Archive for the ‘Marketing Strategy’ Category
Guest post by Clayton Wood.
Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft have been making acquisitions that could change the way digital marketing is done in the near future. What seemed to be objects of science-fiction books and shows are now being developed in the real world, and may be used for marketing. These companies have also made purchases that many people didn’t quite think were obvious, but perfectly made sense in hindsight.
But what do these purchases tell us about the direction digital marketing is going? Let’s have a look.
Digital Marketing will be about Heightened User Experiences
The giants are taking a page out of science fiction books to develop technology that will heighten and improve user experience. Virtual reality seems to be one of the hottest trends: Google has Google Glass, Facebook bought Oculus VR (which makes the virtual reality gaming headset Oculus Rift), and Yahoo! bought, absorbed, and shut down Cloud Party. These purchases forced Sony to announce Project Morpheus, their own take on virtual reality.
Though these acquisitions don’t tell us much in terms of what exactly these giants have cooking, the firms have made generic statements about what they want to achieve, and these statements focus on heightened user experience.
We also know that whatever it is they are developing won’t materialize within the year—we need to give it a couple of years. We know one thing for sure: although they purchased VR gaming companies, the technological developments we can expect won’t be limited to gaming. These purchases tell us that real-time information delivery, social interaction, immersive content and improved ecommerce experiences are in store for us in the near future.
Take Mark Zuckerberg’s statement when Facebook purchased Oculus VR earlier this year:
“Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”
This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.
These are just some of the potential uses. By working with developers and partners across the industry, together we can build many more. One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”
Data Tracking becomes a Strong Online Marketing Asset
We know how important data is to any marketing campaign, online or otherwise: without it, you cannot optimize the processes you have in place and improve the overall performance of your business. Google certainly knows this – their Webmaster Tools, Analytics and AdWords platforms belong to the most informative, readily available data tracking technology there is online.
It seems this year, they want to improve their platforms even further. They bought Adometry, a marketing analytics and optimization platform. Google explains that the acquisition “will build on the momentum of our existing measurement and analytics offerings, which include Google Analytics Premium as well as other products,” adding:
Attribution solutions, like Adometry’s, help businesses better understand the influence that different marketing tools — digital, offline, email, and more — have along their customers’ paths to purchase (http://goo.gl/tXTliw). This heightened understanding, in turn, enables businesses to measure marketing impact, allocate their resources more wisely, and provide people with ads and messages that they’re likely to care about.
This shows that digital marketing is likely moving to become more performance-based and accurately measurable. Data is becoming a strong online marketing asset, and marketers will likely devote a lot of effort and resources into analyzing and making the most of consumer data. Companies using performance models for growing channels, such as mobile and video, will soon be a common sight.
Human insights, combined with machine learning and real-time predictive analytics, will pave the way for easier, more data-driven marketing strategies.
Fun and Experience will be the Cornerstones of Most Marketing Strategies
In today’s ever-changing marketing world, it’s not enough to just get the attention of your consumers, you also have to give them something new—an experience. Consumers will be looking for something more than visually entertaining, they’ll want fun and experience.
Groundbreaking marketing creativity and innovation anchored on wearable technology and augmented reality can be expected. This will likely lead to digital marketing without boundaries; one that’s fueled by strategies focusing on fun, immersive experiences.
“Personal” Will Have a Whole New Meaning
Soon, it might not be enough for companies to just know what you want; they will likely also want to know when you’re most likely to want something. At the start of the year, Apple applied for a patent for a technology that would make inferences about the moods of people in real time.
“If an individual is preoccupied or unhappy, the individual may not be as receptive to certain types of content,” Apple explained.
Their solution? Figure out how a person is feeling at any given moment, and use that data to target content—or more accurately, ads—to be delivered at the right place and the right time.
Combining the technology on data tracking and analysis with the innovations in wearable technology, we can expect marketers to combine behavioral indicators—such as the rate of ‘likes’, comments, shares, the applications users open first, and the date, time, location and other specifics of their online interaction—with physical indicators tracked by a smartwatch or some other wearable gadget.
The word “personal” will have a whole new meaning, especially when it concerns digital marketing and online interactions.
Whatever updates and innovations may come, one thing is for sure: the digital marketing of today won’t certainly look the same as tomorrow’s. Companies clearly will be gearing for the future—are you?
How about you? What do you think is the future of digital marketing?
About the author: Clayton Wood is passionate about communicating the impact that technology has in online marketing. He is the Marketing Director of SEOReseller.com and managing partner of numerous successful online brands that offer white label SEO and other online marketing services. Clayton can be found on LinkedIn and Google+.
Much has been written about how the internet in general, and the explosion of content marketing in particular, has changed the nature of b2b marketing. In less than a generation, information has gone from being scarce to overabundant. Today’s b2b buyers are typically 70% of the way through their purchase process before they contact a vendor’s sales team.
Information proliferation means buyers are better-informed than ever about potential approaches to solving problems, and the related product and service alternatives. But the increased availability of data means vendors are also more knowledgeable about what matters to buyers, how they conduct research, which content resonates with prospective customers (and what types of content fall flat), how to refine and act on key measures and metrics, and most importantly, how decisions are ultimately made. The old “sales funnel” model is giving way to more sophisticated analytical frameworks.
How should b2b marketers adjust their strategies to keep up with this evolution? What types of messages matter most to today’s buyers? Which long-held beliefs of b2b marketers need to be discarded? What do elite marketers do well that their more average counterparts don’t?
