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.

 

Social Media Etiquette in the B2B Marketplace

When brand equity trumps your impulses

These days the tweet is ruling the news cycle. But B2B businesses do not have the freedom to speak our minds without consequences on Twitter and other social platforms. Setting a businesslike tone that builds your brand; is not too “cutesy” or stridently salesy; and is consistently pleasant to encounter requires planning and consistency. Here are five areas to watch to make sure that you are following social media etiquette in the B2B marketplace.

1) Bump up Your Brand. Start with your branding. This will not only inform what you’re posting, but who you reach out to, and why. It’s poor form and poor brand management to silently friend and follow without telling people why—it could be as simple as “I liked your photos” to “we went to the same college” to “it looks like your company might need our services and I wanted to say hi but don’t worry, you won’t hear from me again.”

The other thing to do to protect brand equity and avoid potential gaffes? Don’t go somewhere you don’t belong. Most B2B widget makers don’t belong on Pinterest (but fabric softener companies selling to consumers and recipes most assuredly do). And if a huge prospect or big client accidentally finds you there, they’re going to think, “Why?” and assume you’ve got bad judgment. The one exception I’ve run into was when we were doing content work for a firm marketing a wholesale website to professional interior designers and architects. Those folks are on Pinterest sourcing materials so our client needed to be in that community, too.

2) Right Speech. Watch your tone! Each platform has its own “personality” as digital marketing guru and one of my favs, Jeff Bullas says. Whereas a Facebook post might be friendly and frank, LinkedIn might have a denser look, feel and more formal tone. Make sure yours matches the platform or you risk looking foolish or worse, careless. I don’t know about you, but that’s a scary word for me when it comes to potential business partners!

3) Bad Robot! If you’re using Hootsuite or Buffer, you may be tempted to automate everything, posting the same stuff at the same cadence for all of your platforms. Then you can check “social media” off your list for the day, right? On some platforms, you will look ridiculous posting something that fits right in on another—on others, you will look positively deranged if you post too often. “Just because you’ve created the accounts doesn’t necessarily mean the followers will come flocking to you. There’s a lot more work to do…you want to be very cautious about what gets shared on which accounts.” Bullas notes.

4) Converse Like Humans. Stop broadcasting and start discussing stuff with your social media communities. These cohorts are so jaded and overwhelmed, if they bother engaging with you, you’d better answer (reply to comments) fast! Return the favor later in the week by retweeting, commenting or sharing something of theirs. Maybe get on their website and pull some of their content for your followers. And by all means, don’t start a conversation and drop it. That’s like someone turning their back on you during a chat at a cocktail party. It doesn’t feel too great and its bad manners.

5) Me, me, me. You can’t talk about yourself and sell to prospects in every single post. That’s one of the rudest and most obvious things that I see B2B accounts do when they’re trying to build a social presence. They know they have to be there and they figure, “Hey, let me hawk this while I am at it.” Get out there in your industry and find cool stuff and share it. Duh.

“Before you post, tweet, or share anything, think about how others might interpret it – will it be perceived as insightful and informative, or crass and boring…the 4-1-1 rule, which was developed for Twitter, but can be applied to other platforms, is a good template for engagement. The idea is that every time you post something that’s “all about you,” you share at least four pieces of content written by someone else,” said Brian Martucci writing for Money Crashers.

We have all seen many more social media blunders than I have time to mention here. As a B2B business owner myself, I know it’s all too easy to post before pondering—but what I think is fun and harmless in an attempt to humanize my Twitter account might seem jarring to my potential clients, partners, and industry colleagues. My company has a proven and measured social media audit and planning process we use to make sure we’re all enjoying each other’s company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere. You can always reach me for more, or PM me, if you please. @pattytomsky

The Bottom Line: Action is at the Heart of Marketing’s Productivity

In a recent article, David Dodd wrote the innovations in Marketing “have promised to improve marketing effectiveness and efficiency, and numerous research studies purport to show that they are delivering a wide range of benefits. But have these innovations really improved the bottom-line productivity of B2B marketing? Can we show – in a credible and convincing way – that B2B marketing is more financially productive today than it was 10 or 15 years ago?” He concluded that it is not. Why is that?

Marketers in general believe they are working harder than ever. They are measuring and reporting more often and with more detailed data. They have made technology and skill investments designed to make and prove that Marketing activities and programs add economic value for their organizations. I believe the lack of improvement in productivity has to do with understanding the difference between activity and action.

Action and activity on the surface may seem the same. They are quite different. Merriam-Webster defines “activity” as: “the quality or state of being active”. Action, on the other hand, is the process of exerting a force or bringing about an effect.” Many of us are familiar with the proverb “It’s better to do something rather than nothing.” So many professionals fill up their day with activity only to land on the never-ending Marketing hamster wheel. In the business world, activity without purpose falls into the category of “busy work.” You and your team may be busy doing tasks, but without action the energy and time invested will never produce an outcome by itself. You need action.

Action is what achieves our goals; action moves something, such as your business, forward. It has direction. Action is an act that will achieve a result. Action is based on a plan. Our CMO-level customers sometimes admit their organization is so tactically oriented that there is no point in having a plan. There is a set amount of money and it is up to Marketing to invest that money and then show how those investments made a difference. Your Marketing plan guides you and your team’s daily action. Your plan is not about executing a list of programs; it’s about ensuring each Marketing action is directly related to a business outcome – every day!

When you transform your Marketing plan from a list of activities into an action-oriented blueprint you are signaling a change to leadership regarding Marketing’s role. You bring the focus to action rather than activity. This approach enables you, the Marketing leader, to determine whether (and where) a new activity needs to be plugged into the “blueprint”, and what effects it will have up and across the plan in terms of investment and metrics. Your plan serves as productivity improvement tool. Experts on the topic of productivity all recommend having and working a plan, staying focused on quantifiable outcomes, working to deadlines, and minimizing distractions (a.k.a. as activities) to drastically increase productivity. To improve Marketing’s productivity, decide to move from activity to action.

Boost Your Success with B2B Marketing Systems

Marketing SystemI’ve been reading a lot about the benefits of systemization in business, including the eMyth Revisited by Michael Gerber and Work the System by Sam Carpenter. Both books, which I highly recommend, teach the doctrine of working “on your business”, not just “in your business”.  And what is true for general business is just as true for marketing systems.

By a “marketing systems approach”, I will borrow from what Josh Kaufman wrote in the foreword to Work the System: “Fundamentally, every business is a system: a collection of processes that, together, reliably produces an intended result. The more you focus on improving your business systems, the better results you’ll produce. It’s as simple as that.”

Yes it is as simple, and powerful as that. There are dozens of functions/tasks that can benefit from a documented marketing systems approach. A few examples include: sending press releases, posting blogs, web content, creating buyer personas, managing an online or live event, developing case studies, creative briefs, lead follow-up, and much more. As just one example, following is a partial list of procedures for sending out an email:

  1. Establish goals for the program
  2. Set-up the campaign in your MA/email system
  3. Compile the list
  4. Craft the offer
  5. Create the email template
  6. Write the email text
  7. Edit/proof the email text
  8. Create and testing a landing page
  9. Test on multiple email clients
  10. Test the salutation
  11. Test each link
  12. Test the auto response email
  13. Launch the campaign

As mentioned, this is only a partial list but each one of these tasks, if not performed correctly, can create significant problems. This is where the expression “The devil is in the details” comes from. How often do you get an email where you are addressed as Dear [firstname], or where the links are broken or the landing page has serious flaws? All of these errors can be partially or fully eliminated if procedures are consistently followed. But they can’t be followed if they aren’t documented.

Benefits of a Marketing Systems Approach

A well-documented set of marketing systems can help you:

  • Maximize your time. The systems approach is all about doing things correctly the first time, with little need for do-overs. This should allow you more time to spend on the things that you enjoy and create more value to the business.
  • Require less supervision. You should write your procedures so a relatively inexperienced person can complete a task without direct management.
  • Lessen your dependency on each individual. Have you been in a situation where only Suzy or only Tom knows how to complete an essential task and they are not available? Written procedures are the answer to being held hostage by anyone’s presence.
  • Reduce the error rate. Just like the earlier email example, following procedures can eliminate many common mistakes
  • Save money and aggravation. A former colleague told me a sad tale about how their company paid a large penalty (thousands) for using an unauthorized photo in a blog post. Our blog post creation checklist would have prevented this because there is a line item requiring that the source of each graphic be verified.

I’ll leave you with two non-marketing examples of how systems (or a lack thereof) can help or hurt a business. From the positive side: every time I leave the gym where I work out, the person behind the counter bids me farewell, saying something like “Thanks for coming” or “Have a great day”. I’d like to think this is because they only hire really nice people, but the fact is – this is an operating procedure (system) of the business. When a customer leaves, they are always given a friendly goodbye. Not sometimes, but always.

The negative example is a hotel my wife and I stayed at recently. There were two problems: The coffee basket contained two packages of decaf but no high-test coffee and there was no shampoo.  Although this is a hotel in a city we visit quite often, we will never stay there again–all because their housekeepers did not have a system in place to put the right items in each room they cleaned. They probably get it right most of the time, but a disciplined and documented system would ensure they get it right every time. And the difference between “every time” and “most of the time” can be the difference between being a market leader and a failed business.

How to Gain Insights Designed to Accelerate Growth

Sales GrowthAfter years of focusing on controlling costs, growth has moved to the top of the priority list for many companies. Despite 93% of the 900 senior executives surveyed by KPMG indicating that their companies are “at some stage of undergoing or preparing to undergo a transformation,” designed to propel growth, the same survey’s results suggest that few succeed. Naturally, the results beg the question, “Why?” While there are many underlying reasons, organizational complexity is considered the biggest barrier to transformation success.

To help lower this barrier, a McKinsey study found that successful transformation for growth requires companies do four things:

1. Excel at the basics by creating clear stretch targets and defining a clear structure.
2. Break down the change process into clearly defined smaller initiatives that can be celebrated.
3. Exhibit strong leadership to maintain the energy for change.
4. Build a culture to support and the capabilities to drive continuous improvement.

C-Suite leaders often need the Marketing team to step up most. Research by Deloitte finds that CEOs expect their Marketing leaders to:

• Drive revenue growth.
• Own the customer experience.
• Dig in to data-based insights and operate in real-time.
• Master metrics that matter.

To support growth initiatives, Marketing must address its processes, systems and tools, data and analytics, alignment, and accountability. At a minimum, a Marketing organization focused on growth needs three primary capabilities:

1. A data-driven, customer-centric culture along with the processes for transforming data into insights.
2. The systems and tools to maintain consistent implementation of processes and driving effectiveness and efficiency to deliver on growth.
3. A culture of performance management and measurement.

Do You Know How to Drive Decisions? Use Data-Driven Insights.

If we’ve learned anything from recent and very public scenarios, it’s that in the “Age of the Customer,” where “empowered customers are shaping business strategy,” customer insights are mission critical to thriving businesses. In fact, being customer-centric is your buy-in to sit at the Marketing table today. As a result, the Marketing environment has become more complex. With Marketing and business leaders having to process the extreme volume of data that continues to flow at an increasingly faster rate across their spreadsheets, being customer-centric has served to fill the Marketing environment with both more opportunities and challenges than ever before.

Although complex, business leaders depend on the insights derived from this data to make strategic decisions. Marketers depend on the data to determine which materials and assets, such as content, messaging, and positioning should be brought into play as well as how and when they should be distributed through channels, influencers, and partners. Essentially, as Marketers, you need to understand how to use data to synch your content to your customer’s buying process, and the degree of data fluency of you Marketing team will directly affect Marketing’s credibility and influence. Therefore, your organization’s ability to effectively impact customer acquisition and retention requires strong data onboarding capabilities.

While a great deal of data can be captured from digital platforms, marketing automation systems, customer relationship management systems, and other technology, we want to remind you that there is still the need to reach out and connect directly with customers to gather competitive market intelligence.

Four foundational initiatives that support this type of intelligence include:
1. Customer and Technical Advisory Boards
2. Market and Customer Segmentation
3. Persona Development
4. Customer Journey and Experience Mapping

Many of these efforts take good old-fashioned market research.

