Start Marketing Today for Tomorrow’s B2B Buyers

17 Apr

(Because They’re Today’s B2B Buyers)

Interview

If you think the day when Millennials (born 1980-1993) begin making B2B purchasing decisions is far off, I have news for you: it’s already here. Not only are they making important B2B decisions, but they have strong preferences about what type of information is most useful to them when making these decisions. And I have even more news for you: They differ from their Gen X (born 1965-1979) and Baby Boomer (born 1954-1964) predecessors.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard many clients talk about how certain marketing tactics aren’t useful for their audience(s). Sometimes, this is true. Other times, it’s an excuse to spend dollars on the same tactics rather than experiment with new ones. That’s why as B2B marketers, it’s going to become more and more important for us to prepare for a time when one generation begins to leave the workforce and another begins receiving more direct purchasing power. In other words? What you’re doing today won’t necessarily work tomorrow—unless, of course, you’re already taking steps to prepare for it.

A recent article from Marketing Profs analyzed the data from an IBM report focused on the the B2B buying habits of Millennials vs. their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts. One notable finding is that they much prefer communicating directly with a vendor’s representative than do Gen X or Baby Boomers when researching products and services.

This is surprising, especially given how much we hear and read about Millennials’ Internet habits; specifically, that all of their research is conducted over the Internet. And while it is true that 69% prefer digital communications (email) and only 24% prefer in-person meetings, when it comes to doing research, they’re not opposed to going direct to the source. In fact, Millennials rely most heavily on content provided by vendors when researching products and services. This is a stark contrast to Gen X buyers, who rely on third party articles/blogs/reviews to research vendors, and Baby Boomers, who prefer tradeshows for product research.

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Is this an experience gap? Do Millennials rely on information straight from the source out of naiveté and this will change as they get older, or do manufacturers and vendors have a real untapped opportunity to create trustworthy, valuable content for tomorrow’s (and today’s) B2B buyers? For B2B marketers that aren’t yet engaging in consistent and relevant content marketing, this is your opportunity to miss. If it’s already trending towards this today, you can bet on it impacting your strategies tomorrow. Get ahead, or get behind. That’s the choice B2B marketers need to make—ASAP.

There are even more great insights in the article (like the importance of testimonials, referrals, and recommendations for Millennial B2B buyers), so read the whole thing here.

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Sales Enablement: You’re Up and Then You’re Down

9 Apr

High Prioritization of Sales Enablement vs. Low Prioritization of Sales Technology

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I’ve spoken before about how sales enablement will be a key component of many companies’ B2B marketing plans going forward. (See these articles for more: 1 and 2.) When executed with careful strategy, innovative solutions, and a keen ear to the needs of the sales team and their customers, it can be a powerful tool—and, as a recent article from Hubspot points out—a powerful productivity booster.

The article references the 2014 MHI Research Institute Sales Performance and Productivity Study which states that there are two main priorities for sales teams that are overwhelmingly agreed upon:

  1. Knowledge Transfer: Improving product knowledge and market competitive intelligence.
  2. Behavioral Change: Improving process, skills, or competency training.

As marketers, where do we fit into this equation? It’s simple: we make sure these two priorities don’t act as ships passing in the night. We bridge the two. Quoted in the article, Tamara Schenk, research director at Miller Heiman explained it simply: “These services have to be connected to create value instead of noise. Providing content alone is not enabling the sales force.”

Here’s the challenge: one of the best ways to do that is via powerful CRM and other marketing automation technologies that can help lead prospects down the sales funnel, creating marketing-qualified leads. Unfortunately, according to the survey, “the two least commonly planned productivity investments are deploying CRM systems and deploying new sales productivity applications,” and even less planned to spend money on sales productivity apps.

In other words, there’s a gap between what has been prioritized as important and what companies are willing to spend B2B marketing dollars on. The implication, then, is that if sales technology is prioritized so low and sales enablement is prioritized so high, B2B marketers have a challenge (and opportunity) to rely on strategy rather than technology.

For more insights from the article, give it a read here.

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Fellow B2B Marketers, We Have a Problem…

1 Apr

…And It’s Called ROI.

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SalesStaff put out a great article highlighting a recent report that surveyed more than 600 United States digital marketers in both the B2B and B2C space. If you haven’t already, give the report a read. It’s filled with excellent nuggets of information, like:

  • Lead generation is still cited by B2B marketing pros as their primary marketing objective
  • B2B marketers use marketing automation at a greater rate than B2C marketers (65% vs 55%)
  • Both B2B and B2C marketers agree that video is the most effective tactic
  • 32% of B2B marketers are not sure what digital marketing tactic is their primary revenue generator…

Tire Screech.

Hold up. Did I just read that correctly? As of February 2015, almost one out of every three B2B marketers (32%) doesn’t know which of their digital marketing tactics is the primary revenue generator. B2B marketers: when asked which digital marketing tactic is your biggest revenue generator—email, SEO, paid search, social media, display— “Not sure” is not a tactic, so it certainly shouldn’t be your answer to that question.

So what does this tell us? The #1 challenge for B2B marketers in 2015 and for the foreseeable future is proving ROI. The article also contends that generating and converting leads is as much a priority as ever, but our goal needs to be to prove that those leads were generated and guided down the sales channel through specific digital marketing tactics (email, Search Engine Marketing, display ads, and so on.)

Here are a few tactics you can use as B2B marketers to prove ROI:

  • iStock_000002902205MediumInvest in sophisticated marketing automation platforms and continually measure your results as part of your process
  • Buy media that is easily trackable, and track everything! (Include tracking codes and numbers wherever possible)
  • Before starting a campaign, set objectives and plan how you will track ROI prior to the launch.
  • Set a timeline for reporting, and stick to it.

For more insights from the report, click here to read the full article!

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The Next Big Trend for Building Products Marketing

25 Mar

…And How It Can Boost Your Sales

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Having worked in building products marketing for close to 30 years, I’ve seen firsthand how changes in the economy and homeowner mentality can affect trends in the building industry, design, and more. As the economy bounces back and a new generation of homeowners enters the market (and others find new ways to turn their current home into their dream home), one of the biggest trends in building will be exciting, beautiful outdoor living spaces that bring the inside out. A recent article from Hardware and Building Supply all but confirmed the impact this trend will have on the industry.

So as building products marketers, how does this trend affect us? It means we need to adapt. According to the article, “today’s homeowners are coming into the deck planning and building process more informed than ever before.” In other words, thanks to Pinterest, Houzz, and the rise of good content marketing, they’re able to travel incredibly far down the sales funnel before ever making contact with dealers. This heightens the need for more content and an increased push to social—despite the argument I often hear from those in the building industry, which is that social doesn’t apply to their audience.

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But it also means we will need to change the way we market these products. It will no longer be enough to show pictures of a nice pergola with some clever copy and expect to make a sale. It’s important to depict what that pergola can do for a buyer—that it can be wired for speakers, that it is a great place for a fire pit where homeowners can gather for late night drinks with friends, or a table for outdoor dining. And the copy needs to match the image, highlighting all the ways that these products contribute to an overall lifestyle that frees homeowners from the confines of their living or dining room. It’s a fundamental messaging shift that can’t be ignored.

Another standout fact is that regardless of their size and budget, homeowners want more than the traditional square space for decks and patios. That means that even if we are marketing a decking product, for example, the images we use should feature not only multi-level decks, curves, and cantilevers, but also accessories (chairs, grills, fire pits, dining sets) that define different functions and align with consumer interest. Ask yourself: how will they use this product in day-to-day life?

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Homeowners are now looking at their outdoor living space as an extension of their indoor living space, and have proven they’re more than willing to invest in high-quality building products to make that extension a reality. Homeowners want to spend money on these kinds of building products. So what are you doing as a marketer to capitalize on this trend?

To get all the insights from the article, click here. (Note: You will have to register to read it in full.)

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Email Marketing Must Be Mobile

11 Mar

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Email is not dead, but it might be if you don’t utilize responsive design (email that isn’t coded and optimized for mobile viewing across multiple screens and devices). The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recently published an article about email and responsive design: ‘Delete This Email!’ Why Mobile Email Matters to Your Business.

Before any of you building materials marketers tell me how this is not applicable for ‘your’ audience, you better start preparing now, because it will be soon.

According to a recent McKinsey & Company study, email is still 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

  • 91% of all U.S. consumers still use email daily
  • Emails lead to purchases at least three times more than through social media
  • The average order value is 17% higher

This means it is important to increase the scope of how recipients are viewing your emails, especially since people are increasingly on the go. According to U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report: Q4 2013, 65% of all emails are now opened on a mobile device.

Probably the most important fact of all: 42% of mobile users delete emails* that don’t display on their devices correctly.

That means, of the emails you send, four of every 10 recipients might as well have the subject line (you guessed it): “Delete This Email!”.

Froont Blog’s 9 Basic Principles of Responsive Web Design is a comprehensive explanation, complete with animated examples, about what responsive design is. Click the image below to view how breakpoints are utilized in emails for mobile responsiveness:

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Another great way to understand responsive design is to pay attention to the emails you receive and how you interact with them on your devices.

The CMI suggests looking into responsive templates offered by email providers, but be sure to test and preview the templates on a few different devices.

Now is the time to stop thinking of emails as a straight to desktop touch point, because they are on-the-go and you better be able to keep up.

*GetResponse Study, 2013

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