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ABM timelines: Your guide for when to expect results

Mary-Anne Baldwin, Head of Content

B2B Marketing

Want to know when your ABM programme will start paying off? We've tracked the key ABM metrics and the timeframes in which you can expect them, adding findings from our global ABM survey of 300 B2B marketers. Mary-Anne Baldwin reports. 

It’s crucial not to oversell timeframes, especially to key stakeholders – better to under promise and over deliver. That can be hard when ABM timeframes are markedly longer than traditional demand generation, so it’s important to ensure you have realistic but also motivational measurements all across the sales cycle. 

If you’ve read the B2B Marketing feature on setting your ABM KPIs, you’ll be aware of the best (and most common) metrics by which you can measure your ABM success - but when can you expect to see them? That’s what we’ll be uncovering here. 

The feature also discusses the typical time it takes to reach ROI, as determined from our recent global ABM survey, including:

  • The most common estimated time to hit ROI: 12 months (in line with typical sales cycles)
  • The global average it takes to hit ROI: 9.8 months 
  • The UK average it takes to hit ROI: 13.3 months 

The length of these timeframes will likely mean at least some of your stakeholders will be impatient to see progress. Remember, the value of the pipeline you’re influencing is important, but ABM is about building and profiting from stronger client relationships, which take time to develop. 

Think honestly about your sales cycles and the length of time it may take to close a deal – particularly a large deal with a new account. How can you demonstrate ABM’s value before closing that big deal? (And indeed, if you don’t?) Soft metrics will show stakeholders the engagement you’ve secured, the additional information you have on the account and the relationships you’ve forged. But you should also look at the internal benefits of ABM and what it’s doing for your business at a foundational level.

“I’m a massive believer in ROI and I can’t spend any piece of my budget unless I can show the return we’ll get on it. But there’s a balance between long- term strategy and quick wins. You’ve got ROI in terms of revenue and growth, but actually there are softer indicative metrics, which in the early stages are what my team will be looking for. For me, the ultimate nirvana with ABM would be for people in my team to work with others as a joint unit. That’s when I’ll know we’ve truly been successful.” 

Kate Owen, strategic marketing and industries at Capita

When to expect results 

The two timelines that follow give estimates for when you should expect to see results with regards to some key ABM metrics, such as alignment, customer engagement, data and revenue. 

The timeline covers your ABM pilot, a period for review and more time to upscale your efforts. The darker the shade, the more results you should be seeing. 

You will notice there are two timeframes, one covering new accounts and one covering existing ones. While there are multiple variables affecting these timeframes, these are the two most apparent ones. Simply, the more you already know about your account the quicker you can expect results.

Shifting the mindset from demand generation to ABM 

Many stakeholders - particularly those in sales - are wired to the pace of quarterly results, whereas ABM is not. This can cause challenges. Andy Bacon, lead advisor for B2B Marketing’s ABM Head-start programme believes it’s best not to push against this, but to work with it. 

He says: “I don’t believe a reorientation of sales targets is likely given that the existing expectations are typically quarterly and synchronise with the business’ overarching financial reporting. However, marketing does need to understand how their counterparts in sales are being measured and rewarded and ensure there is an alignment to the ABM strategy.”

That means demonstrating results (be they soft or hard) on a quarterly basis. If you’re not able to show pipeline or revenue, you can show the efforts and progress made to get there. 

Take comfort in the fact that this disconnect between quarterly targets and the longer timelines involved in ABM is only a short lived one - there for however long it takes to get fully up and running. 

“The current challenges are the symptoms of ABM being new and getting the ball rolling,” says Andy. “Once ABM has proven its worth as a strategy that supports sustainable business growth, results will become apparent quarter by quarter.”

However, given that ABM is likely to be subject to inappropriate short-term demand gen oriented KPIs, there are important considerations. Ignoring these may put your ABM strategy at risk:  

  • Those of the demand gen mindset will typically adopt one-to-many (programmatic) ABM rather than strategic. This can become demand gen under a different name, seeking to take on too many accounts without a formal process. Is this really the type of ABM you had in mind? 
  • Teams are likely to fall back into their comfort zone of conventional approaches, which can short-cut best practice and erode the benefits of ABM (i.e they may skip investment in insight and resort to generic content). Remember ABM is a discipline that’s important to carry out well. 

In short, using ABM to fix broken demand generation comes with the risk of not achieving either. ABM will take time, but that shouldn’t put you off. 

“Don’t look at ABM as a silver bullet, it’s not a quick fix for broken demand generation. ABM is a long-term strategy that may require some business transformation to fully harness the benefits. If you’re looking to create sustainable growth, enhanced CX, long-term loyalty, enhanced margins and customer advocacy, this the right route for you,” says Andy. 

 

3 modern approaches to content creation that’ll help you scale, drive engagement and learn from your mistakes

Rebecca Ley, Content Writer

B2B Marketing

The new era of B2B content will involve innovative AI, hyper-personalisation and constant iteration. Rebecca Ley shares advice from experts at B2B Marketing’s technology conference Get Stacked on how to adjust your content marketing strategy.

Most organisations spend more than 50% of their marketing budget on content, but few marketers have a content strategy. With more and more blogs and articles being published online every second, how can you make yours stand out, and invite high levels of engagement, consistently?

The message from experts at Get Stacked – The B2B Marketing Technology Conference in March was the traditional methods of producing and publishing content are no longer working. This wasn’t a scare tactic, it should be a call to arms. Here, we round-up the new approaches for marketers to beat the competition and drag their content into the 21st Century.

The scale-it-up with AI approach

Andrew Bredenkamp, founder and CEO of ‘content alignment’ platform Acrolinx, was honest about the limitations of machine learning when it comes to great, scalable content.

“AI can be stupid. The robots don’t know what to write,” he told delegates. While simple machine learning based on lots of data can regurgitate some strange results, Acrolinx is positioning itself as a new content aid, focused on learning from brands and what actually works. Described as ‘active content governance’, the AI is there to make sure your content aligns with the goals you’ve set for it.

The platform will ensure everything that’s written is aligned to your strategy, goals and tone of voice. B2B companies often use subject matter experts who aren’t writers to contribute thought leadership pieces. “This is where AI can come in handy,” said Andrew, as it can easily tighten up less-than-perfect copy.

Acrolinx uses a four-pronged approach to elevate content:

  • Its AI engines analyse the content against your goals.
  • Content is scored against those goals, which correlates with a human score, “which means three people don’t have to read it,” Andrew said.
  • AI provides real-time guidance as you’re creating content, picking out parts that need to be rewritten.
  • The platform delivers analytics, based on the scoring and the ability to look at content according to the company’s goals, which can be mapped against your strategy to see if it’s delivering.

The box-set binge approach

B2B buyers don’t wear suits, said Matthew Stevens, managing director at MOI Global. Why is this relevant to great content? Because it’s time to ditch the stereotypes and target customers at a micro-level.

“We’re living in a data-driven era, we’ve got to treat buyers like people with preferences like all of us,” he said. MOI does this by collecting huge amounts of customer data from multiple sources that they can then segment and use to personalise communications to target accounts.

MOI’s 5 tactics for ultra-consumable content

  1. Understand your customer journeys.
  2. Within those stages are ‘micro-phases’. For example, once a customer is buying a car, they’ll look at how they go to the dealership and navigate the finance. Start mapping against those activities.
  3. Conduct a gap analysis. Look at everything your audience is doing and what you’re offering them, and where you could be doing more.
  4. Identify the customer pain-points to create content to address them.
  5. Focus on best-in-class examples. Steal ideas from your competition.

As a B2C consumer we expect impeccable customer experience and personalisation, but what can B2B learn from this? Matthew advised following your purchasing journey as though you were a customer to understand where the gaps are. When you’ve done this, you can understand what content is working and through which channels.

“Marketing is content, so let them binge yours. Everything should be personalised to the level of Netflix.” If you use analytics to work out which content people are feasting on, you can implement progressive profiling of your customers.

“Create binge-friendly sites. Landing pages should have multiple pieces of content and you should understand what content works together.” For this, he explains, it’s important to leverage your analytics to group content into ‘binge packs’ for your customers to gorge on depending on their personal preferences and favourite topics. These can then be built into personas depending on what content they’re consuming, to provide recommendations and targeted emails.

This hyper-personalisation at scale is crucial, says Matthew. If you’re sending an email, just including the customer’s name will no longer cut it. Netflix is obviously a great example of this. Their emails are personalised based on behavioural preferences, previously consumed content, and tailored based on products they know the customer has.

But the crucial ingredient to irresistible content B2B customers want to consume, Matthew explains, is a story they can get invested in. Much like Netflix’s film Bandersnatch, where viewers make choices about where the narrative leads, a story that’s tailored to the customer drives engagement.

“Understand what your story is from your customer’s point of view. If a story feels tailored to you and you’ve driven the outcome, you’re involved in the brand,” Matthew advised. Think about the tools you can offer that reflect their business challenges, and how they end up in your product. “Email nurtures should be driven by intent. Drive intelligent landing pages, create content binge hubs, and advertise tailored video.”

The test and learn approach

Today, two million pieces of marketing content will be published in the next two hours – and 55% of people who read them will read for less than 15 seconds.

Creating content without testing, editing, or learning is an ‘offline hangover’, according to Nick Mason, CEO and founder of content software Turtl – an outdated approach that is better reserved for print media. “Publishing is just the beginning. You can now rewrite, change the text, and updates can be made on the fly.”

One of Turtl’s clients put this strategy into action, deciding not to create any new content for six months, but instead simply update old content, enhancing it for their audience. They saw traffic increase by 150%. “Test, iterate, plan, repeat. In the offline world, deadlines are strict. In the online world, there aren’t those restrictions,” Nick advised.

The benefit of testing, failing and editing, he said, is that this is an economical approach in an online world. “Write something new, write a blog post. Failure is as cheap as you make it.” Cisco boosted its readership by 5x, with 7x engagement levels through this refinement process, while Allianz Global Investors saw its content read times go from almost nothing to five minutes. Look at your blog and work out what was successful, and audit for any offline tendencies in your strategy. However, you’ll need a culture that allows for failure to be able to learn from your mistakes and try again.

With the right tools, the barrier to training can be lowered and an agile approach is easily accessible. The first thing to do, Nick explained, is to develop minimal content and analyse the hell out of it. “Rather than the immaculate conception, you take an evolutionary approach and get a more consistent outcome.”

 

Genpact’s partnership with Formula E’s Envision Virgin Racing drives higher engagement with clients and fans

Paul Snell, Deputy Editor

B2B Marketing

Genpact’s tie-up with the electric motor racing team Envision Virgin Racing gives the B2B company a window to demonstrate its AI and analytics capabilities to clients. Paul Snell caught up with CMO Stacy Simpson to discuss the benefits and its latest ASMR video campaign.

When professional services company, Genpact was looking for an arena to show off its technical and organisational expertise, it identified Formula E and the Envision Virgin Racing team as ideal partners.

If you’re not familiar with Formula E, it’s essentially motor racing in electric single-seater cars. The series launched in 2014 and takes place in 12 cities across the globe. Teams include both major motor manufacturers such as BMW and Audi as well as technology businesses. It’s also introduced new concepts such as the FanBoost, where the three most popular drivers voted for by fans get a power boost in their cars for the second half of the race. 

The partnership – signed at the end of 2018 – forms part of a wider repositioning of Genpact in the market which began two years ago with a complete rebrand, overhaul of the visual identity and new approaches to thought leadership.

According to CMO Stacy Simpson, the deal combined three crucial elements:

  • A shared philosophy on the role technology can play in helping companies be competitive. 
  • Innovation that will directly impact the future of mobility and driving. 
  • The ability for Genpact to apply its technical and process expertise in a unique situation.

“We were only ever going to do something like this where we could come in and do work that was going to help them,” she tells B2B Marketing's Paul Snell. “The Virgin Team were looking for people philosophically aligned with them. They were looking for people who could add a new perspective, a new set of insights and were looking for mutual value exchange.”

The benefits of partnering within Formula E

The benefits for Genpact are multiple. Along with the boost to brand awareness, there’s the ability to translate the work done for the team into case studies for its clients.

Under the partnership Genpact uses its analytics and AI capabilities to support the team in its racing. Stacy gives an insight into what this means in practice. In Formula E races last 45 minutes, plus one lap. It’s crucial to be able to accurately predict how many laps will take place in the race – it could be more or fewer depending on conditions or crashes, for example – as this affects how you manage the battery power available in the car. Fewer laps might mean the ability to push harder, or vice versa, which would significantly impact the team’s chances of winning the race.

“Knowing a minute and 30 seconds sooner that you’re accurate on remaining laps affects your strategy,” Stacy says. “So we created case studies that have gone into detail on that type of work, and then we say what this means to your supply chain, or your trade promotion schedule, when you need items on the shelves at a particular time.”

She adds working in an environment where data is at the heart of the operation is both exciting and refreshing. 

“When you talk to Sylvain Filippi (Virgin Racing MD and CTO), he says our car doesn’t leave the garage without data because on the track everyone’s using the same equipment, so the skill of the driver and how the driver and team is able to analyse the insights from the mounds of data is the difference.”

Generating a response by using ASMR

The latest part of the campaign is a video, created by the Bafta-winning director Lorry Powles and features Envision’s British driver Sam Bird. It hops on the trend to create an ASMR experience.

ASMR stands for ‘autonomous sensory meridian response’ and uses visual and audio stimulation to create a tingling response from those that listen and watch them. 

“We’re looking end-to-end at what conversations we’re engaging our clients in, and honestly this relationship has been a natural evolution of that journey,” says Stacy. “It’s the opportunity to take a really important story and tell it in a fun, compelling way, and hopefully it gives you some goosebumps and engages all your senses.”

Reaching a new demographic

The partnership also includes more traditional activation, with clients invited to races to experience Genpact’s work first-hand. This is great for Genpact’s audience of CTOs, Stacy says, as the staff at Virgin Racing are technologists at heart so “when our clients come in they’re having a full CTO to CTO brainstorm because everyone wants to talk data, technology and innovation”.

There’s also the opportunity to reach those outside Genpact’s more traditional sphere. Formula E attracts a very different demographic to traditional motorsport, Stacy says. It’s younger, the gender split is 50-50, and followers see themselves as early-adopters and innovators first, and motorsport fans second.

Stacy says: “If you look at the orientation of the audience, they tend to be mid-career – so perhaps a bit more junior than our current buyer – but they’ll grow up and become buyers and the next generation of decision-makers. This is opening us up to an audience that are the right targets for us, but just might not be our exact buyer yet.”

The partnership is also an emphatic employer branding statement in terms of attracting and hiring talent all around the world.

In terms of measuring the return on investment on a partnership such as this, Genpact the traditional awareness and engagement metrics in place. In fact, when the company puts information out relating to the partnership, Genpact sees top-line engagement metrics five to seven times higher than usual.

Stacy is keen to point out the partnership’s direct relation to revenue: “We also have pipeline metrics against this because we’re doing real work for this company and they’re a real reference for us in a big way. So we needed to ask 'are we getting leads and pipeline out of it?'. We are absolutely seeing the early stage of the pipeline, and we’ll find out if that converts.”

Asked for her advice on entering a partnership of this type, Stacy is clear you need to have internal stakeholders on board before you do so.

“Make sure your business wants it,” she urges. “What I mean by that is I was excited about it, but my job then was to take it to my peers across the leadership team and find out if they wanted it. Is it going to help them drive more traction with their clients? Or attract their next clients? The answer was a resounding yes, but if the answer is a no, then it’s no [to the partnership]. When something is a ‘marketing effort’ by itself it doesn’t get the same traction.

“That was critical. If you go it alone you’re probably going to get cool thought leadership and some great ads, but if your sales and business teams aren’t lined up for this information to take to their clients you’ll only get part of the success.”

How do I get my customers to buy from me?

Mary-Anne Baldwin, Head of Content

B2B Marketing

Dr Helena Rubinstein, head of behavioural science at Innovia Technology and lecturer in psychology at the University of Cambridge, has spent her career finding answers to the age-old question, ‘how do I get my customers to buy from me?’ Mary-Anne Baldwin reveals her thoughts.

Helena Rubinstein started her career in advertising, running an international brand consultancy where she saw first-hand that customers don’t always buy or act in the way the research says they will.  She’s since made it her mission to understand why. 

With a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Cambridge, Helena is now working with the behavioural science team at Innovia Technology. There she uses her knowledge of human behaviour to design intuitive, customer-friendly products and processes for its clients. 

Helena spoke at the recent B2B Marketing Leaders Forum 2019, where she revealed both some of her knowledge on behavioural triggers and shared some actionable advice for marketers. 

What is behavioural science?

“Behavioural science is derived from psychology, anthropology, sociology and economics. In the last few years it’s come to provenance in the commercial world, although it’s been around in academia for many years,” Helena explains.

“There is growing mainstream interest in this area now, especially since the social psychologist Daniel Kahneman challenged the classical economists’ assumption that human decision making was rational.

“Essentially it means putting the customer at the heart of all product development, sales and marketing,” she adds. “If businesses are run by people, for people, then understanding people should be a necessity.” 

This clearly speaks to today’s marketing ethos, but as many have found out, it isn’t so easy to put into practise. The key is in understanding how people think. Behavioural science theorises that we respond in line with our mental models, which hold the beliefs, assumptions, theories and preferences we have about ourselves and the world around us. Rather than laboriously calculating the myriad logical risks, pros and cons to very decision, we use heuristics (a mental shortcut), which allows us to sift through these conceptual models and find an answer we’re comfortable with. 

“You need to do this to be able to function in life without stopping to consider every decision you make, but the process does make people prone to a number of cognitive biases,” Helena clarifies.

By understanding mental models – i.e. the architecture of choices that surround each decision – influencers can ‘nudge’ buyers into different, predictable behaviours. When done ethically (as we’ll examine later) this can be done without closing down the buyer’s other options, coercing them, or giving a hard push with economic incentives. 

How to influence outcomes

“To be a behavioural scientist is like being a detective, asking why it is that people don’t do as they say,” says Helena. This question is at the centre of Helena’s career, and it’s led to uncovering some insightful findings. For example, her extensive understanding of customer research has allowed Helena to unpick the common ills behind a marketer’s research and why its customers didn’t act as predicted. 

  1. Your research is based on poor-quality data. 
  2. You’ve been treating data as though it’s insight. 
  3. You’ve failed to recognise the factors that drive behaviour. 
  4. Your research is biased and has been conducted with the intent of proving an existing hypothesis. 

Your data is wrong and it hasn’t been paired with insight

A common fault behind a marketer’s approach to gathering customer intel is that they wrongly treat data as insight. The right approach will interpret data through the lens of social, emotional and cultural drivers. “Companies often have lots of data – much of that information could be used to work out what is driving behaviour, however it’s often not,” says Helena. 

Furthermore, marketers often rely on traditional research methods, such as sample groups and questionnaires. These compile data showing what people say they will do, rather than what really drives their behaviour. In short, it shows you their thoughts, but not their actions.

The human brain is just not as reliable as we may like. We change our minds, and also our memories. “We regularly rewrite our memories to tell stories that better suit our self-image. Even the type of questioning can alter the information people will reveal. Asking someone how healthily they eat, compared to asking them how much junk food they eat, will produce widely different answers because of how you have prompted them. Although this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask people about their experiences, it does highlight the need to be very careful with our questioning, and to try to ensure that we prioritise observing behaviour in real-time, rather than relying on people’s memories or intentions,” says Helena.  

You’ve failed to recognise the factors that drive behaviour

Many marketers are unaware of, or falsely informed on, the areas they need to influence in order to drive change. 

“There is confusion over what a behaviour is,” says Helena. “Often we confuse the outcome of a behaviour with the behaviour itself.” For example, increased sales is not a behaviour, but the outcome of one. If you want to boost sales, you must find the behavioural trigger, or ‘determinant’ behind it . This seems obvious but is confused surprisingly often.

The route to, and cause of, customer behaviour

The table above shows examples of the route to, and cause of, customer behaviour. Determinants are the factors that influence behaviour, you need to understand what these are, and which are really important in influencing behaviour. The outcome is the effect of the behaviour to both the customer and the company. 

The three behavioural triggers 

According to Helena, all behaviours are driven by three key factors: motivation, capability and opportunity. “In trying to understand what is driving behaviour, you should ask whether the customer has the capability, motivation and opportunity to change it,” she confirms. “If you wish to influence an outcome you must tackle one, two, or all three of these areas together.”

Capability 

This applies to both the psychological or physical capacity to carry out a behaviour.

  • Physical capability: Skill, strength
  • Psychological capability: Knowledge, memory, skill

Opportunity 

The external physical or social factors that can prompt or inhibit a behaviour. 

  • Physical opportunities: Time, financial resources, access 
  • Social opportunities: Social and cultural norms  

Motivation 

The unconscious and conscious processes that push people into action. 

  • Automatic motivations: Emotions, impulses and habits 
  • Reflective motivations: Evaluations, plans, and beliefs

Putting the three triggers into action 

Imagining a scenario in which you need to convince customers to substitute an old product for a new and improved, but more expensive one, Helena proposes that you address the following areas. It should be noted that these are hypothetical issues, the key is to find those relevant to your own customers. 

Capability 

  • Knowledge: Do customers know the new products’ benefits? 
  • Skills: Do customers have the ability to use the product optimally? Do they need support or training? 

Opportunity

  • Social Influences: Do all (or the majority of the) key stakeholders see the merit in the new product?
  • Environmental context: Does the customer’ workspace and resource support the use of the product? 

Motivation

  • Emotion: How do the end users feel about the introduction of a product? 
  • Beliefs: Are there biases to the product, such as preference for another brand or the belief its cost doesn’t match its value?

The ethical guidelines

Cambridge Analytica’s incredible influence on political voting has clearly demonstrated the power of behavioural science – and also the extent to which such tools can be used to ill effect. As we’ve seen with the company’s demise, use of this power without the right governance is both hugely detrimental to the public and to the business itself. 

 Customers are now highly sensitive to hidden consent and their data rights – they recoil at the prospect of having their autonomy of choice taken from them. 

But as Helena says: “Nudges do not have to be covert, and consent does not have to be hidden. We can use science and evidence to make better choices, and to design products and services that actually satisfy consumer needs.

“There are many activities that can be improved by the application of behavioural science – early stage innovation, developing new – potentially radical communication strategies, rethinking customer experiences, voice of the consumer programmes, or asking employees to work differently,” she adds. 

There is currently no formal regulation on behavioural economics, which is in part why Helena and her team at Innovia have created the following guidelines on best practice.

Helen’s ethical code to behavioural science 

  1. Behavioural interventions built on untruths are unacceptable.
  2. Nudges that make it difficult for people to choose otherwise are unethical: people must have the freedom to choose differently.
  3. Behavioural interventions should be scrutinised for unintended, as well as intended, consequences.
  4. Consent should not be hidden: interventions should be transparent wherever possible.
  5. Practitioners should be comfortable to defend their approach, methods and motives in public.

The battle for talent: Why your clients want your staff

Paul Snell, Deputy Editor

B2B Marketing

In 2019, PwC consolidated its 33 marketing teams that were spread around the business into a single internal agency. These were divided into functional areas of specialism, including digital, content, campaigns and brand. Here, Lucy Birch, director of marketing and brand at PwC tells Paul Snell about the company’s appetite for all things agency – including its staff.

What is it you value about an agency’s ethos and work practices? 

Lucy Birch: “I’ve had the experience of working for an agency myself and can see how hugely valuable it was. The stint really developed me because working across different clients gives you much more diversity in terms of the types of challenges you face. It gives you a lot of softer skills, such as quickly getting a good understanding of the individual client’s needs, the dynamics of an organisation and the political pressures people are under. Working at an agency also made me much more commercially focused. There is better rigour and commerciality to your work when you know someone is paying you directly for the hours you’re putting in and the outputs you’re delivering. You don’t get that same level of pressure when you’re an in-house salaried employee. When I came back inhouse, talking about the clients I’d been working with externally definitely gave me more credibility. When I came to PwC, I continued bringing other people in from the agency world to ensure that flow of thinking, creativity and expertise into the business.

You switched from being client-side to an agency and back again. What made you do that?

When I was previously client-side, I couldn’t see how I would continue to learn, particularly in the digital space. I could see the direction of travel and that digital was going to become part of marketing, but where I was, the pace of change just didn’t seem fast enough.

The agency I went to was very focused on digital. My learning curve was enormous and daunting – but it was brilliant as it felt I’d gone back to school. I knew I needed to do that for the next stage of my career to be credible. It’s challenging when you go from an inhouse team where things are very stable, to an agency where you know exactly how much new business you need to win to pay people’s salaries. It’s a very different mindset.

After I got my head around it, I wished I’d known those skills while doing my previous job. It gave me a real injection of fresh innovation and inspiration. I was lucky PwC were open enough to try some of those things.

What roles have you hired ex-agency staff for?

I’ve bought in people at senior levels, so a lot of my heads of department are ex-agency. I’ve also recruited more technical people who have worked at marketing agencies in very specific roles within the digital team, for example, looking at digital channels or optimising our investment in marketing cloud. 

They bring a fresh perspective. They come in and say ‘why are you doing it like this?’. Sometimes there’s a good reason we’re doing it that way, but other times it makes us think ‘I don’t really know why’. They keep me fresh, because the longer I stay inhouse the more, inevitably, I go a little bit native. They also bring all the experience of working with other organisations and a confidence that change at pace is possible.

How do you attract agency staff to a client-side role?

The strength of the PwC brand gets us quite a long way there. Also, I think it’s about the tone I set in the team, keeping that entrepreneurial approach, being open to new ideas, and ensuring those coming in that their voice will be heard. The reason I’m bringing them in is to deliver something different.

There’s also stability. An organisation like PwC is able to be flexible on working hours and give people a little more balance around family commitments. It’s the right thing for different people at different times of their lives.

What are the biggest reservations for agency-staff moving client-side?

When I switched, I couldn’t get my head around the pace and why things took so long. It’s good for people to be restless and to want move faster, quicker and better. You don’t want to smash that out  of them by saying ‘this is just the way we do things’ – that’s the wrong answer from my perspective. You have to learn the art of patience, particularly in a partnership, where you have to bring people with you on the journey.

When you’re new, you have all these fresh ideas. Part of my job is to support people in being enabled to action them, to make others realise they have been brought in for a clear reason, and give them space to do that.

Not everyone will love the experience of coming inhouse, and vice versa, so a lot of it sits with the individual being honest about what they want in their next career move.

What have those former agency staff enabled PwC to do?

Our ex-agency staff have helped the rest of the team be braver because they bring experience of what’s worked elsewhere. People who’ve done different things can be used as a sounding board. The credibility they bring, in terms of prior experience and the clients they’ve worked with previously, can often cut through a very entrenched view, even of a senior stakeholder. 

In-house teams have been quite smart about how they use agencies because they could act as an external view. It’s not that they’re smarter, just that stakeholders are so used to working with their inhouse teams they look through them. Having ex-agency people at senior levels is also great as they are often technical specialists. I don’t think agency or inhouse is better, but it’s about playing to the strengths of both. Inhouse have that depth of knowledge and understanding of the organisation, and combining that with someone who’s come in from an agency is really powerful.

Would you suggest client-side marketers consider a switch to working at an agency?

I would absolutely encourage people to have a stint agency-side. My own development was hard, but so beneficial as it taught me things I didn’t really know existed and a different way of thinking.

How to stay ‘fit’ with your tech stack

Philippe Ruttens, B2B Marketing ROI Coach

Ruttens

For Philippe Ruttens, marketing is like fitness and health in that you want your ‘marketing’ team as fit as possible. This means regular check-ups through programmes, workshops and coaching. He uses this analogy with his clients often. While Phillippe gives CMOs this sort of advice on a daily basis through his own business, his B2B knowledge stems from years of marketing experiences. 

Philippe grew up in Belgium and studied information technology at the University of Namur in 1985. However, having always had an affinity for traveling, he decided to study international marketing at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, in 1990. 

He says: “I’ve always had a more analytical side to me, hence my IT degree, but there is such a creative side of marketing that always sparked my curiosity.”

After finishing university, his first job role was with a small company called Clarus Consulting. There were about 10 people in the whole company, the internet was just starting, and a majority of his work was offline. His job was to help senior marketing directors as a communications consultant manage marcom projects for European headquarters of US blue chip companies. 

Philippe says: “We were not talking about emails, websites and technology at the time. It was more about printed brochures, translations in 10 different languages, and printed newsletters. By working internationally for a city of people, and by working for a range of brands over my first three years, it helped me grow.”

From there, Philippe worked various roles, including senior marketing manager at Accenture, Mondex Mastercard International, and The House of Marketing. He’s also managed lead generation, telemarketing and online marketing for data service company, Iron Mountain, one of the first places he had ever set up marketing automation. 

While that marked a milestone in his work experience, one of his most rewarding roles was as an interim manager in global demand generation at World Courier, which was a game changer for his career. He saw firsthand the best setup of martech and salestech by using sales enablement.

Philippe said: “Not only were the tools and tech up-to-date and working well, the team was organised, the processes were efficient and it was a combined marketing and sales operation at its core. I could help as an interim manager to really accelerate the path using KPIs, and by changing our process by communications with, calls, meetings, and  business review. It was a moment of realising where marketing and sales need to be.”

This was the type of setting that inspired Philippe to start his own business as a B2B ROI marketing coach for Ruttens.com. After more than 25 years of B2B experience under his belt, he felt he had cultivated the right network, skills and motivation for a more entrepreneurial and independent approach to marketing technology and ROI.

He works with CMOs, CEOs and companies to help quantify the ROI of marketing and sales teams, by managing KPIs, developing a simpler dashboard, and working towards a maximum marketing performance.

Philippe says: “I think it’s important as a marketeer to really reassess yourself, change the way you operate and get out of your comfort zone. You need to put your thought leadership and expertise in terms of your personality and your values, and take some risks to save the market. However, you might not be there right now and need some guidance.”

Philippe’s top three tips for CMOs

  1. Approach your job like a consultant: Look at the first 100 days and apply a methodology that is devoted to a full analysis of your performance as a leader. Take on the external consultant mindset. 
  2. Get close to your board: Try to communicate the most with your board as much as possible, especially marketing and sales directors. You want to be the BFF of these two people. 
  3. Dare to lead: Many companies apply the same tactics over and over again, or hire an agency. Go outside the box, take on new habits and create the right experience for your stakeholders.

He says: “I often see agencies and companies working in their own silos. They’re missing the complete sales and marketing transformation, where they should be combining skills, adding to your team, and building a hybrid of both creative and analytical storytellers.”

While often witnessing misalignment between martech and salestech, he decided to use his positive experiences with World Courier to develop part of his programme for those seeking a more aligned team. When aligning the two, it often goes far beyond technology and comes down to people, process, and strategy as well. Philippe elaborates on these pillars.

The 3 three pillars for aligning martech and salestech

  1. People: This is the main aspect but is usually missing. Make sure you’re communicating with both sales and marketing over language, common goals and any changing behaviours. 
  2. Process: Make sure you have a complete assessment of where you want to be and the priorities and  targets for both marketing and sales.
  3. Strategy: Once you’ve assessed your process, you can create a roadmap towards an optimal digital marketing operation. You’ll then want to compile data and insights for your martech.

Although these steps might seem simple, few CMOs are able to analyse data and visualise insights, then turn them into revenue. 

4 effective practices for passing leads to sales

Kavita Singh, Junior Content Writer

B2B Marketing

You may know the frustration of handing over leads only for sales to ignore them. Here, Kavita Singh shares four tips for cultivating a seamless lead generation process.

Define the difference between MQLs and SQLs

Each company will define MQLs and SQLs differently depending on its model and customer lifecycle, however, a service level agreement (or SLA) is a great place to start. This document outlines how each party will serve and support the other, providing a general understanding of the rules of play. 

At technology investment banking company, Silver Peak, various SLAs are used to outline its process. According to EMEA field and channel marketing director James Houselander, leads must be touched within 48 hours and then again within 30 days. After 60 to 90 days, marketing determines whether a lead is going to convert into a meeting. 

During this process, an inside sales business development representative (BDR) manages inbound leads, which are then qualified through marketing. This sales role usually uses a cold email or cold call to approach qualified prospects. The objective is to set an appointment with a sales representative. However, they use different SLAs depending on where the lead came from. For example, they also use events to qualify leads, which will then go straight to sales, meaning they skip to sales much quicker.

Both definitions of an MQL and SQL should be outlined, along with these sorts of timeframes, including the exact point at which to pass an MQL or SQL over to sales. By doing this, you’re setting the foundation for your handover process.

Stop fixating on your targets

Once you’ve defined your MQLs, do not make exceptions to your SLA just to meet a target. While your marketing team might be encouraged to chase new leads and turn them into MQLs as soon as possible, this can mean funnels filled with useless leads. 

Matt Antos-Lewis, marketing director for Conversica, says: “When marketing and sales operate in silos, they’re not thinking of the bigger picture, they’re thinking of numbers. If you’re a marketer and you need to get 50 MQLs per month, you’re doing everything you can to get that, and it becomes a constant play for quantity over quality. I think that’s the most common source of misalignment, marketing rushing to hit this MQL target without considering the quality.”

He steers away from setting targets for the sake of ‘self-preservation’, and from operating in silos – sales will only push back saying those MQL’s are not ready. At Conversica, marketing and sales have weekly catch ups where they have more holistic conversations about MQLs, SQLs and how to turn them into opportunities. 

Matt says: “I can’t from the top of my head remember how many MQLs I've reached. It’s just not a figure we discuss. We have two or three weekly sales and marketing calls and include anyone who is involved in them. We talk about sales qualified opportunites (SQOs). If there’s something that we’re missing in our SQOs, we’ll go back into our MQLs and SQLs. That really helps with focusing on the quality.”

Take a look at your lead scoring process

Conversica has also been fine-tunning its lead scoring during the past year. Lead scoring can be used to determine the strong prospects from the weak, which is great because passing over a colder lead can be frustrating for sales. This also ensures marketing and sales focus on the appropriate accounts. 

He says: “It’s an ongoing process. We’re constantly looking at the leads that come through and where they’re getting stuck in the funnel, but we tend not to have any untouched leads because we use intelligent virtual assistants. So we’re constantly reviewing where leads might get stuck and adjusting our lead scoring.”

However, before your company gives lead scoring a go, consider whether there’s sufficient data for creating lead scoring values so that you can determine the right weights and measures. Also, note whether your representatives are overwhelmed with leads. If both of these are factors, then lead scoring might be the key for effectively passing over MQLs.  

Enable your sales team to be conversation ready

James from Silver Peak says: “Sales will have a preconceived expectation of the types of leads they want. However, marketing is becoming more revenue driven. It’s not just about getting leads; it’s about what turns into revenue and pipeline. Sales will generally have a good feeling that an MQL can be converted into an SQL, provided it’s done right.”

Besides harnessing a good relationship with sales, you need to support them in being ready to have an insightful and helpful conversation with the customer attached to the MQL. 

Managing Director EMEA at Highspot, Richard Langham has seen its marketing team shift gears from demand creation to supporting the sales process by using sales enablement tools. This has been the key to aligning their sales and marketing teams. His marketing teams can now provide sellers with content based on buyer engagement patterns, supporting sales in engaging buyers in a conversation.

Richard advises allowing sales to do the selling and prepare them with as much content and knowledge as possible to ensure a smooth transition for your MQL to an SQL or SQO. There’s always the danger of passing over an MQL too early, and this can be frustrating for sales when it’s simply not conversation ready. 

“Companies need to keep investing and optimising their lead generation process if they want to have healthy sales operations. Sales enablement is a key driver for this – it reduces the ad-hoc processes and gives representatives the content, guidance, training and tools they need to focus on buyers’ needs. People-centricity is key. If you nurture these relationships with the right content and tools, you'll have meaningful customer conversations that win deals,” He explains.

This approach will be key to optimising your lead generation process. By leaving the marketing team to focus on the customer journey, this supports sales in focusing on the selling, increasing both conversion and business ROI.

 

The emotional heart of a brand: secrets of the single-minded proposition

Iain Halpin, Head of Content

Enigma

Single-Minded Propositions (SMPs) such as Nike’s ‘Just do it,’ have long been associated with consumer branding. But, as IT products and services become commoditised, Enigma is finding that the SMP is increasingly front and centre in the way we take our clients to market. Iain Halpin, Enigma's ‘Head of Words’ describes the genesis of some SMPs and their value – and shares tips for creating them.

So, you’re working for a cloud-based provider of next-generation services. Or maybe they’re a disruptive AI-driven platform that’s accelerating digital transformation in your industry. Perhaps your approach to east-west security is rewriting the network security paradigm? Get in line!

Today, we have hyperscale cloud providers, the API economy and a VC community throwing cash at what it hopes will be the next big thing. There’s plenty of fish in the ocean – there were almost 12,000 start-ups in the UK alone last year. Your chances of having a genuine USP are slim to none.

Face it. What you (or your clients) do is boring. 

There are (at least) several companies that do pretty much what you do. (Or they know they can’t, but swear blind that they do.) And they’re targeting the same accounts with the same message. Probably with the same or similar results as you.

The good news? Despite the fact that your undifferentiated clients are going to market with ‘me-too’ propositions and generic messages, people are still buying their stuff. Why is that?

It’s a good question. Actually, the best. Why have they chosen to buy from (or stick with) you? What value do they see that is more than the sum of the product’s features? More than the benefits claimed in your DM copy? More than the promises made by your sales team?

What you do isn’t important. It’s what you do for your customers that counts.

So, how do you uncover that? You could do desk research. You could commission a mix of quantitative and qualitative research to understand market drivers. You could apply persona mapping to understand specific pain points affecting individual job roles within your target accounts.

Or you could talk to them.

I spoke to a customer of our Workplace Management and Analytics client, Over-C. He is operations lead at one of Ireland’s biggest rugby grounds. On every match day, 26,000 people cram into an area the size of a suburban car park. A series of legally mandated steps must be taken before he can open to the public. And, prior to using Over-C, he had no certainty that these steps had been carried out. He could only make a bunch of phone calls, receive a load of promises, cross his fingers and open the gates. As he explained, if all goes well, then these thousands of people go home having had a terrific matchday experience. I said, “Job done, right?”

“Wait a minute!”

Job Done. “Verb: to fulfil one's task, to do what one is required to do”. Over-C deploy sensors around a facility triggering workflows to ensure that individual activities are carried out. ‘Job done’: ‘something you say when someone has achieved something, especially when it seems easier or quicker than you expected.’ Over-C has a visual dashboard that consolidates all frontline activity onto a single view, making light of the complexity of facilities management. ‘Job done’ communicates a quiet confidence that is perfectly aligned with Over-C’s culture. The company consists of a bunch of supremely able folks, none of whom fit the description of ‘braggard’.

‘Job Done’ articulates Over-C’s proposition at a functional, benefit and emotional level. I presented ‘Job Done’ to Over-C: it was approved in minutes. My boss texted the client to find out how the workshop had gone. She replied, ‘Job done.’ The phrase became a company meme within days. I love it when a plan comes together.

The Spark

There’s always something that, if you look hard enough, will provide the clue you need.

Data Interconnect invested millions in a highly configurable Invoice-to-Cash (I2C) solution called Corrivo; they wanted Enigma to help them take it to market. Speaking to their customers, it was clear that the status quo was a mess. Invoices are generated by the sales team, processed by the finance team and chased up by a collections team. Communication is patchy, collaboration almost non-existent. Nothing is digitised and spreadsheets are the norm. ‘End of month’ is hugely stressful as teams scramble to ensure there’s enough cash to meet payroll. It’s chaos.

Corrivo provides exactly what the finance function needs: an automated, rule-based approach that streamlines Order-to-Cash (O2C) processes: Corrivo replaces clunky, disjointed and paper-based procedures with an integrated digital platform. It enables business to get paid faster, more efficiently and at a lower cost. It brings the entire I2C process under one roof. But it does something more. It allows finance leaders to ‘Take Control’.

‘Magic Eye’ pictures

It’s not always epiphanic. Remember Magic Eye pictures? These were lurid, almost psychedelic pictures whose shapes – if you looked at them in the right way – would resolve into 3D images. Sometimes, that’s how this process works. You assemble all the pieces and array them in front of you. Then you live with them – doing the washing up, in a hot tub. (I find water conducive to creative thought).

Eventually, through a process of osmosis, the idea will come to you. CirrusHQ asked us to ensure that their positioning reflected their status as one of the country’s leading AWS partners. I read that, in 2018 alone, AWS released almost 2,000 new features on its platform – each one of which could be transformational for their customers. That’s around 40 every week. Eight every working day! How do you stay current in the face of that kind of quickfire innovation?

In drafting the SMP, I had settled on the word, ‘always’ – which has AWS at its heart – and was searching for a combination of words to bring the proposition to life. CirrusHQ’s pure focus on AWS allows them to stay on top of all this of platform innovation. They constantly monitor clients’ workloads, optimising them for performance, availability and security. They aim to grow faster than the market over the next few years. Eventually, it dawned on me: ‘Always Ahead’ fitted them to a T. They agreed.

The gift that keeps on giving. 

Particularly for positioning projects, where key stakeholders have been involved in the process and have signed off the finished proposition, the agency is dining at the top table. You build strong relationships – and a detailed understanding of the client – in the course of doing the work. So, you are naturally positioned as a partner, and differentiated from other marketing ‘suppliers’.

The SMP binds employees to their company. Over-C’s CMO Riona Hegarty recently told me, “When we unveiled the value proposition and brand to the company, everyone was blown away. People were saying. ‘I’ve always been happy at Over-C but I’m now so proud to work for this company.’”

The SMP serves as an organising principle and usually has a whole hinterland of messaging to support it. So, it becomes a ‘North Star’ around which all communications activity can align. Done well, the SMP captures a company’s DNA and does most of the heavy lifting from a planning perspective.

It also streamlines campaign execution. The digital team can plan straight from the message house. Copy almost writes itself: in the case of Fischer Farms, the entire web site was written and approved almost without change in the space of a week. And the Studio have something with a bit of emotion to play with – much easier to come up with a creative hook for, ‘taking control’ than ‘configuration’! 

Crucially, not only does the SMP provide more fertile territory, but the outputs are more likely to be approved. One of my main takeaways from Doug Kessler’s presentation at b2B Ignite last year was this – the stronger the campaign rationale, the harder it is for clients to say ‘no’ to innovative campaigns.

Too frequently, studio teams submit ‘safe’ campaign ideas on the basis that this is all the client will approve. What we’ve found is that any campaign that is a legitimate execution of the SMP – no matter how ‘out there’ it might be – is given serious consideration.

What’s not to like about the SMP, right? So, how might you go about creating one?

5 tips for creating a meaningful SMP

  • 1. Look beyond the product:

    Marketing used to extol features. Then it talked about benefits. We need to move to an ‘empathy-based’ approach. Get into your customers’ shoes. How do you improve the quality of their lives? Do you want to lead with the virtues of a real-time dashboard? Or with the reassurance that comes from knowing that a difficult and potentially high-risk event ran like clockwork?
  • 2. Dig Deep:

    Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” The SMP needs to be explained simply. Talk to as many people as you can. Leaders. Customers. Analysts (e.g. Gartner, not a shrink). Partners. Anyone that can help you unlock the value. Know the industry. And the competitors. Understand the product or service. Keep your eyes open – inspiration can come from anywhere.
  • 3. Focus:

    If you try to be all things to all people, you’ll end up meaning nothing to anyone. What’s the one thing you want to hang your hat on? That will make you stand out. Make people pay attention? I’ve never given a client more than one SMP, never offered them a Plan B. There’s only one right answer. Be brave.
  • 4. Believe:

    The word credibility derives from the Latin, ‘credere’ – to believe. There is no credibility without belief – literally. If you want to present your ideas credibly, you have to believe in what you’re presenting. I am my SMP’s harshest critic. I interrogate it from all sides. I can overcome any objections. If I don’t believe in it, who will? (I’ve done this numerous times. No-one has ever said, ‘No.’)
  • 5. Give a s**t: It’s your project.

    It’s their job. It may even be their life’s work and their retirement plan. Have passion for what you’re doing on their behalf. They care – so should you. 

Any closing remarks? 

What you do may be boring. But what you can do for your customers is amazing. 

Remember that and you won’t go far wrong. 

 

B2B Marketing Podcast: Talking about Coronavirus messaging with David McGuire

Joel Harrison, Editor-In-Chief

B2B Marketing

 

B2B Marketing's editor-in-chief Joel Harrison spoke with creative director for Radix Communications David McGuire about some B2B buzzwords to avoid while discussing Coronavirus in your marketing messages.

B2B Marketing Podcast: Christine Bailey, CMO at Valitor

Molly Raycraft and Adam Harper,

B2B Marketing

 

This episode Molly and Adam were lucky enough to meet and chat to Dr Christine Bailey, Chief Marketing Officer for Valitor. If you’ve not heard of Valitor, then you’re probably not Icelandic.

Christine was a fantastic speaker at our Ignite event in June, so we had to get more insight from her for those people that missed out!

Christine took us through some of the challenges and exciting opportunities that come with transforming a brand that is already established into something more purposeful and ready to take on the world.

In addition, Christine provides insight into the differences between working at different sized businesses, how colour affects brand and how to keep an energised and inspired team.

The new entry for the book club this week is Marketing Rebellion by Mark Schaefer.