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Posts Tagged ‘B2B marketing’

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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Some of you have already read about my recent departure from marketing automation vendor Silverpop.  This past Friday was my last day as B2B Marketing Evangelist and Director of Field Marketing there.  On Monday I took on a new role.  I am now Vice President of Demand Generation Strategy at Left Brain Marketing, a demand generation agency that is based in Silicon Valley (although I am remaining in Atlanta, in case you were wondering).

Why the change?  What’s on the horizon?

Source:  Left Brain MarketingI’m very excited about working with Malcolm Friedberg, Robert Moreau, Sandra Syrett and the rest of the team at Left Brain Marketing.  I believe this move will put me in a better position than ever to help B2B marketers develop successful, buyer-centric demand generation programs and build their brands in a bottoms-up, grassroots fashion – what I believe are the keys to achieving sustainable revenues in the modern B2B marketing environment.  I also believe that Left Brain Marketing represents the right type of agency at the right time in the B2B marketplace.  Its focus is on demand generation; it blends strategy with execution, partnering with its clients to design and execute programs; it recognizes that process change does not occur over night, establishing long-term relationships with its clients; it leverages marketing automation technology but is vendor agnostic; it believes successful marketing programs emerge from focusing on buyers and working with smart people; and it blends big consultancy brains with small agency touch.

We are at a critical – and challenging – moment in the evolution both of modern demand generation practice and of the discipline of B2B marketing.  More than ever it is critical for us to close the “Technology Innovation Vs. People/Process Stagnation Gap in Modern B2B Demand Generation,” which I noted in one of my final posts on Silverpop’s blog.  There is tremendous potential to leverage modern marketing technology and pressing need to market differently to the modern B2B buyer.  Yet technology alone is not sufficient to address this gap.

Joining the team at Left Brain Marketing gives me the opportunity to better help B2B marketers succeed in this environment and to focus on areas where I believe a demand generation agency can provide key value-add:

> ‘People and process’ remain the greatest barriers today to successful B2B demand generation: There is, indeed, tremendous potential for marketing automation technology today.  A DemandGen Report article summarized Aberdeen research that found, “[N]urtured leads in Best-in-Class organizations delivered 47% higher average order values than non-nurtured leads.”  Yet adoption rates remain low and even when the technology is adopted, it has high failure rates.

Some data to consider (which I covered in a past blog post):

  • Only 7-10% of B2B marketing organizations in the US have adopted marketing automation technology, according to SiriusDecisions at their May 2010 summit.
  • Only 24% of these adopters report they are “generating enough demand (sales leads) to satisfy [their] sales team,” according to a Bulldog Solutions/Frost & Sullivan study.
  • When asked what their top reason is for not successfully leveraging marketing automation, “We don’t have the right or sufficient number of people” and “We don’t have the right processes” came in as the number one and two responses.

There are two points of synthesis from this and related data.  One, there remains only limited examples of successful sophisticated use cases of marketing automation in B2B demand generation today.  Combining some of the data above, it is possible that only about 2-3% of B2B marketers are using automation to power successful demand generation programs today.  Two, the demarcation between sophisticated and unsophisticated use cases is not about the technology adoption, it’s about how these B2B marketing organizations approached their demand generation programs.  It’s about knowledge, strategy, program design and campaign execution.

That’s why I’ve joined an agency that is focused on helping its clients build the right demand generation approach from day one – starting with people and process, and focused on the targeted buyer.

> Demand generation approach and strategy should not be driven by marketing automation vendors’ capabilities (or lack thereof): A corollary we can draw from the adoption data above is that it’s most important for B2B marketers to do what is right for their organization, in their specific business environment when it comes to their demand generation programs.  We see constant feuding between vendors around features and functions – it seems to be the lifeblood of marketing automation salespeople today, but it’s really not where B2B marketers should be spending their time.   You shouldn’t adopt a marketing automation platform because of its ability to transform your organization; rather, you should transform your organization, and then adopt the right technology that will help you amplify this transformation.

That’s why I’ve joined an agency that supports a wide range of marketing automation and CRM platforms but that is fundamentally vendor agnostic – preferring to match the right technology to the right client’s need.

> B2B marketers need the right type of partner when it comes to building their demand generation strategy and programs. The early history of B2B marketing automation is dotted with firms that focused merely on technology implementation or that merely operated B2B marketers’ demand generation programs for them.  No one wins with this type of support; you don’t get better as a marketer.  B2B marketers need the right counselor to take them through people and process change, but they also need a partner that is ready to roll up his/her sleeves and help affect change on the front line, in the trenches and over a long period of time.  This stuff doesn’t happen overnight.  This means the focus of demand generation must be on the marketing programs and the results, not merely on the successful adoption of marketing technology.

That’s why I’ve joined a firm that leads with the marketing, that partners with its clients and that looks to technology as a means to an end.

I enjoyed my time at Silverpop; in fact, I want to thank Bill Nussey and the rest of the team there for the opportunity to work with a world-class group of technologists, salespeople and marketers.  (And let me be clear that I believe Silverpop has a world-class marketing platform – one that we are leveraging as part of current engagements with Left Brain Marketing clients.)  We accomplished quite a lot during my tenure at Silverpop, especially building out the B2B Marketing University series, but I believed it was time to roll up my sleeves and get back into the demand generation trenches.

I joined Left Brain Marketing because it was the right time for me to join such an organization and because it’s the right agency for the current era of demand generation.

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I tackled this important topic last Wednesday in a new post on the Silverpop Demand Generation (DG) blog – a post that also was highlighted on the Savvy B2B Marketing blog in their weekly roundup.

Source: iStockphoto

I’ve noticed a resurgence of this question in recent months — or at least I personally find I’m getting asked this question more than ever by B2B marketers.  I think the trend is linked to a new generation of B2B marketers that are adopting marketing automation and that are trying to wrap their heads around the demand generation technology ecosystem.

“CRM and marketing automation have purposes and capabilities that are related and complementary but very different, and these differences are salient to what we’re trying to accomplish with B2B demand generation,” I note in the post.  “The two are integral.  You need both, but you need to understand what each one does for you, and what it doesn’t do.”

So clearly it’s great timing both to be talking about the two types of platforms and for a blog post that digs into the details, comparing them.

The DG post breaks down the two platforms at three levels:

  • A first take: What are some top level similarities and differences, and where do these platforms sit in the larger marketing technology ecosystem?  This section includes a great contributed chart from David Raab.
  • An analysis of the goals of each platform: What is the intended strategic purpose of each platform?
  • A deep dive into features and capabilities: What are the specific things each platform does and doesn’t do?  This section includes some great contributed charts from Malcolm Friedberg with Left Brain Marketing and Jep Castelein, a.k.a. “The Lead Sloth.”

I think the most interesting aspect of the dialogue in this post is around the strategic role of marketing automation – a topic I also covered in a past post on MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.  I note in the DG post:

Marketing automation — at it’s most fundamental level — was developed to help marketers better target and execute one-to-one communication with key prospects within the context of demand generation efforts, simultaneously orchestrating and tracking marketing resources against this activity.  CRM consolidates a great deal of information about prospects and customers; however, it provides virtually no framework or tools for true nurturing of earlier-stage prospects, and it definitely is not a communication platform.  Marketing automation leverages CRM and addresses these gaps, but it then presents new capabilities for B2B marketers that enable them to take their demand generation programs to the next level.

I think of marketing automation as the technology infrastructure you need to power buyer-centric demand generation.  It is a critical element in scaling and managing a pattern of dynamic campaigning that is buyer led and that engages buyers on a ‘mass one-to-one’ basis.

Honestly, this is a worthwhile post to check out – with great insights from a number of industry luminaries – so I won’t steal any more of its thunder here.

Click here to read the full DG post.

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On Friday I published a new post to the Silverpop Demand Generation (DG) blog — one that responded to the comment thread on Jep Castelein’s Lead Sloth post, “Will Marketing Automation Be Free?”  My DG post placed this dialogue in the context of what I believe really are the major challenges facing B2B demand generation today.  I also linked this back to the very-timely four-part series on the ‘real state’ of demand generation I published on this blog this past week.

The DG post argues that much of the discussion around ‘freemium models’ in the marketing automation space right now is potentially focusing on the wrong challenge:

What struck me about this ‘freemium model’ dialogue is that it is semantically interesting, but fundamentally focused in the wrong place.  As important as your choice of marketing automation technology provider is — and it is important — I’d argue that the stumbling block for most B2B marketers attempting to take their demand generation to the next level is not access to the technology, itself.  So giving it away for free doesn’t necessarily improve adoption rates.

The major obstacle today for the next generation of B2B demand generation is actually the ‘people and processes’ that must be in place to successfully leverage marketing automation technology.  And this is a point backed up by stacks of recent research reports and commentaries by some of the best and brightest in B2B marketing today.

The focus of my post then shifts to what we can do about this, and I argue (from the perspective of my role at Silverpop), that it is critical for marketing automation technology vendors to play a catalytic role in improving the state of ‘people and processes’ among B2B marketers.  “We have to pay it forward,” I noted.  We are still in single-digit-percentage adoption of marketing automation, and we’re past selling to early adopters.  The future growth of the marketing automation space, thus, is going to be closely linked to evolution of skills and approaches among mainstream B2B marketers.

