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.