Managing The Marketing And Sales Relationship

Sales and marketing co-operationMost now agree inbound B2B marketing delivers more quality leads, at a lower cost per lead, than traditional outbound marketing. However, inbound marketing presents a new set of challenges and managing the marketing and sales relationship is crucial to success.

Sales lead generation methods have changed, as has the point leads are generated in the sales cycle. In traditional outbound marketing the emphasis is on building initial awareness via advertising, telemarketing, press release, direct mail and Email marketing. The Leads generated tended to be early in the sales cycle with sales tasked with delivering information to develop that early lead, building relationships and taking the sales process forward.

The model has changed from push to pull and B2B Buyers now tend to research products and services they need before engaging with sales. A survey by BaseOne, across four of the major European economies (including the UK), found 87% of B2B buyers look for advice before making a purchase and of those 71% used the web as their primary source.

Research from Knowledge Storm/Marketing Sherpa shows 85% of technical buyers need to encounter at least three pieces of content before engaging with a solution provider. Using the old, and somewhat outdated, AIDA model, buyers tend to be in the late interest (or even desire) phase before engaging with a supplier.

The Impact On Marketing and Sales Responsibilities

Fundamental responsibilities have not changed. Although some in marketing may wish to believe otherwise their prime responsibility was, and remains, lead generation. Sales prime responsibility remains taking a lead forward to the point of sale.

What has changed is the impact on relationships and length of time (further down funnel) marketing are involved. With leads generated at a later point in the sales funnel there is less time for sales to build relationships.

However, people still buy from people in B2B markets and personal relationships are still vitally important. However, sales need to grasp that leads delivered can cover prospects at various points in the sales process.

Integration Issues

Decisions need to be made on nurturing leads. Sales may want to get in at earliest opportunity or may prefer it to be later in process. What is vitally important is sales understand that the lead is unlikely to be at the point of first customer interest.

A part educated customer will be unimpressed if, during the first sales interaction his time is wasted by a sales team who insist on going back to first principles. More importantly sales need to avoid any tactics that destroy the hard won credibility achieved by marketing.

As sales are primarily focussed (rightly so) on results in the short to medium term there is the risk a proportion of leads will be discarded while sales chase those that are most likely to turn into short term orders.

Managing The Relationship For Best Results

Sales and marketing need to co-operate closely to decide what type of leads are being handed off and at what point in the buyers journey. The approach that minimises confusion is for marketing to hold all leads until they reach a given point in the sales process. Although this provides certainty to sales it can also waste opportunities as good leads could fall out of the process before reaching the required maturity.

A more effective approach is for marketing to classify (grade) all leads before they are passed to sales. This approach is resource intensive and requires a highly effective lead generating system that is able to accurately classify leads with the minimum of effort.

Whatever system is used sales need to be incentivised to take all leads as far as practical to avoid substantial waste in the process

Conclusion

While inbound marketing has some real advantages over outbound it is a different approach that requires both sales and marketing to change and adapt their working processes. If this change is not managed effectively it can result both in conflict and results that fail to live up to expectations.

 

Use The 3C’s To Get More From Existing Customers

There are many studies that claim it costs anywhere between five and seven times more to obtain an order from a new customer than it does from an existing one. Therefore, the challenge for many businesses is how to get more from existing customers.

Assuming that the prerequisite of a solid strategic plan and appropriate customer targeting is in place then the 3C’s sales model can be an excellent place to start. It simply states that it is vital to remember three things – Contacts, Communicate and Consistency.

Existing Customer Contact Details

Extract more value from existing customersCustomer contact details may reside in several locations. Sales may hold some information, accounts may have more, some records may be held by operations or dispatch and higher management may have closely guarded contact lists of their own. The challenge is to bring all information together at one central point.

At first, this can be a time consuming task with records held on various spreadsheets, on standalone software or systems or simply on the good, old fashioned, business card. The information needs to be collated in some way and input to a central system. Although this may be resource intensive the return on investment in the longer term can be significant.

Store Customer Details

A CRM (customer relationship management) system is the best option to use as a central store as data can be stored reliably, sorted into categories and used directly to support marketing campaigns (see below). Customer interactions can be recorded and the results of Email marketing campaigns analysed.

There are many CRM systems on the market, some packed with features (and expensive) and others targeted at the small business for a relatively low monthly cost.

Communicate With Existing Customers

There are some frightening statistics on why customers leave a business. Service issues or perceived poor levels of service are at the top of the list but over 60% of those leaving a small business state they do so simply because they do not feel valued or the supplier fails to communicate with them on a regular basis.

There are three major decisions to be made:

  • What information should be delivered (communicated).
  • What is the best way to deliver that information to ensure it has the highest chance of reaching and engaging customers.
  • How will the information be delivered (in what formats).

Some form of information (content) needs to be delivered and that content needs to be both engaging and useful to customers. It must build credibility and keep the business front of mind when any opportunity arises.

Creating quality content is a resource intensive activity so it is essential to spend time researching the best delivery methods if return on that resource is to be maximised. There is little point distributing content on every available social media channel if customers are not using those channels. Where do customers look for the information they need to make purchasing decisions?

In many cases Email is a cheap and effective delivery method if a good quality (opt-in) Email contact list is available. An Email newsletter delivering useful (not just pushy sales messages) content can be an excellent way to stay in touch. The newsletter may be constructed using short introductions to blog posts that reside on the company website.

A Consistent Marketing Approach

The value of a consistent approach is often overlooked. Any approach based on bursts of activity followed by long periods of inactivity does little for credibility or customer retention. Delivering content over the long term maximises the chance an existing customer will remember a supplier when the time is right to buy.

Any marketing activity has costs and content marketing can be particularly resource intensive. It is therefore important to deliver consistently to maximise returns. Once appropriate tools and systems are in place the process can be simplified and automated so there can be no excuse for an ad hoc approach.

When trying to get more enquiries from existing customers it is important to locate and store customer information appropriately and to communicate with those customers with quality content that engages and builds credibility on a consistent basis.

How B2B Inbound Marketing Compares With Outbound

Historically, B2B Marketing tactics changed at a much slower rate than in B2C. However, the game is changing, and it is clear B2B strategies that worked well just a few years ago fail to deliver results today. Businesses are moving away from traditional outbound marketing and embracing B2B inbound marketing as an alternative, but how does B2B inbound marketing compare with outbound? Where is the evidence inbound is more effective? What are the main problems associated with inbound marketing?

Obsolete B2B Marketing Practice

Many manufacturing and other businesses in B2B markets waste significant time and resources on outdated sales processes. Most sales value tends to come from long established customers with minimal new customer acquisition. This may be fine if the vast majority of those existing customers continue to grow but can be real issue in a market downturn.

