Tag Archives: Marketing

4 Tips for a Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment

gettyimages 622324734 4 Tips for a Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and marketing. While both departments are almost always working toward the same overarching goals, they’re not always integrated or working together seamlessly. In some cases, organizations will devote time and energy to only one of these departments, without approaching the two functions as equally valuable. Below, we’ll go over some important tips to keep in mind when beginning the process of creating and sustaining a successful sales and marketing-aligned organization.

Goals alignment

As aforementioned, the goals of sales and marketing are almost always the same. At the end of the day, both areas of your organization are trying to accomplish company growth. And that objective can’t just be done by the sales team, and it can’t just be done by marketing alone. Both parties need to be integrated and work together to accomplish growth.

Another common goal between the two departments is lead generation and lead development. While marketing is commonly viewed as the go-to when it comes to bringing in leads, it also lies in the hands of hardworking inside and outside sales reps to fill the sales pipeline, whether that’s through relationship building, customer referrals, LinkedIn searching and contacting, etc. Ensuring you’re tackling the same goals is crucial to a workable, integrated organization.

Hold frequent joint meetings

Have everyone meet and get to know each other. It’s that simple. And there are a number of different ways to do this. Perhaps the easiest is with weekly or biweekly meetings. If you’re having a weekly sales meeting, it might be wise to invite the marketing department to sit in every other meeting. This way, marketing will have a better understanding of what sales is targeting and going after—it also gives marketing a chance to share where they’re going after leads and their current tactics.

There’s an even easier way to get the two departments on the same page, however, and it starts at the beginning. Having an onboarding meeting with both sales and marketing newly-hired employees creates an opportunity for communication and openness that might not be there without an introduction. A lot of the time, sales reps just don’t know exactly what marketing is doing, or how they’re helping, and vice versa. Having these open conversations and meetings is a great place to start the dialogue.

Utilize CRM

When you’ve got the same goals drawn out, you should also be sharing the same data and analytics. There’s no better way to share the progress of a campaign (or a sales pipeline) than with a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. By implementing this solution for your sales and marketing teams, you’re equipping everyone with the same data and the same visibility. There’s no hidden agendas, no lack of accountability.

Invest time together

In the end, the key to having a seamlessly working team of salespeople and marketers is being comfortable around each other and opening the lines of communication. Spend time together, and encourage team bonding activities between the two departments. When you’re actively working together, or you’re simply bonding over an out-of-office activity, you’ll be much more comfortable collaborating across the board.

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New Checklist Guides B2B Marketing Automation Platform Purchases

Four Quadrant this week released its Marketing Automation Buyer’s Checklist for companies seeking to purchase a B2B marketing automation platform, or MAP.

The checklist has eight major categories for evaluation and more than 35 subcategories. It lists more than 100 questions buyers should ask to make an informed assessment of MAP vendors’ offerings.

The checklist covers expected business outcomes from MAPs, who and what the MAP should support, the integration capabilities the MAP should have, and what APIs the MAP should offer out of the box.

The checklist also covers the following must-have MAP capabilities:

  • Demand generation and account-based marketing
  • Personalization
  • E-commerce
  • Email
  • Social media
  • UI/UX
  • Reporting
  • Analytics

The MAP checklist lets businesses establish a predictable model that documents the following:

  • Each stage of the parking and sales funnel
  • Lead sources
  • Quantities and values at each state
  • Movement between stages
  • Velocity of movement between stages
  • Contribution of marketing at each stage in the sales cycle

Companies of any size can use the checklist, because they “all have the same problem,” said Peter Buscemi, founder of Four Quadrant.

“The only difference is scale,” he told CRM Buyer. “There is at least one person in any organization performing some or all of these tasks, but usually not efficiently, effectively or in a scalable manner.”

Breaking It Down

The section on who and what the MAP supports has more than 20 questions to ensure the user purchases the right solution.

The must-have capabilities section has more than 15 questions; the social media capabilities section has more than 10; the UI/UX capabilities section lists eight; the reporting capabilities section and the must-have analytics sections each have more than 10 questions; and there are 15 questions in the must-have integration and API capabilities section.

The Lure of MAPs

Fifty-one percent of all companies that participated in an Emailmonday
survey indicated they were using marketing automation, and 58 percent of B2B companies planned to adopt the technology, Buscemi pointed out.

MAPs automate manual tasks and minimize human error around content creation, management and personalization, campaign scheduling and execution, data hygiene, and communication with sales.

They combine multiple criteria, helping enterprises gain a multichannel view of prospects.

They also help align sales and marketing efforts, which long has been an issue in enterprises.

Lay the Groundwork First

“Any size organization [must] have an integrated sales and marketing plan,” Buscemi said. They must understand the process of creating leads and converting them to customers before investing in a MAP.

“Sometimes marketing owns the sales process — in e-commerce situations — and sometimes sales is performed by inside or field sales people,” Buscemi explained. “In either scenario, there’s no reason for marketing to generate a lead unless there’s a high probability that the lead will result in a customer.”

Once that process is understood, a company can invest in a MAP to reduce human error, to scale, and to build a sales pipeline that converts to revenue.

“A bottom-up approach focused on functionality misses a more important step for all size businesses: What’s the business goal?” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“Companies should start with the business case and then look at what technologies they need,” she told CRM Buyer.

Competition and the growth of cloud and freemium solutions “enables even SMBs to make small marketing investments and get ROI,” Wettemann said.

Nucleus is “seeing a lot of pilot projects at large firms that help marketers test the impact their projects have on revenue before making a big commitment,” she noted.

