Let Data Guide You Through the B2B Buyer’s Journey

Why making your buyers the center of your universe is the key to success

Buyer's Journey

Your potential buyers begin their quest to find the most suitable product or service to address their business needs long before they ever make contact with your brand. As a result, each one of your prospects will be in a different stage of their journey by the time they interact with your marketing collateral—e.g. downloading your infographic, attending your webinar or opening your email.

Thus, marketers need to account for these various phases when crafting their strategies. You must have personalized content on deck that will engage everyone from a very interested buyer to a frequent website visitor that is just starting out on the buying journey. Researching and documenting your buyer persona, a detailed profile of an example buyer that represents the real audience, can help to inform—and transform—your strategy in ways you may not have thought possible.1

With that said, it’s no surprise that 87% of senior marketing executives’ top goals for the next three years is to better understand the customer buying journey. After all, understanding your potential customers’ buying journeys puts you in a better position to provide premium content that addresses their needs and concerns.

What’s more, 76% of senior marketing executives feel their second most important goal is to educate and influence purchasing decisions by mapping the right content assets and distribution channels to key stages in the customers’ buying journey.

So how does one effectively map out the buyer’s journey? It requires gaining customer insight, or focusing on buying behavior patterns, and leveraging a savvy team of marketers who can strategically match actionable messages to specific groups of buyers. Because your buyers are the source of the insights that will differentiate your content and clarify all decisions, we’ve created a Buyer Persona Guide to help you through the process (view here).

Before you can begin drawing up your map, you need to derive customer insights from your marketing database and tactfully organize these findings into groups based on demographics, firmographics and behavior.

Segmenting your data will enable you to extract more valuable information that will help you to streamline your investigation of the buyers’ journey. For instance, you can group together CMOs from businesses with 100 plus employees and a budget of $500,000. At the same time, you can group smaller businesses with smaller budgets. Doing so allows you to spot trends and patterns based on demographics.

When it comes to content engagement, you might learn that CMOs from larger companies are more responsive to sophisticated market research-based email marketing messages that inform and inspire action from the recipient. Conversely, representatives from smaller businesses may spend more time engaging with content such as thought leadership blog posts, case studies, or whitepapers.

By segmenting your data, you can pay closer attention to a specific group’s behavior and determine what makes them respond to your brand quicker. By continuing this process, marketers stand to gain acute insight as to what types of content stimulate most buyer interest and ultimately expedite the buying cycle.

To learn more about buyer-guided content marketing, download our Buyer Persona Guide filled with tips, tricks, and insight you can apply to your own strategy today. Stay tuned for future blogs on the new buyer’s journey I just rolled out at Dun & Bradstreet NetProspex.

Hey Marketers, Be Careful How You Spend Your Money on Analytics

CMO Survey predicts 83% increase in spend on analytics over the next 3 years

Increase Spend Analytics

Divvying up your marketing budget is a complex task; there is so much to be gained (and lost) that you don’t want to waste precious resources (or your reputation) on tools and tactics that aren’t effective. One area of marketing spend that continues to promise strong returns is in the area of data analytics. But a word of caution: don’t accept the findings and recommendations of analytics engines on blind faith, be diligent and confident that they are based on a solid foundation of accurate information.

A recent study, titled “The CMO Survey,” revealed that marketing leaders’ spend on analytics is predicted to increase by 83% over the next three years. This isn’t that surprising when you consider that the areas most likely to be advanced by data analytics include customer acquisition, customer retention, social media and multichannel marketing. These all impact both the top and bottom line for marketers and their businesses, so it makes sense to find a better/smarter/more cost effective way to improve those metrics.

Interestingly though, given the strategic impact that analytics can have on a marketing plan and despite the fact that marketers are planning to increase their analytics budgets during the next few years, the report also found that 69% of CMOs have not formally evaluated the quality of their marketing analytics. This is a mistake. You can’t blindly accept what a tool is telling you without some kind of validation process in place.

So, when it comes down to rolling out an effective marketing analytics plan, here are some tips to ensure your new data analytics budget produces meaningful results:

  • Evaluate flaws in your current plan: Pinpoint what isn’t working so you can ensure your new plan doesn’t include the same mistakes. For example, one major pitfall that could be sabotaging your current analytics success is an abundance of dirty data. Expired email addresses, duplicate business contacts and inaccurate demographic and firmographic data can negatively impact the insights generated from your analytics. This can send you after the wrong audience or market, wasting resources and time. So, evaluate the last couple of campaigns and see if they are delivering the results you expected, if not, get to the root of the issue and fix it.
  • Eliminate and enhance your data: Regardless of how your campaigns are performing, it’s time to say sayonara to dirty data. Dedicate some of your data analytics budget to implementing best-in-class data management Investing in a system that can regularly cleanse, enhance (by injecting new, reliable business contacts) and segment your data will enable you to market smarter. Credible, segmented business contacts will help you convert more sales and realize heightened ROI.

When increasing your spend in marketing data analytics, make sure you invest in the right technology so you can gain the biggest bang for your buck.

Why Psychographic Data Isn’t So Psycho

How psychographic data helps B2B marketers gain valuable insight

Psychographic Data

As modern marketers, we know we need data to substantiate the messages we deliver to our target audiences. But we should also understand the value of gathering information beyond what we can infer based on their locations, budgets or company size. If we really want to segment consumers in the most accurate way possible, we must pull back deeper layers of their collective psyche.

According to a recent study from Forbes Insights and Quantcast, 71% of the 300 executives surveyed answered that psychographic data is paramount to the success of their digital marketing campaigns. So how can marketers garner more compelling personal information about the contacts in their businesses’ databases short of meeting with them face-to-face?

Here’s some advice:

Tune in to social media: Get a better handle on your customers’ personal interests by keeping up with their conversations on social media. When you start being more attentive to your key targets on Twitter or LinkedIn, you may notice certain trends surrounding the values and thoughts about your industry. Leverage this information to market your products to each business segment differently. Show your prospects and existing customers that you care about their interests by engaging with them across these platforms and reflecting their values in your marketing messages. If you can’t commit to interacting with each of your customers and prospects (because face it, who can?) then at the very least define a target group of influencers to engage with and study at least a few times a month. Often times, you can find quick trends by studying the leaders of the pack. For example, on a flight to a big marketing conference, three marketers were sitting in a row. They were all wearing black jeans, had oversized headphones, iPhones, and a hardcopy book to read. I could turn that into a small infographic, a funny tweet to connect with my target audience, or even choose to giveaway books and headphones at my next tradeshow.

Engage your buyers: Getting to know your buyers through a customer advocacy program can give you an inside look into what makes them tick. Through challenges and quizzes, you’ll discover what types of movies, music, activities, and interests your customers are excited about. You can also find out what social platforms they use the most, what they have to say about blog posts and campaigns, and more. This information can fuel your future campaigns. If you discover your audience really loves nerf guns and Star Wars, you can work that into your display advertising and see how it impacts clickthroughs on your digital ads. For us, we know many marketers love fitness and travel, two themes we’ve brought into our marketing campaigns with great success.

Take this data and use it to fuel online and offline activity: Marketers often ask how to actually use this type of information in their programs. My recommendation is treat it like a mix of fields you can add to your marketing database, and information to fuel your events, content and display ad strategy. If you add fields like “Interests” or “Events Attended” and start collecting that data through surveys or your sales team, you can then study the results to influence which events you attend, what you giveaway at tradeshows, fun activities you plan for customer appreciation, and what types of images/memes/gifs you use on Twitter. Those small touchpoints and ways to engage with the subcultures of your core audience can add up to much stronger conversion rates.

Make a commitment to get beyond your data fields and you’ll be happy you made the effort. You might also discover a unique new interest, or find a niche group of people who share your deep love of baseball, rap music, scotch and marketing ops. We’re a pretty cool group.

A Shoutout to First-Time Bosses

Tips for becoming a successful leader

Lauren & Fumi OfficeShoutout to all the new, first-time bosses out there. This blog is dedicated to you. To the people that were hard-working, results-grabbing individual contributors yesterday, and today are responsible for managing a team… it’s pretty different.

I was promoted to Director of Demand Generation six months ago and have since struggled with moving into the “boss” role. I mean, sure I love Lean In’s Ban Bossy campaign, but living the reality of being a boss, uniting a team, teaching them new skills, and encouraging their passions, all while delivering fabulous results is a whole new ballgame.

I’ve always been pretty obsessed with leadership. I’m the oldest of eight kids, was the Student Council President, and have spent more time reading leadership books than I care to admit. Combining that with my strong desire to always be a top earner at work has helped me carve out a pretty successful career thus far.

Until I became a boss.

My own boss warned me about this the day he offered me the promotion. He said the time and energy it takes to make sure your team has what they need to get results (while maintaining your own workload) was going to be tough.

Fast forward to my spin class this week… I’m on a bike, peddling so hard I thought my legs were going to fall off, when the instructor told us to think about something that’s been bothering us, to focus on it, and use that frustration in the workout. Immediately, I thought, “I wish I was a better leader, a better teacher for my team.” And thus, this post was born.

I realized I was face-to-face with a great teacher, my spin instructor, and that there were some strong leadership habits I could borrow from her. After all, she leads 30+ people in an extremely difficult, yet well-coordinated setting that absolutely delivers results. And we clearly have fun because we all come back the next day for more.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Establish goals right away

At the beginning of each class, they spend time going over exactly what we need to accomplish to have a successful class. There’s an introduction to the bike, clear instructions on what the expectations are (always stay on the beat of the music), and a time for questions if anything is unclear.

As leaders, we need to make sure our team knows the exact goals of their role, the goals of the team, and the goals of the business to ensure we have a successful year. If there is a solid definition of goals, it becomes easy for everyone to prioritize their time.

Check in frequently

Spin class is hard. We’re sprinting up hills, doing push-ups on the handlebar, all while dancing to the beat of some EDM remix that most people haven’t heard outside of a rave (and all that goes along with that). To help us through it, the instructor doesn’t let a minute go by without checking in with the class. “How we doing South Boston?” and “push yourself!” are two phrases heard often during these workouts.

As new leaders, we must take the time to check in with the people on our team. Now, I’m not talking about hovering, helicopter-style micro managing. I’m talking about ignoring that temptation to focus on your ever-growing To Do list and making the commitment to put your team members needs before your own. Do they need encouragement? Do they need to be pushed harder? You’ll only know if you are regularly checking in to see if they have everything they need to achieve sustainable high performance.

Give public shoutouts

Every now and then, it’s obvious someone is really pushing hard in class. Of course, we’re all there to work our collective butts off (literally) but once a week there will be someone who is just crushing it. Their legs are flying, they’re on the beat, and they’ve got a smile on their face. The instructor will call these superstars out by name, in front of the class, and you can tell in that moment that all the hard work is worth it.

We all know that telling our team they’re doing great work is obvious… but don’t forget to share that success with other groups in your company. My events manager almost doubled our booth traffic from 1H 2014 to 1H 2015 and my marketing automation coordinator is ensuring all our inbound leads are being called within the first 15 minutes that they come in. Those are not small feats, and that success should be shared. Make sure you’re pushing their success up the ladder. If it makes it to the CEO, you know you’ve done your job, and it will make them feel that going above and beyond is worth it.

So, those are my tips to help us become better leaders. Hopefully my team will see the benefits as I put these into practice. Major thanks go to Elise, Sarah, Candice, Rose, and all the lovely ladies at The Handle Bar South Boston for the inspiration… and the results.

Lead Quality: The Top Priority for Marketers

How to successfully improve the quality of your leads

Clean Up Your Data

As marketers, we know that the quality of the leads we generate directly impacts our brand’s success. Simply put, poor-quality leads don’t convert into good customers. Therefore, don’t spend your time on them– it’s a waste of time and money. It is now more critical than ever that marketers re-evaluate their demand generation strategy and spend to focus on driving the right leads, not just more leads.

Indeed, marketers are aware that their strategies need improving, and are redefining their values and best practices. In fact, according to the 2015 “Demand Gen Report Benchmark Study: What’s Working in Demand Generation,” more than one-third of B2B marketers surveyed said they planned to increase their demand-generation budget by 20% in 2015.

And it seems like marketers are more aware of the state of their data quality. Of the B2B marketers surveyed, 74%  reported that producing greater lead quality, as opposed to lead quantity, was their top demand-generation priority this year. To me, that shows much greater self-awareness than I’ve seen in the past.

So, if improved lead quality is your top priority, how do you go forth and gather more worthy leads? Here is a plan for success (hint: it starts with your marketing database):

  • Assess the damage: When is the last time you conducted a deep audit of your business contacts database? If you can’t recall, then your database is most likely comprised of many expired and inaccurate contact records. And, if you’ve been reaching out to these invalid contacts all along, your outbound marketing efforts have been stymied and you are putting your sender score at risk.
  • Clean it up: You don’t have to repair your database all on your own; best-in-class data management technologies are available to do the auditing and cleansing for you. For example, today’s advanced marketing software can complete this legwork by identifying invalid business contacts and providing relevant, accurate entries to replace the others.
  • Target your campaigns: Once your database of marketing contacts is squeaky clean, you still need to segment your leads into different categories based on demographic and firmographic similarities. In doing so, you can send targeted messages, e.g., in email blasts or blog posts, to your different consumer groups. And since consumers want personalized, focused content from the brands they love, this tactic will up your sales and produce happier, more engaged customers.

So keep your business’s momentum going strong with a focus on lead quality this year. Increase demand generation productivity by first assessing the state of your marketing database. What are you waiting for?

The Power of Target Marketing: Acquisition vs. Retention

Why strengthening your existing relationships is key

Handshake

We’ve all been there: your sales team needs the net-new logos to meet their growth goals, but for one reason or another, your marketing tactics aren’t delivering them. At the end of the day though, its about revenue growth, and by solely focusing on acquiring brand new customers you are missing a big piece of the puzzle. So, what’s a marketer to do to increase sales?

As it turns out, the solution is right under your nose: your current customers. Those loyal patrons who have been doing business with your brand all along represent huge incremental potential via improved retention rates and cross-sell and upsell revenue. It costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain and upsell and existing customer, so rather than only working to gain new business, try allocating some of your time and spend to your existing customer base. So don’t forget to show more love to your loyal clientele and work on strengthening those bonds.

Here are few tips and tricks to help your business drive quantifiable results from improving retention, rather than acquisition:

  • Know your buyer: Take it all the way back to beginning of the sales cycle, to the moment you identified the potential buyers that are now your customers. What are the common characteristics? What keeps them coming back to your brand and what products do they purchase? Reflect upon the answers to these questions before you develop your next campaign and call to action. Once you can clearly define the key characteristics of your common buyer, then you can hone in on those preferences and make more meaningful connections with them.
  • Listen to feedback: To be successful, marketers must stay alert to social arenas. Your consumers post both negative and positive reviews about your business on a wealth of different platforms—from Twitter to LinkedIn to G2—and you need to stay on top of these assessments. These are opportunities to engage with your customers, to gain insight into potential product development opportunities, and to ensure that your customers feel like they have been heard.
  • Use marketing automation: Plenty of marketers think they can sidestep marketing automation but, in reality, this technology can do wonders for establishing strong, ongoing relationships with your customers. Scheduling messages to your customers to either keep them engaged (“we miss you” emails) or to thank them for their engagement (“thanks – you rock, here’s some swag!”) is a sure fire way of communicating how important their relationship is to you.

Marketing isn’t all about acquiring new leads. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and spend time strengthening our existing relationships.

Surprising Words of Advice: Aim Smaller with Marketing Campaigns

How to ensure your micro-campaign proves successful

Aim Smaller

We’re all familiar with the expression “less is more.” But, as marketers, do we ever stop to consider how narrowing our focus might give us better results? Sometimes, we get so overwhelmed by the big picture that we miss out on quick wins and immediate opportunities. After all, our standard strategies tend toward seeking out more leads, more data and more engagement.

