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I am adding my voice to the chorus of observers who predict various developments in 2019 for B2B marketing.  My policy is to avoid reflecting on my past predictions, which are likely unrealized and full of errors.  Instead I shall boldly go forth, with my sense of what we are likely to see this year, and damn the torpedoes.  My predictions—7 in all—range from marcomm to data.  Your comments are welcome!

  1. B2B marketing communications become more human. Our field has long focused on selling to entities—accounts, buying groups, with rational, specific needs—and so we tend to stick to the facts.  But it’s time to be more human.  To talk to the buyers as individuals, in a language that moves them.  So Forrester predicts, and I agree.  I applaud Gyro for taking the initiative on some very interesting research around this topic. The study reveals the feelings business buyers seek in response to our offerings, feelings like confidence, optimism and accomplishment.  Let’s give it to them! 
  2. An inevitable backlash against martech. The backlash is already starting, but look for it to pick up. I wrote about this in 2014, saying we must not confuse marketing automation for marketing strategy.  As martech grows, inevitably B2B marketers are realizing that it’s not the silver bullet they had hoped for.  Justin Gray, founder of LeadMD, points out that only about 1% of deals can be tied to MA. We’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.
  3. Marketers will finally supply sales with the help they really need.  My fervent wish, anyway.  Tip of the hat to Gavin Finn, who eloquently explains this need in a recent Entrepreneur article.  If we marketers are not helping sales communicate a differentiated value, producing truly effective content, and developing insight into the detailed needs of the buying group, we should all fire ourselves.
  4. Broaden the use of social media.  Social is no longer a nice-to-have in B2B.  It requires thoughtful strategy, real budget, and a keen integration with the rest of the marketing mix.  Plus continued experimentation with new opportunities.  Video will continue to grow.  And B2B marketers will try new channels, like Quora, a place where people pose questions and get answers from other individuals.  It’s ripe for business problems to be solved. 
  5. Chatbots go mainstream. Perfect for B2B, chatbots serve global customers, around the clock, with fast, accurate and cheap service. This is all good.  But my favorite benefit for B2B marketers?  Chatbots give you a third method for turning your website into a lead generator (after webform-fill and IP address identification). And the AI continues to improve, daily.   
  6. Will CX be the B2B buzzword of 2019?  Like ABM in 2017, and intent data in 2018. I’m predicting a surge of interest in the power of providing superior customer experiences—not limited to digital, but across all customer touchpoints in B2B.  Think about it. We operate with a limited universe of customers and prospects.  We are burdened with long sales cycles, but the payoff is high-ticket sales.  We can’t afford to lose an account.  CX is the next competitive frontier. 
  7. As ever, B2B success is undergirded by data. Marketers will continue to understand, and act upon the need for clean, complete and accurate data coverage of their market opportunity.  This is why Theresa Kushner and I published B2B Data-Driven Marketing, soon to be available via Kindle.  A new study from MX Group confirms: The Number 1 characteristic of top performing B2B firms is “Have good data.”  What’s Number 2?  “Have effective lead follow-up,” of course!

Happy 2019 to us all. 

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The top reason why I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet.  I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity, and relish the challenges of our field.  Today, I am happy to introduce 10 of the many fascinating people I’ve interacted with during my adventures in 2018.  All of them are high-energy contributors to the advancement of our field. And a lookback shout-out to my fascinating contacts from 20172016and 2015

I’ve known Christopher Ryan, founder and CEO of FusionMarketing Partners, for years, but this one is a standout.  Check out his new book, The Expert’s B2B Revenue Growth Playbook. It’s practical and action-oriented, with a zillion tips on how to build sales—enhance your website, choose your key metrics, develop compelling content and more.  Chris even offers a free pdf copy.

Samantha Stone’s energy and good humor seem single handedly to keep the wheels of B2B marketing going.  She’s everywhere, providing advisory services to marketers grappling with how to go to market in an increasingly complex world.  Her website offers a treasure trove of resources to help the rest of us get a head start. 

