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.

Is your marketing like a World Cup penalty shoot out?

The world has been gripped by the spectacle of Fifa’s World Cup 2014 taking place in Brazil over recent weeks. As we enter the knock out stages of the competition, months of meticulous preparation for most of the remaining teams will actually come down to successfully navigating a football past a goalkeeper from twelve yards.

But it’s ok, isn’t it? After all, every guy picked to the squad is there because he is one of the best footballers from his country. Kicking a ball into a 8 x 24ft net should be a piece of cake for all of them.

Some players thrive in high pressure situations like this. Most, however, don’t. [Some teams and their coaches even see the randomness of a penalty shoot out as their best opportunity to progress.]

Planning replaced by randomness

The planning, strategy, tactics and playbook that got the team out of the group, through 120 minutes of football have, at this point gone out of the window. They have been replaced by the lottery of a penalty shoot out and a game of focus and nerve.

If this poorly played out metaphor resonates with you, maybe it is because you see a similar trend in your business marketing. Surrendering to randomness is a dangerous play at the World Cup, and so to in a business environment too. Why would you not do everything in your power to try and keep control of your own destiny?

Avoid an early exit with your potential customers by considering the following five steps:

  • Kick off – did you spend all that time planning, researching, drawing up plans, working out how to implement them to then not understand what success ultimately looks like for you? Have a very clear visual picture of what your success is going to look like. How does it taste, feel, sound, look? Qualify what success looks like with numbers that matter.
  • Putting your best foot forward – play to your strengths rather than worrying about the opposition [read competition]. If you spend all your time monitoring, analysing, obsessing over and reacting to them, you won’t achieve anything. Maybe, you can even give them a few things to think about. (Isn’t the best defence, offence?)


  • Playing for penalties – leaving things to chance by not making the most of your available resources means you won’t do your best work and won’t impact the people you want to influence most. Conversely, diligently executing a goal based plan increases the likelihood of that plan being successful.
  • Dealing with the fear factor – the human body deals with fear and stress with very recognisable physical conditions. Stepping up to take a penalty is a lot like making that difficult call or getting ready to make that important presentation. Take the sting out of it by keeping in mind all the successes you’ve had to this point, remember you’re an expert and how they played out.
  • Remember, you’ll miss some time – realise that you won’t hit the mark every time. Come back stronger. Ascertain why you missed and make sure you don’t miss again, for the same reason. Incidentally, missing over and over is fine as long as you continually learn. You might even get to a position where you never end up in another sudden death penalty shoot out!

In reality, you don’t want to leave your marketing to any kind of lottery, luck or chance. The analogy of the penalty shoot out is that of a randomised last chance saloon. Sure, some players are naturally very good at penalties, but you don’t really want to be relying on a single punt to assure you of success.

Better to plan carefully, construct messages and design products that solve problems and make customers lives better, more productive and less wastefully. Communicate value, offer education and information willingly. Plan to succeed. Avoid the lottery.

Have your say on the blog; A gratuitous topical mixed metaphor. Or a blog post with a message? 

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.

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?

Keywords in practice: SEO for b2b marketing

So, anyone dabbling in the area of SEO knows that selecting the right keywords is an important, but first step in designing a kick-ass b2b search engine marketing strategy, right? (If not, here’s a useful primer)

There is a lot of duff SEO advice online. Get back to basics and use the right keywords optimally around your site. This is a digital fundamental. Here are some quick steps to making sure they help your site rise to the top in search engine results.

Using keywords in practice

It is widely acknowledged that the first 200 words on any web page (especially the home page) are generally the most important on your website. Make sure the keywords for your page are placed in the first few sentences and also in the first heading (h1) tag on the page.

Much of this is covered in the SEO chapter of ‘Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing’ , where I use global compressor manufacturer Atlas Copco and compressed gases supplier BOC to illustrate this technique to promote keyword positioning on compressors, mining and construction.

 

Headings and subheadings

Place your primary keywords in your headings and sub-headings as these areas of content are perceived to carry greater weight in search engine ranking algorithms.

Use key phrases not just keywords

Sometimes if there are words with more than one meaning, it makes sense to use additional words to clarify the intended meaning. To help the search engine bot establish the meaning, use a ~keyword search in Google’s search bar. The results will have the words in bold that the search engine believes are most related to that word. This turns keywords into key phrases or ‘long tail’ to use the common name.

Think about about your own search experience. To navigate an increasingly irrelevant landscape, Internet users are using three words to refine their search so your SEO should follow suit.

Keyword density and distribution

You don’t want to use keywords too much in your displayed ‘on-page’ content, but you do want to make sure they are used at least twice in the body copy as an absolute minimum. Reference needs to be natural and within context. A keyword in every sentence looks forced. Ask your copywriters to use synonyms.

Optimising your meta data

1. Keep meta descriptions short.

If your meta description is longer than 150 characters, search engines may omit some of it. Keep the summary brief and loaded with your most relevant and important keywords to give readers a sense of what they’ll find on the page. To save you counting, the BOC example below is 58 words long.

2. Develop unique meta descriptions.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the meta description is to set the visitor’s expectations about what can be found on that page. This makes meta descriptions for every page a requirement.

 

 

3. Page in a sentance

Write a sentence that encapsulates what the page is about and what it will offer the visitor rather than providing a list of arbitrary keywords. The messaging in the search results are often the first experience of the brand.

4. Reuse elements

Reuse elements throughout the page in links, anchor text and other titles and tags. This increases relevance in the eyes of human and search engine visitors.

5. Order meta data in priority to suit search engines.

Although it is widely held that Google places a low rank on certain elements of meta data, it is good practice to order data in the meta of a web page in the order Title > Description > Keywords.

Applying a diligent approach to your on page SEO gives you a firm foundation to kick on with your online marketing promotion before you spend on link building, pay per click and other forms of advertising.

 

How to ensure you use the most relevant SEO keywords in your B2B marketing

Rightly or wrongly, the Internet is still built on text based code. So making sure your site is optimised with the right text customers are using to inform their search is a critical part of your digital marketing strategy.

Keyword based SEO is critical as it drives your messaging, content and success in search marketing. It’s important that there is a relationship between how your site is written and what browsers are looking for but it is very common for businesses to either do too little or too much which leads to keyword stuffing.

Keyword research isn’t a dark art. Do your homework.

 

Keyword research involves mapping what your customers and prospects are looking for and what you can offer them. There is an abundance of data available within the Google suite of webmaster tools even before you need to access more sophisticated software. You can still access the Adwords Keyword Planner tool which offers insight into which words and phrases are used more frequently than others as well as the relative competition in trying to rank top on them.

As a result, keyword research can be an involved and complicated process especially if you are promoting a number of elements simultaneously. In b2b terms, think about focusing on the following:

1. Focus of the page. Are you providing information or overtly selling? This plays on the position and mindset of the visitor in relation to the buying cycle. The words, language and tone change markedly from informational pages to product selling pages.

2. Pick a primary keyword for each page. Consider using a small number of keywords across your website to start. Using too many on a page will dilute the impact of individual words and mean the page has little authority when assessed by search engines.

3. Assess the competition. What are the competition doing with keywords and are some more prevalent than others? A simple right click and View Source will display the company’s keywords included in their meta data. Consider, though, that they may have the mood very wrong and also competitors vying for rankings for the same keyword phrase.

4. Use a keyword analysis tool. Free tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool are perfect for initial research and help to establish the relative relevance and value of keywords, giving an indication of searches over time and regionally (global vs local). Make sure you use ‘exact’ matching to give you better, more refined results.

 

Q: How do you ensure you are using the right SEO keywords? Share your tips and tricks below.

Image: Crystal ball image 

Help – I’m a content marketer!

It may well have passed you by, but there are two revolutions taking place that will have a devastating effect on your ability to effectively market your business.

The first is the rise of citizen journalism. The era of 24-7 real time news has meant that everyone now sees themselves as a journalist and commentator on the news as it happens. How often do we see news stories break with a whirlwind of comment, hyperbole and analysis before the facts of the story come through confining all previous activity around the story to the bin?

The second is the reality that everyone (and every business) can and should become a publisher. Adopting a publisher mindset in how you being to redefine your relationships with customers and prospects brings enlightenment as you focus more specifically on their needs than your own. Media owners, by definition, have to provide their audiences with what they want or they go elsewhere – and the title into terminal decline.

Content marketing, as I taked about at length at the recent On the Edge digital marketing conference in Birmingham, is the method by which we repackage our expertise and counsel in a way to make what we do truly helpful to the people we want to serve.

It’s a hot topic as everyone is reading, writing, talking and thinking about it. But examples of people doing it well across a wide variety of sectors are few and far between.

If you’re a content marketer and don’t know where to start, my slides [and video] should help.

I’ll be posting a lot more on content marketing over the coming weeks, but for now consider these five steps to getting an effective content led inbound marketing campaign off the ground.

1. Assign a managing editor to own and determine tone, messaging, platforms, topics, calendar. Impossible for the new graduate arrival to have the gravitas to do this and engage the necessary stakeholders.

2. Research what customers want/need by visiting industry watering holes – trade media, Linkedin groups, trade press and events.

3. Review what assets you have in the business and repackage them. Go back twelve months if you need to. Press releases, presentations, news, brochures, video can all be repackaged to power a blog, email outreach and social media accounts.

4. Curate industry news, information, insights, research and use it to drive your content programme.

5. Above all, focus on customer problems and helping them. Does your content add value by informing, educating, inspiring, entertaining?

How do you go about structuring, informing and implementing your content marketing efforts?

Delivering a brilliant B2B website user experience

A positive and consistent user experience can make or break your business online. Does your website keep customers coming back for more?

Delivering a brilliant and compelling user experience means combining creative and functional design with speed, usability, accessibility, content architecture and contingency design.

It is important to recognise that user experience is a key part of branding. This can be simple and effective signposting like that exemplified by the Dell UK site which gets visitors to the content they want quickly. This, in turn, increases conversion rates by generating trust and encourages both loyalty from existing users and new traffic from viral referrals.

Feel the need for speed

Design with speed in mind. Slow loading pages, graphics and rich media can have a hugely negative impact on your bounce rate as visitors refuse to wait for content to load. Employ a three-click journey rule to any page within your website. Factor in simple navigation, using accepted terms and structure to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they’re looking for.

Accessibility

Web accessibility is about reaching the broadest group of people irrespective of disabilities including sight, hearing and speech; physical, cognitive and some neurological disorders.

And as technology continues to innovate at a pace, websites and other web-based applications can draw on advances in areas such as screen readers, Braille displays, magnification and voice- recognition to facilitate access to digital content. Consider them if you are specifically targeting specific groups. International standards such as W3C help set benchmarks that good web designers should abide by.

Content architecture

On large websites it can be worthwhile considering how information is grouped and collated for customer benefit. Conducting exercises offline can help identify trends in browsing behaviour and provide a useful psychological insight into how different individuals search, collate and interact with content. This can play into how the site’s navigation is designed and displayed.

The website for Swedish construction and project management company Skanska, adopts a number of simple but effective navigation techniques that help to manage the presentation of content to site users. It uses top and bottom navigation effectively deployed, as well as ‘breadcrumbs’ throughout the home page. These are additional carefully selected navigation devices that help signpost effectively to interesting content deeper in the site – namely company information, press activity, publications and upcoming events. The site also makes use of a carousel to convey key messages.

Above ‘home’ page, below ‘about us’ page.

The reality in information architecture and navigation is that people will give up quickly if they can’t find what they want, so make sure you are using industry standard definitions and not your own unique vocabulary. Use colour and tabs to help people identify where they are (side navigation bars on inner pages work well for this) and keep the clickable drill down into deeper content to no more than three levels.

Contingency design

There will always be situations where a user makes a request that the system is unable to answer or performs an action that goes against how the system was designed to work.

Leaving form fields blank, requesting a page that doesn’t exist, making a spelling mistake when performing a search or trying to buy a product that is out of stock are all examples of how users could challenge a system.

By predicting these challenges and proposing solutions to either prevent or deal with the problem – by answering the ‘what if…?’ questions – it is possible to find solutions that add value to failure and maintain a positive user experience.

Creative use of the 404 error message that typically displays when a link is broken or a page is removed from a website is a great example of predicting potential short-comings but dealing with them in a way that doesn’t unduly affect the user experience.

What other ways can you deliver brilliant user experience on your website?

Get more on B2B websites, SEO, social media and more with my new ebook Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing.