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Business to person marketing in the business to business space: does it work?

Business to person marketing in the business to business space: does it work?

The business to business (B2B) marketing community often claims that it’s a harder market to work than the business to consumer (B2C) space. Personally, I’ve never quite bought into this point of view, because in both cases there’s a common denominator: humanity.

That is to say, whether you’re communicating with a B2B or B2C audience, they’re all human beings and I’m sure would like to be treated that way. And if you follow the smart money, I think you’ll find the B2B focus is now on a very personalised business to person (B2P) approach.

The B2C-B2B crossover

If you look at the more advanced B2C digital marketing models, they have evolved to focus on their target audiences in a much more personalised way, because prospects and customers now don’t just hope for service with transparency, they expect it from brands.

And this B2B audience aren’t simply B2B prospects, because in their leisure time they are also B2C consumers who are used to being treated as valued, known customers whose wants and needs are understood and catered for in every B2C communication they receive. That’s B2P.

B2P and personalisation: how does it work?

B2P marketers spend a lot of time creating a clear profile of their prospects and customers (buyer personas) and developing websites with highly structured analytics systems, designed to report precisely what these personas search for and look at when they visit.

This process continually builds on and modifies these personas so that they always reflect the very latest prospect buying trends and behaviours so that all email communications, website landing pages and all other prospect communications are hyper-personalised.

This is what B2C customers get through B2P, so why can’t B2B marketing deliver this to customers too?

B2P: how can it work in the B2B space?

OK, so B2B marketers are not selling shampoo and at least if they are, it will be in industrial quantities. But does that mean B2B marketing has to be equally industrial, non-personalised and detached from B2B prospect and customer needs?

It doesn’t. By using the same techniques B2C marketers use to build buyer personas and website development processes to deliver accurate analytical data, B2B marketers can achieve the same level of marketing and sales success B2C marketers expect with B2P.

Remember, before they got into work this morning, your B2B target customer was actually a B2C consumer, being treated like a human being, probably through B2P, on a sophisticated B2C brand website; so to succeed, all you need to do is do the same.

Fast track to success

There’s only one difference that needs careful awareness when taking this B2P route in B2B marketing: you really aren’t selling shampoo, but something that may be of high value and high technology, and may require specialist marketing content to deliver sales using B2P.

But if you have an agile, open-minded digital agency, who truly understand your products, technologies and marketplace, switching channels from slow-burn B2B to fast-track B2P will deliver marketing return on investment (MROI) with loyal, engaged B2B customers, sooner.

This process continually builds on and modifies these personas so that they always reflect the very latest prospect buying trends and behaviours so that all email communications, website landing pages and all other prospect communications are hyper-personalised.

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

GDPR: what is it and why should you care?

GDPR: what is it and why should you care?

In recent years data breaches, hacking, data theft and online fraud have emerged as massive issues at both the corporate and governmental level, exposing targets to extreme financial instability and nation states to political or defence vulnerabilities.

Anthem Insurance, Home Depot, Adobe and the UK NHS have all been hacked or even had data physically stolen and whichever way, the impact on data privacy is significant as sensitive personal data is released into the public domain.

Data security: how big is the issue?

Over the past year, the UK has suffered the greatest number of data breach incidents in the EU, with 63 by end-Q2 2015; way above Germany with 8, and the Netherlands with 6.

Interestingly, in these breaches 8.3 million records were exposed, which is only 3.4% of the global total of 246 million: the US accounted for 49% of all records compromised, with Turkey at 26%.

The first half of 2015 also shows a 10% increase in data breaches on the same period a year previously, while the number of records stolen reduced by 41%. This may be due to a smaller number of mega-breaches but very likely indicates varying regional security and data protection compliance.

Cohesive trans-EU protection

The current EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC is about twenty years old, and is from a very different time.

As technological evolution accelerates exponentially so security gaps, critical issues such as trans-national operation, developments in social networks and cloud computing have evolved and are not covered in a legally cohesive and meaningful way.

The new EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will transcend any local data privacy laws and will be designed to provide a more comprehensive and wide-ranging legal framework, which will deliver much tougher personal data privacy legislation.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is a Regulation with which the European Commission intends to strengthen and unify data protection within the European Union (EU), and is designed to also address the export of personal data outside the EU.

The Commission’s primary objective with GDPR is to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU, and unlike a Directive, it does not require legislation to be passed by governments.

What GDPR means to you

The proposed new EU GDPR data security programme expands the scope of EU data protection law to all non-EU companies processing the data of EU residents. It synchronises data protection regulations throughout the EU, making it much simpler for non-European enterprises to comply with these regulations.

While the precise wording of GDPR and financial penalties for transgression have yet to be finalised, GDPR has a very stringent data protection compliance administration with severe and rigorously imposed financial penalties of up to 4% of global gross revenue or €20,000,000 – whichever is greater – for non-compliance.

What about your external vendors?

While this EU-wide regulation relates to the data owner – the entity legally accountable for the data -laws relating to data management, processing and security will also impact on your enterprise if there are contraventions by third party vendors, such as your digital marketing agency.

This means that you, and your enterprise must be confident that such third party vendors have the required legal know-how and competency in current EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC as well as upcoming GDPR.

The most resilient verification of this is that your agency has ISO 9001 certification for data management and very importantly, ISO 27001 data security certification.

Where do you seek assistance

Surprisingly, help is very scarce. My agency, Novacom, has both of these critical certifications so I was surprised to learn that according to ISO’s own statistics, only 0.06% of registered UK organisations (that covers everything from government departments to banks) were ISO 27001 certified.

And it’s even less prevalent in the US, one of the EU’s top trading partners, at 0.0036% of all registered companies. Given that trade often means data transfer, transferring data to a potentially unregulated destination could prove to have very serious legal and financial impacts on you and your EU-based enterprise.

Action points

The current EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC legislation is generally little understood in many areas of the EU, and in many respects quite poorly enforced. But with the recent growing number of data breaches, and GDPR coming soon, this situation will change very quickly.

GDPR and rapidly increasing cybercrime incidents mean companies must start taking data security seriously to mitigate security risks much more effectively.

This means not only auditing current internal security and data privacy procedures, but now ensuring your third party vendors offer the same high level of security.

Over the past year, the UK has suffered the greatest number of data breach incidents in the EU, with 63 by end-Q2 2015; way above Germany with 8, and the Netherlands with 6.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Analytics: understanding the whole picture

Analytics: understanding the whole picture

Data capture and the analytical information it provides is – potentially – a real game-changer in marketing, but many client-side marketers find that despite latest analytical methodologies, they still feel unable to apply this information to real-world market development.

It’s easy to understand why this is if one looks closely at the information they are attempting to work with, and this is often our first point of interest and focus when reviewing previous analytical strategies with newly-acquired clients.

The right data in the right hands?

McKinsey’s DataMatics study shows that firms in the top quartile of analytics performance were 20 times more likely to attract new clients, and more than five times more efficient at retaining existing clients than enterprises in the bottom quartile.

But while this at first glance sounds like data will offer some kind of silver bullet, the real question is: what kind of data is being utilised, how is it presented and – critically – to whom?

Too little data to go on?

The reality is that data takes many forms and these many forms can be compounded in many different and complex ways, leading users to draw conclusions that are very much at variance with the realities of their respective marketplaces.

For example, if you were to discover that your jelly-bean consumption survey data showed that everyone in the sample between 16 and 20 years of age had eaten jelly-beans and loved the colour pink it would be easy to assume that there was a strong correlation, right?

Data deficit or overload?

But what if this data hadn’t factored in the respondent’s income, and whether they could actually afford to consume jelly-beans in any meaningful quantity?

That would mean many respondents in your data had a hidden and significant bias, so where would that leave your market analysis?

The fact is the data you are studying may either be too much data or of the wrong kind, with so much information that it not only confuses, but also actually lacks the critical information you need to target your prospects accurately.

Less is more

According to McKinsey, many analytics tools focus more on issues such as brand awareness, or different methods for measuring marketing return on investment (MROI), including stuff like reach-cost-quality (RCQ) performance, marketing mix modelling (MMM), or digital attribution modelling (DA).

And while each are useful in specific situations when used discretely to highlight specific market conditions, when used together they can provide conflicting outcomes that become difficult to understand, let alone use.

They become some kind of analytical gloop. So, you will need to ask yourself ‘why is my digital agency feeding me all this stuff?’.

Disconnected connectivity

Well, there can be a wide number of reasons for this but the most probable is a two-fold issue and this requires review: firstly, your agency – given that they are driving your marketing communications – should have had a clear definition of your target audience personas and an understanding of their behaviour.

If this isn’t in place, then the analytics data you will receive will not reflect market prospect and customer behaviour, market conditions or in any meaningful way help guide the buyer on their buying journey, meaning you (and they) are effectively flying blind.

