Tag Archives: lessons learnt

B2B content marketing trends in 2013 & upcoming challenges

According to a recent study by Content Marketing Institute, a little more than half of all surveyed B2B marketers are planning to increase their content marketing spending in 2013. This result almost mirrors the B2C oriented study and shows a clear trend of the increasing importance of content marketing across organisations.

B2B content marketing expected spending

B2B content marketing expected spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another promising development is the ongoing trend of B2B marketers, likewise to their B2C colleagues, to acknowledge the importance of content creation by gradually increasing in-house content creation efforts over outsources efforts. A trend which in my eyes is an inevitable step to create ownership, necessary processes and content creation experience. Contradicting this notion is however a slight increase in content marketing challenges, particularly in the category “producing enough content”.

Content Marketing Challenges

Content Marketing Challenges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B2B organisations are rich of quality content, the crux for every marketer is however to unlock this content from Key Account Managers, R&D folks, manufacturing partners, field engineers and top management. It is not impossible, but for many organisations, the years relying on external partners for content creation meant these necessary internal relations haven’t been built up to now capitalise upon.

Take on the challenge for 2013 to make B2C content sexy and engaging:

> Acknowledge the richness of content in B2B! Content doesn’t just have to be consumer stories in the earned media category – it is unlikely that your heavy machinery customer will post a picture of him and his new crane to your Facebook channel, however asking him in person for an experience interview changes things dramatically! Most often you will find open customers who are as emotionally connected to their products or work like your B2C counterpart’s mobile user.

> Be a tactician! As with customers, the same applies to your own R&D and sales guys. It is very unlikely that they will knock on your door and ask you to write an article about their work or achievements; but there are surely some out there who are more outspoken or who like to glow in their own glory. Perfect – use them as forerunners. Creating a competitive environment by adding a section “success stories” to your publication will spark drive and challenge others to showcase their success in similar ways. It doesn’t happen over night but with patience this will lead to great success and a pipe full of publishing ready content.

> Measure everything! Use digital tools to measure the results of your content creation efforts. Show the time customers have spent reading or accessing various channels and show it in a dramatic fashion. 50% of your content creation efforts will be spent internally, as shown above, on your colleagues or even superiors to market the content marketing idea to them. See them as your audience which is easier won by strong use cases than shallow marketing jargon, especially in B2B.

> Be a risk taker! Content marketing has to be engaging otherwise it doesn’t show effects and or results as planned. Don’t just rely on content marketing tactics that you are familiar with such as blogs, websites, case studies or whitepapers. Think outside of the box and look for the sexy new thing such as mobile and gamification. Don’t let Kodak style content marketing efforts fool you – not everything B2C marketers do leads to a great ROI apart from its sexy look to outsiders. Try to think of other tactics as use cases, why no gamify content creation internally or run a best product in use picture with customer’s field engineers? Applying tactics to the B2B world is easier as it seem but the sale internally can be hard and daunting. Be prepared for that and create a lot of small use cases for new tactics – these will help to convince superiors and colleagues of new tactics and ease the approval process.

> Use your own organisation as testing ground! Over the years, my most critical yet most rewarding audience was internal. Every employee in your organisation is waiting to be engaged, more in B2B than ever imagined. They won’t take anything for granted nor jump on every campaign or effort coming from marketing but if you manage to convince this audience, everything else will be a piece of cake. Furthermore, this will provide you with a richness of feedback (mostly critical) which helps to learn and avoid mistakes in the outside world.

> Have fun! I have seen and meet many B2B colleagues who were nothing but worked up in what I would call sales support (that is updating brochures, organising exhibitions etc). Working in technically oriented organisations doesn’t come with the same audience and or work environment as in B2C but that doesn’t mean you and your team cannot have fun. Create a driving environment for ideas, host internal creative brainstorming sessions, have regular team retreats to come up with new tactics, go to conferences and speeches to learn from colleagues, competitors and even off the grid B2C marketers.

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Are campaigns dead?

Jeffrey Jones, Target CMO made a blunt but thought provoking statement, recently published in a brandchannel article, by addressing the shift from campaigns to mobile, content and thus in my eyes customer centric marketing.

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“In the past, marketers would make campaigns, they would put them in the world, and they would wait to see what happened,” Jones said in a video released on the brand’s A Bullseye View website and YouTube channel. “In today’s world, it happens hourly. It happens daily. And this is a brand that has such enriched deep content that our guests want to hear from us on. So if we can create content and share content and allow our guests to speak on our behalf, that’s really beneficial for them to deepen their engagement and it helps us amplify our message as well.”

The importance about this statement in my eyes is not the shift from campaigns to customer centricity in advertising but brands and marketing managers starting (could we say forced to by mobile technology and social media) to diss-intermediate in the message to consumer chain. Building up competencies, knowledge and experience in-house is a very important step to owning content and thus gaining control over customer’s brand experience.

The 60′s to the 90′s were the glory days of advertising agencies, slogans got created behind cigarette filled walls in men dominated meeting rooms. The customer was in most cases the least of everybody’s concern – data discrepancy just being one of the reasons.

Will we see more marketers taking on responsibility, diss-intermediating to getting closer to their customers but outsource operational tasks to third parties? Let’s hope so in 2013, I for my part, am in!

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How to transform marketing into a center of excellence – realistically

The infographic below, found in artcile by Laura Patterson on marketingprofs.com, details an important and ongoing struggle for marketing organizations. With marketing being a cost center, most organizations treat it exactly this way. Phrases like “we need to save, let’s cut marketing costs” are just a sign of the treatment marketing often gets, especially in B2B type organizations.

Over the last few years, I have learned a few basic but valuable lessons, which work into the marketing center of excellence graphic below:

1) Question your marketing efforts: especially when you, like in my case, get to take over and build up the entire marketing organization, don’t take it for granted and don’t assume marketing plays the role you want it to play (yet). It serves a great purpose to step back, listen and observe before jumping into the deep end. What I have found, is that marketing is often seen a center of funny looking pictures, posters and brochures but not like an important business function.

2) Create value: one of the main determinants of the center of excellence is value creation and measurability. I will get to this point a bit later, so bear with me. I segregated my customers groups in internal and external customers. Sounds easy I know! But why don’t many marketers do that? If you cannot rally your own organization behind you, how are you going to assure brand alignment when messages leave the organization? Build up service streams internally and define products and services you can deliver within the organization. Define your target audience clearly and focus on the influencers. If you get them on board, your battle will be downhill.

3) Don’t expect top management support to be a given: you might be hired for one reason but after all, you are thrown into a specific culture with a specific mindset and specific way certain function are seen. Liase with top management and establish the importance of marketing through various business cases. Question results and be critical yourself – you don’t win top management by just claiming the importance of spending money for something intangible they cannot touch, see or feel. Step by step is the way to go.

4) Double & tripple loop learning: There is a saying “if you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got”. Isn’t that right? If it works, you might want to think about changing things around. But in your case, you have to establish a center of excellence so question the WHY’s and not just the HOW’s. One important aspect to do so, is to establish rigid performance mesures. You might want to get iffy if you cannot measure something, in general: if you cannot measure improvement, how are you going to justify the money you have spent on it? Besides all the other resources you have thrown after un-measurability?

5) Treat marketing as an investment: Closely linked to the learning curve and measures, you don’t just do – you plan, act and measure. This will serve as your business case later on to convince management, to get nods in meetings, to get people talk about marketing differently and to keep yourself sane enough to continue.

6) The resources you have are the once you get judged upon: This is probably only something for the younger marketing managers. If you get to take over a team, a department or a function, assess your resources quickly and adapt them first thing. That doesn’t mean you have to fire people right away but assess the capabilities your plan to reach the center of excellence requires. If you don’t have the resources and you don’t do anything about it, whinging in 6-12 months is not going to help you either. Your performance will be judged upon it.

7) Liase and work yourself into existing business processes: a great test for me, to see the stance of marketing within my current role was to assess the marketing’s influence in innovation & market processes. If your innovation department lives on the mantra “let’s solve some problems and hand the result over to marketing; if it doesn’t sell, marketing has done a bad job” you are in deep trouble! You have two options to deal with that situation: 1. throw everything your brain gives and your resources allow to make these “products” a success (unlikely to happen, unless you are extremely lucky) or, 2. work yourself into the circle of people who have a say in innovation and claim, over time, marketing’s rightful spot at the table. In my case, this meant to built up strategic marketing functions with an array of marketing analysts in order to provide (see above) value added benefits internally that got me the seat needed. Oh well, there is option three of course – run as fast as you can and take that other job you have been offered 2 weeks ago :-)

I think I could go on and on and on, but by now, you have either gotten the point or have left my blog anyhow… so good luck in transforming your marketing organization into a center of excellence and feel free to contact me for any lessons learnt exchange on that topic.

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