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Author Ardath Albee Advises Emarketers on Social & Search Strategies

Putting a new spin on “storytelling,” marketing strategist Ardath Albee stresses how shaping your marketing story and getting to know your customers can deliver value in her new book “eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale.” In the book, Albee explores the facets of online marketing, including how to leverage social media, optimize email language and the ever-popular sales & marketing alignment concept. DemandGen Report had the chance to catch up with Albee to discuss some of the key takeaways from her book, and how they relate to quantifying marketing results.

DemandGen Report: One of the key themes in the book is the need for marketers to “shape their story.” With sales cycle longer and more people involved in the purchase decision, how can marketers put their best foot forward to demonstrate value and understanding of prospects’ business objectives?

Ardath Albee: The first thing to do that demonstrates value is to get your products out of your content and focus on the outcomes they enable that bring customers successful business impact. By meeting your prospects with answers to questions and issues that are top priorities impeding their success, a company earns attention that builds credibility.

Because buyers are now able to gather enough information to push conversations toward the end of their buying process, marketers need to engage them for longer periods of time. The only way to do that well is by showing prospects what you know and what difference your expertise will bring. The three critical focuses for marketers that help build stronger levels of engagement with prospects are education, expertise and evidence.

DGR: All the rage about social media has created a strong reaction in the BtoB marketing space, but a lot of marketers are stuck at the starting gate in terms of how to leverage social media to nurture key business objectives. The book talks about marketers can use social media for persona development. What other suggestions do you have for marketers to utilize social media tools and what platforms are a must-use for marketers?

Albee: If nothing else, BtoB Marketers should use LinkedIn. Topical interest groups and the questions and answers are a great way to participate with people you can identify as prospects. Don’t join the largest groups. Join groups where there are enough participants to ensure viable discussions, but not so many that you disappear in the crowd. Ask questions or propose discussion topics that relate to your prospect’s priorities. Share your expertise. And, remember to update your profile status often with a provocative statement and a link to a related resource. Those updates go out in the weekly update email to all of your followers.

Depending on your market, Twitter can be useful as an attraction vehicle for your content. Instead of getting caught up in the number of followers you have, focus on following and attracting people who can either become prospects or influence them. But remember that it’s not just about you. Find and follow people who share great information that your followers will value and Re-Tweet them. Become a trusted resource for great information, even if it’s not yours.

DGR: The book stresses the critical role of content in the buying process. Do you see content creation as a core strength and a competitive differentiator for companies going forward?

Albee: Absolutely. In fact, the Internet has made this so. Considering that nearly 95% of buyers start their quest to solve a problem with a search engine, it’s your content that will get your company into view. However, if your content is not designed to help them answer all the questions they have about solving a problem, best practices or even why to solve the problem, you’re out of the running. Companies who truly understand the needs of buyers and develop content to help them learn what they need to know to build the confidence that they’re making the best choice will win. Companies focused on themselves and their products will not. Buyers care about the outcomes the products enable before they ever care about the features, feeds and speeds.

DGR: You also discuss the significance of each interaction with prospects, and how these touchpoints relate to their end-user experience. What are some of the key touchpoints and how can BtoB marketers optimize content delivery to wow prospects?

Albee: Marketers need to consider that every touchpoint leaves an impression. When consistent, the cumulative effect of these impressions builds credibility through the delivery of information and insights considered valuable from the prospect’s perspective. This is why one-off touches don’t work well. They tend to be all over the board based on whatever the company thinks is important at the time. This tells a disjointed story in the eyes of your audience.

Therefore, I’d say that every touchpoint is key. From status quo all the way through to choice. This includes not just marketing touchpoints, but sales touchpoints and is why alignment between the two is so critical.

DGR: The book also describes the increasing importance of rich media. How should marketers leverage new media into marketing story programs to increase reach and exposure to existing and new audiences?

Albee: The variety of formats now available for marketers to use is expanding fast. We can now easily create and share video, podcasts, slide decks, widgets and more. Depending upon the makeup of your target markets, they may prefer to access content in a variety of formats.

If you want to increase your reach, load your videos on YouTube, your slide decks onto SlideShare and your podcasts on iTunes. Consider sharing your eBooks on my eBook or submitting your audio recording and white papers to Insight24. Embrace the interactive opportunities and make sure your keywords and titles help your content get found by those searching. Your website is not the only place for your content to live. Spread it around and watch who participates with it. You may be surprised by new market insights you wouldn’t have otherwise thought to consider.

DGR: The book offers six insightful catch factors marketers should consider for their emails: Triggering event; urgency; impact; effort; reputation; and intention. Can you provide a glimpse into these catch factors and how they are shaping marketing messages? (P 116)

Albee: Sure. First, a definition. “Catch factors are the preferences and aversions that form a lead’s gut reaction to your communication.”  Essentially, these factors determine whether or not your messaging engages and entices a response.

The five catch factors:
Urgency – Why now? Is your message related to a priority on their radar?
Impact – What will improve, increase or change? What business outcome will they get?
Effort – How hard will it be to get the promised outcome? If you promise a white paper and they click, is there a 20-field form in the way?
Reputation – Why should they believe you? What impression has your company made on them? This could be through peers, search results, your website, etc. It can also be the cumulative impression of touchpoints over time.
Intent – What’s in it for them? What will they think you want? Does your messaging express a clear intention to help, regardless of their stage in the buying cycle, or is it a thinly veiled sales offer?

It’s important to realize that the assessments related to catch factors happen in split seconds, sometimes subconsciously. The good news is that even if your messaging has failed this test before, your prospects will be inclined to shift their perspective over time if your messaging maps to these catch factors.

DGR: One of the ever-present challenges for marketers is how to get sales and marketing on the same page. The book offers a “sales kit” to help marketers offer salespeople tools to enter the conversation in step with prospect needs. Can you expand on the kit and its contents?

Albee: The best way to answer this question is to include an excerpt from the book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale:

“The best transitions happen when marketing provides the information sales needs to get into the conversation effectively. The appropriate content and the context around a prospect’s interactions with the company gives sales a roadmap for his progress to date. With a standardized handoff process, marketing can offer salespeople the tools they need to enter the conversation in step with the needs of the prospect.

This sales kit might include the following:

A definition of the triggering event that caused the handoff

An activity record for the prospect during nurturing programs, including the timing and frequency of interactions

Everything in this sales kit is or should be accessible to marketing and sales. The sales kit should be organized around the way prospects buy, not the way your internal culture is oriented—by product lines or industries, for example. Marketing automation systems provide activity histories, and the rest should be made available by your sales portal—creating a process that is understood and agreed on by salespeople. Spend time training them on the use of the tools and the meaning and context behind personas representative of prospect actions.”

For more information on Ardath’s new book, including the opportunity to download a two-chapter excerpt and where to purchase, visit