Blogging, Brand Management, Content Marketing, Event Marketing, Marcom, Marketing Automation, Marketing ROI, Online Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Stories, Webcast

The Perfect B2B Content Mix

MixerI don’t think business-to-business communications as a discipline was ever as exciting and challenging as it is today. The convergence of available platforms, data and social media effectively provides marketers with endless opportunities to find prospective buyers among both suspects and customers.

At the same time, traditional ways of informing, engaging and transacting with customers are being scrutinized. The overhead of traditional PR, direct marketing, events and retail drives a tremendous shift towards online and mobile engagement models.

We all know this.

The Shortest List
But it’s hard to find the right path in this landscape of endless possibilities, isn’t it? Which mix of vehicles, assets, platforms, programs – owned or sponsored – will generate the optimum stream of inbound contacts? I find that in todays online conversation, a million writers (usually agency reps or consultants) will tell you about the many millions of different things you can do to find and engage your audience; nowhere will you find a discrete list of stuff you can’t do without – a minimal set of things that should get you where you need to be.

So here is the list of things you cannot do without in your 2014 enterprise marketing mix:

For influencers, main objectives: education, value and timely interaction

  1. Solution-level blogs
  2. Solution-level webinars
  3. Relevant customer case studies (PDF, YouTube, SlideShare)
  4. Whitepapers
  5. Landing pages aggregating this content around specific topics
  6. Online testing, demonstration, comparison and/or ROI calculation capabilities
  7. Events (3rd party for suspects, owned for customers and prospects) to enable influencers to discover the offering and meet the vendor team.
  8. Database and telemarketing

For decision makers, main objectives: credibility and buy-in

  1. Thought leadership blogs and videos
  2. Branded editorial content integrated into relevant online and offline titles
  3. Events (3rd party for suspects, owned for customers and prospects, and to facilitate the prospect-customer conversation).
  4. Account strategy, access and relationship management at the C-level (a C-level program can never be marketing-only. It needs to be a joined effort with the sales leadership).

All of this has to be (a) continuously fuelled with crisp, audience-based content, (b) optimised for search and (c) 100% Social, Local and Mobile.

That’s it.

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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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Agency, Communications, Event Marketing, Internal Communications, Marketing ROI, Online events, Webcast

The α and ω of Internal Communications

I
Imagine an international company of 2000 employees with no intranet (or wiki’s, or Yammer), no employee newsletter in print or email, no bulletin boards, no narrow casting screens, no regular employee all hands meeting. Basically, this company doesn’t have an internal communications function, wouldn’t you agree?

Then imagine I gave you – brilliant marketing and communications strategist – EUR100,000 of my budget, and asked you to establish a channel for internal communications, and maintain it for one year. It’s an open brief, and the executive team is fully behind you.

What would you do?

II
Every 6 months, I run an event for all European employees of the company. We use it to look back, recognise the most valuable contributors to the company’s success, and look forward to what’s ahead of us. Since our VP EMEA said he wouldn’t have his workforce travel to a central location for the event (“It doesn’t generate direct revenue, so let’s find a cost efficient format”), we were forced to come up with something special.

With our partner Quadia, we created a live and interactive television show, broadcasted to all offices across EMEA. A state-of-the-art event, with professional host (the eminent Ronnie Overgoor), director, rehearsals, floor manager, TV crew, make-up – the whole shabang. We pre-record video items, ask employees to create content, and give them the opportunity to send in their questions and concerns.

Usually, the employee feedback on the event is 10 out of 10. The next edition will be in June. It’s a big thing.

III
But how does one calculate the ROI of internal communications?

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Blogging, Brand Management, Content Marketing, Marketing ROI, Sales, Social Media, Webcast

Social Media ROI. Rubbish. It’s free!

It’s hard to be in social media these days and avoid tweets, blog posts and webinars on the Return on Investment of “Social Media”. Apparently, marketers have to be taught how to sell the importance of “Social Media” to their CEOs. And research after research shows that marketers are allocating more and more of their dollars to “Social Media”. They would love to be accountable for that investment.

And that’s a good thing, but let’s be very clear here. Social Media do not take incremental budget. They’re essentially free. That is exactly why so many people, business and civilian, have embrased Social Media wholeheartedly. It doesn’t cost any money.

It’s free to create Twitter and Facebook accounts, launch blogs, build a LinkedIn profile, and attract followers. There is no marketing money involved in browsing the web for relevant communities to contribute to. I won’t raise a Purchase Order to ask a question during a free online seminar, would I?

You just need knowledgeable staff, with some time on their hands, great content for them to share and discuss, and a seasoned community manager with a content strategy in his back pocket.

“Hold on! Stop! Wait a second there! You said it was free, and now you tell me to go hire a seasoned – seasoned! – community manager, for the love of Christ?! And that guy will probably consult with an expensive agency, wouldn’t he? And he will be telling knowledgeable staff on how to behave online, at the risk of distracting them from their real day job?!? You don’t fool me: There is a cost to Social Media after all, and a sizeable one, if you ask me!”

Indeed, that does represent a considerable cost. But can’t you free up that money by sizing down your paid media staff, and investment? You know very well that social media will bring deeper brand connections, more engaged customers, and higher return on sales. Wouldn’t it be a great thing to have the whole company involved in external communications ?

O, and by the way: When was the last time you really, honestly calculated the ROI of your corporate website? Your customer event? Your email newsletter? Your Google AdWords campaign? Admit it: There is a whole host of things that are being taken for granted in marketing and communications, where nobody ever asks for ROI. We do it, because we do it, and don’t think twice about the money we spend.

As to Social Media: You need money to create great content, not to get it out to your target audiences.

It’s true, in marketing and communications, ROI is about the only metric we can bring forth to prove our raison d’etre. If you can’t produce it, you’re being earmarked as just another cost center, a parasite sucking the life out of sales operations and profitability – and you will probably face budget cut after budget cut for the rest of your career in marketing (if you’ll even have any). In Marketing, and even more so in Social Marketing, we need to show the ROI of every step we take.

But you know what: I bet your CEO isn’t even subscribed to your email newsletter, and she hasn’t set foot inside your corporate website for ages, either. So don’t worry about selling Social Media to your executive staff. And please don’t tell the researchers that you’re allocating 250% more budget to Social Media in this calendar year. You’re not. You’re investing in great content. The rest of it is free.

And there really isn’t a better Marketing ROI around, is there?

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Brand Management, Communicatie, Event Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marcom, Online events, Sales, Social Media, Webcast

Relationship branding (3): Event Marketing (Offline)

NetApp, Cisco en VMware promoten hun onderlinge samenwerking onder het thema ‘Imagine Virtually Anything’ (IVA). Market Awareness en Channel Enablement vormen de twee primaire doelstellingen voor marketingcommunicatie. Evenementen worden ingezet om prospects in direct contact te brengen met direct en channel sales. Een overzicht van drie typen evenementen: Industry Events, Channel Events en Online Events.

Industry Events: VMworld, Storage Networking World
Grote jaarlijkse branche-evenementen zoals VMworld Europe, VMware’s flagship event, en SNW Europe vormen de gelegenheid bij uitstek om relaties aan te knopen, te versterken en uit te venten.

Als een van vier Platinum Sponsors van VMworld Europe 2010 (12-14 oktober, Bella Center Kopenhagen, 5000+ betalende bezoekers) maakte NetApp deel uit van elke boodschap die de organisatie deed uitgaan in aanloop naar het evenement – een uitgelezen kans om het Imagine Virtually Anything-thema onder de aandacht van onze doelgroepen te brengen.

The NetApp beursstand op VMworld Europe 2010 (Kopenhagen, 12-14 Okt 2010)

Tijdens het evenement trokken NetApp IVA-voordrachten door Cloud Czar Val Bercovici, en Virtual Storage Guy Vaughn Stewart met VMware en Cisco volle zalen. Hisam Ahmad van T-Systems gaf een presentatie vanuit klantperspectief. Een van de demokiosken op onze beursstand was volledig gewijd aan IVA, en zowel Cisco als VMware stelden mensen beschikbaar die op onze stand aanwezig waren om prospects te woord te staan. Honderden badgescans worden in de komende dagen verwerkt, gekwalificeerd en met telemarketing opgevolgd.

Channel Events
In de eerste bijdrage van deze serie noemde ik het belang van het indirecte verkoopkanaal. Het is de taak van NetApp, Cisco en VMware om het Imagine Virtually Anything-thema over het voetlicht te brengen. IVA-gecertificeerde channel partners kunnen vervolgens van de bekendheid profiteren door lokaal evenementen te organiseren. Om hen daarbij te ondersteunen, werd een event marketing kit samengesteld op basis van content, sprekers en promotiemateriaal van NetApp, Cisco en VMware. De geplande channelevenementen zijn terug te vinden op de lokale IVA landing pages, met verwijzing naar de registratiepagina’s. Alle traffic die naar deze landing pages wordt geleid door search, PPC, sociale media en email marketing komt dus direct ten goede aan de gezamenlijke parners.

Wordt vervolgd: Online Events – NetApp TechTalk, Quadia en BrightTalk

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Bureau, Interactive Marketing, Online events, Online Marketing, Social Media, Webcast

Social Media in B2B – Wie het weet mag het zeggen!

[tweetmeme source= ‘henniphof’ only_single=false]Dit is aan de hand met Social Media: Iedereen heeft ‘t erover, weinigen doen het, een enkeling snapt hoe het werkt, en past die inzichten toe op een manier die ook inderdaad waarde toevoegt aan de marketingstrategie. Niet alleen Felipo vraagt zich dus af waar hij moet beginnen. Die vraag proberen wij de komende dagen te beantwoorden.

Ik schrijf dit in de Thalys van Amsterdam naar Brussel, waar een tweedaagse marketingbijeenkomst met het voltallige Europese team zal plaatsvinden. We werken al weken aan onze presentaties, breakout sessies en workshops. Zoals gebruikelijk dient zich ook een aantal Amerikanen aan, waaronder onze nieuwe Chief Marketing Officer Christine Heckart. Iedereen ziet reikhalzend uit naar haar eerste beslissingen. Waar komt de focus te liggen? Hoe denkt ze over de Geo’s EMEA en AsiaPac? Waar gaat ze investeren? Vanavond uit eten in Brussel – wellicht de kans een vraag (of 37) te stellen…

Om een begin van een antwoord op de SoMe-vraag te formuleren, staat morgenmiddag volledig in het teken van online marketing en Social Media. Onze Senior VP of Interactive Marketing spreekt. Onze corporate SoMe-specialist spreekt ook. En we hebben het Engelse bureau voor interactive marketing Blue Barracuda uitgenodigd een voordracht te verzorgen over de stand van zaken rond interactive marketing en SoMe in B2B. Wat zijn de voorwaarden voor een succesvolle strategie, welke voorbeelden zijn navolgenswaard, welke valkuilen dienen te worden vermeden? Hun ‘Big Fish’ Martin Talks heeft zijn huiswerk goed gedaan en opent naar verwachting de ogen van de aanwezige Field Marketing Managers.

Martins inleiding wordt vervolgens in 4 parallelsessies uitgewerkt, voor de volgende Europese marketingprogramma’s en campagne’s:

1. NetApp Storage Efficiency campagne. Doel: Meer, nieuwe doelgroepen, intensiever betrekken in een campagne voor eindgebruikers.

2. NetApp Tech OnTap e-mailnieuwsbrief. Doel: Nieuwe abonnees werven, bestaande abonnees activeren, nieuwsbrief beter localiseren (relevanter maken voor lokale doelgroepen), en gebruiken om meer traffic te genereren voor lokale sales- en marketing activiteiten.

3. NetApp TechTalk live webcastprogramma. Doel: Registraties, deelname en response op opvolgactiviteiten vergroten. Doelgroepen betrekken bij de content.

4. NetApp Innovation EMEA customer event series. Doel: Registraties, deelname en response op opvolgactiviteiten vergroten. Gedurende evenementen bezoekers inschakelen om over het evenement en de content te communiceren. Elke groep presenteert in de plenaire sessie, waarna een Committee van Wijzen het programma aanwijst waarmee op korte termijn zal worden begonnen.

Dan weten we waar we staan en wat we aan Social Media gaan doen.

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Bureau, Interactive Marketing, Marketing ROI, Online events, Online Marketing, Webcast

ON24 Virtual Events – Investering met een lange staart

[tweetmeme source= ‘henniphof’ only_single=false]Gister in Schiphol-Rijk gesproken met iemand van ON24, die een nieuw concept introduceerde: Virtual Event. Het is een eenvoudig idee. Mensen hebben geen budget meer om naar grote evenementen te reizen. Bedrijven aarzelen om in dergelijke activiteiten te investeren, waardoor sponsorbijdragen niet meer vanzelf spreken. Online marketing daarentegen levert steeds meer, steeds betere leads op. Marketers vergaren prospectdata, begrijpen het belang van permissie, proberen hun boodschap steeds relevanter te maken, en boeken meetbare vooruitgang – waar organisatoren van offline evenementen dikwijls worstelen om de tribunes gevuld te krijgen.

Een virtual event is daarom een logische volgende stap (overigens niet nieuw, maar door voortschrijdende techniek wint de gebruikerservaring aan kwaliteit): een online evenement, waarbij de content wordt gepresenteerd in een interactieve, virtuele omgeving (soort SecondLife, maar dan overzichtelijk), met informatiestands, auditorium, netwerkruimte, et cetera. De bezoeker logt in wanneer dat uitkomt, loopt rond van stand naar stand, bekijkt key note speeches (vodcasts), neemt deel aan chatsessies (live chat), stopt pdf-brochures in het virtuele tasje (o, o, net echt, ja), netwerkt met andere bezoekers, kortom: hij doet alles wat hij tijdens een offline evenement doet (behalve laffe broodjes eten), maar dan vanuit de luie stoel, onder het genot van een pilsje.

De cynicus zegt: “Zo’n virtueel evenement is gewoon een sjiek archief voor allerlei content die toch al voorhanden was, en een excuus de database nog eens aan te schrijven erbij.” Touché.

Maar goed: best een duur archief, want de kosten bedragen circa EUR25,000, afhankelijk van het aantal beursstands, de hoeveelheid content, de aanpassing van het basisontwerp, de gevraagde interactieve features. Een eerste bijkomend voordeel is dat je voordeliger sponsorpakketten voor partners kunt aanbieden, bestaande uit een stand, een key note, wat pdf’s. Daarnaast kun je het evenement langer aanhouden dan bij offline evenementen het geval is. En door van tijd tot tijd nieuwe content toe te voegen, creëer je steeds nieuwe mogelijkheden voor communicatie en interactie. De doelgroep kwalificeert zich door minder of meer te bekijken, te downloaden en aan te vragen. Een forse initiële investering dus, maar een met mogelijkheden en een lange staart. Partijen in IT, Pharma, Financials gingen ons voor…

Als je EUR100 per lead wilt neertellen, wat voor online events aan de hoge kant is, voor offline events een schijntje – dan kon deze vorm de moeite van het testen best waard zijn. Samen met je partners moet het toch mogelijk zijn 250 gekwalificeerde leads uit een dergelijke opzet te halen?

Ideeën? Ervaringen?

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