Data silos continue to be “one of the biggest challenges marketers face today,” Wettemann added, “so keeping the big picture and integration in mind is important.”
end enn New Checklist Guides B2B Marketing Automation Platform Purchases

Richard%20Adhikari New Checklist Guides B2B Marketing Automation Platform PurchasesRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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Know Your B2B Marketing Metrics: Measure Your Way to Success

b2b marketing metrics 351x200 Know Your B2B Marketing Metrics: Measure Your Way to Success

Many of us who were kids in the ‘70s have strong memories of being taught that The Metric System was on the way. As we memorized facts like how many centimeters are in a foot, we were told that we’d soon be thinking about distance in terms of meters rather than yards and that we’d never buy a gallon of milk again once the United States made the big transition to the measurements used by the rest of the world.

Spoiler Alert: That never actually happened in this country, at least not on a mass scale. Americans still try to lose pounds instead of kilograms, and a 40-degree day is still considered chilly, not scorching hot.

A metric system of another sort, however, has transformed the way we do business. Now organizations of all types realize the importance of using marketing metrics to track and measure many kinds of information. B2B marketers use this data to shape campaigns, figure out their team’s impact on revenue, and justify budgets, among other applications.

“One of the biggest investments a company makes is in its marketing organization,” said David Lewis, President and CEO, DemandGen International. “The pressure on marketers to say how these investments are paying off is enormous, and it’s going to keep growing.”

Those trends mean that marketing metrics aren’t just nice to have – they’re absolutely essential. Having the right metrics at the right time can reveal how your campaigns perform, where you’re spending has the greatest impact, and how your campaigns impact the sales pipeline. Marketers need to know which metrics enable them to explain — and sell — a marketing plan to their CEO and CFO.

1. Picking the Right Metrics: Keep it Simple!

Part of the metrics challenge for B2B marketers is choosing what to assess. The good news is that you don’t need to track and analyze every possible data point to build a successful measurement strategy. In fact, the best course is usually to take a simple approach: Concentrate on a relatively small set of clear metrics that you can understand and put to work right away.

In that spirit, we’re going to focus here on two categories of marketing metrics: revenue metrics and program metrics. Some people think of these in terms of “strategic” big-picture metrics versus “tactical” day-to-day metrics. But it may be more useful to think of them this way:

  • Revenue metrics are what you’ll show to your CEO, CFO, and board to document your contribution to revenue and profit growth.
  • Program metrics are what you’ll use internally to gauge the impact of your campaigns,

database management, and sales-marketing alignment.

Let’s look at both types of metrics in greater detail and discuss some specific examples.

2. Revenue Metrics: Painting the Big Picture

Revenue metrics are easy to understand when you engage in a simple thought exercise:

Pretend that you’re being asked to explain your marketing plan to your CEO and CFO. What kinds of metrics tell a story that they will understand and embrace – especially when the time comes to justify your budget?

The answer to this question begins with your marketing funnel and continues through your company’s sales pipeline. It’s extremely important to quantify your marketing team’s impact in terms of converting leads to closed deals and revenue.

“A lot of marketers produce metrics that only measure activity, such as inquiries or leads generated,” said Jon Russo, Founder of B2B Fusion Group. “That’s meaningless at the executive level; it needs to be translated into revenue impact.”

Here are some key revenue-related metrics that allow you to accomplish this goal:

  • Marketing Lead Metrics

Inquiries or Raw Leads are often the first metric that matters to a CEO, since this is the point where your marketing team actually begins its qualification process and separates the “suspects” from the “prospects.”

A related metric involves net new leads added to a marketing contact database. This number – for example, 5,000 new names added per quarter – allows marketers to demonstrate that they can generate the raw material required to feed a company’s funnel. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) represent the next step into the marketing funnel, where individual prospects show the right level of buying intent to pass them along to sales.

  • Sales Lead Metrics

Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) are MQLs that the sales team has qualified and moved into the sales pipeline. SALs are an important indicator that marketing and sales are on the same page about what they consider a qualified lead. These criteria usually involve factors like

job titles and firmographics, such as “CIOs of companies with 100 or more employees,” or

online behavior, such as “people who downloaded at least three pieces of content and visited our website more than twice in the past month.”

  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

SQLs have been moved into the sales pipeline and get actively worked by sales reps. This is a critical metric for both the sales and marketing team: It’s the point where leads are entered into Salesforce.com or some other CRM. As a result, this is also the point where a lead is often associated with a potential revenue value.

Many CRM systems or third-party metrics tools allow a sales team to measure this revenue potential as it moves through the pipeline. When this information is combined with data on a sales team’s historical close rates, it’s possible to make accurate revenue forecasts – a key figure for anyone concerned with revenue-focused metrics.

  • Conversion Metrics

Conversions from one funnel segment to the next are actually a function of the other metrics we discuss here. Higher conversion rates, especially as leads turn into opportunities and then customers, indicate a more efficient marketing effort that delivers what the sales team needs to hit its numbers.

The same applies to velocity metrics that measure how long it takes for leads and opportunities to move through each stage of the marketing funnel or sales pipeline. Velocity metrics can provide important hints about which marketing activities have the best impact on ROI. Higher velocity usually indicates more efficient marketing activities that generate faster, higher ROI.

  • Nurturing Metrics

Lead nurturing gives you a way to stay engaged with leads that aren’t ready to buy yet but will be in the future. Re-engagement metrics cover situations such as leads that don’t score high enough to convert to MQLs, or SALs that turn out not to be valid opportunities. The better you are at placing these leads in a nurturing campaign, and ultimately moving them back into the sales pipeline, the more you’ll contribute to revenue growth.

3. Program Metrics: Dealing with the Details

Your CEO may not want to hear the details about which programs or campaigns deliver the best results, but your marketing team certainly does. After all, your day-to-day program execution – everything from email and social media to webinars and website content – provides the raw material that ultimately drives your strategic revenue-building efforts.

It’s impossible to list all of the metrics that you can extract from email campaigns, web analytics, webinar attendance, and other sources. But there are some general measurement criteria that you can use to sort through them all:

  • Benchmarking Metrics

Marketers track a wide variety of day-to-day program activities because they’re easy to measure – and because almost everybody else measures them, too. These include benchmarks such as:

  • email open rates and click-through rates
  • website visits and page views
  • content asset downloads
  • website form completion and abandonment rates

These numbers can be very useful. If your email open rates, for example, are lower than the industry average, then it’s time to examine your email campaigns for potential problems. The same is true for web analytics, especially when you compare current data versus historical trends. Just be careful not to dwell upon these metrics, because they don’t always have a direct impact on marketing campaign performance.

  • Social Media Metrics

Social media mentions, connections, “likes,” and conversations are similar to other benchmarking metrics; you’re often comparing your metrics to industry averages, your competitors’ numbers, or your own historical data. Many marketing automation tools allow B2B marketers to track social activity on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and benchmark their own activity against their competitors’ doings. The key here, as with benchmarking metrics, is not to confuse social media success with bottom-line impact. It’s one thing to celebrate a record number of Twitter followers; it’s quite another to demonstrate just how those followers convert into leads, opportunities, and revenue for a B2B organization.

  • Lead Source Metrics

Some marketing automation tools allow companies to create complicated, multiple-attribution systems to decide which campaigns actually generate prospects. For most companies, however, simpler single-attribution systems work just fine.

Single attribution – deciding, for example, whether a new prospect was recruited via an email campaign or direct mail effort – allows you to do some relatively simple calculations for the investment required per prospect. That, in turn, allows you to calculate the ROI for your campaigns.

  • Database and Data-Quality Metrics

Data quality issues are a growing problem for marketing organizations, as databases with outdated or inaccurate records tend to increase costs and drive down campaign ROI. Tracking metrics such as database size, average lead age, and performance by database/list source can tell you whether there are potentially serious data quality problems lurking in your marketing database.

The Payoff of Marketing Measurement

Most marketers know that metrics are important, and they already attempt to track at least some of the data points discussed here. The real payoff, however, comes when a B2B marketing organization learns how to automate its data-collection process and to present this data to tell a coherent story about its contributions.

Marketing automation offers tools to identify, track, and analyze key metrics, allowing marketers to spend their valuable time on tasks other than spreadsheets and other manual tracking methods.

Marketing metrics are still a work in progress and an always-moving target for even the most successful companies. As a result, it’s important for any marketing team to experiment with its own metrics and test new approaches. But for today’s B2B marketing organizations, it’s clear that effective measurement is a tool you can’t afford to work without.

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Engagement Insights Easily Delivers Marketing Metrics You Care About

blog title engagement insights 351x200 Engagement Insights Easily Delivers Marketing Metrics You Care About

The modern marketer is flooded with data. Website data. Pipeline data. Email data. Social  Media data. Views. Likes. Comments. Clicks. Cart abandonment. Conversions. There are vanity metrics, marketing metrics, and business metrics.

It can be – and often is – overwhelming. As Act-On blogger Pam Neely recently reported, “53% of marketing executives feel ‘overwhelmed’ by the amount of data produced by their marketing technologies.”

At Act-On, we believe marketers should quickly be able to access the key engagement analytics they and the executive team care about. That’s why we’ve developed Engagement Insights, an easy-to-use templated approach to measuring marketing performance using tools you’re already using – Google Sheets or Excel.

Now, Act-On customers can gain real-time insight on how their audience is engaging with them. And those insights should not only be actionable and easily shareable with key stakeholders throughout your organization, but also drive optimization and improvements for your marketing programs.

With Act-On’s Engagement Insights – powered by Data Studio – marketers will be able to quickly have visibility into what they care about:

  • Email & Message: Measure key metrics across all email campaigns including number sent, opened and click thru rates
  • Forms: Know exactly what forms are converting visitors into leads and see trends over time
  • Landing Pages: Better understand what campaign landing pages are performing best, as well as see the engagement trends over time
  • Content Assets: Focus future activities by learning exactly what your audience is engaging with on your website, as well as when they are engaging

At Act-On, our mission is to empower marketers to do the best work of their careers. With Engagement Insights, we’re giving marketers the cypher to find meaningful signals from all the data being collected.

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Seven Ways to Boost Your Marketing with Holistic Strategies

holistic marketing 351x200 Seven Ways to Boost Your Marketing with Holistic Strategies

4. Blogs: Keywords are Key

Blogs are one of the most commonly used content marketing tools: According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of all B2B marketers publish blogs. Yet, many marketers question the effectiveness of their blogging efforts. That’s not surprising, because many blogs feature a seemingly random collection of posts that aren’t coordinated with other elements of their company’s marketing campaigns.

We’ve already discussed the role that social sharing buttons play with all of your content, including blogs. But blogging really shines as a search engine optimization (SEO) tool for your business. The key is to update your blog regularly (at least once a week – Google loves fresh content!) and to make judicious use of keywords in your blog posts.

Also, when a blog post references other content from your integrated campaigns, be sure to include a call to action (CTA) that moves your potential leads to the next step in the engagement process.

Tip: To practice holistic marketing, create an editorial calendar to coordinate your blogging with other new content, email marketing campaigns, webinars, product launches, and other key events. Too many B2B marketers assume they can keep an eye on their blog schedule without a formal calendar – and most of them are wrong.

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Why Everything Your Customer Touches is Content Marketing

RethinkPodcast300x251 Why Everything Your Customer Touches is Content Marketing

This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.

Michelle Huff: Thank you so much, Ann, for joining us today on the podcast. For those who might not know who you are, maybe you could just take a few minutes to tell us more about yourself and MarketingProfs?

Ann Handley: I’m the chief content officer of MarketingProfs. I’m a book author. I’ve written two books. One is called Content Rules, the other is called Everybody Writes.Everybody Writes is a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

What Are Trending Topics for Modern Marketers?

Michelle: MarketingProfs is a resource for marketers. You’ve watched the trends in marketing over the years. What’s going on recently? What are some of the in-demand topics today? What are you seeing as being the most interest to marketers?

Ann: We think of our audience as what we call “aspirational CMOs.” And that may not be a literal CMO, but it’s definitely somebody who cares, who wants to do well in their industry. And maybe that’s to ultimately become a chief marketing officer or maybe it’s just to ultimately become the king or queen of their own domain, their own consultancy, and so on.

The topics we’ve seen over the years, the consistency we see, is that marketers always want to know about lead generation ‒ always. It should be no surprise to anybody listening to this that that’s always a perennial topic.

But I think the tools we now use to engage around generating leads, around demand gen, has definitely changed. It used to be all about the database, and how we get more names in a funnel. It still is that, but now the way we engage those people to sort of become part of our own ecosystems at our own companies, those things have changed.

And that we now have content certainly is a big piece of that. We have social tools, we have social selling, we have storytelling. So, all of those things are now part of the lead-generation process in ways that we really haven’t seen as heavily before. Yes, those elements have always existed. But I think obviously they’ve come much more to the forefront in 2017.

Michelle: When you take a step back and think about marketers today, what do you think are the most important skillsets for them to have? And does it differ from B2C or B2B?

Ann: We recently ran a piece in MarketingProfs that looked at the skills that B2B technology marketers say are most valued. So, B2B technology leaders, when they’re hiring marketers, what do they most want? And it’s interestingly a lot of those soft skills, like good communication, people management, interpersonal skills. Those are the most valued in the tech world. Which, I thought was really interesting. I can’t quote the number off my head. It was like over 80 percent of the people who responded to the survey.

But then, right below soft skills [are] writing, content marketing, data analysis, email marketing. Those are all the things that are valued in the B2B tech world. And I read that today and I was like, “Wow.” I mean, those are pretty consistent skills. Think about that for a second in a broader lens. So, what is that about? Ultimately, what does that mean? It means being able to communicate well, both to your audience and to your customers, as well as internally, is key for marketers. Always will be, always has been. Writing, both externally and internally. So, again, it’s that clarity of communication. Content marketing, certainly it’s sort of an extension of: How are you telling stories that engage, or are you telling stories that engage?

MarketingProfs/CMI Annual Survey

Michelle: Is it quality versus quantity? And what are the keys to producing great content? Is it having a lot of it? Or is it just having a few [pieces]? Or is it trying to find that balance? What’s your take?

Ann: The way I answer the quality-versus-quantity question is really with a “yes.” You can’t have the best, highest quality – you can’t hire Neil Gaiman to write a blog post for you, and pay him $ 100,000, and then run one blog post a year. I mean that’s just ridiculous.

Obviously, you need a certain quantity to be relevant, to be communicating with your audience at a cadence that makes sense. But I think you also really need to think about quality. And I think that’s true now more than ever. MarketingProfs every year does a survey with the Content Marketing Institute. And every year we ask marketers what their plans are aspirational for the following year. We started doing this eight years ago. And every year, consistently, the number of marketers who say they plan to increase the amount of content they’re producing is going up.

And anybody listening to this: You know this, I know this. We’re all out in the world, we’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, we’re on Instagram. We see all the content that’s being created. And it’s increasingly difficult to break through. And to me that means you really need to step back and ask: What are we doing to move the needle here?

Bigger, Bolder, Braver

We need to have a great story we’re telling. We need to align around that bigger story we’re telling. And we need to be a little bit bolder in the story we’re telling. We need to think about how we’re going to break through. We need to tell a story that hits on specific challenges that your audience has, but that nobody else is talking about in the right way for that certain audience. And I think we need to have that gutsier, braver tone of voice.

So those three things ‒ bigger, bolder and braver ‒ are all things I think can be a differentiator for a company from a quality point of view. The quantity piece, you sort of have to figure out on your own. I mean, it’s sort of like you need to be doing enough to engage the audience, but not too much to overwhelm them. And that answer is gonna be different for everybody out there. But in my mind, you need to focus on quality first and foremost, and then figure out cadence.

If you’re producing content your audience does not care about, then that’s why they’re not engaging with it. They’re not engaging with it, not because it’s too long or because it’s requiring too much of them, but because it’s not meeting their needs.

What is the Role of Content Marketing?

Michelle: At Act-On, we use a framework we call Brand, Demand, Expand and [talk about] how you market from the awareness stage through demand and the sale to when your prospects are now customers and how you keep and grow their business. How does content marketing fit in?

Ann: I think there’s a temptation to think about content marketing only as a top-of-funnel approach. But it’s not that. Somebody asked me a question not too long ago: “What do you think the future of content marketing is?” And I said, “I think that it’s not content marketing … it’s marketing.”

I think with the notion of Brand, Demand, Expand, content is inherent in all aspects of that because content is sort of integral to all aspects of starting a relationship with a customer, nurturing that relationship, and then furthering that relationship. So, content to me is not some sort of special thing that’s siloed over here in some corner of the office. Instead, it’s integrated throughout the entire ecosystem of marketing. It’s integrated throughout the entire business, really.

I don’t see content as: This is what we use on social media. Instead, it’s everything. If you’ve ever seen me speak, I sometimes will show a graphic of a scene from The Lion King where Mufasa is sitting there with little baby Simba, and looking out over their kingdom, and he says: “Everything the light touches is content, my son.” And sometimes I will sing that moment from The Lion King. I’ll just belt it out on stage.

But I think that’s absolutely true. Everything our customer touches is content. Everything that expresses any aspect of our business is content. Everything that extends our brand is content. It’s not just the thing we in the marketing space tend to only think of as content, like the things we own ‒ things like the brand or the FAQ page. It’s everything. It’s the product page, it’s your social channels, it’s the minute that anybody picks up a brochure anywhere. All of those things. It’s everything.

How Do You Use Content Marketing to Differentiate?

Michelle: How do you think you should use content to succinctly differentiate yourself from your competitors? Because you’re trying to drive these things, but you want to make sure. How do you be bolder? How do you have that voice? How are you thinking about using that content differently?

Ann: I really like the way you articulated brand, demand, and expand. Because you said in far fewer words just my philosophy about content ‒ it’s throughout the organization. So that’s fantastic, number one. But number two, to me, it starts with the brand. It starts with your story. Who are you? Why do you do what you do? Why are you in business? What is your founding story? Why do you exist?

And to me, when you ask: “How do you succinctly differentiate?”, you start with your story. Who are you? Why do you exist? And why should customers care about you? I think it’s important to really think about your story and not just talk about the products you sell. But really think about it a little bit more deeply than that.

What is the Difference Between Content Marketing and Advertising?

Michelle: Some people equate content marketing to advertising. What do you think the difference is?

Ann: There’s probably a million different ways you could answer this question. But to me, it really comes down to the fact that content is customer-centric, and advertising is brand-centered, in general. I think to me, content answers the questions that customers have, so it has real utility for customers. It’s helpful to them. It has a more creative approach to answering those questions. Sometimes not. Sometimes it does.

But it has a very customer-centric point of view. It’s really what marketing should be focusing on these days. We should be focusing on our customers 100 percent of the time. I’m absolutely not anti-advertising at all. But to me, that’s much more brand-centric. So, you’re just talking about yourself. You’re just sort of talking about your attributes as opposed to what you can do for customers. So that, to me, is the more interesting part of marketing ‒ really thinking about things from your customers’ point of view. I challenge myself with it all the time. That’s how I would differentiate. Content is customer-centric and advertising is brand-centric.

Michelle: I like the distinction.

What Advice Do You Have for Aspirational Marketers?

Michelle: One of my last questions is, as well-known as you are, we often overlook that you’ve been a leader for most of your career. Any advice for people who are listening that you have for being a leader in marketing or in business, or any advice you have for other women aspiring to leadership roles, or people who are thinking: “I just should jump out and start my own business and company, or maybe I should author a book”? Any words of advice?

Ann: Yes. Just do it. I see a lot of people ‒ and not just women, but younger people too ‒ holding back. Don’t hold back. Start creating content. Start exercising your voice. Start figuring out: How do we get those skills that we need? How do we be better communicators? How do we be sharper communicators? How do we be better writers? All of those things are so key. And so just start using your voice, number one.

And then number two, start building your audience. You want to write a book, say. Well, you don’t start with sitting down at your desk to write a book. You start with building a platform first because that’s the way that works.

And you asked me the question earlier: What did I learn from writing my two books? And part of what I learned is that you can’t market in a vacuum. I have this notion that, “Oh, I’m going to be a book author, how sort of high-minded will that be?” Well, you know what? It’s not. It’s about sales, right?

It’s like you think you’re a writer ‒ you’re not, you’re in sales. And the only reason why those books did as well as they did is because I had the audience in place first. I had the platform in place. So, if you have aspirations to write a book, to be a leader, start to improve those soft skills, start to tell your own story, poke your nose out, start telling that story in ways that have relevance for the people you are trying to reach.

And number four, build your audience. Start thinking about your bigger platform beyond your current job or your current role. What do you stand for? It’s not unlike what we were talking about as the heart of content marketing. Where do you start? You start with your story. And I think the same is true for individuals, too. What do you want to be known for? What do you stand for?

How Can We Learn More About MarketingProfs?

Michelle: I love it. How can people listening learn more about you and MarketingProfs?

Ann: You can go to MarketingProfs.com and sign up to get our daily newsletters that will keep you in the know about all things marketing. We also have our annual B2B Marketing Forum, which is a heck of a good time, in October, in Boston. Those are the two best places to connect with us.

I should mention, too, that after all this talk about soft skills, I feel like I need to mention, we also have our own training programs at MarketingProfs on writing, on storytelling, on content, and on lead generation, as well as a host of other resources for basically anything you want to know about marketing.

Michelle: Perfect. Well, I love it. I think no matter where we are in our careers, we can always do better in improving on those different skills. I think it’s just something you’ve got to focus on and take the time to just keep getting better. I love that you have it and I really enjoyed this conversation. Thanks so much for being on today.

Ann: Thank you, Michelle. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.

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8 Marketing Podcasts You Should Subscribe to and Listen to Right Now

blog title marketing podcasts 351x200 8 Marketing Podcasts You Should Subscribe to and Listen to Right Now

Anyway, there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, and several hundred of those are marketing-related shows. So, what were my criteria for choosing this list?

Value Added

First, they needed to be a value-added investment of your time. By that I mean the show should regularly offer a takeaway or two that you can apply to your own work as a marketer, or that will otherwise help you professionally.

For example, I’ve included Gimlet’s newest show The Pitch in this list. Well, you may not be pitching your startup before a bunch of investors, but you’ll benefit by listening to the types of questions and concerns investors have about a pitch. These are very similar – if not the same – questions and concerns your prospective buyers ask themselves when considering your product or service: Does it solve my problem? Are there better alternatives? Do I trust the company or founder?


Second, they needed to be interesting enough to listen to for 15 minutes or an hour. I really enjoy how Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale has reinvented what would normally be a simple back-and-forth interview. He identifies key qualities or characteristics of successful entrepreneurs and then explores how and why those attributes contribute to that individual’s success ‒ and maybe your own.

Not Too “Salesy”

There are some business and marketing podcasts out there that are pretty damn popular but not included on this list. And that’s because each time I’ve listened to them, I felt I was listening to a used-car salesman trying to sell me back the same junker I just traded in. This could be in the form of wanting me to subscribe to whatever get-rich scheme they’re offering, or they’re interviewing a guest who has probably paid for that privilege, which results in a lot of brand-focused softball questions. I’ve got enough spam in my life, thank you.


Finally, they needed to be current. I’m always on the hunt for a source – whether blog, magazine, or podcast – that keeps me up to date on the latest trends, awesome campaigns, and so forth. Well, several of these shows – This Old Marketing, Adlandia, HBR Ideacast – help me do that.

