The Future (& Present) of Marketing: Collaboration, Technology & Innovation

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Sales & Marketing Alignment: Shahid Javed Shares How to Go from Hate to Love in 60 Days

It’s a tale as old as time. The marketing team is hyper-focused on awareness campaigns, events, and driving more leads to fill the funnel. Meanwhile, the sales team is hyper-focused on meeting sales and revenue goals, and nurturing relationships to empty the funnel.

These two teams occupy two very different functional areas within a company. They’re moving at completely different speeds. They’re operating under their own rules. And as a result, there’s tension, misunderstanding, and even … hate.

But according to Shahid Javed, Director of Enterprise Marketing for Hughes Network Systems, B2B marketers can be change agents here. They can give and get love from their sales teams. And they can do it in as little as 60 days.

How? Shahid says you need a short- and long-term strategy to foster the collaboration, love, and alignment needed to drive results. In his session at B2B Marketing Exhange in Scottsdale, AZ, he focused on the short-term strategy to help marketers understand where they can start and get some immediate traction. Let’s dive in.

The Three Phases of Overcoming Sales & Marketing Beefs

In 2016, Shahid joined the Hughes Network Systems, which is a broadband network provider, team on the enterprise marketing side. When he arrived at the first meeting ahead of a massive annual tradeshow event, he found tension and chaos between the marketing and sales leaders. And he vowed to change it.

“We had 23 different sales decks,” he shared. “Now we have two. We also had 500 dashboards in Salesforce—we deleted nearly all of them.”

To make change, Shahid leveraged a three-part framework:

Phase 1: Listening & Information Gathering

According to Shahid, the first phase is all about listening.

“I met with everyone—the head of east coast sales, the head of west coast sales, the head of marketing, executive leadership,” he shared. “I wanted perspectives. I wanted to know what everyone was thinking and how they saw their roles.”

During those meetings he had some core questions that he asked every stakeholder:

  • What were your objectives, roles, and responsibilities in the last year?
  • What are some of your top highlights from the past year?
  • What are some of the misses you experienced this past year?
  • What are your goals for this year?
  • What do you need from marketing to reach your goals?

It seems simple, but the act of listening is a critical first step. Why? As Bill Gates once said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

“Marketing is a service provider to sales—sales is our customer,” Shahid said. “We need to be able to empower them and enable them to solve problems. We need to make them the hero in the buyer’s eyes.”

[bctt tweet=”#Marketing is a service provider to #sales—sales is our customer. We need to be able to empower them and enable them to solve problems. We need to make them the hero. @shahidj” username=”toprank”]

Phase 2: Finding the Sweet Spot

Once you’ve collected all the data, it’s time to analyze and normalize that data so you can create a plan that management and leadership will buy into.

“This is where you look for common goals between leadership, sales, and marketing,” Shahid said. “It’s all about finding that sweet spot—and making sure everyone is in agreement on where things fall. You cannot do it on your own because sales and marketing leaders have to be able to sell your end-plan to their managers and teams.”

Once the common goals are agreed upon, you can create a plan that helps you hit that sweet spot and sell it to the C-suite. And there are four key steps that Shahid outlined:

  • Define and agree on objectives and roles. Who’s doing what and how does that support the overall business goals?
  • Identify short- and long-term goals. If you only think long-term, you’ll never get anything accomplished because everyone is so busy. You need a short-term plan to get traction.
  • Outline the tactics and strategies you’re going to use to reach those goals. And marketers, be honest about what you can and cannot do. Some things you may not be capable of doing yet, and that’s OK. Your sales team just needs to know.
  • Document plans and actions. These are the marching order for each team.

And a bonus piece of advice to work into this phase: Make sure you have agreement on what qualifies as an MQL or SQL—and really, you should let the sales team define that.

“The biggest nightmare for us was the MQL and the SQL,” Shahid said with a laugh. “We let sales define it and come up with the scoring. We knew that if we defined these and delivered leads under that scoring, sales would never take them. They needed to define it.”

Phase 3: Empowering Execution

Now it’s time to profess your love to sales by making it easy for them to become that hero for the customer.

For Shahid’s team, that meant making it easy for the sales teams to access and internalize marketing materials and messaging. Here’s just a sampling of what that looked like:

  • Leveraging Dropbox, Shahid’s team created and shared templates, style guides, brand guides, and more with the sales team.
  • The team used Salesforce Chatter, a communications tool, to collaborate and share information.
  • They created social messaging and visual assets that sales reps and sales leaders could leverage on their personal social media platforms.

“Most buyers have already made up their mind on the kind of solution they need,” Shahid said. “When it comes time for the sales person to come in, buyers need to know that they’re the problem solver. So we need to help the sales person come in as the superhero.”

Love Has Its Benefits

The collaborative approach to fostering sales and marketing love didn’t just lead to alignment and trust for Hughes Network Systems. It led to big, beautiful business results. In the last year, the sales and marketing teams have seen:

  • 120% boost in web engagements
  • 118& increase in email engagements
  • 108% rise in tradeshow engagements
  • 62% lift in social engagements
  • 22% jump in win rates

“Twenty years ago, it was an actual best practice for sales and marketing to work in silos,” Shahid said. “But alignment has become absolutely critical now. The expectations are too high, [internally and externally].”

