Julien Happich replaced by Nick Flaherty as Editor in Chief at eeNews Europe

We were saddened to hear the news about long time eeNews Europe Editor-in-Chief, Julien Happich, who has had to step away from the role to battle a rare type of brain cancer that was diagnosed at the end of July.

Andre Rousselot, President at European Business Press shared, "Julien is currently undergoing various treatment in Toulouse and we all hope that Julien will be able to come back and re-join the team. Nick Flaherty has accepted to take over as Editor in Chief of eeNews Europe in addition to his role as Editor of our Power Design Line".

The whole Napier team send Julian our best wishes and wish him a speedy recovery.

electronica 2020 is virtual

electronica 2020 cancelled: virtual event will replace the show

Officially the news is that electronica 2020 will be held digitally: a positive spin on the fact that the in-person event was cancelled because of COVID-19. The announcement, made on Saturday, is a response to the increasing travel restrictions in Europe due to coronavirus, and no doubt the expectation that as we move from summer to winter the situation is likely to get worse, rather than better.

The press release from the organisers states:

Messe München will organize the world’s leading trade fair and conference for electronics as a virtual event this year. The current travel restrictions in Europe, which are becoming more stringent, have required a re-thinking of planning. The digital format for electronica in November will give exhibitors the opportunity to book digital trade fair booths. electronica virtual will also provide all customers additional ways to interact and network. A large portion of the conference and supporting program will also be available digitally.


An inevitable decision?

Alfred Vollmer wrote an excellent analysis of the situation on all-electronics.de, and this article is well worth a read even if you need to use Google translate to get an English version. According to Alfred, the show was seeing around 100 companies a week withdrawing from the event, and had less than 900 exhibitors listed (a significant fall from the 1006 exhibitors on the website on 24th August. It seems that not only were the number of exhibitors around 70% below the previous electronica, but they were continuing to fall rapidly. With many of the companies that attract the visitors, particularly the large American semiconductor companies, having already withdrawn, it seems likely that numbers would continue to fall, leaving the organisers little choice but to cancel. Furthermore, with around half the visitors coming from outside of Germany and the increasing restrictions on travel, even if the show went ahead the character would almost certainly be very different. Basically I just don't think there was any way of holding a show that would feel like electronica this year.


Little Information about electronica virtual

Although the need to cancel has been something that electronica must have planned for, the information about the virtual alternative is rather sketchy. The announcement says:

The virtual format of electronica will provide the electronics industry with a platform for global industry discussions this November. Its opportunities will include virtual trade fair booths, which will enable exhibitors to continue to communicate with their international customers and sell them on their products and solutions. The virtual event will be complemented by a digital conference and supporting program. Individual talks and panel discussions on trend topics like the automotive industry, embedded systems, IIoT, 5G, medical electronics and smart energy will be available online.

The question is whether the virtual trade show format works, and if it does whether it will work for electronica. I see a number of problems, not least that the virtual events that have been held to date have seen patchy success at best. More worryingly, electronica is not a show that is driven by the conference presentations: yes, there are presentations, but they are attended by a small percentage of the visitors. Given that there is perhaps less of a need for people to attend a virtual event than for a show like PCIM, where the conference is a core part of the show, it's likely to be harder for electronica to attract people to a virtual event.


Fingers crossed, but low expectations

Very few people in the industry really want to see electronica fail this year. Even the marketing managers, who have enormous volumes of work in the run-up to an event like this, recognise the benefits. So I really hope that the organisers can make the virtual electronica a success. Unfortunately the feedback I've seen about the results from virtual shows has not been great. When you couple this with the fact that virtual trade shows still haven't cracked the code for great 1:1 meetings, my expectations are not too high for electronica 2020.

Hopefully we'll look back on 2020 as an exceptional year. I think we'll all be doing more video conferences in the future, but the deficiencies of tools like Zoom have also highlighted the benefits of in-person communications. I certainly expect that electronica will return as the world's largest electronics components show in 2022, but wonder whether it might be smaller and how it will change. I'll certainly be fascinated to see what the next couple of years brings.



Napier Passes PRCA CMS Audit Again!

We are delighted to share some great news from the Napier team, as we have received confirmation that we have passed our annual PR Consultants Association (PRCA) Communications Management Standard (CMS) audit again. This is a challenging audit of our processes and procedures, and it's fantastic for our hard work to be recognized.

Over the last year, we have continued to improve our processes, incorporating the Armitage team, which has only strengthened the agency. This result is a reflection of our team’s commitment to quality and continuous improvement, and of the great systems and processes we have in place at Napier. Congratulations – and thanks – to the whole Napier team!


Replacing Events in the Era of Social Distancing

Trade shows, seminars and other face-to-face events are very expensive, but frequently a key part of many companies’ marketing strategies. The opportunity to meet and build relationships with customers and prospects face-to-face is highly valuable, and an event team that works hard can produce great results.

In the era of COVID-19 social distancing, however, events are no longer an option. So, what can B2B technology companies do to replace their events programme?


One of the obvious ways to replace speaking opportunities and other interactions at events is by holding a webinar. Personally, I feel that webinars were very slow to take off, but in the past few years, they have often been clients’ top lead generation tactic. Even before isolation, engineers were keen to watch webinars, and now they are at home our clients are reporting even bigger attendance (50% or more than before the crisis).

Webinars are super-easy to run. There are many tools available that make the process of delivering a webinar simple: for example well known, large vendors such as GotoWebinar and smaller vendors such as Webinar Geek that are perfect for less-ambitious events. Companies like WorkCast even offer managed events where they ensure the technology works flawlessly.

Webinars are hard to deliver. It is surprisingly tough to present with no audience feedback, and frequently attendees are only giving partial attention to the presentation.

Practice is obviously key: no one excels when presenting a webinar for the first time, so practice before the main event. You can even pre-record the webinar itself and just answer questions live if you are really nervous. Our top webinar tip is to have someone sitting opposite to you, listening to your webinar and giving you the visual feedback you’d get from a listener as this is extremely helpful to improving the quality of your presentation. This was easy when we were all in an office, but now you may not want your audience to be your six-year-old child!

eBooks and Other Written Content

We’ve seen a lot more interest from clients in producing eBooks. The logic is that there is a good chance engineers will be keen to learn while working from home, and it seems to be reflected in an increase in registrations for this sort of content.

Although eBooks are great and can generate leads, of course you have little information on whether the content has been viewed, particularly if you supply the information in PDF format. The great thing is that marketing teams are good at producing this type of content.

We’ve seen some really creative uses of online tools to enhance content that otherwise might have been a bit [whisper this so no one hears] boring. It’s amazing how a little bit of editing and some images or graphics can spice up something as simple as a press release: a great example of how this can be done is the way our client, SMART Modular Technologies uses Adobe Spark and just a few minutes of creativity to create engaging versions of releases (like this one https://spark.adobe.com/page/onbYrScLlogsy/) for use on social media.


Technical B2B video content was taking off well before the coronavirus crisis hit and has continued to grow during lockdown. We’re seeing a particular affection from clients for video demos, particularly those shot at trade shows, to try to re-create the event interaction. Again, video consumption is up while engineers are isolated, and there seems to be a real appetite for technical content.

The challenge is making high-quality video. It’s hard to get a high-quality video shoot at home, and we’ve heard from several clients who have been frustrated by this challenge. Although live video is hard, we have seen some clients shoot video using iPhones and a tripod with reasonable success.

Live-action video, however, isn’t the only format that works in B2B. Of course, there are webinars (voice over PowerPoint), but we’ve seen a big increase in enquiries about 2D and 3D explainer videos. Animated explainer videos can be as complex or straightforward as you like and are particularly good at showing the operation of complex systems. As building 3D models is time-consuming, our top tip is to plan how you can reuse the models in different ways to maximise the return on what can be a fairly expensive process.

Showcase Landing Pages

One approach has been to create landing pages that showcase the latest products or services from a client. Although they look completely different to a trade show, they replicate the experience by highlighting just a few key – and generally new – products.

Showcase pages are incredibly simple to create, and can offer a variety of different content, from pre-recorded webinars to eBooks. Although you are replicating the highlighting of products, you are not re-creating the environment of a trade show, so simply offering the chance to “ask an expert” as you would do at an event will not result anything like as many conversations as you’d get face-to-face. The quality of the enquiries, however, can be very good.

Our tip for showcase pages is to think about what the visitor might value sufficiently to give up their contact details. This could be a technical eBook, a development kit or even a competition to win something. In fact, many of the approaches to gather business cards at trade shows work on these pages, although it’s harder to offer a coffee or glass of beer!

Virtual Trade Shows

Several companies have created virtual booths, either using their own technology or a virtual exhibition (e.g. Industry Expo). This approach is fun! It’s also different, and there is definitely a novelty value around creating a virtual booth that will attract interest, without any limitations. In our experience, however, the user experience can be variable, particularly when trying to access technical information and so it can be hard to justify the extra investment required to create a virtual booth.

Increasing Email Marketing

I’m sure everyone has a company they did business with a long time ago that has suddenly decided to start emailing. First it was the CEO’s COVID-19 statement, and then a stream of promotional emails (of course with one that has a special offer to help you work from home). Many B2B tech companies are also dusting off their email databases with the thought that if the engineers aren’t coming to see what’s new, then the information will be delivered to their inboxes.

The problem with this approach is not the increased number of emails. In fact, more emails are better, but only when coupled with a good segmentation strategy. Creating several emails so everyone has content that is relevant to them is good: simply blasting the whole database with more emails is a terrible idea.

With people working from home, we have seen increases in both open and click rates of emails for many clients,  particularly those that think carefully about what they send to each contact. If you are planning to move budget to email marketing, we recommend you spend the time to segment your database and send highly targeted emails that are personalised to each recipient’s interests and needs. If you are looking for results, it’s relevance, not volume that matters.

Virtual Press Launches

Even press conferences have gone online! PR professionals can hold online press conferences or one-to-one video briefings to replace the traditional press event or meetings at trade shows. Delivering a good event is tricky: the presentation of a product’s features and accompanying PowerPoint slides has never been the most valuable part of the press conference: it is always the conversation and questions afterwards. For this reason, one-to-one briefings are often easier online.

Moving Budget to Other Activities

We’ve seen budget moved from events to almost any other marketing activity, from social to contributed articles. In these cases, however, there is a clear decision not to try to replicate the benefits of an event, but rather to use the money to achieve a different goal. In our opinion, starting from a zero-base is a great way to look at how you allocate budget, rather than trying to replace a show with something that feels similar. As always, it’s the business objectives that matter, not trying to replicate the status quo.

Not using the Budget

Although replacing the impact of trade shows is not easy, the worst thing that you can do is give up the budget when the event is cancelled. We’re not ignoring the realities: companies will be more careful about spending now than in the “good times”, but it’s important as marketers we highlight that cutting spending during a recession may produce short-term financial gains, but is a long-term mistake. Studies consistently show that decreases in marketing spend during tough times produce a small improvement in return on capital employed (ROCE), but result in a decreased ROCE in the long term, a longer period of time before the company recovers from a downturn and a reduction in brand equity and product use.

Be Creative

We’d love to hear what you are doing to replace trade shows and events in your marketing mix. As Billy Ocean told us (ironically at the start of the mid-80s to 90s economic boom), “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. So let us know what creative ideas these tough times have inspired!

Ad Blocking: How Does it Work and What Should Publishers do About it?

If you’re advertising online or in advertising-funded publishing, you need to know about ad blocking. In either case, this technology will potentially reduce the number of times advertising is seen, either making your campaign less effective or reducing your advertising income.

This blog post provides a primer that explains the technology and how publishers are fighting back against ad blocking. When you’ve read this, you’ll have a good understanding of the technology and the issues surrounding ad blocking.

What is Ad Blocking?

Ad blocking is a technique that removes adverts from a web page. It’s that simple, and people have developed other similar applications, including several that replace images. One example is a Chrome extension that replaces all images on a page with photos of Chuck Norris.

Why do People Block Ads?

There are a couple of reasons why people choose to block adverts: either they “don’t like ads” or they are frustrated with the time to render advertising-heavy websites. There is a huge moral debate about whether it’s ethical to access content that’s advertising funded with an ad blocker, and many publishers deploy anti ad block technology to prevent it.

Some people dislike ads because they don’t like being tracked, although ad blockers don’t necessarily block all tracking, only the adverts that are the result of tracking.

Why are Publishers so Upset?

Ad blocking is a serious threat to many publishers’ business models, particularly in B2B. Traditionally B2B magazines were typically funded by advertising, with companies keen to pay to use them to get their messages over as they knew who was receiving the magazine. This “controlled circulation” approach meant that B2B magazines were incredibly effective at getting adverts in front of the people that the advertisers wanted to reach (provided that the readers opened and read the magazine).

Today many B2B publications work on the same principle, with the audience defined by the content. The logic is that content talking about interrupt models of a microcontroller is likely to attract engineers designing with those products. Generating the level of content that is going to attract engineers, however, is difficult and requires skilled and knowledgeable journalists. And, of course, these journalists cost money.

So the position of publishers is pretty clear: although they don’t like to say this in public, they often view ad blocking as a form of stealing content, as the work of the journalists is being taken by people who are not paying because they don’t see the adverts.

Why Does My Ad Blocker Still Show Adverts?

