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Social vs. content: Which wins in B2B marketing?

Social media and content marketing are both critical parts of B2B communications.

In the realm of online marketing, business-to-business organizations have numerous options. Various marketing strategies have unique strengths and weaknesses, and it's ultimately up to each company to find ways to make each channel work. Two overlapping categories – social media and content marketing – are often handled separately because of the objectives businesses have in mind. That said, there are challenges and opportunities presented in both that marketers should remain aware of and help guide their future campaigns.

Challenges in B2B content marketing
Around half of all marketers focused on connecting with other business owners feel their content has reached maturity (1). In other words, a sizable number of B2B marketers believe their blog posts, white papers, infographics and other types of online marketing materials work to respond to buyers' needs throughout the purchasing lifecycle. However, 87 percent indicate creating content that engages customers remains a significant challenge. Meanwhile, 57 percent of marketers said they focus on developing content to distribute through various channels, including their website, social networks and print sources, on an ongoing basis. Another 45 percent indicated they frequently created content for sales purposes to help buyers better understand a product or service.

What may be one of the biggest roadblocks to creating high-impact B2B content is the number of people that companies regularly dedicate to development. In fact, more than 7 in 10 business-focused marketers said that fewer than half of their team has a strong part to play in designing and making content marketing materials.

What are your primary goals?
In most cases, content functions best as a lead nurturing tool to help move buyers toward making purchasing decisions. It's important for B2B marketers to emphasize the ways in which their products and services will help customers solve an issue or quell a concern they may have. Seventy-one percent of marketers say that case studies and similar content are frequently used to sway buyers, but very few have actively made it a core part of their campaigns (1).

Meanwhile, customers want to work with a business partner that both understands where the industry is and where it should be headed. This is one of the strongest benefits of a well-structure content marketing strategy. By performing research and creating a white paper that gives buyers a sense of what's coming next, a company can establish a sense of confidence among potential buyers. However, just 12 percent of marketers cite this as a priority.

At the same time, content marketing often crosses path with social media marketing.

What is a social business?
When most marketing professionals think about a social organization, they picture a business-to-consumer organization. However, B2B companies increasingly see the significant impact of social networks that connect employees with decision-makers in other companies. In fact, 60 percent of business-oriented enterprises strongly agree that social initiatives augment financial and strategic results (2). Social businesses are those that not only connect on social networks but are also using high-level analytics tools to measure data derived from social channels to inform business plans. They monitor both external and internal communications to gain a better understanding of how ideas flow through social media.

One way B2B organizations are leveraging social networks is to use the data found in feedback delivered by customers to manage the way they develop current and future products. Another common practice is to use social sites as forums for collaboration and thought sharing. For instance, LinkedIn has become one of the more successful platforms that business leaders use to raise issues and discuss pressing topics that impact a specific industry.

Yet, the most mature companies go beyond engagement and move toward measurement. While it's certainly important to foster relationships and initiate interesting conversations, B2B organizations need to be able to accurately measure impressions, shares, responses and other metrics to clearly understand how their social strategy performs.

A movement toward automation?
The solution many companies have sought is automating many of the marketing processes that have traditionally been manual. For example, distributing content through various channels or responding to buyers on social sites can potentially be handled using automation tools. For 45 percent of marketers, the main objective is to increase productivity (3).

Depending on the number of marketing pathways and social sites a business uses, managing content and social media by hand can be a time-intensive task. Another core objective using marketing automation is increasing lead generation and strengthening nurturing. However, 45 percent of marketers haven't effectively developed a strategy to integrate automation tools. This could help explain why roughly half of all companies outsource part of their automated marketing campaigns. Third-party providers tend to have the staff, budget, tools and expertise make them more efficient at implementing and analyzing this type of strategy.

In all likelihood, B2B organizations will use a combination of social media and content marketing to reach out to buyers. However, each company needs to recognize where its money is best spent using analytics, either in-house or through an outsourced agency. In any worthwhile venture there are challenges, but they're seldom insurmountable.

1. Compare Your B2B Content Marketing Maturity
2. Moving Beyond Marketing
3. Marketing Automation Benchmark Summary Report

Posted in Analytics, Social Media Marketing |

What email means for B2B marketing strategies

A marketing strategy targeting business owners should integrate email.

Email continues to be a critical part of any marketing strategy. There are few other channels that provide marketers with strong return on investment and a medium that can be customized for specific clients' needs. In fact, email marketing is 40 times more effective in acquiring new customers than social networks (1). Meanwhile, the average ROI in 2011 for every marketing dollar spent on email was $40.56 (2).

One of the greatest strengths of email marketing is due in some part to the recent legislation passed in the U.S. requiring companies to allow customers to opt out with clear directions of how to do so. In effect, the CAN-SPAM Act makes it easier for marketing professionals to whittle down their lists and deliver messages only to the individuals who express continued interest in their services or products.

With roughly 25 percent of all email accounts belonging to businesses, this channel is especially effective for B2B marketing. Business owners have found that email, as part of an overarching marketing strategy, is important for not only lead generation but also keeping customers engaged. For instance, 56 percent of marketers indicated this channel was most effective for retention (3). Email can be tailored to suit the evolving needs of your customers throughout their relationship with your organization.

1. Why marketers should keep sending you e-mails
2. Can Email Marketing Still Engage Your Customers?
3. Survey says referral marketing brings them in, email keeps them active

Posted in Lead Generation |

Worried about brand awareness? Think Internet marketing

Search engine marketing helps companies develop their brands.

Search engine marketing does more than put your ads in front of potential buyers. While the highest priority is often placed on click-through rates and ad impressions, you should pay attention to the impact your paid search ads have on customers. Even for companies focused on business-to-business outreach, building a brand name is critical to earning greater market share.

Search results influence branding
When customers run their queries through a search engine, the results they see work to build brand awareness (1). In fact, enterprises across 12 verticals saw an average 6.6 percent bump in recognition. When a company is listed at the top of search engine results page, more people were able to recall and name that business as an example when asked for a brand name.

In the B2B market, the numbers varied with even greater range. Customers who saw a brand's ad at the top of SERP were aware of a brand 145 percent more than companies that fell further down in the rankings. The suggested logic is that customers who enter a specific search term into Google, Bing or Yahoo are in research mode. In other words, they're more attuned to the results, looking for specific information that will lead to making a smarter decision.

What you can do with paid search
Meanwhile, pay-per-click campaigns offer a counterbalance to organic search engine marketing in their ability to reach the forefront of buyers' consciousness without requiring as much effort in search engine optimization. Specifically with Google, you can take several approaches to bring your brand to the top of buyers' minds when they're trying to find a business solution. For instance, Apple has taken advantage of Google AdWords image extension, which replaces most of the text with pictures (2). The technology giant incorporates a series of pictures to highlight the ways people around the world use their iPad and appears more like an organic ad. As is a best practice in search engine marketing, the ad contains a brief call to action designed to attract and influence customers.

Another computing and tech-focused firm, IBM, uses paid search ads to draw attention to its online presence. For instance, the company includes a social media extension that shows how many customers follow it on Google Plus. While the AdWords campaign example is far more straightforward than that of Apple, IBM is extremely competent and controlled in using character count.

1. New Study: Search Ads Lift Brand Awareness
2. How the Top 5 Brands Are Using Paid Search Ads

Posted in Search Engine Optimization |

Why app developers should prioritize mobile marketing

App developers need to take advantage of mobile marketing.

Mobile marketing for app developers is a critical lifeline for sustainability. The mobile app company poverty line rests at about $500 per app in monthly revenue, but half of iOS and 64 percent of Android developers fall below this standard (1). Regardless of your industry, this isn't a sustainable business model.

The more optimistic side of this news is that business-to-business centered organizations are in a generally more favorable situation. While only 16 percent of developers cite enterprises as their target audience, but they have double the chances of generating more than $5,000 per app per month. They're even more likely to earn upwards of $25,000 on a monthly basis for a single app.

Enterprises that develop apps designed as business tools tend to fare better than those meant for entertainment, but they still need to be marketed effectively. Roughly half of app developers put less than 25 percent of their monthly budget toward marketing, which doesn't allow much space for gaining notice from buyers, especially on an enterprise scale.

Push notifications have become the industry standard for most mobile app companies, but these organizations increasingly need to take advantage of customer segmentation to make certain marketing messages get in front of the right audience (2). Without a more strategic mobile marketing framework, app developers may face a tough road ahead.

1. Developer Economics Q3 2014: State of the Developer Nation
2. Mobile App Marketing Grows Up

Posted in Mobile Marketing |

How will Google authorship changes impact SEO?

Google authorship photos are no longer visible. How will the change affect SEO?

Have you felt the influence of Google authorship on search engine optimization? Since the company integrated Web content writers' photos in search engine results pages, the impact hasn't been crystal clear.

In fact, John Mueller, analyst for Google Webmaster tools, explained there wasn't a significant difference in click-through rates between pages that show an author's picture and those that don't (1). The characteristic that increased CTRs 30 to 150 percent was the use of rich snippets, which would encompass author pictures but can include other information as well. For instance, many companies include ratings or reviews underneath the landing page title text in search results.

The updated version of Google authorship removes the photo and replaces it with straightforward information, including name and date (2). Also gone is the number of circles a person belongs to in Google Plus. Mueller suggests this design will be less jumbled, giving potential customers a clearer view of SERPs. However, another explanation may be the fact that Google is putting a much greater emphasis on mobile search, which would benefit from fewer diminutive pictures that readers attempt to discern.

1. Should You Still Care About Google Authorship?
2. Google Drops Profile Photos, Google+ Circle Count From Authorship In Search Results

Posted in Search Engine Optimization |

Get to know Twitter’s revamped content marketing dashboard

Internet marketing professionals should expect greater analytics using Twitter.

One of the heavyweights in social media marketing recently added more muscle to its analytics abilities. Twitter announced it will give marketers the capability to access more detailed analysis of organic tweets (1). Previously, companies were only able to follow the performance of their promoted tweets – otherwise, paid advertisements on users' feeds – but will have the opportunity to see how customers are engaging content, as well as the number of impressions.

The benefit for business-to-business marketers is that they'll be able to drill down to some very concrete data regarding the lifespan of their Twitter posts. For instance, you can delve more deeply into an individual post to find the number of link clicks it has drawn, the volume of users who have seen a tweet and the number of times people have expanded, replied or retweeted a post. You can look at this information in real time or take a broader view by expanding the data out over a longer priod of time (2).

This new capability should give B2B marketers are stronger sense of how well their organic content performs, depending on the metrics they're analyzing. Furthermore, businesses can conveniently perform A/B testing on a larger scale, instead of just focusing on paid advertising.

1. Twitter's analytics dashboard now includes detailed data on all tweets, not just ads 
2. Twitter's New Activity Dashboard Helps Advertisers Measure Organic Tweets

Posted in Social Media Marketing |

Why B2B marketing videos are such a challenge

B2B marketing is increasingly using video to engage customers.

Internet marketing strategies are often constrained by your ability to measure return on investment. Has your pay-per-click campaign generated the number of leads you forecasted? Were they high-quality prospects who went on to become buyers? Whether or not your marketing budget keeps getting financial backing from the C-suite truly depends on not only being able to answer these questions but also providing solid data.

This issue is far more widespread than you might assume. For instance, 71 percent of marketers fell short of delivering clear ROI reporting in 2013 (1). Businesses survive on creating a strong revenue stream. If you're not able to demonstrate the value of your marketing campaign, you'll be in a difficult position in asking for a larger piece of the pie, let alone a consistent figure. Proving your ROI is even more critical when you're attempting to use a new channel, such as video, in a relatively unfamiliar context: B2B marketing

High-stakes strategy
Videos have played a strong role in the development of Internet marketing. Businesses have come a long way since cat-themed videos went viral and brought greater notoriety to companies using novelty and humor to gain customers' attention. Increasingly, buyers rely on video marketing as resources to get a clearer understanding of what a company does, especially in highly niche or technical industries. In fact, 70 percent of marketers have integrated video into their online strategies, and 63 percent of B2B-focused individuals have increased the amount of money they're spending on the marketing tool (2).

Marketers are likely finding the confidence and support to invest more in video because they're able to prove its impact to business decision-makers. For instance, 43 percent of video marketers can track and analyze this type of content across various outputs, including blogs, social networks and their homepages (1).

A need to find balance
Most B2B marketers use video for lead generation purposes, as well as increasing brand awareness and engaging customers. At the same time, just 19 percent of businesses use video to increase their conversion rates, while integrating this dynamic content on a landing page can create an 80 percent rise in this metric (2).

With the numerous positive outcomes of a sound video marketing strategy, the main obstacle businesses face is production costs. The price tag associated with making this content is often out of the question for many marketers, especially when conducted in-house. As a result, many companies look for outside help and expertise to develop engaging videos.

1. Video Marketers Prove ROI Better Than Text-Based Marketers
2. The State of B2B Video Marketing: Demand Metric and Vidyard Present Benchmarks Report

Posted in Analytics |

What changes are in store for mobile marketing?

Mobile marketing will play a bigger role in B2B communications.

As millennials make up a larger portion of the job market, the potential for mobile marketing between businesses will likely grow. By next year, Google anticipates mobile searches will take over the top spot from desktop computers as the leading source of Web searches (1). In 2013, spending on mobile search ads rose by roughly 121 percent. The technology giant has a stake in the move toward smartphone and tablet use for search queries because its revenue from desktop activity has dropped consistently over the past two years.

At the same time, mobile apps are complicating things for businesses because customers are using multiple tools to look up information about companies before they decide to make a purchase or reach out for more information. In fact, Yelp's app is predicted to give Google a run for its money in terms of bringing in ad revenue (2). This is because mobile users are restricted to a Web browser when they use their smartphones or tablets.

What this means for marketers, especially those trying to connect with buyers, is they need to ensure they're maintaining a strong presence on multiple online marketing channels, including paid advertising on sites like Yelp. It's also worthwhile to keep Yelp profiles updated with necessary keywords so customers have access to accurate information.

1. Desktop Search to Decline $1.4 Billion as Google Users Shift to Mobile
2. Study: Mobile Search Is Shifting From Google to Mobile Apps Like Yelp

Posted in Mobile Marketing |

How to revamp your B2B lead generation strategies

Strong B2B lead generation often is founded on engaging content.

The first quarter of 2014 has demonstrated strong investment in B2B marketing. In fact, organizations involved in the B2B industry saw revenue rise to nearly $7.1 billion in the first few months of the year, reflecting a 4.5 percent increase over the same period of time in 2013 (1). While event marketing continues to represent the largest segment of B2B marketing, digital- most commonly recognized as Web-based media – witnessed roughly a 20 percent jump in revenue during the first quarter. Meanwhile, print advertising continues to see a steady decline in return on investment.

The signal being sent to many business-focused companies is that online marketing is growing in importance, not only in regard to creating a strong cash flow but also in reaching out to more customers. Digital technologies have invariably changed the way people consume information and challenged the role of marketers in lead generation. In fact, 8 percent of marketers have devoted fewer resources to traditional marketing channels, such as direct mail (2). Instead, businesses are putting more support behind Web-based lead generation tactics, which commonly fall under the umbrella of content marketing.

Content a key part of lead generation
One strategy that many B2B marketers have traditionally used to reach out to potential buyers is the use of industry reports, which continue to be important for many decision-makers to feel that they can trust a specific company. However, white papers have started playing a more important role in lead generation. Between 2012 and 2013, 70 percent of B2B customers indicated they rely more on content to make informed choices (3). At the top of the list are white papers, with 83 percent of buyers reporting they used this resource to make purchasing decisions over the past 12 months.

Like physical reports, white papers are thoroughly researched content marketing tools that give customers a clear understanding of either a particular product or industry, highlighting the strengths of the publishing company. The advantage for businesses arises in the fact that they're published online, which makes them more accessible and convenient for leads to read. At the same time, organizations can easily use lead generation forms to gather contact and other detailed information about buyers before they download the document.

Coming in second behind white papers are webinars. B2B buyers conducting research about a potential partner or service provider can take advantage of these resources that can, in some respects, replace the need to attend an event if it's held in a location or at a time that's inconvenient for a customer to attend. Interested individuals can get a detailed tutorial or demonstration of a product while the company explains features that may be attractive to a buyer. It's a smart idea to use a lead generation form to gather important information about webinar attendees so you can follow up after the presentation finishes.

Ensure strong online experiences 
One of the most important insights about B2B buyers is that they most often begin the researching phase of their purchases through a Web search. Accordingly, search engine optimization is critical component of any content marketing strategy aimed at generating stronger leads. While a significant number of buyers go to a company's website directly, 75 percent use search engines to find relevant content.

Once they reach your site, you need to ensure potential buyers have a positive experience. To help move customers through the sales funnel, it may be necessary to provide support. One possibility that enterprises have invested in is a live chat function, which helps to answer questions that buyers may have while they're navigating a website. As customers decide to make a purchase, 42 percent have a question about a product or service (4). The extent to which a business can address the concerns of a lead can have a profound effect on whether the company converts the sale.

1. B-to-B media industry revenue, up 4.5 percent, tops $7 billion for first quarter 2014
2. 3 Big Shifts in B2B Marketing
3. Trust is a Make-or-Break Issue for Today's B2B Buyer
4. The Connecting with Customers Report: A Global Study of the Drivers of a Successful Online Experience

Posted in Lead Generation |

3 truths about social media marketing in 2014

Social network marketing can help generate strong referral results.

Social media is a strong source of growth in marketing. Recent research points to an increasing amount of marketing dollars being spent on digital media, including online and mobile channels (1). Overall, the total injection of cash into advertising is expected to jump to more than $180 billion, which is 5.3 percent more than the preceding year. Social media and mobile technology have become inextricably linked because virtually every network has developed an app that gives people an experience unique to the device they use to access content. Here are three key areas that B2B marketers should carefully examine:

  1. Panning for gold is difficult
    Social media provides customers with a forum to discuss and communicate with other clients in addition to business owners. However, getting actionable insights from the various dialogs conducted on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn poses a problem for more marketers than you might expect. For instance, roughly 90 percent of 70 professionals involved in social media analytics and voice of the customer insights explained they use manual processes to investigate customer sentiment (2). Why? They aren't ready to hand over such an important aspect of their business to software. About 6 in 10 social media analysts indicated the keyword clouds that most programs use to gauge customers' responses don't go into sufficient detail to get at the heart of what people truly feel.

    At the same time, these professionals are responsible for helping marketers separate useful information from the onslaught of opinions and spam that companies can face when looking at social network posts. This is the single most difficult aspect of their roles, mainly due to the fact that it takes up too much time. The second most arduous task these analysts encounter is reading and comprehending all the content because of the sheer volume. One lesson drawn from this information is that it's unlikely that marketing or social media professionals can rely solely on an analytics platform to give them all the information they need. Instead, they need to actively verify and validate the trends that software may highlight. Because you're dealing with human communication, there's no way to avoid some manual procedures. Context is critical to understand customer sentiment, especially when looking at social media.

  2. Mobile is on the rise
    Smartphones and tablets are now often seen as the natural environment for social surfing. At the forefront of many marketing budgets is mobile spending, which is anticipated to show the strongest influence on marketing budgets in the coming years. This year, it will outrank all print advertising, as well as radio, in terms of the amount marketers are looking to spend. In fact, advertisers will pay more than $8 billion more on tablet and smartphone-focused marketing than in 2013 (1). This transition has come about largely in response to the ways people are changing their behaviors. Customers now engage with mobile technology more often and for longer periods of time than they do with other computing devices, such as desktops and laptops. Google and Facebook have been the leaders in ad spending, with the social network earning 68 percent of its total revenue in the U.S. in 2014.
  3. Referrals through social networks reap rewards
    With the rise of online channels to not only get information about a company but also make purchases, social media has become a strong engine for word of mouth. While referrals in bygone eras traveled literally from person to person through direct channels, social media allows business owners to get earned advertising from customers over an expansive online network. The workout club 24 Hour Fitness was able to garner a significant number of referrals by integrating social media into its membership campaign (3). Joe Beruta, director of marketing and communications for the company, explained the organization had previously depended on in-store initiatives aimed at boosting membership. According to Beruta, this wasn't cost effective, and moving the program online amplified the number of referrals as a result. The program gave members the opportunity to share a limited time trial offer with friends and family over Facebook.

    Accordingly, 24 Hour Fitness began allowing members and leads to log in to the company's landing page using their social network username password. As people signed up, the organization asked them if they'd like to invite others to join as well. The campaign eventually evolved to include other social networks. However, Facebook was the largest source of referrals, with Twitter and Pinterest following. As a result, 24 Hour Fitness experienced over 8,400 shares on social networks in January 2014. What's more, the business has witnessed in excess of 300,000 direct referrals during the initial three months of the campaign.

    Extrapolated to a B2B context, it's easy to see how companies can take advantage of a socially-driven referral initiative. Many enterprises that provide a service, such as a software platform, can use trials to drive decision-makers at businesses to get first-hand experience using it. They can then expand the referral network by asking if a user wants to share it with a colleague, offering a reward of either extended trial time or helping out by providing guided tutorials.

1. Total US Ad Spending to See Largest Increase Since 2004
2. Piecing Together the Story
3. Social Media Marketing: 300,000 direct referrals driven by merging social media and brick-and-mortar programs

Posted in Social Media Marketing |

 

 

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