So, B2B marketers: Are you ready to give and get love from your sales team? Now is the time.

For more updates and insights form the conference, you can follow @toprank, @leeodden, @azeckman, and @CaitlinMBurgess on Twitter. Stay tuned for more by following the blog here.

The post Sales & Marketing Alignment: Shahid Javed Shares How to Go from Hate to Love in 60 Days appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Kelvin Gee Delves Into Key Learnings from Oracle’s Account-Based (Marketing) Initiative

Oracle's Kelvin Gee at B2BMX

Oracle's Kelvin Gee at B2BMX

Account-based marketing (ABM) has been a rising trend for B2B brands for roughly a decade. And it’s appeal (and effectiveness when done right) is rooted in thinking differently—in transforming your traditional approach to targeting, engagement, and nurturing to drive results.

But for Kelvin Gee, Oracle’s Senior Director of Modern Marketing Business Transformation, and his team, thinking differently has led to piloting an account-based framework. (Notice, “marketing” is missing.)

“We believe words matter,” he told a packed room at B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ. “[If we called our initiative ‘account-based marketing’], sales would think it was just another campaign of the month.”

“So, we just call it ‘account-based’ because we’re all in it together,” he said. “It’s not a tactic or event. It’s a go-to-market strategy.”

This all-in-it-together mantra should resonate with B2B marketers. Simply put, if we want to scale our marketing efforts and drive tangible and transformative business results, we need alignment and buy-in across the organization; we need to be a team.

Why Oracle Launched Its Account-Based Initiative

During his session, Kelvin gave us a high-level look at why and how Oracle tackled creating an account-based framework. At the most basic level, the demand waterfall was broken. Kelvin said that a very small percentage of MQLs were converting.

“There were silos; everyone was doing their own thing,” he said. “And we were transitioning to the cloud. We needed to do something.”

From internal myth-busting around what account-based really is to developing highly-personalized content for specific executives within target companies, the ultimate goal was to elevate Oracle’s strengths and mask weaknesses in the eyes of their target market.

Key Insights From Oracle’s Journey Thus Far

While Kelvin said Oracle’s account-based approach is still in “pre-season” mode, he shared a couple key insights and learnings his team has garnered.

#1 – Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.

Marketers are often perfectionists, which can make embarking on a new initiative scary. But, according to Kelvin, if you’re willing to at least get started—to take that first step—you can get to the other side.

And you want to step together, and that starts with getting the team strategically aligned. To get your people there, here are four key focus areas:

  • Targeting: How do we select the right accounts?
  • Personalization: How do we develop insight and personalize content for our audiences?
  • Orchestration: How do we get everyone to work together?
  • Measurement: How are we going to measure success? (Since this a new initiative, you wouldn’t be able to use the same benchmarks. You need a new yardstick to measure against.)

#2 – Sometimes it takes a while for a team to gel.

Misalignment with sales. Poor execution. Shoddy communications plans. You will inevitably hit some snags throughout your account-based journey. And that’s OK. As you expand collaboration and refine roles, it will take some time for your team to work in harmony.

“You’re never going to get it perfect right out of the gate,” Kelvin said. “The key is to learn from those mistakes and continue to iterate.”

[bctt tweet=”You’re never going to get it perfect right out of the gate. The key is to learn from those mistakes and continue to iterate. – @kgee on #AccountBasedMarketing #ABM” username=”toprank”]

#3 – Remember, teams never give up.

Launching an account-based approach for your organization is a lofty task. And those snags along the way may make you rethink whether or not you should continue. But you should.

“Account-based is a team sport,” Kelvin said. “Sometimes you’ll need to reboot it; rebuild that trust [with the internal team]. And you need to be honest.”

Account-Based (Marketing) is a Long Journey—But It’s the Future

Breaking away from tradition and charting an account-based course is a long, hard journey. As Kelvin mentioned several times, Oracle is just getting started; Oracle is in pilot mode. But it’s a critical step toward the future of marketing and the future of their business.

[bctt tweet=”Account-based is the future of B2B marketing. – @kgee #AccountBasedMarketing #ABM” username=”toprank”]

For more updates from the conference, you can follow @toprank, @leeodden, @azeckman and @CaitlinMBurgess on Twitter. In addition to speaking and tweeting, team members from TopRank Marketing will be live blogging sessions (like this one) throughout the conference so be sure to follow the blog for more.

Disclosure: Oracle is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Kelvin Gee Delves Into Key Learnings from Oracle’s Account-Based (Marketing) Initiative appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Bye-Bye Boring B2B: Lee Odden Shows B2BMX Attendees the Power of Interactive Influencer Content

Interactive Influencer Content Marketing

Interactive Influencer Content Marketing

Quick question, B2B marketers: How many of you wake up feeling like this about your B2B content?

via GIPHY

Not so much? Hey, it’s OK. You’re a passionate and proud B2B marketer. But finding a way to create exciting, inspiring, infotaining content that connects with your audience is hard work. After all, B2B isn’t innately sexy—it’s booooooring. Oh, and between content overload, changing consumer preferences for personalization, and diminishing audience trust, it’s increasingly hard to capture and keep attention.

So, here’s another question: Are you ready to say bye-bye to boring content and hello to exciting, inspiring, and infotaining content experiences?

Yes so much? Good. Because, as TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden told a packed room at B2B Marketing Exchange this week, you can.

How? By bringing two incredibly powerful content marketing tactics together: interactive content and influencer content.

Why interactive? Why influencers? Why interactive and influencers? Here’s how Lee broke it down.

Why Interactive Content?

The digital content landscape is increasingly competitive. If brands don’t create great content experiences that grab and hold attention, they simply can’t compete. But interactive content can be a B2B game-changer.

Interactive content informs. Interactive content engages and entertains. Interactive content connects. Oh, and interactive content converts. And as Lee pointed out, research shows that 81% of marketers agree that interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content (CMI) and 70% of marketers say interactive content is effective at converting site visitors (Ion Interactive).

Why Influencer Content?

As Lee said, these days “buyers expect more, but trust less.” In fact, according to a HubSpot report, 65% of buyers don’t trust ads and a whopping 55% of those surveyed said they don’t even trust the companies they’re already doing business with.

The good news? Buyers desperately want to trust.

[bctt tweet=”Buyers desperately want to trust. And we can give them trust with relevant #B2B content that features credible voices. – @leeodden #InfluencerMarketing #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

But who do buyers trust? Simply put, buyers trust people they know—or people they think they know. (Just for fun, take a peek at where marketers rank as compared to baristas. Uh huh.)

HubSpot Research

(Image credit: HubSpot)

Eighty-one percent of HubSpot respondents said they trust friends and family over business. In addition, DemandGen Report’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey showed that 78% of B2B buyers place a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the content source, and 65% have a higher preference for credible content from industry influencers.

[bctt tweet=”Co-creating and collaborating with influencers can play a role at every stage of the customer lifecycle. – @leeodden #InfluencerMarketing #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Why Interactive Influencer Content?

To remain competitive, marketers need to create engaging experiences for their audiences while also building credibility and trust. And that’s precisely where interactive influencer content comes in. To really drive the point home, Lee pointed to a fabulous quote from Amisha Gandhi, Vice President of Influencer Marketing for SAP Ariba:

“Working with influencers to co-create content delivers mutual value. When that content is interactive, it creates an experience that is more engaging and inspires action.”

[bctt tweet=”Working with #influencers to co-create content delivers mutual value. When that #content is interactive, it creates an experience that is more engaging and inspires action. – @AmishaGandhi” username=”toprank”]

What Does Effective B2B Interactive Influencer Content Look Like?

When you put relevant, useful, and credible content in an eye-catching, engaging format, incredible things can happen. Not only are you creating an infotaining experience for your buying audience, but also for influencer partners. You’re creating mutual value.

Examples of Interactive Influencer Content

#1 – Interactive Infographic

Topic: The Future of Influencer Marketing

Objective: Drive leads from original research report while also repurposing influencer tips.

Results: 6,971 pageviews and an impressive 42% conversion rate

Future of Influencer Marketing Interactive Infographic

#2 – Interactive eBook

Topic: Future-Proof Content Marketing

Objective: Leverage an entire year’s worth of content and insights around content marketing strategy, planning, and measurement to boost awareness and lead gen (small ask: participate in content marketing planning survey; big ask: request a trial).

Results: Exceeded small and big ask benchmark goals four times over.

Back to the Future Interactive eBook

#3 – Interactive Voice Assistant and Microsite + SEO-Driven Content

Topic: AI and the Next Evolution of Finance

Objective: Build industry credibility and engagement on AI and Finance with thought leadership content.

Results: 189% increase over benchmark pageview goals and 642% increase over benchmark engagement goals; 84 net-new keyword rankings

Interactive Influencer Asset with Voice Assistant

Buh-Bye Boring. Hello Infotaining Interactive Influencer Content.

B2B brands need to break free of its boring-to-boring reputations if they want to engage, inspire, and convert modern buyers. Buyers are ready for bigger, better, bolder content experiences—experiences they can trust.

So, B2B marketers, it’s time to ask yourself: Are your ready to create meaningful, trustworthy connects with buyers through your content? If you are, interactive influencer content deserves your consideration. Not sure where to start? Here’s Lee high-level checklist:

  • Identify a customer solution topic that is relevant to your brand’s expertise and your audience’s information needs.
  • Pick an interactive content type, story arch, and call-to-action that makes sense for the topic, audience, and objectives.
  • Identify, qualify, and validate influencers that have the topical expertise and the right audience for the end-product. And map them to your topics and subtopics.
  • Collect influencer tips, work them into the experience, and promote the heck out of the final product.
  • Nurture influencers for future engagement; strong relationships are at the center of successful influencer programs.

In the meantime, here’s a little something to snack on:

For more live updates from the conference, you can follow @TopRank, @leeodden, @azeckman and @CaitlinMBurgess on Twitter. In addition to speaking and tweeting, team members from TopRank Marketing will be live blogging sessions (like this one) throughout the conference so be sure to follow the blog for more.

The post Bye-Bye Boring B2B: Lee Odden Shows B2BMX Attendees the Power of Interactive Influencer Content appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Carlos Abler of 3M Asks B2BMX Attendees: Can Marketing Save the World?

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How B2B Marketers Can Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools

How to Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools

How to Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools

Informative. Engaging. Entertaining. Inspiring. Interactive content is a rising B2B marketing star, allowing brands to break free of their “boring-to-boring” reputations to give their audiences bold, beautiful, badass experiences.

And to make it increasingly easy for B2B content marketers to deliver those interactive experiences, interactive content tools—from simple web-based tools to robust platforms—have proliferated.

But here’s the thing: From upping marketing efficiency to collecting unique audience data insights, the beauty and utility of many interactive content tools extends well beyond content creation and delivery.

So, if you truly want to make the most of your interactive content investments, you should take care in making the most of your tools of choice. How? Here are a few tips.

#1 – Take advantage of templates to boost efficiency.

You’re busy—and so is your graphic designer or design team. And unfortunately, when you’re strapped for time and resources, content innovation can take a back seat and the “static-only status quo” lives another day.

But you don’t have to build an interactive content asset from the ground up. Interactive content tools come stacked with templates—most of which can be optimized and customized for your brand and audience. By leveraging templates, you can maximize efficiency and get content in front of your audience faster.

For example, Ceros—which is a more advanced interactive content tool—offers a template gallery that includes templates for case studies, content hubs, eBooks, infographics, lookbooks, short- and long-from quizzes, and the list goes on.

Ceros Templates

Example of Ceros Template

In addition, some interactive content tools give you the ability to create your own templates, which is an excellent feature to take advantage of if you’re creating a content series or if you’d like specific design elements to be the same throughout every piece you create.

SnapApp, which now bills itself as lead qualification platform for marketers, is a great tool for creating interactive quizzes. And the SnapApp team offers a super simple five-step process for creating a template.

Creating a SnapApp Template

#2 – Make use of resources to curb the learning curve.

Regardless of simplicity or complexity, every tool has a learning curve. But the good news is that some interactive content tool makers don’t skimp on learning resources. This means you or your design team can get the on-demand resources you need to create great content more quickly.

For example, Webflow, which is a platform that allows you to design, build, and launch responsive websites (complete with animations and interactions, of course) without bothering your web development team, has an impressive learning platform dubbed Webflow University.

The educational portal is complete with tons of video course and tutorials to get you started and make the most of the tool. They also have a robust blog and a forum for users to ask questions and share best practices.

Webflow University

As another example, Ceros Educate is a dedicated learning portal, featuring courses for designers who are just getting started or need a refresher, as well as a plethora of articles that detail specific functions and features. There’s also a collection of resources for developers.

Ceros Educate Resource Hub

Finally, even Qzzr, which boasts an extremely simple interface, offers a learning and support resouce featuring advice and insights from its team.

Qzzr Resource Hub

#3 – Leverage integrations to enhance visibility, insight, and lead gen and nurturing.

Whether you’re embedding a quiz in a blog post or creating a content resource hub, interactive content tools are designed to make it easy for you to deliver experiential content on your owned channels.

And the good news is that most tools offer some unique analytics capabilities so you can understand how users are interacting with your content. For example, Ceros provides all the basic KPIs such as visitors, opens, and pageviews, as well as engagement metrics like time spent and interaction clicks. The tool also track inbound referrals, social shares, video plays, and outbound link clicks.

But the even better news is that some tools boast integrations that makes it easy to connect data and information with various CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, and analytics platforms. This not only gives you a more holistic view of how interactive content perform as compared to other types of content assets, but can also streamline lead gen and nurturing, and the sales process.

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via GIPHY

For example, SnapApp integrates with: HubSpot, Marketo, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Pardot, Salesforce, Adobe, and Act-On. As for Ceros, integrations include: Marketo, HubSpot, Eloqua, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager. In addition, Qzzr supports webhooks and third-party integrations such as Zapier to send quiz data such as email addresses, scores, and outcomes to a variety of CRM and SaaS tools.

Put Interactive Content Tools to Work for You

There’s no doubt that interactive content tools are designed to help you deliver a great end-experience for your audience. But to really make the investment worthwhile, take advantage of the unique features and benefits each tool offers so you can maximize efficiency, minimize the learning curve, and streamline data collection to improve your marketing and sales efforts.

How are B2B brands using interactive content? Check out these seven examples of interactive B2B content to find out.

Attending B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ from Feb. 25-27, 2019? Attend Lee Odden’s session to learn how interactive influence content can help you break free of boring B2B.

The post How B2B Marketers Can Make the Most of Interactive Content Tools appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Can’t-Miss Sessions at 2019’s B2B Marketing Exchange Conference #B2BMX

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How B2B Marketers Can Win at Search with Best Answer Content

Winning Search with Best Answer Content

Winning Search with Best Answer Content

Marketers are engaged in a continuous battle to gain an edge when it comes to SEO, seeking those crucial advantages provided by top visibility where customers are looking. Multiple disciplines from technical SEO to creative content can be leveraged to win the search marketing game. At TopRank Marketing, we believe the best answer to this quandary is… well, to be the Best Answer.

