One Size DOES NOT Fit All in B-to-B Marketing

Here’s a painful truth: B-to-B lead generation takes a lot of hard work BEFORE you execute any marketing or sales program. Work smarter, not harder, and follow these six steps to make a real difference:

Here’s a painful truth: B-to-B lead generation takes a lot of hard work BEFORE you execute any marketing or sales program.

Work smarter, not harder, and follow these six steps to make a real difference:

  1. Do your homework. What do you know about your existing customers? Do they fall into any particular vertical industries? What types of job titles do they encompass? It’s doubtful that they’re all C-level executives—chances are your real customers are well down the food chain. Select your top four or five vertical industries, identify their job titles, and plan your next steps with these verticals in mind.
  2. Find prospects that look like your target. Finding the right target is NOT like finding a needle in a haystack, and if you’ve always relied on renting a D&B list, then good luck to you. Think like your targets. Join their industry organizations, attend industry conferences and read their trade publications—increase the breadth and depth of your industry knowledge. Most of these organizations/events make their lists available for rent, and their data is probably more current and accurate at the levels you’re really targeting.
  3. Determine your targets’ pain points. What problem does your product or service solve? It’s probably different by vertical industry and by job title/function. Rent your list and use an outside research firm to contact prospects to help identify the challenges facing them in your particular area of expertise.
  4. Gather sales support assets. Use the information gathered in Step 3 to reposition your product, create new white papers or industry articles aimed at different functional areas within each company. Review existing case studies and determine how you can refresh and repurpose them by vertical industry based on your new found insights. Create assets digitally and in hard copy so you can use them in fulfillment and follow-up efforts.
  5. Create a destination of information. Before you start reaching out to prospects, create an online destination BEYOND your existing web site. Organize your new assets by vertical industry, as most organizations want to know that you understand and have experience in their category. A healthcare company, for example, will probably not have the same challenges as a financial services organization. And it’s most likely that your solution wouldn’t be identical either.
  6. Execute an outreach program. Now that you know your top four or five verticals, you’re ready to tap targets on the shoulder. Create a campaign by vertical target in order to highlight key benefits that are most relevant to that target (you should know what these are as a result of your research in Step 3).

All your outbound communications to each of these job functions within each of your target verticals should be different. The individual in finance, for example, will want to understand ROI while the individual on the technology side might be concerned about how well your product can be integrated into existing technology.

Your research should have already helped you identify the pain they’re facing, so leverage that learning in your communications. Whether it’s the initial contact, the follow up materials, or the landing page, mirror what you’ve heard to make the conversation most relevant from the beginning. Your participation in industry events and conferences should help you establish the correct tone and language in your communications.

B-to-B marketing should never apply a “one size fits all” strategy. The more relevant your communications, and the more you can demonstrate that you understand their particular industry and business challenges by tailoring your solutions, the more likely you are to engage in a meaningful discussion with your target. Listen to feedback and refine your communications accordingly. And yes, the results will be worth it.

Content Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

On July 10, 2013, Cyndie Shafstall (Founder and CEM of Spider Trainers) and I spoke at our second “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget” webcast—this time we focused on the topic of Content Marketing. While you can still listen to the webcast, the event triggered many questions from participants, and I thought it might be helpful to address the most popular topics in this column.

On July 10, 2013, Cyndie Shafstall (Founder and CEM of Spider Trainers) and I spoke at our second “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget” webcast—this time we focused on the topic of Content Marketing. While you can still listen to the webcast, the event triggered many questions from participants, and I thought it might be helpful to address the most popular topics in this column.

Q: How do you keep regularly scheduled content fresh (and keep me, the marketing director, from burning out)?

A: Commitment to regularly publishing content can be a daunting assignment for any business—large or small. To be perceived as an expert, you need to publish expert content.

Sit in a room with three or four others in your company (ideally the sales folks), and stand at the whiteboard and ask for ideas on any relevant topic to your industry. To get the conversation going, ask the sales folks the top 5 questions they each get asked during the sales process. While each question may not be fodder for content, you’ll quickly see a few themes emerging. I usually sit with clients and after a 30-minute discussion have over 100 topics on our whiteboard!

Then organize those topics into the most logical groupings: Topics that will have fairly short answers/discussion are probably most appropriate for a blog, while topics that require a lot of background, and supporting charts/graphs, are best used in a whitepaper. If your first meeting only yields 10 topics, hold the meeting every quarter and ask your team to keep their eye out on what topics interest them—and probe them for their areas of expertise. You’ll quickly discover that there are many possible topics available; you just have to use your journalistic instincts to ferret them out of staffers.

Q: What’s the difference (and how do you leverage) a blog vs. a whitepaper vs. other marketing content? And how should you decide which method to use when?