Many ad blocking products participate in the Acceptable Ads programme, which defines guidelines as to what adverts should be shown. Some ad blockers will give you the option to enable or disable acceptable adverts.

The Acceptable Ads programme is not without controversy. Started by AdBlock Plus, the programme enables anyone whose adverts meet the criteria for acceptability to be whitelisted, but does charge the biggest advertisers for participation. Large advertisers (defined as companies that would receive 10 million impressions or more by whitelisting) are charged and pay 30% of the revenue they realise through whitelisting.

How Does an Ad Blocker Recognise an Advert?

The technology can have several ways to recognise an advert, which are referred to as filter rules. One of the most popular lists of filters is EasyList, which holds a large list of strings of text (for example “&trackingserver=”). If the ad blocker sees the string of text, then the code that includes the text is not executed, preventing adverts being displayed as well as website tracking.

Note that EasyList doesn’t stop all tracking, although the organisation does have a database of text that indicates tracking that ad blockers can used, called EasyPrivacy. There is the EasyList Cookie List that blocks all cookie banners, including the GDPR notifications that no website owner wants on their site but are forced to include because of European law.

A more comprehensive guide to ad blocking techniques is giving in the Wikipedia Ad blocking article.

How Does the Ad Blocker Stop the Advert from being Displayed?

To block the advert, the blocker simply changes the code used for the website. Normally a web page is displayed by your browser simply running through the code. Ad blockers are browser extensions, which lets them change the code before it is processed by the browser, meaning that they can detect and remove adverts and other content.

Perhaps the simplest example of how the code is changed is some websites use data:image/png; (an HTML function that doesn’t result in an HTML call that can be blocked). Ad blockers, however, simply add some CSS code that hides anything on the page displayed using this technique. Obviously, this can block elements that are not adverts, but ad blocking technology isn’t very subtle.

Dealing with Ad Blocking

There is an arms race between users and publishers over ad blocking. Realistically publishers have a limited number of options:

  • They can simply accept ad blocking and the related fall in revenue. For some B2B publishers this might be the best strategy because many companies will not allow users to deploy their own software (including ad blocking) on their PCs.
  • Publishers can use the ad networks that are whitelisted by the ad blockers. Although most systems allow users to ignore the Acceptable Ads, frequently users are happy to allow them and therefore this is one solution. Obviously, there is the tax on the large ad networks to participate in Acceptable ads that will inevitably be passed on to the publisher.
  • They can beg. Some publications ask people to whitelist the site, so they see adverts from that site. We’re not aware of any studies that show how effective this is, but we suspect that in the majority of cases the pleas to visitors’ better natures will be ignored.
  • Bypassing ad blockers is possible, but it will be a game of whack-a-mole. Finding ways to confuse the blocking software, making it display the adverts is difficult and any techniques are likely to be soon detected and patched, so successes will be short lived.
  • Publishers can refuse to allow visitors with ad blockers turned on to access their content. This seems to be a common trend today.
  • Publishers can make their sites subscription-only, without any adverts. This presents a challenge as it is hard to get people to pay money for online content, although some newspapers have done this successfully and I suspect there will be some high-quality publications that take this approach.

Personally, I like publishers who are confident enough to say that their content is valuable. If visitors are going to block ads and therefore not pay for the content. I think it’s a positive move to stop them browsing the site. Although this approach won’t make friends with the ad blocking community, it doesn’t involve any loss of revenue (the ad blocking visitors would not generate revenue anyway) and gets the message across that people who access news sites should do something to pay for the journalists that create them.

One extension of this option is to offer ad-free versions of the site if you pay a subscription. There have been a few experiments around this approach, where you can choose to see adverts or simply pay money, but it doesn’t seem to have taken off strongly in B2B technology.

Detecting Ad Blockers

Typically, when a publisher detects the use of an ad blocker, they will either display a plea to turn it off, or simply block access to the content. Detecting that a website visitor has ad blocking can be tricky: remember that ad blockers work after the HTML code for the page has been downloaded by the browser, so the website doesn’t see any of the changes being made. There are, however, some rather clever approaches that have been taken.

One simple approach is using bait. For example, a publisher might place some code inside a file called ads.js, and then try to load it from the web page. It’s pretty clear that as ad blockers use text strings, they are very likely to block the loading of any file called ads.js! So, with the loading of the file blocked, the element included in the file is not added to the page.

The clever part, however, is that the publisher can place JavaScript code on their website that detects whether the elements saved in the ads.js file are actually on the page. If they are not, then clearly the visitor is using an ad blocker, and this code can trigger an action that blocks the content and instead displays a message.

There are a range of different solutions using the bait approach, including one that was developed by the IAB and is available as open-source code to publishers.

A relatively new technology is called ad reinsertion. The battle between publishers and ad blockers has now got to the point that publishers look to detect where an ad has been removed (which will typically create a blank space) and then they insert the ad from a server that is not going to be blocked. This uses JavaScript code that contains the page’s HTML. Some ad blockers are even offering deals where publishers can pay to enable the ad to be reinserted.

There are two approaches to ad reinsertion: ad recovery puts the original advert in the empty space while ad replacement puts another advert into the space. Many organisations, however, question whether ad reinsertion is the right way for publishers to deal with ad blocking.

A third approach to dealing with ad blockers is the use of native ads: what older marketers would call “advertorials”. This simply means placing the promotion of the product or service inside an article. Native ads have been controversial as many publishers have not been completely open about when content is editorial, and when the publication is paid to carry it. It does, however, represent a way to deliver paid-for content that is not an advert as such and therefore won’t be blocked.

The Future of Online Advertising

I’d love to say that we have all the answers to the future of online advertising, but the reality is that no one really knows what will happen. In B2B marketing, however, there are a number of factors at play:

The cost of adverts in publications is very high compared with other platforms (e.g. search engine marketing or social media advertising). This suggests that there is real value in advertising in an online publication and therefore there will always be demand as it works. Publishers are also becoming more creative in how they generate money online, adding newsletters, email rental, webinars, lead generation programmes and other campaigns to their media packs.

Internet users and publishers will continue to battle in the ad blocking wars. Whether you side with users who say that the amount of advertising deployed is unacceptable and therefore ad blocking is justified, or the publishers who think that ad blockers steal their revenue, it’s likely that leadership in the arms race will swing from one side to another with no long-term winner.

Suppliers are moving towards more self-publishing, whether that is on a website, through marketing automation or with separate microsites, eBooks and other content. Customers value the technical competence of the authors of this content, but equally understand it has inherent bias and are much less trusting of self-published content than independent publications.

The large players in the online advertising market, particularly Google and Facebook will continue to try to monopolise the market. Although we frequently see stats saying that they are hoovering up most or all of the new money being spent online each year, it’s also clear that the money spent on display advertising with B2B publications is, in general, holding its own.

In the long term, I think we will end up with an equilibrium. There will be internet users who insist on using ad blockers, but equally many people will recognise the need to pay the journalists whose articles they love reading. I suspect we might see the less technically competent publications struggle to keep pace, but I’m pretty sure we will end up with a few subscription-based publications and a majority of online titles that are primarily advertising-funded. I certainly hope the advertising publications will continue: whatever your views on advertising, having high-quality content available to all engineers without the need for a cash payment has to be a good way to improve the knowledge and expertise of the engineering community.

How We Solve the Top 10 B2B Marketing Challenges

It’s surprising how often different clients raise the same challenges. That’s what’s great about agency life: we see the same problems, with different context, and can build a toolbox to resolve them.

Here’s our list of the top 10 issues we help clients resolve:

  1. Content Creation
  2. Ensuring and Demonstrating Value
  3. Making Best Use of Marketing Technology
  4. Marketing Automation
  5. Lead Generation
  6. Awareness
  7. Data Management
  8. Video Creation
  9. Marketing Strategy
  10. Training Your Team

1. Content Creation

When we talk to clients about marketing today, we discuss content creation and content distribution. This approach is so much better than starting with tactics, for example media relations, as it ensures we consider all options and create the best possible campaign each time.

It’s also useful because content distribution and content creation are very different. Typically, marketers are dealing with many channels for content distribution, making channel selection and management a big challenge. Content creation is completely different: marketers struggle to get subject matter experts to create content and need external resources to work writing, graphics, video and online content creation.

We’ve built an agency that is built on our in-house and freelance engineers and technical journalists, as well as marketeers who have chosen to specialise in B2B technology. In fact, more than half the agency once was a journalist or engineer.

This means that we are able to help create content, whether our clients need copywriting, content for inbound marketing or video. Our focus is on generating the most compelling content that engages customers and prospects, driving increased revenue and profit.

2. Ensuring and Demonstrating Value

One of the biggest challenges today is the need to show that marketing activities really generate value for the organisation. We have been offering payment by results for around 20 years, and this experience means we really understand how to measure value for clients. Forget about meaningless metrics such as clicks and followers: from strategy & planning to measurement & results, we build campaigns around business goals that measure the impact on our clients’ bottom lines.

Everyone at Napier also understands that any audience isn’t a homogenous group of people: some are much more valuable than others. Our ability to focus, targeting budgets towards the most valuable audience members with tactics such as ABM means we ensure that your budget works as hard as possible to deliver return on marketing investment.

3. Making Best Use of Marketing Technology

It’s hard to understand the rapidly changing world of marketing technology. In 2019, Madhive found that the average number of Martech vendors used by brands, agencies and publishers was 28, and one average 8.,5 vendors would be added in the next year. To make things even more challenging, marketers must select from a total of more than 7000 Martech vendors.

At Napier we have people who are continually monitoring developments in Martech, understanding the pros and cons of each vendor and analysing the market to determine trends. Our approach to partnerships with vendors is what Americans like to call “agnostic” although it would be more accurate to say that the choice of vendor is inconsequential to us, but really important to our clients. We work with the system that is best for our client, ensuring that we have expertise across all the major Martech vendors in the B2B technology space, from marketing automation and social media tools to sales enablement and ABM.

4. Marketing Automation

The potential offered by modern marketing automation tools is incredible: a system that can gently nudge contacts through the customer journey, delivering enthusiastic customers with little or no human intervention. The vision is so compelling it sets marketing automation apart from other Martech tools.

The reality of marketing automation in many companies, however, is very different. It’s sadly too common to hear companies say they feel that their marketing automation is simply running as a fancy (and expensive) Mailchimp. Whether it’s lack of content, lack of creativity or the need for technical skills to get the best from the system, there are many reasons why most marketing automation deployments fail to deliver the hoped-for benefits.

We’ve worked with all the big systems: Marketo, HubSpot, SharpSpring, Act-On, Eloqua, Pardot and more. We’ve seen great campaigns, and we’ve seen companies turn around their marketing automation efforts from simply managing a mailing list to a lead-generation machine. Contact us to find out how we can make your marketing automation system fly.

5. Lead Generation

Many companies have an almost unslakable thirst for leads. In some areas of B2B technology, marketers have good systems for lead generation: for example, in IT where it’s relatively easy to identify and reach decision makers.

In other markets it can be much harder to understand who will be involved in the decision-making process. We see industries with huge decision-making units (DMUs), where clients must reach a large and diverse audience.

We don’t believe that lead generation is something that lends itself to a simple solution, so we create strategies to drive high-quality leads using a wide range of tactics, including:

6. Raising Awareness

A long time ago, marketing was all about raising awareness: with a relative lack of alternative products, if you could simply make people aware of your product, then you’d sell it.

Today, the situation is much more complex. Rarely will you generate leads from an awareness-raising campaign, and few people in B2B buy a product when they first hear about it. Awareness, however, is the first step along the customers’ journey.

We understand that awareness isn’t just driven by PR and advertising. Although they are part of the picture, our campaigns also drive awareness with:

7. Data Management

Data is the lifeblood of many sales and marketing campaigns. Without good data it’s impossible to monitor and optimise marketing activities, but data also has a dark side. In addition to legislation such as GDPR, mis-using data is one of the fastest ways to destroy a relationship with a contact.

At Napier we give you clear advice on industry best practices, identifying what’s possible and what will work with your clients. For the trickiest of problems, we also have relationships with legal experts who can help you safely navigate the most complex regulations.

8. Video Creation

It’s no longer the 1980s when dial-up made video a nearly impossible dream on the web. Today video is one of the most important mediums, something that’s reflected by YouTube’s status as the second largest search engine after Google.

Our creative team work on a wide range of videos, from live-action shoots to 2D and 3D animations to explain complex concepts. Ask us for ideas of how to communicate using video and you’ll be delighted by the creative ideas, and might be surprised at how cost-effective they are too!

9. Marketing Strategy

Although finding the right strategy has always been a challenge, it’s more important than ever as marketing managers find themselves with more channels and opportunities than they could ever use.

Focus is essential. A key element of our strategic planning is determining what not to do, as well as what should be done, ensuring our clients focus on what will really impact the achievement of business objectives, rather than simply ticking boxes.

We also use data-driven planning. Whether we are measuring the outcomes of your campaigns to determine their effectiveness or conducting research to understand the market and your customers, we build the evidence that ensures your marketing strategy will deliver the results you need.

10. Training Your Team

One of the biggest concerns about using agencies is that the in-house team will become less skilled, making you more reliant on the agency. This should not be how it works: partnering with an agency should enable you to draw on their experience and expertise to up-skill the in-house team.

