Social Media Platforms Must Tackle “Fake” Inbound Traffic Menace Before It Infiltrates the B2B Domain!

Facebook, social media’s biggest platform, is facing a crisis of confidence right now. This crisis reached a notable milestone last week, when Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, finally admitted in a September 27, 2017 post:

“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.”

Mr. Zuckerberg’s sort of mea culpa came towards the end of a month that saw momentum building against social media platforms regarding their role in propagating “fake news” from foreign media sources during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In fact, in a September 22nd interview on MSNBC, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia reiterated his long-standing concerns with respect to Russian use of Facebook ads to influence our 2016 election.

On the same day as Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, Luke Darby of GQ, wrote in an article titled, “Russian Trolls Didn’t Just Flood Facebook with Fake News—They Faked the Accounts of Real Organizations”:

“As Facebook is turning over information on Russian-bought ads to Congress, it’s becoming clear that the disinformation campaign was much more sophisticated than just spreading fake stories about the Clintons killing an FBI agent. Predictably, the ads drove racist and anti-immigrant talking points…”

Sadly, Mr. Darby came to a distressing conclusion:

“In any event, the scope of Russian disinformation on Facebook is staggering, and the revelations are only just starting.”

Steve Kovach then reported in his October 2, 2017 Business Insider post, “Facebook’s response to fake Russian ads is not going to cut it”:

“Facebook doesn’t just have a fake news problem. It also has a fake ads problem.”

Mr. Kovach went on to conclude:

“Right now, Facebook is basically asking the public to trust an organization that has shown no desire to fix its fundamental problems until after a major screwup. That’s unacceptable.”

Mr. Kovach’s conclusion appears to have been vindicated by some of the social media coverage of the horrendous tragedy in Las Vegas. Kathleen Chaykowski of Forbes revealed in her October 2, 2017 report titled, “Facebook And Google Still Have A ‘Fake News’ Problem, Las Vegas Shooting Reveals”:

“Facebook searches for the name of the misidentified suspect on Monday generated a number of fake news results, and the social network’s “Trending Topic” page for the shooting directed users toward more false reports, including stories by Russian propaganda site Sputnik with headlines such as “FBI Says Las Vegas Shooter Has Connection With Daesh Terror Group,” which should have been spotted for review by a human moderator.”

And, Ms. Chaykowski concludes:

“The prominence of false stories after Sunday night’s shooting highlights the urgency of the platforms’ fake news problem and makes it clear the need for more human moderation isn’t going away anytime soon.”

So what does all of this fakery have to do with marketing, specifically, social media marketing in the B2B domain? The credibility of a social media channel is extremely important to any business, whether it’s B2B, B2C or B2G. Social media platforms might argue that the “fake news” and “fake ads” phenomena were largely focused on consumer accounts in specific geopolitical segments. However, they simply cannot guarantee that the pernicious use of bots, fake accounts and fake ads won’t go on to corrupt commercial accounts, if they haven’t begun to already? If a business cannot rely on the authenticity of a marketing channel, it will stop using that channel for advertising, content marketing, thought leadership, and et al.

Thus, it is imperative that Facebook, Google and Twitter re-establish the sanctity of their respective social media platforms for continued use as necessary marketing and revenue-generating tools in the business world. If companies have reason to start doubting the veracity of their CPM numbers, Likes, comments, video views, etc. on social media platforms, it will cause a huge problem in the overall inbound marketing business model. Social media platforms need to ensure that the “fake” does not get baked into their “B2B customer pages” cake, which could begin as innocuously as with the robotic dissemination of competitor disinformation.  In fact, everyone in business and politics knows that the longer perceptions linger, the more likely they are to be deemed as reality.   If fake traffic is not eliminated or at least seriously curtailed on social media platforms, Facebook could begin to be perceived as Fakebook, Twitter as Counterfeiter, and Google as whatever – as puerile as these monikers might seem, one of them is already gaining steam in news media circles. And, as tennis star, Andre Agassi, used to say in the old Canon ad, “Image is everything.”

The bottom line is we all need to ensure that we conduct our businesses in a truthful and transparent manner. As this article goes to press, news reports indicate that Facebook and Twitter have both agreed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1, 2017 and testify publicly as part of a congressional probe into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.   Let’s hope that their collective testimony, including that of Google at some point, stops the reputational damage of social media platforms as marketing tools. Social media marketing’s role in a B2B’s revenue performance management (RPM) lifecycle is barely in the early majority phase of the technology adoption life cycle. So it would be disastrous if today’s integrated sales-marketing funnel were to be adversely impacted by a diminishing of social media marketing’s critical role in the RPM lifecycle. It’s time to put the brake on the fake – let’s keep it real in the B2B world!

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The Art of the Deal for B2B Content Marketers—Make It Personal!


Which came first – the chicken or the egg? People have argued convincingly on both sides of this age-old paradox and never reached a consensus. Well, if Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing World is right, content marketers seem to be facing a similar quandary these days: Which comes first – the content or the audience, i.e., the consumer of the content?

As a content marketer, The Marketing Id was a little surprised by one of the top takeaways in LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog post, “5 Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2017.” Per Sean Callahan, author of the blog post, Mr. Pulizzi, declared in his opening remarks at that event:

“The focus on content marketing should be on building an audience first, then expanding what you can sell to them.”

The inference seems to be that a business enterprise, which has previously built an audience by selling an earlier product and/or service, should now focus on expanding that audience through content marketing before selling anything new. This seemed a little like putting the cart (expanded audience) before the horse (new product and/or service) to us at The Marketing Id. Mr. Pulizzi went on to back up his declaration with examples of George Lucas of Star Wars fame (probably as his B2C example) and Arrow Electronics, which acquired EE Times, as his B2B model.

It is pertinent to point out that Mr. Lucas first created his awesome Stars Wars content, which then generated a tremendous worldwide audience. Also, the EE Times kept creating compelling content that accrued an audience. Arrow Electronics simply acquired this audience that EE Times’ content had painstakingly accumulated over the years. The point being only few large businesses are really capable of “building an audience” through the acquisition of content producers, who had previously nurtured that audience.  For most of the remaining large, medium and small B2Bs and B2Cs, they simply have to develop their own content first. If that content is desirable, the audiences will follow.

Content marketers are often confronted with a “Field of Dreams” scenario, “If you build it, they will come.” In this reference, it’s the remarkable content or thought leadership that needs to be “built” first, because an audience will always consume content that is pertinent to its needs. In fact, The Marketing Id had made this very connection between content and content marketing in its July 2014 blog post, “Hey B2Bs, If Content is King, Content Marketing is Your Ace!” So let’s not put the cart (the audience) before the horse (content) for all marketers just because a few well-known brands have an audience already at their command. Besides, Mr. Pulizzi must know that Star Wars is a unique phenomenon that is not easily replicated. For example, even Johnny Depp’s long-standing “Pirates of the Caribbean” audience could not entirely fathom his role in “The Lone Ranger.” So even if Mr. Depp’s producers were seeking to expand his audience prior to the release of “The Lone Ranger,” box office numbers suggest that his audience may have actually shrunk after its release.

Nonetheless, The Marketing Id is in agreement with the other takeaways from Content Marketing World 2017, especially the one based on the opening keynote given by Linda Boff, General Electric CMO, who asserted that GE uses its content to find the “human in the digital.” Per Mr. Callahan’s post:

“Boff said that the company focuses on telling stories, a construct that humans love and respond to. ‘We tell stories to inspire, and we tell stories to reach audiences,’ she said, adding: ‘Show up as a person. Don’t show up as a big company. People relate to people.’”

Mr. Callahan summarized this takeaway succinctly as, “It’s not B2B; it’s human to human,” which was most likely a reference from Bryan Kramer’s 2015 book, “There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human #H2H.” Yes, indeed, content marketing should also be about more human-to-human contact, especially in the B2B domain. In fact, in the B2B space, as is taken for granted in the B2C space, the concept about buyer personas is largely about identifying representative “human” personas to sell directly to at a targeted Business. However, the key selling attribute is that the seller side of the B2B needs to be a “human” as well – not a company just trying to peddle its wares.

The Marketing Id has long promoted a simple encapsulation of content marketing as  “Marketing the Right Content to the Right Entities at the Right Time using the Right Channels.” But it’s important for the content marketer, in both B2B and B2C domains, to make content marketing feel as human to human as possible! This does not imply personalizing every piece of content; it simply means that throughout the customer life cycle, content marketers should remember to insert a human interface, especially into their marketing automation campaigns, as necessary. During the MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) phase, it could be someone from the marketing team and during the SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) phase, this already happens with the sales rep that owns the lead.

As we are about to go to press, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog’s September 17, 2017 post, “7 Key Trends Determining the Future of B2B Marketing,” has a couple of encouraging shout outs to content marketing. In “The Hidden ROI of Thought Leadership” trend, author Mike Weir reveals, “41% of CEOs said that after reading a thought leadership piece they included a company in an RFP process.” Then, in the “Marketing Metrics Are Changing” trend, he quotes a popular metrics axiom, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” And Mr. Weir goes on to make these significant funnel lifecycle suggestions:

“For instance, we should allow cost-per-click and click-through rate to fall by the wayside for more significant metrics that measure the actual contribution of marketing throughout the funnel. In the upper funnel, for example, marketers should measure brand awareness. In the mid-funnel, we should measure content engagement. And in the lower funnel, we should measure lead generation and sales conversion — both of which give a window on marketing’s very real contribution to revenue.”

So there you have it content marketers, your path to success gets better-defined everyday. What better way to end than with a reference to memorable content – in the 1972 film classic, “The Godfather,” Michael Corleone utters this famous line to his elder brother, Sonny Corleone:

“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

Well, content marketers need to turn that sentiment upside down by making it personal in their B2B marketing efforts because, if they don’t, that lead is not going to progress rapidly through the funnel towards a deal. And, to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump, “the art of the deal” is also about making it personal on the content marketing side!

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Software-Defined – Wide Area Network (SD-WAN): the Super-Duper WAN!

Digital Information Stream

Image: Courtesy NASA

ReportBuyer’s press release dated April 24, 2017, “SD-WAN Market Size Forecasts to grow from USD 738.9 million in 2016 to reach USD 9,066.2 million by 2021,” estimates a 65.11% Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for SD-WAN over the next five years with the managed services segment “expected to have the largest market share during the forecast period.”

