What ROI metric should B2B marketers use in this digital marketing era?

What types of metrics do B2B marketers need to measure a marketing campaign’s success? Read these interesting blog posts on B2B marketing ROI: Kevin Joyce’s Untangling B2B Marketing Campaigns ROI, Jon Miller’s Improving B2B Marketing ROI: Thought Leadership With Merry Elrick, Tom Scearce’s Three metrics that are more useful than Cost per Lead. We have invited B2B Experts to shed light on the following question: “In what ways have metrics evolved with the increase in digital B2B marketing? Suggest one ROI metric that you have found to be very effective”.  Read on to get their insights.

Recommended Resources from B2B Marketing Experts

Blogs

Books

Others

 

Ardath Albee

Blog Marketing Interactions Twitter Ardath421

Measure momentum. Tune and refine the buying process. You’ll see shorter buying cycle times.

Ardath Albee’s Bio

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist. Her company Marketing Interactions helps companies with complex sales and quantify marketing effectiveness by using interactive e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. She empowers her clients to create customer-centric nurturing programs that leverage strategic story development to engage prospects until they are sales ready. Ardath’s book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale is now shipping!

Ardath Albee’s Tip

Marketers Gain Visibility
The increase in digital B2B Marketing has provided the opportunity for marketers to expand their visibility beyond the aggregate to the granular level of individuals. But regardless of whether overall or drilling down to one prospect’s activity, we now also have the ability to assign more meaning to online behaviors because we can know just who’s doing what, when, in what combinations and how often.

That puts a lot of power into the marketer’s toolbox—if they build their metrics around strategy. Because a complex sale inherently has a longer buying cycle, marketing must not only focus on generating sales opportunities, but on the progression of prospects across those buying stages. In order to keep your company focused on both the short and long terms, you’ve got to demonstrate effectiveness at both.

Measure Momentum
One of the ROI metrics I find effective across the long-term is measuring not only levels of activity, but the momentum marketing can generate to drive sales qualification. There are a couple of things you need to do to make this metric viable:
•    Map your prospects’ buying process (personas and segmentation will help).
•    Create content that matches your prospects’ needs during each stage.
•    Plan triggers that help nudge your prospects to take next steps.
•    Measure progressions over time through to qualified leads and resulting sales.
•    Tune, refine and keep going.

Measuring momentum will not only help marketers to show momentum across the buying process, but as you tune and refine the process based on patterns of activity, you’ll see shorter cycle times. The other thing you’ll notice is that it takes a continuous, consistent nurturing program to produce the desired results, rather than a string of one-off campaigns that don’t serve anyone well over the long term.

Real-time visibility into prospect behavior driven by compelling content strategy will help your company generate more interactions with your prospects. And, let’s face it, prospects who read your content when you send out an email and then move on aren’t likely engaged to the degree it takes to indicate sales readiness. As you build credibility and provide the right content at the right time, you’ll see higher levels of engagement that involve your prospects beyond your nurturing sends. Digital B2B marketing allows marketers the visibility they need to transform the value of marketing for your organization by directly impacting sales—and to prove it.

Ardath Albee Recommends

Brian Carroll

Blog Start with a Lead Twitter BrianJCarroll

Focus on Cost-per-opportunity for effective measurement.

Brian Carroll’s Bio

Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch, is part of MECLABS Group (MarketingExperiments, MarketingSherpa, InTouch) and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and the B2B Lead Generation Blog with expertise related to B2B marketing, lead generation and complex sales.

Brian Carroll’s Tip

The use of the Internet, mobile and other interactive channels has certainly increased the number of leads marketers receive today. Many organizations spend thousands of dollars each month on search marketing to take advantage of this increase.
This increase, however, causes many marketers to focus on the wrong metrics. In order to generate leads marketers have to know how to use the analytics. Many marketers focus on conversion rates of specific phrases or banners and are ignoring other valuable information. While conversion rate is one way to measure the effectiveness of a search phrase, for instance, it can be extremely misleading.

If marketers are spending a lot on search marketing and not capturing visiting organizations (both those that convert and the many more that don’t), they are making decisions based only on half-truths. And they are probably routing dollars toward phrases and ad creative that appear to perform better but in reality are really just clogging the marketing database and sales pipeline.

The metrics of digital marketing is starting to slowly evolve. Marketers are starting to realize that sales people care very little about the cost of the leads we generate. What they really care about is how many of those leads will actually become viable sales opportunities.

