Martech 2018: We Have Nearly 7,000 Solutions and More Challenges Than Ever

In April, Sarah Hale, my fellow martech account director, and I attended the annual Martech Conference in San Jose. While the warm weather was a welcome break from Chicago’s long winter, the conference itself was the real highlight. Not to mention seeing Walker Sands’ name in lights during the keynote. Check out the 2018 State of Martech for additional relevant findings on how marketers view martech these days.

Here’s a recap of our biggest takeaways from the conference:

There are more martech solutions than ever before
Host Scott Brinker unveiled his latest martech landscape on Day 1, and we discovered that there are now nearly 7,000 martech solutions – 6,829 to be precise. This is 28 percent more than last year, and only 4.5 percent of the companies from the 2017 landscape were removed.

Blockchain is going to be like the Internet but bigger
Speaker Jeremy Epstein predicts that the impact blockchain will have on business will be as big as the Internet was in the 90s. To really dumb it down, blockchain allows you to know who owns what at a specific moment in time, which enables commerce to happen a lot faster. Check out this podcast to hear him explain how this works to his nine-year-old.

CDP is the next frontier
If we were playing martech bingo, blockchain, AI and CDPs would definitely have been on our cards. Presentation after presentation mentioned CDPs as the next major technology that savvy organizations should integrate if they haven’t already. Unlike a cookie-based DMP, CDPs are geared toward first-party data and reliant on persistent profiles. The result? A normalized database at a time when data is at a crossroads.

The best product doesn’t always prevail
The businesses that succeed are the ones that find the overlap between great technology and a great go-to-market strategy. There are countless start-ups out there, but the ones that find a way to resonate with customers are the ones that grow – even if they don’t necessarily have the best products, according to venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz.

These were just a few of the takeaways we gathered at Martech this year. If you’d like to hear more, either of us would love to chat. Send us a note!

Post contributor: Sarah Hale, Account Director at Walker Sands

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Why B2B Businesses Need a Brand Personality to Drive Meaningful Customer Relationships

In the final post of our three-part “Marketing Madness” series, we’ll examine the importance of B2B marketers developing a personality for their brands to better appeal to customers.
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As the content marketing ecosystem grows increasingly saturated, B2B marketers are forced to find creative ways to stand out from the crowd.

To complement their existing account-based marketing campaigns and post-sales engagement strategies, B2B marketers are turning to a tactic usually reserved for B2C companies: developing brand personalities.

Inspiring long-term customer relationships starts with authentic brand personalities

Let’s be honest — B2B marketing can be boring. Sales data and product specifications can be dull, and usually don’t excite or woo prospective customers. Prospects aren’t exactly leaping out of their seats to learn about the technical steps required for a software implementation.

“You need to consider the emotional intelligence of your organization,” says Adam Beeson, communications director at G2 Crowd. “Ask yourself: How does your business connect to your audience?” At the end of the day, even though businesses are marketing themselves to other businesses, the final decision maker is a person with emotional biases that sway his or her choice.

MM_Will WieglerWith a brand personality, marketers inject a little humanity into their organizations and inspire deeper relationships with their buyers. Advertising a company’s philanthropic efforts, for example, is one way to relate to prospects but can also be a double-edged sword for marketers. On the one hand, customers might view charitable efforts as businesses being socially responsible. On the other hand, some prospects could interpret a company’s volunteer work as disingenuous. Consumers can sniff out a fake from a mile away and are likely able to tell when a company’s actions are genuine and when they aren’t practicing what they preach. With the right association, B2B marketers can round out their company’s brand personality and appear more relatable to future buyers.

Unfortunately, businesses may lose prospects who don’t see eye-to-eye with a specific brand personality. Bringing emotions into the fold is inherently risky, especially if customers aren’t expecting a software company to comment on things like current events or social issues. A company taking a divisive stance, like supporting gun control, will likely turn away customers who strongly believe in the right to bear arms.

Crafting the narrative: finding stories that resonate with customers

Once you have uncovered your business’ brand personality, it’s time to mold it into a compelling narrative that resonates with the target audience. Lisa Agona, the CMO of Ensono, recommends primary research to learn how clients describe your business in emotional terms. “Calling out the emotion behind your brand is important when building a relationship with a B2B audience,” says Agona. Through surveys and a little online digging, Ensono discovered feelings of nostalgia were a great way to connect with a millennial audience.

With a better understanding of how customers perceive them, businesses are taking to social media platforms to reach their buyers with engaging content. Platforms like LinkedIn are typically reserved for sharing corporate-related news, but other venues like Facebook and Instagram can spotlight employees and company culture. SpringCM uses social media to share photos and video clips of a live band they house in their office, adding an element of fun to an organization that sells business software.
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However B2B marketers choose to show off their brand personality, remember: At the end of the day, you’re still trying to convert prospective buyers into long-term customers. A brand narrative still should tell the story of how companies can solve their customer’s problems and illustrate the value they gain by purchasing a product or service. Social media content is a great way to initially engage with prospects, but businesses also need to back it up with content that drives final sales.

As with any marketing journey, don’t be afraid to rework the tone of the brand voice based on results and change. Are your customers no longer reading newsletters after a shift in messaging? Are businesses contacting your sales teams because they don’t understand what a business does based on the brand personality advertised? It’s not enough for marketers to magnify their brand voice once they’ve found it — they also need to measure their efforts to maximize revenue. With the right combination of a strong brand personality and engaging content, B2B marketers can capture their prospects’ interest and see them through to a final sale.

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Post-Sales Content Marketing: How to Keep Your Customers Coming Back for More

MM_brandingIn part two of our three-part series, we’re exploring the post-sales marketing strategies the expert panelists at “Marketing Madness” covered during our roundtable discussion on eliminating customer churn.

You’ve successfully closed a deal with a high-value prospect obtained through an ABM campaign. But don’t celebrate just yet — getting customers through the door is only half the battle. The challenge continues after the ink on the contract is dry, when marketers are tasked with turning first-time customers into loyal brand advocates with lifetime value

A successful post-sales relationship starts with a great customer experience (CX). When CX is embedded in the marketing phase, organizations are more likely to achieve success in client interactions. “The customer experience starts with the buyer experience,” says Showpad’s Global Demand Generation Director, Nicolette Cieslak.

So, if your customer doesn’t quickly engage with the materials you give them, you risk losing buyers to a competitor that has invested more thought and effort in the post-sales lifecycle.
MM_Nicolette's table

Maintaining engagement is the difference between a one-time sale and a customer for life

There is nothing more frustrating than securing a high-quality lead and then losing the sale. But as marketers, how do we continue to wow and delight customers once they walk through the door? It’s no longer enough for just sales and marketing messaging to be aligned, the customer service team needs to deliver on what was promised throughout the buyer’s journey. Without a post-sales marketing plan, customers could lose trust in your brand and take their business elsewhere.

The trick to capturing repeat customers, according to Cieslak, is to provide value at every touchpoint and avoid pushing low-quality content through the pipeline. A simple “thank you” note or customer success story delivered at the right moment, for example, can go a long way toward cultivating brand loyalty.

Keep in mind, you’ll be speaking to multiple audiences during the post-sale marketing phase. Will Wiegler, SVP & CMO of SpringCM, says you’re likely going to talk to people who don’t know you in addition to existing clients who are looking for a reason to hang around after their initial purchase. Regardless of who you interact with, it’s important to not overwhelm your customers with too much content. You want to be a welcome guest in your client’s inbox, providing valuable touchpoints to continue the conversation — not a nuisance that gets sent directly to the trash pile.

It’s all about balance: how to engage customers without overwhelming them

The right content strategy gives customers something to talk about after they complete the sales process. Customers want to know how and why your product or service will continue to benefit them in the future.

It all goes back to providing post-sales content that answers your customers’ needs and illuminates how you are solving their problems. Ensono, for example, uses surveys to determine the types of content customers want to receive and how businesses can continue to provide additional value.

From developing customer case studies to posting how-to guides, here are several ways marketers can leverage content to keep customers coming back for more:

  • Develop a customer mantra to rally your employees. Organizations achieve customer success when everyone is on the same page. To keep marketing, sales and customer service teams aligned, G2 Crowd developed a customer mantra to focus employees on a shared end goal. Any marketing materials sent to customers should be standardized across every promotional platform, and a customer mantra can help remind employees to create content that addresses customer needs.
  • Leverage newsletters for engagement. To hold buyers’ interest, SpringCM sends their customers newsletters containing information about new product releases, educational materials, success stories and more. Customers love hearing how other users take advantage of your product, and this type of content is more likely to be read in earnest than spammy advertisements.
  • Establish a dedicated community manager. In the post-sales cycle, third-party validation matters. With a community manager onboard, marketers can continue to engage customers and nurture long-term brand loyalty. A community manager also gets to know the buyer demographic better, digging into customers’ specific preferences and what they like or dislike about a product.

In the absence of post-sales marketing, organizations risk losing market share. But excessive content and intrusive interactions can also turn off your existing customer base. Remember, you want to deliver value at every touchpoint — don’t produce content just for the sake of producing it. Only when businesses demonstrate they have their customers’ best interests in mind through post-sales content marketing will companies enjoy the fruits of their lead-generating labor.

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How Custom Content Drives Results in Account-Based Marketing

In the first of this three blog post series derived from the conversations at our annual “Marketing Madness” event in March, we’ll discuss the rising popularity of account-based marketing (ABM) and how B2B marketers can utilize personalized, targeted content to increase ROI.30582363_1793388644016198_3956351851045060608_o

Account-based marketing starts with highly relevant content for a select few prospects

Unlike inbound B2B marketing, ABM addresses the specific pain points of individual business accounts. “Rather than deploying a spray-and-pray kind of marketing, you say ‘here are the people I want to touch’ and figure out how to talk to them specifically,” says Will Wiegler, SVP & CMO of SpringCM. ABM can also be considered a ‘zero-waste’ approach to marketing — you only target prospects who are most likely to buy your product in the near future.

Lisa Agona, CMO of Ensono, suggests prospects are more receptive to ABM content because they only receive a handful of marketing materials and each content asset is personalized. But personalization also poses a unique challenge to marketers tasked with developing customized content for highly segmented audiences. Customers don’t want to hear how your solution is great or why it works for someone else — they want to know how you’re going to solve their problems. As Communications Director Adam Beeson from G2 Crowd puts it: “It’s not about us. It’s about them.”
Prospects want marketing content that speaks directly to their challenges and shows how your solution or service will bring added value to their lives. Showpad, for example, splits their target accounts into 10 key stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the types of content that will appeal to different buyers. G2 Crowd tailors content to the unique needs of a specific decision maker, e.g., the CEO or CMO of a company. While a CEO might prefer shorter content because her time is scarce, a CMO in the learning phase of the process might prefer long-form content with plenty of examples.

5 steps to develop and implement an effective ABM campaign

Once you’ve decided to go all-in on ABM, you need to develop a roadmap for converting ABM into real-world outcomes. From segmenting your target audience to tailoring content based on personas, here are five steps to help you get started on your ABM campaign:

  1. Identify high-value prospects. “The first step,” according to Agona, “is to identify prospects with the highest propensity to buy.” Working closely with your sales team, you will need to narrow down your list of prospects based on attributes like market dynamics, trends and upsell opportunities. By segmenting customers into key stakeholders, you can develop content that speaks to the needs of a particular decision maker.
  2. Develop customer personas. After you have your targeted prospects, build out personas to understand the types of challenges those companies face and how decisions are made. At Showpad, for example, marketers treat various divisions of targeted companies as individual buyers. Each persona should include things like the prospect’s buying priorities, preferences, style, tactics and prejudices.
  3. Map out content assets. For ABM to work, you need to give your full attention to building out custom content for the selected audience. “You need to use your content to say ‘Hey you, come here. I can help,’” says Beeson. From emails to e-books to landing pages, ABM content should engage 30623792_1793392897349106_5950918385381408768_oprospects and focus on the single deal you want to make with that organization.
  4. Determine optimal marketing channels. Killer content can’t be effective if customers don’t see it. To improve visibility, you have to understand where your target audience lives online and how they access content. Personas can illuminate where each prospect spends the majority of their time online, helping you determine whether you should market content via social media or snail mail. Hypertargeted paid programs through various ad and social networks are also available to hit key targets outside of their email inboxes.
  5. Execute your campaign with measurable KPIs. After selecting a target audience, developing the appropriate content and determining the appropriate promotional channels, it’s time to launch you campaign. But simply deploying an ABM campaign isn’t enough — you need to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts so you can make adjustments along the way. Leveraging your marketing stack, like CRM and marketing automation tools, can help you get started. You may also want to consider solutions like Demandbase and Terminus for greater insight and organization, especially when it comes to scaling your ABM campaign.

Personalized content fuels ABM campaigns, but your ABM strategy shouldn’t end there. Instead of publishing low-quality, high-quantity blog posts, focus on developing strategic content that connects with specific people and companies. With highly relevant content targeting the right prospects at the right time during their buyer journey, you can capitalize on ABM campaigns and significantly improve the quality of leads in your pipeline.

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What you missed at Cyber Security Chicago 2017

Two weeks ago in Chicago’s McCormick Place, Cyber Security Chicago 2017 wrapped up after two days of influential security professionals and career hackers sharing their security secrets.

With 43 exhibitors from across the security industry and thousands of attendees, Cyber Security Chicago set the stage for a great event of learning and networking. If you weren’t able to make it to the event this year, don’t worry! The show will be back next year from September 26-27, 2018, and you can sign up here.


Highlights of the Event

Cyber Security Chicago 2017 featured several high-profile security keynote speakers, including:

  • Kevin Mitnick: Known as the world’s most famous hacker, Kevin Mitnick was once one of the FBI’s Most Wanted because he hacked into 40 major corporations simply for a challenge. Kevin is now a trusted security consultant to the Fortune 500 and governments worldwide, and he performed his “live technology magic show” for attendees  as Wednesday’s keynote speaker.
  • Confessions of a Hacker: On Thursday, attendees got the rare opportunity to listen to an anonymous professional hacker as he shared his techniques and examples of how he defeated both the latest cyber security technologies and physical security measures. The hacker even started off in the crowd and walked to the stage unnoticed where he sat behind a distortion screen – right under our noses!

Key Takeaways

In addition to the countless lessons learned from the keynote speakers, there were two overall themes attendees were able takeaway from the event:

Your people are your weakest link: We heard this line several times at the event. The anonymous hacker during Confessions of a Hacker said that despite all of your complex security solutions, hackers will still breach your networks through unsuspecting employees. This hacker has breached a number of large companies, banks and medical data centers through not only the organization’s’ digital networks but also their physical securities. He advises the best way to guard against hackers is to enforce digital and physical security policies and to teach employees how to spot phishing emails, social engineering hacks, etc.

You’ll never truly be safe in today’s day and age: Some said it was cynicism. Others said it was realism. But, almost all attendees we spoke to agreed there was a universal feeling in the air during presentations: you can never truly protect your information online. Many of the presentations touched on how the Internet of Things is opening society up to more and more vulnerabilities, so regular people like you and me need to start preparing for worst-case scenarios. One speaker on this subject, Steve Overko, from Kaspersky Lab, gave some key ways to avoid risk when you live in a connected home, including:

  1. Installing endpoint security software where possible
  2. Limiting app permissions and using authentication
  3. Limiting information gathering by encrypting and/or storing it locally

It seems like we hear of a major breach every other week. It’s important as our world develops and moves more data online to be cognizant of our security. The anonymous hacker pointed out that there will always be someone coming after your data – be it for malicious purposes or simply for the thrill of it.

Walker Sands Communications was proud to support the media coverage efforts of Cyber Security Chicago before and during the show. It was a great event that invited attendees to think more deeply about cyber threats and how they can protect themselves and their organizations from them. If you’re interested in learning more about our expertise in the event and cybersecurity fields, please contact us here.

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