The post highlights the B2B marketing programs and education Silverpop has contributed to the marketplace during my current tenure at Silverpop.  It provides updates on the Fall 2011 B2B Marketing University (B2BMU) series, as well as links to all of Silverpop’s blog content on demand generation since launching the B2BMU series.  So it’s a good combination of commentary, data and also resources for closing the gap.

Click here to read the full DG post.

And in case you missed any of my series, “The Unspoken ‘Real State’ of Modern B2B Demand Generation,” here are links to all four parts:

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This week I’m publishing a four-part blog series — based on research I’m doing as part of the updated focus for my marketing book project.  This series takes a look at B2B demand generation today.  The first post provided an introduction to the series.  Parts two through four examine the three major challenges facing B2B demand generation.  The second post identified why technology, alone, is not enough to improve B2B demand generationThe third post explored our continuing struggle as maketers to link marketing tactics to revenue outcomes.  The final post today looks at the third challenge — highlighting our consistent failure when it comes to placing the B2B buyer at the center of our demand generation planning.  ~ABN

So what does that average B2B marketing organization look like today?  And what are the challenges that organizations must overcome to get to best-in-class?

 

Challenge #3:  We too often don’t start with our targeted buyer when it comes to developing B2B demand generation programs, nor do we rationalize the content and pacing of our nurturing against the buyer’s decision-making process.

This third point is perhaps at the core of the other two problems.  Our failures with technology and our inability to link activities to revenue outcomes are also linked to the fact that too often we don’t start our marketing thinking, building or planning in the most obvious place.  We don’t start with the buyer, and we certainly don’t take into account the major changes in the nature of the buyer over the last decade.

“It’s a no-brainer: You can’t make a connection with your audience unless you know who you’re trying to reach,” comments B2B marketing consultant Stephanie Tilton on the Savvy B2B Marketing Blog.  “This gets down to marketing basics – you need to develop buyer personas. Yet my unscientific polls show that a fair number of B2B marketers haven’t undertaken the exercise of developing buyer personas.”

So we don’t tend to define and understand buyer personas.  We also don’t leverage them to improve the relevance of messaging and content, and we don’t rationalize the timing and pacing of our marketing activities against them.

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This week I’m publishing a four-part blog series — based on research I’m doing as part of the updated focus for my marketing book project.  This series takes a look at B2B demand generation today.  The first post provided an introduction to the series.  Parts two through four examine the three major challenges facing B2B demand generation.  The second post identified why technology, alone, is not enough to improve B2B demand generation.  Today’s post looks at the second challenge — exploring our continuing struggle as maketers to link marketing tactics to revenue outcomes.  ~ABN

So what does that average B2B marketing organization look like today?  And what are the challenges that organizations must overcome to get to best-in-class?

 

Challenge #2:  We still struggle when it comes to linking our B2B marketing tactics to revenue outcomes; thus, we have a hard time proving (and better targeting) the specific impact of investments in content offers and demand generation programs.

The Web 2.0 world has substantially changed the dynamics between sellers and buyers – changing the information consumption patterns of B2B buyers and resulting in a new era of buyer power.  One dynamic is the emerging importance of content and the impetus to adopt new content marketing processes

But we need to be able see the linkages between content consumption and revenue outcomes – both elasticity and ‘critical path’ – within a given persona’s buying process if we are going to be able to develop sophisticated content-based nurturing.  Yet seeing this type of linkage is in fact the Achilles heel for many B2B marketing organizations.

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This week I’m publishing a four-part blog series — based on research I’m doing as part of the updated focus for my marketing book project.  This series takes a look at B2B demand generation today.  The first post provided an introduction to the series.  Parts two through four examine the three major challenges facing B2B demand generation.  Today’s post looks at the first challenge — identifying why technology, alone, is not enough to improve B2B demand generation.  ~ABN

So what does that average B2B marketing organization look like today?  And what are the challenges that organizations must overcome to get to best-in-class?

 

Challenge #1:  We implement technology to solve our B2B demand generation problems, but we fail to substantially update our underlying processes and roles; thus, we find technology by itself has not really solved our problems.

SiriusDecisions reported at their 2010 summit that the penetration rate for marketing automation platforms among B2B marketing organizations in the US currently is at roughly 7-10%, but they project this will rise to as much as 30% by 2015.  A recent CRM Magazine article further noted, “The percentage of firms that have implemented CRM [has] increased, according to industry research firm CSO Insights, from 53% in 2003 to 75% in 2010 … .”

Clearly the adoption of technology – particularly marketing automation and CRM – among B2B marketing organizations is on the rise.  Yet within organizations that have adopted the technology, we too often see a consistent pattern of doing what it takes to initially implement the technology – creating minimal definitions and scoring models to get going – but falling far short of a complete overhaul of our core processes and roles.  So we never fully leverage this technology.

“Today many B2B marketers are buying into [this] idea: If they acquire a marketing automation solution, then they will wind up with a lead management process,” comments Carlos Hidalgo of The Annuitas Group in a recent post on Silverpop’s Demand Generation blog.  “Nothing could be further from the truth.  Technology adoption must occur hand-in-hand with process evolution.”

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This week I’m publishing a four-part blog series — based on research I’m doing as part of the updated focus for my marketing book project.  This series takes a look at B2B demand generation today.  I’ll put up a new post each day, and then I’ll link all of the articles together once I’m done posting the series.  Today’s post is part one, which serves as the introduction for the series.  ~ABN 

There is no question we are in the midst of a seismic change in the B2B demand generation model.  This is a topic I’ve covered in my blogging over the last 12 months and some of the best and brightest in B2B marketing have detailed in their own research and writing.  

In fact, it’s more than just change; it is fundamental evolution of the B2B demand generation model.  But as with any theory of ‘evolution,’ there often is debate – both around origins and also the current state of being. 

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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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Earlier today I published a new post to the Silverpop Demand Generation blog — one that looks at the next phase of dialogue around content marketing for B2B demand generation.

The post opens by recounting the ‘first evolution’ of content marketing — i.e., the evolution of the topic up until recently:

The last year has brought growing dialogue around content marketing as an integral component of modern B2B demand generation.

First, we’ve seen increasing acknowledgement that, in a Web 2.0 world, the dynamics of the B2B buyer are shifting and that at the core of these new dynamics are fundamental shifts in buyers’ information consumption patterns.  Buyers are doing more education on their own, ahead of speaking with a salesperson.  Second, this has occurred in tandem with growing interest among B2B marketers both with inbound marketing strategies for lead generation and with marketing automation as a central platform for nurturing B2B prospects in a buyer-driven fashion.

Content marketing is the architecture behind information exchanged with the buyer before we can get them to ’sales ready’; it is the rationalization of what content that our prospective buyers need at various stages of the buying cycle and via what media and channels; and it is integral to the nurturing process.  Content thus has moved from tactical to strategic.

It then asks, ‘So what’s next for the dialogue around content marketing?’

Now we are entering a second phase of dialogue and evolution around content marketing, where we’re talking about how to take it forward.

The post then analyzes three emerging dialogue threads around content marketing, its integration with marketing automation and its role in modern, buyer-centric B2B demand generation — also citing a number of marketing experts, such as content marketing ‘guru’ Joe Pulizzi, and relaying their perspectives on this evolving topic.

These threads are:

  • Building out the new era of dynamic, buyer-driven content marketing campaigns
  • Closing the loop so that it’s clear what content has impact and how to tune your content mix
  • Developing the right skill set and building the right team to effectively manage your B2B organization’s content marketing ‘machine’

 Click here to read the full post.

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You may have noticed less-frequent posting activity here on Propelling Brands over the last few months.  It’s not that I’ve been blogging less; rather, it’s the challenge of being asked to contribute blog posts to a growing number of channels.  These include the Demand Generation blog for Silverpop (where I’m Director, Field Marketing and B2B Marketing Evangelist), the Daily Fix Blog for MarketingProfs (where I’m a semi-regular contributor on marketing automation topics) and several of Silverpop’s partner blogs, including The Annuitas Group blog, for which I have done occasional postings.

Source: iStockphoto

The truth is, I’m blogging more than ever — just in lots of different places.  I’m also very active on Twitter (you can follow me on Twitter via my handle, @abneedles), which has truly become a microblog on what I’m seeing and hearing in the B2B marketing world.  Add to this quite a few live and virtual speaking engagements over the past year on a variety of B2B marketing topics … and you can see it’s been a busy last 12 months.

Given this, I wanted to accomplish two things with this post: 

First, I wanted to let you know I’m going to be shifting the role Propelling Brands plays in my writing and speaking over the coming months.  I plan to get back into the rhythm of doing original, ‘deeper-dives’ on key strategic marketing topics at least once a month, so these will continue.  I’m also going to begin posting summaries and links to my posts elsewhere, as well, so that I can consolidate all of my writing about B2B marketing to one location.

Second, I’m kicking off this shift by posting an index of all of my B2B marketing posts I’ve done over the last 12 months — both here on Propelling Brands and on other blogs …

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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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