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“Losing your head in a crisis is a good way to become the crisis.” — C.J. Redwine
The first crisis I ever waded through in my public relations career happened at 6AM in an empty parking lot. As we were about to kick off a client’s major downtown revitalization effort, it was discovered the two parking lots we had reserved had, overnight, shrunk to a single lot. With an hour to go before guests arrived, I quickly weighed our options. Meanwhile, my boss, and my boss’s boss, were apoplectic. “What are we going to do?”; and in the same breath: “Why aren’t you upset about this?”
Rather than mirror their stress, I chose another path. No use having all three of us running around like chickens with our heads cut off. I quickly located the parking attendant — I will be forever grateful he managed to show up early that morning — who promptly made a phone call to his supervisor. Within minutes, the second lot was available. Problem solved. Crisis averted. Successful event occurred. Today, you can’t swing a cat in downtown Nashville without hitting a tourist or a construction crane. Those two parking lots? Each is occupied by a 10+-story building.
While our event is hardly responsible for Nashville’s explosive growth, I like to think it helped in its own small way. But more importantly, it taught me a big lesson about managing a crisis.
The same holds true for crisis communications. Defining the contours of the crisis, developing a plan of action, and moving with all deliberate speed to implement it forms the bedrock of crisis communications. It’s the difference between emerging from a crisis with your corporate reputation intact, or a very expensive lesson in how to heal a trust deficit.
Why B2B Companies Need Crisis Communications
Most B2B companies don’t think they’re as exposed to the same crisis communications pressures as those marketing to consumers. Think again. While it’s true that for most B2B companies, Google (and hopefully your own SEO efforts) has done some of the reputation management work for being found by potential customers, they’ve still got a long way to go in terms of establishing trust. Once established, it’s not hard to break that trust with an ill-timed response to an issue, or a “no comment” in a crisis.
I recently interviewed Matthew Stotts, partner at Tenor PR, which provides strategic communications for VC firms, private equity, and other financial entities. He commented that the biggest mistake B2B companies make is in thinking they can manage any crisis on an ad hoc basis.
They’ll say: "we have such close relationships with customers we can manage [the crisis] with a phone call." But they lack an appreciation for the impact their business has on their direct customer. Those customers have families or have businesses where the B2B relationship isn’t completely opaque.
Customers, according to Stotts, aren’t the only audience to consider in a crisis scenario:
We live in the world. We don’t get to operate and control who we communicate with when our products have touched the lives of others. If you see a crisis unfolding that’s similar to anything you can imagine happening to your company, and you haven’t gone through all the preparation, then [now] is the time.
What is a Crisis?
A crisis is a significant threat to operations that, if not handled properly, can bring consequences related to human life, reputation, stock value, or property. As such, the communications efforts surrounding a crisis differ from the proactive engagement efforts of standard public relations efforts. Effective crisis communications is more preservative, in that it seeks to protect, and in some cases, enhance an existing corporate reputation.
C-Suite shenanigans hold the top spot on the list of common crises for B2B companies. Examples include: financial malfeasance or an extramarital affair getting splashed all over social media, systemic crises (e.g., the Chipotle food poisoning incidents a few years back), and even those that exist outside a company’s power to control: natural disasters, mass shootings, terrorism.
Workplace accidents, data breaches, and natural disasters are all examples of a crisis that may have particular impact on B2B companies.
Define it Further: Is it a Problem or a Crisis?
It is equally important to determine the level of crisis and respond proportionally. “If you treat a crisis like a bad day, you’ll make it worse; if you treat a bad day like a crisis, you’ll make it into one,” says Kevin Elliott, a senior executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, the global public relations firm. Bad days are best handled with patience. Crises demand swift action. Overplay your response to a crisis, however, and you may draw unnecessary attention to something that doesn’t deserve it.
Bad days are best handled with patience. Crises demand swift action.
Chantal LeBoulch, vice president of accounts at Golden Spiral, has invested her career in communications and public relations, particularly for B2B and technology companies. She advises B2B clients to have a thorough understanding of the problem before commenting, or even deciding to comment, “But when you do, be as honest and transparent as possible about the situation.”
Stotts especially cautions against viewing crisis in the aggregate, stating, “They’ll bean count the crisis instead of treating it as a human issue: this is about people’s livelihood or their lives. You have to talk in qualitative not quantitative measures.”
Bottom line: If the situation has stopped normal operating activities, requires immediate decisions to be made to keep people safe, or needs immediate diversion of resources, it’s probably a crisis.
Plan Your Response to Crisis
Whether it’s a problem or crisis, it’s time to start planning. While there’s a “let me see if I can do it myself” quality that proudly propels many B2B company leaders towards success, crisis planning is best left to the pros. Even the “Be Prepared” Boy Scouts of America retain public relations counsel for advice on a number of efforts, including crisis communications.
Crisis Begins with a “C”: Take Note, C-Suite
While process and preparation define the best approaches to successful crisis communications, LeBoulch and Stotts agree that C-Suite Involvement is a must. Having a board-level conversation about crisis should occur at least once a year — even if there is not a pending crisis. Together with other leadership teams, the C-suite should bring crisis management into their thinking and planning at all times.
When a true crisis does arise, the only spokesperson should be the CEO or chairman. “It’s always got to be the C-Suite,” says Stotts. Don’t push it any further down. Whoever speaks, speaks volumes.”
When it comes to what they say, the letter C comes in handy again: “Communicate what you know. Communicate what you’re actively doing, and communicate when you will have more information,” says Stotts.
There is one other CEO linchpin to successful crisis management, Stotts adds. In addition to ongoing media relations efforts by the company, it is vital for the CEO to have one or two strong relationships with journalists who report on their company. While it can be cultivated by outside public relations counsel, this is a relationship that must be owned by the CEO. It goes a long way for a CEO to phone that reporter directly and immediately and notify him or her of the unfolding crisis.
The 5 Components of a Crisis Communications Plan
1. Risk Assessment/Crisis Scenarios
Planning for a crisis starts with thinking about the types of crises that could arise. LeBoulch advises companies to think about those that have occurred in their industry, and how they would respond to a similar event. “Whether it was a product defect or natural disaster, companies should determine how a crisis could impact their customers, employees, partners and all stakeholders.”
Monitoring news/brand sentiment is a good practice to see whether a crisis could potentially be on the horizon or if company reputation is fluctuating. Whether or not your company has a robust social media presence, build social media audits into your planning efforts. There could be a crisis you’re unaware of that’s brewing.
In addition to social media, resilience audits and crisis health checks help determine how prepared companies are to weather a crisis, and what to do about it. Evaluating — and re-evaluating — crisis preparedness should be a consistent item on any B2B company agenda.
2. Internal Preparation
Build out your crisis response team
Don’t just include members of the communications team. Assign a representative from HR, your legal counsel, and designate a single point of contact for the group. Pre-assign internal staff with clearly defined, non-overlapping roles: i.e., media center coordinator, CEO point person, liaison with first responders, etc.
Establish a media command center
It can be virtual, but depending on the crisis, it might need to be a physical space where news media and other audiences can gather for news and updates. Make sure they have all the appropriate tools — USB chargers, power strips — anything they might need to do their job.
Develop contact lists
Given your imagined scenarios, who would need to be made aware of the crisis immediately? Leadership team, employees and customers are fairly self-evident, but news media, government officials, suppliers, and others should also be in an easily accessible database redundant to all platforms — an Excel spreadsheet won’t do you any good if all electronic devices suddenly become unavailable.
Assemble communications materials
These are the key messages, drafts of press releases, social media and email templates and pre-approved statements that can be customized quickly. Video production capabilities need to be identified as well.
Conduct spokesperson training and internal team coaching
If you have a public relations firm working with you, make sure there’s a member of their team with specialized training for this function.
3. Crisis Communications "ToolKit"
This is essentially bringing all the items outline in 1 and 2 together and making them available to the team. The toolkit should be updated at predetermined intervals.
4. Test and Re-Test
LeBoulch cautions companies to regularly test and re-test their plans with mock crisis simulations. “During a crisis is not the time to figure out where the bottlenecks are, and what needs to be done about it.” Think of it as a fire drill or first aid training of a different kind.
5. Post Crisis Review
Every action needs an after-action report. This is the time to communicate final outcomes to all your audiences, acknowledge the heroes who went above and beyond to resolve the crisis, and make assessments.
Review the plan
What worked? What didn’t? What needs to be changed?
Review news coverage
Were key messages communicated? If not, why not? Is more follow-up needed? Make sure you thank the reporters and editors who were especially helpful and effective. It goes a long way to building relationships you might need to call on should another crisis surface.
Review the state of your corporate reputation
Finally, an honest and thorough assessment of corporate reputation is vital. Use all the tools you have at your disposal — from website analytics to news coverage.
How a Crisis Gets Worse
The wheels come off a company’s response when they are slow to respond. It’s the biggest mistake companies continue to make when it comes to crisis communications. “They don’t match the speed of response with the critical nature of the crisis,” says Stotts. “When a crisis hits, most people forget what the plan is. At that point, making the C-suite executive — preferably the CEO — available and ready to address all audiences is critical.”
LeBoulch agrees, even if the company may not have gathered all the information about the crisis, or if it’s an evolving situation. “It’s much better to communicate upfront that a company is aware of the issue and taking proactive steps to resolve it rather than stay quiet.”
A note on legal counsel: It’s vital to involve them from the beginning in crisis planning, and that they understand its value. While their tendency is to shut down any and all communications, the court of public opinion will fill the information vacuum with conjecture and speculation that can be far more damaging to a company than what could occur in a court of law.
The companies who are best prepared to weather a crisis have already done the heavy lifting. They know who they are, who their customers are, the kinds of problems their products solve, and they’ve built a solid reputation for trust and excellence in their industry. They are led by a CEO who appreciates the risk that poorly handled crisis management can have on their brand, their community and their employees.
Does this apply to your company today? If there are gaps in your crisis preparedness efforts, come and talk to us. We’d love to hear your story and help you get ready for when, not if, crisis comes.
While you face a number of challenges unique to the B2B tech universe, you also have quite a bit in common with B2C brands. If your company’s sales and marketing strategy isn’t quite cutting it, look to your favorite B2C brands for ideas.
Here are six things that B2C companies do exceptionally well that B2B tech companies should take note of.
1. They Speak to their Customers Like Humans
Often, B2B companies — B2B tech companies in particular — have trouble focusing on the human aspect of sales and marketing. And by definition, B2B does mean business-to-business. Remember, however, those businesses are run by human beings — just like you and me. They have needs, wants, desires, pain points, goals, and objectives in their personal a professional lives that your sales and marketing should speak to.
It isn’t just about selling to a business, it is about selling to the people within a business by understanding them as people.
This is something that B2C companies do particularly well. By nature, their sales and marketing efforts are business to consumer or customer, so within their sales and marketing, they are always putting the customer’s needs, wants, desires, pain points, goals and objectives in the forefront, and many do an excellent job of speaking to these areas. B2Cs think of them as people, not businesses.
B2B companies are often really, really good at disrupting the user experience with a broadcast of their brand (which is as likely to be acknowledged as an outdated billboard on the freeway). One of the biggest mistakes they make (which also leads to a lot of wasted ad dollars) is how they use digital ads — particularly, paid social media.
Take this ad from ibml for example — a technology company and product I haven’t heard of — and a message that doesn’t resonate with me at all. Yet, they’re on my LinkedIn feed, wasting their precious ad dollars. And we know from experience that ibml is not alone here.
It is important to keep in mind that social media is a recreational experience. Humans use to it to relax and socialize, and often aren’t in the state of mind to make a purchase — especially if it is a product they’ve never heard of before. B2C companies get this, and don’t interrupt the user experience, but rather, become a part of it.
B2C companies are pros at retargeting previously engaged visitors, and new visitors who are likely to engage with them. The effort of retargeting is technically referred to as remarketing in paid media platforms. Think about it: have you ever shopped at an online retailer, and then seen ads online for the products you were shopping for or similar products? And then later — maybe, just maybe — you purchased the product or a similar one from the retailer? In these cases, you’re much more likely to convert due to familiarity versus buying when you see an ad from a company or brand you’ve never heard of.
The old “rule of seven” certainly still applies here, too: a consumer needs to see an impression for a brand at least seven times before making action. We think, that when you place ads like ibml, that number doubles… or maybe even triples. And that is a lot of ad spend, depending on where you’re placing ads.
So, as a B2B tech company, keep in mind that when it comes to ad views, it’s quality and timing, not just quantity. Don’t disrupt the user experience, contribute to it.
3. They’re Social
B2C brands have a lot of fun on their websites, in emails, and on social media. They know how to speak to their customers like humans. They openly respond to questions, comments, and concerns on Facebook — even if those are negative.
Let’s take a look at Southwest, who (maybe) single-handedly turned Twitter into the “customer service platform” it’s known as today. The company responds to every single tweet, within minutes.
So, if Southwest can handle responding to thousands of tweets every week from disgruntled travelers, your B2B tech company — who is likely handling a much smaller number of communications — can too.
What is your plan for responding to social media mentions, questions, and complaints? Is it written? Do you have a point person for crafting and posting responses?
Integrating social media into your website is a common trend among B2B and B2C companies, as it helps to humanize your brand, as Zappos does here:
This type of website enhancement can help humanize your brand , and earn you more followers on social media.
They Speak to Real Problems with Real Solutions
When selling or marketing a SaaS or other tech product, it’s really easy to get caught up in selling the “features.” They are, of course, what you worked so hard on developing. But, to many people, features can be noise. Rather, they need to hear how the product as a whole can solve their problem or grow their business.
Take the Owlet baby monitor for example. The cool tech product helps parents sleep sound knowing their baby is safe — and that’s the primary message they communicate.
No fear, however. You can dive into the wearable’s features if you’d like. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll just hit the “buy now” button knowing that peace of mind is priceless.
In short, in the B2C world, a problem-solution approach is primary, while features are secondary. And B2B tech companies should think about their marketing in the same way.
5. “Customer Service” is their Middle Name
B2C companies have hundreds of thousands of clients — who, at a moment’s notice, have no problem leaving a negative online review which could tarnish the company’s reputation. For this reason, among others, many popular B2C brands put a lot of time and resources into offering outstanding customer service.
A great example of this is chewy.com — an online pet food supply order service. The company is known for their phone, email, and live support, one of the primary reasons pet lovers choose to work with the company.
As a B2B technology company, how well do you focus on excellent customer service? Make it a component of your brand and messaging and stay true to it — you’ll notice your retention numbers hit all-time highs.
6. B2C Companies Have a Distinct and Honest Brand Soul
Last, but certainly not least, B2C companies often have a deep understanding of who they are, why they exist, and the problems they aim to solve. Their voice is succinct. They understand their passions, and live by them. They have a brand soul.
A brand soul helps you:
Better understand your goals
Better understand your customer
See where your product fits in the market
Plan for long-term growth
For some reason, many B2B technology companies skip the discovery of the soul, and focus on the outer self. But without a soul, your product and brand is easily weakened. Need help defining the soul of your brand, check out our product worksheet.
Soulful brands tend to have higher levels of loyalty and show higher conversion rates. Brand soul also steers employees’ activity in the areas of customer service, sales, product development, and innovation thus leading to an overall better experience with your company.
At Golden Spiral, we deeply understand that B2B companies — and B2B technology companies in particular — are different from B2C companies. They have different products, needs, audiences, personas, and budgets. But one thing we know for certain is this: when a B2B tech company injects certain B2C marketing ideas into its overall strategy, the results are magnificent.
Do you need a partner to help you humanize your tech brand and improve your marketing? We’d love to meet with you. Meet with one of our B2B technology marketing experts today.
As you well know, Super Bowl ads are the most expensive on television each year. (In 2019, they topped $175,000 per second) And that’s before paying for celebrities, writing, production, special effects, and the integrated campaigns that must exist to support them.
What could you do with an annual marketing budget worth just one Super Bowl commercial? (That’s a great question to play with when plotting your next marketing plan.)
The Super Bowl commercials present an annual opportunity to watch commercials with a critical eye for what the companies are really saying. In a way, we become honest with ourselves: we know the good commercials aren’t necessarily going for a specific look, logo, design, font, hook line, or even call to action.
The companies and commercials with real power are the ones going for something a lot larger. Brand.
I’m amazed at how many articles exist about building a brand. Every author has exact directions that they say everyone can follow. What’s more, everyone uses phrases like “simple steps” and “branding process.” If you do this, you get an awesome brand!
But if that’s true, why aren’t there 1,000 restaurants all as big as McDonald’s? Why is Nike in a league of its own?
Consider Pepsi’s 2019 concept — a treatise against the culture-wide reaction in restaurants when you ask for a Coke and the waiter asks, “Is Pepsi okay?” Pepsi is literally fighting how much it is losing. Coca-Cola is definitely winning its war.
Branding is About Who You Are. The Soul of Your Company. And Who You Are is What Sets You Apart.
In a remarkable interview with Seth Godin, the author of This is Marketing and one of the few people inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame, Godin points out that while we are not anything like Nike (in size), we can learn several things from their branding.
Seth Godin Breaks Down the Brilliance of Nike's Brand Strategy - YouTube
He juxtaposes Nike and Hyatt Hotels. "If Nike opened a hotel, I think we would be able to guess pretty accurately what it would be like. If Hyatt came out with sneakers, we'd have no clue."
Already, without thinking very much, we have an idea of what experience Nike would create, how they would appoint the rooms, and how they would handle service opportunities like a restaurant, valet, and a gift shop.
Hyatt's sneakers? We have no idea what that would look like except a logo.
Hyatt has a name and a logo. They don't have a brand. Hyatt's brand doesn't offer anything distinct.
Godin then says, "So what it means to have a brand is you've made a promise to people. They have expectations. It's a shorthand. 'What should I expect the next time?' And if that is distinct, you've earned something. If it's not distinct, let's admit, you made a commodity and you're trying to charge just a little bit extra for peace of mind.... The value of a brand is how much extra am I paying above the substitute?"
What do your customers expect the next time they interact with you?
Or are you a commodity to be considered alongside your competition and your potential customers will look for the lowest cost?
Godin concludes, "The most important thing is to not worry about your slogan, your spokesperson — the wrapping. It's to worry about the substance. Work that matters for people who care. Find the people who care."
As companies, we need to actually make promises to show that we can keep them. In this way…
Branding is Similar to Your Personal Integrity
As a person, you gain integrity by doing what you say you are going to do.
However, if we don’t promise to do anything for anybody, we have no chances to prove that we can keep our promises.
If you think about stories, it is evident that the goodness of a hero can only be so big as the amount of evil he or she is able to overcome. The same can be said of our integrity.
Your Integrity, and Therefore Brand, can Only Grow as Much as the Size or Distinction of the Promise You Make.
B2B Tech companies like yours rarely grow to be the size of Nike, Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s, few can afford a Super Bowl Commercial, and fewer would find it to be a strategic move in the B2B space. However, we need to recognize that there is a feeling — there is a story — behind them and inside their companies beat the hearts of the promises they make. We are nowhere near the point of grasping them.
It has nothing to do with the fact that their marketing budgets are huge, but has everything to do with the story they tell with those marketing budgets, and the experiences and service they deliver consistently and constantly afterwards.
The lesson to be learned: Make promises that are distinct. Then follow through. When you do, you show what you’re really made of. When you do this, you gain the great leverage point of every brand: influence.
A Company is Influential Because Influence is a Byproduct of Integrity
Influence is the result of having others trust you.
Trust comes from communicating the truth — without deception, denial, exaggeration, waffling. Trust means what you say is what you do.
Being known as a person of your word [trustworthy] represents power.
Power translates to influence.
When a company promises something and then keeps their word, they have integrity. This integrity in large enough quantities over time translates into influence — Influence on our perception of the company, influence on our individual lives, and influence on our buying decisions.
A Leadership Challenge
Put a one-hour appointment on the calendar. Invite two or three others to join you. Consider these thoughts:
Think of three companies whose branding and promises you admire. Why? What promises do they make?
What can your company promise that will set you and your company apart?
How will your company follow through on your promises?
Don’t just dance on the fringes of the market and hope people will come to your corner to hand you money. Go out there. Make a unique promise. Follow up with an incredible product. Provide service people beyond belief.
This is how we build our reputations. This is how we build integrity. That integrity becomes our identity as a brand. And that identity is the result of having a brand that matters.
So maybe the people who write the “simple steps to branding” articles are right, but shortsighted: The steps for building a brand are indeed simple. They don’t even take a giant marketing budget. But they are not easy. They take guts, a lot of follow-through, and loads of character.
Odysseus asked his crew to tie him to the ship’s mast so he wouldn’t succumb to the sirens’ song. He wanted to hear it, but not heed it. And that’s where a lot of B2B tech marketers find themselves, when it comes to the constant call of current marketing trends.
At Golden Spiral, we study the trends, incorporating many of them ourselves, and we help our clients implement many, as well. But only where trends support their strategy and make sense as part of communicating their story.
What’s Trending Can Tantalize You
How do you know which calls to heed? What among the seemingly endless stream of stories about marketing trends should you pay attention to? Phrases such as purchase-intent targeting, influencer marketing, and chatbot-powered marketing threaten to send you into a tailspin. What else does your marketing plan lack?
Let’s consider just one: video. “Among tech companies, adoption of video marketing is expected to jump from 49% in 2018 to 68% in 2019!” Video marketing is being used to “share customer testimonials, livestream events, or deliver how-tos in an engaging way,” according to Spiceworks.
Wait. You’ve never done a livestream event. You don’t have a single how-to or customer testimonial recorded on video. So you’re already behind. But you press on, reading about all the things you’re not doing.
Looking for reassurance, you flee to another source. It says “ignore emerging trends at your own risk.” That “staying up to date with changes” is “integral” to everything from audience demand to conversions. That all tech companies should invest in certain trends, including gamification and marketing automation. Should you invest in gamification and marketing automation? Why?
Tie yourself to the mast for a few minutes. The top B2B marketing trends may not be the sirens’ song exactly, but they can become the proverbial shiny objects or squirrels to chase after. Certainly don’t ignore them. But don’t chase them, either.
Instead, evaluate trends as they relate to your company’s position, your goals, and your customers’ wants and needs. Carefully consider what’s already working for you. Or you could end up way off course. Even shipwrecked.
Why Concentrate on Consistency?
Often marketing wins go to those who are the most consistent, not those who are the most innovative. Be more strategy-focused than tactic-focused and you’ll prevail every time. Trends often center on tactics, and tactics need to be an extension of strategy.
Many B2B Tech Marketers have not spent ample time developing their marketing strategy. 61% of US-based B2B companies had no formal marketing plan in place during 2018.
Why Put Positioning Before Pursuit?
To think strategically, start with positioning and let your plans for execution flow logically from what you find during that all-important process. John Farkas, Founder, CEO and Chief Storyteller at Golden Spiral, often says, “If you don’t differentiate yourself, you will just create more noise in the market. But a great product surrounded by a great customer-centric positioning effort will create an irresistible pull.”
Where Can You Take Your Customer?
Two of our clients, 360 View and Digital Reasoning, are creating an irresistible pull with customer-centric positioning. In each case, we’ll examine something old and something new in the tactics they’ve chosen.
Donald Miller echoes an important principle in his book Build A Story Brand.“Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them…. Every potential customer we meet is asking where we can take them.”
Where are you taking your customers? That destination could be financial security. Technical proficiency. Or something far more significant.
Dig Deep: How Can Your Brand Change Lives?
Sometimes it takes digging deeper into your company’s stories to find something life-changing. That’s why we usually take our clients on an off-site workshop to do some strategic soul searching.
One case study focuses on Thorn, a nonprofit organization that uses technology innovation to combat the predatory behavior of adults towards children, rescue the victims of their crimes, and protect the vulnerable from sexual abuse.
“We found a way to empower law enforcement to identify and assist trafficked children,” said Julia Cordua, CEO of Thorn.
Talk about changing lives — that’s the story of Spotlight, a web-based tool Digital Reasoning helped develop for Thorn. Powered by Synthesys®, Digital Reasoning’s cognitive computing platform, Spotlight provides law enforcement with intelligence about suspected human trafficking networks and individuals in order to identify and assist victims.
Spotlight has assisted in more than 8,300 investigations conducted by 780 law enforcement agencies and has contributed to the identification of 6,625 victims and 2,255 pimps. Its ability to help law enforcement handle the scale of human communications data has reduced investigation times by 44%.
“The sheer volume of data once made the task of quickly finding a child being sold online almost impossible, but with Digital Reasoning we’ve turned data into a tool to help defend the vulnerable,” Cordua says.
How Does Your Company Serve as a Skilled Guide?
In this example, Digital Reasoning became the guide to help Thorn perform a heroic feat for law enforcement. Thorn, in turn, became the guide to help law enforcement undertake valiant deeds in pursuit of vulnerable children. The entire process demonstrates another principle in positioning: make your customer the hero.
While testimonials are not new, Digital Reasoning used this tried-and-true tactic to tell a meaningful new story. Then, as we worked together to reimagine their website, Digital Reasoning chose a trending piece of technology to improve user experience: chatbots.
Will Chatbots Work for You?
Chatbots work best if your company has compiled a written database of answers to customers’ questions. If you haven’t yet, you may not have the capability to use chatbots effectively. It takes many months (or years) to build such a database. Do you want to chase that squirrel right now? Or can a staff member handle most questions and inquiries personally within 24 hours? Digital Reasoning’s website features a chatbot powered by Drift tapping their database on a regular basis.
Do You Ditch Webinars and Email for What’s New?
360 View, the growth platform developed for banks and credit unions, provides all the tools necessary to maximize team performance at financial institutions. Imagine for a minute that you are in their shoes. 360 View is successful at producing webinars. Should you shift your emphasis from producing webinars to creating videos just because everyone in B2B tech is planning more video content? Since email isn’t making headlines this year, should you deemphasize it?
Even if email is not shiny and new, “ 59% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel in terms of revenue generation.” It’s the “third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders,” according to WordStream.
Can You Re-energize Your Email Marketing?
But what if your as well any more? Your open rates are down and your webinar attendance is off? That’s what was happening with 360 View. Every two weeks 360 View was running webinars, which were product demos, and inviting their entire email list.
Account-based marketing, often mentioned in what’s trending lists, is a tactic that fit with 360 View’s strategy. Since a customer’s choice to work with 360 View is ultimately a one-to-one sale, it made sense to approach top prospects and clients in a personalized manner with a VIP gift box and complimentary ticket to a themed private event during a trade show.
Build on success, as 360 View has by not avoiding the hottest tools but by choosing only those that complement your goals. Refining. Not totally revamping. Unless it’s strategically sound.
For the sake of discussion, new marketing trends can be “barking dogs” that delay your progress. Or they can be brilliant tools that get you where you want to go.
Think back to Odysseus: He could have skipped the sirens’ song altogether, but he wanted to experience its beauty. It’s interesting that he filled his crew members’ ears with beeswax so they wouldn’t surrender to the sirens’ pleas. Or to his.
If you can’t resist the distractions, sometimes a little beeswax doesn’t hurt, when you need to press on. Unlike Ulysses, you may need to heed some of the siren calls: B2B Tech Marketers need to be aware of what’s trending, so blocking it all completely out isn’t a viable option.
How Can You Find Clarity
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says, “Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.” Author and clarity coach Steve Woodruff said in our interview with him, “Unless we are communicating in a clear and compelling fashion, nobody can understand our business, nobody can buy from us, and nobody can refer us to others. If we live in that state too long, we’ll go bankrupt.”
Here are a few tips to narrow your focus:
Go back to your core: your marketing plan and your KPIs. Are they solid? Are you tracking them? Do you have weekly and/or monthly meetings on everyone’s calendars to discuss them? The much-maligned status meeting really can keep your team on target. If not, stop reading this article right now and create the calendar invitations.
When was the last time you updated your competitive analysis? Before writing our marketing plan for this year, we looked at our own analysis and discovered two new players who were in our top ten with a bullet. We also noticed some ground we were losing in our search rankings. Don’t assume what you knew about your competition 12 months ago still holds.
Place boundaries on your distractions and schedule “ deep work.”
Take stock of what’s working. Make sure you have KPIs for the tactics you’re already using.
Instead of listening to the siren song of current B2B tech marketing trends, strap yourself to the mast and focus on your strategy to get to your destination. Thinking strategically begins with developing a positioning statement, a competitive marketing analysis, and your buyer matrix. Then turn to tactics, incorporating trends only as they complement your marketing strategy. Figure out what customer success stories you’d like to tell, making sure you’re positioned as a guide and your customer remains the hero. Ignore “dogs that bark,” shiny objects, squirrels, or even sweetly singing sirens and keep your gaze fixed on the all-important destination. For Odysseus, it was Ithaca. What is yours?
With more than $1.62 billion invested in the digital health space in Q1 of 2018 alone, payer and provider organizations are faced with more enterprise, mobile, and IT options than options to improve patient care and business operations.
For health tech and SaaS vendors, they must have a well-planned and executed marketing strategy to remain competitive. Not surprisingly, a critical piece of any marketing strategy is content. While marketing content can appear in many forms—videos, blogs, infographics, etc.—the written component is ever-present. Effective videos use scripts, infographics need text, and–of course–blogs don’t exist without copy.
Because of the vastness and complexity of the healthcare industry, health IT writing differs from other types of B2B content writing. Your content writers must have a clear, focused understanding of healthcare, and where your solution fits in, so they can speak the language of your buyers.
Here are five tips to help you address your healthcare audience’s most salient pain points and speak with authority.
1. Know What’s Going On with the Major Health Tech Players
Staying in the loop about industry news is a critical component of the research process for writing any content piece. You need to know what issues, trends, and regulations your target audiences are facing on a daily basis, so you can meet them where they are. It’s even more important in healthcare, given the volume of ever-changing regulations and the ongoing rate of innovation — whether it’s at the bedside or in the finance office. Be sure you’re up to speed on what organizations like CMS, ONC, HIMSS, and CHIME are saying; these are some of the loudest voices in the industry. If you’re paying attention to them, you’ll be in tune with what your customers are hearing. The latest healthcare and health IT news is widely available, including: HIStalk, Becker’s Hospital Review, Modern Healthcare, and Healthcare IT News. Reference these sources and industry authorities to add credibility to your content, whether in a blog post, white paper, or social media post.
Industry News Guides Informational Content
According to the 2019 B2B Content Marketing Report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 90% of the most successful B2B content marketers have prioritized their audience’s informational needs in their sales/promotional messages. This means rather than diving straight into features and pricing, these companies lead with broader messages around what their solutions do. When you’re well-versed in what’s going on in the healthcare world, you’ll be able to more easily craft content that meets their informational needs.
2. Tailor Your Content to Specific Audiences
The healthcare ecosystem is vast and complex. There are a lot of different players with a hand patient care, business operations, finance, and technology. If you sell to hospitals, directing your content to a general “provider” audience just won’t cut it. Instead, identify your specific buyer and keep your content focused on that buyer’s primary concerns. A Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO) cares about different issues than a physician or a revenue cycle manager. Put yourself in the shoes of who you serve to understand how your solution addresses that person's day-to-day functions. Just remember to tie it all back to the macro impact of your solution on the organization. That’s where you show real value.
Persona Development Is Key
To really know your customers and ensure your content is geared toward them, we always recommend developing buyer personas that focus on real market problems and your buyers’ skills, and are adaptable over time as the industry changes and your solution evolves. Having this narrow understanding will greatly help you deliver customer-centric marketing messages that truly resonate with your audience.
The 2019 CMI B2B Content Marketing Report also found that 77% of top performing B2B content marketers use personas for content marketing purposes, but only 42% of them are having conversations with customers for audience research. This is something that needs to change for marketers to really hone in their audience. If you’re not in a customer-facing role, connect with someone in your organization who is and pick their brain, or better yet, have them set up a call with a customer so you can get first-hand info for your personas.
3. Bring It Back to the Patient
No matter who your buyers are within the healthcare ecosystem, their customers are ultimately the patients. Even if you’re targeting a CFO or CTO, these executives still must focus on improving patient care and the patient experience to excel in their roles.
Healthcare is inherently human because real people’s lives are at stake. While your company’s IT solution may be several steps removed from patient care, it still plays a part in making the system work to save people’s lives. Make sure you humanize your brand and remain focused on the industry’s overall goal of improving patient health.
Write with Patient Care in Mind
When writing marketing content, don’t forget the patient perspective. You’ve no doubt been a patient before and have interfaced with the healthcare system in some capacity. Knowing this, you can put yourself in the position of your customers’ customers and identify how your solution or service ultimately impacts patient care. Find subtle and overt ways to incorporate that perspective into your writing.
Keyfactor*, a market leader in comprehensive digital security management, does this well. In this post, the company discusses how to protect data hosted in electronic health records (EHRs) at scale through automation. The post highlights how patients regularly share their personal information with healthcare providers. Patients will ultimately suffer if EHR data is compromised, and Keyfactor appropriately acknowledges this.
*Keyfactor is a client of Golden Spiral and our content specialists write and/or help prepare the company’s blog posts.
4. Use Examples to Simplify Complex Issues
The healthcare system is multi-layered, especially given the changing nature of care delivery, payer-provider relations, and reimbursement. Even basic processes can be challenging to fully understand, let alone the intricacies of how your technology fits into specific workflows. It’s important to remember you may not be writing to someone who is in the IT weeds every day — you’ll need to bring your content up a level to reach broader audiences. This is where examples are particularly useful.
Paint Clearer Pictures
Examples help your readers visualize exactly how a solution would be used in a real-life scenario. They can put themselves in the shoes of the players in the example and get a better sense of the technology’s functionality and benefits. For example (see what we did there), Santa Rosa Consulting* published a white paper on test automation for healthcare organizations and included the following example:
“Additionally, all orders (medication, labs, radiology, etc.) should be completed via test automation. Doing so can mean starting the test in the EHR, moving into a downstream system to record the result from the order, and going back into the EHR to validate that the result returned as expected. This eliminates the need for experts to be “on-call” and prevents delays in manual script completion.”
