Inbox Insight are specialists in content syndication and online lead generation campaigns. Shortlisted for Winchester Business Excellence Awards 2016, their growth is rapid which makes for a dynamic, fun and professional working environment as well as enabling them to provide on-going development opportunities for their talented team. Read our blog for insights into the world of B2B lead..
Designing and executing demand generation activities that reach and drive the right traffic can improve sales and increase revenue through:
Driving better performance from your digital media programs
Improving conversion rates
Delivering better quality leads
Achieving a higher ROI
This article sets out the key steps to delivering the best plan of attack. Read on discover how to fuel your demand generation engine…
Reading time: 3 minutes
We’ve reached an exciting time in B2B marketing. Programmatic advertising and biddable/RTB Media is booming and it’s bought with it a whole new plethora of targeting possibilities that make reaching your ideal audiences a tangible reality, without requiring a massive budget.
Traditionally hard to reach accounts are now accessible, target account lists (TAL) can be expanded with accurate lookalikes and multiple stakeholders within a DMU can be strategically engaged, all thanks to the new possibilities opened up by programmatic AdTech.
The data is here along with the means for precision-based targeting. How you make the most of it is entirely down to your research and planning.
How do I plan for the ‘right’ leads?
No matter how much you embrace RTB media, you will not achieve your ROI if you go after the wrong prospects for your business.
In order to identify the ‘right’ types of leads there’s a fair few details we should know or at least be able to take educated guesses about our target audience. Including:
who they are (job titles, location, responsibilities…etc.)
what influences their buying criteria
what information do they require
which key stakeholders make up their DMU
which touchpoints are critical for engagement
which trends are shaping their behavior
what channels they frequently use
which thought leaders and influencers hold their trust
Having this insight makes planning and executing your demand generation program a whole lot more effective and is required if you wish to compete in today’s data savvy marketing environment.
Building a tightly defined target account list and overlaying this list with intent data is now a common practice that supports many winning demand generation strategies.
The 5 step plan of attack
Start with your current clients – who are the most profitable audience segments? What shared characteristics can you identify? What makes them a good fit for your product/services? How can you use these to inform your list criteria?
Compile your TAL using your defined criteria. It’s crucial the rationale dictating this criteria is robust and well thought out – are you basing this list on research or assumptions?
Expand your lists with lookalikes and other account that share the same salient characteristics such as firmographic data. This will enable you to scale up your available reach.
Use marketing research techniques such as telephone surveys to discover qualitative and quantitative insight.
How to I engage my target audience to drive traffic?
In order to make someone take action, you have to identify the right trigger to prompt your desired behavior (Dr BJ Fog).
With the average attention span falling from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds and the boom in digital advertising, the fight for attention is on. This means your trigger needs to be on point, as a poorly executed message will no longer cut it.
Here are 3 methods for increasing the likelihood of triggering the right traffic and at the best volumes:
1. Crafting the most compelling message
In order to uncover the key hook that will resonate with your audience and incite them to take action, you need to compile the knowledge accumulated from your target audience planning into a comprehensive content strategy.
Buyer personas are a trusted technique for transforming audience insight into an actionable pain points that aid content planning and content creation.
Innovative creative teamed with expertly crafted copy is now a must for forward thinking B2B marketers. Highly visual platforms are increasingly the norm even in the B2B sphere, changing the way we experience and consume information. Therefore, if you want to get a step ahead, you must recognize the importance of well executed creative. Here are 2 top resources to help tackle any programmatic elements of your content strategy.
3. Taking a multi-channel approach to increase touchpoints and reach
The best content in the world is useless if the right people don’t see it. It’s not the case that good content will always be found: the world of content is extremely competitive, and audiences have limited time.
You need to work hard, and often creatively, to make sure it’s seen – and acted upon.
Biddable/RTB Media and programmatic advertising enable you to precisely target groups, TALs or even individuals with precisely targeted content. You can cost-effectively resurface your message and content to prospects even when you don’t have their email address. Used in combination with social or other channels, this can greatly accelerate the prospecting stage and provide a powerful boost, progressing leads through your demand generation engine at greater speed and effectiveness.
You’d be hard pushed to find a marketer who doesn’t use a marketing funnel somewhere in their marketing strategy. Our relationship with funnels goes way back…
However, how accurate is our understanding of the funnel model? This article points out the fundamental flaw of looking at the marketing funnel the wrong way. Read on to discover how you can adopt the right perspective and in turn build better demand generation programs built on insight and accurate audience data.
Reading time: 5 minutes
How’s the marketing funnel model evolved through the years?
The AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action) marketing model was invented in 1898 by Elias St. Elmo Lewis and underpins a lot of our thinking.
Originally this marketing staple gave us a flat view of the buyer’s journey, as a funnel, which was a useful analogy of how prospective customers travelled through our promotional mix in order to get to purchase. It represents the physiological stages required in order to fulfil the predetermined buyer journey.
Before the boom of digital marketing, the simplicity of this model was enough to benchmark your marketing strategy against, helping to identify the key touchpoints for engagement and sustained value exchanges.
As with purchasing behavior, over time, this model has grown in sophistication, as we look at new tactics to track and push prospects through the funnel.
Many marketing efforts are geared towards pushing people down and reducing drop offs between stages.
While this framework can be useful, we need to remember that it’s not reality….
The buyer’s journey is rarely linear. It’s messy. They weave through different sections, wander off when they have no budget, ask their friends about your brand, tune into influencers and flex between channels – any number of these reasons can make content marketing unpredictable and harder to track, control and execute.
And with an average of 6.8 DMU members, the decision-making process is now longer and more complex. This all means we need to provide an environment where people can jump back and forwards without feeling trapped.
The funnel no longer becomes a paint by numbers exercise, rather, a descriptive model that accommodates the flexibility modern buyers now demand.
This requires a mind-set shift rather than a funnel overthrow.