Find the answers to those questions and others here in more than a dozen insightful guides to b2b marketing strategy from the past year.
How To Market For the Top Four B2B Business Growth Strategies by g2m Solutions
Sarah Pern examines “four major business growth strategies identified by the Ansoff Product-Market Matrix and shows you how to develop marketing strategies that are aligned with achieving the business goals you want.” For example, recommended marketing strategies for the business growth approach of market development include market research to help develop rich buyer personas, and awareness building using “online advertising…PR, SEO, Social Media, attending exhibitions, sponsoring events” (basically all of the elements of the web presence optimization framework) plus outbound tactics.
How To Do It Right: Demand Generation by Forbes
Patrick Spenner brilliantly makes that case that b2b marketers should focus on “improving the connections among stakeholders at customer organizations” rather than those between the supplier and individual stakeholders. He astutely notes that personas are often created as isolated individuals, with the connections between the different stakeholders who make up the B2B customer buying team left unexplored and unaddressed.
Glenn Taylor reports on the disconnect between what B2B companies tend to say about themselves and what potential customers want to hear (that is, what types of messages contribute most to perceived brand strength. He advises vendors to take the “opportunity to dig into your positioning and try to tell your story and the ‘why’ of what you do. Statements like ‘driver of innovation’ or ‘leader in our field’ are over done and past their prime. Most marketers cannot deliver on these and almost no customer believes them.”
John Lee details four practices used by the most successful social brands in B2B, such as using measurement to drive integration (“Lack of measurement is the number one reason that social fails…Nearly 90 percent of brands measure volume and engagement (likes, followers, etc.), but only 31% measure it against revenue”), and developing individual strategies for each social media platform.
B2B Marketing Trends That Will Shape Your Strategy by Anders Pink
Noting that B2B marketers have been gradually shifting effort and budget from outbound to inbound marketing channels “as buyers increasingly manage the early stages of the buying process without contacting vendors by reviewing websites, talking to peers in the industry and reviewing resources. This allows them to often filter and shortlist without ever talking to a sales rep,” Steve Rayson details eight strategy-shaping trends, including changes in buyer behavior, SEO, and corporate websites, along with the growth in content marketing and social media.
B2B Marketers Need To Step Up Emotional Connections by MediaPost
B2C marketing is often perceived as emotion-based, while B2B buyers decide based on facts and logic. The reality turns out to be quite different though; Laurie Sullivan reports on recent research which found “Emotional connections are much more ‘intense’ for business-to-business clients compared with B2C…Between 40% and 70% of customers feel emotionally connected to brands like Oracle, Accenture, FedEx, SAP, and Salesforce, compared with between 10% and 40% for CVS, L’Oreal, and Wal-Mart.” B2B marketers need to become more adept at presenting the professional, social, emotional, and personal value of their products and services.
Expanding on the findings reported in the post above, Scott Gillum reveals that “The company customers say that they are most emotionally connected to is…Cisco.” B2B purchases involve professional risk, particularly for the internal champion, and Cisco is very good at reducing risk for buyers. Furthermore, “Cisco is able to create…’personal value’ consisting of four parts: professional, social, emotional and self-image benefits.”
6 Persuasion Techniques: Science in B2B Marketing by Ideas@Work Blog
Following up on the post above, Vann Morris describes half-a-dozen techniques for tapping into B2B buyer emotion, such as liking: “Research shows that we are more likely to say yes to people we like, and we tend to like people who are similar to us, people who complement us, and people who cooperate with us toward a common goal.” Creating the vision of that “common goal” (and the buyer’s emotional attachment to it) is a powerful marketing technique.
7 Tactics that Are Working for B2B Lead Generation Today by CustomerThink
Louis Foong shares seven tactics that work in b2b marketing today, among them lead scoring using behavioral data (“For example, when a prospect signs up for a free trial, you should attach a higher score to that behaviour than when a new subscriber gets added to your email newsletter list”); progressive lead profiling (asking for new, additional information each time a specific prospect converts); and social retargeting (“If a prospect is just about floating at the top of the funnel, gated content won’t work—you need to give away something valuable, easily, with no strings attached. Gated content will work for prospects that are already quite convinced that your company has the knowledge to educate them on specific problems they are challenged with”).
The Myth of the Infinite Selling Universe by DemandBase
The always-insightful Ardath Albee exposes the myth (often used when raising venture capital) that the pool of prospective buyers for a company’s product or service is infinite; why this myth is dangerous (“it costs more to generate more leads. It costs more for salespeople to spend more time following up with more leads. This increases the cost per opportunity.”); and suggests how marketers should focus their time on the small set of ideal prospects.
Five Ideas on the Business-to-Individual Concept for B2B Marketers by MarketingSherpa
Reflecting discussions with industry experts including Brian Carroll and Brian Solis, David Kirkpatrick offers “five lessons on why you should be marketing to the individual, even as a B2B marketer,” among them: “Creating relationships should be a philosophy, not just a marketing strategy”; relevance matters; and the customer is now completely in charge of the buying process, so b2b vendors must “make it easy for those prospects to conduct self-discovery and self-service…provide content and tools that enable those potential prospects to make the decision to buy from you.”
5 Buyer Behaviors Reshaping B2B Marketing by iMedia Connection
Frequent best-of honoree Tony Zambito delves into five buyer behaviors that marketers need to be aware of and respond to, including that buyers embrace collaboration; they want to be involved in the co-creation of products and services; and “buyers want less content – yet desire smart content.”