To simplify and clarify, it might be helpful to take a step back.

In October of 2000, Larry Page laid out his ambitious vision for Google, a company he’d founded along with Sergey Brin just two years earlier.

Page foresaw his creation as “the ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the Web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing.”

“We’re nowhere near doing that now,” he admitted. “However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”

At the time, here’s what the Google homepage looked liked (prepare for nostalgia shock in 3… 2… 1…):

Fast-forward almost 20 years. Google’s interface looks decidedly more modern and its functionality is now much closer to what Page envisioned. Through artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sophisticated algorithms, the search engine is amazingly adept at understanding a searcher’s intent and motives.

And digital marketers are just out here trying to keep pace.

The Answer Machine

Back in the day, we had these wacky contraptions called “answering machines,” which hooked up to “landline phones” (!) and recorded messages on little cassette tapes (!!) when calls were missed. This precursor to the voicemail now seems prehistoric — a sign of the speed at which technology is advancing.

In 2019, answering machines are mostly gone, but the digital “answer machine” is a staple of everyday life for many of us. In fact, Google’s brand name itself is now used as a verb, describing the act of asking the internet a question. Input query and receive answers, in order of relevance. Bleep, bloop.

Our hunger for knowledge is insatiable: Google processes 35,000 searches per second, and 3.5 billion each day.

With this kind of volume, the high end of a search engine results page (SERP) is critical real estate; one study found that the top position gets one-third of all search traffic on average. So it’s easy to see why SEO has become a cornerstone of marketing strategies everywhere.

At TopRank Marketing, we talk often about gaining this coveted visibility by being the best answer for customers, and how to achieve it through deep, comprehensive, high-quality content. But before a brand can go about creating best answers, it must determine which crucial curiosities it wants to satisfy.

Herein lies the key to developing a search marketing approach that integrates with a customer-centric strategy.

Hearing Your Customer’s Voice

In many ways, the advent of voice search really crystallizes Google’s function as an answer machine (or “answer engine” as our CEO Lee Odden has put it). ComScore predicted a while back that by 2020, more than 50% of searches would be conducted by voice, and suddenly that’s less than a year away.

This fast-rising trend strengthens the wisdom of a “best answer” strategy for two primary reasons:

  1. Featured snippets (aka “answer boxes”) are gaining more prominence as the default result delivered by a voice search. These excerpts are deemed by Google to be the “best answer” for a particular query, based on various factors.  
  2. We’re moving toward a more literal question/answer format with search, because while people might type a string of keywords to research a particular topic (“best answer seo strategy digital marketing”), they tend to be more colloquial when speaking to a voice-search device (“What does a best answer SEO strategy mean for digital marketers?”).

Structuring SEO around conversational keywords is nothing new. As we wrote here on the TopRank Marketing Blog a couple of years ago:

Google has been encouraging this type of behavior for years, especially with the Hummingbird update back in 2013. People communicate with conversations, not just keywords. Associating the right keywords with concepts helps the overall content quality as opposed to targeting only one or a couple keywords per page.

In other words, you want to address not just a specific keyword with your content, but rather the breadth of what someone is trying to learn when they search for that keyword.

And so, search marketing today is less about building traditional keyword lists, and more about using those lists – along with other resources – to make deductions about which questions your customers (and potential customers) are asking. Your findings should become the foundational basis for both organic and paid strategy.

Unfortunately, no machine will serve up a quick-and-easy answer in this case. It’ll take meticulous research and deep insight about your audience. Let’s walk through that process a little to set you on the right path.

How to Identify Best Answer Opportunities

Here are a few tactics for making confident determinations about the burning questions you want to answer for your customers

Reverse-Engineer Keyword Data

Marketers have a wealth of SEO data at their fingertips, and can use this information as breadcrumbs tracing back to a user’s starting point. Dig into Google Search Console to learn which queries are bringing people to your site and how many people are clicking through from particular searches. Instead of simply parsing out keywords, seek patterns and greater meaning in this data. What is it telling you about the mindset of searchers who end up on your page?

By connecting search terms to pages on your site, you can get a better idea of the intent behind them (e.g., searches that are bringing people to solutions pages likely represent a more advanced stage of research).

Use the “People Also Asked” Feature in Google

I love this little feature. When you run a search, Google will often serve up a list of related questions, and these can be extremely helpful when it comes to building out your best answer content. If you want to create an authoritative resource on the topic you’re targeting, chances are you’ll want to account for each of these tangential queries in some way.

Leverage Schema Markup

Schema structured data helps search engines (and their users) understand the purpose of a page, and the questions it is trying to answer. Adding these tags to your source code enables a SERP to display rich snippets that are directly relevant to a searcher’s query.

Why is this so powerful and relevant? Last summer Google confirmed that it had been testing a new featured snippets in the form of FAQs, Q&A, and How-tos. And as it turns out, Schema.org has a lot of this markup readily available.

Rely on the Right Tools

There are three in particular that I like to use for this type of research:

  • SEMrush: Awesome SEO tool that shows real-time keyword volumes and (more importantly in this case) “Phrase Match Keywords” and “Related Keywords, which can lead you down other branching paths for that search journey. The Keyword Magic tool is very helpful for finding question keywords.
  • BuzzSumo: A great site for finding trends around any topic or keyword. In particular, I recommend using its Question Analyzer function, which is perfectly suited for the purpose at hand. This enables you to identify questions being asked on Q&A sites or forums, clustered by topics.
  • AnswerThePublic: The “auto suggest” feature in Google is similar in function to “People Also Asked,” but can provide more extensive insight. AnswerThePublic helpfully takes these snippets and turns them into conversational keywords, delivering a “question wheel” of longtail inquiries stemming from that term.

Example of an AnswerThePublic “question wheel”

Go In-Depth with Marketing Attribution Models

Multi-touch attribution is not easy to master, but those marketers who gain proficiency are able to tap into key buyer signals. When you follow the string backward on a purchase someone made, identifying touch points along the way, you can learn a great deal about the questions they asked and the content they consumed to reach that decision.  

As you start to gain a better grasp of the searches that carry clear commercial intent, you can begin to situate your PPC strategy around them. Those are usually the clicks worth paying for.

Search for Whitespace in SERPs

Not every priority question for your audience will be worth attacking. Make honest assessments about the existing search results for certain terms. If another company (or, in many cases, Wikipedia) is already owning the answer box with a stellar page, you may want to turn your attention elsewhere or at least push it to the back burner.

The sweet spot is when you can find popular questions among your audience that aren’t already being definitively covered. This also applies to paid keywords with lower competition. Those are the gaps you want to fill with your best answer strategy. As your site gains authority and backlinks, you may find it easier to topple some of the entrenched leaders for other high-volume queries and higher-cost keywords.

Break Down Questions and Build Up Best Answers

The late businessman Arnold Glasow once said, “It’s easier to see both sides of a question than the answer.” Very true. When marketers make the effort to see every side of the questions their customers are asking, we can see the bigger picture and craft content to fully satisfy the extent of a searcher’s interest. At TopRank Marketing, we’ve built our search marketing philosophies around this belief.

Google has come a long way since its early days, and our approach to working with it must evolve in kind. In the age of RankBrain, you’re not going to game this ultimate search engine through keyword-stuffing or other gimmicks. Google is continually getting better at understanding exactly what a searcher wants and giving them the right thing.

If we want to be that “right thing,” we also need to understand exactly what our customers want, and we need to deliver it.  

To paraphrase the great Ricky Bobby: If you’re not best, you’re last.

via GIPHY

Want to learn more about TopRank Marketing’s take on modern search marketing? Go ahead and peruse our SEO service page.

The post How B2B Marketers Can Win at Search with Best Answer Content appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

B2B Brands Go Bold: 7 Great Examples of Interactive B2B Content

B2B Interactive Content Examples

If you’re not convinced that interactive content in the B2B space can work: Well, first check out these interactive content stats.

If you’re still on the fence, here’s an object lesson from a master of audience engagement:

Freddie plays that 100,000-person crowd like an instrument. You can feel the energy, even through a tiny YouTube window.

When you invite your audience to be part of the show, the results can be magical.

Now, odds are your brand can’t match the raw charisma of Freddie Mercury in tight jeans. But you can still get your audience cheering with interactive B2B content.

Here are a few great examples to light your creative fires and open your B2B minds to the possibilities of interactive.

7 Great Examples of B2B Interactive Content

What do we mean by interactive content? Generally speaking, it’s any content that requires more input from the user than simply scrolling or clicking links. In practice, there are a few broad categories:

  • Interactive infographics use animation, navigational elements, and customizable data sets.
  • Interactive eBooks can incorporate audio, video, and animation.
  • Quizzes ask users a series of questions and display results.
  • Calculators allow users to input and manipulate data to view potential outcomes.
  • Interactive video lets users make choices that affect the plot of a short film.

#1: IBM Takes Storytelling to the Next Level

We often talk about storytelling in B2B content. But it’s usually in the context of helping customers see what life with our solution could be like, or highlighting success stories. IBM takes the concept more literally in this interactive video.

IBM Interactive Content Example

It’s a fully-realized work of fiction, presenting an original story of a power plant operator struggling to bring power back on during an outage. The user has to help the protagonist make decisions (and learn about IBM’s app suite along the way).

The true mark of greatness for this piece is it’s compelling even if you know nothing about mobile apps for power plant management. It actually stands on its own while still being relevant to IBM’s target customer.

#2: NASDAQ Spices Up Case Studies

Customer success stories are some of the most valuable marketing material you have. When a buyer is doing research, though, they get repetitive fast: Customer had problem, tried our solution, got great results.

NASDAQ livens up their case studies in this animated eBook. Client testimonials zoom in; pages are easy-to-browse with extra detail hidden behind tabs. The layout helps NASDAQ highlight the most important parts of the case study, while still offering depth for interested customers.

Nasdaq Interactive eBook Example

#3: DivvyHQ Takes Us Back to the Future

TopRank Marketing helped create this interactive eBook for DivvyHQ. The challenge for this piece was to present a metric ton of content in an easy-to-browse and compelling format. We chose a lively pop-culture theme to unify the content. Then we focused on strong navigational elements that guide the reader while still allowing them to choose their own path.

DivvyHQ Interactive Content Example

The result? An instantly engaging piece that encourages readers to explore. As a bonus, we were able to use the theme for spin-off pieces like blog posts and promotions.

#4: HubSpot’s Website Assessment Makes the Grade

Automated tools are the next evolution of assessment-style interactivity. If your solution is web-based, you may be able to show customers specifically what you can do for them. HubSpot offers this web performance evaluation site that has proven to be a powerful lead-generation tool.

There’s minimal interaction required — the user puts in a URL and an email address— but the in-depth results are more than compelling. It’s a great example of how to win customers by providing value up-front.

#5: VenturePact Elegantly Answers a Common Customer Question

Calculators are an often-overlooked type of interactive content. In this case, a calculator helped VenturePact fix a leak in their marketing funnel.

VenturePact discovered that price was their potential customers’ number one source of hesitation. Many of VenturePact’s prospects balked at requesting an estimate before they had a general idea of how much the agency’s services might cost.

VenturePact’s mobile app price calculator asks detailed questions about a potential product to generate a rough estimate of cost, then invites the user to fill in a form for a more detailed estimate.

Venture Pact Interactive Calculator Example

#6: Prophix Showcases Actual Intelligence

Audio is an under-explored component for interactive content. It’s easy to assume our audience is going to have us on mute. But audio can make content more compelling, especially influencer content. It’s easier than ever to capture audio, with tools like Zencastr. It makes sense to add that component wherever you can.

This interactive eBook for our client Prophix uses influencer audio and a computer-generated “virtual assistant” to make the material more compelling. We saw an unprecedented level of interaction with this piece; our analytics showed people were spending a great deal of time and clicking deep into the asset.

Prophix Interactive Content Example

Read the full case study to learn more about our approach to this interactive content campaign.

#6: SnapApp Gamifies Lead Collection

Lead capture is a balancing act: If we ask for too little data, we could be capturing underqualified leads. If we ask for too much data, people will run away screaming. This Candyland-themed piece from SnapApp—which happens to fall into the interactive content tool category—solves the problem in an elegant fashion.

SnapApp Interactive Content Land Example

On every stage of the game, you get two to three pieces of marketing advice and one question to answer. The questions are all stuff that’s useful to SnapApp: How big your team is, what your role is, etc. It’s a lot to ask, but the useful info and whimsical experience make it a fair trade for the customer.

Bonus Example: TopRank Marketing Breaks Free of Boring B2B

TopRank Marketing wants to make 2019 the year that boring B2B finally goes extinct. To help things along, we created Break Free of Boring B2B. It has advice from folks like Ardath Albee, David Meerman Scott, Brian Fanzo and more… and laser-powered grizzly bears, sharks, and pugs in sports cars.

Click Here to see the Break Free from Boring B2B Guide in Full Screen Mode

Ready, Freddie? Let Boring B2B Content Bite the Dust

These examples prove that interactivity boosts content effectiveness no matter what your goals might be. Whether it’s creating awareness, educating customers, driving leads, or attracting talent, content is more engaging when it invites the reader to play along.

Speaking of interactive content for B2B brands, our own Lee Odden will be digging into this topic at the upcoming B2B Marketing Exchange conference in Scottsdale, AZ during his presentation: Break Free of Boring B2B with Interactive Influencer Content, which is set for Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

The post B2B Brands Go Bold: 7 Great Examples of Interactive B2B Content appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Why Always-On Is Always Better for Driving B2B Influencer Marketing Success

Show of hands: How many of us brush our teeth at least twice a day? All of us? Great.

Now, a follow up question: Why?

The reasons are numerous, right? We care about maintaining our hygiene on a daily basis. We want to keep our smiles bright. We need to defend against offensive bad breath. We want to ensure the long-term health of our teeth, gums, and mouths. And, mostly, we want to successfully avoid pricey and painful dental work now and in the future.

via GIPHY

The moral here? With consistency and commitment we reap both short- and long-term benefits—and avoid a whole lot of pain. And the same is true when it comes to B2B influencer marketing.

As we like to say of consistency and commitment in marketing: “Always-on is always better.” However, most B2B marketers aren’t brushing as often as they should when it comes to influencer marketing. In fact, roughly 11% of B2B influencer marketing programs are ongoing. To put this into perspective, 48% of B2C influencer marketing programs are ongoing.

From building lasting relationships to enabling marketing scalability, an always-on approach to working with influencers is always, always, always better in our experience for several reasons. Today, we explore three of those reasons with the help of seasoned influencer marketing leaders at B2B brands.

#1 – Strong relationships are at the root of influencer marketing success—and relationships aren’t built in a day.

At its core, influencer marketing is all about brands engaging and developing relationships with individuals—individuals who have relevant topical expertise, reach, and resonance that aligns with the goals of the brand.

“It’s really about building a relationship that brings value to both parties,” Amisha Gandhi, Vice President of Influencer Marketing for SAP Ariba*, told us not long ago. “Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches.”

[bctt tweet=”Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches. – @AmishaGandhi #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”]

However, strong, long-lasting relationships aren’t built overnight, rather they’re sewed over time.

Success with influencer content is so much more than including a few famous people in a listicle post or quote roundup,” our own CEO Lee Odden says. “Competition for influencers is growing fast and there are only so many top influencers in each industry. It’s essential to create relationships now, long before you need to activate them.”

[bctt tweet=”It’s essential to create influencer relationships now, long before you need to activate them. – @leeodden #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”]

And as that demand for working with influencers increases, it will become more and more difficult to capture and hold their attention. By committing now to always-on relationship building and collaboration, every party can “come out ahead,” as Rani Mani, Head of Influencer Social Enablement at Adobe*, told us in a recent interview.

“We at Adobe pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long-term relationships with our influencers,” she shares. “We look at it as dating with an eye towards long-term commitment, which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give-to-get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead.”

[bctt tweet=”We look at influencer relationships as dating with an eye towards long-term commitment, which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give-to-get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead. – @ranimani0707 #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”]

And before your start to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of ongoing influencer nurturing and relationship building, don’t worry. Yes. It takes work. But by making it part of your integrated marketing strategy, you’ll have an opportunity to hone in on the specific characteristics and people who are the best matches for your brand.

“We used to think quantity was the key to everything,” Angela Lipscomb, Influencer Relations Manager for SAS, told us. “Now it is much more about quality over quantity. So, we’ve scaled back the scope of our engagement activities to focus on developing collaborative relationships with fewer individuals. That means that sometimes we focus on influencers who may not have the largest reach, but have greater engagement and subject-matter authority and the ability to inspire.”

[bctt tweet=”We used to think quantity was the key to everything. Now it is much more about quality over quantity. – @AngelaLipscomb #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”]

#2 – Influencers can be an extension of your content marketing team.

Content is the strategic foundation of marketing. Period. But marketers frequently cite that consistently creating strategic, quality, engaging content is a top marketing challenge.

However, with an army of influential voices—an army that you’ve carefully cultivated and nurtured over time—you have a band of partners who can be an extension of your in-house content marketing team.

In addition, by co-creating content with influencers on a regular basis, you give influential experts with a steady medium to share valuable expertise and perspectives, as well as provide your audience a drumbeat of influential, insightful, on-brand content.

“Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way, so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know,” Whitney Magnuson, Global Head of Social Media and Influencer Programs for IBM, told us not long ago.

[bctt tweet=”Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way. – @whitneymagnuson #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Oh, and you can fill your editorial calendar, add flavor to your content campaigns, extend your audience reach—and the list goes on. And as Lee has said:

“For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say.”

#3 – An always-on commitment to influencer marketing helps you refine, evolve, and scale your marketing efforts.

Marketers are in the business of driving results, which means we’re constantly reviewing our tactical mix and strategic priorities. This constant vigilance helps us grow in marketing sophistication so we can drive success at scale.

Simply put, we don’t set and forget—we optimize and evolve our approach to achieve success. But with just one-tenth of B2B influencer programs falling in the “ongoing” bucket … there’s immense opportunity for improvement and alignment. As Dr. Konnie Alex, Head of Corporate Influencer Relations for Dell*, shared with us:

“A sophisticated influencer program doesn’t rely on a single identification method or one-time vetting process to start and maintain a relationship with an influencer, but rather develops a scorecard that gets constantly reviewed and, most importantly, evolves as this emerging field matures. At this point, we review strategy, methods, tactics, and measurement on an ongoing basis.”

Konnie also said: “We have a number of strategic partners who never stop evolving or expanding their expertise. We value them highly and feel that they represent a reflection of our brand’s values and long-term vision.”

[bctt tweet=”A sophisticated influencer program doesn’t rely on a single identification method or one-time vetting process to start and maintain a relationship with an influencer. It develops and evolves. – @konstanze #B2BInfluencerMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Speaking of long-term, an always-on approach to influencer marketing can help you strengthen all your other marketing efforts. How?

For one, you can keep a pulse on your evolving audience.

“Strategic partnerships with influencers provide for an outside-in view when creating content for our customers,” Konnie said. “We need to constantly ensure that, as a brand, we don’t start talking to ourselves, but keep a keen focus on the evolving challenges our customers have and on the language they use to express these challenges.”

And secondly, you can create better experiences that lead to real results.

With influencer marketing, you’re looking to offer a better experience to your customers and deliver knowledge-based educational content with a third-party voice,” Amisha shared. “These experiences can be achieved through content, influencers speaking directly to customers, nurturing them through digital and high value assets. This approach with influencers will help you to drive sales journey and demonstrate pipeline touch.”

Smile for Always-On B2B Influencer Marketing

While many B2B brands are still cutting their teeth on influencer marketing, success and sophistication are rooted in giving the practice constant attention and care.

This commitment will not only help you grow lasting relationships with influential leaders in your industry, but also enable consistent, quality content creation and make a scalable impact on your overall marketing strategy.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out these five examples of B2B influencer marketing in action.

*Disclaimer: SAP, Adobe, and Dell are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Why Always-On Is Always Better for Driving B2B Influencer Marketing Success appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.