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The Future (& Present) of Marketing: Collaboration, Technology & Innovation

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Here’s what you need to know about the Google+ shut down

In October 2018, Google announced that it will be shutting down the consumer version of Google+ owing to insufficient usage. The company announced that Read more...

This post Here’s what you need to know about the Google+ shut down originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Sales & Marketing Alignment: Shahid Javed Shares How to Go from Hate to Love in 60 Days

It’s a tale as old as time. The marketing team is hyper-focused on awareness campaigns, events, and driving more leads to fill the funnel. Meanwhile, the sales team is hyper-focused on meeting sales and revenue goals, and nurturing relationships to empty the funnel.

These two teams occupy two very different functional areas within a company. They’re moving at completely different speeds. They’re operating under their own rules. And as a result, there’s tension, misunderstanding, and even … hate.

But according to Shahid Javed, Director of Enterprise Marketing for Hughes Network Systems, B2B marketers can be change agents here. They can give and get love from their sales teams. And they can do it in as little as 60 days.

How? Shahid says you need a short- and long-term strategy to foster the collaboration, love, and alignment needed to drive results. In his session at B2B Marketing Exhange in Scottsdale, AZ, he focused on the short-term strategy to help marketers understand where they can start and get some immediate traction. Let’s dive in.

The Three Phases of Overcoming Sales & Marketing Beefs

In 2016, Shahid joined the Hughes Network Systems, which is a broadband network provider, team on the enterprise marketing side. When he arrived at the first meeting ahead of a massive annual tradeshow event, he found tension and chaos between the marketing and sales leaders. And he vowed to change it.

“We had 23 different sales decks,” he shared. “Now we have two. We also had 500 dashboards in Salesforce—we deleted nearly all of them.”

To make change, Shahid leveraged a three-part framework:

Phase 1: Listening & Information Gathering

According to Shahid, the first phase is all about listening.

“I met with everyone—the head of east coast sales, the head of west coast sales, the head of marketing, executive leadership,” he shared. “I wanted perspectives. I wanted to know what everyone was thinking and how they saw their roles.”

During those meetings he had some core questions that he asked every stakeholder:

  • What were your objectives, roles, and responsibilities in the last year?
  • What are some of your top highlights from the past year?
  • What are some of the misses you experienced this past year?
  • What are your goals for this year?
  • What do you need from marketing to reach your goals?

It seems simple, but the act of listening is a critical first step. Why? As Bill Gates once said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

"Marketing is a service provider to sales—sales is our customer,” Shahid said. “We need to be able to empower them and enable them to solve problems. We need to make them the hero in the buyer’s eyes.”

[bctt tweet="#Marketing is a service provider to #sales—sales is our customer. We need to be able to empower them and enable them to solve problems. We need to make them the hero. @shahidj" username="toprank"]

Phase 2: Finding the Sweet Spot

Once you’ve collected all the data, it’s time to analyze and normalize that data so you can create a plan that management and leadership will buy into.

“This is where you look for common goals between leadership, sales, and marketing,” Shahid said. “It’s all about finding that sweet spot—and making sure everyone is in agreement on where things fall. You cannot do it on your own because sales and marketing leaders have to be able to sell your end-plan to their managers and teams.”

Once the common goals are agreed upon, you can create a plan that helps you hit that sweet spot and sell it to the C-suite. And there are four key steps that Shahid outlined:

  • Define and agree on objectives and roles. Who’s doing what and how does that support the overall business goals?
  • Identify short- and long-term goals. If you only think long-term, you’ll never get anything accomplished because everyone is so busy. You need a short-term plan to get traction.
  • Outline the tactics and strategies you’re going to use to reach those goals. And marketers, be honest about what you can and cannot do. Some things you may not be capable of doing yet, and that’s OK. Your sales team just needs to know.
  • Document plans and actions. These are the marching order for each team.

And a bonus piece of advice to work into this phase: Make sure you have agreement on what qualifies as an MQL or SQL—and really, you should let the sales team define that.

“The biggest nightmare for us was the MQL and the SQL,” Shahid said with a laugh. “We let sales define it and come up with the scoring. We knew that if we defined these and delivered leads under that scoring, sales would never take them. They needed to define it.”

Phase 3: Empowering Execution

Now it’s time to profess your love to sales by making it easy for them to become that hero for the customer.

For Shahid’s team, that meant making it easy for the sales teams to access and internalize marketing materials and messaging. Here’s just a sampling of what that looked like:

  • Leveraging Dropbox, Shahid’s team created and shared templates, style guides, brand guides, and more with the sales team.
  • The team used Salesforce Chatter, a communications tool, to collaborate and share information.
  • They created social messaging and visual assets that sales reps and sales leaders could leverage on their personal social media platforms.

“Most buyers have already made up their mind on the kind of solution they need,” Shahid said. “When it comes time for the sales person to come in, buyers need to know that they’re the problem solver. So we need to help the sales person come in as the superhero.”

Love Has Its Benefits

The collaborative approach to fostering sales and marketing love didn’t just lead to alignment and trust for Hughes Network Systems. It led to big, beautiful business results. In the last year, the sales and marketing teams have seen:

  • 120% boost in web engagements
  • 118& increase in email engagements
  • 108% rise in tradeshow engagements
  • 62% lift in social engagements
  • 22% jump in win rates

“Twenty years ago, it was an actual best practice for sales and marketing to work in silos,” Shahid said. “But alignment has become absolutely critical now. The expectations are too high, [internally and externally].”

So, B2B marketers: Are you ready to give and get love from your sales team? Now is the time.

For more updates and insights from the conference, you can follow @toprank, @leeodden, @azeckman, and @CaitlinMBurgess on Twitter. Stay tuned for more by following the blog here.

The post Sales & Marketing Alignment: Shahid Javed Shares How to Go from Hate to Love in 60 Days appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Kelvin Gee Delves Into Key Learnings from Oracle’s Account-Based (Marketing) Initiative

Oracle's Kelvin Gee at B2BMX

Oracle's Kelvin Gee at B2BMX

Account-based marketing (ABM) has been a rising trend for B2B brands for roughly a decade. And it’s appeal (and effectiveness when done right) is rooted in thinking differently—in transforming your traditional approach to targeting, engagement, and nurturing to drive results.

But for Kelvin Gee, Oracle’s Senior Director of Modern Marketing Business Transformation, and his team, thinking differently has led to piloting an account-based framework. (Notice, “marketing” is missing.)

“We believe words matter,” he told a packed room at B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ. “[If we called our initiative ‘account-based marketing’], sales would think it was just another campaign of the month.”

“So, we just call it ‘account-based’ because we’re all in it together,” he said. “It’s not a tactic or event. It’s a go-to-market strategy.”

This all-in-it-together mantra should resonate with B2B marketers. Simply put, if we want to scale our marketing efforts and drive tangible and transformative business results, we need alignment and buy-in across the organization; we need to be a team.

Why Oracle Launched Its Account-Based Initiative

During his session, Kelvin gave us a high-level look at why and how Oracle tackled creating an account-based framework. At the most basic level, the demand waterfall was broken. Kelvin said that a very small percentage of MQLs were converting.

"There were silos; everyone was doing their own thing," he said. "And we were transitioning to the cloud. We needed to do something."

From internal myth-busting around what account-based really is to developing highly-personalized content for specific executives within target companies, the ultimate goal was to elevate Oracle’s strengths and mask weaknesses in the eyes of their target market.

Key Insights From Oracle's Journey Thus Far

While Kelvin said Oracle’s account-based approach is still in “pre-season” mode, he shared a couple key insights and learnings his team has garnered.

#1 - Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.

Marketers are often perfectionists, which can make embarking on a new initiative scary. But, according to Kelvin, if you’re willing to at least get started—to take that first step—you can get to the other side.

And you want to step together, and that starts with getting the team strategically aligned. To get your people there, here are four key focus areas:

  • Targeting: How do we select the right accounts?
  • Personalization: How do we develop insight and personalize content for our audiences?
  • Orchestration: How do we get everyone to work together?
  • Measurement: How are we going to measure success? (Since this a new initiative, you wouldn’t be able to use the same benchmarks. You need a new yardstick to measure against.)

#2 - Sometimes it takes a while for a team to gel.

Misalignment with sales. Poor execution. Shoddy communications plans. You will inevitably hit some snags throughout your account-based journey. And that’s OK. As you expand collaboration and refine roles, it will take some time for your team to work in harmony.

