Industry Q&A: What’s Up With B2B Marketing in Argentina?

I was teaching B2B digital marketing to master’s degree students at San Andres University in Buenos Aires again this summer. The students were pretty enthusiastic about the concepts and tactics I shared. So, I decided to look into what’s going on in B2B marketing in Argentina, overall.

I was teaching B2B digital marketing to master’s degree students at San Andres University in Buenos Aires again this summer. The students were pretty enthusiastic about the concepts and tactics I shared. So, I decided to look into what’s going on in B2B marketing in Argentina, overall.

Martin J. Frias
Martin J. Frias

Thanks to an introduction from the longtime agency pro and university instructor Freddy Rosales, I had the chance to meet Martin J. Frias, who filled me in. Here’s what I learned.

Ruth Stevens: How do B2B marketers in Argentina approach new customer prospecting these days?

Martin Frias: Twenty years ago, we would buy databases from trade publications and data vendors, and use them to cold call, trying to reach senior executives. The problem in those days was getting past the gatekeepers.

Stevens: What has changed since then?

Frias: Three things. First, technology. Buyers now have anonymous access to product information. Sellers — even smaller brands — are using marketing automation like InfusionSoft, Marketo, and a local provider called Doppler emBlue to conduct event-triggered campaigns. Second, inbound marketing, meaning content posted by sellers on LinkedIn and blogs. Third, a larger role for marketing, as active members of inside sales and lead qualification teams. But I must tell you, not all firms are moving toward this kind of modern marketing. Most are still doing the same old push email and events.

Stevens: So, what’s still missing?

Frias: A shared vision between sales and marketing about the entire demand generation and sales process. The two sides need to agree on what is a lead, how to define qualification, and identify the tools needed to operate — from marketing automation, to CRM, to ERP. In short, sales and marketing need to take joint responsibility for guiding the buying process.

Stevens: I am hearing that WhatsApp is a favorite tool here. Please explain.

Frias: Yes, WhatsApp offers an enterprise network tool that integrates with marketing automation, so you can manage omnichannel messaging via WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and others. But you have to be careful. It can backfire. Many business buyers consider WhatsApp an exclusively personal medium, and they resent receiving business communications through it. Also, I think businesses may worry that their targeted communications could fall into the hands of competitors, thanks to WhatsApp’s extraordinary ease of sharing.

Stevens: Are there any prospecting data sources available now?

Frias: You can buy data, or you can buy access. For example, there’s an IT community platform here with a half a million subscribers. Marketers generally don’t trust the databases that are for sale. At my agency, we use LinkedIn Sales Navigator; whereby, we can contact 5 million Argentinean professionals, mostly those in middle management. We use LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index, company size, industry, and title for segmentation, and we attract the targets with content.

Stevens: Is there a professional association for B2B marketers in Argentina?

Frias: No. I wish there were. There is a post-grad program in B2B marketing offered at ITBA, one of our leading engineering schools. The tech industry is really the leader in B2B marketing here. Other key industries, like oil and gas, manufacturing, and construction, are more interested in brand positioning and awareness, and less about lead generation. So, they focus on their websites, value propositions, sales collateral, trade shows, and business events — like golf outings, and sponsoring sports events. They’re not using content, marketing automation, and lead management.

Stevens: Please tell me about yourself and how you became active in B2B marketing here in Argentina.

Frias: I started at Oracle Hyperion, heading a lead generation team in the financial services area. Then I worked at several other firms. Now, I have a 15-person agency called Pragmativa. We offer full B2B demand generation services, including website design, search marketing, display advertising, content, social media, and marketing automation. So, we’ll run a client’s prospecting, and manage their data. The one thing we don’t do, because I don’t believe in it, is cold-call telemarketing. Despite frequent requests from clients.

Stevens: Anything else you’d like to share?

Frias: Yes, I have a B2B marketing blog, in Spanish, and welcome followers.

 

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

MarTech Profile: How to Turn Anonymous Website Visitors Into Leads With Stirista

Collecting information about website visitors, a standard practice in B2B marketing, is now becoming available to consumer marketers. I recently had a chat about it with Karl Van Delden, who heads product management at Stirista.

Collecting information about website visitors, a standard practice in B2B marketing, is now becoming available to consumer marketers. I recently had a chat about it with Karl Van Delden, who heads product management at Stirista.

His latest product is Visitor ID Graph, which allows consumer-driven companies to identify the visitors to their websites. Using VIG, site owners can now capture the contact information of as many as 45% of their visitors, for analysis and ongoing marketing communications.

Ruth P. Stevens: Karl, I’d like to ask you some details about the new Visitor ID Graph capability from Stirista and why it’s such a powerful tool for consumer marketers. As I understand it, VIG lets website owners identify the actual names and contact information of visitors to their websites. Please explain how it works.

KVD: We start by enabling the site owner to do first-party visitor tracking. It’s a small piece of code they can quickly attach to their site’s header. It doesn’t capture any PII, or personal information. It’s the same scope of data used with Google Analytics and similar reporting tools.

The real value happens when we match those captures back to our opt-in consumer data file, to provide the name, email, and postal information. This also allows us to enable the user to leverage additional insights, such as demographics and geolocation, to help the site owners to further segment their visitor audience.

RPS: So you’re delivering both the contact info and the demographic of visitors. This has big implications for consumer marketers, right?

KVD: Yes, this data is really valuable. These are people who have come right to your online front door, with a clear interest in what you are offering. You get everything you need to re-engage them effectively through your preferred marketing channels.

RPS: Traditionally, the only way to de-anonymize your website visitors was to make an offer and persuade visitors to fill out a form or sign up for a newsletter.  But you typically only get a small percentage of visitors to do that — like maybe 1% or 2%, if you’re lucky. With VIG, what kind of match rates can we expect to get?

KVD: Typically, for a consumer-facing business, we see anywhere from 25 to 45% match rates.

RPS: So, I can expect to identify 25% to 45% of my site visitors and add those names to my marketing database. And what does it cost?

KVD:  Subscription plans start out at $500 per month, to activate one website and download up to 2,000 contacts. That’s the base, so it really only gets cheaper from there, whether you need more contacts for your site, or to activate another site entirely. These plans cap out at 12,000 contacts, which can support up to six sites, but it’s also possible for us to create custom plans above these volumes.

RPS: So, $500 gets you 2,000 names. That’s a great deal; especially since these people have already visited your website. So they’re much more qualified than an ordinary list. What kinds of clients are using the service so far?

KVD: All manner, really, but I’ve been surprised with its popularity with retail, brick-and-mortar shops. Everything from furniture stores, to auto dealers, and beyond. They can then retarget or even just identify some of the countless visitors that bounce off their site.

RPS: You’re offering a free account, like a free trial, right? So I can set VIG up for my site, or various sites I own, and see the names of the visitors as they match up, and then when I want to download the names and use them in my marketing, I can choose a payment plan.

I can see marketers salivating at the chance to identify visitors who come by from all kinds of sources, from campaigns, from SEO, over the transom, whatever. Now that VIG is launched, what other features and functionality do you have planned for it?

KVD: Well, so far, we have a pretty good hold on the essentials — setup, reporting, getting the data, and some supporting features to give flexibility to users. The next big focus will be providing new options for how to use it. This will include a built-in CRM and integration points for popular third-party CRMs and CDPs.

RPS: And if users want to get help, or find out more, or give you suggestions for how to make the product better, how should they get in touch with you?

KVD: We would welcome anyone who is interested to email us at info@stirista.com, to set up a consultation or demo. You can also visit visitoridgraph.com if you want to jump in for yourself.

As I mentioned before, everything shy of the data purchase step can be done on a free account, so I would invite anyone even remotely interested to check it out, see how simple it is to begin tracking your site, and, of course, see how many data matches you get.

A version of this article appeared originally in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Using Ratings and Reviews Sites as a New B2B Marketing Channel

A new mechanism has emerged to help B2B buyers who are searching online for products and solutions: Ratings and reviews sites, where searchers can find out what their peers are saying about prospective products and suppliers, and compare product features head-to-head.

A new mechanism has emerged to help B2B buyers who are searching online for products and solutions: Ratings and reviews sites, where searchers can find out what their peers are saying about prospective products and suppliers, and compare product features head-to-head. Just as consumers use Yelp and TripAdvisor, business buyers can check out G2Crowd, TrustRadius, Clutch.co, Capterra, and others.

These sites work best in fragmented markets, where it can be hard to stand out among the many competitors. No surprise, in the B2B world, it’s software where the bulk of the activity lies. But other categories are being served as well, like business services, and more are likely to come.

The value to buyers from these sites is obvious: Peer reviews are highly prized in the purchase decision process, not only for validating the claims of the seller, but for showing evidence of the product’s relevance to the buyer’s own industry.

They also point out otherwise unseen flaws. “The stakes are high in B2B,” says Vinay Bhagat, founder and CEO of TrustRadius. “Tech buyers need the whole truth before buying.”  Think of the consequences that might accrue if, despite due diligence, you install HR software that produces a critical error, he points out.

On the seller side, it’s a mixed bag. Clearly, B2B sellers want to be found, and praised publicly by their fans. Chris Jeffers, founder of VisitorTrack, says his product’s strong reviews have resulted in inquiries from prospects, saying things like “I saw you on G2Crowd, and I’m calling because your reviews are better than the others I was looking at.”

The reviews also serve as mini-case studies and testimonials covering a variety of industries and applications that would have taken sellers enormous effort to assemble on their own. Injecting the voice of the customer into the selling process is a boon.

But bad reviews can be a challenge and are the nightmare of PR people everywhere. Review site managers make extra effort to validate reviewers, to ensure that the reviewer really uses the product, and if anonymous, is a real business person.

Wondering about the business model of these comparison sites? Most offer free listings to sellers, and free viewing of the ratings and reviews to all. They make their money from enhanced listings, from advertising, and from a mixture of marketing services, like data on visitors looking at reviews in the seller’s category. Many also offer support services, to help increase the number of customer reviews.  Pricing ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars a month.

Since their emergence in the early 2000s, these sites are becoming increasingly influential in the B2B buying and selling process. Users will write reviews whether the supplier likes it or not. So, sellers do well to jump in and proactively manage the channel to their advantage. Here’s how to get the most value from this new resource:

  1. Get in the game. Buyers are searching there. Your competitors are there. You need to be there, too. “Overcome your fear of loss of control,” says Mike Beares, founder of Clutch.
  2. Encourage your customers to leave reviews. “It’s a best practice to ask customers for a review just after a successful service call,” advises Tim Handorf, co-founder and president of G2Crowd.
  3. Test your way into the various upgrades and marketing services the site has to offer. Some are especially innovative, like offering data on companies that are reading reviews of your competitors. G2Crowd will produce an infographic for you based on pull quotes gathered from your reviews.
  4. Look into the site’s policies and practices in calculating rankings and authenticating reviews. TrustRadius, for example, rejects about 15% of reviews submitted. Also make sure you are comfortable with the methods they use to encourage users to post reviews. Site owners understand that trust is essential to their business models.
  5. “Embrace the transparency,” says G2Crowd’s Handorf. Recognize that your product may not be right for everyone. Respond to any negative comments with empathy, in an authentic voice.
  6. Consider these sites a customer service tool, which can surface unexpressed problems that you can solve proactively. Vinay Bhagat of TrustRadius suggests then asking the customer for a fresh review once the problem has been resolved.
  7. The reviews are also useful to product managers, to evaluate the popularity of various features, and uncover use cases you hadn’t thought of before. According to Bhagat, some sellers data-mine the reviews to measure sentiment, and gain insight into customer needs.
  8. Use the software reviews sites to support your own martech or business services purchasing.

This new channel is here to stay.  It’s up to us business marketers to get the benefit.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

How B2B Marketing Can Make B2B Sales Easy

My headline isn’t going to win any friends across the aisle in the land of sales teams, and I’ll admit there’s a bit of attention-seeking there. But, even though I won’t suggest that sales is by definition easier than marketing, I do feel that strong marketing can have an outsize impact on sales results and sales efficiency.

My headline isn’t going to win any friends across the aisle in the land of sales teams, and I’ll admit there’s a bit of attention-seeking there. But, even though I won’t suggest that sales is by definition easier than marketing, I do feel that strong marketing can have an outsize impact on sales results and sales efficiency.

Marketing can only have that impact on sales when there is a progression of thoughtful activity from a firm’s earliest contact with a prospect to converting the sale, and beyond.

So the real headline should perhaps be, “Sales Is Easier When Marketing Is Done Well,” but that’s a mouthful. Let’s take a closer look at how marketing can make sales easier, if not truly easy.

B2B marketing

Who Really Wants a Super Bowl Ad?

Most of us in B2B sales and marketing are not seeking the mass audiences of, say, a Super Bowl ad. Our prospects can be much more tightly defined and more pointedly targeted. Rather than wading through a stadium full of people to find those few who might be interested in what we’re offering, we want to talk to the few hundred — maybe even few dozen — without all the additional noise. We want to connect with those who are likely to be a good fit for what we’re offering.

If our marketing can target our prospects tightly, we make the sales process more efficient; we don’t need to put 1,000 salespeople in the field, because we don’t have a stadium full of “prospects” to follow up with. A smaller team can communicate with the more select group who marketing has identified as qualified candidates.

Of course, if those candidates aren’t truly qualified — ever the sales team’s lament — the process breaks down. Which is why we need a strong marketing team to support the more focused sales team.

What Does Marketing Need to Do

Marketing then, needs to focus on content and other tools that appeal to the target audience and that are able to get a brand-relevant and useful message in front of them. When that happens, sales is a much more efficient task — less wasted time, fewer never-really-interested prospects, and a higher close rate. In other words, sales is easier because marketing is strong. (Thought, I’ll admit, sales is never easy, my headline notwithstanding.)