For this reason, I think cost-per-opportunity measurements are the most effective metrics. The most common metric, cost per lead, is irrelevant unless we can answer other fundamental questions first, “What is our rate of lead acceptance (a.k.a. sales pursuit) into the sales pipeline” and then “What is the cost per opportunity?” Cost-per-opportunity is the one metric that can help you understand how well your sales team accepts and pursues leads.  Ultimately, it shows if your leads are actually helping our sales team sell and if marketers are positively contributing to their pipeline.

Cost-per-lead models drive down the cost of each lead by generating more leads, which is good if the quality does not suffer. However, this is rarely the case since there are a finite number of high quality sales ready leads in your target market at any given time.

The real question is, “Are these leads helping our sales team sell more and will these leads become profitable customers?”

These are real-world metrics that every marketer should track in their lead generation program:

  • Number of inquiries? (people who raised their hands)
  • Number of leads? (qualified as “sales-ready”)
  • Number of opportunities? (leads that move to pipeline)
  • Number of closed sales? (generated from marketing leads)

If marketers know those metrics they can start to track the following key performance indicators:

  • Inquiry to lead ratio (cost-per-lead) – this isn’t a enough
  • Lead to opportunity ratio (cost-per-opportunity)
  • Lead to pipeline revenue ratio (cost-per-pipeline revenue)
  • Lead to sale (win) ratio (cost-per-closed sale)
    A value driven mindset requires leaders and marketers to plan and budget for the long term and to take a more holistic view that goes beyond cost-per-lead budgets.

Patsi Krakoff

Blog WritingontheWeb Twitter PatsiBlogSquad

Measure what counts for your site, your business, your objectives.

Patsi Krakoff’s Bio

Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D., is a former psychologist and journalist who has been working in online content marketing for the last 10 years helping professionals use e-newsletters and blogs to grow business. Her award-winning blog can be found at WritingontheWeb. She provides quality content and newsletter services for global executive coaches at ContentforCoachesandConsultants. She is co-founder of The Blog Squad, providing blog services and consulting. She lived and worked in Paris for 20 years and now lives in Ajijic, Mexico, where she is an avid tennis player.

Patsi Krakoff’s Tip

Ah yes, numbers, measurements, ROI, return on objective, percentage improvements, traffic stats, sales reports… Yes, I know, I know, that’s important, but I’m a content marketer, not a statistician! I love writing, not counting!

Sometimes I think the whole world is divided into either wordsmiths or bean counters.

But I have a secret: I get a kick out of traffic stats. My heart nearly went into tachycardia last week when I hit the highest page views ever in my little blogging life!

Website/Blog traffic and customer engagement are two important ROI measurements.

I’m a small business, and my clients are small businesses that might not have sophisticated CRM systems to measure and monitor results. Fortunately, certain tools are free and user-friendly. I use Google Analytics and Sitemeter, and advise my clients to do the same. You don’t need an advanced degree in statistics to know that when the line goes up, you’re doing something right.

When it goes down, you need to find out why. Is it your content itself? Or is the design of your site too difficult to read? Is it not clear who your targeted visitors are? Are your content topics unfocused and too broad? Are you confusing the search engine robots because your keywords aren’t clear and obvious? (And, are you boring your readers?)

It’s not rocket science, but it’s often times difficult to discern what measurements mean.  Apart from knowing whether your stats are going up or down, what does that mean? What good is more traffic if it’s not converting?

The important thing is that you have clearly defined objectives for your site and your content. Ask yourself “so what?” each time you publish new content. Make sure you measure what counts for your site, your business, your objectives.

Patsi Krakoff Recommends

Howard Sewell

Blog Direct Connections Twitter HJSewell

Measure campaigns based on Cost Per Quality Lead (CPQL).

Howard Sewell’s Bio

Howard J. Sewell is president and founder of Connect Direct Inc. (CDI) a full-service marketing agency with offices in Silicon Valley and Seattle that specializes in demand generation and lead management for high-technology companies.

Howard Sewell’s Tip

To the extent marketing metrics have evolved, it’s due less to the evolution of digital marketing, and due more to the rapid adoption of marketing automation technologies that improve the way companies connect marketing activity and sales results.  Even so, it would be idealistic to suggest that all companies should start measuring marketing activity by ROI.  Even with the right tools in place, measuring the true sales return from marketing activity can still be problematic, not the least because of the human element – i.e. the diligence and accuracy with which sales reps record and document sales activity.

