Sunday, June 26, 2022

How Marketers Can Leverage Job-Focused Content . . . and Why They Should

The first step in designing an effective marketing strategy and creating compelling content is to understand what potential buyers are trying to accomplish when they purchase particular products or services. In most cases, people don't buy a product or service primarily because they want the product or service itself. Most often, what they really want is what the product or service will help them accomplish.

Theodore Levitt, the legendary professor of marketing at the Harvard Business School, expressed this truth when he often reminded his students that, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole."

In The Innovator's Solution, Clayton Christensen and co-author Michael Raynor built on Professor Levitt's insight and described what is called the jobs-to-be-done framework. Christensen acknowledged that he did not originate the jobs-to-be-done framework, but his adoption of the model has helped make it part of mainstream business and marketing thinking.

The basic idea of this framework is that when people become aware of a "job" they need to get done, they look for a product or service they can "hire" to perform the job.

Christensen argued that this is how potential customers "experience life." Their thought process begins with an awareness that they need to get something done, and then they seek to hire something or someone to do the job for them.

The attributes of the jobs people are needing to get done constitute the circumstances in which they buy. Therefore, the jobs-to-be-done framework can enable company leaders to reliably predict what features or functionality will cause people to buy a product or service.

The jobs-to-be-done framework is most often used to guide the product/service development process, but it also has two important "use cases" in marketing.

How Marketers Typically Use the JTBD Framework

Marketers typically use the jobs-to-be-done framework to guide the development of their marketing content. They identify the jobs that potential buyers are needing to get done when they purchase products or services like those the company offers, and they focus most of their marketing content on describing how their company's products or services can help buyers get those jobs done.

Using the jobs-to-be-done framework in this way can enable marketers to create content that is more likely to resonate with potential buyers because the content is more relevant and provides meaningful value.

A Second (and Equally Important) Use for the JTBD Framework

The second way to employ the jobs-to-be-done framework in marketing is to focus on the buying process itself and use the framework to identify the jobs potential buyers need to get done in order to make sound purchase decisions. When marketers use the framework for this purpose, they think of their content assets - videos, blog articles, ebooks, white papers, etc. - as distinct "products," and they ask what specific buying-related job or jobs each asset helps a potential buyer get done.

When a business person becomes aware of an issue or problem in his or her company, he or she will look for a source of information - most likely a content resource - that can provide useful insights about the issue or problem. In essence, the business person will try to "hire" a content resource to provide information about the issue or problem.

If the issue or problem is sufficiently important, the business person will begin a process to identify possible solutions. This learning process will become a buying process if it appears that making a purchase may be the best way to address the issue or problem.

The "customer journey" of a potential buyer is essentially a process of answering a rather large set of questions, and obtaining the information that's needed to answer those questions constitutes the jobs that the potential buyer needs to get done to make a sound purchase decision. Throughout the buying process, a potential customer will hire numerous content resources to perform these jobs.

The questions a potential buyer needs to answer will change as he or she moves through the buying process, and therefore the jobs that need to get done will be different in the early stages of the process than in the later stages.

In the real world, no single content resource will be able to perform all the jobs a potential buyer needs to get done over an entire buying process. So, what marketers must do is develop a portfolio of content resources that collectively will cover the whole process.

It's also essential for marketers to identify the specific jobs that each of their content resources will effectively perform - i.e. what specific questions the content resource will answer. A content resource will only resonate with a potential buyer if it helps the buyer perform the specific job or jobs that are immediately important to the buyer given where he or she is in the buying process.

By linking each content asset to specific jobs, marketers can make better decisions about what assets to offer a potential buyer and how to describe and promote each of their content assets.

The bottom line is, the jobs-to-be-done framework is a powerful tool for creating effective engagement with potential buyers and elevating the performance of marketing.

Image courtesy of via Flickr (CC).

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Recipe for Effective Demand Generation Messaging

Source:  The Marketing Practice and B2B DecisionLabs

One of the most difficult challenges facing B2B marketers is creating demand generation messages that will persuade potential buyers to act. The challenge is particularly daunting when marketers are attempting to motivate action by a "new" prospect - one their company hasn't already done business with.

Business professionals are inundated by dozens of business-related marketing messages every day, and the reality is they ignore virtually all of those messages.

For example, some recent data indicates that the average open rate for B2B marketing emails is between 15% and 20%. But the average click-through rate is only about 3%, which means that about 85% of the emails that are opened aren't persuasive enough to motivate action.

Clearly, B2B marketers need to improve the effectiveness of their early-stage (a/k/a "top of funnel") demand generation messaging. This improvement is vital because consistently acquiring new customers is essential for revenue growth at most B2B companies.

Fortunately, recent research by The Marketing Practice, B2B DecisionLabs and Dr. Nick Lee, a behavioral scientist and professor of marketing at the Warwick Business School, has identified three concrete steps B2B marketers can take to increase the effectiveness of their early-stage demand generation messaging.

How the Study Worked

This research was in the form of an "experiment," which is a research method that is frequently used in the behavioral sciences. The study involved 500 B2B professionals who were involved in making purchase decisions for their company.

The objective of the study was to test what combination of three messaging variables was most effective for early-stage demand generation. The three messaging variables were:

  1. The use of emotional vs. rational language to describe the business challenge and solution benefits
  2. The use of unquantified vs. quantified statements of business impact
  3. The use of contrast. In this study, contrast means describing both the current implications of the business challenge and the future benefits of the solution.
To test various combinations of these messaging variables, the researchers created five simulated early-stage demand generation emails.
  • Email 1 - Emotional language-unquantified description of business impact-no contrast
  • Email 2 - Emotional language-quantified description of business impact-no contrast
  • Email 3 - Rational language-quantified description of business impact-no contrast
  • Email 4 - Emotional language-quantified description of business impact-contrast included
  • Email 5 - Rational language-quantified description of business impact-contrast included
Note:  The report describing the study includes the actual text of these simulated emails. This text provides a richer picture of the messaging variables, so I encourage you to read the full report.
Each of the simulated emails was read by 100 study participants. The researchers then asked each study participant several "attitude" questions. Participants rated their reaction to the email on a scale of 1-9. The researchers also asked each participant "recall" questions to measure how well they remembered the information they had read.
And the Winner Was . . .
The research revealed that Email 4 - quantified emotional with contrast - outperformed all other email versions along several important dimensions. Specifically, this email:
  • Made the business problem described in the email feel more impactful to the relevant study participants
  • Caused the relevant study participants to feel a greater sense of urgency to address the business problem described in the email
  • Made the relevant study participants more likely to say they are willing to investigate potential solutions for the business problem addressed in the email
Email 4 also outperformed the other email versions in terms of memorability. Ninety-seven percent of the study participants who read Email 4 accurately remembered the business problems described in the email, and 90% answered all of the recall questions correctly.
The research also revealed that Email 3 - quantified rational, no contrast - was the least effective email version tested. This finding is important because based on my experience, this is probably the most prevalent type of messaging used for early-stage demand generation.
One final point needs to be made. This study used simulated emails to test the effectiveness of different types of messaging. But the findings of the study are also relevant for other types of content used primarily for early-stage demand generation.
So for example, if you are writing a blog post or an article for a third party publication, or if you are creating an infographic, and if your primary objective is early-stage demand generation, you will want to include emotionally evocative language, specific numbers that quantify business impacts, and contrast.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

[Research Round-Up] Revenue Marketing, Content Marketing and the New Normal in B2B Marketing

(This month's Research Round-Up features a look at "revenue marketing" benchmarks by Demand Spring, an extensive examination of the state of content marketing by Semrush, and a report by Considered Content discussing two surveys that show where B2B buyers and B2B marketers are on the same page . . . and where they aren't.) 

