The Secrets to Communicating Successfully With a B2B Audience

Communicating with a B2B audience is a skill in itself – unlike in the consumer world, where you can seemingly get away with scattering exaggerated claims at random, the B2B audience is much more discerning.

So, what do they expect and how do you go about connecting with these tough customers?

The first step is to understand where your target audience is in their customer journey. Where they are will determine your approach and how much of a hard sell you can do.

For example, they may be just gathering information and may not know what technology or solutions they need to meet their challenge. In this case, you need to offer objective advice on what to look for or explain the different technology options available. You can still point them in the direction of your offer, but this needs to be done subtly.

Prospects further along the journey may be comparing solutions or may well be ready to buy. You can then show why your solution offers more than your rivals, or further encourage their choice of your product with case studies or details of your service offerings.

Prove what you say

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to let your communications become full of overblown marketing speak – the solution you are promoting may well be ‘innovative’, ‘ground-breaking’ or even ‘unique’, but only say so if you can back it up with evidence.

A related point is to always give the facts, preferably in numbers – don’t talk in general terms about how your solution ‘impacts the bottom line’ or ‘optimizes energy use’. Tell them that it increases profits by X percent or saves Y kilowatt hours a year.

Talk the talk

It’s also important to talk on the same technical level, particularly when addressing engineers. Use the terms that their industry uses every day – but show you know what they mean by using them in the right context. Similarly, don’t dumb down – it’s fine to set the scene in the introduction of an article but there’s no need to get too basic and start explaining PLCs and PID to an audience of control engineers, for example.

You also need to have a clear idea of who is making the decision on a new solution or product. The decision-making unit may be made up of users, maintenance staff, production managers and financial people.

Each of these different personas faces different challenges and so your offering will need to address the needs of all of them – usability, ease of maintenance, access to data, expandability, value for money or potential for saving time, energy and money.

Plan for success

There are plenty of tactics you can use in a B2B campaign - offers of downloadable content, running surveys, posting online demos and videos, researching and writing case studies and white papers – but without an overall marketing strategy, you may as well not use any of them.

Building a marketing strategy can fall into four discrete steps.

Step one is to layout your own position, what you or your client offers that no one else can.

Step two is building an in-depth profile of the people you are trying to sell to. Know who they are, what their challenges are and what they will respond to.

Step three is to draw up goals. Set a timeline or schedule for quarterly or yearly goals and make sure success is easy to measure and gauge – e.g., we achieved ten new sales leads in the first two weeks.

Step four is to draw up the tactics you’ll use to achieve these goals by the scheduled dates you’ve set. The personas you’ve identified should help you decide how best to reach them, what you can offer them when they contact you and how each tactic fits into the buyer’s journey.

Appropriate content

After identifying the channels to use, you ‘ll need to have an appropriate content offer for it. For example, e-mail is addressed to a particular contact, so you need to offer something that you are confident that person has a chance of responding to – you might want to direct the contact to a landing page to download a white paper with information you know is a hot topic in their industry.

Social media is more general and less specific, so a link to a quick video of your new machine in operation at a customer’s plant might be ideal to grab someone’s attention. This is different again to a trade journal, where an in-depth article on particular technologies or new legislation affecting an industry might be what people are looking for.

Above all, measure results to learn what works. The KPIs you set can include website traffic growth, new customers generated or how many visitors have been converted into leads.

Making the time to communicate with your audience in the way they expect, and planning how you will go about it, is the best route to success in any B2B campaign.


Top 5 Marketing Applications for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making inroads into many aspects of both industry and everyday life and marketing is no exception. As a powerful analytics and decision-making tool, AI can take much of the drudgery away from optimizing campaigns, as well as providing better insights about potential customers and how to serve them better.

Analysing Pay per Click

One of the major uses for AI in marketing is in PPC advertising. AI PPC tools take your data and combine it with their own, analyze it and make recommendations. It works by finding phrases your competitors are using and flags up opportunities you may have missed. It will point out search terms you could be using in your own campaigns.

The tool can then take these phrases and run them against Google’s own algorithm, making further suggestions. This can be done in real-time, allowing you to optimize your PPC strategy hour-by-hour and day-by-day, without the need to make manual adjustments.

Another related challenge is knowing where to place adverts and messaging. Programmatic advertising platforms use machine learning to bid on the most relevant ad space. Using data on interests, locations and purchase history, the platforms allow marketing teams to target the right channels for their campaign at the correct time.

Social media

Social media has taken the word by storm and has become one of the major tools in the marketer’s toolbox. In fact, it is probably today’s biggest and most dynamic form of marketing.

AI can do a great deal to make it even more useful, with tools to autogenerate social media content as well as automatically including hashtags and short links to other content. AI also offers tools to automatically schedule social media shares and for some types of social media, it can help create ads and manage them in minutes.

Tools exist to optimize social media campaigns and discover which posts work best using advanced analytics. AI can also be used to measure trends across each social media channel and find the target audience you are looking for.

It can also analyse what is being said on social media, making use of techniques such as Natural language Processing, or NLP, to analyse what is being said about your product and help determine the level of customer satisfaction you are achieving. Using this data, AI can track mentions of your brand, find emerging trends, new audiences and keep track of your reputation.

Predictive analysis

Understanding what someone is likely to want next is a major goal of marketers, who can then respond with timely content or offers to suit a potential customer’s needs.

AI can help marketers assess how likely it is that a user would use a service or buy a product. It can also predict which products are more likely to generate interest as well as finding the most brand loyal customers and those who might possibly turn to other vendors or providers.

Understanding the types of products, a customer will be looking for and when allows marketers to position campaigns more accurately.

AI can also help marketing teams track ROI, allowing them to see which campaigns contributed most.

Lead scoring

AI is great at uncovering things that affect whether or not someone is likely to become a customer. For example, machine learning models can score marketing leads using a wide variety of factors. This can help the model learn about the leads that became opportunities and those that went further to actually create revenue.

Each lead can be evaluated and scored by looking at customer behaviour, company size, industry and other factors, resulting in a ranked list of leads that sales representatives can follow up. AI can also provide reason codes for each lead, allowing sales to see the key factors that make the lead valuable. This ensures that sales get the highest quality leads, helping them achieve quotas more quickly and giving lower sales costs.

Language processing

The ability of AI systems to process and analyse human language allows the input from the customer to be converted into something that can produce the correct response or content.

NLP allows chatbots to augment customer service agents, allowing customers with more basic queries to be answered cost-effectively with immediate, accurate answers. The scans use historical data and previous answers to give personalized results for each customer. Customer service agents can then use their time to deal with complicated enquiries that require the human touch.

Advances in speech recognition and NLP have allowed Google to achieve a speech recognition accuracy rate of 95 per cent, leading to searches becoming better and improving consumer experience.

AI is opening up a whole new world of opportunities for marketers, bringing powerful tools and techniques that ensure campaigns are more targeted, cost-effective and above all, successful.


Straight Talking is the Way to Get to Engineers

In B2B marketing, we are very often communicating with engineers – but how can we do this effectively and what kind of approach will work with them?

Engineers spend their time dealing with hard facts – if they don’t get things right or achieve the right degree of precision, the project can fail. In the worst-case scenario this can result in death or serious injury to users. So, they need to deal with things as they are, not how they want them to be.

This means that when talking to engineers, we need to adopt the same approach – give them actual verifiable facts about your product. With their objective approach, engineers do not like ‘marketing puff’. Although they are happy to know why you think your product is amazing, you have to back this up with real data.

They are also a sceptical bunch. Engineers have seen it all before and will have experience of products, equipment, techniques and their own designs not living up to expectations. They will tend to doubt any extraordinary claim, so be prepared to put your arguments forward rationally if you want to persuade them. They certainly won’t be impressed by excited advertising.

A numbers game

Similarly, engineers love proof in the form of numbers. Their profession is based on them, and they use them as a fundamental part of their daily work. Measuring, collecting data and drawing up plans depend on numbers. They need to be precise to ensure products are the right size or have the correct performance or fit with other components.

This is why your communications should be heavy on the numbers – show what performance your product can achieve, how many percent it is better than the alternative or how much time it can save.

Don’t be afraid to go into too much detail - engineers want to see all the specifications of your product or the details of how your service will benefit them, so make sure all the information is available for them to access.

Precision in all things

As well as numbers, language must also be precise. To engineers, using words with accurate meaning is important. Many industries have their own particular jargon, words that convey a lot of information to people in the know. To communicate with engineers, you must know the definition of the words in common use in their specific industry sector and use them correctly in the right context.

Also don’t be too disappointed if your well-crafted LinkedIn post doesn’t receive a host of replies and comments. Engineers can be reticent about giving praise and will tend to give it only if fully justified. This means that when you do get favourable comments from them, they are all the more valuable for being sincerely felt.

That said, engineers love technology and the effect it can have. By sticking to the facts of what your solution can do and the great benefits it can offer, you can get them on side and as excited about what it can do for them as you are.

 


A Guide to Successful PPC Campaigns

Many people may have heard the phrase pay per click (PPC) advertising, but what is it exactly and how can we use it?

At the most basic level, pay per click advertising is where you pay only when someone clicks on an ad and not when someone simply sees an ad. Traditionally, in most publications, when you buy space, you buy on a ‘per impression’ basis, so you pay when people see the ad.

By contrast, with pay per click, you pay when somebody actually clicks on the ad. In reality it’s not quite as simple as that, because there are various other models you can use that are all included within that pay per click. So, you can actually measure conversions and pay for conversions, for example.

Typically, you see pay per click in areas such as Google search, or Bing search. You see it on social media platforms as well as with retargeting and a bit on display, where you’re not targeting a particular publication but rather you’re perhaps targeting an audience across a range of publications.

The major benefit of a pay per click campaign is you’re only paying when somebody takes an action - when somebody clicks on your ad. In theory, that should mean that you’re actually paying for valuable traffic to your website, rather than just paying to show the ad to people who may or may not be relevant.

But again, it’s not quite that simple - start actually running pay per click campaigns, and you’ll very quickly find that a lot of people click on ads that they have no interest in, and there’s a lot of spam clicks happening. Also, you’ll find that there is value in actually showing the ad and changing people’s perception. So, it’s not quite as simple as just saying, you pay for results, rather than paying for actually showing the ad.

What’s your approach?

The success you can achieve does depend on the approach - if you are buying displays in a certain publication, all you’re doing is buying their traffic. Essentially, what you are doing is showing ads to people who read this sort of content and that can be very effective. We know that advertising in industrial publications works well, so there are benefits there.

However, you might also end up advertising to quite a broad audience when what you really want to do is target a very focused one.

For example, looking at a classic industrial title that appeals to a very broad range of people. Typically, if you’re running ads on this type of publication, you might be reaching a lot of people who are never going to be customers. And, because you’re paying by impressions, you’re paying for people who see your ad even though they won’t be a customer.

Pay per click is very different because then you’re paying for people to interact, so the quality of contact is much higher.

There are some really important things to remember about pay per click. The first is that almost all pay per click is done on a bidding basis on a real-time auction. And literally every time the ad is shown, there’s an auction to decide which ad is shown.

Companies like Google are looking to optimise the revenue they get, so they’ll look at your bid to see how much you’re prepared to spend on the ad. But they’ll also look at your click-through rate and the ad performance. Essentially, the value of your ad to Google is your click-through rate times your bid per click, which gives them an idea of how much money they’ll make.

This may sound very good – you’re advertising to a wide audience, and only paying for the clicks. The danger is, you’ll pay more for the clicks. So, there are lots of subtle differences - is it better to pay for clicks, is it better to pay for impressions? Actually, it’s better to have a really good campaign that targets the audience you want to reach really well.

If you look at the platforms that run pay per click, that’s possibly the biggest reason for choosing the method. Google talks a lot about intent, so if somebody searches for a motor drive, then the chances are, they’re actually looking to buy that product. So, you’re actually reaching someone with an ad at the point when they’re considering that particular product. The intent has huge value, more value than pay per click compared to pay per impression.

Equally, if you look at some of the social platforms, you can be very precise in who you target. For example, with LinkedIn, you can target down to specific companies, specific job titles, specific countries, and be really accurate with who you’re trying to reach. Again, that very detailed demographic for your targeting can actually be worth more than the factor of doing pay per click rather than pay per impression.

Design your campaign

When it comes to designing a pay per click campaign, our Napier four step process works very well. This process starts with the determine phase, where we analyse the situation. We’re also trying to work out how to outsmart the competition.

The next phase is focus, which is about the audience, the message and the channels. With pay per click, this is where we would decide to run a pay per click campaign, and which channels we choose to use.

Next is the deliver stage, which is about getting results. And lastly, we have the enhance stage.

The enhance stage is very important in pay per click, because the method is so suited to experimentation, particularly as you’re running these campaigns on a self-service platform – because you can deliver the ads you want, you can change them to test and experiment.

Working through a pay per click campaign, you start with the determine phase to look at what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re trying to achieve newsletter signups or datasheet downloads, you’d recognise that this is what you’re trying to do. And you want to identify what you’re trying to affect, whether it’s trying to find people who are looking to develop designs or just finding people who are looking for background information.

As you go through the focus stage, you then look at the audience itself - are you looking for engineers, senior engineers? Are you looking for VPs of engineering? Determine your audience and also look at the message you want to give them – this is where you start building the ad campaign.

For example, we’ve decided that we’re targeting people who are looking to buy motor drives - wherever people are searching for drives, we want to show our ad. And here you start building an understanding of the audience you want to reach, so we would absolutely always build personas, and customer journeys and work out where the search comes in the customer journey, and why that individual might be searching.

Once we know what the intent is, why they’re doing the search and what they want, then we can serve an ad that’s relevant to their needs.

At that point, we can also decide the channels if it’s a search campaign. Clearly, it will probably be running on Google as the biggest searcher, but there are also a lot of campaigns that run successfully on Bing, so there are ways to also look beyond Google if you feel your persona is less likely to use it.

Obviously, in the enhance stage we would set objectives, so, we might be looking for newsletter signups. Initially, we probably have an idea of how much we value a sign up, so we might be prepared to pay, for example, $40. For a sign up, we can then measure the performance of our campaign against our target, which is cost per sign up. That will allow us to optimise, and we can run testing as well as we enhance the campaign to make it run more effectively.

Homing in

What if we apply this to a more specific scenario? For example, we may be looking to target the top 20 companies in the semiconductor market to offer our services in marketing and PR.

So, if we look at what we’re trying to achieve with our campaign, we’d probably be looking to get some engagement with a certain proportion of those top 20 semiconductor manufacturers - our goal for the campaign or objective might be to get one or two phone calls.

This is important, because that’s not something that’s directly measurable. When running a pay per click campaign, it’s something you need to add in at the end as to whether you’ve got those calls.

We then say, what do we want to do? We want to target these people but who are they? The people we want to target are probably marketing managers, PR managers, VPs of marketing at those companies, so we know their demographics, their job title and we know the company names.

And then once we know who they are, what are we trying to tell them?  Knowing who they are is pointing us towards using LinkedIn as our platform. And through the messaging we’d focus on how Napier can provide a differentiated service compared to some of the other agencies that might be used by these companies.

But, once you’ve got that core campaign, you might decide to add other things. For example, we may know that a particular agency has a very high proportion of those top 20 semiconductor companies, so we could advertise against searches for that agency’s name. So, there may be a way to actually then interject in the search, to interrupt people and get them to think about other agencies.

We’d obviously have our metric of calls and with the enhance part of the campaign, we’d be looking at whether we can walk people through steps towards those calls. And those steps might include registration or a contact form inquiry, it might include engagement with emails, and then the actual call itself. So, there might be several steps after the pay per click measurement that we can look at and measure and then use to improve and enhance the performance.

A fellow traveller with Account Based Marketing

Quite often pay per click is based around account-based marketing, and when doing LinkedIn, it’s almost always some form of ABM, because you’re typically focusing either on a target customer list or on particular markets. There is a huge overlap between pay per click and ABM because of the capabilities of a lot of the platforms. When you’re doing this, it’s important not to think about pay per click as the goal. It’s not that you’re trying to run a pay per click campaign - you’re trying to achieve business goals.

If for example, we were trying to win one of the top 20 semiconductor suppliers as a client for Napier, we would not simply run pay per click that might form a big part of our campaign - we would also be looking at what other tactics might support that ABM approach. That could be anything from direct postal mail at one end through to a platform that lets you target by IP address to actually reach specific companies. So, it’s all about understanding your personas, the people you’re trying to reach and what would be most effective for them? What would make the biggest difference?

Measuring up

When we look at measuring a campaign like this, the first thing most people will do is look at a screen full of numbers or download a spreadsheet about the campaign’s performance on the platform they are using.

It’s really important not to be a slave to all these numbers, because they can be very enticing - you get these percentages with two decimal points after it, but they’re actually not that accurate.

One of the things we’ve done at Napier is build an A/B test calculator, which lets you understand whether differences between ads are due to randomness, or actually likely to be due to a real difference in performance. Very often, we see people looking at the numbers, making assumptions and making decisions that feel good, because they’ve got all these very precise feeling numbers, but which are actually not statistically significant.

The most important thing is, whilst you want to use the numbers as a tool, your goal is the objective you set, when you conducted that determine phase - start with what you want to achieve. It’s all about looking at how you’re moving your prospects towards that end business goal - it’s about understanding that, rather than just trying to get numbers that look good.

Start your search

As another example, what if were looking to launch a search campaign, targeting people who are planning to use thermal imaging cameras? How would we apply our process in this scenario?

We might decide, for example, to target people who search for thermal cameras. That’s an easy thing to do as, probably, people searching for them want to buy them.

But there’s a wide range of thermal cameras. So perhaps you want to target for example, brand names. The market leader is FLIR in this market, so perhaps you want to target FLIR or some of their brand names, or maybe you want to target Fluke, which is number two, and again, target those brands.

You can start looking at specific products, but that might not be the right way to go about it, because, people typically are not buying a thermal camera because they’ve been told a thermal camera is the thing to have, they’re buying a thermal camera to solve a problem.

Quite often we see people, rather than trying to target brands, which can be a little bit late in the process, trying to target a competitor’s brand when someone’s searching for it - they’ve probably made the decision, but you can look at some of the applications.

One example might be people using thermal cameras to detect problems in electrical panels, which can show up as hotspots on thermal cameras. You could look for terms around thermal inspection of panels or thermal inspection of electrical panels and that would be a great way to put your brand top of mind when somebody starts thinking about buying a thermal camera to solve a particular problem.

However, you could go even go further back - there might be people who don’t understand the benefits of thermal cameras when they are trying to check panels or make sure that they’re working correctly. This means we can advertise around for example, just looking at panels and finding problems on panels, rather than somebody specifically looking for thermal cameras.

What you’re then doing is really talking about top of the funnel - they know they’ve got a problem, but they don’t actually know the solution. You can present content that actually provides a solution and obviously presents your solution in the best possible light.

Retargeting can also work

Retargeting is something that would be effective with this as well. For LinkedIn, people can understand the value of retargeting, but in search, the whole point is that it’s all about intent, people are trying to find something at a particular time.

But incredibly, you get a lot of people who don’t convert - if you retarget those people, they will come back, and they will convert on seeing your subsequent ads. So, they’re actually converting at a time when, theoretically, we don’t know they have intent. We know they had intent in the past, but we don’t know they need the product.

This is really down to the fact that most decisions in B2B tech actually take quite a long time to make, so, quite often, the intent phase is where people are actually analysing what products to buy, they’re doing selection. And so, what the retargeting does is keeps you top of mind and keeps you in front of that customer, all the way through from that initial start of selection to the actual purchase. This means that retargeting can have a big effect, and a very surprisingly positive impact on search ads, as well as things like LinkedIn, and other social media platform ads.

Almost all retargeting is run as pay per click, so it’s something that is quite often undervalued.

Don’t make these mistakes

Mistakes cover such a huge range of different areas. At one end, we see people making some fairly basic mistakes, but making them incredibly frequently. For example, we’ll see companies that are targeting ads globally - they might only sell in a couple of countries, but I’ve seen companies where the top 10 countries where they’re spending money are actually 10 countries where they’ve never sold a product. So, understanding the platform and configuring it correctly so you’re not making mistakes like this is really important.

It then comes down to not really being driven by just the platform, but actually putting some thought into it yourself - really trying to think and understand. That’s particularly important when it comes to things like numbers - don’t be a slave to the numbers from the platform, think beyond the platform and the click-through rates, because they’re not always the full story, so try and get a much broader, a much wider picture.

There are lots of other individual mistakes that can be made. One that is surprisingly common actually is breaking the rules - all of these platforms will have rules about what you can and can’t do and quite often, companies will run ads that will break the rules.

For example, we talked about targeting competitors - you can absolutely target competitors and search for example, even if that search is a trademark, but you can’t use the trademark in your ad according to Google’s rules.

We also see issues with what we might call inconsistent interpretation of the rules. There are always situations where people are running ads that should be allowed but Google disallows them or vice versa and, in that margin, there are quite often problems.

To blow our own trumpet, people should come to agencies that know and understand pay per click, because they can help you avoid all the problems that do occur.

Tips for clicks

When it comes to tips on how to deliver a successful pay per click advertising campaign, the first thing you’ve got to do is understand the audience and pick the right channel for the campaign - if you’re offering deeply complex white papers, then maybe Tik Tok is not the right platform to offer it on and perhaps you want to offer it on something more professional like LinkedIn.

But, if you’re offering retargeting and just trying to keep top of mind, then maybe do try Tik Tok or Facebook, and see if that works. Essentially, understand the audience and choose the right channel.

The next thing is, don’t rely on the channels to optimise for you. There are lots of optimizations that can be incredibly helpful, but if you just switch everything to auto, you will end up with a very broad audience and won’t be very focused.

By widening the audience, sometimes you know exactly who you want to target - you want to target those people, not anybody else, or you want to target very specific searches, you don’t want a broad match. This can be extremely dangerous in B2B, because you can go from a term that has only a few searches, but absolutely identifies the audience you want to reach, to a term that has many, many searches from people who are never going to be customers.

Use the tools, but don’t let them create or drive the campaign. We’ve talked about test and optimise. That’s really important. Keep testing, keep optimising. At Napier, we often run an A/B test and have little informal bets about which ad is going to win. And quite often we’re wrong - we’ll see an ad winning for reasons that we never expected.

So, trust the numbers when it comes to testing, and make sure you think about it from the audience’s side, not from your personal opinion.

And I always say use negatives, as excluding companies and LinkedIn campaigns are really important.

For example, if you’re looking for customer acquisition, you want to exclude all the companies that are already customers, because you probably want different messages for companies already customers, but particularly on search as well, negative keywords are incredibly powerful. So, use those negatives to rule out the people who aren’t relevant.

Lastly, track what matters. Make sure that you’re tracking conversions, if you can track things electronically, or if not track it manually with business goals, whether that’s customer acquisition, whether it’s meetings, whether it’s opportunities to quote. Track what matters and try and link that back to what you’re actually doing in the campaign, because the closer you get to the business result, the more impact you’re going to get from your campaign.

To find out more about what B2B marketers should consider when implementing a PPC campaign, watch our ‘The Secrets to a Successful PPC Campaign’ webinar on-demand.

 

 


Increase Sales With These Five ABM Campaigns

You may have heard a lot of mentions of account-based marketing (ABM), but not be entirely sure what it is, how to use it and what your campaign should consist of.

If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place - as well as explaining what ABM is, this blog explores five campaigns you can use that will directly increase your sales using ABM techniques.

So what is ABM? According to Marketo, account-based marketing is a focused approach to B2B marketing, in which marketing and sales teams work together to target best fit accounts and turn them into customers.

This means that we are really focusing on those companies that are most likely to become the best customers. This is really what drives ABM’s effectiveness and success.

But there are different types of ABM. For example, strategic ABM, which is basically a highly customised programme for individual accounts.

There is also ABM lite. In this, you cluster accounts together that might have similar issues or needs and build campaigns to suit those clusters.

Finally, there is programmatic ABM, which uses technology to allow you to tailor marketing campaigns for specific accounts at scale. Programmatic ABM lets you move from having a relatively small number of accounts to having a very large number of accounts, without needing huge marketing teams.

When it comes to practical ABM campaigns at Napier, we have a certain amount of overlap between the types, a kind of blend of two or more different approaches, to create an ABM programme that works for a particular client.

But why is ABM so effective? It’s because focusing allows your marketing to break through the noise - you can actually have a much higher frequency of interaction with individuals within the target accounts.

As such, it really lets you target ROI opportunities. Also, if your marketing is generating a certain conversion rate, the value of those conversions goes up the more you focus on key accounts. You can design campaigns to reach the right people, particularly with the customised ABM campaigns. And finally, one of the things that ABM is very important for is making use of synergies by sales.

So, ABM allows for very effective, personalised campaigns, particularly those using a mix between the ABM lite and strategic ABM. You can either do target accounts, which grounds you in the needs and requirements of a particular industry, or you can fully personalise and get down to individuals - typically, most ABM campaigns have personalization on the industry level and maybe personalization on the persona level too. But if you have a really major target, you can take that full strategic and personalised ABM approach.

What ABM is ultimately about is building trust with your customer by showing that you know what challenges they are facing.

Don’t sweat it

Although definitions of different types of campaigns are helpful, there is no hard and fast rule of which type of campaign to run. In fact, you need to be a bit relaxed with ABM. The goal is not to ‘do ABM’ – it is to get benefits from better targeting and integration, and better integration with sales is always a good thing.

The first question we need to ask is, should that client account be in our ABM programme? The answer is it really depends on the type and size of ABM programme you are running. If you’re launching your ABM campaign using 1000 companies, you can make it work before you scale up - it depends on your resources, technology, people and money. The great thing about ABM is it allows you to serve a very large number of accounts - if you don’t have the programmatic technology, you’re not going to be able to scale.

As well as adopting it at scale, you also have the choice of focusing on fewer accounts, the best two or three prospects.

It really is a balancing act. And how much you personalise the campaign can also affect the amount of work you do. Sales support can also have an impact, both within the campaign content and in which account to follow up.

How many accounts should be in your ABM programme?

Again, there is no right or wrong answer. Different campaigns will have very different list sizes leading to different tactics. Also, it should be noted that ABM campaigns are not just for new prospects – you should also run them for existing customers.

Ultimately, it’s all about a campaign that’s going to meet your needs, and help your business achieve its goals.

So, what are the actual elements of ABM campaigns, how can they work and how can they be more efficient – how do we actually run ABM rather than running more of a broadcast type approach?

Target your advertising

The first technique is targeted advertising. This is a really simple approach, but it means that you can provide advertising that your contacts care about. It also means you can do some customizations, so you could address for example, specific pain points. There are many different ways to run adverts, with LinkedIn being a typical way to generate leads.

On LinkedIn you would most probably promote content, offering other activities for the customer, for example, a webinar.

How you approach personalization really depends on how you want your brand to appear. You can put the target account’s name in the headline, or in a sentence, or target by industry or by company name plus the sector.

Personalization does involve a bit of manual work. There are tool sets available, but typically, there’s no end-to-end solution for creating and delivering ads. This is why we’ll continue to see ads personalised on the fly as they are delivered to potential customers. Ultimately, what it means for us is we’ll probably see our companies’ names in more and more ads as people target us.

Targeted advertising is a very simple approach, particularly if you’re looking at industry sector targeting, as you can reach them all with a single advert.

Content offers

Essentially, this is about creating particularly relevant downloadable content, either market specific content, or fully personalised. There are lots of tools that can create dynamic PDFs, ranging from simply putting your target customer’s logo on it to actually completely changing the content within a PDF.

An example campaign that we ran at Napier, was focussed on Nokia, showcasing the work we’ve done with some of the Nokia divisions to encourage others to work with us.

With your campaigns, you really need to understand how much personalization you can do without becoming a little bit creepy, as some people may be a bit uncomfortable dealing with such content.

Show them you know them

Very much related to a content offer is personalization in general. And the big issue here is looking at how you personalise elements for the customer.

Try to go beyond the basics of ‘Hello first name’ and look at the job role the person might play in the decision-making unit, perhaps look to understand the buyer’s journey stage and their past engagement with you. If you know the pages that someone has visited, you can get a good idea of where they might be on their buyer’s journey. You can then deliver personalization to suit their stage.

There are lots of different personalisation tools. Marketing automation platforms can provide website dynamic content, email personalisation and segmentation. But there’s also IP based and cookie-based website personalization.

Another option is dynamic email. The great thing about this is it’s always done automatically, so we can deliver content to each client in the full email without having to edit once we’ve set up the email.

A great mailer

Another approach would be a great mailer. This is maybe a little odd, but as people return to the office it can work really well. ABM allows them to be high value and high impact – it’s really about creativity, so go beyond the printed card, and do something very clever.

Often these are called door openers – on one campaign we ran for prospective clients, we sent a stone from the beach, with a message of ‘we’d love to work with you, you’re only a stone’s throw away.’

This resulted in us convincing the company to work with us, and the marketing manager posted a blog saying the reason he gave us the business was the creativity of the mailer, and not our pitch.

Mailers can be really useful and there are different services that will actually automate your mailers for you. These include Alice, which is very well known in the States, but which currently also operates in the UK and across Europe.

Personalised video

Consider using video personalization. It’s easy to create a video and they can be personalised manually.

You can automatically convert it with something as simple as adding in somebody to the video and a button saying ‘click here’ that lead to a personalised document. There are also services to help you personalize video at scale, such as Vidyard and Motionlab.

Give free stuff

A bonus idea is to give a freebie – a ‘give to get’ approach, where you give them something and they feel morally indebted to you and much more likely to take the sale. It’s very simple to do because you can do it with vouchers electronically (for example a Starbucks voucher to get a coffee together) and it also scales very easily. Definitely put the effort into personalization if you are spending money on vouchers.

Avoid the pitfalls

There are certainly pitfalls to avoid. These include having too many accounts on the programme or having too few; and remember there is a difference between personalisation and being creepy - don’t ever cross the creepy line.

Another pitfall is not having enough investment to break through the noise that bombards people with messages every day. Also, don’t focus on the tools – ABM is about achieving marketing breakthrough and the tools are just there help you achieve that.

Failing to personalise, failing to integrate sales and marketing and not putting in place measurement processes are also major mistakes.

Key Pro Tips

To end, I wanted to share these key pro tips: Remember, all B2B marketing will become ABM in the future, so get on board. Start small, be creative and see if your ideas work. And if they do work, scale them up. Definitely use the technology but don’t be driven by any technology or tool.

And don’t forget to get the sales team excited - the great thing about ABM is it can generate sales results, which is what we all want to see.

 

For further information on ABM campaigns and techniques you can implement to be successful, why not check out our 'Five ABM Campaigns to Increase Sales' webinar. 


An In-depth Look into Lead Nurturing: The Good, The Bad, and The Non-Existent

How do companies nurture their leads? Do they do it well, badly, not at all?

To answers these questions, we invented an employee, Freddie Fox, and sent him out into the world to sign up for various companies to see how they would treat him. During February 2021, Freddie registered with 21 different companies. But he did not respond to any communications from those companies apart from double opt-in emails, because we wanted to see how those companies treated him and how they went about trying to retain his interest.

The companies ranged quite widely, with a number in the area of industrial technology with products such as motors and drives, a couple of companies that offer software development tools, and a couple in the electronic component space. We also looked at the marketing automation area and requested data from six different marketing automation companies. Three were business software companies, and a couple of other sorts of companies were also thrown into the mix.

The ways to subscribe to the companies also showed some variation - some just wanted an email address and you were on the list, while others required quite a lot of information, such as phone number and how you heard about the company, your role and type of business.

But Freddie only filled in one form per company – so who failed to even follow up Freddie’s initial contact? Fully five out of the 21 failed to respond to Freddie – INVT, Softstart UK, Rotronic, Clever-touch and NetSuite.

Because Freddie obviously isn't a real person, it was hard to track whether any of these companies called us - some may have tried to get hold of Freddie, decided that he wasn't at the company, and then decided not to send an email.

However, we suspect that most of them simply did not have an email follow up process in place. In fact, these companies have no lead nurturing, which clearly puts them behind. So, just by following up, a company can be in the top 75% with just one email.

One thing worth mentioning is that Clevertouch, a marketing technology company, failed to follow up. Although there could have been some problems with the data from the form being uploaded to the company's database, you would hope that wouldn't happen.

When we look at the number of follow ups per company, six sent just one email – the companies here were a bit of a mix, industrial automation, electronics components, and some of the business companies. Then we start seeing more and more emails. Videojet sent two, then there's a group of companies that sent three. At the high end is Adobe – here Freddie actually filled in a form on the page for Marketo, an Adobe company and from both we received a total of 15 emails.

In the space of two months, HubSpot sent 17 emails and Dotdigital sent 11. The interesting thing Is that Dotdigital, Adobe and HubSpot are all marketing automation companies. As such, they all have access to a vast amount of data that shows what works not only for them, but also for their customers. So, it's very reasonable to assume that these companies know that following up with multiple emails is more effective, which is why they're sending so many.

By contrast, the fact that a lot of the industrial companies are sending very few emails probably doesn’t do much for the performance they're getting, so sending more would make a big difference.

Another interesting thing was that almost half the companies used more than one email address. Many used different corporate email addresses, but a lot of them, particularly companies that were more sales focused, had individual salespeople emailing. Looking at some of the campaigns, we felt that some of the best actually use these multiple email addresses very effectively.

All the emails were sent Monday to Friday, in extended working hours, from about eight in the morning, through to about five o'clock, with no real consistency in time.

So, we can’t say people running good campaigns were sending emails at a different time to people running campaigns that were not so good.

Earlier we mentioned the double opt in. A couple of companies did this - you signed up on a form, then received an email asking you to confirm that you want to sign up. These emails are pretty functional, not heavy on graphics, but very straight to the point and a slightly different approach. KEB, an industrial technology company, sent an email with the option of just subscribing to the list, whereas Dotdigital gave an option of signing up or reporting abuse - you would assume that most people, once they've gone to the effort of signing up, would probably be quite happy to click on the email.

Dotdigital also used the opportunity to say thank you for signing up and actually offered some resources - as a user, clicking on a link to sign up, and just getting an email back saying it worked isn't a great experience. So, Dotdigital made good use of the opportunity - having someone sign up and request information is a huge opportunity for a company. If you don't take advantage of it, then you're definitely missing out.

Different strokes for different folks

There were some different approaches to delivering information - some of the requests Freddie sent were for content, some were white papers. Not all companies would send these, but they sent an email, even if you could download from the landing page. Pardot not only gave the opportunity to click on and download from the email, but they also had some marketing information and an opportunity to see the tool in action, a highly graphical approach.

This compares with Protocol, another marketing automation company, which offered an email with no graphics, but which was much easier to use, so you could very easily click to download the eBook you'd requested.

Pardot sent the email from a generic email address, whereas Protocol actually sent the email from a named person, so you do get some personal involvement.

One email from Testo was probably the biggest example of a missed opportunity. It sent quite a graphical email, but which only tells you how to download a PDF from the website.

Another approach was Videojet which sent an email from a generic email address, just saying, ‘someone will contact you’. There's nothing in here that's going to really add any value to the user. It's another massive, missed opportunity in a communication that you're pretty confident your prospect is going to open.

Nurturing flows

Looking at nurturing flows, the simplest flow that was more than one email was probably Testo, which had a double opt in. As soon as you click on that, they then send you the email we discussed earlier, with a download. Freddie obviously didn't do anything with this email, so three days later, the same email was sent with a reminder at the start of the subject line. Again, this is very much a wasted opportunity, as there's so much more that could have been done within that email in terms of offering additional content.

That was also the last communication from Testo.

Other companies had very complicated email flows, which I suspect was the result of multiple campaigns working together. For example, with Tableau we filled in a form, and got nothing for days, then two emails came together. And then we got nothing for six days. We then got an AI email after another two days, we got a personal email, then a white paper, and then we got another two emails sent together, so it's a really inconsistent process.

This is an example of where there can be problems with campaigns, particularly if a company is running multiple campaigns - running a promotion to the entire database, and also running a nurture flow can overload the user with emails.

If you're trying to do many things at once with your database, as well as nurturing, then it's really worth thinking about what the impact will be in terms of the user and what emails they receive.

One of the things worth mentioning is weekly newsletters. With Dotdigital, a market automation company, there were eight different categories of content that Freddie could request. He requested them all, but what he actually received was a weekly newsletter.

It's interesting to see that weekly newsletters are still alive and well - the blog posts do have content offers and newsletter signup forms, so there's an opportunity to engage. However, it was disappointing from an automation company that there wasn't really any personalization, or anything that really indicated that it was targeting any specific interest.

Adobe sent the second-highest number of emails, with over half of them being for online events as well as some specific content offers, and some newsletter style emails. But it shows that where companies are sending a lot of emails, they're not necessarily driven by classical nurturing campaigns - the digital experience conferences on the webinars were happening at certain times. So, Adobe is making use of signups to promote the events and also using templated designs and keeping it simple.

One of the things perhaps less good about Marketo was they sent us webinars and content offers with almost the same layout.

They obviously think that people receiving these emails are not going to be worried by seeing similar layouts, and we have to assume they have tested it. So, creating something from scratch and creating something custom is not always the right way to go with emails.

HubSpot was clearly very keen, as they kept emailing. They sent a blog newsletter every Wednesday interspersed with several other emails, making it hard to see any pattern. But HubSpot did have a strong brand identity, which was incredibly effective - it was always easy to pick out the HubSpot emails.

One thing to say, is people make mistakes and actually HubSpot made two, sending Freddie an email with the wrong subject line, as well as a duplicate of an email. But if you're running email marketing campaigns, you've got to accept that sometimes things go wrong. It probably isn't the end of the world but checking things like subject lines is vital.

How are engineering companies doing?

The most proactive companies are in marketing automation, but what about engineering companies? In general, these were pretty poor. An email from GE is a good example, which was a brochure. And that was it - there was no other follow up, no other interaction, which sets the bar pretty low for most engineering companies.

So, anything you do or try is probably going to set you ahead of most of your engineering-based competitors. It's really not hard to be competitive in an engineering environment and send better nurturing emails and better sequences than your competitors. Most of us are probably sending too few emails and sending those emails too infrequently when people request content.

Looking at the Perforce sales sequence, the first email they sent out was initial outreach, which asked technical questions about what Freddie needed. If I was an engineer, I would immediately respond very well to being asked questions that show someone's trying to understand my problem. This was a positive approach.

From our research, we found that the companies that are really engaging with their audiences are those running multiple events, and they're promoting those events to everybody on their database. This means that one of the ways to really increase the number of emails in a nurturing campaign is to have a consistent programme of events.

A question of style

One thing to say about styles is that nationality can matter - it was quite interesting to see that, for example, KEB is obviously a German company. However, as someone in the UK looking for a supplier, you’d probably want an email that felt much more local.

And clearly, if we've got emails coming through from Germany that don't feel local to us, then equally, as companies based in the UK or the US, you may be sending emails out to Europe that don't feel local either. This means it’s vital to consider how you make things feel a bit more local - what feels right to you won’t necessarily feel right to everyone else across the world.

Tips for top nurturers

To sum up, what tips would we give to companies seeking to boost their lead nurturing?

It may sound simple and obvious but the first thing to say is, start sending nurturing emails. Sending even two or three will put you ahead of most of your competition, and it will drive leads.

Looking at the marketing automation companies, they send much more frequently than everybody else, and with their access to huge amounts of data, this suggests you should send more frequently than you think is right. When looking at the emails, the plain text emails from individuals were really effective.

Also, don't overthink things – not everything has to have an amazing new design. Create email templates and use them, it clearly works. One of the things from our research was that HubSpot was very noticeable by its branding, which made the emails jump out, yet the templated approach can actually be more effective.

Don’t discount the old blog and newsletter approach. It's something a lot of people use and we know it works very well from our own experience.

And finally, as a bonus tip, we saw HubSpot make mistakes – so don't worry if you make a mistake, everyone does.

Interested in finding out more about how B2B technology companies use lead nurturing? Why not register for our on-demand webinar ‘Lead Nurturing, the Good, The Bad, and The Non-Existent, and join us as we analyse the strategy and emails used.

 

 

 


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Landing Pages

We’ve all seen them, responded to some and maybe written a few as well – but what really makes a good, effective landing page?

This was the question behind Napier’s latest webinar, which delved into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of landing pages.

The webinar set out to answer the question, ‘What makes a great landing page?’ – but first, let’s explore what a landing page is. We can define a landing page as first and foremost simply a web page, but one with a very specific purpose. It displays directed sales copy that is a logical extension of the advertisement, search result or link or whatever drove the user to that page. They are usually intended to generate sales leads.

So essentially, a landing page is the destination pointed to from a specific web search, that then offers something directly related to that search – a white paper, a report or some other useful collateral that the target audience will be attracted to. In the process of downloading the item, the user will give contact information that acts as a source of potential sales leads for the landing page owner.

When trying to answer the question of what makes a great landing page, the suggestions are numerous and varied and there are many ideas of best practice – people have offered ‘scent’, colours, pain and pleasure as elements of an effective landing page – but essentially, the mark of a good landing page is that it works. It maximizes the number of high-quality leads and minimizes the number of time wasters. Ultimately, conversions are what matter most.

A four-step process

When developing a landing page, Napier follows a unique four-step process: Determine, Deliver, Focus and Enhance.

Determine is the planning phase, during which you’ll decide what the goal of the landing page is, how it fits into the rest of the campaign and how its success will be measured.

Focus is all about the audience and what is driving them to your landing page. It also looks at what stage of the customer journey they are likely to be in – established customers can be very different from potential prospects.

Deliver is where you follow best practice to come up with a design that gets the customer response you want.

The Enhance stage is where you measure the effectiveness of the page and test any tweaks, though you may only be able to test one change in a particular campaign as the volume of B2B leads is likely to be small. Be prepared to test and test again over many different campaigns.

The ultimate message here is that no amount of design hacks will compensate for a poorly planned campaign.

The elements of a great design

Although we’ve said planning is paramount, there are design elements that you’ll need to stick with to build a landing page that has a chance of succeeding.

Firstly, it must fit the flow of the ad or link that drove people to the landing page. You’ll also need a great, compelling headline, one that really resonates with your audience.

You also need a clear layout so that readers can see what they are getting by downloading your content, as well a clear call to action that invites the user to do something. There is no need for subtly here – get people hitting that download button – put CTAs in the headlines, in the body copy and even on the form submission buttons, like ’get my whitepaper.’

Copy needs to very direct and concise and tell people exactly what they are getting. There should also be an ‘inescapable why’, the challenge or problem that is solved by your product or service.

And introduce some urgency – ‘download now’, ‘get your white paper today’. Also be sure to match the form fields to the offer – you may think shorter is better here but if you are offering a high value service or tool, people will expect to have to provide extensive information to obtain it.

Investigating landing pages

Our webinar presented research into companies offering the best landing pages, based on a search for the terms ‘10kW variable frequency drive’.

Three of the top results in the ad spots returned a product page, which made it difficult to see if they offered the desired product, while one took users to the home page with even less relevant information. Generally, a ‘product family’ landing page doesn’t flow, will have a weak headline, poor copy, a confusing layout and will not be optimised for lead generation.

The ‘home page’ type is if anything even worse, as it presents content that is unrelated to the original search, is confusing and has lots of distractions – the lesson is, don’t use your home page as your landing page.

Turning to the software industry, the webinar looked at results for the search term ‘static analysis tool;’ a type of software debugging.

Researching this term, we found a landing page complete with a form. Although a pretty standard layout, it falls down by telling us about static application security testing, not static analysis. There’s also a lot of different menu options which distracts from downloading the report.

Another company uses bullet points on its landing page, a very effective way to increase conversion rates. However, the headline was anything but compelling and doesn’t actually say what they’re offering - you have to read the text to do that. The body copy is also all about how amazing the company is, which undermines the objectivity of the white paper as an informative tool.

Yet another company’s page offers a demo rather than downloading a white paper. This is possibly not the first thing people looking for information will want – you may get people requesting it, but you’re not targeting the right audience and you could end up not only wasting their time but wasting your own time. The form also has completely redundant fields.

There is also an independent report or white paper type landing page. One company we looked at did a reasonable job of the landing page but covered a slightly different topic than what we were looking for. This is a mistake with landing pages - companies with a great content offer sometimes try and offer it too widely.

Other mistakes that companies fall prey to are poor language in the body copy or headline and offering the chance to flag what you are searching for on social media – users are not very likely to take you up on this.

Do marketing automation companies do it better?

We also looked at marketing automation companies, who by rights should be the experts at this kind of thing.

Our research found that SharpSpring, which isn’t a marketing automation agency, is running Google ads against marketing automation agency - SharpSpring is probably not getting great results from this particular search. This is because people don’t want a platform they’ve got to run themselves, they want an agency to do it for them.

The company are experts in marketing automation, but they send enquirers to their homepage, on which there is a special offer on how to unlock the potential of marketing automation. But again, I don’t actually want to unlock it - I want an agency to unlock that for me.

Yet, they also have more relevant calls to action, such as a free ebook about what is marketing automation. So, they do have some offers that will route to landing pages that have forms - by clicking on the ebook, you see a standard two-column landing page with a form that only asks for first name and email address, which is well worth considering. Once you’ve got that email address, you can keep communicating, asking more questions to understand more about that person.

SharpSpring also had a ‘download and read’ button – highlighting that you’re not just going to download an ebook, you’re actually going to get to read it, showcasing the benefits.

The other company that appeared on the Google Ads was a company called Clevertouch. Here, Clevertouch don’t actually direct to a specific landing page, they direct to the page that talks about their Marketo services. This will get people coming who are looking for a marketing automation agency, but they then get routed to a landing page that might immediately turn them off.

These are two very different approaches from companies that are basically direct competitors, but overall, nothing particularly different from the previous companies.

Best practice

So, what’s current best practice? One of the things we looked at was HubSpot, a very popular marketing automation system, as well as a small competing company called Engagement.

Engagement has a very compelling, very direct landing page. Its message is ‘Don’t buy HubSpot, buy us.’ They’re also highlighting the pain, mainly the added expense of opting for their rival.

They also use very little body copy, instead relying on headings and bullets, making for quite a compelling landing page. They also only asked for an email address, allowing them to start engaging with people.

A similar approach is taken by a company called Active Campaign. They don’t use bullet points, simply asking for an email address, but offer lots of information about the product and again another form at the bottom. This page shows a lot of information and this may be an example of a landing page where a company is trying not to overdo the number of leads and focus on people who are genuinely interested.

To sum up ‘the competitive landing page’. A great example of a good compelling landing page is where you’re looking at comparing yourself against another vendor. The immediate trial is not unusual for software as a service, but probably won’t work in many other industries, particularly for B2B technical equipment that can cost a huge amount of money. It’s much more about providing information.

It’s interesting to see where some of the other marketing automation companies are going. Many are really focused on high-quality leads, rather than on quantity. Most of these are marketing automation platform companies, that will give you pure conversion rate and no indication of quality in the standard reporting. Looking at their own landing pages, they have worked it out, but maybe they haven’t quite fed that back into the tools.

If we look at content-rich pages, we can see different calls to action, and also different ways of achieving the call to action.

A good example is by Active Campaign, where each different section describes a little bit more about the products.

Salesforce have a long landing page with information - a guided tour offer, and more videos in the tour again and then a ‘talk to the experts.’ There’s also a free trial right at the bottom. So, Salesforce have believe that if people get to the end, they’re probably interested and so it might be a good time to try and convert them to a free trial.

All this content is mixed on the same page, which goes against the general rule of one call to action per page. But actually, all they’re trying to do is get you to engage. So, it’s the same offer, but with different ways to meet the needs of different people.

Content-rich landing pages often require a lot of effort to create - if you’re not at the stage of multiple landing pages, where the content on the landing page matches what’s driven the person there, don’t get into building them, as they’re very time consuming and expensive.

Having said that, some of these longer landing pages are actually very good for SEO - most landing pages are terrible for SEO, because the content is not there to make people read the copy, it’s to make people download the form.

