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Dec 28, 2011
How To

B2B Marketing: 6 lessons learned in 2011 from 7 marketing experts

SUMMARY: To wrap up another year of B2B marketing, we’ve reached out to seven marketers and industry experts to offer you six tactics based on marketing lessons learned in 2011.

Read on to find out what our expert sources said about lead generation, lead scoring and lead nurturing; inbound SEO; letting your customer tell you how to market to them; and making that personal touch truly personal.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

This past year was another exhilarating ride through the world of B2B marketing. Once again, we split the MarketingSherpa B2B Summit into East and West Coast versions for a total of four days filled with actual case studies from your peers, actionable advice, and teachings based on our extensive research and surveys of practicing marketers.

The newsletter line-up from 2011 featured a very wide range of case studies and how-to articles across digital, and even a few traditional, marketing channels.

To wrap this year up, I reached out to seven marketers and industry experts and asked what were some of the key lessons learned in 2011 and requested one marketing tactic from each of the sources.

The result of this outreach effort is presented below. I hope you find something in these six tactics that can help your marketing efforts in 2012.

Tactic #1. Lead Nurturing: Reengaging prospects with video

Attivio, an enterprise software developer, specializes in search and business intelligence technology. A key challenge for Drew Smith, Director of Online Marketing, is educating the market about Attivio’s product and value proposition. A more pressing direct challenge was aiding a 10-person sales team make best use of a messy 28,000-lead database.

The resulting lead nurturing campaign repurposed content from an e-book offering that educational material.

The email sends in the effort included the content presented in a number of formats:
  • Videos

  • White papers

  • Links to third-party content

  • Data sheets

  • Combination of PDFs and links

The campaign targeted the entire database of 28,000 and led to 13% reengagement and 500 qualified leads. An additional 4% of those prospects actually shared the content through an "add this" button in the nurturing emails, creating completely new leads.

Smith said, “A lot of this comes from emailing something to a friend and then they become a prospect, and we have a new name in our system.”

The big result of the campaign? The email sends with video accounted for 54% of the total clicks. The videos included calls-to-action to download educational papers and analyst reports.

“I am a big proponent of video, because it’s easy to produce and people like it,” Smith explained. “If people share your content, that’s what it’s all about.”

Tactic #2. Lead Scoring: Create multiple scores for each prospect

If you were looking to purchase marketing automation software, or just checking into the options out there, you’ve probably already experienced this tactic without even realizing it.

Jon Miller, VP Marketing, Marketo, said, “(We) enhanced our lead scoring in 2011 to better focus our sales time on the hottest leads and opportunities.”

He called this approach, “buyer-centric lead scoring.”

Essentially, the company divided each prospect’s score into "fit" and "interest."

The fit score included these elements:
  • Demographics

  • Firmographics

  • BANT

  • Data points such as email domain and location

The interest score was based largely on prospect behavior such as website visits, content download or other active engagement with the company.

The attributes of both the fit and interest categories were given specific lead score point amounts.

"Further, we created two interest scores: one to show engagement with our content and brand, (and) another to show actual buying intent," stated Miller.

The result was a combined score that helped Marketo uncover what it described as its "super-target" leads.

Miller added, "By moving away from a single score to a multi-dimensional score, we have improved the quality of our leads, enhanced the productivity of our lead qualification team, and given us more dials to turn as we optimize lead flow."

Tactic #3. Lead Generation: Take advantage of social media

Social media is one channel it seems many B2B marketers are still trying to figure out. Jay Baer, President, Convince & Convert, and author of The Now Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter and More Social, was a keynote speaker at this year’s B2B Summits with a presentation on B2B social media myths.

Myth number one? "My customers don’t use social media."In fact, Baer presented data from Forrester Research showing that 81% of U.S. adults online use social media. Most likely, at least some of your customers, and competitors for that matter, fall into that overwhelming majority.

With that in mind, social media can actually be a channel for B2B lead gen.

"Being part of communities and conversations is how business development works today," said Jon McGinley, Director of Marketing, Radian6. "And listening carefully plays a critical part of doing it well."

He added, "Lead generation becomes the result of relationships, affinity and engagement online."

How do you accomplish this? McGinley offers three pieces of advice:
  • Pay attention to conversations happening around your industry

  • Listen for the moments when people not only need help but are asking for it

  • Listen to the conversations happening around your competitors. What do they offer that you don’t?

McGinley continued, "Stay one step ahead and find cues on where your industry is heading next. This can help you build a roadmap for your product or service that will keep your customers’ needs met."

Tactic #4. Marketing Research: Listen to your customer

And what better way to listen to your customer than to actually take the time to interview them.
Kristin Zhivago, President, Zhivago Management Partners, Inc., and author of Roadmap to Revenue, was another keynote presenter at this year’s B2B Summits, speaking on this very topic.

"I’ve been doing this for clients a long time, but in this age of ‘countless ways to waste your marketing budget,’ and the age of the smarter, better-informed, very impatient and specific-need customer, it’s more important than ever for marketers to personally interview customers," she said.

Zhivago added, "It’s also the cheapest, fastest way to find out what they want from you, how they describe it, how they want to buy it from you, the trends in their markets, their needs and challenges (your opportunities), how they searched for you, what they tell others about you, and more."

Zhivago provided an 11-point how-to checklist on interviewing customers for this end-of-year article:
  1. Make a list of the types of customers to which you sell

  2. Gather 3 - 10 of each type (of customer) in a spreadsheet -- people you have already sold to

  3. Send them emails asking to interview them

  4. Interview them by phone. Record the conversation (always notify them that you are recording it)

  5. Have someone transcribe it

  6. Gather all the interview transcriptions when you’re done into one document

  7. “Anonymize” the conversation -- to protect the person you interviewed, and to keep managers from being biased about the results

  8. Place portions of the conversations into a report that is categorized by subject

  9. Summarize all these findings in a bullet- or table-based document

  10. Summarize again -- and make recommendations

  11. Brainstorm with your team to determine what needs to be fixed and what/how you will promote the things you’re doing right. Remember you keep your promise (that’s your brand) with five tools: people, products, processes, policies and passion. Identify and start working on the gaps in each category

She also offered a couple of customer interviewing success stories from 2011:

"At one company, we needed to change the name. We did, and sales grew 40% that year, in a down economy. At another, we realized that their complex product wasn’t ‘sold’ until the customer was using it successfully, so we started working on a program to make sure that happened.

"At another, we found out that a ‘bully’ sales manager was mean to employees and promising things to clients the company couldn’t deliver. Needless to say, that person is not there anymore, and the new VP of Sales is doing a fantastic job. Sales are up, and so is employee morale."

Tactic #5. Inbound Marketing: Boost organic traffic with keyword campaigns

The inbound tactic of search engine optimization contains one key word -- optimization. Yes, strong SEO will lead to increased organic, otherwise known as "free," traffic. It’s just the process itself isn’t that simple. Getting the full effect of SEO takes more than unleashing a website with some metatags and content that pushes the keywords you are interested in.

Paycor, an independently-owned U.S. payroll service provider, faced a marketing challenge with its organic rankings for competitive keywords in its industry. Its market was expanding, and adding even more pages to its website left the company wanting to improve its SEO.

The result was a campaign built around 10 high-impact keywords at the beginning of the year. By July, another 43 targeted search phrases were added to the effort.

By defining its SEO strategy around a portfolio of 53 keywords/phrases, Paycor achieved impressive results:
  • 799% increase in non-branded organic search traffic

  • The 53 keyword portfolio created a "halo effect" that influenced over 2,300 additional keywords

  • In under six months, 39 of the portfolio keywords ranked on page one of Google with four in the first position and 21 at position four, or higher

"Our rankings have skyrocketed due to our SEO campaign, and the site content has become more appealing to our clients," said Ryan Scott, Sr. Internet Marketing Manager, Paycor.

SEO has a particular value for B2B marketing

Creating solid organic SEO is more important for B2B marketers than simply driving organic traffic to the website. Because the B2B sales cycle can be so long, multiple people involved in the buying process will possibly be searching your business name repeatedly over the course of weeks, or even months.

If your organic SEO is not strong enough to keep negative results off the first page of the search engine, there is a reasonably high likelihood that someone with the ability to kill your nurtured deal will see that negative search result. The goal is to own the organic results on the SERP -- the search engine results page -- on a consistent basis over the long buying cycle.

Realize Inc., a rapid prototyping company, implemented a SEO strategy for just that purpose. The company wanted its website to be optimized to effectively communicate its core competencies, but more importantly, reliably show up search results for key search terms in the cutting-edge 3D manufacturing industry when engineers at prospective clients performed Web searches.

Realize’s strategy included a four-part methodology to boost its digital relevance:
  • Content

  • Links

  • Architecture

  • Social signals

Tonya Reese, CFO, Realize Inc., said the strategy paid off.

"By increasing our online visibility, we’ve been able to sign new clients, hire new workers, and increase our production capacity," she stated.

She attributed an increase in leads and overall ROI to the SEO strategy.

Tactic #6. Utilize a personal touch

Digital marketing allows you to send very personalized and highly targeted messages to your prospects and customers, but sometimes it’s hard to beat that truly personal touch of face-to-face interaction.

Diana Lillicrap and Wendy Ruyle own 5 by 5 Design, Inc., a multiservice marketing, design and communications agency, found this to be true, particularly in a year with a very difficult economy.

"For most organizations, 2011 was a year of lean budgets coupled with increasing pressures to deliver results. So how do you get noticed when you only have a budget for a whisper?" asked Lillicrap. "You walk away from mass-produced, mass distributed tools and look for ways to make an impact through memorable, targeted, personalized tactics."

Ruyle added, "Let’s face it, if there’s anything social media has taught us, it’s that audiences don’t want to be communicated to en masse. They want individual attention that is authentic and customized."

They witnessed the effectiveness of the individual, personal touch with a client, Gopher News Company. For years, the magazine and book distributor would pass publisher-driven cash incentives to retail customers through a check in the mail.

Realizing these remittances were a place to create a valuable touch point with customers, the agency suggested those checks be hand-delivered by the sales rep in a memorable, and tactile, mini pocket folder.

Lillicrap explained, "Gopher News quickly realized that no one turns away the sales rep who is delivering money."

Ruyle said, "And in those few moments of valuable face time, the reps are now able to promote future incentive programs and pass along new product or service news."

Both offered three pieces of advice for implementing the personal touch at your organization:
  • Look for opportunities to communicate something authentic and of value to your customer. It could be a thank you note, special gift, personalized letter, or just something fun or new.

  • Determine the best way to be memorable. From hand-made elements, unique sizes, tactile papers and textures, interesting printing techniques, or even hand-applied stamps, business communications can communicate a level of intimacy and special attention your customers crave.

  • Consider the best option for delivery of the communication. How you communicate can be just as important as what you communicate.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples:
  1. Marketo fit and interest score attributes

  2. Marketo lead score examples

  3. Marketo combined lead score

  4. 5 by 5 Design pocket folder

5 by 5 Design, Inc.

Attivio

Marketo

Pardot – Attivio’s marketing automation vendor

Paycor

Radian6

Realize Inc.

SlingshotSEO – Paycor and Realize Inc.’s search engine optimization vendor

Zhivago Management Partners, Inc.

B2B Summit 2011: 5 takeaways on social media, lead generation, building a customer-centric approach, and more

Guided by Buyers: 4 tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy

Marketing Strategy: Revenue-oriented approach leads to 700% two-year growth

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