Browsing Tag

Customer relationship management

Marketing is in the Middle: Lauren Carlson

The next person in the series, is Lauren Carlson.  I asked Lauren to participate since as the interviews started to unfold from a content perspective, no one was really talking about tools which provide marketers an edge.  Lauren writes about various topics related to CRM software, with particular interest in sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service and this background clearly made her a great fit to help fill this gap which has emerged in the discussions around marketing being in the middle.

Like all marketers or people around tech – Lauren isn’t formally trained in technology or marketing.  She has a background in the music industry, and when she isn’t writing about software, you can find her running at  Town Lake and singing at local venues around Austin.  So maybe, just maybe I should have entitled the series Austin is in the Middle of Technology marketing with a couple of  other geographies added to the mix, just for fun.

Here is Lauren’s take:

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

I am relatively new to marketing but I continue to get exposure to many software marketers, companies and service providers as a journalist. The role I have at Software Advice provides great access to leaders in the community. As a practitioner, I am actively involved in doing search engine optimization.

When you look at your career in marketing, what activities have you found most interesting/challenging?

Targeting the right segments in the market.  Ultimately as marketers, we have to find our niche or audience.  So finding the right audience can often be difficult. Sometimes we have really great content, but if it doesn’t hit the right person, it is useless.

Based on your experience what activities do you think get the most return?

Doing the background research! Certainly it can take a good deal of effort and a bit of time, but it often brings back the most returns. I spend days researching keywords and search stats to better understand my audience. It can be tedious, but when we start to rank for those competitive terms, that’s really when you see the fruits of your labor.

What do you feel is the most important component of a successful marketing gig?

Content. Content. Content. Content drives everything. You can have the most talented people or the best business model, coolest tech, but if your content is bad, you’ve got nothing to keep your audience/buyers engaged.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

It would be focused on collaboration and creativity. Sometimes I get my best ideas when talking with a co-worker or when I am simply away from my desk interacting with others. Don’t get me wrong –  some structure is great, but I think having the freedom to team up or step out of a structured environment can really free the mind to come up with some awesome stuff.

How far is this from reality?

I think that a lot of new start-ups are adopting this environment. Our company is working toward it and I have heard of others that are using this model. I think it is possible in organizations with a legacy in the traditional way of marketing. It is simply a matter of them accepting it and making the decision to adopt it.

So what’s next?

I have personally done a lot of research in the area of marketing automation – a piece of software that automates basic to complex marketing tasks. Companies are beginning to see the value of adding a marketing automation system to their enterprise software mix. However, the issue of adoption is what is holding it back. Software Advice just published a very interesting article from Jeff Pedowitz called, “Why the Marketing Automation Market is Floundering & 5 Fixes to Fuel It.” One of the stumbling blocks faced by the industry is education. We have this great new software, but we have not educated marketers on what it is or how to use it. I think we will see a new generation of marketers popping up in the next few years. These marketers will be true analytical thinkers more focused on process. We still need creative minds, as well. I think when you combine great technology and process with vibrant creativity and ideas, you have the perfect marketing mix.


Twitter: @MASoftwareGuide or @CRMadvice


Develop content your buyer might actually scan…

a kind of magic
Image by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Flickr

There is no shortage of stuff to write as marketers and nearly everyday someone is looking for a new piece, email blast or other “tweak” to content from us as product marketers.  So we either edit, proof or create content daily so it is important we create something which might actually get read.  Research indicates folks have 8 or 9 seconds to grab the buyers attention to keep them reading or get them to click on another web page.

When people are looking to solve problems they are more than likely real busy, just like you, so to get them to read your email, move through your website or to even scan a piece of collateral provided by a sales person is no easy task.

Which takes me back to the 7 Expectations of a Buyer which I’ve been working…. #3 is I don’t want mass communications and generic content.   Even though we probably know this 3rd expectation of buyers intuitively, it’s not what we do.  More often than not, we write to our own personal comfort levels and make sure we feel good about the content – it’s got the right buzzwords, the right images and just the right amount of boxes and arrows to show that we know our stuff.  In fact, we spend so much talking about us, that it’s difficult to get even a couple of sentences in around the needs of the prospect/buyer.

Whether it’s the corporate website, a blog, an email campaign or onsite presentations/demos, buyers want content that allows them to buy your product, but we have spent a good deal of time “optimizing” our CRM implementations over the last decade and processes for OUR needs and we created content which drove the automation.

Yup, we spent the last decade focusing on getting contact information and routing leads automagically which is definitely at odds with content the buyer needs and when the buyer needs that content.   The first attempt at CRM in many companies was to track and automate the sales process.  Another way to look at it was to do everything possible to not have a customer talk to us.

Content as a task.  Asked for, Delivered, Done?!

A equally challenging as developing content for our CRM needs, many of us create a good part of the content we develop as marketers is project based – reactive.  We all get these projects – perhaps you have a web site refresh, a given email campaign or even an all-in re-branding exercise which is lead by a peer or different group all together which need you to complete your tasks by a certain date.

So what do most of us do?   We create/edit/proofread the content as requested and move on to other 75 really urgent items in our inbox.

There are always going to be tasks to do and content which is needed, but finding a way to provide focus for your content is critical.  What is really needed for sales?   Why do some pieces get read and others get tossed/not used by sales?

The main reason for this is the increasing importance of content to how buyers discover you and your products – a search term, a link from a friend or the subject line on the 1 of 400 emails which are unread in their inbox.

Ok, maybe that’s just my inbox….

With this flurry of content available in everyone’s inbox and everything just a Google search away, you can’t see developing your content as check-box tasks which just need to get done, it should be based on a strategy grounded in an understanding of your market’s buyer personas and their expectations.

Curious if your content is interesting or relevant to a buyer?  Here are a couple of tools to check out:

The We We Calculator – An online tool to see if your text is about your products or services or the customer/buyer.

Gooblygook Grader – this is from the folks at Hubspot you created website grader and twitter grader.  This tool analyzes if you’re writing content which is effective.

B2B Marketers and Buyers need to interact differently

So I spent some time the other day writing about the 7 expectations of a social buyer and the more I thought about it, it became evident that it isn’t the expectations of a social buyer, but more so buyers in general in a connected world.  We ultimately need to address the needs of the buyer as much, if not more than the sales force as B2B marketers.  Selling is one thing, buying is definitely another and it is that later that has changed with the emergence social for all industries.

With so many social options out there for buyers, the sourcing for products/solutions is different and so is the expectations of the availability of information and offers.  Remember when the RFP or the trade show was the best way to source options?  Those day are gone for many of us B2B technology marketers.  Buyers want information on their time lines (or at least their managers).  So as I think more about the expectations of buyers, I’m going to write a little more detail on each of the 7 items buyers expect and maybe even change them a little bit over time as I write, but as of now here is where I am when thinking out buyers and their expectations:

7 Expectations of a Buyer

  1. I want offers and promotions which are valuable to me
  2. I want you to understand how I buy
  3. I don’t want mass communications and generic content
  4. I want to buy on my own time line, no matter when your quarter ends
  5. I want to tell you when you suck and when you don’t
  6. I want to do business with folks which include me in their processes
  7. I want to recommend products and companies to others I know.

So as we look at how each of us engages our marketplace and buyers with promotions, it is important we utilize as much data as possible to position “best fit offers” into existing customers, but also potential customers.  Sometime we should be asking why things work, why things don’t work and in general why our buyers are even in the market to better address the needs of the buyer to better position offers and promotions which are actually compelling/valuable.

Our daily life is cluttered with shotgun/spray and pray offers just – check your inbox/spam folder, Twitter stream and Facebook walls for messages that don’t resonate with you as a buyer.   Our online and offline existence as consumers in both a B2B and B2C context is filled with “missed the mark” marketing campaigns and social engagement which we either ignore or earns someone a block or unfollow.     The approach to marketing for many marketers or self-proclaimed marketers is “I have an email list, so let’s play the numbers.”

This approach might work for some companies/products/industries — providing you have a big enough list, a low enough set of expectations and a corporate misson to pursue the random transactions there could be fruit in a legacy marketing path, but overtime opt-outs, inbox rules and spam filter enhancements will limit the productivity of your campaigns, if they haven’t already.   Did you know that up to 20% of all emails, even non-spam, aren’t delivered?  So you just might want a different approach based on technology hurdles which exist, but also the fact that most of us just don’t have the time or attention to deal with poorly crafted messages and targeted promotions.

This attention issue isn’t just an email phenomenon… the same issue exists in all mediums… we all flip past ads in magazines, ignore Google Ads and TV commercials which have no relevance to us and with the shrinking attention span of buyers/consumers, it is theorized that we only have 9 seconds to get their attention as marketers or they are off to the next article, webpage or search term.

So what can we do as marketers to enhance our effectiveness and outreach to our target buyer personas?  Here is a couple of ideas of how to improve engagement:

  • Know what your buyer cares about: Understand their goals, their problems and speak to them in their vocabulary, don’t know what your buyers care about? Ask them.
  • Actually use the information you have about your buyers: Don’t have enough data on a given customer? a whole customer segment? Buy some extended data to round out your understanding of your customers from a systematic perspective for better targeting your messages and offers.  Better yet provide folks an opportunity to provide more information, most folks will provide it so long as you use it wisely.  Cisco has a great B2B example of how to collect extended customer profile information.
  • Treat existing customers as new buyers with every engagement: Don’t assume since someone has does business with you that they will buy again because of a discount or pending holiday. Social engagement is just different and is impacting loyalty overall.
  • Buyers often care more about community feedback than anything you can tell them: Provide easy access to what the community is saying about you, your products and your service directly from your website. Make buyers feel included the community immediately.
  • Think about how you engage your buyer as a platform for developing a relationship, not generating transactions: Develop the right strategies and goals for your business and your partners  (customers/buyers/business partners), then worry about your internal processes and systems. Too many marketers and companies see current processes, systems and internal data requirements as core requirements and typically buyers aren’t interested in what YOU need, just what they need.