Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Five Ways to Improve Your Marketing in 2012

Bloggers love lists, and we're told that blog posts with titles like, "Five Secrets to. . ." or "Four Sure-Fire Tactics for. . ." are appealing to readers. Bloggers who write about business also seem to share another characteristic. About now, many feel compelled to make predictions about the new year. When you combine these inclinations, the results are lots of blog posts with titles like, "Six Game-Changing Marketing Trends for 2012,"

I'll leave the prognostications to others, but I will offer a list. I have five recommendations for improving your marketing efforts in 2012.

Before you do anything else, develop a marketing strategy.
You've heard this one before, so I won't repeat all of the reasons that strategy is necessary for success. At its most basic level, marketing strategy is a simple thing for most B2B companies. First, you need to identify all of the significant ways that your product or service can create value for customers and identify the kinds of companies that can obtain the greatest value by purchasing and using your product or service. Second, you need to determine the best ways for communicating your value propositions to potential buyers. This step includes the selection of marketing tactics and channels and the creation of marketing messages. Companies tend to spend most of their time and attention on step two, but step one is even more important. I discussed the "value identification" aspect of marketing strategy in an earlier post titled How to Make Difficult Marketing Questions Easier to Answer.

Shift primary responsibility for lead generation from sales to marketing.
I've explained my rationale for this recommendation in two earlier posts - Stop Depending on Your Salespeople to Generate Leads and Why Marketing Should Take the Lead in Lead Generation. I don't contend that traditional sales prospecting doesn't work at all or that you should completely abandon it. I do contend that traditional sales prospecting is an inefficient use of resources and that you should strive to become less dependent on it.

Increase the number of leads acquired via inbound marketing.
There is little doubt that inbound marketing has become the tactic of choice for lead acquisition. Buyers now control the buying process, and they are performing research and gathering information about products and services on their own, usually via the Web. Therefore, traditional outbound lead acquisition techniques such as direct mail and e-mail don't work as well as they once did. It's just good sense to make yourself easy to find when a prospect begins looking for the kind of solution you provide. Research firm SiriusDecisions says that 80% of new sales leads will come from inbound marketing by 2015. Your objective for 2012 should be to substantially increase the number of leads and the percentage of total leads acquired via inbound marketing.

Develop and implement a sound lead management process.
Consider these facts:  (1) Acquiring new leads is becoming increasingly difficult. (2) 50%-75% of new leads are qualified but not ready to buy. (3) Up to 70% of these lukewarm leads will eventually buy from someone. Put these facts together and one thing is clear - leads are valuable and must be managed with care. An effective lead management process will address several key issues, including lead nurturing, lead scoring, and marketing and sales alignment. A well-designed lead management process will enable you to maximize the sales you obtain from your pool of leads.

Implement a content marketing program.
Having and using the right kind of content is now essential for B2B marketing success. By "the right kind of content," I mean marketing content that is:
  • Primarily educational and non-promotional
  • Customized for the types of buyers you sell to
  • Customized for where the potential buyer is in his or her buying process
I've discussed these requirements in a white paper titled, Two Powerful Ways to Make Your Marketing More Relevant. If you haven't already seen this paper and would like to get a copy, just send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

That's my list. Do you have other plans to improve your marketing in 2012?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Four Tips for More Effective Business Blogging in 2012

With the end of 2011 less than three weeks away, most of you are probably well into planning your marketing programs for 2012. If you don't already have a blog, you should plan to begin one next year. If you already have a blog but you haven't been posting to it frequently, you should make that a priority in 2012.

As I wrote in an earlier post, a blog can be a highly effective marketing channel. It provides a great way to introduce prospects to your company and your content, and it can improve your organic search results. To maximize the benefits of your blog, you must post new content regularly and frequently. Therefore, publishing an effective blog requires a commitment of time and attention.

The suggestions I'm including in this post are the result of first-hand experience. I launched this blog in early 2010. For the first three months or so, I added new content frequently, but then I ran out of steam. By mid-August, I had stopped posting entirely. After a hiatus of about nine months, I "relaunched" the blog in May of this year. This time, I had a better plan, and the plan has worked well.

There are several keys to successful blogging, but these four are among the most important.

Create a schedule and stick to it. Writing a blog post is a task that's easy to put off. So, to be successful, create an "editorial calendar" for your blog that contains specific publication dates. Just saying "twice a month" isn't specific enough. Posting regularly is almost as important as posting frequently. So, start with a schedule that you feel comfortable with (as long as you are posting at least twice per month). You can increase the frequency as you get accustomed to writing posts.

Create and maintain a "reserve" of completed posts. Before launching your blog, write enough posts to fill your schedule for at least two months. This will give you some breathing room before you need to create additional posts. In addition, you should always maintain a "reserve account" that contains one or two months of completed posts. If you run into a "dry spell," this reserve will give you some time to work through it.

Always be looking for topics. One of the biggest challenges for any blogger is identifying enough topics to write about. This can be particularly intimidating when you're just getting started. I don't have a silver bullet for this challenge, but I can offer a few suggestions:
  • Tap internal resources - Get all of the people in your company involved in suggesting topics.
  • Use your experience and read - The inspiration for my posts comes from two primary sources - my work with clients and what I read. If you're involved in a major project for a client, use that experience to create one or more posts. It's also important to read other blogs in your field regularly. On several occasions, I've been inspired to write a post by one sentence I've read in another blog.
  • Write down your ideas - Whenever you think of a topic for a post, take a moment to write a couple of sentences that capture the essence of your idea. Don't be judgmental, just get the idea down on paper. Some of these ideas won't work out, but some will.
Promote your blog. To attract readers to your blog, you'll want to use two basic strategies. First, you'll want to configure your blog so that readers can subscribe via both RSS and e-mail. You'll also want to configure your blog so that "social sharing" buttons are included in every post. Second, every time you publish a post, be sure to announce the new post in appropriate social media venues. Since I have relaunched this blog, I have followed this practice religiously. Every time I publish a post (including this one), I announce it in appropriate discussion groups at LinkedIn, and I tweet about it 4-6 times. Since following this process, the readership of this blog has increased by 400%-500%.

Effective blogging requires work, but the more organized you are, the easier the work becomes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Time to Fix the Marketing Supply Chain

Improving the productivity of the marketing supply chain probably won't be near the top of most marketers' list of new year's resolutions for 2012. Marketers are facing extraordinary pressures to drive increased revenues and maximize the return produced by every dollar invested in marketing. So, it's understandable that they focus most of their attention on developing more effective marketing campaigns, creating more compelling content, and generating more qualified sales leads, rather than on "mundane" issues like the production and distribution of marketing consumables.

In reality, however, the marketing materials supply chain represents a large, and largely untapped, source of both cost savings and revenue-enhancing improvements. The marketing supply chain in most companies is highly fragmented and filled with manual, inefficient processes that result in excessive costs and a lack of both responsiveness and reliability. If not completely broken, the average marketing supply chain is dysfunctional and in serious need of repair.

Research by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Forrester Consulting (part of Forrester Research) shows both the economic significance of the marketing materials supply chain and the opportunities for improvement.
  • A majority of companies spend at least 20% of their marketing budget on marketing consumables, and almost a third of companies devote at least 30% of their marketing budget to such materials. (CMO Council)
  • Four out of five companies distribute marketing collateral documents and similar materials to salespeople and other sales channel participants, and a majority of companies distribute such materials on at least a weekly basis. (22% distribute on at least a daily basis) (Forrester Research)
  • Just 25% of marketers have performed a comprehensive analysis of the costs and process efficiencies in their marketing materials supply chain, and only 11% have implemented new workflow systems to reduce costs and inefficiencies. (CMO Council)
  • Fifty-nine percent of salespeople and other sales channel participants still rely on e-mail to request marketing materials, and nearly half (47%) still rely on telephone requests. (CMO Council)
  • Sixty-five percent of salespeople say they over-order and stockpile marketing materials because it takes too long to receive ordered materials. (CMO Council)
  • Only 17% of companies are using eStores or sales portals to support their marketing fulfillment process. (Forrester Consulting)
The good news is that companies no longer need to tolerate an ineffective and inefficient marketing supply chain. Marketing asset management technologies, combined with on-demand manufacturing capabilities and state-of-the-art warehousing, inventory management, and fulfillment services, can eliminate waste from the marketing supply chain, while simultaneously improving responsiveness and reliability.

To determine how much your company would benefit from an improved marketing supply chain, you need to perform a comprehensive audit that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your current supply chain. Such an analysis will also enable you to quantify the cost savings and other benefits that an optimized supply chain would provide. You'll probably be surprised by the results. Even in relatively small companies, we've seen benefit values that reach well into six figures.

We've developed a process for quantifying the major cost savings that a "marketing asset management solution" will produce. This doesn't take the place of a comprehensive supply chain audit, but it is a good way to begin your evaluation. If you'd like to see a sample version of our cost savings calculator, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why Customers Should Be the Heroes of Your Case Studies

Customer case studies are one of the most popular and influential kinds of marketing content used by B2B companies. New research by Eccolo Media shows that case studies are the fourth most widely consumed type of marketing collateral (behind product brochures, white papers, and video/multimedia files) and the second most influential type of marketing collateral (trailing only white papers).

Case studies are potent marketing tools because they're good at performing several jobs.
  • They help establish your credibility.
  • They educate prospects about the benefits of your product or service.
  • Most importantly, they can lower a prospect's perception of the risk associated with purchasing your product or service.
The good news is that case studies can boost the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. The not-so-good news is that the use of case studies has exploded, and therefore your case studies are facing more competition for attention and mindshare. If they don't stand out from all the others your prospects see, they simply won't produce the maximum benefits.

I'm often asked by clients to review and comment on their customer case studies. All too often, what I read is self-promotional "brochureware" disguised as a case study.

The mistake that many companies make is to cast themselves, rather than their customers, as the heroes of their case studies. The storyline in many case studies resembles the old silent movie where the villian ties a helpless damsel (the customer) to the railroad tracks, and the hero (the selling company) rides in at the last minute to rescue the damsel in distress from an oncoming train.

A well-written case study will cause readers to identify with the customer. You want readers to empathize with the "pain" the customer was experiencing and the success the customer achieved. In essence, you want readers to finish the case study believing that they can achieve the same success, if they will just let you help. When you make yourself the hero of your case studies, you are asking readers to identify with your company, not the customer. And that's much more difficult to achieve.

It's easy to tell when the selling company has made itself the hero of a case study. Lots of sentences begin with "We" or "Our" and the story focuses on what the selling company (or its product or service) did rather than on what the customer was able to accomplish.

So, when you prepare a case study, you can give yourself a strong supporting role, but always let your customer be the star.

We've created a "mini-guide" to writing compelling customer case studies. If you'd like to get a copy of Seven Tips for Writing Customer Case Studies that Sell, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What "The Challenger Sale" Can Teach Us About Content Marketing

The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson is one of the most important books on selling that's appeared in the last several years. The book is based on an in-depth research project conducted by the Corporate Executive Board. The research involved an analysis of over 6,000 sales reps from all major industries and geographies.

The objective of the CEB research was to identify what skills, behaviors, knowledge, and attitudes separate top-performing sales reps from average performers. What the researchers found runs counter to much of the long-held conventional wisdom about what drives sales success.

The first major finding is that salespeople fall into one of five distinct profiles:
  • The Hard Worker
  • The Challenger
  • The Relationship Builder
  • The Lone Wolf
  • The Reactive Problem Solver
The second important finding is that one type of sales rep - The Challenger - clearly outperforms all of the others. Thirty-nine percent of all "star" salespeople are Challengers. One of the major surprises in the research is that Relationship Builders are the big losers. Only 7% of all star reps fall into that category.

The Challenger Sale is written from a sales perspective, but it has a lot to say to marketers. The connection to marketing becomes clear when we look at what causes Challenger sales reps to be successful. Dixon and Adamson found that Challenger reps excel because they provide customers and prospects new, valuable, and unique insights that help them compete more effectively in their markets. Challengers pressure their prospects and customers to question their assumptions and think about their business in new and different ways.

It turns out (as shown by other Corporate Executive Board research) that this is what prospects and customers really want. Buyers say they highly value sales reps who:
  • Offer unique and valuable perspectives on the market
  • Help them navigate alternatives
  • Provide ongoing advice or consultation
  • Help them avoid potential land mines
  • Educate them on new ideas and outcomes
These are exactly the things that Challenger sales reps do. Rather that just asking a bunch of questions to identify needs and then offering a solution, Challengers bring new insights (and therefore value) to the conversation with the buyer.

Today, marketing content must perform many of these same functions. Because business buyers are doing more research on their own, your marketing content must act as your "surrogate sales rep" early in the buying process. This research shows that your content needs to be a "surrogate Challenger sales rep."

Those of use who write about content marketing emphasize the importance of using content that is primarily educational, that is customized for specific buyer personas and that speaks to where a potential buyer is in his or her buying process. All those things are important, but what really separates great marketing content from content that is merely good is that great content also provokes new thinking. Great marketing content provides unique and valuable perspectives that prod potential buyers to consider new alternatives for improving their business.

How much of your marketing content would pass the "Challenger" test?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why a Blog (Still) Matters in Marketing

B2B marketers have more ways than ever to publish and share marketing content. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, and Scribd are just some of the venues for disseminating your content to prospects and customers. With all of the options now available, it can be tempting to think that blogging is no longer important to your marketing efforts.

That's a mistake. A blog can still be a highly effective marketing tool. In the 2011 State of Inbound Marketing survey by HubSpot:
  • 57% of companies that publish a blog said that they have acquired new customers from blog-generated leads
  • 62% of companies with a blog said that it is "critical" or "important" to their business
Here are just a few of the benefits that a blog provides:
  • A blog is an ideal vehicle for providing your prospects with bite-size pieces of your marketing content. Today's business buyers are incredibly busy, and many prefer content that can be consumed quickly. This can be particularly important when you are dealing with prospects who don't know you well. A blog provides a way for them to try out your content without investing a lot of their time.
  • A blog is one of the best ways to improve your company's position in organic search. Google and other search engines place a big emphasis on how frequently content is updated. So, if you post to your blog regularly, you can improve your search results.
  • Your blog can be used to point prospects to more substantial marketing content. For example, you can use a blog post to summarize a topic covered in one of your white papers and include a link to the paper in your post.
  • Your blog can function as a hub for your content marketing effort. For example, when you publish a new blog post, you can use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to point to the post.
The catch is that just having a blog isn't enough. To reap the most benefits from your blog, you need to post new content on a frequent basis. The HubSpot survey shows that 72% of companies that post weekly have acquired new customers through their blog. That number increases to 78% for companies that post daily, but it falls to only 49% for companies that post monthly.

