Tag Archives: Marketing

The B2B Content Marketing Cookbook

The B2B Content Marketing Cookbook

I received a copy of the B2B Content Marketing Cookbook from the Manchester agency Marketecture today. It’s a quick read, but is a really nice summary of some of the issues facing B2B marketeers putting together integrated programs today. The book includes some good check lists and pointers for marketeers.

It’s free and is well worth spending a few minutes to request a copy or download the PDF (clicking on the image takes you straight to their site).

Disclaimer: I don’t work with Marketecture, nor have I done in the past!

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B2B Marketing: Get professional, get passionate or get a new job…

I was talking recently to a close contact from an agency and we were discussing the issue of poor quality briefings. “The problem is David,” he said, “that too many people on the client side get too comfortable, but they don’t really know what they are doing”. He went on “and then they get the good salary and…” – at this point I finished his sentence – “…it all becomes about protecting their position…”.

I think that he has a valid point. For far too long, business-to-business marketing has been treated as a catch-all function that has often failed to take a professional approach to people management – and this has devalued our profession.

Like many others, I always knew that I wanted to work in marketing. I was absolutely focused on it. I studied every discipline of marketing that I could to systematically prepare myself. Even when I worked in Sales or Operations for periods, I always knew that I wanted the experience to make me a better marketeer – it was a means to an end.

Yet unfortunately, I think that although there are many professional marketeers who are just as passionate about marketing as I am (and many who are far more so), there are still many others who don’t work in B2B marketing because they love it. They simply fall into B2B marketing, because they:

  1. Couldn’t quite make it in Sales. They wanted the status of being in Sales, yet they didn’t quite have the killer instinct needed to sell. There’s no shame in this. But it doesn’t mean that you will be a good marketeer.
  2. Quite fancied working in ‘advertising’ or ‘events’ after stints elsewhere. This again is a huge issue: just because you like the idea of something (and ‘advertising’ sounds more glamorous than most jobs), doesn’t mean that you will be any good at it… I fancied playing football for Liverpool. But try as i might, it was never going to happen…
  3. Worked as a product manager, but built out their empires to incorporate marketing as “nobody understood their product” quite like they did. Again though, detailed knowledge of a product’s specification doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to translate that knowledge into programs that will inspire customers to engage with your company.

So all of these groups land in Marketing by default, but they could just as easily have ended up in any other function. And therein lies one of the biggest issues with marketing as a discipline: it is still not truly taken seriously as a profession that can add value to companies by too many senior people in large organizations.

Can you imagine the company lawyer being told how he should litigate? Or the CIO being told how he should deploy his data centers? Yet in many marketing functions being told how to market is an everyday occurrence.

Many senior executives recognize that there is a need to market their company and/or their products, but they are unwilling to recognize that a professional and strategic approach to marketing is necessary to fulfil its potential. So they don’t demand it. Far easier (and cheaper) to limit marketing to playing at the tactical edges of the company, than to have it front and center.

Many marketing teams only have themselves to blame for this lack of respect for their work. They shy away from the difficult parts of the job – such as building marketing programs around the business strategy and making real efforts to measure return on investment – because they have never been trained to do them. Marketeers fail to engage with the business around them for fear of criticism. Better to stick to the ‘easy’ areas of marketing that they can use as cover through the use of agencies.

Similarly, marketing leaders turn a blind eye, because it’s easier to do so than to deal with the issue (and after all, “Bob’s a really nice guy”). And so a vicious circle ensues: there is nobody to articulate the value created by marketing, so marketing becomes a cost center to be managed, rather than the revenue generation supporter and engine that it should be.

So we are all complicit in this situation to a greater or lesser extent. But what to do? I believe that the solution starts in how we build and select our marketing teams.

A Chief Marketing Officer who I know well always insisted that he only wanted formally (for that read ‘graduate level’) trained marketeers in his team. I wouldn’t quite go that far – some of the best marketeers I know began life in IT or engineering – but he had a point: that if marketing is a safe harbor rather than a passion, then it’s unlikely that to result in truly outstanding results. And with the pace at which marketing is now changing, it is also unlikely that such individuals will have the desire to keep up with new areas, such as social media and marketing automation.

That’s why I believe that true marketeers need three core qualities:

  1. A genuine passion for marketing. I want team members that hunger to be marketeers. That think about marketing all day every day. Individuals who, even when they are sitting at home with a beer, are thinking of creative ideas to improve how they market – and have the self belief and professional approach to make them happen.
  2. A hunger for learning and personal growth. This aspect is growing in importance. With the pace of change within marketing, it is essential that marketeers are always open to the new. This may take the form of professional development, but it could just as easily take many less formal forms. A tendency to favor the new over the tried and tested is really important.
  3. A strategic understanding of the wider market in which the company operates. This is crucial and is so often overlooked: How can I expect to put together differentiated marketing programs and gain the support of the business without being able to clearly articulate how they underpin the organization’s strategic aims?

Is it just me who feels this? Look around you: if members of your team are in Marketing by default, rather than desire; if their ambition is self-preservation, rather than professionalism, isn’t it right to ask yourself if you will be able to count on them to deliver the ideas and marketing programs that you will need to make your company stand out in the future?

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Marketing automation: no substitute for common sense.

I have been spending a lot of time recently looking at marketing automation. Overall, I have been pretty impressed with what I have seen. These applications have developed extremely rapidly over the past few years in both usability and intelligence. The power that marketing automation solutions such as Marketo, Eloqua and Aprimo now place in the hands of marketeers is fantastic. They allow us to roll out campaigns faster than ever before, nurture leads and effectively directly measure return on investment on marketing programs without masses of manual labour and endless spreadsheets.

The long term vision of many of these solutions is to move business-to-business marketing on to a new plain entirely: revenue performance management or, in layman’s terms ‘managing a marketing pipeline just like a sales pipeline’. For every marketeer who has ever struggled to prove the return on investment for their marketing dollars, this promises to be the Holy Grail.

Once implemented, companies should be able to forecast the marketing activity required to generate sufficient incremental sales. Marketing ceases to be a cost center and finally gets the recognition it deserves as a contributor to top line growth, which is surely what any marketeers worth his or her salt really craves.

Despite this, I can see how marketing automation could become a victim of its own success, if it is implemented without strong marketing leadership, for two reasons:

  1. The reporting that it provides is, by its very nature, retrospective. The temptation to keep repeating campaigns that ‘worked well last time’ becomes very strong, because one of the key features of automation is, of course, repeatability. Campaign reporting is a powerful tool, but it must always be allied to understanding of the market and the major trends during marketing planning.
  2. The elements that marketing automation solutions can measure become the only elements considered when deploying marketing programs. The output of any program is reduced to an email, a landing page and a white paper – because they are the things that we can directly measure quickly. Other potentially more effective traditional channels to communicate our messages are ignored because they don’t provide us with the instant gratification of a click-through.

The danger is that we become obsessed with measurability and focusing all of our efforts on the programs that can be directly deployed through marketing automation, to the detriment of investment in other aspects of the marketing process. Which is great in the short term, but we may find that neglecting other important elements, such as brand investment and sales enabling leaves buyers increasingly unaware of why they would even want to engage with our companies and sellers unable to deal with those customers when they do.

The strongest B2B marketeers will have the backbone to stand up for the programs that add long-term strategic value to their business, not just those things that can be measured directly.  If awareness of what separates your business from the crowd is low, then the most elegantly crafted automated marketing programs are unlikely to help you succeed.

Marketing automation has the potential to massively strengthen the deployment and measurement of marketing strategy: but it shouldn’t BECOME your marketing strategy. It’s vital that we, as professional marketeers, are constantly proving our value to our organizations in terms of top line contribution whenever we can. But we shouldn’t forget that not everything that has value can be measured in numbers. Marketing automation is no substitute for common sense.

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Is unified communications past its sell-by date?

Have social media and mobile apps left unified communications looking a bit tired?

It’s now been two months since I had a desk phone and a unified communications client. Although I would like to have a desk phone, I must admit that I have only missed these tools on three occasions:

  1. When making calls to subsidiaries abroad – using cellular networks for international calling is still outrageously expensive.
  2. When I have needed to make conference calls with members of my team. Although the iPhone has limited (but user friendly) facilities for conferencing, the audio quality just doesn’t do the job a dedicated conferencing unit can.
  3. When doing a radio interview, where I needed guaranteed call quality.

As an advocate of unified communications since its infancy, this got me wondering: has unified communications now been superseded by developments in social media and mobile devices? Is unified communications now past its use-by date?

The last outposts of classic unified communications…

I started by thinking about applications in which unified communications in its purest sense continues to deliver significant measurable business value for organizations that adopt UC solutions:

  • Communications-Enabled Business Processes in contact centers: Agents can complete tasks quicker using unified communications and presence technology, delivering a direct and measurable return on investment. Greater throughput = fewer agents = better customer satisfaction: what’s not to like in that equation for the average business?
  • Road warriors: The benefit for road warriors of unified communications is easy to see. I can ‘see’ who’s available, even when I’m not in the office. It can also help reduce costs, by routing international calls through the company network or enabling me to use a soft client, rather than roaming at expensive rates using my mobile device.
  • For global businesses: For companies with international workforces, unified communication can have a massive benefit. Connecting workforces more effectively and enabling them to collaborate directly with one another accelerates decision making and powers cost cutting measures such as off-shoring and reduced business travel for internal meetings.

