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How to Use Buyer Personas to Improve B2B Customer Experience

 

align buyer personas to the buyer journey

Customer experience marketing is a proven antidote to the complex buyer journeys that characterize the B2B sector today. The goal is to serve highly relevant content to buyers in the right place at the right time, enhancing lead nurture and conversion to deliver better revenue growth.

Progressive firms are achieving this via intelligent one-to-one, in the moment marketing. Others are struggling to make the shift from product-centric to customer-centric approaches. How can they address this fundamental issue?

The good news is that persona research can provide many of the answers. I’m not talking about traditional personas rooted in demographic and firmographic data with an occasional sprinkling of psychographic insight. Persona research in the digital age needs to take account of buyers’ real-time situations, the specific tasks they need to fulfill and the challenges they encounter. This give a richer context to help shape the development and application of marketing messages and assets.

1. Understand the Buyer’s Situation

An understanding of the backstory and current problems or ‘jobs to be done’ should form the cornerstone of a buyer persona. There could be dozens of reasons why a buyer is in the market for a given product or service. Marketing activity achieves better resonance and engagement when it acknowledges and addresses these reasons.

For instance, the needs and challenges of a fast-growing start-up relocating to new premises could be entirely different to those of an established business that is opening a new office, and different again to a firm that is having to scale back its operations due to a difficult climate. Each of these scenarios could create a need for new technologies, furnishings or equipment, but there will be huge variations in buyers’ attitudes, emotions and priorities.

To obtain this level of buyer understanding, it can be helpful to talk informally with existing customers and establish the sequence of events that led them to require your services. Ask what actions they needed to complete during the buying process, and find out which caused the most aggravation.

These conversations can reveal valuable insights. They can form a strong foundation for persona-led marketing that cuts to the chase and addresses specific problems buyers are trying to solve, particularly those that are not met by competitors. Segmentation can also become more sophisticated, enabling marketing spend to focus on personas with a higher propensity to convert.

2. Gather Relevant Data

Once the various need-drivers for a product or service have been established, it’s possible to identify relevant ‘digital breadcrumbs’. These are key indicators of a buyer’s current situation and their stage in the buyer journey. Digital breadcrumbs can include Google search terms, social media comments or open source information related to pertinent issues.

The collection, organization and analysis of such data facilitates context-led persona development, unlocking the capability for one-to-one in the moment marketing. This enables marketing spend to be prioritized more intelligently, with activity aligned to the specific needs of individual buyer journeys.

For instance, at some point in the purchasing process, buyers look at the logistics of how and when a solution will be delivered. If persona research reveals that this is a bugbear for a target group, marketers can develop content that counters this, then deploy it strategically.

This approach can be augmented through analysis of data surrounding buyers’ digital and human exchanges with your brand. Interactions with your website and marketing automation platforms, sales conversation records and CRM tracking can all provide additional insight to enrich personas.

3. Align Buyer Personas with the Buyer’s Journey

Traditional personas – pen portraits rooted in demographic and firmographic data – played an important role in their day. However, in 2017 demographics and firmographics represent the finishing touches of a persona, not the core substance.

Today’s B2B buyer’s journeys involve multiple, convoluted steps, from ‘defining the specifics of a problem’ to ‘defining criteria to evaluate solutions’ and ‘determining where to acquire the solution.’ Each of these steps is associated with various needs and required outcomes. For marketers to navigate this environment and provide buyers with relevant assets that add value, persona research needs to give the full picture. That means understanding the buyer’s current situation, where they’re trying to get to, and the jobs they need to complete to get there.

It follows that B2B marketing strategies need to be rooted in fundamental contextual information about the buyer. Persona research must be strategically aligned with the buyer’s journey and leveraged intelligently via appropriate content and omnichannel tactics. While demographic and firmographic tailoring is important to achieve surface-level resonance, contextual insight enables buyers’ deeper needs to be addressed.

When marketers understand buyers’ situations and how they quantify success, strategies can be developed to help them complete tasks more quickly and easily. Intelligent persona research, effectively leveraged, can unlock whole new ways of working, enabling marketers to add tangible value to buyers in the moments that matter.

A Wider Context for Content

Thumbnail for 6762Over the past five years, content marketing has become a major strategic theme occupying B2B events, editorials and analysts. Many brands have jumped on the content creation bandwagon – the internet is awash with blogs and white papers, infographics and video. And it keeps on coming.
 
I’m not disputing the importance or value of good quality content. There is an ongoing need for intelligence-led assets that talk to buyers’ pain points. But the trouble is, the sector has become content rich and effectiveness poor. Despite the surge of B2B content, Kapost claims that 65 percent of sales reps say they can’t find anything to send to prospects.
 
Assuming these sales reps’ marketing departments are in fact producing relevant, buyer-focused content; why isn’t it being harnessed effectively across the organisation?
 

Considered, connected content

First off, brands need to stop pigeonholing content in the marketing department. It might originate there, and naturally it plays an important role raising awareness, achieving engagement and supporting lead generation. But it also needs to infiltrate the wider buyer journey. That means finding ways to help sales teams leverage content in real-time whether they’re building relationships, targeting key accounts or addressing a specific buyer’s concerns. 
 
If you’ve gone to the effort of developing content that’s rooted in buyer issues, it makes sense to help people across the business access it easily. Creating an indexed content library that supports sales enablement is a good place to start. 
 
Rather than structuring a content library chronologically or by asset type, items should be classified according to the business challenges they address. Sales teams and buyers are not really interested in whether you’ve produced a white paper, infographic or e-book. They just need to know what pain points the content answers and the type of decision maker that it is geared towards.  
 
Used effectively, a content library can also enhance the lifetime value of prospects that have converted to customers. Account managers and customer service staff need to be trained and empowered so that they can continue the nurturing process. Signposting customers to bottom-of-funnel assets that help drive more value from your product or service can boost retention. It can also support upsell and cross-sell initiatives.   
 

Optimised content experiences

Marketing Automation Platforms and intelligent content are a powerful combination. But best-in-class brands go one step further, combining this with human-led interactions. They recognise it is the content experience – not the content per se – that delivers value. And they’ve learnt the benefit of enabling sellers to initiate highly individualised content experiences in the latter stage of the buyer journey.  
 
Ensuring content can be used systematically and reliably in this context requires a robust strategy. It involves buyer journey mapping, data driven insights and a sophisticated approach to persona development and management. This is where the art and science of content converge.  
 

Content is King 

Back in 1996, Bill Gates famously wrote an essay titled ‘Content is King’. He said that internet users ‘must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information’. And he anticipated ‘intense competition – and ample failure as well as success – in all categories of popular content’. 
 
Twenty years on, the B2B sector is still learning how to consistently deliver tangible ROI from content. Best-in-class brands are brave enough to risk failure, knowing that it can ultimately light the way to lasting success. 
 
Today, one thing is crystal clear: collaboration and cohesion are vital. The chasm between sales and marketing is an enduring thorn in the side of the B2B sector. Perhaps content is the glue that can finally bind them.
 
Harte Hanks understands that content is a key piece of your customer journey. Email us at lets.talk@hartehanks.com to set up a free assessment of your content strategy.

B2B vs B2C marketing analytics – the same, but different?

analytics illustrationI’ve spent much of my career working in data-driven marketing roles and delivering insights for B2C brands, but over the last decade the balance has shifted and I now work almost exclusively with B2B businesses. While some of the differences between the two worlds are to be expected, such as the availability of different data types and the more complex buying cycle in B2B, in fact there are a great deal of similarities in the techniques and types of analysis that can be carried out for B2C and B2B. So why aren’t B2B brands making as much use of analytics as their B2C counterparts?

At first I wondered if this was just my isolated view of the world, but a recent study* by B2B Marketing in association with Circleresearch seems to support this. It reveals that 73% of B2B marketers don’t feel their companies make the most of data, with the weakest skills being in the area of Predictive Analytics.

Not a day goes by where we don’t carry out one or more of the following analyses for the B2C brands we work with:

  • Upsell propensity modelling
  • Path to high value analysis
  • Segmentation
  • Share of wallet analysis
  • Cross-sell propensity modelling
  • Churn prediction

And yet, I still don’t see widespread adoption within B2B organisations. Of course there are exceptions, and some readers will be able to recount many examples of insight-driven B2B sales and marketing activities they’ve been part of. But it’s not commonplace.

In simple terms, the marketing objectives facing B2B and B2C businesses are the same. The difference however, is that B2B businesses tend to focus their efforts on acquisition activity, with much less attention given to “in-life” marketing. B2B buyer journeys are much more complex, lead times are longer, and involve multiple decision makers and influencers (Prospect Modelling and Lead Scoring are great examples of analytics used here, particularly with the tools that have been developed in the last 10 years).

While it used to be true that the low volume and variety of data was a limiting factor in B2B, this is no longer true. Data collected through inbound marketing activity and social channels is a rich and current asset, and the tools and platforms available now mean we can quickly convert this into insight.