2022 Revenue Marketing B2B Benchmark Report by Demand Spring 

Source:  Demand Spring
  • Based on a survey of marketers located in North America and the UK
  • 150 respondents representing a "variety of industries" and a wide range of company sizes "from SMBs to large enterprises"
  • The report doesn't state when the survey was conducted
  • Report published in February 2022
This is the fifth edition of Demand Spring's revenue marketing benchmark survey. Revenue marketing has been around for more than a decade, so it's not surprising that 91% of the survey respondents said they were familiar with the concept.
Revenue marketing has been defined in a variety of ways, but in general, it refers to an approach to marketing in which:
  • Marketing and sales are aligned on the goal of driving pipeline and revenue growth; and
  • Marketing activities are tied directly to demand generation and revenue growth.
The Demand Spring research addressed several important issues. For example:
The primary metrics used to measure marketing performance - The top four metrics identified by survey respondents were revenue (54%), total inquiries (40%), pipeline initiated (38%) and pipeline influenced (38%).
How much of the revenue pipeline marketing is expected to initiate and/or influence - The largest cohort of respondents (38%) said marketing is expected to influence 25% to 50% of the revenue pipeline.
The main barriers to driving pipeline and revenue - The four top barriers identified by survey respondents were technology (38%), budget (37%), talent (33%) and shifting marketing and organizational priorities (32%).
The primary areas of marketing spending - The top three areas selected by survey respondents were content creation (44%), webinars (37%) and SEO/SEM (32%).
Top revenue marketing priorities for 2022 - Fifty-eight percent of the respondents identified improving conversion rates through nurturing the middle/bottom of the funnel as their top priority or a high priority for 2022.
A multi-faceted report based on several data types and sources.
Source:  Semrush
  • Google search queries and questions relating to content marketing
  • Cost-per-click data for keywords relating to content marketing
  • Twitter topics and hashtags trends
  • Input from nine content marketing experts
  • A survey of 1,500 marketers
  • Data relating to 500,000 blog articles
This 115-page report is one of the most extensive resources regarding content marketing that I've recently reviewed. The data on which the report is based are primarily from calendar year 2021, so the insights provided in the report are timely. The report addresses four broad topic categories.
The first portion of the report focuses on several specific topics relating to search and Twitter topics and hashtags. It identifies the most popular search queries and questions at Google pertaining to content marketing, and it identifies the most expensive cost-per-click keywords relating to content marketing. The report also discusses the most popular hashtags and topics at Twitter relating to content marketing.
The second portion of the report contains brief essays by recognized content marketing experts discussing what they believe will be the top content marketing trends in 2022.
The report also includes the results of a survey of 1,500 marketers working in more than 20 industries. Survey respondents were located in more than 40 countries around the world. This survey addressed a variety of content marketing topics, some of which were also addressed in the latest content marketing survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarrketingProfs. So, it's interesting to compare the findings of these two surveys.
The final portion of the report presents an analysis of the common characteristics of top-performing blog articles. Among other things, it discusses what makes headlines effective, what article structures work best, and what article lengths are most popular with readers.
Because of its length, this report requires a fair amount of time to read and absorb, but it you're involved in content marketing, that will be time well spent.
Longer sales, greater expectations, less contact:  Welcome to the new normal in B2B marketing commissioned by Considered Content (surveys conducted by Censuswide)
  • Based on two surveys
    Source:  Considered Content
  • A survey of 150 B2B buyers with companies having at least 250 employees
  • A survey of 150 senior in-house marketers with companies having at least 250 employees
  • Location of survey respondents not specified
  • Surveys conducted in December 2021 and January 2022
This type of marketing research - where buyer and marketer survey participants are asked similar (or parallel) questions - can be particularly useful because the results can reveal where buyers and marketers are on the same page . . . and where they aren't.
The Considered Content surveys provide this type of insight. For example, the survey findings show that buyers and marketers agree that sales cycles are getting longer. Fifty-six percent of the surveyed buyers said that purchase decisions are taking longer because it has become more difficult to gain agreement among the multiple members of the buying group.
Buyers and marketers also agree that buyers are conducting more research independently - before they contact a prospective vendor. Sixty-six percent of the surveyed buyers said they are self-serving more information before they contact vendors, and 74% of the surveyed marketers said customers are taking more control of the buying process.
The Considered Content surveys also revealed where gaps exist between what B2B buyers want and what B2B marketers are providing. For example:
  • Twenty-five percent of the surveyed buyers said they want to be able to get all the information they need online before contacting a salesperson, but only 9% of the surveyed marketers said they provide this level of information.
  • Twenty-eight percent of the buyer respondents said they want to be able to view testimonials, case studies and reviews from named businesses, but only 9% of the marketer respondents said they provide this kind of content on their website.
  • Forty-two percent of the surveyed marketers said they offer pre-recorded demos, but only 23% of the surveyed buyers said they want to watch pre-recorded demos.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

[Book Review] "The Context Marketing Revolution"


