Well, the 2016 US presidential race has begun in earnest. Every day a new candidate enters the race on the quest to headline the Republican or Democratic ticket. I am a bit of a political junkie: not because I am a policy wonk, but because I am a marketing wonk. I love (ok, sometimes hate) to watch the unfolding strategies to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the electorate. What interests me most is the struggle to stay ‘on message’. The candidate wants the dialogue to be about the ‘brand message’: “Don’t Swap Horses When Crossing Streams”, Lincoln, 1864; “Return to Normalcy”, Harding, 1920; “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago”, Reagan, 1980; and, of course, “Yes, We Can” Obama, 2008. But, it’s tough. Political discourse requires a political platform of messages on issues and topics that are targeted to micro-constituencies. Political operatives, surrogates and donors can get it all terribly muddled. And when they inevitably do, the damage control often rises to an art form.
It’s something any B2B marketing exec can relate to. Keeping everybody on message is never an easy task. Despite the hours spent in claustrophobic conference rooms discussing mission and vision and value propositions, key stakeholders just seem to go rogue when communicating in practice: the CEO wings it in press interviews; the SVP of engineering explores the nuances of fascinating, but irrelevant features with a prospective buyer; marketing managers write content that misaligns benefits and customer problems; agencies propose promotional taglines that are slick but won't stick; and sales reps create their own special spiel (and use it faithfully regardless of client context).
After almost every loyalty-related speech I give, I get some variation of the following question: "How does this apply to B2B?" Sure, customer loyalty programs are most frequently associated with consumer-facing rewards schemes, but earning customer loyalty is very important for B2B companies too. After all, loyal and satisfied B2B customers provide testimonials, case studies, and referrals that result in a fuller and more qualified pipeline of new business. It can be easy for B2B marketers to dismiss consumer loyalty models as inapplicable to their complex business relationships, but there's a lot more to consumer loyalty than points and discounts.
In my latest report, "B2B Loyalty, The B2C Way," I explore how B2B companies can use consumer loyalty principles to deepen their business relationships. Looking past rewards, they specifically stand to benefit from three core tenets of loyalty embraced by successful B2C loyalty marketers:
A deep understanding of customer needs and motivations. B2B companies are not immune to the age of the customer, and in order to increase their customer obsession, they must continue to grow their knowledge about the customer. Building this knowledge-base from sources like satisfaction surveys, digital interactions, and customer success management systems is especially important given the complexity of B2B purchase decisions.
Consistent customer interactions across organizational silos. Business customers interact with many parts of the organization including marketing, sales, service, and support. Reaching across the aisle to teams that interface most frequently with customers, resellers, and end users leads to more productive customer outcomes.
It's the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US tomorrow. Soon we will gather around the table with family and friends to feast and give thanks for our many blessings and the things we most appreciate in life. If your home is anything like mine, it's also a time when we get together to share stories, both past and present.
What is it about stories that makes them so compelling?
When it comes to content marketing, the majority of business-to-business (B2B) marketers we surveyed last month are not as mature as they think.
Roughly half of respondents (52%) are in the early stages of assembling a content strategy and executing against it. We call this early majority "aspiring editors," and while their practices are often inconsistent or not fully embraced across the organization, these marketers are busy laying the foundation upon which to build an editorial point of view that gives their buyers something useful and valuable to read, watch, or interact with.
In a new report, published today (subscription required), we took a closer look at the maturity of content marketing practices among 113 B2B marketing professionals. Half of our respondents hail from companies with 1,000 employees or more, and 41% occupy senior marketing positions including the title of CMO or senior vice president. When compared to peers, most (51%) believe their practices are very mature.
No kidding. Isn't that marketing's job? To produce content? From advertising, to email, whitepapers, videos, blog posts, case studies, brochures . . . it's what marketing does, right? I'm surprised the result wasn't 100%. (I wonder what those 9% were doing instead?)
Hmm . . . sounds like a bad joke I used to tell about enterprise portals . . . except now it goes something like, "How is content marketing like teenage sex . . . ?" (You can look it up . . . )
If you think Big Data is something only B2C marketers need worry about, you’d be wrong.
As business buyers turn to the digital world to help them explore and solve pressing business problems, marketers will find that the data needed to propel their firms into the digital future is increasingly big.
The challenges we face in closing the gap between the amount of data available and our ability to get value from it are equally big. Nevertheless, to become customer obsessed requires understanding your buyers much better and data is the key to that understanding. During Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders last week, I told B2B marketers that it’s time to make a date with their big data destiny. (The prior link is to our forum coming up in London -- you can also listen to my April 30 webinar to learn more on this topic.)
My colleague Brian Hopkins believes that - to exploit the business opportunity hiding in big piles of data - marketers must understand that data is increasingly:
Here at the Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City, one announcement that’s creating buzz among the 6000-plus attendees is a new customer profiling feature. Called Master Marketing Profile (MMP), Adobe says this new capability gives marketers a view of customer data that spans a broad range of third-party systems, real-time analytics, and behavioral sources. (First of its kind in the industry? Not sure; Demandbase may care to differ, but I’ll let them settle that score separately.)
Dynamic customer profiling is something all marketers should get excited about.
It’s the type of technology evolution, when coupled with the right marketing practices, that is closing the gap between the amount of data available to us as marketers and our ability to get value from it. From my perspective, B2B marketers need to make a date with their big data destiny, and the time to schedule this appointment is now.
Empowered business buyers — sporting digital devices giving them information about and access to the products they want as consumers — now bring these always-on, always addressable expectations into the office. This presents big problems to B2B marketers, content to lead with products and features, who now find they need to fulfill these expanding digital expectations by getting closer to customers and knowing much more about them — a tough problem if access to, quality of, and practices around using customer data are underdeveloped.
In 2010, we entered a new 20-year business cycle where successful companies will be those that better understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. But what happens when government authorities with very specific rules about how companies communicate with customers regulate these interactions?
Wealth management, insurance, and pharmaceuticals come to mind as example industries where marketers and relationship managers feel this oversight most acutely. How do you thrive in the age of the customer when how you interact — and the data you maintain — is controlled by law?
These are questions that I plan to explore next week with marketing and client experience executives from the financial services industry at "The Forward Thinker" sponsored by EarthIntegrate. Thinking through the issues around how to be more customer-obsessed in an industry where every communication could be monitored or audited, I believe that the main challenge is not to stray outside the regulatory guidelines while meeting growing client expectations for responsive, online, anytime, anywhere engagement — all while maintaining the intimacy that high-net-worth investors, for example, expect of their advisor relationships or that insurance members expect of brokers.
This certainly doesn't mean most marketing is useless, but it's a telling statistic about the divide that separates marketing messages that operate at 30,000 feet from sales conversations that happen at 3 feet — the average distance between a salesperson and a prospect during a sit-down meeting.
In this digital age, it's increasingly important for marketing to play a bigger role in helping sales not just get "your" message in front of a customer, but to make it "their" message — something that the buyer cares enough about to talk to your rep and to do something that upsets the status quo as a result. It's about creating content that can play dual roles: attracting and educating buyers while giving sales a deeper understanding about what's attracting that attention in the first place. To achieve both, marketers have to understand their buyers. Better. Deeply. Obsessively.