Monthly Archives: September 2017

5 Key Things to Know About Email Marketing for Ecommerce

By Guest Author on September 28, 2017

Most brick-and-mortar store shoppers find it annoying when a salesperson constantly shadows them. Even though it’s meant with the best intention, customers get uncomfortable when they know the salesperson is just trying to push a sale.

Email marketing works similarly for ecommere companies. When you send too many company-centric emails to push your products, you turn into that nagging salesperson.

Email isn’t just a way to get people to buy stuff—it’s a way for you to make meaningful connections with your customers by showing that you understand their interests. That’s how you build trust and long-term relationships that turn new customers into repeat customers. As you get to know each other, they see you as a partner and not someone trying to push something on them.

Let’s take a closer look at how to make email marketing successful for ecommerce. Below, we’ll walk through five tactics that will help you build your next email campaign. These are tricks of the trade that can fly under the radar but when used consistently, they help you achieve higher sales and stronger customer retention.

1. Not all acquisition channels are created equal

Everyone knows multi-channel selling increases your customer reach. Each of your channels, including your ecommerce store and your marketplaces, get you in front of people you may not find if you weren’t right there, ready to sell, exactly when and where they’re shopping.

Yet, the quality of email leads from each channel differs. It’s likely that someone finding your website through a targeted search is more willing to buy from you AGAIN than someone who randomly saw your ad on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Remember, email marketing for ecommerce is all about repeat purchases.

You get email addresses from all of your customers—though certain marketplaces like Amazon will try to anonymize those addresses—but just because you have an email address doesn’t mean you have high intent. That’s why your email campaigns need to differentiate between customers from each channel. Put each channel into its own group and ask yourself these questions:

  • What types of new customers come from each channel?
  • What actions do they take?
  • How engaged are they?
  • What do they like to buy?

Let’s say you’ve integrated your eBay marketplace with Sellbrite. Based on your eBay orders, product category, average order value, or maybe even time of day, what can you learn from your buyers?

Take all of the information you have and import it into an analytics platform like Amplitude. They have a behavioral cohort analysis feature that lets you segment customers based on their actions.

[Source]

The platform lets you set what actions and properties — like the ones above — you want to analyze. From there, you paint a picture of the types of customers you’re attracting from each channel.

Next, segment them into groups to send each one targeted and relevant emails. The result is a better customer experience and more successful emails.

2. When you send emails matters as much as what you send

When it comes to ecommerce, you have a few short seconds to grab attention. People are bombarded with ads everywhere: in their apps, while they’re surfing the web, and especially in their inbox.

Emails are key to reaching customers, but inboxes are prime real estate. You’re competing with lots of other emails for attention. And with mobile use so high, the majority of emails are opened on phones. As soon as you send an email, your customer’s phone notifies them.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the time of day and day you send an email influences open rates. The point of your emails should be to maximize open rates, get customers to read them and then click-through to your website. You want customers to see your email as a welcome notification.

[Source]

Lots of research has been done to figure out the best time and day to send emails. CoSchedule used 10 studies from email marketing leaders like Campaign Monitor and MailChimp to figure this out. Even though the data ranges among the companies, there are a few common takeaways:

  • The best day to send emails is Tuesday. Thursday and Wednesday are the next best days if you send at least two emails a week.
  • The best time to send email is at 10 am. As an interesting side note, Campaign Monitor suggests 8 pm to midnight is a close second. These are likely people checking email before bed.
  • While timing is important, your content and the quality of your subscriber list tie it all together.

When you time your emails right, you show customers that you respect and understand their day-to-day habits. You also increase the chances that customers open your email, take the time to read through and digest what you’re telling them, and click-through to purchase.

3. Consistency builds your reputation

When you have the customer’s attention you need to make the most of it. You don’t want them to open your email and click out because the content didn’t resonate with them. Consistent quality is a must.

What you need is a recognizable brand standard, something that sets you apart from competitors. The two major components of a strong brand standard are content and design. Let’s break this down.

Content

In order for your content to resonate with customers, you have to understand what they care about. Go back to past campaigns to find some indicators:

  • Look to see which campaigns had the most open and click-through rates.
  • Check analytics on your website to see what content different types of visitors are reading.
  • Check your product pages. What products are the most popular? Check comments, reviews and the number of times they’re added to checkout.

A deep understanding of what your customer likes and wants can help you deliver really meaningful information in your emails. The more useful your content is, the more you encourage customers to take an interest in your emails and seriously consider what you have to say.

Design

It doesn’t matter if you’ve found the ultimate message that customers want to hear—if your email doesn’t look appealing, customers might not give it a second glance.

To make your emails aesthetically pleasing, use an email building platform with drag and drop capabilities. They’ve become the norm because you don’t have to know any code to build a professional email newsletter. For example, Campaign Monitor is a good place to start designing emails—either with drag and drop options, or from pre-built templates.

[Source]

With Campaign Monitor, you can use their editor to import images and to customize content and layout.

Sometimes visual communication is better than words—and for that, you can make diagrams using a tool like Gliffy. You can easily import these into Campaign Monitor.

When you create a brand standard, content and design help your emails reflect the look and feel of your website. They’ll also match branding in other places like social media or marketplaces to create a recognizable and cohesive presence. Be consistent across all platforms to boost the customer’s recognized perception of your brand.

4. Build social currency with automated emails

Automated emails are a great way to re-engage customers. But instead of being the nagging salesperson, you can do this in a customer-centric way.

The last thing you want to do is to send emails just for the sake of sending something. Your goal should be for customers to see you as a partner and not just another retailer trying to make a sale.

A good way to do this is by sending customers snapshots of their history and interactions with your company. For example, the SaaS company AdRoll sends a monthly automated performance report highlighting user progress and providing personalized tips through liquid templating.

These emails are valuable because they help the customer accomplish what they want to do.

There are many ways to make this work for your company when you’re selling products rather than services. For example, if a customer comes to your website, adds products to their cart but doesn’t checkout, instead of sending a “finish your checkout” email, send an email that tries to get to the root of why they haven’t logged in. Use the dashboard your email marketing platform offers to gauge things like engagement and performance.

[Source]

Here you can see all of the general email metrics like opens, clicks and bounces, but you can also dig further into other campaign reports. For example, the Worldview link on the right will tell you how your campaigns perform in different regions. You might need to consider adjusting how you communicate your product offering or features to cater to different regions and boost your conversions — a.k.a. customers clicking through the email, adding products to their cart and completing checkout.

If you have to treat groups of customers differently, use something like Campaign Monitor’s customer journey feature to create targeted emails. For example, show customers in Canada a slightly different variation of the same campaign you send in the US. You want them to buy the same product but you introduce it to them differently.

This way your emails are more meaningful. They resonate with customers and build social currency — they’re more likely to open your emails than filter them into spam.

5. Master the art of reciprocity

You can never go wrong with making your customers feel like they matter to you. Remember, the purpose of email marketing is to build relationships and retain customers. It’s not about just getting people to do what you want them to.

Instead of only sending emails that aim to get customers to buy something, take a break and send emails that ask customers for feedback, say thank you or teach something new. This approach leaves a positive lasting impression that builds customer trust and loyalty.

CloudApp proactively seeks out customer feedback to make sure customers needs are being met. They talk to customers to avoid losing them and give them a chance to voice their pain points. These kinds of emails have helped them see increased customer retention.

This Thank You email from Fitbit is another great example of a company reaching out to customers:

[Source]

It gives a short overview of where the company started and where it is now, 10 years later. Including a short list of accomplishments is a great way to show customers how they’ve contributed. It reinforces the commitment they’ve made to the company.

If you want to teach customers something new, highlight some new industry trend or fact and what your company is doing about it. Long-term this helps build personal connections and brand awareness. It also helps with retention since customers appreciate the extra attention and care you’ve given.

Building your email marketing ecommerce plan

We know how important email is for communicating with customers. It sets the stage for you to introduce yourself and build a relationship that goes beyond just buying stuff.

Start by understanding who your customers are and how they found you. Treat them as individuals and make an effort to meet their specific needs.

Once you’ve figured this out, put a delivery plan in place to maximize open rates. Back this up with content and design that make you stand out. Make it recognizable, memorable and uniquely you.

And remember, you’re building relationships, so don’t make your conversations about business all the time. Show customers you care about them and their experience. Ask for their input and show them how you’ve implemented it.

Adopt one or two of the suggestions we’ve walked through and measure how well they work for you. Gradually add more and they’ll help you beef up your email marketing strategy and keep customers coming back. You know your customers better than anyone so use what you know and show them you care about more than just making a sale. Do that and we see a lot of happy, satisfied and loyal customers in your future.

The post 5 Key Things to Know About Email Marketing for Ecommerce appeared first on Sellbrite.

The following is an excerpt from my weekly newsletter about questioning conventional thinking at work. To receive Monday’s email, subscribe at unthinkable.fm

Last week, I saw a headline on Medium that stopped me dead in my tracks:

Why Being an A-Type Person Is the Quickest Way to Lose in Life

Naturally, I started cramming Post-It Notes into my mouth to avoid punching my screen. Then I wondered: Is this the kind of content we’re okay creating?

(I also wondered if Post-Its would taste better with Sriracha, but I mean, of course they would. Everything tastes better with Sriracha.)

I stared at that headline again: “Why Being an A-Type Person Is the Quickest Way to Lose in Life.”

Seriously? Seriously.

I mean … SERIOUSLY?!?!

Maybe it was the headline, or maybe it was the surprisingly smooth finish of paper and glue, but I realized something in that moment: When all we care to know is “what works,” we so often create hollow or even tone deaf things.

 

Want a widely-read, widely-shared blog post on Medium? Make a broad, sweeping statement. Take a side, regardless of the nuanced truth. Make others curious enough to click — or perhaps scared or mad enough. And of course, imply that you know something that they don’t.

Why Being an A-Type Person Is the Quickest Way to Lose in Life

It’s a clinic in doing “what works” on Medium, and it’s easy to conclude that it worked. Because there it was, sitting atop the Medium home page, driving its numbers ever higher. You can almost anticipate the author’s next article: How I Reached the Medium Home Page with My First Post: 7 Secrets to Success. And that’ll probably get lots of views too. As for serving your audience with integrity? Eh, whatever.

Is this it? Really? Is this what Business Internet just IS now?

WE CAN DO BETTER.

I know it. You know it. But we’re up against the dark side of the Information Age: Advice Overload.
It’s become so easy to justify work that feels … icky.

The tips and tricks, the cheats and hacks, the get-rich-quick schemes. Is that really what we want to create and consume? Really?

I mean, is this IT?

WE CAN DO BETTER.

I know you aspire for something more. But I also know that it’s easy to give in. I hear it all the time after my speeches and after Unthinkable episodes:

“HELL YES, JAY! But, um … my boss.”

“PREACH ON, PREACHER-MAN! But, oh right … my budget.”

“I’M READY, SPEAKER-DUDE! But, here’s the thing … my industry.”

“ROCK ON! TO THE BREAK OF DAWN! But, uhh … my numbers.”

Look, do you want to thrive or just survive?

If you want to merely survive, I have amazing news: You can Google it. You can put in on repeat. You can “But my boss”-yourself straight to average work in no time flat.

But if you want to thrive, well, you have to do the hard thing. You have to think for yourself.

You have to clear away all kinds of clutter and distill the work down to the simple things. And it’s the simple things that are so often the hardest things to make others see.

After all, we believe: Make stuff we’re proud of and that our audience loves too and the rest gets easier. But “the rest” is what others tend to see.

They obsess over gaming systems.

They agonize over eking out a few more results from annoyed audiences.

They want to know the exact words to use in our headlines, instead of WHY we publish at all.

They want to know how to “generate” subscribers, instead of creating things worth subscribing to.

They want the perfect answer, the one simple secret — and, fine, I’m a guy who shares thoughts about work for a living, so here’s my secret:

 

And here’s the deal: I know you have the right intent.

But now … you have PROVE IT.

I’m asking you to show, not tell. I’m asking you to test instead of talk, to execute instead of hope.

I’m asking you to ask yourself the right questions, instead of obsessing over everyone else’s answers.

It’s not easy. But you’re also not alone.

I promise. Do you?

I promise to question conventional thinking using what I know about my own context. Do you?

If you do, maybe you’d make better decisions, faster.

I promise to pay more attention to my audience than my industry. Do you?

If you do, maybe your audience would pay more attention to you.

I promise to make the process the point, not the end results. Do you?

If you do, maybe you’d get better end results. Maybe it’s more powerful that you know how to find answers than know THE answer. After all, THE answer will change. But if you and I can approach any situation in our ever-changing world and know how to figure it out … we’d be unstoppable.

Regardless of what that Medium headline said, the quickest way to lose isn’t being an A-Type Person — it’s being the kind of person that would write such a thing simply because others said it “works.”

When what THEY say becomes what WE do, we do average work.

My friend, it has never been easier to be average. So let’s promise to be something else…

The exception.
The post Fighting Advice Overload: It’s Time to Build a Better Business Internet appeared first on Unthinkable.

Are you connecting with and empowering your customer advocates? If not, you should. Here’s why.

Customer advocacy marketing programs help you increase revenue by improving customer acquisition and retention (and they’re your best source of leads).

How? Because you’re helping to encourage and motivate happy customers to speak about you positively to others. And delighted customers are your most powerful hidden sales force.

For example, in 2016, IDC research found that only 10% B2B companies surveyed had a customer advocacy program in place. This year, “The Role of Marketing in Customer Advocacy” report found that has increased to 67% which is a 570% increase.

That’s why I interviewed Mark Organ (@markorgan). Mark is the Founder and CEO of Influitive and he’s been a thought leader in the space of sales and marketing technology; a real innovator. I’m excited to bring his thinking to you on customer advocacy.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start Influitive?

Mark: Yeah, thanks. I’m really excited to be here, Brian. I think this is an amazing podcast and I’m excited to share my story. I’ve lived a number of lives already. One of them, before I started Eloqua in 2000, was as a research scientist. I was actually a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Northwestern University in Chicago. I was really fascinated by how the brain works and what were the biological bases of behavior. It was fascinating for me. Although research, while fascinating, has some challenges concerning it, especially getting paid well. I also wanted to spend more time with my wife, so I left the research world to get in the business world and joined a Bain & Company as a management consultant; from there I started Eloqua.

The other big thread in my life other than being a scientist was being an entrepreneur. I started companies even as a teenager, as far back as age 13. I’ve always been really fascinated with working for myself and satisfying customers. Really, I think now I’m bringing both of those together in my company where I still feel like I’m a scientist. I still feel like I’m trying to discover what makes human beings really work and tick, but also being an entrepreneur, building software for marketers and leveraging the understanding of people and what drives them.

Regarding what motivated me to start Influitive – we’re an advocate marketing software company. So we believe that the future belongs to companies who, as opposed to marketing directly, they do a better job of discovering and nurturing and mobilizing their customers to do the marketing for them. We think the future is for companies to get their customers to do the sales and marketing for them. We built some software for discovering, nurturing and mobilizing advocates.

I got the idea while I was at Eloqua. It was 2005, and great VC convinced me to spend a couple of weeks out in the field to understand how and why people bought my software. What I learned was when we sold software efficiently it was because there was tons of this advocacy involved. There were multiple referrals on the way in. There were lots of case studies that were relevant on the website, the best references and those prospects went very quickly.

