Monday, 29 June 2015

Video - powering every stage of the buying journey

There won’t be many switched on marketers who haven’t used video at the top of the sales funnel for lead generation.  All the evidence shows it works, with a video play button mesmerising email recipients into opening  4x as many emails as they would without. But how many B2B marketers are using video at other stages of the buying process, all the way through the funnel to a successful sale? A new report published last week* suggests that if you haven’t, you really should - because it works.

9 out of 10 cats prefer it…
The report revealed that a vast majority (91%) of B2B buyers prefer to consume visual content during the buying process and they valued video content over other visual formats such as E-books, webinars and infographics. So why don’t we give them video content? One challenge is that we like to get something back from our videos. Why should we let people have them for nothing? We want at least a name, an email address and a job title before we’ll let them see the video. But according to the report, 75% of users expect videos to be un-gated.  The online equivalent of ‘I’m just looking thank you’ when being approached by a sales assistant in a retail store. But if up to 60% of the buying journey is managed by the customer themselves, why put up a hurdle to accessing video content that takes them there?

There is much insight to be gained in seeing even anonymous viewers engage with video on-line. By using short-form video, accessed at each stage of interest, the buyer will be more than ready to share their contact details once they’ve made their way through your video journey.  Your sales people should love it too. After all, all the hard work up till then has been done by your videos and the customer themselves.

Understanding buyer Intent with video metrics
By using video viewing metrics you can start to really understand the buying journey. Are they watching whole clips? Are they forwarding videos to colleagues – an excellent buying signal in a complex sale?  This is a whole new way of lead scoring where you can qualify with fact based insights based on what ‘you know they know’.  In theory, having done so much of the ground-work already, these leads should score more highly than those who have not participated in a video journey.

Video during the mid to late stages of the buying cycle
Integrating video into your marketing automation and CRM platforms is a great way to keep engagement data accurate. When you have good data about prospects you can start to be strategic about how you use video in the mid to late stages of the buying journey.  It’s an opportunity to personalise the video journey to a greater degree, sharing only clips with relevance to the customer’s interests and background, really moving the sale forward with every click and view.

At this stage, video helps continue the conversation and personalisation can make an important emotional connection at the moment of truth. After all, people buy from people, right? (See next week’s blog for more insights about this).

Think about video differently
You’ve really got to get into the customer’s shoes to think about how video could progress a sale at every stage in the buying cycle. One route might be to send out an email with a short (60-90 seconds) problem-busting elevator pitch. That could be followed with a link to more product or solution focussed videos which in turn could lead to a call to action. Finally, a sales person using personalised video to help close the deal completes the cycle. Now imagine that journey without video.  No competition, right?

And finally…
Using video throughout the buying cycle doesn’t mean a seismic shift from the way you work today; it just means a shift in emphasis.  It also means taking the time to go beyond lead gen all the way through to helping contribute to the close. Now that really is a different way of thinking.  If you want help mapping this journey and making it happen then I’m bound to say, it’s what we do.

*DemandGen 2015

Monday, 22 June 2015

Video killed the radio star - and other stupid predictions that never came true

Every time I see a post that promises a glimpse into the future I read it. But is there any value in this endless future-gazing? After all, we seem to get it wrong as often as we get it right. Will my prediction that video personalisation will become the new norm in B2B marketing by 2020 actually come true? Early signs are good but one thing’s for sure - only time will tell.

Here are 5 predictions that never really materialised.

1. Video will kill the radio star.
When Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club released the original ‘Video killed the Radio Star’ (‘ Buggles’ had the hit a year later) it did seem incredibly prophetic. After all, three short years later MTV was formed and suddenly we were listening to music in a whole new way - by watching it. Not long after that, VHS became common currency and bands fell over themselves to release visual versions of their music. Why buy an LP with sound only when you could get all that and more on a tape? And why listen to the radio when MTV was on 24/7? There was a time in the mid-80’s when you couldn’t step into an agency reception without having seen a giant CRT monitor precariously hoisted above the receptionist’s head blasting out MTV. So did radio die? To the contrary, we all got so fed up with watching our music that MTV ratings eventually fell to an all-time low and sales of music videos plummeted. In contrast, radio enjoyed something of a renaissance until 2009 with 250m Americans tuning in every week. But that dipped again in 2014 with the advent of streaming. Maybe that really will kill the radio star?

2. Ebooks will destroy the book publishing industry.
Well, we all thought this didn’t we?  Those of us that got the first Kindles saw it as a paperless future. But where would that leave physical publishers? Down the pan, surely? Not so. It appears that the Kindle became exactly that for reading in general, igniting fresh interest which saw e-books sales consistently rising year-on-year by double digit growth whilst sales of traditional books fell by merely fractions of single percentages.

3. Vinyl’s dead. Long live the CD.
I can smugly claim to have played the long-game on this one. As most of you cast aside your creaky old vinyl in favour of digital formats, notably the CD, I jealously guarded my vinyl collection which I have to this day. I always enjoyed the ritualistic exercise of dropping a needle into a groove and favoured what I felt was a warner analogue sound. It seems I was not alone.  Lots of middle-aged men have revitalised their juvenile love of vinyl and a new generation of girls and boys, anxious to own something physical and fun, have adopted it too. 2014 saw vinyl LP sales reaching a 20-year high in the UK at 1.29 million, following seven years of unbroken growth.  It seems that data for the first quarter of 2015 shows that this trend is continuing with vinyl album purchasing up yet again by 69% over the same period in 2014, and vinyl singles also up 23%. Cool!

4. Tablets will replace laptops.
When we saw the first iPads you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the future. Why would anyone ever need a laptop again? Portable, simple, cool, it seemed like the first step towards a brave new world. (Alright, so one of my daughters saw it as a giant iPod for old people who couldn’t see that well, but we knew better, right?). Manufacturers like Dell and Samsung fell over themselves trying to get tablets out there only to be disappointed by slow take up of non-Apple devices. Now it seems the tide has turned. Sales in iPads have slowed whilst laptop sales remain stable, possibly rising. So it turns out there’s plenty of room for both.

5. No one will want long-playing albums again. 
Oh dear. Back to music again. Famously in 2007, due to the way people were constructing playlists on world-dominating i-Tunes and later on streaming service Spotify, the band Ash claimed that the LP was dead and that they would never make another again. They then set about releasing 26 singles in as many months just to hammer the point home. Sheepishly, last month they released their first new long-player since making the statement. Oh well. You can’t always be right.

So what next?
So, up for discussion. Will physical media (CD’s, DVD’s, Blu-Rays) soon be a thing of the past? Will media streaming kill downloads? Will cloud computing be the only computing? Will there be a time when we are no longer allowed to drive cars unassisted? Will personalised video be the new norm for video marketing?  I’m saying yes to all of these. For now at least, but then again, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Monday, 15 June 2015

VIP thinking - it’s the future.

Understanding that customer satisfaction sits at the heart of long-term business success is hardly rocket science. Happy customers buy more and become advocates for your products and services. But the digital democracy we find ourselves in today makes it more important than ever that the customer experience we deliver is the best it can be. So why has it taken many of us so long to recognise the power of delivering a VIP service to customers, particularly in the high value B2B space?

According to a recent Gartner’s CMO Spend Report, customer experience is the top innovation project for 2015 so there’s no doubt that even the stragglers are waking up to this new reality.

Keep it real

Retailers, famously like Burberry, have been quick to recognise this. And where B2C goes, B2B is rarely far behind. When we had some control over what customers could see and read we could say what we wanted and know that any contradiction to our version of the truth would be minor. Not so today. Now those little waves of dissent can become a tsunami of dissatisfaction. Which is why today, authenticity is key.

An old friend and colleague, Malcolm Levene, has been advocating this for years and the rest of the world has only just begun to catch up. According to Malcolm, who ran a highly successful retail business himself, authenticity was the key to his retail success. The ‘I’m Lovin’ it’ badge on a miserable employee at a famous fast food restaurant just isn’t cutting it if they really don’t look like they are ‘lovin’ it’. And let’s face it, most don’t. We just don’t believe that corporately driven propaganda anymore. Today we discover the truth for ourselves either when we buy, or even more pointedly, before we buy by looking at other customer’s views on-line.

So when someone turns up at a Burberry store and gets greeted by name they feel special. They feel even more special when someone remembers the colour of the last dress they bought and how well the bag might go with it. But that’s consumer land. We’re B2B right, so what’s that got to do with us?

When VIP service becomes the norm

Well, let’s inch towards B2B through another example of VIP treatment. Personalised video used in premium car dealerships was a brilliant differentiator six months ago. You took your car for a service and then, in the spirit of VIP treatment mixed with openness and transparency, you received a video report on the condition of your vehicle. A one to one video featuring your car. Impressive, yes? In fact so impressive that other non-premium manufacturers have been quick to recognise its power and it’s quickly becoming the new norm. Soon the dealer that doesn’t provide this service will be the exception and my guess is will start to lose business. Fast.

VIP treatment in B2B

So think about your business. Even if you’re a giant multi-national corporation who only deals with other giant multi-nationals, what do you do to help make your customer’s experience a great one? Do your customers enjoy working with you? Will they promote you to their peers? Or are they so dissatisfied that they’re counting the days to the end of the contract when they can get a better experience with one of your competitors?

Many organisations are putting a renewed focus on getting the customer experience right at every stage of the buying journey and beyond. That means a focus on delivering VIP treatment wherever it’s practical and possible to do so.

Here’s an idea

For our part, we’ve recently been shifting away from traditional campaign marketing to a version of the same that accommodates some element of VIP treatment. Using our Personalised Video platform, vCreate, we’ve been enabling sales and accounts teams to send exclusive previews of campaign videos to customers before they launch to the wider public. A simple idea with great results.

But that’s just one idea. There are many ways for B2B marketers to make a contribution by putting some degree of personalisation into whatever they do – with ‘one to one’ as the ultimate goal.

When you consider that, according to the CEB, the sales experience represents 53% of the buyer’s likelihood to be a loyal customer and brand advocate, much rests on what we, as B2B marketers, can do to help. Think VIP and you’ll get there.

Monday, 8 June 2015

The 60/40 rule - what will you do to make your sales efforts count? 5 tips to help you succeed.

It’s universally accepted that, for many B2B businesses, up to 60% of the sales journey is undertaken by the prospect themselves before any interaction with a vendor is required. That’s good news if your marketing and inside sales teams are doing a top notch job and prospects can find out everything they need to know about your products and services online. That means all leads are truly warmed up and by the time they pass you the ball all you have left to do is to get it firmly into the back of the net.

Although that sounds great, the pressure is truly on. Having worked hard to get the ball so far up the pitch all eyes will now be on you to get it right. You can’t afford to squander any opportunity to succeed. So if you’re a sales striker, what are you doing differently? After all, the rest of the world has changed the way it does business, but have you? The plain truth is that what worked five years ago may not work now.

Whilst no one can proclaim to be an expert in selling all things to all people, having worked closely with a number of sizable B2B brands over the last couple of years, some really great strategies for sales success have emerged. I’ve compiled five of these in this brief article. Whilst some may only serve as reinforcements and reminders, hopefully there will be something here you hadn’t considered before.

Go beyond fulfilment
Your prospect may have started the conversation with an RFP. Slavishly delivering against that RFP is akin to the work of an unimaginative waiter and you’re better than that, right? So learn to listen and deliver, tick all the boxes and then add some of your own. And tick those too. These extra boxes may be your unique differentiator and an opportunity to win.

Use Insight selling
Customers are always interested in the sorts of insights that you can bring based on your experiences with other customers. They will accept your opinion based on experience and insight and this can have an enormously positive impact on a sale. Your disruptive insights may make your customer’s aware of unknown needs and increase the value of the sale.

Use the power of personal
People buy from people. Until now, your customer’s journey has probably been a bit impersonal and highly fact-based. Now is the time to positively differentiate yourself from the competition. Everything else being equal, you may be the difference that wins the sale. Whilst face to face meetings are most effective, customers often have little time for these and they can be time-consuming and costly. Personalised video tools like vCreate ( allow you to quickly deliver relevant content to your stakeholders to move the sale on whilst also making that all important emotional connection.

Challenge your customer’s view
If you believe the customer is making the wrong decision, challenge it. Although they have journeyed alone through much of the buying cycle they will be pleased to hear your view and will respect your ability and willingness to challenge them to get the best end result.

Make buying easy
Even if your customer has a complex procurement process, look at ways to make buying as simple as possible. Whatever you can do to help your customer navigate either their own buying process or yours will be greatly appreciated. Maybe it’s about getting the first part of a project underway below a certain approval threshold is reached or being flexible about how your organisation does business. Being flexible at the buying stage is key to turning a hot lead into a confirmed purchase.

So most agree that when it comes to selling, everything has changed. Customers are circumventing the need for cold-calling sales visits and calls. They’re doing it for themselves. If you’re in sales it’s time to adapt what you do and how you do it. Every challenge is an opportunity but only if you’re truly able to embrace this change and make it work.