5 Takeaways from the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum

October 22, 2015

B2B Forum

B2B marketers agree their world is changing fast. Tools and tactics and media that didn’t exist 20 years ago (a sampling: social media, marketing automation, search engines, content marketing) dominate our marketing efforts. Meanwhile, we are still searching for the right perspectives and the right approaches to make the best use of these new ways of reaching our audiences.

MarketingProfs’s B2B Marketing Forum was created to help with these issues. The Forum, which is taking place this week in Boston, featured scores of speakers who shared new ways to think about B2B marketing. Here are five key takeaways from the Forum:

Rethink the funnel.

Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google, doesn’t like the funnel. “I hate funnels, and I hate you if you like them,” he joked during his keynote speech, which kicked off the Forum on Wednesday. Instead of pushing buyers through a metaphorical funnel, Kaushik encouraged marketers to view their prospects and customers in the four stages of their “intent.” For any business’s potential customers, he defined four stages of intent: See, Think, Do, Care. The “See” cluster is the largest addressable qualified audience. For example, Kaushik described a financial institution whose “See” cluster (its broadest target audience) was people who had responsible spending habits and complex financial needs. This financial institution defined the “Think” cluster as people who are gainfully employed and have had a life-changing event. In the “Do” cluster are people in the later stages of financial decision. And in the “Care” cluster are not just customers but loyal customers who have been with the financial institution for more than two years. Ultimately, Kaushik said visualizing potential buyers by their intent, which we can discern by their online behavior, is a far superior approach than the traditional strategy of viewing prospects by their demographics.

Tap into the knowledge of your community.

Lee Odden, CEO at TopRank Online Marketing, opened up his session at the Forum with some staggering statistics: 90% of consumers trust peer generated content and 64% of B2B IT professionals say user generated content helped them solve a problem. The wisdom (and power) within your community presents a golden opportunity, Odden said. He encouraged us all to dive headfirst into Participation Marketing, which he defined as "the democratization of content creation and promotion by co-creating content with subject matter experts, influencers and your community." He outlined some key benefits of B2B co-content creation: the authenticity factor, quality, variety, reach, and scale. “When you co-create, you add credibility and visibility," Odden said. For more tips from Lee and his team, check out their brand new Participation Marketing Toolkit.

Focus on building trust over traffic.

When it comes to content, stop obsessing about traffic – that’s the advice of Mark Schaefer, author of “The Content Code.” Traffic to our websites and our blogs, he says, is merely a barrage of tourists. Instead, marketers should focus on building trust. Trust is how you activate what Schaefer calls your “alpha network,” the people who share your content. On average, we actually don't share content that often. According to Twitter, we retweet just one out of every 316 tweets we see. When we do share, we are considered a highly engaged audience. These are the people who are your alpha network. And members of your alpha network are more likely to look to your brand for consistency, for differentiation, and more. So, it's not just about the content. It's about finding and nurturing the people that are going to share that content for you.

Marketers, reach out to your sales team.

Carlos Hidalgo, CEO of Annuitas and author of the new book, “Driving Demand: Transforming B2B Marketing to Meet the Needs of the Modern Buyer,"said that the transformation of the buyer’s journey requires new approaches from marketing teams. With a smart phone, any buyer can discover what they want to know about our companies with a few swipes. To reach this highly informed buyer requires companies to align their people, process, and technology, Hidalgo said. As part of this alignment and becoming a customer-centric organization, Hidalgo encouraged all B2B marketers to reach out to their sales department. He recommended that marketers include the sales team in developing buyer personas. He also said marketers should accompany the salespeople on sales calls to get a more concrete sense of what customers want. And marketing should ask exactly what salespeople want from the marketing team – and ask what the salespeople what their opinion is of your current efforts. “You’ll probably need thick skin,” he warned. But the effort is essential in building a more buyer-centric organization.

Build your content strategy around big rocks.

B2B marketers, as a group, fret that they cannot create enough quality content for their audiences. Jason Miller, group manager-content marketing at LinkedIn, shared his solution for this problem: Big Rock Content. Big Rocks is the name Miller gives to large and ambitious pieces of content, such as eBooks, which can help marketers with their content production conundrum. An eBook should answer a critical question being asked by a marketer’s audience.

In LinkedIn’s case, Miller created an eBook to answer the question marketers were asking about how to get the most from LinkedIn. The subsequent eBook, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, answered the question. The eBook, which was more than 70 pages, was full of content that was ripe for repurposing. Cutting it up like a leftover Thanksgiving turkey, Miller used “turkey slices” from the eBook to create infographics, blog posts, and more. This plan of repurposing content helps solve the not-enough-content issue. In promoting the ebook, Miller and his team used the LinkedIn platform, creating content for Company Pages, LinkedIn SlideShare, and Publishing on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a powerful social media tool: Research shows it produces 80% of B2B social media leads. A new guide, the LinkedIn Content Marketing Tactical Plan, gives marketers a daily playbook for raising brand awareness, building relationships, demonstrating thought leadership, and driving leads and ultimately revenue on LinkedIn. Download your free copy here.

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