At the time, Eloqua was a bootstrap startup, so selling our software quickly was super important. I got really excited about this idea of advocacy, but it turns it was way harder than I thought to generate consistent advocacy. That’s because we didn’t actually understand what motivated the advocates.

I really wanted to understand better what motivated the advocates. Through some interviews and lots of other things like that, I began to figure out what drove advocacy and unfortunately, I couldn’t work on that at the time I was at Eloqua, but when I had a chance to transition out I had an opportunity to work on it at Influitive.

What are some of the lesson’s you’ve learned about building a company with the customer at the heart of your business?

Brian: That’s really cool just hearing how you brought together the two worlds as the scientist to understand what motivates people and then putting in a way that you’re able to help people. I’d love to hear some of the lessons you’ve learned about building a company where from the beginning the customer is at the heart of your business model.

Mark: I’ve learned a lot just of how to build a company. Regarding putting customers at the heart of your business model, one of the things I learned the hard way, coming from Eloqua, was how important the employee experience is. I think one of the big differences between the two companies is that while I was at Eloqua I was very obsessed with what we called our True North, which was measurable value to the customer, and that’s a pretty good thing to obsess about. If you are making your customer money every day, you’re likely to have some success, but one big change that I made at Influitive was really treating my employees as my primary customer, making sure that I was providing the best possible experience for them.

There is so much money that’s available for companies if you can generate the growth and if you can generate an efficient business model. The people who create that efficient business model and that growth are our people. Talent is a scarce resource today. That’s a big fundamental shift for me, and honestly, I think it mirrors a significant shift even in the marketplace. I think that if companies today don’t treat their employees as their primary customer, the future is not going to look too bright for them. That’s one key thing that I learned regarding building a company.

The way we built our software came from the knowledge that I gained from interviewing hundreds of super advocates. Literally, understanding people who might generate several referrals a quarter and be available for references on demand and love to speak on stage for you…all those active advocates that all of us really depend on. None of us can build a successful business without having our customers who are doing that sales and marketing for us. Our lifetime value of the customer and the cost of customer acquisition would be entirely out of whack if we didn’t have that working in our favor. There were some things that I’ve learned about that.

Three important things about customer advocacy

On the macro level, there are three things that I’ve learned that are really important.

The first was that people advocate more when they feel like their part of an exclusive tribe, like when they belong to something that’s bigger than themselves then that’s when you see a lot more advocacy. For example, you can see that at a sporting event. When you go to your local stadium, you’ll find people whose faces are painted in the colors of the team. Why do they do that? Well, they do that because they want to belong to something that’s bigger. They want to be part of an exclusive tribe. That’s what we found. When companies do advocacy programs, if they can give it the right name and the right feel and the right brand and really make people feel like they are special and exclusive you get a lot more advocacy. That’s the first thing.

Second, we learned is that people want to be able to experience the impact that they made on a company. I learned this firsthand. As part of foundational learning for starting my company, one of the things that I was excited to do was learn Mandarin Chinese. I thought it would be a cool thing to do. I learned to speak enough Chinese with this amazing product that, after six months, I was able to have a meeting in China without an interpreter. It was a pretty amazing experience. I used this product called ChinesePod.com and what I found was that (you can see now, I’m still advocating for it) my advocacy really waned over time and it was because I wasn’t really feeling the impact I was making on the company. I didn’t know what the results were of the referrals that I made as an example.

We’ve learned that if you give advocates feedback, they respond better. If you let people know the impact of those referrals that they’ve made if you let people know if they’ve written a guest blog post or they’ve been on a podcast, just like this, how many hits did that podcast get? Did they get a thumbs up? Those sorts of things generate a lot more advocacy because people are getting that feedback.

The third is social capital. If people are experiencing benefits in their life, their career, as a result of the advocacy they are making, they are going to do a lot more of that.

Those are three sorts of social/psychological things that I learned were really important in generating a lot of advocacy. Then, there are the micro-levelists – making it easy, making it fun, making it more rewarding. For example, a lot of games do that. They build things to make it more addictive, all work. We’ve bottled all that and we’ve put that into our product so that you’ve got that exclusive tribe, the people are getting feedback, they’re getting social capital and they make it “game-ified” and fun, so that people want to come back in again and again. It really works. We’ve now come to the point where I think that we’re building something that is going to become a new standard for how companies go to market by putting their customers at the heart of the way they go to market.

Brian: That’s really cool.

How important are customer advocates and why should we create or be involved in their community?

Mark: Here’s one of the things that I’ve seen, especially lately, maybe it’s because I’m running a company that’s all about advocacy, but the industry leaders in almost every sector are also the advocacy leaders. Like for example, Tesla in cars. Tesla’s market cap is equivalent to, I think, nearly all the other car companies combined at this point or very close to it. I’m thinking, why is that? They are also an advocacy leader. They don’t have any commissioned salespeople. They don’t do traditional marketing. All their marketing is done really through their own customers. The impact of that is just incredible because you’ve got this massive unpaid sales force that’s way more efficient than any sales force that you hired could be.

Brian: Right.

Mark: The other thing that we’ve learned is that advocacy is kind of like a beneficial virus. For example, a company that’s built with advocacy, that has a lot of advocacy, those customers that become a new customer because an advocate recommended them, they, themselves, are much more likely to advocate. Essentially, there is a culture of advocacy around these companies. These companies rocket up to being industry leaders. They are so much more efficient regarding their sales and marketing, and they’ve got the culture that keeps this sort of positive feedback group happening, which I think is really exciting. We see that with a lot of our customers, they’re industry leaders. So many of our startup customers have gone public (i.e., MuleSoft) or there’s so many of them that have gone public, or they’re industry leaders like Oracle or SalesForce, IBM. I think why they do well is because of this financial power of having a large unpaid army of advocates.

It feels amazing to work for companies that have a lot of customer advocacy. It gives you that sense of purpose, like, I know why I’m here. We’re adding real value. Look at all these customers we’re delighting, but they are helping us grow. It’s such an empowering, exciting thing to be a part of. I think the most important thing entrepreneurs can do is to build advocates and mobilize them. Now, also having a fantastic product and terrific service but we don’t actually get involved in that area. We actually only work with companies that have a great product, and that’s because we’ve learned the hard way that our product works really well for companies that are already delighting customers.

Early in our history, we had a couple of customers who, frankly, were not doing a great job, but they might have had a handful of happy customers. And they wanted us to help give them a megaphone to mostly make it look like they had that kind of advocacy even if they didn’t. Honestly, we’ve learned that’s not a good business skill. We tend to work with companies that already do an excellent job delighting customers and we make sure they win. It feels like we are really doing good for the world because we’re helping the good guys win.

Brian: I appreciate you saying that. This is going to segue us into talking a little bit about empathy. Often in marketing and sales, it had been outside-in, and what I’m hearing from you is, no, it’s from the inside out. It needs to be authentic. You connect with your employees.

As you know, I’ve been doing some work in empathy-based marketing and selling and how it can help us connect with our customers and create better results.

How can empathy and advocacy based-marketing connect and help empower companies?

Mark: I love this work you are doing on empathy. As an entrepreneur, with every year that goes by I realize more that it’s the number one skill, I think, that business leaders need to develop to win. Often it’s thought of in an employee context for sure. For example, I’ve worked with a coach for the last three or four years namely working on developing my skills as a leader, which includes being more empathetic. Meaning truly and deeply understanding my employees and in particular, feeling what they are feeling, but it extends way beyond employees.

That is why I love the work you are doing about being empathetic for companies and understanding their experience. In fact, this whole business that I’m doing came from a place of empathy in the beginning, because it was all about understanding what the most desirable buying process for someone to go through.

Brian: Yes.

