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Digital transformation: the devil is in the detail

Digital transformation: the devil is in the detail

The term ‘digital transformation’ sounds like the type of project designation only some kind of seasoned management super-hero should ever utter in the corridors of a shiny, mythical, intergalactic consortium.

But in reality digital transformation is very far from shiny and certainly isn’t mythical as it happens in the here and now, and it can be very time consuming and complex to initialise and implement.

Digital transformation or fragmentation?

This is because different areas of a business need different things from a digital resource and in some cases implementation of digital systems have been delayed for decades due to the complexities involved in integrating one system with another.

This is certainly true in the marketing departments of many corporations where marketers may be planning marketing automation (MA) system roll-out only to discover that the customer and prospect data they need and held by their sales colleagues is in disparate spreadsheet formats.

Technology roadblocks

But data formats are just one issue, and there can be greater barriers to overcome. These include the very basics within an organisation, such as issues around SAP, or even fundamentals such as what server operating system (OS) is deployed.

For any marketer aiming to develop an MA programme, these issues can leave the plan dead in the water, as most MA platforms or the sales integration systems that allow for marketing and sales team collaboration will only work with reasonably new software systems.

Finding viable workarounds

What these roadblocks represent are the inherent inflexibility in company digital infrastructure and how detrimental this can be to an enterprise’s market development, growth and even its survival in certain markets.

If your company is in a situation where the levels of internal digital infrastructure inflexibilities are as described here, then you need to look to avoid the introduction of further inflexibilities through bringing in a mainstream MA platform, for example, that will exacerbate these issues.

Digital transformation requires flexibility in thinking.

Rapid, cost efficient but not mainstream

And that’s where a digital agency, knowledgeable in digital marketing as well as having a deep technical knowledge of information technology can help. These are pretty rare, we know, as we’re one of them but there are others.

Because some of these agencies, in order to win business such as MA commissions, offer software platforms designed to deliver these services more cost efficiently than mainstream vendors. This is known as ‘software as a service’ – SaaS.

Fast-track transformation

These SaaS-focused digital marketing agencies have to be very proficient in software design and development, and flexible enough in their thinking to ensure that their software products will fully integrate with a spectrum of existing digital infrastructures.

If you can find one, and partner with them, you’ll have overcome an issue that by attempting to manage and resolve through mainstream solutions, would have taken a very long time. And in today’s fast-moving markets, that’s too long.

Digital transformation requires flexibility in thinking.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Content marketing: 5 ways to win B2B hearts and minds

Content marketing: 5 ways to win B2B hearts and minds

B2B content marketing sounds like a rather self important label for old-school copywriting, and in fact many content marketers were at one time copywriters. So, what has changed, and is content marketing really any different from copywriting?

The answer is yes it is, and today it really has to be.

Because to ensure your website stays visible on an overcrowded Internet, with any guarantee of your marketing communications being read, and to create customer trust, engagement and loyalty, your content needs to work very hard indeed.

The reality is that today, prospects and existing customers don’t have the time to read lengthy copy; they want information quickly, and in these crowded and unreliable markets, where anecdotes often pass as facts, they need to have complete trust in your brand before they’ll even consider buying from your enterprise.

Here’s five steps you can take to win over these elusive B2B prospects, and convert them to loyal customers.

1. Understanding your audience

Where old-school copywriting and content marketing vary most is in the level of understanding content marketers must have of your target audience in order to communicate with them effectively.

That is because unlike ‘static’ copywriting, content marketing is not the beginning of a one-sided monologue; it’s the start of a real conversation which will grow and become ever-more personal as engagement develops, so knowing what your targets want to hear is critical to success.

This level of insight requires careful research which will allow you to create a profile of your ideal customer, known as a buyer persona. This profile or persona is the very target you will need to engage with and convert to make a sale, and the process is as relevant to B2C as it is to B2B marketing

2. Building engagement

To build engagement with your prospects and existing customers, B2B marketing content must be proactive and be served not only on your website but across different platforms such as email marketing or, more effectively, via a marketing automation (MA) programme.