Winning new customers is too often a problem solved (on a short term basis) by hiring sales people from competitors or with an industry background that have a chance of bringing some customers with them. Although this can work in the short term it is not, in general, a long term solution.

Sales directors still persist in playing the numbers game by setting directives on the number of calls and visits in the hope a small percentage will result in securing a new customer. This only tends to result in visits to reluctant prospects with no current demand or with no real intention of buying the product just to achieve the specified numbers.

Prospects that turn down the initial opportunity to meet are routinely discarded in the chase for immediate sales, seriously reducing the available market in the process. Research from Sirius research shows that over 80% of leads discarded by sales go on to make a purchase (from the supplier or competitor) within 24 months.

The Rise Of Inbound Marketing

A survey by BaseOne across four of the major European economies (including the UK) found 87% of B2B buyers look for advice before making a purchase and of those 71% used the web as their primary source. The key secondary source,not surprisingly, was word of mouth (read more here ). Research from Knowledge Storm/Marketing Sherpa shows 85% of technical buyers said they need to encounter at least three pieces of content before engaging with a solution provider.

B2B marketers switching to inbound marketingToday, inbound marketing is widely accepted as the best (and lowest cost) way to generate sales. It is based on developing a way to keep touching prospects (in a non-aggressive non-intrusive way) with relevant, current information (content) and to stay front of mind until either a potential customer is ready to engage or the time to purchase arrives.

Inbound v Outbound Marketing – A Comparison

So what are the main differences between inbound and outbound? As noted by Eric Wittlake in his post on the subject the primary difference is friction. Outbound, be it telemarketing or traditional advertising, is based on interruption, The marketer takes it upon themselves to stop whatever the prospect may be doing to present their message. For many years this process worked but prospects are increasingly resistant to this process.

Inbound is based on delivering relevant and useful information to the prospect that they may consume at their leisure. Not pushy sales messages but information that builds credibility and delivers what the prospect may need at various stages in the sales process.

Inbound Marketing – The Supporting Evidence

There is a mass of information, surveys and research online promoting the virtues of inbound marketing. Although it is often difficult to find fault with the research methodology I personally tend to avoid the research published by those with a vested interest in promoting the virtues of inbound.

Although CMI and Hubspot are excellent organisations publishing a mass of credible information their businesses are based on promoting inbound marketing. I have therefore avoided their data and will quote instead from Gartner ‘Skilfully executed inbound marketing is 10x more effective at conversion than traditional outbound marketing‘. Although outbound marketing still has a place in the mix there is nothing credible I have found (please correct me if I am wrong) to discredit this statement.

The Problem With Inbound Marketing

Perhaps the greatest issue is change itself (read more in this great post from Ardath Albee)  but if that hurdle may be overcome there are several other issues to address. To deliver results any inbound marketing process must be fed with content, and lots of it. That content needs to be of high quality, engaging and relevant to the appropriate point in the sales cycle.

content marketing processFor marketing departments brought up on outbound marketing processes building a content plan and creating (or sourcing) the required content can be a real challenge. To be blunt, many B2B businesses are involved with products and services that, on the face of it, are not too exciting and this adds to the problem. Building content is a resource intensive process and it is difficult to show an immediate return on this investment in the short term so higher management support for the process is vital

There is little point creating content if it cannot be delivered to the required prospects and customers. Delivery issues are often overlooked but are vital to success. An intimate understanding of online (and offline) delivery channels is required together with highly developed internet marketing skills and this can often be beyond the current skill sets of in house teams.

Conclusion

To find new customers in today’s B2B markets requires strategies designed to keep touching prospects and existing customers on a regular basis until they are ready to buy. The evidence shows that for most (not all) B2B businesses inbound marketing is increasingly more effective than outbound. However, the challenges associated with inbound are far from trivial and should be considered with care before making any decisions on the medium to long term marketing strategy for a business.

Marketing A Manufacturing Business – Best Practice Review

Recent research into marketing a manufacturing business delivers some useful insights. The report (published by CMI) is based on a sample of USA based manufacturing businesses and shows over 80% have adopted inbound marketing.

It is widely recognised that the B2B buying process has changed with most buyers carrying out their detailed research into potential solutions and suppliers before they make any approach to a potential vendor. Given the increased resistance to push type marketing increasing numbers of manufacturing businesses are switching to pull (inbound) marketing and attempting to engage potential customers.

Content marketing is a major element of inbound marketing adopted widely in other industryManufacturers switching to inbound marketing verticals but relatively new to manufacturing. The report shows that manufacturers are struggling to catch up with only 30% claiming they are currently happy with the quality and effectiveness of their content marketing activities.

Manufacturing Business Marketing – The Statistics

The key objective of content marketing for a manufacturing business is shown as brand awareness (87% of respondents), customer retention (68%), engagement (67%) and lead generation (67%). Measures of effectiveness are shown as website traffic (63%), sales lead quality (48%), time spent on website (45%) and sales lead quantity (42%).

The most effective content delivery methods show as in person events like seminar and exhibition (71% state as most effective), video (71%), case studies (67%) and white papers (58%).

The report shows that the major challenges faced by content marketers in manufacturing businesses are lack of time (69%), producing the kind of content that engages (62%) and producing enough content (56%). However, in our opinion, it fails to cover one of the major issues. That is the difficulties associated with choosing the delivery medium.

Marketing Tactics And Content Delivery

It is also a surprise that social media ranks 4th as the most used tactic (we would have expected it to rank lower) and even more of a surprise that Facebook is a more popular medium than Linked In. Less of a surprise is You Tube ranking as the most popular social media channel and the continued popularity (when compared with other markets) of print and Email. This, we suspect, is primarily because these delivery methods are perceived as those that have a higher chance of reaching the prospect or customer.

So in summary as manufacturing businesses attempt to build awareness and generate leads there is an ongoing move from outbound to inbound marketing. This trend brings with it new challenges associated with generating sufficient engaging and quality content to feed the process. It appears manufacturing businesses are not as advanced as other sectors in dealing with the resource and management issues that these challenges present.

The report fails to deal with the challenges associated with delivering content by the most appropriate channel to ensure it is available to the target customer and prospect base. Failure to address this point can nullify any benefit an inbound (content based) manufacturing marketing process may deliver. There is little point in talking if nobody is listening.

Marketing Campaign Analysis And ROI

Without marketing campaign analysis any marketing department will find it hard to justify itsProve marketing campaign effectiveness to sales existence. At the corporate level higher management need to know resources employed are delivering the required return. At a human (more selfish) level the corporate environment is competitive and everyone is keen to claim success and disassociate themselves from failure. In the mass of touch points that ultimately lead to a sale marketing needs to prove its contribution.