Don’t believe the hype

The problem for unified communications vendors is that the benefits I have outlined mirror their own organizations. Industry consolidation resulted in geographically dispersed teams that demand business travel and international communication to keep the plates spinning. This prejudices some vendors’ view of the market: they start to believe their own marketing hype and that the market for these applications is larger than it really is. Unfortunately for them, many of their potential customers face very different and more mundane communications challenges.

These customers aren’t worried about presence and a unified portal – many of them run their business using mobile handsets, simple PBXs, social media, Skype and Google Voice. What they are worried about is cost, scalability and flexibility for the future. They don’t see the potential issues of using consumer applications such as Skype – they just flinch when they see the huge roaming bills, or need to do a video call now and again and see a simple solution to those problems. As a result, many use elements of unified communications to help them address these challenges, such as single number services, video-calling and instant messaging. They just don’t call it unified communications – and don’t recognize its value as such.

Not dead, just different

So I don’t believe that unified communications is past its sell-by date – in many ways it is more relevant than ever – but old school definitions of UC are. Unified communications is no longer about managing a desk phone, mobile, Windows PC and many other devices. The smart phone has made that view redundant for all except the power users in boardrooms and hotels. Instead, it is evolving into skinny applications for low-end users and specialist applications for power users, mixed with a dose of social media, a splash of video and a few web-based collaboration tools. The unifying element comes in binding these elements together securely and in a way that controls costs.

If vendors embrace the more holistic eco-system in which unified communications now exists, then they will deliver great value to customers and thrive once more. They’ll sell fewer devices, but those they do sell will be of higher value, such as videoconferencing units and financial trading desktops. They won’t sell many high-powered UC desktop clients, but they could sell applications for mobile devices – and the presence and call control servers that will power them. And they won’t sell as many traditional maintenance services, but they could sell plenty of integration services.

The question is whether they have the agility, resources, skills and marketing muscle to adapt quickly enough to this new world, or whether new players will fill the void.

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Skype: Ready for business (Part two…)?

Serious business: UC Expo is becoming Europe's most credible unified communications show.

In a recent post, I speculated as to whether Skype were preparing to make a serious play in the unified communications space, following their appointment of David Gurle, the former main man in Microsoft’s unified communications group, as the head of their Skype for Business team. It looks like we are going to get an answer sooner than many would have anticipated, as Mike England has now confirmed that David Gurle has agreed to be a keynote speaker at UC Expo in London on March 11th.

This is a real coup for Mike and the UC Expo team, who are really beginning to craft what was previously a fairly SME-focused VoIP show into the most serious and credible unified communications event in Europe. More importantly though, the mere fact that David Gurle is taking time out of his busy schedule to address a show explicitly and exclusively dedicated to unified communications appears to be a statement of intent. There is no good reason for him to do that (I believe that he is based in Singapore, so it’s hardly his own back yard…), other than to use the opportunity to lay out Skype’s approach to the unified communications market.

Given the many niche efforts that Skype have made to enter the business market over the past few years, it will be interesting to hear David lay out Skype’s new strategy. In particular, I guess that potential customers, partners and competitors will be interested in three main areas:

  • Whether Skype are really committed to the business market? David obviously isn’t going to say that Skype aren’t up for the fight, but how far does their commitment extend? Buyers will be looking for proof that Skype understand the extent to which business users need developments that differ from the standard consumer offering. API definition has been mentioned as one of the areas where Skype could do more, but business users have far wider (and often more basic) requirements. Are Skype prepared to make that commitment?
  • Will they partner with other vendors or go it alone? Skype has a ready-made possible partner in its corporate cousin Avaya. My view is that Skype probably can’t go it alone at this stage for anything beyond the simplest requirements and smaller customers, but it will be interesting to see to what extent the major vendors are prepared to embrace them, given past experiences in partnerships with Microsoft – who eventually went from partner to rival for many of them… Maybe the answer will involve more Skype-driven cooperations with smaller partners.
  • Will they change their go-to-market approach? Will Skype seek to be a market disruptor and follow a Salesforce.com type model of direct sales (via the web, obviously), or will they look to attract more partners and channels to provide more complex solutions that require integration of Skype into other platforms? How Skype go to market will also significantly influence the kind of service that customers could expect (and whether they are viewed as a friend or foe for the traditional UC channel).

Whether or not David will address these issues is questionable: he has only been in the job a few months. But whatever happens on March 11th, it will be fascinating to follow the movements of yet another high profile potential entrant into the unified communications space.

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