B2B Revenue GrowthGuest Contributions by B2B Experts

This blog consists of the very best articles and blog posts we’ve curated from B2B experts across the web. These posts cover a wide variety of B2B business topics, however, we will ensure the focus remains on how great marketing B2B processes and programs lead to revenue growth – and insight on actions you can take to realize those improvements.

 

What Do B2B Content Marketing Writers Treasure Most?

by Patty Tomsky

I have been writing for decades, including sales strategies, proposals for products, web content, multi-million-dollar, global PR budgets, and a few books along the way. And as a long- time marketing and sales writer and communicator, I work as a marketing consultant to help my clients achieve their business and personal objectives.

But when you have been at something so long it’s easy to feel that you have the last word on quality writing. That’s why I love it when our clients burst my bubble. These experts provide me with input I never could have arrived at on my own power. Because our clients are the experts on their products, customers and services. We get up to speed, but they live and breathe it every day.

In a recent blog post, (or email blast, depending on which of his lists you’re subscribed to) one of my favorite copywriters, Bob Bly reminds us why our clients are often “the smartest people in the room”. Here are three great points that Bly makes and my additional commentary.

  1. You may know more about copywriting than your client. But he
    may know more about his market than you — and almost certainly
    knows more about his product than you.
    When I am crafting lead-to-revenue (L2R) messages, I know the “buckets” of information I need to fill and which items need to be included at every stage of the buyer’s journey. While this is vital stuff, the addition of the client’s expertise about their customer’s pain points, benefits, features, competition, etc. can make the difference between good writing and writing that is compelling and spot-on.

If you want to hear more about how to craft B2B content for each stage of the buyer’s journey, be sure to attend the presentation by Fusion Marketing Partners Chris Ryan (and many others including Bob Bly) at the Summit on Content Marketing.
“2–You will have some clients who know as much or even more about
copywriting than you do. You know who they are. Writing for these
clients takes your skills to the next level.”

I had to work on a SaaS manufacturing client. I was challenged each day by concepts such as “The Internet of Things” and “Lean Manufacturing for the Future.” I worked hard to immerse myself in these concepts—in effect, becoming a thought leader on the client’s behalf in a very short time.

Fortunately, the client contact was also an excellent writer. She was adept at providing the kind of information invaluable to me on my quest to become a thought leader in a very complex industry. A match made in heaven for copywriters.

“3–We don’t always write as well as we would like to. But we must
always write as well as we can.”

Every blog, every data sheet, every chance I have to write, I write knowing that my client’s numbers depend on it. When I coach writers working on my staff, I tell them: It’s not just another blog post. It’s a new conversation with a customer that could make or break our clients’ revenue goals. It’s not just “content” – it’s context for a relationship. And as such, an expert client can serve as an opportunity to gain unparalleled wisdom from an expert. As Longfellow said: “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.”

The Short Shelf Life of a CMO

CMOThe below graphic comes from a LinkedIn post from Mark Stouse, CEO at Proof Analytics. According to Stouse, “the average tenure for a CMO is now 18-22 months, less than half the norm for the rest of the C-suite. Most CMOs simply run out of time, particularly in longer-cycle businesses”. And when I talk about chief marketing officers (CMOs) I am also referring to VPs of Marketing (assuming there is not a CMO to whom they report). Having been a CMO for several fast-growing technology companies, and now supporting a few great CMOs as a marketing services provider, I know this territory well. In fact, CMOs are some of my favorite people. So of course it disturbs me if marketing leaders are not getting the right amount of recognition and job security.

CMO Collapse

CMOs are uniformly smart, capable and personable enough to navigate the corporate political waters. So why is the CMO position in jeopardy at a time when many of these people are getting good results for their organizations? Here are the top six reasons:

  1. Failure to measure marketing’s impact on the business. This reason is a biggie. If you can’t justify your value — in the eyes of the executive suite — you have no value. Sure, your marketing objectives are important, including items like website traffic, boosts in awareness, growth in inquiries, campaign metrics and so forth.  But the critical measurements — which you should show on a separate executive dashboard — are the delivery of revenue-impacting items like sales qualified leads (SQLs), pipeline increases and shortened sales cycles.
  2. Failure to align with sales management. Let’s face it, when results are poor, your colleagues in the sales department may point the finger at you. And because they are the people who move the revenue needle, your failure to gain the support of your sales counterpart can be fatal.
  3. Failure to align with the executive team. The exec team that welcomed you with platitudes and open arms when you started can be your biggest detractors downstream. It’s best to spend a little time early on figuring out what their particular issues are. Then, work to keep the rivers of communication flowing.
  4. Lack of esprit de corps. This issue is related to the last two points. No matter how talented, each CMO — like every other member of the executive team — must be seen as a team player. Early in my career, I worked with a VP of marketing who was quite bright and full of great ideas, but he tended to act as if he was the only smart person in the room. Not a good idea when you are surrounded by other type A personalities who believe their views should be respected.
  5. Lousy timing. Marketing is supposed to not only support the short-term needs of the sales department in areas like field marketing and sales enablement, but also create a foundation for success several quarters and years out.
  6. Unrealistic expectations. I’ve seen CEOs hire a new CMO and within months become highly critical of the lack of results, quantitative and/or qualitative. This may be due to the CEO’s lack of understanding of the marketing function, or because of the natural tendency of the enthusiastic new CMO to over-promise — something I did a couple of times early in my career.

