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Some of you have been asking about the status of my book project, and so I wanted to provide a quick update.

I announced a little over a year ago that I had begun working on a book project – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – “… that covers the topic of marketing technology and that is meant to help marketers deploy and use technology in a substantially-different way than they do today,” per my last update.

What’s the status of this project today?

Source: iStockphoto

First, let me explain that this is a project that I’ve always been pursuing on my own time – i.e., writing early in the morning, late at night or on the weekends.  And that is something that’s been challenging to do, given my active role at Silverpop as director of field marketing and as the company’s ‘B2B Marketing Evangelist.’  Many of you know I’ve spent the greater part of the last 13+ months on the road throughout North America and Europe, speaking, meeting with customers, launching new events (such as B2B Marketing University) and educating the marketing community about how to strategically leverage marketing automation technology

Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome work — it really is — and it’s a mission I’m passionate about, so no complaints here!  It’s just hard – as I’m sure you can appreciate – to both be a dedicated, on-the-road evangelist/marketer and also spend focused time on a personal book project at once.  As a result, the book project has had to take a back seat many weeks.

Second, this is a project that – as many projects do – has matured over time as I’ve continued to research and write about the topic.  Let me be clear that I’m absolutely continuing to work on this project, but its focus has shifted and has moved in what is at once both an adjacent and evolutionary new direction. 

How marketers can better leverage marketing technology to be a more ‘connected’ marketer remains a critical element of the book, but I increasingly recognize two fundamental realities that also are critical to cover in the book. 

  1. As many of you probably will concur, technology adoption alone will not help marketers be more connected, nor is it necessarily the right first step; strategy and process change is the first step. 
  2. Much of the need for new technology – and new strategy and process – is the result of a fundamentally-changing modern marketing environment. 

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Over the last 7 months I’ve been very focused in my research on the dynamics of how B2B marketing is changing — particularly the increasing importance of developing buyer-centered marketing strategies and programs.  (In fact, this week I’m speaking at a B2B Magazine event in London about new ways to drive B2B e-mail marketing programs based on behavioral/implicit factors, versus standard demographics.)

The broader evolution of B2B marketing has been accompanied by new challenges and opportunities, and in some cases these have driven the emergence of completely new marketing disciplines.

Content marketing is just such a discipline.  Whereas marketing content has always been with us, I submit that modern content marketing is something altogether new — an evolutionary approach to engaging buyers with buying-stage-relevant information and a response to several rapidly-changing B2B marketing dynamics.

What has led to this emergence?  And what are the implications for this new discipline?

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I’ve been actively speaking over the past few weeks about a new strategic mindset I believe B2B marketers should adopt today — a ‘mass one-to-one’ strategy.  This is a posture where marketing manages scale, targeted, engaged and two-way dialogue with prospects, upstream from sales-team interaction and ultimately with the purpose of paving the way for a sales close.  This is much more than mere lead generation; moreover, the growing need for such a strategy really is the natural extension of my recent observations about how the nature of the B2B buyer is changing and the permanent shift this is affecting in the roles of both sales and marketing team members.

The intent of a mass one-to-one strategy is to close an emerging sales-cycle gap — where the buyer is seeking information and having dialogue about a purchase, but is doing so on his/her own terms, mostly online (including via social media) and prior to ever engaging a sales team member.  The strategy thus attempts to fill this gap by having marketing replicate and replace some of the engaged, ‘customer-centered selling’ interaction a sales team member might have pursued before the nature of the buyer began changing.  The strategy focuses more on initially responding to ‘pull’ and initial ‘inbound’ activity and on conforming to the buyer’s cycle than on driving interruptive ‘push’ tactics.  This means knowing the buyer better than ever before.  It also means marketing has a more strategic … and complex … role than ever before.

Why 'Personas' Are the Secret Sauce for Effective Marketing Automation Campaigns and the Key to Achieving a 'Mass One-to-one' Strategy

Source: iStockphoto

The good news is that the same Internet that brought this change also is fostering new tools to respond to it.  By embracing a holistic lead management strategy and by deploying a robust marketing automation platform, marketers can get start to get some control.  In fact, mass one-to-one sounds great and is more achievable once you have technology like this in place.  Yet most marketers will admit that the idea of building an endless number of dynamic, anticipatory, customer-triggered campaigns for some infinite number of customer types and scenarios is daunting.  Where do you stop?  How do you get any economies of scale?  Such a commitment of time and resources — without limits — can result in a declining return that does not match the investment. 

So how do we get our arms around this ‘brave new world’ of B2B marketing and get going with mass one-to-one without blowing a gasket?  In particular, how do we focus our marketing automation campaigns to get the most bang for our buck? 

I believe the answer — the ‘secret sauce’ — more than ever is personas. 

Yes, personas.  Let me explain …

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I’ve been actively writing and presenting over the last few months on the changing B2B marketing landscape. And I’ll be talking more about this subject throughout the Fall at the B2B Marketing University series that I’m hosting together with my colleagues at Silverpop (please join us).

A great deal of the focus of my dialogue so far has been on the evolution of marketing technology, but it’s impossible to talk about a changing environment for marketing technology without talking about how the nature of the B2B buyer also is rapidly changing. The two are inextricably intertwined in a new reality that is both a cause and effect of the digital age we live in.

Source:  iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

But where is the hard data that this evolution is really occurring? We’re changing how we go to market — and there is plenty of data pointing to shifting spending by marketers — but how do we know that our shifted spending will better align with B2B buyers’ shifting needs and preferences?

There are quite a few data points that support this evolution; however, they’re often difficult to unearth. Often they are buried or confused within consumer-focused studies on buying trends, and sometimes the consumer data even contradicts the B2B reality. Marketing technology analyst and author David Raab hit on this in a recent round-up of many of these ‘mixed’ consumer/B2B surveys on his Customer Experience Matrix blog. And a major call-out from his piece was just this discrepancy: “Many [data points] are contradictory …,” commented Raab.

So how do we better articulate the unique and changing nature of the B2B buyer — separate from the broader consumer perspective? How do we nail down (real) evidence that the nature of the B2B buyer has changed?

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Today I am extending an open invitation for marketers that read this blog to help participate, both in my upcoming book – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – and in my current graduate research project, by taking part in a survey of US marketers that I am currently conducting.

As I noted in a previous post, the focus of my current research is on analyzing and synthesizing ways that marketers could better leverage technology for more connected and more strategic marketing, as well as identifying the cultural, organizational and technological barriers marketers face in trying to adopt strategic marketing technology (versus the myriad of tactical technologies they rely upon today).  By presenting insights both into the ‘state of the art’ and into what is keeping marketers from getting there, I hope to provide marketers with new leverage in how they attack the problem.

A key component of this research is an original benchmark survey of marketers focused on garnering insights into marketing technology priorities and experiences.  This is where I need your help.

    

Participate in the Survey

If you are a US-based marketer, please take a few minutes this week to participate in this survey.

This is the last week of the survey, and I need the help of the regular readers of Propelling Brands to hit my target research sample size.  So if you can take a few minutes today to fill this out, I’d appreciate it.  It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and as a thank-you for your participation, you will receive a summary of the survey results and will be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card.

Deadline for completing the survey is Midnight PT on Sunday, April 19, 2009.

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I’ve been doing a deep dive into the integrated marketing management segment over the past few months. My goal has been to unravel the complex vendor landscape; to help marketers discern the capabilities of distinct vendor segments; and to help figure out what is a ‘best fit’ for their marketing organizations. (While we’re on this topic, as an update for those following this series, I DO plan to publish the final installment of my three-part series on the ‘Top 20′ platform vendors in this segment – i.e., the final ‘list’ – at some point over the next few weeks. So stay tuned.)

