Monday, July 07, 2008

What Works Now in B2B Lead Generation, Part 2

Part 1 of this review of MarketingSherpa's just-released 2008 B2B Lead Generation Handbook discussed the dramatic changes in B2B marketing practices over the last decade, why SEO and SEM have become critical components of any successful B2B lead generation strategy, and why B2B companies should consider hiring an integrated marketing-PR-online agency to help with these programs. Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom mined from the report.

Blogs and Microsites Can Help with SEO—Eventually

Creating a blog or topic-specific microsite can supplement SEO efforts by providing a venue to share thought-leadership content, in a more casual tone than a corporate site, free from content management or other technological constraints that may apply to a company website. However, as the MarketingSherpa report points out, "This is NOT a short-term strategy. Getting a brand new URL ranked for important keywords can take six months or longer...If you launch a new site for SEO purposes, consider it a permanent part of your online presence."

This is because, as the report notes, it takes time to build external links and a significant body of content, which are critical to establishing credibility with both search engine spiders and human readers (and why persistence is one of the most vital components of effective business blogging).

YouTube and the Paradox of Video Quality

Online video is hot for many reasons: it's engaging, portable, re-usable and increasingly searchable. MarketingSherpa's report provides useful advice for incorporating video into B2B lead generation plans, such as best practices in properly tagging corporate videos uploaded to YouTube.

However, the report authors' advice that "B-to-B videos should employ high-quality, professional techniques to reflect your brand and convey authority" is...not exactly wrong, but too simplistic.

This is where the paradox of video quality comes in. For small companies trying to establish and expand a brand presence in the market, high production values are critical. That's because the objective of a company in this stage is to look bigger than it actually is, and convey a level of credibility that it hasn't yet earned across the market place. It's also more critical the higher the level at which a company sells into its customer organizations (e.g. C-level vs. IT staff) and the larger the target customer organizations.

Ironically, however, the best approach for large organizations may be just the opposite; the "homemade look" that MarketingSherpa considers inappropriate for B2B videos can help to make large corporations seem more human and personal. Microsoft's Robert Scoble became legendary for this, and in this interview with Rodney Rumford of FaceReviews, he talks about how a large corporation like P&G could use very informal video to communicate with their market:



The importance of polished production values also depends on who a company is trying to reach with its message. Software developers, for example, will generally be far more interested in a video perceived as "real" advice from another developer, even with fairly low production values, than a glitzier production perceived as more "commercial." So the key is not so much to produce beautiful video as to produce it in a way appropriate for your objectives and audience.

The Most Interesting B2B Content

B2B marketers don't always understand what kind of information their prospects are looking for (which creates a fabulous opportunity for those who do get it). According to MarketingSherpa's research, B2B marketers believe that case studies, top 10 lists of ways to improve business, and new research on some aspects of an industry are the top three most interesting types of information, with case studies five times as interesting as research.

Their prospective buyers, on the other hand, view case studies, new research, and how-to guides for better using a product or service as the top three, ranking all fairly closely.

B2B marketers and their buyers agree, however, that interviews with analysts or executives on the state of an industry are the least compelling types of content.

It's Always About Your Prospective Customer (Not You)

Finally, the critical importance of relating the benefits provided by your product or service to your customers' interests can't be overstated. While B2B products can't be marketed in the same manner as clothing, sports cars or soft drinks, emotion still plays a vital role in B2B buying. There has to be rationality in the decision, of course, but that doesn't mean any B2B buying decision is purely rational.

Understanding what these emotions are, and shaping communications to address them, is what separates effective B2B marketing messages from self-absorbed noise. The researchers at MarketingSherpa have elegantly encapsulated these B2B buying emotions:

    "Prospects are interested in content about themselves, their income, their industry (as defined by them, not you), their department, their organization, their daily working life and the future of their career. Content becomes must-read (or must-view) by appealing to one or more of these top five job-related emotions:

    A. Safety—keep your job, keep your company safe in a risky time, safeguard your department, avoid looking foolish, pick the most careful course of action, peer-vetted, proven, time-tested.

    B. Ease
    —make your job easier, save time, reduce stress, how-to, assistance, help, quick-and-easy, simplify.

    C. Greed
    —salary increases/bonuses, wealth, profits, rewards, more of something, stockpiling.

    D. Power
    —power to convince a boss or committee to agree with you; power to get your budget passed; powerful insights that can change one's direction for the better.

    E. Ego
    —knowing or proving you are better than other people; being recognized as outstanding in the company of your peers."

There you have it. Once again, the MarketingSherpa B-to-B Lead Generation Handbook exectuive summary is available here.

*****


tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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