B2B Marketing: the end of traditional conferences and trade shows?

The current pandemic has changed many things in human interactions, especially “distancing” and therefore, prompting many companies and organizations to rethink their habits in terms of traditional conferences and trade shows.

In his most recent blog post, Alain Thériault mentioned that by the end of summer 2020, we will no longer be shaking hands, but rather, share a fist, elbow or even, a foot bump!

The sneaky COVID-19 virus has sounded the death bell or close, for B2B marketing events and trade shows that are now called “presentials” … Bye bye for now, to good old lectures with more than 500 people in one room, to buffet lunches in a vast, crowded networking space and to evening gatherings.

Goodbye as well to professional salons, commonly called “trade shows” and oh so popular for companies in B2B. Stands and kiosks have also become virtual, removing one of their tools of choice from the sales forces.

The virus has forced everyone everywhere to review all types of gatherings. New forms of virtual conferences such as Zoom and Facebook LIVE, which Alain discussed in the previous post quickly appeared.

But major conferences have also reinvented themselves in a virtual and in some cases, such as Montreal’s Startupfest 2020,  in a hybrid event that combines the virtual and the present-day, in accordance with health standards.

Startupfest
Clic on the image to access day 2 video

No need for travel, the conference comes to you!

But for our neighbors to the south, not much conferences are yet permitted. Never mind, the IT solutions vendors came to the rescue by offering companies and conference organizers new custom-made platforms. Or others that already exist but much less immersive …

Do you know HOPIN?  

This new conference platform offers a total virtual experience with the same features as a real one, with its room for “keynote” presentations, called the “Stage,” multiple “rooms” for other conferences, a networking venue, and even a room for an exhibition; a virtual trade show! So, no need to move, the conference is coming to you!

Practical for businesses or all who are self-employed, as this avoids transportation costs, accommodations, etc. But you still have to pay to get in. At ExoB2B, we used it for the B2B Marketing Ignite USA conference.

And here’s a “behind the scenes” montage of the conference…

montage hopin

On the left is the reception, with access to the main functions and the schedule of conferences and keynotes. On the right top screen is the keynote room with Lee Odden in an interview at the beginning of his keynote. The middle screen shows the services in the other rooms and the bottom, the Virtual Expo.

Note that in each window, participants can interact live. There is also the possibility of doing one-off surveys and a tab to see who is virtually in the room.

There is also a place to offer feedback: polls are everywhere, especially in the networking room (see image below).

sondage

Of course, all the speeches of this great annual B2B marketing conference are available on the conference web page and stored on Viméo.

A transient phenomenon or here to stay?

With this type of platform, virtual conferences have multiplied in recent months to replace the good old live conference. The B2B Marketing Ignite conference is already announcing its 2021 virtual edition in London while the USA version seems to opt for a presentation in Chicago.

Here’s what the main organizer, Joel Harrison, mentions in a 3D virtual environment, what to foresee in the future?

Joel Harrison

Click on the image for the video

Currently, in Quebec, de-confining measures allow gatherings of up to 250 people. That’s enough people to do a mixed conference, like Startupfest, by respecting distancing rules and public hygiene standards.

Not yet to have a conference like BEFORE…

Too bad for the sellers and representatives of companies who met in trade shows or conference exhibitions.

Gone are the good old days of face to face B2B? Is part of the sales cycle now anchored in virtual, for good?

Looking at the recent Ignite conference and the reaction of the participants, one would be inclined to believe it, when in addition, there are webinars and LIVEs and soon, immersive 3D.

What do you think? Anchoring virtual practices in the daily life of B2B marketing or, a simple passing while waiting for the return of human contacts and “presentials” in a total deconfinement in the absence of viruses?

Or the adaptation of B2B marketing to the digital transformation that is accelerating in companies? We would love to have your feedback on this.

This could also be the subject of our next Facebook LIVE

What’s Digital Transformation? The Answer of 10 Experts

In a previous post, I talked about the opportunity for businesses, in these times of uncertainty, to finally work through their digital transformation, the inevitable transition to a new economy.

It’s one thing to talk about digital transformation as a phenomenon, but what exactly does it mean for society and especially for businesses? To better integrate this transformation, we need to understand what it is, right?

I concluded my previous post by promising a definition of digital transformation, especially for businesses.

The digital transformation according to ten international experts

A promise is a promise. So, I asked more than a dozen men and four women for their take on the topic. Unfortunately, three of the four ladies in question either declined or did not answer my question.

To round it off at ten, I have attached my own definition, which makes three experts from the United States, one from Toronto, one from New Brunswick and five francophones from Quebec and France.

So let’s begin with one of the greatest international experts on the subject.

(Click on the names to access their impressive profiles on LinkedIn).

Dion Hinchcliffe

USA

Here’s my definition: « Digital transformation is more than digitization and automation of your existing business  » .

That activity has been going on for more than 40 years, and while useful, is an activity that doesn’t prepare organizations for the very different operating environments and success conditions of the future.

In contrast, digital transformation is a fundamental rethinking of the business itself, its products and services, what market it addresses, and especially what its future business models will be.

A successful digital transformation rethinks and re-imagines the business using the digital art-of-the-possible, as well as what will be possible in the future.

It doesn’t have to be a complete disruption of the existing business, but it should feel like it at the time.

Jeremiah Owyang

USA

If you’ve read the myriad definitions of digital transformation and thought they sounded a decade old, you’re right. Many of the definitions, while certainly appropriate at the time, were focused on digitization over transformation (aka turning paper into PDFs). As a result, the definitions have become either too narrowly scoped or rich with meaningless buzzwords. 

Here’s a new working definition (read: it will keep evolving!) that speaks to the modern-day innovator’s charter: 

Digital Transformation:
A technological, cultural, and operational shift in which organizations leverage data to deliver customer value, innovate with agility, and sustain vitality.

Shel Holtz

USA

Digital transformation is primarily a culture change. (I define corporate culture as « the way things are done around here. ») Digital transformation means changing the way decisions are made so they’re based on data rather than intuition, company politics, or personal preference.

When data drive decisions, these decisions can be made quickly at lower levels, dramatically reducing the need to move the proposal up the hierarchy for approval after approval.

Like any major organizational change, this requires the right tools and adequate training about how to use them (both tactically and strategically). But while tools are important, digital transformation is primarily about people.

Harold Jarche

Cabada

The foundation of digital transformation is making our human networks smarter, more resilient, and able to make faster and better decisions. This requires a more democratic organization — loose hierarchies and strong networks.

Less control, and more democracy, is required in order to foster the trusted relationships necessary for knowledge workers to both cooperate and collaborate. Collaboration is working together for a common objective, while cooperation is openly sharing, without any quid pro quo. Collaboration is required to accomplish a task, but cooperation is how we contribute to our knowledge networks from which we can draw inspiration. Both are necessary. In addition, each person requires the discipline of seeking out knowledge, making sense of it on an ongoing basis, and sharing with others at the appropriate times.

What ties cooperation and collaboration together is the engaged individual with the freedom to act. Organizations can ignore this, and impose a structure that inhibits seeking, sense-making, and sharing. If so, collaboration and collaboration will not be effective. The knowledge network will lack sufficient diversity to provide insights for innovation or creativity. Digital transformation is a hollow shell without a democratic foundation.

Maggie Fox

Cabada

« Culture eats strategy » is a common saying for good reason. If you think « digital transformation » as simply the implementation of new tools and systems, without considering the cultural and behavioural change required – You. Will. Fail.  

As a consultant, I had been helping organizations radically re-imagine the way they market and communicate since 2006. In 2013 I went « inside » and was appointed to run digital marketing globally for software giant SAP. The Board asked us to transform the pre-sale customer digital experience. The challenge? We only controlled about 30% of the people and budgets.

We had to convince stakeholders right across an 80,000 person global business to do things differently – the way we wanted them to. Amazingly, we completely replatformed, went mobile-first, redesigned the user experience and reduced complexity by over 80% – all in 30 months. The « One Digital Experience » (1DX) project was successful not only because we selected the best tools and partners, but because we very deliberately took the time to bring people with us, to change the culture around how we worked together (« assume the best intentions » became a mantra) and to over-communicate and create transparency around our commitments and our accomplishments.  

Digital transformation is as much – if not more – about people as it is about technology. Forget that at your peril!

Jon Husband

Québec

It is important to recognize that we, as humans, have already been digitally “transformed”: virtually everyone uses smartphones all day long and uses some type of computer at work (even if the computer is just a cash register or card reader).

Digital transformation typically refines and/or redefines and integrates IT capabilities into the capacity and business processes of organizations.

At the societal level, digital transformation involves constructive/useful enhancements to augment or redefine most regular human activities, such as voting, receiving government services, education, health care, etc.

 At the organisational level – the digital transformation of an organisation means the design and integration of digital capabilities into organisational processes, products and services which, in turn, improve the support and services available to networked individuals, communities and markets.

Claude Malaison

Québec

For me, digital transformation in business is defined as: the design and implementation of a new and constantly evolving ecosystem in an enterprise, which encompasses all spheres of activity by flattening hierarchical lines.

That ecosystem uses new technologies and internal and external networks to revitalize content, collaboration spaces, databases, processes and systems so that managers and employees have access to the full range of information and tools they need to reinvent their work and innovate.

Laurent Simon

Québec

 The real challenge of the digital transformation is the logic of uses and processes. Of course, we have to keep a watchful eye, but above all, we must constantly ask ourselves what technologies bring to our employees, how they contribute to the performance of our value chain and how they ultimately useful to our customers.

In this sense, digital transformation must be seen as an act of collective agility, driven by continuous experimentation inspired by user-centred collaborative innovation

Fred Cavazza

France

Digital transformation refers to the changes associated with the systematic use of digital technology in all aspects of our daily lives. It concerns users, consumers, citizens, but also businesses and organisations that need to integrate digital tools and supports to cope with an ever-changing market.

In absolute terms, the digital transformation began 40 years ago with the arrival of the first personal computers, but with the advent of smartphones we are talking about a more global and above all deeper phenomenon: what needed to be digitized or disintermediated has already been digitized.

So I prefer to use the term “digital acceleration”, which is more appropriate to the situation we are experiencing today: a paradigm shift where existing markets are being reconfigured by digital aggregators and platforms (GAFA, Uber, Deliveroo, WeChat…) which are making exchanges more fluid, and where traditional players are being pushed aside by new entrants who are proposing alternative offers with higher added value that are exclusive to digital (pay-per-use, pay-per-subscription…).

Bertrand Duperrin

France

From my point of view the digital transformation is, to put it simply, to go faster and on a larger scale. This has always been what has been asked of technology. Afterwards, when we can operate faster and on a larger scale, this opens up a whole new field of possibilities, which can range from transforming the business model to repositioning on new sectors of activity.

But wanting to go faster, on a larger scale is nothing new, it is even the very nature of mankind. We have always wanted to go faster from one point to another. Retailers have always wanted to attract more customers and expand their geographical reach.

This desire to go faster and to act on a larger scale has been achieved by individuals using digital tools, the most common example being social networks. Very quickly this created an imbalance between individuals, customers, markets or even a society at large, that was advancing at high speed and with networks and companies that remained in old models with “old” technologies that were not moving as fast.

It was to bridge this speed gap that companies rushed into digital transformation. But they did so by making a major mistake, which explains why today we consider that the digital transformation has not (yet?) been completed.

So the digital transformation is a desire to go faster and with a larger scale impact, together, which requires a change of model to happen. Technology is only a means to achieve this, but it has been made too central to the process, which has made companies forget the idea, the importance, of changing their model.

In conclusion, I would like to thank these nine international experts who participated in this collaborative exercise and mention that in addition to the ExoB2B blog, some experts will be featured in video clips in the form of live interviews with Alain Thériault. So, stay tuned and if you feel like participating and sharing your own definition with us, comment on our various social networks.

Pandemic and B2B digital transformation: will you be able to take advantage of it?

What is important to you and your business in these times of confinement and gradual return to business? In the previous post, Lynda St-Arneault insisted on not killing your marketing. Will you be able to use this pandemic to carry out your digital transformation?

Or just to wait for the return to normal? Managing the daily grind: crisis management, lack of cash and even staff? Certainly legitimate concerns in a pre-2020 world.

But in the current circumstances, there is also a generational opportunity to seize. In the sense that this occasion is an opportunity that we will not see again anytime soon. It is to choose to adapt to the fundamental changes that are taking place before our eyes. The economy and society will never be the same again. You might as well anticipate and get in tune.

And what tune are we talking about here?

New ways of working and producing as well as consumption. And new business-to-business relationships are more distanced and virtual… The corporate watchdog McKinsey talks about “The rise of the contact-free economy.”

Uses that will crystallize around new technologies of remote communication (Video-conferences, tele-work on platforms such as Zoom or Whereby), market analysis (artificial intelligence), customer relations (Automation, chatbots) and also production (physical and social distance) and delivery (at your door but without contact).

The opportunity to be seized in B2B is similar to that of e-commerce in B2C. Prior to COVID-19, the emphasis was on the customer experience, on the “buyers journey”, automation, on experiential marketing. In such a short time, everything changed.

The pandemic has highlighted the harsh reality of the lack of preparedness of companies in the face of increasing demand from consumers and also customers and suppliers for an experience not based on itself but, on the speed and efficiency of the relationship and especially, of delivery…

Do I have to draw a picture here? In Quebec, what matters now is production and delivery. The production chain becomes an essential service. Delivery becomes essential but must be contactless and if possible pre-paid and in B2B as elsewhere, we will use drones and autonomous vehicles in the future.

And this is as valid in B2B as in B2C…

Online shopping is becoming more and more important. Indeed, there are increases that exceed 30 or 40%. But what is most important is not experience but accessibility. Customers and suppliers want, yes, an ease in browsing the Web and in the service proposal, but beyond these considerations, they want a QUICKLY accessible offer.

Remember the bad buying experiences at the beginning of your lockdown at your favorite grocery store? Virtual queues? Yes, we can talk about bad experiences for the client, but the frustration is waiting, and the lack of preparation.

Many have hit the wall of supply vs. demand on the web in these times of pandemic. The same applies to the essential businesses that have remained open but, what about the others that have closed their doors temporarily?

Confinement and digital transformation in B2B

In B2B e-commerce, the challenge is the same. In times of confinement, the sinews of war will be to synchronize automated, experiential and AI-assisted marketing with supply chain challenges.

Also, confinement will gradually open the door to what is called digital transformation of marketing and business. No choice to go digital… And that doesn’t just mean creating a new transactional website.

This involves the complete transformation of internal business processes and I mean ALL processes. A major overhaul based on a new corporate strategy. It is here and now that the old and the new world for business meet.

Their ability to adapt and transform will depend on their survival. And marketing in all its forms has an important role to play. It is one of the important cogs in the internal and external processes of companies. Hence the call not to kill,  especially not in these difficult times.

It is more important than ever to rethink it in light of the current experiences between corporate clients and suppliers. And more than ever, they will be open to proposals for marketing transformation and digital transformation in general.

Can you seize the opportunity?

