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Proving B2B ROI Is Hard, But You’re Still Responsible for It

19 Nov

Don’t Ditch Lead Generation—Do Lead Generation Better

Marketing Strategy

As B2B marketers, how do we quantify the results of our work? How do we prove the effectiveness? The ROI. That’s the constant challenge we face, especially when it comes to the building industry, where we have to be that much smarter. The numbers prove it: 32% of B2B marketers can’t even name the digital marketing tactic that generates the most revenue for their company. (Elton wrote an article about that here.)

Nonetheless, the challenge of quantifying B2B marketing results does not absolve B2B marketers of the responsibility to provide them. I came across an article earlier this week that argues too many people are placing lead generation as their #1 measure of effectiveness when it comes to their content marketing, but because sales teams often do not use marketing qualified leads effectively, that might not be the best option. Instead, according to the article, engagement should be the most important measure of success.

They’re talking about a lot of the same things Elton and I have been discussing on Navigate-the-Channel regarding the buyer journey and the tools prospects need as they self-educate their way through the sales funnel—basically, the idea that buyers need good content at various stops through the buyer journey. Their argument, therefore, is that engagement rather than lead gen is the most important metric.

I don’t know how much I agree. The article fails to mention how one measures “engagement” vs. “lead gen” (Do we just measure web traffic? Social?) and how you justify the effectiveness of those results as a marketer.

My take: if we’re saying we need a different measure of effectiveness because sales teams are no longer utilizing our MQLs from lead generation efforts, maybe the question needs to become not how else we can measure effectiveness, but rather, how we can better incorporate the sales team in the early stages by working with them to develop a follow-up plan for what happens after the lead is generated. I’ve blogged about the importance of that here.

As B2B marketers, we have a responsibility to provide results; vague metrics might work in the B2C world, but B2B can’t afford not to know specifically where the money is going and whether or not every dollar is being put to good use. The simple truth is that, in B2B, marketing is often the first expense that gets cut. Delivering to results that can be measured is the single best way to prevent that from happening.

But don’t let that influence you—read the article yourself and see what you think.

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There’s a Word for Doing Something Just to Please Yourself…And It’s Not “Customer-Centric”

6 Nov

Content Marketing Must Be Customer-Centric, Not Company-Centric

You know what I just love? Reading content by a business about their business. In my time as a marketer, I’ve learned that most of the world’s best writing comes when the writer completely disregards the audience’s needs. If I can read an entire history of a company in whitepaper form, I feel like I’ve won the lotto. And I think most people feel the same.

Did you detect any sarcasm there? Because you should.

Self Centered

Here’s why: company-centric content sucks. You would think that enough B2B marketers would have figured that out by now and I wouldn’t have to state the obvious, but here I go: the only good content is content that solves a problem—not sells a product. (Customer-centric means “Help, don’t sell.”)

And yet, a recent survey by B2B Marketing and the UK-based agency Tomorrow People, found that only 38% of marketers consider their content to be “customer-centric.” Let’s think about that for a second, because that means a full 62% of marketers admit that they basically created content to please themselves. (I think there’s a word for that…)

And considering the survey is based on self-reporting, the problem could be even more widespread than the numbers indicate.

How many of us are ignoring our customers’ problems to talk our companies up via content marketing? It’s hard to know exactly, but here’s one thing that isn’t: as B2B marketers, we must start focusing on the Buyer 360—that specific combination of understanding your audience via Buyer Personas and understanding their challenges via the Buyer Journey—if we hope to make an impact with our content marketing efforts and close more sales.

For full findings from the study, read the article at Business2Community.


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What Comes After Sales Enablement?

29 Oct

Take B2B Marketing to the Next Step with In-Person Meetings

In-Person Meeting

As building products marketers, it’s amazing to think of the amount of time and energy we spend planning out the perfect marketing tools and strategies. Sales enablement is one such tool that is becoming increasingly prevalent and effective. Done right, sales enablement can provide your team with the tools needed to generate and nurture more qualified leads and close more deals. But what can often go overlooked is what comes after sales enablement—the real, human-to-human contact that finalizes a sale.

It’s not just sales enablement that can fall victim to this, either. A lot of marketers spend time creating highly detailed, specific marketing campaigns, lead scoring systems, special trade show events, and so on, but never develop follow-up plans to determine what will actually be done with the leads produced from their efforts. Put simply, you can collect all the form submissions you want on a landing page, but if you’re not doing anything with those submissions other than sending them more automated emails, you’re not accomplishing much.

And yet, it’s more common than you think. Marketers fail to turn over qualified leads to sales, and salespeople fail to pick up the phone and call the leads they do get from marketing. It’s an endless cycle of unproductivity if not addressed.

As B2B marketers, we cannot rely on digital-only tactics or even sales enablement alone. Face-to-face is still the best method of actually closing a sale. Just look at a few stats I found in a recent Marketing Daily article:

  • In-person meetings are 85% more effective than virtual meetings, and this is even true for existing customers (65%)
  • For complex products and services (AKA most B2B purchases), decisions are made more on the basis of organizational/personal relationships and trust than technical features and functions
  • Cognitive studies prove that, in B2B sales, there needs to be an emotional connection beyond analytics
  • Overall outcomes of group purchases are far superior when there are face-to-face meetings with vendors, leading to both better efficiency and long-term satisfaction

Just because face-to-face is important in the B2B world doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to incorporate digital marketing and/or sales enablement. Instead, consider what your marketing can do to prime a prospect for a face-to-face meeting. And consider what sales enablement tools you can provide that will make the biggest impact for your sales team during a trade show or another face-to-face meeting with a buyer.

To read the full article from Marketing Daily, click here.

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Don’t Be Too Cool for “Old School”

22 Oct

Building Products Marketers Should Remember Direct Mail


As B2B building products marketers, it’s hard to resist the allure of the new and shiny. After all, it’s our job to push the envelope, develop new and exciting creative, and experiment with marketing tactics that drive results. But it’s also our job to use tried and true tactics that are proven to still have relevance in today’s marketplace.

A lot of marketers will be quick to tell you that direct mail is not one of those tactics—that it’s “old school” and doesn’t have the impact that digital/social/email all do. But marketers in the building industry would do well to learn what those in the fashion industry have proven time and time again: that everything comes back in style.

A recent study commissioned by Canada Post reveals that direct mail is no exception to the rule. In fact, according to this article in Marketo’s blog, direct mail still proves effective for B2B marketers, even in a predominantly digital age. Here are a few of the statistics from the study that you can’t miss:

  • 70% of people are curious to find out what’s in their mailbox. I wonder if as many feel the same about their email inbox.
  • 64% visited a website in reaction to direct mail. And typing in a website takes a lot more effort than clicking a button…
  • 51% prefer a combination of both mail and email. You may think digital is cool, but your audience might be sick of it. Mix it up.

Marketers get excited about the many new and different tools, communications channels, etc. available to us. And that’s okay; we see some cool and useful technology in our line of work, and these tools can be both fun and effective at driving results for our sales. But sometimes “old school” thinking works—when it’s right for your audience.

Take, for example, one of our clients, a major building products distributor. Many would say that fax is “old school” and no longer an effective marketing technique in the modern age; however, we conducted a survey last year of this client’s 10,000+ marketing list and discovered that fax is the second most preferred communication tactic by the audience. Ignoring a clear referendum from our audience simply because it seems “old school” would be ridiculous. And the same is true of direct mail, which continues to be effective, as the study proves.

Don’t get stagnant or miss out on conversion opportunities because you think you’re too cool for “old school.” You’re not. In fact, no marketer is too cool for something that drives measurable results.

But don’t take my word for it—the proof is in the numbers. Check out the full article for more direct mail insights.

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Building Products Marketers Need Sales to Survive

15 Sep

Sales and Strategy Go Hand In Hand

Business people meeting

What if I told you that all the effort you put into marketing your building products was absolutely useless? What if I told you that no matter how great the creative, how brilliant the strategy, and how alluring the incentive, your approach was doomed to fail?

Because they are—if you fail to incorporate your sales team into your efforts. I’ve written before about how no building products promotion can be effective without buy-in from the sales team. But this applies to more than promotions—it’s your entire marketing strategy and beyond.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review takes that idea to the next level, making an argument I agree with: that sales should be part of every conversation about strategy. All too often, marching orders come down from on high with no real understanding of what is happening to those on the ground pushing the product or services. And the further away the “powers that be” get from customer contact, the more obsolete their strategies can often become.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the article:

  • Communication is key: “People can’t implement what they don’t understand.”
  • It doesn’t matter how many emails you send if you don’t engage your sales team as partners: “The process for introducing and reviewing plans often exacerbates the separation of the strategists from the doers. It typically involves a kickoff sales meeting followed by a string of emails from headquarters and periodic reports back on results. There are too few communications, and most are one-way.”
  • If you don’t explain the big picture, they won’t be able to create it: “Even when sales teams are trained in negotiation and selling tactics, the larger strategic context—especially the implications for target priorities—is often left out.”
  • Whose job it is to partner with sales: “Clarifying strategy is a leadership responsibility.”

Click here to read the full article—it’s full of important information that building products marketers should really take into consideration, especially as many of us start to work out the final details of our 2016 planning.

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