A more realistic goal for most B2B companies is to measure campaigns based on Cost Per Quality Lead (CPQL).  What defines “quality” isn’t critical – it could be a minimum lead score, a lead accepted by sales, or an opportunity.  At a bare minimum, however, CPQL gives a company a more effective way to measure the relative performance of different tactics.  Without the qualitative element, a campaign such as paid search (SEM) may appear to be performing well, when in fact a high proportion of the leads may fall completely outside the company’s target profile.

Howard Sewell Recommends

Seamus Walsh

Blog B2BContentMarketing Twitter SeamusWalsh

Bounce rate should be analyzed daily.

Seamus Walsh’s Bio

Seamus Walsh founded VAZT Global Inc. in January 2008. Seamus’ passion for sales, sales process and excellence enabled him to develop a platform that “finds, cares and feeds” prospects until they are ready to buy. Prior to forming VAZT, Seamus worked in sales and strategic account management for The Hackett Group, a strategic advisory and management consulting firm in Atlanta, For Gartner, a research, advisory and consulting company in Stamford, CT and Cambridge Technology Partners, a web development company, prior to its acquisition by Novell. Seamus resides in Essex Junction, VT with his wife and four children.

Seamus Walsh’s Tip

Picking one metric is very difficult, almost impossible. The hype around the web as a sales and marketing tool is driving people online in droves.  Frankly, some are jumping in with no thought to content or a strategy that is going to keep people on and coming back to their sites.   That said, to pick one, my favorite metric would be bounce rate.  Bounce rate should be analyzed daily.  When I am searching on the web, you have about 7 seconds of my time on your site to get my attention.  If you pass my UX (user experience) sniff test you gain another 20 or 30 seconds to prove you are a player, in other words, your content has to show me that you understand my search request and that you can satisfy my requirements quickly and if I choose with details: whitepapers, testimonials, spec sheets, videos, etc.

In our and our client’s efforts, we use 3-8 words, or keywords because using longer keyword strings makes it easier to be micro-topical. If we have a bounce rate over 50% we get very concerned. You can, depending on your product and keyword strategy be very, very successful with a higher bounce rate, but for many, it is a very important metric that measures one’s ability to educate and editorialize on a solution as part of a longer sales cycle.

Seamus Walsh Recommends

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Recipes for Remarkable Content

So you already get that great content has the power to communicate expertise, raise your profile and generate leads. You know that it should be useful, credible, easily digestible and, if possible, entertaining.

And you think you’ve got a hot idea for your next blog post, whitepaper or ebook.

Before you click on “publish”, check out this free whitepaper from Tippet called How Vendors Can Use Remarkable Content to Attract Real Buyers. The best part of the whitepaper is the “How to Create Remarkable Content” worksheet, because it helps you step away from your strategy and see it from a user’s perspective.

The 5-question checklist asks that you ask yourself questions like: “Will someone re-Tweet it?”, “Will someone hang it on the wall of his or her cubicle?”, “Will the reader want to meet the author?”

Hmmm. What kind of content would YOU re-tweet or post in your office because it’s so useful, unique or sophisticated? What is your target audience Twittering about and posting on the office wall? Are you ready to hang out with your readers?

Perhaps a little more research is needed, or perhaps a new angle on the original concept. Before you get overwhelmed by the task of producing something remarkable, here are some pointers for getting started:

  • Producing remarkable content doesn’t mean you have to come up with something that’s never been said before. As Miguel Wickert writes on Simply Blog, “There’s only a certain amount of original content to go around. Remarkable content is unique and quickly shared because it rings different with the reader, even if others said it before.”
  • Put limits on it: To get into a more creative mindset, James Chartrand suggests choosing three random words, like egg, mystery and alphabet. “Write a three-paragraph blog post on copywriting, with each of your chosen words the focus of one paragraph.” Constrained by these three words, you’re forced to get creative and come up with a solution, which may help look at your subject differently.
  • Re-frame the subject: Think about how your target audience feels about the subject you’re addressing, and try to tap into those feelings. A post about “Marketing tips for people who really hate marketing,” is likely to win more fans than “Strategic Marketing Tips”. It’s human and it reaches out to other humans.
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The Content Marketing PlayBook

42 content marketing tactics, over 50 case studies and hundreds of resources – The Content Marketing Playbook: 42 Ways to Connect with Customers is packed with lots of ideas to execute on your content strategy.

We have invited Joe Pulizzi and Jonathan Kranz the authors of The Content Marketing Playbook to  get an insider look into the making of this great and informative eBook.

