Demand Generation for the C-Suite: How to Hit the Right Spot

Blog Post Originally Published in BtoB Magazine

Marketers are constantly under pressure to prove value by bringing in leads for sales. This in turn creates a vicious cycle where marketers will cast a wide net in hopes of bringing in as many hand-raisers as possible. It’s not always a win-win, as oftentimes those don’t turn out to be quality leads. Today, it’s a different ballgame: We need to shift to a more targeted accounts-based approach, which means creating content and messaging to support the many buyers and influencers throughout the buying process—especially C-suite. Let’s face it— the holy grail of marketing is to get to the influencers— the C-suite—who have the ultimate say in how an organization invests its dollars.

I recently spoke on a panel titled Demand Gen for the C-Suite, sponsored by Loop Demand, alongside C. Edward Brice (@cedwardbrice), senior VP-worldwide marketing at Lumension Security.  I’ve summarized some of the interesting tips from that panel in a two-part Q&A blog series with Ed. Here’s part one:

Why is it important to target the C-suite in your demand-generation efforts?

Brice: Let me first say that my point of view comes from what we observe in the buying process as an IT security software company. I believe that the C-suite is more involved in the operational side of the business than in the past—and maybe even more than what has been traditionally perceived. I suppose there could be a few C-level executives locked away in the mahogany halls of the ivory tower somewhere, kept away from all the dysfunction of the day, but I haven’t encountered that in my own environment or in our customers’ environments. I find that most C-level leaders are either searching for answers to operational problems or researching best practices, strategic issues and emerging trends.

The C-level isn’t going to take a cold call or enthusiastically sit through a sales-oriented or product-centered webcast, so make sure your demand gen efforts are holistic by developing content across key topics that these individuals will find relevant, and deliver that content through appropriate channels.

How does this differ from your traditional demand-generation marketing campaigns?

Brice: Here’s an example: In our annual program planning, we identify key problems or scenarios. Then, we develop content, which is based on the context of a buyer’s journey, that’s designed to help drive inquiries and convert those inquiries into opportunities to support our sales cycle. We don’t intentionally target C-level folks with these messages, because they really aren’t our primary target audience. We then have thought leadership topics that we consider the industry’s hot topics, and we develop content related to these topics, which may be targeted to C-level roles. The objective with this content is to educate and to deliver our point of view on these hot topics, and to provide recommendations for company execs to consider in developing a strategy.

CEOs and other C-level executives are guarded by many gatekeepers. How can you pierce those corporate shells and get to the right people?

Brice: A few years back, Sirius Decisions did an interesting study that identified three major roles that a C-level leader plays across a buying cycle: Champion (guides the buying process); ratifier (validates and signs the PO); and influencer (advises throughout the buying process). I think in most cases it may be more effective to focus on producing relevant content across a buyer’s journey than spending 100 percent of your effort on trying to reach the C-level. It’s likely that they are part of the process anyway, but may or may not be driving the process. There are times, of course, where you’re trying to educate the market on a very new and innovative strategy, and that might require a more C-level-targeted approach.

In my next blog, I will write about content marketing for the C-suite.

Quit Blogging And Go With…Facebook?

Blog Post Originally Published in BtoB Magazine

Wayne Usie (@waynejusie), SVP of Retail at JDA Software, recently shared a USA Today article with me titled, “More Companies Quite Blogging, Go With Facebook Instead,” by Roger Yu. According to the article, more companies are replacing blogs with nimbler tools requiring less time and resources, such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

Why? Nora Ganim Barnes, professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, stated in the article: “Blogging requires more investment. You need content regularly. And you need to think about the risk of blogging, accepting comments, liability issues, defamation.”

This article raises an interesting question: Should companies quit blogging and just go with a nimbler tool because it’s less risky and requires less time and resources? Anything related to social media is risky; it’s not just limited to blogs. That is why you should have social media and blogging policies in place.

Corporate blogs fail when companies don’t understand why the blog exists as part of their brand extension. They fail because their content is there solely to promote their products and services. Why would people read your blog if they can just visit your website for that kind of information? Blogs should be written for the reader – to educate and inform as well as to gather insight from the readers. Here are my recommendations for building a successful blog:

Establish Intent

Establish your intent first. Is it to build thought leadership and expertise in the industry? Is it to educate your customers and prospects and help them improve their performance? Is it to articulate industry issues and help your readers address fundamental challenges?

Then Go All-In

Commitment is key. When you start a corporate blog, you need a long-term strategy to carry out the intent in every piece of content you produce – but it takes commitment from the top down and dedicating proper resources to feed the content engine. Further, you should always have a plan to regularly promote your blog internally and externally – across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google +.

Unique Content is King

Companies invest a lot of time in whitepapers, webinars, videos, bylined articles and podcasts. When you create different content for all of these marketing initiatives, you spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel. Develop a content marketing strategy – and use the blog as a way to launch some of these topics to a more in-depth piece such as a whitepaper, webinar, etc. (Check out Altimeter Group’s blog for a great example.) Always be thinking: How can I create one piece of great content and optimize and repurpose?

Blogger Buddy Program

Develop a blogger buddy program where you identify your key bloggers who will be contributing content on a regular basis and pair them up with folks on your marketing or social media team. Establish goals and metrics for the bloggers so they understand the cadence for your blog and the frequency for posting content.

Bloggers should represent a wide spectrum of your business so that you can create content across a broad range of topics that will interest your readers. Then, educate them on blogging best practices, content strategy and ways to engage with the readers. This program is successful because you’re working closely with your bloggers to develop content strategy, plus you can feed them information on industry news and topics that people are talking about. Invite them to respond or comment on that topic to keep the conversation flowing.

Integrate

Your success also hinges on your ability to integrate your blog program with PR, marketing and communications. Silos don’t work in today’s world. It’s about integrating your blog content with what the rest of the marketing team is doing, campaigns they’re driving, webinars they are promoting. Work closely with your marketing team on the content development and strategy to support your key topics, campaigns, messages, etc.

Also, work closely with your PR team to help drive visibility and coverage. Remember, if you have the right content strategy, PR can pitch to the media and blogger communities to reuse that content or commentary to gain additional coverage. Why create a separate byline when reporters and bloggers can work off of the blog content?

Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford Motor Company said it best in the article when he stated, “Still, engaging blogs can serve crucial marketing goals – especially executives out to establish expertise in their industry.” I believe blogs can serve crucial marketing and corporate goals if done right. What do you think? Do you agree that blogging is dead and companies should move on?

All In! Betting On Your Content Marketing Strategy

Blog originally posted in BtoB Magazine – BtoB Blog: Defining Your Content Strategy

Where are you spending your marketing dollars? If it’s not in content marketing, then you should reconsider. Content marketing remains a top priority for marketers in 2012. This, according to a popular study published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs titled “B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends.” The study reports that nine out of 10 organizations market with content marketing. However, content marketing strategy should not be developed in a vacuum. It must become a company-wide initiative—aligning content with corporate goals and key messaging and supporting your go-to-market strategic plans with key stakeholders.

Below are some key recommendations to get started.

Define Your Content Strategy Goal

What are your corporate goals for the next two to three years? How do you want to define and position your company in the market? The answers will serve as the compass to your content strategy and your brand story. In addition, you should also understand who your audience is, where they are in their buying journey, their pain points and key addressable markets.

Understand Your Target Audience

Who are your buyers, and what are their personas, roles, etc.? Where do they go to find information about products and services before making a purchasing decision? What are the most popular media they visit? How active are they in social media, blogs, discussion forums, etc.? What types of pain points are they faced with? Without understanding the fundamentals of your target audience—types of content they’re looking for in the various stages of the purchasing cycle—your content strategy will fall flat. For example, if your target audience is IT buyers but the decision makers are CIOs, then you must map your messaging and content strategy to meet the needs of your audience. Tailor your content with your audience in mind.

Prioritize Your Marketing Tactics

Marketers are resource-constrained, and it’s easy to focus on a bunch of tactics rather than smart marketing. By polling your target audience and understanding who they are and where they are in the various stages of the buying cycle, you can minimize the time spent and cycles focusing on the wrong tactics, wrong messaging and the wrong audience. Get laser-focused.

Find out what are the top five events your target audience attends every year, the top five publications they read, the top five blogs they subscribe to, the top five influencers they follow, top analyst firms they go to for referrals, etc. Information is the new currency, and by knowing where your audience turns to for information, you can prioritize your marketing tactics and align your content strategy accordingly.

Implement a Powerful Content Architecture

Now that you have all this information at your fingertips, you can create a powerful content strategy that aligns with your goals, tailor it for the right audience and execute across the right marketing channels using the tactics that will have the most impact. Build a brand story that has multiple levels of content to support your story and messaging. Then mobilize your marketing team to execute using the right content to educate, inform and build engagement with your audience. Brand storytelling through great content is the key ingredient and should be the focus for any marketer today.

Plan with the Right Execution in Mind

With the wealth of data at your fingertips, you can establish content that can meet the needs of your audience. Then look at the different methods of disseminating content across different marketing channels to tell your story and engage with your audience.

Additional Resources:

Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs – B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends

YouTube – Coca Cola Content 2020 Part Two

Jeff Bullas – 5 Lessons From Coca Cola Content Marketing Strategy

Altimeter Group – Content Marketing. Content Strategy. What’s the Difference?

The Marketing Journalist Blog – Why Content Alone Cannot Rule the Kingdom

Social Media: Moving Beyond the Wire to Real-Time PR

Times are changing. Gone are the good old days when PR professionals had the luxury of drafting a press release around product launches or company news, providing byline articles and pushing out pitch ideas. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are still relevant, but for many, PR is still about how to provide content for reporters to repost or write a story based around a good pitch. Today, however, there is much more to it than that.

I recently spoke at an event sponsored by Business Wire where I had the pleasure of sharing the panel with several Phoenix reporters on how to pitch to reporters using social media. And while social media can be a great tool for connecting with reporters, today it’s much more than that – and it’s becoming critical in the way we manage our brand and media relations efforts. PR professionals whose job functions involve media relations must learn the rules of real-time PR. The new face of media relations requires even more speed and agility to seize market opportunities, real-time engagement and creative out-of-the-box approaches to become the first market mover.

Speed and Agility Win

In his soon-to-be-published book Real-Time Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott wrote, “In the emerging real-time business environment, where public discourse is no longer dictated by the mass media, size is no longer a decisive advantage. Speed and agility win.”

Whether we’re an agency or in-house PR, we have to understand how to establish a competitive advantage if we are to truly win in today’s world. No longer should we be confined to traditional methods of PR or media relations, but instead, we must understand the world of the social Web. This is where listening and monitoring are so important. I hear so many PR pros say they are monitoring, but without understanding how to quickly respond with even more speed to the conversations, our efforts will fall by the wayside.

One clear example outlined by Meerman Scott is the famous YouTube sensation, “United Breaks Guitars,” where Canadian singer-songwriter David Carroll crafted a song about his experience with United Airlines and posted it to YouTube. The video hit 2M views in less than a month. Where speed and agility mattered was United Airlines’ ability to quickly respond to this video post in a timely fashion through real-time monitoring and participation. Sometimes having to say you’re sorry and providing your community with some insight into how you’re going to do a better job with your customer service is a great start. It humanizes your brand and let’s people know that you’re listening and fixing the issue at hand.

Seize Real-Time Opportunity

The maker of Dave’s guitar, Taylor Guitars, wasted no time in seizing real-time market opportunity to build goodwill with customers. In Meerman Scott’s book, his example outlines how within days of Dave’s YouTube post, Bob Taylor, the company’s president, created his own video around how traveling musicians can package their equipment and follow airline rules to better protect their guitars.  

Today, with so much information out there, it can feel like we’re drinking from a fire hydrant. This is where PR pros should think of ways to seize real-time opportunities by getting creative — not just writing a byline article and pushing it out – which takes time and could potentially be dated by the time it’s released. It’s about real-time response to trends, challenges and issues that are happening right before our eyes. To take advantage and capture your audience, think creatively by videos  or funny cartoons around best practices or how-tos and posting to your blog or pushing it out via social channels. A media alert can always come later where you package up all the information and publish it.

Real-Time Market Engagement

Speed and agility can’t go very far without engagement. While millions of people were tuning in to view Dave’s YouTube video, United didn’t seize the opportunity to respond and engage with its potential community of reporters, prospects, customers and bloggers. While Twitter and Facebook were all abuzz, the company did absolutely nothing to participate in the conversation. As one of the largest players in the airline industry — one that spends billions on advertising, PR and marketing — the company went silent. This lack of response showed a lack of customer commitment or the know-how to engage in today’s conversation. Meerman Scott writes: “United Airlines exhibited a paralysis in the face of a snowballing crisis. In the battle between the small, speedy and agile players and the slow, clumsy giant, I see prima-facie evidence that a revolution has indeed been set in motion.”

Whether you are a small company or a giant organization such as United Airlines, today it’s about having a dialogue — whether you like it not — because conversations will go on with or without you. The decision to participate and engage in real-time will make the difference between relevance and irrelevance. PR is not just about media relations anymore — it’s about wearing your customer support hat and engaging with real people online. This will further help you humanize your brand. It also sends a clear message to the online community — that your brand is actively listening, monitoring and engaging because you care about what people are saying, thinking, and doing in the market.

Meerman Scott sent me this quote via Twitter: “Social media are tools, Real-Time is a mindset.” You can have all the tools in the world – but if your organization lacks the will, speed and agility to engage in real-time, those tools become meaningless. It’s about empowering the people to harness the power of the social Web to listen, monitor, connect and engage through innovative means.

Click on Real-Time Marketing and PR for a sneak peek at Meerman Scott’s soon to be published book.

About David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Marketing & PR opened people’s eyes to the new realities of marketing and public relations on the Web. Six months on the BusinessWeek bestseller list and published in 26 languages from Bulgarian to Vietnamese, New Rules is now a modern business classic. Scott’s popular blog and hundreds of speaking engagements around the world give him a singular perspective on how businesses are implementing new strategies to reach buyers.

He is also the co-author (with Brian Halligan) of the hit book Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History and wrote three other books including World Wide Rave.

His Web Ink Now blog is ranked by AdAge Power 150 as a top worldwide marketing blog.