The problem is how to decide what to measure, how to measure it and how to provide clarity out of the mass of data collected. In our experience the best measurement processes follow a pattern:

  • Set required outcomes
  • Decide what marketing tools will be used
  • Define measurement tools and frequency of measurement
  • Measure
  • Adapt and improve based on firm data

Set Marketing Outcomes

For most businesses the desired outcome is a sale but in B2B markets many customer touch points are required to generate that sale. A lead is required for sales to follow up and a sales process initiated to take the opportunity forward to close.

Sales cannot operate in a vacuum and support from various business departments (technical, production, quality, management) will be required in any sales process. Marketing will also have inputs a various points but most are soft and may be minimalized by those who may wish to do so. Often the only hard statistic that may be measured is lead generation

The problem for marketing is accurately pointing to the specific lead that initiated a sales process and ultimately led to the sale. Historic company data should give an indication of the best type of lead and the number of those leads required to generate a sale. It is then for marketing to decide the number, the source and the relative quality of each touch type that will generate that lead.

Marketing Tools

With marketing outcomes in place an analysis of touch points, marketing tools to generate those touches, the quantity of touches required, the cost per touch and (crucially) measurement of those touch points may be undertaken. Using a single marketing technique to deliver the required number of touches is a high risk strategy. A better approach is to use a range of marketing tools working together to deliver the required result. The actual mix developed will generally be specific to each business and their market.

Marketing Campaign Performance Measurement and Analysis

marketing analysis and roiAlthough most B2B Marketing commentators suggest inbound marketing campaigns generates the best return on investment elements of outbound marketing remain effective. The problem is (telemarketing aside) it is difficult to measure the lead generation effectiveness of outbound techniques such as advertising, direct mail and exhibitions.

In contrast the effectiveness of most online marketing techniques can be measured in great detail. Marketing campaign analysis combining Google analytics and webmaster tools can precisely define the number of website touches. Google analytics and Adwords tools can record the detail of every touch generated by PPC and there are many low cost CRM systems available that can record the outcome of an Email campaign.

Social media activity recording tools are also available for little to no cost that can record detail of social media touches and interactions. The challenge is not how to record online marketing data, it is more how to make conclusions based on the mass of data available. The key data required is at least the number of touches secured as from touches it should be possible to extrapolate the number of leads (and sales). Where it is possible to identify (without doubt) a lead then this should be recorded as evidence to be produced when required.

Measure Results Adapt And Improve

It is only possible to really make decisions on how to improve based on accurate data. Without it there is a major risk of wasting time and effort on unproductive activities based on either on the principle of they seemed to work in the past or pure guesswork. With a baseline established showing the number of touches generated by each activity it is possible to drop poor performing activities and continue to fine tune and improve those that are delivering results. A limited number of new marketing activities may be added to replace those dropped on a trial basis to be continued only if analysis shows they deliver results

So for any marketing department intent on proving its value and the ROI on a marketing campaign building a process to maximise customer touches and converting those to sales leads is key. There may be many more valid marketing tasks to be undertaken but ultimately it is the generation of sales leads that is key. Measurement and analysis of results provides the opportunity to refine and adapt a process to deliver increased value (more sales leads) over time.

How To Identify Ideal Target Customers

Identifying ideal customer market segmentsThe time taken to identify ideal target customers in B2B markets is rarely wasted. It can be all too easy for a sales department to lack focus and to chase the easy target, the ones the competitors chase, or the ones always open for a visit without really thinking through which customers are likely to generate the best long term returns.

The result of trying to please / relate to as many customers as possible is an undifferentiated offering that actually fails to please anyone. The key is to focus on the business strengths and use this as a basis to identify the most appropriate customer groups. The objective must always be to avoid competing on price wherever possible.

Segmentation offers an alternative to organising marketing effort around products. Instead activity focusses on each market segment, their specific needs and how the business may satisfy those needs. Research shows that most markets can be broken down into between 5 and 8 segments

Market and customer segmentation can be a complex (and time consuming) subject so it is often best to not to start unless willing AND able to allocate the appropriate resources and act upon the outcome. Buy in and inclusion is essential as is an appropriate risk assessment. The result of getting the segmentation process wrong is ultimately lost customers and business.

A Potential Market Segmentation Process

It is useful to document the key existing assumptions about the business as a reference point. Try to note what the business supplies, who needs that product or service, why the products or services are needed, who needs them and why and why should customers pick the business ahead of the competition. The result of the segmentation process may show that a number of these assumptions are incorrect but it is important to have a starting point.

The next step is to define the overall market in broad terms such as size and geography but be careful with demographics and social information as this can lead to a mass of information that is difficult to interpret and clouds the main issues.

With the above in place the most critical part of the segmentation process can be initiated – the identification of basic customer needs within the market. At this point it is important to forget customers, competitors and products and to identify the real set of needs the business can satisfy within the marketplace. A customer does not need an iron (a product) they need a way to get creases out of clothes. If a new, low cost and efficient way to remove creases is found the iron is obsolete and those manufacturers who focussed on the product and not the need are out of business.

There are many ways to identify true customer needs. Purchase history is a starting point, the differences between the needs of the customer purchase decision making unitcustomer identification and analysis may be considered and / or existing customers may be surveyed. The objective of the analysis is to identify the range of benefits being sought by the market.

With a set of needs identified it is possible to profile those who have each distinct set of needs, to profile them, give them an identity and make them real. Only when this is in place is it possible to fit the business (and competitor) products into each group of needs and arrive at a set of defined market segments. The segments may then be evaluated against a set of basic rules.

Rules For Identifying Customer Groups And Segmentation

There are several basic rules for identifying a market segment:

  • Members of the segment must react in the same way when delivered with the same offer.
  • Each segment must be unique and able to be serviced by a unique marketing strategy.
  • The segment must be of sufficient potential size to justify a unique marketing strategy.
  • The segment must be reachable.

It is therefore important not to define to broad or too narrow a definition for a segment.

With segments identified it is important to examine each in detail and either modify or discard those that are not a perfect fit as failure to identify segments correctly can be a costly mistake.

When a final list of market segments are available then it is possible to devise a marketing strategy for each and to identify ideal target customers in each segment to attack. Sales resources then may be allocated to ideal customers with the most potential long term value to the business across a number of segments.

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Best B2B Marketing Practice

What is best B2B marketing practice in today’s increasingly complex marketplace? The 2013 B2B awards (run by B2B marketing magazine) provides some clues on the best B2B marketing tactics across a number of target markets. To be selected to win the award the companies all had to prove a significant return on marketing investment.