“You’re never going to get it perfect right out of the gate,” Kelvin said. “The key is to learn from those mistakes and continue to iterate.”

[bctt tweet="You’re never going to get it perfect right out of the gate. The key is to learn from those mistakes and continue to iterate. - @kgee on #AccountBasedMarketing #ABM" username="toprank"]

#3 - Remember, teams never give up.

Launching an account-based approach for your organization is a lofty task. And those snags along the way may make you rethink whether or not you should continue. But you should.

“Account-based is a team sport,” Kelvin said. “Sometimes you’ll need to reboot it; rebuild that trust [with the internal team]. And you need to be honest.”

Account-Based (Marketing) is a Long Journey—But It’s the Future

Breaking away from tradition and charting an account-based course is a long, hard journey. As Kelvin mentioned several times, Oracle is just getting started; Oracle is in pilot mode. But it’s a critical step toward the future of marketing and the future of their business.

[bctt tweet="Account-based is the future of B2B marketing. - @kgee #AccountBasedMarketing #ABM" username="toprank"]

For more updates from the conference, you can follow @toprank, @leeodden, @azeckman and @CaitlinMBurgess on Twitter. In addition to speaking and tweeting, team members from TopRank Marketing will be live blogging sessions (like this one) throughout the conference so be sure to follow the blog for more.

Disclosure: Oracle is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Kelvin Gee Delves Into Key Learnings from Oracle’s Account-Based (Marketing) Initiative appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Bye-Bye Boring B2B: Lee Odden Shows B2BMX Attendees the Power of Interactive Influencer Content

Interactive Influencer Content Marketing

Interactive Influencer Content Marketing

Quick question, B2B marketers: How many of you wake up feeling like this about your B2B content?


Not so much? Hey, it’s OK. You’re a passionate and proud B2B marketer. But finding a way to create exciting, inspiring, infotaining content that connects with your audience is hard work. After all, B2B isn’t innately sexy—it’s booooooring. Oh, and between content overload, changing consumer preferences for personalization, and diminishing audience trust, it’s increasingly hard to capture and keep attention.

So, here’s another question: Are you ready to say bye-bye to boring content and hello to exciting, inspiring, and infotaining content experiences?

Yes so much? Good. Because, as TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden told a packed room at B2B Marketing Exchange this week, you can.

How? By bringing two incredibly powerful content marketing tactics together: interactive content and influencer content.

Why interactive? Why influencers? Why interactive and influencers? Here’s how Lee broke it down.

Why Interactive Content?

The digital content landscape is increasingly competitive. If brands don’t create great content experiences that grab and hold attention, they simply can’t compete. But interactive content can be a B2B game-changer.

Interactive content informs. Interactive content engages and entertains. Interactive content connects. Oh, and interactive content converts. And as Lee pointed out, research shows that 81% of marketers agree that interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content (CMI) and 70% of marketers say interactive content is effective at converting site visitors (Ion Interactive).

Why Influencer Content?

As Lee said, these days “buyers expect more, but trust less.” In fact, according to a HubSpot report, 65% of buyers don’t trust ads and a whopping 55% of those surveyed said they don’t even trust the companies they’re already doing business with.

The good news? Buyers desperately want to trust.

[bctt tweet="Buyers desperately want to trust. And we can give them trust with relevant #B2B content that features credible voices. - @leeodden #InfluencerMarketing #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

But who do buyers trust? Simply put, buyers trust people they know—or people they think they know. (Just for fun, take a peek at where marketers rank as compared to baristas. Uh huh.)

HubSpot Research

(Image credit: HubSpot)

Eighty-one percent of HubSpot respondents said they trust friends and family over business. In addition, DemandGen Report’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey showed that 78% of B2B buyers place a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the content source, and 65% have a higher preference for credible content from industry influencers.

[bctt tweet="Co-creating and collaborating with influencers can play a role at every stage of the customer lifecycle. - @leeodden #InfluencerMarketing #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

Why Interactive Influencer Content?

To remain competitive, marketers need to create engaging experiences for their audiences while also building credibility and trust. And that’s precisely where interactive influencer content comes in. To really drive the point home, Lee pointed to a fabulous quote from Amisha Gandhi, Vice President of Influencer Marketing for SAP Ariba:

“Working with influencers to co-create content delivers mutual value. When that content is interactive, it creates an experience that is more engaging and inspires action.”

