Inbound Marketing

Bringing Balance to Demand Generation

Those of us who are responsible for demand generation — that is creating programs that provide business opportunities to sales — often have to walk a fine line between driving revenue and long term customer relationship building. As clearly demonstrated in many blog posts by others before, direct marketing has fundamentally changed due to the proliferation of data available to prospects online and technologies to filter out marketing messages. Prospects are no longer willing to be interrupted by messaging about brands. However, this does not mean that we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Search continues to be a strong driver of pipeline opportunities. This is further demonstrated by the fact that SEM campaigns that are targeted continue to drive results. Additionally, prospects continue to subscribe to receive newsletters and other brand communications via email. This may seem contrary to the opening contention of this blog post — that prospects are no longer willing to receive brand messaging. The key here is relevance.

So What Is A Direct Marketer To Do?

For many, the search bar is the gateway to the internet and it is where brand engagement begins. When someone enters a search term they are looking for an answer to a question. The key is to make your offerings the answer to that question. This shift in online behavior has lead to the rise of inbound marketing which is predicated on brands being findable online. Good inbound marketing has at its backbone a solid understanding of the target customer, a content marketing strategy built around this knowledge, coupled with strong SEO and timely offers. I have written in previous articles about the benefits of content marketing and inbound so I will not delve into that here — the only thing I will reinforce is that for inbound marketing to be successful it needs to be squarely focused on customer pain points and how to solve them through compelling offers.

Know Your Customer Better

To be relevant you must first know your customer. This calls for building a customer database and analyzing your best customers to determine their key motivators, barriers and pain points. Focus on the problems your customers are trying to solve and how you can help them. Think about the search terms they are they entering and why. An effective inbound strategy is guided by the content narrative that flows from this analysis. Once this foundation has been built it is for the direct marketer to determine the most effective channels and programs to engage with customers. But what should be our engagement strategy across these channels — when do we simply inform vs sell, sell, sell?

Keeping a Balanced Narrative

Glengary Glen Ross says “always be closing, always be closing” but your demand gen strategy needs to be more flexible than that. The key to maintaining the balance between demand creation and long term customer relationship building is knowing when customers are passively searching for answers to questions and those pivotal moments when they are actively searching for a solution. It needs to deliver content for prospects in both scenarios while maintaining a focus on how your offerings can solve their problems. Done right, this will naturally lead to those moments when prospects will expect you to close them. And this is when you should never be shy about asking a simple question — would you like to speak with sales?

Marketing & Sales Alignment

Revenue Marketing 101: Get Out of The Office and Spend Time With Sales

In my previous post “Think Your Marketing Doesn’t Need to Show ROI? Here’s Why You’re Wrong” I discussed the importance of revenue marketing which aims to drive revenue by using content and lead nurturing to answer the questions of key decision makers that are party to the buying journey.  This way of marketing relies heavily on two things — deep knowledge of the customer and a keen understanding of the buying process.

A Tale of Two Marketers

Deep knowledge of the customer is the guiding principle behind customer segmentation and further, persona development (insights on personal development via The Buyer Persona Institute).  The challenge that many marketers face is in understanding the buying process. Some of you may have come into Marketing through Sales and therefore, have intimate, first-hand knowledge of the journey the buyer takes to arrive at the purchase decision.  Some of you, may have been born and raised in Marketing and as such do not have the luxury of first-hand knowledge. So if you’re in the latter group what are you to do?  The answer is what I and many others consider to be the most important (first) step in revenue marketing — aligning with Sales.

Aligning Marketing & Sales: Like Any Good Relationship, Quality Time Is Key

“It’s so sad to see when two people who have so much in common – all the same interests, the same sense of humour, the same goals – never become a couple. The same heartbreak often occurs among sales and marketing teams.”

– Sylvia Jensen, How To Spark a Romance Between Sales and Marketing

In her recent blog post for Eloqua entitled 7 Ways Your Sales and Marketing Can Align, Sylvia Jensen lays out 7 key ingredients to Sales and Marketing alignment.  The first ingredient she discussed is “ride-alongs”.

Yes marketers, in order to learn about the sales process and gain first hand knowledge about buyers, your best bet is to go on sales calls — and go on them often.  I would argue that revenue marketers should spend at least 2 days a month with customers to validate buyer personas, tweak your knowledge of the revenue cycle and to form a strong partnership with sales.  In this way you can begin to close the knowledge gap around the sales cycle.

To Take Your Relationship to The Next Level, Give More Than You Take

But it isn’t only about you is it?  The other reason ride-alongs are great is to understand what tools the sales force needs.  What information do they call upon when meeting with different buying decision makers?  How useful do they find the tools already developed by Marketing? Are there significant gaps in these tools?  This is invaluable information that can be gleaned simply by being present and participating.  I can think of many examples of sales tools that I and my teams have developed over the years that originated from these activities.

Aside from filling gaps by developing content that answer the key questions of buyers during their decision making process, ride alongs also give Sales the opportunity to provide input into the creation of the tools they will eventually use.  What’s great about this is that by including Sales early in the process, the resulting sales enablement tools will likely have greater utility and adoption.

At the end of the day, your tools are only good if they are useful.  To make the most useful tools you have to spend time with the people that intend to use them.  Granted, there is more to revenue marketing than alignment with Sales (as I have written in previous posts here) but, without it you will find your demand generation efforts dead in the water.

Content Marketing

Think Your Marketing Doesn’t Need to Show ROI? Here’s Why You’re Wrong

What are the goals of your content marketing efforts?  This is a the quintessential question to ask before embarking upon your content marketing journey — arguably equally as important as knowing the story you or your brand aims to convey to your prospective customers.  Many B2B brands list a myriad of business goals they aim to solve through content marketing. Some of these are listed in the graphic below (excerpt from the Content Marketing Institute & MarketingProfs report “B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends”):

As you can see two of the top three goals — customer acquisition and lead generation — are squarely focused on creating pipeline sales opportunities.  This increased emphasis on revenue specifically, marketing being able to prove it’s role in driving measurable demand, is notable and an admission that this historically has not been our strong suit.

This statement is reaffirmed by a recent Harvard Business Review blog post (albeit with a rather inflammatory title) entitled Marketing Is Dead where they write:

“In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.”

So as marketers we have a responsibility to leverage our deep uderstanding of the customer, their motivations and objections, and then use these insights to guide content marketing efforts.

In order to continue to enjoy executive buy-in for marketing programs, the focus of our content creation must be to drive revenue by answering the buying questions of key decision makers that are party to the buying journey.  This does not mean that we need to completely abandon brand awareness, thought leadership and driving user engagement — quite the contrary — but today’s B2B marketer needs to accept a greater level of accountability for revenue generation to continue to retain that seat at the decision maker’s table.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing in Healthcare – Not So Different From Other B2B

What is Content, Anyway?

Content is not a new concept. As marketers, we design, write and manage the development of content every day. From advertisements and sales collateral to experience papers and websites, content creation is a big part of our jobs. As a result, I’m willing to bet that your marketing organization has no shortage of content. So what are healthcare marketers missing?

Healthcare Marketing Lags Behind Other B2B in Content Marketing

According to recent study conducted by the research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, the healthcare industry is lagging behind other B2B industries in content marketing:

    • Health care companies outsource content marketing at a higher rate than other industries: Compared to all other industries in the study, health care brands outsource some portion of content marketing at approximately a 40 percent higher clip (63 percent, compared with an average of 45 percent).
    • Health care companies struggle with content marketing effectiveness: Just 28 percent of respondents feel that their content marketing is successful in solving their overall marketing objectives.
    • Health care companies use social media less often: Of the top 10 social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), health care companies show substantially decreased usage — except for one: YouTube (video). Also, the total number of platforms used is lower than that of other industries — 4.5 channels leveraged versus 3.6 for health care companies).

CMI’s research also details the top three healthcare content marketing challenges:

    • Producing enough content – 20%
    • Lack of budget – 17%
    • Producing the kind of content that engages – 16%

So how can this industry overcome these challenges – and become content marketing machines?

Know your Audience

In my previous post, I talked about this new Marketing world we all live in, like it or not. A dramatic shift from traditional “push marketing” tactics to telling stories that matter to our customers. As content creators, this means asking ourselves a very important question: Is our content tailored to our audience’s needs – or is it one-size-fits all?

In a recent blog post, Barb Schmitz of CMI recapped sessions from day one of the Content Marketing World Health Summit (November 7 – 8, Cleveland, OH). I found the following excerpt from the session entitled “Content Marketing Strategy and Pharma” particularly insightful:

Content should be personalized. Content creation should be a multi-phase process: Ask a lot of questions, figure out what your customers want, determine what already exists, think like a publisher, and make it part of your process” – Buddy Scalera, Senior VP, Interactive Content and Market Research, Ogilvy CommonHealth Interactive Marketing

Determine your Content Goals

Once you have a comprehensive understanding of your target audience, the next step is to determine the actions and behaviors you want to affect with your content. James Boye-Doe of Strategy4Content (blog) recently discussed the need for a content strategy and mission statement in How Not to Fail at your Content Marketing Efforts.

In this post, James points out: “this all boils down knowing the story you aim to tell and forming a content strategy that communicates your story in a compelling way to your current and future customers”. Well said.

Carving out your content mission and strategy might be the most challenging aspect of your content marketing – but it is also the most important factor for the success of your program.

Deliver your Content in a Compelling Way

By now, we know that it is vital to understand our audience along every stage of their buying process – and tell stories that matter to them. This is half the battle. The next challenge is how best to deliver these stories.

Here are seven great vehicles to share your healthcare marketing content:

1. Infographics: Easily digestible graphics used for data visualization. These graphics work well to visually depict clinical data and healthcare statistics. And they are also good for those with a short attention span (hint, healthcare providers and patients). Infographics were discussed in a previous post entitled Infographics and the B2B Marketer – Why Should You Care?

2. Online Events / Webinars: Discuss current issues facing healthcare – or demonstrate a new procedural technique. Webinars are a great way to share content with your audience. You can also repurpose this content on your blog, website, etc. Example: Webinars

3. Blogs Posts: Blogs are a great way to communicate your story, share ideas and interact with your target audience. Blogs can also act as the hub for all of your content – and work exceptionally well to improve your ranking on Google, which favors sites that are updated regularly and in a meaningful way. A great example of a healthcare blog done right is The Cleveland Clinic’s HealthHub blog

4. Curated content: Compile the latest evidence or industry trends from your healthcare space into a blog post, white paper or video. This allows your audience to obtain all of this vital information in one place while positioning your company as a trusted source. The nice thing about curating content – is that you can use many different vehicles to deliver it – and have the flexibility to divide up the content as needed. Example: Healthcare Social Media News

5. Slideshows: Companies store a large amount of customer-centric content on slides. I’m sure at one point or another, you’ve asked yourself how best to share data or other relevant information from your slide decks with your customers. Ever heard of SlideShare? It’s like social media for presentations. Here’s a great example: From Content to Customer- How to Generate Demand with Content Marketing

6. Videos: Film a testimonial, a procedure or a success story – embed it in your blog posts or on your website. Make it interactive. We know as consumers of content that we tend to prefer websites that offer multiple ways to digest the same content. Video is just one (important) way of delivering your content.

7. Email / Newsletters: Use this as a vehicle to promote your webinars / events, share your curated content and retain your current customers.

Now that we’ve defined content and shared some ideas on how to deliver it – here’s my question (and also my challenge) for you:

Are you ready to transform the way you develop content – and become a content marketing machine?

Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing

“Stop Selling Ships. Start Selling Destinations.” Reflections on Content Marketing

“Stop selling ships.  Start selling destinations”

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?   But what does it mean?  I pulled this quote from a B2B Marketing Forum which I attended two weeks ago in Boston, sponsored by Marketing Profs. It was, in essence, the overall theme of the conference – offer value beyond product.    Across every industry, B2B Marketers are discovering new ways to capture and engage their audience.

For today,  I will focus on the  hottest topic at this year’s conference:  Content Marketing.  The message was loud and clear — B2B Marketing organizations everywhere are shifting from traditional “push marketing” tactics to telling stories that matter to their customers.

So what “is” Content Marketing, anyway?

“Content marketing is the art of understanding exactly what your customers need to know and delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way to grow your business.”  – Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute

Again, sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?  Just like you might be doing, I asked myself:  “What does this actually mean, what’s in it for us (in the healthcare marketing space) and how can we make it happen”? I thought a lot about this, read articles, blog posts, talked to colleagues – and went to conferences.  Now, I’d like to share with you some highlights of Content Marketing that resonated with me:

What keeps your customers up at night?

This is all about identifying your customer’s pain points.  Every great content story starts with having an intricate understanding of customer segments, and tailoring messages accordingly.  Make it relevant – help them solve a problem and create great content around it.  Then, make the content easy to find for your audience.

Think of the customer’s journey toward selecting a vendor

Consider the pathway your customers take toward purchasing decisions.  Are they researching online or relying on their peers?   It’s about gaining a deeper understanding of how your customers research potential vendors / suppliers and what information they require at each stage of their process.

What questions will they have along the journey?

While a customer is researching your business and consuming your content, they will inevitably have questions along the way.  How can we anticipate their questions and concerns, and provide answers to those questions at the right time and in the right way? It goes back to knowing what your customers care about – and facilitating ongoing collaboration.

This includes talking to customer service, talking to sales representative – all key stakeholders – and identifying those key customer questions and documenting them.

Answer those questions with … (wait for it)….CONTENT!

At the end of the day it’s about answering our customer’s questions with valuable, relevant information.  Information that helps them solve a problem, makes their jobs easier or helps them make an informed decision.   The following quote says it best:

“It’s About Telling Stories That Matter.  This is much more than offering product information, but rather it extends into providing best practices, case studies, success stories, thought leadership, and more. Once you have delivered relevant content, you become a trusted resource. Content marketing enables companies to build a level of trust among their customers that makes it easy for those customers to buy. This is easy to say but hard to do because it almost certainly means changing the way you think and act about marketing.”   – Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute

Very well said.

Content Marketing is really about building trust

While product-specific marketing materials are also important, it is vital to develop content that positions your company as a thought leader and a trusted partner. The trust comes from your ability to bring success to your customers by answering their questions and addressing their pain points.  Sound a little soft?  I get that.  I often have to remind myself that B2B purchase decisions are still emotional ones.  They are still consumers, at the end of the day – looking for a brand they can trust.  Just as we are.

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts on Content Marketing – I’m interested to hear from you.

Do you believe that Content Marketing is the right approach for your business?


Content Marketing

How Not to Fail At Your Content Marketing Efforts

I have written extensively and shared on LinkedIn and other social networks about the importance of content marketing in B2B marketing.  Of course I am not alone.  A recent survey conducted by MarketingProfs entitled B2B Content Marketing: Trends and Benchmarks for 2012 affirms the rising importance of content marketing for the modern marketer.  One point from the survey bears repeating:

“Among B2B marketers, successful content starts with engaging and compelling storytelling (81.5%), originality (52.6%), and customized content (49.2%), followed by well-edited copy (38.5%) and professional writing (38.3%)”

I would argue that this needs to go one step further — we need to know the why of our content marketing efforts.  This is a critical step that most marketers gloss over. In the rush to keep up with the Jones’ we often overlook the why and go straight to the how (e.g., “our competition has a Facebook page, so we need to be on Facebook now! Instead of what is it that we aim to accomplish and what vehicles will help us achieve those goals?”).  This all boils down to knowing the story you aim to tell and forming a content strategy that communicates your story in a compelling way to your current and future customers.

Strategy First, Content Second

Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute has written and presented on this point extensively. I had the pleasure of attending Joe’s session during the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston last week. During this session there were many tweetable comments but the one that stuck with me was this:

@boyedoe: Define your editorial mission BEFORE you begin creating content. This will bring focus & clarity to your content @juntajoe #mpb2b

His reasoning for this was driven home by his recent post on this topic entitled Why You Need a Content Marketing Mission Statement in which he writes:

Marketing professionals from so many small and large businesses get so fixated on channels such as blogs, Facebook or Pinterest that they honestly have no clue of the underlying content strategy.

We know content is a powerful weapon within the modern marketer’s arsenal, but without a content strategy (e.g., what you want to say, why you want to say it and to whom you want to say it to) your content marketing efforts will often miss the mark. In short, in marketing it’s important to tell your story (Even in B2B); and ensure your content communicates it clearly.

So my question to you is this — what is your content marketing mission statement?

Marketing Competencies, Uncategorized

The Path I Traveled To Arrive At This Place

Often career paths can be circuitous and at times feel random. But when you arrive at a moment when it all clicks into place, you know it was where you were heading the entire time.


I was born in Ghana, West Africa to Alexander and Evelyn. My parents both entered the medical field – my father as an OB/GYN and my mother as a Pediatrician. My early exposure to the field through conversations with my parents, spending time in their offices, being around patients and yes, even watching some of the medical videos, nurtured a curiosity in me about the healthcare field. I remember most vividly watching my first labor and delivery video. For some reason people always thought it would be nice to send those to their doctor. I often wished they had spared us this courtesy. You would think that after these formative experiences I would want to follow in my parent’s footsteps. You would be wrong. As many children of physicians will tell you, I was in no rush to become a doctor.

No, when I was a child I was obsessed with computers. My most prized possession was my Tandy TRS-80 computer. It was a clunker but I spent hours programming on it. At a very early age I learned about computers and structured approaches to problem solving. One program I was particularly proud of was my ATM machine emulator. I remember my mother going on about how Citibank was the first bank to have their own teller network.

I was fascinated with those ATMs and learned all of the prompts so I could go home and build an interactive program that mimicked all of the functionality, minus the giving you cash part of course – after all, I wasn’t a criminal. It was awesome. There was something so elegant about computer programming – so logical even though life often wasn’t. I maintained my passion for computing throughout school even though I didn’t major in it.

I attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City which is a specialized Math and Science high school. Of course I took a lot of science classes – even played the violin. Both of these pursuits moderately held my interest, but I ultimately matriculated with a major in English and a keen interest in political science. At the time even I was scratching my head – what in the world was I going to do with this random collection of interests and how was I going to make a career out of this?

Rather than concern myself with answering that question then, instead I accepted my admission into Oberlin College and I jumped headfirst into the liberal arts college experience. Being a very liberal, liberal arts school I added non-traditional classes to my repertoire like West African Dance and Middle Eastern Studies both of which I greatly enjoyed. West African Dance was a particularly fond memory for me – being from Africa I felt more connected to my culture through the dances I learned and through dance I found a form of expression that gave me a freedom I could never feel with violin or any other instrument I had taken up in the past.

I attended Oberlin for two years and had a fantastic time – too good of a time in fact. You see I still hadn’t answered that question – you know, what are you going to do with your life? I was more interested in having fun and partying. I didn’t want to over-plan my destination; better to enjoy the journey. The problem was I was enjoying myself so much that my parent’s realized that if I stayed I would never graduate. So I left Oberlin after my sophomore year and transferred to the University of Chicago.

At Chicago I focused squarely on political science while taking a number of computer science classes; enough in fact to graduate with an undeclared comsci minor. While at Chicago I also took a programming job at a small computer firm in Hyde Park (their name escapes me unfortunately – consequence of time passing). After my first year at Chicago I also took an internship at AT&T in their famous Bell Laboratories division. I was surrounded by Nobel Laureates, PhDs and countless engineers who had forgotten more about programming and data system design than I had ever learned. It was a great environment and it reminded me of my passion for computing.

After graduating from the University of Chicago with a political science major and a computer science minor, I accepted a position within the elemedia Venture of what was now Lucent Technologies (spun off from AT&T). I was initially responsible for coding and testing one of elemedia’s products for streaming music over the internet, but quickly became interested in how we would communicate to potential customers how our solution would address their needs. It was then that I began making a purposeful transition into marketing.

