Archive for the ‘Marketing Strategy’ Category
Marketing budget allocations should, of course, always be based on the unique a company’s unique situation: its specific needs, experiences, strengths, market position, market conditions and trends, etc.
That said, it can nevertheless be helpful to know how one’s competitors and peers in other industries are planning to split up their marketing dollars for the coming year. This knowledge can help marketing executives identify gaps and opportunities within their own plans, as well as providing “ammunition” for high-level budget battles.
So it’s helpful that MarketingSherpa recently asked a large number of marketers how they planned to change tactical allocations over the next 12 months.
Among the key findings:
Digital budgets are growing. While the trend is hardly shocking, it is striking how pronounced this shift is. All of the top seven growth areas for marketing dollars are digital, with more than half of all marketers planning budget increases in 2014 in five of these areas.
The top three areas for budget increases—and five of the top seven tactics—are focused on a company’s “owned” media.
Taking the top six categories as a group, the strategy being embraced by the majority of marketers in 2014 will primarily consist of:
- • Attracting relevant visitors to their websites using valued content.
- • Converting those visitors into leads by optimizing calls to action and other elements of landing pages.
- • Promoting content using a mixed of organic search, paid search, and social media tactics.
B2B vendor websites have come a long way since the days of serving as essentially online brochures. Given that 70% of the b2b purchasing cycle is complete before a vendor’s sales team is even aware of the opportunity, websites are now expected to accomplish much of the pre-sales heavy lifting.
One-to-one tactics are holding steady. More than half of all survey respondents plan no changes in spending levels for direct mail, trade shows and telemarketing in the coming year, with larger shares of the remaining respondents planning budget increases rather than decreases.
Each of these tactics enable one-to-one communication with sales prospects. Direct mail and telemarketing also permit careful targeting.
Old school marketing continues to decline. The two tactics for which the largest shares of marketers plan to cut budgets in the coming year are print and broadcast advertising. These channels share three characteristics:
- • The content is interruption-based rather than sought out.
- • They permit only general targeting.
- • Their results are difficult to measure.
Taken as a whole, this survey indicates that marketers will increase efforts on content marketing (online) and targeted one-to-one (online and offline) communications over traditional, mass-market media in the coming year. While every company’s situation is unique, few B2B vendors are likely to stray too far off this general path in 2014.
B2B marketing has traditionally been viewed (correctly) as much different from the promotion of consumer products. Buyers were different, sales cycles were different, messaging was different, and media was different. While there were some small areas of overlap, the disciplines were, for the most part, treated as distinct.
That may be changing. Driven by shifting customer expectations and demands, “B2B vendors clearly feel that they need to evolve to more closely resemble their B2C counterparts,” according to recent research reported on by MarketingCharts.
Much of the study focused on online commerce, where changes in b2b offerings indeed make sense. There’s no reason corporate purchasing professionals shouldn’t be able to buy office supplies, chairs, filing cabinets, commodity technology items and other frequently purchased, generally low value items online as easily as they’d buy a book, a pair of shoes or music in their personal lives.
The study suggested however that the emulation of B2C marketing practices by their B2B counterparts may go beyond ecommerce, however. So, are B2B marketers really adopting B2C practices? Yes and no. While creative B2B marketing professionals have always adopted certain consumer marketing practices to their needs, significant differences remain—and likely will for a long time.
4 Areas Where the Consumerization of B2B Marketing Applies…
Entertaining content. B2B content doesn’t have to be boring (at least not all of it). While certain types of information, such as technical product specifications, need to be delivered as straightforwardly and succinctly as possible, many types of B2B content could use a bit more life. Show off your brand’s personality. Don’t be afraid to use (appropriate) humor. Tell stories; inspire prospective buyers with tales of what your current customers have achieved.
Multimedia content, including video. While text (such as blog posts and white papers) will continue to play a significant role in B2B marketing, messages and concepts can often be delivered in a more compelling manner through infographics, online slide presentations, and video. B2B C-level executives are watching an increasing amount of online video, with 75% of executives telling Forbes they watch work-related videos on business websites at least once per week, according to statistics provided by b2b video expert Bob Leonard.
A focus on personal benefits. B2B buyers are people too. While it’s essential to provide information about product capabilities, benefits, and financial justification—traditional B2B content—it can also help to talk about the personal benefits of a B2B purchasing choice to a buyer, such as job security (being the safe choice), career enhancement (helping the buyer be a hero, get a raise or promotion), and work-life balance (make the buyer’s job easier, get home earlier in the evening).
Capitalizing on trade shows. Despite the growth in digital marketing channels, physical tradeshows and conferences remain one of the most effective lead generation tactics for B2B marketers. Of course, B2C marketers use such events as well, with car shows, boat shows, and home-and-garden shows being among the most popular. B2B marketers can increase the impact of tradeshow attendance by borrowing B2C event promotion tactics, such as selective use of outdoor and local radio advertising.
…And Four Areas Where B2B Marketing Remains Distinct
Roles trump demographics. While other factors have gained in importance over the years, demographic metrics remain a key focus in B2C marketing; consider the differences, not just in the products promoted, but in the style and tone of messages between the TV advertisements shown on, for example, 60 Minutes, and the NFL game that precedes it throughout autumn.
In B2B marketing, work roles play a far larger role than demographics. Information targeted to the CFO is different from technical product specifications designed for engineering, but each of those messages remain essentially the same regardless of the age, gender or ethnicity of the financial executive or technical decision maker.
Information trumps image. In many if not most cases, B2B products and services are more complex (and expensive) than consumer goods. B2B messaging is therefore of necessity more detailed and information based; buyers need larger quantities of information to determine how a purchase may impact current business practices, how it will integrate with existing systems, what impact it will have on staffing, and other considerations absent in consumer purchases.
Committees make decisions. The vast majority of consumer purchases are individual decisions. In complex B2B sales, group decisions are the norm. Rather than targeting an individual buyer, therefore, B2B marketers need to develop content for all of the people likely to be involved in the vendor selection process, frequently encompassing at a minimum a business buyer (how will this increase sales or reduce costs?), a financial buyer (cost, financing, ROI), and a technical buyer (specifications, compatibility with existing systems or platforms, integration points and requirements).
Services are a major component of sales. B2B sales often combine services with products, one factor increasing the cost and complexity noted above. Unlike consumer purchases, B2B product acquisitions often include services not just to implement but also optimize the use of those items. When buying applications like marketing automation, multi-channel marketing metrics, or customer relationship management (CRM), for example, the quality of the consulting services is every bit as important as the functionality of the software itself.
While the consumerization of B2B marketing is an interesting concept, it clearly has its limits. Or does it? What do you think?
According to recent research conducted by InsideSales.com and reported by MarketingProfs, websites, blogs and search are among the most effective tactics for both lead generation and brand awareness. But social media (including Twitter, Pinterest and Google+), display ads and online video are among the worst activities for achieving either objective.
While the findings are interesting and no doubt reflect the experience of many b2b marketers, it’s crucial not to misinterpret the results. Whether one agrees with conclusions of the research or not, it clearly has one important flaw: ignoring the connections between tactics.
Business buyers obtain information from multiple online and offline sources when making significant purchase decisions. A study from Siriius Decisions found that b2b buyers are typically 70% of the way through their purchase process before they contact a vendor’s sales team.
That makes it crucial for companies to be as visible as possible during that research phase, before they even aware of a prospect’s potential interest. And given that more than 90% of b2b buyers use online sources in their buying decisions, it’s vital to maximize web presence.
In order to create a framework to optimize web presence and online visibility, b2b marketers need to understand and capitalize on the connections between these different tactics. For example, just looking at four of the tactics in the “Established Value” quadrant:
Tradeshows and conferences: marketers can maximize their presence at these events by utilizing a button, badge or “ad” on the company website; direct mail; a blog post about the upcoming event; a notice in the company’s email newsletter; and through social media updates on Twitter and LinkedIn.
During the event, the company can use public relations tactics to meet with industry journalists and other influencers attending the show or conference.
