As small and medium-sized B2B businesses, we place an exorbitantly high value on each aspect of customer relations. And rightfully so! We understand, sometimes even more than larger firms, that our success is based not only on the product or service we provide, but the greater value we can offer. One way that we offer greater value is having a website that prospective customers love to use. Read the full entry
When it comes to running a company, the 3 P’s is a simple but highly effective management construct: People, Product, Process. Do I have the right people, with the right skills, in the right positions? Are my products well aligned to meet market demand, and are they packaged and marketed correctly? Do my business processes enable me to scale and fully leverage my assets?
Core to execution is a deep understanding of how the various aspects of your business are performing.
- How is my workforce performing?
- Where are there inefficiencies/opportunities in our processes and workflow?
- Are our products selling and generating the anticipated ROI?
This is where Key Performance Indicators (“KPIs”) come in, as these questions require data. Read the full entry
Early on in the week, ad:tech took over San Francisco with advertising experts, the latest in digital marketing and over 200 exhibitors. Of course, Business.com was there to be part of it. Advertising has evolved since its early days and has changed drastically over the past few years with various technological advancements that are becoming more widespread. Smartphones, Big Data and local search all play a significant role. The future of advertising changes as new technologies come to the center of the marketing stage. Ad:tech gave us the opportunity to look into the future of advertising and we’ve broken down the key points just for you.
Data Driven Decisions
Jim Yu of BrightEdge began with a shocking, and not well-known fact: 90% of global data has been produced in the last two years. New technologies allow advertisers and marketers to close the loop where it may have been difficult, or impossible, data in the past. Now, those running ads and marketing campaigns can measure and understand which experiences are really working. Marketers want data that can help them optimize campaigns for a greater ROI. As advertisers find ways to more accurately collect, analyze, and report on data, data-driven decisions will become more of a focus. Michael Hummel, co-founder and CEO of ParStream explained how businesses must be able to get real-time data to make optimization decisions with ease in order to outshine competitors.
Local and mobile search are more important than ever. Social media is impacting SEO. As we progress with new technologies and platforms, the advertising world will continue to shift. Data will impact how, when and which content is created as well as how and when it is distributed and across which networks. Advertisements will need to have more content that engages consumers. If you take away something from ad:tech, let it be that the nature of advertising is going through a revolution due to data, engagement and the shift in search. Advertising is about connecting with the consumer. Brian David Johnson, the “Chief Futurist” from Intel, left the room he was speaking in with one thought that we want to leave you with now, “”Change the story people tell themselves about the future they will live in. Figure out how to make people’s lives better.”
A keynote address during ad:tech San Francisco came from Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising for Google. Advertising is continuing to change as time progresses. We’ve moved from a push model, where the advertisements viewed by consumers were at the discretion of companies and agencies, to a model where users can choose to see and engage with their ads or not. “Have users say ‘these are the things I’m interested in,'” she said. “Have them raise their hand…When we give them control, they take it…For every one that opted out, two actually added interests.”
To develop a successful advertiser relationship with consumers, visitors must have choice about which ads they see – especially as they become more prominent on the web. Allowing users to identify their interests and wants produces a healthier relationship that will lead to greater loyalty and success. Engagement ads are the future.
Mobile and Local Optimization
Michael Lazerow, the CMO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud claims, “The computing revolution is really a customer revolution.” Over the recent years, a computing revolution has occurred but, it isn’t the only area of business that has evolved. There’s been social, cloud, mobile, community, local, experience and trust revolutions as well. There are more and more smartphones in the pockets of consumers, nearly half of all cell phone users, and they’re using them as more than a way to call or text a friend.
Research is conducted and buying decisions are made from mobile devices. Think it doesn’t impact your business by a whole lot? Think again! Approximately 20% of keywords in a given portfolio are impacted due to mobile and local search. Businesses need to be engaging with customers on every channel. Lazerow points out,”It’s not about where you want to be, it’s where your customers are…Every company has to build communities…how do you build communities where you engage and build assets?” In the future, marketing, sales and product development will become even more integrated.
Were you at ad:tech in San Francisco? What did you learn about advertising’s future?
Before doing that, keep in mind that the slower holiday period is the best time to crunch the numbers for the last 12 months, seeing where marketing tactics yielded positive results and where some campaigns came up short.
You would think that the majority of marketers would be reviewing their data in earnest this time of year, yes? Not always.
According to Marketing Sherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report which interviewed more than 1,700 B2B marketers, 68 percent of them have not identified or optimized their sales and marketing funnels. Yes, nearly three-fourths failed to do that; rather staggering percentage if you ask me.
Other findings from the report noted:
- Sixty-one percent continue to pass on leads, even non-qualified ones, straight on to sales;
- Seventy-nine percent have failed to put together a lead scoring process;
- Sixty-five percent fail to nurture and grow their leads.
Going forward in 2012, here are some tips to better utilize your B2B marketing efforts before the ball falls on New Year’s Eve:
- Put together a year-end report of the each and every campaign you instituted and its results. Measure the ROI and use that data to guide your marketing planning. It is important that you look at the long-term and not just short-term satisfaction;
- Determine what your key performance indicators (KPI) are for the first three months of 2012 (Q1). As you launch your first B2B marketing campaign in 2012, be sure ahead of time to define the KPIs in place to record the results. While the numbers are important, remember that you need to explain the data to each and everyone involved in the campaign. If a new marketing campaign has led to a 50 percent higher click through rate than the prior effort, demonstrate what that result means to the business as a whole in order to meet your company’s objectives;
- Clean up contact data – How many times have you set out to conduct a marketing campaign, only to discover that your contact data is not refreshed? It happens more often than you would realize, meaning having up to date contact data is critical to getting a campaign off on the right foot. Use these last few weeks of 2011 to update your contact data and demographics for both customers and prospects. The data should be cleaned on a regular basis, but especially at year’s end so that you start the New Year off correctly;
- Social media and its impact on campaigns – Even though some marketers have not been entirely sold on social media and its ability to move their marketing campaigns along, most know that SM plays an integral part in each and every endeavor. It is imperative to be able to deal with customers in a real-time mode so that you are not playing catch up to the competition. Be sure to set goals going into January for how you will utilize social media. Will you devote more time to sites like Facebook and Twitter? Will you put more emphasis on items like videos, podcasts, infographics etc. to market your products and services? How will you chart your social media efforts as far as recording the data than in previous years? If you have not been aggressively tracking the data, why is that? What good are your social media campaigns if you don’t know who is following you, where they are coming from, how often they are visiting and so on?
With the economy’s performance over the next year still hard for many financial experts to pin down, your marketing efforts should be clearly stated and ready to roll out Jan. 2.
Your boss is going to demand results sooner than later in order to justify the marketing department expenses.
With that being the case, be ready going into 2012 to provide evidence that the marketing campaigns you are and have been instituting will continue to be profitable for the business over the next 12 months.
Tell us how you are approaching year-end reporting and planning.
Photo credit: leadformix.com
As I mentioned in my last post, from an analytics perspective, B2B is easier to understand when compared with B2C. This is because your visitors have budgets and defined needs, and aren’t just bored at work wondering if they really need that new red sweater. People need laser printers, insurance, air conditioning, shipping, keycard locks, and furniture; they aren’t going to abandon their search and decide to work on the floor, borrowing their kid’s MacBook. So what that means is that when you fail at selling a visitor to your site, you should be able to find out why. In the world of B2C, customers can buy from you, buy from someone else, or not buy. In B2B, however, the third option often isn’t an option at all. So it’s up to us to figure out why they’re buying somewhere else.
I think a lot of opportunities to improve your marketing and your site can be uncovered by spending some time in your web analytics tool. By focusing on a few metrics or combinations of metrics, you can start to get a good feel for where things aren’t going as well as you thought. Let’s talk about a few of these interesting metrics and reports today, and we’ll cover some more in future posts.
This is one metric that is vitally important to the B2B marketer. When many people come to your site and then immediately abandon, you know their expectations were not met. Meanwhile, your precious marketing budget is going up in flames. You need to ruthlessly seek out the traffic sources and landing pages that are contributing to bounce, and figure out why it’s happening.
A particularly good metric to combine with high bounce rates is high click through rates, which tells you that people were interested in your content, but then you let them down somehow. If you are a business that has a B2C counterpart, one issue could be the B2C traffic; so be sure (both in your marketing and on your site) to explain that you are a B2B provider. While this will reduce your click-through-rates, it will meaningfully increase traffic quality, reduce bounce, and improve conversion rates. Similarly, the language you use on your site should be simple and straightforward, describing clearly what you do and where they have landed. While we assume our buyers are savvy in our particular niche, we often alienate the people in the executive suite with esoteric languages and explanations of what really could be a lot simpler. If you can’t explain your business or product in simple language, you are leaving a lot on the table (probably in a lot more places than just your web site) when the people who really do write the checks visit to research your offering.
