- Customers should dictate the content you develop and publish, not the other way around. Connect with customers to get the data needed to refine the types of content delivered at all points of the buying journey.
- Listen closely to what customers tell you are the types of content they want and respond accordingly. For Schneider Electric their education content proved to best serve and engage customers. Let engagement metrics demonstrate which content best serves each particular audience segment.
- Providing a variety of content, draw customers in with bite-size content to get their attention and introduce yourself as a trusted resource for their more in-depth research and evaluation.
- In its most basic definition, ABM is a strategic approach that aligns resources against a set of defined, targeted accounts. Regardless of the goal or approach, the focus must be on bringing relevance based on specific insights within those targeted accounts.
- There are different models for account-based marketing: large strategic accounts where a one-to-one approach is typically utilized; named accounts as well as industry/segment accounts where a one-to-few/one-to-many approach provides scale based on matching of similar challenges and opportunities and lastly customer lifecycle, which focuses exclusively on existing customer that receive differentiated outreach for ongoing usage and relationship nurturing.
- While ABM can help produce significant benefits, you can’t just ‘flip the switch’ and begin doing ABM. Successful ABM requires: commitment to customer insights, readiness to engage different customers uniquely, willingness to take a different approach to content development, pledge to interlock sales and marketing and a willingness and ability to measure results different.
- Most people aren’t paying enough attention to the depth of analysis of their personas, and in leveraging them as the integrated foundation for their entire marketing communication program.
- The analogy of product requirements for R&D is personas for Marketing. Those marketing organizations willing to invest heavily and put hard work into identifying their buying centers and defining their buyer personas are the ones that win.
- Anyone can create a basic, demographic-based persona – you know, the kind you build by creeping LinkedIn profiles – but very few are willing to invest the time and resources to build deeply insightful buyer personas. When you make an investment, you will know more about your buyer than your competitors do, maybe more than anyone does.
- The next big area is demand type, and how everything changes depending on what demand type you’re dealing with. The way you use personas, the way you target, the way you communicate, how you decide when a lead is ready for sales.
- The goal of the customer relationship, especially from the social media perspective, is to build a relationship through listening, promotion, thought leadership (NOT advertising), and customer support. In doing all of these things, you build loyalty from your customers.
- Everything we do is based off of the data we collect and analyze from each campaign, paying special attention to social listening, where it is happening, etc.
- Create a customized, digital, journey that is going to take your customer to the point of sale before any interaction with an actual sales representative. The sales representative’s role is to finalize the journey.
- It’s not only more important to build customer relationships than it’s ever been, but it’s also more complicated than it’s ever been. There are so many choices. And the market is so fragmented, so verticalized, the platforms have so many different systems, so many options and opportunities. And, in this digitally-centric world customers have access to so much information by the time they engage with you they’ve formed a pretty definitive point of view.
- Regardless of your business model, if you’re in B2B today, you’re in the e-commerce business. When we talk about the idea that “marketing is connected to revenue” – that’s not just a slogan. Whatever your distribution model is, you need to market as if you’re in e-commerce, because the customer expects it.
- We need new terminology on the marketing funnel. The idea of it as a a linear journey with a beginning and end no longer works. I believe it’s more of a continuum with related purchases and in some cases, even going backward.
- I try to spend 30% of my time getting in front of customers with the sales team.. first I like to think it helps the business, but I know it makes me smarter and I learn things that I would not learn from just looking at data.
“Why have customer relationships become so important to B2B marketers?”
I would underscore it’s not only more important to build customer relationship than it’s ever been, I would argue it’s also a bit more complicated than it’s ever been, too. There are so many choices. And the market is so fragmented, so verticalized, the platforms have so many different systems, so many options and opportunities – it’s almost overwhelming to the customer. Also, we’re coming through a phase where a lot of companies think of customer management almost by providing deal terms. Deal terms are a subset of creating a customer relationship but they are not a customer relationship in and of itself.
The other big challenge facing many of us in this digitally-centric world is that customers today have access to so much more information than any individual sale rep has. They can go on LinkedIn networks, your web site, peer groups, etc. so by the time they engage with you they’ve formed not just an opinion, but likely a pretty definitive point of view. Stats are showing 60% and upwards of the decision making process is done before engaging.
How have you seen the buying journey evolve, in terms of what’s actually happening with these organizations. How are they interacting, how are they collaborating, how are they making decisions to buy (let’s say enterprise software), and what does it mean to marketers?
It’s always been a collaborative process, but we now have more data and it’s always complex. We now have more understanding through companies like Sirius Decisions, but also a tremendous amount of web data and digital data through digital advertising providers, analyst companies, agencies.
We always knew it was a collaborative purchase process. And stats showing upwards of 23 influencers involved in average enterprise software purchase.
It’s difficult to wrap your head around that. You hope you’re targeting a company hitting them with sales resources and doing a marketing programs, but are you reaching 20-25 individuals? Understanding the individual buying personas, what motivates them. CFO, CEO, CRO – classic Strategic Selling. What we’re talking about is applying Strategic Selling methodologies to Marketing. How do you figure that out, the classic scenario of the user buyer vs financial buyer. Not a new concept, but now how do we think from a marketing point of view.The access to information that buyers have today is truly remarkable. Today, the buyer may know more than any individual sales professional.
How does leveraging the insights from the data we connect support, building relationships w customers at scale. What are you doing, what to do you WANT to be doing. What does the roadmap look like to connect with your customer in a more intimate way by leveraging data?
At Business.com we serve two customers:
- The Audience Customer who comes to Business.com looking to acquire knowledge, products and services to run their small to medium business
- and the Solution Provider Advertiser who wants to contextually engage with prospective customers via performance marketing products and services.
We think the best way for us to serve the advertiser is to know more about the audience buyers. and the best information we can provide – we’re tracking with a proprietary system at not just the individual level but at the company level and then we can rinse and repeat. For example, Kelly from ABC Company comes on the site – we can see where Kelly comes in, how often, what you look at what you download, if you fill out a lead form.
We use this data to understand two things:
- Make sure we’re providing an ever better experience for that audience member, so that we become a daily habit for their content consumption.
- Share those insights with the marketer. We know marketers are awash in data – there’s too much data . They are increasingly turning to us for performance marketing made easy.
We take our audience insights and turn them into buying personas. So people can understand the different types of buyers and what that table looks like at companies where there are multiple influencers. We’ve launched a Monthly Pulse piece where we take buying trends and data that we’re seeing and share it with the advertiser and the marketer. What we’re seeing is our customers have plenty of data, they’re trying to see what the pattern is, what’s scaleable.
Last question: If sitting down with a marketing leader in any organization large and small what should they be thinking of in the next 4-5 months?
First, I’ve been advising companies to get back to customer councils – put together groups to sample digitally but also get on a call or get together in real lift. Treat this like a marketing advisory council. When I meet sales reps or marketers I always ask, “How much time do you spend in front of customers who actually spend money with your company?” It’s a leading question, because I know it’s the smallest percentage of their time.
Second, Get serious about content marketing – really understand it. Content Marketing is not easy to do well. I recommend you surround yourself with people who really know what they’re doing. And you don’t dabble, you have to take it seriously, and have it aligned with your sales efforts. There’s nothing worse than if you read my content marketing but then you engage with Sales and it’s asynchronous. That’s where companies break down, when the sales manifestation isn’t in line with the content marketing.
Any other advice for our digital marketers out there in the B2B world?
Trade shows and conferences are still viable medium for engaging with your customers. They work because you get to be face to face and say to someone “Does the world look to you like it does to me?”
I try to spend 30% of my time getting in front of customers with the sales team.. first I like to think it helps the business, but I know it makes me smarter and I learn things that I would not learn from just looking at data.
- Customer buying journey has changed due to speed. Speed is the BIG change. Speed creates opportunity for the most dynamic organizations that can stay out in front of it.
- Marketers need to start thinking more about 1) search approach and how to keep up with the changes and understanding it from a customer’s perspective, 2) Marketers have to become digitally transaction capable and that has to be tightly integrated with your frontend of search, social process and backend support process, 3) mobile is key in two ways; most transactions and engagements will increasingly be from mobile devices and 4) Brand becomes increasingly important, having a clear representation of what your product, company or service stands for.
- Bottom line – Know what your brand stands for and amplify your brand, leverage mobile, and embrace the digital marketplace.
- At SAP, we are trying to move away from helping our sales people sell to helping our buyers buy. We are looking at conversion rate – not just the kind of content or assets we produced but things that are being used and kind of things that are getting used that are then driving conversion for our customers.
- It is up to us as marketers to get out and be on the forefront of educating early before we bring them into a sale conversation
- Buyers are expecting more from us early. Also, they are expecting value in each stage of the buying cycle.
- When developing a strategic roadmap, focus on delivering content that customer is actually going to read (have an editorial mindset) and deliver on the pace of change that customers are requiring fast enough.
- Have a Transformation agenda that includes here is where we want to be, here are the steps to get there, and here are the stages.
In the past B2B marketers would focus on the product. Now we are learning a better emphasis is centered on the customer. Today, the customer drives not only product requirements but also what the solutions look like, the way we engage with them. This is done via the customer personas and we know these are not one size fits all. Marketing and all functions of the company will center around the customer. The buyer’s journey, the way we design our go to market approach, and the way the marketing teams design strategy all focus on the customer’s needs.
At the the end of the day your customers aren’t really looking for a “product” they are looking to solve a problem, or address an opportunity. So, if you start with that mindset, “What are they trying to solve?” you can get on a more strategic level with the customer, Rather than being a product provider. It’s similar to Marketers looking at Agencies. You’re looking to someone who can help you be more strategic. And the customer is looking for you to do the same – take them to a better place, with a different approach, a different mindset.
The shift that IT has to make is the move from systems of record, or the back office, to systems of engagement, the front office. Moving forward from there, data will be readily available in a consumable format with dashboard view of not only the business but also the customer.
