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?

 

10 top recession marketing tips

Recession marketing, bootstrapping, call it what you will. These are difficult times as business buyers shop around for the best suppliers offering the best all-round deals.

The Marketing Assassin blog was spawned in the recession and was a response to the excess and confused marketing that blights our profession.

Most companies don’t have seven [six, even five] figure marketing budgets and can’t count on award winning agencies, so they have to be targeted and smart.

Here is a quick fire list of ten things you should be doing to ensure you give your business the best chance of success, whilst at the same time restricting cost.

1. Apply a metrics-based approach to every marketing project. If an activity doesn’t fit with a business objective, stop it immediately. This is especially relevant to costly advertising plans and trade shows.

2. Cancel magazine and news subscriptions and set up Google Reader RSS feeds and Google Alerts. If articles get placed, buy print quality PDFs and reprints for marketing purposes, it will be cheaper in the long run.

3. Tap into freelancers rather than bulking up on staff. The recession has created a huge and experienced community of talented but displaced creative individuals that can be brought in on short term projects. Use them as required in stead of taking on additional headcount cost.

4. Move any new employees and kit to the ‘cloud’. Consider using free Google docs rather than costly MS Office.

5. Visit your most profitable customers and tell them how much you value them. Create reasons to talk to them and see them more. Present some insight, fresh ideas, act as a connector by facilitating introductions to other clients.

6. Engage / re-engage customers via email. Send an opt in email suggesting you will contact them quarterly and showcase latest work, ideas, industry trends and insight. Remind them what you excel at, and advise them of any changes, improvements and news. A simple html email designed and delivered through a service like Dotmailer will suffice.

7. When you cut back or cancel your advertising plan (point 1), use measurement  as an excuse and adopt a PR based approach instead. PR has longer legs and supports leadership and credibility objectives – essential in the b2b sale.

8. Use existing content. Give lots of presentations? Repackage and host on Slideshare. Add a audio commentary and captions and post to YouTube. Recreate PR as blog posts and white papers. Produce best practice presentations for use as webinars. In essence adopt free to use social media techniques, but the right ones for your business.

9. Use Linkedin. A global network of 80m (stats vary) business people means your future customers, suppliers, freelancers and recruits are all there. Use search filters available for free from the home page.

10. Feed all news, blog content to your website home page to bolster SEO, to your Linkedin company profile page and to a Facebook business page. If you don’t have one of these, set one up, if for no other reason than SEO. (More on Facebook for business in upcoming posts, bookmark the blog now).

Most businesses are working on reduced budgets in 2011 yet have to deliver more just to stand still. Give yourself the best chance by being focused on critical objectives, removing unnecessary cost and stimulating demand in your products and services.

Images: Michael G Holmes, Craven Publishing

Marketing Metrics 6: Trade shows

Attending trade shows is one of the most expensive activities in a marketing plan. How do you ensure they provide return?

Trade show organisers have probably had to work harder than anyone else during the recession. The expenditure in this area is often the first thing scrapped in a marketing budget review as extravagant. This isn’t a surprise given most companies attending trade shows fail to manage their attendance properly from the outset. They are not ruthless about why they are attending and what they want to get out of the show. Going because you always have is a poor approach to marketing and business.

But done well, with appropriate consideration given to pre-event traffic generation, trade shows can be your most profitable marketing mix tool. Why? The lion’s share of your new business still comes through word of mouth, endorsement and personal selling, so it makes sense to be right in the heart of any gathering of your clients and customers.

I tackled this very issue in a recent post following my experience at the Total Packaging show in Birmingham.

From a metrics perspective, there is a lot that you can do to measure the effectiveness of attending an exhibition. Working through the following thought process throws up things to consider and the metrics to be employed to measure them. In these recessionary times, I’ve deliberately kept to the tangible lead generation focused activities.

1. Why, what, who? Start at the planning phase, and decide what you are exhibiting, why and to who? If you haven’t got a credible reason to exhibit and/or nothing new to promote, don’t.

2. Focus on ‘new’. Make a maximum of three key messages the core part of all pre-show and show communication. The rules of high impact PR apply throughout, so ‘new’ always works best and attracts the most interest. Demonstration and presentation are fantastic ways of getting ‘new’ across. This could be product, service, data or insight related. And ‘new’ doesn’t have to mean available – a measurable metric might be to take a set number of enquiries, even orders for a previewed/future product or service.

3. Calculate Total Project Cost. Price up space and stand costs, design & logistics costs, hospitality, literature, email/advertising costs, hotels, lost sales force productivity through being taken off the road and management time.

4. Apply a Cost Per Enquiry. Having a Total Project Cost will allow you to start to consider cost per enquiry and allows you to start to work out how many enquiries (and convertible orders) are required to cover the investment of attending.

5. Set enquiry/order targets. Plug in your rough order value and calculate how many orders will be needed to cover this cost and then ideally turn a profit.

6. Set specific enquiry targets. With all the previous steps completed, you’ll be able to allocate enquiry targets against the cost of attending, per product/service line exhibited, per sector and per sales rep. This gives you a minimum of four ways to set lead generation metrics, and informs what you should do next to promote your attendance at the show, to who, and by who.

7. Agree pre show marketing targets. Allocate enquiries to each element of pre-show marketing (personal sales call, invite, email, visit to site, online registration). Offer customers pre-registration. Stage an event or give a presentation within the trade show and use the sign up to this as a metric. Set up a daily blog/email summary/Twitter feed from the show and measure engagement. Twitter hashtagging is fantastic for events. Above all, set up a specific Internet landing page and employ Google Analytics to give you a thorough assessment of this. Any advertising and literature should cite all contact points.

8. The intangible. Some times it is important to attend a trade show to build or protect profile and reputation. In this instance, arrange meetings with trade publishers and editors in advance and set a metric on that, reviewable 3 months and 6 months after the show in terms of PR coverage.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will give your trade show planning greater clarity and focus.

Image Beacon Alliance

Marketing Metrics 5: Speaking up

If you have something interesting to say, or are an interesting, engaging speaker, it’s worth considering public speaking as an element of your marketing strategy.  Speaking at conferences can be a powerful way of building a profile and raising the awareness of your skill set and expertise to your target audience.

Whether you opt to start small by acting as a guest speaker at a local networking or business group, running your own industry specific seminars or headline a major industry conference with a keynote presentation or panel place, one thing is certain. Everyone remembers a great speaker and a great presentation, and often business can be won off the back of one.

Speaker opportunities have long been highly prized within the PR fraternity as a way of pushing clients up the scale of influence. How do you think those experts who always seem to be the ones talking at the major conferences and being quoted in the trade or consumer press get there? By hard work and through building strong relationships with the media who run publications and organize conferences.

As the scale of opportunities afforded by technology and the Internet broaden, it is ever more important to specialise and avoid being seen as a generalist. There is a niche in every line of business and aligning your speaking engagements to 1/ your target audience and 2/ your specialist subject areas are fast tracks to expert status.

The ability to host webinars and webcast live on the Internet using sites like Bright Talk and Event Brite, to create podcasts for uploading to sites like iTunes and create and share presentations and video using sites like You Tube, Vimeo and SlideShare have revolutionised the concept of the expert and brought it to the masses.

But how do you measure the return from time spent?

It’s surprisingly easy. In most offline and online cases, the delegate list will be captured, especially if the carrot of exclusive post event material is dangled. An opportunity to join an exclusive group or register for exclusive content is always enticing. And remember this means all these contacts are themselves opting in.

Superficial statistics like the number of delegates, requests for and downloads of information are to a degree useful, but ultimately you should be forging a measurable link between the time and cost of preparing and giving the presentation and any tangible business outcomes, like opportunities to meet, opportunities to provide a proposal or quote and the landing of business.

Using speaking opportunities at seminars, conferences and exhibitions is a long term strategy designed to build profile and elevate you as an expert in your field. It is a tool that naturally sits on the fluffier side of the return on investment equation (unless you are able to charge for attendance in which case it is a revenue spinner all on its own).

Image Offthevangirls

Marketing Metrics 2: Getting the most from offline advertising

Advertising. The premise is to immediately attract attention, to resonate and stimulate interest. It’s forged on the notion of interrupting a prospective customer and taking their attention away from something else they are focusing on. That alone makes it a risky way to secure new customers. It’s also expensive, despite best efforts largely untargeted, relatively unsophisticated and consequently difficult to measure.

Offline advertising in whatever format (press, trade, poster, billboard, TV or radio) can be effectively neutralised, ignored and not acted on by media savvy buyers.

So, how do you combat this and make advertising work as a revenue generator, even though the experts say advertising is more about awareness than conversion?

Consider the following:

1. As a marketer consider why you advertise? Is it to build, protect or defend your brand share? Is it to promote specific products and services in a timely way to a specific audience? Is it because your company always has? Is it because your think it makes a difference but don’t really know how or why?

2. Identify a good advertiser. Follow the lead of the companies that do it best – that’s financial services and insurance and mobile phone companies right now. Give every piece a unique reference code, use specific campaign telephone numbers, set up specific internet landing pages, offer promotional rates based on contact window.

3. Demand more from the media you use. Demand accompanying editorial, demand companion buttons on the website, demand reference points in email marketing and demand response data.

4. Ask relevant people what they think. Test concepts before you run them live. Run online polls and focus groups to assess their advertising. At a less expensive and time consuming level this could involve asking your colleagues, sales teams, customers and prospects to feedback.

5. Brief your sales people, especially telesales, to validate the source of enquiries as they come into the business. And use a drop down on all website enquiry forms so advertising can be logged as the primary method of attribution.

Marketing Metrics 1: Why measure?

With the post Principles of Marketing 13: Evaluation becoming the most read blog post on this site in the last nine months, I figured it was time to explode the subject in more detail with a series of blog posts dedicated to measuring marketing effectiveness

This is an area where marketers often struggle and is a primary reason for marketing not being taken seriously at board level in many businesses. A strong correlation needs to be made between marketing investment and return. And it’s no surprise that companies that do well also integrate marketing into their business development and sales strategies.

Whilst online marketing provides a level of traffic and conversion evaluation, more traditional approaches along with the latest viral and digital techniques are more difficult to quantify in terms of ROI. The explosion in the popularity and ease of networking and sharing content online adds to the problem.

Just how do you possibly track back brand awareness, brand and market share, and return in investment to these activities?

Blog posts upcoming include advertising offline, advertising online, direct mail, exhibitions, conferences, websites / blogs, emarketing, social media – Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook, brand / brand value and financial ROI.