B2B 2016 Recap: Rising Above the Noise — 3 Ways to Break Through

Somewhere along the way, Matthew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce, decided he had more to say in his presentation for B2B 2016. His talk has gone through a few title overhauls, but what we were treated to on Thursday afternoon was ultimately called “Systematically Rising Above the Noise: Three Four Ways to Break Through.” In an era in which your buyers are flooded with information, you need a system to rise above the din — hoping for a lucky break or a Don Draper moment just isn’t going to work.Ginna Hall

To figure out how to reach your buyers — and make a lasting impression — you first need to understand exactly what you’re up against in the new media environment.

Is It Loud in Here? The Noise Level You Face

Matthew first pointed out just how elusive B2B marketing success can be: “For every 100 leads a best-in-class B2B company generates, they only close 1.54 of them into actual business. It’s half of that for everyone else.”

Much of this has to do with the explosion of media channels. In 1960 there just five big gatekeepers dictating who could create, distribute and consume content; today there are over 200. The big shift occurred in 2007: The birth of the iPhone caused a major change in the environment. Now business noise has been drowned out by consumer-based noise on social media.

It’s a permission-based market now, so you need clear systems to break through.

Three Systems to Master

Content Needs Context

“With infinite noise,” Matthew explained, “only the most contextual message gets engaged with.”

To contextualize your content for your audience, it needs to be available, personal, purposeful and authentic. Your audience has been taught by their previous experiences with the internet to disqualify before they qualify. To explain this, Matthew used the example of sorting through an email inbox. Odds are good that you delete many messages first, before you open the ones you’re interested in — and further scan them for usefulness. Your content needs to make it past that initial scan by proving that it meets the bar of being useful in your reader’s personal context.

Such contextualization is a moving target that shifts with the market, your buyers’ needs and a range of other variables. Matthew cautions that marketing must be dynamic and cut across many channels to increase the odds of success. Such an endeavor requires a bigger budget that you’ve likely been given: For only average success, a B2B marketing budget must be between seven and 12 percent of gross revenue; for fast growth, you’ll need 13 to 30 percent.

The Holistic Mindset

With so many media channels and ways for your customers to experience your brand, brand creation is no longer just a logo and a slogan. “Today’s branding is the sum of all experiences,” Matthew explained, “not just the ones you create.”

As an example, Matthew played Kmart’s award-winning “Ship My Pants” commercial to show how other experiences with a brand can negate the good press — and hard work! — behind a slick ad campaign. When buyers Googled Kmart to learn more about their shipping, they were met with crummy Yelp! reviews and a broken website. Those suboptimal brand experiences wiped out all the good of the marketing initiative.

The bottom line: Everything builds your brand, so make sure you’re on top of web experience, customer service and product issues in addition to your traditional marketing focus.

Meet Your Buyer at the Right Stage

If there’s one thing you can count on in B2B marketing, it’s that your potential buyers are going to do their research before choosing a product or service. They’ll likely do so in a process called “batch research”: They’ll find a bunch of articles or information on a topic at once, but they may not read them all — they’ll scan to get a sense. Keep this process in mind as you develop content so your work will be a first-page search result and address their needs.

It’s also important to keep in mind that “you can’t make someone sales-ready,” according to Matthew. “Your content needs to be relevant to their stage of research.”

That means that you need to speak your buyer’s language — even when they’re not speaking yours. As an example, Matthew told the story of a woman he met at a wedding who described a segmentation problem in her marketing email work. When Matthew suggested she would benefit from automation, she disagreed.

If he had emailed her the next day with a subject line about automation, it would have gone unopened. Instead, an email about segmentation, with additional information about automation would meet her where she was and help nudge her to the next stage of the process. Try a primary call to action addressing your customer’s stage and a secondary one for the next stage to boost your odds.

Succeeding in the New Media Environment

In a world full of new consumer behavior, new competition, new noise, you need to design new ways to break through. “Due to the number and level of context each experience must have, it is impossible to create it without a systematic approach,” Matthew concluded. When you spend your resources building systems, you can continue to tap them for better results. [Tweet This]

Ginna Hall is the Director of Marketing at WriterAccess. An experienced marketing writer and editor, Ginna has helped corporate, academic and non-profit organizations develop strategic messages and roll-out content that connects with audiences of all types.

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