Podcasting has been around more than a decade, and really it existed before that but wasn’t called “podcasting.” A lot of folks say its recent trendiness came following the success of the This American Life spinoff, Serial, in 2014. I also attribute its growth to the global adoption – even saturation – of mobile devices.

Edison Research has been tracking podcast listening over the last decade. The recent 2017 findings show podcasting metrics continue to rise across the board, from awareness to monthly listening:

  • Monthly listeners grew to 67 million people, and 42 million weekly.
  • The audience for podcasts continues to be predominately ages 18-54, and leans slightly male.
  • Podcast listeners outpace the US population in education, education, and employment.
  • Average time spent listening to podcasts each week is five hours.

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7 of the Best Marketing Books You Must Read Now

blog title marketing books 351x200 7 of the Best Marketing Books You Must Read Now

Marketing and the customers it serves have drastically changed over the past 10 years. A decade ago, people looking to purchase a product or service generally visited a couple of websites, talked to a few friends, and then made a decision. But today, prospects can tap into extensive online data, read customer reviews, and reach out for other opinions and recommendations through social media.

A decade is a relatively short period of time — yet the game has changed dramatically. And it’s a darn good bet that it will continue to change dramatically in the coming years.

Marketers are smart people; they want to keep up, so they’re constantly reading, learning, and self-educating. But have you searched for marketing books online lately? Amazon alone yields 373,150 results when you type in the phrase “marketing books.”

So, where should you start? Well, how about right here? We’ve removed the “overwhelmed by a bazillion books” factor by narrowing down a very long list to a handful of real gems. Check out these seven must-read books to up your game and squeeze more success out of that next campaign.

1. Digital Influencer: A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online

What do Neil Patel, Grant Cardone, and John Rampton all have in common? They’re some of the top marketing influencers in the industry and they make creating an influential brand look easy. Most marketers, however, know better — getting your brand to this level takes a strategic and labor-intensive process.

The author, John Lincoln, takes readers behind the scenes of becoming a digital influencer to help them understand the exact methods that work. Lincoln draws on his experience of working on more than 400 successful internet marketing campaigns, including many for top Fortune 500 companies, where he generated millions for his clients.

The book takes a deep dive into the mind of an influencer, reveals the nuts and bolts of becoming one of these tastemakers, and describes how to create an effective plan of action. If you want to help your brand develop more influence this year, check out this book.

2. Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers

Does your brand have unhappy customers? Most do. According to Jay Baer, best-selling author of Hug Your Haters, 80 percent of companies claim they deliver outstanding service, but only eight percent of their customers agree. This creates a large gap between perception and reality. So, what can marketers do about it? Baer has revealed key strategies to close those customer service gaps and deliver “knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark” experiences.

Baer shows the most common approach that companies are using to deal with complaints … and why it’s a huge mistake. The author explains not only how to deal with the haters, but also why marketers can’t afford to ignore them and should, in fact, embrace them.

3. Contagious: Why Things Catch On

As marketers, wouldn’t you love to launch a new campaign and have it go viral, maximizing results and delivering outcomes that only the lucky seem to achieve? New York Times best-selling author Jonah Berger explains that going viral isn’t magic — proven and time-tested strategies make it possible. But you need to understand what they are.

Berger shows in great detail what makes a campaign popular and reveals the six principles that drive marketing to become contagious, whether the source is customer products, workplace rumors, or YouTube videos.

The author details intriguing case studies that show, for example, how a luxury steakhouse found popularity through an otherwise average cheesesteak, and how anti-drug commercials may have actually increased drug use. Plus, he dissects the strategies behind getting more than 200 million consumers to view and share a video about a product that otherwise seems boring: a blender.

This book provides actionable and specific strategies you can start using now to design messages and content that people will share.

4. The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don’t

Content marketing pro Ann Handley has said, “Good content isn’t about good storytelling. It’s about telling a true story well.” The best-selling author of Talk Like TED recently published The Storyteller’s Secret, which highlights why people with ordinary backgrounds end up experiencing amazing success. For example, how did an immigrant who didn’t have a college education transition from a beach T-shirt vendor to television’s most successful producer? Or how did a quiet, timid pastor’s son with a paralyzing fear of public speaking sell out a Yankee Stadium — not once, but twice?

The book explains that both of these people have one thing in common: They told brilliant stories. Storytelling is a key skill for marketers because a well-told story “hits you like a punch in the gut and triggers a light bulb moment.”

The book offers a variety of strategies from visionary leaders who show how storytelling is a critical element in success.

5. Humanize Your Brand: How to Create Content That Connects With Your Customers

Customers today no longer tolerate being “talked at,” but instead want to have a conversation with the brands that serve them. However, to become more engaging and effective, brands must stop acting corporate and start showing their human side. Author Jessica Ann shares cutting-edge insights and guidance for how to infuse more human elements into your marketing. She dives into specific strategies for humanizing a brand, how to write from your “core,” the importance of creating context, and what technology teaches us about humanity.

The author helps marketers “take off their corporate masks” and get real by getting to the heart of what makes their brand feel personal, friendly, and familiar to customers. Reading this book will put you on the right track for developing more engaging and trustworthy relationships with those you serve.

6. The Conversion Code: Capture Internet Leads, Create Quality Appointments, Close More Sales

Do you need more traffic and leads? If so, marketing expert Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, recommends The Conversion Code. In fact, the co-founder of Unbounce, Oli Gardner, says, “We’ve helped 11,000+ businesses generate more than 31 million leads and consider The Conversion Code a must read.”

The Conversation Code provides a detailed blueprint for increasing sales during the digital age. A manual to help you generate more conversions, the book includes strategies that drive massive traffic and leads and let you prioritize your content and social media efforts, and much more. Each method is practical, down to earth, and highly effective. The Conversion Code is one of the best books available on getting more results from your internet marketing.

7. Content Chemistry

There’s no shortage of books about content marketing, but what makes Content Chemistry valuable is that it cuts to the chase, giving you the exact strategies required to get the job done well.

Written by Andy Crestodina, co-founder of an award-winning web design company, the book is divided into two sections: lecture and lab. The lecture section covers the theory of web marketing, and the lab section covers web marketing in practice.

The book is called the “first and only comprehensive guide to content marketing” and delves into the social, analytical, and creative aspects of modern marketing that businesses need in order to succeed. The best part is that time-starved marketers can jump around, reading the sections that are most interesting to them now, and then use Content Chemistry as a reference tool in the future.

Reading Your Way to Success

Marketing maven Seth Godin has said, “Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.” Marketers work hard to accomplish this, but with everything changing so quickly, they need tools and resources that help them keep up.

Reading stacks of books may not be practical, but when you select even just a few to read each year, you’ll be armed with new tools and strategies that help you reach customers and drive more powerful results for your brand.

Have you read any great marketing books lately? If so, please share your favorites below!

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Beyond Email: 9 Other Ways to Use Marketing Automation in Dynamics 365

CRM Blog Beyond Email: 9 Other Ways to Use Marketing Automation in Dynamics 365

Marketing automation and email marketing go hand in hand. In fact, they are used in the same sentence so often that they are sometimes thought of as one and the same. But despite seeming so synonymous, the two are actually quite different. While email marketing is an important component of a marketing automation solution, these powerful platforms go well beyond email marketing in terms of features and benefits. Here are nine ways you can use marketing automation beyond email marketing:

  1. Subscription management. Subscription management allows email subscribers to choose which emails they receive from an organization by allowing them to opt in to some types of messages while opting out of receiving others. For example, an individual may choose to receive your new product emails and monthly newsletter, but not your lunch and learn invitations. Without subscription management, email marketing is an all or nothing proposition. Your email recipients can either choose to receive all your organization’s messages or none of them. Today, consumers demand choices and personalized experiences, which means they would often rather opt out of all communications than receive messages that they feel don’t speak to who they are and what they want from your business.
  1. Nurture marketing. Nurture marketing, also known as drip marketing or campaign automation, is the act of sending a series of customized communications to a prospect or customer over a period of time based on their interactions. While nurture campaigns typically feature email, they can also include direct mail, SMS messaging, phone calls or any other “touch” a company makes with an individual. Automated nurture programs respond to actions taken by those being nurtured, thus creating a more personalized experience. Using various decision points set within a campaign automation, nurture marketing helps you respond to your leads’ and customers’ actions by sending messages that correspond to those actions. It helps people feel like people rather than just another name in a database.
  1. Landing pages and forms. Landing pages are web pages that stand alone from a company’s main website and are designed to accomplish a single objective, typically lead generation. Forms are often a part of landing pages in order to capture lead data when someone, for example, downloads an eBook, registers for a webinar or requests more information about a particular product or service. These two marketing automation features allow you to focus on one topic or piece of content and provide a means for collecting lead data. Landing pages create a cleaner experience than a web page by removing distractions like navigation bars and are highly focused on one call to action, which can greatly increase conversions.
  1. Surveys. Although surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways, online surveys are now the most common choice for companies and organizations seeking data and feedback from their audiences, and the method you will find within a marketing automation solution. Do you want to know what attendees thought about your company’s most recent webinar or their impressions of your new ecommerce website? Surveys can provide you with insights in these situations and countless others.
  1. Web intelligence. Web intelligence, also known as web tracking or web analytics, uses a tracking code inserted into web pages to provide insight into how that website is being used and record data about the traffic that accesses it. You can see which pages have been clicked on, how long a user spent on a certain page, how they got to your website and other valuable information. Based on data like site visits, page views, form captures, referring source, duration spent on site and more, you can gain valuable insights into the performance of your marketing campaigns and strategies and adjust them, if needed, accordingly.
  1. Event management. Event integrations allow you to connect online event management systems with marketing automation platforms. These connectors can vary by marketing automation platforms. ClickDimensions, for example, offers connectors to GoToWebinar, WebEx, Eventbrite and Cvent. While many offline marketing channels continue to see declining interest and budgetary allocation from companies, events are bucking that trend. In-person and online events offer brands a powerful way to connect with their audiences and strengthen those relationships, while giving attendees the opportunity to be informed or entertained – or both.
  1. SMS messaging. SMS, or Short Message Service, can reach anyone with a mobile device that has text messaging capabilities. SMS messages can be sent in bulk or individually through some marketing automation platforms. SMS is one of the fastest marketing channels available today. With no spam or other email filters to contend with, messages arrive on mobile devices within a few seconds of when you hit send. And when they arrive, SMS messages enjoy rapid and high open rates, making them an especially good fit for time-sensitive information.
  1. Lead scoring. Lead scoring involves ranking leads on a scale based on how interested a prospect is in a company’s products or services, how likely they are to buy and how soon they will be ready to move from prospect to customer. Using a lead scoring model, prospects are assigned points based on the actions they take. So, a lead that downloads an eBook might earn 10 points, while one that visits your company’s pricing page earns 25 points. Lead scoring can help sales and marketing teams come together to agree upon the factors that make for a hot lead, and can follow up accordingly – whether with a sales call or by adding the lead to a nurture program.
  1. Social marketing. Social marketing tools within a marketing automation solution give you the ability to tap into the power and popularity of social media through features like social posting, social sharing and social discovery. These tools, though they will vary by platform, can help businesses make social an integrated part of marketing, sales and customer experience initiatives, and also report on those efforts. With nearly one-third of the world using social media regularly, according to eMarketer, social is an essential part of marketing for organizations of all kinds.

Ready to learn more about marketing automation in Microsoft Dynamics 365? Download our complimentary eBook, The Marketing Automation Field Guide: Getting Started with Marketing Automation for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Post submitted by ClickDimensions.

