FIR B2B podcast #127: B2B SEO Secrets With Charley Spektor – Part 1

For the next two weeks we talk with Charley Spektor, principal at Saratoga B2B Group. Charley and his partner, veteran tech writer Paul Desmond, bring clients the one-two punch of SEO and content expertise for B2B lead generation. Charley was formerly lead managing consultant at Stone Temple Consulting for Home Depot, which has been one of the few great success stories of a brick-and-mortar retailer embracing e-commerce. In these two podcasts, we discuss what are the elements of success in a discipline that changes constantly, how B2B buyers use search differently than consumers and how even small companies can dominate search results if they pick their targets carefully. Read this this blog post about two recent Saratoga B2B customer success stories for further background on the case studies we discuss.

Listen to part 1 here.

FIR B2B podcast episode #126: unintended consequences

This week Paul Gillin and I discuss three examples of unintended consequences for B2B marketers that showed up in recent business marketing literature. Our first piece, which appeared in B2BMarketing.net, highlights recent survey by Acoustic that found a jump in email open and click-through rates in the past year – and in some cases a pretty substantial jump – thanks to new privacy regulations in the EU and elsewhere. The rules have forced marketers to hone their messages and to produce more precise email campaigns, which has resulted in better engagement with recipients. Talk about silver linings!

Next, we found a year-old survey from the British Marketing Week that found the influence of the marketing organization drops as brand value grows. This could be caused by several factors, including not understanding how customer acquisition and retention work or the fact that many marketers are still loath to employ data-driven technologies.

Finally, Inc. looks at a Harvard study about the unintended consequences of doling out awards to your staff. The researchers found that awards can have the revenge effect of actually de-motivating employees. Reasons include the unintended social cost of being singled out or employees slacking off once they realize they’re exceeding expectations. Businesses need to consider the reason people do the things they do and dig deeper to find out rewards that have more than just recognition value.

This could be an underlying reason why Facebook is thinking about hiding the “Like” counts on its posts, according to TechCrunch. Facebook says it wants to protect users from envy and dissuade them from self-censorship.

You can listen to our 13 min. podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast #125: Buyer Personas: Why They Matter; How to Create Them

We’re joined by Matthew Naffah, VP of Strategy at International Data Group, who has has been involved in developing buyer personas for many B2B clients. Personas have been around almost as long as the web itself, but lately they are taking on a more important role, particularly as buyers become more empowered in the buying decision.

Matt tell us about how to get started with building the right personas and understanding the level of details that are ideal, and you can err on the side of including too much or too little detail. He also talks about some of the more common mistakes marketers make in creating them.

Personas are most useful when used in conjunction with buyer journeys and content mapping. You need to nurture, adapt and grow all three elements interactively to optimize the experience for your potential customer base. You’ll also want to heed his advice when it comes time to get your management involved to renew and refund your marketing project too.

Here are some resources to check out:

You can listen to our podcast here:

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: