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Archive for the ‘Innovative Ideas’ Category

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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The New Year’s period is always chocked-full with ‘top ten’ lists and countdowns, and unfortunately, too many blog posts and articles that come out in this period are pretty much news/information you can’t really do anything with.  Inward reflection, but not actionable; sentimental, but not really something you can leverage moving forward.

I’ve been thinking for the last few weeks that for the New Year I wanted to do a post that is action-oriented and that will help you be a better B2B marketer in 2010. 

I also believe strongly in being a catalyst for sharing ideas — which is why I started this blog — and so I thought one of the most-actionable posts I could do would be to point you to resources where you can learn from the best and brightest in the B2B marketing community throughout 2010.  The gift that keeps on giving …

    

What are my criteria for the luminaries I’ve included in this list?

I didn’t start out with a formal set of criteria, but here’s what’s emerged:

  • First, these are all people that prolifically share their insights — cross-medium.  They Tweet, they blog, they speak, they write books, they consult, etc.  And they are generous in this regard.
  • Second, their expertise centers around new strategy, innovation and technology for marketing — particularly B2B marketing — and they are truly advancing the body of Marketing 2.0 knowledge … advancements that will help us cure the ad-centric, interruptive, paternalistic Mad Men hangover that has plagued marketing for decades.
  • Third, these are people whose insights I actually follow.  There is no one on this list whose insight I would not personally recommend and whose own books, blogs posts, Tweets, etc. I do not personally read.
  • Fourth, and in all honesty, all of these folks — except for one — are on Twitter.  Because if you’re not, and you have any insight into Marketing 2.0 … well, get with it!
  • Fifth, I did not look at anyone else’s ‘top influencer’ list in putting my own list together, nor have I feigned reverence to others’ ideas of who is a thought leader … and who is not.

Disclaimer 1: This list may or may not be exhaustive, and it may or may not include people you think should be included on this list.  So don’t be offended if I’ve left someone off.  I probably have, and so I’ll endeavor to add additional people in the comments area below.  And you should too!

    

Who made the list? 

So who has new and innovative insights for ‘propelling’ B2B brands going into 2010?

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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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The prevailing wisdom in marketing today is that achieving the greatest levels of performance requires true, closed-loop, customer-level insight into the effectiveness of marketing programs.  If you can see a detailed, causal chain through the complete demand-generation process and correlate steps and interactions in that chain to account-level customer spending, you can then analyze how various marketing activities contribute to final results.  Further, if you can analyze your marketing at such a granular level, you can tie spending to specific outcomes and can continuously tune your overall marketing formula at all levels.

I’ve touched on this imperative in past blog posts.  So no argument here.  In fact, as a tenured marketer (and now as a team member at a marketing technology company), it’s exciting to look around and witness the rapid evolution in marketing technology that is moving us closer to this reality.

It also goes without saying that in this environment, plenty is written about the drive for marketing accountability. 

Yet there is something subtle that gets missed and that I would argue should be the greater focus in the accountability dialogue.  It is the inherent and holistic upside for marketers of having an accountability mindset – i.e., the positive transformation that results from embracing a new approach to marketing.

I call it the ‘halo effect’ of marketing accountability.

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I’ve been pretty heads-down over the past few weeks, analyzing the data and results from my graduate research and also working on my upcoming book.  As I’ve dug into the data, there clearly are some self-evident themes emerging around marketers’ opportunities and challenges with adopting strategic marketing systems and technologies (which I will be covering on this blog in more depth over the coming weeks).  One of the clearest themes is the great chasm that exists between aspiration and reality for marketers when it comes to marketing measurement and the analysis of marketing return on investment (ROI).

My research found that these topics are top of mind for marketers, and many state their organizations are already beginning to engage with analytics software.  When asked about tactical/operational objectives for new technology deployments, measurement and ROI analysis are at the top.  This is consistent with a new Lenskold Group / MarketSphere report, released this week.  “Current economic conditions are putting pressures on marketers to better understand their marketing effectiveness as 8 in 10 marketers (79%) report that the need to measure, analyze and report marketing effectiveness is greater in 2009,” according to the press release for the report.

Yet my research found that the same marketers give their organizations low marks on analyzing performance and overwhelmingly comment that their organizations are ‘not aggressive’ when it comes to marketing technology investments.  Aspirations are high, but the reality of investment in systems and technologies to deliver on the aspiration is low.  This also was echoed by Lenskold/MarketSphere, which further commented in their release, “[B]udget pressures are evident with 6 out of 10 (59%) indicating that this higher demand for measuring marketing effectiveness is not budgeted for … .”

The reality is that marketers cannot get enough of systems and technology to tackle measurement and ROI analysis; they have barely scratched the surface.  Far from solved, this is an issue that has only become more important and yet more complicated over time.  Customer channels are exploding in number, and yet marketers are incapable of delivering measurement and ROI analysis that takes this new reality into consideration.  “Buyers are multichannel beings.  Buying cycles are cross-channel,” comments Akin Arikan in his recent book, Multichannel Marketing.  “Yet online and offline marketers still perform their measurements of success in isolation.”

So what are marketers’ aspirations; where is the disconnect; what are their challenges; and what are potential strategies for overcoming these challenges?

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My recent blog post on the inbound marketing / marketing content management crowd has gotten me thinking quite a bit about the holistic lifecycle of leads and of the role of marketers in this process.  The rapid ‘death’ of the consultative sale means that marketing organizations increasingly are playing a more-pervasive role in the lifecycle of leads – blurring the traditional lines between marketing and sales organizations.  “Who builds a [target] list, is it a sales person or a marketing person?” posed Rand Schulman, CMO of InsideView, in a meeting with me in his office in San Francisco a little over a week ago.  Good question.  Also, how should this list be built?

The new marketplace reality requires marketing organizations and their technology systems to be more engaged than ever before in all aspects of lead generation and of lead nurturing.  Thus, an emerging key partner for marketing organizations is the growing roster of what I refer to as the ‘online compiled lead sourcing providers.’  The roots of this category are grounded in the world of opt-in target list builders, prospect data miners and syndicated lead directory/database vendors – this traditionally included firms such as Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B), as well as media organizations and the credit bureaus.  This industry has evolved, though, and it increasingly looks more different than it once did, with an explosion of new market entrants and of new techniques for sourcing and aggregating prospect insight.  Today this emerging group includes firms such as Demandbase, idExec, Jigsaw, Lead411, NetProspex, OneSource, SalesGenie, Selectory (a D&B company), Zapdata (also a D&B company) and ZoomInfo.

It’s a pretty exciting time for this segment, but it’s worth tempering the excitement a bit – making sure we’re analyzing these providers in the context of where they fit into the overall marketing mix.  As with any new data or system provider in the world of Marketing 2.0, these providers are not a panacea.  Leads can come from many sources, and it’s important to recognize the trade-offs.

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original); click to enlarge graphic

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original); click to enlarge graphic

The new marketplace reality, thus, also requires marketers to assess all of their lead-generation-oriented marketing programs against a number of alternatives and in the context of the net impact of these programs.  As I was thinking through this, I built this chart to conceptualize the landscape.  On the x-axis I have made a relative assessment of the net credibility various programs bring in the eyes of the prospect – i.e., the degree to which a lead is pre-disposed to being interested in that brand-company and a relative indication of how hard marketing and sales will have to work to nurture a lead.  On the y-axis I have made a relative assessment of the net estimated cost per lead of different types of lead-generation-oriented marketing programs.  In doing so I considered both time and money, as it is critical to look at both.  For example, inbound marketing may have low dollar cost but it is not a no-cost activity; successful content and engagement requires time and energy, which translates into real dollars via salaries, overhead, etc.  This is why I have it at roughly the same cost level as paid sourcing.  What do you think about this matrix and where I’ve placed various types of marketing programs?

I hope this framework helps you better think about where the online compiled lead sourcing providers fit into the mix and provides a frame of reference as you dig into the status of this segment.  I believe it is particularly instructive because it speaks to some of the opportunity for evolution in this segment and is indicative of the segment’s overall trajectory – particularly predicting moves that will help improve the net credibility of leads while maintaining low net cost per lead.

So what’s new with the online compiled lead sourcing crowd, and how do we break down the vendor landscape?  Moreover, how are they innovating to keep pace with the tidal wave of change in integrated marketing management technology?  And what does this mean for marketers?

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