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Smart Strategies that Give Your SMB Marketing a Boost

blog title slam dunk 351x200 Smart Strategies that Give Your SMB Marketing a Boost

B2B marketing in a smaller organization: How hard can it be?

All you have to do, after all, is create and capturing interest in a product or service, get interested people into the sales pipeline, and manage these prospects wisely throughout their buyer’s journeys … right?

Well, on second thought, that can be a bit of a challenge. After all, you’re dealing with a lot of ever-changing and ever-moving parts. Sometimes it’s hard to find a clear path through the chaos.

In recent years, however, lead generation and lead nurturing techniques have taken off and have led method to the madness. B2B sales and marketing teams commonly use processes that attract and identify well-qualified leads and shepherd those contacts through the buying process to a successful close. Due to the plethora of information, options, reviews, and recommendations now available online, new techniques have emerged to qualify self-directed prospects before they’re handed off to sales.

While the adoption of lead gen and management programs is increasingly mainstream and growing yearly, the practices are making the most substantial inroads among small-to-midsized companies (SMBs). Most of these businesses have enjoyed a sales boost from adopting effective techniques.

To optimize success, marketers need to communicate internally the importance of lead generation, cooperate closely with sales throughout the entire process, and generate well-qualified leads that sales can turn into revenue.

That old fly in the ointment —a lack of resources — is one major factor that holds SMB marketers back from fuller adoption of lead generation techniques and the nurturing required to hand well-prepared, strong leads off to sales. The problem is more complex than mere allocation of funds, however. For many marketers the depth and accuracy of the database are significant obstacles.

The efforts and challenges required to improve SMB lead generation processes and successes include having more (and better) content that demonstrates their company’s expertise, having a stronger website, and improving segmenting, scoring, and qualification.

Crucial methods for most effectively nurturing leads include sales calls, webinars, newsletters, thought leadership, and white papers. Marketers are now also deploying webinars to a much greater extent as a means of acquiring and nurturing leads, as well as social media, blog posts, and videos.

SMB marketers and sales teams who are intent on boosting success should undertake four key action items:

1. Integrate lead-gen techniques.

The essential integration between online and offline marketing efforts is still a work in progress for many companies. Brands face multiple marketing channels and fragmented media. Best-of-breed marketers are using automation and strategic initiatives to make sense of the confusion and gain control of their programs.

2. Work toward sales-marketing cooperation.

Too many SMBs are not working to improve cooperation between these two essential functions, and many don’t bother even trying. Those companies that encourage mutual cooperation between marketing and sales can gain significant competitive advantages. A productive lead-nurturing scheme, for example, would be sales and marketing working together to plan the timing and cadence of both sales and marketing touches within one campaign.

3. Make the most of metrics and assessment.

Successful marketers know it’s essential to use analytics, employ closed-loop analysis, calculate and show ROI, and support accountability. Basic to this effort is improving database management and data hygiene — both important elements in the lead-gen process. Also key is understanding buyer personas, the buyer’s journey, the nurturing process, engaging with buyers via multiple touch points, and defining criteria for the hand-off to sales.

4. Embrace the necessity of technology.

Marketing teams, in particular at small-to-midsized businesses, are generally as slim as their budgets. Here, technology increasingly is viewed as a necessity. Marketers can liaise with their technology vendor partners and IT colleagues to leverage the synergies that exist in technology, branding, and customer interaction.

Learn from the Big Guys, but Embrace Your Advantages

Small-to-midsized businesses sometimes contrast significantly with their enterprise-size colleagues. While these differences are often strengths for SMBs, they also indicate areas where smaller organizations can learn from large-company marketers.

  • Vendors are Part of the Team.

It’s not surprising that SMB marketers view their vendor partners as extensions of their team and marketing staff. This is contingent on the professionalism of the vendor: its ability to communicate the metrics that produce strong ROI, whether it offers easy-to-use software, and how easy it is to do business with. It’s telling that the vendor is perceived as a team member —not merely a vendor.

  • Let Marketing Do More Lead Qualifying.

Small to mid-size companies are much more likely than large companies to characterize a request for a sales contact as a potent criterion for a lead. This may explain why SMBs tend to rely more on the sales team versus the marketing team to qualify a lead. Relying more on the marketing function, in vigorous cooperation with sales expertise, can help SMBs better identify lead stages in order to be more competitive.

  • Expand the Scope of Content.

SMBs tend to rely on case studies and anecdotes as marketing content, which then is used to engage prospects in their problem-solving process. SMBs also prefer videos and blogs for the same purpose. Expanding this to include white papers and research-based thought leadership, already used effectively by larger companies, can help establish smaller companies as category leaders, in the same vein that enterprise companies are striving to do. This could be particularly effective in the branding effort, which SMBs tend to ignore.

  • Take Advantage of Your Smaller Size.

Smaller companies sometimes underestimate their competitive advantages against larger companies. While all marketers have to deal with a lack of resources, larger company marketers feel it more acutely than do SMB marketers, and also tend to be concerned about the depth and accuracy of their customer databases, poor communications between marketing and sales, and their inability to respond adequately to buyer behaviors. The SMB attention to detail — and in particular the ability to “start small” with a strong understanding of databases and buyer behaviors, and then scale from there — may help SMBs grow, succeed, and compete successfully with larger companies.

  • Rely on ROI as a Key Indicator of Success.

In evaluating success, SMB marketers say “generating revenue” is key, and they say this to a greater extent than marketers from large companies. Smaller companies can gain a keener understanding of marketing metrics with more sophistication here, in particular by seeking an understanding of ROI as a main criterion for marketing success.


Implementing strategic lead generation and lead nurturing programs is now an essential part of a successful SMB marketing program. By taking steps to maximize your program’s effectiveness, such as building a high level of collaboration with sales, measuring results carefully, producing smart content, optimizing the advantages a smaller program offers, and adopting the right technology, your organization should be well on its way to seeing more leads, better leads, and a higher return on investment.

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