8 Essential B2B Marketing Questions: Ignore these at your peril

B2B Marketing Questions“Good questions outrank easy answers” – Paul Samuelson

Asking the right questions is crucial to your ability to optimize or turnaround your B2B marketing and sales operations. But even if things are going well, it is a good idea to periodically test your assumptions. Competitors are not standing idle and technologies, channels and customer needs are constantly shifting. Here are eight important questions to get you started:

  1. Do you understand your own value proposition? This question concerns the big “Why”. Why you are doing what you do, why anybody cares, and why they should buy from you. Your value proposition is the essence of why you are in business.
  2. What is the highest purpose your business serves? You can discover this by asking a series of “Why” questions until you get to the core. By the way, making money is not an acceptable answer because your prospects care about what is in it for them, not for you.
  3. Do you really understand your customers and prospects? By understand, I mean that you need to know the challenges they face, both personally and professionally, as well as what motivates and inspires them. Deep knowledge about your prospects will help you organize messaging and offers that more often result in a successful engagement.
  4. When people visit your website, do they understand what you do? This is not such an obvious answer. Generally you have just a few seconds to get your point across to prospects or they are off to the next website on their list. Your hero image, slider, brand promise, etc. must state two things very quickly and clearly: exactly what you do and exactly how you benefit customers.
  5. What is the focus of your content? Good marketing content is highly focused on the reader not the writer. A good ratio is 75% about the prospect and 25% about you. This is where knowledge of your target audience can help. Without this knowledge, the tendency is to make it about me, me, me, not about you, you, you.
  6. Do you have an achievable plan to find, educate, engage and convert prospects? All the great content and a first-class website are insufficient unless you have the right lead-to-revenue (L2R) processes in place to hit your revenue targets. For more about this, read: The Importance of Processes in Effective Lead-to-Revenue.
  7. Is your sales model built around the needs of the seller or the buyer? For years, we have been talking about the sales and marketing funnel. But the funnel that really counts is the buyer’s funnel. Instead of forcing customers/clients to do it your way, figure out how they prefer buying and align your processes accordingly. Change your mindset from “we need to do a better job selling” to: “we need to do a better job at helping people buy.”
  8. What are you measuring, and why? The ability to keep good metrics and improve based on the results separates the good from the average B2B marketers. As I pointed out in my recent article, 10 Critical B2B Sales and Marketing Metrics, there are tons of potential items to measure, but a handful will give you the bulk of the benefits.

Worthless Questions

The above are good, important and relevant questions – and the answers will contribute to your B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue success. However, all questions don’t hold equal value and there is a class of questions that are so bad they are actually counterproductive.

“Agree with me” questions: This category of question is phrased more like a statement, and is designed to elicit only one type of response – for example, when your boss, the CMO asks: Our new website looks great, doesn’t it?

Questions that are not actionable: All of the above questions are useful because you can take action depending on the answer.

Harmful sales questions: Sales reps can hurt themselves by asking the wrong question at the wrong time in the sales process. For example:

  • What is your budget (before the need is established)?
  • Is this a good time to talk (it’s easy for the prospect to say no)?
  • Are you the decision maker (far better to ask, who will be involved in the process)?

Overly broad or vague questions: These are meaningless questions where the person you are asking figures that you are being polite and don’t really care. An example of this is to ask something like: How was our service (good)? Or: Do you have any questions (no)? Or: How are you doing (fine)?

Burdensome questions: This category of questions includes anything that requires more effort to answer than the payoff from knowing the answer.  

To boost the success of your B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue programs, ask the right questions, ditch the worthless questions, and remember the advice of Lou Holtz: “I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”

Use Content Marketing to Establish B2B Thought Leadership

Online Thought LeaderAt our company, my team and I have the pleasure of being involved in a lot of content creation, curation and propagation initiatives. Sometimes, a company is new to content marketing and sees the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but they aren’t sure how to get there. In other cases, the company has taken some initial steps towards thought leadership but has plateaued and wants to get to the next level. Either way, there are are six essential questions about content marketing that need to be answered before you get too far along the path.

  1. Can we be industry thought leaders?see the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but aren’t sure how to get there.
  2. If so, what do we talk about?
  3. Can we create enough quality content?
  4. How do we get people to read our content?
  5. How do we get people to engage with our company?
  6. How do we measure results and get better over time?

Great questions, yes? The first three should determine your go vs. no-go content marketing strategy and the second three how to make it happen assuming the decision to proceed is affirmative. I’ll cover the first three questions in this article and the final three in the next.

Can we be industry thought leaders? First of all, is it you who is going to be the thought leader, is it several individuals in your company, or is it the company itself? And do you have enough knowledge and stature to be a credible industry spokesperson? By the way, the fact that you don’t have these attributes going in isn’t a show stopper. There have been many cases of individuals who are relatively unknown who emerge within a year or two as well-followed and well-respected industry opinion leaders.

What do we talk about? This is the key question. As mentioned above, you need to have “perceived” expertise in a specific area (hopefully backed up by genuine expertise). However this must be matched by another factor: There must be a sufficient enough number of people interested in your topic area that are willing to read or listen to what you have to say; and this audience should provide real business value. In the business world, it is not enough that people find you interesting – you want them to engage and either buy something or encourage others to do so.

Assuming you have the critical audience numbers, try to avoid the temptation to be just another voice spouting the same content. While this may seem like a safe path, it is rarely a good idea to be perceived as just like your competitors. You need to create a perception of differentiation. To establish yourself and/or your company as a branded authority, you will first have to decide the breadth of your focus. Marketing yourself with a very broad focus (e.g. general practitioner) is a different proposition than a narrow niche focus (e.g. specialist). There is truth to the statement, “the riches are in niches” and across most industries, those who have a reputation for specialization earn more and face less competitive pressure.

How do we create enough quality content? Let’s talk about your options for quantity and quality of content. People naturally feel angst about creating a steady stream of fresh worthy content. As a book author and eight-year blogger, I agree – this is not easy. You may need to opt either for a more consistent flow of okay (decent) content or go for a model where you produce fewer pieces of content of higher quality. A good example of this is the type of evergreen content I write for CustomerThink – in-depth articles of 1000-1500 words that are meant to be “evergreen.” By this I mean the content will still be valid and useful for years to come.

An alternative to creating your own content is to become a content curator. Content curation is the process of discovering, compiling and propagating (sharing) content in a particular subject area. The key is to present content that is fresh, relevant and high quality. Many content curators present externally discovered content alongside their own. For example, our GreatB2BMarketing blog not only contains my original posts but also a “Guest Experts” section where we reproduce articles from smart people in the B2B marketing industry.

You can either create (or curate) the content yourself or hire consultants to do this for you – but either way, don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort required. Fortunately, there are some useful (and sometimes free) tools to help you either find ideas for original content or curate third-party content.

Content Marketing Tools:

Buzzsumo: Very easy to use and free. Just input your search term and Buzzsumo shows you the top content in terms of engagement and shares. This tool will help you find topic areas that have high potential marketplace interest.

Buzzsumo

Quora: This is a question and answer site to learn about what people are talking and writing about. As with Buzzsumo, you simply type your search term and Quora will show you all the content on that particular subject. You can also ask your own questions and get answers from a wide variety of experts (and not-so-much experts).

Hashtagify: While primarily used for Twitter marketing, you can use Hashtagify to find great keyword ideas for keywords to use in your blog posts. For example, the top hastags identified when you start with “B2B Marketing” are: sales, digital marketing, content marketing, marketing, SMM and CMO.

SEMrush: This is a great tool for figuring out what your website (and your competitors’ sites) really looks like to search engines in terms of organic and paid search. This will give you some ideas not only for articles and blogs, but also helps to ensure that your website content portrays your core message.

Hootsuite: Hootsuite is well known as a social media management program but you can also use it to track what industry leaders are saying about a particular topic or series of topics. This can be a great source for tracking and socializing curated content.

For more thoughts about B2B content marketing, read my recent CustomerThink article titled, 6 Keys to Transform Your Marketing Content from Subpar to Superior. And stay tuned for my next post where I will answer the final three questions about content marketing and content curation.

6 key Rules to Expand Your B2B Marketing Influence

Marketing Influence NetworkingMarketing influence is a timeless subject but the ways we capture and communicate are constantly evolving. I originally wrote about this subject in 2011 and updated the material for my 2015 book, Winning B2B Marketing . And whether you are a one-person consulting shop, work for a mega corporation, or anything in between, you need to constantly expand your Circle of Marketing Influence.

