October 05, 2011
Event Wrap-up

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

SUMMARY: Last week in Boston, we completed the East Coast leg of our B2B Summit with two days of case studies, marketing research, and actionable strategies and tactics.

Find out why social media is a B2B marketing channel, how to build a customer-centric marketing approach, the importance of the value proposition, tips on lead generation and more.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

The first half of this year's bi-coastal MarketingSherpa B2B Summit, held last week in Boston, involved two full days of actionable strategies and tactics, and case studies from your peers detailing actual marketing efforts.

There was even an appearance from (the very possibly not real) Donald Trump challenging four expert panelists to convince the audience who had what it takes to pitch an entire marketing effort in three minutes or less.

Jen Doyle, Senior Research Analyst, MarketingSherpa, opened the event by covering some of the findings reported in the 2012 B2B Benchmark Report, including a number of the 157 charts based on information from 1,745 surveyed marketers.

Here are two key points from those findings:

o Marketers' challenges continue to grow, up 6% compared to 2009
o Perception of the effectiveness of all tactics declined in 2011

Doyle asked, "What is really at the root of all these challenges?"
The answer? B2B marketers are resisting changes that are happening in the marketplace. Because the challenging marketplace is a reality, here are five takeaways from the Summit to help you embrace and thrive in the ever-changing B2B marketing world.

The second leg of B2B Summit 2011 is coming up Oct. 24-25 in San Francisco.

Takeaway #1. Social media is a B2B marketing channel

If B2B marketers are resisting marketplace change, the social media channel could serve as a prime representative for relatively uncharted marketing territory. The first day of the Summit ended with three sessions on social media, including Jay Baer's keynote which capped off the first day.

Baer is President, Convince & Convert, and author of The Now Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter and More Social. During his well-received, hour-long presentation, he served up -- and destroyed -- seven myths of B2B social media.

Here are the top three myths:

Myth #1. My customers don't use social media

Actually, they most likely do use social platforms. Baer cited Forrester Research, which found that 81% of U.S. adults who are online use social media. He added the negative attitude toward the channel comes from top management who don't participate in social media, and project that lack of use to their customers.

Myth #2. Social media isn't worth the trouble for B2B

Baer argued that social media is actually more valuable for B2B than it is for consumer marketing, because there are fewer overall customers. This allows for visibility into every stage of the purchase funnel, clearing space for highly-targeted social messaging and interaction.

Citing Forrester once more, Baer said 86% of business technology buyers engage in social activity for business purposes.

Myth #3. How B2C uses social media doesn't apply

Baer presented a checklist, asking if companies have:

o Customers?
o Prospective customers?
o Employees?
o Competitors?
o A story to tell?

"Congratulations, you have the raw materials for social media," stated Baer. He added the basic process for social channel marketing -- telling stories about your company and customers, to humanize the company and create "kinship" with current and prospective customers -- is the same for consumer and B2B marketers, only the differing in particular tactics.

- Social media can help you "find" the right buyer

Lauren McCadney, Senior Manager Social Media, CDW, needed to isolate a particular audience -- in her case, B2B IT decision-makers. The solution was a social platform built through an outside vendor that was "pure" in the sense it only allowed that specific audience into the community.

McCadney said, "The channel is a bonanza from a listening standpoint." She added CDW is using the social community at all levels of the funnel, from awareness through listening and banner ads, to consideration with engagement and content pieces, all the way to purchase.

A key result surfaced when CDW's community asked for a request-for-quote function within the social channel. CDW jumped at the opportunity to more closely align its social effort with the buying decision.

The fact that B2B marketers have expressed frustration over developing a social strategy was discussed by Todd Wilms, Senior Director, Social Media Audience Marketing, SAP. He explained how the company made 47 products and 28 industries in 128 countries successful in the social media world.

This was accomplished by taking stock of current social media activities and using that information -- goals, listening to your audience, organization buy-in, etc. -- to form a framework for social programs. From there, launch and tweak pilot programs that can inform a process that is replicable across the entire company.

