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Get your front row seat for the race to be the B2B revenue platform of record

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There’s a positioning battle going on across B2B sales, customer, data, and marketing technology providers. Aiming to organize these diverse B2B solutions into a mega-category — we’ll call it “revenue technology” — the race is on to develop more modern, effective systems to generate customers and manage revenue. And while no one system can do it all, it’s clear a big payoff is awaiting the providers who can get it right in this next B2B era. 

Grab your popcorn and beverage of choice. This should be fun to watch. Well, not so much for the marketing, customer, sales, and operations execs who have to pick the right horse(s) to compete in today’s market while also placing bets on the future. 

Before we get into who is competing in this race, let’s talk about the “why” behind the positioning battle underway for the minds, hearts, and wallets of the B2B go-to-market (GTM) teams. 

For the past handful of years, B2B teams have been trying to transition from generating volumes of leads to focusing on the buyer and account engagement that more effectively, efficiently, and predictably generates revenue and relationships.

Developed well over a decade ago, marketing automation platforms (MAPs) have been the system to help marketers generate leads to support sales. CRM has been the default system to manage customers and customer data, primarily with the lens of an internal sales process and management. A range of ABM tools have supported account engagement.

MAPs and CRMs, while workhorses, haven’t been entirely effective in enabling marketing and sales teams to execute the transition. And it’s even more true today as the buying-selling environment is quickly evolving, becoming far more dynamic and complex. 

The B2B buyer-seller relationship makeover needs something different

Today, sales has less direct access to the B2B buyers and accounts they must identify, qualify, and win as customers. In fact, according to Gartner, B2B pros spend only 17% of their buying journey with vendor sales pros. And this is combined time — not just with the chosen vendor! This all translates into Marketing’s, Customer Success,’ and other functions’ requirement to play a larger, more initiative-taking role in the revenue- and customer-generation effort. Generating leads and supporting sales is not enough with today’s reality. 

This means our customer, marketing, and sales systems of record the last decade-plus must do more. Consequently, there’s a huge opportunity for evolved types of systems (and set of providers) to play a bigger role. Many providers see these market shifts as an opportunity to broaden their product visions. Rather than developing systems for singular functions, they’re gearing up to become the B2B revenue system of record. In reality, and as we have learned in other technology markets, it will take five to seven years (or more) to develop technology that can support the evolving buyer- and account-centric approaches that today’s buyers demand. But the flag is up and the race is on. 

Sizing Up the Race for the Next B2B Revenue Platform

The technology and platform options for B2B sales, marketing and customer pros are diverse. And as stated earlier no one solution can deliver what’s required today, nor in the future. But gaining an understanding of the different options and where they fit, both today and leaning forward, is essential for delivering on our customer- and revenue-generation mission. 

Let’s take a look at the platforms vying for top billing in today’s B2B revenue stack. Note, this is a not a deep vendor-to-vendor comparison but a look across the B2B landscape to gain a sense of perspective. And we recognize more categories can be added to this positioning list. The mission here is to simply provide context of what’s happening in the market.

Lastly, this underlines the critical need to create and fund talent in the area of revenue and data operations (marketing, sales and customer success) — talent that can align technology, systems, data and processes with your revenue and business goals. 

