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2020: Time to Transform?

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I'm not sure if you've read b2b marketing this week, but there was a very useful piece visioning the marketing department of 2020. As something of a crystal ball gazer myself, this headline attracted me and I read on. 

What will b2b marketing departments look like in 2020?

Here's the full article which covers skills, internal comms, training, agencies, email, the role of technology and of course working with sales.

On this latter point, it looks like the best we can hope for is 'an uneasy truce as each group has different cultures, motivations, timescales and working methods.' 

Let me know what you think the marketing departments of the future will look like.

Traditional Media Must Fuel Earned Media Efforts

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Just read a useful Forrester report providing a model of how paid media (print, online, TV) can be...or needs to be...used to generate earned (Editorial, Social) and owned media (blogs, social media assets).

Here's a couple of useful summary charts for your reference and you can buy the full Forrester report here.

B2B Barometer - Wave 6th results

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Given the depressing state of the UK economy, I was surprised to see that the latest wave of results from the B2B Barometer survey show that the 80% of the respondents were confident in their organisation's outlook for the next 12 months - the highest figure ever recorded in the Barometer. Less surprising is the fact that there continues to be a serious focus on generating leads, with 41% of client-side marketers focusing on this as their highest priority. Increasing upselling and cross-selling came a close second and there's a still a sizeable group focusing on raising brand awareness.

It's interesting also to notice how content marketing has become mainstream - 86% of marketers report that they use content in at least some of their activity. In terms of effectiveness, almost half of the audience claim that case studies are the most effective. 

You can download the full report at the b2b barometer site

Conversion Rate Optimisation for Publishers

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Here's a very practical article on conversion optimisation from Dave Chaffey. Dave talks through the 9 steps methodology and provides a nice infographic to help you visualise the entire process.

Data-driven decision-making

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Like most people, I care about my health, try to eat as well as I can, exercise regularly, try to relax from time-to-time - Why? So that I have the strength and energy to work, spend time with the people I enjoy spending time with and generally live my life to the full.

So how do I know whether all of this effort is working? Well there are qualitative, big picture indicators such as how I feel which are very important. There are also many quantitative indicators and over the last few years I regularly have a number of blood tests to track and monitor some of these metrics so that I can optimise the inputs, the foods I eat; the water I drink; my exercise programme etc. These 'kpis'  include common ones such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but also less common ones that are important to me, but less so to others.  In truth there's so much data that it can be overwhelming and meaningless without an expert (ie a doctor) who can interpret the results and make recommendations of actions for me to implement.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well it's exactly the same in the world of digital marketing. The benefits of creating digital marketing programmes is obvious to everyone. Speed of implementation; accelerated response; wider reach and plenty of data that can help you optimise the programmes if time is taken to digest, interpret and identify ways to boost conversion rates.

I was at Emetrics at the end of last year and there were several stories of brands who had built this approach into their process and have seen dramatic improvements in their conversion rates. They had trained their marketing staff on the importance of data-driven decision-making and had hired analytical staff to support the marketers, looking for the patterns and opportunities in the data.

The point: data helps refine and direct energy based on what is actually happening now. In the same way that your blood pressure may indicate a problem with your life-style and a risk for the future if changes aren't made; your web analytics data can show you where your conversions are currently coming from; which pages are not working; whether your checkout process is efficient and many, many other useful insights.  Sure you can use your judgement, but a combination of good judgement guided by actual behaviour can be extremely powerful! 

Failure isn't an option

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Probably the most controversial speaker at the Digital Forum was Gerald Ratner. Gerald's speech closed the conference and catalogued his life experiences following his remark in 1991 that one of the Ratner products, was 'crap'. That one remark was taken out of all proportion and led to a 'ruin Gerald' campaign by the British media which saw the value of the Ratner group shrink on an extraordinary scale!  However, though many dark days followed, Gerald bounced back and is now leading a successful online Jewellery retailer,

Whereas most conference speakers usually highlight their successes, Gerald's speech differed as it catalogued a long list of mistakes that he had made, capitalising on his reputation following his one very public mistake. He spoke of the errors he made opening jewellery stores in the Netherlands, unaware that the Dutch don't exchange Christmas presents on the scale they do in the UK. An important detail if all of your profits are forecast for December!  He told us the story of how his efforts to buy a business in the US lead to the company falling in debt to the tune of a billion pounds!  He read out a league table of people who had messed up which placed him, in the number 1 spot, in front of some fairly big blunders and errors of judgement.

The morale of the story was that if you lose it all, just start again, focus and you'll get it back again one day if you're prepared to put the work in. This morale had a very mixed reception from some of the other delegates.

Flipping the Funnel

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I spent a day last week at the Digital Marketing Forum  organised by Richmond Events. It was a useful event which resulted in some new contacts; strengthened existing relationships and new knowledge. The highlight was Joseph Jaffe's speech on flipping the funnel,  who reminded me how brands can easily focus so much of their time on acquiring new customers, that they neglect the customers they already have. He encouraged the delegates to ''Build their businesses from the inside out" by:

  • Remembering that customers are part of a brand's Eco-system
  • Having a customer activation programme to create 'customer ambassadors'
  • Give customers the tools to help acquire new customers, thereby improving the efficiency of acquisition programmes

Further reading:

How do you measure the return on training investment?

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Like many people at this time of year, I'm in 'reflection mode', reviewing the many decisions made this year and grouping them into 'very good ones', 'not so good ones' and 'really bad ones' so that I can learn from mistakes and build plans for next year.

On the topic of learning, one area that I have been looking at is training. Like the marketing budget, the training budget is often thought of as a discretionary spend that can easily be cut when the going gets tough. Thought best practice encourages businesses to continue to invest in training & development during hard times so that skills are in place when things improve; in practice, this can be hard to justify when revenues and profits are going south.

So how do you assess the return on learning?
Assessing the return on a training course isn't that difficult. After each training course, attendees are given a feedback form which will invariably assess the trainer, the pace, the quality of the materials and so on. This feedback will help trainers and managers understand how much attendees think they will use what they've learnt in the workplace. However, as anyone who has ever been on a training course will know, just because attendees had a great time, loved the trainer and thought the materials were first class, does not mean that it will impact their work performance at all!

To get to the true ROI of training, you need to be able to evaluate the learning that takes place and how much has been applied on the job, something which obviously can't be assessed until weeks or months after the training has finished. This is a much more difficult task, but is really important. 

Knowledge Pool  ran a survey across many different training courses in ten different types of organisations: central government, customer service, engineering, local government, IT Services, manufacturing and media. They received over 1,000 responses and found that 70% of training course attendees do apply their learning to the workplace.

This is encouraging. They also found that if you're a manager, you have a key role to play as 53% of the learners in the survey got line manager support to help apply their learning. The importance of line manager support in the transfer of knowledge to the workplace was also supported by research by the Marketing Leadership Council  who found that manager support is one of three critical priorities for driving learning application. 

Moreover, the Marketing Leadership Council also found that employees of managers who are very effective at development outperform their peers by up to 25% (source: Learning & Development Roundtable). With this in mind, it's no coincidence that the areas that are likely to see an increase in training demand in 2012 are Leadership development and New Manager training.

What are the benefits of training & development
The Marketing Leadership Council
  also found that where learning is applied, training results in three main benefits:
-   more engaged and committed employees who perform at a higher level
-   employees who are more likely to stay with the organization, building the knowledge
    pool and reducing the cost of recruiting new staff
-   more confident employees who are able to do their jobs faster and more easily

Encourage sharing will increase the ROI further
One final point to bear in mind when it comes to increasing the return on a training investment, is to encourage those who have benefited from structured training to share their new ideas, tools and techniques with their colleagues. There are many ways to do this from workshops to webcasts, blogs and forums. In today's digital world, sharing is far easier and quicker than ever before.


B2B Marketing

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 I saw this useful summary of what matters most to b2b marketeers today.



Linking Marketing Automation with CRM: 5 steps to success

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I spoke this morning at The Funnel Conference outlining RBI's experience of implementing marketing automation to support our new business process.

In case you missed it, the five steps for success were:

Have a vision - in other words know where you're going so you realise when you have arrived. Often we set off in a direction without any clear view of the destination which obviously doesn't get us anywhere.

Map your stakeholders carefully - whilst technology is the great enabler, real change comes from people and there are a number of stakeholder groups to consider: marketing, sales and technologists are the obvious ones, but don't forget those influencers such as sales operations who have the ear of sales!  Marketing automation will impact them and you want them to be advocates.

Speak the same language, in other words define a lead carefully so that you can measure, benchmark and report funnel progress, and focus attention on where improvement is required.

Get your head around lead scoring - this is the functionality that moves marketing automation on from being a tool that can send personalised emails to a tool that can automate the rules around lead qualification. Once you master and embed this functionality, your sales people will be able focus their efforts on the prospects with the propensity to become customers. ICIS, one of RBI's key brands servicing the global chemicals, energy and fertiliser markets have achieved a 16% conversion from lead to sale, thanks to their online nurturing programmes.

Create robust processes and governance to support important tasks such as data acquisition and content creation.

I'll share a link to my slides in due course.