This examples provide supporting detail for Santa Rosa’s rule that “automation should cover 80% of all testing activities in an EHR implementation or upgrade,” which is previously outlined in the white paper. Given the target audience, the reader will likely be very familiar with these tasks (or manage people who are), and the example can help them better understand how to apply automation.
*Santa Rosa Consulting is a client of Golden Spiral and our content specialists write and/or help prepare the company’s white papers.
5. Let Data Drive Your Content
True integrated marketing is data-driven, and this means your content strategy should also be rooted in data. When you start with data, you can have greater confidence that your content will reach the right audience at the right time. In this Entrepreneur article, Shajesh Menon, founder and CEO of Younion, states that marketers should collect both descriptive data and behavioral data to identify patterns that can be used for communicating to specific audiences. He also emphasizes how data is critical for developing personas that shape targeted messages. Rather than simply making guesses about how your prospects are interacting with content, you can use data analytics tools to get concrete evidence of their online behavior. It guides your decisions for the type of content you produce and the topics you cover.
You Can’t Get by without SEO
We can’t talk about content without talking about SEO. That’s because without a comprehensive SEO strategy, your content won’t be discovered by the audiences you’re trying to reach. As discussed in our Complete SEO Guide for B2B Tech Marketing, in order to ensure your content is visible online, it needs to be:
Relevant: Cover key healthcare terms, core industry concepts, and sales keywords.
Authoritative: Reference (and be referenced by) links to outside sources and healthcare authorities to support your points.
Credible: Focus on user engagement, content references, and consistency.
While keywords shouldn’t be the main focus of your content strategy, you’ll want to research what your prospects and customers are searching so you can tailor your content accordingly. It’s important to look for terms both C-suite executives and analysts are searching for, so you’re able to get in front of your decision makers and users. Keyword research can even inform word choice for a topic. For example, consider the chart below depicting search volume for Health Tech and Health IT keywords:
Even this cursory amount of keyword researched reveals that focusing on keywords close to "Health IT" will be the best option for this post, as it sees roughly 70% more search volume on average than the other keyword variations.
There is so much healthcare industry data out there ready to be used. Put data front and center, and your content marketing efforts will go a long way.
Writing content for healthcare IT audiences requires industry knowledge and a focused effort. When done well, you can use this content across a variety of platforms in your marketing strategy to create a cohesive, effective message.
Golden Spiral has invested many years in writing for health tech, health SaaS, and health enterprise partners. Through our integrated approach, we provide the expertise and content you need to develop your content foundation, or increase your frequency and reach. Schedule a strategic consultation today to discuss how Golden Spiral can help you. We’d love to tell you more.
Many B2B technology companies have a hard time speaking to the real market problems their product or service solves. They love to lead with the technical features and competencies of their product — which makes sense, since they’ve worked hard to create it! However, when launched into the marketplace, those technical capabilities often leave your buyer lost in a sea of jargon that’s not only hard to understand, but impossible for them to relate to.
Enter the buyer matrix. A Buyer Matrix is term for aligning features of your product to the needs of the marketplace that solves real problems your buyers are trying to solve. We have a very practical way of mapping product features into marketectures. In fact, we just retooled our own capabilities to be more market- and problem-focused, so it’s the perfect way to show you the process. It’s illustrated best in this image of a mind map we created.
Click image to see expanded view.
It looks complicated, even though the process of creating it is actually pretty simple, so let’s break it down into three easy steps: Customers, Problems, and Solutions.
1. Customers: Identify your target audience(s).
These are your buyer personas, starting with their title. We identified about seven buyer personas in total. Many shared a common title or position within different company types (SMB, enterprise, startup, growth-stage). You’ll probably have more than one. For instance, within the small-to-mid-size business category, our personas are a CEO, and a marketing lead and a sales lead (both Director or VP-level).
2. Problems: Document the problems they face.
If you know your customers, this should be easy. If not, ask them. Talk to them directly and find out what keeps them up at night. They will be happy to tell you.
What we found is that most of our buyers had similar problems: the need to look “bigger” than they were, trouble articulating what they and their product do, a lack of sales leads, difficulty attracting investment, an underdeveloped marketing department (or no marketing department at all), and a few others.
3. Solutions: Frame these problems into a solutions-driven narrative.
Once we understood the common problems our personas were facing, we reflected those back to them through our web copy. For instance, the problem our buyer is trying to solve isn’t that their website is outdated; it’s that they need an online presence that communicates the sophistication of their solution to prospective buyers. We created narratives around these issues and how our capabilities contribute to solving them.
After mapping our buyer matrix, everything else fell into place. Instead of promoting our ability to provide website design, digital marketing, content strategy, or PR and strategic communications, we created solutions such as “Launch our product”, “Fill the funnel”, “Put us on the map”, “Tackle a big project” and “Make us look bigger than we are”.
These are the problems our market faces time and time again, and we use a combination of several of our capabilities to solve those problems for them. There are lots of web designers out there, but not many that can purposefully design a website to capture sales leads, present a clearly-articulated brand message, increase search visibility, and make a company more attractive to potential clients and investors.
You have a powerful inbound marketing tool in your hands already and may not know it. How many email addresses are in your database? Are you successfully segmenting your list on a regular basis then creating targeted messages to meet the needs of your customers and prospects? If not — or if you want to improve — this article will help you increase your open rate and click-through rate while reducing your churn.
Segmenting means dividing your existing email list into different groups based on similar characteristics so you can deliver hyper-personalized marketing communications that resonate with your audience. Additionally, this approach has the potential to lower your cost of acquiring new leads.
According to MailChip, recipients are 75% more likely to engage with segmented emails than non-segmented emails. If you’re not segmenting your emails, now is the time. Here’s how you can boost your ROI through increased click through rates by using functionality within your CRM to segment your list.
Creating Segments: Know Your Audience
Who is your customer? Influencers or upper-level executives? Those who have purchased from you in the last six months or your Net Promoter Survey high scorers? Are these former, current, or prospective clients? You need to decide who you’re trying to reach; this is how you define segments and the categories within each segment. Most B2B companies realize strong results by focusing on the following segments.
Firmographics define the companies you do business with. Are they small, niche partners or high-volume clients? Do you plan on a long-term, profitable relationship or are you focused on increasing purchasing volume now? How do your companies align?
Defining firmographic categories helps you align your marketing strategy with your clients’ strategies. You know your business best, so be simultaneously creative and focused when defining segments. It might make sense to use Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes for each segment.
Also consider creating segments for non-targets as a way to filter them out. For example, if your product puts interactive screens in grocery aisles, you’ll want to filter out delivery-based businesses from your list.
You speak to a marketer differently than you speak to an executive. Your customized emails should take the same approach. Segmenting by job title and buying position allows you to perfect your message for each customer.
For example, your email to marketers might include more details, such as: how your product or service actually works, your ease-of-use statistics, and your implementation steps. But, your email to higher-level contacts can focus on higher-level points, including projected ROI, implementation timeline, and long-term feedback from satisfied customers.
Segmenting your email list by the recipients’ job title makes it easy to target the heavy-hitting selling points to the right folks. Consider creating categories for marketer, buyer, and senior level. Other related segments can include company and industry type.
If your plan focuses on reengaging previously loyal customers who are falling or have fallen off your grid, now is your opportunity to tailor your marketing messages directly to them. With most major CRM partners, you can create Purchase History categories such as:
No purchases in the last 3, 6, or 12 months
>1 purchases over a given time period
Type of prior purchase
You can also look at non-purchasing history to segment your site visitors (those who visit often and/or those who visit greater than or less than a defined number of pages).
Segment engaged users and as patterns emerge, you can start increasing the sales message. If you notice a visitor’s consistent engagement with emails and other content, follow up with a direct email such as: “Hi [insert name], we use a tool that allows us to see visitors to our website. We’ve noticed some activity from your company lately, and wanted to introduce ourselves more personally. If you need [insert service area] expertise, we’d like to know more about…”
Using NPS here is also interesting because you can take the same data you collected with your survey to create segments for future targeted marketing to visitors who did not buy from you previously or within a defined time period.
When you segment according to these parameters, you can make adjustments to your email campaign. For example, those who aren’t opening your emails may need a different subject line or a different “from” address to spur action. Consider making these changes based on levels of interaction with your emails.
Let your customers tell you what they need from you. Inquiring directly about interests is a great way to find out what your customers want to know. Each interest area is now a category. Golden Spiral asks this question in our contact form so visitors don’t receive content they won’t be interested in.