Joe Pulizzi is a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe, founder of client-vendor matching site Junta42, is co-author of the highly praised book Get Content Get Customers, recognized as THE handbook for content marketing. Joe writes one of the most popular content marketing blogs in the world.

Jonathan Kranz has written a huge stack of content, advertising, direct marketing, and public relations materials for consumer and B2B clients in financial services, banking, insurance, high-tech, healthcare, education, and other industries. Jonathan is also the author of Writing Copy for Dummies and The eBook eBook: How to Turn Your Expertise Into Magnetic Marketing Material.

Joe Pulizzi

Blog Junta42 Twitter juntajoe Junta42

Marketers have to create a story that customers and prospects want to listen to.

Jonathan Kranz

Blog Kranzcom Twitter jonkranz

Content marketing means meeting customers on their own terms.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Joe & Jonathan, it is a great pleasure to discuss your latest eBook – The Content Marketing Playbook. Thanks for finding time out of your very busy schedule to provide your valuable insights to our readers. What prompted you to embark on creating ‘The Content Marketing Playbook’?

Joe Pulizzi: Content marketing seems to be the buzz word for 2009.  There are lots of experts talking about the value of content marketing, and that’s great…but a much lesser number are actually talking about clear, concise examples.  That’s why we developed the Content Marketing Playbook.  A marketing professional can quickly get an idea of why and how they should use a particular tactic.  Now that doesn’t mean content strategy isn’t important…it’s still paramount, but that wasn’t the purpose of this.  The Playbook should be used as a great tool to brainstorm and imagine the possibilities to position your company/brand as a trusted solutions provider (through content).

Jonathan Kranz: My role in the Playbook begins with a cool social networking story. In advance of publishing The eBook eBook: How to Turn Your Expertise Into Magnetic Marketing Material, I spent a lot of time online, following bloggers, Tweeters and thought- leaders interested in content marketing. Joe, obviously, was (and is) one of the big guns in the field. When I saw that we were both scheduled to speak at a virtual online conference, I introduced myself to Joe and we arranged a phone call. Naturally, we had a lot of common interests. And when Joe happened to mention, as an aside, that he had started a kind of guidebook to content tactics, but was bogged down with work, I offered to help with the writing.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Give us the background of how you gained an interest in Content Marketing.

Joe Pulizzi: People don’t want to be interrupted, but they still want to have relationships with the brands they favor. About a decade ago I realized that the way to do this was for marketers to become their own publishers. In 2000, I started helping brands become their own publishers while at Penton Media. When I left Penton in 2007, my goal was to spread the concept of “marketers as publishers” or content marketing to the masses. Writing Get Content. Get Customers. was an important part of this process. The great part is, now there are many people consistently discussing content marketing and the benefits of this philosophy. Great things are starting to happen, and it’s only the beginning.

Jonathan Kranz: Whereas Joe came to content marketing from a media angle, I came at it, unexpectedly, from direct marketing. Several years ago, I was brought in to a lead-generation project in which the premium – or offer – was a “top ten” booklet relevant to the target market. I wrote the book, plus most of the supporting marketing materials: direct mail, print ads, email, web copy, etc. All of it focused on one thing: the value of the information in the booklet – not the product, service or brand. The results were staggering: the client had asked for 500 qualified leads; the campaign pulled in 1,200, representing (after sales) $1.2 million in new business. The key? The offer wasn’t a gimmick – like a flash drive or an iPod – but something immediately relevant to prospects’ needs. That’s what awakened me to the power of content marketing.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Please walk us through the eBook writing life-cycle. How did it evolve on its journey from concept to launch?

Jonathan Kranz: Joe came up with the idea and began with a rough outline that matched various tactics with potential examples. When I came on board, we started by reviewing our list: adding missing tactics, deleting less-promising ones, and consolidating others that were similar. Then we agreed on a standard format: a brief definition or explanation of the tactic with an annotated example of the tactic in action. This, in turn, would be complemented by short bullet lists suggesting who should (or should not) consider using the tactic, plus three key “play points” with advice about execution. Once we pulled this together in a draft, we went through a few rounds of revisions to clarify our points and examples.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Who is ‘Content Marketing Playbook’ addressed towards?

Joe Pulizzi: Marketing professionals at non-media companies. We guarantee that any marketer, of any size, will get at least a couple of gold nuggets from the Playbook.

Jonathan Kranz: People tantalized by content marketing as a strategy, yet hungry for practical insights on tactics in order to execute that strategy effectively.

Ambal Balakrishnan: How is the marketing landscape different than what it was a decade back?