We love working with the in-house team to help them grow and develop, and frequently run workshops and training to help our clients build their own expertise. By helping our clients grow and learn, we believe that together we will deliver better results that will ultimately produce more opportunity for Napier.


embedded world 2020 open

embedded world 2020 Goes Ahead Without Surprises

embedded world 2020 opened yesterday. After all the gossip and speculation about the event, with many major exhibitors pulling out, the first day was rather uneventful, and snow being the main talking point at the start of day 2.

We've not covered the various companies that pulled out on the blog. It became clear fairly early on that once companies started withdrawing from Mobile World Congress, it would be very difficult for them to attend embedded world. It also only needed a couple of companies to pull out citing safety concerns for their employees and/or customers to trigger a domino effect. The truth is that it would be very difficult for any American company to have flown people out to the show from the USA once a couple of big players had publicly announced their withdrawal.

So embedded world was in a rather difficult position. They must have known that there would be a domino effect, and that the show would be somewhat underwhelming in terms of visitors and exhibitors. We will probably never know in detail why embedded world went ahead when MWC was cancelled, but we suspect that the fact that the Messe which organises embedded world made it difficult for them to cancel one show without shutting down their whole business. MWC is organised by the GSMA, so they didn't have the potential of a similar knock-on effect.

Whatever the reasons, the show did go on. It clearly hasn't been an easy couple of weeks for the organisers as their recent statement shows:

"We have never held an exhibition under such complex, global conditions before. Unfortunately, the effects of the corona situation on this fair cannot be completely avoided. We regret, but respect the fact that a number of companies will now not be attending the fair at short notice. Nevertheless, we are convinced that embedded world is attractive and worthwhile for exhibitors and visitors again this year," says Dr. Roland Fleck, CEO of NürnbergMesse.

The good news for the show is that a lot of exhibitors did attend, and the visitor numbers appear reasonably good considering the situation. In fact, many companies are tweeting about the show as if nothing is out of the ordinary, trying to attract visitors with offers like free coffee:

Our friends at Electronics Weekly have gone one better than this, and are offering free beer to drive people to the stand.

The Messe is also keen to highlight the relative normality of the situation, and I'm told by Clive, who is at the show for Napier, that this tweet is a pretty realistic representation of visitor numbers (although as he's from California, he is moaning about the cold and the snow, which aren't visible on the photo!)

There is at least one visitor who isn't worried about the Coronavirus, although hopefully this cute robot is fully protected against malicious software:

Although visitor numbers appear to be significantly below previous years (and let's not forget how busy the show was in the last couple of years: they have set a high bar for visitors), with Embedded Computing among those who were pleasantly surprised with the number of attendees.

We even wonder whether the relatively good news about visitors made the exhibitors' party on the first night a little wilder than usual.

Not everyone, however, was quite as excited about the show as the dancers in the tweet above. Well-known Aspencore journalist, Nitin Dahad, highlighted what he called "empty halls".

Sally Ward-Foxton, on the other hand, seemed rather pleased with the additional space. It certainly is the case that there are more places to sit and a lot more greenery at the show than in previous years.

Perhaps the final word on what is happening should go to one of the exhibitors who have made the event this year possible. I'm going to choose McObject, not because we have a relationship with them (we don't), but because as a geek I think that in-memory databases are cool.


Embedded World 2020 - Success or Failure?

So what do we think about the show? We have people at the event but cut down our attendance dramatically because almost all our clients pulled out (as did many larger companies). I suspect this is pretty much what others will have done. The truth is that no one involved is to blame for what will be a disappointing show: I totally understand the reasons why companies pulled out, as well as why most decided to still attend; I have complete sympathy with the organisers who were put in an extremely difficult position once MWC was cancelled; and I can understand why visitors might choose not to go because of Coronavirus concerns or simply because so many large exhibitors pulled out.

It will be interesting to see what happens next year. Few people are talking about what will happen. Will the big companies automatically rebook? Will there be incentives for exhibitors who didn't attend but still had to pay for the stand space they booked? Although I've seen many companies that withdrew trying to create online content that mirrored what they were planning to have on the booth, realistically few had time to create much of an experience. I don't see anyone saying that they've discovered that an online showcase can replace exhibiting at embedded world. Perhaps the organisers should be helping the smaller companies that attended and made embedded world 2020 possible, but clearly are suffering from reduced visitor numbers. At this stage we simply don't know.

In conclusion, however, I do hope that the show returns bigger and better in 2021. embedded world has built a fabulous event, and I know companies that felt they had to pull out of this year's show who had decided to double-down on the show, at the expense of electronica, which they felt offered a poorer return on investment for their company. With any luck, 2021 will see the show return as strong as ever, and (other than Clive complaining about the weather) we will all be happy.


Alternatives to Meaningless Marketing Metrics

Digital channels have enabled marketers to generate huge amounts of data, from number of followers to click-to-open rates. Although these metrics can be useful when analysing the performance of campaigns, they do not tell the whole story. Without context, many marketing metrics are meaningless, and frequently referred to as “vanity metrics”.

An Example of Meaningless Metrics

A great example would be one of our clients, who works in a specialist area where there are only a few thousand people globally who would be responsible for selecting their category of products. In this case, would having 50,000 followers be better than 40,000? It’s clear that not all of these followers are influential, so does more mean better? We need alternatives to these meaningless marketing metrics.

Return on Marketing Investment

The return on marketing investment (ROMI) is defined as the contribution to profit divided by the amount spent on the marketing campaign. Simple!

Although this feels like a good alternative to meaningless metrics, it can be very difficult to measure ROMI. In particular it’s hard to attribute sales or profit to a specific marketing activity as you rarely have a situation where it’s only the marketing that changes. For example, a campaign to launch a new product would typically be supported by sales training and incentives. It’s very difficult to separate the impact of the different types of investment.

Equally one marketing activity is unlikely to make all the different: typically, it’s the impact of many activities that ultimately causes someone to buy, particularly in a business-to-business environment with a long sales cycle. Discussing the challenges of attribution is beyond the scope of this blog post, so to learn more check out the Wikipedia article on marketing attribution.

The Metrics that CEOs Care About

Despite the many pretty presentations marketing departments produce based on the meaningless metrics described above, the reality is that the senior executives don’t take any notice of them. They care about financial metrics, for example Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV). Put simply, if it costs you less to acquire a customer as they are worth to you over their lifetime, then the marketing to get a new customer is worth doing. If it costs you more to acquire customers than they are worth, then you probably need to revisit your business model (although this often doesn’t apply to the over-hyped VC-funded start-up world).

Although financial metrics are great alternatives to meaningless marketing metrics, they don’t really help marketers. For example, when acquiring a customer, what activities have an impact? How much impact does each marketing tactic have? You simply can’t analyse your marketing performance with these high-level metrics.

AVE is a Meaningless Marketing Metric

If you talk to people about the measurement of PR, you’ll soon get on to the issue of advertising value equivalent (AVE). People try to measure what it would have cost to generate the same amount of “coverage” as the PR campaign by buying advertising instead. The logic is that if the PR campaign costs less than the value of the advertising, you’re getting a great deal.

This is just not true. Apart from the fact that the two are very different (and frequently the PR-types will multiply their value of coverage by a number they claim to represent the impact: I’ve seen anything from three to nine times used by other agencies), just because you got PR coverage, doesn’t mean that the publication would be the right one for advertising. Equally it’s almost impossible to judge AVE for PR that appears in places such as publication websites.

The amec Framework: An Alternative to Meaningless Metrics

One organisation that has made considerable progress in devising alternatives to meaningless metrics is the association for the measurement and evaluation of communications (amec). This organisation has built a framework for planning the evaluation of campaigns, and even has an online tool. The tool, however, only produces results that are as good as the inputs it receives, and it’s perfectly possible to generate a set of meaningless metrics by using the tool ineffectively. So, although the organisation made significant steps forward, it doesn’t have the full solution.

Business Thinking: The Alternative to Meaningless Marketing Metrics

The reality is that the alternative to using simplistic and meaningless metrics is thinking about what marketing is trying to achieve for the business. This needs marketers to consider a wide range of factors, from financial (such as LTV) to the customer journey or sales funnel.

Ultimately if you can show how you are moving prospects along the customer journey and driving them to become customers, then you can show value. To optimise each marketing tactic, you need to look at a small section of the journey, for example you might want to look at conversion rates for a landing page, but it’s critical you don’t forget the big picture. Increasing a landing page conversion rate only benefits the business if the additional contacts generated ultimately become profitable customers.

Being able to focus on a small aspect of your overall marketing activities and keep the big business picture in mind can be very difficult, but if you can do it then you are well on your way to finding your best alternative to meaningless marketing metrics.

Growing B2B Agency Napier Welcomes Clive Over as Associate Director

Clive Over - Associate Director

Napier has welcomed Clive Over to the Napier team as Associate Director.

Clive joins the team as a Silicon Valley veteran, with more than 20 years’ in the B2B tech industry with leading companies in data storage, enterprise software, data centre and semiconductor markets. He brings to the team extensive experience in building comprehensive integrated marketing and communications campaigns, brand strategies and lead generation programmes. Initially he will work from Northern California and will relocate to the UK in early 2020.

Clive will focus on developing and growing the agency, whilst also supporting major clients including Vicor, Panasas and Semtech.

“I’m delighted to have joined the team at Napier and am looking forward to working with the agency’s roster of great clients,” commented Clive. “This is a fantastic opportunity to join an innovative, growing agency.”

“Clive is a heavyweight marketing director with a fantastic track record in both Europe and the USA,” added Mike Maynard, Managing Director of Napier. “His knowledge and experience will be highly valuable to our clients and also to train and develop the Napier team.”

Advertising on Social Media: Microcontroller Vendors Trying to use Paid Social

It’s interesting that there is still a divide over whether social media is an effective channel for semiconductor companies. Ultimately, the only way companies can really know is to try the platforms and see whether they generate ROI that matches other channels, although our experience is that they probably will: LinkedIn seems to be generating great results.

Rather than listen to an agency’s view, as we’re probably not completely impartial, I thought it would be interesting to look at which of the top Microcontroller vendors are using paid social media, in particular Facebook and LinkedIn. Both platforms allow anyone to view the adverts being run by an organisation, although you can’t see who is targeted by the adverts and how much is being spent (Facebook does show more information for political ads than commercial ones).

For the purposes of this rather informal (but hopefully informative!) study, I picked the following seven vendors:

  • Cypress
  • Infineon Technologies
  • Microchip Technology
  • NXP
  • Renesas
  • Silicon Labs
  • Texas Instruments

LinkedIn Advertising: Everyone is Doing it!

When you visit a company’s LinkedIn page, you’re able to view the ads that it is running. For this blog post, we just looked at the company’s main page (so IDT, which has its own page but is part of Renesas, for example, was not included).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all seven vendors are running adverts on LinkedIn. This is a clear reflection of the effectiveness and ability to target on the LinkedIn platform, and the results that can be generated. The tactics used, however, differed from one company to another.

Infineon is running a lot of corporate/image advertising on LinkedIn. Although they are running a few product adverts (e.g. for their gesture control device used on the Pixel 4 smartphone), most contain high-level messages such as:

Infineon is also promoting their upcoming event in the USA, OktoberTech:

The ability to target by location makes LinkedIn a great tool for promoting events, and Silicon Labs is also running event advertising, this time promoting a seminar about their products being run by Arrow. Silicon Labs are running slightly different adverts for each location:

Microchip, NXP, Silicon Labs and TI all had similar approaches, primarily promoting products or solutions for particular applications. TI has a significant percentage of video adverts, while Microchip and NXP tended to use eye-catching static images:

Unlike the other companies, Renesas seems focussed on acquiring followers on LinkedIn. While the others routed clicks directly to relevant pages, Renesas prefers sending clicks to their company page on LinkedIn, encouraging people to follow them:

We did notice that some of our group were running AB tests. Although it’s not always possible to detect whether two similar adverts are being run to AB test them, or for other reasons, we’d be pretty sure that NXP is testing the different copy on these two adverts:

Silicon Labs is another believer in testing creative, running several versions of their advert for the Wireless Gecko Series 2, including:

Although it’s great to see companies getting data on what works and what doesn’t, we did notice that this group only tended to test the text and not changes to the image. Although it’s obviously much more difficult to create variations of images, we’d hope that this is something that they will be doing soon.

Cypress is probably the least active of the group, with LinkedIn showing only one advert that promotes the CEO’s latest blog post:

Facebook: Still Not Sure It’s Right

The most interesting finding was that Cypress, Infineon, Microchip, NXP and Silicon Labs are not running paid campaigns on Facebook. It’s not possible to know whether these companies have tried Facebook and found it didn’t work, or simply have not tried campaigns, but it’s clear that when it comes to social media the microcontroller industry is all-in on LinkedIn and unsure about Facebook.

Renesas and Texas Instruments are running campaigns, with Renesas running five different ads, and TI having created 22 different ads during October alone. We would guess that Renesas has only just started running Facebook ads, but can’t be completely sure about this, whereas TI has a significant history of adverts on the platform.

Both companies are running similar adverts to their LinkedIn campaigns. For example (LinkedIn ad on the left, Facebook on the right):

Renesas are running a couple of versions of their wireless charging creative, which routes to the Renesas Facebook page in a bid to grow followers (clearly they didn’t get the message about company pages being de-emphasised in the Facebook feed), as well as two adverts for IDT products that route to relevant pages about the product and a joint promotion with a partner that routes to the partner’s website.

