Smart B2B Marketing Includes A Sales Ride Along; 6 Key Questions

sales-ride-along

We all recall the expression “there’s no such thing as a dumb question”, though I know I’ve violated that more than a few times. Still it’s pretty much a given that it’s part of the essential mindset for any B2B marketer. Where it can pay big dividends is when you make time to go on a ride-along with sales. Here’s why.

In every industry vertical, B2B marketing’s “secret sauce” starts with understanding how your company’s target audience thinks and behaves. In the process it’s also possible to better align the marketing and sales teams to create better synergy for greater ROI.

When you think about it, as a general rule in nearly every business your resident expert on the customer is your sales team. So as soon and often as possible, pick their brain. The best way based on my experience is to suit up and step into their world for some immersion.

When I’ve done this I put on my journalism hat and use the “5W&H” to get the story; who, what, when, where, why and how. This will not only help paint an accurate picture of the customer’s world but establishes a repoire and foundation with the sales team for an ongoing dialogue. As for any doubt about sales willingness to talk, there are few things people enjoy more than talking about themselves and being called upon for their expertise.

So imagine those first few minutes sitting with the sales rep. After the pleasantries, what should you ask? Here are six key questions to get the ball rolling:

  • So how do you get sales? As basic as that may sound, understanding where leads and prospects are coming from is vital to “seeing into the sales funnel” and learning how the current sales process works even if you think you know. Verify.
  • Who are great prospects (and customers)? This helps us understand success criteria and the qualities and quantities associated with them. Finding out how well or poorly marketing’s profiles and more importantly, personas match the feedback from sales has everything to do with our messaging, content strategy, and marketing plan in general.
  • Where are they? Sounds kind of silly at first but it helps uncover as many opportunities as possible to brand, message, solicit feedback, reinforce distinctive competency and employ the most appropriate media and format for delivery of custom content to best move the prospect along (conversions) until they become customers.
  • What sales methodology do you use? This is different from the sales process. Are they using Challenger, SPIN, NEAT, Conceptual, SNAP? Get the context of when marketing can be applied to increase sales’ effectiveness and you’ll also find better alignment between the sales and marketing teams.
  • When do you decide to contact the prospect directly? In companies where they use a MAS (marketing automation system) like Hubspot or Pardot, there are clearly defined protocols for the timing of content delivery and qualification stages before anyone in business development or sales actually picks up the phone or sends a direct email. But in companies that aren’t using MAS, this can be a big blind spot for marketing where we need to shine a light.
  • Why do you think the sales team is successful? This can be a big reveal into the state of mind of the sales team but more importantly where there are gaps that marketing can help address such as creating better presentation materials and leave-behinds, more effective and attractive promotions, or designing professional-looking tradeshow displays for example.

Doing this will at minimum help true up current marketing efforts but also help both sales and marketing to gain greater clarity into the relationship between their respective teams. Tearing down the silos leads to improved cooperation, understanding and communication. These are key ingredients for greater effectiveness that in turn will grow MROI (marketing return on investment) and ultimately company profitability.

Do you have a sales ride along story to tell? Share it here. We’d love to hear about it.

Inbound Marketing Recipe Fails; Bologna Anyone?

bologna

I hope my physician doesn’t read my blog because I have to confess something; I like bologna. Yes, that cheap, valve-clogging, artery-hardening sandwich meat full of fat and salt and oh so yummy with mustard between some lily white sliced bread. Want to notch it up a bit? Fry it.

Okay, it’s a rarity that I eat it because I know each bite is shortening my life but I’m betting there are closet bologna fans out there that just reading this has their mouth watering. So what does this have to do with marketing, in particular inbound marketing?

There’s a good post over on Duct Tape Marketing, the blog hosted by John Jantsch, entitled “Are You Building Your Business With A Crock-pot or a Microwave?” that talks about how inbound differs from, is better than traditional methods. I agree with the analogy (especially any that uses food/cooking to make the point 🙂 ) and how user expectations have to be tempered. What I would add is that far too many B2B companies won’t reap the benefits of inbound marketing and here’s why.

