NetProspex Featured in Inc. 5000’s Annual List of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies

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NetProspex, the leading provider of cloud-based B2B marketing data management services, today announced that it has been ranked #1596 on Inc. Magazine’s 33rd annual Inc. 500|5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list presents a comprehensive look at the most important segment of the economy—America’s independent entrepreneurs – and companies such as Yelp, Pandora, Timberland, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, LinkedIn, Zillow, and other well-known names gained early exposure as members of the Inc. 500|5000. NetProspex achieved this honor as a result of the company’s explosive growth, including increasing its employee-base by 108 percent and sales by 89 percent over the last three years.

“We’re honored to be recognized by Inc. as one of leading private companies in the United States,” said Michael Bird, CEO of NetProspex. “We created NetProspex with the goal of helping B2B marketers effectively manage their data to better engage with target customers and drive predictable revenue. Our tremendous growth and momentum proves we’re addressing a huge market need and delivering remarkable results for our clients.”

NetProspex’s marketing data management platform, NetProspex Workbench, transforms the way marketers maintain and improve their marketing database. Since data is at the heart of nearly every aspect of today’s B2B marketing organizations, marketers look to Workbench for to ensure actionable, targeted and accurate data that fuels their demand generation efforts.

The 2014 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com and with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc. (available on newsstands August 20 to November 30), is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year growth of 516 percent. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue is $211 billion, generating 505,000 jobs over the past three years. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.

“What surprises me, even though I know it’s coming, is the sheer variety of the paths our entrepreneurs take to success, thematically reflecting how our economy has evolved,” says Inc. President and Editor-In-Chief Eric Schurenberg. “This year there are far more social media and far fewer computer hardware businesses than there were, say, six years ago. But what doesn’t change is the fearsome creativity unleashed by American entrepreneurship.”

Methodology
The 2014 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2010 to 2013. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2010. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent–not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies–as of December 31, 2013. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2010 is $100,000; the minimum for 2013 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/5000.

About NetProspex
NetProspex is the smarter B2B data partner. We help marketing and sales organizations optimize their revenue impact by increasing the quality and effectiveness of their marketing database. Thousands of B2B organizations rely on NetProspex to manage their marketing data in order to fuel high-performing marketing campaigns and accelerate the creation of their sales pipelines. To make databases richer and more actionable, the company offers a suite of data services backed by its proprietary CleneStepTM verification technology and the industry’s largest and most accurate reference database of B2B contacts and companies. For more information, visit www.netprospex.com.

About Inc. and the Inc. 5000

Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders.  Total monthly audience reach for the brand has grown significantly from 2,000,000 in 2010 to over 6,000,000 today.  For more information, visit http://www.inc.com/.

The Inc. 500|5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list of the nation’s most successful private companies has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual event that celebrates their remarkable achievements. The event also offers informative workshops, celebrated keynote speakers, and evening functions. For more information on Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Conference, visit http://www.inc.com/.

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What’s Hot in Cleveland? Our Go-To-Guide For #CMWorld

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And no this isn’t a post devoted to Betty White, although let’s face it… who wouldn’t love that! I mean look at her.

Betty-White-Blog2This week we’re talking about the largest content marketing event – Content Marketing World 2014 – it’s back and we couldn’t be more excited. With big name brands like GE, Kraft, and John Deere speaking at this year’s event, the folks at CMI have truly outdone themselves. Oh, did I mention that our very own CMO, Derek Slayton, will also be speaking?

While we can’t wait for all of the keynotes and breakout sessions, we’re also thrilled to hit the town for some networking and, of course, fun. For #CMWorld newbies, we’ve put together a mini guide to Cleveland’s hotspots highlighting some of the most exciting Content Marketing World events, as well as a selection of must-see attractions and restaurants.

  1. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum: Did you listen to Mick and the Stones non-stop on your flight to Cleveland? Then the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is right up your alley. The museum includes four theaters, multiple interactive stations and seven floors of exhibits that tell the stories of today’s biggest rock and roll legends. For more information on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, click here.
  2. ContentFest: Also known as Coachella for marketers, ContentFest features the musical acts of Cleveland-based Welshly Arms and 1964 the Tribute, dubbed “the best Beatles tribute band” by Rolling Stone Magazine. While listening to some tunes, attendees can munch on some delicious grub from some of Cleveland’s best food trucks at Jacobs Pavilion.
  3. Progressive Field: There’s nothing better than a ballpark frank and cold beer on a sunny afternoon in September. Catch a game (and a homerun) at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians since 1994. The ballpark hosts a variety of events and functions year-round in its various facilities. Check out the latest events here!
  4. East 4th Street: After a long day’s work, let off some steam on East 4th Street. From a bowling alley to a martini bar to a comedy club, there’s something for everyone all within the confines of one city block. And don’t forget the food; pick from a number of restaurants from all corners of the globe including an Irish flair, Mexican roots or my favorite, Mediterranean!

