Tag Archives: inbound marketing

biathlon ski-79564_640

The Biathlon CMO: Creative and Analytical

I have to admit it.  I just cannot get enough of biathlon!   How can you NOT love a mash-up of endurance sport and shooting?  As I watched Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina repeat as Olympic gold medal winner in the 7.5km sprint last weekend, I was amazed at the combination of skills the sport requires.    The competitors are absolutely full throttle anaerobic while skiing the course.  Then they glide into the shooting station, and must immediately calm their heart rate in order to hit the targets at 50m and avoid a time penalty.    Two completely opposite disciplines are necessary for success.    Just like today’s CMO, who must be a master of both creative and analytical skills.   The biathlon CMO.

Content -the Engine of the Biathlon CMO’s Creative Side

In today’s inbound marketing world, content is the key to a compelling, creative demand generation program.   An effective program requires knowing the buyer persona, identifying the latent pain, and building content to address those pains with your unique approach.

Effective B2B marketers then use a variety of avenues to distribute that content to their target audience.   A well crafted program can re-purpose the same basic information through a variety of channels, including social media, ebooks, case studies, blogs, white papers, surveys, webcasts, videos, as well as in-person events.

Content creation is a big job, but it can be made easier by getting a broader team involved.  Functional groups outside of marketing have great insight that can be built into compelling content.

Metrics Show Whether the Biathlon CMO Hits Her Targets

Big data and analytics have made their way into the B2B marketer’s world.  As a result of this, CMOs now have the data they need to communicate results and show value to the rest of the business.  As has been written in StoryMETRIX and Branding Strategy Insider, this allows the CMO to better align with their CFO colleagues.

The metrics exist.  The business can be instrumented to show value.  A key question is which metrics to use for which audience.  That is a subject for another post.

Are you a biathlon CMO?  Or, are you strong in one area but not the other?  Do you take too many penalty laps because you’re not hitting your targets?  Or, are you running out of gas in the last part of the race because you’re short on content?  Let me know what you think!



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Six sigma, inbound marketing

Six Sigma and Inbound Marketing – Only When Pigs Fly?

Oh yeah, I know what you’re thinking.   Six Sigma and inbound marketing? Is that a joke?  Six Sigma is for manufacturing.   Old school.  Narrow-minded.  That rigid process analysis run by geeks with thick, black glasses and pocket protectors.  The very antithesis of the creative, fast-moving, collaborative effort required by marketers to drive awareness and demand.

But I’ll bet you’ll think otherwise by the end of this post.  As evidence for my position,  I’ll cite Hubspot, synonymous with inbound marketing.   I have yet to see pigs in the sky, but those thick black glasses, they’ve gotten pretty trendy lately.  Thank you, LeBron!

Inbound Marketing aside, what does Six Sigma have to do with Endurance Sports?

Now, that’s a lay-up!  Six Sigma focuses on defining success, measuring the critical inputs, and finding opportunities for continuous improvement in order to achieve goals.  It’s the same type of mentality with which endurance athletes train.  We’re always looking for ways to get a little more streamlined, a little more power, a bit more energy.  Incremental improvement in inputs, extended over the course of a triathlon or ultra-marathon, can produce massive gains in finishing time.   There is almost no detail too small for an endurance athlete to analyze and optimize.  Take it from a guy who trimmed his watch band to save weight while running the Western States® 100 Mile Endurance Run.

A New Way to Think about Defects

six sigma, defects
Not the way marketers should think about defects

Six Sigma is all about reducing defects.   Don’t think of a defect as that big pile of scrap that sits at the end of an assembly line.   Think more broadly of a defect as a failure to achieve what is acceptable by the customer.   Isn’t inbound marketing all about attracting the right buyer personas, providing them with useful, compelling content in order to move them along the buying cycle?  Think of a defect as a failure to accomplish this goal.

