Programmatic Advertising - The New Drip Campaigns

Programmatic Advertising – The New Drip Campaigns

Earlier this month, eMarketer covered research from Dun & Bradstreet about the growth of programmatic marketing and how it will influence account-based marketing. Interestingly, 63% of B2B marketers in the research were using programmatic buy in their efforts – and 48% were using personalization for their ad placements.

The example of how B2B marketers are using this type of ad placement showed they start generic. Then, as the person interacted with the brand, the ads became more focused on product details with the goal to close the deal.

Over the last decade, the evolution of this type of marketing has been fascinating to me. In the mid-2000s, I can remember working with clients to purchase and scrub email lists, then combining them with client lists and a list curated from tradeshows to blast emails about webinars or new product information. Today, we can use a multitude of tools to target our current prospects and even target prospects we are unaware of with lookalike profiles based on profitable clients.

While this evolution has been wonderful and tailormade to get the information into the hands of decision-makers or influencers at the exact right time, one comment in the eMarketer article really stuck out to me. Steve Weeks, director of media strategy and planning at Adobe, stated that you have to serve “relevant content” and that you can’t “overexpose people to one message.”

As I sat and thought about this comment, I felt that this is the ongoing battle mar-comm and sales have been having in B2B companies since the start of drip campaigns – do you hit the target over the head with your message and product or do you steadily make yourself a go-to resource that educates the target market about trends?

I personally see the value in the latter approach, where you become the go-to resource that not only looks at trends but also educates the industry about the impact it will have on their business. With a variety of resources ranging from webinars to white papers to online ROI calculators and more, if brands build themselves up as educators, prospects will trust them more in the long run and hopefully you will be the source they turn to when they need new technology.


Why Sales Is Content Marketing’s Best Friend

Why Sales Is Content Marketing’s Best Friend (and the Importance of Being a Good Buddy)

If you’re a content marketing professional who is anything like me, I feel for you. But let’s set that aside for the moment.

If you’re a content marketer, you might be overlooking one of the best sources of intel regarding how your target audience talks and—just as important—how they don’t talk.

Here’s the thing, good people: Search data can be instructive. It can also be misleading. At the very least, it needs to be gut-checked against the experience of the experts who continuously interact with, and listen closely to, the decision makers and influencers your company needs to reach. Who are these mysterious experts?

Your company’s sales force.

Look to your left. Look to your right. One of those people might be a salesperson.

To forge a good working relationship with salespeople around content marketing, you have to remember that the demands on their time are already quite high, their leadership is understandably protective of their attention, and in some cases their insights and best ideas were previously hoovered up to create resources or wins for which they didn’t receive any real credit.

So it’s critical to be a conscientious colleague. Put yourself in their shoes and approach working with them as a two-way street, rather than a one-way value-extraction operation.

The glorious benefits of working with salespeople

Let’s look at a simple example from the world of revenue cycle management (RCM).

Imagine you work for a company that sells software and hardware solutions designed to help providers accept and process patient payments, verify patient insurance and coverage details, and estimate patients’ financial obligation before they receive care.

Further imagine that your company has two sales teams—one focused on small and medium-sized outpatient facilities, and one focused on large hospitals and health systems.  Finally, imagine that you, the snazzily dressed content marketer, need to develop content that helps generate quality leads for both teams.

Step one is understanding the same messaging won’t necessarily work for all audiences. Step two is making sure you gut-check the messaging and language you do use with the salespeople who talk to those audiences every day, and pick their brain for what makes the relevant decision makers perk up their ears. Doing so will ensure you don’t mix messaging when it needs to be segmented, and that you don’t waste time segmenting your messaging where it doesn’t need to occur.

For small and medium-sized providers, topics and terms related to the above example might include “front office,” “patient payments,” or “patient collections.”

But an executive at a health system might see those same terms and think, “this content isn’t really intended for me.” Why? Because their ears and eyes are more attuned to terms such as “patient financial services” (PFS), “patient access,” and “patient financial responsibility.” In addition, they might hear/read “patient collections” as an outsourcing service, rather than a function conducted in-house as part of PFS.

That’s the kind of real-world insight you gain from working with your salespeople. And when you have it, you not only have the ammo needed to self-optimize your content marketing work product—you also have grounded insight that can inform your paid search and advertising, your booth materials, keyword research, direct mail campaigns, and all other marketing activities that involve copy in one capacity or another.

Pull up a chair and stay awhile

As I mentioned above, to truly harness the power of your sales team’s insight, you have to step up with respect. Here are a few suggested best practices based on my experience of getting it wrong and getting it less wrong:

Don’t schedule a stupid meeting. Examples of stupid meetings include:

  • Any meeting that takes place during that salesperson’s most critical or productive selling hours. (Ask them what day/time is best.)
  • Any meeting that cuts into their time at the end of the month or end of the quarter.
  • A meeting in which you give a lengthy presentation or introduce yet another spreadsheet where they’re supposed to do or track something.
  • A meeting scheduled based on assumed interest or assumed uniform interest. Talk to the sales managers a little first; they’ll know who to connect you to.

Ask if it’s OK to just kind of hang out and work on your own stuff while you absorb what they’re saying to prospects, upsell clients, and each other. Not everyone is comfortable with this approach, and not every office setup is conducive to it, but pulling up a chair and being a fly on the wall (or wherever the chair is) is a great way to gain insight and generate new content ideas. Even better, it cuts down on the additional demands you’re placing on sales folks’ time and attention.

Snacks never hurt nobody. You’re a guest in their world. Bring some good coffee, some quality cookies, a bag of dang fine tangelos—whatever floats your bobber. If you really, really have to schedule a stupid meeting, spring for lunch. These are gestures of respect, but they’re also a helpful way to get and keep the conversation going. Based on careful research, I can tell you it’s called breaking bread for a reason.

Look for ways to help them. Whether it’s copy-editing a high-profile email, showing them a Microsoft Word or Google Docs trick, or helping them navigate a byzantine content management system, there are countless ways your skills can turn the hangout into a more equitable exchange.

Celebrate and reward. Make sure their bosses (and, as appropriate, their bosses’ bosses) are aware of the their extra effort and contributions—after you demonstrate qualitative and/or quantitative improvement.

Summing up: Snacks are key, content is king

Pair this approach with an overall sound marketing and PR strategy, and your prospect audience(s) will experience a seamless content funnel that feels almost perfectly tailored to their interests—one that makes them want to learn more.

Your Agency Partner – Team Extension or Another Vendor?

Your Agency Partner – Team Extension or Another Vendor?

You went through the rigorous process to find a new agency partner. Whether it was for lobbying, communications, marketing or website development, this process took you and your team time. Now you have them onboard – what next? How do you optimize your relationship to make sure you leverage the best of your partners and they don’t just become another vendor?

First, you have to decide what you want: a partner or a vendor. A partner is an extension of your team – they know the ins and outs of your company, have a stake in seeing you succeed and are involved in the strategic planning for the department. Vendors on the other hand are order takers – they do what you say and don’t offer that additional strategic layer that asks questions about why something is being done or if it aligns with the business goals.

While vendors are critical to an organizations’ success, is that what you want or need after you selected a new agency? In my experience, no that is not what you want. You want the group that pushes back and pushes your thinking to make sure you get the results you need.

Once you commit to making the agency a partner, it will take time and education to get them to be that additional strategic arm. It is just like a new hire – they need to be brought up to speed. That can be done a number of ways:

  • Kickoff and intro meetings with key stakeholders Have short intro calls with your potential spokespeople, decision makers and anyone who will be working with the agency. Allow the agency to pick their brain, get to know them and understand the nuances of the organization.
  • Provide the agency with all relevant information – If you think you gave your new partner everything, give them more – every logo, plan, report, pitch or piece of marketing collateral. They want to see how your company talks and thinks so that they can align with that process.
  • Give them the inside scoop that will help them help you – Hopefully your scope of work clearly aligns with what you are measured on, but it is helpful to tell the agency what types of reports or updates help you look good. If your boss likes marketing data and analysis, they can build their reports on those points and less on the anecdotal outcomes.
  • Collaborate with them – In the first few weeks or months, the agency will provide thoughts or counsel on how your organization is working. They are trying to help and fresh eyes can often have good ideas or help processes improve. If they give you advice, work with them to understand their side and then educate them on the nuances of the organization.

If part of your job is to manage an agency, just know that we want to help you and make you look good too. If you bring the agency in as part of your team and make them a partner, we promise it will help you in the long run.