It’s about relevance.
Understanding your community allows you to connect content in the right way, to drive value for the reader and delight your customers at the same time.
There is nothing wrong with our funnel per say, all it requires is a tweak in perspective – the audience’s perspective to be exact.
In the on-demand digital culture, it’s about the user being in control. We can’t control the users but we can anticipate their needs and drive long term value, if we use the right data-driven approach.
Rather than looking at it side on and thinking how to drag people though, we should be looking at the funnel from above. Your audience is in the centre of the funnel, and we need to stop them spilling out by surrounding them with content and helping them reach their ultimate destination.
“It’s not about what you want to say, it’s about what they want to hear…”
Look at the marketing funnel from above – with the audience at the centre
We think of it as surrounding your prospect with the right information to help them achieve what they need, on their own terms.
This reflects the important shift in the power dynamic between vendor and buyer, readdressing the balance to create an optimized environment for engagement.
There are 3 stages (or tactical devices) that make up this funnel perspective and rather than operating in a hierarchy they work simultaneously:
Insight into what buyers care about
Interest buyers in your brand
Engage buyers to take action
To reiterate, it’s not a linear journey. Your prospective customers can be interacting with your brand in all of these ways at different times and your job is to support the process. We advocate taking your prospects round this cycle and learning from each revolution, so you can continue to add value the longer they stay with your brand.
In essence, it’s a perpetual Helter Skelter audience members choose to stay on because they continuously derive value at every turn.
Let’s start with Insight
Most demand generation strategies rely on content marketing. However, without knowing what your audience cares about you can’t create content that meets their needs, or interact with them on the channels they frequent.
Understanding what really motivates your prospects enables you to develop highly customized content that translates into sales. Too many businesses churn out ‘Everyman’ content that has wide reach but no effectiveness – around 2/3 of marketers create content without any sort of documented strategy [Contently]. Content that doesn’t help your prospects in some way is simply a waste of resources.
To create targeted content, you need to understand a range of things about your customers, from job titles and purchasing power to the channels they use. In addition, you’re likely to be dealing with multiple individuals within a decision making unit (DMU), each with a unique set of characteristics and information needs.
Extending your customer insight to include third party intent data will shed light on behaviors, motivations and preferences that will enable you to design more accurate, precision-based campaigns.
There are 5 types of intent data that frame our approach to audience insight, and we believe these should be a priority for all B2B marketers:
This doesn’t just require uncovering the salient pain points, interests and challenges of your intended audience, it also involves selecting the right formats to aid discovery, relevancy and accessibility.
It starts with crafting your message to resonate with your audiences. This is greatly enhanced by applying the insights you’ve gathered. Your job then is to devise a content plan that plots out how you’re going to make this content useable across your digital ecosystem.
How does your content reach every touchpoint? How is your chosen format optimized for channel reach and engagement, what conversion journeys sustain long-term value exchanges that keep your audiences within your funnel?
Are you able to take your core message and shatter it into accessible fragments across your digital ecosystem?
How to put this into action:
Pillar Content: A long form whitepaper you’re going to promote for next quarter of the year
Think about all the ways you repurpose this content to support a range of tailored messages to reach users of different formats (Infographics, cheat sheets, social posts, guides, fact sheets…etc.)
Think about how customers will interact with the message in different contexts
Are any of these sequential journeys? Can you introduce the content in one format and then offer deeper content later?
What other long form editorial content types you can create from it? (Blogs, articles, reports…etc.)
Then look at how you can create content that points back to this across all relevant social and native contexts.
Your aim should be to deliver high quality content across all relevant, available channels to create an immersive environment with logical conversion paths that support cumulative knowledge.
Plotting all your CTAs against your touchpoints is an effective method, that will enable you to identify any dead ends and optimize your journeys to decrease the chance of drop off.
Some of this content wouldn’t just be broadcasting and linking back to the article, but rather made for that platform specifically.
Can you slice that key message down even further and add in the advertising formats that will amplify your content message?
These formats will grab attention with key info and generate the interest topic as a whole and demand for the deeper content pieces.
Think about how customers will interact with the message in different contexts. Each time you can get a customer to recall your brand, and associate it with a message, it helps buyer recognition. Cross channel touchpoints help achieve this and create a deeper level of recognition throughout the journey.
If your prospects are immersed in the message that interests them then they will likely engage with your brand.
This leads us onto our third component of the marketing funnel…
Engagement comes in many forms of interactions, at multiple points in the buyer cycle. When it comes to individual content assets, there are many metrics you could look at to measure these engagements. However, there is no single metric or set of metrics that will be applicable across all the content you create. For example, short landing pages with a lead gen call-to-action should be measured completely differently to a long-form technical whitepaper.
Define what the objective is for each piece of content, and then you’ll know how to measure it. Importantly, you’ll also know which data to ignore. If a piece of content is designed to get late stage prospects to finally place an order, the number of social shares isn’t relevant. Equally, you will struggle to calculate conversion rates for content designed to attract early stage website traffic.
Most demand strategies leverage lead generation to translate engagement into leads for a nurture program that will accelerate the path to purchase. Decide where these engagement points lie within your content and build out optimized conversion paths with your landing pages.
For example, you might want to gate premium long form content such as your whitepapers. Once they convert you might want to enter them into an email workflow that delivers more related content to your reader straight to their inbox.
Remember engagement is about gaining and sustaining attention. Effective demand generation leverages touchpoints to keep your audiences in perpetual motion towards your next conversion goal. To do this successfully you must always anticipate their next step, providing a clear logical path from A to B along with relevant, accessible content.
The reality is that different prospects across the decision making unit will come to your content in different ways, interact with various assets, and the ultimate goal is to encourage this!
You want to create an environment where your content is available and helpful for all personas and meets each of their information needs.
If you’ve managed this, don’t stop! They’re not done at MQL, or even SQL. Keep the nurture flowing and by pathing out immersive content journeys that gives that access to what they want, when they need it.
If you have really engaged prospects that aren’t gliding through your sales pipeline don’t worry, they could be evangelising you internally, or keeping you in mind for future projects.
Let them binge on your content – each of these touchpoints and engagements gives you more actionable data
Which enriches your insight
Which you can use to drive interest
To deliver more engagement
Which gives you data…
The idea of looking at the top down perspective of the marketing funnel is to think less about how we want to sell to the client and more about how they are seeking information.
Not just what we want to tell them, but about what they want to hear, and how they want to hear it.
Find this resource useful? To celebrate a new season of content we’ve just released our latest whitepaper: 7 Pillars of Successful Demand Generation
Targeting only one role within your target account DMU could jeopardize your sale.
This is because the decision-making unit (DMU) is at the core of B2B selling. Also called a buying center, it consists of all the participants in a purchase decision.
The DMU comprises 6 archetypes: initiator, influencer, decider, buyer, user and coordinator. While many companies get fixated on senior decision makers, there are many untapped opportunities among other more accessible stakeholders.
Sense check your approach with this interactive tool and discover quick-wins and longer term tactics.
Drive repeatable success, whatever your account based marketing approach with this step-by-step process guide…
Reading time: 4 minutes
Whether you’re in the early stages of deploying an account based marketing strategy, planning a scaled down account based marketing pilot or are in the midst of a fully-fledged ABM program, we have a water-tight methodology that you can pit your planning against.
Step 1. Target Account List (TAL) creation
The success of your account based marketing strategy depends on the quality of your research. 87% of B2B marketers agree that ABM delivers higher ROI than other strategies (ITSMA). However, this will only be true if you target the right companies for your product or service offering.
Regardless of whether your chosen strategy is to grow existing customers or acquire new ones, your first party data is a great place to start.
Not every customer can be neatly matched to a category. However, identifying salient characteristics that naturally segment your data into meaningful audiences will enable you to better pinpoint their profile, pain points, and needs – essential for designing the most effective communications for profitable engagements.
Make a start through interrogating your CRM with the following:
Which customer segments provide:
The most reward and least effort to acquire and retain?
The most kudos (high profile brands with high market influence…etc.)?
Which customer segments provide:
The most effort and least reward?
The least kudos (low influence, low market presence…etc.)?
Which customer segments:
Best match your internal capabilities?
Would require modifying your market offering and value proposition?
These questions alone help form the rationale behind your target account selection. However, remember:
DISCIPLINE IS KEY: STICK TO YOUR SELECTION CRITERIA
Your segmentation rationale is integral to your targeting strategy. It’s the justification for pursuing certain accounts over others. Therefore, in order to keep your ABM strategy on track, you must stay focused.
If your strategy isn’t working, then it’s time to re-think your selection criteria.
And remember, customers may be prime targets for remarketing, too.
If your strategy is focused on new customer acquisition account modelling, or lookalike marketing, is a great tactic for finding new audiences. There are many tools that offer this analysis, including Facebook and Google. Their products are called Lookalike audience and Similar audience.
For example, by analyzing what makes an account attractive to your business and using this insight to spot other accounts that share these same salient characteristics, you can expand your target audience without diluting relevance to your key market offering.
For best results, pay careful attention to your seed audience. Then test, test, test.
Step 2. Customer insight
One of the advantages of Account based marketing is to more closely align sales and marketing. Businesses with aligned sales and marketing functions grow their revenues 24% faster than their peers, while their customer retention is also 36% higher (LinkedIn).
So make a start by speaking to your sales team about who they would like to target, then supplement with your own research.
Some target accounts may look great on paper but demand a lot of resource to win and retain their business. By gaining a perspective from both the sales and marketing side, you can get a better understanding of where your most attractive opportunities lie.
Step 3. Plot DMU stakeholders
Creating a target-account list (TAL) is an important step. However, it’s no guarantee of success. A common pitfall of account based marketing campaigns is to target only the main decision-maker. This completely ignores the wider team, placing key influencers on the periphery while draining resources on notoriously difficult contacts to reach.
Engaging all members of the decision-making unit (DMU) is key to building strong internal support for a deal.
This means considering multiple stakeholders and creating ABM content relevant to their roles, priorities, and perspectives. Can you win advocates amongst potential product users? It could make a crucial difference in a competitive bid scenario.
Growing complexity is a common characteristic of the modern B2B buyer decision process. Taking the time to understand the steps your target stakeholders go through before making a purchasing decision is crucial to designing effective marketing communications.
Far from a linear process once represented in dated marketing models, stakeholders commonly jump back and forth stages, seeking a range of information to satisfy their pain points, queries or buying criteria.
We’ve captured 20 telling insights that reveal the state of modern buying. View here.
Step 5. Consolidate knowledge into buyer personas
Vetted target account list? CHECK. Gathered accurate insights into the buyer decision process and DMUs? CHECK.
Now it’s time to transform this data into actionable buyer personas. These profiles will ensure you keep your customers at the heart of your communications, improving personalization and relevancy.
We’ve dedicated a whole article to turning your customer insights into accurate B2B buyer personas.
But if that’s not enough we’ve even taken the leg work out for you with this persona cheat sheet, download template here.
Step 6. Intent Data enrichments
Consider what each stage of the buying journey looks like in intent data. What content is relevant for each stage and persona? How can you leverage the 5 types of intent data to create or sustain interest in your solution?
Intent data can elevate your targeting efforts through layering rich insights that help drive response and engagement with enhanced precision and accuracy.
Through combing data points and leveraging strategic partnerships, historically hard to reach audiences are instantly accessible.
Check the health of your online resources with this free content audit, request yours now.
Step 8. On-board internal stakeholders
Long-term customer engagement is the name of the game when it comes to executing a successful ABM strategy. In order to achieve this, it is vital all your internal stakeholders are onboard.
From initial engagement right through to post purchase aftercare, you need to sustain a consistent level of quality that superiorly fulfils the needs of your customers. Failure to do so will result in a high customer churn rate.
By getting all your departments working on the same page will help unify your efforts and provide a high level of customer service. Especially through:
Keeping everyone informed through regular meetings and updates
Maintaining regular training around your brand values and service standards
The secret to high performing campaigns is ensuring the right message goes to the right audience at the right time, in the right way.
Formulating a plan of attack based on all the knowledge you’ve gathered through the previous process stages should stand you in good stead.
If you’re using channel partners and suppliers to execute campaigns on your behalf be mindful of the following:
Flexibility: can they tailor your campaign to meet your specific requirements?
Engaged Audiences: have you got confidence in their ability to reach and engage the right type of leads?
Dedicated Account Managers: have you been allocated a reliable point of contact who understands the ins and outs of your strategy as well as you do?
Integration: have you got options over how you will receive lead updates or reports?
Step 10. Review, refine, repeat.
Continuous improvement; it’s what all marketers should be striving towards. Setting KPIs against each activity is best practice as it allows you to keep track of your campaigns.
The most successful campaigns maintain a nimble approach and are quick to respond to shifts in trends and behaviors. Keeping your finger on the pulse of key audience data points such as intent data and buyer signals will help you sustain confidence in the relevancy of your campaigns.
Are you investing in global content but not seeing the return you anticipated? Are some regions seeing high conversion rates while others lag behind? Or perhaps you need best practices for targeting multinational accounts?
Reading time: 4 minutes
As part of our B2B Marketing Mini-Series on Market Segmentation, this article looks at the key challenges surrounding planning and executing global content marketing programs, including:
How to identify which topics are universal and which are region specific
How to avoid creating global content that’s too vanilla
How to stop content losing its punch when translated
Steps to becoming ‘global ready’
Global content; is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ always the right approach?
In short, no. We’ve come a long way since generic content satisfied the needs of the masses. Today’s readers have a sophisticated palate that governs their content consumption patterns. Bland ‘vanilla’ content will no longer cut it. Neither will relying on dated content formats or single channels to amplify your content to your target audiences at the right touchpoints.
What does this mean for demand generation specialists and global content marketing campaign managers?
If you’ve been tasked to build momentum across multiple markets and territories through leveraging a global content strategy, you can often find yourself at a crossroads.
Do you produce global content or do you spend your budget on producing and distributing localized assets amongst your target regions?
Here are some key pain points surrounding either option:
The first step is to look at your segmentation strategy:
Who are your key markets/regions?
What size opportunity do they present?
How much localized knowledge do you have access to (localized teams vs one central content department)
Running your market segmentation strategy against these pointers will help you discern between a global or more localized approach.
How to avoid creating global content that’s too vanilla
Authentic global content tells a story that resonates with us all, regardless of nationality. But uncovering the issues, topics or trends that shape demand across the globe is no easy feat.
In the world of business, the overarching priorities that hang over all companies, regardless of size or orientation are:
In essence, the above form the holy grail for any business looking to achieve growth, sustainability and profitability. This is a good basis to start your planning. Think about how your content can support your audience’s quest for the above.
Could this be a story about how your services helped a business face their challenges in order to achieve market growth? Or could this be an infographic revealing the obstacles facing the current environment; providing a map for your readers to self-navigate? Perhaps this could be a set of efficiency hacks in the form of an easy to follow checklist or video?
Often practicality can be a really strong hook to wrap your message around.
Another method for discovering overarching hooks that will appeal to your markets is intent data. Leveraging data to pin point prevailing trends, will help you identify shared interests, preferences and motivations. These nuggets of insight can dramatically improve the performance of your campaigns by helping you prioritize relevant content in your marketing programs.
At Inbox Insight, our campaign teams produce a weekly report of campaign findings across EMEA, UK, US and APAC. These reports provide organization-wide insights, empowering different stakeholders within the business to discover new ways to drive campaign performance for our clients.
Top trending Intent Tags amongst our IFP audiences:
How taking a visually-led approach can boost universal appeal
Think about images. With the boom of social media and a workforce increasingly populated with millennials, taking a more visual approach can complement a global content strategy, especially when you consider the uptake in visually rich infographics dominating the B2B content marketing scene.
Not only does a more visually exciting format help with universal understanding, it can also support a multi-channel approach that leverages social channels to optimize impact and reach.
How can I stop my content losing its punch when translated?
Language is not just about the actual lexicon used, it’s about those unspoken connotations, nuances and cultural sensibilities that load on meaning, adding depth, color and relevancy.
So how can you execute powerful content marketing programs across multiple markets that deliver the right content, to the right regions to produce the right engagement?
If you’ve decided on taking a global content approach ran in localized copy, it’s important to think about contextual understanding. Does your brand message pack the same punch as a direct translation or does it require some tweaking.
For example, following rigorous testing and direct feedback from our local intel. our own strap line: ‘That’s what they want to hear!’ has evolved in German from a literal translation to ‘That’s the way it’s supposed to be!’
Here’s another example, in the UK, personalization of subject lines has a huge impact on campaign performance. However, our campaign teams have discovered that a different tactic is required when approaching our DACH audiences. After running comprehensive testing, we’ve found the top performing subject lines refrain from personalization. This is because it’s generally considered more culturally acceptable to adapt a formal approach, as this is indicative of respect and politeness.
These small considerations can make a big impact on the effectiveness of your communications, emphasizing the importance of constantly monitoring and refining your content strategy.
Is there a gateway between global and local content?
Yes. Many global content strategies will begin with the launch of global content that gets closely monitored and evolved. Here are 2 powerful techniques we use at Inbox Insight:
1. Alternative Titles
If you’re promoting a long form piece of content such as a whitepaper, it’s good practice to isolate the main themes from which to build some alternative titles. By closely monitoring which titles evoke the strongest response from your audience segments, you can begin building a better understanding around their preferences and interests. This insight should be fed back directly to your content creation team to help inspire future content.
2. Content Repurposing
Once again, if your content marketing campaign is fuelled by long form content, we recommend breaking it down into smaller bitesize assets. For example converting report insights into an easy-to-digest infographic or converting chapters into self contained PDFs that can be serialized. This practice will keep you better informed, not only in regards to what topics resonate best, but also what content formats drive conversions.
The most important thing is to test, test, test and continuously feed your observations back into your content strategy.
How to plan for the localization of assets
In some instances, merely translating content into your target region’s local languages won’t be enough to guarantee success. In order to achieve your objectives through generating real-time engagement, you have to produce unique content.
To help you with your planning, we’ve put together this helpful worksheet covering key considerations, such as:
What keywords, topics and trends will help hook your audience to your content?
What tone of voice is best to address your target audiences? How will this work with your current brand guidelines?
From the above example you’ll see a whole range of job titles are involved in the B2B buyer process. By identifying and assigning key roles against different DMU archetypes, you can begin plotting a more accurate content marketing plan.
You can also see how it’s not just a range of job titles within one discipline you need to focus on. The buying center often involves members of different departments, each with their own unique set of information requirements.
Priorities are directly linked to job roles and responsibilities. By uncovering what daily duties and initiatives are fundamental to the success of each job title, you can reveal what really matters to your readers. This in turn helps you identify opportunities to provide value and trust.
You can expand this section with personal goals which will add another layer of insight. Here are a few considerations:
How will your solution help this person achieve their goals?
How will it accelerate this journey?
Tip: Looking up job specs on recruitment sites (especially those posted on behalf of key organizations your targeting) can reveal a lot about a target stakeholder’s priorities.
Recommended read: For key insight into the factors driving many priorities, check out our IFP survey report findings:
Like with priorities, each DMU member will have their own unique set of information needs which coincide with their priorities. The complexity and depth of information required is related to the seniority and involvement in the B2B buying decision.
Providing the right level of information to satisfy these needs will help you generate value exchanges that spark engagement and trust.
It’s not just about the information itself that provides value, understanding which content formats trigger the best engagements is vital to the success of your communications. It’s important to identify which roles are more comfortable with specific content types.
As well as content formats, different stakeholders have distinct channel preferences, favoring channels they deem as trustworthy. Finding out where they go to consume information is key to your content strategy.
Action Point: What stages of the B2B buyer decision process do they appear in?
From need creation through to purchase decision and evaluation, it’s important to identify where your key stakeholders sit within the B2B buying process. This has an impact on the types of information they require at key touchpoints in their understanding, awareness and interaction with your brand.
Social kudos is a huge motivator for most employees. Whether it’s an entry level graduate looking to establish themselves amongst their colleagues or a manager wishing to fast track their journey into the boardroom, social currency is key for unlocking the mindsets of your target readers.
Tip: Using social media to discover who your key audiences follow and engage with can help reveal key influencers and thought leaders deemed ‘trustworthy’ by your target readers.
Action Point: What do they fear?
Fear is another significant psychological factor that can shape the behavior, attitudes and motivations of your readers. This knowledge can help you understand how to articulate your value offering to minimize fear and reduce perceived barriers to purchase.
Tip: Seek feedback from key roles within your own organization. It’s likely many of these attitudes and opinions are universal.
Action Point: Content Hook
A great content hook combines knowledge of what they want to read with other factors such as their fears, information needs and social currency. It will attract their attention through arousing their interest, while providing enough value and substance to satisfy their curiosity and get them wanting more.
Sometimes this may require creating several hooks for one topic and testing response.
Whether first, second or third party, intent signals will sprinkle a whole load of additional insight that can radically improve campaign performance, ensuring the right message goes to the right DMU member, at the right touchpoints to drive the most profitable engagements.
This does not mean simply dropping cookies, becoming a data-driven business requires leveraging all available insights.
Your choice of content formats should always reflect the preferences of your audience. A time poor marketing manager may not have the time to consume a 70 page report, while a infographic displaying key survey report finding may add a wealth of value.
Having a flexible approach and repurposing content into a range of formats, will open up the amount of touchpoints a reader has to interact with your brand.
According to Google, B2B purchasers search up to 12 times before engaging, when conducting research. Think about all that digital buyer intent data and micro-signals each user leaves behind – how can piecing that knowledge together help improve the performance of your B2B Content Marketing and Demand Generation activities?
For fast thinking marketers this is an opportunity to delve into the psyche of their B2B buyers through uncovering what contentthey are interested in, where they access information and which channels they respond best to.
These insights can then form the basis of segmentation criteria that organizes your audiences into meaningful clusters based around interests, information needs, preferences and behaviors.
What’s more, if you have a coordinated set of promotional activity mapped against your B2B demand generation model, buyer intent data can help ensure the right message goes to the right stakeholders, at the right touchpoints to deliver the best outcomes.
Here are 5 types of buyer intent data to investigate:
Searching (keyword & queries)
Browsing (cookies & categories)
Action (interactions & downloads)
Predictive (lookalike modelling)
Whilst buyer intent data is no new concept in the world of B2C, only 25% of B2B companies use intent data at present (Demand Gen).
This article dives into the copious opportunities these data-driven insights can bring to strengthen your B2B marketing segmentation strategy.
Through revealing the sweet spot amongst your audience clusters and helping to inform the type of content, format and channel amplification techniques you should leverage, you can then begin winning the right kind of engagements, over and over again.
Ready to join the top percentage of marketers, already applying intent data?
1. Searching (keyword & queries)
When it comes to keywords and search terms – we are what we type. That’s why these digital signals are an invaluable tool in a digitally savvy marketer’s arsenal.
