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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

B2B commerce in the U.S. is a big deal.

  • The most-recent U.S. Census Bureau survey on the topic reported in 2008 that B2B commerce accounted for 52% of total commercial activity, and B2B e-commerce accounted for 92% of total e-commerce.

B2B marketing in the U.S. (also) is a big deal.

In fact, you might even make a credible argument that much of the innovation at a people, process, content and technology level in the overall marketing discipline, today, is primarily taking place in the B2B marketing and sales segment.  Definitely more than in the consumer marketing arena.

Source: B2BCamp

Yet it seems more difficult than ever for B2B marketing and sales leaders to get the education and peer insight they need to stay ahead of their game.  And, whereas the consumer world seems to have a real ‘esprit de corps,’ the idea of ‘community’ in the B2B marketing and sales world is a rare thing.

… which is why I’m so excited about the first-ever B2BCamp (Twitter: @b2bcamp, #b2bcamp #atl) in Atlanta this coming Saturday, March 10.

Billed as an ‘unconference,’ the event is squarely targeted at delivering the type of education, peer insights and community that too often seem to elude B2B marketing and sales leaders.

I’m also excited to be keynoting the event – giving a talk that is based on my book, Balancing the Demand Equation, and that frames up the day by talking about the larger set of challenges and opportunities facing B2B demand generation today.

An UnConference

So what is B2BCamp?  The organizers explain:

B2BCamp is a user organized gathering focused on B2B Marketing topics. B2BCamp is one of many “unconferences” held  throughout the world. Although similar to traditional industry conferences, at B2BCamp there are no “attendees” because everyone participates in some manner. Some participants will present while others will lead a roundtable discussion. Some will contribute simply by sharing their experiences and others by helping with logistics, securing sponsorships, setting up Wi-Fi, etc. B2BCamp is a self-organizing collaborative event that is rewarding, fun and a totally cool  experience!

And if it’s not 100% apparent, B2BCamp – despite a focus on the topic of B2B commerce – is in fact not a commercial event.  I.e., all of the organizers are volunteers, and sponsorships are set at a low level … just enough to help cover costs.

Vote for Your Favorite Session … and It May Make It on the Agenda

A key feature of B2BCamp is that the agenda is developed by the attendees via two rounds of voting – before the event to narrow the presentations and on-site to finalize the agenda.

In fact, you can review the proposed sessions and vote online here.

BTW:  At the time I’m typing this blog post the top session is “Welcome to the Buyer-centric Movement” – a topic I love because it’s literally one of the two guiding concepts in my book.

Find Out Who Will Be There

Not only is this unconference transparent about selecting the sessions, it’s also transparent about who’s attending.

To find who’s attending, click here.

Worth a Full Saturday

As I mentioned above, the event is this Saturday, March 10, near the Perimeter Mall in the Atlanta area.

The event organizers tell me there are 175+ B2B marketing and sales leaders already registered, and so it’s likely to be a sell-out.

See you there.

Should be a good first step towards building a (much-needed) B2B marketing and sales community … in the Atlanta-area, and then around the country as B2BCamp hits the road! TBD.

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This week I’m publishing a two-part blog series.  This series takes a look at the challenge marketing leaders face in managing demand as an operational process.  The first post presented an introduction to the topic and examined the issue of tracking B2B buyer behavior.  The second post, today, looks at the fundamental issue of B2B marketing leaders’ ‘lack of an operations mindset.’ ~ABN

Problem Two:  Our Lack of an Operations Mindset

Given we have a rapidly expanding set of technological capabilities – through marketing automation and similar platforms – to ‘track the buyer,’ what is remaining for us to effectively manage demand as an end-to-end, optimize-able process?  I noted in the previous post in this series, “Clearly there is something else – something bigger – that is holding us back … .”

That bigger issue is B2B marketing leaders’ lack of an operations mindset.

This is the issue that B2B marketing leaders – especially CMOs – often can’t put their finger on, but that is at the core of much of our modern challenges.  They talk about not being able to demonstrate the revenue impact of marketing; they talk about not having ‘hard numbers’; or they speak to not having a dashboard to really visualize marketing results.  Obviously none of these ‘wants’ represent an operations mindset, per se, but they do represent the result of successfully managing demand as a process.

So how do B2B marketing leaders typically remedy this situation?  They invest in technology, but when it comes to their marketing programs, they continue to do ‘more of the same.’