Your web analytics tool will have reports that allow you to see, geographically, where both your visitors and your conversions come from. Compare these maps. Are some states hot converters but low traffic attracters? How about the other way around? What might these audiences need differently from each other? How are they looking for your services differently, using regional languages? What are they finding?
You should also start thinking about your offline efforts, geographically. How is your sales force represented in the areas where you’re weaker or stronger? What about your competitors? Find out whether people are more aware of your brand vs. your competitors in different areas, and you can focus some of your sales and advertising efforts where a market share increase may have huge marginal benefits. If you need specific tools to conduct this competitor research, contact me @evanlapointe and I can suggest resources that may help you with this.
This is just scratching the surface of what’s possible with a good focus on analytics. Challenge yourself to think across channels and use ideas from around the organization to effect change in other areas.
And please, reach out on twitter (@evanlapointe) if you have any questions or want to work through your particular challenge. And if you’re more experienced with web analytics and want to geek out on more complex issues, check out Atlanta Analytics (discussion on analytics in business) or Occam’s Razor (where you can learn black belt hands-on analytics).
[Ed: We are excited to introduce Evan LaPointe as a new guest blogger. Evan specializes in web analytics and will contribute frequently on this topic. To learn more about Evan or get a specific B2B web analytic question answered on his next post, click here and leave a comment.]
Whether you’re an experienced analytics person or a business trying to get your arms around the concept, it can’t hurt to get back to basics every now and then and make sure your sights are aligned properly. Like anyone, B2B shops have a litany of hurdles to overcome to succeed online, but a well-formed plan for analytics on both your site and your marketing strategy will untangle the mess and help you make confident, data-driven decisions about how to spend your time and money.
First, understand why?
Let’s start out with a rule that unfortunately isn’t always a part of analytics 101: why? The goal of all of this is to understand why you are seeing particular results. Most introductions to web analytics focus on what you will see in terms of reports, charts, figures, site overlays, etc., but are light on how this information should be used to understand not only what is going on, but why these things are happening. And unfortunately, most businesses end up focusing on the what, drowning themselves in charts and tables that are meaningless without context or analysis. Make sure you are asking why questions in your organization, not just what questions.
B2B web analytics isn’t something that seems to be discussed all that often. After the searches I’ve done on the topic to avoid regurgitating things people have already heard, I walked away feeling like this group is woefully underserved. The one sign of life was this great piece done by Manoj Jasra a few years ago, talking about the right metrics to focus on in regards to the different phases of a customer/client’s interaction with your site: Awareness, Research, Decision, Purchase. When you’re done with this post, check out this write up.
Understanding the similarities of B2B and B2C Web Analytics
There are more similarities to B2C than differences. First off, the metrics used to measure online B2B behavior, for the most part are identical to the metrics used to measure B2C. Given this fact, it is necessary for us to take a different approach to see the big picture.
Let’s consider the differences in the B2B and B2C mentality, from the customer’s perspective. In the B2C world, we employ tactics that appeal to the emotional side of the purchase decision, and we have appropriate metrics to measure our effectiveness against these tactics. We are able to sway someone into buying something they may not have set out to buy in the first place, and upsells/cross-sells are critical.
In the B2B world, however, we are more frequently dealing with defined budgets, needs, timelines, politics, etc., and this means that the same emotion-driven tactics (and metrics) may not apply as cleanly. We are also dealing with people who work within certain industries and verticals, which means that our vocabularies are far more complex and nuanced than with B2C.
B2B Web Analytics is easier than B2C
So where the rubber meets the road is that, in many ways, B2B analytics will be easier than B2C. For example, when we know that a B2B user is searching for a color laser printer for the office and arriving on our site, they have a specific need and budget. If we do not convert that user, there are a lot of things we can dig into that show us parts of their experience that may have decreased the likelihood of a purchase.
Contrast this with a B2C search, where a user likely does not have a defined need or budget and could be looking at a variety of things such as how it compares to inkjet or whether it will print their daughter’s dance recital photos, etc. In this case, the B2B intent is more specific so it’s easier to reveal potential failure points in the purchasing cycle. With the B2C customer, we have less of an idea of their intent, their timeline, their needs (or their understanding of their own needs), among other critical pieces of information.
So for this first post on B2B analytics, I’ll urge you to focus on the why in the context of failures. While “failures” may seem strong, if your customer base is working with budgets and defined needs, they are conversion-prone. So you need to figure out what broke along the way, or where a competitor lulled them away.
In future posts, we’ll focus more specifically on the metrics to be watching, but not before you’ve had some time to really evangelize the why mentality and challenge your business to start asking the right questions. You’ll probably be surprised about how much insight you gain when you and your colleagues start asking the right questions.
Please leave comments and let me know your thoughts and any questions I can answer on future B2B web analytics posts.
[Ed: We are excited to feature Jay Baer as this weeks' guest blogger. He is a popular social media strategy consultant and reknowned blogger. To learn more about Jay, click here. ]
Sure, social media takes a lot of time, but probably not as much time as you think. Too many companies and organizations are reinventing the content wheel for every social outpost they maintain. A better approach is to create a content ecosystem that allows you to repurpose and cascade your best information.
Instead of a series of self-contained initiatives, build yourself a content ladder.
Here are 5 steps to get there:
1. Understand Taxonomy
Taxonomy is incredibly important in social media because it’s the most direct link between the worlds of social and search marketing. Remember, your most important customers are search engines, and your content ladder needs to maximize your chances for search success
When creating and promoting social content, include specific, relevant keywords and search phrases wherever possible. (This is especially important now that Google and Bing are incorporating social content into real-time search results).
Find keywords and search phrases to include in these three places:
Web site Analytics
Look at your keywords report to find phrases that are driving traffic to your site. I recommend using a mixture of your Top 25 phrases and some that are highly relevant to your business, but perhaps aren’t sending as much traffic as you’d like at present.
Social Mention (or a paid social media listening package like Radian6, if you have one)
Go to www.socialmention.com and search for your company or product name (in quotes), and set the pull-down to “all.” You’ll then see a search results page that shows a comprehensive list of places you’ve been mentioned on the social Web.
Below, you’ll see a keywords chart that lists common terms associated with your name in social media. Consider adding some of these to your list if they differ from your analytics results.
How your company or product are referred to in consumer-created Twitter lists can yield important taxonomy insights.
Go to your Twitter account, and click on “listed” next to your followers count, and see how the lists that include your Twitter account are named. Consider including some of these phrases to your master keyword list.
Incorporate your phrases into your social content wherever possible, but only when relevant. Nobody appreciates keyword spam on the social Web.
2. Seek Content Inspiration
Creating successful social media content isn’t just status updates. Take your top keywords (including your company name, product name, etc.) and search for them on Google, Bing, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and SocialMention.
What shows up in these search results? How much photo and video content appears? Content from your competitors? From fans? You’ll be amazed at how many content-creation ideas this simple exercise can generate.
3. Understand Your Frequency Ecosystem
The key to a content ladder is organizing your rungs. Your scenario may of course vary, but for illustration purposes let’s assume you have a Twitter account, Facebook fan page, blog, and email newsletter.
To create an efficient ladder, you must understand the comparative publishing schedules that you typically employ for each of these outposts. Ordered from most frequent publication to least, let’s assume that your program looks like this:
- Twitter (5x/day)
- Facebook (2x/day)
- Blog (3x/week)
- Email (1x/week)
Create your own integrated frequency schedule to better understand how your outposts interrelate.
4. Test & Track
Create a piece of content (remember to include your key phrases), and post it to the first rung in the ladder (Twitter, in this case) Use a tracking system (I prefer bit.ly) to determine how popular that specific piece of content was with your audience.
Remember, however, that many factors influence popularity at the individual content piece level. Don’t make assumptions – test them. Vary time of day, day of week, phrasing, link placement, and other options, and thoroughly document your results.
Social media scientist Dan Zarrella has some excellent research on social content best practices.
5. Tweak and Repurpose
The content pieces that are most successful on the first rung of your ladder should be appropriately tweaked and redeployed on the second rung of your ladder (Facebook).
Test and track content success on Facebook using bit.ly (or number of likes and comments), and add the most effective content pieces to the next rung on the ladder. Note that as you move down the ladder, your repurposing will be more complex – a blog post requires substantially more content than a Facebook update in most cases.
If a piece of content is successful on your blog (measured by visits as determined by Web site Analytics), add it to the next rung – your email newsletter.
