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Hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More.

It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of the year. So much has happened. I thought it would be helpful to identify some of the business growth trends and the marketing topics that stood out and that will definitely keep on trending. That also gives me a chance to revisit some of the wonderful conversations on this podcast with my guests.

In this episode:

  • Felix Krueger is the CEO of Krueger Marketing. His company focuses on sales enablement and Account-Based Marketing for B2B enterprises. Felix talked about the changes in sales and marketing content that have been necessary to meet a more virtual world, and how we can find the balance between the hybrid, which is face-to-face communication and the virtual.
  • Many of you know Ann Handley from her work as a Chief Content Officer of Marketing Profs and her book, Everybody Writes. When we were talking about writing, we extended our conversation to email marketing because she was able to capture over 25,000 email subscribers in less than one year. Ann suggests that we should use our newsletter a little bit differently.
  • Lee Odden is the CEO of Top Rank Marketing, and he helps B2B brands with influencer marketing. Lee has a very specific point of view when brands want to be perceived as thought leaders and show their expertise and why it doesn’t hurt to partner with an influencer in that specific area.
  • Paul Roetzer is the founder and CEO of PR 20/20 and the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. Paul talks about Artificial Intelligence and what will AI do for sales and marketing.

Quotes from the episode:

“The whole experience of sitting in a room with a salesperson for one hour, going through 30 slides, having a face-to-face discussion and back and forth involving other stakeholders – that experience has gone. And I think it’s gone for good. What happens now is that one experience that you used to have, is more decentralized now.” –  Felix Krueger

“As much as I love social media, I also think it’s not the best way to nurture relationships. A far more effective, especially in B2B, is through the email newsletter. Many B2B companies are afraid. They have this sense of a template, a templatized approach to their email newsletter versus just blowing the whole thing up and rethinking it.” – Ann Handley

“Creating a great experience obviously is a theme in B2B marketing for customers, but creating a great experience, not just for customers, but for influencers as well, is super, super important, because if they’re inspired to share, it’s just going to be that much more successful.” – Lee Odden

I would argue that most marketers will never know nor care what unsupervised and supervised learning is. Nor will they care about the eight common machine learning models of clustering and linear regression. What they need to know is what is AI capable of doing to identify and prioritize use cases internally. They need to know who the go-to experts are, the data scientists who can help them prepare the data properly and ensure that there’s no bias built-in.” – Paul Roetzer

Hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of 2021. So much has happened this year. I thought it would be helpful to identify some of the trends and the marketing topics that stood out in 2021. That also gives me a chance to revisit some of the wonderful conversations on this podcast with my guests.

So, of course, this year, we all deal with and still are dealing with COVID. And in the B2B marketing and the sales world, COVID has led to a big shift in terms of the content we need for virtual communications. And to get some on-the-ground perspective on this, I reached out to Felix Krueger, CEO of Krueger Marketing. His company focuses on sales enablement and Account-Based Marketing for B2B enterprises.

I asked Felix about the changes in sales and marketing content that have been necessary to meet a more virtual world. At the same time, the virtual world is not going away. And how we can find the balance between the hybrid, which is face-to-face communication and the virtual.

Felix Krueger: What used to be previously categorized as marketing content–being things like thought leadership pieces, content that talks about trends and markets, talks about the solution category and so on–so basically everything that’s more top of the funnel–is now being used by sales more and more. I think particularly if marketing considers sales a very targeted distribution channel with existing relationships and market to existing connections on social media. I think this is the way to go, and any organization that doesn’t think that way has a disadvantage these days.

Pam Didner: Understood. So, you know, obviously, with the current pandemic, many things have changed, especially on the sales side, right? In the past, the salespeople had opportunities to visit the customers and build a relationship. They can do a lot of show and tell. They can pass the information directly to the customers. And with, uh, the pandemic, they are forced to do a lot of communication virtually. From that perspective, have you noticed that the content used on the sales side has been changed?

Felix Krueger: The first thing that has changed is the buyer. And, um, because many people started working from home, they suddenly had all kinds of different, uh, distractions. For those people who weren’t used to working from home, you know, like suddenly they had to navigate, um, the new environment and the way they communicate with their colleagues and with, um, with salespeople. Right. So, and I think because people started communicating on their terms, which is often not in real-time, buyers have had an increased need for content that is not as elaborate as a typical sales meeting would be. And on top of that, it’s a need to be engaging, you know, because, uh, you have all kinds of distractions of things that might catch your attention.

Pam Didner: Dog barking, the baby crying…

Felix Krueger: Absolutely. Plus ten social feeds that, uh, you know, just bombard you with interesting content left, right and center. So you’re not, you don’t, you’re not competing. Only against other companies in your market, you’re competing against all those different—

Pam Didner: –distractions that happen on the spot.

Felix Krueger: Yeah. So I think in that sense, sales content had to change a lot. And the way of engaging the buyer also required them to engage with sales content on their terms. You know? So, the whole experience of sitting in a room with a salesperson for one hour, going through 30 slides, having a face-to-face discussion and back and forth involving other stakeholders is that that experience has gone. And I think it’s gone for good, you know, and what happens now is that that whole, that one experience that you used to have, um, is more decentralized now. You might have a content piece shared via social media that you see. Uh, then you have an email shared before the meeting with the content piece; you have a remote presentation that is much shorter than it used to be during the meeting. And then you have followed up content being shared that you can consume, but that you can also share with other stakeholders within the business. You know, so I think content is much shorter, much more engaging and needs to be used much more strategically than it used to be.

Pam Didner: So that’s Felix point of view. I love it. When you are supporting the sale. You need to consider both communications type of efforts and mechanisms, not just the in-person communication, but also virtual. When looking into content to create for them, you need to think about how to approach these two mechanisms to better support your sales team.

It doesn’t surprise me that content remains an important topic for marketers in 2021; it will continue to be a hot topic in 2022. Given that content continues to be important, what about email marketing? Is email marketing dead?

In March, I reached out to my great friend, Ann Handley, for an episode about writing. Many of you know Ann from her work as a Chief Content Officer of Marketing Profs and her book, Everybody Writes. So when we were talking about writing, we extended our conversation to email marketing because she was able to capture over 25,000 email subscribers in less than one year. Ann suggests that we should use our newsletter a little bit differently.

Ann Handley: We focus on what we want to say and all the amazing things that we want to talk to our audience about. But I think that’s the wrong way to think about an email newsletter. It’s not about the news. It’s about the letter. It’s about that opportunity you have to speak directly to one person at one time, and that’s a very powerful place.

The other reason why I believe so strongly in why we should use that and respect that space differently is because email is the only place where the audience and not the algorithms are in control. And you know what I mean by that is you can, you can fight with Facebook, you can throw money at Facebook to, you know, to get your content in front of the eyeballs of the people who matter most. Or you can have your relationship that you’re nurturing on your own with your email newsletter.

So as much as I love social media, I also think it’s not the best way to nurture relationships. I think a far more effective, especially in B2B, by the way, is through the email newsletter. Um, and I think many B2B companies, in particular, are just they’re afraid. You know, it’s like they sort of have this sense of a template, a templatized approach to their email newsletter versus just blowing the whole thing up and rethinking it. So, I’d say for the past year or so, I’ve been on this mission to help B2B companies and B2B marketers think inherently differently about their email newsletter and about the opportunity that I see there.

Um, there’s a reason why so many other brands like, like, think about, um, like Twitter just acquired Review, an email publishing platform–an email newsletter publishing platform. Facebook is reportedly developing their own email newsletter publishing platform. LinkedIn last December quietly rolled out this ability for every person on LinkedIn who’s publishing on LinkedIn publishing articles on LinkedIn. They can now basically send that out repackaged as an email newsletter through the LinkedIn platform. And so why are all these social platforms suddenly so interested in the newsletter space? Because it works because it always has. And so when people dismiss email marketing as old school, it’s like, “Nay, nay my friends.”

Pam Didner: I think they dismiss it more or less, you know everybody was like, “Oh, because we, Everybody got spam. So the conversion is low. Therefore email marketing is not working.” That might be true to some extent, but it depends on the quality of the email you send out. And, uh, I like the way you emphasize in terms of an email newsletter. Let’s emphasize the letter part, not necessary, you know, the news part. And then, the B2B marketing or the company needs to think through, in terms of their email marketing, what kind of content, what kind of communication they want to move forward with?

Ann Handley: Yeah. Very often, especially in B2B, we relegate that email newsletter task to the most junior person on the team as the job of putting together the email newsletter–pulling in content from other departments, from content, from sales, you know, from customer care, like all of that. And, you know, I think that even some of the processes that we have in place undermine our ability to use that channel more effectively. And so, yeah, I would just encourage any B2B marketer who is listening to this to look at your email newsletter. There’s an opportunity there for, especially in B2B, to do more with that asset.

Pam Didner: So that was Ann. Love her. I like her point of view regarding using an email newsletter but using it in a more personable way. Write it as if you are writing a letter to your friend. I took her advice, and when I send out my newsletter, I write it as if I’m writing to a friend. So try that and see how that works.

There’s another topic I would like to share with you. I think there is a knowledge trend that you need to pay attention to in 2022: influencer marketing. I had a great conversation with Lee Odden. Lee’s a CEO at Top Rank Marketing, and he helps B2B brands with influencer marketing. And he has a very specific point of view in terms of if, as a brand, we want to be perceived as a thought leader and the expertise in addition that we know our products and industry well, it doesn’t hurt to partner with an influencer in that specific area. So here is Lee.

Lee Odden: I think the starting point has to be around the topic or topics they want to be influential about. Again, the function of influences is an idea that is important for customers to understand, adopt and act on for the business to grow. Right? And it’s not more than just buying our product or service. So what do we want to be influential about? what are the key pain points that our customers have? or what are their goals?

Pam Didner: What are some of the key communication objectives you want to accomplish? Start with that.

Lee Odden: Yes, exactly know what those topics are because once you identify those topics, you can use those topics to find the influential people about those topics. In other words, if your brand wants to be influential about something, what better way to become more influential than to partner with people who are already influential. Yes, let’s make content together.

Pam Didner: (laughs) We’ve used “influential” like five times in one sentence!

Lee Odden: I’m optimizing myself. But the thing is, is things like chasing a famous person because they’re well known cause some guy or gal in marketing or comms said, so not validated by data is a waste of time. It doesn’t give the tactic and opportunity to do what it can do. Versus actually understanding what it is we’re trying to achieve. And what are, like you said, our messaging, uh, goals. What topics do we want to be influential about? Then we can intelligently make an informed decision about who we can partner with. Not only who has domain expertise, but also other alignments in terms o values they have, the type of content they’re able to create that resonates with our community and that sort of thing.

The starting point is getting those topics down and then going from there into the content collaboration process.

Pam Didner: So, based on your experience of influencer marketing, what are the biggest mistakes you have seen or have made when people are implementing influencer marketing?

Lee Odden: Um, I guess one of them, one of the big ones, is people waiting to recruit. So they’re deciding that we’ve just created some really good content, now let’s go find some influencers to help us promote it.

Pam Didner: That doesn’t work. I 100% agree with you.

Lee Odden: If they’re not involved in the making, they’re not interested in being part of the promoting of that content.

Pam Didner: You have to give them the incentive to do something, right?

Lee Odden: Yeah, and simply being a participant or a contributor, that’s the first step. But suppose the content you make in collaboration with influencers isn’t a great experience, if it doesn’t make them look good, if it isn’t, you know, really, uh, a pretty good step up in terms of production and that sort of thing. In that case, you know, they’re not going to be as inspired to share and help make it successful. And that’s one of the reasons why a lot of the influencer content collaborations that we do with our clients are interactive content. Or—

Pam Didner: And also make sure the quality is top-notch.

Lee Odden: So it’s creating a great experience, obviously is a theme in B2B marketing for customers, but creating a great experience, not just for customers, but for influencers as well, is super, super important, because if they’re inspired to share, it’s just going to be that much more successful.

Pam Didner: I agree. I agree.

Lee Odden: I, I think, you know, some of the other mistakes are, you know, believing the hype of popularity, only going by popularity metrics to decide who you work with is, is a problem. Um, mismatching content. So, you know, believe it or not, people will do this. They’ll reach out to a YouTuber and say, “write a blog post for us.” Or, you know, they’ll reach out to someone.

Pam Didner: (laughs) Yeah. That’s not, that’s not gonna work. I mean, it’s not the right format. It’s not their forte.

Lee Odden: Well, the audience is used to a certain format. When you evaluate an influencer, you’re thinking about what topic they are relevant for and the media creation skills they bring to the table? What type of content, what content formats does their audience love from them? Then let’s have them do those things, not with the most important brand.

Pam Didner: Those are practical tips for getting started with influencer marketing from Lee Odden.

The last trend I want to share with Everybody is Artificial Intelligence. That has been a hot topic in the past several years. I’m incredibly passionate about a topic, and I keynote this topic at multiple different conferences. I even wrote a little ebook about it. It’s called the Modern AI Marketer. And you can find this book on Amazon.com.

And I had a great conversation with Paul Roetzer, and he’s the founder and CEO of PR 20/20 and the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. We talk about AI and what will AI do for sales and marketing. So here’s Paul.

Paul Roetzer: It gives the machine human-like abilities to, to see, to, to speak, to learn, to understand; the machine can’t do any of that stuff on its own. And to make predictions about what we ask it to predict. So what we always tell people is to look at the things you do every day that are data-driven, repetitive and require you to predict an outcome or behavior.

So if you’re going to send an email, you’re at really the core of that is you’re likely trying to get someone to take any action, whether it’s to buy a product or read an article or whatever it may be. So you’re subconsciously predicting. What subject lines should I use to get them to open this? Once they open this, you’re trying to predict what links you should put it have in there and what the copy should be and what the CTA button should be and what the image should be. And you’re like, all of these are a collection of predictions that you’re subconsciously making to drive an outcome.

So we start looking at whether it’s paid media and you’re doing digital ad spend and which creative will work best, to social media–what should I share and when? And what hashtags should I use? To email, to content marketing–what blog posts should I write? And what should I include in the blog post? All of these daily activities for many of us really, you’re trying to predict outcomes that guide what you do. That’s the stuff where machines excel. Intelligent machines excel at data-driven repetitive, predictive things.

Pam Didner: We always have templates and processes, right. To do our job, right. If we want to send the email campaigns, we must select the content. We have to, uh, write a copy. We have images that we have to select, and we have to put that email together. The way I see it, we have to co-exist with artificial intelligence soon. And with that being said, as a marketer, what is the best way to learn about artificial intelligence? Why can’t we learn about maybe not necessarily? We want to be a coder, but how does it operate? You know, what is supervised learning? What is unsupervised learning? What’s machine learning? What’s, you know, what is the opaque AI? You know, all that term is kind of important to understand and understand how artificial intelligence works, but not to the point that we become incredibly technical. So how do you suggest that the marketers learn more about AI and how AI functions?

Paul Roetzer: I would argue that most marketers will never know nor care what unsupervised and supervised learning is. Nor will they care about the eight common machine learning models of clustering and linear regression. And like the marketers don’t need to know that generally speaking. What they need to know is what is AI capable of doing to identify and prioritize use cases internally. And then they need to know who the go-to experts are, who do know what machine learning is and how it works. And the data scientists who can help them prepare the data properly and ensure that there’s no bias built-in. And like there are technical things. And so I kind of liken this to any other marketing technology you would buy.

You don’t have to become a true technologist. There will be those who are marketers by day and, like, technologists because we’re geeks and we like that stuff. And you figure out those other things that you were listing. Still, for many marketers, like a content marketing manager, or maybe even like a VP of Marketing, you may never actually know the machine learning models. What, you know, though, is your team spending a hundred hours a month doing this thing, that you now understand the machine could do 80% of that work. And you’re able to go find the right tool, onboard that tool, upskill your team by getting them a base level understanding of what it is and how it works, and then redistribute those hours to some uniquely task human.

Pam Didner: More productive and more strategic value add.

Paul Roetzer: Yeah. So look, I think to answer your question real quick, they need to remove the abstract nature of AI. They need not be afraid of the topic because it isn’t Sci-Fi. It is pretty easy to understand what it is and what it does. And once you accept that, you go read your book or take an online course. You’re like, now you embrace the idea that there’s a smarter way to do marketing.

Pam Didner: So that’s my guest, Paul. Love his point of view about Artificial Intelligence.

All right. Before I wrap up this episode, I would like to share a couple of insights with you. Number one is in terms of sales enablement. If you are all marketers supporting sales, your job will become even more important. The sales are counting on marketing to provide the guidance, not just the content, but how to better prep themselves and engage with their prospects. So sales enablement, as a marketer, will continue to be an area that marketer supporting sales.

Number two is in terms of the writing. Even though nowadays, if you look at social media writing, or if you look at a lot of blog writing, people are using much concise language, but at the same time, it has to be catchy and also personable. So for the B2B marketers, the business writing needs to change a little bit. You need to add a little bit of personality and a little—not necessarily a casual tone, but something that personifies your brand. Writing matters so much more than ever before.

Another thing I would like to share with you is influencer marketing. How do you partner with an influencer in your specific area and amplify your brand using the voices? Another thing, Artificial Intelligence. What are some of the tools that have AI embedded into it that you can leverage to make your job a little more effective and productive? So these are some of the trends I would like to share with you. And looking ahead, you need to think through how technology will help you and what you can do to leverage the technology without having technology take over. All right?

So I hope that you are going to have a great year ahead. And thank you so much for listening to my podcast. Reach out to me anytime. Love, love, love to hear from you. Have a great holiday. Take care. Bye.

—————

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To expand your knowledge and explore more expert tips on current business growth trends, check out some of my previous podcast episodes, blog posts, and videos.

Podcast episodes

Ask the Experts: Proven Tips for Sales and Marketing Alignment

How To Get Media Coverage For Your B2B Business

How to Smart Hustle Your Way to Business Growth

Blog post

It’s Time To Crush Your Marketing Campaign Plan

Video

3 Reasons To Invest In B2B Marketing

 


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