Archives For B2B

One of the things I really love to do (apart from this sort of stuff) is say “I told you so”. I know, its petty and vindictive but by god it is satisfying. I don’t get to do that very often, so I’ve lowered the bar to: “See, some smart people have done quite a bit of hard work and they’ve produced some research that confirms a hunch that I’ve kinda had for a year or two.”

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B2B, buying, purchase, decision

Playing for the same team, but not necessarily on the same side.

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I got to say that earlier in the week when this article appeared in Forbes, shining a light on group dynamics in the B2B buying process. We all know that these kind of purchases are collegiate decisions (this is one of the key differences with B2C marketing), and the research was able to put the typical size of what we call the ‘buying cell’ at 5.4 people (based on North American companies). Patrick Spenner, who wrote the article, made the implication pretty clear:

“The punchline is, if your commercial approach

isn’t attuned to group dynamics, you’re in trouble.”

So far, so expected. But the new news here is not that there are several people who need to agree on a single B2B purchase, but that the lack of agreement starts very early in the ‘buyers journey’. By the time the buying is even a third of the way through the process (typically before your marketing has even shown up), they’re arguing. And they’re generally not even arguing about the price, or even which vendor, or even the solution. In a lot of cases, they can’t even agree on the problem.

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B2B, buying group, purchase

Show where the gaps are, and you can help the group structure a more productive argument.

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Yikes!

But also: “Yay!” – that’s pretty fertile territory for creative marketers to be working: defining problems, rallying groups, offering possible approaches to problem-solving. Notice how the product (arguably the least interesting bit of B2B marketing), doesn’t get much of a look-in?

What’s interesting here is how ill-equipped ‘funnel-oriented’ marketing automation tools and technologies are to respond to ‘buying cells’ in general, let alone one that might be in open conflict. The creative opportunities lie instead in the application of a little psychology and also through partnership with publishers.

Group dynamics, illuminated.

We’ve been exploring the idea of approaches that target the ‘buying cell’ in a particular company, where the offer (of distance education or networking or custom site visits) is made on the proviso that the entire cell takes part, as a cohesive unit. We’ve also had great success with publishers who track their users, not at the individual level, but at the company or even department level. When enough people from related roles in a single company start consuming a specific type of content (say, data centre migration), you can safely assume that a major data centre migration project is being kicked around.

The question then is, what can your brand offer that is genuinely useful (no, not another whitepaper) to this group, knowing that they are probably arguing mightily about whether they even need a data centre?

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Taking your live event beyond the four walls of the venue

Whether you are planning a physical or virtual event, digital holds the promise of increasing the reach of your event far beyond either the time or place you originally intended. Your core audience is still the most valuable, particularly if they have offered you accurate profiling information during the registration or attendance phase, but you can continue to grow your audience by planning for a wider distribution of content after the event.

Before you think about how you want to distribute your event content, make sure you are clear on the ‘what’.

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#b2b events w2fm

If your objective is a full house, don’t broadcast the whole show

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A word of warning: resist the temptation to video the entire event and make all of the content available online immediately afterwards. For those who attended, you are offering no new value. In fact, it becomes a disincentive to those who made the effort to register and attend at either a fixed place or time. This is particularly important if you run a regularly-scheduled series of recurring B2B events

Increasing the supply (of information) inevitably decreases the perceived value. this is very important if your brand runs an annual or recurring series of events:  if your audience comes to expect your entire event content on demand, they will see little point in committing themselves, physically, to your event schedule. You are basically training your attendees to stay home and log on instead.

So if full-blown telecasts are out, what’s in? Take a leaf out of the television industry’s book and get into the recap businessSummaries like these make better sense for people who weren’t in the room. Or commentary by experts. Or reactions from attendees. Or a discussion by a few speakers or panelists. Or a pitch from the trade show floor. As to formats, video is the obvious answer, but it can be expensive. An audio commentary over a slideshow (either a deck or a collection of images) can work just as well, particularly now that Slideshare is part of the LinkedIn empire and is starting to become integrated into that experience in more meaningful ways.

This is the seventh instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #6 How to encourage referrals          

> Up nextin this series: #8 Reaching non-attendees

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Using social media to amplify your agenda, attract influencers and encourage high-value individuals to attend & promote.

When someone says ‘social media’ we tend to jump immediately to our own experience: using Facebook or LinkedIn or something similar.

One useful approach for Social is to think about it as traditional PR, updated for the tools and platforms of the digital age. Who are the online movers and shakers in the industry or topic your event will be covering? Who gets quoted a lot? Who publishes? Who do they work for or represent?

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b2b, events, social, profiling

Find the influencers in your field: they’re worth their weight in gold.

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The reason you might want to pursue a social influencer strategy is to utilise these individuals as a de facto media channel. An influencer is described as such because they have a large or important audience. The more closely their audience maps to yours (remember, you took time to detail who your audience is when you set your objectives), the more valuable that influencer is to your event.

Your ‘influencer audit’ is simply a list of the individuals that you want to have at and talking about your event. Your ‘outreach strategy’ is really just a simple plan of how you might approach them – the channels you might go through, the things you would say and the offers you might make. It’s important to construct a benefit for the influencer first. Also important is to have someone with working knowledge of the topic (not just the event) do the outreach.

It can be time-consuming, but getting a keynote speaker or other senior, visible expert from your brand to make the first contact can be very effective. Ideally, your speakers and company experts should be influencers too, and they can use their ‘digital eminence’ to generate interest and social coverage. There really aren’t many areas of social that you can safely ‘leave to the intern’ – influencer outreach has been off that list for a very long time.

This is the second installment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this list is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #1 Setting objectives

> Up nex in this seriest: #3: Electronic Press Kits

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Traditionally, B2B companies spend a lot of money on live events and it’s easy to see why. Once you get to the big end of town, especially with large-scale technology or finance solutions and consulting engagements, it’s hardly an “Add to cart” purchasing decision. You’re looking at long sales cycles, multiple decision-makers and a loosely defined set of ‘purchase influencers’.

While face-to-face engagement remains a crucial part of the marketing process, the fact that digital channels are now simply part of the fabric for B2B audiences means marketers have plenty of levers to pull to ensure that the investment in ‘meat space’ events continues to deliver. And creative strategists have plenty of opportunities to use content, social and mobile to create great digital customer experiences, using a live event as the base-plate.

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mobile, events. digtal, b2b

Every attendee has a broadcast studio in their pocket. What do you want them to do with it?

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We recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer). These 10 tips are a summary of what we found to be true and useful:

1. Set clear, realistic objectives for digital’s role in your event’s success.

Generally, an event is a response a business problem. That problem could be something like “Our user base is shrinking” or “We need to onboard a new brand acquisition” or “The C-suite don’t understand what our product or solution does.”

In each case, the problem rests with an audience or a target, and that’s where your objective-setting should start and end. Who are these people? What are they concerned about? What are they motivated by? And, critically, what is their relationship to digital?

Once you’ve got a handle on the audience, write down the thing that you want them to do. Do you want them to change their mind about something? Do you want them to give up some sort of profiling information? Do you want them to introduce your brand to one of their colleagues?

You might end up with a list of things you want to achieve – that’s good. Now you can assign them to digital, or the event itself, or another channel, like the sales force, or traditional PR. Get detailed and make sure you have the right tool for the job in each case. If your event is to launch a new product or solution, for example, and that’s an incredibly complex story, leave that part to the live event. Make it digital’s job to find the right people and encourage them to be there.

If you can only afford to run your live event once and your audience covers a much broader territory, make it digital’s job to broadcast as much of the event as possible to people who would like to come, but can’t physically be there. Think about what your audience use digital (mobile & social in particular) to do, and play to those strengths. Don’t ask digital to create trusted networks and thriving communities, when you know your audience prefer to make connections face-to-face.

Once you have that sorted, it’s time for a very serious and important question: Why on earth would they do that? What would I have to give them in exchange? What’s your answer when they ask you ‘What’s In It For Me?’

> Up next in this series: #2 How to Identify influencers & manage outreach

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Re-designing Demand Gen is hard.

So, if Demand Generation is all wrong, what’s the right way to build leads for b2b? There’s no easy answer (yeah, sorry about that), but we’re starting to see plenty of experiments and some successes using the new ‘favourite sons’ of the comms world: branded content, social media and, to a lesser degree, mobile.

I’m fairly certain none of these are the answer.

At least not on their own. And that’s where the next great trick of B2B marketing will have to be performed: making this stuff work as scale and at velocity. How do you get it humming, quarter after quarter, across markets both mature and emerging, in service of a portfolio of complex, inter-related products?

This is where systems thinking starts to shine. Instead of channels, we’re thinking infrastructure. Instead of messages, we’re thinking stories.  Instead of campaigns, we’re thinking education (in both directions). Perhaps, most importantly, instead of sales & marketing functions, we’re thinking systems of engagement.

Boiling the ocean: also hard.

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The more you start to think about all this stuff, about tearing it down and re-building it, about making common sense more common across all your markets, about establishing frameworks and operating procedures, the more you want to just go and find a shady tree to lie under. Sometimes I think it’s partly the reason we wind up churning out the same tactics in the same channels to ever diminishing applause: compared to this grand, uncharted territory of systems, at least we actually know how to buy a list and pump out the emails.

But that’s kind of boring.

Actually, it’s deadly boring. So we keep sketching and tinkering and experimenting (like we’ve always done), except now we’re also keeping an eye on the grand design, thinking about how that cool idea or interesting tactic or growing social platform might function if it were designed, from the ground up, to be a replicable, scalable and tune-able component of a system.