By understanding how your various social outposts can work together at the content level, you can develop meaningful efficiencies. Also, because a sprinkling of the content included in the lower rungs of your ladder has already proven successful on higher rungs, the relevancy and popularity of your content should increase for most fans/readers/subscribers.
Of course, this content ladder approach assumes that you do not have the exact same audience for each of your social outlets, and I believe that to be an entirely realistic assumption. You may have some overlap (especially with Facebook and Twitter), but consumption of status updates and consumption of blog posts and email newsletters are meaningfully different activities, and attract different groups of fans.
To learn more about the author of this post, Jay Baer, click here.
One area of marketing that remains strong despite the economic downturn is B2B search marketing. However, as we found in our recent B2B web analytics study involving more than 27,000 B2B web sites, most B2B marketers are still struggling to understand which search marketing campaigns are driving their online conversions.
Watch my recent interview with WebProNews to learn more about understanding web analytics and the best B2B online conversion tracking tools.
Following a very successful beta test with over 70 participants, we’ve now made Business.com Conversion Tracking available free to all Business.com advertisers.
The most exciting aspect of this launch is we’re now offering a simple, free solution to the “last click” attribution problem I wrote about in our study of B2B web analytics market share. In short, the problem is that B2B advertisers who rely on web analytics solutions which attribute 100% of campaign ROI to the last click before conversion get an overly simplistic, and inaccurate, view of the contribution made by different online marketing campaigns to overall results. And its a problem that’s getting worse as the B2B sales cycle lengthens and business buyers interact with more online advertising before finally purchasing, registering for a free trial, signing-up for an event or otherwise converting. This conversion attribution issue was the second hottest topic (behind Twitter) when I spoke at Mediapost’s recent Search Insider Summit – there’s solid recognition among top brands and agencies that conversion attribution is a problem and that “last click” tools don’t provide the full story.
In essence, Business.com Conversion Tracking punches a hole in the black box of “last click” web analytics, allowing Business.com advertisers to easily see how their Business.com campaigns and keywords are performing to support campaign optimization. We designed Business.com Conversion Tracking to be both extremely easy to implement – 44% of B2B web sites don’t even use web analytics today, and a major reason for this is the complexity of implementing many of the solutions available today – and to work as a complement to existing “last click” or more full-featured web analytics tools. The specific benefits vary by the type of web analytics solution, if any, a company uses today:
For B2B Companies Without Web Analytics
For the 44% of B2B web sites without web analytics today (yes, scary, but its true), Business.com Conversion Tracking offers both clear return-on-investment (ROI) metrics for their Business.com advertising and a very simple 3-step process to implement conversion tracking.
For B2B Companies Using “Last Click” Web Analytics
For those companies using “last click” web analytics tools like Google Analytics, Urchin Software by Google, Nedstat or others, Business.com Conversion Tracking uncovers data often not available, or incomplete, in these web analytics tools. This includes the ability to monitor the true impact of Business.com campaigns on registrations, quote requests, purchases or other transactions.
For B2B Companies Using Advanced Web Analytics
Advanced web analytics solutions like Omniture, WebTrends and Coremetrics enable B2B online advertisers to track the influence of multiple campaigns throughout the business buying process on eventual conversions. As we saw during the beta, Business.com Conversion Tracking is still very appealing to companies using these more advanced solutions because it takes literally just a few minutes to implement, saves time by making campaign ROI metrics conveniently available within the Business.com account management system and offers a useful check against third-party systems.
Ever wondered what the web analytics market share is for B2B web sites?
We just completed a VERY extensive study of over 27,000 B2B web sites and the third-party web analytics programs in use on those sites. You can get the complete study here – http://www.business.com/info/b2b_web_analytics.asp. This research was made possible by a wonderful Firefox plug-in, WASP (Web Analytics Solution Profiler) from immeria.
In addition to the most current, comprehensive assessment of B2B web analytics market share, the key findings are:
44% of B2B web sites studied used no web analytics or, less likely, used a custom, in-house solution – pretty difficult to optimize B2B online marketing campaigns in a recession (or anytime!) if you don’t have any data
43% of B2B web sites used a web analytics program showing only “last click” data which attributes a conversion to the last trackable link clicked before conversion. This only provides a peek at the end of the business buying funnel
Just 6% used a web analytics program that allows users to see the influence of multiple online marketing campaigns with which a business buyer interacts on conversions
The whitepaper also includes recommended solutions for optimizing B2B online marketing campaigns in a recession.
Have a look and let us know what you think!