Holidays Ahead: All aboard the content marketing express

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At the beginning of the year, Oracle Eloqua released a State of Content Marketing Survey Report that revealed the trends that were impacting content marketing and approaches that would be taken through 2014. And now, as we are closing in on what is possibly the most explosive time of year for content marketing (yes, I mean the Christmas/Holiday period), I thought it worth running a fine toothed comb across the findings to consider what has changed and what hasn’t. In doing so, we may find a worthwhile insight to drive our holiday content marketing efforts.

Some of the things to consider in your own content marketing include:

  • Grow your own content: With 93% of respondents creating their own content in-house, 2014 was set to be a strong year for client-side marketers. However, just a little over half are regularly creating content for sales enablement. This leads to a disconnect between marketing and sales which can cause internal challenges and misalignment between business and marketing objectives. Lesson: Work with external agencies to expand content creation capabilities
  • Tool-up to measure effectiveness: Almost 50% of respondents expected to successfully align content with the buyer’s journey by mid-2014. However, only 22% have an effective measurement strategy, and 23% don’t have the tools they need for measurement. This further exacerbates the disconnect between marketing and sales. Lesson: There are increasingly powerful measurement tools available. Now is the time to invest, evaluate and refine your measurement approach ahead of the holiday period
  • Feed your marketing automation machine with quality content: Just like data, you get out what you put into content marketing. It’s not just a matter of “pumping out” content – the challenge for marketers is creating a centre of gravity which attracts customers, leads and opportunities to engage. This is done with quality content, and with 24% of marketers indicating they struggle to engage their audiences, it’s clear there is work to be done here. Lesson: The dream of one-to-one conversations at scale is only possible with a deep understanding of your customer’s journey, marketing automation that has been tuned to that path, and quality content that nurtures leads and moves your audiences from anonymity visitors to known customers. 

Most marketers will have clear plans for the next two months, but it’s worth pausing and asking the question “Are we doing the right things and doing things right?”. In this digital age, strategy, execution and measurement are no longer time consuming – and marketers must learn to iterate their marketing at the speed of their customers’ lives. Find people who can help you experiment and climb aboard the content marketing express.

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Marketing Led Sales – a new era for Hubspot and CRM

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Back in the beginning of 2013, I released a research report into the field of marketing automation. It investigated the challenges faced by marketers – from the explosion in digital and social channels to the newly emerging connected consumer and sought to map out the strengths of the various marketing technology vendors and their software offerings. In this report, I had identified that:

HubSpot looks to upset the apple cart.

With the focus on inbound marketing I predicted that HubSpot was well placed to become a future category leader.

At the recent INBOUND2014 conference, HubSpot announced a bold new offering – HubSpot CRM. Now, HubSpot, along with many other marketing automation platforms have long provided a simple CRM-style database – or tight integration to dedicated customer relationship management platforms such as Salesforce. But this feels different. It is different. It is FREE – as part of your HubSpot subscription.

But it’s not the pricing (or lack thereof) that feels revolutionary. It’s the fact that the HubSpot CRM reverses the priority of CRM – from sales first to marketing first. So now, rather than CRM and sales leading the customer process, HubSpot reaches out through its marketing platform to engage customers and then automatically connects them through to the sales teams seamlessly. The CRM platform works almost behind the scenes, logging your sales emails, phone calls and leads as they are made, not after the fact. And because it is part of the one platform, the marketing data that has been accumulated through various touch points, from web, to download, to webinar and so on, is also immediately available to the sales team as the relationship moves closer to conversion.

This new extension to an already powerful mid-market solution will strengthen what is already an attractive software platform. More importantly, it presents small and medium businesses with a compelling proposition – all in one, integrated sales and marketing automation.

And while this is a welcome mid-market addition, I am most excited about what this means for those organisations actively engaged in strategic digital marketing. Sure, most companies are shifting to digital, but those organisations with a mature approach to digital will be able to quickly deploy this kind of solution to create a competitive advantage. With HubSpot CRM, customers – and the customer experience – is more tightly connected to the sales process. It’s marketing led sales, not sales driven marketing. And this is a revolution that has been waiting in the wings.

Now I can’t wait to see what the next act brings.

The Buyer’s Journey Takes the Long Road

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A marketer’s job would be so much easier of customers followed a set path. In fact, if buyers could fit into a convenient model that allowed us to identify, track, monitor, engage and convert them, life would be rosy. But this is never the case.

If we take a moment to consider the buyer’s journey based on our own experiences, we can yield insight but also understanding. Think, for example, of your last major purchase:

  • How much time did you devote to research before your purchase?
  • How many times did you test, validate and change your mind?
  • How long did you wait before you actually engaged with a salesperson?
  • Who did you ask for advice, reviews and input?
  • What were the prompts that helped to trigger your decision and purchase?
  • How much time did you spend online (email and mobile included) in the leadup to the decision?

Now, consider that your customers are going through very similar processes. Oracle Eloqua’s latest infographic provides some insight into this process. Clearly, their focus is on automating the process of marketing, but importantly, they are also showcasing the important role of integrated marketing. After all, we rarely make a decision based on a single interaction.

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Clearing the Marketing Cloud Fog – Adobe Completes Neolane Acquisition

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The sunset factoryWhen I began researching the marketing automation market late last year, it seemed like a crowded market. It seemed clear at the time that the competitive fog produced by the various marketing platforms was obscuring the very real benefits that technology delivers to marketers, and that the end result would be consolidation.

Yesterday, Adobe helped clear some of this fog by completing its acquisition of privately held marketing automation vendor, Neolane. What impact will this have? My news analysis can be found here – and the official release here.

From a platform point of view, Adobe is filling the gaps in marketing technology arsenal, with:

  • Analytics – the data and data crunching at your fingertips
  • Target – personalisation and targeting
  • Social – executing and measuring social marketing programs
  • Experience Manager – cross platform content digital asset management and optimisation
  • Media Optimizer – managing and optimising cross channel campaigns

And with Neolane joining the Marketing Cloud offering, Adobe is aiming to be the marketing technology partner of choice. Expect to see more activity in this crowded market.
Image: Creative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Brand Storytelling: Teradata’s Case of the Tainted Lasagna

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Brand storytelling can be hard work. Not only are there all the internal hurdles to overcome, sign-offs and legal checks and so on – there is also the challenge of subject matter. What do you do if you have a complex product or solution that you are trying to explain? Which channels do you choose – and how do you incorporate social media into the mix.

I was recently speaking with a financial services industry CEO who lamented that they have the most boring product in the world. He couldn’t see how it would resonate with a social media-savvy audience.

But social media is not broadcast – especially in B2B (business-to-business) marketing. You’re not trying to reach and engage millions of people – you are (or should be) focused on the buyer’s journey and helping to ease your customer’s decision making process. That means selecting the most appropriate channel – and delivering content that provides very specific value to your customer at their point of need. And brand storytelling can form a very powerful component of your content strategy and lead nurturing program.

Still unsure of how this might work for you and your brand?

Enterprise software vendor, Teradata, have been experimenting with brand storytelling for some time and have taken a novel approach that you may want to steal (I mean “learn from”). Tapping into pop culture’s interest in forensic analysis (a la CSI), they have created a series of videos that take a new approach to case studies and product/solution brochures. The “Business Scenario Investigations” or “BSI” team dramatize business problems and then showcase how technology can be used to “solve” the problem.

Each of their videos can be found on the BSI: Teradata Facebook page as well as the YouTube channel. They cleverly provide a powerpoint version of the scenario via Slideshare and share the storyboarding process from problem definition to casting through to resolution.  And while the case of the tainted lasagna may not be to your taste, it’s likely to be very appealing to those CIOs and CMOs wanting to understand how data can transform their businesses. And that’s tasty. Very tasty indeed.

51: CSI: Investigates! Kit via Compfight

The Mayan Apocalypse? No, Just Eloqua’s Early Christmas Joy

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Sneaking a last minute deal in before the holiday break, Oracle announced an $871 million acquisition of marketing automation vendor, Eloqua. Representing a 10x multiple on Eloqua’s annual revenues, it marks the first of what is likely to be a string of consolidations in the marketing technology space over the next 12 months. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2013.

  • A win for Eloqua customers that comes with a catch . This deal looks set to accelerate the Eloqua solution roadmap with Oracle bringing additional focus and resourcing to solution improvements already slated for 2013. That means that existing customers can more readily tap the customer experience functionality that supports front of house operations through Oracle’s existing sales, service, commerce and social foundations as well as the big data and analytics capabilities that are vital to the digital marketer’s credibility. Many Eloqua customers will have made companion investments in Salesforce and will be keen for ongoing reassurance that integration will continue to be supported.
  • Oracle secure a beach head beyond the IT line of business.The acquisition significantly bolsters Oracle’s marketing credentials – adding mature, cloud based marketing automation capabilities to their Customer Experience Cloud offering. Eloqua’s strength has been its strong connection with the marketing departments at its 1200 customer locations, and this provides Oracle’s sales team with a vital beach head beyond the IT line of business. And with the projected shift of technology budget from the CIO to CMO over the next two years, this will be essential to the longer term success of the Oracle’s Customer Experience Cloud and the previous Market2Lead and Vitrue acquisitions.

Why marketers should care

Marketers have fallen behind in the technology stakes – suffering under the weight of outmoded marketing models and outflanked by their fast moving, tech savvy, connected customers. This announcement brings yet another level of change and signals a new wave of consolidation and innovation that will challenge marketers in the year ahead.

On the positive side, the investment in thought leadership and focus on marketing technology coming from the likes of Adobe, IBM and Salesforce is helping to educate and mature the market. This will not only assist CMOs to formulate business cases and justify technology and skills investment through 2015, it also provides fertile opportunity for the marketing automation vendors like Act-On, Hubspot, Marketo and Neolane.

Where next?

Oracle has thrown down the gauntlet to the other enterprise software vendors. Who will blink first?

The acquisition has revealed a gap in the Salesforce marketing offering. SAP is nowhere to be seen. And Adobe and IBM can no longer afford to sit on their hands. Oracle’s bold move may have brought Christmas early to the team at Eloqua, but does it usher in the Mayan Apocalypse for enterprise marketers or represent a new dawn? 2013 is just around the corner.

Eloqua has released a FAQ and an announcement deck that can be downloaded from their blog.

The Long Trail of Digital’s Long Tail

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For the last couple of months I have been researching the digital marketing automation market – speaking with vendors, watching demos, listening to customers and analysing features, statistics and case studies. It’s a crowded market with a wide variety of feature sets and capabilities.

But if there is one thing that is obvious in all the noise, it is this: while the technology has matured, digital marketing skills, capabilities and processes are comparatively immature.

Marketing automation software delivers impressive outcomes:

  • ROI: Identifying, nurturing and delivering warm leads into your sales funnel gives your marketing a direct line to ROI. This path to revenue provides marketers with the confidence and knowledge to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to digital marketing investment
  • Accelerate marketing maturity: marketing automation requires a certain level of process maturity in your marketing. For businesses where process has been lacking or alignment with sales has been ambivalent, marketing automation can deliver a relatively quick win
  • Generate uplift through omni-channel integration: many marketers focus on “last click attribution”. But we rarely make single click decisions – especially on more expensive purchases or when we are in a B2B situation. Integrated or omni-channel marketing has been shown to significantly impact revenue and pipeline.

The presentation below is a case study of one of Marketo’s own omni-channel campaigns. It reveals that the digital long tail is indeed, a very long trail. But careful planning and management can, with targeted content, deliver value across your marketing programs – not only for your digital work.

Interested in marketing automation? If you are interested in my upcoming marketing automation report, contact me here or sign-up for access to the Constellation Research Library.