And post-event, the company can keep buzz going by posting photos from the booth on Facebook and Pinterest, and if the show included a speaking opportunity, posting the presentation to SlideShare and possibly even video to YouTube.
Email or electronic newsletters: e-newsletters and marketing email messages serve two basic functions–to share information of value to recipients, and to persuade recipients to take action.
That information may be third-party links, but may also be hosted on the company’s website or blog. Newsletters themselves, new and archived, can be posted on the company website, where they provide search value. Both the email and web-hosted version of the newsletter should contain social links, encouraging readers to share the content on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or other social networks.
Newsletter calls to action can include registration for executive events, virtual events, or webinars—all of which appear in the “underused” quadrant in this chart. They can also promote content downloads—reports, white papers, e-books and guides. Website visitors are often more likely to register for an event or download a white paper if the landing page includes a short online video (which is, for this and other reasons, best not a “being abandoned” tactic).
Company websites: these are of course at the core of digital marketing. The ultimate goal of all online tactics (and many offline ones) is to attract visitors to your website to learn more about your products and services, and take some action (purchase, subscribe, register, download, contact sales, or some other conversion action).
The single leading source of traffic for most b2b websites remains organic search. Driving search traffic requires ranking well, which in turn depends on relevant content, high-quality links, and social signals.
The content is going to be housed on company website pages, in the newsletter archive, and in posts on the company blog. It can include images, infographics, rich media, and online video in addition to text.
Some of the highest quality links come from influential industry blogs or news websites, which are supported by an active public relations program. Quality links also come from event sponsorships and industry association websites.
Social signals are driven by links from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and even Pinterest. Indeed, recent research indicates that Google+, while not much of a social network, can be highly valuable in achieving the ranking that drives organic search traffic. “Abandon” such tactics at your own risk.
Website traffic can also be driven by offline tactics like radio, outdoor, and direct mail. Codes can be assigned (e.g., “Visit company.com/radio to learn more”)—or in the case of direct mail, QR codes can be used—in order to track the effectiveness of these channels.
Sponsorships/Associations: event sponsorships as well as membership in and content contributions to industry and trade association websites are key components of industry presence, which can both drive targeted website traffic and create relevant, high-quality backlinks to the company website and/or blog. Event sponsorship can also drive increased booth traffic at tradeshows.
Industry associations also often offer opportunities for guest blog posts (which can then be promoted through social networks), participation and exposure in groups on LinkedIn, and even in some cases online display advertising—which can drive site traffic or targeted calls to action.
The bottom line is that, while various online and offline tactics clearly differ in direct value and the amount of budget and effort they merit, it’s also vital to recognize and account for the connections between these tactics and how they support each other. This requires using cross-channel online marketing metrics to develop strategies, prioritize tactics, and execute effectively to support your organization’s ultimate online visibility and business goals.
Online marketing activities preovide marketers with a wealth of metrics; actually, too much information. The challenge in deciding which strategies to pursue, increase, modify, or drop, in most cases isn’t a lack of data but an over-abundance of it. Marketers just want the competitive and multichannel metrics they need to make informed decisions, nothing more.
But like any good thing, data simplification can be overdone. As Albert Einstein famously said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
Of course it’s true that, ultimately, any marketing tactic has to show business results (higher sales, lower costs, or some combination thereof). But to argue that marketing strategies and tactics can be properly evaluated solely on that basis is like saying pilots don’t need instruments; after all, at the end of the day, a pilot isn’t judged by altitude or airspeed, but simply by the result of safely landing at the flight’s destination.
Just as a pilot needs instruments to fly accurately and safely, marketers need a broad set of interim metrics to measure their overall web presence and activities. Simply because a specific metric doesn’t appear on a P&L statement or in an ROI calculation doesn’t make it unimportant.
Yet that’s what was argued recently in The 5 most worthless metrics in marketing in iMedia Connection. Now iMedia Connection is a widely respected marketing publication; its posts and stories are frequently spot-on and highly share-worthy, but this article misses the mark.
The post states that marketers shouldn’t “measure anything that you can’t find a direct line of sight back to your financial statements.” But that criteria would ignore many “interim” metrics that, while not directly bottom-line related in and of themselves, are important guideposts to designing and executing financially successful marketing plans—similar to the way a pilot may use GPS or visual landmarks.