Here are just a few ways that analyses most often used for B2C can inform marketing programs for B2B organizations:

  • Churn Prediction: Develop a model that predicts which customers are more likely to churn at the end of their contract. For B2B knowing who to contact, and with what message, has historically been tricky. However, analysis of previous contact behaviour and campaign interactions can help optimise future activity and identify the key decision makers.
  • Share of Wallet: Share of Wallet analytics is an area that has great potential in B2B. Most B2B organisations have an account management structure to maintain the relationship with their customers, and this typically means that high value accounts get 1:1 attention while low value accounts just become one of many for a beleaguered account manager. A Share of Wallet analysis can identify those accounts that still have room for growth, and will typically unearth some sleeping giants!
  • Path to High Value: We use this a lot with our B2C clients! Look at today’s ‘best’ customers and identify what was the sequence of events that got them there. Is their first purchase significant, or is it the acquisition channel, or just their firmographics? By recognising tomorrow’s best customers at an early stage, you can implement the right programs that will help nurture that growth

To put all of this into perspective, research by eConsultancy in association with Adobe** shows that only 26% of responding (B2C and B2B) organisations have a solid data-driven marketing strategy in place, so perhaps it’s no surprise that analytics isn’t as widespread in B2B as I’d hope to see. There’s definitely still room for improvement on both sides, so maybe the similarities are greater than I thought!

Harte Hanks has a team of Analysts, Data Scientists and Strategists to help you integrate analytics into your B2B sales and marketing plans. Is your company fully utilizing Analytic driven insights to better inform acquisition, growth and retention activities? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience.

* “Data Skills Benchmarking Report 2016-17”, April 2016
** “Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: The Pursuit of Data-Driven Maturity”, April 2016

Seven Steps to Smarter Demand Generation

In our recent session at B2B Marketing’s InTech event in London, we considered how demand generation can be improved through a convergence of technology and people.

Think of it as ‘smarter’ demand generation. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation of sophisticated personas and rich, individualised content tailored to buyers’ needs. Then marketing technologies ensure that content is served at the exact time of need.

Addressing these seven components can help ensure demand generation efforts deliver impressive results, in spite of an increasingly complex buyer ecosystem.

Social media
Building bridges between marketing and sales is a longstanding goal for many B2B brands. Social media can provide a shared territory where the two departments can collaborate in a meaningful manner. Empowering sales teams with robust social tools and frameworks can pave the way for a steady pipeline of inbound social leads.

Micro-targeting
Smarter demand generation facilitates better individualisation. This approach uses micro-targeting to enhance the buyer experience with relevant, precisely tailored interactions. It integrates data, tactics, people and technology to achieve a higher level of resonance than traditional personalisation.

Actionable
According to Kapost/Content Marketeer, 65 per cent of sales reps complain that they can’t find content to send to prospects. Marketers need to draw on data analytics to ensure content strategies are aligned to definite buyer pain points and areas of interest. Content should also be catalogued and shared internally to ensure all stakeholders can find what they need quickly and easily.

Relevance
Take time to build buyer personas and develop them on an ongoing basis. They should continually evolve and form a reference point throughout the content creation process. This ensures assets are finely tuned to address both enduring and emerging pain points. When content is relevant and of-the-moment, it helps to build advocacy and loyalty amongst buyers and prospects.

Technological
If you are in any doubt about the rise of technology in marketing, consider this: there has been a 1,767% increase in marketing technologies in the past four years. Such proliferation of sophisticated tools can be overwhelming, so it’s vital to keep the end-goal in your sights. Any technologies deployed in support of demand generation should be firmly geared towards enhancing the buyer experience.

Experience
Product differentiation has been usurped by customer experience as the battleground for organisations wanting to achieve standout. According to Gartner for Marketing Leaders, marketers are under pressure to ‘create exceptional branded moments at every customer touchpoint’. Linear buyer journeys have been replaced by a more episodic, multi-interaction buyer ecosystem. Every customer interaction is crucial and must be carefully planned, crafted and delivered.

ROI
Maximising return on investment remains the top priority – and a major challenge – for all marketers. At Harte Hanks, we typically see ROI ratios between 35:1 and 75:1 for best-in-class brands who integrate data, technology, people and tactics intelligently in their demand generation efforts.

Alana Griffiths and Alex Gill are Senior Directors at Harte Hanks, and have a combined 25 years of marketing expertise. To have one of our experts provide a free audit of your demand generation activity, get in touch by emailing us at lets.talk@hartehanks.com.

How to Individualise Your Marketing: Smarter Demand Generation and the Rise of Micro-targeting

 

“The importance of customer experience is on the rise; marketing is on the hook”. So said Gartner for Marketing Leaders in a 2014 research report. It predicted that customer experience, not product differentiation, would be the new battlefield for organisations wanting to achieve standout. And it said marketing would be expected to ‘create exceptional branded moments at every customer touchpoint’.

Two years on, the B2B sector is in the thick of this new reality. Linear buyer journeys have been replaced by a more episodic, multi-interaction buyer ecosystem. Every customer interaction is crucial and must be carefully planned, crafted and delivered. Traditional personalised marketing is no longer enough. We have entered the age of individualised marketing.

What is individualised marketing?
Micro-targeting is gaining increasing attention in the B2B sector. Drawing on data and analytics to better understand target audiences or personas, it enables real-time delivery of content tailored to buyers’ specific needs at the exact time of need. This is individualised marketing. It enhances the buyer experience via targeted and relevant one-to-one interactions.

Naturally, individualised marketing involves a highly customised approach to content creation and relationship building. Smarter demand generation is a critical enabler here. It goes beyond traditional demand generation to ensure all audience interactions are based on insight, tailored to the individual and deliver an impact. Achieving this requires sophisticated deployment and integration of data, tactics, people and technology.

Discover, Create, Act
So what steps can B2B marketers take to individualise their marketing through smarter demand generation? Grouping activities into three distinct but interconnected areas can provide a springboard for success.

Discover – The first step is to understand your current situation. That might involve defining your audience, developing more comprehensive personas, augmenting data and establishing the most effective approach to meet your goals. It can be beneficial to conduct a high level demand marketing audit which culminates in:
• a summary of the existing situation
• a gap analysis against best practice demand generation
• top line recommendations for change
• a roadmap of prioritised and sequenced activities and investments to make the recommended changes.

Create – Once the foundations are in place, marketing campaigns, assets and models can be developed as the basis for delivering individualised marketing.

Integration is an overused term, and often focuses on connecting systems or tactics. But it can be much more than that. It is about how the four dimensions – data, tactics, people, technology – are plugged together to create meaningful interactions. A truly integrative approach leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and creative. It ensures multiple resources across marketing, sales, agencies, service providers and customer service work cohesively and responsively, drawing on a unified view of data, interactions and systems.

Act – Micro-targeting involves the optimisation of marketing technology to facilitate one-to-one conversations across an integrated set of channels and touchpoints. It’s important to ensure digital and human interactions don’t operate in isolation. Digital is the platform from which to plan, create and deliver many interactions with human input built in. Think of live chat, responsive one-to-one emails or social conversations: digital interactions delivered by humans. A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology.

In today’s complex buyer ecosystem, individualised marketing can deliver significant, measurable pipeline impact. Alex Gill and Alana Griffiths from Harte Hanks explore this theme in detail at B2B Marketing’s InTech breakout session: Making Demand Generation Smarter.

How to Optimize Spend with Fractional Attribution

Database

 

When traditional “database marketing” first took off in the early 1990’s, marketing performance measurement and attribution was quite simple. We generated sales and direct mail campaign performance reports using a handful of dimensions. Attribution was easily derived through business reply cards (attached to direct mail pieces), phone numbers or tracking codes. We also used indirect attribution rules by making control group comparisons. We were fairly accurate and the process was easy to execute.

The Current State of Attribution

We all know that the marketing landscape has changed … and it continues to evolve with massive channel proliferation. With so much data and so many options regarding how to best apply a limited marketing budget, how can a CMO receive richer insight to influence tactical decisions that will improve media/channel performance?

Let’s first examine the various states of attribution from the viewpoint of the modern day marketer:

  • Direct Attribution: Still used widely today and still relevant. A specific customer behavior (e.g. a purchase) can be “directly” attributed to a given marketing stimuli via a unique code, landing page/URL, response device, etc. However, other marketing stimuli may have created momentum and been a significant contributor to the consumer’s ultimate decision to purchase.
  • Last Touch Attribution: Attributing the desired customer behavior to the last “known” marketing touch. Similar to “Direct” Attribution, but not always the same, here the marketer attributes the desired customer behavior to the last known touch. This method is very common when there are no specific tracking codes/tags that tie a desired customer behavior directly to a specific marketing stimuli.
  • Multi-Full Attribution: Channel proliferation has led to individual channel/media silos, each with their own unique attribution rules. The separation of traditional offline data and online data is very common. For example, direct mail data is stored in a traditional customer database, email data is stored with the email service provider, and online data is stored by various DMPs, by vendors/partners that are contracted to capture it, each often with their own siloed attribution logic taking FULL credit for the same desired behaviors.
  • Rules Based Attribution: Building on the “Multi-Full Attribution” described above, here marketers use what is often called a “common sense approach” to proportionally assign attribution to very siloed marketing stimuli. For example, a business had recently identified the large overlap between their direct mail and digital channels. For the overlapping purchases identified in both groups, 100% of a given purchase was attributed to direct mail, while simultaneously 100% was also attributed to a combination of digital channels. A rule was then quickly implemented to assign 20% of the attribution to the direct mail channel and proportionally reduce the attribution by 20% across the various forms of digital media. So, it is “fractional” by the simplest definition, but no real math or analytics was being used to assign the “fraction” to each media/channel.

