Account Based Marketing (ABM) has for years been touted as one of the best marketing strategies to employ in B2B high tech organizations. According to ITSMA, 28% of marketing teams’ annual budget is dedicated to ABM, and approximately 50% of all ABM programs are in the “expanding” or “embedded” stage.
All of this sounds fantastic, but most of us in marketing know ABM takes a village to implement. In fact, the more targeted, the harder it is to sustain. So, it begs the question, is a 1-2-1 approach to ABM truly a goal that most marketing organizations should have?
What is Account Based Marketing (ABM)?
In simple terms, Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a strategic marketing approach to target a set number of accounts with messaging, content and tactics specifically tailored to them. As I mentioned above, companies usually attempt to take a 1-2-1 approach, for larger accounts. For example, if you want to target a company like IBM, you’d create messaging specifically for your audience at IBM. All your marketing and sales activities would be aligned and tailored toward IBM. This type of personalization can be very effective. 89% of marketers see a positive ROI when they use personalization in their campaigns. Most often when we talk about ABM, we’re thinking of this 1-2-1 method. In fact, some teams mistakenly believe that this is the only way to do ABM, but this approach isn’t always realistic for every marketing organization. It can be extremely time-consuming, requires a high number of resources and budget, and at times even risky if you put all your eggs in the wrong basket. I think we need to get out of the mindset that the best way to do ABM is the 1-2-1 approach.
What are the three types of ABM?
ITSMA does a good job at describing the different account-based approaches that companies have developed, and breaks them down into three types:
Strategic ABM, which mostly targets a handful of existing key accounts, has the potential of providing the highest ROI. In Strategic ABM, organizations mainly target existing customers. Highly customized programs are created to encourage customers to expand and increase opportunities within the account. Strategic ABM is mostly driven by sales, with limited involvement from marketing. The tactics for this type of ABM include one-to-one meetings, social media outreach, appointment settings, account-specific thought leadership and private events.
According to ITSMA, ABM Light differs from Strategic ABM in that it targets a higher number of accounts, usually around 20+. Still, ABM Light targets approximately 56% of existing accounts. In this model, marketing’s role is still limited but can be helpful in setting up one-to-one meetings, sending direct mail, creating custom collaterals, and using intent tools for specific keywords.
But it is in the Programmatic ABM that marketing can be the most beneficial. In this 1-2-Many model, marketing teams leverage technologies to tailor campaigns for specific named accounts at scale. This is the model that as a marketing professional, I find the most appealing and effective. There are no limits to the number of accounts you can target and you’re able to run a full-on marketing campaign. If you have a good product and a need in the market, aligning marketing and sales towards a common goal has the potential to generate solid pipeline and opportunities.
What’s so great about the 1-2-Many ABM process?
The 1-2-Many ABM strategy is closely related to the segmentation process that marketing teams have done for years before the term ABM ever became a thing. One of the best presentations on segmentations comes from Malcolm Gladwell’s Ted Talk, “Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce.” When people are asked which type of coffee they like, Gladwell says, the universal answer is “a dark, rich, hearty roast.” But if you served them that brew, it receives a score of 60 on a scale of 0 to 100. If you broke the population down into groups, and made coffee for each of these individual groups, the score would go up from 60 to 78. As Gladwell says, “The difference between coffee at 60 and coffee at 70 is the difference between coffee that makes you wince and coffee that makes you deliriously happy.”
Though Gladwell’s examples in this specific talk are about food companies, the same concept applies to B2B technologies. According to Optimove, “When a group of customers is segmented and targeted by many smaller campaigns, the accumulated uplift is much greater than that of “spray and pray” campaigns. How higher? Try 33% in Customer Lifetime Value.”
I’d argue that marketing does best when targeting a large volume of accounts. Why? Because conversion rates are low. This doesn’t mean that you want to take a horizontal “spray and pray” approach, but rather to understand that there is a balance between how targeted your marketing team can get, and how effective it can be at the same time.
The strength of marketing comes from reaching an audience across a variety of channels—from social media and ads to content marketing, webinars, virtual events, direct mail campaigns, field events and so on. I’d argue that it isn’t about the size of your account list but rather how well the accounts are researched and how granularly they fit into specific pattern or criteria. Maybe you’re looking for managed service providers who offer security as a service, or you’re looking for Electrical Coops that are expanding into the broadband market. Each of these types of accounts is in their own cluster and would require different marketing strategies and tactics.
No matter which ABM approach you take, your target list is your biggest asset. As an ABM vendor once told me about the poor quality of the account list she receives: “Junk in, junk out.” If your account list doesn’t meet the targeting criteria, and is lacking in quality, no ABM model will be effective. Prospect and customer research is the backbone of the most successful ABM campaigns. So, take the time to understand—really understand—your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Know your accounts and buyers inside and out, and remember that without this hard work, you might as well not even get started.
There could be many factors for the ineffectiveness of a content marketing program, but one would certainly be the way marketing campaigns are often executed. As marketers, we’ve all been there before. In our haste to deliver leads quickly, we blast one-off, undifferentiated content pieces to our audience, adding noise to the already crowded market.
People use the word “campaign” for various purposes. There are sales campaigns and marketing campaigns. Some use the term when referring to sending out a single email, while others when doing a webinar. When we talk about campaigns in this blog post, we are referring to marketing campaigns that have an integrated approach and contain interrelated tactics that help amplify a message. These campaigns use the concept of repetition and consistency to build trust with the audience and increase conversion rates.
Here's an easy-to-follow checklist for B2B startups that want to run integrated marketing campaigns.
Identify Relevant Topics
Before creating a campaign theme that is creative and has emotional appeal, you have to identify relevant topics. In order to do that, you have to know who you are targeting and how you are going to add value to their lives with your product and services. For example, if you are targeting a technical buyer, your outreach strategy, your tone, choice of words, message, visuals and type of content will be different than for a business buyer such as a CXO of a large enterprise. You will also need a deep understanding of your industry, competitors and product differentiators. With this information at your fingertips, you can come up with topics that will be of interest to your audience and increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Create Campaign Themes
Once you have identified a high-level, bulleted list of topics, you will have to take the more difficult step of picking one topic and turning it into a theme that is creative, conveys who you are as a brand and appeals to your prospects’ persona. When it gets to creativity and capturing the imagination of their customer, B2B organizations can take a lesson or two from B2C companies.
Try capturing the spirit of your brand in your campaign’s theme. No one said it’s easy but it is powerful when you get it right.
Now that you know your message and who you are targeting and why, you can outline the content pieces and assets you will use in your demand generation. For example, for a technical buyer a how-to video might be more useful; whereas marketing professionals who usually react to visuals might like an infographic. Create a spreadsheet list of assets that you’d like to experiment with to increase demand and drive quality leads. The theme of your campaign will repeat across all your assets in both content and design for consistency.
Map Assets to Lead Generation Funnel
Once you have a list of assets, begin mapping them to the demand generation funnel. For example, an infographic or an analyst paper would most likely be an awareness asset that can be shared at the beginning of a buyer’s journey. Whereas a product cheat sheet or paper might fall in the consideration or purchase stage of the funnel. Mapping your content in this way allows the demand generation team to know the order by which to promote the assets.
Outline Your Demand Generation Plan
You campaign plan should clearly outline the steps your team will take in promoting the new asset. Your plan will differ based on the type of asset and the targeted persona. For example, your promotion plan would differ for an industry paper versus a thought leadership e-Book. By bringing in the marketing team including product marketing, demand generation, creative and design, you can come up with the best plan on amplifying your message.
Manage the Campaign
Ensure someone is in charge of project managing your campaign. Identify task owners and contributors and hold them to deadlines. This way you can make sure that a constant stream of content hits the marketplace, promoting your theme and messages to increase brand awareness and conversions.
Don't expect that the first asset you send out or your very first webinar will give incredible results. If you are a startup who doesn’t have brand recognition, your prospects will most likely not know anything about you. You have to gain their trust. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay focused and give time, but after you have gathered enough data, start analyzing and tweaking your strategy, if necessary.
Measure and Improve
Stay agile. Create reports from your marketing automation system to see what is and isn’t working. Check email open and click through rates. Watch your asset downloads, webinar registrations and overall conversions. If you have a good marketing automation tool, you can map your marketing efforts to sales pipeline results. Constantly try to tweak your content and campaigns to improve for optimal results.
If you take a structured and strategic approach to your marketing campaigns, and build trust with your audience over time, you will see far better results than creating one-off undifferentiated content pieces that, more often than not, are ineffective.
Creating good content is tough. Really tough—especially when you’re trying to meet B2B demand generation deadlines. How many of us have created me-too pieces of content that we aren’t proud of—content pieces that have been blasted to the world in the hope that we will get a few more leads?
Content Marketing Institute performed a survey recently that showed 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing as part of their strategy but only 30% of those programs are effective in driving conversions.
Only 30%! You know why? Because to inspire your readers you have to care about them and what you say has to come from a place of truth. In fact, your top challenge shouldn’t be about generating mountains of content, but creating content that inspires your readers. And you can’t do that if you’re not thinking strategically.
Here are some things to consider when creating a content marketing strategy:
Understanding the Why
Before you create another checklist of assets, ask yourself why does the world need another piece of content? The answer shouldn’t be because I need more leads. It should be more along the lines of how that asset will make a difference in the lives of your prospects. Will it be relevant to them? Will it provide solutions to their needs? Will it uplift them and inspire them?
Thinking through these questions helps you move away from reacting to your company’s short-term requirements to focusing on a strategy that allows your prospects to connect with your brand. Rather than creating half-hearted standalone content pieces that are disconnected from your brand identity, you can create a list of assets that map to your messaging, reflects the voice of your brand and more importantly, solves your client’s problems.
Identifying Campaign Themes
Rather than creating a piece of ad-hoc, one-off content quickly in the hope of mediocre results, think about how your content fits into your campaign themes. Hopefully you have some campaign themes defined.
Once you know what themes your content will fit into, you can make sure that it is tailored for the message and persona associated with that campaign. This way, you will have a series of content pieces that you can use to nurture your customers. You can then take advantage of the psychology of repetition to gain traction in the market place.
Knowing Your Audience
Not every asset will appeal to every person. You have to assess whether your audience will enjoy the asset you have created. There are two main things to take into consideration. First, does the messaging appeal to the audience and if it doesn’t how can we improve it? Second, what type of content would the audience be interested in? For example, a CEO might be willing to take a quick look at a 30 second high level video whereas a developer would be more interested in an article covering tips and tricks. Know your audience so you can create the right asset for them.
Mapping to Demand Generation Funnel
Think about your buyer’s journey as you layout the content. How will they consume your assets? Nowadays, most people do their own research online before they even talk to a sales representative. When you create a content plan make sure that you highlight where an asset fits into the demand generation funnel and the nurture stream. For example, a Gartner report which is a thought leadership piece would fit into the awareness phase, whereas a how-to video about your product would be later in the funnel, most likely the consideration or even the purchase phase.
Once you map your content to your funnel, it will be much easier to use it for nurturing purposes, online, and as part of outbound and inbound campaigns.
Remember Your Existing Clients
Sometimes startups seem to be so focused on getting the next big enterprise deal that they forget that their existing clients matter too. In fact, existing customers can be the lifeblood of your business as they continue to renew and refer your services.
Providing useful content to existing clients is invaluable to ensure that they are satisfied with your services and continue to subscribe to them. Content that you create during product launches, helps your customers stay in tune with your innovations and continuously upgrade.
Having educational and thought leadership blogs that customers could refer to can work well in keeping your customers engaged. You can then send a monthly newsletter to update them on the recent industry news and product updates.
If you provide your existing customers with valuable content you will see better retention rates and ultimately more upgrade and up-sell revenue.
Educating Your Free Trial Prospects
If you have ever downloaded a free trial of a product to get absolutely no help in setting it up you know how painful of an experience it can be. You probably ended up frustrated and abandoned the tool. If you have a product that can be downloaded as a free trial, then your content strategy should include a series of helpful emails that provide guidance on how to get started with the trial. Your emails can include tips and tricks, links to demos or webinars, and support contact information.
Once you have created a list of all these types of assets, how they fit into the demand generation funnel and the buyer’s journey, and how they can be utilized, you can create a checklist which can be used to increase brand awareness and ultimately conversions.
How effective is your marketing message? Creating a marketing message that differentiates your company’s product and services is one of the hardest things you will have to do, but formulating a highly differentiated message is essential in beating your competition, successfully swaying analysts and influencers, and making your online presence more compelling. When done well, highly differentiated messaging will drive demand and increase your market share.
In this blog post, we’ll go over 5 key things your B2B technology startup should consider when creating a message that will be compelling enough to be effective.
Knowing what your company stands for
Shared values build relationships and are the power behind purposeful action. Of the consumers surveyed by Harvard Business Review 64% cited shared values as the primary reason to have a relationship with a company. This applies as much to B2B as it does to B2C and is the very essence of a strong brand. Before you even start creating your message, you have to know what your company stands for. Why? Because those values will reflect in your voice, your visuals and your interaction with customers.
Steve Jobs once said, “To me marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, a very noisy world and we’re not going to get the chance to get people to remember us. No company is. So we have to be very clear about what we want people to know about us.”
B2B technology companies are so focused on getting the enterprise deal, that they often forget that their buyers are human beings with their own desires, passions and beliefs. How you communicate your values, creates a window into the soul of your company. Without getting metaphysical about it, you probably already know who you are, and if you don’t, someone in your organization does—most likely a founder who put her soul in creating the product. You have to dig deep to find those values, to find your best selves, and then translate that into messages to use to interact with everyone—from customers to vendors to partners.
Marketing is not just about a piece of content you blast to the world, or the one-liner you put on your homepage; it’s about your customers experiencing the brand philosophy at the heart of your organization.. For example, if you are selling to developers, but your message is full of marketing buzzwords that programmers can’t relate to, it is likely that you haven’t figured out who you really are. If you cite customer satisfaction as a priority but your sales representatives take three weeks to respond to a prospect call, there is a gap between the truth and your perception of truth. The entire organization has to encompass the same values in order to give customers the experience they truly want.
Understanding your customer
Before writing your value proposition or tagline, you have to go through a series of logical steps to understand why someone would choose your product over your competitor’s. This requires not only knowing your product’s strengths but having a deep understanding of your buyers and competitors.
This might sound straightforward enough, but we’ve realized that many B2B technology startups struggle with this important step. It’s because when we start a business, we often think we know the answers when we really don’t. We have to learn from trial and error. Larger organizations have the luxury of relying on an established sales and marketing track record to pull solid analytic from their CRM and marketing systems, or conduct thorough customer and market studies. As a startup, knowing your target audiences’ personas can be difficult but it’s important in helping you formulate messages that talk to their needs. Depending on your situation, here are a few practical things you can do to get a better understanding of your customers:
Listen to your prospects and customers
Do you have a list of prospects and customers? Even if it’s only a handful, whoever is creating the message should set up a time to speak with them directly. Performing a win / loss analysis is invaluable in understanding the logic behind a decision to purchase or not. Taking detailed, structured notes allows you to identify patterns not only for refining your message but product enhancements that you can later on feed into your roadmap.
For example, we had a software client who believed that their user interface was the key to their success. However, when we did a win/loss analysis, there was no difference in UI likeability between those who had bought the product and those who hadn’t. In fact, it turned out that they all had liked the UI but the UI had not necessarily been the motivator to purchase the product. On the other hand, customer support were rated as one of the biggest reasons customers had decided against partnering with the company. So while the UI was an important aspect to ensure a prospect would consider the product, it was the customer support that made the real difference. As a result, fixing the customer support experience made a much bigger difference for their market share than making the already appealing UI even better.
The key is to listen to your customers. Don’t put words in their mouths, and if they voice criticism, don’t get defensive or try to still sell them if they have decided not to buy. The point of these conversations is to understand their motivations and objections. And then analyze the patterns.
Listen to your sales team as if they are your customer
Sales representatives are usually the first group of your employees to hear from prospects and customers about what they do and don’t like about your company or products. Therefore, they usually have a keen sense of what sells and what prospects resonate with.
To understand what your prospects find compelling about your offerings, and what really moves them to a purchase decision, start by watching your sales representatives present the sales deck in a meeting. Besides providing useful feedback on sales’ ability to actually deliver a compelling, customer benefits-oriented product and company pitch, it is very helpful in tweaking the message, as necessary.
Search your CRM tool for purchase patterns
Do you have a CRM tool like Salesforce? Is your sales team using it? If so, you’re in a much better shape than many startups. You can pull a report that can show who your sales team has worked with in an account, who has signed the PO, and who has influenced the opportunity. Analyzing this data and identifying patterns can be useful in testing your assumptions about who you think your buyers really are.
For example, if you think that the VP of Marketing is your main buyer, but then you realize that more often than not, it is the Director of Product Marketing who is making the purchase, you realize that you might want to create new messaging that targets that persona. However, the accuracy of the analysis relies on the accuracy of the data in your systems, which is why it’s essential that the sales team is trained adequately in using the CRM tool.
You can run your messages by those who could be a potential buyer within your network or online. You can find luminaries and thought leaders from your targeted industries who would be more than willing to work with you for a fee or a free license. Either way, their input, more often than not, is extremely helpful in formulating your message.
Knowing your competition
Often companies drink their own cool aid, thinking their product is the best in the market, but your competitors exist for a reason. They have their weaknesses but they have their strengths too. Do you know what those strengths are? And more importantly, do you know how to beat them? Also, do you know what they say about your real or perceived weaknesses, and do you know how to disarm those arguments with credibility and impact?
Once you have this information and comparisons, write them in a format that can easily be shared with sales. We often see founders conveying differentiators verbally via a team call. You need to write down concise and memorable statements about your differentiators so sales can refer to them when needed. And your prospects can repeat them to their colleagues when they’re building consensus internally around whether or not they should consider purchasing your offering.
Also, as you write your marketing message, keep those differentiators in mind, so you can address them. Talk about your differentiators as your strengths, without mentioning your competitor by name or disrespecting them. Educate your potential customers through differentiated messages that you feed to marketing and sales, and allow the buyer to make their own decision.
Answering the "so what?"
Many times we think we know why our company and product is the best in the market, and write our messaging from our own perspective. As you write, you have to ensure that your messages are answering what I like to call the “so what?” question. Why would the buyer care about what you are telling them? Make sure what you convey directly addresses their needs and isn’t only about what’s cool about your company.
The technologists in a company are often the ones that create the first version of the marketing and sales collateral. When this happens, some of the early pitches though accurate technically, are focused on product features. This type of messaging might appeal to technical and junior level buyers, but if it doesn’t address important customer business issues, it fails to excite the senior business buyer.
A clearly differentiated statement that reflects the soul of your company, while addressing customer issues is the goal of effective messaging. Creating this statement often takes weeks or even months, but when done correctly is a powerful, engaging summary of why someone should buy your product and services.
Keeping it concise
Have you ever visited a company’s website, read their brochure and still aren’t sure what they exactly do? Keep your messages concise. Avoid buzzwords and technology jargon. Communicate in few clear sentences exactly what you do and how you are different. This respects the reader’s time and guides them to take the action you want them to take, faster.
Once you have formulated your messaging, you can create value propositions, positioning statements and messaging pillars. We’ll talk about each of these in a subsequent blog post. We’ll also about how to create marketing campaigns with focused messaging that are effective in driving demand and can accelerate the growth of your sales pipeline.
Socrates who said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think,” is considered one of the greatest teachers and philosophers in Western history. He was known for not being interested in imparting a certain dogma or attracting followers. He wanted people to think for themselves and come to conclusions on their own. People of all classes were drawn to his enigmatic personality and teachings because he was not only a great speaker, he was a good listener—a trait that set him apart from ordinary teachers.
As William A. Ward, an often quoted writer of inspirational maxims, said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
How does this relate to content marketing? Let’s take it one step at a time.
First, Know Thyself
Do you know who your brand really is, and how that compares to how it is being perceived? Do you know what it stands for? If your brand is mainly having a one-sided conversation about its offerings, you’re not only wasting your own time, but that of your prospects. And you are showing to the world that you do not know who you are as a brand. This goes back to understanding how shared values build relationships. Before you start creating your first piece of content which could educate the world about all the benefits you have to offer, you need to carefully understand who your brand truly is, because those values will reflect in your voice, your visuals and your interactions with your customers. So dig deep to find your values, find your best selves, and then translate that into messages to use to interact with everyone—from customers to partners.
When you do that, when you know the essence of your brand, you can create thought-provoking content that inspires your community and encourages them to come back for more.
Inspire by Living the Truth
How do you feel when you read most B2B content? Do they inspire you to act or do they leave you cold? Do they uplift you or bore you?
Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars, says that for years marketers have claimed the powerful role of myth makers, but where once our stories inspired, moved us to adventure and living a life of higher values, now we create stories that play on fear, insecurities and needless consumption.
“[19th century copywriter] John Powers had given us all we’ve ever really needed to know,” Sachs says. “Be interesting. Tell the truth. And if you can’t tell the truth, change what you’re doing so you can. In other words, live the truth.”
Your marketing messages should come from a place of truth. Whether it’s a product that you have thrown your heart and soul into or a service that you believe will change the world, ideally your strategy should be to make a difference in the world—to uplift and empower other human beings. With the digital transformation of our world, your audience has seized power. They don’t just sit back and consume your messages anymore. They want you to inspire them, to make them think. They often pick what they like, they share it and make it their own. They choose what product lives and which one dies; what brand makes it and what brand doesn’t.
If your innovation comes from a place of truth, then your stories should convey that truth. Once that happens, you will inspire your audience to act and share your content.
Make Your Story Relevant
Telling a good story is one aspect of marketing, the other is the logic behind that story. In B2B content marketing it is essential for us to understand our company’s technology, industry, competitors and buyers to formulate a compelling message. When you create a story, it has to come from a place of knowledge and relevance.
For example, we have worked with startups where the marketing team doesn’t have the technical understanding to keep up with the product team’s agile software releases. You might think that doesn’t matter, since you don’t want to talk about technology features and functions in your marketing messages. And you would be right, to a certain extend. You always wanted to talk about benefits and in the early stages of demand generation, when you are building awareness, you do not want to talk about your technology’s capabilities in terms of features and functions. But you need to know what they are. Why? Because when you tell a story, you have to know who you are talking to, why you are talking to them and what value you are adding. If you are selling a product, you can’t add value if you don’t know in what way that product solves actual human problems and influences lives.
Telling a story that is both creative and relevant, is as much science as it is art.
Creating a first good impression is always important, and it’s no different with your marketing. When you are an early stage startup it’s essential to put your best foot forward in all aspects of your business—from technology to customer service to your content. As you nurture your potential and existing customers with interesting and useful content such as videos, webinars, blogs and eBooks, you will create a sense of partnership and trust.
An Information Security company we worked with was known for having chief evangelists who were experts in the space and produced highly useful content about the state of cyber security. They were also often one of the first to blog about the findings associated with a new breach. Our primary buyers who were Chief Security Officers found the content extremely useful to their daily work and would subscribe to our social media sites and blog.
Building trust takes patience and hard work. Your words and your actions mirror the soul of your brand, so it’s important to be reliable and take your own words seriously.
Consistency builds trust. Trust is earned and renewed through your words and actions. Every point of contact with a prospect or customer must set the same tone—from a sales meeting to the piece of content you put on your website.
For example, if you say in your marketing literature that you provide great customer service, but it takes your support team three days to return a customer call, you have broken that consistency, and therefore that trust.
If you slack in your efforts to remain consistent across the board—in what you say and do—your prospects and customers will notice and it will be difficult to earn back their trust. As you maintain consistency in your marketing literature and your actions, you build trust and increase sales.
Repeat Your Message
Recognize a familiar tune on the radio or the name of your favorite brand? Or perhaps you’ll recognize some of these slogans:
It might seem too simplistic that consistent repetition of a message should increase its effect, but that’s exactly what psychologists have discovered. Repetition is one of the easiest methods of persuasion. In fact, according to a recent research done, people rate statements that have been repeated just once as more true than things they’ve heard for the first time. Repetition creates a pattern and our brains being excellent pattern-matchers decipher and understand the message over time, creating a sense of familiarity within us which encourages purchase. You might be wondering how many times you can repeat a message before it gets irritating. Doesn’t at some point familiarity breed contempt? Sometimes that’s true, but often the feelings of familiarity help us feel closer to something or someone—as long as what they are saying is relevant to who we are.
This brings us to the next topic, building integrated marketing campaigns that repeat relevant messages.
Launch Marketing Campaigns that are Effective
People use the word “campaign” for various purposes. There are sales campaigns and marketing campaigns. Some use the term when referring to sending out a single email to a segmented list; others, when they do a webinar. When we talk about campaigns in this blog post, we are talking about marketing campaigns that have an integrated message and contain interrelated tactics that help amplify that message. These campaigns make use of the concept of repetition and consistency to build trust and increase conversion rates.
As marketers, we’ve all been there before. In our haste to please the sales team and the executives, we blast ad-hoc, me-too or undifferentiated content pieces to our audience, adding noise to the already crowded market. Taking an integrated marketing approach is more effective. These campaigns contain series of assets aligned with a core message that addresses your buyer’s needs and outline the tactics associated with amplifying your assets. This is an effective approach to bringing all aspects of marketing together toward a cohesive goal of increasing conversions.
Emotions are powerful and the biggest emotional motivator of all is fear. There are two types of fear. The first is real. It gets triggered when facing actual, life threatening situations. The second is psychological - these are things we make up in our own minds because we're afraid of failure, losing a job or missing an opportunity.
Regardless of what we might tell ourselves, our businesses, jobs and teams are not immune to self-induced fear. Our fears and anxieties affect both our individual well-being as well as the businesses we are a part of, often resulting in poor decisions and strategies.
In leadership, figuring out how to drive growth isn’t only about MBA-school topics such as go-to-market strategies or pipeline management. It’s about managing fear too—fear and anxieties in your own mind and the minds of your friends and colleagues.
Strategic Thinking Derailed by Fear
Many organizations continue to treat marketing as if it’s a tactical, short-term solution to generating immediate leads for their sales teams. A study performed by Accenture found that 37% of the 535 global-company CEOs who responded to the survey said that their CMOs would be the first fired if corporate growth targets weren’t met.
This type of short-term thinking kills the creativity required for marketing to deliver results.
"I blame it more on a business culture,” says Peter Field, author of an IPA report that analyzes marketing campaign effectiveness. “Marketers often [understand the need for long-term thinking] but their problem is they cannot convince the CFO, who is saying ‘I don’t give a damn about the long term, I just want a good quarter’. It is unreasonable to expect marketers to address the long term when their jobs and livelihoods are on the line.”
Instead, business leaders need to understand that marketing is more a marathon than a sprint. It takes strategic thinking and long-term planning. It doesn’t always produce overnight success, especially for startups who do not have brand recognition or more than a handful of customers. Getting people to hear your message and talk about your brand takes time.
Understanding Fear as an Inhibitor to Growth
Nurturing a culture where long term strategic thinking is encouraged and employees feel empowered, are essential traits of a healthy organization. But leaders can’t do that if they haven’t mastered their own negative, fear-driven thoughts.
In our age of rationality, many of us believe that reason is the only viable method of making decisions. Antonio Damasio, neuroscientist and author of Descartes’ Error, disagrees. Through a series of tests, Damasio has shown that using reason alone is inadequate. He works with patients who had damaged the part of their brain where emotions are generated. It made them unable to make simple decisions—should I have turkey or chicken for dinner?
Emotions play a huge role in our everyday lives. One day we might get into an argument with a colleague and tomorrow feel ashamed for the way we spoke. Psychologists have found that much of our thinking happens outside the realm of conscious reason and it’s beyond its control.
"Sometimes when we’re afraid of something,” Christopher Bader, a Chapman sociology professor told the New York Times, “even if our fears are irrational, that can lead us to make choices that will actually cause the thing that we are avoiding.” The concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy—how your perception of reality can make the very thing you dread become true—isn’t new. Emotions such as fear trigger negative thoughts that affect our brains.
Anxiety can become a habit—your comfort zone. If that's where you are, you can't lead effectively.
Self-Awareness is Key to Confident Leadership
Psychologists, Dan Joseph and Daniel Newman, recently did a comprehensive study that examined the link between emotional intelligence and job performance. They discovered that in jobs that required extensive attention to emotions, higher emotional intelligence translated into better performance. Marketing and sales fall into these categories.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) is a term popularized by Dan Goleman in his book, which was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half. Goleman shares that although the qualities commonly associated with leadership are intelligence, decisiveness, determination and vision, they are not enough. The most effective leaders have a solid degree of emotional intelligence. In fact, he reveals direct links between a leader’s emotional intelligence and measurable business results.
Self-awareness, a key aspect of Emotional Intelligence, is a subtle force that is easily missed by those who lack it, but it is an essential quality of great leaders.
Being self-aware means that you are in touch with your own truth. When you lack self-awareness, you are more likely to take an authoritative and fear-driven approach to management. You often don’t have an accurate read on a situation, might behave in ways that demoralizes your employees and you might lack empathy. Your behavior could cause employees to operate from a position of fear—they won’t speak up, take risks, be creative or cooperate.
With a high degree of self-awareness and emotional intelligence, leaders can disarm anxieties that ultimately reduce productivity and create conflict.
One way to start this process of changing your own thinking is to keep repeating positive thoughts often. Whenever an anxious thought enters your mind, don’t give it the focus it’s craving, observe it without judging it, and then either focus on something else (such as your breath) or replace it with a positive thought. Doing so reshapes your brain over time to make pathways to new ideas and habits. It’s a concept called neuroplasticity, based on neuroscience.
With time, you will experience changes in the way you think and how you interact with others, improving your own life and the life of others.
Case studies bring your products to life. They tell stories that paint pictures and evoke emotions in your audience. They give you credibility and if you have worked with popular brands you can use their brand power to convince your prospects to invest in you.
How do you create a compelling case study? Here are 5 steps to help get you started.
Understand Your Customer
Before you contact your customer, you should research their company. You can find plenty of information about a company by just researching them online. Your sales team is a great resource for familiarizing you with the customer. And if you have a CRM tool such as Salesforce, your sales organization might have added valuable information that can help you with your research.
Create a list of questions that you want to ask the customer. At a very high level these are a few questions you want to ask to capture the information you need for the case study:
Set Up an Interview
In most situations, it’s best to set up an interview by working with the account manager or sales representative assigned to the customer. This is specifically true if your account manager is working on an upgrade or upsell opportunity with the customer. When you set up a time for an interview with the customer, you should take as many notes as you can to add substance to the story.
Create the Asset
Regardless of what format you pick for your case study it should tell a compelling story from the perspective of your customer. Here is a high-level flow that you can follow:
Once the asset has been created, it will go through a few rounds of reviews. The customer will need to approve it before you publish it.
Case Study Formats
Here are some case study formats that are used to drive demand:
Case studies are important assets for your content strategy. They drive demand, increase the quality of your leads and help your sales team close opportunities.