Personally, I cant wait for tomorrow to see what the sponsors have to offer. One of my favorite things to do at a show is make sure I walk around and get a glimpse of the giveaways and see what fancy new toy I can bring home for my nephew!

If you’re attending this year’s event, don’t be shy; come by booth 59 for a chat! We will also be giving away a pair of Google Glass… take the one question survey below to enter to win! Hope to see you in Cleveland!


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Are You Ready to Paint the Town Orange?!

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Flights are booked, out of offices are being scheduled, and everyone is getting their best and brightest orange clothing dry cleaned… because it’s time for Content Marketing World! It’s about time I called up our friend Joe Pulizzi to get the low down on this year’s event. Check it out below!

Derek: It occurred to me that it’s been a year since your book, Epic Content Marketing, came out, and I’m wondering from your perspective what has changed the most since a year ago? What things that you thought were definite are no longer definite one year out?

EpicContentMarketingJoe: Over the past year, we’ve seen a couple of things happen. One, you don’t see a lot of businesses – at least not on the enterprise side – questioning the fact that they need to be creating quality content as part of their overall marketing approach. So that’s great, because I don’t have to go out and evangelize quite as much. But there’s still – and this surprises me the most – not a thoughtful strategy put behind these programs. I think some enterprises are looking at a buy versus build scenario. Companies are looking to see whether or not their customer base exists out there in the form of a prospect or a customer group around a piece of content that they don’t own. Can they go out and acquire that site? And those are usually media companies. I’ve been talking about this for a long time. I thought we would see more action here, but in a lot of the companies I’ve talked to; it’s harder for them to get internal buy-in to do something that’s seemingly so odd. You see a lot of M&A around products and services, but we don’t see a lot of M&A around “Oh, maybe we should buy portions of our marketing mix and keep them as assets.” I see it as “Oh my God! Look, you can pick up a number of subscribers that are your customers.” You know, we advertise, we sponsor trade shows, we do those sorts of things, but there aren’t enough companies out there thinking: “Wow, there are a lot of companies building major subscriber networks and maybe we should approach them for purchase?” I thought this would be going on like crazy. So going back to your question, I’m still surprised in the number of companies that don’t have a documented strategy around content marketing, and I’m surprised that we’re not seeing more M&A. Predictions are, I still believe that both will happen, but I’m surprised at how slow that’s occurring.

Derek: I think your comment on people not really having a strategy speaks to the process marketers are trying to go through and the buyer progression and engagement that they’re trying to drive. I’m wondering how you advise B2B companies with not only allocating time to build a strategy, but then having done that, balancing being progression-centric versus creative and buyer-centric? What I mean by that, is that the content I build needs to serve a purpose rather than just being interesting or relevant.

Joe: What we’re seeing right now on the B2B side is there’s a flight to activity. We do enough stuff; we put enough out there; we get enough of these networks going and good things will happen, without even thinking of why we’re in those networks to begin with. It seems so simple. Sometimes it’s a little bit frustrating when you talk to marketers who are doing so many different activities, but then when you ask them: “Why are you on Facebook?” And, in a lot of cases, the people running the content on that Facebook page don’t know the ultimate business objective behind it. That’s a huge problem. I mean, why would you do a product launch? We know that answer right off the bat. Why are we creating this type of a tool or this type of software? We know the answers to those. But when we think about it from a content standpoint, we get into certain networks, and we’re promoting our content, and we start to measure it in activity, versus in business objectives. So that’s where I think if we start with that “why,” and we do simple exercises to get there. For example, the average B2B enterprise engages in 13-15 different pieces of content – eBooks, webinars, social media, pod casts, etc. I will say to a marketer, OK, for your particular audience and that particular piece of content, tell me why you’re doing it. Tell me the business objectives behind each one of those. But from a process standpoint, I always say, I want you to list your content marketing mission statement, which is very similar to an editorial mission statement for a publishing operation. I come from the publishing side, and our process was always, let’s create our editorial mission statement. Who is the audience we’re targeting? What are we going to send them? What is the outcome or behavior we want to see? 100% of publishers do that, and almost no marketers do it. So, if we’re supposed to be publishers we’re not engaging in the basic process that it takes to create a really good media brand, and that’s where I think we’re stuck.

Derek: I think a lot times in the B2B space we can get caught-up focusing more on the activities or on trying to be ultra-creative in what we’ve done, instead of focusing on how I educate my buyer on why my solution is necessary and valuable and worth investing in learning more about – and maybe even buying. How do you see that?

Joe:It’s about filling in the gap, that’s what you’re talking about. You’re also talking about consistency. Where we are prone, in a lot of cases, to looking at what is that big creative idea or campaign that we can generate, instead of doing the work. And a lot of times it’s just about asking what are we trying to do? Are we doing it every day? Every week? How can we position ourselves as the leading expert, not only in the product, but in the content that we create? And that’s just about consistency. That’s the biggest breakdown in content marketing – it’s not consistent.We’ll blog every once in a while, but we don’t have a consistent process behind how we’re communicating through all of these channels. And then when we get a new campaign budget, we change right at the time when we’re starting to create a relationship with our content around a targeted persona. We change it because we have a new campaign. Marketers do this, but publishers would never do this.It takes three plus years to create a long-term relationship with your reader through your content. It takes a long time to build that trust, and maybe it’s less today, but it’s still a long time. But if you have a 9 -12 month campaign, you’ve got to go beyond that before you get the kind of data that you can start to say, “OK, well this data can tell me how I’m going to treat my advertising now to make that more impactful. It’s going to tell me how I can communicate better with my customers, or how this affects our ongoing content mission.

Derek: That’s interesting and I can certainly internalize it. We run a marketing shop here, obviously. And we are in a space where I’m not sure that we are creating a category, but we are definitely trying to educate people on why to challenge the status quo and think about things differently. What would be the one thing you’d recommend if you were on a journey like ours where you’re trying to change the mindset of a target buying community? Is it consistency and longevity that are going to win? Or are there other things I should be looking at?

Joe: I think there are a lot of other things. But it’s the consistency that’s the biggest breakdown. That’s where the most mistakes are made. That’s where when you talk to enterprises, and they say “oh that didn’t work,” and then I go into the details and find out that they’ve really only been blogging for three months and it was sporadic at best. They weren’t getting subscribers. If you look at most content marketing programs, it took well over a year to build a base of loyal customers. The loyal readers start to share it, and to rely on it. But you have to ask yourself: 1- Are you actually filling a need; and 2- Is the target audience actually small enough? If there are too many types of personas or customers, it’s never going to be relevant enough to work. A lot of enterprises are trying to go big, and we’re saying, go super small. Go small to the point where you can actually say, there is a chance we can be the leading informational provider in this niche category.

Derek: It’s funny you say that. We parallel that thought a lot in the way we advise and work with our marketing customers from a data perspective. It’s really about understanding where the sweet spot of the market is and narrowing the guardrails as much as possible so you have a higher density – rather than a higher count.

Joe: It’s the same thing. I’ve talked to a number of content marketing agencies that are trying to figure out what their marketing strategy should be and you go to their website and they’re basically doing content marketing for a generalist company. I always say, “Look you don’t have to turn down the health care company that comes to you, but you probably aren’t going to market for that company, so let’s figure out the niche, maybe its financial content marketing, maybe it’s those that trade in high velocity environments or global companies.” The better you can get the niche to target that customer the better it’s going to work. But they feel that if they do that they’re going to miss out on opportunities the advice there is “no then you create a different category but let’s start a focused one first and then we can expand onto another content category.”

Derek: I want to make sure we ask this question. With your event right around the corner, what are you thinking will be the hot topics this year? What should we be prepared for?

Joe: The big challenge is how do I show return? So we’re heavy on sessions about ROI. The big thing I’m really excited about is a study we did on “The Effective Content Marketer.” There are different traits that differentiate those people that are supremely confident and effective with what they’re doing. And those who aren’t, or aren’t seeing much of anything happen. So, I’ll be going through that. The big thing has to do with writing down your strategy, and on a regular basis, going back to look at that program strategy. The people who do that score so much higher, even compared to those that have a strategy but don’t look at it on a regular basis. It’s like personal goals. If you and I have life goals, and we look at those on a daily basis, we’re more likely to hit our goals. It’s common sense. That’s exactly what we’re seeing. So, if we can talk to people at the event about doing this simple step that all human beings can do, it’s going to help us to measure, create better teams and integrate with the rest of marketing. It’s the little things that we are not doing because we aren’t used to being publishers. But if we think in this way, and if we start to do that and get used to it, it’ll make all the difference.

Hopefully we will see you all in Cleveland next week. Make sure to stop by booth #59 and say hello to the NetProspex team!

ps. if you enjoyed hearing from me and Joe, make sure to check my other Q&A’s with Ann Handley and Scott Brinker.

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Tips To Achieve Higher Email Deliverability

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For marketers, receiving the dreaded “bounce back” message indicating that your email was undeliverable is paralyzing and can lead to higher “sender anxiety” (that funny feeling in your gut before you hit “Send” on an email campaign – if you’ve managed any email campaigns, you know what I’m talking about). After all, successful outbound marketing depends on your ability to land messages in your target buyers’ inboxes. However, unless you’re starting from scratch, chances are your marketing database contains outdated, incorrect or invalid email addresses, as records degrade quickly over time.

According to our “2014 State of Marketing Data Benchmark” report, overall email deliverability rates continue to be a problem for email marketing programs. In fact, the average company database deliverability was still less than optimal with only 35 percent of analyzed files classified as functional or higher.

Undeliverable emails can be the difference between a profitable and unprofitable quarter. Inaccurate addresses not only lead to missed campaign goals, but they can also damage a sender’s reputation and brand perception, and may even lead to the sender’s address being flagged (these are the causes of sender anxiety). So how can you achieve higher email deliverability? Follow the tips below:

  1. Scrub your database: With data now flowing from a far more diverse range of channels than ever before, it’s important toconduct a thorough scrubbing of your database. Having a high number of inactive users—or subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked on your emails in a long time—can hurt your email deliverability and make your job more stressful than it needs to be. So make sure to get rid of records that have either bounced or unsubscribed.
  2. Continually enrich records: It’s important to continually validate and enrich records as data degrades rapidly. Cleanse and enrich services—like those provided by the NetProspex Data Management Subscription—ensure your marketing lists are not housing incomplete records. It does this by adding critical targeting and segmentation information to your existing database.
  3. Simplify registration forms: It’s common for customers to complete lead capture forms with pseudo-names and email addresses. To ensure you capture the correct information, assign priority to completing the most valuable fields.
  4. Ditch the “batch and blast” technique: In the past, marketers would use the batch-and-blast method, in which they would “batch” all of their email contacts and “blast” them with a campaign (whether it was relevant or not). This one-size-fits-all approach no longer works, as prospects want more-personalized content. So ditch this old-school technique and start creating campaigns that are pertinent to the audiences that receive them.

Want a few more Data-Driven Tips on how to improve email deliverability? Then check out our Mini Guide to Email Deliverability to find out how to solve your database problems!


“Everybody Writes”… Kickass Content like Ann Handley

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I recently chatted with marketing guru Ann Handley to talk industry shop and get a preview of her new book “Everybody Writes.” You can find highlights from the conversation below, and can pre-order Ann’s book here.

Derek: As you know well, Ann, we’re focused entirely on the B2B marketing space. Very curious to hear your thoughts on how the space has evolved and changed?

Ann: What? It’s changed?! Obviously we’ve seen major shifts in marketing, especially since I’ve been at MarketingProfs and certainly since I was at ClickZ. These shifts have been felt in particular in B2B. Online has become the new tradeshow. We’ve seen all the stats – 54 percent of your buyers will spend time researching online before buying. The buying process is so different now for B2B buyers. There’s a whole dynamic of buyers emerging much later in the sales process than they used to. This has drastically affected the role marketing plays and how marketers market. Marketers today need to understand the role that content plays in this new process. How do we offer up content that’s truly relevant and helpful to buyers? How can we position our solution at the right time and right place in the buyer’s journey, and when it’s appropriate for addressing their problem? This has really pushed content marketing to the forefront for companies.

Derek:  Your point on the website being the new tradeshow is so true, and a great way to think about it. We really are seeing marketing carry the ball further down the field. Today’s buyer is anonymous and isn’t looking to be sold. They’re looking to be educated. Companies are more responsible than ever for educating their buyers, and it’s not just marketing but sales too. Sales need to be more education-oriented.

Ann: Truly, I think sales has to become more useful to the buyer than ever before. We sometimes place a lot of the burden on marketing, and sales think they can swoop in and close the deal. Sales really has to become part of the educational process.

Derek: And with all of this, it’s really still best done by a person. I think it is hard – and maybe dangerous – to try to automate that one-to-one interaction and have it be authentic. I feel like we can get lost in the technology side of the equation sometimes and really the technology is best at helping us understand when, and how, to connect. Not to actually do it for us.

Ann: I love that you just said that. All the things we have are just tools to speak to buyers and prospects more directly. But it comes down to people. We focus on the role that technology plays, but the technology is worthless without the people behind it. It’s cliché, but true. It can be easily dismissed, but it’s so important.

Derek: We’re big into data, and I find it can be overwhelming for people. You get focused on the tens of thousands of people versus the one-to-one approach, which is far more successful. But it’s not just a numbers games. Automation can make you think it’s a numbers game – pour more into the top of the funnel and the “machine” will win.

Ann: We see this in the content space too. A couple of years ago, when content marketing become “the thing,” everyone decided they needed it as one of their marketing channels. Marketers started stuffing these pieces with keywords and putting out as much content as they could. You can be much more affective focusing on producing content that’s accessible and has empathy for your buyer’s problems. It’s about quality, not quantity.

Derek: So if you were to give your advice on the single most important thing marketers should be doing, would that be it? Quality, not quantity?

Ann: Yes, focus on the quality of your conversations. Think from your customer’s point of view. Don’t get stuck in the traditional campaign mindset, where you create programs and campaigns to use across your channels. What’s missing with that is the customer and thinking about things from their point of view. Are you answering questions for them? Are you addressing their pain points? Crowd Mics is an example of a company that has done this particularly well. It turns any device into a microphone. It’s solving a problem for anyone who puts on – or attends – events. It produced a video and showed such empathy for that moment when you’re standing up at a conference to ask a question and you can’t be heard. Always think from your customer’s point of view. In fact, I talk in my book about developing a pathological empathy for your buyer.