Mike Wood, VP of marketing at VeloCloud, in an interview with RCR Wireless News published April 25, 2017 says, “Adoption of SD-WAN has reached an inflection point.” Mr. Wood claims that deployments between the telecom space and the enterprise space is “is approximately 60% enterprise and 40% service provider/telecom, but this is shifting to 50/50.”

So the race is on and SD-WAN has become the hottest new thing in the IT networking space. Everyone in telecom, networking, cloud services, managed services and what have you is getting on board. Even Hughes Network Systems, the global leader in satellite broadband for home and office, jumped on the SD-WAN bandwagon with its January 19, 2017 press release, “Hughes Launches Fully Managed SD-WAN Solution for Distributed Organizations.” It appeared to be a managed services overlay, but it’s one that gets you in the game.

Even before the arrival of the commercial Internet in the mid-1990s, Sun Microsystems’ prescient tagline was “The network is the computer.” But it was only couple decades later after the public Internet penetrated the enterprise WAN with an assortment of must-have XaaS services and applications via the cloud that private corporate networks were forced to reckon with the ubiquity of the public Internet as part of their overall infrastructure for anyplace, anytime computing.

Since then there has been a growing recognition that private MPLS-based WAN infrastructure is not optimum for cloud-based services. In fact, notwithstanding the intrusion of cloud-based services, it’s an accepted fact that the weakest link in the underlying network is usually the static, fragile hardware layer regardless of the transport protocol it deploys. But now a software-defined overlay has revolutionized WANs over the past few years and the increasing impact of SD-WAN is being felt in the enterprise and telecom space making SD-WAN an imperative need.

To help us better understand this rapidly growing phenomenon, Aryaka released a whitepaper, “Top 5 SD-WAN Myths—Busted,” which is a must read. Nonetheless, these myths are listed here for the benefit of readers and they can dig deeper into the “why” for each myth by downloading the whitepaper:

  • Myth #1: All SD-WAN vendors are WAN providers.
  • Myth #2: SD-WAN is synonymous with Hybrid WAN.
  • Myth #3: SD-WAN is similar to WAN Optimization.
  • Myth #4: All SD-WAN providers reduce network costs.
  • Myth #5: All SD-WAN solutions enable global enterprise expansion and cloud migration.

These myths deserve to be debunked, even as a bigger myth proliferates – the one that pits MPLS vs. SD-WAN, as if the latter is all set to replace the former. Now unless an enterprise has no private MPLS-based WAN infrastructure, leased or owned, and has moved everything to the cloud – this is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

However, as more and more businesses, especially organizations with multiple locations and remote branches, start using cloud services such as, Salesforce, Microsoft Office365, Box, Google Apps and Amazon Web Services, as part of their daily business modus operandi, SD-WAN becomes more and more relevant. But customers have to be careful, as not all SD-WAN providers are created equal, as the Aryaka whitepaper points out.

Also, in its April 17, 2017 article, “Tips and tricks for a successful SD-WAN,” Network World notes:

“SD-WAN adopters can turn to any transport protocol — 3G, 4G LTE, MPLS, Internet or Wi-Fi — to provide the best cost and performance benefits for specific applications.”

The article goes on to cite a few successful deployments, including Borrego Health, whose CIO notes, “IT management tends to assume that implementing SD-WAN has to be either a rip-and-replace project or significantly disruptive to deploy. We found it to be quite the opposite of that.”

Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research in his March 29, 2017 NoJitter post, “SD-WAN Value: More Than Cost Savings,” points out that SD-WAN offers a lot more value beyond cost savings. These are listed here for quick reference but are explained in more detail in his post:

  • Ability to handle “brown outs.”
  • Centralized configuration.
  • Networkers become orchestrateable.
  • Zero touch provisioning.
  • Direct cloud connectivity.
  • Operationally simpler.

The SD-WAN debate has shifted from its indispensability in enterprise WANs to its ability to handle security at the enterprise grade level, especially at the network edge and at remote branches served by disparate ISPs. As if on cue, the aforementioned Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN™ company made this announcement on April 11, 2017: “VeloCloud Introduces Comprehensive SD-WAN Security Ecosystem to Protect SD-WAN Users’ Branch, Data Center and Cloud Networks.”

VeloCloud’s SD-WAN Security Technology Partner Program includes security industry leaders, such as, IBM Security, Check Point Software Technologies, Fortinet, and Zscaler, blending its flexible enterprise SD-WAN architecture with some of the world’s premier security solutions. So a marker has been laid for security in the burgeoning SD-WAN market.

Back in May 2014, The Marketing Id had defined the E = MC6 ecosystem and the evolution of the social Enterprise – one that supports Mobile, Customer-centric, Cyber-secure, Cloud-based, Communications, Collaboration & Content. The evolution of SD-WAN further ensures that the social Enterprise is now a more secure, rapidly scalable, and surprisingly flexible WAN environment than it has ever been. With a potential $9 billion market looming over the horizon, it is no wonder marketers have a nickname for SD-WAN: the Super-Duper WAN. Let’s hope SD-WAN turns out to be all that it is cracked up to be!

 

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For Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Marketing is the Tipping Point!

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In its September 2016 report, “Managed Services Market by Data Center (Hosting, Colocation, and Storage), Infrastructure (Print Services, Desktop, Inventory), Networking (Remote Monitoring, MPLS, VPNS), Information, Mobility, Communications, and Security – Global Forecast to 2021,” MarketsandMarkets predicted that the managed services market would grow from $145.33 billion in 2016 to $242.45 billion by 2021 at a 10.8 percent CAGR!

Is it any wonder that Managed Services Providers, or MSPs as they are commonly called, have been proliferating and the competition to differentiate oneself is heating up as well? And yet, as recently as 2014, only 3 in 10 organizations used an MSP for their IT needs, according to Carolyn April, Senior Director – Industry Analysis, at CompTIA. But that was then and this is now, as MSPs compete with each other to grab more and more of the IT pie. The standard MSP fare – customer relationship management (CRM) applications, backup and recovery services, email hosting, and network monitoring – are no longer attractive, financially and otherwise, as companies are increasingly able to pick these services easily off a menu of options through the ever expanding “…-as-a-Service” Cloud operators.

It is thus that a more recent June 2016 CompTIA report, “Fifth Annual Trends in Managed Services” found cloud computing, cited by 62 percent of companies, “topping the list of things that keep MSPs awake at night.”

Ms. April of CompTIA further noted in the above referenced press release announcing the availability of this report:

“Naturally occurring market commoditization accounts for a portion of slimming margins, but some of the blame also falls on MSPs themselves, many of whom continue to compete with one another solely on pricing.”

Thus it becomes incumbent on MSPs to differentiate themselves either through a focus on specific vertical markets or specializing in the premier “ABCD” of IT prowess – Advanced Application Monitoring, Business Intelligence, Cybersecurity, and Data Analytics.

But even if MSPs managed to differentiate themselves along these lines, there still remains the issue of driving sales with the perennial “Cloud” hanging over MSPs? Sonian, a pioneer in cloud-based email archiving, recently surveyed a wide range of MSPs and its founder and CTO, Greg Arnette, presented the survey findings in an online slideshow, “Top Managed Service Provider Trends and Challenges.” From among Sonian’s various conclusions, nearly 6 in 10 survey respondents agreed that finding go-to-market partners needs to be a primary area of focus for MSPs. This was borne out in another of its findings, which showed that more than 95 percent of MSPs believed that their partners provide adequate resources to help sell and support their products.

However, depending on partnerships is not the only key to success for MSPs. In a December 13, 2016 blog post, “Is Your Managed Services Business Running Into These 5 Problems?Continuum’s Director of Technical Account Management, Ray Vrabel, stresses that MSPs should be marketing their business as well. Mr. Vrabel says:

“Marketing goes hand-in-hand with selling. Having a sales team with no marketing counterpart is like having wide receivers with no quarterback.”

The Marketing Id could not have stated it better. Mr. Vrabel recommends leveraging “inbound marketing techniques and channels to find and engage new prospects” and remembering, “networking is key.” In fact, The Marketing Id’s mantra of “Marketing the Right Content to the Right Entities at the Right Time using the Right Channels” needs to be adopted by MSPs as gospel. Because when it comes to communicating the benefits of managed services to end users, especially one’s competitive advantage in specific verticals or one’s unique selling points (USPs) in the aforementioned ABCD technical domain, MSP’s appear to be lacking adequate marketing skills to sufficiently engage their prospects.

Complex technological solutions require simple marketing explanations. From partner propositions that reassure internal IT departments of a need for their ongoing complementary role to the development of must-have USPs, and benefits and value messaging, MSPs must make this winning proposition to the end user:

MSPs are the optimum choice when it comes to offering holistic IT solutions, including Cloud transparency, where required.

And, for MSPs, marketing is clearly going to provide the tipping point towards capturing a bigger slice of that rapidly expanding managed services market!

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Content Marketing, Sponsored Content and Native Advertising

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If you think that the wall, which separates the news from opinion in broadcast and print media, has been crumbling in the past decade or more, then sponsored content or native advertising is definitely not your cup of tea. HBO’s John Oliver in a “Last Week Tonight” segment dating back to August 3, 2014 had eviscerated this burgeoning concept taking hold in the broader publishing industry.  In fact, one has to be very careful using traditional monikers of publishing, advertising and distribution in this evolving scenario, as these roles have become increasingly intertwined in the digital world and there is a certain amount of confusion pervading the entire industry with respect to who’s the buyer, seller and consumer in these roles.

So The Marketing Id was surprised to read a more recent New York Times article datelined July 24, 2016, “How Sponsored Content Is Becoming King in a Facebook World,” defending the concept, primarily because of a rapidly changing business landscape:

“Younger companies like Vice and BuzzFeed have built whole businesses around the concept. The Atlantic expects three-quarters of its digital ad revenue to come from sponsored content this year. Slate, the web publisher, says that about half of its ad revenue comes from native ads, as sponsored content is also called, and the other half from traditional banner or display ads. Many major newspapers, including The New York Times, have declared sponsored content to be an important part of their strategies.”

Social media platforms, such as FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter have been struggling with very low click through rates on display advertising. Also, news websites have been losing subscribers to social media companies as well as aggregators. And, all of them are being hurt by ad blocking software. So there is a redefining-cum-cannibalization of who plays what role in this evolving digital media world. Chad Pollitt, VP of Audience and Co-founder of Relevance, has done a pretty comprehensive job in sorting out this content conundrum in his article, “Everything You Need To Know About Sponsored Content.

Now, The Marketing Id began this post referencing “sponsored content or native advertising” as interchangeable terms. Before I get into the analogy or distinction between those two terms, we have Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, taking serious issue in calling native advertising as a form of content marketing! Mr. Pulizzi defines content marketing as follows:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action by changing or enhancing consumer behavior.”

Mr. Pulizzi goes on to add, “In content marketing, the brand owns the media. It’s an asset.”

Then Mr. Pulizzi defines native advertising in the following manner:

“For most situations, longer-form native advertising (I’m not talking about Google or Twitter ads) is:

  • A directly paid opportunity – Native advertising is “pay to play.” Brands pay for the placement of content on platforms outside of their own media.
  • Usually information based – The content is useful, interesting, and highly targeted to a specific audience. In all likelihood, it’s not a traditional advertisement directly promoting the company’s product or service.”

Mr. Pulizzi goes on to add that native advertising is, “Delivered in stream. The user experience is not disrupted with native advertising because it is delivered in a way that does not impede the user’s normal behavior in that particular channel.”

Mr. Pulizzi concludes, if content “is valuable and relevant, designed to attract a clearly defined audience, and posted on your own or other unpaid platform, it’s content marketing.”

But then just as you think the confusion regarding content marketing, sponsored content and native advertising has been cleared up, along comes Shannon Porter, Project Marketing Manager at Professional Case Management, who begs to differ. In her blog post, “What Is the Difference Between Sponsored Content and Native Advertising?” Ms. Porter describes native advertising as follows:

“Native advertising is promotional in nature (hence the name “advertising”) and its goal is to convince rather than inform an audience. While it can still look like an article, there will be a distinct call-to-action or it will contain brand-biased content that contains the company’s name.”

And, then Ms. Porter points out that:

“Sponsored content on the other hand is not brand-biased and its goal is to inform the audience, not convince them. The strategy is to position a company as an expert in their industry, with the hopes that if the audience goes to the company for advice they will eventually purchase their products or services.”

The Marketing Id agrees with Mr. Pulizzi’s semantics on the distinction between content marketing and sponsored content/native advertising. However, semantics aside, The Marketing Id also believes that Ms. Porter makes a fair distinction between sponsored content and native advertising, especially in the long sales cycle world of B2B, where sponsored content can be a useful channel to nurture a prospect along the path to eventually becoming a customer.

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To be, or not to be – that is the question for B2B Digital Marketers

DM_2

Wikipedia attributes to the Financial Times, a rather succinct definition of Digital Marketing, which says:

“Digital marketing is an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.”

From a target market standpoint, digital marketing seems to have had a fair amount of penetration in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, but still seems to lag in terms of holistic adoption in the B2B (business-to-business) world, and even less so in the B2G (business-to-government) world.

As a marketer, who has worked in all three of these environments (B2C/B2B/B2G), one of the major problems I noticed in the B2B/B2G domains is that many companies invariably lack a digital marketing plan or even a digital marketing strategy. Some of these companies not only lack a Revenue Performance Management vision that incorporates Marketing as an equal partner in driving Sales, but they also tend to dabble in digital media activities on a largely ad hoc basis. The corporate directive appears to suggest digital marketing is tantamount to having a web site that displays the perfunctory social media buttons – while, in reality, these social media properties and blogs languish due to a concomitant lack of timely and pertinent content marketing efforts. If at all, any B2B content marketing efforts are sporadic and opportunistic with no guiding long-term strategy or plan.

My efforts to find out why “B2B digital marketing” is not being adapted in a more meaningful manner, led me to an insightful article on entrepreneur.com – Daniel Newman’s “The 10 Essential Tips for B2B Marketing Success in a Digital Economy” Mr. Newman breaks up B2B digital marketing strategy into three basic concepts – being found, being seen and being heard. He then goes on to explain what each of these concepts entail and I have summarized the steps below:

BEING FOUND

  1. The website: Your digital kingdom.
  2. Content: What’s your story?
  3. Search basics: What SMBs really need to know about search.
  4. Social listening: Figuring out your audience online.

BEING SEEN

  1. Social media: Connecting your ideas with the world.
  2. Paid media: Placing content in the right spots.
  3. Upcycling content: Increase visibility and your reach.
  4. Social selling: Moving consumers through the funnel.

BEING HEARD

  1. Build commitment: Like, follow, subscribe.
  2. Online engagement: A one-to-one conversation.

For more details on each of the ten steps, readers can click on the above link and read the entire article. I also found another interesting take on the subject from smartinsights.com – David Chaffey’s “Don’t get left behind with your Digital Marketing Strategy, follow these 7 Steps to Brilliant B2B Marketing!” Mr. Chaffey outlines seven steps that a B2B needs to follow in its digital marketing efforts:

  1. Develop a B2B strategy
  2. Effective websites
  3. Search Marketing
  4. Content and Inbound Marketing
  5. Social Media for B2B Marketing
  6. Lead Generation and CRM
  7. Analytics and Improvement

The bottom line is B2B/B2G companies must get out of yesteryear’s mindset that Sales is the only critical function that contributes to revenues. SEO/SEM, content marketing and social media properties cannot be treated as merely advertising and branding tools – they need to be integrated into the ongoing management of a company’s revenue cycle. Especially in long sales cycles, digital marketing, when executed with a well-planned strategy that has been incorporated into the annual financial plan and a longer-term business plan, can contribute significantly to a company’s growth, productivity, customer satisfaction, and yes, its brand equity.

Marketing has come a long way from the days of the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue. Today’s Don Draper is a hybrid “creative-analyst” with a laptop, who nurtures clients throughout the revenue lifecycle by marketing the right content to the right entities at the right time using the right channels – this, in a nutshell, is what B2B digital marketing is all about. And, when executed as outlined above, there is no question digital marketing has to be… an integral part of every B2B’s business plan and its marketing function!

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Top 10 Old Adages Adapted for Millennials, Meme Aficionados, and Social Media Enthusiasts!

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We all grew up with popular proverbs that were directed at us by family, friends and mentors when they believed these were required to correct, coach, or cheer us depending on the occasion. Well, that was then and this is now. It’s not that the message has changed as much as it has been adapted to a new medium—the Internet and all of its affiliated social media channels.

The classic maxim that was born in the era of broadcast TV, “the medium is the message,” is taking on even more meaningful interpretations in the era of the interactive Internet. But that is a philosophical discussion for another time. In this tongue-in-cheek article, I would like to focus on how some ageless pearls of wisdom might be better adapted to modern times and still be relevant to millennials, meme aficionados, and social media enthusiasts.

  1. Lao Tzu, the great Chinese philosopher said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

In today’s Internet era, it would probably make more sense to say, “A journey of a thousand pages begins with a single click.”

  1. Henry David Thoreau, the distinguished American author perceived, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Millennials today would probably be more comfortable with, “It’s not what you click on that matters, it’s what you find.”

  1. Socrates, the renowned Greek founder of western philosophy counseled, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

For today’s “if-it’s-on-the-Internet” generation, it seems more like, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that the Internet knows everything.”

  1. Mahatma Gandhi, the legendary Indian leader preached, “My life is my message.”

Online Gandhian disciples of today would be more likely to hear, “My Facebook timeline is my message.”

  1. An old English proverb posits, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

In today’s social media savvy universe, it would probably be wiser to postulate, “A tweet is mightier than a gun.”

  1. Another old English proverb cautions, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

In today’s “digital-never-dies age,” it would probably safer to recommend, “People who live in Google’s domain do not have a right to be forgotten.”

  1. At the start of the 20th century, newspapers started reflecting the axiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

At the start of the 21st century, the YouTube generation is proving, “A video is worth a thousand pictures.”

  1. This mantra has been repeated by parents and teachers alike, “Actions speak louder than words.”

In an era dominated by social media discourse, the PTA crowd would probably tweak it to say, “Comments speak louder than likes.”

  1. How many times have you been warned in your lifetime, “Look before you leap.”

In today’s meme and sharing culture, the dictum would probably caution you to, “Think before you click, send or tweet.”

  1. Finally, in the good old days, we were often consoled, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

In today’s “everything-is-in-the-cloud” world, we are increasingly hearing, “Every cloud has a hacker mining.”

If these do not make your Top 10 list of adapted adages for the new millennium, please feel free to share ones that you think I missed.

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Five Synergistic Factors That Bind the Science of Marketing with the Art of Sales

In his 1954 book, “The Practice of Management,” management guru, Peter Drucker, famously declared:

Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.

And yet, six decades later, Sales still takes precedence because it is responsible for a company’s top line revenues. It’s only in the past couple of decades¾with the advent of the World Wide Web, social media, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, marketing automation platforms (MAP) and a prolific demand for purposeful content¾that Marketing is finally getting its “revenue” due. In marketing-driven companies, as Drucker always wanted them all to be, the Chief Marketing Officer is gradually being recognized as an integral part of the corporate Revenue Performance Management (RPM) team.

So what is it that is bringing Marketing and Sales closer together in today’s hyper-connected, social media savvy, content rich business environment? One of the primary reasons is the evolution of a more tightly integrated E = MC6 ecosystem and the evolution of the social Enterprise, which The Marketing Id has previously defined as:

A social Enterprise is one that supports Mobile, Customer-centric, Cyber-secure, Cloud-based, Communications, Collaboration & Content.

In this new E=MC6 ecosystem, Marketing and Sales take a holistic, same view, customer-centered approach, in which the business strategy is to optimize interactions with customers and prospects across a company’s revenue cycle to enable predictable revenue growth. This RPM strategy requires a business to manage its revenue cycle across an extended, yet integrated “sales and marketing” funnel as shown below:

REVENUE CYCLE ACROSS INTEGRATED SALES & MARKETING FUNNEL

REVENUE CYCLE ACROSS INTEGRATED SALES & MARKETING FUNNEL

Looking from left to right at this integrated funnel, it’s pretty clear that before anything enters the funnel, there is an overarching business strategy, which defines what goes into and what comes out of it. With this overview in mind, the following is a discussion of the five well-known, yet newly synergistic, factors that are compelling Sales and Marketing to work in sync towards achieving business goals:

  1. Marketing drives business development strategy; Sales executes it to generate revenue.

Thanks to the Internet, search engines embedded with sophisticated algorithms, CRM-integrated MAP platforms, and social media applications supplemented with monitoring tools, Marketing now possesses reasonably accurate scientific means to generate and maintain an ongoing awareness of a company’s value proposition. The corporate RPM team uses this awareness to generate a business development strategy that Sales executes to generate revenue.

  1. Marketing generates leads; Sales closes deals.

The old-line method of telemarketing is slowly dying on the landline vine and the traditional Sales cold call is losing its efficacy as The Marketing Id had anticipated almost four years ago in, “Hello Sales, the Cold Call Just Got Warmer!” Thanks to MAP and inbound analytics, Marketing can generate more hot leads and in a more efficient manner than cold calls ever did. Sales can thus focus on closing real deals and delivering more predictability to a company’s revenue stream.

  1. Marketing provides competitive intelligence; Sales uses it to outsmart the competition.

Competitive intelligence is no longer either the sole or the reliable domain of professional analysts and their magic quadrants, which while useful at a strategic level are not granular enough to impact a company’s tactical revenue generating decisions. Again, thanks to the increasing power of search engines, social listening and Big Data analytics, Marketing can closely monitor the competitive landscape and hone in on prospects with much better accuracy than ever before. The closer the Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads ratio is to one, the better Marketing is doing its job in analyzing the competition and qualifying prospects. Sales then needs to use its innate selling skills to outsmart the competition.

  1. Marketing owns the product ecosystem; Sales owns the customer base.

Rumors of the demise of the original 4Ps – product, pricing, placement and promotion – have been exaggerated ever since Al Gore invented the Internet. Again, almost four years ago, in “How Inbound Marketing Is Driving the B2B Marketing Mix–Viva La 4Ps!The Marketing Id had revealed how a company’s product ecosystem had benefited because:

“Clearly inbound marketing has become a rather useful driver of the traditional B2B marketing mix – in fact; the 4Ps have become more reliable and effective within the new marketing paradigm!”

More importantly, while Marketing has gained a more customer-friendly hold on the product ecosystem, Sales has also seen a commensurate benefit because it is able to use this customer-driven product lifecycle to more effectively manage not only its customers, but also its prospects. Deal making, while still an art, has thus become more predictable.

  1. Marketing owns the content ecosystem; Sales disseminates content per requirements of RPM lifecycle.

In the new marketing paradigm, the cliché “content is king” is being superseded by the reality that content marketing is ace! Marketing owns the content ecosystem for sure, but barely four months ago, The Marketing Id had discussed “Overcoming Content Marketing’s Two Biggest Challenges.” If Sales too needs to be “targeting the right content in the right amounts to the right audiences at the right times” – Marketing simply has to find the time to create this content as required.

Finally, the good news from the Internet and social media revolutions has been the evolution of a tighter relationship between Sales and Marketing. While the former remains a very sophisticated art, the latter continues to evolve into a more exacting science. Together the synergies between Sales and Marketing are breathing new life into the revenue generating abilities of the business enterprise.

 

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7 Pertinent Lessons from Brian Williams–Jon Stewart Double Play

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.25.51 PM

Those of us, who have been watching “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for a long time, might recall an ongoing segment that he used to run several years ago, “The Giant Head of Brian Williams.” Given Brian Williams sudden fall from grace this week, including a six-month suspension from work, Jon Stewart’s literal representation of him from way back when, almost seems metaphorically surreal. In fact, in that April 10, 2007 video clip that I have linked to above, Brian’s big head, looms large on a giant TV monitor behind and overlooking Jon at work on his Daily Show set, and mockingly says to him:

Jon…you use a teleprompter…so let me get this straight, you have to read the fake news, you can’t remember it?

Given the turn of events in the past few days, it looks like Brian was pretty much doing something similar on occasion under the garb of real news? So when news simultaneously broke on February 10, 2015, about Brian’s suspension by NBC News and Jon’s own announcement regarding leaving his “fake news” show, I facetiously tweeted this:

#JonStewart leaving #DailyShow & #BriWi suspended 6 mos–it’s a fake news double play? Say it ain’t so, Jon? http://nyti.ms/1EWF7f9

No schadenfreude was intended by my tweet. In fact, there are several lessons that we as business professionals can learn from this “double play” that might help us in our own daily lives. Here are what I believe are the 7 most pertinent lessons:

7 When any set of facts involves more than just you, manipulating these facts is a fool’s errand.
6 With the passage of time, your memory might play tricks on you, but the memories of others – who were also involved in the same set of facts that you have since manipulated – might not be concurrently playing tricks on them.
5 Over a period of time, what began as a seemingly harmless manipulation of a set of facts eventually turns into lies, especially if you repeatedly brag about that manipulated set of facts, increase the distortion with each telling, and somehow you never get caught until karma finally catches up with you?
4 When you tend to manipulate the facts over a great length of time, the truth eventually comes out, sometimes at the most unexpected of moments – karma is a witch.
3 When you do finally get caught in your web of lies, your ensuing apology must be immediate, sincere and display a genuine sense of remorse.
2 Your contrition must include keeping a low profile during your time away from the public eye, where applicable, and you must not attempt either a premature rehabilitation or a public relations makeover.
1 It’s always best to leave voluntarily when you are at the top of your game, when people will wonder why (à la Jon Stewart), not when they begin to doubt why not (à la Brian Williams)?

It is worth noting what that other lovable “giant head,” actor Michael J. Fox, once said:

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.

So I suspect that Brian Williams will redeem himself and be back in the public eye, even if he doesn’t return as anchor of the NBC Nightly News. However, most of us will really miss Jon Stewart, after he ends his run at The Daily Show. So let me indulge in this Mark Anthony type eulogy in reverse, where I come “not to bury Jon, but to praise him” as follows:

Jon Stewart has taken his comedic talents to an art form – he is funny, smart, naturally self-deprecating, articulate, well versed on a variety of topics, a natural interviewer, very intelligent (different from being smart, and he masks his intelligence in order to not overwhelm either his guest or his audience), and most importantly, a lovable personality to both sexes. So this kind of complete package is going to be very difficult to replicate. It is a persona that needs to be cultivated over a period of time and with experience. 

We will miss Jon Stewart in “Indecision 2016” but we will savor every episode from now until he signs off later this year. It’s another tribute to Jon Stewart’s acumen that he is going out while he is still on top, while his adoring fans are still wondering why?

So that’s the #1 lesson, we all should have learned from that infamous double play of February 10, 2015 – it’s always about knowing when to say when?

Image – courtesy “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

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Overcoming Content Marketing’s Two Biggest Challenges

“The Periodic Table of Content Marketing,” is courtesy of Chris Lake at Econsultancy LLC.In a recent “Content Marketing Report” (based on over 600 survey responses from B2B marketing professionals), Holger Schulze, Group Founder of the “Technology Marketing Community” on LinkedIn, highlighted the following as one of Top-5 Trends in Content Marketing:

“The number one content marketing challenge is having enough time and bandwidth to create content (51 percent). 
The next biggest content marketing challenge is producing enough content volume (50 percent) …”

The Marketing Id agrees and views content creation as the numero uno problem for B2Bs in their content marketing efforts! Most B2Bs simply do not have either the marketing bandwidth or the required subject matter experts (SME) to create the necessary and sufficient amount of content to achieve success in their content marketing efforts. In fact, according to Schulze’s report, only 36% of B2Bs use SMEs and only 30% of B2Bs use external agencies or consultants to create content.

And, the above-mentioned Top-5 Trend goes on to add:

 “… followed by producing truly engaging content to serve the needs of marketing programs (42 percent).”

The Marketing Id’s July 2011 post, “Top 5 Myths About B2B Inbound Marketing,” had addressed the subject of truly engaging content by introducing a phrase, “character of your content.” It suggested that in the new world of content marketing, B2Bs could no longer stand out only on the style aspects of their content, but would also need to engage consumers of their content based on its actual substance. The phrase succinctly reflected a compelling need for B2Bs to produce content that was of a consumable character, i.e., one that offered value to the consumer of that content? So how does your B2B’s content stand out or add more value than that of a competitor B2B’s content in the same realm? In this age of content overload, all other things being equal, why would a potential customer bother to consume your content over someone else’s? In simple terms, “character of your content” means the quality of content, in its various forms and types that B2Bs use in their content marketing efforts. Schulze’s report identifies the Top 10 content marketing tactics/formats used by B2Bs as follows:

  • Blogging (65%)
  • Social media (64%)
  • Case studies (64%)
  • White papers (55%)
  • Press releases (51%)
  • Customer testimonials (49%)
  • eNewsletters (48%)
  • Videos (47%)
  • Online articles (45%)
  • Webinars / webcasts (45%)

For B2B content marketers, when your content lacks character, consumers won’t click through and when they do click through, you don’t really know if they are actually digesting your content. It should be noted that nine of the Top 10 content types listed above (except for social media, which can be viewed both, as a content type and as a content channel) are invariably presented to content consumers as links embedded in email or links embedded in summaries presented in popular social media channels, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

The Marketing Id’s September 2013 post “If the headline doesn’t tick, people won’t click!” discussed some of the click-through aspects for embedded links that then take you to the actual content. But once you land on the content page, the actual character or quality of that content is an entirely different story – the creation of consumable content requires an adherence to marketing communications principles and discipline. In this regard, marketing automation leader, Marketo, has published “The Definitive Guide to Engaging Content Marketing,” which provides a detailed tutorial on how a B2B can do this.

Content Marketing has been creating a lot of buzz in the B2B world lately, but these efforts can be frustrating, if they don’t produce the desired results. Per Schulze’s report, B2Bs identify the top three content marketing success factors as audience relevance (58 percent), followed by engaging and compelling storytelling (57 percent), and content that triggers a specific response (54 percent). If your B2B is not creating and targeting the right content in the right amounts to the right audiences at the right times using the right marketing channels, it needs help from marketing professionals who can. The Marketing Id has a dream that one day all true content marketers will be judged by the “character of their content!”

(Publisher’s Note: The above image, “The Periodic Table of Content Marketing,” is courtesy of Chris Lake at Econsultancy LLC.)

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