Content Marketing is the new shiny object in the marketing world. It seems like it all started with the term, “content is king”, coined by Bill Gates in 1996 – 21 years ago. In the last few years, the marketing industry has finally started to put some methodology behind “content marketing” as a discipline. According to Deloitte, we are about 3 years into using “content marketing” as a tool to reach potential customers. Not everyone has figured out how to be successful with their content marketing efforts yet. In fact, at this point, many companies are flooding the marketing with their “content” without a plan. This is causing their customers to get distracted and affecting sales goals. Therefore, a “content strategy” is needed to guide customers through their journey also known as the sales funnel.
So what is the difference between Content Strategy and Content Marketing?
Content Strategy – “the plan”
The plan for how a company will use content to fulfill a need, or solve a problem for its customer, while simultaneously helping it achieve a business goal. This plan should span brand and all product lines within the company. When companies don’t have a strategy in place companies often produce too much content that is disparate, depletes resources and becomes ineffective due to lack of direction.
Content Marketing – “the action”
Development of assets throughout the funnel that target specific personas with the purpose of inspiration and education. Providing this kind of information to customers and potential customers reinforces brand, delights our customers, gives us credibility as an expert in the field and creates advocates.
The key is 3 fold:
Themes must ladder back to the brand and product messages, addressing each target audience need at each level of the funnel. It is a lot to sift through and still come up with a set of always-on unique and inspiring content. Organizations must agree cross-functionally on the message, the stories, the themes and the tactics. This agreement, in and of itself, can be a major time suck. It takes a special person to align several organizations on a plan that can consume 30%-50% of their budget.
Infiltrating your content throughout all your marketing programs is incredibly important. Writing a blog that links to a whitepaper or some educational content is ideal but, simply placing it on your company website will not drive traffic and will be an expensive disappointment. Driving readers to the blog from your brand and product webpages, demand generation, 3rd party platforms, email, social media (internal and external), IB newsletters and leveraging channel partner will yield views and downloads you will get excited about.
There is a big difference in throwing knowledge out in the world randomly vs. building a relationship with your customers by giving them the information they need and at the right moment. Building a content strategy that aligns with the brand and product messages and leads the customer through the sales funnel by telling the right stories, at the right place in the customer journey with content that is relevant and in the right format takes time and thought.
In the customer journey, make it easy for your customer to:
Last, make your content relevant to your target audience and ensure you are writing content that will help your customer succeed. You really don’t want to talk about yourself the whole time. In fact, you don’t want to talk about the benefits of your product until you get to the education level of the funnel. Consider relationships, when you meet someone you don’t talk about yourself the whole time. If you do, that person will likely not want to talk to you again. In the beginning of a relationship, we should be focusing on each other, what makes the other tick, what inspires or drives them. Ascendiosa can help your organization disrupt with content strategy and execution of marketing programs.
Author: Joanna Coburn drives integrated marketing strategies and best practices to improve marketing effectiveness, sales, and bottom line results.
Chief Financial Officers today are tasked with more than closing the books and reporting on what happened, surviving disruption depends on innovation in three key areas:
Planning – working with the senior management team to develop strategic initiatives, resource allocation and tax strategies.
Analysis – discovering and recognizing trends both internal and external to the organization to minimize risks that affect financial performance over time.
Technology – identifying and evaluating hardware and software solutions that will improve operating outcomes.
In the past, organizations spent thousands, even millions implementing the latest and greatest software to control “payroll” (insert any major expense line item here). Once this major expenditure is made, the finance department comes behind the implementation and says “we need to report key performance indicators to monitor what is happening”.
Recently a major healthcare provider implemented an innovative time keeping system at great expense, because management expected all locations to staff to the current census. But the team failed to integrate this data to its patient accounting. What was the result? Manual spreadsheets to track and report these KPI’s, resulting in delays in reporting, resulting in minimal effect on management expectations.
Let’s stop here and ask some very difficult questions:
What can CFO’s do to help make information more timely, accurate and relevant?
Are key measurements available to decision makers?
Are spreadsheets sufficient?
Organizations that rely on spreadsheets to close the books or analyze trends often fail to accurately and swiftly identify data trends that can improve performance. The disruptive CFO recognizes that technological investments made in enterprise application software and cloud technologies properly implemented held the key for improved performance. Investments in blockchain and machine learning technology may hold the keys for finance to create disruptive advantage by improving data integrity and identifying unseen data trends faster. Successful CFO’s challenge the status quo daily and one of the key status quo challenges is data integrity and visualization.
By its very nature, disruptive technology does not affect you until your competitor, or you, implement it. Do you need a competitive advantage over your competitors? Do you think your competitors are looking for an advantage over you? The race is on. Disrupt or risk disruption.
Author: Wayne Hegwood is a Chief Financial Officer with experience disrupting across technology and healthcare industries.
Marketing spend is on the rise. For the past three years, B2C and B2B organizations have increased the amount they spend on marketing as a percent of revenue by 7% 1. Confirmed by Gartner, most organizations reported an uptick in spending for marketing, 7 to 8% increase over prior years 2. Does this mean life is easier with more marketing support or death for all the Willie Lomans out there?
Today’s benchmark for marketing spend today is 8 - 12% of revenues, depending on the type of business, size and growth stage. This increase over the historical 5 - 7% in spend is due primarily to the change in buying behavior, known as the buyer’s journey.