B2B Marketing’s Measurement Problem by B2B Digital Marketing
Writing “It is called a complex sale for a reason, but B2B marketers keep trying to fit it into a simplistic measurement framework: where did we get that lead?,” Eric Wittlake explains why simple B2B marketing metrics are not just ineffective but also misleading, and offers recommendations on how to “more effectively measure the impact of marketing on your business.” (We would agree that a new breed of marketing metrics is needed to understand cross-channel impacts.)
The Forgotten Stars of B2B Lead Conversion by Business2Community
Warning about the dangers of forgetting the “less glamorous but vitally important tactical elements that do a lot of the the hard, relentless work of attracting and converting visitors to real leads,” Christabelle Tani outlines three simple yet vital components of lead generation, including social proof (“evidence that other human beings are advocating your company and what you sell”) and their role in each stage of the sales funnel.
It’s a (sometimes forgotten) truism of business that no company can cut its way to growth. As the economy continues to slowly recover from the great recession, smart leaders, having pared back spending during the lean times, are looking at how to invest for growth. Entrepreneurs are forming new businesses at an increasing pace, hoping to take advantage of new opportunities in the recovering economy. Workers across the spectrum are a bit less fearful and a bit more optimistic.
But the business environment has changed significantly in just the past six years since the start of the downturn. For example, no one was talking about the social employee as recently as late 2006, but according to Google Trends, search interest in the term has quadrupled in the past five years.
So investment in growth will return, but it will be different. How can companies tap the social exposure potential of their workforces? What beliefs do managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs need to discard–and what new beliefs do they need to embrace? How has the purchase cycle changed, and what are the expectations of today’s buyers? How can small companies use new ideas to compete more effectively against larger competitors?
Find the answers to these questions and many others here in 19 of the most noteworthy guides to leadership, motivation, business strategy, and branding of the past year.
7 Ways Management Can Boost Employee Productivity by westXdesign
Renee Gaylor explains seven steps leaders can take to increase employee engagement and productivity, such as ensuring “senior leadership models behavior that makes the rank-and-file proud to be part of the team. Nothing demoralizes employees more quickly than seeing senior leaders act in a way they don’t respect, and few things energize employees more than a senior team they admire. Leaders are always being watched and judged; employees have keen eyes.”
Paid to Post? What the Social Workforce Means for All of Us by iMedia Connection
Writing that “Savvy brands like Dell, Oracle, Intel and Accenture think the future of marketing is on social media and their best advocates are their own employees,” Greg Shove demonstrates why this strategy can be incredibly powerful, but also discusses the challenges involved. In the end, he concludes that to be successful in developing social employees, companies will need to “focus on producing cultures that employees want to advocate for. In terms of long-term sales growth, marketing success and talent retention, that will matter far more than the fine details of each advocacy program.”
What Does it Take to Lead a Social Business? by NewRayCom
Ray Hiltz identifies five characteristics required of R.A.R.E. (responsible, accountable, relevant, ethical) leadership, and notes “these are also the traits of a successful social business.” Leadership and social business are both grounded in developing relationships, and doing so effectively requires a long-term vision at odds with ever-shortening attention spans.
Motivation and Inspiration Guides
9 Mind Myths to Ditch for 2014 Success by Rebel Brown
The wise and delightful Rebel Brown steps “into the truth and beyond our limiting beliefs” here, debunking nine myths about our minds which she says limit our potential. Among the myths skewered are “we’re all limited by this crazy economy,” “failure is to be avoided at all costs,” and “change is hard” (“Humans are instinctively wired to avoid anything that is new and different. Our unconscious mind views it as a threat…[however] We can act to consciously remove that threat of change [by focusing] on the opportunity in the change, not the problem that caused it”).
How to Give Remarkable Presentations: Lessons from the World Domination Summit by Dr. Michelle Mazur
Michelle Mazur shares lessons learned from speakers at the World Domination Summit (yes, apparently, that is a thing), including “Train to speak like an athlete trains to win the race” from Danielle LaPorte, on the importance of speaking frequently, and contrasting the gap between what is and what could be, from Nancy Duarte: “The best speakers – Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs and Eva Peron – construct a gap between what is currently and what could be in the future. Think of Steve Jobs comparing the world without an iPhone versus a world with the iPhone (can you remember the world before Smart Phones?).”
Jeff Haden reveals nine characteristics that help define and create success, from approaches to time management and hiring to how to deal with failure and “go the extra mile.” A great reminder for consultants: “Only do what you want to do and you might build an okay business. Be willing to do what customers want you to do and you can build a successful business. Be willing to do even more and you can build a remarkable business.”
Following up on the post above, Jeff Haden here turns the topic from the beliefs of successful people to their actions; things that most if not all successful people do, such as setting audacious goals, selling, and avoiding the crowds: “Remarkably successful people habitually do what other people won’t do. They go where others won’t go because there’s a lot less competition and a much greater chance for success.”
Business Strategy Guides
Small Talk, Big Results by strategy+business
Keith Ferrazzi introduces ideas from The Necessity of Strangers by Alan Gregerman, demonstrating how vital “small talk” is: “anthropologically, we are hardwired to be ready to fight or flee from someone not of our tribe—a state of mind that obviously has a very negative effect on our ability to innovate together. Small talk quiets that reptilian response of our brain.” The book excerpt details a simple exercise that can be used within organizations to increase success by creating a “culture of conversation.”
How Women Decide by Harvard Business Review
Pointing out that “Today women occupy about half of all managerial and professional positions in the United States, including 37% of management jobs and 60% of accounting and auditing roles…They also make up 41% of employees with authority to make purchasing decisions,” Cathy Benko and Bill Pelster present research on how the differing physical structures of the male and female brains lead to different decision-making styles, and how these distinctions need to be accounted for when selling or presenting ideas.
5 reasons I hate big data by iMedia Connection
Chris Marriott brilliantly skewers the hype behind big data (and advises executives what to focus on instead), writing that it’s an old idea with a new name; that it makes something easy sound complex; and that it’s “like teenagers and sex:
a. Everybody’s talking about it.
b. Everybody thinks everyone else is doing it.
c. Most of those who claim to be doing it aren’t doing it.
d. Those who are doing it aren’t doing it very well.”
8 Real-World Stories Of Why Startups Fail by ReadWrite
Scott Gerber shares the stories of eight “(now) successful founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share why a prior start-up didn’t make it – and what they’re doing differently knowing what they know now.” Among the lessons: manage cash flow (“Numbers are not only the oxygen of a business, they are the vital signs as well”), match your timing to the state of the market, and be careful about choosing employees (“hire people who are sincere and trustworthy”).
Marketing and Brand Strategy Guides
Fire the funnel — 5 stages of the real buyer’s journey by Chief Marketing Technologist Blog
Contending that “The funnel model of marketing and sales doesn’t reflect reality very well” (and we know this), Scott Brinker suggests an alternative five-stage model that is less exclusionary and more positive, recognizes that today’s “lost” prospects may become tomorrow’s new opportunities, and acknowledges the importance of continuing to market and sell to existing customers and convert them into brand advocates.
Jeff Pundyk rants (intelligently) about how, far too often, “thought leadership” is anything but; rather, it’s ego-building, internally focused, disorganized, and doesn’t address reader or market needs. Instead, he advises marketers to “find creative ways to tap into publishers’ audiences…venture beyond the walls of your own Web site. It will force you to up your content game: to think hard about your audience…(and) to start listening and collaborating.”
J-P DeClerck makes the case that marketers should shift their focus from channels, tactics, and campaigns, to addressing what customers really want: “we shouldn’t optimize for media, channels or tactics in the first place. We optimize for the customer experience.” Customers don’t care how a company organizes its campaigns or silos; they care about consistency and the company meeting its brand promise.
How Underdogs Can Market Effectively by MarketingProfs (free registration required)
Abhay Padgaonkar outlines three strategies small companies can use to win against larger competitors, starting with aiming “for your competitor’s Achille’s heel.” That can come in the form of scope (starting out by serving a neglected segment, which is how Southwest Airlines got its initial foothold in the market); service; or scale (targeting segments that don’t fit with investments larger competitors have made).
Big marketing opportunities for under $10K by iMedia Connection
Greg Kihlström details four “ways to connect your audience with your brand” that won’t break the bank, such as creating new content, experimenting with new channels, or giving something back: “Help an organization in need. There’s no downside to this one…(for example) let your customers choose which organization they’d like you to donate the money to by allowing them to vote for their favorite nonprofit every time they submit a photo that includes your product.”
Katie Burke outlines half-a-dozen expert “tactics and strategies you can employ within a workday to help attract, convert, engage, and delight more prospects, leads, and customers.” For example, on video marketing, from Kevin Daum: ““You don’t need cats and babies to make business videos that work…By aligning on a goal, a target audience, and a core story, your business can benefit significantly from using video to foster growth.”
The end of digital and social media by iMedia Connection
Terms like “digital media” and “social media” will soon be redundant, according to the brilliant Rebecca Lieb, as all media are increasingly both digital and social. So, Rebecca asks, “How do you cut through the clutter of media, messaging, and a ridiculously busy social life spanning all channels, digital and otherwise? There are six traits that matter. Employing as many as possible — in concert — will greatly enhance a brand’s ability to be noticed in a relevant and meaningful way.”
The Seven Pitfalls of a Modern-Day Brand by MarketingProfs
Despite the unprecedented reach that social media provides, “Brand Awareness is hard to come by,” writes Matthew Turner. He identifies seven pitfalls of brand-building (such as lack of voice, too much “sell,” and being easy to forget) and how to avoid them: build a “brand story that delves deep into your brand and discovers what it’s all about…A brand story allows you to create something of worth, and most important, something that matters to you: It’s built on your terms.”
A version of this post previously appeared on MarketingProfs.
There’s been a raft of articles recently proclaiming the “consumerization” of all things business: the consumerization of sales, of IT, and of business-to-business (b2b) marketing most prominently. McKinsey’s David Edelman has referred to the consumerization of b2b marketing and sales as a “massive disruption” on the horizon.
While there’s no questioning these trends, it may be more powerful from an analytical standpoint to step back and ask exactly what “consumerization” means in a business context: what is it precisely about consumer marketing and sales that b2b professionals are seeking to emulate?
Clearly it’s not that enterprise software vendors should start running print ads in Vogue magazine, or that machine tool manufacturers should invest in splashy TV commercials on The Golf Channel. Upon closer examination, the move toward consumerization seems to come down to embracing one key concept long pursued by b2c brands: minimizing friction across the promotion and buying process.
In the physical world, minimizing friction is how Elon Musk’s proposed hyperloop could transport commuters at speeds approaching 600 miles per hour. Using pods inside a low-pressure tube eliminates not only the friction of rolling wheels but also that of air pressure against the vehicles.
In the consumer products world, minimizing friction explains why soup is sold in microwavable single-serving containers, and why a convenience store can thrive within blocks of a nearby supermarket, despite charging much higher prices.
Arguably the ultimate in friction-free consumer commerce, though, is Amazon.com’s 1-Click ordering. Once a site visitor has searched for and filled their online shopping cart with desired items, competing the purchase requires literally one click: Amazon knows the customer’s preferred method of payment, credit card details, shipping address, even preferred shipping mode. Compared to the typical b2b purchase—there is no comparison.
The Amazon experience is clearly starting to impact the world of b2b purchasing. Within the past year, nearly half of b2b buyers have purchased common business items from Amazon Supply, the web giant’s online store for business and industry, because their regular suppliers don’t offer an online purchase channel.
Business suppliers who want to survive the coming “massive disruption” need to find ways to compete with Amazon, likely beyond price: through flexible payment options, volume discounts, deep product expertise, or value-added services perhaps. But for low-value commodity items, as other online retailers have learned, Amazon will make the landscape increasingly challenging for b2b suppliers.
Beyond online purchasing, however, friction comes in many forms. While many high-value, complex b2b products aren’t suitable for ecommerce, there are nevertheless other sources of friction that vendors need to minimize in order to improve their competitiveness. These other sources of friction include:
- Low online visibility. With more than 90% of b2b purchases beginning with research on the Web, maximizing online presence is crucial for b2b vendors. Business buyers won’t buy from vendors who lack visibility in search and social media.
- Insufficient or difficult to find information. B2b websites need to provide different types of information based on buyer personas, specific concerns or topics of interest, and different formats (text, images, video). Each member of the buying team has his or her own questions and unique information needs. Friction is created when such information is missing or hard to find on the vendor website.
- Mixed messages. Friction arises when, as your grandmother may have put it, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” Prospects are unlikely to buy if they get different answers and inconsistent messages from different employees or departments within your organization. This was less of a danger in the old days when public interaction was limited to official “company spokespeople,” but social media now makes virtually every employee “client-facing.” Avoiding such confusion therefore requires strong leadership from the top, effective training, and use of internal social communication tools like Chatter or Yammer.
- High initial price point.It’s often easier to sell a customer a basic system at a low price point upfront and add options later than to sell a high-priced, full-featured offering right out of the gate. Not only does this make price less of an objection, it also reduces risk for the buyer. Many types of subscription-based software offerings are now sold this way. Taking this idea to the ultimate “no brainer” price point—free—many vendors in categories like email services and social media monitoring employ a “freemium” pricing model in which customers can sign up to use a stripped-down, low-volume service for free, then upgrade to various levels of higher usage volume, added-function, fee-based services down the road.
Customer Service Friction
- Limited contact information. A “contact us” button should be one of the most prominent items on every page of a b2b website, and the contact page should include physical/mailing address, fax and phone numbers, email address (or addresses—preferably multiple, by department), and social media accounts. Consider an online chat option as well (but make it visitor-initiated, not an annoying pop-up box). Reduce friction by making it as easy as possible for prospective buyers to get in touch with you, using their preferred communication method.
- Poor responsiveness (or non-responsiveness) to questions. More than 80% of Twitter users say they expect a same-day response to tweets aimed at brands, yet many b2b vendors fail to meet this standard. That is clearly an opportunity being missed, as 71% of buyers also say that receiving a quick brand response on social media would make them more likely to recommend that brand to others. Response time matters regardless of the communication channel (social, email, phone, etc.); responding quickly builds confidence in your company. A slow response creates friction.
- Automated phone answering systems. While efficient and convenient for vendors, these are universally annoying to callers. Provide both a main contact number and department-specific phone numbers instead. A human voice on the other end of the line can be both a powerful differentiator and friction-reducer.
- Partial solutions. The ability to purchase a “whole product” (e.g., software, equipment, installation, and training services) from a single supplier, a.k.a. one-stop shopping, reduces friction. This is why all-in-one travel sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia, TravelZoo, and Travelocity are popular. When the buyer is forced to piece together a solution from multiple vendors, friction is increased. B2b suppliers can address this through building, buying, or bundling strategies to create and support a whole product.
- Complex implementation. While there is no way around expert on-site installation for certain types of products (e.g., machine tools or conveyor systems), “products” should be delivered online whenever possible. Cloud computing, projected to grow at a 26% annual rate through 2016, is essentially delivering a server online. Software is increasingly being delivered as a service, along with integrated consulting; this model is nearly universal in the marketing automation software market, for example.
- Business disruption. The less disruption or interruption of business activities that a purchase entails, the less assistance or support needed from other departments like IT, and the less integration with other systems required, the easier a buying decision is to make. This is why software vendors are increasingly delivering their applications online, and including pre-built connectors, where required, to other popular software suites.
- Complexity in use. While many b2b products in areas like technology, communications, industrial automation, and transportation are necessarily complex, that doesn’t mean they have to be difficult to use. Good example: a modern automobile is unquestionably a complex piece of equipment, yet one that can be operated by any teenager with a modicum of training. Better example: while the vast majority of us have only a rudimentary understanding (at best) of the inner workings of a smart phone, any moderately bright grade-schooler can use one. B2b products should be as complex as they need to be, but as simple to use as possible.
Organizational (Business Level) Friction
- High perceived risk. Vendor websites must not only provide the information various buyers need in order to make a decision, they must also build trust. Unless your company is a “household name,” your website needs to reduce perceived risk and position your company as a safe choice by including complete contact information, certifications (such as Better Business Bureau membership), awards, customer testimonials, big-name client lists, and/or money-back guarantees.
- Employees aren’t empowered to resolve issues. When a customer or prospect has an problem, they want it fixed. They don’t care about an employee’s job description or your company’s organizational chart. When those things get in the way of solving problems, they become friction. Companies like Nordstrom, Zappos, and Southwest Airlines are known for empowering their employees to resolve customer complaints, no matter what they are, precisely to eliminate this type of friction.
- Lack of organizational transparency. In sales situations where vendors are unfamiliar and product differentiation is unclear or insignificant, buyers will seek broader information about the companies in order to arrive at a decision. In these situations, purchase decisions can be strongly influenced by the vendors’ level of executive participation in social media. According to recent research, 82% of buyers say they trust a company more—and 77% of buyers are more likely to buy from that company—if its CEO and senior leadership team are active in social media.
Recognizing the importance of minimizing friction, some vendors are now creating a “Chief Experience Officer” position to help those companies “not only develop services and products that are pleasing and useful but also curate…experiences with their people and their products to create (what they hope is) a unique brand.”
As b2b competition becomes more global and intense, products become commoditized, quality is assumed, margins are squeezed, and “unique value propositions” become less unique, the overall customer experience will increasingly be what separates successful companies from column fodder. And identifying and minimizing friction, at all its potential points, optimizes the customer experience.
Given all of the changes Google has made affecting organic ranking factors (asking webmasters to disavow low-quality links, reducing the value of guest blogging, ignoring links in press releases, etc.), the practice of SEO—optimizing owned content for search—is no longer sufficient for maximizing a brand’s online visibility.
This is not to say “SEO is dead” or that it no longer has value, only that it can no longer stand on its own. It needs to be part of a larger, coordinated strategy encompassing owned, earned and paid media: web presence optimization (WPO).
The original WPO model focused on content-sharing to maximize organic brand visibility; as the WPO framework evolved, it incorporated paid and industry (e.g., event sponsorships, community outreach, analyst coverage, trade association membership) components.
Today’s WPO model emphasizes the importance of fusing a solid content strategy with a comprehensive online distribution strategy in order to maximize brand visibility and credibility.
Yet despite the analytical and strategic power of the model, WPO still largely remains the concept that everyone talks about, but no one names. It’s as if sportswriters constantly wrote about “contests in which opposing teams of five players attempt to shoot a round orange ball through a hoop with a net attached” instead of simply saying “basketball.” As indicated by the posts from Search Engine Watch and All Twitter highlighted below, that is starting to change, but only just.
How can social, PR, SEO, and online advertising efforts be coordinated to maximize brand visibility? How can paid, owned, and earned media be harmonized to achieve business goals? How can paid and organic content promotion channels be used together most effectively? What role does email play in extending online visibility?
Find the answers to those questions and many more here in 31 of the best blog posts and articles about WPO (even if they don’t call it that) of the past year.
Beyond Search & Social: Online Marketing in 2014 by Search Engine Journal
Marcela De Vivo covers a great deal of ground in this thought-provoking and wide-ranging post, from the impact of social signals on organic ranking to earning (vs. building) links, measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) based on your goals (e.g., “If your goal is organic visibility, your KPI’s will be based on increasing your rankings and organic traffic”), and the debate around paid, earned and owned media: all critical consideraations in a WPO strategy.
Hessie Jones contends that while marketing and PR have traditionally been separate disciplines, due to social media, “these roles are converging in a big way,” so today brands need “a combination of PR and Marketing to stay on top of the conversation, and be ready to develop compelling content to engage and build advocacy,” and furthermore to pair “mainstream and digital media experts with creative specialists like copywriters, digital designers and video producers to uncover storytelling opportunities in real time, deliver critical business insights, engage influencers and customers and create the content that shapes news and conversations.” Which is to day: they need to coordinate the efforts of everyone involved in maximizing a brand’s online visibility and relevance.
How to build a robust content program by iMedia Connection
Writing that “Today, superb, consistent content best serves your customers and leads to increased loyalty and bottom-line results,” Deborah Hanamura explores a baker’s dozen considerations for content marketing strategy, including social, SEO, PPC (“Great Pay-Per-Click advertising requires great content. Create an impression versus multiple impressions”), and events—in other words, most of the key elements of WPO.
Integrated Marketing: The Magic Formula for Success by Blue Kite Marketing
Laura Click (correctly) asserts there is no “one singular tactic that will help you achieve results” in digital marketing, but rather that achieving the objective of being everywhere your prospect look online requires an integrated marketing approach coordinating efforts across:
- • content marketing;
- • media relations;
- • advertising;
- • search engine marketing (actually, a form of online advertising);
- • social media; and
- • email marketing.
Add SEO to the list above and you’ve got WPO.
Integrating POEM: The Rhyme and Reason of Harmonizing the New Media Mix by iMedia Connection
Aaron Dubois explores the strengths and weaknesses of paid, owned and earned media (POEM), and advises marketers, “Throughout the planning process, take a step back and look at your brand’s overall marketing strategy. If the P, the O, and the E aren’t working in conjunction with each other – with a consistent brand voice across all communications – then it’s not likely you’re going to get as much out of your campaign as you hope to.” That’s another way of saying: adopt WPO, which coordinates efforts across these these three types of exposure.
Creating a Multi-Channel Content Marketing Strategy by BlueGlass
Kevin Gibbons illustrates the POEM concept and recommends that marketers “have a fully integrated strategy, where everyone is involved towards having success across all of your owned, earned and paid media channels” in order to properly plan and execute to achieve online business goals (or in other words, adopt a WPO approach). He then provides further guidance regarding content creation, measurement, and audience targeting.
6 Reasons Social Media Is Critical To Your SEO by Convince with Convert
Jason Clegg offers “six reasons social media needs to be an important part of your website marketing and SEO strategy for years to come,” such as that social media enables you to “crowd source” your link building; social links actually drive traffic to your website; and “Google hates link building.” Though the post goes a bit over the top in spots (“link building as a direct SEO tactic is completely dead”—not quite true), Jason’s overall points regarding the SEO value of social media are spot on.
The PR Strategies SEOs Haven’t Learned by Siege Media
A helpful companion to the post above, Ross Hudgens here focuses on the value of PR for SEO: “Many PR companies still blast releases out to publishers that have no reason to receive them. Many SEO companies do the same with their outreach to bloggers. The best of both worlds will find the intersection, combine agility with empathy, and make for an extremely potent content marketing package.”
Marketing Research Chart: Integrating email and search marketing tactics by MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein notes that the chart at right “highlights one of marketers’ key challenges. They’re doing a lot. Even the least used tactic — digital asset optimization — is being conducted by 45% of marketers.” He then explains three ways that marketers can be more efficient by “SEO and email tasks to get more done in less time.” This type of coordination between different types of content promotion efforts is also at the heart of WPO.
The Evolution of Content In A Big-Content World by MediaPost
Writing that “‘big content’ is the definition of what content marketing has become: unruly, amorphous, exponential and everywhere,” Steve Kerho suggests that marketers should “think of big content as branded content that exists in multiple channels, across devices and…is no longer controlled solely by the brand.” Indeed they should, and efforts should be coordinated across these different channels to optimize visibility and engagement while maintaining consistent brand messaging.
The Complete SMO / SEO Guide for Business & Brands in Social Media by REALSMO
***** 5 STARS
Joshua Berg provides an indispensible and comprehensive guide to how social media and search work together; the principles of social media optimization, aka SMO (“Focus on the user and all elSEO will follow”–spot on); and the (possible) future of search.
The Aftermath Of SEO’s Death This Summer by Forbes
Writing that Google’s Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates “mean no more hat tricks, keyword stuffing, comment spamming, backlink image stuffing…Finally, Google uncovered the secret to blocking SEO tricks used to get customers on the infamous PAGE 1,” Eris Poringer provides excellent guidance on implementing a “comprehensive plan” for maximizing online brand visibility, incorporating social media, email, content marketing, native advertising, and other tactics. This approach isn’t SEM (paid search) though SEM is a key component of a wider WPO strategy.
Social Media Should Not Be A Stand Alone Brand Tactic by Brand Cottage
The smart and engaging Patricia Wilson lists seven reasons why social media should not be a stand-alone brand tactic (such as, “Social Media is very hard to scale on its own”) and suggests that “social strategy works best as part of a larger integrated marketing and business plan.” Couldn’t agree more; it’s a vital component of a WPO strategy.
The B2B Marketing Guide to Paid Content Distribution by B2B Digital Marketing
***** 5 STARS
In this highly bookmark-worthy post, Eric Wittlake details almost two dozen options for paid content distribution, from advertising on the large social networks to content distribution services like Outbrain and Taboola to native advertising and sponsored posts on B2B publication sites. As long as you stick with reputable sites that keep up with Google’s latest guidelines, these are great avenues for extending the reach of your content and increasing overall online brand visibility.
How to Amplify Your Content Strategy with Social Media Advertising by Content Marketing Institute
Observing that tweets have an average half-life of 18 minutes, Facebook posts have a half-life of 30 minutes, and keeping up with algorithmic changes in organic search is getting increasingly difficult, Dan Stasiewski recommends “creating an advertising flow to your content ecosystem.” Excellent advice, though not either/or; successful content promotion requires coordinating all of the elements of WPO.
Roger Kay comes down rather hard on content marketing and SEO (“a rather polite term for another way to game the system”), but writes that he likes “the concept of inbound marketing because it relies on product quality…at bottom, inbound will only work if the product is good. Effectively, the Internet is a fantastic channel to give an idea a chance to make it in the wild, but the virus only spreads if the content justifies the buzz.” True, which is why content strategy forms the base of WPO. But as noted here previously, even the “most epic content will FAIL without content distribution,” which is why coordinated sharing and promotion across channels is just as important as creating high-quality content to begin with.
Rand Fishkin steps through a number of steps SEO practitioners can take to deal with the loss of organic keyword data from Google, such as using “keyword suggestion sources like Google Suggest, Ubersuggest, certainly AdWords’s own volume data, SEMRush, etc. to see the keyword expansions related to your brand or the content that’s very closely tied to your brand.” Running AdWords ads and examining keyword performance is another option.
Time for a New Definition of SEO by Search Engine Watch
Writing that “digital marketing tactics such as email marketing, paid search and search retargeting have very clear, undisputed definitions. The definition of SEO, on the other hand, seems to be just as unclear as the practice itself,” Krista LaRiviere suggests WPO (she actually uses the term) represents the evolution of SEO, and defines WPO as “an all-encompassing approach to optimizing an entire web presence for organic search including the website, social channels, blogs, articles and press releases.” Her ideas clearly resonated, as the post garnered 50 comments.
The Web Presence Optimization Cycle [INFOGRAPHIC] by All Twitter
Allison Stadd showcases a helpful infographic designed to help marketers visualize “the steps to web presence optimization with the goal of helping you reach organic search success.”
Getting less traffic from Google? Here’s why it may not matter soon by Jim’s Marketing Blog
Jim Connolly details three reasons marketers should diversify their efforts beyond just organic SEO, most importantly because “Google sends less traffic to sites than before…between August 2012 and March 2013, search traffic from Google nosedived an incredible 30%” to a collection of large publisher sites including The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. It’s not that search isn’t still an important tactic, but that it’s only one of several important elements in a brand’s total online visibility (the focus of WPO).
Relying on organic SEO? You’re losing customers! by Digital Growth
Building on the arguments in Jim Connolly’s post above, Luke Chapman illustrates how ads and universal search elements continue to push organic listings further down on the typical search results page, making even a #1 organic ranking less valuable than it used to be. To combat this, he recommends using social media, email, PR, blogging and blog commenting, and industry/community marketing—pretty much the range of WPO elements. And investing in SEM also helps maintain search visibility.
Is SEO Dead — Or Decentralized? by MediaPost
Musing about the decline of traditional SEO and the rise of social media optimization and paid search, Ryan DeShazer concludes that “In today’s marketing communications organization, everyone is an SEO…creative teams (now) include content discoverability and SEO into their work streams; technologists are building sites and apps compliant with known onsite SEO best practices; and UX specialists are including keyword research before developing user personas and journeys.” Hmm, coordinating the efforts of multiple disciplines in order to optimize web visibility…sounds familiar.
The 4 SEO Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know by iMedia Connection
Tony Quin reveals what he believes are four key trends in SEO that marketers need to understand, the most relevant of which for WPO is number four, “Traditional marketing tactics will boost digital marketing initiatives…Press releases, for example, provide branded mentions and links that will increase the authority of your website while also increasing exposure. Despite what some might say, email is still extremely effective in creating opportunities for awareness and sharing.” Creating compelling content is vital, but that content then needs to be shared using social media alongside “traditional marketing tactics.”
Inbound Marketing: 15 tactics to help you earn attention organically by MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein (again) serves up a list of “quantitative metrics, case studies, how-to articles and other resources to help you improve your own inbound marketing efforts by learning more about how your peers are effectively using these tactics,” including SEO, PPC, email, events, PR, blogging, content marketing, and other aspects of WPO.
How to optimize your emails for search by iMedia Connection
Noting “It might sound like a strange idea to optimize your emails for search engines, but SEO is a skill that email marketers better start working on,” Michael Linthorst explores the ins and outs of Gmail Field Trial, an “experiment in which Google includes a user’s Gmail inbox in his or her search results.” Engagement, content, and relevancy are keys to “email SEO”—and a solid approach to email marketing regardless.
Laurie Sullivan reports on recent research showing that “Social signals continue to make their way into search results—making social search engine optimization the next major trend in organic listing. Enterprise SEO requires a search across traditional techniques and social media channels.” This integration is, of course, at the heart of WPO.
Andrew Delamarter describes how marketing departments can, and must, sop operating in “silos” and coordinate efforts across paid, earned, and owned media: “Now is the time to stop thinking SEO, media, content marketing, web analytics, and Facebook posts and start thinking holistically about inbound marketing that brings it all together.”
Must evolve to:
If you build it, they will come — maybe by iMedia Connection
The brilliant and prolific Rebecca Lieb believes “The winners in content marketing will create not just quality content, but distribution strategies that will get that content ‘out there’” (i.e., WPO). SEO, PR, advertising, and social all have their role to play, but so do media companies.
Six Ways Internet Marketing Meets PR Online by SteamFeed
Because “the online world of content marketing requires knowledge of Internet marketing which includes search marketing, key word designation, html coding, link building, and the other tools and tricks of the trade,” Jayme Soulati outlines half a dozen ways for PR professionals to work with their Internet marketing counterparts to maximize online brand visibility and impact.
The New SEO: Search Marketing Integration by Search Engine Watch
Brad Miller writes that while SEO isn’t dead, “the days of SEO as a distinct, independent discipline are certainly numbered. SEO is fast evolving into a more creative, diverse, and challenging profession.” He uses the term “search marketing integration” to describe the coordination of activities across social search, branding, PR, SEM, and others areas in order to integrate all your marketing efforts into “into one single, agile, engaging strategy.” That would be WPO.
2013 – Break the (Digital) Marketing Silos by The RKG Blog
As noted above in the introduction to this post, WPO is about coordinating the efforts of everyone on your team involved in content creation or digital marketing. As Todd McDonald writes here, “Imagine the insights available to those who successfully bring together PR, social, email, PPC, SEO, and other channels! Each one can feed the next, providing ever-deepening levels of data and connections that will drive data-driven strategic marketing decisions. SEO will be a cog in this machine and it will need the machine to work well in order to functional optimally.” He challenges marketers to smash their internal silos—a vital step (as noted above) in WPO, even if he doesn’t call it that.