This proactive approach means that you can reach out to prospects through email in a way that starts to build value into the conversation as recipients begin to recognise that you are thinking about what they want and drawing them back to your website to offer them more information.

3. Personalising the conversation

As this communications programme progresses, so your understanding of prospect and customer buyer personas will grow, and your marketing content in both email and website content will become ever-more closely targeted to each individual recipient’s needs.

As you analyse recipient feedback and continue to build on your buyer personas, this personalisation process develops further as email and web marketing content guide your target audience through the sales journey, to conversion and sales.

A sale in the B2C space may be as simple as a mouse click, but in B2B, this conversion point is most likely to be a call to a meeting, because while your B2B prospect may have already decided on your product or service, high value transactions will normally be concluded face to face.

4. Creating trust

While this email and web marketing content will be guiding prospects and existing customers on the buying journey, to ensure these individuals convert and buy from you, there has to be a strong element of trust in both your enterprise and your products.

This is where good content marketers, and great marketing content win out over static content, as it is the interactive nature of dynamic communications that create an understanding of your company, its products and ultimately develops trust in your offer

5. Sustaining long-term loyalty

If your content marketers understand the buyer personas they are talking to, and can resonate with them throughout the buying journey, your target recipients will learn to trust your company and at the end of the journey, buy from you or set up a meeting to close a B2B deal.

Having built a level of trust through content marketing interactivity, this relationship can be sustained and grown over time through light-touch nurturing emails, guiding recipients to new products on your website, or even third-party websites with published comparative reviews between your products and others in the marketplace.

This light-touch nurturing, and the ongoing offer of relevant information will help build the long-term relationship you need to sustain loyalty, and place your company front of mind when your audience thinks about the type of products you offer.

And that’s the true difference between static, one-hit copy and dynamic, interactive marketing content. Marketing content is produced by skilled content marketers who work to learn how your customers think and know how to develop a conversation with them that ultimately engages and converts prospects to loyal brand advocates for you and what you have to offer them.

If your content marketers understand the buyer personas they are talking to, and can resonate with them throughout the buying journey, your target recipients will learn to trust your company and at the end of the journey, buy from you or set up a meeting to close a B2B deal.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Customer engagement: big data or big ideas?

Customer engagement: big data or big ideas?

Today, marketing automation (MA), pay-per-click (PPC) and Programmatic Advertising (PA) campaigns, along with social advertising all generate huge quantities of performance data, barraging even experienced marketers with mountains of campaign information.

The reality is that while some of this data is extremely useful, a significant amount of it is extraneous to campaign performance and if used as a basis in strategic campaign development, may easily derail your marketing objectives, through distraction.

Derailed by data?

In the hands of inexperienced digital marketers, data seems to offer myriad insights into target market prospect and customer behaviour, thereby casting an almost magical light on strategic options in future marketing campaigns.

But campaign performance data is almost completely misleading and irrelevant unless it is highly focused, and has been specifically added to the performance metrics to deliver highly specific information.

Keeping it simple

For example, data needs to be drawn from, and laid against, precise campaign touch-points – such as the performance of a specific call-to-action touch-point along the buyer journey – and therefore allowing data to deliver specifically on one simple metric.

When these simple call-to-action metrics are examined sequentially against other touch-points in the buyer journey, data will form a clear picture of campaign development and hopefully indicate greater visitor engagement as prospects become increasingly engaged with the campaign.

Less is more

This simple example metric – increasing prospect and customer call-to-action engagement along the buyer journey – will be critical in the future development of the live campaign as it illustrates precise campaign impacts at highly specific points of contact.

What this process does is reduce the blizzard of information data delivers to a level where it provides manageable, meaningful information to enhance the performance of live campaigns, while providing information on which to develop a strategic framework to future campaigns.

Strategy through data analysis

This is where big data can start to build big ideas, allowing you to use what you know from selected, highly specific areas of data to create and continually enhance live and future campaign development as you analyse data in real time.

And what this means in live campaigns is that because you are now working with highly specific and simplified metrics on live campaigns, this can be done in real time, allowing for your communications to be shifted dynamically, keeping you ahead of your competitors.

Agility is key to success

What achieving success through data really means is the careful, pragmatic selection of precisely what you need to know from a campaign to make it resonate closely and engage more effectively with your target buyers.

This means data – or information – is restricted to precisely what is required to build and nurture prospect relationships and keep them moving through the sales funnel. In other words, stay focussed on your objectives, and don’t get blinded by the data blizzard.

In the hands of inexperienced digital marketers, data seems to offer myriad insights into target market prospect and customer behaviour, thereby casting an almost magical light on strategic options in future marketing campaigns.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

A five-point B2B digital marketing strategy for engagement and visibility in 2016

A five-point B2B digital marketing strategy for engagement and visibility in 2016

With a recent survey indicating that 77% of companies increased their digital marketing budgets – up from 71% on the previous year – and trends indicating further rapid growth in 2016, competition for B2B visibility is increasing significantly.

And what this means in terms of gaining competitive high ground in crowded B2B markets is the application of stand-out techniques in both new and existing B2B marketing channels. So what do these stand-outs look like in developing market share in 2016?

01.  More sophisticated content marketing strategies

In B2B marketing content is key. That is because B2B audiences do detailed online research, and have a good grasp of their chosen subject at the outset of that research, so are very demanding and discerning recipients when served relevant content.

This means that your 2016 content strategy must offer a clearly defined storyline over the entire year with detailed, accurate technical information that is directly aligned with the commercial reasons for considering and purchasing your products and services.

02.  Driving content marketing with marketing automation

More sophisticated and engaging content marketing will deliver significantly greater prospect and customer engagement if it is communicated to recipients through an organised marketing communications system that offers this as part of the prospect or customer sales journey.

This means that the content now has a dynamic, and is therefore explicitly designed to lead the prospect or customer to a sale – and as prospects are categorised according to their level of interest, so the served content may be segmented and streamed to reflect interests and aspirations.

03.  Lead conversion optimisation

Simply put, lead generation – driving prospects and customers to content on your website – is an important part of market development and revenue generation but converting leads to sales, and then retaining those leads as loyal customers is a whole different story.

Client-side marketers with clear strategic vision will aim to build on lead conversion performance and take it to the next level through creating content that continues to deliver prospect and customer engagement and nurtures leads, creating solid prospect relationships.

04.  Personalisation and interactive communications

The use of a more sophisticated content marketing strategy, introducing a marketing automation platform, and optimising lead conversions – if appropriately implemented by your digital vendors – will generate a considerable amount to prospect and customer personal data.

This valuable data will tell you a lot about your prospects and customers and allow you to build highly accurate buyer personas, meaning you will know enough about them to communicate in a more personal way, meeting their needs for information and guidance on the sales journey.

05.  Social media and search optimisation

LinkedIn has grown massively in recent years as a B2B networking tool, and if you are a B2B services business, your prospects are likely using LinkedIn to research and identify potential consultants and vendors.

But even if your prospects and customers are not significant social media users, Google uses social signals in algorithms for calculating search engine rankings and therefore social media will be used to boost rankings and therefore search visibility.

Reaching out and driving B2B prospect interactions

This five point strategy will allow you to develop, nurture, engage and convert prospects and customers in the year ahead. But first you’re going to need to find them. Will online advertising do that?

Well no, because ad-blocking is still a major obstacle here and as an issue, blocking is likely to become more of a significant barrier in the year ahead.

The best options for attracting leads in 2016 will be – in order of effectiveness – native advertising; LinkedIn, and Facebook Click to Website ads with call-to-action buttons; Google Customer Match which allows you to upload a list of contacts and target them through search. This feature is also available on Facebook and Twitter, and is effectively making search and social work more like email marketing.

Key to survival for 2016

But what is really going to matter in the year ahead is quality. Starting with the quality of your marketing strategy; through the quality of your marketing content, to the quality of your prospect engagement and customer retention and loyalty performance.

Because whatever else 2016 will be in the digital space, the most confident prediction I have for you is that B2B markets will be very crowded indeed.

In B2B marketing content is key. That is because B2B audiences do detailed online research, and have a good grasp of their chosen subject at the outset of that research, so are very demanding and discerning recipients when served relevant content.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Content marketing: five ways to deliver customer engagement

Content marketing: five ways to deliver customer engagement

Marketing today is almost completely data-driven, meaning that when it comes to content marketing, measurement of open rates, click-through statistics and website page visits data is seen as critical to marketing performance indicators.

These statistical indicators are key to delivering marketing success, but can however also create distractions, moving the focal point away from your original marketing message and emotional prospect and customer engagement to one of pure data analysis.

And while we at Novacom live for data-driven performance statistics – we’re even ISO 9001 certified and only one of a small handful of EU agencies holding ISO 27001 – we believe strategic content marketing is what engages and builds loyalty in customers, not data.

So, here are five basic strategic elements for content marketing that will help deliver customer attention, engagement and long-term loyalty.

Research and differentiation

Effective marketing is about taking care of the basics. And the start-point has to be knowing your target marketplace, understanding buyer personas and positioning and differentiating your products or services in a way that makes them visible.

Within this, and through focused market research, you will know what your target buyer is looking for and if, using this information, you start to reflect and communicate this in your marketing content across appropriate channels, you will begin to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Value proposition and increased visibility

This differentiation will increase your visibility, but this visibility needs to be backed by a solid value proposition, meaning using your market research and analysing buyer personas and their needs, you can channel content on multiple and highly specific customer demands.

Continually communicating these multiple and known value propositions and targeting these strategically across appropriate communications channels will build a growing prospect and customer awareness of your proposition, ensuring engagement as the sales journey progresses.

Engagement and the sales journey

Careful and detailed data analysis will help you and your digital marketing agency to stay on track in optimising engagement as you will know how your marketing content is impacting on prospect and customer behaviour.

At this point in the marketing journey, the research done initially, your close understanding of your prospect and customer behaviour and your continued drive for engagement will now have created clear target audience interactivity.

This interactivity will be as close to a human conversation as it is possible to get in the digital space.

Conversion and building on success

If your analytical data has been properly managed throughout the journey, it will have been pretty clear for you to see who among your prospects and existing customers was likely to buy from you as the journey progressed.

This ability to (albeit causally) predict these outcomes will be a clear indication of the quality of your initial work in research, buyer persona development, and the resultant communications strategy driving the campaign.

This means that on an intuitive level you had the communications right. However, the quality of this work will also be informed by the conversion rate performance which tells you that the overall strategy was also right.

Loyalty building

But this is not the end of the road. These customers are valuable assets, and as such should be nurtured for subsequent sales, building brand loyalty by feeding them intelligent and useful information between sales events.

Modern marketing is all about relationship building through the thoughtful delivery of helpful information – content – designed to guide prospects and customers in your sphere of interest.

If you do this, you are creating emotional, loyal bonds with your audience, rather than treating them as cold, hard targets. And while statistical data is key in measuring marketing performance, it is only an analytical tool, not an end in itself: it’s content that delivers customers.

And while we at Novacom live for data-driven performance statistics – we’re even ISO 9001 certified and only one of a small handful of EU agencies holding ISO 27001

Five tips on digital marketing agency search and selection

Five tips on digital marketing agency search and selection

Digital communications (the transmission of marketing communications by digital means) covers a wide range of marketing platforms and a spectrum of channels and for client-side marketers, deciding on what is the best-fit for your enterprise is a complex equation.

And to compound this best-fit identification issue, actually seeing beyond the hot technology offers or the hype and such claims as ‘we’re the largest’ or the ‘only EU’ and so on, and to get a solid understanding of actual agency capabilities is a tough assignment for any marketer.