What if the key to unlocking optimal demand generation from our marketing campaigns is, in fact, doing less—that is, in regard to downsizing swollen campaigns? Indeed, during the recent B2B Content2Conversion Conference, the VP and group director of SiriusDecisions discussed a growing trend across the marketing landscape defined as “micro-campaigns.” It’s a simple, but counterintuitive, objective: We must aim smaller with our marketing campaigns to realize more success.

In order to create a successful micro-campaign, B2B marketers must utilize data in a highly targeted manner which enables campaigns to become focused for a smaller audience. In doing so, you can create more personal marketing messages for a specific group of buyers.

As such, the driver of your micro-campaign success is your marketing database. Marketers must focus on eliminating “dirty data” from their databases so that they can target their campaigns toward the buyers who are most likely to purchase. When a business’s database is cleansed, enriched and segmented properly, marketers can extract more pinpointed insights about their buyers and, in turn, create more-targeted messages.

So, what are some other ways to ensure your micro-campaign proves successful? Here are a couple tips:

  • Establish your niche: Use your database as a means of investigating your customers and their top pain points. Then, repackage your company’s offerings with a specific solution that speaks directly to these consumers and their needs. In this way, you can set yourself apart in your market by zeroing in on specific targets, rather than over generalizing your market and trying to speak to everyone at once.
  • Downsize channel usage: If you previously embarked on large-scale campaigns focused on a widespread group of buyers, you probably found that some channels were more effective than others; leverage those channels to your advantage. For instance, hone in on a singular social media channel for your next campaign—one that will provide an avenue for focused, personalized conversations with your consumers. Establishing a solid relationship with your potential buyers in a more intimate way will help drive more-efficient buyer journeys, stimulate good reviews and lead to more recommendations.

So marketers: Think big, aim small! You’ll be surprised by what you see.

You Love Data, But Your Team’s Not So Hot for It: Three Tips to Get Them on Board

Advantages you will gain from using a marketing data management service

Get On Board

All too often, gaining insights from marketing databases is a struggle for today’s marketers simply because the data is compromised. In fact, a recent survey from KPMG, titled “Going Beyond the Data: Achieving Actionable Insights with Data and Analytics,” revealed that 85% of respondents (144 CIOs and CFOs from major corporations) said their biggest challenge with analytics is in implementing the right solutions to accurately analyze and interpret data. That is, businesses need help not only with organizing (cleansing, enriching and segmenting) but also in gleaning more actionable insights.

Indeed, the inconsistencies found in your current database might seem frighteningly difficult to tackle. Namely, incomplete data compiled from lead capture forms, “aged-out” data from webinar sign-ups last year and irrelevant booth scans from people just looking for swag at events hinders your ability to identify relevant insights to more effectively target your real buyers. That is, no matter how dedicated you are to trudging through your data, if it isn’t maintained properly, you might as well be searching for a needle in a haystack.

As such, it’s time to make a compelling case for investing in marketing data management software to augment your data management strategy. Here are three advantages you and your colleagues will gain from using a marketing data management service:

  • Minimized manual data efforts: With data analysis being a top priority for today’s marketers, there are now advanced technologies to help with the maintenance and management of marketing databases. Best-in-class solutions can take care of the legwork by cleansing, enriching and targeting business databases. That is, technology can make your data more consistent, complete and easier to work with, all without manual effort.
  • Improved clarity and insight on your target buyers: Marketers can’t just make educated guesses about their consumers’ preferences; they need cold, hard facts to substantiate their intuitions. Extracting insight from your marketing database can give you the clarity you need. For instance, from your gleaned data, you can better know your potential buyers—from their job titles to their organizations (e.g., size, location and industry).
  • Content that delivers results: When you know exactly who your consumers are, you can create content that speaks directly to them in a personalized fashion. Modern consumers crave customized interactions with the brands they patronize. So, use your data insight to create blogs that target their top pain points, and social posts that are relevant to their industry concerns.

Data is not to be feared, but to be leveraged. So, start making the most of it by using technology to guide you—you’re going to love the outcome.

It’s Time for B2B to Get Social

How to make social media a winning part of your marketing strategy

Social Media DBNPThere’s a rumor going around that social media may not be as beneficial to B2B organizations as it is to B2C companies. However, according to AdWeek.com, “More than 9 in 10 B2B marketers say that increased exposure is the number one benefit of social media.” The truth is, B2B organizations that do social media well are going to be ahead of the pack in 2015. The challenge is how to execute a successful plan at your particular company. Here are some ways you can make social media a winning part of your marketing strategy:

1. Make a game plan
From determining your goals and deciding which channels to focus on to creating a calendar and determining how you’ll measure analytics, there’s a lot to lay out before you begin utilizing social. You’ll want to decide what your main objectives are, what channels you’ll use, how many resources you have, and what kind of content you want to share. 

2. Divide and conquer 
You won’t be successful on all channels at once and some will garner stronger results for you than others. Once you’ve determined which channels you’ll use, decide out how each one will function. You may find that Instagram is a great place to share event photos and company culture, but LinkedIn is a better place for you to promote content and product updates. Determining what percentage of your posts will used for each of these purposes is also helpful. Just remember to work towards building a community and developing conversations. You don’t want to be overly promotional all the time. 

3. Gather your gladiators
Creating a solid team is essential. You need skilled writers, creative content developers, talented graphic designers, and organized analysts to make your social media movement successful. Many companies mistake “using” social media for “understanding” it. Just because someone comes to you and says they Tweet on a daily basis in their personal life, doesn’t mean they’ll understand how to execute a successful business strategy. Today, promoted posts and paid tweets are a big part of social media for businesses. It’s important that your team has an understanding of how to navigate this aspect.

4. Brand your channels
Make your channels a strong reflection of your brand and the direction you are heading in as a whole. Your header and profile photos, description, and overall tone should be consistent and on-brand across all social channels. Even the filters on your Instagram photos and the type of content you decide to send out should create an experience for your visitors that is true to your organization.

5. Measure your progress
You may be spending hours on developing your strategy and creating innovative social media posts, but if you don’t measure your progress, you’re doing your team a disservice. You could be missing some major signs when it comes to what is working and what is not. Every channel has its purpose and some content works better on one channel than it does on another. By measuring stats such as new followers, engagement (i.e. likes and retweets), and top vs. bottom performing posts, you’ll be able to know what is helping, or hurting, the growth of your channels. You’ll also be able to see which channels help you the most and deserve the most attention.

Quick Tip: Pulling reports once a week is absolutely fine. There’s no need to get too far into the weeds. You want an informative overview, not a long look through the magnifying glass. You should, however, be paying closer attention to paid social media campaign progress so you can continuously check your budget and make improvements to your campaigns.

6. Listen closely
Having your finger on the pulse of what competitors and customers are talking about, as well as what’s new in social media technology is key. You can’t do all the talking… you have to listen, too. Social listening should be a main component of your strategy so you can be a relevant part of the discussion and cultivate content that is both current and engaging. The more you listen and take time to explore what’s trending, the easier it will be to grow your channels.

7. Use the buddy system
Engaging with partners and like-minded brands on social will help boost your visibility and grow your following. It also gives you credibility when an established brand with a large number of followers “retweets” or “likes” your posts. Lean on partners and vendors that you work with to help share your accounts and the content you’re posting. Reach out and interact with fans and potential followers, especially those who are speaking about your brand. These evangelists will be your greatest allies.

8. Get to know your audience
Knowing which followers to target on social media can be difficult, especially since your audience may vary slightly from channel to channel. However, the general profile of your clients should be something you’re very aware of. Start by examining your current clients and figuring out who they are and how you and your sales team communicate with them.

Quick Tip: Analyzing your customer data can also be helpful when it comes to choosing your audience for paid social media advertising. If your current data is incomplete or inaccurate, you’re not going to find it useful when deciding how you want to spend your ad dollars. Access your records with a free Data HealthScan and get your team on track.