Take the Survey: B2B Marketing Trends in 2012

With 2011 coming to a close, what do you think will be the major trends and priority shifts for B2B marketers in 2012?

Take the 2-minute survey to share your thoughts:

You will receive a copy of the survey report as a thank you!



New Report: 2011 B2B Content Marketing Trends

SlideShare views for the new report "2011 B2B Content Marketing Trends" are off the charts - looks like we have a topic that is really resonating with B2B marketers.

This new report is the result of a survey I conducted with the 20,000 member B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn to better understand the current state of content marketing, and to identify key challenges as well as best practices.

Survey Results

Here is a quick snapshot of the survey findings:

  • Content marketing is growing dramatically in popularity with over 71 percent of respondents doing more of it than a year ago (in contrast, only 2 percent are doing less).
  • The biggest motivator for content marketing is its ability to drive awareness, leads, and engagement with prospects to compensate where where traditional tactics are falling short.
  • The most popular content formats: case studies, presentations at live events, white papers, online articles and videos.
  • The biggest challenge: producing truly engaging content.
  • Companies spend an average of 20 percent of their budgets on content marketing.
  • The most popular channels to deliver content: website, live events, email.
  • The top performance metric for content marketers is leads.

Follow this link to read the complete 2011 B2B Content Marketing Trends report with lots of charts and data that will help you benchmark your own content marketing initiative (and don't forget to share the report with your friends and colleagues): http://www.slideshare.net/hschulze/b2b-content-marketing-report

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. Please share your content marketing ideas and questions with our readers in the comments section below.

Is Your Content Marketing Program a Success?

Content marketing is one of the most popular strategies deployed by today's B2B marketers to attract and engage prospects, and guide them through the buying process.

But how do marketers measure content marketing success? We asked 20,000 members of the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn what metrics they use to measure the success of their content marketing initiatives. Over 500 people responded - and here is a preview of the results.

Leads, leads, leads 
With 73 percent of all responses, leads are the number one metric used to gauge content marketing success. This is followed by content views and downloads with 53 percent, and inquiries with 52 percent of responses respectively (multiple selections were allowed).

No social metrics
Surprisingly, the lowest responses came in for social media engagement and SEO impact. I assume this is partly due to the difficulty in precisely measuring these metrics and their intermediate rather than direct impact on pipeline results.

Who owns content marketing strategy?
Another question we asked is looking to identify ownership of content marketing strategy within the organization. No surprises here: 67 percent of content marketing strategies are owned by corporate marketing, followed at a distant 41 percent for product marketing, and 20 percent for field marketing. Very few respondents rely on product management (16 percent) or external agencies (8 percent) for content strategy.

This wraps up our content marketing survey preview for today. Stay tuned for more survey results! What metrics do you use in your content marketing initiative?

Related Resources:

Most popular B2B content marketing formats & channels

Why care about content marketing?

Top-3 B2B Content Marketing Formats & Channels

In our last post we reviewed the key objectives of B2B content marketing initiatives as indicated by our 20,000 member survey.

Now, let's take a look at popular content formats and delivery channels. How well are they performing for B2B marketers?

What Content Formats Are Most Effective?

The chart below shows a blended ranking of the most popular content formats (BTW, not only the "effective" but also the "neutral" ratings influence the overall blended ranking).

Leading the ranking are case studies, live presentations (one could argue this is a content format as well as a channel), white papers, and online articles - these formats are most effective in engaging prospects (all other things being equal).

In contrast, the survey respondents consider podcasts, print articles, and infographics the least effective content formats.

What Content Delivery Channels Are Most Effective?

Now, let's take a look at the perceived effectiveness of delivery channels used by B2B marketers to get content in front of the target audience (either outbound or inbound). Again, this chart shows a blended ranking of the most effective content delivery channels.

The highest rated channels are website, live in-person event, and email. Newer channels such as social media and blogs are considered only moderately effective in comparison. At the bottom of the list we find online directories, online ads, and paid search. Not surprising as the effectiveness of these channels has been declining steadily over the last few years.

Do these findings reflect what you see in your marketing role? Looking forward to hear from you.

Now that we better understand what B2B marketers expect to get out of content marketing, and what formats and channels perform well, our next post will take a closer look at survey results regarding content performance metrics and key challenges - so stay tuned.

Related content:

Why care about B2B Content Marketing?

Take the 2011 B2B Content Marketing Survey

5 Steps to B2B Marketing Success

Why care about B2B Content Marketing?

Our B2B content marketing survey is the most popular survey we have produced to date. We asked over 20,000 B2B marketing professionals to share their collective insight on B2B content marketing issues, trends, and preferences.

After the first couple of hundred responses, patterns and trends have stabilized - a clear sign that we are getting close to a representative sample size. Time to share some preliminary survey results!

The first survey question is designed to better understand the motivation of organizations engaging in content marketing as a B2B marketing strategy. In short: why do we care about content marketing? What are the main objectives? Let's take a look at the chart below.

Leads, leads, leads ...
By far the most mentioned objective for content marketing is lead generation (62 percent), followed by lead nurturing (39 percent). This finding doesn't come as a surprise considering that content marketing has emerged as a B2B strategy primarily to drive inbound lead generation (in response to outbound B2B tactics becoming increasingly ineffective). Lead generation and nurturing is the promise of content marketing, in conjunction with marketing automation tools to deliver compelling content in a targeted fashion, and to move buyers though their buying stages and to influence their decisions (our next sneak preview will explore the reality of content marketing in terms of outcomes and results.)

The next highest ranked objectives are thought leadership and brand awareness with 37 percent and 34 percent of responses, respectively. This is also consistent with the promise of content marketing as a strategy to educate and influence buyer behavior in the vendor's favor.

Content not critical for social media engagement?
The survey result I found most surprising, however, is how low (only 13 percent) social media engagement ranks as a main objective for content marketing. I believe content marketing is an ideal strategy to attract and engage audiences on social media platforms. It is also ideal for spreading your message by having great content shared across multiple social vectors. Perhaps in this context, our survey participants don't consider social media engagement a primary objective but a means to an end, i.e. lead generation/nurturing, thought leadership, and brand awareness - our top ranked objectives. I am curious to learn what you think about the results (especially if you participated in the survey).

Our next sneak preview will look at the effectiveness of content marketing - so stay tuned. The 2011 B2B content marketing survey is still open - take the survey and be among the first to receive a copy of the results!

Take the 2011 B2B Content Marketing Survey

B2B buyer behavior has been changing dramatically over the last few years as buyers increasingly refuse to be interrupted by outbound marketing tactics. Content marketing has emerged as a highly effective strategy to engage the reluctant B2B buyer who is actively searching for guidance and information online before making a complex purchase decision.

The purpose of content marketing is to engage B2B buyers with compelling content (in the form of webcasts, videos, eBooks, white papers, blog posts, etc) to educate, inform, entertain, and guide them through each step in the buying cycle. And while you want to help buyers make pragmatic, informed decisions, your ultimate goal is to persuade buyers to select your solution over competing alternatives.

Take the 2011 B2B Content Marketing Survey

It may sound easy to create crisp definitions of market segments, buyer personas, and buying stages, and then to build compelling content for each relevant intersection of these three (or more) dimensions. However, the reality of implementing content marketing initiatives is a bit more complicated.

The 20,000 member B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn is conducting the 2011 B2B Content Marketing Survey to better understand the current state of content marketing in the B2B space, and to identify key challenges as well as best practices.

All survey participants will receive an exclusive, free copy of the survey results before they are published to a broader audience. I will also share sneak previews of the survey results on this blog.

The 2011 B2B Content Marketing Survey takes less than 5 minutes to complete - take it now.

Thank you!

Holger Schulze

8 Tips for Marketing SaaS and Software in the Cloud

The cloud is all the rage these days. Saugatuck Technology's Bruce Guptill released some interesting market research predicting that by 2014 the majority of new corporate B2B software purchases will be in the form of cloud software solutions (SaaS) rather than traditional on-premise software. This is a significant tipping point, after which adoption of cloud services is expected to further accelerate. What does this mean for B2B marketers selling cloud solutions and software as a service? I think it will pretty much change the rules of the game, and in ways that are somewhat unpredictable today. Here is why.

Why SaaS Marketing Rocks
After having taken to market both SaaS (starting in 2002) as well as traditional on-premise software solutions, I observed first hand some of the significant differences between the two models as it relates to marketing. And I also learned a few lessons along the way (some were learned the hard way, but I guess that’s how you learn best). You will see quickly in the following sections that I have a bias towards cloud software solutions, mostly because, if done right, the on-demand cloud model provides much faster, more direct and immediate feedback cycles on how your market is responding to your solution and marketing stimuli - a marketer's dream! In many cases, it also allows for much more compelling value propositions compared to traditional on-premise solutions. But let's take a closer look.

(1) Focus on the business buyer
One of the biggest changes in marketing SaaS vs on-premise software is the makeup of your target audience. While IT departments traditionally had a lot of influence over the software buying decirion and acted as gate keepers, cloud solutions today often allow you to deal directly with the business problem owner and end user to make the decision and subscribe to your service (this obviously depends a great deal on the complexity, integration and scope of the solution). One of the biggest factors in the adoption of cloud solutions is that business users can activate the solution quickly, often without having to rely on slow IT resources.

For many applications, this will allow you to bypass IT in the early stages of adoption or altogether, depending on your solution. This is especially true for stand-alone, point solutions that don't require integration into on-premise or other cloud solutions. Also, be aware of IT pushback. I have seen many IT departments that have a strong on-premise bias to justify keeping their budgets and headcounts required for running the entire IT stack in-house.

(2) Re-focus messaging from product to buyer 
While more direct access to the decision maker and buying authority may simplify the decision process to some extent, it requires marketing to better understand the underlying business problem the cloud solution is solving. Technical specs, speeds and feeds are now much less important, even irrelevant, to the buyer as they are often entirely encapsulated and "hidden" in the cloud.

What matters to the business user is the business value the solution delivers, the process it helps automate or enable, the cost it reduces or the opportunity it unlocks. In addition to your unique business and functional message, make sure to also embed a unique version of the “generic” cloud value proposition (lower cost and complexity, higher flexibility, faster on-boarding, seamless scalability, etc) into your marketing message and make them relevant and specific to your offering.

(3) Create buyer personas
For many software vendors who have been selling traditional on-premise solutions to customers, this focus on the business buyer and their unique requirements should not be new. The move to the cloud, in combination with dramatically changing buyer behaviors, however, requires a more sophisticated approach to marketing. It requires a crystal clear definition of your target segments, target buyer personas, and the typical journey your buyers take from problem to buying decision to actual purchase. This path needs to be made painfully easy for prospects to travel along. With powerful content assets that lead, just like breadcrumbs, from problem to solution.

(4) Simplify content marketing
Content marketing (combined with robust marketing automation) allows you to scale and put much of your inbound marketing efforts on "auto pilot", and "cherry pick" the leads you want to engage with directly, when they are ready to talk to you. While there are many steps in the decision process and many buyer personas that influence it, I have found that simplification is key to success. Especially if your marketing and sales organization is new to content and buyer centric marketing, don't be tempted to build the perfect system that, for example, captures 8 granular buying stages, 5 buyer personas, across, 5 market segments. Creating compelling content for the intersections of all these dimensions, you might be looking at hundreds of assets to be produced and deployed. This will easily overwhelm even the most sophisticated marketing teams.
Instead of attempting perfection, take a simplified crawl-walk-run approach, starting with as few as three buying stages (for example: “Awareness”, “Discovery”, “Decision”), one or two key buyer personas, and one target segment. Once this pilot model is designed and implemented with all content assets and associated programs, then you can move on to more sophisticated models applying the lessons learned earlier on.

(5) Highlight pricing model advantages
Pay as you go or subscription models enabled by cloud services allow buyers to adopt your solution much more quickly as they don't have huge upfront license fees to worry about that are often Capex, require justification, and many levels of sign-off. Instead, the monthly subscription payments can often fly under the radar and get paid without the intense scrutiny of big, lump sum payments, making it easier for buyers to pull the trigger.

(6) Mind the adoption gap
In market categories where cloud solutions are disrupting the way an existing problem is solved, make sure to revisit Geoffrey Moore's Chasm framework. If your SaaS category is in its early stages of adoption (for example marketing automation) market dynamics and buyer preferences will be dramatically different from segments that are in later stages in the technology adoption cycle (for example CRM). Innovators and early adopters are willing to take a lot of risk for a potentially big payoff. Early majority buyers will want to see references from companies just like them to reduce risk and ensure economic and technical success. Late majority and laggard buyers are the most risk averse bunch and will require strong cost and risk reduction benefits to be persuaded to move away from their existing solution. Pick the predominant segment in your market and focus on growing it instead of trying to be all things to all people – that hardly ever works.

(7) Highlight SaaS trial advantages
Cloud solutions make it easy for you to showcase your solution and make Trial or Freemium versions available as an offer and call to action that can be immediately provisioned. You can, for example, make a time limited (e.g. 1 month), concurrency limited, (e.g. number of parallel projects) or feature limited (e.g. disable premium features) version of the solution available in a self-service provisioning model and upsell later.

With software as a service, you can even see what features your trial users are actually using and are most interested in, and incorporate this information into your marketing and sales response (at the individual user level, leveraging marketing automation - you can even build feature usage into your lead scoring model to indicate sales readiness).

This insight into actual usage patterns allows you to fine-tune and reality-test your marketing message in a way that was previously impossible or cost prohibitive with packaged software. These insights, by the way, also enable you to create different, more granular subsets of your offering that you can provide to different segments in a way that was economically not feasible in the traditional on-prem model. There are great solutions available that let you do that granular packaging with minimum effort (contact me at hhschulze@gmail.com if you are interested in learning more).

(8) Address SaaS related concerns proactively
Cloud applications often face objections regarding data privacy (for example with companies in Europe), regulatory compliance, legal concerns, service availability, and other issues (especially with prospects in the late majority segment). Don't gloss over these concerns in your marketing and sales engagements. Instead, address issues upfront and outline your solution for each concern, before your on-premise competitors exploit them for you.

Embrace Cloud Marketing
In summary, SaaS and cloud software solutions are a very different animal compared to on-premise software. They offer new and exciting ways to deliver value to your customers. But don't treat the cloud the same way as your traditional software offering as the dynamics are profoundly different. And you may have to unlearn some things you thought to be tried and true. Also, make sure to embrace experimentation until you find the right mix of message, offers, and tactics. This market is still very new and constantly changing. Nobody has the right answers and best practices, so try new things and see what works. The cloud environment makes it easier for you than ever to test your approach in real time and make tweaks - take advantage of it!

What is your experience with marketing and selling SaaS?

Don’t forget to join the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn to network with 20,000 of your B2B marketing peers and learn about the latest trends in tech marketing.

What Are the Top-10 Marketing Books?

There are literally thousands of marketing books available today. A handful of them stand out as most influential on the art and science of marketing. But which books should be in the top-10 list of "must read" marketing books?

To get an answer, I conducted a quick survey among the 17,000+ members of the B2B marketing community on LinkedIn. After collecting and analyzing hundreds of your survey responses, here is the "ultimate" top-10 list:

The Top-10 List of Marketing Books

  1. Crossing the Chasm
    (Geoffrey A. Moore)
  2. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
    (Al Ries, Jack Trout)
  3. Marketing Management
    (Philip Kotler, Kevin Keller)
  4. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant
    (W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne)
  5. Inside the Tornado
    (Geoffrey A. Moore)
  6. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
    (Al Ries, Jack Trout)
  7. The New Rules of Marketing and PR
    (David Meerman Scott)
  8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
    (Robert B. Cialdini )
  9. SPIN Selling
    (Neil Rackham)
  10. Confessions of an Advertising Man
    (David Ogilvie)  

Other suggestions by the B2B Marketing Community that didn't make the top-10 include:

Competitive Strategy (Michael Porter) | Marketing High Technology (William Davidow) | eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale (Ardath Albee) | Groundswell (Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li) | Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Chip Heath and Dan Heath) | Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance (Paul Farris, Neil Bendle, Phillip Pfeifer, David Reibstein) | All Marketers Are Liars (Seth Godin) | Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah) | Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged (Michael A. Stelzner ) | Product Strategy for High Technology Companies (Michael McGrath) | The Leaky Funnel (Hugh Macfarlane) | Word of Mouth Marketing (Andy Sernovitz) | Influencer Marketing (Brown and Hayes) | The Chasm Companion (Geoffrey A. Moore) | Diffusion of Innovations (Everett M. Rogers) | Marketing ROI (Jim Lenskold).

I am sure there are many of your favorite marketing books missing here (there are simply too many good ones out there). What are your personal favorites? Please share in the comments section below.

The Top-10 B2B Marketing Trends for 2011

Happy New Year! It is January and time again for the obligatory 2011 predictions. Many marketing experts have strong opinions on what they think will happen in 2011.

Instead of coming up with what I think is going to change in the B2B marketing world in 2011, I decided to ask you and tap into the combined wisdom of over  17,000 marketing professionals in the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn. I asked you to rank the marketing areas you think will become more important in 2011.

Here are the key trends that B2B marketing professionals think are shaping B2B marketing in 2011.

1 - Integration of social media into lead generation programs
2011 will be the year social media evolves from the experimental stage to become an established marketing tactic. Social media will be more tightly integrated into traditional tactics such as email, webcasts, and content assets as another channel to broaden the reach of messages and drive conversions. This also means that more stringent demands for proof of ROI and revenue impact will be placed on social media investment.

