Category Archives: Demand generation

The role of trust in content marketing

Life these days can be so complex, we don’t make the time to stop and reflect*.

In a recent piece in The Observer, Why the modern world is bad for your brainDaniel J Levitin opens with

“Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting.”

Two words immediately sprang to mind as I read this. Content marketing.

In this increasingly content-rich, multi-media, everyone-is-a-publisher world we live in, the rate of increase in additional information available to B2B buyers has exponentially outpaced the increase in the amount of time available to digest and process it.

Maybe it’s because I’m a marketer that I notice the ever-increasing tsunami of lead generation bait-disguised-as-content. You’ve all seen them – “3 reasons why these 7 killer tips will transform your business in 10 ways. Download this white paper today!” I exaggerate for effect. A bit.

Often, the content is flimsy and doesn’t live up to the hype of the headline. Yes, you’ve got my attention but is what you have to say worth hearing? Will it add real value to my day-to-day life? Does it address a common issue or problem faced by people like me? No? Then you’ve lost me and you’ve lost my trust. And if I don’t trust you I’m certainly not going to buy from you.

shutterstock_134893019 (2)

Worse still, your actions may have made me a little less trusting of content I see from other brands. So poorly conceived content marketing has the potential to undermine the trust  in (and thereby the effectiveness of) the technique for everyone.

Insights from the excellent Edelman Trust Barometer 2015** suggests trust may already be a barrier to overcome for brands seeking to acquire new customers – with over 2/3 of respondents distrusting content created by brands they do not currently use:

Edelman trust barometer - content creators

So what can marketers do to build trust into their content marketing efforts?

Here’s 3 thoughts to get the ball rolling:

  1. Make sure the content truly lives up to the promise of the headline – think more broadsheet, less tabloid.
  2. Make sure the headline addresses a known, real customer issue or pain point – not only will this help achieve cut through, this will also help your target audience to find it online (search engines were the most trusted source of general information and news in the Edelman survey)
  3. Make sure you understand the buyer’s landscape – do you know what trade publications or academics are relevant to your target audience? Can you partner with them to co-create content? Such a third-party endorsement from a trusted source will help provide validation of your content (and keep you honest in generating truly excellent work to boot)

How is your organisation using content marketing to build trust with your prospect base? Have you seen any particularly good examples of content marketing in practice? I’d love to hear from anyone with experiences and best practice to share.

**Here’s the Edelman Trust Barometer 2015

*with thanks to the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

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Sage: Trade Show Marketing how it should be done

I was at the Business Start-Up Show recently, a trade show with seminars and over 300 exhibitors targeting the small and start-up business market. I stopped by a number of stands that day, and although I was there as a ‘punter’, I couldn’t help but keep putting my B2B Marketing hat back on to critique their performance.

One business that stood out as the most impressive that day has to be Sage. As you’ll see below, from a delegate perspective they were excellent, but as a B2B Marketer myself, you could tell they had a clear and structured plan for engaging with their audience before, during and after the show:

Before:

I had pre-registered for the Business Planning Workshop that Sage were running as part of the extensive seminar programme. I was booked onto the 10.30am slot, on the first day of the show.

I got to Earls Court early, but had to take a phone call that I didn’t want to take in a queue of people, so was only able to join the substantial queue at 09.45, with doors opening at 10.00.

By about 10.15 it became clear that the queue wasn’t moving (except in length) and I was hoping that someone inside was listening when I tweeted:

Clearly, the marketing team at Sage were geared up for engaging with customers and prospects, and tweeted back, which started a conversation with the brand before I had even got into the building.

Fortunately, soon after, common sense prevailed and the organisers started letting pre-registered delegates through en masse without signing-in. I managed to get through to the Sage stand where I was met with a friendly smile and a member of staff that personally escorted me to the Business Planning Workshop, which was about to commence.

During:

The workshop was very useful, and with free planning software as a giveaway, I definitely wanted to find out more about what Sage offered as I had traditionally associated them with accounting software.

Their exhibition space was well laid out, open and inviting. There were well signposted zones for information on various product types, and I found the people friendly, knowledgeable and engaging.

Sage stand at Business Start Up 2011, Earls CourtSage stand at Business Start Up 2011, Earls Court (2)I received a demo on Sage Act! from a member of staff who was extremely patient as he ran through the demo and answered my questions.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world to push for a sale, after a 40 minute demo, but it felt to me like the strategy for the day was engagement and lead generation. I happily gave my contact details and agreed to receive a follow-up.

After visiting maybe a dozen or so other stands (and walking past all others), most appeared to lack any kind of clear strategy.

So impressed was I with my Sage experience, that on the way out, I tweeted the following, which was amplified across the business show audience by 6 retweets:

After:

A day or two later, I got a follow-up email from someone introducing themselves as my account manager, with their contact details should I have any other questions.

A couple of weeks on, I received the attached follow-up email to invite me to a webinar, the creative linking back to the exhibition and signposting a discount offer unique to attendees of the show.

Screen grab of Sage email follow-up, including show-specific discount offer

I signed up for the webinar, and had another demo today. For me, the picture is complete and I now have all the information I need and will be buying Sage Act! at some point soon.

Get a life! Why are you reviewing a trade show?!

All too often in my experience, exhibitions are criticised as a waste of money, time or both. From what I saw on the day, I’m sure for many exhibitors this was true.

However, as Sage have shown, the key to successful exhibition marketing is to have a strategy for engaging with your customers and prospects Before, During and After the show, exhibition or event.

Well done Sage, and thanks for supplying the photos of the exhibition stand and agreeing for their use in this post.

What do you think? Are you in sales or marketing and have any trade show marketing tips to share? How does your business maximise the return on investment from trade shows? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Groupon therapy anyone?

I’ve long resisted the urge to externalise my confusion around the hype surrounding Groupon. It feels like there’s this growing bandwagon that is building momentum, and like any high-profile and growing channel, it sometimes takes bravery to put your hand up and say “sorry, I don’t get this”.

After reading three excellent articles in The EconomistNew Media Age and Marketing Week this week, I’m left scratching my head and wondering if I’ve missed the point somewhere. I’m now feeling brave, so up goes my hand…

My understanding of Groupon was that its power came from a combination of reach and relevance. Targeting very localised offers would help promote local businesses and encourage product/service trial through a sales promotion.

So I signed-up. I commute into London, but my home town isn’t on Groupon. So I chose London as the nearest City, which is a compromise in itself. Here’s an example of one of these ‘local’ offers I received on day 2.

Some speed-boating fun off the Kent coast, which doesn’t feel either well targeted or relevant for my interests. I confess to having a low irritation threshold for things like this, but I’m sure I’m not alone.

But before the ‘localised’ model has been fully scaled, it seems that the strategy may be changing, and that Groupon is positioning itself as ‘an alternative form of marketing to TV or Press’, with a daily reach via email in excess of 5 million (NMA). So with the potential change of direction to focus on major and high street brands, I decided to do some maths on the recent ASOS deal, by way of an example: 

  • ASOS Sells 50,000 £20 vouchers for £11 each (Cost of discount £9 x 50,000 = £450,000)
  • According to The Economist article, Groupon ‘typically charges businesses half of the discounted price of a voucher’ (50% of £11 x 50,000 = £275,000)
  • Total cost to ASOS = £725,000. My maths tell me this works out to be a cost of £14.50 per £20 income generated (72.5%) from each of the 50,000 vouchers sold

Now, maybe the average online order value for a brand like ASOS will be able to absorb this kind of cost per acquisition within the increased basket value of the final order (I’d love to see a case study on income and profitability outcomes from this promotion).

BUT how many small, local businesses (who I thought were at the core of the original Groupon idea) can afford to spend £72.50 to attract £100 of revenue? Those that think they can may not be there to take advantage of any future business from loyal customers acquired through this channel.

Can someone enlighten me? Have you got any real-life Groupon deals where you’ve become a loyal, repeat customer off the back of a heavily discounted offer? My gut feel is that most Groupon customers are transient bargain-hunters. Or, in the words of one of my Twitter contacts, “…it’s not sustainable reach, granted – but who am I to argue with my £150 spa treatment for £24.”

Stop! I’m not (sales) ready yet!

I’m becoming nervous whenever the phone rings at the office these days. Beads of sweat start to form on my brow. 2nd ring. No number showing on the caller ID. Third ring. It’s just flashing “BT”, taunting me. Fourth ring. People around me start to give me that “aren’t you going to answer that?” look.  Get a grip, Steve. Too late. It’s gone to Voicemail. Again. 

No, fortunately, I am not being targeted by nuisance callers. So why does it feel like I am? 

There are two distinct categories that these calls seem to fall into:

1) Cold calls from agencies and suppliers who have got my name from reception or a colleague.

2) Follow-up calls from businesses that I have engaged with (e.g. by downloading a white paper, attending a webinar etc) 

My earlier post on B2B Telemarketing will tell you where I stand on the first group of people. If you’re acting on this advice, and I’m in your target audience, maybe you’ll have found this blog. 

For those businesses in the second group, you should give me the option to say “I’m just researching your category, call me in 6 months” (or similar) when I download your white paper. Yes, you’ve got my attention and I’m interested enough to want to find out more, but if I have no confirmed buying need or budget when you call, then why try to progress me through the funnel to a meeting?

Stop!

As the classic Grolsch TV ad series said; “Stop! (I’m not ready yet!)”.

So what should B2B Marketers engaging in a lead generation programme via white paper download do to improve the experience and make sure only ‘sales ready’ leads get progressed through the funnel? I suggest the following:

1) When you ask your prospect to give their contact details (and permission) to download the paper, offer them ways to tell you how ‘sales ready’ they are. If they have no budget or established buying need, your sales team will not be happy you’ve set up a meeting with them. So don’t bother just now.

2) Before the first contact, give them a reasonable amount of time to digest your paper and work out if/where/how it fits into their plans. This is a hard one to get right, but use the information they’ve given you in 1, above, and make a sensible call on a suitable timeframe.

3) Your telemarketers have two ears and one mouth. PLEASE train them to use them in that proportion. There is no greater turn-off for a B2B buyer than not being listened to. This is where ‘structured follow up’ can cross the line into ‘nuisance call’ territory.

B2B Telemarketing: 3 critical success factors

In a recent B2B Marketing Magazine feature on Telemarketing, I was interested to see that 70% of respondents to a survey of 200 B2B Marketers said that the technique was either ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ as part of their demand generation activities. With such a high number, I am still amazed to experience so many examples of it done badly.

Having managed both in-house and outsourced Telemarketing teams in the past, I have seen first-hand how powerful this technique can be for lead generation and appointment-setting campaigns. I also know how hard it is to do consistently well.

Having recently moved jobs, I have been inundated with cold calls from a wide range of marketing service providers. Some of them get the firm’s name wrong, and too many try to close an appointment without establishing if I have the time, appetite or budget to enter into any form of dialogue, no matter how exploratory.

In my experience, successful B2B Telemarketing depends on a number of critical success factors:

  1. Start with good quality data  We all have data challenges, but how have you gathered that this person is in the market for the goods or services you are about to try to sell to them, and how confident are you that the demand might be there? 
  2. Enhance it with research  I know that outbound telemarketing is often seen as a numbers game, but the art is in making the recipient of each call not feel like it is! Take time to do some basic research into the company AND the individual you are trying to target, BEFORE you pick up the phone. If you get the name of my firm wrong (as happened to me recently), this is unlikely to impress me.
  3. Hire and retain only exceptional people who are capable of building a credible rapport on the phone, sometimes over a period of several months. Demonstrating that you understand and are actively listening for information that can help me to solve a business problem will always help.

Does any of this resonate with you? Have you been on the end of great (or dreadful) B2B Telemarketing experiences? How did they make you feel, and did they win your business?