Takeaway #2. The essence of marketing is the message ...

... and the message boiled down to its basic element is your value proposition.

Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, presented case studies taken from MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa) research, and offered real-world examples of how to improve a value proposition.

He said you want to "focus the lens on the message of the value proposition," and added that many marketers "still don't get this."
The value proposition is the most effective way to improve the perceived value of your offer, and ensure it outweighs the perceived cost of the offer.

Your value prop should concisely answer the following question: If I am your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?

Once you discover your value proposition, you must find a clear, relevant way to message it to your audience.

- Improving email relevance remains a top priority for marketers

For 2012, delivering highly relevant content tops email priorities with 72% of surveyed marketers citing that challenge. Jeff Rice, Senior Research Analyst, and Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa, provided three tactics to improve email relevance:

Tactic 1. Identify the right audience through segmentation

Remember that your database isn't one homogenized audience, and take steps to segment the list based on fields, transaction information, behaviors and even segments created by combining more than one database element, such as the distance a list subscriber lives from a live event you are holding.

Tactic 2. Help the audience with targeted content

This content can come from repurposed blog posts, whitepapers and tech data sheets; user-generated pieces, such as reviews or testimonials; and original content created specifically to meet the needs of the targeted segment.

Tactic 3. Schedule emails in a triggered or automated series

This tactic was illustrated through a case study from T. Baxter Denney, Manager, Database Marketing, Citrix Online. In the effort, Citrix auto-nurtured new leads with a triggered (or "drip") campaign by segmenting incoming leads and scheduling pre-programmed offers for targeted content based on those segments.

The scheduled emails beat Citrix's manual email sends in both clickthrough and response rates.

Takeaway #3. Generating leads remains a key challenge

Generating high quality leads was the overall highest ranked challenge in the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, and 69% of surveyed marketers identified lead gen as their top challenge.

CenterBeam faced this very problem. Karen Hayward, EVP and CMO, solved a shrinking pipeline with a three-pronged lead gen approach, combining an extensive multi-touch outbound effort, a "friends and family" referral program, and a content marketing strategy funded by previously budgeted money, taken from a failing pay-per-click effort.

Content marketing is an excellent top-of-the funnel strategy, but you also want to draw those interested parties more deeply into all of your marketing efforts. Marjorie Madfis, Worldwide Editor, IBM Software Group homepage, explained how implementing an extensive testing effort and instilling a testing culture at IBM helped to get website visitors more engaged at IBM Software homepages in 60 countries worldwide.

To improve lead generation efforts, Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Applied Research, and Nicolette Dease, Program Manager, MECLABS, offered three data-driven optimization tactics:

Tactic 1. Select the right data

This was illustrated by a case study that looked at different areas to fill the marketing database ranging from multiple sources to user-generated. Even though the user-generated data was much cheaper to initially obtain, the actual cost-per-lead was much higher.

The takeaway was "cheap" data is actually expensive, and the less you spend on data, the more you will spend on teleprospecting.
Carroll said, "We see list acquisition as strategic, not simply transactional."

Tactic 2. Prioritize the data

The key takeaway was to test and prioritize your existing lists to optimize your return on investment, and that over time testing will reveal patterns in customer behavior.

Two guidelines to keep in mind? You want to keep your teleprospecting dials-to-sale low, and dials-to-disqualification from the list high. If you are getting a sales lead every 25 calls, and if you are disqualifying leads every 100 calls, you are doing well.

Tactic 3. Identify the inflection point

This is very simple -- keep track of your lead gen efforts and find that spot where the effectiveness drops below an acceptable level of cost -- basically when the cost outweighs the return. Usually, quick responses provide the best results, but keep in mind that the optimal duration will vary significantly from campaign to campaign.
Lead nurturing is a good way to extend the inflection point of lead gen efforts.

Takeaway #4. Generating leads is important; converting those leads is difficult

It's not only just generating or capturing leads. Defining a sales funnel and making the handoff to Sales is also a B2B marketing challenge. In fact, though marketers defined lead gen as the greatest priority, when pitted against each other, conversion to paying customers was considered the greatest challenge.