  • Marketing Automation (MA) platforms. This large group of providers, who once were the center of B2B marketing stacks and demand gen marketing activity, have decreased in popularity. This is largely because their legacy lead-centric architecture doesn’t align well with the full customer lifecycle and prevailing account-centric requirements. In addition, with the acquisition of the major MA platforms by enterprise software players, namely Salesforce, Oracle, and Adobe, innovation has not kept pace with today’s rapidly changing needs discussed earlier in this article. Primary user = marketing. 
  • Account-Based Marketing (ABM) platforms. Because of the popularity of ABM, this category of providers is broad and deep. Vendors that play a role in developing and executing account-based strategies and campaigns are categorized into this group; in other words, most ABM solutions support only some individual elements of ABM strategies and, therefore, must be cobbled together with other systems and platforms. The providers include the predictive and intent solutions required for account-based GTM strategies, the original account-based advertising solutions providers, and the hundreds of providers that deliver account-based demand generation tools, campaigns, and data. Primary user = marketing with sales access. 
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms. With deep roots in managing and tracking sales organizations and creating a single view of the customer, CRM is the sales system used by every B2B team today. Today, we have all-in-one CRM platforms (sales, marketing, customer success/service, data clouds, etc.) and industry-specific platforms that focus on the requirements and nuances of vertical markets. But like MAPs, those major players have consolidated the CRM category, hindering the innovation required to keep up with evolving strategies. This has opened the door and requirements for additional systems to play a role in revenue and customer generation. Primary user = sales with marketing and customer success. 
  • Sales Engagement platforms. Focused on solving the huge sales productivity challenge, sales engagement platforms work alongside existing CRM and email systems to streamline the ways sales communicates with prospects (email to voice to social, for example). The value and promise of these platforms are increased sales productivity via streamlined process, tracking and analysis to deliver more impact at a time when sales has less and less access to buyers. Primary user = sales. 
  • Customer Success (Management) platforms. These applications, with roots in the SaaS/subscription business environment, help customer success teams to manage existing customer relationships. The software relies on pulling data from other systems like email, CRM, live chat, product utilization, and customer satisfaction-scoring systems to understand a customer’s current status, adoption, and likelihood to churn or renew their agreement. The rise of these platforms is directly correlated to the need to increase customer stickiness and lifetime value (LTV). Primary user = customer success.
  • Customer Data (CDP) platforms.  According to the CDP Institute (yes, there is such a thing and it’s pretty informative), CDPs are “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems…It centralizes customer data from all sources and then makes this data available to other systems for marketing campaigns, customer service and all customer experience initiatives.” Primary users = marketing and data teams. 
  • Demand platforms. This is also a broad category, primarily made up of media, marketing services and demand gen providers who are developing technology to migrate from a services-based offering to a SaaS-based subscription model. They are offering some mix of SaaS-based tools, analytics, and data with the promise of making third-party demand gen more efficient, more effective, and more predictable. Primary user = marketing. 
  • Data and Intelligence platforms. There are hundreds of data providers, from sophisticated multi-billion organizations to niche solutions offering access to B2B data. These providers typically offer access to data sets, contact and account records for enhancement, and predictive and intent data with the promise of making data science teams more valuable, sales and marketing more productive, and customer and prospect campaigns more intelligent. Many of these providers also compile data from multiple sources and turn it into intelligence because most teams don’t have the time, resources, or talents in house. Primary users = marketing, sales, and data teams. 

Understand the field before betting on the winner

2023 is just around the corner and the platform positioning and road maps are expanding rapidly. As you lock in your 2023 GTM strategies and business goals, now is the perfect time to take inventory of your systems and processes, identify your needs and gaps and understand the revenue technology landscape.

The good news is there are both incumbent and emerging options. The challenge in this positioning battle is understanding what’s right for your business, what’s real, and what’s next.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Scott Vaughan is a B2B CMO and go-to-market leader. After several CMO and business leadership roles, Scott is now an active advisor and consultant working with CMO, CXOs, Founders, and investors on business, marketing, product, and GTM strategies. He thrives in the B2B SaaS, tech, marketing, and revenue world.

His passion is fueled by working in-market to create new levels of business and customer value for B2B organizations. His approach is influenced and driven by his diverse experience as a marketing leader, revenue driver, executive, market evangelist, speaker, and writer on all things marketing, technology, and business. He is drawn to disruptive solutions and to dynamic companies that need to transform.

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Five questions for our new CMO, Shafqat Islam

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Five questions for our new CMO, Shafqat Islam



Alex Atzberger: Now that you’ve stepped into the CMO role, what are you looking forward to?   

Shafqat Islam: It’s amazing to take on this role at both a category creator and leader. How many brands can be a leader in almost every category–think Experimentation and CMS–that we play in?  

And we have so much to look forward to and build on. We have an exceptional team of marketing leaders and practitioners. They are fiercely intelligent, optimistic, and care deeply about what our products can *do* for our customers. Not just for the people who will encounter the marketing, retail, and product experiences that we support, but for the people who build them. As somebody who has both built products and been deeply immersed in marketing, I love the perspective that our team has.  

Alex Atzberger: What makes Optimizely unique?   

Shafqat Islam: First off, we’re category creators in experimentation and content management, both CMS and CMP. Marketers know this, and analysts know it, as something like 7 major analyst reports will tell you.  

Martech is a crowded field, so it’s true that there are a lot of firms whose territory overlaps with some of ours. But show me another company that can handle the entire content lifecycle like we can. Or show me another company that can do both feature flagging and experimentation.  

We also have a legendary legacy in the martech world. Before I joined, I knew that A/B testing and Optimizely were synonymous, and that the company’s roots go all the way back to the origins of the practice. And that’s something that is like common folklore in marketing and technology.  

And more than anything, the 1500 people who work here are world-class. 

Alex Atzberger: Being a CMO talking to other CMOs and marketing leaders is an advantage. You know the customer. But you’ve also built tech products. How does that affect your work now?  

Shafqat Islam: I’ve spent the majority of my adult life building products for marketers. So I’ve been lucky to spend so much time talking to CMOs and marketers in almost every type of company all over the world. As the founder/CEO of Welcome, my approach was to solve marketer challenges by building products. But now as CMO, I get to use the products we build.  

We’re practitioners of all of our own solutions, so in addition to the natural empathy I have for marketers, I am also close to the job’s unique challenges every day. There’s nothing like that to keep you sharp and keep you close to the customer.  

As a product builder, I knew we must always speak to business outcomes. But as CMO, I love that we aren’t just talking about the solutions – we’re living them, too.  

Because I was an entrepreneur for so long, I also bring another unique view – my willingness to take smart risks. I love to try things, even if (especially if?) the results are sometimes surprising. When it comes to experimentation, there are no failures, only learnings. 

Alex Atzberger: What are the biggest challenges you’re hearing from our customers, current and future?  

Shafqat Islam: Growth, especially given how tough it is out there for so many industries. The stakes are very high when it comes to creating experiences that will win and retain customers. That’s what all of our customers–especially the retail heavyweights-are thinking about.  

And marketing and technology leaders need to do this with leaner budgets. Efficiency matters a lot right now, and that means not only reducing the costs you can see, like the price tag attached to software, but also the costs you can’t see right away, like how much time and money it takes to manage a set of solutions. With that said, in tough times, I think the strongest brands can not just survive but also thrive. I also think when others are fearful, that may be the time to invest aggressively. 

And in the background of all this, there is still the ever-expanding list of customer touchpoints. This is simultaneously an exciting challenge for marketers and an exciting opportunity. More data means more effective storytelling– if you can use it right.

I also hear marketers when they say there’s a need for a shared space for collaboration among us. The role of the marketer is expansive, and it’s only getting more complicated. Building a community where we can come together and appreciate our shared goals is difficult, but I’m optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction.  

Alex Atzberger: What is next in our space? What will marketing and technology leaders be talking about six months from now?  

Shafqat Islam: Looking around now, it’s clear that 2023 will be the year that AI-generated content goes mainstream. We’re just starting to see the uses and the consequences of this. There’s already buzz about ChatGPT and its capabilities, and platforms are already making space to integrate AI functionality into their offerings. It could be an exciting way for users to become better equipped to create and share high-quality content.  

Customers also have gotten very used to personalization. Every screen they see daily is personalized, whether it’s their Netflix account or social feeds. So, when I see a site that isn’t personalized, I kind of scratch my head and wonder, why? With personalization now the norm, expectations for digital creators are sky-high.

Read the official press release.


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What to Consider When Choosing a Brand Ambassador for Your Social Media Campaign

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What to Consider When Choosing a Brand Ambassador for Your Social Media Campaign

Want to maximize the potential of your social media campaign? Then you must ensure to choose the right brand ambassador for the job. Having a good ambassador will increase your social media reach and boost sales. But, selecting the best ambassador can be tricky.

This guide will show you the key steps to consider when selecting the perfect brand ambassador for your social media campaign. From assessing their influence to ensuring their content matches your brand’s mission. This guide will give you the insights you need to make the right decision.

Understanding the role of a brand ambassador

A brand ambassador acts as a company representative, promoting the brand’s products to a specific audience. They are selected for their influence and ability to communicate the brand’s message. Their primary goal is to increase brand awareness and engagement with the audience.

To achieve this, an ambassador shares the brand’s message and builds connections with the target audience. They help to establish trust and credibility for the brand by personally endorsing it through their own experiences. Also, they provide valuable feedback to the company, allowing for product improvements.

Tips for choosing the right ambassador for your social media campaign

1) Assess the credibility and influence of potential ambassadors.

One of the first steps is to ensure they have a very active social media presence. Make sure they have many followers and a high engagement rate. Check the number of followers they have and the type of posts they share. This will give you a good idea of the content they generate and let you know if they are a good fit for your campaign.

Make sure their posts are relevant and appropriate for your brand. If their content is not a good fit, you may want to reconsider hiring them for your campaign. This is important if your brand has a particular message you wish to convey to your audience. If their content is not in line with your brand’s values, it could have a negative effect on your brand’s image.

2) Analyze the compatibility between the ambassador’s content and your brand’s mission.

It’s common to think that a famous ambassador would be a good fit for your campaign. But if their content is not in line with your brand, they are not an option. You may want to go further and check the interaction between their posts and followers. If the interaction is very high and followers actively participate, this is a good indicator of the quality of the ambassador. This will show how much impact the ambassador has among their followers. The interaction of the followers with the ambassador’s posts is important, as it is a good way for them to get to know your brand better.

3) Make sure the ambassador is present on the right social networks.

If your brand uses more than one type of social media, you should ensure the ambassador is present on them. You can choose an ambassador who is active on most of the major social networks. But, you must ensure they have an appropriate presence on each platform.

For example, it may not be a good idea to select an ambassador who is primarily active on Instagram for a Facebook-centric campaign. Remember that followers on each platform are different, and it’s important to reach your desired audience. If the ambassador you choose is present on the right social media platform, it will be easier for them to reach your audience.

4) Set expectations and establish the terms of the partnership.

Once you have selected an ambassador and they have agreed to collaborate with your brand, set the terms of the collaboration. Set clear expectations and tell the ambassador precisely what you want them to do. This includes specifying the type of content that should be posted. It is also important to outline the kind of connection that should be fostered between their followers and your company.

Also, be sure to establish payment terms and any other essential partnership details. For example, if you want the ambassador to promote your brand at a specific event, let them know so they can prepare.

5) Consider brand ambassadors who have experience participating in events.

A brand ambassador with experience working at events and comfortable interacting with customers can be a valuable asset to your campaign. They will be able to promote your brand and products at events and help to build a positive image for your company.

Find a brand ambassador who is professional and comfortable in a high-energy environment. This will ensure they can effectively represent your brand and engage with customers at events. Hire an event staffing agency to ensure the event runs smoothly and let brand ambassadors focus on promoting the brand and connecting with the audience.

6) Complete the selection and onboarding process

Make sure you select an available ambassador with the right skills for your campaign. Verify that the ambassador’s availability matches your campaign schedule.

It’s a good idea to start interacting with the ambassador on social media. It will help you establish a strong relationship, making promoting your brand more accessible. Show the audience that they have rallied behind your brand and thank them for their support.

7) Follow-up and evaluation of the ambassador’s success

Once the campaign is over, follow up with the ambassador to test its success. Ask the ambassador if your promotion has been effective and get their feedback on the campaign. This is an excellent way to improve your campaign the next time you run it. It will also help you identify areas where you can improve your social media strategy.

You can test the success of your social media campaign by looking at three main factors: reach, engagement, and conversions. By considering these factors, you can determine the success of your social media campaign. Also, you can identify any areas that need improvement.

Conclusion

Brands use brand ambassadors to increase engagement and sales of their products. An ambassador has a large following and regularly interacts with your audience. When selecting an ambassador, consider factors such as their social media presence and the ability to communicate your brand’s message. Taking the time to choose the proper brand ambassador will ensure the success of your social media campaign.

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Content Operations Framework: How To Build One

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Content Operations Framework: How To Build One

More and more marketers of all ilk – inbound, outbound, social, digital, content, brand – are asked to add content operations to their list of responsibilities.

You must get your arms around:

  • Who is involved (and, I mean, every who) in content creation
  • How content is created
  • What content is created by whom
  • Where content is conceived, created, and stored
  • When and how long it takes for content to happen
  • Why content is created (the driving forces behind content creation)
  • What kinds of content does the audience want
  • How to build a framework to bring order and structure to all of this

The evolving expectations mean content marketers can no longer focus only on the output of their efforts. They must now also consider, construct, implement, and administer the framework for content operations within their organizations.

#Content marketers can no longer focus solely on the output. It’s time to add content ops to the mix, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What exactly are content operations?

Content operations are the big-picture view of everything content-related within your organization, from strategy to creation, governance to effectiveness measurement, and ideation to content management. All too frequently at the companies – large and small – we consult with at The Content Advisory, content operations are left to evolve/happen in an organic fashion.

Teams say formal content operations aren’t necessary because “things are working just fine.”

Translation: Nobody wants the task of getting everyone aligned. No one wants to deal with multiple teams’ rationale for why the way they do things is the right/best/only way to do it. So, content teams just go on saying everything is fine.

News flash – it’s not.

It’s not just about who does what when with content.

Done right, content operations enable efficacy and efficiency of processes, people, technologies, and cost. Content ops are essential for strategic planning, creation, management, and analysis for all content types across all channels (paid, earned, owned) and across the enterprise from ideation to archive.

A formal, documented, enforced content operation framework powers and empowers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experiences throughout the audiences’ journeys.

A documented, enforced #ContentOperations framework powers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible experiences, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.

What holds many content, administrative, and marketing teams back from embracing a formal content operations strategy and framework is one of the biggest, most challenging questions for anything new: “Where do we start?”

Here’s some help in high-level, easy-to-follow steps.

1. Articulate the purpose of content

Purpose is why the team does what it does. It’s the raison d’etre and inspiration for everything that follows. In terms of content, it drives all content efforts and should be the first question asked every time content is created or updated. Think of it as the guiding star for all content efforts.