Posting on a weekly basis can be challenging for many companies, but there are a couple of ways to deal with the challenge. First, you can outsource some or all of the blog writing duties.  In this scenario, blog posts are prepared by an outside writer, but they are published under your "byline." The second approach is to use "guest bloggers" to write some of the posts for your blog. This approach can be effective, so long as it isn't overused. After all, one primary objective of your blog is to demonstrate your expertise, not someone else's.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Marketing Collateral Remains Critical (But Buyers' Preferences are Changing)

Earlier this month, Eccolo Media released its 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report. This survey focused on business buyers who had been involved in a recent purchase of business technology, and it was designed to measure the use and influence of five types of marketing collateral.
  • Product brochures/data sheets
  • White papers
  • Customer case studies
  • Podcasts/audio files
  • Videos/multimedia files
This survey was limited to technology buyers, so the results may not reflect the attitudes and practices of all B2B buyers. On the other hand, it's probably fair to say that technology buyers as a group tend to be "early adopters" of new communications methods. Therefore, the findings of this survey may provide a good early indication of how other kinds of B2B buyers will use and value marketing collateral in the near future.  You can obtain a copy of the survey here, and I encourage you to review it.

The 2011 survey revealed a surprising shift in the consumption of some types of marketing collateral, so surprising that Eccolo Media conducted a follow-up survey to gain additional insights. (Note:  Eccolo Media has conducted this survey since 2008, so year-to-year comparisons can be made.) I'll describe the change in consumption patterns, but first here are some of the major survey findings.
  • Product brochures/data sheets are the most widely consumed type of marketing collateral, followed (in order) by white papers, video/multimedia files, case studies, and podcasts/audio files.
  • Marketing collateral continues to have a major influence on purchase decisions.  At least 61% of survey respondents said that all five types of collateral were "very" or "extremely" influential.
  • White papers remain the most influential type of marketing collateral.
The surprise in the survey was a significant drop in the consumption of some types of marketing collateral. Compared to 2010, the consumption of customer case studies fell 17 percentage points, white papers declined 14 percentage points, and product brochures/data sheets decreased 11 percentage points.

These results do not mean that case studies, white papers, and product brochures are becoming less critical to effective marketing. The follow-up survey conducted by Eccolo Media addressed five additional types of marketing collateral - company Web pages, social media sites, blog posts, e-books, and presentations. It showed that buyers are using all of the "new" types of content to research business issues and learn about products and services.

So, what's happening is that companies are offering marketing content in a wider variety of formats, and buyers are taking advantage of the expanded options to consume content in the format they prefer.

The results of these surveys contain three important lessons for B2B marketers.
  • Informative, valuable, and compelling marketing content is more critical than ever for successful B2B marketing.
  • The number of content formats available to companies is increasing, and many of the newer formats are attractive to potential buyers.
  • It's becoming important to deliver the same basic content message in a variety of content formats. For example, B2B buyers view white papers as highly influential because they present valuable information in a objective, non-promotional way. This type of information is still essential for marketing success, but it's now important to embody that information in Webinars/Webcasts, podcasts, and presentations, as well as in white papers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Building the Business Case for Marketing Asset Management

Even if you're certain that a marketing asset management solution would be beneficial for your company, you'll still be required to justify the investment to your senior management team.  Today's business decision makers are more skeptical and frugal than ever. They are demanding that any investments they make produce positive, measurable results on the bottom line - and the faster the better. An investment in a proposed MAM solution will be viewed no differently.

To get the go-ahead for a marketing asset management solution, you'll need to present your senior leaders a business case that demonstrates the value of the solution in clear and convincing terms.

A well-prepared business case for a marketing asset management solution will contain five components.
  • A description of the problems, issues or challenges that create the need for an MAM solution
  • A description of the proposed MAM solution
  • The expected financial results of acquiring and implementing the proposed solution
  • A discussion of the non-financial benefits the proposed solution will produce
  • A discussion of the risks associated with the proposed solution and the risks of not acquiring the MAM solution
All of these components are important, but the focal point of a business case is the financial analysis. This is where you will calculate the estimated ROI, net present value, and payback period for the proposed MAM solution.  Both the ROI and the net present value calculations require you to input the value of the MAM solution.  Therefore, one key to building a persuasive MAM business case is to develop a credible estimate of that value.

Like any business product or service, a marketing asset management solution creates value by enabling a company to reduce existing costs, avoid future costs, or increase revenues.  To estimate the value of your proposed solution, you'll need to analyze the two major types of benefits that MAM solutions typically provide. One group of benefits includes those that improve the efficiency of the marketing materials supply chain. These benefits create value primarily by enabling you to reduce or avoid costs. The second group of benefits include those that improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. These benefits create value primarily by enabling you to increase revenues.

I've just released a new white paper that describes these benefits in greater detail and explains how to calculate their value when building business case for marketing asset management.  If you'd like to review the new paper, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Content Marketing Really Matters

Content marketing has become an essential marketing tactic for many B2B companies. According to research by Junta42 and MarketingProfs, nine out of ten B2B companies now market with content.

Content marketing is the practice of providing valuable and primarily non-promotional information to potential buyers for the purpose of persuading them to begin or continue a relationship with your company. The basic idea of content marketing is to provide information that will demonstrate your company's expertise and create or nurture the perception that your company would be a knowledgeable, capable, and reliable business partner.

Most marketing thought leaders agree that effective marketing content is critical for B2B marketing success.  Marketing content provides the fuel for lead generation and lead nurturing programs, it is a critical component of a company's website, and it plays a central role in social media marketing efforts.

All B2B companies can benefit to some extent from using content marketing, but it is more critical for some kinds of companies than others.  There are six circumstances that make content marketing particularly important and highly valuable.
  • When the product or service you provide is complex (technologically or otherwise), or when the product or service addresses a complex business problem, issue, or challenge.
  • When purchasing your product or service requires a substantial financial investment by the buyer.
  • When the buyer must rely on your expertise to achieve success with your product or service.
  • When the purchase and use of your product or service requires the buyer to make significant changes in its business processes.
  • When the purchase of your product or service requires (formally or practically) a long-term commitment by the buyer.
  • When the product or service you offer is not purchased frequently, and potential buyers have little or no experience with the type of product or service you provide.
The connection between content marketing and the first circumstance is obvious. When potential buyers are trying to address a complex problem or challenge or evaluate a complex product or service, they need a lot of information to help them understand the ramifications of the problem or challenge, how the product or service works, and what benefits the product or service will provide.  Content marketing is the most effective way to provide prospects the needed information.

The other five circumstances all relate to the buyer's perception of risk. We now know that fear is the most powerful emotion at work in the B2B buying process.  Business buyers can be extremely risk averse, and they aren't likely to move forward with a purchase until the perceived risks have been eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.  Content marketing is a highly effective tool for mitigating the risks perceived by your potential buyers.  For example:
  • White papers, articles, and webinars can be used to demonstrate that your company understands the issues and problems your buyers are facing and knows how those issues or problems can be successfully addressed.
  • Customer case studies can be used to show how similar businesses have used your product or service to solve difficult problems and/or reach significant business objectives.
  • Value justification tools and ROI calculators can be used to quantify and prove the value of your product or service.
If some or all of these six circumstances apply to your company and your marketing and sales environment, content marketing should be at the core of your marketing efforts.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How Content Marketing Accelerates the Buying Process

Today's business decision makers are more skeptical, more frugal, and more easily distracted than ever. As a result, it's harder to create engagement with potential buyers, sales cycles are longer, and sales opportunities that once appeared solid can unexpectedly fall off the tracks.

Overcoming these challenges is not easy, but the starting point is to recognize that the single most important job of marketing and sales is to remove friction from the buying process.

In military science, friction is the term that's used to describe anything that can get in the way of the perfect execution of a military operation.  Therefore, friction includes things like the effects of weather on soldiers and equipment, soldier fatigue, misinterpretation of orders, equipment breakdowns, and unexpected enemy actions.  Because of friction, no military operation goes exactly according to plan, even though commanders try very hard to anticipate where and how friction will arise and to devise ways to minimize its effects.

In B2B marketing and sales, friction is anything that slows down or stops a potential buyer's progression through the buying process.  The friction gremlins live everywhere in the buying process.  Friction can (and usually does) pop up at every stage of the process, and many of the causes are beyond your control.  For example, any of the following unforeseeable and uncontrollable events can delay or stall the buying process.
  • A change in the prospect's business condition
  • A change in the make-up of the prospect's senior management team
  • A change in the prospect's business strategy
  • The illness of a key decision maker
While it's not possible to anticipate or eliminate all of the friction from the buying process, you can substantially reduce it.  Many major causes of friction are related to information.  To keep moving through the buying process, potential buyers need the right information at the right time.  When they don't get that information, the buying process can stall.  For example, a potential buyer's progression through the buying process can be slowed or stopped if he or she:
  • Doesn't understand or appreciate the costs or negative ramifications of the status quo
  • Doesn't know or fully understand how the status quo can be changed or improved
  • Perceives that the proposed purchase will involve substantial risks
  • Doesn't have an accurate picture of the ROI that the proposed product, service, or solution will generate
All of these issues can usually be resolved with appropriate and persuasive information.

Both marketing and sales are responsible for reducing friction in the buying process, but marketing's share of the job has grown significantly because of changes in buying behavior.  Today's business buyers are performing more research on their own, and they are postponing conversations with sales reps until later in the buying process. In a recent survey by DemandGen Report, 77% of B2B buyers said they did not engage with a sales rep until after internal research was conducted, and 36% of buyers said they didn't engage with a salesperson until after a preferred list of vendors was established.

With potential buyers avoiding and/or delaying interactions with salespeople, marketing content must be the primary tool for eliminating friction from the buying process. In fact, marketing content is often the only effective tool for dealing with the friction that arises in the early stages of the process.

Today, many marketing and sales "gurus" are offering a variety of techniques that promise to accelerate the buying process.  My take is that it is rarely possible to push prospects through the buying process any faster than they are willing to move.  The best way, therefore, to accelerate the buying cycle is to use relevant and compelling content to eliminate or reduce the friction that slows prospects down.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Choose the Right Marketing Asset Management Solution

Implementing a marketing asset management solution is a big step for most companies.  Not only does it represent a significant financial investment, it also requires you to change the processes you use to acquire, manage, and distribute marketing materials.  In some cases, it can change how you execute direct marketing campaigns and programs.

To select the right MAM solution, you need to determine what capabilities and functionality you need and then make sure you ask prospective solution providers the right questions.

There are four key issues that all companies should address when evaluating potential MAM solutions.

Solution Use and Scope - How will the MAM solution be used?  Put another way, what kinds of materials will be included in, and managed through, the MAM solution?  How you answer this basic question will determine how many and what kinds of individuals need access to the solution, and it will greatly influence what functional capabilities you need in your solution.  The obvious answer here is marketing materials (marketing collateral documents, promotional items, point-of-sale materials, etc.).  When you're evaluating potential MAM solutions, however, consider what other kinds of materials your solution could be used to manage.  Some examples would include:
  • Direct marketing campaign materials
  • Sales support materials (presentations, proposal templates, etc.)
  • Administrative/technical/human resources documents
  • General business supplies
Solution Reliability and Responsiveness - How reliable and responsive must the MAM solution be to meet your needs, and will prospective solution providers offer appropriate service level guarantees?  For most companies, the two most important performance attributes of a marketing asset management solution are system uptime and order turnaround time.  These attributes are critical because the success of your MAM deployment ultimately depends on the willingness of your users to rely on the MAM solution for their needs.  If your users know that the solution will be available when they need it and that the materials they order will be delivered quickly, they will be more likely to use the solution consistently.

Incorporation of Business Rules - Can the MAM solution be customized to incorporate and enforce your business rules and control mechanisms relating to the acquisition and use of marketing materials?  A capable solution provider should be able to customize the MAM solution to incorporate the control mechanisms you need, but this issue should be addressed early in your evaluation process.

Reporting Capabilities - Does the MAM solution provide all of the reporting capabilities that your company needs?

Of course, your evaluation process should not be limited to these four issues.  Your company's particular characteristics and needs will point to other issues that you should address when selecting a marketing asset management solution.

To help jumpstart your evaluation process, we've just published a white paper that contains twenty-three critical questions you need to ask when choosing a marketing asset management solution.  If you'd like to review a copy of our new white paper, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's Time to Combine Marketing and Sales

Suppose you were hired to design and implement an entirely new demand generation system for a large or mid-sized B2B company.  The board of directors and the CEO have given you a free hand to develop whatever kind of system you believe will produce the best results.  There are no pre-conceived ideas about what tactics should be used or what organizational structure the demand generation system should take.

When I work through this mental exercise, I can identify several things that would be part of my ideal demand generation system.  It would certainly contain a robust lead management process (lead nurturing, lead scoring, lead routing, etc.) that is supported by the right technology tools.  Content marketing would play a prominent role, as would social media.  I would also include processes and tools for demonstrating the value/ROI of my products or services.

However, one of the biggest steps I would take is to combine marketing and sales into one organizational unit.  Not that long ago, having separate marketing and sales departments caused few major difficulties.  The traditional roles and responsibilities of marketing and sales in most B2B companies were distinct, and the people in both departments could perform their jobs fairly effectively without a huge amount of day-to-day interaction and collaboration.  In other words, having marketing and sales in separate management "silos" didn't significantly impair company performance.

