Influencing prospects before they enter the sales funnel

 

If the brand is not participating in social media, it’s at a disadvantage

If the brand is not participating in social media, it’s at a disadvantage

Social media content can influence business-to-business purchasing decisions

Up to 70% of prospects entering the sales funnel have already conducted online research and have formed a perception of the brand based on social media content. Because of this, if the brand is not participating in social media, it’s at a disadvantage.

Prospects entering the sales funnel are in search of information that will lead them to a purchasing decision. Whether the sale is transactional for a component or material needed immediately to make their product, or a considered purchase that has many influencers and a long sales time, prospects are relying more and more on peer reviews and social media engagement to finalize their purchasing decision.

People-to-people marketing – honing the brand’s key messages

Before launching into a social media marketing effort, it’s vitally important to establish the brand’s value proposition and be able to articulate it in terms that are meaningful to the prospect. Content that is purely a laundry list of service offerings fails to differentiate from the competition and leads to abandonment by the prospect or strictly a purchase based on lowest price.

Gaining the prospect’s attention requires identifying the prospect’s problems and creating empathy with the prospect. Once this emotional connection is established, then a solution can be offered that is relevant and distinct to the brand.

The social media platform ecosphere

Connecting with and influencing prospects on social media platforms requires a sustained effort spearheaded by content that supports the brand’s key messaging.

Each of the big four channels – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – has a particular strength. Business-to-business marketers are more inclined to use LinkedIn because of numerous industry groups in which to participate. LinkedIn also offers the ability to network with industry peers and establish connections with decision makers that have purchasing authority.

Twitter can be very useful but requires a content library to constantly feed updates. One of the advantages to using Twitter is that posts can be automated through third party platforms allowing for control of posting frequency. Twitter also provides immediacy when posting for events and is an easy way to connect the industry influencers.

Influencing prospects before they enter the sales funnel requires a concerted effort to develop and post authoritative content consistently. Abandoning social media channels sends a signal to the prospect that the brand either has underestimated the resources needed or was not serious about social engagement from the get-go.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Content development for aviation marketers is a communal affair

How to build a connected brand

Designing a social marketing strategy for Aviation Marketing

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Why employees are the best source for inbound marketing content

 

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone's responsibility

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone’s responsibility

Having a process and the right skill set to capture content is half the battle.

Speak with almost any CEO of a small to mid-sized brand, and they will tell you that inbound marketing is an important communication component in creating and maintaining brand preference. However, ask them what resources or processes are in place dedicated to inbound marketing content, and the answer will tell you that this is usually more wishful thinking than reality.

Why is this? Small and mid-sized brands are resource-challenged. Their employees have a wealth of knowledge to share but usually there is no process in place to capture content.

Content mining: content that adds value to the brand

Authentic content has a point of view and provides thought leadership or hands-on practical information.

Every department in the company has something to share. It is vital that content development is viewed as everyone’s responsibility, not just the function of the marketing or PR department.

When the CEO leads the way, resources are sure to follow.

Many times the most authoritative content originates from the CEO. The CEO provides leadership and the high altitude point-of-view about the brand, such as:

  • Its current direction
  • Challenges to be faced
  • Opportunities on the horizon
  • Industry disruption from new technologies
  • How the brand can contribute to the betterment of the industry

Creating content is everyone’s responsibility

The engineering staff also contributes to developing content. This group has a unique perspective on innovation, new technologies, and production processes that contribute to solving customer problems.

The production department contributes by providing content on best practices, achieving optimal product performance, or tips on prolonging product life cycle.

Customer Service also contributes; they are the first to field customer concerns, complaints, and frequently asked questions. This group can be the conduit between engineering and production in identifying product flaws, delivery shortcomings, and inefficient interaction between departments.

Marketing’s job is to determine the most efficient process to capture the content and optimize it for different uses. Usually an employee is identified as an expert in their field and is asked to create a rough draft on a particular topic. From there, working in collaboration with either an internal or external journalistic resource, the content is edited and polished so it is suitable for publication and optimized for web use.

In addition, once the content is formalized, it becomes part of an e-library. This e-library can serve as a quick reference to customer requests.

Inbound marketing requires a commitment of time and resources to be successful. The pay-off is a stream of authoritative content that can be used across social media platforms, publications and customer service that supports brand leadership.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Social media content strategy?

How inbound marketing can help drive lead generation

Inbound marketing essentials?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Why Business-to-Business Marketing is Transforming to People-to-People Marketing

In 1958 McGraw-Hill published the famous “man in the chair ad.” This iconic image served as the rallying cry for decades of business-to-business marketing.

In 1958 McGraw-Hill published the famous “man in the chair ad.” This iconic image served as the rallying cry for decades of business-to-business marketing.

Remember studying “Mass Communications” in college? Mass communications was born out of the industrial revolution when manufacturers learned to make lots of the same thing via the assembly line. Henry Ford’s Rouge Factory was the model of efficiency, producing at times more than 1000 cars a day for a growing country. The assembly line concept also caught on with marketers.

This was due to the fact that the few media networks — broadcast and print — were large and expensive to staff and maintain. Networks could deliver the demographics that marketers were after and make it relatively efficient. All marketers had to do was to place advertisements with the assurance that their intended target audience would eventually be exposed to their brand messaging.

Under this model, the company controlled the time and place for customer communications. In addition, there were limited channels in which customers could express their opinion of the company’s products and services.

Enter People-to-People Marketing

Technology has ushered in the era of People-to-People Marketing. Mass communications has transformed into one-to-one communications. This is due to smaller, lighter and more powerful computing technology. With thousands of channels available and low entry cost, anyone can post their opinion about what they like and dislike. The same is true for brands. No longer are they confined to “mass communication” channels. The shift in technology has ushered in a cultural change, disrupting big media networks and requiring marketers to re-evaluate their strategies and tactics.

Now, connecting to customers calls for integrating both push and pull communications strategies to create brand preference.

People-to People Marketing is a strategic execution that combines relevant content with selected media channels to create a personalized experience for the customer. When orchestrated correctly, the content becomes the fiber of the brand story, reaching the customer on different emotional levels. Astute brands recognize this and are implementing People-to-People marketing to gain the customer’s trust and increase the likelihood of an emotional connection with the brand.

To learn more about the transformation of Business-to-Business marketing to People-to-People Marketing, click here to view and download our free guide.

Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)

Blog_110_Marketing Automation Platforms

MAPs are a set of software tools with many moving pieces.

 

The promise of Marketing Automation Platforms is to integrate and automate marketing functions

Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) are receiving lots of attention in the B-to-B marketing sphere. Most of these platforms are targeted toward companies with large database records that execute the majority of their marketing efforts online. For originations that fit the aforementioned criteria, MAPs promise greater marketing efficiency, integration with sales CRM software, reduced external resource expenditures, and ROI tracking for each marketing event.

The strength of an MAP is its ability to capture digital transactional information for specific marketing actions. These actions can include the following:

  • Email opens, top performing links, and overall performance
  • Website visitation, visitor page interaction and analytics
  • Inbound marketing responses to posted content and landing pages
  • Social platform monitoring for sentiment and customer insight

These actions are generally considered first encounter lead generation activities found at the top of the sales funnel. It is at this junction that marketing and sales must agree on what a qualified lead looks like and what steps are necessary to move this lead through the sales funnel.

With the definition of a qualified lead identified, an MAP can provide the functionality to automatically continue to reach out to the prospect. As the prospect demonstrates intent to purchase, CRM software is able to provide sales with leads that require shorter close times and better success rates.

All of this sounds great, almost like push button marketing; however, there are several things to consider:

  •  MAPs are a set of software tools with many moving pieces
  • MAPs are not a substitute for a strategic marketing plan
  • Underestimating the amount of content required to shepherd the prospect through the sales funnel
  • The current marketing staff may not have the technical horsepower needed to manage the MAP
  • Time commitment and resources from IT will be needed for implementation, integration, and ongoing maintenance
  • Substantial learning curve and resources required for marketing and sales personnel
  • Implementation time of 6 to 12 months to see results
  • Identification of critical data chains for ROI reporting
  • Commitment from the executive wing to fund and nurture MAP implementation

MAPs focus is on digital interaction. What about traditional marketing and brand building? These software platforms are challenged to know what effect display advertising has with regards to purchasing behavior, brand sentiment, and brand loyalty.

Don’t get me wrong here. I see the benefit of ROI analysis and the positive potential MAPs can have when implemented properly. However, at the same time, I am also cautious about MAPS. My concern begins with the automaton nature of the entire process. The promise of inbound marketing is to engage with interested prospects and begin to build a relationship. Being inundated with additional email offers and qualifying phone calls can be a turn-off, stopping the relationship building cold. In addition, marketers must be cautious about treating prospects like Pavlov’s dog. Thinking that they can be trained to respond by redundancy is a danger.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Big data and creativity

Determining Advertising Return On Investment

How to engineer a social marketing strategy

Please leave your comments or thoughts below
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Inbound Marketing and the Prospect Pipeline

Inbound marketing can provide a warm call environment for reaching out to the prospect.

Inbound marketing can provide a warm call environment for reaching out to the prospect.

Inbound marketing can help identify your best prospects

I’m reading a lot these days about the disconnect between marketing and sales. The story goes something like this: Marketing generates leads and hands them over to sales. Sales says the leads are worthless because the prospect has not been qualified as to purchasing intent and does not have an immediate need.

This leads me to believe that marketing and sales have not collaborated on the following:

  • What does the best prospect look like?
  • What are the critical business issues the prospect is facing?
  • How does the product or service offering provide the best solution?
  • How do you determine the prospect’s interest in the solution offering?
  • What milestones should marketing achieve before turning the information over to sales?

Gaining productivity forms inbound marketing.

The primus of inbound marketing is to identify interested prospects and educate them about the brand’s product or service offering.  Consistency of engagement and messaging helps to build trust for the brand leading to preference for the brand’s solution when the critical business issue arises.

Inbound marketing was never intended to carry the entire marketing load, or substitute for sales-building personal relationships. Used correctly, inbound marketing can gain an inside advantage, change the parameters of an RFP, and substantially shorten the decision making process.

Where inbound marketing shines is in creating an environment where prospects are familiar with your brand and the story behind your product or service offering.

Digital analytics – structured and semi-structured data – can provide a representative visual picture of prospects that have interacted with your inbound marketing. By assigning values to data points, a lead scoring system can be developed furthering defining the prospects interest.

For example, if the prospect opens an email newsletter three out of five times, you could assign a high value due to the frequency of opens. Conversely, if the prospect only opened the email newsletter one time in five mailings, a low value would be assigned.

Creating this picture over an extended time frame provides a detailed image of the prospect, their interest in the offering, and the groups that they interact with.

All of this information provides a warm call environment for reaching out to the prospect.

The inbound marketing activity is the first step in people-to-people marketing – engagement. This step helps in qualifying the prospect’s interest and allows sales to determine if the prospect meets the criteria for additional follow up.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Social media content strategy

People-to-People Marketing: Engage, Connect, Influence

How inbound marketing can help drive lead generation

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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The challenges of “Big Data”

Don’t be a slave to the data; rather, use it as a tool to sharpen the creative solution

Don’t be a slave to the data; rather, use it as a tool to sharpen the creative solution

Big Data is a tool and should be used as a means to an end

“Big Data” is a misleading term. It’s not a technology, but rather involves using data to gain insight. Big Data helps you visualize structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. This visualization of combined data provides a multi-dimensional view of the ecosystem your product or service resides in.

Types of data

Structured data, also known as Business Intelligence (BI), is transactional data.  Examples include addresses, SIC codes, point-of- sale data, customer resource management data, phone numbers, emails, loyalty card use, and energy consumption data. Data of this nature can be accessed and viewed in Excel spreadsheets.

Semi-structured data consists of web server click stream data, such ad web logs, IP addresses, page visits, time on page, cookie tracking, geo-usage patterns, customer behavior while on site, and the development of user profiles. The primary characteristic of this type of data is that it does not lend itself to display in rows, columns, or text.

Unstructured data is the content of documents, natural language, Tweets, Likes, comments, blogs, phone calls, emails, audio files, and images. These are the elements of human communication recognized as content but completely foreign to machine language.

How to use the data “Big Data” provides

From a marketing perspective, Big Data can be viewed as three segments:

1. Big Data when viewed properly can provide better insight

This was once the domain of a “gut feel.” Now when combining the three aforementioned data types, a panoramic view can be created of the acceptance and use of the product or service.

2. Better insight helps in making better business decisions

All of this data crunching provides a granular to global view of the acceptance of your product or service offering.  It is in this context that better business decisions can be made with regards to where to geographically expand, identify the most desirable product features and attributes, and which marketing efforts are delivering the anticipated results.

3. Better business decisions lead to better creative solutions

Big Data, when represented properly, can complement a creative brief by acting as a wall of information that can be prioritized, moved, and reconfigured for actionable items and measured for results.

“Big Data” challenges

Don’t be a slave to the data; rather, use it as a tool to sharpen the creative solution, extend the brand engagement, and think beyond the current place in time that the visualization represents.

In addition, be aware that small brands may find the results disappointing because of an insufficient amount of semi-structured and unstructured data that is available.

And finally, management has to be committed to Big Data by providing resources and direction. Big Data offers marketing accountability, but it is incumbent on management to decide the following:

  • What to measure
  • What data has the highest priority to aid in business decisions
  • Where to invest resource and capital
  • What to do with the data – how does it shape the business outcome

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Big brother and marketing ROI

Big data and creativity

How to build a connected brand

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.
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