Author Archives: greg labarre

Eduardo’s Insights:

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.

Tom’s Insights:

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.

Sandra’s Insights

  • 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.

Russ’ Insights:

Building customer relationships has always been important, but now technology has enabled us to be more connected. Plus, it has become more of an expectation than in the past to have a great relationship with your customer just to keep up and stay competitive. The best marketers start building great customer relationships while their customers are still prospects. The marketing technology stack can help marketers get the right message to the right people at the right time by harnessing and integrating the data held in marketing automation software, CRM systems, data management platforms, and other systems in the marketing stack.

Customers that are most valuable are the ones that are advocating for your product. If you don’t have those successful customers out there talking about the success of your service, you won’t grow your business. Email, social media, and other digital formats have given customers a megaphone to either advocate for – or denigrate – your business. You have to be able to harness to the voice of your advocates. And you have to be able to address the concerns of your detractors and satisfy them.

Data is critical and will become even more critical in the future to enable marketers to understand their customers. Data will give them insight into who their customers are, what they care about and potentially even more importantly who their best customers are. Data will enable marketers to target messages to prospects and customers wherever they go online. And data will also enable marketers to understand which of their programs are working and which are not, so they can invest more in what’s working and stop doing what’s not.

B2B buying decisions are much riskier than B2C – mistakes in a purchase for an individual can be career limiting. That’s why B2B marketing is so complex and challenging. You’re not trying to convince somebody to spend $1 on a Coke. Someone’s job is on the line when they’re buying your B2B product. The best B2B marketers know this and understand the value of a strong brand message at the top of the funnel and consistent reinforcement of relevant reference clients and their success stories.

The buyer’s journey has changed. Forrester Research found that as much as 90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before he or she reaches out to a salesperson. That means that marketing – via email, search, display, and host of other tools – is responsible for communicating with that potential customer before the salesperson even has a crack at them. Marketing is significantly more important than it ever was in the past and more than any other department, is becoming responsible for the customer relationship.

Being multi-threaded is an opportunity in the buyer’s journey – have multiple relationships with the prospect company. The best and most forward-thinking B2B marketers make sure their message is reaching the entire team of potential buyers at every point in the marketing funnel – even when that buying team is not currently in the market for your product. That’s because you need them to know your name when they are getting ready to buy.

Matt’s Insights:

  • What you are seeing today is customers will interact with your brand in one-way or another. They will come in multiple ways; your website, through google search, interact with your call centers through the phone or by live chat, interact with you through social media, etc. As a brand, it is to have the customer experience be authentic and consistent across all interactions.
  • The skill makeup of a marketing function – you continue to need the creative minds of the organization (big band thinking) married with the science of marketing of analysis and analytical thinking.
  • Move from a data discussion to insight discussion. Then from an insight discussion to what type of actions can we take that drive real impact, business results.
  • The company buying journey – The notion of the marketing funnel which was introduced 1880’s is old.  What we are seeing today from a marketing and buying behavior perspective we do not interact particular in the digital space in a linear fashion. We go up, we go down, we go backward, we go forward.  What is required is to understand every person, every decision-maker as an individual. It’s moving from brand activation to customer activation first. What is the mindset of those individuals as they move through the journey and market to that as opposed to what we want them to know about us.
  • Your marketing needs to be much more precise and move to a one-to-one and not to a segment or to a company.
  • The rate and pace of what is expected for B2B Marketers is only going to increase so unless you embrace digital interactions your competition will.

Liz’s Insights:

  • Customers are king. They are at the center of every single one of our processes. We have shifted from a product base economy into a content base economy because customers are looking for richer experiences similarly what they are looking for in the B2C marketplace.
  • The reality is we are moving in this age of intelligence. So we are beginning to realize key points of data where we can turn into intelligence. A shift we are starting to see is the relationship from the CMO and the CIO bond together.
  • Important in the year to come is how is our customer engaging with our content online? Do they value what we are putting out there? Do they value other pieces of content out there?
  • Brands need to do a content assessment; understand what content is performing, how people are engaging, where people are engaging. Chances are more people are valuing content that they are finding from 3rd party independent sources than they are from your website.
  • If you are not thinking about content and how that tracks to the buying journey. If you don’t understand how those two things interconnect you probably are not going to be around in 24 months.

Chris’ Insights:

  • B2B Marketing priorities vary by company size (large enterprise = repeat business; SMB = lead gen; mid-market = both) and by industry (high-tech vs. manufacturing)
  • On average, 85% of visitors to a B2B company site have zero chance of doing business with that company. So, B2B Marketers should focus data analysis and program optimization on what their customers (including legitimate prospects) are doing, not what the total audience is doing.
  • On average, 90% of visitors from a given vertical (eg. healthcare) to a B2B company site do not find content on that site that is tailored to their vertical. So, B2B Marketers should customize the site experience to surface the right content for visitors.