In Start With Why, author Simon Sinek says it succinctly: “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”

All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year, says @SimonSinek via @CathyMcKnight and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

2. Define the content mission

Once the purpose of the teams’ content efforts is clear (and approved), it’s time to define your content mission. Is your content’s mission to attract recruits? Build brand advocacy? Deepen relationships with customers? Do you have buy-in from the organization, particularly the C-suite? This is not about identifying what assets will be created.

Can you talk about your mission with clarity? Have you created a unique voice or value proposition? Does it align with or directly support a higher, corporate-level objective and/or message? Hint: It should.

Answering all those questions solidifies your content mission.


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The marketer’s field manual to content operations

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3. Set and monitor a few core objectives and key results

Once your content mission is in place, it is time to set out how to determine success.

Content assets are called assets for a reason; they possess real value and contribute to the profitability of your business. Accordingly, you need to measure their efficacy. One of the best ways is to set OKRs – objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective goal-setting and leadership tool for communicating objectives and milestones to achieve them.

OKRs typically identify the objective – an overall business goal to achieve – and three to five key quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Finally, establish checkpoints to ensure the ultimate objective is reached.

Let’s say you set an objective to implement an enterprise content calendar and collaboration tool. Key results to track might include:

  • Documenting user and technical requirements
  • Researching, demonstrating, and selecting a tool
  • Implementing and rolling out the tool.

You would keep tabs on elements/initiatives, such as securing budget and approvals, defining requirements, working through procurement, and so on.

One more thing: Make sure OKRs are verifiable by defining the source and metric that will provide the quantifiable, measurable result.

Make sure objectives and key results are verifiable by defining source and metric, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

4. Organize your content operations team

With the OKRs set, you need people to get the work done. What does the structure look like? Who reports to whom?

Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized but-supported structure, or something in between? The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization.

Here’s a sample organizational chart we at TCA developed for a Fortune 50 firm. At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence.

Under brand communications is each brand or line of business followed by these jointly connected teams: content – marcom, social/digital content development and management, center of excellence content – creative leader, center of excellence PR/media relations, customer relationship management, and social advertising.

Under the content center of excellence is the director of content strategy, manager of content traffic, projects, and planning, digital asset operations manager, audience manager, social channel and content specialist, creative manager, content performance and agility specialist, and program specialist.

Click to enlarge

5. Formalize a governance model

No matter how the operational framework is built, you need a governance model. Governance ensures your content operations follow agreed-upon goals, objectives, and standards.

Get a senior-management advocate – ideally someone from the C-suite – to preside over setting up your governance structure. That’s the only way to get recognition and budget.

To stay connected to the organization and its content needs, you should have an editorial advisory group – also called an editorial board, content committee, or keeper of the content keys. This group should include representatives from all the functional groups in the business that use the content as well as those intricately involved in delivering the content. The group should provide input and oversight and act as touchpoints to the rest of the organization.

Pointing to Simon Sinek again for wisdom here: “Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive, it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.”

6. Create efficient processes and workflows

Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes.

How is content generated from start to finish? You may find 27 ways of doing it today. Ideally, your goal would be to have the majority (70% or more) of your content – infographic, advertisement, speech for the CEO, etc. – created the same or in a similar way.

You may need to do some leg work to understand how many ways content is created and published today, including:

  • Who is involved (internal and external resources)
  • How progress is tracked
  • Who the doers and approvers are
  • What happens to the content after it’s completed

Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, with allowances for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests.

This example of a simple approval process for social content (developed for a global, multi-brand CPG company) includes three tiers. The first tier covers the process for a social content request. Tier two shows the process for producing and scheduling the content, and tier three shows the storage and success measurement for that content:

Click to enlarge

7. Deploy the best-fit technology stack

How many tools are you using? Many organizations grow through acquisitions, so they inherit duplicate or overlapping functionality within their content stacks. There might be two or three content management systems (CMS) and several marketing automation platforms.

Do a technology audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities within the content stack to automate where you can. For example, if you run a campaign on the first Monday of every month, deploy technology to automate that process.

The technology to support your content operations framework doesn’t have to be fancy. An Excel spreadsheet is an acceptable starting place and can be one of your most important tools.

The goal is to simplify how content happens. What that looks like can vary greatly between organizations or even between teams within an organization.

Adopting a robust content operations framework requires cultural, technological, and organizational changes. It requires sponsorship from the very top of the organization and adherence to corporate goals at all levels of the organization.

None of it is easy – but the payoff is more than worth it.

Updated from a November 2021 post.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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