Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How to Prepare Your Organization for Marketing Automation

How to Prepare Your Organization for Marketing Automation

For anyone working in B2B marketing, it's hard to ignore the rapid ascendance of marketing automation over the past few years. If you take the time to dig below the undulating praise, however, you'll see that the joys of marketing automation are not as clear-cut as you might first believe.

Only 2.8% of B2B enterprise marketers say marketing automation-powered campaigns achieve their demand generation goals, according to the Annuitas 2015 B2B Enterprise survey of 100+ B2B enterprise marketers from organizations with annual revenues exceeding $250 million.

B2B technology analyst David Raab says almost 70% of marketers are either unhappy or only marginally happy with their marketing automation software
And Bluewolf's most recent State of Salesforce study found that only 7% are seeing good, measurable ROI from their marketing automation investments.

Acknowledging the Limitations of Marketing Automation
It's important to understand what marketing automation does well—as well as what its limitations are.

Marketing automation works well when a well-defined process in place; it doesn't automate your marketing so much as streamline and scale your current processes. Fundamentally, marketing automation is a workflow tool, not an automation tool.

All marketing automation relies on preset logic ("If this X happens then do Y"; "if X does not happen, then do Z") and traditional purchase funnel theory to design the architecture of marketing campaigns and trigger communications.

The problem is that the buyer journey is much more complex than marketing automation vendors would have you believe—it's not simply a "set it and forget it" deal.

Also, marketing automation means having to bring on more—not less—staff. As well as a marketing manager, a database manager, a demand-gen exec, and a content strategist, you will most likely need a marketing technologist who is able to help you get the most out of your new system.

Finally, marketing automation ignores that prospects are continually evolving in their interests, needs, and motives. Marketing automation can provide you a lead score, but it doesn't tell you why a prospect is so engaged.

Preparing Your Organization for Marketing Automation
All that isn't to say that investing in marketing automation is a fool's errand. However, the effort, resources and strategy needed to make the most of any MA tool is usually greatly underestimated.

So, if you are considering using marketing automation, first prepare your organization in the following seven ways.

1. Know your ideal customer profile
If you are going to get the most out of your marketing automation tool, you must go through the process of defining your ideal customer profile and your buyer personas—up front.
Marketing automation relies on rules that segment and send messages based on each recipient's profile (job title, industry type, etc.). You need to know what these are before you start automating the messages you send to them.

2. Collect the right lead data
Very early on in your marketing automation journey, it will become clear that data quality is everything. The quality of the data you collect via your Web forms or social sign-ins will determine what you can do with those leads. It's therefore vital that you collect enough data to be able to segment leads in your database.
You should start by simply collecting contact details, but data can extend to product history (what they've bought) or even interests (based on what they've read).

3. Don't make procurement a unilateral decision
A grievous mistake occurs when the procurement of a new technology is led by a CMO who does not involve the content, email, CRM, and SEO teams—all of which eventually find themselves handling a technology they had little part either in exploring or discussing.
That inevitably leads to (dis)ownership issues within Marketing regarding who is in charge of the platform once it has been brought in.

4. Test on a small subset of your database first
Most organizations cannot wait to get started with marketing automation. However, rather than unleashing campaigns on your entire customer database and causing a massive spike in churn or opt-outs, take time to test on small samples to see how they respond to your new marketing capabilities.

5. Make sure you have enough content
Too often, marketing automation programs begin in earnest and then run out of steam soon after because the organization has too few whitepapers or blog posts to send to prospects and leads.

Content is certainly not "one size fits all," and care must be taken to ensure that the content being produced and inserted into the nurture programs is fit for purpose.

6. Know your industry benchmarks
Industry benchmarks are a great way of setting some minimum expectation levels for performance. Benchmarks also put your own performance metrics into context and prevent you from focusing on metrics that may look interesting but do not influence the bottom line.

7. Have patience
Ultimately, it takes time to get marketing automation working. It requires discipline and commitment as well buy-in from multiple stakeholders within both the marketing and the sales organization.

When implemented correctly, marketing automation really can be a boon to B2B marketers that are looking to send relevant communications to their leads and prospects. However, in all the excitement surrounding this emerging technology, it's incumbent upon these same marketers to be cognizant of the issues that can arise—and therefore prepare their organizations accordingly.

If you need help with your email, web site, video, or other presentation to promote your company, product, or service, please give me a call at 440-519-1500 or e-mail me at
X2 Media can help you target your content and get your message to the audience in a way that it is not only seen and heard, but remembered.

Until next month….remember, “you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression”. Always make it a good one!

From X2Media I would like to thank you for your time.

John E. Hornyak

X2Media, LLC

How to Elicit and Use Employee Stories in Your Content Marketing

How to Elicit and Use Employee Stories in Your Content Marketing

There's no shortage of content about the power of stories and storytelling in digital marketing. But how do you tell stories beyond your "brand story," especially if you work for a dreaded "boring" company?

One category of stories that never runs dry is employee stories.

Employee Stories Are Brand Stories
Employee stories give your audience access to your brand on a human, personal level.
If companies are simply collections of people working for a common purpose, then telling the stories of the people... is telling the story of the company.
And that's not just a content marketing win, but a brand win.

What Are Employee Stories?
Employee stories don't have to require any special effort: Your employees tell stories about their work every day! But by guiding the "work stories" that your employees tell internally, you have the opportunity to create, curate, and control the distribution and promotion of some of your best brand stories.

You can also curate stories about your employees' lives that link back to a core value in the business. Employees often have trouble sharing stories about their "work life" but are readily able to share personal stories outside of work.

Find how you can relate stories about their hobbies and interests, their passions in life, back to the brand's values.

Employee Story Requirements
All brand stories should link back to a core value in some way. They should express a human truth that positions your brand and your colleagues as relatable.
Stories are not chronological lists of events or processes or hierarchies. Those are narratives, and they lack the elements of conflict and emotion that stories require. Each employee story should have...
  1. Context
  2. Conflict
  3. Resolution
In short, you must set the backstory, find a problem that must be solved, then resolve it.
You don't need to contrive anything or add dramatic flair to create an engaging employee story.

Here's a simple one: "We were elated to sell a huge customer at the end of the first quarter (context), but we found that our designers didn't have enough bandwidth to fulfill the work (conflict), so our executive team jumped in and worked night and day to assist the designers in any way they could (buying dinners, hiring help, helping with design). As a result, the work was delivered on time (resolution)."

The "moral" might be teamwork, or integrity, or both.
Employee stories can be that simple.

Think Like a Journalist
You've probably heard that "marketers spread messages, journalists write for audiences."
Sure, content marketing has rewritten that idiom to some extent, but the point remains that if you're going to be telling employee stories, you need to think about your source material and your audience as if you were a journalist.
Journalists keep their eyes and ears open for not only stories but also data sources that can back up and verify their claims
Access 'Tribal' Department Knowledge
Employees are trained through a combination of documented training material and hearing the experiences of their peers. Stories explain company culture, values, beliefs, and process in a compact and authentic medium; they carry truths that simple "telling" (training material) cannot.
Ask of your organization:
  • What stories are our employees/clients already telling?
  • Who in the company is best equipped to tell these stories?
  • Who has stories to tell that can help extend the power of our brand?
Think of the representatives from various departments who could add to the overall brand story by sharing their departmental stories.

Material for Onboarding, Training, and Marketing
Dig through employee onboarding materials. Company history documentation, org charts (if applicable), and training material are a good place to start. You may not find anything particularly compelling in this material, but you may come across interesting topics you can pursue.
Analyze case studies and testimonials:
  • Case studies can make good business stories, but many fail as stories because they a lack a story arc. They also can come across as heavy-handed and brand-centric.
  • Testimonials usually lack context, conflict, and resolution.
But you can use these materials to find data points you can match to employees so that you can gather talking points for interviews.

Interviewing for 'Work Stories'
Interviewing employees is the best method for uncovering work stories. Company veterans always have stories to share. Sometimes asking new employees to tell you the stories they're hearing as they acclimate to their new environment can help you find stories.
Here are a few questions for kicking off a storytelling session with an employee:
  1. What kinds of problems do you solve for customers?
  2. How do you resolve those problems?
  3. When was the last time you did [resolution]?
  4. Tell me the details.
  5. Do you have a particularly memorable incidence of [conflict] where you [resolution]?
Asking employees to adopt an "outsider" view about their work can help spark new ideas and new stories. Here are few effective prompts:
  • What does your spouse say about your job?
  • What do your parents say about your job?
  • What do your friends say?
Just asking employees to take some time to reflect personally about their work can lead to some interesting correlations, and from there you can poke and prod about specific stories
Finding 'Life Stories' That Link Back
To find life stories that you can link back to your brand, you need to ask the right questions to get people talking. Here are a few good priming questions for getting employees to open up:
  1. What are the five things you're most passionate about? (If you ask for three, you'll get common answers like "friends," "family," "my faith," but usually after three or four you'll get something more interesting)
  2. How have those passions affected your growth as a person?
  3. Tell me a story about a time when that passion changed or influenced your life.
You can work with the employee to find a link between that passion, that employee, and your organization.

It's up to you to strike the balance between scripted and stilted corporate stories and meandering, off-the-rails personal narratives. You're responsible for creating the link and guiding the story. The better the connection you create, the more compelling the story.

Of course, as with any interviewing, choose your own words and let the interviews unfold as conversations, not interrogations. The best questions to elicit stories tend to be open-ended questions like these:
  • Tell me about a time when...
  • Tell me about an experience where...
  • When was the last time you...
Group Exercise: Campfire
One group method that can elicit story ideas is called Campfire, a 30-45-minute exercise from the book Gamestorming that has your teammates trade stories in an informal, after-hours setting.

Set up a meeting with a team of volunteers across your organization. Designate a note-taker, and tell the team that you'll facilitate the activity. Then...
  1. Write 10-20 topics on sticky notes that you've gathered from training material, case studies, testimonials, and other sources.
  2. Post the sticky notes on one half of a whiteboard, where everyone can see them. Give your team sticky notes and pens. Ask them to look over the ideas on the wall for five minutes and try to associate stories with the topics.
  3. Start the exercise by removing one sticky note from the whiteboard and tell your story associated with it. When you're finished, move that sticky note to the other side of the whiteboard.
  4. Ask a volunteer to take a sticky note, tell their story, then place it on the other side of the whiteboard.
  5. Encourage participants to add sticky notes as volunteers tell their stories, filling up both sides of the board and writing down amazing stories until your meeting time has elapsed.
Toward a Storytelling Organization
Most people think they aren't good storytellers. Creating a safe environment for storytelling is a crucial piece for overcoming that barrier. If you can get just a few people to buy in, others will see that it's safe and rewarding to share their stories, and they'll have the templates and models for how to tell theirs.
If you can generate organizational momentum, you can consistently produce user-generated content through your employees.

Storytelling is a technique to communicate authenticity. It's not fiction and it's not BS. Keep the corporate-speak, the "core values," and the mission-statement talk out of your employee stories. Do find a way to inject some of that spirit into your content without directly using that language.

And do build data and analysis into your story, or bring it along as supplementary material to the storyline. Data always brings credibility.

Finally, remember that the best stories are often the ones that follow the "Hero's Journey" template. For employee stories, that may mean your customer is the main character, your employee and brand as the mentor, and your product/service is the tool that changes their life for the better. Or maybe it doesn't. The most important thing is that your stories are authentic and represent your brand.