HubSpot does something similar.
The way your contact found you also demonstrates their level of interest. Create a segment based on how you collected the data. Group your contacts by which call-to-action they clicked, what resource they downloaded, or what trade show they attended.
Demographics refers to personal descriptors about the specific user you are contacting, such as age, gender, and geographic location. Basic demographics may be the least powerful B2B segment, but it can still prove useful for targeting email campaigns. Planning the timing of your campaign can depend heavily on knowing the time zone, for example.
Once you have your segmented email lists created, it’s easy to send targeted emails to the lists you want—and leave off the lists you don’t want. Your email segmentation is limited only by your marketing strategy and your CRM tools.
Now that you know which segments make sense for your email list, take a look at your database. Do you have the information captured to appropriately segment your list? This is a good opportunity to analyze your current survey and subscription strategies and figure out where you can start capturing more meaningful data for future marketing efforts.
Marketers know that their marketing is only as good as their data, so this might require some clean up in your CRM or database. To ensure data integrity moving forward, ask for this information on content download forms and lead qualifying forms—and use dropdown options to limit the number of selections. If you want to avoid long forms, use progressive profiling. This tool–available in most CRMs–allows you to keep forms short while gradually obtaining all the information required over time.
Ask yourself what data do you now wish you had for your clients? How can you start gathering that data now?
CRM Software Tools for Creating Email Segmentation
According to PC Magazine, the best email marketing software packages for 2018 are:
At Golden Spiral we use HubSpot Marketing Pro CRM and automation tools. Because email segmentation is integrated into the marketing tool, we’ve got everything we need right there.
As a HubSpot user, you’ll also have access to HubSpot Academy resources that outline steps for setting up email segmentation.
MailChimp also offers a Pro package with advanced segmentation options, including Automation Activity, Campaign Activity, Postcards Activity, Contact Rating, Conversations Activity, Date Added, Email Client, Landing Page Activity, and more.
Buyers in each segment have unique needs and are asking different questions about your solution and your company. You’ll immediately be more effective when you send content to your subscribers according to these segments. Start cleaning up your email database and improving your email efficacy by making this a priority today.
If you feel like nearly everyone’s got an email newsletter, you’re not wrong. With over 4.3 billion email accounts in the world, it makes sense that nearly 70% of businesses use email marketing and send regular newsletters or product updates. That’s a lot of competition! You’re competing with every blog, Internet marketer, and celebrity that makes a way into the email accounts of your existing and prospective customers.
And you’re B2B.
You’ve probably heard that B2B email marketing is tougher than consumer marketing. B2B emails report a 4.6% lower open rate than B2C. Therefore, even more than B2C, it takes two things to create a stellar B2B email list: commitment and persistence.
If you have one but not the other, you won’t see the results you need for your company. Implementing as many of the tactics below as possible will create a snowball effect for your list.
When you commit and persist in as many of the tactics below as possible, you will dwindle the 4.6% gap and wonder why your B2B colleagues complain about their industry email open rates.
The Foundation for Newsletter List Building
To generate the kind of results you want from email newsletters, you’ll need the right foundation in place for building your recipient list. Consider these two foundational principles as in your list-building efforts:
Avoid purchasing email addresses
Incorporate a lead generation strategy
Buying an email list seems like a quick strategy to build your list but it comes with many challenges.
Don’t even consider buying lists if you’re going global.
Even when you purchase a list from “reputable providers,” many of your emails will fall on deaf ears, go straight to spam boxes, and have lower open rates. If you send too many dead emails, email providers will give you demerits or shut you down completely.
2. Your prospects won’t feel like they know you.
Prospects from purchased lists feel you aren’t paying attention to them individually.
This will only become a bigger problem in the “thank you economy.” And if you think B2B doesn’t need to be as personable as B2C, remember — every company is made up of individual humans.
3. Most reputable automation software options won’t let you use purchased lists.
Spam is such a big issue for email marketing that companies don’t want to risk one account tainting their record for all of their future business. That’s why most reputable marketing automation companies won’t allow users to send campaigns to purchased lists—there is too much risk involved. The CAN-SPAM Act is serious.
For an email to not be considered spam, it must:
Not be sent to an email harvested from other sources (the number one problems with a purchased list)
Provide the recipient an option to unsubscribe
The company sending it must honor any unsubscribe requests within 10 days
Companies must maintain “opt-out” lists to ensure no future mailing to those who have unsubscribed
The “from” email address must be accurate and real
The subject line must reflect what is in the email and not be deceptive in any way
The physical address of the company sending the email must appear in the text of the email
The email must contain at least one sentence (important for those sending image-heavy emails)
Building Your List through Lead Generation
If you bought your email marketing list not really paying attention to what’s in it, why would new prospects be expected to pay attention to you? Instead, if you build your list from your own lead generation and partnerships, you will receive dividends through more qualified leads, less time and effort required for nurturing leads into customers, and a higher likelihood of customers becoming raging fans for your company.
Your biggest obstacle in using lead generation to build your list is the potential for obscurity. You need to get people to know who you are.
Those you want to receive your newsletter already receive too many email. Your battle is against obscurity. Fight obscurity for your email list by creating lead magnets — highly desirable pieces of content — and putting those lead magnets in as many locations as possible. Focus where your competition and prospects hang out online.
And if you want it to pay off, it will take commitment and persistence.
Four Essentials for Making Your Lead Generation Effective
1. Create as many lead magnets as you can think of
You may think that building a white paper or an eBook is an expensive endeavor, but consider the cost of creating the lead magnet versus the value of a lead. The investment in time and effort to create a good lead magnet can only save you time later by being available. Don’t think you’re creating too many; if it’s good content, it’s good content.
Below are some examples of strong lead magnets. How many of these have you produced already? As you promote them, are you giving your new leads an opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter?
Free online tools for other businesses (in a “give-to-get” economy, this works just as well for B2B as B2C)
Bonus gated content posted beside your sign-up form, on your thank you page, or in your thank you email
Bonus content unique to every blog post. You long to have your website visitors spend more time on your site and visit more pages. By offering related articles to the one your visitor is reading, you increase both while proving yourself to be the provider of answers your prospects are asking.
eBooks (downloadable, well-designed PDFs on the subject)
White papers (living documents on your website gated by a contact form)
Your content published on other websites. Create partnerships with organizations that will publish your content and link back to a landing page on your website.
2. Don’t put lead generation forms everywhere; put lead magnets everywhere
What content do you provide on your lead generation forms? Company news? Product updates? Seek to answer your prospects questions. Adding additional lead magnets on your form or thank you page serves your long term agenda.
Don’t be like the competition. It’s time to do something different.
Remember, your competition has lackluster email open rates and you’re not like the competition. Sure, your prospects are going to want to know your business news and product updates later — but that’s only once they’re interested in you.
The easiest way to get readers interested in you is with your lead magnets. Therefore, you want to put them in as many places as possible. This will only increase your chances of success. Here are some tips for doing so.
Use CTA throughout your social media posts.
Place a CTA/lead magnet at the 1/3 position and at the end of every blog post. You’ll generate a higher return if the lead magnet is created specifically for the post.
Incorporate pop-up forms. They could appear from the side, in the middle, or even on full screen depending on the application.
Ask your partners about placing CTA buttons throughout your posts on their sites.
Create surveys and feedback loops and be sure to offer CTAs on your thank you pages.
3. Shorten lead generation forms
The more information you ask for up front, the less likely someone is to sign up. This is just as true for B2B as B2C. If you’re really interested in growing your list, just ask for the contact’s first name and email address. You can use progressive profiling to get more information later. Get them over the first hurdle and on to your mailing list. We recommend:
Newsletter subscription: 1-3 form fields
eBook: 3-5 form fields
White paper: 3-5 form fields
On-demand webinar: 3-5 form fields
Product overview slick: 5-7 form fields
If you’re not happy with your number of form submissions, try shortening these longer-length forms.
Even merely unattractive design costs you sales. If you’ve been sending email newsletters for a while and have had no success, take a look at your forms and layouts to see if you need to re-imagine them.
Content and Formatting
Now that you understand the setup, now that you understand the commitment to lead-magnets, you need to create stellar content that prospects will care about, and then optimize it. This will minimize unsubscribes, effectively nurture different-staged prospects, and illicit word-of-mouth referrals and forwards.
Not only are these some of the main aspects of what makes something go viral, but they are also the main aspects of that which your subscribers will find interesting and be likely to share with their friends and colleagues.
It's not your duty to inform. It's your duty to entertain
You don’t have to succumb to becoming the B2B BuzzFeed. Here are 13 B2B Newsletters that Really Shine. The point is this: of course you are going to inform your subscribers of topics that concern them. However, if you want that information to stick, or even get the email opened, you need to make it as interesting and engaging as possible.
Ultimately, content is king. However, the sooner you begin formatting your email newsletters correctly, the better.
The sooner you increase your open and click through rates, the more sales you’ll close.
Make your emails as plain-text, non-HTML as possible
Remember — it’s not one business communicating with another. When you do that, it comes out like a contract or legal agreement. We don’t expect that in email. Write like you're talking to another human, and make it look like it, too.
Use Personalized CTA
Design the button or the link to contain the first name token, and more readers will sign up.
Be sure to A/B test your personalization. It is like salt. Just enough brings out the flavor of the food; too much ruins it.
Segment Your List for Distribution
Once you’ve developed a comprehensive list of prospects using lead generation tools, you’ll want to segment it based on each campaign or newsletter. This back-end work is just as important as your email content because it will allow you to send the right content to the right people.
As most email providers give you the ability to see who has and has not opened or clicked through your emails, you’ll be more effective when you send content to your subscribers according to their stage. Buyers in each stage have unique needs and are asking different questions about your solution and your company.
You can also segment according to activity. For example, those who aren’t opening your emails may need a different subject line or a different “from” address to spur action. Consider making these changes for groups based on their levels of interaction with your emails.
Building an email newsletter list is no easy task. It’s not business as usual. View it as the foundation of your entire marketing and sales funnel and the forefront of your customer relations. Make your list as robust as possible and strive to improve it at a regular interval.
Commit to making your email newsletter list great.
Do you know what your most loyal customers think you’re doing right? How about your critics? Do you know where you’re missing them?
Net Promoter Score surveys boost customer loyalty and identify potential areas for improvement. Good reviews travel fast and bad reviews even faster. Using surveys can help you get ahead of the criticism and maximize the compliments.
What is a Net Promoter Score?
Most simply, NPS boils down to a single question and a straightforward formula:
“How likely are you to recommend this product?”
Answers are scored on a 10 to 0 scale. Ten means “very likely” and 0 “not likely at all.”
NPS = Highest scores (9 & 10) minus the lowest scores (0-6).
Determine the percentage of respondents in three areas.
The Promoters: Respondents who scored you as 9 or 10
The Passives: Respondents who checked boxes 7 or 8
The Detractors: Respondents who gave you a score of 0 - 6
For the sake of example, let’s say that in your most recent survey, 67% of those surveyed gave you Promoter scores, 13% gave you Passive scores, and 20% turned their thumbs down as Detractors. To determine your final score, get rid of the Passive scores, then subtract the Detractors from the Promoters. In this example:
67% - 20% = 47.
Your NPS would be 47. According to the NPS survey website, “The Net Promoter Score measures customer experience and predicts business growth.” As you consider your North Star Metric, put NPS into the mix. It might be your lead number.
But don’t look at the number the way you might look at a score on a test from middle school. You must compare your NPS against two other numbers. First, compare it to the benchmarks for your industry. For example, if your SaaS product supports the auto insurance industry, an NPS of 47 beats the industry average of 43. However, if you’re a manufacturer of tablet computers, you have some room for improvement. The industry NPS is 56.
In short, NPS survey results give you a pulse on client happiness based on a single score. They represent how likely a client is to recommend you to a colleague or friend. But you can do so much more if your survey is built with a results-oriented strategy.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first step in creating an NPS survey is to define your strategy.
Use NPS as a way to know your customers better — which should be a central component of your marketing strategy. This step is often overlooked in B2B tech because the industry can become more focused on impressing investors and potential suiters than we are on winning customers. When you put your customers first, you drive revenue, and eventually, increase your valuation. So, get to know your customers through NPS or other surveys.
Five Steps to Define Your NPS Strategy
1. Ask the Right Question
“How likely are you to recommend this [insert the company, product, workspace, etc. you want to measure] to a friend or colleague?”
This is the basic survey question used to measure NPS. You’ll find it in this simple form on SurveyMonkey as one of your basic options. You can also use it to create your own survey in Google Forms, through your HR integration software like Gusto, or on a CRM landing page like HubSpot offers.
It’s a great question— easy to ask and easy to answer, straightforward both in the composition and in the response. You must ask the question directly and you must provide a 0–10 answer option, with 0 always being at the Not At All Likely end and 10 being the best possible score. Why 0–10? Because this scale is the industry standard for measuring NPS, and you want to be able to compare your results to the scores of your peers. You can still gather valuable results with an adjusted scale, but you lose the benefit of industry comparisons.
The follow-up questions get trickier. What should you ask and how many follow-up questions are you allowed? NPS itself is a great example. NPS was created by Fred Reichheld, a Bain Fellow and founder of Bain & Company’s Loyalty Practice. NPS embeds their own podcast survey right on their homepage:
This links to the fundamental NPS survey question — and notice what comes immediately after:
Always create space for free-form feedback. What do you really want to know about your product/company/workplace? A specifically-worded question is more likely to gather meaningful feedback. The Net Promoter System Podcast feedback has several pages of follow-up questions, while the SurveyMonkey template asks for basic respondent demographics (gender and ethnicity for example).
Some examples of follow-up questions are:
What did we get right?
What did you like the most?
What could we have done better?
What features do you wish the product had?
Why did you choose 9?
Keep in mind that “rewarding” those customers who were kind enough to complete the survey by overwhelming them with multiple questions could turn them off. Strategize your questions to maximize your users’ time.
2. Ask the Right People
You’ve got your question, but who should you ask? NetPromoterSystem.com asks everyone. One of its follow-up questions asks how many minutes of the podcast were played before answering the survey; “None” is an option, so truly anyone can respond.
Perhaps your survey targets your employees. You’ve changed the compensation plan, exchanged paid holidays for more vacation time, or eliminated the company picnic. Did you accomplish what you needed to without sacrificing morale? Would your employees recommend your company as a workplace to their friends? The open-ended follow-up questions can help you determine if your changes were effective. Surveying before a change gives you a baseline for measuring efficacy.
At Golden Spiral, our senior leadership sends out a monthly survey through Gusto. They ask the team a small handful of questions each month, including the NPS question for our team: "I would recommend Golden Spiral as a great place to work."
Most of us want feedback from our users and their decision makers. Your follow-up questions in this case should clearly ask about the specific features, headaches, time saved, and related aspects of your product. Are you surveying following a launch or upgrade? Ask about the process as well as the product.
How many surveys should you conduct to generate reliable data? It’s unlikely that everyone will respond, but you need enough responses to accurately gauge your NPS. After all, the goal is to use the survey data to reassess your product, company, workplace, or even your company goals. Those are huge potential impacts to your business, so make sure you’re asking the right number of the right people. In other words, there’s no magic number of surveys except the number that will make you feel confident in the results.
Identifying who to ask will guide you to ask the right way, at the right time.
3. Ask at the Right Time
Regular intervals? After launches or upgrades? Upon purchase? It’s important to ask your questions at the right time.
Did you release a new product? Ask for feedback soon (but not too soon; users need time to become familiar with the product) after launch, after the honeymoon period, and again after some proficiency has been established.
Customers tend to get frustrated when bombarded with surveys. If you decide that a regular schedule fits your needs, consider limiting your surveys to once per quarter.
A critical part of your strategy will be responding to those surveyed and acting on the results. If you’ve chosen to survey 300 users every month, have a solid plan in place for realigning your efforts with the expected 50ish results and contacting all unhappy respondents (and some very happy ones) before the next survey starts.
4. Ask the Right Way
Now you have your questions and you know who to ask and when, how are you going to survey them? Will you send an email or use an in-app survey?
If you have a question for any visitor to your site, design your survey to be user-launched directly on the screen, such as NetPromoterSystem.com. Another option is to send the survey via email, allowing you to target certain customers.
Interested in knowing what makes your top 10 clients continue to use your services? Want to know why loyal customers last year have fallen off your active list this year? An email launch enables you to ask the right question to the right customers by segmenting your list.
You can also choose to do both in-app and emailed surveys to potentially increase your response rate.
5. Act on the Results
You’re about to find out how many users would recommend your product – and how many would not. What will you do with this information?
Contacting ALL Detractors is non-negotiable if you want to avoid negative social media attention. As a matter of fact, 90% of consumers read an online review before visiting a business (or their website). And, they trust them just as much as their friends — 88% of consumers trust an online review (from a total stranger!) as much as a personal recommendation. Your contact could actually turn a Detractor into a Passive supporter – and a conversation with the right person might resolve the issue. Don’t underestimate the power of closing this loop with unhappy customers.
Also consider contacting your Promoters — those who score you a 9-10 and are willing to refer others and fuel growth. Promoters are the group of individuals you’d want to reach out to about leaving an online review. Craft an email to this delightful group and ask them just that. You may even feel the need to incentivize them with a contest or small gift card. These users can also become integral parts of your marketing strategy by contributing to successful case studies. One of the most difficult parts of writing case studies is actually finding the right clients to speak to. Those who score you as a 9 or 10 are your ideal points of contact for a case study. Once you have your list of happy clients, determine what makes them similar and what makes them different. Variety will help you cast a wider net when meeting with prospective clients.
Put Your NPS to Work
Now you’re ready for the exciting part of creating an NPS survey: putting the data to work on your bottom line.
Doing better than your peers? Do you know why? Understanding your success with clients is equally as important as knowing why some customers are unhappy.
The best way to make meaningful interpretations of your data is to engage all levels of your organization to review and respond to your survey results. Remember, you created this survey as part of your marketing strategy, so be sure to use it to your advantage — and to start planning your next survey.
Once you’ve wrapped up all the planning, you’re ready to create your NPS survey, right? You can build one yourself, buy off the shelf, or work with a trusted partner to create a truly custom survey tailored to your needs. Utilize your marketing automation software to thank and follow up with survey respondents or engage a company to do it for you.
If your product or company is struggling in an area, feedback is one of the best ways to discover how to improve. If things are going well, survey responses show you gaps to close and point you toward future opportunities. Companies that listen and dialog with their customers and potential customers always have an advantage over those that just hammer away with their own plans. Try a Net Promoter Score survey this year or augment your current surveys to gather even more information.
Anyone who has worked a day in their life can usually point out the “bad hires.” They’re the ones who show up late and sneak out early; who don’t put in the 110% during on-boarding to really “get it”; who don’t totally mesh with your company culture, struggle with being productive, and ultimately, don’t fit the description of the person they pitched on the résumé.
On the bottom level, employees usually feel the brunt of a bad hire — and fast — as they pick up the pieces from the bad hire’s inability to perform or lack of desire to perform. And from the top, you can usually spot bad hires based on their productivity level, morale, and impact on your team. This is a case for the good old gut check, too. If something feels off, it probably is.
41% of companies state that a “bad hire” has cost them $25,000 or more.
Another 25% of businesses placed a bad hire at the cost of $50,000, or higher.
The average cost of hiring the wrong individual for an entry level position averages between $7,000 and $10,000.
The average cost of hiring the wrong manager is often in excess of $40,000. (Can you imagine if you were the one responsible for hiring Michael Scott?)
80% of employee decisions to quit have been caused by the effects of other employees — and we can’t even begin to calculate the financial impact on losing good employees.
All that being said, you’re likely wondering, Well, then how can we avoid bad hires? For small B2B tech companies — and start-ups in particular — the answer is critically important.
First, you need to do a better job marketing your company and your culture. You are what you attract — so if you want to attract great candidates, you need to prove you’re a great company.
Second, you need strong candidate vetting during the interview process.
Of course, we can’t promise you that doing a better job marketing your company and vetting prospects can eliminate the potential of any bad hire. But, taking the right steps can certainly help you limit the possibility. So, if you’re looking to hire more right-fit candidates (without necessarily investing more time and resources into the hiring process), keep on reading.
How to Do a Better Job Marketing Your Company Culture
How you portray your B2B technology company to your prospective candidates is just as important to how you portray your company to your prospective clients. Right-fit candidates will identify with your company’s mission and values, and will make sure that it is known on their resume and cover letter — making it easier to sift through the high volume of applicants.
Here are the three main ways you can improve how your market your company and culture to attract and recruit better employees.
1. Humanize Your Brand
Whether you’re a small team of five, or a growing team of 5,000, culture matters. It should be at the center of your messaging and process. It’s how you make sure you’re all working toward a common goal, and that on a personal level, your employees enjoy spending time together.
There are several ways you can bring culture to the center of your message and humanize your brand, including sharing your mission and values, incorporating candid photography and videos of employees, and highlight real moments that convey “what employee life is like.”
You can humanize your brand on your website, social media, or even on websites like Glassdoor and Indeed that offer you the ability to write a profile and/or upload content.
For example, visit Campaign Monitor’s “Careers” page, and you’ll find a very human, very real brand.
Complete with candid photography, a value proposition, a mission, and a quick description of what working for Campaign Monitor is like, in just a few seconds, potential candidates know if Campaign Monitor is a right fit for them.
2. Earn Good Reviews on Glassdoor
Great employees want to work at great companies, which is why earning good reviews is important. While you can say whatever you want to on your website and job board, the authentic reviews of your current and former employees will tell a more trusted story to potential candidates.
Ask a select handful of your employees who are happy and dedicated to write your company a review on Glassdoor. It is important to pick employees who have openly expressed happiness, gratitude, and dedication. Their reviews will be much more authentic than a review from an employee who does their job but does so from the shadows.
Be sure to follow online review best practices, and ensure that not every review is written on the same day. Spreading them out over a few months makes them feel more natural. Make sure your team has the freedom to speak their minds and from their hearts. There may be criticism they write about but haven't communicated to you. Address their concerns, but let the honest comments stand.
3. Give the Skinny on Your Work Environment and Expectations
There’s no better time to set expectations about your company’s culture than during a candidate’s research phase. By visiting your “Careers” or “About Us” page on your website, they should be able to figure out if your company is a good fit, culturally. But what should you share on your public site, and what should you save for the interview process?
Taking another look at Campaign Monitor’s Careers page, you’ll find that the company answers all of those questions in a sweet, simple, and human fashion.
In another example, Zapier, a remote-based B2B technology company leaves it up to their employees to talk about the company’s culture through a series of blog posts.
In both cases, we see companies creating content that sells their lifestyle and culture in hopes of attracting those who also thrive in that kind of lifestyle and culture. So, if your Careers page is just a list of job postings, it might be time to give it an upgrade. You can check out Campaign Monitor and Zapier for some initial inspiration!
How to Improve Your Hiring Process
If you’ve done a good job updating how you market your company and brand, you may have a surge of new, qualified applicants who you have to sift through. (A good problem to have!) But, how can you ensure you pick the perfect hire out of your group of great candidates? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Interject a “culture test” into the process.
What are the qualities that are most important to your workplace? Innovation? Teamwork? Dealing with adversity? Whatever you decide is most important, you don’t want to ask a potential hire, “Can you explain a situation where you were innovative?” or “Can you explain a situation where you had to deal with adversity, and how you overcame it?” While you may get some partial truths, you won’t get the whole story. You’re better off witnessing it for yourself.
For example, Charles Schwab’s CEO takes job candidates to breakfast and asks the restaurant to mess up their order in exchange for a hefty tip. “I do that because I want to see how the person responds,” he shared with Business Insider. ”That will help me understand how they deal with adversity. Are they upset, are they frustrated, or are they understanding? Life is like that, and business is like that. It’s just another way to get a look inside their heart rather than their head.”
Charles Schwab’s CEO isn’t the first to interject a “culture test” into the process. Many smaller B2B tech companies take their potential candidates out on “dinnerviews” to get a better understanding of how they treat others, and to get to know them in a less formal setting. Having a conversation over dinner can often tell more if the person is a “right fit” then asking them a standard set of interview questions they’ve answered many times over.
2. Give them a “take home” assignment.
“Take home” assignments are getting more and more popular during the interview process, as a way to determine if a potential candidate can perform as well as they say they can.
Once you’ve whittled your list of potential candidates down to a small handful of “right-fit” individuals, now is the time to put their knowledge and experience to the test. Give them a problem to solve or an assignment to complete. The “take home” assignment will not only give you a clear representation of their skill set, but also, a clear indication of their work ethic. Some individuals will spend hours on the assignment, while others will scrap it together in thirty minutes.
3. Don’t just ask ordinary questions.
Ordinary questions elicit ordinary responses, which any ordinary person can give. If you want extraordinary hires, even for your entry level positions, keep the standard questions to a minimum, even on the application.
For example, Zapier’s job applications ask for a candidate’s basic information, and then ask a series of open-ended questions to better understand them as a person, leader, and teammate. Visit any job on the company’s Jobs page, and you’ll notice that the series of questions asked is different.
For example, these questions for an engineering management position are far different than the questions asked for an entry-level marketing position.
While this process does take more time initially, it will help save time during the interview process by weeding out candidates earlier on.
Hiring the right candidates the first time around can save your company time, money, and frustration. However, it takes work on both the marketing front and the HR front. Unite your marketing and HR teams and help them work together to ensure you are attracting, recruiting, and retaining the right candidates.