Times (and circumstances) have changed, and it's now critical for "marketing" activities and "sales" activities to be closely coordinated.  Buyers expect their potential suppliers to speak with one, consistent voice, and they expect everyone they deal with in an organization to know what interactions have already occurred and what information has been exchanged.

Both marketers and sales professionals now recognize the importance of aligning the efforts of marketing and sales.  This has become a hot topic at marketing and sales conferences, and it's been written about in numerous venues.  Many experts are advocating that marketing and sales should spell out their responsibilities and relationship in a formal service level agreement.  That's a good idea, but why not take the next logical step?

The American architect Louis Sullivan said that "form" should follow "function."  Marketing and sales are interdependent components of a single demand generation process.  Therefore, they should be part of a single organizational unit for management, planning, and budgetary purposes.

In lean management terms, marketing and sales are components of the same value stream.  A value stream is the set of activities that are required to produce value for customers.  Lean management recognizes that it is the output/performance of complete value streams that creates value for customers and profits for a company.  Therefore, mature lean organizations manage their operations by value streams rather than by traditional functional departments.

In the case of marketing and sales, the "customer" is the company itself, and the "product" is revenue dollars.  The sole objective of the demand generation value stream is to produce revenues for the company, and achieving this objective requires an integrated set of marketing and sales activities.  Having "good" marketing and "good" sales is important, but what really matters is the performance of the entire demand generation value stream.  To optimize that performance, it must be treated and managed as a single process.

Combining marketing and sales may be a controversial idea, and it would be difficult to implement in many companies for cultural and "political" reasons.  But the logic is compelling, and just because something is hard to do doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done.

What do you think?  If you had a free hand, would you consider merging marketing and sales in your company?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is a Marketing Asset Management Solution Right for Your Business?

Prompted by growing demands from the corner office, marketers in all kinds of companies are seeking innovative ways to improve marketing productivity.  Today, a growing number of companies are turning to marketing asset management solutions to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the marketing function.

A comprehensive marketing asset management solution combines technology tools, manufacturing capabilities, and fulfillment services to automate and streamline many of the processes relating to the acquisition, management, and distribution of marketing materials.  MAM solutions can also provide a powerful platform for creating and executing direct marketing campaigns and programs.

In the right situations, MAM solutions can produce significant and valuable benefits.  For example, they can enable companies to:
  • Eliminate the internal costs of processing and fulfilling requests for marketing materials
  • Eliminate the costs of storing marketing materials and free up valuable building space for other uses
  • Reduce the time required to process and fulfill requests for marketing materials
  • Greatly reduce the waste (and cost) of marketing materials obsolescence
  • Reduce the use of obsolete marketing materials by salespeople, channel partners, etc.
  • Simplify and automate the process of creating and producing customized (and therefore more relevant and effective) marketing materials
  • Simplify and automate the work required to create and execute customized marketing campaigns and programs in distributed marketing environments
You may be asking:  "All this sounds great, but how can I determine if a marketing asset management solution would be a good investment for my business?"

The final determination should be based on a thorough examination of your company's marketing needs and the characteristics of your existing marketing supply/distribution chain.  This examination will allow the benefits of a marketing asset management solution to be estimated and quantified based on your unique circumstances.

We've developed a self-assessment tool that's designed to help you begin the process of deciding whether a marketing asset management solution would make sense for your business.  This short questionnaire/scorecard is not intended to be comprehensive, and it doesn't answer all of the important questions.  The objective is to provide a preliminary indication about whether a marketing asset management solution would be a good investment for your company.

If you'd like a copy of our self-assessment questionnaire, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What It Takes to Make Marketing Content More Compelling

There's no longer any doubt that relevant marketing content is essential for B2B marketing success.  Business buyers are incredibly busy, and they're exposed to hundreds of marketing messages every day.  The only reliable way to cut through the clutter and create meaningful engagement with potential buyers is to provide marketing content that prospects will see as relevant and compelling.

The big question for marketers is, how do we create this kind of content?  We often hear or read that the answer is to customize marketing messages and materials for specific buyers.  But, what kinds of "customization" will actually increase marketing relevance and effectiveness?

There are two proven ways to make marketing content more relevant and compelling.  The first key is to make it easy for prospects to identify with your content.  To do this, you'll need content that's customized to fit the personal and professional characteristics of your potential buyers.  What jobs do your prospects hold?  What kinds of companies do they work for?  What size companies do they work for?  So, for example, if your target prospects are plant managers in small manufacturing companies, you'll need content that's tailored for that kind of buyer.

This kind of content customization increases what I call personal relevance, and it's proven to increase marketing effectiveness.  In research by MarketingSherpa, 82% of business buyers said that marketing content was more valuable when it was targeted to their industry.  Sixty-seven percent of buyers said that marketing content was more valuable when it was targeted to their job function, and 49% said the same for content that was targeted to companies of similar size.

The second way to increase relevance is to create and use marketing content that speaks to issues that have immediate importance to your prospects.  Most B2B buyers move through an identifiable set of buying stages as they make purchase decisions, and the issues that are most important to buyers will change as they move through the buying process.  If your marketing content provides a potential buyer information that's out of sync with his or her decision making process, it's far less likely to capture the buyer's full attention.

The solution is to use marketing messages and materials that are designed for each stage of the buying process.  This kind of content customization enhances what I call situational relevance, and it can provide powerful competitive advantage.  In a recent survey of B2B buyers by DemandGen Report, 93% of respondents said the solution provider they chose supplied ample marketing content to navigate through each phase of the buying process.

A few weeks ago, I published a white paper that describes these two ways to make your marketing content more relevant.  If you'd like a copy of this white paper, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Marketing Asset Management Improves Marketing Results

A growing number of companies are implementing marketing asset management solutions to improve marketing productivity.  MAM solutions combine technology tools, manufacturing capabilities, and services to streamline many of the processes relating to the procurement, management, and distribution of marketing materials.  They can also provide a powerful platform for creating and executing advertising and marketing programs, particularly direct mail and e-mail marketing campaigns.

Most discussions about marketing asset management solutions focus on how they can reduce costs and improve the efficiency of the marketing supply chain.  However, MAM solutions can also improve the effectiveness of marketing activities and programs in three major ways.

Less Use of Obsolete Materials

The obsolescence of marketing materials is a big problem for many companies.  In a recent survey by the CMO Council, 40% of respondents said they waste 20% or more of their marketing materials because of obsolescence.

The direct financial costs of obsolescence waste are bad enough, but the consequences of using obsolete marketing materials can be even worse.  In a highly competitive business environment, sales can easily be lost if prospects are provided outdated information.  And unfortunately, the use of obsolete materials is all too common.  In the CMO Council survey, 51% of marketers admitted they had sent materials to customers or prospects that contained outdated content.

Marketing asset management solutions reduce the use of obsolete materials by combining "virtual warehousing," on-demand manufacturing, and rapid fulfillment to eliminate the underlying causes of obsolescence.  With a marketing asset management solution, materials are stored in digital form so they can be easily and quickly updated, and MAM solution providers manufacture most materials on an as-ordered basis, so there is no need to maintain inventories that can become obsolete.

More Relevant Marketing Materials

Marketing asset management solutions also improve marketing effectiveness by enabling the creation and use of more relevant marketing materials.  Marketers have long known that customizing materials for specific audiences will make them more relevant and effective.  Unfortunately, however, using customized materials has usually forced marketers to choose between losing control of the brand and incurring excessive costs.

MAM solutions make customization easy and cost effective while simultaneously enabling corporate marketers to keep control of brand messaging and brand presentation.  The key to this controlled customization is user-friendly templates that identify what components of a marketing item can be customized and provide a set of pre-approved customization options.

Simplified Distributed Marketing

The third way that MAM solutions boost marketing results is by making it easy to create and execute effective marketing campaigns and programs in distributed marketing environments.

Distributed marketing  refers to a marketing model in which both a central marketing department and "local entities" perform marketing activities.  The defining characteristic of a distributed marketing model is that the local marketing entities have some degree of autonomy from the "home office."  When the local entities are franchisees, resellers, or other independent channel partners, they may have complete marketing independence.  A big challenge, therefore, is to persuade channel partners to market as aggressively as they should.

MAM solutions boost results in distributed marketing organizations by enabling local marketing partners to customize marketing programs to fit their specific needs and by making it simple for local marketing partners to create and execute those programs.

I've just published a white paper that describes these benefits in more detail.  If you'd like to review this paper, send me an e-mail at ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Does Your Selling Process Need an Overhaul?

The 2011 Sales Performance Optimization survey by CSO Insights contains a wealth of information about the attributes and effectiveness of B2B selling.  One of the important findings in the survey is that sales success depends on how you sell as much as what you sell.

How you sell has two components in the CSO Insights framework.  The first is how customers (and potential customers) perceive the value that a company provides.  At the lowest level, customers see the company as nothing more than an approved vendor that provides acceptable products or services.  At the highest level, customers see the company as a trusted advisor whose products, services, and other contributions are key to their long-term success.

The second component of how you sell is the selling process you use.  CSO Insights says that companies fall into one of four levels when it comes to selling process.  Those at the lowest level don't have a defined selling process.  Every salesperson does his/her own thing.  At the highest level, a company has a formal, well-defined selling process, continuously monitors its use by the sales team, and adapts the process to changing market conditions.

The research by CSO Insights shows that the higher you are along these two dimensions, the more sales success you will have.  For example, high ranking companies have more salespeople who achieve their quotas and higher closing rates.

The quality of your selling process has become critical because of changes in the way business buyers make purchase decisions.  In essence, the buying process has become more complex, and you need a robust selling process to cope with this increased complexity.  Consider just three of the ways that B2B selling has become more challenging to manage (based on data from the CSO Insights survey).
  • Sales cycles are longer - About two-thirds of companies have sales cycles for new customers that are four months or longer.
  • It takes more calls to close a deal - Nearly six out of ten companies say it takes at least six sales calls to close a deal with a new customer.
  • More people are involved in the buying process - Three quarters of companies say that a final buying decision requires input from at least three people.
Is your current selling process up to the challenge of managing the new sales environment?  Do you have a formal process that is used consistently by your sales team?  Is your process documented in written form, and is it part of your training for new sales reps?  Do you consistently monitor the effectiveness of your selling process and adapt it to changing market conditions?

If you can't answer "yes" to all of these questions, you should probably take a close look at your current selling process.  There's a good chance you're leaving substantial revenue dollars of the table.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Make Difficult Marketing Questions Easier to Answer

To develop a successful marketing program for your business, you must make some critical decisions, and those decisions require you to answer several difficult questions.
  • What kinds of organizations will make your best prospects?
  • What individuals in those prospect organizations will be the target audience for your marketing programs?
  • What "arguments" will you use in your marketing messages and materials to persuade potential buyers to purchase your products or services?
  • How will you demonstrate the return on investment that your products or services will deliver to a prospective customer?
  • What marketing channels will you use to communicate with your target audience?
How you answer these questions will define the shape of your marketing program and largely determine how successful your marketing efforts will be.  These questions are never easy to answer, but you can make the job a lot easier if you will first take the time to thoroughly understand and describe how your products or services create value for customers.

If you've ever watched someone install a tile or hardwood floor on a home improvement TV show, you may remember that the installer spends a great deal of time making sure that the first row of tiles or boards is straight and square with the walls of the room.  After the first row is in place, the rest of the installation goes fairly quickly.  That's because as long as the rest of the tiles or boards "fit" with the first row, the whole floor is almost guaranteed to turn out right.

A clear picture of how your products or services create value for buyers is like that first row of floor tiles or boards.  It provides the reference point for the decisions you will make when designing your marketing program.  Understanding how you create value will make it easier to determine who your best prospects are, to identify the individuals you need to market to, and to craft your marketing messages.

To understand and describe all of the significant ways your products or services can create value, you'll need to answer another set of questions.
  • What are all of the significant reasons that people have for purchasing a product or service like yours? What problems or needs motivate the buying decision?
  • What kinds of organizations are likely to have the problems or needs that underlie these reasons to buy?
  • Who within the prospect organization is affected by each problem or need?  Who has the most to gain if the problem is solved and the most to lose if it isn't?
  • What specific outcomes are these people seeking?
  • What features of your solution will produce these desired outcomes?
  • What will the economic benefits be if these desired outcomes are achieved (lower costs, increased revenues, etc.)?
The best tool for collecting and organizing this value information is called a customer value map or a customer value matrix.  We have a customer value matrix template that we use when working with clients on new marketing projects.  If you'd like a copy of this template, send me an e-mail at ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why the "Swiss Army Knife" Approach to Content Marketing Doesn't Work

Whenever I talk with prospective clients about starting a content marketing program, one of the first questions they ask is, "Why can't we create one content resource, say a white paper, that tells the whole story? It could include a description of the problems we can solve and the benefits our solution can provide, and we could include a couple of customer success stories to demonstrate that we can deliver what we promise."

At this point in the conversation, the image of a Swiss army knife always flashes in my mind.  As most of you probably know, a Swiss army knife is a tool that's about the size of a large pocket knife.  In addition to regular knife blades, it has several other attachments, such as a bottle opener, a can opener, a screwdriver, and a file.  So, a Swiss army knife is a real multi-tasking tool and a handy thing to have on a camping trip or a hike.

Many B2B marketers believe they can create one marketing content resource that will fill all (or most) of their content needs.  In essence, they want to create the marketing equivalent of a Swiss army knife. It's an appealing idea, and it would certainly simplify the job of content marketing.  Unfortunately, however, the Swiss army knife approach to content marketing doesn't work well for a number of reasons.

Diluted Relevance - When you create an "umbrella" content piece, you will inevitably include information that's not all that relevant to some potential buyers.  Suppose, for example, that you offer a technology product that must be "sold" to plant managers, IT Directors, and CFO's.  Each of these buyer types will have distinct issues, concerns, and priorities.  If you create a single content resource for all of these buyer types, you are essentially asking each potential buyer to wade through material that doesn't particularly interest him or her in order to find the information that addresses his or her primary interests and concerns.

Excessive Length - Even if the relevance problem doesn't exist, when you try to "cover all the bases" in one content resource, you are likely to end up with a very long resource - a 40-50 page white paper, for example.  The problem with long content pieces is that most potential buyers now have short attention spans.  They prefer to consume content in small doses, especially when they are in the early stages of the buying process. Most early-stage buyers simply won't be willing to invest the time it takes to read a 50 page white paper.

No Ammunition for Lead Nurturing - If you plan to have a lead nurturing program (and you should), you'll need several content resources to provide the "fuel" for the program.  Offering the same content asset over and over just won't work.

Reduced Credibility - Having only one content resource can also create a negative perception by potential buyers.  When I visit a company's website and see only one content resource, I can't help but question the company's expertise and capabilities.  Many potential buyers probably react in the same way.

The bottom line?  You need several content resources to have an effective marketing program. The good news is that creating multiple resources is not as difficult as it might appear.  The key is to repurpose your content.  For example, you can usually take one white paper and use it as the basis for two or three shorter content pieces.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why Marketing Should Take the Lead in Lead Generation

In my last post, I argued that companies should not rely primarily on salespeople to generate sales leads, but instead should use marketing programs to produce most new leads.  Here's why.

The new customer acquisition process for a B2B company includes three distinct components - lead acquisition, lead management, and sales opportunity management.

Lead acquisition includes all of the activities that a company uses to persuade a potential buyer to engage with the company.  The initial engagement can take several forms including meeting with a salesperson, responding to a lead generation campaign, and downloading a content resource (an article or a white paper, for example) from your website.

Lead management refers to the activities that a company performs to qualify leads and nurture those leads until they become legitimate sales opportunities.

Sales opportunity management includes the activities that we typically associate with selling - performing needs analysis, giving demos and/or presentations, preparing proposals and ROI estimates, and closing sales.

When most people use the term lead generation, they are referring to both lead acquisition and lead management.

Two economic factors explain why marketing programs (as opposed to traditional sales prospecting) should be the primary tool for generating leads.  First, lead generation (particularly lead acquisition) is an inherently inefficient process.  It has a high input (work required) to output (success) ratio.  Lead generation is like hitting in baseball.  If a major league player finishes a season with a .400 average, he is likely to win the batting title.  But, a .400 average means the player "failed" 60% of the time.

Because lead generation is inherently inefficient, it's important to perform the process using low cost resources.  Salespeople are expensive resources, and their prospecting activities don't "scale" because they are labor intensive and mostly manual.  Marketing programs, on the other hand, scale very easily, and many marketing activities can be automated on a cost-effective basis.  The bottom line is that leads generated by effective marketing programs are usually less expensive on a cost-per-lead basis than leads generated by salesperson prospecting.

The second economic factor relates to sale productivity.  Reducing the amount of time that a salesperson must spend generating leads means that he or she will have the ability to manage a larger number of legitimate sales opportunities.  This allows the salesperson to close more deals and generate higher revenues for the company.

I am not suggesting that salespeople should not be involved at all in lead generation.  I am suggesting that salespeople should focus on what I call opportunistic lead generation.  For example, they should be asking for referrals, and they should be actively networking with potential buyers.  Salespeople also need to be involved in lead qualification because thorough lead qualification requires human interaction and human judgement.

Marketing programs are not free, but when effective marketing programs are used for lead generation, the payoff can be higher revenues and/or lower marketing and sales expenses (as a percentage of revenues).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stop Depending on Your Salespeople to Generate Leads

For B2B companies that sell complex products or services, keeping the sales pipeline filled with qualified leads is vital.  Many companies have traditionally relied on salespeople to generate their own leads.  In fact, many companies expect their salespeople to perform most, if not all, of the jobs required to find and win new customers, from identifying prospects, to generating leads, to closing sales.

The problem is that this traditional approach to lead generation no longer works as well as it once did.  Business buyers don't need salespeople as much today as they did in the past.  They can go online and find most of the information they need to learn about and evaluate products and services.  So, buyers are now performing research independently, and they are avoiding conversations with sales reps until much later in the buying process.  As a result, it's become a lot harder for salespeople to create the initial engagement with potential buyers, which is what lead generation is all about.

Making salespeople responsible for lead generation is a bad idea for several related reasons.
  • Salespeople must devote a significant amount of their time and energy to lead generation work in order to produce a sufficient number of leads.  According to the 2011 Sales Performance Optimization survey conducted by CSO Insights, salespeople are now spending 24% of their time generating leads and researching accounts.
  • The more time a sales rep spends on lead generation, the less time he/she has for actual selling.  The CSO Insights survey shows that salespeople are spending only 41% of their time on actual selling activities.
  • The less time a salesperson spends on actual selling, the less revenues he/she will produce.  CSO Insights says that only 59% of sales reps made their quotas in 2010.
When the "revenue per salesperson" number goes down, overall company revenues are likely to deteriorate.  Companies must either accept lower revenues of compensate in some way.  The traditional responses have been to browbeat the salespeople to work harder, provide sales reps with training to improve their skills, or hire more salespeople.

The first two responses usually don't work because the real problem is not unproductive salespeople (although some probably are), but an ineffective and inefficient lead generation process.  The third response (hiring more salespeople) may produce higher revenues, but it will also significantly increase your selling expenses.

The real solution is to use effective marketing programs to generate leads and use your sales reps to do the things that only they can do - have meaningful, personal, one-on-one conversations with prospects who are truly sales ready.

Companies are now recognizing that marketing should take the lead in lead generation, but it's also clear that this is still a work in progress.  In the CSO Insights survey, respondents indicated that 47% of sales leads are still generated by salespeople, while only 29% are produced by marketing.

Over the past few months, I've worked with several companies that get more than 80% of their new sales leads from salespeople and only 20% from marketing and other sources (referrals, press coverage, etc.).  These percentages need to be reversed.  Your objective should be to generate 80% of your sales leads from your marketing programs.

If you currently depend on your salespeople for most of your leads, this transition can't be made overnight.  The important thing is to set ambitious but attainable goals for marketing generated leads, and then put the marketing programs in place that will enable you to reach those goals.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Seven Tips for Writing Case Studies that Sell

Customer case studies are one of the most popular kinds of marketing collateral used by B2B companies.  When they're done right, case studies can help shorten sales cycles and close more deals.

According to recent research by Eccolo Media, case studies are the third most widely consumed type of marketing collateral (behind product brochures and white papers) and the second most influential type of marketing collateral (trailing only white papers).

The good news is that case studies can significantly boost the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.  The not-so-good news is that the use of case studies has exploded, and this means that your case studies are facing more competition for attention and mindshare than ever before.  If they look and sound like all the others your potential buyers see, or if they don't tell a compelling story, they simply won't produce the expected results.

There are seven essential steps for writing effective and compelling case studies.
  • Collect and organize the facts you have to work with
  • Define the target audience
  • Identify the key takeaways
  • Make the case study a true "story"
  • Describe results/benefits in specific (preferably, quantitative) terms
  • Use customer quotations liberally
  • Make the case study easy to scan
We've created a "mini guide" for writing effective case studies that discusses these seven steps in greater detail.  These steps reflect current best practices, and we use all of these techniques when we prepare custom case studies for clients.

If you'd like to review Seven Tips for Writing Customer Case Studies that Sell, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to Eliminate Obsolescence from the Marketing Supply Chain

The obsolescence of marketing materials constitutes a major problem for many companies.  The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council has said that obsolescence creates an "epidemic of waste" that undermines the development of an efficient marketing supply chain.  In a recent CMO Council survey:
  • 60% of respondents said they spend at least 20% of their total marketing budget on marketing "consumables" (primarily printed materials such as marketing collateral documents, promotional items, and point-of-sale materials).
  • 40% of respondents said they waste 20% or more of their marketing materials because of obsolescence.
Source:  Understanding the Critical Factors to Achieving Marketing Supply Chain Operational Effectiveness & Optimization (CMO Council, 2010).

Obsolete marketing materials represent a complete waste of marketing dollars.  The cost of obsolete materials is essentially an investment in marketing communications that never reach the intended audience.  A closet or storeroom or trash container filled with obsolete marketing materials is a tangible manifestation of budget funds that could have been used to support productive marketing programs.

Just as important, the use of obsolete marketing materials can adversely affect marketing effectiveness.  In the CMO Council survey cited above, 51% of respondents admitted that they had sent materials to customers or prospects that contained outdated information.  In today's business environment, every interaction with a potential buyer is important, and sales can easily be lost if prospects are provided outdated information.

A marketing asset management solution can dramatically reduce the waste created by marketing materials that become obsolete before they can be used.  These solutions consist of a suite of technologies, manufacturing capabilities, and services that automate many of the processes relating to the procurement, production, management, and distribution of marketing materials.  They reduce obsolescence by eliminating the need to purchase marketing materials in large quantities.

Marketing asset management solutions make extensive of on-demand production technologies, and these technologies enable you to acquire most marketing materials in small quantities on a cost effective basis.  And because production lead times are short, you can order materials as and when they are needed.  This eliminates the need for large inventories, which greatly reduces the possibility that marketing materials will become obsolete.

If you struggle with obsolescence, a marketing asset management solution may be just the "cure" you need for this epidemic.  To learn more about how marketing asset management solutions work, take a look at our white paper titled, Is a Marketing Asset Management Solution Right for My Company? To get a copy of this white paper, just send an e-mail request to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Making Localized Marketing Easy and Affordable

In my last post, I briefly described how marketing asset management solutions work.  These solutions automate many of the processes relating to the procurement, production, management, and distribution of marketing materials such as marketing collateral documents, promotional items, and point-of-sale materials.

Marketing asset management solutions can dramatically reduce the indirect costs associated with marketing materials, but they can provide many other benefits as well.  One of these benefits is to make localized marketing easy and affordable.

Marketers have long recognized that customizing marketing materials for specific audiences will increase relevancy and improve the effectiveness of those materials.  One proven application of this tactic is known as localized marketing.  Localized marketing is just what it sounds like - the practice of customizing marketing materials for local audiences.  In can be as simple as adding local contact information to otherwise standard marketing collateral materials or as complex as creating an entire promotional program (direct mailers, print ads, point-of-sale materials, etc.) that is customized for a specific geographic market or buyer segment.

Unfortunately, localized marketing has traditionally been cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly.  Marketers who wanted to reap the benefits of localized marketing were usually forced to make an unattractive trade-off between keeping control of the brand and excessive costs.

Marketing asset management solutions can eliminate the barriers to localized marketing.  By using customizable templates for marketing materials, MAM solutions enable corporate marketers to retain control of brand messaging and brand presentation, while simultaneously enabling front-line marketers (salespeople, local store/branch managers, dealers, franchisees, etc.) to customize marketing materials to fit their marketing needs.

Would a marketing asset management solution make sense for your company?  To find out, read our white paper titled, Is a Marketing Asset Management Solution Right for My Company?  Request your copy by sending an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is a Marketing Asset Management Solution?

Marketing automation is a hot topic in the B2B marketing community.  According to most reports, the number of companies using marketing automation solutions is growing rapidly, and the growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The term B2B marketing automation usually refers to technologies that automate activities like lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead distribution.  These technologies can greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of B2B marketing efforts, particularly when it comes to lead management.

There is, however, another type of B2B marketing automation that should also be on your radar.  These solutions are usually called marketing asset management solutions.  A marketing asset management solution is a suite of technologies, production capabilities, and fulfillment services that automate many of the processes relating to the procurement, management, and distribution of marketing materials such as marketing collateral documents, promotional items, and point-of-sale materials. A marketing asset management solution is essentially an outsourcing arrangement in which the solution provider assumes responsibility for several components of a company's marketing materials supply chain.

Here's how a marketing asset management solution works.
  • The core component is a central repository that contains digital versions of the marketing materials that a company uses.  The solution will also include an online catalog that contains images of the company's materials.
  • When an authorized user needs to order marketing materials, he or she logs into a secure website, selects the desired materials from the catalog, and places the order.
  • A marketing asset management solution also provides powerful customization capabilities.  If an item is designed to be customized, the online catalog will contain a template of that item.  The template identifies the content elements that can be modified and allows a user to customize the item in allowable ways.
  • The marketing asset management solution provider uses production technologies that allow most marketing materials to be manufactured on an order-by-order basis.  The solution provider also handles packaging and fulfillment.  In those cases where production economics don't allow for materials to be produced on an as-ordered basis, the solution provider will provide warehousing and real-time (or near real-time) inventory tracking and reporting.
A marketing asset management solution will significantly reduce the indirect costs of marketing materials and provide several other important financial and operational benefits.  In upcoming posts, I'll describe some of these benefits.

If you'd like to learn more about marketing asset management solutions, take a look at our white papers titled, Is a Marketing Asset Management Solution Right for My Company? and Four Reasons to Use a Marketing Asset Management Solution.  To obtain a copy of one or both of these papers, just put your request in a comment to this post or send an e-mail request to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reduce the Hidden Costs of Marketing Materials

B2B marketers are understandably concerned about the performance of their campaigns and programs.  After all, the primary job of B2B marketing is to generate a sufficient number of qualified leads so that company sales will grow.  Plus, all of the recent emphasis on marketing ROI has increased the pressures on marketers to justify the investments they make in marketing efforts.

Obviously, marketers need to monitor and improve the performance of marketing campaigns.  But it's equally important to focus on the efficiency of marketing operations.  One area of marketing operations that offers huge opportunities for improvement in most companies relates to the management of marketing materials (marketing collateral, promotional items, and point-of-sale materials).

The issue here isn't the direct production costs of marketing materials, although that's obviously important.  What I'm talking about in this post is the cost of procuring, managing, and distributing marketing materials.  Research shows that over half of the real total spending on marketing materials can be attributed to obsolescence waste and to activities like procurement, storage, inventory management, and distribution.

This aspect of marketing is now receiving much more attention for a very simple reason.  The dollars saved by reducing these indirect, and often "invisible," materials costs can be redeployed to fund revenue-generating campaigns and programs.

The good news is that we now have the tools to reduce these costs and dramatically increase the efficiency of the supply chain for marketing materials.  These tools are usually called marketing asset management solutions, and if they're not yet on your radar, they should be.

In an upcoming post, I'll describe how marketing asset management solutions work and how they can improve the productivity of your marketing operations.