Shorten the Buying Cycle

How Premium Content Can Captivate Qualified Buyers

Shorten Cycle

Reeling in leads can be like running a Spartan race in stilettos, drinking Baileys on a hot summer day, or listening to your Aunt Janice tell you about the time she had her hip replaced… possible, yet unpleasantly challenging.

All jokes aside, I know how hard it is to find that hook, that angle that intrigues buyers and makes them realize the worth of your product or services. However, captivating buyers early on with relevant, engaging content is the key to shortening the cycle and can be accomplished with the right data and a little bit of creativity.

According to Demand Generation’s “2015 Content Preferences Survey,” 67% of buyers rely more on content to research and make purchasing decisions than they did a year ago. What’s more, 45% of buyers reported that they must view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson; some respondents admitted to needing to see upward of seven pieces before speaking with a rep.

It’s probably a good time to evaluate the success of your current content marketing strategy. Buyers like to see a myriad of content before engaging with you, so make sure you have a wealth of content that is easily accessible to your website visitors. Ensure that you’re using different types of content—blogs, case studies and eBooks—to interest those who may want to see a variety of pieces.

An abundance of diverse, branded content will not only provide concrete information, such as product functions and prices, but will also enable your potential buyers to gain a deeper sense of your value proposition and personality. In a world of lofty marketing concepts and campaigns, there is nothing a customer appreciates more than you getting to the point and providing them with something of value.

When you offer your buyers all of the information they are looking for in one central location, you can shorten the buying cycle dramatically. You establish a trustworthy relationship between your brand and buyers by providing resonant content that incites action, i.e., content that makes your buyers want to speak with a sales rep.

But the secret ingredient to optimally accelerate the buying cycle with your content marketing is leveraging insight extracted from your marketing database. We must ensure that the business contacts information residing within our databases is accurate and complete so we can create content targeted specifically toward certain groups of buyers.

Here’s an example: if you have a group of small business owners from the same geographical location that have similar budgets, you can create a message that specifically mentions their location and links back to the products and services within their price range. In doing so, your buyers will feel that this message was personally tailored to meet their needs and interests.

Is your content marketing successful? Measure the average length of your buying cycle to find out. You might learn that you need to learn more about your contacts in order to create higher-quality content that engages and turns them into buyers.

Improve Your Brand Strategy

Five simple steps to help strengthen your brand marketing strategy

When it comes to content and brand marketing in 2015, you have to be authentic. In a world where information is at your fingertips, the best thing we can do as marketers is to be straightforward with our audience, know exactly who they are, and how to appeal to them. Gone are the days of inflated facts, excessive language, and casting wide nets. When it comes to promoting your brand, customers want a personalized experience. Here are five helpful hints for how you can improve your brand marketing strategy and win over the crowd:

1. Keep them in the loop.
Customers want hard facts, technical explanations, and the story behind the product they are investing in. Buyers are deeply researching products and their technology before making a decision now more than ever. It is essential to have a solid, yet simplified explanation of each of your products readily available to consumers. Telling your audience what you’re working on and what they can expect to see next is key.

2. Make a connection.
Consumers want to feel connected to the brands they are incorporating into their lives. From whether your founder has a dog or a cat to where your team likes to grab a coffee in the morning, customers are more likely to be engaged with your brand if you interact on a human level. They also want you to act as a resource rather than a commercial. This means, sharing relevant external articles, insider info, and behind-the-scenes photos through your social channels, as opposed to a constant flow of your product shots.

3. Keep it simple.
Gone are the days of flashy, overdone branding and design. Sleek, simplicity is on the rise. Take Apple, for example, their use of white space, clean lines, and lightweight fonts makes an impact on buyers and what they consider current. Your brand message also needs to be clear and consistent throughout your product line. The content you share should highlight both your brand’s personality and perspective.

4. Show some love.
There is nothing a person enjoys more than being part of the story. Brands who host in-store events and social media promotions geared toward celebrating their customers will see higher engagement and loyalty. I remember receiving an “anniversary” gift from after being a subscriber for one year. It was only a simple keychain, but it made an impact on me as a consumer. It is this surprise and delight tactic that will set you apart from the competition. It doesn’t have to be excessive; it just has to be thoughtful and timely.

5. Keep it real.
Did you make a mistake? Does your latest upgrade have a glitch? Tell your customers the story. Explain what went wrong and what you’re doing to fix it. Humanizing the process will help customers to appreciate and understand your company, and even help many to forgive errors and setbacks. The more transparent you are with your audience, the more likely they will be to stick with you through the ups and downs.

Now that I’ve shared these tips with you, I want to express the importance of knowing your audience. You can spend millions on the very best content marketers, community managers, and graphic designers, but if you don’t know who you’re reaching for, these efforts won’t get you far. That’s where we come in. Dun & Bradstreet NetProspex wants to help you clean up and manage your marketing data so you can spend more time building your brand and telling your story. Check out our free data services platform, Workbench to jump-start your efforts.

Are You Ready to Paint the Town Orange?!


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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“Everybody Writes”… Kickass Content like Ann Handley


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.

Enjoy the post? Check out my other conversations with Joe Pulizzi and Scott Brinker.

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Why is incomplete data a fact of life in marketing automation?


By Dmitry Grenader, Director of Product Management, NetProspex

This article is in response to our new Data Enrichment App for Eloqua

What can you, modern marketers, learn from a data player like NetProspex? I mean, come on, you have already turned your lead generation into a battlefield-ready machine. You have tuned your forms perfectly for frictionless conversion.  You have convinced the rest of the exec team to invest in a kick-ass Marketing Automation software. The marketing factory is humming, leads are scored and routed, nurturing programs are in place.

The factory is humming.

Think of your demand generation as a factory for a moment.  The most basic element is a “lead” (or a contact). You attract, create, manage, cultivate, and refine them. You have them moved from conveyer belt to conveyer belt until the worthy ones are wrapped and shipped to sales for follow-up.  But often, what you know about each contact is limited – mainly by the need to keep forms short and by the necessity to keep the lead-gen entry barrier low. You certainly have the basics like name, email and company. Sometimes you have title and company size, but not always. Not having complete details seems to be one of those “facts of life” limitations for marketers.

There’s a better way.

I never understood why it had to be this way. At NetProspex, we believe in a world where you as a marketer have actionable data at your fingertips – firmographics, like industry, company revenue and headcount, as well as detailed contact information – available to enrich each record. This opens new vistas and possibilities for you in lead-scoring, routing, campaign targeting, and for various other higher-consciousness programs you have not thought of yet.

Think of this data augmentation as enrichment for your contact data. It’s available from premier B2B data services companies like ours, but here are a few aspects to consider, to help you know that you are getting the real thing.

1. Data quality: Data cleanliness is of paramount importance today.  Lists are a dime a dozen, and a ton of new-fangled data players exist with more of the same, low quality information. Look for a partner who has a documented, sophisticated, and believable process for record cleaning. (Okay okay, I’m plugging our CleneStepTM validation process. Marketers love it.)

2. Level of automation: The data augmentation you choose needs to natively work and integrate with your Marketing Automation System. It also needs to work in real-time. The good news is that marketing automation companies are taking a page from other SaaS players and have introduced marketplaces like the Eloqua AppCloud  and Marketo Launchpoint to deliver greater value through integrated partner applications. More resources are available than ever, and more tools are added every week

3. Control: This is critical! When designing workflows to add data to your campaigns, you should have full control over how the data is augmented, what is added or overwritten, and when. Ultimately, you want the ability to configure this process to fit your organization’s unique approach to marketing data.

4. Simplicity: If people start talking to you about “paradigm shifts”, and the need to “buy into the new vision” – run the other way.  Data enrichment needs to be simple.  It is a utility that knows its place, and should work in tandem with your lead scoring, followup, and other automated systems.  Data enrichment should not require you to reengineer your world.

5. Price: Everything in life comes at a price. Do make sure that you receive volume discounts, and the pricing package is tuned to your needs. Getting technical for a moment, we priced our Data Enrichment App by records matched – not by how many attempts are made to find a match. We believe marketers should not have to pay an arm and a leg for better, more actionable data.