Each typed word or long-tail keyword phrase provides a strong indication of the user’s intent. These can be used to better understand the motivations, interests and behaviors of your target audience.
From a business perspective, we want to track trends in the consumption of information on topics that you write about, and segment and target those users with relevant content during the many stages of their research.
Some key search query techniques to consider:
Informational Search Queries:
These are powerful because they tell you what users are looking for – in their own words! This is a crucial area you want to guide much of your research towards, as this is a critical touchpoint for consuming content that helps solve a problem, answer questions or grow knowledge.
By pumping out quality content that directly addresses the above, you are better positioned to build credibility, trust and long-term engagements.
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We also want to ensure our content assimilates the language used by our target audiences. In the same way mirroring body language is a subconscious ploy to connect with someone, mirroring keywords your target audience actively use in our content, helps to accelerate understanding and trust by showing you’re talking their language.
Navigational Search Queries:
These are Search terms users are actively using to find a specific page or website. For example ‘Twitter’, ‘Inbox Insight’, ‘LinkedIn’, ‘Facebook’, ‘YouTube’…etc.
As a high percentage of navigational queries denotes a strong awareness of your brand, this could be useful metric to benchmark when launching campaigns with the objective of growing awareness amongst your key audiences.
Internal Site Search Queries:
Analyzing search queries on your own website is just as important, however only 7% of companies report they’re efficiently learning from internal site search data (Econsultancy).
When analyzing your internal site searches, pay close attention to:
Most searched terms – trends of your audience
Next pages they visited – looking at intent behaviour flow
Popular searches that lead nowhere – great ideas for creating content
2. Browsing Intent (cookies & categories)
Which Specific Content Has the User Viewed?
Whilst keywords and search queries provide unique insight into how your target segments research along with the real-life language they use to express or articulate their pain points, browsing intent data provides an additional dimension, through which you can grow your audience understanding.
Cookies and browsing history involve tracking usage across devices and browsers, in order to avoid a fragmented view of your customer. We recommend investigating the following 2 areas:
First Party Browsing Intent
Pages that your users are viewing on your website, or reading in your marketing automation workflows. Combining this with metrics around length of engagement or content format gives you greater detail into user intent.
Third Party Browsing Intent
Users browsing relevant content on sites other than your own. This could include B2B publishers, business or technology-focused online communities, or even social media groups. Targeting these signals lets you reach relevant contacts outside or your own audience.
3. Action Intent (interactions & downloads)
A level down from browsing you can look at interactions. This is about understanding and recording the steps a user takes around your digital channel eco-system.
Buyers are 57% of the way down the sales path by the time they engage with a brand’s website (Fronetics). How could understanding their journey prior to your first interaction, help you improve engagement?
By taking in the multiple touchpoints a user goes through before even wanting to connect with your brand enables savvy marketers to adapt their strategy to deliver optimized content experiences that increase the probability of a sale.
This can be referred to as digital body language or digital footprint. Each digital interaction helps unlock knowledge of the mindsets of your target B2B buyers. In fact, Gartner predicts technology that recognizes customer intent, is so powerful that it will enable digital businesses to increase profits by up to 15% by 2020 (Optimizely).
As B2B buying decisions are more complex and include more stakeholders than ever before, it’s important to observe not all digital footprints follow a linear and repeatable trajectory to purchase. In fact, much like their mindsets, their journeys can be fraught with anomalies, back tracking and buyer stage hopping.
You can put this insight into action by mapping out your digital ecosystems against each user persona segment, recording all user driven actions across these multi-channel touchpoints and feeding it into your intent model.
Understanding which categories of pages and keyword topics your target users engage with, will give you a profile of their intent. This knowledge should be feed directly into your B2B content strategy, helping you understand different segments of intent that show a strong indication of what they want to hear – when they want to hear it.
4. Firmographic Intent (ABM)
Thematic reasoning techniques such as firmographic data is a strong B2B marketing segmentation technique used for building or assessing your target-account list (TAL).
This is achieved through leveraging specific data to form the selection criteria for shaping your market into segments, such as industry, revenue, number of employees, location…etc.
If you’re gathering this insight into the individuals engaging with your content, and you can match them to an account (for example when they give you their email address or company name on a form) then you can tie these data points together.
Looking at the company level, aggregating these individual intent signals together, we can get a picture of what each of the accounts in your CRM / MarTech are most interested in. You can then react accordingly with your campaigns.
Outside of the individuals within the company you may also want to explore account based data around organizational features. For example, changes to budget indicated from mergers, acquisitions, or funding. Or it might be a recent uptick for hiring certain skills or using a specific technology type.
5. Predictive Intent (lookalike modelling)
The previous 4 types of buyer intent data are based on historic and real-time data. Predictive Intent leverages this knowledge to identify patterns or similarities to inform future trends, actions or behaviors.
For example a spike in engagement with content about DDoS attacks, who are in the retail industry, above 1000 employees, with ecommerce job titles.
Or you might look at which specific pieces of content have been engaged with by a type of persona you use, and target the most popular piece to those of that particular persona that haven’t read it yet.
Now you know this, you can look at how to jump on this trend and target others who share nearly all of these features and expand your reach into those highly likely to be interested.
With the global AI market expected to grow approximately 150 percent (Statista) the ability to predict future events with greater accuracy is within reach.
With this in mind, the world of predictive intent is on the dawn of great possibilities. The strongest brands are already prepared – are you?
For more information on how Inbox Insight leverage intent data to build campaigns that deliver the right content, to the right audiences, at the right touchpoints, read on here.
For example, have you ever experienced success building strong engagement with a prospect that suddenly and quite unexpectedly drops off or never progresses? This could have been the result of another DMU member’s involvement. Not producing enough content that directly addresses the needs and priorities of all the key stakeholders in the buying process could derail your efforts later down the line. However, by winning them all over, you have a significantly better chance of success.