Each of these options contains significant attribution bias towards channels/forms of media, that when taken for face value will result is less than optimal decision-making.

Database-1

What’s Next and What is Fractional Attribution?

Marketers must now leverage math, science and statistics to analyze and derive insight from large pools of data, much of which can now be integrated across channels to inform decisions across touch points during the customer journey. Fractional Attribution is a necessary tool for understanding campaign performance across a multitude of touch points.

Through advanced (and proven) analytic techniques, a weighting calculation is developed and applied to the various marketing touches during the customer’s buying journey. In short, you are attributing a portion of that customer’s purchase to each of the marketing touches that impacted the customer’s decision to buy.

Harte Hanks has a team of analysts that work with marketing organizations to create a fractional attribution model through a collaborative development process:

  1. Define the overall objectives and identify the behavior metrics you want to positively impact (e.g. response, sales, conversion, product registration, etc.).
  2. Define and implement the roadmap including identification of key performance indicators (KPIs) and setting the overall attribution approach. Companies have used both “quick start” fractional attribution solutions and more robust solutions that require dedicated data stores and data integration tools.
  3. Collect and compile the data.
  4. Execute the fractional attribution solution and create the scenario planning tool.

The “scenario planning tool” is what enables the user to optimize media/channel performance. Using the tool, the analyst or marketer can quickly run “what-if” analyses to estimate the impact of reallocating marketing spend across channel/media or removing a channel/media from the mix altogether. The end result is a much more informed decision that can result in significantly higher returns from your marketing budget. Performance data and insights from the optimization exercise are then used to calibrate and refine the attribution engine going forward.

Fractional Attribution rooted in proven math and statistical techniques is a critical tool to accurately improve and optimize the performance of an incredibly fragmented and complex system of channels and media, both online and offline.

database-2

It’s not perfect – no marketing science or advanced marketing analytic solution is. But a robust modeled attribution solution is proven marketing science, and those that leverage it appropriately will generate higher return from their marketing spend and outperform their competitors.

Has your company used fractional attribution to better analyze your marketing spend? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience with us.

How Pharmaceutical CRMs Can Lead to Healthier Relationships

Boosting physician and patient engagement

pharma CRM postCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) software offers a great deal of potential for the pharmaceutical industry. However, this is a complex sector, riddled with regulations surrounding sensitive data. It is not easy to find a solution that fits business needs while complying with relevant laws. This is especially true at an international level when different rules need to be observed for different countries.

Purchasing a standard CRM solution and trying to adapt it to various business and regulatory requirements is time consuming and difficult. Inevitably it involves compromise and hidden expense.

Instead, many pharmaceutical companies could benefit from international CRM programs that are purpose-built from the ground up by a marketing services provider.

Bespoke CRM for pharmaceuticals

A truly customized approach uses business goals as a starting point and builds a CRM framework around them. This ensures variations across different countries can be accounted for and embraced at an early stage, rather than being bolted on later. The result is a highly specified solution intrinsically optimized to meet business needs. It can have built-in scalability and the flexibility to handle international differences in data laws or standard practice, such as call centre versus nurse-led activity.

Ultimately, custom-built CRM offers better value and efficiency. Adapting existing systems is expensive, license fees can be high and product release cycles can delay the implementation of certain functionalities.

Using an MSP to build, manage and implement the solution brings multiple advantages. Since all aspects – from database management to phone calls, emails and SMS to direct mail – are handled by one organization, the program is more cohesive and affordable. What’s more, sensitive data is all held securely in one place.

Physician and patient communications

The best pharmaceutical CRM programs empower physicians and patients to make better, more informed choices – whether they’re prescribing treatment or following it.

Meeting physicians in person is becoming increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies. Physicians are often under pressure to see a certain number of patients per day, leaving limited time for meeting with third parties. Some countries also have complex regulations surrounding personal interaction between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. In many cases, direct marketing can play an effective role alongside or in place of face-to-face meetings. It enables physicians to keep abreast of the latest developments in treatments and processes such as pharmaceutical-led patient support.

Patient-focused activity varies depending on the nature of the patient’s condition, where they are in the treatment cycle, the level of data available and nuances of their country of residence. Naturally, when more is known about a patient, activity can be better tailored to their current needs and communications become more meaningful.

A central aim of pharmaceutical CRM should be fostering good relationships between patients and physicians. This means acknowledging the authority of the physician in prescribing drugs, while enabling patients to get more out of their appointments and the overall treatment. Ideally communications should operate progressively, supporting patients as they move from the initial awareness that they may have a certain condition, to actively acknowledging it, then learning to live with it. The latter stage is vital to boost adherence to treatment regimen and enhance overall patient outcomes.

Overcoming challenges

There are many challenges facing the marketing of pharmaceuticals today. However, deeper engagement rooted in custom-built CRM can help navigate many of them.

Direct alignment of patient and physician communications is complex from a data perspective, but with care and attention it can usually be achieved. Bespoke CRM programs can incorporate specific opt-in language to overcome many of the barriers surrounding sensitive data. This ensures that patients who are happy to share their data can access the wider support that is on offer should they need it.

Achieving buy-in from physicians and patients is not easy – nor should it be. Pharmaceutical organizations need to earn trust and loyalty over time. Striving for better, deeper engagement is a critical factor. An effective way to realize this in the short- to medium-term is through the empowerment of patients and physicians, arming them with knowledge and information so they can make informed choices. In the longer term, improved patient outcomes will speak for themselves.

 

Harte Hanks handles CRM programs for leading global pharmaceutical companies. Patient data is handled sensitively and an integrated approach ensures improved patient support and outcomes. Natalia Gallur has more than ten years’ experience in the sector.

 

Smarter Demand Gen Awakens

Convergence of Tech and People Will Amplify Demand Generation in 2016

UnknownThe B2B demand-marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace. It’s driven by emerging technologies, tactics and buyer behaviors, alongside other well-established factors that continue to shape the discipline.

Industry influencers and analysts such as SiriusDecisions and Forrester identified a raft of demand generation trends and requirements in 2015. These range from better use of analytics as a foundation for demand planning to buyer journey alignment and operationalizing personas.

The notion of operationalizing personas involves integrating persona intelligence into demand generation efforts. At a fundamental level, it involves dynamic delivery of persona-based content, messaging and offers across email, landing pages and websites. It was first mooted by SiriusDecisions in 2014, but began to take hold last year. During 2016 it will occupy a more central role as we enter the next stage of the journey: smarter demand generation.

Why do we need Smarter Demand Generation?

Many B2B organizations find their demand generation efforts are characterized by small pipelines, missed targets and failure to respond to the needs of today’s buyers. It’s not surprising when you consider the seismic shift in buyer behavior over the past few years.

B2B sales and marketing is becoming increasingly complex and far less linear in its nature. There are multiple influencers, decision makers and stakeholders. There are multiple online and offline marketing channels. And there are multiple interactions and conversations taking place.

In this fractured, multifaceted landscape we need to find a path to more effective, joined-up demand generation. We need an approach that embraces the complex realities of the B2B sector today and handles them with ease. Smarter demand generation is the answer.

What does it mean?

A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology. This is true throughout the process. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation and operationalization of personas. It also shapes the development and substance of programs that are augmented and delivered via sophisticated technologies. Finally, individuals at the receiving end of smarter demand generation are served with optimized, highly personalized communications. Content is relevant to their current and future professional needs and it is delivered at an opportune time via the most appropriate platform. The upshot is finely tuned buyer engagement and a more robust pipeline.

This might sound a world away from traditional demand generation. And it’s true that it requires a deeply analytical and intelligent approach expertly integrated with technical capabilities. But every journey begins with a single step. Marketers who set their sights on smarter demand generation can quickly realize benefits at a micro level that can later be replicated at a larger scale.

Exploring smarter demand generation with one segment of your target audience can be a good place to start. Integrating data, technology, people and tactics for the first time isn’t easy – but it is more manageable and achievable at a smaller scale. Ring-fence a project that leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and optimization. Then closely monitor the results to track the impact on the sales pipeline. Spotlighting the effectiveness of smarter demand generation in this way, and sharing it at a Board level, can create an appetite for more. It might help secure investment in the technologies and skills required for a wider rollout.

The B2B sector has strived for precision marketing for decades. With the awakening of smarter demand generation, it is finally within reach.

 

Alex Gill explores this theme in a B2B Marketing webinar on 27 January: How to align your marketing for smarter demand generation and stronger ROI. Book your seat here.

The Hottest Three Letter Acronym for 2016: D-M-P

dmp_blog_harte-hanks

Marketers are overwhelmed with tools and channels, and most of these – OMG! – have a three-letter acronym (TLA) that we use to theoretically make it easier for us to discuss them (and of course, to make us feel like we are in the know!). DSP, SEM, PMD, PLA, SEO, FPD, LOL, CRM, FAN, GDN . . . the list goes on and on. BTW, “LOL” on the previous list refers to “laugh out loud,” ICYM!

IMO, the hot TLA for 2016 will be DMP – data management platform. FYI, a DMP is a data warehouse that “can be used to house and manage any form of information, but for marketers, they’re most often used to manage cookie IDs and to generate audience segments, which are subsequently used to target specific users with online ads.”

For example, let’s say that you have a CRM full of FPD (first-party data) about your customers. You can upload this data to a DMP, enhance the data with third-party behavioral targeting, and then generate audience profiles that you can use to create more targeted and effective ads across your social, search, and display channels. Compared to your competitors without a DMP, your marketing campaigns should resonate better with consumers. Information asymmetry leads to better ROI, so marketers who don’t have a DMP have more to fear than just the FOMO – they may actually be at a significant disadvantage.

All of this assumes, of course, that marketers who invest in a DMP will install it correctly and use it correctly. As anyone who has seen an amazing pitch of marketing technology knows, the product never seems to work quite as well as it does in the canned demo! Setting up a DMP properly is fraught with potential pitfalls, from not properly importing data to incorrect data interpretation. So simply having a DMP is not enough – having the right pilots of data collection and analysis is vital. Given that this is a corporate blog, now would be a good time for me to promote Harte Hanks’ DMP/service solution, which we call Total Customer Discovery.

The future of marketing is always murky, so the centrality of the DMP is still TBD. That said, theoretically DMPs make a lot of sense, and it seems likely that it will be an important component of all online marketing strategies going forward. TTYL!

The Campaign is Dead, Long Live the Campaign

HarteHanks_Campaign-is-Dead

The evolution of the customer journey from vendor-led to the modern, customer-empowered experience has all but killed the idea of a “campaign.” Marketing to today’s consumer is not a short-term affair – it requires a sustained effort that provides the consumer with relevant and useful information at the right time and place. This “long” approach has seemingly ended the usefulness of the traditional campaign, with the thought being that the modern consumer is acutely aware of when they are being marketed to and are turned off by campaigns. While this is partially true – consumers are more aware – the rumors of the campaign’s death are unsubstantiated.

Traditional Campaigns

When we think of the word “campaign” in the traditional sense, we think of short-term, targeted efforts and messaging designed to spur action, like voting for a political candidate or driving consumers to a holiday sale event. In the past, these campaigns were singular efforts, and while not completely disconnected from the brand, existed largely outside of the overall brand message. In essence, the customer journey was brief. Those customers targeted by the campaign were targeted specifically for the campaign, but not necessarily for an ongoing relationship.

It’s All About Semantics

The massive customer journey sea change in the digital age has painted the campaign in a negative light. But the rumors of the campaign’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The campaign is alive and well – if viewed as a tactic rather than a strategy. After all, “campaign” is just a word. Campaigns – no matter what you call them – do have a place in the modern customer journey. But they must be seamlessly integrated into a larger, more macro approach to customer engagement.

The Tactical Approach

To successfully promote your brand and its products or services, simply marketing to consumers is not enough. You must build relationships and build trust. Today’s consumer knows a pitch when they see it and tends to be turned off when approached with a purely sales-driven message, especially as an initial communication. Consumers are, however, receptive to individual campaigns within the larger context of an existing relationship with your brand. Those consumers who already have a level of engagement with your brand – particularly those who have shown increased interest by opting in to your communications – are likely to embrace a campaign for your product or service, or at the very least consider the message.

Consumer engagement communications should never be stagnant – simply promoting the same thing in perpetuity will eventually lead to message fatigue and a loss of interest in your brand. Injecting timely, targeted campaigns into your customer communications can breathe life into your customer engagement and drive revenue for your brand.

Marketing Technology: Where’s My ROI?

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The modern customer journey is consumer driven and often fractured. Unlike the linear, vendor-led customer journeys of the past, the buyer is now in full control. With endless options – and a bevvy of information about each product or service readily available for consumers – marketers must devise new ways to attract customers and secure brand awareness and loyalty. A slew of new marketing technology, including CRM, marketing automation and inbound marketing platforms, have risen up to solve the new customer journey riddle. But despite the effectiveness of these platforms, too many B2B companies are reporting negative ROI for marketing technology investments. There are a number of reasons why.

Failure to Launch

The B2B sales cycle is a complex process. Unlike B2C products, there is no such thing as an “impulse purchase.” Buyers typically spend weeks, months and sometimes even years researching and deliberating before deciding on a purchase – particularly where big-ticket items are concerned. Marketing technology can help significantly simplify this process, but it isn’t a magic bullet. Marketing platforms aren’t plug and play; they are a set of interconnected tools for marketers to utilize as part of an overall strategy. Too often, B2B companies purchase marketing technology, but fail to allocate the resources necessary to realize their benefits. Marketing systems are a great delivery system, but engaging and strategic content that guides prospects along the customer journey must be created first. You can buy a car, but if you don’t fill it with gas and get behind the wheel, it isn’t going to move.

Scratching the Surface

Most of the marketing technology platforms available today come equipped with an array of features that justify their cost – intelligent analytics, A/B testing, easy integration, etc. Companies who fail to realize ROI on these products are often utilizing only a fraction of the features available to them. These features can significantly enhance the power of the platform and should be utilized whenever possible.

Stove Piping

With so many different types of technology available, B2B companies often have more than one system for sales and marketing. Failure to integrate these systems – particularly marketing automation platforms and CRM software – creates a confusing environment where systems are not communicating with each other and often duplicating efforts. In order to get the most out of marketing software and a favorable ROI, marketing platforms and CRM software should always be integrated.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Too many B2B companies dive head first into marketing technology – purchasing platforms without a full understanding of the system or a plan to implement it. B2B marketers often find themselves tasked with becoming technology experts trying to implement and integrate systems they know little, if anything, about. Additionally, systems are often purchased before a strategy has been developed to utilize them.

Boost Your ROI

To fully realize the benefits of marketing technology platforms, B2B marketers must view these platforms as an important tool, but as only part of the process. Creative campaigns, strategic plans and actual customer conversations are all an integral part of the modern customer journey as well. Before purchasing a new marketing technology platform, B2B companies should perform due diligence on the products they wish to purchase and have a plan in place on how they will be utilized.

And if you need help boosting the ROI of your marketing investment, Harte Hanks has extensive experience integrating marketing technology with marketing strategy. We’re here to help!

The Revolution Will Be Televised

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Smart B2B brands have been learning from their B2C cousins about wrapping messages up in a more appealing way for years. Some B2B players have a clear vision of the role video needs to play and how to make the viewer experience both enjoyable and meaningful. Plaudits where they’re due!

However, some B2B companies have been slow to adopt video to attract customers or communicate effectively – due largely to inexperience and a failure to understand the financial and creative commitments necessary to produce video content that gets results. Whether it’s a B2C or B2B audience, humans typically respond better to – and retain more information from – video content. We’ve been hard-wired to respond to moving pictures and alluring sounds since we were all tiny humans. All B2B marketers must learn to adapt and create visual content in order to survive.

Learn From The Pros

There’s a good reason B2C companies are adept at visual content – they’ve been doing it since the 1940s. (The first paid television advertisement, for Bulova watches, was broadcast during a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1941). Since those halcyon days, the medium has expanded, changed, moved and expanded again. While few companies have the marketing budget to run a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl (estimated cost: $4.5 million), the barrier to entry for visual advertising is nearly non-existent. Anyone with a YouTube account and a smartphone can shoot and upload a video. But with expanded access comes immense competition. Simply uploading a video won’t move the needle on customer engagement. B2C marketers know this and dedicate the necessary resources for strategy, creative services and production to create engaging and entertaining video content. The rest of the B2B marketers must follow suit or run the risk of creating dull content that drives away viewers.

Plan For Success 

Before jumping into the video content world, B2B marketers must first devise a strategy. What is the goal of the video? How will it be implemented? For the most part, video content is not a “one-off” product, but a tactic to be implemented along the customer journey as the part of an overall strategy. The content and the style of the video should be determined by its place in the customer journey – top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, etc. Before creating content marketers must determine where and how the video will be best utilized.

