Items in the‘Thought Leadership’ Category
When You Open Your Mouth, Have a Point
When ever I think of stories, I’m always reminded of one of the best movie lines of all time from a movie full of great ones, “Trains, Planes and Automobiles”. Steve Martin (Neal) has already had his fill of John Candy’s (Del) character and finally loses it after hearing another of Del’s stories:
“And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea … have a POINT. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.”
Don’t you wish every encounter with a seller started with a story that had a point? Lately all my dealings with sales folks have been maddening. I feel like asking them, “what’s your point, because I really don’t understand what you want and why I should listen to you”. It seems that sellers are too busy focusing on the WHAT and HOW, that they almost always forget the WHY. Without the WHY, there is no story and nothing for me to connect to for context that makes the story interesting and makes me curious.
Start with the Point
Just once I wish a sales person who has never met me before would take some time and do enough research so that he starts the conversation with a very clear point. Let me give you an example. Since I deal with a large number of CEOs, I have found that having stories that relate to beliefs and challenges that they typically deal with to be important to make that vital connection at the start of conversation. One of my favorites goes like this:
“Hi John, can I share a story with you about another CEO who believed that their must be a simpler way for his sales team to talk about his company (product) with his target buyers?”
The answer is usually yes, which then gives me permission to spend 2 to 3 minutes to tell that story. Notice the words I used.
Can I share a story …
About another CEO who believed …
Everyone likes to hear a story. That opens the door and relaxes our brain, but the next line is the point of the story and provides the listener with the reason WHY I want to tell them about WHAT I did for that other CEO and HOW I solved his problem.
The Golden Circle – From the Inside Out
Simon Sinek wrote a fascinating book entitled, “Start With Why”, that explains that as listeners we process information from the inside out. It all starts with our emotional brain, where we process information by understanding the WHY of the story before our thinking brain kicks in by applying the rational arguments associated with all the facts and figures. Sinek calls it the “golden circle” which depicts three concentric circles starting with WHY in the middle followed by WHAT and then HOW. The WHY is your belief, your cause, your purpose and that is what listeners connect to. As Sinek explains, “People buy WHY you do it, not what you do.”
If you think of my CEO example above, the point of my story is that every one on the sales team can learn to tell a more effective story and more easily connect with buyers. That is my belief that is important to share to connect emotionally with my buyer’s beliefs. With that connection, I can now explain the specifics of what I do and how I do it to make that belief a reality.
Listen to Simon explain the power of the golden circle in this compelling TED talk presentation.
So that’s my story today, What’s yours?
Posted in Content Marketing, Storytelling, Thought Leadership | No Comments »
In my last post, I indicated that the secret to good storytelling lies in making an emotional connection with buyers. But, I am not naive to think that this is an easy thing to do for most of us, regardless of our position in the company. The challenge, as I have learned in life personally and professionally, is that making the connection means earning the other person’s trust. And that my friends means making ourselves vulnerable. And further more we have to take the Nestea plunge first in order to get the other person - our buyer, our boss, our partner, our children – to open up, listen and respond.
Now I know what you are thinking … sounds way too “touchy-feely” to me. And what does what have to do with business, content marketing and telling good stories. Well folks it has everything to do with having another person open up and listen to what we have to say.
The key takeaway for all of us is that we need to have the courage to be vulnerable first to encourage our buyer to be vulnerable too. Mike Bosworth in his new book, “What Great Salespeople Do” ( see my recap post on Mike’s new book), discusses the importance of vulnerability in a story he relates from an early career mentor:
“Bob used to say that there is a ‘veneer of bullshit’ between two strangers, and as we all know, that’s especially true with a seller and buyer. Until you break through that veneer of bullshit, he’d tell me, you have no chance of selling anything.”
To get a better idea of what i am suggesting here, watch this very entertaining and compelling TED-talk story by Dr. Brene Brown.
Posted in B2B Marketing, Content Marketing, Storytelling, Thought Leadership | No Comments »
So let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I started a BLOG and started writing about my views and experiences as a B2B sales and marketing junkie. After 30+ years in the field, first 20+ working with a number of software companies in every aspect of field operations and then 10+ as a consultant, I felt I had something to say so I did what every warm blooded marketer feels they need to do and started cranking out CONTENT. First a web site, then BLOG posts with a few choice podcasts and webinars. A couple of plum conferences in front of live audiences; interviews for trade pub articles and some articles and white papers of my own. Lots of arguments and opinions supported by facts and stats and use cases.
