BMA – Becoming a Better B2B Brand

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“if you are not a brand, you are a commodity.”  Interesting – most of the top valued b-to-b brands in Forbes 2016 list are technology companies.  Top three brands overall, consumer brands, are also technology companies.  Could it be that brand make the most difference in technology?  From another side, Apple is a technology that might qualify for fashion 😉

Interesting – discussion during the event generally suggested that for a startup the product is a brand until probably $100 million in revenue.  Small organizations can take more risk around their brand and experiment.

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Fantastic example of b-to-b brand promotion – a very niche product, precision driving technology for large tracks. is promoted by a fascinating video.

Even more interesting, the explanation how the promotion was made is as fascinating as the promotion itself 🙂  The “complete story” or a commercial for a b-to-b product…  has over a million views!

I am also lucky to work for a company that aligns its futuristic brand… with the future itself in a very interesting way, by partnership with the latest Star Trek Movie.

Who knew b-to-b marketing can be so much fun 🙂

BMA – Business-to-Business Marketing Conference

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The main thread connecting presentations and research discussed during the conference was, maybe not surprisingly, business value.

We need to be business leaders with marketing expertise.  This is what senior leadership is expecting from us.

If we are serious about growth, we need to use business verbiage.  Get insights!  “Wow, we got so many data points!” is not useful for business.

Business aspect of marketing is gaining more attention in industry surveys, including BMA survey and also recent Forrester research The Evolved CMO 2016.

Importance to communicate in business terms, evaluate program benefits in business metrics, and concentrate on business growth in general was highlighted by Juniper, Hallmark, and other presenters of the conference.

BMA survey indicates that marketers in growing companies work more closely with other business functions.  Higher revenue companies are also more likely to see marketing as a competitive advantage.

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This data corresponds with Forrester research:

After years of aspiring to be treated as more than functional experts, CMOs are finally proving their business chops. They are moving beyond brand, communications, and marketing execution to better quantify the impact of marketing’s work in business terms. Tasked with delivering against profit-and-loss metrics, our survey results show that CMOs are increasingly partnering with their peers to drive business and brand results.

Juniper: marketing shifted its mind to have clear ROI goal (10x for each campaign) and was able to exceed it, what allowed marketing function to be considered as a strategic player at the executive level.

STIR LLC Asenzya case study: “You have to bring it back to ROI.”

Hallmark: started an idea as a pilot with a “minimal viable product” brutally prioritized to bare-bones to demonstrate business benefit.

Interesting: in the startup world of Silicon Valley, CMO is becoming Chief Revenue Officer with the success metrics of SQLs rather than MQLs.

Another curious trend: many CEO wants to see more detailed metrics (insights), though not a “data dump in Excel,” as “51% increase” without a context is not useful.

Juniper

Several years ago marketing was concentrating on brand and events. Now marketing has strategic seat at the CEO table and reports ROI.

Interesting: Matt Hurley pointed out that “what” to measure is important for metrics-driven organization.  What not to measure is the most important, as “data is everywhere.”

Juniper used 5 step process in its transformation.

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2014 was the first year when everything could be tracked to a specific campaign and calculation of ROI became possible.

Juniper-2.pngWeb is now all about demand generation.

Organizational transformation combined 5 independent departments into one.  Marketing also invested into marketing automation and moved to Cloud. The changes resulted in mismatch of skills in the organization.  Juniper used both hiring from outside and internal training; eventually, company formed global demand center.

Juniper-3.pngBefore considering any campaign Juniper asks: “Do we have a story that connects to the customer? Can we link the results to the campaign?  Can we get 10x ROI?”
Any asset created is placed into its best customer journey spot.

As Juniper works with partners, it also provides partners with an easy way to run their own campaigns and measures use of the tools.

ZenDesk

Interesting: ZenDesk combines planned strategic moves with an entrepreneurial opportunism.  The company is executing its plan to move to the enterprise customers from its traditional SMB market, but it is ready to pivot into a profitable direction.

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ZenDesk did not plan to move to government area, but an opportunity presented itself.  A concern related to Net Neutrality sparked public call to send letters to FCC.  Many people did contact FCC and complained, what created a need to manage these complaints. FCC chose ZenDesk as the organization needed an easy to use solution fast.

Relate.pngZenDesk evaluates every opportunity as a one-off or as a discovery of a new target market. Company adjusts it targets, but stays very focused.

Differences between SMB and Enterprise: typical SMB process goes though finding ZenDesk via search, starting trial, and converting to a paying customer; enterprise customers need to research the solution first, typically already have something in place, and might want “whitepapers to download” and can use additional encouragement from sales organization.

Current website is targeted to SMB, though the company has a page for enterprise (which I did not find).

Successful enterprise customer: a person with a desire for change 🙂

Interesting: ZenDesk created a content resource Relate about customer support and engaging with customers in general.  Related does not have any company-related calls to actions.  I am not quite clear how it can be connected to business benefit (visit history? retargeting?)

STIR LLC – Asenzya Case Study

Integrated Inbound Marketing.  “You have to bring it back to ROI.”

A new management wanted to reinvigorate a small business – an established producer of food seasonings.  Inbound marketing has been integrated with everything else.

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Strategic approach (ROI), narrow targeting.  The agency used “staged web site launch due to limited resources.”  The site includes whitepaper download… Beer Whitepaper 😉  and series of campaigns leading to whitepaper download.

Asenzya.pngIntegrated inbound: “Every word you publish should take keyword strategy into consideration.”  PR is an excellent component for integrated inbound approach.

Asenzya promise to its target audience: “work with us, we will make you more successful.”

Hallmark

Hallmark created a new product allowing call-center customer-facing employees to send personal cards to customers through a very simple process.

Interesting: the program has not been initially approved by the corporate decision makers, what encouraged local division to conduct a pilot with a carefully selected partner to demonstrate business benefit of the new offering.

To do that, the organization had to prioritize a “minimally viable products,” and remove any electronic cards from the pilot.  The idea of a “Pilot” in itself helped with adoption of the approach later.

Recommendations:

  • always start with a pilot and expand it later
  • find a passionate partner for your pilot

People are still interested in human connection. Millenials survey: if you had a problem, would you want to connect with the company on social media or talk with an individual?  99% would prefer talking with an individual

Customer Care Solutions – Hallmark 1:1 contact.

86% of customers who received cards gave the company highest ranking possible (utility company). 

Excellent conference!  Yes, marketers do need to be business people with marketing expertise.

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Book – Platform Revolution

platform-revolution.pngPlatform Revolution book gives an excellent analysis of the Platform as a new business model and its influence on other businesses and society in general.

Platforms, in general, “eat pipelines” – traditional organization of the business, where a product is designed, created, and later offered to the consumer.  Platforms are not limited by the constraints of creating or owning physical goods, what allows exponential growth of the business.  Platforms exist to facilitate an exchange of “value units” by providing the place for the exchange.

Value unit –  The most basic item of value that may be exchanged by users on a platform—for example, a photo on Instagram, a video on YouTube, a craft product on Etsy, or a freelance project on Upwork. When a value unit is spreadable, it can be easily distributed by users both on and off the platform, thereby helping to fuel viral growth.

Comparing to pipelines, networks have “chicken and an egg” problem – attracting consumers and producers to the network.  Network can generate value only when both parties joined the network in comparable proportion.  Platform needs to resolve curation issue to keep productive balance.  (Examples: Quora started with staff asking questions and curating conversations, what later moved to algorithm/community curation.  Dating platforms trying to attract women (men will come if women are there), and carefully match profiles to assure that the most attractive women do not receive too many unsuitable requests and leave).

Networks need to manage 4 types of relationships:

  • Consumer to Consumer
  • Producer to Producer
  • Consumer to Produces
  • Producer to Consumer

Network effects can be positive and negative.  Positive (typical understanding of network effect – the more participants are involved into the network, the more value for each participant).  Negative network effects can be an excessive possibility of an undesirable interaction  – in the example of dating networks,  too many poorly matched inquiries resulting in too high rejection rate.

Platforms would not be subject to classic Porter competitive forces approach.

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As buyers and suppliers become platform participants, a coopetition  is a likely outcome.

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However, network owners need to assure that producers do not create platform extensions limiting innovation of other producers.  Platform owners also try to prevent “multihoming” to discourage simultaneous use of competing platforms.

Multihoming – The phenomenon of users engaging in similar types of interaction on more than one platform. A freelance professional who presents his credentials on two or more service marketing platforms, a music fan who downloads, stores, and shares tunes on more than one music site, and a driver who solicits rides through both Uber and Lyft all illustrate the phenomenon of multihoming. Platform businesses seek to discourage multihoming, since it facilitates switching—the abandonment by users of one platform in favor of another.

Interesting – authors suggest that in platform business marketing needs to be baked into the product.  Traditional pipelines could create a product completely independently from marketing.  It makes sense, but wouldn’t any product benefit from “baked-in marketing?”  😉

Book – Essentialism

esentialismOne of the curious discoveries I made while listening to the book was that “companies are people too” in their tendency to lack focus.

Straddling – keeping existing strategy intact while trying simultaneously adopt a strategy of a competitor.  This position is not sustainable as there is no trade off with other positions. Trade off represents an opportunity.

Example: a traditional airline is trying to copy discounter airline approach for a specific market without changing its operational cost structure.  The approach did not work, as the efficiency of a discounter airline was based on optimization of the entire operation. 

Interesting concept: similarly to “Minimal Viable Product,” any initiative can have a “Minimal Viable Progress.”

From the perspective of leadership, the author recommends leading a team on a principle of “less but better,” bringing right people through hiring process even if it takes longer, and clarifying roles in a team.

Ha!  I think I am somewhat close to the underlining principles 🙂    Though there is always a room for improvement.