Good CMOs (like those at my client companies) have an unquestioned commitment to their company, loyalty to the executive team and their staff, and the ability to deal with short-term issues while taking care of longer-term strategic objectives. In other words, they are able to achieve that delicate balance: Doing the right thing for the company while getting along with those who may have different viewpoints about what the marketing department should be doing. To put it another way, a CMO must follow the advice of Isaac Newton: “Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy”.

How to Grasp the Elusive Marketing and Sales Alignment

Regardless of your company’s size and industry, today’s business environment requires all of us to be fast on our feet. As business leaders, you must be able to react quickly and decisively to rapidly changing customer demands and competitive conditions. The more agile a company is, the faster it can respond to market dynamics and develop new products and processes, recognize new opportunities, and redeploy resources accordingly.

The degree of agility may be the difference between being a market leader instead of an also-ran. Agility requires proactive planning, business intelligence, alignment and collaboration among all the key functions to make the right decisions and turn opportunities into a competitive advantage.

Sales and Marketing are among the teams that must be tightly aligned and moving in step with each other.

Addressing Marketing and Sales alignment isn’t new. It’s long been and remains a hot topic. Why does Marketing and Sales alignment remain elusive? As we wrote in our blog in June, Is Your Marketing and Sales Suffering From the Fallacy of Now, some of the misalignment is caused by structure, focus, and communication. Market dynamics such as commoditization, the Internet, mobility and virtualization and changing business models also compound the problem. Companies attempting to resolve the issue often approach the problem by trying to tighten the alignment of marketing activities within the sales cycle, improving coordination around lead generation, and increasing sales force participation in the marketing process. Sadly these attempts often fail. Regardless of various approaches taken by companies to address this issue, the lack of alignment and collaboration between Marketing and Sales persists. What’s one step you can take today to improve the alignment?

Improve Alignment When You Focus on the Outside not the Inside

Today’s buyers are more sophisticated and today’s buying processes are more complex than ever before. The transactional approach of Marketing generating qualified leads that Sales then brings is history. The transactional approach allows Marketing and Sales to be inwardly focused. The transactional approach is what permits Marketing and Sales to operate as independent silos. This results in Sales immersing itself in the latest training, engaging in calling on customers and focusing on post-sale efforts and Marketing focusing on implementing various campaigns and coordinating a variety of tactics.

Companies who take a customer-centric approach over a transaction one look at the world through the eyes of the customer, what they want from you, what they expect from you, what they can count on from you. One way to become more customer-centric is to move from looking at the world from a selling perspective to taking a customer relationship lifecycle perspective. This approach provides an avenue for alignment by focusing both organizations on the same set of outcomes – creating, keeping and growing the value of customers.

The customer relationship lifecycle begins the moment a customer appears on the radar screen, moves into the lead-sales funnel, emerges as a customer and engages in a variety of experiences that result in them becoming an advocate. This lifecycle provides insight into which customers provide the greatest values to your company. IT provides both organization with customer-oriented vocabulary and a set of priorities.

Taking a customer centric approach enables the creation of a common set of metrics for both organizations which helps ensure alignment. Customer relationship management metrics include buying related metrics such as recency, frequency and quantity; cost related metrics such as gross amount of money spent on acquiring and retaining the customer through marketing dollars, resources spent generating each sale, and post sales service and support; and customer value related metrics such as the duration or longevity of that customer’s relationship with your business, the referral rate, and share of wallet. Establishing a common set of customer-centric metrics facilitates alignment and collaboration. You know the old adage, “people perform to how they’re measured.” If you want Sales and Marketing to be aligned, change what you measure.

Marketing and Sales Alignment is Good Business

While no one can offer any guarantees, aligning Marketing and Sales makes good business sense and ultimately impacts the bottom line. The Aberdeen Research report on Marketing and Alignment found that companies that are best-in-class at aligning marketing and sales experienced an average of 20% growth in annual revenue, compared to a 4% decline in laggard organizations. For many companies, this additional boom in sales more than justifies making the effort.

Don’t Miss Your L2R Targets for 2017

Fusion Marketing Partners State of the Industry Report Trends in B2B Marketing and Lead to RevenueA professional services B2B company gets serious about revenue goals using new survey

I love working for Fusion Marketing Partners as a consultant. Their combined expertise in marketing is amazing. I especially enjoy when they run research about their clients because I can use a lot of the insights they gain in growing my own business.

Their recent survey, “State of the Industry Report 2017: Trends in B2B Marketing and Lead to Revenue” is a good example. I’d like to grab a few tips from it to share with you so that we all can gain the benefits inherent in its results.

Sales Effectiveness

I have done pretty well by working approximately five leads a week for about an hour a lead. I realize that’s small potatoes to many of you—but you can always extrapolate out to what your size B2B company needs to do.

What works for me? B2B social selling activities such as sending LinkedIn InMails; seeing who is looking at my LinkedIn profile and reaching out; reading Tweets from companies who have “liked” my posts and contacting them with my resume/portfolio; reaching out to people in my network who I have worked for or who have worked for me; sending portfolios (digital) to agencies who are a good fit or to friends-of-friends in my discipline. You can see that my sales lead management process is mostly digital; mostly based on platforms; and targeted to people with the budget to hire people like me.

According to FMP’s market research, we are all looking at our sales process and sales organization to ensure we are targeting the right people. We’re trying to measure and adapt as we figure out the cost-to-acquire a customer via sales activities. For me this December, it meant research: I dialed back into my invoices for last year and identified:

1) where I got the contact (generation)

2) how many hours I spent on the relationship (nurturing) and;

3) how much that activity yielded (minus what it cost me to hire applicable specialists to complete all or parts of a project)

Automation Nation

Since I didn’t have sales or marketing automation abilities in 2016, I needed to reconstruct my sales lead habits from scratch. This year, I actually bought a very simple sales-lead-tracking app for my iPhone so I don’t have to go through this painful process again and so that my sales generation can be organized appropriately across my email and social accounts. Should I stay at only five hours a week to reach my revenue goal this year? It looks like I hit my growth targets for last year and exceeded my revenue goals. So, I think I can stay there (five hours) if I also hire a new business person part-time.

According to the FMP survey, it looks like many of us are also planning to spend more money automating the L2R process as I have. We’re also examining our L2R according to the payoff of each phase (generation; nurturing; closing a sale). I will let you know how it goes.

As I mentioned, I am examining the payoff others in my field can expect by contracting with a new business officer for a reasonable hourly rate plus a percentage of the profits of the business they reel in. The fact is, I am also at capacity for a lot of these activities—but I’m not investing what I need to (20% of revenue) in marketing and sales in that 20-hour month.

Acquire or Die

The FMP survey said that most of us think that our cost-to-acquire customers is staying the same. Mine has stayed pretty stable over the past 2-3 years as digital disruption creates new “flywheel” opportunities—my online presence raising brand awareness to underscore my value to potential clients.

One post creates an avalanche of opportunities (in cumulative effect only) depending on who is online at the moment it goes live. The problem with that, as we all know, my friends, is WHICH POST? WHICH PLATFORM? Now that I have this app, I can connect my social insights as well as my email/phone networking activities very easily. I can figure out where I need to be to make the most impact for my brand.

The reason I didn’t let you know which apps I reviewed and/or tried; I don’t know if they’re going to work yet. What I do know is that if you take FMP’s survey out and apply it to your business you will gain insights and direction for your 2017 L2R management. I know I did. And I know 2017 will be a banner year because of it.

Successful Quarterly Performance Reviews

What C-Suite Executives Want
Let’s face it, reporting mediocre marketing results to a C-suite executive board is as fun as a root canal.  Almost every Vice President of Marketing enters quarterly and annual reviews with a sense of unease.  This discomfort lies in the limited ability to provide the kind of metrics most C-suite executives want to see the bottom line of sales revenue against the marketing spend.

Reporting on marketing’s key performance indicators, or KPI’s, is critical within the domain of marketing operations.  However, most of the time KPIs fail to make a true impact on the C-suite executives who generally think in two ways: revenues and costs.  They know what the VP of Marketing was given for budget and the revenue goals that were set.  So, reporting on the number of impressions, click-throughs, attendees, responders, and ultimately leads in the pipeline are just noise to these folks.  They know there is some value to it all, but it is limited in most of their minds.  In order for marketing to earn the respect of these vital stakeholders the key focus must be on business metrics that speak to the bottom-line revenue generated.

The KPI that Your C-Suite Wants
The challenge is that most marketing investments in social media, automated marketing, events, and collateral don’t have a direct line to revenue.  Certainly, sales opportunities can be tracked within CRM to provide some level of visibility to the pipeline revenue they represent.  Unfortunately, the links tend to be very limited and are often questioned as to the portion of credit to give to marketing.

To gain a solid footing in these quarterly and annual reviews, senior marketing executives must ensure their activities are tracked and channeled in a revenue-focused process that converts impressions, click-throughs, attendees, responders, and ultimately leads into bottom-line revenue.  With more reliance on marketing to help companies acquire new business, there are some KPIs that the senior executive branches will want to hear about during reviews.  Here is a short list of important revenue-focused KPIs that senior marketing executives should focus on.

Estimating Total Customer Acquisition Costs
Customer acquisition costs are best described as “estimates” because there are ultimately some cost components that extend beyond the marketing department’s scope to calculate even with the assistance of operations and finance.  Marketing executives need to factor not just their overall marketing budget but also the labor costs of their teams and the sales teams supporting the efforts and engagements.

This requires the marketing department to act tactically and define which marketing activities are geared towards an installed base of accounts, which are geared towards Target Account Penetration (TAP) accounts, and which activities are across both.  If programs are geared for customer retention and/or expansion, then they should be defined as such and revenue should be calculated based on figures being reported within your CRM.

New business usually involves TAP accounts, and marketing activities geared to TAP accounts should be identified as such. Marketing must assess the current volume of business that exists within each TAP account and define a revenue threshold as to when a TAP account can be categorized as acquired.  The revenue threshold can apply just as well to TAP accounts that have little or no business traction existent.

Armed with the total marketing costs including budget expenditure and labor costs, a marketing executive can estimate the number of new accounts and total income marketing has helped obtain.  A simple calculation of total costs divided by the number of new TAP accounts acquired will show the estimated average customer acquisition cost metric.

Senior executives may choose to further break up the costs in terms of how much of the total acquisition cost is owned by marketing and how much is owned by sales and operations.  Collectively the three units provide the total estimated cost of acquisition of new customers.

Retention metrics must take into consideration current revenue levels by account against the new levels attained within a defined period of time.  These revenue figures are then factored against the costs of acquiring the added business, much the same way as with TAP accounts.

Separating performance metrics by the two customer types (installed-base vs. TAP) is critical to give marketing a solid understanding of their impact on the bottom-line.  Senior executives want to hear how these two figures compare.  In other words, how does the revenue against the spend (or cost of acquisition) compare between a current customer and a TAP account?

Marketing can compare the total lifetime costs and revenue of installed-base accounts to the revenue attained and estimated revenue potential of a TAP account.  These figures help companies determine collectively what their proportional focus should be between retention and net new.  Both are critical to the growth of the company.  Executives should keep in mind that there are always external market factors that influence the composition of sales and marketing focus.  For example, the revenue growth within installed-base accounts often levels off in maturing markets.  This drives companies to put an added focus on net new acquisitions (TAP accounts).

Marketing and sales departments often promote to customers the time to return on investment for their products and solutions.  Internally, companies need to calculate the time to return and yield of their estimated customer acquisition investment.  It is an interesting metric to consider.  If your retention rates and average customer lifecycles are generally short, then high customer acquisition costs may be a concern to executive funders.

Global Technology Sales Solutions (GTSS) are revenue experts who help senior sales and marketing executives attain their revenue goals through our DNA Demand Generation™ process designed to help companies expand and acquire new business.  Our goal is to empower our clients and arm them with success based on tangible revenue.

Our Services
Our DNA Demand Generation™ Process can be applied across a wide range of sales and marketing activities, as an integral supplement and catalyst within your existing business development ecosystem.  Our process is designed to help accelerate conversion rates and improve the alignment between sales and marketing.

We provide a complete solution set comprised of best-in-class people, process and technology.
Our services include:

  • Sales, Marketing and Business Process Outsourcing & Optimization
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How to learn more…Our experienced consultants are all seasoned executives who have extensive experience driving sales and marketing campaigns for some of the largest technology companies in the world.

Let us help you attain quota on-time by accelerating revenue and conversion rates, and get your marketing and sales organization on the path to closer alignment.

Global Technology Sales Solutions, LLC
433 Plaza Real, Suite 275 Boca Raton, FL 33432
(888) 549-4877 (GTSS)
info@gtsalessolutions.com
www.GTSalesSolutions.com

Note: This post originally appeared at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/successful-quarterly-performance-reviews-jay-quinby

What goes into a business model?

In 1904, King Gillette, the founder of Gillette Razors, not only invented, through patents, the razor, the blade and the combination of the two but King Gillette invented a new business model. The business model, known today as the razor-blade model, has been taught in business schools and implemented in almost every industry worldwide. In this particular model, companies sell a one-time product at a substantial discount that is complemented by another higher margin product that requires repetitive purchases – DVR, DVD, Keurig, razors, etc. Thus, King Gillette built a business model that has acquired customers for over 100 years.

Peter Drucker thought, in his theory of business, the sole purpose of a business model was to create a customer. Johan Magretta describes business models as a system that fits the pieces of the business together that tell a story of how the enterprise works. In today’s competitive environment, it’s vital that businesses know and understand their particular model and how they create customers. In a 2016 PwC survey, 74% of CEOS believed there are more threats to business growth than there were three years ago. However, 69% think there are more growth opportunities today. To capitalize on these opportunities, companies need to reevaluate their model to ensure it still fits their market. If not, then the company needs to innovate because they’re likely to be disrupted by competition.

 

Webster-Merriam’s definition of a business model is a design for the successful operation of a business, identifying revenue sources, customer base, products, and details financing.

 

If you follow Clayton Christensen and Mark Johnson, you know that they define business models as “four interlocking, interdependent elements that, taken together, create and deliver value,” The four components of a business model are the customer value proposition (CVP), profit formula, key resources, and key processes.

 

Customer Value Proposition

Companies that can solve a client’s problem or help them accomplish a job will be successful because it’s able to add value. A CVP comprises of a target customer, product or service offering, and the problem it solves.The CVP needs to be precise, and being precise is often the most challenging to define. Without precision, the CVP will be too broad and thus, creating too much competition. A company can focus on precision by helping to address four common barriers that keep customers from finding solutions to their needs: access, skill, insufficient wealth, or time.

Four questions to ask:

1. What is the company’s target market?

2. What solution is the business able to create?

3. Does the offering bring enough value to define its precision?

4. Does the CVP address the four customer barriers?

 

Profit Formula

The profit formula refers to the methodology the company uses to create value for itself while creating value for its customer. The profit formula consists of:

  • Revenue model: price x volume
  • Cost structure: economies of scale, direct costs, indirect costs
  • Margin model: understanding desired revenue volume and cost structure, the business will be able to calculate the contribution needed to meet expected profits
  • Resource velocity: how fast does fixed assets, inventory, and other assets turn over, and how well does the company utilize resources to support the margin model

 

Key questions to ask when determining your profit formula:

1. What is the desired revenue and desired profit?

2. Does the target market support the volume?

3. What fixed and variable cost will have the biggest impact on the company’s overall cost structure?

4. How does the company measure resource velocity?

 

Key Resources

The key resources for a company are the people, skills, products, technology, equipment, facilities, and brand. These resources are required to deliver the CVP to its target market.

When evaluating key resources, ask the following:

1. What are the company’s core competencies?

2. Does the company have the necessary technology, equipment, and facilities in place to align with the CVP?

3. How well is the brand position in the market?

 

Key Processes

Successful companies have managerial and operational procedures in place that will allow them to scale not only the enterprise but also the value delivered. These processes may include development, manufacturing, training, planning, sales, budgeting, delivery, and service.

 

Questions to consider:

1. What process(es) does the company do that is different from the market?

2. How does the dynamics of each process affect the relationship with one another?

3. What, if any, process is proprietary, or can be leveraged, that gives the business a competitive advantage?

A business model is simple but yet complex in its functionality due to its dependency on each element. In a synopsis, the CVP and profit formula define how the customer and company will receive value, and the key resources and key process will identify how that value will be delivered. In order to determine if the company’s business model is working or not, the enterprise will need to be patient and have an ongoing evaluation of the P&L.

______________________________________________________________________

1.   Magretta, Johan. “Why Business Models Matter” Harvard Business Review 80, no. 5 (May 2002): 86-92

2.   PwC “2016 US CEO Survey: Top Findings,” n.d., www.pwc.com.

3.   Christensen, Clayton M., and Mark W. Johnson. “What Are Business Models, and How Are They Built?” Harvard Business School Module Note 610-019, (August 2009).

4.   Christensen, Clayton M., Johnson, Mark W., and Kagermann, Henning. “Reinventing Your Business Model.” Harvard Business Review 86, no. 12 (Dec 2008): n/a.

Effective Content Marketing: Engage Readers with a Good Story

content writing tips

What makes “good writing?” Is it sophisticated language? Is it exploring intelligent topics? And what about engagement? And how does telling stories relate to good marketing content?

So, what is the purpose of a story? – to entice, enthrall, make a reader want to keep reading. And what do marketing campaigns endeavor to do: entice, enthrall, make a consumer want to go for the product? But you still might be asking why bother to relate content marketing to telling stories? Because people crave stories; and they feel that taking in these stories is valuable. You want people to consume your content and if your content is not told through the lens of a story, it will drive less readership and engagement.

According to Gartner, “content marketing [are] assets [that] are used to tell stories that help brands build and nurture relationships with customers, prospects and other audiences to drive awareness, generate demand, influence preference and build loyalty.”

In other words, content marketing must “tell stories…and nurture relationships,” and fiction writing must include elements that “add up to some kind of meaningful, larger understanding of the character.” You must seamlessly bring all elements together into a cohesive narrative.

Consider the following five elements of writing and how these techniques can be employed in content marketing.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell

To you, your brand is the best. But to a consumer, it might blend in like a dog-eared paperback. People don’t always hear what you want them to hear. You must include examples and explain your brand story: use visuals the way a fiction writer uses words.

  1. Every Character Should Count

In stories, there are always main characters, foil characters, bit parts, etc. But every character in a good story has a role: to interact, interfere, or inspire. Your brand is a character. A good character has a purpose and wants something. Consider what your content character(s) need and want.

  1. Build Suspense

Give everything away at the beginning, and no one will stay around for the finish. In content marketing, you want to answer the questions of your readers. You want your readers at the end to be absorbed with your brand or concept. This is your suspense.

  1. Don’t be too Formal

Long-winded and preachy writing takes the wind out of your readers. And if you exhaust your readers, they are not going to have the energy to pursue your brand. This also relates to the importance of rereading and proofing. Poor, immature, unprofessional language has a bearing on your credibility. Test your content’s readability so it is not cluttered or awkward.

  1. Write About What You Know

The best stories are woven from personal experiences. Every piece of content you create should enhance your brand. With fiction writing, a piece of the story that just adds words wastes time. If you find yourself attempting to enhance your content by going outside your capabilities, remember that when you write about what you know, it comes across much stronger and more knowledgeable.

Let Your Writing do the Talking

Using fiction writing techniques will encourage more effective content marketing. Awareness of a need and research to fulfil this need means readers consume content marketing mediums like webpages, infographics, podcasts, videos, books, and more. These content forms are just like different genres in fiction; each ready to help compose the right story to reach the right audience. When you alert consumers of your product through character development, suspense building, attention to tone, and showing not telling, your solution will rise to the top and increase your engagement and your sales revenue.

5 Reasons Why Your Channel Partners Are Underperforming

Sales EnablementChannel sales has so much promise for enterprise software and SaaS companies. The leverage you can get from a performing channel can be remarkable. A direct sales rep in a B2B SaaS business may be able to bring in $2.5M to $3M in revenue. A channel sales rep, making the same compensation, can bring in $5M to $7M in sales through partners. The customer acquisition cost (CAC) is also different between the two. A direct sales rep needs a team to support him. This can include a sales engineer and significant marketing budget for lead generation. A channel sales rep usually works alone with limited corporate resources. This is by design. The software vendor leverages the sales and marketing of their partners. Thereby reducing the CAC for customers acquired through channel partners.

The leverage and lower CAC only holds true in an optimized channel. Despite all the benefits of channel sales, many enterprise software and B2B SaaS companies have under-performing channels. Generally, these are the five reasons for this;

1. You are treating your partners like customers. Channel partners are not the same as customers. Channel partners have different needs than customers. For example, you need to train your partners on how to sell your product. You don’t need to train your customers to sell your product. When a customer calls for support, it is about their install. If a partner calls it can about an issue that impacts tens of customers. When you treat partners like customers you are under-serving them and damaging the relationship.

In many smaller sized software companies, the direct sales force manages the channel partnerships. This is a recipe for killing your channel. They lack the temperament to manage partners. Channel partnerships are about building long-term relationships that will result in a steady sales funnel. It’s not about today’s deal. They will treat channel partners as a source of referrals as opposed to a partner. The biggest disconnect for a direct sales rep is that you have to enable your partners to be successful. Let’s tackle this one next.

2. Your partners are not enabled for success. Signing up new partners is the “easy” part. Enabling partners for success is where all the hard work gets done. Once a partnership agreement is in place, you need to switch to partner enablement. Keep in mind, partners may sell differently than your direct sales force. The channel partner has their sales process. They have a different go-to-market model. They are adding some value to your product when they sell it. Hence, the name VALUE added reseller (VAR). So, you can not hand off your marketing collateral and sales tools and expect the channel partner to start using it. All this content needs to be tailored to support how the partner sells and markets. The alternative is poorly enabled partners who will deliver disappointing sales.