To grasp it, we must first define what digital transformation is. Easy to talk about technological tools and artificial intelligence but for companies, in practice, what does it mean to transform digitally?

To find out, keep an eye on our next blog. We will ask this question to several international experts who will offer some insight on this. And we will also inaugurate a new section on our website, entirely dedicated to this trend that has become a reality.

And don’t forget that as a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering solutions based on IBM’s Acoustic Artificial Intelligence (IBM Watson), ExoB2B is well positioned to assist your business in your digital shift. Contact us!

5 profitable tricks to repurpose your content in B2B marketing

Long ago, there was a time when, in the ExoB2B blog, we would put together a compilation of the best posts of the year, every year, as a way  to reuse our best content.

Our archives have a lot of useful and popular content. It would be a shame to leave them there to die! It’s true though, who goes on a blog other than to read the latest post published and distributed on social networks or by newsletter?

Very few do.

In fact, I would like to read your comments on the subject below.

So, I went through a long period where I didn’t want to know anything about the Repurposing Kings. This method was equivalent to seeing only old content on blogs in the long run.

Long live creativity and novelty!

This is an image from Buffer’s blog, which illustrates what was being written. Less creation and more promotion… The promotion of “oldies”…

The water flowed under the bridges and I changed my point of view: there are finally good sides to the reuse of content.

Here are five tips that really pay off, to intelligently reuse or recycle your old content because unlike what the TV ad says, they are not “sertpuariens” (In French).

1- Republish blogs that are dated but whose subject is still current by refreshing them

As I mentioned, we have a bank of nearly 500 blogs saved on all major B2B marketing topics since 2009:

  • Automation
  • Web design and development
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Product launch
  • Influence, content, inbound, mobile or integrated marketing
  • Martech
  • Brand awareness
  • Strategic positioning
  • Marketing research
  • Referencing – SEO
  • Social networks
  • Communication-marketing strategies
  • Thought Leadership
  • Marketing transformation

There are more, but we have to limit ourselves…

In bold are the topics that I prefer and that I write about most often. We have a lot of posts in our archives whose content is still very relevant in 2020, even though I myself have been writing them since 2015 for ExoB2B, such as the one on inbound marketing influencers.

The subject of influence marketing is so present in today’s marketing landscape that Lee Odden, an expert in B2B content marketing, devotes all his energy and the majority of his blog posts to it.

Whether we like them or not, influencers still play a very important role in marketing, depending on their types, which was the subject of the post.

Speaking of influence, we’ve arrived at my second tip:

2- The publication of annual rankings

ExoB2B Top 30 Marketing Influencers 2019

Yes, yes… It is indeed a form of reuse of content from the previous year but, it has been updated. And believe me, it works… “big time”!

For SEO but it also has a huge impact on social networks, particularly Twitter and an important impact for the notoriety of our blog and our company.

This is a major tool in a “Thought Leadership” strategy, which we have done over a three-year period. You can also read the report in this case study:  A B2B campaign that has influence.

3- Transform blogs for other platforms and vice versa

I like this one, even if we don’t use it often enough. In short, it’s a matter of finding a series of blogs on the same subject and making them, either an eBook, or why not, a new series for our newsletter or content for new training.

Or even better: convert these blogs into a video series or podcast subjects!!!    Same blog content but reused on four new platforms…

And as the subtitle says, it can be the other way around. Thus, we published an eBook on personas in B2B and the content was reused by Lynda St-Arneault in this blog post and by Alain Thériault in a training.

4-Compilations of the best blogs

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, another great way to intelligently recycle content is to publish a compilation of the best posts.

Whether it’s from the year that just ended or, it could be, the Top 10 of the last ten years as 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of Exo’s blog.

You see the trick? It’s beautiful and rewarding on so many levels.

5- The reuse of major social networks

The reuse or recycling of content in a blog has, as an analogy, a new use of social networks. And here I choose my words carefully.

New use does not necessarily mean identical reuse of social networks.

A blog post that is recycled may mean using social networks for its propagation, by using available channels differently or by using new channels that were not used when it was first published.

The traditional Facebook-Twitter- LinkedIn-YouTube quartet could then be revised to make room for another including LinkedIn-Instagram-Pinterest-YouTube. The latter, as you can see, is more image oriented.

And above all, do not forget that this choice is also made according to the lifespan of the content on these networks. As shown in the table above, our blog post has an average lifespan of two years, a lifespan that can be extended with reuse.

But we must not lose sight of the fact that on social networks, it’s quite different.

Our traditional quartet offers a duration of sight or life between 18 minutes and 20 days while the second offers a duration between 21 hours and four months.

And yes, I cheated a little …

I would add a sixth simple trick used under each post on this blog, which is to offer readers a choice of 3 or 4 old posts that might be of interest to them.

If you have any questions or comments, or would like to share with us your experiences of “repurposing content” in B2B…

Write to us. We like to share!

As a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence-based solutions, ExoB2B is well positioned to help your business in your digital shift

The marketing transformation goes through AI and “Martech” consolidation.

This may sound funny to you, but if you think about it, there are currently more than 7,000 marketing applications listed in the chart published each year by Scott Brinker of  chiefmatech.com.

A sea of martech

They are listed in six major categories of marketing or “martech” technologies:

  1. Advertising and promotion
  2. Content and experience
  3. Social and relational
  4. Trade and sales
  5. Data
  6. Management

These broad categories are then divided into subcategories. The Content category (surrounded in red above) includes ten subcategories in which there are 1,689 different applications, nearly 25% of the total.

Do you see the complexity of choosing when it comes to, for example, developing a content strategy or more generally a marketing transformation strategy?

Too many choices can often lead to a bad decision…

It’s a bit like the content itself. There is an «obesity» in the martech offer that doesn’t help to make the right choices as pointed out by a study done by CMI, i.e. the 2019 Content Management and Strategy Survey.

According to this study, only 16% of respondents say they have the right technologies and use them to their full potential.

And the number of technologies is only growing despite some shortness of breath in 2019 with a growth of only 7%.


Source: Marketing Technology Landscape 2019

But according to Scott Brinker, the author of these charts since 2011, his annual tally does not even take into account several other possible categories.

Example: WordPress alone would have 54,880 plug-ins. Plug-ins are not part of the chart but are still mini-applications, many of which strictly serve the marketing function.

However, it still asks two important questions.

At only 7% increase, has the martech ecosystem reached its saturation point or only a plateau before resuming its growth?

And if so, when is the inevitable skimming or consolidating of technologies?

AI, consolidation and marketing transformation

Let’s leave the answer to Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group.

In a recent post, he included this consolidation in what is now known as marketing transformation:

«It must encompass your company culture (and be):

– a complete reinvention of your operating model,

– a restructuring of your marketing processes, marketing capabilities that can shift with every change in your market,

– an omnichannel approach,

– and to support it all – software as agile as your new organization.»

And the author gives the example of consolidation and transformation that IBM’s Watson represents:

Hence our question as a title but a little modified: marketing transformation: will AI force the consolidation of the “martech” panorama from an omnichannel perspective?

Will it be one of the main factors of consolidation in the marketing technology landscape? And if so, when? And if not, what impact will it have on the panorama? Just one more?

Asking these questions today implies that companies are firmly engaged in a process of digital transformation and approach to artificial intelligence in marketing.

The human, always the human…

But the reality of Quebec SMEs and even large companies is quite different, as we pointed out in a previous blog post.  

“The reality in the trenches is quite different. Even in very large B2B companies, the penetration rate of martech is still very low. Apart from CRM and marketing automation, which, it should be noted, is currently limited to automated e-mailing in almost all cases.”
Alain Thériault

Proof of Alain’s statement: even in the USA, automation and CRM are two of the four largest investments planned by the CMOs for the next twelve months…

Still… The digital transformation of business and marketing is a must. It affects technology and many other areas within the company but above all, it impacts the human.

Any digital transformation of businesses requires taking into account users, planners or developers and giving them the right tools.

And in many cases, it’s not going as well and as fast as expected.

Let’s take the example of content marketing:

«…ultimately, no matter how much technology is thrown at it, content is created, managed, judged, optimized, and measured by people. Just as it’s not the things people buy that are responsible for credit card debt, it’s not the technology’s fault that marketers have an inability to leverage it to the fullest.»
Michael Brenner

Doesn’t that remind you of the 16% statistic?

As a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence-based solutions, ExoB2B is well positioned to help your business in your digital shift. Contact us!

LinkedIn: the numbers that talk to companies in B2B

Figures and statistics that speak volumes about the importance of this B2B marketing platform. The graph below was produced by the SocialPilot team and divided into five categories:

  • Demographic – The type of people who use Linkedin, e.g. gender, age, income, etc…
  • Usage – How people access and use Linkedin.
  • Engagement – The kind of content users interact with on Linkedin and also, how and where they interact with the brands.
  • Businesses – How businesses use Linkedin for marketing, social sales, customer service, content marketing, etc.
  • Advertising – How brands invest in Linkedin ads, their ROI and the kind of responses that ads receive on Linkedin.

Commitment and business

What we are particularly interested in is the commitment and use that companies make of it. See more in the graph below…

LinkedIn Statistics for 2019 (Infographic)
Embedded from: SocialPilot

Before commenting on the results, let me talk about best practices in content production. In my course at UdeM, I deal in particular with best practices for blogs (see below in French).

These rules and practices are equally valid for other media and social networks including LinkedIn. The following numbers validate these.

Figures that validate practices

In the “commitment” category, what is most surprising is this statistic on status with links.

  • Putting one or more links in a status or text improves the commitment by 200%… Are you surprised?

Then:

  • LinkedIn statuses that end with a question attract 50% more commitment.

And finally:

  • Accompanying a status with a photo increases the chances of comments by 98%.

In the following category, “Business,” the result of previous figures is striking:

  • 70% of users consider LinkedIn to be a reliable source for professional content.
  • 80% of B2B leads from the media and social networks come from this platform.

This makes companies consider LinkedIn in the same percentage as their best source of leads. I would be remiss if I finished without mentioning this statistic:

  • LinkedIn ads are 227% more efficient than other MRS to generate leads…

Now imagine pairing your LinkedIn statuses with a good post from your blog… What do you think the results will be?

New CMI study: too much TOFU in B2B?

A few weeks ago, I got my hands on the 2020 version of B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America , a comprehensive study of a field of activity that, as you know, is of particular interest to me. Not tofu but rather, content marketing. 🙂

Published annually by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, this study contains a lot of information about content marketing, in this case, B2B.

Far be it from me to give a complete account of all the trends and statistics it contains but I was keen to share with you some evidence.

The best channels and types of content in B2B.

Here is the graph highlighting the preferred communication channels for distributing B2B content. I keep repeating that the best medium is the blog. According to the study, it’s social networks that overtake all the others, namely blogs and newsletters.

The following are in order: events, videos, case studies, computer graphics, webinars, white papers.  E-books complete the Top 10 list.

The fact that social networks occupy the driver’s seat has repercussions on all marketing niches or “Funnels”.

Indeed, social networks focus too much on the “Top of Funnel” (TOFU), as Shane Schick, editor-in-chief of B2B News Network explains in his own analysis  of the study:

Too much attention on TOFU?

Too much attention in content marketing on the components of TOFU including 86% on brand awareness and not enough on the rest, namely MOFU and BOFU (see the graph above entitled Digital Marketing Funnel).

Not enough attention and effort on content that promotes lead creation and retention, customer conversion and the development of a long-term loyalty-based relationship to generate solid growth revenue.

In fact, 50% of all content is written according to the TOFU.

As Schick says, we rely too much on social networks in organic reach but also in paid reach, LinkedIn being the champion in all categories.

« While content marketing assets like blog posts have the chance to achieve considerable organic reach, the CMI report also showed that 84 per cent use paid distribution. Interestingly, LinkedIn was both the top paid as well as organic social channel for distribution and amplification purposes. »

I don’t know about you, but it speaks to me. There is a tendency to favor content on LinkedIn in B2B, which is a bit normal for both organic content and paid or sponsored content.

But look at the others: Twitter comes second for the organic and Facebook second for the paid. All this, as they say, at the expense of the content created in blogs.

In my opinion, blogs do a better job on the whole big funnel TOFU-MOFU-BOFU included, and can also use social networks as organic or paid multipliers.

A worrying imbalance…

And the worst part is that companies and content creators think they have met the expectations of their future or current customers while they create a glaring, even worrying imbalance in favor of TOFU and notoriety, which does not seem to disturb them. And yet both should.

In his book Marketing Rebellion, Mark Schaefer writes : «Businesses think just 13% of their marketing is unsolicited, while consumers feel 85% of the messages they receive from businesses are spam».

Companies, agencies and content creators have a very high opinion of their work. They forget that a long-term relationship grows first and foremost because of the RELATION and that in order to be profitable, we must put human interest contents back in the equation. «The most human company wins» is the subtitle of the book Marketing Rebellion.

In journalism, we used to call that “Human Interest”…

But what works best?

On the one hand, what works best at all stages? Blogs from a “human interest” perspective and events where people meet and have time to validate or consolidate their relationship or have access to experts and content that meet their needs. Also, to learn and build trusting relationships.

Then, to consolidate, we can exchange deeper content, such as case studies, eBooks or webinars. Speaking of events, see below.

Of all the types of content used in marketing, it is still events or “in-person events” that perform best to secure and convert leads. What for purpose? Because humans meet and talk to each other. We’re in the BOFU stage here.

To put the final nail in the coffin, the authors also mention (see on page 25 and 33 of the document), that the marketing objectives of the companies are putting too much focus on the TOFU with social networks on the one hand.

And on the other hand, they have very small teams, which results in outsourcing, in 50% of cases, content creation and in many cases, the loss of the intimate relationship with the customer. We tend to create impersonal and automated content.

These all lean towards what is called “Customer-Centric Marketing”

Businesses and content creators have every advantage in focusing on the customer nestled in the BOFU. This is one of the major trends, all studies combined. Here’s what the MX Group’s 2020 Trends blog says following the Digital Summit in Chicago.

«In order to be successful now and in the future, marketers must stop relying on product marketing. Instead, they need to gain more insights about their buyers and implement content, tools and solutions that address buyers’ pain points. Customer-centric has been a major theme for Mx over the last year and will continue to be a big 2020 B2B digital marketing trend.

If you want more information on the big trend that is “Customer-centric marketing”, note that Alain Thériault,  associate at ExoB2B, is offering several lectures on the subject and will soon publish a video on this subject in his blog.

As a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence-based solutions, ExoB2B is well positioned to help your business in your digital shift. Contact us!

Content Marketing: Success rests above all on relevance

Just a short blog inspired by Lynda St-Arneault’s LinkedIn status on marketing content strategies.

She writes, among other things, that being successful in content marketing, does not depend only on the budget that one invests in its production or by increasing its quantity.

As the content supply far exceeds demand (Situation described by Mark Schaefer in his essay Content Shock), success depends primarily on the  relevance of your content, how well it is adapted and how it helps your targets/readers/persona.

Relevant and well-targeted content is based on four pillars developed by ExoB2B

• Personalized content that generates engagement

• A customer experience that lives up to their expectations

• A wealth of content that solidifies trust in your brand

• A sales force equipped to advance the conversation

This is used by successful companies that stand out and succeed

These pillars, on the other hand, rest on solid foundations

It’s all about knowledge:  data and research are the foundation of all success. If we do not know our subject and to whom it is addressed, the content generated and pushed will not be relevant, will miss its target and sometimes, will even be impertinent …

Any content published, including on social networks, blogs, white papers, newsletters, etc., is not written “automagically” to paraphrase David Lepage. A good blog post takes hours if not days of research. Certainly, there are some that can be written in only a few minutes.

This is what I’ve done for years in the framework of literary creation or live reporting but always documented and well referenced. A muses’ inspiration is not a solid foundation for content marketing.

Knowledge is based on research & analysis

In analytics, more and more tools can help us shorten time. A recent article appeared in Marketing Charts that dissects the budgets allocated by CEOs to their teams. Budgets for social networks are falling BUT the budgets devoted to analytics are up.

« February 2019 saw the percentage of time marketing analytics was used in decision making at a record high (43.5%)»

Lynda also quotes a ClickZ article that headlines: “48% of B2B marketers admit content is only “somewhat effective” or “ineffective”, which would prove that almost 50% of content marketing efforts miss their targets, therefore ineffective.

And don’t forget the consistency…

It’s that we forget too often or that the success of any content strategy is also dependent on consistency, as ClickZ’s article concludes:

« And as this report makes clear, the importance of consistency and scalability in content strategies cannot be understated as we move forward».

Posting content from time to time on one platform, then changing to another and doing the same is a guaranteed failure. We must choose our platforms in advance to stick to our strategy and above all, to publish with a constant pace. It can be, for example, once a week on a blog and three times a week on LinkedIn, but it must remain consistent …

And still regarding the article in ClickZ, you will find very interesting statistics for different markets: manufacturing / technology / health / finance. On your marks, get set…

One last question…

In closing, we ask you this question: what is your most important specific challenge in content marketing?

• budget;

• the analysis as a whole;

• tools (CRM, marketing automation, AI, survey, etc.);

• the creative force (the human who creates the content);

• knowledge of different personas;

• the collaboration of marketing and sales functions;

• content planning; content distribution;

• frequency

Difficult to choose just one, isn’t it?

So, before you launch your content marketing strategy, validate your answer to this question and more importantly, if you want more information, call on our experts.

As a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence-based solutions, ExoB2B is well positioned to help your business in your digital shift. Contact us!

Hype Cycle Marketing: Having the means for its own ambitions

Recently, the technology watchdog firm, Gartner, published its famous “Hype Cycle” on marketing-related technologies or, if you prefer, “martech”. In case you didn’t know, every year, the US firm publishes its Hypes Cycles for everything related to technology.

Five Cycles

Marketing, human resources, finance, communications, etc., everything is scrutinized or in this case, «cyclelized». Year after year, Gartner measures the evolution of different emerging technologies (I like this word emergence) according to 5 life cycles.

  1. Innovation Trigger
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations
  3. Through of Disilusionment
  4. Slope of Enlightenment
  5. Plateau of Productivity

These cycles have names and lifespans. The first, called “Innovation trigger” is the beginning of cycles, where new innovative technologies, in this case in marketing, enter the market.

The most interesting or the most publicized in medias quickly rise in notoriety, “buzz” and hint at immense possibilities.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Not yet?

Then follow me a little more as I tell you about the future of marketing.

The Gartner diagram above clearly shows us where the different marketing technologies are and the pace of their adoption over a ten-year period and across the five cycles. The next two cycles are particularly revealing.

Bursting the bubble

Revealing of the adoption of technologies in all areas of human activity. After their arrival on the world stage, a bubble or “The Peak of Inflated Expectations” is created, Gartner says. This is where anything is possible, even saving the world… But like the technology bubble of the early 2000s, comes the moment when “the bubble bursts”.

Gartner is talking about the «Path of Disillusionment». A dramatic drop in the hopes in technologies and a disillusionment due to the fact that these technologies do not deliver the desired results or are slow to do so. Some will survive their descent into hell, others will not.

In light of this analysis, we can look at the graph and find that the majority of what the industry and its gurus are trying to establish as the grail of marketing is for many, only pretensions or predictions.

Blockchain and AI

According to the graph, what is the technology located at the top of inflated expectations? Yes, artificial intelligence. And which one is in the depths of disillusionment? Personalization tools and influence marketing.

Attention! This does not mean that all three will disappear. Far from it. In fact, artificial intelligence, like influencers, will find their niche and reach the “Plateau of Productivity” over a period of between 2 and 10 years.

And what is the technology that is entering the cycle for the first time? The chains of blocks for advertising. The what???

Better known as blockchain, this technology, like all others, promises to revolutionize digital marketing. See what Hubspot says in a post:

«This is How Blockchain Could Change Digital Marketing Forever»

What Forbes says…

Of course, artificial intelligence, which, let’s remember, is at the height of its popularity, already has applications in several areas SUCH AS marketing, as mentioned in the post published by Forbes entitled:

«10 Charts That Will Change Your Perspective Of AI In Marketing».

