Content Marketing, Customer Experience, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Automation, Marketing ROI, Online Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Marketing Activity Grid, explained (I): Introduction

Great plan!Last week at the B2B Marketing Forum in Utrecht, I shared the Marketing Activity Grid as part of my presentation. I got a number of requests to elaborate, so I am writing a couple of posts on the topic.

In this first piece, I will go in to the Grid’s background. Before I do though, let’s agree on a clear starting point: the goal of marketing.

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Competitive Strategy, Content Marketing, Customer Experience, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marcom, Marketing, Marketing Automation, Marketing ROI, Online Programs, Sales, Social Media

The Elusive Buyer; Building a Common Deal Trajectory in 5 steps

Pic-TrajectoryThe holy grail of marketing – any marketing – is connecting strategy, tactics, execution and output to the sales process. As with that other Grail, its hard to find. Building a Common Deal Trajectory is a great way to start the search, though – I will cover it in more detail and with recent examples in my presentation at the B2B Marketing Forum on 13 March in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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Brand Management, Competitive Strategy, Content Marketing, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marcom, Marketing ROI, Online events, Sales, Social Media, Webcast

#know13, or: 4 Things I Learned About Event Marketing

Knowledge13One of my college professors, Kees Fens (a famous Dutch literary critic, with a brilliant first name) once told me: “Jongeman, make sure you read as many books as you possibly can before the age of twenty five. After that, it’s work, and marriage, and children, and debt, and trouble – and you’ll be done reading!” How right he was. So let’s put the books down and get back to marketing.

Events. Events. Events.
The last months have been all about events. I am writing this on the plane to Las Vegas, to Knowledge13, our annual customer conference, which will be bigger than ever this year with over 4,000 registered delegates attending. End of April, we exhibited at the Service Desk & IT Support Show (London), and at the Best Management Practice Kongress (Bonn). In June, Gartner’s Infrastructure & Operations Summit (Berlin), Forrester’s Infrastructure & Operations Forum (London, again), and the CRIP Conference (Paris) will be added to the list. Additionally, we started running online events; live webinars in local language in the UK, Germany, and France. Eventful times, indeed.

4 general observations
Of course, each of the events mentioned above targets a specific audience, in a different location. Some events are owned by ServiceNow, others are sponsored. Some are broad IT events, others highly targeted to a specific niche within that industry. Nevertheless, here’s a couple of general observations on business-to-business event marketing in 2013. I would be grateful if you could add your own insights to help complete the picture.

1. Every event is an online event, too
Five years ago, in B2B marketing, social media where the playground of a handful of early adopters – hobbyists not to be taken too seriously by real businessmen. IT events were get-togethers of in-crowds, mostly – you’d be talking to the same people year after year, to a point where nobody even asked why an event would be invested in. Push-push-push messaging, attendees were generally talked into buying stuff they’d never deploy. This has changed materially.
Today, social media are an intricate part of most every aspect of marketing, and especially so around events. They bring new, highly engaged audiences to events. People who are well informed, who have already researched the exhibitors before hitting the show floor with questions prepared. It’s a different experience altogether, with the quality and relevance of conversations going up.

Nevertheless, we haven’t reached a standard by any means, and quality levels of social media integration vary hugely between industries and companies. Many exhibitors are still using social media to just broadcast their messages without facilitating engagement. Many audiences still just follow and read vendor’s content online without engaging and sharing out.

The beauty of social media: it is all in the hands of the buyers, the show attendees, the followers and their networks. They decide what spreads like wildfire, and what drops dead untouched. The million dollar question you have to keep asking yourself: What turns a follower of my company into an amplifier of my message and calls-to-action?

Our Knowledge13 event is a good example of how an offline event (Las Vegas, 4000+ attendees, keynotes, customer breakout sessions, hands-on lab sessions, training sessions, channel side events) is turned into an online social event with all possible channels geared up to deliver content through video, blogging, photography, live streamed TheCube video content, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, community forum discussions, and to spark conversations that will continue beyond the walls of the event venue.

We have reached a point where you can get a very good grasp of what is going on at the event without leaving the comfort of your home – just look for #know13, and check out our Social Hub site, where we pull together all social content in real-time over the next days.

O, and just to illustrate what happened to vendors pushing their messaging down the attendee’s throats: 90% of Knowledge13 content is delivered by ServiceNow customers, like CERN, Home Depot, Staples, Volkswagen, KPN, and many others.

2. Every event is a data drill
Yesterday, I came across this interesting infographic on LinkedIn, attempting to depict the current marketing technology landscape. True, it is an insane picture – I wrote about the subject before. But be it as it may, sales and marketing systems like Eloqua, Salesforce.com, Omniture and Radian6 allow us to understand exactly how our events are performing, not only in terms of lead generation and sales, but also when it comes to audience engagement, reach of messaging, and share of voice online.

Now, Marketing has always been reluctant in sharing objectives with the business, but that will have to change. Because with the ability of tracking performance of all aspects of (event) marketing comes the clear requirement of setting marketing and sales objectives to validate investment, to report against those objectives, and to optimize the marketing investment more rigorously than ever before.

And this conversation will have to transcend simple Marketing ROI and pipeline attribution type statements (we invested x, we got 20x back, and it was all marketing – YEAH!), to really hone in on data segments and characteristics, buyer behavior, tactical marketing and sales mix, and effective multi-channel follow-up. Did we reach the right accounts, the right job functions within those accounts, at the right point in their influencing and buying cycles, and did we follow-up in the most efficient and effective way – with our direct sales, our channel partners or our strategic pathways? It has to be a clean data conversation between marketing, sales and business partners.

3. Every event is part of a broader conversation
Attendees walk in well-prepared and ready to engage. The same doesn’t necessarily go for exhibitors – at the SITS13 event, I witnessed quite a few examples of competitor booth staff just hanging around browsing their iPhones, speakers delivering random corporate slides that I already saw up on SlideShare months earlier, stand messaging only pointing out the obligatory iPad raffle (“Leave your business card in this bowl, and WIN – WIN – WIN ! ! !”), but nothing else.

To build maximum engagement, be as prepared as your audience will be.

Before
Attendees spend time preparing online. Make it easy for them to include you in their research. Map the channels they will most likely use to gather their information, and give them compelling content and calls-to-action (research papers, websites, webinars, chat sessions – anything that will convince them meeting with you is a smart idea). Enable them to set a meeting with your crew, be available for questions, and respond without delay. Monitor the pre-show engagement data. Brief the stand team on customers and prospects likely to attend, and visit your booth. Have a plan, set targets.

During
Expect attendees to know your business and offerings in detail. Be ready to give them a very specific demonstration of your capabilities, and allow for ample Q&A time. Connect prospects with their peers in other customer accounts, analysts, business partners, and consultants, based on their business requirement, not based on the sales opportunity you think you spotted. Invest in ways to not just capture the bare contact data, but use the conversation to collect additional details that would enable a rich follow-up conversation. Set dates for follow-up sales meetings.

For marketing purposes, the audience not attending the event is more important than the folks who actually make it there. In social media, give the non-attendees a clear picture of what’s going on: the big announcements and messages, the demonstrations, the customer feedback, the overall impression and atmosphere, again augmented with premium content in various formats (writing, recorded sessions, video reports, photography, slides, audio).

After
Continue the conversation. Continue managing the event, but through other tactical means – as if it didn’t even end. This is where the real impact to bottom line is being delivered. Make your event content available on-demand, start promotions. Consolidate and qualify the contact data, follow-up through all marketing and sales channels, start nurturing the contacts that aren’t yet ready for sales engagement. Begin reporting against your objectives out of sales and marketing systems.

4. …and content is king, still
In content marketing terms, an event is just another vehicle designed to carry your message to its intended receiver – and it’s up to the event marketer to optimize the vehicle to do exactly that. But content marketing is too big a topic to be covered here. Check earlier posts (here and here) for more.

4 attributes unique to events
One thought I’ll leave you with while you’re here: In your marketing mix, every instrument (John, if you’re reading this – this one is for you, buddy!) has to play its particular function, making the most of its specific attributes and qualities. There are 4 attributes to physical events that cannot be covered anywhere else, at least not in combination:

  • Serendipity, or the “stumble upon” factor (at events, attendees tend to discover vendors and solutions they didn’t even know they were looking for).
  • The face-to-face contact between prospect and solution consultant or sales rep without any strings attached.
  • The opportunity to address very specific, even unique customer questions and requirements.
  • The opportunity to see a bunch of vendor representatives at work at once without being in their offices – and get a sense of their team dynamics and quality.

In your content marketing strategy for events, take full advantage of these unique attributes, and don’t focus on things other marketing tactics may deliver just as well (and probably cheaper).

Do drop me your feedback. I am heading down to the Knowledge13 show floor – from NOW to WOW!

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Content Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Automation, Marketing ROI, Online Marketing, Sales

The Real Cost of Marketing Automation (Pizza Anyone?)

We had a good number of conversations this week on online marketing and the merits of marketing automation. Within the teams here in Europe and the US, but also with our marketing agency, our through-channel marketing agency, and – last but not least – our marketing automation agency. The latter started with a quote from Forrester Research: “[We] found that most companies cited as great case studies by vendors are still at Level 1 Level 2 of Forrester‘s Marketing Automation Maturity Model.” Some quote.

Expensive email blasters
In a November 2010 blog post, Forrester’s Jeff Ernst – the principal analyst responsible for this particular piece of research – states that “too many companies have invested in marketing automation platforms, only to use them as expensive email blasters.” In the April 2011 report B2B marketers must better prepare for marketing automation, he cautions that “Small businesses with simple requirements can receive a lot of value within days by implementing basic features and may not ever need to do more. But for larger companies that serve sophisticated buyer needs, it takes time to build a revenue engine that produces a steady supply of qualified sales opportunities, and getting an email campaign out the door in three days does not ensure that you are on a path to achieving that bigger vision.”

Amen
Without having access to the actual Marketing Automation Maturity Model – with Sinterklaas and Christmas just around the corner, spending $499 on aging research papers may not be the most opportunistic of choices – one can guess that it’ll start with manually sending emails into low quality, poorly segmented databases, with zero business impact, and end up with nurturing, scoring, integrated communications based on deep knowledge of your buyer’s journey, with all the targeted segmenting, nurturing, scoring and integration between marketing automation and sales CRM that you can wish for – where the marketing system unilaterally sets the business strategy, aligns sales and marketing once and for all, and wins marketing prizes. Amen.

3 Traps
Ernst identifies 3 traps, around process, content, and skills, which keep companies from getting beyond this “batch ‘n’ blast” level of maturity. They’ll never reap the true benefits of marketing automation, but get stuck in the middle between a great vision, sophisticated platform and expert vendor support on the one side, and bloated budgets, frustrated marketers and low quality databases on the other. And the quality of leads generated and qualified by marketing is – and will be – questioned by sales.

KSFs
Ernst indeed warns CMOs (ordinary marketers should pay attention, too) that the following success factors are critical, if they expect ROI from their investment in marketing automation (source: Christine Thompson, Success Factors for Marketing Automation):

  • A defined lead management process (agreed to by sales and marketing);
  • A content strategy that supports buyers’ needs (not the marketer’s convenience), throughout the buyer’s journey — for each buyer role;
  • Access to good contact data (up-to-date contact info for the buyer roles most likely to respond favourably);
  • Access to the skills and budget needed to keep the marketing automation platform running smoothly.

Medieval cobblestones
My take: Without these factors in place, buying an advanced marketing automation platform and expect the ill-prepared marketing manager to benefit from it, is like buying a brand new Ferrari F1 race car, give it to a pizza delivery guy in Rome (with fuel and a full, retained pit crew of course), and tell him he’ll deliver pizza’s across town a 1,000 times faster (and much hotter too). All technical reports, all sports analysts, and all Ferrari fans would agree that that’s a terrific investment, because pizza’s are usually cold on delivery, there simply isn’t a better F1 race car around, and the mechanics will make sure it runs to its full capacity. Of course some of the preconditions to use the car proficiently – like a F1 Super License, access to the Autodrome Nationale Monza race track, some level of racing expertise, and a very wealthy sponsor – wouldn’t have made it into the purchase decision conversation. And hence our poor pizza delivery guy races the streets of Rome at 500+ mph, crashes his racehorse into the Fontane di Trevi, all hot pizza’s drown, and the good people of Rome starve, yet again. Stuck in the middle between a great vision and lots of medieval cobblestones.

Must be a hard game
Forrester’s Marketing Automation Maturity Model was first introduced in 2008. 3 years later, even great case study type companies still haven’t been able to make it past levels 1 and 2. You figure it out.

Pizza, anyone?

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Brand Management, Content Marketing, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing ROI, Social Media, Uncategorized

Rant on Marketing while boarding an airplane

– “So, tell me, do we have any cool new marketing campaigns upcoming?”, a fellow European colleague asked me, while we were getting ready to board our ride from San Francisco back to Amsterdam earlier today. He is one of our best technical sales engineers.

– “What do you mean when you say ‘marketing campaign’?”, I asked in return.

– “Well, you know,” he replied, “with solid price promotions, lots of advertising, events, online banners, emails, that kind of stuff – marketing campaigns!”

– “I don’t think we’ll have those types of marketing campaigns ever again,” I said.

– He: “Are you serious? So what’s marketing doing to get new customers signed up, and develop them into loyal, frequently spending accounts – if not by running cool campaigns?”

– I: “Well for one, we’ll stop shouting at them, pushing them around, pulling them in by the hair kicking and screaming. We’ll be talking to them where they are, when they’re ready to engage, delivering the right messages for that very specific person, place, time, business challenge, and conversation. To show them we understand their world, and that we’re the ones best suited to help them solve their problems.”

– “Okay! But how will they ever know that you’re the one to talk to about their pains and itches? You’d still need a conversation starter, wouldn’t you? Something to get the engagement going, like an event, email, or telephone call? Isn’t that what marketing is?

– “No, that’s not what marketing is, that’s what marketing has been turned into by people who think customers are cash cows with short memory spans. Marketing proper represents markets, customers and prospects within the company, making sure the right products and services are created, delivered, supported, and constantly improved in order to create maximum customer value and brand equity.”

– “…”

– “You see, Marketing proper drives and advocates business focus, high quality content and engagements, two way communications, and actual listening to customers and prospects. That has little to do with fancy events, bulky billboards, and unsollicited emails, don’t you agree?”

– “Uh, yeah sure, if you say so. But I bet the sales guys would disagree. They love fancy events!”

– “By no means. They’re sales guys, so this is core to their everyday reality. They grasp the value of a good conversation. They understand that high quality engagements eventually result in extended customer life cycles, deeper investment, and greater customer loyalty. They know this approach will pay off. And apropos: The days that high value conversations where taking place at industry events, have long gone. Event marketing in the B2B segment has become a business in and of its own, one which is delivering ever lower show rates and returns on investment. It’s an old school, zero conversion marketing tactic, and smart sales guys know this. Even they stopped showing up to man our stand!”

This is where we boarded our plane, and I started writing this entry.

What do you think Marketing should aspire to?

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Blogging, Brand Management, Content Marketing, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Online events, Online Marketing, Social Media

How to brief a B2B blog?

Friday Marketing Musings, 14 January 2011

Many companies have a hard time managing their blogs. You can tell by just clicking through any corporate website’s blogger section. They’re all too often not updated frequently, killed by too much “editorial guidance”, not engaging, and too inside-out in their content. Nevertheless, as I wrote last week, you don’t need much more in the online universe than a Twitter stream, some strong blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to create a rich brand experience. So I just wanted to share some considerations around blogs, and how to keep them adding value to your marketing and communications setup.

Two new European NetApp blogs
Over the last 3 weeks, we launched two new blogs for NetApp in EMEA. John Rollason’s “JR’s IT Pad” will be providing European storage industry insights, targeting analysts, press, partners and competition. Tim Waldron’s “Tim’s Tales” will be more about bridging the gap between business and technical functions within (prospective) customer audiences DMU’s, covering new technology concepts, European customer implementations, storage and data management innovations. John runs Product, Solutions and Alliances marketing for EMEA; Tim is a Business Solutions Architect in our GEO. It took them about 2 minutes to figure out the Typepad Blog Content Management System, so don’t be put off by any concerns there.

Example: NetApp @ Cisco Live Europe 2011
As a side note: Both bogs will be vital in the communications strategy around our Golden Sponsorship for Cisco Live Europe 2011 (London, 31 Jan – 3 Feb 2011). I spent some time this week creating our Virtual Booth for that event in the INXPO virtual event platform the organisation provides as part of the sponsorship agreement. If you can’t travel to London, you can gain complementary acces to our virtual booth here. It holds an event blog, Social Media streams, all kinds of premium content, a live chat box, and a API integration into Facebook Live Stream. Check out the booth during the event, and let me know what you think by sending me a DM in Twitter. Our event hashtag for Twitter is #NetAppCiscoLive (general event hashtag: #CLEU), if you want to keep track early February.

John will be talking to press, analysts and customers during the event, and sharing his insights on his blog. Tim will be part of the stand staff, and reporting on his blog whenever he has some time off from booth duty. We’ll equip him with a flipcam, a photo camera and a notebook to share whatever he thinks is worth sharing. Also, Tim and Paul Sudlow (EMEA Alliances Technical Lead) will be on the panel of an Ask the Expert live webcast that we will be hosting from the show floor. Again, our Virtual Booth is the place to be if you’re interested.

Blogger tactics
The Cisco Live Europe 2011 tactic is a good example of how corporate blogs should be positioned in the market place: avoid overlap in content, create an editorial calendar in support of major marketing communications milestones (product launches, programs, campaigns, events, channel activity), and integrate all blogs with all relevant social media streams you run out there. The blogger team should become a highly skilled team of defenders, strategists, attackers, strikers, thought leaders and educators, finding ever new ways of communicating corporate messaging to relevant audiences, referring to people and content within the corporate domain.

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Interactive Marketing, Marcom, Online Marketing, Social Media

The Corporate Website is Dead

Friday Marketing Musings, 7 January 2010

Blogging is dead, Email is dead, Pay-per-Click is dead, hell: even TechCrunch recently got reported dead. If you haven’t announced anything dead over the last days, you’re just not much of a marketing guru. Don’t we all like to play Nietzsche’s Zarathustra – God is dead! -, just to show our authority and insight into the inner workings of our industries? So let me add another one: the corporate website, as we know it, is dead.

Let’s be fair: outside of e-commerce focused web property, corporate websites are obsolete. Who needs them? Did you recently browse through one, looking for anything other than contact information? I bet you didn’t, and neither did I. You usually already know all the relevant updates in there just by being on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and reading a couple of blogs, don’t you?

Looking at it from a vendor’s perspective: in owned media, some profiles, a Twitter account and a good mix of corporate blogs is all you need to come up with a solid communications strategy and deep audience reach. The rest is up to the people updating the streams with fresh content.

The best corporate citizen spends time representing the company out there, in social space, referring prospects, customers, partners and investors to content and contacts within the company. Nobody has time to go browsing a complete website anyway. My goodness, it’s like reading War & Peace. On paper!

Corporate websites truly are the dinosaurs of the digital age, the fossils of the future, they’re the thing your grand father is still well able to keep up with, they’re the … the… Well, they’re just dead as a doornail! Bury them, dance on their graves, and make sure to tweet while at it!

Rather than on platforms, brand experiences will be created in interaction. Alas, communications will be social only.

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