Inbound marketing or at least the theory and rationale behind it can make it the easiest marketing method to sell and yet it is the most difficult to implement often due to misalignment of expectations between user, seller and administrator. This leads to multiple friction points and well, then things heat up and not in the pleasant way we want or expect like with a crockpot or microwave.

Inbound also ‘suffers’ from the need for patience, a virtue in short support in alot of companies. In business what used to be called FedEx mentality is now E-mail mentality; not just overnight but near instantaneous results expectations and I wish I were exaggerating. The C-suite and sales leadership expect marketing support that can help them deliver on this month’s/quarter’s revenue goal, not 9-12 months out and longer.

Adding to the challenge, some companies exhibit a form of post-Great Recession traumatic shock syndrome whose primary symptom is terminal procrastination about pulling the trigger on serious marketing budget/effort. Then when push comes to shove the demand for results, any results, increases exponentially leading to “haste makes waste” as money/time/resources get thrown at solutions. This can be a real toxic stew for those championing a slow-cook method like inbound.

Instead there’s often a knee-jerk response, defaulting to “proven” methods because primarily they offer the path of least resistance in garnering management support. This is what’s frequently behind the recurrent fallback to outbound marketing practices or worse, pseudo-inbound with half-baked or missing components, while kicking that legitimate inbound “can” down the road.

So what do we end up with for a marketing menu plan? Crockpot? Microwave? Forget it. They take too long. Break out the bologna.

Got a story about how you got your stakeholders to “eat healthy”?  We’d love to hear about it.

 

 

What’s Happening To Inbound Marketing “MPG”?

ethanol-addedInbound marketing has a couple of big problems.  By that I mean many well-intentioned companies especially those that are just starting their own inbound marketing program are facing two considerable issues.

The first is a common one and that is unrealistic expectations like namely the amount of time and resource necessary to sustain and power an inbound program into a true conversion machine. Getting started is hard. Staying with it just like any good habit is even harder and for inbound that means generating good content and lots of it, day in and day out.

Secondly, the “per unit energy” of online content is going down in a manner of speaking. Content is the primary fuel that powers an inbound program and like what happened when our gov’t mandated the addition of ethanol to our gasoline, suddenly it took more fuel to go the same distance; ethanol just doesn’t have the same energy content and punch. So what in the world does this have to do with inbound you ask?

We are experiencing an astronomical, exponential growth in online content which is the digital equivalent to adding ethanol to your gasoline except what your typical car will run on has a limit so ethanol content is capped; online content dilution has no cap, no governor and so it is getting worse as the volume of online content grows. As the amount of online content goes up, the greater the dilution of its power and so it takes more and more content to “go the same distance”  ie., powering a robust, organically driven inbound marketing program.  And the discomforting part about this equation is it will only get worse, not better. That is the trap and the spiral which I started thinking more about after I read Mark Schaefer’s post on “Content Shock”  http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/01/06/content-shock/

Let’s put this in the context of the marketplace. Of course it’s competitive and not everyone is at the same stage in their marketing efforts. If you were one of the businesses that jumped on inbound early like back in 2009, consider yourself not just visionary but also lucky. That was like buying Apple stock when it was cheap. Just five years ago online content volume was a fraction of what it is today and there were fewer competitors vying for inbound dominance.  If you got started early it’s likely you’re in the lead and may well have locked it in; late starters will have to mount an extraordinary effort to just get in the race much less take away the lead.

So what’s a marketer to do? Bail? Hit the silk? Take the off ramp? No. Inbound is a vital tool and practice for all but the rarest of businesses. Instead, do like a good financial planner and have a balanced portfolio. A healthy mix of elements in a marketing program that integrate the best of both outbound and inbound by weaving them into an effective conversion process is just smart. Yes by all means have a polished brand, perfected positioning and well crafted content that caters to the needs of your audience and then use them wisely.

As an example, instead of just posting up a best practices on say, farm tractor maintenance and hoping a few people will find it on your optimized, dynamic website, promote it with outbound like an email or direct mail with a link that takes them to a landing page with a portion of your post shown. Then for the entire article in PDF, have a conversion form to collect basic info on new prospects or to update/track activity from current customers, which then goes into a CRM or MAS.

Or, perhaps look over the marketing calendar and strategically time the release of new content around any number of traditional marketing elements like a new product intro, trade show, newsletter or branding initiative and coordinate them so they support one another for greater effect (synergy).

