I’m pleased to introduce our first Business.com Small Business Pulse report, a monthly, data-driven analysis of key issues related to small-to-medium businesses. Over the past several months, Business.com has been aggressively expanding both its content and its advertising products to target audience needs across all stages of the buying process – from awareness to research to purchase. Read the full entry
Keeping users engaged in an increasingly fragmented environment isn’t easy, but by providing targeted, engaging content, businesses can build their audiences. Many businesses turn to other sites in an effort to place their content and brand in front of new eyes and new audiences. Recently, BtoB Magazine released their annual list of the best B2B advertising vehicles. Once again, Business.com has earned a spot in BtoB Magazine’s Media Power 50, in the Business News category, as we strive to help others grow their businesses. Read the full entry
This past we week, we had the opportunity to sit down with representatives from Google and Yahoo! to talk about trends in content marketing and online advertising campaigns. While there were several good takeaways from each of the sessions, one of the standouts came from our meeting with Google. They offer a Youtube playbook that outlines an approach for creating a video strategy to build and engage audiences. Even after reading through just the first few pages, I was confident that this would be educational for small and medium-sized business looking to build out their content marketing strategies and on-site content strategy. YouTube can serve as a great content platform for B2B marketers
YouTube as a Content Marketing Platform
The B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America study from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute found that video had the largest increase of any content marketing tactic in 2012, jumping by 70% from an already large 54% increase in 2011 (Tweet this!). A study from Searchmetrics can help explain this trend. They found that video appeared most frequently, being displayed in over 70% of all the content included in Google’s general results. It isn’t enough to have videos as a marketing tactic, however. We have to be able to measure the success of our efforts. If you don’t know much about the YouTube Creator Playbook, there is an abundance of features B2B marketers can utilize to determine whether or not they are successful in their strategy. Here are a few of my favorite features.
- Because Google understands the difference in clicks and watch-time, they’ve added “Captivate Your Audience” and “Channel Experience,” which provides you with tips and strategies to increase watch-time.
- The customer experience can and will impact a buyer’s behavior. “Channel Experience” allows users to build a cohesive channel experience for their viewers so they can build a loyal audience and drive subscriptions.
- We’re all looking for ways to rank higher in search engines. YouTube Analytics and the ability to create Metadata for each video will make it easier for you to optimize your videos for YouTube and search engine indexing.
- Paid advertising online and on social media sites is on the rise. The “Paid Promotion” section allows businesses to create promotional videos and use readily-available YouTube promotional tools to build a loyal audience.
Creating Effective B2B Video Content
Think video is a space only for B2C businesses? Think again. With the right purpose and strategy in mind, video marketing provides B2B companies with a great opportunity to generate new leads and continue nurturing current leads through the funnel. In fact, the CMI study also found that 58% of respondents believe video to be an effective form of B2B marketing (Tweet this!). While the target length of a video should be between 1 and three minutes, you shouldn’t feel limited by the topics you can create videos around. If you’re unsure of the type of videos that your audience is most interested in, you have a few budget-friendly options:
- Interviews – Have your content team interview experts within your business or answer common questions received from customers
- Presentations – Presentations can be repurposed into videos without too much trouble. Insert a voice over and some background music to add pizzazz.
- On-Location – B2B marketers spend a lot of time meeting with clients, partners and other businesses. Take these opportunities to showcase your employees at events.
- Product Demos – Just as you would perform a product demo in-person or over the phone, you can perform a demo in front of the camera or using a screen recording solution when applicabl.e
- Case Studies – Take a case study and turn it into a video with before and after shots, a voice over, charts, and more.
Our sessions with Google, Yahoo! and other partners in the Bay Area helped us gain new insight into digital marketing and demand generation trends for small and medium-sized enterprises. Because Business.com is focused on helping your business grow, we want to continue sharing our learnings from the tour with all of you. Stay tuned for more from the Business.com Growth Tour of America.
Last week we kicked off the Business.com Growth Tour of America. From San Francisco to New York, we initiated the first of a series of meetings with our audiences; leaders in small-to-medium enterprises, our marketing customers and our partners in media, technology, search, social and design that make up our ecosystem. Our goal is to learn, share ideas on digital media marketing and technology and get input on the new Business.com.