Here are some figures from MarketingSherpa research:

o 68% of B2B marketers have not identified their sales funnel
o 79% are not scoring leads
o 65% do not have nurturing campaigns in place

Jen Doyle and Kaci Bower, Research Analyst, MarketingSherpa, provided three steps that can increase the ROI of lead generation efforts by increasing the quality of leads sent to Sales, and also increasing the rate of conversion.

Step 1. Identify

A step more easily said than done. You want to define, in as clear of manner as possible, what exactly is a lead. Doyle cited Brian Carroll's definition of a lead:

"A universal Sales lead is one that has been determined to fit the profile of the ideal customer, has been qualified as Sales-ready, and spells out the responsibilities and accountabilities of the participants in the program, Sales and Marketing."

And if you are able to identify what constitutes a lead, MarketingSherpa research shows a 35% lift in lead gen ROI from screening those leads.

Step 2. Score

Lead scoring is the process of adding or subtracting points as a result of various lead attributes and behaviors that identify sales ready leads.

Scoring attributes include company size, revenue, budget, job title, etc. Behaviors to score are website visits and activity (such as downloading a whitepaper), sending email or telephoning, and visiting a trade show booth.

Our research found a 77% lift in lead gen ROI from scoring leads.

Step 3. Optimize

To ensure you are sending highly qualified leads to Sales, you want to continually optimize the process:

o Develop closed-loop feedback with Sales

o Be open to continued lead segmentation fine-tuning

o Maintain an open dialog with Sales to increase rapport

o Put your lead scoring program through a SWOT -- strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats -- analysis

o Keep on top of industry trends and external (or internal) events that influence your market and lead scoring campaigns

Scoring and nurturing new leads is important, but when your revenue is closely tied to your existing customers, you should nurture that group as well.

Meagen Eisenberg, Director of Worldwide Programs, Marketing Automation and Operations, ArcSight, an HP company, presented a case study on how ArcSight used regional events to deepen its relationships with existing customers.

This effort not only had an immediate impact on revenue, it also received a thumbs-up from Sales by being cited in quarterly reviews as a reason for success. After hosting a customer event in their territory, ArcSight's sales teams would request more forums.

Takeaway #5. Listen to your customers

Kristin Zhivago, President, Zhivago Management Partners, Inc., opened day two of the Summit with a keynote presentation on how, and why, you should make your customer the focal point of all your marketing efforts, and provided a blueprint for this customer-centric approach.

She said the problem right now is "marketing is broken." The customer's wants and needs are unknown and Marketing is making assumptions on how to market to different segments.

Zhivago added that at one time, buyers would get 20% of their information before looking to purchase. Now those customers are going out and finding 80% of information before connecting with a salesperson. And most of this information is coming from sources other than your content.

The answer to this issue is to actually call your customers and interview them. Zhivago suggested targeting seven to ten customers within a particular segment and conducting an open-ended interview with questions such as:

o How do you feel about our product or service?
o Are our prices fair?
o What was your buying process?
o What did you type into Google when you first started searching?

Getting answers to these questions will not only help to improve marketing efforts, it also gives you increased credibility in internal meetings when discussing marketing campaigns.

The customer-centric approach offers a number of marketing benefits:

o You can better map the customer's buying process

o You can match your customer's questions with the correct answers

o You can arm your sales staff with relevant presentations

o You can uncover what works, and just as important, what you can ignore

o And, perhaps most importantly for your career, the company no longer relies solely on Sales for knowing what the customer wants because Marketing is now armed with this information

Useful links related to this article

Presentation slides from the B2B Summit

Do You Have the Right Value Proposition?

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

Social Media Marketing: Why B2B marketers need to care, by the numbers

Content Marketing: How shifting the budget led to a 152% boost in landing page traffic

Marketing Optimization: Measuring the potential force of your value proposition

Landing Page Optimization: Test ideas for a B2B lead capture page

Social Media Companies: 3 non-obvious ways social media will impact big companies

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