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.
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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.
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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.”
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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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Walker Sands Sponsors ITA Initiative to Empower Women in Tech

When the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) launched Women Influence Chicago last fall, we immediately recognized an opportunity to be a part of an initiative that we’re passionate about­­: empowering women in tech.

In addition to being associate members of the ITA, we’re so excited to announce that we are now proud sponsors and founding partners of their Women Influence Chicago Initiative. Through this incredible organization, we have the opportunity to help women in the Chicago tech scene through training, education and events, with the goal of empowering women throughout a variety of leadership roles.

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The Women Influence Chicago Initiative will focus on three key areas:

  • Pre-Workforce: encouraging interest in technology through mentorship, education and STEM programs
  • In-Workforce: providing resources and training for Chicago tech companies, as well as their male and female employees, to help them create inclusive work environments for women
  • Positions of Influence: increasing the number of women in the C-Suite, on boards and in other prominent leadership roles at tech companies in Chicago

Powered by the ITA, Women Influence Chicago is co-chaired by Kelly Stickel, CEO of Remodista, and Aimee Schuster, CMO of Miller Heiman. Walker Sands will attend Women Influence Chicago board meetings as their public relations and marketing advisor.  

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Allison Ward, Senior Account Director

Walker Sands senior account director Allison Ward is excited to bring her experience and insight to this initiative. As a senior member of our FinTech public relations team and a working mother, Allison is personally passionate about Women Influence Chicago’s mission to empower female leaders and hopes that their work in the city has a wide, long-lasting effect. “We want to make Chicago an ecosystem where women in tech are not only prevalent, but thriving and supported. If we can empower women in tech in Chicago, hopefully there’s a ripple effect in other large tech markets.”

Toward that goal, Women Influence Chicago will be working on action-oriented projects throughout the year. They are determined to not just highlight the problems — but to actually solve them. Events like the “Women Influence Chicago Series: Negotiating Your Equity Package” are designed to do just that. The group is also working on an actionable blueprint to promote diversity and equality in the workplace, with tips for tech companies on how to empower their women into the C-Suite and leadership positions.

We are thrilled to be a part of this important initiative and can’t wait to share more with you on their fantastic projects throughout the year. Keep an eye out for future Women Influence Chicago blog posts, and in the meantime, connect with them on their website or on Twitter.

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Walker Sands at Inbound 2017: Two Memorable Keynotes from this Year’s Show

Marketing and sales professionals from around the world headed to Boston last week to attend Inbound 2017 hosted by HubSpot. This year’s show attracted more than 20,000 attendees who came out for a myriad of inspiring keynote and breakout sessions, networking events along the seaport and other educational seminars.240090

Walker Sands was among those attending. With boots on the ground to explore the emerging tactics and technologies helping to shape our industry, we went to every session we could, talked to every exhibitor we could and absorbed as much as we could in the four days we were on-site.

There were countless takeaways for business leaders and decision-makers in the B2B tech sector. To help our clients keep pace with these new, emerging trends, we’ve assembled a list of key points from the two most memorable sessions we attended.

  1. Former First Lady Michelle Obama – The highlight of this year’s event, former First Lady Michelle Obama was invited to join an early morning session hosted by professor and best-selling author Roxane Gay. The interview centered on Michelle’s experiences as first lady, her thoughts about the election and her goals and aspirations as she looks ahead to the future.

    She stressed the importance of reintroducing herself at public events as a former “First Spouse” as there will come a day soon when we’re ready to appoint a woman as our commander-and-chief. To reach this milestone, we need to understand how to find our own authentic voice. According to Michelle, any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton during our most recent election voted against their own voice.

    There is a message here for marketers. We need to help our customers find their voice. We can do this by reaching them where they’re at with messaging that resonates with who they are, what they need and how we can help. This is why listening is such an essential first step in coming up with messages that will resonate with a target audience. At Walker Sands, we’re always listening, whether it’s on a discovery call with a customer contact or through information gleaned off a customer’s website, blog or social media profiles.

  2. Co-Founder of Refinery29 Piera Gelardi – Piera Gelardi is Executive Creative Director and Co-Founder of the award-winning digital media company, Refinery29. She has been widely recognized as one of the most creative people in the world of media.

    Her session focused on why we need to establish the conditions for creativity before we can achieve creative breakthroughs. These conditions are different for everyone. For Gelardi, she is in position to be her most creative self when she is in her warm, fuzzy office cocoon which she has adoringly dubbed “The Peach Pit.” It’s here that she drinks rose, laughs and comes up with off-the-wall ideas alongside those she knows and trusts.

    This isn’t far-off how we brainstorm creative campaigns here at Walker Sands. From CompTIA #MakeTechHerStory to the Owler CEO Likeability study, we are always chasing our next big idea. Like Gelardi, we require the right conditions to come up with the creative concept that’s going to resonate with the media and different stakeholder groups who we’re trying to reach.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we saw and heard during this year’s event. If you want to learn more about our experiences at Inbound ‘17 in Boston, let’s connect!

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