Tips, tools, and best practices for B2B marketers.

If you’re a B2B marketer not leveraging social media, you’re behind the curve.

four_factors_OT.jpgA recent Forrester study of B2B technology decision makers found that this group was one of the most active when it came to social media. Forrester concluded that, "If you’re a B2B marketer and you’re not using social technologies in your marketing, it means you’re late."

So don't put it off any longer.  Here's our latest EB Orange Thought on planning your social media strategy.

In summary, your first step is to figure out what makes sense for your company. Here are four areas to assess:

  1. Your market: What are the social media destinations and who are the influencers?
  2. Your competitors: How are they engaging their buyers?
  3. Your buyers: What social media activities do they engage in?
  4. Your company: Is it ready with the resources, the content, and the right attitude?
Download the complete OT for tips on assessing these four areas and pulling it all together.

Using content to drive sales.  Part 3: Getting your mind right.

A series of posts that looks at how marketers can put content to work for them to drive awareness, leads, and ultimately sales.  

Leveraging content to drive leads and ultimately sales is a different way of marketing.  It's also a different way of thinking.  So how do you "get your mind right?"

Stop thinking like a marketer.

Imagine you’re sitting across from a potential buyer.  You're ready to reel him in and get him interested in what your company offers. You're thinking about all the great things your products do.  What you want to tell him.  What information and tidbits you want him to walk away with.

Now, imagine that you are sitting in the buyer's seat.  What do you think he wants to know?  What would he think would be most helpful?  What questions does he need answered?

It's a subtle, yet key difference.  It's about shifting your focus so you're better in touch with the needs of the buyer.   Content marketing helps you connect with potential buyers by filling those needs with relevant, useful content.  This allows you to nurture the buyer, create an on-going relationship, and become a trusted source.  That way, when they're ready to buy, they think of you.

Start thinking like a publisher.

Giving potential buyers content that educates and is relevant takes a publisher's mindset.

You need to believe that content is key to your success. You need to move away from selling and move toward informing. 

Thinking like a publisher means constantly striving to produce top-quality content that your reader (buyer) wants to read.  It requires you to produce relevant, timely, and consistent content and push that content out to your reader. 

Yes, it's ultimately about selling.

Of course your objective is sell something.  I'm not suggesting it isn't.  However, selling today takes a different mindset.  It's a bit of an oxymoron, but to successfully sell today, you need to stop selling.

This mindset is especially critical for B2B tech marketers, where sales cycles can last several months and leads need to be nurtured as they move through the different stages of the decision-making process.

It takes an understanding of both the sales process and your buyer, and a belief that by providing relevant content, you advance the sale.

Next post in this series:  Bonding with sales and your customer?  Oh, and 5 points for anyone who can tell me what movie "Getting your mind right" comes from.

Using content to drive sales.  Part 2: Connecting with the B2B buyer.

A series of posts that looks at how marketers can put content to work for them to drive awareness, leads, and ultimately sales.  

“Do not interrupt what people are interested in; be what people are interested in.” Jeff Lanctot, Avenue A | razorfish

In a nutshell that’s the gist of content marketing.  

Content marketing is about providing relevant, useful information that answers your buyers' questions, makes them smarter at their jobs, and helps them make better-informed buying decisions.  It's about pushing that content out to the places where your buyer is looking for information in order to generate awareness and brand recognition early and throughout the buying cycle.

Content marketing drives awareness and creates a connection.

B2B technology sales are often long and complex.  This is especially true today with the slow economy.  Additionally, B2B buyers consume a lot of information throughout the decision-making process and they’re turning primarily to the Web to find it. 

Content marketing positions you as a valuable, trusted resource for the buyer.  It allows you to create a connection early in the decision-making process and maintain that connection as the buyer moves from stage to stage.

By consistently providing high quality, relevant information that helps buyers make better-informed decisions, you can create a relationship that helps keep you top of mind when it comes time to act.

Traditional marketing doesn't work any more.

The shift happening on the Web is making traditional marketing strategies and tactics ineffective.  B2B marketers have to adapt to this new web-centric world to be effective.

Good content that is relevant to your buyer will stand out above all the fluffy bullsh*t bingo marketing content.  It will get you noticed because it’s what your buyer is looking for.   Additionally, it positions you as an expert and a trusted source - both key considerations for the buyer.

Slow and steady wins.

For most B2B tech sales, it’s not about grabbing someone’s attention in the heat of the moment and getting them to buy right now.  You can’t force someone to be a hot lead.  You can, however, create and maintain a valuable connection with qualified buyers, so when they're ready to start the evaluation process they think about and include you. 

Content marketing isn’t about distracting the buyer – “Hey look over here.”  It is about being the thing that your buyer is interested in.   

Next post in this series:  Getting your mind right.  (Includes my favorite "Name that movie" quote game.) 

10 Things We Love - Online Marketing Tools, The Freebie Edition

We often have clients ask us to recommend online tools that they can use to monitor, manage, and enhance their web presence. While we are always chatting about things we like,  we wouldn't be following our own advice if we didn't take a moment to share on our site as well. Moving forward, we'll work to regularly share our favorites with you. For this installment we'll start with some of our favorite online marketing tools, all of which are FREE, FREE, FREE. In no particular order:

  1. Addictomatic - An EB favorite for monitoring a company, product or competitor for a broad range of activities, Addictomatic pulls in feeds from any number of sites all in one place including YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and many more. It is a great place to get a quick snapshot of activity. 
  2. Google Blog Search - As it's name implies, it is Google Search, but just for blogs. Another great place to monitor activity along side your competitors.
  3. Google Analytics - A staple in the analytics world, this is about as robust of a free tool as you can ask for. 
  4. Google Web Site Optimizer - Another tool from Google that allows for simple conversion testing and optimization for your site. 
  5. Twitter - You've heard it plenty recently, but we wouldn't bring it up if we didn't truly believe it was a great tool for engaging your buyers.
  6. Twitter Search - Whether or not you buy into Twitter as a marketing tool, Twitter Search is worth a look to gauge conversation around your company, industry or brand. Plus you don't even have to join to check activity.
  7. SubmitExpress - A great tool for checking the number of backlinks, (pages or posts on other sites that link back to yours) on your site vs. your competitors.
  8. Local Search- While not a single site or tool, adjusting your organization's local search listing on sites like Google Maps, MapQuest and Yahoo Maps is a quick and easy way to provide another means for prospects and customers alike to find you based on your location rather than worldwide.
  9. CrazyEgg - Another great analytics tool that lets you visualize your visitors in heat map format. Great for creating reports that look more exciting than your standard traffic report.
  10. StumbleUpon - Not purely a marketing tool, but a great way to find resources based on your interest, StumbleUpon is a bookmarking tool that pushes new content to you based on how you rate each page. It's a great way to find new content relevant to your needs. Also, "submitting" your own posts is a great way to drive traffic to your site.

Have your own favorites? Tell us what they are and we'll add them to the list.  We'll get more specific from here so let us know what topics your like to see most (SEO, Design, Community, etc.)

 

Using content to drive sales.  Part 1: The seismic shift happening on the Web.

A series of posts that looks at how marketers can put content to work for them to drive awareness, leads, and ultimately sales.  

You can almost hear it.  The seismic shift happening on the Web.  That noise you hear is your buyer demanding and devouring content.

Content that educates also sells.

¬≠¬≠There have been multiple surveys showing that what B2B buyers really want is helpful, relevant content (OPA, KnowledgeStorm MarketingSherpa).  Back in 2007, KnowledgeStorm reported that 84% of B2B tech buyers wanted content that "educates" and they expected vendors to provide it. 

Buyers are looking for more than market/sales driven content.  They want content specific to their jobs and industries.  They want information they can use on the job, something that makes them smarter and more knowledgeable about the issues they face on a daily basis.  They don't want traditional marketing info.

Companies that provide useful, relevant content targeted at their buyers will win out over those that don't.  Why?  Because they're giving buyers what they want.  

Can you deliver?

Informative content is especially important in the B2B tech sale, because the sales cycle is often so long and the amount of information a buyer needs to make a decision is so great.  The burden is shifting to marketers to create the relevant, engaging, and useful content buyers want.  Seth Godin said it best, "The only marketing left is content marketing."

The question you need to ask yourself is, "Can I deliver on what my buyer wants?"

Next post in this series:  Understanding what content marketing is all about. 

Web 2.0 means nothing without Customer 1.0.

Jeeeeze. In that last few days I've come across a bazillion new terms related to the "2.0" phenomenon.  Everything from the ever-popular Web 2.0 to Sales 2.0 to PR 2.0 and finally Feedback 3.0.  I'm so 2.0ed out.

I'll admit, I'm guilty of throwing out the Web 2.0 lingo too and I do get jazzed about all the changes the new technology brings to marketing.  But as marketers we have to be careful not to become enamored with the technology and lose focus on what it allows us to do - that is, focus on what the buyer wants.

Web 2.0 - new.  Giving your buyer what they want - not new.

At the risk of adding another option to the Bullsh*t Bingo card, I'm going to throw out a new term - Customer 1.0. 

Customer 1.0 is centered around the concept that fundamentally what customers/prospects want hasn't changed since the first Cro-Magnon man bartered for more cave space.  Basically, they're looking for a solution that fits their unique needs.  They want helpful, relevant information, detailed specs, an understanding of how it all works, and who the people behind it.

What has changed is they want more information than ever before and they have more sources from which to get it.  They expect vendors to provide it, and those who don't are less likely to get invited to the table.

Customer 1.0 combined with Web 2.0 is about better serving your customer.

The technology may be new.  The power of online is relatively new.  But the benefits of Web 2.0, in terms of marketing, should be thought of in terms of what it allows you to do for your customer.

Used correctly (and strategically) marketers should embrace Web 2.0 technology to better server their customers.  By focusing on Customer 1.0 you'll be able to select the best Web 2.0 tools to better serve them.

I came. I saw. I tweeted. Adventures in Twitterland.

Seems that many conversations I'm in today are all a twitter about Twitter (pun intended).  I find that most people have heard about it, some have an idea what it is, and less are actually using it. 

I'm a geeky social media freak who's been playing around with it for a while, mostly because my even geekier technical team here at EB showed it to me. 

For those of you using it, I'd be interested in how you find it most helpful. For those of you who don't, here's my 2 cents (in Twitter style - 140 characters at a time).

It's IM on steroids or a teeny tiny blog with a bazillion writers.

Twitter is a microblog. That means you can only type up to 140 characters at any one time. 

You "follow" people, which means you see whatever they type.  If you have an account, people can also follow you and see what you type.

Each twitter "address" starts with @.  (e.g., @lerickson). You also have a photo.  When you tweet, people see your photo and what you type.

You can @reply, which means you are directing your tweet back to a specific person.  Anyone who follows you can see your @reply.

You can also direct message someone. Only that person will see your direct message.

It's all about what you're doing.

Twitter is intended to allow people to listen in to what you're up to.  Basically follow you throughout your day.

There are Twitters who tweet about everything they do. And there are those who tweet mostly about the latest events or news in their industry.

There are also people whose only objective is to get as many followers as possible and those trying to sell you stuff.

Who hangs out on Twitter?

I find that a lot of journalists, experts, vendors, and IT people hang out on Twitter. Oh, and of course social media freaks.

I follow people who share my interests and who tweet mostly about relevant, interesting content around those interests.

I find people who include links to other sites, news stories, or latest expert advice to be the most helpful.

You often hear it first on Twitter.

I often hear about things early, because I have access to so many other people with similar interests who are looking for the latest too.

I don't have to do all the searching. People filter through everything and point me to most important stuff.

I've found speakers for EB events, been offered discounts to switch to a competitor's solution, and found great stories to blog about.

I feel connected to a larger pool of experts.

Slice and dice followers to help make it manageable.

Following a bunch of people can be overwhelming.  I use TweetDeck to sort by "best content" and by subject areas to help scan tweets better.

When I'm in a hurry I scan the best content, then later go back and see what others have said.

If I'm looking for advice or expertise on a specific topic, I look for tweets with specific words. Twitter search lets you do this too.

Where do I start?

Start by listening.  Create an account, search for keywords to find people talking about your interest, follow them, then listen in.

Put a note on your monitor to remind yourself to check it every now and then. It takes a while to get it into your routine.

If you don't want to read it everyday, you can go back when you have time and see what people in your industry are talking about.

Even if you never do anything else but listen, you'll have access to a ton of good info. The key is to find what's right for you.

You can follow me @lerickson.   Follow EB at @ericksonbarnett.  I welcome your comments here or there.

Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Thought o' the day...

"The Internet is the Velcro in a lint world."

Erickson Barnett

Squeezing every bit of ROI out of your email list.

Not only has the recession slowed down the economy, it's slowed down the whole sales process.  The cycle takes longer, negotiations take longer, and it's increasingly harder to move prospects to the next step in the decision making process.

B2B Email outreach on the rise.

With the slash in marketing budgets, B2B marketers are relying more and more on tactics that deliver the best ROI.  We're putting a lot of hope into our email outreach.  The good news is that email can be a very cost effective way of connecting with your buyer and moving them down the sales cycle.  The bad news is that everyone is thinking the same way creating more email than every for our prospects.

So how do you stand out from all the clutter?

Focus on what the reader wants to read.  Not what you want to say.

The fastest way to get your email deleted is to talk about yourself.  Seth Godin said it best, "People don't want Email, they want MEmail."  Think about the people on your list as if they were colleagues not prospects. 

  • Provide content that's helps the reader with a current hot issue or which helps them do their job better.  
  • Don't send blatant sales pitch.  If fact, don't include sale pitches of any kind. 
  • Buyers place a higher value on information targeted at their industry, followed next by their specific job roles.  Try segmenting your list by industry or job, then push specific content to those individual segments.

Bite sized chunks.

Don't send news roundup types of email.  Pick one issue or topic and send content related to only that.  That will also allow you to include a very specific subject line which should help pull in the reader. 

  • Keep it to 2-4 paragraphs (one screen).
  • Use headlines throughout and bullet copy where possible.
  • Give them the highlights, then push them to more information on your site or blog.

Subject lines matter.

We've all heard how important the subject line is. Here's how to optimize it:

  • The fist 2 words are the most important.  Front load your subject line with benefit to the reader.
  • If your content is specific to an industry or role, be sure to include that.
  • Avoid sales words such "free," "exiting," "new,"  "you're invited," "take our survey."
  • Keep between 30-40 characters.
  • Test different subject lines and track what pulls best.

Don't over send.

It's important that you don't over use the list and drive prospects away or worse have them opt-out.

  • You should only send correspondence when you have something to say. 
  • Don't tie yourself to every Friday or 1st of every month. Of course, for new prospects you'll want to send 3-4 emails timed fairly close together, but once they're in the pipeline, you can pull back to less often.
  • 1 to 2 times a month seems optimal.  More can be annoying, less won't keep you top of mind. 

The one with the best content wins.

These days to stand out in the crowded in box, you need to be relevant to your reader.  You need to be that helpful company, who sends helpful, easy to digest content.  Your prospect will appreciate not being sold to and they'll begin to respect you as experts.  When they have a need, they'll think of you.

EB & Flow

A few months back AdAge reported the comeback of the agency bar.  They cited the fact that in house agency bars, a relic of the 1960s Madison Avenue era, are once again all the rage.

While we were stunned to hear that the agency bar was ever out, the AdAge article inspired us to host a party in honor of our bar, which we are embarrassed to admit, had never been named.

We invited our customers, partners and friends to join us in the proper inauguration of our bar and help us find the perfect bar moniker.  The ideas flowed, the wine was grand, and the beer (Dogfish Head) even better.

At the end of the night the choice was clear, our new bar would forever more be referred to as the EB & Flow. 

And so it is. 

We invite all our readers to come by any old time (preferably after noon) for a tasting of fine wine and beer, we’re always stocked.  And if flavored coffees and cappuccino are more your style there’s plenty of that on hand as well.


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