Mark: If you think about the last amazing buying experience you’ve had for something that wasn’t just a commodity, but something you had to think about really. The chances are that process you went through had some trusted people whether those were other customers you trusted or that salesperson you worked with did such a good job that you truly and deeply trusted that person. You trusted this individual had your best interest in their heart. The chances are that trust and that transparency was just completely interwoven in that buying process you had.

That’s what I learned when I was at Eloqua and trying to figure what was going on that some of these prospects who bought in four days instead of four months?

That experience had tons of advocacy all over it. People talk about customer experience all the time, right? I’m not sure some people even know what it means. To me, customer experience is all about feelings. It’s all about the way people feel at different parts of their journey with you and so if we want to make people feel great, if we want to make people feel like there’s trust then you’ve got to infuse that buying process with the power of authenticity, authentic other customers. There’s an intersection right there.

If you care about your buyer, if you care about their experience, and you want them to feel great when they are working with you then, you should probably talk less as a salesperson and as a marketer. And have more of their trusted, relevant peers do the talking for you, not because it’s more effective, but because they like it. That’s the experience that they really want more than anything. I think there is a massive overlap between the ideas of empathy and advocacy.

Brian: I love that and I agree with this as I’ve done research in understanding this perspective and thinking of customers and how are they feeling. They want to know, how you’ve helped people like me? What has worked for others in my field and how can I get better doing what I’m doing? Because there is that authentic someone who’s been in my space or experience.

I just wanted to talk about some actual tips you might have for our listeners today who feel inspired. They realize they have advocates right now, they may not have even used that term. I love the word advocate and what it means.

How can marketers start identifying and better supporting their customer advocates?

Mark: That’s a great question. We’ve produced an interesting piece of software to help mobilize advocates at scale, but it doesn’t mean you have to do that. Really, every company in the world should be doing advocate marketing and it may be as simple as just having a meal a couple of times a year with some of your best customers. There’s really no agenda there other than to get people together and to ask how to improve and maybe share a little bit about where you’re going as a company. That alone can cost very little.

We have these dinners all the time, and they cost $1,000 to get eight people together at nice restaurant and have a small boutique meal and wow, it just makes a big impact. Because those people are your best customers, they want to affect your company, right? They want to help shape your company. In some cases, they may already feel like they are more a part of your business than their company because they believe so passionately in your idea. By giving them an exclusive tribe and saying hey, this dinner is not just for any one of our customers. It’s for our most special customers. Not because you buy a lot from us either, by the way. It’s not about purchasing. It’s because you get it. It’s because you believe and we think that your ideas are leading edge and are going to be ones that everyone else is going to subscribe to, so we want to spend more time listening to you. We want to take care of you. That message will always be well received. It’s very inexpensive, and it’s got a very high ROI. Just beginning there is a great place to start.

I know a lot of companies are already doing that before we start talking to them and they have people believe in advocacy and it appeals to them. The next step is to centralize your advocacy with a single person doing the talking. A lot of the companies that we work with before we started working with them, had four or five different people in their organization who are all doing little bits and pieces of advocacy in their own way. You might have one person in charge of referrals, another person in charge of talking to customers. The problem there is you’re really missing out on a lot of potential advocacy. That same person that can be a reference for you is also willing to speak on stage. If you have a point person who is in charge of advocacy for your company, you’ll get a lot more, three or four times as much, without spending any more money. In fact, you could actually end up saving a lot of time, money and frustration because you centralize that process.

Again, that’s actually a very empathetic thing, right? Because what you’re saying is: you know what I care about more than the types of things that advocates do? We care about the advocates themselves. We actually care about people. We care about their experience. We want their experience to be great.

By having a single person in your company in charge of that, I think that is showing a lot of respect and appreciation for these very important people. If you just do those two things alone without buying any fancy software, you’ll get a lot more of this very valuable advocacy for your company and it could be quite transformational. Then, maybe you’ll be ready to have a really scaled up advocacy program, and that’s what we do at Influitive.

We create communities where there are some virtual places on the internet and on mobile where you can invite your advocates in, make them feel like a million bucks, let them know how they can help you and get them to interact with each other. We have about 300 great companies that are doing that. They are enjoying the experience, but there again, you don’t have to do anything fancy. Just get people together and show some appreciation. You’ll get a lot of value out of it.

Brian: That’s terrific Mark and thank you for the action points. I was going to ask you one last question before we close. What’s the question you wished I asked but haven’t yet?

Mark: Maybe something about the future? Often a good one is to bring out the crystal ball and see what we see in the future of marketing and that sort of thing.

Brian: That would be great.

What do you see in the future for B2B marketing or selling macro trends?

Mark: Something which I’ve sort of alluded to in this conversation was around the “whys” of customer experience and the role that marketing is going to have play in customer experience. One of the things that you’ll notice, some of the best companies that we have, particularly in the west, are ones that are obsessed with customer experience.

I think as you have more buyers that are inundated with emails and websites and all sorts of stuff like that. Marketers are going to need to have some control over the customer experience in the future because that is going to be the main source of where their best leads are going to come from and their ability to convert those leads.

We see with our customers, which tend to be on the leading edge of the curve, where marketing and customer success are starting to merge a little bit. It’s very analogous to how sales and marketing began to come together in my Eloqua days, under the idea of the standard definition of a lead.

Brian: Yes.

Mark: I have done sales and marketing stuff together, and you’ve done a lot of writing on that. I’ve learned much from you over the years on that. There is a similar thing that is happening now. The customer success and marketing and product are coming together to define what the optimal customer experience is and that is a big, big move. Marketers who can get on that and understand this new language of customer experience and be able to drive it are going to do very well over the next few years. I think that’s one big trend.

I do think that this idea of marketing by proxy is tremendous. It’s a huge thing and these are skills that most marketers do not have today. Marketers now are good at running these cross-functional, multimodal, nurturing-style campaigns to drive leads and this sort of thing. The ability to do that has been really dominant over the last 10 years.

That’s changing as buyers are becoming kind of inundated with that stuff, yet, the ability to get others to do the marketing for you and learning those skills are going to be pretty significant. Because there is such little knowledge in this area, we actually have quite an education effort out there.

You can go to Influitive.com and check out our resources page, and there are lots of educational materials, as we are trying to train this next generation of marketers in how to think this way. Instead of thinking about, how do I bombard people to get my way? It’s how to find the right individuals who are relevant and trusted and how do I get them to carry our message for me? I think that’s going to be a big deal.

https://youtu.be/sK_FWihgnKk

And thirdly, everyone is talking about machine learning and all that these days and I think it’s probably going to create just as big an impact. I think AI machine learning is probably at the very top of the high curve right now.

Brian: Right.

Mark: Three years from now everyone is going to say well, I don’t know what that was all about, I guess that was all hyped up, but then in ten years from now people go wow, that really was a huge change.

So I think it’s definitely worth tracking what’s going on in that technology and we’re certainly spending quite a bit of time playing around with it here. Some of the things I see for marketers, (and actually, there are a lot of sales professionals who listen to your podcast) I think empathy is just as important if not more so for sellers and so is advocacy, so is mobilizing your proxies if you are in the sales profession as well. I think there are a lot of parallels.

The post Why customer advocacy should be at the heart of your marketing appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

How much is a customer worth to you? Predict this number and you know how much it is worth to spend on your customers to keep them around. Customer Lifetime Value, or CLTV is one of the most important metrics a business has for making smart decisions.

You also know, by raising your CLTV benchmark by X percent, how much more cash your business stands to earn over the long-term. The more you can influence this number, the more growth you can expect.

 

Figuring out how to maximize your CLTV is like discovering the philosopher’s stone of marketing. Turn lead into gold, cure illness, and grant immortality to your business – well at least grant it higher long-term profits.

