B2B Marketing

Over 90% of Companies Lack Digital Skills – And What You Can Do About It


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What is the digital talent gap?

According to a study done by Capgemini Consulting in conjunction with MIT Center for Digital Business, they uncovered some staggering stats that will help us understand the phenomenon.

  • Over 90% of companies lack digital skills
  • 77% of companies considered ‘missing digital skills’ as a key hurdle to digital transformation
  • 87% of companies believe a digital transformation is a competitive opportunity
  • Only 47% of companies are investing in developing digital skills
  • Only 4% of companies are ensuring their training efforts are aligned with their overall digital strategy
  • Companies are spending no more than 20% of their training budget on digital
  • Only 30% of organizations mentioned HR as being actively involved in skills development

Companies across the globe felt the biggest holes in digital skill sets across their organization in the following areas: social media, mobile, internal social networks, process automation and analysis.

According to the same 2013 study, the below skills are most relevant for the digital age:

  • Big data analytics
  • Social media
  • Mobile devices
  • Cloud

To get a bit more granular, skills in this area range from light tech to heavy tech-centric skills. Light tech skills in the digital age include things like social media management, brand building online, online community management, virtual (webinar, presentation, etc.) facilitation, writing for different digital mediums, marketing automation tools management, customer service and public relations. Heavy tech skills in the digital age include things like user interface design, mobile device management, mobile device security, data analysis, app management and design, and much more.

The second half of the puzzle lies in corporations needs to match tech skills with business acumen. The true value of digital skills are born when they are combined with a deep understanding of the business. This is leading to an increased need for employees who have both technical skills plus business and leadership abilities.

So - what can companies do to ‘plug the skills gap?’

Let’s first take a look at what some companies are currently doing. Google partnered with P&G to implement an employee exchange program to help teach their employees how to sell things online. They focused on digital and search marketing to help bring their e-commerce into the 21st century. Nike partnered with Techstars in an incubator program to create new products.

Upskilling employees is an ideal way to empower those who already know your business, with the digital skills needed to close the gap in your organization.

And, this upskilling does not need to be ‘Google-sized.’ Small and medium sized business have options. There are ways to invest in current employees that don’t require you to be P&G or Nike.

Organizations, like ours - offer affordable options for digital and online training for companies of all sizes. We’ve been training teams since 2007 and have supported corporate teams as large as 10,000 employees, and as small as 10. We offer fully customized eLearning programs with the added benefit of leveraging over 400 + hours of existing high quality content taught by Digital Marketing thought leaders, authors, and leading practitioners.

We begin with an assessment to test employee’s digital knowledge to help us build a program to fill your skills gap and augment your employee strengths. We’ll then help design a custom based learning pathway comprised of classes that fit your organization's’ particular skill(s) gap. We also offer LMS integration, marketing support, reporting dashboards, and robust user role access to support any size organization.

We’d love to help you empower your team. Visit our Corporate Training Page or send us an inquiry.



Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends For 2016



Tis’ the season for lists! Christmas lists, lengthy grocery lists for holiday gatherings, itineraries for holiday travel. If you’re a marketer, surely you’re poised for the onslaught of ‘2016 trends to watch,’ lists, popping up all over our favorite blogs, periodicals, and websites; Top digital marketing trends to watch in 2016, 5 Marketing tactics that will make or break your company in 2016, 7 Digital marketing tactics you need to master in 2016. So, to ease your burden, we’ve read most of them for you - and prepared a snap-shot of the most popular from the list of lists. Here are the Top 10 digital trends and tactics to plan for in 2016.


1) Social Media - From Ugly Duckling to Swan

With a number of alliances between Google and big social media players (read: Facebook and Twitter) it’s no wonder marketers are starting to head the social call. The product of these marriages will increase the importance of a company's social media presence. Bloomberg was quoted saying, “[tweets] will start to be visible in Google’s search results as soon as they are posted.” It doesn’t seem likely that Google will slow down forging more partnerships with leading social platforms. The result? Allowing social results to influence search engine results!

Next, if you haven’t experienced the upgraded targeting ad features on Facebook, take the time to get acquainted now. The retargeting and integrations within Facebook Ad’s manager are powerful data driven features that have marketers excited. Serve ads based on retargeting, custom lists, actions, behaviors, page visits ... the list goes on.

Lastly, social media has become one of the number one place customers go to thank (or complain). The highly transparent and public nature of social media makes users feel like they’ve ‘cut to the front of the line’. If you’re not hearing their complaints (or accolades) and acting accordingly, you can be certain other people are.

So what should you do? Tweet. Be active, transparent, human and timely across social channels. Allow people to know what you’re up to - build brand trust and intrigue. Invest in your Facebook content and strategies, and get social listening tools so your customer service team can be a part of (and control of) the ‘social goings on’ of your company.

Recommended class: Using Social Media to Create Engagement by Kevin Popovic - Founder of Ideahaus


2) Now You See It, Now You Don’t - The Rise of Ephemeral Marketing

Sometimes termed ‘temporary social media’ - Snapchat is leading the way in ephemeral marketing. Snapchat is useful for generating excitement around a new product or feature, or driving specific marketing actions, such as promos or discounts. Many companies (Food Network, Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Cosmo, ESPN, to name a few) are capitalizing on the younger generation, aka millennials, who flock to Snapchat where they can consume content that feels ‘straight to the point’ and, where they can access ‘limited access content’, that is content with an expiration date - read as: exclusive.


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Recommended class: Trending Social Apps: Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat  by Kelsey Jones owner of MoxieDot


3) Content Remains King

Think content is only used to strengthen SERs? While that is absolutely one of the key reasons you should be creating regular, original, relevant, brand enhancing and engaging quality content, check out these statistics that tell a compelling story about the other important roles content plays.

  • 90% of customers find custom content useful while 78% believe that companies with custom content are interested in building positive relationships
  • Content marketing costs less than traditional marketing, 62% less per lead, to be exact

Content builds brand trust and loyalty, and helps define you as an expert in your field. If you don’t yet have brand advocates upping your credibility, you’ll have to be the one to do that - and one of the best ways you can accomplish this is with content. In 2016, if you don’t have the budget or resources to create a robust brand advocacy strategy, think about getting influencers on board to help tell your story. It comes down to this, if you’re not doing it, your competitors are, and as content and consumption becomes a larger part of the buyer's journey, if you’re not making noise with your content, you’re getting drowned out by the noise of others.

Recommended class: Content Marketing for Social Media by Neal Schaffer, Founder of Maximize Social Business


4) Location Based Marketing Technology

Location based marketing is particularly important if your company regularly hosts events. Through the use of fancy tech (Radio Frequency Identification - RFID) marketers can utilize wearables, applications, or even cards with a unique RFID identifier, to amplify social sharing by creating a seamless and integrated consumption and sharing experience.

Although a lot of the freshest and coolest location based marketing is geared towards events, location based marketing isn’t just for event marketers. Other location based services and technologies have been created to locate nearby devices that can detect prospects at the time of engagement with a particular product or retail establishment.


Minority Report? Anyone?


5) Relationship Marketing

This boils down to creating loyalists (brand advocates) instead of focusing on quick, short-term sales and aquisition. The focus is on long lasting customer relationships. Those companies that do this well are the envy of many, having created an ecosystem where customers are creating brand awareness that feels organic, authentic and credible.

Coca-Cola kills it when it comes to relationship marketing. This is one of my favorites (of hundreds) of relationship campaigns they’ve run all over the world.

Coca-Cola caps as currency - genius. Not to mention, this one’s a real tear jerker.

Recommended class: Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media by Brian Basilico, owner of B2B Interactive Marketing, Inc.  


6) Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has become increasingly necessary as more and more companies are understanding the importance of content and leveraging content as a leading tactic for led gen. Automation tools make it easier to manage everything from blogging to the customer/prospect lifecycle. Curious about what tools are out there? Check out this list of The Top 50 Marketing Automation Tools and Apps.

Recommended Class: Marketing Automation Best Practices for Success by Carlos Hidalgo

7) Virtual Reality

Virtual reality will emerge, and has the potential to change the way we tell stories. Obviously we expect 3D to take off first in the game industry, however, the benefits this tech add to the customer journey are intriguing. Imagine taking your next car out for a test drive or taking a tour of a potential vacation home, without leaving the comfort of your own living room? As personalization continues to be top priority, savvy marketers will find ways to bring their products and stories to life. Whether this will be a massive game changer remains to be seen, but with billions of dollars of funding around, it surely will be entertaining to watch it all unfold.


8) Wearables and the Internet of Things

What has felt like a slow and steady burn for wearable tech popularity in 2015, will likely continue into 2016. What this means for marketers is even more opportunity for targeted marketing, data and behavior driven marketing. It also means you may be making marketing choices based on the day-to-day behaviors of your potential consumers. Wearables will also change the way people share content, so the whole social landscape will shift accordingly, plus more wearable tech means less dependence on RFID’s or ibeacons for geo-location marketing efforts.


9) Video or Bust

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google? The number of searches on YouTube tops Bing, Y!, Ask.com, and AOL combined. YouTube also boasts an audience reach of more US adults ages 18-34 than any other cable network. Makes you squirm a little thinking about all the search you’re missing out on - doesn’t it? Live streaming takes video to a new level entirely. With ephemeral marketing gaining popularity, anyone with a smartphone can capture ‘exclusive’ content. In 2016 make sure you’re exploring snapchat, periscope, and Facebook and seeing where you can incorporate live streaming into your marketing strategies as well as planning for a YouTube presence if you don’t already have one. Check out this article for examples of these 8 brands live stream video for innovative marketing.


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10) Optimized for Mobile

At this point, mobile and responsive websites should be a no brainer. For the past few years, we’ve been sprinting towards mobile dominating desktop, and we’ve passed it. Mobile has officially passed desktop browsing. What does this mean for you? In 2016, a mobile-optimized site will be an acceptable placeholder for an app, but not for long. An app can (read: should) do everything your website can do, just in a more accessible, intuitive and convenient way. Not to mention, an app is both touch screen (read: less barriers to clicks) and is a advertisement/reminder of your product that goes with your user everywhere they go. Talk about location based marketing 😉 2016 is the year to create a plan and market strategy for your app, get familiar with the latest app indexing best practices, and get an app to market, that for all intents and purposes, could replace your website.


Which trends and strategies do you think will dominate 2016? We’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to share!


Happy Holidays!



Small-Budget Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season



Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us in no time and every self-respecting business will be sending out letters, greeting cards, emails or logo-stamped gifts. Direct marketing is one of the most fascinating branches of marketing. From the days of yore, it has made people talk, share and take action. With so many messages thrown at people throughout the day, direct marketing provides one of the least risky – and anticipated and accepted, if a bit interruptive – ways to connect with customers. I love creative mailers that come through my door. Some are thoughtful, some are clever, and some are downright cheeky. However, one common point amongst all these mailers is they are all prohibitively expensive for small businesses.

This is where small budget ideas come in. These ideas make it possible for small businesses to connect with their customers in surprisingly affordable and effective ways.

Holiday Vines

Vine set the precedent in making hastily-shot amateur videos all the rage. With Instagram and Periscope only confirming that video-clip marketing is here to stay, small businesses have an amazing opportunity to post a series of Vines leading up to Christmas and New Year. All you have to do is grab your smartphone and look around for cute and quirky opportunities to make a video.

Check out this cute and funny Vine made with zero dollars’ investment:

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Embed Vine: https://vine.co/v/OgIwBEnLKPv

Take a look at the other videos on Christmas Channel – the channel that hosts the above video for more amazing ideas.

Top Tips

  • Share your Vines on other social platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook.
  • Embed links to your Vines on product pages on your website, blog posts, and email.
  • Make a series of Vines on a particular theme. For instance, think Harvey Nichols’ famous “I Spent it On Myself” commercial, break the idea into smaller videos – and you have a series!
  • Scour the app store for video editing apps that come with tons of effects to make your videos funny, creative and cool. Use these liberally.

Holiday Emails

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Inboxes are invariably flooded with the same old “formulaically creative” emails during holiday times. So the chances of your email being read are infinitely small.

But with a little proactive and out-of-the-box (we desperately need a more out-of-the-box word for out-of-the-box) thinking, you can ensure your holiday emails are read.

Top Tips

  • First things first – stop being stingy when it comes to photos. Say goodbye to the ubiquitous boring vector backgrounds and illustrations, and invest in high quality pictures; or better yet, hire a good photographer. Yes, this still counts as “small-budget.” You can borrow creative “ideas” instead of “images” – Pinterest is an excellent source of inspiration.
  • If you are short on time, try online email creators. They are intuitive and easy to use, and you are done in minutes. Plus they come with a lot of beautiful, seasonal templates and forms, so you can create highly engaging emails with designer-like finesse. Most likely, your email marketing suite has such features too.
  • Don’t leave it for too late – start emailing at least weeks in advance.
  • Include creatively modified photos of your staff for more personalized email greetings. Other than being great for employees’ morale, it also lends a face and identity to your company.

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Web Banners

Turn the banners on your homepage and category pages into online billboards. The banner or slider on your homepage is the first thing your visitors notice, so it makes sense to create one specifically for holiday season. Personalized card and gift item retailer FunkyPigeon.com is known for putting out banners with timely messages relevant to upcoming events, days or seasons.

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More effective than just banners are entire landing pages with customized elements, each of which appeals to customers’ holiday moods. You can do this (without much coding) using DIY ecommerce platforms such as Spaces, which allows you to create product pages or even single-page websites with mobile-optimized, easy-to-A/B-test banners that give you more room for creativity while showcasing your merchandise.

If all your DIY or in-house efforts fail, you can always fall back on community-powered design marketplaces like 99Designs to not only get yourself a customized banner but pick and choose from dozens of entries submitted by the community.


In perfecting your means, don’t forget your message. Content marketing still remains the #1 small-budget marketing medium. Done right on your email and social media, and especially on your blog, content allows you to drive traffic to your business.

However, you need to start early. Create indirect branded content (including infographics) on holiday themes, such as:

  • X Things You Can Fill in That Dog Christmas Stocking (for a pet food company)
  • X Original Setups to Capture Awesome Christmas Selfies (for a camera or smartphone company)
  • Why Santa Is Going To Pay Us an Extended Visit This Year (for anyone to share their annual success stories)

Send teasers through emails and share them on social networks from at least a month before, while there is still ample chance for them to be read.

Smart Gifts

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Though content and email marketing have proven to be highly effective ways of marketing, it is always a good idea to send out physical gifts during holidays.

But you need to think beyond personalized pens to logo-engraved mugs – there never seems to be a shortfall of such boring “corporate” gifts.

And what’s more, these gifts are just that – gifts. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take on the festivities with more smart (read eco-friendly) and creative ideas for direct marketing (without the overwhelming expenses, of course)?

So here’s a thoughtful gift idea for which clients and customers will remember you for a long time:

Costing just around $2, plantable paper can make awesome gifts to help your customers stay focused on their goals. Simply send a letter with the plantable or seed paper (with your own custom messages such as “Hope our association grows stronger by the day!”) that explains the concept of your gift and how to use it, and you are done!

Plantable papers are available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get hold of it.

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The best part about such gifts is you can follow up with timely cross-sells or reports and cement your relationship in the process.

Over to You

The new truth of marketing is that no single channel is enough these days. You cannot say with conviction that you’ll be successful just by milking a channel you’re good at, whether it’s email, social or television ads. You need to create a multi-channel marketing mix with all the ingredients perfectly mixed together to create awesome holiday season campaigns.

With mega-sale days just round the corner, don’t waste much time – start experimenting with as many guerilla-budget campaigns as you can. Like, now!


How to Hit a Home Run With Your Content


It’s every content marketer’s worst nightmare…

You pour all your resources into creating a major piece of content, such as a white paper or webinar. You think the topic will resonate with your audience. The production quality is excellent. Your message is clear and concise.

B2B content marketing

But then you press, “publish” and nothing happens. No downloads…no registrations…no rush of customers calling your sales reps.

So, what happened?

You might have picked a topic that doesn’t interest your target audience. Many B2B marketers have a disconnect between the content they publish and what their customers want. If your content doesn’t hit the mark, buyers won’t respond.

Here are five steps you can take to pick the right topics and hit a home run with your content:

1.  Look for trends.

One way to bring more people to your content is by writing about trending topics. And no, you don’t need to blog about what the Kardashians are up to this week. Here are three tools – other than Google Analytics – that will help you find trending topics and keywords:

  • Hashtagify.me helps you find trending hashtags. Simply enter a hashtag, and the service will tell you how popular it is. It will also recommend related hashtags that can help you reach a wider audience.
  • BuzzSumo gives you insight into top-performing content. When you enter your key phrase, BuzzSumo will display the most-shared content containing those words. This helps you see if your key phrase will attract readers.
  • Google Trends shows you how searches for a key phrase have increased or decreased over time. You can narrow your results by country or time period. For example, you can see how searches for “cloud computing” have changed over the past year or 90 days.

2. Get to know your target audience.

If you haven’t updated your buyer personas since the first season of Breaking Bad, it’s time for a refresh. Updating your personas will give you insights into your audience’s top challenges and goals, so you can create content that speaks directly to their needs. Here are some questions to ask about your buyers:

  • What are their roles?
  • What industries do they work in?
  • What is their typical day like?
  • What are their top challenges?
  • What are their biggest goals?
  • How have their goals, needs and challenges changed from the last time you updated your buyer personas?
  • What stage(s) of the sales cycle do they influence?
  • Where do they get information about your products or services?

3. Speak to each stage of the sales cycle.

In Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, 61% of respondents said they selected vendors who delivered a mix of content that was appropriate for each stage of their buying process. Reviewing your buyer personas will help you see what topics will engage them during each stage of the sales cycle. Provide them with the information that they need when they move through the following stages:

  • Awareness
  • Investigation
  • Evaluation
  • Decision
  • Loyalty/advocacy

4. Learn some new tricks.

Many B2B marketers create the same type of content all the time. For example, they might publish only sales materials or educational content. However, varying your topics will keep your audience more engaged. Mix it up by creating the following types of content:

  • Fun
  • Educational
  • Persuasive

5. Answer customer questions.

Your customer’s questions are a treasure trove of potential content. When you find a question, save it in a spreadsheet. Then, you can decide if you want to answer it in a new piece of content. What questions are customers asking in your forums? What are they emailing your sales and customer success reps about? What are they asking you on social media?

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When you go through these steps, you’ll find a lot of great topic ideas. Which of these topics will your audience find the most compelling? Which topics will help you get the biggest bang from your content investment? Add these topics to your editorial calendar.

Want to learn more about how to fill your content calendar with topics that engage your target audience? Register for my session, “How to Plan Your B2B Content Calendar,” part of the Digital All Stars Virtual Summit on May 13th.


How Content Marketing Has Become Marketing Content


It’s no secret that content marketing has been all of the rage the last couple of years. Adoption rates, as reported by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), bear this out, too. That might lead many to believe that last year’s top digital marketing focus might have been content marketing.

That’s great, but there’s a little problem with that. CMI reports that only 37 percent of marketers believe their content is effective.

How Content Marketing Has Become Marketing Content by Chad Pollitt for OMI

Since so many brands in a variety of industries are cranking out content, many of these verticals have moved from content deficits to surpluses in the last few years. There’s much more competition for online content consumers’ attention today than at any other time in history.

Early adopter brands are the ones mostly reaping the content marketing rewards. They earned their audiences when they were one of the only content producing brands in their industry.

Related Class: The Marketer's Secret to Content Marketing Success

In the time of content deficits, brands could mostly rely on organic social and search channels to deliver the audiences they sought. That dynamic has changed substantially in the last few years. Year over year growth in organic search queries is on the decline and Facebook’s organic visibility is quickly approaching zero.

Twitter announced last fall that it will be minimizing brands’ organic visibility, too. SEO isn’t what it used to be, either.

Today, it’s easier to earn a real audience that produces the signals Google and the other search engines use to determine relevance than it is to game their algorithms.

As a result, brands should focus on marketing their content using earned and paid channels, and not content marketing this year. Creating owned media, hitting the publish button, sharing it on social media and broadcasting to a small email list won’t cut it in 2015.

Marketers residing in the 63 percent that believe their content is ineffective are starting to figure this out. The ones that don’t will start to see company support for content marketing wane.

The Channels of Content Promotion


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It’s not a mystery why over the last several years a cornucopia of new and unique content promotion tools, networks and tactics have cropped up. The promise of search and social organically delivering game changing business results in a "build and they will come" strategy is a myth with today’s content surpluses.

That’s why a robust content promotion ecosystem that leverages both paid and earned media for a converged strategy exists.

Related Class: Creating Content that Converts for Lead Generation

Each earned and paid tactic represented in the channels above aren’t necessarily game changers by themselves. Leveraging a mix of tactics increases the likelihood of success.

For a more detailed and thorough explanation of the strategies, tactics and tools of content promotion download my latest ebook, The Content Promotion Manifesto for free, but only for a limited time.


How to Segment Your Mailing List for More Effective Email Marketing


Email marketing is one of the best tools in your digital marketing arsenal, and it should be used as a tool – carefully and with precise aim. Too many businesses still use email as a sort of spray-and-pray campaign, trusting in a big mailing list to bring in at least a few sales, even if the great majority of recipients trash the email immediately. After all, once you’ve put together an email campaign, it doesn’t cost you any more whether you send it to 20 or 2,000 people, right?

email marketing

Wrong. Unfocused content and untargeted marketing can irritate your subscribers, resulting in unsubscribes, abuse reports, negative brand image, and lost sales. And it dilutes the impact your email marketing could otherwise have – so when you do finally have a great bit of content or a huge offer, subscribers won’t bother reading. Your mailing list is chock full of qualified leads, and it deserves more than general batch and blast emails.

Divide and Conquer Your List

In a recent post, CEO Susan Baroncini-Moe discussed the importance of honing your digital marketing efforts to your target markets, no matter the medium. The good news is that email marketing is one of the easiest to segment and target, and at a low cost as well. As long as you’ve kept good records and know how to sort through them, you can segment your mailing list and target all your messages.

Related Class: How to Use Email for Demand Generation

Email marketing service provider MailChimp used results from 11,000 segmented campaigns, sent to over 9 million recipients, to research the benefits of segmenting your mailing list. Their results confirm what you’d generally expect – segmented campaigns had 19% higher open rates, and 22% higher click through rates, performing better across the board.

Experiment with Your Targets

If you’ve never segmented your mailing list before, start small and think carefully about divisions in your customer base. If, for example, your product sells well with grandparents and young parents, there are similarities there. But there are also differences that you can use to tailor your content and marketing pitch. Come up with a few strategies to test, and run a campaign based on these, keeping a careful eye on your analytics. Use data like CTRs, open rates, and sales to determine which approaches were successful and which performed poorly. Three ideas to get you started:

Time Triggered Emails

Run a list of every customer who purchased in the last month, 6 months, or year. They’re obviously interested in what you’re selling, or they wouldn’t be in this group – so hit them with helpful content to remind them what great services or products you offer, and, if you’re feeling generous, a discount voucher code to tempt them back to your sales funnel.

New Subscribers and Buyers

You wouldn’t want your sales team using the same pitch on first time perspective buyers that they use on loyal returning customers, would you? Hitting brand new subscribers to your mailing list with the same content you send everyone else isn’t the best way to nurture them into the fold.

Related Class: Email Campaign Fundamentals

Introduce yourself with thoughtful, quality content that really reflects your brand and voice, so that these new readers will get a sense of your business. Let them know how excited you are to have them on board, and ease them into the relevant sales messaging based on demographic data like age, gender, and location. These recipients haven’t seen your previous campaigns, so if you have older content or messaging that you’re particularly proud of, send it their way!

Subscribers Who Have Never Purchased

Ah, the possibilities! Recipients on your mailing list who have never actually completed a purchase represent a lot of opportunity. Whether they once downloaded your eBook or abandoned a shopping cart, these folks are interested but not yet eager. Do they really know what you have to offer, or how you can solve a problem they have? Are they aware of your free shipping and easy return policy? Let them know why customers choose you, and be specific. I’m a big believer in freebies and samples to coax in customers that could be loyal for life – read my blog on the subject here.

email marketing

There are a million ways to segment your list, and you should try as many as are relevant to your marketing strategy and customer base – zip code, gender, age, interests, purchase history, cart history, etc. Track the data and determine which lists were most effective, and incorporate them into a strategic long-term plan. As long as your content is tailored to each list, and germane to their needs, you’ll find more success than with general eBlasts. Who on Earth wants to receive something called a blast?

Want to learn more about strategic email marketing? Watch this class, Demand Generation: Email Marketing Messaging Best Practices, to find out about segmentation, strategic testing, and other best practices from Kim Albee, one of OMI's Top 20 Digital Marketing Strategists for 2015.


7 Steps to Effective Lead Nurturing: Reactivate Your Email Lists in 2015


Do you struggle with email marketing? You’re not alone. B2B marketers often underestimate the efforts needed to remain in front of their hot leads. Their typically long sales cycles make it all too easy to deviate from the strategic and systematic follow-ups needed to push leads into the customer realm.

email marketing

According to Forrester, 50% of nurtured leads eventually turn into customers. So before you give up on what could represent some significant revenue, here’s how to start unclogging your sales funnel, and make 2015 a banner revenue year.

1.  Change your mindset

Lead nurturing is about relationship building. After all, you’re engaging with people, not their business. So rather than stress out about making a sale, shift your objective to providing meaningful interactions and useful and relevant content to your audience. Redirecting your focus on education and entertainment then makes lead nurturing fun, rather than a chore.

Related Class: Email Marketing Tactics

2.  Search and clean up

Ask recipients who haven’t opened an email in 12 to 18 months if they’re still interested in receiving them. Dormant recipients who aren’t ready to buy can remain silent for months, while some who have become uninterested over time may not be as forward as those who unsubscribed, especially if they only check their dedicated subscription address sporadically. You won’t know how big your list really is or if you’re even talking to the right people unless you ask.

3.  Ask them what they want

This step is crucial if you haven’t sent an email or company update in a long time. Why guess and waste time creating content or developing tools your audience doesn’t need? Free tools like Survey Monkey can help you poll subscribers and ask what they’re curious about and struggle with in their business.  The insight you gather will be invaluable in planning your marketing programs, content and offers.

4.  Revisit your buyer personas

What new observations can you add to your existing personas? Are you launching a new product line or service that will attract a new market segment? Unless you know whom you’re talking to and what they care about, you’ll have trouble addressing their needs, interests and challenges and pushing those hot buttons that keep them up at night.

Related Class: Using Social Data to Improve Email Marketing

5.  Segment your list

Although this will in part depend on the email platform you’re using, segmenting your list can help you zero in on specific users and create highly targeted campaigns for specific groups. Depending on your business and objectives,  your leads’ preferred languages, geolocations, signup source, title, gender, survey results, previous campaign activity – to name a few – can be sliced and diced to get better open and click through rates. Narrowing your focus with highly relevant messages can help generate better results. However, use with caution to avoid sending irrelevant or pesky duplicate emails to some recipients.

6.  Create a short-term calendar

This is where most B2B marketers fail. They quickly become overwhelmed as they attempt to plan far in advance to keep up with yearly business objectives. But the fact is that despite your best intentions, unforeseen changes, whether internal or external, will inevitably affect the best laid plans. By aligning your interactions and marketing content with quarterly goals, you become hyper focused and can remove the stress of unrealistic long-term planning.

7.  Deploy and mix it up

With a clean, segmented email list, laser focused buyer personas and short-term goals, it’s time to reconnect with your leads and deliver educational and entertaining content in digestible bites:

  • Short demonstrative videos or webinars that demonstrate your competitive advantage
  • A downloadable case study featuring a happy customer’s experience
  • An eBook repurposed into a series of blog posts that focus on a specific concept, product or service that you offer.
  • Webinars co-hosted by your affiliates and partners
  • Numbered white papers that demonstrate opinions, present controversial views or challenge the status quo
  • Infographics that capture industry data in visually captivating formats.
B2B email marketing


If you’ve struggled with consistent lead nurturing, Q4 is the perfect time to revisit your program and transform a stagnant sales funnel into a revenue generator. As you refocus on educating and entertaining your audience, you’ll gradually break through the barriers, overcome objections and turn your hard-earned leads into loyal customers.

Want to learn more? Dive into email marketing in-depth with this class, B2B Email Marketing Best Practices. Using case studies and examples of real campaigns, the class teaches strategies and quick fixes that can boost your email efficacy.


Guesswork to Science: How to Fix B2B Lead Generation With Intent Signals


Wasted marketing budgets fueled by spray-and-pray marketing tactics. Low marketing-to-sales lead conversions. Poor alignment between sales and marketing teams.

Do these scenarios sound familiar to you? I’d bet yes, because what I’ve described is all too familiar. The B2B lead generation process in its current state is broken.

shake hands

I’ve worked in the big data analytics space for over fourteen years. During that time I’ve heard from a diverse range of enterprise companies about their lead generation pain points. The three I’ve outlined above are among the most common, but it’s certainly not an exhaustive list. Whether it’s marketing or sales, the core of the issue for B2B lead generation is guesswork.

Consider the number of tactics in enterprise sales and marketing that are born out of a gut feeling: sales representatives often rely on instinct to determine which leads to pursue. Marketing guesses which nurture content will be best suited for a certain type of prospect.

Related Class: How to Create Content for B2B Marketing

What resources have been wasted on targeting the wrong buyers, who don’t have an immediate need to buy certain products? How many deals have been lost to competitors? And most importantly—how much more money would companies make (and save) if they replaced guesswork with data-fueled predictive intelligence about their next buyers?

b2b lead generation

Say hello to the Predictive Age. Today we have access to a huge amount of data about our businesses and customers–90 percent of which was created only in the last two years, according to ScienceDaily (a fact that was quoted in Marc Benioff’s Dreamforce keynote this year). Most B2B companies are increasingly investing in solutions that can help them interpret that data to make better choices and inform strategies. And increasingly, business leaders are starting to understand that there are subtle (yet critical) differences between the types of data used in predictive sales and marketing models.

Let’s revisit the first three pain points. Here’s how 6Sense is providing relief to its customers:

 1.     Wasted budgets fueled by spray-and-pray marketing tactics

Bombarding the masses with un-targeted ads and emails benefits no one—neither the individuals on the receiving end nor the organizations sending them. For corporations, every ad viewed by a non-potential buyer is a wasted dollar (and an annoyed potential future buyer). Tapping into prospects’ intent activity data allows marketers to know exactly where their prospects are in their buyer’s journey and when they will have a need. 6Sense’s customers use this data to target the top of the funnel, for example, and deliver relevant ads to accounts that are truly in the awareness stage doing research.

2.     Low marketing-to-sales qualified lead conversions

According to IDG Enterprise, one of the biggest challenges facing B2B marketers is generating and handing over high-quality leads to sales teams. In fact, 79 percent of MQLs never actually convert into actual sales (MarketingSherpa). Our approach goes beyond current lead scoring solutions and taps into activity intent data that indicate which prospects are actively researching solutions in the near term. A Fortune 500 customer of ours increased MQL-to-SQL conversions by 450x by knowing which prospects were close to a sale (and why), and effectively nurturing and closing those leads.

 3.     Inadequate alignment between sales and marketing teams

Sales believes that marketing doesn’t hand over enough high-quality leads. And marketing doesn’t get feedback on the leads that were delivered. The fact is corporations need their marketing and sales teams to be aligned; revenues depend on it. 6Sense goes a long way to get marketing and sales on the same page. Both teams benefit from a clear picture of where prospects are in the buying cycle; all net-new accounts; and the reasoning behind an account or contact’s score (which informs the cadence and type of communication).

It’s time we stop the guesswork in B2B lead generation and hold marketers accountable for revenues. The way to achieve this? Let data drive our businesses forward.

Looking to learn more? Check out this class: Increase Lead Generation Quality, Conversion & Velocity. You’ll hear about capturing leads, and nurturing them through to a sale.


B2B Content Marketing Needs To Mature: Here’s How To Develop Yours


B2B marketers value content marketing – this tactic ranked third to in-person events and digital as the most popular line item in Forrester’s 2014 budget survey. On average, B2B marketers say they spend 12% of their budget on content marketing. (subscription required)

But popularity doesn’t necessarily correlate to effectiveness.

Upcoming Free Webinar: Four Ways To Improve Your Content Marketing Maturity

Earlier this year, Forrester teamed up with the Online Marketing Institute and the Business Marketing Association to determine whether content marketing practices are moving from traditional, product-focused to delivering customer value that builds lasting relationships. We found that B2B marketer confidence outpaces their actual capabilities.  Our survey of 113 B2B marketing professionals found:

  • Only 51% of respondents rate their content marketing practices as “very mature” when compared to peers. This number should be higher except 62% admit that much of their content gets produced primarily to support campaigns and 72% say less than half their staff plays an active role in content production.
  • As a result, most find creating content a challenge: 87% said they struggle to produce content that truly engages buyers.
  • Most have a hard time connecting content to results: only 14% gave their content practices high marks for delivering value back to the business.


The bottomline?  B2B content marketing maturity is low: just 4% of those surveyed scored sufficient points on our 27-criteria assessment to be considered “Content Masters”. The majority 52% lag behind. These Aspiring Editors are in the early stages of assembling a content strategy and executing against it. Their practices are often inconsistent or not fully embraced across the organization.

So, should it come as a surprise that 62% of business decision-makers agreed that the much of the content they see from suppliers is useless?  Unfortunately not.

Related Class: B2B Content Marketing Strategy

With this nascent state of content marketing practices revealed, the question marketing leaders need to ask is “what can we do to improve this?” Looking at what separates Content Masters from the rest, we found that top content marketers:

  • Distribute content responsibilities broadly among team members. Among firms where 25% of staff or more plays a primary role in content marketing, almost half rank in the upper two maturity levels.
  • Leverage technology to produce content effectively. In particular, they arm regional, field, or industry teams with tools to aid in the customization and multi-channel distribution of local content.
  • Consistently incorporate customer feedback into editorial processes. Top marketers produce content buyers want because they regularly solicit feedback on their ideas and messages.
  • Use editorial oversight and documented guidelines to help all producers stay on track. Their editorial boards include cross-functional representation and set content priorities based on what everyone sees as key market drivers and customer issues.
  • Measure how content drives ROI, sales processes, and business goals.  Content Masters are adept at applying action-based metrics to content marketing activity and determining the impact content has on business goals like pipeline growth, retention, and account expansion as well as reach and consideration.

If you’d like to hear more about the results of this benchmark study, please join Forrester VP and Principal Analyst, Laura Ramos, as she shares the results on the September 15th webinar,Four Ways To Improve Your Content Marketing Maturity, brought to you by the Online Marketing Institute.

For more on this study and other content marketing best practices, visit Laura’s blog at http://blogs.forrester.com/laura_ramos.



Predictive Intelligence: The Fuel for Successful B2B Marketing


Consider this scenario: A regional bank is evaluating providers to help it migrate its financial management applications to the cloud. The cross-functional decision-making team is spread across offices and communicates heavily over tools like Skype. In addition to the time team members spend evaluating the websites of you and your competitors, they also search, read blogs and publisher websites, tweet, share research, and meet to discuss in person.

Research from Google/Corporate Executive Board and SiriusDecisions suggests this buyer decision-making process is the new normal and that means your marketing team is challenged to not only have adequate visibility into these activities but to also effectively influence each prospect across as many channels as possible. Oh, and then there is the sales team hungry for new leads down the hall…

Today, a new category of predictive intelligence beyond lead scoring provides marketers with the data, insights, and recommendations they need to understand today’s disjointed buyer’s journey and drive measurably better sales results.

It’s Not Magic, It’s Math

Through a combination of data sources and modeling methods, predictive intelligence tells marketers which companies are in the market to buy, which products and services they need, and when they are likely to make a purchase. The accounts and contacts are then scored and that information is delivered directly into systems like marketing automation, CRM, CMS, and ad buying tools for companies to take immediate action.

What might seem too good to be true is built on machine learning and data science. Predictive intelligence ties together data from sources like marketing automation, CRM, past bookings, buyer profiles, and web activity across your site and thousands of others. The blend of static data (e.g., company size, revenues) and behavioral data (e.g., prospects downloading white papers) not only identifies which companies are in market to buy now but also uncovers accounts previously unknown who are looking for what you sell. One SiriusDecisions ABM Campaign Of the Year award winner says these early insights on what prospects do before they reach a salesperson gives their company an “unfair advantage.”

Applying Predictive Intelligence Data to Marketing and Sales Channels

Let’s revisit our bank: Through email campaigns over the last several years you have obtained several contact records inside your marketing automation database. From what you can tell its interest is limited to a case study registration a quarter ago. And what you don’t know is that the bank’s IT team is moving closer to a vendor recommendation for the application migration. Team members attended multiple webinars in the last month, spent days researching across the web, and held a lengthy conversation on a tech forum. Is your typical quarterly investment in email, lead gen, and advertising enough to identify and create a sales opportunity with this company? Predictive intelligence can help ensure it is by tying together all the activity into one predictive score.

web analytics truths

Let’s look at some of the ways marketers can use predictive intelligence data to improve nurturing and create opportunities with companies like our example bank.

  • Call center: Create call scripts tailored to your prospect using company and category intelligence and improve lead qualification rates.
  • Marketing automation: Route prospects to the right campaign and ensure communications are properly personalized based on company size, industry, job role, and level of interest in your products.
  • Advertising: Only advertise to key companies and adjust messaging and landing pages based on purchase intent and company attributes.
  • Retargeting: Stay visible to your prospects after they reach your website. Tailor messaging according to the intent they show at your website and across the rest of the B2B web.
  • Social media: Only target ads to prospects at key companies when they are on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
  • List acquisition and lead generation: Educate and nurture prospects from key companies while building your database with net new contacts.
  • Website personalization: Make each visit as useful as possible by integrating audience data from predictive intelligence scoring into your content management system, personalization and testing tools.
  • Sales calls and conversion: Help reps prioritize the right prospects and arm them with the intelligence to secure meetings, RFPs, and close deals.

The use cases are many and the impetus is here: savvy buyers warrant savvy marketers. Before launching another half-baked campaign where your prospects run you, consider how predictive intelligence can help you gain insight into your audience so you can blow away your benchmarks.

Data sources, modeling techniques, systems integration, marketing tactics: What areas would you like to learn about most? Let us know, and we’ll follow-up in future posts.

To learn more about today's advances in predictive analytics can give marketers competitive insight on which contacts and accounts to target; what the right cadence of touch-points is; and which channels should be used for maximum message delivery impact, join the Online Marketing Institute and 6Sense on Monday, August 18th at 2:00pm ET for a free webinar, “How To Increase Your Digital Marketing ROI Using Predictive Analytics”.