Every year, Scott Brinker brings our attention to the growth of the martech, with his famous Marketing Technology Landscape graphic—now clocking in at over 6,800 point solutions. He’s the insightful blogger of ChiefMarTech and program chair of the informative conferences.  Great work, Scott! 

Shane Schick’s Toronto-based B2B News Network is a top source for up-to-the-minute news in our industry.  In this world of disappeared media, Shane deserves a lot of credit for running a successful publishing business.  I find his daily email newsletter one of the best around.  Somehow, Shane also finds the time to blog for Cision

A few years ago, Dan Konstantinovsky took the reins at R.H. Blake, a small Cleveland agency serving the manufacturing industry.  Since then, he has taken the lead in converting traditional industrial marketing into a modern marketing powerhouse. 

Talk about high energy. Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus and FlipMyFunnel, takes the cake.  I was pleased to be invited to cover the conference this year, and shareda bunch of great ideas I picked up about ABM. With all that going on, how does Sangram also produce a daily podcast, I wonder?    

Jill Rowley, longtime martech sales leader (Salesforce, Marketo) and pioneer in the field of social selling, shared a big idea at the FlipMyFunnel conference.  She envisions a day when B2B sales are transacted entirely through ecommerce, and sales role will evolve to subject matter experts to buyers.  “I have eliminated the word prospect from my vocabulary.” She says.  Intriguing.  

Olle Leckne, a Stockholm-based LinkedIn advisor, has created a clever lead generation process for appointment setting with highly refined audience targeting.  His breakthrough: Measuring the time invested in generating and converting a lead, instead of response rates and media cost.  The goal is to get a lead from hours down to minutes to set an appointment. The icing on the cake?  Using GetAccept to track proposals as they make their way along the purchase path inside the prospective customer organization. 

Seattle-based Howard Sewell, president of Spear Marketing Group, consistently produces some of the best B2B marketing advice in the world. I am a subscriber to The Point, and recommend it to all my colleagues for its wisdom, clear thinking, and actionable tips. 

Most B2B marketers already know Bob Bly, prolific author and sought-aftercopywriter.  But this year I am extra admiring of Bob because of his unique approach to Facebook.  Instead of the throwaway comments the rest of us post, Bob uses the forum for thoughtful discussion of important and—dare I say, fascinating—topics.  Always a joy to read. 

Another great year in B2B marketing.  Happy new year to all! 

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This fall, I enjoyed a few months of teaching at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, and learning much about Indian business and life. To get some insight into what’s going on in B2B marketing here, I tapped the brain of Sudhi Seshadri, who is dean and professor of marketing at MYRA School of Business in nearby Mysore, and has a PhD from Penn State. Sudhi has been teaching B2B marketing for decades, and knows the territory. I posed six questions to him.

1. I’m told that B2B marketing is still relatively nascent in India. How would you characterize the state of B2B Marketing here?

A bit of recent history is a good place to start. Prior to the ‘90s, Indian business was severely constrained, and B2B marketing didn’t really exist. Two waves of liberalization in ‘91 and ‘96 brought immense change. Firms were free to compete, but still they didn’t evolve much beyond hierarchical conglomerates.

With the early 2000s came a new national Competition Act in 2002, along with rapid globalization and demands from a growing middle class. The Indian economy has been fast restructuring, and market forces are changing interorganizational relationships.

So, whereas B2B marketing in the West is well over a century old, in India it has really come into practice in earnest only in the last decade and a half. So B2B marketing is a young field, but one that is at an inflexion point.

2. In the US, marketers perennially state that their top objective is delivering leads—lead quality and lead quantity. How do Indian B2B marketers see their top objective?

Lead delivery and “feeding the funnel” are right up there. But often lead management is in the domain of sales management, rather than a marketing function.

Since markets are “thinner” here, and fewer purchasing organizations are market driven, the top issue for B2B marketing is business development through value creation. The marketing organization focuses on developing customized offerings while trying to reduce the cost to serve. Think of it like the Toyota / Lexus model. You develop separate offerings for different buyer segments. Lead delivery follows from this, but is very different for each segment.

3. Much of B2B communication has gone digital in recent years. Are you seeing the same shift in India? What seems to be working best?

Interestingly, the term “digital marketing” is commonly used in India to mean e–commerce or, in B2B’s case, e–procurement. This channel is likely to continue to grow, as exchanges multiply, regulations relax, and SMEs enter the formal sector in larger numbers.

But I think what you’re really asking about is what we usually call multi-channel marketing. The short answer is that it’s not living up to its potential. A scientific approach would try to optimize by looking at elasticities for each and divvy up the tasks among hybrid digital channels. However, we are long way from that in India.

But it will come, especially as the experimentation going on in B2C pays off and catches the attention of business marketers.

4. Are trade shows and conferences still an important part of the marketing mix?

Yes, they are. The simple economics of trade shows and events such as conferences for lead generation in early funnel stages are unmatched. The relationship building advantages are also significant.

We know that most international marketing is B2B, whatever the countries involved. India also uses B2B marketing in building exports, and these sorts of interpersonal, traditional approaches allow foreign buyers to develop trust in unique ways.

In the software industry, where marketing is directed in a large part to a developer or collaborator community, the importance of conferences cannot be understated. All the major software platforms have long been using conference-type events in their marketing mix.

5. Ironically, much of the data used by US B2B marketers for prospecting and current customer marketing is generated by researchers in India. How are Indian B2B marketers using data themselves?

Prospecting from data provided by list vendors is widespread. Eventually, this will move from simple screening rules to predictive modelling. Furthermore, the growing service-oriented industry in data analytics and marketing decision science is now spilling over to Indian customers. Rapid growth of data driven business models in India is further fueling this emerging trend.

6. What are the particular sales and marketing challenges faced by the Indian B2B community?

Let me highlight three.

As a longtime educator, I might be biased. But I think the first problem is that too few talented and trained professionals are entering the B2B marketing community. Marketing education in India is almost entirely about consumer, directed at the FMCG sector. Most MBA programs do not teach B2B, or do not have the right sequence of courses. Therefore, all the learning is done on the job, and the important B2B frameworks are not widely known and understood.

Second, integration of marketing and sales in B2B has been difficult, both at the conceptual and at the practice level. This is not entirely the fault of the B2B practitioner community. It is only recently that purchasing and sales literatures are coming together and evolving joint marketing frameworks. This lack of perspective has historically kept marketing artificially distant from sales or purchasing functions.

Third, we need collaboration between education and practice, to support centers of excellence similar to Penn State’s Institute for Studies of Business Markets, to develop research and case materials in India. The financial contribution of B2B marketing has yet to be fully recognized at the CXO table. In short, we still need to make the business case for B2B marketing in India. 

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This fall, I enjoyed a few months of teaching at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, and learning much about Indian business and life. To get some insight into what’s going on in B2B marketing here, I tapped the brain of Sudhi Seshadri, who is dean and professor of marketing at MYRA School of Business in nearby Mysore, and has a PhD from Penn State. Sudhi has been teaching B2B marketing for decades, and knows the territory. I posed six questions to him.

1. I’m told that B2B marketing is still relatively nascent in India. How would you characterize the state of B2B Marketing here?

A bit of recent history is a good place to start. Prior to the ‘90s, Indian business was severely constrained, and B2B marketing didn’t really exist. Two waves of liberalization in ‘91 and ‘96 brought immense change. Firms were free to compete, but still they didn’t evolve much beyond hierarchical conglomerates.

With the early 2000s came a new national Competition Act in 2002, along with rapid globalization and demands from a growing middle class. The Indian economy has been fast restructuring, and market forces are changing interorganizational relationships.