It’s therefore time to explore the often untapped and persuasive power of lower and mid-level stakeholders that make up a significant proportion of your target account’s DMU. These pockets of influence are often within easier reach and can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your campaign success.
This article puts the DMU back in the centre of your B2B marketing strategy, making sure you deliver what they want to hear, in order to win their trust (and business).
The combined power of individual B2B decision makers
The B2B buying decision is made collectively. But in order to win over the majority of individual stakeholders that make up that buying collective, you’ve got to know what each member wants to hear, and when they want to hear it.
In order to address the above, it’s important to go back to marketing basics – the Decision Making Unit model (also known as a buying center).
According to marketing professor and author David Kotler, there are 6 archetypes in the DMU:
Each member plays a significant role in the B2B buying decision, regardless of seniority. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must create an individual content marketing strategy for each individual role, it does however show the importance of engaging more than one member.
Take for example the needs of a User assigned the task to find a solution to make their output more productive. Their need is to uncover best practices or tangible solutions that will enable them to perform their tasks with greater speed, ease and competency.
This may be a video tutorial or a how-to guide or a learning series that provides easy-to-digest, actionable advice that can be applied to their day-to-day duties with immediate effect. You don’t need to look far to see real-life examples – the Hubspot Academy is a free online educational program targeted at entry to mid-weight marketing roles.
Through translating their content strategy into a learning program that delivers a constant stream of information that feeds both the rational and emotional needs of a modern marketer (i.e. to become better in their role and to gain social currency through accreditations), many would argue Hubspot have hit the nail on the head…
This is even more apparent when you consider the influential sway a team of Hubspot Academy advocates may have on the department’s decision to implement or upgrade a marketing automation solution that supports the newly optimized way of working.
Now let’s turn our attention to a stakeholder further up the ladder; a time poor manager, balancing both strategic and operational priorities. What sort of information could help them discern between new emerging technologies and the time to act?
This is where prevailing thought leadership and analyst reports transformed into easy-to-digest infographics and guides provide high value, especially if accessible through a trustworthy aggregator that leverages digital intent data to deliver the most relevant information straight to the inboxes of those too busy to search.
These examples illustrate the need to understand the DMU of your target account and their unique information requirements. As each member of DMU has a different perspective and set of needs, we must create a dynamic content strategy that pitches the right message to the right types of decision makers.
Dig Deeper: understanding the modern DMU to improve your B2B targeting strategy
The DMU concept was first created by Webster and Wind in 1972. Unsurprisingly, it’s evolving. Here are 3 game changers:
Millennials have entered the workforce. Around 73% of 20-35 year olds are involved in product or service purchase decisions at their companies. And a third reports that they’re the sole decision maker for their departments. This new demographic has brought new B2B research habits. They gravitate more strongly towards video and online. They have a preference for short bursts of information. Oh, and by the way they hate phone calls… (The Harvard Business Review)
2. Online buying
68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online. Meetings and phone calls with sales contacts now take place much later in the buying process. After completing their online research, buyers are choosing who they want to speak to. It’s an ‘invitation only’ sales shortlist. To make it onto the guest list, you must provide relevant information throughout the customer journey (Forbes).
3. Bigger DMUs
As our earlier stat showed, the DMU is growing – climbing from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today. To reach this larger, more diverse group, marketing campaigns have to work harder than ever. This means creating more diverse audience personas and relevant content. One-size-fits-all is unlikely to succeed (Forbes).
How can I map the DMU to better plan my demand generation campaigns?
We’ve created the following template to assist with your digital campaign planning. Through mapping each member of your target audience’s DMU, you can begin building a better B2B content strategy that delivers the right content to the right person in the right way.
What other factors shape the mindset of modern B2B Decision Makers?
What’s more, further CEB research suggests the phycological impact of living in an abundance of choice and information is taking its toll, leaving many buyers deeply uncertain, stressed and overwhelmed (Harvard Business Review).
With this in mind, here are 10 questions to help tap into the psyche of your B2B buyers
Who are they trying to impress? (Other members in the DMU, peers, family…etc.)
What struggles are they going through? (Professional/personal…etc.)
How can your content make their jobs easier? (Gain back time, increase productivity…etc.)
What trends or topics do they follow? (Intent data, subsciptions…etc)
What content are they likely to share in their LinkedIn feed? (Curated content, their own thought leadership, news alerts…etc)
What knowledge will make them look good in front of peers and other stakeholders? (Thought leadership, strategic input, trend forecasting…etc.)
Who do they trust? (Thought leaders, peer groups…etc.)
Who do they aspire to become? (CEO, Director, Thought Leader…etc)
Which Tone of Voice (ToV) resonates best? (Specialist terminology vs accessible language, warm vs authoritative tone…etc)
How can you simplify their decision making process? (Prescriptive approach, nurture process…etc.)
The bottom line
The more you uncover what makes your target audience tick, the more accurately you can plan your communications to deliver the best content experiences that result in a purchase. This includes factoring in all the key stakeholders, after all, many individuals lead to one powerful and coercive buying collective.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is here to stay, that much is clear. Its allure is evident; hand-pick the specific organizations you wish to sell to, ensure your marketing efforts are hyper-targeted, drive engagements that ultimately end in profit.
However, with a lack of understanding of the fundamental account based marketing tactics underpinning a successful digital marketing approach, campaigns can easily be unstructured, mismanaged and poorly executed – and we are at risk that this may also stick around, unless a handful of key tactical elements are held up to scrutiny.
What’s more, with the new wave of Data Analytics and Attribution Modelling having already broken, there has never been a better time to take a deep-dive into your ABM strategy. From the criteria used to create target account lists in the first instance, to the detail and targeting used to implement it, there are a number of considerations to bear in mind when launching into your next Account-Based Marketing campaign…
Mistake #1: Unsustainable Target Account Lists
Unsustainable Target Account Lists (TALs) are, by far, the most common problem when undertaking any ABM activity. A limited number of accounts to target will clearly translate to a limited number of contacts. Depending on how you set up these campaigns, you could be reaching out to the same decision makers through a variety of different publishers and channels, often generating the same leads (and therefore repeatedly paying for them).
By paying attention to the way this list is formed, we can extrapolate certain factors to potentially double, triple or quadruple the number of accounts you could reasonably target. Let us take, for example, a list which holds the following ‘Target Accounts’:
Lloyds NatWest Santander RBS Barclays
Where many B2B marketers are going wrong is to take this list at face value without considering the opportunity to expand it to include all other large, UK-focussed retail/high-street banks, a tactic that can instantly expand your available reach:
HSBC Standard Chartered Halifax TSB Metro Bank Sainsbury’s Bank Tesco Bank
These ‘lookalikes’ may seem glaringly obvious but yet somehow go unnoticed. Perhaps because in the quest to become hyper targeted, we can also become tunnel-visioned.
To avoid falling down the same pothole, thematic reasoning techniques such as firmographic data is a strong B2B marketing segmentation technique used for building or assessing your TAL.
This is achieved through leveraging specific data to form the criteria for shaping your audiences into meaningful segments. For example, by analyzing what makes an account attractive to your business and using this insight to spot other accounts that share these same salient characteristics, you can expand your target audience without diluting relevance to your key market offering.
Industry, Company Size, Company Type, Ownership, Trends and Intent Tags are just a few types of firmographic data examples that can be used to form the rationale behind your B2B segmentation and targeting strategy.
There of course instances where this practice won’t be relevant – if you form any TAL from a list of lost opportunities from the previous financial year, for example, you may be looking to be hyper-targeted and run personalized messaging. If there is a growing theme within that list itself however, don’t rush to dismiss this potential growth opportunity.
In these cases, firmographic data around trends and intent data is something to be especially aware of, irrespective of the size of the Target Account List you are working with. Either by layering this on top of the list you are working to, or utilizing Intent Data to expand upon the organizations you are looking to target, the tracking of intent signals – either by content consumption or area of interest – can help ensure your targeting is at its most effective.
Mistake #2: Leaving the ‘A’ out of ABM
Briefs and Campaign plans surrounding ABM activity are obviously focused on generating demand from a select number of companies that you feel your products or services would particularly benefit from. Often, however, we come up against a targeting issue no bump in TAL numbers can ever truly fix – Job Titles.
As a salesperson or B2B marketer, being able to speak to the direct budget holder, Director or C-Suite decision maker is a dream come true. However, discarding other members of the Decision Making Unit (DMU) such as influencers, lower-level job titles or the individuals that make up the team, can be a big mistake. Sure, senior stakeholders yield greater influence at latter stages of the B2B buying process, however, without strategically targeting stakeholders aligned to the earlier stages of the buying process, you may be reaching too far up the chain, too early.
ABM works at its absolute best when surrounding a given organizations’ key decision making department(s) with the right messaging at the right time, as a whole, at varying levels of the funnel. In a recent benchmark survey report, Klaudia Tirico noted that “[respondents] are taking strides to deliver targeted content tailored to specific industries (64%) and specific roles (51%), as well as personalized content for each account (45%).” (Demand Gen Survey Report)
Persona-based targeting, with a focus on each tier within any one business area, can be incredibly lucrative when run in parallel. A full suite of tailored assets, combined with cross-channel activity targeting all potential influencers across a variety of job roles and seniority levels gives the highest chance of success.
Mistake #3: Ignoring the need for Sales AND Marketing alignment
Before any ABM activity can begin, both sides need to agree on, and understand the goals, KPIs and metrics they are working towards, together. This alignment – through shared insight and a combined drive to deliver the best approach – is the only way to expand relationships among your key accounts.
One thing to pay attention to, especially when looking to target a particularly limited set of accounts, is whether this is the type of play better suited to be run internally via your Sales and/or Business Development teams alone. The cost of enlisting your own experts to reach out to these businesses and educate them on your products and services, especially when at the scale of double- or early triple-digits, may be considerably more cost effective and commercially viable than looking externally for assistance. Matt Heinz, Founder of Heinz Marketing, puts it particularly well: “That list of target accounts? That’s not a three month campaign. That’s your list, man! That’s who you want to sell to – today, tomorrow, next quarter, next year, whatever & however long it takes.” (Heinz Marketing).
It is important to remember that as ABM is a full-funnel strategy, not simply confined to Marketing, key stakeholders across the business should be able to track and understand the reasoning and execution of your campaign throughout its lifecycle.
When building out a target account list, especially when briefing out to publishers and 3rd party suppliers, it is of particular importance to provide as much data on each account as possible. At the very least, the provision of a web domain per account should be sought, as this allows an exact match count to be run against any data that is being targeted – internally or externally. Partial matches against Company Name data can be frustrating for all involved, and can often result in improper targeting and wasted inventory. The sources used to collate and create ABM targeting and TALs should allow this data to be extracted – and it is of vital importance that it is.
When applying the finishing touches to your ABM approach (ideally having curated an extensive list, through multiple data sources, with a set of domains and a broad list of job titles ), getting the channels and messaging right is of vital importance.
Any number of decision makers can be sought and engaged with at different times of the day, through a variety of different media with a differing level of subject-matter interest than their peers, and it is only when a campaign truly caters to all potential influencing parties that it performs at its best.
Content syndication is a great way to engage individuals and generate leads, but have you considered Social? Programmatic is a fantastic way of getting your message out in a digestible format, but have you attempted this via email?
It is not only the choice of channels and the type of messaging, but the frequency, reach and combination of these elements which will truly allow your message to permeate across your key target accounts, and give your Sales and BDR teams the best possible opportunity to win their business for you.
After all, that’s what all this is about, isn’t it?