I volunteered to take over responsibility for the venture’s website, staffing industry tradeshows, and executing the communications plan. My background in technology made me a credible choice, but my training in English and public speaking and performing arts was what allowed me to excel in this role. Shortly thereafter the “little venture that could” attained profitability according to what was laid out in the strategic plan and Lucent decided to re-integrate elemedia into the mothership. Unfortunately, Lucent fell victim to the dotcom crash and closed down elemedia and a number of other divisions, so in early 2000 I found myself out of a job.

While at Lucent, I began attending Stevens Institute of Technology where I was pursuing a MBA in Technology Management. The downsizing at Lucent allowed me to accelerate my education. At Stevens I took the traditional MBA courses – marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, statistics, strategy – but also some non-traditional ones like management information systems, rapid product development, engineering management, project management, and organizational design. It was an incredibly engaging experience. I had finally found my niche and a place where I was unique. I had found a discipline in marketing and an industry in hi-tech that would allow me to take advantage of my comfort in the sciences and the liberal arts.

Riding high on my newfound clarity I joined the marketing group of a small healthcare IT startup after graduating from Stevens. Unfortunately we had a short run but during the search for my next move, I came across an opportunity at Olympus Surgical America.

I hadn’t considered medical devices as an industry before this point but then, given my upbringing, training and career path, it seemed to be a good fit.


I joined Olympus’ marketing team as an associate product manager. I remained at Olympus for just shy of 4 years and was promoted to roles of increasing responsibility ultimately rising to Senior Product Manager – I was on my way. When the time came for me to move on from Olympus I looked for a role with a medical device company that had a keen focus on marketing. After a brief search I chose to join Covidien as a Marketing Manager.

From December 2008 through October 2011 I ran thoracic surgery marketing for the US. During that time period I devoted myself once again to becoming a student of marketing – sharpening my understanding of core marketing fundamentals, demand generation and team leadership. It was an uncomfortable yet, exhilarating time. Then in November of 2011 after performing a player-coach role for about a year, I was promoted to Director of Marketing. I had arrived.

This past year has been very exciting. I have focused my team on marketing fundamentals and demand generation. I have brought focus, process and accountability to marketing and instilled within my team the importance of linking marketing strategy to execution through marketing systems. My timing could not have been more perfect. You see, at the same time the discipline of marketing was changed. This is demonstrated by the rise of demand generation processes through revenue performance management, content marketing, marketing automation and social media marketing.

I can’t think of a time where there has been more of a need for trained marketers that live and breathe digital but have a focus on healthcare. You might call it luck, but I will simply say this:


There is no such thing as luck, only the serendipitous union of diligent preparation and the right opportunity.

Marketing & Sales Alignment

Inspiring Collaboration Through Great Storytelling

Maybe it was the 2 weeks of political conventions or the master class in oratory delivered by Bill Clinton at the DNC this week, but I’ve got storytelling on my mind.

Act I: State The Challenge

One of the key elements that marketers consistently struggle with is managing and coordinating demand generation programs across digital, sales enablement and events channels. We intuitively know that there is strength in numbers. We dare to dream about multi-layered campaigns where our digital efforts are synchronized with and supported by sales activities/initiatives which in turn align with what we do at in-person events. The goal, of course, is that these activities are meaningful and significantly different across channels while still supporting one consistent story.

This all sounds great, but there are challenges that make it difficult to execute in this fashion. One of these challenges is that these three channels do not always report into marketing. So what is a marketer to do? The good news is that this is nothing new.

Act II: Reaching Across The Aisle

One of the core competencies of Marketing is the ability to execute initiatives cross-functionally without reporting authority. Our expertise is in goal alignment and then developing a plan collaboratively with our cross functional partners and then executing on that plan — as a team. But it’s not only about aligning on goals. No, we need to rely more heavily on another expertise for this particular challenge.

Act III: Use Your Story To Rally The Troops

I’ve written before of the importance of telling a story. A clear story increases the likelihood that your message comes across loud and clear to your target audience. But a good story can also inspire internal groups to rally behind your plan. So as you put together your cross channel initiatives, don’t overlook the importance of a clear vision and making that vision come alive for your cross functional partners. This more than anything else may significantly contribute to your plan’s success.