Multichannel Marketing Campaign

The winner used advertorial and Email primarily to raise awareness supported by social media and live events. Once interest was stimulated a content marketing campaign was employed with an information based website as its hub.

B2B Lead Generation

In the opinion of the judges the best campaign used Email to raise awareness with a telemarketing follow up to establish interest level and prioritise sales effort. Target contacts were carefully screened and prioritised pre campaign and the exact campaign was fine-tuned according to the audience. A sophisticated sales and CRM system was utilised to record results and prioritise ongoing activity.

Decision Maker Targeted Marketing Campaign

The winner precisely profiled target decision makers and pre called to verify details and prepare them for the next stage. This was followed by a direct mail campaign customised to the decision makers profile and potential requirements. A content marketing campaign was built with a customised website as its hub. With the content plan in place targets were sent a number of Emails built around their specific needs and guided back to the website for more information.

Website

The objective of the winner was to raise awareness and generate leads. Content marketing was used extensively with detailed tracking of prospects and follow up via a well-trained and briefed telemarketing team with sales only passed hot leads to close.

Conclusions

Despite the increasing B2B market focus on inbound marketing it is clear that outbound marketing activities such as telemarketing are still effective. However, the emphasis appears to have changed to pre-screening and follow up instead of direct lead generation.

Email marketing (primarily to build awareness and drive traffic to the website) figures prominently across a number of campaigns. However the use of social media appears limited and is, at best, a supporting rather than a direct lead generation activity. Direct mail is only mentioned in one campaign as an awareness building tool.

Inbound (content) marketing was utilised extensively in three of the four campaigns listed above. It appears therefore that best B2B marketing practice is based on using content marketing as the key element of the campaign with outbound techniques used to drive awareness and traffic to that content.

The full B2B awards document can be read at B2Bmarketing.net

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How Relevant Is Content To B2B Search Engine Marketing

Website search engine optimisation in B2B marketsThere is little doubt organic B2B search engine marketing is becoming more complex and time consuming. So much so that the conspiracy theorists claims that Google real intention is not to improve the organic search experience but is actually to drive more search to Pay Per Click.

Google (and the other major search engines) have attacked what they perceive as poor quality linking strategies (black hat) for several years but as those attacks have become both more regular and aggressive over the past 18 months (Panda and Penguin) inbound and content marketing has increased its profile.

Content v Search Engine Marketing

Traditional search engine marketing was primarily based on technical on page factors (HTML, Meta, page load, schema, Alt tags), keywords and keyword placement and link building.  The theory goes that since Google has clamped down on some link building practices effort should be switched away from this activity and towards building lots of high quality, engaging content instead.

High quality content, in theory, builds its own high quality links over time and is a key element of the inbound marketing process. As outbound marketing becoming is less and less effective, particularly in B2B markets, inbound marketing is increasingly the main method used to engage with customers, build credibility and generate more high quality sales leads over time.

The Problem With Content Marketing

The problem is content marketing, like so many new and shiny object marketing techniques, has become over hyped to such an extent that some say all is required for successful SEM is publishing more and more quality content. A quick look at the websites ranking highly for any B2B product or service show that it is clearly not the case. Google (and the other search engines) use many ranking factors to decide where a website should be ranked. While it is true content that changes regularly is one of those ranking factors and can have a positive impact on several more it is far from the only factor.

Search Engine Marketing Best Practice

Traditional SEO is alive and well; some valid back linking techniques may not work as well as they did in the past but they still have a positive impact and the technical aspects of SEO are just as important as they ever were. It appears Google in particular has placed more emphasis on content, the quality of that content and how often it changes as a measure of quality but it is certainly not the only factor to be considered. There is a body of opinion the Google ranking algorithms are taking more notice not of so called social signals but how much impact this has (at present!) is up for debate.

The value of content should not be measured by its impact on search engine marketing but on how it engages and delivers value to identified prospects and the number quality sales leads it delivers as a result. Content marketing does have an impact on B2B search engine marketing but this should be a secondary concern.

A B2B Content Marketing Toolbox

content marketing toolsB2B content marketing can deliver high quality sales leads at low cost but it can also place high demands on company resources. This post considers the minimum the content marketing toolbox should include to deliver results.

Before even considering what marketing tools may be required it is essential to put a plan in place. Careful thought should go 

The plan should specify what content will be produced, for which market segment, at which point in the sales process, on what date and what will be the delivery method. The overriding principle should be if content is not of value to the target customer then time should not be wasted on its production and delivery. In an increasingly competitive online environment only the best content, delivered by the most effective delivery method is likely to deliver results.into considering exactly what the business would like to achieve and (crucially) defining precisely who are the business target customers and segments. Without this information the content marketing process can easily get out of control, lose focus and waste resources.

Content Marketing Website

The most important element in the content marketing toolbox is the website. This should be the information hub and the point prospects are guided back to for more information. When a prospect lands on the website there should be sufficient information of interest and value to persuade the prospect to return to the website for more if they do not respond to the immediate calls to action.

It is important to also engage with prospects who may be searching for information on line so another important set of marketing tools are those associated with search engine marketing to ensure the website is found should a prospect type in relevant search terms.

Content – Blog

A blog is an excellent way to deliver content on a regular basis, build credibility and an ongoing relationship (RSS feed). Blog posts written around relevant keywords (search phrases) can rank at a high position on the search engines as standalone items and therefore bring in traffic to the website. They also show the search engines that the website content is updates on a regular basis and improve the search engine ranking factor for the main website.

Content – Other than Blog

Content can take many forms some of which may be created from scratch and some that may be adapted from existing resources. The key is the content is of value and sales can have a valuable input at this point. To implement a content marketing process copywriting and editing skills are vital to both to modify existing sources of content and to write new copy.

Existing sources of content may include excerpts from existing printed sales material, existing company presentations, selected quality information, production information that may be converted to how to guides and market / trends information (non confidential) circulated internally.

Opt In Email List And Newsletter

The website may contain several items of real value to prospects including guides, research papers or product whitepapers. These items may be utilised to secure an Email opt in as a return for the free download. A key element of the content marketing toolbox is Email marketing skills and the ability to craft appealing and engaging E-Newsletters. The Newsletter should be crafted to generate traffic back to the website for further information.

B2B Content Delivery Channels

Content is of little value if it is not read and engaged with therefore to avoid wasting a significant amount of time and resources delivery channels must be researched appropriately. Sales can again have a significant input at this stage but marketing require the research, channel knowledge and delivery skills to ensure content reaches its intended target.

Analysis Tools

Any B2B marketing toolbox must include a range of analysis and reporting tools but this is particularly important for content marketing. Measurement of the success (or not) of a wide range of process elements is required to maximise return on investment. Content marketing is resource intensive and any activity that is not producing the required response should be dropped at the earliest opportunity.

The main element of any content marketing toolbox then is the business website as without this it is impossible to engage (and convert) prospects. This is closely followed by the choice and implementation of various content delivery channels and analysis tools. However, without an effective strategy and plan any tools and services delivered are unlikely to deliver the required results.

How To Build An Effective Inbound Marketing Website

 

Relationship between inbound marketing and website designWhen building a website to support any outbound or inbound marketing campaign the objective has to be to secure more quality sales leads from clearly identified prospects. General sales leads just lead to wasted sales time in follow up and qualification.

It is generally accepted the impact of traditional outbound marketing is in decline with inbound (pull) marketing perceived as the way forward to improved results at a lower overall cost per lead. However, inbound marketing takes time to deliver results so the best option is often to mix the best elements of push and pull marketing.

The prime purpose of inbound marketing is to build credibility and an ongoing relationship with a prospect or existing customer. The aim is to position the business so it is front of mind and best placed to capitalise on any opportunity when it arises. To be effective it is essential to research exactly what information elements of the target customer decision making team are likely to search for. What information is of value to them at various points in the sales process and where they are likely to look to find that information?

The company website should be constructed as an information hub and the prime means to engage with a prospect or customer and keep them coming back for more. Therefore, all other content delivery channels should link back to the website as a source of more information.

After all the effort to drive prospects to the website every effort should be made to deliver an appropriate experience. Navigation should be simple, the look should be clean and uncluttered, key information .should be positioned appropriately and there should be prominent calls to actions and the means to secure email details to facilitate ongoing communication.

With a keyword list in place, complete with an idea of search volumes and competition, it is then possible to allocate keywords to website pages, plan a series of ongoing blog posts and build the search engine marketing process to ensure the website is found. Once in place the website may be used to support the outbound marketing process and the sales team.

The key to any effective inbound marketing website is to ensure that once a prospect lands on the website they are retained in some way. They may be either encouraged to return to source more information or leave their Email details in return for something of value so that the conversation may be continued.

Websites And The Corporate Brand

websites and brandingIn medium sized business the corporate brand can be all important but when developing the company websites a decision needs to be made between a focus on brand or lead generation – not both.

The first step before embarking on any website development exercise (be it a new website or an upgrade to an existing site) is to define its primary purpose. It may be a corporate presence that builds credibility to aid client retention or it may be a lead generation tool. There are too many company websites that try to focus on both the brand and lead generation and fail to deliver on both objectives.

The Importance of Branding

The corporate branding helps build long term customer and prospect relationships in manufacturing and a variety of other B2B markets. The returns on a successful branding strategy may be difficult to measure but for businesses where most sales are repeat business from an existing client base carrying the brand through into the website content can be all important.

If the target is more from the existing customer base then most traffic to the website will be direct (either the company name will be searched or the website addressed typed directly into a browser) hence search engine marketing is not of great importance. However, if the target is more sales leads the reverse is true. If lead generation is the issue a website that cannot be found when searching for appropriate keywords is a waste of time and money.

Lead Generating Websites

A lead generating website should concentrate on delivering content that engages prospects and customers and provides value. That information should encourage prospects to return, it should be used to build relationships, gather Email addresses to facilitate ongoing communication and ultimately convert a visitor to a sales lead. The value of a lead generating website is not in graphics and layout but in content.

Best search engine marketing practice is required to drive traffic (visitors) to any lead generating website. This should combine traditional SEO practice with content marketing built on delivering valuable, engaging content to prospects and customers at various points in the sales cycle. Unlike branding this approach is measurable in fine detail allowing appropriate improvements to be made on an ongoing basis.

The business website and the corporate brand are both important to securing new business. However, focus on the brand can be a mistake if the objective is to try and secure more business from new customers.

The Benefits Of Business Blogging

B2B blogging ROI

Given the ongoing commitment of time and resources required does blogging really deliver a return on investment? Many of the benefits of business blogging seem intangible and difficult to measure. This post discusses both the benefits of blogging and how those benefits may be measured

The benefits of business blogging may be summarized as follows:

  • More traffic to the business website = more sales leads.
  • Ongoing communication = more credibility, engagement and customer retention.
  • Raised profile = more sales leads.

Link between business blogging and more website traffic

A well written, informative and engaging blog post may rank on the search engines as a standalone item for a given keyword. Anyone clicking on that blog post will be taken to the blog residing on the main company website generating visitors who may click around the website (or follow links) for more information once they are there.

A business website will generally have a relatively small number of pages and therefore a relatively small number of keywords. A blog delivers the capability to expand the range of keywords dramatically over time. While it is true each post may attract a fraction of the traffic of the main website pages, over time the combined blog traffic can add up to a considerable figure.

Blog posts may be socially shared via a wide range of channels which further expands their reach and opportunities to generate click through’s and, perhaps just as important, links. Blogging therefore has an impact on search engine marketing and a website that resides higher on the search engines naturally generates more traffic.

Given the dramatic changes to the Google (and others) search algorithms over the past 18 to 24 months it is increasingly difficult to improve a websites position in search without content.

Blogging facilitates ongoing customer communication

B2B market research has shown that when asked why they left their existing supplier over 60% of respondents stated the reason as the supplier did not communicate with them on a regular basis or that they felt undervalued. Blogging is an excellent way to stay in touch with customers without pushing sales messages their way.

Good blogging practice engages with prospects and customers, facilitates feedback, builds credibility and can, over an extended period of time, build a community.

Raise a business profile via blogging

There is little doubt significant resource needs to be allocated to each blog post but fortunately that same content can be shared and re-used many times for maximum effect. Social media channels, good social bookmark sites, slideshare type applications, Video (youTube) and high quality blogging collation sites all extend the reach of a single blog post. All of which ultimately builds the profile of the business.

Blogging and the big lie

I quick look around the internet will show many business blogs abandoned after the first few posts. The reason is primarily based on those involved falling for one of the major internet marketing myths that is ‘build it and they will come’ – what rubbish.

Publishing the post is only the first part of the battle, the post then needs to be distributed widely by the most appropriate channels to reach the audience. It needs to be re-used (as noted above) then distributed again. Only then is it possible to expect any engagement and resulting traffic / interest.

The impact of every business blog post is measureable and each can generate website traffic, engage with customers and prospects and raise the profile of the business. To be successful takes time, significant resources and some new skills but the medium to long term benefits of business blogging can be significant.

Where To Find High Quality Engaging Content

It is universally accepted that any content delivered must be both engaging and of the highest quality if it is to stand out in an increasingly competitive online landscape. The challenge is where to find such content in sufficient quantity.

To research and write quality new content requires specialist skills and significant time and effort. In many cases generating sufficient new content to satisfy the requirements of the marketing plan is just not practical. Finding existing information in the business that can be converted to something of value to customers and prospects should therefore be a priority.

Use Existing Sources Of Quality Content

Many businesses sit on a wealth of information that could easily be updated or modified to be of use to prospects and customers. Old sales information is often a great place to start but remember the purpose of content marketing is to inform, not deliver pushy sales messages. Old press releases, newsletter content, exhibition brochures and information packs are all useful resources.

The company sales department will be in constant communication with the customer base. They should therefore be well aware of the most common questions and issues that arise. It is probable these issues will have been addressed previously leaving a trail of information that could be converted into high quality content or even a mini case study on how a customer problem was resolved.

Whatever market issues or trends are raised in company meetings or inter department communication are, most likely, also of interest to the prospect or customer base. If confidentiality issues can be addressed then this information can be of real value to the customer base.

Developing New Content

Most businesses employ people, often outside the sales and marketing department, who have a strong (often controversial) opinion on the market, technology and / or trends. If these people can be persuaded to deliver a regular post or article it can be some of the most engaging content available. Publishing this content also takes some of the new content generation load off the marketing department.

A New Focus For Content

Reading back through old posts or articles can prove to be useful. Some articles may be completely outdated and / or inaccurate and should be deleted but many more will benefit from updating, re-writing or focussing on an entirely different area than originally planned.

The above covers just a few of many potential existing information sources that may be converted into high quality, engaging content. Producing new content is a constant challenge that is time consuming and requires specialist skills. Anything to reduce the workload should be welcomed.

How To Make Content Marketing More Effective

Plan to make content marketing more effectiveA recent report by CMI / Outbrain concluded (unsurprisingly) that the major content marketing challenges faced by B2B marketers are producing enough content, producing content that engages and producing sufficient content variety. A 2013 CMO Council report concluded that the delivery method has a major impact on the trustworthiness of content.

Several other research papers conclude that one of the major reasons inbound marketing fails is the failure to plan effectively before starting the process. It is suggested the plan should contain both the overall strategy and required outcomes and a detailed schedule detailing what type of content will be delivered, by what delivery method, on what dates and (critically) who will be responsible for creating the content.

Some content may be new and created by the marketing department but much is often created by others within the business with a view of value to customers and prospects. A great source of content, that requires considerably less effort, is information on products, how to guides, quality, manufacturing etc that already resides in the business and simply needs editing to be of value to customers.

The Problem With Inbound Marketing

One of the problems with any inbound marketing process, particularly in B2B markets, is securing higher management buy in to the process. Businesses used to outbound marketing often find it difficult to see the value in a new way of working with only the promise of medium to long term results rather than immediate returns.

Without a detailed plan the content marketing process will tend to drift, after the excitement of the initial push. Enthusiasm may soon wane among the mass of other priorities within the business and content may be delivered on an ad hoc basis (if at all). This reduces (or at best delays) the prospect of any returns and leads higher management to believe their initial suspicions were correct and cancel the process.

The Content Editor In Chief Role

One potential solution is to allocate a single person to drive the process, to provide help and support to those tasked with delivering content, to ensure the plan is achieved and to write, edit and source content that has the best chance of engaging customers. This is a demanding position but without it the content marketing process has little chance of delivering results.

The person may be recruited from within or brought in from outside on a temporary basis. Appointment of an internal person has some distinct advantages as they will be best placed to identify existing information that may be converted and thought leaders in the business able to create useful content. With existing personal relationships in place an internal person will be best placed to cajole those involved to deliver on their promises.

An external person with the appropriate experience will be more likely to understand the complexities of an inbound marketing process and deliver more effective content to the marketplace. An experienced external person is also more likely to have more refined content writing and editing skills than a person promoted from within.

5 Ways To Build Credibility In B2B Markets

Two key factors influencing purchasing deciUse testimonials to build credibility in b2b marketssions in B2B markets are credibility and personal relationships. Assuming appropriate promotional activity has built awareness in the marketplace then, in risk adverse B2B markets, credibility is a key distinguishing factor. This post suggests five possible ways for a business to build the trust of its potential customers.

Five factors that influence the credibility of a supplier are:

  1. Social proof.
  2. The quality of information delivered.
  3. Branding
  4. Activity in marketplace.
  5. Personal interfaces.

Social Proof

Robert Cialdini (among others) noted the concept of social proof. It states “one means we use to determine what is correct is to determine what others think is correct”. Case studies, testimonials and recommendations are therefore powerful weapons in the battle to increase credibility.

Content (information) marketing

Research shows that >60% of customers that leave a business do so simply because they do not feel valued and / or the supplier does not communicate with them on a regular basis. Quality, relevant (not sales copy) information both aids customer retention and makes a supplier more trustworthy.

In B2B markets members of the purchasing decision making team are much more likely to seek out the information they need than to wait for a supplier to push it their way. If the decisions makers most trusted sources of information (industry journals, blogs or trade association information) can be identified and useful, relevant information can be posted to those sources they can only boost the trustworthiness of a business.

Branding

What a business stands for, the way it works with customers, its profile in the marketplace are all parts of its brand. A number of research papers show a direct relationship between a positive brand image and the credibility of the supplier. However, it takes time and effort to build a brand and other elements in the list (content, promotional activity and personal relationships) all have an impact on the overall brand image.

Promotional Activity

Inbound marketing may be the accepted way forward for many businesses in B2B markets but there is little doubt outbound (advertising, literature, exhibitions etc) still has a major impact on branding and the credibility of a supplier. A B2B supplier that has a low market profile is likely to lose ground to its competitors hence the best approach is a well constructed strategy including the best elements of inbound and outbound marketing.

Personal relationships

A poor service experience can destroy trust in an instant. Any company personnel a customer may deal with can have a positive (or negative) impact on the business credibility. Knowledgeable employees who deliver good service build the brand and deliver a positive experience.

It can take months, often years, to build credibility in B2B markets but that credibility and trust can be destroyed in an instant by poor service or a negative employee experience. All businesses encounter problems at some stage, the ways these problems are dealt with can actually increase the trustworthiness of a supplier, or if the experience is negative, take years to recover.

Flexible B2B Marketing Support

To implement best B2B marketing practice while covering peaks and troughs in demand can be difficult. Marketing, particularly digital marketing is changing at a rapid rate and providing the flexible B2B marketing support the sales team need is an increasing challenge.

Peaks in demand for marketing resources may be caused by a variety of factors including new product releases, the development of new sales channels, exhibitions and events, new capabilities, new business direction or crisis management. A marketing department with finite resources can often struggle to cope effectively and deliver the required results.

A further complication is the rise in Inbound marketing, particularly in B2B markets. Although inbound marketing has some well documented advantages it can be more resource intensive than push marketing, particularly when first making the transition from outbound to inbound.

Recruiting extra personnel to cover all eventualities can be problematic and costly. The traditional recruitment process of advertising, followed by interviewing and selection is often time consuming. There is always the risk of employing a person who does not fit with the existing company culture or fails to live up to expectations.

Developing a marketing department with the appropriate range of skills can also be a problem. This is a major issue when the demand for marketing support means in house personnel learn new skills in short timescales. It is difficult for a small group (and almost impossible for a single person) to possess the full range of marketing skills required in a modern business. The experience to apply those skills appropriately is not something that may be acquired in the short term.

Outsourcing part (or all) of the marketing function can be one solution. With an outsourced marketing department there are no recruitment fees, management costs, training fees, and holiday or employment costs. A good external B2B marketing support agency will possess a wide range of marketing skills that may be called upon as required.

To cover peaks in external flexible B2B marketing support may be employed on a short term basis then dispensed with. The in house team can then be suitably resourced to simply cover known, ongoing tasks and can be trained appropriately to deal professionally with only those tasks.

An in house B2B marketing team will always be closer to the business, its customers and markets and its competitors than any external marketing agency will ever be. The most flexible approach is therefore to run with a small internal team and call upon an outsourced flexible B2B marketing support team to cover peaks in demand and to deliver skills not available within the in house team.

How To Start A Content Marketing Process

Although many businesses recognise the advantages of a content marketing process they find it difficult to know where to start. Bitter experience shows it is all too easy to in and waste time and effort before finally establishing a way forward that delivers consistent results. What follows are some suggestions, which if followed, should at least eliminate some early mistakes and save time and trouble.

One important point to note is any inbound marketing process will take time to deliver. Various research papers show that once established a content marketing process delivers a consistent supply of high quality sales leads, but it does takes time.

There are a few key points to remember when first starting out, they are:

  • Produce content that is of value to your target market.
  • Start small and be focussed.
  • Be Consistent.
  • Measure / Adapt / Improve.

Content marketing sometimes requires a complete change of mindset. It is not about pushing out promotional messages but about delivering information that is of genuine use to customers and prospects and giving it away for free. Most of the time the content will not even mention what your business may supply, its selling points or even the business name.

To avoid an immense amount of time and trouble a detailed plan is required before starting out. Without a plan you will often find yourself going back to what you have already created, making changes then starting again. A plan should define:

  • What you would like to achieve (more leads?) and in what timescales.
  • Your target customer – focus.
  • What information is of use to them at what stage in the sales cycle?
  • How you are going to reach prospects and give your content the best chance to be read.
  • What content already exists and how to produce new content.
  •  A detailed schedule of events.

To avoid the process becoming too cumbersome and time consuming in the early stages it is important to start out by focussing on a well defined but small target market segment and targeting all resources on that segment. Of course, this will limit the initial returns but it will deliver useful experience upon which a more extensive process may be built and developed.

Generally the marketing department will be responsible for developing any inbound marketing processes but it is essential to reach out to those with an intimate relationship with customers and their needs (the sales department) when trying to establish what information should be delivered to support the sales cycle and what channels should be used to deliver that information.

Various reports show that the biggest challenges faced by content marketers in B2B markets are producing enough content, producing the type of content that engages and defining the most appropriate delivery channels. Generating new content in the marketing department is important but it is not sufficient on its own and it is resource intensive.

It is important to capitalise on all existing information resources in a business, to filter this information to determine what may be useful to the target audience and to re-write or adapt it to use in the marketing process. The responsibility for creating new content should not fall to only the marketing department but should be distributed throughout the business and allocated to those with a useful view on markets and trends, technology, quality and reliability or product and service issues.

With content resources and channels identified it is then essential to deliver to the target prospect base on an ongoing, consistent basis. A start / stop approach, or worse a content marketing process that runs for a few months only then stops will not deliver results and can be a significant waste of valuable resources.

The final step in any content marketing process should be to measure the results of each activity and its impact on the desired result and to adapt, change and improve the process over time. As with any business process without measurement there can be no control.

9 key inbound marketing skills

What inbound marketing skills are required in B2B markets?

In B2B markets there has been a shift (see below*) toward inbound marketing in recent years driven by changes in buyer and decision maker behaviour. This in turn has modified the skill sets required by marketers. Direct mail, advertising and print are all less effective than they once were. The key new skills required by marketers are:

  • Strategy, planning, segmentation.
  • The ability to write high quality, engaging, thoughtful content.
  • Content sourcing and editorial skills.
  • Detailed knowledge of information delivery channels.
  • Decision maker profiling.
  • Search engine marketing.
  • Website development.
  • Project management.
  • Email marketing.

Of course some of these skills may be acquired in an outbound based marketing department but some are entirely new and not easily acquired in the short term, taking each in turn.

Strategy, Planning and Segmentation

These are key skills for any marketer but even more so when using pull marketing. It is essential to identify exactly what the business would like to achieve, what really sets it apart from the rest and its key customer groups. Planning relates not just to the standard marketing planning process but also embraces the complex task of creating an effective content marketing plan.

Content Writing Skills

Any inbound marketing process relies on the ability to deliver high quality, relevant and engaging content. Any content should flow well, be grammatically correct and engage the reader from the start. Writing for the web requires a particular style that is not too dry or over complicated and more chatty in style than would be expected in traditional printed media.

All of the above takes time to learn but it is crucial to success. As more businesses realise the potential of pull marketing then more and more content is published on line. The challenge is to stand out in the crowd.

Content Sourcing

Not all content needs to be written from scratch as most businesses sit on a large amount of existing information of potential use to customers and prospects at various points in their buying cycle. This may include engineering information, how to use guides, quality information, qualification reports and so on. A re-writing process may be required but the bulk of the information may already exist.

Most businesses will employ a range of people with detailed product or market knowledge. There may be some with a slightly controversial view on future trend or what is happening in the market place. These people may be persuaded to write a regular post – perhaps on a monthly basis.

The challenge for the marketing department is to take the array of information available, re-write, update and schedule as required, effectively assuming the role of editor in chief.

Content Delivery

Content is of little use if it cannot be found by prospects and customers. If content does not stand out from the crowd and engage sufficiently to ensure it is read then it has not served its purpose. The marketing department must therefore carefully research which channels have most chance of reaching and engaging the prospect or customer. The sales department are a key source of information at this point. With the most appropriate delivery channels identified the marketing department requires detailed knowledge of how to work those channels to deliver the desired outcome.

Profiling

Closely coupled with the above is the ability to profile the decision maker the content is required to engage. Different decision makers may need different content and the content may change depending on the stage of the sales process. Again, sales are a valuable resource at this point.

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing and the website are closely linked and it is difficult to decide which should be handed the highest priority. However, as there is little point having a website if it cannot be found on line when a prospect searches for a relevant search term then search engine marketing wins out.

It is important to remember that there are two elements to consider, direct and indirect traffic. The power of blogging as an indirect traffic generator,  a content delivery medium and as an effective search engine marketing activity should not be underestimated.

Website

There needs to be a hub for all the information the business may publish. That hub can be a more aggressive sales medium than the content itself and it can be the primary tool to secure customer / prospect sign up (see Email – below) to facilitate ongoing communication and relationship building.

Any website must be designed to facilitate frequent update and should concentrate primarily on information and content rather than design and technology.

Project Management

Inbound marketing done on an ad-hoc basis will not succeed as consistency is required to produce any meaningful results. Project management involves delivering to the plan (see above) which in turn involves progressing those who have promised either rough or completed content to deliver on time.

Email marketing

It is debateable if Email marketing should be classed as inbound or outbound but for pull marketing it relates to designing processes to secure prospects Email addresses in return for something of value, building contact systems to hold that data and using the Email address to continue to communicate with prospects offering something of value (not bombarding with sales messages)

Some of the skills required to implement a pull marketing process can vary month to month and special projects like a product launch or a new venture can cause a peak in demand in any one month.

The transition to inbound marketing often requires the existing marketing team to acquire new skills, some of which (for example writing content) take time to develop. Sometimes outsourcing part of the process can give the existing team to get up to speed and can be used to deal with short term peaks in demand.

*Hubspot state of inbound marketing report 2012

The value of sales visits in B2B markets

What is the true value of sales visits in B2B markets? After many years working in both B2B marketing and sales I took some time out and with that time for reflection I came to appreciate what a complete waste of time and money many B2B sales visits are.

I clearly remember a week I spent with the sales team. As the marketing person I spent a week on the road making presentations on a new product concept. I spent a day with each area sales engineer, before linking up with the next. In each day I would typically do one presentation and sit in on a further two to three of the sales visits arranged for that day.

Looking back, in the entire week I would classify only two of the twelve sales visits as true sales discussions based on really understanding a prospects needs or progressing a sales process. The rest where simply stay in touch or deliver information visits.

In the majority of my own five visits the information could have been delivered by cheaper and perhaps more effective means. It could have been delivered when the prospect was at their most receptive to that information.

The costs of the week were significant. Taking in petrol, salaries and car costs for four area sales engineers (disregarding their support and the office based sales manager costs) I now estimate that week cost in excess of GBP3000 or approximately GBP250 per visit. When defined in those terms the waste involved in deliver information and ‘stay in touch’ meetings starts to come into focus.

The problem perhaps comes from a focus on number of visits. The old style sales process tended to be based on a number of cold / warm calls gives a number of visits and a proportion (normally a low percentage) of visits result in a number of sales. More calls equals more visits, equals more sales. Little time, or thought, was given to increasing conversion rates of leads to visits or visits to sales. Increasing the effectiveness of each sales visit was often ignored in pursuit of the simple numbers.

Given no better way the old style process made some sense but the problem was often compounded by organisations that perceived little value in marketing and therefore relied on their sales people to generate their own leads. The problem is good sales people tend to hate generating their own leads. In contrast, poor quality sales people tend to hit their visit targets by taking the easy option of visiting those they have established relationships with regardless of the potential business available.

Marketing people themselves have certainly caused many of the negative perceptions of marketing. When stripped back to its basic purpose marketing is about generating sales leads. However, apart from an exceptional few, most people can’t be good at everything and there are only a very small number of sales people that are genuinely good at sales and lead generation.

Today, more enlightened organisations in B2B markets tend to have specific roles defined for sales and marketing and employ a marketing pull process to generate high quality sales leads. Unfortunately, these organisations still tend to be in the minority but their marketing departments are using best practice content marketing with some success.

Sales should be focussed on processing leads, evaluating potential and opening and progressing sales discussions to the point of sales not on generating leads (often of low quality) or visits simply to stay in touch or deliver information. They should rely on marketing to deliver high quality leads and to keep communicating with customers and prospects with valuable and engaging content on an ongoing basis.

 

In House v Outsourced Marketing

Is outsourced marketing really the best option given an in-house team will always be closer to customers, products and markets than any outsourced agency ever will? With limited internal resources and ongoing demand for more quality sales leads an external marketing agency can be an attractive choice but it may not be the best approach. We compare in house v outsourced marketing

Current best B2B marketing practice tends to be based on pull (inbound) rather than the old push (outbound) marketing techniques. Pull marketing is based on attracting potential customers to a business, on their terms, at a point they are ready to engage.

A key element of inbound marketing is a content marketing process based on delivering useful, engaging content to prospects. The content should satisfy a prospects information needs and guide them back to engage with the business at relevant points during the sales cycle. The question then is who is best placed to deliver the process.

A content marketing process only works if the audience is specifically identified, the content is targeted at the needs of that audience, the delivery method ensures the content has the best chance of reaching its target and there is a measurement and review procedure in place to feedback what is working well and what is not. With a process built it may be automated to bring in a consistent supply of quality enquiries.

An in house marketing department will always be better placed to know the audience and their needs than any outside agency. Sources of existing content and those able to deliver a view of interest and use to potential customer will reside within a business not outside. Any content generated by the business will always have more authenticity than anything delivered by an outsourced marketing team.

A experienced external marketing team will often be better placed to research the best content marketing delivery channels and set up delivery via those channels. Crucially, they are also more likely to have the expertise to build a marketing and content delivery plan. An outside set of eyes is often best placed to identify the real selling points that distinguish a business from its competition.

Often, in house marketing departments grow up with a business. Although they may have an excellent understanding of the business products and services, the customer base and markets it is difficult for a small marketing department to keep up with the latest marketing thinking. A small in house team will often lack the range of expertise to deliver the wide range of marketing tools and services required by a successful content marketing campaign.

The answer to the question does in house or outsourced marketing deliver most value is not an easy one to assess as ultimately it depends on the skills of the existing in house team, the time they have to take on more tasks and their ability to learn new marketing tools and techniques. It is only if any of these elements are missing can outsourced marketing deliver any real value.