New talk: Linkedin business essentials, 2nd December, Manchester

Linkedin is a phenomenal tool for building and fuelling networks and I’ll be talking at Innov8’s Social Media Conference on 2nd December – taking the group on a whistle-stop tour of the primary considerations when creating a profile, building a network and growing business through expertise and thought leadership using Linkedin.

With a recognised All-Star Linkedin profile, it promises to be an ideas packed, dynamic session that includes guidance for professionals on:

– Setting your profile up in the right way

– Using status updates

– Advanced search

– Connection etiquette

– Making the most of groups

– Publishing on Linkedin

– Making more of your business page

I hope you can join us. For more information and booking information, please visit http://www.social-media-conference.co.uk/. 

New talk: Bootcamp – The role of PR in digital marketing, 5th November (Manchester)

PR & blogging

Join me on the 5th November at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, (All Saints Campus, Oxford Road) as I deliver some new content aimed at closing up the gap between PR and digital marketing. 

Session details:

The huge focus on social media marketing may have overshadowed the key principles and best practice of PR as a discipline. In this bootcamp we review the critical role of traditional PR techniques in the digital marketing context with leading exponents of the art of PR in digital marketing. Learning key tips, advice and best practice to apply in your own role with the author of Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing and some special guests.

The session will cover:

• Managing a crisis online
• How to measure and evaluate your PR activity
• Is conventional media still relevant in the social media age?
• How to make your organisation’s blog more effective, drive more traffic to it, and make it work from an SEO point of view

 

Registration is from 09:00; the event starts at 09:30 and finishes at 13:30. Click here for more information and booking details.

New talk: Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing, MADE, Sheffield 21st October 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 08.22.11If you’ve been waiting for a B2B digital marketing focused event to come to Sheffield THIS IS IT! 

I’m bringing an updated and super practical Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing presentation to approx. 300 people at the Memorial Hall on 21st October, the night before MADE.

Session details:

Most businesses in the UK are established to sell products and services to each other. But outside the major multinationals and technology brands, there is a dearth of useful B2B marketing advice for grass roots marketers to draw upon.

Part of the MADE Festival of Entrepreneurship, I’ll be taking delegates through my seven step B2B digital marketing approach.

Honed from a career working in, and with, a range of diverse B2B companies, it’s going to be an example packed session, delivered to inspire, so show how to use digital tools to raise profile, drive engagement and generate business leads.

You’ll leave brimming with ideas to kick start your business marketing in areas including digital strategy, websites, search, content marketing, social media, conversion rate optimisation and measurement.

Delegates also have a chance to get an exclusive PDF copy of Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing 220 page e-book, created in conjunction with Dave Chaffey’s Smart Insights.

Registration is from 18:00; the event starts at 18:30 and finishes at 20:00. Click here for more information and to book your seat.

 

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Your best brand storyteller? Ask the expert!

Your business might be telling an exciting, captivating and helpful story… but is the right person telling it?

 

Successful companies already know that people buy people.  In my experience, professional buyers seeking product and service solutions will look at the people providing it and make subjective decisions based on how assured they are by the specialism and specialist knowledge they exhibit.

Specialist knowledge comes from an in-depth understanding only built up from previous experience of facing up to and conquering similar challenges.

So, thinking about how businesses marketers brand their companies in a bid to commercialise their offering, isn’t it a good idea to actually put that brand offer in the hands of the people who have created it? The people who are best placed to build strong credibility because of their inherent capability?

There is a commercial benefit to going down this route too; experts with highly prized knowledge can demonstrate value and attract a potential premium.

USE YOUR expert

But who is the real expert in your business? Who’s expertise brings in the money?

Many company owners know where the revenue sits, and who creates the products and services that are successfully monetised. Yet many companies keep these people at arm’s length from customers and clients.

I wonder why.

  • Is it because they are somehow not competent or not credible with customers?
  • Is it that we don’t trust them to stick to the script? 
  • Is it that we would rather they focus on the solutions despite the fact those solutions are best informed by direct customer feedback?

The reality is that the model most companies use to manage customer relationships is broken and the experience we are delivering is actually risking the relationship long term.

Fine margins

Long term success in the modern consultative sell means understanding that many B2B buying decisions often come down to fine margins. Whilst, the primary driver may well be for products that deliver improvement, save time, reduce waste, use sustainable materials and more, the value add and interpersonal chemistry matter.

There has been a strong track record of companies using key people in their marketing (as heroes) and this, depending on the type of company you are, can be a real winner. Prominent examples in the UK include Boeing, Halifax and B&Q.  

A little bit more contact with the ‘brains’ of your operation is increasingly being seen as a more viable option to to the usual Chinese walls created by armies of call centre workers, field sales representatives, account handlers and other people designed to help traffic process.

Replace selling with serving

My advice: Be daring and place the experts in your business in a position to engage in customer dialogue. Adopt a model where you tap into their expertise and begin to demonstrate the value you profess to bring by replacing selling with serving.

And, for your next marketing campaign, regardless of whether you are setting acquisition, retention or engagement KPIs, think about what is going to resonate most with the audience you’re targeting.

Think about telling stories. Think about having your people who do amazing things day in day out, bring that story to life – and in doing so, begin to place them right at the heart of the narrative.

**Also, check out this post on watering holes and establishing where your customers hang out.**

Image: Ollie Heath

 

 

Two new b2b marketing webinars

The Marketing Assassin blog needs some love. And it’s coming. But right now, I’ve got a couple of new webinars coming up 19th and 20th November that I wanted to share with you.

Webinar’s are a great way to get a message out to a hard to reach and diverse group as well as being an enduring content asset. I’ve been using them with great success through 2014.

19th November, 2014: (12:00 GMT and on demand afterwards) Six ways to turbocharge your b2b marketing.

Are you looking to raise profile, create traffic or drive engagement? In this free webinar in conjunction with Dave Chaffey and SmartInsights, I’m going to reveal, using examples, how to apply six of the critical elements of the modern B2B marketing toolkit. Secure your place here.

20th November, 2014: (16:00 GMT and on demand afterwards) The Advocate Factor – Ensuring your customers become your best salespeople in b2b.

In this all new webinar, I’ll be talking about how to build sector leading customer advocacy programmes in the b2b sector, exploring do’s and don’ts and shining a light on best practice. Webinar attendees will leave equipped with a stepped process to creating their own customer advocacy programmes. Book your free spot here.

If you’re joining one or both of these free sessions, use the comment function below to ask questions in advance.

Ten ways specialist European b2b companies are winning with content

I’m delighted to report that I’m preparing the next (of several webinars) that I’m going to be giving on the BrightTalk channel in August and September, 2014.

Coming up as part of a day long content marketing summit on Wednesday 13th August, I’ll be talking at 2pm GMT on the thorny issue of content marketing in b2b.

To me there is no doubt that the most pressing imperative facing modern marketers is engaging the business as a whole in the practice of marketing. Businesses trade in expertise which is locked in people that are not always customer facing.

People ultimately buy people. This webinar sheds light on how to use content to build a robust customer focused marketing platform – that itself positions your experts right at the forefront.

In this webinar, that will run live and be available for on demand viewing afterwards, I’ll be looking at how ten major European b2b businesses have successfully traded in expertise. I’ll take you through what they did and how their experience can be applied to your business.

Spoiler: These b2b companies aren’t the usual b2c-b2b hybrid or b2b service companies. These are nuts and bolts, engineering, building and manufacturing companies that need to use content marketing to tell a benefit story before selling a functional product.

I hope you can join me. Registration is open here. If you have questions or observations on what you would like covered in the webinar, leave a comment on this blog post.

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.

Don’t want to miss another post in An A-Z of B2B Marketing? Get inbox updates as they post by subscribing above.

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.

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?