01 Jun

Focus less on reach, more on persuasion.

On the obsession with technology in marketing: I’ve been an advocate and avid user of marketing tech forever BUT….Let’s not forget that (so far) no piece of technology has persuaded anyone to engage with you, or buy from you. It’s allowed us to reach more people, but not persuade them. It’s allowed us to be more targeted, but no one has ever sent an email on to a colleague because it was so well targeted.

That only happens with great messaging and creative and I think that in B2B there is a massive under-investment in creative.  With the access to a multitude of channels such as email and social media, the path to your customers’ heart is actually harder because everyone else is communicating to your customers too.

If the objective is to persuade people, rather than just reach people, consider a few ideas here (and add your own in the comment section!)

#1. Laser target your messaging – generic never wins.

 It’s cheaper to have one theme, one campaign for many segments/personas but what’s the point if it doesn’t persuade anyone?  You can differentiate not just in what you say but how you say it. Your campaign in itself can be a competitive advantage.

#2. Invest in the best creative you can afford

Once you know what you want to say of course. There’s a difference between telling and persuading. We live in a visual world where you compete for seconds of someone’s attention, so make it count. You don’t need to hire an expensive agency, but get the best creative you can afford in your budget.

#3. Use video, but do it right

Video is a killer medium for online engagement. But if you do it, do it as well as you can afford. Just because you’re literate, doesn’t mean you can write, and just because you have a camera doesn’t mean you can make a compelling video. Video is often the key campaign asset and all the marketing automation in the world can’t help you if your message falls flat.

Any other suggestions?

15 Feb

B2B marketing rule #1 – Sell or die

The focus in our B2B marketing world on marketing technology, social media and other tools and tactics is astounding. This is not an article to poohoo the value that can deliver; this is about looking at whether or not we are losing our focus on what actually underpins everything from the sales pitch to the lead generation campaign; persuasion.

Sounds like selling to me…and it is. The most fundamental thing we still need to do is get the right people’s (many, not one) attention and demonstrate the difference we bring.

Educating or persuading?

For years now, there’s been a lot of talk sharing your knowledge freely.  Oceans of content are being produced, often by dedicated content management agencies, employing former journalists, who these days are being laid off faster than they come out of University.

The core idea is sound; people crave information to make buying decisions, to a large extent so that they can rationalise their purchase decision. So if you want to be considered, you have to have a voice for those who are seeking. Nowhere more so than when they buy on behalf of a company, in Business to Business or B2B.

What’s important is not to confuse educating with marketing.

The purpose of education is to help you make better choices. The purpose of marketing is to make people choose you over someone else. So in other words, ONLY if education leads to changing someone’s preference is it a marketing activity and worth doing. You can be smart with that and play a long game, with a long lead of informative content, but it should only exist in the context of a clear marketing outcome.

In the end, it’s not about giving people more options, but fewer.

23 Feb

A million mistakes and three tips

I’ve changed a few flat tyres in my life. The first time, it was all stress and chaos because I couldn’t  find the tools. It had never dawned on me to me to look for these tools before that time of crisis really. That would be like reading the manual.

The second lesson I learnt was that  you don’t jack the car up before you’ve loosened the nuts…you do that and that wheel just moves when you put the pressure on and you end up putting the car back on the ground, loosen the nuts and jack it back up…in the dark, in the rain.

Once you’ve  changed a few tyres it’s easy of course and you quickly forget how hard it was before, and how many mistakes you had to make before it got that easy. Maybe not everyone has to learn the hard way.

A million mistakes

I’ve made a million mistakes in doing what I do and you simply forget. That’s until you see someone around you about to make the same mistake. Suddenly you hear yourself say: “Have you considered loosening the nuts first?”  I’ve realised that there are some really common traps in my world of marketing that are easily avoided and make a big difference in getting to a better result, much faster.

Three things I learned

    1. Outcome vs output – Don’t start anything before you really understand what it is that you are trying effect. Don’t  expect to get the right request from your customer/boss. They will typically ask for an output, not an outcome. You’ll probably give them what they want, but not what they need. So why not Have the hard conversation first and you’ll probably find that you come up with something far more effective (and often far more creative) than what you started out with.
    2. Iterate & collaborate – I don’t believe that anything gets done right by one person, the first time very often. I’ve tried. The power of people reviewing, refining, commenting is incredibly powerful and won’t take anything away from you, so try it.

Steal like an artist.image source: SWSX Schedule 2012

  1. Steal as much as you can – Then make it your own. Whatever you are about to do, it’s probably be done many times over. So tap into it.

