FIR B2B podcast episode #124: How to supercharge your website content

In today’s episode, we examine different ways you can supercharge your website content by using some time-tested strategies that we may intrinsically know but don’t always talk about.

The first reference is from an article in Entrepreneur Magazine about three big mistakes one consultant made when building a new site. The mistakes all revolve around not understanding a basic tenet: B2B requires quality, not quantity. He chose AdWords keywords that were too general and ended up spending money on clicks that didn’t generate any real leads. He didn’t understand that buyers need prompting to get further into his content and needed ways for potential customers to actually talk or chat in real time with someone who can get them more engaged and further up the marketing funnel. We suggest all sorts of improvements, including having a FAQ and using different content types, to increase engagement.


The second piece is from Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, who was our guest way back on episode 12.  He talks about the importance of using serialized content to capture more attention. We need to understand that generating demand is all about cultivating and nurturing your potential customers. Start with a content audit to see what material you have that can be collected and serialize. Also examine some of the leading sites that Brenner talks about in this post. Paul has plenty of other great suggestions that he mentions in this episode, and you might want to also buy his book to get further details.

You can listen to our 14 min. podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast episode #123: The differences between B2B and B2C marketing

This recent article in Forbes caught our attention because it neatly sums up some of the biggest differences between B2B and B2C marketing. Unlike many B2C decisions – which are based on emotion, preference or impulse – B2B decisions are practical, thoughtful and undergirded by data, or at least they should be. Among the implications of that:

  • Know the who, the why and the multiple decision makers in the chain;
  • Tell how you will make the business better;
  • Sell solutions, not features; and
  • Use personas and create a path to the purchase

Paul co-wrote a book a while back called Social Marketing to the Business Customer that touched on some of these points, and you might want to pick up a copy as they are still relevant.

One suggestion is to build an emotional attachment to the product, which isn’t always easy to do in B2B scenarios. However, buyers have a lot on the line, and that can give you an emotional connection.

ChiefMarketer.com tells how Caterpillar did that. Just because you sell big tractors doesn’t mean you can’t create a story that resonates with the community. People who drive tractors care about their work, so Caterpillar focused on the pride they take in what they do. Decisions aren’t just about features.

This story reminded us of this brilliant video Volvo produced several years ago to promote its tractor trailers. The appearance of Van Damme is unexpected, powerful and memorable, as evidenced by its 93 million views and the fact that we both recalled it eight years later.

Finally, one item that has nothing to do with trucks is the spillback a year after the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. A piece in eConsultancy talks about how the rules have benefited B2B marketers by helping them weed out bad practices, improve lead quality and better focus their companies’ marketing efforts.

Listen to our podcast here:

FIR B2B Podcast Episode #122: Why techies make for great speakers

For technology companies, the conventional wisdom is wrong when it comes to pitching a conference or webinar session. Instead of having your CMO or other C-suite executive tell your story, trust the technical people in your shop. Your audiences will thank you for it.

Here are some of the reasons:

  • Audiences want black-and-white issues. CMOs usually see the world in nuance and infinite shades of gray. Techies value certainty. Think Sheldon Cooper’s character.
  • Facts are an endangered species these days.  So who better to deliver facts that a techie?
  • Audiences want to hear stories. First-person experience from people on the front lines can deliver authenticity and credibility that the audience relates to.
  • Techies steer clear of self-promotion, which is the fastest turnoff for an audience.
  • Techies can be more effective at reaching potential customers precisely because they don’t try to promote or sell.
  • Techies can be trained to be good and sometimes great speakers. We have some tips for how to do it.

I wrote more about this for Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey. It is normally gated, but today you can read the post here.

FIR B2B podcast episode #121: Standouts from The Conference Board’s 2019 Excellence in Marketing & Communications Awards

Paul and I first met Jen McClure (left) more than a decade ago and shortly after she founded the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) in 2005. Jen, who has been a frequent guest on Shel Holtz’s FIR main podcast, was one of the first people to see the potential of social media in business communications. SNCR merged with The Conference Board three years ago, and fortunately the awards program Jen created at SNCR has continued as The Conference Board’s Excellence in Marketing & Communications Awards. This week we discuss three outstanding winners of the awards, which will be presented in New York City on June 26th, in conjunction with The Conference Board’s 24th Annual Corporate Communications Conference. Two of our picks are B2B.

  • SAP used Dynamic Signal to track and encourage employee engagement and brand advocacy. Staffers now share more than 15,000 social posts monthly and drive an impressive amount of traffic to the main SAP website.
  • Southern California Edison adopted Sprout Social’s chatbot technology to supplement the two staffers who respond to customers inquiries. The utility has not only increased the volume of questions it can field without adding staff but has maintained high satisfaction ratings and is now able to respond more quickly to major power outages. The project succeeded on all metrics.
  • Siemens used augmented and virtual reality technology to greatly expand the variety of equipment is can show at trade shows. These large and expensive machines are costly to ship and take up a lot of floor space. With AR/VR, Siemens was able to deliver a virtual experience that was in many ways better than a live demo.

Congratulations to these and all the other finalists and winners in this year’s awards program. The quality of entries keeps getting better every year. You can listen to our 16 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #120: Voice search, a survey rant and great tips for engaging mobile visitors

Paul Gillin kicks off with a short rant about the lack of rigor and news value of surveys, and how marketers should spend more time vetting their results to determine what questions/objections they’re likely to get. With the release next week of the Verizon Data Breach Report setting a high bar, it is a timely topic.

This week we saw a tweet from Chase bank that not only fell flat but incurred many folks’ antipathy. It was so tone deaf that it was hard to even understand how the bank could have put it out there. This incident, combined with the offensive NY Times International edition political cartoon that was published last week,  reinforces the need to be more careful about what your brand shares socially.

Speaking of social shares, this article by Bloomberg’s BHive research outfit has a lot to say about ways they found to increase the sharing of their news articles from mobile devices. As more and more news is read on these devices, content providers have to do a better job of not cluttering up  small screens with extraneous ads and other diversions. Bloomberg was able to improve engagement by a significant amount with just doing a few simple tweaks to their stories. One key point: They interviewed actual readers.

The Workamajig blog’s post on how Voice Search is Changing B2B Marketing (And What You Can Do About It) is well worth your time. Consider that voice searches are by definition conversational. People don’t speak in keywords. They ask “What’s the height of the Empire State building?” not “Empire State building height”. Voice opens up new opportunities for content marketing. Republishing your content as an Alexa skill, for instance, can bring you a whole new set of listeners. In fact, if you look at the best reviewed Business & Finance skills on the Alexa store right now, you’ll see content-focused skills dominate the list. David met one vendor called VoiceXP that can help you create your own voice apps. Clearly this will grow in importance in the near future.

Finally, we note this analysis by our colleague Mike Vizard in the Barracuda blog about how the Russian hacking of the DNC back in 2016 went down, as documented in the Mueller report. It all started with a spear phishing email. You have been warned. listen to our 17min episode here:

FIR B2B podcast #119: Our favorite email newsletter tips

Paul Gillin and I are old hands at email newsletters. Paul had his own for several years and has produced several for his clients. I currently publish two: my own Web Informant, which I have been doing almost weekly since 2003, and Inside Security which is part of a group of newsletters. We share a few tips from our years of experience.

The first is to know your audience and segment them for best results. This post in Marketing Week documents how marketers are segmenting the audiences at a much finer level than they previously did thanks to an explosion in behavioral data from third parties. One bottled water vendor was able to dramatically boost the response rate of its YouTube ads with an email newsletter sliced by 16 different segments. The survey found that behavior and location are the most effective segmentation methods, with the old stalwarts like age and gender being the least effective.

We discuss how to craft your subject line and choose a coherent theme as well as how to pick the optimal length and number of hyperlinks to include. If you do use links, beware of URL shortening services, since many as spam filters block them. There’s also the question of whether to make your newsletters text-only or to go the HTML route. If you choose the latter, be sure to test each newsletter with different browsers and different screen depths. Finally, we cover how to choose the right tool for the mailings. We’ve used a variety of them over the years, and each has different strengths and weaknesses. Some of these topics are mentioned in this piece for Marketing360.

We’d love to hear from you about your favorite email newsletters and tips for creating your own. You can listen to our 16 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #118: Customers as advocates, ODI progress and why you need a style guide

We have a trio of discussion items on this week’s podcast with myself and Paul Gillin. The first is from DigitalCommerce360 and concerns how customers should be your best advocates at building your brand identity and promoting your company. Marketers who focus on improving the customer experience and figuring out ways to regularly listen to customers’ desires and complaints can benefit from low-cost and powerful word-of-mouth promotion. So why don’t more B2B marketers have programs aimed at loyal customers?

Late last month there was some progress to report on the Open Data Initiative, a standards effort launched last fall that seeks to create a standard for the interchange of marketing data. Sounds boring, but with marketers spending more on analytics than IT organizations these days, we thing it’s important. Executives from Adobe, Microsoft and SAP just gave more details about how the three will standardize interfaces among their products to help common customers get a clearer view of their customers without going through a lot of messy data transformation. The trio also announced a slew of VAR partners that will support ODI. But the list was also notable for the big companies that weren’t there, like Oracle, Salesforce.com and marketing automation vendors.

Our final item is How to Create a Style Guide for Content Marketing. Too often marketers jump in to content programs without laying the groundwork for a consistent style and direction for their blogs and websites. Having a solid style guide isn’t just about where to place your commas but the right tone of voice and point of view that your authors should take. There is a lot of good advice in this piece.

You can listen to our 14 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B #117: Alternatives to Facebook

The short answer is yes, and we explore the various dimensions of The Facebook Problem in this week’s podcast. First we touch on the swirl of commentary about Zuck’s latest pronouncement that the company will combine Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram into a single, unified product. Is there a business model in there somewhere, or is this just wishful thinking? Some analysts have already said that the era of Facebook’s News Feed is now officially over. We aren’t so sure, but we agreed that Facebook has become mostly a waste of time. There are some other business-oriented networks that we think have more value, including Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, Alignable and Spiceworks. We’ve found all to be more fertile hunting grounds for business marketers. We also have advice about how to choose and test among those sites. 

We recorded this episode just before Brian Krebs revealed that Facebook exposed hundreds of millions of user passwords to more than 20,000 employees for years. It is certainly a sad state of affairs.

One final thought about Facebook: Reuben Arnold, Starbucks’ vice-president of marketing and product in EMEA, said he wants to  have deeper conversations with some of its customers and promote its brand using private groups and private accounts on social media channels. Maybe this is an alternative to just posting to the greater universe. We’ll see. 

But wait, there is more. We like this post about whether it’s time to go back to taking notes with pen and paper. How many of those people tapping away on their laptops during a meeting are doing something related to the meeting? You know the answer. Maybe it’s time to ban the laptops and aim for shorter meetings instead. 

We also discuss a recent news item about how execs from the UK-based convenience store Tesco are frustrated that the company is having to spend an increasing amount of money on ensuring its advertising doesn’t appear next to inappropriate content and believe publishers should foot more of the bill. It used to be that publishers protected their advertisers from this kind of embarrassment, but in a world dominated by algorithms, anything goes.  

Finally, there was a charming story earlier this month about a handwritten note to the CEO of Quantas from a 10-year-old boy who wanted to start his own airline. The airline posted the kid’s letter and a welcoming reply from CEO Alan Joyce, who commented, “Our competitors don’t normally ask us for advice, but when an airline leader reached out, we couldn’t ignore it.” The story is more than charming though: it is a lesson about how a light touch and a sense of humor can go a long way towards promoting your brand, in this case to the tune of nearly 30,000 retweets.

You can listen to our 19 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B Podcast #116: If AI is Becoming So Good, Why Are We Still Counting Clicks?

In this fast-paced episode my podcasting partner Paul Gillin and I offer five different news stories that bracket the B2B marketing world. First up is this piece about neural storytelling and how AI is attempting to create content with machine learning algorithms. This kind of technology has some important implications and not because it promises to replace humans. In the news recently is this story about the OpenAI text generator called GPT2. Its creators were afraid that its work could generate spam and fake news so effectively that they’ve chosen not to release the full-strength version to developers. That’s either a little unsettling or a great PR stunt.

Next is a story about how clicks are an “unreliable seismograph” for a news article’s value, combined with new research to back up that conclusion. We all seek out stories that amuse and entertain us, but a good news site contains a nice mix of the serious and the bizarre. As serious readers, we need to seek out stories of civic value, not just the latest celebrity clickbait. The article, which was prepared by Neiman Lab, also notes that the word “personalization” has become a big negative, because folks think this means “ads will follow your browsing forever” rather than customizing content for a reader’s taste and preferences.

We move on to a piece that is almost blindingly obvious, but a great checklist to help marketers understand how to influence the B2B decision-making processIt proposes five simple questions to ask your prospective customers, such as where they start their search for content, what kinds of information they look for and what sites they employ. Answering these questions takes just a few minutes and can be give marketers a useful starting point for a lead-generation campaign.

We also found this piece on Marketing Week that talks about a recent series of decisions by MasterCard to both eliminate text from their logo (as at left)  and use “sonic branding” to help with voice assistants and audio sound-enabled devices. This company is smart is getting ahead of the voice assistant phenomenon and figuring out branding in this new medium.

Speaking of audio, our final piece is a study that suggests that podcast ads outperform TV ads. The study found that the two are equivalent in terms of being memorable and resonating with audiences. Podcast advertising can be particularly effective when the host lends legitimacy by giving a personal pitch for the product, which is becoming the norm in that medium.

You can listen to our 14 and a half minute podcast here:

FIR B2B episode #115: Social Media Adoption Over the Years – the Latest from the Annual UMass Survey

Nora Ganim Barnes, Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.Today Paul Gillin and I talk to Nora Ganim Barnes, Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, about her latest survey of corporate social media usage. Barnes has been surveying two distinct populations for the past 12 years – the INC 500 and the Fortune 500 – to ascertain what social media platforms they use, how they use them and how they measure results. Her students visit the websites of all 1,000 companies measured and augment the research with telephone interviews.

For the first time in nine years, more F500 are using blogs than the INC 500, and the increase has been substantial in just the past three years (see chart below), jumping from 21% in 2015 to 53% in the most recent survey. Clearly, the largest companies have reclaimed blogging and are using their blogs to tell stories and better craft their marketing messages.

Barnes found that Twitter occupies an odd place in the social media pantheon: it is well used (with 369 out of 500 companies running active accounts), but not considered very effective. Still, companies don’t abandon Twitter, perhaps out of fear of missing out or the possibility that they might need it at some point.

What has also changed is that 56% of INC 500 execs are now doing a better job of listening on social media, tracking online conversations about their brands and products with various monitoring tools. That is a big increase from last year, when it was about half that number.

This year Barnes’ research  found a big concern about privacy, which is probably not surprising given the numerous breaches and missteps by Facebook and others in this area. Privacy was executives’ second biggest concern behind social ROI.

Finally, her survey saw double the firms who have formulated a social media plan from last year.  Although the overall percentage is still less than a quarter of the total, that’s progress.

You can download the UMass surveys at the link above, both the current ones and in year’s past. They are a rich resource that all corporate marketing departments should carefully examine.

You can listen to our 21 min. podcast here: