The answer to meaning in B2B marketing

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For years, I have been working in the B2B industry and have looked, maybe a bit envious, at those friends who were working for BMW, MINI, Red Bull, LVHM, going to fancy parties with the guys from GQ, or those who enjoyed other sexy lifestyle moments out there in the B2C universe. When I was telling stories about B2B channel strategies, brand campaigns of mainframe providers, B2B community communication, and even if it was around web TV in the year 2000 and around brands like IBM, HP, Intel or Avaya, nobody seemed to be excited about B2B marketing the way I was. Not many eyes smiling (only with a sense of sympathy maybe). Not many questions were raised or asked. Not much fun.

Being a B2B marketer can be a challenging and somehow self-motivating task. But there are reason why I have never lost the energy in being one. And the funny thing with user-generated content and storytelling is that I do not even have to write why I do what I do (maybe good and bad that is). I just had to listen to those like-minded souls out there on Twitter, expressing their inner feelings and their drive for the fun in a B2B world.

Dough Kessler really took his approach to “The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing” but I would sign this for my career as well… and just have to curate his great presentation in order to make people understand my career and my B2B marketing story.

THX Dough!

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing from Velocity Partners

B2B Study: Buyers behavior insights on conversion and engagement

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Are you planning your lead generation programs at the moment? Well, you better be quick then. Why? The conversion rates for B2B online lead campaigns generate the best results when the year starts – so now! The reasons are quite obvious: Budget are fresh or renewed. Funds are starting. Conversion falls below average in the Christmas month, probably as of intense planning activity and budget cuts. Not surprisingly, the summer months show a significant decrease in conversion activity.

The findings are coming from some recent analysis by Software Advice, based on data generated from over six million visitors to the Software Advice website in the last 5 years. Although this might be some very detailed experience for the B2B software industry, it is still valid and applicable for the whole b2b industry if they do lead generation programs.

Study Software Advice Conversion By Month

The report shows that B2B buyers were most active on the Software Advice website Tuesday through Thursday, with Tuesday being the most active day and Wednesday driving the highest conversion rates.

Study Software Advice Conversion By Day

Interestingly enough, traffic peaks in the first half of the day, and especially around lunch time. 53% more unique visitors showed up during work hours when compared with Software Advice’s unique visitor traffic.

Study Software Advice Conversion By Hour

Spot On!
Comparing this with other engagement studies from the social media world (here and here), we see that the time around midday seems to be best to get people engaged in content marketing, social media and lead generation. Speaking from our own experience with silicon.de over ten years, I can say that the morning hours when people get their first coffee were also successful in lead and demand generation.

Study: B2B commerce moving from offline to online

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Most of us know that B2B is massively moving away from offline to online. But where is the proof? A recent survey by Intershop -based on a survey of 280 European and 120 US senior IT and business decision makers from merchants with a B2B focus and annual online revenues of $1 million to over $100 million- shows that with 57% the majority of B2B vendors sees B2B commerce fundamentally shifting from offline to online.

Intershop - B2B Business Shift 2013

The company manager that responded are aware of the shift (51%) and replied that they are changing their organizational structures and business models accordingly. Furthermore, 44% of those responsding managers find that B2B vendors adopt B2C best practices in order to improve their B2B purchasing processes.

Intershop - B2B Challenges 2013

The following numbers show what the main drivers of change seem to be. Most of the respondents (81%) found that changing consumer expectations are driving the changes in B2B commerce. And another 74% see new technology delivering new and unseen experience access.

Intershop - B2B Drivers of Change 2013

Still, not all is shining bright in the world of B2B commmerce. When 96% replied to be facing challenges in adapting to new B2B commerce trends, it speaks a clear message. Thus, the challenge is for…
– 50% to provide intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touchpoints (B2B online stores and mobile apps)
– 48% to manage complex organizational structures
– 47% to convince offline customers to use e-commerce and self-service channels

Spot On!
It is a good sign that almost all companies (92%) market their products on the Web and the rest is planning to do so. Even better is the fact that of those companies marketing their products online, 95% plan to boost the online part of their revenue in the future. This may be a wish, this may be a dream, this may be hope. However, the main issue in our eyes from several cases we worked on is an internal cultural challenge: Understanding that a shift to online is a personal and a leadership topic. If companies face it and get some good advice, the change to a new B2B commerce is not causing red eyes.

B2B: What data lead generation should deliver to marketers

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In an era where Big Data rules in many companies’ marketing departments, it is interesting to see where pay-per-lead marketers see the best value in. A recent survey by Business.com conducted in May 2013 of 500 active pay-per-lead advertisers (with SMB market focus) states that most B2B marketers value a buyer’s purchasing time horizon as the most important data point they want (51%). The problem is: They often cannot get that data set.

The second most important data point for leads is the employee size figure of the buyer’s company (31%) which these marketers say would be extremely valuable to get. In the third place comes the industry sector (29%) and then the job title of the business decision maker (20%).

Business.com 2013 Content Marketing Leads
As shown here and here in different other studies, the survey concludes that content marketing becomes more and more valueable for lead generation.

More than half of the people responding (51%) the study said that leads generated via whitepapers are valuable or extremely valuable. Webinars are also on the rise with 34% responding that leads from hosted webinars that feature their company or products are valuable or extremely valuable. Leads generated via sponsored email still find their interest among B2B marketers. Still, 38% stated these are valuable or extremely valuable, followed by case studies (38%) and video (35%).

Business.com 2013 Webinar Leads

Spot On!
If we think of the “old BANT process”, the study lacks some answers and findings in terms of making us understand the importance of budget in these days. Not surprisingly though, the study still mentions that 42% expressed strong interest in “hot transfer” leads (connecting companies immediately with leads as they come in) which probably are most promising in terms of fast lead conversion. When 60% see lead scoring as essential for the lead generation process, individual leads still is assigned a score reflecting the likelihood of a response. Maybe this should serve an answer on the BANT budget topic. For me that was not quite clear though.

SO, what would be your answer: IS the BANT process still valid? And what data set would be important to your sales process?

ABM Study: The impact of B2B media on purchase decisions

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It is one of these questions many B2B marketers would love to get an answer: How many of the B2B business professionals that can be reached by B2B media and live events are involved in purchasing decisions or supplier selections?

Well, a recent study by American Business Media’s “Value of B-to-B” report, which was based on 6,682 responses from business professionals, 74 marketers and 111 business publishers and released Wednesday, gives an answer: Of those purchase business decision makers responding to the survey 74% can be reached by B2B media and live events.

The web plays a critical role here. The study states that 87% of those use industry-related websites on their customer journey and research in the decision making process. What they predominantly use is print magazines (65%), industry conferences and trade shows (58%) and e-newsletters (55%).

ABM B2B Resource Usage 2013

However, we all think the world is completely digital these days, the study makes clear that 74% use both digital and traditional media to get latest best practices and get the right information for their business. The industry-related focus of the print publications is relevant for (68%) as they spend more time with those publications than with mainstream business or consumer publications.

PS: There are good signs for the media industry, too. Almost half of the responding marketers (45%) expected an increase in B2B advertising budgets for the next 12 months.

Study: Content Marketing – a challenge? B2B hiding behind false excuses…?

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We had written about a Curata content marketing survey some months ago. Now, I came across another research which is making it’s way through the web, and I am glad as I have been asked at a University St. Gallen event for some new insights on the topic today.

The Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 benchmarks shows what the challenges for marketers are: producing enough content (64%), producing the kind of content that engages an audience (52%), or producing a variety of content (45%).

Sounds like we have heard that before, right…?

If you think lack of budget is still the issue, you might find yourself being in the wrong corner. Just 39% of the respondents said that they lack budget. Furthermore, traditional restrictions and limits like buy-in/vision (22%) or finding trained content marketers (14%) is falling out; not even senior level buy-in is their biggest challenge (7%).

All lies? Well, seems like that… And when just 14% say, they are having problems hiring in this field, i would suggest some clever journalists or PR managers have found a way to market themselves.

Challenges For Content Marketing 2013So, a questions arises that also came up today in my moderation: What is the real issue, why marketers don’t challenge the content marketing business?

We have probably all heard what Outbrain told us today in their speech that push is the new pull, advertising becomes marketing, creation the modern editorial, campaigns are the always-on of tomorrow which makes sprints the new marathons. Still, the question is whether marketers understand why this should become the new budget engine for a change in an emerging shift towards content marketing and away from advertising?! Maybe marketers need to understand what makes them a media-house? Content curation, distribution and measurement might be more of a big bang theory to address…

Measurement for B2B Content Marketing Success 2013Spot On!
The challenge might actually arise in the definition where content marketing gets propelled. Many marketers see still search engine advertising (SEA) their wholly grail. If companies get turned around into SEO engines, the whole result-driven aspect of the fluid content marketing world would not be questioned any longer. It just depends on getting the right people engaged inside the office and to find the commitment that lets the formerly outsourced world stand in the shade. And have companies ever understood the value of content? Content is not a test budget! It is an attitude towards business, towards communication, towards social business. Or have you ever put into question why you send out newsletters, flyers, whitepapers, or even company brochures? Blogs, status updates, tweets… written in an intelligent way, is increasing the way your conversations will arise…

Are you really hiding in the content marketing fields, marketers – or is it a real challenge…?

Performance review of the top 5 social networks in 2012 (Infographic)

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After our input on Twitter’s growth yesterday, let’s have a look at the performance of the other social networking platforms: Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and… ok, again Twitter.

The guys from Pardot had a look at the changing social landscape and the challenges for marketers with respect to those social platforms in 2012. With many other challenges like lead generation, email marketing, offline activities or media, the selection of the right social networks becomes more and more difficult.

In order to offer some advice to marketer, Pardot created the following overview of each major social network’s performance in 2012. The ROI estimates are based on audience, growth rate, and audience composition, and are calculated to convey potential return for B2B marketers, says their blog post.

2012 Social Media Report Cards [INFOGRAPHIC] - Pardot Infographic

Embedded from the Pardot Blog

Outlook: Five new job titles for the future of web strategy

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Credits: Pixelio

Credits: Pixelio

Some days ago, I wrote on our German blog about those annual reviews all of us bloggers create at the end or beginning of the year. Do those reviews make any sense at all? And if so, how much new input do they offer in our days of information overload? Especially, when there are no opportunities to escape the news and updates flow of the day. And finally, what is the value of one single and unique opinion in a blog review? Will it offer any sustainable essence? Well, after reading this post, you may decide…

Most professors might answer in a diplomatic manner: “There is always two sides of the coin!” Smart bloggers love to look into the future and prefer outlooks to reviews. However, those always rely on findings and insights which bring them to life in the end.

So, I have dared to head for an outlook in 2015, into the future of web strategy. As many managers are not quite familiar with the term “web strategy”, let me define it our way. In 2012, we have often realized that there is quite some misunderstanding what web strategy really means:

“Web Strategy translates the organisational targets and values in roadmaps for the top management and their teams in terms of all generated and doable business processes via the Web. Web Strategy creates a picture of the future of client communication which connects the networking trends of the Internet and the tools of modern web development with the individual business tactics of a cooperation in order to develop a superior company vision. ©The Strategy Web GmbH 2012″

Bearing this in mind, I have written a blog post that defines a futuristic view on some new job titles. It shall illustrate which old job roles might become critical as well as which new challenges arise in companies when changing or restructuring organisational frameworks in companies. So, let me define some new job roles that clever managers should be thinking about. Each top management should be thinking carefully whether or not they will need one of these job roles in their company. I am quite sure that these job roles will become important in the future on web strategy.

And don’t be surprised when I give those job roles kind of a hierarchy. The formula behind it is quite simple…Knowledge x Data x Content x Culture x Clients = Company Success

a.) Corporate Knowledge Officer
The main challenge for any HR department is to tie the pearls of the corporate value chain long-term. These employees are the knowledge of the company, the pillars of productivity. If one of those pillars leaves the company behind, the person takes the knowledge with them, and often all of their knowledge gets lost. But what if employees understand that the feeding hand of a company offers less pension protection by 2025? What if by 2020, Millennials, the generation that will make up almost 50% of the global workforce, will deny the traditional workplace mentality and start making their knowldge available more on a project basis? What if knowledge workers stop working for one company but prefer to share their knowldge in a “buy-my-brain” mode?

Leaders who believe in Social Business, those who want to secure knowledge and make it “always-on” available shall consider the position of a Corporate Knowledge Officer. They are game changers for analysts, market researchers and leading consulting corporations.

b.) Corporate Data Scientist
The world speaks Big Data. Buzzword or biz value? There were not many words you could hear in 2012 at web events, where “web stategy” still often is a foreign word. Why Big Data rules? Well, just look at how much data is being generated in 60-Minuten on the web, or how fast reactions and conversations evolve. That’s why data is becoming a challenge for the whole value chain of the company. However, which business is able to accomplish a job role which is said to become one of the sexiest in the future according to Harvard Business Review? Where is this person located in the excel sheets of businesses that unites the capabilities of a logician, explorer and mathematician in one person? There are not many avalaible yet. Corporate Data Scientists are those brains who know how to turn the process of 0 and 1 upside down in order to draw some conclusions for new content and values.

Leaders that don’t want to stop at data mining or business intelligence processes should figure out the value of the Corporate Data Scientist. They are challengers for PR and marketing decision makers who need to prove their credibility by showing facts to their CEOs.

c.) Corporate Content Officer
Content forms data. The problem? Content is the weakest production department of companies. In most cases PR experts or publishing houses have taken over the content production. Although most media companies are struggling themselves with unique content generation. But who is meant to do the content research? Who is able to write and schedule stories? Who can prioritize, aggregate and curate content? And where will companies find the publishing expertise to become a media company? If content marketing is the future, who will pioneer on the path from PR and marketing to the journalistic hybrid of corporate publishing and community management in the company?

Leaders who see conversations as an opportunity and understand the sense of integrated communities in websites will evaluate the position of Corporate Content Officers. They are the media coaches and editors-in-chief of businesses who bring all company departments to produce content for their special business area.

d.) Chief Culture Officer
The modern development in content and data generation as well as a new understatement for knowledge management is walking on the stage of change management. A stage that Grant McCracken featured in his book. Employees need to find the deeper sense in the evolution of new platforms in business processes. Employees need to understand the complete benefit of tools and tactics before they will be forced to make use of them. Especially, for those employees who do not like email communication but shall start working with communication streams and updates all of a sudden. Stream-Working is a culture of openness and transparency which is not everybody’s friend. And sometimes the best lighthouses might not embrace those changes.

Leaders who know about the challenges of working with multiple project platforms will appreciate the additional benefit of a Chief Culture Officer. This job role will be the prolonged arm of the management team, the “personified culture geek” and at the same time working very close with the HR team.

e.) Chief Customer Officer
Customer change the rules of the game via open communication, praise and critic. What was top-down is now bottom-up. Customers are kings. A sentence that made people cry some years ago. Today, the 3R’s of the social customer -Rating, Review, Recommendation- make managers and leaders start crying. They let whole revenue streams start shaking at times. Those managers who get their experience from digital conversations with customers, who appreciate when data becomes content, and who create a culture of cooperation and collaboration, then you live and breathe the values of empathy that customers are longing for. Then companies create the right fascination for brands, products and their own company.

Leaders who accept the community of customers as the ecosystem of perception, and who believe in brand advocates, critics and moaners as equal process partners will think about integrating a Chief Customer Officer as an institution that is meant to drive business growth. They will be game changers for sales people and customer service employees.

Never before have I spoken about and discussed so much about new job definitions and job roles in my life like in 2012. On congresses as a moderator, on B2B events as speaker, or as a rebellious start-up panelist.

Will one or some of these job roles become reality? You decide…

Social Business still far away for companies? B2B Execs see Social Media reputation as a corporate blind spot

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Is Social Media really so far behind in the mindset of executives, especially in B2B? Well, according to the Zeno’s Digital Readiness Survey conducted by Harris Interactive it is. The poll asked 300 U.S. corporate executives of various industries and titles of VP or higher, including C-suite executives (primarily B2B) with annual revenues of at least $1 billion. The study comes to a conclusion that surprises us: Many executives fail to consider Social Media reputation when making business decisions. Over one-third of executives (36%) stated that the CEO of their company does not care or cares little about the company’s reputation in Social Media.

Although many companies out there like us advice the leading management how to work with Social Media and how to turn the company into a Social Business, the findings show that still 10% of organizations do not take any action at all to engage with audiences online to address a damaging article or Social Media post. And when it claims that managers would at least take some action to respond to an online crisis, it tells me that Social Media is still not a hotspot for companies and brands.

The main findings of the survey…
– B2B executives (43%) say their CEO largely ignores their company’s online reputation (B2C only 30%) when making business-decisions.
– B2B executives are slower in response. Only 45% of business executives see their company can respond to a negative online post within 24 hours (B2C 63%)
– B2B executives are twice as likely (13%) to say that their firm would not engage an audience online at all to defend their reputation (B2C 6%)
– Executives in larger firms (10,000 employees+) are more likely to say their CEO always or sometimes considers their company’s Social Media reputation versus those in smaller companies (71% versus 55%).  
– Executives in smaller firms ignore Social Media reputation when considered business decision-making more than larger firms (45% versus 29%)

“Given the explosive growth of today’s digital platforms, the Zeno Digital Readiness Survey shows a much larger percentage of companies than one would expect turning a blind eye to valuable customer views and insights. (…) These businesses, regardless of sector, risk serious reputational damage, as well as miss out on important stakeholder feedback, when they ignore social media conversations about their companies and their industries.” Mark Shadle, Managing Director, Zeno Corporate Practise

Spot On!
The study claims that Social Media is a “corporate reputation blind spot,” especially for B2B companies. From our work in 2012 we can only agree with these findings. Although this is surprising when considering that Social Media accounts for almost 25% of people’s time spent online, and that consumers allow companies and brands a response time of 60 minutes for customer service. Companies that don’t want to ignore their online reputation, meaning their business community from clients to partners to employees, should think about the 5Cs of Social Business and how to turn their companies around in order not to put their business reputation at risk.

ZENO GROUP DIGITAL READINESS SURVEY

Study: Content Marketing is becoming big in B2B, focus is shifting…

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A recent study by Curata identified the main drivers of content marketing activities in B2B companies. The findings are based on Curata’s poll of 465 B2B marketing professionals in October 2012 from business owners, VPs of Marketing, CMOs, managers, marketing consultants and agencies.

The study explains that content marketing continues to become more and more important for B2B marketers. However, the drivers for content strategies are shifting towards thought leadership and market education.

The results show that 87% of responding B2B marketing professionals use content marketing for business goals targets (5% increase to 2011). Content marketing gets followed by SEO (67%) and event marketing (60%) as further leading channels in marketing strategies in 2012.

Further findings of the study show that although engaging customers (81%) has top priority for their content marketing efforts, thought leadership and educating the market are increasing in their importance for the business. More than half of B2B marketers (56%) state thought leadership as a key objective (13% increase to 2011). Also, educating the market (47%) increased by 3% to last year. Just 24% see SEO as a key objective (still a 5% increase to last year). Former top marketing tactics (print/TV/radio) went down from 32% to 26% this year.

Spot On!
Lead generation is still one of the key marketing goals for B2B marketers according to the survey. Most B2B marketers (82%) see driving sales and leads as their top marketing goal. Establishing thought leadership (42%), increasing brand awareness (40%), or increasing Web traffic (32%) follow in the next places. Content curation is also getting traction as the next step in content marketing. 57% of B2B marketers see it as an important evolution step. However, content curation is in it’s infancy when only 34% of curating content marketers have done it since six months or less. Quite scary I found that a staggering 43% of B2B marketers don’t measure the efficiency of their content marketing efforts. I found interesting that the topic brand advocates was not on the spot in terms of content marketing in this study.

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