Harvesting and targeting

If you find from this article that you are actually flying blind, then you need to implement the second tier of this marketing review: speak with those in your organisation who deliver marketing communications to your audience, and work with them to define exactly what they need to know about your target markets.

And that’s the first step along this part of the road: use this information to reach out to your front-line sales team and work with them to more closely define prospect and customer personas through objective evidence. This will close a very big loop.

Meeting of minds

Having now gained a clear insight into your markets, buyer personas and buyer behaviour from both a sales and marketing perspective, you now have the empirical market intelligence you need to brief your agency partners with an accurate picture of your market.

As you do so, ensure that this now closed loop stays that way – and ensure from here on in, your marketers and sales teams feed back regular market intelligence to you.

And when you provide this market intelligence to your agency, ensure they use it to reflect the real-world market intelligence your internal teams gave you, and reflect this in the data and analytical information your teams need to successfully connect with your prospects and loyal customers.

McKinsey’s DataMatics study shows that firms in the top quartile of analytics performance were 20 times more likely to attract new clients, and more than five times more efficient at retaining existing clients than enterprises in the bottom quartile.

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

Email marketing: five simple tips to get read, and loved!

Email marketing: five simple tips to get read, and loved!

The fight for attention in recipient inboxes grows ever-more ferocious, to a point where some client-side marketers are beginning to question the validity and effectiveness of email marketing.

And while others may now view email marketing as old school, it is at the very heart of all customer relationship management (CRM) programmes, including marketing automation (MA), the current new and shiny communications channel.

What’s the problem?

One issue that we have noticed in client conversations in recent times, is that some people think that CRM and MA are solutions to prospect engagement in themselves. That is to say, flicking the CRM or MA system switch does the job alone.

This is a very long way from reality, as CRM and MA systems are just that – systems. What really matters is the communication itself, how it is written and within that, how it attracts and engages recipients. While some of this is technical, much of it is people-focused.

So here are five tips on briefing your agency, and getting your emails read:

1. Make it personal

If your contact database is properly configured, your digital agency should be able to insert the recipient’s name in the subject line, or any number of other details personal to that recipient. This adds a level of intimacy and engagement with recipients that means they’re more likely to read on.

Ask your agency to use this same data configuration and start by inserting the recipient’s name into the salutation line, so that the reader feels they are in direct and personal communication with the sender.

2. Stay visible

Research indicates that readers are spending only 15-20 seconds on scanning each email they open 1, meaning in that period your email has either had a click-through or has been dumped.

This indicates the importance of clear, visible headlines, kept above the fold (the part of the email that appears to a viewer first, without scrolling or opening) and grouping any other highly relevant information, such as important links close to the headline.

Images and even infographics above the headline may distract, so ask your agency to factor immediacy into all areas of graphic work.

3. Keep it short

Given that your email message is only going to be around for 15-20 seconds, you may think this is a good reason to keep it short. And it is. But you will find that many agency-side content writers will often want to ram as much information into a single email as is possible.

But the issue is two-fold: the longer the message, the less chance there is of content being completely read, and the more content, more links and more offers there are the more dense the message, and the less likely it is that critical click-throughs will happen.

4. Analytics: know what prospects want

Rather than firing off subsequent emails into the darkness, ask your agency to provide detailed website analytics during every campaign so you can see what links in your emails recipients are using, and what they are looking at.

That way, you can start to segment these email recipients into prospects not only through their level of interest, but by specific type of product or service interest and using segmentation, work to develop a higher level of engagement with those specifics.

5. Mixed messages

As the campaign builds, your agency’s analytics will start telling you the story of each email recipient. You will know if they responded to a link, how long they viewed it for and what else interested them while on your website.

This information is critical for accurate segmentation, allowing you to categorise these recipients (this can simply be done with an Excel spreadsheet) by where they are on their buying journey, and allowing you to separate the messaging to reflect this as the campaign moves to close the sale.

Old school?

Email is still the most effective form of marketing channel: it is a primary form of communication, and is ubiquitous. In 2013, business email accounts totalled 929 million mailboxes, and this figure is expected to grow to reach over 1.1 billion by the end of 2017 2.

And while there are those both client-side and on agency teams who will tell you email is old school, there’s something much older school that is a part of this email effectiveness and success and of equal, critical importance: laser-sharp communication.

1 EmailLabs
2 The Radicati Group

Images and even infographics above the headline may distract, so ask your agency to factor immediacy into all areas of graphic work.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom