Canceled events?

Turn lemons into (some) lemonade for fuel lead generation and thought leadership.

Author: Sean Hargrave. Reposted with permission by Digital Doughnut.

Canceled events are prompting mar-tech and ad-tech companies to redouble webinar efforts by creating compelling content they will subsequently use to fuel lead generation.

The list of events cancelled over coronavirus just keeps growing. Mobile World Congress was one of the first, soon to be followed by just about every sizeable gathering for martech and adtech executives in the calendar.

Many conferences, including Ad Week Europe, have been postponed. Others, such as Facebook’s F8 and Adobe Summit Europe are going to proceed online only. At the same time, many companies are extending foreign travel bans to encouraging home working.

Put bluntly, the chance to press the flesh at industry events is all but gone for the next few months and opportunities to grab a coffee with a prospect are going to be curtailed. This raises the question, how are companies going to keep their pipeline healthy? While eMarketer figures show that trade shows are rated third by US marketing for engagement, behind email and websites, they are actually top of the chart for conversions.

Difficulty in getting new customers signed up is one of the impacts which has seen McKinsey estimate GDP growth forecasts made for this year in Europe will need to be revised downwards by 9% to 59%. In a worst-case scenario, the forecast growth in global GDP this year will need to be reduced by 60%, meaning virtually no growth for the world’s economies for an entire year.

Event ROI not clear

Peter Simpson, Global Head of Partnerships at Trustpilot was recently on his way to fly to a conference in Dublin when he heard the company had asked employees to cancel all overseas work trips. Like many martech execs, in one call, a route to keeping the sales pipeline healthy was seriously diminished, although he’s not entirely sure how much of an impact it will have.

“Conferences are useful because they help add new people to the top of the sales funnel and push existing contacts towards converting at the bottom of the funnel,” he says.

“You meet people at a conference and then follow up later or you already have warm prospects who want to meet up and chat at an event before they sign up. It’s hard to work out the precise ROI, though, because with big events you may get a lot of leads but they’re not always high quality and with small events you talk to people you already know. They’re definitely a central part of keeping a healthy pipeline, though.”

Webinars need great content

Similar to many other execs, the route forwards for Simpson to add and win over prospect is looking likely to be ramping up webinars. It’s here that there could be a knock-on effect as crafted content design to earn and maintain attention during an online presentation could open up new avenues for content distribution.

“Webinars are a more efficient use of your time but they do take a lot of effort get together some compelling content,” he says.

“Ideally, you need to conduct research and before you put a webinar together which also means you then have some great additional content for reports and blogs. We do quite a lot of this already and I can see us doing more.

“It’s too early to say what’s going to happen to budgets but there could be a time later this year or next year when we say we’re saving money on travel at the same time as webinars and content are turning out to be great for lead generation. So, we may end up saying, let’s put more budget there.”

Conferences missed, but not that much

Courtney Wylie, VP of Product and Marketing at Mention Me, is similar to many other martech execs who have had to recently grapple with turning, in her case, a breakfast sales event into a webinar. While she will miss meeting up with prospects and clients in real life, she believes missing larger industry events will have less of an impact on lead generation than would have been the case just a couple of years ago.

“We’re not overly worried about relying more heavily on webinars because we find with big events you don’t get the contact details for people who have come to your presentation any more, due to GDPR,” she says.

“You used to get a couple of hundred potential leads from the organiser in return for sponsoring a stream but now you probably only get to arrange a coffee with, say, three interesting leads. For us, conferences are now mainly about brand building or second-touch, because people are already aware of us through our digital marketing; we focus a lot on SEO and PPC.”

Great webinars create compelling content

The big opportunity Courtney sees is that to hold webinars, the company is going out and pre-recording keynote speakers and during the event they will record the stream of panelists answering questions. This, she feels, is going to give the company some content to distribute as video and podcasts.

This could serve as a lead generation tactic, particularly as Mention Me already relies heavily on thought leadership content to help boost its SEO performance. While Wylie is not clear yet what budgetary impact cancelled events will have, she’s confident it will lead to the company relying more on content to boost its thought leadership credentials.

“It’s too early to say if we’re going to, say, double our content production, but we’re likely to increase it through video, podcasts, reports and articles,” she says.

“Getting our content out there is a good way of showing thought leadership which is only going to become more important if there aren’t events taking place where we can speak at.”

Distributing content to new eyes

It would appear, then, that the route of replacing live events with webinars is about to heighten interest in creating compelling content that shows thought leadership on a range of topics. The goal will be to grab the attention of prospects and existing customers on their laptop rather than an exhibition hall.

Martech and adtech companies will have their own properties to highlight this new raft of engaging content to existing prospects. However, to turn new content into fresh leads, from people who are not already visiting a company’s website, the likelihood is many may consider looking further afield to distribution partners.

–Sean Hargrave, Digital Donut. Read more articles from Digital Donut.

Want to Repurpose and Monetize Content from Online Events?

Watch this 1 minute video from Boundless Markets. Turn webcasts, webinars and other content into fuel for lead generation, branding and sales enablement.

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By |March 20th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Canceled events?

The Most Important Things You Don’t Know About Your Business

My advisors told me not to use the subject line of this post.  They said I should not suggest that our readers don’t know their business.  Of course you do.  Our readers tend to be extremely smart, intellectually curious and great at what they do.  So why am I asking about things you don’t know? It’s to make that point that, no matter how much you know, there are often important gaps in knowledge that, if addressed, can help make much smarter decisions.  You’ll never have 100% of the data and striving for that would just slow you down unnecessarily.  I’m not talking about “nice to know” facts;  I am referring to insights that can inform big choices and drive excellent execution.mindthegap

What prevents smart people from finding out the “unknown”?  There are many reasons:   1) data and information can be hard to obtain, 2) data on hand is often not actionable and 3) available information is perceived as “good enough.”

But lurking beneath the surface is another, nagging dynamic— the fact that we’re generally too busy to stop and ask the questions “What key information are we missing in our business?”  And “Do we know what we don’t know?”

We recommend a systematic way of identifying and learning what you should know but don’t—about your market, your competitors, your customers, your opportunities and your marketing and sales performance.  By now you probably know that Boundless Markets conducts data audits, a structured process that identifies data and knowledge gaps for clients, and then fill those gaps (with new data sources, analytics and modeling, new technologies/tools, user videos, customer listening studies and quantitative market research).

Whether you do these things on your own or work with us, we advise starting by taking stock of your company or team’s data discipline.   This is NOT about boiling the ocean with data collection.  It IS about thinking critically about how data and analytics can help drive your business.

Does your company and team have data discipline? Here are three key ways to find out. These are things to ask yourself and your team.

  1. Do you have a list of data and knowledge gaps?

Gaps represent key pieces of information that are missing in planning and/or execution. They’ve been proactively identified by you and your team as “important things we need to learn.”   These gaps can be found in the upfront strategy setting and at all stages of execution.  It is wise to think broadly about data and knowledge gaps.

Knowledge gaps are highly situational and depend on your business.   Identifying the most actionable areas requires some deep thinking and care.   Here are some examples:

Why are some of your competitors winning some of your business?   How do your target prospects perceive your company vs. your competitors?  What are the leading indicators of your customer acquisition? Which of your customer prospects are in the market to buy right now?  Which non-intuitive things do your best customers have in common? How often do your target prospects visit your web site? What do people in your market think of our web site?  How does it make them feel? In your lead generation do you know exactly where you are losing prospects in the marketing and sales funnel, and the revenue you’re leaving on the table as a result?  How many sales calls does it take to close a sale on average?  Which of your customers have the greatest risk of leaving?

All of these things are knowable.

  1. Who has contributed to your list of data and knowledge gaps?

It’s important that employees with related goals get on the same page about the knowledge gaps that exist, or have a process to get there. For example, Sales and Marketing need to be aligned, because customer knowledge and analytics are the fuel that drives results, and data is the glue that connects sales and marketing. Recently we spoke with a marketing director who did not know the sales conversion of the leads he was generating. Without that knowledge there’s no way to determine revenue per lead and the number of leads required to optimize the customer acquisition process.  What’s worse is that, with a little bit of work, the data was readily available.

  1. Are your gaps prioritized, with a plan in place to address them and take action?

A big part of the planning process should be the action you’ll take once you find out the answers. Intended actions – what you’ll do (or could do) if you have the data – should drive the process.  This helps the prioritization.  Determining intended actions is best done in a group setting, since it really is a collaborative effort, and the process helps increase alignment.  The perceived ease of filling knowledge gaps also affects priorities.  Often it is assumed that things are not easily knowable.   Data often exists in silos or is not “in shape” to be actionable. Yet solutions are now available to address these issues and gain important insights.  And they are more robust and affordable than you may think.  Other times, third party data or analysis is required but the options – or the best way to proceed – are not resolved.  And this can result in a sort of decision purgatory….where issues linger eternally.

The bottom line:  it helps to proactively find out what your company or team does not know but should. Inject that discipline into your planning and execution. Then make sure you and your team are armed with intelligence to make more informed decisions.  To make this happen, pointed questions need to be asked and obstacles that get in the way of actionable insights need to be addressed.  When it comes to business intelligence, it’s best to remember the signs in the British Tube:   Mind the Gap.    Because information as usual leads to business as usual, and the status quo is often a dangerous place to be in competitive markets.

By |March 18th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Most Important Things You Don’t Know About Your Business

Data-Driven Content – The New Reality of Marketing and Sales

Since content is so critical to marketing and sales, it begs the question:  how can you use data to understand what content resonates with your audience?  Here are eight considerations for you and your team:

  1. How are you segmenting your content?

Segmentation, one of the golden oldies of the marketing profession, applies to content.  It’s important to not only know what content speaks to your paying customers, but also to the “tire kickers” you can engage to start doing business with your company.  But instead of looking at macro level stats among prospects, it helps to drill down with meaningful metrics among specific segments.  For example, how Data assessment banner adoften do VIP prospects come back and revisit your website?  What topics and what kind of content drove that behavior? The key is to segment your prospects who are at the beginning of the marketing funnel, e.g. new sign-ups to a newsletter etc.  When your list is enriched with data (from third parties or internal sources), it is easier to create more meaningful segments and then you’ll be in a better position to engage high potential prospects with relevant content.  One of our clients, a K-12 education company, had a “math concerned” segment.  After gaining some data, we created a free math assessment tool that was part of a broader customer acquisition strategy and revenue gains soon improved by double digits.

Content segmentation, of course, also applies to customers who are already on board, not just prospects.  Many companies are connecting their CRM systems to their analytics software, so they can understand which topics resonate most among different customer groups with real granularity.   This way they know the specific topics and types of content that are moving the needle (in terms of lead score, purchase frequency, recency, monetary value etc).

Ecommerce retailer Onward Reserve moved from a ‘batch and blast’ strategy to content segmentation that included best customers, non-purchasers and churning customers.  The groups were sent the same basic emails but with different content and messaging that was tailored based on previous engagement with their website.  They doubled their conversion rates and improved their average order value by 39% as a result.

2. Go predictive.

The content game is becoming more predictive.

Mashable uses data scientists to predict the likelihood of their content of going viral. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Haile Owusu, Chief Data Scientist at Mashable.  Owusu discussed how their approach to predicting content performance is similar to weather forecasting, the oldest data science in the world. They’ve gotten so good that within five minutes after a piece of content is published, they can predict the “velocity of sharing” with 75% accuracy and this number grows to 95% accuracy within 24 hours.

To do this Mashable looks not only at engagement with their own content, but also at content across the web.  To feed their content models, every day they crawl 1 million different URLs and 5 million social data points.

Of course, not every company has the scale to justify this kind of investment.  But predictive analytics are becoming attainable through cloud based tools, particularly with marketing automation.  Kapost reports a 250 percent increase in ROI when marketers incorporate predictive analytics tools into lead scoring—and content is the fuel that drives engagement, which makes lead scoring possible.  Some vendors even predict which keywords to use in content creation (based on analyzing traffic, conversions, SEO value and more).