Our meetings in New York City illuminated that we are at an inflection point in digital media and marketing. The convergence of marketing automation and media has created a time of complexity and transformation yet also a time of incredible opportunity. Marketers are looking to figure out several key things:
- How to balance branding and lead generation marketing initiatives?
- How to deal with too many marketing options?
- How to shift from pushing products to providing solutions?
- How to identify and engage prospects?
- How to deal with complex and costly analytics?
- How to accurately evaluate campaign effectiveness?
Media partners are also working through several key questions:
- How to drive subscriptions and engagement with audiences in an increasingly digital world?
- How to balance digital display and brand advertising with lead generation?
- How to evaluate the role of ad networks and exchanges?
- How to harness the myriad of advertising technology platforms and services?
- How to deal with Social, Local and Mobile technologies?
- How to better leverage data?
My thanks to our friends at Digitas, iProspect, MEC and Performix, MediaVest as well as Bloomberg, Dow Jones Conde Nast and Penton for their time and input. We learned a ton. We had a blast.
My next stop is the American Business Media Conference where I’ll be leading a panel on “The B-to-B Media Company of the Future.” Clearly I’m biased as I think we’ve already answered that question with the new Business.com. I’ll be learning from my panelists – Bizo, Scount Analytics, Penton, 1105 Media and Desilva Philips – and will share what I learn in a future post.
Simply put our mission is to help people grow their businesses and we feel it’s time to broaden the discussion so we can learn more, share more and ultimately serve our customers better.
We look forward to continuing to work with our customers and partners to help them answer these questions as they continue to grow their businesses. To view the learnings from our Director of User Experience at a recent design conference, click here. And, as always, feel free to offer your thoughts and follow the tour via @b2bonlinemktg.
Last week, as part of the Business.com Growth Tour of America, I had the pleasure to participate in a design workshop with 30 user experience designers and product managers in downtown San Francisco. The workshop was hosted by Cooper, a design consulting company that serves both big and small companies in Silicon Valley. As a product manager and user experience designer, one of the questions that I’m constantly struggling with is how I can more effectively align teams to design and build better products for our audiences. This workshop provided me with lots of new ideas and practical tips that I can start putting to use in our own business. Here are a few quick takeaways that B2B marketers and user experience designers can benefit from.
Use Videos to Tell User Stories
With a little creativity, videos can be produced with very little labor and time. A picture is worth a thousand words and videos are more powerful than pictures. Building good products starts with building empathy with our target users. During the user research phase, user experience designers and product managers go out to the field or learn a lot about our users, but the bottleneck is how to communicate it back to the team and allow the bigger product team to be on the same page of who we are building the products for. Video can be very effective at this stage. In fact, a recent CMI study found that 60% of B2B marketers find videos to be an effective content marketing tactic and the use of video has risen from 52% in 2011 to 70% in 2012. People usually associate videos as labor intensive and expensive projects. They don’t have to be such an investment in order to be successful. Cooper shared a few methods to produce high quality videos with a microphone and simple PowerPoint.
Work like a Team, Share like Wildfire
Building user empathy is no easy task. Deeply involve users in the everyday business routine and in the entire product development cycle without losing focus is no easy task. One of the tactics the Cooper consultants shared with us is “working out loud,” which basically means that artifacts produced in the product design stage, such as personas, design prototypes, user stories, videos, snapshots, should be widely shared within the company. It gets people to be more familiar with the target audience and create an immersive user-centered environment. Team members with distinct business functions are moving towards the same goal: delight the customers.
Participation Leads to Buy-In
Decisions cannot be made in silos. No matter how glorious the product manager’s vision, or how great a user experience designer’s wireframe is, it won’t go anywhere if they are unable to build rapport within the company and get buy-in on that vision. Business buy-in and design decision making involves more people than ever before. Crain’s BtoB magazine found that the 81% of B2B marketers must contend with multiple decision-makers during the sales process. To get everyone involved, conduct workshops and ideation sessions that encourage contributions from different functional teams. Getting insight from different perspectives and departments is a good way to show that you are taking into consideration the opinions of all the business units in the development process. Hearing different perspectives and the rationale behind those opinions pulls the team toward a shared vision.