I enjoy the chance to speak with modern marketers whenever possible. I want to hear about what lead data issues you face, your wish-list of B2B data services and tools, and how we can continue to empower marketers to get better results from their marketing data. I can be reached at or @dgrenader on Twitter.

Shameless plug: we worked really hard on the new Data Enrichment App for Eloqua! The app appends and normalizes data from completed forms on your website, or currently within your programs and campaigns. Check it out, and try it free for two months if you sign up before December 31st.

Ask-the-Experts: 5 Answers to B2B Content Marketing Questions


Last week NetProspex hosted a webinar revealing Content Marketing trends for technology marketers. Our panelists discussed the findings and shared their best advice. Here, we’ve answered 5 audience questions from that live event. To watch the on-demand recording, click here.

Our experts:

Writer & Consultant
Stephanie Tilton
Ten Ton Marketing

Strategist & Thought-leader
Samantha Stone
The Marketing Advisory Network

John T. Frankot
Solution Publishing

1. Where does SEO fit into the content marketing equation?

A. SEO and content marketing go hand in hand. It starts by understanding the language your ideal customer uses to describe his or her pain points, goals, along with the terms used to conduct searches during the research and decision-making process. This should come out when developing buyer personas. You then work those phrases/terms into content titles, abstracts, etc. to optimize for search.

A. I agree with Stephanie. SEO and content marketing are linked in important ways. In my experience starting a content creation project with SEO as the primary goal has the unintentional consequence of degrading the quality of insight provided. Rather, it is best to focus the content on the target audience, then optimize for search. If we understand our audience well, the SEO efforts should be a natural output of the writing process.
2. Can you comment on the notion of repurposing content across multiple formats? I’m keen to leverage content, and hit different audiences…BUT am scared about prospects feeling the material is redundant/repetitive if they happen to see it in multiple places. Thoughts?

A. Samantha said it best during the webinar – prospects aren’t going to remember all the content that they consume so repetition never hurts. In fact, because prospects are likely consuming content from so many different companies, you need to make sure your message gets through and sticks, and that requires repetition. That said, it never hurts to slightly reword/recast the same information.

A. We should all be so lucky as our audience gets bored with our content because they remember it well! The truth is while we are familiar with everything that we produce, our audience reads very little of what has been published; and remembers even less. Some repetition is not only OK, it’s advisable. Of course, balance the repetition of messages by being creative with the format by which information is produced, along with varying the context by which it is provided.

A. Frequency and consistency are important and beneficial. However, it is advisable to have enough content to cover the major perspectives with which a readers’ interest is coming from, or to tailored to particular industry or application. I would venture to say as long as it is good, relevant content a reader is not going to think negatively about seeing it broadly distributed.
3. In enterprise sales, do you really think Marketing knows better than a Sales person who a C-level exec consumes information?

A. Marketing likely knows best what the audience is consuming in the earlier stages of the buying cycle and sales likely knows best what they’re consuming later on. But the best source is prospects and customers. Ask them what information they’re looking for at each stage of the buying cycle, along with their format preferences.

A. The best source of information consumption is our buyers. Both sales and marketing professionals have many opportunities to learn from them. Never be afraid to ask questions of potential buyers and clients alike.

A. It comes down to who has the better data, which often is a result of asking good questions of your current clients and prospects. This type of intelligence gathering should be a collaborative effort between Marketing and Sales.

4. Given the #1 currency that we are fighting for is time, how does awesome content get you out of the spam folder or “delete any vendor e-mail immediately” problem?

A. “Awesome” content stands out by being relevant, compelling, and timely. When people see useful information that’s applicable to what they’re trying to achieve, they’re open to receiving it. And when a vendor consistently delivers that type of information – instead of a product pitch time and again – its seen as a trusted source of information.

A. Building a reputation for providing compelling content will lead your target buyers to open more emails, but it is a mistake to think of your content strategy as your email strategy. Building a successful email campaign requires strong content offers, but it also requires careful consideration of subject line treatment, visual formats, timing and frequency. To maximize the value of content investments remember to distribute it across a wide range of vehicles, of which email is one of them.

A. Our philosophy is trusted content sources are valued, sought after and approved so they don’t land in the SPAM folder. As we well know, prospects are bombarded with vendor efforts to connect. You really need to find a trusted entry point and be relevant in your content distribution, enough so it is more content pull verse a push.

5. What characteristics do a white paper must have? Size? A bunch of tips or a more technical perspective?

A.In its 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report, Eccolo Media found that the majority of respondents preferred white papers between 4-8 pages. 86% of respondents to TechWeb’s Tech Marketing Best Practices Research Series on white papers said they want white papers under 10 pages, with 50% wanting papers under 5 pages.

Many folks feel gypped when a white paper just skims the surface of a topic. The paper should be as long as necessary to explore a topic in a meaningful way. If you have so much to say about a topic that you can produce 15 or 20 pages or more, create a series of white papers. Such an approach shows a respect for your readers’ time while also providing a terrific way to keep them engaged over an extended period as part of lead-nurturing efforts.

One common mistake is when companies produce ultra-short white papers that are nothing more than brochures in disguise. Keep in mind what stage of the buying process the paper is meant to serve. Early on, prospects are not looking for product details; they want to understand industry trends, best practices for solving their issues, what to look for in a solution, etc.

Key elements:

  • 4-8 pages
  • Executive Summary or Abstract
  • Headings/subheads
  • Bullets
  • Sidebars/call-outs/quotes
  • Graphics
  • Footnotes
  • Conclusion
  • Call to action

For more best practices, download my free eBook: 5 Steps to a White Paper that Pulls in the Perfect Prospect

A. Agree with much of what Stephanie shared. In general, nobody is in need of another product brochure. You need to identify with a readers problem, help them explore, and guide them to potential solutions. The content we see resonate best are thought leadership style white papers (4-6 pages), case studies, third party solution studies and eBooks.


To watch the on-demand recording, click here.


NetProspex Launches TechProspex Contact Targeting Solution for Technology Marketers


New service provides data on prospects’ technology environments with 90 percent accuracy

Waltham, Mass. – September 12, 2012 NetProspex, the leading provider of B2B contact data services, today announced the launch of TechProspex, a premium technology intelligence service. This new solution allows B2B technology marketers to find contacts at companies using more than 1,200 selectable technologies with 90 percent accuracy.

As 67% of marketers only segment by geography, industry, and title1, there is an enormous opportunity to gain a competitive advantage with precise targeting criteria based on what technologies are used at target companies, down to the specific model or version. The TechProspex service allows marketers to build lists of contacts at companies using complimentary technology or that of the competition. Customers can also append technology insights to accounts in their current database.


While other technology install data relies on surveys and statistical modeling to estimate what platforms a prospect might be using, TechProspex harnesses the power of Big Data compiled from hundreds of millions of public and proprietary datasets to achieve an unprecedented level of accuracy and coverage for existing installed technology, validated by phone. Only TechProspex can pair this information with the NetProspex database, offering marketers access to hundreds of thousands of companies and millions of potential B2B influencers and buyers. This contact data is then verified by NetProspex’s proprietary CleneStepTM contact verification process.

“Not only is NetProspex’s data high-quality, but it allows our team to drill down to a level of detail on technology use that helps improve our program results,” said Charlene Williams, Director of Marketing at Netuitive.

“TechProspex enables marketers to craft a message highly relevant to specific technology environments, increasingcampaign conversion and meeting lead generation goals,” said Gary Halliwell, CEO of NetProspex. “This is possible through a new level of access to the installed platforms that their prospects are using, coupled with industry-leading clean contact data from NetProspex’s contact database.”

Marketers that are targeting enterprises for high-consideration technology purchases know that, on average, no one decision maker has more than 30 percent of the total power through the purchase process2. Reaching multiple contacts per account is vital to the success of a campaign. The TechProspex solution provides a wide range of job functions and levels within companies, so customers are able to reach all appropriate influencers. Traditional providers are limited in coverage per company.

Technology marketers can request counts for specific technologies, and learn more about TechProspex here.

1 B2B Magazine Survey, 2012

2 Forrester Tech Marketing Navigator

About NetProspex

NetProspex drives customer acquisition by partnering with B2B marketers to deliver targeted prospect lists, data cleansing, and profiling analytics that help to uncover data insight and optimize lead generation results. Voted Best Lead Generation Solution by the SIIA, NetProspex maintains a deep database of millions of crowd-sourced business contacts verified by CleneStep™ technology. Thousands of B2B organizations rely on NetProspex to acquire and maintain clean, accurate prospect information to fuel high-performing marketing campaigns. More information at or on Twitter @NetProspex.


7 Steps to Exceed your B2B Pipeline Goals this Quarter

Man Running Reaching Finish Line

With the US athletes exceeding their goals in London right now, we thought we should keep the winning momentum going with a post originally written for Business2Community by NetProspex VP of Marketing, Maribeth Ross.

 1. Assess the quality situation – Your marketing database of prospects and contact records is at the core of your future pipeline. How accurate is the contact and company information in this database? In 2011, 37% of the workforce changed jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. NetProspex research shows that an individual contact records degrades in quality at the rate of 2% each month. Is poor data mucking up your marketing and preventing your pipeline from growing to its full potential?

2. Assess the targeting situation – Ensure that you have crossed the “T” in targeting. To ensure you have all the right targets in your database, look at historical purchase data. Identify as much as you can about the target buyer and other influencers that were involved in the buying process. This is a great time to append missing contact info (phone/address) and demographic/firmographic info (industry/title) or append installed technology data. In addition, take note of the length of the buying cycle. It will tell you a lot about what you need to do today to hit future goals.

Once you’ve confirmed your target buyers and influencers, you’ll need to evaluate your prospect databases to confirm that it has these buyers, both the primary targets and influencers. The shortest path to a sale is to involve all the influencers from the beginning to get them aligned and marketing can play a key early role in doing this.

3. Play the volume game – To really understand the volume of marketing activity you’ll need to hit your target for the quarter, run numbers through a marketing waterfall or marketing funnel. (Try this handy demand-gen funnel calculator: Using conversions at all stages (either your own or published averages), you’ll be able to predict how much activity you’ll need to generate in order to hit revenue numbers. Sometimes, marketers will find that their prospect database does not support the amount of volume they need to generate. This is a great exercise to help identify the need to augment the database with new, targeted contact data.

4. Line up your messaging – Double check your messaging. Is it truly matched to your buyer persona’s pains and needs? Does it clearly show how your solution can alleviate their challenges? In order to resonate with buyers, your content needs to address the challenges they are currently facing in their business.

It should be clear that you understand their challenges and have experience solving challenges for others in similar situations. Ideally, your audience will understand th

at your solution is in a unique position to help them meet the challenges based on a combination of your understanding of their issues, your experience with others, and your ability to sell the way they want to buy. Finally, ensure your message is carried throughout the entire buyers journey, from the marketing website to call scripts

5. Qualify your leads – are all of your marketing leads being qualified? Fully qualifying your marketing leads into sales ready opportunities via teleprospecting can dramatically improve the amount of leads that end up in your sales pipeline.

More often than not, many marketing leads are never followed up on (as much as 80% in some cases), as sales folks who are also responsible for closing business do not have the cycles to fully qualify and convert marketing leads. However marketing leads that are fully qualified into sales ready leads are followed up upon, particularly if sales and marketing sit to agree on what constitutes a fully qualified sales ready lead.

With tougher economic conditions, sales teams are under more pressure, have bigger quotas/territories, smaller average deal sizes, and even less time, so it really does not make sense to provide them with any leads that are not fully qualified sales ready opportunities.

6. Get Feedback – Close the loop on all the leads and opportunities passed – how else will you be able to truly assess the level of success of your marketing programs? Set up a process to close the loop on all the leads and opportunities passed to the sales team, as getting their feedback is essential to ensuring success. This feedback will allow you to optimize the process, ensure all the leads are being followed-up (or added to a nurture campaign if appropriate), and will provide you with a complete data set to measure your results.

7. Measure and Analyze – measure the effectiveness of your campaigns in real-time, and adjust to ensure you are meeting your goals. With the tools available today there is no excuse for not being nimble and adapting in real-time. This analysis will not only allow you to more effectively meet your goals, but it will enable you to plan and scale for growth.

This article was written in partnership with AG Salesworks – a B2B teleprospecting and marketing services firm that helps technology, media, financial services, and communications companies si

gnificantly increase their sales pipeline. With NetProspex contact data services, AG Salesworks offers AG Pipeline Connect, a solution guaranteeing fully qualified sales leads.


Soundbites from our B2B Marketing Breakfast

NetProspex B2B Marketing Breakfast

25 smart B2B marketers gathered at Netprospex HQ this morning, joined by Ann Handley of MarketingProfs to discuss content marketing. Thank you to everyone who came out, and contributed to the conversation. Below are some soundbites from the event:

Sketch by CEO Gary Halliwell

“He who has the budget creates the content.”

“Marketer’s don’t always call it ‘content marketing’. They say ‘branding’ – and storytelling is used to ensure everyone from the CFO to the guy who opens the warehouse doors is saying the same message.”

“We’ve heard marketers are publishers… but marketers are really producers. They take stories and produce them across multiple formats for distribution across multiple channels. They slice and dice a story into 140 characters and eBooks alike.”

“Aligning with sales is the new black… but often times sales is trained in a separate language than marketing uses. I predict a new focus on helping marketers and sales speak the same language across content.”

Keep it simple. None of your readers will ever complain that you’ve made it too simple.”

“At MarketingProfs we’ve started creating info-doodles. A picture is worth 1,000 slogans.”

“B2B brands want to be more human, and the tone of content can help humanize a brand.”

Ann recommends adopting the Flawesome methodology… “being awesome despite your flaws. Content doesn’t have to be perfect, humans aren’t perfect.”

“We’re trying to convince our team that it’s OK to write like a human.”

Like us on Facebook to see photos from today’s event.

Follow the hashtag #marketingbfast for more takeaways.

We could have talked for hours… stay tuned for our next event where we can continue the conversation. Special shoutout again to Ann Handley of MarketingProfs for being our special guest today.




11 takeaways from the “Building the Marketing Dream Team” webinar

Dream team

Yesterday, our Senior Director of Demand Generation, Tamara Graves, presented alongside Ellen Valentine, Product Strategist at Silverpop, and Talibah Mbonisi, Manager of Marketing Operations at Silverpop. The event was hosted by Kate Maddox, Executive Editor at BtoB. Register and watch the on-demand recording here.

It was a jam-packed hour full of actionable insight as to what it takes to build the marketing dream team at a B2B organization today. If you couldn’t make it, here are 11 takeaways from the event:

1. Marketing is changing, our teams must change with it.
The four major drivers of marketing change today include the rise of social media, buyers’ self service mentality, new marketing technology and solutions, and smartphone/tablet proliferation.

2. The role of marketing operations is taking the place of email specialists and database managers.





3. PR & Media planning roles are seeing a shift to focus on inbound, content, digital, and social marketing.


4. There’s a new role model for B2B demand gen marketers: Karl “The Mailman” Malone.


5. A demand gen marketer is responsible for campaigns that work the whole funnel from top to bottom

6. There’s a difference between demand gen and sales execution.


7. Demand gen marketers don’t only care about the # of leads created, but rather, how much $$ it adds to revenue.


8. Marketing operations professionals are the key to marketing tool selection and integration/strategy.


9. Change hurts for B2B companies… as more than half of the webinar attendees don’t have an operations position.

10. Today’s marketer is a techie, data nerd, creative, and diplomat…. all rolled into one fabulous being.

11. Marketers should add “tin cupping” to their skill set.

Understanding the shifting roles of marketing professionals will be key for B2B organizations in the future as technology continues to shape our strategy in new and exciting ways. Register and watch the on-demand recording here.