Joe Pulizzi: Simple answer — we went from a few, to thousands of communication vehicles over that time.  Consumers have learned to ignore or block the messages they don’t want. That means that marketers have to create a story that customers and prospects want to listen to. Enter content marketing.

Jonathan Kranz: Traditional marketing methods have taken a major beating. Direct marketing response rates have plummeted and ordinary advertising has been undermined by new customer behaviors: customers don’t sit around to “see” or “hear” your messages; instead, they seek out information they want when they want it. Content marketing means meeting customers on their own terms.

Ambal Balakrishnan: You have some great case studies in ‘Content Marketing Playbook’? How did you pick these examples?

Joe Pulizzi: It’s easier than you think.  Most of the case studies were provided by Junta42 certified content vendors.  Since we review these projects on a regular basis (because that’s part of what Junta42 does to properly help marketers find expert content vendors), we simply had to reach out to our partners.
Ambal Balakrishnan: What are the 3 key lessons you want readers to take away from your book?

Joe Pulizzi:

  • Everyone is a publisher. If you aren’t publishing via one or many of these outlets, you are going to be in trouble.
  • Don’t be afraid. The best way to find out what works is to start, get customer feedback and continue to evolve the program.
  • There is no silver bullet, but there are 42 (and growing) ways to get your story out to customers…to present yourself as an expert in your industry…and to ultimately change the way you do business. What an opportunity!

Jonathan Kranz:

  • Think from your customer’s point of view. It’s what they need, not what you want, that matters.
  • Experiment. Most of the 42 tactics are relatively cheap (especially compared to media buys and DM). Expand on what works, abandon what does not.
  • Jump in. You’ll learn best by taking action, gathering feedback, measuring results, and making adjustments.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What one “get started on right way” change do you recommend to the reader of your ‘Content Marketing Playbook’?

Joe Pulizzi: Listen! Your customers are either talking about you, or talking about things that are important to them all over the web. Listen, then start finding a way to get yourself in the conversation.

Jonathan Kranz: Joe’s nailed it: Listen. Then listen some more.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Please recommend 3-5 resources (books, blogs).

Joe Pulizzi:
Where to start:

Plus:

Ambal Balakrishnan: What kind of projects are you involved in when you are not writing, blogging, speaking, or consulting?

Joe Pulizzi: A few that are not ready to be released, but the big one is continuing to tweak Junta42 into a truly helpful content marketing service for marketers. Also, keeping an ear to the ground in the industry looking for opportunities (like with the Playbook) to spread the gospel of content marketing to the masses.

Jonathan Kranz: I serve on the board of directors of Notre Dame High School  in Lawrence, Massachusetts. As part of the innovative Cristo Rey Network, students attend four extended school days, then spend the fifth day of the week working in a corporate/white collar environment; the money they earn helps defray the cost of tuition. This is our sixth year as a school. Despite operating in what the Boston Globe has described as the poorest city in the commonwealth, both of our graduating classes to date have achieved 100% acceptance rates to four-year colleges!

Ambal Balakrishnan: Jonathan & Joe, thanks for taking the time to discuss your eBook and sharing your insights with us.

Joe Pulizzi & Jonathan Kranz: Thanks Ambal.

Read The Content Marketing Playbook and keep it handy. You will find great ideas for every kind of marketing project you tackle. Download The Content Marketing Playbook FREE here. Get The Content Marketing Playbook’s Table of Contents here.

Over to you…

What is the one lesson from The Content Marketing Playbook you will put to use in your next Content Marketing project?

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Weekly Round-Up: 9-Oct-2009

TGIF and welcome to ClickDigest weekly roundup!

It’s a big world out there in the content-marketing/social media/B2B blogosphere, so we would like to save your time by rounding up the best posts and articles of the week. We highlight a take-home point of each post, giving you a snapshot of what thought leaders and influencers are saying.

Improve your Lead Gen: 8 Takeaways from the B2B Marketing Summit

Author : Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll highlights many takeaways from the 6th annual B2B marketing summit.  Several themes emerged during the course of the event, and eight key takeaways are summarized in the post.

The 4 Step Content Strategy Program – Content Strategy Simplified

Author : Joe Pulizzi

“Let’s face it.  Content strategy is not easy.  Actually, it’s pretty difficult.” says Joe Pulizzi and builds a roadmap for all of us to build a successful content strategy in 4 simple steps.

6 Easy Steps to Increase Leads from Your Corporate Blog

Author : Howard J. Sewell

Howard Sewell takes a direct hit approach and provided all the tips to increase leads from a corporate blog.  A very simple, straight to the point article, lists down key important points to make the articles more marketable.

Why You Should Avoid the “Template Mentality”

Author : Jonathan Kantor

Rather than creating boring marketing documents, Jonathan Kantor gives us excellent tips to make it interesting for readers.  He encourages authors to use cliparts, icons as much as possible.  In this post, he highlights the negative repercussions of using standard templates for your white paper.

White Paper Client Interview Template: Good for Sales Letters, Too

Author : Apryl Parcher

In this posting, Apryl Parcher highlights how “Stelzner’s method” can be broadly adopted for various marketing documents (not just white papers).  “One of the tricks Mike taught me is to have a little “cheat sheet” posted on my computer screen with qualifying questions” she highlights.

42 Ideas on How to Create Content to Connect with Customers

Author : Michele Linn

“Last week I learned about even more options when I came across a great new eBook from Joe Pulizzi and Jonathan Kranz: The Content Marketing Playbook: 42 Ways to Connect with Customers” Michele shares with the readers and reviews the ebook.

OVER TO YOU:

Dear Reader, What are interesting blog posts or Books have you come across this week?

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How should case studies be used in marketing activities versus sales activities?

Marketing teams and sales teams are different within a company. Marketing team within a company works to put together and publish case studies to highlight their solutions and products. Sales teams need to engage with prospects through various phases – pre-sales, nurturing them, educating them, contracts, actual sales and post-sales. Marketing customer engagement is clearly very early stage as compared to sales customer engagement.  We asked case study experts “How case studies should be used in marketing activities versus sales activities?”. We also asked them to share their insights on the following questions:

  • What is Marketing Team’s objective in creating a Case Study?
  • How does a Marketing Team use a Case Study?
  • How does a Sales Team use a Case Study?
  • How can a Marketing Team use a Case Study more effectively than they normally do?
  • How can a Marketing Team effectively use a Case Study through various phases of customer engagement?

Recommended Resources from Experts on Case Studies

Blogs

Books

Others

Cindy King

Blog CindyKing Twitter CindyKing

“It is important for sales and marketing teams to be aware of each others needs and market needs”

Cindy King’s Bio

Cindy King is a Cross-Cultural Marketer & International Sales Specialist based in France.  She uses her dual background in sales & marketing, in international business development, to help businesses improve their international sales conversion. She is also adept at content marketing, international web marketing and social media marketing.

Cindy King’s Tip

Collaboration between sales teams and marketing teams is essential.  You get better case studies when both teams are working towards the same goals.

Here’s why…

The marketing goals for a case study fall into three main categories: to bring credibility, to educate and to validate.  Salespeople need to address all three of these to make sales. Marketers need to keep a clear focus on this goal to create good case study.

And there is something else to remember…

Sales professionals have an accurate picture of what kind of case studies would help them do their jobs.  They can usually bring insights into current trends and even insider news that could be valuable in creating the case study.  Sales teams bring feedback to improve a case study’s relevance for a market’s specific needs. When you use this feedback within a solid marketing plan your case studies become much more effective.

It is important for sales and marketing teams to be aware of each other’s needs and to cultivate communication around market needs and the role case studies can play.  A fruitful dialogue can often highlight the need for more credibility, or education, or validation, in different areas of business. When sales teams know what to look out for this usually helps to find the right clients to approach for future case studies.  Teamwork between sales and marketing teams gives you a stronger case study marketing program.

Cindy King Recommends

Casey Hibbard

Blog Stories That Sell Twitter Casey_Hibbard

“Integrate the happy customer’s voice in nearly all communications throughout sales and marketing”

Casey Hibbard’s Bio

Casey Hibbard is the founder and principal of Compelling Cases, Inc. Over the past decade, she has created and managed nearly 500 customer stories for dozens of companies, including Level 3, USA.NET, Jobfox, Qwest, Great-West Healthcare, Vocus and Verio. She is the author of the first published book on the topic of customer case studies, Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset.

Casey Hibbard’s Tip

The lines of case study usage between marketing and sales teams are often a little blurred. The reason: Not every buyer follows the exact same path in the marketing and sales processes, so case studies show up at different points in the cycle.

For example, marketing teams create customer case studies usually in a couple of formats – the website format and a downloadable PDF, or maybe a customer video. On the company’s website, those serve as educational pieces for buyers to review on their own, perhaps before ever calling the company for more information. But also, sales reps refer to that same content when engaging with prospects in the sales process. They email them to prospects, hand them out, or link to them. It’s the same content but used in different stages.