How to Overcome Time and Talent Shortages for Your Analytics Efforts

If you’re like many of the companies we work with, you operate with limited resources. Perhaps you face time or talent shortages when it comes to obtaining the data, applying the analytics, and deducing the insights to make appropriate customer, market, and product decisions. Nevertheless, you find yourself pressed to make these decisions as accurately as possible because they affect the acceleration of customers’ brand preference, product adoption, and share of wallet, which in turn impact your market traction, penetration and growth.

After decades of working with all levels within an organization, we have found that despite their necessity, it is not uncommon for these capabilities to be underdeveloped or missing from a Marketing organization. After all, growing these capabilities requires mobilizing the Marketing organization and investing differently – all while maintaining current performance.

This is no small task. However, as change is inevitable in the face of growth, it is also a catalyst and a primary reason why companies bring in outside experts. With their honed expertise, consultants from the outside looking in are able to:

• Transfer skills,
• maintain momentum, and
• ensure that lessons learned are documented.

Whether you decide to reach for help or go at it alone, do yourself a favor and use these resources to enable your team to gain the insights to drive decisions designed to accelerate growth:

• Read our How to Guides. In particular, we recommend The Role of Leadership Councils in Creating Marketing Centers of Excellence and Intuition To Wisdom: Transforming Data Into Models and Actionable Insights.
• Listen to educational recordings. An excellent place to begin is with How to Make Marketing More Relevant to the C-Suite and the Creation, Care and Feeding of an Analytics Center of Excellence.
• Read case studies to learn how a little help allowed companies to make it all happen. Start with Case Study 09: Conducting Primary Research to Explore New Market Opportunities and Case Study 34: Customer and Market Data Provide Sales and Marketing Direction.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

The Big Difference Solution-Selling Can Make

customer pain points-company tailor made solutionAt first glance, the difference between selling a product or service and selling a solution may not be very apparent. After all, aren’t all products and services created to provide a solution to solve a customer’s problems?

Most businesses create a product or service that is a “one size fits all” solution. Rather than designing an offering to fit an individual customer’s needs, most businesses prefer to produce a product or service to appeal to a wide audience. As such, they are just good enough for most consumers.

In solutions-selling, the product or service is not a one size fits all solution but is designed to help the customer along their journey and address a specific customer’s unique problems.

When it comes to solutions-selling, instead of pushing a product or service, the business must create a genuine connection to the potential customer. The solution-selling methodology endeavors to create a lasting relationship with clients in which the goal is always to find new ways to help.

To get your head around this idea, think of sales as if it was customer service. Customer service implies spending more time listening to and trying to anticipate the customer’s needs to better understand their issues and challenges.

In the old days, it was believed that a knowledgeable customer was more likely to shop around and find an alternative solution. However, today increasing a customer’s knowledge actually fosters trust in a company and its products according to the data from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson’s study, which resulted in their book titled “The Challenger Sale.”.

By assuming a teaching role, the solutions seller becomes a trusted partner in a collaborative process. By helping the customers recognize their pain points, sharing gain points with them that they were not even aware of, and anticipating and responding to potential problems enables the company to offer a new perspective which will lead to more business from happier customers.

Today’s customer is looking for a tailor-made solution, not a “one size fits all” solution that is just good enough.

Are you selling a product or a solution?

This post originally appeared at stevebizblog.com.

6 Subtle Ways Social Media Impacts Client Experience

Pexels.com

Pexels.com

Millions of businesses use social media as a marketing tool to engage with others and promote their brands online. B2B companies are no different, and should be working hard on their social media strategies to boost profit margins and give clients the best possible experience. This very minute, around 30 million Facebook messages are being sent and 350,000 tweets are being published. This shows just how important social channels are in our lives right now. Social media is changing how we do business, so it’s important to build a strong brand presence online to meet your clients’ needs. Find out how social media impacts your clients’ experience of your brand, and ways in which you can master your social strategy for the best possible results.

1. Social Media as a Point of Contact

Just like in our social lives, social media keeps the business world connected. And for those working in a B2B market, social media is a core component for remaining connected to clients, even outside of work hours. Social media has an organic feel to it that many other mediums cannot compete with: it shows your client that you are authentic and trustworthy (depending on what you put out there).

Aside from your website, social channels such as LinkedIn are one of the first places that new clients will look before they get in contact. As a B2B company, your social media game needs to be strong in order to positively impact client experience.

2. Building Confidence for Long Term Relationships

B2B companies are all about building strong long-term relationships with clients. It takes commitment and hard work to establish a lifelong relationship with clients to secure ongoing business. B2B companies need to offer clients a top-notch experience through all levels of communication during the relationship. Being active on your social media channels means clients feel supported throughout their time working with you because they can reach you whenever they need to.

Active social media channels also give clients the chance to socialize with you on social media, which builds friendly relationships that help business deals flourish.

Don’t burn bridges with ex-clients. Social media gives you the opportunity to stay in touch with clients long after you have stopped working with them, which could potentially bring you more business at a later date.

3. B2B Social Media for Ecommerce

B2B ecommerce stores are set to grow to $6.7 trillion in gross merchandise value by 2020, according to Forbes. Wholesale stores can be a great newfound revenue stream, even for those that already run an online store.

Teroforma

Image credit: Teroforma

Take Teroforma, for example. Using an out-of-the-box online store builder, Teroforma has been able to incorporate their B2C ecommerce store to include wholesale products, depending on who is using their website. They can then leverage their established social media accounts to serve their new B2B clients and maximize their commercial potential.

Social media is imperative for ecommerce brands because their audience resides online. Many customers are searching for customer reviews, comparing prices with other companies, and, of course, viewing social profiles before they commit to buying a specific product. Make sure that you create ‘social proof’ around your B2B store in the form of reviews, shares, and testimonials. Seeing a real client recommendation on social is a very compelling sales tool.

4. Social promotion for B2B

Social media isn’t only useful for engaging new clients and building strong relationships with existing ones. They can be used to leverage a completely new audience through your own social channels. Let’s say that you are working with a client who needs a helping hand with their social media strategy — you can leverage your own loyal followers to give them an extra boost.

This works both ways. Whatever your client has requested, it’s a huge gesture to mention their brand name in a post, or give them a shout-out. This helps to build strong relationships that last a lifetime.

Perhaps the most important distinction to make between B2C and B2B social media marketing is that B2C will want to reach customers to sell their brand, using popular channels like Instagram and Twitter. B2B companies will want to target other social channels that will connect them with the right people, like LinkedIn and Facebook. Utilizing the appropriate social media channels is important to engage the right kind of customers and clients.

5. Authenticity in Client Experience

Social media is one of the most organic ways for clients to get to know your B2B company. It automatically shows your authenticity to both current and future clients. Boost client experience by being active on all social media channels; if a client asks you a question via social media, then it pays to be active and attentive with a fast response rate. Even if you are unsure of the answer, send them a quick message back to direct your client to the right department. Don’t just ignore them or send out an automated reply because this will damage client experience.

6. Show Off Your Social Skills

Think about it: if your B2B company works in digital and offers marketing services to other companies, then your own social profiles are an advertisement for your social marketing skills. If your Twitter feed has been bone dry since last Christmas, and you only have 100 followers, then this isn’t going to make a good impression for your client. It will seem like you don’t understand your own offering, and this could ultimately lose your business.

If you are screaming from the rooftops, proclaiming that you are a social media ninja, then you are going to have to practise what you preach to engage with clients.

Social media is intrinsic to what B2B companies do every single day, so they are in a great position to take advantage and wow their clients. B2B is all about building strong relationships that last. Client experience is what makes your B2B company successful online; promote a sense of trust to draw other businesses into your company. Strive to support clients through social media to offer them the best possible client experience.

How to Raise Your KPIQ: Key Performance Indicators and Your Marketing IQ

Digital Marketing

You’re driving. You need to know what speed you’re traveling at, how many miles you’ve traveled, how much gas remains in the tank, and what temperature your engine is running at.

Now imagine how much it’d slow you down to go to four separate places to get that information. You’d have to stop and restart your journey each time you check one of those numbers.

Sounds ridiculous, right? That’s why your car’s equipped with a dashboard, and why automakers keep updating dashboards to make them into more powerful tools that deliver more information at a glance.

This now concludes our metaphor.

Now, let’s get to the point: Marketers need dashboards, too, else they burn time in pursuit of the numbers they need. And that’s no way to optimize your mileage (well hello again, metaphor).

Seriously, though, serious digital marketers are masters of measurement:

  1. The good ones simplify decision-making processes by examining marketing metrics.
  2. The better ones simplify the examination process by establishing a manageable set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to review regularly.
  3. The best ones simplify their KPI review process by consolidating their analytics sources in one place.

I call this phenomenon “KPIQ.”

Seeing as how I’ve been doing digital marketing since it got its start, I feel qualified to make up my own terms now and then. So I ask you to indulge me as I present…

KPIQ, the degree of intelligence you bring to your marketing performance and measurement.

Let’s work toward raising your KPIQ in three steps.

1. Establish your KPIs

You can have a KPIQ only if you have KPIs, so you need to consider which performance indicators are key to your business. Jay Baer puts content marketing metrics into four primary buckets:

  1. Consumption: The most fundamental type of content metric, consumption can be measured as pageviews or downloads.
  2. Sharing: All of the various social channels offer sharing-related metrics (such as tweets and likes).
  3. Lead generation: This metric will generally come from form fills, which might be measured with your marketing platform or by Google Analytics (where thank-you pages indicate a lead was generated).
  4. Sales: Measurement of sales will require integrating your marketing automation platform and CRM or e-commerce system.

HubSpot points out that the less you know about your key performance indicators, the less likely you are to meet your revenue goals. Its research shows seven metrics marketers commonly use to measure content marketing success:

  1. Traffic
  2. Sales
  3. Conversion
  4. SEO rank
  5. Time on site
  6. Customer feedback
  7. Subscriber growth

Here’s another way you could consider organizing metrics by category and KPIs, suggested by PracticalEcommerce:

There’s no need to agree that any one model is the perfect model or to embrace someone else’s suggested list of KPIs. What is important is to create categories and KPIs that relate to your business’s marketing goals so that they’re meaningful to your business.

2. Make it easy to access your KPIs

Every marketing platform offers some sort of analytics. That’s good news: The numbers you need are readily available. That’s also bad news: It can take a ton of keyboard jockeying to pull information from so many disparate sources.

Marketers—and other professionals who rely on metrics to make data-driven decisions—spend far too much time collecting, monitoring, and analyzing data. As new services get added to the mix, the problem grows more severe.

A practical solution is to corral the needed data into a dashboard. You can set up dashboards specifically for monitoring social media or Web analytics or a variety of marketing and sales data—in a single view.

Here is an example of a social media dashboard from Cyfe, a service that enables you to monitor, access, and share your KPIs from a single location in real-time:

3. Apply what you learn from your KPIs

Key performance indicators become keys to optimizing your marketing only when you apply what you learn.

In a post about the importance of analytics integration, Cyfe claims you should apply marketing data to…

  • Identify opportunities. Looking at a big picture of your analytics and how your digital marketing efforts work together (or don’t), helps you identify opportunities and make more intelligent decisions.
  • Improve communication. When marketing data flows freely between departments and systems, teams are better able to align their efforts and achieve common goals.
  • Streamline sales and marketing. Companies achieve faster growth when they successfully align sales and marketing processes. Creating a central hub of intelligence to be used by both teams to target the right customers provides an important step toward achieving alignment.

A study by McKinsey about analytics and the future of marketing and sales, found that companies that put data at the center of their marketing and sales decisions improve their marketing return on investment by 15-20%.

And that’s the basic formula for raising your KPIQ:

  1. Establish KPIs
  2. Consolidate them
  3. Apply what you learn

Take a smarter approach to marketing by allowing performance indicators to guide your decisions. Watch what happens.

This post originally appeared here.

Twitter: @FeldmanCreative

LinkedIn: Barry Feldman