Therein lies the disconnect, as I note in Balancing the Demand Equation:

The disconnect:  If as B2B marketers we are applying legacy mass-marketing, top-of-funnel techniques to the effort of customer acquisition and nurturing in an era of Buyer 2.0, there is a high likelihood that we will have a single, ineffective touchpoint with our buyer and then subsequently lose his/her engagement as (s)he goes through the buying process.  Most of our demand generation programs thus remain highly inefficient, largely focused on awareness, and so we consistently lose track of warm leads that literally ‘leak’ out of our sale funnel, as Forrester has noted in its research.  This is particularly problematic because Buyer 2.0 is moving forward in the buyer education process and will make a purchase, but if our B2B demand generation program loses touch with that buyer, the chance of him/her purchasing from us is greatly decreased.

Most B2B marketing organizations thus do not have a top-of-funnel problem.  What they really have is a ‘middle-of-the-funnel’ problem.

This is why our B2B demand generation efforts cannot be haphazard or intermittent; instead, they need to be consistent and continuous processes.  …

Yet it is exactly this type of a consistent and continuous B2B demand process – one that perpetually operates to move a buyer through multiple education and qualification stages (adjusting to the pace of the buying cycle), that combines both automated and live touch points and that only turns a lead over to sales after sufficient processing – that B2B marketing leaders are challenged to build.

We want a lead factory – a construct that requires understanding and enabling the multiple processing stages required to take in raw inputs and to churn out a finished product – but instead we deliver a series of ‘stage shows.’

What is at the core of this issue?  It has nothing to do with good intentions; rather, it is the product of biases that are deep-rooted and fundamentally engrained in B2B marketers.

  • First, right-brain/creative types are often drawn to marketing, not left-brainers.
  • Second, marketing training at the vocational and academic level is focused on channels and tactics and on building consumer brands, but rarely speaks to the orchestration and coordination of multiple channels and tactics in a sequence to drive buyer dialogue.
  • Third, on the off-chance a B2B marketer has some operations-analysis experience, it was probably garnered either in an MBA class or in an industrial setting, and it was probably applied to some sort of manufacturing process – meaning it never ‘clicked’ that this could also be applied to marketing.
  • Fourth, the opportunities and challenges around such a complex, iterative and information empowered Buyer 2.0 are relatively recent; meaning, it truly is a changed world of marketing today from five years ago or ten years ago, when more ‘one-and-done’ tactics in more limited channels might have actually been a successful route.

It’s time for our training, bias and ultimate mindset as B2B marketers to catch up with our operational reality.  So where do we need to focus our time and attention to drive change?

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This week I’m publishing a two-part blog series.  This series takes a look at the challenge marketing leaders face in managing demand as an operational process.  The first post, today, presents an introduction to the topic and examines the issue of tracking B2B buyer behavior. ~ABN

I open Balancing the Demand Equation by commenting, “Modern B2B demand generation is failing.  Seriously.”  What’s going on?  Amid an information power shift from sellers to buyers, an explosion of Web 2.0 communication channels and raised expectations from sales colleagues and executive management, B2B marketers are finding it tougher than ever to credibly and efficiently add value in the “lead-to-revenue” process, as Forrester terms it.  I hear this challenge regularly from senior marketers and CMOs, who often are hard-pressed to show the real impact of their efforts on their companies’ bottom lines.

Where’s the gap?

There are many challenges, but perhaps one of the greatest is our frequent inability as B2B marketing leaders to conceptualize and manage ‘demand’ – used here in the classical economics sense of the word – as an operational, repeatable and sustainable process.  Stated in another way, we do not treat B2B buyer demand as something that is built via a series of optimize-able steps, through which we turn initial buyer interest into a lifetime of customer revenue.

What goes into such an end-to-end demand process?  The core organizing thread is the logic around the dialogue we plan to drive with the buyer, based on his/her buying process.  This aligns with a virtual ‘layer’ of content marketing efforts that should extend across channels, addressing various stages of the buying process.  This dialogue also should be aligned with a layer of lead qualification activities, which extend throughout all phases of the buying process.  These parallel layers of content marketing and lead qualification should align with various marketing and sales roles, spanning both automated nurturing and also live interaction at various stages of the buying process.  And the entire process should be supported by data and systems that enable the end-to-end orchestration of marketing and sales efforts to move the buyer forward.

Active demand process management thus is critical to successful, modern B2B marketing and demand generation, and yet B2B marketing leaders are only beginning to scratch the surface of doing so.