A: This is probably the question I get asked the most. So let me try to address each channel:

  • Blogs: Not every company needs (or should have) a blog; If you don’t have an industry thought leader in your organization (or somebody you can position as a thought leader who will let you put words in their mouth), you may want to hold off creating a blog in the first place. If you do, post blog topics that are timely and relative to your industry. Read trade publications and identify the “hot topic” du jour, and blog thoughts about that topic. Attend industry conferences, gather information from other speakers’ presentations and blog about what you liked and didn’t like about what they were saying. If you run a travel company, you can certainly blog about “hot” travel destinations—but even better, blog about “how to” at the destination … like “How to throw a wedding in Thailand” or “Best surfing vacations in Mexico.” You need to think like a journalist who is writing a story that others will want to read.
  • Whitepapers or Educational Primers: You can expand a blog topic into a more robust whitepaper or primer (a whitepaper provides a strategic point of view on a topic; a primer educates by taking the reader through the basics of a topic). Whitepapers should include quotes from outside sources to give it credibility and value. Primers can be simply “How to” guides that teach your audience the ABC’s. But be careful NOT to chest pound within your content. A whitepaper is supposed to be just that—a document, written by a 3rd party, on a particular topic of interest to readers in your space. It is NOT an advertorial for your product or service.

I carry around a notebook, and when I see/read/think about an idea for my blog, I jot it down so, when the time comes to sit down and write, I have a number of ideas to stimulate my thinking. Since I’m committed to Target Marketing to write this blog every 2 weeks, I’ve already got a notebook full of ideas!

Margie Chiu’s 15 Minutes Ahead: Observations from SXSW – Checking Into Geosocial

SXSW 2010 has come and gone, but to the dismay of press, attendees and those who yearn to claim “I was there when … ,” there was no sign of the next breakout app at this year’s event. Instead, the consensus was that geosocial – the convergence of location-based data and social networking – was the unexpected star of the event. 

What’s the big deal with SXSW?
South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) has become the must-attend annual event for the digerati. Some of the brightest digital starlets in recent years, including Twitter and foursquare, were first “discovered” at SXSW. Those in attendance at Twitter’s launch in 2007 and foursquare’s in 2009 still delight in having the bragging rights to “I knew them when … ”

So what created the buzz this year?
SXSW 2010 has come and gone, but to the dismay of press, attendees and those who yearn to claim “I was there when … ,” there was no sign of the next breakout app at this year’s event.

Instead, the consensus was that geosocial — the convergence of location-based data and social networking — was the unexpected star of the event. Take, for example, the thoughts of one venture capitalist interviewed by The Wall Street Journal: “One thing that was interesting was it ended up being a little of a social experiment with everybody there. All 17,000 or 18,000 people were connected on Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla. It served almost as a big test for what would the world be like when people start adopting all these social tools.”

There was definitely no shortage of tweets and foursquare check-ins. In fact, foursquare set up 16 new badges and other exclusives for the event. Gowalla, foursquare’s rival location-based social network, also put its best foot forward. (Side note: Gowalla was also launched last year at SXSW, but like Jan Brady to Marsha, Gowalla has largely been in the shadows of foursquare. But Jan got her day; Gowalla beat out foursquare this year as SXSW’s best site in the mobile category.

So what actually happened?

I decided to dig a little deeper into this delightful microcosm of SXSW where “everybody” was connected.

First of all, most SXSW venues only had foursquare check-in rates in the double digits. On average, SXSW tagged locations registered a lackluster 35 check-ins. The Austin Convention Center had the highest number of check-ins at 4,634, but that also included 2009 numbers. So let’s say 75 percent of those were in 2010. With a base of 18,000 attendees, that’s a participation rate of just 19 percent. Gowalla didn’t fare much better (sorry, Jan), with 2,634 check-ins at the Convention Center — about 15 percent of total attendees.

And Twitter? Well, using Wunderman’s Listening Platform to sift through the retweets and mentions from nonattendees, we estimated that just over 5,000 unique individuals were actively tweeting from the event. Not bad at about one in four attendees, but definitely falls quite shy of “everybody.”

What’s the takeaway?

Even among the early adopters, usage of geosocial clearly hasn’t yet caught up to the hype.

But the real story that’s still writing itself is how eerily similar all of these services have become. Let’s see: You can post tweets simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter. Gowalla lets you tag your check-ins with comments and photos, not unlike Twitpic. Twitter is now rolling out geo-tracking, bearing an uncanny resemblance to foursquare and Gowalla. And there are rumors that Facebook is getting into the game by integrating with Gowalla and foursquare.

Who’s going to win?

My money is on Facebook as this year’s gorilla in geosocial. Its user base dwarfs that of every other social networking service. In fact, it’s recently eclipsed Google as the most visited site on the web. It already serves as the default cc: for many who are broadcasting Twitter updates, check-ins and mobile photo uploads via other services. A partnership with Gowalla and foursquare will place Facebook squarely in the sweet spot of geo-based social networking — without the fuss of building its own technology.

If you haven’t done so already, take a closer look at geosocial marketing. Once Facebook gets into the mix, it’ll explode. Guaranteed. Anywhere your company has a physical presence — retail locations, local events, industry conferences, etc. — is a great place to test the waters.

Recently my company tested foursquare and Twitter for a consumer product client’s local events. It’s been consistently seeing participation rates of around 10 percent or higher. Certainly not “everybody,” but definitely a respectable showing for a mass-market play.

Time to get on it. Perhaps you can be the one to say, “We knew about geosocial when … ”