Once you accept this definition of a defect, the association of Six Sigma and inbound marketing begins to flow.  You have to admit that the following examples are defects:

  1. Your target buyer comes to your website, but doesn’t find what she needs.
  2. You write a compelling blog, but don’t have an obvious call to action (CTA).
  3. A reader of your blog follows your CTA, but finds your registration form too onerous, and abandons.
  4. Your inside sales rep gets a lead on the phone but lacks the training to easily qualify the prospect’s need.

5 Steps that Relate Six Sigma and Inbound Marketing

To identify and correct defects, Six Sigma uses a five step DMAIC process – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.  Here are just a few ways this process relates to inbound marketing.

1. Define:  Six Sigma says the “voice of the customer” defines what is acceptable to the customer in order to meet their needs.   For us inbound marketers, this translates to understanding the buyer persona.   This Hubspot example of a non-profit buyer persona goes way beyond just the buyer’s voice to cover her demographics, values, goals, pain points, etc.   The key point common to both Six Sigma and inbound marketing:  focus on the customer, not on your product or service.

Six Sigma practitioners often use a process map in the Define stage to understand the precise steps necessary to deliver a product or a service.   Similarly, inbound marketers must map the customer’s buying process to ensure that they provide useful content to convert an opportunity to a lead and then to a customer.

2. Measure:  The next step is to measure the current state of the process in order to identify opportunities for improvement.   For inbound marketing, this step involves reviewing the website to ensure that it provides compelling content to the buyer personas all along the buying process.   As StoryMETRIX says, it also involves gathering detailed metrics on website traffic by source, conversion ratios, and the effectiveness of sales enablement material.   Creative folks, engage your inner geek, because this step requires a variety of data gathering and basic operational definitions.   For example, marketing and sales must agree on terms like Marketing Qualified Lead and the SLAs for lead follow-up.

3. Analyze:  Here’s where you identify the potential corrective actions to problems.

World famous practitioner of  "The Five Whys"
World famous practitioner of “The Five Whys”

Take a lesson from your three-year old at bed time, and use “The Five Whys.” The idea behind this technique is that you cannot stop the first time you ask “why” a given problem exists.  You have to take the answer you get, and again ask “why.”  If you ask “why” long enough (usually five times suffices), you’ll ultimately uncover the root cause.   See this great example.   Try this with your team the next time your webinar doesn’t get the expected number of attendees.

Oh, and don’t accept “because I said so” as an answer.

4. Improve:  In this phase you implement your changes and measure the results.  A/B testing to determine different subject lines for blog posts or email campaigns.   Different CTAs and registration forms.   Different subject lines for blog posts.   Using video instead of written content to see what works best.   The list goes on.

5. Control:   Here’s where you lock in the gains by documenting best practices and training your team.  No gain is permanent, especially in a changing market, but you have to put in the effort to ensure you propagate your improvement tactics across your team.

A Proof Point from Hubspot

As you read this KISSMetrics article on Hubspot, you’ll clearly identify actions that Hubspot takes that align to each of DMAIC stages.   Creative types, even Hubspot takes an impressively analytical approach to building a scalable sales team.

Convinced yet?  Let me know.   As a marketer, endurance athlete, and Six Sigma Black Belt, I think there’s great opportunity for applying some of these techniques to our jobs.  Just don’t get hung up on outdated impressions of what Six Sigma is all about.


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buyer personas, oxygen

Ignoring Buyer Personas – Is The North Face Climbing without Oxygen?

One of the first tenets of inbound marketing is to build buyer personas to ensure understanding of your customer.   Marketers use research, interviews, and surveys to construct these archetypes of target buyers, and then craft messaging and content to appeal to them.   Buyer personas typically include the following:

  1. Background:  relevant information on job role, size and type of company
  2. Demographics:  gender, age range, household income, where they live
  3. Goals:  what they are trying to accomplish
  4. Challenges:  what gets in the way of accomplishing their goals
  5. How you help:  how your product or service helps them accomplish their goals
  6. Objections:  what you expect to hear from them as they consider your solution
  7. Where they buy:  what resources they use when researching and purchasing
  8. Jargon and quotes:  specific terminology they use when describing themselves, their problem, or desired solution

Here’s an example from Hubspot and one from Bizzuka.com.

Marketers use the buyer persona to build a  buying process map to illustrate the the stages of the buyer’s journey from awareness through purchase.   The goal is to ensure your website provides compelling content to each buyer persona at each stage of the buyer’s journey.  Marketers also use the buyer persona when building their sales presentations,  using the information to arm sales with a commercial insight  tailored to the unique capabilities of their solution.

Makes sense, right?  Well, apparently, not to one of the most well known consumer brands on the planet.   According to a recent New York Times article, The North Face pays no attention to key demographic information of their customer base.  Not their age, not their income, and certainly not their goals and challenges.  Instead, they focus their marketing efforts on four key activities:  mountains – hiking, trekking, climbing, snow sports, running and training, and the broadly defined “youth activities.”  Along with beautiful ads on-line, in catalogs, and in stores, it uses incredibly produced videos of serious athletes in the mountains – climbing, skiing and boarding, and running.  Their Never Stop Exploring integrated marketing campaign personalizes the  meaning of outdoor exploration in these areas.   So, does The North Face know something we don’t know?

In the Beginning, the Buyer Persona was Clear as the Mountain Sky

Two hiking enthusiasts, Doug and Susie Tompkins, started The North Face in San Francisco in 1966 as a retailer of high-end ski and camping gear.  From the very start, in choosing The North Face name, they focused on serious outdoors enthusiasts, since the north face of any mountain is the coldest, iciest, and most challenging to climb.  In 1968, Kenneth Klopp acquired the store, moved it to Berkeley, and began manufacturing mountaineering products.  It maintained its focus on the serious outdoor market even as it entered the sports wear market in 1996.  Promoted with the slogan “Cotton Kills,”  its all-synthetic Tekware® line kept climbers dry, warm, and safe by wicking away sweat.

Mainstream Expansion:  Massif Market Share and Exposure

The North Face was purchased in 2000 by North Carolina based VF Corporation, an $11B apparel and footwear company, which also owns Lee®, Wrangler®, and Nautica® brands.   The North Face is the leading brand of VF Corporation’s Outdoor & Action Sports category, which comprised 54% of total company revenue in 2012.  With major investment in advertising and branded stores, The North Face’s sales grew to $1.9B in sales in 2012, and its logo is now ubiquitous in cities and suburbs around the world.

Although still leading in market share against outdoor apparel competitors like Patagonia, Columbia Sportswear, and Mountain Hardware, The North Face risks alienating serious outdoor enthusiasts.   Its pervasive visibility  has begun to cast it as a “beginner’s” brand among those who are experienced in the outdoors, according to a Bloomberg article.   To counteract this trend, The North Face has increased its efforts on innovation, and close relationships with elite athletes to develop the technical features they require.

The Mainstream and the Long Tail:  Can Activity Based Marketing Address Both?

There are clearly two broad customer categories:  world class athletes, and the rest of us.   Perhaps activity based marketing makes sense for an aspirational brand like The North Face.  As long as it develops the technical features that serious mountain enthusiasts require, the rest of us may continue to aspire to, and be inspired by, those athletes.   Our demographics, goals, challenges, and jargon don’t matter.  We’ll continue to buy because we want to be like them.

For  global brand, this approach can be more flexible.  It allows expansion into other geographies, like China, as well as expansion into gear for seasons other than winter.    Perhaps The North Face isn’t ignoring buyer personas at all, but is taking an approach that doesn’t require them.

What do you think?  What is it about The North Face approach that makes sense to you?

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Content creation is team effort

Content Creation for Inbound Marketing: Build a Bigger Boat

Necessity is the mother of invention.  The phrase is ascribed to Plato, and as the solo marketer in a stand-alone business unit within a large company, I lived and breathed it. To succeed at content creation for inbound marketing, I knew I couldn’t do it alone.   This week’s Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) illustrates how to build a bigger boat to get it done.

Organize your Content Creation Plan

Choose your channels.   Are you rowing sweep (one oar) or are you sculling (two)?  In a single, double, four, or eight?  Similarly, choose your social media channels based on your strengths, resources, and intended audience.  We used Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogging.

Find your contributors.  As the marketer, I was the coxswain of our effort, steering and setting the cadence.  Just as a cox can’t move the boat without rowers, marketing can’t be the only function doing content creation for your inbound marketing effort.   Below, I discuss who took up an oar in our content creation boat and what they provided.

Drive to a schedule.  It takes about twenty minutes to finish the three mile HOCR course, but boats can lose major time navigating the 180 degree turn that starts at mile two.  Our content plan had a schedule for each of our channels.  Every week, members of our sales, business development, and product management teams suggested content to me.  I used their suggestions to build an inventory of tweets that were scheduled using HootSuite and distributed to the rest of the company using GaggleAMP.  I recorded one YouTube video each week on technical topics determined by the field.   Our thought leaders contributed to our corporate cloud blog at least monthly.

Build content for the whole customer buying cycle, just as rowers vary their output over the race course.  At the start, they accelerate with a furious stroke rate, then they settle into a more sustainable pace at the B.U. Bridge.  With a half mile to the finish, they go all out once they pass the Eliot Bridge.  Don’t limit your effort to thought leadership content for awareness and consideration.  You need a variety of content for subsequent stages in the cycle.

Track results.  Just as rowers follow a specific plan of workouts leading up to the regatta, we tracked the results of our efforts.   We analyzed which tweets got the most amplification, and which website content was most popular.  We shared the contributions and Klout scores of our team members, to generate competition.

The Oarsmen in our Content Creation Boat

Several groups played a role in content creation.   Here’s who pulled an oar in our eight, from stem to stern.

1.  Product Management:  In the bow seat, our product managers created short YouTube videos covering the our product’s business benefits.  Avoiding detailed discussion of features, these videos highlighted our competitive advantages, and targeted the preference stage of the buying cycle.

2.  Strategists:  Our strategist provided thought leadership content, in white papers and blogs, for our corporate site and popular sites for our targeted industries, like MSP Mentor.  If your vertical market experts aren’t visible on the industry blogs your prospects read, you won’t expand your awareness beyond your current customer base.   

3.  Sales:  As sales met with customers and partners, they tweeted photos and key points, which were then promoted via Twitter and LinkedIn to help drive the purchase stage. We also used this information to write industry specific blog posts such as this example from the CRM software space.

4.  Business Development:  Responsible for the partner eco-system, the business development team recorded short customer videos, highlighting the quantified business benefit of our product.  We not only created a repository of customer videos on our product page, but we also tweeted them out regularly.  These proved to be our most popular tweets, since the profiled customers aggressively promoted them as well.   Create videos for all of your vertical markets and target use cases.

5.  Pre-sales:  Our pre-sales experts recorded YouTube videos on technical tips and tricks.   Targeted to existing customers, these videos helped customers expand their use of our product, helping us cross-sell and up-sell.

6.  Customer Support:  No team is better positioned to understand what customers struggle with, so it was easy for support to address FAQs on our LinkedIn user group.

7.  Executives:  We engaged our leadership, especially on controversial news-jacking opportunities.  The best example is a blog showing how  our customer supported a massive increase in traffic to Boston Magazine’s website after it published unauthorized photos in the Boston Marathon bombing case.

8.  Customers and Partners:  In the stroke position, the most important in the boat, are customers and partners.  After all, it is their experience with the product that drives the business.  Add them as guests on your blog and lead generation activities, since their credibility and direct experience will be more convincing to prospects than your own.

My job as marketer is just like that of the cox:  drive to the schedule, insist on quality output, and constantly demand more effort.

What do you think?  Are you getting the most out of your colleagues when it comes to inbound marketing content creation, or do you have a few empty seats in your boat?

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