3. You have no coherent partner strategy. Why do you want channel partnerships? How will your partners work vis-à-vis your direct sales force? Hope is not a strategy. Hoping that signing up many partners will lead to incremental sales is not a coherent strategy. A partner strategy should take into account the customers you are selling to and their preference for buying. This can highlight gaps where partners can assist. For example,

  • Systems Integrators (SI). If you have a complex product that requires integrations into other systems then a systems integrator partner strategy will be important. Especially if those other systems are from bigger companies than yours. You want partners who have expertise and a good reputation in delivering complex solutions.
  • Value Added Resellers (VAR). If there are certain vertical or geographic markets where you have no coverage, then channel partners make perfect sense.

4. You are not managing your channel partners. You should manage partners to a sales plan. The partner manager finds the necessary resources to help overcome obstacles and takes actions to speed up sales cycles.

  • It is difficult to do business with your company. Channel partners have lots of other products and services that they sell. Every day, the sales reps at your partners make a choice about what they are going to sell. What solutions they lead with. If your company has a reputation for being difficult to work with they are not going to try and sell your product. They are going to sell products that are easier to sell. They are going to sell the products from the software vendor that provides them with the most sales support. Make it easy to do business with your company. Otherwise, your channel partners will just sell something else.

5. You have the wrong channel partners. In the early days of a company’s attempts at partnerships, there is a tendency to partner with anyone who is willing and agreeable. This leads to “Barney partnerships”. A partnership in name only with no incremental sales or other quantifiable benefits. If you have avoided the mistakes outlined above, but some of your partners are still struggling then It may be time to re-evaluate the partnership.

Channel sales can deliver amazing sales results for enterprise software and SaaS companies at a lower customer acquisition cost (CAC) than direct sales. But you need to be operating a well-oiled machine to obtain all the benefits. Avoid the five common pitfalls outlined above and you will be heading in the right direction.

The 10 Greatest Social Media Advertising Tips for Content Marketers

Social MediaIf you’ve been marketing content for long, you probably don’t need to be told that it’s tougher than ever before to get people to take notice of a given piece. To begin with, search engines are getting pickier about keywords and how they are used to deliver search results.

Organic reach is getting tougher to achieve on pretty much every social media platform. Facebook just made an announcement this past summer that they’ll be prioritizing posts from friends and family over third party publishers. That makes it even more of a challenge to get your store’s message through to existing and  potential customers who have expressed interest in your updates. This includes paid promotion as well.

While getting your content noticed, shared, and engaged with is more challenging, it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help you not only get your content in front of more eyes, but improve conversion, and much more.

  1. Increase your quality score up there.

Search engines aren’t the only ones that assign quality scores to specific users. Facebook and Twitter do as well. You can improve ad impression rates and overall reach by making sure your quality score is as high as possible. Go about this by promoting only your very best content – the content that yields the highest rates of engagement. The more engagement you get on a post , the better your quality score will be.

  1. Know your audience and target accordingly.

As you may already be aware, your customers and followers aren’t all alike. Collectively, they’re all going to be from different walks of life, have different values, and entertain unique interests. Send post engagement rates soaring by using hashtags to target each post to exactly the segment of your audience you want to reach. Always make it a point to know which keywords, hashtags, and buzzwords that segment is using at a given time.

  1. Spend your money where it counts for the most.

Successful social media marketing for your content isn’t just about knowing which posts are going to be the best fits for your campaign. It’s also about knowing where and how to spend your money. Prioritize campaigns that yield a high return on your original investment. Twitter follower campaigns are a good example, as they not only build your audience, but carry the possibility of additional engagement for your other promoted posts at the same time for no additional cost.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of a good promoted video ad.

Written posts, links, and articles aren’t the only types of media capable of performing well when promoted. Videos can be incredibly effective performers as well. Which of your existing videos have the best track record and the most views on YouTube? Which videos are the easiest to understand without the need for sound? Those are the ones that will likely do best if promoted via a platform like Facebook.

  1. Custom audience features are your friends.

On average, people spend 40 minutes a day on Facebook. Facebook and Twitter both give content marketers the option to use custom audience settings to better target their efforts (“tailored audiences” on Twitter and “custom audiences” on Facebook). Features like these allow you to easily focus your efforts on key influencers, and they work. The more relevant sets of eyes you can get your posts in front of, the higher the likelihood that one of those posts will take off and deliver the associated benefits.

  1. Use still more social media platforms to promote your content even further.

In the United States,70% of people now have a social media profile. Social media is about more than just Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can generate massive amounts of traffic to your content by leveraging the power of alternative platforms like LinkedIn, Pulse, Reddit, and Medium, to name just a few. You can certainly post original content on those platforms if you prefer, but reusing already successful content works even better and saves time. Just make sure that whatever you post is a good fit for the platform you’re considering.

  1. Leverage what you know about engagement to boost SEO.

As touched on above, Google is constantly developing new ways to evaluate not only queries, but the content they’re delivering in search results. User engagement is a huge part of that equation. More engagement and higher click-through rates mean better rankings in regards to organic searches, which leads to even higher engagement and click-through rates. That said, approach social media content marketing as a way to further build brand recognition and boost SEO.

  1. Use social media remarketing to your advantage.

If you’re not already taking advantage of social media remarketing, you really need to start. It’s a very effective and highly affordable way to reach people who have already shown interest in your products and services by visiting your site. Use it to encourage sign-ups, downloads, purchases, or absolutely anything else you might want your audience to do at any given moment.

  1. Use what you know about your audience and customers to take remarketing to the next level.

You already know that remarketing is an effective way to reach out to people who have already shown interest in your site. You also know that considering the interests and behavior of your audience is effective at generating interest in the first place. Now combine the two to market to a target demographic with success. You’ll see conversion rates going up in no time.

  1. Add pay-per-click advertising to the mix.

Google’s remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) can also be incredibly helpful when it comes to content promotion. You can target your custom search advertising only to the people who have already visited your site or shown interest in your products. Combine that highly targeted form of marketing with social media ads that help you grow your reach and generate new interest to make sure all your bases are covered.

At the end of the day, successful content marketing via social media isn’t impossible. It’s just challenging. However, challenges can always be successfully met with the right tools in your corner.

Erika Brookes

Erika Brookes is the Chief Marketing Officer at Springbot where she leads all brand, product, marketing campaigns and communications. In her limited free time, you’ll find Erika running through Atlanta with her yellow labrador Sunny or sharing marketing insights on Twitter @ebrookes.

Quick Insights for Creating Valuable Content

great content writing word cloud on a white lokta paper - business writing and content marketing concept

Content creation has become a key factor in driving marketplace differentiation, revenue growth and brand awareness. However, as the practice continues to evolve and flourish as part of a solid B2B strategy, there has been an influx of badly written, ineffective content generated by businesses who lack awareness of how to execute powerful, purposeful material for their consumers. How can you avoid joining the ranks of disappointing content offerings? Let’s take a look at a few of the hallmarks of effective content creation.

It’s not all about you.

Your potential readers have come to you because they want to leverage your expertise to solve a pain point in their business, answer a question they may have, or to learn something new about the industry. Solid content is selfless in its execution and its first purpose should always be to help the user. If your content is a constant manifesto of your greatness driven solely by talking about yourself, your products, or your services, your readers won’t come back for more. Write to inform. Write to solve problems. Write to add value. Give consumers the help they need in their business now and they’ll remember you later.

There’s no hard sell.

If your sales team doesn’t have a keen understanding of your content strategy, they may constantly ask you to litter your materials with sales offerings, product placements and calls to action to tie your work directly to revenue generation. And while it may be tempting to try to manipulate an immediate ROI, it will only work against you in the end. Look at it this way. If your users download a white paper on data storage solutions and find a 12-page advertisement for your service, they are not going to be happy. Ever been invited to a dinner party and discovered it was actually an Amway presentation? How excited were you to accept future invitations from your deceptive host? Bait and switch tactics alienate your potential leads and diminish your brand credibility—the exact opposite of a powerful content creation strategy. Leave the selling to the sales team and work on generating content that makes your potential customers fall in love with your insights and build trust with your brand.

It doesn’t sacrifice quality for ranking.

Keyword stuffing is one of the most common mistakes marketers make when generating online content. They fill their materials with keywords to up their position on the search engine page at the sacrifice of solid writing and relevant information. Yes, in theory, it makes your content easy to find. But now you have a barely legible article at the top of the page that is borderline useless to your consumer—and it’s got your company’s name all over it. Not exactly a glowing example of your professionalism or expertise. In this case, it will actually be better if it’s never found. Quality content writes to the reader first, ensuring that the promises you made to answer their needs are met. You can add in the extra components after your piece is polished and complete.

These are just a few of the principles you can leverage in your content generation strategy to create relevant material your users will actual want to read. Noticed a consistent standard running throughout these best practices? It’s likely the same standard you apply in your personal business strategy: customer-focused quality. Avoid the pitfall of prolific content that is useless to your readers by putting the end-user first in every piece you generate. Relevant, solid content will help you convert your readers into customers by building brand credibility and awareness and establishing your position as a market leader in your industry.