In this day and age, where widespread distribution and globalization is a given for enterprises, just knowing who is selling in a particular geography isn’t enough. We see with our own customers in industries like manufacturing that a major shift is needd in how data are used to make decisions. In fact, as DISC Corp.’s Herm Isenstein points out in The Art and Science of Sales Forecasting in the Electrical Market, “in what sense is supply equals demand meaningful when we know distributors are located in nearly 1,400 counties and that… end customers are located in about 3,100 counties?”
Isenstein is talking about the electrical supply industry in particular, but the same principle applies to any company that sells into many different geographies. With distribution so broad, it’s foolish to assume that buyers in drastically different markets have the same buying triggers, problems and priorities—their demand is almost undoubtedly different. Isenstein says in his piece, “Identifying demand is the most crucial element for measuring performance where the action takes place, at the trading area level.” And that’s why, in order to increase sales and sales productivity, it’s important for sales reps to know what the demand side is thinking in their specific market.
It would be extremely difficult to find the detailed information a sales rep need to be able to understand a specific trading area without one pointed, go-to source, and in many organizations today, reps are sifting through hundreds of noisy sources, making them less productive than they would like. More than ever, it’s important for sales productivity and forecasting accuracy to be able to understand what buyers in a particular market are saying about a certain need or problem they have, because it will help them be more effective during customer meetings and more accurately forecast their sales.
Personal business analytics allow users to see trends the particular market/s they care about, as well as understand what their end-customers care about. For a company who has sales across the country (or the world), being able to personalize what a rep sees means they’re better able to discover opportunities on the ground in their particular market by understanding what that market cares about. Because we’re acutely aware of these dynamics, FirstRain customers experience tailored, relevant information through personal business analytics—delivering the information that Isenstein believes sellers need, but can’t currently get.
In today’s hyper-growth, rapidly changing markets, companies diversify for many reasons. Maybe you are trying to expand into a new market, or have launched a new product. No matter what, you need to strike a balance between gaining net-new customers and expanding your footprint within current customers—and one of the most important things you need to have access to is in-depth, reliable customer intelligence.
Although you may have a lot of data points on your current customer, chances are you are probably not an expert on the different business lines of the company, go-to-market strategies, or specifically what their executive focus is. If it’s a new client in a new market or industry, then they will likely have vastly different challenges and care-abouts than what you’re used to.
To improve your sales and marketing efforts—and successfully enter a new market—you need customer intelligence “but transaction data doesn’t improve the customer experience unless you combine it with some other data to learn something new and useful,” according to CIO.com author Allen Bernard (@CIOUpdate). What large enterprise B2B companies have found is that by using a particular practice of Big Data, personal business analytics, you can have even more strategic conversations with customers by gaining true insight into their business—not based on click data, but reflective of the customers own voice and needs. You learn valuable things, including:
Going into a new market blind rarely, if ever, ends well… so take advantage of the customer intelligence technology that’s now available to you and your teams. Make sure you’re always learning something new and useful that will lead you on a successful path.
Lead qualification can be a point of tension between sales and marketing teams. Sales reps often claim the marketing team doesn’t give them high-quality leads, while the marketing team argues that sales simply isn’t following up on the best leads they’ve been handed. Sometimes the problem is simply that these departments’ definitions of what makes a qualified lead are misaligned. On the other hand, the problem could be a misunderstanding of what qualities can predict a lead’s likelihood to buy.
Cut Down On the Noise
Some established companies have more leads than they know what to do with. By finding a better strategy to weed out the most unlikely leads, business can significantly improve sales productivity. Imagine a world where you can easily identify the junk before you devote too much time nurturing a lead that has no chance of converting. This world is possible, but will take some time and research.
Turn on the Lights
When your teams are stumbling around in the dark, it’s impossible to coordinate marketing and sales effectively. With a customer analytics platform, these departments will have access to the same intelligence data, including market events, mergers and introduction of new technology. Once the two teams are looking at the same information, they can gain a better awareness of what qualities are good predictors of a qualified lead. B2B Lead Blog suggests doing research to determine a correlation between leads and current customers to further identify the signals that your company has a good chance of making a sale. Once these two teams have a more complete picture, they can start coming up with better definitions for sales and marketing-qualified leads.
Learn Who Your Customers Are
An article from Forbes demonstrates how big data analytics can improve the performance of marketing automation software by telling marketers not just what qualities will predict a conversion, but who the customer really is. What analytics actually enable marketers and sales reps to do is develop an understanding of a company’s attributes outside of just the numbers. By collecting intelligence from across the Web, including viral social media posts, sales reps and marketers can really construct a picture of what it’s like to work in a specific industry. Customer intelligence allows marketers and sales reps to go deeper. When marketers are able to look at their leads’ markets through their perspectives, they can create marketing campaigns that really target the right companies.
A customer intelligence platform can deliver the In-depth information marketers and sales reps need to improve their collaboration and increase sales productivity.
Humans respond to narratives, and we are more likely to retain information when it comes packaged in a story; so, storytelling is one of the greatest tools in the sales and marketing toolbox to engage your customers.
In a video from Marketo called “Lead Generation Tips from 6 Really Really Smart Human Beings,” Lee Odden, founder of TopRank Online Marketing said, “Facts tell. Stories sell.” This is the kind of catchphrase you should write down on a post-it-note and stick on your computer monitor—it’s that important. You can use statistics about your product as a selling point, but your prospect’s eyes may glaze over. However, tie these numbers up in a compelling tale about how your product completely turned a business around in its time of need, and you are much more likely to grab their full attention. Numbers make people nod, but stories make them care—and people are more likely to invest in something they care about.
Do Background Research
In the same video from Marketo, Nick Westergaard, chief brand strategist and founder of Driven Digital, said, “Questions are currency.” In other words, what marketers really need to do is identify what their potential client’s questions are and provide an answer before the prospect even thinks to ask. But how do you do that? You do a whole lot of customer research: determine what’s going on in their markets and use big data analytics to get a sense of their industry climate. When you know your audience, you’ll understand what kinds of stories make them tick.
Where Do You Tell Your Stories?
If you haven’t noticed, narratives are pervasive in our culture. That’s because they work well, no matter what medium you use to tell them, be it podcast, text or video. Using them in sales pitches can be extremely effective too. When it comes to digital marketing, video is a pretty safe bet. Internet video is a huge part of marketing and unlikely to go away anytime soon. When it comes to sending a succinct, effective message, video is a medium unlike any other. Make a video to use on a landing page or share on social media.
How Do You Tell Your Stories?
Once you choose a vehicle for your brand story, it’s all about creating a narrative that will sell. The important thing is that it contains all the right elements to engage with the audience. According to Forbes, it’s important to create characters that your clients will root for. After all, a story without a protagonist isn’t much of a story at all. Make sure it’s someone with issues that will resonate with your audience. Remember in grade school when you learned that a story has a beginning, middle and an end? That’s still true. Don’t forget to craft a story arc. In the beginning, present a stable situation, which then gets upset by the introduction of a problem that your product will solve for them.
When we talk about stories in marketing, we’re not talking about fiction. Your stories should be rooted in real encounters. This may sound less interesting than writing the great American novel, but using real events actually makes the whole process easier. You probably have an entire file full of client success stories. Think about one of these sales from the company’s perspective. Rather than just being a percentage point in a sales record, this situation is a story waiting to be told.
Whether you are making a pitch, creating a video or e-book, basing your marketing and sales efforts in stories is the way to go.
Don’t fall into a drab routine with your marketing efforts. While they may be working just fine, if you’re in a rut, you’re sure not inspiring anyone. Rev up your promotional game this winter and introduce some creativity into your marketing campaigns. Customers need a little extra to keep them going, so by making their day more interesting, you may improve sales productivity as well.
Start Out with Some Research
Don’t pour too many resources into a new campaign without doing some customer research first. All good promotional initiatives start with customer intelligence. Plug back into your potential buyer’s market and see what’s going on. What social networks do your ideal customers tend to frequent? Is there a big event that you can use for some timely content? Do the legwork and you’re likely to come up with some great ideas for how to swing a new campaign.
Throw in a Cartoon
Cartoons are incredibly engaging. According to Stu Heinecke for Salesforce, studies demonstrate that cartoons tend to be the most memorable part of a publication. Using cutting humor, a one panel cartoon can say a lot about a product or service. In addition, they can be fantastic tools for engagement, as The New Yorker consistently demonstrates with its caption contest. As of April 2011, 502,416 individuals had submitted 1,595,506 captions, according to The New Yorker. And the contest is still going strong. Not only is the competition fun, but it increases engagement with the publication. Heinecke also says that using a cartoon in an email campaign can double open rates. This is a relatively easy way to spice up a campaign, so why not give it a try?
Try Out Vine
Vine is no longer brand new, and it’s arguably a dying art now that Instagram does videos. On the other hand, Vine still integrates better with Twitter than Instagram does, which makes it an excellent tool. Even better, vines can be embedded in blogs, which makes them easy to share on all kinds of platforms. What is Vine? It’s a six-second video that loops infinitely. This all may sound very strange to the uninitiated, but just like Twitter, the space limitation has made it a unique medium for creative types to play around with. Because it’s so short, it’s also ideal for marketers. Show your creativity with stop-motion animation, or just demonstrate what’s going on behind the scenes at your company. The short length almost guarantees that people will watch it, and you’d be surprised what you can do in that amount of time. If you don’t believe me, check out Econsultancy’s list of the best branded vines from this month.
Business to consumer companies have been all about experience-based marketing for a long time. However, as social media becomes a greater influence, marketers are looking for ways to involve the consumer in marketing once again. B2B enterprises don’t always have the same opportunities to be face to face with potential customers in the sort of playful environment that’s conducive to this kind of marketing. However, trade shows are a great place to try out some innovative ideas. According to B2B Marketing, one of the key ideas is creating an immersive experience. Show potential buyers something they’ve never seen before. With new technologies, this is easier than ever. For example, a corporate car distributor sent executives on a cruise in a 19th century ship, without ever leaving shore. Using 180 degree projection screens, the company created an alternate reality where the visitors appeared to be inside the ship watching the sea.
Saying the Wrong Thing
You want your social media presence to have personality. While whomever is running your channels may be tweeting or posting under the name of your brand, people want to know there’s a real person behind it. However, you need to pick a professional who knows what they’re doing. Most people have their own Twitter or Facebook, and it can be disastrous when someone posts personal content under their employer’s name. Nevertheless, it happens. Another tragic error, according to John McMalcolm on Marketo’s blog, is to post something insensitive or offensive. While world events can often be a great excuse to plug your products, never use any event in which people were physically harmed or killed, like Kenneth Cole did. The brand used riots in Cairo as an excuse to advertise its spring collection. Naturally, it garnered widespread criticism for its insensitivity.
To avoid these missteps, companies should always plan out tweets in advance. If your social media expert has a history of creating questionable content, have someone read over their work before it gets published.
Sometimes when businesses start out on social platforms, they simply have no idea what they’re doing. This can lead to situations like those above, but other problems can result, as well. Some companies don’t know the rules of the game they are playing. For instance, you don’t simply jump onto Twitter, search for anyone who may be interested in your services and start following them – or worse – messaging them directly.
Social media isn’t self-serving, it’s about establishing relationships that help you know your customer and ideally, help them get to know you too. For every post you make promoting your own services, reblog or share a news item from your industry or community that may interest followers.
Before implementing a social media campaign, do proper research about the channel. See how people behave on it, and which companies are using it effectively.
Using the Wrong Data
Having thousands of followers doesn’t guarantee prospects are actively engaged with your company. According to Jeff Bullas, not all customer analytics are created equal. Applying the normal metrics to social media may not yield the same results. Check to see how people are actually responding to what you put out there, don’t just assume followers have seen it.
Connecting All Your Accounts
Many companies use too many different platforms. In an effort to save time, they end up linking them up to publish simultaneously. This can be very irritating for those who follow you on multiple channels. It can also be annoying to those who don’t. Most platforms link up, but in less-than-ideal ways. Do you really want your Twitter feed to tell followers “I just posted a video to Facebook” every time you upload something? Everyone knows the message is automated, and it comes across as lazy. Similarly, when users link Twitter and Facebook status updates, anyone who follows both will see the exact same message.
As a best practice, write posts individually, keeping in mind what makes each platform unique. Instagram and Facebook are great for visual media, while Twitter may be better for linking news items and blogs. Better yet, don’t take on more channels than your marketing department can manage.
Video is a fun and engaging way to find sales opportunities, and it’s not just for B2C anymore. B2B companies can harness the power of movie as well. According to Janine Popick for Inc., 92 percent of B2B customers watch videos online, and 43 percent of B2B customers watch videos when researching products and services.
You don’t have to outsource a video production company to make a great video, although that’s certainly an option. You just need to create content that people want to watch. Put someone in front of a camera, and demonstrate what a font of knowledge they are. Sales reps are generally pretty dynamic individuals, so get one of them to be your spokesperson. Having a genuine employee in front of the camera will also make you appear more authentic.
Here are some tips for engaging your customers and generating leads with video:
Create awesome content
If you can’t come up with a reason to use video marketing, you probably shouldn’t do it. If you don’t have a wealth of information you’re dying to share, video is useless. However, if you have tons of ideas and need an engaging outlet to reach your audience, video is perfect.
If you need ideas, using customer intelligence analytics can help you determine what kind of information your customers really need. The best content will anticipate the problems customers have and provide them with solutions.
Make the video engaging
According to Jeff Molander in Target Marketing Magazine, many marketers fail using video because they overthink what they are saying and forget to consider how they will say it. It may be easier said than done, but in order to be successful on this channel, you need content that really says something interesting while keeping the viewer’s attention.
Try telling a story. The human brain is programmed to respond to narratives, and they tend to be more memorable than straight facts. In the Salesforce Blog, Jeff Ogden notes how popular television show The Walking Dead consistently gains more viewers than the NFL. This compelling narrative of a small group of survivors outrunning bloodthirsty zombies tells a story that is both gripping and visually engaging. Just remember, you don’t need gore to create videos that users want to watch.
Finish off videos with a clear call to action to find potential buyers. Once you’ve hooked users on your fantastic video channel, you can even require a user registration so that visitors have to give you an email address in order to continue. YouTube allows you to overlay ads if you are a Google Adwords advertiser, according to Popick.
What is gamification? According to Forrester research, gamification can be defined as “the insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.” In layman’s terms, gamification is making the boring aspects of life more fun by adding points systems, badges and other hallmarks of game playing. It’s a way to make often less-than-interesting aspects of business life more engaging for clients and employees alike.
If you’re still unsure of exactly what gamification might look like, Foursquare is a good example for consumers. This social platform essentially transforms the act of visiting new places into a game by allotting points whenever a user checks into a named location. You can unlock badges by visiting a certain number of locations in a similar category. For example, you can unlock a badge after visiting 10 different Mexican restaurants, or 10 different movie theaters. Whenever a user checks in, he or she receives points that allow friendly competition between users. While this platform is designed for consumers, it is an excellent model for the way gamification can be applied to training.
Using gamification to improve sales productivity When training salespeople, you often have goals in mind that you would like them to reach before sending them out into the trenches. Gamification is a great way to help novice sales reps achieve these benchmarks. It’s a good idea to create metrics and other measurable goals for new salespeople. Every business does things a little bit differently, so things like CRM protocols can also be included. Naturally, measurable goals make it easy to implement a game. According to Bob Marsh for Salesforce blog, creating a leaderboard is a great way to engage new salespeople. Add a point system for each goal, and display the results in a public setting.
Displaying these outcomes in the open can help sales reps learn from each other; it also creates a culture of open communication. There is no shame at being at the bottom of the leaderboard in the context of a friendly game, but it may help the new hire see that they need to work on some key skills. You can also include more seasoned associates in the game.
Customer engagement and lead generation According to David Kirkpatrick on Marketing Sherpa, B2B companies can use gamification just as well as B2C. Implementing a captivating game online is a great way to get users to get engaged on your company’s website, and it can be as simple as offering rewards for persisting in certain behaviors. As an example, Kirkpatrick notes how software company SAP made its online community more active by integrating game dynamics. The community message board was already very active and users would frequently answer one another’s inquiries. The company assigned the title of “expert” to certain users with a track record of responding frequently.
Adding gamification strategies can be a good way to find sales opportunities. Kirkpatrick recommends giving users a set of goals to reach. Once users download a white paper or watch a promotional video, you can have them take a quiz. Allow them to unlock expertise badges about your products. Once they reach a certain level, offer them some kind of reward.
You can also gamify normal social media posts. In an example cited by Corey Eridon on Hubspot, a business posted a statement on Facebook, requesting that users respond whether it was true or false. Out of the correct answers, the company randomly selected someone to win a gift card. The initiative ropes in prospective clients and keeps current ones engaged.
Rewards It’s a good idea to provide an incentive for people to play. While achieving the highest status, or the highest number of points can a good enough reward, shelling out for gifts can make the experience even better. Whether your reward is aimed at your own salespeople, or potential leads, chances are giving people a concrete reason to play your game will improve the outcome. For customers, offer early access to white papers and other content, or even a discounted rate.
Content marketing is the probably the biggest marketing trend of 2013. It seems likely that content will remain the biggest marketing industry buzzword going into 2014. Do you have a resolution for the New Year? Maybe it's time for your marketing department to come up with a collective resolution: successfully implementing a content marketing strategy in 2014.
You may be thinking content marketing doesn't work for B2B, and you're not exactly wrong. A lot of companies haven't figured out how to get content marketing to work efficiently for them. The truth is, B2B content marketing brings a unique set of challenges. However, provided you know what you're in for, the return on investment can be just as high as it is for B2C.
The challenges of B2B content marketing:
How to implement a successful content strategy
Because of these challenges, it's not surprising that about half of companies surveyed by Content Marketing Institute reported they had no content marketing strategy. Given the lag in adoption of this marketing channel, those firms that do find a way to implement a successful content marketing strategy will be ahead of the game.
Here are some tips to get started:
When done right, these strategies will help you generate better leads for your sales team. Don't let your fears hold you back from the jumping on the content marketing bandwagon.