The options are nearly endless but you get the idea. Inbound has a role but it’s not a panacea.  In light of the explosion of online content, there’s an ever greater need for it’s role to be carefully balanced with its ability to deliver reasonable “mileage” (MROI) within an integrated marketing approach.  Now more than ever content generation is something that warrants careful monitoring against the cost of other marketing practices and channels including traditional outbound.  I’m starting to think all inbound programs should carry a disclaimer like those on products and ads;

“Inbound is part of a healthy marketing program, it is not intended to replace it.”

17 Customizable Templates for Creating Shareable Graphics on Social Media


People are 44% more likely to engage with content on social media that contains pictures. But creating visual content takes more time and resources. That’s why HubSpot created these 17 customizable templates for you.

These templates are in PowerPoint, so they’re very easy to edit — no Photoshop skills required!

This PowerPoint template contains three types of templates:

  • Title Slides – free stock images with a text overlay
  • Headline Roundups – meme-setup for sharing multiple stories
  • Snackable Graphics – blank canvas with stylized text

These pre-built templates will let you create social media content that your audience will want to share with their friends.

Download by Clicking Here

 

The B2B Marketing Opportunity Gap: Three Causes and How To Fix Them

bridging the gapI think most B2B marketers would agree that beyond the technical and design excellence of a B2B company’s online presence, there must be a content strategy and plan that’s getting supported by content experts and thought leaders who are creating authentic, genuine, and compelling content. But it’s not happening as much as it should and here are just three contributing causes to what I call the B2B Marketing Opportunity Gap

#1 Marketing Technology Runs On High Octane Content
The myriad of marketing tools from apps, to cloud ware to automated lead nurturing that we are seeing is wonderful because they remove much of the drudgery in the workaday world of B2B marketing. But this is where B2B company execs trying to support the transition to inbound marketing often make the mistake of thinking marketing technology alone is the solution. They will find dollars to fund MAS, CRM and CMS technology with all its potential of money savings with the expectation it will deliver greater marketing ROI. But without fresh, original and compelling content to fuel it, this is the equivalent of a high performance engine with a one gallon gas tank. Going nowhere fast.  The reality is B2B companies should continuously budget for ongoing content analysis and development if they want to compete for a lead in the pack.

#2 Fresh, New Rubber or Retreads?
Truckers either buy new tires for their rigs or have the old ones retreaded which is just what it sounds like; sticking new tread around the old tire casing. This solution is relatively cheap but also somewhat unreliable. We’ve all seen and occasionally dodged those strips of rubber tread on the interstate some call “road gators”. Those came off retreaded tires. Alot of B2B marketers are doing the same thing with their marketing content. You know what I’m talking about. Look at the volume of blogs that are a rehashing and repurposing of the same conversation. On the other hand, well done fresh content is like a new tire; it almost never fails and develops a good reputation for performance and reliability. All B2B marketing content should be like that but of course it costs more to produce quality. Too many marketing decisions though are based solely on cost instead of ROI and the result can be disappointing. Study the category leader’s online content, follow the best practitioners like Content Marketing Institute and Copy Bloggers or hire someone like Jay Baer, Mark Schaeffer or John Jantsch to help you set up your program.

#3 B2B Inbound Isn’t A Chicken Rotisserie
Recently I read a post by agency new business expert Michael Gass about how ad agencies are requiring staff to be more digital. The lateness of this is a little shocking considering Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan described the new digital citizen in their book Inbound Marketing,

Cover of "Inbound Marketing: Get Found Us...

Cover via Amazon

back in 2009 but at least ad agencies KNOW they have a content void to fill if they are to have any credibility in the new marketplace. Some of their clients are hearing that too. Both camps face the same challenge; developing a content program, executing on it, monitoring the results and using those results to continuously improve upon the content.  It’s NOT a Ron Popeil Chicken Rotisserie where one can “set it and forget it”. It’s more like a fitness lifestyle that requires discipline; stick with it though and you’ll get long lasting, accumulating benefits.

Where else are you seeing issues that are standing in the way of getting your B2B marketing program ramped up and amp’d up? We’d enjoy hearing about them.