A good post with a host of graphs and statistics to support it like:

21% of sales leaders rely on AI-based applications today, with the majority collaborating with marketing teams sharing these applications.

Sales leaders predict that their use of AI will increase 155% in the next two years. Sales leaders predict AI will reach critical mass by 2020 when 54% expect to be using these technologies. Marketing and sales are relying on AI-based marketing automation, configure-price-quote (CPQ), and intelligent selling systems to increase revenue and profit growth significantly in the next two years. – Source: Salesforce Research, State of Sales, 3rdedition. (58 pp., PDF, free, opt-in)’’

To have the means…

The Forbes post refers to several studies but all relate to large companies that have ambitions and above all, the means for these ambitions.

In this context, our title is a little discouraging for Quebec companies that are striving to market in B2B or B2C and who see these new cycles of technology arrive without having the time or the means, to take an interest and commit to them firmly in their own digital and intelligent transformation, depending on their ability to invest.

On the other hand, what can encourage them in that these technologies will have taken many years to reach the plateau of productivity and will therefore be easier to integrate, with more case studies and, all this at a lower cost!

Talk to us about it!

So, before embarking on major investments, check who will benefit and especially when, and if you want more information, call on our experts.

As a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence-based solutions, ExoB2B is well positioned to help your business in your digital shift. Contact us!

To finally get over with B2B influencers

We didn’t choose this title for nothing! It touches three sensitive topics since the past five years now: influencers, social networks and content marketing. These three topics, and it’s part of the problem, affect both the customer relationship in B2C, as well as inter-company in B2B and, if we push it further a bit, companies and employees in B2E.

So, I want to end, once and for all, this mix of genres but also, its most painful flaw: gurus and pseudo-experts. I’ve already written many articles about marketing influencers and pseudo-experts on my personal blog, but I hadn’t done synthesis yet.

Self-proclaimed influence

Let’s render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s: it was by reading a blog post by Hervé Monier entitled: “Self-proclaimed influencer, true expert or ambassador: which BtoB influencer are you?” . It’s based on the WHITE Paper by CMIT (the Club of Tech Marketers), associated with the agency Faber Conten. The title is: “The B2B influence, a story of guru, opinion leader or expert”.

It was after reading both the post and the White Paper, that my own synthesis really gelled and imposed itself.

The influence in B2B marketing has absolutely nothing to do with the influence that is currently ruling on social networks, especially on YouTube and Instagram platforms. The majority of marketing influencers are in fact, “self-proclaimed” or anointed by the number of subscribers or views, whether real or not.

In a recent post on this blog, we wrote about the real influencers:

“Here, we are in another league. No fashion victims, foodies, hotel rats or starlets in need of selfies on Instagram and who “plug” products for cash, a lot of cash …
Here, it’s serious and this kind of influence is certainly monetized, but not in the outrageous way of the «neos» … The pros give conferences, write books, advise companies, teach in universities, get involved in their work environment. In short, are less in «slick appearance», for the most part. ”

Exit the stars and gurus

In fact, one of the first conclusion of the White Paper and widely shared by it’s various contributors is: «rather than “gurus”, “stars” or self-proclaimed “influencers”, most influencers in BtoB are above all, experts, passionate about their work and recognized as such by their community, with whom they appear “legitimate”.»

Ligits not by millions of followers, fake accounts, robots, etc., but by their professional community that may not be large but, has a huge influence.
On social networks, their “numbers” can be negligible, but their blogs and references can also be immense. But it’ still a nano-influence on the Web and social networks scale.

“Creators of original content for the most part, even talented aggregators of third-party content, (…) BtoB influencers are appreciated for what they propose, their relevant analysis and critical reading of the news in their sector … rather than their ability to raise their necks and get “promoted like soap”.

That being said (and especially written), it is difficult for a company to establish a B2B content marketing strategy that sets its success targets on influences. Using these experts is a long research process but also involves contacting and establishing a business-expert trust. This applies to one, imagine for many.

In B2B influence isn’t easy

B2C has easy influence, but not B2B. In fact, I even presume to write that it is more difficult than in B2E. Indeed, the use of internal experts is much easier even an expert “is not prophet in his country” because companies have difficult recognition … But not the employees among themselves, especially with the shy but growing internal uses of blogs or socio-professional networks (SPN).

So to finally get over with influencers is to write as I did here three years ago: ” In B2B marketing, as in communication or as on social networks, especially with a blog, it (influence) stems in my opinion, from a long meticulous research of work. Also from originality of purpose and writing and, a mixture of factual analysis and opinion. Much like natural referencing, the capital of influence and credibility is built one post at a time! »

And also to quote Sama Hyder’s most recent post in Forbes:

« Influencer marketing has traditionally been harder to crack for B2B companies than for its B2C cousins—but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. »

The headline is that it’s “The Next Hottest Thing in B2B Marketing.” I do not agree with this sensational title but for the most part, her post confirms what I just wrote. Its nano-influencers, who are between one thousand and five thousand followers, are our experts with a limited audience.

If you have any questions or comments or, would like to share with us your experiences with influences in B2B, write to us. We’d like to share!