Did I miss anything?


27 Feb

How not to drown in the well of thought leadership

“Thought leadership”, providing insight and education to your customers is an amazing opportunity to position your brand, generate interest and connect to a community. The guys that do it well (like Marketo) have made it a pillar of their marketing strategy.

This is not just creating some “content” to feed campaigns. Jon Miller from Marketo put the difference between thought leadership and content marketing nicely:

Thought leadership consists of ideas that require attention, that offer guidance or clarity and that can lead people in unexpected, sometimes contrarian directions (think of Seth Godin).  Thought leadership needs to be educational and ideally provocative; content marketing can simply be fun or entertaining.

It ain’t easy, as anyone who’s had a crack at it will tell you.  And outsourcing insight is not an option either, like you might do with some of your content marketing. So if you go down the path, here are a few thoughts:

Don’t confuse education and marketing. Unless your insights change someone’s mind, and  are part of a consistent narrative, it’s not likely to drive marketing results. For me, the key of the above quote is  “guidance or clarity and that can lead people in unexpected, sometimes contrarian directions.

Plan it like any campaign.  It’s not going to happen in between other things.  Your best bet is to put it in your marketing plan as a campaign like any other. Special recommendation: if you’ve decided to make this a collaborative effort with some colleagues, make sure it’s in their KPIs with dates and times…or you’ll be doing it alone.

What’s your experience?

01 Apr

Is LinkedIn killing The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs?

I joined LinkedIn early on. Here was a professional networking app that mirrored personal relationships in a way that I felt really comfortable with; I connect only to people I know, only they can see my network and the only way they can connect to MY connections is through me. Perfect. No one gets spammed and harassed, a network of trust. 

Now for the revenue part

Every business needs to make money, and the obvious revenue streams for LinkedIn are advertising and recruitment.  At worst, they are a minor irritant (advertising) to users and at best, they actually benefit the member.  whether they are recruiting or are looking to be recruited. All good so far. The last revenue stream is the one that I believe is the bit the Golden Goose might choke on…

InMail or SPAM?

With a premium subscription, you can pay some money and start sending mails to people you’ve never met in your life. “InMails” outside of LinkedIn would probably be called SPAM. Writing an unsolicited mail to someone you don’t know. So now all the list vendors, marketing services providers, investment service providers, pretty much every man and their dog are sending me invitations to connect, or asking me for meetings.

A network that first insisted that we network only with those we know has morphed into a place to network with those we want to know us. (The trouble with LinkedIn)

I am still a huge fan or LinkedIn. It’s possibly the best professional social network I know, provides lots of opportunity for discussion around specific professional topics in their groups and genuine opportunity for people to create meaningful networks. I’d go so far as to say that I don’t want to live without it…but I think that they’re killing the goose. And that’s a shame.

Source: Wikipedia


26 Feb

Write like Hemingway, market like a boss

How important is good writing in B2B marketing? If it was important before, it’s even more important now. I’ve come across something that may just help you along.

The amount of information created everyday is astonishing. At the same time, audiences have less time and shorter attention spans. Good writing gets the message across faster. It keeps your readers engaged and they’ll remember what you wrote so that in the end you change their mind. Consider the avalanche of content created everyday (did anyone say content marketing?) and you get a sense of just how much of a competitive advantage good writing is.

We’re not all born writers. We need help. Typically that help comes in the form of a colleague, partner or manager sending back marked up copy back to you. That is if you’re not flying solo.

What if we could all write like Hemingway?

Today I stumbled across this app that just made me smile; an app that doesn’t just tell you what’s not working, but gives you practical advice on how to fix it. The Hemingway app.

The guys behind the app are brothers Adam and Ben Long; “We both realized we had the same frustration,” Adam tells ABC News. “When you’re under deadline pressure, you write so much that your brain turns off. You want to get it done more than you want to get it right. Adverbs? Your brain ignores them. We wanted to come up with something that would be a second set of eyes to go over what you’ve written before you send it on to a reader or to your boss.”

This is what the first section of this blog post looked like before:


hemingwayapp before


hemingwayapp after

The upshot

No, it won’t fix everything, but I can already see how this is a great tool for a first pass of your own work. What “the machine” does is make you consider what you’ve written, and explain why you may want to review it. So a thumbs up from me for these guys.

Check it out at www.hemingwayapp.com

13 Jan

The ONE thing to do when you write a marketing plan

There is no question that marketing planning has become a lot harder over the years.

For one, digital media, including social have added a whole new layer of complexity but many business now also work in more diverse markets. Physical distance is no longer the constraint it was (or was perceived to be). Local operations are now national, and national brands think and operate internationally.

Making choices

The hardest part of business and marketing strategy has always been choosing what NOT to do (as Micheal E Porter famously stated), and that’s even more critical now. It’s not made easier by the fact that from the outside, it’s hard to see the effort required in a lot of the work marketers do. Why don’t we do this and that, AND that? It can’t be that hard, after all.

The hard conversation

The best marketing plans start with a hard conversation. With your CEO, Sales Director (or with yourself if you’re all of the above.) Before you start thinking of WHAT and HOW you’re going to do all this marketing stuff, spend some time on clarifying the business and sales goals. If you are lucky, these goals are written down somewhere, but often they’re not. So the ONE thing to do, is have the hard conversation.

  • Make sure you’re absolutely clear on what the specific outcomes are  the business required, and by when.
  • Make sure you understand the priority order of these goals
  • Write them down, and get sign off before you start any marketing planning

It will be the hardest (and maybe most uncomfortable) part of writing your marketing plan, but it’s your foundation. If you nail this, making those choices becomes much easier, you’ll spend half the time on your plan, and you’re behaving like a marketing leader, not a manager.


07 Jan

Self education of B2B buyers? It’s only half right

It is now common belief among B2B sales and marketing folks that our B2B buyers self educate online, having made up their mind pretty much before a sales person is even in the picture. That idea itself creates a need of course, and it’s fertile ground for people selling marketing services and sales methodologies.

A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep. And a survey last year by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established. (Tom Martin, ConverseDigital)

Great blog with interesting content and I don’t argue that self education takes place…however.

It works when customers know they have a problem and are motivated to solve it
It assumes that customers know they have a problem, and are actively looking for a solution to a problem. They research options online, without ever speaking to you until they need a price. It’s where your inbound leads come from, maybe as a result of your great SEO, advertising, social strategy, etc etc.But if you look back at last years’ new customers, exactly how many of them were inbound? 30, 40, 50%? Where did the rest of your new business come from? 

What if they don’t feel the pain, or are not motivated to look for a remedy?

More often than not our potential customers are pretty happy in their imperfect world. They tend to actively resist change. Change is risky, it costs money, it takes time and effort. 

A significant part of your new business probably came from people making outbound telephone calls, connecting via LinkedIn and in meetings, supported by email and other outbound tools and activities. They introduced potential customers to the fact they have a problem signifncant enough to invest the time, risk and money to solve it. They disrupted people. They somehow got 1 minute of someone’s time to introduce an idea. 

Now self education starts again

Of course, once that contact is made and the seed is planted, you still need to be ready for them to jump online and do their self education about your brand and product.

In a nutshell, it ain’t that simple.

So my point is not to ignore the need to cater for the self educating customer. But the greatest challenge remains to disrupt people and convince them that they have a problem significant enough to invest in a solution. How smart you are with that disruption is they key to success.


12 Dec

Agile in Marketing – Part 2: in action

“So we thought we’d try SCRUM in marketing.The goal was to have a team that collaborated from the planning through to execution, deliver more value more rapidly and to be more responsive to a our changing environment.We still set our overall goals and broad strategies for 6-12 months, and a list of what we want to deliver.

  • We have a “”backlog“” of projects that is constantly re-prioritised, based on what we agree with our “client” (the business). We work in 2 1/2 week cycles (“sprints”) where we deliver either a completed project or a defined phase of a project.
  • We write exactly what we will be delivering on cards, which in turn are stuck on a white board (the scrum board) which is visible to everyone in the team, and everyone in the business.
  • The board is used to track the activity, i.e they are updated every other day (we used to do this daily, but found we didn’t need that frequency), showing the progress made and eventually moving from one side of the board (not started) to the other (completed).
  • Rather than the traditional team meetings, we have regular “stand up” meetings around the board to update each other on three basic questions: what did I do yesterday, what will I be doing today, and do I have any roadblocks in my path that stop me doing my job.
  • There is no moving the end of the sprint date; the deadline is set in stone, but if you see that certain items can’t be delivered, you can negotiate with “the client” (which in our case is essentially the business, represented by an executive)
  • At the end of a “sprint” we get together, and sometimes invite others to show what we have done, in a “”demo””, (ok, I call it “show and tell”..) The purpose is to make the achievements highly visible, and to celebrate the success.

So what have we gained from this?