It’s actually quite liberating to recognise that the world (both ours and the audience’s) is not going to stand still long enough that we can ‘play god’ and re-design everything, perfectly, theoretically, as a completely fresh re-boot.

Instead, it makes more sense to apply the theory of responsive design to Demand Generation as a practice: create something, observe how people react to it, make the changes their behaviours seem to demand.

I wonder what that would look like?

The prevailing theory of Demand Generation starts from the premise that you (or your client) has got a fairly decent supply of something that you want to sell – all you need to do is provoke/cajole/plead/badger people into wanting it so badly they will exchange hard currency for it.

That’s the “Generation” in Demand Gen – actually creating or conjuring something that didn’t really exist before. Which is true enough for a lot of B2C, particularly premium goods, luxury items and even a whole bunch of FMCG product. Stuff you didn’t even know you needed until someone convinced you that you just had to have it. That’s pretty much all of everything that’s stocked on Orchard Rd, really.

I never even thought of that! Oh, wait.

But I’m not sure it holds true for most of big-end-of-town-stye B2B. Does a company wake up one morning not even thinking about, say, storing their data or giving their employees the tools to do their individual tasks, and then somehow gets convinced to that storage or cloud access would be a great new idea?

Sure, there are the occasional new tech breakthroughs that might require true ‘Demand Gen’, all the way from education through to purchase. But even then, if you look at it in the context of need (the quarter inch hole), rather than product (the quarter inch drill bit), it’s unlikely the primary task is to make more people want holes.

You don’t even know the meaning of thirsty!

The trouble with Demand Gen is that there is often a physical limit to the size of the market, even in B2C. Kids in many countries in Asia, for example, are already chugging Milo or Coke at pretty much maximum daily capacity of liquified intake. The challenge is to design and normalise entirely new moments (and modes) of consumption (coke ice blocks, Milo energy bars) just to eke out new demand where none previously existed.

But a company doesn’t behave like a thirsty kid (unless your kid is a psychopath). It doesn’t pursue leisure or pleasure – it only purchases what it functionally needs, and often it purchases less than that, at least over the short term. Can you convince someone that driven to want something they fundamentally don’t believe they need?  Seems too much like hard work to me.

Why do Demand Generation when you can do Demand Capture?

Seems more elegant, right? Rather than toiling to build something out of nothing, it should be more efficient to observe and respond to demand that is already there. But if that sounds like lazy (hu)man’s marketing, your’re right. The trick is to do it more obsessively, more effectively, more quickly, more cunningly than anyone else you’re competing against. To set traps, lay bait, remain silent, lie in wait and capture the little wisps of something that are floating by on the air: the nascent, latent demand that is yet to be truly demanded.

Nice trick, but how? *

* Not a theoretical question.

The turning of the calendar tends to provoke a little reflection: year-in-reviews are a staple of long-term agency-client relationships. But it’s also a great opportunity to turn this reflection into projection.

Rather than sitting back, waiting for the briefs to roll in and hoping to uncover the creative opportunity, we’re starting by identifying the sort of work that the collective team should really be pursuing in the year ahead, looking at what we’ve learned from the previous year’s activities and talking about what we’d like to improve on and experiment with to generate better results. It’s the classic Direct Marketing approach of Test, Learn & Optimise, but scaled up to fit the brand ambition for a calendar year.

There are four areas that I believe offer scope for creativity, innovation and results in B2B marketing this year:

1. Content (as kingmaker)

I witnessed first-hand the incredible rush to content as a cure-all for the B2B marketing blues at last year’s SXSW and spent much of 2011 pursuing different types of branded-content projects, with varying degrees of success. We looked at a range of formats, from live webcasts and serialised feature articles, to infographics and even the good old-fashioned printed newsletter. We also experimented with a variety of production and distribution models, including content syndication,  media partnerships, outsourced white-label production and inhouse agency-brand collaborations.

And what we learned was:

  • people (and their expertise) make for the most compelling content
  • media partnerships struck without editorial buy-in are asking for trouble
  • snackable and shareable versions will improve reach, particularly through social channels
  • authenticity is difficult. It is also absolutely critical.

While the common wisdom suggests that content is king, I would argue that content should ultimately be in the service of the brand, pledging its allegiance to the noble task of generating leads. Content’s real role in the marketing mix, is as kingmaker.

And that’s where the real opportunity/challenge lies – not in creating and distributing compelling content, but in setting up clear pathways that lead the audience from that compelling content, through to engagement with what the brand has to offer. In B2B, the standard by which branded content must be held, is demand generation. Not easy, but it’s got to be the only game in town.

Next up, opportunity #2: platform thinking. Getting away from the tactic-by-tactic mindset can be difficult when the business is driven by quarter-to-quarter numbers. But, just maybe, there is a way. Stay tuned.