So, whereas B2B marketing in the West is well over a century old, in India it has really come into practice in earnest only in the last decade and a half. So B2B marketing is a young field, but one that is at an inflexion point.

2. In the US, marketers perennially state that their top objective is delivering leads—lead quality and lead quantity. How do Indian B2B marketers see their top objective?

Lead delivery and “feeding the funnel” are right up there. But often lead management is in the domain of sales management, rather than a marketing function.

Since markets are “thinner” here, and fewer purchasing organizations are market driven, the top issue for B2B marketing is business development through value creation. The marketing organization focuses on developing customized offerings while trying to reduce the cost to serve. Think of it like the Toyota / Lexus model. You develop separate offerings for different buyer segments. Lead delivery follows from this, but is very different for each segment.

3. Much of B2B communication has gone digital in recent years. Are you seeing the same shift in India? What seems to be working best?

Interestingly, the term “digital marketing” is commonly used in India to mean e–commerce or, in B2B’s case, e–procurement. This channel is likely to continue to grow, as exchanges multiply, regulations relax, and SMEs enter the formal sector in larger numbers.

But I think what you’re really asking about is what we usually call multi-channel marketing. The short answer is that it’s not living up to its potential. A scientific approach would try to optimize by looking at elasticities for each and divvy up the tasks among hybrid digital channels. However, we are long way from that in India.

But it will come, especially as the experimentation going on in B2C pays off and catches the attention of business marketers.

4. Are trade shows and conferences still an important part of the marketing mix?

Yes, they are. The simple economics of trade shows and events such as conferences for lead generation in early funnel stages are unmatched. The relationship building advantages are also significant.

We know that most international marketing is B2B, whatever the countries involved. India also uses B2B marketing in building exports, and these sorts of interpersonal, traditional approaches allow foreign buyers to develop trust in unique ways.

In the software industry, where marketing is directed in a large part to a developer or collaborator community, the importance of conferences cannot be understated. All the major software platforms have long been using conference-type events in their marketing mix.

5. Ironically, much of the data used by US B2B marketers for prospecting and current customer marketing is generated by researchers in India. How are Indian B2B marketers using data themselves?

Prospecting from data provided by list vendors is widespread. Eventually, this will move from simple screening rules to predictive modelling. Furthermore, the growing service-oriented industry in data analytics and marketing decision science is now spilling over to Indian customers. Rapid growth of data driven business models in India is further fueling this emerging trend.

6. What are the particular sales and marketing challenges faced by the Indian B2B community?

Let me highlight three.

As a longtime educator, I might be biased. But I think the first problem is that too few talented and trained professionals are entering the B2B marketing community. Marketing education in India is almost entirely about consumer, directed at the FMCG sector. Most MBA programs do not teach B2B, or do not have the right sequence of courses. Therefore, all the learning is done on the job, and the important B2B frameworks are not widely known and understood.

Second, integration of marketing and sales in B2B has been difficult, both at the conceptual and at the practice level. This is not entirely the fault of the B2B practitioner community. It is only recently that purchasing and sales literatures are coming together and evolving joint marketing frameworks. This lack of perspective has historically kept marketing artificially distant from sales or purchasing functions.

Third, we need collaboration between education and practice, to support centers of excellence similar to Penn State’s Institute for Studies of Business Markets, to develop research and case materials in India. The financial contribution of B2B marketing has yet to be fully recognized at the CXO table. In short, we still need to make the business case for B2B marketing in India. 

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There is no question that Millennials or Generation Y consumers (born between 1980 and 2000) are an unusual breed, with very different values, buying habits and attitudes that confound older generations. However, the most noteworthy trend is their decreased desire to own things or buy them through traditional channels. Instead Millennials are obsessed with having a memorable experience, which will have a reverberating impact on positioning brands in the future. They are just not buying stuff like other generations.

The obvious winners of this significant trend are industries like events, travel and dining. Millennials are increasingly spending money and time on concerts, social events, athletic pursuits and all kinds of cultural experiences. A happy, worthwhile life for them is more about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through personal experiences. Their focus is not on possessions or career status. A recent study by Harris Poll supports this trend:

• 78% of Millennials would rather spend money on an experience or an event over buying something desirable.
• Most (69%) said they believe attending live experiences helps them “connect better with their friends, their community and people around the world”.
• 83% of respondents said they participated in a “live event” in the past year.
• Looking ahead, 72% said they would like to increase their expenditures on experiences in the coming year.

One company that has successfully capitalized on this growing desire for travel, dinners and engaging activities is Airbnb. Their promise goes beyond affordable accommodations; it is all about experiencing the lifestyle and charm of a local culture. Even big banks have recognized the opportunity to offer new experiential services that appeal to these Millennials. JPMorgan Chase recently launched its Sapphire Reserve, a premium credit card that offers generous rewards for spending on travel and dining. They positioned this brand as a “card for accumulating experiences”, and it has become a big hit with Millennials who today represent more than half of their cardholders.

So what has caused this dramatic change in spending habits that have led to this emerging “experience economy”? Probably the most influential event was the devastating crash of 2008. The repercussions were severe and broadly experienced – less spending as wallets were closed, job layoffs including the parents of Millennials, losing life savings, etc. Millennials obviously took note of the world crashing around them, and they haven’t forgotten. They don’t want to suffer like their parents and grandparents did. Today they prefer access over ownership. In particular, since younger consumers have more debt, fewer assets and less job security than previous generations, they don’t want to own as much and strongly desire more flexibility.

This terrible Recession of 2008 led to other related trends that will deeply affect how brands will be positioned in the future. One is the “sharing economy” which is linked to this growing desire for flexibility. The benefits are especially meaningful to Millennials – reduced waste, more authentic experiences and convenience.

Shopping has changed too. Not just more purchasing online, but shopping with a conscience and desire to reward a brand that is giving back to society. This often means buying less yet with good quality. Millennials are also sensitive to the environment and well-being of our planet. For example, they are very aware that most clothing goods are made overseas where workers are often not treated fairly. Another influence for new shopping patterns is the end of scarcity, or the overabundance of almost everything online where we can find and own practically anything we want, at any time. Hence owning something in the traditional sense is becoming less important.

The motivation behind selecting a product or experience is different today, as well. Instead of just a sense of pride from owning a product, younger consumers are more interested in how a product/service connects people to something or someone, what they can do with it that is worthwhile, what they can tell others about it, and finally what having it says about them.

What can brand marketers do to capitalize on these trends? In addition to offering flexibility that will embrace Millennials’ passion for individuality and their phobia for commitments, transparency is critical. One example of a company that has successfully made transparency changes to appeal more to Millennials is ConAgra. This food giant simplified its recipes and eliminated all artificial ingredients from many of its snacks and ready meals, clearly signaling it to younger customers who now account for 80% of its growth.

Brands must promise more than functional benefits in the future. Engaging customers with a related activity that offers a relevant emotional appeal, a customized version that acknowledges individual tastes and an authentic experience will be crucial for success.

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A fascinating new Forrester research report from finds that companies “waste a ton of money” on bad content that “buyers don’t want and sellers won’t use.” The survey of marketing decision-makers reveals that few of them think they have a complete understanding of exactly what content sales needs, although they recognize that the sales process is a crucial channel for content distribution. Analyst Laura Ramos identifies a number of specific practices that have helped companies create marketing content that satisfies both buyers and sellers. The report does not single out video as a content type, but the best practices Ramos recommends do suggest some new video tactics for a modern B2B buying experience. (The full Forrester Report is available for download here.) Here’s my take on five content strategy recommendations.

Produce content that is modularized for industry or role

A company that supplies robotics software, uiPath, pairs industry-savvy copywriters with marketing channel specialists to produce content modules that sales can mix and match by topic, idea, or industry. Video tactics might include bite-sizing webinars and demos — a fairly simple editing task. Bookending product videos with different intros and outros is another way to target an industry or role without creating a whole new video.

Augment content with resources that bring messages to life

The reference here is to “big rock” content assets (e.g., eBooks) that will be divided into digestible bits like blog posts, infographics, and videos. The most successful programs include additional sales enablement content to help salespeople understand the marketing content from the buyers’ point of view. One way to help sales get more out of marketing videos is to create an interactive version augmented with examples, objection-handling suggestions, quizzes, etc.

Use content hubs to put sales in the spotlight

Content hubs are microsites customized with relevant content and collaboration tools for a prospect company’s buying team. Journey Sales, a client of ours, provides “Smart Room” software on SalesForce. Other content hub vendors include Folloze, Triblio, and Uberflip. Content hubs are supposed to foster engagement between buying teams and sales teams. Clearly, they should be stocked with lots of different kinds of content.  Obviously, a well-stocked content hub is going to include existing marketing videos, but the emphasis should be on information customers want, not product promotion. Video FAQs would fit right in.

Use sales as an important source of insight

Most of the videos we’ve produced over the years have incorporated ideas from people in sales. They’re the ones with the stories, after all. They also understand the role of influencers and and what motivates prospects to buy. So I was astonished to read in the Forrester report that “only 15% of survey respondents say that marketing and sales jointly collaborate on persona-based content that both teams use in customer interactions . . . [and] one in four admits that they don’t collaborate at all.” Yikes. Especially since we know that video is especially effective later in the sales process, keeping sales involved should by high on everyone’s list of video tactics.

Help salespeople develop their personal brands

Everyone knows that buyers access a lot of company content before they ever contact sales. But when they do engage with sales, they want to feel they’re in good hands. A great way to increase engagement with visual content is to create personalized videos where salespeople and/or subject matter experts explain specific issues. Technically, this isn’t that hard to do. Here’s a well-researched list of video platforms that can be used to record and share personalized videos.

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I’m always running around saying how much I enjoy B2B marketing, because it’s complex, high ticket, and the results can be really satisfying.  That’s all true.  But sometimes I find it annoying, too.  There are things about B2B that just tick me off.  Forgive the rant, but I have to get this off my chest. 

Businesses play their cards close to the vest.  Have you ever tried to get a client to give you a testimonial?  Well, then, you know what I mean.  I’ve had customers say, “No way, you’re my secret weapon.  I don’t want my competitors to know how good this is.”

What’s particularly annoying is that testimonials are one of the most powerful tools in B2B marketing.  They reduce buyer risk.  They offer social proof.  And in theory business people want to help each other, so you’d think testimonials should be easy to get.  But they’re not.  Because buyers want to keep their good things to themselves.

Businesses think email is their best prospecting tool.  When it isn’t.  I just got off the phone with a data scientist in Bangalore who was complaining how he digs up high value prospective accounts, and his clients  blast them with email, get no results and then blame him.  Poor guy.

I’ve said before that I think email makes us stupid.  It’s too cheap.  So we get lazy.  In a complex environment like B2B, you have to recognize how buyers buy.  They research online.  They talk to their peers.  They attend conferences. They develop short lists.  We need to reach them where they are, which is not talking to strangers from their inboxes.

B2B marketers still duck their data responsibilities.  This irks the hell out of me.  I am not the geekiest marketer around, but I find the power of data in B2B an endless source of fascination, and results.  Where else are there so many buyers and influencers who need to be part of the decision-making process?  Where else are people’s titles and job roles changing constantly?

So when marketers shy away from taking ownership of their company’s data strategy, and feeling personally connected to the need for data hygiene, I get mad.   I’ve ranted about this quite recently, so I should probably shut up.  But I can’t help myself.  It bears repeating.

Okay, that’s the end of today’s rant.  Maybe it’s time for me to go back to consumer marketing?  Naw… . I’m still B2B’s biggest fan.

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Our latest webinar is on personal branding with expert Monique deMaio. Companies and organizations are not the only things that need strategic planning and branding—so do people. What do you want to be known and remembered for?  Do you know what YOUR personal brand is? How do you want to feel, and what do you want to communicate every day—at work, at home, in your community?

Mike Moran interviews consultant Monique deMaio, creator of the Be the CMO of Your Life Program, on what is takes to develop a personal brand.

This free 30-minute Biznology discussion will cover everything to know for personal branding, including what contributes to people’s successes and failures and what parts of your personal life should be part of your brand.

Special presentation sponsored by Gerris Corp, SoloSegment and ondemandCMO

Monique deMaio is CMO and Founder of a 20-year old consulting firm, ondemand CMO, which focuses on B2B in marketing strategy, positioning and messaging. From a personal side, Monique helps executives develop a game plan to live their best “personal brand.”

Thanks to our sponsors!

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There’s a lot of talk in the B2B world about what we can learn from consumer marketers.  We need to treat business buyers as individuals, with their own personas, analyze their digital buyer journeys, and use social media to communicate with them.  And how to speak to buyers like humans, with messages that both inform and entertain.  These are useful lessons.  But did you ever think about what the B2C world of consumer marketers can learn from us?  I have a couple of ideas.

The first is about prospecting strategies, and the second is about building relationships.

Offer problem-solving as a way to attract prospects.

Much of B2C prospecting is about deals and discounts.  In business markets, on the other hand, the proven prospecting model involves offering a solution to a business problem.

In practical terms, this means content marketing.  Preparing educational, objective, non-sales-y material that addresses a customer problem.  In business markets this might be a white paper, research report, infographic or case study.  In consumer markets it might be a recipe book, a blog or a how-to video.

It can be used as a motivational offer to generate a lead, or it can be used to establish thought leadership, or to stimulate viral sharing.

This way you can establish yourself as a helpful resource, expert in your field, and trustworthy enough for a business relationship.

You also tend to attract more qualified customers than you do with a deal.  A buyer who really needs the solution will appreciate it, and will appreciate you.  They can become not just a loyal buyer, but also an advocate.

This is an approach that consumer marketers can use successfully.  Look at YouTube, which is filled with how-to videos for consumer products.

Nurture your customers (and prospects) until they’re ready to buy.

B2B marketers are really good at this.  We recognize the power of the Rule of 45, which says that 45% of business inquirers in a category will eventually buy in that category.  And when they become ready, we need to be there.  Otherwise, we may just as likely lose the deal to our competition.

So, B2B marketers have elaborate systems of outbound contacts designed to stay in touch until they’re ready.  Known as lead nurturing, it’s a key component of the B2B demand generation process.  With a nurturing program, we can expect to triple, possibly quadruple, the productivity of our campaigns.

Consumer marketers already understand this principle.  Look at the retargeting banner ads that follow us all around, weeks and months after we’ve stopped by a website.

But I think there’s additional opportunity here for consumer marketers.  Nurturing needs to be personalized, acknowledging the relationship, and building it over time through two-way communications.  It’s one-to-one, not mass advertising.

Perhaps it’s about developing a different attitude.   Consumer marketers enjoy prospect universes that are something like 10x those of B2B marketers.  Maybe they have the sense that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and instead of nurturing, they are tempted to move onto the next prospect.  But maybe it’s time to treat every inquirer as your last.

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I attended my first FlipMyFunnel conference this month, and picked up some fresh insights into Account Based Marketing (ABM).  I’ve explored ABM before— with interviews here and here, for example.  But this event helped me understand how ABM has grown, thrived, and settled itself into an established part of modern B2B thinking.  Launched eight years ago by the digital ad platform company Terminus, #FMF has taken on a life of its own.  Here are some of the many ideas I gleaned.

The opening keynoter was Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus and its chief evangelist.  Vajre is a fluid and engaging speaker, with a lot of pizzazz.  The theme of the conference was “Humanizing B2B,” which leads me into my observations from the day.

  • It’s clear that B2B marketing has been revolutionized by technology—from the Internet itself, to the myriad (nearly 7,000) martech point solutions available these days. While speeding up the process, marketing automation can unfortunately make us less effective.  “Don’t hide behind the technology,” said Vajre.  He recommended that we marketers adopt more personal, meaningful communications vehicles, and he suggested techniques like handwritten notes, and one-to-one video embedded in email.
  • ABM is being adopted widely, but it’s not a replacement for the traditional demand generation funnel. It’s a supplement.  “You need both,” said Vajre.  This reminded me of the longstanding debate about inbound versus outbound in B2B.  How refreshing that the ABM community recognizes that it’s not a matter of one or the other.
  • Sales and marketing must share the same metrics. “We need one scorecard,” said Vajre.  His recommended metric:  the amount of time the teams spend on developing the right customers.

Big ideas came thick and fast for the rest of the day.

  • Think of the customer journey as an “account journey,” said Lindsay Becker and Lisa deDonato form LogMeIn. Track all the touches, inbound and out, at the account level.  So doing, you can not only determine the best touch sequence into an account, but you can also legitimately claim marketing involvement in sales results.  LogMeIn reports that 97% of their opportunities are impacted by marketing.
  • Deliberate communications between marketing and sales is key to success in ABM. Catina Martinez of Pluralsight makes sure to meet weekly with her sales counterparts, to explain their specific roles in upcoming campaigns, and work together on effective account penetration strategies.
  • Go back and look at the search terms that brought in your customers over the prior three, six or nine months, says Mike Madden of Marketo. You’ll be surprised at the breadth of topics people searched on, and you’ll generate great ideas for fresh content to attract more buyers like them.
  • Marketers need to go out on more sales appointments, according to Kristin Novak of National Instruments. She once found herself in a very technical meeting, where she had to ask several questions to get the conversation straight.  On the way out the door, the National Instruments sales rep thanked her, saying he had gained many new insights into the account and its needs thanks to her willingness to step back and probe on the basics.
  • Under the ABM approach, it’s less important to generate form-fills, and more important to build relationships. So Elle Woulfe of PathFactory recommends that, with target accounts, you un-gate your content.  Makes a lot of sense.  [Note to Biznology publisher Mike Moran: remember the argument  you and I had about this some years ago? I’m coming around to your side.]

The FMF exhibit hall offered a trove of clever ways to practice ABM more effectively.  Tchotchke alert: Crazy colored socks were everywhere.

  • Your employees are likely having conversations with more individual prospects in target accounts than may actually get key-entered into your systems. How to capture and leverage this asset?  Have Sigstr keep track of corporate emails at the account level, pulling in fresh contacts to your database as they turn up.  Sigstr will also enable personalized banner ads within your company email signatures for an extra marketing touch.
  • Marketing automation has had the unintended consequence of narrowing our outbound communications options to mostly email. But marketers must find ways to deepen customer relationships via other channels, too. PFL and Sendoso can help. Their tools operate within your CRM system to let marketers and sales reps order up direct mail shipment of collateral, gift boxes, logo merchandise, even food, on a global basis.
  • As getting a sales meeting requires more and more touches, and we seek improved relevance through personalization, the messaging process can become overwhelmingly complex. Conversica offers a nifty way to automate some of the drudgery, by reading customer responses and sending out prearranged messages based on what the customer is actually saying.  With the added benefit of a bit of sales rep supervision: If the next touch is supposed to be a SDR call, the tool can check with the prospect about whether the call ever came in, and schedule it again if needed.

Top quotes of the day:

  • “CRM data ages like fish, not like wine.” —Justin Keller of Sigstr.
  • “The relationships we are trying to build are with humans.” Nikki Nixon, director of FlipMyFunnel.
  • “ABM is hard.”  –Sangram Vajre of Terminus.

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The post Keeping up with ABM: Tips from the FlipMyFunnel conference appeared first on Biznology.

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