3. On a budget? There’s always Google Analytics.

One of the advanced features of Google analytics is content grouping.  This allows you to categorize your content into buckets, to better see what kind of topics and issues resonate most.  Here are some uses:

  • See the impact of short form content vs. long form content that has a higher word count.
  • Group your content by author. Which authors drive the most traffic and revenue?
  • Group your content by department of company. Are certain departments producing better content?

Google even built a tool called Content Experiments that helps you conduct A/B tests to see what content performs best.  (Actually, well informed sources told me Google acquired some technology to make it, but still let’s give them some credit).

4. Headlines and Titles Matter.

I’m not advocating for salacious headlines that make for click bait.  But carefully crafted headlines that capture the imagination can make a real difference. A media company I know of recently helped a client with a piece of custom content.  The client’s headline was “Survey of State Tax Departments.”  Their team suggested “How does Your State Tax Department Stack Up?” which was tested vs. the other headline. It resulted in a 146% increase in clicks.

5. Still not a believer? Consider Google’s Algorithm.

Not everyone is drinking the data-driven content Kool-Aid.  But don’t we all want more traffic from search engines? It’s going back a while but remember this date: May 20, 2014. This day was when Matt Cutts, Google’s community liaison, tweeted that Google was rolling out Panda 4.0, an update to their ranking algorithm. Remember the companies that lost huge amounts of traffic?  It was the content farms (sites that quickly generate and publish low-quality and thin content) that suffered the biggest losses.

When your content is more engaging Google will take notice.  And when it’s not engaging they care.  In particular….

  • A high bounce rate can signal to Google that your visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for on your site, or that they don’t consider your site to be very useful.
  • If your site’s visitors only come to your site once, never to return, Google can take that fact to mean that your site isn’t all that relevant or useful.

6. Have Leadership from the Top

Building a data-driven content culture takes leadership from the top.  And since marketers are “the new publishers” they can take some good lessons from the media and publishing world. Take Mashable for example. Pete Cashmore founded at age 19 and grew it to two million readers within 18 months.   In an interview with Inc, his passion for the numbers was clear.  “I would look at the stats everyday and say, “Have I beaten yesterday?” And almost everyday I would have beaten yesterday in terms of the number of people who were reading the site. So, that kind of kept me going.”   With leadership from the top, Mashable’s audience exploded.  Just a few years later and they had 45 million monthly unique visitors and 25 million social followers.

At Penton (now part of Informa), our data-driven content initiative was backed by the CEO and executive committee.

  • We developed personal content dashboards for every editor in the company so every author could see the metrics for the content they created.
  • We encouraged friendly competition and set up internal sessions where editors shared what works with their colleagues. This way, content creators weren’t just hearing a mandate from the ivory tower, they got helpful feedback from their peers.
  • Performance was measured with common metrics on engagement across all of our 70+ brands, starting with benchmarks and goals for every brand.

Ultimately we began to shift the culture.  Penton developed data products that created new revenue streams, grew the audience significantly and ultimately the company was acquired for $1.6 billion.

7. Get the Resources to Win

In order to win the content game, you need the resources to win.  Outbrain, the content syndication platform, has multiple data scientists on staff whose job is to inform the content mix so that Outbrain’s content recommendations receive the maximum engagement. They are staffed up to win the data-driven content game.  Who is on their team?  Data scientists, engineers with experience in machine learning and even a VP of Recommendations.

If you don’t have – or can’t justify – the resources to handle it internally, there are outside communities of data scientists like Kaggle that offer a more cost-effective way to harness a ‘cognitive surplus’ of top data scientists.

And if you don’t have enough usage or scale for a big data project, there’s always the tried and true method:  creating new accountabilities and roles in your organization centered around analysis.

8. Data-Driven Content Can Set Creativity Free, Not Limit It

Some content creators feel that the numbers can stifle their creativity.  Most content people are creative souls who want their originality and perspective to shine through. I’ve been there personally (and wrote for the Wall Street Journal when I was twenty).  Somehow, along the way though, I became more of a geek and learned that being driven by metrics does not necessarily imply a lack of creativity.  On the contrary, it can provide helpful context and a framework to guide creativity in directions that bear the most fruit.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, feel free to explore this article: 14 Types of Data that Can Boost Your Marketing and Sales

We also offer a Data Assessment that helps companies understand their gaps in what they know about their customers, prospects, competitors and marketing performance, with specific recommendations on how those gaps can be filled.

Feel free to ping me if you’d like to discuss.

Brad Mehl

By |March 18th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Data-Driven Content – The New Reality of Marketing and Sales

What’s “Working” in Your Business May Be Hurting You.

In recent years, Usain Bolt was widely regarded as the world’s fastest man — he held the world record in both the 100 meter and 200 meter dash and other events. In the 2008 Olympics he also set a world record in his other event, the 4×100 meter relay, with flair. As Wikipedia notes his record was not only set without a favorable wind, but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished and his shoelace was untied. Bolt won, and it wasn’t close.

What was the secret of his success?

According to Time Magazine, Bolt’s Olympics diet was, by and large, Chicken McNuggets.mcnuggets labled

In the ten days Bolt spent in Beijing, he downed approximately 1,000 nuggets, averaging 100 a day.   “At first, I ate a box of 20 for lunch, then another for dinner,” Usain writes in his autobiography. “The next day I had two boxes for breakfast, one for lunch and then another couple in the evening. I even grabbed some fries and an apple pie to go with it.” The end result?  Three gold medals, all with world records attached.

The Things “Driving Your Success” May Not be What They Seem.

As an ambitious Olympian whose entire focus was winning gold, Bolt must have believed that the McNugget diet would help him win. And win he did.  But did McNuggets actually help?  We’re all results oriented people. But there can be dangers in focusing on “the win” without closely examining what really drives it.  There can be correlation without causation–  just because things two things happen at the same time does not mean that one caused the other. Not knowing the real drivers of your success makes it hard to repeat that success, or change course when situations require.  We advise clients to quantify business drivers with real granularity.  Often the data is not easily available and lives in different silos, e.g. CRM systems, financial systems, email systems.  Unifying sales and marketing data is a challenge but something we take on since you can’t act on data if your data is not in shape to be analyzed.  Understanding the reasons for success often requires a deeper dive.

How Sustainable is Your Success?

It’s wonderful to celebrate successes. It motivates the team, builds momentum and unifies people around common goals.  However, as leaders we need to carefully define what success really means, particularly in the context of where the company and market is headed. Things that seem to be working that can actually pose a future risk, because what works today may not work tomorrow.  Here are some examples:

  1. A high performing, dominant marketing or sales channel. What if it dries up?
  2. Star performers carrying the load. What if they leave?  Every great team needs a strong bench.
  3. Solid sales reps, but those focused on legacy product lines and old sales tactics – not strategic growth areas.
  4. Certain customers (that may not be that profitable after deeper analysis).
  5. “Reliable” metrics. Are you measuring and optimizing for the wrong thing?

Self Imposed Change is a Sign of True Champions

True success is repeatable and scalable well beyond the short term win. But building a repeatable system of success often requires adapting and changing.   After the Games, Bolt hired a well-known dietician.  He ultimately realized that his horrible eating habits had to change. Like great champions, winning companies impose change on themselves.  Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Nardelli, the former CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler, at a conference where he spoke.  As Bob said, “Leaders must be able to reinvent themselves before they can reinvent their companies. You either innovate or you evaporate.”

Watch Successful Disruptors Closely and Be Realistic

Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, used to stress the importance of having a healthy paranoia in business. How well do you know the disruptors nipping at the heels of your company?  You can see their success but can you and should you emulate it?  There are no plug and play strategies—the successful practices of your competitors may not work for your company.  Honest looks in the mirror and reality checks on your company’s capabilities can help avoid false starts and inform strategies around building vs. buying vs. partnering to fill big gaps.  Because the success you see on the outside may not so doable when you look deeply inside.

I hate to end this article on such an abrupt note, but I have to run and get some Chicken McNuggets…or should I?

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Read our other recent article:  Build an Ecosystem Around Your Company: The Google Way

By |March 17th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on What’s “Working” in Your Business May Be Hurting You.