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Funnel Optimization: Why marketers must embrace change

September 29th, 2011 1 comment

We just wrapped the production of our 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. The overwhelming theme in this study of 1,745 B2B marketers is that the B2B marketing environment is becoming increasingly more challenging over time.  In year-over-year (YoY) comparisons of the research, the perceived effectiveness of tactics has seen severe declines. MarketingSherpa wanted to get to the bottom of what’s really happening.

Marketers are all aware of the changes that have taken place in the market. Buyers research their purchasing decisions online, not by calling Sales. Marketers get that. But what are they really doing about it? Read more…

B2B Marketing: Embracing customer centricity

June 21st, 2011 3 comments

The pressure for B2B marketers is on. Buyers are empowered with an ocean of information available to them online through search engines and social media sites. They are researching their purchasing decisions on their own instead of engaging with Sales early on. Trepidation exists among the marketplace because of a struggling economy, making it more difficult to close new accounts.  Winning over modern B2B buyers requires organizations to revolutionize their marketing approach, and adopt a truly customer-centric approach.

At MarketingSherpa, we have just launched our annual B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey to identify key tactics B2B marketers can use to adopt customer centricity, and ensure success in an increasingly  challenging environment.

Let’s hone in on this concept of customer centricity. What is this and why is it so important to us now?

In today’s marketplace, the B2B buyer has the power. They can research their purchasing decisions before we even know who they are. They have instant access to peer and third-party opinions of our products and services through social media sites, and information coming directly from the company is received with more skepticism than ever before. We have to earn the trust of our buyers if we ever hope that they will choose us over the competition. This brings me to my next question:

How well do you know your customers?

I am currently in the middle of our B2B Marketing Workshop tour, and the number of attendees that do not yet have buyer personas established for their audience continually surprises me. This is a critical first step towards embracing customer centricity and achieving B2B marketing success. Before you can deliver content to your audience that is going to build trust and drive conversions, you must have a solid understanding of their interests, needs, motivations, etc.

A buyer persona is a detailed profile that represents an actual, real-life group of your target audience. It includes common interests, motivations and expectations, as well as demographics and other behavioral characteristics. Buyer personas enable you to deliver highly relevant content to your audience that will build trust and drive qualified conversions.

In a perfect world, we would be able to develop one piece of content and have it appeal to your entire audience. In reality, it is likely that your market can be broken up into multiple buyer personas. You will need to first identify these personas, and then develop unique content for each profile.

So, how can you get started with the first step, identifying your buyer personas?

This process is far too complex to cover in detail for one blog post. Plus, you’re busy – so I’ll just give you the highlights:

1. It’s going to start with research, and a lot of it. Start by talking to customer-facing departments. Ask them about motivations, challenges, common objectives, etc., for your best and worst prospects and customers.

2. Next, talk directly to your audience. Get your prospects and customers on the phone and ask them directly about their interests, motivations, challenges, etc. Ask them what types of content they want, and what format. Be sure to be in contact with best and worst prospects. You will want to be able to distinguish the differences that exist between these two groups.

3. You can also mine your in-house database. Look for common traits that exist for customers with large deal sizes, shorter timeframes to purchase, most repeat purchases, etc. Then identify common traits for customers that make returns, have the smallest deal sizes, or are for some reason less profitable. What is the difference between these two groups?

4. You can also conduct a survey of your audience, asking them about their interests, challenges, etc.

This research will get you started on identifying buyer personas, and adopting a customer-centric mentality. You will then be able to develop content that will be uniquely relevant, interesting and valuable to those groups in order to build trust and drive qualified conversions. You will also be able attract more of your ideal customers, instead of customers that make returns and are not a fit for your solution.

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 – in San Francisco and Boston

B2B Email Marketing: Why renting third-party lists is among the worst tactics

B2B Marketing: Combining sales and marketing knowledge to improve lead qualification

MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

B2B Marketers: Please Take our 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey

August 3rd, 2010 No comments

This week marks the launch of MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey, which gathers data from members of the B2B marketing community to benchmark their latest best practices, tactics and results.

If you’re involved in B2B marketing, please take the next 5 to 15 minutes to share data and insights:

Click here to take the survey now.

As a thank you for your participation, you will receive an offer for a free copy of the Executive Summary of the 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, which will include highlights and key findings from the study.

