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If content is king for B2B marketing, then context is God!
I was fortunate enough to attend Inbound 2012 in Boston last week, organised by Hubspot, along with 2800 other delegates. It was an inspiring couple of days. This is a summary of the keynote speech given by hubspot co-founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.
B2B marketers are coming to understand how to effectively engage with their buyers in the internet age. But target customers are getting really, really good at blocking out your marketing messages. Email is blocked by spam filters, phone calls have caller ID, "snail mail" goes straight in the bin, TV ads are blocked out as we use Tivo (or Foxtel IQ here in Australia). But if your marketing can't keep up, your sales funnel is in serious danger of drying up. So how on earth is a marketer supposed to deliver their compelling message?
The answer is by creating remarkable, engaging content that your target buyers want to consume, that helps them answer their questions and challenges they face in their daily lives and work.
If content pulls your target audience into your funnel, then context pulls them through the funnel to the point of sale. Amazon.com is a great example of contextual selling - they present you with further offers based on what they already know about you and your preferences, and not on demographics. In other words, based on your online behaviour rather than the fact that you are a middle aged woman, in a particular income bracket who lives in a certain city or suburb. Their marketing is context sensitive.
Hubspot argues compellingly that Content (1) plus Context (1) should equal 3 if you integrate the key functions of marketing into one platform i.e. the sum is greater than the parts. The problem is this is actually very, very hard to do. Most marketing systems are in pieces. Lots of different systems and software makes for a stressed out marketing team who are wasting many, many hours trying to make it all work together.
How well you deliver a truly personalised experience a potential customer will love depends on a number of core elements:
#1 One single version of the truth, one database
B2B marketers must capture data in one single place. Every element of a prospect's interaction with you - every email, every social interaction, every page visit on your site, every form they have completed - must be in a single repository or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool.
All marketers will tell you that the more databases you have the more problems you have. Keeping a single version of the truth is the bedrock for all that follows.
#2 Social publishing.
Share and publish you're remarkable content simply and easily by leveraging Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Schedule your publications at a time that works for your followers. Know and understand the times of the day and week that work best and have the best rate of uptake. If you're unsure what that time is, you can leave it up to Hootsuite, who have recently rolled out their "Auto-schedule for optimal times" feature.
But does social media really work? We need to measure it to tell. Real ROI becomes achievable if you are able to analyse your social media interactions. By understanding whether your contacts and prospects are actually reacting and interacting with you (eg. by retweeting or liking your content), you'll know if you have hit the content nail on the head. In this particular case you might choose to increase that prospect's lead score.
#3 Contextual responses
Contextual landing pages
The landing page is a well known marketing best practice for getting visitors to convert and give you their contact details. The challenge is to create landing pages that are effective and convert very well. This means making it as simple as possible for visitors to get what they want without putting big barriers between them and your remarkable content. Many a time have I arrived at a landing page only to click off completely because of the daunting amount of required fields in the form.
Your landing pages should be smart and only ask your leads what you DON'T already know about them. If you already know that data, dynamically change that particular form to that particular respondent to remove that particular field. Your click through rates will soar.
Contextual Call-To-Action buttons
The CTA is an excellent and effective way to drive visitors to your content and should be littered liberally throughout your site and in social media channels. But its much more powerful to know how effective that CTA is, typically via A/B testing. Send 50% of your traffic to one CTA and 50% to a second and test which one converts better.
Better still, is to know which of your vistors has already clicked on that particular CTA and downloaded that particular eBook already. Then, instead you can send them to a different offer, perhaps an offer that is further down the funnel, for example a demo or free trial of software rather than an eBook to use our earlier example. Personalising calls to action will drive up conversion rates.
#4 Next generation email personalisation
Email marketing remains a powerful tool to communicate with people you already know. However, too often the email contacts database is separate from your website and landing page vistors database. As we already said: More databases = more problems!
By integrating your CRM database with your website contacts database and your email engine, you can personalise your email almost infinitely, based on visitor and lead behaviour. For example, you have a visitor who has downloaded an eBook, why not have the auto-reply email come from the account manager who is responsible for that account, rather than the impersonal firstname.lastname@example.org?
#5 Personalising marketing automation
Marketing automation is a rapidly growing type of software that is taking the B2B marketing world by storm. B2B marketers find automated marketing functions really useful in theory but in practice, often really hard to use.
Personalised marketing automation goes one step further and takes a trigger event (an action that a website visitor or contact takes) and automates a series of activities, such as a series of personalised nurture emails based on that action. If your marketing automation functionality is based on an integrated single database, the simplicity of executing on this automated campaign is greatly enhanced.
The principles outlined in this blog post are encapsulated in a huge product announcement by Hubsot called Hubspot3. (As in 1+1=3). If you would like to listen to the 90-minute long video here is the link.
Click here for the full post.
Chris Fell is the Managing Director of g2m Solutions, and an accredited MathMarketing Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the g2M Solutions blog.