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Tony Uphoff

CEO / Business.com

Tony's Insights

  • 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:

  1. The Audience Customer who comes to Business.com looking to acquire knowledge, products and services to run their small to medium business
  2. 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:

  1. Make sure we’re providing an ever better experience for that audience member, so that we become a daily habit for their content consumption.
  2. 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.

Tony Uphoff Profile

Tony Uphoff, is CEO of Business.com. Over 30 Million small-to-medium business leaders rely on Business.com to acquire the knowledge, products and services they need to run and grow their businesses. Prior to Business.com, Uphoff served as CEO of UBM TechWeb where he led the transformation of a declining print-centric business into a fast-growing digital media, live event and marketing services powerhouse. He was President of VNU Media’s Entertainment Group and Publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, leading the group through a rapid expansion via digital media and live events. Uphoff was the founding CEO of Beliefnet, which was sold to News Corp in 2007. He also served as Publisher of InformationWeek in the mid-90’s, growing the brand into the largest in the history of B2B media. Uphoff served in several key management positions at Ziff-Davis during the company’s rapid growth in the early 1990’s. Uphoff has been named “Folio Forty C-Level Visionary” by Folio Magazine, “Top Media Innovator” by Mins B2B and is regularly named in the Top 100 business media execs by B2B Magazine. Uphoff is acknowledged as an industry expert on media, marketing and technology and is a regular speaker at industry conferences and leading business schools. Uphoff serves on the boards of NTN Buzztime, the HIMSS Media Group and as a Trustee of Linfield College. He also serves as a Business Mentor at Mucker Labs Accelerator and on the advisory boards of the data company Connotate and the cloud-based radio ad platform company Jelli. Uphoff regularly blogs on Media, Marketing and Technology trends on his blog Uphoff On Media.