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?

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.