All posts by Guest Author

How to Use Advocacy to Boost Webinar Engagement & Improve Your Customer Experience

Truman TangAbout our Guest Author: Bond has a license to kill. Senior Marketing Manager Truman Tang has a license to create engaging experiences for Influitive’s customers and advocates. He runs Influitive’s advocate marketing program, Influitive VIP.

 

Marketers often tell me that their top goal is to improve the customer experience.
They know that by enhancing the customer experience at every stage in the customer lifecycle, they’ll boost their brand’s reputation—and drive sales and marketing results.

As a Senior Marketing Manager, Customer & Advocacy for Influitive, I spend all of my time trying to build close relationships with our customers, fans, evangelists and employees. We call this loyal group our advocates. They’re the first people to raise their hands when we need references, referrals or online product reviews.

However, since I can’t physically be where our customers are all the time, or spend all day on the phone with them (I wish I could!), I use two tools to make personal connections with them at scale: an advocate marketing program (run on Influitive’s AdvocateHub software) and web conferencing software (ReadyTalk).

Here’s how we leverage both to build 1:1 connections between our prospects (or future advocates, as I like to call them), current customers and employees.

Engaging customers via webinars and advocacy

In order to turn our customers into passionate advocates, I get them to engage with our brand, content and employees on a near-daily basis through our advocate marketing program, Influitive VIP. In this exclusive online hub, customers are given fun challenges, educational resources, networking opportunities and perks or recognition when they advocate for our brand.

I also find that having live conversations with customers is the best way to show them the real people behind your brand and make your company more human—which is why we use a web conferencing platform to help us build more personal relationships at scale.

Here are three ways we combine webinars with advocate marketing to improve engagement, success and the customers experience:

1. Training customers at scale. We host product sessions—called AdvocateHub Classes—every other week. In these sessions, we feature one of our customers as a special guest. They volunteer to share how they’ve built a successful advocate marketing program using our platform. Our customers enjoy these sessions because they learn from their peers and interact with members of our team, which helps them build a stronger network. We use our advocate marketing program to find volunteers, vote on upcoming class topics and discuss what was learned afterwards in our community.

2. Educating prospects. We’ve created semi-private video chats, dubbed “Coffee Time,” where our current customers talk to a small group of prospects about their accomplishments in advocate marketing. They’ll also answer questions our potential buyers may have. This helps us connect with a number of prospects in a personal way and move deals forward. At the same time, we also make our advocates look like rockstars and help them expand their professional network.

3. Getting advocates involved in webinars. We give our advocates an active role in creating our webinars by asking them to contribute questions or topic ideas in advance. After the webinar, we share recaps of key takeaways, and invite advocates to ask follow up questions, give us feedback and share the recording with their peers. Involving our advocates in our webinars makes them feel valued and keeps them engaged in between webinars. Crowdsourcing ideas from them also makes our webinar content more relevant to our audience—which helps drive attendance.

Bottom line

Webinars and advocate marketing can work hand-in-hand to improve the customer experience from end to end. Webinars help establish personal and professional relationships, while advocate marketing programs continuously nurture these connections throughout the customer lifecycle.

By consistently engaging customers and prospects with both tools, you’ll remain top-of-mind—and drive adoption and retention at the same time.

If you want to learn how to start an advocate marketing program, read this blog.

Moving your Organization to a Strategic Demand Generation Strategy [Guest Post]

Today's post is provided by Carlos Hidalgo, CEO and Principal at ANNUITAS. You can follow Carlos on Twitter, @cahidalgo.

I had the privilege to present on a webinar sponsored by ReadyTalk and the American Marketing Association.  The topic of the webinar was Strategic Demand Generation.  My favorite part of any speaking engagement is the questions that come in from the audience.  The questions challenge me to think deeper about the recommended approaches and also give me insight as to the day-to-day world of marketing practitioners.  

To recap the webinar, each of the questions that were submitted are below with a corresponding answer on how your organization can move to a Strategic Demand Generation Strategy.

Q1. How Do You Define “Strategic” Demand Generation?

A.  As stated in the webinar, Strategic Demand Generation Consists of the following elements:

  • A perpetual,  always-on process
  • A process that Engages, Nurtures, Converts buyers aligned to their buying process not that of a sales funnel (there is a big difference)
  • A discipline that must be practiced for both prospects and customers
  • It must be Buying-Process-driven and aligned
  • It is designed to both educate and qualify buyers through their purchase process
  • Strategic Demand Generation includes the work of both marketing and sales
  • It must be Operationalized and optimized across People, Process, Content & Technology
  • Strategic Demand Generation is designed to drive sustainable revenue and maximize Customer Lifetime Value.

Q2.  What are some of the most effective Demand Generation campaigns you've seen?

A.  The most effective Demand Generation programs are those that begin with a deep understanding of your target buyers.  Understanding their challenges, pain points, responsibilities, what triggers their buying process, content consumption patterns, etc.  And then designing content that not only Engages your buyers, but makes Nurturing a holistic part of the entire program.  This is when Demand Generation will be effective – it is all about the Buyer and not our products and services.

Q3. What are some examples of how you've seen sales and marketing efforts aligned effectively?

A.  The best approach to have marketing and sales align is to simply work together.  Too many marketing organizations are in the practice of designing their Demand Generation programs and then as a final step “informing sales” of what is to come.  This is a fatal flaw in the execution by marketers.  It is necessary to have sales be part of the development of buyer personas, review of content and input into defining the buying process.  Also having common goals and objectives that are measured ensures collaboration in the design of these programs.  As these steps are taken, alignment begins to happen between the two teams.

Q4.  Can you talk a little more about Nurture content?

A.  Any Strategic Demand Generation program must consist of content that Engages, Nurtures and Converts. 

Engagement Content is written to build trust, address the buyers top of mind issues, educate the buyer on challenges and how to address their pain points.  It is designed to assure the buyer that the vendor is an expert and understands what the buyer is experiencing.

Nurture Content is a bit more specific in that it that is addresses solution categories and to specific offerings within these solutions as the nurturing process continues.  This process is perpetual and allows the buyer to consume the content on their terms and cadence, not by a time-based, pre-determined drip approach.

Conversion Content is focused on the close of the prospect and is more direct and is a mix of automated and live interactions from your sales team.  This underscores the importance of sales enablement and providing and educating them on product level content that they buyer is now ready for given their progression through Engage and Nurture content.

Q5. What is the difference between nurture and drip?

A.  As mentioned previously, Nurturing is a perpetual activity that is aligned to the buyer and allows them to move at their cadence.  A buyer can consume multiple pieces of content in any given timeframe and receive communications so long as there is continual action.  Drip is a time-based sequence often spaced out over a period of days or weeks.  Drip is determined by the vendor not the buyer and therefore is not buyer-centric. 

Drip can be useful and effective when used to target those buyers who may have stopped progressing through a program and it’s intent should be to send periodic content to them in an attempt to get them re-engaged.

Q6. How does a long sales cycle impact Demand Generation?

A.  There is truly no impact to Demand Generation with a longer sales cycle as long as the content developed and delivered aligns to that buying process. Too many organizations look at their sales cycle as synonymous with the buying process, which is so far from factual.  The key is to uncover the detailed approach your buyers take to purchasing and align content to that process.  If it is a 45-day process or 18-month process, ensure your content aligns to it, as that’s what the buyers need and require.

Q7. What's the most important thing for marketers to do to engage buying committees?

A.  It is important to note that most B2B purchase decisions are conducted by committee.  CEB reports that there are five plus stakeholders in the average B2B purchase each with their own view and biases.

In order to engage these buying committees, marketers must understand the dynamics of each role in the buying process and do the work to collect the needed buyer insights – getting into the mind of each buyer on the committee.  This is when relevant content can then be developed. 

At the same time, it is important for marketers to understand the common views of those on the committee and produce content that can be used to align the buying committee around that of the purchase.  Again, this can only be done by speaking to your buyers and collecting the insights on what is driving their purchases.

As B2B marketers look to improve, it is vital that the time is spent to make Demand Generation a Strategic endeavor.  Executing on tactical campaigns is not effective and does not align to the buyer.  It will not be fixed overnight, but it will be more effective and drive customer lifetime value.

 

Carlos is an innovative thought-leader with over 20 years’ experience as a B2B marketing practitioner and industry visionary. Carlos is widely recognized for his expertise in strategic content marketing, Demand Generation, Demand Process Transformation℠ and marketing automation.  As CEO and Principal of ANNUITAS, Carlos drives strategy and leads core practice teams to Transform Demand℠ for enterprise clients globally.  

6 Perspectives On Realistic Goals For New Advocate Marketing Programs (Guest Post)

If you’re anything like me, you have to set explicit goals for yourself before you can get anything really important done. Not only do goals help us prioritize our actions in order to achieve the desired results, they also let us know if all that time, effort and money we’re putting into something is paying off.

Goal setting was just one of the topics ReadyTalk’s Bo Bandy and I touched on during a recent American Marketing Association Webinar about how to get your customers talking about you with advocate marketing.
Bo shared that the goals she and her colleagues set for the ReadyTalk Summit Club advocate marketing program included:increasing lead generation

• building a customer community
• boosting product feedback
• accelerating the sales cycle
• supporting other marketing tactics, such as guest blog posts, case studies and social media posts

“Our big challenge was that we wanted all of these things from every customer, but we were afraid to ask, so formalizing an advocacy program could give us a mechanism for making these asks and making them more frequently and in an important format,” Bo explained.

Sound familiar?

During the Q&A period at the end of the webinar, many of you who attended asked some fantastic questions that we unfortunately didn’t have enough time to address. Some of the most popular were around goal setting and results:

What types of goals are realistic for organizations just getting started with an advocate marketing program and how often should those goals be reassessed?

Instead of answering this question myself (yawn!), I decided to field it to Influitive’s own advocates – marketers like Bo who are currently running advocate marketing programs at their organizations.

Stephanie Burns, Marketing Program Manager at Junction Solutions

First, decide who is your target audience. Prospects? Customers? Employees? Whatever that total number is, I recommend taking 1% of that number and have them join your advocate marketing program. Every month, try to double that number.

Liz Richardson, Social Media and Advocate Marketing Manager at Bomgar Corporation

An advocate marketing program, if executed well, should without a doubt grow and nourish the relationship between you and your customers. As for hard and fast numbers, based on our experience, you can expect:
• About 10% to 15% of the people you invite to join your program – more if you send to an exclusive list that you already have a relationship with or who have advocated for you in the past.
• To increase the number of case studies acquired by at least 30% (in our case it was 50% initially).
• To have a fountain of content available for social material and customer references that you never had before!

Kimberly Griffith, XOXO Customer Success Administrator at Ceridian

Track the number of new advocates that join weekly, the types of challenges/ rewards that are most popular, and how many of your customers are willing to be references. These references can bring a huge dollar amount ROI based on deal size. It’s important to re-evaluate week-to-week and month-to-month as you start out. You can get lost in the microscope and you may have to take a step back and ask yourself, “What kind of impact has the advocacy program had on the organization this month/quarter?” You WILL see results!

Liz Pedro, Director of Customer Success Marketing at Mitel

Social stats (new followers, posts), revenue (new leads generated and status), new reviews, new customer references and advocate engagement. I have a dashboard in Influitive’s AdvocateHub that I watch daily to ensure we are tracking against our goals accurately. From there, I run monthly reports.

Matt Davis, Marketing Manager at Allocadia

Here’s an unconventional goal that could benefit smaller companies or ones who are new to advocate marketing programs: Measure the number of people you can now engage who were not the principal buyers of your product. Here at Allocadia, our sales conversations usually involve a small team of stakeholders, but the number of end users is much higher — often in the hundreds. Our advocate program has really brought Allocadia users and fans “out of the woodwork”. Five of our top ten advocates were not involved in the buying process of our software. In fact, our #1 provider of referral leads was someone we were introduced to for the first time via the program!

To learn more about goal-setting and best practices for your advocate marketing program, get your copy of The Advocate Marketing Playbook. It’s a detailed how-to guide that provides marketers with a blueprint from which to build and manage a successful advocate marketing program.

jim__influitive_headshot

Jim Williams is the VP of Marketing at Influitive, the advocate marketing experts. He is a veteran marketer for early- and growth-stage tech companies who loves bringing new-concept products to market. Before joining Influitive, Jim held marketing leadership roles at Eloqua, Unveil Solutions, Lernout & Hauspie, and several PR agencies. Even though he loves marketing, most of Jim’s energy is directed towards ensuring that his two kids have fantastic and memorable childhoods.

Find the Paths Your Customers Follow (Guest Post)

SHINY OBJECTS ARE DISTRACTING

ReadyTalk recently invited me to provide a webinar on delivering content for demand generation and customer engagement (check out the recording) Finding new ways to deliver content is extremely valuable. But even more important is engaging customers with proven content marketing— and doing it really well.

B2B marketers love to find the shiny new objects that will work for demand generation. Keep in mind most of these shiny objects are channels for content and not the content itself. Executing a content marketing strategy really well requires a full understanding of who your customers are, how they work, the problems they face, where they look for ideas and answers, and measuring the right metrics for success. Simply using shiny object channels because they are “new” is pointless if your customers aren’t in the vicinity.

Don’t make content marketing any harder! Doing content marketing really well requires hard and smart work. The Content Marketing Institute shares a wealth of statistics to emphasize the point:

• 93% of B2B marketers use Content Marketing yet only 42% say they are effective
• B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66% vs. 11%)
• The biggest B2B content marketing challenges are producing content that engages and having a lack of integration across channels.

Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs – 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends

STEPS TO SUCCESS

Build a Strategy

Of course this makes sense, right? But how many B2B marketing organizations truly have a content marketing strategy? Build a plan and work the plan. A strategy helps identify how customers engage, the information they are looking for, the resources needed, the tactics, and measuring success. Producing reams of content, writing blogs and blasting emails are not an effective content marketing strategy. Focus on the audience, with the channels, the timing, contributors and desired outcomes.

Customer Journeys

Do you know how your customers discovered your business? Don’t just give the kneejerk answer that they ‘Googled it’. Of course customers will search the web for a solution. But how else did they research, learn, and discuss the problems they have and how your solutions may help? Who did they talk to? How much time did they spend on your web site? What content did they consume the most of?

Customers take a winding path to their purchase decision. Sometimes the path is long and slow with many stops. Other times the journey is rapid and impulsive. It’s critical to find the most common paths your customers engage and focus the right efforts to delivering content they find valuable.

Focused Purposeful Content

Customers need different types of content at different stages in the decision making journeys. Develop content that is educational, entertaining, and engaging. Don’t overwhelm potential customers with details on product features before they even understand the problem and opportunity they face. Talk less about your company and share ideas that show you understand the challenges your customers face. Imagine going to a cocktail party where there is always ‘that one guy’ who only talks about himself and how great he thinks he is. He never listens to or cares about conversing with other. Does he leave a positive impression? Compare that to the party host who asks a lot of questions, listens, shows interest, and introduces you to others in the room. Empathy, understanding and ideas with your content will make the best impression. Educate, entertain, and engage!

Integrate Tools to Support the Entire Journey

When marketers pursue shiny objects they often create islands of disconnected information. Customers can engage through all of these channels but a complete picture doesn’t take shape. Make sure all of your tools can centrally integrate with a marketing automation and CRM platform. These platforms help marketers with coordinated customer engagement. For example, we use ReadyTalk in-house at Heinz Marketing which is integrated with our marketing automation platform. When customers view presentations we can score that interaction along with other interaction from reading our blog, downloading our books, and engaging with us through social media. If these channels were disconnected, we wouldn’t have the complete view of what individuals show interest in. And from there we wouldn’t know the right content to recommend for our next interaction. Integration provides a complete view and helps customers navigate their decision making journey.

Focus on the right areas with your content marketing to follow the paths your customers follow. Don’t get distracted by the shiny objects.

Brian Hansford, Client Services Director, Heinz Marketing

Find the Paths your Customers follow

Brian Hansford is a Client Services Director manages the marketing automation practice at Heinz Marketing. Brian is a 20 year B2B marketing veteran and previously worked for organizations such as Open Text, Citrix, Attachmate and Cambridge Technology Partners. Brian is an Eloqua Product Master and frequently speaks on and publishes original content on B2B marketing, database health, content marketing and marketing automation. Brian lives in Redmond, WA and you can follow him on Twitter (@RemarkMarketing).

How to Actually Measure Your Content Marketing

Today’s guest post comes from Jesse Noyes,Senior Director of Content Marketing for Kapost. Kapost is a leading provider of content marketing software and services

By now you’ve witnessed the rise of content marketing.

Ninety-one percent of B2B marketers use content marketing and 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. Meanwhile, in the present day, marketers are struggling to measure how their content is moving the needle.

In fact, 73% of marketers say they aren’t effectively tracking metrics. There’s a good chance you’re in that number.

It’s not that there aren’t metrics to track, it’s that we don’t know which metrics are worth tracking. We’ve seen this kind of analysis paralysis before. Hell, we’ve experienced it firsthand.

But through many trials internally, and through our work with hundreds of customers, we’ve come up with a guide to content marketing analytics. Our goal was to distill the metrics that can be measured into four critical areas of a healthy, functioning content marketing operation.

Here’s the short and sweet version of our guide.

 

Content Marketing Production

1. Production

This might seem simple, but it’s easily overlooked. If you want to thrive in content marketing, you need to keep track of how much content your team is producing so you can address bottlenecks and gaps.

First, look for patterns in the number of content assets you produce, the time it takes to produce those assets, and how often you’re hitting—or missing—deadlines. Get granular. Break out these numbers by content type and contributor so you know which assets are taking the longest to produce and which members of your team hold up progress.

Next, track how those individual content pieces align with your buyer personas as they move through the sales funnel. Content at the top of the funnel should be more buyer-centric, focused on their interests and challenges. As they’re ushered down the funnel and near a purchase decision, content should become more aligned with your product. If you’re not tracking how much of your content addresses specific personas, you won’t be able to identify—and fill—the gaps.

 

Content Marketing Engagement

2. Engagement

We use a simple but broad definition here. Engagement is when buyers take measurable actions that signal they value your content. In other words, it’s the signs of your content sparking activity among your buyers and your market.

To get an overall engagement number, you’ll want to track the following things:

Social shares: These signal that those potential buyers see enough value in your content to pass it onto their network.

Inbound links: These drive not only longtail traffic and increased authority to your content, but show that the market you serve is engaging with it.

Repeat visitors: These are important signs that your content is seen as a real resource that supports the needs of your audience.

 

Content marketing performance

3. Performance

Performance metrics track at a high level how your content is stacking up against your larger marketing goals. Really, they measure the pool of potential buyers drawn into the top of your funnel and how they flow into your pipeline.

To get at an overall measurement of performance, we recommend tracking the following metrics:

Unique visitors: This metric tells you whether your content is building a growing audience. That might sound trite, but this pool of people will become your active pipeline.

Page views: This is valuable to track because it’s a measure of how much of your content is being digested. You can start to find patterns as you see which content is getting the most views, and apply that knowledge to your content creation.

Organic search, direct traffic, and referral traffic: These are the pathways to your content, the organic channels that will—except in rare instances—deliver the most qualified audience to your content.

Keep in mind that whenever possible you’ll want to apply conversions against these metrics. That allows you to see how better performance ultimately leads to a healthier pipeline.

Content scoring

 

4. Content Scoring

The final, and perhaps biggest, piece of the content analytics puzzle is content scoring. This is a deeper dive into your funnel that measures how content influences a buyer’s journey from stage to stage, then assigns content assets and campaigns a score based on that influence. The result is an actual, verifiable score that proves the business impact of content marketing.

Content scoring works by combining the behavioral data within your marketing automation system with the stage progression data captured inside your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

In its simplest form, content scoring looks at every content asset that a buyer interacts with as they move from one stage of your pipeline to another—say from a prospect to a Marketing Qualified Lead. You then divide that one MQL by the number of content assets that buyer touched, which provides even content scores across each influential asset. A more detailed process might include an attribution formula for particular assets. For instance, you might give the first and last touches greater weight for the MQL generated.

Content measurement

Content scoring is most valuable when applied across all the buyers and stages of your pipeline. The score you calculate directly corresponds to number of conversions generated, right down to closed deals. (Note: This becomes highly manual and difficult without content marketing software to automate the process.) This enables marketing teams to assign actual value to the content produced.

Put these four areas of measurement together and you’ll have a dashboard to monitor—and help you improve upon—the health of your content marketing operation. Grab your copy of the content analytics guide to dive into more detail, including which tools you need to collect and analyze all these metrics.

 

Jesse Noyes, KapostAbout Jesse Noyes

Jesse is the Senior Director of Content Marketing for Kapost. In this role, he’s charged with producing overseeing the company’s content marketing strategy and delivering high-value educational experiences for the industry. He is aware of how meta churning out content marketing for a business that sells to content marketers sounds. Jesse is the former Managing Editor at Eloqua (now owned by Oracle), where he ran the company’s award-winning blog and produced plenty of other stuff. You can follow him on Twitter at @noyesjesse if you’re interested in content marketing and dogs.