by Daniel Burstein, Associate Director of Editorial Content
Last week in San Francisco, 211 business-to-business marketers spent two days sharing insights, case studies and advice on social media marketing, lead generation, Sales and Marketing alignment, and other hot-button issues on the West Coast swing of MarketingSherpa's seventh annual B2B Marketing Summit. The Summit will next be in Boston, October 25-26, for East Coast marketers.
Sergio Balegno, Director of Research, MECLABS, kicked off the Summit by saying, "Research has taught us what works best for B2B marketers -- now it's time to learn how to make it work." Since this is our seventh annual Summit, we focused on seven takeaways to help you with the "how." Takeaway #1. Begin with the end in mind
Steven Covey's second habit for highly effective people applies to highly effective marketers as well. Many presenters shared the importance of focusing on the objective for every tactic you use. A Facebook fan page, Twitter account or trade show is not a goal.
They advised marketers to work with their sales teams and business leaders to drill down to the overall objective, and then suggest a marketing tactic that can meet that objective.
For example, Greg Sherry, VP Marketing & Business Development, Verint Systems, shared how his team met the objectives of social networking without having to spend $58,000 with a social media marketing vendor. For Verint Systems' "Driving Innovation" annual customer conference, the team included fields in the registration form asking for vertical market, areas of expertise, areas of interest and geographic tags.
At the conference, they created color-coded name tags based on these fields and also had colored balloons at a "lightly-structured" happy hour. The color coding served as an icebreaker and attendees were able to find peers with similar interests during these networking functions. Best of all, there was no actual cost to the team since this was internally-run.
One area of marketing that is particularly prone to a focus on tactics at the expense of strategy is social media marketing. Sergio Balegno, Research Director, MECLABS, shared MarketingSherpa's Social Marketing ROAD Map methodology:R
o Monitor and benchmark social media status
o Segment and profile target audiences
o Identify social marketing team candidates
o Audit existing contentO
o Prioritize target audiences
o Identify target audience objectives
o Identify metrics and reporting specifications
o Align audiences, objectives and metricsA
o Prioritize tactics for achieving objectives
o Assign tasks, procedures and timetables
o Draft social media policy
o Define social marketing integration and tactical planD
o Identify social platforms for implementing tactics
o Construct social marketing architecture
o Prioritize and roll out platforms sequentially
"Without a purposeful architecture, all you have are random acts of social marketing," Balegno said.Takeaway #2: Put yourself in your customers' shoes
"You can't market anything effectively with your landing page unless you answer the question, 'If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you?'" remarked Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director (CEO), MECLABS.
A focus on the customer was another common theme. "Put yourself in the shoes of the people receiving your email. What distractions do they have? What matters to them?" asked Jeanne Jennings, Consultant, Email Marketing Strategy and MarketingSherpa Email Trainer.
Greg Sherry holds regular meetings with an advisory council of 28 customers, to share how they use Verint Systems' products and services. "I purposefully ask for 'creative practices,' because 'best practices' is subjective," Sherry said.
Many presenters tried to better understand their customers by listening in to social media conversations. Here are a few tips they shared about social media and user-generated content monitoring:
o Monitor Twitter for possible trigger events for a purchase of your product. For example, one term Eric Majchrzak, Marketing Manager, Freed, Maxick & Battaglia monitors is "Recommend CPA." He subscribes to the RSS feed for this search term in Outlook.
o Monitor LinkedIn Answers for applicable categories. Majchrzak subscribes to the RSS feed for the Accounting and Finance category, where comptrollers often ask questions.
o Several presenters used SocialMention to monitor sentiment.
o Daryl Nielson, Marketing Manager, Email B2B, HP, and Mia Dand, B2B Social Media Marketing Manager, HP WW Enterprise Business Marketing, used Hootsuite to obtain a geographical understanding of customers and identify hot topics and trends. "We were really looking at topics for email. These conversations help drive our email content," Dand said.
"Love your customers, not your products," said Nielson. "Use the tone and terminology people are using when they communicate with you."
o Free tools have their limits, though. Natascha Thomson, Sr. Director, Social Media Audience Manager, SAP, uses Google Alerts, hashtags on TweetDeck, and RSS feed subscriptions in Google Reader. However, she finds the process laborious and is now looking into a paid social media monitoring platform.
"It comes down to the three L's -- listening, learning, and leads," said Alex Plant, Director, Social Media, NetApp. "First, we looked at our reporting, what had value to the sales team and what we don't have. What is Sales hearing from customers? Then we made sure we monitored it and then responded to customers. We really convinced our head of sales of the importance of social media by showing examples of customer complaints and how we handled them."Takeaway #3: Getting a lead is just the beginning...
"Sales wants opportunities, not leads," was a common refrain at this year's summit.
In Sergio Balegno's opening session, he shared research from the upcoming MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report
. Marketers were asked, "What are the most important challenges to B2B marketing success?" The top challenge, chosen by 78% of respondents, was "generating high-quality leads," while "generating a high volume of leads" was a distant second with 44% selected.
Generating high-quality leads is a growing concern. In last year's benchmark report, 69% of respondents considered it an important challenge.
Greg Sherry has his team manually go through each lead to ensure it has value for the sales team. "What gets measured gets managed," Sherry said. "We scrutinize the leads -- several hundred every month -- and go through each one. This process makes business developers think twice about passing along weak leads."
"If marketing were a manufacturing process and had only 10% of products going to stores, what would we do? You'd break it down and start over," noted Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Applied Research, MECLABS.
Carroll presented a Lead Management Playbook to help marketers generate, recognize, and pass high-quality leads along to Sales:Step 1
: Refine universal lead definition of "sales-ready"Step 2
: Qualify leads based on universal lead definition. Don't be afraid to ask, "Do you want to speak to a sales rep?"Step 3
: Nurture early-stage leads until "sales-ready"Step 4
: Define hand-off process from Marketing to SalesStep 5
: Close the loop via Sales and Marketing "huddles"
And then, double-check your work
"I'm hugely in favor of paranoia," said Emily Salus,
Director of Marketing, Collabnet. "Being prone to erring on the side of paranoia, I created a huge, 400-line Excel spreadsheet of past leads. If we had scored these leads just before they went to Sales, would they have matched our threshold? Is there anything we would have ranked as 'not qualified' that would have ended up becoming a sale? I don't think you get lead scoring right, I think you get it good."Takeaway #4. For successful lead generation and nurturing, you need quality content
From social media to email, the "secret" behind successful lead generation and nurturing is content that provides value to your audience. Jeanne Jennings suggested that your audience will find value in your content if it is properly segmented and offers solutions to their problems instead of just selling a product. This is a particular challenge when the sales team gets engaged with social media.
Rob Israch, Director, Demand Generation, NetSuite, noted "when sales people engage with social media, you need to train them to be consultative and helpful, not promotional."
Quality information is important even once a prospect has entered the sales funnel. Lead nurturing is "a relevant and consistent dialogue with viable potential customers, regardless of their time to buy," according to Brian Carroll. "You're nurturing if what you are sharing is valuable -- even if the reader never buys from you."
To help you create that valuable content, Thom Schoenborn, Editorial Director, WebTrends suggests that you turn to your employees. "Make content rock stars out of your employees. Put their name in lights."
If you're strapped for content ideas, Schoenborn presented the following possibilities:
2. IM transcripts
3. Top 10 lists
4. Link + opinion
5. Book review
6. Screencast how-to
7. Audio podcast
8. Your email outbox
9. Invite a guest blogger
10. Cover an industry event
Additionally, there was a consensus among presenters that content should be one of your most pressing concerns. Quality content was seen as more important than finding the optimal email send schedule or social sharing button position.
"Focus on content, not sharing buttons or selling. Focus on servicing the customer," Daryl Nielson said. "There's not a lot of pass-along value if the content isn't strong. So, first focus on providing value to your customers and audience. If you're going to put bad content out there, you're going to get bad results." Takeaway #5: Use measurements that matter
"Data and metrics give you the numbers. Analytics tells you where you're going to go next," Emily Salus remarked.
Marketers have no shortage of numbers to choose from. The far bigger challenge is determining the right things to measure on the front end (and right way to do it), and analyzing those numbers to determine what you can learn from them.
"Everyone likes lots of numbers and pretty charts," Susan Zykoski, Marketing Business Analyst, Citrix Systems said. In other words, business leaders often like asking for reports, but how should you respond to these requests?
Zykoski recommended that you have a "metrics philosophy" when asked to provide yet another point of data, and she shared her own philosophy. She asks two questions:
o What does it really mean?
o What are you going to do about it?
"If the report requestor cannot answer these questions, then the metrics are useless," Zkyoski remarked.
For social media marketing, determining the right metrics can be a bigger challenge. "With social media, it's not always possible to measure everything you do," noted Natascha Thomson. "Facebook business-to-business marketing, for me, the jury is completely out. I know it's good for people to talk in a good way about SAP, but if they never click, is their real value? So we may not be doing Facebook in the future."
To help determine your social media goals, Sergio Balegno recommended asking three questions before getting started:
1. Where are you now? -- Your phase of social marketing maturity
2. Where do you want to be? -- How you envision social marketing success
3. How do you get there from here? -- The transition from trial to strategic phaseTakeaway #6: It all happens on the landing page
Email, social media and most other lead generation tactics are usually used not to capture a lead themselves, but to point prospects to a landing page where that lead is captured. Perhaps this is why 69% of B2B marketers will be increasing investment in website design, management, and optimization, according to the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report
Even email marketer Jeanne Jennings recommended that marketers test their landing pages. "Subject lines are the easiest thing to test," Jennings said. "People tend to spend too much time testing them and avoiding everything else. Landing pages are much closer to your conversion. You can get tremendous lifts by optimizing your landing pages. But it's much harder."
To help marketers optimize their landing pages, Flint McGlaughlin shared three simple principles discovered from the more than 200 experiments MECLABS conducted this year:
o Increase specificity -- By increasing the specificity of the message, you are able to better communicate value.
o Increase continuity -- Secondly, by ensuring continuity between your landing page and every step of your funnel, you can keep the user engaged and motivated throughout the entire process.
o Increase relevance -- Finally, craft your message with relevance to the motivations of your potential prospects.
McGlaughlin also mentioned that landing pages needs to answer three questions in the first few seconds a visitor spends on a page to avoid a bounce:
o Where am I?
o What can I do here?
o Why should I do it?
These are just meant as optimization suggestions, to be used in combination with testing to determine what works best for each individual page, in each independent situation. McGlaughlin drove home the importance of testing by displaying two landing page treatments, and asking attendees to vote on which page they thought performed better.
"Let the record show that we tested the intuition of marketers and a roomful of professional marketers did not agree," McGlaughlin said.Takeaway #7: Be strategic about presenting your campaigns and your vision to the C-level
"We had better define what the value is before someone else does it for us," Alex Plant said, referring to social media marketing. But this quote pretty much sums up how the presenters felt about nearly every initiative and goal they have.
To prove your value, Greg Sherry suggested creating a booking contribution summary to show marketing leads that supported closed business, and then validate your results with sales and channel partners.
"Make sure you're right. There was a healthcare company we thought we helped, but it turns out Sales came in through a different division," Sherry said. "It gave us a lot of credibility with Sales, and helped us build that relationship, when we took that deal off of our list and showed that we weren't trying to take credit for everything. Just ask people. Have meetings."
Once the list is finalized and accurate, it helps to validate Sherry's team's marketing spends...and its very existence. "Our group costs less than the business we generated. We're using some of this data to help make our initiatives permanent."
Beyond proving your worth, you also must get C-level buy-in to your vision for what the company should do -- sometimes beyond the marketing department. You must be the customer's advocate.
"The most important role we need to play is the corporate conscience," said Cynthia Phillips, former Director of Marketing, Rivet Software. "We need to rein them in. I developed enough of a respectful relationship to be able to say 'no.' My personal philosophy is, 'I will always do what is right over what works.'"
Phillips wasn't alone in this assessment, especially in the era of social media, when even minor missteps can be amplified by the ability of every customer to be a publisher as well.
Daryl Nielson spoke of the importance of being conscious of customer privacy, "You need to strip out email addresses to respect privacy concerns when including social media sharing buttons in email newsletters."
Natascha Thomson discussed how social media marketers must be conscious of ensuring an open, transparent discussion, "People have to give up control, really give up control. You can't just delete something you don't like."
As marketers work so hard to build a valuable brand, they must also work to protect that brand by ensuring that everything their company does is in line with that brand's values.
"We have to take all the messages that people want to chuck out into the marketplace and understand what works and what the reaction will be," Phillips said "We have the ability to steer the ship and the messages presented to the marketplace better than anyone else in an organization. So we have to be the filter for what goes out of our organizations. After all, you must be focused on what the company looks like externally. And with social media, we have less control than ever."Now make it happen
"In American business, there is a real fear of taking a wrong step. Create. Measure. Improve," Thom Schoenborn encouraged the audience.
After hearing 21 speakers share real-life results and a variety of marketing tactics, the next step for Summit attendees was to go back to their offices and drive necessary changes.
"At the end of the day, it's about getting into the trenches when you need to and helping. Servant leadership," Cynthia Phillips encouraged. "...but also getting out of the trenches when you need to steer the ship."Useful links related to this articleMarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Summit '10, Boston, October 25-26MarketingSherpa B2B Summit Wrap-up Webinar with Brian Carroll, November 4, 2010Alta Terra MarketingBabcock & JenkinsCitrix"Closed Loop Feedback: The Missing Lead Generation Huddle"CollabNet"Collaboration Huddles and 35 Other Ways to Improve Teamwork"Freed, Maxick & BattagliaHPJeanne JenningsLaunch MarketingMarketingExperimentsThe MarketingExperiments Quarterly Research Journal, Q2 2010
MarketingExperiments Web clinic, October 20: "Double the Value of Your Online Testing: Don't just get a result, get the maximum customer insights"MECLABSMultichannel Marketing Metrics blogNetAppNetSuiteQwest CommunicationsReturn PathRivet SoftwareSAPUnicaVerint SystemsVirgin HealthMilesWebtrendsWebtrends Blog"What's a Lead? Improve ROI With a Better Lead Qualification Process"