However, at times there are differences in how marketing and sales use the customer’s story. Marketing might also use case study content in various forms in advertisements, newsletters, blogs, direct marketing, live events, for industry awards, contributed articles or pitching to the media. Sales then uses the content in PowerPoint presentations, sales letters, live in sales conversations, and proposals. They can even leverage them to upsell to current customers.

Both teams can use their case study “content,” not just the full written case study, more effectively by integrating the happy customer’s voice in nearly all communications throughout sales and marketing. Few organizations do this well, but it pays off for those that do.

Casey Hibbard Recommends

Jonathan Kranz

Blog Kranzcom Twitter jonkranz

“The case study is essentially a marketing, rather than sales, tactic”

Jonathan Kranz’s Bio

Today, Jonathan Kranz enjoys the confidence of numerous clients and agencies, but unlike most independent copywriters, his career didn’t begin with them. Instead, he had stints as a follow-spot operator in a regional theater, a park ranger on an allegedly haunted island in Boston Harbor, and as a summarizer of documents in large-scale litigations (think: Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener). After completing his MFA in Creative Writing in 1995 (and publishing a number of short stories in literary journals such as the Missouri Review and the Green Mountains Review), he leap-frogged agency life and jumped into freelancing with both feet. Since then, he has written a huge stack of content, advertising, direct marketing, and public relations materials for consumer and B2B clients in financial services, banking, insurance, high-tech, healthcare, education, and other industries.

Jonathan Kranz’s Tip

Frankly, the case study is essentially a marketing, rather than sales, tactic. (No one will sign on the dotted line based on the strength of a case study alone.) As a marketing effort, case studies can help you:

  • Demonstrate how your product/service works in action
  • Clarify the role and purpose of your product/service
  • Reinforce credibility by articulating a real-life (rather than theoretical) application
  • Build trust by centering your product/service story on someone prospects can empathize with — customers like themselves

And the beautiful thing is, the case study is “green” content (yeah, what the heck, I’ll jump on the emerald bandwagon, too): it’s a make-once, recycle-many-times tactic that can (and should be) used for:

  • Website content
  • Something to talk about on your blog and on Twitter
  • Something to distribute as social media fodder
  • Part of a direct mail package (sure beats the slim-jim brochure)
  • Part of a press kit — terrific material for reporters and editors
  • Sales call leave-behinds
  • Trade show handouts
  • Follow-ups to inbound inquiries

If you’d like to learn more about how to write case studies, I invite you to download my free ebook: Making Your Case: Everything You and Your Colleagues Need to Write Compelling, Lead-Generating Case Studies.

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Michele Linn

Blog Savvy B2B Marketing Twitter MicheleLinn

 “Marketing teams should use case studies to generate interest and sales team should use them in a more customized way”

Michele Linn’s Bio

Michele Linn is a freelance marketing writer specializing creating buyer-focused B2B marketing content, such as white papers, research reports, feature articles and case studies.  Her business is devoted to making the job of B2B marketers easier by producing effective content and providing insights on how they can market it. Her website is Linn Communications.

Michele Linn’s Tip

Case studies are content-rich goldmines for both marketing and sales. Both groups are thrilled to have new story because they feature the voice of the customer and automatically lend credibility to their solution. However, both of these groups use the case studies differently.

Marketing uses case studies to generate interest and move prospects through the sales cycle.  In general, they are looking for stories that have wide appeal. In some cases, the case studies are simply posted to the website, but there are so many more ways that they can be used. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Pull quotes can be used on the website and in presentations.
  • The content from the case study can be used in white papers and eBooks to show how a user has been successful.
  • Excerpts of the customer success can be used in newsletters (both internal and external).
  • Content can be used for press releases and articles (getting the customer’s permission, of course).
  • Case studies can be used as next steps for any type of marketing content.

On the other hand, sales relies on case studies to help them close sales, and they often use them in a more customized way, looking for customer references that really address the specific pains and questions faced by each customer. For instance, earlier in the sale cycle, quotes and facts from case studies can be referenced in sales presentations, matching clients who are in a similar industry and role. As another example, when clients are ready to purchase, sales can use specific customer quotes and results in proposals.

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Sarah Mitchell

Blog Global Copywriting Twitter globalcopywrite

“Marketing department should consider the case study as more than a lead generation tool”

Sarah Mitchell’s Bio

Sarah Mitchell is a freelance copywriter with a focus on B2B content, specifically case studies and white papers. Combining successful technical, sales and writing careers, Sarah provides a rare perspective to every project. She’s especially interested in working with small and medium-sized businesses. Sarah has lived and worked on five continents. Find her website at Global Copywriting.

Sarah Mitchell’s Tip

When I worked at a multi-national software company, it wasn’t unusual to have the marketing and sales teams at odds with each other. The marketing people were full of great ideas and possessed a lot of energy. They developed products that didn’t always reflect the real needs of the quota-weary sales staff. Being on the sales end of the equation, I was party to plenty of disagreements about marketing collateral. We all agreed on one thing, however. You couldn’t do better than a case study.

Marketing teams view case studies as promotional material. With a focus on successful conclusions and attractive graphics, they know a stack of printed case studies is going to be easy to push at trade shows, conferences and to the media. The marketing department is usually the originator of the case study and, largely, controls the development and deployment of these documents.

While case studies are often part of a marketing strategy, they are invaluable in a sales cycle. As Word of Mouth (WoM) becomes a heavy influencer in how consumers are making acquisition decisions, the role of the case study is intensified. By documenting the benefits of a particular product or service and establishing a reference customer in the process, the decision to purchase becomes easier. Replies to tenders, bids or RFPs are always enhanced when a sales person can demonstrate the successful implementation of their solution with documented evidence.

For this reason, it’s imperative the marketing department consider the case study as more than a lead generation tool. It must also be viewed as a means to help close a deal. In this light, the case study has to provide more than a good story with a happy ending in an attractive package. It must present hard data demonstrating specific benefits to the client. Statistical data outlining cost of ownership, payback periods, and the investment required for implementation and training all help build a successful business case.

The good news is a well-planned and executed case study can satisfy both the marketing and sales teams. A knowledgeable marketing team can repurpose a single success story into many different formats including print advertisements, online campaigns, newsletters, and direct mailings. Rich in facts, the same document will assist the sales department in their task to generate revenue for the organization. Ultimately, the goal for both marketing and sales is to close business.

Sarah Mitchell Recommends

Stephanie Tilton

Blog Savvy B2B Marketing Twitter StephanieTilton

“To squeeze the most value from case studies, don’t relegate them to the case study library”

Stephanie Tilton’s Bio

Stephanie Tilton is an expert case study and white paper writer who helps B2B companies advance the sales cycle by engaging prospects and customers. Harnessing her unique blend of technical knowledge, marketing savvy, and writing skills, Stephanie has crafted nearly 100 case studies and white papers for leading brands such as Akamai Technologies, EMC, Macromedia, Novell, SAP, and Symantec. Her website is Ten Ton Marketing.

Stephanie Tilton’s Tip

Increasingly, B2B companies are viewing their engagement with prospects from the buyer’s point of view – and delivering content that’s relevant at each stage in the buying cycle. This strategy is key because today’s prospects often don’t interact with a sales rep until the decision stage. As a result, the onus is on marketing to develop enough valuable and engaging content to keep prospects moving along the path until they’re ready to talk to sales.

At the beginning of the sales cycle, marketers can present case studies to overcome objections.  After identifying common reasons that prospects are hesitant to consider the company’s solution, pinpoint existing customers who had the same concerns initially. Develop a case study that highlights one or more customer’s concern with this issue and why the company’s offering ultimately won them over. This story can be offered as a downloadable PDF, a video on the website, and as a featured story in a newsletter.

In the consideration and decision stages, offer case studies that follow the standard “problem-solution-results” formula. This type of case study helps business buyers envision how the company’s service or product can help them change their current situation for the better.

But don’t overlook the needs of technical evaluators. According to a poll of CIOs conducted by Scott Vaughan of TechWeb, people in this role are interested in the evaluation and implementation process, the technology architectural approach, and lessons learned. Be sure to craft case studies aimed at the technical audience so they can understand what it takes to successfully implement the solution.

To squeeze the most value from case studies, don’t relegate them to the case study library. Excerpt customer quotes and summaries to include in white papers, webinars, presentations, prospecting emails and voice messages, and on relevant web pages. Rotate featured quotes on the home page. Share a compelling story in the company blog. Highlight a customer success in a lead-nurturing newsletter. Promote a case study in a keyword-rich press release that will show up in the search results.

Assemble all case studies in a playbook, on the intranet, and in any other relevant systems, categorized by industry, prospect role, challenges, and stage in the buying process. Then make these available to sales reps so they know which case study to offer in any given situation.

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