Mike’s Insights:

  • Sales has undergone a dramatic transformation and this gives further urgency to the Marketing transformation
  • Increased pressure (from greater complexity and time-constraints) has shifted customer needs regarding ‘product knowledge’
  • Marketing needs a better metric for C-levels to better demonstrate its value.

1. Sales has undergone a dramatic transformation and this gives further urgency to the Marketing transformation. Specifically, there are fewer Salespeople who have to be more strategic and focus on a handful of large accounts to hit bigger quotas. Therefore, Sales is not attending to smaller orders or lower-priced products and Marketing must fill this gap.

2. Increased pressure (from greater complexity and time-constraints) has shifted customer needs regarding ‘product knowledge’. Specifically, customers no longer have the time to become technical experts on your products. Instead, they’re truly looking for solutions. They just want assurance that your solution is right for their needs and that it works but don’t want to talk about your product or how it works. Therefore, Marketing has to “build trust at scale” by surfacing assets such as case studies and the credentials of the people behind your products.

3. Marketing needs a better metric for C-levels to better demonstrate its value. Sales has orders, R&D has new product releases, Manufacturing Supply Chain Gross Margin has a clear metric.  However, Marketing is typically measured on metrics like visitors or leads that only represent a fraction of what Marketing is really contributing. For example, activities around Sales enablement and content marketing that happens early in the customer journey are lost.


Jeffrey’s Insights:

  • Customer relationship is the most critical item in the 1:1 connection between brand (the promise delivered) and the customer.   For marketer, it’s about the inception of the idea, all the way through the delivery of customer satisfaction.
  • What to look at to know you’re on track in terms of connecting with customers?  4 simple things.  Measure growth, ability to drive margin, ability to drive customer satisfaction, and brand value
  • Take Risk, Take Risk. The guys that are always the best at what they do are the ones that take the swings.

“Why have customer relationships become so important to B2B marketers?”

It’s always been about that 1 to 1 relation and that’s what marketers are supposed to do: make that 1 to 1 connection between the brand and the customer.  And what I mean by the brand is the promise delivered.  For marketer, it’s always about the inception of the idea, all the way through the delivery of customer satisfaction and that’s what we do as marketers, that’s the whole market framework as a good friend of mine likes to talk about..  So customer relationship is the most critical portion of that.  By having that great relationship and delivering, I want to pay more, I want to do more, I want to be associated

How do folks in the C Suite begin to navigate where and when in the customer relationship you give back vs. making sure you’re putting the right product in front of them?

So it’s always about making choices and that’s what leaders have to do. You need to balance the risk vs. reward and based on that try to figure out what that is, and that’s not a science, it’s a gut.  Now there are some sciences involved in it, in terms of ROI, predictability, you can get into all these different things that you can do: access to your data, customer behavior, etc.  But, by in large, it’s about making choices

In terms of measuring your connection with customers and building that relationship over the long haul, what do you look at as a former CMO to say we are on track, we are off track, and how do you begin to digest this from a quantitative perspective?

4 simple things, Measuring:  growth, ability to drive margin, ability to drive customer satisfaction, and brand value.

How do you measure brand value?

Overall, the things that I did contribute to the value of the company and you know that the company is rising (it’s worth more than it was the year before).  Whether you look at that from a dollars and cents position or look at it from where your brand ranks against others in your area, industry, or category, those are the things you’d have to figure out, and whatever those conditions of satisfaction are, they’re different in every business.

If you were giving advice to directors in Digital Marketing in B2B organizations, over the next 12-24 months what would you say should be on their strategic roadmap that is not?

I think they should be putting something aside that says we are going to take a lot of risk and try something that is going to be a little different than the way we have done things in the past, whether it’s a new campaign, a new idea; something that will create a little distance, a little risk within the company or in terms of risking with the brand.  As I say on stage, “no pain, no gain.”

In terms of the customer buying, how has that changed over the past year or so and as it relates to how marketers need to adjust their program.

I think with today’s digital world, we go through the same buying decision or buying cycles, but faster.  I think the internet is a big part of it, access to information, social media, etc.  A woman used to go to the store with her friends and try on a dress and come out “what do you think? What do you think?”  Now she goes to the store by herself and takes a picture of herself  and sends it to more than the 4 friends.  She sends it to 8 or 10 asking what do you think, and she gets the feedback.  So the intensity of that, you’re still doing the same exact thing, but it has increased or exponentially gotten bigger or better, depending on how you look at it.

Any other advice for our digital marketers out there in the B2B world?

You know I keep telling everyone, take risk take risk.  The guys that are always the best at what they do are the ones that take the swings.