December 30, 2013

White Papers: Still King of Technology B2B Content

White Papers are still a staple of the Technology B2B technology content diet. Our research points this out, both behavioral metrics on the web and primary research surveys.
What is a White Paper?
White papers are topical reports, typically 8 – 12 pages long, on issues that require a lot of explanation. Also known as "conference papers," "research reports," or "technical briefs," they are perfect for demonstrating thought leadership on issues vital to your buyers.
But how to leverage them for all their worth?
Remember the mantra: Get found. Get read. Get shared.  
Get found: don’t write what you want to say. Write about what your target market searches for. Research it.  What problems do they have doing their jobs? Narrow this down to the topics and issues that relate to your product. If you execute well--on target and on vernacular--you will get found.
Get read: nobody finishes a badly written white paper. But this isn’t just about good writing. good writing is important. It’s necessary; but not sufficient.  Your coverage has to be useful to be read. Even if you’re engaging, you’d better be useful too--or else it’s just entertainment.
Get shared: this is part tactical and part an extension of the getting read. The tactical part is to make it technically easy to share. Have share links and buttons. Reward readers for sharing.  But remember, they won’t share some thing that sucks, other than to tell other people that it sucks. You don't want that, do you?
Get found. Get read. Get shared. 
Make sure your white papers hit all three. 

December 29, 2013

Account Based Marketing: Are you missing an opportunity?

Many marketing arms at enterprise B2B vendors are embracing all things digital, inbound, social and content based. That’s a good thing. Mostly.

There are, however, scenarios where they may be neglecting or abandoning approaches that make more sense based on resources, markets, buyers and talent.

Does much of your business come from a few companies?
Is it built on sustained business relationships?
Can you gain more from non-sales activities like support and training?

Often, vendors who answer “yes” to these questions are still dedicating more and more resources to (mass) digital marketing efforts at the expense of Account Based Marketing (ABM).

ABM involves targeting campaigns and tactics to focus on a small number of important accounts. The approach may be to target the very large accounts--they are almost an economy of their own! Or to focus on a particular segment that is profitable but not large (in the number of companies). Or in a particular phase of the customer life-cycle--maybe ABM makes sense in your post-sale phase.

ABM can also be a good way to enter any new market--even if you plan to have a more mass-market approach in the long run. In order to learn a market, train a new sales organization, and get some reference accounts, an ABM entry model can speed up learning and optimize your mass marketing. Many startups do this naturally.

Yeah, but what do we actually do?

Much of this is marketing 101. You just focus it on the key business issues facing one or a few targets and tailor campaigns and activities to address those issues. In my experience, the one big difference from the major trends in marketing is that there is more field marketing and in-person marketing--on site seminars, technology days, and training sessions.  You may find yourself breaking some rules too--if you are campaigning to one company, it may make sense to (gasp!) purchase lists.

One critical factor is that marketing needs to work really closely with sales. Which is a good thing! You need the sales input to create targeted content and design prospect specific offers.

Remember to keep it real--offer seminars and engagement offers (e.g.. free assessments) that provide prospect-specific value and get sales reps in the room with real decision makers. There is a great opportunity for c-level meetings between your execs and the prospects. (Frankly, that’s something you should be doing with your customers more often anyway!)

An additional benefit is that ABM may be a smarter way to market with limited resources. Mass marketing with inbound techniques is resource and content creation intensive and requires specific skill sets (like SEO, search, analytics). While you build these, how about directing your current resources at ABM.

December 16, 2013

Bayesian Statistics for Marketing: Getting Started

For a few weeks now, I have been researching Bayesian statistics to wrap my head around the principles and the practical techniques. Intuitively, "Bayesian-ism" makes perfect sense to me, but I want to "internalize" the math and the concepts to feel confident that I am not going on intellectual appeal alone.

See here, here and here for marketing and statistical examples. All fine sources that helped. But it didn't click until I read Bayesian Statistics by F. J. Anscombe in The American Statistician [Vol. 15, No. 1. (Feb., 1961), pp. 21-24]. Get it here.

The fact is, decisions in marketing (or drug development, political campaigns, manufacturing, investment ...) are rarely long run repeat games. The "long run" of orthodox statistics is nice to know. In absence of any other decision frameworks, it is better than nothing. But long run odds of 1/6 don't mean a thing to the Russian Roulette player who just blew out his brains. Or to the brand manager who marketed a dud.

From the 3rd page of the article:
"The [orthodox] statistician will tell [the decision maker] that he is basing a decision on a random sample, and that is rather like playing roulette. In fact, the statistician's recommendations amount to a policy of play, rather like the getting policy of an inveterate gambler--or better, the betting policy of an insurance company. Chances mean relative frequencies of occurrence in a long series of trials.... If the executive had to make a long sequence of decisions about different products, the break-even value for p and the value of n being always the same, then by following the statistician's policy he could be sure that, whatever values of p might occur, his average [opportunity cost] from wrong decisions would not be very large ... the worst it could be being as low as possible.... useful if the executive is at loggerheads with his board of directors or under fire from other executives in the company."
That's a mouthful. But that's it in a nutshell. In the real world, these decisions are not repeat games. Especially true when it comes to the manager's career. So how can she rely on long run frequencies?

Russian Roulette. That metaphor came to me in my MBA "orthodox" statistics class. If I had brought it up, my professor probably [prior: beta (μ | 4, 2)] would have given us a little digression on Bayesian principles.

But I didn't. And it has bugged me ever since. But because we naturally think and decide better with information like, "there's an 83% that the landing page will convert better" as opposed to, "we reject the hypothesis that the new page is the same as the old page with p < .05," I am ready to dive into better decisions.

As I absorb and experiment, I'll post the results.

April 28, 2013

YouTube for B2B Marketing of Technology

There's a lot of discussion, and often confusion, on how to use YouTube in B2B Marketing. Especially for the enterprise, technology, complex sale situation.

The usual best practices apply as they do for all content marketing:

Who is your target?
What information needs do they have in the intersection of their jobs and your offerings?
Do they show an affinity for consuming information as video rather than written content?
Where in the engagement cycle would the video fit? 

This will depend somewhat on your target personas and how they tend to consume their information.

But it will also depend on the material. Ask yourself, do audio and moving pictures enhance the information transfer? Or maybe you have an interview with an expert personality. (Consider that many will tune in for an interview with, say, Mark Zuckerberg, even if the information would have been "better" as a written piece.)

Essentially, is there value in the video presentation of your content over written text or an infographic.

Goals. Always Goals.

What are your goals, at the highest level? New leads? Re-enforcing buying decisions? Making users more successful? Launching a new product?

Know your goal, and then you can decide what type of video will best fit the objective.

Types of Videos

Informational videos give relevant useful information about a topic. Examples include product demos, case studies, industry event coverage, management messages.

Educational videos such as how-tos or technology lectures.

Entertainment videos are, well, entertaining! Examples include Buyral, Kittywood and the annual Google April fools (my favorite, Gmail Motion).

Of course, any video is going to have an element of each: information, education and entertainment. But the purpose and major style elements will generally be driven by one need.

Best Practices

Make your videos discover-able and share-able; have a promotions plan. Use the right keywords in the titles, descriptions and tags. Don't forget to namedrop customers, products, technologies and notable personalities in the video.

Blog about the topic and embed or link to the video. Share the link with posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and your social media networks of choice. Distribute the link to employees, especially sales and customer support, to include in email footers and in communication with prospects and customers.

Don't forget to have a call to action where it makes sense. Even an educational video can serve up whitepapers or an ebook with more detail on the topic.

More generally, optimize your YouTube channel for the right look and feel in-line with your brand. And keep the content fresh--if you commit to making videos, plan to make more than one a year!

April 16, 2013

Growth Hacking or Marketing?

There's been plenty of talk about growth hacking and marketing lately. Here on SEOmoz. Here from andrewchen. Here from John Doherty. And here on Layered Thoughts. Some good stuff from the Crunched blog. I'm just saying ... lots of chatter.

We're basically in the camp with SEOmoz and Layered Thoughts. Growth hacker sounds cool. But marketing by any other name still smells like delivering value. In the end, Marketing is: delivering value at a profit. That includes a variety of activities. Buyers get value and the business generates a profit. If that requires "thinking like a coder" or "thinking like a publisher" or even "thinking like a schmuck," then so be it.

Also, it appears that growth hacking is not exclusive to young coders. Or put the other way, being a long-time marketer doesn't automatically exclude one from being able to "growth hack." It's more of a mindset or perspective that could belong to someone who's been doing traditional marketing for a long time.

In the Part 1 video on the Crunched blog, we see the example of growth hacking an interface with Craigslist. We're told that only a coder would have thought of it. Hmmm? Granted, only a coder could have executed it. But partners, affiliates, co-marketing? That's classic marketing. Of course a "traditional" marketer could have thought of a partnership with Craigslist in that case. They would only need the team and the framework that gives them access to "hackers" that can pull off the implementation.

The real point in all of this is that we have some new mediums to master. Like when TV showed up and advertisers had to "hack" marketing onto this new technology.

Marketers, then, need to embrace not just data, not just acting on what the analytics tells them, but they must embrace new techniques. That means thinking outside the box. And listening to ideas that can come from creatives, coders, VCs or ... themselves.

February 17, 2013

Smarketing and Goals

The term “smarketing” has been used recently by Hubspot to refer to their successful process of sales and marketing alignment (they credit the term to Dan Tyre).

Sales + Marketing = Smarketing.

But I've taken to using that word for Smart + Marketing.

Smart Marketing = SMarketing.

SMarketing is the antithesis of going through the marketing motions.

Really, we shouldn't even need a separate term, since we’re talking about classic, effective marketing—goals, target markets, personas, messaging strategy, integrated marketing mix, best practice execution.

But not everyone does their marketing that way. And we probably won’t get them to change what they’re doing to … oh … I don’t know … Dumarketing. So let’s name the good stuff as the exception. SMarketing.

Most marketers are aware of the tenants of SMarketing. Still, a combination of old habits, perceived institutional constraints, inability to prioritize, mismatched skills, and lack of training lead to a culture of activity based, ineffective marketing programs.

Lack of marketing training and mindset is a particularly pesky problem.

Let's say you broke your leg while snowboarding. Would you go to an emergency room where the person who sets broken bones was schooled in accounting but took to setting bones because, “well someone had to do it?” Look, there’re all sorts of reasons people choose or fall into a marketing role. Once there, they should be interested enough to seek out basic training and continuing education to stay on top of their craft. Or get out of the way for someone who will. Okay, getting off soapbox.

SMarketing starts with Goals. Business goals.

You shouldn't really set out to do any marketing plan, let alone executing tactics, unless you know what the business is trying to do.  Go ahead, ask your executives or line of business heads. If the executives cannot articulate it, time to find a new company. More than likely, though, you forgot to even ask them.

So what is your business (or line of business or product line) trying to accomplish? Create a new market. Defend or take market share from the competition. Increase return business from current customers.

From these goals you can choose your targets, messages, content and metrics and make a plan.

This goal thing works down the production chain too. Every email, post, tweet and trade show should, on the one hand, support a top level goal and, on the other hand, have it’s own particular project or task goal. And when you ask a creative or operations person to execute a marketing element, tell them the goal. How else can they help you optimize results?

Goals. The first step on the road to SMarketing. Check back for more SMarketing.

February 04, 2013

On Going Through the Marketing Motions

I’ve been thinking of things that begin with the letter M. Marketing. Motions. Mediocrity.

This video got me started. (Michael Bierut as recommended here by Nishant Kothary.) Specifically, the portion from 12:50 to 17:00 where Bierut speaks on his four qualities of a good client: Brains, Trust, Passion, and Courage. He’s speaking of clients, but this is a great framework for selecting a team, joining a company, and even picking your friends.

Brains is a well-rounded notion, not meant to require genius IQ or even a single-subject rocket scientist expertise. Flexibility, adaptability, and even street smarts lead the way.

Trust is of key importance. If you task a subject expert to execute something, you should trust their expertise, judgment, and ability to execute it. If you have your mind made up on the solution before you start, why’d you hire the expert in the first place? If you don’t trust anyone, why hire them at all?

Passion is not strictly for design or coding or copywriting or even for marketing. But there must be some passion for the business, the product, or the results.

Courage doesn’t mean jumping out of airplanes or into MMA cage matches. It means that one will, for example, confront institutional constraints and not simply accept the, “that’s not the way it’s done here” habits.

Going through the marketing motions, then, happens when some or all of these traits are lacking. And if you find yourself in one of these teams or companies, it can become an “up at dawn, pride swallowing siege” about which you can never fully tell anyone.

Going through the marketing motions can look from the outside like a cutting edge team. Hey look, there’s a shiny web site, visitors are filling out forms; we’ve got followers all over the place; white papers, webinars and ebooks are being published; tradeshows are running like clockwork.  We’re monitoring social media, running paid search, writing blogs. And the illusion is not just from the outside; those on the inside might fool themselves into thinking they are on top of the craft.

A group going through the marketing motions can still be busy. Very busy. But the activity is not adding up to its potential. A big symptom reveals itself at evaluation time. The team has to scramble to bend, fold and mutilate some numbers to justify their activity.

The underlying problem is that some lack of Brains, Trust, Passion, or Courage is leading to a lot of activity that isn’t strategically planned, isn’t properly executed, or both.

When you’re going through the motions, where do you start a lasting fix? With Passion, it seems. If you can inspire people to overcome their fears, to let go of control, to learn to think critically and strategically, you stand a chance of breaking the cycle of mediocrity.