Customers could hardly be called empowered these days, but they certainly have more power than they ever have had before. If thousands of people receive poor service, it may not affect the brand or company responsible, or even reduce their number of sales. For example the first Kindles had a habit of dying just over a year after purchase; Estimates indicate around as much as 20% of units sold had this fault, and yet sales were still robust and the Amazon brand has not been damaged. However, it is far easier for larger seemingly untouchable companies to be damaged by online opinion, and larger companies do not have as much of a stranglehold over advertising mediums as they used to.
In the age of digital disruption, the competitive edges that larger companies had have been eroded a little. Distribution power, manufacturing strength, competitive advantage and information mastery are still powerful tools, but they are not as powerful as they once were. A smaller company can make serious dents in a larger company's customer base with nothing more than the ability to engage with customers on the Internet in a big way. Content marketers with no budget can affect sales in a massive way. For example, there is PewDiePie, a social media influencer that has dramatically affected the sales of all the games he has ever posted about on YouTube.
Suppliers, industrial companies, manufacturers and most traditional commercial sectors have embraced online content marketing. Sadly, most of them see a big gap between the amount of engagement they maintain and the conversions they see. Part of this may be because they misunderstand the content marketing process. It is easy to create plenty of funny content online and quickly gain a large amount of followers, but unless you are selling comedic digital entertainment, you are going to have a very poor conversion rate. Traffic and engagement doesn't always mean sales! On the other hand, if you fail to engage with your target audience at all, you are doomed to failure in an online environment.
What may be called more traditional advertising can be replaced with something such as advertising on mobile apps and both have the same amount of penetration and similar conversion results. Free mobile games are so common that it costs many companies money to get people to play a game they are giving away for free.
Some of the best industrial digital-marketing tactics are: "Ask an Expert" forums, online product configurators, product comparison guides/matrix, part number builders, parametric search, engineering kits, mobile apps, dynamic content including personalization, downloadable CAD files, sizing programs and calculators, and video marketing.
Mobile apps and video marketing seems to apply to a great many sectors. Mobile apps are not all about Farmville and Candy Crush. There are a massive number of industry-specific apps that are helping suppliers and service providers reach a broader online audience. Mobile apps also create a high degree of engagement in these cases, with the user seeing the content-marketer's branding almost every day while the app is used.
Video marketing is a little more difficult, but the success of some YouTube influencers is nothing short of epic. The YouTube influencer PewDiePie earns more than Barack Obama from his affiliate advertising on YouTube alone, and he has more YouTube subscribers than anyone ever. He didn't have corporate backing or an advertising budget, plus he has not gone viral in the strictest sense of the word.
The age of disruption is led by the consumer. You can run a well-timed and expertly-planned campaign and build up quite a following, only to have it taken from you once the users decide not to engage. The online community can turn on a brand very quickly. Many times a big PR crisis is well deserved through either the company thinking more about money than the user, such as with Daily Motion, or with the company Applebee's that fired a waitress for posting something on social media and then tried to suppress the massive wave of negative feeling on social media (read story here).
Paid content marketing has the potential to push your business to the top in the same way it can burn through money with no result. You can expect fewer viewers/users/customers but you can get them to engage more, which means a company can survive with 80% of income coming from repeat sales. In the age of digital disruption, companies have to change quickly to adapt to what the customers want or their more nimble competitors will take their customers.
About the author: Mark Knight is a Director at Broadgate Mainland the London PR agency.
Image credit: DigitalRalph
We're pleased to present this guest post by Teddy Hunt. Read on for concrete ways that B2B marketers can work Pinterest into the mix with good effect.
The concept of social media being used in B2B marketing strategies has simply exploded in recent years. Some marketers hopped on the bandwagon years ago and have perfected the art; others are just coming around to the idea, and still fewer utilize the power that is Pinterest.
Pinterest is a unique form of social media through which users share (or “pin”) content they find throughout the web to virtual bulletin boards. It’s a great way for people to share ideas with each other about projects, plan events, share recipes and words of wisdom, and simply express themselves. Users typically organize their pins by assigning a certain theme to each board, which also makes it easier to sort through.
Twitter and Facebook certainly dominate in the social media marketing atmosphere, but there's plenty of room for Pinterest too. Here are some ways you can grow your business through the powers of Pinterest.
1. Pin Daily and Humanize Your Company
The world of social media seems to move faster than the real world. Pinterest is no exception. If your goal is to build up your business's visibility and brand image, you'll need to get into a groove of pinning daily. These daily pins will establish your credibility and make your page more appealing to users than one that pins sporadically.
To maximize the pins you make every day, plan on making daily or weekly themes that are relevant to your brand image. This way, your business followers will have access to new and interesting content that will keep them engaged with your work, but also keep your brand at the forefront of content as it relates to their world. Interact with followers and other businesses by sharing their relevant pins and commenting on threads.
One of the easiest ways to stay current is to align your goals with those of other innovative companies. Do this by pulling inspiration from their conceptual successes; question the status quo. Pinterest is a great place to experiment with your advertising initiatives, since the interface is so closely tied to niches, and it’s so easily adaptable. T-Mobile’s new CEO is listening to his customers, and is really changing things up with the company’s private and business wireless plans. While T-Mobile doesn’t have their own Pinterest account, plenty of their supporters do. T-Mobile monitors the activity and the platform is a lens to what the fans like and an outlet to once again humanize a brand.
You can do the same on a smaller scale by using your Pinterest page to engage with your audience and interpret their concerns. If you really focus your energy on interacting and listening to your audience, they may help you pinpoint flaws in your customer service strategies, or your product itself.
A popular and effective approach
When it comes to social media, users aren't in the mood to shop. They don't appreciate being pitched products and services while they attempt to peruse their specialized interests. The idea is to blend into their overall user interface, and serve as a resource they can use to find information they're already interested in, which benefits them; seeing that it comes from your company increases their awareness of your brand, which helps you.
Chances are your Facebook page is pretty polished and put together, and your Twitter feed is brief and direct. Pinterest is a humanistic platform that flourishes best when human nature is allowed to shine through. One of the best ways to do this is to appeal to the human emotions of empathy, happiness, and nostalgia.
A company that does an excellent job of this is Marketo, a company that produces marketing software. The company creates multiple boards to display the company’s culture, and masters the art of nostalgia through the creation of memes that feature pop icons from the 90s and early 2000s Marketo’s Working@Marketo board has 60+ Pins with a direct intent of giving you a glimpse of the people within the organization.
You don't have to share details about your personal life. Rather, give your audience insight into the things that make you human. These humanistic posts will be well received, as those things are relatable to people of all walks of life.
2. Focus on Educating and Entertaining Viewers
Don't overlook the importance of sharing new information with your social media following. People engage most with content that educates them about things they wouldn't know otherwise, or otherwise entertains them. It’s okay if the pins directly pertain to your operation, but for the most part, offer information that is useful to your audience but inspires people to want to learn more about your company.
Take General Electric (GE), for example. More specifically take a look at their board titled "Badass Machines." This board showcases GE’s ingenuity. It’s creative and leads viewers directly to the company’s homepage, which is a positive side effect of social media.
3. Take Note of What Others Are Doing
Often the best sources of inspiration come from looking to other pages and drawing from their successes. That's not to say that you should copy what others are doing. Instead, just look at what your competitors are doing and think of ways to look at it from a different angle so that your followers will relate to it. As with many areas of life, if you find yourself struggling, look to successful Pinterest boards for inspiration.
Consider how HubSpot generates leads by posting whitepapers, infographics, eBooks, Webinars, and other content on its Pinterest page.
Regardless your industry, the following are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Post about events, projects or current work
- Include keywords from your research intertwined with the content you’re posting
- Promote your pinned content on other social channels
- Measure traffic. Track your leads.
There's no reason your company can't be a social media marketing titan. Just focus on posting relevant, informative content that you've tailored specifically to your audience and your online brand will improve exponentially. Adding Pinterest to your social media strategy will strengthen your brand across the board.
*Image source: Shutterstock
About the author: Teddy Hunt is a freelance content writer with a focus on technology. When not behind a computer, Teddy spends the majority of his free time outdoors, exploring the Tampa Bay area, where he currently resides.
We're pleased to present this guest post by Sam Narisi of Frost & Sullivan. Read on for concrete tips to help unite sales and marketing.
All business units are under increasing pressure to show the real value they provide to the organization, and marketing is no different. That means marketers are no longer being asked simply to deliver a bunch of leads – they’re being held accountable for making sure those contacts turn into actual revenue.
What can marketers do to meet those new demands? One of the keys is to work more closely with the sales team to ensure marketing strategies and sales goals are aligned.
Doing so will help both marketing and sales improve their operations and ultimately boost the company’s bottom line.
Break down the silos
In too many organizations, marketing and sales teams operate separately, with little collaboration beyond marketers stuffing leads into the sales pipeline. However, there are some steps marketers can take to break down the silos and open up the lines of communication.
Here are five tips outlined by Rob Butters, Principal Analyst
with Frost & Sullivan, during a recent webinar:
- Align schedules – A lot of benefit can come from a fairly simple change: Get marketing and sales operating on the same cycle, with all planning geared toward the same goals. However, in many companies, marketing and sales do their planning and hold their big kick offs at different times of the year. Aligning those schedules will help get everyone on the same page.
- Get sales reps involved – Marketers can gain a lot by including members of the sales team in their planning sessions. And that means not only the sales director or VP of sales, but also the “voices on the street” – i.e., the sales people who are interacting directly with customers. Those people can share valuable opinions and insight that will help marketing do a better job at nurturing leads until they are “sales ready”. For instance, they can shed light on potential customers’ top concerns, what types of content attract the best prospects, and what kinds of feedback they’re hearing straight from customers.
- Share information – Likewise, marketers have access to a lot of information that can help the sales team improve its results. For example, marketing should be able to know what actions leads have taken before they’re contacted by a sales rep, for example, what white paper they downloaded, what video they watched, etc. Knowing those details will help sales reps conduct their conversations with prospects more effectively.
- Speak the same language – If marketing and sales are going to share information back and forth, it’s important that both sides keep track of the right data. The two teams should meet to decide which metrics to track as well as decide on a common terminology so that everyone can understand each other.
- Review and refine the strategy – Getting marketing and sales aligned doesn’t happen with one quick meeting. It’s a never-ending process that requires continual effort by both sides to stay on the same page and working toward the same goal. That’s why it’s critical for leadership on both the sales and marketing sides to be on board and put in the effort to keep the collaboration going.
What is your experience getting sales and marketing working in tandem? Please share your successes and struggles!
About the Author:
Sam Narisi is the publications editor for Frost & Sullivan’s Integrated Marketing Solutions practice. For more information on how marketing teams can improve their results and create more real value for their organizations today, download the Executive Summary of Frost & Sullivan’s eBroadcast, Marketing’s New Paradigm: Show Us the Money!
Innovation. We all know it’s important for business growth but how do we get to it? Where does it come from and how do we grab that elusive minx?
In a recent TED Talk Martin Villeneuve explained the process and solutions he used to make his long-held dream of creating a science-fiction movie based on his vision of the future come to pass. He explained how passion in his group led to people coming up with answers.
Villeneuve explained how, if a person couldn’t be there for the movie, well then they created a hologram of him. How futuristic instruments not yet made were cleverly pre-sold to an investor “because he thought it was such a good idea.” In essence Villeneuve worked with what he had to create something better. Much better.
“See problems as allies and not enemies and life will begin to dance with you,” he told his audience.
See problems as allies. It’s this type of attitude that I see all the time in successful groundbreaking companies. It’s this sense of dance that makes one get noticed.
Recently I was asked to take a look at Kona DataSearch’s Salesforce app add-on. What could possibly be so exciting about that, I thought to myself as I watched the demo. I mean, seriously – it’s a search of data. Its goal is to help sales people better find their key sales content.
But then I was surprised. Kona describes its application as: KonaSearch™ provides a single, universal search application within Salesforce® that searches all Salesforce data along with content from external sources including Box, SharePoint® and Google Drive™.
What Kona did was take on a well-established platform and made it better. By increasing the search speed, organizing by relevance, adding additions like phonetic look-ups (“Jeff” will result in “Jeffs” as well as “Geoffs” ), and adding lookups based on “concepts.” They managed to create something that enhances what is already there. Simply put, Kona’s search is bigger, stronger, and faster.
And a better idea on top of an existing idea is something that gets my attention. That, right there, is the cooling breeze of innovation in action.
Kona made allies of their enemies. It’s a perfect example of working with an existing idea to make it better. By then layering their product on Salesforce’s platform, Kona created a combined voice that speaks far louder than any individual sound ever could.
Let’s be honest, is there anything earth-changing about a sales database? I’m thinking not. But is there something intrinsically exciting about one company’s effort to make allies of its enemies in an effort to dance with life?
You betcha there is, now and always.
If you are like one of our 5-year-old daughters, you're very excited to see May is finally here. The flowers, the baby animasls, everything so new! Speaking of new, here are our favorite new posts from the week. Enjoy!
A wrap up of terrific reads for our wrap up.
Don't waste time designing your site for those who aren't likely to visit it.
How to Use EBooks Strategically to Reach Your Content Marketing Goals - by @writemartpam via @copyblogger
You say eBooks, I say eBooks, but what does that mean? Learn the difference between PDF and EPUB-style eBooks.
Which browsers are most people using? If you are designing websites, it helps to know what your users are using so you can test.
Marketo delivers 30 pages of pure, unadulterated marketing activity fun!
April is flying by! But we've managed to catch some real gems in our nets this week from around the blogosphere. Here's hoping they reinvigorate you as much as the new life springing up all around us!
This is an interesting concept that has some relevance for B2B (especially software) businesses.
Please, please don't publish stinky infographics.
Being "authentic" and "honest" is not territory reserved only for solopreneurs and artistic types. There's a lot to be said for putting your B2B out there in a "real" way, especially since so few B2B companies have the courage to make the leap.
It's not always about technology, widgets, or workflows.
Back up on the branding soapbox and well worth the listen.
We are pleased to present this guest post by Clare Moorhouse, Search Manager for Torpedo Group in the UK, named one of the top B2B marcomms agencies in 2012. Read on for ways you can set yourself up for lead-gen success.
Lead generation is the lifeblood of any business. Yet many companies struggle to capture, manage and convert meaningful leads for their business. Effective B2B lead generation requires strategic planning and persistent monitoring.
Whatever type of B2B lead generation campaign you are planning, the basic principles of generating quality business leads remain the same. In this post, we’re going to cover ten important questions you need to ask before you embark on any lead generation campaign, to ensure you get the results your business deserves.
1. Has your campaign been thoroughly planned?
Are you putting your campaign out at the right moment, in front of the right person and with the right message? A clear strategy and well-planned campaign means clever targeting with a much better chance of generating quality leads.
2. Is the campaign clearly targeted with a well-researched and in-depth understanding of your target market?
Your starting point for any B2B lead generation campaign should be audience understanding. You could divide your market by what they do, how they behave and operate, and by their buying patterns. Just make sure you are absolutely clear about who your ideal customer is.
3. Does your database contain accurate, up-to-date data?
Ensuring your database contains the most current data is crucial; you will need to contact the correct people at the right level. Validated and well-managed data should be a top priority so your message lands in front of the right person.
4. Have you set critical performance indicators to measure the success of the campaign?
This needn’t necessarily be a monetary ROI. Click-throughs, voucher returns, social shares, incoming enquiries or sign-ups are all effective ways to measure the ROI of a campaign. It’s important to set up metrics from the start in order to analyse the success of the campaign from day one.
5. Are you using intelligent and creative content that engages with your audience?
Businesses are now realising the power of content, but the real challenge is deciding what type of content best engages your audience. Online videos, white papers and how-to guides are all common tactics for B2B marketing.
6. Does the campaign align with your overall marketing strategy and integrate with other marketing initiatives you’ve got planned?
Make sure your lead generation aligns with other campaigns you’ve done in the past, or have planned for the future. Your campaign may need to integrate with secondary or even multiple marketing channels to support and reinforce your message.
7. Is the campaign tried and tested?
Always allow sufficient time to test your campaigns, and where possible, set up multi variant testing of the same campaign running side by side to measure which message is delivering the best conversions.
8. Does your campaign include strong calls to action that are easy to follow and measure?
Is it clear from the campaign what you want your audience to do? Often readers only scan a message, so be sure that it’s both clear and compelling about what action you want them to take.
Make sure you have the systems and reporting in place to measure the results of your efforts. Tracking cost per lead is one indicator of success, but measuring the cost per sales opportunity is also a valuable ROI indicator, as lead generation is about “harvesting opportunity” not just short-term wins.
9. Is your creative brief clear?
A brilliant creative concept is what’s going to grab audience attention, keep them engaged, and entice them to take action. This all starts with providing your agency with a full and clear creative brief that takes into account time, resources and available budget. Getting the most from your Creative Agency means preparing a detailed brief that includes what you want to achieve, your target audience, unique selling proposition and a central marketing message. The more detailed the brief, the better targeted the creative concept will be.
10. What’s your lead nurturing strategy?
After all the hard work spent planning and implementing your campaign, it’s often all too easy to lose contact with those prospects you’ve worked so hard to attract. A clear follow-up and lead nurturing strategy will ensure you continue a meaningful dialogue and build trusted relationships with the people that matter.
As with all marketing campaigns, better preparation will lead to better results. With that in mind, identify precisely the aims of the campaign from the outset and follow the guidelines within this article to achieve optimum results and a better response.
About the author: Clare Moorhouse is Search Manager for Torpedo Group, a B2B creative marketing agency. Torpedo provides bespoke B2B lead generation services integrated across digital, print, event and social channels. Contact Torpedo to find out more.
Have spring fever? Want to try something new? For some great inspriration, check out favorite posts from the week. What else do you have to add?
This is a question you need to ask in terms of your brand's value to your customers.
Lots of great lessons here!
Double Your Leads Instantly With This Simple Evergreen Tweak by Garrett Moon of @todaymade via @KISSmetrics (it's a two fer!)
This is a great tactic, IF it's used properly.
Hemingway's advice is a perfect fit for bloggers. Do you know how to use it to make your blog a more vital and valuable part of your content marketing mix?
Ryan Skinner has an inspirational post to help you think about providing experience instead of content.
Rebecca Leib fills us in on what's next in content marketing.
They say April showers bring May flowers. So while you're whiling away the time indoors waiting for all those new blooms, inject new life into your reading with these picks from around the blogosphere.
Content marketing lessons sm companies can steal from big brands by @annhandley via @EntMagazine
Actually, these are great lessons for ANYone.
5 SEO Tips: Take Your SEO Menu From Conventional To Inventive by @JuliaRosien via @ShellyKramer
Great metaphor helps you make sense of SEO.
Why it's faulty to think you can't learn from your B2C counterparts when it comes to delivering a customer experience that matters.
Eric Wittlake lays out the key reasons why B2B orgs tend to stick with simple measurements when it comes to gauging the impact of marketing on the business -- and sparks a great discussion in the comments.
Here's what it takes to create a “social sharing” support program for your sales teams (and if you know your prospects well and are engaged in social media, you're well positioned to succeed).
This round up of gems from the Content Marketing Institute is a treasure trove of terrific tips.
It’s hard to underestimate the impact that social media has had on the world of business. From curry houses to house painters, it seems like everyone and their dog now has a social media presence of some kind. That could be an active Facebook profile with hundreds of ‘fans’ interacting each day, or it could be a near-devoid Twitter account with just one or two tweets a month. In any case, it’s clear that social media is here to stay. But while it may come naturally for a clothes designer or skateboard manufacturer, judging the value of social media can be tricky for those in more established areas like financial services. So the question then has to be, for companies who are in the financial industry – what’s the point of social media?
If you’ve been trying to weigh the pros and cons of getting social, there’s a good chance that one or more of your clients has asked you the question already. Beyond the more obvious uses for social media (as a customer service channel, for example), why should they be investing their time into sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and even Instagram? There are some answers which may jump instantly to mind: increased customer engagement, boosted brand recognition, and so on. All of these factors are important and can, cumulatively, lead to an increase in your financial service company’s core metrics – but can social media offer any measurable benefit? The answer to this one, it seems, may be completely subjective.
Getting Going - Try a Trial
The catch-22 faced by financial service institutions is this: in order to know the value of social media, they must first try it out. But not having tried it out, they can’t be sure it’ll be worth their time. Quite the dilemma! The answer, then, is simply that in order to know whether or not social media is right for you, you need to run trials. Perhaps start with a small presence, choose a number of metrics to track (new customers, returning customers, etc.) and judge whether or not there has been a positive uplift in these metrics over your chosen period. In this way, financial services companies will be able to get their feet wet without having to dive head-first into the murky waters of the social explosion.
Your Network Can Work For You
There are plenty of inevitable business benefits from conducting social media activities. But a stumbling block to getting started for some maybe resourcing. Given the right steps, your social networks can actually perform some of your business functions for you. Connecting with influencers in your space by first identifying them and then figuring out what content they want (via a survey, for example) can lead to them selling your content and your services well beyond your own reach.
Get Specialized Help
While it’s important to get the steps right before starting there’s also a real element of learning on the job when it comes to social. With the constant threat of falling foul of the inevitable regulation in financial services there are always specialist financial PR companies to help you dig you out!
Tim Aldiss writes on behalf of Broadgate Mainland, financial services PR experts