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Annual "State of the (B2B) Website"

  
  
  

I've never written an annual "State of the Website" blog and endeavor for it to be more relevant than the State of the Union speeches have become. As the leader of a company that has been designing websites for 20 years, a recent blogpost by Michael Brenner, titled "Is the corporate Website Dead?" certainly caught my eye.

describe the imageDire prognostications are standard operating procedure in the blogoshphere. Example: a few years ago I read that Search, which is more relevant than ever, was dead. Americans need to be always onto the next great wave, whatever that is, lest we be left behind or be perceived as yesterday's news. We're all journalists now so I salute a good headline when I see one — hyperbole aside — so let's see what's behind this one.

Mr. Brenner sites research like:

  • According to Webtrends, nearly 70% of Fortune 100 corporate websites experienced declines in traffic, with an average drop of 23%.
  • 90% of website traffic comes from just 10% of the content and more than 50% of the traffic is from just 0.5% of the content. ~ InboundWriter
  • 60-70% of B2B marketing content goes unused. ~ Sirius Decision
  • 60% of the buyer journey is complete before prospects reach out to vendors. ~ CEB

These statistics, which seem to focus on the largest companies, which is not where most of us work, don't suggest the death of the website so much as the need for better understanding of and focus on audience needs and providing content that is reflective of that. Audience focus, or the creating of more personalized experiences is the future of the website. Big companies like Boeing, Siemens and Coca-Cola are now actively seeking audience participation to improve their website's relevance. They are also leading with highly produced customer story videos and prominent links to their well-staffed social channels to enable ubiquitous sharing.

My own experience is that most B2B companies are still quite enamored of their products, want them emphasized on the website, feel that education, while important, is a distant second on their websites, to lead generation. So, in 2014, we still need to lead discussions about the importance of focusing on the audience, addressing their pain points and providing relevant customer anecdotes.

While it is imperative for B2B companies to continually look at the B2C world and the Fortune 100, which is where marketing trends often originate, there is usually several years lag time before B2C or big company trends are absorbed and reflected in B2B websites. Compounding this is the generational reality that many individuals in B2B leadership positions today are not digital natives and have not yet really become comfortable with the notion that the website is becoming "A desination" within a network of customer channels, rather than "THE destination."

We are believers in multi-channel marketing, personalized web experiences and the website as a continual process rather than an one time event. RainCastle is often invited to bid on redesigning a B2B website and often a B2B brand in which the client presents the website as a finite project to be completed in a specific timeframe. The assumption is that we will create a better user experience with better content, navigation, design and content management capabilities. What it fails to acknowlege is that in order to stay relevant to their audiences and to Google, maintaining a relevant website is a constant process of creating new content, measuring its effectiveness and creating additional content based on analysis, to nurture prospects through a sales process, or others through an education process, and to connect with them in meaningful ways, across channels. This work is never "complete." In the B2C world, the website is becoming the most ubiquitous entry point rather than the final destination in many cases. This will be true for B2B as well, over time; change will be an evolution not a revolution, at least for the next several years.

2014 and beyond are looking pretty good for the website. We look forward to creating more and more personalized experiences across channels, over time.

Far from dead, the website is only now really coming to life.

 

Do B2B Brands Need to be "Ideals-Driven?"

  
  
  

L to R: Selina Yoon, John Canestraro, Jim Stengel, Paul RegensburgRainCastle is pleased to be working with Jim Stengel, former Global Marketing Officer of Procter & Gamble, and an industry leader in the fields of Marketing, Brand and Business. 

While everyone has come to recognize the power of brands, it can still be challenging to quantify the value one's brand adds to the bottom line. Jim Stengel, through extensive research, identified the connection between financial performance and customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy. Essentially, he found that the companies with the best financial performance are what he calls "ideals-driven companies," i.e., ones in which the mantra of "improving people's lives" is indigenous to their vision, values and culture.

When I asked how the idea of an ideals-driven brand plays to B2B, Jim said many of his clients are B2B companies and the notion of improving people's lives just takes a different form than with a consumer company, such as Nike or Apple. His contention is that people are people and will always feel empowered when feeling that their product or service has a deeper purpose than its immediate function. IBM's "Let's Build a Smarter Planet" is one example of a B2B that has embodied their brand ideal. And at the end of their TV commercials, the voice over proclaims, "I'm an IBMer," giving the ideals-driven brand a personal touch and making us feel that everyone at IBM is united in the mission to build that smarter planet. 

HubSpot for blog"Creating Marketing People Love," is marketing software vendor, HubSpot's tagline. HubSpot is one of the most vibrant B2B's around and it is plain to see that they are an ideal-driven brand whose financials have grown at an enviable clip. Their tools help businesses increase leads and convert those leads into happy customers — a sure way to improve people's lives. HubSpot puts an enormous amount of passion and energy on educating their partners and customers, providing white papers, eBooks and webinars, so their customers will be successful.

describe the imageBrands are often described as needing to satisfy a balance of rational and emotional needs. One might sound the familiar refrain that B2B markets and their decision making process are necessarily more rational than in consumer markets, because they are often selling higher value products or services, which require many decision-makers. But it still comes down to people selling to people. And people are moved by emotional ideas. This means that a strong B2B brand is expected to posess all of the rational attributes, but will truly rise above by offering an emotional benefit found in authentic brand ideals.

In the B2B world, How important do you think ideals-driven brands are?

Creating Websites People Love

  
  
  
We create websites people love. Of course I can't say that officially — although it's true — as HubSpot has already created a great campaign around "love."
describe the image I admire HubSpot's website because it says in big bold letters, "Create Marketing People Love." Then it qualifies that brand statement with a "here's how we help you do it" statement: "Use HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing software to consistently generate more visits, leads, and customers." HubSpot has not only managed to create a product people find useful, they've created a brand and a culture associated with a powerful human emotion, love.
As we've been designing a new website for ourselves, we've been giving thought to what makes a website people love. The obvious answers are that it generates leads, is easy to use and maintain, performs well, contains relevant content and looks good. Marketers might add that it needs to be interactive, have calls-to-action buttons and enable users to interact. While we focus intently on all of that, we have found that what makes a website people love is to bring emotion and a sense of purpose to the web experience, which is derived from a supporting brand that embodies these deeper attributes.
describe the imageIBM's "Let's Build a Smarter Planet" is another example of a B2B company that has created a culture not around technology or services, but a collaborative goal of building a better planet, something everyone can feel good about.
Our recent work for AirStrip, a mobile healthcare company is an example in the HubSpot/IBM mold. AirStrip is filled with passionate physicians, technologists and other healthcare professionals who have a sweeping vision for improving the American healthcare system through mobile technology. We harnessesd that passion into a powerful tagline, "HealthCare Transformation is in the Air," which distilled their passion and goals and tied back to their name and to mobility. What makes the AirStrip website "loveable," aside from the increased traffic they've seen, is that the brand tagline spawned a whole language, i.e.,RainCastle website for AirStrip
  • Healthcare mobility is in the Air
  • Better Quality Care is in the Air
  • Clinical Efficiency is in the Air
  • Improved Performance is in the Air
As web designers, we see our job as "bringing company brands to life... on the web." More often than not, we are provided copy, which is written by engineers or others steeped in the one hundred percent buzzword compatible terminology dictated by financial goals, product details, perceived customer expectations, loss of objectivity or leadership that hasn't articulated a higher purpose. Even great graphic or interactive design can't transform mundane language or undifferentiated notions. People see right through that. Our most successful website projects are collaborations with organizations that have articulated, or are open to doing the work to articulate, a brand that in some way can be associated with improving people's lives, and carries both emotional as well as business weight.
Send quote to a friend
images 2"All our words from loose using have lost their edge." So said Ernest Hemingway, probably at a Spanish bar one night in the company of other inebriated literary elite. I imagine if he could see the current state of B2B marketing content, he would have the smug smile of the prescient. In 2013, there is still no more powerful communication tool than your website. It is also true in 2013, as the cliche goes, that "content is king." But it's not just the quantity of content, it's the quality. The best way to create websites that people love is to start with content that rises above and touches people on a human level, conjoining them with your mission.
Want people to love your website? Give us a call!

What Makes a Good infographic?

  
  
  

Infographics are taking over the earth! At least it seems that way. There has been an explosion of infographics on the web — in both B2C and B2B — literally illustrating that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. But before we get into what makes a good one, let's define what an infographic is and why they have reached the tipping point.

Infographics are graphical representations of content that would alternatively require a lot of words or that would be difficult to glean without previous knowledge of the subject. So, it is essentially visual shorthand for weaving a qualitative story, often from quantitative content.

The facility for rendering complex data in simpler terms is a coveted skill. The way in which people absorb content on the web these days is like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. Attention spans are short and getting shorter as is time to focus and reflect. If content creators can distill complex narratives into compelling, easy-to-comprehend visuals, visitors to their websites are more likely to engage with them.

Infographics can be a part of any digital marketing campaign. With Javascript animations, strong use of color and fonts, intuitive icons and illustrations all optimized for Search, infographics can build your backlinks, improve organic traffic, wow your audience and strengthen your brand.

The key ingredients of a good infographic are:

  • A cohesive and coherent story line
  • A series of concise, clearly worded headlines from which one can "get the gist"
  • Simple storytelling graphic style, Icons can work very well
  • Simple, clean font style, avoid lots of flourishes
  • Not trying to do "too much"
  • Test out the graphic among lay people before releasing to a wider audience

Here are a few infographics I've come upon lately, which do a particularly good job making a lot of content easy to digest.

describe the imagehttp://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/32700/The-10-Best-Marketing-Infographics-of-2012-So-Far.aspx 

Not surprisingly, HubSpot has created and compiled a top ten collection of cool infographics related to the field of marketing. Each represents a different concept and is rendered in a different visual format. The configuration of text, graphics, fonts, icons and colors is chosen specifically to solve the visual problem. The great thing about Infographics is that they grow organically from the data so developing one is a unique creative experience yielding a unique result. Because of their custom nature, most infographics are not template based, although I've seen a few starter infographic toolkits mostly directed toward non-designers. These may be helpful for people not comfortable visualizing, but tend to yield more cookie cutter solutions.

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672218/tidemarks-infographics-could-change-how-your-business-is-run?utm_source=twitter#1 describe the image

This Fast Company interactive infographics depicts the multiple ways a business can rank its profits, such as by project, by state, by customer and so forth. This one is actually a collection of single infographics representing one view of company profits at a time, which can be accessed by simply clicking an arrow.

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672218/tidemarks-infographics-could-change-how-your-business-is-run?utm_source=twitter#1 

For sports fans, this infographic provides 10 years of data on whether spring training improves batting averages.

infographic Bball 50213You can see that whatever the quantitative problem, there is a unique and compelling way to simplify and visualize it in an infographic. Have you seen any cool infographics lateley? Please share.

 

5 Reasons Why B2B Businesses Need to Go Mobile Now

  
  
  

describe the imageIt’s a well-worn fact that B2C marketers set the trends that B2B businesses subsequently adopt. Between them there are usually several years of lag time. The case for B2B companies to adopt mobile marketing practices and a mobile-friendly web presence warrants an acceleration of that schedule in direct correlation to the speed at which mobility is reshaping the world. Here are some compelling arguments pointing towards the value of mobile to B2B businesses.

Don’t let the Trend Pass You By
Gartner predicts that by 2014, there will be a 90% mobile penetration rate and 6.5 billion mobile connections. Think about it, that’s about the number of people in the entire world! They go on to say that in 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. If that alone is not reason to maximize one’s mobile presence, here are some other things to consider.

Protecting and Enhancing Your Brand
“Many companies are still behind and are not optimizing the web experience for mobile, which is incredibly damaging for their brands," said Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua in an article titled, “Ready or Not, Lead Gen is Going Mobile for B2B Marketers.

"There have been countless studies that show a consumer will abandon a website in less than five seconds if the experience is unsatisfactory,” said Woods. “Now that we know potential buyers are reading our emails and visiting our websites from their mobile devices, marketers need to make the appropriate adjustments.”

Take a look at your website on a smartphone. Is it hard to navigate, slow performing, or requiring a lot of pinch and zoom just to get from one page to the next? Now imagine your customers, prospects and prospective employees experiencing this. Does the experience support your brand image as a tech-savvy, customer-focused organization?

Business executives search using their mobile phones seven times a day, much of which is for business, according to a Forbes survey. At RainCastle, we have noticed the beginning of a “hockey stick” increase of mobile users accessing our website and as a result are currently redesigning our own site using “Responsive Design” to make the mobile experience as easy and compelling as the desktop. Our clients who follow their website analytics are experiencing the same trend.

Rethink Your Content
When your B2B audiences are working remotely they are seeking information that is easy-to-access and fits on their phones or tablets, whether it is text, imagery or video. As a B2B, you now need to make sure that relevant content is manageable and accessible not only on the desktop, but on mobile devices as well.

Respond Quickly to The New Normal for User Behavior
In the new normal, customers’ patience has plummeted while expectations for speed, accessibility and personalization of content have skyrocketed. When was the last time you had a meeting with a business executive who wasn't checking their mobile device multiple times? Whether or not that offends you, can you afford not to be reaching these people through their chosen medium?

Establishing The Personalized User Experience
Mobile devices present a more personal, one to one medium than marketers have ever had. People wear them, carry them and keep them next to their beds at night. Why wouldn’t you want to create a relationship through a medium that provides that kind of access? Mobility is changing us, driving new habits, altering the way we live, connect and market. 

So, don’t miss the (mobile) boat lest you want to live the “Life of Pi,” trying to tame the (mobile) Tiger.

Top 5 B2B Marketing Wins of the Year

  
  
  

The end of each year always serves as a time to reflect, and this year, I was pleased to see the growing B2B investment in content marketing and other online pull marketing techniques. It came to mind that there were a fair number of non-traditional case study examples highlighting this push, and that looking to these examples may encourage even more creative B2B planning in 2013.

So, who are these impressive B2B thinkers and what can we learn from them? Well, for that, I'm afraid, you'll actually have to read my post...

1. Rebellious content creators: Louis C.K. and Amanda Palmer

Changing the platform and dialog

We are all-too familiar with celebrities as brand spokespeople and product endorsers, but 2012 saw the rise of two artists that took on content creation to build their own brand personae. Using valuable content, guerrilla marketing, and personal outreach, comedian Louis C.K. and musician Amanda Palmer became two of the year’s most effective B2B marketers.

1louis ck beaconThis year, Louis C.K. offered his stand-up special and tour tickets directly through his website, bucking the need for a distributors (and earning over 100,000 social media shares for that one page alone); sent out personally written emails to his fan database; and created, wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a new TV show, Louie, that gained him 5 Emmy nods and one win. As an actor, he strategically employed fresh content creation, effective content marketing, and personable email marketing to increase his brand recognition exponentially.

amanda palmer appFolk singer Amanda Palmer took a more direct approach. Tired of dealing with creatively destructive and financially questionable labels, she took to social media to completely fund her next album. Using online funding platform Kickstarter, Palmer raised over $1 million in funding from close to 25,000 backers. But here's the kicker: she raised $11,000 of that in the first two hours from Twitter alone. Palmer used frequent YouTube postings, social media calls-to-action, and an upstart online platform to essentially move her career entirely to the internet. By providing her fans early on with the content they desired, she was able to gain enough traction and online support to launch herself as an independent artist and brand.

Key takeaway: When done right, content marketing can transform any B2B brand.

2. General Electric - "GE Works"

Bringing faces to a brand

GE has long been a leader in outstanding B2B marketing, but in 2012, with the launch of its global marketing initiative "GE Works," the company honed in on a strategic mission: to showcase not just technology, but the journey, people, and outcome of technology.

Using social media, including early adoption of platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, SocialCam and Viddy, more photo and video content, and strong data visualization pieces, GE was able to communicate its core business without alienating its audience. Its popular "Juice Train" video is a prime example: it follows a train delivering orange juice from Florida to New Jersey in a time-lapsed video, showing the on-board analytics provided by GE technology, and arriving at overarching meaning for the trip.

Did I also mention GE created a holographic game designed around one of its jet engines? Admit it, that's cool.

GE team twitter

But perhaps the most unique initiative this year is the addition of a section on GE's website dedicated to showcasing the tech team, which features what each member is tweeting in a visually dynamic grid. Clicking on an individual member takes you directly to his or her Twitter feed, encouraging online interaction between consumers and company representatives, and creating stronger brand loyalty.

Key take away: In B2B, focus on connection to your audience rather than your services.

3. TED Talks

Using video to market smart content and grow knowledge

TED Talks, a division of TED, a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas Worth Spreading," started as a way to showcase discussions and talks from the popular annual TED Conference. But what started in 2006 as an additional resource has grown into one of the biggest - and most prestigious - online learning resources available. In addition to a devotion to spreading knowledge, TED Talks has hit on one of the most valuable content marketing tools today: video.

Most popular TED Talks

 

Using video as its central platform, TED Talks has accumulated over 1 billion views as of November 2012, with the top video boasting over 13 million views. Instead of relying on old-school marketing techniques only (conferences that have no reach outside of the actual event), TED Talks utilized video marketing to complement the TED mission of spreading ideas; which, in effect, became a rather successful marketing initiative.

The dedication to this initiative was put on display this year, when the organization refused to showcase a talk that was "explicitly bipartisan" that failed to support a fair argument. Instead of feeding into controversy, TED Talks remained committed to using content marketing in line with its mission statement.

Key take away: Find the tactic that works for you and think in terms of mission.

4. Pinterest

Combining human elements with great design

pinterest growthIn the year that Google+ was predicted to dominate (spoiler: it didn't), Pinterest emerged as not only the top social media platform, but also one of the largest traffic-driving websites in 2012. So, when I list Pinterest as a win, it's not in terms of what the platform can do for your business (which is a lot - just give me a call, I'll fill you in), but rather the enormous success it has had as a B2B company in the past year alone.

As of September, the site had 56 million users, is valued at $1.5 billion, and had been hailed as any company's dream new marketing tool. Why so popular? Because the user friendly design, easy sharing capabilities, and concentration on creativity were key in appealing to today's visual audience. Pair that with easy Facebook and Twitter sharing integration and a layout that allows you to pin, repin, or like from every page, and Pinterest became a social media juggernaut.

What's more, Pinterest's growth is based in a decidedly traditional strategy: local meetups. CEO Ben Silbermann held meetups personally to connect with like-minded individuals and get feedback for and support of the site. From there, he launched the "Pin It Forward" campaign - an initiative aimed at promoting the sharing capabilities of the site by encouraging friends to create pinboards in return for more site invites. Connecting users, in place of push marketing, became the definitive growth tactic.

Key takeaway: A beautiful website and word of mouth marketing can work hand-in-hand to create an integrated marketing strategy.

5. Cisco's Social Media Listening Center for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics

Connecting global participants and social media results

For the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Cisco set up a Social Media Listening Center (with headquarters in London and San Diego) to monitor conversation trends and negative vs positive feedback, and to identify ambush marketing and crisis management that could be dealt with immediately and effectively. Monitored 24/7, the listening center tracked social media conversations in 10 languages and ran "games time operations" to identify the misuse of the Olympics logo by non-sponsors online.

Cisco olypmic games

In doing so, Cisco was not only able to serve in its role as the official network infrastructure supporter for the Games, but were able to show concrete social media results in terms of the event itself and of Cisco's brand awareness before, during, and after. Because of this initiative, Cisco was able to prove social ROI on its sponsorship, and did a comparative analysis of the potential ROI of other Games sponsor. 

Cisco and its Olympic marketing programs received 1,701 social mentions in the 10 days leading up to the games, and 2,609 times during the games, with 89% of the mentions during the games being positive.

Key take away: Don't use social media for promotion, use it for listening.

So there's my list of 2012 B2B marketing wins. Are there any that I missed? What are yours?

A Marketer’s Education and the 2012 B2B Demand Generation Survey

  
  
  

Demand Generation Survey 2012 resized 600In the ever-expanding world of internet marketing, data is becoming increasingly available and valuable. Analytics are the benchmark of good reporting and proof of that ever-pesky ROI, and are even useful in highlighting more qualitative results, like brand loyalty and emotional connection.

In 2012, what is a marketer without data to streamline engagement, acquisition, and retention of customers and clients?

And, in 2012, what is a good marketer without the thirst to hone his or her craft by harnessing more effective data?

This is where B2B marketers especially have the ability to learn from each other’s experiences and accumulate shared perspectives. 

In a partnership with Eloqua and CMO.com, research firm Software Advice has launched a 2012 B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey to ask questions on the future of lead generation, focusing primarily on:

  • What demand-gen channels do your peers find most successful?
  • Will they be spending more or less on leads next year, and for what channels?
  • What content and offers deliver the best results?

Utilizing the input of B2B marketers, the report generated from the survey will highlight demand-gen programs compared across industry peers and experts.

As a marketing agency that continues to learn and evolve with each new project and client, this kind of crowdsourced data provides us an opportunity to compare our understanding with others in similar situations. As a result, we have an enhanced ability to improve upon our programs and client work. 

Yes, this is all relatively straightforward. But so is this survey – hence the beauty in participating. And at times it’s important to remind ourselves of the resources at hand, and that there is still so much still yet to learn.

3 Steps to Building Brand Loyalty Using Social Media

  
  
  

There’s still concern in the B2B community about just how important social media is in creating and sustaining relationships with partners and clients. But when it comes to building brand loyalty online, social media is the most beneficial tool available.

Your audience is most likely already using social media on a personal level and willingly participating in an online community. Connecting your brand identity with their online lives integrates your brand into their day-to-day activities, and cultivates brand loyalty through personal communication. In connecting this way, you are becoming more than a company or organization they follow. You have the opportunity to create lasting relationships, and lasting brand loyalty.

Research shows that online audiences are only becoming more active in involving brands in their lives through social media: 

  • 59% of adult Facebook users had "liked" a brand as of spring 2011, up from 47% the previous September. Uptake among the oldest users appears to have been a major factor in this rise – eMarketer Tweet This!
  • From 2010 to 2012 the percentage of Americans following any brand on a social network has increased 106%, from 16% to 33% – Socialnomics Tweet This!
  • 41% of B2B companies are acquiring customers through FacebookSocial Media Today, HubSpot Tweet This!
  • 78.6% of consumers have joined a company’s community to get more information on the company – Universal McCann Tweet This!
  • 66% of online company community members note that the community has made them more loyal to a brand – Universal McCann Tweet This!

However, creating a social media presence can backfire if you’re using it in the wrong way to cultivate brand loyalty. One big misstep brands can make is to transfer traditional direct marketing notions to online communities and correspondence: 

  • 43% of Facebook users who “unlike” a brand do so because of too much push marketing – Exact Target Tweet This!

Social media marketing is based largely in communicating with your online community –using pull vs. push marketing. Your followers are showing you voluntary brand loyalty, and it’s your responsibility to facilitate it further by being accessible to your community. 

1. Becoming Accessible

Roughly 38-60% of US buyers expect their online complaints about brands to be answered via social media. It’s more convenient for a consumer active on social media to express a thought, question, or review of your brand through that channel than for him or her to pick up a phone and call a company contact to discuss an issue.

If there’s an online community you’re not tapping into, and your brand reputation is suffering as a result, social media can help rectify this by providing accessibility for those complaints and questions.

Gartner twitter

Technology research company Gartner sees webinars and conferences as a key form of B2B marketing. Because of this, they are constantly conducting outreach on Twitter to answer logistics questions, pinpoint additional resources, and engage ongoing conversations.

2. Rewarding Fans

Rewarding fans that regularly engage with you also enhances brand loyalty.

Cisco Systems conducts a regular Facebook contest called the SuperFan Spotlight that awards a Cisco fan by featuring him or her in the company’s cover photo.

Cisco facebook

Not only is Cisco paying attention to its active community members, but also it continues to interact with each highlighted fan after his or her win, as shown in the above comments. Cisco uses Facebook to contact its SuperFan, to send along complimentary gear, and to start a personal message between the fan and a specific Cisco employee. As a company, Cisco continues to be accessible before, during, and after rewarding fans.

This is an important indication that they are not interested in one-time contests or campaigns to generate brand awareness, but in keeping constant contact and communication with fans by continuing to be accessible to their needs and wants.

Rewards including fan recognition, special offers, and exclusive content, are only enhanced when utilized in a friendly and personable online environment.

3. Gaining Trust

Trust and loyalty go hand in hand in securing a consumer’s commitment to your brand. Once your brand is:

  • Answering questions
  • Engaging in conversations
  • Providing immediate solutions and great client service
  • Rewarding fan interaction
  • Creating and providing exclusive content and offers, 

Your online consumer base is going to have a much more positive impression of and endorsement for your brand. Trust breeds loyalty, which in turn breeds willingness on the part of your consumer to take the time to spread positive reviews online and through word of mouth.

Respecting client endorsements and maintaining your responsibility to listen to your fans creates an ongoing cycle of recharged brand loyalty. Social media allows for continued conversations instead of one-time, stale recommendations. You have the ability to continually revive brand loyalty by consistently listening and responding – by keeping the conversation flowing and always providing an answer or a solution. 

How do you use social media to grow brand loyalty?

 

This is the Era of Brand (Loyalty)

  
  
  

blog brandIn my last blogpost, I talked about this being the Era of Design. I made the statement, “great design is about inventing and sustaining a vision.” I think that statement actually begins to describe the role of a brand more than design. Great design is about elegantly solving a particular problem, be it creative, technical or business in nature.  

I think we are in fact in the era of “brand,” not necessarily “brands,” since there are other eras of brands, as viewers of Mad Men might attest.  

Maybe more accurate is that we are in the era of brand loyalty.  

Brand loyalty is generally a B2C term suggesting the establishment of brand preference. Today’s B2C brands often start with an idea, some kind of competitive differentiator, and often spend less time formally market testing, but rather, quickly assemble a website, and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn presence, and proceed to make incremental improvements based on real time feedback from customers and others. From this real time digital dialogue, if handled with care, brand loyalty grows.  

B2B firms generally deal with specific audiences, often technical, and generally build their businesses thus brands from word-of-mouth recommendation. Because they are historically relationship-based they often tend to be skeptical about what a website, internet marketing or social media can do for them.  

What B2B businesses have been missing in their perception and practice of brand building, is that power of brand loyalty, which drives B2C brands. Today, it is not enough to just develop a brand voice through repositioning and execute a solid website as many B2B brands settle for, which is a recipe for brand stagnation. Unlike in the past, many customers want to have more interaction with their favorite companies and brands both online and offline.  

Simply put, in order to utilize and promote your messaging to its fullest, you ultimately want the trifecta for a successful brand; ending in enhanced brand loyalty.

blog brand loyalty

Brand loyalty comes from openly and consistently projecting your voice in an online dialogue with customers and others using available and ubiquitous vehicles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. This is not new, but it is fast becoming unavoidable for B2B companies that have thus far avoided it under the assumption that personal relationships are all that is needed.

B2B company leaders are generally in their 30s and 40s, and are quite comfortable living in the digital space. In fact, many of today’s executives expect an active digital dialogue with those they are considering doing business with.  

The increased expectation of brand accessibility provides companies with both an opportunity and an obligation to be more engaged. For relatively little effort, a brand that is not engaging customers online can get up to speed and turn a well-positioned yet quiet “relationship” company brand into an engaged organization that reaches out to customers in a daily dialogue that will result in better products and services and a bigger brand persona.  

We will discuss how to build brand loyalty for B2B companies in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

What Today’s Marketing Numbers Mean for Your B2B Business – Part 1: Email Marketing

  
  
  

Last week’s post featuring illuminating statistics from the NEDMA Marketing Technology Summit brought on a slew of questions: how do you turn today’s marketing numbers into actionable campaigns?

To help make internet marketing seem less daunting, this is the first of several posts in which we will explore a few ways to kick off your efforts while addressing the pressing needs of the online consumer.

Email: 294 billion emails are sent each day – 90% of email sent out every day is classified as spam

Many small B2B companies are making their foray into internet marketing by starting with email marketing. It’s proven to be an effective tactic acquiring continuing business, and can be a great way to inform current and prospective clients of company updates and new services.

But what’s the best way to utilize this medium (which you absolutely should) without being included in that 90% spam?

  • The first step is to always comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, which means including opt-outs in every email and honoring each opt-out, avoiding deceptive subject lines or misleading header information, and using a credible third-party email service platform.
  • Once your email is compliant, make sure you have a clean list of current and prospective clients with up-to-date email addresses. A high hard bounce rate is an indicator of spam email, and is often associated with email lists that are purchased instead of organically grown.

In terms of marketing and content your email should have:

  • Valuable and relevant content, including links to articles, whitepapers, case studies, and other website pages
  • A few appropriate images and graphics – too many become crowded and unrecognized by the browser
  • Little scrolling and a clean layout
  • Clear descriptions and calls-to-action to prompt click-through

Q1 2012 RainCastle Report 750 edited

RainCastle's quarterly email newsletter is separated
into sections featuring different content including articles,
blog posts,
whitepapers, and case studies

LivingSocial email

This welcome email from Living Social
has a prominent unsubscribe button,
clear call-to-action for a featured deal,
and contact information 

bing email
Bing's email newsletter also has a clear
format, valuable content, a mobile version,
and social media integration

Stay tuned for the next post, in which we’ll address enlightening social media statistics and what you can do for your business.

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