Entertain and Engage

Perhaps the biggest mistake some B2B marketers make when creating video is the tendency to focus intently on product details. Minute product details are great for a buyer at the very end of the customer journey, but for most audiences these types of videos end up feeling like an excruciating PowerPoint presentation. Effective video entertains, engages and ultimately, wins loyalty. Dollar Shave Club – a three-year-old company now worth $615 million – launched its success with an irreverent and incredibly entertaining video that quickly went viral, garnering 19 million views. The 90-second video didn’t mention any details about the product itself (aside from calling its razors “f***ing great”), but it achieved its goal – it introduced a new brand to a vast audience, won their affection by entertaining them, and asked them to consider the company’s product without bogging the audience down with details. B2B marketers must find ways to deliver messages implicitly rather than directly, and wrap these messages inside attractive packaging.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

One of the many benefits of marketing automation and content delivery platforms is the ability to evaluate and adjust content based on metrics. These systems give marketers at 360-degree view into content performance – which videos were opened, how long they were viewed and whether or not users clicked to learn more. By paying close attention to metrics, marketers can continually alter content to deliver more engaging and effective communications.

The Recipe

Creating engaging video content requires a thoughtful strategy, an investment in production quality and a hefty dose of creativity. Without all three, your videos may end up DOA!

Notes

YouTube – the world’s second largest search engine – has over one billion users. The site reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network. The number of companies running ads on YouTube increases 40 percent from year to year. The site has become the most important advertising platform in America and beyond.

Back to the Future: Predictive Analytics

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What if you knew what your customers wanted, when they wanted it? With predictive marketing analytics, gazing into the future is entirely possible. While predictive analytics is not a new concept – marketers have often tried to use past performance to predict future behavior – the dawn of the information age has amplified its effectiveness and usability. Predictive analytics allow marketers to focus efforts and maximize their budgets by identifying targets who are ready to buy and by eliminating those who aren’t.

Big Data

 To accurately predict consumer behavior, you need more than focus groups and surveys. The era of Big Data has armed marketers with a deluge of information on consumers – including engagement with marketing automation platforms and “intent” data from across the web. The technology to crunch this data and make sense of it is rapidly evolving, providing marketers with a roadmap to reach the right audience at the right time.

Data in Action

The Big Data era has produced an incredible amount of information about habits, desires and tendencies of consumers. Marketers who follow these digital footprints can optimize their marketing efforts to target individual audience segments and personalize messages to speak directly to potential customers. Predictive analytics can help create incredibly specific buyer personas – marketers no longer need to rely on broad demographic data and guestimates of what a particular buyer prefers. Enhanced buyer personas lay the groundwork for highly personalized messaging for nurture campaigns, which multiple studies show leads to significant increases in conversion and revenue. Predictive analytics also provide the benefit of targeted spending. Knowing what audiences to target and which platforms to target them through significantly increases the impact of marketing budgets.

B2B Adoption

B2B marketers have lagged behind their B2C counterparts in the adoption of marketing technology ­­– predictive analytics included. And while it’s true that personalized data from individual consumers offer a more clear view into purchasing habits and tendencies, plenty of data exists for B2B customers that can be utilized to implement more intelligent marketing tactics. Purchase history, for instance, is a great predictor of current and future behavior. If a customer has recently purchased a software system that won’t need an upgrade for three years, targeting that customer with marketing messages is not only inefficient, but could negatively affect that customers’ perception of your brand. Existing software licenses, log-in frequency, help desk calls and firmographics can also help B2B companies predict the need and desire for their products. Normally this kind of data will predict the type of customers that buy your products. Add social data sources to the mix, and you can predict customers that are ready to buy.

Implementation

Depending on the level of sophistication and budget resources, B2B marketers can deploy analyst-led solutions or automated “black box” solutions to perform predictive analytics. For larger, more comprehensive data operations, an analyst-led approach is preferred. Computers are wonderful, but a human touch – specifically when there are oddities in the data – can more accurately utilize the information output to design programs and messaging that take into account both the customer and the nuances of the company. However, there are various automated solutions that are more than sufficient for less sophisticated marketing automation programs. Both approaches have their own merit, but one thing is clear: predictive analytics allow businesses to focus on what’s important and discard what’s not, leading to amplified revenue growth – and happy customers.

 

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 4)

Unifying Communication Strategies Across Channels Throughout the Customer Journey

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the four biggest marketing challenges faced by B2B tech companies.

Whether you’ve been following along or just tuning in now, you can find the first three installments about utilizing all available tools and technologies, leveraging high-quality, real-time data and generating ROI with less budget and fewer resources on our blog.

For the fourth and final challenge, I will discuss the best strategies to unify communications across channels in order to drive the customer journey.

CHALLENGE #4: How do I unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey?

Your brand is a powerful thing. Not only does it represent the essence and promise of your company, it also embodies the expectations and opinions of your customer as they move through their buying journey. Each touch point with your brand is a chance to enhance – or diminish – a customer’s perception.

That means that each piece of advertising, each call to your contact center and each visit to your landing page should work in tandem to convey a consistent message that represents your brand. Just one negative interaction can damage your customer’s perception. And it’s much more difficult to reverse a negative perception than it is to proactively ensure positive customer interactions from the start of a campaign.

So how can we ensure a single view of customer across their entire journey, with consistent brand touch points and a clear, unified message? Read on:

  1. Start with a clear definition of your brand. First and foremost, you need to clearly define what your brand represents. Your brand platform needs to be articulated and shared with everyone in the company, particularly the external-facing representatives. A marketing program is the creative output built on top of the brand, designed to build awareness and the desire to purchase.
  2. Decide what you are trying to achieve with your marketing efforts. What is your vision of success? What are you trying to do and why are you trying to do it? At this stage, it’s helpful to look at what Harte Hanks Creative Director Alan Kittle calls The Beautiful Intersection. Draw two intersecting circles. In one, write out what you or your client wants to say. In the other, detail what your audience wants to hear. The intersection of this Venn Diagram is your sweet spot – the message that will tell your story while resonating with your audience.
  3. Identify the necessary building blocks and work streams. After you define your end goal and key objective, work backwards to figure out what will get your there. Start with a solid strategist or planner. This individual or team should gather and interpret all available data, and determine how that insight into the customer will enable a connection with the brand. Data intelligence should help form creative briefs and build a campaign message that is highly measurable.
  4. Cut through with a single unifying thought. In a complex, multi-channel, multi-territory campaign, it is essential to have one unifying idea that all marketing efforts tie back to. In fact, the more complex the marketing campaign – the more channels, audiences, periods of time – the simpler the message should be. By looking at the whole picture, you can determine how all the pieces fit together throughout the journey: how an audience reacts to an email, then a phone call a few weeks later and a piece of advertising leading them to a customer landing page a few days after that.
  5. Create an ecosystem of collaboration and information sharing. It is essential that all agencies plug into the brand and work together in a creative, synergistic manner to tell the same story. Branding agencies need to work in tandem with creative teams – the strongest teams collaborate to make a greater sum of their parts.

By following these steps for a new marketing idea, or to increase the effectiveness of an in-progress marketing program, it is possible to unify communications across channels and create that single, unifying thought that weaves through the entire customer journey. Data helps inform and define this thought and to create a cycle of excellence: use data to create something with the best chance of success, then look at what to improve and start the process again.

Elevate Your Contact Center Through Smarter Agent Workspace

contact-center-3This is my third blog post on contact service solutions this month. This blog series has been designed to help our readers understand and create “smarter customer interactions” including recommendations on customer experience technology solutions. This week, I want to share insights and tips on how to improve customer experiences through the creation of strong agent workspaces.

As Andrew Harrison notes in his blog post on building customer loyalty through contact centers, a well-trained agent can be a make-or-break touch point in the customer lifecycle. Creating a smart agent workspace can be one of the best investments you make when it comes to customer experiences. And that doesn’t simply mean hiring strong agents. We can take the experience many steps further once the customer is connected to an agent via chat, email, social or voice.

Create a Smarter Agent Workspace

So what is the first step? It is to create one single solution for support agents to use. Most customer support programs require agents to access more than one system to solve the customers’ problem, such as order management systems or any other source customer database. Once you are in an environment where agents have to log in and launch multiple systems to handle an incident, you have instantly increased the time it takes for the agent to help the customer. If these systems require the agent to re-enter the same data you have also decreased the integrity of your customer data as a whole, due to manual errors that occur when reentering data into multiple systems.

Knowing that most programs will require multiple systems, there are a few easy steps you can take to simplify the process:

  1. Implement a single sign-on strategy. Give the agent one login for all the systems they need to access to immediately reduce training issues and interaction time.
  2. Expose those external systems into the CRM. Using browser controls you can launch external systems inside the CRM, allowing agents to work out of one system to reduce handle time and decrease redundant data entry. This saves money and improves data integrity.
  3. Make sure to design your workspace to keep relevant customer data on display throughout the interaction. Customers are most satisfied when the agent is able to concentrate on the interaction and not struggle with the systems. Handling an issue quickly and on the first call improves your customer satisfaction score. Dock key data points for viewing at all times. Exposing relevant customer data to the agent at call arrival and enabling the agent to see the entire customer picture on one screen increases their ability to resolve the customers’ issues quickly and during the first interaction.

Putting Our Tips Into Practice

Let me walk you through a real world program that required us to implement all of the best practices I just described. Harte Hanks was helping a large entertainment provider launch a new subscription service that allowed viewers to watch their programming via online streaming. The support had to cover phone, email, chat and social channels, as well as subscriptions, billing and technical support. Harte Hanks had to launch a support system less than 30 days prior to the first major online event, and we had to make sure our solution and agents could handle a peak of up to 240,000 calls per hour. No big deal, right?

We quickly implemented Oracle Service Cloud, our preferred solution and a great platform to use as a foundation. Then, we trained agents to handle the interactions as quickly as possible to address the massive amounts of call volume. To do this, we loaded the Service Cloud with ongoing data from all of the streaming service customers to ensure our agents had access to information on any customer that contacted us. We immediately applied CTI functionality that would automatically bring up the customer’s record and history when a call was connected to the agents. This reduced the amount of time agents spent searching for customers in the system. We had to make the work flow fast to handle the volume.

Next, we set out to find ways to reduce the expected volume. We wanted to deflect calls while still keeping the customers satisfied. Using the customer portal, we designed an easy-to-use customer support site that allowed customers to find the answers to their questions quickly and easily. We published the “Contact Us” information inside the support site to drive customers to the site before reaching out for live support. Then we integrated our IVR to offer up automated services such as “Forgot Password,” allowing us to identify the subscriber while in the IVR and see if they had not logged into the service recently. If it had been a while since they last logged in, the team assumed they may have forgotten their password and offered an option to reset it from the IVR.

These technologies allowed us to reduce the volume, but what else could we do? Using our call and screen recording solution, we were able to evaluate how the call flows changed over the course of the program. We noticed that data elements we had placed on tabs inside the workspace were now relevant earlier in the interaction. So we redesigned the workspace to match the new flow, keeping not only the customer data but also the device information docked and visible to the agent at all times on the workspace.

Lessons learned? As programs evolve, technology should as well. Watch how your agents are using your solutions and make adjustments that will continuously improve the quality of your programs. If you invest in a great customer support site, use the insights from that site and apply key integrations and technologies to the agent workspace.

We’ve covered a lot these past few weeks in regards to improving customer experiences and satisfaction through the contact center. Using the technology solutions that I’ve outlined will help get you on well on your way to creating smarter customer interactions.

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 3)

Maximizing ROI with Fewer Resources and Smaller Budgets

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If you’ve been following my four-part series on the biggest challenges impacting B2B tech companies today, you’ll have already picked up some tips on maximizing your tools and technologies and generating high-quality, real-time data.

In this post, I’m going to address one of the most pressing and urgent pain points that marketers face today: how to show an increased return on investment for marketing activities despite shrinking head counts and budgets.

CHALLENGE #3: How do I Maximize ROI with fewer resources and less investment?

With the rise of data analytics, there is more pressure to measure results and account for ROI on ever dollar spent. At Harte Hanks, we’ve found two complementary solutions that work best for driving ROI without hiring a team of marketers or straining existing budgets: Marketing Automation and Centralized Tele-services Programs.

Marketing Automation: Marketing automation platforms help plan, coordinate, manage and measure all of your marketing campaigns, making them more personalized, effective and efficient. The best part is they are executed just as the name suggests­­ – automatically, with minimal need for resource oversight.

Marketing automation has been a buzzword for a few years now, but according to Sirius Decisions, in 2014 85% of B2B marketers using marketing automation platforms feel they are not using them to their full potential. My colleague Anthony Figgins recently wrote about creating more relevant, personal customer interactions using marketing automation as well as some tips for getting started, which I’ve summarized here:

 5 Tips for Implementing Marketing Automation

  1. Pick the tools that best suit your business needs: Identify a tool that fits your goals and budget. We suggest tools that prevent unhealthy data and support better conversion rates, progressive profiling and social integrations.
  1. Select the right team: Because of the complex nature of many marketing automation systems, training will be crucial to success. Empower your team to know, understand and follow best practices and spend an adequate amount of time with vendors to fully immerse with the systems.
  1. Integrate your automation marketing platforms with a CRM system:Many brands use marketing automation solely as an email platform and then sync data with a CRM system. Your marketing automation platforms should work in tandem with your CRM to tell a holistic, cohesive story to and about your customers.
  1. Engage your sales force: Your sales team is the eyes and the ears in the field. They know what is happening with your customers. They can be an excellent source of knowledge about what is working and what needs to be re-evaluated.
  1. Have a plan, process and goal for your tools: Integrate and build processes early to ensure the success of your marketing automation systems. Take a crawl-walk-run approach: Start with an email, then test and refine based on real-time data.

Centralized Teleservices Program: While automating your marketing processes is a sure path to increase ROI, a complementary hands-on approach through a consolidated telemarketing program can also contribute to the bottom line. By simplifying engagement through a central point and single CRM, companies can drive and support both inbound response management to ensure quality customer experiences and outbound lead generation to drive new business.

I’ll give you an example. One of our B2B tech clients was challenged with a waning sales pipeline and declining brand awareness. They had a decentralized model with multiple local agencies, which led to inconsistent service, process, pricing, training, reporting and management. With all of these inefficiencies, the sales pipeline was clearly suffering and the customer experience was fragmented and inconsistent.

Harte Hanks collaborated with the client to design and execute a centralized telemarketing program. The new program offered marketing efficiencies and a commonality of process through a single CRM. Customer experience and sales ROI improved dramatically through simplified engagement with one central support system that drove inbound response management and outbound lead generation.

Through handling 128,000 calls and 30,000 customer and prospect interactions in a centralized manner, the client increased its sales pipeline 300 percent and qualified leads to pass to sales by 500 percent.

With marketing automation and centralized tele-services, marketers can save money and time while still driving ROI.

Join me next week for our final installation of this series: How to unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey.

 

Tips to Create Smarter Customer Interactions Using Innovative Technology Solutions — The Voice Channel

contact-center-2Last week, I published a blog post to help our readers create smarter customer interactions from a custom experience standpoint, including recommendations on customer support websites. This week, I’ll share some insights and tips on how to improve customer experiences through the voice channel.

 Using the Voice Channel to Create Smarter Customer Interactions

A crucial second step in creating smarter customer interactions via contact center solutions is through the voice channel. There are three common technologies that you can use in new ways to take your support to the next level:

  • Integrate interactive voice response (IVR) services with your CRM. Since most CRMs have easy-to-use APIs to access customer and incident data, this has become a quick and inexpensive solution. When you are able to identify customers in the IVR by accessing CRM data you can provide them with smarter IVR features. Once you have a view of the customer and possible reasons for the call you can tailor your IVR self-help options in real time or apply custom routing to get the caller to the best-suited support agent.
  • Most of you are aware of computer telephony integration (CTI) / screen pop technology because it has been available for quite some time. Leveraging CTI technology can help populate the customer’s information (way beyond just a name) to the agent as the call is connected. You can instantly display open orders, tickets and account status. These can come from inside the CRM or from various systems via API calls. This puts all relevant customer data in front of the agents, reducing the search time. The agent now has insight into the customer before they have asked the first question.
  • Expose all relevant customer data to your CRM. This can be done by importing the data or exposing it via APIs. Good examples of data sources you should be tapping into are the marketing database and order management systems. By integrating your CRM with your marketing database you now have the ability to identify the customers needing support even if they have never contacted the support team before.

Check back next week as I will be sharing more insight into contact center solutions, including how to create smarter agent workspace.

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 2)

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A couple of weeks ago, I kicked off a blog series about the four biggest challenges faced by B2B tech companies. If you missed the first installment about creating an ecosystem that makes use of all available tools and technologies, you can read about it here.

Today’s challenge is around generating high-quality, real-time data and using it to drive sales and ROI.

CHALLENGE #2: How do I make my data high-quality, real-time and usable to drive sales?

Marketers today are inundated with data. Just when you’ve successfully integrated Instagram into your marketing activities, a new channel is added to the mix, be it a new social network, a mobile app or even virtual reality and interactive holograms. With the army of channels comes a network of devices. From our fitness trackers to our appliances to our cars, almost everything is getting connected to the Internet. With this propagation of channels and devices, we have more data, more sources and more insights than ever before. The challenge now is figuring out whether that data is quality and usable.

How to solve it

At Harte Hanks, we are all about the data. Data analysis and analytics is in our DNA, and we’ve spent the better part of the last decade figuring out how to make data work for us. Here’s what we’ve learned about increasing data quality to effectively run your business:

Obtain Quality Data (Data Remediation)

The first step to driving sales through data insights is to make sure you have quality data. My colleague Seth Romanow recently outlined his proprietary 4-Box model for determining whether data will meet marketing, analytics or campaign requirements. In a nutshell, as a marketer, you must:

Match data requirements with your ideal customer profile and marketing objectives, ensuring that data is “fit for purpose.”

Perform a data audit that implements the 4-Box methodology to segment your data based on completeness against your previously defined ideal profile and engagement.

Identify the gaps and develop a remediation plan that defines clear paths to cleaning, updating, appending and enriching your data.

Execute the remediation by fixing data sources and process issues and incorporating new digital and social data sources to add depth to the record and increase the ability to segment and target more effectively.

Use Quality Data to Drive Sales (Predictive Analytics): Once you have quality data at your disposal, things start to get really interesting. Predictive analytics is a great way to drive bottom line results as it can reduce the need for expensive third-party data or telemarketing support, particularly for acquisition programs.

What It Is – Predictive analytics helps identify when prospects are ready for an up-sell or a cross-sell, but that’s only half of the story. They also enable marketers to focus their efforts and budgets on prospects with a high response rate, and they can tell companies the prospects with which they should not waste their time. For example, targeting an individual who just invested in a product that met their needs and won’t need an upgrade for three years is not a worthy recipient of marketing dollars – not only could it waste time and budget, it could also harm brand equity.

How To Do It – There are a couple of different ways to implement predictive analytics: through an analyst or through a black-box solution. If you suspect your data has oddities or you need precise, robust outcomes, the analyst-led, human approach is best. If budget is a consideration and you are looking for a quick, scalable and repeatable solution, black-box algorithms may be the way to go. With either option, predictive analysts pinpoint firms that have exhibited a desired behavior, extrapolate the common factors about those businesses, and then analyze the behavior and features of the business to help identify others with a similar profile to be prioritized for marketing activity.

With data remediation and predictive analytics, marketers can improve their data quality and use it to more effectively drive targeted sales. So, what’s coming up next? The final two pain points delve deeper into ROI and delivering consistent communications throughout the customer journey.

  • How do I maximize ROI with fewer resources and less investment?
  • How do I unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey?

 

Taking Your Customers from Anonymous to Known: Introducing Total Customer Discovery

A Deeper Dive into the Solution

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Today, we are excited to announce our newest solution to enable smarter customer interactions: Total Customer Discovery. You can learn more about the details through our press release, video and digital guide. In this blog post, I’m going to break down some of the technology components that went into creating it.

In a nutshell, Total Customer Discovery provides a holistic, 360-degree profile of customers, merging data from online and offline channels and across devices. This single customer view encompasses data across demographics (contact data, social profiles); psychographics (interests), historical (purchase and promotion history) and influencing power (networks, connections). With this richer customer view, marketers can deliver enhanced and personalized customer experiences, leading to increased acquisition, retention and, ultimately, ROI.

So without further ado, here are the different components of the Total Customer Discovery Solution and what they help address:

Solution Component: Cross Screen Identification

With cross-screen identification, each customer has a persistent, unique ID that carries with them, helping marketers track associated devices with that customer even when customers delete their browsing history (and their cookies). With Total Customer Discovery, we can identify and track customers across various devices (mobile phones, tablets, computers, laptops and so on), learning their behaviors, adding to their customer profiles and offering a seamless brand experiences across touch points that takes into consideration their past purchase history and preferences.

Solution Component: Cross Journey Mapping

To solve the problem of internal silos and overwhelming amounts of data, the cross journey mapping function captures customer’s digital behavior and stores meaningful attributes, such as click, searches, interests, preference, etc. to produce richer, more multi-dimensional customer profiles. These attributes can then be linked with other data sources within an organization such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. Total Customer Discovery identifies customer interactions across multiple devices and channels, so that we can track a customer throughout their entire journey, from smartphone, to tablet, to computer, to in-store.

Solution Component: Data Onboarding

A single view of customers provides a comprehensive view of the purchase journey. Integrating both online and offline data helps round out the single view of customer for a comprehensive picture of customer behavior for better retargeting and personalization. With data onboarding, online and offline data are merged and customer files are created using email or physical address lists that are matched with a database of advertiser tracking parameters. Particularly for brick-and-mortar stores, integrating online and offline data sources is crucial for delivering relevant content across channels based on the customer identification, from digital interactions on their smartphone to offline purchases at a retail store.

Solution Component: Social Linkage

Personalized, relevant content is the key to driving ROI in today’s world of real-time “micro-moments.” With social linkage, customers’ social interactions and behaviors are tracked across sites to enable deeper customer segmentation. Social linkage takes data from over 150 social sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+, and gives marketers insightful social profile data to inform their social investment decisions and make their digital marketing efforts more effective.

We’d love to tell you more about how Total Customer Discovery takes customers from anonymous to known. For more information, you can visit hartehanks.com/TCD or email TCD@hartehanks.com.

Tips to Create Smarter Customer Interactions Using Innovative Technology Solutions — The Customer Support Site

contact-center-1A few weeks ago, I participated in a webinar with CRM magazine, and discussed how to create smarter customer interactions and more effective contact centers. I have dedicated the last several years at Harte Hanks specializing in Customer Experience Support solutions, leading a team of technology experts who specialize in Oracle Service Cloud for Contact Centers. Today, I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences on defining what a “smarter customer interaction” means, as well as suggestions on customer support tools that can improve your overall customer experience.

Defining Smarter Customer Interactions

At Harte Hanks, we have been specializing in smarter customer interactions for 80 years. But what do “smarter customer interactions” actually look like? I’d suggest the following:

  • Enable your customers to find answers to their questions quickly and accurately.
  • Allow them to find answers using their preferred method of communication whether that is social media, digital chat, self-help, email, voice or video
  • Require that customer support representatives have easy access to data and tools that enable them to focus on the customer interaction and solve any issue in a timely manner
  • Improve your Contact Center continuously via learning from previous customer interactions and observed behaviors

Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to create smarter customer interactions.

Start with a Great Customer Support Website

Your starting point should always be a customer support website. When executed properly, a great support site can allow customers to self-help by finding the answers they need quickly and efficiently. Remember to make your site more robust than just a traditional FAQ by including website tracking mechanisms that allow you to analyze and improve your knowledge base over time. You can then use that data when customers decide they need to interact with a Contact Center agent multiple times. This is a big step towards creating a smarter customer interaction because it gives insight into where and when your customers give up on self-help and reach out to an agent.

Here are a few other tips for executing a top-notch customer support site:

  • Select a technology that allows you to integrate all of your channels. Harte Hanks uses Oracle Service Cloud for this, which creates consistency by using one knowledge base on the public support site and across all agent channels. This ensures consistent, reliable responses to questions regardless of the customer’s preferred channel.
  • Format answers differently than traditional FAQs. One simple trick is to reduce the length of a written article and replace it with pictures or video instructions.
  • Improve the success rate of self-help by adding guided assistance logic to knowledge base articles. This changes a long written answer into a step-through guide to ensure the customers’ questions are answered and they are not overwhelmed with too much information all at once.

There are no shortages of customer experience solutions available to help create smarter interactions. Check back next week as I will be outlining how to improve the voice channel, and how it can contribute to improved customer interactions.

Get to Know the Harte Hanks Team

Belinda Casper, Group Account Director

Casper.headshotBelinda is a leader in the direct marketing industry. She’s been with Harte Hanks for more than 25 years, and has 30+ years of experience in leading operation, strategic and account management teams, primarily supporting financial clients. Belinda’s proven leadership in managing cross-functional teams within our organization insures seamless integration with the data, analytics, strategy and execution teams. She’s the real deal. I think we need to know more about this Harte Hanks rock star, don’t you?

Q: Tell us what a typical day at Harte Hanks looks like from your perspective.

There really isn’t such a thing as a typical day for me, and this is why I’ve loved my job all of these years! Each day and each client brings a new challenge and an opportunity to learn, grow and help our clients continue to evolve and succeed. The only thing that might be typical about my day is the fact I’m on a lot of calls. But each day, these calls are different based on the subject, and who’s on the calls.

Q: What is your role in making customer interactions smarter and how did you get there?

I lead the account team who supports our financial clients. In doing so, we are leading multi-functional teams, which provide strategic, creative, analytics, and database services for our financial clients.

Q: What is your favorite part of working for Harte Hanks?

I love working with many people from different disciplines and backgrounds internally and with many different clients. The evolution of marketing and financial services ensures the opportunity for continuous learning and growth. But, what I love most is the ability to work directly with our clients to solve their marketing and business problems and opportunities.

Q: What about the future of marketing are you most excited about? Trends? Tools? Platforms?

The ability to tie segmentation and personalized messages to create a consistent customer experience in all channels continues to mean different things in each of the industries we support and in each year we evolve to deliver this in different and impactful ways. Knowing that we haven’t yet seen what the impact of wearables will have on marketing is exciting too.

Q: If you could have the skills to do any other job at Harte Hanks not in your current department, what would you like to do?

I would like to be in the creative group. They always have so much fun together and they’re just so . . . creative!

Q: What’s on your bucket list?

I’ve already started checking things off my bucket list the past few years. I jumped out of a plane, went to Italy, and got my 500RYT therapeutic yoga instructor certification all within the last four years. My youngest son went to college four years ago, and I did not miss a beat to make my list of things I wanted to do, and start doing them. Most remaining bucket list items include new and unique places to travel. I hope to travel to Australia, Asia and return to Europe in the next 10 years.

Get to Know the Harte Hanks Team

Laura Watson, Strategist

Laura Watson Cropped PicHarte Hanks is excited to welcome Laura Watson to our Strategy team! Laura brings 20 years of multi-channel marketing experience, mostly in the banking industry, and a whole lot of energy to the organization. Prior to joining us, she was a VP in direct and digital marketing at PNC Financial Services and earned an MBA with an emphasis in marketing. True to her professional background, Laura has a passion for relationship building, digital trends, and the future of omnichannel marketing. Want to learn a little more about Laura? We thought so. Read on.

Q: Welcome to Harte Hanks! Tell us about your new role at Harte Hanks – how do you spend a typical day, what is your favorite aspect of working at Harte Hanks, etc.

When I was interviewing for the strategy position, a member of the team said, “Have you seen the Lego movie? We’re like the master architects.” Ultimately we’re not thwarting Kragle to save the realm, but we do take a similar approach. We look at all of the business elements around us, apply our understanding of the market environment and vertical context (my vertical specialty is banking), and then help clients understand and apply new marketing techniques driven by data intelligence. The optimal outcome is a brand that consumers love, that’s helpful and relevant, while providing positive incremental return on investment for the brand and value for the consumer.

A typical day…what’s that?

My favorite aspect of working on the business so far has been the opportunity to learn more about cool stuff and trends in the digital and email marketing space. For example, there’s a Bank in Russia that synchs their customers’ wearable devices (e.g. Fitbit, Jawbone) to their savings account – incentivizing them to earn a higher interest rate when their device shows they’ve been exercising. How cool is that?

Q: How did you spend your days prior to joining Harte Hanks?

On the client side with the bank, I managed agency partnerships and a team of 15 direct reports doing one-to-one marketing across multiple channels and lines of business. It was an incredibly dynamic environment working more in the business, and in support of the same ideals…with a lot more regulatory and governmental “influence.” I find that relationship-building there, and in every role I’ve held, is a critical component of my learning and success.

 Q: What attracted you to work at Harte Hanks?

The people. Without a doubt, that was the #1 reason I joined Harte Hanks. I’ve worked with a number of really smart, collaborative, authentic, driven professionals throughout the years as a client of Harte Hanks, most of whom are still with the organization to this day, by the way. The level of stand-out talent, tenure and genuinely good people at the organization, and the opportunity to grow professionally in a supportive environment – I couldn’t resist going to the “dark side” of agency life!

 Q: What about the future of marketing are you most excited about? Trends? Tools? Platforms?

Yikes! How much time do you have? In no particular order – customer-centricity, tailored, real-time, automated marketing (nearly a requirement for any business that wants to stay on top), Agile Email, Email period. (Email drives interactions that we can measure in all channels…Search, Social, Display, Digital, Mobile, Direct and even Mass), content marketing, omnichannel marketing, micro-marketing, mobile, video, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, connecting online and offline data through data management platforms to drive a conversation and value exchange between brands and their stakeholders, big data, the power of all channels working together in an optimized, efficient and orchestrated manner (powered by data, models, etc.)…ultimately it’s caring about what consumers need and want, and finding a profitable way to go to market to deliver it.

Q: What is something about you that very few people know?

I skied with the US Olympic Ski team in Killington, VT. (It’s not as awesome as it sounds…I just happened to be there at the same time, on the same slopes and got to meet, interact with some of them. VERY fun!)

 

The 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report: My Top 3 Stats

Earlier this month, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs released their annual B2B content marketing report, the 5th of its kind.  The report includes findings from 1,820 North American B2B marketers from among 5,000+ marketers surveyed across 109 countries and 25 industries.  Naturally, the result has been a number of articles from varying sources, outlining key findings.
cover image of 2015 b2b content marketing report


One piece in particular
, that received a lot of attention when referenced on the Harte Hanks Twitter account, came from Social Media B2B and highlighted 20 of what they consider to be the most important stats from the report. Now, while they are all valuable stats, I am not going to discuss all 20.

Instead, I would like to focus on 3 that stood out to me most:

  1. 86% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing:

I know that we have all heard numbers like this repeatedly, but what’s interesting about it this time is the fact that the number has gone down from last year’s 93%. What also changed this year is the way “content marketing” was defined, which the aforementioned article speculates as the catalyst for the drop in participation.  The 2015 report defined “content marketing” as: “A  strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” So, it is likely that the decrease is due to the realization to some that they are not truly using content marketing, but merely creating and distributing content.

  1. 54% of the most effective B2B Marketers have a documented content marketing strategy:

The key takeaway from this stat seems to be that if you want to become more effective in your content marketing, the first step may be as simple as documenting your strategy. Now, I obviously use the term “simple” loosely, and a written strategy will not solve all of your content marketing problems overnight.  But, when you compare the overall 35% of B2B marketers who currently have a documented content marketing strategy to the 60% with a documented strategy who consider themselves to be highly effective, the need to record this type of information is evident.

  1. 94% of B2B Marketers use LinkedIn to distribute their content:

There were a number of notable social media platforms mentioned as a distribution channel for content, with an average of 6 platforms used.  LinkedIn, however, was not only the most frequently used, but also considered the most effective (with 63% rating it as a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.) These numbers have stayed pretty consistent with last year’s results and continue to prove that LinkedIn can be a B2B marketer’s best friend, if utilized correctly.  Social media is here to stay, and new platform options are debuting on a regular basis.  So, with the 92% who are using social media in their content marketing efforts, it is important to have a sense of which channels to invest in.   In my experience, LinkedIn tends to offer the greatest reach opportunity as well the highest potential for businesses to speak to the most appropriate audience.

 

In reality, I have offered a very small sample size of the information provided by the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report.  With so many terrific findings to choose from, selecting just 3 was not an easy task, but I feel that my assortment touches on key issues that range from the overall use of content marketing to the best way to distribute content in the ever evolving digital world we live in. Which points from the report were most significant to you?

Welcome to 2014, the Year of Social Selling

Social selling. We’re calling it as the tech buzzword of 2014.

Social selling is not only about getting your internal sales force to integrate social media across their broader digital sales toolkit. It’s using social media to find and intercept audience pain points, then using those key insights to inform content creation efforts to drive leads.

If it were simple, everyone would have flawless social-selling integration. For B2C brands, a small amount of social selling comes naturally in the 21st century; for B2B brands, using social media for sales is more complex.

We’ve been tackling social selling for a couple of years now. Here we will drop our top three social-selling tips to get you thinking in the right direction.

How can B2B organizations best use social selling?

Foremost, social media should be used to build relationships, not just to push a sales agenda onto customers. The customer you are looking to engage with or intercept on social media has a problem — a problem that you can help them solve. Reach out with existing knowledge sources, like white papers, articles and cost calculators. Position yourself as a thought leader, and make sure customers know they can come to you for knowledge, not just to purchase a product. It might seem like a lot of work, but remember: Though prospects might not be ready to buy right now, when they are, they will know where to ask for help.

Does social selling produce results?

Social Media Today states that 79 percent of marketing leads never convert into sales and that a lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. By using social media to open your channels of direct engagement with existing and potential customers, you have an easy tool to nurture your leads, and convert more of those elusive 79 percent into actual sales.

How’s this for results: IBM recently reported that 15 percent of the overall wins for its cloud computing sales efforts could be directly attributed to its social-selling efforts. Additionally, 55 percent of buyers search for information using social media channels, and 75 percent of buyers are likely to use social media somewhere in the purchase process.

Those numbers show that if you’re not developing a B2B social-selling program, you could be missing out. With social selling, you’re not email spamming your customers, you’re not leaving five voicemails that may or may not be sent into a black hole. You’re nurturing prospects directly.

How do I know if social selling is right for my business?

If your target industry is socially active, then, yes, it’s right. Think about how you want to engage prospects, overall and individually. Understanding your audience means knowing that each prospect has a preference for being contacted and engaged. Some prospects prefer LinkedIn, while others might be looking for knowledge on Twitter. Social selling might not be the right program for your business if your target audience isn’t using social media. From our experience, B2B targets in the banking industry are usually socially silent because of industry or privacy regulations. So, it’s necessary to research your prospect’s social activity first.

Social selling is the exciting new buzzword of 2014, but a solid B2B social-selling program can take years to develop. If you think you’re ready to get started, do your research, and then enlist some pros to help. B2B brands that use social selling to generate and nurture prospects — with conversation and engagement, not sales — will see the benefits of a more integrated demand gen program.

Ginny Torok is a social media analyst at Harte Hanks.

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