Starting with your organization at the core, everyone that you can possibly do business with can be pinpointed somewhere in relation to the center.  As those individuals in the outer reaches of our marketing influence are brought closer, they become part of your inner circle. Those nearest to the core are friends, former colleagues, loyal customers, prospects in an active sales cycle and others you have direct influence on. Those farthest away comprise your total addressable market (TAM) but many or most of them may not even know that you exist.

Traditional lead-to-revenue (L2R) models track this movement through the marketing and sales sequence using terminology such as suspects, leads, qualified prospects, opportunities and customers. The idea is to locate individual suspects in the larger universe (TAM) and convince them to engage and then make a purchase. By contrast, in today’s pull marketing world, the idea is to broadcast powerful and consistent messages to the cyber universe and give people good reasons to engage with you. The key point is that prospects choose to engage with you – you do not have to chase after them. And they are much more likely to engage if they are already in your sphere of influence.

Over time, the inner- and middle circles grow as people become closer to you. Because you are providing the right message at the right time, people are educating themselves and they willingly engage – not because of the persistence and brilliance of your sales people and you pushing yourself on them, but rather because they actually need your products or services and are searching for a solution. The complexity of the sales process decreases, the sales cycle shrinks and your close rate goes up. This is what we call a winning trifecta!

Let’s take a look at how the circle of influence relates to your business.  The Inner circle is comprised of your key influence group including employees, partners, customers, active prospects, personal contacts, and blog contributors. The Middle circle is the moderate influence group and includes contact lists, blog readers, suspects, social media followers, group members (e.g. LinkedIn), affiliates, industry experts, press, and analysts. The Outer circle is the low influence group and includes your potential prospect universe/TAM including email lists, direct marketing lists, occasional blog readers, media readers, and suspects.

The Starting Point: Where you are today Marketing Influence Before

This first graphic shows where you may be in your current evolution as a company or individual, particularly if you are in a fairly new business. Sadly, even some older companies have a small circle of marketing influence. In this case, the size of your inner circle and contact lists are small in relation to the entire prospect universe (total addressable market). And it is also true that marketing is usually more expensive at this stage (relatively speaking) because you often have to spend marketing funds to first educate suspects before turning them into prospects. In fact, even though your goal is to build a strong push model, it may be necessary to do a fair amount of push marketing at this stage.

The End Game: Where you are going

Marketing Influence AfterThis second graphic illustrates the impact of how your consistent marketing and targeted outreach efforts will help you grow the number of key influencers and moderate influencers. Over time, these parts of the circle of influence will become a rich source of low-cost qualified prospects and customers. Also important to your fiscal health – your marketing campaigns can evolve from push marketing to pull marketing and you will generate leads and new customers at a much lower acquisition cost. In our practice we’ve seen the impact of building up the marketing influence database as it results in a two-third reduction in cost-per-lead over a two year period.

Rules for Expanding Your Circle of Influence

We’ve talked about the why, let’s now discuss the how. Follow these six rules to expand your marketing influence.

  1. Be intentional.  Amazing how I meet someone who has 300 LinkedIn contacts and they tell me their goal is to expand their network to produce better results. My advice to that person is to start today and add relevant connections throughout the year, with a goal of 500 connections (adding one per business day). A year later, I look at their profile and they have 320 connections. I call these accidental connections because a few people will connect even if you take no action.
  2. Be methodical. Expanding your circle of influence takes time and a bit of work, but not so much time or effort if you spread the effort out. To start, block 2-3 hours per week on your calendar to devote exclusively to social media and network building. The investment will take a bit of time to pay off, but it will pay off.
  3. Be available. Don’t ignore your network and then scramble to catch up when you need something. We all have those people in our lives who only reach out when they want something (job, reference, etc.) but are otherwise silent.
  4. Be valuable. If you have content to share, make sure it’s the good stuff not just a rehash of what everyone else is offering. Not to say that you need to give away your trade secrets but it is usually better to offer something unique.
  5. Be generous. Following up on the previous rule, you should willingly share information, references, comments, compliments, congratulations and so forth. You are planting seeds for the future.  Just like with real seeds, some will produce fruit and some will fall on barren ground. The point is that you have no idea which seeds are which – so do not try to be Machiavellian about your networking. If you are available and add value to enough people, you will gain in return. That’s the way life works, both at home and the office.
  6. Be realistic. Good networking is about quality of communication but it is also about quantity. If you wait until the perfect opportunity to reach out, you may have to wait a long time. The point is to communicate often enough to remain top of mind (without being annoying).

The Circle of Marketing Influence is an excellent way to remember that your mission in B2B marketing is to continually expand the number of people who know what you do and why you are the obvious choice in your market.

Porter Gale wrote a book titled “Your network is Your Net Worth”.The title really says it all.  Build your network, expand your influence and reap the benefits.

Boost Revenue with the Right B2B Marketing Funnel

Marketing FunnelOne of the most important decisions to be made when designing a lead-to-revenue (L2R) strategy is the type of B2B marketing funnel model to support your revenue goals. There are lots of permutations but fundamentally, it comes down to a choice between two major flavors: wide or narrow funnel. I’ve talked to CEO’s who want a large number high-quality leads at a low cost-per-lead. While this sounds great in theory, there is almost always a trade-off between quantity and quality – unless you are willing to spend exorbitant sums to achieve this goal.

Let’s explain by taking a closer look at the two funnel models. Note that I have simplified the number of steps involved but this should still give you the idea.B2B Marketing Funnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wide Funnel – Type A: As the graphic illustrates, this type of funnel is designed to create lots of activity early in the lead-to-revenue process by casting a wider net. The goal is to get lots of suspects to opt-in, and use personal (usually telephone) or automated methods to qualify suspects and turn them into prospects. You ask for very little information (e.g. name and email address) in order to encourage response and your content offer is targeted at those who are earlier in their buyer’s journey. In this model, you attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff after the opt-in.

Narrow Funnel – Type B: This funnel model is narrow at the top, because the goal is to generate fewer opt-ins – but with a much higher average quality than type A. To accomplish this, you offer content that is useful for prospects that are closer to a buying decision and you ask for lots of information from the prospect. This will definitely reduce response from those who are early in the buyer’s journey and in this model, you attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff before the opt-in.

Note what the two B2B marketing funnels have in common. First, you still have to go through the same qualification and selling steps and once the leads are qualified, you should achieve the same conversion metrics with either model. In other words, you can be just as productive with either model from a revenue standpoint. Second, the costs to fill the top of the funnel may be the same with either model, although you can save some expense because of the reduced cost of personal lead qualification on the narrow funnel.

Funnel B has the advantage of keeping your inside and direct sales reps focused on prospects that are more likely to buy in the short-term. This is because you are using your marketing messaging and opt-in process to discourage those not currently in the market for your products or services. However, the narrow funnel has a huge disadvantage – you don’t get to keep talking to the people who opted-in but were not yet ready to engage.

Using the examples above – if you implement Funnel B, there are 600 inquiries that you don’t get a chance to nurture and convert into qualified leads at a later date. And remember, once you have paid for the initial acquisition, you can often convert these prospects into opportunities at little or no cost. Our experience shows that you can often get another 50-75% sales downstream from the pool of those not ready to engage in the short-term. Again, using the above numbers, this would cost you another 10-15 sales.

So which B2B Marketing funnel is right for you? For the reasons mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs, I usually recommend the wide funnel (type A), but there are exceptions. Best to carefully consider the ramifications of each approach and make the right decision before you lock in your marketing programs.

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

7 Lessons Learned in 7 Years of Blogging

BloggingI started my blogging journey at Great B2B Marketing seven years ago this month. It’s been quite an adventure and like anything someone does for seven years (and over 250 posts), there are some useful lessons learned along the path.

  1. Persistence is key. Blogging can be a pain to be sure, but it really does get easier over time. I often tell clients that are new to blogging that it might seem like pushing a boulder uphill in the short-term but a post that takes you three hours to draft today can be completed in 90 minutes once you’ve done it a dozen times.
  2. Posting something is better than nothing. Voltaire’s quote, “The perfect is the enemy of the good” applies to blogging. You’re not Shakespeare and you’re not Hemingway. You (and I) are just business people with a unique message to share. This is not to say that you should throw quality standards out the window. Be clear, be clean and be helpful and every once in a while, one of your posts can go viral. But you need to put your content in play for it to be seen by anyone. In other words: No excuses – just do it!
  3. Be bold, fresh and relevant. It is tempting to write about stuff that has been around for some time, but you will get way more attention if you find a fresh angle to a topic of current interest. And make sure you are adding real value, not just rehashing what the reader can learn at a dozen other websites.
  4. Add a dose of personality. While you need to stay businesslike, readers want to know they are hearing from someone who is likeable and forthright. A bit of humor and irreverence is good but don’t overdo this to the point you turn off your audience. Most important: be yourself. Your unique voice is what people want to hear.
  5. Remain consistent. Consistency is important in two ways. First, in terms of your content. You want to be known for one or a couple of topic areas (in my case, B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue), not for having an opinion about everything. Consistency area two is to set a workable blogging schedule and stick to it. Resist the urge to post a bunch of blogs in a short time period. I call this a flame-out – when a company posts 3-6 blogs in a span of a few weeks, and then stops posting. It looks unprofessional. Instead, set a reasonable schedule (even 1-2 times per month is okay to start) and stick to this relentlessly. You can pick up the pace as your comfort level increases.
  6. Pay attention to the critical details. Writing the content is the hard part but there are a few things you can do to drive more attention, including:
    1. Add a relevant image. Images are important for search purposes and to grab reader attention. Please be sure to license the image or get permission for its use.
    2. Always add categories, tags and meta descriptions. This will make your post easier to find. Click here for a great article on how to craft effective meta descriptions. As an example, here is the meta description I used for this post: “Follow these seven lessons to ensure blogging success in terms of readership and impact”.
    3. Cite your sources. You can certainly use a few words or sentences from someone else’s material without permission, but make sure you acknowledge the source.
    4. Utilize an editor. I don’t care how good of a writer you are – you can probably benefit from a second pair of eyes for issues like typos, grammar and readability.
  7. Borrow from smart people. You will be faced with situations when you can’t think of something to write about (join the club!). In this case, find someone else’s article that appeals to you and base your post on this person’s content. Of course, if you are copying entire sections of material, it is best to get permission. Authors love to have you re-purpose their writing and this is a great way to make a new business contact.

 

Hard Facts About B2B Marketing and Sales

Hard Facts about Marketing

One of the most frustrating things about being a B2B marketing and/or sales professional is that there are circumstances and environmental factors totally outside your control. Ive seen truly great people seemingly stuck in situations where they are set up for failure.

Medium.com had an interesting article from Larry Kim titled “11 Things You Can’t Change, So Quit Wasting Your Time Trying.” Kim stated that no matter the method you use (e.g., working harder, caring more), “The fact is, there are some things you just cant change, no matter how hard you try.” I enjoyed the article because it reflects a hard truth I teach future entrepreneurs in my SBA and SCORE classes — to stay within their own zone of control.

This below graphic illustrates the zone of control. At the bottom is a list of a few of the things you have total personal control over. For example, you decide how hard you work and the skills you will develop to enhance your marketplace value. The middle section contains items you can influence but not necessarily control, like the overall messaging, your budget, and your boss. The outer circle consists of items you have little or no control over: The economy, technology, government, etc., are going where they are going and chances are, you have no opportunity to impact them. In other words, if the train is heading in a certain direction, you had best either hop on or watch it pass, instead of standing in front of it.

Zone of Marketing Control

So, hard fact number one is that you should operate in your zones of control and influence. Here are some additional facts that B2B marketing and sales professionals must face:

1.     It’s usually not personal. When the CEO criticizes the new website design, or the VP of sales complains about the lack (or quality) of leads, they have their own reasons that are usually not connected to personal animosity toward you. Disliking your performance on something is not the same as disliking you.

2.     You can’t always win. There are scenarios where the odds are so stacked against you, you are unlikely to achieve success. For example:

a.     A flawed business model that is not financially viable.

b.     An un-coachable owner/CEO who would rather be right than successful (sadly, there are such individuals).

c.      A product that is deeply flawed and/or not ready for the market.

d.     A highly dysfunctional management team.  

3.     You should quit focusing on the ones that got away. All of us who have been in marketing or sales for any length of time understand that no matter how talented/clever we are, many prospects will say no to even our best offers. Best you reconcile yourself to this to avoid undue anxiety.

4.     Life is not fair. If your mom or dad taught you this lesson early in your life, you should thank them. Attaching yourself emotionally to a certain outcome means that you will spend at least some of your time in a dark place.

5.     Great strategy won’t produce results without cooperation. I’ve seen brilliant concepts that could produce significant revenue shot down because of the unreasonableness of one or more parties. Regardless of motivation of the stubborn party, when you are faced with this situation, it’s sometimes best to cut your losses and move to the next idea.

You no doubt have your own list of unpleasant facts. I hope you accept them, and do what you need to do to have a healthy and prosperous 2017.

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.

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