Monthly Archive: October 2013

B2B Buyers And Sellers Not Speaking The Same Language

One of the dangers of blindly accepting that “Every company is a media company” is the very real problem of the wealth of material brands create today. Some of it is pure gold, but most of it is garbage. Nevertheless, let’s not quibble over the frequency or the low quality of branded content today. Instead, let’s examine the topics, or “the what” that B2B brands choose to focus on and share.

McKinsey analysts queried more than 700 global executives across the six sectors, asking them to evaluate the brand strengths of their primary and secondary suppliers. Unfortunately, the analysts found a large disconnect between the messaging brands deliver and the information buyers want.

Themes such as social responsibility, sustainability, and global reach, which many B2B companies cast in a leading role for brand imaging, appeared to have a minimal influence on buyers’ perceptions of brand strength. The inverse was true, as well: two of the most important themes for customer perceptions of brand strength—effective supply chain management and specialist market knowledge—were among those least mentioned by B2B suppliers. Honest and open dialogue, which customers considered most important, was one of the three themes not emphasized at all by the 90 companies in our sample. In addition to these disconnects, our analysis showed a surprising similarity among the brand themes that leading B2B companies emphasized, suggesting a tendency to follow the herd rather than create strongly differentiated brand messages.

Honest and open dialogue, specialist market knowledge and effective supply chain management are the things that matter most to buyers of business-to-business products and services.

The need to focus on what buyers consider important is such a fundamental concept in marketing communications; yet, it’s one even seasoned pros can overlook to their detriment.

If we turn this lens on the client-agency relationship, I think we can apply the learnings above and also consider what Doug Weaver, founder and CEO of Upstream Group, has to say on the matter.

Get right to the point and share valuable insights that earn the client’s attention and respect. And don’t assume there will be a second meeting.

Weaver adds the clients are not looking for another friend. Instead, they are looking for someone to bring them assets, insight, knowledge or escape routes that they really need.

Inbound on the Content Expressway, Outbound on the Bridge to the Bank

A lot of people are preaching the virtues of content marketing today. On the one hand, I am encouraged that the tide for content is rising.

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On the other hand, I am put off by the sheer volume of bad information and missing information. Which is why I appreciate this reporting from eConsultancy regarding the need for outreach as a necessary compliment to any inbound marketing your company is currently doing.

The hard bit of achieving exposure is obviously the outreach that comes after you’ve produced the content.

Search Laboratory’s John Readman said this requires a well-executed programme and process that begins with research into what your audience wants and who the key influencers are.

The implied next step here is to use a sophisticated approach to CRM, and wise use of outbound marketing materials like email, direct mail, events and so on to “surround the prospect in the buyersphere of influence,” as Oracle’s Jill Rowley likes to say.

When you focus on making high quality evergreen content, it can be a great source of inbound traffic. Hence, the term “social currency.” What’s important to understand is you can’t extract value from your content offerings, or your social currency, until you first convert the currency from social to real. To do this you must build a bridge from your free content offering to a revenue opportunity. Otherwise, you end up stuck on an island with a ton of social currency, but no place to spend it.

Now, how do you build this bridge from Social Currency Island to the mainland where all the stores and banks are located? That is the $64,000 question today. If I answer it here and now for free, will it boost my social capital? Of course it will!

You tie your customers’ digital experiences to real life experiences and then back again to digital in a virtuous loop of high touch relationship marketing.

Please contact me if you’d like to take a deeper dive into what this means for your company and particular market situation. Or I will contact you (via email, direct mail, at an event, etc.) as part of my commitment to a balanced inbound-outbound content strategy.

Search Is Friction; But We Can Humanize Product Searches For Best Results

Mashable is running a feature on the future of e-commerce.

I really like this pro-employment, high-touch prediction from Chuck Cohn, CEO of Varsity Tutors.

Many consumers appreciate the assistance of a real person when it comes to certain types of shopping. Technology will enable companies to provide a concierge-style service that will use underlying personalization algorithms to allow a real person to make recommendations to you. The added personalization of human reps will be justified by far more meaningful and long-lasting relationships with the consumer. Trust will be built, and consumers will grow accustomed to outsourcing much of the online shopping experience to a personal assistant.

I can think of many applications for this kind of service that blends technology with human ingenuity and care. Let’s take wine — it’s a two billion dollar a year industry in Oregon alone. There are hundreds of wineries, each with several vintages and varietals. Buying Oregon wine is complex; therefore, a human concierge with access to one’s buying preferences and purchase history may be able to help.

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Recently, Evan Williams, native Nebraskan and founder of Blogger and Twitter spoke at XOXO, a year-two conference for nerd elite in Portland. According to Wired, Williams said the internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want.”

“Convenience on the internet is basically achieved by two things: speed, and cognitive ease.” In other words, people don’t want to wait, and they don’t want to think — and the internet should respond to that. “If you study what the really big things on the internet are, you realize they are masters at making things fast and not making people think.”

Searching databases is not fast. Searching Google is not fun.

Say you have a keen interest in 2007 Pinot Noir from a short list of favorite Dundee Hills producers. Finding available cases of this 2007 pinot is an involved search, one that requires the delicate hand of a new kind of technician to scout the data and report back with significant findings.

I think an opt-in program where buyers willingly “teach the machine” about individual preferences so the data service knows when to send alerts and activate a customer service call is a pretty big idea.

We may think of the phone as friction today, but the phone is not friction when your personal buyer is calling with the low down on the case of wine you were tracking. Rather, it’s a quick confirmation with a trusted paid advisor.