A few months ago I had a unique opportunity that I was totally unprepared for.
At work we have a thing called “Coffee Roulette,” where every two weeks a Slack bot randomly pairs you with another employee at the company, and the two of you grab a coffee together.
I decided to give it a go and soon got this message:
Congrats! You’ve been paired with Valentino Velonghi.
Fantastic! It was my first month at the company so I was very excited to see who I would get to speak with. When I looked up Valentino though, my heart dropped.
Valentino was the CTO.
I had just started my job and now I needed to speak to the CTO? What would I say to him? Would I waste his time? Should I cancel? All these thoughts raced through my mind at once.
Luckily, I didn’t cancel, because the lesson I’d learn over coffee with Valentino would be a game changer.
The day I went to coffee with Valentino it only took 15 minutes before the conversation started to die, and understandably so — after all, we were in vastly different stages in our lives.
Valentino was from Italy, a programming genius, and the Founder of the Italian Python Association. Valentino designs AdRoll’s globally distributed architecture that makes over 2.5 million predictions per second and contains over 1.2 billion digital profiles.
And, of course, I’m Bogdan, the newly hired Content Marketing Manager who writes blogs and runs webinars.
The contrast between the two of us was stark, to say the least.
But I had an idea. I had a very technical idea. And I thought, maybe this genius CTO could help make it a reality?
I decided to share my big idea with Valentino, including all my grand visions about building an app to solve the world’s parking problems.
Valentino listened to my idea patiently, asked some smart questions, and when I was done rambling, he replied very succinctly:
“I think it’s a good idea. But I think you’re trying to build a cathedral when you don’t even have a church.”
I laughed at this assessment, but I had to agree.
“But,” I told him, “I have grand ambitions, and a church just isn’t that exciting!”
To which he replied, “Okay, nevermind the church. You should actually start with just a roof.”
While Valentino didn’t go for my big idea, his insight was incredibly helpful: You need to start simple. If you want to take your idea from start to finish, or even just your next marketing campaign, you need to start with a strong foundation.
Choosing the Right Sales and Marketing Strategies
As I thought more and more about what Valentino had said, I realized how well it applied to the world of B2B sales and marketing.
As marketers, we have so many choices when it comes to the things we can do to drive growth, brand awareness, and sales and marketing alignment. We have the potential for incredible reach when it comes to campaigns, and have the ability to connect with website visitors in real-time. If we don’t convert them on the first touch, we can retarget them nearly anywhere on the internet until we get their attention. And when we have it, we can personalize our messages to them, and even address them by their first name.
Of course, ideally, we’d want to use all these strategies and as soon as possible — email outreach, customized display, retargeting, events, conferences, webinars, chatbots, personalized landing pages, interactive web pages and more.
As marketers, we’re not hampered by a lack of enthusiasm — we’d love to do it all immediately if we could. But in reality, that’s not always possible. Sometimes we lack the right tools, the know-how, or maybe we just don’t have enough time. Regardless of what the reason is, many of us are road-blocked in some way.
So how do we make smart decisions about about what to experiment with and when?
Build A Tiered Approach Based On Assets
As Valentino pointed out, before we can build the sales and marketing cathedral of our dreams, we need to start with the foundation.
Take account-based marketing or ABM, for example. 87% of B2B marketers agree that ABM delivers a higher ROI than most other marketing activities.
But when it comes time to get your first ABM campaign up and running, many marketers spend so much time planning their ABM strategy, gathering the right stakeholders, and enduring countless meetings that they end up stalling out. They don’t create the assets they need and by the time the stakeholders meet to discuss creating those resources, they inevitably decide to “hold off for now” until they have a little more “bandwidth.”
In short, the cathedral never gets built.
While there’s a lot of validity to having big ambitions, a better way to choose your marketing programs is based on the amount of assets and time it will take to build them, and you should always relate that time and effort to the returns you’ll get.
This is why I prioritize marketing activities by breaking them down into three categories:
- Must-have marketing (the basics)
- Easy setup, high ROI marketing (worth the extra time)
- Stretch marketing (worth it if you get it right)
➡ Must-have marketing
Most B2B marketers already know about the basics of marketing so I won’t go over them in depth, but here are a few that form the foundation of any marketing strategy:
- Lead generation assets (guides, blogs, whitepapers)
- Email nurture sequences
- Ads for retargeting/remarketing to people who visit your site
Prioritize building out a few baseline content assets if you don’t have them already. They will fuel your campaigns, can be used in your email sequences, and re-purposed over and over. These are things like guides, reports, blog posts, and whitepapers.These assets can be used in so many ways, and they really are the foundation of your cathedral.
Email nurture sequence
Pretty much no one is ready to make a purchase on their first visit to your website. Fortunately, getting someone’s email once they’ve landed on your website means you can add them an email sequence to build the relationship over time. But you must add value first — and you can do that with helpful content delivered via the conversations you have with prospects.
Nearly 98% of visitors will leave your website multiple times before making a purchase. That’s why you need to be retargeting the people who visit your website or blog. Get them interested in coming back for more and you’ll close the loop on the leads that hit your site and bounce.
➡Easy setup, high ROI
These assets are all about getting traffic to your business and interacting with that traffic once it gets there.
- Personalized ads
You’re already driving traffic to your company website. But what are you doing once people actually land on your site?
If you’re like most of the companies Drift tested in the 2018 Lead Response Report, you’re probably leaving money on the table.
Nobody calls when they have questions anymore, but using a chatbot on your website can improve conversions up to 400%, ask Perfecto. This is the first two-way communication channel (besides email) that you should have.
Thanks to marketing automation technology and ABM platforms, you can actually create personalized ads automatically nowadays. You just plug in your existing systems, drop in some messaging, and you’re ready to go.
Interacting with your audience in a live webinar setting is a great way to engage in a more human way. Just remember that webinars are all about being in a conversation with your customers, so don’t make them a “death by powerpoint” event.
➡ Stretch marketing
These programs take a little bit more work to set up. You might need to build some custom assets and you’ll most likely need to involve more members of your team to execute them. But, if you execute them properly, you could see some BIG returns.
- Account-based marketing
- Customized landing pages
- Customized guides
ABM is one of the most effective marketing strategies nowadays. There are several ways you can set up ABM campaigns, each involving different amounts of work.
The easiest way to set up ABM is by connecting your CRM to a dedicated ABM platform. The ABM platform can then pull in all your data and, if they have good AI, they can automatically suggest prospects to go after based on your current customers.
The second way is to create a custom target account list. This is something that you build with several stakeholders at your company, which is why it can take a bit more time. This should be your second iteration of your ABM program once you have a little bit of experience under your belt.
Customized landing pages
As our friends at Instapage have pointed out, your landing page is the digital storefront that your potential customer walks into. You should use best practices to keep that storefront clean and intuitive to navigate. Once you have the infrastructure in place, your next step should be to customize that storefront by calling out your customer by their name as they walk through the door.
Lastly, if you’re going after some big accounts, it might be worth personalizing some of your guides for them. Certain content management tools can do this automatically, but you can also do this manually.
Putting a company’s name directly into the intro of your guide shows them that you specifically care about them becoming your customer. A recent survey by Demand Metric found that 80% of those surveyed said that personalized content was “more effective” or even “much more effective” than using non-personalized content.
Successful marketers are usually big picture thinkers who can see a full campaign in their mind and begin executing it. Unfortunately sometimes this strength can become a weakness, especially in larger companies where there are more roadblocks to overcome.
The most important step to any campaign isn’t the planning, it’s the starting.
The best way to prevent projects from stalling out and causing you headaches is by taking an iterative approach. This is not only true for the “Must-Have Marketing” we spoke about earlier, but also the “Stretch Marketing.”
What we often don’t see when we’re looking enviously at what someone else is doing is how they started it. We don’t see their early doubts or troubles, we just see the finished accomplishment or campaign.
This can make us feel like we need to get everything perfect from the start, but what we don’t realize is that it’s only the finished product that needs to be perfect. The start needs to be flexible, solid, and quickly executed.
Without those qualities, the marketing cathedral never gets built.