Think About the Entire Online Ecosystem
For online product offerings, thinking just about the landing page user experience isn’t enough. Marketers would be smart to take the entire online experience into consideration, beginning with where the users come from (SEO, SEM, referral, direct and etc.). You’ll want to ask yourself about the route someone took to get to your page as well as:
- What other touch points beyond your website – such as email, social media, display ads, and offline interaction – are available and is the prospect using?
- What kind of customer journey has the prospect been through and what stage are they at in that process?
- What needs are specific to their background, industry and position within a company?
- What needs are their more general needs that apply to others as well
Keeping all these questions and collaboration strategies in mind help us as user experience designers, marketers and product managers build a clear mind map on how and where our new offerings and solutions can make the biggest impact.
Content marketing is on the rise for B2B businesses and nearly half of all B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months. Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Enterprise Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report found that 95% of B2B enterprises use content marketing and of those 78% use white papers. White papers range from a short, single page document to hundreds of pages, but they are generally just an authoritative, formal document on a non-fiction topic. If you have a blog and are present on social networks, but are looking for a way to expand your reach with content marketing, consider using whitepapers.
Why Create White Papers?
Building brand awareness is a top priority for B2B businesses of all sizes. 84% of the respondents in the CMI survey cited brand awareness as the number one goal of their content marketing efforts. Giving away a free white paper can build brand awareness and is an excellent way to reach a customer who may not have otherwise considered you.
Tailored content is going to be more successful than generic blog posts or email newsletters. 92% of B2B enterprise marketers tailor their content in at least one way, compared with 91% of their B2B peers overall. Whitepapers allow your marketing team to tailor downloadable content for greater success. If a prospect downloads a whitepaper, you’re getting an automatic signal of what that person is interested in and where they are in the buying process.
How Do I Create Great Content?
The most effective B2B marketers are able to tailor content to specific profiles/personas more frequently and whitepapers can aid a business in this process. If you get stuck creating fresh, relevant content, have no fear! Here are just a few examples of content you can incorporate into your white papers that help the sales team address the various issues buyers come across in each stage of the process:
- Provide a perspective on individual markets and solutions, such as tips for shipping and receiving items internationally
- Content written by subject matter experts that discusses benchmarks and best practices, including survey results
- Enable prospects to understand alternative solutions, like product comparisons, analyst reports
- Offer advice about making the decision, such as case studies for those in similar situations and ROI calculators
- Annotated content or case studies that call out relevant discussions and decision points they can use in their customer interactions
Where Can I Use My White Papers?
White papers can be featured on your site, in blog posts and weekly round-ups and shared on social media. However, if you’re looking for a way to get a new site of eyes on your company copy, there are more options you can consider. The new Business.com white paper content marketing solution delivers high-quality white paper leads to your business while placing your brand in front of a qualified audience of buyers actively researching solutions, products and services.
We connect advertisers with buyers in the discovery and comparison stages of the purchasing cycle utilizing our unique intention- and relevance-based targeting capabilities. Advertisers can effectively demonstrate thought leadership to this concentrated audience of business decision makers with our distribution of their whitepapers. Our content marketing program focuses on helping advertisers reach the buyer at the right place and the right time to close more sales. Exclusive white paper content marketing leads from Business.com and the unique audience provided by the Business.com network can be filtered by industry, location, company size, buyer’s title and more (priced accordingly). If you’re interested in connecting with buyers and reaching a new audience via the white paper offering from Business.com, email email@example.com
If you’re looking to step up your content marketing strategy with new content and a new audience, consider white papers. You can target relevant demographics and engage with buyers, no matter where they are in the purchase process, with tailored content. Once you’ve created a captivating white paper, share and promote your white paper with partners and on social networks to generate qualified leads.
How does your business tailor its white paper content?
Our mission is simple. We help people grow their businesses, whether it’s the users who come to our site to find the products and services they need to run their businesses or the >10k advertisers who turn to Business.com every year to connect with this premium audience. While we have some insights into what advertisers want and what buyers are looking for, we are continually looking for ways to better serve all of our customers including the users who come to our site as well as the advertisers. We are taking it another step forward to figure out just what it is that will help small and medium-sized enterprises all over the country grow. From visiting sole proprietors to Fortune 500 companies, Business.com is going on tour.
