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Video has increasingly become an effective and favorable medium for many businesses to drive engagement with digital audiences. In fact, video snippets are one of the top three content types used by B2B marketers in 2018, along with long-form content and social media stories. Video content appeals to viewers that are both being introduced to your business, as well as leads who are deeper in the sales funnel and looking for more information about your products or services.
With video marketing being one of the top digital marketing trends, now is the time for B2B marketers to focus on creating engaging and valuable videos for branding, lead generation and thought leadership.
If you are ready to start making your own marketing videos, consider the following five tips:
Captivate your viewer in the first few seconds
It is no myth that first impressions are highly important. If your content doesn’t capture your viewer’s attention in the first 15 seconds, it is unlikely that they are going to watch until the end.
The average viewer attention span is less than 10 seconds, which is not much time to introduce a story. Create an introduction to your video that includes visuals to draw in the attention of your viewer and introduce your video’s purpose. Animated title introductions are a great way to creatively present your story and captivate your viewer.
Like the need to draw in viewers within the first 10 seconds, people don’t want to watch a long, drawn-out story. Choose quality over quantity when it comes to your video’s length, and include only the information that pertains to the message of your video.
Ideally, company overviews and explainer videos should be up to 2 minutes long for optimal engagement. Longer video lengths aimed at people willing to give 15-30 minutes of their day should be leveraged for webinars or on-demand demo videos where your audience is interested in your product/service.
When editing your video content to account for length and flow, consider the following questions:
Does the information provided add value to the audience and still convey a story/purpose?
Does the edited content align with your marketing goals (e.g., raise brand awareness or generate leads)?
What is my audience interested in learning and does this video fulfill those objectives?
Create content that can be consumed with AND without sound
According to Facebook, as much as 85% of video content is viewed without any sound. Video that can be enjoyed without sound allows the viewer to stay engaged without interrupting their ongoing activities.
Creating video content without sound can be difficult when dialogue is an important aspect of your video messaging. However, adding supportive descriptions and text overlays throughout your video will keep your viewers engaged without requiring sound. Incorporating subtitles is also a very practical solution for dialogue-heavy videos and easy to implement for the basic video creator.
Focus on your story’s fluidity so that the viewer can easily watch and understand your message.
Consider including a call-to-action in the MIDDLE of the video
Often, CTAs are at the end of the video content. For many marketers, the end of the video is the logical spot for a CTA because the viewers that finish the video are more likely to turn into prospects and leads, as they have already demonstrated interest in your product or service by finishing the video.
However, call-to-actions in the middle of the video have shown to draw in higher conversion rates when viewers are most engaged. In an analysis provided by Wistia, conversion rates were a little over 15% for mid-roll CTAs and 10% for end-roll CTAs. This may be surprising at first, but the longer a video continues, the more people start to drop off.
CTAs in the middle of the video are viewed by more individuals and thus more likely to catch a few more of those people that otherwise drop-off in the second half of the video. Whereas a call-to-action at the end of the video is only seen by viewers that complete the video.
Implement your CTAs in a way that weaves with your video story. Don’t let your CTA pull away from that story or draw overt attention to the advertising direction of the video.
Optimize for search
Optimizing your marketing videos for search engines will help get your video more impressions by ranking higher in search results pages. Search engine algorithms use information from video descriptions, so be sure to include keywords from your video and provide a description that speaks to your target audience.
Your video thumbnail can also help you stand out in searches. Freeze an interesting frame from your video that also captures a key element of your story. Understand the various video SEO elements and how to implement them with your marketing videos.
Videos are great for a wide variety of placements including product pages, landing pages, online advertisements and social media platforms. Video content can convey your company’s messaging in an effective and engaging way, and can be used for purposes such as product launches, company overviews or webinars and demos. Follow our five tips to optimize your video to be viewed and enjoyed, and generate new leads for your business.
When you see “thought leadership” content out in the B2B content marketing landscape, the quality and substance of the ideas often run the gamut from “oh, wow!” to “oh, dear…”. When not executed strategically, thought leadership content may just seem like another box companies are covering on B2B Marketing Buzzword Bingo.
Even though the thought leadership content landscape has been flooded with sub-par execution and obvious ideas, the trend picked up steam for a reason. When executed effectively, it bolsters content marketing efforts and ultimately your lead generation.
With the goal of lead generation in mind, take a look at some of the best ways to ensure that your thought leadership content is valuable to your target audience and drives sales.
What is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership content is top-tier content, whether it be white papers, blog posts, videos or any form of content that derives itself from thought leaders. Regardless of form, thought leadership pieces are always well-researched, relevant to your particular industry and provide a unique voice on the topic. These markers of excellent thought leadership content increase the likelihood that your company will be recognized as an authority in your industry.
Thought leadership benefits your company in two main ways:
Positioning yourself as a thought leader increases customer trust, both in your content and in your company. If people within your industry recognize you as a trusted source for content, then they’ll be more likely to trust your products or services, the sales and customer service teams that they communicate with and your business overall.
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”
Thought leadership content is focused on building connections and introducing new perspectives to existing problems, which helps fortify the relationship between you and your target audience.
Support and shape your content marketing
Just like any form of marketing, thought leadership requires strategy—meaning strong guidelines, voice and focus around your longer term lead generation goals.
Determining key areas you want to be a leader in is essential for creating this focus. Later on, we’ll highlight some of the steps you can take to help organize your thought leadership strategy so it also supports your overarching content marketing strategy.
Core Components of Thought Leadership
In order to truly stand out as a thought leader, there needs to be a certain level of new and inventive thinking. Rather than reiterating ideas your target audience is already familiar with, you’ll need to think critically about the topics prevalent in your industry and provide a forward-thinking lens for your readers to examine their most pressing issues. Every industry is changing and facing new challenges or obstacles, so it’s essential that your readers view you as someone who’s going to guide them through these transitions with a fresh perspective and insight to what lies ahead.
To be a thought leader, you have to know your subject matter really, really well. So well, in fact, that you would be considered an expert. No organization is likely to be the single, ultimate authority on a topic, but using a wide variety of credible sources, facts and reasoning to support your thought leadership content will support your reputation as a knowledgeable leader in your industry.
Expertise can also be honed from the thought leaders that you choose to highlight. These leading voices will already have a wealth of experience to draw from, so it’s to your benefit to leverage their knowledge for your content as much as you can.
The biggest roadblock to getting your thought leadership marketing up and running is how long it can take for your organization to be recognized as a thought leader. Like any good relationship, trust takes time to build. While you may be creating great thought leadership content on a weekly basis and sharing it on social and with clients regularly, your readership and audience will need time to find and consume the content and start to recognize that you are a trusted authority in your industry.
Each piece of content you create isn’t going to scream “This is thought leadership!” Instead, it will be a subtle note that builds over time within each of your pieces.
How to Build Thought Leadership for Your Organization
Understand what your customers are looking for
Before diving into a thought leadership strategy, you need to remember who you’re creating this thought leadership for: your customers. While becoming a leader in your field can be a real ego boost, you’re gaining this exposure and trust so that you can reach a larger audience—and the right audience.
Knowing what your customers are looking for means doing some important initial research. Keyword research, particularly through Google, can be integral to crafting your content. If you know what your customers are searching for, you can know what answers to provide.
Another great place to do some research is on social media. A lot of thought leadership takes place on social media, since most thought leaders know that this is where their audience is spending a good portion of their time. Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins and Christy Wright are examples of some of the thought leaders who employ social media to regularly communicate with their audience on the platforms they already engage with.
Pinpoint the voices you want to highlight
Social media brings us to another important point: the saturated thought leadership market. On one hand, we’re fortunate to have many strong voices discussing important topics, whether it be through social media, blog posts or speaking events. While the number of thought leaders can feel daunting, it can also be a valuable resource for research. Use those other thought leaders in your industry as a point for comparison. It’s not about taking anyone’s ideas, but instead lending your unique voice, research and perspective to the topics that are already being discussed.
A great place to find your unique voice is to look at the voices that are already talking in your organization. Whether it’s your CEO, CTO or Marketing Manager, there are leaders within your organization from which you can pull great ideas, experiences and content inspiration from. Sitting down to have an interview with some of these key players and then turning that interview into content can be a great place to start. Your customers will love to hear directly from your thought leaders and get some insight into the kind of company culture at play within your organization.
How Thought Leadership Supports Lead Generation and Content Marketing
Valuable content leads to valuable leads
So how can thought leadership spur the lead generation returns your sales team is always wanting more of? By positioning yourself as a leader in your industry, you’ll experience greater exposure. In fact, from blogs alone, HubSpot found that companies that blog versus those that don’t have 434% more indexed pages, creating stronger SEO. While this will initially pull in lots of traffic overall, there’s a good chance that a large portion of that traffic will not be your ideal audience.
However, the thoughtful, researched and insightful aspect of your content is what will help keep around those leads looking for real value. If you’re creating thought leadership content that truly resonates, your ideal audience will gravitate towards it and seek you out for not only their content needs, but also their product and business needs.
Ultimately, what you’re really looking for is not a ton of low-quality leads that go nowhere, but instead a select group of quality leads that will result in improved customer longevity and continued partnerships.
Content ready to share
Your sales team will also benefit from having top-quality content readily accessible. With a variety of blog posts, white papers, videos and other thought leadership content in their arsenal, they can easily provide the content that is most relevant to individual prospects.
The content can also be shared by your thought leaders. Those key voices we discussed earlier should have active social channels that they can share the content on, allowing your pieces to reach a larger audience and align those thought leaders with the content itself.
Thought leadership is a valuable tool to utilize as content marketers, but it’s also an important device to leverage for your lead generation efforts. The great and insightful content that marketers create sets off a chain reaction within your organization, as the content bounces between different teams and eventually cascades into the bottom of your funnel for sales to scoop up and take to the finish line. Do yourself, your organization and your customers a favor by strengthening the voice and resolve of your content marketing through thought leadership.
Sales and marketing alignment unifies the macro perspectives of marketers and the direct relationships that sales teams have with customers and prospects. When alignment is solid, marketing and sales processes are positively influenced, with outcomes that include a shared understanding of the expectations and responsibilities of each group throughout the buyer’s journey, continual innovation and collaboration, healthier cultures overall and ultimately, a positive influence on the bottom line.
With B2B leaders everywhere striving for sales and marketing alignment in their organizations, one may wonder how sales and marketing teams become so misaligned in the first place. To investigate and address this common conundrum, we posed four questions to our own sales and marketing alignment experts: Launch Marketing CEO Christa Tuttle, Executive Director of Client Engagements Jeff Raymond and Executive Director of Accounts and Operations Shawna Boyce.
1. What are the main causes of sales and marketing misalignment in B2B organizations?
Shawna: First, a lack of
communication can be a big issue. As a specific example, everyone needs to
understand what defines a qualified lead and when the lead should be passed off
through the different funnel stages. If that criteria isn’t defined and people
don’t understand how to handle leads, then the teams won’t work well together.
Jeff: In some ways, sales and marketing are set up to be misaligned because they are typically separate departments, with separate leaders, and often separate individual goals that receive more focus and energy than shared goals. Sales is looking to advance their pipeline and close deals. Marketing, on the other hand, may be focusing on MQL goals and related metrics. Ironically, the two groups often don’t realize just how vital they are to each other.
Christa: Exactly. Most organizations don’t consider how synergistic these two teams can be. When they simply communicate more about what each other is doing, they realize that they’re in this together. So, the misalignment is not unexpected, it’s just that often, as leaders, we may let it happen organically, when it is something that should be actively addressed.
2. How can leaders create common criteria and metrics for their sales processes?
Jeff: Common criteria is a good phrase, because how one organization or individual may define a marketing qualified lead or sales qualified lead may be different from how others view them. These varying views are OK, so long as everyone in your organization is on the same page. If we have a subjective opinion from sales that says “you’re not getting us enough leads,” marketing may argue that “you’re not following up properly on the leads we’re giving you.” That brings emotion into the mix and can further foster misalignment. But, if you have commonly understood criteria and well-defined responsibilities, it eliminates a lot of that emotion and promotes collaboration.
Shawna: I agree. Getting people in a room together and having them really
think about what makes a lead “qualified” and understanding what information is
needed or important to your organization is vital. This isn’t something that
you can just look up online and find the perfect answer for because every
organization is different.
Christa: I’ll just add that it’s important to ensure that not only is there agreement on what makes a lead a lead and at what stage of the funnel they should be at based on certain activities, but also in making sure that sales understands why they’re getting passed a marketing qualified lead. Continually communicating about what is and isn’t working helps organizations refine their criteria and processes to create a stronger business development engine.
3. What role does sales and marketing technology play in the alignment process?
Christa: I’d say technology supports the process by being an unemotional tool that can move things along. It’s important, however, that sales and marketing technology be set up and implemented properly to support the process. Technology should support your process, but your process should not be dictated by technology. I’ve seen organizations add sales and marketing technology and adopt the default off-the-shelf settings, rather than taking the time to tailor it to their business.
Jeff: I agree. Most platforms can be customized, whether it be CRM,
marketing automation or something else and can be extremely helpful with things
such as reminding someone when a lead to be acted on or simply noting
milestones that have been reached. Technology also “mitigates manual.” If an
opportunity’s been created, that should automatically trigger follow-up communications
that are appropriate to where that lead is in the buyer journey. In short, sales
and marketing technology should efficiently operate in the background, guiding teams
and leads harmoniously through the funnel.
Shawna: Technology also helps protect us from bias or opinion-based actions because it operates purely on rules. With well-defined workflows and approaches such as lead scoring, leads are passed on objectively versus someone just manually calculating things and assessing when it’s time for a lead to be moved to a different stage. Technology also gives you greater visibility into what’s working and what’s not.
4. How do organizations sustain sales and marketing alignment once they initially achieve it?
Shawna: I think this goes back to the importance and discipline of regular communication. Just because you’ve defined the ideal funnel and know at every stage what’s going to happen and who’s going to do what, that doesn’t mean it’s going to always work exactly right. In time, you may discover things like MQLs being passed on a bit too early or technical issues holding things up at certain points. If communication isn’t happening and people continue to keep working as they were, processes and alignment slips.
Jeff: Many organizations adopt Service Level Agreements between sales and marketing that document lead stage criteria and individual responsibilities at each stage. And to Shawna’s point, markets evolve. So these SLAs need to commensurately evolve and the only way that happens is through regular communication and calibration. Even if things are going well, you might want to use that time to consider how things could be even better. How can you bring even more value to your customers and continue to shorten sales cycles?
Christa: I couldn’t agree more. Communication is your number one goal, and your number two goal should be “see goal number one.” Unfortunately, most organizations don’t address sales and marketing alignment until it’s bad, so even when times are good or seemingly good, you need to communicate in preparation for what lies ahead.
Your content strategy leans on several different components—your team, your resources, your bandwidth, your strategy, and, maybe most importantly, the content itself. If you create and execute a great plan but the content itself is stale or lackluster, your audience won’t be motivated to engage with it. Luckily, there’s a simple yet powerful form of content that can play an essential role in making your organization’s content strategy accessible and engaging: the blog post.
What kinds of blogs are there?
Simply put, a blog post is an online article that discusses a topic in a more casual, conversational tone, while still maintaining structure. Blog post style and length can vary depending on the topic, the format or the site it’s being hosted on.
When leveraging blog posts in B2B marketing, there’s a seemingly endless amount of different structures or formats you can use to effectively get your message across. Whatever format you choose, seek to add value to your audience by informing, entertaining or educating them. Below are a few of the top contenders for most engaging blog post formats.
When you want a clearly defined structure that gets to the heart of the topic and instantly captures your audience’s attention, listicles are a tried-and-true option. Blogs such as “7 Ways to…” or “3 Tips for…” let the reader know exactly what they’ll be getting out of your blog post. It also allows you as the author to hone in on the core components you’re discussing.
For example, if your content strategy focus that quarter is promoting a new CRM software, a blog post such as “X Reasons a CRM System Can Benefit Your Company” will allow you to introduce the topic and product in a way that’s both organic and shows that you’re truly committed to helping your clients.
“How To” blogs
The “How To” blog is another great way to show your readers that you want to build up their knowledge base and not just throw your service or product at them. With this kind of blog, you can provide clear step-by-step instructions on how to perform a certain task or achieve specific outcomes that may be beneficial to your audience.
Profiles and interviews
Some of the greatest blog resources are right in front of you—your team. Many of your coworkers have a wealth of industry knowledge and your specific service area, so take advantage of this untapped reservoir and interview them on a topic that aligns with your content strategy. This not only provides your blog with great content, it also makes your business feel more personal to the reader, since they get a little glimpse behind the curtain.
You can also take advantage of past clients you’ve worked with. If a company gives their approval, you can profile them in a blog post and share how they may have engaged with your team, product or service.
Why blogs are so popular
For most, particularly in the B2B environment, time is of the essence. Since blog posts are usually faster to write, publish and read, they can provide quick downloads of current events and trends while still providing educational value. Some blogs even specify the read time, be it a 4-minute read, 6-minute read, etcetera.
Someone who is a little more hesitant to dive into an eight- or nine-page white paper or case study might be more inclined to check out the 600-word blog post highlighting just one aspect of that longer-form content. Blog posts can also use elements like pull quotes, key takeaways and images to help make the content even more engaging and scannable.
For a final bonus, blogs are free. As ungated assets, blogs don’t require the reader to provide anything to access them. Conversely, gated content such as eBooks or white papers that are viewed as being higher-value assets commonly require the reader to provide contact information in exchange for access. Getting this contact information is highly desirable, however, and engagement with your blogs can often precede engagement with the gated assets that deliver it.
Why Blogs Matter to You and Your Business
For your audience and clients reading your blogs, they’re gaining a wealth of information that’s engaging and insightful. So how does their readership benefit you?
Blog posts can boost web traffic with SEO
When writing a blog post, it should focus on a specific topic or keyword. By including target keywords within the flow of your post, you improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and ultimately help drive traffic to your website. When someone is searching online for a topic that they want to know more about, you want your blog post to be one of the first results that rises to the top. Applying SEO best practices can push it there. If they gain value from your blog, they are more likely to keep exploring your website—meaning greater outreach, potential clients and connections.
Blog posts can build trust and reinforce your brand position
When you create blogs that are researched, edited and thoughtful, you’re placing yourself as a thought leader on the topics your content strategy is aimed at. Readers will view your business as an authority and presence in the industry, allowing them to recognize how your company, services and/or products can provide value to their business.
As you continue to publish more and more posts of value, you begin to earn the trust of your audience and give them a compelling reason to continue coming back to your website. Each of these instances is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with that individual and create positive perceptions.
Blog posts can support your content marketing strategy
One of the greatest values of a blog post is how it lends itself to building up your content marketing strategy. As you’re creating your content calendar and planning for the upcoming quarter or year, blogs can be a great and often quick way to fill out that calendar. If you have an active blog section on your website, you want to make sure you’re continuously curating and producing blogs that are both relevant to your audience and timely to what is happening in your industry.
Blog posts can generate additional content
Writing a single blog post can create a cascade effect with your content. An idea you have for a blog post can be spun into an infographic, white paper, video or any type of content that makes sense for your content marketing strategy and brand.
Don’t forget: once you have a blog, share it! Post your blog to your active social media channels so you can make sure people are seeing and engaging with it. You can also incorporate blogs into your email marketing strategy by sharing posts to clients who you think can truly benefit from the read. Your website is also an ideal platform to highlight recent posts. Consider advertising new blogs in sidebars, relevant CTAs or even on your homepage.
The High-Level Value of Blogs
Blogs are a staple in the modern marketer’s content arsenal. While a blog post can be a reliable choice when trying to spin out content quickly, it’s important to strategically think of not only the best format for your blog, but also how it fits and aligns with your overall content marketing strategy. The quality and performance of the blog is not only a reflection of your marketing team, but also your company and brand.
If you’re struggling with how to put the power of blogs to work in your organization or how to maintain a consistent cadence of new posts, check out the “Verify and Multiply Your Marketing Content” section of our eBook on building marketing momentum.
Marketers know both the importance of Return on Investment (ROI) and a well-executed social media plan. But when it comes to social media ROI, how do you calculate the return on all of your efforts?
Setting specific outcomes and proving the value to your organization by showing measurable results can be achieved with a bit of critical thinking and planning.
If your B2B organization is new to social media, it may be difficult to come up with a measurable goal for each metric or channel. However, tracking your results over time and frequently reviewing your key performance indicators will not only allow you to set your goals, it will make them more meaningful and illuminate how well your strategy is or isn’t working.
To help alleviate some of the burden of figuring out social media performance measurement, continue reading to learn about key metrics you’ll want to consider in evaluating your social media ROI.
First Things First – Establish Your Social Media Goals
Social media strategy and the metrics that support it should be based on two factors – your organizational goals and the outcomes you want your social efforts to bring about. When your social media goals are closely aligned with your organization’s business goals (e.g., increased awareness, revenue, etc.) it will be easier to gain support and prove the value for your social strategy across your organization.
Strong social media goals, like all good goals, are S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. For example, you want to increase your social media leads, but by how much? By what date? And precisely how will you use this to help your bottom line?
Let’s say one goal is to increase combined traffic to your website from Facebook and Twitter by 5% to drive more email list subscriptions; take a look at click-through, bounce and traffic-to-conversion rates for each platform.
Use the Right Tools for Social Media Measurement
In addition to reports and tools provided by most of the major social media platforms, there are a variety of other analytical tools that can streamline and improve your measurement efforts. Tools such as Google Analytics, Hootsuite, TweetReach and Klout are among the many widely-used among marketers.
Leverage these tools for a deeper understanding of the visitor journey coming from your social media efforts and which specific actions are driving them. You can then share the insights that matter with other stakeholders and continue to strengthen your approach.
Your analytics account will give you information on the volume of traffic originating from social sources. You can compare the dates on your analytics account to those of your social media postings and analyze what pages they visit, how long they stay and what type of postings are resonating.
Calculating ROI on Organic Social Media Efforts
Organic social media activity typically takes the form of publishing or posting across your respective social media channels to elicit engagement. Here, you’ll want to measure and evaluate your activity in terms of frequency and type (e.g., number of posts by channel over time) to get a sense of whether you’re doing the right things to achieve your objectives. Common B2B objectives for organic social media efforts include:
Increasing the number of followers to your company’s channels
Increasing traffic to your website from social channels
Generating qualified leads that originate from social efforts
Determining what content is resonating most with your audiences
From a measurement standpoint, you can get a read on these items by tracking follower count trends, analyzing and documenting traffic sources to your website, reviewing lead sources and highlight which content or topics are receiving the highest levels of engagement. Charting all of this on a social media dashboard is a great practice to follow.
Calculating ROI for your Paid Social Media Efforts
Calculating ROI for your paid social ads differs from ROI from organic postings and engagement. Paid social ads are tied to a monetary cost and are typically used to drive certain actions (e.g., a white paper download).
You can figure out the specific ROI for each social network by allocating a value to specific goals you have in place. These goals can include cost per lead, cost per conversion or cost per action. After looking at the numbers, you’ll be able to decide which social platforms are doing the best for your organization, and zero in on those.
For any social networks or campaigns that are bringing in a negative ROI, you can either try to adjust by spending less, or by making your campaigns more effective.
Certain actions can help determine which conversion events can be directly attributed to social media. To calculate the social media profit, you should include actions, such as:
Downloads (white papers, case studies, eBooks, industry reports, etc.)
Email list signups
When calculating social media cost, you should include expenditures, such as:
Value isn’t always measured in dollars and not every organization will be able to attribute revenue directly to social media.
Narrowing social media ROI to only a defined objective prevents you from identifying the many other ways your investment could be paying off. For instance, if your goal is to drive brand awareness, you would measure success against metrics such as social reach, awareness, influence and engagement data versus profit.
Some questions to ask can include:
What kinds of things did your target audience do after exposure to your campaign?
Did these actions align with your goals?
What were the successes?
The key takeaway, regardless of how your company chooses to measure engagement, is that you have a success metric in mind before you begin. Without some sort of benchmark, it’s impossible to determine your ROI.
Whether your company needs to re-establish or re-invent its brand after experiencing a merger or acquisition, is entering a new market where it isn’t well known, or hasn’t evolved its brand along with changes in the market it currently serves, brand strategy plays a pivotal role in how you’re going to reach your target audience moving forward.
If you’re new to creating a brand strategy, you might wonder what it is and why it matters so much. Simply put, brand strategy is an articulation and manifestation of how you communicate who your company is, what it solves, and what it stands for – to potential clients, your broader market and even your community. It should drive virtually all of your work as a marketer, guiding every email campaign, blog, social post, and similar touchpoint.
Below are five key points you’ll want to consider when creating and articulating a brand strategy for your business.
It might seem strange to talk about outcome first, but before you start creating a strategy, think about and state what you’re working towards. Your brand strategy could be based in something simple, like building brand awareness within your market, or it could be working towards something more tangible, like a client acquisition number. You also don’t need to feel like you’re set to any one outcome—having more than one goal is great, even recommended.
You also might realize that as your strategy progresses, adjustment of your goals or outcomes may be needed. This isn’t cheating or an indication of failure. Shaping your strategy is a continuous learning process that often requires calibration and evolution.
Establishing a brand voice defines the positions and perspectives (e.g. thought leader, experienced practitioner) as well as the personality characteristics (e.g. serious, playful, academic) that you want your brand identity to convey. You may know of brands that have resonated with you for years or really speak to you personally. Maybe there’s something special about how they communicate with you—do they use humor, honesty, facts or perhaps all these things when conveying their messaging?
The best way to start is by getting the pen moving. Freeform meetings or independent brainstorming sessions with your team members responsible for writing can help develop the tone you want to have. Maybe there’s a few key phrases or mottos that really represent your voice that you can lean on and circle back to when crafting your voice for new marketing messages. This messaging backbone helps ensure you have a solid voice that can stay consistent across all your platforms and external communications.
While you may know the voice that speaks to you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s ideally suited for the audience you wish to serve. If you’re a cybersecurity company, it might not be such a good idea to joke around or make light of the topic. Conversely, if you’re promoting an event that your team is genuinely excited to be at, relating that in a more light-hearted manner via social or email outreach may make sense. Referring to your buyer personas is another great way to guide your brand strategy actions and ideation.
Another key component of your brand strategy is identifying the channels through which you can reach your audience most effectively. Do your customers primarily engage on social channels like Instagram or Twitter, because they’re mostly a younger generation? Are they on your website a lot and need resources and messaging there that they can access? Do you need to reach them through highly targeted emails?
Your brand strategy will include a mixture of multiple channels but understanding where and how you want to reach your audience can be critical as each channel sometimes calls for different language, cadences and overall messaging.
Elements of visual identity include logos, styling, color palettes, iconography, imagery and more. These visual touchstones will act like a beacon for your brand that clients and partners will come to recognize easily and associate with your brand and messaging. For all aspects of brand strategy, consistency in execution is key. Most mature brands create and enforce adherence to brand identity guidelines that clearly spell out how the visual elements of the brand are to be represented.
Brands like Starbucks, Apple, McDonald’s and Microsoft are almost instantly recognizable by their logo alone. While you may not achieve this level of notoriety, it’s important to model brands like this in terms of their discipline and dedication to creating memorable marketing and brand visuals.
Pulling the pieces together
As you can imagine, creating your brand strategy and then actually implementing it effectively entails a great deal of work and dedication. It’s imperative that every employee is on board as each is a direct representative of your brand themselves. Your team, however, may not have the bandwidth or skillsets to craft your brand strategy and carry it out completely given their other responsibilities. Hiring an experienced marketing firm with core competencies in branding to guide the process can be a highly beneficial option for many companies.
Remember, your brand is defined overall by the collective perceptions of your customers, your market and your community in terms of who you are, what you solve and how you do business. Having a clear brand strategy in place provides anchor points to ensure those perceptions are as positive as possible.
Like most B2B organizations, you probably have developed a content marketing strategy (if not, time to play catch up). Without a strategic blueprint that clearly spells out how you plan to use and develop marketing content, which building blocks you already have in place and where your gaps are, you might be sabotaging your future success. And once that foundation is in place, your next steps should include creating a comprehensive marketing content calendar that details how and at what pace you’ll address these gaps over time. As the old saying goes, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.”
So, why is it so important to have a plan and well-considered processes in place when it comes to content marketing instead of “just doing what you can” as team members have time? The reasons are many, but in short, developing a content marketing calendar that supports your broader content marketing strategy…
1. Creates accountability for content and aligns your team around common goals
Establishing a detailed content calendar that denotes which team members own the different elements of your content development efforts goes a long way towards creating accountability. Like anything else, your calendar needs to be enforced and maintained, but adhering to it will mean a consistent flow of valuable information to prospects and customers. In addition to assigning specific team members to specific deliverables, it should denote which funnel stage the content serves, which personas are being targeted, due date and other information relevant to your strategy.
2. Helps you allocate resources within the team to achieve desired results
With a formal, regimented content calendar in place, it will be easier to allocate team resources to complete the pieces and keep the content machine moving smoothly. Your content calendar’s primary purpose is to schedule when, where, and what you should post/publish, as well as outlining the types of content you plan to create. Having an established cadence of consistent high-value content keeps both prospects and customers interested and engaged, so identifying and addressing internal resource challenges that could hinder your ability to meet these content demands is important.
3. Guides which type of content to develop
Developing a detailed content calendar also provides a framework for outlining the specific “content buckets” you’ll need to address and ideally will include example topics and guidance on what percentage of your content development should be allocated to each bucket. In addition to helping you create the right types of content for each part of the buyer’s journey, a well-crafted marketing calendar gives you insight into how well you’re covering the span of pain points your solutions address and the areas of knowledge that your market would expect you to cover.
Planning tip: Get together around a white board with your product management team to ideate and align on the most pressing problems and issues current customers or prospects are dealing with. When able, get further validation of these topic areas with long-time customers and prospects that you’ve established a strong dialogue with. Then, use this information to guide your content strategy and further prioritize your content marketing calendar.
4. Aligns team on target audience profiles
As we indicated earlier, a detailed content calendar will define which persona is being targeted with each piece and what stage the intended audience is at in the pipeline. It’s critical that you develop materials which personally resonate with your audience for greatest impact. Naturally, this can’t occur if your team hasn’t already developed and operationalized buyer personas. Keeping personas front and center in your content development processes helps your team focus on audience needs instead of your own.
5. Establishes urgency and priorities for your marketing content
No doubt, putting your content plan in a documented format complete with the type of content you want produced and a deadline for getting it completed will provide a necessary rigor and discipline around this process. It’s even comforting for team members who have been assigned specific content pieces that there’s a schedule in place to keep everyone accountable. With all this in place, you’ve really done everyone a favor in setting them up for success.
Bonus tip: A helpful element in the content development equation is devising a useful keyword strategy around topics your audience is interested in. Keywords help search engines connect your audience with the content they’re looking for. Your content calendar can help you plan and track keyword focus to boost your site’s organic traffic.
Get your team together or if you’re going this alone, block out time on your calendar and get focused on the job at hand. There’s even a variety of content calendar tools out there in template formats to help plan all of your company’s content. Remember, your content should never be about YOU. Creating insightful content which solves customer problems and proves to them you understand their business should be your “true north” as you embark on this journey.
The importance of search engine optimization (SEO) is widely recognized, yet all too often it’s not as high of a priority for B2B organizations, which is a bit mind-boggling when you consider the following statistics:
93% of online experiences begin with a search engine
81% of people perform some type of online research before making a large purchase
75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines
B2B marketers are making SEO a top priority, because it’s a proven way of attracting more visitors to their websites and raising the visibility of their organization. SEO is also an effective tool for increasing overall brand awareness, generating inbound leads, reputation management and improving the influence of one’s brand.
Assess your SEO efforts against these best practices to improve your organic search rankings and achieve objectives like those noted above:
Create high-quality content
With content still being one of Google’s top ranking signals, is the content you’re producing truly meeting the needs of your audience or answering real-world questions for the personas that you are trying to attract? Surprisingly, this question is not deeply considered and can result in content that is company-centric and not focused on your audience.
Produce content that truly educates or informs your audience. Provide practical, actionable tips and insights that address the pain points of your personas. Check in with your Sales team to discover what product- and industry-related questions are being asked by prospects and customers, and consider creating pieces that answers those questions.
When writing content such as blog posts and articles, choose 1-2 keywords or a phrase to focus on. You can choose this keyword by performing a few of your own searches, and seeing what other topics or content is in the results. Brainstorming and doing the proper research for your topic is always the first step for high-quality content.
Build a backlink strategy
According to top SEO industry studies, backlinks are still considered an important ranking factor for an SEO strategy. Backlinks are created when an individual or entity outside of your organization creates a weblink back to your site.
As Google’s search algorithms continue to get smarter, they have learned to weed out bad links from the good ones. More backlinks from credible external sources directing traffic to your site increases your page authority and credibility with search engines, which results in more (and new) visitors engaging with your website.
Tips for developing an effective backlink strategy:
Produce valuable content
Consider creating content that contains 1st party data points (i.e. a benchmark or industry report), an industry-related infographic or a long-form article that references key influencers
Have a strong website architecture
Your website should be easy to follow and navigable for your visitors
Use social media channels to help amplify your content
Reach out to trusted publications for guest posting and content syndication opportunities
Develop link-sharing relationships with other content publishers and key organizations
Optimize for mobile
As Google continues to place a higher emphasis on mobile devices, having a mobile-friendly website is critical. Mobile-friendly pages will soon become the default for Google search rankings and have already surpassed desktop browsing. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get an idea of your website’s mobile and desktop load times and optimize accordingly.
Test your website’s user experience on various devices (iPhone, Android, tablets, etc.) to see how your pages appear. Many website building platforms have mobile viewing options, it is a good idea to check this periodically as you build, update or implement changes to your website.
Determine whether approaches like Google’s AMP (accelerated mobile pages) make sense for you. Content optimized for AMPs are designed to improve load times on mobile devices.
Take care of technical SEO
Ensure you have access to the talents necessary to implement and check the technical elements that are necessary for SEO success. Ensure your website can be easily crawled by search engines. Duplicate content, or the same exact content on too many of your website pages creates issues getting the pages indexed.
Make sure that your DNS settings are configured properly. DNS stands for Domain Name Service (or Servers). Default settings are already configured for you when you purchase your domain name from a hosting provider. Your IT team will be able to provide you with the best options for your web needs.
Secure your site
While it is unclear whether Google’s algorithms are favoring HTTPS websites over non-secure HTTP sites, the company recently announced that web forms on pages over HTTP will be flagged as ‘not secure’ which may cause your audience to leave your pages. Migrating to HTTPS should be strongly considered by your business if you have not already done so.
Benefits of HTTPS websites:
Google will identify your website as ‘secure’
HTTPS websites provide more trust for your visitors (especially for purchases)
Google is more likely to rank HTTPS pages higher than HTTP pages providing a slight boost in organic search
SEO is an ongoing process and is not something you should ‘set and forget’. Consider these best practices and use analytics to monitor and track your website’s performance.
Understanding the true desire or demand for your prospective new product or service is vital before you move “full speed ahead” to bring it to market. It’s important to set the stage for a successful and sustainable future for your new offering, but it can be equally valuable to learn that the demand isn’t there or that considerable shifts need to be made so that more dollars, time and energy are not wasted.
We sat down with Launch Marketing’s executive team (Christa Tuttle – CEO, Shawna Boyce – Executive Director, Jeff Raymond – Executive Director) for their insights into best practices to qualify a market need for new products or services.
1. What are some best practices for evaluating demand or need for a new product or service?
Christa: Research, research, research. There’s really no replacement for an objective perspective of how realistic your demand is. I typically recommend a comprehensive approach of secondary research combined with primary research, such as talking to would-be prospects or others who operate in a different niche within the same market. A great source of secondary research are fellow industry contacts you may be connected with via local or national association groups.
Shawna: If you’re an established organization, customers are another great source of firsthand insight. Customers that are big advocates for your organization are a great, often untapped, resource for guiding new product or service decisions. User focus groups are another way to solicit input and can eliminate the guesswork from targeting potential demographics that aren’t a guaranteed match for your solution. Also, make use of the ongoing conversations your customer relationship managers are having so you’re attune with any holes or potential add-on opportunities for your current product or service. Oftentimes customers can provide ideas for new product or service roadmaps you may not have even considered, and they’ll be the first to recognize any gaps in your current solution that could be addressed with a new product.
Jeff: It’s also important to have a clear picture of what specifically you want to learn in your research. That means having a core set of questions already prepared and an understanding of how long it will take to collect, compile, and analyze the data. For something as important as a product or service launch, you don’t want to wing it.
2. Are there specific technologies or tools that can help in the research and evaluation process?
Shawna: There are a ton! I know of quite a few online market research organizations that let you specify the types of people and demographics you’re looking for so you can poll targets on everything from ideal or appealing product features to the market need of your prospective solution. Another approach I’ve used, if you already know the people you want to poll, is Survey Monkey. It has both free and paid options that let you poll large groups of people and analyze their feedback both holistically and individually.
Jeff: In the case that you don’t have contact information for folks, there are several online communities you can engage with while still targeting specific opportunities or industries. LinkedIn Groups, Reddits and Subreddits are just a few examples that offer surprisingly direct ways for you to engage with a particular audience. Your website can be another great platform to solicit feedback, especially if your new product is some sort of add-on or upgrade to offer current customers or prospects. For instance, you can add a quick exit poll on your site of three “yes” or “no” questions. Keep these exit polls short and easy for users so that they don’t detract from the online experience.
Christa: Great point Jeff, and ideally these customer feedback loops should be an ongoing piece of your overall customer experience strategy to keep them satisfied and heard throughout the entire lifecycle. Some of their feedback might even inform future product or service roadmaps and spark ideas to consider later on!
3. What are some key indicators that signal whether there is indeed a market for your solution?
Jeff: First and foremost, does your research definitively show common pain points or wishes that your product addresses? If yes, you’ll also want to evaluate whether there’s a feasible path to successful market entry against other factors- depth and ferocity of competition in the space, attractiveness of price point, total cost of ownership for your product/solution vs. alternatives, ease of implementation, etc.
Shawna: I totally agree. Again, really diving in on feedback you’re getting from users, prospects or even shoppers of your product on what is or isn’t working, or what features it may be lacking is key for getting the new solution engines running. From there, you’re operating off a solid foundation of valuable input that you can leverage to develop the complete, improved solution.
4. What are some common missteps in B2B product or service launches that can be avoided?
Jeff: A big one is avoiding or managing bias. Bias is inherent in all of us so we can’t avoid it completely, but managing those inclinations when it comes to interpreting data or objective signals that might indicate whether or not now is the ideal time for launch is vital for approaching your launch with a realistic mindset, and giving yourself the best chance of launch success.
Shawna: A common misstep I see is launching prematurely. It’s easy to get so excited about going to market with a new product or service that you overlook crucial pre-steps such as qualifying your market need or ensuring you have some level of marketing support to generate hype around your launch. Educating your target buyers early on is really important so that they know what your product is and what value it will bring for them individually.
Christa: Looking at this question from more of a macro perspective, I’ve seen organizations neglect what happens after launch. For instance, do you have a marketing plan set up to continue moving new launch leads through the sales pipeline? How will you keep that launch momentum going for the next six to twelve months? Being cognizant of your post-launch strategy, as well as the long-term vision for your offering and your company, is equally as important as the steps leading up to launch day.
With today’s wealth of information available online – creating a generation of savvy, hyper-informed tech buyers – keeping your audience engaged on your website can be quite the challenging task. For small- to medium-sized B2B organizations, having your visitors perform desired actions on your website – such as learning about your products and services, requesting more info, downloading an asset, etc. – can prove even more difficult without the proper research and content set in place.
Remember, the main point of your website should be to generate leads and drive revenue. As you consider your website, ask yourself the following questions:
Do my products/services convey the proper messaging?
Am I providing the necessary information up front to inform and educate my audience on those products/services?
Do I have the critical elements in place to make the buyer’s journey as simple as possible?
In order to answer these questions and help you keep your audience actively actively engaged on your website, here are three marketing tips to help boost engagement on your website:
Know Your Buyers
Delivering the right information to the right people and at the right time during the B2B buying process is critical in persuading them to purchase your solution. Consider creating personas to help determine the type of content to produce for your various types of buyers throughout the buyer’s journey.
Once the research in identifying specific buyer types has been done, focus your efforts on creating customer-centric content that provides value to buyers. Work with your sales team to identify what pain points they hear about most often and personalize the content to provide information that helps answer or solve a problem.
Technology is never a one-size-fits-all solution, and oftentimes, buyers need your help in choosing the best solution for their organizations. Create interactive content on your website that helps guide the decision on the solution that will best suit their needs and requirements.
Types of interactive content can include:
A “test drive” version of your solution. See Chartbeat’s test version of their software on their website.
Live product demos/webinars that allow users an opportunity to ask questions in a Q&A format.
Be a partner in the buyers’ education and research process from the start and offer easy, fun ways to learn more about your products/services.
Match Content to the Buyer’s Journey
Align your content to match the buyer’s journey and leverage an automated content journey process that focuses on where they are in that process. For example, if a lead downloads an asset on your website, such as a case study, consider following up with a nurture email campaign that provides additional information on the problem you solved in the case study, and drive them back to your website. Taking your audience through this type of educational path will only help them make their decision easier and realize why you are the best solution to fit their needs.
As access to information and content via blogs, videos, webinars and more becomes more readily available to online buyers, B2B organizations must consider new ways to capture their audience’s attention on their website. Remember, buyers tend to do their own research before they begin engaging with a vendor directly, but by following these three tactics, you’ll be a significant step ahead of your competitors when it comes to a powerful online experience.