2 – Focus on content marketing (content mapped to personas, buyer's journey, vertical, etc)
Content marketing is going mainstream in 2011. If you are not thinking about (and implementing) a strategy that puts your buyers (with their persona and industry driven pain points, preferences, and buying stages) in the center of your marketing efforts - and create compelling content as the currency of your engagement with buyers that influences decisions along the buying process - chances are you will get left behind by more content savvy competitors. With content moving to the center of attention, marketers often struggle to create magnetic content in the right formats and quantities. Sophisticated marketers will apply systematic ways to re-purpose existing content, create bite-sized content for the short attention span executive, and design an efficient content waterfall that accelerates production times, quality, and consistency.

3 - Focus on new business generation & revenue
With many markets making a modest recovery, which is expected to accelerate somewhat in 2011, marketing focus turns away from cost cutting and customer retention and towards growth and new customer wins. Marketing will be expected to show how it impacts new revenue generation. "Last click attribution" alone won’t cut it anymore and will need to make room for more comprehensive ways to show the combined impact of marketing tactics on buyer decisions.

4 - Focus on lead quality
In the past, marketing focus has often been on generating increasing quantities of leads. It was difficult to tell lead quality and impact on sales pipeline, so in the absence of real quality indicators, more was considered better. This flood of leads overwhelmed sales and distracted from the selling part of their jobs. And marketing received the blame for creating poor leads and wasting valuable selling time. Now, with the emergence of marketing automation tools and lead scoring technologies on one side, and tougher requirements for demonstrating program ROI on the other side, look for lead quality to become a critical performance metric in 2011.

5 - Focus on sales enablement
The best leads and nurturing strategy, however, doesn’t help much if sales can't close the deal. Our B2B marketing community agrees that providing sales with not only the right leads, but compelling content, sales tools, and education is going to be more critical as a competitive weapon in 2011. Your competitors are catching up on the latest lead generation and nurturing tactics. And all other things being equal, an educated and motivated sales force and their consultative selling skills will be the ultimate differentiator.
    Tom Pisello added a great comment to our B2B Technology Marketing Community, highlighting that a recent survey by IDC found that 24% of B2B buyers found that the sales reps are not prepared for presentations at all, 30% indicate that they are somewhat prepared , and only 29% indicate that they are well prepared. An empowered buyer means that the role of sales will dramatically be impacted, requiring sales enablement and marketing to help redefine and drive a new breed of value selling professional in 2011.

6 - Focus on pull/inbound marketing tactics
This reflects the continued power shift of buyers moving firmly into the driver’s seat, initiating, and controlling the buying process. As traditional interruption style marketing techniques are being blocked and filtered out by buyers, marketers need to shift to inbound tactics using magnetic content that enables buyers to educate themselves about the nature of their problem, available solutions, vendors, and products long before the first personal engagement with a vendor takes place. You want to be the source buyers are flocking to for this high-value content.

7 - Focus on customer retention
Customer retention has provided the much needed revenue stream that enabled many companies to survive the recession as new customer wins dried up. While the economy is slowly improving, many markets are still anemic and it remains critical in 2011 to nurture and grow existing customer relationships.

8 – Focus on marketing intelligence
Marketing automation, online marketing, and CRM systems create tons of data that is revealing buying patterns, customer preferences, and insight into what is working and what is not. Let's put this data into insight and action with better marketing intelligence in 2011.

9 – Focus on marketing automation
Marketing automation is going mainstream in 2011 as companies are taking their online campaigns, lead scoring, and email automation to the next level and integrate social media with traditional tactics. It will be interesting to watch how the decline of email usage by buyers and overall lower conversion rates will impact marketing automation effectiveness going forward.

10 - Focus on branding and awareness
Branding and awareness tactics took a backseat to marketing programs that could demonstrate an immediate and direct impact on revenue. This is slowly changing as budgets are improving and a long term view is taking hold again in 2011, recognizing the importance of a strong brand to influence buyer preference.

What marketing areas are less important in 2011?

As telling as the areas of increased focus are the areas B2B marketers consider less important in 2011:

  • Marketing cost reduction (is there much more to squeeze out of marketing without cutting into substance and choking off growth?)
  • Outsourcing (along the same lines as cost reduction, and can we afford to outsource even more without losing core competencies?)
  • Lead quantity (see increased focus on lead quality in the top 10 list)
  • Push marketing tactics (see focus on pull marketing in the top 10 list)
  • Marketing asset management (while still important, many marketers have solved this problem with asset and content management tools)

What are your thoughts? Does this reflect the reality in your organization going into 2011? What of these focus areas match your priorities, which don’t?

Thank you for following and contributing to this blog. I hope the new year will treat you well and that you have much success in your B2B marketing efforts in 2011!