What We Want to Know
During the Business.com Growth Tour of America, we want to learn about the challenges businesses are currently facing as well as where they are seeing success. From what’s working to best practices, we want to gather and share information that other businesses can learn from. Business.com is interested in hearing what you have to say. Speak up and make your voice heard on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
Where You Can Find Us
We’ll be visiting major cities from coast to coast including New York, Florida, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco Los Angeles, and of course San Diego. We’ll be kicking off the tour this week in the big apple (stay tuned for more details) and next week our CEO, Tony Uphoff, will be speaking at ABM’s Annual Conference, themed “The B-to-B Company: A Fully Integrated Enterprise.” He’ll be moderating the conference kickoff panel to discuss and debate the emerging role and value proposition of B2B media when it comes to connecting buyers and sellers.
Stay tuned for the latest from The Business.com Growth Tour of America by following the tour tag on our blog.
With the rise in technology and marketing automation implementation, the B2B industry is changing. ABM’s Annual Conference (April 28 – May 1) in Florida is themed “The Future of B-to-B Media: Cross-Platform Growth Strategies.” The conference will kick off with a roundtable called, “The B-to-B Company: A Fully Integrated Enterprise,” where Tony Uphoff, the newly named CEO of Business.com, will moderate the panel. This roundtable brings together industry leaders from media and information company operators and marketing experts to investors and bankers. They’ll discuss and debate the emerging role and value proposition of B2B media when it comes to connecting buyers and sellers.
In a recent interview, ABM asked Uphoff to offer a preview of the discussion, including how the rise of marketing automation will affect B2B media, whether the traditional model organized around an editorial enterprise is starting to change and how B2B leaders are addressing company culture.
The Shift in the Buyer-Seller Connection
The purchasing process for B2B buyers has changed. Traditional B2B media is no longer as effective. When ABM asked Uphoff about how the connection between buyers and sellers is changing, he noted that “Reach, Frequency and Awareness, are gone, replaced today by Engagement, Loyalty and Advocacy.” Buyers are able to discover and engage with information that is specific to their needs and “signal their intentions based on their digital body language — whether their intention is the acquisition of more knowledge, social engagement or the actual purchase of products and services.” However, buyers aren’t the only ones making a change. According to Uphoff, “Sellers have made a corresponding shift, from targeting based on demographics to targeting based on intention. Traditional media from B2B publishers that historically connected buyers and sellers has been surrounded by digital, social and community-based media of all sorts. We’re also seeing marketers focus on “direct to the customer” digital media initiatives via their own websites and content marketing initiatives.” Note – I believe ‘direct to the customer’ should be in apostrophes, not quotes because it’s within a quote
From Editorial Enterprises to Engaging Content Creators
We’ve all heard it, read it and seen it. We cover it regularly on this blog. Content marketing is a must. ABM touched on this in their interview with Tony Uphoff. ABM noted that traditionally B2B media companies have been organized as editorial enterprises, but that this is changing. Uphoff agrees, “The rise of content marketing and brands as publishers has changed B2B media forever.” In order for businesses to be relevant and engaging, they need to have content. Uphoff also believes “that in the performance marketing era, marketers simply aren’t willing to subsidize the cost of editorial operations with basic advertising anymore.” Content, according to Uphoff, is what helps a buyer go through the purchase process, including editorials and social research, peer input, advertising and marketing. B2B companies of the future will “learn how to present ‘content’ in all its forms, in a highly contextual way that engages their audiences as they go through their purchase processes.”
A Move towards Marketing Automation
More data and incoming information are causing a change in the marketing landscape. Call it marketing automation if you will, but Uphoff prefers the term performance marketing. He indicates that automation suggests a singular event. However, marketing is ongoing and technology now enables marketers the ability to adjust messaging and strategy on the fly based on performance. Uphoff believes, “We are seeing performance marketing and media converge. As this trend accelerates, we will see B2B media brands offering marketers a series of integrated and ongoing marketing services, ’Marketing as a Service‘ if you will, that range from display advertising, through to lead generation and content marketing.” He also predicts that marketers will begin to see more services that integrate with social media and mobile applications as well as content marketing.
As the buyer landscape and behaviors shift, sellers are acting accordingly. The buyer purchasing process is changing and sellers are taking the steps necessary to meet expectations. This includes content creation and marketing that are more informational and less advertorial. Because marketing is an ongoing and ever-changing area of a business, it’s becoming more crucial for businesses to make decisions based on data and performance. Technologies that supply this will become more important for successful B2B companies.
Find the full interview on abmassociation.com and stay tuned for a post following the conference.
Last month, Tony Uphoff, the new CEO of Business.com, sat down with Media Business during the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego to discuss his plans for Business.com, a site that helps companies research and buy business products and services. Key takeaways from his interview include a new site and design, a focus on social, mobile, and local and small-to-medium businesses.
A New Site, Interface and Content
Business.com is getting ready to roll out a new site,design, functional user interface, and content enhancements. “We’re expanding our suite of performance marketing products. We have hired a whole new design team, including a Ph.D. in human/computer interaction that’s really changing the way we think about how the audience interacts with content in the digital format and how they engage with it in particular; and then how do we match that to the advertising and marketing side of the business.”
A New Focus on SoLoMo
According to Uphoff, when it comes to mobile, it’s about understanding what the audience experience is. “What are they looking for, how do we want to set and structure the types of content that we have and also the way the buyer interacts with the seller. On the social side of things, beyond just inserting the social layer, which we’ve done, and being able to pass content around, what we’re going to start to step into [are] sustained communities.” As Business.com moves forward over the next year, we will really advance our understanding of social, local and mobile use for both advertiser and customer engagement and optimization.
A New Demo: SMBs
Business.com serves over 20 million buyers within small-to-medium enterprises. These growth companies use the site to help them make the decisions around the products and services they need to run and grow their businesses. As Uphoff notes, “Clearly the peer-to-peer is essential for them. That’s really important, so that they can understand what like companies are doing, how they’re looking at products and services. So there’s a huge opportunity for us to step into that. On the local front, if I’m running a business here in San Diego or in New York or in Chicago, invariably what I want to be able to do is to connect with people who are doing similar things that I’m doing.”
Business.com helps business decision makers research, compare and purchase business products and services to make their company more successful. In this interview, Tony Uphoff explains the focus for Business.com on making these processes easier and more efficient. With a new design and a focus on enhancing the customer and advertiser experiences, it’s easy to say you can expect big things from the new Business.com.
This week San Diego is being taken over by marketers looking to learn more about digital marketing at the Online Marketing Summit. From digital commerce to more modern marketing strategies, OMS has a lot to offer. We’ll be there (stop by booth #320) and think you should be too. You’ll be given the opportunity to learn about where your business can more acutely develop a competitive advantage, engage and collaborate with marketers, and learn all the best practices to make your marketing campaigns more successful.
We won’t be the only ones at the event! Attending this summit is a great opportunity for businesses, large or small, to connect with others. By stopping by the various booths, attending interesting keynote speeches and speaking with other marketers, you’ll be able to connect with new companies and colleagues for possible business together in the future. Connect on social media, via email, or exchange contact information for future outreach.
- Find and connect with those attending using the official event hashtag: #omsummit. We’ll be live tweeting during some of the seminars to keep you in the loop. Find the streams from our team at @b2bonlinemktg.
Engage with the leading providers of digital marketing services and technologies, such as Business.com, by tuning into a seminar or two and popping by more than a few booths. At OMS, you’ll be given the opportunity to receive in-person demos in the expo hall, attend sessions that provide the best practices with case studies for support, and gain education that can be put to use at your business in little to no time at all.
- Be sure to stop by the Business.com booth (located at booth 320). You’ll have a chance to enter to win an iPad and get a sneak peek of our upcoming site enhancements. You can also speak to a marketing consultant and learn about special OMS offers.
With a new network and new information from OMS, you’re sure to feel inspired as you leave each day. Whether it’s a random conversation about how to better segment your email marketing database or one of the takeaways from a keynote speech, you’ll be surround with inspiring ideas for more effectively marketing your business. This summit is aimed at collaborative engagement and education so that marketers can immediately impact their organizations. You should be feeling very inspired by the end of the week.
- Whether it’s a lead generation campaign or how to incorporate calls to action more successfully on social media networks, take what you learned and consider what can be applied to your strategies now or in the near future.
What: Online Marketing Summit, San Diego
When: Monday, February 11 to Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Where: San Diego Convention Center, 111 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
Who: Business.com will be located at booth 320 and will be tweeting from @b2bonlinemktg. Be sure to stop by and say hi!
If you’ll be there, leave us a comment and let us know!