The B2B Marketing Ironies of Our Time

I’ve been noticing some ironies in the world of B2B marketing lately. You know what I mean. When the common wisdom is one thing, but the reality is another. I get annoyed. Especially when the so-called common wisdom is driven by the profit motive, or by fashion, or political correctness. Let me share a few ironies that I’ve noticed, and I hope readers will add others to the list.

I’ve been noticing some ironies in the world of B2B marketing lately. You know what I mean. When the common wisdom is one thing, but the reality is another. I get annoyed. Especially when the so-called common wisdom is driven by the profit motive, or by fashion, or political correctness. Let me share a few ironies that I’ve noticed, and I hope readers will add others to the list. Or tell me to shut up and talk about something else.

When Inbound Goes Outbound

Here’s an interesting one. Hubspot preaches inbound marketing as a mantra, right? The theory is that if you post irresistible content to your website, you’ll rise in search rankings and attract interested buyers to find you. The result: You get higher quality prospects, with higher conversion rates and at lower cost than traditional outbound marketing. Which is true. But it’s gotten to the point where some marketers have gotten the impression that outbound marketing is bad, inferior, old-fashioned, or maybe even immoral.

But guess what? Turns out Hubspot’s own growth as a software company has been driven via cold calling through an inside sales team. Yep. Even Hubspot realizes that you can’t get all the B2B business you deserve using inbound marketing alone. An interview with one of Hubspot’s former sales chiefs actually made their call center sound like a pretty well managed and productive organization. Kudos to them.

The Digital Revolution Will Be Direct Mailed

Here’s another. Google and Facebook are leading the digital marketing revolution. Budgets continue to shift to digital channels. Marketers are abandoning print and face-to-face channels in droves. But, hold on. Did you know that both Google and Facebook use dear old direct mail for cold prospecting in their ad sales businesses? I’ve seen actual samples. Their direct mail is first rate, including benefit-laden outer envelopes, a compelling offer to motivate response, supplemented by powerful calls to action and easy-to-use response vehicles. Ironic, isn’t it?

B2B Opt-in Isn’t Optional?

Now, my last example involves an irony that had an impact on me, personally and professionally. Back in 2010, I was invited to become a contributor to Harvard Business Review’s online publication. What a thrill! I quickly prepared two articles, and when the first was published, was dismayed to see that it caused a firestorm of criticism.

In the article, I made the case that email marketing policies in B2B should be more flexible than those in consumer, when it comes to strict use of opt-in. My rationale is that business buyers need information from suppliers to do their jobs, and they want to be up to speed in their fields. So, if a prospect leaves behind a business card at a trade show, for example, the exhibitor should feel comfortable following up with an email.

The response was immediate, and it got nasty, fast. Readers argued that nothing justifies opt-out email behavior — which is ironic because opt-out is in fact the guideline operational under the CAN-SPAM Act.

But here’s the larger irony, which made me both laugh and cry: A few months later, at a conference, I spotted the booth of the very company where one of my most vicious critics was employed. So I stopped by the booth to find out more about their services. And just as I turned to leave I asked what if any way they planned to follow up with me. “We’ll probably send you an email,” they said. I rest my case.

My conclusion? Whatever is in fashion, or what people think is working — remember that the basics still drive B2B marketing. It’s the daily blocking and tackling of account targeting, sales lead generation, outbound communications, call centers, data management and building a trusted reputation that drives business growth.

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

Customer Delight Is Better Than Marketing

We often think of disruption coming from a new product, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier ways to do things that create customer delight … and disruption.

We often think of disruption coming from new products, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier way to do things that creates customer delight … and disruption.

New Service Systems = Disruption

The computer didn’t create a new kind of ledger, writing or art (at least initially), but it made them easier to do. It improved the service to users.

In the keynote at Inbound17, Brian Halligan, CEO and founder of HubSpot, showed how, today, it’s not the new product that disrupts an industry, it’s the new service. Disruption comes not from a new thing, but a new way of delivering a thing people love and need that eliminates the hassles they hated in the old delivery system.

He specifically pointed to Uber, iTunes and NetFlix, three companies credited with single-handedly destroying industries.

But Uber didn’t create a new kind of car ride. It delivered the car ride in a way that eliminated the things  people hate about using taxis and other ride services: Unreliability, waits, the inability to get a taxi, and in some cases exorbitant prices.

And customers were delighted.

Disruption = Customer Delight

iTunes didn’t create a new kind of music and NetFlix didn’t create a new kind of TV show. Instead, they both changed the way these things were delivered.

iTunes meant music lovers no longer had to buy a whole album to get just the songs they wanted, or limit playing those songs to CDs or other physical media they were packaged in.

NetFlix originally eliminated late fees, allowing customers to keep the DVDs they took out as long as they wanted. Later, it introduced streaming, so you could watch whatever you wanted (in its library) at any time from anywhere. No longer were you limited to a couple DVDs (again, the limits of physical media), or TV channel schedules. Whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted it — that was the promise of NetFlix.

And people love it. NetFlix is now a synonym for watching long periods of TV at home, and “NetFlix and chill” has come to mean a date night you definitely are not going out for.

Customer Delight > Marketing

These services all delighted customers. That’s how they won.

Delighting customers — making sure they get what they want the way they want it — creates a kind of goodwill marketing money can’t buy.

“In 2018, delighted customers are better at marketing for you than your own marketing department,” said Halligan. And he’s right.

Perhaps the best example is Amazon. Jeff Bezos believes in the flywheel strategy: Offer what customers want at the lowest prices possible and optimize for the customer experience — which for Amazon means making sure the the site interface, delivery and customer service aspects are all top-notch.

Do those things, and your customers will be delighted. then they’ll talk about how delighted they are, and that attracts other customers — and the flywheel just keeps expanding and expanding.

They say one of Bezos’s favorite expressions is, “Your margin in my opportunity.” But make no mistake, the opportunity he sees is a chance to delight your customers in a way you aren’t.

If that feels personal … well, a little bit, it is. Marketing in 2018 is not monolithic. It’s not broadcast. It’s not talking at customers who will have to work with you in the end. Every aspects of the customer experience is personal to the customer, and they will judge you based on that experience and very publicly discuss how it made them feel.

If you can make them feel delighted, that market is yours.

Driving Demand Generation: Who Belongs on That Bus?

In last month’s blog post, I discussed the ideal marketing operations structure — the why and how to centralize this vital function. In this post, we explore the demand generation function. What should be part of this function and how should you reconcile it with having a “shared services” team?

Revenue Marketing RoadmapIn last month’s blog post, I discussed the ideal marketing operations (MO) structure — the why and how to centralize this vital function. In this post, we explore the demand generation function.

What should be part of this function and how to reconcile it with having a “shared services” team in MO? How would you go about centralizing all demand generation into this one group if you currently have an outbound team and a separate inbound team under different directors?

Demand Generation Group Structure

The charter of a demand generation group looks like this:

Responsible for driving revenue results and optimizing interactions with all global buyers across the revenue cycle to accelerate predictable revenue growth.

Consequently, in larger organizations you are likely to see the following functions in this group:

Demand generation group functions
Demand generation group functions.

If that chart doesn’t scream a set of questions for you, its time for another cup of coffee!

Program managers, top-level business managers for marketing investment in demand generation, provide direction to the content team, and ultimately own the number: marketing influenced revenue.

Campaign managers take direction from the program managers. They are probably the same person in smaller firms. Campaign managers may specialize in one or more channels, but since campaigns are becoming omnichannel you are better off having them focused by target market segment. Their campaigns are grouped by stages of the buying cycle by segment — awareness, lead acquisition, lead nurturing, customer loyalty, advocacy etc.

The martech power users, QA and best practices management functions could alternatively be executed in a marketing operations department. Keeping them in demand generation means they continue to operate close to the program and campaign management team. On the other hand, if your MO function is well developed, putting them in the shared services group in MO means they are close to analytics and project management. This means this team will probably have a more streamlined relationship with the field marketing team, i.e. the “HQ” region is less likely to dominate the global campaign calendar unless the revenue goals merit it.

Tele-qualification is often both in marketing and sales. If the line is blurry, that’s good. It should be, because the function is squarely on the line between the two organizations. If you use them to sell smaller deals, renew contracts, etc, then they probably belong in sales, and are rightfully described as an inside sales function. But if the function is strictly to provide higher quality leads to sales, driving up sales’ productivity, then keep them in marketing.

An Inbound vs. Outbound Digression

There are more internet battles on inbound versus outbound than about Kirk versus Picard! Some say inbound is less expensive than outbound for lead generation or that outbound is marketing to the masses (TV commercials, radio, email blasts, trade shows). Is inbound just content marketing using SEO, and paid traffic through online channels? By all means add your comments below, but here is my perspective: It is not news that the two are merging so marketers need to move past these debates, unite these teams, and start designing and executing omnichannel campaigns.

Push vs. Pull Marketing: In B-to-B, You Need Both

The other day, a marketing colleague told me she was feeling under pressure to move all her efforts to inbound, or “pull,” marketing. “Outbound is bad,” she said. What? Well, I guess her feeling is understandable. Inbound marketing is all the rage today. Hubspot promotes it. Marketo promotes it. Seth Godin promotes it. With the new popularity of pull marketing, B-to-B marketers may be under the mistaken impression that push marketing is dead—or should be. How wrong they are. And here’s why

The other day, a marketing colleague told me she was feeling under pressure to move all her efforts to inbound, or “pull,” marketing. “Outbound is bad,” she said. What? Well, I guess her feeling is understandable. Inbound marketing is all the rage today. Hubspot promotes it. Marketo promotes it. Seth Godin promotes it. With the new popularity of pull marketing, B-to-B marketers may be under the mistaken impression that push marketing is dead—or should be. How wrong they are. And here’s why.

Simply put, B-to-B marketers need a mix of push and pull. Limiting your strategy to pull alone will reduce your market, and limit your ability to identify all the prospective buyers who might need your solution to their problems.

In B-to-B, pull marketing generally means making yourself visible, or being helpful, and hoping that people will get the idea that they should visit your website or otherwise reach out to find out more about you and your offerings. The theory is a good one. And it works great for luring prospects at various stages of the buying cycle, especially when they have already identified a need and are researching potential solutions. Bingo, with pull marketing tactics like providing educational content, you have a good chance of snagging a fairly qualified prospect.

Typical pull tactics in B-to-B include:

  • Developing informative, non-salesy content, to educate all comers on how to solve their problems, and what a great partner you can be in helping them. This can be in the form of blogging, downloadable white papers, videos, infographics and others.
  • SEO and SEM, which will pull prospects to your site and your content when they are looking for particular information.
  • PR, or media relations, to persuade others to write interesting and favorable things about your products, or highlight your expertise and experience.
  • Social media, for distributing your content to followers, and inviting them to share it with their networks.
  • Speaking engagements, whether online or in person, where your expertise is on vivid display.

But what about prospects who don’t even know they have a problem? Or who haven’t defined the problem yet, not to mention considered a solution? Or maybe you have a solution that is so new, prospects don’t even know how to research it. To get all the business you deserve, this is where push marketing is essential.

In B-to-B, push marketing includes all the outbound messaging that have proven themselves for decades, most notably:

  • Direct mail, including dimensional mail. Keep in mind that the list business in the U.S. is so mature, and so sophisticated, you can find just about every prospect using mailing lists, no matter how narrowly you target.
  • Telephone calls, using the same lists, when the list owner gives you permission to call.
  • Advertising, online and offline, with a strong call to action to generate a response.
  • Event marketing, such as trade shows and conferences, where you can not only kick off relationships with new prospects, but also convey your expertise through speaking engagements.

Sure, these methods may be intrusive and unfashionable. But this is what we marketers do. To fulfill our mission of market coverage, scalable lead generation, and profitable sales growth, the modern B-to-B marketer must pull—and push—every possible lever.

Anyone want to argue about this? Let’s discuss!

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

Disengage: Create Response (and Sales) With Content Marketing

Does your content marketing create reaction beyond sharing? When using LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs, creating response is critical to netting B-to-B leads and sales. The key to success is getting your target market to take action—moving them off of social media. At some point you’ve got to disengage and get the inbound in the term inbound marketing going!

Does your content marketing create reaction beyond sharing? When using LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs, creating response is critical to netting B-to-B leads and sales. The key to success is getting your target market to take action—moving them off of social media.

At some point you’ve got to disengage and get the inbound in the term inbound marketing going!

Many inbound marketing experts claim being engaging within LinkedIn groups or telling compelling stories on your blog will help you net generate more leads and sales. It’s simply not very effective. In fact, most content marketing plans fail because popular wisdom the practice is fatally flawed.

Before you can net a lead, you’ve got to create confidence in potential buyers with social media. This is an exciting, effective, new way to generate business leads with social media. But where to start?

How can you start creating response-right now-without investing more time in what you’re already doing?

How to Create Response-Now!
If telling compelling, transparent, authentic stories about your brand won’t help you make sales what are you to do? Trash the idea totally? Never. All that’s needed is this to make those remarkable stories you’re telling actionable.

You’ve got to give prospects a compelling reason to ask for more content in exchange for qualitative information about them. Because when they do that they become part of your sales funnel.

I know it’s fashionable to say marketers are publishers but the truth is you’re not in the publishing business at all. You’re in the response business. Not the reaction business (ie. getting shared) but the response business (getting leads).

The success formula is quite simple.

Step 1: Create content that solves a problem.
Step 2: Locate and/or attract qualified discussions.
Step 3: Lure prospects into taking an action that connects to your sales funnel.

Create the Honey: Useful Content
Pick an itch your customer has and scratch it with blog, video or some other form of content. Solve a common problem that relates to the end goal your customer is pursuing, for instance. Whether you’re a service or product marketer, this is the best content for blogs or any B-to-B content marketing vehicle you publish.

In my case, I published a handful of stories and audio interviews on my site featuring a niche subject matter expert. My guest told readers/listeners how to take action on a burning problem-one that related to a specific solution I sell.

The idea is to use content to give confidence to buyers. The trick is to do it in ways that increase their ability to feel emotionally grounded and intellectually stronger-fully equipped to do what they want to do. Buy.

Attract the Bees
Next, simply locate and/or attract qualified “conversations” with prospects. You can hunt them down inside LinkedIn groups or blog in ways that attract search engine traffic based on questions (keywords) your prospects are asking.

In my case, I decided to begin using LinkedIn for sales prospecting. I spotted a discussion on a niche LinkedIn Group where I answered a question in a way that “brought to life” the specific valuable answers my guest expert was offering… but not in the usual way.

Provoke an Action
I did not link back to my content; rather, I quoted my expert’s best sound byte. He was honestly provocative because he shared a new perspective and unique remedy. It then became easy for me to invite my prospects to join me on a journey… one where they would receive more useful content if they opted-in.

Of course, this moved them toward (or away from) my solution.

Remember, in B-to-B marketing you’ve got to go beyond telling a good story. Start netting leads by creating content that is provocative-compelling enough to cause prospects to sign up for more content they’re craving. It can be a webinar, ebook, downloadable tip sheet, self-assessment or educational video series (like free sales training videos) that solves a common problem or addresses a popular fear or myth.

Good luck!

12 Reasons to Fuse Direct Marketing and Video Marketing Now

Tried and true direct marketing formulas + online video = your next powerful marketing opportunity. Blending direct marketing sales approaches with online video, where 40 billion videos are watched monthly, can showcase your products and services, build trust, close deals, and raise money. Here are reasons to fuse

Tried and true direct marketing formulas + online video = your next powerful marketing opportunity. Blending direct marketing sales approaches with online video, where 40 billion videos are watched monthly, can showcase your products and services, build trust, close deals, and raise money. Here are reasons to fuse together the power of direct marketing with online video. Today we begin with the first 6 reasons.

1. Now is the early stage for the blending of DM disciplines and online video. While DM and video have been around for years, many marketers have yet to blend the methodologies together. The Deep Dive: Early adopters have been using video with streaming words and voice-over, interviews and product demonstrations. But the next stage of successful video uses proven direct marketing copywriting techniques and call-to-action in video script writing, and uses DM design techniques that will move production values to a higher level.

2. Online video use and views are exploding.

  • In just one recent month, 181 million U.S. Internet users watched 43.5 billion videos averaging over 22 hours per viewer.
  • Over 84% of internet users watched an online video.
  • Americans watched over 5.6 billion online video ads. In fact, online video ads are 38% more memorable than TV ads.

The Deep Dive: According to comScore.com, a global source of digital market intelligence, online video viewing was up 43% from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011 This video is a summary of comScore’s findings about the explosive increases in online video viewing during the past year. (By the way, we’ll show you, in an upcoming post, how you can drastically improve upon their really distracting audio quality for about $30.)

If you’re not incorporating video in your marketing strategy, you’re out-of-date.

3. Consumers’ attention span is shorter than ever, and it’s not likely to increase. People will give you a few seconds to watch a video. Engage them quickly, and they’ll stick with you long enough to get your message across and prompt enough curiosity to check you out more. The Deep Dive: Does this strategy sound a lot like using a compelling teaser on an outer envelope, or a strong subject line in an email? Of course it does! So, set up your video strategy properly by getting the viewer to opt-in to watch more of your future videos.

4. Websites with video are perceived as having higher importance. When you add videos, you attract more in-linking domains than with plain text. The Deep Dive: Video inclusion on your social media or blog posts has been shown to triple inbound linking. The following chart is from a well-respected seomoz.org blog post that goes more deeply into this topic. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/what-makes-a-link-worthy-post-part-1.

5. An inbound marketing strategy may be a challenge for a traditional direct marketer to accept, but video has the power to draw prospective customers to you. The Deep Dive: Video on blogs and posted YouTube can be shared on social media and will draw traffic to you. This is a far more powerful-and less costly-marketing strategy than pushing your unsolicited message using outbound marketing strategies.

6. Online video analytics are amazing. Post your video on YouTube and over time you’ll see not only how many times your video was viewed, but second-by-second you’ll see retention levels and discover at what point you lost your viewer. You’ll see demographic information. You’ll be smarter so much faster that your head will spin. The Deep Dive: If you’re a traditional direct marketer, you surely love numbers. With video, you get a lot of data to crunch that will make you smarter and your selling more effective.

In our next post, we’ll reveal six more reasons why you should fuse direct marketing and video marketing now. In the meantime, comment below and tell us your video marketing successes or what you’d like to read in future blog posts.