But what is the end game of all this content creation and publication? Followers? Likes? Retweets? In my case, it’s all about building trust with my audience and to find buyers and influencers who believe what I believe. God knows we have created mountains of content and information to supposedly make it easier for buyers to buy. Buyers should be able to defend their decisions as intelligent and authoritative, but are they?
But Are We Telling Good Stories?
It depends on how you measure and from whose perspective … yours or your buyer? My head, or my “thinking brain” says yes, but my gut, or my “emotional brain” says no. I had been feeling this way for a while, then I read a fascinating new book and attended the author’s workshop last week. It was a “eureka” moment for me.
The author is Mike Bosworth, legendary creator of Solution Selling and Customer-Centric Selling. The book is entitled, “What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story”. Now the importance of storytelling is not new for sellers and marketers. But when we look at how it influences buyer behavior and why it works, we see more clearly that there is a right way and wrong way to tell stories.
What’s the Secret to Good Storytelling?
The secret lies in making an emotional connection with buyers. Why? Because as Bosworth and co-author Ben Zoldan (Customer-Centric Selling) so expertly explain, “breakthroughs in neuroscience have determined that people don’t make decision solely on the basis of logic … in fact, emotions play the dominant role in most decision-making processes.”
I’ve always known this point to be true – it probably has been one of the keys to my success in B2B sales and marketing. However, reading the book and going through the Story Leaders workshop last week provided a field-tested framework for how to construct and deliver stories to build trust and rapport with buyers. I like frameworks. I use them all the time in my practice and have relied on them throughout my career. They feed my (sometimes overly) analytical personality … thirsting for information, facts and figures, logic, process-driven. Very left-brain though … the “thinking” brain.
But frameworks must be based on beliefs and points-of-view that prove out to be true. And ignoring the importance of establishing rapport may help explain why all of the sales enablement training and methodology programs have not raised the performance of those it was targeted to improve – the 80% of the sales force that only delivered 20% of the sales. Bosworth and Zoldan point out that recent research shows that the old 80/20 rule – where 20% of salespeople deliver 80% of the sales – is more like 87-13. The gap has gotten worse between the best and the rest of the pack. Ouch!
Marketers Need to Apply the Story Telling Teachings to Build Trust
I believe that successful content marketing strategies are about quality, not quantity. We need to tell our stories with authenticity and real passion in order to cut through the information overload that buyers are experiencing. Most company stories on web sites lack characters and people to make them real and believable – they don’t draw me in emotionally. What I like about Bosworth and Zoldan’s approach is that they actually teach you how to make your ideas, beliefs and experiences “storiable” using a proven story structure. Their approach shows marketers, as well as salespeople how to develop stories that overcomes buyer skepticism to connect with the emotional brain where trust is formed.
So that’s my story today. What’s yours?
Posted in B2B Marketing, Content Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Thought Leadership, Training Programs | 2 Comments »
I had the pleasure of participating in the Focus.com B2B Marketing Week last week, a collection of webinars and round table panels that brought together the top experts in their fields to discuss the state of B2B marketing. Nine sessions covering many important topics in B2B marketing with lots of talking heads – marketing consultants, vendors and industry pundits. This is the third Focus round table I have done this year and I must say they are great way to hear what others are experiencing in the market across the country.
Our round table entitled “B2B Marketing 3.0: What’s Next for Marketers?” centered on answering these questions:
- Definition of B2B Marketing 2.0
- Definition of B2B Marketing 3.0. What prompted the change?
- How many marketers are ready for 3.0?
- What is the biggest impediment to making the shift, skills or tools?
- What is the one thing you would recommend every marketer focus on the rest of 2011?
Mac McConnell, partner/founder of BlueBird Strategies moderated and I was joined by colleagues Joe Zuccaro, President and CEO of Allinio, Greg Ott, CMO of Demandbase and Matt West, Sr Director Marketing of Genius.
You can listen to the full 45 minute round table here. But let me give you my quick take on these questions:
Definition of B2B Marketing 2.0
- Marketers begin to realize that awareness does not drive buyer behavior anymore. PR campaigns and traditional advertising don’t work the same way anymore.
- Moving from mostly outbound campaigns that “broadcast” the company’s primary go-to-market message to outreach that promotes having a conversation with target audiences.
- Focusing on presenting market problems and recommended solutions rather than products and services.
- Marketers turn to digital marketing as the preferred approach to connect directly with buyers and customers.
Definition of B2B Marketing 3.0: What’s Prompting the Change?
- The rise of social networking and buyer reliance and focus on what the community thinks about various problems and how best to solve them.
- The need to treat sales and marketing as a “service” to customers and buyers. Providing value-based information that helps buyers make more informed decisions.
- The need for marketing to be revenue focused, not just developing leads at the top of the funnel. What’s marketing’s contribution to the pipeline?
- Marketers trying to make sense of their target markets and the data that is sitting in all those data stores in the enterprise. What are the most profitable markets/customers? Which markets should be exploited more/less?
How Many Marketers are Ready for 3.0?
Not nearly enough. Here are some recent research findings that show just how far marketers have to go before they can make the transition:
- In a 2011 Fournaise Marketing Group study, 73% of CEO’s stated that “marketers lack business credibility and are not the business growth generators they should be”.
- At the Sirius Decisions 2011 Summit when asked if their marketing people had the right skill set to succeed only 1.1% responded with a yes.
- A 2010 Bulldog Solutions – Frost & Sullivan Survey showed that 44% of marketing automation owners stated lack of people/skills as a limiting success factor
What is the Biggest Impediment to Making the Shift?
Clearly there is a significant skills gap. We don’t need yet ANOTHER CRM, Email Marketing or Marketing Automation tool set. The industry lacks a certification program for B2B marketers that addresses the core disciplines within marketing operations. This represents a big opportunity for what Paul Dunay predicted for the “rise of the marketing technologist”.
What is the One Thing Marketers Should Focus on Now?
It’s not too early to look ahead to 2012 plans and what marketers need to do to lay the foundation for success. It’s extremely important that marketers review existing programs and prioritize those that have the greatest chance of producing results that impact the sales pipeline and closed business. With less than 6 months left in 2011, CEOs and VPs of Sales are gearing up to close as much business as possible before year-end.
- How much has marketing committed to those quarter and year-end numbers?
- How much revenue contribution have you made thus far?
- How much more contribution can you make in the next 5+ months?
Times ticking so let’s get focused and see how much better we can be in the months ahead. Listen to the entire round table here. What’s your take?
Posted in B2B Marketing, Marketing Automation, Predictions, Thought Leadership | 2 Comments »
- Close over 4 times the number of deals as “average” firms
- Close twice as many deals as “good” firms.
These are eye-popping numbers to consider, especially with economic times that demand that businesses make every opportunity count.
What does “Market Leading” Mean?
The market leading firms are adept at aligning their people around marketing-to-sales processes enabled with CRM and Marketing Automation tools that optimize their efforts and maximize target audience reach. The best B2B marketing organizations are almost exclusively focused on lead quality. They emphasize buyer behavior and compare to well defined buyer personas in order to build targeted campaigns that move prospects through the buyer stages. They have metrics in place that clearly show management and sales the impact of demand generation programs on the pipeline, closed deals and corporate revenue. Marketing and sales are tightly aligned in terms of people interaction, lead flow process and the use of technology to support every aspect of client acquisition and retention. They practice Lean process improvement principles to eliminate waste in marketing and sales resources and optimize every dollar of sales and marketing spend.
What Should “Good” Firms Focus on to Become “Market Leading”?
In part 3 of the series, we detailed the steps required to move from “average” to “good” performance. With those practices in place, we can now turn our attention to the following programs to implement in order to achieve marketing leading lead management status
- Establish lead quality teams consisting of marketing, inside sales, sales admin and possibly the sales team and conduct weekly lead hand-off reviews.
- Develop comprehensive buyer personas that profile key buyer types such as end-user, influencer, buyer/decision-maker and executive (CXOs).
- Develop progressive profiling programs that deepen the intelligence for each buyer type in your CRM/Marketing Automation database. Utilize prospecting tools such as Cardbrowser, Hoovers, Netprospex, Zoominfo, etc to automate the process of keeping contact information fresh and complete.
- Create comprehensive content maps for the key buyer types and for each buyer stage:
Awareness > Inquiry > Consideration > Purchase.
After mapping existing content, create and/or re-purpose content to fill any gaps. Ensure that content consists of whitepapers, webinars, short articles, case studies, videos (2-3 minutes) and podcasts (5-7 minutes).
- Develop lead nurturing campaigns that segment by buyer type and buyer stage. Deliver personalized value propositions by these segments to deepen engagement and optimize buyer stage conversions.
- Develop metrics based on corporate objectives such as revenue growth and customer retention. Use marketing dashboards and reports to present marketing’s contribution to revenue and pipeline to senior management on a monthly/quarterly basis.
Comments from others on the earlier installment in this lead nurturing series have highlighted other resources and approaches to consider. I will wrap things up with a final post that links to these resources.
Tags: B2B Marketing, buyer personas, Lead management, Lead Nurturing, Sirius Decisions
Posted in B2B Marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Management, Lead Nurturing, Lead Quality, Thought Leadership, Uncategorized | 28 Comments »
Marketing Automation Monday came to NYC on December 6th (a date that will live in Patriots infamy in the demolition of the Jets !!). We had a great turnout with 15 opting in to share their ideas and best practices on the topic of lead nurturing and drip campaigns. Below is a quick review of what was discussed.
Attendee Company Profile
First off, I was struck by how many of the meetup attendees come from start-up companies. Two companies in fact have yet to launch while all are new to the use of marketing automation and lead nurturing.
With that in mind, I started the discussion by focusing on some questions that marketers need to ask themselves as they begin to develop their lead nurturing programs:
- What tactics are the best for getting our messages to your target audience, both decision-makers and influencers?
- How do we stay engaged with our audience as they move through their stages of the buy cycle?
- How do we conduct the “conversation” to stay relevant to the buyer’s and build credibility and trust so they see our company as a thought leader?
- What content and offers will result in a positive conversion when our target audience is ready to buy?
The Need for Content
These questions had the group talking about the challenge of having engaging content to serve up to prospects. Several companies use research papers from analysts firms such as Gartner to send out on issues that prospects have shown prior interest, while webinars is a frequent tactic for others. In the case of webinars, one company found their registrations had dropped significantly. In response they experimented with creating 4-5 part series, sometimes with a fee for registration. Registrations did in fact improve.
In most cases, companies are actually sitting on significant quantities of relevant content, usually in paper-form or buried in web sites. In many cases, the content is not readily consumable by your target audience. It is either too long (45 minute webinar, 5-10 page white paper) or only available in one format (lengthy PDFs). Re-purposing the content into shorter briefs (350-400 words) or using 2-3 minute video casts focused on one key idea at a time can be more effective in getting busy decision-makers to opt-in. One company send out individual email and phone follow ups to prospects using that technique.
Buyer Profiles and Personas
Several companies reported success in developing buyer profiles that they had mapped out for each of the buyer types that they target. None of the companies had actually mapped these buyer profiles to content for purposes of automated drip campaigns as of yet, but most are working towards that goal. The active development of profiles is an important part of successful nurturing programs.
One indicates that their inside business development group nurtures the old fashion way by calling (65% of the time) and emailing (35% of the time) to provide collected articles and research reports that they want their prospects to be aware of. Their approach is more of a service, then a promotional appeal, but very labor intensive. They had found that their group email practices were being received as SPAM and blocked, hence the use of individual email and calling.
Campaign Approaches: How to Get Started
Given the newness of the group to the actual practice of lead nurturing, especially with Marketing Automation tools, we reviewed an approach that helps B2B marketers get started and gain traction early on. The approach focuses on demonstrating thought leadership to your target audience; the key point being that, initially it does not require much more than 1 or 2 well written white papers, ideally from a known industry thought leader. The idea is that over a 90 day period, the nurture campaign takes the theme of the white paper and promotes the issue in month 1 as an available download, then in month 2 delivered as a webcast (ideally with the thought leader) and finally in month 3 promotes both in one outbound email.
What’s Next for MA Monday in NYC?
We discussed how often to meet and what topics for future sessions. For now we will look to have NYC meetups on a quarterly schedule – late February/early March.
Requested topics are (in no particular order):
- Leveraging social media in Marketing Automation
- Analytics, metrics and reporting
- Managing the marketing-to-sales lead process
- CRM integration and sales enablement
You can see what was discussed at the two meetups in November (SF and Palo Alto) on the topic of lead nurturing in this blog post by Jep Castelein.
For those who attended in NYC on 12/6 and others who are interested for future meetups, all are advised to join the Marketing Automation Association Group on LinkedIn. Here you will be able to keep up on happenings of the various meetups taking place across the country.
Please let us know what you liked about our 1st session and what can be done to make future meetings more valuable. Comments below are welcomed. I encourage all to spread the word about Marketing Automation Monday. Stay tuned for more.
Posted in B2B Marketing, Lead Management, Lead Nurturing, Marketing Automation, Marketing Automation Monday, Thought Leadership | No Comments »
Hopefully in Part 1 of this lead nurturing series, you were able to use those stats to build a compelling case in your 2011 marketing plan for lead nurturing program investments. Since 3 out of 4 new leads generated end up buying at some point in the next 18-24 months, lead nurturing should no longer be a wish-list program, but a competitive necessity. But for most B2B marketers, figuring where to start is always a daunting task.
To make matters worse, many approaches tend to over-complicate things. Marketers develop complex multi-touch campaigns that overwhelm their opt-in audience with too many communications and too many messages. Buyers become not only confused, but suffer from subscriber fatigue.
So where do you start with a simple formulaic lead nurturing strategy?
Lead nurturing fundamentally starts with a sound Thought Leadership program, focusing content on the problem you solve with case studies of how your client solves the problem. To keep it simple, I try to break down the problem into 3-4 themes that relate to specific buyers. This thematic approach becomes the basis for the campaigns we will drive into your target audiences over a 9-12 month period.
Each quarter we focus on 1 theme. Why multiple themes? Because your target buyers each have their hot-buttons that draw them into a particular business problem. For example for a materials management software company with a focus on reducing costs and waste with indirect materials using Point-of-Use devices, one theme might be looking at the high cost for Industrial Manufacturers of waste in safety supplies or in tool usage. In our example above, one buyer may be interested in stories involving the control of safety equipment while another has a waste problem with tooling. It is all about delivering relevant messages to each buyer at the right time.
The formula to developing great content lies in having a variety of media tactics to deliver the primary message of the theme. For example one really good white paper (from a reputable 3rd party). Then develop a webinar on the white paper topic and have a client participate in the webinar (be sure to record so you can repeat and use in subsequent campaign waves). Also, develop one or more case studies, again focusing on that theme that can be dispersed via different mediums.
The key to lead nurturing programs lies in consistency so spend the entire quarter with bi-weekly outbound campaigns that highlight the theme, each with a different deliverable. First the white paper, then the webinar, then the case study, with links each time to the other content on that topic. We then repeat this process for at least two more quarters with various themes. You can listen to this podcast to hear more about this thought leadership approach and the results that were achieved for a client.
If you follow Brian Carroll and Ardath Albee’s approach to repackaging and re-purposing content, you will find that you already have most of the content you need to work with. The trick is how to package (or re-purpose) correctly to feed it to your target audience on a regular basis in varying ways (whitepaper, webinar, case study, blog post).
REMEMBER: it takes 7 to 9 proactive communications to get your buyer to opt-in and read the message or theme you are trying to deliver. Once they do that then your other complimentary content will have more appeal and increase the likelihood of launching the sales process.
It is very important to keep the approach of simplifying the lead nurturing process into something that is focused and meaningful to your potential buyers.
In our next installment of this lead nurturing series, we will discuss the other aspects of program development that you need to focus on to move from “average” to “good”.
Posted in B2B Marketing, Lead Nurturing, Lead Quality, Marketing & Sales Alignment, Thought Leadership | 4 Comments »