Category Archives: Marketing best practices

On the topic of ‘new marketing’ — what B2B professional services companies should think about when updating their marketing strategy

I recently met with a very high-quality professional services group in London. This was a company who has been in their business for many, many years. Their reputation is stellar. They are considered the gold standard for the kind of work they do. But their experience in, and knowledge of, the latest digital marketing techniques are behind the times.  They lean very heavily on their roster of prior clients, current clients, and the aerobic networking skills of their senior team of partners.

Now they see more digitally savvy, agile upstarts treading on their turf. What to do?

I gave the management team some signposts to inform them how things are changing in the world of B2B marketing. It’s a topic I have spoken on a number of time to groups large and small in London.

For digital marketing experts, the advice below will seem basic and obvious. But we must realise that not everyone has the knowledge, budget, know-how, and experience accessible in today’s big brand marketing teams and agencies. Where is the pragmatic advice for the quick wins to move marketing forward?

I suggested, with detailed examples, about three ‘pillars’ could dictate a strategy, and encouraged the team to think about how future clients will do much of their due-diligence before they pick up the phone and set up a meeting. Giving them the tools to do that due diligence is critical.

  • Be the authority in your industry
    • Build customer-centered, inbound content that reflects your knowledge, insights and experience. Don’t be concerned about giving it away for free. The halo effect of papers, surveys, insights, interviews, eBooks, articles and talks on stage will all reflect positively to show there is simply no one in the industry who can match your experience. It will reinforce the comfort future clients need that they’re safe in your hands.
  • Build connected communities
    • Build and nurture engaged communities online and in real life.
  • Educate, inform, inspire
    • Invest in content and shared experiences that inform, educate, inspire — videos, courses, training, workshops, classes. Educated consumers are valuable consumers.

A case study : marketing at Greylock Partners

Examples I turned to in helping this company were not in their own industry, but rather in the VC business. Today’s VCs have become an interesting group to observe from a marketing standpoint. VCs compete with one another for the most interesting deals, so must differentiate themselves.

Greylock is a leading venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley.

Greylock Communities. A real world, invitation-only community of experts in big data, consumer products, enterprise product, growth, data science, design, infrastructure engineering, and security, designed to foster long term relationships. Greylock Communities was formed in 2015, responding to the need that the Greylock partners saw that people needed to connect in the ‘real’ world, not just online, for exchanges of ideas and mentoring. Greylock sought to differentiate their communities from other VC networking events by keeping each group small — around 40 people — and strictly invitation only. Communities get together at Greylock’s expense once a quarter to talk through problems and help one another.

Community events are sometimes followed up with blog reports of what was learned, and results of surveys conducted.

Greylock Perspectives. Greylock Perspectives  are blog posts written by Greylock Partners. They provide insights into how  Partners think and what they know. Startups looking for advice and guidance want to know that the Partners know their stuff and can guide their growth.

Using non-gated content to double high-quality leads

Interesting interview here with Chris Keller, VP of Marketing for Health Catalyst, a healthcare IT company. Here are the key lessons learned from the 30-minute interview that could be relevant for B2B marketers seeking to:

  • deliver a high-growth lead pipeline, with few lead-capture forms
  • establish leadership in a crowded, competitive market, and
  • reduce sales cycle (goal from 16 months to 9 months)

Their focus is on education, trust, and monitoring.

He speaks about ‘aggressively educating.’ So produce as much content as possible before the prospect asks for it, but provide it in a patient way.

Build an Education Library

  • Focus on customer success stories — all customers participate in customer success stories. The stories are focused on customer outcomes. This group’s marketing team produce 20 customer success stories a year, and have a team of about 18 people of a 25-person team focused on content production, leveraging and ghost writing content from subject matter experts in the company.
  • Produce truly educational events — they are not disguised as pitches. No selling, no sponsors, and 100% outcomes focused. 1,000 people come to these events, and they invite competitors and vendors. Analysts participate and they produce data and surveys.
  • Produce documentaries — flagship part of events, focused on stories they believe their industry needs to learn about. The documentaries cost as much as it would cost to bring speakers to their events.
  • Handbooks for decision makers — significant investment to make really useful content handbooks for industry people.This content is free, and is published on Amazon as a Kindle book.
  • Webinars — 50 minutes of the Webinars is 100% focused on education, built with internal subject matter experts. At the 50 minute mark, they ask the audience if they want more information and they are asked a poll question. Only those people who are interested are reached out to and said they were ‘extremely interested.’ They don’t follow up in person with ‘very interested’ — those people will get onto the lead nurturing.
  • Research-driven PR — ask poll questions to audiences of 13K people. Got the feedback from 65 people, and published the results. Published that content in a press release without using a PR firm.

Trust the Prospect

This company believes they should trust that the prospects who are worth following up with will reach out and put their hand up.  They also believe that putting too much content behind forms limits consumption and annoys prospects.  Finally, they believe that excellent educational content builds trust, and is proof of market leadership.

They believe they were creating content for lead generation but instead should have focused on education. When they are interested in a demonstration, they put their hands up. They ask for email only when the next chapter in a series is ready for reading, for example.  They focus on giving, not asking.

For one of my clients, we have switched to non-gated content, and rely on LinkedIn for connecting and engaging one-on-one. It works.



Reach, depth, and relationships — a few excellent social initiatives

One of the best parts of being in London is how delightfully energizing it is to make new business connections in this fantastic city. In those meetings, conversation often turns to what social and marketing campaigns and digital initiatives have particularly caught my attention by brands recently.

I think it’s particularly useful to look at digital campaigns and strategies through the Marketing RaDaR lens, as described by Nate Elliott of Forrester. Nate takes a no-nonsense approach to evaluating how businesses are tackling social and digital marketing. He reminds us — as if we should need reminding — that we should think about our channels as our customers do. Customers don’t think about paid, earned and owned channels. That’s for our convenience. Instead, he encourages us to think about Reach, Depth, and Relationship instead. I have found it helpful — because it helps focus on the purpose of that strategy.  What do you really want to achieve? It’s hard, but not impossible, to do all three in one sitting. But it is more achievable to focus on one at a time.

What do Reach, Depth and Relationship mean in this context?

Reach — a focus on word word of mouth and discovery, to encourage a wider audience to discover what you’re all about. Reach can obviously go beyond social to in-world advertising and TV. But here, my focus is on digital and social.

Depth — a focus on telling the story, through websites, stores, salespeople — everywhere that customer might find you.

Relationship — a focus on working with existing customers, or those who have expressed an interest, and staying in touch with them.

So, with that in mind, here is a selection of interesting Reach, Depth and Relationship programs and strategies worth learning from.

Reach (B2C) — Family memories, made in the great Smoky Mountains

The context for this campaign was that the average family doesn’t know what the Smoky Mountains has to offer. This team found an influential blogger — James Kicinski-McCoy who lives in Tennessee — and sent her, and her family, to the Smokies for the first time.  The blogger’s family was filmed by a Sundance award-winning documentarian.

The result was the Tennessee Bleubird campaign (yes, that is how you spell it, and I do it wrong every time I type it). It is a charming film.

Watch the Tennessee Bleubird Film on Vimeo
Watch the Tennessee Bleubird Film on Vimeo

Family Memories. Made in East Tennessee from TNVacation on Vimeo.

But the creativity didn’t end there.  It also came also in how they approached “reach.” They obviously needed as many people as possible to watch the film, but didn’t want to spend a huge amount on paid media. The first coup came in setting the film to an acoustic version of Dolly Parton’s “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” recorded by Ms Parton herself. She shared it to her millions of social followers. There simply couldn’t have been a celebrity more appropriate to the context, and having her involved was pure gold.

Second, the team got Rolling Stone to debut the film exclusively. In an online world where everything is everywhere instantly, and for free, giving an exclusive to the right outlet with a large audience, even for a short period, can give content a boost if that outlet agrees to high-level promotion. Within hours of the debut, the film had reached 30K views. With little paid media, the campaign generated 1.7M social impressions, 131K social engagements, and thousands of potential visitors. The campaign team quotes an increase in total travel to the region by 10-12% for the quarter in which the campaign ran.

You can read more about the Tennessee Bleubird campaign here:

Relationship (B2B) Autodesk

Autodesk is a world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, and last year they launched what they called a Total Community strategy, involving Facebook, Twitter and a community hub built on Lithium. This community involves a group of Expert Elite users from around the world — individual community members who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.  The hub also includes a really detailed Knowledge Network, webinars, and other educational tools.  The community now has upwards of 1.4 million registered users.

What makes this strategy so successful, is that it builds on the knowledge of the crowd. It gives community members a chance to share knowledge and expertise — because people who know and understand complex products like Autodesk really honestly do want to share and help one another. The community enables new users to ‘help themselves’ when they have a problem to solve. Building a community like this, in pre-social days, would have been different. Today’s users understand the value of sharing, commenting, and participating. The Lithium platform builds in ‘kudos,’ which lets users vote up the contributions of other users — an inherently social activity.

You can read more about the Autodesk community on Lithium’s blog.

Relationship (B2C) Sephora

The BeautyTalk community on Sephora has, for quite some time, been one of my ‘go to’ examples of great community building — and dates all the way back to 2010.  (I can’t really believe it’s been that long, but the Lithium blog says it launched in September 2010, so it must be true.) On the BeautyTalk community, makeup experts answer pressing questions from other experts for no other reward than being helpful and knowledgeable. It’s a wonderful thing.

Depth (B2C) Adobe’s Photography Program

There’s nothing like a change in pricing or availability of a product used by a large and vocal community to challenge a brand. As if moving the entire Adobe suite of products to an online model wasn’t sufficiently complex enough. Adobe took the challenge of finding, and informing, their users everywhere on the changes head on.  And with humor, grace, and humility.  It was impressive.

Adobe showcased original creative on all their social channels using a funny cast of characters, all very unique — just like Adobe users themselves — and all complaining about Adobe. At first.

One of the aspects I liked the most was making “real time” cover photos for social channels that included real quotes from real users.

Adobe Infographic from the Photograhy Program
Real time cover photos, made from community comments

Adobe’s primary goal was to drive awareness and adoption, and to reduce negative sentiment, and they indicate they managed to turn negative sentiment around into a significant positive sentiment increase.

You can read more about the Photoshop “for everyone” Photography campaign on Adobe’s blog.

Psychological triggers — five ways to think about building awareness

Much has been written about how psychology can be used to influence a customer’s behavior, and there are a huge number of theories and treatises on this subject. So I confess here to simplistically distilling my thoughts down the five ways that I use to start the conversation with companies looking to broaden awareness of their product and ramp up growth.

(Interestingly, these may not apply with the early adopter customers. Early adopters get a thrill from being the first to discover something, to try it out and share results. The earlier and the buggier the better. Early adopters want to be ‘in’ on the story before anyone else.)


Do I recognise ‘me’ in you. If you’re not speaking to a customer knowing what’s important to them, they won’t trust you. But if you’re speaking their language, and if you’re reflecting what they find difficult, confusing, and problematic (and, how you can solve that problem), then they will feel an affinity with you.

Affinity can be created right at the opening of the door. On the first place a consumer goes to find out about you (usually your website), do you reflect their most pressing problem clearly? Do you explain the solution you are offering?


When someone is familiar, it makes them feel comfortable. Figure out how to have your consumers see you regularly. For example, re-targeting brand ads, done at the right cadence, is one tactic here. Those consumers may not click those ads, but it has been shown they can offer brand lift in a longer sales cycle.


Who do your consumers trust? Who can talk about you and your product with authority. Everyone would want their brilliantly conceived new product to be blessed by Richard Branson (as if…), or gets the nod on Dragon’s Den. But let’s be more realistic here. If your B2B service, for example, appears on a Gartner Magic Quadrant, that gives your service a seal of authoritative approval that is a little more achievable.


This is something Slack has done brilliantly. How many have felt that they really had to get onto Slack, because everyone else is? Putting aside for the moment that it’s a product that really only works well if all your colleagues are on it too, it’s a perfect example of the bandwagon effect. Slack fueled the bandwagon effect with their user-onboardng process. to get people to invite their colleagues.


Finally, and this can be hard, there’s value in the scarcity effect. Some of us remember what it was like to be given the ‘golden ticket’ of a Gmail account. (Yes, it really did work like that.) More recently, it was an invitation to Ello. (Which I got, but sadly I haven’t used.) There may be aspects of a product that works for scarcity — an upgrade, new features, extra flare. Or geographical scarcity, special colours — the list goes on. If someone has it, and it’s scarce, others will want it.

Other resources

A few interesting, and I hope useful, resources that go into some detail about the psychological choices that go into the design of offers, landing pages, customer-facing messages:

Meerkat as a ‘fad,’ make the customer experience personal, and don’t ignore millennials…

As part of my weekly media habits, I have been expanding my Podcast consumption to include Marketing and Business podcasts — beyond my usual diet of culture and entertainment. It sometimes feels a bit like teeth-flossing. Boring and worthy. But I always feel better afterwards. Anyway, I’ve organized it so that one Podcast will cover my commute to work and get me into a good working headspace.

The Marketing Smarts podcasts from MarketingProfs I like, because they interview people with real world opinions. Who are qualified to say something worthwhile. And give me actionable advice. Unlike the Ted podcasts, which are lovely and inspirational, but not so immediately actionable in my workday.

Today, I heard from Geoff Livingstone, a multi-talented marketer, with some good things to say. He advises me as follows:

  • Meerkat could be just a fad — ultimately the ‘live’ watching experience will fade
  • The customer experience on social must be relevant — yes, get attention, but if you don’t make your social outreach personal to the specific customer experience, you’ll not win
  • Don’t ignore milliennials — they are now becoming today’s VPs in decision making roles

On the Meerkat question, I’d be sorry if that does just become a fad. I don’t think it will. There are instances when near-live broadcasting from mobile is incredibly powerful. We’re not sure what it is yet. Meerkat won’t tell us what it is. Meerkat’ers will. Give it time. The best use case hasn’t emerged yet.

On the customer experience question, that’s so hard for smaller brands without the access to the big data. Mr Livingstone spoke of big brands, like T-Mobile, who can correlate your social identity with your T-Mobile identity, and reach out accordingly. For example, if they notice you tweet that you’re unhappy, because T-Mobile gets the latest phones too late, they could find you in the database and email you an offer to ship the next phone directly to your home, and waive the upgrade fee. Nice dream. Out of reach for most, but point well taken.

Finally, on ignoring millennials? At your peril. He also made some very good points about how millennials are forging new ways to protect their online identity. Today’s socially savvy millennials wouldn’t post drunk photos on Facebook, because they know better. They have places to keep that quiet and private, and they’re using them. Mr Livingstone gave sage advice about hiring millennials. He tells us he assures his potential millennial hires that he won’t be their ‘friend’ on Facebook. He won’t like their posts and comment. He does expect them to do their job competently. Not be socially well behaved. That’s not his business.

I have been chastised by millennials I know that my ‘digital footprint’ is too large. Too late, I think. Horse has bolted the stable. The millennials I know aren’t making that mistake. They’re ensuring that whatever is public is what they want to be public. That’s why services like Snapchat are so appealing. And why they are a good thing. I could learn a thing or two there. My identities are all ridiculously blurred. And that’s not a good thing.

Thinking beyond simple social engagement, to a participatory engagement campaign calendar

At Friend2Friend, we work with our brand clients to ensure a year-round approach to engagement campaigns.  When the content that fills a brand’s social newsfeeds is solely of the “one-to-many” type – beautiful photos, inspirational videos, sneak peeks at new products – the only participation you’re asking of your audience is to like, comment, and/or share. And that’s OK. But brand social audiences will be happy to respond in a much more participatory way if you ask them. And there’s every reason to make that participation happen regularly, around the seasonal marketing clock.

Continue reading Thinking beyond simple social engagement, to a participatory engagement campaign calendar

How are you starting your content marketing strategy for 2015?

You’re going back to your desk in the New Year, full of energy for new marketing initiatives, one of which is your content strategy. Here are some pointers and resources to get started with your planning.

The essential plan

Understand the purpose of your content plan. Your content should be helping achieve your organization’s business goals, not your content goals. So be very clear and get agreement on this from the start. Your business goal may be selling products or services; creating leads for sales teams; encouraging engagement and frequent visits; helping users find what they need; or driving awareness, engagement or loyalty.

Your planning framework might, therefore, begin with a content mission statement, or a business case. For example: ‘Build multi-channel content that establishes/underscores my organization as the leader in the ABC economy/market/space.’ Or ‘Build multi-channel content that delivers qualified leads to the sales channel.’ Very different statements, requiring very different tactical plans. With your defined goal, you must also be looking at where your customers are appearing, and what message you want them to hear, with your content, at whatever point in the experience.

The customer is at the center of this at all times.

A good plan must:
Continue reading How are you starting your content marketing strategy for 2015?

Do your social posts survive the re-share test?

artofsmOn my weekend walk, I listened to this Jay Baer podcast of an interview with Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist at Canva and author along with Peg Fitzpatrick, Head of Social Strategy at Canva.

The podcast is part of Guy and Peg’s book tour to promote their new book ‘The Art of Social Media,’ a book they have filled with power tips for power social media users.

Here my five key takeaways from this podcast:

Continue reading Do your social posts survive the re-share test?