TI is running some advertising in Korean, although these route through to English language pages:

Paid Social: Conclusions

We thought it would be fun to look at activities on paid social media for a blog post, and as well as enjoying the research we found it extremely informative. We think that it’s reasonable to draw the following conclusions:

  • Electronics component companies should be running paid LinkedIn campaigns: 100% of our sample can’t be wrong (we hope)!
  • The jury is still out on Facebook, but TI seems particularly committed to using it as an advertising platform. Perhaps it’s time for others to try it?
  • If we look at the companies who seem most active, and assume they are getting the best results, it’s clear that you should be AB testing the adverts you run. You might get a competitive advantage if you AB test the images you use as this isn’t something that’s happening at a significant level
  • Events are worth promoting on LinkedIn

Sadly there is no way of us knowing anything about the effectiveness of the adverts being run: we would love to know how Infineon is measuring the corporate/image campaign and if they feel it’s working; it would be fascinating to compare the different creatives to find out what drives the most clicks (is video worth the extra money, for example?) and I’d love to see the results of the AB tests being run. I suspect that the companies we’ve looked at will choose to keep their results confidential, but if anyone reading this is feeling brave, please contact me.

Who Should You Target: The Grass Roots or the C-Suite?

In our business there certainly seems to be a trend of companies wanting to allocate more of their time and money to reaching the most senior executives in target customers’ organisations: the C-suite. The logic goes that if you can get someone like the CEO interested in your product then the rest of the company will fall in line and sales will be simple.

Not everyone is trying to do this: we worked with a fastener manufacturer (i.e. they made nuts and bolts). Trying to get senior executives excited about these products is really hard, as they are unlikely to consider such components worthy of their time. Well they won’t consider them worthy until a cheap component fails and one of their products breaks, but crisis management is a different matter.

Some of the Coolest Start-ups Ignore the C-Suite

I find the desire to influence senior executives interesting as many of today’s coolest customers almost arrogantly ignore executives in their marketing. This is particularly true of many SaaS companies: Dropbox, Slack and Box are all companies that have built their success from grass-roots adoption, rather than getting executive sponsors.

Of course, as these companies have grown, they have attracted the attention of the executives and expanded their marketing. The reality, however, is that they are much more likely to be adopted in a company by individuals or department managers, rather than those in the wood-panelled corner offices.

Why do so Many Companies Want C-level Interest?

It’s certainly true that many companies are suppliers that deserve interest at the highest levels of their customers. It’s inconceivable that the CEO of an airline wouldn’t want to be involved in deciding between Boeing and Airbus as the aircraft supplier of choice, and so it’s essential for those companies to have C-suite campaigns.

If you’re making commodities or low-value products that aren’t considered important technology, you might not worry about attention from the top bosses, but there is definitely a grey area. I’m seeing a lot of companies that frankly know they are not important enough to interest board-level execs, but would like to be that important so they embark on expensive campaigns to reach this difficult audience.

Why Reaching C-Level Influencers is so Hard

It should be pretty obvious why reaching the C-level is so difficult: they have so many calls on their time and need to be concerned about the entire business. Their attention is valuable, and they know it, so if you don’t have something that is compelling to them, they won’t see it.

In fact many CEOs and executives have gatekeepers reading email and filtering the post, so it’s even tougher to reach them: you’ve got to first convince the PA that they should forward to the executive and then engage the exec in a blink of an eye, which is about as long as they will give you and your communication.

The Right Approach: Simply Good Marketing

Like most things, the answer to questions about how much time and month should be allocated to reaching the top-level of targets, prospects and existing customers is not a simple yes or no. We recommend that marketers consider two things:

  1. Does the C-suite have influence?
  2. Can the C-suite be made to care?

The first question is answered by considering the customer journey for your particular product or service. Will a purchase be discussed by members of the board? Is this amongst themselves, or with their team? Just because the CFO is interested, it doesn’t mean that they will talk to the CEO or CIO about the decision. So maybe you care about one member of the C-suite, rather than all of them. To put it another way, work out your audience and target them.

It’s also important to consider whether you can make executives care about your product or service. The brutal truth might be that thee CFO will approve a purchase, but he’ll just rubber-stamp it and won’t have any influence. In this case you probably don’t want to waste too much effort trying to make him feel good about choosing your company as he just won’t care. If they don’t have a role in the decision-making unit (DMU), then they are not important to you.

It’s certainly possible to run campaigns that grabs the attention of a particular audience and makes them care about an issue, product or service. If customers are concerned about the environment and you’re the first company in your sector to offer a truly “green” product then perhaps it’s time that you linked your product or service to an issue they already care about: sustainability. Don’t think it’s going to be easy: it takes a lot of work to change perceptions and it’s even harder when you’re trying to change the perceptions at the top level of companies.

Can C-Suite Campaigns Work?

This question has an easy answer: YES! It’s absolutely possible to get great return on investment from these campaigns, particularly if they are well-planned. It’s also getting easier to reach the executives with digital channels, particularly LinkedIn and often through CRM retargeting. If you’ve done the analysis and it makes sense to influence C-level contacts, go for it. But don’t feel bad if your analysis shows that you don’t need to address them: just consider yourself in the same group as some of the coolest billion-dollar start-ups!

Inbound 2019: ABM is Just Good Strategic Marketing with Personalisation

At Inbound I attended a session presented by Sigstr, a company that delivers email marketing by appending different footers to emails. We use one of their competitors to do exactly the same thing: please do ask if you want more information.

During the presentation, the speaker, Justin produced one of the wisest comments I’ve heard about ABM: “ABM is just good strategic marketing with personalisation”.

The presentation started off with some general “why you should do ABM” statistics. Although I think almost everyone has seen these stats, they are worth repeating because although we all know the benefits of ABM, not everyone is taking advantage.

  • ABM outperforms all other marketing channels by 91%. Typically, 2% of leads convert.
  • ABM increases win rate by 38%
  • ABM delivers a 200% increase in revenue compared with other channels.

First Steps in ABM: One Target Account

Sigstr started by targeting a client they had previously lost, Salesforce. Their campaign was creative – they bought the URL sigstrlovessalesforce.com, built a simple one-page website and had Starbucks cards made with the URL on them. They sent the cards to 10 people they were targeting in Salesforce and also started putting footers on emails that went to Salesforce contacts. As the website was blocked from being indexed, they knew as soon as they saw traffic it must be a result of the campaign.

This experimental campaign taught them a lot, but sadly – despite the clever idea of creating a website specifically for this ABM campaign – they didn’t manage to win Salesforce back as a customer. Despite this they decided to expand the campaign to the next stage.


Growing ABM: 100 Target Accounts

The next step was to expand to 100 accounts, and this required the generation of a suitable target account list. This was perhaps the biggest problem, and required the following process:

  • Create a clear ICP (ideal customer profile). Don’t build off previous customers only: look to the future too
  • Choose accounts that have something in common - a common audience. It’s hard to build 100 different messages, but if audience is common then can use the same message.
  • Sales and marketing finalise the selection

Rather than creating 100 websites, Sigstr built 100 landing pages on the standard template, having first built a spreadsheet to determine what goes where for each landing page to make the implementation as easy as possible. The most important thing for these pages was to make them feel highly personalised to each of the target companies.

Sigstr built a content matrix mapping the three personas and three industries targeted in the campaign to make it easier to determine what content was included on each page. Apparently, it was this content matrix that was one of the main factors in simplifying the development of so many different landing pages.

Sigstr’s team believed that there were only a few ways to reach accounts in an ABM campaign: targeted advertising, email, direct mail and phone/meeting. Although the Starbucks cards didn’t work in the first campaign, they chose direct mail and made boxes of “swag” to send to contacts in the target account. Initially they did this in house, but later on moved to a third-party provider, Sendoso.

The campaign did include advertising, email, phone calls and meetings. Interestingly, they highlighted phone as the least effective channel, mainly because of the difficulty in getting hold of people on the telephone. Meetings were the most effective as they had the highest value interaction.

SIgstr built a technology stack to deliver these campaigns, using the following vendors:

  • Targeted advertising: Terminus, LinkedIn, DemandBase, Sense and RollWorks
  • Emails: SalesLoft, Outreach and Sigstr (of course!)
  • Direct Mail: Sendoso, PFL, Printfection and alyce

For this campaign they changed metrics that were monitored from cost per lead to cost per opportunity and cost per customer. Perhaps surprisingly one of the biggest problems with this was that it took longer than expected to secure the customer, even with the relatively short sales cycle of Sigstr. This meant that early on it was hard to see progress, and so the team actively sought out opportunities to celebrate success.

This campaign did result in opportunities in sales, and generated three key lessons that were used to inform the next campaign:

  • Measure based on cost per opportunity or customer acquisition cost, rather than marketing metrics
  • Get sales to care: if sales are not involved the campaign will not work
  • Focusing on revenue as being the primary KPI

Expansion to 1000 ABM Accounts

The next stage in Sigstr’s ABM campaigns was to roll out to 1000 accounts. At this stage they needed to purchase a tool to create a scoring framework to select the accounts as discussions with sales would have taken too long for this many companies.

Accounts were also tiered, with more money being spent attracting tier 1 accounts than tier 2. If a second-tier account engaged with the campaign, however, then their priority was raised and so was the budget for that account. The picture below shows how they managed the criteria of their tiers:

Scaling up to a thousand accounts also made manual creation of customised landing pages impractical, so Sigstr deployed Drift to create the pages using a standard template. Interestingly, the campaign didn’t always root prospects to the Sigstr website. For SaaS services like Sigstr review sites are very important. So many people were directed to the Sigstr reviews on G2 Crowd.

Adverts were personalised with the target company’s name. The ABM campaign also ran during onboarding, with ads during the process and a request for review on G2 after the customer was up and running.

One of the most interesting insights about ABM was the difference Sigstr saw in the journeys different customers took. Although they tried to map out the ideal customer journey, real customers didn’t play ball and almost everybody took a slightly different journey. Flexibility is clearly an important element of any ABM campaign.

Although there were other problems, for example attribution became very difficult, the campaign was very successful and 65% of deals closed were from ABM campaign. ABM resulted in a 75% increase in ACV and saw a 5-day decrease in sales cycle. 30% of the tier 1 and 11% of the tier 2 target accounts became opportunities.

The Next Steps

Sigstr identified three changes that they are implementing to further improve their ABM campaigns:

  • Reducing the number of targeted accounts – they are down to about 600 accounts, but also moving up market to target bigger companies. Of course, this introduces the challenge that the sales cycle is a bit longer with larger opportunities.
  • Outbound has been moved from sales into marketing to make management of ABM easier
  • Events are now a key part of the campaigns and they invite the key accounts to the event or side event that Sigstr is hosting to create more meetings

Three ABM Insights

My top three insights were:

  • ABM really does work if you keep at it, although sales cycles for ABM are likely to be longer than for inbound enquiries
  • “ABM is just good strategic marketing with personalisation” – don’t over-think it!
  • Flexibility is important: no two accounts are going to follow exactly the same customer journey, no matter how much planning you put into your ideal journey


These notes were taken when I attended From No ABM Program to Award-Winning ABM Program in Just One Year at Inbound 2019 presented by Justin Keller, VP Marketing at Sigstr.


Aspencore layoffs EE Times EDN

Layoffs at Aspencore Spook the Industry

This is a difficult blog for me to write. I’m a huge supporter of publishers – after all, we need them to have a PR business – but recent events at Aspencore are concerning. It’s not just me that’s worrying: it’s also our clients who have been spooked by the departure of key figures in the business.

We have tried to get comments on the record from a number of people in the Aspencore/Arrow management, and when I started writing this we had only received a copy of an internal memo, despite promises that we would get a statement. Between me completing the post, there was an article written by Junko Yoshida on EETimes.com that presents Aspencore’s side of the story. I’ve therefore included a section that discusses this new information.

You should also know that Farnell, which is part of Avnet is one of our clients. As Aspencore is part of Arrow, a direct competitor to Avnet, I’m not totally independent. People who know me, however, will understand that I won’t bring any conscious bias to this post, although I’m the first to admit there may be some unconscious bias because of this relationship.


What’s Happened at Aspencore?

Aspencore has laid off some of its best-known journalists and publishers. Although there are still many great journalists there, without doubt, the layoffs mean that they now have less talent available.

The following “big name” journalists were laid off in the USA:

  • Rick Merritt
  • Clive Maxfield
  • Dylan McGrath
  • Steve Taranovich

In Europe Jurgen Hubner, a great publisher who build ICC media has left, while “intergalactic” sales rep, Bob Dumas, has left to join EE Tech.

Although this is a significant amount of departing talent, it should be remembered that Aspencore still has the biggest, most global editorial team in the industry and that it still includes some of the industry’s most highly experienced and respected journalists.


What Caused this to Happen?

I'm going to have to make a few educated guesses, but the reasons seem fairly clear. Arrow has decided that the publishing business needs to be exactly that: a business. This isn’t quite as obvious a move as it might seem, because publications such as newspapers have a strong history of being supported by a benefactor who chooses to fund the publication for the influence and status it gives them, and you'd think that influence and status would be helpful to a distributor.

Making money in electronics is hard. Without doubt Arrow's strategy is to reduce cost by shedding the most expensive publishers and journalists. They’ve decided to reduce quality. Again, this isn’t as crazy as it might seem. It’s not that Arrow won’t get quality content: as it is the Internet said “information wants to be free“ and when it comes to information that might help suppliers or products, that information is desperate to be free and widely available as possible. Even better the individuals in the suppliers who are writing this content are typically world experts on the subject, so the quality is likely to be great even if it might be a little slanted to present the vendor and the products in the very best possible light! EE Times also still has a great team of journalists: losing some of their talent still leaves a large number of great writers in Aspencore.

So getting the content isn’t hard. Perhaps the biggest issue is how that content is valued. Suppliers value the content hugely: one significant design win as a result of a technical article can pay for an entire year of PR.  Readers value it highly too, as it is essential for engineers to keep learning if they are to be able to do a good job. Unfortunately valuing the content doesn’t mean they’ll pay for it. Bizarrely the channel in which information is presented has a major impact on its value. If you want to work with an analyst, you’re going to pay an eye-watering hourly rate to talk to them. Yet the same people who pay these fees are shocked when you suggest they should pay for publications, even if the same analysts are providing content to those publications.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the way Google values quality of content. Google is possibly the world's smartest company, and it still doesn’t have a clue about the difference between average and great journalism. Traffic to the website, which ultimately means money to the publisher because a large percentage if not majority of their income is display advertising, are those charged on a cost per thousand bases, is frequently determined by Google. Sadly Google values speed and search engine optimization over high-quality insightful journalism.

The cost per thousand model used when publications charge for advertising also presents an incentive to eliminate in-depth high-quality content. Reading long form content takes time, and the number of adverts that can be placed next to the article is limited. This means that an in-depth article requires considerable time on site but generates little revenue. Someone clicking through superficial news articles is far more valuable to a publisher and someone who reads a highly insightful 2000 word article.

So this is the problem. readers won’t pay, suppliers think providing the content is sufficient value to publication, Google completely fails to raise the very best journalism to the top and publishers have failed to find alternative business models to the cost per thousand advertising model.

In other markets what happens is the most experienced journalists tend to launch their own publications based upon their personal brand. These publications are more like blogs and have a very low cost base, allowing a different business model. This doesn’t really happen in electronics, perhaps because we're such a niche industry that you simply can't get the traffic without a team of SEO experts.


What Does Aspencore Say About the Changes?

After I started writing this post, EE Times wrote an article presenting their side of the story (see below for more information). Although I had previously approached several people at the company, the vast majority were unwilling to comment. We did, however, manage to get the following, which is part of an internal email sent by Bolaji Ojo Global Editorial Director and General Manager of Aspencore Media in Europe and David Chivers Global Publisher for Aspencore Media:

A. ASPENCORE is global in coverage and outreach. We have publications in all parts of the globe and editorial representation in every major region. This hasn’t changed. In fact, we are expanding our coverage of the entire industry and expanding our team in China. For Silicon Valley, we have contributing editors and stringers based in the area and we have signed partnerships with research firms for unique and independent insightful reports. We haven’t left the Valley - see these recent articles EE Times published this past week:
i. Hot Chips 2019 Has Never Been Hotter, or Bigger
ii. Does Your AI Chip have its own DNN?

B. ASPENCORE is distinct in terms of its coverage of developments in engineering, technology and the business of high-tech. We have introduced expanded coverage to dive deeper into the topics and issues of importance to the entire industry. We launched our Special Projects unit to do comprehensive coverage of distinct topics, covering these from various angles and involving major stakeholders, including companies, researchers, engineers, financial analysts and contributing writers. We cover everything from Aviation, Automotive, Communication, Security, AI to Quantum Computing, Apple and Tesla.
C. ASPENCORE’s product range is comprehensive. In addition to digital media, ASPENCORE has print publications, newsletters and research-grade content in Asia, China Japan, Europe and North America. The topics we treat are global and our reach is global.
D. We have added and continue to hire experienced editors and contributors globally. Our new hires include editors in Europe and contributing editors in North America and Asia-Pacific
E. ASPENCORE is nimbly responding to market conditions with new products and offerings, including our unique podcast, EE Times on Air, and special projects/reports. If you haven’t already, take a look at our Special Project landing page: https://www.eetimes.com/archives.asp?section_id=242
F. ASPENCORE is committed to maintaining the integrity of the independent media covering the electronics industry. The company will continue to invest in the segment to elevate discussions in the industry.
G. As we look to the future, we are
a. Expanding and extending our contributor network to include the likes of key experts, executives, researchers, academics
b. Introducing more special projects and reports
c. Focusing on our premium titles
H. We have in recent months added the following key editors to the team:

i. Nitin Dahad – A prolific editor based in London and covering semiconductors, AI, Communications and key European, Asian and North American chipmakers and OEMs
ii. Sally Ward-Foxton, an Engineer and versatile writer and editor
iii. Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio, a technical and highly knowledgeable and respected editor
iv. Anne-Françoise Pele, experienced, motivated and well-known industry resource who will join the company early in September, resuming as editor-in-chief of EE Times Europe Magazine, eetimes.eu and specialist on sensors and MEMS
v. Brian Santo, Experienced, creative editor and host of EE Times On Air podcast
vi. ASPENCORE China editorial team, eager and positioned in the world’s fastest-growing high-tech market
vii. We have through our partnership with ITMedia, inc. in Japan a team of editors covering the entire electronics industry through the EE Times Japan, EDN Japan and MONOist websites

I. The editors handling our key publications are as follows. They can be contacted directly regarding each of the properties. General inquiries can also be sent to editors@aspencore.com.
i. EE Times (eetimes.com), Brian Santo, Brian.santo@aspencore.com
ii. EDN (edn.com), Martin Rowe, martin.rowe@aspencore.com
iii. EEWeb (eeweb.com), Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio, Maurizio.dipaolo@aspencore.com
iv. Electronic Products (electronicproducts.com), Gina Roos, gina.roos@aspencore.com
v. International Editor-in-Chief ITmedia – EE Times Japan/EDN Japan and MONOist, Mayuko Murao, mmurao@mx.itmedia.co.jp

This is a reasonable repost to the concerns, although citing just two articles from Silicon Valley in the last week does seem a little light for a publication like EE Times. It’s also perhaps a bit of a stretch to suggest that some of the above journalists have been hired in “recent months” as (according to their personal LinkedIn profiles), Brian joined in September 2018, Nitin in December 2017 and Sally in April 2017. To be fair, Maurizio joined in February of this year and Anne-Francoise is about to join, so they do qualify as recent hires.


What Does the EE Times Article Say?

After I completed the first draft of this article, EE Times published the Aspencore side of the story. In this Junko Yoshida acknowledges that Aspencore “lost a few of our top-notch reporters”. The article positions the layoffs as a move to make the editorial team more global. Junko states, “In a nutshell, our answer to the current newsroom upheaval is to go global, whole hog.” Although there is some truth in that EE Times does now have a very international team, the way the layoffs happened doesn’t really back up the idea that they were purely down to a globalization strategy.

Junko focuses on the strength of the Aspencore editorial team, pointing out:

“As noted, among all publications covering the global electronics industry, we are proud to say that we are the only game in town. We boast more than 30 editors for EE Times and other vertical publications owned by Aspencore Media. They are scattered all over the world — from Shenzhen and Beijing to Taipei, London, Paris, Bern, Milan and Portland, San Jose, Washington, Massachusetts, Arizona and even Madison, Wisconsin. Some are full-time and others are part-time contributing editors. We also have a stable of young, passionate and eager-to-learn reporters.”

The strength of the editorial team, albeit that they are supporting several publications, is indisputable, even after the layoffs. EE Times has certainly gone all-out to show the strength of the editorial team: Junko states that some are “part-time contributing editors” and this is borne out by the fact that a couple of the team don’t even list their work for Aspencore on their LinkedIn profiles.


What is the Industry Saying?

Interestingly, it seems to be Aspencore employees who remain that are saying the least. There is a real fear that there will be more layoffs and so everyone is behaving super-professionally.

A couple of the people who have departed have been less reticent. The comments I’ve had range from a simple statement that Aspencore seems to want to drastically reduce costs by reducing manpower to “Aspencore had the world at their feet… Then greed took over.”

Clients are spooked, and I’ve heard worries from whether the editorial quality is going to drop to questions about what will happen to the volume of traffic as a result of a reduction in content-generating journalists.

Lou Covey, who has a super understanding of the US electronics media has written an interesting blog on LinkedIn. He points out that this is the third round of layoffs in 12 months. He explains that the layoffs are simply a result of the business model for Aspencore failing to work:

“The idea for Aspencore was to be a revenue neutral operation. Advertising, content services and events were supposed to pay for the operation and maybe a bit more to cover the cost of the debt. Didn’t happen. It became a cost center and the goodwill gained was short lived.”

Lou ends his post by blaming the industry as a whole:

“When I started blogging in 2005, my first post was on the interrelation of advertising, a free society, journalism and business success. What was true then is true now. If companies do not invest in a free press, they will lose more than a few hundred points on net profits.”


My View of the Aspencore Situation

I guess that the first thing to say is that I don’t see this as being the start of a shutdown of Aspencore, although I would not be surprised if some of the titles closed or merged. In fact, there is a hint of this in the email above from Bolaji and David: they state that as they look forward, they are “Focusing on our premium titles”. Inevitably you’d assume there will be a reduction of focus on non-premium titles, although a lot of the pain of this round of layoffs was felt by titles that I think everyone considers “premium”.

Unfortunately, I believe these layoffs are bad for the industry and bad for the future of Aspencore. Arrow’s construction of their publishing empire was driven by some short-term benefits and over-optimism. This isn’t a situation that’s likely to result in long-term commitment and I do fear for the long-term future of many Aspencore titles.


Why Arrow Bought and Built a Publisher.

I’ve worked in electronic component distribution and it’s a really difficult job. Without doubt distributors are under pressure from several sides: for example, manufacturers are offering “buy direct” options and there is a continual threat that non-specialist companies such as Amazon might choose to enter the market with far greater financial resources and stronger logistics capabilities than any distribution might have. So, the distributors had to do something.

I believe that Arrow has got great value for their purchases. They have acquired great customer data from the publications they purchased and have won new lines with the help of the Aspencore publishing muscle. I would also speculate that some of the traffic data to the publications would give Arrow an insight into what engineers are thinking about, but I don’t know if they have succeeded or even tried to gain insights in this way.

Arrow was also optimistic. Distribution represents a huge proportion of advertising business in our industry, and it seemed that Arrow was rather surprised when some distributors decided they didn’t want to advertise in publications owned by a large competitor. Arrow was probably the only organization in the world who was surprised this happened. Even losing a few distributors will make it much harder for Aspencore to be profitable: in a business with notoriously thin margins, cutting yourself off from some of the richest customers is never a good idea.

Clearly, I think that Arrow extracted a lot of value from the acquisition in the first couple of years. But they are left with a business unit that needs financial support and that, at least in its current form, delivers far less value to Arrow. It’s a real business headache.


What’s Next?

Obviously, we don’t know. The fact that the first public statement took so long suggests that Arrow and Aspencore were again over-optimistic, expecting the industry to shrug its collective shoulders and move on. This didn’t happen, leaving Arrow, Aspencore’s owners, in a bit of a quandary. They’ve tried to present it as a move to globalize, which personally I don’t fully buy, and focused on the current strength of the newsroom. Although it’s true that Aspencore still has an awesome roster of talent, you can’t avoid the fact that the trend doesn’t look positive.

So, what should Aspencore do? I think it’s pretty clear that the current publishing business is struggling to make a profit, so here are the most obvious options available:

Arrow could choose to allow the business to gradually decline. I think this was their strategy. With the concern that the most recent layoffs triggered in the market I don’t think that Arrow will want to take a “death by 1000 cuts” approach, with the ensuing bad PR that will rumble on for years as Aspencore slowly and painfully declines.

So Aspencore could choose to invest and grow the business. From what I’m told they are probably subsidizing Aspencore already, and it just doesn’t look like they have the appetite to invest to try to grow it. Realistically I just don’t see the Arrow board, a group of people who talk in tens of billions of dollars, wanting to put money into a business that is a tiny fraction of their turnover and that is unlikely to ever make significant profit.

Arrow could sell Aspencore. This must seem like an attractive option, but who would buy them? UBM was open about the fact that they wanted to sell EE Times for a long period before Arrow finally stepped in to make the purchase. Aspencore is a much bigger, more complex publisher that is likely to be very hard to sell. I guess they could spin off individual titles, but that will take a lot of time and energy, and there is no guarantee they will find buyers.

Just closing Aspencore would be a clean option. With the new lines and the data driving Arrow’s commercial operations, perhaps the best thing to do would be to cut their losses and close the business. I suspect that not only would this be a politically difficult thing for the people involved in the purchase, Arrow also doesn’t want to be seen as the people who killed a huge percentage of the electronics media.

Perhaps the only long-term option for Arrow is to increase the monetization of the publications. Can you imagine the power of marketing automation systems that tracked what individual engineers looked at on these publication websites and then sent offers and marketing information about these topics? What if product stories all had links directing readers to buy from Arrow? Not easy, but potentially hugely lucrative.

I can hear the cries of horror over this suggestion. EE Times becomes a marketing vehicle for Arrow: that’s just not something you should contemplate for a brand like that. Choosing to do this would certainly result in a backlash, particularly an overt move to drive people to Arrow’s website to purchase, but it might be the most palatable option in a rather unappetizing menu. It’s also likely that the sooner they make such a move, the better, as I believe new publications will launch as people see opportunities with the major player in the industry clearly suffering.

I’m going to end with the brighter view of the situation. When one company struggles, others take its place, and clearly some publishers are benefiting from Aspencore’s lackluster performance. EE Tech is probably the best example. With journalist layoffs there is always the opportunity for new titles to launch. Sure, publishers need to be brave, but the electronics market isn’t going away so there are lots of reasons to be optimistic.

My speculation about what Arrow might choose to do in the long term is simply speculation, and I genuinely hope that the Aspencore titles thrive; not least because I want to see great journalists writing great content about our industry. I feel it’s important to reiterate that, although the recent trend isn’t good, Aspencore has a fabulous team of journalists and contributions. If, however, the trend continues and the Aspencore business can’t be turned around, I’m very confident we’ll have the excitement of new publications that launch to take advantage of the hole in the market for insightful journalism.

Inbound 2019: Marketing and Connection Emails for Contact Nurturing

At Inbound 2019 I attended a session billed as giving the inside information on HubSpot’s email nurturing campaigns. Although we didn’t really get that complete “under the hood” view of what HubSpot does, we did get some interesting insights into two different types of emails that HubSpot uses during their nurturing process: marketing and connection emails.

An Overview of HubSpot’s Emails Nurturing Campaigns

Email is HubSpot’s most successful communication channel, despite the large number of different channels available. It’s interesting that despite the huge number of features providing social interaction, chatbots and other new communication channels, good old email is still the king of communications when it comes to B2B sales.

During the presentation we were presented with some high level rules for nurturing: make the content customer-centric, not company-centric; target and personalise to ensure relevance; and focus on continual improvement, rather than adopting a set-and-forget mindset.

An interesting insight was that the first email HubSpot sends new contacts who requested a content offer is one with buttons allowing them to indicate their biggest challenge. This approach – dubbed “choose your own adventure” by HubSpot – is an interesting idea and something we have tried in the past. If someone indicates their most important challenge, and HubSpot follows-up with a relevant email then 65% open rates and 60% CTR can be achieved! These follow-ups are the best-performing emails that HubSpot sends.

Although it’s a fantastic way to personalise content to the people who click to indicate their interests, we’ve found low click-through rates from our clients’ primary audience: engineers. You will be able to target to the people who respond, but in our experience the majority won’t, leaving you without a way to understand their challenge. The presenter didn’t discuss how HubSpot deals with this problem.

The presenter made a good point around gating content: if someone clicks through from an email, you should serve them ungated content as you know who they are because you emailed them. It’s an obvious thing to say, but we’ve seen campaigns where you keep having to fill in forms.

There are a couple of counter-arguments to this: the first is that if the email is forwarded to a colleague who clicks through then you don’t capture that contact. Progressive profiling is also a way to increase personalisation, so including forms can be a good way to deliver even more relevant content. We are therefore on the fence on this one: in our campaigns we do sometimes have ungated content and sometimes ask for more information where we think it will be beneficial.

The nurturing campaigns HubSpot runs send emails every 3 days. This is a result of a lot of testing, and HubSpot has seen different frequencies working better in some industries, but an email every three days is probably a good place to start! In addition to nurturing campaigns, HubSpot sends a single send (promo email, newsletter, etc) on a weekly, or sometimes fortnightly, basis. All these emails are sent based on the recipients’ time zone: this is also something that HubSpot has found to be important to optimise results.

What’s a Connection Email?

We’re all familiar with marketing emails, but what does HubSpot mean by a connection email? Well, they send personalised emails from a (real) sales rep as part of their nurturing campaigns, interleaving marketing and these connection emails.

These connection emails are designed to look like a “real” email written in plain text but is automated in the marketing workflow. One of their connection emails is analysed in the photo below:

Although sent from a salesperson, the email is not a classic “sales” email: it’s about helping to make sure the recipient has the tools they need. All these emails have a signature from the salesperson assigned to the account, and even include the rep’s photo.

As a connection email, it’s all about trying to build a relationship and initiate a conversation. The email even has a link to let the recipient book a call with the salesperson.

Connection Emails in Trigger Nurturing

When a contact is already on the database and conducts a high-value action (in HubSpot’s case this might be a download or a view of the pricing page), they initial a trigger nurturing campaign. The first email in this campaign is a connection email designed to try to re-start the conversation with the contact:

Interestingly HubSpot uses the very simple subject line “How can I help?”. This isn’t because they didn’t bother trying anything else – they’ve done a lot of testing – and this simple subject line is the one that performs best.

The first email in the trigger nurturing is sent immediately. It’s the speed of response that is possible with marketing automation that makes these emails so effective (we’ve run many campaigns were we’ve found that speed is the critical factor in maximising conversions so we definitely agree with this). The alternative to trigger nurturing is an internal notification, highlighting the action and triggering the rep to try to reach the contact. Because of the inevitable delays when humans are involved (particularly outside working hours), HubSpot has found that trying to call the contact is less effective. The immediate follow-up connection emails achieve an impressive 55% open rate and a 15% CTR. The fact that the objective is to arrange a call makes the CTR very impressive and the CTA is for a very high value action.

Three Email Nurturing Insights

My top three insights were:

  • Campaigns need to include connection as well as marketing emails. This is a very different approach to many B2B companies and something that generates great results for HubSpot. We’re going to be testing it in different industries to see if the benefits are universal or industry specific.
  • Speed is the key: sending an email immediately someone conducts a high-value interaction on a website is much more valuable than asking a sales rep to follow-up.
  • HubSpot sends nurturing emails every three days. Although this might not be a universal number, it’s more frequent than a lot of B2B campaigns and so we should all stop being precious over rules of thumb like “no more than one email per week” and start testing to see what really works for our prospects.


These notes were taken when I attended The Inside Scoop: HubSpot’s Email Program at Inbound 2019 presented by Jordan Pritkin, Head of Email Marketing and Growth at HubSpot.

Inbound 2019 – LinkedIn Advertising

My first breakout session at Inbound 2019 started with the benefits and the downsides of LinkedIn Adverts. One of the key benefits is that LinkedIn can do highly accurate targeting, and this makes it a particularly popular channel for B2B. LinkedIn, however, isn’t perfect, and the presenter highlighted the relatively high cost-per-client, the lack of decide targeting, the inability to schedule ads to particular times of day and the fact that although LinkedIn uses a relevance score in a similar way to Google Search Adverts, this score is not visible to the user.

LinkedIn Advertising Formats

Sponsored content is the most versatile format and the speaker recommends it to about 90% of his advertising clients. This is very much in line with our experience, where we find sponsored content to generally be the best format for almost all our clients. One important factor to remember is that the vast majority (the presenter claimed it was probably over 80%) of sponsored content adverts are viewed on mobile. If you don’t have a website that looks great on mobile maybe you should consider one of the desktop formats.

Text ads are an alternative that means you don’t need to first create a post. Although the click-through rate is lower than sponsored content, they can be good for branding campaigns as you can get a lot of impressions. One challenge with text ads is that they are a desktop-only format, and with more and more people interacting with LinkedIn on mobile, this can be an issue.

Sponsored InMail is a high-quality channel but has a very expensive CPC. The presenter recommended this format for offers such as early access or sneak peaks of new products, job opportunities or a VIP event invite. This isn’t a format for your content offers! Despite the very high CPM and the typically high CPC, it is possible to run campaigns that do achieve low CPCs if the offer is very specific and high quality.

Dynamic ads are the format the speaker never recommends. They are desktop only and result in high CPCs. This doesn’t correlate with our experience, where we have had some good results from a few campaigns where the format could be used to really personalise the advert.

The following benchmarks were presented as being typical numbers for LinkedIn formats that are trying to drive clicks:

Format Average CTR Typical CPC
Sponsored Content 4% $6-9
Text Advert 0.025% $3-5
Sponsored InMail 50% open, 3% CTR $23-55
Dynamic “low” $12-15

There are some other ways to advertise on LinkedIn. Lead generation ads, which route the user to a form that is automatically populated with their details if they are logged on seem to be a great idea. The presenter, however, cautioned against their use as you only have 150 characters of text to promote the offer, and the automatic form-fill can mean people who aren’t really interested will send their details. This leads to poor quality leads, so it’s a good approach for generating a large number of leads, but not good at targeting the most valuable prospects.

Video adverts are very expensive when compared to Facebook – the other major platform offering this format, costing from $0.06 to $0.14 for every play (and don’t forget a couple of seconds of viewing will count as a play). One important thing to note is that most viewers will play the video muted, so subtitles are essential if the video is going to be effective. The speaker strongly recommended that all video ads are tried on YouTube first, which will be much cheaper, and only rolled out to LinkedIn if they prove effective.

One important change that LinkedIn has promised is coming is targeting by engagement. For video, this is really important as the onus is on the viewer to then take action after watching a video: if you could retarget everyone that engaged with your videos then that would be a much more effective approach. In fact, this might be where the auto-filled forms of the lead gen adverts start to become better value and deliver higher-quality leads: if you could just target them at people who engaged with your video then this might result in better leads. At this stage, however, all we can do is wait for LinkedIn to roll-out engagement targeting; today there is no way to retarget someone who engaged with your content on LinkedIn but didn’t click through to your website. The ability to retarget people once they hit your website is another reason why routing someone to a form on your website will generally generate better results: retargeting through a service like Google of AdRoll is a fraction of the cost of advertising on LinkedIn.

Carousel ads are simple multiple adverts grouped together. Although the presenter had used it when a brand has a story that can’t be told in a single frame, in general he finds no benefit using them over individual adverts.

Targeting on LinkedIn

Targeting is LinkedIn’s superpower, but it is not well understood by many advertisers. It’s important to know that the selections you use will impact the CPC you pay. The more selections you make (and therefore the more targeted the audience) the higher the CPC.

A good example is job title. This is the most competitive targeting criteria, so it has a significant impact on cost, although it’s the criterion that most advertisers start with. Job function targeting typically reduces the CPC by around $1 compared with job title targeting, although it is broader. Skills are also a very cost-effective way of targeting. For some campaigns, the presenter recommended using a broader selection with these cheaper criteria.

Groups are a very good way to target people on LinkedIn because of the effort that is required to join a group – you’ve got to search for and find the group first. The presenter suggested this made it an excellent criterion for targeting as group membership is a strong indication of interest in a topic.

The following helpful table was presented showing the most common ways of targeting, although as with many generalisations performance can vary so the presenter recommended that advertisers experiment to ensure that their campaigns behave in the same way.


Accuracy Volume Cost
Job Title Very Precise Low $$$
Job Function and Seniority Very Broad High $
Skills and Seniority Broad High $$
Groups and Seniority Very Precise Low $$

LinkedIn Targeting Tips and Tricks

The presenter had some good ideas for improving targeting in different situations:

If you are targeting based on skills and groups, it’s often a good idea to exclude sales, biz dev and marketing job functions. In any group, a percentage of the members will be people who aren’t customers but are trying to sell to the audience. Of course, this doesn’t work if you are an agency trying to reach marketing or salespeople!

When targeting SMBs it’s important to remember that a lot of micro business don’t have a company page, and so large numbers of your target audience will be omitted if you pick specific company sizes. It’s better to select your audience by excluding large companies, rather than including small company sizes.

Age and years of experience seem like good proxies to determine the level of seniority, but generally don’t produce as good results as selecting seniority as a criterion

A final tip was to avoid audience expansion. With this targeting, the data is messier, and there is no reporting split showing the impact of the expanded audience vs the selected audience. The presenter questioned whether it is ever beneficial, and this matches our experience: we just don’t recommend audience expansion as an effective way of targeting.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the more criteria you use, the more expensive your clicks will become. So, simplify your selection whenever you can: fewer targeting items means that base cost is reduced.

LinkedIn Advertising Bidding: The Professional Approach

Rather amusingly, the presenter’s recommendation for bidding was basically to ignore everything LinkedIn tells you. His approach is to begin with an artificially high daily budget, and the to bid low for the clicks - $2 was recommended. If you do this, LinkedIn won’t accept your bid, and will tell you the minimum bid. Bid this amount. Don’t bid higher than the minimum bid, and definitely don’t take any notice of the values that LinkedIn says other people are bidding.

This is interesting advice, and I’m going to run experiments to see if this is the right approach. At Napier we generally bid low: let’s face it there isn’t a competition to be number one like there is for AdWords, so why bid more to be the first advert shown in a feed?

Although there is obvious logic and the approach is similar to how we bid on AdWords, I do feel that there is an issue with always bidding the minimum amount if you have a small, highly targeted audience. If a lot of people are competing to show ads to this audience, and you bid the minimum, the number of impressions you achieve will be reduced. If you are marketing a high-value product or service to a small and influential audience, you might decide that CPC isn’t the only metric, and paying a bit more to get as many people in the audience see the advert is a worthwhile move. The speaker did say that he generally recommends 20K-80K audience sizes, so he does seem to be targeting much bigger groups than some of our very focussed targets, particularly our ABM campaigns.

Finally, don’t use auto-bidding. The speaker claimed the above strategy delivered a CPC that was at least $1 less than auto-bidding. Auto-bidding uses a CPM, and bidding by CPM is not recommended until you know whether you have a good CTR or not (see below).

CTR and Bidding on LinkedIn

The presenter recommended always starting by bidding for clicks. Of course, CTR has an impact on cost per click: the CTR is really the best proxy you have for a relevance score.

If you have less than a 0.35% CTR the presenter suggested that this is when your CPC will be negatively impacted. 0.35% to 1% is good, and when you get to more than a 1% CTR then it’s time to switch from bidding for clicks to bidding on a CPM basis as you’re likely to get better value.

What Content Should I use for LinkedIn Advertising?

Like most things in advertising you need to be in the Goldilocks zone: the content must not present too much or too little friction to the audience. High friction offers like product demos that require a significant commitment from the audience are likely to result in low CTRs that drive high CPCs, and they risk being disabled by LinkedIn for poor performance.

Offers with too low friction, like a blog post or Infographic don’t tend to deliver the value that is demanded from the relatively high CPCs associated with LinkedIn advertising. So, the “just right” offers include things like a guide, white paper, eBook and webinar.

Exclude Competitors from Your Campaigns

The presenter recommended creating a competitors list that is run as an exclusion for ALL campaigns. This not only avoids wasting money on ads that reach competitors, but also helps keep what you are doing secret from competitors.

A pro-tip for competitive analysis is that you can see the adverts that your competitors are running on LinkedIn. Just go to their company page and click on Ads: it will show you any adverts that they are running on the platform. You can’t, unfortunately, see to whom these adverts are targeted.

Testing Strategies for LinkedIn Adverts

The speaker suggested that there are just two things you need to do when testing: firstly you need to get a click, so the initial step is to make sure that you have an advert that has a good CTR. Once you have a reasonable CTR, then look at how well your landiong page is converting.

The presenter had an interesting analysis of the impact of making changes to different element of the campaign. Modifying advert copy typically only has a 5-15% impact on return on investment, landing pages changes can result in 50-150% improvements while simply tweaking the title of the content being offered can increase conversions by two to three times. Although this is impressive, he sees sales enablement improving the follow-up preocess as having the opportunity to increase sales by 10 to 20 times!

Although we’ve seen very different impacts from different campaigns, we do agree with the basic promise: the closer to the sale, the bigger impact you have. So focussing on advert CTR is not the best approach.

One thing you do need to remember is that adverts tend to saturate after running for about 30 days: generally CTR drops as more and more people have seen the copy. So, although spending a lot of time optimising the advert is not recommending, refreshing on a roughly monthly schedule is recommended. An easy way to do this is simply add a new image to the post.

One thing that did surprise us was that the speaker felt that the image used for ads didn’t have much impact on the CTR. This isn’t something that has been reflected in our experience: we have found that a poor image can have a dramatic negative effect on the CTR, so we would recommend spending some time creating great images. It’s not hard, and there are lots of cheap tools to help you.

Three LinkedIn Advertising Insights

For me, the top three insights from this presentation were:

  • Sponsored content is usually the best advertising format, but you must have a website that looks good on mobile
  • Always bid low and ignore the recommendations for CPC bids provided by LinkedIn
  • Focus your optimisation efforts on the bottom of the funnel where you can have the biggest impact on RoI


These notes were taken from the Advanced LinkedIn Ads for the B2B Marketer, presented at Inbound 2019 by AJ Wilcox, Founder, B2Linked.com.

Electronic Component Manufacturers Drive Advertising Spend

Our recent survey of European electronics publications has thrown up some interesting information about who is spending money on advertising. We asked publications where their advertising revenue came from, and the results were very interesting. The share of spend was:

  • Distributors - 31%
  • Semiconductor manufacturers- 21%
  • Other component manufacturers (passive, power supply, connectors, etc)- 23%
  • Tools vendors (including software) - 12%
  • Other- 13%

The component manufacturers (adding semiconductor and other manufacturers) totalled 44%, with the spend roughly equally split between semiconductors and other components. This isn’t a surprise as, although there are more of the “other” companies, many of the bigger spenders are semiconductor manufacturers.

Distributors were responsible for almost a third of publishers’ revenue: this is an impressive total as the number of distributors is much smaller than the number of manufacturers. But with the challenge of differentiating distributors, the limited loyalty and the strong advertising presence of companies such as Digi-Key, distributors clearly need to spend significant amounts to maintain market share.

Tools and software accounted for 12%: this is a good number for a sector that has a reputation of not wanting to pay for advertising and represents a decent proportion of publications’ income.

Although there isn’t anything too surprising in these results, it’s interesting to see who is spending the advertising money. Perhaps the best news is that publications aren’t reliant on one sector of the electronics industry for advertising, making their businesses a little more stable and secure.

The survey did find some surprising results so if you’ve not seen it yet, click now to read European Publishing Myths Smashed with Electronics Media Survey.

European Publishing Myths Smashed with Electronics Media Survey

We recently conducted a survey of the European electronics media and the results have been more than a little surprising! Although we’re always a little cynical of conventional wisdom, we’d have expected a rather gloomy picture from the media as online revenue fails to replace rapidly declining print sales. What we found, however, told a very different story.

68% of European Electronics Publications Grew Revenue Last Year

Based on the publications that responded, things seem rather rosy. I was delighted that 68% of respondents said that their publications’ revenue grew last year. It’s great to see that so many are doing so well, and although most of the growth was between 5 and 10%, around one third of the publications grew by more than 10%.

Clearly the publishing industry isn’t doing too badly. In fact, only one publication reported a revenue decrease of more than 5%.

When we asked how competitors were doing, the consensus was that competitors were probably declining. Clearly conventional wisdom has influenced publishers! The good news for them is that the market isn’t as bad as they thought, but the bad news is that competitors are growing.

60% of Revenue is from Print Advertising

60% of revenue is from print advertising? It’s 2019, don’t you know!

We were surprised that more than half of the revenue for publications came from print advertising, three times the billings for online banner ands and six times the revenue from email newsletters. Email rental represented just 4% of revenue.

These are amazing stats, which are possibly due in part to publications in Eastern Europe skewing the figures. Despite this, it’s clear that there is still a long way to go before print advertising disappears!

The Study

The research was carried out in July, attracting responses from 24 publications from around Europe.

More Information

We’re working on further analysis of the study, and are sure to find other surprises. Keep checking the Napier blog and reading our newsletters to be the first to know when more results are announced!

Make magazine and the Maker Faire are back!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the problems at Maker Media, and suggested that maybe this might be a reflection of companies falling out of love with the maker community.

The good news is that Make is back, but the bad news is that it's now a community. Bad news? Surely it's good to be a community? OK, communities are good, but the decision to ask readers to pay to become community members is simply a reflection that companies aren't going to underwrite the costs.

Corporate memberships are being offered, so hopefully we will see some money from the big companies supporting this great publication and the amazing events, but I can't help feeling we're now past the over-hyping of makers as potential customers.

The Two ingredients of Magical Marketing Automation

Marketing is changing rapidly: just a few years ago it was only the brave pioneers who were running marketing automation systems, yet today the majority of B2B tech companies see automation as one of the pillars of their activities. Despite the widespread adoption of marketing automation, however, I often hear client’s express disappointment at the results they achieve. Why do people pay good money for a tool that often disappoints?

In his excellent book, Disrupted, that describes his time at HubSpot, Dan Lyons meets a salesperson who explains that:

“Some customers buy the software but don’t use it because they are too busy to write a blog. They’re like people who sign up for a gym membership but never go to the gym… And then there are about 10 percent of the customers where it’s absolutely magic”

How do you make sure that you’re one of the companies that is blessed with the “magic”? My experience suggests that it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

Firstly, you need to be in a suitable industry. Marketing automation, and Inbound marketing work best in industries that have high-involvement decisions. In particular it’s decisions where people actively research to seek out information that will help them either choose the best product or (and this is probably the most common case) avoid a career-limiting wrong choice. Most B2B tech markets meet this requirement, and so we’re already half-way there. A bigger challenge, however, is understanding the two ingredients of marketing automation.

The Two Magic Ingredients of Marketing Automation

Like a wizard making a spell, marketing automation magic relies on a potion to be created. This potion needs two vital ingredients.

The first is high-quality publishing. To be successful with your marketing automation campaign, the content you create must be valuable to your target audience. You need to be creating materials that match, or preferably exceed the quality of the information in the trade press.

Of course, this means providing technical information and advice. But publishing isn’t just about the quality of the writing: it’s about making sure you are delivering what the audience wants. Too often we see companies producing expensive content that takes hours to create but doesn’t address the concerns of customers and potential customers. What might be an issue for you, may not be a problem for your customers.

Once you start thinking like a publisher, you’ll be able to forget about the internal pressures and view things from your audience’s point of view. This will help you create great content that resonates with potential customers.

The second magical ingredient is effective nurturing. It’s about guiding customers along a journey at their speed, not yours. It would be great if simply saying “buy X” worked, but for high-involvement decisions, that simply is not the way customers choose.

Great guides move you from one stage of the journey to the next in a way that is so subtle and smooth you barely notice it. Just getting to the next landmark is something that feels easy and realistic, whereas talking about the entire journey can feel terrifying. When you are struggling in a marathon, the best approach is to simply get to the next lamppost, and then the next, rather than thinking “there are only eight miles to go”.

It’s hard to nurture customers effectively. They don’t follow the journey you want them to take. They can stop and go back a stage. They rarely move to being ready to purchase as quickly as you like. Great marketing automation campaigns are rarely the result of a stunningly effective email (magic bullets rarely exist) but are generally a beautiful path created from many small steps forward. This can be very different to thinking like a publisher, where an “Pulitzer-Quality” piece of content might have potential customers flocking to the site.

How to Mix the Two Ingredients to Make Magic

Some magic is created by individuals who have been trained well, whereas others prefer to work in groups. In reality, most great marketing automation magic is created by groups. It’s extremely difficult to generate all the content and rules required for great campaigns without a team, and as I’ve pointed out in this post, publishers and guides think very differently.

It’s definitely hard work to create marketing automation magic, but if you mix the two ingredients correctly, it’s extremely likely that you’ll be in the group that finds magic.

Napier Partnership Streamlines Structure with Peter Bush Communications Merging into Armitage Communications

The Napier Group announced today the merging of Peter Bush Communications into Armitage Communications: forming a specialist high-tech PR and Marketing agency, focussing on industrial automation, engineering and communication.

Since the acquisition of Armitage Communications Ltd by Napier Partnership Limited at the beginning of 2019, the natural synergy between Peter Bush Communications and Armitage Communications has become apparent, due to their non-conflicting clients and focus on similar markets. The merger creates an agency with a team of journalists; electronic and mechanical engineers; and experienced marketing professionals, that offers a vast amount of market insight and knowledge to drive clients’ commercial success.

There will be no change to clients served, and the office and team in Saffron Walden will remain. The merger allows Peter Bush’s existing clients to have access to additional services and resources provided by Armitage Communications as well as those of Napier.

“The merging of Peter Bush Communications into Armitage Communications creates a team with deep understanding and expertise of markets such as industrial automation, communications and electronics/electrical, enabling them to offer deep technical market insight to clients,” commented Mike Maynard, managing director of the Napier Group. “The companies already work together across several clients, and this move will create a strongly integrated agency that will help our clients create and distribute compelling marketing content.”

Napier Partnership’s mission remains providing a comprehensive content development and distribution service  that speeds the process of converting awareness to opportunity for B2B technology companies.

The End of the Tech Marketers Fascination with Makers?

Although I have always questioned the value of the maker market, I was really disappointed to hear the announcement that Maker Media is closing. Make magazine and the Maker Faires have been the peak of the maker movement, and to think that there is a chance that it’s all over is sad. I am hopeful that someone will decide to rescue the publication and the events, but so far no one has stepped forward.

To make things even worse, this isn’t a surprise: a month ago the San Jose Mercury News reported, during the last Maker Faire, that the company was experiencing financial challenges. It looks like these challenges were too great to overcome.

Despite attracting tens of thousands to the last Maker Faire, the numbers just don’t add up for the company. You could choose to blame Microsoft and Autodesk, who have previously supported events but chose not to contribute the last one in Silicon Valley, but perhaps it would be more reasonable to applaud their support in prior years.

We think the reality is that marketers have finally realised that not all makers are potential high-value customers. In fact, most makers are never going to spend lots of money as they are simply pursuing their hobby and have no intention of forming the next unicorn start-up.

For a while makers were the ‘darlings’ of B2B tech marketers. “If Pebble can grow so big, why can’t every maker do the same?” hoped many. The reality is that there were hundreds of reasons why most makers were not going to develop their hobby into a large business, which pretty much can be boiled down to either that they didn’t want to, or that it is simply unbelievably, incredibly hard to start a hardware business and most that try won’t succeed.

It’s not the first time that marketers have looked at the world through rose-tinted spectacles, and I’m sure that there will be other markets in the future that are viewed in the same positive, pinkish glow. The immediate question, however, is whether it’s all over for the maker market. Despite being a bit of a cynic about makers, my answer is an emphatic “NO”.

Yes, marketers got over-enthusiastic about the maker market. Yes, they spent money that they probably won’t get back chasing the “hobbyist makers”, but I still believe that there is part of the maker community that can, and will, create fabulous companies that ship products in high volume.