Today’s B2B buyers complete 57 to 70% of the journey before engaging a seller; that’s right, two-thirds of the journey is completed before the buyer engages a seller. For many B2C and SaaS companies, the journey is nearly 100%. Half of all consumers under 50 check references using the web before buying. 3
72% of B2B buyers start their journey using Google, not the yellow pages
48% of B2B buyers report purchasing goods directly from supplier sites 4
46% of respondents expect to increase their online purchasing next year
41% feel comfortable purchasing any type of product category online
In response, market leaders are moving to digital channels for marketing and sales. Amazon is winning the retail war. Giant GE has put its catalogs online. Auto and truck fleet sales are conducted entirely online today. Services such as insurance and finance have moved out of the agent’s office or bank and on to internet; it’s never been easier to discover, evaluate, compare and decide upon which financial offering suits you best.
Does the rise of digital engagement mean death for Willie Loman and other sales personel? Not yet, but Forrester Research forecasts 3.5 million B2B sellers in 2020, down from the 4.5 million in 2012. 5
So what does this mean for your organization? Allocating people, time and money is often a zero-sum game. Upping the spend on marketing may not feel as comfortable as hiring Willie Loman and assigning him a quota. Spending on marketing that improves the buyer’s journey, provides insight to you and the buyer, and makes the transaction easier to complete is an essential step in the right direction. Establishing clear roles and rules to govern activities is another essential step. Linking metrics to rewards that align those roles and rules is the key missing ingredient many operations miss. Ascendiosa can help.
2. Gartner for Marketers 2017, pg. 4
3. http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/19/online-shopping-and-e-commerce/pi_2016-12-19_online-shopping_0-02/ December 16, 2016
5. Forrester Research as reported in https://www.internetretailer.com/trends/b2b-ecommerce/massive-downturn-ahead-jobs-b2b-sales-reps/
Sellers were not achieving their goals. Industry guidelines and peer group comparison indicated that 60% of the sales team should be attaining quota, yet in this case the inverse was true. Overall sales were trending down 6% a year while the market was growing. Sales leadership had been transitioned, turned over that is; yet the trend continued. Was it time for another shave of the sales leadership? That was the simplest answer, the CEO cited Occam’s Razor 1.
Digging into the data, some disturbing trends emerged, top performers were leaving the company. The same people who appeared in the top 60th percentile of quota attainment were leaving, year over year. When exit interviews had been conducted, the common reason for leaving was “better opportunity.” We put more research into the top performers who jettisoned over the past year. Forty-one percent had moved to competitive upstarts and related how they were continuing their success. Unanimously, all the exited top performers pointed to the enhanced or improved product they were now selling.
At the same time we were digging into win-loss details, this was a new concept for the organization. During the thirty plus interviews, we discovered buyers had a higher perception of competitive offers, service and value.
The findings were met with disbelief, denial by the executive team; this was a market leading firm, with superior products and services.
Our assessment continued to shave away at the executive hypothesis that sales needed a refresh. Marketing leads converted to 9% revenue, well below industry standards of 19-25%. Fewer prospects were evaluating products on this organisation's website versus others, and the numbers showed gradual erosion. Price compression, measured by average selling price, was 8% per annum. While the number of support calls remained flat, the number of escalations was rising monthly. We continued to accumulate evidence until we had shaved the executive hypothesis clean, exposing which product strategies needed refreshed.
Organisations often misdiagnose growth challenges as shortfalls of strategy or execution in marketing and sales. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees, when you’re standing in the forest. People often forget, William of Ockham’s original inductive razor referred to distinguishing between two hypotheses either by "shaving away" unnecessary assumptions or cutting apart two similar conclusions; it is not “the simplest explanation is usually correct.”
Want to know if your product strategy is keeping up with market conditions? Before your top talent jettisons? Ascendiosa can help.
Not all customers are created equal, some have a much higher propensity to buy. Can your team put a bullseye on those most valuable customers, focusing marketing, sales and support to ensure resources are allocated properly? Can your team create an ideal customer or buyer profile? Did you know that Ideal Customers are ten times less likely to churn or leave, than those that don't fit the profile?
Your most valuable customers cost less to acquire and are more profitable. Now, what attributes do they have? At the basic level there are five steps to identifying your most valuable customers.
Define the objective along with 5 to 7 variables that are distinct and contribute to the outcome. Test for dependency. Demographics or firmographics such as annual revenue, profit, industry, employees, people in the household, miles from a certain location, number of purchases, value of purchases, and so on. This exercise requires a fundamental understanding of the outcome and contributing variables. It also requires a certain amount of curiosity and bias aversion. Are there outliers, not in your current data set, that drive the outcome? Consider weather, commodities, consumer confidence, wholesale price index or other publicly available data.
Take all the data from your records, all the customers who bought in the past 6-months or year, filter out those 5 to 7 defined contributing variables and calculate the mean and standard deviation for each.
For every customer in the set, compute difference between the values in that customer and the entire set, divide by the standard deviation of the set. This yields standard scores between the variables so they can be compared on the same scale.
Next, compute the summary score for each customer or the average of its standard scores.
Order the customers from high to low based on those summary scores and the desired outcome. Watch for the patterns to emerge, you’re now ready to build your propensity to buy formula. Customers above the 80th percentile are your most valued customers. Now you can apply your resources to prospects who look like those customers; and focus your support efforts on the top 80th percentile.
Does this approach apply to B2B, B2C, and Non-profit? Yes. Start-ups or enterprise sized organizations? Definitely.
What if you don’t have the all data necessary? Companies like Dun & Bradstreet make a living compiling and cataloguing data on businesses. Geospatial and consumer data is more readily available today than ever before. If you need data to fill in some blanks, there’s a list for that.
Getting started requires your organization to do some primary research up front; structured interviews with personnel, buyers, consumers is a great place to start. Validate and refine the contributing variables. Be mindful of bias, look for the outliers. The reward for running this exercise is championship performance, can your team afford anything less? Ascendiosa can help.
Author: Mark Miller is Ascendiosa's Chief Commercial Officer