Top 4 Signs you MUST Clean Up Your Marketing Database Now!

Marketing databases are one of those things that every business has and frankly, few truly understand.  In my work as a consultant, I work with many businesses over time and one of the first orders of business is to analyze the existing database.  The incoming CMO must make an assessment of the value of that database and determine if what is there is sufficient to meet your lead generation goals.

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After many iterations of this, I have a set of observations about the process.  In general, my going-in assumption is that “something is useable here” That’s a good assumption to start with but as they say, “your mileage may vary.”   Here are 4 clear signs that you should be thinking about a database refresh and clean up:

  1. No one knows where the database came from.  This is the first sign of a dead database.  If there’s no documentation and you truly do not know how the database was built over its life, you are headed for disappointment when you actually use the database.  It’s even worse when you get more than one story about what is contained in the database.
  2. Most records are just name and email.  It seems to be human nature to overestimate the completeness and quality of our data.  Having just an email address is not a marketing database, it’s an email list.  A database has enough data such that you can begin to tell what is what and start to segment the data.  No one would intentionally build an email-only database and expect segmentation from it would they?
  3. Each mailing brings spam notices.  Many of the vendors that we use to send out email (including Marketo and Eloqua) will ding you whenever some level of bad emails are sent out from your account and ultimately will reduce your ability to execute.  If you do not clean it up, it will be more difficult over time to send out emails and the vendor may shut you off altogether until you clean up your act.  Use an email verification service and only mail verified emails addresses.  It’s not cheap and takes some effort, but it is worth the hassle. It will keep you out of hot water.
  4. The percentage that have opened an email in the past year is tiny.  In general, if you email someone and over some extended time they do not open your emails, they are not likely to all of a sudden begin opening your emails and acting upon them.  Consider reducing the database to just those records that have opened or clicked on an email in the past year.  While this feels like a radical action, the non-openers are very unlikely to ever respond, so you will not miss them in your database.  You may also pay less to your Marketing Automation vendor for housing a smaller database.

The joy of having a clean database is a marketers’ dream.  Once you have one it’s real hard to go back.  A clean and maintained database will become a source of new leads with minimal hassle.  A database filled with unclean data will yield nothing but frustration.  Bite the bullet and clean up your database now!  You’ll be glad you did!

What issues do you have with your marketing data?  Have you taken steps to clean up your database?

 

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

 

Start Treating Your Content Like Gold Now!

Content has been a big topic the last few years.  It seems every time you see a survey of the things that CMOs are concerned about, producing enough quality content is usually their number one concern. We even have a style of marketing now called “content marketing,” which of course doesn’t actually market content, it uses content to market other products.  Are you following this?

Content is Gold

Content is the fuel that makes today’s marketing work.  Simple as that may sound, not everyone has swallowed the Kool-Aid yet.  Can you do quality marketing without quality content?  Perhaps.  There are some businesses that are not in the stage of the market that content earns it’s keep.  Some products don’t really lend themselves to the written word; others fail in diagrams.  All is not created equal.

So to help you understand the landscape, here are 5 important points to contemplate:

You can calculate and communicate the exact value of your content.  You can learn in pretty good detail exactly what kinds of content resonate with your audience.  Especially if you hold some other variables constant (audience, medium) while you vary the content.

You can pass content as value to your channel partners.  Everyone wants and can use quality content.  Especially your channel partners.  It used to be that channel partners would look to their vendors for MDF or “leads” and while money still talks, compelling content that supports the marketing effort benefits everyone.

Use different content for the top and bottom of the funnel.  It’s best to use broad subjects and provocative subjects to entice people to enter your funnel where you can educate and nurture them.  Bottom of funnel content will be more product based; reviews, case studies, technical white papers.

Content can be reused.  I know it’s crazy to overstate the obvious, but quality content can be used in much more than one was.  Snippets of a white paper make blog posts; a reworking of a brief can make a contributed article.  Some folks are absolute artists at doing this.  Find one for yourself and stretch your content!

You buy it once, it pays many times.  This is my favorite. Having quality content is a bit like having money in the bank.  You can use it to make money in a campaign, you can use it to make our channel partners smile, you can use it in your PR on your website and in your emails.  And you only have to buy it once!  The inventory that never depletes.

Today’s marketing not only  requires the ability to find, write or purchase content that gets the most out of your campaigns.  It also requires a knack in actually using that content..

How does your content stack up?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

What’s So Cool About Marketing Automation, Anyway?

There’s been a bunch written about this topic.  Creating the tools has made several companies really big.  Oracle paid $810 million for Eloqua in 2012.  Marketing automation has been touted as a marketing revolution.  But what does it all mean?  Why do I need it?

I was an early adopter to the marketing automation world.  Tied a big system to a big system and reaped the benefits.  Yes, it was cool.  But many of the same functionality can be obtained in other packages and gosh, you only really use 20% of the functionality.

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Before you go off and purchase a system without thinking the whole marketing automation process through, take a few moments to go over each of these capabilities.  How important is it to you?  How do you do it now and can that be improved?  You may find that you have tools in place to do many of the aspects of marketing automation.

  • Email tools.  Within any marketing system you’ll want to send out emails and track when they are open-end and clicked on, etc.  This is the core of a marketing automation system.  Automatically sending out follow up emails, based on if the original email was opened, is a key marketing automation task.  Some email programs can do these as well.
  • CRM integration.  It’s ideal to have all data on each prospect stored in the CRM; every website visit, every email received every phone call and trade show visit logged.  Not every combination of systems will yield a fully integrated  view, however, the CRM remains the place to store your customer data.
  • Website analytics.  You will want to integrate date from your website visits, especially these who have responded to your offers.  If your system is a bit more sophisticated, each known prospect’s web visits will be added to the CRM, giving you a much more full view of what prospects are doing.
  • Lead scoring.  Finding the ripe prospects in your CRM based on their “digital body language.”  This works most effectively with a large number of prospects who interact often with your website and emails.  You set rules of how points are assigned and also the point levels when actions, such as sending additional emails, or a phone call, will be taken.
  • Lead nurturing.  This was cited as the feature most companies wanted from marketing automation.  It’s the automated equivalent of keeping in touch with the customer and at it’s best implementation, it is an automatic education of the customer, leading him or her down a predefined content path.  Some folks called this “drip marketing” but the concept has evolved to a more involved science.
  • Landing pages.  Some marketing automation platforms offer landing pages, some do not.  It’s kind of a nice to have, since many cloud services call effectively fill in the blank.  Creating quality landing pages quickly and getting them solidly linked to your CRM is an important and repetitive task.  The automation part of the system can make a big difference here.

Once you have thought through your needs, you will be better able to match up the systems available to your specs.  You’ll likely get the most for your money and the least disruption this way.   You might find that you can already do many of the marketing automation tasks with your current tools.

What marketing automation tools do you use?  What functionality do you use the most?

 

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How has B2B Lead Flow Changed?

Recently I have had the opportunity, more than once,  to consider and explain what’s different about today’s B2B marketing.  It seems the standard that exists in the mind of many outside of the marketing discipline is a lead flow where marketing played a much smaller role.  In that mindset, marketing found leads and sent them all off to sales.  Aside from the occasional last-ditch follow up campaign most of those leads fall dormant.

Now, that mode of operation helped grow a number of great companies, some would say.  The time-honored tradition of following up on leads became a B2B pastime.  So did complaining about lead quality and executing poor follow up.

For example, in the “old days” marketing would set up a trade show, do a promotion or devise a game that brought booth traffic, and then sales interacted with prospects in the booth.  Out of a show came a small number of “hot leads” and a larger number of lesser quality “scanned leads”  Of course the “hot leads” got entered in the system and followed up on quite quickly.  The larger number of “scanned leads,” not so much.  Really, marketing’s role was to instantly hand off all leads to sales.

Marketing Funnel

Enter the 21st century marketer, armed with advanced marketing automation and lead nurturing tools, carefully-created content and end-to-end CRM visibility.  These tools have changed the nature of the game for B2B marketing forever.  Now a “lead” stays in marketing for long periods of time, being nurtured by steady and consistently-applied campaign rules dictate each email, call and question.  This is the middle section of the chart.

Marketing then can “watch” the digital body language of leads and, in a lead scoring environment, can automatically move these to the sales process when they are ready.  The systems can also dictate and advise when a potential customer should be called in the process.  In that manner they can also feed the exact right content for the prospect’s stage of the purchase process.

Within a campaign executed by an automated marketing system, you take different paths based on feedback from the prospect; did they open the email?  Did they click on any links?  Have they visited the website?  All of these actions can be input the lead nurturing campaign and each result can dictate different reactions.

Back in the stone ages of marketing “sales” did these tasks.  Often poorly or inconsistently.  Using a process that was basically untrackable.  But we’re over that now.  Take a deep breath.  We can move on now!

Using one of these systems also allows the marketing team to work on new and creative campaigns rather than executing repetitive marketing execution tasks. It’s all good!  Consider bringing it into your world!

What is the state of your marketing lead engine?  Are you nurturing your leads properly?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How to Keep Your Content Short!

There is a study recently released from Pardot that covers a number of content related issues.  One of the most reported, retweeted and rehashed findings from the study was that 70% of the 400 B2B buyers in the survey thought that content should be less than 5 pages. Frankly, I am kind of surprised that anyone is surprised. If we could get the same information in 1 or 2 pages, why would we want 5?

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Some of the popular social media tools have us looking at ways to spread more gospel with less characters. There is a whole science of distilling your message down to the right number of words or characters for different media. These are all good trends taken from the tactics newspaper writers have used for years.

But it’s not just Tweets and Facebook postings that could use an eye toward brevity; nearly all our communications can benefit from the trend. I went to a business school that had an across-the-board maximum size for all written assignments. The theory was, if you can’t distill it down to a page or page and a half, then no one will ever read or understand it. The training served me well!

Here are then, some tips to keep your writing short, sweet and to the point!

  • Start with an outline.  It seems obvious but if you start by distilling your message down to three points, communicating the three points in a concise fashion now becomes an easier task. This works for blogs like this one all the way to voice mails. Detail the things that must be communicated and start from there.
  • Decide on the tone of the communications.  Determine the level of background to be presented along with the main points. Make it the same for all points. Don’t go in to great depth on the first point and less and less for each one.  How deep you can go will be determined by the overall length of your piece and the number of points you must make.
  • Use visual tools.  You can make a shorter communication more clear with bullets, numbering and the like. These tools make it easier for the brain to absorb the content.  Pictures, chart and graphs also make the data easier to embrace. New content choices like “infographics” have taken the task even further by providing tools that are not limited to just words on a white background.
  • Remove unnecessary words.  The old litmus test was that if the sentence/paragraph meant the same if you removed a given word, then the word should be removed. Many communications can benefit from this type of review and end up shorter with no loss of clarity.

One of the good things is that there is much good content in the world that you can look at and emulate to make your content even better. Note the way others get to the point quickly and completely without a lot of extra words. This style of writing gets read and gets the message across.  Adapt the style as your own!

Have you ever tried to reduce the size of your content? What techniques have you used?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The 5 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Companies Make

Social media.  Much had been written, everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to know what you are doing in it.  Still many folks do not understand the process.  But that doesn’t stop some companies from jumping in anyway.  However, that might not be the best strategy.

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Executing a social media strategy that makes a difference takes thought, planning and consistent execution.  In social media many companies feel the pressure to be involved and jump in before they have really thought it through.  They end up making one or more of these easy-to-avoid mistakes:

  1. Starting without a plan.  A fairly common way for some companies to get started in social media is to sign up for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts and then “let’s see what happens.”  It’s also likely that almost nothing will happen and certainly the world won’t beat a path to your door to see what your next pearl of wisdom will be.  Social media is a crowded place and you need to carefully stake out your audience, your voice and your expertise.  It will not “just take off” on its own.
  2. Not knowing the audience.   Social media platforms are excellent places to find and grow an audience for what you have to say.  However, your content must be relevant to the audience to get noticed.  You’ll attract different audiences based on how your position your social media accounts and by the content that you post.
  3. Broadcasting the same exact thing over all networks.One seemingly popular strategy is to join all the relevant social media platforms and then, send out the same exact news releases, at the same time, on all of the networks.  Since many in your audience will sign up for multiple social media networks, based on their favorites, you’ll be sending out redundant messages.  A more forward thinking strategy would be to give each network a different voice.  Concentrate on different things in different streams.  Grow different types of audiences.
  4. Mixing business with pleasure.  This tends to happen with small entrepreneurial companies where the owner uses the company’s Twitter account to tweet out personal opinions, comments on service at restaurants and the like.  Telling us you have a hangover is not a way to enhance your brand.  Keep this type of chatter on a personal account and not on anything associated with your brand.
  5. Losing interest over time.  Many companies start sending out all sorts of content through social media and after a few months have run out of ideas or the person who was doing all the activity left the company, etc.   Social media is no longer something you “try and see if it works.”  It works and your competitors are making it work.  If you begin a social media outreach the goal is to make it an asset to your business and a major boost in your branding.  “There is no try; there is only do.”

Social media is with us to stay.  It’s become a complex and interesting world where marketers have a chance to differentiate our brands and showcase innovative content.  Embrace it, understand it and make it happen.  You hopefully won’t make these mistakes!

Has your social media implementation had issues?  Did you make any of these mistakes?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

5 Things You Must Know About Marketing Plans

Marketing plans.  It seems some marketing professionals love them and well, some don’t.  But we’ve all had to deal with them.  Everyone wants to see the document and we must submit budget numbers, so we create marketing plans.

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I just completed a marketing plan project for one of my clients.  It’s a process I’ve done a hundred times, but this time I made a point to think about the big picture as I went through the process.  The observations I made may help you as you develop your next plan.

  1. You are never done.  As you think through all of the issues and choices in your plan, you realize that you could continue adding detail, thinking new angles, etc. almost literally forever.  We all feel that way.  But we must recognize the difference between planning and executing and draw a line and say “done!”
  2. The more time you spend planning, the better your marketing effort will be.  It probably goes without saying that the better you prepare, the better you execute.  The marketing plan is both the result and the process of that preparation.  When you have completed a marketing planning process properly, you’re ready to take on the world.
  3. No matter how hard you work, the plan is out of date before you know it.  It’s unfortunate, but your plan will be out of date almost before you use it.  It’s unlikely it will last a year, unless you are in a very stable corner of the business world.  In my career I have made a habit of redoing my marketing plans every 6 months.
  4. It’s only partially about the document.  Yes, a marketing plan is a document and an important one.  However, it’s more than a document; it’s really about the process of thinking it through, discussing it among the team, getting everyone on the same page.  If everyone on the team has their input and embraces the plan, execution will be so much easier.
  5. It must match the budget dollars.  I know, it seems obvious but the expenditures in a marketing plan must match the expenditures in the company budget.  Ideally, you create the plan in advance of submitting budget numbers, but often it doesn’t really work that way.  If you’re a 6-month planner like me, you know it’s a process of moving the dollars around, but keeping the total the same.

So for my client’s marketing plan, I’ve decided to call the plan done.  For now, anyway.  There will be discussions, there will be additional needs added by the sales or executive teams and we’ll recast the  plan again and add new information.  Then we’ll execute the plan and start the process all over again next year.

I’m reminded of an old cliché about plans in business: The only thing we know about our plan with certainty is that it will be wrong and it will not go as we planned it.  There’s some truth to that.  But it doesn’t diminish the importance of the marketing planning process.  Make sure you embrace it and give it proper respect.  You’ll be rewarded when you’re executing.

Do you create an annual marketing plan?  Does your company have a formal process?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm