Let’s jump right into it! Here are ten things we learned about B2B marketing in 2015:
Lesson #1: Our paid media strategy has to constantly evolve to stay ahead
Especially when it comes to paid media, what worked a year ago or even six months ago doesn’t necessarily work today. In the past year, our competitors have changed, our target customer has changed, our content has changed -- and all that means that our media strategy needed to change as well.
As our product has evolved and our target customer has evolved, we saw that our successful paid media strategy wasn’t going to have the same advantages in the near future. We saw what was coming, and fortunately, we were able to evolve our strategy before it became extinct.
We learned that if you wait for your current strategies to falter, it’ll often be too late to gain the next advantage. Read about how we are able to attract high quality leads with ungated content using LinkedIn ads.
Lesson #2: Content marketing is a lot like baseball
As a data-driven group of marketers, we like to think of ourselves as part of the Billy Beane (of the Oakland Athletics and Moneyball) school. We look at the advanced metrics and find ways to gain small advantages to constantly improve our output. We know that if we do the right things and identify areas of opportunity on a consistent basis, we’ll be successful in the long run.
But at the same time, just like in baseball, the home runs matter. Every so often, one of our pieces of content will take off and create a massive amount of value. In addition to the Lead Goals Are Dead post, the 5 Stages of a Pipeline Marketer post and the 2015 State of Pipeline Marketing Report have been wildly successful.
Even though we focus on consistently creating high-quality, evergreen content, the home runs still have a big impact on our business.
Lesson #3: Proclaiming the status quo “dead” does not guarantee success
In May, we wrote an article titled, “Lead Goals Are Dead And We Can Thank Pipeline Marketing,” which was and continues to be a tremendous success. It has brought us thousands leads, many of which have gone on to become customers. The ROI of that article is through the roof.
In a bit of a headline experiment, we later wrote an article titled, “The B2B Marketing Funnel is Dead,” wondering if being the marketing Grim Reaper was the key to content success. While it still performed above average on many metrics, it didn’t bring in the massive amount of business that the previous article did. Maybe there is more to content writing than a catchy headline (...obviously). However, it did still have significantly higher email open rate and more total page views than our average blog article.
With so much content being created and shared every day, it’s difficult to stand out, but a strong, catchy headline remains a good place to start.
Lesson #4: Customer Success Team = better marketing
While we understood in principle the impact that strong WOM marketing could have, we were able to see this firsthand through our marketing data. When our customers have an exceptional onboarding (and ongoing) experience with our customer success team, they are far more likely to recommend and promote our services on their own time.
We also learned that marketing is really a full-company undertaking. Yes, the marketing team writes content, publishes posts, creates ads, and coordinates events, but every single employee, regardless of which team they belong to, is a vital cog in the marketing wheel. Although their mission is specifically to help our customers be as successful as possible, our customer success team incidentally supported the company’s marketing goals.
When the referrals started coming in, our success team was immensely encouraged, our marketing team was very impressed, and our sales team was ramped and ready to connect with new prospects.
When it comes down to it, everyone sells, everyone markets, and everyone serves customers.
Lesson #5: We can have success at events without sponsoring them
As a growing company we are attending and sponsoring more and larger events. However, we’ve found that the standard sponsorship and booth aren’t necessarily the best recipe for success at every event. Take Dreamforce, for example. With so many companies vying for attention in the standard way, we decided to take a different path.
We took the money that we could have spent on a booth to buy billboards outside Moscone Center that highlighted our awesome Bay Area customers, and sent a street team to serve attendees by charging their phones on-the-go. It created good buzz for our brand and made a lot of battery-hungry attendees pretty happy. Read more about our unorthodox event marketing.
Lesson #6: The value of looking at our events the same way we look at our digital channels
Speaking of events, it’s critical to be able to measure non-digital marketing efforts with the same metrics that you measure digital marketing efforts. After all, it’s just another way that we reach our audience.
Money can go to paid search campaigns, or social media campaigns, or event sponsorship, or dinner with potential clients. If we’re unable to accurately compare these efforts against each other, how are we supposed to make smart budget allocation decisions?
Omni-channel attribution allows us to look at all of our marketing channels -- whether offline or online -- from the same perspective and accurately assess their impact on customer growth. It’s a tremendously valuable tool that has helped us make more strategic budget decisions, especially when it comes to assessing the true effectiveness of offline channels.
Lesson #7: Original research takes time, but is well worth the investment
Doing your own original research can seem like a daunting task. As someone who likes to be in control, it’s scary to rely on hundreds or thousands of people to fill out your survey. What if people don’t take it? What if the results don’t turn out like you think they will? What if there aren’t any clear takeaways?
When we created the State of Pipeline Marketing survey, we were excited, but these questions all went through our heads. Fortunately, participation was fantastic and the results provided great insight into the mindset of our fellow B2B marketers. The depth of the research and findings surpassed our expectations. While it took several months of effort to pull out the good stuff, we were able to draw valuable insights and make a lot of great content -- well worth the investment.
B2B marketers are constantly seeking out great original research. If you can identify an area where you can provide a unique perspective with original data to back it up, there is a lot of value.
Lesson #8: B2B CMOs don’t think they’re doing a good enough job mapping marketing to revenue
One of the key insights we were able to draw from the 2015 State of Pipeline Marketing Report was that only 4-in-10 CMOs think they’re using the right attribution model. When opened up to all marketers, a whopping 70% said they weren’t confident in their current attribution model.
Marketers are waking up to the fact that single-touch attribution (what most B2B marketers are using) just doesn’t cut it for B2B marketing. In fact, the same report found that about 1-in-3 marketers are planning on changing attribution models in the next six months.
Lesson #9: Grow into new marketing programs
As we’ve grown as a marketing team and as a company, we’ve had the opportunity to add several new marketing programs this year, one of which is our Pipeline Marketing Playbooks events. While we have big, long-term goals for this program, we strategically decided to start with a small, but strong, core program and then grow and evolve it slowly.
With key initiatives, it’s important to get it right before you make it big. Like a snowball, once it is big, it’s much harder to change its direction -- it has momentum.
Lesson #10: Being resourceful and scrappy is key to maximizing demand
Downloadable content (think: ebooks, whitepapers) requires a ton of effort, but we’ve learned that we can get a lot of value out of that effort by being resourceful. The biggest way we make our effort go far is by recycling the work that goes into creating an ebook into several pieces of smaller content such as a handful of blog posts, a presentation on SlideShare, a webinar, an infographic, and more.
It works in reverse, too. If you’re going to put in the effort to create a great deck for a presentation, think about how you can transform that content into something downloadable to grow demand. Or, if you’ve written a handful of homerun blog posts around the same topic, stitch them together into a super valuable ebook.
The ROI of creating just an ebook may not seem worthwhile. But if you’re able to squeeze out more value by turning that work into other forms of valuable content, the ROI will be much, much greater.