new application with a business model dependent upon low price, high volume sales. He knows that, at launch, the delivery and support of his application must be rock solid, the site unwaverable - regardless of how much traffic hits it. This is a key product launch for the parent company with a lot riding on it - including his career. He's formed a great core team focused on the development of this leading-edge application. He is trying to decide how to support taking the application to market. He can: Build the infrastructure in house - hire the team, buy the hardware, develop the network, co-locate the servers, etc. Build it in house and spin up the servers from Google or AWS to host it in the cloud - but this also means hiring the team to build and support it Outsource the infrastructure to a managed services provider and keep his team's focus solely on core product development, delivery and service Employ the services of his parent company's IT division to support roll out - which is what his parent company would prefer and his board is pushing for Use the vendors his parent company uses to try and find economies of scale - which could be easier for his parent company to swallow than new, unproven vendors Some of his concerns include: A move up of launch date that means he has to get the infrastructure up faster than he'd planned Concern about security and compliance in the cloud - his customers will be all over this A reluctance to split his or his team's time between innovations for the new product and managing the infrastructure Scaling the infrastructure if volume grows faster than forecast He'[...]









ArdathAlbee posted an entry Shiny New Tech: Content Not Included. Proceed with CautionMarketing Interactions
I've written about shiny object syndrome (SOS) on this blog a number of times - just do a search and you'll see. Many others have also shone a light on the folly of SOS over the last few years. But it's not changing behavior. B2B Marketers have yet to take it to heart. Fournaise Group reported in January that Over 70% of Marketers (Still) Got It Wrong in 2013. What they mean by this is that 70% of marketers didn't deliver the performance with their marketing programs expected of them by executive management. There was not enough measurable contribution to sales, market share or sales-ready prospects. Want to know why? If you're thinking SOS, you'd be right. Apparently marketers chose to invest in new media platforms, marketing automation, big data and other technologies thinking that new technology is the answer for content distribution and engagement. So far it sounds like marketers were on the right track. But it didn't work. Why? According to Fournaise Group, marketers didn't assign enough importance to their messaging. They failed to communicate a valuable enough message to stimulate the performance their campaigns were tasked to produce. Essentially, their programs lacked relevance. This seems ass backwards to me. But it shouldn't, not really. I see it a lot. Cart before horse. I love technology more than many marketers I know, but it deserves more respect than it gets. The promise of easy gains with technology seems to enable us to overlook and undervalue the work that must happen to support the outcome. It's common sense and we all know that it takes people, process, content and technology to pull digital marketing together. Digital marketing needs the emphasis to remain on the marketing part first, with digital coming second. And effective marketing must focus on customer-first. So why do we get it backwards? Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that SOS is a Silver Bullet Strategy. That the push of a button will allow us to achieve the results we want without all that pesky, time consuming: Research Strategy development Angst over value propositions that align with our personas And damn good content that takes research, effort, editing and elbow grease Unfortunately, in my 30 years of business experience I've yet to find a Silver Bullet Strategy. Oh, there are times when I've had hope, but quickly realized I was nuts - thankfully. Here's what we need to get: Technology is a resource, like any other. If used well, it's a killer resource. However, as with all things worthwhile, you get out what you put in. With technology, we can finally: "See" more about our prospects and customers than ever before Gain the ability to gather vast quantities of data and ask questions we'd never have gotten the answers to bef[...]






ArdathAlbee posted an entry Crossing the Chasm: The New Obstacle for B2B BuyersMarketing Interactions
I've come to the conclusion that evolution is lopsided. Especially when it comes to B2B marketing vs. sales. It seems to me that either one or the other is evolving, but much of the time it doesn't seem to be both. At least not within the same organization. The best marketers are on a quest to get to know their buyers. They're doing the hard work to create personas, develop content strategy and execute content marketing in a way that moves the needle by building relationships. On the other side, salespeople who are in tune with their markets are spending the time to do research on prospects, learning how to apply the content that marketing is developing to supporting relevant dialogues with customers. And with all of this in hand, they're adding value to keep the progression established earlier in the buying process moving toward the decision to buy. Then there's everyone else. What the heck happened? Why is it that in so many companies these two ends of the buying process never join in the middle? It's like buyers need to cross the chasm on their own to get from one side to the other. What makes you think they have the motivation? I'm hearing a lot lately that marketing is doing great getting leads into the early stages of the buying process, but that there's a bottleneck in the middle that is somehow keeping them from moving farther. Take a look and see if any of the below sound familiar: Marketing doesn't have a content strategy so what was appealing once, has nothing to build on so prospects are left to languish The attempt to get prospects into sales conversations goes something like this: "I see you downloaded a white paper. I'd like 30 minutes of your time to give you a demo of our solution..." You don't have a nurturing program with any real chutzpa. It's more of a keep us in mind when you decide to do something worth our while type of email series. Salespeople decide the lead that marketing sent over isn't the right contact so they try to go around him to get to someone more important. Only that someone more important tasked the contact with building the business case. Or he was the champion without whom you will never get the deal. Sales contacts the lead as if this is the first time they've interacted with the company and starts the conversation over - paying no attention to what the prospect has expressed interest in previously Inside sales is still trying to qualify on BANT, but the problem is new, so there isn't any budget defined, nor timeline because they don't know what that looks like yet; and the person evaluating is not the actual buyer / decision maker. The nurture process stops when sales gets the lead but they don't keep in contact by [...]