We’re excited to see how your responses illuminate what’s working in B2B marketing today. The B2B community has been humbled by the recent recession and has been forced to operate with limited resources — while producing a higher level of quality leads than ever before.

The organizations that have persevered through budget cuts and increased expectations are the ones that could apply the most efficient marketing tactics for every stage of the buying cycle — and in the process, improve the overall efficiency of their marketing and sales departments.

The greatest challenge for B2B marketers is generating high-quality leads to deliver to their sales teams. Because of this challenge, marketing automation, lead nurturing and lead scoring have become critical tactics for B2B organizations.

In order to optimize the efficiency of marketing and sales departments, walls between these teams are coming down to enable more collaboration. Sales and marketing are working together to identify various stages of the buying cycle for the complex sale, and to determine what marketing collateral or level of sales contact is appropriate for each stage. Through this process, marketing’s role has changed from just generating leads to generating and nurturing leads to the point that they are qualified, and ready for sales involvement.

The next year will be pivotal to the success of these organizations. With signs of an improving economy, the B2B marketing community is feeling more optimistic and reacting with the greatest budget increases we have seen since before the recession. It is critical that these organizations take the lessons they have learned during the recession and apply them efficiently with their now-increasing marketing budgets.

MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey will focus on organizations’ best practices, tactics and results in the key areas of marketing automation, lead nurturing, lead scoring and managing the complex sale.

Please feel free to tweet or post the following invitation:

B2B marketers share your insights. Take the 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/341299/8gnpw @MarketingSherpa

Thank you!

Seventh Annual Search Marketing Benchmark Survey Now Open

April 13th, 2010 No comments

This week marks the opening of MarketingSherpa’s Seventh Annual Search Marketing Benchmark Survey. If you’re involved in search marketing, please take the next 5 to 15 minutes to share data and insights via the following link:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/269878/k0tnd

As a thank you for your time, we are offering a complimentary Executive Summary Report that includes key charts and insightful commentary. You will also be invited to attend a free webinar to review highlights from the study.

In the last year, the search landscape has seen a number of dramatic changes. Between social media’s continual growth, search innovations like mobile search, real time search, and search personalization emerging and gaining importance, accompanied by increased competition, search marketers face greater challenges than ever before.

How are marketers perceiving and reacting to these new changes in search? This year’s Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report will be stacked with information on balancing search and social media to achieve optimal success, as well as sections dedicated to search innovations.

In the meantime, let’s take a deeper look into the social media content that will be covered in this year’s report:

Applications and benefits of social media integration with search campaigns

-> Search Performance

The search landscape is growing more competitive, and this is partly due to social media. Social media has added another venue in which marketers must up their SEO ante, so to speak.

What tools and tactics are most effective these days in SEO? How many marketers are integrating social media into their search efforts? What are my industry’s current performance benchmarks? These are just some of the questions this year’s report will answer for you.

-> Search and Social Objectives

There are a number of target business objectives that can be achieved with social media, and improving search rankings is a popular one indeed.

Other popular objectives include:
o Increasing website traffic
o Increasing lead volume
o Driving sales revenue
o Improving brand reputation and awareness.

These objectives, of course, can also be achieved with SEO. The key is to balance your SEO efforts with social media in order to achieve success towards these common objectives.

Sections in this year’s report will include the effectiveness of search and social against key target objectives, and insights on search marketer’s greatest success stories and challenges.

-> The Impact of Social Integration

When used properly, social media can have a great impact on SEO. One of the most effective and most difficult SEO tactics is generating inbound links.

With social media, you can generate highly relevant inbound links to your site by attracting links from blogs, forums, social networking sites, and other social media channels.

Another great benefit search engine marketers are reaping from social media is increasing the number of listings that get displayed for their brand in the SERPs, pushing their competition to lower rankings and increasing the click through rates on their own listings.

We want to find out what specific goals are being most widely targeted for integrating social media into search campaigns, and what impact social media has had on results. As responses to this year’s survey start to come in, we’re becoming more anxious to see final results.

Stay tuned! The 2010 Search Marketing Benchmark Report is scheduled for release soon!

Please feel free to tweet or post the following invitation:

Search marketers share your insights. Take the 2010 Search Marketing Benchmark Survey http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/269878/k0tnd @MarketingSherpa