What About Branding?

It’s worth applying this concept to branding, as well, because the same things we can say about sales in relationship to marketing can be said about marketing in relationship to branding. Good branding makes marketing much, much more effective. Easier, even.

So now our headline should read: “Sales Is Easier When Marketing Is Done Well (And Marketing Is Easier When Branding Is Done Well)” Which is even more of a mouthful …

Of course, all of this well-planned activity will be for nothing if you don’t have a fantastic product to sell. And “fantastic” doesn’t have to mean a groundbreaking technological advancement. (Though clearly, the product has to provide a strong benefit to the client.) “Fantastic” means a product that is conceived and positioned to be better than any other available option for a particular audience segment.

So there is a bit of a circle here with product leading to positioning/branding, branding leading to marketing, and marketing leading to sales. There’s also a two-way connection between strategic thinking and tactical implementation that have to feed on one another. (Virtuously, we hope.)

All of this means that while sales isn’t really easier than marketing, when you do more of the hard work in the earlier steps, the later steps get easier. And because this is all quite circular, everything gets easier when you focus on strategy before tactics and seek ways to improve incrementally with each prospect interaction.

Why Your Content Needs to Focus on Expertise and Relevant Experience

Expertise and relevant experience now matter more than price and reputation when it comes to B2B marketing. That’s not to say that your B2B prospects are making decisions with a “hang the expense!” attitude, nor will they ignore any evidence they find of you being difficult to work with or in any way suspect.

Expertise and relevant experience now matter more than price and reputation.

The latter two still matter, of course, but according to a recent study by Hinge Marketing, the old twin pillars of professional services buyers’ decision-making — price and reputation — have been replaced by expertise and relevant experience.

That’s not to say that your B2B prospects are making decisions with a “hang the expense!” attitude, nor will they ignore any evidence they find of you being difficult to work with or in any way suspect. It’s just that they’re going to focus on expertise and experience first.

In other words, without expertise and relevant experience, nothing else matters, because you’re not making it onto the short list.

Relevant Experience

How to Make Your Case

So how do you state your case in a world where buyers are ever more eager to eliminate you before they’re even willing to have a conversation with you? You have to move that conversation from the phone or in-person meetings to your website and social media channels, as well as to other thought leadership channels, like trade show presentations and webinars.

Of course, the trick is that your prospects, like the rest of us, are inured to any empty marketing claims you might make. Everyone and everything today is award-winning, highly regarded and “the best,” not to mention new and improved …

That idea leads us back to the age-old marketing truth that showing is better than telling. Present your prospects with a library of content that demonstrates your expertise and relevant experience creates a much stronger case in your favor than merely telling them that you have that expertise and experience. White papers, case studies and articles outlining the work you’ve done are all helpful. Even more beneficial are the results you’ve achieved.

You also have to present that content in a way that meets your prospects’ needs. Which is to say, not the case stories of every project you’ve ever done. Just the case stories and articles about every project you’ve done in their industry. Or that address the business problem they need to solve.

How Good Information Architecture and a Good CMS Can Help

Because we can’t always know how a prospect will define content as relevant, we’ll want to make use of content hubs and landing pages. These gather the information related to a topic (or industry or problem to be solved) into a single page or section of the site. Your prospects land there and have all of the information they might want, right at their fingertips.

It’s important that your website architecture and content management system allow you to create these pages as the need arises and make it easy to use content wherever it’s needed, rather than asking you to recreate the same content more than once.

Telling the Marketing Story Your Audience Wants to Hear

It’s not enough to tell your story. You have to tailor your story to showcase the chapters that are most relevant to each segment of your audience.

Once you’ve convinced them that you have the experience and expertise to help them solve their problem, that’s when they’ll be more likely to pick up the phone to find out if your pricing fits their budget and if your approach and culture is simpatico with theirs.

7 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2019

From chatbots to data-driven marketing, from the inevitable backlash against martech to the broadened use of social media, Ruth Stevens presents her seven predictions for what’s to come in 2019 for B2B marketers.

Crystal BallI am adding my voice to the chorus of observers who predict various developments in 2019 for B2B marketing. My policy is to avoid reflecting on my past predictions, which are likely unrealized and full of errors. Instead I shall boldly go forth, with my sense of what we are likely to see this year, and damn the torpedoes.  My B2B marketing predictions — seven in all — range from marcom to data. Your comments are welcome!

  1. B2B marketing communications become more human. Our field has long focused on selling to entities — accounts, buying groups, with rational, specific needs — and so we tend to stick to the facts. But it’s time to be more human. To talk to the buyers as individuals, in a language that moves them. So Forrester predicts, and I agree. I applaud Gyro for taking the initiative on some very interesting research around this topic. The study reveals the feelings business buyers seek in response to our offerings, feelings like confidence, optimism and accomplishment. Let’s give it to them!
  2. An inevitable backlash against martech. The backlash is already starting, but look for it to pick up. I wrote about this in 2014, saying we must not confuse marketing automation for marketing strategy. As martech grows, inevitably B2B marketers are realizing that it’s not the silver bullet they had hoped for. Justin Gray, founder of LeadMD, points out that only about 1% of deals can be tied to MA. We’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.
  3. Marketers will finally supply sales with the help they really need. My fervent wish, anyway. Tip of the hat to Gavin Finn, who eloquently explains this need in a recent Entrepreneur article. If we marketers are not helping sales communicate a differentiated value, producing truly effective content, and developing insight into the detailed needs of the buying group, we should all fire ourselves.
  4. Broaden the use of social media. Social is no longer a nice-to-have in B2B. It requires thoughtful strategy, real budget, and a keen integration with the rest of the marketing mix. Plus continued experimentation with new opportunities. Video will continue to grow. And B2B marketers will try new channels, like Quora, a place where people pose questions and get answers from other individuals. It’s ripe for business problems to be solved.
  5. Chatbots go mainstream. Perfect for B2B, chatbots serve global customers, around the clock, with fast, accurate and cheap service. This is all good.  But my favorite benefit for B2B marketers? Chatbots give you a third method for turning your website into a lead generator (after web form-fill and IP address identification). And the AI continues to improve, daily.
  6. Will CX be the B2B buzzword of 2019? Like ABM in 2017, and intent data in 2018. I’m predicting a surge of interest in the power of providing superior customer experiences — not limited to digital, but across all customer touchpoints in B2B. Think about it. We operate with a limited universe of customers and prospects. We are burdened with long sales cycles, but the payoff is high-ticket sales. We can’t afford to lose an account.  CX is the next competitive frontier.
  7. As ever, B2B success is undergirded by data. Marketers will continue to understand, and act upon the need for clean, complete and accurate data coverage of their market opportunity.  This is why Theresa Kushner and I published B2B Data-Driven Marketing, soon to be available via Kindle.  A new study from MX Group confirms: The Number 1 characteristic of top performing B2B firms is “Have good data.”  What’s Number 2?  “Have effective lead follow-up,” of course!

Happy 2019 to us all.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog. 

The Importance of Using Social Media in B2B Advertising

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays.

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays. Facebook, Instagram Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all have their place and purpose in B2B brand building; after all, business decision-makers have social lives and social accounts, too. While users may not immediately be in a business mindset when using Facebook or Instagram, tailored content that serves as an introduction can unobtrusively spark interest.

Of course, when designing a B2B social campaign, advertisers must take a few considerations into account. First, budgets and campaign goals will determine which, if not all, platforms get play. Second, the strategy and what the advertiser is trying to accomplish will determine the rest. Finally, advertisers must have KPIs that make sense; using cost-per-acquisition (CPA) or ROI to measure the performance of social initiatives in a B2B context is illogical. Instead, employ engagement, or reach measurements to gauge effectiveness.

Seeing Through the Personal to Identify and Engage B2B Decision Makers 

Like many people, business decision-makers have active social accounts in some form or another. And while we use those accounts in different ways, it’s likely that most social media users aren’t out there to actively seek out business solutions. However, adjusting that mindset to unobtrusively make an introduction is a beneficial approach.

Start by casting a wide net of curated content, which can be an inexpensive way to deliver reach. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., can all exceed the reach of most B2B media, but the reach behemoth is Facebook. To keep the cost-per-thousand impression (CPMs) low, stick with broader targeting and a broader message, capture those who engage and retarget them with more specific messages. How-tos and tips do well in this regard and can serve as a logical entry point. This content could be the advertiser’s own blog posts, videos, etc.; anything low-penetration and with a somewhat native feel that offers quick information that’s relevant to their business can pique their interest.

With that in mind, sponsored organic posts are likely to be more effective than run-of-the-mill ads at delivering content that the desired audience cares about. For example, a cyber security company may provide content that speaks to the risk of cyber hacking, or about whether standard firewalls and antivirus software is enough to keep most companies out of risk. This content is pertinent, educational, easy to absorb and potentially solves a business problem.

Once established, relationships can be grown and nurtured in other ways. Engagement metrics can be used to hone-in-on individuals who expressed interest in the advertised product/service by clicking through the content to your website.

LinkedIn’s Expanding Role in B2B Advertising

Social media extends beyond the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. Sites like LinkedIn can be especially powerful in B2B social advertising. While sites like Facebook and Instagram are the right place to push low-penetration content that grabs attention, LinkedIn is better for in-depth content like whitepapers and thought leadership, as users are likely already in a business mindset and thus further down the funnel. Whitepaper downloads can be an effective way of acquiring new customers; if a consumer is imbibing content, then they are actively seeking information and/or solutions.

Of particular note, Bing Ads recently announced LinkedIn profile targeting for text ads, shopping campaigns and dynamic search ads, meaning LinkedIn data on company, job function and/or industry can now be leveraged in Bing Ads to enhance targeting. These audiences can even be layered on to less efficient search campaigns like competitor campaigns that serve as great conquesting tactics, but oftentimes are too inefficient for an evergreen strategy. Layering on enhanced audiences from LinkedIn can mitigate waste and improve campaign viability.

This data integration is unique to Bing, meaning the data can’t be accessed and used in Google to enhance the effectiveness of search campaigns there. While third-party providers can provide similar information, it’s not LinkedIn data specifically, which is self-reported and usually very accurate. With this integration, it’s likely that Bing’s market share with B2B advertisers will increase given this impressive new value proposition.

Considerations for a Social B2B Push

Considerations for a social B2B advertising push include the usual aspects associated with almost any type of digital campaign: budget, overall strategy, the business’ industry, and platform limitations. But beyond those, here are social B2B advertising considerations that should remain front and center:

  1. Know your target consumer. Use Facebook Audience Insights to understand who your customers are and what kind of media they consume, and if there are any topics or interests that would interest them. This includes knowing what kind of business problems they have for which your product can solve. Consider targeting via industry, job title, interest in particular trade publications or affiliation with organizations closely related to your solution.
  1. Understand the platforms. Learn how to leverage the various social platforms to achieve your marketing objective and how to measure the results (clicks, downloads, etc.). Leverage Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to introduce your product/service to net new customers. Leverage LinkedIn for more in-depth content like white papers and thought leadership.
  1. Go native. Understand how content promotion varies by platform. The key is engaging the audience as natively as possible. Use visual-focused content for Instagram; link to strong content for Pinterest; making everything easily digestible for Facebook.
  1. Build the relationship: Use engagement metrics to hone, refine and qualify audiences. Present the refined audiences with different content that helps push them further down the funnel and builds upon the recently-established relationship.

Busting the B2B Social Media Myth

While social media may not seem like the most natural method for engaging business decision makers on the surface, it’s short-sighted to believe that social channels cannot be effective for B2B advertising. The desired consumer exists on these platforms — after all, most of them use social media just like the rest of the world; the key is determining the best way to engage them based on their platform of choice.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can be effective platforms to introduce business decision makers to your brand through content that discusses information they’d likely find useful, in a format that feels native to the platform. From there, retargeting lists can be generated with users who engaged with the content to further build the relationship and move them down the purchase funnel.

The 10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

B2B marketing
Credit: Getty Images by pagadesign

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

Today, I am happy to introduce 10 of the many fascinating people I’ve interacted with during my adventures in 2018. All of them are high-energy contributors to the advancement of our field. And I’ve included a look-back shout-out to my fascinating contacts from 2017, 2016 and 2015.

