New speaking event: Content marketing for SMEs

Thrilled to announce the first of several speaking events, where I’ll be previewing some new material.

Tues 15th April, 2014: 5:30 – 8.00pm

In conjunction with One Circle Communications, I’ll be taking up residence at Virgin Lounge, 92 King Street, Manchester to discuss Cost (and Time) Effective Content Marketing for SME’s.

Limited ticket availability. Booking link here.

Customers have got wise to interruption product led promotion. They don’t want to be sold to. They have problems that need resolving. All the experts say using content to position yourself as a problem solver for customers is the new best way to market. But with time, budget and resource limitations, how can you hope to do this effectively?

This event is ideal for small business owners, soloprenuers and those looking to build an effective business online using the latest digital marketing techniques.

I’ll take you through a number of ways to build profile, influence and reach online using some very specific and often overlooked tools and tricks.
It’s a capped event so book early to avoid missing out.

 

An A-Z of B2B marketing: B stands for… Budget

I’ve selected Budget as the B in my A-Z of B2B Marketing because financial implications have a much more heightened significance in B2B than B2C. This, I think, is for a number of reasons:

  1. B2B brands are often built on credibility rather than more emotional bonds
  2. B2B activity is usually less brand related and more lead generation and nurture focused
  3. B2B customers can’t easily be reached by advertising any more
  4. Budgets (outside technology and financial) are commonly considerably smaller in B2B.

From experience, I think the B2B sales pipeline requires a more integrated mix that blends PR, advertising, direct marketing, events, training, sales and distributor support and increasing consideration for customer experience online.

You don’t see B2B brands taking out pages in the weekend supplements, prime time commercial radio slots, splashes on the Yahoo! home page or half time Super Bowl or Oscars advertising for a reason. [As an aside, did you know that a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl was a cool $4m, with the Oscars priced at $1.8m]. That’s an awful lot of brand awareness.

Budget matters in B2B because we need to see conversion and a steady movement towards conversion in increasingly niche clusters of customers.  This in part explains to rise to dominance of Google in analytics – and the myriad of companies offering the same or similar in the area of analytics, web traffic tracking and conversion.

 

Managing a marketing budget and investing in the right activities, tools and technologies is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern B2B marketer. There are lots of ways to dump budget fast – that’s probably why big ticket items like advertising campaigns and trade shows are the first to go when budgets get cut.

You can make it easier for yourself if your business has a clear picture of

  1. Who your audience is
  2. Understanding their points of pain
  3. Understanding how what you offer resolves pain
  4. Understanding where they hang out and how to reach them

Try assessing your marketing spend in a way that fits more agreeably with how the boardroom plan for the business. Instead of a long shopping list of linked activities, try mapping spend across the following parameters. See if you are promoting the best bits of your offer to the right people by comparing where and how you currently invest.

Increasingly, marketers are mapping spend to retention, acquisition using simplified models like this:

  • 60% – Investing in service and expertise that adds value, retains and grows business with existing customers.
  • 30% – Investing in promotion to support new business customer acquisition goals (relative to the growth objectives in this area)
  • 10% – Risk taking: investing in new technologies, a new customer segment or geographical market. This is your safe playground to try different things. This spend is mapped out and ring fenced.

Anyway you look at it, whether you take a simplified or complicated view, money matters in when it comes to B2B marketing. And that puts budget at the heart of your strategy.

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What B2B marketing leaders think about brand, performance, team and personal reputation

This post originally appeared on the BDB blog but has been edited for the Marketing Assassin site.

The latest B2B Leaders report published by B2B Marketing at the end of 2013 provides some useful insights into the thoughts of senior marketers and their views on brand, performance, team and personal reputation management.

The B2B Leaders report, an online survey of 100 marketing leaders, involved marketing directors, heads of marketing and marketing with an average 15 years experience, reporting into board or leadership teams and controlling £188m of accumulated marketing spend.

Headline takeaways

1. Brand

Responding to questions around how they rate their rate their brand relative to the competition, 80% thought their organisational brand is clearly defined and 72% thought it was clearly differentiated from competitors. That said, less than 50% thought marketing gets the resource it needs

It seems brand is recognised as critical to long term business success from this survey. There are concerns about the support required to implement meaningful marketing though with more than half querying the resource and budget commitment.

2. Performance

Getting an uplift in budget means come delivering a tangible return. At the opposite ends of the spectrum, 6% said they could judge ROI all of the time and only 17% said rarely. So must could measure something.

But to be better respected, B2B marketers need to become more adept and more proficient in setting goal based objectives for every single activity and in evaluating achievement with appropriate tools.

3. Team

Commenting on how they ensure their team was comprised with the right set of skills, 79% of respondents said their team had skills gaps, but only 26% said all the team had a structured development training programme in place.

If marketers are not making time for training in the latest advances in marketing best practice, creativity and technology it is perhaps no surprise that teams are ill-equipped to master modern marketing. This then has an obvious knock-on effect to performance and marketing ROI.

4. Personal reputation 

Assessing their own personal reputation, 93% admitted they saw room for personal improvement.

Good B2B marketing leaders acknowledge areas for development of their teams and themselves, and recognise the importance of spending time on maximising harmony within teams towards the achievement of common goals. Reading between the lines, it’s undeniable that the skills and attributes of a modern B2B marketing leader are evolving, with facilitation, influencing and collaboration becoming ever more important.

Summary

As B2B Marketing editor-in-chief Joel Harrison comments, a perfect storm of the “post credit crunch economic strife of the last five years” coupled with a rising tide of technological advances and a need to return to true customer centric positioning has driven significant organisational change. This arguable affects the marketing function as much as any other area.

Understanding your operating environment, your customers and your ability to service them efficiently, profitably and knowledgably remain the underlying and enduring marketing challenges most businesses face.

Is this reflected in your business? How do you tackle some of the issues posed in this research?

 

An A-Z of B2B marketing: A stands for… Audience

How often does a marketing campaign fail to meet its objectives because of a lack of uptake by the intended audience? And how often is that because of one of these factors:

1. Audiences aren’t clearly defined.

2. Audience needs aren’t clearly defined.

3. We’re trying to sell something to someone who doesn’t want it.

4. The budget and activity is too thinly spread across too many different audiences.

Who makes the decisions about the purchase of your products and services? What matters to them and how do they choose?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, stop throwing money away on marketing and destroying its credibility in your boardroom until you find out.

And if there are too many audience groups to know where to start, begin with the one that is either being poorly served, you can really service better than everyone else or that is the most profitable.

Marketing links worth a click #18

In this golden age of content, it can be a challenge finding the golden nuggets in the haystacks. Here are a few things that caught my eye this week:

Most brand storytelling evolves around the written word. Check out these 50 Attributes Of A Great Copywriter put out there by @B2Community

11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs from @copyblogger focuses on  how to create brilliantly magnetic and engaging blog posts.

In technology, this piece from @TheNextWeb on what to expect from Google in 2014  made for comprehensive and compelling reading. Will we all be logging into Google+ via our Google Glass in 2014?

And what of 3D printing and prototyping? Consumer create at home may be closer than we think as Asda plans to make a range of printers available in 2014. So reports @3Dprintindustry on Twitter.

Read them, tweet them, share them. And follow me on Twitter @renepower to cite me if you use them and also so you don’t have to wait till next Sunday!

Pleasing everyone risks pleasing no one

I was pleased to learn today that I lost an email subscriber to this blog.

Pleased, because periodically over recent years, he came to the blog and made a nuisance of himself. Watching him interact on Linkedin in a number of groups we share has also increasingly shown him to be a progressively angry old man.

In fairness, he wasn’t who this blog is intended for. I write for the open minded. For marketers and business owners selling products and services to other businesses and empowered to make changes to the business and marketing approaches. A good many professionals sadly don’t fall into this category. Tellingly, I write about the urgent topics and challenges I find myself grappling with.

Writing for everyone is the pathway to a disgruntled audience and one pretty lame blog.

There is a marketing lesson in this I think. Who do you want to write for? What do they need to read? What interests them? And how can your experiences, your expertise, skills, knowledge and advice, help them?

You may well be surprised by the answers.

What’s hot in content marketing in 2014?

In December, I was asked to contribute to NewsReach’s ‘Changing state of content marketing in 2014 infographic‘. A supplementary and more detailed blog post where I was quoted, was also published here.

I thought it was useful in providing links to the NewsReach piece to also share my other observations on where I think marketing needs to move to in 2014. Content marketing, the process of positioning yourself or your business as expert through providing help, counsel and insight, is where your battle will be won and lost.

Type #contentmarketing into Google or Twitter and you’ll get scores of soothsayers talking about it. Here’s my two pence worth from a specific b2b marketing perspective.

There are four trends that businesses need to get onboard with and switch on to:

1/ Companies need to focus on creating a content funnel, mapping content to the different stages of influence and decision making – but it will need to be very carefully tailored (if not completely personalised) to achieve effective resonance and critically, create action in target niches.

2/ Successful content marketing companies will move to longer, less frequent ‘evergreen’ content when blogging. Evergreen means it is good advice that will endure. No more blogging for blogging’s sake. You want your content to hang around – or as Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner calls it ‘nuclear fuel’.

3/ As much time will need to be spent on going off page to seed, share and build influence as it is spent on curation and creation of content. Being part of the right crowd/s will be the single most important challenge moving forward.

4. Creative, graphic content will increase as use of sites like Pinterest increase in business. Just remember that an infographic needs two things – information and a nice, engaging, professional look and feel.

We’re already a couple of days in to a new year. Forget campaigns. How are you going to build your position for the future?

One word resolutions

Dan Rockwell, the LeadershipFreak on Twitter, posted today on how to set SMART single word new year resolutions.

These help drive the behavioural and attitudinal change we often seek as we enter a new year – and are a good deal more attainable than conventional resolutions we make and fail to stick to.

My word for 2014 is ‘invest’. Not in terms of financial investment – I’m not looking to create a stocks and shares portfolio. Rather, I’m using it as a way to prioritise and justify the input needed to specific projects, relationships and causes.

With a multi-faceted role in a small business as well as the platform building adventure I’ve embarked on in recent years, I think seeing my time and energy as an investment will help me build better relationships, achieve more and above all focus more on the things that matter.

Procrastination can be a big problem when you’re thinly spread.

Q: What’s your word for 2014?

New year marketing resolutions

Now, is apparently the time to start getting your 2014 commitments into shape. Nobody and nothing stands still. What are you going to do different, better, more of in 2014 than you did in 2013. Can you answer the following questions?

What worked for you in 2013? What didn’t?

What did your customers value the most?

What was the best advice you gave?

What was the best piece of work you did?

What did you do to stand out from the pack?

More of that required and more. What are you going to stand for?

Better hurry, most of your competition are already working on it…

 

B2B influencer marketing (creating a buzz through others)

I’m thrilled to be announcing a new webinar in conjunction with B2B Marketing Magazine, which will be taking place on 20th November as part of their all-new tailored B2B training programme.

I see influencer marketing becoming a core staple of the evolving B2B marketing mix as referral, recommendation and advocacy become ever more critical to the success or failure of brands.

I think marketers who see influencer marketing as a PR tactic are missing a golden opportunity to position their business and its products and services in a way to add value by solving real world customer problems. Tapping into trusted voices and channels is a powerful way of serving credible communications to the right people at the right time.

I’m finalising a very practical session laced with real-world examples and practical application and will be exploring the nature of importance and why it is important in B2B sales cycles, what influencer marketing is, what it involves, who it should target, how to go about it and to evaluate the success of it.

Some specifics include:

- Understanding what influencer marketing is and how B2B brands can benefit

- Identifying and ranking influencers

- Communicating with influencers

- Measuring the effectiveness of influencer marketing programmes

Falling at a perfect time for many marketers’ planning cycles, I hope you (and your team) can join us on 20th November 14:00 GMT. More information can be found at www.b2bmarketing.net

PS: I’m looking for 1-2 companies to profile. Are you active in influencer marketing or have seen some brands doing some cool things in this area?