Source:  Amazon
"Starting on June 24, 2009, everything that once worked in marketing, stopped. What we do, how we do it, and who does it were transformed forever." (Emphasis in original)

So writes Mathew Sweezey in The Context Marketing Revolution:  How to Motivate Buyers in the Age of Infinite Media (Harvard Business Review Press, 2020). According to Sweezey, June 24, 2009 was the day when ". . . private individuals - not brands, not businesses or traditional media outlets - became the largest producers of media in the world." (Emphasis in original)

Sweezey argues that the business environment has transformed from a limited media era - where media creation and distribution were limited to people and organizations with sufficient capital to participate - to an era of infinite media - where every human being on the planet with access to the internet can create and distribute media (that is, content).

Sweezey contends that as a result of the explosive proliferation of content and the emergence of the new media environment, consumers and business buyers have largely stopped listening to marketing messages. This means, Sweezey writes, that companies and their marketers must fundamentally change how they approach motivating buyers and driving growth. As he puts it, "It demands not just new marketing ideas but rather a whole new idea of marketing." (Emphasis added)

In The Context Marketing Revolution, Sweezey describes the "new idea of marketing" that will be necessary for success in the infinite media era. He calls the solution context marketing, which he describes as follows:

"Motivating consumers today has nothing to do with getting their attention and everything to do with understanding their context - that is, their current position in time and space and whatever their task may be in that moment. Today, helping people achieve their immediate goals is the only way to break through the noise and motivate consumers to act." (Emphasis in original)

What's In the Book

The Context Marketing Revolution is organized in three major parts.

Part One (Chapter 1-2) - In Chapter 1, Sweezey discusses the profound differences between how marketers motivated buyers in the limited media era and what will be needed to motivate them in the infinite media era. Chapter 2 explains how the changed media environment has given rise to a new kind of consumer and a new consumer decision making process.

Part Two (Chapters 3-8) - This part contains the core of the book. In Chapter 3, Sweezey introduces the context framework - a model for describing the level of context in interactions between brands/companies and customers/buyers. Sweezey's framework describes the level of context along five dimensions - available, permissioned, personal, authentic and purposeful. Following the introduction in Chapter 3, Sweezey devotes a separate chapter to each of the context framework components.

Part Three (Chapters 9-14) - In this part, Sweezey provides a road map for implementing context marketing. In Chapter 9, he describes how marketers can identify the critical attributes of the customer journeys that are relevant for their company, and in Chapter 10, he discusses how marketers can use triggers to keep buyers moving through their customer journey.

Chapter 11 covers the role of technology in context marketing, and Chapter 12 explains the benefits of adopting agile marketing techniques and practices. Sweezey concludes the book with a discussion of the organizational and performance measurement changes that are needed to enable successful context marketing.

My Take

The Context Marketing Revolution is an important book that should be on the reading list of most marketers. This is a "dense" book in the sense that Mathew Sweezey addresses numerous important issues and discusses the subtle nuances of those issues.

I am usually skeptical of claims by pundits that "everything" in marketing has changed, but Sweezey has built a compelling case for the proposition that many aspects of marketing have changed in fundamental ways.

Many of the ideas contained in The Context Marketing Revolution aren't new. For example, most marketers have long recognized the importance of permission-based marketing, personalization and authenticity.

Even the core idea of context marketing - which is to help buyers achieve their immediate goals at each moment during the customer journey - isn't completely new. For example, Google's idea of micro-moments of marketing - which I wrote about back in 2015 - is similar in some ways to context marketing. And marketers who have been creating content resources that are tailored for specific buyer personas and specific stages of the buying process can be described as practicing a rudimentary form of context marketing.

The most important point in The Context Marketing Revolution is Mathew Sweezey's argument that the role of marketing and the scope of marketing's responsibilities must the dramatically expanded in order to make context marketing a reality.

Sweezey contends that companies must deliver contextual experiences in order to break through the noise created in the era of infinite media. Contextual experiences will often encompass more than marketing communications, and Sweezey argues that marketers must be prepared to move beyond conventional notions of marketing communications in order to create and deliver compelling contextual experiences.

The Context Marketing Revolution provides an insightful and sometimes provocative view of what is needed to effectively motivate today's consumers and business buyers. It's a very worthwhile read for marketers.