What is coming up in the next two to five years? We’re talking about employee engagement, customer engagement, and sales enablement – that is key. Then there is the concept of the marketing technologist, using IT as an asset to provide more accurate information on customer needs. It’s not a traditional place for marketers to play. It’s much more process-driven much more architecture, and it’s an evolution of marketing the duality of creative and technology. Five to ten years from now, I’m not sure the CMO, the agency landscape, and the way marketers are minted out of MBA schools will be the same.
The importance of making an exceptional first impression with the customer:
- The marketing pendulum has swung from staying ahead of the competition to staying on top of customers’ needs and building relationships.
- It’s incredibly important to create that great first impression then build on it. After you have that solid foundation, when problems do arise it’s much easier to address them and you have that transparency because the relationship has already been forged.
What makes a good first impression?
- Make the effort to ‘over service’ from the beginning. Starting out with superior service, a customer experience manager who makes sure the customer needs are met outside of technical help. (Demandbase is an example of a technology provider who does this well.)
- Do not wait to bring out the superior service, the white glove treatment. If problems do arise feline it’s much easier to address them and have transparency because the relationship has already been forged. If this isn’t done, it makes your customers question “Why haven’t I been receiving this level of service all along?” It’s potentially one of the reasons I’m leaving! It seems simple, but many organizations are not yet set up this way.
Marketers today have to be data-centric, technically proficient and also creative:
- What we do as marketers today has transformed into something that’s much more sophisticated. We need to understand the customers’ goals, meet them at the right point, at the right time, with the right message is extremely valuable – but also very difficult to do.
- We have to be data-centric, technically proficient and also creative. All of these must work together to make sure we’re hitting the right people at the right time with the right message in the right way. And on the right network. So, the data provides us insights on the buying signals of our customers. Being technically proficient allows us to work with marketing automation tools, CRM systems, and social networks and connect the dots. The creative piece is how we use all these tools in our arsenal to reach the right customer with the right message at the right time.
What metrics are you looking at to inform success or failure from program or campaign?
- Attract – Inbound referrals from social networks, organic traffic, and also how people are being attracted to third party networks for our content (like TechTarget). We need to answer the question, How are people are finding us?
- Engage – We want to see what pieces of content are engaging and leading to conversions. When you couple this with the organic piece of how people are finding us, you gain an understanding of which content should be promoted more to get it in front of more eyeballs. And then by the way we segment, we can pivot this by the stage of the buyers journey that the piece of the content is targeted to. So we can see how it’s working, and if it is moving people from one stage to the next.
- Conversion: Our conversion metrics, since we’re B2B, are around driving marketing qualified leads and how our MQLs are converting to closed deals. So we follow a Sirius Decisions model of tracking leads to closed revenue. We monitor and improve on this religiously through perpetual optimization programs.
To get more complete data, extend the reach of your content beyond your own walls:
- In your own marketing and CRM systems you have a very limited view. You typically only know the individual who raised their hand. But the buying process is not taking place in one spot. There are other people out there who have not yet identified themselves to you directly. We need to reach out beyond our own digital walls to other content distribution networks, who can provide data to help fill in more information on account activity. One example of this is TechTarget.
- With this aggregated data, we can then weave together a more holistic view of an account. There are multiple people going through the buying process with different roles and it’s important to make sure you understand their needs and are able to reach each of them.
Optimize the connections between your centers of excellence:
- In a large enterprise, you might have many centers of excellence: social, search, optimization, digital marketing, content, and inbound marketing. And they mostly work well, independently. Where the focus needs to be, is on optimizing the connections between our centers of excellence.
- We need to reach a point where search informs social, and social informs search, both inform optimization and nurturing, and help with customer focus and customer programs. We all talk about it but I’d challenge how much this is actually happening. Everyone does a great job in the individual centers of excellence, but optimizing the digital connections between each group is critical for success.
What’s on the Roadmap for 2014:
- Responsive Design: We don’t get to decide what device our customers use, they do – this is true for all forms of content. There is no point in creating content if it’s not going to provide a great user experience when it is consumed. So improve the customer relationship and user experience, start here.
- Optimization should scale broadly: At Iron Mountain (and most B2B organizations) we put a LOT of emphasis on optimizing for prospects and customers pre-sale through landing pages, etc. In 2014 we should all try to broaden this to a larger testing pool incorporating all touch points in the customer lifecycle. Customer support touch points, the customer on-boarding process. Optimization should scale broadly across the organization to give the best customer experience and thereby improve our success.
- In order to have loyalty you need to engage your customers and to engage your customers you need to be relevant and develop relationships. You can develop relationships using online channels IF you have the insights to understand how to connect through those channels and how to be reverent with content.
- Big opportunity today with unstructured data is to capture sentiment and do social listening to capture the voice of the customer around social media.
- Listening is your compass or guidepost that tells you where to go and what your customer’s concerns.
- Earn your way into the conversations and have an ongoing dialogue on customer’s terms that help figure out how to keep them engaged and deepen your relationships with them.