The challenge is finding these “professional makers” who have an interest in developing ideas commercially and helping them achieve their dreams. They are a very small subset of the total maker community, so sifting them out from the hobbyists and giving them the special attention they deserve will be a challenge for marketers in the coming months. If this is done well, then there is still an opportunity for many companies to serve the hobbyist maker market: despite the low volumes that they buy, this community is only likely to grow, and I am sure a lot of companies will run successful and profitable campaigns to hobbyists by optimising costs.

Will this all be enough to drive someone to rescue Maker Media? Personally, I really hope that it will. I’ve even had a dig down the back of the sofa to see if I could get some funds together, but it looks like my teenage kids might have already found the treasure that I am sure was there.


Goodbye ECN? Advantage Business Marketing Closes

I was really sad to see the news that Advantage Business Marketing has closed. Although this news has yet to be confirmed, the lack of a response from Advantage Business Marketing (ABM) suggest that unfortunately the publisher is closing and with it ECN may disappear. Of course there is still a chance that ECN could be acquired from the ashes of ABM, although now that Arrow has stopped its acquisition frenzy we don’t seem to be overloaded with too many organisations looking to buy an electronics publication.

I would like to relate the situation directly to the electronics market, but in this case, I don’t think I can. Although ECN was a major part of ABM, it probably wasn’t dominant enough to cause the failure of what was a substantial organisation. In fact, ABM position ECN as just one of the “five pillars” – the five publications on which the business had been built.

It does leave some worrying questions about the American electronics publications that remain standing. Can they survive? Will niche B2B publishing even survive in the US?

The good news is that some publishers are still more than confident about the future and may even see a smaller field of titles as an opportunity to grow market share. In fact, Julia Stocks, one of the owners of Power Systems Design seemed even more optimistic than ever about PSD’s future when we emailed about the closure of ABM.

Let’s hope that this is an isolated event. With much of the ownership of electronics media in the USA concentrated in the hands of Arrow, we don’t want to see an oligopoly form as competitors shut down. The result of a concentration of media ownership is rarely good,  and competition is something that everyone should welcome as a way to force the electronics media to become even better than it is today.

A Guide to Marketing Middleware

Is your first reaction to this post “Marketing middlewhat?” If so, you’re not alone: most marketers are unaware of what marketing middleware is, and what it can do to simplify their day-to-day marketing operations.

What is Marketing Middleware?

The term “marketing middleware” is something we are using at Napier to describe a class of software that is technically called “integration platforms” or for the cloud-based systems iPaaS (integration platform as a service). We like our name as it’s simple and this software is used in between two different applications to share data: effectively providing “software glue” between two separate systems.

Why Do we Need this Software?

In the past, data tended to be locked into a particular system. Linking different systems was difficult and expensive, and vendors tended to make it extremely difficult to integrate systems from two different vendors in the same market.

In the MarTech (marketing technology) world, this is a particularly bad thing. With marketing sectors such as digital publishing, social media and website technology developing so rapidly, it’s practically impossible for any vendor to provide a tool that is really good at everything you want to do as a marketer. In the old days you’d have to either buy multiple tools and accept that data couldn’t be shared between them, or compromise with a tool that could do most things you needed it to at a just-acceptable level.

The marketing middleware sits between the different systems ensuring data is shared between them, allowing marketing teams to get the best of both worlds: integration of the data and the best-in-class tools.

Why Now? The Rise of the API

Interestingly it turned out that making it difficult to integrate different tools was not a good idea for the software companies that did it. Although there was some element of lock-in, this was more than offset by the need to create integrations because they were demanded by large, important customers or a significant number of smaller users.

So, companies started to make integrations easier by providing an API – an “application programming interface”. An API is a set of clearly defined methods for communicating with a software application or module: for example, allowing the data for a particular contact to be retrieved easily from a CRM package.

Although APIs solve many problems, they don’t actually interface between different martech systems: each API is different and designed specifically for the package. So, to integrate between different systems we need marketing middleware that is able to access data using the APIs used by specific systems. The use of standard integrations simplifies the challenge of integrating between the many different vendors and systems: rather than having to write integrations for every possible combination of tools, the marketing middleware vendors simply write one interface to each system’s API and use the core of their platform to move the data.

The systems also typically have direct interfaces into common databases, allowing access to some databases that don’t have an API.

How Do These Tools Work?

These tools are typically cloud-based applications, which makes sense as they are generally transferring data from one cloud application to another. Often, they will offer a less-common self-hosted version, and most also provide on-premise connectors that allow thee systems to securely access data behind the organisation’s firewall.

To use the systems, you generally just select the connectors you want and then map fields from one system to another. The platforms will process the data, and generally have a simple programming-like language to modify information as required. Some also offer functions such as lookup tables. Once you understand how to code for these systems, integrations can be set up in a matter of minutes or hours, rather than the weeks or months that would be required to write bespoke software to interface between two systems.

Some Leading Marketing Middleware Vendors

There are several companies that provide integration platforms that can be used as glue between marketing software applications. They include:

Zapier – many marketers are already using Zapier to execute simple actions to automate marketing work. Zapier is one of the simpler, and more limited solutions, yet it still provides excellent integration functionality that meets the needs of many marketing teams.

Scribe Online – this has been our favourite platform, partly because they offered an amazingly powerful, low-cost solution for HubSpot. Although this plan is no longer available, Scribe Online still provides extensive capabilities at a reasonable price.

Mulesoft – this is probably the system your IT department would like to use. It’s well-known with a strong market share and provides powerful functionality. Although it has readily available connectors for the major enterprise marketing systems, it perhaps is less well served when looking at other martech vendors.

Dell Boomi – another product that really focusses on the IT department, but Boomi also offers a large range of connectors for various marketing technology applications.

snapLogic – another IT-focussed product, with a limited number of martech connectors. Make sure that you can get the connectors you need off-the-shelf, otherwise you’ll be calling on your IT department to build connectors, which rather misses the point of using marketing middleware.

Jitterbit – a solution that also claims to offer AI capabilities to your integrations. Jitterbit has a large number of martech integrations as standard on its website and also has integration with agile tools such as Jiri, which might be attractive if you use agile marketing techniques.

How Do I Get Started?

Many of these tools offer free trials, so it’s fairly easy to evaluate what they can do for you. Once you are in a subscription, you’ll probably be paying something between $500 and $2000 per month, depending upon how many systems you need to integrate.

Although they are much simpler than writing code, it still takes real expertise to take advantage of marketing middleware. The fastest way to realise all the benefits of these solutions is to contact an agency that has experience of using these platforms to simplify and improve marketing processes. We’d done it, so why not ask Napier how you can use marketing middleware?


Breakout Session 7: Omnichannel Metrics: Can B2B Learn from B2C?

B2B marketers generally have an easier job of measuring omnichannel campaigns. This presentation explained some of the techniques used by leading consumer companies that may give some ideas for omnichannel measurement for B2B.

One example might be looking at advert view ability data. A simple approach would be to measure on-target viewability (the ads that would have been seen by the target audience). A simple compound metric might be the viewable CPM (vCPM). A further step might measure the cost per unique visitor from the target audience or cost per on target contact acquired. Interestingly as the compound metric gets more complex, they often get closer to business goals.

The presenter described two types of metrics: The first, table stakes metrics, for example view ability, clicks, and other simple metrics. These are always useful but only tell part of the story. Compound metrics are much more useful, combining multiple data sources.

A charity case study was presented, where the charity was both prospecting for new doners and retargeting existing donors. Based on CPA and Return on Ad Spend, retargeting worked better than prospecting. If looked at purchase volume and cost per unique user, then prospecting showed better results. So compound metrics can not only deliver more information but may reveal a different story to table stakes metrics.

The presenter gave a number of different ways to measure: for example, measure link between footfall and online. There are also offline attribution: using identifiers such as email to tie sales to online activity. Retailer also track using loyalty cards.

Omnichannel measurement is difficult, but can take simple steps in the right direction. As a B2B marketer it’s interesting to see the range of offline tools available to large advertisers: from cookies and mobile device IDs to tracking the ads seen on a Smart TV using audio recognition, the capabilities were impressive.

Realistically most tech companies don’t have the resources or opportunities to conduct true omnichannel metrics, but the concept of moving from table-stakes to compound metrics is something that we should all be thinking about.

Breakout Session 6: How Marketo Uses Intent Data to Grow Sales

Working out when someone is ready to buy is one of the big challenges for marketers and sales teams. This session at the Adobe Summit explained how Marketo uses data from Bombora to determine intent at an account level for their ABM campaigns.

Marketo has three types of accounts that they track in their marketing automation:

  • Named accounts; selected by the rep. Use Mintigo and determine which accounts look like the good marketo customers. They have ideal customer profile (ICP)
  • Target account: not a primary focus, but in good industries
  • Non-ICP accounts; where there are opportunities in which Marketo doesn’t normally win

They focus their ABM activities and determine intent primarily for the first two categories.

Lead to Revenue Module:

As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts from the summit, an AQL (automatically qualified lead) is the new MQL for Marketo. It has three areas that are analysed to determine whether a contact meets the AQL criteria and cited its demanding requirements as the key reasons why ‘sales likes our leads.’

Firstly, the contact should be a target contact with the correct job title (one of the target titles), a first and last name, a phone number or email and a company name.

If the basic contact data is available, then a behaviour score is calculated based on areas such as email clicks, webinar attendance, visiting Marketo at trade shows and other such engagements with the brand. Assuming the score in this area is enough, the score for the account as a whole is calculated, based on revenue, industry, location and a wide range of other company demographic data. Only if the contact has the required data, and adequate engagement and company scores, does is get passed as an AQL.

Driving Contacts to Become AQLs

With many contacts in the database that aren’t AQLs, the question is how marketers can move them to become qualified. Although work can be done to enrich the contact data, nothing can be done to change the account score. The one area that marketers can influence is the behaviour score, by sending content and other offers to engage the contact.

The behaviour score determines the stage in which the contact is in, although contacts that ‘go to sleep’ in the funnel are dealt with differently using reactivation emails with messages similar to ‘we miss you’.

The approach taken by Marketo is content is an investment by the target contact. The later the stage, the more commitment from the contact and therefore the more it will invest in reviewing content. Early stage contacts will receive lighter-weight content such as blogs, cheat sheets and infographics; mid-stage contacts will also be offered eBooks and webinars; and in the late stage you can expect to receive analyst reports and automatically generated sales CTAs (e.g. requests to meet the contact) that Marketo calls ‘accelerators’.

KPIs change for each stage of the funnel, so you are measuring different stages with different metrics.

There are four categories used for nurturing: Reactivation, C-level, key vertical and other (the default category). Not all campaigns, however, are automatic: Marketo also sends lots of batch emails, particularly to the contacts in the mid-stage: For example, live webinars are generally promoted through batch emails because of the need for relevant timing. The goal, however, is to ensure lots of personalised content is sent, or as the presenter put it Marketo, aims to send “very, very relevant emails in the moment”.

Determining Intent at an Account Level

Marketo tracks engagement, which is an element of intent. To get a much better picture of intent, Marketo uses Bombora, a huge publisher network that shares anonymous data about accounts, allowing Bombora and its customers to build a picture of the content that is being consumed on an account level. All you need to do is to define the content categories that indicate intent and then monitor your target accounts to see when the consumption of this content increases (or surges in Bombora’s language).

Marketo had a very simple approach to determining the content categories that matter: It simply gave Bombora a list of the closed customers from the previous six months and looked to see what content they consumed prior to purchasing Marketo. Not surprisingly this included general relevant content, such as marketing automation topics, as well as content about Marketo and its competitors. All it needed to do is monitor the target accounts for surges in consumption of these categories of content, which was achieved using a scoring system, to determine when accounts have intent to purchase.

Intent-Driven Tactics

The intent score correlated well with propensity to purchase, and the accounts showing a surge in relevant content consumption were roughly twice as likely to buy Marketo than a control group. Emails to these contacts also showed a doubling of open rate and click-to-open rate.

The prioritisation by intent allowed a range of different tactics, not just emails. The top 5% were prioritised for immediate follow up by sales. Highly targeted advertising was used as well as emails, and the re-engage campaigns, dubbed ‘wake the dead’ campaigns, were particularly effective when coupled with intent data.

It was interesting to hear how important paid media is for Marketo, and the presenter highlighted how digital advertising has moved from delivering broad reach to a channel that is used for specific targetting of accounts it knows are relevant.

Bombora therefore drives both sales and marketing outbound activities at Marketo. It uses an indicator of when it needs to enrich data about an account: Marketo calls finding contacts in accounts where it doesn’t have any ‘whitespace completion’. Another partner, Merit Direct, is used to add contacts.

Bombora is also used by Marketo to determine intent at existing customers that might be cross-sell candidates, increasing the close rate of upsell campaigns to their existing customers.

The use of intent data hasn’t been without problems. Marketo particularly had issues with performance, with the system sometimes being unable to send data for up to three days due to the amount of data being loaded (Bombora data is deleted and refreshed every week). Although it has a solution to this problem now, it’s nice to know that even the experts have problems!


With an entry-level price of around $50K according to various online reviews, not everyone is going to be able to gather the amount of intent data that Marketo uses. The case study presented in the session, however, emphasises that by using whatever intent data you can get, you will improve your marketing campaigns and close more sales.