[bctt tweet="Working with #influencers to co-create content delivers mutual value. When that #content is interactive, it creates an experience that is more engaging and inspires action. - @AmishaGandhi" username="toprank"]

What Does Effective B2B Interactive Influencer Content Look Like?

When you put relevant, useful, and credible content in an eye-catching, engaging format, incredible things can happen. Not only are you creating an infotaining experience for your buying audience, but also for influencer partners. You’re creating mutual value.

Examples of Interactive Influencer Content

#1 - Interactive Infographic

Topic: The Future of Influencer Marketing

Objective: Drive leads from original research report while also repurposing influencer tips.

Results: 6,971 pageviews and an impressive 42% conversion rate

Future of Influencer Marketing Interactive Infographic

#2 - Interactive eBook

Topic: Future-Proof Content Marketing

Objective: Leverage an entire year’s worth of content and insights around content marketing strategy, planning, and measurement to boost awareness and lead gen (small ask: participate in content marketing planning survey; big ask: request a trial).

Results: Exceeded small and big ask benchmark goals four times over.

Back to the Future Interactive eBook

#3 - Interactive Voice Assistant and Microsite + SEO-Driven Content

Topic: AI and the Next Evolution of Finance

Objective: Build industry credibility and engagement on AI and Finance with thought leadership content.

Results: 189% increase over benchmark pageview goals and 642% increase over benchmark engagement goals; 84 net-new keyword rankings

Interactive Influencer Asset with Voice Assistant

Buh-Bye Boring. Hello Infotaining Interactive Influencer Content.

B2B brands need to break free of its boring-to-boring reputations if they want to engage, inspire, and convert modern buyers. Buyers are ready for bigger, better, bolder content experiences—experiences they can trust.

So, B2B marketers, it’s time to ask yourself: Are your ready to create meaningful, trustworthy connects with buyers through your content? If you are, interactive influencer content deserves your consideration. Not sure where to start? Here’s Lee high-level checklist:

  • Identify a customer solution topic that is relevant to your brand’s expertise and your audience’s information needs.
  • Pick an interactive content type, story arch, and call-to-action that makes sense for the topic, audience, and objectives.
  • Identify, qualify, and validate influencers that have the topical expertise and the right audience for the end-product. And map them to your topics and subtopics.
  • Collect influencer tips, work them into the experience, and promote the heck out of the final product.
  • Nurture influencers for future engagement; strong relationships are at the center of successful influencer programs.

In the meantime, here's a little something to snack on:

For more live updates from the conference, you can follow @TopRank, @leeodden, @azeckman and @CaitlinMBurgess on Twitter. In addition to speaking and tweeting, team members from TopRank Marketing will be live blogging sessions (like this one) throughout the conference so be sure to follow the blog for more.

The post Bye-Bye Boring B2B: Lee Odden Shows B2BMX Attendees the Power of Interactive Influencer Content appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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8 Costly Facebook Ad Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Are you making Facebook ad mistakes that could be eating away at your marketing budget? Are your ads helping Facebook more than they’re helping your business? In this article, you’ll discover the most common mistakes made with Facebook ads and how to resolve them from top Facebook advertising experts. #1: Testing Multiple Interests in a […]

The post 8 Costly Facebook Ad Mistakes and How to Avoid Them appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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Your Shortcut to Lightning-Fast Speeds. AMP Landing Pages Come to Unbounce.

AMP landing pages are available now in Unbounce. Learn how you can deliver faster, more engaging experiences for your visitors on mobile devices.

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Carlos Abler of 3M Asks B2BMX Attendees: Can Marketing Save the World?

The post Carlos Abler of 3M Asks B2BMX Attendees: Can Marketing Save the World? appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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8 tips to build customer relationships with social media

Customer experience has become a top priority for companies in 2019. Today’s consumers base their perception of a brand on the meaningful moments they Read more...

This post 8 tips to build customer relationships with social media originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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How B2B Marketers Can Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools

How to Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools

How to Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools

Informative. Engaging. Entertaining. Inspiring. Interactive content is a rising B2B marketing star, allowing brands to break free of their “boring-to-boring” reputations to give their audiences bold, beautiful, badass experiences.

And to make it increasingly easy for B2B content marketers to deliver those interactive experiences, interactive content tools—from simple web-based tools to robust platforms—have proliferated.

But here’s the thing: From upping marketing efficiency to collecting unique audience data insights, the beauty and utility of many interactive content tools extends well beyond content creation and delivery.

So, if you truly want to make the most of your interactive content investments, you should take care in making the most of your tools of choice. How? Here are a few tips.

#1 - Take advantage of templates to boost efficiency.

You’re busy—and so is your graphic designer or design team. And unfortunately, when you’re strapped for time and resources, content innovation can take a back seat and the “static-only status quo” lives another day.

But you don’t have to build an interactive content asset from the ground up. Interactive content tools come stacked with templates—most of which can be optimized and customized for your brand and audience. By leveraging templates, you can maximize efficiency and get content in front of your audience faster.

For example, Ceros—which is a more advanced interactive content tool—offers a template gallery that includes templates for case studies, content hubs, eBooks, infographics, lookbooks, short- and long-from quizzes, and the list goes on.

Ceros Templates

Example of Ceros Template

In addition, some interactive content tools give you the ability to create your own templates, which is an excellent feature to take advantage of if you’re creating a content series or if you’d like specific design elements to be the same throughout every piece you create.

SnapApp, which now bills itself as lead qualification platform for marketers, is a great tool for creating interactive quizzes. And the SnapApp team offers a super simple five-step process for creating a template.

Creating a SnapApp Template

#2 - Make use of resources to curb the learning curve.

Regardless of simplicity or complexity, every tool has a learning curve. But the good news is that some interactive content tool makers don’t skimp on learning resources. This means you or your design team can get the on-demand resources you need to create great content more quickly.

For example, Webflow, which is a platform that allows you to design, build, and launch responsive websites (complete with animations and interactions, of course) without bothering your web development team, has an impressive learning platform dubbed Webflow University.

The educational portal is complete with tons of video course and tutorials to get you started and make the most of the tool. They also have a robust blog and a forum for users to ask questions and share best practices.

Webflow University

As another example, Ceros Educate is a dedicated learning portal, featuring courses for designers who are just getting started or need a refresher, as well as a plethora of articles that detail specific functions and features. There’s also a collection of resources for developers.

Ceros Educate Resource Hub

Finally, even Qzzr, which boasts an extremely simple interface, offers a learning and support resouce featuring advice and insights from its team.

Qzzr Resource Hub

#3 - Leverage integrations to enhance visibility, insight, and lead gen and nurturing.

Whether you’re embedding a quiz in a blog post or creating a content resource hub, interactive content tools are designed to make it easy for you to deliver experiential content on your owned channels.

And the good news is that most tools offer some unique analytics capabilities so you can understand how users are interacting with your content. For example, Ceros provides all the basic KPIs such as visitors, opens, and pageviews, as well as engagement metrics like time spent and interaction clicks. The tool also track inbound referrals, social shares, video plays, and outbound link clicks.

But the even better news is that some tools boast integrations that makes it easy to connect data and information with various CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, and analytics platforms. This not only gives you a more holistic view of how interactive content perform as compared to other types of content assets, but can also streamline lead gen and nurturing, and the sales process.


For example, SnapApp integrates with: HubSpot, Marketo, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Pardot, Salesforce, Adobe, and Act-On. As for Ceros, integrations include: Marketo, HubSpot, Eloqua, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager. In addition, Qzzr supports webhooks and third-party integrations such as Zapier to send quiz data such as email addresses, scores, and outcomes to a variety of CRM and SaaS tools.

Put Interactive Content Tools to Work for You

There’s no doubt that interactive content tools are designed to help you deliver a great end-experience for your audience. But to really make the investment worthwhile, take advantage of the unique features and benefits each tool offers so you can maximize efficiency, minimize the learning curve, and streamline data collection to improve your marketing and sales efforts.

How are B2B brands using interactive content? Check out these seven examples of interactive B2B content to find out.

Attending B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ from Feb. 25-27, 2019? Attend Lee Odden’s session to learn how interactive influence content can help you break free of boring B2B.

The post How B2B Marketers Can Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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