Archive for the ‘Marketing Strategy’ Category
HubSpot last week released its 2013 State of Inbound Marketing report, this year weighing in at a massive 175 pages. But as always, the report is crammed with useful facts, interesting stats, and vital tips, tools and techniques for inbound marketing success.
Given the report’s heft, no blog post (of any reasonable length) could it justice as a summary, but here are a sampling of the highlights. To get the full story, download the HubSpot report here.
Inbound marketing (a subset of though not to be confused with web presence optimization) is big, and growing.
- • 60% of companies will execute some form of inbound marketing strategies in 2013 (and that’s likely understated; another 19% of marketers weren’t sure if certain tactics they use qualify as “inbound”).
- • Companies spend, on average, about a third of overall marketing budgets on inbound tactics.
- • For the third straight year, nearly half of marketers plan to increase spending on inbound marketing activities in the coming 12 months.
And it works:
- • According to the report, “inbound delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound leads.”
- • 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing.
- • Inbound marketers double the average site conversion rate of non-inbound marketers, from 6% to 12% total.
Inbound marketing teams tend to be small—but realize the need to grow in order to scale.
- • Even at the enterprise level, 31% of marketing teams contain five or fewer full-time employees.
- • While marketing teams will begin 2013 with an average five or fewer people, most will at least double by the end of the year.
- • Inbound marketers plan to hire an average of 9.3 people this year, which is 125% more growth than teams not executing inbound marketing.
The report is careful in how it defines “inbound marketing,” noting that “Inbound marketing is not a channel or a technology, it’s a strategy” (much like web presence optimization, or WPO) and further stating that:
“While it’s easy to explain why direct mail and PPC banner ads are ‘outbound,’ it is more complicated to define more flexible online strategies as purely inbound versus outbound. At HubSpot, we see the distinguishing factor as how people are using a specific channel more than the definition of the channel itself.”
This further distinguishes WPO from inbound marketing, as tactics like media relations, SEM and banner ads are elements of the WPO framework (because they are key elements of overall online brand visibility) but would not be considered part of inbound marketing.
But the report also notes that despite its widespread and increasing adoption, “Executives and sales functions not quite buying in to inbound marketing…only 17% of sales teams and 11% of company executives lend their full support to inbound marketing efforts.” If inbound marketing truly is a “customer-centric” approach to the market as the report also contends, one would expect these numbers to increase in coming years. To encourage this shift, marketers will need to be able to tie their efforts to strategic business objectives (like market share and brand loyalty) beyond just lead generation.
There more—much more—in the report, covering topics ranging from ROI, metrics, and testing, to inbound marketing tools and tactics. The new HubSpot report is must-reading for anyone who needs to justify market-driven digital strategies, understand what competitors and peers are doing, and gain insights on how to generate more leads, of higher quality, at least cost than with traditional interruptive marketing methods.
Today’s explosion of media channels has made it simultaneously more challenging yet more vital for companies to present unified messaging and branding to their markets. Businesses need to break down the silos both within their marketing and public relations (PR) teams but also more broadly between other departments, including product development and customer support.
Becoming a social business means change, which is never easy. But in Marketing in the Round: How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era (Que Biz-Tech), authors Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston provide a roadmap to developing strategy, planning tactics, determining and executing the best approach, and finally measuring and refining a unified marketing effort.
Much more than just another tactical marketing field guide, Marketing in the Round aims to provide comprehensive strategy guidance. As noted in the introduction,
“Every contemporary marketing book is dedicated to the topic of social media, whether it be Facebook, return on investment, content, or customer relations. This proliferation of literature acknowledges the changes social media brings to marketing. These books fail to realize the full scope of the marketer’s challenge, not with social media, but in becoming a modern organization that works across media and tactics to achieve its goals.”
That description (as much else in the book) sounds a lot like web presence optimization (WPO), the framework for which has been covered here previously. But whether one speaks about WPO or marketing in the round, the fundamental ideas are the same: online, everything is connected. Marketing, PR and communication efforts within the enterprise need to be connected as well.
Throughout, the authors use the term “marketing round” as useful shorthand to describe the group of professionals from marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), PR, social media, content development, design and online advertising whose efforts need to coordinated in order to optimize online results.
The book, valuable to anyone who’s in (or aspires to be in) a marketing or PR leadership role, is divided into three main sections:
- Understand the Marketing Round and Develop Your Strategy
- Four Marketing Round Approaches
- Measurement, Refinement, and Improvement
The authors share a series of essential insights throughout section one, including:
- • “Rarely is one media moment, positive or negative, strong enough to form a full impression. Before the Web…a person needed to see a message seven times before a purchase decision is made. Today a person needs to see a message upwards to 20 times. Some of those messages can, and should, be delivered by trusted sources, including friends and family, and online friends.”
- Of course, for many b2b purchases, or infrequent and high-value consumer purchases, friends and family may not be much help. That’s where other types of trusted sources, from journalists and analysts to peers, can be crucial online information sources. Regardless, a web presence strategy is vital to achieving those 20 message exposures necessary for a purchase decision.
- • “Imagine your organizational structure as a wheel instead of a typical hierarchy. Think of marketing as the hub. The spokes are made up of public relations, advertising, Web, email, social media, corporate communication, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, content, and direct mail. They circle simultaneously.”
- This reflects the observation, noted elsewhere and in other contexts (such as in service and product innovation), that old-school command-and-control management structures don’t work any longer. Information no longer flows from the top down, but rather in all directions between multiple team members and stakeholders. The job of management is no longer to run things as much as to coordinate efforts and remove roadblocks to collaboration.
- • “Integration is not the same message on every platform, but you’re using all communications disciplines appropriately, with the correct massages for each.” True, though given the importance of search, it’s usually advisable to use common keywords.
- • “Communicate every week on how it’s going and what’s working, what’s not working, what changes you’d like to make. Keep the vision top-of-mind, and make sure it’s being communicated at every meeting, even if it’s in a small way.” This is where having a unified metrics dashboard can help coordinate efforts across marketing, PR, social media, search and online advertising specialists.
- • “(Metrics should also) include brand awareness, Web site traffic, and thought leadership, but be sure that all of those goals are combined with real, hard numbers, such as leads, conversions, sales, and profit—not just soft feel-good measurements, such as impressions, clicks, sentiment, likes, follows, fan, or plusses. In the end, your marketing round’s success will be determined by its ability to successfully impact business, not garnet attention.”
- Well…yes, but don’t ignore those other measures. While its true that maximizing online visibility isn’t the ultimate business goal (which is to earn a profit) in and of itself, that visibility is the vital first step. Without pursuing those “impressions, clicks, sentiment” and other soft measures, it’s unlikely that the “hard” goals of the business will be fully realized.
- • “In order to break down the silos, develop trust, and gain immediate buy-in, the marketing round should work on this task together. It’s not for you to develop in your silo and then impose upon the first meeting. It may take more than a few meetings to get it right, but it will be worth the time and energy spent later. Soon, you’ll be on your way to marketing in the round.”
- This is why a common, unified set of metrics that tracks all inbound online channels (press, social, industry, paid, and organic search) and content types (owned, earned and paid) is vital; it’s what gets everyone on the same page and keeps them moving forward in a coordinated manner.
There’s no question the authors know their stuff. Pages 25-39 of the book provide an outstanding examination of the pros and cons of nearly all possible media tactics, from TV, radio and print though direct mail, outdoor advertising, event sponsorships, and all manner of online channels. This reference is almost worth the cost of the book itself.
The second section of the book is built upon marketing application of the military strategies detailed in the classic text The Book of Five Rings by 17th-century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi. It outlines the elements, tactics, potential benefits and risks of each of four market approaches: top-down, groundswell, direct and flanking. It also provides guidance on when to use each approach, based on the nature of the market and competition.
Among the most insightful passages in the middle section of the book is this on content marketing:
“As a team, take an hour or two and think about what content you can create that will be valuable to your stakeholders and also will be searchable. To generate topics, consider questions people ask during sales meetings, challenges your products or services have, pricing, and the ‘versus’ questions.
“The questions people ask during sales meetings are…the easiest to answer. Ask everyone to write down five questions they’re asked all the time. Even if they don’t go to sales meetings, everyone talks to customers…
“Creating content around challenges or issues is uncomfortable, but it’s that kind of content that people search for when they’re online. Do you want to confront the challenges head-on? Or would you rather your competitors handle that for you?”
The book’s final section addresses measurement and continual improvement. Chapter 10 in this section includes excellent examples of using calendars to sequence different tactics, for example the different types of PR and social media marketing activities utilized leading up to and then following up on a major trade show or industry event.
Although the book is excellent overall, one could raise a few minor quibbles with it:
The explanation of strength-weakness-opportunity-threat (SWOT) analysis in section one is presented a bit lightly; this is a critical exercise to get right, and getting it right requires a fairly significant research effort. The research can be outsourced, but not skipped.
In “Risks of the Direct Approach” in section two, the authors write of social media:
“The time investments—both manpower and long-term cultivation—are unattractive to businesses that need fast results. To succeed in social media, relationships need to be built within online communities. Often they have to spend months of community investment online to build enough relationship equity to start generating sales. And when the sales do come in, the value is negligible in comparison to the costs of the staff time and associated design costs.”
While technically accurate (perhaps, though with regard to that last sentence, mileage will certainly vary), the paragraph ignores the “asset value” of social media. Creating and sharing content, and building relationships, produces a long-term asset, the value of which compounds over time. Contrast that with an online advertisement, which has value only as long as it is active; as soon as the ad comes down, its value evaporates. Social media marketing is an asset; advertising is an expense.
“Search engine marketing (SEM) isn’t used very often, but it’s extremely effective.” Actually, SEM is used pretty often; in 2012, 64% of b2b companies and 73% of b2c brands used pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to drive leads.
From chapter 11: “You can’t skip to the end and start measuring before you know what you need to measure, and that’s why this topic is so far into this book. You need to build your marketing round, understand where the strengths of your team lie, really break down the silos (which is going to take some time), get your executives onboard, and discover which approaches and tactics you’re going to use before you can implement a measurement program.”
Uh…while specific metrics may be added, dropped or changed over time, it’s essential to begin efforts with a set of baseline measures to provide both a starting point and measure of progress as your strategy and tactics roll out. At a minimum, these should include presence metrics (e.g., number of backlinks to your website, keyword rank); competitive metrics (e.g., number of industry press mentions last month for your company and its top competitors); and performance metrics (e.g., web conversions by originating traffic source).
Still, these are at worst minor flaws. Overall, Marketing in the Round is a vital guide to coordinating not just marketing and PR but social efforts across the enterprise, to optimize business results in today’s Web-centric environment. It ranks among perhaps a handful of this year’s must-read business books.
January is a great time to take a step back from day-to-day tactics and ask the Big Questions; or in cliché form, to look at the forest rather than the trees.
Who are (really) your best customers? Why do they (really) buy from you? How has the way buyers in your market make procurement decisions changed? How can your organization utilize social networking principals and tools to improve operations across departments? What is the secret to success (really!)?
Find the answers to those Big Questions and more here in nine expert marketing strategy guides from the past year.
Why Social Is So Disruptive to Traditional Marketing by Social Media Today
In the spring of 2009, the notion that digital would account for the majority of marketing budgets within just a few years seemed like a laughable proposition. Traditional media still accounted for more than 90% of spending at that point. Yet just 30 months later, IDG reported that the shift was official, and digital would account for more than 50% of marketing spending in 2012.
Judy Shapiro points out this rapid shift and explains what fundamental changes in marketing practices she believes are required for success in this new realm, writing that “It’s clear we can’t simply apply new social technology to the old marketing mix and expect it to work anymore than we can apply wings to a car and expect it to fly.”
Brad Smith contends that marketers should ignore best practices, competitors, popular platforms and the like, and instead find and capitalize on untapped and underutilized tactics and opportunities. He then lays out a 5-step formula for “arbitrage marketing” to help identify and implement such tactics.
7 Burning Questions for B2B Marketers in 2012 by iMediaConnection
Writing that “good questions help you to focus and to get to the heart of what matters most,” Tony Zambito presents seven key questions marketers need to ask in order to hold onto and attract new customers, among them “How Do We Create A Better Buying Experience? With distinctive differences between products and services narrowing substantially, experience-centered marketing and relationships will be the coveted playing field to win on. When was the last time your organization reviewed processes, systems, departments, and the likes to determine whether they added value to the buying experience?”
Stop Talking About Social and Do It by Nilofer Merchant
Nilofer Merchant explains how social media has affected all areas of the enterprise, not only marketing and PR but also product development, supply chain management, finance, sales, service, and HR (“‘Human Resources’ have changed when most of the people who create value for your organization are neither hired nor paid by you”). She presents a quick visual model of social business along with three three thought-provoking exercises to help corporate leaders think strategically about this transition.
5 Ways New Buyer Behaviors Are Impacting B2B Sales by iMedia Connection
Tony Zambito (again) argues that, contrary to the “buyers are in control and don’t need sales” mantra, b2b sales professionals are still quite essential. However, buyers’ expectations are changing and therefore the way sales people do their jobs needs to change as well, for example: “Buyers already know about your ready-made solutions found in their researching. What they seek is skills and knowledge in advising them on how solutions—modified, customized, and most definitely altered—will help them to achieve the specific goals and outcomes they seek.”
Shawn Achor demonstrates how happiness not only correlates with positive life and business outcomes (which one might expect), but can actually produce such outcomes. Writing that “A decade of research in the business world proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%,” he also provides a practical series of steps anyone can use to retrain their brain to be happier–and quite possibly more successful as well.
Who is Your Ideal Client? Do you know? by Bourn Creative
Any effective marketing message or content development program starts with the target audience in mind. A common exercise is creating personas, or conceptual representations of an ideal sales prospect, reader, subscriber, repeat customer, etc. But such personas often aren’t created effectively or completely; Jennifer Bourn here explains how to do it right, and how doing it right leads to higher growth, easier sales cycles, and higher profitability.
Why Media Buyers Are Switching to a Smarter Planning Framework by iMedia Connection
Contending that “P.O.E.M., or Paid (vs) Owned (vs) Earned Media, is a strategy framework that buyers and planners use to segment campaigns and channels…but (today), thinking in terms of Paid / Owned / Earned will break the back of your media team and send money leaking out of your strategy,” John Manoogian presents an alternative model he calls “M.A.S.S.” media, for channels that are Measurable, Authentic, Scalable and Social.
6 Steps to Inbound Marketing Success [Infographic] by B2B Marketing Insider
Michael Brenner presents a six-step guide for inbound marketing, starting with strategy creation and the recognition that content marketing is an investment, not an expense and progressing through generating “more (website) traffic through effective blogging, social media, SEO and paid search, effectively converting that traffic into leads, and perhaps most important, measuring everything to support continuous improvement.
Guest post by Megan Totka.
Small businesses account for a huge chunk of business revenue produced in our country. In fact, there are nearly seven million small businesses in America. This includes everything from high-tech startups to mom-and-pop shops in your local town to freelance work done in your neighbor’s basement. As the drivers of employment growth, all of these businesses are vital.
Completing a business to business transaction for a large corporation is no big deal. Big businesses market their strengths easily. In general, they have large marketing budgets, internal expertise, and the ability to hire top-notch outside b2b marketing talent. What about small businesses though—can they have the same success? Can they complete both small-business-to-big-business marketing and small-business-to-small-business marketing?
Who are you marketing to?
Business to business (B2B) marketing to a small business can be much like business to consumer (B2C) marketing. When determining the method of marketing your business will be using, first look at who you are marketing to. If marketing to a larger business, the focus must be on addressing the concerns and meeting the information needs of the entire buying team rather than just the product or service itself. Larger businesses also have longer purchasing lead times. There is a chain of command in place with a large business. The original person involved in noticing your marketing will often not be the one deciding if your business is chosen to work with. Every buying team member will have a new set of questions. If you have not already predicted and answered these questions, the business will likely be lost.
Often, small businesses will have better success marketing to other small businesses, as big companies prefer to buy from other big companies, particularly in established product categories. (For new-to-the-world, highly innovative products, small / startup firms are frequently the only options.) With time and experience, small firms can grow their businesses, product offerings and support capabilities to appeal more to larger companies.
When marketing to small businesses, emotional appeals can be mixed with product details. Marketing messages will be usually be seen directly by the small business owner or someone closely in contact with him or her. Since this then becomes more of an individual decision, your marketing can play on impulse. Much like a typical consumer, for low-involvement, low-cost purchases, a small business owner may make quick decisions without needing the extra information. He or she will only be looking at a few factors rather than the whole picture. Stories can be used to incorporate emotional appeals in a non-manipulative way.
What are you good at?
With a business in place to do or provide just about every product or service imaginable, the business world is extremely competitive. It’s important for your business to know and understand where its place is for marketing to other businesses. By aiming for sales from other business either too big or too small, or otherwise mis-targeted, the business will fail. Aiming too big will lead to few sales and your business will drown from a lack of revenue, forcing you to find and take out more loans to keep your business alive. Aiming too small may keep the lights on but your business will struggle to grow.
What about when you are the buyer?
Finally, selling to other businesses is one thing, but what about when you need to buy from another business? As a small business, know when you should buy like a big business. No, this does not mean spend the kind of money a large business would spend. This means to avoid impulses when purchasing strategic goods and services. When such an item is marketed to you, get the details. Take your time. Recognize your emotions in the decision but use logic.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com connects local businesses to their local Chamber of Commerce. Megan also writes business news.
Guest post by Megan Totka.
When it comes to marketing, which is easier, business to business marketing or business to consumer marketing?
Both concepts are pretty self-explanatory. Business to business (B2B) is the marketing exchange between two businesses. Business to consumer (B2C) is the marketing from a business directed at consumers. So how are each used? And if you happen to sell to both groups, should you focus more on one than the other? Let’s look at an analysis.
When deciding who to focus your marketing efforts on, you’ll need to consider the lead time required between when your customer sees your marketing and when they will actually make a purchase. The lead time in B2C marketing is generally very small. The consumer is more likely to make an impulse purchase based on marketing. In B2B marketing, however, there is a chain of command required. An employee of the business sees the marketing, is intrigued by it and mentions it to his superior and so on until the person who is able to make the decision regarding the purchase finally gets the information.
Before launching a marketing campaign, you must focus on your audience, of course. B2C marketing can be much vaguer, sometimes with just a word or slogan and a captivating image. B2B marketing though will need to provide the answers to any questions that arise during the chain of command. In this case you are not just selling to an individual’s wants but instead you have to sell detailed enough information so your audience can continue to sell up the chain but still without overwhelming that first reader. You can’t use one marketing campaign for both consumer and business clients.
Aside from lead time, the direction of the marketing will differ. Business marketing will be driven by the relationship where as consumer marketing will be driven by the product. Although it’s somewhat of a simplification of reality, businesses tend to rely on rational decisions and consumers typically rely on emotional attachment.
Each product you offer will determine who you need to sell to. Some products will be marketable to both businesses and consumers. In this case, the decision should be based on your expected return on investment. Market to the client you’ll make the most money out of. Compare the costs of your marketing to the revenue you can bring in.
Both marketing types have a time and place and will benefit your business. You simply need to know when to use each one.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan also specializes in writing articles about common-sense business best practices, from finding business loans to hiring accounting firms.