Platform or channel: what’s the difference?

Today, many digital marketing agencies will offer information on expertise such as marketing automation (MA) platform capabilities. Others will offer expertise in social media (SM) or pay-per-click (PPC) or online display advertising.

But while agency promotion of these platforms or channels is useful, what it is not telling you is what specific expertise they have in delivering marketing prospects or sales leads – the very thing you need to build your sales, profitability and long-term customer loyalty.

So, where does this leave you?

End-to-end approach

As can be seen, many of these communications elements are either delivery platforms or communications channels and while critical for targeted communication, they are certainly not the strategic marketing message in themselves.

So, cutting to the chase, working through all the platform and channel offers, to discriminate between pure platform or channel provision and those who offer platform or channel provision with truly solid strategic communication skill and associated marketing communication capabilities is a critical starting point in your search.

Conspicuous by its absence

Most of these digital marketing agencies will aim to provide content marketing as a part of their offer. This is key, but the quality of this content, its power to engage with your prospects and ability to deliver marketing qualified sales leads that actually buy from you is the ultimate criteria.

Remember, marketing platform and channel experience are key, but to achieve sustained growth and loyal customer acquisition, you critically need focused content marketing that drives these platforms and channels to success. Here are five points to consider in order of relevance.

Research and strategic market planning

Any long-term and sustainable marketing campaign will require careful strategic planning. This not only helps to optimise prospect engagement, but also to ensure that brand visibility is gained and maintained throughout the campaign.

Always explore a prospective agency’s strategic market planning capabilities when you open discussions. A good way for the prospect agency to demonstrate strategic planning capabilities is through the provision of current client case studies.

Integrated multi-channel digital communication specialisms

To develop successful digital marketing strategies, your agency will need to provide a multi-channel communications strategy, and this will require a number of integrated communications platforms, delivering communications across several marketing channels simultaneously.

This means you need to satisfy yourself that any potential agency has not only proven expertise in all required platforms and the marketing channels through which they will deliver, but can fully demonstrate how this will work in line with initial – pre-proposal – strategic plans.

Sector-specific marketing experience

Again, as with the points above, in order to identify precisely which marketing communications platform or channel is appropriate at which particular point in the marketing journey and at which point a channel will need to close the sale requires critical expertise.

To optimise communications performance in this marketing-to-sale journey, it is vitally important that the proposed agency has a deep understanding of your marketplace, target prospect behaviours and how to engage with them. In short, sector experience counts.

Content marketing and search optimisation expertise

In many respects, and like the point above, long-term experience and close market sector expertise are very important in achieving optimum prospect engagement through understanding and delivering what it is potential and existing customers want from your enterprise.

This means selecting an agency that has proven experience in your market sector. That is not to say you should exclude marketers from closely related sectors, but you need to be sure they can demonstrate a very clear understanding of your target audience, and their needs.

You will know your market, so make completely sure your agency does too, because if they talk your prospect’s language they will raise your brand and campaign profile and visibility through powerful search engine optimisation (SEO).

Performance analytics and management

The final piece is for you to understand the marketing return on investment (MROI) your agency is delivering across the campaigns you will be working on together.

You will already know what your required marketing performance metrics are, and you therefore need to ask your prospective agency to formulate and demonstrate performance analytics to closely mirror these requirements.

It has to be said, agency capabilities in the area of performance analytics is variable, but a good agency with a competent analytics team should be able to offer all of what you are likely to need.

Content expertise drives success

As can be seen, technology in the form of marketing platforms or communications channels, and the expertise in utilising these is a very important element in digital marketing communications.

But what really counts when selecting a new digital marketing agency is confidence in knowing that they not only understand marketing technology, but understand what emotional and aspirational marketing content to load into it to make it work successfully.

Remember, marketing platform and channel experience are key, but to achieve sustained growth and loyal customer acquisition, you critically need focused content marketing that drives these platforms and channels to success.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom