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In a Fast-Paced Digital World, B2B Marketers Can Benefit from Slowing Down

Why B2B Marketers Should Slow Their Marketing Roll

Why B2B Marketers Should Slow Their Marketing Roll We are living in the age of speed: faster connections, faster answers, faster service. People expect many things to happen instantly, in real-time, and technological advancements are increasingly making it possible. As such, it might seem counter-intuitive to suggest that we as B2B marketers are wise to slow our roll. Sometimes we tend to go through the motions too quickly, or in the wrong order, and it can hurt our results. In fact, it can prevent us from even accurately evaluating our results. Sean Callahan recently wrote a post on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions* blog arguing that a top priority in 2020 for B2B marketers should be to slow down when measuring ROI. The case is simple and convincing: Sales cycles have grown significantly longer but analytics haven’t responded in kind. Per the post, 77% of marketers are still measuring ROI in the first month of a campaign, even though the average B2B sales cycle is now about six months long. “The reality is,” writes Callahan, “most marketers are showing up to their book club having only read a sixth of the book.” This got me thinking about the argument’s broader applicability in B2B marketing. There are a number of different areas where it’s becoming clear that practitioners might be moving too quickly and doing themselves a disservice. To be clear: We’re not suggesting that you delay making decisions or drastically cut down your content production; sometimes it’s as simple as stepping back and taking a beat. Let’s talk about four opportunities that stand out: experiences, strategies, social media, and SEO.

4 Areas Where B2B Marketers Can Benefit from Pumping the Brakes

Slow Your Experience

There are plenty of metaphors I could toss out regarding the inverse relationship between speed and quality of an experience, but I’ll go with this one: Would you rather be shuffled through a fast-moving line at a fast-food joint, or carefully walked through a restaurant menu by a knowledgeable and curious server beside your table?  Yes, customers want things quickly, but there’s a balance. It’s been nearly two decades since William McEwen made a point that remains very true today: When marketers emphasize doing things faster, they often end up doing things worse “If the goal is to create strong bonds that ensure customer retention, companies must focus on activities that create and sustain the customer relationships, not just on those that enhance company efficiency,” McEwen wrote in his book, Married to the Brand In his example he notes that a cold, tasteless sandwich from Arby’s isn’t going to yield a happy customer, no matter how fast it’s delivered. The same principles apply to any B2B experience — fast isn’t memorable. But when content is unusually entertaining, impactful, or tailored? That can stick in one’s brain. More recently, Ann Handley preached this premise at Content Marketing World 2019, arguing that the most efficient is not the most effective. She recommends that marketers step back and ask themselves a few questions with regards to the customer experience they’re providing: 

  • How can I build trust and momentum for the content experience over time? And what does that look like?
  • How can I involve the audience in a meaningful way so they are invested in the outcome?
  • How can I create an experience that individuals rally around in a way that makes them more invested in the community?
[bctt tweet=”The most efficient isn’t always the most effective. Stop conflating them. @annhandley #B2BContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Slow Your Strategy    

Thinking through the questions above, and others, takes time. Rushing through our B2B marketing strategies invariably leads to overlooking key factors, while also generating undue stress for the team. It’s a real psychological phenomenon: Slowing down helps us reconnect with the present, enrich relationships, and find more productivity. “When you slow down, your mind can work on solutions to problems you may be experiencing, finding a better way to do something, prioritizing tasks and projects and eliminating or reducing conflict,” writes Suzanne Kane at Psych Central in the article linked above. These are the tenets of successful strategy. The “Slow Your Strategy” directive runs the operational gamut, including pre-planning, resource allotment, promotion, and — as referenced earlier — measurement.  When I think about pacing a business strategy, I think about the game of chess. Great players aren’t often the quickest; instead, they proceed methodically, analyzing the entire board and mentally playing out the consequences of a possible move before pushing the next piece. Marketers should adopt the same mindset. Strategy is by definition “a careful plan or method,” and being careful means taking our time. Don’t hurry while solidifying the seven elements of your your B2B marketing strategy:

  • Goals and Objectives
  • Audience Segmentation and Characteristics
  • Brand Messaging
  • Multi-Channel Touchpoints
  • Content Types
  • Content Topics
  • Measurement
[bctt tweet=”Strategy is by definition “a careful plan or method,” and being careful means taking our time, B2B marketers. Don’t rush the strategy process. @NickNelsonMN ” username=”toprank”]

Slow Your Social

The world of social media moves so quickly, it’s easy for marketers to feel under pressure to keep up.  “Has our latest tweet already been buried on feeds?” “Are we seeing results yet from this LinkedIn campaign?” “Should we be on Tik-Tok?” via GIPHY According to the latest B2B content marketing benchmarks report, social media is the most common content type used by B2B marketers, with 95% listing it. Yet in my experience, social often tends to be an autopilot function, disconnected from broader strategies. Bundles of messages are packaged up for scheduling across platforms, generic promotional links are hastily developed, and minimal effort goes into follow-up or interaction. What’s the point? Quality over quantity is a mantra that rings throughout the digital marketing environment today, and social media is a pertinent area in which to emphasize it. Take the time to think through the purpose of each platform, and each tweet or update. Prioritize value over volume. Keep in mind that aimlessly publishing without discretion can actually hurt your visibility on social feeds by diminishing your content’s overall engagement rates and causing people to unfollow.

Slow Your SEO

Every SEO specialist knows that influencing search rankings takes time. As algorithms increasingly shift from technical signals to user-based signals, creating quality audience geared toward a well-understood audience becomes all the more paramount. If you’re displeased with your website’s search visibility, a good next step is running an SEO audit of existing content. “An SEO audit is a great place to start when you’re trying to understand the factors that are hindering your search visibility,” Tiffani Allen, TopRank Marketing’s Associate Director of Search and Analytics, writes. “The data you collect, once analyzed, should help you create a roadmap to improve rankings and capitalize on white space.” And as Aja Frost, Head of Content SEO for HubSpot, offers to Search Engine Journal“I’d recommend auditing all of your content for overlapping rankings and merging, redirecting, and archiving as needed so every page ranks for a unique set of keywords,” Frost said. “If your website covers the same topics again and again, even if you’re covering these topics from different angles, your pages are going to knock each other out of the results.” This is but a sampling of examples of where slowing down with SEO can yield major long-term benefits. Scrutinizing your topical pillars, audience assumptions, and technical health of your site are additional measures that pay off. 

Moving Forward in Slow Motion

While watching playoff football over the past few weekends, I’ve been reminded of how much speed affects our perception. You can watch a play in real-time and miss so many details that become evident in the slowed-down instantly reply.  There’s no time clock ticking down on your B2B marketing strategy. Obviously we have deadlines and time-sensitive objectives, but in many cases we’re probably placing undue constraints on our programs that take a negative toll on results.  We live in a fast-paced world. But slowing down our marketing efforts — from experience to strategy to social to SEO — can help brands differentiate and achieve more.  [bctt tweet=”We live in a fast-paced world. But slowing down our marketing efforts — from experience to strategy to social to SEO — can help brands differentiate and achieve more. @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”] So the next time you receive a request from a boss or client that seems to skip steps or rush through critical strategic elements, there’s only one valid response: not so fast Take a moment to assess and validate your marketing approach for the coming year by reviewing Lee Odden’s rundown of the Top 10 B2B Digital Marketing Trends in 2020.

The post In a Fast-Paced Digital World, B2B Marketers Can Benefit from Slowing Down 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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