#COSeries Recap: Empathy, ABM & Data-Driven Digital Campaigns Become Top Priorities For B2B Strategies In New Reality

Published: May 20, 2020

With in-person engagement on hold this spring and possibly into summer, B2B marketers continue to pivot their strategies to make up for lost leads, maintain relationships with clients and attract new business. These new challenges present an opportunity for marketers to dig deep and come up with innovative ways to engage with prospects and customers.

This years’ Campaign Optimization Series, hosted by Demand Gen Report, put a spotlight on the strategies and tools marketers have seen success within this new environment, with targeted webcasts led by industry thought leaders addressing topics such as ABM for sales success, virtual event best practices, data strategies and more.

During her session, DeAnn Poe, SVP of ZoomInfo, cited recent research from HubSpot that highlighted a renewed interest in marketing, but less interest in speaking with a sales rep, which could be because budgets are in flux. In spite of this, people are looking for authentic connections and partnerships. “People want help; people want partnerships,” said Poe. “They want more thoughtful and educational content to help navigate this new normal.”

Bridging The Gap Between Physical & Digital

Despite the traditional reliance on physical events to engage audiences, marketers have had to adjust their strategies to mimic in-person engagement virtually. During her session, Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy for ON24, highlighted ways to ease into a digital-only environment:  

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  • Personalize communications for specific accounts;
  • Keep branding consistent to avoid confusion; and
  • Make the presentation/webinar/session available on-demand.

Tyler Lessard, VP of Marketing at Vidyard, also explored how businesses are using the spike in virtual events to engage target audiences with visual content during his presentation.

“I’ve seen more companies using educational thought leadership in visual formats as a way to continue to get their message out there,” Lessard explained. “They are doing it in a way that builds their brand using visual content and real people from the company. This creates content that is highly shareable and interesting.”

Gordian, a Vidyard customer, created a video series called “Job Order Contracting 101” that allowed the company to educate buyers through private content. Gordian was able to generate $20 million in revenue and new leads for sales to follow up with and track content engagement numbers.

Using webinars, videos, podcasts and other forms of virtual content as educational tools can keep your buyers informed while expanding your brand’s reach. “[This] gives you that added benefit of infusing [content] with your brand personality, making it more visual and memorable than static content,” said Lessard.

But with the onslaught of digital event invitations hitting buyers’ inboxes, marketers must find ways to stand out. During a fireside chat, Heather Grobaski, Sr. Enterprise Sales Executive at GrubHub, and Madeline Maguire, Head of Enterprise Demand Generation for GrubHub, shared how marketers are adding a unique incentive to their virtual events by sending Grubhub gift cards to registrants or meeting attendees.

“Everyone is shifting to these virtual events and I’m personally getting flooded with invites daily for different meetings and events that have gone virtual,” said Grobaski. “As a best practice, you can really set yourself apart. Not everyone is offering brunch, lunch or happy-hour where attendees can order food in.”

Adopting ABM To Better Engage Key Stakeholders In Buying Committees

According to research cited during Dun & Bradstreet’s session, 80% of pipeline is impacted by canceled in-person meetings. This creates the need to have an account-based mindset in this new reality is important. Nipul Chokshi, VP of Marketing at Dun & Bradstreet, noted that it’s not just important to have an ABM mindset, but each team must have specific metrics to effectively measure success.

Measuring tangible outcomes isn’t just for achieving goals; it’s also to align more closely with sales. Chokshi referenced one of their customers, LiveRamp, that measures their metrics based on meetings booked from target accounts, clicks and website traffic. With success so easily defined, aligning with sales to drive revenue was much easier.

“When you start talking about things like opportunity, pipeline and revenue, you’re automatically starting to align with sales,” Chokshi said. “The most effective revenue engines in the B2B world are aligned, if not integrated, from a sales and marketing perspective.”

Content also needs to be the core of any ABM strategy, according to Alicia Esposito, Senior Content Strategist at Content4Demand. During their session, Esposito and Tonya Vinas, VP of Content Strategy at Content4Demand, stressed the importance of tailoring content for the whole buying committee and using it to facilitate relationship building — not merely stuffing leads into the top of the funnel.

“Content is the underlying component that drives ABM success,” said Esposito. “The stakes are high in ABM, and every step of your strategy needs to rely on relevant, engaging content that speaks directly to your buyer.”

But it’s not always necessary to start from scratch when it comes to content. Vinas and Esposito suggested doing a content audit and shared an example of a financial data company they worked with to help identify content gaps by color-coding content based on whether it’s reusable (green), potentially reusable (orange) or when there are gaps (red). Companies can take a similar approach to maintain a high-level overview of their content and determine what can be easily repurposed and which content needs to be updated down the road to fill in gaps.

While marketers are often focused on winning new business, experts noted it may make more sense to look to the customers you already have to drive revenue. During his session, Andre Yee, Founder and CEO of Triblio, put it succinctly: “It costs five times more to win a new customer than to retain an existing customer.”

Yee noted there can be big payoffs to focusing on the customers who are already familiar with your product and process. According to a Gartner study quoted in the webinar, 80% of future profits come from 20% of customers. Yee broke down the process into several phases:

  • Warm up the buyer by featuring specific content to expose their needs;
  • Propose a consultation or a product offer with account-based ads and custom content; and
  • Start an outbound cadence through sales, with talking points culled from the personalized content used in the previous two phases.

It’s important not to overlook revenue in your own backyard, and ABM can be a perfect way to reach your existing customer base. Experts said typical ABM tactics like personalization can focus on onboarding new clients seamlessly through personalized microsites to secure loyalty early in the provider-client relationship. This can set the stage for upselling later on in the buyer journey.

Carlyn Manly, Head of Marketing at Folloze, agreed. “When it comes to ABM, customer lifetime value reigns supreme,” she said during her session. “The initial deal is only the beginning.”

Clients and prospects are expecting consistent, excellent value that improves over time. This means that B2B marketers must take a long-term approach to their ABM strategy. Manly stressed the importance of investing in a full relationship from start to finish and engaging in a personal and meaningful way.

By leveraging what Folloze calls a “full-funnel personalization strategy,” Manly suggested creating microsites that are segmented by account, buyer persona and user experience. Marketers can take account data or visitor data to create a personalized experience for a one-to-few or one-to-many approach. The result is a microsite that looks as though the content is hand-picked, but in reality, it is a process that has been replicated dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

Leveraging Intent Data For Authentic Sales Engagement

A facet of generating conversions is timing. Sales should engage earlier in the buying journey, and not when the prospect has made up their minds, according to Demandbase. Intent signals — such as keywords — can be used to identify where the buyer is in their journey and understand their pain points.

“The more specific your keywords are, the better you can understand your intent signals,” said Jay Tuel, VP of Sales at Demandbase, during his session.“A nonspecific keyword like ‘marketing’ doesn’t help you understand intent, but a keyword like ‘account-based marketing’ helps you understand just want the intent is. Specificity is important.”

A presentation led by MRP also emphasized the importance of combining intent data with predictive analytics. Peter Murphy, Global VP of Platform Sales, explained that predictive analytics is important for understanding a target’s propensity to buy, and that using intent data on its own limits a business’ ability to get a jump on the market.

“It poses a significant latency marketing trigger,” Murphy explained. “[Intent] can certainly help when identifying accounts, but it’s very one dimensional. Your intent provider may be pointing this out late in the game or you don’t have enough signals captured to let you know in time, or you might be getting too much false noise and too many false positives.”

Predictive analytics allowed MRP to enhance their lead generation and identify new active accounts faster. Their models explained that businesses using intent data with predictive analytics were three times more likely to generate healthy leads than businesses solely using intent data. By collecting information from various platforms and services, they were able to accumulate more accurate and valuable intent data while simplifying their outreach programs.  

Prioritizing Data To Enhance Segmentation

During the series, experts noted that the accuracy and timeliness of data are essential to optimizing marketing strategies, maintaining operations and generating leads businesses can act on. During a session led by Openprise, experts placed emphasis on knowing the accuracy of your data and segmenting it into a usable format.

Openprise worked with Rockwell Automation to tag address data, segmenting the insights into categories to determine which were valid, invalid or in need of investigation. This data orchestration strategy led to an 82% increase of valid and usable data by the end of 2019.

Katrina Lord, Marketing Specialist at Rockwell, shared three tips to improve data aggregation, segmentation and dissemination:

  • Create segment reports to identify what is broken and what works;
  • Investigate where and how the data became faulty; and
  • Prioritize which segments best fit your business’ lead validation and assignments.

“By prioritizing data segments, you can find which segments have notable gaps,” Lord said. “That way other teams can see how your investigation improves data streams or identify what areas need improvement.”

LeanData’s webinar also explored how marketing technology can also be used to optimize a business’s data strategy. According to Charm Bianchini, VP of Growth Marketing at LeanData, martech comprises 30% of most business’ marketing budgets, with data playing a key role in the solutions’ implementation. However, inaccurate data hinders operations and campaigns, causing targeted messaging to reach the wrong buyer, delays in lead follow-up and target accounts being falsely identified.

Bianchini recommends implementing a data hygiene plan with multiple teams internally, ensuring the data is accurate, up-to-date and revised regularly.

“Take a step back and think about your data and your data strategy,” she said. “It always can be improved. Take the time to invest in [data] because the better you can make it, the better your campaign performance will be.”

Making Emotional Connections In Times Of Uncertainty

Despite the uncertainty, there is still ample opportunity for B2B marketers to engage potential buyers. According to LeadMD, 52% of B2B buyers plan to make a hardware or software purchase despite the pandemic, or because of it.

In their webinar, Kristen Markson, Practice Lead for Go-To-Market at LeadMD, suggested leading with empathy to strike a tone that corresponds with the uncertain times. She outlined a path that B2B marketers can implement, called “Update Your Journey Map,” which contained the following steps to make a more authentic connection that customers are looking for:

  • What are they thinking and feeling?
  • What information do they need?
  • Where do they do their research?
  • What steps do they take to learn more?
  • What are their pain points in the process?
  • Whom do they trust?

PFL and DialogTech also provided five simple strategies to help cope with the uncertainty of COVID-19 during their session, including:

  • Clean your data;
  • Provide valuable content;
  • Build relationships;
  • Get creative with marketing strategies; and
  • Don’t wait to start.

Traditional spray-and-pray tactics are a thing of the past, as people long for face-to-face interactions. “Now more than ever, as people are looking for a connection, it’s so important that marketers put the buyer — the human, the customer — at the center of their strategy,” said Kate Adams, VP of Marketing at Drift, during her session.

Randi Barshack, VP of Marketing at RollWorks, understands the psychology of the B2B purchase cycle and emphasized that non-linear storytelling may be an effective way to reach customers by activating the limbic system — the emotional center — of the brain.

Barshack suggested going above and beyond words to tell a story: she recounted a time during the B2B Marketing Exchange, using scented candles and air fresheners to tell RollWorks’ story. Since nearly every marketer has an attendee list and giveaways at trade shows, Barshack and her team gave away vanilla-scented candles to poke fun at bland, predictable marketing and to engage prospects in a more creative way.

“We need to evoke the emotion that will allow our prospects to understand how their lives will be better with your product,” Barshack said during her presentation. “By learning the basics of a story, including the inciting event, escalating drama, the climax and resolution, marketers can connect powerfully to prospects and customers in a time where face-to-face interactions are increasingly scarce.”

All of the sessions from #COSeries 2020 are now available on-demand here.

B2B Marketing Exchange
B2B Marketing Exchange East
Campaign Optimization Series
Buyer Insights & Intelligence Series
Strategy & Planning Series