In fact, this gap was driven home as I was reading a recent pair of research briefs, written by Lori Wizdo and Jeff Ernst (Twitter: @jeffernst), both analysts at Forrester.  The first brief, “Automating Lead-to-revenue Management” by Wizdo, notes that B2B technology marketing organizations’ contribution to lead pipelines, on average, hovers at a surprisingly-low 27%.  The second brief, “The State Of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed” by Ernst, further notes that only one in four B2B marketing organizations “… have defined a lead-to-revenue management process that their marketing and sales teams follow” and that less than 5% of aggregate marketing and sales interaction with B2B buyers rises to the level of what Ernst would consider truly “orchestrated.”

Clearly modern B2B demand generation is failing.  And all of the great messaging and creative, smart tradeshow sponsorships and new technology investments that we throw at the problem cannot help if we are unable make a critical leap.  We must be able to manage demand as an operational process.

So why haven’t we done this yet?

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I’m excited to share that my new book, Balancing the Demand Equation, is being released on Amazon a week from this Monday on September 19.  (BTW:  You can pre-order your copy on Amazon by clicking here.)

The inspiration for the book is literally the years spent as a B2B marketer saying to myself, “There’s got to be a better way.”  And so I wrote the book as a modern handbook for B2B marketers to navigate the complex, new world of Buyer 2.0, sales/marketing alignment and marketing automation.

The book provides a framework to help B2B marketers transform their demand generation approach – moving from a legacy of batch-and-blast mass marketing and of reactive ‘sales support’ to a new state of building perpetual, buyer-centric programs that contribute to predictable and sustainable revenues for their organizations.

Click here to download a PDF overview of the book and its table of contents.

I’m also excited to share some early reviews of the book by some pretty well-respected names in the marketing and sales arena.

Jim Lenskold (Twitter: @JimLenskold), President of Lenskold Group and Author, Marketing ROI: The Path to Campaign, Customer and Corporate Profitability, wrote:

A must-read book for B2B marketers ready to drive bottom-line results and truly deliver marketing ROI through better management of the complete purchase funnel. Balancing the Demand Equation provides guidance on marketing’s increased role in educating, engaging and nurturing sales-ready leads in today’s world of marketing operations, automation and outcome-based metrics.

Robert L. Jolles (Twitter: @Jolles), President of Jolles Associates, Inc. and Author, Customer Centered Selling, wrote:

Finally! A roadmap to help B2B marketers understand the modern buyer and pioneer successful, customer-centered demand generation programs.

Thomas C. O’Guinn, Ph.D., with the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin–Madison wrote:

This is a very smart book on a very important topic. Anyone who knows much about B2B marketing knows that almost everything written on it is just a round-peg-square-hole ‘fit’ of B2C knowledge, or a worked-over sales management PowerPoint deck. They also are real slogs to read. Not this. Needles’ book is a new paradigm, and one that fits perfectly with the new realities of commerce. This is sophisticated analytics, content creation and REAL customer relationship management. If a company were to seriously adopt this model, they would make a lot more money. No kidding.

Ann Handley (Twitter: @marketingprofs), Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and Co-author, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, wrote:

Dear B2B Marketer: Your world is changing, and here’s the field guide that shows you precisely how to adapt.

Steven Woods (Twitter: @stevewoods), CTO of Eloqua and Author, Revenue Engine, wrote:

In Balancing the Demand Equation, Needles weaves together a well-crafted B2B demand generation framework, at both the strategic and tactical level, that shows executives a clear path to more-predictable and more-sustainable revenue outcomes. Grounded in case studies and detailed research, the book provides specific guidance and critical insights for getting the most out of marketing automation investments, while never losing sight of the strategic change towards buyer-centricity.

Sincerest thanks to these folks for taking the time to review — and in some cases even contribute to — the book.

And I look forward to your own feedback to the book over the coming weeks!

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Just before Thanksgiving I published the second installment in a two-part series on the “Elements of a Modern Demand Generation Plan.”

I’ve done a number of posts over time on the various holistic elements that go into successful B2B demand generation here on Propelling Brands, on the Silverpop Demand Generation blog and more recently on the Left Brain Marketing (LBM) DemandGen (r)Evolution blog.

Yet I note in this new LBM post that despite all the tips and tricks out there in guides, blog posts and Tweets, for a lot of marketers there still seems to be a ‘glaring gap':

How do you build a modern demand generation program? What does that entail? Where do you start? What are the keys to success?

I think this is the real disconnect for many B2B marketers today. They do not really understand what it looks like to architect an entire, modern demand generation program, end-to-end – one that is appropriate for a marketing environment in which power has shifted from sellers to buyers and where Web 2.0 realities predominate. These B2B marketers need a way to sort out how all of these tactical systems and advice in blog posts and through consultants all come together in a real program.

I argue in the first post in the series that starting place should be a thoughtful and comprehensive demand generation plan. I then proceed to outline the initial research and analysis required to start with developing your plan — a first step in the process I refer to as establishing ‘buyer-targeting context.’

Source: Left Brain Marketing; click to enlarge

I then use the second post in the series to explain how you translate this initial research and analysis into actual demand generation programs — a second step in the process I refer to as ‘program translation.’

This is the same process we go through with clients of Left Brain Marketing to help them develop their own demand generation programs, so the content of these two posts is well-grounded in reality.  (I also provide a number of slides right out of our decks as illustrative graphics in part two.)

I end the second post by noting:

There is certainly more to say around the details and best practices of building out your sub models and of operating and refining your demand generation program. … Nonetheless, I hope this post and the previous one represents a good starting place for wrapping your head around how to approach and build a successful demand generation plan.

And I really do believe these two posts are a good starting place — and a comprehensive reference source — for your own B2B demand generation programs.

Click here to read the full part-one post on LBM DemandGen (r)Evolution; and click here to read the full part-two post.

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A little over a week ago I dug into an important topic on the Left Brain Marketing DemandGen (r)Evolution blog.  How can we improve our approach to lead nurturing as B2B marketers, and in doing so, how can we improve the effectiveness of our B2B demand generation programs?

Source: Left Brain Marketing; click to enlarge

Despite increasing adoption of marketing automation technology, “[w]e’re really bad at lead nurturing as B2B marketers,” I explain in the post.  I subsequently dig into the disconnects, and I recommend a strategic ‘layered’ approach to rationalize nurturing programs.

So where is the gap in our lead nurturing?  In the post I look at three realizations that are critical to successfully developing and positioning your lead nurturing.  Specifically, it’s critical for B2B marketers to realize:

  • Nurturing is a strategic activity, not a tactical one
  • Nurturing balances targeted buyer education with buyer qualification; it is two-way communication
  • Successful nurturing is aligned with, and supports the buying process

The resultant call-out is the need for a model to better think through how to build a successful lead nurturing program – balancing lead-flow goals with the need to engage the modern B2B buyer and giving you a foundation for building out nurturing tracks within your marketing automation system.

My ‘layered’ model – which the post explains in more detail – is one approach to rationalizing and organizing your lead nurturing tracks as part of your overall B2B demand generation program.   (And it is something we are leveraging at Left Brain Marketing in our client engagements.)

In the post I note:

Successful lead nurturing requires thinking in terms of a matrix of potential content offers and reactions on the part of the B2B buyer – all of which are designed to help support the buying process, accelerate decision-making and orchestrate content dialogue with that buyer. 

It’s impossible to envision every single choice a buyer will make in every situation, but you can understand if a  buyer is ‘on track’ or off, and have an approach to getting buyers back on the right track.

Click here to read the full LBM DemandGen (r)Evolution post.

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I examine the issue of what we as B2B marketers mean by ‘demand generation’ and explore why there is so much disconnect around the current definition and scope of demand generation in my first post on the new Left Brain Marketing DemandGen (r)Evolution blog.

Source: iStockphoto

The idea for this post came after “some interesting, recent interactions with marketing and sales professionals around the concept of demand generation.” I note in the post that “… these interactions have led me to believe this concept is nothing short of highly misunderstood.”

So I put a stake in the sand with this post – asserting my belief that demand generation is a strategic activity; that it is in fact the charter of B2B marketing; and that it spans and should be defined in terms of our holistic interaction with buyers throughout their buying lifecycles.

“It’s the art of educating buyers and nurturing these relationships from earliest awareness through to maximizing customer lifetime value.  It’s about sparking, nurturing and monetizing initial demand; it’s also about sustaining and growing that demand among current customers.  It’s the whole thing.”

The post subsequently analyzes three aspects of this issue:

  • One, it looks at exactly why there is this disconnect among B2B marketers in the definition and scope of demand generation.
  • Two, it examines ongoing evolution in our definition of demand generation.
  • Three, it identifies what I believe are the three critical components of successful, modern B2B demand generation.

Click here to read the full LBM DemandGen (r)Evolution post.

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