Derek: What are the other mistakes you see folks make when it comes to content marketing?

Ann: We talked about quality over quantity. There’s also this idea of random acts of content, rather than thinking about content being beyond just marketing. It’s really about considering the story you’re telling across every platform. Tell that story consistently. I always use this Lion King analogy – everything the light touches is content. Companies need to think more broadly about what is content – that could be your social channels, your website, your blog – and have a consistent approach across these channels.

Derek: You talk a lot about storytelling. How do you turn what you want to say into a story people can relate to? How do you find those unexpected stories as a way to help brands come to life?

Ann: I think one of the ways we can do that is looking to analogy instead of example. Look around at the things in your own world as sources of inspiration to create content. Jason Miller at LinkedIn does this all the time. He has a passion for rock and roll music, and he produces a lot coming out of that world with “content that rocks,” using music videos to highlight content. You really need to look at your own life. One of my favorite recent pieces of storytelling was Carl Sciortino. He put out what I think is one of the best political videos. He applies some of the rules of storytelling to a political ad. It’s about rethinking what’s possible. Can we take the rules of storytelling and apply them to an ad?

Derek: The analogy is important but when you can make it a personal analogy it makes it instantly relatable and brings a level of authenticity to it. Part of the reason you read the content is to discover how the person is going to connect the dots – from personal analogy to company story. And then you remember that story.

Ann: I also think using humor is another great way to tell a story. Brands don’t think about using humor enough. Brands will say “we’re not funny; our team isn’t funny.” There are brands that can help you incorporate humor. My friend at Cisco does a great job with this. He positioned a Cisco router as the perfect “forever gift” for Valentine’s Day – talking about how it’s reliable and will last forever.  It’s a great way of making a broader point. The strategic goal was to talk about reliability of the router. And this makes it memorable and interesting. Humor is a great way to tell those unexpected stories.

One other example of this – MarketingProfs did a slideshow infomercial for our B2B Forum in Boston. We were thinking of what’s worked in other industries and put it to use in our own.

Derek: Any other brands that stand out to you as being interesting in a way that’s relatable and spot on?

Ann: I think LinkedIn has done a good job in telling a broader story. When it first came out, it was an online rolodex. Now, it’s positioned as a place for anyone with ambition. It really did build an audience first, and then built a business around that audience. It has done a lot of smart things. I’ve often said that long after we’re all gone, it will be LinkedIn and the cockroaches. All the other social platforms could go away. They’re the dark horse. They’ll still be standing when others have dropped off.

Derek: You mentioned LinkedIn. Of course, they recently bought Bizo. I’ve seen this explosion in marketing tech and consolidation from the big vendors (e.g. LinkedIn) and tech powerhouses (e.g. Oracle). What’s your take? Are we heading down a path where marketing tech is delivered through a small set of big companies?

Ann: I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine! I agree that there’s been a ton of activity. What’s that Gartner stat? Something like by 2017 CMOs will spend more on technology that CIOs will. We’re seeing an explosion with marketing tech spend, and we really are seeing the combination of art and science coming together. Marketing is incorporating more data, and that’s making marketing departments a lot more compatible. That’s definitely driving it, but I don’t know what it will look like down the line. I’d love to get your thoughts on that.

Derek: I tend to think the same you do. I agree with your take on where it’s going and why it’s going there. And as a marketer, I think it’s fantastic. Marketing is far more strategic than it used to be. Marketing has historically had a challenge to be relevant, unlike sales and engineering. Now it’s become far more accountable. The marketing function has to be leading and has to be measurable. That’s definitely driving it. A dollar invested in marketing may return higher than a dollar invested in sales. As that happens, people spend more time and focus on marketing technology. And as that happens, the big vendors will (and already have) gravitate towards the market.

Ann:  Bottom line – it is positioning marketing to be a whole lot more influential going forward. It’s worth noting that I don’t want to downplay the art side of this. There’s more technology, data and tools to make good decisions. But the creative side is really important in telling those stories to connect buyers to those companies – the technology is what helps deliver those stories. We’re seeing a confluence of lots of great things. Marketing has become a key player in the C-suite. Back at ClickZ, marketers didn’t get the respect they deserved. I don’t think we’re going to say that anymore.

Derek:  Alright, so tell me about your new book. I have to say my team is eagerly awaiting its release. Why will it help marketers be better at their jobs?

Everybody-Writes-Ann-HandleyAnn: Everybody Writes, as the sub-title says, is a go-to guide for attracting and retaining customers through online communications. In our content driven world, every one of us is a writer. Our words matter more now than they ever did before. Words are our ambassadors. They tell our customers who we are and are the cornerstone of how we tell our story. Words are critical.

Writing is something that people have an emotional response to. Based on some trauma they had as  children, they think they’re terrible writers. But I don’t believe that. Just like people have to build their knowledge of basic tools, this book gives you the tools to be a better writer. It’s very prescriptive. It’s kind of a call to arms to recognize the power that words have – on our websites, social platforms and across the internet. They’re our ambassadors that say who we are. We need to up our game. Being a better writer is key to that.

Derek: Writing is like math. People either lean in and aren’t afraid of it, or say they can’t and don’t even try. It’s a cop out to say you can’t write. You can speak, so write it down.

Ann: It’s funny that you said that about math. In the book, I compare writing to math. I tell the story about an MIT professor who is a senior editor at The Atlantic. There’s a quote in the book that the rigor of math has better prepared these kids for the rigor of writing. They realized by the end of the course, writing is a lot more like math than they thought. It’s a matter of trying and learning the fundamentals.

Derek: One of my favorite writing books is Stephen King’s On Writing. I guess because I think I’m a writer. But I love this statement that there aren’t writers and non-writers. It takes practice and the ability to fail – the ability to throw away and start over. It also reminds me of Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, which has as similar take on writing or any sort of creative process. It’s not about how you write. It’s about sitting down and doing the work and avoiding the attention deficit disorder we are faced with in marketing. I’m sure you went through it with your book. It doesn’t just happen – for anybody. You have to put the time in.

Ann: Funny that you mention On Writing. That’s one of the books I thought about. Stephen King is quoted a couple of times. Also Evie White’s Elements of Style. So why would you pick it up if you’re a writer? This is written for a marketing audience. It’s teaching marketers to write, and framing it from a content marketing perspective. It’s what might result if The Elements of Style and On Writing had a threesome with the Internet. Andrew Davis called it “the new creative resource for a new generation.” It’s geared toward marketers and our world.

Derek: I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for chatting with us today.

Don’t forget to order “Everybody Writes” by clicking here

Ann Handley is a best-selling author, social media and content marketing keynote speaker, the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, and a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur magazine. You can read more from her here.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Lead Nurturing

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Take a second and think about your lead conversion rate. Could you name it right now? Hopefully you can. Conversion rates from inquiry to MQL — and MQL to opportunity — are two crucial stats that demand gen marketers should always have at the ready. Why? Because they tell you how your lead nurturing programs are performing, and lead nurturing is a demand gen marketer’s bread and butter.

Lead nurturing is all about understanding the nuances of your buyers and building relationships with them through every stage of the buying cycle. When done correctly, this practice can boost conversion rates and decrease the cost of customer acquisition. When done incorrectly — well, let’s not go there.  To make sure you stay on track, check out this list of the top dos and don’ts of lead nurturing:

Do Map Your Content To Your Buying Cycle: Each new piece of content created by your marketing team should clearly belong in a specific section of the buying cycle. This may seem obvious, but so many marketers don’t take the time to do it. If you’re in the group of procrastinators, start by creating a master list of all of your content and all of the different stages of your buyer’s journey. Go down the list of content one at a time and decide which stage the content best serves. Then go back and look at your nurturing programs to make sure the content follows a logical order. While you’re at it, make sure your lead scoring models reflect proper point levels for each piece of content.

Don’t Overwhelm Your Leads: When it comes to lead nurturing, there’s a fine line between being helpful and acting desperate — and no one wants to seem desperate. Your nurtures should provide gentle nudges, not frantic shoves through the marketing/sales funnel. Have a solid outreach plan in place to outline exactly how often you should contact a lead and with what types of content for messages, emails and follow-ups are appropriate. If you don’t have a plan in place, start with all the content you mapped to the first stage of the buying cycle and define the next path you want a lead to take.

Do Make It Worth Your Audience’s While: A key to successful nurturing is to deliver valuable content that your audience wants. Overt sales material may not hold your audience’s attention. Keep it efficient, keep it human and create an impression. Some men say that if they can get a girl to laugh, they can get her to go on a date. Content follows the same idea. If your content is both enjoyable and sharp, you’ve got a better chance of holding their attention, and those conversion rates we talked about may start to go up.

Don’t Ignore Their Behavior: Just as we talked about not overwhelming your prospects when they enter your buying cycle, it’s important to mention that marketing automation allows us to give eager beavers what they want. If someone is downloading your content like crazy, let them! Don’t restrict their connection with your brand simply because they need to fit a generic lead nurture program.

Do Test, Track, And Test Some More: As we all know, lead nurturing can get tricky as specific segments respond differently to certain tactics.Good marketers test, but great marketers are constantly testing. Your CMO will thank you for it and you’ll waste less time producing content that doesn’t convert. If you don’t know where to start, test something simple like subject-line length or button color. Once you get your feet wet, you’ll feel more comfortable taking on sophisticated experiments.

Don’t Forget About Your Sales Team: We can pass leads to sales all day long, but if your sales team isn’t with the program, all of this work is a waste. Consistency is key when communicating with your sales team. This cannot be stressed enough. Make sure the sales team always knows what your official lead flow process is, what types of leads are coming in the door, and what the end goal is. Accomplish that, your lead nurturing programs will put up solid numbers.

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Empower Sales Agents With Consumer Insight

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Let’s face it: Business-to-business sales is not for the fainthearted. While B2C salespeople can rely on charm, good looks and wit to help close deals, in the B2B “jungle”—where the stakes are high and consumers are more sophisticated and discerning—these traits won’t get you far.

In B2B sales, it’s not what you sell that matters (although that’s not to be completely overlooked), it’s how you sell that matters most. To be successful, you not only have to know your consumers, but you have to know their world—their industry, their geography, how big their company is … the list goes on.

Every sales rep knows you only have one shot to make a connection with a buyer, so you better make it a bull’s-eye. Having access to comprehensive consumer insight allows salespeople to properly craft more relevant sales pitches and have meaningful conversations with prospects. But, where does one get this informational insight? Believe it or not, it’s right under your nose, as follows:

  1. Social media: Through “social listening,” agents are able to hear firsthand what prospects are saying about their brand and, more importantly, their competitors. By connecting and engaging with potential buyers, reps can dig deep into buyers’ needs, pain points and challenges to facilitate more meaningful, relevant conversations. According to research, 78.6 percent of salespeople using social media to sell outperform those who aren’t using it.
  2. Contact database: Your contact database is filled with untapped business intelligence. While it might seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning, as a surprising number of salespeople don’t use their contact database to its full potential. That’s because data is often outdated and/or inaccurate given the rapid rate of data degradation. Clean it up, maintain it and use it for all it’s worth.
  3. Marketing department: Just like you, your marketing department associates are in the trenches day in and day out, combing through piles of data to reveal insights into buyer behaviors, preferences and sentiment. Don’t be afraid to pick their brains once in awhile; chances are you’ll learn something new.

What steps do you take to empower your sales teams? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Sales and Marketing Team Up to Own the Customer Experience

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When it comes to customer experience, you have to keep in mind that the customer experience doesn’t begin with the signing of the contract, it begins at that Zero Moment of Truth – when they first Google one of the keywords you’ve worked so hard to develop in your SEO strategy.  That’s the point at which their customer experience begins. Lose sight of this fact, and you risk losing another potential customer. So get it right from the start.

Establishing immediate value with our customers is very top of mind for me right now because we recently launched a Customer Success team here at NetProspex. The mission of this team is to make our customers as successful as possible by deploying our marketing data management solutions as quickly as possible. Data management can be one of the more challenging things marketers have to deal with, so it’s critical to us that our customers have a positive experience right out of the gate.

But think about it – everything I just talked about happens after a contract has been signed. Getting the onboarding process right won’t make a bit of difference if we don’t have any new customers. So we’ve put the customer at the center of everything we do: we use persona marketing to drive our content creation, to determine what events we attend, to define what kind of voice we use in our collateral, and to choose what communities we engage. By focusing on our key personas, we have been forced to rethink every aspect of our marketing strategy – including who’s responsible for the customer experience.

Now, historically, the customer experience kind of got bounced around here – primarily landing on Sales and Customer Support. And let’s be honest, once most good sales “hunters” have a signed contract (no matter what they tell you during the sales cycle) they are on to the next deal. That left our Customer Support Representatives interacting with customers who felt somewhat abandoned. But we were a transactional business then, so it didn’t seem to be that big of a deal. When we launched our Data Management Subscription services, we knew we had to change.

Marketing now drives the creation and cultivation of a customer experience that proves value quickly and maintains a high level of satisfaction throughout the subscription. Why? Because we as marketers have a deep understanding of our target audience’s wants, needs and expectations; this puts us in a great position to become true champions of their customer experience. But we couldn’t do it alone, so we also needed to strengthen the communication with Sales. We’ve worked hard to improve those lines of communication, to provide our sales team with appropriate tools to guide the Buyer’s Journey and convert leads faster. As a result, Sales and Marketing are much more aligned, and the hand-off between our Customer Success Team and our Client Managers is managed more explicitly.

Below are several ways in which our sales and marketing team have worked together to improve our customers’ experience:

  • We agreed on common metrics and definitions: By agreeing on the definition of a “sales-ready” lead, we ensured that we were delivering quality leads to the sales team. We also set goals for weekly production of leads so we could measure our progress. As a result, our Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) have increased, and our weekly New Opportunities Created are at an all-time high for the company.
  • We share lead intelligence: We stressed the importance of reporting sales activity, establishing and tracking a clear “sequence of events” and tracking BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing) in every opportunity. When we really began to track these data points and tie them to how best to progress a lead, we’ve found that our prospects felt that we really understood what their challenges and goals were, that we had solutions to their needs. As a result, customers are buying more of our higher-value data management services. It’s been a win-win for everyone.
  • We solicited feedback from everyone: We’ve worked hard to break down the barriers between Sales, Marketing and Customer Support. No longer are they viewed as discreet functions – they are all part of delivering value as quickly as possible to our prospects and customers. For example, our sales team relies on Customer Support for insight into a customer or prospect’s data. Marketing relies on Sales for new insight into emerging needs in the market, and Sales relies on Marketing for assets and tools to help accelerate and effectively guide prospects through the Buyers Journey.

The fruits of this labor have benefitted our business in ways beyond our increase in customer acquisition and the constant citation of our great customer support. It’s created a sense of teamwork within the company that pervades everything and I also think it’s a big reason why NetProspex has consistently been awarded one of the Best Places to Work in Boston for several years by a number of different sources.

 

Why You Need To Work #SocialMedia Into Your Marketing Strategy

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Do you remember what life was like before the pound sign was referred to as a hashtag? Or when the acronym “FF” stood for fast forward? Social media has become an invaluable tool for B2B marketers, allowing them to connect with buyers, spread brand awareness and generate leads. However, the majority of B2B organizations have yet to master the art of social media. Without this piece of the marketing puzzle in place, your business will miss many opportunities to connect to consumers.

So, if you’re having trouble navigating the sea of social networks, it’s time you got schooled on the must of social media:

  1. Have a strategy: You wouldn’t launch a new product campaign without a solid strategy in place would you? The same goes for social media. It’s important to set clear objectives and targeted goals. Most important, don’t forget to measure the ROI of your social media efforts.
  2. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to social media. Find out what type of content resonates most with each platform’s audience. The more you understand your audience, the more targeted (and effective) your content will be. Be sure to leverage updated, comprehensive data for insight into customers and their specific needs and preferences to effectively engage them.
  3. Chose the platform that makes sense your company: Just because Instagram has more users than Facebook, that doesn’t mean it’s right for your business. Every social network is different; it’s your job to understand which platform will yield the most success.
  4. Don’t be MIA: What’s worse than posting too much? Not posting enough. Don’t neglect your followers. Budget enough time during your day to update each platform. The key to generating leads is getting your brand noticed and heard.
  5. Have a purpose: Don’t tweet or post just for the fun of it. Whether it’s promoting your latest white paper or an event, make sure there’s a purpose to your post. If it doesn’t add value, users will have no reason to connect with you.

With social media part of consumers’ daily lives, it’s just as important to regularly engage target audiences through appropriate social channels as it is through more traditional means like email and events. With good data, B2B marketers can easily determine who to reach with which content through which platform and when. By coming up with a solid social strategy, B2B marketers will be able to get their messages out regularly and easily – creating a stronger relationship with customers and prospects to ultimately boost business results. So what’s stopping you? Get on board with #socialmediamarketing.

What The Tough Mudder Taught Me About Teamwork

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Last year I completed a Tough Mudder challenge at Mount Snow in Vermont. For those of you who’ve participated in one of these challenges before, you know the kind of assault it takes on your body and mind. For those of you who don’t know, let me give you some insight: The 10 to 12 mile-long military-style obstacle course created by British Special Forces is designed to test one’s strengths, stamina, and mental grit.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Why would anyone in their right mind compete in such a challenge?” Let’s face it: You have to sign a death waiver (no joke!). So there I was at the starting line staring at the initial 6-foot wall you have to climb to even START the course, when I thought to myself, “How am I going to finish this?” Smiling, I turned to see my teammates, knowing we all had each other’s backs.

During the grueling course, there were some obstacles I couldn’t tackle alone – climbing over a 10 foot wall being a mere 5’4” is damn near impossible! I relied on my team whose individual strengths combined helped get all ten of us over that wall and closer to the finish line.

Some would argue the same goes for data management.

With data flowing into your database from a variety of sources, and records rapidly decaying, keeping your data pristine can feel like running a marathon uphill with no finish line in sight. It can be downright exhausting. In fact, 66 percent of marketers admit to feeling overwhelmed with the sheer volume of marketing data available, according to a study conducted by Domo.

Maintaining data quality requires ongoing team effort and collaboration. Stack your team with expert sales and marketing leaders who can bring their expertise to the table. Next, bring on a trusted vendor who can work with you to determine expectations for data quality and develop an efficient and effective database management program.

Editor’s Note: This weekend, our marketing team decided to test our own teamwork on the course. We’ll be [hopefully] completing a 4.8 mile Spartan Race with similar challenging obstacles.

Have you run a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race? Comment here and stay tuned because we’ll be sure to share our pictures!

Don’t forget that celebration beer once you’ve finished! #workhardplayhard

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