  1. I’ve known Christopher Ryan, founder and CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, for years, but this one is a standout. Check out his new book, “The Expert’s B2B Revenue Growth Playbook.” It’s practical and action-oriented, with a zillion tips on how to build sales — enhance your website, choose your key metrics, develop compelling content and more. Chris even offers a free PDF copy.
  2. Samantha Stone’s energy and good humor seem single-handedly to keep the wheels of B2B marketing going. She’s everywhere, providing advisory services to marketers who are grappling with how to go to market in an increasingly complex world. Her website offers a treasure trove of resources to help the rest of us get a head start.
  3. Every year, Scott Brinker brings our attention to the growth of martech, with his famous Marketing Technology Landscape graphic — now clocking in at over 6,800 point solutions. He’s the insightful blogger of ChiefMarTech and program chair of the informative conferences. Great work, Scott!
  4. Shane Schick’s Toronto-based B2B News Network is a top source for up-to-the-minute news in our industry. In this world of disappeared media, Shane deserves a lot of credit for running a successful publishing business. I find his daily email newsletter one of the best around. Somehow, Shane also finds the time to blog for Cision.
  5. A few years ago, Dan Konstantinovsky took the reins at R.H. Blake, a small Cleveland agency serving the manufacturing industry. Since then, he has taken the lead in converting traditional industrial marketing into a modern marketing powerhouse.
  6. Talk about high energy. Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus and FlipMyFunnel, takes the cake. I was pleased to be invited to cover the conference this year, and shared a bunch of great ideas I picked up about ABM. With all that going on, how does Sangram also produce a daily podcast, I wonder?
  7. Jill Rowley, longtime martech sales leader (Salesforce, Marketo) and pioneer in the field of social selling, shared a big idea at the FlipMyFunnel conference. She envisions a day when B2B sales are transacted entirely through e-commerce, and the sales role will evolve to subject matter experts to buyers. “I have eliminated the word prospect from my vocabulary.” She says. Intriguing.
  8. Olle Leckne, a Stockholm-based LinkedIn advisor, has created a clever lead generation process for appointment-setting with highly refined audience targeting. His breakthrough: Measuring the time invested in generating and converting a lead, instead of response rates and media cost. The goal is to get a lead from hours down to minutes to set an appointment. The icing on the cake? Using GetAccept to track proposals as they make their way along the purchase path inside the prospective customer organization.
  9. Seattle-based Howard Sewell, president of Spear Marketing Group, consistently produces some of the best B2B marketing advice in the world. I am a subscriber to The Point, and recommend it to all my colleagues for its wisdom, clear thinking and actionable tips.
  10. Most B2B marketers already know Bob Bly, prolific author and sought-after copywriter. But this year, I am extra admiring of Bob because of his unique approach to Facebook. Instead of the throwaway comments the rest of us post, Bob uses the forum for thoughtful discussion of important and — dare I say, fascinating — topics. Always a joy to read and discuss.

Another great year in B2B marketing. Happy new year to all!

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Emotions Matter — Why Your B2B Marketing Must Connect Before It Can Convert

Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant and thought to yourself, “Yes! This just feels right.” If so, then the rest of this article won’t come as any surprise to you; though if you’re like many marketers, your B2B marketing may be overlooking the value and importance of that “it just feels right” moment.

Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant and thought to yourself, “Yes! This just feels right.”

If so, then the rest of this article won’t come as any surprise to you; though if you’re like many marketers, your B2B marketing may be overlooking the value and importance of that “it just feels right” moment.

We’re Not All Coolly Rational Consumers

We may like to think that B2B prospects are all like Mr. Spock — coolly rational and unswayed by their emotions, but research and our own experience disproves that at nearly every turn.

Like a Rock, Best-in-Class, or Ram Tough

Credit: Wikimedia Commons by Colin

Lets look for a moment at pickup trucks. There is a large group of buyers who would never consider a Ford pickup truck. And a similarly large group who wouldn’t be caught dead in a truck sporting a Chevrolet or GMC nameplate.

They can’t both be right about the superiority of their chosen brand; which, setting aside functional differences — like towing capacity being more important than torque or vice versa — leaves only the emotional component of the brand.

(My choice of pickups as an example isn’t random. Truck buyers are reputed to be among the most brand-loyal consumers on the planet, though there is some evidence that this is changing.)

Connecting Without Smothering

Back to B2B marketers: For us, the trick is in making an emotional connection without making your case emotionally. We can’t “chew the scenery,” so to speak. We simply don’t have an audience that is as passionate about our services as consumers are about trucks or chocolate or puppies and kittens in need of forever homes … But we do need to make sure we’re connecting with our audience on a level other than “just the facts, ma/am.”

Even with the necessity of a more restrained approach, we do need to create opportunities for our prospects to feel their decision rather than just think it. How do we do this?

Well, there are a lot of tools that can work. Developing personas for your buyers and doing market research into their needs can help you understand motivation and pain points around which emotional connections can be built. Also important are things like testimonials from existing clients and case studies about success stories from people “just like me” who have used your service to profitable effect.

Whose Language Are You Speaking?

Perhaps most importantly, it requires language and presentation that is comfortable to the prospect. Are you speaking their language? Have you met them where they live?

At some point, prospects will want to hear you geek out on the minutiae of your offering — the details and features that make it a better choice. But first, they want to feel the benefits. How does this benefit me? How does this reduce my risk? How is this preferable to doing nothing?

This isn’t an easy goal to achieve consistently, but one worth striving for. Because if you can bring that ever-so-subtle smile to your prospect’s face that says, “Yeah, this is going to work,” you’ve got a winning formula.

The State of B2B Marketing in India

This fall, I enjoyed a few months of teaching at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, and learning much about Indian business and life. To get some insight into what’s going on in B2B marketing here, I tapped the brain of Sudhi Seshadri, dean and professor of marketing at MYRA School of Business, who’s been teaching B2B marketing for decades, and knows the territory. I posed six questions to him.

A conversation with Sudhi Seshari about the state of B2B marketing in India.
Sudhi Seshadri, dean and professor of marketing, MYRA School of Business, Mysore, India. | Credit: Ruth Stevens

This fall, I enjoyed a few months of teaching at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, and learning much about Indian business and life. To get some insight into what’s going on in B2B marketing here, I tapped the brain of Sudhi Seshadri, who is dean and professor of marketing at MYRA School of Business in nearby Mysore, and has a PhD from Penn State. Sudhi has been teaching B2B marketing for decades, and knows the territory. I posed six questions to him.

1. I’m told that B2B marketing is still relatively nascent in India. How would you characterize the state of B2B Marketing here?

A bit of recent history is a good place to start. Prior to the ‘90s, Indian business was severely constrained, and B2B marketing didn’t really exist. Two waves of liberalization in ‘91 and ‘96 brought immense change. Firms were free to compete, but still they didn’t evolve much beyond hierarchical conglomerates.

With the early 2000s came a new national Competition Act in 2002, along with rapid globalization and demands from a growing middle class. The Indian economy has been fast restructuring, and market forces are changing interorganizational relationships.

So, whereas B2B marketing in the West is well over a century old, in India it has really come into practice in earnest only in the last decade and a half. So B2B marketing is a young field, but one that is at an inflexion point.

2. In the U.S., marketers perennially state that their top objective is delivering leads — lead quality and lead quantity. How do Indian B2B marketers see their top objective?

Lead delivery and “feeding the funnel” are right up there. But often lead management is in the domain of sales management, rather than a marketing function.

Since markets are “thinner” here, and fewer purchasing organizations are market driven, the top issue for B2B marketing is business development through value creation. The marketing organization focuses on developing customized offerings while trying to reduce the cost to serve. Think of it like the Toyota / Lexus model. You develop separate offerings for different buyer segments. Lead delivery follows from this, but is very different for each segment.

3. Much of B2B communication has gone digital in recent years. Are you seeing the same shift in India? What seems to be working best?

Interestingly, the term “digital marketing” is commonly used in India to mean e-commerce or, in B2B’s case, e-procurement. This channel is likely to continue to grow, as exchanges multiply, regulations relax, and SMEs enter the formal sector in larger numbers.

But I think what you’re really asking about is what we usually call multi-channel marketing. The short answer is that it’s not living up to its potential. A scientific approach would try to optimize by looking at elasticities for each and divvy up the tasks among hybrid digital channels. However, we are long way from that in India.

But it will come, especially as the experimentation going on in B2C pays off and catches the attention of business marketers.

4. Are trade shows and conferences still an important part of the marketing mix?

Yes, they are. The simple economics of trade shows and events such as conferences for lead generation in early funnel stages are unmatched. The relationship building advantages are also significant.

We know that most international marketing is B2B, whatever the countries involved. India also uses B2B marketing in building exports, and these sorts of interpersonal, traditional approaches allow foreign buyers to develop trust in unique ways.

In the software industry, where marketing is directed in a large part to a developer or collaborator community, the importance of conferences cannot be understated. All the major software platforms have long been using conference-type events in their marketing mix.

5. Ironically, much of the data used by U.S. B2B marketers for prospecting and current customer marketing is generated by researchers in India. How are Indian B2B marketers using data themselves?

Prospecting from data provided by list vendors is widespread. Eventually, this will move from simple screening rules to predictive modelling.  Furthermore, the growing service-oriented industry in data analytics and marketing decision science is now spilling over to Indian customers. Rapid growth of data driven business models in India is further fueling this emerging trend.

6. What are the particular sales and marketing challenges faced by the Indian B2B community?

Let me highlight three.

As a longtime educator, I might be biased. But I think the first problem is that too few talented and trained professionals are entering the B2B marketing community. Marketing education in India is almost entirely about consumer, directed at the FMCG sector. Most MBA programs do not teach B2B, or do not have the right sequence of courses. Therefore, all the learning is done on the job, and the important B2B frameworks are not widely known and understood.

Second, integration of marketing and sales in B2B has been difficult, both at the conceptual and at the practice level. This is not entirely the fault of the B2B practitioner community. It is only recently that purchasing and sales literatures are coming together and evolving joint marketing frameworks. This lack of perspective has historically kept marketing artificially distant from sales or purchasing functions.

Third, we need collaboration between education and practice, to support centers of excellence similar to Penn State’s Institute for Studies of Business Markets, to develop research and case materials in India. The financial contribution of B2B marketing has yet to be fully recognized at the CXO table. In short, we still need to make the business case for B2B marketing in India.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.