The following is a guest post from Ardath Albee. Ardath is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. Ardath is a frequent industry speaker and author of the popular Marketing Interactions blog and the recently released book “eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale”. (I highly recommend it!). Ardath just spoke to the Cisco partner community last week on the importance of developing a content marketing strategy. Read her post below for more insights and actions you can take today to build a content strategy that will help you increase lead quantity and quality.
Frost & Sullivan conducted an Executive Benchmark Assessment recently that asked 250 B2B marketers to provide information about their marketing processes. What they learned shores up just how critical it is for marketers to develop personas they can use to help them improve the outcomes of their marketing programs.
Here are a couple of sobering statistics:
Less than 25% say the demand they generate satisfies their sales teams.
Only 33% have an effective lead nurturing process.
Barely 53% said they have sufficient content to support multiple messages.
These results are an obvious indication that marketers do not know their prospects well enough to engage them across the course of their buying process to sales readiness. Personas can change that.
The use of social media as an integral part of marketing continues to be a popular discussion topic amongst our partners – and the general population of B2B marketers, I think. Recent conversations with Cisco partners range from those that are actively utilizing social media in their marketing mix and just want to know how to do it better to some that have yet to give it a try. Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, information about how IT decision makers are leveraging social media is critical.
A few years ago, Toolbox.com and PJA embarked on a multi-year study of social media use among global IT decision makers and influencers. The latest iteration of this study, completed in January 2010, is now available.
Here are some key findings of the study along with some potential implications for you and your social media marketing strategy:
1) Social media consumption among IT executives and professionals has leveled off, but continues to outpace vendor and editorial content consumption
Things to think about: Although, not necessarily the death knell for online editorial media or vendor-produced white papers, webcasts and such, this does indicate the growing reliance of IT professionals on social media and user-generated content. Knowing that IT professionals spend nearly 30% more time each week reviewing social media content versus vendor content can be a decent data point when trying to convince your management team that participating in social media is important to your marketing efficacy. For those of you already utilizing social media for marketing to IT decision makers, this gives some justification to keep doing what you’re doing and possibly to expand. It also should make you want to find those social media outposts where IT decision makers are spending their time.
With over 400 million users, it’s no surprise that many B2B focused companies, including Cisco and its partners, are creating Facebook pages. Creating the page is the easy part, but you’re there to market to and build brand awareness with customers and prospects. It’s about driving your business. Which means, you have to find a way to make people want to join your Facebook page. It’s one thing to passively like a brand and another to click that “like” button and publicly acknowledge that you are a fan of a particular brand or company in full view of friends and colleagues. So how do you motivate someone to take that step? Here are 10 things that can help:
Create Exclusive Content – Valuable, relevant content is a cornerstone of marketing these days. Facebook is no different. Ask yourself what content you can provide to your users on Facebook that you won’t offer anywhere else. By offering exclusive content on Facebook, you immediately attach value to your page and give users a reason to join and provide a powerful motivator to share with their own networks.
Ask Questions and Take Polls – A primary characteristic of social media is “engagement”. You want people to interact with you via Facebook, as well as, other platforms. To drive interactivity, be genuinely curious and ask questions. For example, ask your users to comment on the content you’re posting. This is a good litmus test to ensure your exclusive content is truly resonating with your audience. To get broader feedback, use polls within your Facebook page.
Having just completed the third out of four Cisco Partner Velocity Workshops, my head is full of ideas generated by dozens of conversations with partners and comments from our event evaluation forms. One conversation stands out a little for me. A partner asked me where I get my ideas from. My answer to this is “everywhere”. Outside of the conversations I have with Cisco partners, vendors, and marketing colleagues across the company, I read a lot… and I mean A LOT. I read everything I can get my hands on – books, white papers, blogs (see my blog roll), magazines… you name it. If it has words on it, I will read it. Here’s the deal though, not all of these are business-oriented or marketing-oriented. Don’t get me wrong. A good portion are directly relevant to me as a marketer and to what I do here at Cisco. But definitely not all.
Here’s an example. Right now I am reading “This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of Human Obsession” by Daniel Levitin. You’re probably thinking “what’s that got to do with anything marketing related?” Think about movies and how the music score influences your experience, commercial jingles, theme songs for television shows, and yes… music as a branding tool. Think about the sounds your computer makes when you boot up and shut down. And I’m sure you’ve heard the Cisco audio identity sounds at some point, including at the end of our human network commercials.
Will I come away from reading this book with new marketing program ideas for our partners? Maybe. We’ll have to see. I just started reading the book after all. My point is, ideas to help you evolve and elevate your marketing can be found in places you wouldn’t normally look.
I point this out because there were several comments from partners at the Velocity Workshops wanting more partner examples of marketing best practices. Totally understandable. Here’s how we prioritized the examples used within our workshops:
Two weeks ago, we launched the Cisco Partner Velocity Workshops with our first event in Atlanta, Georgia. These workshops are a new way for us to provide our partners with a deep dive on some innovative marketing stratgies and tactics that they can use to enhance their marketing efforts.
By all accounts, the content and event as a whole were well received by our partners. But don’t make my word for it…. We captured some feedback from our partners using our FLIP cameras, so you can hear directly from them what they learned at the Velocity Workshop and how they can apply these new ideas to their own businesses.