December 14, 2016
Case Study

B2B Marketing 2016: How marketers used data and testing to nurture prospects through relevancy


Looking at the most popular B2B articles of 2016, it’s clear that marketers are eager to turn customer data into relevant touches that engage consumers through the sales cycle faster. Not only that, but they are turning away from “one-and-done” campaigns in favor of transforming their organizations.

Read on to learn from these six case studies that detail how teams are using these tactics to significantly increase revenue.

by Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa

B2B marketers took customer-first marketing to a whole new level this year. Overwhelmingly, these teams at both small and large companies undertook transformative campaigns that were relevancy and customer-focused.

Targeted campaigns relying on content that is thoughtfully and doggedly relevant were not only the project du jour, but transformative far beyond 2016. One-off campaigns that see incremental bumps weren’t enough this year, and marketers wanted to make an indelible difference on their companies bottom line.

In the case studies below, you’ll see how companies like Optum Health ditched their “one-and-done” campaigns in favor of a sustainable one. Also highlighted are marketers like Dan Briscoe, Vice President of Marketing, HCSS, who show us how placing customers ahead of business and marketing goals actually puts companies ahead in the long run.

B2B Marketing: Toshiba America Medical Systems conducts a unified messaging overhaul to distinguish itself in the marketplace

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, Toshiba America Medical Systems took it as a precipitating event to adapt to a changing marketplace. It was decided that a unified messaging overhaul was needed, preceded by exhaustive qualitative and quantitative research of customers. 

This campaign to change brand advertising was launched in November of 2014 at Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), which is the brand's biggest show of the year. 

"Our goals were to deliver that message to our customers to ensure they understood how we were different in the market; that we're a company that really works to understand their needs and adapt to those needs; and then also relate to them how it can be helpful to them as they address all of these challenges that they're facing in the market," said Cathy Wolfe, Senior Director, Communications and Research, Toshiba America Medical Systems. 

If your customer's business is changing, your business is changing, she added. So her team got to work to address the market in a different way. 

They went through several steps of positioning, producing creatives, testing suppositions in the creatives, integrating and measuring how it fit into all the various channels. They then went back to make any changes that needed to be done to consistently evolve for the customer. 

"It wasn't an easy transition to make entirely. It was easy in terms of the graphics that we were using, but there was some investment involved. But there are times where you just, you need to make sure that you respond to the market and respond to all of your stakeholders. So we felt it was that important that we wanted to do that," she said. 

See how the Toshiba team was able to distinguish its messaging in the marketplace with an integrated focus on customer voice. 

B2B Marketing: How an accounting solutions firm uses a daily digest newsletter with industry content to build trust with audience

Accounting software solutions firm AccountantsWorld has been producing a daily digest newsletter disseminating the top industry news for readers since 2003. Since that point, they have been testing to see how to best include branded content while still maintaining customer trust.

“The goal at first was really just to inform accountants about key news and trends in the industry. Digest emails are really common these days in every vertical, but in 2002 there really wasn't anything like that focused on professional accountants,” said Div Bhansali, Vice President of Marketing, AccountantsWorld.

Over time, as AccountantsWorld developed one software solution after another, the founders realized that the newsletter could also serve as the marketing channel for those solutions.

The challenge with any integration of marketing into the newsletter is remembering that the content is what’s grown the list to begin with, and balancing that. The list is currently up to over 90,000 accountants, and it’s vital to still deliver that valuable content but not alienate these subscribers. 

That balance comes in growing trust in the newsletter through a focus on news stories that are not self-serving in any way and don’t focus on AccountantsWorld at all.

Read here to understand how the team grew content relevancy and then optimized its delivery to their audience while subtly driving brand awareness.

B2B Marketing: How a tech company redefined its marketing strategy by tapping into customers' passion for retro— and generated 650% ROI

This presentation out of the MarketingSherpa Video Archive is a classic. The case study version made its debut in our 2015 B2B Marketing list, and this full presentation from MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 has once again been one of the most popular with readers.

In this short session, Aaron Dun, CMO, Intronis and Richard Delahaye, Senior Director of Marketing, Intronis, a data protection company, reveal how they achieved a 700% return on investment from a direct mail marketing campaign where they sent out Atari gaming units to customers.

The question that drove this campaign was one that we all face: How can we break through all of the clutter and effectively attract our customer’s attention?

Dun and Delahaye discuss how they challenged the team to create a disruptive and non-traditional marketing campaign that differentiated Intronis from a crowded marketplace. They will walk through the essential insights the team gained from this "retro-cool" direct mail marketing campaign that ultimately delivered over 650% ROI.

B2B Marketing: How Optum developed a distinct social identity with a thought leader approach to content and social media channelsA MarketingSherpa Awards 2017 Reader’s Choice nominated case study

For years, Optum’s provider marketing relied on “one-and-done” campaigns. Although it was effective, a fresher content perspective was needed, along with a different way to promote it.

Evolution came in the form of the “#5in5 – Industry Experts Answer Five Questions in Five Minutes” campaign, Optum’s first large-scale, integrated thought leadership campaign that uses social media as the primary delivery channel.

Optum marketing strategists work with internal and external creative teams to map their content to the persona they are targeting, according to Leslie Cozatt, Director of Marketing, Provider – Thought Leadership and Content Strategy, Optum.

“Content is based on persona research conducted by Optum that indicates how key decision-makers view their role, what pressure points exist within their organizations, what goals and issues drive their decision making and what messages and materials will resonate,” she said.

The #5in5 campaign aimed to meet target consumers on their turf — sharing timely, relevant news and information and joining consumer conversations to discover what they want to know, according to Cozatt.

“This campaign was designed as a way to engage with our target audience on relevant topics in a timely manner, versus us coming up with topics and just creating content and putting it out there on what we thought people wanted to hear about,” Leslie said.

The social aspects of the campaign ultimately direct users to gated information such as case studies, white papers, infographics and videos. The gated pages collect information and auto-enroll the prospects in the appropriate lead-nurture campaign.

This case study was chosen as a Reader’s Choice nominee for the MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 Awards because of the team’s enthusiasm for providing customers with relevant conversation in weekly content that allowed the company to educate and nurture.

Read the full case study to see how the team evolved the way they interact with customers on social channels in order to promote that content, capitalizing on new customer discoveries.

Make Your Customer the Hero: How HCSS saw a 54% increase in annualized revenue without mentioning the productMarketingSherpa Awards 2017 Best in Show winner

It’s time for marketers to get over themselves. To forget about sales and their product and focus on one thing: the customer.

At least that’s what drove Dan Briscoe, Vice President of Marketing, HCSS, and his 22-person team and their latest company-transforming campaign that drove a 54% increase in annualized revenue.

Once he and his team learned to make the customers the true hero of their stories, “it transformed our world,” he said. “It took several iterations and a constant struggle against talking about how much our customers love our software before we finally broke free. But once we did, we flew.”

Funnily enough, he added, since they have stopped focusing on sales, each quarter sets a new record. The marketing team has doubled, and the focus on the customer as a hero has had a permanent imprint on company culture.

There are a lot of people who have “good websites that showcase the logic of construction, dollars and cents, why you should go into it, why it makes sense, why the public should value it,” Briscoe said. 

However, HCSS wanted to highlight the human element of joining the constructing industry.

“The logic is still good, but we can use marketing and videos and websites and social media to really show people the human side of it and the real value and the impact,” he said.

Briscoe and his team put together the “I Build America” campaign with the tagline “Pride. Respect. Construction” that has seen several website iterations, project awards, an ambassador program, meaningful social media and content production and giveaways.

HCSS’ campaign made customers the true hero of the story instead of its products and services. Although Briscoe admitted that it was a constant struggle throughout the campaign, the results are undeniable.

Inbound Marketing: How SAP drove 9 million impressions with targeted content campaignReader’s Choice Winner

With 19 industries to cover, SAP created an extensive content marketing campaign that delved into not only relevant topics across those industries, but how personas within them would want to consume the content.

A major challenge of this “digital transformation”-themed campaign was how to rise above the noise in the marketplace to reach these personas with valuable content.

“We did this by speaking in the language of our customers and prospects,” said Ginger Shimp, Marketing Director, SAP North America. “’How do we fit in to that mix and what help can we offer?’ That's where the industry specificity really came into play. Digital transformation hits each industry in a unique fashion.” 

Developing the content was the first step, according to Shimp, and “we activated 19 industries with a full complement of industry-specific white papers, videos, infographics, blogs, surveys, presentations, email promotions and more by creating unique digital hubs.”

Each industry was customized for the particular audience while still maintaining a consistent look and feel, she said, “which was crucial because we also wanted to appeal to the ecosystems of each industry.”

By tuning the messaging around a hot topic, like digital transformation, specifically to each industry, SAP was able to uniquely appeal to each customer audience and demonstrate the benefits with examples from their own ecosystem.

“We adhered to the buyer’s journey in terms of targeting the multitude of assets we had developed. We also worked to ensure that we played to the various ways in which people consume information,” she said.

Not only did the team produce this content, but they built it out to appeal to different preferences for digesting information. According to Shimp, this campaign covered “email, tweets, blogs, LinkedIn status updates, posts on the SAP Community Network, radio, virtual events, in-person events, outbound and responder follow-up [calls], Account Based Marketing and individual account meetings.”

SAP had a dogged pursuit of not only topic relevance for customers, but consideration over how the customer would best absorb the content. The group was able to remain thoughtful of what content would bring the most value throughout a massive content campaign that could have easily become overwhelming. Read the full case study to see how the marketing team at SAP executed this expansive campaign and drove over 9 million impressions.

Creative Samples

1. Toshiba ad

2. HCSS Instagram post

3. SAP video

Related Resources

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