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Everything We Thought We Knew about B-to-B is Wrong Video

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In December, I had the opportunity to be the Keynote speaker at the Bowery Capital CMO Summit in NYC.  The event featured a number of high profile CMO’s speaking with an audience of mostly early stage startups (under 20 employees).

My presentation was based on the recent Forbes blog post Everything We Thought We Knew about B-to-B Marketing in Wrong.  The audience also included some local media, a reporter from CMO.com wrote a summary of the speech.

 

Numero UNO: gyro B2B Agency of the Year

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I joined gyro in 2010.  At that time we were called GyroHSR, and were a collection of 9 small to mid-size agencies from around the world that were part of a roll-up.  We didn’t share a common language, system or culture.  What held us together was a vision of being the world’s best B2B agency.

The first year was challenging.  I came into the ad business from the outside.  My experience had been consulting and marketing services.  I naively thought it would be an easy transition, that my world and this world weren’t that far apart.  I was wrong.  Everything seemed to have a learning curve, I spoke a different language and the other side of my brain, long neglected, needed to be developed.

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Over the next two years almost everything would change.  We dropped the “HSR” and became known solely as gyro.  Our investors brought in a new management team and our new CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Christoph Becker would completely remake our creative teams across the network.  But most importantly, Christoph would change our culture, our language and our focus.  And along the way, the right side of my brain began to develop.

During this time, we undertook two intiatives that I think have set us up for the success that we are enjoying today.  The first, was that we believed that “b2b marketing” as we knew it, was “dead”.  Targeting a business buyer by a title, at a business address, during business hours, was an antiquated concept.  We would later prove that to be the case with our @Work State of Mind research conducted with academic institutions and Forbes (click here for the research report).

The second was that ideas needed to be “humanly relevant”.  That behind every business decision maker was a person, and that person made decisions based on emotions.  Our research would show that the buyers journey was, in fact, a very rational process up until the point of the decision…and then emotions took over.

It became easy to differentiate ourselves from competitors, and clients/prospects believed in what we preaching.  As the wins starting coming, our culture started to align around what we call UNO.  One language, one process, one culture, we became unified across the network.  Client teams from across the world began working together to deliver the best ideas and outputs, regardless of the location.  Our work starting winning awards, and the world started to notice.

What’s different about BtoB magazine award today, isn’t necessarily that we’ve been recognized, gyro has won awards in the past.  But rather it’s an external validation point that we are on the right path, and the hard work is paying off.  We won in the “Large” agency category (our first year in that category), going up against the “best of the best,” like Ogilvy.  It’s a litmus test that our vision of being the best B2B agency in the world, and the reason why most of us joined gyro, is being realized, at least in the U.S…and at least for this year.

We not done yet, we still have work to do and clients to dazzle, but for now…we’re Numero UNO, and it feels good.

Why Sex Sells

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Original posted on Forbes July 25, 2011

Years ago some colleagues of mine built what we thought at the time was the “holy grail” of business marketing:  A sophisticated analytical tool that could tell a marketer where to invest, why, and what the return would be in sales productivity.   It could also tell them where to cut dollars, why and what the impact would be on the business.

It was an incredible feat of analytical modeling and technology.  Built for one of the most respected and well known companies in the world, so the CMO could answer with absolute certainty the CEO’s question: “What am I getting for my marketing spend?” We thought that it was our ticket to the big time and the rocket to ride to explosive growth, but that was not the case.

It turned out to be the only one we sold.   And that always baffled me.  Anyone who saw the tool was awed by its power and insight, but they didn’t buy.

Over the years, I picked up some clues as to why others would not buy:

  • The head of a major west coast based IT company warned us that our business intelligence tool and analytic model might limit his managers’ ability to make decisions based on their experience … “gut feel.”
  • The CMO of a global software company was concerned that our meticulously designed marketing processes, with stage gates and Gantt charts might limit his team’s creativity.
  • The head of marketing finance at a major Financial Service company told me that every year they run their marketing optimization model and it tells them that they overspend on TV, and under spend in print. But at the end of the year if there was additional budget leftover the CMO puts it in TV.

I’ve now been able to put the pieces together.  I came from a marketing science world and have since learned to appreciate and understand the value of the art of marketing.

Data and analytics can tell you where customers are, what they look like, what they’re interested in, but science alone can’t make customers buy.  It can’t make customers advocate for a brand, and it can’t make the hair stand up on the back of their necks.

Insightful, creative and relevant ideas that trigger human emotions can –  and do – sell.   For as much as I wanted to believe that buyers were rational creatures behaving in predictable patterns, I now understand that they are not.

Marketing, as much as we want it to be, is not an exact science.  Technology innovation has allowed us to better understand buyers, influencers and the performance of our activities.

But at the end of the day, business is personal.  We can’t remove the human element from the buyer or seller side.  Relationships and perceptions matter, how a product and/or a brand makes a customer feel is important, and it’s not easy to model or predict.

And with that, I found the answer: Although helpful and informative, good marketers don’t need to rely on sophisticated analytical tools to make decisions. Their experience, “gut,” and sometimes the hairs on their back of their neck do just fine.

5 Ways CMO’s Lose Credibility with the C-Suite

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This post was originally posted on July 8, 2011.  It also appeared on Forbes.com 

Here’s a hypothesis: Given the greater focus on ROI, marketing automation tools, and enhanced tracking of results, marketing is more of a science than ever. Therefore, marketers’ ability to defend and validate their value among peers should be easier than ever before.

So why does a recent study by Fournaise show that CMOs still lack credibility with CEOs?

The study points to several deficiencies with an emphasis on communication – are you sensing the irony?  Further, marketers tend to sabotage themselves in everyday interactions with the larger executive team, and in many cases, have no idea they are doing it.

Here are five common mistakes among marketers:

  1. Stumble explaining the value of marketing. Asked almost daily, and rarely answered properly. The key is to understand how the inquirer perceives the role of marketing. The question behind the question is “what is the value of marketing … to me?” According to the study, it most often relates to “revenue, sales, EBITA or even market valuation.”
  2. Limited product, service, and customer knowledge. Even the savviest marketer will arrive DOA in the credibility department if they fall short on this one.  And it is not about feature or functionality, but rather customer use and application that matter most and those factors vary by industry and size. Leave “speeds and feeds” to the product organization. Marketing’s job is to differentiate and develop compelling value propositions that sell. If products are built “inside-out,” then bring the “outside-in” perspective.
  3. Can’t Dance. Marketing comes with highly visible risk and things are going to go wrong. When they do, marketing needs to learn how to dance. Handling these situations will define how marketing is viewed. Keep best and worse case scenarios in mind when briefing the executive team. Truth is, if marketing isn’t making a few strategic and tactical mistakes, it’s not moving fast enough. As a former IBM client told me, “If you fail, and you will, fail fast.”
  4. Isolation. A favorite question from sales: What have you done for me lately? And the product team can be equally demanding. However, marketing has to build, nurture, and maintain strong relationships with these groups. For Sales, it is helpful to establish an integrated sales pipeline and hold weekly pipeline meetings; this will build rapport and create a common sense of purpose. It’s also an opportunity to put marketing metrics in a sales context. The key to a successful relationship with sales is about communication and performance. For the product group, marketing needs to clearly define points of integration for research, content, and value proposition development. The key to a successful relationship with the product team is about process and integration.
  5. Where to invest – or cut – an incremental dollar. This question is posed by the CFO at the end of the quarter when numbers are off, and by the CEO who wants to redirect budget.  It’s also used as a test. As a holder of discretionary dollars, marketing has to be prepared to answer “where” and “why” along with stating the business impact.  In talking about CMOs, 72% of CEOs say, “[marketers] are always asking for more money, but can rarely explain how much incremental business this money will generate.”

To call out the sense of irony, most of these issues are communication related. The same rigor brought to external communication needs to be applied internally:

  • Know the audience
  • Understand their needs
  • Communicate to them in their language.

While the Fournaise study states that executives think in terms of “revenue, sales, and EBITA,” most make judgments based on their emotions. Marketers are advised to use their creativity in delivering the message.

Friedrich Nietzsche said it: “All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.”

One Man’s Quest for a Social Media ROI

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Everybody knows – or thinks they know intuitively – that social elements add value to marketing.  The question is how?

Like anything in business, it comes down to return on investment. Social media is not a strategy and it’s not an end in itself. Unless your business objective (and I’d check with your shareholders on this) is only about gaining page views and follows, marketers need to understand how social adds value to everything else in your toolkit.

So how do you find the “sweetspot” for developing an ROI for social media?  Well, start by viewing the tools at their most basic level, as vehicles for sharing and; photo’s, thoughts, content, etc.  Consider them “levers” for improving the performance of known activities that have produced a ROI.

Five years ago, we assessed the effectiveness of demand generation campaigns for a client.  Because the firm was in the hi-tech industry they had a heavily reliance on content marketing for their campaigns.  They spent months designing and building them, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in execution only to see diminishing results.

The audit revealed that their campaign effectiveness (related to lead production) lasted roughly 36 hours after launch (see below).  Meaning that the majority of the leads were being created within the first three days of launch, regardless of how long they left the campaign in the market (btw – they are not alone).

Today, social media has the potential to create a long tail, extending the life of expensive campaigns, ultimately improving ROI, and along the way creating and deepening the relationship with the audience.

I’ll use myself as an example: A blog post of entitled The End of Blogs (and Websites) as We Know Them ran recently in on Forbes. It received no special promotion; in fact, you could say the deck was stacked against it.  Posted on a Friday, the slowest traffic day of the workweek, at midnight (EST) when most of the blog readers at home or are in bed.  By prime blog viewing time (10 am) it had almost dipped below the fold.

But on the following Monday it took off, almost doubling the views of Friday, and continued to build momentum ending the week as the 3rd most popular post of the day.   The following week it was the most popular post on Wednesday.  So what happened?

Social took over. Without any additional investment to promote the post, social sharing accelerated and extended the life of the post, even as it fell off the first, second and third page of the site.  Readers engaged and went from passive viewers to active promoters.

Readers were tweeting their own thoughts and comments about their insights, not just retweeting the post title.  They placed in into Linkedin groups adding their comments on the impact of the technology (the topic of the post) to their particular area of interest or role.  They were actively engaging in sharing their “discover” with others.

 That is the power and the value of social media for content marketing.

The post no longer needed to be pushed because it was being endorsed, and in some ways validated, by readers — the most trusted source of information.

The potential of social media is intriguing, but to determine its true value companies will need to experiment.  Using social media to support your content marketing efforts is a prudent choice, but keep this in mind: It will only be effective if the audience/community finds value in the content and part of that value is defined by those who pass it along.