Are B2B Solutions Marketers Investing Enough in Marketing Technology?

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA,

According to ITSMA’s 2013 Marketing Technology Survey, almost two-thirds of B2B services and solutions marketers believed that they are underinvested in technology. And it’s not just marketers without technology investments that are saying so. Those who don’t have technology said that they needed it; those who did have it said that they needed more of it. Fast-forward to today and the situation hasn’t changed significantly. B2B marketers are still underinvested.

ITSMA’s most recent 2015 Annual Budget and Trends Survey revealed that marketers allocate and average of 5% of their total marketing budget to tools (defined as Marketing Technology and Automation, Marketing Analytics, Marketing Performance Management and Reporting). Just over one-quarter of the marketers in the survey planned to increase their spending on tools in 2015. Some are even decreasing their budget.

B2B marketing technology budget

With numbers like these, it is hard to imagine that the CMO is going to command a larger IT budget than the CIO anytime soon!

To learn more, complete ITSMA’s 2015 Marketing Technology Survey to better understand how you and your peers are using marketing technology to:

  • Increase marketing’s productivity by replacing manual activities with automation
  • Improve the ability to track and report marketing impact
  • Increase the volume of leads generated
  • Maximize conversions
  • Gain greater insight into buyer behavior and preferences
  • Use buyer insights to build relationships through personalization, relevant content, and conversation

Click here to access the survey, which takes approximately 12-15 minutes to complete.

In appreciation for completing the survey, you will receive an executive summary of the survey results (note: ITSMA members who complete the survey will receive the full report).

All responses will be kept strictly confidential and reported only in the aggregate. You can enter data into this survey until the deadline, March 13, 2015.

In addition, highlights from the survey will be covered in ITSMA’s upcoming lunch briefings and online briefing, Capitalizing on Marketing’s New Tools and Technologies. Briefings are free for employees at member companies and open to all others for a fee. If your company is not a member, find out more here.

Eight Steps to B2B Solutions Content Marketing Success

content marketing

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA,

Today, you can’t talk about marketing without talking about content. Most of us old-timers (like me!) laugh and say, “Hasn’t marketing always been about content?” Certainly! But the nature of the content has changed. Buyers have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and we in marketing are now educators. We still position our companies and offerings, but we never promote.

In this new environment, what are the keys to content marketing success? ITSMA has identified eight steps to ensure that you win more than your fair share of mind and wallet:

1. Set Goals. Establish your content marketing objectives and align your metrics with those objectives

Marketers are good at setting objectives and metrics, but are they the right goals and metrics? There are two issues to consider here. First, do the content marketing objectives align with the business strategy? Second, do the metrics align with the content marketing objectives, and therefore, with the business strategy? Too often the marketing objectives metrics stop short of business outcomes, and instead focus on tactics and execution. It’s the difference between being a content campaign producer vs. a business value creator.


2. Do the Research. Know your buyers’ purchase process

Buyers have become more connected, empowered, proactive, and hungry to learn. They have access to information anytime and anywhere, yet ironically, buyers are harder to reach. As a result marketing and selling have become quite a challenge. Nevertheless, with a deep understanding of buyer needs and when, how, and why they buy, marketing can use content to influence buyers at every stage of the buying process. Here’s the catch: buyer profiles based on what you and the sales team think you know about your target audiences is not enough. You have to talk directly to the buyers. Only then will you have the insights you need to create the content that will persuade them to choose you.


3. Map your content to the buyers’ journey. Create content to answer buyers’ questions and address their concerns at each stage

Once you’ve done the research, and perhaps created buyer personas, you will know exactly what questions your buyers are trying to answer, depending upon where they are in their journey.  Create a content marketing matrix and fill in the boxes with the content you have available. Then look for the holes to fill. This will result in a mix of content types, including trend analyses, research-based thought leadership, case studies, solution descriptions, competitive comparisons, ROI calculators, online demos, and so forth.


4. Tell stories. Bring narrative power to your content by incorporating proven storytelling structures

Storytelling is part of the human condition, part of our DNA. It’s how we represent ourselves, our lives, and our world, both to ourselves and to each other. Stories help us to paint pictures about new possibilities. Ultimately, stories help us to connect. In the war for buyers’ attention, storytelling engages audiences emotionally and can help you win. As marketers, we must understand who the audience is, where they are now, and where we want to take them. Then we can draw from a wealth of plots, structures, and devices to bring our content to life.


5. Be visual and interactive. Create thought leadership content that engages audiences through a mix of interactive visuals, images, and words

Nothing beats a visual for communicating information and ideas. Think of it as visual storytelling. And that is exactly what 436 buyers of complex, high consideration B2B solutions told us. Their preferred format for online solution provider thought leadership content is interactive visualizations such as interactive maps, data explorers, timelines, and scroll triggered animations. They are also partial to published presentations or slide sets (bullet points and visuals) and even the more traditional text-based whitepapers, reports, and web copy.


6. Promote. Use a mix of inbound and outbound marketing to create a continuous cadence, not one-and-done rigid campaigns

Build it and they will come doesn’t work for content marketing. Content has to be promoted. Marketers need to replace time-defined campaigns with multichannel, integrated programs. Online, offline, and people-based interactions need to be seamlessly integrated. Use digital marketing to complement high-touch person-to-person marketing. Add an element of community-building and that’s a winning combination.


7. Build relationships. Emphasize the building blocks of true relationships: human contact, insight, personalization, and engagement

Marketers talk a lot about relationship building, and design all sorts of programs to do just that. All too often relationship marketing is a mechanical process of increasingly focused content communication activities: emails, webinars, newsletter subscriptions, seminars, private briefings, and so on. It’s a formulaic progression. But real relationships don’t follow a formula. They’re messy and unpredictable, and each one is different. Marketers must be flexible with their marketing automation nurture tracks. The purchase process is not actually linear. Certainly track buyers’ behavior, but don’t make assumptions about where they are in the purchase process—it could change in the blink of an eye. (The customer will determine his own ideal journey—not us!)


8. Engage sales reps and SMEs. Don’t underestimate the importance of people as a channel to communicate your content

Contrary to popular belief, nearly half the buying process for complex, high consideration solutions takes place offline, especially with people. Therefore your people—your sales reps and SMEs are perhaps your most important content marketing channels to promote and deliver your content. During the purchase process, the people your buyers most want to talk to are your SMEs. However, your SMEs only have so many hours in the day. Marketers need to find ways to increase the visibility and accessibility on- and off-line. And to Augment SME ranks, marketers should enable the sales force to be “frontline” SMEs.


What’s on your list that I missed?