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 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:
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, 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
i. EE Times (, Brian Santo,
ii. EDN (, Martin Rowe,
iii. EEWeb (, Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio,
iv. Electronic Products (, Gina Roos,
v. International Editor-in-Chief ITmedia – EE Times Japan/EDN Japan and MONOist, Mayuko Murao,

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,

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.


Breakout Session 5: Using My Tokens to Save Time

This session was all about using tokens. A token is a variable that you can use across your emails, landing pages and smart campaigns to make your life easier. They could also be called a placeholder or merge tag. Typically, people are familiar with person (contact) tokens and company tokens, but Marketo allows you to create “My Tokens” that exist at either folder or company level and are not contact- or company-specific. Tokens cascade down folders, so they are available to sub-folders. The tokens can be changed in subfolders, but keep the same name for the token, and attach different values: for example, having a footer token that changes content for country folders.

My Tokens are great for reducing typos or consistency errors, so are good to remove mistakes. To create a token, at the program level go to My Tokens, drag a token, then give it a name. Once you have defined it, you can add to your assets – for example to the email subject line. Simple!

One of the key benefits of using tokens, particularly when used across different assets (e.g. landing page, email, etc) is that it’s very quick to make changes to campaigns – e.g. add/remove an exclamation mark from a webinar title.

Tokens are ideal if you use one template over again, removing the time copying and pasting templates. By using tokens in templates, you’ll also be more consistent. So, landing pages for webinars, for example, could consist entirely of tokens. It means that the same template can be used to create consistent webinar landing pages.

It’s not all plain sailing as there are some potential problems that you might encounter using tokens:

  • Cloning campaigns works well, but if you move the asset into different workspaces you can lose the tokens
  • A My Token can’t ever be empty (although doesn’t need default value). If the token is empty you can’t save it
  • Tokens are live across all assets, so typos in tokens can be reproduced on many assets

We also got some nice ideas for using tokens:

  • UTM tracking – e.g. https://{{}}{{my.utmParameters}} – where you just need to define the UTM parameters once and then can have them automatically inserted for each link. One point to note if you are tokenising links, you shouldn’t put the http:// or https:// in the token as Marketo then doesn’t track the link
  • Reuse of email templates or LP templates to replace elements can replace logos, social media, etc. So, a great way to re-use creative templates for multiple clients or brands within an organisation
  • You can use a script token that has the code to achieve complex things such as dynamically changing the language of the footer. Changing the copyright date in footers is also a great use of tokens

The My Tokens are a nice feature in Marketo, and something that would be good to see appearing in other marketing automation platforms.

Breakout Session 4: Diving Down the Funnel with ABM – Marketo Presentation at the Adobe EMEA Summit

This session was one I was really looking forward to attending. Hearing from Marketo about how it runs ABM campaigns. Who better to learn from? Melanie Gipp, a senior marketing manager from Marketo was the speaker who had to try to live up to my high expectations.

Marketo’s recipe for success is plan, engage and measure. In ABM this is translated into shared goals and accounts, focussed engagement and data insights. The session walked us through these three steps, explaining how Marketo builds campaigns using this framework.

Marketo has three key business goals, bookings, deal sizes and win rates. To determine progress in these goals, it uses leading indicators: The pipeline, SQLs, MQLs and AQLs (automated qualified leads). AQLs are a term it developed to indicate that a contact who meets scoring/qualification criteria in the system, but has not had a conversation with sales.

The Marketo customer journey has the following stages:

  • The contact makes an inquiry
  • The Marketo system determines that they are an automated qualified lead
  • The telemarketing team takes the lead, making the contact a telemarketing accepted lead (TAL)
  • The lead then goes through conventional MQL and SQL stages

One point that was made very strongly was the need for precise criteria, clear processes and defined responses to ensure good alignment between sales and marketing.

Determining and Tiering Target Accounts

To run an ABM campaign, you obviously need target accounts. When determining how accounts are dealt with in the ABM campaign, they get scored A-D, based on data such as size, product fit, whether they have a competitor solution and whether the account is of strategic importance. Interestingly, using a competitive solution is an indicator that the company is more likely to buy as they have a mature marketing team and are likely to upgrade.

Marketo then looks to see if it has contacts from that company, and whether those contacts are engaged. If there aren’t engaged contacts, outbound research is conducted to understand the account, the internal structure and identify contacts. Where an account is identified as a target and there are already engaged contacts from the organisation, the sales team immediately reaches out to them to begin building relationships and identifying opportunities.

Inbound accounts are also dealt with based on whether they are a target account or not: If the contact is from a target account, they are ranked as high priority leads.

Personalisation and Tactics

There are three levels of accounts addressed in the Marketo ABM campaign: 20 top targets, 1000 tier 1 and around 2000 tier two accounts. Marketo has a matrix that is used to determine what level of personalisation is received by each of the three tiers. The top 20 accounts get everything. For tier 2, Marketo won’t personalise the website to an account, but maybe will personalise the site to an industry, allowing them to address multiple organisations with the same personalisation.

For Marketo’s ABM campaigns, direct mail is a key tactic. It feels this is both simpler than email when you are looking at the issues surrounding privacy and consent; and is more effective, particularly when trying to reach senior, C-level contacts. Not only do they often not read all their emails, Marketo believes that executives are rarely reached through conventional inbound programmes: They don’t tend to sit at the desk and search ‘how do I improve sales alignment?’  By sending truly personalised direct mail pieces they have had good results and use Alyce to automate this process.

Marketo produces great content, so promoting and re-purposing this content is a key element of their ABM activities. In particular, it finds  having content that is targetted at specific personas allows it to reach all the members of the DMU. One interesting tactic is it has taken blog articles and repackaged into a magazine: ‘Fast CMO’. Melanie told us that they have seen ‘amazing results’ from this activity.

Other Funnel Stages

The ABM campaigns don’t just include top of the funnel activities, it  also uses events and paid media to reach people in the middle of the funnel with different tactics to drive greater engagement.

Existing customers are addressed by Marketo’s ABM campaigns, particularly with cross-sell campaigns to increase the range of products used. With the tighter integration of Marketo with the other Adobe marketing tools, it’s likely this will only increase in the future.

Marketo use a ‘multitude of different channels’ in its ABM campaigns, which are illustrated by the slide below. Much of the activity is designed to drive greater personalisation – for example the nurture email sequence aims to drive contacts to a microsite which has very specific personalisation for that individual. Again, Melanie highlighted the rationale of running ABM is to give the company an opportunity to create very personalised engagement.

Data, Data, Data

Data is obviously an important part of ABM campaigns, and here Marketo relies on a large number of partners, such as G2 Crowd to provide intent data, Mintigo to deliver account demographics and Drift for personalised chat. Marketo unsurprisingly pointed to the importance of Bizible for multi-touch attribution (Bizibile is owned by Marketo).

Data was a key theme of the Adobe Summit this year, but you can have too much data. Melanie made a great point about measuring different things at different times: By using the right data at the right time, you get great insights without data overload. The key metrics measured by Marketo for their ABM campaigns are:

Early Stage

  • New contacts
  • New target contacts
  • Opt-ins

Mid Stage

  • Call connects
  • Meetings
  • MQLs

Late Stage

  • Opportunities
  • Pipeline/ARR
  • Revenue won

Marketo’s ABM Take-Aways

As one of the best presentations of the event, it’s hard to summarise all the great information into a few key take-aways. Melanie offered three key things to remember:

  • Agreeing shared goals and accounts with sales
  • Focussed company wide engagement
  • Data and insights both at the lead and company level

What to find out more about ABM and what it can do for you? Check out our ABM page for more information. 

Breakout Session 3: How Alitalia Personalises its Website

One thing I learnt at the Adobe EMEA Summit this year was that B2B marketers can learn a lot from consumer marketers. In an interesting presentation, Alitalia explained how it has improved its business by moving the website from a price-driven sales platform to one that is personalisation-driven. This has enabled them to increase the sales of higher-priced tiers of travel, increasing the profitability of the airline.

Often, I get asked how our clients can customise content for users. Alitalia had a huge list of factors it used when personalising, that should provide some inspiration for any marketer:

Of course, this isn’t easy, Alitalia has a huge amount of content, including 15 different variations of offers, CTAs, etc for each country. It has generated a large amount of rich content that engages website visitors with inspirational images and stories. With a record year for sales in 2018, including 18% increase in revenue, 9% increase in average fare and 30% increase in business class ticket sales from the web; as well as 20% increase in conversion rate when using personalised content and 45% increase in average order value from personalisation, the work has clearly delivered a fantastic ROI!

Breakout Session 2: GDPR and Marketo

GDPR might be the nightmare that won’t go away for marketers. This presentation, however, established the value of good data stewardship, showing examples of how data breaches can impact a business. Anyone who saw the Talk Talk share price graph after their data breach a couple of years ago will not have a problem prioritising security and data management.

The presentation focussed on legitimate interest; although this isn’t perhaps surprising given that most B2B companies are using legitimate interest, which is different from presentations a couple of years ago that would have started with consent. By presenting a definition of legitimate interest, a message linked to the recipient’s job title and/or industry, it should be easy to determine legitimate interest, particularly if there are some simple data enrichment tools.

The first challenge was that, in theory, you should select an audience based upon the content being sent. The solution is obviously to create ‘standard’ segments – e.g. people who we can mail about CCTV products. Of course, Marketo (and other MAPs) will create dynamic lists that are continually updated with contacts that meet the relevant criteria.

One key point was you should really have a job title/job description to  use legitimate interest. The speaker, during his time at Panasonic, also enriched the data including adding information such as SIC codes.

Retention of data is a key challenge that many companies have yet to address. GDPR says you should store data for as short a time as possible. Although this might be several years, it does mean you can’t keep data forever. The recommendation is to set a deletion date for every contact. That data can be updated, whether a contact is created, edited or engages. This then allows a simple deletion run to be executed on a regular (probably quarterly and annually).

The time before deletion should depend upon the source and therefore the reasons for retaining data. The reasons for retaining can be considered with active or passive, and the retention time should be different for each of these. As an example, the retention periods used by the presenter are shown below:

The presentation recommended two dates for expiry: One for the active reasons and one for the passive reasons (i.e. legitimate interest). With the appropriate dates being updated with every interaction triggering an update to the deletion date (in Marketo parlance, this means setting up a listening campaign for each data retention reason to update the deletion date based upon activity).

When deleting contacts, all you need to do is ensure neither of the deletion dates are in the future, and if not, then the contact has ‘expired’. The presenter also looked for emails, meetings or calls logged in the sales teams’ Outlook accounts. This had to be done outside Marketo. If no evidence of sales interaction could be found, the contacts were passed to sales to review: The sales team had 30 days to select the option to stop the contact being removed from all databases.

This approach is an interesting way to ensure old data is purged, and we will be producing a tip sheet to show you how to implement this approach in different marketing automation systems.

Breakout Session 1: Adobe and Marketo – The Roadmap

After being a little disappointed with the lack of mentions for B2B in the opening keynote, I was keen to hear about the future for Marketo as part of Adobe.

Marketo was initially positioned as having three main areas: lead management, attribution and ABM, and a company that started mid-market, moved up, whereas Adobe was the opposite: starting as Enterprise and moving down. The Adobe Experience Platform, the complementary functionality and the Sensei were all positioned as good reasons why Marketo and Adobe are such a good fit. This, and the resources brought by Adobe means that Marketo’s developers can do “more, faster”.

There were two key areas that were discussed. ABM was the first: and presented as something marketers find hard. Sales people, however, have always thought of accounts, so don’t think anything is new. A key point was that if you get ABM wrong, you get it wrong spectacularly: sending healthcare information to an engineering account is obviously very bad.

What’s the goal? Well for ABM, Adobe is aiming to create “the first end-to-end B2B ABM tool”. That’s a pretty big ambition!

One area that Marketo can address with Adobe is accounts where you don’t have a lead: Marketo is bringing in data from LinkedIn, the MS Office Graph and other sources to be able to target accounts. As trailed in the keynote, account-based targeting on LinkedIn will be launched. There are also partnerships with ABM partners such as Demandbase to deliver messages across the internet and and Drift to bring conversational ABM.

Marketo has a reputation for complexity, and the speaker from Marketo didn’t do anything to change this perception; explaining that spelling mistakes in campaigns he runs have to be fixed by the creative team, and requires a Jira ticket. Adobe is going to allow publishing of content directly to Marketo from Creative Cloud, and also the use of the asset manager using AEM. Even if you are not an Adobe Experience Manager customer, you’ll have a lightweight version available as part of Marketo. By simplifying, Adobe hopes to break down the different content silos that currently make Marketo campaigns slower and more cumbersome.

AI was defined as a tool to help marketing teams get to decisions faster in a particular situation. This is a great definition and will be implemented by helping marketers segment audiences and communicate with the right contacts at the right time. As well as identify what content is working and personalise it; determine how to attribute RoI to activities; and finally to create customer journeys, including adaptive journeys.

Perhaps the most useful thing that the acquisition of Marketo by Adobe brings to marketers is the ability to bring data together. A simple example would be trying to understand account-based website traffic: it’s hard with conventional tools to work out whether there is more or less traffic from a particular account or target.The partnership wit Bizzable was cited as particularly important, with the ability to understand ROI across a greater number of channels.

One piece of good news was that, for Marketo customers using paid media, there is not a requirement to sign up to Adobe Advertising Cloud: AdBridge will continue to be supported. Overall, in fact, this session seemed to be aimed at people who, like me, were a little concerned about the focus on B2C in the keynote. Marketo is clearly now only a small part of Adobe, but the good news is that there is no signs of it being abandoned. In fact it’s pretty clear that investment will be increased in the next few years.

Adobe’s European Marketing Summit – Opening Keynote

I’ve taken a couple of days to attend the Adobe EMEA Summit to catch up on what’s happening with Marketo, as well as learn more about the other Adobe marketing products. Here’s the first blog, which looks at what was covered in the opening keynote. As it’s the opening keynote, I’m going to use legacy brands (e.g. Marketo) and will be focussing primarily on the impact to Adobe’s marketing automation customers, which represents most of our clients.

It’s interesting to compare the Adobe event to HubSpot’s Inbound conference. Adobe and HubSpot are pretty different: HubSpot started as a Martech company, while Adobe has effectively grown into marketing, and they have relied on acquisitions to achieve this, particularly buying Marketo and Magento.

The first thing that strikes you is the focus on B2C, rather than B2B. All the big names from the opening keynote are from big consumer brands, including some big names such as the CEO of Illy and the CIO of Unilever, and it was almost 90 minutes before B2B was mentioned. Similarly, the examples cited to illustrate the capabilities were highly skewed to consumers rather than B2B. They are also very focused on size: citing their use by the biggest companies in several consumer categories such as travel.

DDOM: Data-Driven Operating Model

One big mention for Adobe was the use of ‘DDOM’, an abbreviation for their data-driven operating model approach. Clearly with the portfolio of products it has in its marketing cloud, it can deliver great data throughout the customer journey. Not surprisingly we also heard  lots about a ‘renew’ stage of the customer journey; a key part of Adobe’s business model. We saw the discover – try – buy – use – renew customer journey several times in the presentation.

Of course, there were the requisite number of mentions of the importance of privacy, although it’s clear that Adobe, and the attendees, were much more excited about the amount of data that can be collected rather than the amount that isn’t collected. AI, of course,  got a few mentions (Adobe has branded theirs AI Sensei). Although the examples were a little superficial, it’s clear that Sensei has an uncanny ability to select relevant customisations on websites, apps and emails to personalise experiences for each customer.

The Platform, Not the Tools

One thing that became clear was it’s all about the Adobe Experience Platform, rather than individual point products such as Magento and Marketo (it actually took almost 90 minutes before the first mention of the Marketo brand). This is because Adobe is very focussed on the data, rather than the tools, and we were told several times that Adobe was the solution to breaking down marketing data silos. The Open Data Initiative (ODI) also featured prominently in the keynote, showing Adobe is keen to allow data to be shared with other enterprise applications. A great point was made in a discussion about legacy applications: Companies need to take a data-centric, rather than an application-centric point of view. It’s much harder to escape legacy applications than to say this, but clearly now is the time  companies need to invest in better systems to make best use of the most valuable part of their IT infrastructure - data.

Cool Features

There were a few cool features highlighted. The IT geeks will be excited by the ODI support and integrations, but marketers want shinier things. Some of the new features that will grab attention include:

  • The ability to send messages within an app to a customer, driven by a workflow experience cloud
  • The measurement of ‘view throughs’ – identifying customers who see an advert, but don’t click on it
  • The ability to change the content of a mobile app without needing developer support or changing the pp in the App Store, using Adobe Target
  • The AI-driven customisations and recommendations from Adobe’s AI system, Sensei, was impressive and appeared to deliver real benefits rather than simply putting a trendy ‘AI’ badge on the products

E-commerce: Adobe Commerce Cloud (Magento)

With Adobe focussing on data throughout the customer journey, it’s clear that e-commerce is important for them, and so the acquisition of Magento a year ago was a no-brainer. To put it another (rather more professional) way, you must be able to combine transactional and engagement data to measure the impact of marketing on customer acquisition, sales and margin.

I was interested in the comment that ‘the buy button is appearing far earlier in the customer journey’ – this is very true for many B2B tech companies. Whether it’s SaaS vendors who have a much lower cost of entry than old-school shrink-wrapped software or semiconductor vendors whose development boards are so low-cost that they are almost an impulse buy for many engineers. In many ways it’s easier to get that first purchase. Reducing friction to first purchase is certainly something that B2B tech companies should consider, although the message that ‘every experience should be shoppable’ is a B2C concept that simply doesn’t work for most B2B tech companies.

Adobe Marketing Cloud (Marketo)

Marketo was positioned as the leading B2B marketing product, so the Marketo presentation was the first B2B focussed section (after almost two hours of consumer-focussed examples). Steve Lucas, the previous CEO of Marketo, told us of his love of B2B saying that he joined Marketo because it was B2B. Finally!

A key message of the presentation was that B2B and B2C are converging. The first example was, which uses Marketo for its B2B travel booking and other tools for consumers, but the difference between the two sides of the business are blurring.

One fun fact is that there is a partner for every 10 Marketo customers (5000 customers, 550 partners). Not sure what that means, but I thought the ratio was surprisingly heavy on partners.

Account based experience is a new approach, it’s clear that customising the digital experience for each customer and prospect account could be a huge help to companies using ABM: It’s crazy that often the one place where ABM doesn’t have an impact on experience is your own website. There is also the ability to push ads into LinkedIn: something that isn’t possible in other platforms due to the lack of an open API on the LI platform.

Summary of Adobe Opening Keynote

Overall, I think we learnt two things from the opening keynote speakers. Firstly, Adobe is very focussed on building a complete suite of marketing tools, rather than promoting point solutions such as Marketo. Secondly, Adobe believes their biggest opportunities are in B2C, not B2B. Neither of these will be much of a surprise to anyone who viewed the agenda, where the sessions were focussed on the complete platform, not specific products, and there was only a token B2B presentation for each of the breakout sessions.

One thing that won’t come as any surprise to anyone who has looked at marketing technology tools in the last few years was marketing is now about data first. This might not be a lot of fun to people from a creative or PR background, but it’s clear that the largest and most successful companies have already made the transition.

So, what does this mean to B2B technology marketers? Well if you are one of the larger tech companies using Marketo, you’ll probably want to consider buying more Adobe marketing products: Adobe is building an awesome platform that will be hard for very large enterprises to ignore and for smaller tech companies, many of whom use Marketo, nothing is going to change soon.


Check Out the Other Blogs in my Adobe Summit blog series:


Elektronica Magazine Sold to Publisher Elektor International

Publisher Elektor International has recently announced the acquisition of the Dutch magazine Elektronica, which it has purchased from Mybusinessmedia.

The acquisition took place at the beginning of this month with the Elektor International editorial team planning to improve Elektronica’s respective presence in the Dutch industry. Mybusinessmedia will still focus on the upcoming developments in the electronics industry with titles Elektro-Data and

This is an interesting move, as it represents a publisher that is best known for its maker content moving into professional electronics engineering. In many ways, this isn’t surprising as several professional publishers have launched content or publications targeting the super-trendy maker market, and we like the fact that the most influential European maker publication is not standing still: they clearly believe that growth is the best way to defend their position in the maker market.

We look forward to seeing the direction Elektor will take Elektronica and we wish them all the best for the future.

Profiling Stakeholders in an ABM Campaign: Why OrgChartHub is such a Cool Tool

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is one of the hottest topics for B2B technology marketers: Get it right and the results can be almost magical. Since it was pioneered by the ITSMA, ABM has grown in adoption and impact.

The ITSMA developed a seven-step process for ABM:

  1. Knowing what is driving the account
  2. Playing to the client’s needs
  3. Mapping and profiling the stakeholders
  4. Developing targeted value propositions
  5. Planning integrated sales and marketing campaigns
  6. Executing integrated sales and marketing campaigns
  7. Evaluating results and updating plans

Much of this language is familiar to marketers, something that I believe can make us a little too complacent. Specifically, it’s too easy to rush through step three, mapping and profiling the stakeholders.

Today, campaigns are generally based around personas: You might have one for the engineer making the technical decision, another for their boss and another for the purchasing team. They all need to be communicated to in different ways, with different information. With ABM, however, you need to go one level deeper to ensure that you maximise the return your campaign will generate.

Once you move to one-to-one ABM, where a single customer or prospect is the focus, these personas become real people. Of course, they will retain the characteristics of their persona – at least, they will do if you got the persona right – but they adopt individual traits that can be just as important as the persona and role.

A persona to a marketer is very different to a sales persona. While marketers consider motivators and behaviour that is implied by the role, sales people are much blunter. You’re likely to hear your sales team refer to the customer’s decision makers as, “He’s great: he loves us. Or "She doesn’t like us, she prefers competitor X and so she is a blocker.” This level of understanding of the individuals within a business is one of the keys to unlocking the magic of ABM.

It’s obvious that people who are championing your organisation with a customer will want very different communications to those that are blockers. ABM gives you the opportunity to customise the communications based, not just on the individual’s persona, but also their opinions about your company.

So how do you deliver customised messages without making everything a time-consuming, manual process? If you are using HubSpot, then OrgChartHub is a fabulous solution, and something that would win our ABM Product of the Year award, if we gave out awards! This simple tool lets you build org charts of your clients and prospects in HubSpot, tag individuals with their sales personas and, providing you are on a paid plan, create smart lists to deliver content – from emails to landing pages – that is customised to that persona. It doesn’t impact the operation of marketing personas, which is a great feature built-in to HubSpot, but rather sits with those personas, allowing you even more granularity and control.

If you’re struggling to get ABM to deliver the results you want and have some good sales insight that can be used in the campaign, then perhaps sales personas are what you need. I’d love to help you enhance your campaign – send me an email and let’s talk.

If We Leave the EU, You Could Lose Your Website Domain!

OK, we are all bored of Brexit, and by the time I have uploaded this post it’s likely that the most likely outcome will have changed (probably several times). There is, however, a potential consequence of Brexit that some marketers may not have considered.

When, or if, the UK leaves the EU, the EU has stated that its regulatory framework for .eu domains will no longer apply to the UK. This means that:

  • If you are British, you will no longer be able to register .EU domains, nor will you be able to renew any existing .EU domain names, irrespective of whether they were registered before the withdrawal date.
  • The Registry (EURid) will be entitled to revoke .eu domain names on its own initiative.
  • UK rights, such as UK trade marks will no longer be effective in an action against bad faith .EU domain name registrations.
  • Agreements between Registrars and Registrants of .EU domain names can no longer effectively designate UK law or a UK court or dispute resolution body.

Now of course this could be overruled by transitional arrangements in a withdrawal agreement, so even if the UK does leave the EU, these events might not come into effect – at least not immediately. I would, however, recommend reading the EURid Brexit notice, just in case.

The Real Problem for UK Businesses

There will, of course, be a few businesses that stand to lose a .eu domain that they are actively promoting. Although this is a major problem for them, with almost all online activities from website to email impacted by the change, realistically most organisations have chosen other TLDs such as .com or

There will also be a grace period of two months, so nothing will change immediately. If you have an EU subsidiary, of course, you can easily overcome the potential issue by simply changing the registration of the domain to be in the name of the EU company: something you should really be doing now.

Losing a domain isn’t the only thing that companies without subsidiaries in the EU should worry about: the change to the impact of having a UK trademark will be keeping many people up at night. If you have a UK trademark, it will be possible for competitors to register a .eu domain for your brand, potentially damaging your reputation. You’ll no longer be able to use the UK trademark to stop them. If this is a concern, registering an EU trademark is the obvious solution, but be aware that this takes time so don’t delay the application!

A Sad Goodbye to Richard Wilson

Napier was saddened to hear the news that Richard Wilson, former editor of Electronics Weekly, passed away this month after battling a long illness.

Richard was a key member of the industry, and one of the loveliest people you could know. Over 20 years, my respect for him as one of the best journalists in the industry simply grew and grew, and he will be dearly missed.

Our thoughts are with Richard’s family and friends at this difficult time.

Why You Need to Think Again About Web CMSs

I was an engineer, so I can honestly say I find website content management systems (CMSs) fascinating. I remember the early days of the web: in fact, I have used Gopher, had a Compuserve account and remember when AOL was [just about] cool. Anyone who can remember these days will agree that it’s so much easier to make information available today than it was in the early days of the internet.

There have been a couple of things that have driven the dizzying improvements to the web: firstly, the availability of easy-to-use hosting services outside of walled gardens such as Compuserve, and secondly the creation of easy-to-use CMSs.

Website CMSs

For those of you who don’t know, a CMS splits the content from the presentation, or in language that non-geeks might use, it lets you add content to a website without having to be a web programming nerd. The introduction of CMSs meant that content could be posted to a corporate site without needing a team of coders to create and upload HTML and CSS. This meant content updates could be done quickly and easily by the people who had the content, rather than the slow and sometimes painful process required by hard-coded HTML sites.

Websites, however, aren’t like word documents. It’s important to have a consistent look throughout a website, so CMSs use templates. Most CMSs, however, had a philosophy of delivering a single chunk of body copy within the template. This is now rarely the case, with background images, widgets and other layout techniques making page layouts much more complex.

A couple of years ago, the solution was custom coding of the CMS. In fact, I’ve written custom WordPress code for a client to insert related case studies and links to content, based on the specifics of each page; as there wasn’t a good way to achieve the same result using pure WordPress at the time. Today, however, everything has changed.

Why You Don’t Need to Customise WordPress

I’m going to talk about WordPress in particular. Partly because our web team uses WordPress and partly because it’s such a good example of what has happened to CMSs. I also see many WordPress sites that used hard coded content blocks in a customised WordPress environment to create a layout with zero flexibility. Note that I’m not talking about the development of themes: here you still need to hard-code to create a custom layout; I’m referring to the customisations that mean you have to fill in several boxes when you create a page, and the coding will then place each block of content in a specific place on the page.

Today I don’t believe there is a need to customise WordPress to create the layout you want. Firstly, the core WordPress editor has switched to Guttenberg: this is a new approach that allows you to place content in multiple blocks, rather than a title and single piece of content. For some websites, this editor is more than enough to allow you to deploy the layout you need.

Some sites, however, require even more complex layouts and functionality. There are a number of plugins – WPBakery is probably the best-known – that give you almost unimaginable control over your content and layout by simply dragging and dropping blocks. It’s really that easy. You don’t need to be a programmer to create a layout with columns, sidebars, background images or even parallax scrolling. The cost of this incredible power is ludicrous: $45. That’s probably less than the cost of the time to publish a single blog post for most enterprises! Oh, and if you’re using a paid-for 3rd-party theme, you’ll likely find that WPBakery is bundled for free!

Despite the fact that these capabilities are now easy to deploy and use, and are very, very cheap, I still see clients struggling with hard-coded custom themes. They’ll typically want to have a slightly different page layout for some new content, and either have to pay for additional custom coding or compromise and use the hard-wired layout that almost meets their needs. It’s crazy to have to compromise with the technology that’s available today.

Break Free of Hard-Coded WordPress Customisation!

The reality is that migration away from a hard-coded layout is really simple and typically very quick. Yet companies struggle with their limited hard-coded systems because it’s what they have always done, and they don’t believe that it’s either possible or easy to migrate to a more modern approach. We disagree! If you want to find out how easy it is to move from a limited theme where you have to ask a web developer every time you want to do something different, simply email me and I’d be happy to talk to you about how we could make your website cheaper, easier to use and more flexible than you ever imagined.

Napier and Armitage: the inside story

Today we announced that we have merged with Armitage Communications, a really exciting development that takes the existing Napier Group (Napier and Peter Bush Communications) to the next stage of our journey and means we can be an even better agency for our clients.

We aren’t perfect… but we’re very, very good

We are always looking for other agencies that can bring new things to the Napier Group. Although we invest a lot of time and money into training, once you realise that perfection is unachievable, the opportunities to combine the best bits of two great organisations becomes very compelling.

What Armitage brings

There are so many things about Armitage that made me want to do the deal, but they can be summarised by three things:

People: the talent in Armitage is truly amazing. I’m blown away by many areas in which they excel, including the quality of their writing; their design and animation; and their marketing automation and database expertise. These skills are basically a reflection of the talented people at Armitage. The team are also nice people. I want to only work with people I like, and the Armitage team are wonderful from David Armitage downwards.

Culture: Armitage has a culture that in many ways is like Napier. They care about doing a good job for the client and are proud of the work they do. They also bring a culture of real creativity that generates some of the best PR concepts I’ve seen. It’s going to be great to be a part of this culture.

Markets: the business reason is that Armitage is a B2B technology agency, just like Napier, but works in slightly different markets. They are much stronger in industrial automation than we are and have an impressive communications practice. There is no point in an agency getting together with another one that has conflicting clients, and this isn’t the case with Armitage.

Napier’s contribution

A company acquisition is always hard for a managing director. It’s easy to run after the new, shiny business and forget about the great organisation you had before. I’m confident this won’t happen as I’m still excited about Napier, even after 18 years. If I was a client, I can honestly say I would hire Napier: perhaps this isn’t surprising, but I’ve always thought of running an agency as being a job where you try to create an agency whose fees you’d happily pay if you were on the other side of the fence.

Like Armitage, Napier has great people and a strong culture. In addition to the complementary markets, we bring expertise in processes and efficiency; an outstanding approach to training and development and loads of experience working in other European countries. Peter Bush Communications has a team with market expertise that is synergistic with Armitage’s markets and I’m sure the two business units will work together closely.

Isn’t this all about size of the business?


Let’s face it, one of the nicest things you can do is to give people jobs. And I would be lying if I said my ego wasn’t massaged just a little by the chance to run a business like Armitage, as well as Napier and PBC. But there have been many other, probably easier, opportunities to grow by acquisition that we’ve had over the last few years and we’ve turned them down. If we were looking for other agencies to get together with just to grow the business, the Napier Group would already be three times the size.

Getting together – it doesn’t matter what size you are, it’s always difficult

I was talking to a client who was involved in multi-billion-dollar acquisitions, who said to me that he felt that size of deal didn’t really impact complexity, and that it might even be easier to negotiate a huge deal because you had a bigger team. He’s a really nice guy, and I don’t for a minute believe he really meant what he said (the deals he worked on have transformed an industry), but there is an element of truth.

Once you start trying to bring two businesses together, you get lawyers involved. While they do a really good job, things are always more difficult, more complex and slower than you ever imagined. We thought that it would take two months to get everything completed and it took more than twice as long. It’s been a nightmare having to keep quiet about something that is so exciting and such good news for so long, and I’m relieved I can finally talk about Armitage publicly.

What happens next?

Fortunately, we have some experience: getting together with Peter Bush Communications was extremely successful and we are looking to repeat the success with Armitage. We’re moving to single systems for our back-office, but initially there will be little change in the way that any of the three companies in the Napier Group work on a day-to-day basis. Each business is rightly proud of their brand, and we want to develop and grow the Armitage brand as part of a strong group of companies. The priority for me, however, is to ensure we share the areas of unique expertise of each of the three businesses with the other two.

From a client point of view, it probably means that very little will change in the short term. Hopefully in the long term we will be able to help you with more projects and have a larger team with an even broader range of skills working for you.

The teams will have an opportunity to work with more colleagues on a wider variety of clients and project. There will also be the chance to learn new skills.

Any other mergers or acquisitions in the pipeline?

As I mentioned before, we’re always looking for other agencies that could make us a better company. So, I certainly wouldn’t rule out another deal in the future. But we’re very picky. Extremely picky! It took us about five years (during which time we said “no” a lot!) to find PBC, and another five to find Armitage, so don’t hold your breath waiting for news of another deal!


If you have any other questions, please do ask me. We’re excited about how getting together can benefit all our clients, and I’m looking forward to lots of interesting conversations over the next few months.