For most clients, and for most campaigns, the standard two-column layout is probably the best and most effective way to create landing pages that will give you the best return on investment.

Top tips

So, what are our top five landing page tips?

Tip one is to create custom landing pages - don’t ever route people to your homepage or a product page, it just isn’t a good experience. Also, create many different custom landing pages so that the experience is as smooth as possible, from whatever search or LinkedIn ad, or even link on your email that you’ve provided people.

The second thing is getting the targeting right. If you have got the targeting perfect, and you’re only attracting potential customers, just get them to fill in the form.

I’d also recommend being very direct - be very clear about what you’re offering and why people should fill it in, and particularly on the calls to action.

We also mentioned getting the why right – one of the landing pages really highlighted the issue of cost and the limitations on HubSpot versus Engagement. That was a pain point for a lot of companies. And they were very clear about how they solved it by charging a lower price.

Don’t ask for too much information. Many of the forms that you get from the market information companies typically just ask for email because they know they can use the tool to get the other information about that person.

And then finally, your audience is unique. So do test different approaches - follow best practice, but not to the point that you’re not prepared to try different things.

In summary, landing pages take work, but if you’re spending a lot of money driving traffic to your website, getting the landing page right is really the key thing in driving the number of leads you’ll get.

 

To watch our webinar in full, please click here to view the on-demand version.

 


Seven Secrets of Good Copywriting

I once did some work producing magazines for a government department. One day my main client contact told me I would soon be receiving a news item for the next issue. ‘This will go through with no editing needed,’ he assured me. ‘The guy writing it has a master’s degree in English.’

Hmm, I thought – we’ll see. Sure enough, the article kicked off with this beauty of a sentence:

‘The dominant Transatlantic paradigm is predicated on assiduous improvement.’

I don’t mind admitting that some of those words had me scurrying for a dictionary. I eventually converted it into: ‘Most people in the US and the UK believe that things can only be improved through hard work.’

You guessed it – no-one queried my version and it was the one that ‘went through without editing.’

So, how do we avoid confusing our reader and instead, leave them more informed and knowledgeable than before?

Here are our seven tips for better copywriting.

Keep it simple

As in the example above, the art of good writing lies in trying to make yourself understood by as many people as possible. That seems obvious but it’s surprising how many writers over complicate things, opting for esoteric and arcane words in place of the simple and the everyday.

I’m a big fan of the articles in ‘New Scientist’. With an easy-to-read style and the ability to simplify complex concepts without trivializing them, the writers get information straight into your mind without you needing to re-read any sentences – for a time after reading the article, I understand ideas like string theory and membrane universes.

Most people are capable of understanding what you want to get across to them. I’ve found that if they don’t, it’s most likely because I haven’t explained it well enough.

Break it up

No piece of writing will attract a reader if it is merely a long block of solid text, so break it up with frequent subheads. Depending on the form, you may also want to include tables or illustrations. Try short sentences.

It’s at about this time in a blog that I’m glad of some bullet points – so here goes.

  • If it’s a blog, consider starting off with an anecdote – nothing gets the reader hooked quite like a story, so get personal to keep people reading.
  • Suppress your inner nerd – it’s easy to get too technical but resist the urge to start quoting your data sheet. It will just read like a manual and turn people off. If you want people to know more, point them subtly towards a landing page for your downloadable collateral.
  • Don’t be afraid to use humour – you need to be careful, but a little harmless fun in the right place can give the reader a break and doesn’t go amiss. Sending your readers away with a smile can help them remember your piece. And speaking of humour…

Avoid cliches like the plague

Too often we adopt lazy words or phrases that add nothing to what we are trying to say, or even just make things less clear. ‘Leverage’ – I’m looking at you. What does it bring to the party that the simple word ‘use’ doesn’t? The same goes for ‘impact’ and its mushrooming verb forms – ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ do the same job more elegantly.

Overusing words and phrases that everybody else makes habitual use of just gives the impression that you are not thinking about what you are writing and have not bothered to really find a way to connect with your audience.

Have a good structure

This all depends on the type of piece you are writing of course – a whitepaper will have a different structure to that of a feature article, which will be different again from a blog. But whatever form you are using, getting the structure right will help you organize your thoughts and present the information in the best way – the way that ensures your readers understand it.

Essentially, a good structure should tell a good story, taking the reader from little or no knowledge of the subject to a reasonable understanding of its main points.

Who are you talking to?

If you are talking to automation engineers, they won’t appreciate you spelling out PID control and what it does – on the other hand, you might need a different approach if you are trying to persuade high school students to take part in a STEM programme run by your client.

You need to know who you are trying to reach – what do they know about the subject already, what is their level of expertise, what do you need to spell out and what can you take for granted?

Style matters

An important question to ask yourself is what style you are going to adopt? A white paper will be more academic in style and tone, whereas a brochure would have a style that is confident, informative and enthusiastic about your proposed solution. A feature article will be balanced in tone, while a blog can be more playful and informal, using idioms, humour and even slang to get a reaction from readers.

Also don’t forget things like passive and active voice. In general, active voice is preferred to passive voice – ‘the cat chased the ball’ rather than ‘the ball was chased by the cat’.

In the active voice, the subject is something or does something – in the passive voice, the subject is acted upon by something else. Active voice makes your writing stronger and more direct.

Eye for detail

Don’t worry – even the most experienced writers miss typos and repetition. It’s all too easy to spoil a seemingly well written piece by failing to spot a misplaced or missing apostrophe. The trick here is not to be in too much of a hurry. If you can, put the piece away for a day or so and come back to it with a fresh eye. You’ll almost certainly think ‘How on Earth did I miss that?’, as you correct punctuation and remove unnecessary spaces.

Stepping away from the article also lets you view it more objectively – suddenly, it’s not your best ever piece of work, full of stunning phrases and eye-catching concepts, but simply another text to appraise with a critical eye.

 

Follow these tips and you could soon be on the way to improving your own copywriting and making those vital connections with your readers.


Industrial PR campaigns that Overcame Corporate Limitations

It’s no secret that when it comes to Industrial PR, there are limitations to what companies can achieve within the corporate style guide - and unfortunately, too often industrial companies play it too much by the book, creating PR campaigns which are, quite frankly, boring and unoriginal.

Yet, there are some agencies and clients willing to take a risk, coming up with campaigns that take a B2C vibe and repurpose it for an industrial audience. Although it’s important to have a corporate persona that’s right for your product or service, the trend to make B2B communications more human is being seen across the industry.

This blog will explore some of the best, and successful industrial PR campaigns we have seen, which overcome the limitations presented by the corporate style guide.

Volvo Trucks Viral Video

Volvo trucks, a Swedish automotive manufacturer, showed that viral video is not limited to consumer PR.

With the unusual approach to have Jean-Claude Van Dam do the splits between two Volvo trucks, the B2B video aimed to change the perception of Volvo as a safe and boring option, and instead capture the imagination of lorry buyers and the general public at large across several platforms.

Adopting some of the style and sleek look of consumer car ads, the campaign video went on to receive over 80 million views.

Cisco and 5G RuralFirst: Me+Moo

Recruiting cows as part of your campaign may not be the most obvious strategy but it worked for 5G RuralFirst, a consortium led by Cisco. When it wanted to raise interest in rural test-beds and trials for 5G wireless at sites across the UK, the group developed an app called Me+Moo, in which users could connect with a real-life cow and track its health via a “moonitor” dashboard.

Quirky it may have been, but it certainly worked – within the first month, 11,000 users had the app and it gained coverage by Reuters, the BBC and the New York Times.

(Source)

Storekit’s London Pint Map

When you fancy a few drinks with friends, it’s often best to use public transport. This was part of the thinking behind StoreKit’s innovative campaign. Designed to help raise awareness of its point of sale software for pubs, the company came up with a version of the London Underground map that showed the cheapest pint in every pub closest to each station.

Research for the map involved StoreKit contacting hundreds of pubs, its core audience, while the fun aspect of a map showing where to get the cheapest beer got it plenty of consumer coverage, including in such London stalwarts as the London Evening Standard and Timeout. Altogether the online campaign got 690,000 views – it was also very cost effective, with only one staff member employed for the whole project.

Dow – Official Chemistry Company of the Olympic Games

What do you think of when you imagine corporate sponsors of the Olympics? More Nike and Coca Cola than one of the world’s largest industrial chemical companies?

With its global appeal to sports fans of all ages, the Olympics is the ideal consumer marketing vehicle, but Dow saw it as a chance to brings its own expertise to the world’s attention. An extensive web site and social media presence on LinkedIn and Twitter details how Dow uses partnerships with professional athletes, sports organizations and global sporting events like the Olympics to show how its solutions can benefit its customers and society at large. As official carbon partner of the International Olympic Committee, Dow is bringing its expertise to help reduce the carbon footprint of each Games, while helping other businesses and communities to do the same.

The company is using its social media feed presence to show how a chemical company can protect wildlife while also designing a better golf ball and help recycle sport shoes into new training facilities.

Overall, its’s got a much more B2C feel, looking at issues that consumers find important. Dow uses this campaign to connect with companies that want to partner with an industrial supplier that also knows how to connect with end users.

 

Expect the Unexpected

The best industrial B2B campaigns are breaking away from what’s expected and using the lessons from their B2C brethren – humour, quirkiness and a willingness to go beyond what’s expected.

Never forget that industrial buyers are also consumers and that they see a lot of consumer campaigns and respond to them, so there’s no reason why consumer campaign techniques can’t work in the B2B space. All it takes is a little bravery.


LinkedIn Lead Generation

Tips and Tricks to Getting the Best From LinkedIn

Increasingly, LinkedIn is becoming a media platform that brands and companies need to understand in order to get the best reach to their potential customers.

One of the things to understand is that LinkedIn requires a lot of time if you want to be effective, so it’s certainly not free media. However, if done correctly, it’s definitely worth the effort.

The first priority is to look at getting results from your personal LinkedIn profile or those of your executives. LinkedIn gives you a profile that is absolutely unique to you and offers a huge opportunity to increase your influence in your industry. It’s also a platform that everyone can see success with, not just senior people.

But the first thing many people ask is, how often should we be posting? There’s no easy answer, except to say it’s important to be relevant, rather than frequent. So, post as often as you’ve got something useful and interesting and valuable to say - typically we see people posting somewhere between a couple of times a week, to every two weeks in the B2B tech industry.

There is no best or right way to work with LinkedIn - it very much depends on what your company wants to achieve and the value you can add. Also, it’s about the audience you’re trying to reach and ensuring you reach that audience with content they care about.

When you share something on LinkedIn, it initially gets shared with your network, and then often will get shared with other individuals’ networks. A lot of people look at the algorithm and think, the more people in my network, the more likely people are engaged, the better it’s going to be for me. But actually, there is very little correlation between the number of connections you have and the average amount of engagement.

Some research suggests a slight negative correlation and certainly, once you get above 1000 individuals, there’s very little benefit in increasing your network size. And the reason for this is you’re then not sharing content with people who really know and care about you. This means that a smaller network of a few hundred can actually get those early engagements, which means you should focus on the quality of your network rather than its size.

Who posts what?

The other really important thing is, what are you actually going to post? This is where personas come in.

The first persona is a PR publisher, who simply shares content that looks good from a PR perspective. This is quite often news and announcements from their organization and sometimes information about their wider industry. This is actually a relatively low time and low effort approach, because all you’re doing is sharing content that may already be available.

It’s easy to dismiss this as just reshaping existing content, but actually, it’s incredibly valuable and is massively underestimated, particularly amongst sales teams. When you share content on your company page, it has a very limited reach - if you can get people within your organization, particularly the sales teams, to share with their contacts and networks, it can massively amplify the impact of your content. So, although the PR publisher is an easy and simple persona to be, it’s actually also incredibly valuable.

There are also lots of different personas that really build you as a brand, rather than simply as a channel to share information.

The first one is the storyteller. They will tell stories that could be very honest, maybe self-deprecating, or simply funny in order to engage people. This approach is also often coupled with some sort of clickbait headline. If you’re an organization that can openly talk about some of the challenges and mistakes you’ve made, and you like the story format, then this is a good persona to engage people.

The next one is the thought leader. For us, a thought leader is someone who researches ideas, so they may be looking at data or running experiments. They create their own ideas, and their own data therefore results in a valid opinion, backed up with solid research.

The thought leader is a great persona to be, particularly if you’re in a fast moving industry. However, it goes without saying that to generate real thought leadership on LinkedIn, you’ve got to generate new insights that other people haven’t shared previously. That requires a huge amount of work, including basic research to actually generate data that you can share.

In some industries, it’s a lot easier - if you offer an email platform, it’s very easy to research the length of subject headlines and the open rates. But if you make complex technology for large systems, it’s very hard to generate that research, and so produce your own thought leadership content.

Our next persona is the knowledge sharer, which is quite like the PR persona, except they share news about the industry, rather than about their organization. If you can share knowledge and information other people don’t have, it’s an incredibly effective way to become an influencer on LinkedIn without spending a huge amount of time producing your own content.

Choose your content

There are three sorts of content you can place on LinkedIn, other than your profile page.

The first is articles and any sensible length article about technology can be posted. Although articles are not favoured by the LinkedIn algorithm, and tend not to be pushed, they have a massive advantage as evergreen content, as they’ll stay associated with your profile; and because you’d typically write fewer articles, you’ll actually see those articles near the top and quite often on your homepage. We definitely recommend generating some articles to post on the platform.

Most of the content on LinkedIn is posts linking to your own or others’ content. Although you shouldn’t be too promotional, you can certainly share content that exists either on your company’s website, in the industry media, or perhaps from analysts - posts are a great way to share information with your audience and build that influence. LinkedIn does tend to prefer content that is on the LinkedIn platform, so just share one URL, don’t put multiple links in.

Also, video is clearly the most effective content today on LinkedIn, generating far more engagement than any text or image based content.

The last thing and something I think that is very important not to forget, is the engagement that you conduct on LinkedIn - the liking, sharing and commenting. We’ve found that people who engage with other people’s content, as well as promoting their own, are far more effective than people who simply push content out.

The last thing about content is to be creative. One of our clients posted a fabulously glossy page, talking about a new technology. In fact, this is their press release - they pulled out key quotes from the release and got some really striking imagery. It feels much more engaging, so if you’re looking to link back to content, look at how you can make that content more interesting and more engaging.

To sum up, if you engage other people’s content, they are much more likely to engage with yours. Also, being boring doesn’t work - be relevant, be interesting, and give the inside story of you. LinkedIn is a social media platform. It’s not a formal means of communication. Don’t be too fun and wacky but you can have fun within the context of your industry.

Boost your company image

Company pages have had a bit of a bad rap recently from LinkedIn. Lots of people think that the value of the company page has been diminished because LinkedIn is not promoting company posts as much as they’re promoting posts from individuals.

However, company pages are still very important, not only as an overview of your company, but also as a way to build your social presence. There are actually two sorts of pages you can create for your company. The first is the official page of the company, basically an overview of the whole organization.

The second is called a showcase page, and you can create ones that focus on a specific market, product, or group of products. The great thing about this is that you can use the company page to broadcast more general information about your organization, then use the showcase pages to narrow down and focus on specific audiences and tailor messages for people interested in specific areas of your business.

When you create the company page, and when you create the showcase page, it’s really important to make it easy to find and this is a simple, straightforward SEO job - it’s all about thinking what people would type into the search box so they get your company as a result.

It’s really important to test when you use LinkedIn, and you can do this on an individual personal page, but it’s much easier to see what’s working on a company page. You can test things like frequency, the topics of work and the formats very easily. PowerPoint and SlideShare presentations do very well, as do stories around your product or service rather than just talking about the products and service itself.

Another vital thing that should be on your to do list is to get employees, and particularly sales, to share comments and engage with your company content. When they do that, that content can to be seen by their network, as well as the people following your company page. It’s powerful, and pretty difficult, but if you can make your content really valuable to customers, it will help your team share, as well as giving a good impression of the company.

Company pages have something else that’s quite unique. LinkedIn will let you target posts, so you can showcase pages for each industry or country - you can send a post to people in marketing, engineering or purchasing.

There’s a big future in company pages, but it does need your staff to amplify the content you’re sharing to maximize impact.

Getting a better presence

There are a few ways you can help boost engagement and the first is customization. You can ask the audience what content they want to see, but perhaps even more effective is to look at the data and alter or update existing content to make it more relevant. Accessing data is not easy in LinkedIn but it is well worth the effort.

The next tip is thinking about your company page as a lead generation page, rather than simply an about us page. As well as having your complete profile, think about putting offers on the page. But also, think about what a customer would want to know when they find you, how to generate contact details and turn them into leads. LinkedIn ‘s Lead Gen forms will auto fill people’s details with the information on their LinkedIn profile - it can produce variable results, so we’d certainly recommend running some tests to see if it is useful for you.

Increasing engagement is all about doing something that’s a little bit different, maybe a how to post with tips in the title, a post that builds on some research you’ve done, or an infographic or video.

The next tip is to pay for promotion. LinkedIn is a business, designed to extract money from other businesses. It is incredibly good at targeting particular audiences very accurately and is probably the best account-based marketing platform we use in Europe. If you want to get organic success, we recommend a mix of payment combined with a focus on organic LinkedIn.

And don’t forget, LinkedIn is certainly less fun than Facebook, but it’s still social media, so it’s really important to create a social feeling. Make sure you respond to comments on your posts, which can create a lot of future engagement.

Be social, be friendly, and just go out and talk to people on LinkedIn. It’s a powerful tool that deserves to be a major part of your marketing mix.

If you want to find out more about how you can be successful on LinkedIn, check out our webinar 'Tips, Tricks and Best Practices for LinkedIn'. 


The Truth Behind Content Marketing

At Napier, one of the questions we often get from clients is whether content marketing is too good to be true? They ask because a lot of people promise all sorts of things from content marketing and yet, many clients find that the results are not as good as they hoped.

But first of all, what do we mean by content marketing?

One definition is that content marketing involves the creation and sharing of online material – so anything from videos, blogs to social media posts that doesn’t explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in that brand’s products or services.

A lot of this is about sharing the content rather than pushing it out. And it seems like a great approach, one where we can create materials that don’t have to be too salesy or promotional, and they’ll magically help sell our product.

Is this really the case? To try and answer this question, we can look at where people have done well or badly in content marketing.

The good…

Resolving problems or helping people do their job is key to good content marketing, but sometimes, it pays to take a risk and just be creative. A company called Midwich started promoting a QR code but didn’t say what it was - it just created some interest around the QR code, which actually led to their blog. So creativity can be a very important part of content marketing, but will only work if it’s valuable to the reader.

Some of the best examples of content marketing seek to create value for customers. An example here is one of the best known content marketing campaigns, Whiteboard Friday, created by Moz, who are in the rapidly changing search engine optimization market.

Moz identified the need for people to keep up with new information and understand what’s going on. Whiteboard Friday presents an ongoing training course, providing all you need to know about SEO and in the process, driving visits to their website. This is a great example of content marketing.

SEO actually provides a lot of great examples. Instead of providing content, like a video or a blog post to help people, you can provide free tools to take the donkey work out of SEO, helping people ultimately migrate through to using your paid offering.

Lastly, sometimes, content marketing is much more about creating the image for your brand. Dell, for example, worked with the Girl Scouts of America to promote STEM education. This raised Dell’s profile among many potential purchasers but also created a very positive view of the company.

Overall, there is no one particular recommended approach. Content marketing can offer a blog post, a video, or a tool that people use that has some software engineering behind it - it’s all about finding the right content for your customer.

… and the bad

There are also some examples of bad content marketing. Take MailChimp, which decided to offer video content in a channel called MailChimp Presents. The trouble was that people were inundated with content from MailChimp, and it was very hard to find what was relevant. The lesson here is that it’s not just about volume of content, it’s also very much about quality as well.

Content also needs to be honest and truthful. Step forward Intel, which launched the 11th generation of core processors, and unsurprisingly had a press release that talked about how amazing these products were - in fact, there were 18 separate references to ‘the world’s best’.

The problem was the small print, which said that Intel may have tweaked the performance test to make their processors look better than any other manufacturers’.

It could still be that those Intel microprocessors are the best for laptops. But with so many caveats you couldn’t really trust the claims.

The third example is the Tesla cybertruck event, featuring a super futuristic truck launched by Elon Musk and positioned as basically indestructible. Yet, as the demo staff found, throwing stones at the windows caused the glass to crack.

Was this a failure or did it raise the profile of the cybertruck? No doubt Tesla would have preferred that the rocks bounced off, and it probably did lead to questions about whether other claims about the product were true.

Who reads all that stuff anyway?

So, does content marketing work? The promise of content marketing, that you create the content, people then come and read the content and suddenly want to buy your product or your service, is fantastic.

But is this really true? Well no – by and large, people don’t read your content. A 2008 study concluded that typically visitors read only 20% of your webpage.

The first thing to say is when you create content, people are not going to read it if it’s written content, meaning you need to design your content for the people who don’t read the whole web page, the skimmers.

Also, when we look at internet traffic, just over a third is actually bot traffic, not humans, and many of these are trying to steal data.

As well as seeing traffic that’s not real humans, we also create content that’s not used - if you look on social media, research shows the majority of links have never been clicked. So there’s lots of reasons not to feel optimistic about content marketing.

But actually, sometimes it does work. At Napier, we’ve had phone calls from prospective companies based purely on them reading our newsletter. So, content marketing does sometimes work, but actually generating high volumes of content is not the goal.

The keys are quality and variety - it’s not all about white papers, though they tend to be the favorite content marketing tool. And if you create content that will help potential customers, then ultimately, you should be driving new customers through your content. And if you’re measuring customers, and not volume of content, you’re then able to look at whether you’re getting a return on investment, and that really is important.

Content that works

So how do we create content that really works?

You’ve got to produce something that is relevant for the people you’re trying to address, your audience or your personas - they’ve got to see it at the right time, they’ve got to be interested in it.

You need to think about everything from your customer’s point of view. For example, we have a persona we call new technology Nicola, who is very keen on applying martech to their campaigns and is typically very digitally orientated. They’re very driven by metrics, so creating content for them is very straightforward.

That persona would be very different from a persona, perhaps of a PR manager, who would be much more worried about brand, much less worried about stats, and really concerned about things like messaging. So, the content for these two people would be very different.

You also need to make sure you deliver the content at the right time. And the only way to do that is by mapping your customer journey - if we’re trying to reach someone who already knows us and is actively looking for a PR agency, we need to find very different content to someone who does all their PR in house.

Whether you can capture sales depends on where the customer is in the journey. So, it’s not just the content you create, but also the metrics that need to change depending on what point in the customer journey you’re targeting.

One of the best sources of content to help people learn things is YouTube. YouTube is actually the second biggest search engine after Google, so producing content for this outlet can reach a lot of people.

You can also help people do things that are inherently complex by providing tools, such as one to estimate the life of a battery in hours or estimate the power consumption of various combinations of sensors and microprocessors.

On the Napier website our highest traffic page is one that lets you create SMART goals from simply filling in some boxes. Creating calculators is a massively underestimated tool in content marketing.

A selector guide is a similar idea. One of our clients had an idea to help people new to using artificial intelligence. As well as information on AI itself, they’d also need to know how to use the available products, so we worked with the client to combine both aspects.

The resulting tool allows people to put in the application, what sensors they’re using and how they’re connecting to share the data - the selector guide provides not only the best boards to use with the project, but will also advice on how to use the boards or use Alexa as your voice recognition system.

So, there’s lots of ways we can create good content. And ultimately, it’s about trust - if your audience trust you, then absolutely, your content will be viewed.

Earlier, we said that content marketing was about pre-creating content that doesn’t directly sell, so eliminating that kind of sales pitch is really important. Also, make sure you are writing for people, not search engines - even though SEO is important, the content must work for people first. And finally, it’s about content marketing, not content production – when people focus on volume, almost always the quality falls.

Tips for top content

The first tip shouldn’t be a surprise - put yourself in the customer’s shoes. You’ve got to think about personas, you’ve got to think about the customer journey and you’ve got to create the content that customers want.

And most importantly, please don’t create content you want - quite often, you’ll find your customer doesn’t care because they’re not ready, or they don’t need that information.

The next thing to do is think about return on investment. Whenever you’re creating content, you need to understand what you want that content to achieve, and how much that goal is worth to you. It could be generating new leads, where you might compare the value of a lead with the cost of going to a trade show. You might look at potential conversion rates, moving people to becoming customers, and how much they’re likely to spend.

Perhaps the best tip is that titles are really key. Most people only read 20% of your article and in fact, a lot of people will only read the headline. HubSpot found that the single biggest factor in driving the take up of ebooks was the title - the content and the layout of a landing page was much less important than the actual title of the book.

Format also really matters. Take a number of white papers, put them together, call it an ebook, and I guarantee that you will have a higher signup rate than for any of the white papers. We find that people are very keen to sign up for ebooks that offer a comprehensive guide.

Looking back at Moz with its whiteboard Fridays, it’s really all about the video, in particular the consistent format. We would strongly recommend experimenting with formats to find the right one for your content.

We mentioned that people aren’t going to read all your article, so you need to write something where the length reflects what the reader wants - you’ve got to help people find what’s important. A Table of Contents is becoming more important for longer and more complex web pages and blog posts - it’s also helpful for SEO.

Our final tip is to be brave. Some of our best content marketing results have been achieved by content that is much more playful than normal content. This ranges from a client that talked about customer service in large enterprises, and related it to their local cheese shop, to content that talks about what supercomputing experts can learn from England football managers.

Thinking outside what you normally do, and being prepared to have a bit more fun and enjoy content a bit more, is a really good idea, so we’d strongly recommend being a little bit brave and trying things that maybe appear to be a little different or a little risky.

Above all, keep in mind that it’s the customer that counts – build your content around what they require and you will start to get the results you need.

 

If you want to find out more about how you can be successful with content marketing, check out our webinar 'Is Content Marketing too Good to be True?'.


The Seven Key Things We Learned From Litmus’ State of Email Report

With its familiarity and ease of use, e-mail is a powerful communications tool, one that marketers have used to their advantage. But how is it changing – are users opening more or fewer marketing e-mails, or using different platforms? How has the pandemic affected e-mail’s prospects?

These are the questions addressed by Litmus’ State of Email Engagement Report 2020, a handy guide to the state of play in marketing emails.

Here we take a look at the findings and get some tips on how to improve the success of marketing emails.

Where does your audience open e-mails?

It’s vital to know where your potential customers open your e-mails. Is it on a mobile, or perhaps on a desktop? The clients they use can also affect your strategy – for example, if many of your customers use Outlook, you may want to rethink your e-mail design to reflect this.

Litmus found that the top email clients are Apple iPhone and G-Mail, with each battling it out around the 33% mark. Also, webmail has trumped mobile for the top spot for where to open, most likely due to the pandemic.

The report recommends analyzing your customers’ use of email clients and optimizing your testing and design to reflect this. If people are moving away from mobile email, design should again reflect this but ensure your email can be easily read across all devices.

When are emails opened?

To maximize their chances of being read, it is vital to know when your audience is likely to open the e-mails you send them – and this differs with each country.

For example, the report found that, in the US, 21% of all opens happen between 9 am and noon, the same as last year, whereas in the UK, there has been a distinct shift in opening times from the second to the third quarter, from 11 am to 9 am.

Litmus suggests there is no magic opening time that should govern your send schedule – instead, look at the demographics and time zones and send out test emails based on their location. If you are seeking to grow in a particular region, it may be best to start your testing there.

How do subscribers engage with your e-mails?

How many people open your e-mail is an important data point but it’s also essential to know other things about how your audience engages with your e-mails.

For example, do you know how much time they spend reading your e-mail? This could govern how long they should be.

The report found that the time spent reading an e-mail is down 12% from two years ago and now averages only 11.82 seconds. Litmus suggests keeping an eye on how your reading time compares with the global average.

Despite mobile being a less popular medium for reading emails, when people do engage with them in this way, they now spend an extra 1.33 seconds reading them then they did at the beginning of 2020. To boost the chance of an e-mail actually being read, Litmus suggests introducing fun elements like quizzes to keep peoples’ attention.

Printing e-mails can be a good indicator of how people are engaging with your offers – for example, some offers may require printing out a physical coupon. The average print rate has gone down by 40%, with only one print for every 568 opens, most probably due to the pandemic. Knowing who printed your e-mail will determine how you follow up with reminders on time limited offers.

As forwarding rates are higher, with 1 forward for every 277 opens, tracking forward rates is a good way to assess which e-mails are likely to go viral and extend the impact of your offers.

 

It’s clear that knowing more about how, where and when emails are opened is a great basis for maximizing the effect of this powerful tool. To download and read the full report yourself, please click here.

 

 


An In-Depth Look into the Truth about Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

As with many other aspects of industry and commerce, Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is having a huge effect on marketing, bringing exciting new tools to bear on the task of promoting goods and services to varied markets. There has been a huge increase in the numbers of companies offering marketing technology. Many claim to use AI, but how many of them actually do so?

To get the real picture, we first need to be clear what AI is. One of the major characteristics of an AI solution is its use of algorithms, which could be formulae or logical decision trees - basically, a fixed set of rules to actually optimise a campaign or to do something else as part of your B2B marketing activities. The key thing about these algorithms is they’re programmed by a human and will typically have very limited ability to develop or learn.

The other side of AI is machine learning or neural networks, which is essentially computers understanding the world, and then trying to apply rules based on that understanding. The key thing about machine learning is you need to train the computer with various data sets. But once you’ve done that, the computer can do things and have insights that a human may not have, making it the most exciting part of AI.

AI can also be narrow or general - narrow AI tends to be focused around trying to achieve a particular outcome, or perform a particular activity, whereas general AI is basically the intelligent computer HAL from the film ‘2001’.

When we look at AI for B2B marketing, we’ll be focusing on narrow AI, so our definition is a computer algorithm that can learn from data to produce insights and recommendations specific to the brand or campaign. To add value, the algorithm must learn and can’t simply be a preprogrammed set of rows.

And if it’s learning from the activities for a particular brand or campaign, it should then be able to produce recommendations that are uniquely beneficial to that brand, or that campaign.

The challenges of machine learning

We need to ask if there has been a huge impact from machine learning on B2B marketing.

The CMO survey for 2019 shows that almost 60% of the respondents say they’re using AI today, although its main uses are in personalization of content, and predictive analytics, both of which tend to be algorithmic type applications. In these, the computer might be delivering different content, to different personas, but it’s based on a set of rules – not machine learning.

This means that the bar is not very high for using AI in marketing, as predictive analytics can be as simple as lead scoring algorithms. So, at the very simple level, everybody can start using AI.

If we look at some simple examples of AI in marketing, the first to consider is content creation. One of the most common uses is email subject line generators. These tend to use a very basic approach where a stock phrase is put in front of a benefit. This is not a bad way to generate ideas for a subject line, but it will be sometime before we get AI writing with the same degree of verve as a human copywriter.

Content personalization is offered by many tools, with most of them based on simple fixed rules. The most important thing here is the insights used to personalize the content, which are generated by humans - a human works out why one persona needs a particular message, and another persona needs a different message or a message phrased in a different way. So, it’s very different from something that’s truly intelligent, making it a great way to get into AI.

However, we’re still some way from computers actually running your marketing campaign and typically, most people are not using machine learning tools.

So, why don’t computers learn? Well, it’s actually quite hard to train a computer, requiring a neural network and a training set. There is also no easy answer to how much data you need, but typically, it’s thousands of data points and you may not have thousands of email subject lines you can compare to find out which will be most effective.

Although computers are pretty slow learners, they’re much less likely to jump to incorrect assumptions than humans. People may assume that the email with the highest percentage open rate must be performing better, whereas, taking into account randomness and long term performance, the AI solution will come to a more considered conclusion. But, still, computers are very slow learners, making it hard to take advantage of machine learning.

AI can be basic but very effective

There are actually fairly few applications of AI that really make a difference in marketing.

In AI for B2B, they really fall into three key areas around marketing itself. One is look-a-likes - if I know this particular profile of customer is a good customer, then find me similar people who might well be good customers.

You can use AI to predict intent, which can be as simple as lead scoring, or it can be a much more complex algorithm that learns who’s likely to buy which product.

Performance prediction is being able to assess whether a particular campaign is likely to perform well. These three areas of AI are all things that you can actually use now that will use machine learning and help you with your campaigns. But as you can see, they’re fairly small elements of the overall campaign and there’s some way to go before AI takes over a whole campaign.

Although things like look-a-like audiences or predicting intent are probably the least exciting forms of AI, they give the most benefits.

Pay per click advertising often uses AI, so if you’re using Google ads, you might be using smart bidding, which will basically determine how much you pay for an ad, using an AI.

Chatbots are growing because a lot of inquiries on a website can be dealt with fairly simple automation, but what is really needed is some intelligence to process the different ways people can ask questions.

By the end of 2021 about 40% of companies will adopt voice technology, creating things like Alexa. This does all the difficult work of understanding what the user is asking, so it’s very easy to generate these chatbots and generate voice skills.

Another application is image recognition. The huge data sets available for images make it relatively easy to train AIs to understand images, not only what’s in the image, but also to understand things like colour, and even the emotions of people in the picture.

One of the biggest is Google Cloud Vision API. This lets you send images to Google, which processes them and sends back information about them. A great example of this would be our client Censhare. They have a digital asset management system and they will automatically add more information, more tagging, and more data about an image using the Google Cloud Vision API.

Designed for marketing

But what you really want to know is, are there actually AI applications that truly optimize marketing activities, above and beyond the more generic ones? Well, yes, there are, including several designed to help you find and target the best accounts.

Once you’ve got an account list, you can use a tool like Bombora, which will identify things that drive sales, such as if they hire new people, if they announced new sales, if they perhaps are a startup, or getting new funding.

There’s also automated account discovery. With Terminus, you provide a list of accounts that you want to target, and the system then identifies similar accounts.

Then there’s digital behaviour analysis. This takes what Bombora is doing and looks at some of the contacts you’re targeting, trying to build a picture of the company and the contacts and assess the right time to approach that particular customer.

Another aspect is personalizing content. Power Factory tries to serve content so people visiting your website get the right content at the right time. You can track things like the time spent engaging on each part of the content and see if it resulted in a sale, so you can get a lot more information than just offering a PDF.

Persado discovers which phrases resonate with your audience, so you can use the phrases that work the best - pure AI powered copywriting. And then there are also products that actually identify content, such as rasa.io which finds related content for your newsletters.

Still, generating natural language is not easy. I think our copywriters can relax, because it’s unlikely we’re going to see them put out of business - maybe product descriptions could be written with AI in the very near future, but long form copywriting will still be written by humans for the foreseeable future.

There are also a number of AI assistants that aim to follow up contacts you might meet at a trade show, for example - they’ll send emails that appear to be from real people, following up and trying to get someone to respond. You can get into this with a free trial with products like Conversica. The interaction is pretty limited, but it’s not a bad solution if you just want something that’s going to automatically send follow up emails.

The next area is understanding engagement, looking at how and when people engage with the content, and ultimately aiming to provide smart personalization. Again, it’s not necessarily generating the content that people are going to engage with, but it’s certainly going to help you serve the right information at the right time to visitors.

Optimizing the time to send emails as well as the frequency is another thing that AI can help with. It’s really difficult to optimize this and it requires machines to sit there and look at what works and what doesn’t - Seventh Sense is a well-known product that aims to detect and act on engagement with email.

Go your own way

We’ve talked a lot about different products that use AI, but what about creating your own? Actually, you can. If you’ve got custom data and you want to find out why one particular project is more likely to convert than another, you might choose to build your own AI rather than buying something off the shelf.

And you probably only need a relatively small number of lines of code to do that sort of analysis, although you need a data scientist to write them – you will also need a lot of data.

AI is going to help us more, particularly with image and voice recognition and natural language processing for chatbots - if you’re not using those technologies for your digital asset management, or to create chatbots, now’s the time to start thinking about it.

Campaign optimization is an area that really is about to hit primetime - you might not want to deploy it today, as it’s still expensive, but in the next few years, we’ll see a lot more people using it, particularly in terms of dynamically serving content on the website, to drive people through their customer journey.

AIs are also going to be able to give indications of performance, whether you’re likely to win a particular design opportunity, or whether your lead is a high or a low score for example.

Top tips

So finally, how can we take advantage of AI? The first thing is, don’t feel left behind. The actual use of AI is pretty straightforward, so you can get on board very quickly without needing to invest a lot.

I would certainly experiment with simple AI - probably the easiest way to do this is with Google ads. Sometimes we see great results, sometimes not but certainly experiment with AI and try to understand how to get the best out of it.

Keeping up to date is very important, to follow what’s going on and try to understand who the new vendors are in the market. Build your data sets - the more data you can build now, the more you’ll be able to use AI as those machine learning tools come on board.

And your agency should understand AI. It is going to replace everything that they do, but an agency that uses AI is going to be a more efficient agency.

Although few organizations are really using heavyweight marketing AI, there are real applications that can be delivered with very reasonable budgets - get on board now and start understanding how AI can benefit you.

 

If you want to find out more about AI in Marketing, who not check out our Uncovering the Truth about Artificial Intelligence in Marketing webinar.

 


The Electronics Industry Awards 2021 Now Open for Entries

After a virtual event in 2020, the Electronics Industry Awards are set for a fully live event this year, with the award ceremony taking place on Thursday 21st October.

Now in its fourth year, the Electronics Industry Awards have established themselves as a key awards event for the electronics sector, with entries now open for the 2021 categories.

With a total of 18 awards up for grabs, companies have until Friday 2nd April 2021 to submit their entries. Industry professionals will be provided with the chance to vote for the shortlisted people, products and companies that they feel deserve to be recognised for their contributions to the industry. Professionals from the sector will have the opportunity to vote in the product, business and individual categories, with the product and individual categories also being scored by a panel of expert judges.

We wish everyone entering the best of luck, and we look forward to attending the event in person.

To find out more about how you can enter, please click here. 


Manufacturing Engineers Asked for their Vision of the Future

A new survey launched by the IET and IMechE asks manufacturing engineers how their discipline can help meet the challenges of our increasingly urban future.

Looking at the five major challenges that our civilization faces – transport, energy, food, health and the circular economy (recycling) – the Future Manufacturing Engineers survey asks which aspects engineers are interested in, how they expect their knowledge and skills to change over the next few years and how manufacturing engineers can contribute to meeting these challenges.

At Napier, we are passionate about knowing how to talk to engineers, and with the aim of the survey to collect data on how manufacturing engineers can help build a successful, and sustainable future for themselves, their employers and the industries they work in; we are looking forward to seeing the insights the data provides.

The short survey takes only a few minutes to answer online, and manufacturing engineers can take part, by clicking here. 


Talking Industry Returns With Six New Events for 2021

Following its encouraging reception last year, DFA Media's Talking Industry series is to return with six new topical online discussions for 2021.

Taking the form of a Zoom panel hosted by Andy Pye of DFA Media, Talking Industry brings together up to five experts from engineering, automation and manufacturing to discuss the major issues and opportunities of the day.

At each 75 minute event, the panel draws on their expertise to discuss up to three key elements of the topic, with the webinar audience able to feed questions and comments into the chat. The online sessions are recorded and available on DFA Media’s social media channels.

The current schedule sees six events planned from January to November, with the opportunity for additional events to be scheduled if there is enough demand:

  • 10am UK, Tue Jan 12 2021 - Industrial Networks, IIOT and Communications
  • 10am UK, Tue Mar 9 2021 - Plant Safety and Security
  • 10am UK, Tue May 11 2021 - Robotics & Advanced Automation
  • 10am UK, Tue Jul 13 2021 - Maintenance 4.0
  • 10am UK, Tue Sep 14 2021 - Digital Transformation in the UK
  • 10am UK, Tue Nov 9 2021 - 3D printing/Additive Manufacturing

Chair Andy Pye says: “It has been really exciting to be in at the ground floor of this new venture into digital publishing. We came up with the idea during the first pandemic lockdown, as a way of communicating with our readers, at a time when many of us could not network in any other way. Chairing Talking Industry sessions is great fun, with a lot of improvisation around a basic theme.

“Of course, it is just one way of communicating digitally with our audience, and during 2021 we expect to explore some other exciting opportunities under the Talking Industry brand.”

Here at Napier, we think it's great to see more of these innovative discussions, which help to bring the industry together and maintain the momentum of new developments during a difficult time.

For further details on the discussion subjects and how you can register, please click here.


Drives and Controls Postponed to 2022

The Drives & Controls Exhibition will now take place from 5th - 7th April 2022, alongside the MACH Exhibition. The reschedule also applies to the co-located events - Fluid Power & Systems, Air-Tech, Plant & Asset Management and Smart Industry Expo.

We reported on the original postponement, which saw the show slip to January next year. However, with the continued uncertainty about physical events and when they may be allowed again has led the organizers, DFA Media, to make the decision to postpone to 2022.

Announcing the reschedule, DFA’s event director Ian Atkinson said: “The health and wellbeing of all our exhibitors, contractors and visitors (many of whom face travel restrictions) has to be our top priority. Therefore, as a consequence of the continued global situation, the social distancing restrictions and the requirements of our exhibitors, we have taken the decision to postpone the events until April 2022.”

Although it's sad to see that Drives and Controls won't go ahead in January, it's clear to see this has been a hard decision for DFA Media and that this move will allow them to host what we are sure will be an outstanding exhibition in 2022.


eeNews Europe to go Fully Digital in 2021

Both eeNews Europe and Microwave Engineering Europe will cease print production and be digital only from January 2021. The move comes in response to falling advertising revenues in print media, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued shift of advertising to online media.

These factors, combined with rising distribution costs, have made it impossible for eeNews Europe to achieve positive operational margins. Yet there is a major upside to the news, with a greater concentration on digital bringing the chance to offer new content and services.

Publisher Andre Rousselot says: “Over the years, eeNews has built a very strong portfolio of websites including vertical sites in all major fields of electronics including analog, automotive, embedded, power management, and wireless. Going fully digital will allow us to focus on accelerating the expansion of our online audience, and offer additional new services such as sponsored content, on-demand webinars, sponsored newsletters, and videos".

With the impact of COVID-19 starting to show and the looming threat of Brexit, it's great to see publishers saving money by fully embracing digital, especially for publications like eeNews which has a chance to further capitalize on its already popular websites.

The company’s French language publication ECI will continue in print offering newsletters, sponsored media and video.

 


electronica 2020 is virtual

Packed program for Power Electronics Forum at Virtual electronica 2020

With electronica 2020 going purely virtual this year, Aspencore will be running the Embedded Forum and the Power Electronics Forum with a variety of online presentations from 9th-12th November 2020.

A full conference program will run on all four days across both forums, with presentations showing the latest technology and market trends, as well as new products, strategies, applications and related topics.

In the Power Electronics Forum, each day will have its own theme, kicking off with Power Management on Monday 9th November, followed by Power Supplies, Power Semiconductors & Components and finishing up with Energy Storage on Thursday 12th.

Subjects expected to be covered include wide band gap semiconductors, renewable energies, smart grids and motion control.

The Embedded Forum will also cover the hottest topics in the industry, from edge intelligence to security and the Internet of Things. The pre-recorded presentations will be up to 40 minutes long, with a Q&A session depending on length.

With these forums only marking two of the forum programs expected at virtual electronica, and as more information is revealed about what exhibitors and visitors can expect, we are looking forward to seeing how the industry responds and whether this virtual trade show format will be a success.

For further information on what to expect from electronica virtual, please click here. 


Industry Tech Days 2020 Attracts 24,000 Virtual Visitors

EETech Media’s inaugural Industry Tech Days beat the virus to attract over 24,000 attendees from countries around the globe. As the industry’s largest virtual event to date, visitors could view and access five keynotes, 50 live sessions, and over 300 pages of whitepapers, videos, and new product briefs via EETech's flagship site All About Circuits. 

The global audience of electrical engineers and electronics industry experts could visit 38 booths from over 30 leading companies over the five-day event.

Bob Dumas, Global Sales Director of EETech Media, says: “This turnout far exceeds the current records for attendance at virtual electronics industry events. We couldn’t have done this without our incredible staff and of course the members of our community.”

It’s encouraging to see that so many people visited the show and with an impressive number of 24,000 unique visitors, EETech has certainly proved that virtual events can be a huge success.

Industry Tech Days 2021 will run from Monday 13th to Friday 17th September.

 

 


Next WNIE Open House Goes Live on October 5th

The next Open House event from What’s New in Electronics (WNIE) goes live on October 5th, giving companies another chance to promote their latest products, services and innovations for the electronics industry.

Designed to beat the restrictions of the pandemic, each fortnightly virtual showcase gives up to six companies the chance to provide press releases, video, webinars or technical papers.

Content is shared from the Monday ‘live date’ to the following Tuesday, ready for the next promotion of the following event.

Companies can choose when to go live within this time and the slot is then promoted to the WNIE database through weekly newsletters, daily social media feeds and dedicated e-shots. Even after the event date, content is archived and can still be accessed by site visitors at wnie.online.

We wrote about the first Open House back in June and it’s good to see that WNIE is continuing to offer this valuable channel to help companies in these difficult times.

For further details,  please view the website or email Claire@wnie.co.uk


Munich Power Electronics Conference Goes Virtual

There is good news for specialists in Wide Band Gap devices with the announcement that the Power Electronics Conference will this year be held online.

Organized by Aspencore in cooperation with Bodo’s Power Systems, the two-day event takes place on the 8th and 9th December 2020. The event will feature a virtual conference and exhibition and give virtual visitors the chance to live chat, both with presenters and exhibiting companies at their booths.

The event will show why power electronics is moving towards using new materials that bring dramatic improvements in efficiency and reduced size and weight. Although the focus is on silicon carbide and gallium nitride, it will also cover topics such as driver boards, passives, simulation and measurement.

The conference is live on both days from 13:30 -18:00 (Paris time), and the Exhibition opens on December 8th at 12:00 (Paris time) and will be open during the whole event.

Here at Napier, we think it's great that the Power Electronics Conference can still go ahead, and we look forward to hearing what we are sure will be positive feedback from the industry.


EMC Directory Now Online

Companies looking for EMC testing can now find everything they need in one place, with the new EMC Directory, which is the largest directory of EMC/EMI testing companies on the Internet.

Joining the same network as everythingRF and GoPhotonics, the EMC directory offers a database of over 350 companies from around the globe and is searchable by country, services, industries served and standards they work to.

To view and explore the directory yourself, please click here. 

 


PowerPulse Joins the EETech Stable

EETech Media has confirmed the acquisition of PowerPulse.net, helping EETech become the premier publication for power-focused content. The acquisition means PowerPulse will be fully integrated with EE Power and its Resistor and Capacitor Guide websites.

The PowerPulse weekly newsletter for subscribers is scheduled to be replaced by a daily version by the end of 2020; and the acquisition has led to a 140% increase in traffic, with users benefiting from the latest information on power-related subjects, through technical articles, product release announcements and market insights. EE Power currently has 200,000 page views per month, with 150,000 unique visitors.

This is certainly an exciting move for EETech as the acquisition allows them to expand their network and concentrate on providing power-focused content for the industry. We look forward to seeing the direction the publication takes, and the great pieces of content we are sure will feature in the newsletter.


Simple Online Form Makes Sourcing Components Easy

A new free online service will help companies trying to source electronic components for new products.

Launched by MMG Publishing, the publishers of Electronics Sourcing magazine, Component Sourcing gives purchasers a quick and easy way to get quotes on pricing and availability for their component Bill of Materials (BoM).

Using the simple form on the website, buyers can simply upload their BoM files and get rapid responses back to their inbox from selected companies in the Electronics Sourcing database.

Alternatively, buyers can enter the part number, quantity and preferred manufacturer of the components they are looking for.

At Napier, we think it's great that MMG Publishing has produced a platform that can help companies source electronic components.  Although the website is simple, MMG Publishing is able to add value due to its ability to drive relevant traffic and customers to the site.

For further information, please visit the website.