  • First, we deliver more of the right things. We re-prioritise every couple of weeks, and we deliver specific outcomes at the end of every sprint.
  • Second, we have fewer distractions. Now when someone in the business comes up with the next great idea we should be executing, we put it in the “backlog” for the next sprint, and people understand that.
  • Third, we work far more as an integrated team. Everyone has ownership of the actions on the board, is aware of them right from the planning stages and feels part of the process.

What’s difficult

There are still challenges of course. For example, the planning process every week (which is critical to the delivery) is time consuming, and if you’re not careful, you either spend too much time on it, or not enough (resulting in poorly scoped projects that can’t be delivered in the sprint).We probably also have more dependencies on others for input, review, feedback and sign off than a typical software development project. This often puts our ability to execute the final product within the sprint in jeopardy.

For you?

Well, that depends on whether there is a problem to address. Why change when everything runs like clock work.For those of you who do recognise some of these marketing execution challenges, drop me a line if you want to know more about our experience.

So what’s your experience? Have you tried something similar? Do you have other ideas or questions? Keen to hear from you.
12 Dec

Agile in marketing- is SCRUM a new way for marketing project management?

“90% of our activity is in execution (Even for those that do take strategy seriously). What holds you back more than anything in executing on your plans? My guess is that it probably somewhere between competing priorities and changing priorities.This post is about a different way of managing your marketing projects. First a bit of context: The company I work for Aconex, adopted an “”agile”” software development approach a few years ago, widely used by modern software development companies. I took part in their workshops and realised that the problems software developers face, are not too different from ours.

The traditional approach – The “waterfall” method

A major challenge for software development teams is that there are always far more ideas of what should be developed, than there are people/money to develop.

On top of that, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what the final product should look like. Think about it. You have an idea about what the software should do, but how do you foresee all the great new ideas that come about when you actually start using/playing with the software? It’s as much a creative process as a “”design”” process.In traditional software development methodologies, one or more people write a spec of exactly what they understand their client (the business they work for, or an actual client) wants, (takes a lot of time), hand it over to developers who build the whole thing (takes a lot of time) and then to another team who test it. It’s called a “”waterfall”” method, reflecting the typical GANNT chart of activity. It’s one all marketers are familiar with.

Often, by the time the people who provided the input (client) see the end result, it is not quite what they expected. (We’ve all read the stories of tech projects years in the making failing to deliver little or no value at all.)There are a bunch of reasons for this. A very common one is that people often can’t exactly visualise what they want.Another issue is that the best ideas to solve a problem can come at any time, not necessarily at the beginning of the project, when it is being designed. Finally, the people who write the code often have only a limited idea of what the business problem is that their code solves. In a traditional world, these development projects can take anything from months to years, and only at the very end it is clear that the project is a success or a failure.In comes “”agile”” development.

A “potentially shippable product”

The core concept is that you work closely with the “client”(which could be an actual client or the business itself) to develop “”stories”” that articulate what it is that they want the software to do. (Stay with me, we’ll get to the marketing bit in a minute.)They then work in short cycles, called “sprints” involving all the team participants to deliver a “potentially shippable product”, that the client can evaluate and provide feedback on to determine the appropriateness. The key is that you are “”agile”” in your ability to respond to the needs of your client, or new and better ways to solve a problem. Importantly, it is the whole team who are responsible for the delivery, forcing close cooperation.

The relevance to marketing

I went to the workshops essentially to make sure we understood what the development teams would be doing, but I walked out with the idea that the problems they were trying to solve were very similar to the challenges we face in marketing.Like our development friends, we’re in a business that is continuously changing, like many businesses today. We continue to enter new markets, develop new partnerships, new products. There is always far more that we could be doing than we have time or resources for, so prioritisation is essential. Similar to the development environment, the best ideas to solve a problem don’t always get thought of in the annual planning session. To further complicate that, the marketing tools at our disposal also continue to evolve at a rapid rate.I’ve never worked on a 12 months marketing plan that:

  1. Was executed the way it was planned at the beginning
  2. Met the needs of the (changing) business during that 12 months
  3. Was actually developed by the team that was meant to deliver it

More likely than not, the plan is written at the beginning of the year, agreed, worked on for a few months at best, before the world changes and the plan is forgotten about until next year’s planning.

As always, you’re never alone

When I started looking into this, I realised that quite a few people in marketing have realised the same. Andrew Filev in his Project Management 2.0 blog writes about yahoo, H&M, John Deere using the same with great success.  Another good read is Jim Ewel’s Agilemarketing.net, who’s actually seen a business opportunity in it and provides lots of resourcesNext post: read how we applied it and what we learnt