Here are the five metrics and why each is indeed not “worthless.”
The post contends that counting Twitter followers is “a completely pointless exercise…Up to half of all Twitter accounts are inactive, while many are just spambots. It is estimated that two-thirds of the Twitter fans of many celebrities and politicians are fake. So we have to ask: Why would someone purchase fakes on a system whose sole function is to communicate with people?”
There are two problems with this argument. The first is that Twitter follower count is misleading because of inactive and bot accounts. But as Shelly Kramer recently wrote, this issue is easily overcome using a tool like Status People, which checks for fake followers and reports, for any Twitter account, the percentages of fake, inactive, and good Twitter followers (the tools reveals, for example, that for the @TomPick Twitter account, those figures are 1%, 6%, and 93% respectively—not bad).
The second is the notion of “purchasing” Twitter followers, which is a bad idea regardless. Just as a college student may be able to cheat in a class by buying a term paper, or even test answers, the result is that the student didn’t really get the benefit of learning in the class, which will have long-term (if not also short-term) repercussions. And it renders that student’s grade worthless.
But that doesn’t make the general notion of class grades or test scores worthless, only those that are achieved fraudulently. The same principle applies to Twitter followers; as long as they are obtained legitimately, the count does matter.
The article argues in his post that “the vast majority of people who click the ‘like’ button will never return to the site of their own accord. If you want to get value out of them, you need to actively do something.” True! But that doesn’t make “likes” worthless generically, it means, as with Twitter followers, that what matters is how the “like” are obtained and what type of ongoing engagement activities are implemented.
As with many web presence optimization and online marketing metrics, what’s important about Facebook “likes” isn’t the number itself but rather 1) how that number changes over time, and 2) how that number compares to competitors’. If your “likes” aren’t growing over time, it calls for rethinking the type of updates you’re sharing and how you’re engaging on Facebook.
And if competitors have significant more “likes,” why? Is there something in their strategies you can learn from? Or are they merely inflating their follower counts through contests similar low-involvement tactics? If the latter, then the “likes” differential truly doesn’t matter much.
This isn’t to say that Facebook should be a central part of every company’s social strategy. It’s a better environment for promoting hospitality, entertainment, retail and fashion brands than for industrial goods. And if you sell an item like adult diapers or anti-fungal cream, you’re unlikely to get a lot of customers to publicly express affection for your products on Facebook no matter how much they may “like” them in real life.
The point that sentiment tracking is important (thought challenging to do accurately) in providing context around social mentions is well taken, but still: if you’ve got an active social media marketing program going and aren’t getting social mentions, that’s a critical signal that something is wrong. And as with “likes,” if competitors are getting significantly more social mentions than your brand, you need to investigate why.
Actually, the post is correct here that an unfiltered, raw count of backlinks is meaningless. In the post-Penguin world, a large number of link farm or similar low-quality links can be worse than useless—it can actually be harmful.
Still, with proper categorization and filtering, links counts can be quite enlightening. Discovering that a competitor has far more links from industry news sources or blogs, for example, tells you something important about their strategy, and how you may need to adjust yours.
Search Engine Visibility
Again, while it’s true as the article states that “Many performance indicators, including bounce rate, form abandonment, average order value, engagement, and conversion rate, vary from search phrase to search phrase,” telling a client or boss generically that search engine visibility doesn’t matter is certainly not advisable.
Ideally, a website should attract increasing numbers of visits over time for both branded and non-brand (generic) search phrases. Generic visits are driven by SEO activities (content, social, PR, industry, link-building, etc.). Branded search visits are driven by a host of activities that raise brand awareness; again including PR and social, but also advertising, trade shows, sponsorships, speaking engagements, awards, community involvement among others.
Yes, it’s true that in the final analysis, if a marketing activity isn’t positively contributing to the bottom line, a company shouldn’t be spending time, effort or money on it. But there are many interim measures that are vital in guiding marketers, just as instruments guide pilots, to adjust their speed or direction intelligently in order to reach their final destination.
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.