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May 12, 2008

Presidential Campaigns and the B2B Buying Process

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The Presidential candidates seem to have adopted the same marketing techniques used by online marketers, specifically B2B marketers. As strange as it sounds, it's possible to compare the Presidential electoral cycle to the complex sales cycle.

While the Presidential election is a high-stakes race for control of this country's government, candidates still have to rely on marketing techniques to get their voices heard and their faces in front of the masses. The Presidential campaigns are lengthy - lasting from 6-18 months - are education-intensive, and involve long-term nurturing of their target audience (voters). With so many people tuning into the race this year, B2B marketers may want to pay attention to how candidates have attracted, retained and nurtured their supporters, and how they plan on keeping them engaged from now until November.

Branding
To be a viable Presidential candidate, contenders have to create recognizable brands that appeal to potential supporters all over the country. In building their brands, candidates have a limited period of time to introduce themselves, educate the public on their policies, and prove that they can be trusted. By reaching out to voters with consistent messaging (signs, literature, buttons, commercials), providing a steady stream of high-quality educational materials (issue statements, press releases, online content, literature), and repeating their campaign's key themes at every opportunity(Change You Can Believe In; Straight Talk Express, Making History Together), the candidates have effectively created recognizable brands that seem to appeal to voters.

Building recognizable brands is also an essential component to running a successful B2B marketing campaign. When sending out marketing materials, B2B marketers work to establish themselves as trusted advisers that can be relied upon and turned to over the course of the buying cycle. To do this, marketers reach out to prospects with educational materials that are meant to facilitate the research phase of the buying cycle. By sending these kinds of materials early in the buying process, marketers build brand awareness, provide valuable research materials and hopefully establish themselves as trusted advisers.

Research & Education
With so much riding on the outcome of the Presidential Election, voters are increasingly educating themselves on the policies, backgrounds and beliefs of the Presidential candidates. To help voters learn about their issues, candidates have developed content that outlines their policies, highlights their voting records, and explains how they plan to proceed if elected. Voters can download issue statements, read press releases, watch videos and study the text of speeches on candidate websites. Campaigns also send out eNewsletters and text message updates to blast their supporters with information about the candidates.

With lengthy sales cycles involving expensive, and often highly technical products, B2B marketers have to provide a stream of educational materials to their prospects that will answer their questions as they progress through the buying process. And because different prospects have different requirements (the technical decision maker vs. the financial decision maker, for example), marketers need to develop content that will reach each kind of buyer at the appropriate point in their buying process. To do this, B2B marketers create white papers, case studies, webinars, product demos and podcasts that users can acces with ease when they're ready.

Nurturing
With an election cycle that started in early 2007 and will end in November of this year, Presidential campaigns have to nurture voters throughout the entire process. By reaching out to users with eNewsletters, text messages, events, and editorial content, Presidential candidates continuously strive to connect with and engage voters. Adding to this difficulty is the need for candidates to raise money from their supporters and motivate their base to volunteer their time, organize events and make phone calls on their behalf. So while candidates nurture voters through the process, they also have to engage people with Calls to Action.

Research on lead nurturing shows us that prospects are most likely to respond to your marketing message after you've engaged them with multiple touches (email messages, phone calls, eNewsletters, etc), and that 95% of initial leads are "green bananas" that need to be nurtured and ripened over time (with thanks to Brian Carroll). Because of this B2B marketers engage in "drip marketing" techniques that allow them to engage and re-engage prospects by reaching out to them over time and building their brand and their image as a trusted adviser. B2B marketers continuously reach out to prospects with eNewsletters, email marketing messages, engaging content and Calls to Action - though these Calls to Action generally invite users to participate in events, download trial versions of their products or watch multimedia content.

Content
Both Presidential campaigns and B2B marketing campaigns lean heavily on the use of content to get their views across- specifically audio, video and informational articles. There seems to be an overall recognition that eNewsletters and email marketing messages are effective tools for getting a message across to large numbers of people at once. And while B2B marketers are still somewhat lagging in their use of social media, Presidential campaigns seem to understand that the way to engage users is to let them participate in the process, and have widely implemented blogs, social communities, and user-generated content.

By comparing Presidential campaigns and B2B marketing campaigns, we can see how large, well-funded organizations are using the same tools to achieve very different goals. In looking at the similarities of the processes required to attain their goals however, it's clear that we can all learn from each other, and consider how some of the candidates' tactics could work in the B2B arena.

January 23, 2008

What is Engagement Marketing?

According to Wikipedia, Engagement Marketing campaigns elicit consumer participation in the evolution of a brand, and stimulate users to be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs. By encouraging the consumer to act and comment on your blog, submit a product review to your site, chat with your online sales team or join your web-based community, you stimulate the consumer's desire to participate in your marketing programs.

Once your consumers are participating in your marketing programs, they begin to feel more connected to your company and often remain loyally involved with your brand. A great example of engagement marketing can be seen in the popular Fox TV show American Idol. By asking audience members and at-home viewers to vote each week for their favorite contestants, the show has created an engaged audience that feels connected to the contestants and keeps tuning in to find out if "their" contestants are going to win.

Online social networks such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn also illustrate successful engagement marketing initiatives. In order to be a part of these networks, users must take the initiative to sign-up, create detailed profiles, and connect with friends, co-workers or other like-minded individuals. Once a user is part of these communities, they have opportunities to write blogs, upload photos, join niche-communities, share recommendations, and keep building their networks. And while social networking communities differ from traditional marketing ventures (in that users tend to join for networking or entertainment purposes as opposed to joining for educational reasons like they do with sites such as the Web Buyer's Guide), they still receive and respond to marketing messages while engaged with the sites.

In order to attract and retain customers, IT marketers need to reach out and offer more ways for their users to actively participate in their marketing efforts. While not all IT marketing efforts need to include Engagement Marketing strategies to be successful, there is a need to create more options that allow users to meaningfully connect with your brand, and engage with your message while they educate themselves about your products and services.

Check out what IBM is doing to engage their users on their "Executive Interaction Channel" that is part of the widely publicized IBM Innovation campaign.

December 03, 2007

Building Trust with Drip Marketing

dripmarketingsmall.jpg Drip Marketing is defined as: a direct marketing strategy that involves sending out a number of promotional pieces over a period of time to a subset of sales leads (from wordspy.com).

One way to cultivate and nurture leads as they move through their buying process is to employ a 'drip marketing' strategy whereby you reach out to prospects with various marketing and promotional materials over a period of time. Each time you engage your leads with new content or offers, you reintroduce your prospects to your offerings, reinforce your brand, and gain credibility as a reliable source of information.

One key way to gain the trust of your prospects is by providing educational information without pitching your offerings outright or pressing your prospects to buy. According to Brian Carroll in Lead Nurturing - Ripening the Right Bananas, multi-touch lead nurturing strategies inspire trust in your prospects and helps build a relationships, and building trusted relationships is one of the most effective ways to turn prospects into buyers.

By setting up a drip marketing strategy where, over a period of time, you send emails that contain increasingly more specialized content (such as webcasts, research reports or podcasts), special offers (such as invitations to events), and links to Landing Pages and Microsites, you continuously (yet gently) nudge your leads until they trust your brand, engage with your content, and eventually respond to your offers.

-BH

December 01, 2006

Direct Marketing growth fueled by online

DM to Bolster Economy in 2007
The Direct Marketing Association, in presenting the findings from their study, The Power of Direct, at the recent DMA06 convention, said that DM driven sales are expected to slow somewhat in 2007, but not as much as total U.S. sales.

Ken Magill, in summarizing part of the report, notes that direct marketing spending is expected to be $175.2 billion in 2007, up 5.2% from $166.5 billion in 2006. Also, direct marketing-related sales are expected to grow 6.5% in 2007 to $2.064 trillion, according to the DMA.

Peter Johnson, the DMA's vice president of research and market intelligence, said "While direct marketing-driven sales are expected to grow 6.5% in 2007, total U.S. sales are expected to grow 3.9%... with direct marketing's superior growth rate into 2007, direct marketing will help bolster the economy."

Direct marketing is expected to account for 10.3% of U.S. GDP in 2007, according to the DMA.

BH