The Factors of CLTV

To understand how to enhance your customer lifetime value, first look at the factors that go into driving CLTV.

Average Transaction Value x Number of Repeat Sales x Average Customer Retention Time

Increase any of these factors and your CLTV goes up. This means maximizing the lifetime value of each customer boils down to:

  • Up-selling
  • Encouraging more transactions in each sale, or cross-selling
  • Boosting the frequency of transactions
  • Driving customers towards more meaty purchases
  • Keeping them in the business relationship for more time

The final one is the most powerful way to maximize customer lifetime value. You can up-sell or cross-sell all you want, but only by focusing on customer retention strategy can you yield sustainable benefits to your CLTV. This is because when you develop effective strategies for boosting customer loyalty, you promote long-lasting relationships. And your customers will stick with your brand because they want to. They will willingly become a voice for your brand.

This translates to greater long-term profits without having to take a sales-heavy approach to every business transaction. Customer retention means longer business relationships and an easier time acquiring new ones as your existing customers authenticate your business.

source: https://www.ariasystems.com/blog/

As Dale and Ben Midgley write in Golden Circle Secrets, “Do what makes people feel good and they will continue to buy from you and to refer others to you who will also continue to buy from you.”

On the other hand, pushing sales too much can have a negative impact. Once you push your buyers past their threshold, they’re going to turn their attention to holding onto their wallets more than seeking out the products and services they need.

To maximize your CLTV, you’ll need to combine all of the formula factors in the right way to work for your brand and your industry. Here are the best methods to implement to get more out of your customers – without pushing them away in the process.

Best Techniques for a Higher CLTV

1. Better communications based on well-researched buyer personas and customer segmentation

How do you make someone feel special in any relationship? You listen to them. When it comes to marketing, ‘listening’ takes on a more active meaning but it is the same idea. Learn more about your customers through feedback channels, customer analysis and market research. Polish your buyer profiles. Then segment your buyers properly using marketing automation software so you can deliver targeted communications to your buyers.

2. Go above and beyond

Nurturing your existing customers can be as simple as going out of your way to do something special. It’s amazing how reaching out to people – not to sell but to connect – can have a positive impact on the relationship.

Send a personal thank you message. Offer a special gift or deal based on a customer’s unique preferences. Be creative. When you’re working with a higher CLTV, investing a few dollars in something special is well worth it to really wow a customer.

3. Loyalty programs

Businesses have been increasingly using loyalty programs as an effective tool for increasing CLTV, with a 20 percent increase in loyalty program membership over the past decade, according to Hotel Business Review . This approach rewards existing customers by giving them something back for staying in the business relationship longer. It also helps to identify who the most valuable customers are in the first place.

4. Value-driven cross-selling and up-selling

When you walk into your favorite coffee shop to get your morning coffee, you expect to be asked if you want something to eat with it. It’s part of the ritual between you and your barista. Good thing too. What’s more perfect than a buttery croissant with your coffee to start out your day?

When a cross-sell adds value to your customer, mention the option. Wine with cheese, socks with shoes.

When up-selling, make it worth it. 30 percent off when you purchase two items. A special discount for signing up for a year-long subscription. When you increase that average transaction value, you’re maximizing your CLTV. Make it worthwhile for your customers, and you may score some customer loyalty points in the process.

5. Stay relevant with your online presence

This is an effective method for boosting the number of transactions. The more relevant your brand is, the more you’ll be in your customers’ minds the next time they consider making a purchase. Publishing content consistently on your website and staying active on social media will let your customers know your brand is there when they need you.

6. Up your level of customer service

One survey found that half of B2C customers and almost two-thirds of B2B buyers left a brand because of a poor customer service experience. Every individual who interacts with your customers should be a customer expert pro. Make sure your customers have opportunities to provide feedback about their experience so you know where to improve.

Take a proactive approach to training and guiding your sales team to ensure their standards for customer service are through the roof. Also, empower them to go the extra mile to reward loyal customers. Sometimes the best way to delight customers is ‘in the moment.’ You don’t want your business to miss those golden opportunities to impress your existing buyers because your sales team has to okay a decision with another department.

Perfecting Your CLTV Formula

All of these methods will help you to maximize your customer lifetime value – and fortify long-term business growth. To get the most out of your CLTV optimization efforts, measure the impact to identify your strongest tactics.

Maybe your brand does benefit the most from focusing on transaction value. Some businesses may see the greatest impact from investing in better customer service, while others may benefit the most from improved customer segmentation and personalized communication.

The overall strategy you use depends on what works for you. Keep playing with the possibilities until you find your perfect CLTV formula.

This article originally published on PostFunnel.com

Micro-content isn’t widely understood or consciously used. When it is, it’s usually by marketing for social media content. But micro-content may be the most important content type you have, and you probably don’t manage it.

Micro-content is simply what the words imply. The term is credited to user experience expert Jakob Nielsen: “micro content is a small group of words which can be skimmed by the reader to understand the wider message of the article.”

Examples include a sentence, a paragraph, an image, a 20 second video, a checklist, a quotation, an answer to a question, research results or facts. It can be stand alone, as Nielsen and most others consider it. It can also be source for any new content.

Either way, micro-content is an under-used content type. And it’s not limited to marketing. Significant impact on job performance and business outcomes across your entire organization can be realized by applying the uses introduced below.

Applying Micro-content in a Leveraged Content Supply Chain

When you shift your orientation from marketing, social engagement and promotion, and even web content, to a broader perspective focused on content creation, delivery and use techniques, new possibilities emerge.

We discovered this through our work to answer the question:

“How can B2B organizations scale content operations and output to meet new digital era requirements, especially for highly targeted and relevant content? How can this occur without compromising time, resources, cost or quality?”

This type of content works best when it’s editable text and graphics not stored in documents.

This means it can be easily modified or updated. Ideally it can be accessed and instantly used within common business systems. For example, to respond to customer questions, whether on a sales call or customer support line.

Consider three broad categories of use cases for micro-content:

  • Knowledge and Job Performance Aids
  • Marketing and Selling Content
  • Content Source for New Content Creation

Micro-content as Knowledge and Job Performance Aids

We were fortunate early in our business to be introduced to a sales methodology company. We learned the value of documenting and actively using all the elements that comprise a sales playbook. It improved individual selling, and accelerated our new customer acquisition and revenue growth.

Sales performance improves when these support elements are instantly available. For example, sales people regularly need instant access to an inventory of :

Sales prospecting assets:

  • Professionally created and A/B tested emails that link to appropriate content assets suitable for sales prospecting.
  • Voicemail and call guidelines, suitable for each sales prospecting  purpose and audience

Pre-call preparation tools:

  • Checklists to review customer issues,
  • Business topic guides,
  • Customer questions to anticipate that connect to suitable answers,
  • Recommended questions to ask,
  • Next step options
  • Checklists of things to do or items to bring to specific meeting types

In-call support:

  • Conversation starters and key point guides
  • Instant access to information required during a meeting/conversation
  • Visual support to use in a web meeting or email when an issue arises that benefits from visual support during the call

 

 

Shared knowledge and learning assets:

-Updates about changes in market conditions, competition, products

-New ideas and practices

-Introductions to new content assets or selling tools

 

 

 

 

 

 

General content utilities:

Link library of URLs for all web assets — blog posts, pages on your web site, online videos in YouTube or the company video management application, or specialty web pages.

Inventory of social media posts designed for each channel (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook) accessible through a common search mechanism.

When micro-content is managed as editable text and graphics there is greater flexibility for how it can be updated, delivered and used.

Knowledge and performance support, for sales or any “knowledge worker,” ideally “shows up” within common business systems. Examples include: Outlook, Word, CRM (Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics), collaboration and support applications.

Example Email Inventory Embedded in Outlook

Micro-content as Marketing and Selling Content

We became proficient with micro-content over a decade ago in our content business. We were creating PowerPoint and other content for ourselves as well as other B2B organizations. We did this work guided in part by frameworks based on customer questions and conversations.

We discovered sales people needed “visual support” — individual slides for key conversations.

Sales people have far more conversations than formal presentations. They often need a single image or diagram to help explain a complex or important point. Customers also want those visuals. The need aids to help conduct similar conversations with internal stakeholders, when sales reps aren’t present.

Webinars were another big part of our business. In tracking viewing behavior of archived or on demand webinars we discovered viewing frequently dropped off early, often before important information was delivered.

The number of viewers as well as time consumed increased significantly when we edit full webinars into short sections. For each section we created 60 second previews. Micro-content. The increase was often 4-6 times the number of people who viewed the original program.

Today, with attention spans notably short, you have literally seconds (8-10 seconds) to capture attention and generate interest. You must promote all marketing content.

Micro-content is often the first asset most viewers should receive. It aligns to their consumption preferences. It should hook and motivate viewers to invest time in your full asset.

Here’s an interesting example from a company called Slapfive. They have designed a process supported by software to capture short “voice of the customer” explanations through self-provided audio or video files.

Micro-content as Content Source

Inventory of Re-usable Content

Micro-content can come from chunking or atomizing any long-form finished asset. This is one of the most important practices we developed in our custom content business. It provides leverage, reduces creation time, and improves content quality. We refer to this as Content Source and have written about this practice here.

We started by maintaining a library of common phrases we wanted to easily find and consistently use in other content. This expanded to inventories of common research results, facts and quotations to use in new assets. Our inventory also includes links to important internal and third party web articles we would reference.

Rapid Content Creation at Scale

Content marketers know that content relevance significantly improves content performance. But this is also very challenging. Consider a common scenario where a company sells solutions that address multiple business problems, into multiple industry segments, to multiple personas. To create multiple versions of a major asset such as a white paper, that’s tailored for just one category is significant, let alone all three categories.

We discovered this can be resolved with a micro-content approach. We learned todesign content as modular and configurable, micro-content components. Some micro-content is common across all versions. Others are unique to each version category. (See Modular Content vs Traditional and Structured Content Approaches)

Automated Document Assembly

A primary use case is document assembly. In the sales arena this includes:

  • Request for Information or Proposal (RFI / RFP)
  • Statement of Work (SOW), Contracts and Invoices
  • Customer Project Plans
  • Sourcing channel partners with relevant vendor inputs partners need for each of their document categories above

Customer service and support

Rapid response to customer questions is mission critical for customer service and support organizations. When this knowledge isn’t only in key people’s minds, it often resides within documents and multiple systems across an organization. By extracting and preparing micro-content answers, this information can flow into operational systems for instant access, use and delivery.

This includes images, short videos or diagrams to support the advice provided by customer service agents.

LivePerson LiveEngage Agent Platform with embedded content access

Human Resources

To respond quickly to candidate questions, human resource professionals need instant access to a repository of micro-content answers to specific questions. Leading organizations are harvesting content snippets from existing PDF and other documents. Assets are often linked to original documents or resources that provide more extensive explanations. Assets are prepare for delivery through email and social channel.

Summary

Individual, stand alone micro-content applies in every business function. It improves performance by providing embedded knowledge and performance support aids.

Micro-content is a highly appreciated asset type by short-attention content viewers. It applies to delivery through social channels, as well a front-end to longer-form assets. This improves performance of marketing content. It also meets many important sales and channel-sales use scenarios.

As re-usable Content Source, micro-content reduces research and search time for inputs to new content assets. Micro, modular and configurable content improves content quality through highly-tailored, relevant audience and situation-specific versions.

Micro-content plays a significant role in resolving the universal challenge of scaling content operations and outputs, without compromising cost, time, or quality.

The post Micro-content — the most important content type you don’t manage appeared first on Avitage.

Companies that do have the resources may be using fantastic AI-informed social media marketing campaigns and interactive brand apps to create demand for their products and services. While cutting-edge demand generation techniques are great, especially in response to the modern marketer’s dual challenge of higher customer expectations and higher C-suite expectations, the tried and true, very budget-friendly methods are still just as crucial for your marketing strategy.

Depending on the size of your business and the skill set of your marketing team, the high-tech tools may not yet be at your fingertips. The truth is, many small to mid-sized businesses are still working the digital marketing starter kit – a website, a business Facebook page, as well as a couple other social channels, and email. Only about one-third of SMBs are even using website analytics. Just over half have a website that is mobile responsive.

Integrating technology intelligently into your organization in order to create a ‘Demand Factory,’ as David Lewis of Demandgen coins it, requires a resources investment, a commitment to change management and an innovative, flexible organizational mindset. While long-term goals of the elegant use of marketing automation and tomorrow’s mar-tech tools should be on every marketer’s radar, just because you can’t leap forward into the future of marketing right now, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least step forward with the classic demand generation techniques that we all know work. The key is to use the effective old-school techniques but refine them with the knowledge we have today about what works and what doesn’t. Marketing transformation involves two things:

Adopting the new and improving the old.

Sometimes, we focus so much on the allure of new technology that we may neglect what we already have and can improve upon.

Here are the techniques you can use to create quality leads and to build interest in your brand, no computer science degree or mega marketing budget required.

1. Publish Blog Posts that Answer Your Customers’ Questions

Your organization’s blog isn’t just for driving traffic to your site. It has the potential to be your brand’s most powerful demand generation asset. The difference between blog content that engages and one that creates demand lies in relevancy to your audience.

An effective process to use for your content schedule is to follow the buyer’s journey. Publish content that fulfills the awareness and consideration stage in order to bring leads along to the decision stage and attain the ultimate goal of revenue growth.

Make sure your posts are answering questions that are specific to your market. Tools like AnswerThePublic and Quora are fantastic for guiding solution-oriented content. It’s also wise to keep track of client questions you may find pop up on forums and social platforms for your industry, communications to your sales department, as well as questions on customer feedback channels such as surveys and reviews.

2. Send Emails that Your Contacts Want to Open

When it comes to your email marketing, keeping your audience engaged isn’t the easiest thing in the world. There are a few steps you can take to make your emails a more welcome addition to your customers’ inboxes.

  • If your email open rates aren’t high, try further segmenting your contact lists so you can offer better-personalized content. For example, consider segmenting based on interest level, number of purchases, the length of the customer relationship, level of customer satisfaction, specific products or services they are interested in, as well as demographics.
  • Make sure you are building a list of people who want to hear from you. Tactics like a double opt-in at subscription and letting go of your contacts who aren’t ever opening your emails anyway will give you a clearer idea of what you’re working with. A shorter list of interested contacts will help you better tailor your messaging.
  • Vary your offerings. Coupons and discounts, sign up for your next event or webinar, a link to your brand’s hysterical marketing video – train your contacts to expect the works when they open your emails.

3. Offer Interactive Content

Content marketing is the foundation of your demand generation. If you want to create lava-hot demand, welcome your target customers into your world with interactive content. From industry conferences to educational webinars, when you motivate people to invest their time and energy into your brand, you’re on your way to rock solid customer relationships.

Even if you don’t have the budget to pull-off a big in-person event, with the technology available today, a webinar can fit comfortably into any sized budget. You can expect to convert anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of your attendees into qualified leads.

Tip for webinar success: offer regular webinars or create webinar series. When your potential buyers know more online events are coming up, they may keep your brand in mind, follow you on social media, or sign up for your newsletters.

4. Beef Up Your Social Proof

One of the best ways to create demand will always be through social proof. You may not be in a position to partner with a social media celebrity, but the opinion of your actual customers carries a lot of weight with your potential ones. 85 percent of consumers pay attention to reviews for local businesses and 73 percent say positive reviews helps to build trust.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your best customers and ask them to write a review. Encourage social sharing of your brand by offering customers something in return for posting about their experience on Twitter or sharing a snap of your product on Instagram.

How are your customer testimonials doing? Do you only have a few outdated quotes on your website? Do you have photos or videos to make your testimonials appear more authentic? Are you sharing client case studies within your business’s blog and LinkedIn posts?

Keep Refining Your Improvements

Want to make a big impact with your demand generation strategy? Keep track of your metrics. How are your email open, website traffic, conversion rates and event registration numbers changing in response to the changes you make? Continually check in with each piece of your demand gen strategy and you’ll successfully be able to evolve the big picture. And, of course, the more successful you are at optimizing the digital assets you do have, the more you’ll be able to grow your marketing budget so you can dive into all the fun of tomorrow’s marketing technology in the future.

Machine Learning and AI Marketing Trends to Watch for 2018

By Michael Brenner on September 25, 2017

From more sophisticated metrics to a next-generation customer experience, machine learning and artificial intelligence are raising the bar on what marketers can do to enhance customer relationships. While many marketing organizations are still struggling to make the jump from ‘doing digital’ to ‘being digital,’ some are getting ready to make a quantum leap with machine learning and AI.

Here are the marketing technology trends every marketer should keep their eye on as we round the corner to 2018.

 

Image Recognition on Social Media

Thanks to big data, we already know that visual media is a powerful tool for social media engagement. On Twitter, tweets that include visual content receive 150 percent more retweets than text only. On Facebook, posts with images are 2.3 times more likely to get any action. And, of course, social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are built upon visual engagement.

The challenge for marketers has been to pin down the images that social media users are sharing and responding to. Sifting through Facebook, trying to chase down the most compelling visual images or to gain important information based on shared pictures with manual methods requires more time and four-leaf clovers than most marketing organizations have access to.

But, these ‘golden’ images offer a lot of valuable insight into consumer behaviors and preferences. They are also the ones brands need to be responding to to help build brand awareness and consumer trust.

The solution comes in the form of image recognition software. These AI-based tools automate the searching process, comparing a goliath-sized number of photos to vast image libraries, looking for specific scenes, objects and characteristics.

The potential for what is possible in terms of insight and better-targeted marketing is perhaps more mind-blowing than the tech itself. For example, a business could learn the most common location their product is consumed, such as at the gym, the office, a park, etc., or how people are responding to a specific marketing decision such as product placement. As AI-based image recognition starts being used more widely in 2018, it will be fascinating to see how far creative marketing teams will be able to push their new technology.

Machine-Mediated Customer Conversations

As marketers strive to deliver relevant content in order to build a more solid bridge with consumers, machine learning has come in and given marketers incredible tools to make communications (way) more customer-centric. Alex De Simone, CEO of Avochato, calls it a shift from traditional content marketing to machine-mediated conversational marketing. This technology will make it possible to determine ‘what the content of conversations should be.’ It will empower marketers to deliver content to the right people and at the right time – at scale.

In 2018, we’re looking way past the traditional chatbox and voice/text communications. Companies like Microsoft are already exploring the possibilities of creating a multi-sensory communication. Sight, sound, touch – even gestures and a person’s gaze can potentially be a part of the company-consumer conversations of the future.

Robot Content

Not exactly – but in 2018, the potential involvement of artificial intelligence in content creation is huge. Machines may not be up to the challenge of crafting high quality content just yet. But, with tools like generation analytics and predictive analytics, AI will be taking over a larger chunk of the creation process, and in some cases, will be generating content. Associated Press is already using AI to create some of its news content.

The benefits of AI for content marketing are immense: help with research, outcome tracking and microtargeting. As artificial intelligence is getting better at editing content, it will also help to streamline the process of content creation and reduce costs. The help – and competition – from AI may also force content creators, from copywriters to videographers, to perfect the human elements of content – weaving the brand story, evoking emotion and pushing the boundaries of the imagination.

A Personalized Customer Journey

Marketing technology innovators have come a long way with marketing personalization tools. It’s about to get even more personal in 2018. Blueshift, for example, has just launched an evolution of their platform with more sophisticated AI. Now, instead of offering personalization techniques in bits and pieces – channels like push notifications on consumers’ mobile phones, email messaging, and content recommendations on social media and websites – machines are able to build upon learned data about an individual. This means not only can an interaction or campaign be personalized, but the actual customer journey can be tailored to the individual.

The platform uses a predictive point system to determine when a customer starts a specific journey. It then walks with the customer along that journey, offering personalized content at each point along the way.

The Evolution of Marketing Has Only Just Begun

Autonomous driving, sophisticated financial market predictions, the potential of drone technology. AI is permeating our lives in more ways than most people are aware of. In marketing, the pace is picking up much faster than many marketing organizations can keep up with. And, unless you had the foresight to combine your marketing degree and work experience with a stint in computer science, it can even be difficult to wrap one’s mind around. But, the truth is, what we’re seeing now is only the beginning.

Long time marketer, Clay Stobaugh, the current CMO for publisher John Wiley and Sons and a guy who’s been around since the ‘Mad Men’ times, illustrates this idea well. In the mid to late 2000’s, when marketing data capabilities went as far as analyzing email click-through rates, Stobaugh says there used to be around 100 marketing technology companies. Three years later, there were about 500. Now – there are closer to 10,000.

The marketing industry as a whole may still be working to master digital marketing and is trying to adopt methods, namely agile and its derivatives, which allow them to integrate and leverage the most relevant martech tools quickly. But, the horizon of what is possible and what may be at our fingertips tomorrow is breathtaking. Those who figure out, not just how to ‘use’ machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the other technologies once reserved for science fiction writers, but how to create and innovate with these tools, are going to change everything.

Telling and listening to stories comes naturally to people across the globe. From ancient to modern times, storytelling has remained a constant throughout the evolution of the human race. Stories in different forms get passed from one generation to another and exist across various channels in multiple iterations. There are simple, linear ones and stories with dizzying complexity and both types keep bringing interested audiences back for more.

Storytelling works because people have the innate desire to learn about certain developments that might be relevant to them. As humans we’re on a constant quest for knowledge and stories help us satisfy the urge to learn and be entertained. The best stories allow their audiences to immerse themselves completely, focusing solely on the story’s universe.

 

Over time, people have learned that one story can be molded and transformed across a bunch of different platforms. Each storytelling format has its pros and cons, and great storytellers have learned how to maximize every platform’s strengths to benefit their cause.

Storytelling also provides an alternate reality, especially if it’s fiction. Meanwhile, nonfiction stories, particularly the successful ones, are read because they motivate and inspire. People buy into stories because of our inclination to make sense of everything.

We use stories to build connections between related concepts through what we’ve learned and experienced, which in essence means engaging our audiences in a way that’s both surprising and familiar to them.

Why Storytelling Is Powerful

Why Storytelling is Powerful

Storytelling is a powerful tool for marketing, but let’s take a look at why it works from a psychological standpoint: 

  • Form of Communication

Putting types and platforms aside, storytelling shares information. The main purpose of storytelling is to share plots and narratives that hold deeper meaning.

From history to mystery, it’s all part of communicating something important. Storytelling connects people because of the common ground it builds for all of the people that interact with the story.

  • Collaboration and Connection

Storytelling births in its audience an understanding of other backgrounds (social or cultural) and deep emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, and joy. The act of reading or listening to a story creates an experience, which can affect how people think, especially when making decisions.

Because of the massive effect of storytelling, it’s no surprise that it has become a powerful tool in the world of B2B marketing. Marketers can communicate their product or service better through storytelling. At the same time, it bypasses the concept (or even the need) of a hard sell. People are drawn in by story without being explicitly aware that a product or service is being sold to them.

 B2B marketers found subtlety in storytelling. The modern marketing industry has shifted to appeal to emotions instead of bombarding their audiences with self-promotional tactics. Businesses are now investing in creating core stories about their product or service. Instead of hard selling, they attract prospects through the value of a story.

  • Enhances Imagination

Storytelling taps different sections of the brain to implant thoughts and feelings about concepts, making them more apparent and memorable. Brands can take advantage of this by transforming their sales process into an attractive visual experience.

Genuine emotions, presence, and behavioral responses are all the result of good storytelling. Rather than being spectators of a narrative, storytelling gives its audience the chance to become participants, interpreting the true meaning of the story on their own terms.

  • Order and Thinking

Good storytelling follows a specific structure: beginning middle end, which is shaped like an arc because a good story must not begin nor end haphazardly. This makes the audience think in a very specific pattern, which, in turn, makes the story easier to consume.

It’s natural for people to make sense of something by relating it to the different aspects of their lives. Also, by making space in their thoughts for that something, it becomes easier to remember and absorb the message.

Storytelling doesn’t just explicitly tell a story. It’s made to create waves of conversation and interpretation. It extends itself to be an experience to whoever the consumer may be.

Importance of B2B Storytelling

In reality, successful B2B marketing strategies are not just about logic, technical processes, and facts. The world has come to realize that it’s about connecting with people on an emotional/psychological level.

According to research by Google in partnership with Motista and CEB, 50% of B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with your brand. It starts with your business’ goals, objectives, mission, and vision. If a B2B buyer sees that there’s a common ground, they identify with your brand, which creates a sense of trust.

Based on the same study, 71% of B2B buyers purchase when they see personal value in your business. Along with that, 68.8% of the B2B buyers surveyed are even willing to pay a higher price to do business with a brand they believe in.

But what does “personal value” mean in B2B marketing?

It’s the professional, social, and emotional benefits you experience in addition to the actual product.

Simply put, emotions elevate customer satisfaction and customer experience. Based on a study by The Good Relations Group, the honesty of the vendor plays a big part at 93%. Moreover, personal recommendations also drive purchase action at 91%.

Although these are not explicit emotions such as happiness or sadness, they are deeply rooted emotions that are powerful enough to influence decision making. At the end of the day, purchasing is a risk. You need to trust the seller that he/she is not taking advantage of you.

Further, positive emotions increase a customer’s loyalty, improving the chances of them becoming brand advocates. In an age where customer loyalty is everything, businesses should take every chance they get.

Emotions and the Customer in B2B Storytelling

Customer Emotions

“Your customers feel before they think.” – Dan Hill

Consider the scale of your customer’s responsibility. For B2B purchases, it’s likely that the decision will affect not just them, but the entire business, so more effort goes into the decision-making process. This means that B2B buyers require a higher perceived value than their B2C counterparts.

So as a B2B seller, you should consider this. Tap the emotions that are of value to them. Will this decision improve their business’ efficiency? Luckily, you can figure out what motivates your target market simply by listening to them.

There are various channels you can use to research your audiences such as social media, surveys, phone calls, or even a simple email questionnaire. By doing this, you can get actionable insights from the source. No one knows your customers better than they know themselves.

An essential key to a successful B2B storytelling is effective listening. Don’t ignore what your customers are saying. Rather, listen to them before and after implementation. Go back to the drawing board every after evaluation and lay out possible points of improvement.

Storytelling humanizes your business. Surely, you can publish dozens of studies and whitepapers about how awesome your product or service is, but if there’s a disconnect emotionally, you’re going to turn off your customers.

The traditional view of B2B marketing aims to keep things professional in a very sterile manner. If you’re able to inject some personality and emotion into your communications, you’ll give your brand a much better chance of standing out from the clutter.

Components of B2B Storytelling

So, how do you seamlessly incorporate storytelling into your B2B marketing strategies? Here are three essential factors that every story needs: 

  • Conflict

You can formulate the conflict by understanding your customer based on the customer journey you’ve created.

Identify their pain points and use it as inspiration for a compelling B2B story. Present their problems and issues in a creative and attention-grabbing manner. Make sure that you don’t offend them in the process.

Take your time in your research because a misrepresentation of your customer’s conflict can spell disaster for your B2B storytelling effort. Furthermore, knowing their real problems and issues will give you a solid understanding of what makes them tick.

  • Climax

After establishing your customer’s conflict, it’s time to match it with the solution that your product or service provides. It’s always a spectacular moment when you address your customer’s problems. This is where your business becomes the hero in the story by resolving the story’s conflict.

Don’t be afraid to involve feelings in B2B storytelling. Although there’s quite a stern ambiance in the B2B industry when compared to B2C, storytelling simply doesn’t work without emotional resonance.

  • Resolution

As usual, you must have the perfect curtain call to the story. Describe how your customer’s life changed after using your product or service. Feel free to go into detail. Don’t settle for generic satisfaction. If possible, show numbers to quantify the value of the benefit.

These three major points create a far more immersive customer experience. It elevates the typical process of engaging with your brand to a memorable and enriching one.  

B2B Storytelling Success

B2B Storytelling Success

The following companies are great examples of how the power of B2B storytelling can help your brand: 

  1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn, known as the job hosting website, used the power of storytelling in their “Picture Yourself” campaign to create inspiring stories about some of their members.

The idea was to leverage the knowledge and experience of successful business professionals to create a valuable story for LinkedIn’s audience to learn from. What they managed to do was build a portal of quality business insights that increased the trust and relevance of the LinkedIn brand. 

  1. Cisco

Humor goes a long way. You might not imagine that a huge tech company would choose humor as their B2B storytelling core concept. Humor can have a huge impact because of the emotion it elicits from the customer.

But keep in mind that despite the lighthearted tone, they always stay true to principles of storytelling, from conflict, to climax, to resolution.

  1. Kickstarter

Their B2B storytelling skills lie in all the success stories of the businesses they’ve helped to create. In other words, the users themselves build the storytelling of Kickstarter. This looks like a simple core, but it’s very effective because the people see their dream businesses realized. “We help people tell their stories.”

  1. Intel

Intel found the key to making technology more relatable. The tech giant has made technology more human than ever before.

With the help of Toshiba, they took B2B storytelling to the next level by creating a series of short films called “The Beauty Inside.” The interactive nature of the film gives the audience a chance to play the lead role in the story, making it easy to understand why it’s gotten more than 70 million views since its release.

  1. Zendesk

If you think that B2B storytelling only allows success for real stories, then think again. Zendesk took a different path when they created this fake band named “Zendesk Alternative,” which is a semi-grungy band, and accompanied this faux-band with a website of their own.

It caught people’s attention, to say the least, and Zendesk looked like a genius by going out of the box and being completely unexpected.

  1. Microsoft

While other companies look for stories outside their company, Microsoft looked inside, and it worked. In 2010, they hired a guy that’s the master of storytelling as the Chief Storyteller. They completely revamped their content marketing strategy and published new content through different social media channels in a series titled “Microsoft Stories.”

By projecting an excellent company culture and employee engagement, other businesses found Microsoft to be the company they can trust and do business with. This worked so well that they turned their media center into a portal called Microsoft Story Labs.

Conclusion

B2B storytelling makes a brand real to its audience. A good story lets customers know your brand and what it stands for. It also bridges the gap between your business and your consumers. In addition, storytelling adds an extra layer to your customer care by recognizing customer’s stories and using them to inspire more people.

From what used to be a mushy marketing strategy, B2B storytelling has transformed into a leading tactic in Content Marketing. So, get out there and start connecting with your audience on an emotional level.

 

The post The Importance of B2B Storytelling appeared first on PureB2B.