I have primarily focused on three ‘camps’ – demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM) in my research and writing to date. My hypothesis with these camps has been that despite “… different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, [they] are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer,” as I wrote in February.

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Enter the fourth camp – the ‘inbound marketing’/marketing content management crowd – examples of which include new inbound marketing pure plays such as Hubspot, Magicomm, Vazt and Video Army, as well as content management stalwarts such as Crown Peak, which are evolving toward inbound marketing.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the phrase, inbound marketing, I said, ‘I don’t get it.’ In fact, I thought, ‘Wow, more confusing buzzwords.’ But I wanted to get to the bottom of this phenomenon, so I dug in, did some research, sat down a few weeks ago with Hubspot marketing VP Mike Volpe and more recently had a call with Vazt co-founder Seamus Walsh.

Now I think I get it, but I’m not sure that the phenomenon around this fourth camp is purely about inbound marketing. Dynamic and search-optimized marketing content management is a critical component and key value-add in a broader, integrated marketing context and for companies that deploy both inbound and outbound marketing. That’s why I describe this space as a dual helix of inbound marketing and marketing content management that is bound to eventually intertwine with the other camps. In fact, my conversations with Hubspot and Vazt made me think of the evolution of Marketbright, which started as a marketing content management system but has evolved into a demand generation system.

So what is inbound marketing, how is it tied to marketing content management and what does this all mean for marketers? Moreover, is this a real ecosystem of solutions, or is it merely a Hubspot phenomenon?

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This is the second in a three-part series of posts on integrated marketing management platforms.  The first post identified the strategic need for integrated marketing management, mapped this to key marketing ‘pain points’ that these systems address and provided an overview of the disparate technology camps that are vying to deliver robust integrated marketing management platforms to marketing organizations.  Click here to view the first post, “Marketer’s Needs + Technology Landscape.”

Today’s post will present high-level thoughts for marketers on approaches to analyzing their needs and to selecting a platform that is the right ‘fit’ for their organization.  The final post in this series will present snapshots of the top 20 vendors I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in this segment.

    

What should guide your decision to purchase an integrated marketing management platform? 

Let’s start with the basics:  What are your fundamental business goals?  And what marketing programs have you deployed to achieve these goals?  Ideally you want to invest in technology infrastructure that can help you achieve your business goals, that mirror your marketing programs and that (when all is said and done) can help you measure the impact that you made in reaching this goal.  Seems straightforward … except (and let’s not sugar coat this) … marketing processes and communication flows are complex and borderline ‘ugly’ when it comes to the level of complex, integrated execution and monitoring involved.  This means that your technology infrastructure must be able to handle this ‘ugliness.’ 

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

That brings us to the more advanced issue in evaluating the purchase of an integrated marketing management platform:  “How do I bring method to the madness?” as Market2Lead CEO Geoff Rego framed in a phone interview.  Whereas focus should rule the day in marketing strategy and planning, robust capability and the ‘kitchen sink’ factor should, in part, guide your technology decisions.  You want a platform that can give you real leverage.  In fact, you probably need more than you think you need.  And you can’t ‘wimp out’ when it comes to digging into this decision; this is a system that will become your lifeline; nor can you simply go with the marketing technology equivalent of ‘Big Blue’ (because no one got fired for buying Big Blue, right?).

“One thing not to do is to look at a generic list of the ‘top three’ products or ‘industry leaders’ and refuse to consider any others,” comments industry analyst David Raab in a white paper, titled “Three Differences that Matter in Demand Generation Systems.”  Raab continues, “On the other hand, few marketers have the time or inclination to perform an in‐depth technical analysis of several dozen demand generation systems, or even to document their own needs in detail.”

So then what is the middle ground, and how should marketing organizations approach finding the right ‘fit’ for their organization … without having to build CIO-level expertise and while staying true to their current, successful (but not fully leveraged) marketing processes?

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This past November I posted a blog piece, titled “Top 20 Cross-channel Marketing Execution Platforms?”  The piece was a call for input on the state of technologies that assist marketers in running complex, cross-channel, integrated marketing communication programs that ultimately are focused on delivering one thing – customer sales.  These technologies are becoming more critical to marketing organizations over time.  Why?  Chaos:  Rapid growth in Internet-based communication mediums has led to a power shift in the buyer-seller dynamic; marketers have never been at a greater disadvantage.  Meanwhile, their roles and campaigns are becoming more complicated.  At the same time, they are being asked for greater, real-time visibility into results and marketing ROI as never before.  “The online world … has refused to stay in a nice, little box,” commented Scott Brinker on his Chief Marketing Technologist blog in October.  “[It] has exploded into millions of microchannels, with few boundaries, in constant motion, with people sloshing freely among them — often under little or no direct control of the marketer.”

Since my first blog piece on this topic, I’ve gotten some great feedback from folks in the industry, have spoken with nearly a dozen technology vendors and have digested quite a few recently-published books on the subject, including Sandy Carter‘s The New Language of Marketing 2.0, David Raab‘s Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems and Steve WoodsDigital Body Language — all great reads.  This process has helped to evolve my earlier thinking – validating some initial observations but also changing others.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

A key revision from my first piece is a re-thinking of my taxonomy for classifying this technology group.  First, it is clear that a centralized, intelligent and automated layer is emerging at the heart of the continuum of marketing systems (see diagram), and this layer serves a critical functional role in integrating high-level strategic management with tactical execution.  I have chosen to refer to this layer as integrated marketing management.  Second, it is clear that there are several existing software ‘camps,’ with different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, that are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer.  These camps include:  demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM).  While each comes at this layer from a different angle, the lines between these systems are blurring and their features and capabilities are increasingly quite similar.  Yet these camps remain important points of distinction and differentiation today because they are how many vendors classify their systems, and they help to understand both the strengths/weaknesses and the capabilities/gaps of these vendors systems.

The result is a complicated decision-making environment for marketers that want to harness the capabilities of integrated marketing management.  “Now everyone is trying to tie it all together, [but] you wind up with a weird gulf in buyer expectations,” commented Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua, in a phone interview.  “Marketers aren’t used to doing this evaluation.”

That is why I’m writing about this topic.  As a marketer, who has taken the time to become more educated about this space, I’d like to help lift the veil off of what is perhaps the Holy Grail of marketing – having IT systems that actually provide leverage to your integrated marketing activities and processes, rather than just drowning you in more data and execution responsibilities.

So what is an integrated marketing management platform, how can it help marketers, and who are the top vendors in this segment?

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Marketing via word-of-mouth, social networks and brand communities is not new.  Effectively leveraging social media technologies both in support of these marketing initiatives and as part of an ongoing, two-way customer-brand dialogue, however, has emerged as a burning issue on marketers’ minds. 

Social media technologies, themselves, certainly have their own learning curve, but the greater learning curve for marketers is contending with the fundamental power shift in the customer-brand relationship that social media technologies are enabling.  Thus, recognizing and responding to the new reality that individual customers and brand communities increasingly define (and have part ownership over) brands requires a fundamental shift in our approach to bringing products and services to market.

IBM Press

Source: IBM Press

IBM executive Sandy Carter is a forward thinker on this issue whose experiences and industry dialogue eventually led her to realize that marketers need a new set of tools if they are going to better contend with this power shift.  Her new book, The New Language of Marketing 2.O:  How to Use ANGELS to  Energize Your Market, delivers just such a ‘tool box’ for marketers — presenting a normative framework, together with numerous case examples from companies in a variety of B2B and B2C industries, to help marketers think through these challenges inside their own businesses.

Few are as well-equipped to tackle such a subject as Carter, who has had an impressive career in the enterprise software arena and who currently is IBM’s Vice President, SOA and WebSphere Marketing, Strategy and Channels.  In this role, she is responsible for IBM’s cross-company, worldwide SOA initiatives and is in charge of one of IBM’s premier brands, IBM WebSphere, which under her leadership has shown strong growth.  She also led her global marketing organization to garner 14 industry marketing awards in 2007.

What is Marketing 2.0, and what are Carter’s thoughts on how marketers can gain leverage in the dizzying world of social-media technologies to energize their marketing programs?

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This the second in a two-part series of posts.  This past Friday I discussed the five key characteristics (‘pillars’) I believe will mark successful, integrated marketing services agencies in the future, I also cited some current barriers to firms succeeding in this ‘next-generation’ context.  Click here to view the first post, “Next Generation of Marketing Services Agencies 1 of 2: Pillars and Barriers.”

Today’s post will complete the picture by presenting snapshots of several, specific firms I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in the emerging, next-generation marketing services agency world.

  

Are there any firms out there, today, that exemplify the vision of a next-generation marketing services agency?

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

The truth is that no single agency, today, is at the stage of sophistication previously described (i.e., no firms are embracing all five pillars) … yet.  But there are quite a few that are moving in the right direction and that have embraced different combinations of these pillars.  Not surprisingly many are smaller, more-nimble (or at least holding-company-independent) firms that do not have scale investments in the old-school models and that are experimenting with new approaches; thus, it is easier for them to break the mold. 

Who are these firms, and what are they doing differently?

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Over the past few months I’ve checked in with a number of current and past colleagues and acquaintances who work at a variety of marketing services agencies — PR, ad agencies, social-media firms, brand consultancies, etc.  In addition to the usual pleasantries, our discussions could not help but touch on the state of the industry.  I’ve also seen and commented on a growing critical mass of news articles and blog posts on the future of advertising and PR  firms.

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

What has been interesting about all of this dialogue, both online and off, is one consistent theme:  The business environment for ‘traditional’ agencies is changing … radically … and overnight. 

“I hear death is imminent for your business model, in fact I’ve heard the industry itself might be beyond repair,” commented Kyle Flaherty, a former PR agency professional and current tech-industry marketing director (now on the ‘client side’), in a December post on his Engage in PR blog.

What is causing this ‘plague’ of Biblical proportions throughout the agency world, and how can agencies overcome this situation by preparing for the next-generation of client expectations?

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I wrote in a recent piece on this blog, titled “Marketing Personalization 2.0,” about how companies are increasingly applying techniques from mass customization, using ideas such as personas and embracing what Patricia Seybold refers to as ‘customer scenarios’ to improve personalization of marketing efforts.  I also cited a range of technologies that can manage execution of this type of marketing.

Yet, even as this evolution represents an advancement over Marketing Personalization 1.0 (i.e., demographic and lifestyle channel targeting), there is much to be desired.  We are still at a point as marketers where we are guessing at personalization.  It is still possible to make costly mistakes, particularly if we misjudge customer persona or the channels for interacting with a given persona.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

“If you think backward from the audience you’re trying to reach and the channels and methods you’ve used to try to reach them, it all argues for taking a much more integrated approach to the work of marketing and communications,” argues Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing and Communications for IBM, quoted in a recent piece by Paul Dunay on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

Fortunately, waiting in the wings is a new wave of technologies that promise to rapidly leapfrog the current state and to take us to what I believe is a very tenable basis for structuring and ‘propelling’ forward to Marketing Personalization 3.0 (see diagram).  These technologies, which include semantic analysis and social graphs, offer the potential not only to get closer to customers than ever before, but they also approach enabling what I believe is true ‘co-creation‘ of the marketing experience.

What do I mean by this?  Customers, who increasingly have power and leverage over brand-companies, will not only specify what they want but will also shape the boundaries and expectations of their communication with, recommendations regarding and the ultimate delivery of products and services from vendors. 

The entire experience will become a partnership, but why is this important?

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