The Day-to-Day Things Bothering B-to-B Marketers

Marketing Executives Group (LinkedIn)The discussion boards on LinkedIn are often good places to capture the pulse of what’s happening “on the ground” in the marketing field.

A case in point is a discussion started recently on the Marketing Executives Group on LinkedIn by Carson Honeycutt, an account executive at marketing research firm Mintel.

Honeycutt’s question was, “What are the biggest day-to-day issues for marketing execs?”

He was interested in getting input to help him speak to needs and offer solutions when interfacing with his customers and prospects – even if those solutions meant referring them to other vendors.

According to Honeycutt, he often hears responses like, “Too busy to talk. I’m swamped and we have no budget anyway.”

His query generated some interesting feedback. Comments ranged from the succinct (“sounds like you’re getting the brush-off”) to ones that were more helpful and useful.

The OfficeOne response I liked particularly well came from Brent Parker David, a marketing strategist at CRE8EGY. His listing of the day-to-day issues for marketing execs were to-the-point:

  • Too many meetings;
  • Lack of experienced creative thinking;
  • Personal and political agendas overshadowing the mission and the marketing objectives;
  • Too many “experts” who have never truly accomplished anything — but are very comfortable telling others what to do or how to behave.

I think most of us involved the marketing field for any length of time will be nodding knowingly at the above points …

Another response — more nuanced — came from Matt Smith, a marketing strategist in the consumer packaged goods  field. Here’s what he contributed:

“When Marketing doesn’t provide deep insights and a strategy to leverage them, price discounting takes over. This gives Sales the lead, as they are the executors. Growing sales, no matter how it’s done, is taken as progress. Sales is the hero, even though margins [may] have eroded.

“The byproduct of this is increasing their trade spend budgets — and by extension, their political clout. Conversely, Marketing loses clout as they don’t have an answer that drives sales AND margins. In the zero-sum budget game, the increased trade spend comes out of the advertising/promotion/innovation budget.”

Smith went on to add that “marketing is only stifled by bean-counters if they don’t know their customers and [can’t] devise a creative strategy to get them to buy more at higher margins.”

What are your own thoughts about the biggest day-to-day challenges facing marketing execs? Please share your thoughts with other readers here.

 

The Continuing Ambivalence about Twitter

Or is it more a division of the house?

ambivalenceOf all of the social media platforms that have taken root, the one that seems to cause the most divided opinions among the marketing and communication specialists I know is Twitter.

… And these are the folks who have been diligent about “following the script” for crafting tweets that are interesting, informative, and get noticed.

Each social platform has its strong and weak attributes, of course … but I hear far more mixed views about Twitter than I do about Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn.

This is amply illustrated in a recent discussion that was started on LinkedIn’s B2B Marketing Group, of which I’m a member.

Joel Harrison, Editor-in-Chief of B2BMarketing.net, posed this question to the group’s members:

“If Twitter ceased to exist tomorrow, would we all be better off?”

This rather provocative query elicited a range of reactions pro and con – which was to be expected.

However, I was a little surprised that the comments were weighted roughly two-thirds negative about Twitter versus positive.

Remember, this is a discussion group made up of marketing professionals — people you’d expect to be keen on pretty much any established social platform that has an extensive following for marketing purposes.

… Which, even if you discount the ~30% of accounts that “fake, faux and farcical” – still makes Twitter qualify as one of the leading social media platforms.

But consider these comments about Twitter posted by members of the B2B Marketing Group on LinkedIn:

“16 characters solve this dilemma: ‘Don’t take part.’”

 “I once read a tweet that said, ‘This is the generation that had nothing to say, and said it.’ Sums it up pretty well.”

 “My target audiences … have not mentioned that they prefer to communicate on that channel, so until that happens, there isn’t much going on.”

 “I like the old BBC mission: ‘Entertain, inform and educate.’ If you don’t do any of that, I ain’t following.”

 “Useful as an additional channel for customer service and sharing experiences – if the customer wants it.”

 “It depends on the industry and the target audience.”

 “As a marketer, it’s useful.  On a personal level, it annoys the hell out of me.”

These statements don’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the platform, do they?

Of course, they were posted on a business-to-business discussion board, so presumably people were commenting based on their B-to-B perspective; consumer marketing opinions are likely somewhat different.

What are your opinions about Twitter? Based on your own experience, how important and how effective has Twitter been to your marketing efforts?  Is it a critical component … or is it just one more ornament on the MarComm tree? Please share your comments for the benefit of other readers.

What’s the Latest in Content Creation for B-to-B Marketers?

Content creationThere’s an interesting new study just published that gives us interesting clues about what B-to-B marketers are doing in content creation.

The B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends study is a joint research effort of the Content Marketing Institute and marketing information resources firm MarketingProfs. The survey found that nine out of ten B-to-B marketers are using some form of content marketing activities to achieve their business goals.

[For this survey, content marketing (also known as custom publishing or branded content) is defined as “the creation and distribution of educational and/or compelling content in multiple formats to attract and/or retain customers.”]

The research found that usage of several content tactics is now quite widespread:

 News articles: ~79% of respondents are using
 Social media (excluding blogs): ~74%
 Blogs: ~65%
 e-Newsletters: ~63%
 Case studies: ~58%
 In-person events: ~56%
 Videos: ~52%
 White papers: ~51%
 Webinars or webcasts: ~46%

When queried as to how effective marketers believe these tactics to be, a combination of traditional and “new” ones were cited with high effectiveness scores:

 In-person events: ~78% view as an “effective” tactic
 Case studies: ~70
 Webinars or webcasts: ~70%
 e-Newsletters: ~60%
 White papers: ~60%
 Blogs: ~58%
 Web microsites: ~56%
 Articles: ~51%
 Social media: ~51%
 Videos: ~51%

The survey also investigated how content tactics are being measured for success. Tracking web traffic stats is the most popular measurement tool:

 Web traffic: ~58% use to measure success
 Sales lead quality: ~49% use
 Direct sales figures: ~41% use
 Sales lead quantity: ~41% use
 Qualitative feedback from customers: ~40% use
 Search engine rankings: ~40% use
 Inbound weblinks: ~30% use

And what is the biggest challenge these marketers see in content creation? It’s the age-old problem of coming up with interesting topics to write about.

More than four in ten respondents cited “producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers” as their biggest challenge.

Some of the comments heard from survey respondents on this topic sound all-too-familiar:

 “Finding people within my organization to contribute their expertise … nobody outside of marketing seems to see the value in sharing our expertise with the market via content.”

 “Having the discipline and being able to assign sufficient resources to create and manage the right content for the target audience, in a sustainable manner.”

 “The ideas are all there; it’s just a matter of finding time to create and write copy.”

 “Management patience: Management needs to understand that in today’s B-to-B environment, it takes time to engage prospects.”

What about your situation? Are your content management issues the same ones as reported in this study … or are you facing different challenges?

Online Display Ad Effectiveness: Skepticism Persists

Online Display AdvertisingAs the variety of options for online advertising have steadily increased over the years, the reputation of display advertising effectiveness has suffered. Part of this is in the statistics: abysmal clickthrough rates on many online display ads with percentages that trend toward the microscopic.

But another part is just plain intuition. People understand that when folks go online, they’re usually on a mission – whether it’s information-seeking, looking for products to purchase, or avocational pursuits.

Simply put, the “dynamic” is different than magazines, television or radio — although any advertiser will tell you that those media options also have their share of challenges in getting people to take notice and then to take action.

The perception that online display advertising is a “bad” investment when compared to search engine marketing is what’s given Google its stratospheric revenue growth and profits in recent years. And that makes sense; what better time to pop up on the screen than when someone has punched in a search term that relates to your product or service?

In the B-to-B field, the knock against display advertising is even stronger than in the consumer realm. In the business world, people have even less time or inclination to be distracted by advertising that could take them away from their mission at hand.

It doesn’t take a swath of eye-tracking studies to prove that most B-to-B practitioners have their blinders on to filter out extraneous “noise” when they’re in information-seeking mode.

This isn’t to say that B-to-B online display advertising isn’t occurring. In fact, in a new study titled Making Online Display Marketing Work for B2B, marketing research and consulting firm Forrester Research, Inc. reports that about seven in ten B-to-B interactive marketers employ online display advertising to some degree in their promotional programs.

And they do so for the same reasons that compelled these comparnies to advertise in print trade magazines in the past. According to the Forrester report, the primary objectives for online display advertising include:

 Increase brand awareness: ~49% of respondents
 Lead generation: ~46%
 Reaching key target audiences: ~46%
 Driving direct sales: ~41%

But here’s a major rub: Attitudes toward B-to-B online display advertising are pretty negative — and that definitely extends to the ad exchanges and ad networks serving the ads. Moreover, most don’t foresee any increased effectiveness in the coming years.

That may explain why Forrester found that fewer than 15% of the participants in its study reported that they have increased their online display advertising budgets in 2011 compared to 2010 – even as advertising budgets have trended upward overall.

When you look closer at display, there’s actually some interesting movement. Google has committed to a ~$390 million acquisition of display ad company Admeld. And regardless of the negative perceptions that may be out there, Google’s Ad Exchange and Yahoo’s Right Media platforms have created the ability for advertisers to bid on ad inventories based on their value to them.

Moreover, new capabilities make it easier to measure and attribute the impact of various media touchpoints — online display as well as others — that ultimately lead to conversion or sales.

But the negative perceptions about online display advertising continue, proving again that attitudes are hard to change — even in the quickly evolving world of digital advertising.

E-mail early birds? The worm may be turning differently.

Best time to deploy marketing e-mail messages.One of the great benefits of the “online everything” world in which we now live is the ability to evaluate nearly anything about marketing not with hunches or speculation, but with hard data.

A perennial question is what time of day is best to deploy marketing e-mails to customers and prospects. The higher the propensity to open and read these messages, you’re closer to the goal of converting eyeballs to clickthroughs … and to sales.

ReachMail, a Chicago-based e-mail service provider, recently studied a large sampling (~650,000) of the millions of consumer and business marketing e-mail messages it sends out for clients daily in order to determine open rate differences based on the time of day. It normalized the data to account for different time zones.

What ReachMail found was that there are differing peak open rate times on weekends versus on weekdays:

 Weekdays: Peak e-mail open rates are between ~11:30 am and ~2:00 pm.

 Weekends: E-mail open rates begin trending upward at ~11:30 am, but don’t peak until ~4:00 pm.

John Murphy, ReachMail’s president, had this to say about people’s weekday e-mail open rate behaviors: “You would think it would spike in the morning, but they’re looking at work e-mails in the morning. Once they’ve cleared out their inbox, they’re looking at marketing e-mails in the afternoon.”

ReachMail’s conclusion: It’s best to deploy weekday e-mails between 10:00 am and Noon. For weekend e-mails, deploy them between Noon and 3:00 pm.

And this additional tidbit also: Don’t assume e-mails sent during the week will perform better than those deployed over the weekend. “People’s engagement rates are up there on the weekend,” Murphy maintains. “It’s our habit of checking e-mail all the time.”

He’s sure right about that.