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Connecting the Dots from Data to Better Customer Experience

Right Message Wrong Time
I love how Tom Fishburne aka marketoonist always does a great job of showcasing marketing truths. While the focus for marketers to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time is nothing new, it’s also safe to say that we have a lot of work to do.

External Battery Charger SERP

For example, I was recently in the position of having to look for a new external battery charger. I seem to burn through these things like candy. A search on Google gave me relevant ads right on top. I clicked on a Best Buy ad and checked out the RAZORMAX Portable Power Bank.

raxormax portable power bank

It looked interesting enough and while I noticed reviews from the Best Buy site, I’m the kind of person that likes validation from 3rd party review sites. So I went back to search and looked for reviews.

portable charger review

I arrived on Tom’s Guide and what ad from Best Buy dominated the page reviewing the best portable chargers?

Best Buy 4K TV ad
An ad for Sony 4K TVs.

This seemed like a lost opportunity for Best Buy. I was hunting for something specific and leaving data trails, but the brand I was considering most wasn’t connecting those dots.

This is a scenario that extends across channels of course. As I am prone to do with tech purchases, I went to Facebook to ask my network essentially the same question I searched for on Google. I received a cornucopia of suggestions from my network of tech savvy connections. But what ads did I see?

Facebook ads

Purple mattresses and clothing ads featuring photos of guys that don’t really represent me or what I’m looking for. Of course if they were more like me, that would be scary. But I think you get the point. I was creating data crumbs of intent across channels and the dots were not being connected by the right brands when it came to my customer experience.

While brands are collecting more data than ever before, and have become more sophisticated at implementing effective campaigns on specific channels, there are disconnects in terms of meeting increasing expectations of consumers. Buyers don’t care how hard it is. They care about finding the best information that is relevant, meaningful and specific to them. Right time, right place and message.

The customer journey has evolved from what we’ve traditionally explained as a linear path (was it ever linear?) to something far more sophisticated across devices and channels. Customer expectations have evolved and are focused more on experiences as a differentiator. At the same time, the sheer volume of content being produced creates information overload.

Of course there’s no “one size fits all” customer journey, but the importance of mapping and matching content and media types to stages of the journey are more important than ever. The question is, how are brands understanding the context of these journeys to create relevant experiences?

Internet access is ubiquitous with over 50 billion connected devices expected by 2020. I’m sure some of the people reading this post are using multiple devices right now–a laptop, and phone for example. How are brands meeting the expectations of customers who have always on, everywhere access to information?

Competing with marketers’ good intentions for relevant and meaningful experiences across channels is the fact that on average, consumers in the US are consuming media for 12 hours and 7 minutes per day (eMarketer). That’s a paradox of choice at scale. At the same time, 70% of marketers are not using the insights they’re pulling from data because it’s too complex or difficult (Ensighten).

A lot of that difficulty comes from data fragmentation across tools, tactics and organizational silos. Today’s marketing mix includes more tactics than ever to meet consumers’ insatiable demands for information. Back in 2001 when Susan Misukanis started a Public Relations firm, PR and light content was it. Then we brought in SEO. And blogging. Online Advertising was added. Then Social Media, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing and so on.

martech landscape 2017
The proliferation of marketing technology tools isn’t helping either. Infographics like the one above from Scott Brinker with over 5,000 martech tools and platforms can put marketers into shock– or “martech shock” as I like to call it. As for data, there are often silos between departments where each is creating unique data or even the same data in different contexts. Suffice it to say, data fragmentation is a problem.

So what is a solution? One of the universal truths that we’ve operated under at TopRank Marketing is about the power of information specific to customers’ that are actively searching for solutions. To be the best answer is a strategic approach to marketing that naturally empathizes with the customer journey to deliver the most relevant experiences at all the touchpoints that matter most for customers. Combined with cognitive solutions, a best answer strategy for marketing is something that can actually scale. A great start is a data-informed approach to content marketing that uses context and insights to create conversations with customers that are relevant, personalized and meaningful across channels.

You simply cannot create a best answer approach to marketing without customer insight. It’s important to ask key questions that empathize with the customer journey. Especially, “What experiences do your customers need on which channels in order to buy?” This is an essential question because when customers are seeking solutions, one of the most important jobs we have as marketers is to ensure that brand content is the best answer where ever customers are looking.

Understanding context and preferences for the customer information journey as it relates to how buyers discover solutions content is the key. Those insights about preferences for content types, topics and devices, and the triggers that motivate action, all combine to inform an effective best answer strategy.

hub spoke best answer

With those insights about content discovery, consumption preferences and triggers for action, marketers can use connected data to architect best answer content programs that are accountable to attracting the right customers, engaging them with meaningful experiences and inspiring them to take action and convert. Making sense of a best answer approach to marketing at scale means reflecting on the possible: What if you could make your marketing easier and more meaningful at the same time?

It’s been reported that customers can hit 17 touch points before they buy. Imagine if every single one those interactions delivered on your brand promise with meaningful personalization? How to be the best answer for customers with as many of those touchpoints as possible is one of the most important challenges for marketers as we move into 2018.

Ultimately, the information is there. The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand and optimize customer experiences? Certainly, AI is part of a new era of marketing to answer that question. If you want to learn more about how AI, machine learning and cognitive solutions can help connect the dots of data for better customer experiences, keep reading.

Connecting Dots from Data to Experiences
I recorded a webinar with Michael Trapani, Product Marketing Leader at Watson Marketing on this topic where he dives a bit deeper into how marketers can connect their ecosystems with AI solutions. You can view that webinar here.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. |
Connecting the Dots from Data to Better Customer Experience | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Connecting the Dots from Data to Better Customer Experience appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers

Traits B2B Influencers

Traits B2B Influencers

Marketers are still asking, what is B2B influencer marketing? Here’s a definition I’ve been using over the past 5 years or so:

B2B influencer marketing is activating internal and external subject matter experts with engaged networks to advocate and co-create content of mutual value that drives measurable business goals.

As the groundswell around influencer marketing rises and becomes a normal part of the B2B marketing mix, the volume of information and misinformation on the topic also increases.

One of the most popular questions people also ask about B2B influencer marketing focuses on what makes a good business influencer? By now we all know that popularity alone does not make someone influential. It’s certainly important, it's just not the only thing.

As B2B marketers mature in their understanding of the role influence plays and how the dynamic of brand content co-created with industry experts plays out with customers, they begin to realize that other factors matter. Topical relevance matters of course as well as resonance of the topic amongst an influencer’s community.

B2B Marketing Influencers

The intersection of individual expertise, how well that expertise resonates with followers and the size of network creates a baseline of characteristics when evaluating whether a certain influencer might be a match.

But there’s more than that. Understanding what makes a great influencer is both art and science, soft and hard skills. The success of identifying, qualifying and engaging influencers is also directly tied to how they will be engaged and to what end.

Some people reading this might think that influencer marketing isn’t the magic pill some are playing it up to be. There’s a reason for that, because it’s not magic. It’s more like alchemy.

The reality is, there’s no one formula for the perfect B2B influencer, but there are some common characteristics that B2B brands should look for in varying proportions according to what’s important to a program or activation. I call those characteristics:

The 5 Ps of B2B Influence

Proficiency - In B2B marketing, the vast majority of those considered influential possess deep expertise in the field they work in. This is a significant difference from many B2C influencers who are often self proclaimed as influential with clever media creation skills.

As B2C influencer content and engagement tactics evolve, some are crossing over into B2B with a trickle of opportunists successfully creating influence amongst B2B audiences not solely for their expertise, but for a combination of adept social media content creation skills and some expertise. B2B marketers who do their due diligence will be able to filter accordingly.

Popularity - While network size is not the only thing, nor is it the most important thing, it is definitely a metric to consider. Some marketers swing in the direction of ignoring audience size altogether because of lower engagement rates with popular influencers. This is simply foolish. All things being the same, I’ll take 2% engagement of an influencer with a million followers over 2% from someone that has 1,000 followers.

What matters is how network size factors in with the type of influencer you need. For example, popular influencers aka “brandividuals” are often best for top of funnel content. Niche domain expert influencers are better for middle and end of funnel content. Engaging a brandividual and expecting conversions is just naive.

Personality - If you’ve worked in B2C influencer marketing and been exposed to all the characters there, B2B is going to seem a bit dry. Now there are some colorful characters in the B2B influencer community, no doubt. But personality is often a trait that needs to be uncovered when you’re working with some types of business influencers.

The good news is that savvy influencer marketing practitioners know how to plant the seeds that can grow and blossom within an otherwise introverted influencer. You don’t need them to be a colorful character, ripe with personality per se, but you do want them to connect with the passion they have with their craft and how their expertise can help others be successful.

Publishing - Content is the media that conveys the ideas of influence and while B2B influencers are not expected to produce the same types and quantity of content as in B2C, it is ideal when there’s a platform where the influencer publishes. At a minimum, that would be social networks but to be a B2B influencer, it’s most likely that also includes articles contributed to publications if not research, books and presentations.

Promotion - The value a B2B influencer brings beyond adding expertise and credibility to brand content is the ability to share what they helped create with their network. Trust of brand content is at a low, especially with advertising. Customers yearn for authentic content and the right kind of influencer collaboration can give them that, delivered via the influencer’s own distribution channels. That means social networks for course but also potentially blogs, email newsletters, podcast, LinkedIn Live, contributed articles or columns in industry publications.

I know some people reading this are thinking there could be even more P’s like being Prolific, Persuasive or Passion. Yes, there could be so many more but we have to draw the line somewhere! It's important to be able to manage the data and insights necessary to factor these characteristics into selection, qualification and engagement.

Some of these traits will not fully reveal themselves until you work with an influencer on a few content activations. Others will fluctuate over time and that is normal. It's important to understand that influence is a temporal thing. It is not fixed or permanent. It’s important marketers realize that before they disengage an influencer in the short term due to lower performance. The same goes for high expectations after great performance.

Organic influencer engagement is a little dynamic and what you don’t spend on paid influencers like an ad buy you will (in part) need to invest in relationship management, education and even tips that will help the influencers be more effective.

B2B brands with high influencer churn or low performance often apply “ad buy” perspectives to a what is actually a relationship driven effort. Mismatched expectations are not helpful for anyone, so think about the 5Ps as you evaluate and nurture your influencer community. Consider where of each your ideal influencers need to score on the 5 Ps in order to be a good match for the kind of activation you have in mind.

When there’s 5P alignment, there's happiness: for customers, influencers and your B2B brand.

The post 5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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